News - May 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

NEW - from the diaspora - click here

Thanks to the Professor

Saturday 26th May 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
A friend phoned recently with the news that her grand-daughter had just had a baby. The words of congratulations for the great grandmother froze when I heard that there were serious complications. The baby had been born with her bowel and intestine outside of her abdomen. Under normal circumstances in a fully functioning country this would be dire news. In Zimbabwe it sounded like an almost certain death sentence. Doctors and nurses strikes, chronic shortages of drugs, ten to twelve hour electricity cuts, interrupted water supplies and worst of all, the brain drain. Seven years of political turmoil, oppressive laws dictating every facet of our lives and the devastating economic collapse has seen professionals pour out of the country in hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions.

Every single step of the way in saving my friends newly born great grand daughter was littered with problems. Nothing at all was guaranteed from fuel for the ambulance to doctors not on strike, electricity being on and water coming out of the taps. From the University of Zimbabwe where we normally hear that the lecturers are on strike, the students are protesting or the student leaders are being arrested - out of this came one professor. A fortnight of delicate operations and proceedures, highly professional expertise and care and then came the wondrous news that the baby girl can go home. By now no one is calling the baby by her name, she is known as 'the miracle baby' and every one knows that without the 'Professor', this little Zimbabwean girl would not have made it.

On Africa Day, a public holiday, I had no water at home and the electricity was off for just over ten hours and I found myself thinking about this little miracle baby and the Professor who had saved her. It is very hard to stay in Zimbabwe when everything around you is collapsing. It is even harder for the young, highly educated professionals to stay. Without a doubt these men and women could get work anywhere in the world and the temptation to leave is very high. Those few who have been able to stay are doing so at great sacrifice to themselves and I don't know how we ordinary Zimbabweans can thank them - but we do.

It would be unrealistic to believe that all the hundreds of thousands of professionals who have left Zimbabwe these past seven years will come home, but we hope some will. The load on Zimbabwe's professionals is very heavy but for many of us it is because they have found a way to stay they have ensured that we too are able to stay. It was a bleak Africa Day for many Zimbabweans but for the family of the miracle baby, it was a day of peace and love and one filled with gratitude.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Pay in bits and pieces

Saturday 19th May 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
The last time I had occasion to call the fire brigade was in March 2002. It was just a couple of weeks before the Presidential elections and a house a few doors away was petrol bombed. Windows exploded, the roof collapsed and a raging inferno turned night into day. The fire brigade didn't answer their phone so I dialled the police. They said they couldn't help as they didn't have a vehicle and were unable to alert the fire brigade as the police telephone was not able to make outgoing calls. The fire raged out of control and finally I got through to the fire brigade. They said they couldn't send a fire engine as it was busy picking up a sick person in a high density suburb. Despite my best efforts to explain that I wasn't asking for an ambulance but a fire truck with hoses and water, the fire brigade never came.

About eighteen months later, without any explanation, a new charge suddenly appeared on rate-payers municipal accounts. It was called a 'fire levy' and it had been added to our monthly accounts along with a massive increase in all municipal services ranging from 475% for something called a development levy, to 1600% for water. On my account for that month I wrote in big letters: "NOT PAID: Public Protest; To be Reduced. " A hastily convened and heated public meeting, a protest by residents to the Municipal offices and it was all over. Victory came swiftly! The accounts were withdrawn and the increases were slashed by over 50%.

The 'fire levy,' however, became a permanent fixture on the bill.

This week Marondera residents received their monthly Municipal accounts and were staggered to find that charges have increased by one thousand two hundred percent. Phoning for an explanation residents are being told they can "pay in instalments." How do you pay a monthly bill in instalments if the account is higher than your entire monthly wage, one resident asked? 'Just pay what you have" came the reply; "pay in bits and pieces" the man said.

Another asked if the increase had been advertised in the press as required under the Urban Councils act. The municipal employee said that they didn't have to advertise in the press because they had consulted their 'stakeholders'. Asked who these stakeholders were, the employee declined to answer and said the Town Accountant would know but he wasn't available. When the resident asked if he was a 'stakeholder' as he lived in the town, owned property and paid rates, the municipal employee said "aaaaah" and laughed but did not answer.

Another resident who tried to complain declined to reveal his exact address because he is well aware of the recriminations which accompany all forms of protest in Zimbabwe these days. He met with a very hostile response. The Municipal employee, whose salary is paid with our rates, said: "If you don't want to tell me where you stay, I no longer want to talk to you" and slammed the phone down. Hardly professional behaviour for a senior municipal employee who has clearly forgotten just exactly where the money comes from to pay his salary.

Dialogue and plain common sense have left the caretakers of this bankrupt town. People are complaining, more will speak out. A small picture of the bigger picture.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Need a good lawyer?

Saturday 12th May 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
There is a cold wind blowing through Zimbabwe this week; the white poinsettias are in full flower and the birds that people call the Seven Sisters (The White Helmetshrikes) are back in our gardens and open bushland. All are a sure sign that winter is here and these seasonal milestones are now almost the only things that are normal or predictable for Zimbabweans stuck in the eighth year of turmoil.

Sitting in the dark of an electricity power cut one night this week, listening to battery powered short wave radio, it was with disbelief that I heard what had happened to lawyers in Harare. A group of 30 lawyers had gathered outside the Harare High Court and were intending to walk to the nearby Parliament buildings to present a petition to the Minister of Justice. The lawyers were protesting the arrest of two of their colleagues, both prominent human rights practitioners. As the protesting lawyers gathered outside the High Court, so did the numbers of armed police. Within minutes a peaceful gathering under a clear blue winter sky turned into obscenity and mayhem.

Four lawyers, two of them women, one who is 80 years old, ran into the doorway of the Ministry of Justice, thinking they would be safe there. One of the women described what happened next:
"They dragged us out and threw us into the back of a truck."

The lawyers were taken to an open area next to a golf driving range and entertainment centre on a busy main road leading into Harare. There, on the grass and in broad daylight, the lawyers were assaulted by the police. Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the lawyers said: "They were beating us everywhere, on my back, my stomach, my arms, my buttocks. It was such a spectacle. Motorists on the road nearby stopped to watch. A police car with two officers stopped. They rebuked the police who were beating us. They said: ' Why are you doing this in public?' Then we were abandoned there. They said: 'Now you can go and demonstrate with your swollen bodies.' "

When the electricity came back on that evening, there did not seem to be a report on the main ZBC TV news bulletin of eminent lawyers being beaten on the main road. Instead there were reports of high school fees and of water shortages and of a senior government official giving blankets to an orphanage and telling the audience to vote for Zanu PF in March 2008. The day after the assault of the lawyers there still seemed to be no mention of the event on ZBC news because now the top story was of electricity cuts for domestic areas of 20 hours a day.

Three days after our country's most prominent human rights lawyers were physically beaten by police in full view of men, women and children on the roadside, the United Nations elected Zimbabwe to head the Commission on Sustainable Development. What sort of a prize is this for a country which cannot feed itself, cannot generate sufficient electricity despite nature's abundant blessings, and where life expectancy is the lowest in the world? What shame on the UN and on the men in their suits and ties who lobbied for Zimbabwe to be chosen. Do any of you ever need the services of a lawyer? I know some good ones in Harare!
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

No sign of the Americans

Saturday 5th May 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
On World Press Freedom Day the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists were denied permission by Police to hold processions in 10 provincial centres around the country. This did not come as a surprise. How could the government possibly sanction processions when in the last month alone there has been a shocking surge of repression and abuse against media workers in Zimbabwe.

Edward Chikomba, a 65 year old freelance cameraman was abducted from his home, beaten to death and dumped on a roadside. Gift Phiri, a reporter for The Zimbabwean newspaper was seized in a supermarket, taken into police custody and beaten repeatedly over four days. Tsvangirai Mukwazhi - a photographer - and Tendai Musiyazviriyo, a producer, were arrested while covering the March 11th arrests of opposition leaders. Both were beaten in custody. Luke Tamborinyoka , an MDC press officer, has been in police custody for a month

On World Press Freedom Day in Zimbabwe, the Minister of Information said :" the Americans are at work busy destroying Zimbabwe's national policies. On the ground, however, for the ordinary men, women and children of Zimbabwe, there is no sign of the Americans. If there was, perhaps they would do something about the ten hours of electricity cuts and seventeen hour water cuts we are having in my home town every day. Perhaps they could have stopped the 680 percent increase in the price of maize meal that was announced this week. Perhaps they could stand next to the mothers in the supermarkets who pick things up and put them back on the shelves because they cannot afford even life's most basic of goods.

Zimbabwe's Minister of Information did not mention any of these things as he spoke on World Press Freedom Day. He did not speak about the dead cameraman or the arrested journalists and said nothing about how people were being beaten whilst in police custody. Beaten by men who are paid with our taxes! The President of Zimbabwe's Union of Journalists made the most appropriate comment when he said; "We are not celebrating anything. We are looking back to a tragic year when reprisals against journalists have gone up."

I end with a quote from an Easter Pastoral Letter published by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference: "The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony: 'Watchman, how much longer the night.'" How much longer is indeed our call, our litany.

Until next week, thanks for reading and for anyone interested please have a look at the African Tears website where a letter from the outside, looking in, is a new link and this week is a superb read and brings a chilling realisation.

Thanks PH for your work and your example !

Love cathy.

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