Saturday, July 30, 2011

(HERALD) MANHERU:- GBS: When donor dollar spews great dolour

MANHERU:- GBS: When donor dollar spews great dolour
Saturday, 30 July 2011 02:00

I empathised with Constantine Chimakure, editor of Trevor Ncube's Zimbabwe Independent, when Professor Jonathan Moyo ripped open his head to reveal to the world its penny-worth innards.

I thought the man of big book had hit below the belt and my empathy for the flayed editor subsisted, undiluted. After all human sympathies are always reserved for the underdog, and measured against the professor, Chimakure was one such.

One such until yesterday when I read the editor's memo, the little column he runs. Clearly the man is empty, empty, empty, empty! The cylinder is empty and rings loud and hollow. His big head is remarkably blunt, blunter than a mallet! I am sorry

The story of a brain-dead president

By itself, ignorance is not exactly a crime. There is so much of it in the world, which is surprisingly tolerant.

I vividly remember a dramatic encounter between the brainy Robert Mugabe and one American President who shall remain nameless. The only helpful hint I could give is that he is now formally and fully dead. He is the only human being I know to have been late for his eventual death. I will explain later.

Expectedly the Zimbabwean President had prepared for the encounter, budgeting for a decent engagement with the President of a superpower, then still balanced off rather tenuously by the Soviet Union.

Once the Zimbabwean leader had been presented before this mighty man, the American official managing the encounter cued his President to speak, and did so with the grace, efficiency and firmness of a conductor of an orchestra on trial.

What followed was an exquisite act that left me spellbound. Relying on neat notes, the American President addressed his Zimbabwean counterpart with the grace and lucidity of a master actor-king, an oracle-king.
The rendition was flawless. The rendition was remarkable, all put together so neatly, all delivered with contrived naturalness reminiscent of an actor in film verite. There was finality to this remarkable political speech act, a finality which I mistakenly attributed to the awesome power the American President wielded and knew he wielded.

The only day the President was slow
I must make an irreverent confession. For the first and only time, I saw my own President acting a bit slow. Mind trimmed, body taut, President Mugabe sought to respond to this powerful soliloquy from a man of great global power.

He sought to engage, daftly forgetting America had inserted him into a fictional world where he was the only reality, a passive one at that. America expected him to sit in the terrace, demure as a specimen audience. Insensibly, President Mugabe sought to break out of this preordained mould.
"Mr President, I thought I could respond to your thoughts by raising one or two issues relating to our region, Southern Afr . . . "
"Thank you very much President Mughabi. Unfortunately the President of the United States of America is pressed for time. I am afraid I have to call this off. I am sorry. Mr President, please!"

Willing suspension of disbelief
Both Presidents went up - one haplessly unfulfilled, another feeling thoroughly acquitted - and were firmly led to the door by this no-nonsense official who knew when to stop a "conversation", when to lead a visitor and his actor-President out of both "conversation" and White House.

So abruptly ended the encounter towards which we had invested 15 hard hours in the air, not to mention all else we had set aside back home, in Southern Africa, at the time burning.
On reflection, I reasoned that the President had forgotten one important rule for engaging the fictional world: you willingly suspend disbelief! Sadly he hadn't done that. Much worse, he had sought to engage an actor from his audience seat, to interrogate the chief protagonist bustling in the life-size, 3D screen!
Since that remarkable encounter, the Zimbabwean President keeps teasing himself about it, to much amusement.

The great American secret
America had installed a brain-dead man at White House as its President. But she knew how to make its dead-man-come-to-life President useful in executing the affairs of the Union.
Until such indiscreet revelations from cheeky interlocutors like President Mugabe, how many in this world knew that for two eventful terms, America had put the finger of a brain-dead man on the nuclear button? How many? And when his bodily death finally came, finally caught up with his earlier brain death, encomiums were said and written in his honour. Today he ranks among America's greatest statesmen.

Keeping one's fool
Light-hearted as this encounter may have been then, may be today, it taught me one thing: hold your own fool, hold him firmly so he fulfils a designated role, indeed so he has no time to become the fool he is, but the fool he should never be where there are people!

I suppose this is what Dell meant by "massive hand-holding". Of course he was referring to one of our own, to our own contribution to the commonwealth of dunces.
I have a feeling Trevor Ncube does not seem to know that once you hire a fool, you may not go to the beer garden sevamwe! More so when you perch the fool on the topmost plinth of a cerebral enterprise, which is what the media is. You have an obligation to mind him, studiously too!

Has Chimakure read successive amendments to AIPPA, all done by the three political parties in the spirit of the GPA and its quest for media reforms? And the constitutional amendment which capped this whole effort?

Does he know what that amended law says about the Media Council? Does he know who is in ZMC and how that Commission was constituted?
Does he know that the draft constitution is itself an assignment under the GPA, alongside many others including media reforms? That acts of Parliament do derive from, are subordinate to the supreme law called the constitution? That good public policy-making is well sequenced, that it always takes a firm cue from the supreme law of the land? That it should be cost-effective?

As I said ignorance is in itself not a crime, provided it goes cattle-herding, provided it knows its station and limits.
As I said ignorance is in itself not an admonishable crime provided it remains profoundly humble, mute even. In fact with that kind of demeanor, it could very easily pass for wisdom.
It is when it yells, rending apart the solemn silence of a sleeping village, that it becomes insufferable.

Here is a man who has sought and got employment in a cerebral industry, the media. We assume he has it upstairs. We assume he reads, reads, reads, especially well before he writes. For we are sure to judge him by his vocation, which is why Professor Moyo is dead right to place the boy kumakoto, pamwe nezvidhiidhii, the little birds.

When you become an editor, you must be literate, or at the very least knowledgeable. It is not a choice; it is a requirement. As readers we expect no less, won't complain any less against any show of ignorance, let alone one coming through in such repeated, gratuitous spurts.

When you swallow a pestle
No one is invoking standards of the nunnery to judge Chimakure. We are simply asking him to be properly qualified for what he has voluntarily chosen to do in his little life, namely to deal in knowledge, facts, ideas and viewpoints. He must do it well to deserve respect, to earn ululation from the village which expects and deserves so much from such a role.
For such a role, ignorance is execrable, more so when it puts on the shameless garb of impudence.

Why can't the man read? Why? A whole editor, getting it so wrong on a law that shapes his industry?
And where is his master, Trevor Ncube?

The Shona people have a very apt saying: when you choose to swallow a pestle, make sure the gullet knows. What is more, make sure you are sworn to sleeping straight and standing!
Trevor, you appointed the boy; please hand-hold him. Massively! Ndapota.

Our Malawi
Things have been happening in Malawi. Bad things, but things hugely instructive to our region.

Let me make it plain that Malawi is a sister republic and Zimbabwe is very close to that sister to the north of us, has been throughout our long history which saw us connected by the navel, thanks to the white federation.

After the demise of colonialism, Sadc came in to deepen that relationship. I don't need to refer to deep cultural ties that bind us, including the sporting dimension dominated by football.

In lighter moments, the President of Zimbabwe threatens his Malawi counterpart with total defeat on the pitch, threatening to unleash a formidable Zimbabwe national football team led by players of Malawi extraction, all to tight riffs from Zimbabwean bands, again led by the Zakarias, the Machesos, etc,etc.

This is how interconnected we have become, all to great mutual profit. Unhappy events in Malawi are bound to register as a sharp pull, a sharp tag on the navel.
Staggering to the brink

A week or so back, Malawi was in the throes of civil disturbances. All told, 18 people were reported dead.
The Government there showed a firm hand, with the President making it plain clear his constitutional mandate included ensuring order in the Republic. He would fulfil that requirement without hesitation, he threatened.

That appeared to jolt the national psyche, dousing what could have been raging fires of unrest, partly stoked by fuel shortages, electricity blackouts, against a general rise in the cost of living.

As Malawi staggered on the brink, elsewhere in the world pundits were gauging whether or not the Arab Spring had finally reached Southern Africa, sure to begin as a small smoulder in Malawi, sure to spread as a raging conflagration towards incendiary Zimbabwe, itself the priced trophy.

Yes the spring has broken out, said one group of such pundits; no it hadn't given that the causal factors are too localised to be exportable, said the other group.
And as this great learned altercation took place, neither side spared a thought for country, people and property, all burning! Who cared? After all this is a small, southern African black state!
Unrest in Eden

Of course for us brethren of the suffering, the dying even, we grappled for explanation. We still do.
The real danger is to be fascinated by gore, forgetting what lies beneath. Or pitying the plummage, while forgetting the dying bird.
Far more important than maudlin sentimentality, far more important than easy condemnations, whether of Government or the raging demos, is the need to surgically know when the rains started beating the Malawians.

The unrest which hit Malawi from 20 July never caused itself, much as the Arab spring pundits want to suggest local factors. Hardly two years ago, Malawi went to the polls and gave President waMutharika a massive landslide mandate. The President has presided over six years of high-paced growth, one underpinned by a spectacular agricultural rebound for which he has bagged awards.
We imported maize from Malawi, to meet our own needs here. Part of that imported maize is still to be paid, thanks to the bickering in our Inclusive Government.

I have been in Malawi repeatedly, all the time marvelling at how Bingu got our agricultural input package model, all to beat us hands down, using very small-scale farmers, mostly women, all using hand and hoe, against our own massive farms on which roars powerful machines that devours the earth.



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