Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for December, 2008

Robbed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police

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Friday, December 12th, 2008 by Bev Clark

As desperation and lawlessness take hold in Zimbabwe we are beginning to eat one another. Here’s some citizen reporting illustrating what life is like on the ground. If you hear about, or experience these kinds of incidents please contact Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Speak out, make a complaint, don’t let them get away with it.

I had an unfortunate experience last night.  I was travelling down Glenara Avenue and was stopped by two policemen who asked for my drivers’ license and my ID which I of course gave them.  They then would not give back my documents until I ‘gave them something’.  They got into my car and would not get out .  I gave the one $100 and then they went through my handbag for more.  They took $200 which for me is a lot of money.  It was a very ugly event.  I went and made a charge at Highlands police station but no doubt won’t hear anything nor get my money back. – Emma

Do what you can, do something

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Friday, December 12th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Many people in Zimbabwe are feeling powerless right now. Alana Pugh-Jones is fighting this by putting pen to paper. She’s written a poem about a woman she’s never met – Jestina Mukoko. It’s important during these very difficult times to do whatever we can and speak out whenever we can.

Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was abducted from her home in the early hours of Wednesday, 3rd of December. Her whereabouts are still unknown.  We await her safe return.

Cry, Jestina

They came before the break of day,
Creeping towards your home in the shadows of the night.
What could have made men hardened by liberation so scared,
A cruel dictator so terrified,
Of a single woman?
Twelve plain clothes men clutching their guns to surprise you
Barefoot and in your nightgown.

You are one brave voice,
One courageous witness,
One of many,
Yet you alone were thrust into the unmarked car that day.
You stand as a giant to injustice,
In this moral wilderness.
And so they came to drag you by your hair,
Before the eyes of your son.

Every day I ask my friends,
Your comrades in the battlefield that has become Zimbabwe,
Who strove, side by side with you, to bring some light to this darkness,
If there is any word,
Any sign,
Any hope.
They answer me slowly,
As if their words struggle to surface from under the burden of sorrow on their shoulders,
No word,
No sign,
Yet hope.

I have never had the privilege of meeting you Jestina,
But one day,
In the future we fight for,
I pray to have the chance to meet you in the streets of Harare,
Standing tall,
Surrounded by freedom.
That day I’ll shake your hand,
Weary but steady from recording the testimony of this repression.
And I will thank you for your inspiration.

Until that day,
For you and this beautiful nation,
I cry.

This Bad Santa has stolen our Christmas

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Friday, December 12th, 2008 by Marko Phiri

I like to call them “uninformed uniformed forces.” Some are so incorrigibly daft you wonder whether that is how they are vetted for recruitment. Yes, those cops who will fleece and extort your measly dollars, and have become so brazen about demanding bribes they even do it when literally the whole world is watching.

You see them at roadblocks where they stop commuter omnibuses and never bat an eyelid as they accept bribes right under the gaze of passengers. Some think they know the finer details of the law, and I heard the other day one rookie cop with cheeks that clearly have never known a shaving machine or razor blade actually citing sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to a bewildered young man. The cop was going on about the police have the right under Zimbabwean law to stop and search him or anyone for whatever reason the cops deem fit. But the cop knew and the man knew and I also knew that what the cop wanted was a bribe for him to stop wasting that man’s time.

But then some Zimbabweans being Zimbabweans will pee in their pants once these once revered keepers of the peace start speaking that gibberish. And though you know damn well you did not commit any offence, they will still drag you to the holding cells hoping that along the way before you get to the filthy cells you would have made them an offer they cannot refuse. And these days it is strictly forex so woe betide him who walks around with empty pockets. And it’s so true.

I watched appalled the other day as a baton stick-wielding cop threatened bank clients with a good clubbing. “Hofisi yedu ihombe,” the cop said, apparently bragging about being above the law. This was after someone had grumbled that the cop’s behaviour was uncalled for. And guess what, these threats were being done right inside the bank. It was obvious the cops were itching to crash some skulls and break some bones. Imagine a gun in the hands of such people. They would fit those types who live by the dictum: “I only carry a gun when I intend to shoot something (or someone).” And the crime the cash-strapped people had committed: they wanted to know if the bank had any cash. But the irascible cops – apparently on high alert (or simply high on something else) as this was the day the ZCTU had called on the people to bum-rush the banks and demand their hard earned cash – would have none of it as if they themselves had loaded pockets.

But then they are now in the habit of taking out their frustrations on law abiding citizens. I always laugh surreptitiously when I see them in their civilians loitering outside pubs expecting largess from anybody who can buy them beer. “It’s a thankless and dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it,” I have heard that line a hundred times, but when we reach a point where virtually everyone no longer holds these uniformed chaps in awe like during the country’s nascent years, then you know the country is off the rails.

I heard a commuter omnibus tout demanding that a uniformed cop pay his fare like everyone else as these folks are for some reason always in the habit of expecting – and getting – free rides. I wondered what it is that that has changed for a policeman to be dressed down and humiliated like that in front of amused members of the public. “No fare, no ride,” the tout said. Boy was the cop stunned! And pay he did. I could sense that the mortified chap was silently vowing that he would have his day when he is assigned as a traffic cop and then he would demand more than a pound of the tout’s flesh. I thought I saw steam hissing through cop’s ears. But what could he do, threaten the tout with arrest? In any case, it wasn’t the cop’s car so he had to pay like everyone else, I heard an emboldened passenger say.

That is the society we have been forced to live in as young men and women living or working outside the country vow they won’t make the annual Christmas holiday trip because of all this crap they hear about what is happening to their mothers and fathers as scripted by other mothers and fathers (of the Revolution?). For some of us, well, we are right in the thick of things and this Bad Santa has once again stolen our Christmas.

After all, we are living in the age where cops refuse to respond to distress calls and instead expect you to bribe them to arrest a known housebreaker! And many thought it was the burglar who bribes cops to escape arrest, but now these amoral roles have been reversed: now it is the victim who bribes cops so that the bad guy is arrested.

Crap, I say.

Turn down the volume

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Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 by Bev Clark

George Bush, Desmond Tutu and many others are calling for the removal of Mugabe. But Sophie Zvapera, a Kubatana subscriber suggests another approach altogether.

I realise that there is always joy when another leader or renowned person calls for the removal of Mugabe from office given the untold suffering that the people of Zimbabwe are going through. I also realise that it is seen as piling more pressure on Mugabe if there are widespread calls for him to be removed/toppled. However, I just want to say that the more the West calls for Mugabe to be removed from power the more hardened Mugabe becomes. So in my opinion this international groundswell is working in reverse by hardening Mugabe’s stance even further. This means the more the West goes over the fact that Tsvangirai should be given the Ministry of Defence for instance the more Mugabe sticks onto his guns and the more he refuses to make concessions. This is my understanding of Mugabe’s psyche that the more the West speaks the more he enjoys spiting them and the more ruthless he becomes to prove a point.

I am saying this so that people realise that even now with all these deaths and the crises let us not assume for one moment that Mugabe will raise his hands up in surrender. The Gukurahundi deaths are said to be 20 000 or more but did Mugabe care then? Did he stop because the numbers were alarming? No! It is therefore not in Mugabe’s make-up to think that the people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough through cholera, starvation, HIV/AIDS etc so he should step down. He will continue to hang on as long as he can.

I doubt that there is going to be any UN intervention any time soon which means people are continuing to die in large numbers, abductions and disappearances will continue and suffering will continue. I believe that it is only dialogue that can bring an end to this suffering and my suggestion is that since it is only Tsvangirai whom we can appeal to and not Mugabe, why does he not consider going into the inclusive government for the people’s sake to avert the humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in full view of the whole world with no solution in sight so far, except to talk and talk and even talk louder?

Dial a dictator

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Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 by Bev Clark

Amanda, one of my colleagues, has been keeping me amused with her telephone calls to the President’s Office. She’s been phoning them trying to get either a Fax number or an Email address. Apparently their fax is broken and they don’t have email. Pull the other one I say.

We would like your help though. Give the little guy a call on +263-4-707098 and make a noise about the recent abductions of civic and political activists in Zimbabwe.

Remove the repressive regime

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Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

The removal of the repressive regime in Zimbabwe has become a desperate humanitarian necessity.

Along with a lot of other people, I am worried that it’s almost a week since Jestina was forcibly disappeared. Two of her employees were also abducted recently. It appears the state is unashamedly bent on doing whatever it takes to eradicate all forms of dissent and criticism.

But my worry goes beyond the safety of Jestina and her coworkers. I used to get encouraged each time somebody ‘important’ made a statement on Zimbabwe or castigated Mugabe or called for some sort of action. All the while I believed this was culminating in a build up of some real decisive action. But the continuous all-talk-and no-action is causing me, and I’m sure many other people, the kind of fatigue that makes you want to turn off the TV whenever the news starts, or avoid reading the papers. Everyone seems to acknowledge there is a serious crisis in Zimbabwe but no one seems capable or willing to actually do something about it.

I have developed an acronym for all the politicians spewing the tired and useless rhetoric of castigating Mugabe. They are ATANAs: All Talk and No Action. It seems to have become the fashionable ‘in thing’ to be heard once in a while castigating Mugabe. You find even idiots like Julius Malema in some speech that has nothing to do with Zimbabwe calling for Mugabe to step down. I have been putting together quotes from various politicians worldwide and a distinct pattern emerged: they are all ATANAs who really can’t or won’t do anything except talk. It probably gives them some kind of political mileage to be seen to establish a certain position on Zimbabwean or African politics at large.

Interestingly some ATANAs have been more vocal than others and recent examples include the revered Archbishops Desmond Tutu and John Sentamu as well as President Raila Odinga calling for the forcible overthrow of Mugabe. I feel I must point out at this stage that former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with SW Radio admitted that the Elders couldn’t actually do anything for Zimbabwe except that they had the ability to shift the beam of world attention onto the beleaguered country. Go figure.

That I ambitiously agree with the idea of a forced removal is no secret but it is unfortunate that it might just remain that: an ambitious idea. As long as loud mouth politicians are putting more energy into talking; as long as the world willingly watches as the people of a nation slowly die, and as long as we value the cornerstones of the Wilsonian system of independent states i.e self- determination and sovereignty – people in Zimbabwe will continue to die miserable, unnecessary deaths.

Meanwhile, South Africa continues to play a half-hearted role of outwardly criticizing Mugabe, all the while being the super-power in Southern Africa that’s harboring him against real removal from power. If the cholera outbreak spreading across the Limpopo will not serve to make them take more decisive action or at least realize that this might implode and cause instability and suffering throughout the region, then only God knows what will.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner long ago once recognized a duty to intervene when human rights were abrogated. I agree and reckon that if earthlings are the ones who designed and put in place the concept of sovereignty, surely the same earthlings must by now realize the need to make provisions for when a regime forfeits that legitimacy through abuse of the human rights of innocent people.

Though an Iraq-style solution might not be favorable, it has become desperately necessary for the world to intervene somehow, whether they decide upon military invasion or something else. The fact is Zimbabweans need to be saved from this untouchable regime that will neither cooperate with the provisions of the GPA nor cease the culture of crushing dissent though the enforced disappearance of perceived enemies.

Won’t somebody say something and actually mean it for once because all the diplomatic gibberish is serving only to further torment an already disillusioned nation. It has clearly become desperately necessary that in order to salvage the little that remains of this economy and its people, the repressive regime needs to be removed and an interim government instated until fair elections can be held again.