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
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
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 Biti's job in Washington this week that much more difficult. It
makes Elton Mangoma's 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.
24th April 2009