Zimbabwe - A letter from the diaspora


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Cathy Buckle


GOING HOME: The year is 2004 and Caleb Dube, the former detective with the Zimbabwe Republic Police has been in exile in the United Kingdom for two years. A letter arrives from his old friend and colleague, Moses Musindo, alerting Dube to the fact that his former teacher and friend, Father Hugh Malloy, is in great danger. Friendship demands no less and Caleb Dube goes home to his native land. With no help from a partisan police force, Dube and Musindo set out to investigate. In the course of their enquiries deep in the rural areas, the two men meet a host of unforgettable characters, including Sami the AIDS orphan and Sami's friend, Tatenda, the hunter. The two boys are an indispensable part of the investigation and the search leads them to an old adversary of Dube's who holds the key to the mystery of the missing priest.
Click here to find out more or buy online

Countdown is a political detective story. It is fiction but the background is accurate and verifiable. Set in 2001/2 and the start of the land invasions, the book shows how the politicisation of the police force has led directly to the breakdown of law and order. In this hostile environment, two honest cops attempt to investigate a murder. Click here to find out more or buy online

24th July 2010

Dear Friends.
I suppose it's not really surprising that Zimbabwe doesn't feature very highly on the world's news agenda at the moment. The problem - or one of them - is that nothing seems to be happening. The conclusion most non-Zimbabweans draw from that, if they think about it at all, is that things must now be OK in Zimbabwe. On the basis that 'No news is good news' they assume that the GNU must be working and all is now quiet in the formerly troubled country. It is no longer one of the world's trouble spots. Zimbabwe, it seems has solved its problems by the formation of a coalition government with former enemies working amicably together. That's how it looks from the outside to the uninformed and even to Zimbabweans in exile in the diaspora the news is sometimes very confusing. Take this week for an example. The KP's decision to allow Zimbabwe to sell her diamonds on the open market was welcomed by both sides of the political divide regardless of any previous condemnation of human rights abuses and the militarization of the diamond fields. And in Harare there was the big news was that Mugabe's politburo and the two MDC leaders and their delegations had met "to discuss ways to end the violence." On the face of it that seems a very positive development and that's exactly where the confusion comes in. If, as both sides are repeatedly claiming, everything is going well in Zimbabwe and the MDC and Zanu PF are getting on fine, why is there still violence on the ground and particularly in the rural areas? Why is the Constitutional Outreach Programme beset with problems of violence and attempts to silence dissenting voices by Zanu PF thugs? Why are MDC officials constantly being harassed and arrested by the partisan police force?

Has the Unity Government lived up to expectations? Are things improving or are they not? Watching David Coltart's interview shown on the World Service's Hard Talk I was struck by his equivocal answer to that blunt question. Things are much better than they were, he said, the problem was that people's expectations were too high! There is food in the shops now he claimed but made little mention of the fact that it was often unaffordable to the poor, though the economy has improved he maintained and the media has been partially freed up. This in the same week that the ZTV/BC resumed its playing of Zanu PF jingles denigrating the GNU and their MDC 'partners'. Schools and hospitals are functioning again, Coltart claimed. It all sounded quite rosy but then Coltart would say that wouldn't he? He and other MDC and Zanu PF ministers are in the UK on a begging trip, appealing for funds. They have to put a positive spin on the situation to attract the investment they so desperately need. What Coltart couldn't quite bring himself to say was that no one is going to invest in a country where the rule of law is meaningless, where property rights are ignored and the police continue to turn a blind eye to Zanu PF's blatant disregard of human and democratic rights. Coltart admitted that the situation on the farms has deteriorated even further in recent months but he was careful not to say what every Zimbabwean knows: that Robert Mugabe's so-called Land Reform has been nothing short of disaster for the country leading to widespread hunger and unemployment.

As for the question of what should happen to Robert Mugabe and his cronies in the police and the army, it was Tendayi Biti, the Finance Minister, back in Harare who put forward the argument that the only way to get him to give up power was to offer him and his cronies immunity from prosecution in exchange for the promise that they would not be arrested or lose their stolen farms if they just quietly retire from the scene. This extraordinary suggestion seems to have provoked very little comment back in Zimbabwe but speaking personally, I cannot accept that any Minister from any party has the right to set aside an individual's rights in such a way. How can a Government Minister decide that property that was legally owned and paid for by virtue of Title Deeds can now belong in perpetuity to the thief who stole it? That is nothing more than a criminals' charter and every land grabber in the country must be rubbing his hands in glee at the thought that his ill-gotten gains - be they farms, crops, tractors, irrigation pipes or household goods stolen during the land invasions - cannot now be taken from him. There seems little difference to me between Zanu PF Minister Chinamasa's statement this week that Zimbabwe would ignore the rulings of the SADC Tribunal in favour of the Zimbabwean farmers and an MDC Minister's offer of immunity in exchange for retaining stolen property. In neither case is this a true reflection of what is meant by adherence to the rule of law. While an international Advocacy Group calls on the UN Security Council to prosecute Robert Mugabe and warns of the imminent threat of 2008-style violence in the forthcoming elections, the MDC continues its support for the status quo on the grounds that the GNU is the only way forward for the country to avoid the terrible violence of the past. MDC people such as David Coltart are no doubt well-meaning, sincere and utterly committed to Zimbabwe but in going along with Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe, knowing their violent history, the MDC is guilty of extreme naivety that may well bring down even worse violence on the heads of innocent Zimbabweans in the months ahead.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

16th July 2010

Dear Friends.
Perhaps someone should have warned the Dear Leader that putting 'blood' and 'diamonds' in the same speech – even the same sentence - was not a terribly good idea in these troubled times for Zimbabwe's diamond industry. While the irony may have escaped Mugabe and his listeners when he addressed the Central Committee Meeting of the former ruling party last weekend, his speech to the party faithful was awash with references to diamonds and blood and the link, of course, was Zanu PF politics.

"It is our mineral resources," Mugabe announced, "helped by the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of our people which will turn the economy around." For 'ingenuity and entrepreneurship' read downright theft and criminal cunning but undeterred by any such linguistic niceties, Mugabe assured his audience that "We will sell the diamonds anyway, with or without the Kimberley Process approval."
Then came the talk of blood. Switching to Shona, Mugabe reverted to one of his favourite themes: how the country's freedom was won through the shedding of blood.
"Zimbabwe ndeyeropa yakauya nehondo." he declared, "Haichadzokera kuvarungu zvakare." Of course, he had to include that last reminder, 'The whites will never return' just in case his audience hadn't got the message that Zanu PF is steeped in blood and the politics of race.

You really have to wonder about the psychological state of an old man who constantly reiterates his belief that the shedding of blood is the way to solve problems. Hardly a speech goes by without the Dear Leader obsessing about blood! Thirty years after Independence, does Robert Mugabe still feel so unsure of 'His' victory that he has to remind his followers that they must be prepared to shed even more blood to defend their revolution? Or, is it a coded message to the thugs on the ground, who are doing their best to disrupt the Constitutional Outreach Programme, that it is perfectly acceptable to shed more blood – as long as it is someone else's – to keep Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in power?

"Zanu PF would not compromise on the fundamental principles and ideals as a nationalist revolutionary party." he said in English. "Once the process is defended and secure we must ensure the product carries and consolidates our ideals. The coveted status (by which I assume he was referring to his version of a new constitution) must remain solid, secure and unshaken for all time." His own mortality clearly has no part in Robert Mugabe's future; 'for all time' is a pretty ambitious timetable for a man of 86! Then, inexplicably, there followed a long rant against homosexuality and how Gay rights had no place in Zimbabwe's new Constitution. Truly, Mugabe's perceived enemies are many and varied!

While all this was going on in Harare the Inclusive Government delegation was meeting the EU in Brussels to discuss the way forward for Zimbabwe and how Europe could assist. "Don't waste your time talking to Europe" Mugabe advised from the security of the Shake-Shake building in Harare but, apart from the shedding of blood, what solution does he offer to the country's many problems? A statistic issued this week revealed that one third of Zimbabwe's children under five years old are officially classified as 'under-nourished'. If we are to believe the proponents of diamond sales, both Zanu PF and MDC, such problems will all be solved once we have the diamond money. Our economic future hangs on the sale of diamonds we are told but no one is telling us how ordinary Zimbabweans can be sure that the money really will flood into the national exchequer to benefit all the people and not just into the pockets of corrupt politicians. And if Zimbabwe sells the stones without KP approval, as John Robertson pointed out this week, we would be selling outside the internationally approved process and only highly dubious buyers would choose to purchase in that way – at rock-bottom prices too.
It all turned out to be an academic argument with the news on Thursday that the Kimberley Process has agreed that Zimbabwe will be permitted to sell the diamonds. Not surprising really when you consider South Africa's role in the Kimberley Process and their abject support for Mugabe and Zanu PF, however bad their human rights record. The KP we were told has 'thrashed out a tough agreement with the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines that will include a strict regime of monitoring and supervision'. How this 'strict regime' of monitoring will work in practice we are not told, or who exactly will be on the ground to monitor the process to ensure that 'blood and diamonds' no longer go together?

Coincidentally – or not - it was just three days after Farai Maguwu's release from prison that this 'tough agreement' was reached. Now, so we are lead to believe, Zimbabwe's economic future is secure! Can we assume then that money will pour into education and health care? Those little under-fives will no longer be under-nourished as schools and hospitals are restored to their former glory and the whole population benefits from the diamonds, no longer tainted with blood.
Tichaona…we shall see!
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

9th July 2010

Dear Friends.
I wonder if anyone in the upper echelons of the MDC really understands the profound disillusionment felt at grass-roots level with the party that we once believed stood for real change. Perhaps Thokozani Kupe, the Deputy Prime Minister, is getting a taste of the cynicism and disillusion we feel as she meets with Zimbabweans in the UK diaspora. I hear that she is defending the Constitutional Outreach Programme and claiming that it's all going well. Tell that to the people in the rural areas, in Mudzi and Marondera, Masvingo, Matabeleland and Manicaland! If it is not outright violence they are being subjected to by Zanu PF thugs, they are certainly not being allowed to express their own views openly. I also hear Ms Khupe has shunned attendance at the Vigil and I wonder why she is reluctant to meet these ordinary Zimbabweans in the diaspora who travel long distances every week at great personal sacrifice to demonstrate their belief in a new Zimbabwe. The truth is we are beginning to lose faith that the MDC can ever deliver the change we all want in Zimbabwe.

I will never forget the first time I ever saw Chinga-Maitiro written in big white letters right across a country road in Mash East. It was like a charge of electricity, the current of hope passing through the body politic. I remember too how proud we felt in those early days when we saw Morgan Tsvangirai, getting off a plane at Harare Airport, no security guards and carrying his own luggage. "A Man of the People" we said to each other, "he won't let us down. He understands the reality of life for ordinary people." And when we saw him, beaten and bloody after the cops and CIO had so brutally mistreated him and other top MDC people, we knew that they were sharing the people's suffering. It wasn't difficult to understand why we all loved him and the MDC, he was one of us and the party was the voice of the people, our voice.

How different it is now! We can hardly distinguish between the Zanu PF politicians and the MDC ministers as they tell us that all is going well in the Inclusive Government. This week it was the Secretary General of the MDC, Finance Minister Tendai Biti who was calling for the lifting of the ban on Zimbabwe's diamonds. "Its hurting ordinary Zimbabweans" he claimed but carefully made no mention of the continued detention of Farai Maguwu whose bail appeal has once again been delayed. And what about the newly appointed MDC Co-Minister of Home Affairs, Teresa Makoni? If anyone should be taking up Maguwu's case it should surely be Teresa Makoni. Instead her first official business was to assist Didymus Mutasa to locate his son. Defending her action in an interview on SW Radio, Makone claimed it was her duty as a Co-Minister in the Inclusive Government to assist anyone who came to her for help, be they Zanu PF or MDC. Sounds fair enough, you could say but then we remember all the MDC local activists thrown in gaol and beaten during the current Constitutional Outreach exercise. Didymus Mutasa's complaint that his son was being held in appalling conditions rings pretty hollow when we consider how many MDC activists are being held in similar conditions. Top MDC officials like Biti and Makone say and do little or nothing to help them. Why is it that the MDC is turning a blind eye to Zanu PF's continuing violence, preferring instead to tell us that all is well with the Inclusive Government.

A report by the Bar Council which includes the Bar Human Rights Committee, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and Advocates Sans Frontiere issued this week and entitled A Place in the Sun spelled out in no uncertain terms the true state of affairs in Zimbabwe. "Zimbabwe has failed to stop extra-judicial killings" they claim. "Abuses go uninvestigated, there is a culture of impunity on the part of the police, the army and the intelligence services. The majority of the senior judiciary are still compromised by state patronage - land and other inducements. Magistrates are subject to threats and intimidation. Access to justice is virtually non-existent." That is the reality on the ground as ordinary Zimbabweans know only too well. Meanwhile, the Head of the Prison Service says he's not going anywhere until his boss Robert Mugabe leaves office and Henry Dowa the policeman investigating Farai Maguwu's case threatens in court that Maguwu could face two years on bail if he does not allow access to his laptop. Do we hear the MDC raise their voices to defend this innocent man whose only crime as far as I can judge is that he has the knowledge which could expose the criminal behaviour of Ministers and other chefs as they plunder the country's diamonds?. Does Tendai Biti really expect us to believe that lifting the ban on the diamond sales will stop "hurting ordinary Zimbabweans"?

The bitter truth we must face is that the MDC has lost its way; where once they occupied the moral high ground and earned our love and respect, now they appear complicit in the agonising slow death that is over-taking the country at the hands of greedy, power-hungry politicians of all parties.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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