News - March 2010





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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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Out of sight is not out of mind

Saturday 27th March 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
The democratic space in Zimbabwe shrunk dramatically this week in a series of events reminiscent of our recent past.

It's a familiar litany which instils fear, silences voices and closes doors that were just beginning to open:

The Mayor of Marondera town together with a Ward councillor and two others were arrested after a rally at a football stadium. The Mayor was held overnight and released without charge. At the time of writing the others were still detained without charge.

A 10 day photo exhibition at an Harare art gallery closed down one day after it was launched. Pictures highlighting human rights violations during the 2008 elections were seized by Police before the official opening by Prime Minister Tsvangirai. The pictures were returned after a High Court order but then attempts to seize them again later that same day, led the organizers to close the exhibition. Even though we are now not able to go and see the pictures, the images are already burned into the minds eyes of hundreds of thousands who witnessed the horrors at first hand when they were happening just 2 years ago.

Out of sight is not out of mind.

Another exhibition behind held to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of people in Bulawayo, was the next to come under the spotlight. Being held at the Bulawayo art gallery, the Gukurahundi Exhibition displayed documents, paintings and graffiti painted onto the walls of the gallery and visible to passers by on the street. Police raided the Gallery, arrested the organiser and confiscated pictures.

Then, in the midst of all this came the news that Finance Minister Tendai Biti had been in a car crash. Side swiped by a haulage truck, the Ministers car was a write off but miraculously he was OK. Need I say more?

A bad week ended on a bad note. Just as we dared hope that South African President Zuma had made some progress in breaking our political deadlock, there was a Zanu PF central committee meeting in Harare. Filmed on ZBC television Mr Mugabe stood at the podium and said that Reserve Bank Governor Gono and Attorney General Tomana were not going anywhere. He said that there was no package deal with the MDC and that no concessions were going to be made. "Sanctions must go! Sanctions must go! Sanctions must go!" Mr Mugabe said to laughter and applause from the audience.

Sanctions: the scapegoat for everything that is wrong in Zimbabwe; it used to be the Rhodesians, then the whites, then the farmers but now its sanctions!
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

Holding hands

Saturday 20th March 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
South African President Jacob Zuma inspected a guard of honour at Harare airport at the end of his brief visit to Zimbabwe. The South African President's departure was shown on ZBC television and was one of the few parts of the visit not shrouded in secrecy. Presidents Zuma and Mugabe held hands as they walked along the line of assembled dignitaries and once Mr Zuma had gone up the stairs to the aircraft, Mr Mugabe raised both his arms and with fists clenched, punched the air a few times. It looked very much like a triumphant victory display such as we have seen on many occasions at Zanu PF political rallies.

We Zimbabweans are very aware of the body language of our leaders and very suspicious of the slightest sign that something may be going on. Its a suspicion borne out of ten years of mayhem, oppression and bloodshed.

We hear that Mr Zuma has cobbled together a "package of measures" to get Zimbabwe moving again but as usual the nitty gritty is hidden from view and couched in words which say everything and nothing at the same time; words like concessions, compromise, facilitators and negotiators. So while 'informed sources' and 'un-named insiders,' speculate about what's really going on, we look at the body language, hand holding and air punching.

We saw body language that said, again, that Zanu PF isn't going to give away any real power. They are still very much in control, we all know it, and a prime example came this week when commercial farmers in one area received letters instructing them to attend a meeting this week. The instruction was for the farmer owners to come to the meeting; not managers or foremen but the owners themselves. The letter was signed and stamped by the Zanu PF DCC (District Co-Coordinating Committee) and the venue was a well known country garden restaurant.

At a meeting that lasted 2 and half hours, three dozen white commercial farmers were told that they were still on their farms only because Zanu PF wanted them there and not for any other reason. At first they were praised for being "good farmers" but soon the real reason for the meeting became clear. Each commercial farmer was told that he must provide one beast (cow) for Independence celebrations. When instructed to do so, the farmer must slaughter the animal and hand it over to Zanu PF. This was stage one. Stage two would follow in the coming weeks when each farmer would have to provide diesel, mealie meal and cooking oil for the Independence celebrations.

None of the farmers were in any doubt that the meat, grain and fuel were non negotiable demands. If you don't provide, you don't stay on your farm - never said in plain words but clearly understood by everyone. Neither was there any doubt about the fact that it was Zanu PF and not the Government of National Unity who was making the demands and who would be collecting the goods.

So who's really in charge in Zimbabwe?
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Ten years to practice

Saturday 13th March 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
As we come towards the end of our rainy season we hear the news that one in four Zimbabweans are in urgent need of food aid.

We are not surprised.

Since the start of the season 6 months ago, everyone has been commenting on the dramatic absence of crops on farms. Travel in any direction, towards any of our country's borders and you see grass, weeds and derelict farms. The best crops are those planted on roadsides and little squares of vacant land in urban areas. There has been so little growing on our farms this season that even before Christmas the farming organisations were warning that this year was going to be the worst ever recorded. Now we know that they were right.

The Red Cross are quoted as saying that the hunger situation in some parts of the country is as bad as they have ever seen it.

Erratic rain, too little rain and too much rain are the three reasons being publicly given by the Red Cross. They do not, perhaps dare not, say anything about the fact that on the few farms that were growing food this season, continuous invasions by Zanu PF officials and army personnel destroyed what little production was going on. The few people who were actually trying to grow food were stopped because their skin is white. They were harassed, intimidated, threatened, evicted and even arrested. In one shocking case the Chipinge Magistrate ordering the eviction of farmers was himself lined up to be a beneficiary of the seized farm. It is almost beyond belief that for 10 years in a row this has been going on. The greed of a very few highly placed and already rich people, continues to result in the suffering of so many.

The continuing lawless situation on the farms is one of many issues that has not changed or been tackled by the unity government running Zimbabwe. Every year that it continues, it is getting harder and harder for anyone to produce anything. Men and women who used to crowd at the farm gates for jobs have gone. They are scared to work on farms knowing that at any time an arbitrary bod with a fancy government double cab or an army uniform might come down the driveway and evict them all. Others won't work on farms because the wages they receive amount to less than 50 US dollars a month. Even being given a free house, water and food rations simply isn't enough because there are school fees to pay, clothes to buy and the basic needs of everyday life. And then there are the people who don't even try and work but rather wait to be given handouts.

The beneficiaries of Zimbabwe's land seizures have had ten years to practice how to grow food. They've had free land, free buildings and infrastructure, free seed and fertilizer, free tractors and diesel and yet one in 4 people in the country are hungry. No one is fooled anymore, not even the most radical of radicals whose silence is leaving people going to bed hungry tonight.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

All are welcome

Saturday 6th March 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
They say that a picture speaks a thousand words and the one I picked up on the roadside this morning certainly did. I'm not generally in the habit of picking up litter on public roads but this was different. It was the remains of a poster that had been torn off a street light pole. From the scraps of bright coloured paper left clinging to a number of other poles, it was obvious that a line of the same posters had all been torn down recently. I had travelled along this road just the day before and the posters hadn't been there then so this had only just happened. Picking up the remains of the crumpled poster lying in the grass and turning it over, I knew immediately that the political turmoil in Zimbabwe is still a long way from being over.

The top third of the poster was gone but that didn't matter to me. I knew who the woman on the poster was and that the missing words must have been her name: Amai Susan Tsvangirai.

In the characteristic black, red and white colours synonymous with the MDC, the poster was advertising a commemorative gathering to be held at Glamis Stadium in Harare on Saturday 6th March to remember the life of Mrs Susan Tsvangirai, who died tragically in a car crash outside Banket exactly one year ago.

At the bottom of the poster in clear white lettering were the words: 'All Are Welcome,' a message that obviously didn't need to be advertised as a few minutes later I witnessed a number of trucks, crammed with people, streaming past on the nearby highway to Harare. The message 'All are Welcome' told a story in itself in a country where we aren't used to being invited but are more familiar with being threatened if we don't attend.

The wide smile on the face of the late Mrs Tsvangirai told another story - no anger, hatred or arrogance here. How refreshingly different and what a loss to our Prime Minister and to the nation.

I wondered why anyone would feel threatened enough by the posters to need to tear them down. The simple act of tearing down posters of people from different political parties, even commemorative posters, shows just how far away from democracy Zimbabwe still is. Tolerance of different beliefs, practices and people is as elusive as ever. That's a frightening reality at a time when all the talk is of elections - again.

It is looking increasingly likely that we are not going to get a new constitution before a another election after all as both the MDC and Zanu PF have started talking about a new poll. At first we heard 2013 being mentioned, then 2012 but this week Mr Mugabe said there would be elections in 2011, with or without a new constitution.

If tearing down posters to remember the life of Mrs Tsvangirai is any indication, it's impossible to see how Zimbabwe will be ready to have a free and fair election without intolerance, intimidation and violence. An election where losers are forced to step down and winners are allowed to accept the people's choice and get on with rebuilding our country.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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