ZIMBABWE did not â€œbarâ€ the Elders trio from coming here, claimed Foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi on Saturday after they had told South African media in Johannesburg that they had been refused admission.
It was not true the group â€” Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, and Graca Machel â€” had been barred, Mumbengegwi said. Their visit had merely been â€œpostponedâ€ because Kofi Annan had not made â€œprior consultationsâ€ on the â€œtiming and programmeâ€ of the visit.
For the record, readers should know that Jimmy Carterâ€™s security team had been denied visas ahead of his visit, according to reports in South Africa. And Thabo Mbeki told the trio the Zimbabwean authorities would not issue visas in time for their visit. This was after his intervention.
But the Zimbabwean authorities engaged in all sorts of semantics to justify their refusal to admit the three. All kinds of daft aspersions were made as to their motives. The Sunday Mail allowed an unnamed â€œlocal political commentatorâ€ to occupy 18 paragraphs to insult the group with childish claims that they were â€œhumanitarian touristsâ€ coming to â€œcertify the death of Zimbabweâ€ following the crash of the local currency.
In particular the â€œlocal political commentatorâ€ appears to have taken exception to their proposed meeting with womenâ€™s organisations and humanitarian and trade union groups, among others.
â€œThese are people who had the final document in their briefcaseâ€ prior to their visit, the â€œcommentatorâ€ suggested.
If this â€œcommentatorâ€ could be afforded 18 paragraphs to spout his ridiculous views, surely he warrants identification? Or does he not have the courage of his convictions?
The government had shown willingness to address the humanitarian crisis through signing a memorandum of understanding with the World Food Programme that will see the WFP assisting with grain imports worth US$500 million, the â€œcommentatorâ€ said.
This followed what Mumbengegwi claimed was â€œa thorough humanitarian auditâ€.
These claims are of course spurious. It was the UN aid agencies that conducted the audit. And it is their efforts that have prevented mass starvation so far. The government has done virtually nothing to address the crisis believing, as the â€œcommentatorâ€ reveals, that it is all part of a grand conspiracy against the Zanu PF government.
The Herald carried a similar juvenile â€œplotâ€ story on Tuesday.
Now the people of Zimbabwe will be denied humanitarian relief that the visit of the Elders would have fast-tracked into the country.
Donors have been dragging their heels to date but it was expected aid flows would increase following the visit of the Elders who could draw international attention to the seriousness of the situation. Only a high-level visit of this sort could have achieved that.
The Elders could come once a mutually agreed date had been decided, Mumbengegwi said.
So obviously this was not an urgent matter for government. They were standing on ceremony and confirming the international communityâ€™s impression of a rogue regime that doesnâ€™t give a damn about the fate of its people. That is how the story was reported around the world.
What surprises us in all this is the â€œguilt by associationâ€ imputed to Graca Machel in Tuesdayâ€™s Herald. We didnâ€™t know until then she was on the regimeâ€™s hit list. We can understand them gunning for Annan whom they loathe and detest because he declined to fall for their Africanist pretensions. Or even Jimmy Carter who appointed Andrew Young to help bring about Zimbabweâ€™s Independence in 1977-9 but then, like everybody else, became disillusioned with Mugabeâ€™s excesses.
But Machel: what has she done apart from humanitarian work for children in the neighbourhood?
It is a good indication of the regimeâ€™s fading appeal that it is lashing out at African leaders who no longer apologise for them.
Are they finally getting the message: that they are an embarrassment to Africa?
â€œWe take strong exception to any suggestion that there are those out there who care more about the welfare of our people than we do,â€ Mumbengegwi declared on Saturday. But isnâ€™t that the simple truth: Hasnâ€™t this episode confirmed just that?
Also revealing was South Africaâ€™s announcement on Thursday that it would withhold R300 million in agricultural aid until a new power-sharing government was in place. The disillusionment in the voices of South African government spokesmen was palpable.
â€œThis aid will not be transferred until such time as a representative government is in place,â€ Themba Maseko told journalists.
â€œOur major concern is that we missed the planting season.â€
This was a loan touted by the government here as a rescue package.
It will not now be forthcoming. And there were Zanu PF apologists suggesting that the partyâ€™s do-nothing, say-nothing strategy was an act of cunning statecraft when compared to the MDCâ€™s noise. Not so cunning now, it would seem. There has been a mould-breaking shift in policy after the Mbeki era.
Raila Odinga, one of the regimeâ€™s favourite betes noir, has broken ranks with African leaders this week by calling for international peacekeepers to be sent to Zimbabwe.
â€œBecause there is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe, the AUÂ should consider sending a peacekeeping force,â€ Odinga said in a report in the London Times. â€œThis is what is going to send a strong signal to one Mr Robert Mugabe.â€
Odinga was himself a victim of election-rigging, when President Kibaki was declared the winner of a disputed poll in Kenya last year, the paper pointed out.
â€œTo many African leaders the situation in Zimbabwe has returned to normal,â€ Odinga said. â€œThis is because these leaders carry the same baggage like Mugabe.â€
He added: â€œMugabe was a freedom fighter who spent many years in jail, but I donâ€™t believe that when you are a freedom fighter you acquire a title deed to own the nation.â€
Now watch the government rotweilers bark at him. It will make a change from Khama.
We were interested to see Mabasa Sasaâ€™s Herald piece on Monday lecturing the MDC-T on the need for accommodation rather than confrontation when responding to Constitutional Amendment No 19. There should be no bellicosity in dealing with a measure that benefits the MDC-T more than Zanu PF, we are told.
There is also a message here that cabinet is the fount of all authority and there was no need for the government to negotiate anything outside what was agreed on September 15. If the MDC-T wasnâ€™t careful, especially in trying to renegotiate the agreement, they could find their draft â€œdying a quiet and ignomious deathâ€. Â
This is the tenor of remarks coming from ruling-party propagandists that we have seen in recent months and indeed this piece bears more than a passing resemblance to Manheruâ€™s recent contributions to the Herald including the salacious references.
The MDC-T needs to remind Zanu PF publicists that the September 15 agreement was not a gift from a generous government but the price of electoral defeat. While Mugabeâ€™s coterie may be in denial about this, pretending they could all make a glorious come-back the next time â€” as if the nation is begging to be
punished again! â€” the truth is that Zanu PF is a dead-beatÂ party that needs the agreement to hang on to power.
The MDC-T is wisely exercising caution in granting this lease on life. The last thing it needs to listen to are the pompous lectures of political failures who think they can educate the party in political manners.
We heard all this preaching when Mugabe got a ringing reception in parliament a few months ago. â€œHow shocking,â€ all his acolytes chimed. â€œThey need to learn appropriate public deportment.â€
The MDC-T has nothing to learn from Zanu PF. That includes suspect dossiers being hawked around the region that Sadc leaders have seen before. We can hear their yawns from here.
Does anybody recall the Cain Nkala affair? What happened to that investigation, who got accused of promoting terror, and what was the outcome in court?
The Pan Africanist Congress, which has been steadily losing support in South African elections because of its endless internecine squabbling, has been expressing solidarity with another bunch of losers, Zanu PF.
A representative of the party, Mziwake Dlamini, told the Voice that â€œHaving gone through a struggle, President Mugabe and Zanu PF are fully aware that Zimbabwe did not come on a silver platter, so whatever decision they make is good for the country as they would not want to see Zimbabwe being colonised,â€ he said. â€œZimbabweans should cherish the leadership of President Mugabe as he has shown he has the people at heart.â€
The paper is at least good for a laugh!
It also contains amusing little contributions by old-guard Stalinists whose views are headed â€œLetâ€™s accept SSC as guiding starâ€.
Those not familiar with this particular â€œguiding starâ€ may be fascinated to know that SSC stands for Scientific Socialism and Communism.
Would you believe that in 2008 Zanu PF is still churning out this antediluvian sludge?
It is not difficult to understand that situated in the midst of this putrid propaganda is Tafataona Mahoso who has a regular column in which he claims â€œJournalists (are) misleading people on economic turnaroundâ€.
He doesnâ€™t mention what misleading he is doing but here is an example: â€œThe value of the inter-party talks is that the people have refused to fall into the violent struggle which the sanctions were meant to trigger. Otherwise we are at war. And even after Sadc and the AU endorse a settlement, the original instigators of the MDC formations and of sanctions may want to keep the sanctions on. The people and the state should be prepared for such a possibility.â€
He is right. If Zanu PF continues to be driven by a reactionary clique around Mugabe that persists in adopting policies that thwart recovery and further damage the economy, and with it peopleâ€™s livelihoods, then there is every likelihood that the US and EU will refuse to lift sanctions.
The people are only too
aware of the danger of Mahosoâ€™s party hanging onto power which is why they voted to throw the whole rotten bunch out in the March election.
Mahoso uses â€œthe peopleâ€ as some sort of weapon but blithely ignores the fact that the people spoke in March and it was to say to hell with the sort of views Mahoso and his ilk are trying to perpetuate.
Harare mayor Much Masunda is no doubt struggling with a multiplicity of problems at Town House. But he should have one of his officials investigate the rubbish collection department.
Last week a City of Harare garbage collection truck drove into Milton Park and proceeded to collect rubbish from outside a Chinese restaurant. It ignored the bags situated outside homes in the area and drove off having fulfilled its singular task. Meanwhile, the bags are still lying around and havenâ€™t been collected for weeks. City of Harare rubbish collectors have made it clear to residents of the area:Â If you want your rubbish collected you must pay us.
So what are the rates for?
The Herald on Wednesday carried a front-page story on how Zesa was now accepting cheques following calls by Gideon Gono for public-sector service providers to do so.
â€œZesa U-turn on chequesâ€ the story was headed.
The trouble is this was not true. They were, as of Wednesday afternoon, still refusing to accept cheques at their headquarters on Samora Machel.
Customers were told tellers were yet to receive a directive from their managers. People trying to pay by cheque were turned away.
The Herald published an internal memo dated November 25 from Zesa acting group CEO ET Chikwenhere to the head of the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Co, which is responsible for billing, instructing his staff to accept cheques.
But on Wednesday Zesa staff were refusing to obey both their own CEOÂ and the governor of the Reserve Bank!
Only yesterday did they start accepting cheques, and these had to be for the exact amount, not future estimates. Clearly, Gonoâ€™s word is not Zesaâ€™s command!