Choreographed state visits sign of loneliness

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President Robert Mugabe had a lucky strike last week.

MuckRaker

He managed to rope President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali into a spontaneous state visit which was given saturation coverage in the state media.

State visits usually follow a rigid pattern. The visiting head is met at the airport with due ceremony which ruling party denizens are required to attend. Very often there is a visit to the country’s second city followed by a gala dinner. The visitor will be expected to say a few words in support of his host.

Stage-managed
We can be sure the visit of the Malian ruler was arranged when President Mugabe was in West Africa two weeks ago and South Africa last week. It was predictably replete with praise-singing by the visiting head who almost certainly had only a rudimentary grasp of where Zimbabwe was located. What matters is that both men needed friends and were grateful for the diplomatic windfall.

But Keita should be reminded that Zimbabweans have acquired a taste for freedom having been ruled by a tyrannical regime with little regard for human rights over the past 35 years. It is profoundly offensive to have visiting rulers praise to the skies their hosts who kidnap journalists and award each other PhDs.

Zimbabwe must have looked very desirable with its relatively green acres. Mali is mostly desert. But we wonder if Keita commands at home the sort of audience he was given here.

Comic reminder

We liked the Zapiro cartoon in the Sunday Times last weekend. It showed South African President Jacob Zuma as a passport control officer reading a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He is holding it upside down.

Behind him is a poster of the Dalai Lama with “Prohibited” written across it. Below that was a poster of Omar Al-Bashir with “Endorsed” written across it.

This follows reports in the South African press that President Mugabe in his role as chair of the African Union mobilised Zuma and other delegates to the AU assembly to prevent the eviction of Al-Bashir should he decide to attend the summit.

Mugabe was determined to prevent the South African courts acting to enforce a warrant of the International Criminal Court in the Hague to arrest him. Mugabe declared that he regretted the AU decision to support the ICC, describing it as a noose around their necks.

In the end Bashir came, attended and left with the full cooperation of the South African authorities, a move which enraged civil society which declared that the South African government had shown a shocking disregard for the rule of law.

The Sunday Times reminded its readers that when South Africa backed efforts to have the ICC established it did so with its own painful history of human rights abuses in mind. It was determined that another Rwanda- type genocide would not happen on the continent or elsewhere in the world without those responsible held to account and punished by an internationally recognised institution.

Retreat

But now Zuma’s government is buckling under pressure from Bashir and other human rights abusers on the continent.

The ICC has its flaws the Sunday Times points out. “But for most victims of brutal dictatorship on our continent the ICC is the only avenue through which they can get justice.

Of all the institutions the judiciary has come out of this fairly well.

“Obviously the judiciary has neither the purse nor the army to enforce its decisions,” Barney Mthobothi wrote in his weekly column.

“But its authority lies in its legitimacy. And that derives from its staying true and loyal, not to the executive or any other power or interest, but to the constitution.”
Mugabe was not the only person getting a windfall last week. The discovery of a lapel badge on the boy arrested in Charleston for killing members of a church congregation was a gift to the state media. The badges contained the colonial flags of South Africa and Rhodesia.

The Herald made a meal of it which proved difficult as the boy was only 20 and had never been to Southern Africa as far as we know.
His killing spree was more directed at his own countrymen than Africans. It had the benefit of diverting attention to “white supremacists” but it didn’t seem to stick.

Unashamed
Even Mugabe casts his vote in Highfield whenever there is an election. Prominent politicians like MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn’s Simba Makoni and MDC’s Welshman Ncube, among others, also do the same.

So what’s so unique about the Zanu PF candidate for Hurungwe West Keith Guzah, whose name was peculiarly absent from the voters’ roll and did not vote but went on to be elected as the rightful representative?

This reminds us of former RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s scuffle with some of his colleagues in Zanu PF who clearly stated he could not contest to become a senator for Mutare when his name was registered under another constituency in Buhera.

It was deemed a violation of the law while some think-tanks in the ruling party branded him legally illiterate. Has it suddenly become legal because the ruling party wants to satisfy its needs through Guzah? Which laws are now guiding Zec considering no constitutional amendments have been gazetted to that effect? Are Gono and Guzah different before the courts. Without doubt, Guzah doesn’t deserve to represent the electorate in Hurungwe West. He is not part of them and should do the honourable thing — quit as the MP of the constituency.

Tainted

Zanu PF must also be held accountable for trying to twist the law for self-aggrandisement. Doesn’t this also show that Zec is run by biased, unprofessional and impartial officers inclined towards entrenching rigging techniques that have marred elections since 2000?

No amount of justification and doctoring of documents by the electoral body will sanitise the rot at Zec, the dishonesty rooted in Zanu PF and the stupidity of mafia opportunists running the country’s affairs like a one-party state.

And this mirrors more chaos coming ahead of the 2018 general polls; expect nothing besides rigging, imposition of candidates, terror campaigns and false results.

Foolish culprit

The media reported that former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, booted out alongside many top officials before Zanu PF’s December congress, bemoaned Tsvangirai’s decision to flee to Botswana after the 2008 harmonised elections.

He allegedly said if Tsvangirai had decided to march on State House no-one could have stopped him, including the police.

Do we deserve to hear such stories when he was part of the crew that ran to safeguard Mugabe from being removed from power after conceding defeat? He is a culprit, it would be better for him to remain silent on this one because it pains every Zimbabwean who is being deprived of a decent living because of Mugabe’s “I won’t go” mantra.

Mutasa and all those fired from the ruling party should not pretend to be the new messiahs when they played a pivotal role in making sure Zimbabwe remains a basket case. If he had remained on the gravy train would he be telling us that Zanu PF lost the 2008 election and Mugabe was ready to go? Their party (yet to be launched, if ever it will)’s slogan can only sound great when it reads “People Last”.

Confused govt
The state-controlled broadcaster ZBC carried a story in which government is making moves to re-engage the IMF to support the country’s beleaguered agricultural sector.

However, US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton, in an interview with NewsDay last week summarised what government should do in order to attract investment and cultivate confidence in the international community.

“They want an investment environment that is clear and rules that are understood and predictable. The rules tend to change from week to week and month to month. Clarity and predictability are the two greatest needs of American investors,” he said.

Does Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa think he will achieve this feat when the government he is working for is clueless and lacks on policy clarity?

We wait to see if anything sensible happens while Zanu PF is still in power.

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