Monday, July 28, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: Amai Grace Mugabe, Nation's Deborah; First Lady Expresses Confidence in Talks; Sanctions Hypocrisy, etc.

First Lady, Zim’s Deborah

By Sydney Kawadza
Zimbabwe Herald

THE June 27 presidential election run-off, won comfortably by President Mugabe, witnessed the emergence of a side of the character of the First Lady that many might not have known about.

Amai Grace Mugabe took many by surprise with her oratory skills when she took to the campaign trail ahead of the poll.

Amai Mugabe, known mostly for her commendable charity work, especially for victims of political violence, natural disasters and work with organisations like Danhiko Trust, showed the country she was well and truly part of Zimbabwe’s body politic.

Everyone knows the importance of her activities with the street children who are set to benefit from the Amitofo Care Centre taking shape in Mazowe.

Similarly, everyone knows the importance of the work she did ahead of June 27 and she continues to do today as she begins fulfilling the promises made during the campaign period.

Zanu-PF went into the March 29 harmonised elections in disarray — which is as much as the party itself admitted — and the opposition MDC gained ground to win some parliamentary seats ahead of the ruling party.

Even MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai made good of the confusion and complacency in Zanu-PF to take a slight lead in the first round of the presidential poll.

The presidential run-off, as provided for by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, proved to be a reawakening of sorts for not just Zanu-PF, but also for Amai Mugabe, who came into her own during the gruelling campaign.

Known for her work with Danhiko Project and within the health services sector, the First Lady picked herself from what some would term the political backseat to virtually lead Zanu-PF’s revival.

Like the Biblical Deborah who led the Israelites when confusion reigned supreme among the children of God, Amai Mugabe rose as a mother of the nation.

In a nation that had to contend with a resurgence of political violence following the harmonised elections, Amai Mugabe toured homesteads of victims of the barbarism and helped them begin to reconstruct their lives, literally from the ashes.

And while taking the opportunity to help the victims, Amai Mugabe became one of the first national political leader to condemn violence after the elections.

As the initially isolated incidents of violence spread to more areas, she did not mince her words when telling Zanu-PF supporters, and the nation at large, that violence was wholly unacceptable.

In Mayo, Amai Mugabe handed over shoes, blankets and groceries to affected families and stressed that the assistance from her office would benefit both Zanu-PF and MDC supporters affected by the violence.

"It is imperative that people become mature in politics and learn to live together . . . Through violence and destruction, no one can become a president. Violence is foreign to Zimbabwe and Africa," she told the people of Mayo.

The First Lady also visited victims in Shamva, donating clothing, blankets, groceries and this time she went a step further by giving victims asbestos roofing material so that they could rebuild their homes.

Again Amai Mugabe took the message of peace to the people of Zimbabwe, stressing the need for unity against the common enemy: imperialists fighting for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

Addressing the 73rd Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting on May 16 following the announcement of results of the March 29 elections, President Mugabe noted that the ruling party was not like the legendary Phoenix that sets itself on fire only to rise from the ashes.

He called on party cadres to join hands and campaign for an emphatic Zanu-PF victory in the run-off.

Amai Mugabe led by example and helped launch a vigorous campaign that swept the nation and re-ignited a patriotic fervour that had appeared to be dying a quick death.

While on the campaign trail, where she would take to the podium before the main address by President Mugabe, she wowed the people with her oratory skills that had never before been exhibited with such finesse during campaigns.

Her straightforward speeches, usually preceded by anecdotes that lightened the mood, were the kind of stuff that is normally associated with seasoned politicians.

The presidential run-off had suddenly become a serious issue after white former farmers who lost their land threatened to overrun resettled farmers.

People from all walks of life realised that President Mugabe was not just politicking when he said the future of this country was at risk.

Amai Mugabe took this message to the people in a manner that truly worked magic if the votes that President Mugabe amassed on June 27 are anything to go by.

Amai Mugabe, like a true mother figure, gently chided the nation and reminded Zimbabweans that this was their country and it was in their interests to be masters of their own destiny regardless of their political affiliation.

Before these elections, few would remember seeing Amai Mugabe on the podium at a political event such as a rally.

So while many might have been surprised to see her addressing thousands of people, her prowess on the campaign trail was really not a novel development prompted by the constitutional need for a run-off election.

In the past, she has addressed rallies but perhaps never at the scale that she did this time around.

So impressive was the First Lady’s campaign that some Zimbabweans, in Letters to the Editor in The Herald, called on for the authorities to let her take full charge of President Mugabe’s campaign while some said she deserved to be given a ministerial post.

One reader described her as "articulate, smart and an asset to both her husband and women voters" and a "confident" speaker.

The reader concluded thus: "It is evident she is well-versed in political affairs", while another one rated among the best female politicians in Zimbabwe.

This writer would go further and say not only is she among the best female politicians in the country, she indeed is one of the best politicians, male and female, in Zimbabwe.

But what could have fired Amai Mugabe to unleash such a vigorous campaign?

Zimbabwe is under siege, despite withstanding sanctions for close to 10 years, and it needed proactive and principled leaders to complement President Mugabe’s formidable campaign.

President Mugabe is one man who has gone out of his way to defend the country’s sovereignty, but one person is not enough to stave off all the evil forces fighting Zimbabwe’s empowerment drive.

It needed the support of all and that support came not far away from State House, with Amai Mugabe standing by her husband, taking the campaign to a populace that appreciates the permanence of empowerment.

Equated to Deborah, a unique character in the Bible, who was the only woman to be a judge in Ancient Israel (meaning she led that nation’s army), Amai Mugabe also led from the front in President Mugabe’s successful campaign.

Amai Mugabe’s story, just like Deborah’s, is largely about success against all odds. She has been vilified by some sections of the private and Western media, but this did not cow her into silence at a crucial time in Zimbabwe’s history.

The First Lady has evolved not only as the mother to her children, but as a mother to the nation. She has also grown to be a leader who inspires other women and shows them that politics is not just a man’s game.

First Lady expresses confidence in talks

Herald Reporter

FIRST Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and spouses of senior Government officials have expressed confidence in the ongoing dialogue between Zanu-PF and the MDC formations currently underway in South Africa.

The fully-fledged talks began on Thursday last week after leaders of the country’s political parties, President Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday last week.

Speaking during her birthday party at Iron Mask Farm in Mazowe last week, Amai Mugabe said dialogue between the political parties provided an opportunity for the country to find a solution to the country’s challenges.

"The talks in South Africa present an excellent opportunity for Zimbabweans to find a way to overcome the challenges being faced in the country," she said.

Amai Mugabe said it was the duty of all peace-loving Zimbabweans to work for the good and future of the country.

"We have to work for the future of Zimbabwe and it is the duty of all Zimbabweans to decorate our country with the fruits of our labour," she said.

Mrs Tsitsi Sekeramayi, the wife of Defence Minister Cde Sydney Sekeramayi, said dialogue between political parties was an opportunity for a healing process in the country.

"Zimbabweans have been offered an opportunity to work out their differences for the country’s future. We should also strive, as a country, to work hard for the good of the nation," she said.

National Security, Lands, Land Reforms and Resettlement Minister Cde Didymus Mutasa’s wife, Colonel Gertrude Mutasa, urged Zimbabweans to pray for a positive outcome to the dialogue process.

"Christians in the country should pray to God so that a solution to the country’s challenges is found soon and all political parties involved in the process reach an agreement," she said.

Several other Government ministers’ spouses attending Amai Mugabe’s birthday party expressed hope that the talks provided a breakthrough towards a solution to Zimbabwe’s challenges.

The negotiations, being held at a secret location in South Africa, entered the fourth day yesterday amid high hopes of a political settlement to end the country’s political and economic challenges.

Mbeki objects to sanctions

Herald Reporters-AFP

SOUTH Africa yesterday objected to the West’s new illegal sanctions on President Mugabe, some of his ministers and Government-related companies, saying negotiations between Zanu-PF and the MDC formations were progressing well, with both parties adhering to the agreed conduct, including a media blackout.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said illegal sanctions were akin to external interference.

"For us, it is difficult to understand the objectives of new sanctions," said Pahad, two days after the United States government broadened its sanctions by adding the names of several dozen individuals as well as 17 companies and parastatals linked to the Zimbabwean Government.

"The Zimbabweans are meeting, let them sort out what they want for their future. We should not allow outside interference," Pahad told a news conference.

President Thabo Mbeki earlier told reporters that his government wants Zimbabwe’s political rivals to speedily reach an agreement on a negotiated settlement to the country’s crisis.

President Mbeki, as chief mediator, said the talks, which opened last Thursday, were ongoing and the South African cabinet meeting last week expressed hope that the participants would work fast towards a conclusive deal.

"Negotiations are continuing," said Mr Mbeki, without giving details of the talks being held under a media blackout at an upmarket lodge on the outskirts of the capital Pretoria.

"The cabinet expressed hope that the Zimbabwean parties will act with urgency to ensure that a settlement is reached sooner," he added.

Yesterday, President Mbeki’s spokesperson Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga told the media in South Africa that talks between Zimbabwe’s political parties were progressing well and that both sides were observing the terms of reference, including a media blackout.

"The talks are proceeding well. They will aim to be concluded in two weeks’ time," he said, adding that even if the talks are not concluded within the two-week time frame, it did not mean they would have collapsed, as they would continue until an agreement was reached.

Mr Ratshitanga did not reveal any details regarding the contents or tone of the negotiations.

Under the terms of a framework agreement signed on Monday last week, both sides are observing an official media blackout.

Information and Publicity Minister Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu confirmed the talks were progressing well in South Africa, but vehemently refused to give details.

"The dialogue process is going on smoothly and we are sure that a positive outcome would be achieved. The talks will definitely succeed," he said.

Political commentator Dr Tafataona Mahoso yesterday castigated the US for imposing more sanctions, saying this was a ploy by the Americans, together with the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, the European Union and their allies, to smuggle their agenda into the negotiations.

"Dialogue was never the end product to the Western countries. They want to make sure that even if an agreement is signed they have a tool that they will use to manipulate the country’s leadership to bow to their demands regardless of the leader.

"The G8, EU, US and their allies wanted some form of dialogue to happen in Zimbabwe, but their purpose of dialogue is not the same as those of Zimbabweans as they want the dialogue to further their interests and that of their companies," he said.

Dr Mahoso said the Western countries have all along been hiding behind the promotion of human rights, free flow of information and good governance yet their real objectives are to control the country’s resources.

He said despite the differences among the political leadership, Zimbabweans would mobilise to protect their land, sovereignty and independence.

"The American administration and the EU should not be
fooled into believing that the sanctions would compel us to give up our independence but they would destroy their proxies in Zimbabwe," he said.

Dr Mahoso said extending the embargo to Zimbabwean companies is evidence that the sanctions are not travel bans on Government officials as peddled by the country’s detractors, but are full economic sanctions.

"The companies that were targeted in the sanctions help Government protect Zimbabweans against artificial shortages and also help the country’s agrarian reform.

"Zimbabweans should, therefore, remain vigilant in the protection of the country’s resources," he said.

The Bush administration’s move comes barely two weeks after Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution that proposed worldwide sanctions against President Mugabe and 13 Government officials.

The EU, ignoring positive steps made by Zimbabwe’s main political parties to enter into dialogue, broadened similar sanctions against the country, adding 37 more individuals and companies to the list of 131 people already under a travel ban and asset freeze.

Zimbabwean political parties on Monday last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding setting the agenda for fully-fledged inter-party talks between the country’s three main political parties.

The negotiations entered the fourth day yesterday amid high hopes of a settlement to end the political and economic challenges affecting the country. — Herald Reporters-AFP.

The West muzzling the media

By Zivisai Chagaka
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

WHILE Zimbabwe is still celebrating a political milestone after the three major political parties — Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations — agreed to sit and talk over the future of the country, the European Union (EU), at the behest of Britain, has imposed further sanctions on Zimbabwe, this time including more individuals on its so-called travel bans and asset freezes.

Notable among the recent additions to the sanctions list are two journalists: Munyaradzi Huni, The Sunday Mail Political Editor and Caesar Zvayi, former Features and Political Editor with The Herald. As is common knowledge, the two titles are published by the Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Ltd, a public newspaper group.

This shameful attack on the media is nothing new to Britain and her key allies, the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). Media analysts have described the move as "discrediting the EU in the eyes of the enlightened world opinion".

Putting the Zimbabwean journalists on the sanctions list, however, is the least Britain could do under the circumstances given the record Britain and its belligerent ally, the US, hold in their flagrant quest to silence dissent. A few examples suffice to expose the heinous intentions of the Anglo-Saxon warmongers.

In a fit of pique, Nato on April 23 1999, bombed the headquarters of Radio Televizija Srbija (RTS), the national Yugoslav television in Belgrade, killing 16 employees in the process. Amnesty International described the bombing of the Serb radio and television headquarters during Nato’s 78-day offensive against Slobodan Milosevic’s government — dubbed the Kosovo War — as a war crime.

Within six hours of the bombing by Nato forces, the British Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the television station a "legitimate target".

Robert Fisk, a journalist covering the Iraq invasion, in The Independent of April 23 1999 queried: "Was Serbian television’s real sin its broadcast of film of the Nato massacre of Kosovo Albanian refugees last week, killings that Nato was forced to admit had been a mistake? Yes, Serbian television could be hateful, biased, bad. It was owned by the government. But once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you have changed the rules of war. And that’s what Nato did in Belgrade . . . "

On November 13 2001, a US missile hit Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the US adventurism in that country. The Qatar-based satellite channel, which gained global fame for its exclusive access to Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban, had to be "taken down one way or another" because they constitute "enemy media", a Pentagon adviser, Frank Gaffney, wrote in an opinion piece on September 29 2003 calling for both Al Jazeera and another Arab channel Al Arabiya to be put off air.

The reason why it is hated most by the US is that it is the first channel to air videotapes of Osama Bin Laden urging Moslems to rise up against the West in a jihad (holy war). According to the BBC, the US and UK at one stage warned that the channel was being used by the Al-Qaeda network to pass on coded messages to supporters around the world.

Although no Al Jazeera staff were reportedly hurt in the attack in Kabul, the building was destroyed and some employees’ homes were damaged. At the time, Mohammed Jasim al-Ali, the TV station managing editor, said that the co-ordinates of the office were well known to everyone including the Americans.

In another display of disappointment with the channel, the invading coalition army on April 8 2003 hit an electricity generator at Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad, Iraq. The resultant bombing killed reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounded another staff member. This was regardless of the fact that in February, Al Jazeera had sent a letter with the co-ordinates of the offices to the US invading authorities (the location had not been officially requested by the US government), media reports indicate. This incident, which occurred during the US assault on Baghdad and after criticism of Al Jazeera’s coverage from those supportive of the war aims of the occupier forces, gave rise to suspicions that the network had been targeted.

When former British Home Secretary David Blunkett published his memoirs in late 2006, it was revealed he had advised Prime Minister Tony Blair in late March 2003 to bomb the Al Jazeera television transmitter in Baghdad.

"There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place," media reports quoted Blunkett as saying.

The US Defence Minister, Donald Rumsfeld, described Al Jazeera’s coverage as "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable". Al Jazeera defended its broadcasts of the civilian casualties by stating "the pictures do not lie".

Victoria Clarke, the US Assistant Secretary of State of Defence for Public Affairs in Washington, had the temerity to justify the bombing of Al Jazeera in Baghdad saying: "Being close to the action means being close to danger."

But the US-UK’s partnership in crime knows no bounds especially when they desperately need to have the kind of result they require. Al Jazeera’s consistent exposure of the atrocities of the invading coalition forces in Iraq was a thorn in the side for Bush and Blair. In true Texan cowboy fashion, Bush planned to bomb Al Jazeera offices in Qatar.

According to the Daily Mirror of the UK, Bush disclosed his plan to target Al Jazeera at a White House face-to-face meeting with Mr Blair on April 16 2004. The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally.

Nik Gowing, a presenter on BBC World, even argued that Al Jazeera’s only crime was that it was "bearing witness" to events that the US would rather it did not see. Indeed, there is no clear evidence that Al Jazeera directly supported the Taliban — simply that it enjoyed greater access than other stations. The Dawn-Guardian News Service also believes other journalists certainly think "Al Jazeera reflects a certain cultural tradition: but only in the same way that CNN approaches stories from a Western perspective".

But this is besides the fact that the Americans also fired at the Palestinian Hotel where a Reuters news agency office was located and three journalists reportedly died in the attack. According to Fisk, the same day — April 8 2003 — that the American tank fired at the Reuters office in Baghdad, is the same day an American aircraft fired a missile at the Al Jazeera office in Baghdad.

The inexcusable targeting of journalists by particularly the US and Britain is against the cardinal element of democracy which is the freedom of expression as espoused in the desire for a vibrant and free Press. This aspiration — to be able to express oneself in the way one likes and thinks — is what motivates the democratic space in the media, hence, the various newspapers and opinions found in each country.

Huni says he is "not surprised" at being included on the EU sanctions list.

"The EU is fighting Zimbabweans, and I am one of them — I will carry on with my duties without fear or favour.

"It goes to show the sanctions are not only about top Government officials, but are meant to affect the ordinary people like me."

He says it exposes the double standards by the EU which, on one hand, talks of the rule of law, democracy and freedom of the Press, yet they are, on the other, putting a journalist under sanctions.

"The sanctions won’t affect me at all because, first, I have no assets in Europe and I don’t intend to travel there; and second, if the idea was to instill fear in me, then they should know that instead I am inspired to defend my country from imperialism through the pen.

"By the way, some time in 2003, there were direct threats to my life from some people within the country, but that did not deter me from carrying on with my job. So this kind of intimidation won’t make me lose sleep at all."

Media analyst and lecturer with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) Dr Obediah Mazombwe said the move (to put journalists on the sanctions list) seems to represent a totally new approach to the West’s efforts to dominate the world’s information space.

"Such a stance flies in the face of Article XIX and of the generally accepted rules regarding freedom of expression," he said adding that Britain and her allies had "actually succeeded in exposing the many contradictions and shameless hypocrisy that characterises the West’s approach to the Zimbabwe issue".

Even if these journalists’ analyses or opinions are pro-Government, Dr Mazombwe said, that cannot warrant or justify imposing sanctions on them.

"What they are saying is we won’t tolerate perspectives that differ from ours."

He pointed out that the articles penned by the two represent some of the most focused and sharp analyses of the Zimbabwe issue within the prevailing global context . . . "this is where the real fight is. The EU views the articles by these two as eroding the West’s ‘soft power’.

He said "soft power" is exercised through persuasion and pressure in the media and other fora while "hard power" is the use of military might.

"The fact of the matter is that world public opinion offers real challenge to the West’s quest for global dominance through the use of military force. Following the demise of the Soviet Union as a world power, public opinion now constitutes the second world power."

Dr Mazombwe explained that any writings that expose the hypocrisy of the Western powers weaken their ability to use "soft power" in their bid for supremacy in world politics.

"If the Zimbabwe Government adopted the same attitude that the EU seems to now want to adopt towards those who are not supportive of their own views, then the writings of a big number of Western writers would not be acceptable in Zimbabwe because these have been devoted to demonising the State and Presidency of Zimbabwe. For example, The Zimbabwean newspaper and a number of websites who literally write untruths about the country."

He urged institutions like the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (Ifex) to "look closely at this action by the EU and take a public stance on it otherwise they are not professionals they purport to be".

ZUJ president Matthew Takaona said it’s "an unfortunate precedent" for journalists to be put under sanctions. He said the two journalists are not members of the union, hence, he is not at liberty to comment further on the issue.

"I have not had the opportunity to discuss with the affected to give a full comment."

Misa Zimbabwe national chairman Loughty Dube said he was ignorant of the specific reasons for the EU to proceed in that manner.

The recent British-influenced sanctions on Zimbabwe are nothing more than frustration after the Anglo-Saxon blood brothers failed to bring Zimbabwe to ruin through a notorious document at the UN Security Council disguised as a UN resolution. Even journalists are now "legitimate targets" for simply reporting a side of the story the West wants suppressed.

Africa should assist Zim economically

EDITOR — While talks between Zimbabwe’s political parties are underway, the African Union and Sadc should be putting together an economic rescue package and deploying economic experts to support the efforts of the country to produce adequate food to feed the people.

I find it difficult to understand why African countries just sit and watch the progress of negotiations while not addressing the economic issues that have seen inflation soar.

It is not a secret that production has declined due to lack of foreign currency.

The country requires fertilizers and chemicals for use in agriculture.

Surely, African countries can pool their resources to assist Zimbabweans while the political parties are mapping out a political agreement.

What is happening, I am afraid, looks like African countries have no capacity to assist one of their fellow states in times of need.

Are African countries waiting to come to Zimbabwe’s aid only after a political settlement has been reached?

I am sure Zimbabwe deserves assistance from fellow members of the AU and Sadc while negotiations are taking place if they are serious about their support for Zimbabwe.

It would be sad if African countries are only interested in seeing a political solution.

Africa cannot be so poor that it cannot even mobilise a single thing for another country in need.

The inaction would confirm the long-held view that African countries are just full of rhetoric with no substance when it comes to real issues such as economic development.

African Economist.

Sanctions are hypocritical

Editor — Why is the West extending sanctions on Zimbabwe when the political parties are talking?

The impression that I have got now is that these people do not want to see Zimbabweans happy and working together for the development of their country.

If they were concerned about what is going on in the country, they would not do anything that causes humanitarian stress.

Putting sanctions on companies gives the lie to the claim that the sanctions are targetted because companies such as Zisco are there to benefit the whole country.

It is rank hypocrisy to say that they care about the ordinary Zimbabwean when they turn around and slap sanctions that hurt the ordinary person.

Mike Mathando.

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