WE were amused by President Robert Mugabe’s response last week to the praises heaped on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who described the premier as a hero in the mould of democracy icons Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Speaking at the launch of the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust last week, Mugabe said Zimbabweans should be cautious of Western leaders who praise them as good leaders while arming them to work against the people.
In apparent reference to Tsvangirai, Mugabe said: “Some among us are siding with the whites. If you side with them and fail to realise you are being used, then you will be a fool.”
Ironically Mugabe himself was showered with praise, honours and awards from the West in the early years of his rule, receiving honorary degrees, and international awards including an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth.
At that time Mugabe became the “Darling of the West”, meeting with US presidents Ronald Reagan in 1983, George HW Bush in 1991 and Bill Clinton in 1995.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in a dinner held in Mugabe’s honour after his visit to London in 1982, praised him for bringing “peace and reconciliation to Zimbabwe”.
Mugabe was lauded for his “tireless efforts to consolidate the independence of his country and improve the quality of life of his people”.
This was at a time when the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade was being unleashed in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces resulting in the killing of an estimated 20 000 civilians.
We didn’t hear any complaints then from Mugabe when he was receiving these accolades. Now that they have dried up, and in some cases withdrawn, it is more convenient to dismiss them.
This must especially sting with the European Union extending the “illegal” sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his associates by another year saying it will consider reviewing the embargoes after the country holds a referendum on the envisaged new constitution.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said of Mugabe’s broadside: “We are surprised that the president is miffed. We had nothing to do with it; we are just a proud recipient of the accolade.”
‘Queen Victoria knighted President Mugabe in 1994,” a Herald correspondent told us on Tuesday.
This would have been rather impossible because she died in 1901.
The writer was confused in a number of ways. He claimed there were reports that Queen Elizabeth (not Victoria) wanted to visit Zimbabwe before leaving the throne.
“If Her Majesty visits Zimbabwe it will confound advocates of sanctions against this country. The EU is slowly swallowing its pride after realising the futility of maintaining illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.”
The writer needs some help here. The Queen acts on the advice of her ministers. She would never embark upon a visit to somewhere like Zimbabwe without consulting the prime minister (Cameron in this case).
The Queen may indeed be fond of Zimbabwe, as the writer suggests, but that doesn’t mean she is likely to act contrary to government policy. As for the EU, it has made its position clear. There will be no significant lifting of sanctions until Zimbabwe has demonstrated its preparedness to hold a peaceful referendum and election.
Another state propagandist was last weekend claiming that Australia and New Zealand, being “British dominions”, were bound to follow British policy shifts.
This is ignorant nonsense of course. Under the Statute of Westminster of 1931, Britain recognised the sovereignty of Australia and New Zealand and other independent Commonwealth states. Their only formal tie was to recognise the King as head of state.
During the Second World War Australia refused to move troops to the North African Desert arguing the Japanese threat concerned them more.
In the 1950s Australia and New Zealand joined ANZUS which the Americans set up. The usage “British dominions” hasn’t been used since the early 1950s.
This is all elementary stuff but needs communicating to those who would govern us. Most Australians would find the charge of subservience to Britain as plain daft.
It seems the “illegal” sanctions know no bounds as the Wall Street Journal reports that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has joined an elite club of world leaders: He was one of the few barred from last Friday’s opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in London.
The 57-year-old leader of the former Soviet republic was blacklisted by the European Union and the US in 2006 for human rights violations.
That ban was lifted in 2008, then reinstated by the EU in early 2011 after the Lukashenko government cracked down on opposition figures after his disputed victory in the December 2010 presidential election.
Lukashenko, who was clearly peeved by the decision, made a speech attacking the London Olympics as “very politicised”.
He joins Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Mugabe who are also barred from traveling in Europe.
It seems finally someone has decided to take ZBC on over their unjustified licence fees of US$20 annually for radio and US$50 for television per-household.
This is despite the SABC, which offers more diverse and better quality programming, mandating households to pay US$30 annually for both radio and television licences.
Asked recently why ZBC demanded so much in licence fees, ZBC spokesperson Sivukile Simango cited high operating costs.
Sourcing those reruns of 1980s shows is expensive, we are made to believe.
NewsDay reports that a Harare man, Bernard Wekare, has launched a legal challenge against a provision requiring households and individuals to have valid listeners and viewership licences.
Wekare, in his application, argued that the possession or ownership of a television set did not necessarily mean it was intended for purposes of accessing ZBC’s broadcast material.
He argued that a television set is no longer exclusively used “for the reception of a broadcasting service” in that it was capable for being used for a number of purposes such as watching personal videos and DVDs, listening to one’s choice of music and watching educational materials.
“By requiring all television set owners to pay licences to second respondent (ZBC), the law is in fact compelling me to associate with the second respondent and its programmes, which may have personnel I do not wish to associate with or content I do not subscribe to and therefore do not wish to have beamed into my home,” reads the application.
Speaking of ZBC propaganda Monday night’s bulletin furnished us with a Zanu PF account of the skirmishes which occurred at Murombedzi business centre in Zvimba last week in which eight MDC-T supporters were injured.
NewsDay reports the MDC-T had secured police clearance to conduct a rally on a football pitch at the business centre but found Zanu PF supporters camped at the venue.
Violence then broke out after Zanu PF supporters refused to leave the grounds resulting in the respective supporters pelting each other with stones.
MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti, who was recently forced to hold a rally in a graveyard in Darwendale after soldiers and Zanu PF supporters ran amok, was supposed to address the ill-fated rally.
Curiously Zanu PF supporters have suddenly become ardent football fans judging by the “social soccer” line they come up with each time they deny the MDC formations access to a stadium.
In Darwendale soldiers refused to leave the stadium the MDC-T had been cleared to hold a rally because they were playing social soccer.
In Murombedzi, ZBC claims, the MDC-T supporters disrupted yet another “social soccer” match the Zanu PF supporters decided to play on that particular day. Evidently Zanu PF does not need any police clearance to have gatherings.
The MDC-T supporters were actually the aggressors, reports our “first and permanent choice”.
In the report ZBC interviews “eyewitnesses” to the skirmishes who startlingly gave contrasting accounts of the day’s events, and all of which were Zanu PF supporters.
No effort is made to hear the MDC-T supporters’ side of the story. The Zanu PF supporters are pitched as hapless people minding their own business who are viciously attacked for no reason.
As if anyone would believe that. This shamelessly biased reportage will not deter ZBC licence inspectors from demanding payment.
The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) last week embarked on another recruitment exercise, defying Finance minister Tendai Biti’s recent freeze on new appointments in the public sector due to a severe cash squeeze.
According to the Standard, the ZNA and Home Affairs ministry have so far recruited 4 600 soldiers and 1 600 police officers since May this year.
ZNA spokesperson, Major Alphios Makotore, is quoted confirming the army had embarked on another recruitment exercise countrywide.
“Yes, we are recruiting. It’s a national exercise,” Makotore said.
This is despite civil servants mulling a full-scale strike to coincide with the new school term next month and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa asking the Ministry of Finance for an additional US$2,5 million to pay army recruits.
The ZNA recently scrapped minimum educational qualifications for aspiring soldiers to attract as many recruits as possible.
Why is the army so keen to recruit when there is no foreign adversary in sight or ahead of elections?
Clearly, something fishy is going on here!