News - September 2006





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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


Blaming a monkey

Saturday 30th September 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Within a fortnight or so the rainy season will begin in Zimbabwe. For the seventh year in a row, we are going into the season under the most dire circumstances. Hyper inflation is out of control. Fuel (for transporting seed and fertilizer and for ploughing) is near impossible to find. The World Meteorological Organization have warned that an El Nino is developing across the Pacific and weather experts meeting in Harare have predicted a below normal to normal first half to our rainy season. The few commercial farmers left on their land are continuing to be thrown off their farms with 50 new eviction notices having been served in recent weeks. Two of the country's biggest wheat, maize and tobacco farmers are due in court this week for refusing to get off their farms. One of these farmers is thought to be the biggest maize producer in the country and has just delivered 1000 tons of grain to the GMB. One commercial farmer in Masvingo recently got a letter from the provincial Governor which said: "Your farm has just been acquired by the government and we therefore request you to wind up your business before the start of the rainy season. You are advised to comply with this order since you risk being forcibly removed if you fail to comply. We also take this opportunity to tell you that you are not allowed to move out with any of your farming equipment." When faced with such a diabolical situation there are few, if any, words.

Also this week came the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Bill. This will give any farmer who has received a Section 5 Notice of Acquisition at any time in the last 6 years, just 45 days to get out of his house and off his land. Any farmer without an offer letter or lease from the government will face criminal charges with a penalty of 2 years in prison. We aren't talking here of squatters, invaders, occupiers, settlers or whatever other polite term is currently in fashion, we are talking of men and women who paid for their land, built their houses and hold the Title Deeds. Men and women and perhaps one hundred thousand farm workers who have tried, against all odds, under extreme circumstances to keep food on our tables. As one ex farmer wrote this week, after the Bill is promulgated: "the ethnic cleansing will be complete."

I close this letter with a truly shocking report which has appeared in an independent newspaper this week. Journalist Mavis Makuni reported that Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has blamed a monkey for the shortage of fertilizer needed for the coming season. Answering questions in Parliament as to why precious foreign currency was being used to import fertilizer, Minister Made said: "Our investigations have shown that a monkey caused damage to a transformer, thereby sabotaging our preparations for the coming season. If it were not for that monkey, the situation was not going to be as bad." And this is the man in charge of food security in Zimbabwe.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

'Very Soon'

Saturday 23rd September 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
Every day things in Zimbabwe get just a little bit harder and while ordinary families stagger from one crisis to the next, the country's leadership seem to be completely bereft of ideas. The latest phrase from government officials and ministers is "Very Soon". It's never completely clear if 'very soon' is a threat or a promise but the litany is faithfully regurgitated at every occasion. 'Very Soon' we will have petrol they say; 'Very Soon' we will grow enough food; 'Very Soon' we will drive out every white farmer; 'Very Soon' we will turn around the economy and 'Very Soon' we will change the currency again, this time with just one day of warning. This week the threatened promise is that 'Very Soon' corrupt cabinet ministers and members of parliament will be arrested. Somewhere along the line, however, instead of arresting corrupt leaders, police this week arrested top company directors. All accused of increasing prices without government approval, the CEO's of Dairibord (milk), Lobels (bread), Saltrama (plastic), Windmill (chemicals), ZFC (fertilizer) and Circle (cement) were arrested. It is not clear how any business can maintain prices when inflation is officially reported to be 1204% but is crystal clear that when the ideas run out it is easier just to arrest and detain.

The arrests of people trying to express their dissatisfaction at events in Zimbabwe also continued this week. At least 140 NCA members were arrested as they marched in protest over the recent abuse and torture of union leaders demonstrating in Harare. The NCA members were arrested in Masvingo, Gweru, Harare and Mutare in a clear sign that unrest is spreading in the country.

And in between the arrests there has been a whole rash of absurdity that leaves you just shaking your head in wonder. This week email and internet service was all but impossible in the country. Zimbabwe's Internet Service Providers said that there had been a 90% drop in internet traffic and that it was a situation of "virtual standstill." The state owned telephone company Tel One apparently owes a massive seven hundred thousand US dollars to a satellite company and were appealing to the central bank to bail them out of the debt. At one point in the week a major ISP put out an email to all its subscribers asking if anyone had a connection in high up places that may be able to intervene in the crisis. Towards the end of the week Tel One posted an advert in the state owned press saying that with immediate effect the cost of internet services had increased by two thousand seven hundred percent. Nothing is done in measured steps in Zimbabwe. The Big Stick comes out, threat/promises of Very Soon are uttered and prices are backdated by years not months.

The irony of arresting the baker for increasing the price of bread by 50% but ignoring the government owned phone company for increasing internet prices by 2700% is absolutely bone shaking.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

The Veneer gets Thinner

Saturday 16th September 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
On Friday morning, escorted by uniformed police, two young girls carried a banner through the Marondera town centre which proclaimed: "Protect Life On Earth." Behind them marched the Prison band in spotless bottle green uniforms with shining gold buttons and all carrying gleaming musical instruments. Behind the band came dozens of drum majorettes, young girls in bright and colourful uniforms. At the rear of the procession, which had bought the town to a standstill, were more police and an ambulance. There were reporters and ZBC TV camera men and on the Green tents had been erected, seats were laid out and someone announced that the Mayor and an Honourable Minister would be arriving shortly. For a few minutes it was like being Alice in Wonderland and you had to shake your head and ask yourself : is this the same place, the same town which just two days ago was over-run by police and engulfed in tension. Life is like this in Zimbabwe now, the veneer gets thinner and we swing wildly between extremes.

On Wednesday when the Trade Unions had called for lunch time marches to highlight the deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe, the police and other state forces moved in and engulfed towns and cities across the country. Just a few days before women of WOZA marched with placards calling for clean drinking water and improved services in Harare. 107 women were arrested and detained for four days in police custody. By Wednesday it seemed the state were not going to take any chances and allow people to air their grievances and the signs were there for all to see by early in the morning. From Harare came reports of road blocks and large deployments of police in the centres. Similar reports came from Bulawayo and Masvingo. In Marondera the water cannons were visible and the town was swamped with police - patrolling on foot in two's and fours and in pairs on bicycles. Throughout the town police pick up trucks were parked in strategic places, filled with uniformed men. The gates to the police station were closed, guarded by an armed police woman and people had to show ID before they were allowed in.

Right across the country the union lunchtime marches were doomed - crushed before they had even started. Top Union leaders and organisers in Harare were arrested and lawyers representing them say their clients had been beaten and tortured. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said: " From the look of it they were attacked by the police as soon as they were herded into cells. Some have broken limbs. The attacks appeared sadistic because some of the people cannot get up on their own." The Union Vice President Lucia Matibenga has a fractured arm, was bleeding from her ears and was having difficulty in breathing and hearing. The Union Secretary General Wellington Chibebe was covered in blood and had a "crack in his head." Union President Lovemore Matombo had both his arms fractured and so the list goes on - stories of horrors inflicted on the bravest of brave Zimbabweans who want only a decent life.

Despite the fact that the police, the marching bands and the drum majorettes are also drinking dirty water, having garbage go uncollected for weeks at a time and struggle to survive 1200% inflation - all complaints are silenced instantly. The banner proclaiming 'Protect Life on Earth' would be more appropriate if it said Protect Life in Zimbabwe.
Thanks for reading, until next time, love cathy

Rights of Passage

Saturday 9th September 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I think that like most people I have an intense love hate relationship with Zimbabwe these days.
It seems you have to go through all manner of hardships and horrors in order to truly be able to call yourself a Zimbabwean. These are Zimbabwe's rites of passage and they are not for the feint hearted. Land seizures; cancellation of title deeds; state acquisition of personal property and equipment; being removed from the voters roll; being called an 'alien' in the country of your birth and residence; having your own money seized from you by the state; having to go and collect the police if you get burgled; sitting in a petrol queue for at least one day; having to queue all night in order to get a number on a bit of dirty cardboard which will allow you - not to get a passport- but to stand in another queue to get a form to get a passport. There are places too that you have to visit if you want to say you are really a Zimbabwean. Places whose names bring to mind a whole range of possibilities including: heat, dirt, dust, arrogance, rudeness, bureaucracy, inefficiency and endlessly long queues. You just have to say the words 'Makombe', 'Linquenda', 'National Registration' or 'Market Square' to a Zimbabwean and the automatic response is a sympathetic groan and an outpouring of empathy and friendship.

This week I have endured another rite of Zimbabwean passage. I have thought long and hard about how to write this letter, about what I should or should not say and in the end have decided to do what I've been doing for 6 years and just tell it like it is. I woke up last Saturday morning to find computers, cell phone, stereo, radio, TV and reading glasses gone after a burglary in my home. In the days that have followed there has been utter despair one minute and tears of humility the next. There has been complete exhaustion too as sleep is hard in coming. To be honest, it is hard to know how to carry on after this; small losses are devastating blows.

There has been irony and absurdity in this week too - police who had to be collected from the police station as they had no transport; the CID car that had to be pushed as it had no starter; the glass that was ordered cut and paid for and got home to find it was over a foot too short; only being able to find "zhing-zhong" door locks that did not have a single standard feature about them - they were too thin, too short and too narrow and in order to use them I would have to buy new doors!

It took me five days to get to the point where I had the means to hear even a local ZBC news bulletin on the radio. The irony of that first news report is something I will never forget. The news reader said that there had been a burglary of the Norton Police Station and the perpetrators had got away with weapons, police uniforms and handcuffs. To be able to find out what else was happening in the country was a real mission. I have begun to understand how easy it is to bury your head in the sand in Zimbabwe if you want to; accessing information is not at all easy: independent newspapers only coming out once a week, independent radio stations that are jammed and just incessant propaganda everywhere else. In the week that I have been in the dark and quiet there has apparently been a 200 strong MDC leadership protest march to parliament and trade unions are calling for stay aways on Wednesday the 13th September. Perhaps yet more rites of passage are looming for Zimbabweans.

I apologise for having been unable to reply to any of the emails that have come from all over the world but am humbled and most grateful. Your messages of love, concern and support have kept me sane and given me the strength and courage to try and carry on. There were many people involved in helping me get to the point where I could actually write and send my letter this week and I thank you all for your kindness, patience and help. Special thanks to my Mum and Sis who managed to make me laugh every day and who have put their lives on hold to help me get mine back in order.
Until next time, with love, cathy.

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