Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for April, 2009

Give more aid: Feed more crocodiles

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti is struggling to get the kind of big dollar support he is hoping for to resuscitate the country’s ailing economy.

He’s gotten a few nibbles – this week Zimbabwe secured USD 200 million in credit from SADC, and another USD 200 million in credit from COMESA. The UK has promised USD 21 million in humanitarian aid. Nothing to sniff at – but nowhere near the USD 10 billion plus injection Biti has been shopping around for.

Part of the problem, of course, is the global financial crisis – countries are worried about bailing out their own economies, and aren’t as open to helping out others as they might have been a year or two ago.

Part of the problem is scepticism. The IMF turned down Biti’s request, reportedly citing arrears and financial restrictions.

But most importantly, perhaps, Western governments at least are still under pressure to not give aid to Zimbabwe – until the government stops its human rights abuses, and commits to reform.

Human Rights Watch Africa Director Georgette Gagnon said in a statement today:

Humanitarian aid that focuses on the needs of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable should continue. But donor governments such as the UK should not release development aid until there are irreversible changes on human rights, the rule of law, and accountability.

Continued farm invasions are getting a lot of media coverage, and are cited as one type of abuse that has to stop. As Tom Porteous pointed out in the Guardian (UK) yesterday, while perhaps less in the public eye, the attacks at the diamond mines in Marange are also a brutal form of human rights abuse. Porteous warns that donors can’t guarantee that aid to Zimbabwe will go to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure to promote basic human rights. Rather, it might still end up financing the forces which actively assault them.

There is much talk of reform in Zimbabwe but, as yet, no concrete action. The process of political change may have started but it is not irreversible. As long as Mugabe’s nexus of repression and corruption remains in place, no amount of development assistance will help solve Zimbabwe’s huge economic problems. And any economic aid to Harare from the UK or other donors will help to feed the crocodiles, just as surely as the blood-soaked profits of the Marange diamond mines.

The pot bellied ones

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Bev Clark

We’ve just included this poem, by Mgcini Nyoni, in our Kubatana newsletter:

Not Yet Uhuru

A retreat to the falls
by the pot-bellied  ones
As we drown
in sky high
telephone bills
zesa bills utility bills
Government of National Unity
they say
Thanks for your loyalty
My  friend here has a ministry!
Over a glass of imported  vodka
they say how does the new merc go?
Over a cup of black  tea we mutter
How the heck am I gonna  raise a thousand Rands
for  the child’s school fees?
Not Yet Uhuru
we shall sing.

It reminded me of the resolutely unacceptable way that Zimbabweans are being treated by the politicians who suggest that they are “for the people”.

Whilst the formation of the Government of National Unity is spawning expensive retreats and the purchase of new vehicles, ordinary Zimbabwean citizens have to beg and borrow and wheel barrow containers of water from homes that have bore holes, to where they live in daily thirst.

Apartments, houses, offices in the city centre and dwellings in our suburbs do not get water on a daily basis. Our dams are full but the infrastructure to deliver the water and the chemicals to clean the water are lacking.

Mugabe trashes farms and calls on the international community for aid while he lives in the lap of luxury in one of the poshest suburbs in Harare, where he’s got water in his tub and where his lawns are kept quite green.

Sell the fucking cars; stop retreating and get water to the people.

The Comma Splice

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by John Eppel

Good writing begins with syntax, and nothing weakens a sentence more than the comma splice.  Look at an example:

This device, far from interfering with the law of the Pendulum, in fact permitted its manifestation, in a vacuum any object hanging from a weightless and unstretchable wire free of resistance and friction will oscillate for eternity.

Here the comma splice occurs between “manifestation” and “in”; the result is a fused or run-on sentence where two independent clauses have been joined without an appropriate conjunction or punctuation mark.  There are three ways of correcting this: replace the comma with a full stop and start a new sentence; replace the comma with a semicolon; follow the comma with an appropriate conjunction.  The writer of that sentence, Umberto Eco, chose the third option: his comma is followed by the conjunction “for.”

Pick up any newspaper or magazine, and you will find comma splices galore.  They occur even more frequently in the compositions of school pupils.  Look at this example:  “Suddenly there was a knocking on the door, I could feel my heart thumping in my chest, the knocking got louder and louder, I went downstairs clad only in my flimsy pyjamas.”  I drew the pupil’s attention to the three comma splices, and he corrected them thus: “Suddenly there was a knocking on the door.  I could feel my heart thumping in my chest, as the knocking got louder and louder.  I went downstairs clad only in my flimsy pyjamas.”

I suspect that the main reason for the proliferation of comma splices in popular writing is the near demise of the semicolon as a punctuation mark.

Constitutional reform must be a women driven process (too)

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Natasha Msonza

Last night in an effort to fall asleep I took a gender mentality quiz from a recent FEMINA publication. The quiz was titled, “Do you think like a man”. The questions got more interesting as I got to understand what the author considered ‘male behavior’ that ‘normal’ women supposedly shouldn’t ordinarily display.

You had to strongly agree, agree or disagree with listed statements in the quiz. Some of them were: I can programme the remote control for my TV all by myself (of course I can!). I understand how a parliamentary system works. I know the basic rules of most sports including golf and tennis. I didn’t cry when I watched the Titanic (me, I didn’t really.) I know what an AC/DC transformer is and silliest of all; the angle between the floor and all four walls of any room is probably 90 degrees. Duh! I scored a lot of strongly agrees and at the end of the quiz, fell under the category of uber-male, i.e without any hint of womanly thought and susceptible to the same kind of weaknesses of the male mind in being unable to empathize with others and communicate needs effectively. What utter rubbish. Just because I understand a few things makes me male minded? I was surprised certain things were considered a preserve only for male species.

Anyhow, there was probably an element of truth in some of the things because for instance, here in Zimbabwe, how many women actually understand or even want to understand how the parliamentary system works, let alone the constitutional reform process that is currently staring at us?

At a Gender Forum meeting I attended recently, it was noted that a trend developed amongst women during the 1999 consultative processes. The women tended to boycott such processes because they simply either did not understand the processes and the constitution itself or recognize its immediate relevance to their lives. Some women are generally ‘technophobic’ and far removed from the language used in the constitution. Others simply do not care probably because they do not think their participation would make any marked difference anyway. These factors have presided over the oppression of women for a long time.

The chance to once and for all do away with the authoritarian 1979 Lancaster House constitution that has been amended at least over 15 times is here, and it would be such a disservice if women did not grab this opportunity to advance their interests especially in line with the many loopholes that dog the current constitution.

I believe it is up to civil society to point out to many an ignorant woman that a constitution determines how they are governed, and that our current constitution does not provide for things like reproductive health and sexual rights or guarantee women’s equal access to ownership and control of property. It also has sections like the S111B that prevent the automatic application of international human rights treaties like CEDAW. This would be an opportunity to lobby for the inclusion of women in parliamentary sub-committees and also ensure that the lack of a guarantee of security of a person’s bodily and psychological integrity is done away with, especially in view of the fact that there is a lot of justice outstanding from the violence that accompanied last year’s harmonized elections.

I believe it is up to all of us as individuals to take it upon ourselves to encourage and educate our neighbors about partaking in this critical process and attend consultative meetings. It is about time we set the precedent for our own possible Obama-like election hopefully to be called in 2011. The South Africans have just had something of a democratic election, and they boast one of the most democratic constitutions on the continent. It would be nice for once to stop wishing and thinking  when we too shall see democracy skate across our land. Only we can make it happen if we start by being or neighbor’s keeper.

Shining the light

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Bev Reeler

For many years now, you have been witnessing for us all
the strange process this Zimbabwean experience has been.
Your listening ensured that we never lost our voice
patiently and kindly assuring us
we are being heard and supported.

And there has always been the question
when do we begin to speak of the other side of this story?
when do we step beyond the fear of drawing unwanted scrutiny
and speak of the seeds that are being sown?

When can we name the women and men who fix the bodies,
and who run the websites,
who stand outside jails,
who take care of the orphans,
feed displaced and aids victims,
who sell vegetables on the side of the street to feed their children,
who write the records and take the pictures?

When is the turning point
when we walk beyond our fear?
and bring the invisible into the eye of the world
and speak of who we are and what we have been part of?

Zimbabwe’s story of resilience  has been built on the individual efforts of the Zimbabwean people who, in the face of un-edited punishment, have stood their ground.  Within this chaotic process there has been a slowly growing pattern, a chaordic movement, small circles of creative action.

The Tree of Life circle has decided that it is time to tell our story and to speak of the new forest emerging from the trees planted during these years of chaos.

This is only one of many stories. There are circles of resilience and hope built around health clubs and herb gardens and football clubs and churches throughout Zimbabwe, and they have all played their part in the bigger picture.  Beneath the darkness, a strong light shines and we would like you to see it.

The suicide bomber

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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by John Eppel

Ali van Baba could moralise at length on the subject of pork; on the subjects of alcohol and adultery he was a little more circumspect.  For you and me pork is no big deal; it’s a sausage or a slice of polony or a side of bacon; but for Ali van Baba, Bulawayo’s first, and to date, only suicide bomber, pork was a very big deal.  Okay, it divideth the hoof and cheweth the cud, like cows and sheep and goats; but did cows delight in filth and dung?  Did sheep?  Did goats?  No, people who eat pork live for the lusts of the flesh.  Pigs are insatiable.  They ejaculate by the pint. They gobble up everything you put before them.  How did that poet, whatsisname, put it:

They chop a half-moon clean out.
They eat cinders, dead cats.

What’s more, they are carriers of the hairlike nematode worm, which causes trichinosis in humans, and in Ali van Baba’s view, any human who eats pork deserves the affliction.

Offensive books like Mein Kampf and The Satanic Verses and The Da Vinci Code couldn’t hold a candle, in Ali Van Baba’s opinion, to “The Three Little Pigs”, not to mention all those stupid nursery rhymes that cutesified the abominations: “And there in a wood a piggy-wig stood….”   Sick!  Ali van Baba had a mantra, and it went like this: “and he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew their house down”

It was his disgust for pork (and for other things about which he was a little more circumspect), which turned mild-mannered, retiring Ali Van Baba into a suicide bomber.  And he it was who invented what has now come to be known as the strapless bomb.  The explosive he made from an old IRA recipe and he attached the device to the front of his body by means of three suction pads, one on each nipple, and one, somewhat larger, on the belly button.  He shortlisted three possible targets: the mosque on the Harare road (because its onion domes were painted a lurid green), the synagogue in Kumalo (because they wouldn’t allow him to pee in their flower bed) and the Blood of Jesus Christian church on the Old Esigodini Road (because it looked like a miniature Jaggers Wholesale building, which is constructed not of straw, nor of sticks, nor of bricks, but of state of the art zinc).  Then he applied the pork test.  Muslims eschewed the flesh of swine; Jews too, the tempting aroma of grilling bacon notwithstanding; but Christians, most of them anyway, loved it.  So pork made him decide, finally, on the last named institution; pork – and practicality.

You see, Ali Van Baba had decided on the wooden horse trick to lure his victims to their destruction.  If he chose the mosque, he would leave outside its gate a styrofoam camel on wheels, with him hidden inside.  If he chose the synagogue, he would leave outside its gate, a giant bagel, with him inside (the cream cheese, so to speak).  He couldn’t, at first think of an equivalent lure for the church.  A giant jar of home-made jam?  No.  A giant pot plant?  No.  A giant braai pack?  Maybe.  Then it came to him… of course… two birds with one stone… a giant piggy bank.  Most Christians ate pork; and judging by the Pajeros and double cabs that patronised this church, they weren’t averse to money.   A piggy-bank wooden horse would be easier to construct than camel or bagel wooden horses, so he set to work, and before long he had constructed a piggy bank large enough for him and his strapless bomb to hide inside.

Sure enough, it worked.  One dark Saturday night, under cover of an overcast sky, whispering, ‘he huffed and he puffed, and he blew their house down’, Ali van Baba, wearing his strapless bomb and a matching pair of blue overalls, wheeled the porcine contraption all the way from his home in downtown Bulawayo to the gate of the Blood of Jesus Christian church.  It took him hours, and along the way he psyched himself up by repeating his mantra, and by muttering: ‘Three cheers for the big bad wolf!  Down with the piggywig who was willing to sell his ring for a shilling.  Down with Porky.  Down with Petunia.  Down with the old person of Bray who fed figs to his pigs.’  He climbed into the piggy bank through an ingeniously constructed trap door under its curly tail.  Then he made himself as comfortable as possible and waited, eyes fixed on the coin slot above him, which grew progressively lighter.  The first service would begin around 8 a.m. the next day.

He must have fallen asleep because the sound of excited voices took him by surprise.  Then he began to move: through the gate, along the ground a way, up a ramp – the voices were growing in number and volume – into the warehouse of a building, and then up towards the holier end.  He began to fondle the button, which would detonate the bomb.  ‘He huffed,’ he whispered, ‘he puffed… and he blew their house down.’ There was a commotion about him.  Suddenly a loud voice called for order, and order there was, and in those seconds of awed silence, Bulawayo’s first and, it is to be hoped, only, suicide bomber, pushed the button.  Damn the IRA!  Only the detonator went off, blowing Ali Van Baba out of the trapdoor, the pig’s vent, where he was received with rapturous applause by the congregation.  Then that same voice, which had silenced the flock, announced in tremulous tones that the Second Coming was at hand.