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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Court personnel flee as the state fails to prefer charges against opposition activists

Despite enduring grotesque torture while in custody, Morgan Tsvangirai and the other MDC activists arrested on Sunday had to endure a two hour stalemate at the Rotten Row court complex as the personnel fled their posts. In a scene symbolizing the departure of justce from Zimbabwe, court staffers were no where to be found when over 50 detainees were brought before the court. This despite a standing order from the high court reinforcing the victims’ constitutional right to a speedy trial. Zimonline has an eyewitness recount of the ordeal;

Then the Zimbabwean justice system exposed itself once more to the world.

For more than two hours, we all waited for the remand hearing, hoping to hear what crime these political civic and political leaders had committed. For more than two hours, nothing happened.

No court official or magistrate turned up to kick off the hearing.

Then Advocate Eric Matinenga, representing Tsvangirai and his colleagues, stood and told the courtroom that all the court officials had fled their chambers. There was no one to hear the case.

This was clearly in contempt of court. On Monday night, High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu had ruled that all the arrested people should have access to legal and medical assistance, failure of which the State had to produce all the detainees at 8am the following morning.

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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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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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Chamisa: Zanu PF, police fire teargas, live ammunition at MDC supporters

Highfield resembled a ghost town following running battles between unarmed MDC supporters and armed riot police. The police, who had defied a High Court order, cordoned off the venue of the MDC rally and went on the rampage in the High density suburb of Highfield in Harare.

Despite a High Court order preventing the police from interfering with the MDC rally to launch its Presidential campaign at Zimbabwe grounds in Highfield, Harare, armed riot police sealed off the venue and patrolled the streets of Highfield indiscriminately firing live ammunition, teargas and water cannons in the tranquil environment around Machipisa shopping centre.

When the crowd became agitated, the over 50 000-strong crowd that had turned up for the rally were sent scurrying for cover after armed riot police ordered the shopping center closed, searched people’s homes and indiscriminately assaulted any person seen outside their home. The terror campaign spread to all high density suburbs in Harare where running battles are still being fought between the people and the security forces of an unpopular regime.

Three people are feared dead while 127 people have been arrested and that is the price they have paid for turning up for an ordinary party rally. Two of our disabled supporters, Angeline Masaisai and Clara Muzoda were thoroughly assaulted near the venue of the rally after they had painfully traveled all the way from Mabvuku for the star rally. At least 11 Israeli-imported water cannons patrolled the streets of Highfield and 279 were seriously injured in the clashes with the police and are receiving treatment at various hospitals in Harare.

President Tsvangirai, Vice President Thokozani Khupe and members of the Liberation team attempted to force their way into the stadium only to cause more teargas and chaos from the police.
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Sekai Holland: MDC Star Rally Latest

Who said living in Zimbabwe would be so exciting!!

Sad Update – Back From Zimbabwe Grounds!

It was a bad start to our attempted entry into Zimbabwe Grounds at Highfield just then. The most surprised of all is Mr Marima, Harare province MDC Secretary, who was informed earlier by Police this morning, that they were withdrawing from the grounds, and that the MDC gathered crowds could come into Zimbabwe grounds to hold their Rally. Marima with those gathered, led the jubilant entry, all to be severely assaulted by Police, still inside the Grounds. The crowds in shock are defending themselves from this unexpected assault, we were told as we arrived. The place is crawling with Police.

Farai Mariri, Harare Province Treasurer, who was with Secretary Marima when the good news was passed onto the Province by Police, in the public hearing of most there, that all was well now with the Rally, is now briefing the entire gathered, holding a copy of the Court Order, allowing MDC to go ahead with the Rally, in the absence of the badly injured person in charge, Marima, of details of what happened.

When we all arrived after being advised that the Police had cleared the Rally, led by the President Tsvangirai himself, we found the Zimbabwe Grounds blocked to us by Police, heavilly armed, with reinforcement of 3 brand new looking Israeli made military water tanks for rioters. There were
Police everywhere, inside they were teargassing those in the grounds.

The President’s convoy was prevented from entering, we were however advised to go to the local Police station with the Court order for the Senior Police Officer on duty to see the Order for himself. The President, accompanied by the National Organising Secretary Elias Mudzuri and others went there, on the way there we met 3 more Israeli water tanks rushing fully maaned and equipped to the Zimbabwe Grounds. I have just been dropped to update everyone and then to go back to the others at Zimbabwe Grounds, where we have all agreed to reconverge when the President returns form the Police Station.

And so in changed clothes for the new situation including being arrested en mass this afternoon, I now sign off to return to Highfields to join the
others!

Sekai Holland
Harare
1.15 pm Sunday
18 February 2007
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Cross Posted on Global Voices

Morgan Tsvangirai, and not Robert Mugabe, has become the most poignent effigy symbolizing the tragedy that is Zimbabwe. Much like the young nation that stood replete with promise and seemingly unlimited potential in the early 90’s, Tsvangirai emerged as the most potent threat to Mugabe’s tyranny at the turn of the century. Just like the country, once known as “Africa’s breadbasket” has become Africa’s basket case, Tsvangirai has turned into a tragic case of a could’ve been, should’ve been.

The increasingly isolated leader of the main opposition held a publicized press confrence announcing that Mugabe’s efforts to hang on to power would be rebuffed. Unsurprisingly, this event, which early 1998 galvanized the nation’s workers to a work stoppage that ground the nation to standstill was hardly noticed by ordinary Zimbos. People are not happy with state of the nation, neither are they happy with Tsvangirai.

Bev Clark at Kubatanablogs epitomizes the deep frustration felt by many Zimbabweans at the arbotive opposition;

Tsvangirai believes that elections are the way to go, either in 2008 or whenever. Never mind that we’ve had the last several elections stolen from under our noses. Yes of course we agree that the conditions need to be rectified in order to hold accountable and transparent elections but we also know that this is the very last thing that Mugabe will allow because it would be shooting himself in his own small foot.

So therefore we have the two dominant political parties in Zimbabwe playing the same old games. Zanu PF is bound to win, and the MDC is bound to lose – unless the MDC stops ploughing the same old barren fields of thought and action.

(more…)

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Eddie Cross: MDC rallies

The MDC held one of its anniversary rallies in Bulawayo on Sunday. This morning the local State controlled daily has as its headlines “Residents Boycott Tsvangirai”. Nothing could be further from the truth. No doubt Nelson Chamisa and William Bango will release photos later of the event but my own estimate is that we had a larger gathering at White City than thelast time we were there.

It is very difficult to estimate numbers on an open field but people were sitting perhaps 15 to 20 deep and standing about 5 to 10 deep at the back in a 180 radius crowd. The atmosphere was festive – a lot of humour and good spirited banter, some very clever heckling of certain speakers. As usual MT got a very strong response. I sat next to Grace Kwingeh – she had been in Europe for the past 4 years and it was her first rally in Bulawayo since coming home. She said she was astounded at the turnout.

It was especially so when you appreciate it publicized by word of mouth, there is no public transport and people had to sit in the open in October for 4 hours to hear the leadership. No one moved until it was all over.

MT had just come from the Eastern districts where three rallies were held and after Bulawayo he was on his way to the Midlands. A frantic schedule and I do not know how he keeps it up.

On another subject, we held a National Council meeting in the morning prior to the Rally and one of the main decisions was to suspend Timothy Mubhawu from all positions in the Party and to put his case the National Disciplinary Committee for consideration. He may well be expelled from the Party as a result. The reason for this strong action was the statement he made in Parliament on women and their status in society. This statement was completely at variance with Party policy and was viewed as a very serious breech of discipline on a key issue.

The decision was unanimous.

Eddie Cross

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Eddie Cross; President Tsvangirai’s message to the people of Zimbabwe on the eve of the ZCTU organised action

Zimbabwean workers have a right to demonstrate and express themselves. In a situation where their condition and the cost of living continue to sky-rocket, the people have to exercise their democratic right to show their displeasure, suggest solutions and confront what is before them.

However, information reaching the MDC indicates that the regime wishes to suppress the planned demonstrations through brutality, massive arrests and state-sponsored violence. May I take this opportunity to warn Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe against making such a move? Any attempt to turn peaceful workers’ marches into chaotic scenes is counter-productive and unfortunate. For the past six months, we have openly advised the Mugabe regime that we are organizing mass protests as part of our comprehensive programme of democratic resistance. Since the ZCTU action is driven by the people and is a people’s project to address an obvious national grievance, the MDC is fully behind such an effort. Disrupting the planned action shall invite the ire of the party and generate the requisite response.

Come out in your millions and show the regime that you have had enough. We maintain that Zanu PF and Mugabe must be forced to negotiate Zimbabwe out of the national crisis. Already, we have put forward our suggestions on how to save our country and to start afresh. Our roadmap to legitimacy has what we believe are the necessary signposts to rebuild the people’s confidence to pull Zimbabwe out of the woods.

In any society, responsible stakeholders have a duty and a responsibility to proffer suggestions for change and to act, using universal habits of citizenship, to remedy an already deteriorating political, social and economic situation. I wish to congratulate the ZCTU and the entire civil society for their initiative and to inform them that as a political party we are fully behind their efforts. Nothing will stop the people from exercising their generic right to express themselves.

On our part, we remain on course. Our preparations for sustained resistance are complete. We are ready to roll-out our programme. We are watching the regime’s response to the ZCTU action with a keen interest.

Lastly, may I appeal to the church and the business community to work with us to save our country from the current uncertainty? May I extend the same plea to our security forces to refrain from acts that shall put them on a collision course with the people?

We respect the Constitutional and professional mandate of our security forces to protect the people and we look forward to working with you in this regard. We harbour no grievances against you. What we face is crisis of governance, initiated and perpetuated by Zanu PF, a failed political party. Resist abuse. Stay out of party politics.

Morgan Tsvangirai,

President

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