FIRST we were told that Jacob Zumaâ€™s visit was exclusively to open the Harare Show. There would be no discussion on the GPA outstanding issues. This was neither the place nor time for that. It was a figment of the imagination of journalists, Zanu PF spokesmen insisted.
Then, as Zumaâ€™s associates began talking about the visit it soon became clear that discussion of the outstanding issues was central to the trip. And ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe for the second time in as many weeks said that Zumaâ€™s party would become more vocal in its attempt to curb what he called â€œdeviant behaviourâ€.
A good example of that was the attempt to set an agenda for Zumaâ€™s visit. Sanctions was the only issue that mattered, he was told. And he would see abundant evidence of its effects.
The South African leader soon had a dim view of the country. A power cut at Harare airport on his arrival was no doubt the work of Zimbabweâ€™s enemies! The reception had to be illuminated by vehicle headlights.
In Cape Town immediately prior to his trip last Thursday, Zuma made it clear he would be attending to the issues that had been raised by the MDC-T.
â€œThe fact of the matter is the prime minister has come here to raise certain issues,â€ Zuma told reporters. â€œCertainly I will also have to raise those issues with the leaders in Zimbabwe.â€
Far from indulging Zanu PFâ€™s attempt to divert his attention with a sanctions wild goose chase, Zuma was clear on the issues.
A number of countries had offered Zimbabwe humanitarian assistance, he said at the opening of the Harare Show, but they had set conditions for large-scale economic aid.
â€œSince these relate to the implementation of the GPA to which the signatories remain fully committed, meeting these benchmarks should be a priority for the inclusive government.â€
That message was clear to all except the shrill denialists in the state media.
The politburo had said Zanu PF would not discuss any issues other than sanctions. And it was blocking progress on the GPA terms. Zumaâ€™s message was that all matters must be quickly resolved. Sanctions barely got a look-in.
His message on the land issue was equally unambiguous. He said it was critical that the country guaranteed food self-sufficiency.
The GPA sought the â€œrestoration of full productivity on all agricultural land in the interest of all the people of Zimbabweâ€, he reminded his audience.
Could anything be clearer than that? Is Zanu PF â€œrestoring full productivity on the landâ€? Isnâ€™t it in fact doing just the opposite? And are the interests of â€œall the people of Zimbabweâ€ being addressed by land seizures?
In a warning on regional repercussions of land chaos, Zuma said: â€œWe must underline that agriculture is the backbone of the economy of the Sadc region as a whole which is why it is important to us all. The performance of agriculture has a strong influence on food security, economic growth and stability of the Sadc region.â€
It is little wonder that the MDC saw Zumaâ€™s remarks as â€œrefreshingâ€ and â€œunequivocalâ€. The outstanding issues were given the attention they deserve, Nelson Chamisa told the media.
Is it too soon to heave a sigh of relief that media hangman Tafataona Mahoso has lost his bid to join the nascent Zimbabwe Media Commission?
The government had been seeking ways, we gather, to smuggle him onto the Commission. It will be recalled that Mahoso performed dismally at his interview for a seat on the commission.
This week he was complaining bitterly in the Herald that he had beeen unfairly treated. It was the longest case of sour grapes in the history of Zimbabwean journalism.
What the public should expect of any and every member of that commission is honesty.
Last weekend, in his rambling column in the Sunday Mail, Mahoso reminded us of US Ambassador Christopher Dellâ€™s assertion that living conditions had fallen to the level of 1953.
â€œAlthough Dell did not want to admit that illegal and racist sanctions requested by (Tendai) Bitiâ€™s party were slowly responsible for the mass degradation of the populationâ€™s living conditions back to the days of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in just under six years,â€ Mahoso claimed, â€œit is an open secret that sanctions caused the decline.â€
This is the best example yet of the deceitful approach of Zanu PF spokesmen to Zimbabweâ€™s decade of decline. Itâ€™s all the fault of sanctions, they pretend, kicking dust in the publicâ€™s eyes.
This by the way was the same message that contributed to Zanu PFâ€™s electoral defeat last year. The â€œ14 million Zimbabweansâ€ Mahoso claims to speak for rejected his blandishments and those of his party in their totality.
How can Mahoso go about making dishonest claims about who is responsible for the mess we are in when the voters of this country told him in no uncertain terms who they thought was responsible.
And it wasnâ€™t Tendai Biti!
Mahosoâ€™s appointment to the ZMC would seriously undermine its credibility. Readers may recall his attempts, as chair of the MIC, to cow newspaper editors by issuing a â€œnotice to investigate a complaintâ€.
In September 2004 the Standard published a picture of President Mugabe hitching up his pants at the Harare Show.
Mahoso wrote to the paper claiming that the MIC had received â€œnumerous telephone complaints about the alleged photographâ€.
One of the â€œ10 or soâ€ complainants had put his complaint in writing, Mahoso said, enclosing the letter.
It was from an official in the Department of Information in the Office of the President called J Neusu. He said it was his departmentâ€™s view â€” and that of â€œthe majority of the citizenryâ€ who called his department to â€œregister their utter disgustâ€â€” that the president needs to be treated in a manner that befits the head of state of a sovereign stateâ€.
â€œThe use of the photograph by the Standard,â€ Neusu averred, â€œis extremely mischievous and represents a deliberate denigration of the highest office in the country. Indeed, it epitomises the weekly newspaperâ€™s editorial disposition that is underpinned by an anti-Mugabe orientation. It is obvious that the paper seeks to foist on the nation an image of the president that will facilitate its regime-change discourse.â€
The department wanted to see â€œappropriate actionâ€ taken against the publication, Neusu demanded. We told him to take a hike.
But what this episode reveals is a pompous self-serving official class that uses imposts upon the media to set up an office within the government to police the media with a view to curbing its right to disclose to the reading public the activities of the nationâ€™s leadership. In other words the very opposite of accountability.
The threat to the Standard came because the picture it used was not as flattering as it might have been.
The late Elias Rusike recounts in his autobiographical account of his days as CEO of Zimpapers how Information minister Nathan Shamuyarira would call him into his office to ask why the presidentâ€™s picture wasnâ€™t on the front page.
So they want the presidentâ€™s picture used â€” but only if itâ€™s flattering!
This week after a long slumber in which he was supposed to be writing his memoirs. Shamuyarira emerged to lecture us on ethical standards. He has evidently just been informed that â€œsome newspapers are being run by blacksâ€! What other news does he have for us?Â Â Â Â
Emmerson Mnangagwa is reported to have threatened war if whites are given back land expropriated under the land reform programme.
â€œLet it be known that anyone wanting to deny us this heritage we got from God, that we are ready to fight them,â€ he was reported as telling ZBC during the burial of Richard Hove.
Contrast these remarks with those of Jacob Zuma reported above.
There is a world of difference.
And what is the suggestion here? That whites will be taking land from black beneficiaries of land reform? Who said that? All that is planned is a land audit to see who got what and to prevent multiple ownership. Now why would Mnangagwa be so opposed to that?
Does the racist brutality of 2000-2008 constitute a God-given heritage?
Mnangagwaâ€™s populist posturing is clearly designed to advertise his ambition.
What it in fact tells us is how unsuitable he is for a position of leadership. The last thing this country needs is more war, threats and thuggery.
By the way, the report about to be published on voting patterns suggests Zanu PF will get no more than 10% in any forthcoming poll.
The best way to corroborate this is to step outside and ask. Finding somebody who admits they will vote for Mugabe and his gang is like finding a needle in a haystack.
A few of those â€œneedlesâ€ could be seen last Thursday evening making their way through the metal detector in the Harare airport domestic terminal from where they were proceeding on to the tarmac to welcome President Zuma.
At the metal detector, we are told, there was some commotion as security officers ran in all directions when the comrades removed their shoes.
The fallout was overpowering apparently forcing a hasty
retreat by those supervising the process.