Muckraker: Indeed Mutambara should know better

PRESIDENT Mugabe is evidently mobilising his forces for an early poll. One of the more bizarre dimensions to this campaign was the “kidnapping” of Munyaradzi Chidzonga at Harare airport last week and his subsequent appearance at State House where he was handed $300 000 by the president.

Hundreds of fans were waiting to greet him at the airport only to see him whisked off in a maroon Mercedes. DStv, the show’s sponsors, didn’t get a look-in until later.
This is a pity. Munya enjoyed extensive popular support in Zimbabwe for his role in the Big Brother All Stars Reality show. He has now blown that away by allowing himself to become part of Zanu PF’s election campaign. He was “over the moon” meeting Mugabe, we are told. One of his life’s dreams had come true.
Sadly, he will soon discover that it is something of a nightmare as he realises he will be made to pay for his $300 000.
Sorry Munya. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
The episode did have its amusing moments however –– such as Zanu PF bigwigs who know nothing about the Big Brother programme claiming the vote was rigged, something they admittedly know a lot about!

Muckraker was shocked by Arthur Mutambara’s remarks claiming President Mugabe’s appointment of senior officials was perfectly legitimate.
This is extraordinary. A rookie lawyer just out of law school will tell him that a constitutional amendment revises any existing laws. That is why it’s called an amendment –– it amends current constitutional provisions.
Constitutional amendment No 19 requires senior appointments to be made on the basis of consultation between the president and prime minister. That includes the police force and the judiciary.
Mugabe’s officials may choose to pretend this is not the case but we can expect them to advertise their ignorance. Mutambara should know better. How long is his party going to continue to indulge his erratic and misguided support for Zanu PF?

Tafataona Mahoso considers himself to be a supervisor of media ethics. He once set up a committee which he claimed was a response to a national demand for improved conduct in the media.
Of course no such demand existed beyond his office. And to illustrate just how partisan and phony such calls are, Mahoso in last Sunday’s “African Focus” column referred to “the provocative choice of former Rhodesian Selous Scout Roy Bennett as Deputy Minister of Agriculture”.
Bennett’s lawyers not so long ago wrote to the press to point out that Bennett was never a member of the Selous Scouts. This is something the state media has invented and which they peddle at every opportunity.
It isn’t too difficult to find the truth of the matter. A good journalist would not have much difficulty establishing the facts. But Mahoso doesn’t seem to care. He is evidently prepared to ignore the facts and repeat the lie that Bennett was a Selous Scout.
In fact he was in the police reserve. As was the case with Phillip Chiyangwa, this was part of his compulsory national service. As Mahoso made such a fuss about the importance of media ethics some years ago we have no doubt he will now avail himself of this opportunity to correct the record.

Itai Garande in the Herald on Monday adopted what he no doubt considered a legally safer approach. He referred to Bennett as “a political veteran having served in the Rhodesian police force and is alleged to have been in the notorious Selous Scouts although he denies this”.
Here again we have somebody professing to be a journalist who has access to the facts but prefers to repeat what his handlers have fed him. So much for ethics!
And by the way, has Mahoso’s tenure of posts at the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe been investigated for any possible conflict of interest? If not why not?

We were dismayed by Morgan Tsvangirai’s remarks in Mabvuku last week. He claimed the mooted election for next year would be “violence-free”.
What evidence leads him to make such an indulgent claim? Don’t the facts suggest otherwise? And here was Tsvangirai speaking in the home constituency of Tonderai Ndira who was brutally murdered in May 2008. As far as we know no progress has been made in bringing his killers to justice. Why did Tsvangirai choose to ignore this appalling political crime and instead sound like Pollyanna on a bad day?
But we are pleased that much of the media have picked up the contradiction between ZEC chair Justice Simpson Mtambanengwe’s concern that conditions are not yet ripe for elections –– that they would need substantial amounts of both financial and material resources to bring ZEC’s operations up to speed — and deputy chair Joyce Kazembe’s statement that Mugabe’s word was her command and that the ZEC was “ready for elections”.
It may be worth reminding ourselves at this point that Kazembe was deputy chair to Justice George Chiweshe in conducting the 2008 polls.

An independent ZEC was one of the key reforms specified in the GPA. There was concern in civil society that Justice Mtambanengwe would have difficulty running things from Windhoek.
And who should we listen to regarding who will be admitted as observers? Last week George Charamba appeared in this paper announcing the disqualification of Britain, America and the EU because they had taken an “antagonistic stance”.
“We have made enough concessions,” he declared. “This is now a hard-knuckled phase of Zimbabwean politics.”
So the Office of the President will decide who can be admitted as an observer, not the ZEC? And those countries monitoring the poll who are not “antagonistic” can be guaranteed to look the other way when necessary. And is it appropriate for the president’s spokesman to be threatening voters with a “hard-knuckled” campaign?

Living in Zimbabwe, we have come to expect incompetence and monopolistic tendencies on the part of state-controlled companies such as Zesa and ZBH. Few can still be surprised by the intermittent power cuts and the drab programming the latter showcases for us every passing day.
We have come to expect the worst from them rather than the best because circumstances have reduced us to think that way. Very few still fuss about whether the load-shedding “schedule” which Zesa once claimed to have, is still followed. On certain rare occasions we are pleasantly surprised to discover –– after phoning home to enquire –– that there is electricity.
As for ZBC, we are apologetic about not paying our licence fees in spite of the fact that most of their programming is unbearable and those who can afford to have opted for satellite television, a point that needs to be spelt out for Webster Shamu who thinks the Chinese can teach us how to improve things at Pocket’s Hill.
People have just accepted that ZBC is ZBC — a centre of chronic amateurism as long as we are under the current political regime. No amount of re-launches and new television seasons can convince them otherwise. As US President Barack Obama stated, “You can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”

On private companies however, Zimbabweans are generally tolerant, if not downright accommodating of their operating shortcomings. Econet for instance, periodically subjects its subscribers to network “challenges” which most Zimbabweans take in their stride albeit with murmurings and complaints. Generally speaking, Zimbabweans endure these scenarios under the impression that we are coming out of a socio-economic hiatus and thus should give them some more time to put their house in order.
We have tolerated the irritating voice telling us the number we are trying to reach is currently unavailable even though we know it can’t be true. We have also tolerated Econet’s move in 2008 to change us from contract subscribers to pre-paid. The contract platform was no longer viable in the current economic situation, we were told, and just like that we were placed on the pre-paid platform.
Recently they introduced the new broadband service which we are told will revolutionise Internet usage in the country. Its efficacy, however, is still subject to review and is not the subject of this article. But kudos to them for that initiative.
However, as has become the case each time they change over to some new platform, someone has to be screwed. 3G service subscribers, who were on a contract platform, were paying US$25 a month. But since the launch last week, they have been placed — without warning — on this new platform which requires them to pay US$98 for one gigabyte of data.
Apart from the vagueness on how subscribers will be able to navigate on this new platform, subscribers have again gotten the short end of the stick as the contracts they had agreed to have been revoked and they have to come up with a wad of cash to get the same service.
To add insult to injury Econet didn’t allow the subscriptions on the contract platform to run their course. Apparently subscribers were given airtime and once that was over, we must go and pay.
As usual one can only expect the odd grumble and murmur from Zimbabweans and ultimately life goes on. The impression one gets in all of this is we must be grateful for what we get no matter the standard.
I wonder when we will start to demand a better deal from service providers –– in all spheres –– and get our hard-earned dollars’ worth.

Shamu thinks the Chinese can enhance Zimbabwe’s propaganda output to effectively counter criticism from the West. They will soon cotton on that it is impossible to “enhance” anything emanating from the state media which is incorrigibly locked in the bad habits of a lifetime. Thirty years on and still no other channel, still no professional management of news, still no diversity of voices. Meanwhile, some of the nation’s best journalists are stuck in exile. The Chinese may find they have nothing left to teach!
Nigeria by the way got TV in 1960, the same year as us. But they have dozens of independent channels to choose from.

Finally, could somebody in our legal fraternity explain the requirements of Posa. Are those holding meetings required to seek the permission of the police, or are they required to simply inform the police?
We ask because it was reported last week that the MDC has been refused permission to hold report-back meetings (on the grounds that they applied too late) in Highfield, Budiriro, and Glen View while President Mugabe has proceeded with his, including the installation of a chief in Gutu.
What is the position of Sadc on one party in the electoral contest being excused the need to apply and the other party being refused the right to hear a report by the
prime minister on the current gridlock?
Tsvangirai was eventually able to proceed with his meetings after the intervention of Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone and Tendai Biti. But how does this episode meet the “free and fair” requirements of any election?
In this connection we were amused by Caesar Zvayi’s comments in the Herald this week that Morgan Tsvangirai needs to “become truly Zimbabwean” and “tune in to the majority sentiment”.
So here is the representative of the party that lost the 2008 election instructing the winner to get in tune with the “majority sentiment”.
Hail no Caesar!