Monday, August 05, 2013

(HERALD ZW) Zim Elections: When the media, diplomay make midgets taller
Saturday, 13 July 2013 00:57

[Dabengwa] I suppose they are still being apprenticed by President Mugabe. Otherwise how else do you explain an astonishing picture where the leader of a rival party, his estranged secretary general and his unsure national organising secretary, all knock heads literally to study and internalise the Zanu-PF manifesto in the full glare of the media?

And the picture shows two faces decidedly absorbed, a third one comprehensively wistful. It is as if the MDC-T leader is unsure whether he will be able to comprehend let alone digest all that is in the little Zanu-PF manifesto book, what with so little time to do it.

I thought this incident summed up the contrasting experiences and roles of parties in the inclusive Government for the years that have gone by.

Riding the Zanu-PF train

From day one it was all about grasping Zanu-PF ideas, and seeking to implement them. I recall a deep backgrounder I had with Biti early on in the inclusive project. He was grateful, deeply grateful to Zanu-PF for laying on his table and ahead of his assumption of the Finance portfolio, a good budget which dollarised the economy, a good short-term plan which would give us STERP.

He thanked the President for this, and did so rather gratuitously, confessing to even deeper gratitude for a very competent staff he found in place in the Ministry of Finance, his former high school teacher among the staff. A few years later when his portfolio began to vex him, he made yet another confession: it was simple to play opposition. All you needed was to grab your copy of The Herald to get what the President and Zanu-PF will have said.

After cursory reading you called for a Press conference to studiously say the opposite! Not in this office, not anymore, he opined.

Lifelong apprentices

The same sentiment came through the lips of Mangoma, then incoming Economic Planning Minister. He found on his desk an economic blueprint document which he tried to tinker with, could not finish, ending up handing it over to Mashakada, his successor. While Mashakada finally got the document launched, reportedly after subjecting it to “his new pair of eyes”, the core ideas in the founding document passed intact, unchanged.

They form the bedrock of the medium term plan which guided the inclusive Government for the entire run of its life. Much later, in a moment of extreme relaxation, none other than Tsvangirai himself confessed to what a spectacular disaster it would have been if the MDC-T had won outright in 2008. We would have been a disaster, he confessed, face visibly terrified by himself.

He went further: we would have been ousted, provoked a coup by the sheer magnitude of our ignorance, our ineptitude. I will not make reference to written admiration of the President by Chamisa; will not make reference to Sipepa Nkomo’s open and public adulation of the President. Nor will I disclose what Mudzuri, then as a Minister of Government and MDC-T organising secretary, told me out there in a Nordic country, attending a major world Summit.

There is a way in which MDC-T, so inured to handholding - born to it in fact - dithers at the prospect of walking out and away alone, on its own. This is the heart of the matter, the reason we see it glued to the manifesto of its opposition in an electoral season, thereby risking damning pictures such as we had yesterday.

One would have thought the MDC-T is out to proffer an alternative vision for our society, not to ape and look overawed by Zanu-PF’s. They are still under apprenticeship. And as is commonsensical, apprentices work under supervision. They don’t run, they don’t govern. A friend who e-mailed me this spectacular picture was too stunned to comment. All he could say was “honaiwo-ooo”.

Enter the scarlet woman

The MDC-T campaign is in turmoil. It has hit a hard surface and the illusory denial, all along possible in situations of conjecture, is no longer sustainable in circumstances of sparse turnouts, circumstances where market women take off in absolute terror at the mere sight of a man who drapes himself in scarlet, itself biblically the colour of sin, the [Morgan Tsvangirai] colour of promiscuity and gaudy pageantry. Recall the “scarlet woman” described in Revelation 17? She was a prostitute, a woman of loose morals, of easy virtue.

Do those working on the MDC-T brand ever stop to think about the susceptibilities they bring upon their leader whose own moral stature ranks redder than incarnadine? Tsvangirai has been attracting miserable numbers, a clear indication that between 1999 and now, the man has lost traction, and is worse than standstill. He is sliding back, shrinking fast.

Politically, lack of traction puts on the sour and surly face of bitter, finicky or fastidious complaints about anything, everything. You fault the process well ahead of it, so you build savings for an inevitable defeat which you must redeem through all manner of excuses, complaints. When a politician tells the world that this election which he has been resisting all along is already illegitimate before it starts, you must know he is out to spoil it, never to participate honestly.

This is the phase we are in, but a phase we must overcome. Clearly unsure of a win, and also conscious that another boycott will fracture the party even further, the MDC-T is in no mood to play constructive politics. It seeks to discredit the process, to rubbish the winner and craves for outside endorsement of that rubbishing. You grasp that; you understand MDC-T politics from now on.

Dabengwa’s Nikuv

Sample this. We have had not less than three elections since 2002. We have held all these under an electronic voter registration regime installed by Nikuv International, an Israeli IT company.

That installation was done under the ministerial auspices of Dumiso Dabengwa, then Minister of Home Affairs under which the Registrar General’s Office lies. This is the same Dabengwa, Tsvangirai has been working with, from as far back as 2007, if truth be told. And this is the same system under which Tsvangirai has competed for national office in the past, the very system Tsvangirai has been trying to hack through Topper Whitehead, his white operative. The system was not an issue in 2002; not an issue in 2005; not an issue in 2008. It is an issue today! We have moved a long way, very long indeed. You remember the days of outstanding issues? It has been a long walk to here.

Jukwa’s hailed sample

Another sample. Since Independence, we have never had a bigger fraction of registered voters like we have now. We now have over 6 million eligible voters who have registered, out of about 6,7 million who are eligible. Our total population is nearly 13 million, which means half of our country has now registered to vote, may vote on the 31st July, all things being equal.

We have done well, very well against our past, done comparably well by Sadc standards. The MDC-T, all to rubbish this sterling effort, claims millions have been left out. Who should have got those millions to register? We have no laws that make registration mandatory. But there is also a righteous presumption that those left out are MDC-T supporters. How that presumption is arrived at, only a mind overcome by a defeat psychosis can say. I cannot fathom the reasoning. But fear does not have to be reasonable.

Of course that fear need not stop us from posing a basic question: How does a party happy and comfortable to generate an opinion survey result under the faceless Baba Jukwa, and out of a sample of a mere 4 005 respondents, suddenly fear a result from voters exceeding well beyond half of their full potential? Even the Freedom House, apart from having an address and a concrete face, had a bigger sample, employed more scientific methods, yet our heroes for democratic change still rejected the result!

The lie of Rudhaka

Any election campaign involves a measure of manipulation. I have no problem with that. But there is one basic rule for measuring popularity. Expectedly, any manifesto launch crowd is big, very big. It represents national mobilisation effort, which is why the MDC-T, leaving its hind unguarded, gave the game away by giving us a story of a vehicle wrecked in an accident. They expected sympathy, got it probably. But they forgot the wreck told us these were supporters coming from outside Marondera, which is why the Rudhaka crowds were misleading.

[Tendai Biti] Rudhaka was all MDC-T can muster nationally. The same goes for Zanu-PF and their Zimbabwe Grounds crowds. The key test though is for parties to reproduce such crowds - or comparable crowds - in subsequent localised rallies. So far Tsvangirai has been struggling to reproduce Rudhaka, thereby exposing how much of a choreographed lie Rudhaka was.

So far Mugabe has effortlessly outstripped Zimbabwe Grounds, clearly showing that Zimbabwe Grounds was a conservative estimate of his real worth. What I can’t stand is how the media have dishonourably sought to re-engineer statistical facts by means of all manner of contrivances of graphics. Pictures are being cropped. Or married to create an illusion of massive turnouts, massive turnout flops.

That makes newsrooms complicit, makes them propaganda extensions of information desks of political parties. Do we deserve that as readers? Do we?
Electronic lengthening of midgets

Here is the sinister side of it all. We in the media are constructing a lie which bad losers shall one day soon use to create a political impasse, or worse, to trigger social chaos. If the coverage of a politician who has lost favour with the voter is right-sized, is honestly projected, society will reject and shun him when he seeks to bicker needlessly, seeks to make false claims or allegations.

We saw it in Kenya. We saw it here in Harare. Why do we allow bad losers to bank with us through dishonest journalism we practise, we condone? If we reported truthfully about what happened in Rushinga, what happened at Neuso, reported on how this has been repeated again in Kariba, who in this rational, educated society would have the muscle to throw a stone on behalf of a defeated but grousing politician, come results announcement day? On the other hand if we reported truthfully on the numbers at Zimbabwe Grounds, reported on how these swelled twice on Thursday in Mashonaland Central, who would not defend an inevitable win when it comes? Let not the media grow political midgets. Or slash political giants. It creates material for election deadlocks, for election-related bloodletting.

Dealing with angst

As I write there is a whole furore over media access. Ordinarily this should not be an issue. It has become one because something is either not happening on the concrete ground of campaigning or conversely, the going is too good for the other side. Pressure has emerged because someone wants to use the media as a surrogate for campaigning.

The law is very clear on what media access is provided for statutorily. What has been breached so far? Or are we dealing with angst? Why dignify it by raising false questions on real standards? This is where the American ambassador’s sinister role comes in. The man wrote to the national broadcaster, irregularly. The man wrote to the Police, again irregularly.

Now he has written to the Registrar General’s Office, this time procedurally but still irregularly.

Poking pink nose

Procedurally the national contact point for a foreign envoy on any matter exercising him or her about what concerns the host country is Foreign Affairs. Not this American [MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai (right), secretary-general Tendai Biti (left) and national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa study the Zanu-PF manifesto before addressing a rally at Neuso in Mhondoro recently.] ambassador who thinks mightily upon himself and his country. Diplomatically, the American ambassador or any ambassador at that has no right to poke his or her pink nose into the affairs of a sovereign state in that intrusive way. How we do things here is none of his business. He has no status of a monitor, something we only reserve for citizens.

He is not even an accredited observer mission for his country, only an accredited embassy which is being allowed to observe a national event for bilateral purposes. The American embassy staff can only formulate opinions and impressions about how elections are run here for the private use of their government and country, singly or in combination with like-minded governments. That is their prerogative. But that opinion cannot be tabled anywhere else. This is why it is preposterous for the American ambassador to write when and the way he did, on the matter he raised when he did.

When Zimbabwe is ward, America is warden

But that is not the sinister side. The sinister side becomes apparent when one realises he is doing it for a specific political party. The matters he raised are matters which the MDC-T raised at Sadc, apparently without success. And because the MDC formations hit a dead-end at Sadc, the American ambassador seeks to create a new appellate division, this time made in America.

It is a way to supersede national laws, regional forums, in order to make Zimbabwe a ward, America the warden. Much worse, it is a bare instigation, a calculated move to precipitate a disputed election. We know how beholden to foreigners the two MDC formations are. In fact we owe the phrase “handholding” to an American diplomat, to American diplomacy. Why is the ambassador planting a thought, preparing a grievance for the MDC formations, both of whom have good reason to do so in the face of looming defeat? You cannot miss the bid to destabilise.

It gets worse when you read this communication against the backdrop of Obama’s position against Zimbabwe as expressed recently in South Africa. It gets routine when you read this against what Wharton’s former boss Carson did and said in Kenya ahead of that country’s poll. And it is not that America cannot learn; it is that imperious America thinks itself too big to learn anything from anyone, less so from small nations like Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately they are blundering on a country which is not one iota fastened to their apron, a country bold enough to tell them off. After all, thanks to their sanctions, we have hit the bottom, we can’t fall. All that which remains is for our turn to hit theirs, something we hope we can do, come July 31.

Icho!

* nathaniel.manheru@zimpapers.co.zw

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