THE TRUTH ABOUT ZIMBABWE
News - February 2007


   

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OTHER LETTERS:

A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


OTHER REPORTS:

Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

QUICK LINKS:
THE ZIMBABWEAN
SW RADIO AFRICA
Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation

OTHER LETTERS:

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?


Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


QUICK LINKS:
THE ZIMBABWEAN
Daily News
Zim Independant
The Standard
Financial Gazette
Human Rights Forum
ZW News

 

Winds of change

Saturday 24th February 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
For the last hour a steady trickle of people have walked past my home, in pairs and small groups. Many women are in bright red church uniforms, all have scarves covering their heads, some have shawls and blankets over their shoulders. They are going to the nearby cemetery. A small blue, dilapidated pick-up truck goes past, a red flag hanging sodden from a wing mirror. It is the only vehicle and is laden with mourners perched precariously on the edges of the back, the coffin lying in the middle, at their feet. It is raining intermittently, the wind is gusting and we are drawing breath from the advance storm winds of Cyclone Favio. There are leaves and branches strewn on the roads and between the blasts of wind come the sounds of the funeral. Singing, clapping, drumming, ululating and blowing of a horn. This is a very familiar picture of life in Zimbabwe this February 2007. It is a picture of real, ordinary people in the country with the highest inflation in the world and the lowest life expectancy.

This picture is a world away from the live coverage of President Mugabe's 83rd birthday celebrations being shown on television as I write. The live coverage was prominently advertised but something went badly wrong. This was "live" coverage Zimbabwe Television style: it began an hour later than advertised without excuse or apology; lasted for an hour without an appearance of the President and then stopped without excuse or apology - altogether! In the hour that there was coverage I saw a massive white tent on a stadium sports field. Chairs covered in white, decorated with gold sashes. Hundreds of people wearing red sashes around their necks - an interesting choice of colour: the same as the church women at the funeral, the same as the colour of the opposition MDC! Two young teenagers were commentating - children who were not born or even thought about when President Mugabe came to power 27 years ago. Children who have never known any other leader, never seen any other political party in power in their lives. Around the stadium grounds were printed banners which read: "Youth league says Mugabe for 2010" and "Succession politics not ouster politics please." There wasn't much else to see at that stage and no chance to see anything more as the 'live' coverage never came back. At the time of writing we can only assume that it was a cyclone that disrupted the broadcast.

Cyclones are a rare event in Zimbabwe and they seem to bring winds of change. Just a few months after Cyclone Eline in 2000 Zimbabwe's land invasions began and political and economic turmoil took hold. That was seven years ago and perhaps now Cyclone Favio may blow in new winds of change.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Stroll and patrol

Sunday 18th february 2007

Dear Family and Friends
Early these mornings the mist lies in thick blankets across the vleis, giving a surreal, dreamlike start to the February days. The tops of the Msasa trees with their twisting branches and low, spreading canopies are first to emerge from the mist as the sun comes up. Then the grassland, tall and gold now, with heavy, bursting seed heads comes into sight and the first birds appear. At this time of year the Paradise Whydahs are about early and the breeding males are wonderous to watch. Their flight is frantic and laboured, it has to be to carry their magnificent black tail feathers which are longer than their bodies. Tails which stream behind them in a spectacular display. Just spending a few minutes looking out at the beauty every morning has to be enough to give strength and courage to face another day in the disaster that has become life in Zimbabwe.

For a long time the analysts and commentators have been saying that it will be the economy that eventually brings an end to the situation in the country. I don't know if most of us ordinary Zimbabweans have understood what this would actually entail but recently we have all started learning very fast.

This week it was officially announced that inflation in January soared to 1593%. This staggering rise of over three hundred percent in one month, from December to January, has crippled us all and has made the situation in the country completely unsustainable. On Monday a friend priced a pair of work overalls and they were forty thousand dollars. On Wednesday, when he went with the cash to buy them, the price had gone up to seventy five thousand dollars.

None of us are able to cope with these sort of price increases and so we go without. We put the little money we have back in our pockets, not yet really understanding that we must spend it when we have it as its buying power is shrinking every day. It is a lesson we are learning fast and it is hard one because it contradicts principles of saving, careful spending and budgeting.

As the days pass and the deprivations increase, the discontent is rising and so too is the presence of police, army and Border Gezi youths on the streets. The air of intimidation and control is all around us. In just five blocks of a small town this week. I counted twenty eight police and army personnel in uniform. They stroll and patrol, on foot, bicycles and in open pick up trucks. At one supermarket there were between 250 and 300 people queuing for sugar. The line did not go to the front of the shop but to a back door where all these multitudes of people were being controlled by two scruffy youths wearing Zanu PF T shirts, two policemen and one soldier in army camouflage.....

From the sugar queues the police, army and Gezi youths go to the road blocks and from there to the scramble for fertilizer or the lines for maize meal. And everywhere you look the feeling is of the increasingly fragile hold on control. In this one week over 170 women from Woza were arrested for Valentine protests; teachers union leaders were arrested and 14 student union leaders were arrested. Seven years of misery are coming to a head.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Mixed messages

Saturday 10th February 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabweans have lost count of how many times we have been told that the country's land reform programme is over. At least twice a year for the past three years the statement has been regurgitated that it's over, it's done and the land is now re-distributed. At every ruling party event for the last two years, from birthday party's to annual conferences and from state funerals to political rallies, the posters have been there for all to see. Posters that say: "Now the land is ours!" or "The land is in our hands!"

It is, therefore, cause for enormous confusion to keep hearing that more farms are to be seized, more farmers and their employees are to be evicted and more food production is to be stopped. Mixed messages and confusion are the only constant aspects of Zimbabwe's agriculture seven years into the 21st century.

A week ago Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa said that farmers with the latest batch of 45 day eviction notices had to be off their properties by the 3rd of February. The Minister warned that: "those who resist leaving the farms will be arrested and face the full wrath of the law." The deadline came and went and then the Minister said : "We have, as a government, agreed to let them stay put and wind up their businesses, at least until harvest time."

Do you have to be a farmer to know that it just doesn't work like this? Farming isn't a 45 day business or a 90 day business. It's an ongoing process where plans are made at least a year in advance when it comes to row crops, two years in advance when it comes to livestock and five or more years in advance when it comes to specialist crops like fruit and nut trees. It seems that these basic agricultural facts, seven years down the line, continue to elude the men in the ministry.

This week we heard that Agriculture Minister Dr Made who has been at the forefront of the farm seizures has been shuffled out of his post and into something called the Ministry of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation. Since Dr Made blamed the shortage of fertilizer last winter on a monkey that broke an electricity transformer, perhaps now he will be in a more appropriate Ministry to prevent a recurrence.

By all accounts this summer cropping season has been a nightmare for farmers. With patchy rains, shortage of fertilizer, the wrong fertilizer, insufficient fuel for ploughing and hyper inflation it is nothing short of a miracle that our farmers have been able to grow any food this summer. In just three months time winter crops should be going in the ground but who in their right mind will plant wheat this May. A 45 day eviction notice may be served at any time; an arbitrary bloke off the road may arrive and say he has an "offer letter" from the government which gives him this farm or a mob may arrive and simply chase the farmer off.

In February 2000, when this all began a loaf of bread was just 20 dollars. Now that same loaf costs 840 dollars - or in reality it is actually 840 thousand dollars - before three zeroes were slashed from the currency. Tragically there is no mixed message in the price of a loaf of bread or the millions who can no longer afford it.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Mixed messages

Saturday 10th February 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabweans have lost count of how many times we have been told that the country's land reform programme is over. At least twice a year for the past three years the statement has been regurgitated that it's over, it's done and the land is now re-distributed. At every ruling party event for the last two years, from birthday party's to annual conferences and from state funerals to political rallies, the posters have been there for all to see. Posters that say: "Now the land is ours!" or "The land is in our hands!"

It is, therefore, cause for enormous confusion to keep hearing that more farms are to be seized, more farmers and their employees are to be evicted and more food production is to be stopped. Mixed messages and confusion are the only constant aspects of Zimbabwe's agriculture seven years into the 21st century.

A week ago Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa said that farmers with the latest batch of 45 day eviction notices had to be off their properties by the 3rd of February. The Minister warned that: "those who resist leaving the farms will be arrested and face the full wrath of the law." The deadline came and went and then the Minister said : "We have, as a government, agreed to let them stay put and wind up their businesses, at least until harvest time."

Do you have to be a farmer to know that it just doesn't work like this? Farming isn't a 45 day business or a 90 day business. It's an ongoing process where plans are made at least a year in advance when it comes to row crops, two years in advance when it comes to livestock and five or more years in advance when it comes to specialist crops like fruit and nut trees. It seems that these basic agricultural facts, seven years down the line, continue to elude the men in the ministry.

This week we heard that Agriculture Minister Dr Made who has been at the forefront of the farm seizures has been shuffled out of his post and into something called the Ministry of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation. Since Dr Made blamed the shortage of fertilizer last winter on a monkey that broke an electricity transformer, perhaps now he will be in a more appropriate Ministry to prevent a recurrence.

By all accounts this summer cropping season has been a nightmare for farmers. With patchy rains, shortage of fertilizer, the wrong fertilizer, insufficient fuel for ploughing and hyper inflation it is nothing short of a miracle that our farmers have been able to grow any food this summer. In just three months time winter crops should be going in the ground but who in their right mind will plant wheat this May. A 45 day eviction notice may be served at any time; an arbitrary bloke off the road may arrive and say he has an "offer letter" from the government which gives him this farm or a mob may arrive and simply chase the farmer off.

In February 2000, when this all began a loaf of bread was just 20 dollars. Now that same loaf costs 840 dollars - or in reality it is actually 840 thousand dollars - before three zeroes were slashed from the currency. Tragically there is no mixed message in the price of a loaf of bread or the millions who can no longer afford it.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

 

Duane Udd
This poem was written by Duane Udd in response to Cathy's letter on the left
:

YOUR MONEY AND YOUR LIFE
Mass graves are a morbid answer
To Zimbabwe’s awful plight
Destitution’s creeping cancer
Pushes prices out of sight

Pensions fixed on solid money
Represent a paltry sum
To appease the mortuary
When a loved ones time has come

Let alone costs of cremation
Where there’s yet another queue
In this often gasless nation
Where Bob’s bill is overdue

Zimbabwe must close his account
Before things can get better
Encumbrances forever mount
He’s now her biggest debtor

Mass graves were once his specialty
To deal with opposition
Why let him duck the penalty
For Zim’s decomposition

Many bodies are abandoned
Or interred illegally
Only dying costs have burgeoned
In this doomed economy

We’ll be buried without mourners
If more nations don’t wake up
We can’t keep cutting coroners
They must share our bitter cup

Give us dignity in dying
Or help us to stay alive
Beyond tears Zim still is crying
Hoping she may yet revive

© duaneudd.com
22nd Jan 2007

Scams and schemes, frauds and fiddles

Saturday 3rd February 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
It took two hours this week for the Governor of the Reserve Bank to present a monetary policy for Zimbabwe to encompass the next few months. After speaking for an hour Dr Gideon Gono hadn't got to the financial plan yet. He had spent the first sixty minutes exposing the corruption, scams, schemes, smuggling, wheeler dealering and the downright looting of the country by the elite. The audience were in their best bib and tucker, seated on padded chairs and with polished desk space in front of them. There were business men and women, government officials and a number of government ministers. There were, however, a couple of notable absences, one of which was the Minister of Finance and another Vice President Mujuru. In front of each person was a bottle of safe, clean, pure mineral water and the best brand of orange juice in the country - the one that most people can't afford anymore.

What the Reserve Bank Governor described for that first hour was a disgraceful catalogue that any country should and would be deeply ashamed to admit and yet there was almost no response from the audience. Dr Gono said that the "consequences of maintaining the status quo" were "too ghastly to contemplate". He spoke of massive maize scams, of fuel racketeering and fertilizer fiddles. He continually accused "those amongst us" as being the people engaged in these activities. He said that the smuggling of gold, diamond and other minerals had reached mammoth proportions and was akin to "mafia style dealings". Dr Gono was scathing in the extreme about the new A2 farmers many of who are high ranking government officials. He said they were given the best of the seized commercial farms and yet still failed to produce. He said the farmers were consumed with incessant "baby crying" as they begged for cheap fuel, seed, fertilizer and tractors. And when these A2 farmers, many of whom have other businesses and drive luxury 4x4 vehicles, have been given everything at massively subsidised prices, Dr Gono said they find a queue of scapegoats to blame for 6 unbroken years of dismal production. This far into the speech Dr Gono had said nothing that all Zimbabweans do not know already.

An hour an a half into his two hour speech and after we'd had the religious stories and the world history lesson, Dr Gono made the first monetary announcement. "There will be no devaluation" he said, and at that point there was a half hearted smattering of applause from the audience. People sat back in their chairs, faces took on a glazed look and from that moment it seemed as if everyone knew that nothing was going to change - how could it without political backing. Everyone also seemed to know that in just two days time another round of scams and schemes, frauds and fiddles would probably begin as almost all the remaining commercial farmers fall victim to the latest government eviction notices which take effect on Saturday 3rd February.

On the same day as the presentation of the monetary policy, news came of 19 confirmed cases of cholera from high density suburbs outside Harare. Film footage on television showed women scooping basins of murky water out of puddles - desperate after days of dry taps. This is physically just two dozen kilometres out of Harare but it may as well be a world away from the suited businessmen, the bottled mineral water and the orange juice. You have to wonder how it would go down if the next monetary policy took place there - among the mud and the flies, the sewage and the garbage. These are the people suffering the results of the scams and schemes, the looting and smuggling and you can only wonder how much more they can take.
Until next week, love cathy

 
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