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Restore the Rule of Law First

NOW that Morgan Tsvangirai is no longer a prime target for the Herald, the newspaper’s columnists have concentrated their fire on the United States and Britain for their refusal to lift sanctions.

It is suggested that they should ignore human rights abuses and arbitrary imprisonment so that Zimbabwe can secure access to international funding.

Roy Bennett last week described the shocking conditions in Zimbabwe’s jails. Despite being granted bail, his lawyers had to struggle for his release in the teeth of resistance from a vengeful state.
The MDC should stir itself from its present torpor and take immediate steps to amend the Criminal Law and Procedure Act so that those afforded their liberty by a court can enjoy that liberty instead of being thwarted at every turn.
Indeed, the MDC needs to set out an agenda of law reform which will prevent arbitrary punishment for opponents of the regime and fortify constitutional rights. Why does Tendai Biti think donors should come to his rescue when the government of which he is a part continues to lock up critics and threaten lawyers with contempt of court when they expresses an opinion?
Zimbabwe’s “detractors” make the obvious point: Why are you coming to us for money when the rule of law has not been restored by your government and court rulings are routinely ignored? How for instance can an investor feel secure in a country where the president denounces regional court rulings as “nonsense” because they don’t suit his political agenda?
The MDC (both wings) agreed not to pursue the issue of the appointment of the Attorney-General and Reserve Bank governor despite those appointments being at the top of their post-Pretoria agenda in January. After talks between the principals it was agreed the appointments would be reviewed in six months.
That act of propitiation has reaped a poisoned harvest in the form of a vicious campaign of persecution of white farmers, among others. The MDC evidently didn’t see it coming or doesn’t care. But it will be instructive for the IMF to hear the CFU’s evidence of lawlessness on the farms.

And in case anybody thought there had been a change of thinking at the top they should look no further than Monday’s Herald in which the columnist in all seriousness thinks the American public made a mistake in voting for Barack Obama.
The MDC cannot have it both ways, the columnist, Tichaona Zindoga, says. The MDC cannot serve two masters. Either it chooses to work for the government or against it, he pontificates. Denouncing sanctions and demanding their unconditional lifting is one such act of patriotism Tsvangirai could demonstrate, he suggests.
It is clear from this that Zanu PF has ignored the popular demand for change and feels it is their new partners who have to do the changing if they want to “benefit” from the new dispensation. This reflects the view in Zanu PF that they are doing the MDC a favour by letting them into government!
Obama should be told, Zindoga says, “that a black president who follows white racist policies is not in fact the change people wanted”.
So Obama is following “white racist policies” is he? And he managed to slip that past American voters including several million black ones?
Is it seriously suggested that American voters were demanding that Obama disregard ongoing misrule in Zimbabwe and lift sanctions? Have you heard a single US voter –– Democrat or Republican –– suggest that?
The Herald should really stop this delusional nonsense. So should those in the MDC asking for donor funds before the rule of law has been restored.
Tsvangirai’s deal with the UK-based World Travel Group is grossly premature. Can it be said we have a professional and independent law-enforcement system after recent events on farms? And what does the arrest of a magistrate — subsequently acquitted — tell visitors about the rule of law.
The authorities haven’t even let the flower-sellers back into Africa Unity Square. And Buhera recently witnessed one-sided arrests reminiscent of last June.

It doesn’t seem as if the farm invasions are escaping notice in Pretoria. Zimbabwe should guarantee the protection of private investments if it wanted its economy to recover quickly, a senior official said at the South Africa-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation held in Victoria Falls last weekend, Business Day reports. The official told the paper on Monday that South Africa expressed its concerns that the government in Harare needed to take control of and ensure a proper land distribution programme. By being seen to be bringing an end to the violent invasion of farmland, South Africa believed that Zimbabwe would bring political stability and “reduce the lack of trust” in the new power-sharing government by foreign and regional donors.
None of this was carried in the Herald report.
Investors will clearly stay away and sanctions remain so long as people are arrested and prosecuted for exercising their rights to free speech and farmers are harassed by lawless mobs for occupying their own homes.

President Mugabe at Heroes Acre on Saturday called for an end to all acts of violence. Those perpetrating violence were “enemies of Zimbabwe”, he said.
That presumably includes those who abducted Jestina Mukoko and tortured her? And who was responsible for the wave of violence last year when people were beaten and their homes burnt? Have they been brought to justice?
March 11 was the second anniversary of the savage beatings meted out to Morgan Tsvangirai, Sekai Holland and other MDC officials in a police station. What investigation has there been regarding those assaults?
One of the glimmers of change in the dark events of the past few weeks was the reported request from prison guards in Mutare for “Free Roy” T-shirts –– 10 for the day guards and eight for those on duty at night. Then there was the huge attendance at Susan Tsvangirai’s funeral, including ministers from surrounding countries and diplomats.
But couldn’t the army have transported Susan’s remains and the immediate family to Buhera by helicopter? Wouldn’t that have been a kind gesture? And deployment of the Catering Corps would also have been useful given the numbers that had to be fed.
We heard the words “state-assisted”. But not in these two respects it seems.

One key area that needs straightening out is the local public media. The Media and Information Commission continues to exercise regulatory powers, such as registration of media houses and accreditation of journalists, long after its authority was terminated by promulgation of Amendment 18 in January last year. Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu should have appointed board members for the new Zimbabwe Media Commission under the amended Act. Why didn’t he?

And if you look at the letters column of the Herald it is immediately clear that many of these letters emanate from the state’s propaganda machine.
Letters headed “Throw out US, UK ambassadors”, “Obama’s sanctions move was expected”, and “Private media using hate language” illustrate the old hidebound thinking as senior officials, having been booted off their regular perch, slip their poisonous thoughts past the editor.
How is the coalition government going to re-establish normal relations with countries like the US and “engage” members of the EU when the state media continues its hostile and childish assaults on the very governments Zimbabwe is trying to engage? It must also be said that no “taskforce” will succeed in changing minds if Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is a member of it.
Diplomats remember his past antics only too well.
Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, and Priscilla Misihairabwi are running ahead of themselves by joining this taskforce. EU governments are beholden to their parliaments and voters. So long as Zanu PF ministers refuse to understand why sanctions were imposed in the first place and remain unrepentant there is little prospect of success. MDC ministers are part of the problem when they decline to spell things out.

Harare councillors have provided a shocking display of greed as they demand cellphones, residential stands and food. The mayor has made it known that he spends more time addressing the needs of these predators than he does dealing with the needs of ratepayers.
This would be bad enough but the behaviour of the councillors has led to unintentioned collateral damage. It has provided a window for Ignatious Chombo to intervene in the apparel of a white knight riding to the defence of the city’s interests.
Nothing could be further from the truth of course. He is a member of a deadwood gang around Mugabe which sees its role as reversing the democratic gains of the last seven years. He is not wanted in Harare. And he has no right to rescind resolutions such as that concerning the town clerk on the specious grounds that it is not “progressive”. As if he would have a clue what that means!
Democrats throughout the country and foreign well-wishers should note two things here: Firstly we have old-guard interference with a democratically elected body. That is misgovernance writ large. Secondly the MDC has allowed its elected representatives to get away with greed and self-interest without any corrective measures. As Chombo pointed out, being a councillor is not a job and it is certainly not a gravy train.

Zimbabwe and China have been exchanging notes, it would appear. Chinese authorities, waging a “strike hard” campaign in the Tibetan capital Lhasa ahead of the anniversary of the Tibetan rising, raided thousands of homes and businesses, ran checks on 5 766 suspects and detained 81 people, including two “for having reactionary music on their mobile phones”, according to the Washington Post.
The authorities were acting to uphold public order, they claimed.
Rather like Chombo!
But how does a reactionary song go, we wonder? Can you whistle it?
“Old MacDonald had a farm… ee-i-ee-i Eish”!

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