Who’s doing the kicking?

Tafataona Mahoso has once again been attempting to excuse his partisan attacks on the Law Society of Zimbabwe. This is not a field of expertise for Mahoso, more a case of singing for his supper.

ify>The key to his complaint can be found where he refers to the “politicisation of civil society” with its webs of interconnecting NGOs. An article by Trudy Stevenson in this newspaper unwittingly provided Mahoso with ammunition.

But it is rooted in the false premise, shared with other Zanu PF publicists, that nobody apart from Zanu PF is allowed to participate in politics. The ZCTU for instance is told that it has no right to demonstrate because it is pursuing a political agenda, or is trying to divert attention from internal wrangles, or trying to embarrass the president in New York. The list is endless.

Those advertising such naïve views in the state media betray a fundamental ignorance of democracy. The ZCTU, NGOs and other organisations are free to make whatever alliances they like in pursuit of their objectives. Zanu PF, despite its illusions, does not have a monopoly of the political process. The Sadc protocol is very clear on the role of popular participation in electoral politics.

Mahoso claims that the Law Society of Zimbabwe was being “abused by its current leaders to provide a veil of deniability for groups, individuals and agendas which were not sanctioned by the majority of members of the society”.

Complaints about the way the LSZ conducts its affairs were not the original idea of the author of the African Focus column (Mahoso) or the Sunday Mail, he writes. “It was a complaint from the members of the LSZ.”

In other words Mahoso did not make it up. In which case he will have no difficulty disclosing the names of the complainants. We are entitled to know who these weasels are and who they represent.

For instance, we occasionally see articles in the Herald involving legal cases that have obviously been fed to the paper by less-than-professional allies of the regime who have an interest in seeing the story published. We would love to confirm their names in line with Chinua Achebe’s recommendations on how to deal with individuals who promote the interests of corrupt and repressive regimes in Africa. We are sure Mahoso is not too shy to tell us, given his outspoken attacks on civil society advocates!

While Mahoso might not know much specifically about the LSZ, what we do concede is his expertise in commenting on the role of statutory bodies being “abused by their current leaders”.

Let us remind ourselves here that unlike the leaders of the Law Society, Mahoso is elected by nobody, nor did he by the way make any known contribution to the liberation struggle. Yet, as with the ZUJ case, he pursues an agenda of interference and harassment that suggests a self-awarded and bloated authority that contributes to the international impression of Zimbabwe as a police state.

We are of course perfectly happy to have this impression gain currency if it reflects a reality on the ground. But we can’t quite work out why ministers promoting Zimbabwe as an investment or tourism destination would want to see such an impression given life in the more vitriolic columns of the government press!

We were intrigued by the government’s intention to set up an “intellectual desk” tasked with reversing the brain drain affecting many sectors of the economy. Its website said the desk, under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education, was expected to start operating early next month.

“We want to bring back the manpower into the country to offer expertise on a short-term basis in fields like medicine, mining, education, engineering and others,” said Washington Mbizvo, the Higher Education secretary. “We are creating a website after we approached the United Nations Development Programme and the website would be explaining to Zimbabweans and other people outside that come to Zimbabwe, the country is kicking and alive.”

Muckraker’s question: Who is doing the kicking? Was it in the back of a Land Rover? And are you sure the victims are still alive? The ZCTU should ensure their views are posted on the website!

We also liked the story in the Sunday Mirror about thousands of white farmers flocking back to the land just as the government gives itself powers to seize what remains of their farms. Delusional Didymus Mutasa was quoted as saying when this initiative was first mooted some months ago that it represented a turnaround for the CFU.

Following the latest disclosure, a government MP close to the move was quoted as saying it was “unfortunate that stakeholders became polarised early in the programme but we are working towards overcoming that. President Mugabe has also in the past expressed the same sentiment, pointing out that land reform was not structured to ‘fix’ any particular group of people but simply to complete the process of total liberation from colonial rule.

“Over the years, there has been a misconception that the land reform programme was designed to chase whites out of Zimbabwe and yet all the state wanted was a more equitable distribution of farmland in the country.”

But then came the jab to the jaw: “However, this did not mean evictions of both indigenous and white farmers illegally settled on the land would stop. The law will not be suspended just for the sake of harmony and cooperation with a relatively small group of stakeholders. Evictions will run concurrently with the awarding of leases to deserving applicants,” the source said.

So no change there! And we liked the bit about Mugabe never saying the evictions were designed to fix any one group. Don’t we recall him saying exactly that — on several occasions? Just like we recall some hokum about farmers with more than one farm being able to keep one. Anybody remember that one — or perhaps he didn’t say that either!

Muckraker notes with dismay the ignorant and foolish remarks about women made by MDC MP Timothy Mubawu in the parliamentary debate on the Domestic Violence Bill.

He said it was “against God’s principles that men and women are equal”. He went on to say that the Domestic Violence Bill should address the proper attire by women because “some of the dressing by women is too inviting”.

This is the MP who was recently cleared of charges of orchestrating the attack on Trudy Stevenson. His remarks will have provided a useful insight into his thinking. But if he is unable to control himself in the presence of women, that is a problem for him to deal with, not for parliament to share. Congratulations to those women’s groups who expressed their outrage in Tuesday’s protests. The MDC needs to be told in no uncertain terms: there are enough ignorant bigots in this country. We don’t expect you to remain silent on this one.

We were amused by the reaction of the government press to the arrival of new Netherlands ambassador Jos Weterings. President Mugabe and his spokesmen just can’t understand how an organisation like the European Union could take a common position on Zimbabwe. Mugabe “quizzed” the ambassador on why the Netherlands was “fighting Zimbabwe” when the two countries didn’t have a quarrel.

It was disturbing that some EU members were “influenced” by Britain which was internationalising their dispute, he said.

Weterings told the press later that the EU position was binding on his country. He could not be drawn further saying it was out of step in terms of prototcol to repeat what he had discussed with the head of state.

That sounded very much like a rebuke to the official who was busy telling the same journalists what Mugabe had said to the ambassador — and putting his own spin on it.

The Sunday Mail carried an editorial saying a bilateral dispute between Zimbabwe and its former colonial master over the redistribution of land had been internationalised “such that the EU had become an enemy of Zimbabwe”.

It would be useful to put this in perspective. This is the same EU “enemy” that keeps Zimbabweans fed. EU sanctions are not a product of the land dispute as Mugabe and his press pretend but came as a direct result of electoral violence and manipulation in 2000/2002. The EU took a position that was shared by all members to signal that stolen elections are not acceptable.

Have we all forgotten so soon the eviction of Pierre Schori? Does Mugabe and the Sunday Mail think the Dutch government are ignorant of this episode and will suddenly deviate from the EU position to say electoral manipulation and repressive governance are OK with them? Have they no idea what sort of values the Dutch hold dear? This was just a week after ZCTU officials were savagely beaten in police cells. Footage of them being assaulted in the back of police trucks was shown around the world.

So let’s put an end to this nonsense about land. The people of the Netherlands — and for that matter the other 24 EU members — would never allow their governments to overlook state violence and repression when dealing with Zimbabwe, just as they wouldn’t with Burma, even if those governments were inclined to do so. That’s why the sanctions will remain in place. So please, no more silly stories about EU states being “browbeaten” by Britain. Why doesn’t the Sunday Mail send one of its reporters to the Netherlands to see what people there think about Zimbabwe?

The true history of the struggle should be told,” Vice-President Joseph Msika declared last week. “I feel I have a duty to correct this blatant lie before I go, but time is running out.”

Part of that true history was that the liberation struggle started in Bulawayo at Stanley Hall. He was quoted in the Sunday Mail as saying it was during a meeting which he personally chaired that it was decided to invite people from Mashonaland to join in the struggle to liberate Zimbabwe.

He said most of the people they approached “insulted” them, accusing them of being either unschooled or violent.

He said it was only the late Joshua Nkomo who said he was ready to join them if they were committed to the arduous task ahead. “If there is anyone who doubts this, they should come forward and challenge me one on one,” said Msika.

We found it curious that the Sunday Mail reporter didn’t ask what the “lie” was and who had manufactured it. Then Msika’s own sense of foreboding about his imminent departure. Is it a confirmation of recent reports that he is unwell we wonder? Then he had better tell the truth before time runs out as he says, otherwise we risk living a history of fake heroes and innocent villains.

Similarly, there were more questions than answers prompted by Air Marshal Perrence Shiri’s denial last week that he had urged people in Chikomba to vote for Zanu PF in the parliamentary by-election. He said he had only urged them to vote “wisely” for a “tried and tested” party. This was not necessarily Zanu PF, the apology he caused to be made in the Herald, suggested.

We still don’t know whether the MDC can be called a tried and tested party. Could Shiri’s denial that he supports Zanu PF have been prompted by a professional impulse or is it a parting of ways with the government he serves? It sounds like a sharp rebuke to Vitalis Zvinavashe’s “straitjacket” presidency and “liberation values” prescription that all the service chiefs endorsed ahead of the 2002 presidential election. What’s going on here?

Finally, we were interested to see a letter to the editor of the Herald recently written by one Chanda Matemai waxing indignant over Kate Hoey’s recent visit to Zimbabwe. She sneaked in under cover of darkness, the Herald’s correspondent claimed, applauded by some misguided Zimbabweans.

“Hoey’s decision to embark on such a contemptuous, demeaning, illegal and perilous adventure is an indictment of her government, her constituency, and her own person…”

And where was this indignant patriot writing from? England of course!

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