IS the MDC really maladroit or does it just look like that?
Recently we had the statement that the party would not pull out of the coalition government if President Mugabe continued to block reforms agreed in Pretoria in January. That included the appointment of permanent secretaries, provincial governors, ambassadors, and Roy Bennett.
If Mugabe refused to honour solemn undertakings, the party said, they would refer their dilemma to Sadc.
Thatâ€™s a bit like saying â€œI will set my pussy-cat on youâ€.
But it does seem to have had some effect. The matter of the appointments has now been partly resolved. Mugabe was self-evidently bound by undertakings made in the Memorandum of Understanding, the Global Political Agreement, and the Pretoria communiquÃ©. A Sadc ruling to that effect would have been embarrassing.
However, be that as it may, Rule No 1 in Poker: Donâ€™t show your hand.
This is elementary stuff which Zanu PF understands perfectly.
Morgan Tsvangirai is learning the hard way. He sees a need to propitiate a prickly president. But that shouldnâ€™t mean he has to engage in smoke-and-mirrors tactics such as describing the farm invasions as â€œblown out of all proportionâ€.
Who benefits from that dissembling? Tsvangirai should follow in his deputyâ€™s footsteps and go and see for himself.
Tsvangirai also seems to be under the impression that there had been â€œsignificant improvements in media freedomsâ€ since the formation of the inclusive government. And because of amendments to Aippa last year there was no legal obligation, he said, for journalists and media houses to register until the Zimbabwe Media Commission is established.
Quite clearly this is a case of the wish being father to the thought.
The government last Saturday put out a statement saying all journalists wishing to cover the Comesa summit should first seek accreditation with the Media and Information Commission.
We are sure there wonâ€™t exactly be a stampede to cover this inconsequential event. But thatâ€™s not the point. The government is using a defunct body, the MIC, to extract forex from journalists coming into the country to cover the proceedings. As Tsvangirai pointed out, there is no legal obligation for journalists â€” foreign or local â€” to be accredited until the Zimbabwe Media Commission is set up.
Media secretary George Charambaâ€™s attempt in the Herald yesterday to suggest that the MIC enjoyed residual authority to accredit journalists and media houses was clearly intended to slap Tsvangirai down. Â
Charambaâ€™s remarks represent an extraordinary manipulation of the facts. Obviously if the MIC has been abolished as a result of a constitutional amendment then it should not be functioning in any way at all. It should certainly not be collecting money from journalists.
Charamba cannot claim that because the MIC had authority in the past it therefore has authority in the present. It doesnâ€™t. It is defunct.
This is precisely the sort of political lawlessness the MDC must deal with if it is to make a credible impact on government. Correspondents visiting Zimbabwe must be wondering exactly what is required of them. Many understandably wonâ€™t come at all.
Meanwhile, the MDC is probably wishing that in the recent talks between the three principals it hadnâ€™t blithely nodded through the appointment of permanent secretaries who are manifestly partisan while claiming to be qualified professionals.
Among those extending his condolences to the Gono family last weekend, we were told by the Herald, was â€œMedia and Information Commission chair Dr Tafataona Mahosoâ€.
Here is another example of the dangers of state control of newspapers.
The staff at the Herald know perfectly well that the MIC no longer exists in law. But they are required to pretend it does. They are also obliged to put â€œillegalâ€ every time they refer to sanctions. And then they want us to take them seriously!
Whose funeral was Webster Shamu attending on Monday? He spent all his time praising President Mugabe. He described the president as â€œone of the few remaining statesmen who upheld the principle of former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah that political independence was meaningless without economic empowerment.
â€œThat economic independence is derived from the soil,â€ Shamu told Mugabe. â€œThat is why you
spearheaded the land redistribution.â€
Letâ€™s hope Shamu found a few words for Gonoâ€™s brother amidst all this praise singing!
And what sort of political independence does Shamu think we have achieved with the national begging bowl being handed out to Western powers for food aid, medicines and even civil service salaries? What would Nkrumah have made of this sort of sovereignty?
Still with sanctions, we were gobsmacked to see the usual scapegoat being blamed for the collapse of the education system.
Under the heading â€œBad news for failing O-Level studentsâ€, the Herald on Monday told us: â€œThe education sector like many other sectors in Zimbabwe was severely affected by the sanctions imposed on the country by the West. As a result of the embargo government failed to pay teachers good salaries and no lessons took place for the greater part of last year.â€
So there you have it. Nothing to do with money being spent on other things.
But Page 19 of Gideon Gonoâ€™s supplement in the Herald of April 18 tells us that among the Bacossi forex beneficiaries for 2007 was Lobels which received US$6 million.
So thatâ€™s where it all went! How many teachers could have benefited from that largesse? Perhaps the author of Mondayâ€™s blame piece could explain. Readers may also like to know that it is unlikely that David Coltart tried to blame sanctions for the collapse of the education sector. The Herald slipped those paragraphs in all by itself we can safely assume.
Despite Webster Shamuâ€™s self-satisfaction over what he thinks is balance in the public media, old habits evidently die hard!
Talking of which we enjoyed the following from the Sunday Mail regarding the appointment of permanent secretaries.
â€œCde Charamba said the
principals agreed that the bureaucracy was independent and apolitical and should remain that way.â€
That includes being addressed as â€œComradeâ€ we can safely assume.
But we note he had become a â€œMrâ€ yesterday!