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

Who stole the diamonds?
November 16, 2012, 12:57 pm

The Zimbabwe Diamond Conference which began on Monday was sponsored by the Zim government and opened by Robert Mugabe. The intention of the Conference said Mugabe was to “shed light” on the diamond industry and particularly on the question of where all the diamond revenue is going. It is not going to the treasury said the Minister of Finance a couple of weeks ago, so if the money is not going to the treasury, where is it going? Gold came into the story too with Mugabe’s move to decriminalise gold panning. The fact is that whether it’s gold or diamonds, the question always comes down to: Where’s the money going?

    Money and politics, the two go together and particularly in Zimbabwe. It is Mugabe’s insistence on elections in March that has fuelled all this talk about diamond wealth. The fear has been voiced that diamonds will fund a power grab by Robert Mugabe and his army generals but it was the report by the highly respected Partnership Africa Canada on Monday that really caught everyone’s attention. The Report spoke of   “the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes” adding that $2 billion was a conservative estimate of the loss to the Zimbabwean state. “Marange’s potential has been over-shadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all by lost opportunity. The scale of illegality is mind blowing” the PAC Report commented. And how did Obert Mpofu, himself a man of considerable, unexplained wealth, respond? After some rather rambling remarks about hyenas and transparency, he said it was all the fault of sanctions. The ‘usual suspect’, ie.the west, has stopped Zimbabwe getting good prices he alleged. A more likely explanation is that Zimbabwe is so broke that she will accept any price however low for her diamonds. The guest speaker at the Victoria Falls Conference was Thabo Mbeki, a known Zanu PF supporter and he joined in the chorus of anti-west vitriol. It is always a popular line and the African delegates turned their wrath on the American chair of the Kimberley Process and demanded her resignation.

    As always in Zimbabwe, determining the truth of all these claims and counter claims is not easy but if it’s evidence you’re looking for, the news that Zimbabwe has already embarked on a project to build a new capital city certainly suggests that the regime is not short of cash – from somewhere. A new conference hall for Zanu PF is another project that is being funded – from somewhere. Meantime, the present capital  is enduring a water crisis so awful that it is alleged Harare residents are actually drinking re-cycled waste, while the regime has already started work on a new capital, ‘Zvimba City’ in Mugabe’s home province is part of Mugabe’s ‘legacy’ no doubt. Poor residents of Harare suburbs Rugare and Kambazuma are actually having their property confiscated for non-payment of rates. Wherever the diamond wealth is going, it is certainly not going to enrich the quality of ordinary people’s lives.  Country-wide violence against the MDC continues and the police are still not taking action against known offenders. The arsonists in Mutoko who burned down an MDC supporter’s home have not been arrested and the police have told the victims that it is up to them to bring the suspects to the police station! Maybe the diamond money would not solve all these problems but it would surely make peoples’ lives more bearable? The Kimberley Process has decreed that Zimbabwe’s diamonds do not qualify as ‘blood diamonds’ but they may well be the cause of bloodshed in the future as the various interested parties fight for the wealth the diamonds generate.  

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson   

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Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas
November 9, 2012, 12:56 pm

I read the following quotation recently, ‘Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas.’ That is not an easy thing to do, especially in Zimbabwe  where the country is now so sharply divided between two very opposing views. If you are a Mugabe supporter you will automatically believe every word that falls from Zanu PF lips; conversely if you support the MDC, you will tend to doubt every word the Mugabe party says. In the end the only way to determine the truth is to use common sense and your own judgement based on past experience. 

    Not for the first time, Zanu PF this week upturned the truth into a story that was so patently ridiculous, you would have to be ‘intellectually challenged’ to believe it. It wasn’t the first time they had turned a story on its head to make them look like the innocent victims of MDC machinations; we all remember how Zanu PF claimed that a white farmer had trashed his own home in order to bring disgrace on the former ruling party. This week it was the vicious attack on a white couple, John and Jackie Kinnaird that led Zanu PF to claim that the assault was actually perpetrated by the MDC themselves in order to bring blame on Zanu PF. It so happens that John Kinnaird is the MDC treasurer for Kadoma and the attack took place at night by youths who were said to be wearing Zanu PF regalia and using wheel spanners and iron rods to assault John Kinnaird. The MDC immediately condemned the attack and blamed Zanu PF; in response, Zanu PF’s spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, remarked that he thought this was a stage-managed affair in order to tarnish his party. “The MDC” he said, “is capable of sending its own youths to attack fellow members as part of a well-orchestrated plan by the former opposition party to create noise all over the country that there is violence in Zimbabwe and therefore elections cannot be held in a free and fair manner.” One clue to help determine the truth is the fact that, despite a police report being made, there have been no arrests. Past experience tells us that the avowedly partisan police are known never to take action against Zanu PF supporters even when there is clear evidence of guilt.   

    Then came the police raid on the Counselling Services Unit, an organisation that provides medical and psychological counselling for victims of torture. Twenty police officers armed with a search warrant raided CSU offices in Harare. They were looking for ‘offensive and subversive material’ they claimed but all they found were three cans of spray paint. Using the criteria of common sense and judgement, it seems clear that what the police were really looking for was the names of their own officers involved in torture. Incidentally, the police team raiding the CSU offices was headed by Detective Inspectors Dowa and Makedenge; both of whom have been involved in previous torture cases. Five men were arrested in the course of the raid but two have since been released. No charge has been made against the remaining three and yesterday they were illegally transferred from Harare to Bulawayo where a magistrate granted them bail. There has been widespread condemnation of the police raid on the CSU offices but past experience tells Zimbabweans that the current crackdown on NGOs is connected with the forthcoming elections. In this atmosphere of political tension it is likely that the truth will once again be lost in a welter of political propaganda where finding the actual truth becomes almost impossible, even without ‘preconceived ideas’.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson       

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The lie to Mugabe’s rosy picture
November 2, 2012, 2:42 pm

Robert Mugabe finally got round to opening the fifth and final session of parliament this week. For a man who hates the Brits and spews out his hatred of them and the west on every possible occasion, it is surprising that he remains so wedded to the quaint old British customs and pageantry that go with the occasion: the venerable black Rolls Royce to carry himself and his wife, the escort of mounted policemen and the military band playing martial music. It is all very reminiscent of a colonial past that we all hoped had gone forever. Robert Mugabe, however, seems reluctant to let go of these remnants of colonial splendour.

Having officially opened the session, Mugabe made his Opening of Parliament speech and it was no surprise to hear him once again castigating the former colonial power. “As (for) the British, to them the truth is nothing they go by.”  Well, ‘it takes one to know one’ as the old saying goes! The west, Mugabe added “were the mischievous external hand of Zimbabwe’s detractors – they lied about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.”

The picture today of the white man (an MDC official) beaten by Zanu PF thugs gives the lie to Mugabe’s rosy picture of human rights in Zimbabwe. Ordinary citizens know only too well that Mugabe and his thugs have very little respect for human rights. The white farmers currently visiting Britain to appeal for compensation for their lost farms know it; similarly the villagers in Gokwe know it. They are being terrorised by soldiers ‘persuading’ them to vote for Zanu PF in the next election. Their human rights mean nothing to Mugabe. His repeated calls for peace may fool the IMF but the people know the truth; even his own supporters know that they will pay the price if they defy the party. The MDC politician who commented last week that Mugabe holds the key to peace is saying no less than the truth. If he tells his people to stop the violence they will obey” said Elton Mangoma, but that suggests that Mugabe is in control of the thugs inflicting the violence. Meanwhile, Mugabe himself says nothing about the blatant corruption and criminality that is going on within his own party and its top-ranking supporters, including even his own Vice President who is being investigated for poaching after game meat was found in her butcher-shop. Mugabe’s Police Chief, too, is said to be involved in a somewhat ‘dodgy’ burial scheme and his army generals are busy doing diamond deals. 

The Finance Minister said this week that he doesn’t know how the country will pay for the referendum or the election that must follow. That can’t happen until the new constitution is in place, so it was no wonder that Mugabe urged the drafters “to move frantically and with haste.”  Haste is sadly not the byword for the postponed trial of the Glenview 29 who are denied bail and languish in gaol on a charge of murdering a policeman, a charge which has absolutely no evidence to support it, hence the delay in bringing the case to court, this time on grounds of the judge’s ill-health. Was the ill health real or ‘feigned’? On the day the trial was due to resume the lawyers were summoned to Justice Bunhu’s chambers to hear the cause of his ill-health. Apart from walking into court and walking out again at the end of the proceedings, a judge sits in his chair all day. Judge Bunhu, however, has trouble with his legs as he told the lawyers – especially in cloudy weather. So, while the judge nurses his sore knees at home, innocent men and women are once again denied the justice that is their basic human right.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson

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“On the upswing” or potential dynamite?
October 26, 2012, 1:42 pm

There are so many contradictory stories coming out of the country that it’s sometimes difficult for people in the diaspora to get an exact picture of life in Zimbabwe these days. Take Harare for example, the capital once known as the ‘Sunshine city’. There was a report in The Standard last week that said Harare was in a ‘terrible mess’ with piles of stinking refuse on street corners right in the middle of the city. At the same time we are told that there is a 16% increase in tourist numbers, so either the tourists don’t mind wading through garbage when they arrive in Harare or some over-eager journalist is exaggerating the city’s refuse problem!

In Mutare, the capital of the stunningly beautiful Eastern Districts and a ‘must’ for tourists, we read that industries are collapsing. Collapsing industries mean desperate  unemployed workers roaming the streets - not an attractive prospect for tourists either. Not all tourists stick to big cities, however, some of them want to see how ordinary people live. Epworth is a working-class suburb and not so far out of the capital that tourists can’t find it. The report this week that people in Epworth are living out in the open after a government-owned company demolished their homes hardly gives tourists the impression of a compassionate government.

    Christmas is coming and for tourists entering Zimbabwe by road their first sight of the country is the Beit Bridge border post. The number of people going through the border post can rise to as many as 3.500 a day over the festive season apparently and the immigration manager is on record this week calling for an upgrade of the border post. “It is dilapidated and in urgent need of restoration” he said in an appeal to the Minister of Finance to make funds available for this vital task. No shortage of  funds for the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, though. Her Gushungo Dairy Estate markets its products under the brand name Alpha Omega and there are rumours that Dairy Marketing Board products have disappeared from the shelves to be replaced by Alpha Omega. With 2000 cows to milk every day, Grace Mugabe claims that her dairy is the second biggest in Africa. For a country with an avowedly socialist president, such an obviously capitalist First Lady seems something of a contradiction.

    It could be argued that tourists are not concerned with these adverse reports about life in Zimbabwe. Their objective is to have a good holiday in what must be one of the best tourist destinations in Africa. For Zimbabweans in the diaspora who are thinking   perhaps of ending their long exile and returning home, they are more concerned with the realities of life. No denying, things have improved, the days of wild inflation are over and the economy appears to have stabilised. Agriculture may no longer be the principal earner but minerals, excluding the fabulous diamond wealth, have generated 1.36 billion dollars; between January and September, gold output was up 22%. The ‘new’ farmers who have taken over the highly lucrative tobacco crop have exported over $40 million worth of the crop to China.

    Politically too, there has been a period of relative quiet which might encourage the potential returnees to start packing. All of these apparently positive developments have led Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to claim that Zimbabwe is, to use Tsvangirai’s phrase, “on the upswing” as he said at his party’s 13th anniversary. After all, the 2nd Stakeholders’ Conference has just passed off without the violent disruptions we have seen before. On the surface, everything looks rosy but dig a little deeper and you stumble against the potential dynamite of the forthcoming election. Zanu PF are already busy buying people’s votes with people in Goromonzi being offered building plots on unapproved land – providing they have a Zanu PF party card and $150. But first, the country must hold a referendum on the constitution; that will be in January at the earliest we are told. Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe insists that the ‘leadership’ ie. Mugabe himself, Tsvangirai and Mutambara will decide on the constitution. “You should know where power resides” Mugabe told COPAC members. His speech at the opening of the Second Stakeholders’ Conference made it very clear that parliament is not the deciding voice in the issue of the constitution. “The three of us wrote that thing you call the GPA…Parliament thinks it is so sovereign that it should control the actions of the Principals…it’s not it…we cannot do everything but we are the executive and we are the ones who caused this process.” Perhaps I’m missing something but that statement is surely profoundly undemo
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An unclear future creates an atmosphere of nervousness
October 19, 2012, 1:23 pm

Robert Mugabe resorted to his old socialist rhetoric when addressing his supporters last week. Predicting a ‘blatantly God-given victory’, he went on to condemn the opposition as ‘corrupt from top to bottom’ but then he would say that, wouldn’t he – anything to deflect attention from his own party’s misdeeds. Looking in from the outside, it seems that the country is in a state of moral decline and that applies not only to political parties. Uncertainty about the country’s future may be the explanation for this state of affairs. Whichever way you look at it, no one is quite sure what the future holds; elections, whenever they happen, always create uncertainty and at 88 years of age, Mugabe’s future is limited. Love him or loathe him, the man has been in power for so long that a whole generation has grown up knowing nothing else but Mugabe and Zanu PF. The prospect of change and an unclear future creates an atmosphere of nervousness and that, combined with the political patronage that Mugabe has actively promoted, makes for an attitude of ‘every man for himself’ that is fertile ground for corruption in one form or another. As Simba Makoni declared recently, “Corruption should be declared a national disaster.”

    The victory of his old friend, Hugo Chavez, in the recently held elections, Mugabe told his supporters, was ‘a win for the people of Venezuela’. That sounds like an endorsement of the democratic process from the president, so it was oddly contradictory to hear one of his ministers, Patrick Chinamasa, in a BBC interview saying that Zanu PF would not accept an MDC win. “There will be trouble” Chinamasa prophesied and when asked what exactly he meant by that, he eventually replied, “We will not accept it”. So much for tolerance and acceptance of different political views that Mugabe has recently been advocating; it seems that Mugabe’s Justice Minister is not following the same agenda as his master. Like his master, however, Chinamasa was careful to put the blame for any possible MDC victory on the ‘imperialists’ who are always blamed for any independent thinking on the part of the ‘masses’. Clearly Zanu PF and its higher echelons have a pretty low opinion of the ordinary Zimbabwean people’s ability to think for themselves. In another interview, this time with a South African tv station, the president’s spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo threatened a ‘bloodbath’ if Zanu PF loses the election.  These repeated threats of violence if they lose the election show very clearly that Zanu PF’s belief in democracy is paper-thin: violence is their preferred method of persuasion.

    Right on cue, in comes another hothead, South African Julius Malema who is given a red-carpet welcome by Zanu PF. (Incidentally the rumours of personal corruption have not left Malema untouched either) He says he only went to Zimbabwe to attend a wedding but that didn’t prevent him from making a most un-wedding like speech! Zimbabwe under Zanu PF has been “an inspiration to Africa” he said and went on to castigate whites who should surrender their minerals and land without compensation. As for Tsvangirai, declared Malema, he is  an ally of imperialists. Once again we see that anyone who disagrees with the party line is automatically condemned as a lackey of the imperialists, not capable of thinking for themselves. In true ‘celebrity’ fashion, Malema brought his own body-guards with him and they proceeded to beat up journalists who tried to photograph their boss. This cult of celebrity is prevalent in Zimbabwe too, as the increasing number of cases of people charged with ‘insulting the president’ reveals. Now, as if to place him even higher in the ‘hero’ class, we hear that Mugabe’s original house in Highfield is to become a National Monument where visitors will presumably be treated to a lecture on Mugabe’s ‘heroic’ life; his burial plot having already been reserved at Heroes Acre.

    It was Malema’s attitude to white people that most closely chimed with the Zimbabwean president’s own views. Mugabe’s latest comment about whites may have been intended for a partisan audience at home but they reveal the duplicity of a man who willingly takes funding from European based NGOs but never fails to insult the owners of the white hands that feed his people. “A lion eats flesh,” he said, “and you can never trust it with your sheep no matter how passive that lion is. Trust white people at your own peril.” Coming as it does from the head of state, this thoroughly racist remark reveals the depths to which Mugabe will sink to win popularity, as he believes, with ‘the masses’.
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