Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for December, 2007

Sunrise, sunset II – Zimbabwe’s currency fiasco continues

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Sunday, December 23rd, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

So, I’m not sure what it says about the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s attachment issues, that he’s not willing to let go of a few zeroes in our currency and make all of our lives a whole lot simpler by introducing some new notes as part of his Sunrise II. But he’s not. Instead, we’re losing one note and gaining three more, all as part of his efforts to punish the cash barons – and in so doing, I fear, make things difficult for the rest of us as well.

But, one can only hope that these moves get cash back into the banks and into our pockets. If nothing else, it had better ease things enough that stories like this from Tichafa Nenzara (We’ll Die of Hunger), don’t happen again.

Here is just a small excerpt of the whole letter.

I write this open letter to you (Gideon Gono) with a lot of grief. No malice is intended and the experience presented herein is very true. My wife suddenly fell ill in the early hours on 3 December 2007 and needed immediate specialist attention. A well wisher rushed us to Harare Central hospital. After four hours of waiting for the doctor, my brother offered to foot the bills for a private doctor. He rushed into town and collected banking details from a well known private clinic and made a bee line for the bank to make an RTGS as the cut-off time drew nearer. Getting cash was out of the question. You are well aware of the severe cash shortage in the country. The private clinic insisted that no payment, no treatment. There was a winding queue at the bank for RTGS transactions. Just after 1200pm, my brother phoned to say he couldn’t beat the RTGS cut-off time. I could feel tears swelling in my eyes as I watched my dear wife writhing in pain, with my four year son looking at her confused at why nobody was interested in assisting her. I prayed and hoped that at least the doctor at the general hospital will at least turn up. He finally did and I was relieved. But it was short lived. He looked at my wife and wrote a couple of tests that were required urgently to diagnosed the real cause of the illness. All these tests could not be carried out at the central hospital because the required machinery was not working. He only recommended Paracetamol to reduce the pain. We were back to square one. The private clinic! But no cash, no treatment!

That day was the longest in my life. The following day, we were at the bank by 0330hrs but already there was a queue. When the bank opened its doors five hours later, pandemonium ensued and the queue became useless. My brother did however manage to submit the RTGS on time but I couldn’t get cash, so we left the bank and rushed to the private clinic. If we thought our misery was coming to an end, we were wrong! The clinic told us that they will only attend to my wife after the RTGS had cleared. Their contention being that some RTGS transactions were taking as much as 72 hours. My wife died the following day without receiving medical attention!

Burying my wife was not easy either. The funeral parlour also insisted on the RTGS clearing first. We couldn’t buy enough food for the mourners as the vendors at Mbare musika do not accept RTGS. It was the worst experience in living memory and the most traumatising ever.

2008 – what are YOU gonna do about it?

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Friday, December 21st, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

We recently invited our SMS subscribers to send us their thoughts on how they can, and will make a difference in 2008.

Here are just a few of their replies:

Lets go out and vote out the regime.


Lets copy South Africa. Say no to dictators!


Facilitate on issues of peace, conflict, governance and human rights. Inform more friends about how to get SW Radio News. Distribute hand-powered radios if they are made available to remote areas. Participate in training elections monitors, etc.


In 2008 I have to speak up against bad governance and share my views with others.

What are do you think? Is voting still a viable option? Are we so naïve we think these elections will be any different than the past three? Or can we think more creatively and develop strategies that demonstrate the power of people over politicians?

What are you going to do to make a difference in 2008?

Passion for justice

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Friday, December 21st, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of a quotation I had first seen some years back. When I looked it up and found it again, I found it as beautiful and as compelling as I had when I’d first seen it.

Love, like truth and beauty, is concrete. Love is not fundamentally a sweet feeling; not, at heart, a matter of sentiment, attachment, or being ‘drawn toward’. Love is active, effective, a matter of making reciprocal and mutually beneficial relation with one’s friends and enemies. Love creates righteousness, or justice, here on earth. To make love is to make justice. As advocates and activists for justice know, loving involves struggle, resistance, risk. People working today on behalf on women, blacks, lesbians and gay men, the aging, the poor in this country and elsewhere know that making justice is not a warm, fuzzy experience. I think also that sexual lovers and good friends know that the most compelling relationships demand hard work, patience, and a willingness to endure tensions and anxiety in creating mutually empowering bonds. For this reason loving involves commitment. We are not automatic lovers of self, others, world, or God. Love does not just happen. We are not love machines, puppets on the strings of a deity called ‘love’. Love is a choice – not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile. Love is a conversion to humanity – a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. Love is the choice to experience life as a member of the human family, a partner in the dance of life.
~ Carter Heyward

I was moved enough to do a bit more research on “lesbian feminist Episcopal priest” Carter Heyward. And what I found impressed me.

Among other things, in an interview with OutSmart, Heyward speaks openly about both her sexual and her spiritual journey, her personal history of pushing the envelope in seeking justice, and her commitment to her principles, despite the possible risks.

Heyward was involved in pressuring the Episcopal church to ordain women, over 25 years ago. She explains:

Those of us who planned and implemented the measure have really come to believe that without some kind of force, some kind of radical act, the church was not going to come through on the ordination of women any time soon, maybe not for 10, 20, 30 years. Sue Hiatt, the woman who really was the mastermind behind this thing, said the church would not ordain women until it’s harder not to ordain them than to ordain.

This struck me as a useful reminder for all of us engaged in struggles for social change. It’s sad but true – most of the time this change won’t happen unless and until not changing become more painful, difficult, or untenable than changing. Unfortunately for us in Zimbabwe, the more difficult things become for us here, the more we seem to turn inwards, focused on how to make sure that our families can get by. Maybe instead of rolling over and giving in, as has been our way, it’s time to think about how to make it harder for the regime to carry on along with its stubborn disregard, than it would be for it to change, so that finding a new course becomes the path of least resistance.

Mustering my protective sprout

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Saturday, December 15th, 2007 by Bev Clark

I’ve just popped out to the Kamfinsa Shops. I’m pleased to say I made it there and back despite the potholes. Sadly this once thriving shopping centre is a shell of its former self. Shop owners have been forced to close their doors – either there’s nothing to sell, or people don’t have cash. The only activity I saw (if you can call queues active) were the milling masses waiting outside CABS building society in the hopeful hunt for cash. Another throng of people were gathered outside TM supermarket looking for a loaf.

I must confess that my Saturday morning shopping stint wasn’t in search of anything heart-stoppingly essential. I was after a bottle of wine for a Christmas party tonight. Of course this might not be a good idea on top of my margarita, voluptuous glass of wine and Irish coffee at last night’s party. Anyway, no big surprise, there wasn’t any wine and when I thought I’d settle for a Castle, a sign on the fridge informed me . . . no empty, no beer.

At the very least I’m trying to have fun which is a bit hard in a country with little to celebrate. Another way of getting a laugh is to read Zimbabwean newspapers and the advertisements therein. Today I was flipping through The Financial Gazette and an advert from a security company caught my eye. They were giving advice on how to stay safe over the “festive season”. Here’s some of what they had to say:

Mystery deaths in hotel rooms, drowning, car jacking and food poisoning are common during festive seasons. We encourage you to muster your protective sprouts from deep within by elevating your instinctive and intuitive minds to be the focal part of your correction.

You, my friend, are a rapist

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Monday, December 10th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

A few months back, I was sent a copy of off our backs – the feminist newsjournal. It’s a raw, angry take on gender, society and women’s issues, and I loved it.

The magazine includes a feature with Kim, the woman who, in 2005 started a blog called The Den of the Biting Beaver, where she published her views on life, feminism, rape and sexual assault. She published pieces such as this one, entitled The Rapist Checklist, which includes points such as:

1. You are a rapist if you get a girl drunk and have sex with her.
2. You are a rapist if you find a drunk girl and have sex with her.
3. You are a rapist if you get yourself drunk and have sex with her. Your drunkeness is no excuse.
13. You are a rapist if you “nag” her for sex. Because you manage to ply an eventual “yes” from a weary victim doesn’t mean it’s not rape. You are a rapist.
26. If you’re a friend of hers, you can still be a rapist.
27. If you had sex with her the night before but she doesn’t want morning sex and you pressure her for it anyway, then you’re a rapist.
28. If you’re her husband, you can still be a rapist.
30. If she’s had sex with you hundreds of times before but doesn’t want to on the 101st time, then you’re a rapist.
40. If she has fucked every man in a 10 square miles radius and she doesn’t want to fuck you and you have sex with her anyway, then you’re a rapist.

Comments to her blog after posts such as these were so angry, violent and threatening, that Kim eventually stopped blogging, terrified into silence.

The Rapist Checklist might be graphic, vivid and even offensive to some. But it makes an important point, and it does so with the rawness and power that fighting sexual abuse needs.

As 16 Days of Activism draws to a close again this year, Ive been thinking about what would really make a difference in the battle against gender violence. According to a recent article in the Mail & Guardian, “the Human Sciences Research Council has found in community-based prevalence studies that one in two South African women will be affected in some way by domestic violence. Does this mean that one in every two South African males is guilty of some form of violence against women? Crime analyst Anthony Altbeker says he would be ‘very surprised if it was less than 40% of men who are perpetrators of violence against women — it is probably a good deal higher’.”

If that’s the case, if 40% or more of men are themselves perpetrating violence, where is the pressure on them to stop? Where are the examples or the social mores that make such behaviour unacceptable? In their absence, maybe a bit of raw anger, free of the niceties of polite conversation and tactful euphemism, can go a long way.

Torture in the tail lights

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Monday, December 10th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

As part of the International Human Rights Day commemorations, Eyes on Zimbabwe, a project of the Open Society Institute, will launch a new report – “We have degrees in violence” – today. In collaboration with the Bellvue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, the report shares the testimony both of individuals who were subject to torture or political violence this year, and of health professionals and human rights advocates in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

It is systematic. It is not random. It is not the use of torture by police who are overzealous. It is not that there was a demonstration and things got out of hand and this is what happened. This is not the case. As we speak now, there is still a stream of people who are specifically being targeted.
- Dr. Reginald Matchaba-Hove, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences

The report finds both physical and psychological scarring as a result of political violence and torture, consistent with findings from other local and international investigations. A recent investigation by the Sunday Telegraph (UK) for example, claims torture is Robert Mugabe’s election weapon. Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has left an estimated one in three people suffering from mental health problems. Between the political violence and the economic hardships, the long term implications of this mental health deterioration are significant. Even with the most perfect legislation and respect for human rights, are free and fair elections really possible in just three or four months time, given our current state?

The document uses vivid evidence and first hand accounts of 24 interviewees who have experienced torture or political violence in the past year, at the hands of agents of the state.

For example, RP, a 35 year old male who works for the MDC, was beaten at the police station on 11 March 2007. Describing this experience, he says:

They started beating me all over my body. They beat me on the head, on the ribs, on the shoulder – everywhere, all over the body, with sticks and iron bars. Some were jumping on my ribs to the extent that I passed out three times. Then they told me: “You must go and tell the MDC supporters that the only president is Mugabe. Tsvangirai is not the president.”

The intimidation has not been limited to MDC activists or position holders. According to the report, “ER, a 42-year old teacher from Bulawayo, who holds no formal position with the MDC, was harassed in 2006 because of a writing assignment he gave his students:”

I wrote a comprehension passage for the students, where I described how the main lion is eventually kicked out of his pride. The reason is that his muscles will be weak, his teeth worn out, but the voice remains sharp.

Even though the assignment was based in fiction and metaphor, he was called in for questioning by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and fired from his school for insulting President Robert Mugabe. He relocated to another district where he was abducted and beaten by CIO agents.

The report also describes the experiences of some of the Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa in the hopes of greater safety. Whilst many of those interviewed say they feel safer in South Africa, the ordeal of sneaking into the country can itself be a traumatic experience, and once there many fear being deported. The volume of Zimbabweans leaving the country for South Africa for economic reasons means that many “legitimate” asylum seekers are treated with suspicion, and their stories are not necessarily believed.

In addition to the physical injuries from torture and political violence, many of those interviewed also demonstrated psychological effects such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), demoralisation, and fear. These symptoms, in particular fear, impact not only on the immediate victims of violence but their surrounding community and the country as a whole as well. The fear then silences both the victims and the broader society, further entrenching the symptoms and making it more difficult for those who have been traumatised to heal emotionally and psychologically.

Violence isn’t necessarily the most mature response to violence, but it is often what people turn to. A conversation the other day with Nancy Pearson of the New Tactics Project at the Center for Victims of Torture made me wonder – if survivors of abuse often themselves grow up into abusers, are there parallels for survivors of torture? Are those who have been brutalised more likely to brutalise others? We have seen the MDC turning to violence in dealing with the Lucia Matibenga issue. How do we protect the country from violence spreading deeper and further, regardless of who is in government?

Events of the past seven years have damaged Zimbabwe in ways both obvious and more subtle. How we recover from this will be a key determinant in the country’s future. Reports like “We have degrees in violence” are important for illuminating the path we’ve been on. But increasingly I find myself wanting the documents and discussions that also shine a spotlight on the road ahead, suggesting how pull ourselves out of this mess, and helping us to map out the future we want to have.