Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Corporate Media Distorts Southern African Development Community Agenda

Media agenda not Sadc agenda

Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

HAD quite a good laugh over how the private tabloids rushed to cover their nether regions in the wake of the Sadc summit, a scramble akin to witches caught napping by the sudden approach of daybreak.

In the run-up to the 30th Sadc Summit in Windhoek, Namibia, the tabloids went into overdrive claiming Windhoek was going to be President Mugabe’s Waterloo where he was to be carved and hung out to dry for "violating the GPA".

‘‘Zim tops Sadc agenda’’, ‘‘Sadc to rein in Mugabe,’’ ‘‘Farmers pin hopes on Sadc summit,’’ they screamed in unison.

Their allies in the political, sorry civil society, dutifully downloaded gory images of victims of violence in places like northern Uganda, the DRC and Somalia which they tried to pass off as victims of Zanuu-PF brutality at the Summit venue, all in a bid to paint President Mugabe and Zanu-PF as pariahs.

But come Summit, theirs became a tale told by fools, full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing. Not only did the Mugabe they sought to tar and feather become the star of the show but the three parties in Government were commended for the progress made in implementing the GPA and the reactionary Tribunal, that white farmers sought to use to torpedo land reforms, was suspended.

The tabloids were left aghast, how to relate the Summit outcome to their hysterical agenda setting. And their attempts to cover their behinds were quite hilarious: for instance according to the Zimbabwe Independent (August 20 to 26, 2010), the "Zim issue suspiciously blocked from Sadc debate,’’ and in the words of NewsDay (August 23, 2010), ‘‘Sadc afraid of Mugabe.’’

The former has since carried a number of cartoons, the latest of which portrayed a relaxed Bob in a hammock, ignoring a large, ferociously barking but toothless bulldog labelled Sadc.

I have news for these my colleagues. Zimbabwe was never top of the Sadc agenda, the only mention of Zimbabwe was in the context of Sadc’s facilitation of the inter-party dialogue; as for Sadc fearing President Mugabe; the appropriate word is respect.

The region respects Cde Mugabe as a founding father and senior statesman which is why he was one of only two founding leaders who were honoured with giving felicitations during the bloc’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

The lesson for the tabloids: There is a world of difference between media agenda-setting and the Sadc agenda. Maybe they were under the impression that their agenda-setting would influence the Summit agenda? But that, in my opinion, would be as outrageous an ambition as an ant climbing the back of an elephant with the intention of rape!

Now, to weightier matters.

According to MDC-T spokesperson, the excitable Nelson Chamisa, MDC-T is in government to grab power from within; and it appears to those at Harvest House GPA means ‘‘Grabbing Power Agreement,’’ as its fulfilment is synonymous with extracting concessions from Zanu-PF, even as they (MDC-T) violate the agreement at will.

To make matters worse, Zanu-PF appears to be playing ball given the way the party seems to have let MDC-T off the hook over the issues of the illegal economic sanctions, external interference and pirate radio stations that host MDC-T ministers and officials on a daily basis.

The list of ‘‘outstanding issues’’ to the implementation of the so-called Global Political Agreement contained in the letter the three parties sent to facilitator, South African president Cde Jacob Zuma, buttresses this view as it implies that Zanu-PF has no GPA issues of its own left.

The remaining ‘‘three’’ issues are listed as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Dr Gideon Gono; Attorney General Johannes Tomana and the swearing in of MDC-T deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett. I put the number three in quotes there because all three issues fall in the realm of appointments. And these issues, contained in the letter the three principals sent to the facilitator, are from MDC-T which implies that according to Zanu-PF; its partners in government have fulfilled their obligations under the GPA.

This means the west’s illegal economic sanctions; pirate radio stations and their blatant use of the MDC-T as a listening post in Zimbabwe are no longer issues, at least according to Zanu-PF.

Yet evidence abounds that the MDC-T is still tethered to western coat-tails, in fact even Tsvangirai’s turn of phrase emanates from Western briefings. It’s no coincidence that when the West calls the sanctions ‘‘restrictive measures,’’ Tsvangirai bleats the phrase ad nauseum; MDC-T officials and ministers feature daily on the pirate radio stations spewing vitriol against their partners in Government.

It’s shocking that when MDC-T negotiators bring up Dr Gono as an ‘‘outstanding issue’’ Zanu-PF fails to hoist the MDC-T by its own petard by pointing out that whatever Dr Gono did, he did to fire-fight the illegal sanctions those in MDC-T grovelled for and continue to Nichodemuosly defend today.

Can’t Zanu-PF connect MDC-T’s obsession with Dr Gono and his role in fighting the economic sanctions to the MDC-T’s disappointment that the RBZ’s quasi-fiscal activities helped neutralise the embargo that, in the West’s own words, was designed to ‘‘separate the Zimbabwean people from Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF?’’

In fact the West tried to lure Dr Gono from the RBZ with a job offer at the World Bank, ostensibly to stop him from fire-fighting the sanctions.

Through programmes like Sunrise I and II, the three phases of the farm mechanisation programme, BACOSSI, PLARP and FOLIWARS, some of which became part of everyday lingo, Dr Gono helped keep Zimbabwe afloat.

In fact FOLIWARS was the test-run for the multi-currency regime we have today and on whose back Gono’s chief executioner is considered the "best finance minister’’ in Africa when he had nothing to do with the multi-currency regime and is still to introduce any tangible programme of his own.

The then acting finance minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record saying there is nothing Gono did without briefing his bosses in Government and as such there is no way Gono can be an issue without his principals also becoming issues.

We were made to believe that MDC-T’s problem with Dr Gono were the so-called quasi-fiscal activities that the RBZ Amendment Act took care of. Through that Act Gono is well and truly trussed like a turkey and can do no more than the rudimentary monetary policy, that these days, passes largely unnoticed.

So why is Gono still an ‘‘outstanding issue’’ in the eyes of the MDC-T and its handlers even as his wings have been clipped, so to speak?

Simple, Dr Gono is considered one of the pillars that propped up President Mugabe over the past few years and he has to go as part of the regime change project. The same goes for every sector the MDC-T has demanded be reformed, be it the electoral commission, the public media, and security sectors. Its all regime change in action.

Tomana’s only crime is prosecuting MDC-T suspects, principally murungu wavo Bennett. MDC-T leaders want Tomana’s head to buttress their claims that the RG was being used by Zanu-PF to persecute political opponents. If indeed MDC-T members were being persecuted, why did the courts acquit them for persecution presupposes pre-determined sentences?

I believe true national healing will begin with the MDC-T leadership owning up to the nation the role they played in the socio-economic malaise of the past decade and then announcing the strategy they will employ to have the sanctions lifted.

The MDC-T’s self-serving denial of the existence of sanctions serves only its selfish, parochial regime change agenda. And Zanu-PF must ensure that MDC-T leaders own up to the sanctions.

The sanctions constitute the greatest injury inflicted on Zimbabweans over the past decade for not only did we lose a decade of development for, but many families lost pensions and savings, dreams were destroyed as many failed to educate their children and many more families lost loved ones who would otherwise have been saved had the West not politicised the Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria that saw Zimbabwe get a measly US$4 per person when other countries were getting upwards of US$76.

In fact the sanctions, and the hyperinflation they spawned, are responsible for the death of the Zimbabwe dollar which is why today we use other people’s currencies that are largely inaccessible to the majority in the countryside.

The hardships spawned by the sanctions forced the British government to airlift its pensioners resident here whose savings and pensions had been wiped out by hyperinflation.

As such sanctions, not Tomana, Gono or the Rhodie operative Bennett, are the major outstanding issue confronting Zimbabweans today; and the sooner the self-acclaimed ‘‘party of excellence’’ realises this, the better.

Zanu-PF must stop watching its eyelids.

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