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Archive for April, 2007

Shadows and rainbows

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Friday, April 20th, 2007 by Bev Reeler

Crystal spread sunlight
early morning rainbows on the bedroom wall

What day is this?
what turn of the planet?
carrying what new story?
where from, this wind that stirs the canopy?

Shadows from last week

Of the broken man called Stephen – son of a man I knew 15 years back
tortured for not attending a government rally
in his rural home

He had come for treatment from human rights doctors
and now needed bus fare
to reach his sister.

Safety on other side of the country
where he is unknown

Broken man on the run

And yesterday
the sad line of his relatives

‘Stephen died – after the bus journey’

Rainbows on the wall

News to a father in Gokwe . . .
your son is dead
news brought by a bus driver

Sell 2 cows
to pay bus fares and mortuary fees and coffin costs
sell two cows
your son is dead for not attending a rally

Rainbows on the wall

Hidden lies of silent diplomacy
the SADC leaders blame the West
for economic sanctions held against those responsible for the violence
and speak about land already taken by chefs

In the back garden
green glowing lettuces capture the light
curling new leaves in rapturous delight

News carried by a bus driver
your son is dead

Rhythmic call of the sun bird
dancing the honeysuckle

your son is dead

Looking back

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Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 by Bev Clark

Taurai, my groovy dread-locked work mate, just asked me what I was doing 27 years ago.

It’s hard to remember all the details (I’m 42 now) but I remember that I was living with my mother and brother in a flat in a complex called Hatley House on what was then North Avenue. We’d moved into Hatley House because it was sort of like a hotel which provided meals and with my mother recovering from a heart attack it made her life easier. It was close to Girls High School (GHS) where I was enrolled and also close to State House where Ian Smith had been riding out the last of his days in power.

Being white on the eve of Independence meant being fearful. At least this was true for me, a scared and unsure fifteen year old. Whilst many whites had already “taken the gap” as the saying went, and still goes, we had stayed put. It was a case of “let’s wait and see”.

When the clock struck 12 we looked out into the street. I’m not sure what we expected to see: hordes of revenge bent black Zimbabweans, military vehicles, crowds of revelers? Perhaps we breathed a sigh of relief because the Avenues were largely quiet that night except for the sound of random hoots from the horns of a few cruising cars.

The next day Mugabe’s Independence speech promised a better future, provided solace and encouraged reconciliation. Out on the street the mood was joyous. Everything seemed the same as before even while a momentous change had taken place.

I could tumble down that worn out path of saying “look how awful its become” but I don’t want to do that. I think that it’s important sometimes to just try and remember that time when everything seemed so possible.

International Committee of the RUDE Cross

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Monday, April 16th, 2007 by Bev Clark

A week or so ago, fueled by frustration about the awful treatment of activists in Zimbabwe, I telephone the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Harare and asked to speak to their head of mission. I was put on hold for awhile, and then the receptionist gave me a good grilling on who I was and what exactly I wanted to speak with the head of the ICRC about.

So I said something like “well there are many activists currently detained who have sustained injuries whilst being zealously arrested and I think some of them need medical attention, and I was hoping that the ICRC might help in some way”. Not that i know a lot about what the ICRC does but hey, contacting them was better than Doing Nothing.

The receptionist said that she’d call me back and I specifically said that it would be good if it was soon because the situation, in my mind, appeared urgent. Well, here I am 13 days later still waiting for their telephone call.

In the meantime I managed to find the email address of someone who works at the ICRC and wrote to him about my concerns and mentioned that I had written to the ICRC’s head of mission. He replied saying that he’d forwarded my email to the ICRC’s top dog. That was on the 11th April.

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights is on record as saying:

In one incident, eight victims of police assault were forcibly removed from a private health facility, where police had first taken them, without the consent of doctors there. All eight had been denied medical care in custody.

Even with information like this the ICRC clearly sees no urgency in my request for assistance. Not even to write back saying that they don’t offer help in these circumstances.

Is it fear, arrogance or just plain ineptitude on their part, I wonder?

Charging by the customer, not by the product

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Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 by Dennis Nyandoro

Yesterday I went to the shops together with my wife, and when we were checking in different shops and comparing prices I met my young brother with his wife also doing the same thing. Most people think we are twins but we are not, the only difference is that I wear spectacles and my young brother doesn’t.

Anyway the four of us holding our plastic bags walked around the shop buildings rubbing shoulders with vendors displaying their wares of tomatoes, onions, potatoes etc.

My young brother had bought a packet of Chimombe fresh milk for Z$5,000 from a vendor who had packs under his little table – one that is easy to carry when being chased by the police. As I approached the vendor he greeted me with a loud voice: “Aah murungu auya” meaning someone with money. All because of the spectacles.

Then I asked how much a packet of Chimombe was, and guess what? “Only Z$6,000!” he said smiling. But before I handed over the money my young brother quickly asked the vendor why he was charging me more than what he had sold it to him for. The vendor looked at my young brother with bloodshot eyes trying to stop him from telling me the right price.

The vendor later gave me the milk at Z$5,000 each. So that means these vendors will price their wares according to the appearance of the approaching customer. If you wear spectacles, drive a car, and appear or look smart the prices differ.

I had to buy the milk from the vendor because there was none to be found elsewhere in the shops. Nor other things like sugar, cooking oil, flour, etc. These products are only available at vendors’ little tables neatly supported by broken bricks on the road.

Even though the milk is delivered by the official Dairibord trucks it is quickly sold to vendors for resale at exorbitant prices.

A call in the middle of the night

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Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 by Taurai Maduna

View Images of damage to University of Zimbabwe building

I received a call around 1.30am last Wednesday from friends who are studying and staying on campus at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). “Please can you come and get us, we are stranded in Borrowdale. The university has been bombed,” so they said.

For a moment, I did not know what to do. I wondered if I should continue with my sleep or creep out of the blankets and help them. Having stayed on campus during my studies in Bulawayo, I know that if the riot police come, there is no time for explanations. You have to run for cover.

Luckily enough, I still had a few litres of fuel in my car and I decided to help them out.

On my way, I thought maybe I should pass through UZ and see for myself but I changed my mind fearing that I might come face to face with the police and they would ask me a lot of questions that I might not be able to answer.

There was very little traffic on my way to Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale where I was picking up my friends. As I approached the Village, there were a number of young men strolling around and I suspect they were also coming from UZ where they had run away from the ‘dreaded riot police’ who were said to have been called onto the campus.

I picked up four of my friends packing my Beetle tight and I made my way back home. As I tried to ask what happened there were a lot of theories which I just could not lace together.

The following morning, I took them back to UZ to see for myself what happened the previous night. A building which was once a dining hall was in ashes. The room had collapsed and all I could see were metal frames of desks and chairs that were being stored in this building that is less than 20 meters from one of the ladies hostels.

According to The Herald newspaper, there has been a spate of ‘terror bombings’. If this building was indeed bombed, it would the 11th one. And if it was a bomb whoever made it must have been knowing what they were doing.

Bikes, clothes and greeting cards

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Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

I was disappointed to wake up on Tuesday 3 April, the first morning of the ZCTU two-day stay away, to find the traffic pretty much as heavy as normal for a workday. But, my optimism undeterred, I went out around 9am to see what was open and what was closed.

The night before, I had been speaking with some friends about the stay away. One woman asked, with over 80% unemployment, what is the point of a stay away, and how do you even support it if you’re not working. Another said, well, if you do have a job, or you vend or you work in the informal sector, you don’t go to work. And you don’t support those who are open – you stay away from the shops and the cafes and the beer halls. We discussed how powerful it was as an opportunity to exercise individual power and decision making. We discussed how, if you really wanted to stand in solidarity with the ZCTU in this action, you could choose to personally boycott all shops which had been open during the stay away – in protest of their lack of support for the action.

The good news is, if I took this approach on board, I could still get my bicycle fixed, I could buy some new clothes, and I could get some greeting cards and stationery. The bad news is, that’s about it. I would have to pull my money out of the banking system entirely; all the banks were open. I wouldn’t be able to go to the supermarket – TM and Bon Marche were both open. I would have to boycott music shops, the hardware store, the video shop, the pub, the food court and all cafes. That’s right. In the shopping centre nearest where I stay, exactly three shops were closed.

Apparently, in the industrial sites where workers are more formally unionised, the stay away has done better, with more factories and businesses closed there. I am surprised, though, at how little people are even talking about it in town and in the suburbs. At one house, the domestic worker was off – she’d heard about the stay away and decided to stay at home. But the gardener was on duty. He said he hadn’t heard about it. Working on the same property, they weren’t even talking to one another about it.

As the arrests and harassment and abductions and police brutality increase, this is one of my biggest fears – the ways in which we take on the role of our own oppressor – censoring ourselves, moving out the way of the oncoming police car without even being asked, going to work not because we’ve directly been intimidated but because we’re scared we might be.

Like Alice Walker said: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”