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

‘Old timers’ proclaiming the same tired old policies in desperation
May 18, 2013, 12:59 am

Twenty nine political parties are now due to fight the forthcoming elections. These new parties have sprouted up like weeds and doubts are being expressed about where exactly they have sprung from. Are they just ‘fronts’ for the more established parties or are they genuine, new voices? We won’t know that until we hear their various policy statements; only then will we see whether they have anything new to offer the electorate. Zimbabweans could certainly do with some new, fresh ideas judging from the stale rhetoric we have heard this week from the ‘old timers’ all proclaiming the same tired old policies and, in their desperation, becoming increasingly unpleasant and personal in their comments. Take Didymus Mutasa for example; he defends the army’s participation in party politics on the grounds that they fought in the Liberation War and that, Mutasa maintains, means that they automatically belong to Zanu PF. Not content with that rather suspect claim, Mutasa goes on to abuse Morgan Tsvangirai by saying that the MDC leader had no right to call for security reform because “he has not done anything tangible for the country… he never went to war and knows nothing about the struggle” whereas “Mugabe and the generals were together in the trenches.” No doubt Mutasa was speaking metaphorically but it does rather suggest he is living in the past since W.W.1 (1914-18) was the last time trench warfare was used! The Commander General of the army, Constantine Chiwenga recently sank to personal abuse when he described Tsvangirai, as “a psychiatric case” and told the state media that his forces would never salute the MDC leader.

It’s all pretty childish stuff but perhaps it’s a sign of just how desperate Mugabe’s party is that all they can do is resort to insult and abuse. It was the ‘flip-flop’ man, Jonathan Moyo who took the prize this week for insulting and abusive language. No one does it better than the MP for Tsholotsho! It seems that South Africa’s deputy Foreign Minister had rather mildly suggested that the MDC ‘had a point’ in calling for security sector reforms but South Africa would be prepared to help with election funding if asked, said the Deputy Foreign Minister. The response from Jonathan Moyo was an astonishing, over-the-top tirade in which he resorted to the old anti-colonial stance, suggesting that the South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs was no better than “the colonial masters whom we booted out precisely for that kind of behaviour of dangling dirty carrots in the vain hope of purchasing our souls, values and freedom for thirty pieces of silver.” And all this because the South African had dared to suggest that perhaps the MDC had a point in calling for security reforms; perhaps the Deputy Minister had hit a raw nerve!

It was Robert Mugabe addressing the congregation at John Nkomo’s memorial service who really excelled in the use of insulting language. First, he blamed Harare and Bulawayo for not voting for him in 2008 and then he accused Zimbabwe’s urban population of putting food before principles, they don’t care who rules them as long as they have full stomachs he said. That was an extraordinarily insulting and insensitive thing to say at a time when 1.6 million Zimbabweans are being fed by the UN. There is desperate poverty and unemployment in the urban areas, yet the president comments dismissively that, “The urban people think only of food”. Does Robert Mugabe seriously expect people to vote for him after he insults them with comments like that? Principles before food may sound very noble when you have a full stomach but hunger is a painful reality for the poor and unemployed.     

 Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.  

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No one is indispensable
May 11, 2013, 2:15 am

The news that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is to retire at the age of 71 has dominated the media this week. I’m no great lover of football but one of my fondest memories of Zimbabwe is of being right out in the bush somewhere beyond Mutoko and seeing youngsters wearing Manchester United T shirts. At first I thought maybe they had been given the T shirts and they didn’t reflect real support but I quickly discovered the kids’ support for a foreign football club was genuine. Whether that story proves that Alex Ferguson was the greatest and most influential manager of all time I don’t know but certain Zimbabweans leaders could do well to follow his example and accept that it’s time to go! It’s hard to believe that no one is indispensable after a long time at the top. Ferguson, who has been manager of Man U. for twenty-seven years, had named his successor – unlike Zimbabwe’s man at the top! Mugabe has been in power for thirty-three years and, even before he’s gone, his party is tearing itself apart over who should succeed him. Mugabe could stop the rot at one stroke by naming his successor but he remains silent. This week he went so far as to reprimand his officials in the party for the infighting and his deputy Didymus Mutasa has openly declared his support for Joyce Mujuru for the next president; she is after all is second in line after Mugabe.

    How much this leadership struggle means to ordinary Zimbabweans is unclear; only an election will indicate their general thinking but there is no agreement yet on when the poll will be held. This present Government of National Unity expires on June 29th and thereafter there will be no government, a dangerous hiatus looms. Perhaps that was the reason Robert Mugabe warned that ‘the west uses conflicts to spy on Africa’. He was addressing the Tenth Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Service in Africa or CISSA for short. A public conference of spies and secret agents is surely a contradiction in terms but there they were in plain sight. Mugabe told the gathering of spooks that: “Our erstwhile colonisers continue to manipulate international institutions and conventions to justify unilateral military interventions in African states with the objective of extracting and unfairly exploiting our resources.”  And speaking of our resources, Mugabe went on to invite the spies and special agents to go and enjoy Zimbabwe’s tourist spots which they did, with 5 star treatment all the way, incognito and wearing dark glasses, no doubt!

    Some commentators have speculated that Mugabe’s address to the spies was an attempt to influence African leaders to comment favourably on Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections. More likely, it’s the row over security reform that is dominating his thinking. MDC insists that security reforms were part of the GPA but Zanu PF - and the military - say such reforms are no longer necessary.  Moreover, Minister of State Security Sekeramyi alleges that the calls for security reform are ‘being pushed by external forces’. It’s those pesky foreigners again!   

    All this talk of spies seems totally unreal when one considers the realities of life in Zimbabwe: chaos in the Mobile Voter Registration process; arrest of journalists; one million people in need of food aid and a shortage of ARVs for AIDS patients, the list goes on and on. Instead of talking about any of these very real problems facing the country, Mugabe is warning of spies and western infiltration but ‘Not to worry’ as the old Rhodies used to say, Zim will soon have giant TV screens in our cities, courtesy of the Chinese, to counteract the western media’s propaganda!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Arrest Theresa Makone ?
May 3, 2013, 1:31 pm

Reports that the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai himself were involved in high level talks with the military really annoyed Zanu PF. Then we heard that Giles Mutsekwa the MDC’s shadow Minister of Defence had also been meeting with top generals and that made them even angrier. It was however a policeman, albeit the top police man, Augustine Chihuri who gave the party’s response despite the fact that Chihuri is supposed to be non-partisan. Meanwhile, responding to the MDC charge that the police were partisan Sekeramayi said “the security chiefs were in office by merit” which hardly answers the charge of partisanship! Nevertheless, it was Police Chief Augustine Chihuri this week who categorically denied ever having had meetings with the opposition. “It was lies peddled by the media,” he said. Never one to disguise his contempt for the opposition, Chihuri went on to comment that, “Generals are too busy to engage confused malcontents… individuals whose sole purpose is to create confusion within the rank and file of the defence and security forces.”  Chihuri carefully omitted to say what the generals were ‘too busy’ doing – looking after their stolen farms, perhaps? His use of the word ‘malcontents’ to describe the MDC has a curiously old-fashioned ring, rather like a Victorian factory owner referring to his workers who have dared to ask for higher wages!

What is noticeable is that the police themselves are ‘too busy’ arresting people for such spurious charges as “impersonating public officials” The 19 people in question were actually MDC Harare residents, going door-to-door campaigning for their political party which is an accepted practice in a parliamentary democracy; the 19 are still in gaol, having been refused bail. Theresa Makone is another one, an MDC official who apparently faces arrest for “shouting at the police officer in charge at Hatcliffe police station’. It seems the police demand unquestioning, even grovelling respect from the public but there is little evidence of what they have done to deserve such respect. On May 1st, traditionally celebrated as Workers Day, the police arrived at the rally and demanded to speak to the organisers who, the police claimed, had failed to ask for police permission to hold the meeting. Curiously, the police then went away for three hours and when they returned the Workers’ meeting was all over. Perhaps, someone had advised them to tread carefully if they wanted to avoid a full-scale riot with all the foreigners in town. And there do seem to be a great many foreign visitors in Zimbabwe at the moment; one wonders what they make of the police behaviour. Two Civil Rights heroes, Dr Andrew Young and the Reverend Jesse Jackson from the US are in the country trying to offer a solution to Zimbabwe’s problems and an EU delegation is also present. It’s worth noting that the EU, of which Britain is a member, gave Zimbabwe aid worth $131 million, while USAID has donated $32 million to peasant farming. So while Zanu PF ministers are ranting on about western interference as usual, they seem quite happy to accept western money.

Words do have a nasty habit of coming back to bite you, that’s particularly true in a country like Zimbabwe where the stranger in the bottle store is just as likely to be a CIO agent. The Police Chief does not have to worry about that of course but his verbal abuse of the MDC is an open advertisement of his pro-government sympathies. The MDC’s Youth Leader has again been arrested for a speech ‘insulting’ Mugabe and a Zanu PF Minister has been accused of ‘hate speech’. The message of all this is very clear: take care what you say in Zimbabwe. You never know who’s listening.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.   

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Childish behaviour is not limited to footballers
April 28, 2013, 5:03 am

Watching a grown man sink his teeth into another man’s arm on the football pitch this week in the UK was a reminder that nursery behaviour doesn’t end with adulthood. The player in question will apparently be sent on an ‘Anger Management’ course and banned for the next ten games; football’s equivalent of the parental “Go to your room”!

Childish behaviour is not limited to footballers, politicians also revert to tantrums from time to time. The most typical example is to blame someone else when things go wrong, the “It’s not my fault” reaction that every parent hears when they adjudicate a childish squabble.

In Zimbabwe, Zanu PF is particularly prone to this immature response: never accept responsibility for your own mistakes, always find someone else to blame. Faced with SADC’s insistence that the GPA must be fully implemented with regard to security reform, Patrick Chinamasa has responded with the comment that “SADC has no right to impose anything on Zimbabwe.” That’s the equivalent of the teenager’s “You can’t tell me what to do”! Perhaps someone should remind the Minister of Justice that his party was a signatory along with the MDC to that very agreement that brought a Government of National Unity into being. The Herald, Zanu PF’s mouthpiece, alleged this week that Simba Makoni committed treason when he said in an interview broadcast on a South African news channel that “all was not well in Zimbabwe”. If that is treason, then every one who attempts to analyse the situation in Zimbabwe honestly is guilty of the crime. Those Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa because, they say, there are no jobs in their home country are presumably also treasonous? Facts must be faced and the truth is that it is one of the Unity government’s failures that they have been unable to create jobs; Bulawayo is a case in point; with its once vibrant manufacturing sector virtually dead, where are those workers going to find jobs? The answer is obvious: they must go elsewhere in search of work.

Even more pressing than the shortage of jobs is the shortage of food. For a whole variety of reasons, the grain Marketing Board silos are empty or as the African Development Bank put it “the country’s grain reserves are severely depleted.” The desperate shortage of maize meal means the price of the precious food stuff has risen as the selfish merchants increase their prices. The good of the country is not their concern, profit is their only motive and that makes their behaviour treasonous in my book. With statistics indicating an increase in extreme poverty, hunger is the inevitable consequence. While the politicians squabble like naughty children and blame each other for all that’s wrong in the country, the situation continues to deteriorate. Instead of focussing on the plight of the hungry masses now, the politicians are concentrating all their attention on the future and the elections, that’s how they keep their jobs after all. Hardly a day goes by without someone calling for peace and tolerance in the run-up to the polls but hunger is rarely in the headlines.  There is clear evidence that food aid is being manipulated right now for political purposes. In drought-prone villages in Mat North and the Midlands, people are once again being forced to buy Zanu PF cards to get food aid. The fact that the Government spent a mere $50.000 on schools last year compared to $50 million on foreign trips suggests that some politicians have their priorities wrong.   

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.     

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It's not hard to tell which side the police are on
April 19, 2013, 1:00 pm

The last nine days in the UK have been given over to Margaret Thatcher who died at the age of 87. Love her or loathe her, one has to admit that she left her mark on Britain and the wider world. Zimbabweans are probably not aware of the strong feelings the former prime minister aroused in this country. She had been out of office since 1992 but the anger and resentment she inspired in some quarters was positively vitriolic, the adulation from her supporters was equally strong. Her funeral in St Pauls Cathedral after the cortege wound its way through the streets of London with a military escort was given full coverage in the media. I was half expecting to see Robert Mugabe there after Zanu PF had just expressed its sorrow at her passing. Rather surprising, considering that Margaret Thatcher had once described Mugabe and Zanu PF as “terrorists”. In truth, Africa as a whole has no reason to mourn Margaret Thatcher’s passing. She had been decidedly out of step with the rest of the world’s view of the apartheid regime in South Africa which perhaps explains why Frederic de Klerk, the one time South African president, was there for her funeral. 

In the nine days between her death and the funeral, various anti-Thatcher groups had made their feelings heard. There were threats of public protests and even parties thrown to celebrate her death. “Ding-dong the witch is dead” was the anthem of the anti-Thatcher activists and as a result of all this overt hostility there was a heavy security presence in London on the day of the funeral. Then, to heighten the atmosphere of impending terror, came the news of the Boston bombing.

In the event, the funeral passed off without any trouble; there were a few anti-Thatcher placards and one group turned their backs as the cortege passed but other than that it was what some people described it ‘a typically British affair’. The Queen was there with the Duke of Edinburgh and some two thousand dignitaries packed St Pauls. As the Bishop of London said in his address, in the end “she was just one of us”, subject to the same hurts and joys and the same inevitable ending. It was a timely reminder that we are all mortal, however high we may rise in the world’s estimation.

And in Zimbabwe, it was interesting to note the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s statement this week that it had removed some 300.000 dead voters from the Electoral Roll, including Ian Smith who died six years ago!

Yesterday, April 18th was Zimbabwe’s anniversary, marking 33 years since Smith and the white regime he led was defeated. It is to Robert Mugabe’s credit that Ian Smith was permitted to reside peacefully on his farm in Selukwe for the remainder of his life. Speaking at this year’s Independence celebrations Mugabe called for peace, “You are all Zimbabweans” he told the crowd. “Go and vote your own way. No one should force you to vote for me,” No one can accuse Mugabe of not saying the right thing, it’s just a pity his followers don’t seem to hear him. Police Chief Augustine Chihuri was also making the right noises. Violence will not be tolerated, he told police officers. “Exercise your duties with assertiveness, conviction and boldness without fear or favour.” Unfortunately, not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet; just last week, Jabulani Sibanda, the war veterans’ leader, threatened widespread violence if Zanu PF loses the election. Strangely enough there was no ‘bold’ and ‘assertive’ reaction from the police to Sibanda’s threat of violence. It’s not hard to tell which side the police are on.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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