Archive for June, 2008
Given our current context in Zimbabwe of frequent water cuts, trillion dollar shopping trips (that’s if there’s ever anything available to buy) and power outages every night, I had a bit of a laugh at this tongue in cheek humour sent to me recently:
Three things NOT to say to a Zimbabwean woman:
1. Can I run you a nice hot bath?
2. You look like a million dollars
3. Would you like a candlelit dinner tonight?
Today I awoke filled with grief
Jackie said she had finally resorted to one of the dog tranquilizers!
after a largely boycotted/rejected election
last night there were calls everywhere for ‘safe’ houses
the South African Embassy evicted 300 families who had been displaced from their rural homes
into the cold unforgiving streets of Harare
This morning we heard that the UN Security Council ‘regretted’ the election
but were barred from calling it ‘illegal’ by the sole voice from South Africa
and as the politicians juggle with their own restrictions of ‘consensus’
Zimbabweans, who have done all the can to peacefully and democratically
to choose their freedom
are still, today, being beaten and displaced and killed
I am part of a vision
A vision that has been held by hundreds of Zimbabweans
as they have sat in healing circles over these last 5 years
a vision of groups held together by their own chosen agreements
I am part of a vision of peace
where we can exist in our diversity with dignity and respect
In these dark times
these things have become illuminated in ourselves
it is the darkness that has called us together
connections that we would never have made
I am part of vision
where others have shown such courage and love
that I am humbled and honoured to be a small lens
where women, young and old
under the banner of love
walk the streets calling for the rights of their children – to schooling and food
where doctors work day and night with battered and beaten bodies
and still have the courage and dedication to go on
where lawyers have struggled out of bed
to follow up thousands who have been arrested
and still walk with trust that there is a place for truth
I am part of a vision where people have put their lives at risk
to rescue others more vulnerable
moved by courage and love
I am part of a vision where people cross barriers and boundaries that held us apart
in a common search for the freedom
to be the most wonderful parts of ourselves
In the city centre the other day I saw a truck full of ZANU-PF youth militia. I didn’t want to look because the sight of them made me scared. I feared (irrationally) that if I locked eyes with one of the young boys he would pull out a gun and shoot me. Yet, I wanted to see these young boys individually and collectively so I could get a sense of what they look like, even what they feel. I didn’t lock eyes. Perhaps my fear won out, but more I think failure to lock eyes was because these young boys don’t have eyes. Of course, I don’t mean that literally. They have eyes. Eagle eyes in fact, which seek out innocent citizens. Just that their eyes seemed hollow. Vacant. Almost as if their eyes signaled the ways brainwashing has stripped them of their own self. As I walked away, my entire body felt sick thinking about a governmental spin which would claim these young boys as graduates of a successful youth empowerment programme.
The above is a reaction to a particular (twisted) approach to empowerment. That disclaimer stated, I’m not a fan of the broader directions empowerment has been going. Things seem out of balance. The prevailing focus is towards empowering youth with less thought and action put into empowering adults. But of course, how can there be adult empowerment when nearly every adult is busy with youth empowerment. To me this is giving rise to empowerment overload. Perhaps being an adult empowerer of the youth is empowering. But still, a conundrum seems present in Zimbabwe: An adult generation that tends to look outward, and perhaps even an adult generation that tends to see the youth as the only individuals worthy of empowerment. Further complicating empowerment overload is expectation that one becomes an adult empowerer of the youth at an early age. I’m struck by the great many Zimbabweans in their early 20s involved in empowering the youth. These kids are in their early 20s. Why have they so quickly graduated to being the empowerers?
I’m thinking out-of-balance empowerment overload got going in synch with statistical geniuses emerging in full force from the HIV/AIDS industry. There’s no doubt analyses concerning declining life expectancies and shifting population age demographics are valuable in understanding the impacts of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. This data speaks effectively to loss of human capacity and the ensuing ripple effects on economic sectors, governance, and sociocultural dynamics. But there was danger with the resulting label: Lost Generation. I cannot help but wonder what emotional and psychosocial effects these analyses have had on members of the “lost generation” who have remained alive. Possibly, the label has numbed adults into giving up on themselves in favour of channeling all energies towards empowering the youth.
The ZANU-PF youth I began with are, in my mind, victims of empowerment gone very, very wrong. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t think there could be anything more disturbing than empowering one human being to kill another. It’s not a perfectly parallel example, yet, I think it’s worth considering the more subtle misdirection potentially embedded in out-of-balance empowerment overload, to ask the question: Who’s empowering adults in Zimbabwe?
Do you ever wonder how people cope in failed states? Well, this weekend for me it requires Alcohol. The current reality is just too horrible. Tomorrow I’ll be OK, but today I need help.
On TV the regime’s propaganda machine is going through its miserable charade of vote ‘counting’! Honestly. Of course I’ll feel worse for the alcohol later, but for now I need something with that extra lift.
I’m sick to my stomach. How can anyone follow through with this nauseating fabrication? What a come down for Robert Mugabe. They’ve had to beat, threaten, plead, kill, to get someone, anyone to the polls. How must he feel as he prepares for the inauguration?
Today, overhead, a lone jet went through its paces in preparation for Mugabe’s inevitable ‘crowning’. That’s what we’ve been reduced to. Just enough fuel and a single pilot for a fly past. In spite of this, Mugabe will ride into Cairo this coming week and whip the rest of Africa’s spineless leaders into shape. Pathetic.
Over this desperate weekend I watched a documentary that opened my eyes to the Bush administration’s rampant corruption in the awarding of contracts to Halliburton et al for the logistics behind their war in Iraq. “Oh God”, I thought. “Where in the world is their integrity?”
Yes, Mugabe has every right to point out everyone else’s failings, but that doesn’t forgive him his own. As a people we have suffered not only the bruises and wounds of his excesses, but have had to tolerate nauseating propaganda purporting Zimbabweans turned up willingly to vote in a one horse race. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tomorrow I will be stronger, but for today I need to drown my sorrows.
I packed my bag and in it I put some honey, butter, bread and a can of mace. Destination? I was going to check out the polling stations in my area and then have some breakfast with a couple of comrades. OK so the mace might be ineffectual when faced by a gang of militia but it made me feel a tiny bit safer. In the Greendale and Highlands suburbs of Harare the voting queues were really, really (I mean really) small. Which I took to be A Good Sign.
Despite the heavy Zanu PF intimidation Zimbabweans look like they’re shunning the poll.
Later in the morning we decided that today was a good day to visit two inspiring women activists detained in Chikurubi Female Prison. Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, the leaders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have spent 29 days in prison. Read about their case here.
We took the back route to Chikurubi Prison, more by mistake than by design, so we spent a bit of time driving through the bush on the outskirts of Harare. At one point we had to stop and ask for directions. I guess today wasn’t the best day to be doing this and my nerves were jangling, quite a bit. When we finally arrived at the prison gates we handed over our IDs and the warder wrote our names, ID numbers and who we were visiting on a small scrap of paper. After a 10 minute walk through the dust and lots of laundry hanging in the sun, including several versions of Robert Mugabe’s election campaign T shit (oops, my spelling mistake), we finally got to the prison building where Jenni and Magodonga are being held. For 30 minutes we sat on a small wooden bench chatting with them through a fence. They are both well and in good spirits but they’ve had enough of sleeping on a concrete floor. They want to go home. I handed a few small gifts through the holes in the fence; an orange, potato chips, sweets and a few sanitary towels. The warder banned the jar of honey for some reason.
As I was lying in the bath this morning I was getting increasingly agitated (no amount of radox could help) about the fact that Tendai Biti, the Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general gets released from prison as part of an elite political deal, but Jenni and Magodonga are still in detention. An example of women either being forgotten, or fucked over by the system.
Please help to draw more attention to the unjust incarceration of Jenni and Magodonga by writing to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, asking them to step up the pressure.