Say cheese Mugabe tells Zimbabweans

Supporters at the Vigil beamed broadly in response to Mugabe’s appeal to Zimbabweans to pretend that all is well to the SADC Summit at the Victoria Falls. Our smiles were so big we couldn‘t help laughing at Mugabe’s request: “We are asking you to smile and show the region that we are a hospitable people, that we can welcome visitors. Let us all smile and for just a moment forget our problems . . . albeit under the burden of sanctions.”

Vigil supporters with their big smiles in London on Saturday.
Vigil supporters with their big smiles in London on Saturday.

To underline our joy at our desperate situation we held up smiley pictures with the posters: “Mugabe: ‘Smile for the SADC Summit’” and “Mugabe: ‘Smile, though your heart is breaking’”.

We are sure that our South African friends, in particular, will appreciate a smiley welcome at the Summit – after all they are connoisseurs in hypocrisy, as shown by their clutching at legal straws to continue preventing the publication of an explosive report said to expose the rigging of the 2002 Zimbabwe elections.

“We welcome Zimbabwe’s return to a path of stability and prosperity and remain committed to cooperation and partnership with our valued neighbour,” joked South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, announcing a three-year extension of residents’ permits for Zimbabwean refugees. His joke was spoiled by the Daily News on Sunday quoting a highly-placed source in Pretoria: “It is not a secret that Zimbabwe is currently economically stressed and that things may get significantly worse soon. The growing fear is that this economic crisis will trigger ever larger volumes of economic refugees.”

The joke was further exposed by ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe. “Zimbabwe was a food basket of Africa but is a disaster today,” he said as he reassured South African farmers that their land would not be seized forcibly and without compensation.

The source will not be surprised by a report that an undertaker has again been named as businessman of the year by one of Zimbabwe’s leading business associations or that a leading Chinese insurance company is refusing to guarantee loans to Zimbabwean companies because of Mugabe’s failure to meet repayments.

For our part, the VigiI is not surprised that Zanu (PF) is now turning to the EU for investment. The media quotes a no-doubt smiling Foreign Affairs deputy minister Christopher Mutsvangwa as saying that Zanu (PF) is now prepared to generously allow the West to rescue the economy. “They should not fear anything. Not at all. The Head of State is seized with the matter of revising laws which may be an impediment to foreign direct investment,’ said Mutsvangwa.

The Vigil has bad news for Mutsvangwa: there is no real prospect of the EU seriously engaging in a country where Mugabe is seizing anything.

The Vigil last week was joined by members of ZAPU wearing their yellow t-shirts and carrying posters such as ‘ZAPU for free and just land distribution’ and ‘ZAPU respects property rights’. They condemned the invasion of their leader Dumiso Dambengwa’s farm by Zanu (PF) elements.

Among the ZAPU representatives was ZAPU Secretary-General Dr Ralph Mguni, who said sadly that Zimbabweans used to be respected around the world but they are now regarded as trash. The Chairman of ZUPA UK, Christopher Maphosa, whose story as a disillusioned war veteran is shown in the play ‘The Rain that Washes’ still being shown at theatres in the UK, said “We must all stand together as Zimbabweans. Our country does not belong to Zanu”. Another ZAPU speaker was Themba Mthethwa, who said exiled Zimbabweans had been failed by the leadership back home and must work to achieve a new independence in Zimbabwe.

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