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Archive for July, 2007

Open Letter to my representative – Harare Central MP

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Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 by Catherine Makoni

Dear Sir,

I thought it best to write to you, seeing as I have not seen you or heard from you since the elections. You will agree that we need to keep the lines of communication open.

I have taken this initiative to bring to your attention things that I want addressed, small things, but to have them dealt with would so improve the quality of my life. I also want to formally notify you that I will be writing you a number of letters as and when l feel that there is something that needs your attention, as my elected representative of course.

I live in the Avenues. I would love to walk safely from the shops at Fife Avenue Shopping Centre but in the near darkness that is the Avenues, I cannot without risking life or limb. I would love to walk down the two roads to my friend’s flat for a chat on Friday, but how can I? Many a time I have sat in my office and heard the sounds of muggings and robberies going on in the road below me. I have felt powerless to intervene. I have just cowered behind my desk and heaved a sigh of relief that this time it is not me.

Usually after such an incident, I stop to speak to the security guard at the door on my way out. I used to wonder why all the security guards in the street didn’t do more to come to the rescue of the unfortunate victims, until they told me that if they get involved, the thieves would come back for them. Self preservation, but can you blame them? I have often wondered why we do not have an emergency number to call the police for assistance. But I guess that is a matter for the next government.

Which brings me to my point. What is your party’s position on crime and what do you intend to do to ensure that you improve safety and security for your citizens. And I am NOT talking about interfering with my mail or other Big Brother tactics.

For the time being, I will tell you how this situation is affecting me and others like me. I no longer work late. I do not want to be carjacked, mugged or worse. My best friend no longer goes to the college she used to attend. How would she walk home from the 7:30 lecture without getting mugged or raped or killed? Now how many people are not putting in the hours they need to at work? How many women and men are not furthering their education because they have legitimate fears for their safety? Now what are you going to do about it??

Kindly think about this as you begin planning your re-election campaign.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Makoni
Resident, Harare Central

Rethinking the Zim Kwacha

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Friday, July 27th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill was gazetted on 22 June 2007, and in his speech to open Parliament on 24 July, Mugabe stated it would be one of the priority pieces of legislation the Parliament would consider.

Critical to the Bill is its definition of “indigenous,” which is “any person who before 18 April 1980 (Zimbabwe’s Independence Day) was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, any descendant of such a person, . . .”

Before Independence, all black (and “non-white”) Zimbabweans faced discrimination on the grounds of race – whether they were “indigenous” or of South African, Malawian, Zambian (or Indian or Chinese) or other descent. Ironically, if this Bill is passed as is, one could be considered “indigenous” for the purposes of economic empowerment, but might still not be able to vote, given the changes to the Citizenship Act, which prejudice those Zimbabweans whose parents were not born in this country – regardless of race.

We received these comments recently from a subscriber, looking to spark debate:

It seems our fundamental rights are being violated by the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill [H.B. 6, 2007] gazetted 22nd June 2007.

It states its purpose as being to create an enabling environment that will result in increased participation of indigenous Zimbabweans in the economic activities of the country, the ultimate objective being a situation in which at least a 51% shareholding in “every public company and any other business” is in the hands of indigenous Zimbabweans.

In the shorter term, the Minister will be empowered to publish statutory instruments prescribing acceptable lesser percentages and thresholds that will apply “temporarily”.

Key terms are defined in clause 2: “business” [company, association, syndicate or partnership having for its object the acquisition of gain]; “controlling interest”; “indigenisation”; “indigenous Zimbabwean” [any person who before 18th April 1980 was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, any descendant of such a person, and any company, association, syndicate or partnership in which such persons hold the controlling interest or are the majority of the members].

To my simple mind this definition is clearly a distinction as to race, and even if people were disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds their race before 18 April 1980, it shouldn’t mean a person should be disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race now merely because they were not so disadvantaged or are descendant of such a person.

It seems especially unfair on descendants considering it has been almost 30 years since 18th April 1980. We also know that these populist policies have already shown their failure in other countries, such as those in South America, many years ago.

This also seems to be in flagrant violation of:-

The same subscriber also offered this creative solution on the topic of price controls, and following on from some reports that South Africa might extend the Rand Monetary Zone to include Zimbabwe.

If you want anything on price controls or other populist policies that have already shown their failure here and elsewhere many years ago the ex-Mexican president is a good source. Zambia, Zaire etc. have also had similar experiences.

What about this idea for economic recovery, provided they fix the fundamentals:- Balance of payments support by SA in Rand (obviously some downsides but what the heck, we’re in a mess) but herein lies the twist – start with a higher exchange rate and steadily decrease the rate every 90 days until inflation has stabilized. So say you play around with some noughts and make $1,70 = R1 today and $1,50 = R1 in October, $1,30 in Dec and so on – this eases the cash flow because everyone will want to defer paying and get their forex incomes paid and converted quickly – Z$ becomes the currency of choice.

Zimbabwean journalism needs to look at itself

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Thursday, July 26th, 2007 by Bev Clark

I’ve just read this impassioned piece by Japhet Ncube who works for City Press in South Africa. Japhet takes aim at the Cross Border Association of Journalists (CAJ) for alleging that the attack on Zimbabwean journalist Abel Mutsakani was orchestrated by Zanu PF. I think Japhet makes some really good points about the state of journalism in Zimbabwe, in particular the partisan reporting of BOTH the “independent” and the state-controlled press. Japhet suggests that many “independent” journalists/publications are merely an extension of the Movement for Democratic Change. Below is Japhet’s position:

This is very sad, indeed. I know Abel very well. We even worked together at The Financial Gazette with Sydney Masamvu, Basildon Peta, Nqobile Nyathi, Patience Rusere and others under the editorship of Francis Mdlongwa.

He is a great guy to work with. He is arguably one of the finest journalists to emerge from post-independent Zimbabwe. He does not deserve this.

I last saw him in Rosebank last year some time and we chatted briefly. I had not seen him in years.

I wish him a speedy recovery, and that his attackers rot in jail.

Something disturbs me, though. I do not mean to be insensitive, but perhaps this will help you understand why we shun using copy from certain journalists and certain news agencies. And in the end we get accused of not supporting the Zimbabwe cause, and that allegation is as baseless and idiotic as it is moronic.

The truth is that they are not impartial in their reportage. Finding a Zimbabwean journalist whose writing is balanced and impartial is like finding a virgin in Hillbrow, and that’s very worrying for me.

What kind of news are we feeding the international community? Is the world so naive as to believe this kind of reportage?

Like someone sending me a story that says Pius Ncube has been set up because he is a Mugabe critic. I mean, gentlemen, did Mugabe plant that woman in the good reverend’s bedroom? And unzip the good reverend’s pants?

Sure, Mugabe is an evil despot who deserves death by vicious lightning, but are we going to always find a Mugabe link in our reportage of Zimbabwe? Even if it happens in a sovereign, democratic place like South Africa?

The cleric has neither denied nor confirmed he is indeed the gentleman in that shocking footage, but journalists have already made up their minds – that he is being victimized because of his calls for Britain to invade Zimbabwe.

I reject the story because I thrive to be an open-minded news editor who thinks out of the box, and I get called all sorts of names. By Zimbabweans in the diaspora, who believe that for me to earn their respect, I must run these relentless, unbalanced and unsubstantiated stories on Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

Is that the journalism Zimbabweans want the world to remember them for?

Sure, let’s wage war against the bloodthirsty Mugabe regime by exposing the human and women rights abuses, the suffering of the people, the collapse of that country, and so on. But let’s do it responsibly and truthfully. There are a zillion stories of this nature that can be done in Zimbabwe today.

But how many times have you seen some stories on Zimbabwe, written by a journalist who has not set foot in Zimbabwe in years? With no comment from anyone? At least City Press’s man in Zim, Tangai, is on the ground with the people. We hired him for a reason: he knows what’s going on better than we do up here in Joburg. The economic and political crisis affects him every single second.

At least Peta Thornycroft, one of my earliest inspirations while she worked with Andy Moyse at Parade magazine, goes to Zim every now and again. She has first-hand information on what is going down in that ruined country. I am bound to believe what she writes.

I just want us to think clearly, as journalists, before we decide on angles that will sell our stories better in Britain and America, even if we as journalists know we are not being truthful and honest.

Has it been confirmed that this was an assassination attempt? Where is CJA getting these facts, because we would be interested in running the story if you can prove this to us.

And how do we get the Zanu PF link? How does Zanu PF pursue you guys here in exile? Also, why would they come and shoot someone here in Joburg when they can’t shoot the journalists and MDC officials roaming the streets of Harare and Bulawayo? Pardon me, but I find that very strange.

Or do you know something we do not know? Why are you not taking that valuable information to the police then, to speed up justice so that Abel’s family can know the truth?

Zimonline has not made any claims of a link between this shooting and the government. I read their story when I heard about this from former colleague Eric Matingo, who is in Harare. So where does CJA get this link?

Why Abel? Why not Basildon Peta, their biggest enemy among the exiled newspapermen? Why not me? Why not Kwinika? Why not Mutumwa Mawere, who is a pain in Mugabe’s ass? Why not Tsvangirai, who comes here all the time without any bodyguards?

Is Abel not a victim of crime in SA? Did it not cross your mind that this could be a criminal act? Is the story then not that this guy who ran away from persecution from Mugabe has become a case of jumping from the pan into the fire? From political persecution, to crime.

If I were you I would wait for Abel to recover and come tell his story of how he survived at the hands of the three nameless, faceless cowards. Either way, whether it was an “assassination attempt” or a pure criminal act, it would make for touching, riveting writing rarely seen in the newspapers today.

When I get shot in Joburg sometime, which is possible if you look at the crime statistics recently released, I do not want people to rush into these kinds of conclusions. South Africa faces a serious crime problem, and people get shot all the time. You saw the Dumisani Khumalo’s story. He is the envoy to the UN and was shot at a party just after he arrived from the airport. There was no political link there. It was purely crime.

The Necsa manager who was gunned down two weeks ago, that too was a criminal act. Police are still investigating, we can’t then rush to say it was a hit.

David Bullard, the Sunday Times columnist, was also shot at his home while he and his wife were minding their own business. He could have easily claimed he was being attacked for what he writes. But he is not headline hungry, yet his story was told and it touched many of us. Even if we did not know him personally.

There are many other recent cases, which show you that in this country, like everywhere else in the world, crime knows no race, no tribe. Journalists, envoys, businessmen, CEOs, MECs, spin doctors, we all get attacked from time to time. We become statistics.

Did Abel know his attackers perhaps? And has he spoken to your agency to confirm that he knows them, that they are CIO operatives (agcwele ama CIO here in Jozi by the way)?

My view is that your agency, which tends to behave like a division of the MDC, could still have sold this story to all your outlets worldwide without having to find a Zanu PF link you can’t prove. That a top editor and former Zimbabwean journalist has been shot and is battling for his life in a Joburg hospital would still be a hot news item. Even The Herald would run that story on their front page, regardless of Abel’s political affiliation, if any.

I can even vividly remember my discussion with you, Kwinika, over the double standards you display. One of your stories appeared in The Herald not long ago. And I asked you: how do you come here and claim political asylum, when you write for the government mouthpiece? A paper owned by the same man whom you fled from? Does it make any sense?

You did not answer me. Water under the bridge for me, but it tells you exactly what I am trying to say in so many words: that Zimbabwean journalism needs to look at itself. I can assure you that we won’t like what we see. Ethics of this loved craft have been massacred by some among us because we have, wittingly or unwittingly, swallowed the political hook and this time we sing for a different master. We are no better than our friends and colleagues at The Herald and Sunday Mail, who have to get used to naked propaganda.

Believe me, Mugabe won’t lose sleep over the stories you guys publish outside his borders. He should worry more about the guys writing right back in Zimbabwe, the likes of Dumisani Muleya, because the people that matter most are those inside Zimbabwe, who will vote. How many Zimbabweans back home have access to Internet newspapers? Only the elite, and they are in the minority.

Why do you think The Daily News was banned? Do you think Mugabe would care if you came to publish it here? No he won’t. The threat was internally, not external. He managed to silence that voice.

If you drive across Zimbabwe today, anytime, you will see The Zimbabwean, Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, etc, being sold on the streets. Do you think Mugabe cares about them? No, he doesn’t.

His eyes are now squarely on the last remaining independent papers inside Zim – The Independent, The Standard and The Financial Gazette. If he is going to shoot anyone for what they write, he knows exactly where to find them.

I find it very funny that Mugabe would send his henchmen to Joburg to shoot Abel, and leave the guys at The Standard, The Independent and The Financial Gazette. City Press has a full-time correspondent in Harare, Tangai Chipangura. He writes whatever he likes and we publish. Is he going to get shot? Possibly. And if he is mugged or attacked with a knife, we will not jump into conclusions.

Let’s rally behind Mutsakani in this hour of need, but let’s also be careful not to jump the gun. Police will investigate the shooting and release their findings. This is not Zimbabwe. We have a functional police and justice system in this country. Let’s wait for due processes before we find Mugabe guilty.

Even when Mugabe is eventually nailed, which will happen someday, he will be taken to court and the people will present evidence of his human rights abuses. The judge will be an impartial chap who will listen to the evidence, then decide Bob’s fate.

I hate Zanu PF with all my heart, I hate Robert Mugabe to the last drop of my Ndebele blood, but let’s be impartial in our coverage of Zimbabwe. We are journalists, not opposition members.

Trust me, I would never even take up the editorship of The Herald or Sunday Mail even if you paid me 20 barrels of fuel a day. Never. Not in Mugabe’s lifetime. Because my soul cannot be sold.

I still stand for impartial, balanced journalism. If I err, which is human, I own up and life goes on. I will not go out of my way to lie.

I do not have to be a member of the MDC or any other opposition party for me to be part of the struggle for a better, free Zimbabwe. In my own way, I can help in the struggle. For that reason, I will not sell my soul. Not to the MDC, not to Zanu PF, not to anyone.

And that’s what I would like to be remembered for.

The India way of life

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Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 by Natasha Msonza

Often when one travels abroad, one struggles with regaining balance and adjusting to the differences in time, and jet lag of course. But this becomes inconsequential the moment you touch down in the hotbed of chaos that is India. Traffic provides your first rude awakening crucial for survival in a country with a population of 1.2 billion+. Several parallel universes of traffic descend on narrow strip of road and somehow conspire not to collide. The same road accommodates a staggering diversity of conveyances – overcrowded buses that stop as and when they like, overloaded trucks that rarely condescend to brake, cars that believe they are supple acrobats that can twist themselves out of any jam, auto rickshaws (three-wheeled cart-like vehicles) that weave in and out of mainstream traffic, tractors that for some reason always travel down your side of the road, pedestrians who jump out from anywhere even from moving vehicles and then, cows that are highly respected and do not mind taking a nap in the middle of the road and block traffic.

But then a worse kind of assault rises from the need to adjust to a totally different yet stable economy. My first shopping encounter provoked the panic-buyer instinct before I reminded myself that even if I come back next week, these sneakers would not only still be here, but would also still be Rs 200 (USD 5.00) and the packet of pads still Rs 90 (roughly USD 2.00). Too cheap does not even begin to describe it.

Ironically, India is just as much ‘third world’ as Zimbabwe, with more poorer people everywhere. Among dirty buildings, littered streets and clogged sewer systems, opulence is juxtaposed to extreme poverty as it is not unusual to find plastic and thatch slum dwellings right next door to McDonalds or U.S Pizza. Barefooted poor women wearing rags torment tourists in front of opulent malls, pointing at their small children as they beg.

My comfort is a cute little pizza place, called Pizza Hut. I can’t afford pizza back home but here you get it double cheese AND a Pepsi all for Rs95. There is a bell near the exit that is marked: “If you had a great time, please ring bell.” And when you do, the voices of the many waiters in various postures of service echo a resounding, “Thank you!”

Despite the apparent hardships, everyone seems so happy, and friendly. I guess that’s some of the magic that stable prices of goods and single digit inflation can work. There is a strong temptation, just this one month to stop oneself from reading the news back home because it’s the complete opposite.

Coming alive in this dying

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Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 by Sonia

Tonight was supposed to be my group night, but it was one of those scenarios when everything in the universe conspires for something different to happen that ends up actually suiting most concerned for one reason or another . . . all except one . . . and that’s just the way it goes. So, I decided to share with my wider circle instead.

I am still recovering from a spell of madness at myself (and anyone else who may remotely have conspired) for having mixed the extremely precious commodities of petrol and diesel with each other thereby corrupting both. Fuck! What a huge waste . . . and certainly it is not a time to be wasteful in such things . . . anyway . . . done now.

We are once again on that edge, that part of the spiral where it looks everything could simply shut down and grind to a halt. It’s not the first time we’ve felt this way, and every time we come round to it on the spiral, it looks even more true than before. Frantic purchasing of whatever is available runs rampant as basic necessities have already disappeared and anything else, whose reappearance on the shelves is highly suspect, may also disappear from the open market and wind their way to join the very lucrative ‘underground’ where the spoils can only be for the privileged. Outright robbery and looting by those we pay to serve and protect us as police and army raid shops, force them to sell everything at half the price and then buy them out – abusing their ‘power’ in the hopes of pulling themselves out at least of this quagmire of our common experience.

On this latest move on fuel though – where coupons are now declared banned, I reckon even the privileged are going to come unstuck. (For the unfamiliar, coupons were a way of ensuring access to fuel and was based on paying in foreign currency. Govt. never had enough forex to bring in the national requirement, so people with access sorted it for themselves….and it was working!). The latest law is that these are now ‘banned’ and you have 2 weeks to redeem them into fuel. That’s all very well and good – only one problem, people are sitting on thousands upon thousands of litres worth of coupons which is beyond the capacity of the fuel stations to redeem within 2 weeks, and besides that, where does a person store such a quantity of fuel? Should you be one fortunate enough to have tanks or ample drums, that’s all well and good – then you can be had up for hoarding and have the lot confiscated….which will then probably be issued to police and army to round up more of the same! There is no way Govt. can bring in what’s required and also no way anyone is going to import and then sell for half the price they bought it at. What then? Without fuel, nothing can move – people can’t get to work, shops can’t be supplied. What happens then? It may or may not happen, and I’m certainly very curious to see how it is possible to avoid its happening by virtue of the decisions that have been and are being made. The more they try to impose control, the more everything breaks down (it’s an uncanny phenomenal parallel to the dynamic of ego disintegration – the more you try to control your world and have everything in your ordered little box so as to feel in control, the more everything falls apart and feels out of control….and actually does go out of control ultimately. Using control to ‘get’ control inevitably turns into ‘loss of control’ for the pure and simple reason that you can’t argue with reality.) The dictionary states “out of control” to be “no longer subject to guidance” . . . need I say more?

The CIZ (Commercial Ind. of Zim) are encouraging producers to continue producing despite the fact that government stipulated price controls pretty much guarantee them selling at a loss. Well, that has a lot of foresight! Who in their right mind would do such a thing??? Well exactly . . . so now, in the interests of serving the nation, we’ll simply have to take over your business thank you very much because you are refusing to do your national duty. And then everything will return to ‘normal’ in due course because, of course, the prices will creep up again and the new owners will have a business . . . can there be such manipulation as this? Well, I can’t say the same ploy worked out too well with the farms!!! A complete collapse of everything!? Zimbos must by now be very well equipped to write a highly comprehensive manual on the 10 most efficient ways to destroy a fully functioning nation!

And in our typical Zimbabwean orientation, we continue to “wait and see” (amidst the frantic buying of fast disappearing ‘anything’) so that we can afford to wait and see . . . and still survive in a fashion . . . the underprivileged become reliant on the privileged where they have access to such a thing, and for the rest it’s bare bones survival by any means – wheeling, dealing and stealing . . . and this seemingly inherent culture of continuing to suffer it, negotiate it and to “wait and see”, prevails. At what point does the snake eating its own tail swallow itself up? And what will that look like?

There is huge stress out there . . . and there are also people sitting at the Italian Bakery happily drinking cappuccino and ordering lunch seemingly unconcerned . . . for now . . . right now there’s only the cappuccino . . . quite right . . . you can still get a cappuccino by the way, but only when the power’s on….which is another thing becoming more unpredictable and less available . . . actually, it’s becoming quite predictable that it’s more than likely going to be off than on! The hum of the generators may soon be falling away too . . . mmmm

Amidst all of this, I work my connections in whichever way they exist – work, social, personal – where further challenges present themselves in this multi-faceted experience of existence persistent in its urge to move us one way or another.

And, oh yes, we pray . . . for remembrance, for our humanity, our connection, and for our healing . . . we also manage to keep a sense of humour in this craziness (I lose mine when I mix petrol with the diesel however!) And curiosity . . . mostly, I’m hugely curious . . . what now? . . . what now? . . . what happens now? Where is the bottom of this senseless barrel anyway? And what could it possibly look like? And we cannot know until we’re in it . . . and what is this “it” and how will we know? . . . so we wait and see . . . we wait like frogs heating in the water set to boil, to see whether or not we’ll notice our dying in this living, and our coming alive in this dying.

Nothing fancy about ubuntu

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Thursday, July 19th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

Reading the news tonight, one email leapt out from the rest and left me pensive, tense and outraged. “Lesbian Killing: We Demand Justice!” read the headline. The press statement condemned the murder of South African women Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, who were found murdered, execution style, in a dump site outside Soweto. The press statement describes the incident as a shocking event “that is not so new in South Africa in the light of the recent increase in violence and rape against women either identified as, suspected of or supporting lesbian and gay rights.”

My human mind kicked in, of course – how do we know they were lesbians? How do we know they were killed because of their sexuality or their beliefs? I was reminded of the furore a few years back when two teenage boys were sentenced to death in Iran. Human rights and gay rights groups clashed. Were the youths convicted for being gay? Or for raping an even younger boy? Is the death penalty acceptable for murder but not rape? Rape but not homosexuality? For adults but not for teenagers?

But overriding all of that, my human heart kicked in. Do any of those questions matter, really? The basic fact is two women were killed. South Africa might have the world’s most beautiful Constitution, a functional economy, and resources that are the envy of the rest of the continent. But what do any of us – all of us – have to do to get the basics right. It’s not about politics or gay rights or freedom of expression or religious freedom. It’s about real, basic, day to day humanness. Seeing each other as people and therefore deserving of respect and decency.

As I flipped through the pages of the Mail & Guardian looking for more information on the women’s murders, I was reminded of the murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana last year, a 19 year old South African lesbian, whose murder took two weeks to be recognised in the national news. IRIN’s Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed was released for women’s day in March last year. How much has changed since then? What is our awareness raising achieving, really?

I was speaking with a friend the other day who was saying that she didn’t want her sexuality to be tolerated, she wants it to be embraced. Me? As much as the colour of my hair or the size of my shoe is not cause for comment or judgment, so I want my skin, my gender, my sexuality to be non-issues. I don’t want to be tolerated. Nor do I want to be embraced. I want to be unflinchingly acknowledged as human. No more and no less.

Ubuntu. A person is a person because of other people. I am because we are. There’s nothing fancy about that.