ZIMBABWE’S many problems over the last decade, and the attempts at rebuilding over the last two years, have exposed a dangerous kind of Zimbabwean: the type that prefers Barack Obama’s voice on Zimbabwe than that of Morgan Tsvangirai. They pride themselves on British Airways and would celebrate Air Zimbabwe’s demise. They are ashamed of displaying the Zimbabwe flag even in their garage. This group hate themselves, their identity.
This crowd would never see progress even if it hit them in the face. They want Zimbabwe to be in a permanent state of turmoil, and woe betide anyone who tries to help, or dares suggest that “things have improved”. How can there be progress, they ask, when Robert Mugabe is still in power?
They celebrate when England say they will not send their cricket team to Zimbabwe because of “security concerns” and the “slow pace of political reforms”, but fail to see the duplicity of this stance when Britain says it wants to deport asylum seekers back to Harare in the same week.
They cheer when Zimbabwe is prevented from selling its diamonds in Europe and America – income which would help improve school infrastructure, buy medicines, pay decent wages to our long suffering public servants, improve our power generation capacity and allow the country to upgrade its roads.
There are two types in this class: an ignorant, intellectually-challenged group which glorifies foreign opinion more than that of their mothers in Muzarabani and Mawabeni; and a deceptive class of propaganda merchants in whose ranks you find sponsored career “human rights activists”, the seminar types, the ‘Rhodesia Was Super’ group, disaffected white commercial farmers and western diplomats whose idea of progress is Mugabe’s exit and none other.
So you can imagine then the alarm that greeted this group when the clear-thinking British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, urged investment in Zimbabwe. How dare he? They chocked on their cornflakes.
Can’t he see Jenni Williams and her paid career demonstrators are not allowed to do as they please – disturbing afternoon shoppers and disrupting traffic? Can’t he see the evil Robert Mugabe is still in power?
To this group, the fates of Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe are indelibly linked. Raise the Zimbabwe flag, they see Robert Mugabe. Air Zimbabwe cannot buy planes from Boeing, yes, you guessed it, because of Mugabe. It gets really sad: our cricket team should be banned – because of Mugabe.
Back to Branson. The Virgin boss described Zimbabwe as “a magnificent country that has had a really rough few years”, adding: “Either the world can continue to wait and see and not invest … or the world can help (Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai and the coalition government get Zimbabwe back on its feet.”
You would think that all Zimbabweans and all well-meaning people interested in Zimbabwe – in either our history or our future – would welcome this. But no! Incredibly dirty tricks are being deployed to convince Branson to change his mind.
On Thursday, I woke up to read in The Daily Telegraph newspaper that “Sir Richard Branson has come under attack from Robert Mugabe’s regime as a ‘vulture disguised as an angel’ for launching a charity aimed at helping businesses invest in Zimbabwe.”
“Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has suggested that Sir Richard was seeking to capitalise on Zimbabwe’s recently discovered diamond wealth when he launched Enterprise Zimbabwe in New York this week,” the story says in its opening salvo.
I was quite keen to see who was this ungrateful spokesman for the “Mugabe regime”, and four paragraphs later, we are told that the comments were made by one Tendai Midzi, “reportedly the son of Amos Midzi, the Zanu PF chairman in Harare province”. Midzi, we are told, was writing a column in the “Zanu PF-supporting Zimbabwe Guardian website”.
Across the pond in the United States, Andrew Meldrum – the UK Guardian’s former Zimbabwe correspondent now working for the Global Post news website – continues the deception. Under a piece headlined Robert Mugabe versus Richard Branson, he fumbles: “Branson’s appeal to help Zimbabwe was excoriated as an attempt at ‘backdoor entry by vultures disguised as angels,’ wrote Tendai Midzi, whose father is Zanu PF chairman … Take that, Sir Richard.”
You can read the game, can’t you? Assuming that Tendai Midzi is Amos Midzi’s son, just how does his opinion published on a little-known website represent the views of the “Mugabe regime?” Conversely, can we say that an opinion written by the son of the Labour Party’s chairman for Northampton represents the views of the “Labour regime?”
It’s crude and shameless propaganda. Vile even! Its purpose is to scare away anyone who wants to help Zimbabwe, and to achieve that goal, obscure individuals with the flimsiest whiff of associations with Zanu PF can be wheeled out and passed as spokesmen for “the Mugabe regime”.
It’s a crooked scheme, a scheme founded on a shocking stance announced by Eddie Cross – himself the chief representative of the “no progress with Mugabe in power” lobby, the vested interests group whose idea of a New Zimbabwe is acutely different from yours and mine.
Cross said in January 2009: “What the people at the bus stop are saying is ‘we will not get on the bus until we are satisfied that the driver is our man and not Mugabe’. And that is not negotiable. If Mugabe is anywhere near the wheel, we would rather let the bus crash and burn.”
Take that, Sir Richard!