News - June 2007





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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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Take them all over

Saturday 30th June 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
We are struck with feelings of near hysteria just coping with everyday situations almost all the time now. The past fortnight has seen a dramatic plunge in the value of our money and massive price increases of everything from food to fuel and everything in between. Top-up bills for school fees arrived barely half way into the term, medical aid costs have risen five fold and as the month end bills and service accounts come in, most people have no idea how they are going to cope over the next thirty days.

The cost of medicines are rising at least twice a week now and recently a friend buying a drug to control epilepsy paid 460 thousand dollars one day and 490 thousand dollars for the same drug, same quantity, same pharmacy on the next day. Many companies that can, have started giving their employees food supplies every month just to make sure their workers literally have enough energy to do their work. Most people in middle management and white collar jobs cannot survive more than five days of a month before their entire wage is depleted. The burden is gruelling.

Life in Zimbabwe has become unbearably tough for all but a very small elite and the government have been as good as ignoring the deteriorating economic situation for some months. This week they suddenly woke up and the Minister of Industry announced that prices had to be slashed by up to two thirds with immediate effect. The price cuts mean that goods are now being sold for less than they were purchased for and that once the stocks are sold, they will not be able to be replaced. It is a recipe for massive food shortages and already the black marketeers are rubbing their hands with glee. On Friday evening, emerging from a 15 hour electricity cut, the first report on the propaganda news was the Police announcing that they were about to start arresting wholesalers, retailers and businessmen who had not slashed their prices.

To add to the air of uncertainty , Mr Mugabe also spoke out about price increases and profiteering this week. He chose a State Funeral as his platform and was visibly angry: "We will SEIZE, SEIZE the mines," he said coldly, his face shining with sweat, " we will nationalize them. And companies, we will take them all over." The funeral at the National Heroes Acre, appeared to be attended largely by army personnel, and the venue was decorated with the usual political banners, one of which read: 'Mugabe Is Right.'

Those people who can, continue to pour out of the country, including teachers and this week came the shocking news that in one province 48 schools had recorded a zero % pass rate in recent public examinations. It is a damning admission for any country to have to make and utterly tragic that it is politics of the present that is making a millstone that will hang around Zimbabwe's neck for the next thirty or more years.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Rather die of hunger?

Saturday 23rd June 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
I am writing this letter late at night when the electricity is on because supplies during the day, both in the week and at weekends, are now very sporadic. At any time, without warning the power goes off, sometimes for just an hour or two but more often it is for solid chunks of 8 or even 10 hours at a time. When all these power cuts began we were told that it was because all the electricity we had was going to go to the wheat farmers who needed to irrigate the crop for the nation's daily bread. Some people sort of half heartedly believed that story but not for long. As it was last year and the two previous years - the growing wheat crop is just not there for us to see.

This week the propaganda peddlers began preparing the way for yet another disaster. As always they treat us like complete idiots! Ignoring the fact that we are all sitting in the cold and dark because they'd told us all the electricity was irrigating wheat, this week they told us that the projected crop is going to be far less than anticipated. This is apparently because the wheat farmers can't irrigate because of the electricity cuts.

Even this ludicrous irony doesn't ring true because for most of us the last report we saw on the winter wheat crop was in the government sponsored Herald newspaper and that took the Emperors clothes off for all to see. Written just ten days before the last date for planting wheat in late May, the report said that Secretary for Agriculture Dr Shadreck Mlambo had addressed a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. The report stated, and I quote: "of the projected 76 000 hectares, only 8 000 hectares have so far been put under wheat."

It's hard to believe that a massive 68 thousand hectares of wheat were planted in those last few days of May - before it was too late - but now, another new spin is emerging.

Government agricultural voices have begun warning that quelea birds are preparing to decimate the country's winter wheat crop - the crop that either wasn't planted in the first place or hasn't been watered because there's been no electricity for the irrigation pumps.

We are told that there is only one aeroplane in the country that can be used to spray the birds and apparently four are needed to "cover the whole crop". Its not being said if the whole crop consists of 8 thousand hectares spread out in lots of little squares or if its actually 76 thousand hectares.

Keeping up with both the facts and the propaganda about events in Zimbabwe has become almost impossible as electricity cuts silence all but the most determined and innovative lines of communication. It took a message from outside of Zimbabwe to tell me what our Minister of Lands said this week and for millions of cold, tired and hungry Zimbabweans, they are sickening words. Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa said: "The position is that food shortages or no food shortages, we are going ahead to remove the remaining whites. We would all rather die of hunger but knowing full well that the land is in the hands of black people."
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Rock bottom

Saturday 16th June 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
I stood for over forty minutes in a line at the bank to withdraw my own money this week - its not unusual to have to queue for even longer than this. There was no electricity - again - so the ATM machines were not working - again. Even if the ATM's were working, those queues often need an hour and a half to get to the front. Because of the oppressive, iron-fist regulations from Harare, individuals are only allowed to withdraw one and a half million dollars at a time from the bank - even if they have just deposited a hundred times that amount the same day. The bank charges a 'handling fee' for the withdrawal of amounts of one and a half million dollars or less but you can cannot withdraw more without applying for permission from the Reserve Bank in Harare. To put all these figures in perspective, let me explain! You have to stand in a queue in the bank for four days in a row - each day drawing out the maximum amount, each day paying the 'handling fee," in order to purchase one tank of fuel for your car . Three days of maximum withdrawals will give you enough for one filling at the dentist. By the time you've got enough money together, the prices will have gone up again but for most of us all these things are just dreams anyway because now even a visit to the dentist has become an unaffordable luxury. Who would ever have imagined that a dental visit would be thought of as a luxury!

A combination of iron fist regulations, prices going up by an estimated 10 per cent every day, and a government which appears completely clueless about what to do next, I think it would be accurate to say we have reached rock bottom. This week the legislation enabling the government to read our emails, listen to our phone calls and intercept our letters sailed through parliament and it produced barely a ripple. Everyone is now only looking at the day to day human suffering and major national and international groupings have begun issuing the most frightening warnings.

The Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said recently :"It can no longer be said that the health service is -near collapse, It has collapsed."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that our health delivery system has collapsed to such levels as to be comparable to "a war situation."

A Heads of Agencies Contact Group which includes 34 major organisations such as the U N and Oxfam said: "economic collapse is expected before the end of 2007." They warn that by that time our currency will have become unusable and shops and services will have stopped operating. The Contact Group said: "it is inevitable, not just a possibility."

And so how do we survive this last stretch? Frankly most of us don't know. This week I heard the grim news from a friend whose wife is eight months pregnant. She lives in a rural area and has been told at the nearest health clinic that in addition to the financial charge, she must also bring a twenty litre container of water with her when she comes to give birth or they will have no choice but to turn her away. This is the reality of what we all hope is finally rock bottom.
Thanks for reading, until next week, love cathy.

Which way is up

Saturday 9th june 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
This week all semblances of normalcy collapsed in most parts of Zimbabwe. The supply of electricity was negligible for most of the week and we found ourselves behaving in the most absurd fashion in order to remain functional. Going to bed at 7 in the evening in the cold and the dark - and 'waking up' when the lights came on at 11pm.Mostly your body doesn't know which way is up as it struggles to understand your new absurd routine. Doing the ironing at 11 pm; downloading emails and working on the computer at midnight. Getting up again at 4am to cook porridge for breakfast and being thankful for that achievement as the electricity goes off again at 5am and another day of insanity starts.

The eerie silence characterising suburban life was not much better in shopping and business centres - machines not working, lifts not moving, supermarket meat fridges defrosting, butchery saws silent, bakery ovens cold, food going bad and people just sitting out on walls and pavements.

The absurditities of the situation kept slapping you in the face all week. One evening, in the cold and dark, Short Wave Radio Africa interviewed a top official in ZESA ( Electricity Supply Authority). Bear in mind this Radio Station is banned from operating in Zimbabwe and it's staff members are prohibited from returning to the country - and yet the ZESA executive speaks openly on the forbidden radio station! She had a great swathe of excuses in order to apportion blame for this diabolical situation and then uses the opportunity to announce a 50% increase in the price of electricity. Oh really, what electricity is that!

On Tuesday it was World Environment Day and again Zimbabwe was in the quiet and the dark - at least we were doing our bit for the world - however unintentionally! That absurd irony was then punctuated all day by the sound of tree chopping and the sight of people pouring out of the bush carrying sticks, branches and cart loads of newly cut indigenous timber. 60 year old trees felled in minutes - what tragedy for Zimbabwe and what a disgrace for the country whose Minister of Tourism heads the UN body on Sustainable Development. What disgrace too for the world who chose him for the job.

The near complete collapse of Zimbabwe's electricity supply is affecting country areas too. In a rural area near me people are walking up to six kilometres to reach the nearest grinding mill. They arrive to find the mill not able to function without electricity and there is no option but to leave your precious bag of maize and return the next day to collect it - hoping that most of it is still there. The millers are having to work at night or whenever the power comes back on - its all about survival.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the power cuts is that at least now we physically don't have the means to listen to or watch the propaganda on ZBC radio and TV - a blessed relief, particularly as the bigwigs have begun positioning themselves for the next round of elections - just eight months away. Until next week, thanks for reading and please take note of my new website address:
Love cathy

Speaker and Spectator

Saturday 2nd June 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
As ridiculous as it may sound, little lights of hope are flickering on all the time now in Zimbabwe. They are not practical everyday lights of decreasing prices, increasing food and medical supplies or improved services - quite the contrary in fact. The lights of hope that I am talking about are those that are beginning to illuminate the future direction. Some are from events across the border where it seems there are actually things going on - although no one is saying what!

Other signs of hope are coming from within. One is the blatantly obvious declining interest and support by people in rural areas for overweight politicians in smart clothes and fancy cars who come only at election time - and then shout and threaten people in their bid to garner votes. A prime example is underway at the moment in the run up to a by election about to be held in Zaka East. At last both sides of the MDC have managed to stand together and say they will not contest the seat - what is the point if conditions are not free and fair. This leaves Zanu PF standing against two virtually unknown parties, the UPP (United People's Party) and the UPDP (United People's Democratic Party). Some of the earlier ZANU PF rallies were shown on ZBC television and it was embarrassing to watch great obese men, shouting and waving their fists at the painfully thin people, sitting barefoot in the dust staring blankly ahead. The contrast between speaker and spectators was so extreme it was a wonder it was shown on national TV at all.

A few days later, arriving to whip up support for the ruling party candidate , a former soldier, disappointment was immediate and the rally cancelled. Zanu PF Chairman, John Nkomo, said: "We have to postpone this rally to Thursday next week because we cannot address these few people." The days of Zanu PF being able to take support for granted - even in remote dusty villages - are gone.

Other reasons for hope are coming from people in positions of responsibility who are making courageous decisions and are standing up to do the right thing - politics and propaganda aside.
This week High Court Judge Tedious Karwi granted bail to Ian Makone - one of 32 leading opposition officials and activists arrested in late March who have been held without trial for the past 2 months and 2 days. In making the bail ruling Judge Karwi stated a fact which of late is not guaranteed and has been very elusive in Zimbabwe. The Judge said:" Our law presumes people to be innocent until proven guilty."
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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