Muckraker can only hope that it is not true the rumours we hear about the proposed new Zimbabwe.
So far the rumour mill is running at full throttle that the new Speaker of parliament is not a creature of democracy at all. He is a creature of bribery through money and fuel.
First, Muckraker is told by impeccable sources that there was no “secret ballot” in parliament to elect the new Speaker. MDC deputy leader Thokozile Khupe and party chief whip Innocent Gonese did not trust their own MPs to vote for the party candidate. To ensure they complied with the order, they were forced like delinquent school kids to show their “secret ballot” to the party leadership before depositing it in the ballot box.
That’s how deep the mistrust is in the party. But they wish it to go unreported like domestic rape, and it’s all rumour by the way.
The issue however goes beyond being a bedroom affair. Independent MP for Tsholotsho North, Professor Jonathan Moyo says this unprecedented, unparliamentary spectacle was in breach of Ordinance Number 6 of the House of Assembly Standing Rules. In other words our parliamentarians started by breaking rules and laws of the House before they could make them. Welcome to the new Zimbabwe circus.
We say we hope that the rumour is entirely not true because it is sounds stranger than fiction, as the saying goes. The breaking of laws and the rules, so the rumour goes, did not begin on that fateful Monday which cast Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara adrift.
The rebellion had been brewing for much longer, laced with offers of money, promises of jobs and postings. The culmination of the rebellion was a luxury trip for some venal MPs for more luxuries and money at some Botswana hotel.
By the time they returned from Botswana there was a canyon between what came out of their mouths and what was in their minds and hearts. There was red peril for those who believed anything they said. It was like Judas Iscariot approaching Jesus with that fatal kiss.
So it was that the vote for the Speaker of parliament came the way it did. They have a very short but telling phrase for it in West Africa: Money speaks. Unfortunately Zimbabweans will never know what it said for these people’s representatives as we plunge deep into the dark waters of a new era.
It is a treacherous universe, not least because one paper claims the outcome of the vote in parliament showed that Mutambara’s camp had sided with Zanu PF, to which Morgan Tsvangirai retorted that it showed “serious opportunism and a betrayal of the people’s project”. Hear! Hear!
The big question for our MPs is: will there be enough blood of the lamb to cleanse the House of its tainted birth? Can we ever trust them to make honest laws without manipulation?
Saturday, yes, Saturday August 23 before the tricky vote on Monday in which Mutambara was expected to emerge the kingmaker, is a day on which Nathaniel Manheru of the Herald got it all wrong.
It started on the front page telling us, “Battle lines drawn over Speaker’s post”. The paper claimed all the parties had said they would field candidates. Zanu PF’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa reportedly claimed that although they had identified a Speaker, there was need to “settle for a single candidate in view of the fact that no single political party can achieve that without the support of the other party”. Either he wasn’t aware that they had been outmanouvred or Mutasa was deliberately misleading the Herald.
But the game was more serious for Manheru who in his column boasted about his four university degrees. He said Zanu PF would “die to win” the Speaker’s post. As history will now record it, Zanu PF didn’t field a candidate and Manheru didn’t know about it at this late hour. And he is supposed to be the ear and mouth of the president!
He predicted that Mutambara’s formation of the MDC would side with Zanu PF in the contest. He obviously underestimated the influence of money over conscience. With the benefit of hindsight, Manheru warned Ncube and Mutambara portentously this week that “this is no era for the politics of values and ideals”. It was the same ideals and values which split the party in 2005 by the way. And we call it a new Zimbabwe.
To conclude a bad week, he attributed the novel Weep not Child to Chinua Achebe. Is this a failure of intelligence or signs of the setting sun for Manheru?
The Herald on Monday reported that Zanu PF had lifted the ban on party chairpersons suspended in 2004 over the Tsholotsho debacle because the whole thing had turned out to be a farce.Mutasa said those who had been suspended were now free to contest any position during the party’s restructuring exercise.
At the time of the suspensions, Zanu PF’s first secretary Robert Mugabe claimed what the provincial chairpersons had done in trying to reconfigure the politburo amounted to a “coup plot”.
“It has turned out that the whole Tsholotsho declaration was nothing but a farce,” said Mutasa this week. “Nothing like the idea to oust President Mugabe was discussed at the meeting so the suspensions had to be lifted.”
So simple yet at what cost to the political careers of those affected? Lesson: no one is sacred in Zanu PF in the service of the master.
Look East policy begins to bear fruit,” ran a headline in the Sunday Mail this week. What fruit was coming?
It took the form of a delegation of bankers and miners from Bangladesh who are expected to spend at least nine days in the country to “study the investment climate”.
“There are serious investors in that country who are keen to conduct business in this country,” said a director of a local company responsible for the tour. “We expect a lot of movement after this tour,” he said.
Readers should be forgiven if they felt a sense of deja vu at the heading of the article. That claim about the eastern tree that doesn’t bear fruit has been repeated ad nauseum since 2003 when Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth. And, as if to drive the point home, the Sunday Mail let us know that “Bangladesh does not have a diplomatic mission in the country …”
So what can one expect.
As for exploring the investment climate, what serious investor would want to risk putting his money in a country where there is so much political uncertainty and where leaders of all the major parties behave as if they own their supporters?
Zanu PF’s national secretary for external relations Kumbirai Kangai wants “rowdy” MDC MPs who heckled President Mugabe at the official opening of parliament last week investigated and punished. According to Tuesday’s Herald, Kangai said the MPs’ behaviour was “disgraceful and deplorable” and demanded that they make a formal apology to Mugabe.
Claiming a precedent had been set when former MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett was jailed for assaulting Patrick Chinamasa in parliament, Kangai said parliament should identify those who jeered at Mugabe and “bring them to book”.
Chinamasa, being the pace setter, was on hand to explain what the noise was about. “The behaviour (of the MPs) was disgraceful,” he said, “but we are not surprised. As you are aware, those elements who were making noise had a different agenda of effecting illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.”
This is a tired propaganda line.
However, when we get to the core of the noise, the MPs made clear what their problem was. This was also clarified in their petition to Mugabe sent through the secretary to parliament, Austin Zvoma.
They said they did not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president. They also chanted about corruption in Zanu PF.
To them it was time for change, perhaps one of the few occasions they will be able to confront Mugabe face-to-face. They may have overdone it, yes, but there had to be a start somewhere. Voters will judge them on the basis of their performance from now on.
We enjoyed the report in the Herald on Tuesday on schools charging fees in foreign currency. Most of the schools in urban areas were demanding fees directly in foreign currency or the equivalent in fuel coupons.
In what can only be described as an act of madness or criminal wantonness, a junior school in Harare is demanding US$800 while another one in Bulawayo charges 1 000 litres of fuel per term.
This is discrimination against the poor by any name. Where are all those organisations which never miss an opportunity to pontificate to us about human rights? Isn’t education a universal right of every child in Zimbabwe?Strangely, one of the schools caught breaking the law against charging fees in foreign currency is the ZRP Boarding School. So who will guard the guards? It makes National Incomes and Pricing Commission chair Godwills Masimirembwa’s job an unenviable task.
The government says it has finished investigations into the operations of non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe and that all those found to have flouted the law will soon be summoned to answer for their sins.
Labour and Social Welfare ministry permanent secretary Lacaster Museka is said to have assured the NGOs that there were no sinister motives in the ban in the first place.
“The main reason for the exercise was not punitive but to shape the mode of operation of NGOs in line with what the norm is world over,” Museka was quoted as saying.
“There is nothing to fear as government will soon notify those found operating outside the law and summon them to explain their operations in terms of natural justice,” he said.
The question he was not asked is why government couldn’t carry out its investigations while NGOs continued their humanitarian activities.
We maybe justified to ask just how many people were affected by the sudden ban of the NGOs and whether there will be any compensation “in terms of natural justice”?
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority says it is “battling to restore” water supplies to all suburbs of Harare. Some of them in the northern areas have gone for as long as a month “without a drop of water”, according to media reports this week.
Zinwa blames lack of water treatment chemicals and intermittent power supplies for its delinquent behaviour. Two weeks ago the authority warned Harare residents that they might experience prolonged water disruptions because it could not move treatment chemicals from Msasa Park to Motton Jaffray waterworks in Norton.
We wonder what its employees spend their working day doing because there are many burst water pipes across the city which go for weeks unattended to.
One Harare resident summed up the sentiments of many when he retorted: “What we want is to get water when we turn our taps and not loads and loads of explanations.”
Is that too much to demand of this moribund institution?
Zambia’s late president, Levy Mwanawasa was buried on Wednesday in Lusaka. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was one of several African leaders present, although Mwanawasa had openly criticised his policies.
On his arrival in Lusaka, Mugabe praised Mwanawasa, state radio reports say.
“He was very frank and wanted to change not only his country but the entire southern African region. We will greatly miss him,” Mugabe reportedly said of Mwanawasa.
Well, as much as he would miss the sinking titanic we guess.
Finally, this masterpiece from a football commentator on the match between Dynamos FC and Ali Ahly on Saturday: “The Dynamos player should have been substituted in the early hours of the match because he was not in the right picture frame of mind.” We are looking for entries to beat that!