HomeOpinionMuckraker: When leaders prove they are a big joke

Muckraker: When leaders prove they are a big joke

‘Namibia is a land of the brave,” former president Sam Nujoma said recently, “but not for jokes and laughter”.

That’s because there’s only one joke in Nambia and it’s Nujoma.  In fact Namibia is a one-joke state.
The Herald last month carried a statement by Nujoma attacking whites in the vitriolic language of Mugabe. The US and Britain imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe because people demanded their land back, he claimed. It is because of the Western powers that opposition parties were formed in Africa, he said. Nothing of course to do with the incompetence and avarice of those in office!
New Era, the fawning Namibian newspaper that is as bad as the Herald, published these remarks by Nujoma made at a Swapo rally. They mostly concerned a black mamba.
“Whites are dangerous, just like a black mamba,” he declared. “If they oust Mugabe, they will oust another president.” Can you imagine a Western leader getting away with such crude racism? The world would be on his case in no time.
What New Era didn’t tell us, and of course nor did the Herald, was that Nujoma tried to hang on to office for a third term but was told by his party to go.
Then he became something of an embarrassment by remaining as party chairman and interfering wherever he could. In the end the Namibian political leadership devised an inspired solution. Nujoma, not known for his incisive intellect, was sent back to school. Here, it was hoped, he might discover something of life beyond the struggle and present a more sophisticated impression to Namibia’s friends and neighbours.
Despite this sensible move, he continues to give Namibia a bad name with demagoguery of the sort reported in New Era. Namibia has been out of step with its Sadc neighbours by backing Mugabe’s continuation in office and his assault on civil society — when they weren’t prepared to keep their own leader in power when younger and more able men such as Hifikepunye Pohamba wanted to take over the reins.
Like President Mugabe, New Era slavishly wrote, “Cde Nujoma is also a veteran of the struggle who comes from the same revolutionary school.”
Really? Did he also have trouble getting into the training camps? The only difference is that Namibians didn’t allow their leader to mess things up before getting rid of him. They got him before he could get them!
Which reminds us of the old joke. “Are you ready to say goodbye to the people of Zimbabwe?” Mugabe was asked. “Why, where are they going?” he replies.

Muckraker was interested to note the views of new South African Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. He was sworn in last week. In an address to a conference of judges a couple of years ago, the Sunday Times reminds us, Justice Ngcobo argued that the exercise of judicial power included not only management of cases but also giving judges control of the budgets of courts.
“Independent court administration underpins the independence of the judiciary and reduces the potential to interfere with the functioning of the courts,” Ngcobo said. “It is for this reason I would put court administration on top of the agenda for change.”
We wonder if members of our own bench, beneficiaries of farms and flat-screen TVs, read those remarks.
Our only point of departure with the Sunday Times report came when it said Justice minister Jeff Radebe “could not conceal his glee” at the meeting of the Judicial Service Commission where Ngcobo was interviewed.
Judges should beware when ministers can’t “conceal their glee” at their appointment!

Zimbabwe’s editors made a rod for their backs this week. Minister Webster Shamu had been due to open a Unesco-sponsored round-table meeting but he suddenly remembered it was the opening of parliament that day. So perm sec George Charamba had to step in.
Charamba admitted he was “hired by politicians to make them look pretty”. But he was clearly unimpressed by the GNU.
“I’m in the kitchen, there’s lots of smoke but hardly much cooking going on,” he said.
He spoke of “unproductive divisions” in the media, “barren antagonism, extreme unreasonableness often translating into ruinous camps”.
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe in particular came in for a good sticking. Charamba spoke of “fundamentalism in the media” which came with “sickening name-calling”. Muckraker’s ears were burning!
“You have been polarised by politics not because you are victims of politicians but because you have become political yourselves,” he fulminated.
He also scorned the media’s pretensions to what he called “a-politicalness”.
What he didn’t mention were his own pretensions to being apolitical.

It will be recalled that at the outset of the GNU there was agreement by all parties that permanent secretaries should stay at their posts because they were seen as “professional and apolitical”.
The naïve MDC was left to rue that decision as Charamba has on numerous occasions demonstrated just how partisan it is possible for a permanent secretary to be. Here is somebody speaking for a leader who was decisively rejected by voters last year — together with his discredited mantras — but who nevertheless lectures the media on what their role should be.
Meanwhile, while his bosses talk up investment opportunities in the country, Charamba detects foreign conspiracies everywhere. “The public media has kept jobs, sustained families,” he boasts.
Its political masters have also presided over the closure of private papers and the emigration of a whole generation of journalists.
We should thank Charamba for reminding us that it is the function of newspapers in a democratic society to ensure powerful public servants do not exceed their role as advisors to ministers. Above all they are required to exercise an independent and professional mind. That means discarding those
outfits adorned with Mugabe’s portrait at Zanu PF rallies and also discarding the shibboleths that go with them.

By the way, whose fault was it that the names of those Zimpapers board members were released together with the names of board members for parastatals?
The government has been pretending that Zimpapers is not a parastatal of late so this was a particularly embarrassing gaffe. But the perm sec, in an agile demonstration of the buck not stopping here, blamed his officers.
The Zimpapers list got mixed up with those from “different parastatals” which the ministry was also processing, we were told.
An enlightening episode!
Meanwhile Muckraker is getting word that the malevolent Mahoso is about to be moved again following strong objections to his appointment as chair of BAZ by GNU partners.
This is not altogether good news. If he is evicted from BAZ because he knows nothing about broadcasting, he could end up on the ZMC! Come to think of it, what does he know about the media?

Finally, our congratulations to Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono on the award of the prestigious Ig Nobel prize for Mathematics. The award, announced during a ceremony at Harvard University, lauded Gono, according to the Sunday Times, “for giving people a simple everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers, from very small to very big, by having his bank print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.”
Gono was unable to attend the ceremony.

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