Chiefs caught in a Catch-22

MUCKRAKER was shocked by the illegal complicity between the Ministry of Education and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in the closure of a number of private schools around the country last week. So far as Muckraker has been a

ble to gather, there is no law that empowers the minister or his permanent secretary to close down a school over fees. It is still not clear to us under what law police commissioner Augustine Chihuri deployed the police to barricade the schools.

Not only was the action illegal, it was an undue inconvenience to thousands of pupils, some of whom are too young to understand what the problem is. Then on the Face the Nation programme on Thursday evening Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere made a nuisance of himself, claiming that government had not closed down the schools but only made sure they didn’t reopen.

Does that constitute a material difference to the affected pupils? Masimba Musarira didn’t bother to quiz the minister on this issue. Nor did he challenge him on the legality of his action. Instead Chigwedere was given free rein to waffle on and on about the fee increases being racially motivated to exclude pupils from poor black families. This despite the fact that one of the schools closed down, Tynwald Primary School, is owned by Vitalis Zvinavashe.

In any case, we thought the logical thing about fee increases would be for the school authorities, such as school development associations, to discuss with parents their expenses and agree a reasonable figure. But it looks like government is interested in imposing arbitrary figures to bring down standards in all the schools.

We all know how standards have virtually collapsed in most government schools such as Lord Malvern in Waterfalls, Allan Wilson and Mabelreign Girls High. Facilities such as tennis courts are a sorry testimony to what government is capable of. And Chigwedere thinks it’s all to do with racism!

We were not surprised by the chiefs’ resolution in Masvingo last week endorsing President Robert Mugabe to continue leading the country. Most of them have been bought over through the numerous perks flowing from the ruling party one wonders if they still deserve to be called traditional leaders. In addition to pecuniary gains running into thousands of dollars, chiefs can now buy vehicles of their choice using a custom-desgined scheme launched by government and some of themhave had their homes electrified at the urban taxpayer’s expense.

So Zanu PF will obviously be expecting pay back time when it comes to the parliamentary election next year. Chiefs will be expected to give their subjects a few tips on what a secret ballot is all about.
But more dangerous was the ignorance displayed by these worshippers of mammon. They seem to take Mugabe as a traditional leader whose position should not be contested.

According to the Herald, the chiefs meeting at Great Zimbabwe outside Masvingo said Mugabe’s position as leader of the party and government should not be contested at this year’s party congress. In their resolution read out by Chief Fortune Charumbira, they declared: “The chiefs reaffirm their support for President Mugabe, the government and the ruling party Zanu PF.”

Which is to say they are already badly compromised as traditional leaders by affiliating themselves to a political party. How can they serve their subjects impartially if they don’t support the same political party? And are these chiefs still representing the interests of their subjects or is it now the reverse, that is chiefs representing the interests of Zanu PF to the people?

So a whole editor went to Maputo, Mozambique to write about how brave Information minister Jonathan Moyo can be in the face of alleged intimidation by a few unarmed human rights activists?

Herald editor Pikirayi Deketeke, in a story headlined “Moyo refuses to be intimidated” said the minister stood up to the challenge of six “drunken bunch of media and political activists” who refused to be addressed by Moyo whom they accused of “closing the Daily News and causing the arrest of journalists”.

Moyo had gone to the Maputo Press Club perhaps to dish out his wisdom on patriotic reporting. The journalists would have none of it. For nearly 40 minutes Moyo is reported to have remained transfixed on his seat because the group wanted to make sure he left, which he eventually did, without addressing them.

The bravery Deketeke is extolling is simply that Moyo didn’t run away. “Professor Moyo, who sat throughout the 30 to 45 minutes it took to hold the meeting, was completely unmoved by the intimidation and refused to leave the Press Club,” said Deketeke.

But by the time the group was ejected from the meeting room, wrote Deketeke, “it was already too late for
Professor Moyo to proceed with the press conference as he was expected to meet members of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Friendship Association”.
So who won the contest if the intrepid Moyo was unable to address the journalists? Talk of ministerial notoriety doing some border jumping. The guy seems to court controversy whenever he opens his mouth.

Writing more like a politician than a journalist, Deketeke claimed that Zimbabwean reporters who have been arrested under the infamous Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in the past two years had written “falsehoods or breached the country’s media laws”.

He didn’t say why those who wrote falsehoods about the MDC plotting to bomb bridges and tall buildings in Harare and Bulawayo were not arrested although they were forced by the courts to make a grovelling public apology.

We all know he is carrying out a political mandate, but for the sake of his own dignity Deketeke could do with some bit of modest about the virtues of the country’s media laws. A brief discussion with Tribune publisher and Zanu PF Makonde MP Kindness Paradza will leave him wiser.

The picture and caption on the front page of the Herald on Monday told us all we ever needed to know about the level of theft that goes on on the farms that government acquires for resettlement.

The caption read: “It is business as usual at Arda Odzi, formerly Kondozi Farm, as workers grade sweet corn and prepare it for the export market.” In the picture were startled women caught unawares by the cameraman while they were “grading” corn.
George Chisoko, who wrote the accompanying story, didn’t reveal to his readers what variety of maize the land invaders had planted that matures in a short period of four weeks.

Zanu PF supporters and Arda workers took over Kondozi Farm at Easter and they are already harvesting! That is in just over a month they are ready to export their produce.

How else are we supposed to interpret the whole business if the Herald doesn’t acknowledge that the maize was planted by those who have been chased out of Kondozi? Instead we are told it is business as usual! Normalising the abnormal, to borrow an expression often used by the late Professor Masipula Sithole to try and make sense of our incomprehensible politics.

The 498-hectare farm produces a variety of horticultural crops, said Chisoko. The crops are currently at different stages of maturity.
“So for anyone to doubt the authority’s (Arda) capacity to productively work on the land is a joke that has ceased to be funny,” declared Chisoko, sounding more and more like a clone of Jonathan Moyo. There was no shred of evidence to prove that Arda had produced anything.

“Arda boasts of a huge fleet of farm equipment that no individual farmer can ever think of possessing,” he said.
It’s like saying Zimbabwe possesses the best farmland in Africa. Is that any consolation to a starving villager?

Coltrane Chimurenga of the December 12 Movement says they are planning a visit to Zimbabwe to help fellow blacks make the best use of their newly acquired land holdings. Under a campaign called “Pennies for Zimbabwe”, Coltrane and his African-American tribe are urging people to donate pennies towards this noble cause.
“We started the ‘Pennies for Zimbabwe’ project to help the farmers who have recently re-acquired farms and are in need of seeds, fertiliser and tools to properly cultivate. There is also the problem of the current drought. We plan to use your penny donations to help women (in communal areas) purchase seeds and/or tools. This effort allows us to make a contribution towards self-sufficiency in Africa,” Coltrane’s appeal reads.

At the rate of pennies, it will take another century for Coltrane’s beneficiaries to reap any dividend. And who told him about a drought this year when Agriculture minister Joseph Made has already forecast a “bumper harvest” and government is saying it won’t need food aid from donor agencies?

Is it now official policy that former white commercial farmers whose properties were acquired by government should not own or utilise any farmland in the country no matter however productively?
The Sunday Mail carried a report this week in which the secretary for Agriculture Ngoni Masoka said it was illegal for government research institutions to lease their farms to private individuals.
“It is not allowed to do so. We have since ordered these institutions to fully utilise the farms to generate income for use at the centers,” said Masoka.

It didn’t occur to him that some of these institutions don’t have the skills needed to farm. Some, like the Institute of Agricultural Engineering, had, quite sensibly, leased their farms to those who could use them productively. Government did not tolerate such arrangements, declared Masoka.

Then the reporter tells us: “The sources said it was sad to note that those leasing the farm (from the Institute of Agricultural Engineering) were former white commercial farmers whose properties were acquired by government for resettlement purposes.”
So it’s now a race thing, damn their skills! Meanwhile President Mugabe has been telling anybody who cared to listen that no one who wants to farm would be left without land. Is that what is happening on the ground?

The Herald’s acting sports editor, whom we assume to be Lawrence Moyo, has distinguished himself as the defender of the “new-look cricket squad” which has been giving the visiting Sri Lankans practice sessions with both bat and ball.

In all the huge defeats the youngsters have suffered, Moyo has jumped into their defence, telling readers the team was not humiliated or that the players put up a gallant fight.

To illustrate the valour of the players, Moyo on Tuesday produced two scoreboards –one for the old Zimbabwe team’s Test against Sri Lanka and the new team’s valiant performance.

The scoreboards showed that the old Zimbabwe lost by 315 runs and the new-look team lost by an innings and 240 runs. Does Moyo know the difference between losing by an innings and losing by straight runs?

Could someone bring back Jahoor Omar to educate Moyo who missed lessons on past tenses in fourth grade but still rose threw the ranks to become acting sports editor. Dynamos players were shell-shocked when Luke Masomere “through” in Tonderayi Ndiraya for Francis Chandida.

We wonder what conclusion Moyo would come up with after Ricky Pointing’s men plough threw our heroes.

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