Media, Parliament and the national interest


THE independence of media houses and the institution of Parliament should not be based on merely ventilating issues and generating bold and often sensational headlines.
It should be based on generating credible, usable information for citizens.
This point is particularly critical in an election year.
In the last week of March 2018, I challenged a journalist and former editor who is now working for a political party to explain why he was going on and on, repeating the figure of US$15 billion worth of diamonds allegedly stolen from Chiadzwa by 2014.
He could not give any credible explanation as to why any sensible Member of Parliament, journalist or editor should believe such an astronomical figure.
His only defence was: “Yes I repeat the figure and the allegation at all forums where I speak because it was your former President Robert Mugabe who made the allegation and gave the specific figure of US$15 billion while he was still President.”
But that figure is not a sober estimate by any measure.
It can only be peddled by persons who are up to deceive the public or who have no clue as to the size and nature of the Zimbabwe economy and the global diamond market.
This is so especially since Zimbabwean diamonds are distinct and identifiable anywhere they are sold.
This journalist’s answer was shocking from someone who is a former editor working for a political party which hopes to groom its members to win Parliamentary seats and become lawmakers!
The context in which former President Robert Mugabe made the US$15 billion allegation should have raised suspicion in the mind of every thinking citizen.
Mugabe’s own wife had declared that the President was now her crowbar (simbi yangu yebasa).
The US$15 billion allegation was part of the G40 tactic to promote the then newly appointed Minister of Mines and Mining Development Walter Chidakwa and make him look like a tough new broom who was going to end rampant corruption at Chiadzwa.
That corruption was singularly blamed on the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and on the diamond mining companies which Chidakwa was in the process of expelling from Chiadzwa.
The G40’s exaggeration of the value of diamonds stolen from Chiadzwa was also calculated to overshadow other corrupt activities going on in the rest of the economy as much as to justify the almost total stagnation and depression of the economy.
There was now nothing to do because US$15 billion had been stolen from Chiadzwa by persons and institutions whom the G40 were now going to chase out of Chiadzwa!
I raise this matter of the wild figure of US$15 billion because it is being used to undercut the credibility of both Parliament and newspapers.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy should develop its own methodology for inquiries and create a context clear of wild guesses such as the alleged US$15 billion.
At present, the inquiries concentrate too much on politicians and managers while ignoring more objective researchers and experts who can shed light first and foremost on the sector or the industry.
In other words, Parliament needs to build its own capacity based on the need to build institutional memory and independence as well as the imperative of national legislative sovereignty.
This means that both the institution and its individual members of Parliament must be competent, credible, patriotic, hard-nosed and inquisitive.
First, the strategic purpose of a portfolio committee is not ventilation; it is to create a solid base of thorough knowledge about the subject or field under the portfolio and to channel that knowledge and information to the relevant strategic agencies and leaders who must make critical decisions.
The portfolio committee therefore invites as many experts and professionals as possible to appear before it, many of them behind closed doors.
From each public inquiry, Parliament should create three records:
l a prepared professional paper;
l an oral presentation highlighting or expanding the written paper;
l and a third record of the question and answer session with members of the committee or with other invited experts.
By now, Zimbabwe’s key decision makers would have a three part record from several local, regional and foreign experts on the following aspects of mining: The latest geological surveys of minerals in SADC region in general and in Zimbabwe in particular; a history of the global diamond markets; history of the Kimberley Process; history of global struggles for alternatives to the Kimberley Process; Diamonds and the Civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone; Diamonds and other minerals in the Congo Crisis since 1960; Diamonds and the Angolan Civil war and the struggle for Namibia; diamonds and the origins and legacy of Apartheid; and finally, good intelligence on the espionage activities of foreign companies and foreign governments in our mining sector.
The committee, in setting up this agenda would be pursuing depth and thoroughness of institutional knowledge, not publicity and ventilation. And it would fight against sanctions and go out of its way to correct any story in its name which seeks to advance the cause for US sponsored sanctions.
Second, most countries have developed tight, portfolio-specific rules for their Parliamentary committees.
A committee responsible for intelligence or military technology development will have rules starkly unlike those for a committee handling primary education.
Newly discovered precious minerals in a country under illegal sanctions in the 21st Century would be treated in the context of what Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) in 1997 called the new scramble for Africa which Chinweizu warned us about also in 1997. According to EIR:
“Driving the British actions, this time, is another great scramble. The international financier oligarchy, grouped around the House of Windsor, knows that the world financial bubble (the ‘casino economy’ of neo-liberal reform) which they themselves have created – cannot be sustained, and will burst. They are getting out of paper financial instruments and into hard commodities, precious metals, such as gold; strategic metals such as cobalt and tantalum; base metals, such as copper and zinc; energy supplies; and increasingly scarce food supplies. They want either to own the physical assets, or, better still, own the mine production facility for these assets.”
Here we must note that this passage was written 10 years before the Western global financial tsunami which began in 2007!
In Remilitarising Africa for Profit, John Peck showed the North Atlantic powers had upgraded Africa’s strategic importance in the wake of the massive failure of structural adjustment programmes to stabilise the world economy; in the wake of mounting violence in the oil-rich Middle East; and now in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
What this means is that the oath which all MPs take when assuming office is a general one and does not specifically cover all the fields and special issues which they may handle, once they are placed on specialised committees.
For fields which are classified, MP’s joining the specialised committees have to be vetted for suitability.
They are required to pass clearance tests and to sign secrecy contracts which give them access to sensitive information and classified facilities.
This also means many of the experts they invite from Zimbabwe and from outside will in some cases be sworn to secrecy and agree to give their presentations in camera and not in front of journalists.
These requirements would depend on the special area being examined. Too much media noise chases away people who possess expert knowledge for fear of being embarrassed or having their testimonies abused.
The resulting documents from those testimonies will also be categorised.
What needs to be classified will remain classified and given to appropriate agencies and officials who are also sworn to receive and keep classified information.
Special circumstances such as any declaration of emergency, war or economic sanctions will automatically trigger the application of special laws reserved for such unusual circumstances; and Parliament and its committees or individual members would be required immediately to adjust their conduct in the national and not partisan interest. Even freedom of the press cannot be a licence to trash the assets of the nation.
The Freedom of the Press Act of Sweden in Chapter 7, Article 4 (3) provides the following among “…offenses against freedom of the press”:
“(3) espionage, whereby, in order to assist a foreign power, a person without due authority conveys, consigns, or discloses information concerning defence installations, weapons, storage installations, import, export, mode of fabrication (manufacture), negotiations, decisions or any other circumstances the disclosure of which to a foreign power could cause detriment to the total defence system or otherwise to the security of the Realm, whether the information is correct or not; any attempt, preparation or incitement to commit such a crime.”
On July 18 2001 I had a sad encounter with one Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Member of Parliament, the late Learnmore Jongwe who, despite his name, was unwilling to learn more about his role as a Member of Parliament and as a qualified lawyer.
This encounter was on a ZTV programme called Talking Business with Supa Mandiwanzira.
The topic was The Zimbabwe Democracy Bill of 2001 which was a rehashed version of the US Zimbabwe Democracy Bill of 2000.
These bills were the beginning of what is now, 17 years later, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) or the US sanctions and economic war Act against Zimbabwe.
In that show I took, as an ordinary citizen, the position that ZDERA was a sanctions bill and a US declaration of economic war against Zimbabwe.
I was shocked when the MDC MP and lawmaker took the exact opposite position that ZDERA was only a travel ban against ZANU-PF officials the purpose of which was “…to create democratic space for Zimbabweans.”
Jongwe lied to the people throughout that programme.
Throughout the ZTV programme, Learnmore Jongwe insisted that ZDERA was sorely needed to “…force the Government of Zimbabwe to put its house in order” and “…restore the rule of law.”
Later, the MDC extended the defence of ZDERA by saying it was meant to help the opposition to remove Mugabe from power!
In retrospect, this argument exposes the MDC’s bankruptcy because Mugabe was removed in 2017 and the opposition had nothing to do with his removal.
In fact, the MDC-Alliance again rushed to Washington to ask for the tightening of ZDERA and to complain that the opposition alliance were not happy about the way Mugabe was removed.
Back to July 18 2001:
Mr Jongwe and 149 other ‘lawmakers’ were elected and are paid by voters and tax-payers of this nation in order to make sure that the Government of Zimbabwe keeps its house in order and abides by our own Constitution.
I had therefore expected the Honourable MP to send a message to the right-wing slave masters of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Zimbabwe has a robust Parliament full of young MPs (vasati vasakara).
Therefore, Zimbabwe did not need a white racist committee with a long history of defending white settler-racist supremacy in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe to appoint itself as the creator, protector and overseer of ‘democracy’ in independent Zimbabwe.
No committee of any foreign Senate or Parliament enjoys automatic jurisdiction over the citizens of Zimbabwe, even if it is not made up of slave masters.
Those with genuine concerns should follow the process and procedures laid down in international law before they can intervene in Zimbabwe or anywhere else.
But Jongwe’s interpretation of international law seemed to be that it is there for MDC members to use to appeal to such slave masters as Jesse Helms and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But when I pointed out that international law also offers Zimbabwe’s leaders the same protections given to any other leadership and that it is the US which has the worst record of gross violations of international law, the MP kept saying “…that is up to the Americans.”
In other words we should not subject the US to the same international yardstick which it is trying to apply to Zimbabwe.
That logic was strange, coming from a Member of Parliament who was supposed to represent all Zimbabweans.
Swedish law, as already cited in the preceding, assumes that Sweden may or will have ‘enemies’.
The enemies of Zimbabwe consider this nation’s struggle to complete its sovereignty and secure its national assets to constitute a state of emergency for them.
Former US President Barack Obama’s renewal of George W. Bush’s illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe on March 2 2010 was entitled: “Continuation of the (US) National Emergency With Respect to Zimbabwe.”
After citing the US’s International Emergency Economic Powers Act and three Presidential Emergency Powers decrees going back to March 2003, Obama concluded his Presidential decree on Zimbabwe thus: “Therefore in accordance with Section 202 (d) of the National Emergency Act, I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons…”
Britain, the EU, Australia and most of the other Anglo-Saxon states followed US leadership and did the same against little Zimbabwe.
They did not send a committee to Tamandayi or Muzarabani to ventilate the issue and find out if Zimbabweans think their reclamation of white-stolen land and minerals should constitute a national emergency for the US and Europe.
They did not ventilate the issues at all.
In fact they created laws barring from entry into those states any Zimbabwean who could ventilate this issue in Zimbabwe’s national interest.
It had to be decided as an emergency and by decree.
This is because what imperialism teaches its enemies through media sponsored political parties and NGOs is the opposite of what it teaches its own children through hard-nosed practice. Imperialist practice in real time and real life teaches that: “Ventilation is for those who are fainting; total transparency is for those who are empty inside and have no secrets of value.”
Perhaps the pan-Africanist writer Chinweizu of Nigeria can give us a clue. He wrote in 1997 that: “The Black World today is in mortal danger. The most serious aspect of that danger, however, are not the intentions of our enemies, rather they are the Black World’s wilful blindness to the signs of that danger, and its unwillingness to even accept its possibility. Years after the imperialists aired their intentions to recolonise Black Africa … Years after George Bush [Senior] made the first brazen attempt at recolonisation,…the Black World’s elite shows no sign of taking the matter seriously. In fact, it shows no sign of having noticed the threat at all!”
This is exactly what I felt throughout that 2001 ZTV debate with Jongwe on Talking Business With Supa Mandiwanzira.
Some of our MPs, when they were not sleeping on the job, were actually selling us out to the highest bidders. I do not think that this danger passed away with the late Learnmore Jongwe.
What seems to have changed is that the same US which is still maintaining sanctions against Zimbabwe is now led by a president whom former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright accuses of holding fascist views of the world.


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