News - May 2008





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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 - Letters from the diaspora - click here

Behind the curtain

Saturday 31st May 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
The winner and loser of Zimbabwe's March Presidential election have begun campaigning for confirmation of their positions in a second round of the ballot.

Mr Mugabe, who lost in the first round, says that people voted with their stomachs and not their minds on March 29th. Mr Mugabe's new campaign is so far focussing on apparent plots by the British, Americans and people he calls their allies and puppets whom he says are trying to re-colonise Zimbabwe. These new colonisers, who are, by the way, not entitled to vote in the coming election, are also to blame for the dire situation in the country. Mr Mugabe said: "There might be grievances about prices, food shortages and non-availability of basic commodities. These are being caused by sanctions and food shortages are a result of drought."

Mrs Mugabe, speaking in Shamva alongside her husband this week, was even more forthright in her comments. Mrs Mugabe said: "Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House. He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from Zanu PF."

Ordinary Zimbabweans, meanwhile, are facing the coming poll in a state of shock and disbelief. Everywhere you go people have accounts of terror and horror to relate about events that have taken place in the last two months. Tales of burning, running, hiding, broken limbs, abductions and murder. The MDC say that in the past six weeks 50 Zimbabweans have been killed in political violence and more than 25 000 have been displaced.

MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and the winner of the March 29th Presidential election, said on his return to the country : "They [the Government] have beaten themselves into serious rejection by the people of Zimbabwe." Mr Tsvangirai described the situation in Zimbabwe as 'tragic' and said the nation is :"in a state of despair."

For the past three weeks while the world's cameras have been upon attacks on foreigners in South Africa, mayhem has been going on almost un-noticed behind the curtain in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans want a change to this dreadful, crushing way of life, what they need now, is to believe in themselves and to believe that they can effect that change.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Which way now?

Saturday 24th may 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
They say that a picture speaks a thousand words and if that is true then a deafening roar filled the African sky this week. We have seen images so dreadful that they are haunting our thoughts and are etched into our memories. From The Zimbabwean newspaper comes the picture of a victim of political violence. A 22 year old woman beaten so badly that her buttocks have been reduced to cavernous holes." A mess of raw flesh" is the description used by Peter Oborne, the shocked writer who met Memory, the young mother of two who was beaten in the playground of her childhood school along with others accused of being MDC supporters.

Pictures and reports such as these are not new in Zimbabwe. They have become a part of our lives - a tragic record of a country that has lost its way and is crying out for help. Then came the other images that shocked us even more.

The picture of a man burning alive on a road in a South African town is a sight too cruel for words. He was the victim of an attack against foreigners. Then came pictures of mobs of men armed with sticks, throwing rocks, beating people and chasing away their own neighbours. Now the pictures are of many thousands of frightened, homeless people taking shelter in police stations and churches and reports that the violence against foreigners has spread to other South African cities.

For the last eight years South Africa has been a place of safety for Zimbabweans - an oasis of sanity and an orderly, law abiding, normal way of life. Even though the South African government chose not to speak out about events in Zimbabwe, ordinary people opened their homes and hearts to us; they could not have been more caring, supportive and compassionate to us and our plight.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans are living in exile in South Africa. They have left home not because they wanted to but because they had to. Many left here with wounds, injuries and physical scars, others with memories of extreme trauma but always it has been the great kindness and support of our neighbours that has helped heal the wounds, restore dignity and begin the process of healing.

The eruption of violence against foreigners, many of whom are Zimbabweans, has left us in deep shock here. How can it be, that without warning and when Zimbabweans need support and refuge more than ever before, this can be happening across the border. Our temporary sanctuary, the place where we felt safe and could find food, friendship and compassion has suddenly gone. Which way now for our poor people? Too frightened to stay, too frightened to go.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

How to catch a chicken

Saturday 17th May 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
Early one afternoon this week a small town residential suburb grew suddenly quiet as the sound of 'the youths' filled the neighbourhood. The voices of perhaps thirty young men could be heard as they ran along local streets singing, chanting and repeating the threatening political slogans so familiar to us all. The neighbourhood was silenced, a few barking dogs the only challenge to the running mob. Later we heard one house was burnt down, one man had a broken arm, another was slashed on his head with a panga. Behind walls, fences and hedges the silence affords a tenuous measure of safety for urban Zimbabweans but for people in the rural areas nowhere is safe.

When the big trucks arrive in the villages there is nowhere to hide. A few burly men alight and they call loudly for the male youths to come. Door to door they go, gathering the youngsters who are out of school or waiting for exam results, unemployed young men, teenage boys - all are told to climb onto the vehicles. Those who refuse are immediately marked: accused of supporting the opposition. Their names are recorded on the now dreaded 'lists' - lists which determine who gets food, seed and fertilizer and who should be re-educated or punished for voting 'the wrong way' or supporting the 'wrong party.'

Once on the trucks the youths are transported to other villages, far away from home - to places where they are strangers. Hundreds of reports are now being documented of the events taking place in remote areas when these truck loads of youths arrive: reports of beating, burning, humiliation and threats.

Once the deeds are done the youths are sent back to their villages - they are paid, sometimes with money and sometimes with bags of food, blankets, new shoes.

Having been on the trucks once, the youths are trapped and know they'll be forced to go again. The youths are damned if they go and damned if they don't and for many the only choice is to run, to hide and to pray that they can stay safe until the 27th of June when Zimbabwe yet again goes to a Presidential election.

And will it work, all this violence, brutality and trauma? Will it force people to change the way they voted 2 months ago? One father, desperately trying to keep his teenage son away from the trucks said the way to catch a chicken was to throw grain for it so it comes to you, not to throw stones at it.

Despite all the horrors here in Zimbabwe, we are deeply saddened by the tragedies in China and in Burma this past fortnight and send our condolences.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

On the Roadsides

Saturday 10th May 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
It's hard to believe that six weeks ago the MDC won a parliamentary majority and their leader Morgan Tsvangirai got more presidential votes than Mr Mugabe. It's even harder to believe that the parliamentary and presidential losers have managed to completely obfuscate the entire process and remain in positions of power and authority as if nothing had happened - as if we'd never had an election at all.

How can this be happening, is the question we are all asking. Its like being stuck in an impossible horror story. The will of the people has not been heard. The aspirations of a broken nation have been ignored. The voices of the majority have been obscured in fear and betrayal. We all thought that by now the breath of life would have begun blowing through the country bringing desperately needed food, fuel, medicine and stability. Perhaps even some of our family and friends, in exile for eight years, may have begun thinking about coming home. So far the inevitable conclusion has not taken hold and every day has become a blur of utter exhaustion and real trauma for ordinary people. Trauma of finding food and having enough money to buy it and extreme trauma associated with the orgy of violence, intimidation and retribution which has engulfed our countryside.

While Zimbabwe remains paralyzed in time, every day lost this May 2008 is condemning us to yet more hunger. We are now in the main wheat planting season and yet farmers everywhere are in crisis. With inflation at 160 thousand percent, no fuel for ploughing or transporting inputs and virtually no electricity for irrigation, there seems little hope that we can grow anywhere near enough wheat for the coming year. The situation is being exacerbated as farm workers have now been caught up in the brutal political punishment campaign.

This week the agricultural workers union said 40 thousand farm workers and their families had been cast out, beaten up and were destitute. The Union's Secretary General, Gertrude Hambira, said: "Our members and their families have been left homeless. They have been attacked by a group of militia wearing army uniforms. They have been accused of voting for the opposition. Most of them are on the roadsides. We are trying to find ways of taking food to them."

Every day the international talk is of a global food crisis and yet Zimbabwe seems hell bent on adding to it. Blessed with fertile soils and a temperate climate and once proud to be called the breadbasket of Africa, to our shame Zimbabwe is wasting another wheat growing season. It seems that bashing heads and breaking legs is far more important than growing food this winter because losers simply won't accept defeat.

With so much negative news, there is still hope because, even though convinced he won, Morgan Tsvangirai has agreed to take part in a re-run Presidential election. Hopefully this means the President-in-waiting will now come home and see for himself the hell his supporters are enduring.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Never the same again.

Saturday 3rd May 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
It took the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission almost five weeks to verify less than two and a half million votes that were cast in our Presidential ballot. In a country where junior school children have learnt to count, add, subtract and even multiply in millions and now billions in order to survive our collapsed economy, five weeks is insulting and highly suspicious to say the least.

After five weeks the ZEC declared the following results:
Morgan Tsvangirai: 1,195,562 votes (47,9%)
Robert Mugabe: 1,079,730 votes (43,2%)
Simba Makoni: 207,470 votes ( 8,3%)
Langton Towungana: 14,503 votes ( 0,6%)

ZEC went on to declare that since no candidate had received more than 50% of the votes cast, a run off election must be held at a date yet to be announced.

In the five weeks while ZEC were 'verifying' those two and a half million Presidential votes, the country has come to a virtual standstill: lives and businesses have been on hold and we have waited and waited and waited. In between the daily 16 hour electricity cuts we have followed every rumour, whisper and news bulletin. We have scrambled for precious newspapers and crowded around short wave radios for any information. It has also been a brutal five weeks filled with fear, violence and retribution. More than twenty people are dead, hundreds are injured, thousands have been left homeless and everyone has seen the horrific images of people with broken limbs, bloodied, bruised and burnt bodies.

Many are calling this the rural Murambatsvina and when you see the pick up trucks overflowing with people coming into towns from the rural areas you know why. The faces are gaunt, the eyes frightened and a weary, grey exhaustion surrounds the images to all who care to see.

The American Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said he was personally recording incidents of violence and interviewing victims. Mr McGee said: "We are looking and taking note of the people responsible for the violence. Out of the 500 cases that I have handled, only one has been attributed to the MDC as an aggressor. We have affidavits; we have the names of the perpetrators. We know the perpetrators and there will be justice at the end of the day."

In these five weeks, aside from the fear and exhaustion, daily life for all Zimbabweans has reached ever more desperate levels. When we voted on March 29th a loaf of bread was 7 million dollars; last week it cost 40 million dollars; this week it is almost impossible to find. A friend who takes life sustaining drugs paid 345 million dollars for her tablets at the end of March. Just five weeks later the same tablets cost her 4.6 billion dollars.

As I write it is not yet known if Morgan Tsvangirai will take part in a second election. Whatever the MDC decide, the ordinary people of Zimbabwe know one thing : the MDC won the 2008 elections; they won a parliamentary majority and their candidate got more votes than Mr Mugabe in the presidential count. For the first time in 28 years Zimbabweans have begun freeing themselves from the clenched fist of Zanu PF. Real courage, real bravery and a decade of intolerable hardship has finally guided their hands in the ballot boxes. Zimbabwe will never be the same again.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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