News - September 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

Shiny mulberries

Saturday 27th September 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
Every day since the power sharing deal was signed between Zanu PF and the MDC, Zimbabweans have waited with anticipation for a sign, any sign, that things are happening. So far the wait has been in vain as the same old, same old fills our days and the basic human rights crisis gets worse in every regard: food, electricity, water and access to our own money.

This week Gideon Gono, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, swept into an underground car park in a dark limousine. A line of well dressed men clamoured forward to greet him and followed him to the waiting camera and microphone of ZBC TV. Speaking as if he was doing us some huge favour and with an ingratiating smile, Mr Gono announced that the maximum bank withdrawal limit for individuals was about to increase from one thousand to twenty thousand dollars a day. In real terms, as I write, this new limit is worth about 20 British pence. It's impossible to believe that Mr Gono or any of Zimbabwe's political elite are living on 20 pence a day and yet they offer no suggestion as to how ordinary people should survive.

For weeks we've been stuck in a living hell, queuing at banks for hours at a time day after day, to draw out enough of our own money to buy just one single loaf of bread - if we can find it. Riot police and dogs outside banks have become commonplace and so too have men selling money. They strut around brazenly, openly carrying huge bags of local coins that they are selling in exchange for US dollars or South African rand. Police don't seem to be able to see them or the lines of black market currency dealers sitting on pavements everywhere and so the economic collapse continues to gallop ahead. Less than two months ago Mr Gono removed 10 zeroes from our currency and 7 of them are back already.

There is no doubt that this trend will continue as long as the power sharing deal between Zanu PF and the MDC remains words on paper and not deeds on the street. While Zimbabwe may just be a tadpole in the shark pool of the world economic crisis but the suffering of ordinary people is almost too unbearable to witness.

Its hard not to feel depressed as the wheels of power sharing don't move at all and so we look to the glorious Jacaranda trees dripping purple flowers and to the shiny, deep purple mulberries that stain fingers and feet but give a moment of sweetness to our hardest of days.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy


Saturday 20th September 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
On the evening of the 15th September 2008 I sat outside as dusk fell over Zimbabwe and I could almost hear a sigh of relief rising up from our broken country. It had been a day of such high expectation and with so much emotion that sitting quietly as the sun fell and the stars rose was necessary for the soul, to take it all in and to look back, and forwards.

The "Zimbabwe Situation," as our collapse is called, started at different times for different people. For me it began on Saturday the 4th March 2000.
"Hide yourself. They are coming, "one of my farm workers had screamed, giving me a few precious minutes of warning. And then, alone and helpless, locked in my study with my hands over my head, I sat paralyzed as men whistled, threw bricks and shouted HONDO, HONDO, HONDO (War) at our farm gate. What happened after that, to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans from all walks of life is now history.

The rabble at my farm gate were the foot soldiers and had been used to start a political, social, economic and humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions. After 8 years and 7 months of living through this Zimbabwe Situation it has often felt like a country at war but now, at last, we have hope.

In his speech after signing an agreement to share power, Prime Minister designate, Morgan Tsvangirai, spoke of painful compromises that had been made in getting to the Agreement. We don't know yet what those compromises were but we do know that they had to happen because we, the ordinary people, simply couldn't go on living like this.

Power sharing isn't what we wanted and the events that have led to it do not set a good precedent for countries whose leaders won't leave power, but for Zimbabwe it must work. For Zimbabwe this Agreement is the first step towards real democracy and it has come at a time when we are hanging over the cliff by a fingernail.

Just a few days into the deal the arguments have already begun and on the surface there is no tangible difference to the trauma and exasperation of every day struggles for bank notes, food, fuel, water, electricity, medicine and much more. Under the surface however, there is a huge sense of anticipation and an urgency to get things going again as soon as possible. Yes there is scepticism, doubt and negativity but as our new Prime Minister said, the door has been unlocked. Each one of us has the chance to push it open a little more.

As I close this week I would like to pay tribute to ZWNews whose editor compiled and sent out at no charge over 3200 issues over almost nine years and kept Zimbabwe in the world's eye. He does not wish to be named but we thank him for his sacrifices and his patriotism.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Top of the agenda?

Saturday 13th September 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
A power sharing deal between the MDC and Zanu PF has been agreed. This is not what Zimbabweans voted for but it seems we must make the best of it if we are to save the country from complete ruin. The very people who designed and implemented the 9 year collapse of Zimbabwe will now sit alongside the victims of their ruinous policies. What will be top of the agenda?

Should it be electricity? Supplies are down to 6 or less hours a day in most places. Businesses, manufacturing and industry are close to collapse. Schools, hospitals and institutions are barely functional.

Should it be water? Supplies to urban, residential and industrial areas are down to 2 hours a day in most places and non existent in others. Cholera and other water born disease are commonplace.

Should it be food? Shops are empty of all basic goods and individuals have resorted to imported their own supplies in order to survive. Food growing on seized farms is negligible and in most cases barely enough to feed one or two families. Almost half the population will need international food aid by Christmas.

Should it be money? Bank queues run into thousands as the Reserve Bank Governor restricts daily withdrawals to the current equivalent of just 2 British pence per customer. Without access to their own money people cannot buy food or medicines or pay their bills.

Should it be Health? Hospitals have no drugs, equipment, food, linen or staff. Pharmacies increase their prices at least once every day and people are dying for lack of basic, simple life sustaining medication.

Should it be education? Teachers earn less than street cleaners and so they are always on strike. Pupils have no books. Parents cannot afford school and examination fees, uniforms or even food for their children. What hope for our next generation.

Should it be land and the environment? Restoring property rights and Title Deeds. Controlling gold panning, diamond digging, tree cutting, poaching, streambank and roadside cultivation and fires.

Perhaps it should be repealing legislation which has destroyed freedom of speech, movement and association; freedom of the press and media and citizenship laws which have made born and bred Zimbabweans into aliens.

I could go on and on but perhaps my own favourites will be top of the agenda: law and order and accountability. Until Zimbabwe's Police stop saying "It is political" and start arresting people who break the law, regardless of their political affiliations, we can surely not move forward. So too the people who raped, murdered, burned. looted, tortured, stole and incited others to do likewise - they must be held accountable and punished for their deeds. Zimbabwe stands at the threshold and we pray that our trust is not betrayed because we have suffered so much and for so long.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy


Saturday 6th September 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
If you come first in a running race, why would you give ninety-nine percent of the gold medal and prize money to the person who came second? The answer is obvious but as each day passes it seems the real winner, and the will of the majority of Zimbabweans is not going to be respected. The people and political party who came second in Zimbabwe's March 29th elections are simply not going to step down and their refusal to accept defeat has sent us into a dizzying collapse out of all control.

The rich are getting much, much richer; the poor are virtually destitute and the middle class has all but disappeared as Zimbabwe moves into trading in US Dollars. No one in government - winners or losers - has said or done anything to stop people charging in US dollars and all control now seems to be lost. For the last few weeks medical specialists have been charging their patients in US dollars. You have to provide hard currency (US dollar bank notes) in order to see a dentist, have an operation, receive the services of an anaesthetist and lately you even need US dollars to buy prescription medicines from pharmacies.
The trend has spread to spare parts for machines and to computer accessories and the more this US dollar trading goes on unchecked and uncontrolled so the pattern spreads. Now even locally produced goods are being charged in US dollars: meat, eggs, potatoes and milk.

As people do their own thing and while there remains a non functional government and non existent authority base, the situation grows worse and worse. We are now in a sudden greedy spiral of US Dollar inflation in Zimbabwe. A pocket of potatoes that was selling for 5 US dollars last week now suddenly costs 8 US dollars. The same is happening to meat prices and to property rentals.

For the vast majority of people who have no access to US dollars, life has become simply unbearable these last few weeks. Pensioners who have no foreign currency and cannot buy life sustaining medicines; people who are sick and in pain but cannot see dentists, specialists or undergo operations. One friend described how she took a desperately sick man with gangrene to a government hospital this week only to be told that they were not accepting any admissions as they simply have no resources : no drugs, linen, food or equipment. After much pleading, long negotiations and under the counter payments of huge amounts of money, the sick man was finally taken in. He had to provide his own bedding and linen, bandages, dressings, medication, drugs and food.

Health for all by the year 2000 has been the the clarion call of Zanu PF since they took power and yet after 28 years this is the state we are in. And still they talk of sharing power?
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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