Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for January, 2007

Abuse of power

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Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 by Bev Clark

Having a tooth taken out at 8am on a Monday isn’t the best way to start the working week but having suffered a Sunday of throbbing toothache I thought I’d better Do Something. So a strapping Serbian called Dr Paul put paid to my molar, finally managing to extract it after about an hour or so of pushing and pulling.

As I lay there trying to Dig Deep and deal with the pain my mind wandered to a DVD I’d watched the night before called A Patriotic Force. This is a newly released documentary commissioned by the Solidarity Peace Trust in South Africa. The documentary chronicles the behaviour of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) over the last decade or so. It includes frightening scenes illustrating the abuse of police power in Zimbabwe with some survivors discussing the brutal treatment that they have endured at the hands of our police force. So when I saw Zimbabweans being beaten with batons, or swathed in bloody bandages from their run-ins with the ZRP whilst exercising their democratic right to engage in peaceful protest, I lay in the dentist’s chair thinking that my pain probably palled in comparison.

At Kubatana we’ve been sending out copies of A Patriotic Force to Zimbabweans from all walks of life, all over the country in an awareness raising exercise. If you would like to receive a copy why not write to the Solidarity Peace Trust.

But hang on a sec. Just thinking of the title of this DVD you wouldn’t be the odd one out if the title confused you. In fact a few of the titles of documentaries on the Zimbabwean situation produced by the Solidarity Peace Trust confuse me. Why not just use plain simple titles that tell it like it is. The ZRP is anything but a patriotic force; instead they obey their one master – Mugabe.

Other strange titles include No War in Zimbabwe and a Legitimate Election. At first glance with titles like these you’d think things were hunky dory in Zimbabwe. Instead they’re anything but.

Vending for a living in Zimbabwe

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Monday, January 22nd, 2007 by Jameson Gadzirai

The increasing turmoil brought about by the harsh economic conditions has resulted in the mushrooming of many vendors along the streets of Harare. Street vending in Zimbabwe is a cocktail ranging from fruits and vegetables, flowers and medicinal herbs, rat poisons and pesticides, green backs and the much needed fuel.

Welcome to Temba Mudzengereri’s world. He’s a flower vendor plying his trade with a friend of his at the Newlands Shopping Centre. His voice has graced the parking bays of this complex for 6 months now. A professionally packed bouquet goes for at least Z$4,000.00, and on a good day Temba gets as much as Z$15,000.00. Next to him is Nicholas, a 26-year-old fruit vendor with nicely combed hair and a winning smile. “We have been here since 2003″ he tells me with a smile. Temba runs off to meet a potential customer. His face lights up with the possibility of compelling the potential client to choose his fruits rather than the other vendors. Expressions of repulsion or morbid aloofness often meet his salesman’s smile, but he shrugs them off, confident that he will come across someone who will eventually buy his wares after lengthy cajoling.

Harare vendorsNicholas has a younger friend in tow; his name is Arnold. Both have cultivated that kind of trust which is key to all business partnerships. Street vending for the two is a way of life that has generated employment and secured a decent income. Like many others, Nicholas and Arnold rent accommodation in the southern surbubs of Harare for as much as ZIM$25,000 a room which they pay for through the proceeds they get from their vending.

The job of a street vendor is no walk in the park. The ever-increasing municipal police presence has made it difficult to exhibit all the wares on the street whilst maintaining the decency that comes with everyday labour. Many vendors carry just enough wares to allow them to disappear the moment municipal police arrive at the scene. Book vendors are a case in point. They have resorted to looking like regular streetwalkers and putting up posters along the city’s pavements advertising their wares. They usually stand at a distance and only provide assistance to potential customers who venture to read the posters showing particular interest.

A case of government criminalising efforts to make a living?

I think back to Operation Murambatsvina and I realise that the Mugabe regime will not formalise informal vending as long as it do not suit the greater political agenda. My memories bid me to ask Temba and Nicholas how their experience has been with the authorities.

“The Municipal police are an everyday menace,” Nicholas volunteers. “They come here at least twice a day,” Temba juts in, adding, “We run away each time they come, they say we do not have licences to trade, but they will not give us the licences”.

Vending for a living in Harare is a tough process demanding bravery in the midst of adversity.

Tough talk, no action

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Thursday, January 18th, 2007 by Bev Clark

Morgan Tsvangirai has been in the press a lot lately making largely depressing reading. First I saw an article in The Herald that reported on an alleged meeting between Dell the US Ambassador in Zimbabwe and both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Both meetings were separate of course. Anyway when I discussed this article with a friend today she said that the supposed US$1million being offered by Dell to the MDC if they sorted out their differences and united should rather be spent on suffocating the MDC because its become as much of a liability to democracy in Zimbabwe as Zanu PF.

Then I note in the Financial Gazette today that Tsvangirai is apparently “talking tough”. Unfortunately that’s about all he can do – Mr All Talk And No Action. I mean maybe it’s just me but aren’t you sick and tired of statements like “the time to act is now” (duh) or “we are guided by an urgent call to save our country”? In fact in the fatuously entitled email, “The MDC President Speaks” published by the MDC yesterday, the phrase “the time to act is now” was used at least three times.

It appears that the MDC is banking on two things to “save Zimbabwe”. One is the Save Zimbabwe Campaign. I found it rather disheartening to read that the leader of our largest opposition party is “pinning his hopes” on a seemingly fictitious coalition of civic organizations acting under the rather worn out name of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign. What does this say about Tsvangirai’s vision of his own political party and their ability to seriously challenge Mugabe? Of course whilst I completely agree that its time that pro-democracy forces within civil society support the MDC’s call for political change, I wonder what exactly about the Save Zimbabwe Campaign gives Tsvangirai all this hope and confidence? Have you had the opportunity to meet the leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign? Have they encouraged your participation in the formulation of civic campaigns? Have you attended one of their events? Do you know how and where to contact them if you wanted to get involved and find out more?

In short, have you ever seen any of them?

And then 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.

Robbed by my own bank

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Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 by Taurai Maduna

Yesterday I had to get some cash out of the bank to pay for an urgent electricity bill because I had been left in the lurch by a friend who had promised to repay his debt to me.

He told me he was suffering from January disease – this is street language for people who do not have a cent in their pockets because it’s all been spent during the festive season.

But even though I had about Z$8 000 in my account the ATM wouldn’t give me my money. I felt robbed. Here I am with cash in my bank but the ATM tells me I cannot get to my cash supposedly because I have too little cash.

However it’s their problem, not mine . . . the ATM could only cough out Z$10 000 notes even though Z$500 and Z$1000 notes should be available.

So instead of getting stranded again I think I’ll do what many people are doing and just keep my cash under my bed!

Wafer thin nails

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Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 by Bev Clark

This morning I heard a woman shout

I’ve broken a nail, can I come in?

Luckily she wasn’t hollering through our window because I wouldn’t have known what to do with her except offer her a strong cup of tea maybe. Her panicked shriek was directed at Cleopatra’s Beauty Parlour next door to us which hadn’t yet opened so the emergency nail repair had to wait. Cleaopatra’s offer the Rage of the U.S.A. – wafer thin nails but extra strong. Clearly not strong enough.

On the subject of beauty parlours – during the Christmas break I went up to Chimanimani to see some friends. In the village I took this snap and no, I didn’t go in to have my nails done.

Chimanimani Health and Beauty Shop

Jog your mind into action on a Monday

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Monday, January 15th, 2007 by Jameson Gadzirai

There are two kinds of frogs in Zimbabwe. One is the mark – time – by – the – puddle – till – someone – kicks – me – frog. The other is the adjust – to – the – rising – temperature – of – the – water- till- I – boil frog.

The first type of frog has grand ideas and is full of energy. It cringes and remains stagnant at the face of crisis, however. Forward is never for this frog, unless of course, when someone comes from behind and gives it a hard kick.

Yet life for these frogs could never have been worse. They are mellowed into silence by a regime touting growth and development yet practicing the reverse. Prices of goods rise at the batting of an eye; their sons and daughters sing foreign anthems and estrange their children with foreign lore; the very dignity of individual labour is sacrificed each day to appease temporal needs that grow by the day.

These are the problems they face every day; the puddles of quagmire they dare not traverse. Left to themselves, they would wait till the puddle dries, then, tired and weak, they will pass through arid lands to safety. Others will be lucky to get sharp kicks at the back, which make them leap over the puddle to safety. The unfortunate ones, the ones that find themselves smack on Harare’s potholed roads meet bitter fates. You often find bits of them stuck under the wheels of the latest mercedes s100′s, or is it the E-V12 Brabus tuned mercs?

The second frog is the tolerant type. It means no one harm, and when harm does come its way, there’s always a solution. They make do with perilous trips down south, where they get mountain-sized groceries and trudge back home to feed near starving children whose future is bleak. They see Zimbabwe’s suffering as the poor person’s burden. Yet they will not cry. No, they never will. You’ll probably be the one who will cry at their wake one day, celebrating a life crushed by a system so obscene it breaks the backs of its own children.

Pockets of expression continue to dwindle by the day. Government seizes property and destroys homes. It ignores efforts at effective economic engagement. It dehumanises her people.

The fruits of Zimbabwe’s toil shall not be found at the bottom of each individual’s pockets, but in the smiles of the contented many. Moved by common need, we all shall become relevant if we collectively agittate for action.

The clarion call to rebellion against the self and its inclination towards greed and self-gratification resonates in the air.

Get your mind a jogging this Monday and you will be surprised at how good it will make you feel. The great minds that decide to face the challenge head on will be the great minds that will be remembered in time.