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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ITV stealth report: fedup in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe; cracks, fissures and discontent all around.

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe turned 83 a week ago. While he celebrated at a lengthy gala in Gweru which was forced on residents and school children there, police issued a repressive ban on rallies and demonstrations in Harare. The ban, the regime’s latest measure at calming an incessent tide of anger, is evidence that there are deep cracks and fissures in the nation’s foundations as Eddie Cross notes;

The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply in the past few days. The government has imposed a ban on public meetings, the strikes are continuing with the State run hospitals now completely paralysed, Doctors and Nurses refuse to go back to work. The Universities are due to open on Monday but staff is on strike and there are no signs of compromise. Students plan to join the strike on Monday in support of their lecturers and demanding attention to the stark conditions under which they are living. The ZCTU has announced a national strike in a month’s time and the State Security Minister has threatened them with dire action.

Now a form of curfew is being imposed on the high-density townships across the country in an effort to bring the situation under control. These are clearly signs of panic in the realms of government.

Tomorrow should be the start of a 4-month freeze on prices and wages – however I understand the proposal has been abandoned as being simply unworkable. No statements are forthcoming from the authorities and to say the least, there is considerable confusion in business and Union circles. The Governor of the Reserve Bank speaks of a ‘Social Contract’ but none exists.

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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.

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Eddie Cross: The farm Situation today

Set out below is a letter from a lowveld farmer on an irrigation farm. It describes what has been going on there for the past few months. The ceizure of farm equipment was done by Police and Army details useing force. It was declared illegal and the High Court ordered the equipment returned. We are talking here of many million of US dollars worth of equipment. When they eventually colected the equipment – it had been vandalised to the point where it was no longer operational. Jambanja is a term used to describe the use of a mob to terrorise the occupants of a home on a targetted farm. It is often accompanied by physical violence, noise and fire damage to property.

The campaign is carried out on an ethnic basis – white farmesr are the targets. It is completely illegal and destructive. Farms taken over in this way quickly become derilect and unproductive.

Eddie Cross
18th October 2006

Muroyi,

Pardon my poor responses to your e-mails. My mind is a bit cluttered for the moment by the reappearance of what I thought was behind us.

There’s been a turn for the worse again. We were told to fetch our illegally seized equipment from the various police stations, starting on 20th September. This, after explicit high court orders to do so in Dec 2005. We were able to access about 60% of what they took from us. It is all very badly vandalized and abused. None of the tractors were mobile. All the many trailers and towable implements no longer had tyres, etc. Those unfortunates who’d had their expensive centre pivots uplifted by the police team last year had to pick through the jumble of pipes, wheels, motor, gearboxes computerized control panels, etc where they had been simply dumped last year. Never used, some even had the original paper labels on.

What a wicked exercise last year’s seizures by government agents was.

We finally completed the recovery of what was available, on 26th September. The Ministry of lands immediately slapped a fresh order on all the premises where the equipment had been temporarily stored! It was in the form of a notice of “Intention to Acquire” our equipment, some kind of perverted pretence of following “procedure”. The long and short of it is that our equipment has been re-embargoed. In its present state it cannot ever be used, and the state’s agents know this. The act was out of spite and revenge for losing the court actions all along the line! A twisted attempt to “save face” perhaps.

There is a new spate of farm evictions.You have no doubt read about it in the media. All the eviction notices are illegal. There is no provision in law to issue any. In the haste last year to change the constitution and nationalise the land, the ZG omitted to include an eviction clause.
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Cross Posted on Global Voices

Global Voices has posted a harrowing video documenting the brutal beatings suffered by worker’s union demonstrators recently. Read the post and watch the video here.

Debate surrounding a new law, the Domestic Violence Bill, became the context for a much criticized misogynistic outburst in Zimbabwe’s parliament last week. Timothy Mubhawu, a controversial member of Zimbabwe’s parliament attracted the ire of women worldwide when he, purpoting “to represent God”, expressed his views on the proposed bill,

“I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men. It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped in daylight in this House.”

This outburst, wouldn’t nearly be as appalling had it been uttered by any other legislator save for Mubhawo. Zimbabwean women were on the streets the day after Mubhawo’s infamous statement. Mubhawo is the chief suspect in the brutal assault of Trudy Stevenson, a white female parliamentarian.
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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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