IN a totalitarian state every aspect of public life is governed by the state’s rulers. While it may appear that civic activists have room to operate, in reality they are squeezed out and sometimes persecuted.Last Friday the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) had been due to host the Joshua Nkomo Memorial lecture at which Nkosana Moyo had been due to speak.
Moyo, it may be recalled, had served in government as Minister of Industry and International Trade. His frustration at being unable to make progress as a minister led to his resignation in a fax sent from Johannesburg.
We don’t know what he proposed to say in his speech on Friday night but clearly the authorities deemed it potentially subversive. Nust was told to cancel the event which was to be hosted by their media department, headed by media commissioner Nqobile Nyathi, in tandem with ANZ and the Joshua Nkomo Foundation.
What does all this tell us? Obviously a paranoid regime cannot allow freedom of speech that may embarrass it. The cancellation was a clear attempt to suppress any potential discussion that might have proved uncomfortable for a government thrashing around for legitimacy.
In this context the reading public can’t have missed the way in which Joshua Nkomo’s legacy in the days leading up to July 1 had been hijacked by a state keen to cover itself in the mantle of nationalist glory which Nkomo represented and Zanu PF manifestly doesn’t. The lecture was being delivered in a part of the country where Nkomo’s popular support had held up to the end of his life. When he died in 1999 most of his supporters transferred their allegiance to the emergent MDC.
His autobiography revealed the extent to which he was persecuted by Zanu PF in the early 1980s, an episode conspicuously airbrushed out of the glowing hagiographies being carried in the state media. The dishonesty of those attempting to acquire his nationalist mantle by republishing expurgated episodes of his book that fail to mention the ordeal he suffered –– along with his chief lieutenants –– underlines why we need a free press including broadcasters that tell the truth.
Muckraker came under fire in parliament last week when Tourism minister Walter Mzembi thought he should respond to a point raised in this column.
“Zimbabwe tourism,” he said, “has the capacity after bouncing back to actually blossom and in fact, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council Economic Impact Report, it has been projected to be the second fastest growing tourism sector in terms of contribution to GDP after China.
“Unfortunately, writers of some newspaper columns like Muckraker of the Independent weekly seem to find this difficult to believe leading them to suggest that I perhaps created these projections yet these are made on the basis of research and analysis done by the WTTC in collaboration with Oxford economists.
“We have amongst us some people still stuck in the colonial mind-set where they cannot see a prosperous Zimbabwe,” Mzembi charged.
So we have a prosperous Zimbabwe now, do we Cde Mzembi?
We were interested in remarks made at the opening of the Jin’an Buddhist temple in Chiadzwa attended by President Mugabe. Master of the temple Ki Hui said President Mugabe was a great person just like chairman Mao and deserved the respect of everyone.
“Chairman Mao freed us from the old China,” he said, “and was the founding chairman of the modern China, and just like our chairman, President Mugabe freed Zimbabweans from the old world of poverty.”
This is revisionism at its most radical. Chairman Mao was responsible for mass starvation with his Great Leap Forward. It was a disaster, millions died. And his violent Cultural Revolution caused widespread suffering with families torn apart. Children were encouraged to denounce their parents as reactionary “running dogs”.
Chinese leaders paid a visit to Hong Kong this week to mark 15 years of Communist rule. The police kept demonstrators well away from where the leaders were staying. But their voices could be heard miles away.
The fact is modern China is the product of Deng, not Mao. Deng famously described his attitude to reform: “I don’t care what colour a cat is so long as it catches mice.”
China has progressed rapidly since then (1978) but only by learning from the West.
China today runs a successful market economy based on Deng’s philosophy, not Mao’s. Zimbabwe is headed the other way.
The Herald carried an interesting piece on Tuesday about a Chinese delegation visiting Zimbabwe. They met SK Moyo and Rugare Gumbo during their tour, we are told.
“Cde Gumbo bemoaned the propaganda attack the country is being subjected to by Western countries,” the Herald reported.
“The West is highly advanced in terms of technology and propaganda and after imposing the illegal sanctions on us they want the whole world to believe we are a rogue state.” He called for more Chinese assistance to counter Western propaganda.
This is a significant admission. Here is Zanu PF with the whole apparatus of the state at its disposal calling on the Chinese to help them.
They have just increased their grip on radio and television so they can dominate the airwaves but it apparently hasn’t done the trick.
They still feel they are losing the propaganda war. And of course they are.
The last thing Zimbabweans want to hear is more of what they are fed by ZBC.
As for the Chinese, they should not be interfering in our internal affairs.
Meanwhile ZBC has signed yet another MoU, this time with Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
The move, according to ZBC, is aimed at “strengthening relations” between the two state-controlled broadcasters.
However, under the agreement, ZBC will air CCTV news programmes and not the other way round. Clearly even the Chinese don’t want the drivel that passes for news at ZBC.
Finance minister and MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti took time out of his supposedly busy schedule to embellish President Mugabe to Sunday Mail readers.
“He (Mugabe) is very calm and seductive: I am sure every woman is in love with him,” Biti gushed.
Biti was not done, shocked readers were to discover, adding: “He is a fountain of experience, fountain of knowledge and, most importantly, a fountain of stability. There are a lot of horrible things that would have happened in this country if he had not said ‘No’.”
Victims of Gukurahundi, Operation Murambatsvina as well as of the June 2008 run-off election violence will have a very different opinion to that of the fawning minister.
As recently as April, Mugabe was quoted saying: “now is the time to remove all the snakes on our way and ensure that Bulawayo and the whole of Matabeleland is vibrant”.
These words were a chilling reminder of Mugabe’s statement in the early 1980s in which he stated that:
“Zapu and its leader, Joshua Nkomo are like a cobra in a house, the only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head.”
How reassuring it must be for long-suffering Zimbabweans, who have borne the brunt of 32 years of abuse, to hear the secretary-general of an alternative party vouching for their tormentors.
Biti is not alone in the lickspittle crusade with MDC-T Organising Secretary Nelson Chamisa saying Mugabe “provided leadership from the cockpit and we are prepared to be the passengers”.
Chamisa had said Mugabe’s “wisdom makes sure the plane does not crash”.
These sentiments are being expressed in a country which no longer has a currency, an airline and whose industries lie moribund thanks to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s policies.
The Johannesburg Sunday Times has commented on President Zuma’s “second phase of transition” that would mean the adoption of radical policies to speed up social transformation.
“But it is not new concepts and revolutionary sounding buzz words that South Africa needs to turn around its fortunes,” the paper points out. “We have too many of those.”
“Bad planning, corruption, and the lack of political will rather than the compromises reached during the multiparty negotiations at Codesa are to blame for the government’s failure to deliver textbooks to public schools in Limpopo.
“Instead of dodging the real issues by introducing new concepts at every one of its five-yearly national conferences, it is about time the ruling party did some serious soul-searching as to why after nearly two decades in power it has done so little to reverse the legacy of apartheid.”
Muckraker drew attention recently to the anarchy in the administration of Harare with arbitrary structures going up all over the city.
A good example, we said, was the car-sales yards which have been planted on municipal property opposite Prince Edward School. It is shocking that these were given approval by the city planners.
This week we can report that brick walls have been built around the car-lots.
In other words permanent structures are being erected on what one assumes is city property.
Some well-connected individual will benefit. As we said, this is part of the breakdown in city administration at a time when the council is declaring its “shared vision” for a “world class” city. Purleez!