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

Conversations with Myself
October 23, 2010, 1:50 am

 

A prison memoir titled ‘Conversations with Myself’ was released this week. It’s a selection of  diary entries from the world’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, written while he was imprisoned on Robben Island together with Ahmed Kathrada, the late Walter Sisulu and other heroes of the anti apartheid struggle. Speaking on the BBC last Saturday, Ahmed Kathrada repeated some words of Mandela’s that have a poignant relevance for Zimbabwe. “Don’t bear grudges” the great man said, “that was the past.”

But in Zimbabwe, from the head of state right down to the thugs at grass roots of Zanu PF, the past is all they have to offer. Addressing the National Youth Assembly this week Robert Mugabe asked, “Tsvangirai, tell us where were you when Zanu PF was fighting for the liberation of this country. So who are you to tell me to go? Who are you to say I should go?” Mugabe hardly needs reminding that Morgan Tsvangirai is the head of the party that defeated Zanu PF in the elections. He knows that very well, hence his decision to rush ahead with elections in 2011. At 86 years old, he must know he hasn’t got that much longer - even if the Women’s League endorse him as President for Life. In a rather lame reminder, Mugabe told the Youth Assembly to eschew violence but clearly Jabulani Sibanda, for one, wasn’t listening to the Dear Leader’s words. Continuing his rampage of violence and intimidation in Zaka the so-called war veteran told villagers that he had been “sent to warn all sellouts in the area that ZPF is ready to kill them if they fail to join his party before campaigning for the next elections have begun.”.

All the evidence on the ground points to the fact that campaigning has already begun; Zanu PF is in full election mode supported, as always, by the military and the police. Troops are deployed in Mutoko and many other rural areas around the country; the police are banning MDC political meetings on the grounds that insufficient notice has been given and Augustine Chihuri transfers the entire Avondale force to remote rural areas for no other reason one can see than that  Morgan Tsvangirai’s home is in the Avondale area and Chihuri suspects the police based there of being MDC supporters. The UZ is sealed off by riot police and students are savagely beaten by the police, just to teach them a lesson I suspect, because no charges are laid against them. A man in Kezi is imprisoned for three months for daring to say that he hates Mugabe; journalists in Mutare are beaten on their feet by a policeman who tells them, “You will learn that as the policeman I am king” Farm seizures increase as the country heads for elections. It is common knowledge that Mugabe wants all white farmers off the land before the country goes to the polls. A JAG report from a farm in Chegutu tells how a group of men arrived at a woman’s farm and told her she had three hours to get out. “I told him I was 5th generation Zimbabwean. This was irrelevant I was told. He held out his arm and said ‘This is black and even if you were born in Kadoma (which I was) you are white and have no place here.’ The woman told him she had a court order allowing her to remain on her farm and he replied, “There is no law for whites in Zimbabwe, we are the law.”

If this is the situation in late October 2010, one can only dread what 2011 is going to be like. Amnesty reports some 1.120 case of human rights abuse in August alone and while the UK and Europe are absorbed in their economic troubles, it is not likely that Zimbabwe’s troubles will feature largely on the international radar. Former South African President Mbeki has just told journalists that the GPA is the only game in town for Zimbabwe but Robert Mugabe is intent on ditching the arrangement as soon as possible by whatever means he can – not excluding violence and electoral chicanery.  Living in the past he certainly is but it is the present and future generations of Zimbabweans who will pay for his failure to accept the reality that his time is up.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Chile and Zimbabwe
October 16, 2010, 5:27 am



It was impossible to watch the rescue of ‘Los 33’ with dry eyes. Even hardened cynical journalists, and there were some 200 of them from all over the world, had tears in their eyes as they watched the unbelievably moving scenes in the Chilean desert as one by one the miners were brought to the surface from their entombment and reunited with their loved ones. The youngest miner was 19 years old and the oldest was 63; he had been a miner since he was 12 years old and his first act was to kneel and give thanks for his rescue. The last man out was the mine foreman and it was he who had kept the group’s morale and discipline together. He spoke about the first 17 days before contact was made with the outside world; they all thought they were going to die. It was only hope that kept them going he said. And the camp the families set up was named Camp Esperanza, a new baby, born while her father was incarcerated was also named Esperanza: Hope.  For 68 days these 33 brave men had survived on hope and solidarity as Chile and the whole world watched on their TV screens as first the rescue shaft was drilled down through the rock taking the trapped men a communication cable, then water and small quantities of food. By Wednesday 4 of the men were out and yesterday, Thursday, the last man emerged from the narrow capsule that had carried them up from death to life.

What was it that gave this story its universal appeal? I believe it was the message of hope and the solidarity of the people, from the president of Chile down to the tiniest child that was so inspirational. ‘Miraculous’ was how some people described it but the miracle was the skill and expertise of the Chilean engineers who had first told the world that it might be as long as Christmas before they could get the men out and always there was the danger that there would be another rock fall and the shaft itself would collapse. That did not happen and all 33 men are now safe and recovering from their ordeal as the trucks and camper vans leave the desert to the dust and wind.

I wonder if ordinary Zimbabweans back at home, those without satellite dishes, got the opportunity through ZBC to see these powerful images that so moved the whole world. The sight of the Chilean president and top ministers mixing freely with the people at Camp Esperanza was a reminder for Zimbabweans of how rarely we see our own politicians interacting so freely with the people, in solidarity with them, sharing their joys and sorrows. I wonder too what the Zimbabwean Minister of Mines has to say about the report on Thursday that child labour is increasingly being used in Zimbabwe’s mines because families can no longer support their children. Chile and Zimbabwe may be on opposite sides of the globe but the Chilean story has much to teach us about our common humanity. The comment of a new mine owner in the Mazoe district sums up precisely the indifference of so many power-hungry politicians and greedy businessmen to the suffering of the ordinary folk whose children bear the full brunt of poverty. “The issue of child labour is neither here nor there,” he said, “If these children didn’t come and work for us their families will have no money for school fees and food.” One 15 year old boy told how he earns $10 for every ton he moves on a Chinese-run mine in Shurugwi and it takes him three days to move that ton. Compare that with the pay rise just awarded to chiefs riding around in their new double-cabs. Despite the fact that civil servants had earlier been told there was no more money for them because the Marange diamond mines had not reaped as much cash for the government as was expected, the chiefs’ allowances have risen from $200 to 300 a month. Reports of fresh diamond finds in Zimbabwe this week suggest there will be more opportunities in future for ruthless mine owners to exploit children while police and fat cat politicians look the other way and the country gears up for elections, empowered by all this new diamond wealth. Hope and solidarity – Chilean style – are in pretty short supply in Zimbabwe these days.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH


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Disasters
October 10, 2010, 6:00 am

Natural disasters claimed millions of lives in 2010. The earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan are just two examples that have dominated the world’s TV screens this year. Every time the images are shown of cities reduced to rubble and thousands of people homeless or flooded acres of farmland with villagers on rooftops waiting to be rescued, the reaction is the same: How does a country ever recover from such cataclysmic natural disasters?

The disaster that has overtaken Zimbabwe is not natural, it is man-made and political but the result equally cataclysmic. It is the destruction of the nation’s moral fibre, the erosion of African culture with its inherent belief in human values, of respect for others and care for the community’s least privileged members. Looking in from the outside, Zimbabweans in the diaspora see their country becoming daily more corrupted by the politics of power where even the most sacred cultural practices are being misused by the former ruling party to intimidate the people into submission.

Funerals are a feature of traditional cultural practice, a sacred occasion where people gather to bid farewell to the deceased in a mixture of Christian and traditional beliefs which co-exist quite happily. Add Zanu PF politics and thuggery to that mix and you have a recipe for violence and intolerance such as we saw most shockingly illustrated this last week when MDC villagers were assaulted for attending the funeral of one of their colleagues killed by Zanu PF supporters.

Traditional chiefs too, have become embroiled in the political tug of war that is going on. Chiefs are the spiritual guardians of the nation’s cultural heritage but, not for the first time, they have allowed themselves to be used to further the ends of power-hungry politicians. Mugabe is following in the footsteps of the former colonial masters in corrupting the chiefs countrywide with hefty financial incentives to ensure that their subjects support him and his party. In Gutu district the local chief has banned opposition rallies in his area and in Zaka it is the local chief who protects the so-called war veteran Sibanda  as he continues on his rampage, ordering the villagers to pay a $10 fine for non-attendance at his rallies while headman are ordered to ‘donate’ a beast for the same reason.

Traditional beliefs and practices which are the bedrock of Zimbabwean culture have been so infiltrated with Zanu PF politics that it must be hard sometimes to distinguish between the two. But despite my initial pessimism there have been signs this week that resistance to the apparent omnipotence of Zanu PF is still alive and kicking. Morgan Tsvangirai’s blunt condemnation of Mugabe’s deceit and lies is a timely reminder to his followers that, despite appearances to the contrary, the MDC leader has not been taken in by Mugabe’s claim that only those who fought in the Liberation struggle are entitled to rule Zimbabwe. “The MDC utterly rejects any suggestion that power is an entitlement through historical legacy” he told a press conference in a strongly worded statement.

On the ground, too, there are welcome signs that ordinary people are beginning to see the truth behind the Zanu PF lies. The Chiadzwa villagers are refusing to move from their traditional homes in the diamond fields until they are paid the promised compensation; MDC MPs have found a way of silencing the outbursts of the ‘war vet’ Sibanda by the simple expedient of following him round from meeting to meeting and villagers in Bikita have openly voiced their objections at having to contribute $20 each towards the next Zanu PF conference. But for me it was the honesty and humility of ‘Comrade Tariro’ who had the courage to speak openly of his disillusionment with Mugabe’s ‘land reform’ that finally convinced me that Zimbabweans at home are finding their voice and learning the strategies of resistance. Perhaps there is hope after all that Zimbabwe can recover from the disaster of thirty years of Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Only imported food
October 2, 2010, 3:28 am


They are food importers where once they exported food all over Africa, now they have only imported food in their shops. They have appalling roads a transport system where conductors and drivers require bribes. There are endless power cuts, widespread poverty and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. All this, combined with massive corruption at every level of society makes it sound very familiar to Zimbabweans but this is a description not of Zimbabwe but of Nigeria. In size and population makeup the two countries could not be more different but the one thing they have in common – like most of Africa - is huge natural resources and one in particular. For Nigeria it is petroleum and for Zimbabwe it is diamonds. The discovery of vast oil reserves in the 60’s should have made Nigeria the economic giant of Africa but the ‘black gold’ has seen little benefit to the mass of the population. Instead, it has  led only to massive corruption and nepotism amongst the political elite. Out of the fifty years of independence, Nigeria has experienced only ten years of civilian rule with military coups and a bloody civil war marring the early years of its freedom from colonial rule. Like Zimbabwe, Nigeria has huge agricultural potential but ironically it is thirteen Zimbabwean farmers expelled by Robert Mugabe who have begun to realise that potential in Kwara province where they have grown vast acres of cassava, providing food and employment opportunities for indigenous Nigerians and improving living standards in the area. With a population estimated to be in the region of 200 millions, Nigeria has many hungry mouths to feed but the oil wealth appears to have done little either to feed or educate the millions.

Similarly, in Zimbabwe we see little evidence that the population at large will benefit from the diamond wealth. Since 2006 when the Chiadzwa diamonds were discovered, the Zimbabwe government has defied the internationally agreed Kimberley Process on human rights for diamond-producing countries while its military and police have violently abused the local population. It is hardly surprising that with the example of government greed and lawlessness petty corruption is steadily increasing; in hospitals nurses steal drugs intended for Aids patients and sell them in backyard pharmacies while police at road blocks demand bribes.p>

No doubt, low salaries account for this rash of petty corruption but higher up the food chain, one can only imagine the huge sums that must change hands in exchange for cops ‘looking the other way’ while illicit diamond deals take place. And corruption is not limited to precious stones. The destruction of another of Zimbabwe’s precious natural resources, its wild life, is clear evidence that the police and game wardens are less than scrupulous in their monitoring of law breakers. 7 kms of 16 strand game fence wire was stolen in one month, 500 eland were killed and the zebra population fell from 840 to 160. Evidence clearly indicates that the police and soldiers together with Zanu PF loyalists were involved in the slaughter of 200 zebra in Beit Bridge.  The moral decay that has followed in the wake of Zimbabwe’s diamond find – or Nigeria’s oil bonanza – demonstrates that without sound governance at the top and a police force prepared to impose law and order in an even-handed way, a country becomes totally corrupted, socially and politically. The truth is that what seems like a massive national bonanza, be it oil or diamonds, can be hopelessly misused without wise leadership at the very top with the genuine desire to benefit all of the people. Greed, political ambition and violence flourish in such a climate as corruption in its many forms eats into the body politic. Zimbabwe’s diamond wealth appears to have done just that. Cry the beloved country.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Political temperatures
September 25, 2010, 1:48 am



Friday September 24th 2010

As the weather warms up in Zimbabwe, the political temperature also rises. Last weekend saw Copac-related violence spreading to the urban townships and northern suburbs of Harare. Gangs of youths, reportedly bussed in from the rural areas, descended on Mbare, Chitungwiza, Tafara, Greendale, Mount Pleasant, Greystone Park and Lewisham violently disrupting Copac meetings. Five MDC officials were seriously injured, one man died in Mbare after a brutal beating with iron bars and nine more MDC members were arrested ‘for causing violence.’ In the northern suburbs white citizens were denied the right to contribute by war vets who said ‘foreigners’ were not entitled to speak. A total of 45 meetings were disrupted in Harare and the Copac exercise has now been suspended in the city - so much for genuine democratic consultation.

There was chaos in Bulawayo too with war veterans disrupting meetings, claiming that the new constitution must enshrine Mugabe as president for life and war veterans must be allocated seats in any new parliament because they won the country’s freedom ‘through blood’. While all this mayhem was unfolding in Harare and Bulawayo, the police stood by and did nothing.

“I believe the time has come for the ZRP to declare war against unruly elements.” said Police Commissioner Chihuri this week. He was talking about the killing of a senior policeman in Bulawayo but his definition of ‘unruly elements’ is well-known to include anyone opposed to Zanu PF.

On Monday, International Peace Day, 600 Woza women and men marched peacefully through the streets of Harare to the House of Assembly to protest police failure to protect communities. 73 Woza members were arrested and held in filthy prison cells until Wednesday when they were finally released. At least ten Woza members required medical treatment and one man was severely assaulted while in prison.

And where was Robert Mugabe while all this was going on? Air Zimbabwe had managed to find a crew to fly him and his 80- strong delegation to New York where on Tuesday he addressed the UN Assembly. He had nothing new to say and certainly nothing about the chaos prevailing back in Zimbabwe. It is western sanctions that are causing his country’s troubles, Mugabe claimed in the same tired old refrain repeated every year. From New York Mugabe will fly on to Ecudor where he is to receive an honorary doctorate; even as evidence of Mugabe’s sinister deal with the Chinese – diamonds for arms – is revealed, his supporters at home and abroad still refuse to see that his time is up and that violence and bloodshed are all he has to offer.

There was an intriguing little intervention this week when Richard Branson the billionaire head of Virgin Atlantic called on the world to invest in Zimbabwe as a ‘safe haven’ for their money. Zanu PF’s reaction to Branson’s call was to dismiss it as an attempt to counter the power of China. “Zimbabwe does not need investments disguised as philanthropic work. The international community has now realised that the jewel we call Zimbabwe having discovered the largest deposit of diamonds is now able to lift itself out of poverty that the west helped to create in the first place.” No evidence yet that the diamonds are ‘lifting us out of poverty’ and as for Zimbabwe being ‘a jewel’, read Basildon Peta’s description of his return to his hometown of Chitungwiza after nine years in exile: raw sewerage running in the streets, no electricity, no water, schools with no books and no teachers and hospitals described by Chitungwiza residents as mortuaries where people go, not to get well but to die. A jewel indeed!

When Mugabe gets back from his trip Morgan Tsvangirai says he wants urgent meetings with him to discuss the collapse of Copac and Zanu PF’s use of violence and the military to disrupt the process. The MDC joined the Unity government  “in the firm belief that our adversaries would see reason,” says Tsvangirai. ‘Seeing reason’ is not a characteristic one associates with bullies and thugs; the collapse of Copac is proof of that.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.         


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