IN a sense Morgan Tsvangirai deserved the drubbing he got in Southwark Cathedral last weekend.
This was due to be the highlight of his overseas tour. While the Europeans and Americans had been expected to sit on their wallets, offering little more than goodwill, the British government and the huge population of Zimbabweans in London were expected to shower the prime minister with praise and plenty.
It wasn’t quite like that. Tsvangirai had clearly failed to gauge the mood of his audience in the East End of London. Instead of praise he garnered boos – probably the first time he has heard such heresy. His invitation to the audience to return home where there was now “peace and stability” inspired scepticism, not confidence.
They didn’t buy it. And when he started quibbling with them over exactly what he had said, the derision started.
The Herald was disingenuous in failing to report on its front page on Monday that the audience was chanting “Mugabe must go”. Those of us watching it on TV heard it loud and clear.
This is significant because it was Tsvangirai’s naivety in waxing lyrical about his “extraordinary” working relationship with President Mugabe that transformed his meeting into a rout.
He hasn’t got it yet that MDC supporters are deeply uncomfortable with the inclusive government. And they see their leaders as gullible in suggesting things have improved back home.
Tsvangirai was pursuing this line on the BBC on Sunday, just a few days after a small group of Woza demonstrators had reportedly been set upon by police.
Zimbabweans, at home and abroad, want to know what steps the MDC is taking to curb state violence and end repression. They want to know what steps have been taken to free the media. Recidivist elements are still in charge. The farm invasions continue.
The audience in Southwark Cathedral know this. And they resented the wool being pulled over their eyes by a starry-eyed leader who gives the appearance of having been compromised.
The one good thing to have come out of the EU and US tour was the wake-up call Tsvangirai received. Nobody is interested in hearing about his cosy relationship with a leader who is blocking reform on every front. They want to see results. That includes media reform.
Did you see how the embryonic Zimbabwe Media Commission has become the seamless successor to the ill-fated MIC in the Herald’s report on the new parliamentary bodies? A paragraph had been slipped in to say “the MIC will be known as the Zimbabwe Media Commission”.
So it’s a chip off the old block is it? This won’t help. And reports that Tafataona Mahoso has applied to be a media commissioner will be the kiss of death for the new outfit. If it’s credibility the commission needs, this is not the way to go about it!
Everybody noted that as soon as Tsvangirai’s Bulletin hit the streets last week, the Herald rushed to fill its pages with colour pix of the Prime Minister and reports of his meetings, although they omitted the praise heaped on him.
What strikes us about the political meddling in the state media is that no lessons appear to have been learnt. All the stale propaganda that lost Zanu PF last year’s elections is being wheeled out and dusted off to do service next year. You would have thought the party’s mandarins would have understood that the public rejected its mantras on land and sovereignty. None of them produced jobs or food.
There is obviously a need for a new message that engages the voting public. Instead, every failed policy is being repeated. And where policies fail, fists will no doubt follow. Is this the way to win hearts and minds?
And what of Zimbabwe’s reputation? Tsvangirai hopefully got a taste of that during his overseas tour. This is not a chinja government but a “no-change” regime. Please, let’s have less naivety and more substance.
At least Tsvangirai, countering reports in the state media back home, made it clear he was not taking his marching orders from Mugabe in undertaking the tour. It is symptomatic of our suborned public media that they kept repeating the claim despite Tsvangirai’s denials, in the same way they keep saying “illegal” sanctions long after Barack Obama has said there was no such thing.
Are government journalists permitted to say “sanctions” without prefixing them with “illegal”? How far do the tentacles reach?
Muckraker’s attention was caught by an article in the Business Herald last week saying “Chegutu offers free land to lure investment”.
“Quite a number of people” were making inquiries including Zimbabweans in the diaspora and the Chinese, we were told.
Muckraker is confused. Is this the same Chegutu where Zanu PF thugs severely assaulted members of Ben Freeth’s family last year? Is this the same Chegutu where Freeth and his parents-in-law were dispossessed after their bones had been broken by marauding thugs? Are these among the “attractive incentives” offered by the town?
Investors may wonder what will happen to them if the same predatory thugs arrive on their doorstep.
Businesses could “take advantage” of “downstream industries” like David Whitehead and Zimplats, the report said.
Don’t we recall Zanu PF interfering in the management of David Whitehead a few years ago? We are sure anyone investing in Chegutu will be “taken advantage” of at some point!
The “assassination attempt” on Mashonaland Central governor Advocate Martin Dinha doesn’t appear to have attracted much attention. Even the Financial Gazette which carried the story consigned it to the back page.
But it did provide a platform for Dinha to parade his loyalties.
“I will not be intimidated for my unwavering support for President Mugabe, the party and the revolution,” he was reported as saying. “I remain steadfast in defence of the gains of the liberation struggle.”
Amazing isn’t it that we have lawyers in this country that can spout such fawning drivel. We are delighted that Dinha survived the attempt if only so he can do more to illuminate us on the “values” he holds dear – and we can all have a good chuckle!
Leslie Gwindi, on the other hand, is no laughing matter. Tackled on the shocking state of refuse collection in the capital, he makes the lame excuse that “the city’s last investment in refuse collection vehicles was nine years ago and it is a general rule that these vehicles be replaced after a maximum of three years of service”.
If that is the case there has been serious profligacy by past councils. It is scandalous that refuse vehicles were so poorly maintained that they needed replacing every three years.
With due care and maintenance they should have lasted at least 10 years without too much difficulty.
Muckraker saw on TV a couple of years ago a Bedford fire truck in the UK dating from the 1950s being used by the army during a fireman’s strike.
It had been perfectly maintained and was ready for action.
It is typical of local officials to say a job can’t be done because the equipment is too old and “broken”. It never occurs to them to look after it properly.
The city needs not less than 60 collection vehicles, Gwindi claimed as if money grew on trees.
Who was responsible for maintaining the previous fleet and what salaries did they earn?
There has been much talk recently of the “devastating” impact of sanctions. All the country’s woes are attributed to them. But President Mugabe didn’t seem to mind at the time of their imposition.
Speaking to reporters after addressing the Malaysia Business Fellowship in August 2002, he said: “The British say I should not come to Britain. I should not go to Germany, to Europe as a whole. What do I want Europe for? I’ve got my own country which is more beautiful.”
Let’s hope all those anxious to propitiate Mugabe will recall these words of satisfaction with the status quo. Let’s not push him where he doesn’t want to go!
It is also worthwhile at this juncture to recall other remarks made by our leaders over the last decade. In an interview with Reuters in March 2000, Mugabe warned that white farmers would suffer “very, very, very severe violence” if they provoked war veterans who had occupied their farms.
This would happen if the farmers “start to be angry and start to be violent” in response to the land invasions.
Patrick Chinamasa, speaking to church leaders on why the government was failing to arrest rampant political violence in July 2001, said: “Violence is a necessary tool for a successful land reform programme.”
John Nkomo, speaking to the same audience at the Victoria Falls, declined to assure them that there would be no violence during the following year’s presidential poll.
The French, ever anxious to please, may not have seen these remarks.
Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer certainly had.
“The determination of Robert Mugabe, not only to kick people off their land on the basis of race but also to force the country into starvation, is a simply appalling thing for any head of state to do,” he said in June 2002.
And it’s still going on seven years later!
What has Arthur Mutambara, who has been so anxious to secure visas for Chinamasa and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, done to prevent the seizure of farms since his fact-finding visit to Chegutu?