15 December 2011

Zimbabwe: Sanctions a Pretext to Avoid Renewal


IF there was any doubt about the need for President Mugabe to retire it was evident in his speech to the Zanu PF conference last Thursday evening.

In a long rambling address he seemed unable to find a full stop. The interminable speech was like a truck with no brakes. It just kept going. And when he said "And finally", there was a palpable sense of relief in the hall with the band starting up and delegates waking up, but it turned out to be a dream. There was no finality at all. He just kept rambling on, a stream of consciousness which led him at times to repeat himself.

These matters were not helped by translations into the vernacular where things he did say and even things he didn't say were popped into his speech. The sense of repetition was thus compounded.

Mugabe said he would not display cowardice by retiring while Zimbabwe continues to experience a "sanctions-induced economic downturn".

Sanctions-induced is it? How convenient. No need then to place the blame where it really lies?

If proof were needed, we should only look at the resolution on restoring the Zimdollar. Here we have the one thing that the GNU can call a success story; the use of the US dollar alongside the rand and other hard currencies to tame inflation and introduce a measure of predictability in the management of the economy.

Absolutely the last thing we need is a return to the discredited Zimdollar. There was "rapturous applause" we are told when Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the resolution.

Extraordinary isn't it? Here is a unit of currency that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. And Zanu PF applauds this travesty of a currency knowing full well the damage it will inflict on the economy, reversing all the gains since 2009. But Zanu PF will persist with this example of populist grandstanding anyway no matter what the damage.

Mugabe declared that leadership at the highest level could only change hands once the course was clear of obstacles.

So this is how it works: The president declares that "Western aggression" remains a threat to the country and that he therefore cannot release the reins of power so long as this fictitious "threat" remains.

In fact trade with Britain and the United States has increased significantly since 2008, according to the Herald's business pages.

But the threat remains a convenient pretext for avoiding leadership renewal.

And what about those Zanu PF luminaries reported in WikiLeaks as lining up outside the US embassy to say they want Mugabe to go? They were in Bulawayo last weekend keeping their heads down.

What happens next is a concoction of partisan measures such as more land seizures, a flawed indigenisation programme that will scare off investment, and a draft constitution designed to serve only one party in the coalition. The reform programme the GPA was supposed to usher in will be largely shunted aside. In fact it already has been. Zanu PF simply doesn't understand the importance of working together for the good of the country. Nobody buys their silly claims about sanctions except perhaps Chipangano and towering intellects like Jabulani Sibanda.

What is surprising is the role played by journalists in propping up the fiction that Mugabe is indispensable. Some are working at second-rate universities such as Bindura from where they publish articles in the Herald as conjoined twins, clearly unable to think individually.

No wonder the president sends his daughter abroad to be educated.

On this note, there was another gushing advertisement congratulating Bona Mugabe on her degree in the Herald last week. It read: "The Higher and Tertiary education fraternity is always proud of the Chancellor of state universities, Cde RG Mugabe. When Bona, the eldest child, is graduating it sets an example for other young people to emulate. Graduation proves that hard work, determination and self-discipline are indeed the key to unlocking potential. This is a proud and momentous occasion for the first family and indeed for us all. Well done."

The notice was placed by minister Stan Mudenge, Deputy minister Senator Lutho Tapela, and Permanent Secretary Dr Washington Mabizvo, who together with "the entire staff of the ministry and students in all our tertiary institutions and universities wish to congratulate the first family on Bona's attainment of the Degree of Bachelor of Accountancy at the City University, Hong Kong."

While Muckraker doesn't want to detract from any of this, we are fascinated to know how Stan and his subordinates managed to assess the views of "the entire staff of the ministry and students in all our tertiary institutions and universities". Was there a headcount?

Muckraker was intrigued last week to see a photo of Glen Ford, the actor, writing about the "Euro-American offensive". No, not the currency. He was, we were told, editor of something called the blackagendareport.com.

We wonder if Mr Ford is aware of his designation in the Herald? And of course his change in colour!

Perhaps Cde Coltrane Chimurenga can tell us. Coltrane manages to find his way to every Zanu PF shindig. We wonder who pays for his trips?

Really worrying is the announcement by the ANC that it will be assisting Zanu PF with a team of "strategists" ahead of the next election. The announcement was made by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. It will enable our "revolutionaries" to learn about the stunning levels of corruption achieved by their counterparts down south in only 17 years. This includes inside deals on tenders, corrupt contracts, a flawed judicial process and corruption in arms procurement.

How for instance did Julius Malema become so rich so quickly?

Zanu PF of course had a head start in some of these areas and will no doubt teach the ANC a thing or two.

A number of journalists have called to make it clear Nehanda and Kaguvi were not hanged at the "hanging tree" on Herbert Chitepo Ave before the City of Harare knocked it over last week. They were in fact executed at Salisbury prison in Market Square, Victoria St. The Jesuit priests who tried to convert them prior to their execution have provided detailed accounts of their last days. This includes Father Richardtz who wrote in the Zambezi Mission Record (1899) of the fate of Chargwe and Kaguvi.

Returning to our conference coverage, we have commented on President Mugabe's declaration that he will not display "cowardice" by retiring while Zimbabwe continues to be a victim of Western aggression.

"When the West is still holding the sanctions against us and they are still working on regime change, and also we are still in this inclusive government... I say ah, no! I am now on show and it would be completely wrong and a loss of confidence in myself and an act of cowardice as well."

So the cat is finally out of the bag. Mugabe is clearly intent on remaining in office and with him the fortunes of the "revolutionary" party.

Is it possible to have a situation where there are no obstacles at party or government level? What an indictment on the rest of the party leadership. Zanu PF without Mugabe cannot survive.

Mugabe will find little comfort from the fawning adulation from party members which bordered on the blasphemous. The WikiLeaks revelations have laid bare the truth that Zanu PF supporters are equally fed up with Mugabe's rule like everyone else.

The Herald's Caesar Zvayi believes the conference was a "huge lesson for democracy", adding that the resolution on non-violence, coupled with the "frankness" displayed at the conference is a lesson for other political parties.

Oh please! What frankness is he talking about when everyone avoided the elephant in the room; Mugabe's retirement.

Zanu PF Women's Affairs Secretary for Information and Publicity, Monica Mutsvangwa, also hailed the outcome of the conference, in particular the resolutions on the empowerment of women and the ordinary people.

Mutsvangwa, speaking on the sidelines of the conference, disclosed that diamonds were raking in US$90 billion. So what is this complaint about sanctions when we are making so much "filthy lucre"?

We were interested to note the Zimbabwe Prison Services has launched the Commissioners Charity Fund aimed at improving conditions in its prisons and the welfare of staff.

Speaking during the launch of the ZPS Commissioner's Goodwill Trust Fund at the weekend, the Herald reported, Commissioner of Prisons Retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi urged all stakeholders to play their roles in complementing their efforts. ZPS, he said, introduced a staff benefit fund to assist in financing their needs.

"Our staff has since been experiencing shortage of accommodation due to insufficient funding from the fiscus thus we have looked for legal ways through which we can raise funds in assisting our officers," Zimondi said.

"I am delighted that our officers are standing firm and being able to execute their main duty of preventing escapes and rehabilitation of inmates diligently," he said.

The ZPS Commissioner's Fund is chaired by businessman and Intertfin boss Farai Rwodzi. The other board members are, Moses Chingwena, owner of Croco Motors, Kumbirai Katsande of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, National Blood Services Zimbabwe public relations manager Esther Masunda, Zimpapers group chief executive Justin Mutasa, FBC Holdings Group non-executive chairman Herbert Nkala, Prisons Deputy Commissioner Fadzai Mupfure and retired Deputy Commissioner Milton Siziba.

A worthy collection of citizens, we are sure. But what experience of prison conditions have these ladies and gentlemen had? Has Justin Mutasa for example ever been near a prison?

Has he had to visit any of his brave scribes as they languish in the darkness of Zimbabwe's filthy and over-crowded jails?

Offers from business executives to have jail floors disinfected and scrubbed down at regular intervals have fallen on deaf ears.

We were amused by the Sunday Mail feature "Freedom Trains' panacea to traffic congestion" which brought back memories of the Zanu PF government's tattered legacy in service delivery.

"They were christened 'Freedom Trains', ample testimony of their popularity," states the writer.

That was not popularity but the desperation of a people whose only other option was footing it.

"Images of dozens of commuters exercising 'freedom' by sitting precariously on the trains still linger," the article adds.

This is freedom according to Zanu PF. What sane person would risk life and limb dangling from a moving train unless forced to do so?

We do, however, agree with the writer's assertion that "not much has been done by way of investment in transport infrastructure".

Who can forget the sight of Enos Chikowore ceremoniously turning the first sod of soil on the site of what was to be the new Chitungwiza-Harare high-speed line. It ended there. What happened to the Mabvuku/Tafara line? As usual, Zanu PF is likely to blame it on the "illegal" sanctions.

Finally The Times of India reports that an unnamed Islamic cleric based in Europe has issued a ban on women touching fruits and vegetables resembling the male sexual organ to avoid "sexual thoughts".

The cleric said that women should not even get close to bananas or cucumbers.

"If women wish to eat these food items, a third party, preferably a male related to them such as their father or husband, should cut the items into small pieces and serve," the cleric dictated.

According to the cleric, bananas and cucumbers "resemble the male penis" and therefore could arouse women or "make them think of sex". The cleric also added carrots and zucchini to the list of forbidden foods for women.

Sounds bananas to us!

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