Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for November, 2008

Objects of pity

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Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

I recently travelled to South Africa to attend a work related seminar. From the moment I heard that I was going to be part of the team that would travel to South Africa I was overjoyed. Some people may wonder why this was so? The joy arose just from the thought that I was going to eat a healthy meal, be in an environment where there were no burst sewage pipes, get clean cholera free water from a tap and just enjoy a hot shower and more so be able to watch my favourite TV programme as there would be electricity.

With just the thought of travelling to Johannesburg, my pregnancy suddenly felt light, my body was rejuvenated and energised because of the excitement. The moment I got out of the airport in Johannesburg, a sense of relief engulfed me, that feeling one enjoys when a huge burden has been lifted off his or her shoulders. Just the thought of being away from grim poverty, frustration and misery aroused this euphoria in me, the euphoria I last felt as a kid when Xmas was approaching.

On my day of arrival in Johannesburg I did not have any meeting scheduled so I had time to move around and admire the plenty and abundance in the South African shops.  As I moved around the Johannesburg shopping malls I was surprised to hear the jingle of Christmas carols signalling the coming festive season, a thing you hardly find in Zimbabwe. I was suddenly drawn to the reality of the times. What really shocked me was that we were approaching the end of 2008 and yet I did not feel the festive mood in Zimbabwe. As I continued moving down the malls, I was surprised at the number of people doing their Christmas shopping and the fully stocked shops. I rushed into the baby shops and bought stuff for my baby to come. I wanted to buy everything in the shop as I was surprised by both the affordability and availability of goods, the goods I never find in my country.

In the grocery shop, I bought basic food stuffs and even bought sour milk as I have a serious craving for it. Unfortunately when I got to the airport I did not know that liquids such as milk and drink were not allowed into the plane as hand luggage. The South African security officer told me to go back to the checking in point and request inclusion of the milk and drink in my luggage. She told me that I could not leave my stuff as I would need the stuff back home. The South Africans wrapped my two  2 litre bottles and helped me to check them in telling me that with the suffering in Zimbabwe I needed to carry the stuff. I appreciated the gesture of help but also felt pity for myself as by virtue of being a Zimbabwean people felt obliged to assist me as I came from a country well known for its humanitarian crisis.

Getting home, the first thing I noticed was the lifeless and miserable airport with little activity and this was a significant cue of the lifelessness of the Zimbabwean nation. The saddest part is that this is my home and this is where my baby is going to be born.

A limited life in Zimbabwe

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Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

Wherever you go, so long as you’re in Zimbabwe, you hear vendors shouting, Bacossi airtime! At the bus terminus it’s also Bacossi fares – meaning reduced fares.

People in Zimbabwe are quick to get these Bacossi products, be it airtime, tomatoes, fruits, bus fares, fuel, beer . . . the list goes on.

At the banks the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor limits the cash withdrawal to $500 000. You can call this the Bacossi cash withdrawal limit. It limits you from buying $1 million and $2 million airtime, it limits you from paying $2 million to and from work, it limits you sending your children to school, paying rates and rentals on time. It limits you from enjoying your hard earned money called Your Salary!

The RBZ Governor’s Bacossi limit makes you go hungry.

Glass stomachs and other weird stuff

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Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by Marko Phiri

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, thus goes the old adage.

I pondered the other day, piqued by the poor dietary regimes Zimbabweans have been forced to endure as their nourishment, what if we had glass stomachs? Surely we would all know who is eating what, and the haughty types in the neighbourhood would learn to eat humble pie. The pun is intended. Teachers would not be asking toddlers what they had for breakfast. They would just call the pupils to stand in from of the class, unbutton their shirts and blouses, and there you have it for all to see. You wouldn’t lie anymore about bacon and eggs, rice and chicken and all those African favourites. It would be stuff sci-fi is made of. But seriously, during these trying times, all are known to be eating – if at all – food they would not like the next guy to know that is what they had for breakfast, lunch or supper. If we had glass stomachs, many of us would have turned into recluses, hiding away from the cruel eyes of our neighbours because if we had glass stomachs, the Creator would probably have had it such that we do not wear shirts! But then perhaps one would brave those eyes well knowing that many stomachs are either empty or have all sorts of weird stuff masquerading as nourishment!

God bless the Zimbabwean people during these cruel times.

Civil society must re-strategize

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

Life under a dictatorship in Zimbabwe has seen all systems collapse, including the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders. If its not the so-called war veterans stifling progress, it is the invisible government dictating obstructive policies like the recent food ban that saw a majority of needy Zimbabweans starve. The same government is slowly but systematically taking the country to hell by committing crimes against its own people, the most recent being the unexplained disappearance of the Global Fund money to fight TB and AIDS and the state indifference to the endemic cholera outbreak.

As to be expected some members of society and civil society have made efforts to protest. A risky occupation in the face of a brutal and unrelenting police force that is always ready to descend on peaceful protesters with baton sticks and tear gas. Marching, as we have seen in the last few years, has been rendered basically useless. So have picketing and other peaceful forms of civil disobedience. A number of civil society groups – notably WOZA, the ZCTU and ZINASU among others have been outstanding in staging protests in Zimbabwe. But none of their endeavors have achieved much. It is high time they all sat down and re-strategized to effect the mother of all protests in Zimbabwe.

The one obvious weakness that has been inherent in the previous protests staged by Zimbabwean civil society has been ‘individualism,’. How often do we hear that today WOZA is staging a demonstration, tomorrow it is the NCA, then ZINASU, and then ZADHR? Each time their separate protests hardly last 30 minutes or achieve the desired goals before the leadership is nabbed and the groups disperse. It is always the same pattern: go out in the street – police appear promptly – protest leaders are nabbed – the rest of the group disperses.

Instead of these individual groups staging their protests separately, it would be more strategic for them to come together as one unit driven by a single passion. The struggle for justice is not about populism or fame, it is about sacrifices and the sooner Zimbabwean civil society organizations realize this the better for everyone. Civil society should be willing to work with other member organizations because they are fighting the same cause – a rogue regime that is trampling its people.

Civil society needs to go beyond their differences and form a highly organized unit that will mobilize in such a way that will ‘confuse’ the police who are used to nabbing the one leader, rendering the protest over. A unified civil society must find tactics that will work. They must abandon ineffective mobilizations. The current type of demonstrations may make participants feel they have done something huge, or garner donor appreciation, but they will not end the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Organizing protests is also about logistics: where people meet; how and where they march to for instance. WOZA has been proficient in timely convergence with the help of synchronized watches and marching in silence for a distance while the crowd gathers. The same tactic  – if adopted by a unified movement of civil society groups has the potential to see the largest march since the 90s. The law of large numbers has historically proved to be the best crowd puller. The more people who march, the more infectious the spirit of solidarity and the higher the possibility of ordinary citizens joining in the protest – which is the desired effect, surely?

And, no matter how many they are, the police do not outnumber the ordinary citizens. The law of large numbers is critical in keeping the rogue police force at bay. Outside the CFX bank in Bulawayo, irritated customers retaliated and pounced on a policeman who was overpowered by the angry mob. Civil society needs must take advantage of the situation – the angry crowds and the fact that the police hardly have the fuel or the water to mobilize their water cannons!

This dictator is swallowing all of us

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

Phoenix, my fish that survived the ZINWA water ordeal that saw all my other fish die, swallowed her young one in an unprecedented move yesterday. I bought several other interesting fish to replenish the tank and ease her loneliness but somehow she perceived the other fish a threat – especially the hyperactive, ugly black gouramis and the red-tailed guppy.

Sometimes I wonder how many Zimbabwean mothers, who have no idea where the next supper is going to come from or where to get school fees, wishes she could just swallow her children and shield them from the cruel hell this country has degenerated into. I heard on etv yesterday that the South African government is currently debating the legality and practicality of deporting a two-year old whose mother died of cholera at Musina after illegally crossing the border to seek medical attention. Had the mother known this was to be the fate of her child isn’t it possible she would have wanted to ‘swallow’ him before she died in order to forestall the misery brought on by petty party politics and the hellish bureaucracy that dogs the lives of refugees at the hands of some xenophobic South Africans?

Meanwhile the Elders delegation was stuck in South Africa at the weekend because they were denied entry into Zimbabwe by the invisible government. It is obvious that the leaders of the invisible government have something to hide and as Carter rightly put it, are “very immune to reaching out for help for their own people.” They will not even allow critical humanitarian assistance to flow in where whole communities stand a chance of being wiped out by cholera and starvation.

SADC turned its back on the people of Zimbabwe, so did the AU and let’s hope that the Elders are not just going to give up. Unnecessary diplomacy and bureaucracy will see many a dictator thrive if the international community does not soon devise interventionist policies regarding Mugabe, especially where the welfare of a whole nation is at stake.

Not wishing to see another Iraq-style invasion, sometimes it is necessary to use force in order to oust a dictator and save the lives of innocent, defenseless people. This has become a matter of urgency because this dictator is swallowing all of us, not to protect us but to annihilate us.

Heartless souls

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 by Moreblessing Mbire

The current political situation in Zimbabwe has cost the ordinary person too much. I cannot imagine how people are surviving. Most food stuffs are sold in foreign currency yet the majority of Zimbabweans earn the Zimbabwean Dollar whose maximum withdrawal limit can only buy a loaf of bread. Public health institutions have stopped admitting patients leaving people no choice but to rely on home based care.

The living conditions are hard. Count the number of times in a day that you think about where to get what. In most cases time is spent trying to find the means to survive. Sometimes I wonder if ever we are going to be normal again. People have been turned to what they are not. Most people who work in public institutions have turned into ‘heartless souls’. Imagine what kind of soul you need to have to turn away hundreds of people who evidently need medical assistance from a public hospital. Sometimes I feel for the nurses and doctors. How can you be expected to deliver a good service with no adequate drugs and health facilities?

I guess you need to kill a certain part of yourself as a way to brace up for the situation.

This situation slowly kills the spirit within. I for one am trying to resist but how can I succeed? Survival in this economic environment requires certain characteristics which may not necessarily be positive. There is so much potential for success in Zimbabweans. I am worried by the time we enter into a new political dispensation all this may be gone.