News - July 2009





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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


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Baby in a box

Saturday 25th July 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Late in the afternoon a friend got a call on his mobile phone. The words were garbled and broken up, the call lasting just a few seconds before cutting off. The musukuru (grandson) is serious, come now. You have to be a Zimbabwean perhaps to know that the word 'serious' usually means very sick. What would be a problem, even an emergency in the "normal" world was destined to be a nightmare in our broken country.

Again and again my friend tried to phone for more information about his grandson but after numerous attempts gave up. He was wasting time. His grandson is in a rural village, it was almost dusk and he knew he must go. A fifteen kilometre bicycle ride got him to the village. It was completely dark when he arrived. By the light of a candle he looked at his precious little musukuru. Teeth clenched, face in a grimace, body curled in taut foetal position, the two year old boy obviously needed help. He had been vomiting copiously, shaking and arching his back and now the slightest movement caused him to scream in pain.

The nearest clinic is 3 kilometres away. There is no transport, private or public. No telephones. No electricity, not even any running water to wash away the vomit. An ambulance will not come from the nearest town, not unless you can pay cash, in advance, up front: 50 US dollars.

As gently as possible the musukuru was laid in a box which was lifted onto the back of the bicycle and tied securely with strips of old car-tyre inner tubing. Blankets underneath and on top of the musukuru in the freezing cold winter darkness, the journey from hell began. Every stone, bump and gully on the disintegrating gravel road caused a scream of agony from the child. Words of comfort were measured against the urgency of the journey. At the clinic at last, there was no sign of attendance. Calling, shouting, knocking finally produced a youngster: No nurses here, he said.

The next clinic is another 7 kilometres away. The grandparents finally arrived, pushing their grandson in the box on the bicycle at 2 in the morning. Shivering and with frozen fingers their lifted their precious musukuru into the hands of the nurse. They knew what to expect and had bought a small sheet for the bed, their own blankets, a towel and even maize meal and a small pot to make porridge for the child. A drip went in, that's 14 US dollars, payable immediately. An intravenous antibiotic was given, that's 12 US dollars, payable immediately.

Two days later my friend was back in town and stone broke. The musukuru is still in the clinic, still on a drip and still has a problem. There are no doctors there. The nurses say that sekuru must pay for more drugs. His cell phone is flat. He has no money, no airtime left and back there, down the dusty pot-holed road the life of his little grandson is in his hands.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

Title Deeds are scared

Saturday 11th July 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
As a youngster growing up I was always taught to save and, if possible, to invest in land or property which would hold or increase in value throughout my life. Title Deeds were sacred, I was told. They were the indisputable, unquestionable, legal documents which would always prove ownership.

So much has happened in Zimbabwe this last decade that for everyone except Zanu PF it has been the most horrific nightmare. For most of us the real hell began when the people of Zimbabwe rejected a draft constitution in a referendum in February 2000. At that time I was a farmer living on a piece of land bought legally a decade before. The Title Deeds proving legal ownership of that property were in my possession.

A fortnight later those Title Deeds were as good as useless, worthless pieces of paper when property rights in Zimbabwe were ignored and men in dirty overalls took over.

Despite losing the referendum and without holding another national vote, a Zanu PF parliament went ahead and changed the constitution anyway. In May 2000 the 16th Amendment to our country's constitution stated that Britain had an obligation to pay for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement.

The MDC were one of many local and international voices who condemned the amendment. The MDC spokesman at the time was a constitutional lawyer and has been quoted in many references as saying: "We have no legal authority to compel the British government to do anything."

This week, nine years later, Mr Mugabe spoke at a conference to attract investment to the country. He said that Zimbabwe upholds the sanctity of property rights. For a moment I held my breath, thinking that maybe my Title Deeds were finally going to regain their rightful legal status. I was wrong as Mr Mugabe continued by saying that farms taken from Zimbabweans who had white skins would not be paid for by Zimbabwe and that Britain should be lobbied to pay compensation. Mr Mugabe went on to say: " We pay compensation for improvements. That is our obligation and we have honoured it."

Sadly that statement is not true and I am one of thousands of Zimbabwean farmers who has not received any compensation at all for the house, buildings or any of the fixed assets and improvements on a farm legally purchased in 1990 and then seized by a mob in 2000.

Shock turned to disappointment as MDC leader and the country's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai took to the podium of the investment conference. "The President is correct,' he said. "The constitution is clear. We pay compensation for improvements. If funds are available we will pay.' With sadness we realised that our Prime Minister supports an amendment made by a single political party to a constitution which belongs to all the people of the country.

There can be little hope of investment when property rights and Title Deeds are clearly not respected in Zimbabwe - unless your skin colour and political persuasion are the same as those of the person holding power.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Patriotism is punished

4th July 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
After weeks of peculiarly warm weather which wasn't winter but wasn't summer, people had begun commenting that even the trees were confused! A large, old Msasa tree standing alone on an urban street corner suddenly dropped all its leaves and produced a glorious canopy of new red leaves. It's a good six weeks too early and the precious new growth is exposed to a winter which has now finally arrived. In one freezing night a bitter wind bought our belated winter. For the first time ever in my memory the water in my birdbath turned to ice overnight and didn't thaw until mid morning. A cold wind, drizzle, mist and grey skies are now the order of our highveld winter days. In this atmosphere a cruel and heartless act was undertaken in my home town.

The word being used on the street in my neighbourhood is "Murambatsvina." People were comparing the cruelty of events this week to the government's massive human evictions of mid winter 2005.

ZESA, the government controlled electricity supply company went door to door and disconnected people's electricity. Working in pairs, they walked through residential neighbourhoods and house by house they switched people off. In the road where I live, 90% of homes were disconnected on a freezing July afternoon. The picture was repeated across town. Families with babies in the house were not spared; homes with sick and disabled occupants were switched off; homes with elderly people in their 90's were disconnected. There was no mercy or compassion, no compromise or humanity - just like it had been in Operation Murambatsvina.

Worst affected were civil servants who earn just 100 US dollars a month. Not even these dedicated professionals who could be earning ten times their wage if they left the country were spared. Their patriotism was punished with the flick of a switch

Since February most civil servants have been paying 10 or 20 US dollars a month to ZESA for their electricity. This is all, if not more than they can afford on a salary of 100 dollars, it is 10 or 20% of their wage. Zesa say it's not enough and are demanding massive and backdated amounts ranging from 250 to 500 US dollars for small residential homes.

The reality of the disconnections is very cruel. Teachers at work all day educating our children are coming home an hour before dark and having to light fires outside to cook on, to heat water for bathing and washing and then have to sit and mark books by candle light.

Four months into our supposedly new and improved Zimbabwe the sound of wood chopping fills the air, smoke constantly rises and women stream out of the bush with mounds of newly cut Msasa branches balanced on their heads. Shame on you ZESA!
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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