There has predictably been considerable contention around the issue of Zimbabwe’s attendance at the EU-Africa summit following the denial of a visa to Mrs Grace Mugabe.
Some sharp discourse has emerged from the battle for hearts and minds.
“It is 100% wrong for the President not to attend the meeting just because his wife is not invited,” MDC Matabeleland South chairperson Pilate Ndebele said. “He took an oath to represent the people of Zimbabwe, not his wife or family.
“The President should put his country and people first, to use the opportunity to improve relations between Zimbabwe and the EU, especially convincing investors to come and invest here.”
Perhaps the most astringent remarks came from MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora who said: “To hold Zimbabwe to ransom simply because (the First Lady) Grace Mugabe cannot attend the summit is the worst form of sabotage for one’s country.”
Indeed, but perhaps we are all missing a point here. The EU is very simply holding Zimbabwe to commitments made in 2002 when the Zanu PF government was accused of manipulating electoral procedures and using political violence.
This year according to press reports, Grace has seized property in Mazoe in a move which EU governments believe is damaging to business in Zimbabwe.
One of those businesses, Interfresh, is in dire straits as a result.
So in all seriousness, how can a president of a country boycott a crucial international summit because of a quarrel over his wife’s travel visa. Is Mugabe now hostage to Grace as Louis XVI was to Marie Antoinette?
If he is, he must read history about Marie’s disastrous influence on her husband’s rule. After all what did our shopaholic First Lady want to do in Brussels besides, of course, embarking on extravagant shopping sprees (a manifestation of compulsive buying disorder) and tasteless expenditures and consumption — as we saw at her daughter’s wedding — like Marie?
At the same time, other farms and properties have been grabbed by President Robert Mugabe’s associates in pursuit of a policy that is both racially inspired and destructive. That is not a policy that is likely to endear the country to EU member states.
Reports in the Herald that President Jacob Zuma has “joined President Mugabe in shunning the EU–Africa summit in Brussels” is doubtful. Africa has a firm position that makes no provision for wives at the summit. It is amusing to hear the Zimbabwe state media refer to the “discredited” summit.
It wasn’t so “discredited” when Zimbabwe sought desperately to secure a visa for the “First Lady”.
We recall in 2003 Zimbabwe scrambling to get the Commonwealth to lift the terms imposed by the “white” members in 1991, but a wide cross-section of Club members said “No”.
History, it seems, is about to repeat itself. Mugabe must know it is procedure that spells much of the difference between rule by law and rule by whim or caprice.
The Sunday Times in Johannesburg carried an excellent lead-letter this week headed Africa’s sickness: Yes-men who prop up inept leaders. It is worth reproducing here.
“It is shocking how money was wasted building Nkandla for one man and his privileged family. I am surprised that President Jacob Zuma still has people who feel they cannot dump him as a leader when he has clearly failed to show good leadership skills. All he has done since he came to power is to look out for No 1.
“We, as Africans, will be known as failures if we continue to defend such leaders. I am surprised that nothing is said about the number of houses that were built there. I believe that the government’s duty was to build one secure house for him and the rest should have been his responsibility because he decided to have more than one wife.
“The problem with our African leaders is that they surround themselves with yes-men. This is dangerous for our continent. We need people who will not be afraid to speak the truth to leadership.
“We also have a problem with the politics of the stomach. People will not speak because they will lose their spot next to the king or president and thus have to go out and look for a job instead of enjoying the benefits of the gravy train.
“I wonder what history will say about those of us that have allowed this rot to reign in our countries.”
It is signed “Disgruntled African”.
Let’s hope Mugabe’s toadies saw this, or in fact, what do they have to say about it?
Zanu PF’s obsession
Prosecutor–general Johannes Tomana has been at pains to assure parliament that there was nothing wrong with supporting a party of his choice.
“No person in the country will be qualified to occupy an office if we start judging people on political lines,” he asserted. “It is my constitutional right to choose a party of my choice that persuades me with their policies and I choose Zanu PF and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Nothing wrong with that so long as he maintains a professional approach to his work and does not allow his partisan views to cloud his judgment. Can we say that is the case with him now?
It will be interesting to see if Zanu PF is successful in its latest call for the arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai. They are accusing him of making “subversive statements”. Was he making subversive statements or was he exercising his democratic right to denounce the ruling party’s record?
“He made subversive statements and the law must take its course,” Rugare Gumbo declared.
“Anyone who makes subversive statements should be punished,” he said.
Why is Zanu PF so obsessed with punishing people? Despite the new constitution, Zimbabwe remains a totalitarian state where people are not free to express their views. And then they simply can’t understand why President Mugabe and his wife have difficulty obtaining a visa to travel to Europe!
Mugabe got his visa in the end, but Grace didn’t because the EU states couldn’t understand what she planned to do with it besides shopping!
Tomana doesn’t seem to get it. The public complaints against him are not so much that he is Zanu PF, but that he is using public office to advance partisan interests through selective prosecution.
Cde Tomana, as a general rule, rabid partisanships are not good for public office. So try to be professional or at least pretend!
The price of electing corrupt and incompetent leaders
Our sister paper, the Southern Eye, on Wednesday carried a story on a Zanu PF legislator who wept in parliament over a stipend for war veterans.
Annastancia Ndlovu, who got into parliament through female proportional representation, became emotionally charged over the issue and briefly brought parliament to a standstill as she struggled to overcome her emotions.
Acting Speaker Melody Dziva later said this was a very emotional topic and that is why the MP has been deeply moved.
MPs are advocating for an upward review of the stipend.
This comes 16 years after war veterans bullied the government into paying them billions of Zimbabwean dollars in gratuities, which sent the dollar crashing, and the economy on a downward spiral.
Dziva later said: “This is very emotional topic and that is why the MP has been deeply moved.”
Zanu PF Bindura South MP Remigious Matangira also added his voice at the emotive issue saying his colleague was justified to cry.
“There is no way one would ot cry. She would cry because it touches our hearts. We have been selfish filling our bellies at the expense of our sons and daughters. Where did we get those things that make us rich? Did we have those things before Independence? We should look after those who gave us independence.”
At least Matangira is very honest in admitting Zanu PF MPs are “selfish” and “rich”.
To Ndlovu, we sympathise with you — crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then seriously deal with issues, especially when you belong to a party that has mismanaged and vandalised the economy. That’s the price of electing a failed nonagenarian and corrupt and incompetent leaders to run government. Stop crying and tell your leaders to fix the economy.