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

A toxic mix
March 16, 2012, 1:23 pm

One of the many disadvantages of not living in Zimbabwe any more– apart from the inevitable heartache – is that one is no longer in touch with the day-to-day realities of life in the country. That is why Cathy Buckle’s Family and Friends letter fills such a vital information gap. Cathy keeps us up to date with how even middle-class people struggle to survive in a country which shows increasing signs of being in near-meltdown. This week the Finance Minister warned that the government will ‘close’ down without diamond revenue. “Diamonds have to deliver” he said. They haven’t so far! Of the 600million promised when the diamonds were found, the treasury has received only 19 million.

Cathy Buckle’s Letter last week had the intriguing title ‘Soggy Letters’ and described a visit to her local post office to collect her mail. Customers pay a sizeable amount to hire a mailbox but it seems payment is no guarantee of mail’s protection from the elements. In Cathy’s case it was a leaking roof at the post office, or so she was told, that caused the trouble. She also wrote about the irony of paying huge bills for services such as water and electricity that are no longer available. The citizen can of course refuse to pay the bill but then the water and electricity will simply be disconnected and he or she will get neither water nor power on the rare occasions when they are available.

Knowing the everyday details of living that a writer like Cathy Buckle provides, gives a very different slant on other news coming out of the country. My first reaction is always to wonder if cabinet ministers and MPs have ever carried water into their houses to flush the loo or stood in line to pay bills for services they haven’t got! When I saw that Zesa has switched off the power supply of the biggest fertiliser company in the country because they have not paid their bill, it wasn’t hard to predict that bread will be in short supply in the months ahead and we know that it’s ordinary citizens who will be standing in the bread line - again.

Similarly, politicians’ actions which seem at first sight to have little to do with the man or woman on the street generally end up having a direct effect on their lives. The thousands of farmers who lost their farms in the ‘land reform’ must have been astonished to hear Didymus Mutasa declare, as he did this week, that there is no need for a land audit because there are no multiple land owners! We all know that Mutasa’s assertion is in direct contradiction of the reality on the ground. And, when the Attorney General himself halts the anti-corruption probe because it’s getting too close to top Zanu PF officials, the ordinary citizen realises that he or she can expect very little protection under the law. A judge this week said that corruption in Zimbabwe is now at such a level that the rich can buy their way out of prison. Lawyers connive in this blatantly corrupt process and the result is that only the poor, who are unable to buy their way out, will end up serving prison sentences.

There are reports that Robert Mugabe is seeking the help of Iran and China in the forthcoming elections. Both Iran and Zimbabwe are under sanctions but Zimbabwe has uranium and diamonds – in exchange for Iran’s weapons no doubt? Some years ago, a certain flamboyant businessman said that the reason he joined Zanu PF was that it enabled him to succeed in business. The combination of political affiliation and commercial profit together with a partisan police force produces a toxic mix.
The police’s failure to do anything to stop the activities of the notorious Chipangano gang in Mbare protects the Zanu PF bigwig behind the gang but leaves the ordinary citizen exposed to Chipangano’s criminal activities: beatings, torture and murder. The political dimension was clearly demonstrated last weekend in Sunningdale, a working class suburb in Harare, where an MDC rally was broken up by Chipangano while the police stood by and watched. When the police protect the criminals, it’s the ordinary citizen who pays the price.  That’s the reality of life in Zimbabwe.  

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Spoilt kids
March 9, 2012, 1:19 pm

Not for the first time, we see Zanu PF behaving like a bunch of spoilt kids who can’t get their own way. They signed the GPA but now it doesn’t give them what they want, they take not notice of it.

The Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo made the party’s position very clear this week when he declared that elections can be held this year even without political reforms. “South Africa can’t dictate to Zimbabwe, they are just mediators,” he declared.  In effect,‘You can’t tell me what to do. I will do what I like’. It’s just the sort of thing adolescents say. When a political party behaves like that, a party that has been in power for 32 years, people are entitled to expect a more adult approach. However, when it comes to responding to criticism, Zanu PF still answers with insults and abuse like a spoilt child. In this instance the outbreak of teenage name-calling was caused by South Africa’s Foreign Minister gently reminding Zimbabwe to comply with GPA conditions. The Foreign Minister happens to be a woman and in responding, Jonathan Moyo descended to the crudest kind of sexist language referring to her as ‘This woman’ and telling her to shut up. “She has no business whatsoever commenting on this thing,” he added. Moyo needs to be reminded that Nkoana Mashabane is the Foreign Minister of South Africa and as such deserves the same courtesy that Zimbabwean officials would expect to receive. What’s more, foreign affairs are her business! Jonathan Moyo’s behaviour towards the Minister is the worst example of childish rudeness.  

South African President Zuma is reported to be planning a visit to Zimbabwe in the very near future ‘to discuss poll preparations’ with Mugabe amidst what is described in the South African press as ‘the widening rift’ between the two countries. In Zimbabwe the arrest of two South African journalists in Odzi suggests that the partisan ZRP are, as usual, following the party line which has become increasingly hostile to our next door neighbour. It’s a lesson in how not to make friends and influence people!

Politics are behind everything in Zimbabwe. This week two officials of the teachers’ union the PTUZ were arrested in Bulawayo for distributing T shirts and newsletters. At first sight that story seemed to be another example of the police being ‘over-zealous’. Then we recall that schools are used as polling stations and teachers are employed as presiding officers. When an official of the PTUZ was asked why he thought the police were arresting their officials, he replied that the union’s newsletter was about to publish a story revealing that retired head teachers are being re-hired. Nothing sinister about that you might think until you realise that only those who are known to be loyal Zanu PF supporters are being re-hired, even though they may be well over 65. That way the polling stations will be staffed by ‘loyal’ presiding officers – loyal to Zanu PF of course.

Robert Mugabe has also made the ‘gay’ story a political issue and this week a British Roman Catholic Cardinal played right into his hands. It was the question of homosexual couples being married that got the Cardinal all riled up, even though it was not church marriage being talked about. Much as he hates the British, Robert Mugabe latched onto that piece of British news with glee and declared his backing for the Cardinal’s views. And, once Mugabe has spoken, his view is echoed by the party faithful. The Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa, this week condemned the International Criminal Court as alien to Zimbabwean culture because it ‘glorifies gay rights’. Human rights, gay or straight, is hardly a subject Zimbabwe can lecture the rest of the world about. In my home area of UMP this week local people were barred from their human right to earn a living. Instead the Chinese in the area were given preferential treatment to mine Zimbabwe’s gold. ‘Zimbabwe will continue to support China’ Mugabe says, ‘even if the west denounces Asia.’ Is Mugabe’s support genuine – or is it just another opportunity to take a childish dig at his ‘enemies’ in the west?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Elections
March 3, 2012, 12:01 am

However much Robert Mugabe tells us that he wants elections this year, it seems unlikely that it will happen. We are already in March and there is evidence on all sides of how broke the country is. Workers at Air Zimbabwe, for instance, have not been paid since September 2011 but Mugabe says ‘We’ll find the money’. Perhaps he will be able to persuade all those diamond-billionaires to give up some of their ill-gotten gains to fund an election. The fat cats certainly want Mugabe to remain in power, they have done very well under his rule and in return, have given him their undivided support. As for the Coalition Government, the Prime Minister himself dismisses it as ‘having no shared vision and no shared values’ and blames his ‘coalition partners’ for that - but it takes two, I say.

 

In Russia, Vladimir Putin is campaigning to run for another term. His supporters ask, ‘After ten years of stability, why should Putin not stand for another term?’ It’s a very familiar argument to defend long-standing, dictatorial leaders: ‘the stability we have enjoyed during his rule will disappear and anarchy will ensue.’ One often hears the same argument with regard to Robert Mugabe; people the world over are generally uneasy about change.  This is particularly true of Africa which tends to be very conservative;  Robert Mugabe, shrewd politician that he is, understands the people’s conservatism, that’s why he feels able to devote his ‘birthday’ speech to gay bashing – his favourite subject. So obsessed is he with the subject that one has to wonder if it has some particular relevance for him personally. At his birthday party he urged the nation’s youth to shun ‘western values, homosexuality and greed’, not mentioning the fact that it is his own followers who are largely to blame for the violence. In curiously twisted logic, Mugabe equates homosexuality with western values; what he doesn’t say is that tolerance is also a western value and in this case, it’s tolerance for people of different sexual orientation. He, presumably, would have them all executed or imprisoned for a very long time?

 

Tolerance is not a value we associate with Zanu PF; for example, in Mashonaland East the PA tells his followers to do all they can to sabotage the MDC and in Matabeleland South 20 MDC officials are arrested for holding an ‘illegal’ workshop, even though they had police permission. While Mugabe preaches his version of tolerance his police force practises something very different. Labour leaders Lovemore Matombo and Raymond Majongwe were briefly arrested during a peaceful protest march for a living wage. As the economy shrinks it gets harder for ordinary Zimbabweans – those lucky enough to have jobs - to survive on their salaries. Robert Mugabe does not talk about that; instead he uses the red herring of homosexuality to distract public attention from the real issues facing the country.

Mugabe’s call for elections this year is in direct contradiction of the GPA which stipulates that a new constitution must be in place before an election. South Africa warned Mugabe this week not to call elections until that condition has been met. There are no signs either that media reforms will be in place before elections and the churches have urged Mugabe to put reforms in place before the poll. He remains deaf to all appeals, content to bask in the adulation of his adoring followers who keep him in power. Any opposition to his rule, he claims, must be inspired, if not funded by, western imperialists. African leaders who disagree with Mugabe he describes as ‘naïve and weak…a lily-livered crop easily manipulated by western imperialists’. No doubt, the west will be blamed if he loses the next election. He actually admitted at his 88th birthday celebration that he had been shocked to lose the 2008 election. He could hardly have expected that in view of the massive violence his party unleashed on the people prior to the poll. Anyone who thinks it will be different this time is seriously deluded. Violence is and always has been the Zanu PF way to win elections. Whenever the next one is, 2012 or 2013, it will be business as usual for the Zanu PF thugs.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.


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Can the removal of Mugabe materially and morally transform the situation in Zimbabwe?
February 24, 2012, 11:06 am

Quite a lot of people seem to think that removing Robert Mugabe from power would change nothing in Zimbabwe. The reason for this pessimism is presumably that the decay is now so deeply entrenched that the removal of one man would make no difference at all; someone just as bad would take his place they say.

I happen to think that only the removal of Mugabe can materially and morally transform the situation in Zimbabwe. For 32 years Mugabe has been in power and in that time he has been increasingly deified by his followers to such an extent that he has come to believe that he has god-like powers, capable even of over-coming death!  February 21st was his 88th birthday: sixteen pages of congratulations in the state press with para-statals and businesses lining up to shower praise on him. Even MDC controlled ministries joined in the hymn of praise to the ‘Dear Leader’ ‘An icon, a legendary icon and an astute revolutionary’ were just some of the praises used to describe him. The use of the word ‘icon’ is significant in the light of Mugabe’s own comments about himself on his 88th birthday. An icon is defined as ‘an image of Christ in the Byzantine church, venerated by worshippers’. When you remember that one of Mugabe’s followers not so long ago described him as ‘the second son of God’ you can see how the deification process has gained momentum over the years. The state-controlled media joins in the veneration and the effect on his ministers and supporters is to convince them that only Robert Mugabe can ever lead the country. What he says and does profoundly influences Zanu PF thinking; indeed, it is Zanu PF thinking and his followers will do exactly what they know he wants. He deliberately gathers round him a coterie of political parasites who dutifully echo his views on everything from ‘illegal’ sanctions to the vexed question of homosexuality. With a godlike Mugabe at the helm, independent thinking is virtually impossible and all are forced to follow the Mugabe/Zanu PF line or ‘face dire consequences’ as teachers were told in Masvingo this week by a District Committee member. It’s a combination of fear and Mugabe-worship that rules the country.

Foreign policy too is determined by Mugabe’s extreme views. This week, for example, Zimbabwe joined China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea among others to vote against a UN resolution condemning Syria for the brutal slaughter of its own citizens: innocent men, women and children described by the Asad regime as ‘terrorists’. The courageous Sunday Times journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed in Homs this week described in one of her last reports the agonising death throes of a two year old child killed by Asad’s forces. And yet Zimbabwe refuses to condemn Syria at the UN - or is it perhaps Mugabe’s way of warning his own people what will happen to them if they dare to rebel against his regime? Mugabe cannot tolerate opposition in any form and the interview he gave the state media on his birthday perfectly illustrated that. Commenting on his recovery from prostate cancer, he made the astounding – some would say sacrilegious - comparison of himself with Jesus Christ when he said, “I have died many times. That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and was resurrected. I have died many times and I don’t know how many times I will die and resurrect” Such a statement from any other person would surely mark them down as suffering from a serious personality disorder, psychopathic even?  Mugabe makes his recovery from cancer sound like his own personal victory over death. No acknowledgement is given to the superb medical treatment he received, instead, he claims his recovery as a Christ-like resurrection. Armed with such ‘divine’ powers it is not surprising that he can’t find a suitable candidate to succeed him. The truth is that Mugabe is not going to give up power voluntarily. Those who argue that his exit would change nothing in Zimbabwe fail to see that his departure would change everything. It is Mugabe’s dominating personality and the stranglehold he has that is destroying the country.  

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Sanctions, the force of persuasion on the undemocratic
February 17, 2012, 12:21 pm

Despite SADC’s appeal to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe, it appears that the European Union has extended the measures against Zimbabwe for another year but trimmed down the number of individuals affected by sanctions.

Sanctions came into force in 2002 after the violent and fraudulent elections of that year. For or against, views on both sides of the argument are equally strongly held about the efficacy - or otherwise - of sanctions. Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF cronies blame sanctions and the British for all that is wrong in Zimbabwe; but then it is Zanu PF ‘top chefs’ who are most affected. The argument by the pro-sanctions group that Zanu PF individuals are likely to change their political affiliation under the pressure of sanctions has been shown to be false. Equally, the argument by the anti-sanctions lobby that the whole issue is merely a cover for the British to over-run Zimbabwe and get their hands on the country’s vast mineral resources seems far-fetched and lacking in substance. Just this week the UK government announced that they are giving $74million to help the recovery of the health sector in Zimbabwe. That hardly indicates malign intent on the part of the British, does it? Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party claims that sanctions have been the cause of untold suffering for thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans but it’s easier to blame sanctions than admit his own culpability for the country’s decline. For most ordinary Zimbabweans I suspect the sanctions issue is not a significant factor in their lives.

The truth is that for sanctions to work as a force of persuasion on undemocratic leaders it needs time and the support of many governments and commercial concerns. I was reminded of this when watching a series that BBC 4 is currently running on The End of Apartheid in South Africa. The whole world, with a few notable exceptions, supported the stance against apartheid. Watching again the massive demonstration in European capitals, it was very clear that thousands of ordinary citizens loathed the concept of what the then South African government called ‘separate development’.  Apartheid was born in 1948 and coming as it did after a cataclysmic world war against the Nazis with their hated philosophy of racial purity and the doctrine of the master race, apartheid was akin to Nazism in the popular mind. The anti-apartheid cause was thus able to tap into the general public’s hatred of the notion of racial superiority; sanctions against South Africa involved ordinary citizens in Europe to the extent that ‘Don’t buy South African goods’ came right down to the weekly shopping basket. It was this commercial consideration involving hundreds of firms disinvesting from South Africa that finally brought the apartheid regime to its knees but it took twenty years and a massive campaign by the anti-apartheid movement for it to happen.

The present situation with regards to Zimbabwe is very different. Mention of Robert Mugabe’s name does not produce the same frisson of horror in the European mind that the word ‘apartheid’ once did. Apartheid was a clear black/white issue whereas the Mugabe regime involves black Africans’ internal struggle for democracy in their country. The fact that African leaders themselves seem to be ambivalent towards the Mugabe regime makes it more difficult to argue the pro-sanctions case.

 The current constitution being drafted in Zimbabwe states that “A person is disqualified for election as President if he or she has already held office for one or more periods – whether continuous or not – amounting to ten years.” No wonder Zanu PF wants the drafters of the constitution sacked, claiming that the draft document ‘threatens national security’. What all this tells us is that without Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF is finished. As I see it, the imposition of sanctions is the only tool left to exert pressure on the Mugabe regime and for that reason sanctions should remain in place. If sanctions are removed now, the regime will claim with some justice that they have the west’s approval of – or indifference to - their continued hold on power; Robert Mugabe would like nothing better.       

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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