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

'Bishop' Kunonga
September 17, 2011, 1:36 am

Last week ‘Bishop’ Kunonga threatened to replace the nuns at the Shearly Cripps Orphanage with his own sisters. This week his threat became a reality. I am not sure how a renegade bishop, ex-communicated from the Anglican Communion who sets up his own church and makes himself a bishop, can actually have an order of nuns at his disposal but presumably that is a mere technicality for someone like Kunonga. After all, he has Zanu PF and the police on his side and was physically assisted by the ZRP when his thuggish followers raided Daramombe Mission in the south of the country and evicted teachers, nuns and priests.  

It was the attack on St Johns Mission just outside Murehwa that really caught my attention. That area of the country was my home for over ten years and I still have friends there. Like most Zimbabweans they are church goers and they must be appalled to see their churches being taken over by this renegade priest/turned land-grabber. The fact that Kunonga had a High Court judgement that gave him authority over all Anglican properties means little when one remembers that it was the Chief Justice who made the order. A fellow judge this week confirmed something that many of us have long suspected when he described the Chief Justice as a ‘rabid party man’. Of course, the Chief Justice was going to find in Kunonga’s favour and this week the ‘Bishop’ followed through and evicted the nuns who care for 100 children at the Shearly Cripps Orphanage. While Kunonga may not have physically hurt the children, his action in depriving them of their carers must have left the youngsters traumatised. Almost as shocking as this attack on the nuns and their charges was the fact that it was received in total silence by other Christian denominations. No church as far as I know has publicly spoken out to condemn Kunonga’s actions against the Anglican Church. The Christian spirit seems sadly lacking in Zimbabwe but then, as I understand it, Mugabe himself has condemned his own Catholic church because it is ‘run by white men’

There is no doubt that Mugabe has become more anti-white as the election draws closer. Perhaps he thinks that’s what ‘his’ people want to hear. When he launched his party’s manifesto this week he referred to whites as ‘mabhunu’, a term of racial abuse he once used about non-Zimbabwean African residents of Mbare. It is no wonder white business people are worried about their future in the country when Cabinet Ministers appear to be following Kasukuwere’s lead on the takeover of foreign owned companies. Like the farm invasions, this is clearly a politically inspired move on Zanu PF’s part but unlike the land invasions it is doubtful whether indigenisation of mines will actually happen. Speaking at a mining conference, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines described the 51% of shares required from foreign-owned mining companies as ‘an aspiration not a target.’ At the same event Obert Mpofu said the government would not cancel the licences of mining companies that have not complied. Confusion reigns supreme and we can only expect more of the same in the run-up to the elections

Mugabe’s reported fury about Wikileaks and the threat to prosecute the ‘leakers’ would leave him short of praise-singers – and that could seriously damage his ego! Chief among his praise singers is Webster Shamu, the Minister of Media Information, who says he will cancel the licences of any newspaper or radio station that vilifies Mugabe. “We are not against criticism,” Shamu says, “but no vilification.” He goes on to accuse private radio stations of “vitriolic attacks and the use of hate language against the person of His Excellency the President. The problem is that Zanu PF regard anything less than fulsome praise and fawning flattery as criticism. This cult of the personality that has dominated Zimbabwean politics for so long is profoundly damaging to democracy, not least because it seriously affects one’s judgement and mental powers!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.


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Talk peace, play war
September 10, 2011, 5:51 am

Not for the first time I find it hard to feel optimistic about Zimbabwe’s future. Robert Mugabe may be saying all the right things about peace and non-violence but his followers on the ground have not changed their violent ways. One consolation, as revealed by Wikileaks, is that African leaders are increasingly frustrated with Mugabe’s failure to govern properly and even President Jacob Zuma has openly expressed his irritation at the slow pace of the inter-party negotiations

No doubt it is all part of Mugabe’s grand plan to delay the whole process. The very specific requirements of the GPA forced him to concede on the election issue and there will now be a referendum on the constitution followed by a general election, which, says Mugabe “cannot go beyond March next year.” His failure to consult with his Prime Minister over that issue clearly demonstrates Mugabe’s unwillingness to share power, despite the GNU. His supporters, including the partisan police force, are thereby encouraged to continue their attacks on the MDC. At the very same time that Mugabe was opening Parliament this week, the police stood by and watched while Zanu PF thugs in the middle of Harare were openly beating suspected MDC supporters. Truck loads of Zanu people arrived in Harare just before the opening of parliament where Mugabe in his speech once again called for peace. The reality on the ground is that the violence continues and no matter how much it is condemned by civil society or the US Ambassador, Mugabe’s fanatical followers maintain the violence, so desperate are they to keep him in power. He will need another nomination at this year’s party conference to enable him to stand in the 2012 elections. And not all Zanu PF people are happy about that in view of Mugabe’s advanced age and the prostate cancer from which he suffers – or so claims another damaging Wikileak. While the government can hardly deny the old man’s age, they have denied that he has prostate cancer.

It is another cancer, the cancer of violence, sweeping the country that is so worrying. The violence against the Anglican clergy has caught the attention of the media in Britain and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Zimbabwe next month was the headline story in The Times on Thursday. What the Archbishop thinks he can achieve by meeting Mugabe is not clear. Mugabe is unlikely to stop the renegade ‘Bishop’, one of his more rabid supporters. When Kunonga threatens to remove the nuns at an orphanage and replace them with his own ‘sisters’ it is no wonder the terrified nuns lock themselves in their rooms at night. How much more terrifying it must be for township residents where Zanu PF youths are on the rampage!  In Highfields 20 people were seriously injured this week and. SW Radio reports that there have been attacks by Zanu thugs in different townships every day of the last ten. Once again the police have failed to take action; they say they “are investigating” but we all know nothing will happen to the perpetrators. One of the gang leaders openly boasted that nothing would happen to him and when a victim of gang violence reported his case at the police station he was himself arrested.

As for the white farmers who are being harassed and intimidated by violent war veterans taking over their farms and property, they have nowhere to turn. This week the farmers appealed to the state for protection; no prizes for guessing the outcome of that appeal. The colour of their skin has apparently blinded even the MDC to the violence and racism that is being inflicted on these white farmers. The MDC’s cowardly silence on this issue and on so many other matters of principle is shameful. We should be hearing their voices loud and strong in protest; their failure to condemn injustice increases my pessimism about Zimbabwe’s future. Zimbabwe needs a strong and principled opposition, without it Mugabe and Zanu PF will continue to rule through violence and fear.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.


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The African Union - a powerless talk shop locked in the past
September 3, 2011, 3:38 am

Far from giving a clear lead to Africa on the Libyan question, the AU has once again demonstrated that it is a powerless talking shop locked into the past and seemingly unable to recognise present realities. The change that has taken place in Libya is just one of those realities, representing as it does the will of the Libyan people. Twenty African countries, including the two most populous, Ethiopia and Nigeria, have recognised the NTC and even South Africa has agreed to unfreeze Libyan assets.

Zimbabwe is, of course, another matter. There may be a Government of National Unity but Foreign Affairs remain firmly in Zanu PF hands.  It was Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi, on the orders of Mugabe no doubt, who expelled the Libyan Ambassador and ordered the new Libyan flag to be taken down. The Unity Government – or the Zanu PF side of it – does not recognise the NTC in Libya.

If anyone wonders why the Zanu PF government is so ardent in its support for Gadaffi, it is no secret that it largely comes down to money. Lucrative commercial deals were signed when Gadaffi visited Zimbabwe in 2002, deals involving land and mining ventures. So last Sunday’s report that the Colonel had been seen in Harare en route to an up-market property in the affluent northern suburbs where his female guards had been seen patrolling the perimeter seemed, momentarily, to have the ring of truth.  Reports that Gadaffi’s son, Saadi, was in Zimbabwe last week may turn out to be equally erroneous but Saaidi, who certainly has extensive business interests in Zimbabwe was apparently treated in right royal fashion by Zanu PF officials.

Representatives of the new Libyan government have told Mugabe that “democracy is the new trend in Africa” and that must be worrying him as the shoots of the Arab spring spread down through the continent with riots in Malawi just over the border from ‘his’ Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s 31-year rule has not been without its grizzly secrets, including what is really going on at the Marange diamond fields right now.

The full horror of Gadaffi’s 42 year rule in Libya is being  uncovered as the fighters reveal more evidence of how Gadaffi treated his opponents. One report in particular was a shocking reminder of the barbarity of the Gadaffi regime. The rebels - or freedom fighters as they deserve to be called - had broken through into one of the many tunnels under Gadaffi’s headquarters in Tripoli and found skeletal prisoners, close to death, who had been entombed alive on Gadaffi’s orders as he retreated from Tripoli. The fact that Mugabe continues to support such a man indicates that their long relationship is based on shared views on the nature of leadership. Both men have ruled through fear They are both vehemently anti-west, both have demonstrated extreme authoritarian tendencies and both of them inspire fanatical loyalty in their followers. In Mugabe’s case, demonstrating loyalty to the ‘Dear Leader’ grants even criminals impunity. We saw that this week when the leader of the Chipangano gang was allowed to travel unimpeded to Mudzi, Mutoko and Murehwa to stir up more trouble in this already volatile area. At the other end of the country, another gang of thugs openly takes over people’s properties in Bulawayo as “part of Zanu PF’s indigenisation programme”. Police say they can do nothing to stop it and the Minister of Higher Education, declares, “That is the reason we went to war, to free you to take everything from the former colonialists…”

The reality that the AU refuses to acknowledge is that Mugabe and Gadaffi, along with other African dictators, have  maintained their long rule through oppression and fear. The courageous Libyans have demonstrated to the world that when ordinary citizens find the courage to throw off the shackles of fear then dictators should tremble for their end is not far off. So, while Gadaffi – wherever he is - continues to shout defiance at the world, he must know that the game is almost up. And then what will happen to all his investments in Zimbabwe?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.


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Mugabe could stop the violence if he wanted to
August 26, 2011, 11:51 am

Many of us have thought that if Mugabe really wanted to stop the violence he could very easily do so. It is after all his own supporters who are largely responsible; if they were going to listen to anyone, it would surely be to Robert Mugabe?

Miraculously, it seemed that moment had finally arrived during the funeral of Solomon Mujuru attended by an estimated 25.000 people. There were the usual zealots in the crowd who could not resist the temptation to boo and jeer every time Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s name was mentioned. Unbelievably, Mugabe intervened and told his followers to stop jeering, reminding them that this was an occasion for mourning. He went on to urge peace and told the crowd that people should be free to follow the party of their choice. It all seemed too good to be true.

It was Morgan Tsvangirai, speaking at an MDC rally, who picked up on that very point. In effect, he said Mugabe must follow through on his anti-violence or his words are mere rhetoric. “That (the violence) must stop and if you want it to stop you can stop it.” And that is the nub of the matter. Does Mugabe want the violence to end? After thirty-one years of Mugabe and Zanu PF rule, Zimbabweans know that violence is the Zanu PF way. If any more proof were needed, we have only to look at the report issued by the NGO Zimbabwe Democracy Now. Their report reveals Zanu PF’s secret plans to ensure that they win the next election and behind every one of the six steps  is the threat of violence, real or implied. Secret lists of voters and their families; forced political rallies; hundreds of road blocks that could effectively shut down the country; a very violent youth movement (no longer in uniform); an informer network that would operate in schools, government departments  and townships and a fresh drive to recruit thousand of new militia.

During his ‘Peace’ speech at General Mujuru’s funeral, Mugabe made several references to the ‘peace’ that he says has prevailed in the country in the last few months and while it is true that there has been some diminution of  outright violence, the situation in the country is very far from peaceful. The violence has simply taken another form; the mere fact that Solomon Mujuru’s death in a farmhouse fire has roused so much rumour and suspicion surely tells us that Zimbabwe is riven with fear and suspicion.  Only today we hear that Minister Kasukuwere has threatened foreign owned companies who fail to comply that the government’s treatment of them will be “more vicious than the land reforms.” Kasukuwere has given  these firms, including mines and banks, just fourteen days to say how they plan to transfer to local ownership. Remembering the violence that accompanied – and still accompanies – the farm take-overs it is not difficult to see how this piece of ‘empowerment’ will end.

Far from heeding the Prime Minister’s warning to the military to stay out of politics, another retired arm general this week threatened Tsvangirai with the promise that ‘doom’ will be ‘inflicted’ on him. And, speaking at the commemoration for General Mujuru in Marondera, the Commander of the Defence Forces, Constantine Chiwenga told the thousands of mourners from all parties that  having fought the Liberation War against the British, ‘Boers’ like Iain Kay, the elected MP for the constituency, had no place in Zimbabwean politics. The ignorant racism and intolerance of Chiwenga’s remarks is yet another reminder that violence and the threat of violence lie deep in Zanu PF’s psyche.

Across the world, events in Libya have dominated the news. As the ‘rebels’ fought their way to Tripoli I found myself wondering if the MDC were right to have rejected the ‘armed struggle’ as the means to achieve change in Zimbabwe while Zanu PF continues to use violence and fear to maintain power. Democratic change may be a long time coming through no-violent means but when it does, it will I believe, be a more lasting and meaningful change.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Another Summit, another failure of African leadership
August 20, 2011, 1:58 am

Another Summit and another failure of African leadership; yet again we have no resolution on Zimbabwe but, “There’s ongoing progress,” says Salamao, SADC’s Executive Secretary, “Let’s be fair to them.” I wonder, is that the same as turning a blind eye?

Jacob Zuma, who is still the Facilitator despite Zanu PF’s best efforts to get rid of him, was rather more forthright, declaring at the end of the SADC Summit that leaders in Zimbabwe must stop delaying the resolution of the political crisis. “They are running out of time,” said the South African president. “They cannot perpetually have unity government. They must hold elections but they must prepare for them.” Zanu PF has once again used the ‘sovereign state’ argument. “We are a sovereign state, no one else can tell us what to do” though that doesn’t stop them accepting aid from the US and EU., both at the top of the list of donors.

Perhaps the real reason for SADC’s inaction on Zimbabwe is explained by the fact that Robert Mugabe at 87 is older than the Tribunal itself. Respect, not always warranted, for age is an African reality not often understood in the west. The fact that Mugabe is seen as a Liberation hero makes it even less likely that the SADC leaders will openly condemn him. On Heroes Day Mugabe listed the countries he considered friendly to Zimbabwe: China, Russia, Cuba and Brazil. None of them are noted for their adherence to human rights or democratic governance. The fact that the chair of the SADC Tribunal has just been taken over by Angola gives little hope that a solution to Zimbabwe’s problem will be found any time soon. It was, after all, the Angolan government which detained civic leaders when they arrived in Luanda for the Summit.  

The death of General Solomon Mujuru totally dominated the news at home and even here in the UK. there was analysis of the political implications of his death in the leadership struggle.

Contacts inside the country tell me that Zimbabweans talk of nothing else but how the General came to die in such a manner. The former white owner of the farm argues that it was impossible for the General to be trapped inside the farmhouse, bearing in mind the number of windows and doors on that side of the house through which he could have escaped.  In a chilling reminder of Zanu’s propensity for violence, the Daily News  published a list of prominent Zimbabweans who have died in suspicious circumstances.

For some reason the US Ambassador was barred from paying his respects to the late Liberation hero; it’s often hard to fathom the actions of Zanu PF officialdom but this is typical of the vindictive spite they show towards so-called enemies, even those who top the donor list!

Meanwhile, in the real Zimbabwe, outside the bubble where politicians live, farm invasions continue unabated and often with horrible cruelty, wrapping a farmer in barbed wire because he did not chant Zanu PF slogans is one particularly barbaric example. Gangs just arrive at the farm gates and order the owners and workers off. The truth is that the absence of law and order in the country enables anyone who feels like it to take whatever they want. The ex-communicated ‘Bishop’ Kunonga is actually accompanied by the police as he turns bona fide Anglican priests out on the streets and takes over their houses. This week we hear that Kunonga has won a High Court action giving him control of all Anglican parishes until the matter is finalised before the courts. Why is this allowed to happen? There’s one simple answer: Kunonga supports Robert Mugabe. Salamao talks of ‘Progress in Zimbabwe’; but he is certainly not referring to the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. The UN reports 1.5 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation unless food aid is rapidly forthcoming – from those detested western donors no doubt.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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