Muckraker

Mad Dog Manheru in rabid attack


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/SPAN>WAS it something we said? We are accustomed to Mad Dog Manheru’s attacks on this newspaper but last Saturday’s snarling and foaming in the Herald laid down new benchmarks —  or is it teethmarks — in rabid journalism.


It could of course have been a number of things that set him off. There was a report on lawyers slamming the use of the state media to attack members of the judiciary, Thabo Mbeki’s statement that Zanu PF and the MDC were about to go into formal talks, an article on the murderous Obiang regime whose sovereignty Zimbabwe has been vigorously defending, and an opinion piece on the Media Commission’s attempts to extract foreign exchange from locally-based foreign correspondents for their accreditation fees.


But Mad Dog’s vitriol, extending over a record 11 paragraphs, was chiefly directed at our editor, Iden Wetherell. His crime, it would seem — apart of course from being white — was to puncture the cherished illusion that US Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner was working in cahoots with the local independent media. There was no evidence for such a claim, Iden inconveniently suggested.


Anybody challenging the state’s inventive propaganda can expect this treatment. In particular, the suggestion in this column that Zimbabwe was not sheltering any American asylum-seekers because the US didn’t force its citizens to become political and economic refugees appears to have provoked Manheru’s wrath.


Such “impudence is what would drive any worthy and self-respecting Zimbabwean mad”, Mad Dog frothed. At least he didn’t call it blasphemous! But we did get one useful admission in all this.


“I am the politician Iden made, the patriotic anger that now burns incandescent,” Manheru told Herald readers. “I use my scalding circumstantial pen to defend Zimbabwe, to defend her children, to defend her personality by scalding her white Rhodesian tormentors…”


The disordered personality behind this racist ranting is all too clear. But thankfully he doesn’t speak for the majority of Zimbabweans who long ago saw his bootlicking and shallow opportunism for the mercenarism that it really is.


 Sunday Mail political editor Munyaradzi Huni wants to play holier-than-thou politics about Zimbabweans in Botswana. On Sunday he had a long story purporting to detail abuses suffered by Zimbabweans at the hands of “Botswana authorities”. Among other abuses, said Huni, Zimbabweans are being “subjected to wanton torture and harassment by Botswana security forces”, denied access to bank loans, and used as cheap labour.


All this was part of a campaign by the Botswana government to “demonise the Zimbabwean government” for embarking on a land reform programme which Botswana allegedly views as “undemocratic and a sign of bad governance”.


That’s strange. We thought the region, and indeed the whole of Africa, fully endorsed President Mugabe’s “bold stance” on land reform. Evidently we have been misled.


But anyway, as we have said before, if everything is OK back home why are those Zimbabweans subjected to abuse unwilling to return home? Why are we not being told their side of the story? What made them decide that it was better to suffer in a foreign country than be ill-treated by the same people who claim to have brought democracy and human rights to Zimbabwe.


Huni claims his “investigations” revealed that “a number of legislators and ministers in Botswana helped fuel the hatred for Zimbabweans”. He gave as an example Harare’s failure to repay the US$6 million for fuel that Zimbabwe got in 2000.


So why is Zimbabwe failing to pay back such a paltry sum? Perhaps as an African country Botswana is not expected to demand what is due to it because that does not show solidarity with an “African brother”.


But what Huni doesn’t want to reveal to his readers is that he is engaged in a long propaganda war against President Festus Mogae because he was one of the few Sadc leaders to see through the thin veneer of lawlessness disguised as land reform. As he put it, the problem of Zimbabwe was not about land but a “crisis of governance”.


Mogae again refused to swallow the lie that Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth was all the work of an unrepentant “white Commonwealth”. He refused to be part of the so-called Sadc statement condemning Zimbabwe’s continued suspension.


In fact the gripe with Botswana goes further than that. There was the noise about Botswana allowing the United States to set up military bases in that country. Despite spirited denials, the Zimbabwean government seems to harbour suspicions that there are such bases which the US wants to use to effect a regime change. Allegations about illegal immigrants and the West Bank fence have served to only worsen frosty relations. Unfortunately we are not always able to choose who our neighbours are.


 Muckraker wishes government would decide on when this land-grab thing will be over. There are those allocated land who want to get on with the business of farming and then there are the greedy Zanu PF chefs always fighting over who occupies which rich farm. At the weekend VP Joseph Msika warned those “war veterans” who allocated themselves land that they would be brought to book.


“As the chairman of the land redistribution committee, I determine the policy we will follow in distributing land,” said Msika. “We have plenty of farms that have not been allocated and no one has the mandate to dispossess someone of their allocated piece of land even if they are white.”


We would readily believe the VP were it not for his often intemperate and contradictory messages. He recently said whites were not people, news that is sweet music to psychopaths such as Manheru who believes that the mere fact of being white makes one naturally an enemy of Zimbabwe.


On the other hand the Sunday Mail quoted Msika as saying the government “believed in fostering a multi-racial society, pointing out that Zimbabwe is for both blacks and whites”.


This news must have gone down badly in some official circles. Who for instance is Manheru speaking for? And why is he allowed to spread his poison through state-controlled media when government policy, according to Msika, is for a multiracial society? Msika’s voice, it seems, is drowned out by others!


 Police will need to be more circumspect when dealing with overzealous reporters from the state media. The Herald reported on Saturday that a motorist had been arrested in connection with the death of five CAPS United players and fans travelling from Bulawayo last week.


It appears Augustine Hwata and his editors have already tried and convicted the driver of the Norton-bound vehicle for the simple reason that he didn’t die. While initial reports of the tragedy said the ill-fated vehicle from Bulawayo “collided” with a pillar on the Manyame River bridge, by Saturday a scapegoat had been located and there was gleeful rubbing of hands.


CAPS United president Twine Phiri allegedly said “the arrest will at least show that our boys were not to blame for the cause of the accident. The involvement of the other car somewhat exonerates our players of having been involved in the accident alone and being drunk.”


So now there is somebody to blame we can safely “exonerate” the pillar on the bridge? And we didn’t know there had been claims that the players were drunk. Why was that information withheld and who has since proved that they were not drunk?


Phiri could not be bothered by these questions once it was revealed that the other driver didn’t have a driver’s licence. He was guilty as charged. “Now we want to see justice being done,” declared Phiri, “and the justice should come now while the memories of losing the players and fans are still fresh in the minds of their families and friends. We appeal to the police to handle the matter very efficiently and effectively so that justice takes its proper course.”


We are used to that form of journalistic activism in political reporting in the state media. We did not expect this level of reckless incitement to punitive action where guilt had not been proved, especially in sport. The dangerously tendentious reporting is telling the police only one outcome would be acceptable. God help us!   


 


Meanwhile, the state’s propaganda machine continues to mislead the public. It keeps repeating that the BBC “backtracked” on its claims about National Youth Service training, saying they could not be substantiated. In fact, what producer Hillary Anderson said was where claims could not be substantiated, they were not used in the  Panorama documentary.


Now that’s not the same thing is it?


But we did admire Herald columnist Sifelani Tsiko’s loyalty in repeating official claims long after they had become redundant. He said of the so-called mercenaries being held at Chikurubi: “Zimbabwean authorities say the terrorists are mostly white…”


And that was on Wednesday after ZTV had proved the “authorities” wrong!.  


 Some of you e-mailed last Friday to say our front-page picture of suspected mercenary Simon Mann was taken from the film Bloody Sunday. Indeed it was. Mann played an SAS officer in the film and was a technical advisor.


In our column of March 5 we included Rex Mphisa among those fired from the Herald for working for VOA. In fact Rex was not among those accused of moonlighting for VOA. He was booted out for other reasons. Sorry for that.


Rumours circulating that the Boeing 727 detained earlier this month at Harare airport will soon appear in Air Zimbabwe livery are entirely mischievous. We’re sure the state had a good reason for detaining the plane even though it cannot immediately think of one!


Finally, it would appear nobody, not even Zanu PF’s closest allies, are safe from the current round-up of “mercenaries”. Last Friday the Herald ran a front-page picture of Cuban doctors arriving at Harare airport. It was captioned “Some of the Cuban health professionals captured soon after their arrival”.

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