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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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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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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WOZA’s Jenni Williams honored

The USA’s State department held it’s inaugural International Women of Courage Awards as part of the month-long commemoration of Women’s History month. Jenni Williams, the national coordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise! (WOZA) was among the ten recipients of the award.

In the first ceremony of its kind at the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice March 7 paid tribute to 10 women from around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership. The honorees represented Afghanistan, Argentina, Indonesia, Iraq, Latvia, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

At the awards presentations, Rice congratulated the women for their “dedication, commitment and passion.” She said their work is transforming societies and serving as an inspiration to the international community.

The awardees are Jennifer Louise Williams of Zimbabwe; Siti Musdah Mulia of Indonesia; Ilze Jaunalksne of Latvia; Samia al-Amoudi of Saudi Arabia; Mariya Ahmed Didi of Maldives; Susana Trimarco de Veron of Argentina; Mary Akrami of Afghanistan; Aziza Siddiqui of Afghanistan; Sundus Abbas of Iraq; and, Shatha Abdul Razzak Abbousi of Iraq.

They were selected from 82 women of courage who were nominated by U.S. embassies worldwide.

Acknowledging that the road to equal rights is a “long journey,” Rice thanked the awardees for combating attempts to dehumanize women. The secretary shared with the audience the wisdom on a T-shirt she was given by Kuwaiti women when they won the right to vote that said: “Half a democracy is no democracy at all.”

Ms. Williams is as deserving a recipient of the award as any other after what she continues to subject herself to in Zimbabwe for the sake democracy. Violet Gonda, our friend at SW Raidio Africa aptly surmises the important role Williams has played in keeping Zimbabwe’s civic activism going,

Many said she was on a road to nowhere with her street protests and various efforts to resist the most brutal government clamp down on free expression in our time, but Jenni Williams – with the other Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) – has soldiered on regardless. She has been imprisoned, beaten, battered and suffered head lice in detention so many times she had to shave her head.

For the last five years, however, Williams has been an inspiration for peaceful campaigners throughout the world.

She truly is a hero in her own right. She has taken a loose coalition of women and turned it into the mainstay and inspiration of Zimbabwe’s entire civil disobedience movement. WOZA kept growing when the MDC faltered and split into two factions. WOZA has been so effective that in this highly paternal culture, some men have started to come out in support of WOZA. Williams has played no small part in all of that.

However, without taking anything away from Williams, I can’t help but mention that Zimbabwe is being held together by millions of women like her. Unlike many of their errant male counterparts, Zimbabwe’s women have stepped up to the challenge of fending for their families despite the collapsing economy and the plethora of dilapidated social institutions. The sad thing about most of these other women is that they often go it with little or no recognition for the valor and resilience. It is these women, who rise early everyday to scrounge up food for their families before they leave for work and school. During the day, these women toil endlessly to gather firewood and other inputs so they have a meal for their families at dinner. And at the end of the day, it is these women who are beaten, verbally abused, and worst of all, exposed to deadly diseases like AIDS all because of their loyalty to their children and families.

We cannot forget the important role these women play too. We must not forget the other women of Zimbabwe too.

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ICG Report on Zimbabwe creates buzz

International Crisis Group (ICG), a global political think tank released a report on Zimbabwe that has generated a lot of attention in cyberspace over the past 48 hours. Here’s the important stuff, the recommendations ICG makes in the report,

To the Government of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF:

1. Abandon plans to extend President Mugabe’s term beyond its expiration in March 2008 and support SADC-led negotiations to implement an exit strategy for him no later than that date.

2. Negotiate with the MDC on a constitutional framework, power-sharing agreement, detailed agenda and benchmarks for a two-year political transition, beginning in March 2008, including:

(a) adoption of a constitutional amendment in the July 2007 parliamentary session providing for nomination in March 2008, by two-thirds majority, of a non-executive president, an executive prime minister and de-linking of government and ZANU-PF party positions;

(b) a power-sharing agreement leading in early 2008 to a transitional government, including ZANU-PF and the MDC, tasked with producing a new draft constitution, repealing repressive laws, drawing up a new voters roll and demilitarising and depoliticising state institutions in accordance with agreed timelines and benchmarks, and leading to internationally supervised elections in 2010; and

(c) implementation of an emergency economic recovery plan to curb inflation, restore donor and foreign investor confidence and boost mining and agricultural production, including establishment of a Land Commission with a strong technocratic base and wide representation of Zimbabwean stakeholders to recommend policies aimed at ending the land crisis.

3. Abandon plans for a new urban displacement program and act to redress the damage done by Operation Murambatsvina by:

(a) providing shelter to its homeless victims; and

(b) implementing the recommendations of the Tibaijuka Report, including compensation for those whose property was destroyed, unhindered access for humanitarian workers and aid and creation of an environment for effective reconstruction and resettlement.

To the Movement for Democratic Change:

4. Proceed with internal efforts to establish minimum unity within the party and a common front for dealing with the government and ZANU-PF and contesting presidential and parliamentary elections, while retaining reunification as the ultimate goal.

5. Hold internal consultations between faction leaders to adopt a joint strategy aiming at:

(a) finalising negotiations with ZANU-PF over constitutional reforms, a power-sharing agreement and formation of a transitional government in March 2008; and

(b) preparing for a March 2008 presidential election if negotiations with ZANU-PF fail, and President Mugabe retains power.

To Zimbabwean and South African Civil Society Organisations:

6. Initiate legal proceedings in South African courts to attach any assets stolen from the Zimbabwean government and transferred to or invested in South Africa and to obtain the arrest and prosecution of egregious Zimbabwean human rights abusers visiting South Africa.

To SADC and South Africa:

7. Engage with the U.S. and the EU to adopt a joint strategy for resolving the crisis that includes:

(a) mediation by SADC of negotiations for an exit deal on expiration of President Mugabe’s term in 2008 and of an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC on a power-sharing transitional government to oversee development of a new constitution, repeal repressive laws and hold internationally supervised presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010; and

(b) understandings on the use by the U.S. and EU of incentives and disincentives to support the strategy in regard to targeted sanctions, political relations with the transitional government and resumption of assistance.

8. Engage with the Zimbabwe government to facilitate talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC leading to the above steps.

9. Convene an urgent meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation to consider the regional consequences of the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and recommend action by the Heads of State summit to deal with the situation.

To the United States and the European Union:

10. Engage with SADC countries to adopt the above-mentioned joint strategy, including understandings on timelines and benchmarks to be met by the Zimbabwean authorities in restoring and implementing a democratic process.

11. Increase pressure on President Mugabe and other ZANU-PF leaders if they do not cooperate with efforts to begin a transition and restore democracy, including by taking the following measures to close loopholes in targeted personal sanctions:

(a) apply the sanctions also to family members and business associates of those on the lists;

(b) cancel visas and residence permits of those on the lists and their family members; and

(c) add Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono to the EU list.

12. Portugal, holding the EU Presidency in the second half of 2007, should not invite President Mugabe and other members of the Zimbabwe government or ZANU-PF on the EU targeted sanctions list to the EU-AU summit unless significant reforms have already been undertaken.

13. Increase funding for training and other capacity-building assistance to democratic forces in Zimbabwe.

To the United Nations Secretary-General:

14. Assign a senior official – a new Special Envoy to Zimbabwe, the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Africa or a high-level member of the Department of Political Affairs – responsibility for the Zimbabwe portfolio including to support the SADC-led initiative, and monitor the situation for the Secretary General.

To the United Nations Security Council:

15. Begin discussions aimed at placing the situation in Zimbabwe on the agenda as a threat to international peace and security.

To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or in the alternative the Human Rights Council:

16. Initiate a follow-up investigation on the Tibaijuka Report, including plans for a new urban displacement campaign, arrests of informal miners and political repression, and recommend actions to the member states, the Security Council and the Secretariat.

To the Commonwealth Secretariat:

17. Encourage Commonwealth member countries in Southern Africa to help mediate a political settlement for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, setting benchmarks for a return of the country to the organisation.

18. Establish a group of Eminent Persons to engage with Zimbabwe, using the good offices of its regional members to facilitate access.

19. Work through Commonwealth civil society organizations to build up civil society capacity in Zimbabwe.

I can’t say the report, recommendations, or all the attention it is getting have me jumping out of my seat. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to dismiss the report either, there’s clearly been a diligent effort by the group to document the status quo in Zimbabwe today.
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