ATTORNEY-GENERAL Johannes Tomana is the “single biggest threat to national healing”, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said last weekend.
This followed the refusal of the AG’s office to release Roy Bennett’s passport so he could attend meetings in South Africa.
Last week lawyers for Bennett, Mtetwa & Nyambirai, wrote to the AG’s office seeking a relaxation of Bennett’s bail conditions and the release of his passport. Their request was turned down by Michael Mugabe, a law officer standing in for Tomana. As a result Bennett’s lawyers filed an urgent High Court application. This was rejected on technical grounds.
The judge said Bennett had “a good case but had chosen the wrong route”.
In his affidavit Bennett said the AG’s office was “motivated by malice”. The administration of justice would not be jeopardised in any way by a relaxation of bail conditions, Bennett argued.
The state’s position in denying Bennett his right to freedom of movement where there is clearly no suspicion that he will skip the country illustrates the role of the AG’s office in persecuting MDC and civic leaders at a time when all parties should be working for healing and reform.
Zimbabwe’s friends in the region and overseas should note this vexatious and partisan policy, particularly Sweden which holds the EU presidency. It is emblematic of all that is obstructive and malicious about Zanu PF’s approach to the inclusive government. Other MDC and civic activists are facing similarly vexatious charges regarding militia training in Botswana that the Botswana government has dismissed as spurious. Taken with the ongoing farm seizures, there should be no indulgence of those individuals who are playing a key role in sabotaging national reconciliation.
At the same time the MDC needs reminding that it is delinquent in trying to pass off farm invasions as “isolated incidents”. Agricultural recovery is key to national recovery and that is not going to happen so long as lawlessness persists.
Evidence that old attitudes die hard could be found in what the Herald passed off as a review of a cultural exhibit on Monday. The reviewer waxed indignant over an installation, “Footsteps of Change”, by Sithabile Mlotshwa at the Pan African Festival of Algiers. The artist was accused of “threatening to stifle Zimbabwe’s rebranding efforts” by portraying Zimbabwe in a poor light.
“She used her artistic licence to lie to the whole world about the situation at home at a time when Zimbabweans are reengaging the international community, “the reviewer, Jonathan Mbiriyamveka, railed. “The inclusive government, the turnaround of the economy and the constitutional reforms are not reflected in the installation,” he complained. Instead Mlotshwa was sowing the “seeds of hate”.
He compared Mlotshwa’s work to the “outstanding pieces” by another artist, Sasa Masimba. The reviewer’s main complaint appeared to be that Mugabe’s reign was represented as that of a country going backwards.
Zimbabwe is portrayed as an ailing pregnant woman, Mbiriyamveka fumed. “She is lying on the floor with her bulging belly all covered up by the colourful Zimbabwean flag while latex gloves are spread over her face. The impression one gets is that perhaps Zimbabwe’s inclusive government is on the verge of collapse.”
Deputy Culture minister Lazaraus Dokora had sought a meeting with his Algerian counterpart to find out just how the installation made it to the festival without the Zimbabwe government’s consent.
Here you have a classic illustration of the disease that ails us as a nation. A minister complaining about an art exhibit because it does not reflect the official Stalinist line that art must promote state policy. An artist whose work does not toe the official line is subject to bitter denunciation because she expresses herself in a way that is inconvenient to the state.
This cultural coercion matches claims by ministers that the state media should reflect the views of the parties to the GPA. We need to knock this cultural fascism on its head. Zimbabwean artists must be allowed to express their feelings and not be intimidated by puerile reviews of the sort carried in the “entertainment” section of the Business Herald on Monday.
By the way, in the same edition Muckraker spotted a front-page picture captioned “Government is striving to secure lines of credit to allow improved capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector”.
The picture showed a Dairibord production line being inspected by somebody who looked very much like former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
He has been out of office for many years now, so Muckraker must be mistaken!
It was interesting to read Lord Selborne’s remarks in the “100 years ago” section of the Herald this week. The High Commissioner was speaking on the subject of the new (1909) South African constitution which brought together the four British colonies that were to form the Union of South Africa the following year.
He said there had been criticism that the Transvaal had swallowed the Cape and that the Cape had swallowed the Transvaal. Natal had been swallowed by both, some critics claimed. But he asked whether there had ever been a constitution that was not a compromise of some sort.
Muckraker was always amused that journalists based in Bulawayo who met regularly at a bar at the Selborne Hotel had difficulty spelling the hotel’s name when they got round to filing stories on what had been said there. A “u” invariably managed to creep in after the “o”.
Let’s hope that’s “a thing of the past”, to use one of the state media’s favourite expressions.
We recall an early manifestation of that expression in 1986 when after the NAM conference at the Sheraton Hotel, a Herald editorial confidently proclaimed that with the importation of new patrol cars for the conference, shortages of police vehicles would be “a thing of the past”.
Perhaps readers can remember any other breezy forecasts that didn’t turn out to be quite so accurate!
Government publicists masquerading as journalists have helpfully indicated what sort of language they want to see used in the constitution-making process. The events of Monday last week when Zanu PF hoodlums ran riot at the HICC is now referred to as “a mishap”, according to the official media. And the economic catastrophe Mugabe’s government has spawned over the past decade is referred to as “sanctions-induced”.
Even the state’s negligent record at UZ which has resulted in the collapse of that once fine institution is being ascribed to sanctions.
In a dissembling editorial on Tuesday the Herald admitted that chefs had been able to escape the declining standardsÂ at the university by educating their children abroad. President Mugabe had helped poor parents by sending students to Fort Hare, we were told.
Official whoppers of this sort induce a mixture of outrage and laughter. The Fort Hare scholarship scheme was not the product of presidential bounty, as we are led to believe. It was a government programme supported by the taxpayer. And we are delighted to hear that poor children benefited because that certainly wasn’t the case with other scholarship schemes run by the Ministry of Higher Education.
As for those companies who found it difficult to continue assisting the university, that had little to do with sanctions “taking their toll” and more to do with the toll Godwills Masimirembwa took on companies.
What about the US$6 million Gideon Gono gave to Lobels? Couldn’t the university have made use of that? And can the RBZ explain what happened to the US$4,7 million the EU allocated for research projects at UZ last year?
What do UZ students thinks of this mendacity? Do you ever hear them saying it’s all the fault of sanctions? Never. They know where the problem lies.
The UZ crisis was but one of numerous examples of how ruinous sanctions had been, the Herald told us.
In fact of course the UZ is emblematic of a mismanaged economy and scandalous distortions in state priorities. And did readers notice Tuesday’s lead letter in the Herald complaining bitterly about “rich newspaper barons being able to bring their propaganda into Zimbabwe duty-free”?
Here was further evidence if it was needed of the provenance of such deceitful letters such as this one which claimed Tendai Biti’s budget was “anti-poor”.
The writer was understandably furious because the removal of duties on imported newspapers will help to keep the public informed, something the government’s captive press is incapable of doing.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF which is constantly lecturing us on Pan-Africanism is doing its best to block other African voices in the constitution-making process.
They seem to have a strong dislike of Cyril Ramaphosa who made such a notable contribution to South Africa’s democratic transformation. Was it something he said?
Could Met Office chief Dr Amos Makarau please inform us why he is unable to get the weather forecast to the Herald on time. Several times a week we are told “the weather report was not available at the time of going to press”. Why? Can Dr Makarau please explain?
But all is not lost. He will be “coming up” with a statement next month on El NiÃ±o, that naughty little Spanish boy who causes so much havoc at this time of year together with his sister, La NiÃ±a.
Finally, our commiserations to Partick Chinamasa on his unscheduled sojourn at Frankfurt Airport. Perhaps now he will understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a hostile political campaign. Nine years ago when Joseph Chinotimba and his thugs were besieging Chief Justice Antony Gubbay in his chambers Gubbay appealed to Justice minister Chinamasa for help.
“Put it in writing,” came the terse response.
Let’s hope the EU says the same thing!