News - October 2009





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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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The Wheels fell off

Saturday 31st October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
A little before midday on the second last day of October it rained for the first time in six months in my home town. The rain was neither heavy nor prolonged but just enough to wet the dust and cut through the searing heat which had reduced most of us to melting pools. The delicious smell of African rain in the air and the first sighting of a Burchells Coucal in the garden bought a moment of sanity into what is fast becoming a crazy and frightening time in Zimbabwe.

Just when we had dared to hope that perhaps we could stagger on in this lopsided unity government until we got a new constitution and a new election, the wheels fell off completely. Most ordinary people only realized that something was going on when suddenly there were police roadblocks everywhere. Gone was the usual bored interrogation of motorists by painfully young police details, watched by even younger uniformed chaps standing nearby in the bush with AK 47's. Suddenly this was a serious business: open the trunk of the car, open your suitcase, what's in the bag, what's behind your seat? They wouldn't say what they were looking for but it turned out to be arms and ammunition which had apparently disappeared from Pomona Army Barracks in Harare.

Then we heard the frightening news of the armed abduction of an MDC employee from Mufakose and the attempted armed abduction in the centre of Harare of the MDC's security administrator, Edith Mashayire which was foiled after she repeatedly screamed for help. MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa then told us exactly what we feared. he said:
"What we are beginning to see is the genesis of a political storm of persecution, abductions, and even murder."

Then came the own goal everyone's been waiting for Zanu PF to score, and they did, in classic style. After ten months of posing as new improved, reformed leaders, everything fell apart at Harare airport. Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, was denied entry into Zimbabwe. Despite having been invited, and then un-invited by the government, and then re-invited by no less than the Prime Minister of the country, Mr Nowak wasn't allowed out of the airport and was later sent back to South Africa.

Suddenly after months of silence, Zimbabwe was back in the world news. "Totally unacceptable, unprecedented, a major diplomatic incident," said Mr Nowak. And so, here we are, back in this grim place where it's Zimbabwe against the world. It was like being back in time this week when a BBC reporter speaking about a recent interview in Zimbabwe used phrases including: "increasingly tense... safe house .... in hiding ...make sure we're not being followed..."

The rain storms haven't started but the political and human rights ones sure have.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

True Colours

Saturday 24th October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
ZBC have been having a field day this week. Its almost like it was before the 2008 elections: elections in which the MDC won a parliamentary majority and the MDC leader won the first round of the Presidential ballot. Every day ZBC have produced another commentator or analyst who has been given air time to condemn, criticise or denigrate the MDC and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangrai. ZBC's very thin veil of impartiality has blown away in the slightest of summer breezes!

All week, however, we waited for comment from Mr Mugabe and it came on Friday night - a week after Prime Minister Tsvangirai's announcement of disengagement with Zanu PF. Just back from an AU meeting and waiting to get into the Presidential limousine, Mr Mugabe said that he would not give in to pressure. He said that Zanu PF had done everything that was required of them in the Global Political Agreement while the MDC had, in his words: "done nothing about sanctions," or about silencing radio stations who were continuing to broadcast anti Zimbabwe reports every day.

Mr Mugabe did not mention that SADC were concerned enough to be sending a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe in the next few days. Nor did he say anything about Roy Bennett whose arrest was the straw that broke the camel's back and brought this whole mess to a head. As to the other outstanding issues of Governors, Ambassadors, the Attorney General and the Reserve bank head, these, Mr Mugabe said, would be dealt with by him, as was his prerogative. Mr Mugabe did not say when he would deal with these matters - now outstanding for nine months.

For most Zimbabweans it's going to be very hard to follow what happens during the SADC visit because we are again being plunged into 15 hour a day electricity cuts. Apparently this is due to maintenance at the Kariba power turbines. We do wonder, however, just what it is that SADC fact finders will see.

Will they see the supermarkets overflowing with food that just nine months ago were full of empty, rusty shelves.

Will they see the now empty banks that nine months ago were crammed with thousands of people trying to withdraw the daily limit of their own money; a days maximum withdrawal which was enough to buy half a bar of soap on the black market.

Will SADC fact finders see the mayhem still occurring on Zimbabwe's farms despite their very own SADC tribunal rulings which have been ignored. Will they see MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennett sworn in and working or still being hounded?

Will they get to read the Auditor Generals report on Ministerial accounts which has just been released? A report which says in part that: " US$21 738 for the Agricultural Revolving Fund was used for minister (Joseph Made)'s business cards, Internet router, head office provisions and hotel bill. " The Auditor General went on to state that: "Accordingly, the minister should consider making arrangements to refund to the fund the monies thus spent." Being one of millions who went hungry and malnourished last year, and the year before, and the year before that, I think that asking the Minister to 'consider' refunding the money is being far, far too nice. How many people was it died of hunger these past few years?

Will SADC Ministers see ZBC TV news reports in the time they are finding facts in Zimbabwe or, more likely, will ZBC have picked up their disguise again and hidden their true colours once more?
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Not this sham

Saturday 17th October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
The news readers on the state controlled ZBC television have been wearing black football T shirts all week. Every night, before the bulletin begins the news readers tell us solemnly how many days are left before the football game. On Friday night the newsreader smirked as she began to read the "news." The headline story was President Mugabe talking about the impending football game. Second in line was President Mugabe giving computers to a school. Then came a report on SADC and regional peace, then the Chinese Ambassador talking to army staff. After a commercial break and 21 minutes into the bulletin came the real news: the MDC were disengaging themselves from Zanu PF and the cabinet. In less than 2 minutes and airing just a few sentences of Mr Tsvangirai's press statement, ZBC soon turned to their invited guest for comment.
~ The blame is on the Rhodesians; Roy Bennett is a Rhodesian, Morgan Tsvangirai is having difficulty pleasing his white masters~ said the analyst. The news reader's smirk grew as the absurd comments continued and we thought about what they hadn't reported but what had actually happened.

It was a shocking week in the country when Roy Bennett, deputy Minister of Agriculture, who is yet to be sworn in, was detained in custody by a magistrate in Mutare. Everyone, everywhere was talking about it. Disbelief, shock, contempt, disgust and anger were the widespread, unanimous expressions. The MDC issued statements immediately using words like 'provocative' and 'persecution.' Perhaps the most appropriate part of their statement rang true for everyone:
"This latest action is deliberately provocative, unnecessary and motivated by hatred of a personality."

Two days later Prime Minister Tsvangirai held a press conference. He came out with the fighting talk that we are all familiar with but haven't heard for a year. Mr Tsvangirai said that provincial governors have still not been appointed, the issues of the Attorney General and Reserve Bank governor remain unresolved and the government itself is not even properly constituted. The Prime Minister said he knew the countryside was being militarized and that 16,000 Zanu PF youth have been imposed on the government payroll. He said that Zanu PF were a dishonest, unrepentant and unreliable partner The Prime Minister than said the words that have been burning a hole in the hearts of our oh so patient nation:

"The truth of the matter is that it is our Movement that won the election of 29 March 2008. It is our Movement that has the mandate of the people to govern this country. It is our Movement that has strategically compromised on that mandate by executing the GPA and by entering into the transitional government. It is our Movement upon which the hope and future of millions of Zimbabweans is deposited."

Yes Mr Prime Minister, your Movement did compromise the mandate of the brave people of Zimbabwe who courageously stepped forward and literally risked their lives to give you and your party their votes. People were beaten, tortured, raped and lost everything to bring the MDC into power, hundreds were murdered. The MDC gave us back money in our pockets and food in the shops but now its time for accountability and real democracy, not this sham.The time for threats, words and strategic compromise is past.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Under the carpet

Saturday 10th October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Every window and door is open, shoes are abandoned, blankets are back in cupboards and now we wait, every day looking upwards, waiting for the rains to come. It's a blistering hot October and yet shortly after dawn every morning silhouettes appear in the vleis, along the railway lines and even on roadsides in residential areas. Bent in half, hacking away at baked earth, men and women are preparing a place in which to drop a few maize pips. Little children sit on their mother's wraps under the few trees that have been spared the firewood axe, and they play in the dust.

The irony of a decade of propaganda about "our land and our sovereignty" accompanied by a decade of agricultural destruction is never more apparent than now. The very people who are prepared to toil on the dusty roadsides at dawn in order to grow food, still have no land. One man I spoke to said that four times he has filled in the paperwork necessary to receive land from the Zimbabwe government. He says he meets all the requirements but each time he has been turned down. He collects leaves, makes compost and now trundles backwards and forwards depositing his precious black gold onto the roadside where he will plant maize when the rains come. "There's no better fertilizer than the farmer's footsteps," my friend says, and the man smiles and nods as he sets off again, with his squeaking wheelbarrow, to collect another load.

Land is one of a raft of contradictions obstructing progress here. Every day the state propaganda burbles on about developing tourism and how we're apparently set to benefit massively from the 2010 football games to be held in South Africa. And yet Beitbridge, the main entry point into the country from South Africa remains a mafia headquarters where even the most hardened visitors are harassed by touts, forced to pay bribes and made to wait hours in queues in order to get into the country. One recent visitor told me how every official at Beitbridge was in on the scams and backhanders and said she was ashamed to watch border officials treating people in buses like livestock, reducing old ladies to tears.

Then there's the contradiction of investment. We desperately need people to come back, old and new businesses to open, factories and industries to get the country going, and yet the ground rules remain murky and the boundaries unclear. Law and order, property rights and Title Deeds are some of the problems. Double standards are another. This week during the opening of parliament Mr Mugabe talked about how Zimbabwe would be following SADC protocols on environmental protection, wild fires, water, women, gender equality and others and yet just a month ago Zimbabwe refused to accept a SADC tribunal ruling on land.

The final contradiction this week came when a BBC reporter said the Minister of Youth was happy the BBC were back in Zimbabwe and that we had nothing to hide. Oops, this coming from the Ministry that spawned the Youth Brigade, green bombers we called them. Youngsters notorious for intimidating, beating, raping, and re-educating people - particularly before and after elections. Indeed Zimbabwe has nothing to hide, so long as you don't look under the carpet or behind the door.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Moral compass

Saturday 3rd October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Its hot and purple in Zimbabwe: Jacaranda trees adorned in purple flowers; skies heavy with purple rain clouds, bougainvillea creepers ablaze with carpets of purple blooms and Mulberry trees dripping with sweet, sticky, staining berries. Overhead the flycatchers are back, the long russet tails of the males flicking through the trees as they chase their mates. Underfoot, emerging from the ash of a million fires that have again devastated so much habitat, the wild flowers are on defiant display: yellow heads, violet gentians, orange pimpernels and exquisite salmon pink gladioli.

Zimbabwe needs this beauty more than ever now to soften the ugliness of what's going on around us. Tragically its not just political and economic ugliness we're dealing with, its a basic loss of compassion and empathy that seems to have engulfed us as a nation. We've lost our moral compass, someone said this week and how true that is.

Recently asked to assist in finding help for people in need I heard stories that are cause for deep shame. A doctor described being ushered into a small dark house in a high density township where he examined a 43 year old woman. The patient, Mrs M, has no regular income and is dependant on donations made by scattered relatives. The doctor easily diagnosed a large cauliflower growth as advanced breast cancer. He was amazed Mrs M had not sought help before and felt despair as he heard how she had tried and failed, again and again, to get help. Referred to a government hospital 6 months earlier when her problem began, Mrs M's first attendance yielded nothing because the nurses and doctors were on strike. Weeks later she tried again and was referred to the Chitungwiza Hospital in Harare where she was seen by a junior doctor and given a date to return to see the surgeon on duty. More struggle and begging for help to get bus fares for another trip to Harare. On the specified date the surgeon ordered a chest X ray and some blood tests and told Mrs M to return with her results. To her dismay Mrs M found she had to pay cash for the tests but she had nothing left. The hospital would not waive the fees and so again she returned home without having been helped. On her third attempt and with money for transport, X rays and blood tests, Mrs M returned to Chitungwiza but the surgeon did not arrive to conduct his clinic and so she was sent back home again.

The doctor said that when he saw Mrs.M.again recently her tumour has doubled in size and she was in considerable pain. Deep down, he said, he knows Mrs M has missed all chance of a cure but hopes for some compassion, empathy and palliative care.

Such anguish for the price of an X ray, the cost of a blood test or just the hand of compassion - our poor Zimbabwe.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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