HomeEditorial CommentMuckraker: What First Lady?

Muckraker: What First Lady?

GRACE Mugabe has reassured the nation that she will remain First Lady under the power-sharing agreement.

“Some people are taking advantage of the fact that you have limited access to the media and you are not following political developments,” she told Bindura residents.
“President Mugabe remains Head of State and Government and I will remain the First Lady while the two Vice-Presidents will remain office bearers.”
This is an interesting spin. First of all, who has taken advantage of gullible folk to spread the word that President Mugabe remains the absolute ruler under the power-sharing deal? There has been no suggestion that he is sharing anything in the columns of the state press.
Instead it is being said that he is accommodating other parties from the same generosity of spirit that led him to include whites in 1980 and Zapu in 1987. There is no hint that he is having to accommodate the MDC because his party lost the March general election at the same time that he lost the presidential poll.
The government media has invented the fiction that Zanu PF won “the popular vote”.
Whatever is meant by that construction, Zanu PF lost a majority of the seats which is how we determine which party gets to form the next government.
And we were interested to hear that “Amai” Grace Mugabe gets to stay on as First Lady in terms of the agreement.
We are not aware of any clause in the agreement referring to her status. The term “First Lady” has no constitutional basis. It is borrowed from the United States. Grace Mugabe is very simply the wife of the president. She has no other claim to fame except as a serial shopper.
She should stop promoting herself as some sort of saviour who will defend the “gains” of land reform.
How can she talk about the gains of land reform when the Americans and the EU are having to feed Zimbabwe’s starving masses because her husband has made such a mess of the economy?

As for the two vice-presidents, we don’t recall them being mentioned once in the various speeches made on September 15. And not much has been said about them since. Hence the necessity for a cheesy front-page picture in the Herald to remind us of their existence.
But how do we explain Grace Mugabe’s shrill intervention in a field that doesn’t really concern her?
  Well, it could have something to do with Oppah Rushesha’s demise. Grace could have her eye on the leadership of the Women’s League. And Joice Mujuru could be the agent of her ambitions. Watch this space as the terrible two criss-cross the country handing out other people’s largesse.
It is said the farming implements, food hampers and tonnes of maize donated under Operation Gutsaruzhinji were sourced through the Reserve Bank. A picture in the Sunday Mail showed both donors and recipients dressed in Zanu PF attire.
  In other words public funds were used for party-political purposes.
 And isn’t it shocking that politicians like Mujuru can go around pretending that Zimbabwe’s problems are the product of sanctions and that in the March election voters didn’t understand “the developments that were taking place in our country”?
In other words, Zanu PF lost because voters didn’t understand the issues!
Rule No 1 Amai Mujuru: Don’t insult the voters.
“The hardships that the country is experiencing are a result of sanctions,” she proclaimed. “As leaders we should be careful that our politics do not hurt the people we lead.”
Has she told her politburo colleagues this?

One reason we believe the public press should be kept out of Zanu PF’s grasping clutches is to prevent distortions of the sort we witnessed on Tuesday where the Herald’s features and political editor claimed that Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki entered into a power-sharing agreement with Raila Odinga “following widespread post-election violence believed to have been ignited by the opposition…”
Not difficult to see what is going on here. But the truth is more instructive.
Post-election violence was sparked in Kenya because a younger generation of Kenyans felt they had been deprived of the opportunity for change by an ageing president who tolerated corruption and whose party used a suborned electoral commission to procure his return to office after an election the opposition manifestly won.
This is clear to everybody except the Herald’s political editor!
As for the Herald’s attempt to persuade us that “Tsvangirai got more than Kenya’s Odinga” in the September 15 agreement, a closer look suggests the two parties got about the same division of power. Whatever the case, Kibaki has been largely silent since Odinga’s appointment and the Kenyan prime minister seems to be playing the leading role in speaking for his country on a range of issues including Zimbabwe.
Perhaps we should revisit the Kenyan power-sharing deal to see how the allocation of important ministries to Kibaki’s party has not prevented Odinga from occupying the political high ground.

One area which the MDC has sacrificed to Zanu PF without realising their mistake is Media, Information and Publicity. Zanu PF are already using this portfolio to mislead the public about the September 15 agreement and prevent a diversity of views to be expressed about the way forward.
This is unacceptable. Zanu PF is demanding that the MDC help them in their agenda of closing down externally-based radio stations while continuing to spew partisan propaganda from the state-owned media at home and preventing newspapers such as the Daily News from reopening. The only voice heard on radio stations across the land is Mugabe’s.
Last weekend the Sunday News published an editorial in which it quoted the Information ministry’s permanent secretary George Charamba’s remarks criticising the MDC for three fulsome paragraphs and then added “We could not agree more…”
As if they would be allowed to do anything other than agree more!
This is obsequiousness at its worst. These flaws need to be brought to the attention of Zimbabweans in all walks of life before Zanu PF claims it enjoys a media mandate. And the MDC needs to be more forthright in backing media reform. As it stands, the absence of a free media will vitiate whatever agreement is reached as ruling party propagandists continue to resist change.

Muckraker was interested to read that a driver in the Ministry of Information and a salesman had appeared in court on allegations of stealing five brand new government trucks. The two committed the offence in league with the ministry’s acting director (finance and human resources) who has since fled the country, it is alleged.
The vehicles had been allocated by the Reserve Bank and were part of a batch of 79.
Charamba was quoted as saying the ministry was committed to keeping the public informed about any new developments in the case.
Muckraker has two questions: What does Gideon Gono think he is doing allocating 79 vehicles to a ministry which is little more than a party mouthpiece? And if the ministry is so committed to disclosure regarding the thefts why didn’t somebody spot the disappearance of the two vehicles when the thefts spanned the period February to September?
Muckraker raised the issue of government vehicles being abused by drivers and relatives of ministers in this column a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday the Herald reported police had launched a manhunt for Andrew Mutinhiri, son of Youth Development and Employment Creation minister Rtd Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri. He is wanted for allegedly diverting 10 tonnes of maize acquired from the GMB to buy a car.
This follows a crackdown on corrupt GMB officials.
So what do we have here? A parastatal widely seen, like other parastatals, to be a form of sheltered employment for those with ruling-party connections? And a minister’s son who is clearly a beneficiary of his family connections. The local GMB manager has been arrested in connection with this case.
The father occupied one of the finest farms in the country, a wine estate in Marondera, during the land invasions but then relinquished it to his wife, Tracy, who is also a politician, when he moved onto another farm. Tracy and young Andrew failed to make a going business of what is a very specialised field of agriculture. Which is probably why Andrew’s business interests took him into new fields of endeavour. He is the director of a milling company in Mahusekwa, we are told.
We are reading nearly every week of the delinquent progeny of chefs, but why is all this only coming out now? Are we missing something here? Surely Zanu PF can’t reinvent itself as a clean party, if that is the improbable intention.
ZTA CEO Karikoga Kaseke is a typical parastatal boss, repeating Zanu PF mantras about why Zimbabwe is currently isolated and using his clout to secure perks that other guests have to pay for.
He appears to have taken exception to comments in the column a couple of weeks ago regarding the Sanganai expo which he arbitrarily moved to Bulawayo when the city’s accommodation capacity couldn’t cope. As a result punters stayed in Harare where there was surplus space and were flown to Bulawayo every day for the expo.
Our Bulawayo staff contacted us on Wednesday to say that our newspapers had been refused accreditation to cover the expo.
There was no explanation for this counter-productive behaviour other than to learn that Kaseke had given the instruction.
He subsequently relented and admitted the reporters.
The episode however simple illustrates our point that over-mighty parastatal apparatchiks need a paradigm shift that removes them from the ruling party’s obsession with message-control and educates them in elementary media relations.

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