IT is not difficult to spot the contradiction in Zimbabwe’s foreign policy. On the one hand we have the loud bleatings by our colleagues in the state media about “illegal sanctions” and Morgan Tsvangirai’s failure to raise meaningful funds on his European and US tour, and on the other hand what can best be interpreted as calculated manoeuvres designed to sabotage his mission.
How else can we interpret a statement by Media minister Webster Shamu that he will only take orders from President Mugabe who appointed him and not PM Tsvangirai?
This was in response to an instruction from Tsvangirai telling Shamu to uphold the rights of four journalists in line with a court judgement.
What could be more calculated to undermine Tsvangirai’s claims that the inclusive government is working well and that there have been meaningful changes in the attitude of Zanu PF? And what more proof is needed that Zimbabwe is a state where ministers pick and choose who they will obey and what court orders they will uphold.
EU and US leaders needed to hear that the process of reform in Harare was well underway and that power-sharing was genuine. They needed to hear that the rule of law was being upheld. Instead they were given a demonstration of old-guard recidivism.
Then the state media, which appears incapable of understanding the significance of any of this, complains bitterly when sanctions remain in place and Zanu PF ministers are excluded from high-level talks.
Here’s the message for the more obtuse members of our fraternity. Zanu PF’s record in the inclusive government is seen as insincere. The case of the four freelance journalists has been emblematic in exposing the face of the beast. Court orders are ignored, ministers refuse to accept instructions from the prime minister and progress to reform is constantly reversed.
The continuing attacks on farmers and their workers by opportunist predators tell foreign leaders all they need to know about lawlessness in Zimbabwe despite claims by government spokesmen that all is well.
It obviously isn’t!
Tsvangirai, who has a record of courage and integrity, should stop pretending that he has the situation under control and instead tell it like it is. Zimbabwe’s foreign friends would rather hear the truth from him than from others. And they have no illusions as to what is happening here because their embassies are in touch with a broad range of diplomats, politicians and civics. So when Tsvangirai suggests that he is in charge, donors are likely to prove sceptical, especially when that scepticism is informed by statements from people like Webster Shamu!
It was also useful to have the views of US business people on the record as to investment prospects. MDC leaders have been repeating the mantra that it is not aid but investment we want. Now they have been told in no uncertain terms that there will be no investment so long as misrule and lawlessness persist. That includes a muzzled media.
The Herald on Saturday carried a picture of Shamu and Media ministry permanent secretary George Charamba in Windhoek to strengthen relations with their Namibian counterparts. This will involve reviving the unreadable Southern Times and setting up an equally boring television station, if ZTV is anything to go by.
Other regional governments will be invited to “buy into” the joint project.
Also pictured was Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga, who has a record of partisan pronouncements. Indeed, this whole project and those masterminding it reflects very poorly on the inclusive government that is supposed to be putting an end to such party-driven schemes that will absorb public funds and do nothing to keep the public informed.
But we did note the remarks of Namibia’s Information minister Joel Kaapanda that Namibia supported all efforts aimed at “normalising” the situation in Zimbabwe.
On this note we were interested to see Jacob Zuma’s remarks on Zimbabwe in his recent state-of-the-nation address to parliament in Cape Town.
He said Sadc, which he chairs, will “participate in promoting inclusive government until free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe”.
So, last year’s poll didn’t make the grade, something Zimbabweans know all to well. Glad to have Zuma adding his voice there.
“The plight of the Zimbabwean people has had a negative impact on the Sadc region”, he added.
Nothing there about sanctions!
As for the silly claim that allowing EU ambassadors to “engage” Zimbabwean ministers would be a “slap in the face” for Zimbabwe because this would not be a meeting of equals, perhaps the EU should delay the Brussels “engagement” until our Ministry of Foreign Affairs smells the coffee and wakes up to certain realities
“It implies that our cabinet is at par with ambassadors,” some unnamed official huffed and puffed.
But it’s not the EU that needsÂ normalisation of relations or benefits flowing from the Cotonou Agreement. And it’s certainly not the EU that has been “left in the open”, unable to defend its sanctions.
The EU has 27 member-states signed up to its stance on misrule in Zimbabwe. Tafataona Mahoso was trying to suggest last weekend that Comesa had come to Zimbabwe’s rescue while the EU, UK and US are “reeling from the effects of the financial tsunami”.
In other words, delusional Zanu PF spokesmen are in all seriousness suggesting that Comesa, with President Mugabe at the helm, offers an attractive alternative to dealing with Western economies.
Let’s see how this works out. After all, we know our glorious leader’s record of economic management is second to none. And his foreign policy can be summed up in three words: “Go to hell”.
With this sort of moribund diplomacy, and the likes of Mahoso as spokesmen, it is certainly not the EU that will be “left in the open”.
Sitting in on Tsvangirai’s interview in Washington last week was a US-based representative of the Herald, which has belittled the PM’s trip each day since he left the country a week ago. The reporter, Obi Egbuna, insisted on reciting long questions read verbatim from copious longhand notes, which appeared to be an attempt to take up the time allocated for the interview, we are informed. Either that or as a Mugabe publicist rather than a genuine journalist, he didn’t understand the importance of the short, sharp question.
Whatever the case, his tendentious questioning was politely indulged by the other hacks present who assumed he was a rookie reporter.
In Tuesday’s Herald there is a fawning interview by Egbuna with Walter Mzembi who was able to get away with the suggestion that Obama is a prisoner of Vice-President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. In other words it’s a racial thing! Obama should listen to the “African voice”, Mzembi fatuously proposes.
And interviewers should avoid congratulating ministers on their appointment if they want to be taken seriously.
Obama’s behaviour in excluding Mzembi from the White House showed he had “no respect” for the GPA, Mzembi suggested.
In other words, Obama, who underlined the importance of meeting the benchmarks set by the GPA, is accused of not respecting it while a Zanu PF minister whose party is busy sabotaging the GPA accuses Obama of not bowing to the wisdom of Sadc and the AU.
Even funnier is a cartoon by Innocent Mpofu who has Mzembi saying Obama has the most powerful job in the world but is “out of tune”.
At least Mpofu was funny for once. No doubt the dim-witted Mzembi will suggest the 27 nations of the EU are all out of tune as Tsvangirai continues his European visit. Or that all 27 states have been rail-roaded into an anti-Zimbabwe stance by the conspiratorial British. What amazing powers of persuasion Britain still has. Somebody should tell them!
We were amused by Andrew Donaldson’s contribution – “Eish” – to the Sunday Times this week on the subject of the late President Omar Bongo of Gabon. It was headed “Beating the drum for Bongo” and quoted Nicolas Sarkozy’s tribute: “A great and loyal friend of France has left us”.
French politicians will in particular miss his generosity, Sarkozy might have added. Gabon’s oil wealth maintained an elaborate network of patronage.
French estate agents will also miss him. Earlier this year Amnesty International investigated Bongo for embezzlement and revealed that he owned 33 properties in France with a combined value of more than US$200 million.
Bongo had regarded his rule as indispensable to his people since 1967.
But not all the country’s oil wealth found its way into the pockets of his family, cronies and French politicians. Some went to prestige projects like Bongoville, his hometown, Bongo University, Bongo International Airport, Bongo Stadium, and several Bongo hospitals.
There were no Bongo Drummers, Donaldson cheekily adds.
Much of the oil money he kept for himself, Donaldson reminds us.
His personal fortune ran into tens of millions of dollars.
“Maybe that’s why Bongo has been praised,” he notes. “Politics is thievery and he stole more than most.”
We particularly liked the story, relatedÂ by Donaldson, about 22-year-old Peruvian beauty contestant, Ivette Lourdes Santa Maria Carty. She was invited to Gabon as a hostess for a so-called Miss Humanity awards ceremony. Within hours of her arrival she found herself escorted to Bongo’s palace where she met the president in his panelled office. She recalls he pushed a button and a bed appeared.
She tried to explain she was not a woman of easy virtue but Miss Peru.
Presidential guards subsequently found her running around the palace grounds in a state of distress, or was it undress!
The Peruvian ambassador to the UN has tabled a protest with his Gabonese counterpart.
Perhaps it was this episode which Sarkozy was thinking of when he spoke of Bongo as a head of state “who has won the respect and esteem of his peers”.
Finally, we were pleased to see Judge President Rita Makarau’s comments at the “relaunch” of the Police Support Unit’s Service Charter.Â Exactly why it needed to be “relaunched” is not clear. Justice Makarau urged the police officers to “observe the fundamentals of human rights”, when carrying out their duties. But she then said it was “pleasing to note that the ZRP had a track record of upholding human rights” which had won plaudits across the globe.
She might have added that the international perception of human rights observance in Zimbabwe was largely fashioned by footage of Morgan Tsvangirai, Sekai Holland and others when they emerged badly beaten from the Highfield police station two years ago. We recall Mugabe endorsing that “bashing”. Have the officers responsible been brought to book?
At present human rights activists are seeking to challenge their prosecution on the grounds that they were subject to abduction and torture. Lawyers were unable to locate their clients at a number of police stations around Harare where it later transpired they had been held.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of that case in the light of Justice Makarau’s claims.
Justice Makarau reminded us that police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri was on record assuring the nation that the force would not abdicate its responsibility for ensuring the prevalence of peace.
The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe also recorded a statement by Chihuri that appeared in the Chronicle of June 21 2008 saying: “Since the 29 March elections the MDC-T party has been on a violent diplomatic onslaught on the country and its leadership peddling falsehoods of winning the elections…MDC-T party is a violent party that craves for violence since its formation.”
What we have not heard enough of from all sectors of society is the need for a professional and independent police force and a judiciary unimpressed by the blandishments of politicians. Let’s hope these issues are at the top of the constitution-making agenda.