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

Hypocrisy, double standards, indecent protocols and how the Catholic Church cosies up to a dictator
May 1, 2011, 2:42 am

With yesterdays’s fairy tale royal wedding over, it is time to return to more unpleasant realities and the media today have space for something more down- to-earth to talk about. Robert Mugabe’s trip to the Vatican for the beatification of Pope John Paul 11 has caught the attention of the BBC and today’s UK Independent. EU sanctions prohibit Mugabe from travelling to member countries of the EU but the Vatican is a separate state and not a member of the European Union so Mugabe will be among the 87 dignitaries from all over the world attending the beatification of John Paul 11in Rome on Sunday. BBC News reports that he has arrived in Rome accompanied by his wife and the usual entourage.

Much to many Zimbabweans’ disgust, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UK, Gabriel Machinga, was invited to the royal wedding along with the Syrian ambassador. Syria’s invitation was withdrawn at the last minute with the news that the Syrian authorities has killed some hundreds of demonstrators but as far as I know Gabriel Machinga was there in Westminster Abbey despite Zimbabwe’s appalling human rights record’ The Foreign Office maintained that the UK had normal diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe and there was no reason not to include the Zimbabwean ambassador on the guest list. Once again, double standards won the day. Perhaps the Foreign Office is unaware of Mugabe’s unrelenting tirades against the British.? Whatever the reason, it is clear to see how double standards and hypocrisy flourish on all sides in international relations.

As for Robert Mugabe’s trip to Rome, well that’s hypocrisy of quite another kind. Speaking on April 22nd at the opening of a new ZCC conference centre in Masvingo. Mugabe was at great pains to stress how disillusioned he was with the Catholic Church, not because he had suddenly discovered that the church he has belonged to all his life was wrong in matters of faith or doctrine or that he had lost his faith but because it was a church led by whites who were angry, he claimed, that the country was being led by a black man. The real reason, of course, was to do with the fact that the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has been a little – just a little- more outspoken than other churches in its criticism of Mugabe’s human rights record and his ceaseless attacks on the opposition. From now on Mugabe told the ZCC gathering he would look to indigenous churches for support. What a convenient memory the man has! He seems to have forgotten that it was the Catholics who helped and supported him in the struggle against the Smith regime back in the seventies. As I recall, it was two Catholic nuns who drove him to the Mozambique border at the start of the struggle, with Robert Mugabe safe on the back seat wearing the clerical collar of a Catholic priest! His great friend the late Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa was a priest at All Souls Mission in Mutoko when I first knew him and I remember him as a delightful man without a racist bone in his body. He was just one of many Catholic priests, black and white, I knew in those early days who wholeheartedly supported the liberation struggle. But now more than thirty years later, when it suits him, Mugabe condemns the whole Catholic Church because it is ‘led by whites who are not happy that the country is being led by a black man’. I wonder if the Vatican knew about that particular piece of foolishness from Mugabe when they issued the invitation to the beatification? Yesterday the Vatican said it had ‘nothing to hide’ after there was widespread criticism of the decision to invite the Zimbabwean dictator. A Vatican spokesman explained that the invitation was’ a function of the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Zimbabwe.’ – whatever that means. Mugabe was present at Pope John Paul 11’s funeral, even managed to get himself seated next to the British heir to the throne and actually shook Prince Charles by the hand. A splendid propaganda coup for Mugabe who delights in the world’s attention. Perhaps he will be able to repeat the coup at the beatification ceremony where, I understand another British royal will be present. For someone who supposedly hates whites, Mugabe appears not to mind their colour if they are of royal lineage. Hypocrisy and double standards at work again!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. 

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How do they sleep at night?
April 22, 2011, 5:56 am

How do they sleep at night? It’s not the first time I’ve asked myself that question over the years but in recent weeks as incidents of Zanu PF’s mindless violence have increased all over the country, I wonder again how these men - and women - live with the memories of what they have done to fellow human beings, their own compatriots. There seem no limits to their depravity, these brain-washed thugs whose only weapon is brute force.

Zimbabwe has always been, like most of Africa, a deeply religious country and now it is churches as well as anyone suspected of supporting the opposition feeling the wrath of Zanu’s thugs. In the past couple of weeks we have seen attacks on church congregations who are beaten and terrorised in a place of worship; an innocent cleric thrown into gaol, refused food and denied access to legal representation; villagers kicked out of their own homes because they would not sign the anti-sanctions petition; people frog-marched to attend the funeral of a hated CIO boss and Christians refused police permission to conduct their Palm Sunday processions, even though the Act clearly exempts churches from requiring police permission to hold services. The list of horrors is endless and far reaching; from Epworth to Hwedza, from Lupane to Masvingo, the violence is country-wide. Reverend Levee Kadenge, a Methodist Pastor, said this week that it’s a sign of how utterly desperate the former ruling party is. Reverend Kadenge thinks it proves that Zanu PF now know that they are unelectable and the attacks on Christian churches and their followers represent a desperate last stand by Mugabe’s storm troops. Reverend Kadenge may well be right but it’s not much comfort if you are the victim of the wave of violence that is sweeping the country. Soldiers are now a permanent fixture in Chitungwiza, for example, where they are camped out at police stations striking fear into the hearts of local residents. Robert Mugabe’s anti-violence speech on Independence Day carried little weight in the light of the ongoing violence being carried out by war vets, soldiers and police. Either they no longer listen to the Old Man or they know very well that these are just crocodile tears and weasel words designed to pacify the South Africans.

More than any other incident this last week, it was the death of   82 year-old Headman Rwisai Nyakauru  from Nyanga that once again provoked my ‘How do they sleep at night’ reaction. Inspired by the wisdom and humanity of his wonderful smiling face, I wrote about the Headman a few weeks back and to hear now that he has died as a result of the beating he received in prison is deeply shocking. How can one human being do that to another, an old man who had done nothing illegal except to belong to a different political party? The sickening brutality and cowardice of beating an old man in such a way as to bring about his death must shock anyone with even a shred of compassion left in their hearts. But, it seems that in their blind loyalty to Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF any action by his followers is justified if it damages the opposition and furthers the end of a Zanu PF victory at the next election – whenever that is. The thinking, I suppose, is that by inspiring terror in the population, abject fear will make people vote for Zanu PF and thus ensure victory for the ‘party that won our liberation’. After all, it has worked (sort of) for 31 years! But it seems to have escaped Mugabe’s notice that his old comrades in the eastern bloc have long since discarded such thinking; even the Chinese have opted for a seemingly more benign form of capitalist/communism. In Cuba, Mugabe’s old friend Fidel Castro has stood aside in favour of his brother Raoul who declared at the Meeting of the Cuban Communist Party a couple of weeks ago that from now on top leadership posts – including his own – will in future be limited to two five-year terms. All around him times are changing, but Mugabe clings to his old ways. I wonder how he sleeps at night knowing as he surely must that his own time is running out. And when he does finally depart this life he will leave behind a nation deeply traumatised by decades of violence and fear, all of which is directly attributable to one man and his desperate desire to remain in power whatever the cost to his fellow Zimbabweans. Not a legacy to inspire peaceful rest.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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A dictators greatest fear
April 15, 2011, 9:53 am

The sight of the former president of Ivory Coast pleading for mercy as he was arrested by UN and French troops must have  struck fear into dictators’ hearts everywhere, not least the Old Man in Harare. Apparently, Gbagbo had sent an envoy to Zimbabwe back in January asking for Mugabe’s help. Whether that request was granted – in troops or weapons – we don’t yet know. In a typical act of childish spite, Robert Mugabe this week reportedly turned down a UN offer to fund and supervise elections in Zimbabwe on the spurious grounds that the UN had backed Alasanne Outtara, the (legitimate) winner of the Ivory Coast elections who Zanu PF chose to label as  the man backed by the ‘western imperialists’. Yet, the one thing Mugabe really needs to restore any kind of credibility is a free and fair election, not ‘Flee and Fear’ as a cartoon in The Zimbabwean so cleverly put it! But violence is the tried and tested Zanu way and up and down the country Mugabe’s goons continue to inflict mindless violence on defenceless people.

The attack earlier this week by Riot Police on a Prayer Meeting at the Church of the Nazarene in the suburb of Glen Norah exemplifies the ‘ruling’ party’s paranoid fear of all perceived dissent. The cops were armed with AK 47s, baton sticks and tear gas as they burst into the church where 500 people had gathered to pray for peace. There were clerics from all over the country; it was in fact an almost exact replica of a similar bloody incident back in 2007 when the activist Gift Tandare was killed. One can only imagine the terror as people desperately tried to get away from the riot police’s baton sticks and tear gas. Women with babies on their backs, older people and children scrambled through windows as the blows continued to fall on their innocent bodies. A total of 13 people were arrested, including priests, bishops and church goers. They were all released after two days but, significantly, the MDC Vice Chair for Harare Province, Shakespeare Mukoyi was held for a further day. He had been very badly beaten whilst still inside the church.

The truth is that if we thought Mugabe would moderate his behaviour in the light of all the unrest in North Africa, we were sadly mistaken. It seems, if anything to have made him more desperate to quell all opposition. But even Mugabe must be concerned at what is happening in Swaziland; it is the first sign of uprising in the Southern African region and Mugabe’s friend King Mswati III is using strong-arm tactics to ensure it goes no further. His police have fired rubber bullets, used water canons and tear gas to disperse crowds of demonstrators. Reports speak of hundreds in gaol and the King appears to have succeeded at least for now in quelling the potential unrest. The writing is surely on the wall for African dictators but they seem unable to grasp the simple truth that they are where they are by the will of the people and they will be ousted by the will of the same people, however long it may take.

Meanwhile, judging by the media coverage here in the UK, the rest of the world remains unaware of what is going on in Africa south of the Sahara. Laurent Gbagbo’s fall caught their attention for a day or two but now they have returned to Libya and Gadaffi’s continuing resistance to all efforts to unseat him. Gadaffi is, of course, another friend of Mugabe’s and the Old Man in Harare is surely watching and learning perhaps how to stick it out to the bitter end – for bitter it surely will be. As Zimbabwe approaches the 31st anniversary of Independence, we shall once again see the service chiefs in all their finery, loaded down with medals, white-gloved hands smartly saluting Robert Mugabe as their commander-in-chief. Interestingly, within hours of Laurent Gbagbo’s arrest his chiefs of staff were lining up to swear allegiance to Alassande Outarra. The top military chief, Phillipe Mangou, who had only recently declared that his soldiers ‘would fight to the last man’ to defend Gbagbo, climbed onto the podium and swore an oath of allegiance to the new President of the Republic. Food for thought there!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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What is it makes a man want to stay in power forever?
April 8, 2011, 10:43 am

It was Hugh Masikela, that legend of Afro-Jazz who some years ago recorded a song called ‘What is it makes a man want to stay in power forever?’  I remember that he mentioned Mugabe by name even then. That question has been the ongoing theme of the past few weeks, first in Egypt, then throughout the Middle East as dictators face the wrath of the people. Hosni Mubarak at least had the sense to realise that his time was up; not so Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi who is still there and vowing to stay put despite the efforts of NATO forces. Almost inevitably the unrest has reached Africa. No wonder President Rupiah Banda of Zambia saw fit to warn countries in the SADC region “to heed the lessons of Tunisia and Egypt. The legitimate expectations of our citizens” he said, “cannot be taken for granted.”

Watching the tragedy unfold in the west African country of Cote d’Ivoire is a reminder of the suffering inflicted on the masses when one man refuses to listen to the will of the people. By international consensus, including the AU, Laurent Gbagbo lost the election of 2010 but has refused to give up power.   His opponent Alasanne Outtara gained 54.1% of the vote but Gbagbo still maintains he is the legitimate president. At the age of 66 he might be expected to have learnt by now that it’s a wise man who knows when his time is up. Like Mugabe, Gbagbo is a highly educated man, a history teacher by profession but he seems to have learnt nothing from history. Instead he chooses to remain holed up in the basement of the presidential palace like a cornered rat, guarded by some 200 troops. Outside the palace the battle rages between Outtara’s forces and those soldiers still loyal to Gbagbo while the terrified residents shelter in their homes without food, power or water. Banks in the capital have been closed for over two months and without money Ivorians are unable to buy even the little food that is available.

Just 5 and half hours away by air, in Zimbabwe, calls for the 86 year-old Robert Mugabe to retire by his once sycophantic allies in SADC have been met with anger and contempt by the former strong man of Africa. “We will not brook any dictation from any source…we are a sovereign country” he said when he arrived back in Harare from Zambia where he was allegedly rebuked by President Banda and told that he was talking nonsense as he attempted to excuse the ongoing violence against MDC members. An observer who was there at the Zambian gathering is said to have remarked that Mugabe was behaving ‘like a spoilt child’ in his reaction to SADC criticism. Even South Africa has finally found the courage to speak plainly to the Old Man, “You could end up like Cote d’Ivoire if you rush into elections” Mugabe was told but he listens to no one. Just like a spoiled child he must get his own way and in the process he is making enemies left right and centre. As far as one can gather only Angola, Namibia and the DRC are still fully supporting him. Worrying reports of an arms shipment from China suggest that Mugabe is prepared to go to any lengths, not excluding military force against his perceived enemies. Russia, Ukraine and China are reportedly supplying arms to the Mugabe regime. And the Chinese, who have just loaned Zimbabwe  $700 million are anxious to protect their numerous investments in the country, “We hope that Zimbabwe will protect the legitimate right of Chinese businesses in the country.” the Chinese delegate remarked. Meanwhile, the attacks on the opposition continue with unabated fury. The notorious Chipangano gang attacked a funeral crowd in Mbare this week and 5 MDC activists were killed. How will the Old Man explain this to the South African facilitators who are currently back in the country? After the Sunday Mail launched its vitriolic attack on President Zuma last week, it’s hard to believe the South African facilitators will just accept Mugabe’s word as they have in the past. Old habits die hard however and despite SADC’s very open criticism of Mugabe it remains to be seen whether they will follow through. Hugh Masikela’s question remains as relevant today as it ever was: What is it makes a man want to stay in power for ever?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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My lion is a spirit lion
April 2, 2011, 3:51 am

I have always loved Shona sculpture and one of the treasures I brought with me from Zimbabwe was a large and very heavy stone lion. But he is no ordinary lion such as tourists might buy; this lion came from Tengenenge, the place where Shona sculpture as we know it today developed over the last sixty or so years. My lion is a spirit lion, a representation in stone of the Shona belief that when a chief or important personage dies his spirit takes the form of a young lion or mhondoro . Lion spirits are associated with strength and fearlessness, they are the guardians of the people and would never hurt anyone unless they are provoked. Indeed, people believed that if you chanced to meet a lion, the one way you could be sure he was a genuine mhondoro was if he simply passed you by.

I was reminded of this traditional Shona belief this week when I saw in The Zimbabwean a picture of Headman Rwisai Nyakauru who has just been released from three weeks’ detention after being arrested along with MP Douglas Mwonzoro for attending the MP’s MDC rally. The face of this 82 year-old man, a Headman from the Nyanga district, symbolises all that is best in Zimbabwe. There was humour, intelligence, humility, wisdom and above all humanity, something we see too little of in these troubled times in Zimbabwe. In gaol the old man had been tortured but still he could smile at the world while all around him his own countrymen – and women – commit unspeakable acts of depravity in the name of political survival for a party and a man who is already older than Headman Nyakauru. Surely, when the Headman passes on to the world of the ancestral spirits, we can be sure that his spirit will harm no one. He is indeed a lion of a man.

Emmerson Mnangagwa this week proclaimed that Robert Mugabe will rule forever, like an elephant. Elephants, it’s true live to a great age but are not, as far as I know, immortal! Mugabe’s intention appears to be to survive at all costs, regardless of the harms he inflicts on the Zimbabwean people. I for one simply do not accept that he is no longer in control; I believe he knows very well what is going on. He has only to give the nod and his willing accomplices, the police, the army and the militia, will put his hints into deadly action. What sort of man, a father and a former teacher at that, can allow his thugs to enter schools and force children to sign his nonsensical Anti-Sanctions Petition? While he thunders at his docile followers that Zimbabwe will take over foreign businesses, Mugabe appears oblivious of the fact that such remarks successfully halt any possibility of investment. And what sort of man feels it necessary to remind the world that Zimbabwe is the ‘Senior Partner’? It certainly suggests that Robert Mugabe is suffering from a bad case of mono-mania, rather like his good friend Gadaffi who, Zimbabeans will remember, strode into Zimbabwe over the Victoria Falls Bridge like some conquering hero. Remember, the Libyan dictator once had African ambitions until the AU for once put its foot down. The AU  has joined the west’s condemnation of Gadaffi but remain silent as their African brother destroys what was once ‘the jewel of Africa’. Do we hear a word from the South Africans as Mugabe’s regime re-arrests Elton Mangoma and threatens the Prime Minister of the country with arrest for contempt of court for saying what the whole country knows to be true: that the judiciary has been bought off with farms and other rewards for their compliance.

But there was one small victory for truth this week. Despite Zanu’s desperate attempts, not excluding bribery and dirty tricks, Lovemore Moyo was re-elected as Speaker of the House by 105 to 93 votes. In a wonderful example of honesty and integrity, MDC MP’s handed over the thousands of dollars that they had been offered to vote against Moyo or to abstain. All is not lost while there are still honest men and women to give public testimony to human decency in Zimbabwe. Perhaps, after all, the spirit of mhondoro is indeed protecting worthy people?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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