WE drew attention recently to the “big lie”, how it is agreed upon in the upper echelons of state power, and then handed to the state media to disseminate as fact.
Editors in the state media know perfectly well it is a lie but they carry out their orders nevertheless.
So on Monday we saw the Herald’s Mabasa Sasa reporting from Sandton that “opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who stands accused of facilitating the training of militias in a neighbouring country with the aim of destabilising Zimbabwe, on Saturday evening sought a meeting with President Mugabe here in a bid to keep a lid on the unfolding saga”.
But Mugabe apparently refused to see Tsvangirai and reportedly said it was “too late for Tsvangirai to put a lid on the unfolding saga because the entire Sadc leadership was aware of what was going on”.
Why should Tsvangirai try to “keep a lid” on a story he knew to be false?
After all, this one has been knocking around for months. The last time it made an appearance the state was embarrassed to see it fall apart in court.
The militia training scheme that it claimed the MDC was sponsoring simply didn’t exist. The state was unable to identify the farms in South Africa where the “training” allegedly took place.
Now the allegation is that the same training took place, only this time in Botswana. Which is perhaps why the Sadc leaders declined to swallow it.
They knew it was a warmed-up version of a story they were already all familiar with.
And they also probably recalled encountering something similar in Dar-es-Salaam nearly two years ago. A “dossier” was presented on that occasion alleging all sorts of things by MDC “plotters”, only again there was not a shred of evidence to support it. Instead of taking those allegations seriously, the Sadc leaders expressed their horror at the treatment of Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders who were severely assaulted at a police station. They appointed Thabo Mbeki as mediator to find a solution to the ongoing Zimbabwe crisis.
Ahead of the March election we had another story doing the rounds, described by a judge as good bedtime reading, involving Tendai Biti as the villain of the piece.
The authors didn’t even bother to get people’s names right.
And needless to say, the state media published it all as fact.
Biti was incarcerated for a week on the basis of the allegations made.
Then of course there was the Ari Ben-Menashe treason trial which failed to pass muster in court. It was an obvious case of entrapment but the state media swallowed every word of it.
And before that, Ndabaningi Sithole was implicated in various assassination charges which also failed to find purchase.
Who makes up these stories? Is there an office somewhere where professional conspirators sit down to plan their preposterous stories about the MDC which are then fed to gullible hacks at the Herald?
“How can we deal with Tsvangirai and punish Botswana at the same time?” they appear to have decided last week. “Let’s dust off that ridiculous story we circulated two years ago about the MDC training militias in South Africa and put it back into circulation, only this time targeting Botswana. And then let’s argue that Tsvangirai can’t be trusted with Home Affairs because he is a Jonas Savimbi. ‘Give a dog a bad name and then beat it’. That should do the trick.”
Only it didn’t. There were certainly no takers at the Sadc summit or the earlier Mozambique meeting where the latest version was launched.
Botswana was quick to invite a full investigation by Sadc security officials, wondering why Zimbabwe had never raised the subject at bilateral fora.
We didn’t hear much from the story-tellers after that!
But we did like Patrick Chinamasa’s statement that calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe was “provocative”. This must be the only country in the world where calling for elections is considered provocative!
And our rulers haven’t realised yet that by planting these silly stories in the Herald they simply undermine the reputation of their chosen vehicle.
Meanwhile, what did Mugabe’s reported refusal to meet with Tsvangirai in Sandton tell us about the unity agreement? Is this a president committed to dialogue and reconciliation?Â Is this a government the MDC should be doing business with, a government that persists in abusing the public media to conduct a war of words against the opposition and locking up peaceful protesters?
US President-elect Barack Obama must have been surprised to receive a letter of congratulation from President Mugabe. Obama stands for everything Zanu PF rejects. Perhaps they weren’t following his campaign.
The letter from Mugabe looks as if it was taken off a template in somebody’s C-drive. It was utterly formulaic and impersonal.
How many times have we heard this: “On behalf of the government and people of the republic of Zimbabwe and indeed on my own behalf…”?
Can we stop him if we’ve heard it before?
The government remained ready to engage the US government in “any desirable endeavour to improve our bilateral relations”, the letter said.
OK then, Zanu PF should stop arresting people who have stood up for democracy and the rule of law, stop fabricating childish stories about the US ambassador, open the airwaves to a diversity of voices, end its campaign of abuse and calumny against the opposition, and ensure food aid gets to those most in need.
That would be a start.
As for Tsvangirai “overplaying his hand” (Herald, Wednesday), why do state propagandists continue to hurl insults at the MDC leader if he is so insignificant? Why not ignore him and get on with the task of recycling dead wood? Isn’t that what Mugabe does best?
After all, Zanu PF has so poisoned the political climate that any attempt to work with them on economic recovery would be futile. They had their chance to find an accommodation and blew it. Now let them stew in their own juice. As Nelson Chamisa has said, a flawed agreement with a recidivist party is worse than no agreement at all.
Tsvangirai has refused to be provoked through all this. But when scurrilous and false charges are brought against him in the state media he should at least respond with vigour instead of regarding it as part of the give-and-take of national politics.
And why is the MDC not telling us what it would be doing if it were part of government? What issues would it attend to as a matter of urgency? What measures for recovery would it be putting in place?
This is a perfect opportunity to inform a desperate nation of how their party could make a difference Obama-style. But they are saying nothing.
Meanwhile, Muckraker recommends that if Mabasa Sasa is to continue writing on Sadc issues, which he does passably well, he should get the name right of South Africa’s president. It is Motlanthe, not Montlanthe.
And it was helpful of him to point out all the MI6 agents milling around in Sandton “masquerading as journalists”. But he didn’t say what he was masquerading as!
There has been public outrage over Zesa’s announcement that it will no longer accept cheques, only cash. How are people supposed to get cash with Gideon Gono’s prohibitive ceilings in place?
Here is a parastatal agency determined to make life as difficult as possible for the public. That is its mission, it would appear.
Is there an office next door to the political inventions office, which we mentioned earlier, where parastatal heads are asked to suggest ways in which the public can be inconvenienced? And who is responsible for all those lights left on in government offices at night? Who picks up the tab for all that wasted electricity? We can be sure they are not civil servants burning the midnight oil in Mkwati Building!
The Reserve Bank is also setting a poor example of power-saving. It is lit up at night like a Christmas tree.
Perhaps Gono is at work. Why doesn’t he rule that all cheques must be accepted and thereby reduce bank queues, help the public and facilitate business?
It would be the easiest thing to do and make a huge difference. Does he want to help people or not?
The City of Harare needs to act expeditiously in fixing traffic lights. One of the busiest junctions in the city, at the corner of Samora Machel and Prince Edward, is a death trap as traffic coming from Prince Edward towards Rotten Row is unable to tell whether it is safe to proceed. Muckraker is loath to apply the label “Much-Ado-About-Nothing Masunda”, but unless we see some action soon on delinquent robots we will be obliged to resort to name-calling!
Finally, Bright Matonga says in Wednesday’s Herald that MDC-Tsvangirai “could not continue to hold the nation to ransom with its flip-flop politics”.
Two paragraphs later he says: “If they are not interested, I do not see why there cannot be a government. They will never hold this country to ransom.”
So what’s it to be Bright? They are or they aren’t?
At least nobody can say the lights have been left on here. More a case of Dim Matonga!