Sunday Mail gives Jonathan Moyo rope with which to hang himself over Wikileaks

Sep 11, 2011

In its aggressively and slavishly pro-ZANU role the Sunday Mail is usually blunt and heavy-handed to the point of being counter-productive at winning over people to the side of its political masters. The arguments and propaganda are so often overdone that they make one laugh and shake one's head in disbelief. So it was with great surprise that one observes the clever subtlety with which the paper let the infamous Jonathan Moyo further embarrass himself over the epic Wikileaks tale. The paper allowed him to attempt to play analyst of leaked U.S.diplomatic cables in which he features in unflattering light, and to explain his justification for behavior he has ridiculed others for. We all embarrass ourselves at some time or other, but most wise people capable of feeling shame either humbly own up, or lie low and keep quiet, or all three.

On several internet forums there have been questions about where the usually voluble Moyo was during these last few weeks. The newspapers that are experts at ZANU-PF factional stories have often prominently associated Moyo with one of the party's claimed factions, of which the late Solomon Mujuru was said to lead one. So it has been surprising that in their claim to have the ear of 'senior officials close to Mugabe,' the country's leading factional writers have not sought to find out Moyo's take on Mujuru's death, and add that to the growing archive of speculation/guessing about what it does or does not mean to ZANU-PF, The Succession Issue and to how the world spins in general.

Zimbabwe's worldwide-scattered media is almost universally hostile to Jonathan Moyo, grudges carried over from when he was a very harsh minister of information. So it was with great relish that many newspapers and websites carried headlines like 'Jonathan Moyo hypocrisy on Wikileaks exposed,' 'WikiLeaks exposes Jonathan Moyo’s fickle ZANU PF loyalty,' and 'Jonathan Moyo advised U.S. on ZANU-PF sanctions list.' Another rather over the top headline was 'Moyo plan to oust Mugabe exposed by Wikileaks.'

It is difficult to keep track of the number of times Moyo has been alternatively close to and a member of ZANU-PF as well as impassioned Mugabe defender, and when he has been estranged from ZANU-PF and also Mugabe's harshest critic. He has been all over the place, keeping him in the limelight and always entertaining followers of politics with his serial flip-flopping, but enjoying the respect of very few, at least in the media.

When Wikileaks first brought the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables to light, MDC leader and coalition government prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's closeness to the Americans in a rather subservient role attracted Moyo's biting scorn.

''The narrative about the MDC-T's treachery is official, '' wrote Moyo then. ''The MDC-T is indeed a puppet party actively organised and run by operatives of the U.S. government who have been holding its dirty hand on behalf of the colonially hamstrung British government for the purpose of effecting illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.''

On and on Moyo went about how bad the cables made the MDC look, which was largely true. But now it has emerged that more-nationalist-than-thou Moyo himself went to the Americans and said unflattering things about his party (for the moment) ZANU-PF and its leader Mugabe! Moyo has until now been acting uncharacteristically shy about explaining the apparent contradiction of attacking Tsvangirai and the MDC for talking to the U.S. embassy officials when he had done so himself, several times, as the newly released cables reveal.

An unconfirmed report said that Moyo had refused to be interviewed about his Wikileaked statements, even by the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Service, which he is usually happy to give a quote or catchy sound bite to. Fans and detractors alike wondered what could have suddenly turned Moyo quiet, modest and retiring! (He eventually found something clever to say to ZBC.)

Moyo has finally emerged from his rather long silence. But rather than come out swinging, he does so with a damp squib of a Sunday Mail article with the heading Wikileaks a blessing in disguise. Given everything that has gone before, one is tempted to burst out laughing at this heading. Is this the Sunday Mail editor  making a fool out of poor Moyo? How could the saga that seems to finally confirm that Moyo is a flip flopper par excellence be a 'blessing' from his perspective? One was eager to read the article to find out.

Moyo is always verbose and long-winded, but the 87-word long first sentence of his article was a bit much, even for him. It was an early indication that perhaps our intrepid writer-analyst was under unusual stress, which would be understandable given the Wiki-furore. Cruelly, the sub-editor published that atrocious first sentence, and several more like it, in their full length. Could this have been a sneaky plot by the Sunday Mail to make an already under pressure, publicly shamed and embarrassed Moyo look even worse? Was it an evil plot to make fun of Moyo? What happened to the age old practice of brushing up a contributor's submission to make it presentable and readable?

Moyo mentioned ''spending an average of 18 hours a day between August 30 and last Friday sifting through the staggering record of the published cables.'' The boastful irrelevance of this revelation, in the midst of another marathon sentence, further added to the impression that the man was off his game.

He then goes on to give the reader the benefit of the analysis of his 18 hour-a-day pouring over the Wikileaked cables. There were gems like how the U.S.diplomatic cables ''showed that between 1998 and 2008 there was a formidable and rising “Mugabe must go” campaign across the political divide.'' Such a deep political insight! Especially when one considers that one didn't need to spend 18 hours a day reading American embassy cables to know this! That sentiment was expressed by many Zimbabweans in many newspapers, on buses, at parties, you name it.

Moyo is now inextricably part of the leaked cables narrative, as himself a 'leaker' of information/insights to the Americans he so often caustically, bitterly attacks. One therefore marvels at the gall of Moyo trying to continue to pose as media analyst of those same cables! Is there not an inherent conflict of interest? It is like one of the ZIFA football officials named in match-fixing allegations then writing a critique of the hanky panky in which s/he is accused of taking part!

Moyo usually has interesting if sometimes outlandish interpretations of events, so many people read him with great interest, although some also with loathing. But on this occasion and on this issue, he arguably needs to give up the role of analyst to those who are not involved in the way he has become. All one wanted to know is if and how he would defend himself against the widespread charges of being an utter hypocrite for attacking others for acts/behavior he took part in/exhibited as well.

Moyo eventually gets around to that, after continuing for a while with the charade of playing analyst. Charade not because his insights are not interesting, but because his exposed involvement in talking to U.S. embassy officials, and what he said to them, require that as an involved party he withdraw from analysing a saga that he can no longer possibly cast himself as objective about.

How does Moyo attempt to absolve himself of the accusations of two-timing and hypocrisy? By trying, and failing miserably, to portray himself as having talked to US embassy officials about inner ZANU-PF matters only in order to ''establish that the US and the UK governments have no faith in Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T and were readily willing to ditch him in favour of either Simba Makoni or Strive Masiyiwa or even Gideon Gono!''

There you have it; Moyo was on a one man, self-appointed reconnaissance mission! On whose behalf he does not say, although his meetings with the U.S.embassy staff ''that took place between March 30 2005 and September 18 2007'' were during a time he was estranged from ZANU-PF. This has led some some to suspect that in bitterness, he then went to ''sell out'' ZANU-PF's inner workings, or his perception and interpretation of them, to officials of the embassy of a foreign government he knew ZANU-PF officially considered as hostile to it. Hence Moyo's awkward efforts to squirm out of the tight corner of suspicion in which he is under by the ZANU-PF he has since gravitated back to, at least in membership if not in true spirit.

To repeat and emphasize his justification for his ''direct and intense conversations with US diplomats,'' Moyo writes, ''It was very important to know directly from U.S. diplomats in Harare that their government and the British government and their European allies have no confidence whatsoever in Tsvangirai and his MDC’s capacity to govern Zimbabwe and that they see him and his party only as a convenient strategic nuisance to use for campaign purposes during elections and nothing more.''

Moyo clutches at then U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell's written and now leaked caution to his bosses that Moyo's mission might have been “to gauge U.S. government . . . commitment to Tsvangirai.” That guess by a suspicious Dell about Moyo's possible motivation for meeting his staff now fits in nicely with Moyo's need to explain those awkward meetings. It is not impossible of course, but it seems very strange and unlikely that ZANU-PF would for such a mission choose to send an emissary who himself describes the period in question as one in which he was ''exiled from ZANU-PF.''

In any case, what is the quality and the importance of the revelation Moyo describes as being 'very important to know directly from U.S. diplomats in Harare' about their lack of confidence in Tsvangirai and his party?  If the at-that-time ZANU/PF-exiled Moyo then took that bit of 'intelligence' back to his estranged party, would there have been anyone who would have (1) believed him or (2) taken that as information important enough to base a change in election or other tactics on?

When Moyo claims his purported information-gathering meetings with the U.S. officials established that they saw the MDC as nothing more than a strategic nuisance during elections, that needs more explanation. How does that conclusion of his tally with the extent of the MDC's electoral support at the time?

The 2008 election resulted in the MDC winning half of the parliamentary seats, and by Tsvangirai's share of the presidential vote forcing the run off election he then later pulled out of. Say what you will about Tsvangirai and the MDC, but those are hardly the results of 'a nuisance during elections and nothing more!'

Even in the pre-election period during which the U.S. officials met with Moyo, the extent of the MDC's support, especially in urban areas, would have been apparent to them or any other close observer of Zimbabwe's politics. As the elections then proved, that support was far greater than can be dismissed in the  'electoral nuisance' terms in which he claims the Americans regarded Tsvangarai and his party.

Therefore, either the Americans' voter-sentiment intelligence was way off, although all they would have had to do was just listen to the general talk on the street to accurately gauge it. Or a certain somebody's present explanation of what the Americans thought then is simply false. Perhaps they misled him by telling him what they suspected he wanted to hear! That way if he was indeed a mole from ZANU-PF, as Dell speculated, he would then have gone to feed whoever might have sent him to fish for information with mis-information instead.

Moyo fails to pull off his analyst role in this article because of his close involvement. That involvement  includes his awkward imputation that others who spoke to the Americans had less than noble reasons for doing so, while his were a type of patriotic national service! One almost feels sorry for Moyo; to struggle so hard to come up with a justification, and yet fail to convince so miserably.

Inexplicably letting Moyo ramble on in this embarrassing way in his attempted self-defense was bad enough. Worse than this, the sneaky, clever Sunday Mail turns the dagger in with a separate opinion piece in the same edition, headed What Wikileaks tells us about US.

Among the views expressed in it are the following, which seemed particularly priceless when juxtaposed to Moyo's miserable attempt at exculpation:

''Hypocrites are everywhere. All political parties have their fair share of people who indicate left but turn right. They shout slogans in public, but bad-mouth their parties in private.''

Who could these hypocrites be? No names are mentioned, which somehow makes this charge more devastating, because of how it makes the reader think of who fits this description for himself/herself, especially after having read Moyo's pathetic article.   

''Mental slavery is still alive: A good 31 years after Zimbabwe’s hard-won independence, there are very senior politicians in this country who worship western governments. All along, the public assumption was that imperialist treachery is the lifeblood of the MDC formations. But it is stunning to suddenly discover, through WikiLeaks, that some very senior people in Zanu-PF are consorting with the West and actively subverting our sovereignty. Your friend can be more dangerous than your enemy. Unthinkable alliances can be forged behind the party leader’s back, raising serious questions over matters of betrayal and loyalty,'' wenton the Sunday mail article.

One of the lessons of Wikileaks is that in politics and international diplomacy, nothing is quite what it seems. With that in mind, could these two Wikileaks articles in the Sunday Mail, ostensibly not directly related to each other, be the paper's clever way of delivering a one-two punch? Is it a way of allowing somebody to try to build himself up; observing him publicly, miserably and humiliatingly failing to do so, actually sinking deeper into the mud of his own creation, and then finishing him off with another blow of an article?

There are times when one's position is so tricky the best thing is to lie low, keep quiet and stay out of sight while one considers measures that might really extricate oneself from the mess, rather than suck you in even more.

The Zimbabwe Review


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