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

Outright corruption and/or plain incompetence?
September 8, 2012, 1:08 am

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between outright corruption and plain incompetence in Zimbabwe. There has been much speculation that the recently completed census was being conducted with a political agenda in mind. Constituency boundaries will after all be determined by the census results and that factor could well explain any manipulation of the figures. It was a quotation from Washington Mapeta the head of Population Census and Surveys that led me to wonder if we all have the same understanding of what is meant by the concept of a census. The dictionary defines census as: “an official periodic count of a population, including such information as sex, age, occupation etc.” Common sense tells you that such a count to be accurate must necessarily cover the whole physical terrain of the country. It was something of a surprise then to read Washinton Mapeta’s claim that the census had been a success because “We covered almost all parts of the country.” he said.

    Having lived in remote rural outposts for most of my life in Zimbabwe where roads are sometimes no more than dirt tracks and access to villages is difficult, I would have expected that the parts not covered by the census would be in remote rural areas but that appears not to be the case. The complaints that no census enumerator had knocked on their doors came largely from people in urban areas, especially but not exclusively in Matabeleland. From Lupane in Matabeleland North to Mhondoro in Mashonaland West came complaints from people that they had not been counted. So now we have what is called a ‘census mop up’ with enumerators going round areas they had missed the first time. It all sounds very ‘hit and miss’ and it is hard to believe that the final population figure revealed to the country at the end of the year will be accurate. Even now when the census is officially over the payment of enumerators is shambolic. Again, you have to wonder whether that is due to incompetence or corruption.

    The diamond revenue is another area where we are entitled to ask whether the vast sums of money involved have been manipulated for political purposes, just plain corruption and greed or arithmetical incompetence. The claim was made last week that Zimbabwe has lost millions of dollars of diamond revenue through corruption or incompetence. Global Witness has revealed the involvement of the CIO in the diamond industry and the statement by Finance Minister Biti that the treasury received only $41 million of the $456 million of diamond sales certainly suggests that the whole question of diamond revenue is shrouded in secrecy. The truth is that the stones may be transparent but there is no transparency when it comes to the revenue that comes from the diamonds. Meanwhile we hear that none other than the Zimbabwe Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu is organising Africa’s first international diamond conference. Biti says that billions of dollars are needed for infrastructural development and he will appeal to SADC for economic help. There is no money for the traditional 13th cheque for civil servants this year and it is more than likely that there is a civil service strike in the offing.

    In short, it’s the same old same old in Zimbabwe. The country is broke but instead of patriotism and love of country coming to the fore, it’s greed and opportunism that has taken over. It is a bad omen for Zimbabwe’s future. The thousands of people who are said to be returning to the country from exile are likely to find that they have to struggle to make a decent living while those who remained have taken all the cream off the top. Perhaps there is a certain justice in that but the returnees are going to find a country where corruption and greed dominate. Combined with incompetence the result is a lowering of standards that is a depressing symptom of things to come. Even more depressing is the lack of evidence that the opposition party occupies higher moral ground; it seems that they are content to join in the general smash and grab mentality that dominates life in Zimbabwe; from wild life conservancies to land and precious minerals, have we become a nation of thieves and looters?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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The invasion of the Save Valley Conservancy
September 1, 2012, 4:30 am

    We were told this week that the results of the census will be announced at the end of the year. Those figures will show the racial composition of Zimbabwe’s population and we will see just exactly how many whites are left in ‘Mugabe’s Zimbabwe’ - as he likes to think of it. He and his Zanu PF have certainly done all they can, short of actually expelling them, to ensure that whites feel unwelcome in the land of their birth. I was still living in Zimbabwe when the farm invasions began and I well remember driving into Harare from my home in Murehwa and seeing one of the highly productive farms that had been renamed ‘Black Power Farm’. It was around the same time there were war veterans from their headquarters in Murehwa town toi toi- ing past my house in the dead of night. Mugabe was intoning his hymn of hate even then, the truth is that the tune has never really changed in all the years Zimbabwe has been an independent black African country. Mugabe and Zanu PF are no less racist than the white supremacist Smith regime; the only thing that has changed is the colour of the dominant key.      

    It is no coincidence that the people who have invaded the Save Valley Conservancy are Zanu PF supporters. They acted,  they say, in the name of ‘black empowerment’ and, Mugabe’s declaration that conservancies are ‘dominated by whites’ no doubt spurred them on.  It may well be true that white people were prominent in animal conservation but there is no evidence that those same whites enriched themselves excessively in the process. Their motives appear to have been genuine concern for Zimbabwe’s natural resources and a desire to conserve the animals and their environment. The same cannot be said of the new land invaders; the 25 men who invaded the Save Valley Conservancy led by two Zanu PF MPs whose motives are clearly political. They have vowed that they will not move from the Conservancy; they are ‘correcting colonial imbalances’ they say. The Conservancy replies that 2/3 of their shareholders are in fact black. White or black, it is tragic that the fate of innocent animals is caught up in this racist one-up-manship.

     The invasion of the Save Valley Conservancy has caused widespread dismay and the prediction that if it happened it would risk western business investment in the country is proving correct. International conservation circles have expressed their profound alarm and diplomats have said that the invasion might lead to withdrawal of UN support for the World Tourism Conference due to be held in Zimbabwe next year. The EU has threatened to withdraw all aid from Zimbabwe if the invasion of the world-renowned Save Valley Conservancy is not stopped. Money is short everywhere and, as hunger worsens in Zimbabwe, there are already signs that the appeal to aid agencies for funds is not yielding the anticipated results. In a related development, it has been announced that Zimbabwe has no funds to move animals to Victoria Falls where the conference will be held. Animal numbers in the Vic Falls Game Park have fallen considerably owing to drought and the organisers of the World Tourism Conference had wanted to show the international delegates a sample of the magnificent wild life to be seen in Zimbabwe.

    Instead of turning the issue into a racial slanging match, for political purposes, it would be more to the point if Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF found some way to make the World Tourism Conference a reality, thus giving Zimbabwe a boost to its sadly diminished international reputation. Preparations for the Tourism Conference have not even started apparently, one year after the government won the bid to host it in alliance with Zambia. As part of the deal Zimbabwe is expected to upgrade the Vic Falls Airport, to revamp water and sewage systems in the town, to resurface the roads and to rehabilitate the local hospital. Quite apart from all those tasks, there is the question of Air Zimbabwe, the bankrupt national airline which, we hear, is reduced to just one aeroplane! It’s hard to see how visitors, be they black or white, will be transported to and from Zimbabwe without planes to carry them!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson

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Will the AU or SADC rescue Zimbabwe from its crisis?
August 24, 2012, 1:36 pm

     News this week of another high quality diamond find, in Chimanimani this time. The thought that the majestic beauty of those eastern mountains might be invaded by hundreds of miners with pick axes and shovels is too painful to contemplate but apparently it has already happened. And, like everything else in Zimbabwe, it is Zanu PF who are in the forefront. They may pay lip service to conservation and looking after the natural environment but when it comes to the glitter of gold or the sparkle of diamonds, principles tend to go out the window. And this is only the start; like the old wild west, Zimbabwe is in the throes of a gold/diamond rush.  Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, says Zimbabwe is set to dominate the world diamond market. As for this latest find, it’s reported that a local company has been partnered by a Russian concern and they will go into full production by the end of 2012. Just in time, Zanu PF will need all the gold, diamonds or any other minerals they can lay their hands on to fund the next election. All the youth militia and so-called war vets who will fight – quite literally – for the Zanu PF cause will have to be paid. Meanwhile the diamond mines continue to be dominated by Zanu PF. They have monopolised the mining and marketing of the Chiadzwa diamonds and there is no reason to think that the Chimanimani discovery will be any different.  Not for the first time, I wonder exactly what it is that keeps the party loyal to Mugabe but whatever it is their aim appears to be to keep him in power for the rest of his life so that they can continue making money.

    Nevertheless, the party seems none too sure about its chances in the next election. There was a report this week that Zanu PF is securing funds from international companies to pay for the election. Big business is only too keen to see Mugabe remain in power; that way they can be sure their interests will be protected. Any possible change in the status quo makes these business tycoons extremely nervous. So, it’s not hard to understand why the police do nothing to stop the behaviour of people like the Masvingo Governor who, together with a fanatical Zanu PF MP, has invaded the Save Conservancy or a group of Zanu PF youths who are fighting to take control of Victoria Falls in the run-up to the World Tourism Conference next August. The police, led by a fanatical Zanu PF supporter, will do nothing to rock the boat. In fact, there is evidence from all quarters that Zimbabwe is becoming increasingly lawless, a state where, like wild beasts, the biggest and most powerful animals fight for control of the remaining resources. They know that Mugabe will turn a blind eye to their actions, providing he and the party get a share of the loot.

    It is not surprising then that the drafting of the new constitution has run into such difficulties over the role of the president. Zanu PF can no longer be 100% certain of the people’s support and without Mugabe they are done for, or that’s what they believe. The MDC too has suffered from its compromised position in the GNU; in fact, there seems to be little difference between the two parties. Looking on from the outside, it seems as if each side is fighting for political supremacy – including all the material benefits that go with it - and has overlooked the needs of ordinary citizens. For Zimbabweans in the diaspora, longing to go home, the prospects for the country’s future look gloomy. In such a scenario, Zanu PF does what it always does: blames the colonialists for the whole mess! The CIO are apparently making a ‘documentary’ to show how white members of the MDC behaved in the past. People like Ian Kay and Roy Bennett are ‘smeared’ and villagers are conscripted into playing the part of the hapless victims of evil white domination. The film will be shown on ZTV we are told but as one of the villagers commented, the film was ‘doomed’ anyway because no one watches ZTV any more!

    Will the AU or SADC rescue Zimbabwe from its crisis? It seems unlikely; no one wants to offend the Grand Old Man of African politics. Meanwhile Mugabe has the diamonds and the gold to keep his followers happy and loyal.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Crass insensitivity
August 19, 2012, 4:20 am

The Zimbabwe Independent last weekend took the occasion of  Heroes Day to ask what about the women fighters? Were they not also heroes? In contrast, Wilfrid Mhanda, himself a war veteran, decries the whole concept of ‘hero’ status and points out that everyone was a hero in the struggle that finally brought an end to Rhodesia and ushered in Zimbabwe. The whole question of ‘Hero’ status is now just used for political patronage, Mhanda maintains and the truth of his remarks was clearly demonstrated by Robert Mugabe’s speeches over the two days of the Heroes and Defence Forces holiday. He never fails to use this occasion to sound off about his pet hates: the west and the whites.

It was revealed this week that over one third of Zimbabwean children under five years of age are suffering from malnutrition and 15.000 are at risk of dying from the condition. It is not always realised that malnutrition in childhood may result in irreparable damage to a child’s physical and mental development. Not only is the food situation desperate across the country, there is a desperate shortage of fresh water too. In Buhera  the World Food Programme has appealed for $87 million to avert starvation. And, as Mugabe was speaking at the National Stadium, Harare itself was in the grip of a water crisis. At the other end of the country in Tsholotsho after 32 years of Zanu PF rule not a single borehole has been dug. The people there – and in many rural areas - are drinking unsafe river water with all the attendant dangers of water-borne diseases. The president said nothing of these matters, preferring to concentrate on the issue of political violence in the country and urging the virtue of tolerance. Very laudable you might think but we have heard it all before from Mugabe’s lips and it has not changed his followers’ behaviour. Moving on to the issue of Zanu PF’s clenched fist, Mugabe denied that it was a symbol of violence; it was he said “the punch that knocked them (the whites) down.” As always, Mugabe chose this occasion to remind his audience of his own heroic status in the battle against colonialism. We have heard that all before too but it was his remark on the day after Heroes and Defence Forces that got me seething - and quite a few other women I should think!

 Mugabe was launching this year’s census operation and he began by referring back to 2002 which had revealed what he called a ‘miserable’ reading of 11.6 million people. Of course, he made no reference to the exodus that took place in 2000 after his disastrous ‘land reform’ began. Between 4 and 5million Zimbabweans are believed to have left the country but instead the 86 year old chose to tell the female members of his audience,

    “We want more children Give us more children you women. Why are you refusing to get pregnant? Why were you given bellies? No, no don’t refuse.”

I wonder if Mugabe’s wife was sitting on the podium as her husband uttered these arrogant and insulting words?  I can’t believe that any woman, whatever her political beliefs, would find it acceptable to be lectured by an 86 year old man on her right to control her own fertility. Quite apart from the male chauvinism it demonstrates, Mugabe’s remark shows crass insensitivity to the economic crisis that is currently gripping the country. Telling women to have more children at this time is to condemn them to years of struggle to pay school fees, buy uniforms and text books, not to mention feeding and clothing them. The Women’s Movement across the world has fought for women’s right to control their own fertility and along comes an 86 year old man and tells them, in effect, that it is their duty to have more children in order to boost the country’s declining population. Mugabe clearly has not grasped the fact that the millions of Zimbabweans who have chosen to live outside Zimbabwe do so precisely because they do not want to be ruled by him. Like the musician, Thomas Mapfumo, many of them say they will never return to Zimbabwe while Mugabe remains in power.    

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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One vast spider's web spread over the whole country
August 11, 2012, 2:40 am

    “It’s not what the people want,” the presidential spokesperson declared, speaking about the draft constitution. Even before a referendum is held on this contentious document, Zanu PF claims that it knows what the people want. Easier to say what the people do NOT want and that is the increasing violence that is being reported all over the country. As we head towards the elections. Zanu PF appears increasingly desperate to hold onto power. The licensing of two new independent papers seemed at first to be a good omen for democracy until we heard that the papers are banned, unofficially it’s true, at Bulawayo airport and in many rural areas. Freedom of the press is a fragile plant at the best of times.

    The issue of the draft constitution has taken a back seat as plans for the forthcoming census become more entangled. Why a simple people-counting exercise should be so controversial is not immediately obvious until one realises that the census results will determine constituency boundaries and thus have a direct effect on the electoral process. To complicate matters further, the army and the police have chosen to get involved. There are reports of 10.000 soldiers being secretly recruited to oversee the census. On Tuesday a meeting of the Zimbabwe cabinet laid down very precise figures for military participation, in effect a reduction from 10.000 to 1.571, comprising 292 Prison officers, 541 Police officers, 467 military personnel and 271 CIO officers. It was all in line with the SADC guidelines and as clear as daylight you would think but the whole census exercise has been thrown into chaos as the army and police have taken over.

    Is it all about money? That would be understandable in a country where it is calculated that a family needs $556.47 every month just to survive.  The census enumerators will earn $800 for every one of the ten days of the operation and, if news reports are to be believed, soldiers are anxious to implement their salaries. So sensitive is this whole issue that the army is anxious to stop any public discussion of the matter. Passengers travelling in a minibus in Mutare were overheard talking about the census shambles by a soldier in civilian clothes. He reported the matter to his superiors and the passengers were ordered to dismount from the cab. They were detained at an army barracks where their names and addresses were taken and they were warned that ‘there would be a follow-up’; so much for free speech in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe! Soldiers and CIO officials have done their level best to block the training of civilian enumerators from Harare to Masvingo, Karoyi and, significantly at Marange where police and soldiers invaded Marange High School and confiscated census equipment. The 200 policemen involved said they were angry because they had not been given the chance to earn extra cash. Meanwhile, it is reported that Robert Mugabe has spent huge amounts on new vehicles for his motorcade. How the new vehicles have been paid for in bankrupt Zimbabwe is the question Zimbabweans must be asking. The Zimbabwe parliament has, at Mugabe’s behest, ratified a large loan of $164 million from Mugabe’s friends, the Chinese. They own Anjin, of course, and the 1500 workers who were dismissed by their Chinese bosses have been told they can re-apply for their jobs now that a judge has ruled their strike was illegal.

     Like one vast spider’s web spread over the whole country, these issues are all connected: the Chinese, the diamonds, the military, the police, the CIO, even the judiciary and, of course Zanu PF. Trapped in the web’s centre are the ordinary people of Zimbabwe; not for them the pleasures of shopping in Harare’s exclusive new mall that has just been granted planning permission by Minister Chombo. And, as we approach another Heroes weekend in independent Zimbabwe the same old scam goes on with civil servants and shop keepers being threatened and intimidated to give money for the celebrations. Failure to donate must mean you are an MDC ‘sellout’ in Zanu PF’s thinking. Their claim to know ‘what the people want’ means Zanu PF must be in charge of everything!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson.

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