The Zimbabwe Independent and NewsDay last week carried details of a cable from McGee sent to Washington on June 2 2009, which provided an interesting insight into Zimbabwe’s 86-year-old ruler who McGee describes as “stuck in the past” and “desperate to reengage with the world and to be treated as an elder statesman”.
McGee was reporting a meeting between Mugabe and US Congressman Donald Payne. At the time of that meeting on May 30 2009, the state media told us that Payne had described Mugabe as a hero.
We criticised Payne for that. But it now transpires that he “flattered in order to deceive”.
Having referred to Mugabe’s earlier career in glowing terms, Payne said there was a “stark dichotomy between the compassionate statesman who fought for freedom and the current government that allows police to beat black women who dare protest,” an obvious reference to Woza whose leaders have been honoured by the US administration.
The Nathaniel Manheru column last week expressed the author’s difficulty with McGee’s version of events. That is not surprising. The author is almost certainly the leak who told the state press after the meeting that Payne had characterised Mugabe as a hero. Things look a little different now we have the full text. And Zanu PF have the added embarrassment of Mugabe revealing that the ANC had not treated Thabo Mbeki well.
Mugabe regards Mbeki as “a great man” and Jacob Zuma as a “man of the people who likes to make promises without necessarily knowing how to fulfil them”. And that coming from Mugabe!
The cable gives details of what McGee called a “surreal” three-hour meeting in which an “alert, articulate” and “defiant” Mugabe expressed his views to the US diplomats. It is headed “Tea with Mugabe”.
Questioned by McGee about Jacob Zuma’s government, Mugabe “sighed that he didn’t think (the ANC) treated Mbeki well, particularly as he was in the midst of helping Zimbabwe”. While describing Mbeki as “judgmental and calculating and cautious with policies”, he said “to us (Mbeki) is a great man”.
“While Zuma has made promises, it remains to be seen if they will come true.”
Welcoming his guests to State House Mugabe commented that “Zimbabwe hadn’t had many visitors lately”.
Then he launched into an “hour-long monologue” in which he painted himself “as the victim of international abuse and broken promises” and embarked on a “long-winded rehashing of Zimbabwe’s history”.
Growing “increasingly adamant and agitated”, Mugabe asked: “In the context of all the countries in the world — are we really the worst?”
Payne then “gently and masterfully praised Mugabe for his liberation credentials before confronting him about human rights abuses”.
Describing himself as having been a fan of Mugabe as a young man, Payne said he had followed the Zimbabwean president’s “distinguished” career since its beginnings “but noted that he is now concerned about the things he reads”.
Payne said there was a “stark ‘dichotomy’ between the compassionate statesman who fought for freedom … and the current government that allows police to beat black women who dare protest”.
According to the cable, “Mugabe sank into the couch and appeared expressionless and somewhat stunned.
“At the mention of police beating women, he responded with a puzzled look. ‘Which women? Where did they get them from?’”
Mugabe “neither confirmed nor denied the abuses” but “responded well to Payne’s gentle confrontation”. Then he piped up: “Well, I think we deserve some tea.”
The Americans, we understand, were somewhat amused by the tea ceremony that followed with waiters in white gloves.
This is significant. Only a couple of weeks ago Alexander Kanengoni was telling us how Tsvangirai was a British stooge, an appendage of empire. But ask any American visitor who has met Mugabe and they will tell you they thought they were dealing with an English gentleman.
They recognised the traits. The Savile Row suit, the handkerchief tucked into the breast pocket and the dapper demeanour. Only the walking stick is missing! And it must amuse fellow African heads of state to watch Zimbabwe’s leader lecturing them on the wicked British while so obviously wanting to be accepted as one of them.
Reflecting the souring of tone over WikiLeaks, the government will soon set up a commission of enquiry to investigate any constitutional violations arising from the WikiLeaks reports, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana announced last weekend. A team of five law experts would soon establish whether there had been any constitutional infringement.
This comes after the Zanu PF conference resolutions and Tomana’s addition to the sanctions list.
Tomana claims his listing is an attack on the AG’s office and not on his person.
It rather depends how you look at it. The Americans would probably argue that it was a condemnation of the AG’s behaviour that persuaded them to list him. Zidera, the US sanctions law, quite explicitly bars individuals who are seen as thwarting democratic progress and undermining the rule of law. Numerous people have been arrested and incarcerated during Tomana’s tenure at the AG’s office. He is seen as partisan. And the recent move against magistrates will have confirmed that impression.
It will be interesting to see who the five law “experts” are. Taking their marching orders from the Zanu PF conference will do little for their reputations!
Regular readers of the Guardian, formerly the Manchester Guardian, will know of the paper’s reputation for typographical errors. It was often said that one day we would wake up to find the paper had even got its heading wrong. It would appear as the Grauniad! Indeed it is even today affectionately known as the Grauniad.
Which is why we were amused to read that one edition published in May 1821 required the following correction.
“The proprietors regret that their compositors’ inexperience produced an unfortunate (and inexcusable) infelicity in last Saturday’s edition of this organ — that edition which of course began what we remain confident will mature into an illustrious career. We hasten to assure our readers that in future their daily newspaper’s masthead will proclaim this to be not the Bumchester Gordion but the Manchster (sic) Guardian, and we earnestly promise that no terminological inexactitude ever again will sully our pages.”
Our question of course: Did that misspelling of the Guardian’s name above (“Manchster”) find its way into the paper in 1821 or 2010?
In this context, we liked the picture a reader sent to the editor of the Guardian of a horse grazing in a field with a sign saying “Don’t feed the hores”.
Is that an error or American English?
We enjoyed e-tv’s Chris Maroleng’s interview with Ian Khama, reprised last weekend. Asked about President Mugabe, the Botswana leader said: “We have rulers on the continent who think they are God’s gift to their people.
“It is wrong for them to think they have a monopoly of wisdom,” he said; “or that they are indispensable.”
During his session with Donald Payne, Mugabe wondered whether white South Africans would be prepared to share their wealth with their black compatriots. Zimbabwe only had a handful of whites, he noted, whereas South Africa had four million. Then there are the Indians.
But what Mugabe missed here is that South Africa has an
extensive social security scheme for the elderly. Taxpayers (mostly whites) pay for that scheme although they don’t benefit from it. And it is not a pittance. Whole families survive on their granny’s weekly payment.
Is Mugabe genuinely ignorant of this or did he hope Payne was!
Finally, we enjoyed the article by Caesar Zvayi on Wednesday. It was headed “Let’s vote to save Christmas” and carried a picture of empty supermarket shelves.
“Let’s hope those who cost innocent families Christmas over the past decade through sell-out politics or ruinous economic sanctions will see the error of their ways…” the article read.
That’s really funny Caesar. Who do the public associate empty supermarket shelves with? And don’t we all know who stole Christmas? The same criminal gang who stole the country’s wealth.
Please, no more diversionary tactics.