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

A breakdown in communication between leadership and the ordinary members of Zanu PF
April 12, 2013, 1:17 pm

There was a report last week of Zanu PF MPs complaining that they had been sidelined by the ‘Old Guard’, the top chefs who benefit from deals in mining, agriculture and indigenisation. The MPs were not just whinging about not getting a place on the gravy train; they had a much more serious political point to make: that Robert Mugabe, the leader of the party, never engages with the rank and file members. He only talks to cabinet ministers or politburo and central committee members the MPs complained. Coming as it does from the party’s own MPs, it gives an intriguing insight into the internal workings of the party and in a separate report from Manicaland came the news that Mugabe’s old comrade and Deputy President, Didymus Mutasa is in trouble with Zanu PF in the area for his ‘dictatorial practices’.

What both reports highlight is a breakdown in communication between leadership and the ordinary members of the party. And that’s a danger signal which should tell those at the top that all is not well in Zanu PF. Troubles never come singly, for then came a report that the President of the Zimbabwe Economic Empowerment Committee, Temba Mliswa is not happy with the way the Indigenisation policy is being executed. Mliswa says that Saviour Kasukuwere, whose brainchild it is, should make the policy clearer. At present indigenisation only benefits individuals whereas, Mliswa believes it should benefit specific groups such as students, war veterans and disabled people. But, it was Mliswa’s attack on the Chinese that put him directly at odds with Mugabe’s ‘Look East’ policy. And Mliswa did not mince his words: “They have literally come here and taken over our tobacco sector through contract farming and other methods. The plant, reap, cure, grade, process and buy the tobacco. How then does the economy grow. The Chinese are obliged to comply with the indigenisation policy so that indigenous people can be directly empowered. They have virtually taken over the country’s economy and resources.”

The same could be said of many other African countries; over the last ten years China has increased its involvement in Africa to the point where they are currently involved in fifty African countries and their presence has provoked heated discussion about their motives for being there. They have in effect taken the place of the hated colonial regimes that once ruled the African roost but to be fair not all their enterprises are about profit. There are over 1000 Chinese doctors in Africa but their inability to speak the local languages constitutes a big barrier. Interestingly, the Chinese seem more interested in spreading the Chinese language than in learning the languages of the countries they occupy. More that 1.600 companies have invested in Africa and there seems little doubt that Africa is more than happy to have Chinese involvement – possibly because the Chinese policy of non-interference means they do not question the regimes’ systems of government or criticise their human rights record. A dictator like Robert Mugabe need have no fear that the Chinese will condemn him if - or when - he rigs the forthcoming elections. His ‘Look East’ policy is not the result of democratic consultation with the people but a hangover from the Liberation War when he had the support of the Chinese while the late Joshua Nkomo was supported by the Soviet Union as it was then.

It seems that African rulers today are only too willing to accept foreign investment regardless of the donors’ human rights record.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson.


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The next Presidential elections
April 6, 2013, 2:19 am

    The news that Mugabe has dropped the court case over the June election date raises all sorts of questions. It was a surprising decision, given that we all know him to be a fairly intransigent sort of character, not given to changing his mind – in public at least. Perhaps he really has listened to the analysts who have been saying for some time that June elections were just not feasible since the reforms laid down in the GPA are not in place. More likely, it is the view being expressed by political analysts that Zanu PF would not win a free and fair election that has persuaded him to drop his demand for a June election. Mugabe has to win this election, the alternative is unthinkable. Instead of ending his political career on a victorious high, he would be forced to retire from the scene as a defeated candidate. Obviously he can’t see what the rest of us can: that it is Mugabe himself who is making a Zanu PF defeat more likely.

    Whenever the election is to be held, all the signs are that it will be sooner rather than later. Both main parties are going all out to win voters over to their side before the actual poll. There was a report last week of Zanu PF ferrying people in Chimanimani around to register in areas which are normally regarded as Zanu PF strongholds, thus strengthening their numbers on the voters’ roll. We hear too that the so-called ‘alien vote’ is being wooed by Zanu PF and the MDC. The ‘alien vote’ refers to people whose parents were born outside Zimbabwe; people from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique and presumably the few Europeans left in the country whose parents came from Europe during the wave of immigration in the fifties. Mugabe’s party is busy telling these people that it is only through Zanu PF’s efforts that they have the vote at all.  And in Chisumbanje, the Vice President claimed that the Ethanol Project was in fact the brain child of Zanu PF. In short, all that is good in Zimbabwe has come from Zanu PF!  As for the call by President Zuma and other southern African leaders that reforms must be put in place before elections, Zanu PF hardliners say it’s all part of a plot to overthrow the regime. There will be no security reforms says Minister Sekeramayi, adding that the reason the west are opposed to the security chiefs – who are still on the sanctions list – is that they were all war veterans who helped to overthrow the colonial regime. The argument goes that Zanu PF won the Liberation War through the ‘barrel of a gun’ so that is presumably the justification for the increasing political violence in the country. The dreaded Youth Militia has already been deployed in Zanu PF strongholds, such as Mbare. “Nothing but media falsehoods” says Chief Superintendent Mandikapa. It is the private media who are spreading all these false reports, “the country enjoys wholesome peace” he said. Meanwhile the thousands of Zimbabweans outside the country are still not sure if they will be allowed to vote. Minister Chinamasa said while he was in London that his party does not support the diaspora vote because sanctions will prevent Zanu PF from ‘interfacing’ with Zimbabweans in the diaspora. I’m not sure how the Minister arrives at that conclusion – unless he means that the party bigwigs will be prevented from entering the UK to campaign. Even that argument does not stand up since there are only ten top ‘chefs’ on the sanctions list. One sure sign that elections are not far off is the purchase of 40 new machines to grade rural roads. We can’t have the candidates’ posh cars ruined on rough dirt roads even though the ‘povo’ bounce around in country buses on rough dirt roads all year round!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson. 

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The EU does the inexplicable...
March 28, 2013, 8:15 am

Cyprus has been an off-shore tax haven for many an anonymous millionaire. The great advantage of off-shore banking is that identities are protected. The island’s economic collapse must have caused many sleepless nights for these shady individuals some of whose wealth has been acquired in less than ethical ways. This week’s news that Cyprus will place a levy on those clients with accounts of over 100.000 Euros in order to raise money cannot have done much to improve their slumbers; it is estimated that these individuals may lose as much as 40% of their wealth. For Zimbabweans, it’s all very reminiscent of the country’s own economic collapse. The sense of absolute panic for thousands of ordinary account holders is not something one easily forgets. The notion that you cannot access your own money seems deeply unjust:  if you cannot trust the banks to look after your money, then who can you trust? “Better to withdraw the whole lot and put it under the mattress.” I heard a desperate Cypriot citizen argue this week. With Zimbabwe in mind, one has to wonder how many Zanu PF’s fat cats are sick with worry about Cyprus’s collapse. Mugabe’s indigenisation programme has been the perfect opportunity for these fat cats to take over companies and greatly enrich themselves. That new wealth needs to be squirreled away somewhere and off-shore accounts provide the solution - with no questions asked. A recent attempt by Zimbabwe’s Anti Corruption Commission to raid the offices of certain prominent cabinet ministers suspected of corruption was promptly stopped by the police and ZACC claims that there is political pressure on them to delay the probe until after the election. In another curious development, the head of ZACC has himself been arrested and charged with fraud; corruption even within the Anti Corruption Commission!

     The great African writer Chinua Achebe who died this week once said that one of the reasons for African corruption was that Africans had been out in the rain for so long that once they found shelter under a tree, they were loath to give it up. I’m not sure how well that applies to Zimbabwe which is not exactly just emerging from the colonial yoke. The wave of corruption that has hit the country is nothing new but it appears to have accelerated recently. The news of the enormous exit packages that are going to be paid out to ministers when this government officially ends its life may be exaggerated but this week Patrick Chinamasa is in the UK with the begging bowl, apparently at the invitation of the British. Beatrice Mtetwa’s release might just convince them that Zimbabwe is on the right track. Certainly the Brits seem very anxious to bring Zimbabwe back into the fold, possible because they are desperate to get their hands on Zimbabwe’s diamonds and other minerals before the Chinese take the lot! What Chinamasa will not be admitting to the former colonial power is that it is his government’s indigenisation programme that has caused the desperate shortage of funds which has led to the closure of companies all over the country.

     Meanwhile the EU has lifted most of the sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe. Just why the EU chose this particular time to remove sanctions from all but ten individuals and two companies is inexplicable. With a top human rights lawyer held for eight days in gaol, the police rounding up MDC activists all over the country, and corruption on all sides, what exactly is Zimbabwe is being rewarded for? This is the carrot to replace the stick, I read somewhere but Zanu PF has declared that the EU is just trying to divide them. From what I read they are doing  themselves!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Out of the country when his police force go 'over the top'
March 22, 2013, 1:48 pm

    It could be my imagination but Robert Mugabe always seems to be out of the country when his police force goes ‘over the top.’ It’s as if he is disclaiming all responsibility for whatever is going on in Zimbabwe. He can claim it was nothing to do with him, he was out of the country on ‘state business’ at the time. Reporting on Mugabe’s presence in Rome for the inauguration of the new Pope, the media made much of the fact that Mugabe is a practising Catholic – as if that automatically exonerated him from complicity in the brutality that is an ongoing feature of his regime.


Mugabe was in Rome in 2005 for the funeral of Pope John Paul and again for John Paul’s beatification in 2011 and now in 2013 for the inauguration of the Francis 1st.  Reports indicate that Mugabe flew out of Zimbabwe the day after he had voted in the Referendum for a new constitution which could keep him in power for the next ten years by which time he will be 99 years old. Having voted, Mugabe launched into his usual anti-western tirade: Why should we let them in to observe our elections when they are the ones who impose sanctions on us, Mugabe demanded. Sanctions however did not prevent him from flying off to Rome; the Vatican being a ‘sanction free’ state. No difficulty there! Neither did Robert Mugabe and his wife experience the difficulties that so many voters had when they went to vote. Cathy Buckle’s account of her voting experience made the case for all the people who tried to do their civic duty. Born and bred in Zimbabwe but still ‘alien’ they were told - because their parents were born abroad.


    On the eve of the Referendum the ever-present violence against the opposition escalated with 7 MDC members attacked in the presence of a BBC team who were caught up in the incident, 4 MDC supporters from Kwekwe briefly arrested and an MDC activist from Headlands abducted at gunpoint from his home in Harare. With Robert Mugabe out of the country all hell broke loose as the police went on the rampage against a legally constituted opposition. The abducted MDC man from Headlands was in fact in custody at Nyazura Police Station, charged with the murder of the twelve year old boy who died in a petrol bomb attack. Then, on Sunday, the day after the Referendum, 15 plain clothes police officers clothes raided the offices of the Prime Minister’s chief legal advisor, Thabani Mpofu and arrested him on charges of “impersonating the police” because he was “compiling dossiers of unspecified crimes.” Enter Beatrice Mtetwa, lawyer and fearless champion of human rights who demanded the police produce their search warrant. They had one they said but they would not show it to her until after they had conducted their search! The police alleged that Mtetwa spoke disrespectfully to them when she was demanding to see a warrant and they arrested her along with the 4 other MDC officials. It could only happen in Zimbabwe! In arresting Beatrice Mtetwa and the 4 other MDC officials the Zimbabwean police have shown how desperate they are to conceal their own misdeeds. With Mtetwa and her colleagues denied bail, no doubt the police now feel free to do just what they like. As we saw this week, they already ignore High Court orders so it’s doubtful whether they will take any notice of future orders but Mtetwa’s name is not unknown. She is an internationally respected human rights lawyer and the world is watching while the Zimbabwean police demonstrate, once again, how little the rule of law means to them.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson

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This week in Zimbabwe
March 15, 2013, 1:30 pm

Quite apart from the legal battle between the owners of the House of Gushungo  fashion label and the Zanu PF party over ownership of the brand, the story tells us quite a lot about Robert Mugabe’s self-image. Gushshungo, as everyone knows, is Mugabe’s totem and we are told that Mugabe himself is not making any money from of the use of his name on T shirts, berets and various other items of clothing. He has simply given the fashion house permission to use his signature and as a result there are people walking around Harare with Mugabe’s name emblazoned on their shirts. It all smacks of the cult of the personality and the fact that the scheme has Mugabe’s approval indicates that he is not reluctant to have his name used in this way. I suppose it must give a considerable boost to his ego to see people with his name inscribed on their clothes. As for the party he leads, they are only too happy to exploit their leader’s name to increase their support at the polls. It is hardly likely that the wearer of one of these T shirts would be an opposition supporter, is it? The battle of the T shirts is about to be resumed and we all know what that entails. When wearers of opposing parties’ T shirts meet in the bottle store you can be pretty sure that a punch-up will follow; after all supporters of Zanu PF would wear a shirt bearing Gushungo’s name.

    Last week, the Police Commissioner ordered the police to ensure a Zanu PF victory, “Leave now if you’re not going to toe the line” he told them. Everyone knows that Augustine Chihuri is an avid supporter of Robert Mugabe, that is why he has kept his job for thirty years. Mugabe and Zanu PF have been in power for so long that they actually believe that they have an inalienable right to rule Zimbabwe. When it comes to election observers, we hear that hardliners within the party are opposed to western observers for fear that there will be unacceptable conditions attached. The MDC reminded Zanu PF that it is not for a political party to decide who the observers will be. Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has turned down a request by Zim Rights to observe the elections on the grounds that Zim Rights is under police investigation. Now that the case against the director has been dismissed, it will be interesting to see if Zim Rights is now acceptable! Morgan Tsvangirai informed the country this week that the GPA principals had not yet made a decision about international observers but once again Zanu PF - the Vice President this time - declared that there will be no external observers.

    The Referendum on the draft constitution takes place tomorrow.100 SADC observers have been deployed to cover the entire country. They will leave again on March 20 , the question is will the results will be out by then? The African Commission has ordered Zimbabwe to allow Zimbabweans in the diaspora the right to vote in this Referendum but it remains to be seen whether Zimbabwe will obey the order. Interest in the Referendum appears to be lukewarm; not surprising really when you consider that most people have not even seen the draft which has been abridged from the original 170 pages down to 45; a somewhat suspicious abbreviation, you might think! And as for those pesky short wave radios, this week George Charamba virtually accused the UK of smuggling them into the country to help Mugabe’s rivals. “The radios have a sinister intent,” Charamba declared. Personally I can’t see how an inanimate object can have an intent of any kind, sinister or otherwise but perhaps a Mugabe signature might make them less ‘sinister’ in Charamba’s eyes?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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