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Archive for September, 2008

Each side of the coin is bunk

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Thursday, September 25th, 2008 by Susan Pietrzyk

A recent CNN Opinion Poll indicates US Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin is well supported.  Among American men, 63% have a favorable opinion and among women, the figure is 53%.  Very scary, I think, the level of support for this mooseburger-eating, right wing fanatic, governor of a small, small state who has zero foreign policy experience.  Maybe it’s due to the side of the fence I’m on, but it seems the 47% of women who oppose Palin are a whole lot more vocal.  Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler have both written thoughtful and detailed analyses of all that’s wrong with Palin.  Opposition is strong in cyberspace.  And I would add that this is happening in interesting and innovative ways. Five different people have forwarded me a letter written by Wasilla, Alaska resident Anne Kilkenny who knows Palin.  Despite her request not to do this, Kilkenny’s letter has made its way onto 100s of blogs. One even looks like an official US government-sponsored blog. I suspect it’s not official since the ad currently running reads:  How To Write A Sex Scene.  A Romance Author Gives A Peak At How She Does It.  Four different people have forwarded me an email from a couple of New Yorkers who encourage readers to send their views to womensaynopalin@gmail.com .  So far, 140,000 women have expressed their views.

One important element central to all of this commentary around Palin is similar to a set of arguments Alex Magaisa made in his article entitled:  Politics and prejudice: plight of Zimbabwean women.  It happens in various ways and to different degrees of unjust, unscrupulous, and sadistic objectification.  But still, world over women in politics tend to be viewed as just that.  Women in politics.  As opposed to non-sexed, non-gendered politicians involved in public service because they believe in their leadership qualities, and believe they have solid ideas.  It’s not a perfect parallel to look at female politicians in the US in comparison to female Zimbabwean politicians.  But, in a way, it’s like looking at two sides of a coin.  And both sides are bunk.

John McCain picked Sara Palin because he believes that any old woman will do.  As long as it’s a she, she is what will win him votes.  The situation in Zimbabwe, as Magaisa articulates, is such that female politicians signal more space for men to cast and further embed into the fabric of society objectifying eyes.  In paraphrasing Magaisa:  More space for men to ridicule women, not for their ideas, but about their private lives.  More space for men to describe in precise detail their wild imaginations or fantasies about a woman’s reproductive organs and how she uses them, etc.  I mean what kind of person would look at pictures of Grace Kwinjeh after she was beaten and come up with comments about “what they could ‘do’ with a woman endowed with her features, if given the chance.”

Anne Kilkenny made the important point that democracies require being able to distinguish between disliking and disagreeing.  She even went so far as to say:  I like Sarah Palin. I disagree with her.  Personally, I can’t go quite that far.  I both disagree with and dislike John McCain and Sarah Palin.  And more so, the politics and prejudices Magaisa describes are beyond just disagreeing.  All one can do is dislike.  And fight for change.

A Zimbabwean Afro-pessimist

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Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 by Marko Phiri

Perhaps I belong to that species some prefer to call rather unflatteringly “Afro-pessimists.” But for me, I figure that I elect to embrace that gloomy outlook with good reason. For many years we have listened to what I call the “Pan-types” who, despite all evidence, have internalised and radicalised their belief in that all criticism of an African politician – and as common sense will have it, any Blackman – is a manifestation of toadying to the racist Whiteman who has failed to see anything positive emerging from the Blackman’s universe. These types are those who will invoke juvenile history lessons to state their case, and become conveniently amnesiac where it involves atrocities and other evils committed in the here and now by men and women of colour.

I raise this here after a colleague said to me the other day after the signing of the Government of National Unity agreement by Zimbabwe’s main political players that I was an inveterate pessimist after I confessed that I could not see anything fruitful emerging from the “historic” signing, be it in the short or long term. We had been told that the nation would know about cabinet appointments and allotments before the week of the signing was over. I did not hold my breath. As if by some ESP-based intuition, something told me this party formed in the 1960s – which would make it a dinosaur – would stick it out and trash all attempts to make something out of that crap signing. And here we are many days later not having a clue about where we are at as a nation.

My pessimism about all things Zimbabwean is informed by the fact that this country has had many false starts; each time the people imagine they are about to pass this man-made hell, the “veterans of the struggle” cock a snook and show us their butts. And then with glee they shout “Gotcha!!” Just analyse all elections held since 1980. They have always been about “See, we hold regular elections, so why accuse us of being enemies of multi party democracy?” But the setting up and subsequent flourishing of democracy based checks and balances and other democratic institutions do not form part of the multi party agenda, so you know where that leaves us. But I digress. The hubris that emerged after the signing where you had whole neighbourhoods blowing trumpets, beating chests, and as Patrick Chinamasa alleged, beating up people as they celebrated the coming into government of their point man, Morgan Tsvangirai was another pointer of the naivety – or desperation – of a crisis-weary people yearning for better days. Call it the plebeian excitement of the working class, but you had to see it to believe it. It was the stuff popular street uprisings a la the Orange Revolution are made of.

I could hear and see people celebrating that those folks whose lives depended on remittances from abroad were in the coming week – not weeks – to be reduced to “ordinary” Zimbabweans as the street exchange rates were doomed to plunge to all time lows, thereby depriving them of that elitist existence they were enjoying thanks to the voodoo economics of the “out-going” cabal of kleptocrats. Noone cared to explain how this would happen, but I imagined it had something to do with the whole thing that the people are fed up with Zanu PF’s false promises and self-aggrandisement streak. It eerily appears as if this streak is indelibly etched in their DNA, someone whispered the other day. I listened, bemused by all this tabloid-like stoking of emotions. Toothless grannies yearning for tea with milk, bread with butter, stopped you in the street asking what was happening. They too were already celebrating that at last the one with a funny if not silly moustache was on the verge of what would have been an equivalent of what would in the next days befall his trusted foreign minister and fire fighter Thabo Mbeki.

First, what has become the pulse of the economy, the street-based foreign currency trade became the pointer of better things to come. The “illegal” black market saw a huge and dramatic dip in the exchange rate of the local useless dollar against major currencies as speculators spread falsehoods and in the process raising alarm and despondency. We know the fate of others who treaded that path! This was a sure miracle for many, a Godsend of some sorts. A guy who is always eager to fleece old women of their forex said to me the other day after the signing, ‘I am not touching any of that foreign money. I would be stupid to accept that. What will I do with the (South African) Rands next week?” He asked. I asked him back, “What is it that you have heard?” “People are saying…” was his response. I dismissed him with the contempt he deserved. “Ignorant fool,” I might have added, but then you do not rub it in when in the company of people who have no clue about anything but appear to know more than everybody else in that realm of what has become the favourite of many here: arcane contemporary politics… and economics. And in present day Zimbabwe, such types come in their millions. But before the shyster could yawn, the rates had shot two fold! I said to myself, what kind of people have we become that we have no clue about anything in a time and era where news dissemination now transcends all sorts of censorship? Shouldn’t people have the right to know when it is their livelihoods that are being discussed by men in suits…and dark glasses? As a wise crack quipped ages ago, if you want to control people, deny them information. And Zimbabweans now provide ample thesis material in that miserable regard.

Keeping a permanent gloomy outlook about all things Zimbabwean has helped me not raise my expectations about the future only to expose myself to a possible cardiac attack after having cursed friends and foes alike basking on my ignorance that if cameras flash then hey “Turn up the boombox, put on your hightops, Come on outside, today’s gon’ be the day we Start livin in the new worrrld.” (apologies to Black Thought, Tha Roots). I am yet to be provided with any reason to raise my head up high and say I will buy my two boys baby cereals and all that stuff paediatricians tell us will make prodigies out of these tiny tots. But in my guarded pessimism, I try to be careful that this – like hate – does not consume me to that extent that I move from being compos mentis to what the Hispanic chaps would call loco.

The urgency of now

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Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

After the March Harmonized elections in Zimbabwe we waited for the results to be announced. Then there comes the rerun/runoff of the presidential elections and Zimbabweans waited again for the date to be announced which again took time.

After the June 27 presidential elections Zimbabweans waited for the formation of the government and a new cabinet. This did not happen because of some political differences which led the two main political parties to agree to have Talks to form a new power-sharing government in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, Mutambara and Tsvangirai signed an agreement on Monday 15th September 2008 to form a power-sharing government to tackle Zimbabwe’s long running political and economic crisis. The leaders cannot agree on a new Cabinet, especially the key posts. Zimbabweans are still waiting for the three leaders to resolve the matter.

But there is no time for waiting. People are dying daily because of deepening poverty amid shortages of food and every basic survival commodity.

The politics of waiting in Zimbabwe

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

I waited for a good 2 hours, in a snaking queue of about twenty people who queue so often they now know each other by their first names. Instead of people joining the queue they jump into the queue calling and greeting each other with “hie, hie, or Tichie, TK”. This is all because of the minimum withdrawal limit which is keeping people in queues for a long time every day. The standards at the banks are getting poor by each passing day. Can you believe that at one time we used to get cold water and hot coffee at some of these banks?

Today I was close to the front door and there were about seven people in front of me. But actually there were not really seven, as five school-going girls just came from nowhere and sneaked in front of me. Isn’t there a specific age permitted by these banks for one to open a bank account?

Apart from these queue jumpers, there I was, at the front door of the bank and I made sure no one came and said ‘I am back blaz’. Then I heard a hoarse voice and a slight pat on my right shoulder.  “How are you this morning?” the minister said as he stepped into the bank. Inside the bank the minister was also doing some transactions but what surprised me is that I over heard him asking the balance from the lady teller and she replied “two million and seventy-five something, something” and he said “that’s fine, then leave the seventy-five something, something you are talking about”.

I was a bit shocked with the figure being taken out, and I thought of the 2 hours I had been queuing for $1000.00 which is not enough to take me home with a loaf of bread for the family.

Bank notes are rubble

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Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

Just imagine, last week I went to the post office to check how much the postage is these days. I saw a woman holding a plastic bag stacked with old $500 000 notes. She was told by the gentleman behind the counter ” Sorry amai, that money is no longer in use”.

However, today, it was my turn. Because I wanted to make a top up of our office airtime I was looking for the smallest denomination just to keep the window open. My workmate gave me $5billion notes. As I was in a hurry getting to the bank before they closed and also having to buy this airtime for the office I did not check the money properly.

I went straight to the airtime vendor who told me “Aah, blaz! This is now rubble in Zimbabwe, you can just throw it away”. I just quickly pocketed the old notes and used the money I had to buy the airtime and went straight back to the office recalling the embarrassment that the woman at the post office had faced.

Anyway, Friday is always Friday! And that’s a good thing.

A miracle live on TV

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Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

Yesterday on my way home the gentleman who gave me a lift turned his radio on and there was this message “Thank you Zimbabweans for voting in peace”, and I wonder why, after 3-4 months since the March 29 harmonized and the presidential runoff, the media is still talking of elections.

The media should be publishing something that brings people together. Is the media aware of the historic agreement signed on Monday 15 September 2008? Were they not the ones broadcasting it live on our national TV stations and radios?

The message which they should be publishing, broadcasting and printing is something that brings people together. Like, ‘Thank you Zimbabwean political parties for signing the Memorandum of Understanding and the Political Settlement in Peace’. Think of the handshake of President RG Mugabe and the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.  Wasn’t that a miracle? Think that for the past 5 months these two main political figures were miles apart. Think of the horrible messages they used to preach at their campaign rallies.

It’s high time that the media did more to get the leaders messages to Zimbabweans living all over the country, especially the rural folks. Our God is a God of impossibilities, but miracles are possible with God. This is really a miracle, live on TV. We want reconciliation, healing and life of course!

Unity is the word we want to hear from the media.