News - June 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


Bread Wars

Saturday 24th June 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe has been slowly and painfully slipping downwards for the last six years but this week the pace moved into top speed. It has been a shocking week here and everyone is reeling as services and prices have suddenly taken on a life of their own.

Petrol was 260 thousand dollars a litre three weeks ago. Last week it rose to 360 thousand a litre and this week it galloped to 500 thousand dollars a litre and then disappeared altogether.

In the supermarkets the price increases are staggering and everywhere you see people bending down and counting digits on stickers before turning away empty handed. The smallest bag of shopping now needs great handfuls of money. Many people have resorted to handing a huge stack of notes to the tellers in shops and asking them to use the money counting machines to arrive at the required amount because it just takes too long to count by hand. Either way the queues at the tills are endlessly long as tellers count and recount and then struggle to close their tills which bulge at the seams with our almost worthless bank notes.

This week I met a friend who is a retired civil servant on a government medical aid scheme. The pensioner showed me a letter just received saying that with immediate effect monthly contributions had increased by nine hundred percent. No apologies, no excuses, no humanity - not even for a woman as old as President Mugabe.

In complete contrast to the realities of four figure inflation, this week a dramatic crisis arose with bread. Bakers put the prices up, the government ordered them to put it back down. Bakers took out a full page advert in the press detailing the increases of everything from flour and yeast to wages, packaging and delivery. At the price stipulated by government, bakers said they were operating at a loss and putting twenty thousand jobs at risk. The government refused to allow the price increases and called in the police. In a week over 280 bakers and shop assistants have been fined for overcharging. As the bread war continued all week the obvious happened and fewer and fewer shops had bread on their shelves as less and less loaves were baked. It has been an absurd but now familiar case of denial by the government. The inflation figure is calculated and published by the government. From April to May the government said that inflation rose by 151 percent and yet they insist that the price of bread must remain unchanged. Its not funny just frightening but one absolutely classic report in the state owned Herald raised a grimace of a smile. A quote was given by an Assistant Inspector Police woman who said: "I can confirm that we are arresting bakeries for overcharging." Not bakers, but bakeries : bricks and mortar !

Some months ago the opposition promised a cold winter of discontent in Zimbabwe. Well, it's cold and we are all very very discontented and winter is half way in and now...?
Thanks for reading, until next week, love cathy

Keen to be seen

Saturday 17th June 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe tells a very strange story to the casual passer by. We are a country so full of contradictions and extremes that sometimes just the fragments tell their own story about the situation here.

Driving on the main road through Marondera this week I noticed that two big shops have just suddenly gone. A couple of weeks ago they were there but now they are unexpectedly closed; windows bare, doors locked, iron bars and grills padlocked and protecting empty showrooms.

Three years ago during a particularly bad fuel shortage I used to accompany my son to a nearby junior school by bicycle. There was no way to avoid a short but steep hill and I always had to get off and walk. My daily challenge was to stay on the bike until I reached a big boulder half way up the hill. This week I saw with sadness that the boulder has gone. This big black rock, the size of a family car, has been painstakingly chipped into little stones by a man, woman and two children over the last few months. We do have municipal police in our town but it seems they are more concerned with impounding unlicensed bicycles than protecting the environment for us and those that come after us. Now a rock, thousands of years old, is stacked in little piles on the side of the road for sale to builders.

On a recent journey there were six police road blocks in a distance of just seventy kilometres. This is another fragment of Zimbabwean life where you are left with more questions than answers. As you repeatedly slow down for the road blocks you begin to feel like you are travelling in a country which is at war. You keep asking yourself just exactly what it is the police, who seem younger by the day, are looking for in so many road blocks.

Another view of Zimbabwe is the display of wealth by the nouveau riche in the country. Luxury cars and extravagant four wheel drive vehicles worth multiple billions of dollars fill car parks and block roads in shopping centres in affluent parts of suburban Harare. The new super rich people of Zimbabwe seem keen to show off their wealth and are keen to be seen. At the dirtiest tattiest little beer hall or bar on the side of the road there is always at least one Mercedes or one luxury double cab - more often though there is a whole line of them.

Life in Zimbabwe is such a strange mixture of wildly contrasting circumstances and these days almost nothing is as it seems. For the past week only one thing has been certain: If the electricity is on there is a world cup football game being shown on TV, if its off, then there's no game being played.

I end with the very sad news that a man so many of us felt we knew, passed away this week. Wrex Tarr, a businessman, an entertainer, newsreader, a national archer and rifle shottist died aged 71 in East London. Apparently Wrex Tarr died while entertaining a happy crowd of bowlers at the club after the day's play. I offer my sincere condolences to the family.
Until next week, love cathy

A Stick in the sand

Saturday 10th June 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
The news in Zimbabwe this week has definitely been cause for saying: if you don't laugh you'll cry. Inflation raced up by another hundred and fifty percent from last month and now stands at 1193,5%. How are we surviving it - frankly we aren't and yet still the absurdity goes swirling around in the propaganda mill and no one believes a word of it.

This week one of the main stories making headline news on state owned television was that we are apparently in the process of reaping a bumper harvest. An above average rainy season has produced a bumper maize crop apparently and we should rest assured that there will be abundant food for the next twelve months. The report reminded us that maize is a controlled crop and can only be sold to the state owned GMB (Grain Marketing Board) who are paying 31 million zim dollars for a tonne of maize. There are, apparently, some "unscrupulous traders" who are selling their maize privately for 37 millions dollars a tonne and this was illegal and these people would face "the full wrath of the law."

The GMB army man being interviewed by ZBC TV said that the security of farmers delivering maize to their depots was paramount. As if addressing kindergarten, he said that 31 million dollars a tonne represented a lot of money. He said that if a farmer came with 10 tonnes of maize then for sure that man would be in a lot of danger carrying around so much money. For this reason, said the GMB army man, it would be safer if the GMB didn't pay the farmer all the money at once, it would just be too risky. His exact words were: "we don't want to put our farmers at risk by making them carry so much cash around." The army man forgot to mention the fact that inflation is making the money literally worth less for every day the GMB hold back on paying up in full.

The next part of the report was that the GMB have now got 80 permanent and 320 mobile depots where people can deliver their maize. The army man did not acknowledge the fact that the price of fuel went up from 200 to 260 thousand dollars in the last seven days so most people can't afford to move their crop off their front doorstep anyway.

Then the army man told us just exactly how secure the country is as regards our staple food of maize. He said the crop was coming in well so far and that as of last week (around the 1st June) depots all over the country had a total of six thousand metric tonnes in store. What only six thousand tonnes - can that be right I thought? Two and then three more times the army man said there were "already six thousand tonnes in store in GMB depots." A few scribbles on a bit of paper followed by days of asking lots of people for their opinions, the result is horrifying. If we assume a population of 12 million people, allow an average consumption of half a kilogram of maize per person per day, then we need 6 thousand tonnes of maize a day. So, we have one day's worth of food in stock in 400 GMB depots.

The absurdity of this nightmare is the fact that the GMB are actually prepared to give out such horrifying figures on national television. Don't they think we can all work these numbers out - even with a stick in the sand in the dusty village. If we don't laugh we'll cry.
Until next week, love Cathy.

Giggling and Chortling

Saturday 3rd June 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
It was cause for great sadness this week to watch a delegation of church leaders being filmed by state television at the start of a much publicised meeting with President Mugabe. They sat in a gleaming white tent, at tables covered with spotless white cloths and laughed almost uncontrollably at the words of the President. For a few moments the address actually had to stop because the clerics were giggling and chortling so much. The cause for their hilarity was President Mugabe's reference to Archbishop Pius Ncube's public statement that he was praying for the President's death. I sat in shock, overwhelmed with despair. This public display of hilarity represented the moral leadership of our country. These are the men who are supposed to be taking the pain and suffering of ordinary people to the President and appealing for an end to the horrific deprivations. Their laughter went beyond the bounds of diplomacy and even if it was just for show or for the camera, it sent a chill through the air.

I cannot express my feelings nearly as well as Bornwell Chakaodza did in this week's Financial Gazette but I am still haunted by an image given to me by a church man in 2002. Perhaps repeating that image now may help our giggling clerics.

It was just before the March 2002 elections and a small Evangelical Church in Marondera town was taken over by militant youths. The Pastor was barricaded into the Church building and subjected to taunts, threats, harassment and intimidation. He was accused of being a supporter of the opposition MDC. Some hours later the Pastor was freed but the youths stayed behind and used the Church as a re-education centre. In the following weeks there were reports of numerous people being taken to the Church and beaten, accused of supporting the opposition. The Pastor was refused entry to his Church and so he held Sunday services in the garden of his home. It was some weeks later when the youths who had seized the Church building finally moved out and the Pastor returned to find horror. Loud speaker equipment had been stolen. Electrical wiring had been ripped off the walls. Carpets, chairs, a tape recorder, tea urn, cups and saucers had been looted. Even a box of children's toys had gone. Worst of all was what had been left behind. Witnessed only by God, the walls and floors of the Church were stained with blood. The blood of the ordinary men and women who live in Marondera town

Many people from all over the world, desperate to help Zimbabwe, offer their prayers for us in church every week. May they pray now for courage, dignity and strength for our church leaders. This is not the time for giggling and chortling it is the time for determination, sacrifice and strong moral leadership. Until next week,
love cathy

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