News - July 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


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


Just sitting in dusty villages

Saturday 30th july 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
For the last three months almost every single report from Zimbabwe has been about the destruction of homes, stalls and informal structures in our cities and towns. At first, when we could actually see the bulldozers, the huge clouds of dust and the piles of rubble in our towns and neighbourhoods, it was all very real and terrifying. Then we saw people desperately looking for shelter, carrying their belongings and lining the roads in their hundreds trying to get transport to move the remnants of their homes out of town and away from the bulldozers. Now, two months later, there is not much left for the ordinary passer by to see on the roadsides of Marondera. There are still piles of rubble here and there but mostly there are just empty spaces in the town. It is hard to believe that just two months ago you could buy a banana or a twist of newspaper brimming with ground nuts at the street corner. You could haggle with a vendor over a huge orange mango, an avocado or a bowl of tomatoes or even buy a hand made hammock on the side of the road. You could have your shoes re heeled, your zip fixed or your bicycle spokes tightened by skilled self employed men and women earning an honest living from the pavements and alleyways all across Marondera. Now the town is virtually deserted, the streets are quiet, you cannot even buy a banana on the roadside and everywhere, still everywhere, the four month old ZANU PF election posters cling to our lamp posts: "We are proud to be Zimbabweans on our land", the banners say. "Our land is our sovereignty" the slogans shout at us as we walk past them. We walk because after seven weeks there is still no petrol or diesel, almost no buses or taxis are moving and very few ordinary vehicles are still on the roads.

And the question everyone is asking is what has happened to all those people whose homes and stalls were demolished. Where are they living now, how are they surviving, have they got enough to eat? There are more questions than answers. This week I talked with a man who lives in a rural village and I am haunted by his stories, in shock at his descriptions. He told me of people arriving from the cities but of there being no empty houses where they can live. He told me of families doubling and tripling up to try and accommodate the desperate newcomers. He told me of meagre meals being shared and then watered down and shared yet again. He described how there was no space for people's possessions and so lounge suites and wardrobes were being stored on top of roofs - exposed to the wind, the dust and the dew. There are not enough houses in the villages, the wells are already running dry, all vegetable gardening has stopped due to the shortage of water and there is no land for all these new people to scratch a living on. It was this very excuse of congested rural villages that the ZANU PF government used when they seized all the commercial farms and turned our country from a food exporter to a begging bowl. Now the rural villages are even more congested as yet more and more people arrive. People who once fixed shoes and bicycles, wove baskets and chairs, knitted jerseys or made hammocks now they just sit in the dusty villages, homeless, unemployed, hungry and completely at the mercy of the government systems to whom they will have to turn, for every single one of their most basic human needs. Control is complete.
Until next week, with love, cathy.

Frog marching children

Saturday 23rd July 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Shocking reports this week told of how 300 homeless men, women and children sheltering in Bulawayo churches were forcibly turned out in the middle of the night by government officials and trucked off to a holding camp. One Church leader described the midnight raid as brutal and horrific and said: "They had elderly folk, and they were piling them onto vehicles; they were frog-marching children ...who had been asleep." I know, that any parent who has woken their child from a deep sleep will feel the same utter horror as I do at this description. I am appalled to think that our government officials have become so cruel as to be able to carry out these acts in the middle of the night, in mid winter, to defenceless women, children and babies. Are they not also parents, fathers, grandfathers?

Also this week priests who had been helping displaced people in Mutare and Bulawayo were called in for questioning by government officials. In Bulawayo church leaders from various denominations were forbidden from going into holding camps where hundreds of homeless people have been taken. The churches were told that they have to have permission from the political governor of the area before they may visit the poor and destitute in the holding camp.

Meanwhile in an absolutely absurd Alice in Wonderland development in Harare, the government started moving homeless people back to exactly the same sites on which their homes had been demolished a few weeks ago. ZBC television on Friday showed Zanu PF Minister Chombo preparing to address a crowd of people whose homes had been demolished by government bulldozers. The people clenched their fists, raised their arms and chanted slogans in praise of Zanu PF and then listened as the Minister told them that those who had lease agreements were to be taken "home" to their piles of rubble. Minister Chombo told these people who have lost everything that not only can they go back, but that they will be given free transport to get there. The Minister then went on to announce that the people would be given sheets of asbestos and treated timber poles which they could use to erect "temporary structures" which they would be allowed to live in for one year while they built their permanent homes. Oh dear, I am just left utterly speechless.

As things get worse and worse in Zimbabwe, more and more people are seeing the truth about what has really been going on here and are speaking out, and for this we give thanks. We thank the South African Council Of Churches who have launched Operation Hope for Zimbabwe to assist the 700 000 people made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina. We thank Nigerian poet and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka who this week said that: "A great revolutionary...a liberation fighter has become a monster." Soyinka said that African leaders should have the courage to sanction Zimbabwe - by refusing to give it loans. And we thank the UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka for her report, her voice and her courageous words which speak for millions here who are voiceless. We thank the people of New Zealand for their protests on our behalf and we thank Zimbabweans in exile in countries all over the world for not having forgotten us.
Until next week, with love cathy

A Silence Spreading Over the Land

Saturday 16th July 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe is shuddering to a stop just 14 weeks after Zanu PF declared they had won the 2005 parliamentary elections. Chronic shortages of petrol and diesel have almost shut the country down. There is a silence spreading over the land and with it is coming a sense of camaraderie and unity as Zimbabweans literally walk to the end line of these years of madness. I sit here on a cold but crystal clear winter morning in the silence that has become suburban Marondera and flip through many hundreds of weekly letters I have written since this began and wonder if this will be the last winter of discontent. If I did not see my own words in black and white I would not believe that such things could have happened or that our prosperous country and her wonderful people could have endured such horrors.

In July 2000, four months after our farm had been invaded by war veterans and government supporters, I wrote: " Went down to the little dam today ...Once densely enclosed with trees, the surrounds are now sparse and a cold wind blew through the haven where our cattle used to drink. The dam wall had been broken and water gushes out... the entire surface area of the dam is covered with thick, choking, suffocating red Azolla weed. Floating and bloated in the water is a dead animal ..."

In July 2001 I wrote : "I cannot tell you how I felt this week when a grandfather phoned me to see if there was anything I could do to help his son, daughter in law and three grandchildren under 10 years old who had been barricaded into their farmhouse by two dozen war veterans. Gates had been smashed down, fires had been lit on the lawn, dogs had been cowed into submission and through the night the war veterans sang and drummed and pelted the roof of the house with rocks to try and chase this family out. "

In July 2002 : "I have an 84 year old man living two doors away from me and he stood at my gate again this week. He calls me his Guardian Angel and begged that I give him $60 for a loaf of bread. He is white and his need is as great as the 14 year old black boy who runs alongside my car when I turn in at the supermarket. He too begs for money to buy a loaf of bread. If only the men and women in our government would stop their motorcades, get out of their chauffeur driven limousines and see this immense tragedy, see the huge suffering of all black, white and brown Zimbabweans."

In July 2003: "I heard how 200 Kamativi villagers are hiding in the mountains to escape the violence of the government youth militia who have hounded them out of their homes accusing them of not supporting Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF. I can hardly bear to think of how those people are surviving. It is the middle of winter here and as my son and I cycle to school every morning wearing coats and gloves and wooly hats, the frost lies in thick white sheets along the roadside. What sort of government could knowingly allow their supporters to force people out of their homes and into the freezing elements..."

In July 2004: "The issue under the spotlight at the moment is the Government Ministers and high ranking officials who have got, taken or been given more than one farm... One of the Ministers concerned said the withdrawal letters were 'preposterous and annoying.' He said of the multiple farms credited to him, one had been reallocated to his cousin and another to his mother."

And now, many winters later, in July 2005, I quote the South African Council Of Churches who have just visited Zimbabwe: "In God's name, stop Operation Murambatsvina ...This operation is inhumane and causes widespread suffering to the people." ..."They [the Zimbabwean government] have no idea what to do with the people, and this is the sadness of it," The Church report estimated the number of people thrown out on the street to be between 800 000 and one million.
Until next week, love cathy

Of blue buses and Zimbarbie

saturday 9th July 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe acquired 69 new buses this week. The arrival of the buses made headline news on Zimbabwe's radio and television stations on Thursday 7th July 2005. For the first twenty six minutes of the main hour long news bulletin on Thursday evening, the only story was the 69 buses. Video footage showed a line of parked shiny blue and yellow buses stretching as far as the eye could see. This was followed by a string of interviews with prospective passengers either standing next to or seated in a stationary bus. At one point the glories of the shiny, blue and yellow buses were contrasted with a parking lot full of stranded, dusty country buses - stranded because of the now dire shortage of fuel across the country. The absurdity of reporting on new buses arriving when almost the entire country has come to a standstill this week, was striking. Thirty seven minutes into the same evening news bulletin, Zimbabwe television reported on the 4 bombs that had devastated London on Thursday morning. In less than two minutes ZBC TV told the entire story of the London horror. They then moved on to explain, yet again, why our government was still breaking down peoples homes in mid winter in their drive to restore order. Millions of Zimbabweans, literally, have experienced terror at first hand in our country in the last five years, and we offer our love, support and prayers to the victims and families of the horrific bombs in London.

Watching some of the film footage of thousands of people walking out of London on Thursday was strikingly similar to scenes in Zimbabwe this week. An eerie silence has descended across Zimbabwe as we are now a country completely crippled without fuel. We wake up to silence as people walk to work, rush hours are non existent and literally hundreds of people line the roads desperate for lifts. Stocks in shops are dwindling and businesses are barely ticking over as there are fewer and fewer customers able to travel. One friend told me this week that sales in their normally busy business had dropped by 40 percent in the last five days. The reality of a country coming to a dry and grinding halt does make the story of the 69 buses rather ludicrous doesn't it?

I will end this week on the latest absurdity to come out of Zimbabwe and I quote from the government owned press: "Harare City Council has rescinded all land sale agreements made between 1998 and this year and is now reselling the land at market rates to the same buyers, where necessary," the official Herald newspaper reported, citing Harare Town Clerk Nomutsa Chideya.

When things can't get much worse, the silliest things cause great hilarity. How about this gem doing the rounds: "The new Barbie on the market comes with: no shoes, no clothes, no make up, no car, no food, no house and no farm. Its called... Zimbarbie!"
Until next week, with love, cathy.

Under a bush

Saturday 2nd July 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Three afternoons in a row I could hear what I thought was a kitten crying and stopped what I was doing to concentrate on listening and try and work out where the sound was coming from. On the fourth day, the mewling was loud and persistent and as the sun sunk into the horizon my son and I went out onto the road to see if we could find the kitten. We looked in the long dry grass for movement, in the sand for footprints and up in the trees in case the kitten was stranded. We called and listened, checked the drain under the road and culverts near gates but the plaintive crying had stopped and we could find nothing. It was almost completely dark when we got home and I stood looking out in the direction the noise had come from. The temperature was dropping dramatically, the first stars were coming out and then suddenly I saw people emerging from the bush. A woman in the background and then three young children whose clothes were very tattered, big holes in their T shirts. They were collecting something on the ground, in the dust where I had just been. I couldn't see what it was but when I moved they saw me and ran away, disappearing back into the bush.

The next afternoon I did not hear the kitten crying and have not heard it again since . The woman and three children have disappeared too and I am haunted by the sound wondering if it was in fact a baby crying and not a kitten mewling. Everywhere you go, the only topic is the ongoing demolition of informal housing and we all wonder where all these hundreds of thousands of people who have been made homeless are going to go. This week thousands more were made homeless when houses on Porta Farm were demolished and four people died in that process. There are only questions and no answers. How are these multitudes of people going to survive this winter, what are they going to eat and what hope is there of any of the children going to school.

As I sit here on a very cold winter morning in Zimbabwe writing this letter the first Live 8 music concerts are underway. I do not have any hope whatsoever that even one dollar of the money raised there will go to a woman and three children who are living under a bush in a freezing Marondera winter. This woman and her babies are on the move, on the run from their own government. Who will give this woman her Live 8 dollar, which corrupt official?

This week I close with the wonderful news that former Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett has been released from prison after serving 8 months of the sentence. I know that many people have signed petitions, written letters and prayed for the safe release of Mr Bennett and it has done our souls good to know that this man of the people who is so admired and respected, is safe again with his family.
Until next week, with love, cathy

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