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

Do you think Scotland should be independent?
February 1, 2013, 1:35 pm

It really looks as if Zimbabwe is edging closer to a new constitution at last. The draft document still has to get through parliament and then be put to the people in a referendum, though how exactly that is going to be paid for is not clear. The Finance Minister has once again appealed to the international community for cash to finance both the referendum and the election.

There has been much talk in the UK recently about the possible holding of a referendum on Scottish Independence and it was enlightening to hear experts talking about how important it is to get the wording of the question right. For example, “Do you think Scotland should be independent?” is subtly different from “Ought Scotland to be independent?” though it might take a linguistics expert to appreciate the subtlety! Where you have a multi-lingual electorate, this problem is likely to be even more complicated. English is Zimbabwe’s official language but even those whose mother tongue is English may not always appreciate the difference between ‘Should’ and ‘Ought’; in other words the question to be asked must be absolutely clear and without ambiguity.

It will, of course, be a pre-requisite that the electorate have actually read the lengthy document for themselves. Campaigning for a NO response has already started with individual issues exciting much comment and analysis in the media. It is reported that Zanu PF have approved the draft and last week it was further reported that Mugabe had bragged in the politburo that he had outwitted the MDC on constitutional issues. Indeed, the COPAC negotiator, Paul Mangwana has revealed that Mugabe virtually dictated the draft. The president’s own position has certainly been protected and it seems that Mugabe could rule for another ten years under the new constitution - always assuming he lives that long. The suggestion that the document is the result of a deal by the political elite appears to have some merit. It will, however, be the Zimbabwean people themselves who decide on whether they accept this new constitution but the wording of the referendum question remains all-important. Is it to be a straight “Do you accept this draft constitution - Yes or No”? If that is the case, a ‘Yes’ vote would imply that the voter is presumed to accept all the clauses, even those of which he may not approve. The revelation that this new constitution includes features which many people will find unacceptable is not surprising given the heavy political influence on the drafting process. A constitution enshrines the fundamental principles on which a state is governed and embodies the rights of subjects in that state. Zimbabwe’s new draft constitution includes the contentious matter of land apportion and makes the current spate of land takeovers a constitutional right. As for the matter of discrimination, it is apparently allowable providing, as Chapter 5, section 5 states: “unless it is established that the discrimination is fair, reasonable, and justified in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.” Perhaps that statement makes sense to some but I find it no better than gobbledygook; surely, discrimination in a democratic society is never justified, it is always unfair and unreasonable. The news today that the pro-Zanu PF Al Shabab terror group in Kwekwe has violently disrupted a meeting where the draft document was being discussed illustrates the intolerance that is the hallmark of Zanu PF politics Zimbabweans will hope that the presence of  SADC observers at the referendum may lessen the possibility of the ensuing violence.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.      

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Aspiring to be president of the whole of Africa
January 25, 2013, 1:28 pm

While Zimbabweans in the UK diaspora were shivering in the snow, their families and friends at home were being pelted with non-stop rain. At Vice-President John Nkomo’s funeral at Heroes Acre in Harare, a huge thunder storm caused a power outage which apparently blacked out Robert Mugabe’s speech and caused the crowds to disperse hurriedly for shelter. In a pointed reminder of his own rural roots, Mugabe remarked that if the crowd had ever been herd boys they wouldn’t be afraid of getting wet. The current heavy rains have resulted in rather more than just getting wet; at least 80 people have died in the floods and Beitbridge border post has been closed with villagers in the area being rescued by helicopter. The whole Southern Africa region is experiencing widespread flooding and, as always, villagers are the chief victims as they attempt to cross swollen rivers and are swept away in the floods.

Robert Mugabe, however, has other things on his mind than the floods at home. He has his eyes on a much bigger prize than just ruling one country. Mugabe aspires to be president of the whole of Africa. Hence, his advocacy of a United States of Africa, once the dream of his old friend Muamar Gaddafi; a United States of Africa involves a continent without borders, with a single currency and above all a single government. That is the proposition Mugabe will put to the AU Summit in Ethiopia this week and he will speak in the colonial language as will the other African leaders. Most African countries, and there are 54 of them, have adopted the former colonial language as their official language but UNESCO estimates there are over one thousand separate indigenous languages spoken on the continent.

Behind Mugabe’s argument in favour of a United States of Africa is his desire to rid the continent of western ‘interference’ as he calls it. Since that ‘interference’ consists mostly of aid, either financial or material, from the former colonial masters it is difficult to see how the argument will go down with the AU. Many of those African countries are so desperately poor that they could not survive without western aid. The hostage crisis in Mali illustrates the point. It was Mali itself who called in France, the former colonial power, to assist in the fight against Al Queda and the sight of foreign troops fighting on African soil has no doubt enraged Pan-Africanists, such as Robert Mugabe claims to be. Interestingly, the call on the AU to provide troops to put down the Al Qaeda insurgency met with a very limited response. The fact is that in spite of the rhetoric coming from Mugabe for a United States of Africa, the continent appears to have neither the ability nor the resources to combat the Islamist threat. The combination of religion and tribalism has a powerful appeal for vulnerable people who see little chance of improving their lives under often corrupt and inefficient governments. The Al Quada threat is very real, it is estimated that they have bases in more than 40 countries world-wide. Al Quada was behind several deadly attacks including the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 and the East Africa bombing in 2000. Would a United States of Africa give African people any more protection or make any of these attacks less likely in view of the fact that Al Queda chooses remote areas away from prying eyes to train its forces? Mugabe’s call for a United Africa without borders would make it impossible to curtail the activities of terrorist groups. Has Mugabe given serious consideration to any of these issues or is he just concerned with his own legacy and going down in history as the President of the United States of Africa?           

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.  

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Shoot to kill
January 18, 2013, 11:28 pm

The ZRP said last week that they now have orders to ‘shoot and kill robbers and car jackers’; we were not told where the orders came from but we can assume they came from the man at the top of the police, Augustine Chihuri, a self-confessed Zanu PF supporter. The promise – or was it a threat – was made at the memorial service for a policeman who had been shot by a car jacker. The Officer commanding CID, Assistant Commisssioner Simon Nyati told criminals that they could expect “the full wrath of the law.” No doubt, there will be some Zimbabweans who applaud Assistant Commissioner Nyati’s words, believing that they can now sleep safer in their beds knowing that the police are out there shooting robbers and car jackers. They will argue ‘if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear’. Others may think, as I do, that the Assistant Commissioner’s words have little to do with the rule of law but rather more with revenge in retaliation for yet another murdered policeman. That is understandable in human terms but vengeance is nothing to do with justice and it is a frightening sign of the way things are going in Zimbabwe. By ‘shooting to kill’ the police are going far beyond their remit which is to protect the citizens and to ensure that law is upheld. Criminals do not cease to be citizens and like other citizens, if they commit a crime they should be arrested, charged and brought before the courts. It is not the job of the police to determine guilt and inflict instant justice. That sort of ‘wild west’ justice has no place in a modern democratic state. It is the work of a court of law not the police to determine innocence or guilt according to the evidence.

    No one can deny that the police have lost many brave officers killed in the course of their duties. There have been four such deaths in the last two years as Assistant Commissioner reminded the congregation at the memorial service, adding that it was only last year when Inspector Petros Mutedza  was “killed by hooligans in Glen View”; those suspected ‘hooligans’ are still in prison having been refused bail.

This week, the police shot and killed a suspected ‘cop killer’ in Mount Darwin. The deceased, himself an ex-policeman, was armed and firing at the arresting team. Since they were themselves being fired at, the police were perfectly justified in firing back; police regulations clearly allow them to defend themselves. But that is not the issue here. This is about the police determining guilt before a trial has taken place. Those 29 people arrested for Inspector Mutedza’s murder were arrested because, from the police viewpoint, they belonged to the ‘wrong’ party. The fact that no shots were fired does not excuse the overtly partisan stance of the police It is the Police Commissioner himself who has turned this whole issue into a party political matter by openly declaring his support for Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF. The consequence is selective application of the law whereby every member of the MDC  picked up by the police is deemed to be guilty because of his political allegiance. The spate of recent cases against human rights workers “has all the signs of being a politically motivated crackdown” as the Amnesty International Deputy Director commented recently. When a politically partisan police chief states that his officers have orders to ‘shoot and kill’, it is not only criminals who should fear; innocent citizens, too, are in danger of the trigger-happy policeman who equates political allegiance with criminal intent. With the police claiming the right to kill and the army terrorising villagers around the country, who will protect innocent citizens?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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"Unity Government" without the people being consulted
January 11, 2013, 12:50 pm

Last week I said that voter registration had begun, I was wrong. The process has once again been postponed and the reason, of course, is lack of funds. ‘Miracle’ money is clearly not going into ZEC’s bank account!

‘Miracle money’ is just what ‘Prophet Angel’ has been promising. In a tactfully worded statement, the Minister of Finance challenged false prophets who promise ‘gold from the skies’. Not to be outdone, Prophet Angel Mudzanire responded by saying that “Miracle money was not meant for those who dipped their fingers into the national coffers or who failed to run the national economy.” He went on to prophesy even greater miracles in the coming year and certainly Zimbabwe could do with a few miracles to solve its many problems. At least, hopes that diamond wealth would fund worthwhile causes have been realised with the news that diamond firms are bankrolling farmer training. That is good news for the future of Zimbabwe’s agriculture but an election is looming and it is money to fund the election that is the immediate problem. Attempts to get funding from SADC and the AU appear to have failed. With no new constitution in place and no funding, it seems unlikely that elections can take place in March. That has not stopped Zanu PF from issuing new Mugabe stickers for motorists to display on their vehicles. Failure to display the president’s image, as Zimbabweans will remember to their cost, can lead to all sorts of unpleasantness and violence.

Meanwhile, Tendayi Biti and Welshman Ncube are in London with the purpose of attracting investors - unlikely with the farm invasions still going on despite BIPPA agreements. Indeed, Germany has threatened to boycott the World Tourism Conference if their properties continue to be invaded. Biti had previously been in Canada where he appealed for the lifting of sanctions, saying that they no longer served any purpose. It seems that the MDC are singing from the Zanu PF hymn book since the formation of the Unity Government. The Daily News in Zimbabwe reports that Zanu PF and the MDC have struck a deal over the constitution; it seems all sorts of deals are being stitched up during this period of ‘Unity Government’ without the people being consulted. Coalitions, by their very nature tend to lead to compromising of principles; how else can one explain the fact that under a coalition government, Obert Mpofu, the Minister of Mines, has loaded mining bodies with his Zanu PF cronies, apparently with not a whisper of protest from his MDC partners in government? Being in power seems to have silenced the MDC’s ability to speak truth to power.

The replacement for Reg Austin who resigned from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is likely to be another example of Zanu PF getting its own way, though Zanu PF and human rights do not exactly go together. Only this week, the partisan police used tear gas to disperse villagers who were demonstrating over the loss of their land to the Ethanol project which is backed by Billy Rautenbach, millionaire and noted Zanu PF supporter. Slaughter on the roads, chaos at the border post, unrest in the civil service, desperation among the thousands of unemployed and an army which is intent on intimidating villagers to vote for Zanu PF, not to mention debts of $11 million, these are just some of the problems facing the country. Worse still is the  evidence of corruption in education and inside the court system itself, all symptoms of moral decay that not even ‘miracle’ money can cure.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.  


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Zimbabwe is still not a politically tolerant society
January 4, 2013, 12:19 pm

I read in the news that many Zimbabweans in the diaspora are hoping that this will be the year they return to Zimbabwe. They have been away from home for so long that it will be a huge decision to uproot their families and return to what may almost seem like an alien environment. Certainly, for children born and educated in the diaspora, it will be a painful transition. The news this week that school leavers in Zimbabwe may wait as long as two years to get their leaving certificates is worrying for parents with children about to embark on the all-important end of school examinations. Their children’s future is just one of the many considerations for people thinking of returning. The uncertainty over elections is another; not all Zimbabweans in the diaspora have closely followed the political developments at home but the state of the country must certainly be a factor in their decision to return – or not. Finding a job, somewhere to live and schools for children are just some of the things to be thought about. Healthcare which has been freely available in many countries of the diaspora may not even be available at all in certain areas of Zimbabwe. The surprising story that jobless nurses are to be offered jobs abroad suggests that hospitals and clinics must have an excess of medical staff but it’s hard to believe that there are doctors, drugs and medical equipment in equal numbers and certainly not in the rural areas. If only half of the estimated 5 million people who left Zimbabwe decide to return, it will put the most enormous strain on heath facilities. One assumes that most of those returnees would choose to re-settle in urban centres such as Harare and the water crisis that enabled cholera and typhoid to flourish there would be further exacerbated.

For MDC supporters thinking of returning, there is the added fear of persecution by Zanu PF. Only today we hear that Jabulani Sibanda, the War Veteran leader, has once again called for MDC people to be denied farming imputs. The constant denigration of the MDC by the state controlled media is a sure sign that Zimbabwe is still not a politically tolerant society. In rural areas, villagers are under threats of physical violence by Zanu PF and for diasporeans accustomed to the political freedoms they have enjoyed in exile, going home means facing the same dangers that lead to their leaving the motherland. The longing to go home will have to be carefully balanced against the realities of life in Zimbabwe today. Zimbabweans who went home for Christmas will have had the opportunity to see for themselves what the situation is but it seems unlikely that there will be any mass return until after the elections. The timing of Mugabe’s one month long trip to China for his annual vacation has delayed the constitutional talks in which he is a major participant and, according to the GPA, there can be no election until that issue is settled. Once again , Mugabe’s well-known delaying tactics are at work.  Morgan Tsvangirai is said to be ‘geared up’ for elections in 2013 but we all know that it is only Mugabe as president who has the power to declare an election. The fact that voter registration has begun does not necessarily mean an election will follow so, hold on a bit longer all you returnees!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.      

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