Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for July, 2008

Interparty talks – Zimbabweans speak out

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 by Amanda Atwood

On Monday, Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), committing them to ” dialogue with each other with a view to creating a genuine, viable, permanent and sustainable solution to the Zimbabwean situation and, in particular, to implement this Memorandum of Understanding.”

The MoU is vague about what this “sustainable solution” might look like. So it’s not clear from the document what kind of power sharing, or transitional authority, or government of national unity (or “national healing”) the different parties have in mind. Doubtless this is some of what is going to be thrashed out in the coming talks. If the parties adhere to their schedule, they have an ambitious agenda to cover – including the objectives and priorities of a new government, the framework for a new government, and the implementation mechanisms for their agreement – all within the next two weeks.

To find out more about what people thought of this, we sent this text message to our SMS subscribers yesterday:

Kubatana! ZPF and both MDCs agree to talk to resolve crisis. Send yr thoughts on this & give us yr postal or email addr if u want a copy of their agreement.

We received over 300 requests for the document to be posted to people, and over 200 requests that it be emailed. This is a small indication of just how starved most Zimbabweans are for news about our own country.

In April, we asked our subscribers what they thought of the Government of National Unity idea, which was then being batted about. At that time, our subscribers were adamantly opposed to the idea of a GNU – with the anti’s outweighing the pro’s by about ten to one.

But interestingly, yesterday’s initial responses to the idea of Zanu PF and the MDC entering a dialogue to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis were more tempered. A few subscribers were still firmly against any kind of dialogue with “thieves,” as they called Zanu PF. And there is certainly suspicion that Zanu PF might swallow the MDC, as they did PF Zapu in 1987. But by and large, people texting us were supportive of the idea of dialogue as a way to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis.

Here are some of their responses:

The talks is good but MDC must be very clever – Zanu PF wants to swallow the MDC

Yes it’s a brilliant idea which shall help end crisis, poverty and all tribulations in Zimbabwe united we stand divided we fall Tsvangirai showed qualities of being a leader by agreeing to talk.

In this country at the moment, literature that isn’t ironical simply can’t compete with life. When Mugabe makes the slightest concession, however insincere, everybody loves him!

Free and fair elections tomorrow with international observers!

Step 1 MDC still to talk as one: to be clear on the main objective . . . the transitional arrangement and nothing less. The leopard never ceases to pounce on weak victims

It is long over due but we want justice.

May be worth the effort but MDC must keep their eyes open. You can’t trust these guys. I agree with Tsvangirai that people have suffered enough.

I think its a good idea but not giving Tsvangirai Vice President post but Prime Minister. That’s where power sharing starts.

I believe it’s a good idea if they can reason together in order to solve this crisis. But they must recognise the results of the election done on 29 March

We don’t need masters, colonial or nationalist. We want public servants. So respect our votes of March 29. You asked for them.

It was overdue but the solution reached must reflect the will of the pple. We need a better zim.

That’s better because we are suffering. We are stuck and something must be done to save the lives of Zimbabweans.

Transitional gvt is rather better than gvt of national unity G.N.U.

The talks are okay but mugabe must not lead the government & must step down.

It better be real coz thz guys are tricky. They may use submarine approach n swallow MDC. Caution coz MT has 2 be very decisive. He has e lives of e pple in his hands.

It’s gd 4 them 2 resolve crisis we a facing on dy 2 dy bt l wl urge M T 2 b careful

For as long as it is something that will result in the fulfilment of our wishes and solve our problems no hard feelings

I think it is a very bad idea for ZPF and MDCs to talk coz they are like water and oil as far as policies are concerned. What happened to ZAPU when it merged with ZPF? I dnt approve of the talks unless they start on the March 29 election which means MDC T would be the winner.

Its quite a wise move we need leaders with people at heart, we have suffered enough. But they have to use March results.

No problem as long as the talks result in the formation of transitional authority & fresh, free & fair run-off being conducted thereafter.

For the MDC to go for talks is not so bad but what is important is not to be colonised their brains by the ZPF. Their talks must consider or must start on 29 March election not from 27 June if not so all the elections need to be restarted but in the presence of U.N.

The talks are very important but MDC must not at all accept a gvt of national unity. They must go 4 a transitional gvt and pave way 4 fresh elections. Zanu PF plans 2 destroy MDC just as they did to ZAPU

MDC must pin ZPF for a new constitution first before any other issues thats the only starting point coz the current one was drafted with a dictator with all powers centred on him.

I think 2 solve crisis they must let the MDC 2 lead or Mugabe being a president & Tsvangi a prime minister but equal powers in parliament.

I think if their agreement is based on with people at heart i guess its a welcome development but at the same time no-one was supposed to die or be displaced for supporting a certain political party so i think their agreement came a little late.

On our knees

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Saturday, July 19th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Andrew Higgins writing for the Wall Street Journal comments on Zimbabwe’s mismanaged economy saying

Custodian of a currency in free fall in a country ravaged by hyperinflation, Gideon Gono, Zimbabwe’s central-bank governor, scoffs at “traditional economics” and seeks guidance elsewhere. He says he reads the Bible. This, says the guardian of Zimbabwe’s monetary policy, has taught him the importance of obeying Robert Mugabe, the country’s 84-year-old leader and architect of policies widely blamed for the destruction of a once-flourishing African economy. “Anyone who says the bank governor should violate the head of state is violating a principle that Jesus Christ demanded of his disciples,” says Mr. Gono.

Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal reader, Georgia Allen, in swift response suggests that Zimbabwe’s mess in self-inflicted, and that the Bible certainly can’t be blamed. She says

Your article “Zimbabwe Central Banker Answers to Mugabe, Bible” is a revealing glimpse into the trade-offs and mechanics of presiding over the world’s worst case of hyperinflation. Contrary to the governor’s assertion, traditional economics do apply in Zimbabwe. The country’s devastated economy is largely a result of ruinous policy making. Gideon Gono is at risk of failing a hard test of public service: the choice between loyalty to a leader and betrayal of the public’s trust along with values of equity and transparency. The claim that Christianity supports the former is convenient, misinformed and false.

Then again ask just about any Zimbabwean what they see as the answer to all our troubles, and they’ll say prayer.

Government of National Unity? Ignore the lessons of history at your peril

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Friday, July 18th, 2008 by Catherine Makoni

The point of this paper is not to talk about Darfur or Rwanda, but to talk about learning from the lessons that history holds for us in Zimbabwe. The report of the Legal Resources Foundation and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace should be mandatory reading for every Zimbabwean. It details what has been euphemistically described as the “Matabeleland Disturbances”. But “disturbances” doesn’t begin to cover the deaths of over 20 000 people. A disturbance is when a dog barks in the night, waking you up form your sleep. It’s annoying, but hardly fatal. It could even be when two neighbours exchange words over the cutting down of a tree on a common border. At worst, in these days of accommodation shortages, it might your landlord telling you he now wants his rentals paid in hard currency resulting in an argument. It’s nasty, it’s uncomfortable, it’s inconvenient (when you get evicted) but it is rarely life threatening. It is not a “disturbance” when 62 people are lined up and shot-execution style as happened at Cwele River in Lupane. It is not a disturbance when a government to flush out less than 200 so-called dissidents, brings nearly 400 000 people to the brink of starvation by banning all food relief activities and imposing a strict curfew on the movement of food supplies. All this in the third successive year of a severe drought where people had no food apart from drought relief from donors and what they could buy in stores.

Read more here

Practical sanctions

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Friday, July 18th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

I’m not sure whether to be elated or irritated that there are now some sort of negotiations going on behind closed doors in Pretoria between the MDC and Zanu PF. The MDC has said no formal negotiations have actually begun, but that their representatives are there simply to present the conditions under which genuine negotiations can take place.

Right now it has evolved that Tsvangirai has refused to sign the Memorandum of Understanding setting the agenda for dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF. Since the ordinary individual whose welfare is at stake is being literally blacked out of information, one is not sure whether or not it’s a good thing. Nevertheless, they are talking about something, and we can only hope it’s about how to bring an end to the crises in this country. In any case one cannot help being haunted by the knowledge that Mugabe cannot be trusted to abide by any decisions reached at the negotiating table. Mugabe is into these talks only to seek legitimacy and probably because he thinks the MDC has the capacity and enough international backing to salvage the mess he has made of the economy through irrational policies.

It turns out the Security Council’s endeavor to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, more specifically, Mugabe and crew, was thwarted by Russia and China who wielded their veto to kill the resolution in a defining vote by the 15-nation council. Most people were disappointed. I wasn’t sure whether to be or not because I hadn’t been in the full picture of what effect any form of sanctions would have on the larger, ordinary population. I say that because I had just read a 2007 paper written by the Reserve Band of Zimbabwe (RBZ) criticizing and explaining the effects of sanctions on ordinary folk. The authors, whom I assume, are Gono et al highlight the fact that sanctions are not and cannot be ring-fenced on a few targeted individuals. The paper further explains that imposition of sanctions generally precipitates negative perception…by the world at large. Those perceptions make it difficult for private/public enterprise to secure funding from donors.

I thought that maybe they had a point there. Negative perceptions about a country that’s already constantly under bad spotlight may also affect the already fragile and ailing economy. Gono et al also mentions what they call undeclared sanctions and define these as being not explicitly announced but are implied from the actions of the perpetrating nations. They may include NGOs and certain business interests pulling out of the country. In this case we need not worry about that. The world’s third largest supermarket, Tesco have pulled out (more likely out of concern for their own image, not for Zimbabwe), with or without sanctions. Barclays is also under pressure to follow suit.

However, further clarification was given that the sanctions were specific and tailor made to cripple Mugabe and 13 of his henchmen. These included extending travel bans, freezing offshore assets and imposing an arms embargo, among other things. But then again, weren’t the initial smart sanctions intended to do that too, and apparently failed to work?

I’m more inclined to agree with Gono et al that it is only the ordinary folk that get the raw end of the flak whatever form of sanctions are imposed. Look at it this way. You ban Mugabe from this and that but it only means he and his henchmen descend further on the economy and the little that’s left, grabbing all they can when they can.  Life goes on for them and if he gets sick, Bob can just be airlifted to Malaysia or any such ‘friendly’ country like South Africa while the rest of us can hardly find Paracetamol. He will always have milk and bacon on his breakfast table while the rest of us queue for extinct bread and rolls. In short, the evil become richer and more secure while the poor get poorer.

This is what Paul Reynolds had to say in a BBC news article titled “Sanctions: How successful are they?” . . . “Sanctions sometimes have the appearance of being more about making those who impose them feel better than making those at whom they are aimed change their minds.” The bit about an arms embargo does smack more of a selfish endeavor rather than pure concern for Zimbabweans.

Proposals from abroad are claiming that economic sanctions must be imposed to ensure that foreign-owned companies do not support the Mugabe regime. Though well intentioned, they may easily fail to have the effect intended and would more likely become threats to any susceptible company’s financial survival. In fact, Mugabe may even respond by imposing on them even more controls, or possibly by nationalizing those companies of more strategic importance.

Today’s Zimbabwe Independent carries an article that talks about the raft of new European Union (EU) and United States (US) sanctions. It mentions that among a cocktail of other sanctions, the US and the EU are contemplating barring Air Zimbabwe from landing or flying over their territories. I bet that has Mugabe quivering with fear.

Much more effort had rather be put into formulating more workable alternatives. Maybe sanctions are still an option but let them target Zimbabwe’s ruling party rather than Zimbabwe’s general population.

And even if it means that the Security Council takes some extreme measures to oust Mugabe, I’d rather the world be debating that instead of waiting, seeing and pushing for an ‘African solution’ whilst the regime continues to run down the economy. Mugabe is doing exactly what Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir did, so why won’t the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court also formally request an arrest warrant of him too? Mugabe has needed no bullets but has rather master minded a silent genocide through rape, hunger and fear.

As long as the international community continues to pay homage to Mugabe without condemning his illegitimate government for what it is no headway will be made in improving the socio-economic crises in Zimbabwe.

The world watched as Rwanda, the DRC and Sudan degenerated into decrepit war zones. Will they watch Zimbabwe accelerate in that direction simply because diplomatic protocol and a couple of veto powers serving egotistical interests won’t allow any practical action?

Song of the militia

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Thursday, July 17th, 2008 by Bev Clark

A leaflet fell out of a magazine I was reading the other day. The picture on the front showed a woman standing in a sandy patch of nothing with a container of water on her head. The setting? Darfur. The stark message that accompanied the pictured said: when this woman goes to collect water she will be raped; if she doesn’t go, her children will die.

Rape is a constant threat in many women’s lives, even more so in situations of conflict. Zimbabwe is no exception. Poet John Eppel recently shared this poem with Kubatana:

“Let sell-outs expire”

You are a traitor
burn, burn, burn
sovereignty hater
burn, burn, burn.

We strip you naked
we beat you with sticks
melt plastic on you
and feed you our pricks…


You are a puppet
burn, burn, burn
a piece of dog shit
burn, burn, burn.

We use our gun butts
to make your brains spill
we use our barrels
to give you a thrill…


You MDC witch
burn, burn, burn
you Tsvangirai’s bitch
burn, burn, burn.

We drag you crying
to your cooking fire
gocha your body
let sell-outs expire…


Let sell-outs expire
sell-outs expire



Sex in the City Harare

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Thursday, July 17th, 2008 by Susan Pietrzyk

A couple weeks back Kubatana advertised a call for people to participate in a documentary film about sex being made by the International Video Fair (IVF).  This week the cameras are rolling.  Seven women and seven men checked into the Bronte Hotel on Sunday and will be there through the week.  The whole week is devoted to discussing sex.  As well as all the various interconnected emotions and concerns.  And the whole week is being filmed.  It’s a project that fits perfectly into the goals of the IVF, and many organizations for that matter.  To assist the general population by providing information and promoting dialogue.  In the case of IVF, through the medium of film.

I’m involved in the production of this film.  On Sunday just before things got started, among the team there was a collective:  What have we done?  Did we really invite 14 somewhat randomly selected Zimbabweans to spend five days discussing sex?  Is this going to work?

We are now half way through the week and one word is filling my mind:  Taboo.  But not taboo in the way you might think I mean it.  For years and years I’ve heard and read that to talk about sex in African countries is taboo.  People just don’t do it.  Donors tend to approach the subject with caution because it’s supposedly taboo. Instead they dance around the subject.  Policy makers gingerly use the lens of gender because sex is taboo.  And so on.  Everyone seems to say taboo.  But it’s not true.  My ears are getting sore because these 14 people have volumes to say.  The reason the word taboo is filling my mind is because it seems what’s taboo is not discussing sex, rather what’s become taboo is to create spaces for people to come together and speak about sex. We’re told we can’t talk about sex, so nobody takes the time to make the spaces available.  This film project is correcting  the way the taboo around sex has been repositioned.  These 14 people have embraced this space and they’re making the most of it.  The part of my mind that’s not filled with the word taboo is filled with the 842 insightful, thoughtful, engaging, intelligent, open, honest, raw, and most of all, valuable comments that have been made so far.