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
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
"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
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
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
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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