Ex-Mugabe ally changes his tune
Since Mugabe fell out with Jonathan Moyo and fired him as information minister in February, Moyo has been giving caustic interviews and writing Internet columns while portraying himself as a reformer and champion of democracy.
"If this was a proper functioning democracy this government would have been kicked out long ago," Moyo said in a telephone interview last week from Harare, the Zimbabwe capital.
But although his change of tone deprives Mugabe of an articulate defender to increasingly hostile world opinion, Zimbabwe's main opposition hasn't welcomed him as an ally. Moyo's critics say he isn't portraying himself as a leopard that changed its spots, but as one that never had any to begin with.
He is remembered as a hard-line member of Mugabe's inner circle -- destroyer of press freedom and a force behind repressive new security laws that outlawed basic freedoms of association and speech.
When Colin Powell, then-U.S. secretary of state, spoke of tyranny in Zimbabwe, Moyo called him a liar and "an Uncle Tom."
As information minister, critics say, he ordered the arrest of journalists critical of the government and the expulsion of foreign correspondents. He closed independent newspapers and broadcasters, at times in clear defiance of court orders.
Human rights and media-monitoring groups say much of the propaganda carried by state media on Moyo's orders incited hatred and prejudice against government critics, the main opposition party, whites and other minorities.
An amateur musician, Moyo ordered state broadcasters to run his jingles and songs praising the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms.
When Mugabe's ZANU-PF party was accused of using food aid to reward supporters and deprive opponents, Moyo vehemently denied it. Now he says it's true. He used to defend the legality of government actions. Now he says Zimbabwean authorities abandoned the rule of law, obeying the courts only when it suited them.
"It is an insult to all of us that he should try to deny that he was part of the system," said Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the Broad Alliance, a coalition of civic and opposition groups.
But Moyo does deny it, claiming he has been falsely accused when in fact he was part of a reformist circle within the party.
"I have always been a critic of government policy. I was in government for more than five years. Before that I was a critic. Within the government I was a critic, pushing for reform and always at odds with power brokers within the party," said Moyo.
Nonsense, Madhuku said in a telephone interview Friday. "There is no group of reformers within ZANU-PF. If there was, they would have shown their true colors by now. No one who believes in democracy could be part of a party that carried out Operation Murambatsvina, kills people and refuses food to people when they are dying."
Operation Murambatsvina, or "drive out trash," entailed the demolition of shanty towns that left at least 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood. A U.N. report called it a "disastrous venture" that broke international law.
Moyo, 48, is a University of Southern California graduate from a family that was active in the struggle that ended white minority rule of the former British colony and brought Mugabe to power in 1980.
He fell out with Mugabe over the president's moves to appoint a deputy and possible successor, and was fired when he announced he was running in the March election as an independent. Now the only independent in the legislature, he calls for a "third way," advocating a new party of clean government while denying he seeks to lead it.
If 81-year-old Mugabe stays in power, Moyo predicted, the country will descend into chaos and bloody revolt.
"Zimbabweans are going through the worst crisis in memory. No one is living today who can remember life as difficult as it is now," he said. "We have 80 percent of the people living below the poverty line, 75 percent unemployment and three-digit inflation."
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