News - February 2009





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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


Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror

Daily News
Zim Independant
The Standard
Financial Gazette
Human Rights Forum
ZW News


NEW - from the diaspora - click here

Vacate those farms

Saturday 28th February 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
I am writing this letter on the 9th anniversary of the commencement of farm seizures in Zimbabwe. I am also writing this letter on the day when Mr Mugabe's 85th birthday party is being held in Chinhoyi.

It is hot and humid day during which I have been forced to fill and carry buckets of water into my urban home so as to flush toilets, wash dishes and bath. Taps have been dry in the whole town for a couple of days and none have been spared including schools, hospitals, an orphanage, old age home, residences and businesses.

Television coverage of the birthday party began when Mr Mugabe's speech was already well underway in the afternoon. A long, pale, slate coloured tent adorned with sweeping sashes of golden yellow cloth stood in the fields of the Chinhoyi University. A red carpet lay in an avenue through the rough cut grass. Dignitaries and officials sat in the tent flicking paper fans while everyone else sat on the ground a respectable distance away in the baking sun.

Wearing a dark suit and tie and leaning on a red, fabric covered podium Mr Mugabe spoke at length and in Shona about the 2008 elections. Suddenly straightening up 40 minutes later Mr Mugabe said: "I want to say this in English." A murmured titter of life ran through the crowd. Mr Mugabe said that there were farms in Mashonaland East, West, Central and in other areas around the country which had been properly designated in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act and were now to be taken.

"Let not the original owners of the farms refuse to vacate those farms," he said. "They must vacate those farms," he repeated his words three times.

This then was Mr Mugabe's 85th birthday present to the starving people of Zimbabwe, seven million of whom are receiving international food aid. While more than half the population of the country eat donated food, the remaining commercial farmers are ordered to vacate land because of the colour of their skin. As for the SADC land tribunal ruling protecting Zimbabwean farmers, Mr Mugabe said: "that's nonsense, absolute nonsense; we have courts here that can determine the rights of our people."

As deep purple clouds turned black over my home town and thunder rumbled I abandoned the birthday speech for a few minutes to rush outside with tins, buckets and plastic baths to catch rain water. Water for cooking, cleaning and washing.

When I came back inside live coverage showed the birthday cake being cut. It apparently weighed 85 kilograms and was being served by waiters wearing white gloves. Their uniforms were white too, trimmed in navy blue at shoulder, collar and cuff. Other reports told of extravagant menus, lavish foodstuffs and imported drinks for the 85th birthday event. It is all so remote and removed from the hunger, disease, poverty and water collection of our daily lives that we, or they, may as well be in another country.
Until next week, thanks for reading and for the overwhelming support for my new book, love cathy.

Street level leadership

Saturday 21st February 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
While our new Prime Minister and unity government pick their way through the rubble of Zimbabwe, a frenzy of chronic overcharging has got underway and it has launched us into a state of super-hyper-inflation.

Leading the pack of thieves are the parastatals and municipalities who must know that accountability is just around the corner and that this is their last chance. Tel One, suppliers of the only fixed line telephones in the country, have increased their price this month by eight thousand percent. Last month phone bills were in Zimbabwe dollars and a residential account was the equivalent of 2 US dollars. This month they have changed to US dollars and are demanding 165 US dollars. There is nothing in writing, its just a matter of pay whatever we say or you'll be disconnected. Despite their demand that we pay in first world currency (i.e. US dollars) they continue to give us fourth world service. Telephone accounts are no longer issued and customers are given no breakdown showing monthly rental, calls made or units used. For most people the amounts being demanded by Tel One are more than their entire monthly income. They are almost twice the 100 US dollar salaries being paid by the Unity Government to soldiers, policemen, teachers and other civil servants.

The electricity suppliers, ZESA, have increased their prices this month by 600 percent and have also converted to US dollars. They too do not provide accounts or statements, have not read household meters for well over a year and offer neither excuse nor explanation for their new prices. Its pay up however much we say or we'll turn you off.

Municipal charges have gone up by 900 %, in US dollars, and the outrage is palpable. No bills are produced and so we don't know how much of the charge is fact and how much is for someone's back pocket. Residential dustbins have not been collected for ten months. In desperation people have taken to dumping their garbage in the bush, under trees or simply on the side of the road. Most suburban street lights have not worked for two or three years, tar roads are a maze of gullies and cavernous potholes and the grass on street corners is over six foot high.

By all accounts the power sharing unity government in Harare is in a perilous place as I write. But while all eyes are on political prisoners, power struggles and battles of will, ordinary people are falling by the wayside. We wait for street level leadership and accountability - its been a long, long time coming.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

No good faith

Saturday 14th

Dear Family and Friends,
Watching the loser of last years election swearing in the winner was an occasion not to be forgotten. The irony of it stuck in the throat and yet the reality of it brought the hope of change ever closer.

Its a change that is still not being reflected by state broadcaster ZBC who seemed incapable of filming the ceremony and used SABC's live coverage of events at State House in Harare. The irony of that was not lost us on us either considering that South Africa only introduced television broadcasting many, many years after Zimbabwe. In between the flickering, flaring, haltering attempts by ZBC to record any of the inauguration of Prime Minister Tsvangirai, we were bombarded with yet another of the seemingly endless supply of politically themed music concerts.

As Prime Minister Tsvangirai was preparing to pledge his oath of office, ZBC's concert had a banner reading: "We will never let go of our land." And then another which read: "Uniting against sanctions." There is no doubt where their allegiances lie!

Two days after our new Prime Minister was sworn in, ZBC TV still hadn't been able to sort themselves out in order to record the swearing in of the new cabinet. Again they jumped from SABC TV to ZBC radio commentaries and then, at 4 pm, and before all the Ministers had been sworn in, the TV transmission stopped altogether.

We'd had long enough though to see the fresh, lively, intelligent, eager faces of the new MDC cabinet Ministers. Long enough too to see the same old, unsmiling, tired faces of the Zanu PF cabinet Ministers - no changes there, just reshuffling and recycling yet again. We also had time to see that the nominated deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennet was not there. This man, so admired and respected by Zimbabweans from all walks of life had been arrested, moved to another city 250 kilometres away and is being charged with treason.

The arrest of Roy Bennett gave credence to the sceptics and doubters of this unity government. There is no good faith here by the old order and the leopard has not changed its spots. A long, hard road lies ahead. Our thoughts are with Roy Bennet and with all the other civic society members and political activists who are still in custody. None are forgotten.

I close with a message of condolence and sympathy to Australians who have lost family members, friends, homes and possessions in the devastating fires of the last fortnight. Zimbabwe knows how you have stood up for us in our struggle and despair and our thoughts are with you.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

Turning coats inside out

Saturday 7th February 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
These hot, humid and rainy February days are ones that will never be forgotten in the years ahead. We can still hardly even dare to hope that this unity government is going to work and trust is very thin on the ground. It still sticks in our throats that the losers of the March 2008 elections have simply refused to leave power for the last ten months and have got away it. How crazy is this! Suddenly we are seeing the very people who persecuted a population, looted the country's assets and bought starvation and disease to the land appearing on television saying: "we must be tolerant of our differences and work together."

Hello! you find yourself shouting at the TV, are we seeing people turning their coats inside out and so soon? Do they really think that a few utterances now will undo everything they have done, and been seen doing?

Each day we tiptoe forward politically by a fraction of a millimetre and yet each miniscule gain appears as a gigantic leap because we have sunk so terribly low in the last decade. We now have the 19th amendment to our constitution which will enable the formation of a unity government and allow for the winner of the March 2008 election to be sworn in as Prime Minister. We also now have the news that a Magistrate has thrown out treason charges against MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti.

In the next few days, for the first time in three decades we will have someone other than Zanu PF looking into civil service books and you can only imagine how worried some people must be. A friend said he imagined the paper shredders must be working overtime in some of those government offices. You can almost hear them now! You can almost see those little strips of paper mounting up on our roadsides alongside all the other stinking garbage. You can almost smell the smoke from bonfires of burning paper!

Meanwhile ordinary people are in wait and see mode and while we wait a last desperate orgy of pocket filling is well underway. In just two days the price of petrol, in US dollars of course, went from 65 cents to 95 cents a litre and is still going up as I write. All other prices, in US dollars, are soaring as a result.

Twelve zeroes were removed from our currency this week and we went from being trillionaires to paupers overnight. This is the third time this has happened. First it was 3 zeroes, then 10, now 12. Another worthless set of bank notes is being introduced and thanks to a friend who can get her head around all the "illions", 1 New dollar =10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10 Septillion Old Old dollars!

I don't know how we'll ever explain any of this to our children in the years ahead, or if we'll ever even understand it ourselves.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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