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

The realities of the Zimbabwe economy
July 9, 2011, 1:57 am

Trawling through the week’s news from Zimbabwe, the most depressing fact to emerge is that the country is in dire financial straits. Despite having one of the richest diamond fields in the world, Zimbabwe is broke, if not actually bankrupt. So where is all the diamond wealth going? Tendai Biti, the Minister of Finance, says he has not received any diamond revenue since January.

Yet there are stories of millions of dollars worth of diamonds being sold. On Tuesday this week rough diamonds worth 160 million dollars were released for sale. To their shame South Africa has publicly acknowledged that they have helped market Zimbabwe’s diamonds despite an international ban on the sale of the ‘blood diamonds’. According to Farai Maguwu, the Director of the Centre for Research and Development, nothing has changed at Chiadzwa, the military are still in control and the stones continue to be smuggled across the border into Mozambique where black market dealers snap up the gems. Global Finance, a New York based magazine, last week named Zimbabwe as the second poorest country in the world after Congo-Brazaville. Zimbabwe has 80% unemployment and the manufacturing industry has virtually collapsed. There are no jobs.

Claims that the Zimbabwean economy is on the mend since the formation of the GNU mean little to ordinary Zimbabwean citizens as they struggle to survive. Stories that school dropouts have dramatically increased as parents are finding it impossible to find the money for school fees do not suggest a hopeful future for these youngsters or the country as a whole. The confusion surrounding reports of salary increases for civil servants only deepens the economic uncertainty. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai this week told the media that the government had not discussed any such increases for civil servants.  None of this appears to affect Robert Mugabe who continues to fly across the continent using up scarce financial resources to ensure that his presidential profile remains high.

We hear this week that Zanu PF and the two MDC formations have reached agreement on election dates, ‘pencilled in’ we are told for August/September 2012. It looks as if China will be funding the elections if there is any truth in the story of Zanu PF officials flying to China to beg for funds for that purpose. Winning that election is Zanu PF’s priority; they are not concerned with the desperate situation in schools and hospitals or the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans. Qualified nursing staff are forced to supplement their incomes by selling fruits say reports. The country is apparently short of 2000 senior nurses as thousands of qualified staff leave the country in search of better paid jobs elsewhere in the world. A report from the Senior Nurse at a local clinic in the Gwanda district reveals the reality of Zimbabwe’s shortage of financial resources and how it affects ordinary people, particularly in the rural areas. Mothers are giving birth on the floors because of the shortage of beds; there are no stretchers or wheelchairs, no drug trolleys or file shelves and only ten benches for the entire clinic where patients sit while waiting to see a doctor or nurse. This is the reality for Zimbabweans while their president flies off to the Middle East for his medical care.  This week ten children have died as a result of an outbreak of diarrhoea in Bulawayo. The spectre of cholera is never far away in a country where maintenance of the sewage system has been neglected and the presence of clean water is dependent on where you live; the poorer the neighbourhood, the greater the chance that people will be drinking unsafe water and kids will be playing in sewage infested puddles.

With the collapse of the economy, statistics in support of these observable facts of daily life are hard to come by. No longer do we see statistics issued on a regular basis since the dept that used to issue those figures is presumably a thing of the past as statisticians leave for those elusive ‘greener pastures’.  But the figures that relate to the diamonds are there for all to see and the question remains: Where is all that diamond wealth going?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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"What freedom means"
July 1, 2011, 2:06 pm

“What freedom means” is the subject of this year’s BBC Reith lecture delivered by Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy. No one hearing her speak can fail to be moved by Aung San Suu Kyi’s deep passion for a struggle which has occupied her whole life: the struggle for Burma’s freedom. The essence of her lecture was the acceptable means by which an oppressed people can go about achieving their freedom. Is violence ever justified and can non-violence  succeed in bringing freedom? Having spent more than 15 years of her life in detention, it is a question ‘The Lady’ is more than qualified to ask. Speaking for herself, she refuses to accept violence as the answer, saying that it will not bring her country to where she wants it to be, but she does not condemn those who choose the way of violence against a deeply repressive regime.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Reith lecture has profound relevance for any country where freedom is under threat, including Zimbabwe.

The repressive behaviour of the military junta in Burma is a reminder of the dangers that face a country when the army takes power. The junta this week bluntly told Aung San Suu Kyi to “stay out of politics.” Interestingly, in Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa used a piece in last Sunday’s Herald to warn Morgan Tsvangirai not to undermine the generals. Meanwhile, the building of the Chinese funded ‘Defence College’ goes ahead in Harare; China is of course Burma’s nearest neighbour and it seems that Burma’s hopes of freedom will be a long time coming with such a powerful neighbour protecting the military junta. The west hails China’s economic success but little is said about China’s involvement in Africa whose huge mineral resources they exploit to their benefit. Workers in Zimbabwe speak of Chinese bosses ignoring their human rights and treating them worse than colonialists ever did. The fact is that China has become the new colonial power in Africa having bought their way in by means of huge loans to impoverished African countries. Figures out today reveal that 170 foreign owned mining companies have submitted plans on how they propose to indegenize in compliance with the Zimbabwe government’s ruling. There is no mention of Chinese companies.

For the third time in 3 months Tendai Biti’s offices were invaded by so-called war veterans.

Shockingly, these thugs were escorted by the police as they searched the six storey building for Biti, threatening to beat him up or even kill him because the Minister of Finance had declined to pay salary increases to civil servants – and that includes war vets. The government coffers are empty, there is no money; $500 per month is the new poverty line for a family of four. Zimbabwe is no different from Europe where strikes and civil unrest are the order of the day as the economic crisis bites deeper. The difference lies in how the police react. In London yesterday the streets were packed with angry but largely peaceful demonstrators. Thirty people were arrested according to the police - and they were anarchists determined to make trouble we were told. It is hard to believe the Zim cops would tolerate public demonstrations, however justified they were. The MDC provincial chair person for Gokwe was arrested yesterday and the charges against him make interesting – and relevant – reading. He was charged with 1. undermining police authority 2. inciting violence and 3. taking pictures of a former Zanu PF torture base without ‘authorization’. The media is the latest victim of police paranoia with the editor of The Standard newspaper and two reporters spending the night in gaol for “false reporting” over the case of Jason Timba who was released after the court ordered that there was “no further justification” for his arrest.

All in all, I believe Zimbabwe constitutes a test case for Aung San Suu Kyi’s discussion on the acceptable means of bringing about freedom. The MDC has espoused the ‘democratic’ way to achieve change but looking on from the outside it is increasingly difficult to see how the utterly intransigent regime that Mugabe heads will ever stand aside for a democratically elected government – even supposing that free and fair elections ever take place.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Nonsensical statements from Zanu PF
June 24, 2011, 10:07 am

There must be something about Zanu PF membership that softens the brain; that’s the conclusion I’ve reached after a week of nonsensical statements from Zanu PF loyalists. Speaking about the fact that his ‘perfect’ electoral roll shows 41.119 registered centenarians Tobiwa Mudede reacted to criticism by asking, “You don’t want these people to attain 100 years. You don’t want them to be alive?” There was no sensible attempt to answer the criticism or explain how in a country where life expectancy is under 40 years there could possibly be that huge number of centenarians on the voters’ roll. Instead, Mudede replies with the suggestion that anyone who questions his figures must be some kind of monster who wishes all these supposed centenarians dead.

Even the man at the helm of the former ruling party is not averse to making statements that do not bare close logical analysis. Robert Mugabe is hailed as a great intellect and a man who claims to have several university degrees but that does not stop him making outrageous claims on the part of Zanu PF. Speaking on arrival in Malaysia on his latest trip to the Far East, Mugabe said he could prove that his ‘land reform’ had been a success by the increase in food production on the invaded farms. I was in Zimbabwe just four months ago and the one thing that struck me when I went into the local supermarket was the overwhelming predominance of South African goods. Basic food stuffs which had once all been produced in Zimbabwe are now imported from South Africa. The truth is that Zimbabwe is no longer self-sufficient in food; maize, sugar and flour are all imported, not to mention all the other products that were once produced locally such as soap powder, toothpaste and toilet paper. Even the chicken and eggs which are produced locally are fed with imported feed. So how can the president claim that his land reform has been such a success if Zimbabwe is importing just about everything from South Africa? Loyalty to the former ruling party really does seem to lower one’s capacity for logical thinking.

This week, SW Radio showed the video coverage of meetings held in rural areas such as Mudzi and what struck me was the fact that there was very little difference between the nonsense spoken by the so-called political elite in the towns and the rubbish coming out of the mouths of Zanu loyalists in the villages. When an MP, Edward Raradza, tells his rural constituents, “Nothing can stop us doing what we want,” no one questions the logic or even the legality of what he says. And in Mudzi the Zanu PF speaker defends the party’s right to use violence on the grounds that Jesus used violence in the Temple! 

The top prize for nonsensical statements this week goes to Brigadier General Nyikayaramba. Whether he speaks for himself alone or for the clique of military chiefs who have vowed never to serve under Morgan Tsvangirai is not clear but the Brigadier’s statements reveal a decided lack of common sense. Responding to Morgan Tsvangirai’s challenge to the security chiefs to “take off your uniforms” and join the political sphere, the Brigadier General replies that the military and Zanu PF are inseparable and the Prime Minister is a security threat because he takes orders from foreigners who seek to effect illegal regime change. Nyikayaramba offers no evidence whatsoever for this claim but says “ We will die for him (Mugabe) to make sure he remains in power…the current situation requires the generals to remain in uniform” he maintains. With the fabulous wealth of the  diamonds on offer to the military and political elite, one can’t help wondering if it’s greed rather than political loyalty that’s  really keeping the likes of Nyikayaramba on the scene. Far from being the means of rescuing Zimbabwe from economic and political collapse, the Chiadzwa diamonds have prolonged the country’s agony and brought nothing but further suffering to the ordinary people. No amount of Zanu PF nonsense can conceal that reality.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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SADC road maps and open declarations to prosecute MDC
June 18, 2011, 4:38 am

If, like me, you woke up last Saturday in breathless anticipation that
something definite might emerge from SADC then you were disappointed. It is
true that Zanu PF failed to get SADC member states to reject the Livingstone
resolutions but, that aside, there seemed little to cheer about. Now we have
to wait until the next SADC meeting on August 11th by which time both sides
will be expected to have fully implemented the GPA. We are told that SADC
Monitors will be sent to Zimbabwe to police the completion of the reforms
laid out in the GPA – whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, very little changes inside Zimbabwe. The police continue to be a
law unto themselves and in the latest example of lawlessness, police
officers have occupied a WOZA house in Bulawayo for six days now on the
grounds that WOZA are concealing ‘subversive documents’ inside the house.
WOZA served the police with High Court papers calling on them to leave the
premises and preventing them from removing any property whatever from the
place. The police reaction was to say that regardless of any court order
they will continue to ‘guard’ the house from outside until they get their
hands on Jenni Williams and search the house and vehicles parked in the
yard. The matter is due to come before the court today, June 17th.

The police are of course part of the Security Sector reform that the MDC is
demanding. Mugabe argues that such reform would usurp Zimbabwe’s sovereignty
but the reality is that without control of the police and army Mugabe’s hold
on power would be seriously eroded. Crisis in Zimbabwe reports that he is
planning to deploy thousands of militia and military in the run-up to
elections to intimidate the population, particularly in the rural areas, to
vote Zanu PF. It is already happening if reports that soldiers are already
beating up MDC supporters in Zvimba and Manicaland are anything to go by.

The Attorney General has openly declared that he will continue to prosecute
opposition members. In the same breath he says that the MDC should learn to
respect him and his office; rather a strange request when he so clearly
demonstrates his partiality for the former ruling party. Tendai Biti was
once again under attack by mobs of Zanu PF youths this week following last
week’s bomb attack on his home. This time it was dozens of militant youths
who descended on Biti’s offices demanding that he sign the Anti-Sanctions
Petition, something Biti categorically refused to do. With IMF and World
Bank officials in the country it was an obvious propaganda move designed to
prove that EU sanctions are hurting the population at large when we all know
that it’s only the top echelons of Zanu who are affected. The EU however
remains firm in their view that sanctions will remain in place until there
is ‘real change’ in Zimbabwe. Discussions on the ‘road map’ to plot Zimbabwe’s
future will apparently resume in July between Zanu PF and the MDC. Will
‘real change’ emerge from those discussions? Hard to believe when the
situation on the ground remains as tense as ever; there are ongoing farm
invasions and yesterday a group of Zanu officials accompanied by militant
youths invaded Longville Ranch in Gwanda which is allegedly rich in gold
deposits. Diamonds too, are still attracting unscrupulous investors from
China and now Russia is getting in on the act. Zimbabwe has a stockpile of
between 4 and 5 billions worth of the gemstones and the recent Chinese loan
will be repaid over the next 20 years in diamonds. The combination of
massive mineral wealth and acute political uncertainty does not seem to
justify much hope for the future. GeoffreyVan Orden MEP refers to ‘glimmers
of light’ when talking this week about the situation in Zimbabwe. He
maintains that SADC has recognised the true nature of the situation in the
country. That may be true but it certainly does not follow that regional
leaders will follow through with concrete actions – including Monitors - to
ensure that Mugabe fully implements the GPA .

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH


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The SADC Summit is upon us
June 10, 2011, 12:31 pm

The recall of parliament some two weeks ago set up a flurry of speculation here in the diaspora and also at home I gather. Only the president has the right to recall parliament so there must be something going on we said to each other. Perhaps he was finally going to announce that he was tired and it was time for him to retire kumusha to spend the rest of his days in peaceful retirement? Or perhaps he was going to dissolve the House preparatory to calling elections? Or - a more sinister option – perhaps he was going to ban the MDC and declare a State of Emergency?

In the event it was none of those things but a case of ‘rubber stamping’ ie, parliament being used to endorse an agreement that had already been signed and sealed between the Zimbabwean and Chinese governments for a loan of $98 million for the construction of a defence college in the Mazowe Valley. Just exactly why Zimbabwe needs a new ‘Defence College’ was not made clear since as far as one can judge there is no imminent external threat to the country. Schools, roads and hospitals are surely priorities in a country where the infrastructure is collapsing around you? But, unsurprisingly, it soon became very clear that the ‘enemy’ was of course the MDC that was ‘the enemy within’. An opposition ‘star’ rally had been planned for Sunday June 5th.  There was a massive police presence with water cannons, armoured cars and Zanu PF thugs beating up anyone seen to be making their way to the rally in Highfield. The ‘star’ was  Morgan Tsvangirai, of course, but he failed to attend because, so we are told, the police laid down totally unacceptable conditions: there would be no toyi toying; there would be no derogatory speeches against other political parties and probably he most insulting condition laid down by the police: that Morgan Tsvangirai, who is after all the Prime Minister of the country, should report all incidents of ‘hooligansim’ to the police.

That was on June 5th.,  needless to say attendance at the rally was apparently very sparse - another propaganda victory for Zanu PF.  Tendai Biti, the Minister of Finance, was a speaker at that rally and the next day his home in Harare was bombed. Coincidentally - or not – there was no police guard at Biti’s home with the police claiming a shortage of manpower.  As with last week’s story about the killing of the police inspector, it is almost impossible to discover the precise truth. Glen View continues to be a very dangerous place and this week the police picked up another 8 people bringing the total of suspects to 20 for the killing of the policeman. Perhaps the truth will come out when the 20 suspects are brought before the court. As for the Biti bomb, I wonder if we will ever know the truth. What sort of bomb was it?  One Zanu PF official said the explosion wasn’t even powerful enough to kill a rat and what is more, Zanu PF claim the whole incident was ‘staged’ by the MDC in order to highlight Zanu PF’s violence before the SADC Summit this weekend. President Zuma is said to be concerned at the level of violence in Zimbabwe. That’s not surprising when even normally docile magistrates order an investigation into the apparent abuse of suspects and police set the dogs on innocent villagers loitering around the diamond mines at Chiadzwa where 80 people were badly mauled by police dogs.

So after weeks of intensifying violence in Zimbabwe, the SADC Summit is upon us. Prepare for lies and half-truths from Zanu PF and possible violence in the streets as opposing groups meet head on in South Africa. Speaking personally, I have no great hope that Zimbabwe’s problems will be solved by the SADC leaders; it seems to me that they have neither the courage nor the will to tackle Mugabe. As the Daily News describes the confrontation between the GPA partners, it will be a ‘titanic battle’ and it’s hard to believe that the ‘big men’ of Africa will back anyone other than the Liberation Hero - but we live in hope.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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