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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With Mugabe’s approval, police quash another demo

In what has been widely condemned as the state’s approval of police cruelty, Mugabe berated Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders for crying foul after police brutalized them for their attempted demonstrations last week. Speaking at an official event during a stopover on his way back from Cuba and New York, Mugabed raged at the demonsrators accusing them of putting on a charade for western media to document,

The President said the ZCTU leaders — who were beaten up by police for holding an illegal gathering in Harare — got the treatment they deserved for ignoring warnings to disperse.

“We cannot have a situation where people decide to sit in places not allowed and when the police remove them, they say no. We can’t have that, that is a revolt to the system. Vamwe vaakuchema kuti takarohwa, ehe unodashurwa. When the police say move, move. If you don’t move, you invite the police to use force,” the President said.

And as if they had planned it ahead, the police did it again.

27 people on Monday were left with bruises after police in Harare crushed a protest march by the pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). Demonstrations, which took part in several cities last Wednesday, had failed to take place in Harare due to heavy police presence.

Dr Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the NCA, said the impromptu strike action which was attended by around 300 people was to make the people of Harare go back to the streets and regain their confidence as the police blocked the protests last week. He said; “The objective is to raise awareness and putting pressure on the government.”

Police are said to have started beating the protesters who were not resisting but merely sat on the road. There were no arrests. Madhuku believes it was a well calculated plot by the authorities not to arrest anyone so as to create the impression that there were very few people in the streets. He also said perhaps it was coinciding with the return of Robert Mugabe who was returning home from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

All this does is instill tremendous amounts of fear in an already fearful lay population in Zimbabwe. One of the things Mugabe’s propaganda has done extremely well is overmagnifying the consequences of opposing them whilst underplaying or downright ignoring the progress made by activists for a better Zimbabwe. Ultimately, as ordinary Zimbabweans engage in the cost-benefit analysis of whether it’s worth the risk of going out on the streets, there are huge disincentives for the people to be involved in street protest. We cannot forget the plain reality here; at just 7 years of age, the MDC has attained heights scaled by no other opposition party in Zimbabwe. And despite Mugabe’s constant belittling, the NCA and ZCTU are still out there for the people. Don’t forget the other civic activists braving assured police torture on a daily basis either.

As for the Bull Conner like government, their time is fast approaching. They too, like their infamous predecessor will realize that just the most violent beatings, the most inhumane punishment, and the most demeaning things they can do and say will not take away from the people of Zimbabwe that which the government didn’t give; our God-given right to freedom and dignity. Pretty soon, the people will have nothing left to fear anymore. In Why we can’t wait, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. describes Mugabe’s impending reality,

When for decades you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you an says: “Punish me. I do accept it so that the world will know that I am right and you are wrong,” you hardly konw what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed. You know that this man is as good a man as you are; that from the some mysterious source he has found te courage and the conviction to meet meet physical force with soul force.” p.16

It’s only a matter of time….

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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,


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Mugabe chastizes party on corruption, succession

Apparently frustrated by his party’s penchant for a quick buck and lust for power, Mugabe bombarded his party’s top members not once but twice over the weekend. Speaking to ZANU’s central committee on Friday Mugabe lashed out at the members over corruption saying,

These cases of [members] wanting to enrich themselves are increasing in number. You are not being fair — some people are just being crookish. Zanu-PF is going to embark on a major cleansing exercise to remove those elements bent on tarnishing the image of the party by their wayward behaviour with their private and public lives.

The aged leader, did not leave any stone unturned in his long harangue. Taking a swipe at the MDC over recent violence within the party, Mugabe charged lies and violence were seated deep within the party. He contended this was something western powers refused to listen to. He alsoissued a thinly veiled threat to the MDC about their planned mass action saying he wanted police given more powers to crush such revolts. He continued saying the only way to secure power was by election.

On Saturday the Central Committee found themselves under Mugabe’s cross hairs when Mugabe characterized some of them as rabidly power hungry.

The things we hear about succession, succession, succession — zvatinonzwa zvacho, zvakaoma. Hapana zvakadaro. If I were to write books, I would write volumes and volumes of nonsensical things. Vamwe vanoenda kun’anga kuti ndinoda kuita ichi. Imi weee . . . N’anga huru is the people of Zimbabwe. Hazvina n’anga mukati izvi. (We hear lots of unbelievable stories about succession. We hear some people are consulting witchdoctors . . . but the biggest witchdoctor is the people of Zimbabwe. There is no need to consult witchdoctors.)

“If you do your work and work with the people well, the people will recognise you. Unhu hwako tinenge tichida kuti hunge huri hwakanaka.” (We want people with dignity.)

Fascinating. (more…)

Great Post

Accoustic Motorbike has a great post titled, “Yes I Am Sexist” about the unfair reality of being a woman in Zimbabwe. It’s sad but true, the amount of oogling, cackling, whistling, staring, shameless overtures, that meet any woman that isn’t carrying a baby on her back is downright disgusting.

If you know any Zimbabwean men or any men encourage them to read it. If we want progress anywhere in the world, we must fight just as hard to end the kind of oppression expressed in the post just as hard as we fight the wors dictators. Here’s an excerpt:

I hate that I don’t feel safe on my own at night in my own neighbourhood. I hate that I don’t enjoy going to one of my favourite local restaurants, a few blocks from my flat, on my own—the sea of testosterone that awaits inside those doors is too much to navigate alone.

And, of course, it’s not just about sex. It’s about men’s attitudes towards women. Maybe the message that a woman is not for beating already resonates with many men. But gender based violence is about much more than beatings. It’s about much more than rape or sexual assault. Surely it also includes the safety with which women move around in their own homes, their own streets, shops and neighbourhoods. Women are not for beating. They are also not for raping, heckling, objectifying or harassing. What messages do men grow up with then about what women are for. What do men think men are for? What do women think women or men are there for? Society has changed dramatically in the past 100 years. It is no longer acceptable to judge or stereotype someone on the basis of their race. Somehow gender differences feel like a harder thing to crack.


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Too Much Pain: Understanding Zimbabwe’s Muted Murambatsvina Commemorations

This week is the official first anniversary of Operation Murambatsvina/Cleanup and there have been a few announcements for events to mark this dark spot in Zimbabwe’s history. Interestingly, it seems the idea of commemorating the injustice of the cleanup has met with a lukewarm response countrywide at best. Zimbabwe’s streets aren’t buzzing with a contemplative reminiscence befitting an evil as great as Murambatsvina was. There just hasn’t been much resonance among most Zimbabweans for the commemoration of those days last year when hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen experienced the wrath of Mugabe’s man-made Tsunami. This not because we are a calloused people with no regard for the value of lives lost and affected by the brutality of Murambatsvina. Allow me reader to explain Zimbabwean cultures complex dealings with emotional trauma.

First of, welcome to Zimbabwe the country with a culture that places a high premium on the concept of “saving face.” In many contexts, the idea of saving face is most ofte associated with Asian cultures. Newsflash: saving face thrives in Africa too. With regards to emotional pain and mourning; you cry only when it is appropriate like at funerals. And if you’re a man you’re brought up to cry even less. The logic of this idea seems to me to stem from the perception of open mourning as a public symbol of giving up and succumbing to one’s circumstances. At funerals when we cry it’s because (and you’ll often hear verbal expressions of this in the crying) there’s nothing we can do to revive the deceased. The same is true for physical pain; from an early age, Zimbabwean children are urged to bottle their emotional response to pain and only to cry when it’s too much to bear.

When you cry you admit you have been overcome, with that you lose face. Zimbabwean families will do everything they can before they throw up their arms in surrendar, or mourn publicly. This is the reason why when a family has an internal problem, the first person to seek external help however appropriate the move might be, will be castigated. Zimbabweans love to take care of their busines amongst themselves. That’s why Mugabe has succeeded in labelling Tsvangirai an arrant knave for “running and airing the nation’s dirty laundry publicly.”

Eddie Cross: “Chernobyl”

One of the Pastors here most closely linked to the Murambatsvina exercise last year has tracked the nearly 1000 families displaced from a squatter camp on the outskirts of Bulawayo. He claims that in his estimate, nearly half those displaced have died since they were rendered homeless and destitute by the “clean up the filth campaign” of the Mugabe regime.

By the United Nations own estimates 700 000 people were displaced. My own estimate has always been much higher because we know that up to 40 per cent of all who live in the towns and cities affected by the campaign, were in fact living as lodgers – most in illegal structures. One of my senior staff for example has a sister in Harare where she has a two roomed home to which she added 7 other rooms, which were rented out to lodgers. The combination gave her (a widow with two children) a home and an income. During the campaign her extension was completely destroyed and with it her only source of an income.

Whatever the figures, even at the low level estimated by the UN – this Church Pastor estimates that 300 000 will have died in the 11 months since the operation was launched. Today Green Peace are claiming that the deaths from the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine will reach 100 000 in two decades. This was world news on the BBC this morning. The impact of what Mugabe did on May the 18th 2005 is many times more serious than the fallout from Chernobyl. The only difference is that Mugabe’s victims will die out in lonely villages, far away from the searching lens of a TV camera. These deaths will go unrecorded and unrecognized except for the attendance at the subsequent funeral of family and a Pastor who can do little but weep for those for whom God has made him shepherd.

In one month from now we will remember those who were displaced by the regime in May 2005. Churches will hold memorial services and protests will take place across the country. But it will do little to remedy the wrong done to millions by a government that not only has lost its way but is hell bent on destroying what little is left of the economy or it’s own reputation.