Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for February, 2007

Through tinted glass

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, February 26th, 2007 by Bev Clark

I’ve just gotten an email from ZINASU – Zimbabwe’s national students union – calling for a national students’ stay away beginning March 5th. We’ve had so many strikes recently, I’m left wondering why there hasn’t been a convergence of all this discontent? Something like the mother of all strikes – a National People’s Strike. Also, what is and where is, the response from civil society to the Mugabe regime’s banning of public rallies and demonstrations?

Zimbabwe continues to experience the inability of civic leaders and political organizers to unify and bring greater pressure on the ruling party even when there is ripe opportunity to do so.

One of the best aspects of my job is getting to read correspondence from Zimbabweans from all walks of life. And often we get suggestions from members of the general public that are both creative and useful. For example, Impi wrote in recently saying

It may be of interest to start collecting/producing a mass of Zimbabwe flags to use in street and other protests. There can be nothing uglier than seeing a national police force or army acting/shooting upon people bearing the National Flag.

Then Lionel wrote to us on the same issue, this time suggesting

If we are to approach the oppressors in any way we should walk with a Bible in our hands, maybe the Koran too and see their reactions. If there is any retaliation of any kind then we truly know there is no hope of resolving our crisis peacefully which is what we are trying to do.

I’ve just read Chenjerai Hove’s article, Inside the mind of a dictator, published in the Mail & Guardian. Among many other issues, he commented on Mugabe’s isolation

Mugabe’s loss of his grasp on reality is based on decades of seclusion from Zimbabwean life. From the enclosure of voluntary exile in Ghana, he returned and went into the enclosure of prison for ten years. On his release, he escaped to the seclusion of Mozambique before returning to another prison – a vast motorcade from which he sees only the citizens and the streets through tinted glass.

And in some ways I wonder whether the political opposition and civil society in Zimbabwe isn’t guilty of this as well. How often do our civic and political leaders genuinely (not cosmetically) poll their constituents for their opinions and their input on resolving our political crisis, or what tactics to use in confronting oppression? Too seldom for my liking.

I’ve just seen a notification of a public event being organized by the Mass Public Opinion Institute of Zimbabwe and I liked their reminder

Could it be that public opinion is “the missing link” in the democracy debate in Zimbabwe, and indeed, in Africa today?

Marching in step together

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 by Bev Clark

Yesterday The Herald published a compilation of speeches made by Robert Mugabe during his extended stay in power. Mugabe’s address to the nation on the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence was included under the title “An enduring legacy of principled oratory”.

Karl Marx said “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Are we still stuck in tragedy or have we moved into farce? What do you think?

Here is the full text of Mugabe’s 1980 speech which inspired so many . . .

Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s Address To The Nation On Independence Eve 1980

Long live our Freedom!

The final countdown before the launching of the new State of Zimbabwe has now begun. Only a few hours from now, Zimbabwe will have become a free, independent and sovereign state, free to choose its own flight path and chart its own course to its chosen destiny.

Its people have made a democratic choice of those who as their legitimate Government, they wish to govern them and take policy decisions as to their future. This, indeed, is the meaning of the mandate my party secured through a free and fair election, conducted in the full glare of the world’s spotlight.

While my Government welcomes the mandate it has been freely given and is determined to honour it to the letter, it also accepts that the fulfillment of the tasks imposed by the mandate are only possible with the confidence, goodwill and co-operation of all of you, reinforced by the forthcoming support and encouragement of all our friends, allies, and well wishers in the international community.

The march to our national independence has been a long, arduous and hazardous one. On this march, countless lives have been lost and many sacrifices made. Death and suffering have been the prize we have been called upon to pay for the final priceless reward of freedom and national independence. May I thank all of you who have had to suffer and sacrifice for the reward we are now getting.

Tomorrow we shall be celebrating the historic event, which our people have striven for nearly a century to achieve. Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans.

Independence will bestow on us a new personality, a new sovereignty, a new future and perspective, and indeed a new history and a new past. Tomorrow we are being born again; born again not as individuals but collectively as a people, nay, as a viable nation of Zimbabweans. Tomorrow is thus our birthday, the birth of a great Zimbabwe, and the birth of its nation.

Tomorrow we shall cease to be men and women of the past and become men and women of the future. It’s tomorrow then, not yesterday, which bears our destiny.

As we become a new people we are called to be constructive, progressive and forever forward looking, for we cannot afford to be men of yesterday, backward-looking, retrogressive and destructive. Our new nation requires of every one of us to be a new man, with a new mind, a new heart and a new spirit.

Our new mind must have a new vision and our new hearts a new love that spurns hate, and a new spirit that must unite and not divide. This to me is the human essence that must form the core of our political change and national independence.

Henceforth, you and I must strive to adapt ourselves, intellectually and spiritually to the reality of our political change and relate to each other as brothers bound one to another by a bond of national comradeship.

If yesterday I fought as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest, loyalty, rights and duties as myself. If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds you to me and me to you.

Is it not folly, therefore, that in these circumstances anybody should seek to revive the wounds and grievances of the past? The wrongs of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten.

If ever we look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequities that must never again find scope in our political and social system. It could never be a correct justification that because whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power. An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or by black against white.

Our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us.

Democracy is never mob-rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules. Our independence must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will.

It is not the right to negate the freedom of others to think and act, as they desire. I, therefore, wish to appeal to all of you to respect each other and act in promotion of national unity rather than negation of that unity.

On Independence Day, our integrated security forces will, in spite of their having only recently fought each other, be marching in step together to herald the new era of national unity and togetherness. Let this be an example of us all to follow. Indeed, let this enjoin the whole of our nation to march in perfect unison from year to year and decade to decade towards its destiny.

We have abundant mineral, agricultural and human resources to exploit and develop for which we need perfect peace. Given such peace, our endeavours to transform our society and raise our standard of living are bound to succeed.

The mineral resources lying beneath the surface of our country have hardly been scratched, nor have our agricultural and industrial resources yet fully harnessed. Now that we have peace, we must go fully out to exploit them.

We already have a sophisticated infrastructure. Our expertise is bound to increase as more and more educational and technical institutions are established to transform our skilled manpower.

The whole world is looking on us this day. Indeed, many countries in the international community are amazed at how we have so quickly and unexpectedly moved from war to peace. We have certainly won the goodwill of many countries and can confidently expect to benefit from the economic and technical aid they are able and willing to provide for us.

May I assure you that my Government is determined to bring about meaningful change to the lives of the majority of the people in the country. But I must ask you to be patient and allow my Government time to organize programmes that will effectively yield that change.

There are people without land who need land, people without jobs who need jobs, children without schools who need schools and patients without hospitals who need them.
We are also fully aware of the need for increased wages in all sectors of employment. My Government will certainly do its best to meet the existing needs in these areas. But you have to assist us by being patient and peaceful.

I now finally wish to appeal to you, wherever you are, to participate fully today and Saturday in the Independence celebrations that have been organized throughout the country.

There are, of course, those of you who have the duty to maintain essential services. These services must indeed be maintained so that the celebrations are facilitated. Maintaining such essential services during the celebrations is a significant contribution of their success.

I wish to thank Her Majesty the Queen for having sent His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales to represent her and officiate at our Independence ceremony, where he will perform the symbolic act of severing our colonial ties with Britain.

As you are aware, this historic ceremony will be witnessed by Heads of State and Government and representatives of nearly 100 countries plus representatives of several international, political and voluntary organizations. The ceremony will be also be reported and relayed to millions of people in the world by the mass media.

May I enjoin you all to regard this solemn occasion with honour and dignity, and participate in the celebrations that follow it with jubilation. Let us rejoice over our independence and recognize in it the need to dedicate ourselves to national unity, peace and progress.

I now wish to pay tribute to Lord Soames, our Governor, for the most important role he has played in successfully guiding this country to elections and independence. He was from the very onset given a difficult and most unenviable task. And yet he performed it with remarkable ability and overwhelming dignity.

I must admit that I was one of those who originally never trusted him, and yet I have now ended up not only implicitly trusting but fondly loving him as well.

He is indeed a great man through whom it has been possible within a short period I have been Prime Minister, to organize substantial financial and technical aid from Britain and other countries.

I am personally indebted to him for the advice he has constantly given me on the art of managing the affairs of Government. I shall certainly be missing a good friend and counselor, and so will our independent Zimbabwe and all its people.

I also wish to thank all our distinguished quests for the honour they have given us by coming to attend our Independence celebrations on behalf of their countries or organizations.

Their presence in our country signifies a bond of solidarity and friendship between their countries or organizations and our country.

Without the support they have given us towards our liberation, this day would never have come about. Thanks, therefore, for all the material, political, diplomatic and moral support they have given us.

Sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, I urge you to participate fully and jubilantly in our Independence celebrations and to ensure that all our visitors are well entertained and treated with utmost hospitality.

I shall be one in spirit and love, in loyalty and commitment with you all. Forward with the Year of the People’s Power!

Long live our Freedom!
Long live our Sovereignty!
Long live our Independence!

Change is skin deep

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 by Bev Clark

Last night it was either watch a tv series about a well meaning serial killer called Dexter, or Mugabe’s birthday interview. Go figure. No guesses which I chose. Dexter is a lot of fun. I can really get into a good guy going around killing all the bad guys. After I’d had my fill of Dexter I listened to a bit of Mugabe’s birthday interview on ZTV:

” . . . all those 90 years of settler rule with repressive, suppressive, oppressive laws, saw our people being reduced in status to near slaves. Saw their property going, their very humanity undermined, and we had no rights in our country and so in a situation in which we were denied democracy completely. Denied the application of human rights completely.”

Clearly change is skin deep: our oppressive white rulers have been replaced by a bunch of black ones.

And I’m reminded of a beautiful poem called Propaganda by the wonderful Zimbabwean poet, Julius Chingono who warned us about how fleeting freedom can be.

We, the povo,
have been taught
the crack of a gun
shall not be dreaded:
its echo
is freedom
we are not told
an echo is a distant sound
that dies out soon

Four and a half bananas

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, February 19th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

Raymond Majongwe President of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, was arrested on Wednesday for visiting schools in Harare to speak with the teachers there. He was released Thursday night without charge because, like he said, he didn’t do anything wrong. Even Zimbabwe’s repressive laws allow the leader of a trade union to go to his or her members’ work places and speak with them during working hours.

Majongwe pointed out that he was picked up after the headmistress of Mabvuku High School reported him to Law and Order. What is it that makes some people want to support the regime by turning other people in? This headmistress goes to the same shops, she rides the same commuters, she sees the same vendors as the rest of us. What does she gain from turning in Majongwe?

Apparently, she was upset that she heard him saying that the teachers are earning 17 bananas a day. If that really is what she heard, she was right to be taken aback. Teachers are actually earning more like 4 and a half bananas a day, according to Majongwe. That’s right. The average teacher on the average salary earns enough to buy 4 and a half bananas a day.

Meanwhile, Mugabe seems to be agreeing with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono that it’s a good idea to freeze prices and wages at the current level from 1 March to 30 June. Seeing as how inflation is Enemy Number One (1) and has now been declared illegal. But already, nurses, doctors, teachers, and others are striking for higher wages, because their salaries are far below what they need to survive. If wages don’t go up before this planned freeze, we’re looking at even more trying times ahead.

Forced to eat their own placards

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Friday, February 16th, 2007 by Bev Clark

With the advent of desktop publishing and information mediums like email pretty much any citizen can, and has become a publisher. But with the freedom to publish comes the need to engage both responsibility and accountability. Within civil society Information Officers are playing at being journalists, sometimes with good results and sometimes with disastrous ones.

I took umbrage with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on Tuesday in regard to how they reported on the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) Valentine’s March in Harare. Caught up in the hysteria of “breaking news” (something we information activists need to break out of) Crisis issued an Information Alert which stated:

More than 1000 WOZA activists were brutally assaulted by riot police and had police dogs unleashed on them as they were marching in Harare. The march was for love where Zimbabweans were called upon to dwell in peace and harmony.

As I pointed out to Crisis, police dogs were not unleashed on the demonstrators and during the march there were no brutal assaults. And indeed if over 1000 WOZA activists had been assaulted, this particular protest march would go down in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history as being the most savage of all the Zimbabwe Republic Police force’s acts of violence.

Just as we pro-democracy activists demand accountability in publishing from the state-controlled press so we must demand the same accountability of ourselves.

Meanwhile WOZA has reported on police brutality experienced by WOZA members in Bulawayo. Whilst WOZA acknowledges that this disgusting behaviour is perpetrated by some members of the police force they emphasise that others engage professionalism in their work. Here’s an excerpt from their statement:

The petty nastiness of the Zimbabwe Republic Police was again evident today. Having informed those on support yesterday that the breakfast feeding time had been changed to 5am, volunteers were mobilised to provide food at 5am but were kept waiting until 7am, the normal feeding time. A woman at Queens Park was consistently denied her ARV medication. Reports have also come in that several members were forced to eat the paper placards that they had been carrying during the demonstration – some of these read, ‘love can bring a brighter day’ and ‘From WOZA with love’. Despite the inability of some officers to choose love over hate, WOZA would like to salute those officers who did treat our members with respect and professionalism and who recognized that WOZA is fighting for a better future for ALL Zimbabweans.

Recently Kubatana helped WOZA get on the net. Please check out their web site

An unlovely smell

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Friday, February 16th, 2007 by Bev Clark

Broken HeartOn Valentine’s Day I got a red rose from Alberto, our shopping center’s resident hairdresser. He had installed himself in his doorway and was giving out flowers and kisses to various woman as they passed by – me included. Then my travel agent had their messenger deliver a couple of roses which charmed me because I certainly don’t rate as a frequent flyer. But this year I didn’t get any chocolates which is just as well because I’m protecting the few teeth I have left in my mouth.

Anyway why I mention this is because I’ve just read a rather interesting article, which has this as its introduction:

I received a Valentine’s Day message this week – from the US. Only it did not contain expressions of love and devotion; it was a wake-up call to everyone who gave or received the traditional gifts of flowers or chocolate or perhaps a diamond or two. The message came from the Washington-based International Labour Rights Fund (ILRF) and comprised the fund’s special Valentine’s Day report on the conditions of the flower growers in Colombia and Ecuador. ILRF project director Nora Ferm gave some of the unlovely details concerning cocoa production in Ivory Coast and provided facts about how diamonds had been used to fuel conflict in Africa.

The article also mentions the poor conditions of workers in the horticultural sector in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

And it got me thinking about how little attention we generally pay to where our food comes from, where our rubbish goes and how our tax dollars get spent.