A WEEK is a long time in politics, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once remarked. And this last week was no exception. We have witnessed unprecedented changes.
First, we had Nathaniel Manheru bidding us farewell.
This came just two weeks after he had sworn never to be diverted from his crusade against “Rhodesians” who he imagined, together with their MDC surrogates, are lurking in every dark corner of the land, ready to strike the minute his back is turned.
They were even marshalling in scout training camps and outward-bound centres, he tried to argue.
But many of the last-ditch reactionary forces in the media, only a few weeks ago so bitterly opposed to the prospect of a unity government, have now embraced the opposition leaders.
Morgan Tsvangirai has overnight become “Cde Tsvangirai”, and the Finance minister now finds himself hailed as “Cde Biti”.
The title “comrade” is a leftover from the socialist-state era.
It suggests a post-liberation aristocracy stuck in the political mud. Above all it denotes political failure.
The MDC tolerates state-media patronage of this sort at its peril. It says: “You are now one of us”. Please don’t be flattered. Believe us, you don’t want to be one of them.
The worst case of such attempted subornment was deputy Media minister Jameson Timba’s transformation last weekend.
His name was used in a gushing tribute to Gushungo appearing in the Sunday Mail.
“We thank you Cde President for your wise leadership,” he averred in a joint statement from the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity.
“Wise leadership”, Jameson, with the country in ruins all around us?
Please inform the staff at the ministry that the next time they associate you with tyranny and misrule they ask you first so you have no excuse!
Elsewhere in the state press it was instructive to note those parastatals whose performance is the most emblematic of Zanu PF’s misrule “hailing” President Mugabe’s 85 years the loudest.
“Air Zimbabwe congratulates His Excellency President RG Mugabe on 85 high flying years of success,” the national airline slobbered without any mention of high-flying diversions! “We join the nation in celebrating the 21st February movement acknowledging your wisdom and guidance as you lift Zimbabwe to greater heights.”
Do you think if we asked anyone at AirZim what “wisdom and guidance” they had in mind they would be able to tell us?
NetOne, which barely functions in some parts of the capital, said it was “inspired” by Mugabe’s work as a statesman.
The customer relations department at Zimpost, which sometimes takes months to deliver a letter, said it was “reaching everyone, everywhere”, a claim that is somewhat at odds with the facts!
The Ministry of Defence compared the president to “a mighty crocodile”, a reference that was picked up by the international media, not surprisingly given Hastings Banda’s utterances about how to feed them.
The Zimbabwe Prison Service was understandably effusive with so much business coming its way recently.
The Minerals Marketing Corporation, however, has reportedly seen quite a lot of business leaving the country!
But that didn’t stop it parroting the same mantras as the others.
Muckraker is convinced somebody tells the advertisers how to frame their salutations. They all seem to follow the same predictable pattern.
In a sense it is useful to have all these messages of servility. At least we know what wood to take the axe to.
In keeping with the new order, the Saturday Herald carried a front-page pic of President Kgalema Motlanthe and Morgan Tsvangirai sitting together at what the paper called “Thainyus, the presidential house at the South African parliament in Cape Town”.
Partly right. It is situated adjacent to parliament and, like State House here, is used for official receptions. But it is called Tuynhuys, meaning “the house in the gardens”, the gardens in question being those once belonging to the Dutch East India Company. Formerly Government House, it was restored to its original Cape Dutch character in the 1980s.
But careless captioning aside, we do expect the Herald to start getting its facts right now there is a new dawn.
Twice on Tuesday and again on Wednesday the paper reported that Roy Bennett was being charged with attempting to leave the country illegally.
In fact that charge was dropped last week because the state couldn’t sustain it. Surely the Herald knew that?
And readers should note that despite the departure of Manheru, the main letter to the editor every day still comes from the same incubator.
These praise President Mugabe’s “visionary leadership”.
Rather amusingly on Tuesday the same office was trying to work up public demand for Manheru’s return.
The editor has promised a “suitable replacement”. We can’t wait. We just hope that, unlike the previous submissions, it gets edited!
But we liked the letter which said “there are very few other leaders across the world who will do what President Mugabe has done”.
Who can quarrel with that!
This week Mugabe was pleading with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg for help with the cholera epidemic.
Discussions also centred on how the UN could assist with agricultural revival, the Herald reported.
The CFU reports that 77 farms have been occupied by well-placed individuals including Reserve Bank officials since the formation of the unity government.
They are attempting to move in on the remaining white-owned properties before Tsvangirai can stabilise the country, the CFU said.
So there is Mugabe seeking UN support for the revival of agriculture while his well-heeled supporters disrupt production and break the law with impunity.
It is significant that many of those farmers affected secured a ruling from the Windhoek Tribunal that their dispossession was discriminatory and illegal.
Mugabe raised the issue of “illegal” sanctions with Bragg, we are told.
“Why are sanctions there now?” Mugabe asked her. “Should they continue to punish our people this way?”
It needs to be spelt out that so long as illegal land invasions continue, those responsible will face international “punishment”.
As Mugabe told Bragg with regard to Bennett, the law must take its course.
The BBC on Tuesday showed footage of the latest farm invasions. What was notable was the solidarity of the farm workers with their employers in resisting Zanu PF’s opportunist thugs.
At least there were no illusions there about who benefits from “land reform”.