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

Justice eventually prevails
June 4, 2011, 2:14 am

The arrest of Ratko Mladic this week, sixteen years after the slaughter of 8000 Serbian Moslems is a reminder that justice may be slow but in the end it will prevail. For Zimbabweans and the Ndebele people in particular who experienced the horror of Gukurahundi, there is some solace in knowing that Mugabe and his followers will one day face justice – not revenge but justice. It may be a long time coming but one day there will be justice for the 20-30.000 people massacred by the Mugabe regime.

“Only Mugabe forever and ever” goes the latest Zanu PF slogan, echoing Brigadier General Nyikayaramba’s claim earlier in the week that Mugabe, as ‘Father of the Nation’ could never be replaced any more than a natural father could. Mugabe should be president for life, Nyikayaramba declared. Not everyone in the former ruling party agrees with him; but then they all have their eyes on the top job. Still Mugabe shows no signs of handing over the reigns of power and each time he offers another reason why he cannot go: Yes it’s true he is 87 years old  but he is fit and strong, he claims, and could live to 100. The Third Chimurenga is not yet complete, ie. we have not yet taken all the white owned farms. Zanu PF would collapse without him and patriotism demands that he should remain in post, ie. the country needs him. The police are of course 100% behind Mugabe and this week we have seen the extent to which they will go to prove their loyalty.

Last Sunday a policeman, Inspector Mutedza, was killed in the Harare suburb of Mbare. As always with a state-controlled media it is hard to get to the bottom of what actually happened  but the police claim that the ZRP Inspector was killed by a crowd of MDC supporters. Even before any investigation had taken place, a police spokesperson had rushed into print in the state-controlled newspaper to place the blame on the opposition. Since then dozens of Youth Militia have turned Mbare into a war zone beating up MDC supporters and displacing known MDC members from their own homes. The musika in Mbare is a vital means of earning a livelihood in the suburb but MDC vendors have had their stalls destroyed and their goods looted by gangs of youths trained at Inkomo army barracks for the sole purpose of attacking the opposition party which has a strong following in the suburb. So far, at least 20 MDC supporters have been arrested. The Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chihuri said in a barely concealed reference to the MDC as the killers of the police Inspector, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Unless the comment was intended as irony – which I somehow doubt -that’s pretty rich coming as it does from a man who is on record as saying, “This country came through blood and the barrel of the gun and it can never be recolonised through a simple pen which costs as little as five cents.” Chihuri’s contempt for the democratic process is evident in the treatment of MDC activists who have been brutalised in prison. Lawyers representing the activists have been refused permission by the police to see their clients. An application to the High Court has been made but whether the police will obey a High Court ruling is by no means certain judging from recent experience of police behaviour.

Regardless of Zimbabwe’s all too obvious lack of peace and stability, the AU this week declared that the country will take over the Chair of the Peace and Solidarity Council in accordance with alphabetical procedure! ‘Peace and solidarity’ are not words that readily come to mind when one considers the actions of Mugabe’s fanatical followers. People like ‘Bishop’ Kunonga can get away with anything – not excluding murder – if they demonstrate their loyalty to the Old Man. Kunonga is wreaking havoc in Bishop Chad Gandiya’s Harare parishes but the police arrest not the perpetrators but the priests who report that they have been kicked out of their homes and their families are traumatised by Kunonga’s thugs.

All that decent men and women can hope is that Kunonga and others of his ilk will one day stand trial for their misdeeds. Augustine Chihuri, the head of the police for the past how many years has been complicit in the destruction of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and together with so many others deserves to stand trial for as the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo says, “There is no alternative to the rule of law.”

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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SADC, ZANUPF abandons election road map and attacks on Church congregations
May 28, 2011, 5:36 am

Just a week ago the SADC Summit opened in the Namibian capital. 11 regional leaders were present and the meeting was all over in a few hours. Zimbabwe was not on the agenda but that did not stop the Namibian police with the help of Zimbabwe’s CIO from forcibly removing Zimbabwean civil rights activists from outside the venue. SADC has shown very few signs that its own citizens’ concerns are of any importance in their deliberations. And, as if to illustrate that point, SADC dissolved their Human Rights Tribunal this week.

The dissolution of the SADC Human Rights Tribunal was a blow, not only for Zimbabwe’s remaining white farmers but for all Southern African citizens. There are apparently just 230 white farmers left in business from the original 4.500 at the start of the so-called Land Reform Programme. Right on cue, Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa declared that the government would now push ahead with its land reforms without the Tribunal “on its back”. True to his words, government backed war veterans are now moving from farm to farm in the Midlands and Mashonaland provinces intimidating white farmers to get off their land. Title deeds have long since ceased to have any meaning in Zimbabwe where the Rule of Law has virtually collapsed thanks to a partisan police force and judiciary. Robert Mugabe is pushing for elections this year and has made it known that he wants all white farmers off the land before elections are held.

Zanu PF declared this week that they have abandoned the GPA ‘electoral roadmap’ and hardliners within the party have threatened to leave SADC unless they get their own way. The next SADC meeting is scheduled for June 11th and the MDC is demanding that reform of the security sector be discussed there. “That is not going to happen” says Patrick Chinamasa and Robert Mugabe, also rejecting the MDC call for reform of the security sector declares them to be “an exemplary and reputable force”.

How Mugabe can justify such a claim is hard to fathom when in this one week alone we have seen numerous examples of the police being utterly disreputable. They have refused lawyers access to their Zimrights clients and even denied they know where the two, Florence Ndlovu and Walter Dube, are being held. In blatant disregard of a court order which had given permission for an anti-torture workshop to be held for villagers in Tsholotsho, the Zimrights activists were picked up at a road block with the police claiming that they had instructions to shoot. That was five days ago and the two activists have not been seen since. Woza women were once again arrested after they mounted another peaceful demo in Bulawayo against power cuts and twenty seven innocent mourners at the funeral of an MDC official were arrested and held for five days before they were released without charge.

Most shocking in my view are the attacks on churches.   Civilised countries would consider police disrupting church services as totally unacceptable. It is in fact unconstitutional in a country where the constitution enshrines freedom of worship as a basic right – as the Zimbabwean constitution does. The Christian Alliance is a coalition of church leaders which has compiled a report they intend to put before the next SADC meeting. In their report they have detailed the numerous examples of police harassment against churches and their congregations. The Alliance Director is the Reverend Useni Sibanda and his comment goes to the heart of the matter: “The surprising thing is that the police never cause disruptions when Zanu PF officials join the apostolic church sects in worship where they turn those gatherings into political rallies.” Zimbabweans all know exactly what the Reverend Sibanda was referring to.

By dissolving the Human Rights Tribunal, SADC has left citizens of all faiths and none at the mercy of a partisan police force with nowhere to turn for justice.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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Can ZANU PF learn?
May 20, 2011, 10:50 am

Is it too much to hope that Zanu PF – locked into the past as its leader and its members are – can learn anything from events in other parts of the world?

Acknowledging the bloody history between their two countries on her historic visit to Ireland this week, Queen Elizabeth 11 said we should “bow to the past but not be bound by it”, adding that Ireland’s example gives hope to other peace makers around the world.” In an eight minute speech, the Queen, herself an octogenarian, showed that it is possible despite advancing years to move away from the past and to understand, with head and heart, present realities. Without denying the pain and suffering for both sides of the past conflict, the Queen’s speech was a model of restraint and sincere humility and for that she received a standing ovation from the gathering of Irish dignitaries. From her very first words in Gaelic addressed directly to the Irish Head of State, President Mary McAleese, the Queen demonstrated that she is indeed a peacemaker. “There were things we could have done better and things which with historical hindsight we might not have done at all.” After her speech, the Irish papers and even the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams who was opposed to the royal visit, had warm praise for her sincerity and open- heartedness.

The comparison between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Mugabe is not intended to convey the notion that - though he may think otherwise – the Zimbabwean President is a royal personage entitled to an inherited royal prerogative. As Morgan Tsvangirai remarked this week, Zanu PF does not have the ‘divine right’ to rule Zimbabwe. I am no royalist myself but the Queen’s speech in Dublin was everything one hopes Mugabe will one day bring himself to admit: that the past is just that, past, and old enmities must be forgiven and forgotten in the light of the new realities of a Government of National Unity where, one hopes, the national good comes before narrow party interests. Sadly, despite his apparent admiration for the British royal family, there are no signs that Mugabe is about to embark on the path of peace and reconciliation even though he has sent his emissaries around Africa to convince fellow leaders that all is peace and stability in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s party has apparently sponsored a group of young Zanu PF ‘heavies’ to lobby the SADC Summit. Their stated intention is to disrupt proceedings if the Summit attempts to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe and in particular the land question. That may explain why fresh farm invasions are going on even now. And in Bulawayo, a group of Zanu PF youths have once again invaded and taken over a block of flats owned by an Indian family. “Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans” the group told the Indian family. How many times have we heard that in the past decade from Mugabe himself and his fanatical followers? Strange how in Zanu PF’s racist ideology, a brown skin or a white skin disqualify one from being Zimbabwean while oriental colouring is perfectly acceptable – especially if it comes with very large sums of cash. The Chinese are financing a new military intelligence HQ in the Mazowe Valley at a cost of $ 98million we hear.  Rumour or truth, no one knows. With Zanu PF’s stranglehold on the media, it’s hard to differentiate. Did Mugabe collapse on Tuesday evening, for instance, and was he revived by his medical team? Is he being given regular injections of adrenalin just to keep him alive? Or are these just stories dreamt up by journalists desperate for news? One inevitable result of a media clampdown is the proliferation of wildly exaggerated stories.

This Friday morning brings the news that President Zuma will not attend the SADC Summit in Namibia and Zimbabwe will therefore be off the agenda. Meanwhile Mugabe continues to insist that he will hold elections this year using the combination of an utterly discredited Voters Roll and pre and post-election violence that we saw in 2008. Yesterday saw CNN journalists arrested in Harare for filming in the city and Woza women arrested in Byo and detained for demonstrating about power shortages. Nothing changes or will change in Zimbabwe while Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF continue to reign.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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Corrupt police and security sector reform
May 13, 2011, 10:36 am

There was a report last week of the police taking bribes at road blocks. An enterprising journalist had made it her business to travel by Commuter bus noting the number of road blocks and the number of times the conductor had to get out to satisfy police officers demanding bribes. In particular, along the Epworth route in and out of the city of Harare where police are alleged to ‘earn’ as much as $1000 a day in bribes. When tackled about this, a senior police officer admitted that police personnel do sometimes accept bribes but, he maintained, the public were as much to blame as the police! It was not general practice just a minority of cops - ‘a few rotten apples’.

Whether it is indeed ‘just a few rotten apples’ or the whole barrel, it hardly inspires one with confidence in the integrity of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Up and down the country they have demonstrated over the last decade how hopelessly partial they are in the handling of cases of political violence. Zimbabweans know very well where police loyalty lies  - wasn’t it the Commissioner himself who stated that he would never salute Morgan Tsvangirai?  So it came as no surprise to read a report in Monday’s Herald claiming that police records show that the MDC is the major perpetrator of political violence. “The MDC is topping the national violence record,” says the Herald, “despite the party’s claim that its supporters are on the receiving end of political violence in the country.” Commenting on the Herald report, an independent newspaper headlined it as ‘A shameful lie’. Not only shameful but also just plain stupid; the gaols are full of MDC activists and supporters and the hospitals treat MDC victims of violence while Zanu PF perpetrators are free to continue their criminal activities.  Long gone are the days  when people expected to get even-handed justice from the police in Zimbabwe. So low is our expectation of professional behaviour from the police that many citizens no longer even bother taking their complaints of violence to the police, knowing that in all probability they as the victims will be arrested. As for the police records that the Herald referred to, if they do indeed exist they prove nothing since the officer on duty is free to attribute blame wherever he wishes. It is not likely he or she will deviate from the party line when their jobs are at risk.When a senior police officer such as Superintendent Phiri warns the MDC T. of “trying to destabilise the country through acts of political violence” it is pretty certain that the ordinary cop on duty will allocate the blame to the MDC even though all the evidence points the other way.

We hear that Security Sector reform is on the agenda of the South African facilitator’s next meeting. While that meeting is in doubt, the Politburo has warned President Zuma that he will not be allowed to interview the Security chiefs. The heads of the army, police, prisons and intelligence service will not be permitted to talk to the South African Facilitation team. President Zuma had wanted assurances from them that they would not interfere in the election process as they did in 2008.  Zanu PF itself appears to be split on the issue of election dates. After the weekly Politburo meeting we were told that the party wants elections in 2011 despite the Minister of Justice earlier saying he thought 2013 would be a more suitable time for the country to go to the polls. The charge that the MDC is responsible for all the violence in the country is just part of the electoral strategy of the former ruling party: to divert attention from Zanu PF’s violent ways and use the MDC as the scapegoat. Will SADC, President Zuma and the rest of Africa be convinced by such faulty reasoning? The fact that Zuma is trying to convince Europe to drop sanctions seems to suggest he is only too willing to believe what Mugabe tells him. Zanu PF announces that the Anti-Sanctions Petition has been signed by 2.2 million people. And how many of those signatures were freely given? Soldiers, prison officers – even prisoners – and the police, not to mention school children and college students forced out of their lectures at Great Zimbabwe University by a certain Major General to attend his Anti-Sanctions rally? In spite of Lindiwe Zulu’s comment week that Zim elections ‘must be totally different from 2008’, it is hard to see that happening without the total reform of the ZRP. 

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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‘Justice has been done’
May 6, 2011, 10:22 am

Friday May 6th 2011

‘Justice has been done’ claimed the Americans after US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan this week. That seems a strange interpretation of justice, shooting an unarmed man - however ‘evil’ he may be – without the benefit of a trial in open court. Some might argue that it is nothing more than extra-judicial execution. While ordinary Americans rushed out onto the streets in Washington to chant their triumphalist USA! USA! In the outside world there have been not a few voices questioning the legality - and morality - of the action. The narrative of Osama’s death has changed in several respects from that first issued by the White House and added to that is the fact that President Obama has decided not to make public the pictures of Osama bin Laden’s body on the grounds that such images might provoke revenge attacks from Al Quaida sympathisers. We are told that Osama was buried at sea within twenty four hours. Whatever the truth, we still have no hard evidence of how bin Laden was killed or the actual circumstances surrounding his death. The US acknowledges that the death of Osama does not mean the end of terrorism so what exactly was the purpose of killing him if it was nothing more than revenge? What we do know is that the killing took place inside Pakistan without that country being aware that American Special Forces were present in the country or the nature of their mission. Pakistan was not informed, the US tells us, because there was a fear that Osama would be warned by the Pakistani authorities of the plot to kill him. Not unnaturally, Pakistan has taken exception to that allegation, claiming their right as a sovereign state to have control over who enters the country.

It is that expression, ‘sovereign state’ so often used by Robert Mugabe that highlights the predicament of how the world treats dictators and how it goes about bringing them to justice. Mugabe uses the expression to justify his regime’s excesses with the excuse that as a ‘sovereign state’ Zimbabwe has an absolute right to behave in any way it wishes. Many people have asked since the killing of Osama bin Laden: ‘Why not Robert Mugabe or the North Korean leader? What is stopping the world from removing these ageing dictators?’

Much as Zimbabweans want to see Mugabe gone, I don’t believe they would welcome outside forces entering the country to remove him from power. The thought of British, American or South African forces entering Zimbabwe to assassinate the dictator or attempt to overthrow his regime would, I believe, be deeply repugnant to the average Zimbabwean. It can be argued  that Osama bin Laden as the founder and leader of Al Qaeda was a very different case. Al Qaeda was after all, responsible for millions of deaths of innocent civilians not only on 9/11 in New York but in London on 7/7 in Kenya at the bombing of the US Embassy and in Pakistan itself which has felt the full brunt of Al Qaeda terrorism.   

The moral question at the heart of this debate is whether a nation is justified in using extra-judicial measures to destroy the individual or organization that has threatened the security of the state and, in bin Laden’s case, killed thousands of people. Do the means ever justify the end? Clearly, Mugabe and Zanu PF have no doubts on that score. The means they are using to maintain their stranglehold on power include torture, kidnapping and destruction of people’s homes. In the words of one delegate at the recent MDC Congress, “Anyone who is associated with the MDC is threatened with eviction and some are actually kidnapped, beaten up. There is actually no control at all so even if our people go to the police, the police do nothing.” And therein lies Zimbabwe’s problem: the police and army are complicit in Zanu PF’s attempts to silence all opposition by any means. What needs to happen I believe is that these criminals, from Robert Mugabe down to the lowest hireling of Zanu PF, be ultimately brought to justice before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.  No extra-judicial killings as was the case with Osama bin Laden; for justice to be done, it must be seen to be done by the whole world.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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