Up on Global Voices

Zimbabwe’s bloggers have a wealth of information on the week that was in the troubled southern African country. There are reports of more arrests and torture, an emergency monetary policy statement, and an indepth look at the myopic bigotry of some in the west with regard to Mugabe. First however, a look at how South Africa’s increasingly complicit role in Zimbabwe’s crisis came back under the spotlight last week. (more….)

Mugabe, the West, and “servile” Zimbabweans

I’ve always found it baffling when people (particularly westerners,) discover with shock and a degree of condescension that Mugabe has, and dare I say it, remains deeply beloved by many a Zimbabwean. Fact; the quality of life of the majority of my countrymen downright plummeted during and since our colonization by the British. Oh please, you really want to tell me you believe that hogwash about how colonization brought the three C’s (civilization, commerce, and Christianity) to us in 1890? My ancestors, first the Munhumutapa, and then the Ndebele andRozvi empires did more foreign trade (mainly with Arab merchants and other empires) before colonization than they did since. We’ve always been deeply religious (much more so than we are now–thanks to Western Christendom for creating a schism between our way of life and faith). As for civilization, I’m not even going to address that; it’s nothing but anti-African propaganda, enough said.

No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going on a blame me everything on West rant. I see major blind spots in many westerners opinions about Zimbabwe, I’m just pointing them out.
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Up on Global Voices

Please check out the redesigned Global Voices site. It is also where I have put up my latest post:

As the poor get poorer, the rich are only going to get richer in Zimbabwe. In this post, Mugabe Makaipa describes how Zimbabwe’s stock market has grown 12,000% over last year as it has become chief among the few safe places that people can hedge against inflation. With inflation skyrocketing, unemployment reaching 80%, the local bourse has simultaneously become a boon to the capitalist intentions of the few that are willing to make the risky investment in Zimbabwean stock too. Sadly, the economically elite are the only beneficiaries of the reeling economy that is in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, they are very few and far between.

Therefore, all of the rich people, government officials, and banks are putting their money into stocks so that it doesn’t lose value. Demand is high, so the price is too.

The everyday people of Zimbabwe don’t see any benefit to this, though. Their masters may not see it for much longer either. Stock prices on the index are obviously inflated and unsustainable. It’s only a matter of time before it comes crashing down, taking down many in its spiral.

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Life in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, a nation dominated by government owned media, keeping up with the political realities is an impossible and risky undertaking. Media in Zimbabwe is dominated by a state owned daily newspaper, and state owned radio and television. All reports carried by state media are unsurprisingly partial to the government. There’s a vacuum for balanced reportage on the country. Western media on the hand, seem too eager to demonize the Mugabe regime. They seem to always go back to their all too old mantra of showing our nation and our people as undercivilized meanwhile ignoring our unprecedent fortitude.

The best opportunity to escape the barrage of propaganda is available to those who live in the cities. Urban residents, because they can receive text messages on their cell phones with news the government represses, are somewhat better off than their rural counterparts . Further, if you have the money you can also go to an internet café in. The second best thing is attempting to tune into foreign radio broadcasts which are dodgy at best. Other than that, word of mouth is the next best way to keep a finger on what is really going in the country. Cell phones and email have been a boon in this regard.

In the last two weeks, life in Zimbabwe has taken a turn for the worse . In publicly attacking MDC activiscts, I am sure the government was displaying they can and will brutally crush any threats to their rule. Sadly, the result is a deeply divided nation living in mutual suspicion. There are two opposed groups; if you are pro-government, people suspect you are a member of the feared Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). And if you complain about the status quo like most Zimbabweans do, the dreaded CIO place you on surveillance under suspicion of stoking up violence and baying for the regime change. Once labelled thus, one quickly becomes known a western stooge. Families have been torn apart by these suspicions.

Each morning we wake up and are faced with the myth of uncertainty. The average Zimbabwean’s life is full of uncertainty. We don’t know if we’re going to have to work because businesses are closing. If your job is not jeopardy, circumstances militate against that reality too. Nowadays, if we wake up too early and go looking for public transportation to get to work, you can be arrested under suspicion of convening an unsanctioned meeting. If you escape that unwarranted suspicion, constant fuel shortages ensure that the transportation does not run on a predictable schedule.

With runaway inflation life in Zimbabwe is unaffordable. We work hard, we are frugal, but never seem to have enough to afford the basic necessities. Our salaries are the only things that are not increasing.

Most disturbing though is the inescapable tension enveloping the entire nation. There is talk of a crack military squad from Angola coming. Bloodshed is almost a certainty before things improve. There rumors of war but there is nothing we can do to stop it. We used to pride ourselves about being one of the few nations in Africa that have successfully avoided civil unrest, not anymore.

The violence, brutality and general harship in life would quickly fuel the flame if the country ignites. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.

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Epistemology; why it is so difficult to understand the Zimbabwean crisis

When I started writing, I wanted to aire the rarely heard Zimbabwean perspective to a much broader audience. I wanted to express the thoughts and feelings that are mundanely exchanged between my fellow countrymen yet remain utterly inexistant to the rest of the world. I have had to make several protestations to my readers (most of whom are western) that they should not assume they can fully understand the Zimbabwean crisis from the casual brushes they have with our story on the news or on blogs (including mine). Many things remain uncovered, and many words remain unsaid; the truth, the whole truth remains pervasive.

A lot of what we see and hear about any situation, especially now in our cyber and media driven society, is just reality. Truth is a different thing altogether. Jacques Ellul, a French philosopher is famous for distinguishing a difference between truth and reality. Here’s my paraphrase: truth is what is; reality is what is now. Like a picture, reality captures a moment; it speaks to the here and now, but never beyond, and rarely to the before. Reality is evanescent. Truth on the other hand, is to me like a word, timeless in its import, and endless in its appeal. It reaches back into the recesses of time while simultaneously projecting perpertually into the future. There is a difference between truth and reality. Sadly, Neil Postman the American philosopher is correct in his assertion that along with unbridled progress on the developmenal continuum, western society is irrevocably shifting from being word and truth based, to being image and reality centered.

It is for this reason that I am not so chaffed when my country’s odyssey is attended to by such institutions of western media as the New York Times, BBC, CNN etc. I tend to be critical of their coverage, not because they always show the negatives in my country or because they treat us like we are bundle of constant problems. Simply put, my exception to western coverage of the Zimbabwean crisis is that they are western and therefore pander to western interests and more importantly relate things from the western perspective which is starkly different from our own here in Zimbabwe. Of course, there are many a time when the western media sometimes correctly report on Zimbabwe I am not arguing that point; my contention is that reporting it right is very different from understanding it from the same perspective as we do. Today’s media are obsessed with reality; in Postman’s words, media today have a “now this just in” mentality.

So it comes as no surprise to me that many people are baffled that I am willing to concede that Mugabe (cruel and regressive as he may be now,) has, in the past, worked for the good of Zimbabwe. I have been sometimes called a ‘marxist’ for admitting self evident truths about the history of Zimbabwe.

I bring all this up now because it sheds an important light on what has happened in my country over the past two weeks and how the west (both government and ordinary people) have interacted with it. (See this if you are not aware of what has taken place in Zimbabwe recently).
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Pajamas Media interview

It seems last week was the week of interviews for yours truly. I appreciate the feedback left by those who stopped by even those who remain critics of our efforts to chronicle the Zimbabwean story. Undaunted by circumstance or criticism, we’ll continue to tell you the Zimbabwean story from an unheard perspective. This is an excerpt from my interview Richard Fernandez of Pajamas Media.

PJM: What happens next in Zimbabwe?

Zimpundit: This crisis continues while the world watches. With no oil, or “national security” interest for western powerhouses like the US, Zimbabweans are on their own as they continue to bear the brunt of the leadership’s poor choices.

South Africa, our biggest trade partner won’t intervene either because Mbeki considers Mugabe one of his own or because he’s enviously hatching plans to carry out his own atrocities, or both.

Zimbabweans must find it in themselves to negotiate a way out of the present situation. It will take more lives, it will take more suffering, it will take more pain, but we have no other choice.

The MDC leadership will be released with no charges because the state has no case against them. I suspect, having been brutalized once, both Mutambara and Tsvangirai will be out again urging people stand up against the cruel regime. And they’ll both have stronger credibility.

Because of their visible wounds and the fact that they have sacrificed their own bodies and led by example, more people will listen to them. Their wounds and tales of brutality have the potential to spell an end to ZANU-PF’s tyranny. If the government thinks they are going to get the MDC to back down, they have a surprise coming.

PJM: Are there any red lines left?

Zimpundit: The only thing remaining to happen is a public ground swell of people refusing to stand the oppression any longer. Zimbabweans have been pushed long enough, they’ve suffered long enough, all that remains is that their anguish be channeled toward one central place.

Sooner rather than later, there will be an out pouring of rage against the oppression. The economy has yet to grind to a complete stop. Keep in mind that it was the Tsvangirai led crowds that stoppped the nation in its tracks back in 1998 protesting against the cost of living. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

Richard also found some very interesting videos to go along with the article he wrote. Be sure to check both videos for some historical perspective.

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Drugged soldiers brutalized Tsvangirai

In one of the most harrowing accounts of the brutal beating endured by Tsvangirai, it has emerged that it was in fact the army that was unleashed on the opposition leadership.

A crack Commando unit based at the army’s Cranborne Barracks in Harare was responsible for the brutal torture of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders on Sunday, according to a police officer who witnessed the assault.

The police officer, who is based at Machipisa Police Station in Highfield suburb, said Tsvangirai and the other opposition leaders were tortured for close to two hours by drugged soldiers disguised as police officers.

In an interview with ZimOnline on Tuesday, the police officer who cannot be named for security reasons, said: “I have been in the police force for three years, and I have been involved in the assault of suspects.

“But what I saw on Sunday was not assault. It was attempted murder, especially on Tsvangirai, Madhuku and Kwinjeh (Grace, the MDC deputy secretary for international affairs)”

Tsvangirai fainted three times during the murderous assault.

In a harrowing narration of what transpired behind the police walls to our correspondent in Harare, the police officer, speaking in hushed tones, said 12 Commandoes from Cranborne Barracks were responsible for the assault.

Even police officers were unnerved by the seriousness and brutality of the assault.

“They (soldiers) were dressed in police uniform and had bloodshot eyes. They told us they were police officers, but I managed to identify them as Commandoes because of the green army belts they were wearing on top of the uniforms.

“Only commandoes wear those. One of them announced that they had smoked a special grade of marijuana for the special mission. I witnessed the whole incident. Police officers from Machipisa were not involved. We were stunned at the ruthlessness.

“They were shouting and telling Tsvangirai that they could kill him on that night and nothing would happen to them,” said the officer.

The police officer said the beatings started at 11.45pm and lasted for more than two hours.

Read the complete account here.

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Mourners killed

This an update from the MDC’s deputy secretary of health:

It was reported at 4am this morning two youths were shot by Police/Army (?) amongst those mourning the death of Gift Tandare. The youths are in Hospital.
As I left the Tandare home in Glen View yesterday at 6 pm I observed a large Army truck with personell driving into the area, as well as a Land Rover full of the riot militia.

How long will this genocidal regime be allowed to go unaccountable for these gross Human Rights abuses? The time is long gone for SADC and International intervention.

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Coltart exposes ZANU-PF’s legal vulnerability

Human rights lawyer and the MDC’s shadow justice minister has posted an exhaustive response explaning how blatantly illegal police conduct was this weekend.

As bad as POSA is, it does not allow the police to issue widespread banning orders as it has sought to do. Notwithstanding the provisions of POSA, the Zimbabwean Constitution is quite clear regarding the right that Zimbabweans have to demonstrate peaceably. POSA is clear that the police are obliged to consider each case on its merits and it cannot lightly disregard the fundamental right contained in the Constitution for people to demonstrate and meet peaceably. What the police have in effect done is issue a general ban reminiscent of the State of Emergency which ended in 1990. There is no declared State of Emergency and to that extent the police have acted completely unlawfully in purporting to issue a general ban as they have done.

Even if the regime is of a mind to argue that it does have this general power it should be reminded that the provisions of POSA used by the ZANU PF regime to deny people fundamental constitutional rights are fascist laws no different to those used by the white minority regime in terms of LOMA. They were bad laws then and are no different now. LOMA did not prevent the legitimate demands of the people from being realised and in the same way POSA will not succeed ultimately in denying the people their rights. The sooner the regime realises that these laws will not solve the Zimbabwean crisis the better. The regime is advised to repeal POSA and then sit down with all Zimbabweans to negotiate a solution to the calamitous situation afflicting our nation. The situation has now been greatly exacerbated by the murder of Gift Tandare, the unlawful arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and many other leaders and activists.

Click here to read the entire statement.

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Police murder man; arrest and torture opposition leadership

It has been a rough weekend for the MDC; not only were the two leaders of the party arrested and tortured, the police killed an opposition activist, and the state press blamed the MDC for the violence.

This from Monday’s edition of the state controlled Herald newspapers;

ONE person was shot dead by police and three police officers severely injured during an attack by MDC thugs, while opposition faction leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara were arrested for inciting people to engage in violence.

Other opposition leaders picked up were the Tsvangirai faction secretary general Tendai Biti, organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, Grace Kwinje, Sekai Holland and Job Sikhala, the latter aligned to the Mutambara faction.

National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku was also arrested, ZBC News reported last night.

Police said the opposition leaders were observed going around Highfield inciting people to engage in violent activities.

Various opposition groups and civic organisations had planned to hold a political rally at Zimbabwe Grounds disguised as a prayer meeting.

Kubatana observantly notes that

The Herald is correct I think – it wasn’t a prayer meeting) which was disrupted by the ZRP in Highfields in Harare.

The media in Zimbabwe is owned and operated by the Mugabe regime. So Sunday’s aftermath, aka how the events are being portrayed, is in the hands of the State. Zimbabweans, since last night, are being force fed a diet of MDC thuggery, non-attendance and opposition violence.

This makes me wonder when the pro-democracy movement will get its act together in terms of creating its own robust media and information response unit.

Anyone who’s been following developments in Zimbabwe is hardly surprised it came to this for the Tsvangirai and Mutambara. ZANU-PF is scared of the opposition and real possibility they maybe faced with an insurmountable tide of anger. This is part of their fight or flight response to certain danger. Still, that doesn’t excuse the egregious human rights violations.

Here’s how bad things are inside the torture camps

The methods of torture are beating all over the body with baton sticks, falanga (beating the feet), pulling their teeth so they become loose, tying hands and feet together and hanging them up like that while they beat them. As I receive many of them at a medical facility in the city, I see it with my own eyes and hear their stories first hand.

What must be remembered is that severe torture, including the falanga, has long term effects, not just psychologically but also physically. The generally unknown statistics are those torture victims who die a year or two later as a result of the torture.

What the state is doing now is tantamount to another form of Genocide – “systematically dealing with the out group”. But no-one likes to recognise it as such. “It is too strong a word” I was told by the EU representative for Human rights two years ago when I presented them with a photographic record of five years of HR’s abuses in Zimbabwe. And warned them that much worse was still to come! If “that word” is used, then it means the UN and others are obliged to do something.

We know, as does the rest of the world, that the UN only acts “too late, with too little”. Ruwanda is the most horrific and recent example of this. The indications are here for us to see, the utterances by the misruling party make no bones about how they intend to deal with the opposition, and the armed forces (which includes the militia) have explicit instructions. I hope I am mistaken, but I do feel that bloodshed is not far off.

I hope that prediction is wrong.

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