HomeOpinionMuckraker: Is Tsvangirai that Much of a threat?

Muckraker: Is Tsvangirai that Much of a threat?

SO, President Mugabe’s idea of exclusivity and national vision is to get rid of the NGOs working in the country. They have “exceeded their terms of reference” by posing as “shadow governments”, he charged, Louis XIV-style, at the Global 2009 Dialogue in Uganda this week.

In fact, as the whole world knows, the NGOs have been keeping Zimbabweans fed during the crisis spawned by Mugabe’s disastrous agricultural policies. If it had not been for their timely intervention tens of thousands of Zimbabweans would have starved.

Now Mugabe wants them to go because they are acting as “shadow governments”.
So what’s wrong with that? NGOs and anybody else for that matter are perfectly entitled to fulfil that function, particularly when the government itself is incapable of doing anything useful. It is called service delivery. Their terms of reference are to provide capacity to those working for national improvement and to help those least able to help themselves.
NGOs embarrass Mugabe by showing him what he should be doing. No wonder he loathes them!
The Herald, which carried the story from Uganda, tried to be helpful by claiming the Zimbabwe delegation was “hailed for setting a unique example in Africa”. It also managed to slip in the following: “The NGO community has been accused of disrupting the recent All-Stakeholders People’s Conference in Harare…”
Accused by whom? Nothing more clearly reflects the dishonesty of the state media. Is Patrick Zhuwao an NGO activist? And what about Saviour Kasukuwere and Joseph Chinotimba? We saw the real culprits on ZTV!
Mugabe’s remarks in Uganda betray a hostility towards organisations that form a fundamental part of any democratic society and give a warning that the discredited assumptions of the ancien regime are still with us, paraded on international platforms when the country was supposed to have mended its ways.  

It is a pity Mugabe’s views, redolent of repression, will discredit the smart partnership project, started by his old friend Mahathir Mohamad over a decade ago.
“National vision can only thrive in an environment of peace and stability,” the president told his audience. He is quite right. But does that involve expelling NGOs and arresting civic activists? Investors will be unimpressed. Chiadzwa provides a picture of what the absence of peace and stability looks like. And what sort of investment destination is it where a youthful n’anga is able to con an entire cabinet taskforce and senior police officers into believing she could tap diesel from a rock?
The country’s fuel problems were “a thing of the past”, they reported back to Mugabe.
In fact she was controlling the flow of diesel by operating a tap on a fuel tank!
And does Arthur Mutambara know his national vision document is “drawn from the government’s Vision 20/20” project that went nowhere? If that is the case it will suffer the same fate as the Kariba document!
And what about the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which he is currently charged under? Is that part of his vision?

The president nowadays seems a tad insecure. Why are ministers and service chiefs required to line up at the airport when he comes and goes?
Does he really need to offer a limp handshake to all of them –– twice a day in some cases?
Now there is a new manifestation of this preoccupation with the trappings of power. His office has clearly directed that he now be known as “Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces”. Not just here and there but every single time he is mentioned in the state media.
This seems rather obviously directed against any pretensions Morgan Tsvangirai may have to be Head of Government. But is it really necessary?
It was carried in a caption on Page 1 of the Sunday Mail last weekend. Then again on Page 3, and finally on Page 11. We could have missed a few!
State journalists are evidently not allowed to mention the president without citing all his titles. Even the relatively independent-minded Alexander Kanengoni, in recalling that a friend had advised Patrick Zhuwao not to send that famous letter, squeezed in this mouthful: “He advised him the letter was against the spirit of what the Head of State and Government, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, His Excellence (sic) President Mugabe had said at the principals’ joint press conference…”
Phew! How many column inches does this amount to? But the more obvious question: Is Tsvangirai that much of a threat? Does the president really need this sort of elaborate comfort zone?
Again, do we need a media in which journalists are instructed in forms of address? We would like to know who is giving the press their marching orders in this regard, especially when we suspect that “Head of Government” is not a constitutional title anyway. And what can we conclude when Kanengoni and Funny Mushava, both first-class writers, misspell Excellency the same way on the same page?
This reminds us of all those “illegal” sanctions that are still deemed “illegal” despite the pronouncements of the US president that Congress can pass what laws it wants!

Last week saw some interesting disclosures from Attorney-General Johannes Tomana. Like the president, he appears to be on the offensive.
He “slammed attempts by some politicians to undermine his office”, we are told, “and has vowed to continue carrying out his duties without fear or favour”.
Giving an interview to the Herald, he at the same time gave a number of hostages to fortune. Asked about the Bennett case where he has been accused of being “the single largest threat to national healing”, Tomana said: “My job is to ensure that criminals are brought to book and I should not let people off with impunity. My obligations are not going to stand or fall on the platitudes of politicians. These are people who are trying to hide behind politics to settle their scores. They are blaming me for being Zanu PF. I have my allegiance to my religion as I have my allegiance to my party of choice, but I have also an allegiance to deliver in my profession. I am a public servant and I owe it to the people that those facing serious charges are not given the freedom to flee.”
He accused the MDC-T of “fighting crime prevention”.
“Should we just ignore (it) when 13-year-old girls are being raped? Should we let it go when the laws are being broken with impunity? We cannot do that.”

The Herald didn’t ask about the status of Joseph Mwale and his legendary impunity. Nor did it ask why only activists from one party are prosecuted when it is public knowledge that the bulk of the electoral violence came from another party, the one arguably better equipped to mount a campaign of violence.
Who for instance was responsible for the savage assaults on MDC leaders at the Highfield police station in 2007? Why haven’t they been prosecuted or those who tortured Jestina Mukoko and others?
Hasn’t the AG a duty to operate in a way that is even-handed instead?
As for the Bennett case and that of Blessing Chebundo, is it sensible to discuss guilt or flight risk when those cases are still pending in the courts?
Bennett, let us remind ourselves, voluntarily returned to this country to participate in the government of national unity. He was arrested despite assurances made to President Motlanthe that he wouldn’t be. Who is the guilty one there? And is it Tomana’s job to lecture the MDC on its duties to the public. Surely the MDC and every other party has a duty to ensure the AG’s office is managed with professionalism and independence. That should not include self-serving statements in the press.
At least we can thank Tomana for opening up a debate around his conduct in the AG’s office. That will give us a bone to chew on without any justifiable grounds for complaint from him. We will want to know for instance how he moved up the legal ladder so rapidly and if his colleagues in the legal profession have the same confidence in him as the president?
The GPA is unambiguous that all senior appointments in government should be made in consultation between the principals. Why did that not happen in Tomana’s case?

Columnist Max Du Preez, writing in the Star, will have struck a chord with Zimbabweans. As the townships sink into anarchy and violence over service delivery, senior officials have been displaying extraordinary insensitivity.
“During the weeks that the township protests were raging,” Du Preez said, “it became known that former MK top brass and now Minister of Communications General Sephiwe Nyanda had spent R2 million of taxpayers’ money on two real James Bond cars for himself –– not just reliable, safe cars which he should really have at his disposal, but ultra-luxurious limousines with extras and added bling that would make any multi-millionaire proud.
“During the same time, “ Du Preez adds, “we hear that senior ANC figures refused to stay in the really good and safe housing provided for them and instead rented homes for more than R30 000 a month –– again using taxpayers’ money.”
The ANC’s full attention, Du Preez points out, is right now focused on a debate over whether the mines should be nationalised and how the judiciary can be manipulated so they end up with a bench friendly to the ruling party.
“Citizens should be forgiven for asking the ANC, its Youth League and the SACP,” Du Preez writes, “whether they really think the state can run the mines in South Africa if they can’t even run the SABC, the Robben Island Museum or local government.”
Both the SABC and Robben Island Museum sagas have provided South Africans with a useful glimpse into what happens when a post-liberation aristocracy helps itself to public funds –– all in the name of transformation, you understand.
Zimbabweans may be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu. Been there. Done that.

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