Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for March, 2007

Do these “open hands” represent Zimbabwe’s opposition party?

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, March 29th, 2007 by Taurai Maduna

zim-praise.jpgWhat do you do when you attend a gospel music show and are inspired? Don’t you put your hands up in the air and shout, “Amen, praise the lord”? Well, I would.

Apparently some people in our government think otherwise. The Media and Information Commission (MIC) whose business it is to accredit newspapers and journalists think some gospel music producers have taken the gospel too far. According to The Standard newspaper, Geoffrey Chaparadza who was involved in the production of the album was summoned by the MIC to explain why he had produced an “opposition music album”.

For those who don’t know, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) uses the open hand as its symbol.

So when the authorities saw the album cover titled, “Zim-Praise Volume 1″ they began to panic because the album has people with open palms praising the lord.

Such actions by the authorities are worrying. Do we now have to praise the lord with clenched fists? By so doing someone will also question why we are declaring our support for the ruling party ZANU PF because their party supporters raise clenched fists whenever they chant their slogans.

Those interested in getting a copy of the album will have to wait a while. The album is not yet stocked in any music shop for very obvious reasons. It’s not clear if the producers will give in to the authorities and re-design the album cover.

However, I must say the 15 new songs on the album are uplifting. So please forgive me when I raise my hands and praise the lord as I listen to Bethen Pasinawake’s Tinokurumbidzai (We Worship You Lord).

Out of work heroes

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 by Bev Clark

Kubatana (an on line community for Zimbabwean activists) communicates via email to thousands of Zimbabweans locally, regionally and internationally. Our email newsletters often provide some inspiration and motivation. Here’s an excerpt from our latest newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe visit us here and send us an email!

When we choose to love, we commit an act of liberation as courageous and radical as any foray into the tear gas.
~ Starhawk

Say No to No!
Isn’t it high time someone got negative about negativity?
Yes it is. Look around.
The world is full of things that, according to nay-sayers, should never have happened.
“Impossible.” “Impractical.” “No.”
And yet “yes”.
Yes, Ireland won a world cup cricket game.
Yes, condoms were invented.
Yes, yes, yes. What does it take to turn no into yes?
Curiosity. An open mind. A willingness to take risks. And, when the problem seems most unsolvable, when the challenge is hardest, when everyone else is shaking their heads, it’s up to all of us to turn no into yes.
(BP Shell – adbusted)

Her vision’s scrubland
Of out-of-work heroes
Who yesterday a country won
And today poverty tasted
~ Dambudzo Marachera from the poem Oracle of the Povo

A brief interview with Petro Masina somewhere in Harare
Hi, what’s your name?
Petro Masina.

What job do you do?
I’m a cleaner in an office block in Highlands.

How are things?
Tight. So tight. I live in Westgate. It’s now costing me $12 000 one way to work. My employer gives me $25 000 a week for transport allowance. My salary is $120 000 per month. I want to find a job as a gardener, then I can be stationary and maybe my boss would buy food for my family.

Public Events

Stay Away 3 and 4 April 2007

On 27 January, the ZCTU issued an ultimatum to government with the following demands:

1. That the Government should take steps to address the economic meltdown;
2. That parties to the Tripartite Negotiating Forum should as a matter of urgency sign the Kadoma Declaration and the Prices and Incomes Stabilization Protocol;
3. That Industry at National Employment Council level should ensure that parties go back to the negotiating table and review current wages as they are still fall far below the PDL;
4. That the Government should as a matter of urgency address the concerns of the striking doctors without victimizing them;
5. That the Government must urgently address the contents of the September 13 2006 ZCTU petition that led to the mass protests countrywide;
6. That the ZCTU totally rejects the implementation of the proposed National Health Scheme until and unless it has been agreed to by the workers, the owners of the money;
7. That all these concerns be addressed by the 23rd February 2007 failure which the ZCTU General Council will meet on the 24th February 2007 and decide on the dates of the next industrial action.

On 24 February, when these concerns had not been addressed, the ZCTU announced plans to mobilise for a stay away 3 and 4 April 2007, and to continue to organise stay aways every three months until the situation improves.

Read the full text of the ZCTU Communique about the stay away.

For more information phone the ZCTU on 794702/42 or 702517.

Youths Gag Statues across Europe for Free Expression in Belarus
On the anniversary of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s controversial re-election, young people gagged statues across Europe simultaneously in a bid to support the suppressed civil society in Belarus. In the middle of the night on 19 March, youth in more than 60 cities from Pristine, Serbia to Edinburgh, Scotland joined Young European Federalists (JEF) in a joint action to promote the message “give voice to the citizens of Belarus.” According to JEF, Belarus has outlawed meetings of more than ten people and NGOs since last year. Free expression is severely limited – the Internet is monitored by authorities, for example, and in the past two months, arrests of civil society and opposition activists have increased. Hundreds of prominent statues in 23 European cities were gagged on the eve of the elections last year. JEF has committed to doing this action every year until “the dictatorship falls and the citizens of Belarus are given a free voice,” said Asa Gunven, vice-president of JEF Europe.

Which African dictator had a law which required citizens to wear clothing reflecting his face every Monday, or risk losing their job? Email your answer to Kubatana

Cup cakes and bayonets

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Tuesday, March 27th, 2007 by Bev Clark

After having a cappuccino and croissant (crisis, what crisis?) at the Italian Bakery this morning which provided the venue for a meeting to discuss budgets, I drove to the office through town. Whilst I was waiting for the lights to change at the corner of 7th and Josiah Tongogara Ave, I watched one of Mugabe’s guards poking his bayonet repeatedly into a Jacaranda tree. Clearly bored.

It’s these seemingly small observations which make for interesting life in Zimbabwe.

Like watching Charles, the portly green uniformed security guard who manages security boom at our office complex trying to sell cup cakes and operate the boom at the same time. Hyperinflation has made entrepreneurs out of most Zimbabweans.

Or engaging in casual conversation with a young fruit vendor who told me when he sold me a banana, that he’ll be “one of those who go directly to State House” because everyone is fed up with Mugabe.

I wonder if he’s seen the bayonet tree prodding guard?

The momentum of empty streets

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, March 26th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

One thing that’s been on my mind is this word “momentum” which I’ve heard quite often lately. Since the violence around the Highfields rally on Sunday 11 March, people have been asking how to keep up momentum, or build on momentum – how to leverage discontent and a seeming willingness to act.

I was reminded of this question of momentum when I was running the other night. I noticed my shoelace untied some 20 minutes or so from my destination. I knew I should stop and tie it, as I could feel my shoe working itself loose on my foot and I didn’t want to trip over the laces. But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to lose momentum. So I figured I’d wait until I got to a good place to stop.

Of course, when I did trip myself and landed splat in the dust with a skinned knee and damaged pride, that was a good time to stop – but not quite as good as a few seconds earlier might have been. I was reminded of the importance of taking breaks and adjusting to changing circumstances.

I’ve been thinking similarly about the stay away which the ZCTU has called for 3 and 4 April. Maybe it’s a change of tactics, an opportunity to deescalate violence, build confidence and move energies for another phase. I’d love to see a massive shut down of shops, banks and businesses, but I don’t know how well it will be supported.

The other morning, I stopped in to pick up some bread, and chatted a bit with the guy behind the counter there.

–How’s business, I ask him.
–Tight. No flour.
–It’s hard to run a bakery with no flour.
–It is, he shrugs.
–What do you think of this stay away coming up?
–He laughs and shakes his head.

I had a look at the minimum wages which were gazetted in January. The government agreed minimum wage for the highest level of domestic worker – a red cross certified disabled or aged minder – is Z$620 per day. A banana costs $1,000. One way transport from a nearby suburb into the city centre is Z$5,000. Things are seriously out of whack.

The Tiri-pa-tight Negotiating Forum may not be able to deliver solutions, but I think the reasons to support the stay away go much deeper than any hope of an instant pay rise or even sudden change of heart by the regime.

Like Trevor Ncube was saying in the Independent this week, “as Zimbabweans who believe in our country, we must begin to plot a way forward that is not dependent on Mugabe, Zanu PF or even the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).”

This stay away is about taking advantage of an initiative that’s been in the works since February, and using it to mobilise and inspire people, and giving confidence in the our ability to work together and get outside of party politics.

People I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks are concerned about the violence Zimbabwe has seen in recent weeks. Many have made comments about not wanting to see Zimbabwe go back to the bush, or back to war. If the options are violence or the status quo, it seems many would rather stick with the status quo.

This is one more reason to support the stay away – it is a change of tactics. It’s one more way to build participation and collective resistance, hopefully non-violently. I’d love to wake up next Tuesday to empty streets and shuttered doors.

Dissent protects democracy

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

Dissent is something both the ruling party and the opposition in Zimbabwe don’t like.

With this in mind I’ve been wondering whether Trevor Ncube is going to be labeled a sell-out by the pro-democracy movement for his recent article entitled Zimbabwe’s choice is either violent or peaceful change. In his article Ncube suggests that neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai are able to govern this country. It would have been good if he’d elaborated on why he thinks Tsvangirai isn’t able to lead Zimbabwe. In my opinion Tsvangirai has suffered too many defeats for too long to be considered as a serious presidential candidate to move us into a new era. He might be well liked but he’s certainly not considered a strong enough man to move Mugabe out. Or with the vision to lead Zimbabwe’s recovery.

Meanwhile many Zimbabweans keep on trumpeting the supposed wonderful effects of our recent global publicity (read that as mostly Sky News, BBC and CNN). But we all know how fickle world media is. As soon as Tsvangirai’s smacked skull isn’t sexy any more, we’ll get to hear all about some goat born with 5 back legs in a remote Indian village.

Gugulethu Moyo recently said

Alas, African leaders’ generally timid response to Zanu-PF left much to be desired. AU chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare left it until he had been heckled in London before admitting that he was embarrassed by Mugabe’s behaviour. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete stood shoulder to shoulder with Mugabe while the latter paraded his infinite capacity for crudeness across the globe. These sorts of responses help to reinforce intractable stereotypes of Africa as the place of the uncivilised — yet another unintended consequence of recent events.

Yes there have been murmurings of disapproval from the African continent and whilst this is A Good Thing it’s simply more of the softly softly approach that African Governments have taken toward the Zimbabwean crisis. Imagine if the murmurings translated into some action (gosh what a novel concept). Like a regional travel ban on Zanu PF politicians. Or the Moroccan soccer team refusing to visit Zimbabwe. Or artists coming to perform at HIFA backing out in protest.

More on the issue of media coverage. There have been some interesting contributions to the debate list at Zimbabwe Fight On – Don’t Mourn in regard to the forthcoming Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions stay away on April 3rd and 4th. Someone suggested that the ZCTU’s timing isn’t good because of the Easter break when ‘press coverage to ‘make injustices visible’ is not very high over holidays’.

I think Dominic Tweedie gave an excellent response to this, and all of us working in the pro-democracy movement would do well to consider our use and our view of the media’s role in our organising.

Your audience is not Bush, Blair or Ban Ki-Moon. It is not the overseas middle-class Western liberal public. It is not Thabo Mbeki, the ANC, the SACP or the South African voter. It is not even the journalists. It is your neighbour, your comrade and yourself. This is your very own mass medium of communication. It is in real time, and not reflected. It is not measured by the media echo. That hardly matters, one way or another. It is what you see and feel, as an individual, and what individuals see and feel together, that matter. You don’t do things for the cameras. You do things for each other. It is a recovery of responsibility.

A Damp Squib?

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Friday, March 23rd, 2007 by Natasha Msonza

Last Wednesday the state owned Herald newspaper published a letter to the editor titled Demos Against President By Gays A Damp Squib. A ‘damp squib’? I had to remind myself that most of the letters to the editor do not come bearing a title and that they are probably written by a member of the newsroom itself! The writer foremost alleged that the protest was sponsored. Why do the government and all its henchmen think that citizens are incapable of feeling and expressing discontent based on their freewill and volition? The writer went on to suggest that the protesters were people with “small minds that have nothing better to do” and that they had “gathered after being paid a few dollars to attract the attention of the Western community”.

As I read further, I was beginning to visualize a coalition of the GLBT community wielding placards for no reason until I got to the part where the writer volunteered information that the group of protesters were in actual fact human rights activists, farmers, gays and Zimbabweans living in Namibia. Huh? But the title said it was gays only? I was not only shocked at this gross misrepresentation that was obviously meant to mislead the reader, but also the implication that this ‘demo’ was a stage-managed and orchestrated move to give an impression of how much Mugabe is disliked when in fact (according to him) he is not! “Where is he not welcome? This is Africa, not Europe where he is barred.”

Who is this fool trying to fool? One needs to look only just beyond one’s nose to see how much President Mugabe is disliked, whether or not the economic crisis is his fault. The letter writer and the government continue to miss the point. Whether the protest was by gays, cripples or three people, it certainly was a squib, only its effects are yet to be felt.

When it comes to courage, I applaud the actions of gay community because they have been the only ones to attempt to get close enough to the man the majority of people detest, or have openly protested against him without any qualms.

Oh no my brother, there is nothing damp about this squib even if Mugabe and his henchmen choose to turn a blind eye and pretend everything is normal. But I know that deep inside that man’s heart it must really hurt knowing you have created so many enemies. Even if you were made of stone, something will always break inside when you find that wherever you turn, you are protested and demonstrated against.