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Muckraker: Govt Must Walk the Talk

A NICE Page 1 picture in the Herald this week, showing flower-sellers back in Africa Unity Square and headed “Business blooms again”.


“Flower vendors evicted during Operation Murambatsvina four years ago are now back in Africa Unity Square after the Harare City Council licensed them,” we were told.

This is a welcome development. Muckraker has long argued that they add colour and life to the neighbourhood which includes Meikles Hotel.
But why were they evicted in the first place if they are benefiting the city, and why did it take them four years to get licensed?
The Herald didn’t tell us.

Still with evictions, few will be persuaded that having evicted more than 4 000 white farmers, issuing offer letters to 13 represents an exercise in government generosity.
Advocate Martin Dinha was at pains to suggest that the land reform exercise was not racist but aimed at redressing skewed land tenure patterns. The Sadc Tribunal disagreed. It was self-evidently racist, it argued.
We agree that government needed to address colonial anomalies. But can Dinha explain why people like Ben Freeth and his family were savagely beaten by a Zanu PF gang and were then excoriated in the government media for seeking relief at the Sadc Tribunal because they felt they couldn’t get any justice in this country? And let us not forget the plight of farm labourers who have in many cases bravely resisted the Zanu PF thugs who have invaded farms.

Our congratulations to Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara for speaking up on the issue of land invasions. He personally visited the Freeth family who in addition to brutal treatment are victims of dispossession. We would be interested to hear the views of the Swedish and Norwegian ambassadors on whether they think it’s OK for the state to seize land and at one stroke deprive a family of a lifetime’s work?
They seem to be rushing with indecent haste to throw money at the unity government before important issues, such as the role of the attorney-general, have been resolved.

We had Sue Lloyd Roberts filming for the BBC last weekend. Her interview with Tendai Biti provided him with the opportunity to make his now routine pitch for immediate assistance.
Many people will be sympathetic with the argument that the unity government cannot survive without donor support. But the bottom line is that the MDC has not ensured sufficient adherence by President Mugabe to the Global Political Agreement to warrant a change of policy.
Mugabe’s refusal to appoint Roy Bennett to office despite a clear obligation to do so is emblematic of the pact’s weakness. The whole point of the Sadc-mediated process was to stop Mugabe from behaving in a way that is damaging to the country’s interests.
What must also be evident to all is Mugabe’s belief, reflected in his Independence Day interview, that the MDC’s job is to persuade donor states to lift sanctions. What needs to be said loud and clear is that until Mugabe meets the criteria set out in the GPA, there will be no obligation for others to help. The parties to the unity pact must first do what they said they would do in September.

The proposed media-reform conference, now pencilled in for Kariba in less than a week’s time, illustrates the attempt by the ancien regime to cling on to power. Instead of drawing up an agenda in consultation with the media, the government has
arbitrarily lined up a rogues’ gallery of media molesters who
can be guaranteed to do what they do best — as little as possible while acting as apologists for state control.
Can you imagine sitting through a speech by Tafataona Mahoso, droning on about why media reform equals regime change. And could somebody explain what Chris Chivinge’s job is at this point in time? Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.

Lloyd Roberts concluded her otherwise revealing documentary by saying “rich countries have little inclination to help”.
In fact they are the only ones helping. The US and EU countries are currently fixing the water infrastructure and providing food and medicines to those most in need. The Scandinavians will also be paying teachers’ salaries.
What is the unity government doing apart from haggling over luxury vehicles? It is a disgraceful episode and the MDC should wake up to the long-term damage it is inflicting on the party’s reputation. We expect Zanu PF to be venal, not those purporting to bring improved governance.
And nobody buys the story about the MPs needing the vehicles to spread the gospel of Sterp. Please stop insulting our intelligence!

US-based Human Rights Watch made a useful point on the sanctions issue.
“Western governments should keep looking for creative ways to help vulnerable Zimbabweans,” the rights group said, “but they shouldn’t bankroll Zimbabwe’s unreformed institutions of repression and those running them…Human rights abusers should be prosecuted, not subsidised.”
Webster Shamu showed us on Sunday what direction the media conference will take when he threatened to “punish” the Zimbabwe Independent for “publicising cabinet deliberations”.
“Publishing deliberations of cabinet or building stories in the name of the august body outside of what government has authorised and/or released is a punishable offence,” Shamu warned in a statement. “This is a standard, worldwide rule for both governments and the media.”
Is it? Strange how suddenly Zanu PF ministers embrace the rule of law and international standards when they want to “punish” newspapers. And now cabinet has become “august”!
The law to which the minister refers is presumably the Official Secrets Act which most people in the media and many in government see as yet another of those relics of empire which Zanu PF seems so fond of. Like all the others it needs to go!
Shamu is predetermining the outcome of the media conference by making hostile statements of this sort. Why doesn’t he say something useful, that is when he is not inserting newspaper ads in praise of Vitalis Zvinavashe!

And finally on this subject, does Gideon Gono find it helpful to have Zanu PF ministers coming to his aid every time he finds himself in a little local difficulty? And weren’t we assured his little spat with Cde Biti was over?

Is it true that history repeats itself? In May 1979 Ian Smith, recognising eventual defeat in the country’s liberation war, conceded the impression of power by handing the premiership to Bishop Abel Muzorewa while retaining its substance.
He kept for himself and his cronies ministries concerned with justice, police, the armed forces and civil service. As a result those with whom he purportedly shared power were discredited for their failure to make a difference. The war
continued and sanctions were not lifted.
They did get to change the flag and rechristen the national airline but that was about all. Eventually, a new constitution negotiated by the contesting parties brought real freedoms and sanctions were lifted.
Today, exactly 30 years later, these echoes from our past have come back to haunt us.

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