‘For he’s a jolly evil fellow’ – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 11th May 2013 PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 13 May 2013 08:03

The Vigil has had a soft spot for the British newspaper the Guardian ever since its brave report justifying ‘Murambatsvina’. As the homes and businesses of some 700,000 of the poorest were trashed, the Guardian hailed it as visionary town planning. No doubt the Guardian also applauded Stalin’s gulags, Mao’s cultural revolution and Pol Pot’s skull harvesting.


The Guardian – described by a columnist in the British Sunday Times as ‘a small circulation north London newspaper’ – would have been less sanguine if the inhabitants of north London had been bulldozed without warning or compensation for the proposed high speed train line. This would, of course, have been an outrage. But Murambatsvina? Well that’s Africa, innit? It is this patronizing tone that enchants the Vigil as we read the Guardian’s latest musings on Zimbabwe. Why should we worry about the Guardian? Well, it sets the agenda for the BBC for one thing. Go into any BBC newsroom and you will see scribes  buried in the paper (after a brief glance at the topless ladies in the vulgar press). The Guardian is essential reading because it tells them what to think.


So what’s the Guardian’s current narrative on Mugabe? Misunderstood, demonized, rebel with a cause. An article by the British academic Ian Scoones on the Guardian Africa Network website (see: Zimbabwe: how the tide is turning – talks of ‘anecdotal evidence’ that Mugabe is ‘softening his clenched fist’. Well Professor Scoones knows all about anecdotal evidence as shown by his book on the alleged success of land reform. Not that his mention of ‘white capital seeking a reassertion of power’ is anecdotal of course.


The Guardian went further in the print edition with a full page on Zimbabwe by David Smith reporting from Harare. Here are the headlines: ‘Mugabe: at first a hero, then a villain – and finally the redeemed father of his nation?’, ‘West may see this year’s election as credible’, ‘Shift in attitudes following years of demonisation’. Smith’s talk of Mugabe as possibly ‘the redeemed father of his nation’ seems to the Vigil to sanitise a man who boasted of having degrees in violence.  Murambatsvina, Gukurahundi, murder, rape, torture? No Mugabe is just misunderstood. For the Guardian it seems to be ‘one equal light’. Mugabe might be not as nice as he should be but Tsvangirai on the other hand is a flop. How’s that for balance? Smith doesn’t ignore Mugabe’s crimes: the Vigil’s objection is that they don’t  seem to matter.


‘The following scenario, once unthinkable, is now just conceivable’, he writes: ‘The Zimbabwean president will retain power in this year's elections through fair means or foul; the poll will be relatively peaceful and deemed "credible" by the west; then sanctions will be lifted against Mugabe and his inner circle, ushering him back in from the cold.’ ( Mugabe: from liberation hero to villain to redeemed father of a nation?).


Absolutely right.  But where we disagree is when Smith says ‘the fact that land reform’s consequences (are being) debated is a step towards making Mugabe’s legacy less unpalatable’. He goes on to quote the Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah as saying "This idea of Mugabe as Hitler? He's extremely charming and intelligent’. Gappah obviously knows nothing of Hitler who was  admired by some British aristocrats such as Unity Mitford who commented on his charm. Perhaps Gappah has been reading the Herald: ‘When a nation is faced with food shortages owing to drought, the burden of providing food to the people falls on the broad shoulders of Government and it is for this reason that we commend President Mugabe for showing true leadership . . . ‘


The message from the Guardian is that the coming election must be accepted however flawed. The Vigil begs to disagree. We don’t think Mugabe is a jolly good fellow and believe that SADC should stand by the Global Political Agreement it foisted on the MDC. And if it doesn’t the MDC should refuse to take part in the promised charade.


Other points

·         Zanu PF has a number of scholarships available for British academics to visit one or two new farmers and write books about them.

·         Thanks to Charles Dumisani Ndlovu and Michelle Dube who were with us at the start of the Vigil. Thanks also to Mary Muteyerwa, Tendai Chadehumbe, Cleopas Chigaru and  Nkosikona Tshabangu who arrived early to help set up. Mary was in charge of the front table and Michelle the back table.


For latest Vigil pictures check: Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website – they cannot be downloaded from the slideshow on the front page of the Zimvigil website.


FOR THE RECORD: 44 signed the register.



         ROHR Central London Branch meeting. Saturday 18th May from 12 – 1.30 pm. Venue: Strand Continental Hotel (first floor lounge), 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA. Contact Fungayi Mabhunu 07746552597. For full directions check entry for Zimbabwe Action Forum.

         Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF). Saturday 18th May from 6.30 – 9.30 pm.  Venue: Strand Continental Hotel (first floor lounge), 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA. The Strand is the same road as the Vigil. From the Vigil it’s about a 10 minute walk, in the direction away from Trafalgar Square. The Strand Continental is situated on the south side of the Strand between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge. The entrance is marked by a big sign high above and a sign for its famous Indian restaurant at street level. It's next to a newsagent. Nearest underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and Holborn.

         ROHR Reading Relaunch. Saturday 25th May from 11 am – 5 pm. For more information please contact: Tawanda Dzimba 07880524278, Nicodimus Muganhu 07877386789.

         Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights 2012 can be viewed on this link:  Links to previous years’ highlights are listed on 2012 Highlights page.

         The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents the views and opinions of ROHR.

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         Useful websites: which reports on Zanu PF abuses and where people can report corruption in Zimbabwe.


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