Life in Zimbabwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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