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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Conflicted: need some feedback

An online newspaper, Zimdaily, has apparently launched a campaign to out the children top ZANU-PF politicians. The idea is to encourage western host governments to expel these children back to Zimbabwe because of their parents purported anti-western politics.

if reality is anything to go by, Mugabe and his crooks in government favour western standards of ‘everything’ compared to Zimbabwe, a country they have reduced to a basket case.

ZimDaily has established that Mugabe and his colleagues in ZANU PF have over 300 kids studying in either US, UK and Australian universities and they are fears that these kids are being funded by tax payers in Zimbabwe.

This comes amid reports that Bona Mugabe, Mugabe’s daughter is attending the prestigious London School of Economics in England. The school has since refuted the claims.

The British government is also mulling plans to ban ZANU PF officials kids from attending educational institutions in the UK.

Take a look at this.

A fierce debate has erupted about this campaign. I’m conflicted about this. What do you think? Should this be thing that we as Zimbabweans be working at? Or do we have better tihngs invest our energies into?

Here are some of the people they have outed already; here, here, here, here, and here.

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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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This is disgusting

My friend Sokari the author of Blacklooks alerted me to this galling endeavor. Apparently someone thinks it’s time to hold the world’s first Miss Landmine pageant.

The idea in their own words);

the MISS LANDMINE project puts the global landmine problem and its survivors in the spotlight in a new, celebratory and life-affirming way.

Why?

Angolan culture has a relaxed and open attitude to physicality and sensuality. Furthermore, beauty pageants are a huge cultural phenomenon and a firm tradition in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, not least in Angola. A startling contrast to the politicized, often highly controversial atmosphere that surrounds such events in Europe and USA, African beauty contests are most often an uncomplicated celebration of cultural identity, not unlike Brazil’s carnival tradition (which is also celebrated in Angola)

To say this undertaking is exploitative, patronizing and highly offensive would be an understatement. It is unconscionable that anyone would come up with such a grotesque idea and think they are doing more good than harm. To illustrate the lunacy of this project, let me start off with this proposition: I’m going to change a few variables in the purpose statement put forward by the organizers of Miss Landmine. Can you imagine what kind of reaction this project would elicit if it had the following mission statement:

the MISS HOLOCAUST project puts the global anti-semitism problem and its survivors in the spotlight in a new, celebratory and life-affirming way.

I have no problem with spotlighting the plight of landmine victims. What I cannot mouth is inappropriateness of the vehicle chosen to do that. Yes, beauty pageants are “cultural phenomena” in much of Sub-Saharan Africa (including Zimbabwe), but the organizers could not have picked a more inappropriate way of honoring the survivors if that is truly their goal.

I have attended many a beauty pageant. In fact, the first time I attended a beauty pageant I was only 10 it was held in conjunction with a talent show of sorts. The event was held to celebrate and honor the talents of my scho0lmates. In essence, it was a celebration of the diversity of my primary school.

Every single time since then that I’ve attendend either a Miss Schools, Miss Harare, Miss Zimbabwe etc. the mantra of those events has been to honor and celebrate the culture of the particular locale from which the women come hence the names “Miss Zimbabwe” etc. Without the schools, the cities, and nation from which these participants emerge, these women are stripped of the unique place, institution, and people they represent. Of course, we still could hold beauty pageants; they just wouldn’t representative of the culture and therefore could not correctly assume such universal titles as “Miss Zimbabwe.” It’s about the culture, and people not just the beauty of three women.

Conversely, when one is chosen winner at these pageants, they are automatically conferred with the honor and responsibility of representing the locale of their origin.

This raises an unavoidable problem for the Miss Landmines pageants. What locale do the contestants represent? What culture are they showcasing? Going by convention, if Miss Zimbabwe represents Zimbabwean people and culture, is Miss Landmines meant to represent landmine people and their culture? I don’t need to expound on the absurdity of that proposition.

There is absolutely nothing fashionable, celebratory or life-affirming in the aftermath of landmines (or the holocaust). To try to infuse or deduce some kind of positivity out of the predicament of survivors such human rights abuses is nothing but a not so subtle affirmation of the destruction wrought by landmines. There are many other things people can do to stop the horror of landmines; see this and this for ideas.

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING! Email the director the Miss Landmine project here: morten@miss-landmine.org

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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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BBC interview

Welcome to our readers coming over from the BBC. Analysts and pundits across the board are now firmly confirming the assertions I make in the interview. See this and this.

One of the hottest issues I am being asked about is the issue of hope; is there hope for Zimbabwe? I think this is one of the most overlooked aspects to this whole thing. People are desperately pining for a better Zimbabwe. With the nation in shamble as it is, there can only be hope. The impetus behind the people who were out on the streets on Sunday isn’t exclusively about what is going on in the country today; it is in large part about what Zimbabwean hope and know our nation can and will become tomorrow. The reality long sunk in that Zimbabwe has little to offer today, but we remain inspired by prospects of a better Zimbabwe tomorrow. There is a lot of hope in Zimbabwe, it’s all people can have.

For those of you not in the know, I did an interview with BBC’s Chris Vallance yesterday;

Q – What’s behind the latest crackdown?
It’s fear. The last two weeks have been absolutely horrendous for this regime. They are now faced with a reality they never thought they’d face; people willingly walking into the paths of their vicious police. Now that they’ve tortured the MDC leadership this early in the game, the government has ironically upped the proverbial ante. Tsvangirai and Mutambara have nothing left to fear having been deep into the dredges of Zimbabwe’s hellish torture system and come back from resolute to continue with their protest for a better Zimbabwe. In the past, people feared public demonstrations because they felt they were being used as political pawns by leaders who didn’t want to endure the the wrath of the police on their own. Tsvangirai and Mutambara have, because of this incident gained more credibility with people. Look for this incident to spawn of more the same kind of protest.
Q – Have you noticed a change in the public mood lately?
The thing that I’m constantly hearing of is tension. There is a palatable unrelenting tension across the country. We’re sitting on a knife’s edge. Imagine waking up one day only to see police armed up to the teeth patrolling your neighborhood indiscreminantly assaulting people and then never going away. This what many poor, unarmed, peaceloving Zimbabweans are enduring.
Q -How do you think this situation will play out?
The MDC leadership have already announced that they will be going back on the streets to the people to ask for the people’s help in hastening the process towards a better Zimbabwean. I’m of the opinion more people will come out and start working on a better Zimbabwe because the state of the nation is beyond deplorable. Even when this government isn’t shooting at unarmed demonstrators or mourners at a funeral, innocent people are still dying. Almost 40 people were killed when a state owned train collided with a bus, don’t you think someone in government could responsibility for some kind of role in this? As for the rest of the world, they will continue to ignore our plight because we don’t have any oil to offer Western powerhouse and because Mugabe remains a demigod to many African leaders today.

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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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“Rounds”: celebrating a creative conception of Zimbabwean’s survival impetus.

If there is one constant in the everchanging sea of Zimbabwe’s turbulent circumstances it is this: the economic wellbeing of ordinary people has been under seige over the last eight years. With a national economy reeling from record inflation, untamed unemployment, an aneamic currency, and shrinking productivity, people’s ability to excercise economic self determination has all but disappeared. Prices of basic neccesities have rocketed out of range leaving most of Zimbabwe’s working people living under the poverty datum line (PDL).

All that is old news.

It never ceases to amaze me to note that every time I look, people all around are constantly innovating new ways to eke out the increasingly elusive survival. Many Zimbabweans refuse to give up even though they confront the most dire of circumstances with each sunrise. As long as there is school fees, rent, utilities, transport, and many other bills to be paid, people persistantly rise to the challenge, failing only after exerting the most valiant of efforts. Tofira mutrial, a popular colloquialism which when literally translated means “we’ll die trying” has become the defacto modus operandi on the highways and by ways of our once teeming nation. And, as we Zimbabweans are apt to do when vexed by circumstances that defy the best of our attempts, we’ve coined a slang term to satirizes this new hustle; kukorokoza (the loose equivalent of gold panning).

But perhaps even more impressive that our uncanny ability to poke fun at our existential dilema, is the depth to which people are digging in as they refuse to allow these pressing circumstances to compromise their existence. Of all the resourceful ways people have invented to remain viable, none captures the communal resilience of my people better than the month-end phenomenon of circulating pots of money better known to Zimbos as “rounds.”

Each month end, at a predetermined date, small groups of friends (typically between five to 12 people) pool their monetary resources and give the collective pot of money to one member of the group. So for that one month, that member’s family has up to 12 times their usual disposable income. Consider this as an example; a group of eight nurses who work together decide to throw $150 into the pot each month. Every eighth month, each of these nurses takes home an extra $1,050. This scheme, is in essence, a revolving fund of sorts or, an interest-free loan to members of the club.

Assuming that this amount is proportional to the price of things, each time a member takes the pot, their family is afforded a financial opportunity they typically would not have been able to experience. In real terms, this means that the family that collects the “round” can make a significant household purchase, save for school fees, or invest the money in an interest bearing tool.

Most of the TV’s in many of Zimbabwe’s households were bought with money from the rounds. As a kid, I have fond memories of that eighth month when my mom collected and was able to splurge. My favorite “round” purchase was a fine china tea set that my mom bought only to reserve its’ use for occasions when she had special company. Of course, of all the visitors we received at our house, and they were many, I can recall only a handful that were important enough to use the tea set.

Nowadays, rounds are being collected monthly to pay essential bills instead of financing out of the norm purchases. The rounds are now a means of survival. Rounds are just one of the many tricks that Zimbos are compelled to rely on in the face of unrelenting difficulty.

I pay homage to rounds not only because of their ability to enable Zimbabweans to prosper materially at a low cost, but because for me, they embody a unique type of capitalism that will one day catapult us to the front of the world’s economic stage. In a rare marriage of self interest and benovelance, rounds, in their own unique way, represent the ultruistic benefit that can be derived from sheer capitalistic enterprise. In my opinion, this is strictly because of how central the notion of community is to rounds.

A reliable and trustworthy relationship is a prerequisite between any potential members of these clubs. The people have to both trust that they will all pay their monthly dues, and have confidence that each member will earn enough income to pay the dues. Who better to trust for long term reliability than one’s own neighbors and workmates?
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