Muckracker

 The real enemies of the state

IN view of the oft-repeated claims that the MDC is a sellout party manipulated by Britain, recent charges of espionage against Zanu PF members are more than revealing. If for nothing else, at least for the allegations of involvement by

senior government officials and embassy staff abroad.

The revelations are damaging for a government claiming to embody the values of the liberation struggle and whose mandate is to “defend the national interest”. Next time we feel the hot air of “sovereignty” we shall know what to expect!

Chinhoyi MP Philip Chiyangwa and four other important individuals who included the ambassador designate to Mozambique were detained by security personnel on allegations of espionage in mid-December.


The Zimbabwe Independent carried the story on December 23. The state media, however, no doubt acting on instructions from government, declined to say a word about this episode until a week later when the Herald dramatically announced “Spy ring busted”. This followed the appearance in court of some of the accused.

The paper had remained mum despite the fact that its photographer was assaulted while attempting to cover an earlier court hearing.
 
Why does the Herald regard it as in the public interest to withhold information from the public regarding one of the country’s most notable politicians? Why did it collaborate in the cover-up?

What made this case so shocking was the fact that the men were held incommunicado since December 16 with their lawyers being denied access to them. This breach of constitutional rights was made evident to the magistrate who nevertheless agreed to the state’s request for an in-camera hearing. Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial was held in open court.


Despite the Herald’s efforts to work up national indignation over the “spy” charges, the fact is the five are being charged under some of the less serious provisions of the Official Secrets Act concerning the passing on of classified information.

This is a measure that the Law Reform Commission gave its attention to in the mid-1990s. Provisions of the Act were seen as incompatible with the need for the public to be kept properly informed. As one minister told a press freedom workshop, publication of the number of cups of tea he drank could be deemed a contravention of the Act.
In any case, the brash and garrulous Chiyangwa could hardly be regarded as suitable spy material. His life is an open book.


Whatever the case, the fact that the state media concealed this episode from the nation which was abuzz with rumours demonstrates beyond doubt the muzzled and dissembling role the government media plays in the nation’s life. What sort of access to information is this? We all recall official attempts to keep Laurent Kabila alive several days after his death!


The diversionary claims by the state media to blame imperialist enemies will simply not wash with a very sceptical public. Let the authorities get to the bottom of the whole sordid affair so we know who the real enemies of the state are. So far it’s turning out that both government and the ruling party have a lot of skeletons to hide in that copious cupboard of theirs.


“Exhaustive investigations are in progress to net all the people who have been compromising national security by selling classified information to foreign powers, some of whom have publicly declared that they want to remove the government in Zimbabwe,” warned a Sunday Mail source. “There are going to be a few surprises,” he continued darkly.


In Geneva a Foreign Affairs employee, Erasmus Moyo, was allegedly at the centre of operations in Europe. He apparently eluded his handlers at the airport as he was being taken to a plane home. According to the Mail report, Moyo hid somewhere in the “air terminal”. Others, we are now told, are hiding in the cabinet. Some are even citizens of imperialist powers. Can anybody be trusted?


Finally, the most obvious point. What does the state think it is doing illegally holding individuals for over two weeks only to charge them with minor infringements of the Official Secrets Act? And why did the Minister of State Security say he did not know about the detentions? Is this not part of his remit?


More cynical or conspiratorial observers might suggest this episode has successfully taken the spotlight off Jonathan Moyo and his alleged sins. However, Moyo’s wish to stand on a Zanu PF ticket in the Tsholotsho constituency has been fatally wounded, at least for now. He has become the victim of the party’s affirmative action.
 
Now only women will be allowed to contest in the March election, leaving Moyo to lick his festering wounds from the infamous Tsholotsho meeting of last year. Let’s hope he will continue the generous donations in the province.
 
Alternatively, he could consider a sex change.


Incidentally, a lady talking during a phone-in programme on SFM on Tuesday between 8.30 and 9am complained bitterly about lack of democracy in Zanu PF. She said they wanted Moyo to represent their constituency “because he was bringing development to the region. Now they say they want a woman. Who chose her?” she fumed.

Another casualty of Zanu PF intrigue is war veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba. He lost the Highfield seat to the MDC in a 2003 by-election. He didn’t lose hope. He has formed a housing cooperative under his name. He recently also launched a soccer tournament to which he donated a whole kit. That is in addition to zhing-zhong shoes, clothes and bicycles worth millions he donated in the constituency recently in a bid to win the race to parliament.
 
He also promised the electorate free medical treatment. But Zanu PF second guessed him out of the race. The delimitation commission has combined the constituency with Glen View and Chinotimba has been left in the cold.


Between 2.30 and 3.00pm on Monday Muckraker was a victim of irrelevant programming on SFM. We missed the name of the programme, hosted by one Kudakwashe Hove. We wondered as we listened why the concern about skin cancer, ultraviolet rays and sunbathing? But the assault on our ears was relentless.

Just before closing the programme for the news at 3.00pm the weather expert on the programme was asked: “Is there a chance of Zimbabwe experiencing an ice age any time in the future? This is in light of the tsunami disaster in southeast Asia.”


Whatever the requirements of local content, surely the Department of Information can do better than this. Hove said next week they would be discussing “global tectonics”. This is the “study of the earth’s crust and the forces affecting it”, according to the Collins Pocket English dictionary.
 
Could Hove in any way be part of Zimbabwe’s disaster preparedness committee? Or just part of the disaster?


On the same station on December 26 there was what amounted to wanton violence on the Queen’s English (or “the Queen’s language” as state media commentators love to call it). Ellen Mkaka read a news item on the death of Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara. He was described as one of the “principled” fighters who did not have “malicious” presidential ambitions.
 
What kind of ambition is malicious? Any, it would seem!


The MDC being a creature of the detested colonial era is opposed to elections precisely because of that,” declared the delusional Lowani Ndlovu this week in the Sunday Mail. This declaration was made in support of claims that liberation movements brought democracy and restored the dignity of Africans. The MDC was allegedly against elections because it was opposed to this era of “milk and honey” that was ushered in by the Unity Accord of 1987.

Like everything else in Lowani’s increasingly illogical arguments, he didn’t say why, if the Zanu PF government was so popular, so many Zimbabweans were leaving the country. He didn’t say why we have perhaps one of the greatest number of displaced professionals for a country not at war. He didn’t say why the same professionals left the milk and honey at home to work in the lands of our former oppressors.
 
That would be an inconvenient admission of failure of the archetypal African state.

And how does a party formed in 1999 become “a creature of the detested colonial era”? At the
December Zanu PF congress Enos Chikowore complained that Zimbabwe’s new farmers were failing to match the production levels achieved by white commercial farmers from Independence up to 1999. Is this a solecism or are Zanu PF officials hinting at something we missed in the official media?


A ll is evidently not well in the state press. Following the mortal blow delivered to the Master of the Dark Arts by his patron, there appears to be dissension in the ranks. The Herald and Chronicle were in such a hurry to denounce the Financial Gazette’s “false” story on the minister’s resignation that they overplayed their hand and had to be chastised by George Charamba who pointed out that Moyo had not disputed the disciplinary action taken against him by the presidium and politburo.


The stories had sought to emphasise the grassroots support Moyo had in being nominated by Tsholotsho for the central committee before his name was removed by the presidency.

Describing the Herald and Chronicle’s stories in defence of Moyo as “untoward, partisan and quite overboard”, Cde George said the report was “a straight story falling outside an editorial comment and based solely on unnamed sources. It thus amounts to unwarranted editorialising, itself quite unprofessional.”


Since when has “unwarranted editorialising” or “partisan” stories ever worried the Office of the President, George? Why this sudden concern for professional standards when, as far as we know, Mahoso’s commission has never once raised a complaint against blatant editorialising in government-media stories, even when slipped into court reports? The “zealous advocacy” which Charamba complains of is surely part of the state editors’ job description!


The Herald helpfully added the charge of “confusing the nation” to the list of the Fingaz’s sins. Who is confusing who here?
 
“Prof Moyo has since instructed his lawyers…to institute legal action against the Financial Gazette,” we are informed.


That is of course the most stupid thing he could do. If the Fingaz story is indeed untrue the newspaper will suffer the consequences in terms of diminished credibility. If on the other hand Moyo sues the Fingaz and refers the case to the MIC he will quickly transfer public sympathy to the paper and have the whole issue of his standing as a minister raked over in court. Is he somebody in whom it can be said the president has shown confidence lately?
Then there is of course the matter of Aippa being used as a personal instrument, precisely the impression Moyo and Charamba have been trying — unsuccessfully — to avoid. They are pretending Aippa is a national project, even going to the extent of claiming the opposition endorsed it!

How will yet another press prosecution look as the election looms? Why, by the way, is the Bulawayo state media referring to the Fingaz as “Gono’s paper”? Is it official now?


Muckraker was interested to read Willard Chiwewe’s account of the Unity negotiations of 1987, published in the Sunday Mail last month. Chiwewe was secretary to the talks at the time, we are told. He said one problematic area had been the new party’s logo. PF Zapu wanted a bull while Zanu PF wanted the cockerel.
 
“But because these were negotiations for a purpose to unite the country,” he said, “the two political parties agreed to use the name Zanu PF and the Jongwe logo.”


Now that’s not our understanding. We thought the two sides agreed on a new logo featuring the Great Zimbabwe conical tower. Zanu PF however reneged on this agreement and unilaterally kept the Jongwe. Can anybody involved please clarify.

Chiwewe says that what struck him about the Unity Accord is that it was achieved “without the benefit of an arbitrator or middleman”.

President Canaan Banana, who featured prominently at the time in getting the two sides together, has now — in true Stalinist tradition — been airbrushed out of the picture. He only gets a mention in Chiwewe’s account as being present at the signing ceremony. He was also removed from all but one or two of the advertisements published last month commemorating the event. Even where he was present in the picture, he wasn’t named.
 
But the bit we liked best in Munyaradzi Huni’s account of Chiwewe’s hitherto undiscovered role in the unity talks was when “Cde Chiwewe looked straight at me with ‘a talking eye’ that seemed to ask: ‘Young man, do you really know what you are talking about?’” Most people have that look every Sunday, Munyaradzi!


Talking of airbrushing, how is Nathan Shamuyarira’s history book coming along? Why no news on that front? Muckraker would welcome a statement from our illustrious media guru as to what exactly he has been doing all this time. Will there be a chapter on how to manage Young Turks?


Finally, had anybody heard of Miss Tourism World before last week? Whose calendar of events is this fixture on and where has it been hiding?

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