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Archive for February, 2007

Free yourself from fattening the ruling party

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Wednesday, February 14th, 2007 by Bev Clark

In a recent Kubatana email newsletter I asked our subscribers to write 800 words on tactics to challenge oppression. One of my favourite responses is from a woman who offered some real basic suggestions to help improve our lives in Zimbabwe. Here is some of her advice:

Free yourself from fattening the ruling party and any government institution by:

Avoiding all occasions you can be forced to donate for birthday bashes of the president and others like him.

Do not harm yourself and family but if possible do not attend functions that have no other meaning than glorifying the ruling party and the existing politics.

Give support to those that are standing up against the devastating government policies by providing safe accommodation.

Only pay taxes when you really have to.

Annoy ruling party officials and government institutions with rightful requests:

Report potholes in the road, uncollected waste, burst water pipes.

Visit the ministries/the town council/Zesa and put down claims about all issues caused by lack of maintenance.

Reach out and help someone (and yourself)

If you have a room free at the place you live, rent it out to a fellow Zimbabwean at a fair price.

Keep on talking with each other about what’s happening and what’s possible, support each other not to give up but that everyone is needed to bring change.

If you haven’t done so yet start wherever possible in your vicinity with growing maize, potatoes, veggies, pumpkins, tomatoes and onions.

Make use of all reusable plastics, pots, pans and bottles as planting material and fill it with seedlings.

Plant an easy growing fruit tree and a Moringa tree close to your dwelling to help you to maintain your health.

Take care of young people and encourage them to go to school and not to join the national service, the army or the police out of despair.

Befriend policemen and soldiers living in your vicinity. Make them see that serving the people means something else than serving the ruling party.

Do not buy The Herald because it only reflects Government viewpoints.

Don’t watch ZTV and do not listen to the radio. Instead meet with friends and family, sing and dance together, tell stories, read a book to your children.

With women as brave as this, we have hope

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Tuesday, February 13th, 2007 by Bev Clark

It’s raining heavily in Harare right now but just a short while ago the skies were clear for the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) Valentine’s Day March. They brought it forward a day so that the police wouldn’t completely squash it.

So there I was sitting in my car on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue and suddenly the loudest, most joyous and defiant singing filled the air and round the corner came hundreds of WOZA women carrying roses, leaflets and copies of the People’s Charter.

And I felt, in that moment, that anything is possible and most especially, that with women as brave as this, we have hope.

Traffic stopped. Pedestrians stopped and smiled and cheered. People whistled and clapped.

The WOZA march made its way to Parliament where their singing and roses were met with tear gas. Undaunted WOZA re-grouped, turned and marched back into town. At the corner of Chinhoyi Street and Kwame Nkrumah Avenue fairly close to Zanu PF headquarters, I came across police with their dogs intent on cowering this fabulous group of women.

Many women might have been arrested, but the WOZA spirit is alive and well.

Selling to survive

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Thursday, February 8th, 2007 by Bev Clark

Yesterday we had a power cut in our shopping centre from about 9am until 10pm. Not being one to sit in a slump I took myself off to do some local area research. What I discovered:

- the optician across the road has ancient dusty sunglasses on sale for about Z$149 000 a pair

and that next door to them

- Kenge gourmet sandwiches are selling for Z$10 000 bucks a bap.

As I wandered through the shopping centre the contents of a letter I received the day before came to mind.

I am a male adult aged 48 years. Presently I am a pensioner getting a paltry sum of Z$13 000/month pension. I worked in the Police for a period of 27 years having joined in January 1977 in the then British South Africa Police. Please help me.

Maybe he can join the 30 vendors moving about the shopping centre selling to survive. I made a list of what they’ve got in their hands on any given day:

electric power strips
steering wheel covers
windscreen wipers
feather dusters
door locks
buddie cards

Degrees in outrage

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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

Male students at the University of Zimbabwe are going to find themselves turfed out of res when the campus opens for classes later this month.

I couldn’t find a written news article on it, but according to Studio 7 VOA , the University of Zimbabwe information department has issued a statement saying that no male students will be housed on campus when the semester begins in two weeks time.

The government has announced fee increases of between 300% – 2000% for university students, and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) has pledged an indefinite boycott should these increases not be reversed.

The UZ plan will evict some 1500 of the 4000 campus residents from their accommodation, and will open the housing up for women. The move is clearly meant to reduce the potential for student organising and mobilisation in the face of student protests. University students had suggested that they would come to campus when the new semester begins, but would refuse to go to classes.

One student who was interviewed on VOA said a number of UZ students will now not be able to attend lectures due to high transport costs. The students get government grants of less than $5,000, which isn’t enough to cover even one day’s transport to and from the university, much less lodging costs or regular commuting costs to the university.

UZ Student Representative Council Vice President Clifford Hlatshwayo called the plan “barbaric and diabolic,” and rightly described it as gender discrimination.

Imagine being in your final semester at university and not being able to finish because you’ve been kicked out your residence and you can’t afford to go back and forth to campus. Imagine being a first year student and not getting to even start your programme for similar reasons. I can understand the frustration and outrage at this move. It is just one more example of the state’s authoritarian and arbitrary decision-making style that sweeps aside any sense of what people really need and want.

So when I heard that Hlatshwayo also said that the action was turning the UZ into more of “a girls’ high school” than a university, I decided not to take offence. Sure, he could more accurately and less patronisingly have said that it was turning it into a women’s university. But he didn’t.

As much as I sympathise with his and other male students’ entirely understandable frustration, a small part of me does wistfully imagine that the women might surprise us, and this could be a big break for female solidarity, mobilising and resistance. If the UZ thinks 1500 angry men are a threat, imagine 4000 women organising their complaints – including, for example, the fact that the $5,000 grant doesn’t provide enough for sanitary ware either – and facing down the university administration with outrage and determination.

Clearly the UZ administration has never heard that expression: the female of a species is more deadly than the male.

The fire that is coming

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Monday, February 5th, 2007 by Bev Clark

I was smacked in the face on Friday when I read Amanda Atwood’s blog where she listed all the strikes taking place in Zimbabwe at this time. And I thought, maybe, just maybe something is shifting.

Here’s an excerpt from Njabulo S Ndebele’s book Fools & other stories to give us hope and strength

If the fish in a river
boiled by the midday sun
can wait for the coming of evening,
we too can wait
in this wind-frosted land,
the spring will come,
the spring will come.

If the reeds in winter
can dry up and seem dead
and then rise
in the spring,
we too will survive the fire that is coming
the fire that is coming,
we too will survive the fire that is coming.

Something’s got to give

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Friday, February 2nd, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

This morning, someone pointed me to Gapminder, a fun easy to use webpage that tracks all kinds of different population and demographic data, like life expectancy and income per capita. So I selected Zimbabwe, and watched the data tell the story I already knew – the staggering decline in income per capita, and the crash in life expectancy, since 1992.

Countries like Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho, also devastated by HIV/AIDS have seen their life expectancies decline similarly, but their income per capita has been more firm.

So then, given everything I’ve been hearing about Guinea lately, I decided to have a look at their changes in income and life expectancy over the past years. The country has seen a slow and steady improvement in both life expectancy and income per capita. But Guineans still aren’t satisfied with the past 22 years of President Lansana Conte’s government.

In April 2006, Conte sacked the Guinea’s prime minister and took over that role in addition to remaining President. On 10 January 2007, trade unions in Guinea called for the third general strike in a year, demanding government reforms.

The strike lasted almost three weeks, and was combined with protests by demonstrators calling on Conte to resign. At least 60 people were killed in the demonstrations. These deaths are part of what led Conte and the unions to negotiate. Conte agreed to let go of some of his power and re-establish the position of Prime Minister, and the unions agreed this was enough for them to end the strike. The new Prime Minister has yet to be named, but clearly Guineans hope she or he will bring new life into the government.

With all the strikes growing in Zimbabwe now, maybe we have something similar in store. Reflecting on this with a colleague, she commented “Mugabe is at his weakest right now because of the economic crisis, but the opposition is failing to use this to their advantage.”

I hope she’s wrong. I don’t know if all this is enough to make Mugabe agree to let go of some of his power. But if Gapminder is anything to go by, we’re well past our turn. As they said on SW Radio Africa tonight, no matter what Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono does, ordinary people continue to struggle from day to day as prices rise and shortages persist. And even Gono recognizes that, if government does not increase wages, workers will have no choice but to join labour action.

With strikes, threats of strikes, go slows and discontent by nurses, doctors, teachers, Tel-One employees, farm workers, university lecturers, and even the Zimbabwe Military Academy, as well as the ZCTU threatening a general strike starting 23 February, maybe double oh seven really will have some surprises in store.