River Ranch mine: A poisoned chalice

REMARKS by deputy Media minister Jameson Timba published in the Standard last weekend intrigued us.

He said that the Zimbabwe Media Commission’s first task would be to “sit down and work out the appointment of a chief executive officer”.
“The only problem is that they do not have a CEO to head the secretariat,” he said.
“It is now up to the commission to come up with criteria for the employment of a CEO, advertise the post and hold interviews to choose the most suitable person.”
What sort of nonsense is this? Timba is normally a sane voice in the media dialogue. But he can’t be serious about the ZMC employing a CEO. Who said the commission needed a CEO?  Why can’t applicants write to the chairman and then he, in consultation with his colleagues, make a decision?
This should be a formality in the new set-up. The last thing they need is a CEO who will usurp the intended functions of the commission and become another Tafataona Mahoso who arrogated to himself all sorts of powers at the MIC.
This process will provide Zanu-PF with all sorts of means for heel-dragging within the apparatus of the commission.
We need to clear these obstacles and get on with the business of democratic reform. The ZMC doesn’t need a CEO so let’s not give them one!
Then there’s the matter of the secretariat which has been a party institution with all that it entails in terms of business culture. Visitors calling at their offices during the lunch hour were told, “We are resting”.

We appreciate that the Herald has difficulty finding good contributors for its opinion pages, but Tichaona Nhamoyebonde on January 7 was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Nhamoyebonde, we are told, is a political scientist based in Cape Town. Another patriotic refugee in the tradition of Reason Wafawarova, we must assume.
He was having a go at Africom which he thinks is the “latest US bid to colonise Africa”.
The US would use Africom to gain access to the continent’s mineral riches, he told us.
This sort of patriotic paranoia is always sad to behold. But what is invariably never mentioned in articles of this sort is that most of Africa’s resources have already been looted by “patriotic” politicians and generals.
Where did the riches of the DRC disappear to? Who controls Angola’s oil reserves and Equatorial Guinea’s? And where did Nigeria’s vast oil wealth go to over the past 30 years?
It isn’t the Americans looting our resources that we need worry about!  Africans wouldn’t forgive their leaders if they did nothing, Nhamoyebonde says. He then cites Shakespeare as the author of the maxim that for evil to prevail all good men have to do is nothing.
“Political scientist” Nhamoyebonde needs to be told that it was Edmund Burke who coined that one three hundred years after Shakespeare!

Last Friday the Zimbabwe Independent published a report that Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, retired general Edzai Chimonyo, had taken possession of a banana plantation, Fangundu, in the Eastern Highlands, brandishing an offer letter from Didymus Mutasa.
The estate contains a large processing and packing plant. It is owned by a Dutch investment firm with Malaysian partners and is ostensibly protected by a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) with the Zimbabwe government.
Its investment was approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Centre.
The owners went to the High Court and obtained an order requiring Chimonyo to vacate the property. Despite the High Court order, soldiers were occupying the estate last week and Chimonyo was harvesting the bananas.
An official from the Ministry of Lands in Mutare said the occupation of Fangundu estate was unlikely to be reversed despite the court ruling.
“That ruling is just a piece of paper,” he said. “Almost every new farmer in that area has been served with court orders so there is nothing that Chimonyo can be afraid of.”
There you have the face of the beast: An approved Bippa shunted aside as a well-connected predator moves in; government officials hold a court order in contempt; and the estate’s produce is harvested by the invader with soldiers present on the property.
Then the government can’t understand why investors are giving Zimbabwe a wide berth. This is an emblematic case where bad policies and bad behaviour combine to tarnish the country’s image as well as sabotage its agricultural output.

The Sunday Mail ran a story on its sports pages last weekend with a prominent headline: “Togo pulls out, as Zimbabwe stands ready”. The paper, quoting Zimbabwe Football Association chief executive, Henrietta Rushwaya, told the nation Zimbabwe was “ready” to host the Africa Cup of Nations “at short notice” should the tournament organisers decide to switch to Harare as a result of a security threat posed by the separatist rebel group that attacked a bus carrying the Togo national team last weekend.
“We are able to organise the Africa Cup of Nations should we be requested at short notice to host it,” Rushwaya said. “Remember we are just coming out of the successful Cosafa Senior Challenge in which we hosted 13 countries.”
The first impression that anybody who read the story got was that the Confederation of African Football had approached Zimbabwe asking the country to host the tournament because of the security situation in Angola.
Rushwaya was being dishonest by telling the nation that we have the capacity to host such a major tournament at short notice because we have just come out of hosting the Cosafa Challenge Cup.
There is a huge difference between hosting a tournament that brings together Africa’s finest football players who ply their trade in European capitals, and hosting the Cosafa Challenge in which only players from local leagues participate.
Hosting football powerhouses such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia and Mali is different from hosting minnows such as the Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland.
The Africa Cup of Nations attracts hundreds of thousands of football fans and hordes of football journalists and scouts from around the globe. This is not the same as the Cosafa Challenge.
Besides, which stadiums will Zimbabwe offer at short notice for the AFCON tournament?  What accommodation will the country offer, at short notice, to the hundreds of thousands of people that will suddenly descend on Zimbabwe to watch the football showcase? And then there is the chaos at Beitbridge!
There is need for more preparation than what Rushwaya wants us to believe. Perhaps she made the statement knowing very well that the prospect of asking Zimbabwe to move in and host the tournament was next to zero. 
Rushwaya and the Sunday Mail deliberately misled the nation. Angola has spent a total of US$1 billion in building and upgrading stadiums, roads, bridges and rail network systems in preparation for the AFCON tournament.  How Zimbabwe can mobilise such an amount at “short notice” is up to Rushwaya to explain.

Finally, we welcome police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena’s comment in the Standard last weekend that the police remained apolitical and only arrested people who had committed crimes.
“It’s not the police who direct people to commit crimes,” he said, “and if people commit crimes it’s inevitable that they will be arrested.”
In view of this pronouncement, how soon can we expect to see Joseph Mwale brought to justice?