- January 2005





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A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation


We have no voters roll here

Saturday 29th January 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
For more than a month we have been watching the goings on in the ruling Zanu PF party with more than a little bemusement. Some government ministers are in prison, high ranking officials are facing charges of spying and selling state secrets, others have been suspended from the party and still others have been barred from standing as candidates in the coming parliamentary elections. Zanu PF primary elections which should have been completed in a weekend, were still going on two weeks later and the process was littered with allegations of vote buying, rigging and irregularities with losing candidates refusing to accept the results in a number of cases.

With such obvious confusion and so many irregularities in Zanu PF's primary elections, it is tragic to know that this same party is entrusted with holding national elections in Zimbabwe in a few weeks time. As we entered the second and final week of checking the voters roll for parliamentary elections, a dozen Zimbabweans tried to check the voters roll at the embassy in London. What happened to them is unbelievable and I quote in full from a letter written by an eyewitness:

"They locked the Embassy all afternoon, refused to let us in, wouldnt send anyone to talk to us and called the police on us. The police said we had every right to stay there, which we did, without any joy.

"All they would do was have a junior official talk to us through the intercom. They said they have no voters roll in there and we asked them to send someone to talk to us, but everyone was in a "long long meeting" apparently. However we persisted and made the point, staying there for a couple of hours. A courier turned up with something from Immigration for them. Much to his frustration, they refused to let him in too. A workman carrying out repairs inside came back from his lunchbreak to find he was also refused entry and told to take the rest of the day off.

"We asked if we could just get into reception and if they could send someone senior to explain to us why they dont have the voters roll and why we were being treated like that. Again the answer was negative.

"We weren't surprised they had no roll for us to inspect, but we were surprised that they should lock the whole Embassy because a small handful of their own citizens are politely asking for their rights! And in London this weekend the Iraqi's will quietly vote in their election, but not us, we are too dangerous!! "

To all Zimbabweans who continue to raise their voices and demand their constituitional rights, wherever you are in the world, from those of us here whose voices have been silenced, thank you.
Until next week, with love, cathy

Good enough reasons

Saturday 22nd January 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
A small bent over piece of brown cardboard tied onto a post on the side of the road was all the sign I needed to tell me I was headed in the right direction this Friday. The Stop sign at the junction of the intersection has gone. The road markings warning me to stop have long since worn off the tar. The road is littered with potholes and the grass on the verges is uncut and about five foot high, making it almost impossible to see oncoming traffic. I stopped at the intersection and across the road one piece of white string held a poster to a street light whose bulb hasn't worked for months. The wind had folded the poster in half so I couldn't read it but this too made me believe I was going the right way. When I got to the gates of the school I slowed down, pulled over and looked at the line of yobs sitting on the wall in front of the school hall. They were men and women in their late teens and early twenties and clearly had no reason to be in a junior school where the oldest pupil is 12. Some of the yobs were wearing T shirts with slogans advertising the ruling party and then I knew for sure I had arrived at the right place to check if my name was on the voters roll.

I was absolutely determined not to be intimidated by a bunch of bored bullies. I had read the reports by the opposition that in some areas their supporters had been physically assaulted after checking if their names were on the voters roll. It would have been very comforting to see the friendly face or colourful vest of an independent election observer but of course that's just a pipe dream. As I walked past the yobs sprawled on the wall, someone hissed and someone else passed a comment which set them all to laughing but it was water off a ducks back compared to what I'd had to endure in the last two Zimbabwean elections. Inside the junior school hall there was a singing lesson in progress and a teacher was trying to get a class of seven year olds to sit up straight, stop pushing each other and pay attention and sing. The sound of the children singing was wonderful and their innocence such a stark contrast to the bullies on the wall outside. I was the only person checking if my name was on the voters roll. There was no one ahead of me or behind me, no queue outside, no one waiting in the car park and with just a week left for voters roll inspection, this is not a good sign.

The opposition MDC have still not announced if they are going to take part in the March poll so basically, just weeks away from an election, there is apathy, confusion and a tired resignation by many ordinary people who just say they couldn't be bothered anymore.

I sit at my desk on a Saturday morning writing this letter and it is a glorious day. The sky is blue, rain clouds are gathering on the horizon and birds flit backwards and forwards past the open window in an endless fashion parade. Paradise fly catchers with long orange tails, migrant bee eaters, red bishop birds, yellow weavers and so many others with their spectacular breeding tails and exotic colours. Over the road from me a woman and two little children live in a wooden shack on a building site. They always smile, laugh and wave and clap with cupped hands if I stop to give even a single sweetie. I know people who have been tortured, murdered, abused, raped and imprisoned in Zimbabwe's fight for democratic governance since February 2000. All of these reasons are good enough ones for me to go and check if my name is on the voters roll and then to endure whatever is necessary to cast a ballot in the March elections.
Until next week, with love, cathy.

I hang my head in disgust and shame

Saturday 15th January 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
When I wrote the first of these letters to family and friends back in February 2000, I was a farmer. I have told the story of what happened on our farm before, and of some of the horrors on 3000 other farms that were seized across Zimbabwe. In 2000, The Commercial Farmers Union, to whom I paid membership fees and crop and livestock levies, were supposed to represent my interests as a farmer. As the weeks went past and I wrote about the abuses being inflicted on my family, our employees and their families and our property and livestock, the CFU told me to stop making waves. The CFU said that I should not be confrontational with the rabble who were pulling down fences, chopping trees and erecting shacks on our farm. The CFU said that I should engage in "dialogue" with drunk and drugged men who came to the gate and demanded my car, ordered me to leave my home or pointed a gun at me and threatened to shoot me. When I wrote newspaper articles about what was happening to other farmers, the CFU would have nothing to do with me. In confidence I was told that it had been stipulated that my name was forbidden from being mentioned in any CFU meetings

The CFU have continued to attempt to appease the Zimbabwe government for the last 59 months. When court orders were ignored, laws were changed and the constitution was amended in relation to farms, still the CFU called for dialogue with the government. Farmers were murdered, tortured, abducted and arrested and the CFU said its dwindling membership should downsize, share their land and talk to government officials. Hundreds, thousands and then hundreds of thousands of farm workers became homeless, destitute beggars living in the bush and the CFU still called for dialogue with the government. A law was passed protecting squatters from eviction and another allowing government to compulsorily acquire farm materials and equipment but still the CFU said dialogue was the only way forward.

Below are extracts from a letter written by the Midlands branch of the CFU. I would like to suggest that if the CFU have any money left over they will donate it either to the team campaigning to free farmer and MP Roy Bennett from prison or to some of the three hundred thousand farmers and farm workers who have been made destitute by the Zimbabwean land reform programme. As a former farmer and onetime member of the CFU, I hang my head in disgust and shame.

"We have received a request to donate cattle, chickens and mealie meal to a welcoming reception next week for the new Vice President, Joyce Mujuru. This request has come to us through the Midlands Leadership ... I suggest that each member pay in 1 million in cash to Bob at the CFU office by the end of business hours on Monday the 10th January 2005, as we need to secure these donations from our sector by Wednesday the 12th. Each individuals name will be on the list of donors when we present the donations so think hard before you do nothing. It is a strategy that I believe will ultimately lead to benefits of sorts in the future. But it is like gambling. ... For those non-members I say to you all that unity is our best defense. This we are not, we all are to blame as we now find ourselves divided and ruled. To change this we must change - unite and stick together and speak with one voice. When the time comes for significant changes to the current situation we have been pushed into kicking and screaming foul play, then more than ever the voices of the divided will not be heard clearly and negotiations will be held from a point of weakness. Is this what we want, choose for yourselves. .........To end all I can safely say is that there is some activity currently in progress and I'm sure you will understand that this is at present too sensitive to disclose ........Your Chairman, TREVOR SHAW AND OFFICE STAFF. P.S. Cash or Kind 1 ton Mealie Meal or Potatoes etc, 5 Steers for slaughter, 100 Chickens. We need about 30 million for this...."

Until next week, with love, cathy

"Stay calm, I am still in the race!"

Saturday 8th January 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
The adjectives are flowing and getting more descriptive by the day as reporters, analysts, commentators and writers try and describe the unbelievable events occurring as Zimbabwe approaches parliamentary elections. For a change we aren't describing clashes between Zanu PF and the MDC, but the infighting within Zanu PF as their primary elections approach. Heads are rolling, cliches like "you reap what you sow" are coming true and the list of high profile casualties is growing by the day. Some writers talk of " boiling discontent" and "fatal infighting" while others describe "a purge against rebellious cadres", "spurned party bigwigs" and a "vicious power struggle within the ruling party."

Whatever adjectives we use, there are enormous and very surprising omissions from the lists of who will be taking part in the Zanu PF primaries. Gone it seems is Jonathan Moyo, the present Minister of Information, suspended for holding an unauthorized meeting in Tsholtsho. Gone is the Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa. Gone is President Mugabe's nephew, Philip Chiyangwa the Chinoyi MP who once bragged that he owned 500 suits and is now in custody facing charges of spying and trading in state secrets. Gone is the Minister of Finance, Christopher Kuruneri who has been in prison for months on currency charges. Gone, or almost, is the man who started out as a municipal security guard but soared to infamy and notoriety when he stuck grass onto his hard hat and announced that he was "the" man in charge of farm invasions. I am of course talking about Joseph Chinotimba who is clearly very annoyed that he will not be able to stand as a candidate in the Zanu PF primaries. In a quote in the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper this week, Chinotimba said: "People of Glen Norah should stay calm because I am still in the race to represent them." He also said that the decision by the Zanu PF co-ordinating committee to bar him from standing was "done by individuals who have vendettas and I am going to appeal. I am still the candidate. We have a clever President, and he will deal with the matter."

So, as the elections get close and the Zanu PF primaries get closer, Zimbabweans are getting a good look at what has really been going on for the last five years. Other big names who have either been suspended from the party, implicated in plots, accused of espionage or simply sidelined from the power struggle are: war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda (suspended) ; Zanu PF Chairmen of Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo, and Matabeleland north and south (all suspended); Ambassador designate to Mocambique Godfrey Dzvairo, Zanu PF Director of external affairs Itai Marchi and Zanu PF deputy security directory Kenny Karidza (all for allegedly spying and trading in state secrets)

And meanwhile, as the big men struggle, squabble and threaten, we, the ordinary people in the street shake our heads in disgust and despair as we wonder if any of them, even one, give a damn about us, the voters who will elect them into power.
Until next week, with love, cathy.

Looking for reasons

Saturday 1st January 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
As 2005 begins, I thought I would look back over the last year and as I did, I wondered which of the highlights I found for each month, would inspire Zimbabweans to put Zanu PF back into power in the approaching elections.

January 2004 saw inflation hit 622% and international aid organisations saying that seven and a half million Zimbabweans would need food aid during the year.

In February 100 people were arrested after demonstrating in Harare for a new constitution and the only daily independent newspaper, The Daily News closed down permanently following a Supreme Court ruling.

67 alleged mercenaries were arrested at Harare airport in March and this story swamped almost all other news during the month. The Zimbabwe Institute in Cape Town reported that more than 90% of MDC MP's had been arrested by the present government ; 25% had survived assasination attempts; 16% had been tortured in police custody and in 616 incidents recorded, not one perpetrator had been arrested, charged or imprisoned.

In April the UN Human Rights Commission again adopted a No Action Motion when it came to discussing abuses in Zimbabwe and in that same month 1500 workers and their families were left squatting in the bush after the government seized Kondozi Farm in Odzi.

May saw Zimbabwe's Minister of Finance being arrested; the Minister of Education closing 45 private schools and the Minister of Social Welfare declaring that the country was no longer in need of world food aid.

In June the country's email providers were told they would have to sign contracts allowing tracing facilities for what the government called "malicious mails". Vice President Nkomo announced that all farm land was to be nationalized and parliament passed a Bill allowing the State to compulsorily acquire farm equipment and material - regardless of whether or not the owner wanted to sell his personal private property.

July saw the government closing the Tribune newspaper and parliament passing new detention laws allowing a person to be held by police for 23 days with no rights to either a court appearance or bail appeal.

In August figures were released of 8871 human rights violations that had been reported and documented in Zimbabwe in the last two years.

September saw 14 people being shot at the Marondera Agricultural Show when the army staged a mock battle and somehow live bullets were used. During the month telephone costs increased by 485% and countrywide peasant farmers were thrown off farms to make way for what the government called A2 farmers.

In October the South African Trade Union organization COSATU were deported from Zimbabwe in the middle of the night and dumped at the Beitbridge border post. 50 WOZA women were arrested for walking 440 kms to protest the impending NGO BIll.

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe dropped to just 35 years in November 2004 and the government pushed the NGO Bill into its final stages.

In December, just weeks before the next elections, the new budget was presented and it awarded just over one billion dollars a day to the country's secret police. In December 2004, just two days after an earthquake and Tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed over 125 000 people this Christmas, President Mugabe, his wife and their two children left for Malaysia on their annual holiday.

The thoughts, prayers and condolences of Zimbabweans are with all those who have experienced such devastating loss.
Until next week, love cathy.

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