A beaten nation chants president’s totem

DON’T we recall a pledge by President Mugabe during the election campaign that he wouldn’t appoint as a cabinet minister anybody who had not been elected to parliament?

So how come

we now have people like Emmerson Mnangagwa, Patrick Chinamasa, Amos Midzi and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi as cabinet ministers? What popular mandate do they have and what sort of accountability is it when the president appoints individuals who either did not stand for office or who have been rejected by the electorate?

Never has there been such a collection of dead-wood as appeared on the front page of the Herald on Saturday. As one commentator put it, you could build a large ark with that lot. A wide-angle lens was needed to get them all in the picture. There were no new faces there. Just the same old recycled failures. It was a blatant case of jobs for the boys — and just a few girls!

Is this the cabinet that will pull the country out of the huge hole Zanu PF has dug for it? Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is arguably a new face at Foreign Affairs. But anybody watching his bull-headed performance on the BBC’s Hardtalk would have recognised an old-guard apparatchik breathing defiance who is completely unsuited to re-engaging the international community. Stan Mudenge stood a better chance!

Then there is Tichaona Jokonya who as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Ethiopia pledged Zimbabwe’s unyielding support for Mengistu Haile Mariam’s brutal regime.

He will now preside over an utterly dishonest official media that pretends the country is undergoing an economic “turnaround”. What will he do with that whole raft of Jonathan Moyo mouthpieces strategically placed throughout Zimpapers and ZBH?

‘Bouncing back” — a favourite expression of Herald propaganda writers but appropriate in this case — is Chen Chimutengwende who fell from grace when he was replaced by Moyo at the Information department in 2000. Chen has been pursuing Pan-Africanist chimeras over the past five years and now assumes the high-sounding title of Minister of State for Public and Interactive Affairs.

What the hell is “Interactive Affairs”? It sounds like a euphemism for kwasa-kwasa! Does Chen know what it is? Does the president? Does anybody?

But when we speak of recycled dead-wood there are two emblematic reappointments. Joseph Made at Lands and Agriculture is arguably the most incompetent minister this country has ever had. His aerial surveys of crop production are now the stuff of comic legend. And his maize forecast of 2,4 million tonnes continues to be held up as a shining example of ministerial inventiveness.
It was Made who presided over the chaos that is misleadingly called land reform. He is ultimately responsible for the country’s headlong decline from self-sufficiency to one of Africa’s leading basket cases. Yet he is rewarded for all this by being returned to office by a grateful president for whom racist evictions appear more important than agricultural production.

Then there is Aeneas Chigwedere whose populist attempt to pretend that private schools were the last bastion of recalcitrant whites was met by such stiff resistance by parents of all hues that he was forced into a tactical retreat.
But not before he had managed to inflict considerable damage upon that part of the education system that had hitherto escaped government’s depredations.

In the end the courts upheld the rights of the schools and ordered him and the police to stop interfering.

The reappointment of both Made and Chigwedere prove there is no new thinking at the top and nothing is going to change. Let’s not hear any more Herald nonsense about “turnarounds” or re-engagement with the international community. They aren’t going to happen. And the Chinese will end up demanding hard currency just as the Iranians and Libyans did before them!

As a glaring indication that there is no change in the state media there was a clumsy attempt by the Herald last week to link MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to a violent episode on a resettled farm in Beatrice. The police subsequently said that it was premature to describe this as a political case as reported in the Herald.
But there was no retraction by the Herald for its defamatory insinuation.

This did not however stop Tafataona Mahoso, who is becoming increasingly vitriolic in his attacks on the MDC, from claiming that the MDC had “announced programmes to defy the will of the people of Zimbabwe in many ways including…unleashing Selous Scout-style terror against resettled African farmers”.

We have in the past suggested a number of instances where Mahoso, who heads a quasi-judicial body, has made assumptions about an individual or an organisation’s guilt when there has been no evidence for such assumptions.

Admittedly, he made other claims in his article last Sunday about the MDC which would incline a reader not to take him seriously. For instance he suggested the party was “using its alliance with foreign business monopolies to sabotage the economy and reverse the gains of the national economic turnaround programme… making up false stories about vote-rigging (and) using sponsorship money…to launch totally unnecessary court cases to reverse election results in at least 13 constituencies where the MDC lost to the ruling Zanu PF”.

What does this tell us about Mahoso’s views on the rights of individuals and parties to appeal to the courts where they believe they have been wronged?

The High Court ruled in a number of cases between 2000 and 2004 that electoral outcomes should be set aside where Zanu PF had won because of irregularities, inducements or violence. Those cases are currently on appeal by the incumbents.

Is it Mahoso’s contention that those cases should never have been heard? And what does that tell us about his role at the Media and Information Commission?

As for sabotaging the economy and reversing the “gains of the national economic turnaround”, you have first to swallow the childish claims of Zanu PF’s propaganda machine as to the existence of such a turnaround before anybody can reverse it. We all know who the real saboteurs are in respect of Zimbabwe’s economy. If Mahoso wants to demonstrate his partisan gullibility that is his business.

But when making so much of the MDC’s “sponsorship”, why doesn’t Mahoso tell us who his sponsors are and whether it is part of his brief to attack the opposition in such venomous terms?

Exactly how much does the MIC and Mahoso in particular cost the nation when the law under which he operates has yet to secure a single successful prosecution? Or does this regime reward, as we suspect, those officials and law-enforcement officers who lurch from failure to failure as in the recent case of the Telegraph Two?

Reading through the president’s address at the Silver Jubilee celebrations on Monday, we were struck by the delusional claims he made. The government had “delivered on education, health, infrastructure, water, energy and communication”, he told the assembled crowd.

Has it? It may have delivered on educational expansion in the 1980s, but where are all the teachers now? Most are in the UK. And what use have all those universities been without books, facilities and high-level instruction? Academics have been leading the exodus to greener pastures.

Health care is more evident in its absence than provision. Has President Mugabe ever been to a state hospital and seen the conditions there? It doesn’t sound like it.

Infrastructure is everywhere in a state of advanced collapse. There are water shortages all over Harare, partly due to political meddling in the administration of the city. What happened to the Kunzvi Dam scheme?

Energy, particularly fuel supplies, are erratic while communications are dependent upon private service providers. NetOne seems to be spending public money on congratulating Mugabe on his “outstanding electoral victory”. And when did you last see somebody using a post office after Zimpost hiked the cost of postage beyond most people’s means? Hiking the cost of telephone and postal charges thus preventing ordinary people — such as school children and pensioners — communicating with each other is one of the many cruel impositions this regime’s parasitic parastatals have heaped on the public while the state orders private businesses to
hold their prices at unsustainable levels.

Mugabe evidently lives on a different planet from the rest of us. We did however appreciate his reference to “hapless villagers slaughtered in cold blood only yesterday”. We should welcome this belated recognition of the depredations of the Fifth Brigade by the president. The same number of people were “slaughtered” in Matabeleland in the 1980s as in the liberation war and it is fitting that the regime should own up to its atrocities instead of constantly pointing at other people’s!

But the most helpful remarks the president made related to genuine democracy not being able to grow on the soil of racial poverty and inequality. He should have said that democracy cannot grow on the soil of state-induced poverty and racism.

Zimbabwe enjoyed solid growth and job expansion in the 1980s and 90s. It was only after the hate-fuelled third chimurenga in 2000 that living standards plummeted. The lesson is there for all to see. Zanu PF’s vicious assault on a productive and law-abiding minority has sabotaged the economy and destroyed jobs. Per capita GDP has fallen well below pre-Independence levels. That is why so few people participated in Zanu PF’s contrived celebrations last weekend. And it’s not getting any better.

Zanu PF Women’s League members knelt and chanted President Mugabe’s totem, we are told. Doesn’t that sum up the whole phoney event? A nation on its knees chanting Mugabe’s totem. Except of course the inhabitants of the cities who are totemless!

By the way, why weren’t Josiah Tongogara and Rekayi Tangwena on the list of those posthumously honoured? And why weren’t Thabo Mbeki or Armando Guebuza present at the celebrations? Reports from Johannesburg said the newly-elected Mozambican president had deliberately side-stepped visiting Zimbabwe. According to ZimOnline, sources within his delegation said he didn’t want to be seen as the first leader to endorse the government in Harare by undertaking an official visit.We can well understand that!

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