News - January 2006





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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


Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror

Daily News
Zim Independant
The Standard
Financial Gazette
Human Rights Forum
ZW News


Thanks to the Warriors

Sunday 29th January 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a football fan or even a football follower but this week I found myself being swept along in the fever that seemed to have infected the whole country. After six years of deep political turmoil and dramatic economic collapse in Zimbabwe I didn't think that there was anything that could unite us as a country. I was wrong! This week all boundaries and differences were put aside and regardless of race, class, religion or politics, the whole country looked to football for relief. It didn't matter where you went this week or who you talked to, the only topic of conversation was The African Cup of Nations and the two games facing Zimbabwe's team - the Warriors.

The talk at first was about winning and losing but after we lost the first game against Senegal hopes began to fade. Football commentators on state TV said the Warriors would need divine intervention as the next match was against a much stronger team. Football talk reached frantic levels, everyone, everywhere was on about it and predicting the score became a national past-time and caused passionate debate. For a week Zimbabwe's Warriors gave us a diversion from the daily grind, they gave us something else to think about and forced us to look outside of our own struggles - no easy task in these desperate times.

In between electricity cuts and football games, it has been a very difficult week to follow events and politics in Zimbabwe. Every night this week the main evening news was cancelled on state owned TV - replaced by football games - all of them and not just Zimbabwe's matches. There was one diversion that raised a small ripple of attention and it came in the form of an announcement from the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. It was a strangely worded statement, that sounded more like a religious or marital pronouncement than a financial fact. It read: "We are pleased to announce that with effect from Feb 01 2006, a higher denomination of 50 000 bearer cheque will be added to the denominational family of bearer cheques so as to bring added convenience to the transacting public." For people unfamiliar with Zimbabwe's currency, we don't have coins or even conventional bank notes anymore as they were unable to keep pace with our almost 600% inflation. Instead we have bits of paper called bearers cheques which is the equivalent of money but has expiry dates which the government keep renewing as the economy continues to decline. So from next week we are going to have a new bearers cheque with a value of 50 thousand dollars and this just makes most of us laugh. Imagine your biggest denomination bank note not even being enough to buy a loaf a bread.

I'll end this week by saying thanks to the Warriors for trying your best, giving us a diversion and managing to do what no one else in Zimbabwe can do - uniting the country for a few days.
Until next week, love cathy

Burn out

Saturday 21 January 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
A friend recently sent an email describing how activists manage to cope in circumstances where fear, stress, insecurity and unrest continue for long periods of time. Determination, principle and routine, seem to be about the most important factors to consider.

As the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, more and more activists seem to be falling silent or just disappearing from sight. The recent split of the MDC has left most Zimbabweans feeling alone, betrayed and desperate about how to cope and which way to turn. It is now very difficult to keep depression and despair at bay and prevent "burn-out". Our lives have been in turmoil for six years and many days it seems as if nothing will ever be the same again. Houses for sale are now quoted in billions of dollars, those for rent are in the multi millions, a visit to a doctor is two million dollars and the smallest handful of basic groceries carried in one plastic bag easily costs a million. The horror of this reality comes quickly when you know that an ordinary teacher for example, or a nurse, takes home only five million dollars. The men and women entrusted with educating our children and saving our lives can not afford to live in Zimbabwe any more.

In homes across the country municipal accounts for January have just arrived and they have left residents absolutely staggering in disbelief. In my home town the municipal charges have increased overnight by almost six hundred percent. We should be saying, in disgust and outrage that we will not pay for services not being provided - street lights that don't work, garbage that is not collected, water that is filthy or roads that are collapsing. But we do not; without brave and strong leadership we are a country and a population afraid and so instead we search desperately for ways to survive, to find the money and to pay for almost non existent services.

In the very early mornings you see the real people of Zimbabwe going out to do whatever they can in these wet January days. Men and women and even children who should be in school but can't afford to attend anymore. They go to little roadside gardens to dig and weed maize, beans and pumpkins - crops which are hungry for fertilizer and whose meagre yields will be dramatically reduced when the night time thieves start coming around and helping themselves. Other people go out into the bush to pull down tree branches for fuel wood or they go collecting mushrooms and wild fruits - to eat and to sell. One day after the other, one foot in front of the other we carry on, struggling, praying, hoping - we cannot afford to burn out.
Until next week, love cathy

Still they stay quiet

Saturday 14th January 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe has begun harvesting the results of six years of mismanagement. We are continuing to have a bountiful rainy season and every day the heavens open and wash our troubled land. Streams and rivers are flowing, dams are filling, the vegetation is flourishing but all this water is causing crumbling, decrepit and un-maintained systems to come dangerously close to falling apart.

This week the reports of diarrhoea and cholera have continued and we have seen the most appalling television coverage of foul and filthy piles of sodden and decaying garbage in and around the capital city. We have seen pictures of raw sewage bubbling up out of broken, blocked pipes and have heard reports of tap water with unacceptably high levels of blue green algae. The excuses from the authorities are the same as always - there is no fuel - to collect garbage, transport workers or carry spare parts; and there is no money - to buy fuel on the black market, to buy chemicals for the water or to purchase equipment needed to effect repairs.

Every day in my part of the country this week the electricity has gone off: at first it was two hours, then three, five, six and on Friday for seven hours. A telephone call to ZESA - the electricity supply company- is virtually pointless as all they can tell you is that the power cut is the result of load shedding. They say they don't know how long the power will be off for and say that it is out of their control.

Also this week there have been growing reports of army worm gobbling up the few crops that are in the ground on Zimbabwe's farms. Apparently the worm is now in all but one of Zimbabwe's provinces and is going largely unchecked for the same reason as everything else - no fuel to get to the affected crops and no money to buy the chemicals to spray the worms.

What a diabolical mess we are now in. It is not surprising that over 50 000 Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa in the month over Christmas for being illegal immigrants or that each and every day another 400 jump the border into South Africa. I do not know what the figures are for border jumpers into Mocambique, Zambia and Botswana but I know that Zimbabweans are now just desperate to get away from the hunger, disease and dirt - not to mention inflation of 585%. At the very least our neighbours could say something but still they stay quiet; what shame upon them that they cannot, even now, speak out.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.


Saturday 7th January 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Hello and Happy New Year! There is good news and bad news from Zimbabwe. The good news is that we are having the most wonderful rainy season. It was a wet Christmas and a wet New Year and in Marondera we have now had over 18 inches of rain. The bad news is that there is very little food in the ground being watered by these abundant rains and by all accounts Zimbabwe is heading for exceptionally hard times this year.

Wishing people a Happy New Year has seemed a particularly inappropriate and hollow sentiment in Zimbabwe at the beginning of 2006. There are no signs of growth or prosperity on our horizon. For most people there is little to be happy about and nothing but hardship to look forward to as the country hurtles backwards in time at a terrifying pace. I think the best way to describe this reversal in growth would be to give you a taste of life in Marondera in January 2006 - it's not very pleasant.

After 18 inches of rain in 8 weeks we have had no road repairs or maintenance in my suburb of Marondera. The potholes are big, filled with muddy water and unavoidable. Vegetation growing on suburban road sides has not been cut at all for the past two months, weeds and grass are creeping unchecked into and under the tar. Storm drains, contours and road culverts have not been cleared and sand and silt run off our roads and lie in thick carpets at the bottom of slopes and on road sides. At all hours big rusty trucks without number plates come and harvest this sand to sell to the building industry. Some suburban roads have now deteriorated to such an extent as to require 4 wheel drive vehicles. We have not had any garbage collection in suburban Marondera for 5 weeks. Desperate residents have taken to dumping household trash on roadsides, under trees and anywhere away from their own homes. Around urban cemeteries, in delicate wetlands and on immediate stream and river banks people are destroying every last shred of the environment as they cut trees and dig up the bush to plant little squares of food. These are just some of the horrors that are there for all to see. What lies behind closed doors and locked gates is far worse as people desperately struggle to cope with the economic nightmare of life in Zimbabwe.

As we have stumbled into 2006 we have been hit with astronomical increases in school fees. Last January a small rural government school in Marondera charged a hundred a fifty thousand dollars a term. This January the same school wants 1.2 million dollars per child. This is one of the cheaper prices and just the beginning as the child must also come dressed in a full uniform with school shoes and provide all his own writing books. Undoubtedly many thousands of children will not be going back to school this new year. It is hard to believe that this is the same country, being ruled by the same man who twenty five years ago promised: "Education for All by 2000."

Even more frightening than crumbling roads, uncollected trash and unaffordable schools is the crisis in our health systems. In the first week of 2006 it was announced that doctors consultation fees have increased by 100 %. It will now costs 2.9 mill to see a doctor and for people, like teachers, who earn less than 5 million dollars a month, this is as good as a death sentence. Fourteen people died of cholera in Zimbabwe over Christmas. To stem the spread of cholera the state media are urging people not to travel (as if we had fuel - oh please!) and advising people to boil drinking water and use disinfectants. It's an easy statement to make but when the smallest possible bottle of disinfectant costs the same as five loaves of bread, I know what most people will be forced to choose. It is impossible to believe that this is the same country, being ruled by the same man who twenty five years ago promised: "Health for all by the year 2000."

Things are not looking good in Zimbabwe this January 2006. Those of us who can are helping the man, woman or child next to us in whatever way we can. It is not much but is the best New Years Resolution I can think of for our desperate country in these dreadful times.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.

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