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

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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No respect for the dead
March 26, 2011, 2:19 am

For Zimbabweans immersed in their own problems, it is sometimes difficult to stand back and take a broader view of the world. Recent events should remind us that Zimbabwe’s problems are perhaps not as unique as we sometimes think they are.

There has been much discussion in the UK media about whether Colonel Gadaffi qualifies to be described as ‘mad. It’s hard not to come to that conclusion when you watch him on television ranting and shaking his fist at the world. But, as one commentator pointed out this week, it is possible to be ‘mad’ and at the same time a pretty shrewd operator politically. The problem with describing dictators as ‘mad’ is that it implies they don’t know what they’re doing, that they are not in control of their actions. The question to ask here is: by whose standards are we judging them? Madness, by definition, implies behaviour which does not conform to generally accepted norms and standards but the ‘mad’ dictator is acting perfectly logically according to his own standards of behaviour. In their own minds, Gadaffi and Robert Mugabe are both able to defend their actions in attacking their opponents by whatever means since the opposition represents a threat to the leader’s god-given right to rule.

There is one aspect that all these ‘mad’ dictators have in common; initially at any rate, they inspire huge public support. Hitler and Mussolini, for example, addressed massive crowds of adoring supporters. Move the clock forward sixty years and we see the same level of adulation for all the other ‘mad’ dictators. It is that very hero-worship which feeds their colossal egos and the longer it lasts the more inflated the ego becomes; the madness intensifies with every year that passes. In Gadaffi’s case there have been forty two of them; for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, whose name did not go unmentioned in the discussions about ‘mad dictators’, he has had thirty one years of public adulation and latterly of blanket media coverage to portray him as the one man who liberated Zimbabwe from the evils of colonial rule and upon whom Zimbabwe’s very survival depends. Like his friend Gadaffi, he also rants and shakes his fist and appears to inspire the same belief in his godlike status among his followers who, as this week showed are prepared to go to any lengths to ensure Mugabe wins another  election. The truth is that Mugabe’s sanity or otherwise is no longer the issue. If he is indeed mad then his followers have become as mad as he is in their desire to keep him in power and themselves on the Zanu PF gravy train. War veterans digging up thirty-year old graves in Mount Darwin is their latest ploy to prove – what? There are no forensics, no d.n.a. analysis, no valid identification of bones or body parts and, most shockingly an absolute disrespect for the dead. If the intention of this appalling sacrilege is to show how barbaric the Rhodesians were in the Liberation War, one wonders what political point it serves now other than to prolong the past glories of the Chimurenga story. Mugabe’s description of the west as “Bloody vampires” for mounting the No Fly zone in Libya to stop Gadaffi killing his own people seems an apt description of what Mugabe’s followers are now doing in Zimbabwe.

 It was the British Foreign Minister, William Hague this week who commented on the possible effect of the Middle East uprisings on other dictatorships. He mentioned Mugabe by name and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire who has refused to stand down despite losing an election. Mugabe will, no doubt, dismiss Hague’s comments as nothing more than western colonialism but the mere fact that his Cabinet met for a whole morning on Thursday to “defuse the tensions” in the GNU is a clear acknowledgement that all is not well. Parliament is suspended indefinitely and war veterans besiege the Treasury on the grounds that they liberated the country and are therefore entitled to a greater share of the country’s wealth than anyone else. Obviously, Mugabe of the same mind; there are reports that the Treasury has paid out some $12 million for his regular trips to Singapore and the so-called ‘cataract check-ups’. Mad or not, Robert Mugabe is certainly a shrewd political operator as the MDC is learning to its cost.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Woza
March 19, 2011, 11:05 am

Yesterday I watched the You Tube video of the Valentine’s Day demo by Woza in Bulawayo and I could hardly believe my eyes.  There was an enormous crowd of women and men, all singing and shouting their opposition to the various injustices heaped on their heads by an uncaring government. Any government official seeing this huge manifestation of dissatisfaction would surely have been just a little worried but perhaps they are all so arrogant they just can’t believe that such demonstrations are any real threat to them? 

The women had assembled outside Tredgold Buildings in Bulawayo to voice their anger at, well, just about everything, as their placards illustrated. Strangely, there were no police present that I could see though they were clearly present just about everywhere else doing Augustine Chihuri’s bidding. The release of various detained activists on bail, including Minister Elton Mangoma who appeared in court in prison garb and handcuffs, was simultaneously accompanied by threats and outright attacks on NGOs clearly directed by the Commissioner of Police who is reported to have political ambitions. The shocking sight of a highly respected MP and Minister in the Unity Government in handcuffs and wearing prison garb should be warning enough that Mugabe will stop at nothing to silence his perceived enemies, however trumped up the charges. Joseph Made’s decision to bar UN agencies and NGOs from conducting national food surveys is yet another indication of Zanu PF’s indifference to the welfare of its own people.  

The decision by a British judge to return Zimbabwean asylum seekers to their country of origin on the grounds that Zimbabwe is now deemed ‘safe’ seems incomprehensible in the light of what is happening inside the country. The creation of a so-called Unity Government has it seems created the impression that all is now well. The truth is very different; the absolute lack of human decency or compassion shown by the Zanu PF thugs and assorted war veterans and militia who are harassing and intimidating the population is one of the saddest aspects of what has happened in Zimbabwe after thirty years of Mugabe’s dictatorship.  Morgan Tsvangirai’s trip to seek regional support and alert African leaders to the true state of affairs in Zimbabwe is unlikely to yield any more positive results than it has in the past. With the whole world’s attention focussed on the tragic developments in Japan and the ongoing crisis in Libya as Gadaffi hangs onto power, African leaders are rather more concerned with their own futures, than the fate of ordinary Zimbabwean people.

The UN’s decision to approve a No Fly Zone over Libya is perhaps a sign that the world is becoming less tolerant of dictators oppressing their own people. ‘Defending the indefensible’ best describes Robert Mugabe’s defence of his friend Gadaffi. As usual, Mugabe blamed the west for the whole debacle which is interesting when you consider that Gadaffi himself blamed the rebellion on Al Qaida’s influence!                     
There is nothing Mugabe can say which will convince the world of his own democratic credentials despite his party’s desperate attempts to garner signatures for their ‘anti-sanctions’ petition. Schools, soldiers and policemen are all being forced to sign but, like the Woza women, the general population are only too aware of the real cause of their suffering.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH


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Harassment and intimidation go unnoticed
March 12, 2011, 10:19 am

I must apologise for my long silence. The fact is I was moving house and not just round the corner but from the Midlands down to the south coast. Moving from one part of the UK to another was almost as traumatic as moving from one country to another but I’m settled now on the south coast nearer to some at least of my family. There was the usual complete mess-up of broadband and email so I have been almost completely cut off from the news but - surprise, surprise, after nearly four weeks, nothing much has changed in Zimbabwe, except for the worse. The MDC continues to be harassed and intimidated at every turn and their meetings banned by the police on the grounds that such gatherings are illegal; civic activists are picked up and detained for weeks at a time and Jonathan Moyo, that notorious political turncoat, has succeeded in getting the partisan Supreme Court to nullify the election of the MDC’s Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of the House. What seemed at first another classic example of Moyo’s vindictive spite becomes clear when the political ramifications are considered. In terms of the current constitution if the serving president dies in office, it is the Speaker of the House who assumes office until elections are called. An MDC Speaker must ring all sorts of alarm bells in Zanu PF ranks; whether this indicates that Mugabe’s health really is fragile is not clear but surely it is all part of the power struggle in the succession battle.

On Thursday as Mugabe flew off to Addis Ababa for a meeting of the AU, came the shocking news of yet another arrest of an MDC top official. Minister Mangoma, a cabinet minister in the GNU was picked up not by a high ranking police officer but by a constable. Nothing could better illustrate the contempt Zanu PF feel for their ‘partners’ in government. By my count there are now at least 4 MDC MPs in custody, not to mention all the other detained activists.   

On a more optimistic note, there are indications that Mugabe’s attempts to decimate the opposition have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world despite the massive coverage of his friend Gadaffi’s murderous regime to quash democratic voices in Libya. The US has warned Zimbabwe that co-operation with Iran’s nuclear programme is being closely monitored. Certainly, Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have some very unsavoury allies but then dictators must stick together, I suppose. Zimbabweans in the diaspora were all wondering at the start of the Libyan crisis whether Gadaffi would be given refuge in Harare like at least two other infamous human rights abusers. Now that would have focussed the world’s attention on Zimbabwe! But the Libyan leader goes on killing his own people, refusing to stand down and abide by the wishes of citizens he describes as ‘drug fuelled’ and brain-washed. It remains to be seen how that particular crisis will resolve itself or whether the west will intervene. One thing is certain, dictators the world over must now be aware that they ignore the will of the people at their peril.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Egypt, objectivity, and concealment
February 11, 2011, 2:14 pm

Thanks to Cathy Buckle’s Family and Friends letter last week I now know how the ZTV is covering – or rather, not covering – events in Egypt. In this age of mass communications it is despicable that a public broadcaster can abandon all objectivity and actually conceal real news from the public because it is not in the interests of the ruling party to hear about popular unrest on the African continent. The Herald, too, in its craven support of Mugabe and his Zanu PF resorts to downright lies in their efforts to besmirch Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC claiming that the opposition is about to unleash a Cairo style mass demonstration against the government. This week Harare was rocked by looting of foreign-owned businesses by known Zanu PF supporters escorted by the police who once again demonstrated their abject failure to uphold law and order. We are told that the looted businesses were owned by people from Nigeria, Ghana and the DRC. Interesting that Chinese-owned businesses were not included in the looting spree; no doubt the revelation that the Chinese government is about to inject $US 10 billion into the Zimbabwean economy in exchange for a platinum deal had something to do with that! Speaking in Marondera, Saviour Kasukuwere added his familiar racist spin, saying, “The indigenization programme should benefit people with black skin only.”

All over the country, violence against the opposition has been  stepped up in an attempt to prove that the MDC is about to mount a mass protest against the 86 year old dictator in Harare. VOA reported a senior ZRP officer telling the ZBC, “The situation in Egypt will never be tolerated anywhere in Zimbabwe. We want to assure the nation that we are fully prepared for such violent activities and our officers are already on the ground to ensure peace and tranquillity prevails in the country.” Civic society too has been under attack this week. On Wednesday the Executive Director of the Human Rights Forum, Abel Chikomo, was detained along with two other officials and held for six hours of interrogation about the objectives of the Human Rights Forum. The purpose behind these daily assaults on civil liberties in Zimbabwe is very clear: to engender paralysing fear in every sector of society; newspaper vendors  beaten up for selling independent papers and ordinary MDC members detained for no reason other than to deter them from legitimate civic action. It is a pattern Zimbabweans are very familiar with in the run-up to elections. Through it all, Robert Mugabe remains silent and his silence surely denotes consent while his thugs on the ground attempt to silence all dissent.    

Yet it does not take very much intelligence to see that what is happening in Cairo is precisely the result of such oppression. Like Zimbabwe, Egypt has suffered for three decades under a ruler who has become increasingly autocratic. Like Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak was once the people’s hero but, as his speech last night showed he has completely lost touch with the grass roots. Even for a non-Arabic speaker, what was very clear from his address was the patronising tone he adopted toward the thousands gathered in Tahrir Square and in towns and cities all over Egypt. As their protest entered its seventeenth day his only words were, in essence, that he knew what was best for Egypt and he would not leave until he was ready to go. I was struck by the comment of one observer that the median age of the demonstrators was 24 and the roar of anger that went up from the crowd showed how they reacted to the ‘father’ or should it be ‘grandfather’ of the nation, an 82 year old man, telling them that he knew what was best for them and that they should all just go home as if they were naughty children. With that speech, I believe, Mubarak has brought about his own demise. As with all dictatorships, the role of the army is crucial but by today, Friday lunchtime, there are as yet no signs that the military are prepared to fire on the protesters. What makes the protest in Egypt so remarkable is that it has been entirely peaceful. Armed with nothing more than their voices and placards the thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life have proved, in the words of the old anti-apartheid slogan, that ‘A people united can never be divided’

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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