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

67 airfares
June 21, 2013, 2:37 pm

In all the hoo-ha about the election date, diamonds may have lost some of their news value but they are still there and still causing quite a lot of bother. Finance Minister Tendayi Biti says the country has no money to fund elections and an appeal is put out to the international community. Ironically enough, the province where the precious stones are located has this week declared a state of acute hunger. What Manicaland needs, they say, is a series of irrigation schemes. Such schemes benefit the whole community with people able to grow their own vegetables to feed their families and sell the surplus to bring in some cash. Obviously the wealth generated by the diamonds would immediately solve Manicaland’s problem but – and it seems to be an insoluble ‘but’ – the diamond money is leaking away. Government says it will close these revenue ‘leaks’ but exactly how they will do that is not clear. On Thursday it was reported that the taxes paid by the mining companies have simply disappeared; they claim they have paid a certain figure to the treasury but the treasury says it has received a significantly lower amount! Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact remains that there are several major projects in the country that need massive capital investment. The capital city of Harare, for example, is fast running out of drinking water and that problem will only be solved by investment in a whole new sewerage and water treatment plant. China, that ever-generous donor, has apparently given –or loaned? – Harare City Council  $14.4 million to rehabilitate its water treatment but water shortage is not limited to the capital city, Gweru is facing a similar dilemma.

    None of these very pressing problems at home seem to bother Robert Mugabe. Off he went to the SADC Summit on Zimbabwe with one of the biggest delegations, some 67 people we are told. True, the Summit was on African soil, in Maputo, but 67 airfares, hotel bills, daily allowances, bar bills and etceteras must have used a very substantial sum. Perhaps it’s an over-vivid imagination but with all these VIPs travelling all over the place, one can’t help thinking that it must be very easy to conceal a few shining stones tucked away in one’s suit pocket in order to transact shady but lucrative deals in foreign countries. That might explain where some of the missing diamond wealth is going? Zim police seem more interested in banning opposition political rallies and PTUZ marches than arresting crooked diamond dealers. This week the police detained a man because he was driving a car with a Voter Awareness poster on display! It will be interesting to see how the ZRP behave now that there is a 10 man AU delegation in the country to assess Zimbabwe’s voter readiness. If these are indeed the forerunners of the electoral observers, it’s hard to see how such a small number could possibly cover the whole country. The repeated calls by the US for credible elections would suggest that they are none too hopeful of a smooth outcome but President Obama probably has the more pressing problem of Syria uppermost in his mind. Zimbabwe too might be facing an aggressor with a resurgent Renamo vowing to overthrow the Frelimo government in Mozambique. Military confrontations on the eastern border may well spill over into Manicaland where the diamonds are but there is an alternative to diamonds. It’s called ‘cattle banking’ might bring hope for Africa’s rural poor, that’s a much more realistic option for ordinary folk. They don’t have to sell their animals, the cattle are held by the bank as collateral against loans. Diamonds are for the already rich but cattle are the true measure of rural people’s wealth

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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To be or not to be?
June 14, 2013, 5:13 pm

To be or not to be? It may have been a deeply philosophical question for Shakespeare’s Hamlet but in the Zimbabwean context it’s all about elections. Are we or are we not going to have elections this year? Yesterday, Prime Minister Tsvangirai said he would not agree to elections in July and warned Mugabe not to ‘go it alone’. In contrast, Mugabe seems to want elections as soon as possible, he can’t afford to hang about at his age. Having said he would abide by the Constitutional Court ruling, Mugabe has widened the splits within his Zanu PF party. The party knows it’s nowhere near ready for elections with reports of factionalism coming in from across the country. The hardliners in the party want elections as soon as possible but the realists are only too aware of all the divisions within the party as they squabble about who is going to succeed Mugabe.

It is not only the election date that is causing problems, the SADC Summit on Zimbabwe has twice been postponed with African leaders, including Mugabe himself,  saying they couldn’t find the time in their busy schedules. We are told that the Summit will now take place on Saturday June 15th but even that is not a certainty. What is clear is that Mugabe does not welcome a Summit on Zimbabwe with all the close scrutiny that might involve. He has already blasted SADC for interfering in Zimbabwe’s affairs, his old claim of ‘sovereignty’ has once again been aired. He denied that he has contempt for SADC and initially claimed that he was ‘just too busy’ to attend the Summit.  As to the ‘reforms’ which were supposed to have been instituted before elections, there is still no sign of them and the MDC’s threat to boycott the elections unless those reforms take place sounds increasingly hollow.

Meanwhile there is evidence of increasing violence from both the main parties; evidence surely of the inevitable frustration caused by all the uncertainty in the country. Indecision appears to be the order of the day; no one can make up their minds about anything! Zanu PF continue to dither over the date for their primary elections. The Politburo meets today to sort that problem out and while there’s no certainty about anything, Zimbabweans in the diaspora, some 3.5 million of them are desperate to get passports so they can go home to vote even though no date has been announced. It seems very clear that all the parties are gearing up for elections and as always teachers are in the frontline of violence because of their suspected links with MDC. A pupil at an army school was recently expelled because his father had links with the opposition party but it has to be admitted, the MDC also have blood on their hands as journalists are apparently assaulted by young activists. Fear of electoral violence is widespread and JOMIC has launched a Code of Conduct for all political parties but it is unlikely to stem the rising tide of violence that threatens to engulf the country as elections loom.

Post Script, Friday, June 14th 2013 : Then came the bombshell! In contravention of the GPA and the constitution and without consulting his own Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe announced July 31st 2013 as the election date. Morgan Tsvangirai received an early morning letter telling him the news and the MDC immediately filed a court application challenging Mugabe’s unilateral proclamation. Mugabe declared that he was acting within the law as determined by the Constitutional Court. In short, just two days before the Summit, Mugabe has again shown the world that no one is going to tell him what to do. The question is: what will SADC do now to rein in Mugabe?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Dilly Dali Tambo and SABC used by ANC to save Zanu PF.... as promised
June 7, 2013, 1:38 pm

All week we have been drip-fed extracts from the Dali Tambo interview with Robert Mugabe; if anyone was hoping for astounding revelations or even political depth, then they were disappointed. Responding to the criticism of how shallow the programme was, Tambo pointed out that his ‘People of the South’ series is just not that sort of programme; it’s about people not about politics, Tambo avers. The problem is that Robert Mugabe is not just any old ‘people’. He has been in power longer than almost any other African leader, his actions have touched thousands of people’s lives and he has accrued, as the saying goes, a lot of political ‘baggage’, including several examples of human rights abuse on a mass scale which have earned him – rightly or wrongly – the reputation of a vicious tyrant. Not to talk about any of these matters was rather like interviewing Adolph Hitler and not mentioning his policy of exterminating the Jews. That is not to suggest that Mugabe is another Hitler but it’s simply to point out that we are all responsible for our actions, no matter what our level in society. The fact that Deli Tambo appears not to grasp that concept is more than a little surprising when one considers his own political background of apartheid South Africa where racial identity was often a cover for inexcusable and inhuman acts. In failing to question Mugabe in depth about his decision to launch Gukurahundi – or Murambatsvina for that matter – Tambo is implying that the man ‘at home’ with his wife and children, safe in the warmth of his family, is not the same man as the ruthless leader who gave the orders to slaughter innocent civilians. It tells us more clearly than anything could, that the interview was merely an exercise in ‘spin’, an attempt to portray Mugabe as a loving, family man who could not possibly be capable of mass slaughter.

It was announced this week that the British government has finally decided to do the right thing and pay compensation to the Kenyan citizens who were tortured, raped and in some cases castrated, by the British colonial power during the 1950’s. The British had long argued that the abuse took place so long ago that the present government was no longer responsible. The Kenyan government took over that responsibility when the country became independent in 1963, the British claimed in an argument which smacks of sophistry of the worst kind. Human Rights Watch claims that 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed by the colonial authority while 160.000 people were imprisoned in appalling conditions. It took a long time but eventually the British have grudgingly admitted their responsibility and the British Foreign Secretary will announce his ‘profound regret’ and pay compensation of £14 million or $20 million to the 5000 surviving victims. ‘Perfidious Albion’ has finally done the right thing! In stark contrast, Robert Mugabe admits no blame for Gukurahundi and the actions of the Fifth Brigade, Instead, Mugabe, the Commander in Chief of the army- then and now- told Deli Tambo, “Yes it was very bad ... it’s not a story we should continue… It happens, you get these things happening… Soldiers do not always follow instructions.” In other words, such atrocities happen in wartime but these are not things we should talk about and especially not in the run-up to an election!

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe holds its breath and waits for the election date. At least, there is agreement that reforms must take place before the elections and everything now hangs on SADC’s deliberations at the special summit, now due on Monday next.

Keeping the army in their barracks and out of politics remains top priority.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Let's “spruce up Mugabe’s image”
May 31, 2013, 2:09 pm

Apparently South Africans are about to be treated to a specially televised visit to Zimbabwe’s State House to witness the Mugabe family ‘at home’, looking and behaving just like any other family in the land. It’s all part of a plan to “spruce up Mugabe’s image” and it’s not the first time it has been tried. So, he and Grace are gathered around the dining table where they and their children chat and reminisce about the past like any other family – or that’s the impression they want to give but, of course, they are not like any other African couple. The spotless white napery and the ‘family silver’ are not exactly typical of how African families live in the high density suburbs where there may not even be water or power. It’s hard to believe that anyone will be taken in by this attempt to revive Mugabe’s image. The fact that he is an ordinary family man does not exclude the possibility of another less endearing side of him – even Hitler loved dogs! Mugabe is the consummate politician whose past shows that he will stop at nothing to keep Zanu PF and himself in power. Perhaps it is not his own people that Mugabe is interested in impressing but the outside world. We are told he is very concerned with his ‘legacy’ these days which I take to mean what will the history books say about him? Will he be regarded as the great African leader who brought freedom to his people suffering under the colonial yoke or will he be seen as just another power-hungry African dictator? These days his rhetoric is all about peace and harmony but while he talks of peace his followers do the exact opposite and sections of his Zanu PF party are following quite another agenda. Harare South was this week a virtual war zone after Zanu PF attacked MDC activists and in another incident there was a brutal attack on teachers and children at a school in Lower Gweru by a group of thugs carrying machetes and knives. 13 people were injured, some of them seriously. The fact that police once again failed to intervene suggests, as the MDC’s aspiring candidate for the area commented, that “it is our opponents who are sponsoring these unknown youths.” One of the most tragic facts about the Zimbabwean situation is surely the use of youngsters to commit these heinous acts of violence.

Mugabe’s Vice President Joyce Mujuru echoed the call for peace and non-violence this week. Ironically, it was at the funeral of the notorious CIO agent Kanengoni when she spoke words of peace. Elias Kanengoni was in fact a convicted assassin, sentenced to seven years in gaol for shooting the Gweru mayor Patrick Kombayi. Even then, Mugabe intervened to protect his agent; he used his Presidential powers to free Kanengoni from prison. And this week, Kanengoni was declared a ‘national hero’; a man who had personally orchestrated the violence in Chiweshe which killed 14 MDC supporters in the 2008 election campaign.

The African Union is fifty years old this year and there is much talk about whether the continent has fulfilled Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a united continent. Mugabe was there in Addis Abbaba at the AU and 24 hours after his return to Zimbabwe he flew off to Japan for an African Development Conference, accompanied of course by his wife, Grace and all the usual hangers-on. Africa’s development might be better served if this particular leader stopped jetting round the world but then, perhaps he believes that attendance at all these international events shows the world what a great leader he is. Only time will tell but the ultimate test of any leader’s worth is surely the state in which he leaves his people and his country. Will Robert Mugabe pass that test?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Justice demands the victims must never be forgotten
May 24, 2013, 12:59 pm

There was a report yesterday that there are signs of re-engagement with Zimbabwe by the US, the EU and various other nations. First reaction: well, that’s great! It means the world has moved on, no longer are the nations of the world riven by the ideological divisions of the past; there’s no longer the ‘great divide’ between east and west, we are all one great big happy community of nations. The sins of the past are forgotten: Robert Mugabe, once regarded as a cruel despot responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Gukuruhundi, the horrors of Murambatsvina and countless other examples of civil rights abuse, his image has been renewed as the leader of a modern democratic nation. No longer is Zimbabwe regarded as a ‘no-go’ area for tourists. Now, it’s a top destination for travellers anxious to see for themselves the wonders of the Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and the magnificent animals in the country’s game reserves. There is now no reason for tourists to avoid Zimbabwe, it is a country at peace with itself, where its citizens enjoy all the freedoms of a democratic state. Is that the true state of affairs, is that the reality for ordinary Zimbabwean citizens - or is it just plain wishful thinking on the part of the rest of the world?

      This change of attitude on the part of the EU, the US and the other nations towards Zimbabwe can perhaps be best explained by some of the statements made by certain high-powered American visitors who have recently been granted interviews with President Robert Mugabe. First it was the former UN Ambassador Andrew Young who was dispatched by President Obama to let Mugabe know that the US was ‘interested in repairing strained relations’. Then it was the Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson who said, “When there’s growth and investment, everybody wins. And we want to be part of helping remove... barriers that stand between our two countries.” As proof of good will, in March the EU lifted sanctions against 81 Zimbabwean officials excluding Robert Mugabe and 10 of his top officials. Next it was the turn of the US who lifted sanctions against the Agricultural Development Bank and this week the EU availed Zimbabwe education of $17 million. Was all this generosity and good will on the part of the US and the EU anything to do with the fact that Zimbabwe is about to ‘indigenise’ its very substantial mineral resources and they want a part of the action -or was it an attempt to outflank the Chinese whose vice president is getting VIP treatment on his current visit to Zimbabwe. Whatever the explanation, the bottom line is profit. With the discovery of vast platinum and other mineral resources, including Chiadzwa’s diamonds, Zimbabwe becomes a very attractive target for foreign investors - or that’s what you would think. Enter Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines. “If there is anyone who thinks they own land, please prepare yourselves for the shocks that will actually befall you,” he said this week. “No one owns the land - especially mining land. It is owned by the state.” And everything else it seems! From now on everyone will have to apply for a licence to own a shop and NO foreign owned company will be granted a licence we are told. This action is apparently targeted at Chinese, Congolese and Nigerian shop owners and street traders. Of course, it’s no coincidence that all this is happening in the run-up to elections, now further delayed by the shambles of the voter registration exercise. No doubt all those outsiders who are now courting Zimbabwe have drawn a veil over the horrors of the past and concentrated instead on the positive fact that the new constitution has become law. Perhaps that is as it should be: that all the ills of the past are forgiven – but justice demands the victims must never be forgotten.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.     

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