Open Letter to the Editor of the Herald Newspaper

I have not bought a Herald newspaper for at least 10 years. The reasons are many but mainly relate to the fact that for as long as I can remember your paper has been an apologist for the government and what in the past has been called the 'ruling Party'.

However on Wednesday this week some colleagues said that I had to read an Op Ed that appeared in your newspaper that morning. I borrowed a copy and with disbelief at first and finally anger, I read what you had written on the front page of the paper about the American and the British Ambassadors. An article under a pseudonym on the centre page of the paper further compounded this.

Firstly I am disgusted by this blatant example of how your paper, under your leadership, continues to flagrantly violate the fundamental tenants of your profession and the terms of the Global Political Agreement signed in September last year in an attempt to restore some pride and dignity to this broken nation.

Secondly I think this was a cowardly act in that there is no way that either of these two men, at the pinnacle of long and distinguished careers can respond or defend themselves in any way. You are secure in this knowledge and the fact that the corrupt and distorted legal system in this country would not allow them to take legal action against you for slander as I am sure would be possible in more balanced and just societies.

But my criticism goes way beyond this in our present situation. Both men are due for reassignment and in the case of the US Ambassador, retirement after his term in office. They are therefore our guests, honoured guests, representing at the highest level, their countries and their own people in Zimbabwe. As guests, our own culture demands that we respect them and make them welcome, even if their views differ from our own. In fact, when you insult Mr. McGee, you insult the President of the United States of America, Mr. Obama and that is a stupid thing to do.

On purely political grounds, these Ambassadors speak, not for themselves, but for their Governments, when they demand that we adhere to the principles and values that guided the liberation movements and the world community in the struggle for justice and freedom in Zimbabwe. I defy you to defend, in public, the continued denial of these freedoms and rights to the people of Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe government.

On Wednesday I sat next to the new Director of the World Food Programme in Zimbabwe. He told me that from January to March 2009, Zimbabwe had the largest food aid programme in the world. In fact, over those three months - the hunger months in our country, the international community, without fanfare or publicity, fed an astonishing 7.1 million people. Nobody was more responsible for this amazing feat than the two men you now slander at the end of their tenure.

Both Ambassadors have overseen a doubling of official development assistance and humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe during their terms of office. Only this week I was informed that Britain will double its aid again this year and I am informed that the US has agreed to a massive increase in assistance to help get our small scale farmers producing food for themselves next summer. Last year Zimbabwe received the equivalent of 15 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product in aid; this is among the highest ratios of official development assistance and humanitarian aid in the world.

Nobody, nobody was more responsible for this than the two Ambassadors who worked tirelessly to persuade a sceptical watching world that we were worth the effort. I would like to take you (the Editor) to any part of Zimbabwe and introduce you to hundreds of people who would tell you that they owe their lives to the aid agencies. Then I would take you to the offices of the agencies doing this amazing work and we would ask them who was funding them. In half these cases you would be told it is American Aid. Between Britain and the USA they provide over two thirds of all aid reaching this country.

I would like to take you to a clinic in my constituency where I would show you a clinic, which 6 months ago was derelict and overgrown, with few staff on duty and no drugs. Now you would find it spotless - cleaned by staff who are suddenly able to come to work. You would see lines of people receiving health services, much of it free. Ask them what has made the difference and they will tell you it is the allowances they are receiving from an organisation funded by DIFID - the aid arm of the British Government. The Ambassador is personally responsible for this initiative where they are trying to help us retain staff in the medical field. I spoke to the CEO of the Bank that handles these payments and they did not even know that the millions of dollars they were handling came mainly from the UK.

By slandering and abusing these men you are failing in your duty as Editor of the largest daily in Zimbabwe to tell the truth and to work for the people who pay your salary. But more than that, you fail to recognise their unsung efforts for our country and our people. You make it more difficult for the dedicated men and women who work for these diplomatic missions and who are trying to do their best to support us as a nation.

You must know that key decision makers in many capitals will have read this piece of writing in your newspaper. It will have been read by Susan Rice at the United Nations, by the new Under Secretary of State for Africa - himself a former Ambassador to Harare and a black American like James McGee. It makes Tendai Bitiís job in Washington this week that much more difficult. It makes Elton Mangomaís task in Holland less achievable this weekend.

Donors from foreign lands are today spending US$3 million a DAY in Zimbabwe. In January, the total tax receipts of the Zimbabwe government were US$4 million. In 2009 foreign donors, led by dedicated Ambassadors like Jim McGee and Andrew Pocock, will match every dollar we pay in tax with a dollar raised from taxpayers in their own counties. Your actions in writing what you did last Wednesday put all of that in jeopardy. If I had been the Prime Minister on Wednesday morning, I would have called your Chairman and asked for your head. You owe your liberty to the fact that the Prime Minister is trying to make this thing work but believe me you are on borrowed time.

Eddie Cross
24th April 2009