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Muckraker: Tazzen Grovels and Giggles in Display of Journalism at its Worst

HOW many viewers, we wonder, tuned in to Tazzen Mandizvidza’s mind-numbing birthday interview with President Mugabe. It was journalism at its worst.

Mandizvidza failed to ask a single challenging question and instead asked Mugabe everything a politician in the spotlight would be delighted to answer.

One example will suffice: “The economic meltdown in the West shows ‘Looking East’ was the right policy in the first place.”

Not so much a question, more a grovelling statement. And the interview must have broken the record for how many times it is possible to say “Your Excellency” in one programme!

There was nothing on multiple farm ownership or why Iron Mask Farm is proving insufficient for its owner’s needs.

And the list of estates Mugabe rattled off as belonging to British interests must have been drawn up 30 years ago. Indeed, throughout the interview there appeared to be a certain cognitive dissonance as if the president was visiting from another planet. The claim that “we brought democracy here” (not the British) will have elicited a sceptical murmur of doubt from those who recall the State of Emergency that Mugabe kept in place until 1990.

We wonder how Dumiso Dabengwa responded to this claim.

“There was no rule of law under Smith. People were just arrested,” Mugabe ventured in a week when the High Court released details of a ruling which castigated the police for failing to uphold the country’s constitution when they unlawfully detained 12 MDC activists accused of banditry.

Justice Charles Hungwe said the police failed to uphold the law and when they were sued denied any knowledge of the applicants when clearly they knew, or ought to have known, that the activists were being held in their custody.

“Such conduct by the police ought to be deprecated,” Justice Hungwe said. “Being officers of this court the respondents ought to have known better than to deny such a notorious fact as the detention of the applicants.”

He said it was disturbing that a two-year-old child had been detained alongside its mother. Zimbabwe was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Justice Hungwe noted in his ruling.

He warned of the risks of torture where individuals were held incommunicado.

Does Mandizvidza read the newspapers or in any way follow the news?

We cannot believe reports that the President’s Office vets the questions. Surely the president doesn’t need that sort of help?

But the interview, bad and boring in every respect, simply underlines the need for the reform of the public media where there is an almost complete absence of professionalism, partly as a result of political meddling.
And couldn’t Mandizvidza do anything better than giggle at Mugabe’s little asides? You could hear him off camera having a wonderful time!

There was however one notable quote from the interview: Mugabe saying that after the March election “reality dawned that the people supported other parties”.
Indeed, we wish it would dawn more often!

We have in this column observed the sad decline over the years in the career of Bishop Trevor Manhanga from fearless opponent of tyranny, whose ringing cadences could be heard every year on American Independence Day, to apologist for institutional delinquency.

Over Easter he was complaining bitterly in the Herald that prison reform appeared to be assuming an importance that it didn’t warrant given the need for health and education reform.

“Is the welfare of convicted prisoners — many in prison deservedly so for heinous crimes they have committed — to be put above the welfare and well-being of our school children?”

He was outraged that prison reform should amount to a human rights issue.

And what is the significance of all this? The state is angry that SABC exposed the face of the beast in Zimbabwe. It was even claimed by ministers that the footage had emanated from outside the country. All those required to share the government’s indignation were given their marching orders.

Nobody is suggesting that prison reform should be placed above health and education needs, as Manhanga fatuously suggests. All are equally needful.

But what the SABC documentary did was to expose the death sentence prison represents for many. SABC performed a public duty that Manhanga feels we should discount.

Where is the Christian charity in these Herald episcopal columnists for whom Caesar is the ultimate law?
How well they manage to be unmoved by the ghastly, ghostly evidence that appeared on their TV screens two weeks ago. But it does at least tell us how far the process of cooption has gone. Ask Kunonga.

Oh yes, another point: Manhanga doesn’t want people going around saying things were better under Smith. That is definitely not allowed, he pontificates.

Muckraker was intrigued by some of the vehicles handed out by the Reserve Bank as documented in the RBZ’s Herald supplement.

The Anti-Corruption Commission received 18 vehicles, we see.

Now how long has the Anti-Corruption Commission been functioning and who are the nine recipients?
And then there were the 80 vehicles given to the Ministry of Information.

How many employees does the Ministry of Information (now the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity) have and who got those vehicles? We never knew there were so many people working there. What do they all actually do?

Gideon Gono shouldn’t think we buy his suggestion that because the vehicles are second-hand they therefore do not represent additional quasi-fiscal operations.

And the claim that MPs will be using the vehicles to “preach the tenets of Sterp” in their constituencies is, how can we say, faintly ridiculous.

Expect to see them parked at bottle stores and braai spots where the owners may, or more likely may not, be preaching the gospel of Sterp.

We liked the bit about the Minister of Finance being out of the country when Gono gave authority for a quick dispersal of the items in response to demands from MPs. They were irresistible, it seems.
By the way, Governor, it is not a good idea for “drivers” to “tackle head-on” other “major drivers”!

This is all “a storm in a teacup taken to ridiculous dimensions”, we are assured. There will be no going back on farm implements either, we are told.

Time for another Herald editorial: “No going back on farm implements.”

Meanwhile, the governor is clearly upset by the level of animosity towards him.

“The level of actual and intended persecution on the Reserve Bank, the person of the governor, his team and those who supplied the bank with various products, from grain, motor vehicles to farming implements, as well as on those who provided lines of credit during the period before the coming into being of the inclusive government is astounding and reaching critical levels,” we are told.

“It is even being suggested in some quarters that teams be put in place to investigate right down to the (last) teaspoon, the governor’s family business and entities,” we are further informed.

This is “all in the name of showing how evil, unworthy and incompetent the Reserve Bank governor is”. Which is all “baffling at a time when there are calls for national healing”.

More than 700 passengers escaped unhurt when a Bulawayo-bound train collided with a herd of elephants, the Herald reported last Friday.

“Grateful passengers hailed the train driver as a hero after he calmly steered the locomotive, averting disaster.”

May we ask why our NRZ “hero” didn’t notice the herd of elephants on the line? The incident took place in broad daylight so they would have been clearly visible.

The train driver was “hailed” for “remaining calm” and “steering” the train to safety.

Did he have a choice? Were there other routes the train could have taken?

As it was, three elephants including a baby were killed because the train driver didn’t see them. A hero indeed.

In its “chronology of events leading to Independence”, the Herald omitted mention of the National Democratic Party. Its chronology jumped from the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (1957-59) led by Joshua Nkomo to the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (1961-2). The NDP (1959-61) is missing.

Nkomo headed both the NDP and Zapu. Also missing was the People’s Caretaker Council which followed the banning of Zapu.

Why must it be left to Muckraker to instruct our patriotic friends in the state media on elementary points such as these?

Finally, isn’t it rather strange that when we desperately need the goodwill and support of the United States, the Herald should see fit to attack the US ambassador in the discredited language of yesteryear?

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