By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
The Daily News interview of Cde George Charamba, which was summarised under the headline: Do Not Pine for a Foreign Messiah, reminded me of my personal experience of anti-Zimbabwe propaganda in South Africa in 2011.
On June 12 2011, I was interviewed on SABC’s Interface programme as
a member of Zimbabwe’s strategic communication delegation sent to South Africa.
The interviewer was one Eusebius McKaiser, a graduate student trying to imitate on Interface the format and
style of BBC World Service’s Hard Talk
Almost all of McKaiser’s questions were premised on MDC-T anti-Zimbabwe propaganda in South African media
and therefore easy to anticipate and to answer.
One particular question which messed up the host’s line of questioning
concerned His Excellency the late former President Robert Mugabe: Whether MDC-T’s allegations were not true that the President had been in power too long; that he was too old; that he had lost control of the reigns of government;
and that he should leave office
I had anticipated that McKaiser would focus on mere opinions and would
also seek to lure me to go on and on expressing mere opinion, which he would simply denounce and dismiss as either personal or representing only the views of ZANU-PF, which would then enable him to dismiss me as just a “ZANU-PF pseudo-intellectual” and “pseudo- academic”, who had no choice but to simply repeat ZANU-PF propaganda.
In fact I had already seen a hint of this MDC inspired focus on mere opinion from an internet briefing by one of the many NGOs representing the anti- Zimbabwe front in South Africa.
Reacting to news of the deployment of the Zimbabwean strategic communication delegation to South Africa, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in SA had said:
“We understand ZANU-PF has dispatched their so-called high-powered delegation to Johannesburg comprising the venomous Jonathan Moyo and pseudo-academics Tafataona Mahoso and Vimbai Chivaura together with Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa. It appears ZANU-PF wishes to intensify its
lobby to get SADC to set aside Livingstone Troika resolutions.”
Significantly, the view of the President implied in McKaiser’s question on SABC came from MDC-T’s report to the SADC Troika at Livingstone, Zambia. So, my reply was first to say that the late former President Robert Mugabe had been elected in the June 2008 Presidential
run-off election, which MDC-T had
But more devastating against the interviewer and the MDC-T lies being peddled in South Africa was my reference to Section 20.1.6 of the Global Political Agreement, which all three parties e
Inclusive Government had signed
in 2008 and institutionalised through
Constitutional Amendment Number 19 of 2009. I said all three parties signed and swore to an agreement which included the following:
“There shall be a President, which
Office shall continue to be occupied by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. There shall be two (2) Vice Presidents, who will be nominated by the [same] President and/or ZANU-PF [that is, the President’s party].”
In other words, the defence of the propriety and legitimacy of the late former President Mugabe’s incumbency then should not have been a matter of one person’s opinion or even one party’s opinion.
It derived from an election, from a unanimous tripartite agreement and from a subsequent constitutional amendment passed by a tripartite Parliament of Zimbabwe.
My own opinion of that fact was not the issue and I told my interviewer that it was not necessary for him to attack me for stating the fact that the MDC formations then accepted Mugabe as their president in Zimbabwe while denying that acceptance in South Africa.
Contrary to this clearly documented information, MDC-T and the NGOs affiliated to it had been telling the SABC and most South Africans they interacted with that President Mugabe was an unelected leader who had imposed
himself on the country, imposed himself on his own party, and somehow forced the other political parties to endure his leadership as President.
So it was critical to show SABC’s McKaiser that the very same people claiming to oppose President Mugabe’s leadership and actually campaigning to sabotage his conduct of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy had in fact signed a document accepting the very same President as their President before enshrining that agreement in the
Constitution of Zimbabwe and swearing allegiance to the same in front of the same President and the public.
They knew the President’s age and they knew how capable or incapable he was of leading them.
How could they now conduct an external campaign claiming that he was too old or that he had no control over the same government which they then had sworn to join?
That Interface programme on SABC
was just one incident.
Prior to that there was the seminar organised by the so-called Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM) in Sandton on 8 June 2011, which was also reported in The Herald on Friday 10 June 2011 under the heading “Blow for MDC formations at Summit.”
The overall theme of the supposed seminar was “SADC’s Final Hurdle to a Democratic Transition in Zimbabwe: Engaging with Security Sector Reform.”
In a genuine seminar, one would expect that among the presenters there would be someone sent by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) to present the institutional voice of the ZDF in Zimbabwe. But that was not the case. The presenters were:
Mr Wilfred Mhanda or Dzinomwa Machingura (now late), who absconded from the liberation war and was at
the time (2011) now head of an NGO called Zimbabwe Liberators Platform. His topic was: “The role played by the Security Sector During and after the 2008 Elections in Zimbabwe;”
Mr Obrey Matshiqi, whose topic was, “Can SADC through the Facilitator, South Africa, Tackle Security Sector Reforms in Zimbabwe?”Mr Dewa Mavhinga of MDC-T affiliate Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe, whose topic was “SADC’s Final Hurdle to the Roadmap: Engaging with the Security Sector;” and
Dr Cheryl Hendricks, of the South African Institute for Security Studies, who was to be the discussant.
Where the purpose of the line of questioning during my Interface interview with McKaiser was to criminalise President Robert Mugabe’s incumbency, that of the IDAZIM seminar was to criminalise the role of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces under the cover of an academic discourse.
Ironically, it was only the white woman presenter, Dr Cheryl Hendricks, who succeeded in keeping her academic cover by refusing to engage in invective and
hyperbole against Zimbabwe’s foreign policy and the ZDF. All the three African presenters betrayed a rabid hatred
of Zimbabwe and a burning desire to criminalise the reputation of the ZDF. And to do so, they had to abandon academic pretences and engage in open propaganda.
The first glaring omission was that there was no one on the panel who knew the ZDF in detail and could speak with authority on its nature and characteristics, let alone anyone who knew enough to attempt to say whether or not it should have been “reformed,” how it would be reformed and whether the reforms being demanded then had
not already been carried out since 1980.
The second glaring omission was clear from the late Wilfred Mhanda’s presentation, which was constructed in such a way as to make it seem as if the history of the ZDF began with the 2008 harmonised elections. Among all the presenters, the few references to real history, which were made at best went only as far back as 2002! When some mention of the dissident war of 1984-1987 was made, it was done in isolation and entirely out of context, as Gukurahundi.
The third glaring distortion was the assumption that Zimbabwe’s Interparty Agreement (GPA) of 2008 was a post-war settlement or peace agreement. This was
also implied in the book, The Securi
Sector in Southern Africa, which the or- ganisers distributed for free at the semi- nar. The introduction to that book, which was jointly sponsored by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the British De- partment for International Development (DFID), said for instance:
“In Zimbabwe, despite the formation of a government of national unity, the political atmosphere remains tense. It is instructive that the peace agreement [of 2008] did not specifically include efforts to ensure that the security sector abides by its constitution and laws and the ba- sic precepts of civil security relations.”
This was a lie. There was then a thriv- ing judiciary in Zimbabwe and the courts enjoyed independence. Dewa Mavhinga, for instance deliberately conflated the functions of the entire security sector
in Zimbabwe with the role of certain specialists from the ZDF who were or had recently become medical doctors,
engineers, IT specialists, communications experts or academics.
The presence of any one or two of these in a civilian institution was therefore taken by MDC formations and Crisis Zim- babwe Coalition as evidence of the “mass militarisation” of civil institutions.
Mavhinga’s allegation of the military takeover of the electoral system was pre- sented as “a declaration of war by ZA- NU-PF against all its opponents,” as if all the officers of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, all the members of the Zimbabwe Na- tional Army, and all the members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, some- how abandoned the borders of Zimbabwe and other posts and concentrated all their personnel on running elections!
This was preposterous, but for some reason, no one among the regular audi- ence challenged it. It remained for the special media delegation from Zimbabwe to show that even the basis of the entire seminar was unfounded and unjustified.
How could the MDC formations say that the people of Zimbabwe should not hold any elections until the entire secu- rity sector is “reformed” when such “re- forms” usually take 10 to 15 years?
Most damning was the omission of Zimbabwe’s constitution making process involving a nationwide outreach, covering every district ward-by-ward and canvass- ing and ventilating all matters of national governance.
In 2011 there had not been a popular demand for so-called security sector reforms or for the disarming and quar- antine of the ZDF as a precondition for holding elections.
So whose agenda were the MDC forma- tions and affiliate NGOs peddling against the popular ward-by-ward views of Zim- babweans?
Other features omitted from the pre- sentations at the seminar were the role of the MDC in perpetrating violence in 2007 and 2011; in fact one main reason for the 2008 agreement was to stop external Anglo-Saxon intrusions into the internal affairs of Zimbabwe; and this particular seminar itself represented a continuing invitation to the very same external forc- es, especially the British, to intervene in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
Finally, listening to the presenters at the Sandton seminar on June 8 2011, a person from Mars would think that the GPA was a post-war settlement on a country where the judiciary was de- stroyed by the war and no longer func- tioning.
The presenters alleged that the security forces were a law unto themselves.
But above all, the anti-Zimbabwe cam- paign was primarily a war against Zimba- bwe’s foreign policy and Defence policy.
The war was focused on President Mugabe and the Presidency precisely because it was the President who was mandated by the constitution to direct Zimbabwe’s Defence policy and foreign policy.
In fact the imposition and maintenance of illegal Anglo-Saxon sanctions against the country meant that the MDC forma- tions and their sponsors did succeed to
a great extent in damaging Zimbabwe’s foreign policy by sowing the lies to justify imposition of sanctions in the first place; by sowing the lies which made it possible to claim that the illegal sanctions were targeted only at certain individuals and therefore of no economic consequence; by sowing the lies which made some people believe that even if the sanctions were real and causing enormous damage to people’s livelihoods in the end the damage would be worthwhile because the same Anglo-Saxon powers would bring ‘democracy’ and massive ‘foreign aid’ to the people and quickly end their suffer- ing.
Significance of MDC-T’s Campaign
against Zimbabwe:s Foreign Policy Both at the IDAZIM seminar in Sand- ton on June 8 2011 and during the SABC
Interface programme four days later on June 12 it was clear that the framing of attacks on Zimbabwe’s foreign policy derived from the false report smuggled to the SADC Troika in Livingstone, Zambia, through the SADC facilitation team on March 31 2011.
In fact the British and US sponsored MDC demonstrations in South Africa in June 2011 all focused on trying to force the full SADC Summit to adopt and en- dorse the discredited, fraudulent and eventually abandoned Livingstone report.
Other countries, including those who sponsor the local opposition in Zimbabwe do guard their foreign policy postures
For example, the September 2004 Re- port of the Defence Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication of the United States Defence Department states openly on page 62 that:
“A unifying Presidential vision and broad bipartisan Congressional support are the critical starting points in trans- forming (the US) strategic communica- tion. Only Presidential direction and the focused actions of Congressional (that is, Parliamentary) leaders can create the po- litical will needed to build the long term strategic communication capabilities America needs… Leadership from the top must drive widespread understanding that national security policies will fail unless interlinked with strategic commu- nication.”
According to the 2004 Report of the Defence Science Board of the US Depart- ment of Defence already cited:
“Only White House [that is, Presiden- tial] leadership, with support from Cabi- net Secretaries [that is all Ministers] and Congress, can bring about” a coherent and effective foreign policy.
“Nothing shapes US policies and global perceptions of US foreign and national security objectives more powerfully than the President’s statements and actions, and those of senior officials… Swift and sustained Presidential direction is also required to connect strategy to struc- ture.”
Therefore, in the Zimbabwe case, it was treacherous and criminal for the MDC formations to campaign abroad against Zimbabwe’s foreign policy when in fact at home they were sitting on a whole agree- ment (the GPA), in which they had sworn that President Mugabe should be their President too and should direct foreign policy and Defence policy on behalf of all Zimbabweans.
It was wrong to denigrate any team
sent abroad by that same President to explain and defend that foreign policy to the outside world.
People sent by the President to explain and defend Zimbabwe’s interests abroad were no longer just ZANU-PF emissar- ies, even though the President who sent them happ e leader of
That was why it became necessary for me on June 12 to tell McKaiser of SABC that the late former President Mugabe was elected in a poll, which MDC-T boy- cotted; that nevertheless all the three parties to the GPA subsequently endorsed President Mugabe as everyone’s Presi- dent; and that all the three parties spon- sored a constitutional amendment, which included acceptance of former President Mugabe as President and which the full Parliament passed into law.
To the extent that these same parties were telling the world otherwise, they were not only lying but also refusing to take full responsibility for their own de- cisions.
As for the Anglo-Saxon powers and African academics, we may cite Blessing Miles Tendi’s book, Making History in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, in which one aca- demic confessed that the donors had cor- rupted some academics and intellectuals in Zimbabwe. The academic was quoted saying:
“I do consultancy work for NGOs and I bend my analysis to please them. I tell NGOs what they want to hear. I tell them Mugabe is bad and there is a seri- ous crisis and I say it loudly so they are satisfied. That way they will come back again next time for my analysis and even bring me new clients. That is how I survive.”
This was the disease, which the white donor countries spread. We saw some of its results on our trip to South Africa in June 2011.
First hand experience of anti- Zim propaganda in SA media
MDC formations accepted Mugabe as their president in Zimbabwe while denying that acceptance in SA.