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Archive for July, 2009

Writers, and artists

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Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Mgcini Nyoni

The question I dread most is, ‘what do you do?’ I unfortunately have to say I am a writer or an ‘artist’, depending on who I am talking to. The response is always the same; people always wonder why I do not get a proper job and stop wasting my life away on useless pursuits. And for those who know that I have a teaching qualification, the lecture goes on and on until I say yes, I am going to go back to teaching, even though I do not intend doing so. I recently told a friend that I intend keeping some dreadlocks, in that way people will conclude that I am an artist before they ask. They will conclude that I am a little crazy and therefore should be left alone. I have resolved to carry around some of my pay slips from prestigious publications to show to some of the skeptics. Why should I be at pains to explain my profession, I wonder? I don’t see people telling nurses to become teachers on top of being nurses. So why should an artist be something other than an artist?

Mr Prime Minister, you have a problem

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Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Don’t you just love this?

TIME: How real is the transition?

Tsvangirai: This transitional inclusive government can already record some significant progress, in critical areas like education, health, water and sanitation and food.

I reckon Tsvangirai needs to take some time out and visit the many waterless and powerless suburbs in Harare. And whilst he’s at it, he should take his US$100 a month salary (yeah right) and see how far it gets him in Zimbabwe – one of the most expensive countries in the world.

Hmmm. Education? Right. Well here’s an excerpt from a recent Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) statement:

Students were given the platform to air out problems they are facing at their different institutions. The meeting was briefly disturbed by ZANU Pf youths who were purporting to be students, but it managed to proceed after 30mins of delay. The ZINASU Vice President, Briliant Dube chaired the meeting and briefed the participants on the activities ZINASU is carrying out. The students raised the following issues:

- Unaffordability of education.

- Poor sanitation facilities.

- Under qualified teaching personnel.

- Electricity and water problems.

- Outdated library materials.

- Shortage of computers.

- The ratio is 200 students per 1 computer.

- Students are not allowed to attend lectures without proof of paying fees.

- No Students Representative Council (SRC) at Solusi University.

Audit Mugabe’s wealth

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Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Bev Clark

I’ve just read a statement that’s come in from a Zimbabwean NGO called Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development. The statement calls for an audit of “Zimbabwe’s unpayable and odious loans” and asserts, “Zimbabwe’s debt – much of which has resulted from the post colonial burden, failed IFI structural reform programs in the nineties, and the lack of access to debt reduction programmes that other countries have benefited from.”

Whilst there is an urgent need for this kind of audit there is also an urgent need for organisations like ZIMCODD and Transparency International-Zimbabwe to charter that scary and unpopular course of demanding that public servants like Mugabe have his wealth investigated and audited.

According to the statement “Debt relief from both multilateral and bilateral creditors is imperative if Zimbabwe is to be able to meet the basic needs of its people”. It is also true to say that Zimbabweans need debt relief from the avarice of Zanu PF.

Zimbabwean road blocks

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Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Bev Clark

I think someone would do quite well if they produced a map that showed where the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) hang out (aka road blocks) waiting to harass or cajole bribes out of Zimbabweans. So we can work out routes around them. The thing is the ZRP are really quite lazy so they tend to stay in the same spot rather than engaging any kind of element of surprise. For example, a group of ZRP camp out just past the last lights in Hatfield on the way to the airport. Their trick is to accuse motorists of jumping an orange light (like Natasha described recently). Knowing that you’re on your way to the airport the ZRP figure that you’ll just hand over a quick bribe because you want to fly, or meet a plane on time.

Truth be told the economy hasn’t revived and it’s hard making ends meet so our recent proliferation of road blocks isn’t anything to do with law and order, or keeping our roads safe, it’s about the ZRP supplementing their meagre wages. Of course there are also issues of control and aggression. A Zimbabwean recently emailed us his experience of being stopped at a road block on the way to Masvingo . . .

I just wonder what these roadblocks are serving; are they to safeguard Zimbabwe’s wealth or the Nation its self from thugs, robbers and killers?  I was driving to my rural home; we were three of us and we approached one of the roadblocks sited on the highway that goes to Masvingo. There was this vehicle, an Army vehicle that was parked right in the middle of the road. Those in the car were talking to this soldier who was at the roadblock laughing. In short the vehicle was blocking other road users. When I got there I stopped behind this Army vehicle and no one attended to me until I decided to use the other side that was not blocked to proceed with my journey. When I was about to go the Police Officer and three other Police Reserves, who were there, stopped me and I stopped.   They started accusing me of running away. I then asked them when I stopped (did you attend to me?). This soldier came shouting together with the Police Reserves saying (you wanted me not to talk to my boss and rush to attend to you?). I said we are both road users therefore I think if you had other issues to discuss you were supposed to park your vehicle outside the road to allow other road users to be attended to and proceed with their journey. The three of us were harassed and shouted at and the other solder was asked to bring the gun. I asked this soldier who he was ordering the gun for, were we civilians armed? What crime had we committed? These questions were not answered.  We then said that we understand is that all of the soldiers and policemen are there to protect civilians from thugs, robbers and to protect the country not to harass civilians. All I want the Nation to know is that a lot of harassment is going on at the roadblocks and why, nobody knows.

The end of July

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 by Bev Reeler

our heads and shoulders are decorated with flecks of gold
flurries of falling jacaranda leaves
colouring our world
as we sit in the circle

touching the warming earth beneath my feet
it has been too long since I have felt the ground
the crackling dry leaves
the warming round rocks

weavers are already beginning their nests
intricate works of art
Celtic knots
no beginning
no end

and the web weaves around us
threads of light
reaching from across the planet
touching ground
as Zimbabweans begin this journey of self reliance
‘what can I contribute?’
‘where do we connect?’
General invites the other communities
to his organic gardening workshop in Kuwadzana
Chikukwa comes to Epworth
to speak of community building
counsellors and therapists and small organisations
begin to connect
‘what have we got to share?’

bronze mannekins on dry branches
picking up the courage
to come to the seed

warm earth
cold wind
golden flecks

This is the story of Zimbabwe

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

I have finally met someone who does not know of the nation called Zimbabwe!

Now, to be sure, before our economic and political meltdown hardly anyone cared about Zim – except of course those who were curious to get a peak at the Victoria Falls (which has always looked better from Zimbabwe than Zambia, anyway!) or those who did some form of trade with us.

But hang on, even the Queen of England and Lady Di once graced our once prosperous little land. So perhaps we were never that insignificant (to the outside world) anyway.

So I just couldn’t figure out where to begin with explaining to this poor woman about Zimbabwe. Should I tell her about our record monetary inflation, our political power struggles, or maybe even start with colonialism and then make my way into the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and then independence as a precursor to the present situation.

And then I thought, “Ugh, man, she is kidding! No one doesn’t know Zimbabwe!”

But her brown eyes fixed intently on my face showed me that her question was genuine. This was no joke – this woman needed an education!

And I only had five minutes in which to give it to her.

What should I start with? Maybe a happy story, maybe something about where I live and work, my friends…

“Zimbabwe is in Africa,” I said. “Close to South Africa.”

Her eyes lit up and I could tell we had finally chartered mutual territory.

But I must admit that from thereon, I didn’t say much else that was good about Zim. I couldn’t help but get into the politics, epidemics and pandemics of our land.

“Oh,” she said looking at me with sadness and shock, “that’s not good.”

It was only then that I realised that I had been given sole responsibility to paint the entire world view of my country for someone.

And I had painted it black.

Isn’t it funny how we often berate the international media for making Zimbabwe out to be a place of doom and gloom, and yet often do the same ourselves?

For many people Zimbabwe is a mediated catastrophe, a place they would never want to be in. And we do nothing to challenge this idea when we keep re-enforcing the idea to everyone we meet.

Yes, I know that things are really bad and we live under unjust rule. But try to find something hilarious or beautiful in this.

If I could go back and restart my conversation with this woman, I would have told her a story that goes like this:

Once a few years ago, I was walking down a street in Harare and all of a sudden, my slipper snapped. I couldn’t walk any further, unless I would do so on bare feet. And I was at least a kilometre from a shoe repair shop!

“What to do,” I pondered quietly.

And behind me came a voice with an answer.

“Take my shoes,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

She repeated the offer, explaining that she worked at the end of the block. Walking barefoot to the office door would not be so much of a hassle for her.

“Take them and go and get yours fixed.”

I couldn’t believe it – a complete stranger placing complete faith in me.

When I returned an hour later to return her shoes, I asked her why she has trusted me so much.

“I knew you needed my help,” she said. “In a country like ours, everyone struggles sometimes and it’s only when we help each other that we all survive.”

I walked away with a deeper appreciation of what community meant.

This is the story of Zimbabwe – the story of people who still pride themselves in compassion when the same has not been shown to them by their own leaders.

This is the story that I should have recounted, amid all the statistics and gory details about struggle.