Muckraker: Mbizvo Shows Education has Gone to the dogs

THE Zimbabwe Independent and Standard were represented at last Friday’s meeting of Jomic where media houses were called upon to promote national healing.


In terms of the September 15 accord the press is expected to provide “balanced and fair coverage” to all parties and to refrain from using language that may incite hostility.

Prof Welshman Ncube chaired the meeting. The monitoring body is co-chaired by Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC on a rotational basis with Nicholas Goche and Elton Mangoma as the other co-chairpersons.

Representatives of Zimpapers and ZBH were also present.

The government press rose to the occasion by reporting only what the politicians present said. They censored not only what the private media had to say but also what their own colleagues said.

So here is an approximate summary of the points made.

ZBC kicked off by complaining bitterly about sanctions and asking what measures were being taken against “pirate” radio stations.

Members of the committee replied that there should be no need for “external” stations to continue their operations if ZBC performed its mandate as a public service. The Herald in its version translated this as “illegal operations”.

The independent journalists pointed out that the first sanctions that needed to be lifted were those imposed upon the press. Aippa in particular needed to go.

Zanu PF and the MDC had arbitrarily decided upon amendments to the Act at the beginning of last year. This absence of consultation should not happen again, it was said.

The public media remained abusive and partisan, it was argued, despite the September 15 agreement. This should stop. In particular, the public media should act more professionally. As a public media, it needed to reflect the diversity of Zimbabwean society. Journalists expelled from the country should be welcomed back, it was said.

Zimpapers claimed that the public media should be loyal to the government of the day. Zimind responded that the public media should be beholden to the public, not the government.

This was “semantics”, a ZBH official said.

Jomic would be subject to public scrutiny of their performance, the independent press made it clear.

Independent journalists would certainly not be “called” to take their marching orders from the committee.

That was not the committee’s intention, the chairman replied. The committee sought the cooperation of all players, both private and public.

He also said the committee was not concerned with past grievances. The country needed to move forwards.  

It is not clear where that leaves Aippa. But generally speaking, Zimind welcomes Jomic’s approach to the media and expects to see “balanced and fair” reporting — conspicuous by its absence in the state media’s coverage of the Jomic meeting — given greater attention.

On Friday evening, the same day as the Jomic meeting, Goodson Nguni was telling ZTV viewers that Britain, America and white people were the country’s “enemies”.

Let’s place this on record so we know who the country’s real enemies are.

A sheriff in Scotland has accused a mixed-race mother fighting a child-access dispute of behaving like the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, and “inciting anarchy”.

Sheriff Richard Davidson’s comments, directed at Tina Monem, have come under fire from race campaigners, who are demanding an investigation.

The sheriff, who has found himself at the centre of controversy over previous comments, told Monem (26), whose father is from Bangladesh, that if she did not accept his ruling, she could “go to Zimbabwe”.

She had repeatedly refused to comply with a court decision allowing her former partner to have access to his child with an adult relative present. In court papers Sheriff Davidson stressed the importance of upholding “the rule of law”.

“If you want an illustration of what happens when the rule of law is undermined by government, you need look no further than what is currently going on in Zimbabwe, where the president, who is scarcely still entitled to be so described, has by brute force and threats of violence completely undermined the democratic process,” he wrote. “You may find the analogy with Robert Mugabe to be distressing and uncomfortable, but if I let you get away with continuing to defy the order of the court, then someone else will defy the order of the court citing you as a precedent and, before long, we will have anarchy.”

He went on: “If you want to live subject to an anarchic dictatorship, then you can go to Zimbabwe. I will not allow anarchy to rule here.”

Monem, from Carnoustie, Angus, told The Scotsman she was “deeply humiliated” by the Dundee-based sheriff’s remarks. “I feel horribly upset at being prejudiced against and about being compared to Robert Mugabe.

I’m not going out killing people, yet the sheriff thought it perfectly all right to have both our names in the same sentence.  Monem, a deputy scheme manager at Bield Housing Association in Dundee, added: “I’ve studied and gone to college and I’ve got a job, but comments like that bring back all the bad memories.”

Sheriff Davidson’s remarks have ignited a debate over the extent to which members of Scotland’s judiciary should be held to account for their comments. The principle of independence within the judiciary means sheriffs and judges are protected from political influence and remain generally free from censure by ministers.

Muckraker was shocked by a report in the Guardian recently that Britain is to give India US$1,2 billion over the next three years to lift hundreds of millions of people out of  poverty.

India, let us remind ourselves, is a nuclear-armed power that sent a spacecraft to the moon last year. If its government chooses to spend national resources on nuclear armament, that is its own sorry business. But what does the UK government think it is doing spending public resources in the middle of an unprecedented financial crisis on what Indians themselves should be doing — alleviating poverty?

Which brings us to the next point. India recently celebrated its 59th birthday as a republic.  It is the world’s largest democracy, we are constantly reminded. Extensive column inches were devoted in the press to what it has achieved in that time. Zimbabwe has benefited from technology training, we are told.  

But what steps has India taken to cultivate democracy in the developing world? Has it ever said a single thing about human rights violations in countries such as Zimbabwe and Burma? Or is it too preoccupied with maintaining its influence through the Non-Aligned Movement? Which requires it to say nothing!

‘The press in Zimbabwe has let the people down…” MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso declared in his tortuous Sunday Mail contribution last weekend. That’s because we had failed to expose that nothing has changed in the opposition’s regime-change agenda.

Needless to say, nothing has changed in Mahoso’s anti-democratic agenda either!

The parties and media involved in the “illegal regime-change onslaught on Zimbabwe”, he complained, have adopted the rhetoric of power sharing while continuing to pursue their original objectives.

So, at last he’s got it! The MDC and civic society will continue to press for democratic reform in the teeth of resistance from political recidivists like Mahoso.

In particular, we have to be polite about President Mugabe.

“Any attempt to deny or destroy his role is not consistent with the meaning of power-sharing and inclusive governance,” Mahoso pontificates.

In other words, despite the fact that Mugabe is head of state, head of government and first secretary of the ruling party, we should not question his ability to run the country.

How convenient!

“The people elected President Mugabe on June 27 2008. Sadc has no quarrel with President Mugabe,” Mahoso declares. “The AU has no quarrel with him.”

Fortunately our paper last week carried the text of the Rev Frank Chikane’s remarks at the conclusion of the Pretoria meeting on January 28.

Referring to last year’s election, he said the first round of voting in March was held under conditions that were acceptable.

“Now the second round was done and both Sadc and the AU and everybody agreed that the conditions for the second round were not acceptable in terms of free and fair elections and there has not been any doubt or controversy about that matter.”

So, the director-general in the South African presidency is quite sure that there is agreement by all concerned that the June election was held under conditions that were unacceptable in terms of free and fair elections. He spoke for Sadc.

Mahoso nearly got away with it. But you see what difference a free press makes.

No wonder he denounces us. We get in the way of his deceit. Nobody except Mahoso believes the June election was free and fair. We all knew that. Now we have it on the record, both South African and Sadc.

Gideon Gono appears to be fighting a rearguard action against Patrick Chinamasa’s budget.

There have been misconceptions, he suggested. Under dollarisation the foreign currency formally replaces the currency of another, he explained to the Sunday Mail’s Munyaradzi Huni. “This is quite distinct from what we have done here which is simply that for ease of transactional purposes in the light of sanctions against our cash supply chain, we have allowed the co-circulation of the Zimbabwe dollar along with foreign currencies. The foreign currencies are therefore complementing the local currency, rather than replacing it.”

Yes, but doesn’t the local unit have to have some value before it can be “complemented”?

Muckraker was intrigued by Master of Ceremonies, Washington Mbizvo’s remarks at Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony. The word “fulsome” came to mind as he heaped praise on President Mugabe and compared events to Galileo “navigating his way around the world”.

As far as we recall Galileo never left the European shore!

That was not the only falsehood uttered by the good doctor during this historic occasion. He also attributed  to Galileo the statement: “The real leader has no need to lead — he is content to point the way”.

A basic Google search reveals that the statement was coined by modern times American novelist and painter Henry Miller who died in 1980.

As Higher Education permanent secretary, is it not evident which way the good doctor has been leading our colleges and universities.

But never mind, this turned out to be Tsvangirai’s day. He was warmly greeted by Sadc leaders after the ceremony, and even John Nkomo and Didymus (“Mugabe is our king”) Mutasa found time to chat. Grace came over and extended her congratulations. But the service chiefs were conspicuous by their absence. It’s just as well. They may have spoilt the party with some maladroit remarks.

Somebody who wasn’t going to let anybody rain on his parade was Arthur Mutambara. He looked like the cat who had got the cream. But we don’t fully understand the pause between “So help me” and “God”.
“God” was invoked with some enthusiasm.

Is there method in Arthur’s madness? Who knows.

Finally, we were delighted to have a call from Aleksandr Lebedev, the Russian media magnate who recently bought a stake in the London Evening Standard. He was the subject of our Memo last week.

The editor, who took the call, said Lebedev was very keen to meet our proprietors.

We shall have to make it clear that if he is interested he will have to pay more for our papers than he did for the Evening Standard  — £1!