ANC president Jacob Zuma, fighting for his own political life, made an interesting observation about President Mugabe last weekend.
He criticised Western powers for holding back aid to Zimbabwe while Mugabe was still in power. “This is very unfair to the Zimbabwean people,” Zuma told Reuters in an interview.
“Because here is Mugabe, he is a factor. He is there,” Zuma said. “He leads a party that has been in government for over 20 years.”
So what can we infer from this? That Mugabe should continue in office, not because he won an election but because he has already been there for 20 years!
This is how regional leaders think.
Zuma said it was wrong to hold back aid. “When there was an election, it is not as if not a single human-being voted for Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He had a very big percentage himself. He has a sizeable support.”
So the person who wins “a big percentage” gets to hold on to power. And although Mugabe didn’t win an election, he has “sizable support”. With that “sizable support” he is now able to undermine agricultural production and, according to reports, refuses to swear in Roy Bennett.
So the party that won the general election and the presidential poll last March has to suspend its reform agenda because the person who lost is declared “a factor” by regional leaders.
We recall President Kgalema Motlanthe providing assurances that Bennett would not be detained on his return to Zimbabwe. We also recall assurances being given by Zimbabwe regarding political prisoners.
Now we have Sadc leaders saying it is “unfair” of the Western powers not to provide aid to the unity government. But are the people of Zimbabwe suggesting that the West is being unfair? Do you hear that said anywhere outside the columns of the state media?
If you ask people what they want they will tell you that they want the MDC to actually govern, for an end to kidnappings and political violence, for an end to farm invasions, and for a restoration of the rule of law.
Last weekend Lands minister Herbert Murerwa was trying to tell us that there had been a “sudden influx of land beneficiaries” who had been holding on to their offer letters issued more than three years ago.
The beneficiaries “gained confidence and started occupying their farms after it became clear the land issue was irreversible,” Murerwa disingenuously suggested.
What does that tell us about the confidence Zanu PF supporters had in their own government?
Provincial governors had not seen any new cases of land invasions, Murerwa said, confident that they would be as blind as he is if asked! There had been some “disturbances”, they conceded.
Murerwa said most of these “disturbances” occurred on those farms whose owners had appealed to the Sadc Tribunal for relief from harassment.
Those farms had been acquired “long back” and were now state land, the minister declared. The new owners had simply failed to occupy the farms, Murerwa said.
Anybody who believes this tale needs their heads examining.
And it is indicative of the no-change stance of the state media that the Sunday Mail was able to print this partisan rubbish without once speaking to somebody who may have contradicted Murerwa’s convenient claims.
The author, by the way, was Emilia Zindi who failed to declare an interest. She is a beneficiary of land reform.
This confirms our view that journalists and judges should not occupy farms whose ownership is defined by ministerial statements.
One of the complaints against the previous owners is that they kept planting a new crop. This pattern of planting and harvesting created “anxiety” among those wanting to take over, we are told. We weren’t told what methodology they would use other than planting and harvesting!
Then we had a Herald reporter telling us that government was setting up an advisory board to immediately work on the indigenisation of the tourism industry in line with its policy of empowering indigenous people to hold a 51% minimum stake in each sector. So they will now do to tourism what they have done to every other industry. Kill it!
Empowerment and Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the tourism industry must become “compliant” with government’s policy.
This, it was made clear during a national stakeholders meeting, would involve dispossessing white tourism players who enjoyed a “money-spinning monopoly since” the 1950s. They were now using blacks as fronts, we were told by Martin Dinha.
Potential investors from outside the country would be offered a list of local partners, it was explained elsewhere.
You can imagine the potential for business chicanery here. Overseas investors and the tiny handful of whites remaining would be told who they could do business with if they wanted to keep their stake.
Some of the people speaking at the stakeholders conference were politicians involved in excusing land seizures and intelligence officers.
You have been warned. Indigenisation Zanu PF-style is another name for looting.
Reports that security around the prime minister will be beefed up is not good news for the residents of Harare.
The reports say Morgan Tsvangirai will soon be allocated an ambulance and a police car with a beacon to warn other motorists to get out of the way.
Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi refused to comment on the reports but they look plausible. The public associates large and noisy motorcades with presidential self-importance.
There have been numerous reports of assaults on motorists who don’t get out of the way fast enough. It was to be expected that with a new government a climate of humility would prevail.
Tsvangirai, it was hoped, would confine himself to the minimum number of vehicles needed, the least wailing, and respect for other motorists.
Alas, it seems Tsvangirai’s handlers are proffering poor advice. This is not the way a man of the people behaves.
Next he will be having tinted windows fitted so, like the president, he is spared the intrusive realities of the capital’s collapse.
This all started in 1984 when popular Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Sokoine was killed in a car crash. His vehicle was rammed. Motorcades were seen as the answer to security worries.
No self-respecting Tanzanian prime minister would after 1984 travel without sirens and motorcycle escorts. But the residents of Dar-es-Salaam hate them.
Here, the nation showed impressive solidarity with Tsvangirai in his recent bereavement. But those around him should not inflict on Harare’s public another abusive and wasteful motorcade which we rather thought would soon be, in the beloved words of Herald writers, “a thing of the past”.
Given Russia’s obsequious press, it was not surprising that RT should regard a rather tame BBC interview with President Medvedev as a “grilling”.
Andrew Marr asked Medvedev about Russia’s investment climate after the BP wrangle, the British Council’s closure, and the trial of Mikhail Khodokovsky.
He allowed the Russian leader to get away with platitudes and failed to follow up, for instance on the perception that Khodokovsky was being punished for opposing Vladimir Putin.
And can you imagine a seasoned interviewer hoping the Russian president’s visit to the G20 in London “goes like a storm”! This is what the Russians regarded as a “grilling”!
Throughout, Medvedev was pleasant and composed, laughing good-naturedly at questions such as who was in charge in the Kremlin, he or Putin. He was, he said.
Hardly riveting stuff.
Another BBC interviewer, Andrew Harding, also bypassed a few obvious questions in a clip on the economic crisis in the DRC.
He interviewed a man who had been laid off by a mining company. He had a family of nine to support, we were told. Now he wouldn’t be able to send all his children to school. Indeed!
Sadc finance ministers are to form a committee so they can visit those countries that have imposed sanctions to ask them “in a vigorous way” to lift the sanctions, President Mugabe told us on his return from the Sadc meeting on Monday.
This is of course delusional. Those countries imposing sanctions have already made it abundantly clear that there will have to be a sea change in the Zimbabwe government’s behaviour before sanctions can be lifted.
That includes an end to farm invasions, restoration of the rule of law, release of political prisoners and freedom of the media.
The state press, still unable to recognise certain realties, has been in denial this week. First, as pointed out earlier, it claimed that farm invasions were simply a matter of new owners taking up their leases. Threats, break-ins and theft were all conveniently ignored.
So was the refusal of the authorities to assist victims of these occupations. Welshman Ncube should avoid damaging his party’s reputation by attempting to explain away these vicious attacks as resulting from people unreasonably hanging on to land. That at least was the Herald version!
The Herald should also understand that something may indeed be lawful but that doesn’t make it right. Is it seriously suggested that a policy that destroys commercial agriculture is right or good?
The Herald on Tuesday then claimed there were no political prisoners (because the government said so!) and “there were no known cases of the intimidation of the media”.
So the case in which the Standard is being prosecuted along with Arthur Mutambara for “making false statements prejudicial to the state” is of no relevance?
Is it not intimidating when a politician in the midst of an election campaign writes an opinion piece for a newspaper and then gets prosecuted because his views are at variance with those of the president who is also a candidate?
The Herald should stop trying to defend the indefensible. And make no mistake, those who are being asked to lift sanctions will be fully briefed on human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Brutal assaults on demonstrators, detention in shocking conditions, and the failure to prosecute kidnappers will be high on their agenda.
They will “vigorously” tell the visiting team what needs to be done. And if it includes Simbarashe Mumbengegwi it is unlikely to be taken seriously.
The Herald slipped in this concluding sentence to its article headed “Western donors endorse inclusive government”. It said “The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after Harare embarked on a successful land reform programme.”
Firstly, is there a single person in Zimbabwe today who seriously believes that the agrarian disaster called land reform has in any way been successful?
Not even Zanu PF believes that! And why is it assumed that the EU won’t recall why it imposed sanctions in the first place?
Does the Herald suppose that EU leaders won’t remember Pierre Schori and his expulsion from Zimbabwe whilst heading a EU observer mission during the 2002 election?
The mission saw evidence of political violence and electoral manipulation. Perhaps the Herald thinks that’s the same as land reform!
Anyway, the visiting team seeking the lifting of sanctions had better brush up on its facts before it approaches EU capitals!
At last the mask of solidarity that China has been wearing in Africa fell away last week. The South African authorities, under heavy pressure from Beijing, refused to issue a visa for the Dalai Lama who was due to address a peace conference organised by Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and FW de Klerk.
The South African government argued that the visit would distract attention from their hosting of the Fifa soccer world cup.
The denial of the visa in fact did just that. But it also exposed the sinister role China plays in undermining democracy in Africa.
The Sunday Times last weekend carried an article on Chinese involvement in Guinea.
“Guineans are increasingly suspicious of Chinese investment,” the article said. “Many see Chinese companies as just as exploitative as those from the West.”
“After the military took power in December it raided Chinese companies suspected of selling fake medicines, but the raids degenerated into open looting of Chinese businesses, tapping a vein of resentment long suppressed.”
The article featured a Guinean called Conde (35) who had been digging into hard rock for two months but had yet to receive any pay from his Chinese taskmasters.
“We work like slaves,” he said, “and like slaves we are not paid. The Chinese bring nothing good to Guinea.”
And there we were looking to them for salvation!