Saturday 28th April 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
Having spent three weeks in a civilized country south of Zimbabwe, I must admit
that there were many things that made me not want to come home. Food was one
thing - its existence, huge variety and consistent pricing. Money was another
thing - coins that are actually worth something, bank notes that don't have
expiry dates printed on them and money that keeps its value from one week to the
next.Then there was the freedom of the media with abundant newspaper and radio
stations with criticism and debate encouraged. There was the joy of petrol
stations that always had fuel and of being able to travel freely without
incessant road blocks and police checks. Even little things like public toilets
that were fit for use by human beings, water that was safe to drink from a tap,
street signs that haven't been stolen and dustbins being emptied - all were
cause for stares of amazement.
For three weeks my eyes were open wide and slowly it began to sink in just how
utterly shocking everything in Zimbabwe has become. We have all been so busy
trying to survive the horrors that not only have we forgotten how a country
should work but also how to demand that
officials paid with our taxes do our bidding and not their own.
Crossing the border back into Zimbabwe there were just three people in the
queue. On the other side of the counter at least 60 Zimbabweans were jostling to
get out of the country. I knew I was home within minutes of leaving the border
post. Deep potholes litter the highways; cows, donkeys and goats have right of
way and there are no roadside fences. Road markings have worn away, cat's eyes
in the tar have gone and sign posts have been stolen.
But it was good to be home and the scenery this time of year is exquisite.
Baobab trees in full leaf, crowds of yellow flowers in the dry bush and eagles
soaring in the skies. The names of dry, dusty places conjure up images that can
only be of Zimbabwe: Bubye, Nuanetsi, Sosonye, Mwenezi and Mount Guhudza. In the
middle of nowhere there are always bottle stores: The "Try Again Bottle Store"
caught my eye - a shabby little building, surrounded by red dust, women trying
to sell water melons and men sitting drinking beer in the middle of the morning.
This for sure is home!
Breaking the journey at one stage and in the middle of nowhere, two young
teenage girls appeared.
"Hello," I called out, "How are you?"
"Hello," they answered, " we are eating!"
One girl opened her hand to reveal a dozen shiny black berries. "Take them" she
said, "you are welcome." I thanked her and took two. She told me they were
called Subvu and I gave her some peppermints in exchange. We all clapped our
hands in thanks and the girls went away giggling. Instantly I was overcome with
emotion and patriotism. In a land where hunger is rampant, in a country with the
lowest life expectancy in the world, two young girls would offer me a mouthful
of their food. Where else could I be except at home and this is the Zimbabwe
that everyone knows and loves. Later I found that the berries are from the
Mutsubvu tree and also called Chocolate berries.
The grim reality of being back home came soon. On the bottom of the
electricity bill waiting for me when I got home were the words: "Tariff
increased by 350% effective 1 April ."
I thank the two young girls on the roadside for making me feel welcome , and my
mum for writing her letter 'from the diaspora' these past three weeks and
keeping the news current.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
A Letter from the diaspora.
Saturday 21th April 2007
Dear Friends. Londoners have a saying, 'You have to laugh.' It refers to situations that could be described as tragi-comic, where laughter is the only recourse which will save you from downright heartbreak and tragedy. In other words, you have to laugh or you will weep.
Zimbabwe is like that. Sometimes, when you listen to the ministers and top cops defending the indefensible, you simply don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is this man serious you ask yourself. Can he really mean what he's saying or is he so brain-dead that he no longer knows the difference between sense and nonsense.
Last week it was Kemba Mohadi in an interview with SW Radio Africa that was pure slapstick. Tears of mirth at the utter stupidity of the man as he denies the sickening brutality going on all over the country. He doesn't even make excuses; he simply denies the evidence! An estimated six hundred people beaten and bruised, two murders and parrot-like the Minister repeats ' Not true, not true.' You have to laugh!
This week it's the Department of Statistics trying to find ways of NOT telling us the true rate of inflation in the country. At first, we were told that there would be a delay while 'the technical glitches were ironed out'. We all know what that means; it's called 'massaging the figures' After the rate for February shot up to over 1730%, it was patently obvious that the government simply hadn't a clue what to do about it. There was no way they could disguise the fact that the country was in hyper-inflation with the rate probably nearer 2.500%. But you know what? It doesn't really matter whether they tell us or not. Zimbabweans don't need statistics to explain their desperate poverty as they struggle to put even one meal a day on the table. It's not statistics the people need, it's solutions.
Today I read the latest excuse from the Dept of Statistics is that their computers have a virus! And we all know what the virus is called, don't we? It's the Zanu PF virus and there is no known cure for this deadly condition except total eradication in free and fair elections. This virus clearly affects the whole body politic but particularly the brain function where powers of reason and logical thought are seriously impaired, if not destroyed forever. How else could otherwise normal human beings talk such blatant nonsense?
Look back over the last seven years and remember some of the excuses these brain dead officials have come up with; the failure of Zesa to deliver electricity was caused by a naughty monkey tampering with the transformer, it was obviously an imperialist primate imported from Blair's Britain; the food shortages that were just not going to happen because the then Agriculture Minister Made had flown over the country and seen for himself the flourishing harvest - of grass! Read the Herald or listen to ZBC and you will find dozens of similar examples of Zanu PF idiocy. You have to laugh!
It all reminds me of my favourite homework story. The village boy who says he was crossing the flooded river on his way to school when a crocodile leapt from the raging waters and devoured his homework. Result: the whole class and the teacher collapse in side-splitting mirth. But, and here's the rub, the boy still gets punished - and he still has to do his homework. So these brain dead Zanies can invent as many nonsensical excuses as they like, no one believes them. And in the end they will have to pay for their criminal stupidity... What goes around comes around!
This is my last Letter from the Diaspora. The Litany Bird will return to her nest next week; let's hope she finds it as she left it.
Keep smiling through the tears, Zimbabwe. We shall overcome.
Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
A Letter from the diaspora.
Saturday 14th April 2007
The South African papers over the Easter weekend were full of comment and analysis of how Thabo Mbeki was going to tackle the problem of Zimbabwe and what particular hurdles he might face in dealing with Mugabe. It was pretty much agreed that it was not going to be easy for the South African President to influence Robert Mugabe. Demonising him as just another crazed African dictator is not helpful; the truth is that Mugabe is a complex and enigmatic character who inspires both fear and respect. It is sometimes hard to remember when one hears the claims of near-deity from some of his followers, that Mugabe is human with ordinary human as well as political problems.
Reports that Mugabe had flown off to Malaysia to spend Easter with Grace and the children combined with a piece in the British tabloid The Sun that the trip was intended 'to rescue his marriage' set me thinking. Then, last week's Zimbabwean carried a story which suggested that Grace had been out of Zimbabwe since the middle of March, supposedly on a business trip. According to usually 'reliable' sources, Grace had gone off in a huff after a disagreement with her husband over the country's political situation and his stated intention to contest the 2008 election.
At first glance it seemed no more than salacious gossip, irrelevant to the current political crisis in the country but the story might have more significance than at first appears. Consider the facts; Grace is Mugabe's second wife, the mother of his children and some forty years younger than her 83 year old husband. Over the years Zimbabweans have consistently dismissed her as unintelligent, greedy and a shopaholic whose only interest is in being First Lady with all the privileges and power that entails. Her public appearances have shown her unsmiling, generally behind large dark glasses and seemingly completely bored with whatever ceremony is taking place. Such is her public persona; if indeed Grace is 'just in it for the money' then it seems curious that she is opposed to her husband staying in office where she can continue to enjoy all the perks that go with his job - despite the occasional boredom.
I tried putting myself in Grace's expensive shoes and I think it must be quite an uncomfortable place to be! She must know that her husband is the most feared man in the country, she can't move around freely, her life is not her own and she can never be quite sure that she or her children are safe. 'Well,' you might answer, ' She knew that when she married him'. Ah, but she didn't know then - none of us did - that the country would descend to near bankruptcy, lawlessness and violence. I am certainly not suggesting that Grace deserves our sympathy; what I am saying is that perhaps, her state of mind may have some relevance in the current stalemate. Here's an 83 year old man who has enjoyed absolute power for 27 years. As his wife, Grace has never been loved, by her husband or the people in the way Sally Mugabe was and she must know that. Mugabe's personality, characterised as it is by arrogance and messianic self-delusion, is such that he is never going to admit it's time for him to go. As the wife of the President of a pariah state, Grace has very little to look forward to and maybe that's why she wants him to 'take the gap' now - before it's too late and she is the wife of a convicted war criminal.
Will this have any effect on Robert Mugabe? Is it possible that his young wife's opinion will have any sway with him or will his stubborn desire to remain in power for life combined with his fear of prosecution prove stronger than the desire to save his marriage? Whichever way you look at it the truth is that Mugabe is beset with problems – personal and religious. He is a practising Catholic and last weekend the Roman Catholic Bishops' Pastoral Letter was forthright in its condemnation of the violence being meted out on the opposition. Mugabe's ministers may deny that the violence is happening – Kemba Mohadi's recent interview on SW Radio was yet another laughable example of ministerial idiocy - and Mugabe himself may claim that the onslaught is justified because the opposition are no better than terrorists. But when even his wife and his Church are acutely uncomfortable with his behaviour, perhaps the old man will be forced to listen before it's too late? Miracles do happen!
Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH
Outside Looking In
A letter from the Diaspora
Good friday 6th April 2007
I checked 'diaspora' in the dictionary and it's defined as ' A dispersion, as of people originally belonging to one nation.' Zimbabweans have certainly spread all over the world. Between three and four million people, black brown and white have left the motherland and are scattered through Africa, Europe and North America. That fact more than any other tells you there must be something seriously wrong at home.
Like so many others I am here in the United Kingdom. I have been here just over two years now, watching events at home and wondering if the suffering for the Zimbabwean people will ever end. Sometimes I think it's almost worse to watch from the outside knowing that there seems to be absolutely nothing one can do except weep for Zimbabwe and respond as best one can to the desperate requests for pounds.
The news this week that fourteen SADCC states had refused to condemn Mugabe's brutality against his own people was not unexpected but it was very depressing. Placed alongside the horrific pictures of Zimbabweans beaten and tortured in police cells it highlighted the shocking hypocrisy of the African leaders. When he got home from the SADCC meeting Mugabe boasted that he had not received condemnation from one single country. He added, ' Of course, he (Tsvangirai) was bashed. He deserved it. I told the police 'beat him a lot' He and his MDC must stop their terrorist activities.' That statement sounds even more shocking when we hear it from thousands of miles away; this is the President of the country we call home.
But this time in exile need not be completely wasted. We can learn something from the experience. The one advantage we have of living in a country with a (relatively) free press is that we can see how the rest of the world covers 'our'story. Possibly because there has never been a completely free press in Zimbabwe, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand the power of the media in a democratic society. We need to do whatever it takes to keep Zimbabwe in the news; whether it's the activism demonstrated by the Zim Vigil or the Free Zim youths or something less active, we can all keep the issue alive.
Personally, I write letters to newspapers, MPs, radio and TV editors and anyone else I can think of to air the Zim question. I also keep newspaper cuttings, records of Zimbabwe's human rights abuses carried in newspapers all over the world. There are names of victims and perpetrators and sometimes even the precise locations where the abuses occurred. One day my overflowing cuttings box may provide just a part of the evidence to bring the wrong doers to justice. You know what they say, 'What goes around comes around'!
Last week the media here was full of pictures of two once bitter enemies Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sitting peaceably together at a news conference. Paisley, of course, is the man who said he would never, never, never sit down with the IRA - remember Ian Smith said that Africans would never never never rule in Zimbabwe! You'll remember too that Mugabe says he'll never, never, never sit down with Tsvangirai. It seems unlikely that Thabo Mbeki is the man to persuade Mugabe otherwise. Since Mugabe got home from the SADCC meeting he has unleashed an orgy of violence against the people – and Mbeki hasn't said a word.
But miracles do happen, look at Northern Ireland! Perhaps there's hope that even Robert Mugabe will one day have to accept the inevitable. Sure, he seems all-powerful at the moment. He can beat the hell out of his opponents and tell the world they deserved it because they are 'terrorists, he can fiddle around with the economy and blame the collapse on sanctions, he can rig the elections, he can con other African leaders into supporting him because of his 'liberation credentials' but there's one thing not even Robert Mugabe can do. He cannot make the people love him again. And Robert Mugabe is a man who likes to be liked. He may deny there is crisis in Zimbabwe but the fact that the SADCC conference took place at all is evidence that Mugabe's powers of persuasion are fading. His once loyal African brothers have admitted, if only to themselves, that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe can't seem to see that, he prefers to live in the past when everyone loved him . 'I have 83 year of struggle, experience and resilience. I cannot be pushed over,' he boasts. To me that sounds like delusions of grandeur; perhaps Morgan Tsvangirai is right when he says; the man needs a psychiatrist!
More next week.
Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH.
|Buy African Tears
Ebook online for only $9.95!!