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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle


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Dust, tear gas and horse droppings
March 27, 2015, 11:22 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Early in the morning a trail of brand new one dollar notes lay in the dust on an out of town dirt road. There were about a hundred of them and they hadn’t been there the day before. Aside from the dampness of the dew that had fallen on them, the $1 notes were obviously new; they were clean and  unblemished as if they’d come straight from the printing press. The notes had watermarks and silver security strips  and the place and date of issue was Harare 2007. These brand new one Zimbabwe dollar notes are absolutely useless now but they invoked a sense of macabre nostalgia.

None of us want to remember hyper inflation, economic meltdown, empty shops and hunger but lately the state of things in Zimbabwe is giving us a very strong sense of déjà vu. You don’t have to look hard to see that we are a country in deep trouble. Our government is completely broke, our 91 year old President has spent $US 10 million on foreign travel in the last three months and the political squabbling inundates every facet of our lives.  In recent weeks there has been a growing tide of unrest. Inmates at Chikurubi Maximum  Prison in Harare embarked on a violent food riot which ended up needing prison officers, police, support unit, fire brigade and tear gas to quell the hungry rioters and later armed men on horseback hunting for possible escapees.  At least three people died in the incident which had been brewing for weeks. The Deputy Commissioner of Prisons caution a few weeks earlier had fallen on deaf ears:  “We are only getting US$300 000 from Treasury monthly, yet our institution needs at least US$1,5 million to sustain operations.”  When it was all over a parliamentary committee looked into conditions and said they had found that “prisoners were living like rats.”

Then came a  food demonstration by students at the University of Zimbabwe. Students on campus said they were going to lectures on empty stomachs while their lecturers  were striking over non payment of salaries. Riot police and running battles followed and then came a statement from the UZ ordering all students to vacate the campus by 3 pm the same day as the University was closing for a week. The usual contradictions followed: it’s open, it’s closed, go home, come back but the flame has been lit and so we watch and wait.

Hardly had the dust, tear gas canisters and horse droppings been cleared up after the Prison and University incidents when the biggest bomb shell fell. 21 MDC T Legislators (4 Senators and 17 MP’s) were expelled from Parliament at the request of the MDC T President. All are big names in Zimbabwe’s long struggle for a new democratic order; all have suffered mental and verbal abuse along the way; most have been beaten; many have been tortured; most have been arrested, imprisoned and hounded for much of the last fifteen years.  And, without exception, all have given so much to Zimbabwe. Their courage, sacrifice and example will not be forgotten and we hope they will not give up on us, the people who voted them into parliament in the first place.   

Sadly I end this letter with the same question as last time: Where is Itai Dzamara?  There is still no sign of him: handcuffed by unknown men and abducted in broad daylight from a barber shop in Harare on the 9th March.  You are not forgotten Itai Dzamara:  journalist/activist/husband and father of a 7 year old son and 3 year old daughter. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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