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

December 4, 2010, 12:41 am

Julian Assange’s name probably doesn’t mean much to Zimbabweans but he’s the man behind the Wikileaks that have been creating such a storm here in the UK and in the US.

‘Where is he, what does he want and what will he do next’ were the questions posed on the front page of the UK Independent on Thursday. Meanwhile the Guardian in the UK, the New York Times and other European papers continue to publish the leaks; they may be profoundly embarrassing for diplomats and their embassies but do not as far as one can judge constitute any real threats to individuals or states. In the case of Zimbabwe, for example, Wikileaks revealed the opinion of a former US ambassador, Christopher Dell, about Robert Mugabe and his regime – none of which came as any great surprise to Zimbabweans. Another leak told of South Africa’s partiality for the Zimbabwean dictator, no surprise there either for Zimbabweans who are well-used to South Africa and SADC’s support for Robert Mugabe. Analysts who have attempted to understand the reasons for South Africa’s continuing support have concluded that their only motive is Mugabe’s status as a

‘Liberation hero.’ No matter how despotic his regime now, no matter how much he wages war on his own people, his past history as a ‘liberator’ excuses all present crimes - or that seems to be the thinking within the region.  

Assange’s motive in releasing this flood of leaked diplomatic cables is not so clear but on the face of it, it is in line with democratic principles. His mission statement reads, “Transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions.” Assange’s critics have commented angrily that his revelations are simply designed to humiliate the US and Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have been quick to launch another of their vitriolic attacks on the west. Speaking in Libya at the Africa/EU Summit Robert Mugabe seized the opportunity to repeat his claim that Blair and Bush should also have been indicted for war crimes for the war against Iraq which killed thousands of innocent Iraquis. It was classic Mugabe-speak; distracting the world’s attention from the suffering that Zanu PF’s policies have caused and are still causing for innocent Zimbabwean citizens.

Mugabe’s own motives in calling for early elections are also open to question. Is he just grandstanding to intimidate the opposition, is it just his ego at work or has he finally accepted that time is not on his side?  Whatever his motives, Mugabe’s call for early elections has inspired his fanatical followers to echo almost word for word his constantly repeated references back to past glories. The Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri told young police cadets this week that, “This country came through the barrel of a gun and it will never be re-colonised through a simple pen which costs as little as five cents.” No doubt there as to Chihuri’s motive: vote Zanu PF or you will be ‘dealt with’. Another Mugabe supporter was even more specific. “Election is a declaration of war, blood must spill like in any war situation – even if it means killing those who are against Zanu PF.”    

As the annual conference of Zanu PF draws closer, soldiers and police openly demonstrate their support for the former ruling party in mindless attacks on teachers and journalists . The theme for the conference we are told will be “Total control of our resources through indigenisation and empowerment.” which means of course more jobs for the boys, more businesses and farms for Mugabe to reward his supporters; this, despite the fact that Mugabe and his allies now own more than 40% of the land seized from whites with Mugabe and wife owning 14 farms between them. A CZI survey this week shows a mere 4% of Zimbabwe’s industry is actually viable.  Business people tell Mugabe’s deputy, in no uncertain terms that they do not want elections now. No one in the party heeds their warnings; unlike the Wikileaks man, Robert Mugabe’s motivation is very clear. It is to stay in power at all costs.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.

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'The dictator only lets go of what he can control'
November 20, 2010, 12:40 am

‘The dictator only lets go of what he can control’ I read that comment
somewhere as I was studying the reports of Aung San Su Kyi’s release from
house arrest last week and I wondered how the generals were going to
‘control’ this woman. Were there any conditions attached to her release, she
was asked. No, none, came the firm answer. She wanted a ‘revolution’ she
told the BBC journalist who interviewed her after her release, but not
through violence.
In most people’s minds, the words revolution and violence go together.
History shows us that ‘the overthrow or repudiation of a regime or political
system by the governed’, as the dictionary defines revolution, generally
comes about through massive social upheavals accompanied by violence and
In Zimbabwe, Zanu PF boasts that it is a revolutionary party. The means
whereby the system of white rule was overthrown was, in reality, a war of
liberation from an unjust system where skin colour and racial identity were
the deciding factors. In fact the ‘revolution’ did not change the system, it
merely changed the colour of those in power. The war that the ‘revolutionary’
party is fighting thirty one years later is, so we are told, to defend that
revolution. The MDC cannot be allowed to gain power, goes the ‘reasoning’
because they are no more than British-backed imperialists, nothing more than
a cover for the return of the country to white colonial rule. No evidence is
given to support this claim but as propaganda it serves its purpose - even
though half the population was not even born when the whites ruled.
The ‘revolution’ Mugabe boasts of on every occasion, was won through the
barrel of the gun, not through the ballot box and everything that is
happening in Zimbabwe today as we head towards 2011 and possible elections
shows that Zanu PF has not changed; violence and repression are still their
weapons of choice. On Tuesday, we heard reports that Zanu PF has drafted the
General Laws Amendment Bill to prevent public access to information such as
court judgements, legislation, official notices and public registers – that
would of course, include electoral rolls. Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba
stated quite categorically this week that “he had no intention of issuing
licences to private players (in the media field) until the government
develops the capacity to monitor and regulate the new players.” Only let go
of what you can control! Journalists are increasingly being picked up and
any journo reporting police misbehaviour can be sure he will find himself in
custody. Threats against citizens such as Minister David Coltart are issued
openly by the likes of so-called war vet, Joseph Chinotimba and the police
do nothing. Such is the absence of the rule of law in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
Strangely enough, even war vets themselves are liable to be turned off the
farms they took from the whites if someone comes along prepared to pay a
good price for the land. The Chinese, with Zanu PF approval, this week took
over a resettled farm for a brick making project, leaving the war vets with
no land, no homes and no crops – just like the white farmers the war vets
kicked out. It’s dog eat dog in Zimbabwe.
As the Unity Government stumbles towards its almost inevitable demise, SADC
meets today in Gaberone to discuss Zimbabwe – yet again. Mugabe says he will
abide by the GPA but only when sanctions are lifted. Perhaps the time has
come to put Mugabe and the regime to the test: lift the sanctions and see
whether he will honour the Agreement he signed two years ago. Will Zanu PF
call off their dogs of war; will we have free and fair elections with
international monitors in place; will the media be free to report; will the
ZRP once again uphold the rule of law and will the army stop their
relentless violence against innocent civilians? Whether the lifting of
sanctions will bring about that transformation in Zimbabwe so that citizens
of all races can live together without fear in a truly democratic society
is, as they say, the $64.000 question.  Never forget, the dictator only lets
go of what he can control.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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Not as bad as Burma?
November 12, 2010, 10:13 am

“Well, it’s not as bad as Burma!” was the reply I got from an acquaintance the other day when I was doing my usual one-woman attempt to spread the word about what is happening in Zimbabwe. In 1990 the junta in Burma allowed free and fair elections for the first time since they seized power. The junta conclusively lost the elections but refused to step down. In the twenty years since then thousands of pro-democracy activists have been killed or imprisoned. Last Sunday, the regime announced that the military junta had once again ‘won’ the latest elections. The opposition did not contest so the result was hardly surprising.  

Zimbabwe by contrast is in a coalition government, a so-called partnership with the Movement for Democratic Change. Things are getting better in Zimbabwe say western observers, like the peeress who declared in the House of Lords just the other day that Zimbabwe’s economic condition had “improved considerably” I don’t know what criteria the Right Honourable Lady used to make such a judgement but it bears little resemblance to the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. Take the example of pensioners who receive just $25 a month from their NSSA pension fund. As all Zimbabweans know, monthly payments to NSSA are compulsory; you have no choice, the money is deducted from your salary at source. NSSA receives $9 million a month from these ‘contributions’ and after years of paying into the fund a pensioner receives the princely sum of $25 paid direct into the Post Office. Deduct from that the $10 fare to travel to the nearest Post Office if you live in a remote rural area, and you are left with $12 to last you the month.  Compare that pensioner’s plight to the unbelievable wealth accumulated by top ‘chefs’ like Ignatious Chombo, whose wife is suing him for divorce and wants a divorce settlement of $2.000 a month. The list of Chombo’s assets, all revealed in court papers, includes farms. mines, hunting safari lodges, properties in South Africa and in Zimbabwe residential and commercial stands, houses and flats not to mention countless top-of-the-range vehicles. Indeed, ‘things have got better’, substantially so for the like of Chombo and his other Zanu PF comrades assisted by the military and now by the diamond wealth that is flooding into their bank accounts.

It is no coincidence that soldiers are rampaging through the country, in Masvingo, Chipinge and this last week in Marondera town to pick off MDC supporters. There are reports of top army personnel being rewarded with money paid direct into their banks for seeking out villagers sympathetic to the MDC. Villagers are once again being forced to buy Zanu PF cards before they can get desperately needed food. Even resettled black farmers in Masvingo are being punished by Zanu PF youths for not attending Zanu rallies.

As the MDC spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa, said this week, the MDC does not want to see a repeat of the recent elections in Myanmar (Burma) ‘where it’s a charade’. Westerners who often have little understanding of Africa or Zimbabwe may say that ‘Things are getting better’ but the reality on the ground for ordinary people tells a very different story. If we are not yet ‘as bad as Burma’ all the signs are pointing in that direction. Like the Burmese generals, Robert Mugabe seems impervious to criticism from the outside world. Unlike his Burmese counterparts, Mugabe can claim that he regularly holds elections but the way they are conducted is remarkably similar to the Burmese ‘charade’.

Aung San Su Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, has spent much of the last twenty years under house arrest. She is due for release tomorrow; whether that will happen or not is still in doubt. What we can be sure of is that if ‘the Lady’ attempts to re-enter the political arena she will once again be put under house arrest. The remarkable courage of this  woman is an inspiration to the whole world and not least to Zimbabwe where an 86 year old dictator clings to power. Like the generals he shares the dangerous delusion of immortality.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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“I am a Zimbabwean”
November 5, 2010, 2:44 pm

Six years ago on this very day I left Zimbabwe. I knew as I flew out of Harare that life would never be the same again for me. I was leaving behind a whole lifetime of memories, of friends and family – a daughter and a grandson – to come to a country where I had been born but which was as alien to me as Africa had once been.

Time heals all wounds, they say, but for me the passing years have only emphasised the sense of loss. “I am a Zimbabwean” I tell people here but hardly a day passes without Robert Mugabe or one of his cronies telling white people that their skin colour and their colonial past excludes them from making that claim. I was reminded of that as I watched a re-run of ‘Mugabe and the White African’ this week and heard Ben Freeth ask the question, ‘Can a white man ever be an African?’ For Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ but for me and thousands like me all over the diaspora, Zimbabwe continues to be the place we call home. I think of all the thousands of children I taught and of the teachers I trained – black Zimbabweans all of them – whose acceptance and friendship filled my days in Mutoko and Murehwa and I wonder how we have arrived at this racial intolerance in Independent Zimbabwe. This week, for example, a female Zanu PF member called for the death sentence for anyone who supports sanctions or is friendly to the west! Addressing the Chiefs at their annual conference Mugabe resorted yet again to racist rhetoric, referring to Britain and America as ‘Damn fools’ for saying that the GPA had not been properly implemented. Speaking in Shona he talked about how the west, ‘Sevarungu’, as whites, came to Zimbabwe and expected to have the upper hand as they once had. Mugabe’s inability to forgive the racial injustices of the past gives him a convenient excuse to blame the whites for everything that is wrong in Zimbabwe after thirty years of his misrule. He conveniently forgets that these very ‘varungu’ are the donors whose dollars are keeping ‘his’ people fed and providing reading materials for schools where kids share one book between four and teachers are subjected to mindless harassment for no other reason than the belief that all teachers are MDC supporters. Ever since Mugabe announced that elections will be held in 2011 war veterans have been giving orders to transfer teachers out of ‘their’ areas. That was going on in Mash East long before I left Zimbabwe; nothing changes it seems. And in my old home district, police and CIO this week confiscated radios donated to villagers on the grounds that the radios came from an unknown source and customs duties had not been paid. Any excuse to silence the source of independent news; nothing changes in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

But it was a letter in the Financial Gazette that really attracted my attention this week. “Is this racist?” asked the letter writer and quoted a question from the Grade Seven examination which every child in Zimbabwe sits at the end of primary school. This is what the Grade Seven children were asked in a multiple choice question on the General Paper: “Before Independence blacks and whites failed to live together peacefully because: A. the whites had guns.  B. the blacks liked to strike. C. the whites did not like the blacks and D. all the blacks wanted to live in towns. Whether this is racism or not, I do not know but what I do know is that it is a very badly designed multiple choice question, aimed at 11-12 year olds to test not factual knowledge but political opinion with racist overtones.    

As Zanu PF gears up for elections, teachers in rural areas are once again in the frontline. Zanu PF does not care for educated people, they think for themselves and so teachers are beaten up for daring to express alternative views. Three of those teachers are fighting for their lives in a Mission Hospital after a violent beating by Zanu PF thugs in Bikita. All over the country anyone with educational qualifications must be pondering their futures in this divided and intolerant country.  No wonder the International Crisis Group declared this week that Zimbabwe is ‘on a knife edge’ in the run-up to the elections.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. 


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Living in the past
October 31, 2010, 7:21 am

In last week’s Letter from the diaspora I observed that Zanu PF was living in the past. The National Chairman of Zanu PF, Simon Khaya Moyo, echoed that view in his remark that “Zanu PF is a revolutionary party and will never hand over to a non-revolutionary party.” And we all know that means the MDC. Thirty years after Independence with the MDC snapping at his heels, Robert Mugabe makes a unilateral declaration that elections will be held in 2011 following a Referendum on the new constitution, even though the consultative process has been shambolic and is as yet incomplete. Apart from the fact that Mugabe had not consulted with his MDC partners in the Inclusive Government, he had not even told his own politburo. Confusion all round as voices are raised within the former ruling party that the country is not ready for elections, structures are not in place they argue. Up steps Didymus Mutasa with the following reminder, “People forget that when we came from the bush in 1980 we had no structures but we still won the elections.”  It seems to have escaped Mutasa’s notice that thirty years have elapsed; times have changed and Zanu PF is no longer the ruling party. Mutasa admits that the party has not met to discuss the issue of elections “but” he adds, “if the president says we are going for elections next year, so be it. Personally I am ready and will win anytime.” Such arrogant self-belief is hardly justified by the disarray within the former ruling party but it was Solomon Mujuru’s comment that more accurately reflects the disillusion in the country at large with Zanu PF and Mugabe in particular. “I think old age is catching up with the old man. Surely, how under the sun can he call for elections he knows he will lose. It’s madness…if he loses he will dump all of us and even destroy the party”

It is this last comment of Mujuru’s that best illustrates what has become increasingly obvious about Robert Mugabe’s character over the years. It is not the best interests of the country that motivates him; it is not the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe that he cares about, it is not even the survival of his party that most concerns Mugabe. He is motivated by one over-riding concern and that is self-interest. He will use every tool he can find to promote his own personal survival. If we are to believe reports in the media, his CIO agents have told him categorically that he cannot win an election, then why, as Mujuru asks, does he call for elections next year? Perhaps, like all dictators, he has come to believe the myth perpetrated by his followers that he is appointed by God to rule Zimbabwe for ever. The fact that real power is no longer in Mugabe’s hands but in the hands of the military as Roy Bennett pointed out last week, seems not to bother Mugabe at all. On the contrary, he can use the army to maintain him in office until he dies, just as they can use him to conceal the reality that Zimbabwe is being run by a military junta. With their help, Zanu PF will fight an election campaign marked by all the tricks we have come to associate with them: bribery in the form of food for work programmes, traditional leaders instructed not to support the opposition on pain of death, church leaders flattered and bribed to support the former ruling party, youth organizations trained in so-called ‘patriotism and loyalty’and above all through widespread fear in the rural communities of what will happen to them if they vote ‘the wrong way.’     

The political environment is “poisoned with violence’ says Morgan Tsvangirai as he calls for free, fair and credible elections, the removal of CIOs and an updated electoral roll. With just eight month to go before possible elections, there is very little chance those conditions can be met without outside intervention. The SADC monitors will need to be in the country early in the New Year if the election is to be fairly monitored and supervised. As Karen Allen reported in a BBC piece on the situation in Zimbabwe, it is ‘a gathering storm’ and in the middle of it an old man clings desperately to power and fights to the last against the elements, intent on surviving while all around him are lashed by the storm.  

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH

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