- April 2005





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A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation


Mumbled excuses

Saturday 30th April 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
There has not been a single day in the last week when we have had uninterrupted supplies of both water and electricity in Marondera town. The water cuts are unexpected and unexplained and trying to find anyone in authority prepared to talk about the problem, the reason or the expected duration, is a complete waste of time.

In other parts of the country the water situation has reached crisis proportions. According to even the state owned television news, there are now densely populated areas of Harare which have had no water for two weeks. On Thursday night ZBC TV news showed shocking film footage of scores of desperate urban people crowding around a shallow and unprotected well waiting their turn to fill containers from a clouded pool of water. It is an untenable situation and there are reports that some schools are now having to close less than a fortnight into the winter term as there is simply no water.

The electricity cuts are now regular occurrences and invariably at times when demand is at its highest. A casual telephone enquiry about the power cuts to the local electricity offices this week resulted in a flustered employee who was clearly taken by surprise when actually asked to explain why there was no power. Some stuttered and mumbled excuses about insufficient maintenance, no money for spares and no foreign currency were eventually proffered but it wasn't convincing. "What about the hydro electricity we produce at Kariba?" I asked, "the generators powered by the coal we mine at Hwange?" I questioned, but there were no answers and you could almost hear the man squirming on the phone. Everyone in positions of authority in this country, no matter at what level, now seems to take it for granted that they will not be held answerable or accountable and so they stutter and mumble and use the standard Zimbabwean excuse saying "I am not the one".

Marondera, like every other town and city across the country has completely run out of fuel this week and there is a feeling of both panic and anger at this disgraceful state of affairs.Shortages of basic food products such as sugar, salt, cooking oil, roller meal and margarine will now be exacerbated as deliveries dry up altogether with no fuel for trucks. Trying to find basic food in one huge wholesaler in Marondera this week, I started counting empty shelves but gave up when I got to 72. I was simply looking for foods we produce in Zimbabwe like sugar, pasta and cooking oil but my search and counting of empty shelves was just too absurd and I left. And, all this in the same week as Zimbabwe took delivery of two new Chinese passenger planes and was chosen to sit on the UN Human Rights Commission for the next three years. The hypocrisy and absurdity of it all, is overwhelming.
Until next week, love cathy.

Not even smoke

Saturday 23rd April 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Things have deteriorating noticeably in Zimbabwe in the three weeks since the ruling party declared they had won the elections. Prices have shot up, basic foodstuffs are becoming harder and harder to find and the fuel supply is sporadic. Water from taps has become a luxury and the state owned television this week gave us a long story to explain that as winter approaches electricity cuts are going to be regular occurrences.

This week the MDC finally gave up their prolonged diplomatic game and openly declared that the South Africans were not honest brokers in mediating in the Zimbabwean crisis. They said that it was now apparent that the South African stance of "Quiet Diplomacy" was in a reality just a "package of lies and pretence." The statement of this sad fact and an end to the nonsensical diplomatic pretence, comes as a relief to Zimbabweans. We had watched with shock and disgust the line taken by the SABC TV news presenter reporting from Zimbabwe during the election period and few people believed they had remained impartial.

Zimbabweans feel so utterly betrayed by our African neighbours and at least now the talk has become straightforward and to the point. By all accounts there are probably less than 20 or 30 000 white people left in Zimbabwe and it is matter of continental shame that our regional neighbours cannot and will not see the suffering of 11 million ordinary people but choose to keep on and on hiding behind the now 25 year old "colonialist" scapegoat

It is very hard to be optimistic about anything at the moment but there is a joke doing the rounds which is particularly appropriate as we hurtle backwards into the dark ages. Using a stick, an old shoelace and a bent paper clip a hungry man crafts a crude fishing rod and goes down to try his luck at the river. Against all the odds he manages to catch a small fish and he hurries home to his wife with the first meat they've seen for weeks. He asks his wife to grill the fish immediately but she says she can't because they are having an extended power cut. Then he suggests that she uses the paraffin stove instead and poaches the fish but she can't do that either because there is no paraffin in the country for the stove. The man goes off to collect firewood and says now they can fry the fish but that is also impossible because there is neither margarine nor cooking oil in the country. In despair, the hungry man suggests they simply boil the fish but that too is impossible as there is no water in the taps. Resigned to just smoking the fish on an open fire, the hungry man bends to light the sticks but cannot even do that as the country even ran out of matches this week. In disgust he gets up, grabs the fish and takes it back to the river. The fish slides into the water and turns back to wave a fin at the hungry man and says: " Well, you voted for them."
Until next week, with love, cathy.

Warming the same seat

Saturday 16th April 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
On lamp posts, telephone poles, street signs, walls and trees in Marondera town, the tattered remnants of Zimbabwe's election have not been cleared away a fortnight after the event. Ninety nine percent of the posters advertise the ruling party and say: "We are proud to be Zimbabweans on our land" but to the hundreds of unemployed young men who sit on walls and pavements around the town, the words offer no comfort.

For two days this week large parts of Marondera town have had no water or just an explosive air lock followed by a rusty trickle and it has become common to see women walking with 20 litre plastic drums on their heads going to find water so that they can cook food, wash clothes and keep their children clean. I am sure that these women draw little comfort from the incessant propaganda about "our land". Urban women, living in towns like Marondera with a population of almost a million people, suddenly find themselves having to revert to practices common to their mothers and grandmothers who lived in remote rural areas of the country. It is a sad indictment of a country which celebrates 25 years of independence this week.

A fortnight after the election there is no maize meal, sugar, salt or eggs in Marondera's shops so there can't be many mums and housewives getting solace from the posters about "our land." For a brief moment there was a little buzz of interest this week at the opening of parliament. That excitement didn't last long though because the House opened and even though some of the Zanu PF MP's had lost their constituencies in the election, they regained their places when they were appointed by the President using his 30 reserved parliamentary seats. The House opened, the MP's were sworn in and then, with one swift "The Ayes have it", Parliament was adjourned to the 28th of June - a long two months away. President Mugabe announced his new Cabinet this week and that too has almost no changes, offers no inspiration and promises yet more of the same. Even the Minister of Agriculture who hasn't been able to secure food for the people for the last four years is still warming the same seat in Zimbabwe's sixth parliament.

Perhaps the only thing that really caused a stir this week was the news that six new fighter jets have arrived in the country - in defence of "our land" no doubt.
Until next time, with love, cathy.

Been there, done that

Saturday 9th April 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Feelings of despair and disbelief persist a week after Zimbabwe's elections. I still have a faint pink stain on the sides and under the nail of the little finger of my left hand. This is a remnant of the ink which was used to mark me as having voted and when I look at the stain now, I can hardly believe how quickly elation and hope were replaced with anger and betrayal as the results were announced. Every day since the elections the state have crowed about peace, democracy and political maturity but they have said nothing about 3 million Zimbabweans living outside the country who were not allowed to vote or a tenth of the voters inside the country who were turned away when they got to polling stations on the 31st March. Every news bulletin begins with a countdown of how many days are left before the 25th anniversary of independence and democracy in the country but then the reports that follow do not tell of the 257 unarmed women of WOZA who were arrested for praying nor why such an act was indicative of, in their words, "a mature democracy".

In the week that followed the election result, the huge sense of disappointment has been almost too much to bear. The MDC took many days to find their voices and when they did it was to say they had evidence showing massive electoral fraud and figures which displayed huge numerical discrepancies in more than 30 constituencies. The government of course dispute the claims and the bulk of the South African observers had already made their claims of peace and freedom and so nothing has changed, we have heard all this before, been there, done that and got the T shirt. None of this gives ordinary Zimbabweans hope. Neither the outrage of the MDC nor the arrogant crowing of Zanu PF has done a thing to actually help ordinary Zimbabweans this week. It hasn't put medicines back in hospitals, kids back in schools, food on our tables or clothes on our backs. In the last seven days since the elections the prices of basic goods have increased by between 50 and 100%. Margarine, sugar and cooking oil have disappeared from the shelves and petrol queues have started again.

Across the country many thousands of people made so many sacrifices this last fortnight, giving so much and showing such courage as they worked for democracy and now the feeling of betrayal is palpable. Along with millions of others, I watched the funeral of Pope John Paul the second this week and his life long call to oppressed people to not be afraid is most apt for Zimbabweans struggling to see hope and light this week.
Love cathy.

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