THE TRUTH ABOUT ZIMBABWE
- The elections March 2005


   

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OTHER LETTERS:

A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


OTHER REPORTS:

Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

QUICK LINKS:
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SW RADIO AFRICA
Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation

 

A leopard doesn't change its spots

Saturday 26th March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
As I write this letter on Easter Saturday morning, there are just five days left before our elections. The atmosphere in Marondera in this pre election week has been peculiar to say the least. I suppose the adjectives that most accurately describe the feeling are tension, suspicion, distrust and expectation. The town is absolutely full to bursting with people, many of whom are strangers. The electioneering and rhetoric has moved into top gear and everywhere you look in Marondera there are posters, T shirts, wrap around skirts, head scarves and hats all advertising the ruling party. There are still a couple of dozen MDC posters in the town but mostly they are high up and out of reach. No one in the town can believe that there still haven't been any reports of violence and we are all going through the motions of our normal business but with eyes in the back of our heads just waiting for something to happen. Reading through some of the letters I wrote at the time of elections in 2000 and 2002, it is almost impossible to believe what we as a town and Zimbabwe as a country have lived through as the ruling Zanu PF party have fought to stay in power.

My descriptions of the last two elections told of war veterans breaking down doors, burning huts and force marching villagers to rallies and all night re-education sessions. They told of arson, of petrol bombs being thrown through windows, of women being raped and men being beaten with electric cables, sticks and batons. The things that were done to the people of Zimbabwe in the last two elections were so widespread that there was hardly a suburb or even a street where there was not a victim, a relation or an eye witness. We saw the blood, broken bones, burns and bruises with our own eyes; we heard the screams, groans and cries with our own ears. From February 2000 to March 2005 we have waited for the perpetrators of those deeds to be apprehended, tried and convicted for their crimes but we have waited in vain. There has been no accountability and so now we watch, we listen, we keep our mouths shut and we wait. The old saying that a leopard does not change its spots is very much in our minds just a few days before elections.

It does not matter how polite Zane PF are in this election campaign, how bright and white their T shirts are or how they crow incessantly on the radio that Zimbabwe is now a mature democracy, the fact of the matter is we are tired and abosultely fed up of living like this. When we vote on Thursday it will be for food, clean water, affordable schools for our children, hospitals which have drugs and leaders who will respect us and our universal rights of speech, movement and association. I have a picture in my head of a man on a horse trailing a yellow banner in the middle of this weeks revolution in Kyrgyzstan. That image from the other side of the world in a country whose name I cannot even pronounce, gives me hope.
With love, cathy

Of Wolves and Sheepskin coats

Saturday 12th March 2005

Dear Family and Friends
As I write this letter there are just 12 days left before parliamentary elections. This week the weather in Marondera suddenly turned from hot and dry to distinctly cooler and windy and everyone says this is an omen, a sign that things are about to change People whisper almost fanatically about watching out for the "ides of March" until you begin to think either they've gone mad or they know something you don't. The atmosphere in the town is quiet but tense and everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen. I suppose the most accurate description of people's feelings this week is suspicious. Nothing is ever as is seems in Zimbabwe and we are all looking for wolves in sheep's clothing, keeping our mouths firmly shut and just watching. The talk in the suburbs is that there are at least four dozen young men openly walking around in public places at night wearing opposition T shirts - and nothing is happening to them. This is something we just haven't seen in the last 5 years because wearing an MDC shirt has been almost guaranteed to cause a beating so now that it is happening openly, everyone thinks its a trap. Maybe it is, who knows anymore!

We are all very suspicious of the sudden change in the ZBC radio programmes too. After five years of hateful racist rhetoric and unashamed attacks on the MDC, this week the announcers suddenly changed their tune. Blatantly coinciding with the jamming of independent broadcasts from Short Wave Radio Africa and the arrival of election observers, our radio news bulletins have suddenly started reporting on both Zanu PF and MDC speeches. The incessant Zanu PF propaganda suddenly changed into messages about the environment, music by people other than members of Zanu PF and little talks on Zimbabwe's tourist destinations. No one is fooled by this sudden change of direction though, like everything else we all know its just another wolf in sheep's clothing, designed to make outsiders think that everything is OK but ignoring the fact that its not the outsiders that do the voting, but the sheep.

A friend phoned me excitedly this week to say she'd heard that foreign election observers had started arriving in the country. I just laughed because even this has turned into what seems like wolves into sheepskin coats . The head of the South African government observer team arrived in the country and immediately pronounced that the environment for elections looked free and fair and this was before they'd been anywhere or met anyone so their presence certainly doesn't inspire confidence. By all accounts it seems that there are going to be at least 8200 polling stations in the elections and unless I've got my maths very wrong, there will only be one non Zimbabwean election observer for every 10-15 polling stations. Whether wolves or sheep, everyone's going to need eyes in the backs of their heads for the next couple of weeks and in between it all you have to find things to laugh about including the positioning of election posters. This week even the garbage truck is sporting pictures of the Zanu PF candidate for Marondera, the man who had a lead of just 63 votes in the last parliamentary elections.
Until next week, with love, cathy

Worried about food

Saturday 12 March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
This week two little things happened which paint the most vivid picture of life in Zimbabwe at the moment. Three weeks before elections and after having tolerated foul and filthy water in Marondera for at least two years, the local authorities switched off the supply altogether to clean the reservoirs. Some people in the business areas knew that the town was about to go dry for at least a day but most in the residential areas didn't and were totally unprepared. When we still didn't have water after 24 hours, people were getting desperate and there was quite a crowd filling up buckets from a seasonal stream that runs in the vlei near my house. A group of women who had just walked a kilometre to get drinking water from a friend's borehole and had then carried the heavy bottles all the way back, stopped to chat on the road. They asked me if I had any water and I said no but that I thought it would be back soon as the higher parts of town had water and it would take time for all the pipes to fill. "May I give you one of my bottles" one of the women graciously offered. THIS is the real Zimbabwe I thought, these few words gave me hope.

Also this week I had the chance to spend half an hour with a friend who has no access to email or anything other than state propaganda. She is a single Mum of three, can't afford newspapers, doesn't have her own phone or transport and survives on a government stipulated minumum wage of less than three thousand dollars a day which isn't even enough to buy a single loaf of bread. My friend asked me if I thought we would have any chance at all of being able to vote and it didn't take me long to realise that she had no idea of how the coming election was going to work because there has been almost no voter education. Everyone knows that voting has been cut down to one day but thinks that instead of queuing for half a day, like we did last time, this time we'll queue all day and not get to the front in time. She didn't know that there are going to be an increased number of polling stations or that there will apparently be 3 lines to queue in according to our surnames.

My friend knew that we would be having see through ballot boxes this time but didn't know why. She didn't understand that ballot boxes would not be moved to counting centres but that votes would be tallied where they were cast. My friend was not at all convinced that this was a good idea. She thought it might stop box stuffing but it would increase retribution afterwards. People are scared, rumours and rife and threats and innuendos are widespread. For the past three weeks there wasn't any sugar or maize meal on the shelves and now suddenly there is and that is what ordinary people are worried about - food. It's as simple as that. Everyone is borrowing money to buy food because the rumours are that as soon as the elections are over the prices will soar.

As Zimbabwe staggers towards elections I would like to thank all the people outside the country who are doing so much to help raise awareness of our situation at this crucial time. I would also like to thank everyone who has helped me to help other people who are in desperate need. Phase One of the Christopher Campaign to help people with HIV and Aids in Marondera has now come to an end and I would like to thank everyone who responded to my appeal, spread the word, sent parcels and donated so generously to the project. Thanks to all of you, the lives of many hundreds of people have been improved and dignity has been restored. In these very difficult and uncertain times, I am no longer able to give the Christopher Campaign the attention that it needs and have stepped back but The Rotary Club will embark upon the next stage as a community project.
Until next week, with love, cathy.

Everyone is sket

Saturday 5th March 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
"Everyone here is sket, coz last time they chaya'd us all." This little sentence said to me by a local shop worker, says it all for the atmosphere in Marondera just 26 days before parliamentary elections. Everyone in the town is scared because we are all waiting for the beatings, stonings and burnings that have characterized every single election here in the last five years. Our town is full to bursting with strangers, luxury cars, vehicles with no number plates and people with pockets full of money. There are burly youths swaggering four abreast on the main roads, men in dark glasses sitting in the sun just watching and every day literally hundreds of people queuing outside the passport offices. The atmosphere in the town is extremely tense. Most days I have to go past the house which was petrol bombed in the last elections; the house that I watched burn for hours through the night but which the fire brigade said they could not come and attend to. Every week I see friends, both black and white, men and women, who have been beaten and tortured in the last five years, lost their homes, possessions and jobs and had to literally run for their lives. None of us have seen justice done, yet, and the memories are still fresh.

Memories in Marondera are still very real, not only of burnings, beatings and even human branding carved into men's backs at the last election, but of a litany of abuse and decay that has become every day life. Less than a year ago our schools were closed down and the head teachers arrested. As I write our government hospitals and clinics do not even have phenobarb to control epilepsy, patients have to take their own food and outpatients queue outside in the open, sitting on the ground, for up to four hours before they are seen. Many of our suburban roads are now almost unusable; the edges steeply eroded, wide gullies ripped across the centres and literally scores of pot holes. In a 2 kilometre stretch of road leading to my home only two street lights still work, none of the storm drains have been cleared for over a year and grass is growing in the middle of tarred roads. I don't know anyone in the town who doesn't boil their drinking water, more often than not it has a brown or green colour, almost always it has specks floating in it and always it smells bad. So, having to tolerate all these things every day, we are all smiling at the mad flurry of activity in the last few days, and we are all, equally, not being fooled.

This week, suddenly, our town is being cleaned up. Just 26 days before elections, local officials have appeared out of the woodwork. Suburban roads which have not had pot holes filled or edges repaired for the entire rainy season, are being graded. Across the road from the main Marondera hospital this week all the fruit and vegetable vendors' home-made shacks have been pulled down and replaced with treated timber structures. In 2000 I used to stop there and buy a banana for four dollars. Now, the bananas are one thousand dollars each and on the lamp post there, next to the women who sell bananas, is an election poster. On every fourth or fifth street light, regardless of the fact that the bulbs and tubes dont work anymore, posters of the Zanu PF candidate have been erected. The pictures are very familiar to me, they show the same face that "war veterans" put up on the trees on our farm in 2000 when they set up their headquarters and "re-education camp" in our cattle paddocks.

It is five years later, everything else has changed, but that face on the election poster is still the same. There are no opposition posters on trees or lamp posts in Marondera yet. There are no people wearing opposition hats or T shirts and the reason is because " here everyone is sket because last time we all got chaya'd."
Until next week, with love, cathy.


 
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