HAVE you ever seen a party working so hard to lose an election? Zanu PF appears absolutely determined to retrace its footprints of failure.
Firstly and perhaps most egregiously we have seen the abuse of those broadcasting instruments currently in the hands of the state. Not only is news distorted to suit the claims of the former ruling party, but very often news of what other parties might be doing is ignored altogether. Civil society doesn’t get a look-in.
And then Zanu PF can’t understand why external radio stations continue to enjoy such a huge listenership. Zimbabweans are hungry for news and they know they won’t find it on ZBC. Why should external stations close down when they are fulfilling a national need?
Meanwhile, the Media minister still can’t bring himself to provide assurances to broadcasters working abroad that they can safely return to the country without retribution of the sort that was promised to them eight years ago.
Then there is the abuse of state newspapers. We reported in this column last week the case of a Herald columnist, Tendai Midzi, who didn’t exist. At least he didn’t exist in the capacity attributed to him.
London Metropolitan University where he was said to lecture in economics hadn’t heard of him. Then ministers have the cheek to lecture us on media ethics!
Then there is the wider ethical problem of a party that lost the parliamentary election continuing to hang on to the public press so it has a better chance of winning the next one.
But it won’t of course. Zanu PF’s failed mantras hold no purchase on the public mind any more. Their desperation can be best illustrated by the disgraceful language senior officials use to abuse the independent press. They clearly have no confidence in their own media. And recycling those jingles tells the same story. They have nothing new to offer the public.
Why do they think it is a good idea to repeat all the failed blandishments of 2000 and 2008? This once great party has become a pale shadow of its former self — reduced to scatological ravings in a captive media!
Last week, the Herald told us US ambassador Charles Ray was “not amused” when NewsDay carried a story on the US “Specially Designated Nationals” list which the US treasury renewed recently. It included President Mugabe and his family. The Herald’s handlers took exception to this.
NewsDay didn’t even apologise, the Herald spluttered, when it was pointed out that the list had been knocking around for some time. And it made no reference to terrorism, as NewsDay suggested.
NewsDay’s error was not to recognise that this was a variant of an old story. The list is in fact renewed every year. It first appeared in 2003 and contains a number of people associated with terrorism.
What interested us in the Herald story of July 15 was the official who claimed to be speaking for the embassy. It didn’t sound at all like anybody we know. In fact it sounded like somebody working at Munhumutapa Building!
Those interested can refer to the US Treasury SDN list for June 29 on Google.
What happened to the Herald’s story about those Pakistani “terrorists” held at Beitbridge? The more vocal the Herald became in defence of its story, the more Zimbabwe officials distanced themselves from it.
“Reports of the arrests that were carried in the state-controlled media citing unnamed official sources raised fears that terror groups might be trying to target the World Cup,” the Times of Johannesburg reported. One of them was involved in the Mumbai bombings, the Herald would have us believe.
“Yesterday (July 8) however the Zimbabwe police denied that they were the source of the improbable claims and confirmed that the suspects were being held only on immigration charges,” the Times said.
“You are working from the wrong premise altogether,” Wayne Bvudzijena told the excitable Herald team. South African police had earlier dismissed suggestions that the arrests signalled a foiled terror plot, the Times helpfully added.
Still on the subject of gullible Herald scribes, we had Isdore Guvamombe campaigning for the removal of David Livingstone’s statue from its Victoria Falls site and being impressed by what he saw at the Military Museum in Cairo.
“This writer was particularly impressed by what he saw in Cairo, Egypt,” Guvamombe wrote, “where a mock battle of what happened when Egypt finally defeated Israel in 1981 is shown to tourists twice a day.”
It is shown twice a day presumably because tourists may not believe it the first time around.
We were familiar with the events of 1967 when the Egyptians under Gamal Abdul Nasser waved their fists at Israel and then ran as fast as they could. The Sinai Peninsula fell to Israel in that encounter. So did Gaza. And we recall that in 1973 the Egyptians managed to cross the Suez Canal and enter the Sinai Peninsula which they held briefly before being chased back across the canal. But what happened in 1981 apart from the assassination of Anwar Sadat? Guvamombe could perhaps explain.
He seems very impressed with Iran which has a lot to teach Zimbabwe, he says.
“Its revolution has produced a country that is developing faster than its detractors had anticipated and Zimbabwe, still climbing out of its land reform programme, will certainly learn a lot about benefiting from the gains of a revolution.”
Like how to crack the skulls of the opposition!
President Mugabe had his audience “in stitches” at the traditional lunch held for MPs by the Minister of Local Government after the opening of parliament last week. His subject? Corrupt MDC-T councillors.
The president elicted “huge guffaws” with his “witty treatment” of a serious issue, the Herald reported.
“You are elected to serve the people,” he said. “Councillors, think again. Chinjai maitiro.”
The Herald reporter then felt duty-bound to explain that chinja maitiro was a MDC-T slogan and the president was simply “throwing it back” at them.
This “tickled the funny bones” of the party’s leadership, we are told.
Things got even wilder when Grace Mugabe took a pot shot at her husband over the slogan, adding “Nemiwo chinjai maitiro”.
The president in turn said he would not change his ways but would continue to “grace the occasion”.
This had them rolling in the aisles apparently.
Tendai Biti has been subject to considerable flak since he presented his mid-term review. He is the man Zanu PF loves to hate. The People’s Voice this week reported some legislators accusing Biti of hate speech over land reform.
And what exactly was this hate speech? He described the 99-year leases as unbankable.
Now what is hateful about that self-evident truth? Meanwhile, Zanu PF calls him “a white man in a black body”. And that is not hate speech!
“As long as this economy continues to be agriculture-dependent, but without security of tenure, then all significant growth will remain unrealised,” Biti said.
The land grabbers didn’t like that. They set up a hullabaloo. But it is obvious even to a Form 2 pupil.
We are being governed by people who don’t understand basic economics. Zanu PF MP for Shamva South, Samuel Ziteya, said Biti was undermining the powers of the president.
So that’s not allowed then? Something else to keep out of the constitution!
And reading the People’s Voice it was immediately clear that they don’t understand that the president’s speech to parliament is crafted by the government.
“Finance minister Tendai Biti supported President Mugabe’s position on the issue of diamonds,” we were told.
They obviously don’t have a clue how parliament works. And one can’t help believe that much of the outrage over Biti’s proposed Diamond Bill comes from the gang of plunderers who have done so well out of the chaos of the past few years. But those who have rushed to claim victory in the wake of the St Petersburg meeting had better be careful. They are now being watched as never before. And the more they insult the US, EU, Canada and Australia, the more their exports will be scrutinised. And that’s the last thing they want!
The front page of the Herald on Tuesday exposed all that is problematic in our government of national unity. Under the heading “EU shifts goalposts on EU dialogue”, there was an indignant front-page story about the EU having its own agenda which ignored the supposed progress made by the GNU. This follows recent re-engagement talks in Brussels.
This newspaper has consistently argued that progress is illusory. We had Patrick Chinamasa proving that this week with his declaration that Zimbabwe would not observe the rule of law with regard to the Sadc tribunal’s rulings.
In case there was any doubt about the situation, George Charamba was quoted on the same front-page as saying the MDC-T leader was not allowed to change officials in his office. Recent movements were “void at law”.
What we have here of course is one party to the GNU instructing the other on what it can and can’t do. This officious behaviour will inform the EU that we have a dysfunctional government where one faction allied to President Mugabe is unwilling to work with the other headed by the PM.
The Herald story on dialogue contained bitter complaints by “sources” that the EU wasn’t taking any notice of the progress made in the GNU. Is it surprising?
Did anyone read a story published in the Herald on Tuesday headlined “Violence mars Australian poll campaign”?
The story picked from Australian newspapers said the police had charged two men in Adelaide after a Liberal Party candidate was allegedly punched during an argument over the treatment of asylum-seekers.
The other violent incident was the firing of gun shots at the offices and home of a ruling Labour Party candidate.
What interested us was not the alleged isolated cases of violence in Australia but the Herald’s hidden agenda in publishing the story.
While we also condemn violence in whatever form, we now wait to read in the Herald about Zanu PF militants and war veterans assaulting supporters of the MDC in the countryside and forcing them to support their party’s line on the new constitution.
Muckraker was shocked to read the comments of new British Council director Jill Coates. She claimed that Zimbabwean exiles “totally exaggerated” the Zimbabwean story.
“Zimbabwe is such a beautiful and peaceful country and not at all hostile like what is perceived in the UK media,” she declared.
What do we call these remarks? Naïve or downright stupid?
Firstly, representatives of the British Council should think twice before denouncing their home country’s media. It doesn’t speak well of their organisation.
If Coates had read the paper she was quoted in she would have understood the urgent need for a free and reformed press. Her mission in Zimbabwe should not be about criticising the British media or Zimbabwean exiles in the UK. They have surely received punishment enough cut off from their families and loved ones.
It should be about disseminating the values of a free society and cultural diversity.
She obviously didn’t swot up on this before leaving home. Instead she gave us the benefit of her Pollyanna opinions when she had just got off the boat.