HomeEntertainmentMuckraker: Botswana case: Govt scores an own goal

Bagorro takes up new Hifa role

IT has always amused us how state-controlled newspapers are obliged to prefix their reference to issues such as sanctions with words such as “illegal” when they are not illegal at all.

This is to satisfy the whims of their besieged political masters who would like Herald readers to believe there is a conspiracy to bring about regime change. There is of course a conspiracy, but it involves the people of Zimbabwe.
Another usage has now crept in which we are seeing on a daily basis and that is “widely discredited”. 
If sanctions are so “widely discredited”, why is the former ruling party so obsessed with their removal? We also have the daft suggestion that Britain “influenced” the other EU countries to put these measures in place.
Anybody remotely familiar with EU politics would know that anything the British propose is likely to be opposed by the French! Getting 27 states to agree to a common policy is impossible without buy-in at all points. So the image of an overweening Britain leaning on its European rivals is a tad remote from reality.
Morgan Tsvangirai is “coming under intense pressure” to have the sanctions lifted, we are told.
Is it Tsvangirai coming under “intense pressure” or Zanu PF? What have they done to warrant the lifting of sanctions which they alone are responsible for?
EU foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels in two weeks to review their “common position”. They are likely to lift some measures such as those relating to Zimbabwean companies. But because of ongoing land seizures and the glacial pace of reform on the constitutional and media fronts, there is unlikely to be much change in the status of President Mugabe and his immediate circle. Members of Woza were once again arrested last week, not the sort of thing that endears Zimbabwe to its “detractors”.

The media should make it abundantly clear that there has been no reform whatsoever in their sector. A media commission has been formed but it is paralysed by indecision. No new licences have been issued to newspaper groups while the so-called public media remains in the hands of a reactionary clique which still hasn’t come to terms with its rejection by voters in the 2008 election.
Which makes Kudakwashe Bhasikiti’s resolution on sanctions so ridiculous. The people voted in 2008 for MPs who had no time for Zanu PF’s blandishments on the sanctions issue. If a majority in the House of Assembly were elected on a platform which repudiated the government’s lame excuse for failure, blaming precisely those countries that were keeping Zimbabwe fed, why does Bhasikiti think they will have changed their minds by now?
The people have spoken. And they haven’t changed their minds as the reception Bhasikiti received when proposing his motion revealed. The House let him know exactly what it thought of Zanu PF’s dishonesty over the sanctions issue. It’s a basket case.
Meanwhile, the state press refers to the US sanctions Act, Zidera, as “draconian”. Wouldn’t that be a more appropriate description for Posa, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and numerous other measures passed by the old regime to fortify its dictatorship? Are these not Zanu PF’s sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe? The Herald should stop these silly labels. Instead of giving an enlightened lead on policy reform, the state media is behaving like Izvestia in its last days as a public organ. How do they think they will be remembered when the rotten gang at the top has been removed?
And by the way, it would be useful if those commenting on Zidera were able to get Congressman Barney Frank’s name right. It is not “Ben”.

We are pleased to hear that Obert Mpofu has been disgorged of the vehicles he took with him when he left his last ministry. We have yet to hear from his former permanent secretary on his four vehicles.
“It is no longer an issue,” Mpofu told the Standard, lambasting the press for pursuing this fundamental issue of accountability.
And then there were those hundreds of youths all with the birth date of April 18 1980 recruited without authority.
This is how Zanu PF wants us to remember them: Greedy and rotten to the core.
And still they occupy vast column inches in the “public” press denouncing Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti in the redundant language of the Jurassic era.
By the way, what steps has Biti taken to ascertain the author of that scandalous article in the Herald 18 months ago, purportedly by Biti preparing for a transition –– that was described by a judge as good bedtime reading –– in other words fictional? Despite it being a transparent forgery, Biti was arrested on the basis of it and charged with treason. Who penned it and why did the Herald publish such a dubious document containing errors Biti would never have made?
And then there was the assault on Nelson Chamisa with an iron bar at the airport and the theft of his laptop. What has he done to ascertain responsibility for that episode? Is it not in the public interest to know?
Meanwhile, the Registrar-General’s office is still refusing to give the MDC an electronic copy of the voters’ roll. This is an obvious breach of the GPA. Yet the MDC says nothing.
Let’s welcome Reg Austin to the Human Rights Commission and hope he gets to the bottom of these episodes of human rights abuses and political obstruction that have so tarnished the nation.
The South Africans, by the way, have reportedly offered to clean up the voters’ roll with funding from the British and Americans. But the RG’s office has declined the offer.
The story is as yet unconfirmed. But it is extraordinary how much damage well-placed individuals can do to democratic prospects. Godfrey Majonga is currently refusing to accept applications for licences because, he claims, the administrative structures are not in place. A statement will be made in due course inviting applications. No application will be accepted before then, he says.
Does he really need to wait for instructions before proceeding? Why doesn’t he take charge and start work?

We were sorry to hear of the man who lost US$85 000 to a con artist. Regional magistrate William Bhila spoke of the “stupid superstition” that led a Harare man to surrender the proceeds of the sale of his house, car and property to pair of bogus prophets.
Bhila chided the victim for believing their claim that an evil snake was about to destroy his whole family.
We should be circumspect here. Is this not the same “stupid superstition” that led to senior politicians and police officers buying the claims of a young woman that diesel flowed from a rock in Chinhoyi?

Congratulations to the Herald for publishing a photo of Ben Freeth taken some months ago after he had been severely assaulted by farm invaders in Chegutu. It was important to publicise the criminal assault that as far as we know nobody has been charged with.
Lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa was quick to accuse Freeth of contempt of court for remarks the farmer, who has now lost his farm, allegedly made about Justice Bharat Patel in online publications following Patel’s ruling in the Sadc Tribunal case.
Whatever the merits of that issue, it was useful for diplomats and others currently under pressure to lift sanctions to see the consequences of depredations by “war veterans”.
The article was headed “White farmers attack judje (sic)”.
A documentary film Freeth had made on his own experience of the land invasions was widely seen abroad to critical acclaim.
The documentary was “full of falsehoods”, the Herald’s correspondent Fidelis Munyoro charged without a scrap of evidence. You can bet he was rushing to “judje” before seeing it. But there, next to Munyoro’s article was the picture of a battered and beaten Ben Freeth to illustrate just who was telling “falsehoods”.
Well done guys. Another own goal!

We noticed the prominence given by the Herald to Copac’s advertisement dismissing claims in the Standard that there had been irregular payments to MPs. Funding from the Zimbabwe Institute was essentially for supporting the independent secretariat and facilitating the training of thematic committees, we were told. ZI support has been in the form of direct payment to service providers.
This is well and good. It is important to have this correction. But there was something missing here. The Copac advert made reference to inaccuracies in the Sunday Mail edition of January 24 and the Standard of January 24 and January 31.
The Herald report omitted the reference to the Sunday Mail.
Still with matters of clarification, it was useful to have a statement by Gapwuz, the agricultural and plantation workers union, on record recently. They called for an end to the chaos on the farms “which continues to destroy the livelihoods of farm workers”.
“Gapwuz neither condones nor encourages the current attempts to deliberately take over farms by way of murdering, attacking and intimidating workers and their employers,” it says.
Fresh farm disturbances have reportedly rendered over 4 000 farm workers homeless since the formation last February of the GNU.
We have heard recently about the importance of public policy on the land issue. What part of public policy, we ask, is the eviction of thousands of workers who happened to be born in Malawi or Zambia?

No doubt we will soon be feeling the consequences of Zimbabwe’s clumsy diplomacy over the issue of the Botswana wildlife officers arrested for entering Zimbabwe illegally. We will not comment here on the merits of the case. But what we can say is that we see the urgent need for participation by all three GNU partners in foreign policy-making so the last-ditch loyalists in Munhumutapa Building don’t completely isolate us.
In an editorial yesterday the Herald woke up to the need for good relations with Botswana — a bit too late for that.
We note the statement from Botswana that their phone calls to the Foreign Affairs ministry went unreturned. And Botswana’s foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said their vice-president, Mompati Merafhe, had been unable to speak to President Mugabe about the issue in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the AU conference. Foreign minister Simba Mumbengegwi was unable to arrange an interview, we gather, because the president departed earlier than scheduled.
Botswana’s frustration with Zimbabwe’s maladroit moves resulted in the response that Zimbabwe should withdraw its defence and CIO attachés from Gaborone and that these posts would be “frozen and never to be filled”.
That’s what happens when you try to settle scores. Can any of this be said to be in Zimbabwe’s interest? It looks like another own goal!

On the subject of settling scores, how many people have now been acquitted in the courts or had their charges dropped before plea?  The number is mounting: Pascal Gwezere,  Mordecai Mahlangu, Thamsanqa Mahlangu,  Alec Muchadehama, and Ransome Makamure have all had charges dropped or been acquitted.
Several are prominent lawyers. Makamure is an MP. It is a shocking roll call and, as in the Botswana case, the state, thinking it would teach them a good lesson, has itself been taught a lesson in common sense!
Finally, can the editor of the Herald tell us who Chris Mbanga is. Any relation of Wilf?

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