Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

Diamonds or water?
November 17, 2012, 6:53 am


Dear Family and Friends,

Almost two months ago Bulawayo made international news when city authorities asked residents to engage in synchronized toilet flushing at 7.30 pm every third day. Jokes came from all directions but as most of us have endured years of water shortages in towns all over the country, there wasn’t much to laugh about. Precious water stored in buckets, plugs left in, toilets not flushed and ‘splash’ baths with a few jugs of water are all very familiar so we sent sympathetic messages to our friends in Bulawayo. Things came to a head after repeated meetings with council officials yielded nothing. Over 800 WOZA members sent delegations to local council officers to complain about prolonged water cuts but still they were fobbed off and so they embarked on three days of protests.

On the 12th of November seventy nine WOZA members and two babies were arrested and taken to Bulawayo Central police station for staging a peaceful protest at the City Council Tower block. Later that day they were released. The next day WOZA tried to protest again. At midday as protesters arrived at the government complex in Bulawayo, riot police arrived and arrested eleven WOZA members, taking them across the road and putting them under guard in the Drill Hall. Police then went to another central intersection where protesters were gathering and according to the WOZA press statement the ‘police officers disembarked to beat members who were marching towards the complex.’

Another eleven people were arrested and WOZA said police shouted obscenities at the women and called them prostitutes. One police officer who said he didn’t care if the protesters knew his name, told the women: 'this country was liberated by blood and only those who spilt blood can be the ones to talk.' This second group of eleven protesters were taken to Bulawayo Central police station but as they were disembarking the Chief Inspector arrived and told the riot police to take the women back to where they’d come from. That didn’t happen, instead the women were driven out of town and dumped at a cemetery on the Victoria Falls road.

On the third day WOZA tried again. This time 150 of their members managed to get to the steps of the Mayor’s office at City Hall.

There they were met, not by the Mayor but by senior police officers who blocked their progress and the WOZA protesters had to disperse.

The Mayor did not emerge to talk to people he was elected to serve.

Nothing further was heard about the policeman who publicly said that only people who had spilt blood had a right to talk.

Some of the demands made by WOZA were for an end to water cuts that last longer than 24 hours; for the provision of water purifying tablets and for an increase of the amount of water people are allowed to draw from bowsers. At present people queuing at council bowsers are only allowed 40 litres of water a day and WOZA said for an average family of five people, this is simply not enough. Can you imagine five people coping on just 40 litres of water a day – drinking, cooking, bathing, toilets, washing. It works out at eight litres per person and add a baby to the equation or someone who is sick or incontinent and life becomes an utter nightmare.

Meanwhile, at the same time as this was going on and further down the same road where women had been dumped at a cemetery by police, the who’s who of Zimbabwe’s diamond industry were meeting in Victoria Falls. The Zimbabwe Diamond Conference was being hosted by the government to ‘shed light’ on diamond mining in the country. For three days there was much pomp and ceremony: speeches, TV cameras, bottled water on the tables but more questions than answers about just exactly where all our diamond money is going. Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu complained to delegates about the diamond watchdog groups:

“How then are you expected to be transparent when there are hyenas chasing you?” he said. “They want to know what car you drive, which house you are living in and what plane you are flying.”

 The Minister’s gripes are a world away from the grinding struggle of ordinary mums in the heat and dust as they try to keep their families clean and healthy with only eight litres of water per person per day. Diamonds, houses, cars and aeroplanes on one hand and eight litres of clean water on the other; there’s something desperately wrong with Zimbabwe’s priorities. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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