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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

The question in everyone's mind
December 28, 2012, 10:33 pm

Another Christmas is over and a new year lies ahead; has anything much changed in Zimbabwe? And, more important, will 2013 be the year in which anything – or everything - changes in the country? We still have a so-called Unity Government though it is increasingly obvious that Mugabe and Zanu PF still have a firm hold on the reins of power. Mugabe has flown off for his regular medical check-up in the Far East while back home Harare City’s Medical Aid Society is facing financial collapse.

Jacob Zuma has been re-elected in South Africa and the media pundits have been busy discussing whether this is a good or bad thing for Zuma’s next door neighbour, Robert Mugabe. In Zimbabwe’s capital there has been a typhoid outbreak which has allegedly killed 800 people. Reports of piles of uncollected garbage in the capital can only increase the threat of disease as heavy rain pours down and flies and mosquitoes proliferate in the wet and warm conditions. We hear that the Director of Amenities has gone on leave and that’s why the capital is in such a mess; though why the Director has no Deputy to act in his absence is not explained.

It is deaths from road accidents that have dominated the headlines over the holiday period. This year there have been 134 deaths in an 11 day period compared to just 72 deaths last year. In Masvingo last Sunday, a collision between a haulage truck and a grossly overloaded lorry carrying 63 people resulted in 18 deaths. Surprisingly, the lorry had apparently passed through several police check points but no police officer had seen fit to do anything about the excessive number of passengers being carried. A ‘little something’ had changed hands perhaps? The fact that 9 police officers have been arrested in Masvingo is surely more than a little coincidental. In the reasons given by the police for the horrendous death toll on the roads such as over-speeding, inattention to the road, etc, no mention was made of too much Christmas cheer, the sort that comes in a bottle. Whether it is Zimbabwe or the UK, Christmas is always the time when people imbibe too much and then take the wheel. The UK also had its share of horrendous road accidents despite strict drink and drive laws but it is hard to convince people that one or two drinks impair their ability to drive safely.

The question in everyone’s mind is whether 2013 will be an election year. Robert Mugabe is convinced that it will and as president he is the one who will decide, as his henchmen keep reminding us. Tobiah Mudede, the Registrar General, accused NGOs of tampering with the voters roll but as a Mugabe loyalist his views are more than a little biased. The Prime Minister has predicted that 2013 will be tough year and with the deadlock over the new constitution and the country’s dire financial straits, the problems facing Zimbabwe are many and varied. Not least among the problems is the food crisis as more and more commercial farmers are pushed off the land. Mugabe would no doubt like to have all of them gone before the elections, then he can claim his land reform has been a total success. To add to the gloom, the CFU president predicts a food crisis. In short, the future looks bleak for Zimbabwe but that does not stop Zanu PF hard-liners saying they will not accept western aid. More realistically, Morgan Tsvangirai says that food and jobs are top of his agenda for 2013. Without foreign investment to create the jobs, a lot of Zimbabweans are going to be both hungry and jobless, that is the reality.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.


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Is China the new colonial power in Africa?
December 14, 2012, 1:27 pm

Is China the new colonial power in Africa? A map of Africa reveals China’s presence in most if not all African countries and, of late, particularly in Southern Africa. China is under new leadership, Xi Jinping is now head of the Communist party and it remains to be seen exactly where he stands on the question of China’s relationship with Africa. Is it a partnership of equals or is China exploiting Africa for its own benefit? China vigorously defends its role in Africa, claiming that it has built schools and roads and greatly benefited the African continent’s infrastructure and uplifted the standard of living of Africa’s people.

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s ‘Look East’ policy was the signal for an increase in China’s involvement in Zimbabwe. What was in it for China? For a country desperately short of natural resources, the answer was plain: Zimbabwe is rich in minerals. Take the diamond industry; speaking in a recent interview, Farai Maguwu, the head of a leading advocacy group, revealed that in practice the diamond industry is 50% owned by the Chinese Anjin company and 40% by the Zimbabwe Defence Industry. The fact that a foreign company is a major shareholder in one of Zimbabwe’s most lucrative natural resources is surely at odds with Saviour Kasukuwere’s much-touted Indigenisation policy? The Chinese claim there is mutual respect between the indigenous Zimbabweans and the Chinese but that is not immediately evident. As for the Chinese bringing employment to Zimbabwe, that is a moot point since they often bring their own workers who are unable to speak the local language, thus limiting communication with the local people and increasing the possibility of resentment against these ‘foreigners’ who have come into their area. If that is not direct colonialism it certainly bears a close resemblance to the bad old days of British occupation of Africa when communication was limited to the vernacular language of master and servant.

         One of the major side-effects of mining is the effect on the local population. With the discovery of Marange’s diamonds in 2006, a vast area was under threat. Originally calculated at 70.000 hectacres the area of the Marange diamond mine is now reckoned to be more than 120.000 hectares with more mineral exploration going on. Moving people who have known no other home for their entire lives is an explosive issue but not one that local or foreign journalists are allowed to report. A veil of secrecy hangs over the Marange project but some things cannot be hidden. The environmental damage is plain for all to see as local rivers are polluted and the once clear Save river is now no more than a muddy and polluted stream. In addition, the peace of the African bush is broken by the noise of heavy traffic day and night. The area’s rich wild life has disappeared and the only beneficiaries of all this activity are the military and the Chinese-owned diamond company. Meanwhile, a new diamond technology centre is being built at Mount Hampden in Harare which promises an incredible 40.000 new jobs. For the 90% of the population who are unemployed that is good news, if the figures are accurate! For the majority of Zimbabwe’s people, the diamonds have brought them nothing but for Robert Mugabe, all this diamond wealth is good news; he has the diamond-rich generals on side, access to limitless cash to win the next election and the wherewithal to buy patronage. Mugabe said at his party conference that he wants nothing less than “sole control” of the country. The helicopters hovering over the Conference centre for the duration of the party conference were a reminder to everyone that he means it. Mugabe is determined to win at all costs and diamond wealth will help ensure he does just that. No doubt his friends, the Chinese, will be very happy with an electoral result that keeps him in power.        

         Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson


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Blood diamonds - "Nothing but a storm in a tea cup"
December 8, 2012, 7:03 am

The Kimberley Process has lifted all restrictions on Zimbabwe’s diamonds so that they can now be sold openly on the world market. The monitoring mechanism has also been removed so, on the face of it, it’s ‘business as usual’ for Zimbabwe’s diamond industry. There was no discussion on the vexed question of whether or not Zimbabwe’s diamonds could be classified as ‘blood diamonds because the KP could not agree on the precise definition of  ‘conflict diamonds’. It was “Nothing more than a storm in a teacup” said Abbey Chikane. Interestingly, in the same week that the KP reached its decision, a Chinese national, Li Bo, appeared before a Harare magistrate charged with smuggling diamonds worth more than $9000 out of the country, Li Bo had no official licence to carry diamonds but there they were, stashed away in his suitcase. And that’s the problem; diamonds are so portable!

    Meanwhile, Zanu PF was preparing for its annual conference in Gweru. Once again, we heard reports of supporters being bussed in to swell the numbers. Nothing new there! Zanu PF have been bussing in their supporters for years but there is a fresh urgency this year as the country heads for elections in March 2013. Zanu PF predicts victory, of course; Robert Mugabe will be their only candidate. There will be no debate about succession and any move to bring in younger candidates has been firmly squashed; instead debate at the Zanu PF conference will centre on indigenisation –whatever that means. The cost of holding the annual conference has shot up and there are mixed reports about the state of the party’s finances. The money has to come from somewhere so, where else than from the white farmers on whose land the conference centre was built! It is the ultimate irony that white farmers who lost everything in Mugabe’s ‘land reform’ are being asked to fund the party’s conference. Meanwhile, Morgan Tsvangirai tells crowds of his supporters in Gwanda that “We have to win at all costs” and at another rally in Glen View he says that his priority will be job creation: he will create one million new jobs in five years he promises. Whether Tsvangirai can keep that promise is questionable but with the whole of the western world in the economic doldrums it seems unlikely. Job creation needs foreign investment and there is little sign of that except from China which, among its other investments, is buying more of Zimbabwe’s tobacco crop than any other country. Tobacco is no longer the money-spinner it once was but diamonds as the song says are ‘forever’, unlike water which is a diminishing commodity in Zimbabwe. Reports of cattle dying and hundreds of elephants unable to find water in Matabeleland are matched by deep concern over the quality of the precious liquid in many areas of the country. Harare residents, says one report, are drinking untreated urine. Unsurprisingly, there is cholera in four of Harare’s suburbs.

    Whether diamond revenue could solve all these problems remains to be seen. The Kimberley Process has been under a lot of criticism this week from human rights organisations for the way in which it has endorsed Zimbabwe’s diamonds. The UK’s description of Zimbabwe as ‘highly volatile’ was borne out this week by various reports of human rights abuses in the country. Most shocking for me was the report that police ordered the demonstrating Woza women not to speak sindebele. It is surely a basic human right to speak your own mother tongue – isn’t that part of what indigenisation means? But for Zanu PF, it seems indigenisation is all about getting their hands on other people’s property, that’s their definition of indigenisation!

Yours in the (continuing) struggle. Pauline Henson


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"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest"
December 1, 2012, 12:42 am

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest”- that quotation had been ringing in my ears ever since the Kunonga saga started. The quotation is attributed to the twelfth century English King, Henry the Second. Henry was speaking about Archbishop Thomas a Becket once a friend of his but later deeply critical of the king’s tax policies. Becket paid for his outspokenness with his life and was murdered by the king’s men in Canterbury Cathedral. He was afterwards canonised and his shrine is in that very cathedral. So, my quotation hardly applies to ‘Bishop’ Kunonga who is certainly no saint as events this week once again proved. The gun-toting Kunonga was finally evicted from the Anglican cathedral in Harare. “No man of God can behave in this way” one priest commented but then whoever thought Kunonga was any more than a thug using ‘Indigenisation’ for his own ends? 

   As of Wednesday November 28th Kunonga was officially in contempt of court and according to the law, the police were bound to arrest him. But this is Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe’s rule and all who support this ‘son of God’, as Kunonga once described the president, are protected by the partisan police force. So, for weeks Zimbabwe had the tragi/comic situation of its Anglican cathedral in the centre of the capital city under siege with a criminal gang outside, none other than the notorious Chipangano, allegedly protecting Kunonga - from whom? From the real bishop, Bishop Gandiya, the anointed head of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe! Such are Kunonga’s powers of persuasion that he had attracted like-minded followers in other parishes in Harare and in his home district to follow suit. Kunonga’s priests had resisted eviction in several parishes and there were reports of them threatening to beat up church officials. On Thursday, Kunonga himself, “literally frothing at the mouth” as the report stated, launched a verbal attack on journalists trying to cover the story and threatened to shoot a photographer. In a telephone interview with the Daily News, Kunonga is quoted as saying, “What do they have? Can they shoot us with guns? No they can’t” Kunonga’s belief in violence is surely at odds with Christian theology?

  If all this seems like a storm in a teacup, outsiders should understand that Zimbabwe is largely a church-going society. The Anglican cathedral occupies a central position in the capital and the sight of an armed criminal gang standing guard over the building hardly gives the impression of a country which tells the world it is at peace. It was the Vice President himself, Didymus Mutasa, who condemned Chipangano as no better than criminals and ordered them to disband. Kunongo, however, chose to use Chipangano to protect him. The ‘turbulent priest’ – no priest at all in reality - was finally defeated and forced to leave the cathedral and return all the property he had stolen. This saga has been going on for five years and the joy and relief on the face of Bishop Gandiya, the true bishop, was plain for all to see. The cathedral he finally recovered is apparently in a dire state and it will take many days and weeks to clean up the filth Kunonga and his followers left behind. Men like Kunonga don’t give up easily and there are many more like him, motivated by greed and self-interest and shielded by Mugabe’s so-called ‘Indigenisation’. Fortune Charamba, President of the Chiefs’ Council this week openly urged the chiefs to use indigenisation funds to ‘buy votes’ by building bridges, clinics and roads thus “winning hearts”. With friends like Kunonga, Chihuri and Charamba supporting him, Mugabe may win the forthcoming election by violence and intimidation but Zimbabwe will be the loser.  

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson    


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Kunonga
November 23, 2012, 4:23 pm

Many, perhaps the majority of Zimbabweans are Christians and Zimbabwean Anglicans cannot have been indifferent to the news coming out of the UK this week. The decision by the Anglican church not to appoint women bishops has led to a great deal discussion and media coverage. All the signs had been that the Anglican church as a whole would support the appointment of women bishops when they already have women priests. The Church of England is the established church of the country but that does not mean political influence is used in the same way as it is in Zimbabwe where Nolbert Kunonga, the defrocked Anglican priest, has openly declared his loyalty to Robert Mugabe and appears to have the support of the partisan police force. The Police Act specifically bars police officers from joining in active politics but that does not prevent police officers, such as Chief Superintendent Mandikapa, from actively campaigning against Morgan Tsvangirai and, it is alleged, using police resources in the process. That is not the sort of overt political interference that operates in the UK so it is unlikely that the issue of women bishops will be of concern to the British police unless the law is broken. Women priests have been ordained in the UK since 1994, though it remains a contentious issue and not all Anglicans support the ordination of women. There are women bishops in several Commonwealth countries and the US, so it seems strange that the ‘mother church’ in the UK should be so clearly out of step on this issue. In this century of equality for all, such a backward step means the Anglican church “has a lot of explaining to do” as the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams said. All this may seem rather irrelevant to Zimbabwean Anglicans who have problems of their own in the shape of the self-appointed Bishop Kunonga who is still laying claim to the cathedral in Harare despite losing his case in the Supreme court and being ordered to return all the church property he has appropriated over the past five years. In the course of his various ‘church grabs’ the ex-communicated Kunonga has run up enormous bills for utilities etc. and it seems likely that he will come face to face with the police over these unpaid bills. Will Kunonga be able to call on Robert Mugabe for support? The two men certainly seem to have a great deal in common. Kunonga’s homophobic views reflect Mugabe’s own attitudes on the subject and it is hard to believe that either of them would support the issue of women bishops- or priests for that matter. The real test of police impartiality will come if Kunonga defies the court as he has said he will. He is due to be evicted from the main cathedral in Harare on December 16th. With commendable Christian charity, Bishop Gandiya invited Kunonga to join the diocese he leads but the renegade priest has refused. Meanwhile the properties Kunonga seized are to be ‘cleansed’ which says a lot about the man’s ‘unholy’ influence on everything he touches. The whole affair is a clear object lesson not to mix politics and religion. In their desire to garner votes ahead of the elections in March 2013 Zanu PF will no doubt try to use people like Kunonga who is not above using the pulpit for political persuasion. However, things are slowly changing in Zimbabwe and the verdict by a Bulawayo judge to sentence three Zanu PF killers to ten years each for the murder of an MDC villager gives reason to hope that people like Kunonga may no longer enjoy the protection of the police. We live in hope! Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson.


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