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

A particularly bad week for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe
October 12, 2012, 1:13 pm

It was a particularly bad week for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe. The Minister of Energy and Power, Elton Mangoma – an MDC man of course – was briefly arrested for ‘undermining the authority of the president’ but he was released after signing a Warned and Cautioned statement. The offence related to an incident back in May at a meeting in a Bindura township. Mangoma was addressing local business people and was allegedly heard, chanting anti-Mugabe slogans. Presumably others joined in since it was an MDC meeting; strange then, that it has taken five months to bring a charge against just one man, Elton Mangoma.  Not so strange when we realise that he is one of the leading negotiators in the ongoing talks with the South African facilitators.

Zanu PF will do everything they can to weaken the opposition party’s position in the negotiations and arresting MDC people on trumped-up charges is just one way of doing that. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that there’s a hot line between the police commissioner and the president with Mugabe directing Chihuri to exactly which individuals he wants picked up. Certainly, the police appear to be willing partners of Zanu PF in the attempts to silence the voice of the opposition. Even in matters which are not normally considered controversial or political, the police continue to behave in an anti-democratic way. Aids activists this week applied for permission to march through the city of Harare to hand in a petition to the Aids Council. Nothing political in that you would think: their petition related to the supply of drugs to aids sufferers. The police in their wisdom declined to allow the march on the grounds that it would block the traffic on Nelson Mandela and might be hijacked by political parties!  The combination of traffic jams and political demonstrations would be too much for the police to handle apparently. Perhaps if they were not so busy infiltrating other areas of public life, the police would have more officers on the beat to protect the public and maintain law and order – which is after all their principal mandate. Addressing the Africa Prosecutors Association the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs revealed that Zimbabwe is undergoing a systematic militarisation of Prosecutors’ offices, allegedly to deal with a huge backlog of cases. Out of 200 public prosecutors, 125 are drawn from the police, 6 from the prison service and 5 from the army. Objectivity should be the watchword of legal officers but it is difficult to see how that could be the case when the Prosecutor’s offices are largely staffed by military and prison personnel whose allegiance is known to be to Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

 Zimbabweans also know that the media is dominated by pro-Zanu PF voices. The Herald is the national daily and it never fails to laud Mugabe to the skies. Only one other daily paper can claim to be independent and that is the Daily News. The editor and his deputy were arrested and held for two hours this week after their newspaper had been named in a criminal defamation suit by a former governor of the Reserve Bank, Munyaradzi Kereke. It was so obviously another trumped-up case without merit in law, and the men were released after two hours. “It’s all being driven by hardliners with powerful connections” said the editor, Stanley Gama and as if to illustrate the truth of Gama’s statement, Kereke went on to claim that Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendayi Biti had fleeced the country of millions of dollars. Kereke was not concerned with proving the accuracy of his remark, he was simply carrying out Zanu PF’s remit which is to ‘rubbish’ MDC on every possible occasion. You can be sure there will be no policeman knocking on Kereke’s door in the middle of the night with an arrest warrant for criminal defamation; he is acting on orders from the top. Meanwhile, Mugabe continues to shed crocodile tears, calling for peace and tolerance in the country, while knowing perfectly well that it is his own supporters who are guilty of acts of violence against the MDC and that the police will never arrest his Zanu PF followers. Neither will they do anything about the hordes of war veterans who have invaded the Minister of Finance’s offices; they don’t even bother to explain why they do nothing to expel the invaders. Neither have they taken any action against the notorious Chipangano gang which has actually barred MDC supporters from buying at market stalls in Mbare. Today comes news from Kwekwe of an horrendous attack on an innocent bystander by a member of the Alshabab militia, another machete-wielding Zanu PF aligned group. In front of members of the public enjoying a quiet evening drink, an innocent man was brutally hacked to death. The police have still not arrested his murderer despite the presence of several witnesses. 
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The struggle has reached a point of no return?
October 5, 2012, 12:28 pm

    Last Sunday’s MDC rally in Bulawayo attracted some 20.000 people. A Freedom House report had observed that the number attending the Anniversary Rally would be an indication of the MDC’s popularity. It had been claimed that Zanu PF is increasing its popularity while the MDC is sinking in the public’s estimation. The truth of that assertion seems to be denied by the presence of 20.000 in Bulawayo. Today, someone has suggested that Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara are in cahoots to disband COPAC and have the government take over the process of making a new constitution for the country. If that is in fact the case, one wonders what those 20.000 loyal MDC supporters who have suffered so much for their loyalty to the party will think of their leader being in cahoots –even more than he already is - with Mugabe, the very man they are pledged to dislodge from power.  

     “The struggle,” Morgan Tsvangirai told the crowd, “has reached a point of no return.” For the supporters travelling to the party’s 13th anniversary celebrations by bus, that must have seemed ironic as Zanu PF missiles were aimed at their buses. Indeed, by Tuesday three of the victims of the bus attacks were still in hospital. If ‘a point of no return’ implies that the situation in Zimbabwe is over the worst, that victory is in sight, there is certainly no sign that Robert Mugabe’s followers sense the end is near. Neither does Mugabe himself show that he is about to concede defeat. As for MDC supporters, they are still under daily attack from Mugabe’s thugs and the ‘self-styled war veterans’ continue to invade farms. One particular group which invaded an area in the Vumba back in 2004 has caused immense environmental damage. Now the authorities are trying to evict the war veterans but they have so far failed. “Mugabe gave us this land,” the war vets say, “and we will only leave when Mugabe tells us to go.”  Zimbabweans in the diaspora will all have fond memories of the Vumba, that beautiful area in the eastern highlands and now the ‘war veterans’’ activities threaten the fragile environment: chopping down trees, ploughing on river beds and killing game for the pot. It is not only for their ‘farming’ methods that the war veterans have been in the news this week. Not for the first time, they have invaded the Minister of Finance’s offices in Harare, demanding Tendayi Biti’s resignation if he fails to award them an increase in their pensions. In response, the MDC issued a strong statement blaming Zanu PF officials for looting the country’s resources. It is the Minister of Mines offices war veterans should be invading said the MDC, referring of course to the Marange diamonds.

    It seems almost obscene in the light of such colossal diamond wealth to mention the fact that Zimbabwe’s ancient sewage system is collapsing in Harare and in Bulawayo water is desperately short. The danger to the whole country’s health applies to all classes and areas of the country. Bulawayo residents have been told that they must all flush their toilets at the same time, once every three days! In Harare, the taps are dry as the water shortage hits the whole country. Power outages too are now so common that people are more and more resorting to generators. We are like Nigeria, someone commented, as the song says ‘never expect power always’!  Schools and hospitals not to mention prisons and other institutions where large numbers of people have to be catered for now constitute a very real threat to public health.

     It will take a great deal of money to put the infrastructure right and as the respected commentator, John Robertson, points out Zanu PF control the diamond wealth. Instead of using that wealth for the public good, the party have used it to buy the support of the army, the CIO and their own party members. The party actually controls the mining operations, Robertson claims and while the country collapses, Zanu PF thrives. At the Anniversary Rally, Tsvangirai told the crowd that “Mugabe will not be allowed to rig the election” but with the army clearly on Zanu PF’s side – thanks to the diamonds - it’s hard to see how Tsvangirai can make that claim a reality.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson


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The Glenview 29
September 29, 2012, 1:40 am

At the beginning of September ‘Letter from the diaspora’ began with the following sentence: “It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between outright corruption and plain incompetence in Zimbabwe.” I was reminded of that when reading the account of the trial of the Glen View 29, though in this case it’s not so much corruption as politically inspired ‘incompetence’. The State has called two policemen as witnesses and they were asked by the Defence Counsel to name the persons who had provided them with the information that led to the arrest of the MDC Youth Assembly Chairperson, Solomon Madzore. One of the police officers said, under oath, that he did not know if Madzore was actually in Glen View on the date in question; he was simply going on ‘information received’ In other words, someone told him that was the case and he, a trained police officer, simply accepted this unknown informant’s word for it. When asked to name his informants, the police officer was unable to do so, because, he said, their names were known only to the Investigating Officer who is yet to give evidence.

     To recap, what we have here is a situation where 29 people have been locked up for the past sixteen months on a charge of murdering Inspector Petros Mutedza on May 29th 2011. Following the murder, the police randomly picked up 29 Glen View residents who ‘happen’ to be MDC supporters. They have been in gaol ever since. After endless delays the trial finally got under way this week, initially only for thirty minutes because the judge said he was not available in the afternoon; he was ‘otherwise engaged’ we assume. The State Prosecutor, Edmore Nyazemba, also appears to be somewhat lax in carrying out his duties. It is his job to submit his witness statements to the Defence Counsel in advance of the trial. He failed to do that; “an oversight” Nyazemba claimed and promised to produce the documents that afternoon when court was due to resume. That did not happen; Nyazemba claimed he had failed to locate the statements and so the trial was unable to continue. The Defence Counsel complained to the Judge that the State was using ‘delaying tactics’ and even the Judge said he wondered why the State Prosecutor was always late for court.

    The trial of the Glenview 29 has in fact become something of a laughing stock as the State Prosecutor fails to appear on time, fails to produce necessary documents, cannot prove that the accused were at the scene of the crime and cannot – or will not – produce the sources of the information which led to the arrest and incarceration of 29 people who have now been held, and it needs repeating, for 16 months.  Another State witness, a homicide office, no less, claimed he could not recall the names of his fellow police officers who accompanied him when he made the arrest and could not even recall the names of the persons arrested. A collective amnesia appears to have afflicted the Zimbabwe Republic Police! If the trial has turned into a joke, it’s a very bad one.  29 people are locked up in a stinking Zimbabwean gaol for crime which, on the basis of the ‘evidence’ so far produced, they did not commit.

    One might expect there to be demonstrations on the streets and placard-waving crowds demanding the release of the Glen View 29 but it has not happened. No questions in parliament either because there is no parliament in session, Mugabe having failed to declare the Fifth Session of the parliament open. Neither has the MDC as a whole taken to the streets in support of their brothers in prison; perhaps fear of the vicious police tactics has silenced the voices of protest. From the outside, it looks as if the Zimbabwean public are not overly concerned with the plight of the Glen View 29 or perhaps that’s what the authorities want the world to think. Meanwhile the 29 remain in prison, in conditions which Solomon Madzore vividly describes in his moving Message from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, “They can only imprison our bodies but never our spirits we are free inside ourselves.”

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.


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Deception, terror groups and China
September 22, 2012, 1:55 am

Robert Mugabe officially opened the Military Training Academy last week. The $98 million it cost to build the Academy was provided by the Chinese as a loan repayable over the next 13 years from the diamonds which the Chinese are currently mining in Zimbabwe. The Academy will be a ‘think tank’ said Mugabe and by 2015 it will be a fully-fledged university. Any parent thinking of encouraging their offspring to register with this ‘seat of learning’ would do well to study the speech Mugabe made at the opening. A degree or diploma obtained from such an institution would certainly be tainted with anti-western, pro-Zanu PF propaganda – if Mugabe’s opening speech is anything to go by. He said that Zimbabwe was inspired to open such an Academy by the “west’s hate filled tactics” which had been evident since the year 2000. It was these tactics, he said, which resulted in Zimbabwe seeing the need to “beef up its national defences”. Without actually giving any factual evidence of foreign invasion, Mugabe claimed that Zimbabwe had been under attack from western forces aiming to destabilise the country. By Mugabe’s standards, this was a short speech but it deserves to be quoted as an example of his conviction that the whole western world is against him. “At the height of the economic crisis in 2009-9 Zimbabweans temporarily adopted an alien culture of drawing knives against each other as unusual fights between brothers, sisters, uncles nieces, husbands and wives became a common phenomenon. This explosion of negative forces and the generous sponsorship they received sought to effect regime change through civil disobedience. Indeed, the neo-colonial adventurism went to the extent of seeking a military invasion of Zimbabwe.”  Those who know Zimbabwe will recognise that Mugabe was referring to the emerging political differences between Zanu PF and the MDC. Realising that for the first time Zanu PF hegemony was threatened, the war veterans and youth militia took up weapons of one sort and another to defend Zanu PF and Mugabe. It was only the signing of the MOU and the formation of a Government of National Unity that brought an apparent end to inter-party strife.

        It was only an ‘apparent end’ because it is very clear that inter-party violence has not ceased and if Robert Mugabe were being truthful he would have to concede that it is his own party stalwarts who are behind the violence. The news this week of the emergence of yet another terror group, Alshabab, operating this time in Kwekwe, is an indicator that violence is being used to enforce the so-called ‘black empowerment’ policy. Alshabab is just one of the groups - and they are all Zanu PF supporters. In addition to Alshabab in Kwekwe, Harare has Chipangano, in Chinhoyi it is the Top Six, Jochomondo in Hurungwe and Jambanja in UMP. These gangs combine their criminal activities with their political allegiance to Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe. Only very rarely do the police take action against them. Four members of Alshabab were arrested this week but later released without charge. Alshabab is named after the gang which operates in Somalia, and its presence in Zimbabwe is a terrifying sign of the way the country is going with different areas controlled by criminal gangs and the police unwilling or unable to control them. “China will help strengthen Zimbabwe’s defences against western invasion” Mugabe claims but he says nothing about the violent invasion by his own supporters of innocent citizens’ property by these terror gangs.  

    Even some Zanu supporters are openly admitting that CIO agents and Zanu PF were responsible for the murder of a policeman; a murder for which 29 MDC supporters have served 16 months in gaol. The revelation this week that Zimbabwe spends more on defence than it does on education is supported by the continuing purchase of arms by the Zimbabwean government. Who is the country, assisted by the Chinese-built ‘think tank’, defending itself against this time other than its own citizens?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson


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The Chinese, prisons and unrest
September 14, 2012, 1:58 pm

The news that the Chinese are set to take over several prisons in Harare, including Chikurubi, the maximum security prison, came as quite a shock. The impression given by the headline was misleading, it’s not the prison buildings the Chinese want but the sites with their proximity to population centres and trading opportunities where the Chinese will build shopping malls and hotels and, much more sinister, an arms factory. In return, the Chinese have pledged to build new prisons and in view of the appalling state of Zimbabwe’s prisons, that might not be a bad thing. AIDS campaigner Douglas Muzenenanamo who is himself HIV positive is taking the police chief and the prison commander to court to force prisons to give AIDS patients their medication. Muzenanamo describes how when he was in prison he only received medication after his lawyer intervened and even then he was not given the tablets at the correct time. Failure to take the medication on time and in the correct order may lead to severe complications in the patient’s condition, leading even to death. The truth is that conditions are so bad in Zimbabwe’s prisons with severe over-crowding that it is possible that a whole range of diseases are contracted inside prisons. We know from the general population in Zimbabwe that understanding how the AIDS virus works requires a robust information campaign. Perhaps prison guards are unaware of the importance of regular medication for those unfortunate prisoners who are suffering from AIDS?

The state of the prisons and the danger of contracting diseases can only worsen the plight of the 29 MDC activists who have been in prison for over a year on charges of having killed a policeman. The lawyer of the Glen View 29 as they are called presented a fresh application for bail to the High Court this week. The recent unrest on Harare’s streets will no doubt mean an increase in prison numbers. It is reported that the police have taken it upon themselves to attack suspects in an attempt to extract the names of the people who beat up two police officers last week. In all probability it was the notorious Chipangano gang who assaulted the police officers but Chipangano are, as we know, unlikely to be prosecuted for their crimes; they are supporters of Zanu PF. In fact, four soldiers are currently under arrest for assaulting members of the gang while other soldiers mount revenge attacks on commuter bus touts.

It is not only the capital that is experiencing unrest in Zimbabwe. Remote places such as Mudzi North in Mash East  are also involved in disturbances. In Bulawayo, once the industrial heartland of the country, firms are closing all the time and the city centre is crowded with vendors selling anything they can lay their hands on to earn some cash. With the economy teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the Finance Minister, Tendayi Biti is desperately trying to borrow money to pay civil servants. Now comes the news that unemployment is calculated to be an unbelievable 95% of the population.  True or not, the situation is dire and it is hardly surprising that no one wants to lend money to a collapsing state. South Africa has apparently refused and are themselves under attack for selling arms to Zimbabwe. Tendayi Biti was apparently on his way to Australia to see if Julia Gillard would be more receptive to his pleas for help. The fact that Zimbabwe has the second biggest diamond field in the world means that no one quite believes the  government claims that they are broke.

Some comfort might be gained from the fact that at least we now have a free press – or do we? Webster Shamu is on record saying that newspapers will be closed if they continue to denigrate Mugabe. “There is no need of attacking the president or the leadership for no reason,” he said, “This is an abuse of freedom.” Shamu’s definition of freedom applies only to those who approve of Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe while prison is reserved for opponents, such as the Woza women arrested this week or MDC supporters arrested on trumped-up charges.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson


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