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Archive for August, 2009

Zim Toll chakuti-chakutis

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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 by Black Orchid

I went through my first toll-gate the other day, Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at around lunch hour. On my way back from Kadoma CMED/VID (yes, I am still working on acquiring my driver’s license).

On the way out of town I did not witness the Zim-toll-gate experience because I was sleeping. A car is the most soothing place for me to fall asleep. It doesn’t take much, just the hum of the engine and the consistent wave-like pothole-dodging and I’m off to Sleepyland.

On the way back to Harare I was wide awake and chatty. We drove past acres upon acres of farmland that just lay dry and unused. There were feigned attempts at productivity here and there but the reality of the situation was blaringly obvious. I must say our dear Gov Gono’s land seemed to be semi-teeming with activity. Way to go, Gideon. If only you’d been that good with the Zim-kwacha…okay, okay, not right now.

We’re happily traveling along at a user-friendly 50kmph and then off to the left of the road I see mini-tents. In the space of about 100meters, I see about 4 or 5 mini-tents. I distinctly recall seeing one that had a big white ‘T’ in a blue circle and then another that had 60 written in the middle of a circle. As I was trying to process the sudden influx of roadside mini-tents, I suddenly see people in the middle of the road. I figured these people were important and were on ‘official’ business because of their clipboards and white, wide-brimmed canvas hats. Look, I don’t know who decides on the ‘officials’ wardrobe in this country but she needs to be fired! Nothing says “I’m on official business and take me seriously,” like a white wide-brim hat, a fluorescent yellow vest with a dangling ID…oh yes, and the clipboard!

The car I’m in slows down. It suddenly dawns on me – this is a toll chakuti-chakuti! Our driver, Doug, starts to dig around in his pocket for a dollar bill. In case you’re not aware, there are different amounts to be paid depending on the size of your vehicle. Our vehicle fell into the US$1 category. I wished I was on a motorcycle coz those guys get to go through for free! Blessed are ye who travel on 2 wheels, for ye shall not have to pay the toll!

Now from where I was sitting – in the passenger seat directly behind the driver – I couldn’t tell who of the wide-brims was going to accept the US$1 from our car. The place was crawling with wide-brims! Then a young lady with a good accent came to Doug’s window. (I’m an accent snob so I notice these things). The young lady was a ZIMRA official. (I’m not sure what ZIMRA stands for but I feel like they are people that I’m supposed to hate). The official young lady began to scrawl officially on a page of a receipt book. She asked Doug for the car’s license plate number. He obliged. She officially scrawled it down, officially ripped the page out of the receipt book, officially handed the piece of paper to Doug, officially took the 1 dollar bill and slipped it into her official-looking brown Postman Pat bag.

And then we were off again. That was my first-hand experience at a Zimbo toll what-what.

Now, I have a question: why, pray tell, does a country that is SMALLER than the STATE of Texas need tollgates? Tollbooths? Tollroads? (Will somebody, please tell me the correct terminology!!) Seriously, I’d like to know. Oh yes, and were we actually consulted about the toll-thingies? Or was the whole thing dreamed up in another ‘how to drain Zimboes of their last pennies’ meeting? (Psst, oi! These are the same meetings where they decided the price of the license disc for your car. Oh, and the ‘car-radio’ license prices!) Where is the money going? To the ZIMRA officials who will stand out in the Sub-Saharan heat in the middle of ‘Aww-Hell-No”? Or is it going to purchase a new fleet of  vehicles for our government’s VIPs? Or will it actually go to maintaining the roadways? Have you been on the Bulawayo Road lately?!

What I witnessed at the toll-thingy on Tuesday was a perfect example of MINIMUM input for MAXIMUM exploitation! Little thought has been put into this – the long-term sustainability of the whole thing, its implications, the logistics. Seriously, how long will you have official-looking wide-brims handwriting EVERY SINGLE toll receipt? And security for the poor fools that have to do this at night? Need I mention that we have ZESA issues? And the elements? Mother Nature can be unforgiving.

Who comes up with these bright ideas? As long as ‘they’ can get money out of us for now, then it works for them doesn’t it? Never mind the mess that’ll need to be cleaned up in the future.

$152 000

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Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 by Black Orchid

I was watching CNN’s Hala Gorani on her show International Desk. I like that show. I have to be honest though that I have struggled with some of the fancy camera angles that the International Desk team throw at me… but aside from that I am cool with it. Thanks, Hala. Good work.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yes, watching International Desk last week on Wednesday night. MJ’s doctor, Dr Murray (I think) appears on the show with the tagline: I told the truth! The man is trying to clear his name amidst accusations that he had something to do with MJ’s death, blah, blah etc, etc. But what caught my attention and that of my father’s as we watched this news story was the fact that this doctor was going to be paid US$150 000 a month! For what, you ask? For the duration of MJ’s rehearsals and UK concert tour. I repeat US$150 000 a month!!!! So should the whole process have taken 5 months…yes, that’s it- he would have been paid $750 000! This is coming from ONE patient PER MONTH … I’ll let that settle in your mind for a bit before I continue…

Earlier on that same Wednesday, I’d learned that our MDC Harare mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda was given a new car that cost US$152 000, and an inauguration party. My reaction to Masunda’s car was that of disgust and disappointment rather than “Dang!” (“Dang!” is what I uttered when I learned that MJ’s doc was going to earn a year’s worth of college fees for a month’s work).

You see even if my reaction to Doc’s earnings would have been that of disgust, I could still argue that it’s America and they are crazy over there. Nothing they do makes sense, yet we love them anyway. I could argue that though the ole U.S of A is going thru an ‘economic downturn,’ at least the country’s not falling apart at the seams which is why they can afford to pay private physicians obscene amounts of money.

With Masunda? I got nothing! No justification, no support, no argument that would make a US$152 000 price tag on a car ok. I got nothing!

Instead, I find myself disgusted, angry and betrayed. …and then I feel stupid. See, when I voted I was convinced that members of the MDC were different. Not just different, but BETTER. What Obama was to Bush, I felt MDC-M was to ZANU-PF. MRT and his MDC were my Barack Obama…yet here I am disappointed and ashamed.

Doctors are striking, teachers are threatening to strike, corruption continues on its merry way throughout the country, while the people I voted for in the name of ‘hope’are getting new cars and feeding their stomachs. Can you not see that this is a slap in the faces of so many suffering Zimbabweans?

Remember 2 or 3 years ago when Uncle Gideon bought the Mercedes Brabus for US$365 000? Remember that? He kept cooking up new currency at our expense but he was (still is) living like a king?!? Remember that, Mr Masunda? When will you stop the madness? When will you care?

See with you it’s worse because you led so many of us to believe in you. We believed that we’d turned a corner and left the old ways behind and we were moving on. Moving onto healing, moving onto justice, moving into the future with a leadership that cares about its people rather than itself. Moving forward in hope.

You see, you can probably dismiss this and say, “Relax, it’s just a car.” But it’s much more than that. You’ve made a statement by accepting that car. You’ve shown your true colours and you’ve compromised the trust of those who put you in that position.

I’m sad. This can’t be the MDC that MRT fought for and almost lost his life for on countless occasions.

Zimbabweans need information on swine flu

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Monday, August 24th, 2009 by Natasha Msonza

Most of last week I was in the city of lights, Johannesburg, and because I was having so much fun being away from home, it completely left my mind that swine flu or A(H1N1) was reportedly resident, prevailing and spreading in South Africa. My work colleague and I traveled around and between Johannesburg and Pretoria for our various appointments. It wasn’t until the fourth day of our stay in South Africa when we were in a restaurant having breakfast and waiting to have a meeting with some of our partners that someone behind us suddenly started sneezing uncontrollably. In the wake of the swine-flu scare, the elderly woman was not even making an effort to cover her nose and mouth like anyone should who has got any flu, swine or not. My colleague and I just stared at each other, half realizing the risk of contracting swine flu and half annoyed and confused at the old woman’s carefree sneezing feat. Annoyed glances from around the restaurant went unnoticed by the chattering woman and I was half tempted to walk over to her table and admonish her for being so rude.

We are back in Zimbabwe but all weekend, I was pretty sickly with a sore throat, slight temperature and feeling restive. My family members thought I was just being paranoid when I insisted on being taken to the hospital in the thick of night on Saturday. I had had a genuine swine-flu scare and had been in the high-risk zones of  South Africa; the malls, restaurants, the airplane, and the airports. I was convinced I was going to die. It suddenly occurred to me that none of us really knew much about N1H1 in much the same way we had initially been indifferent to cholera until it claimed some of our own. It occurred to me that I had no idea where to go for testing, neither was I sure most of the doctors here were familiar with it or even knew how to recognize it.

Cases of swine flu have already been detected in Mutare. The state, which recently was unable to contain a cholera epidemic that killed more than 4000, and has a half dead health system claims it is on ‘high alert’ to combat swine flu.  Meanwhile, doctors are once again on strike. The country’s health minister, Henry Madzorera said health surveillance teams have been deployed to all entry points into the country (including airports) to look out for suspected swine flu cases among people coming into the country.  I do not remember seeing anything like that at the airport. The ministry has also not made it clear where individuals who suspect they have the flu can go for free testing, as should be the case. I seriously doubt the government’s ability or will to deal with a swine-flu outbreak.

The government of Botswana has put in place a toll-free number for reporting any suspected cases of swine flu. South Africa has established centers for testing all over the country and is on a mission to educate its population on recognizing symptoms, treatment and how to avoid catching it. If our own government has put any serious and practical measures in place, then clearly there hasn’t been enough publicity about them. But if you ask me what make cell phone was stolen off Chinotimba, I will tell you.

The power of young minds

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Friday, August 21st, 2009 by Zanele Manhenga

I never thought it possible to have patriotic Zimbabweans any more. Especially when it comes to young people of my generation. These patriots are young scholars based in the USA.They have come together to form a miniature Zimbabwean government. In it they appoint a Minister who gets to research on the field given to them. Not only do they research but they get to ask themselves what wrongs are being done in the real government and they propose policy ideas. If implemented they could really make a difference in our country. So when the young men addressing us told us they had put together a 100 plus paged document that has policy ideas, and suggestions to change the way the real government is doing work.  I almost stood to attention and said soldier on boys! Because I really think that with such innovative young minds, my beloved country can go back to her former glory and be called the “bread basket of Africa” again. But my mind went on a stand still when I heard them say they hoped to hand the document to the Prime Minister. One thing that came to mind as these boys were talking is what if they do not get chance to meet the Prime Minister, what happens to all those ideas? Who do they turn to, are they going to be considered a threat by the oldies in the real government? Then I remembered that we are in a new dispensation, and those old guys would be dumb not to consider the possibility of a break through from that document. I say this not because these guys are US based scholars but I sincerely have hope and believe in the power of young minds.

Distance and the democracy spin

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Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Susan Pietrzyk

Alphabetically America and Zimbabwe are about as distant as you can get.  However, if you recast America as USA, then the two countries become alphabetically not so distant.  Interesting to think about the result of this alphabetical spin analogously to practices of democracy.  Eight years of George W. Bush certainly made the world think that the distance is America -Zimbabwe.  With America the bastion of democracy and Zimbabwe the axis of evil.  Of late there is ample evidence that when it comes to practicing democracy to oppose health care reform, the distance is USA-Zimbabwe.

Right now in USA health care reform is all that anyone is talking about.  Supposedly senior citizens oppose health care reform.  But when you dig deeper senior citizens have had the fear of god instilled in them, been told that Obama is not an American, is akin to Adolph Hitler, and that his health care reform strategy is to pull the plug on grandma, to let old people die.  How different is this from playing the race/sovereignty card and spouting that Tsvangirai is a puppet of the West, and if elected, poised to hand over all of the farm land to white people?

The senior citizens are being touted in USA as an organic grassroots movement.  But when you read the fine print these senior citizens have been rounded up by right wing conservative republican think tanks funded by pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry.  How different is this than the fine print of what much of the Zimbabwean War Veterans movement has become?

Town hall meetings have been the sites of senior citizen civil disobedience in USA.  These meeting are intended for peaceful and productive debate about the actual issue of health care reform.   Instead the right wing conservative republican think tanks funded by pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry have given senior citizens written instructions on how to cause raucouses, most notably instruction on how to rattle the speaker and how to prevent different viewpoints from entering the discussions.   How different is this from the role of the securocrats, military junta, CIO, etc. in Zimbabwe?

Last week a young man went to a town hall meeting to support the senior citizens, a town hall meeting where Obama was going to make an appearance.  This young man carried with him in plain sight a gun.  Also, he was standing next to people with signs that called for Obama’s death.  How different is this from arming youth militia and parading them around in shiny new 4X4 vehicles in the streets of Harare and across the country?

One way that Americans involve themselves in the political process is by writing letters to their senators or representatives, as individual citizens or through lobbying/advocacy organizations.  Increasingly surfacing in USA are letters to senators/representatives where pharmaceutical company and insurance industry -hired public relations firms have stolen the identities and letterhead of lobbying/advocacy organizations to submit falsified letters opposing health care reform.  How different is this from what the Herald does or the fact that the voter’s roll for the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe included deceased citizens?

Increasingly USA Democrats are doing the math and realizing that they can pass health care reform without any republicans voting for their bill.  Since I am a democrat and strongly support health care reform this is hard for me to say.  But still.  How different is this emerging USA Democrat strategy from the way the MDC and ZANU-PF fight tooth and nail continuously about every last seat in parliament and the cabinet in order to gain a majority in government?

I wonder.  How different are the practices of democracy in USA and Zimbabwe?  It’s all in how you spin things.  America is after all the Mecca of democracy, the world’s superhero for promoting democratic practices.   Even if USA politicians are engaged in outright transparent examples of lavish political patronage with pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry at the expense of the 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance.

Another chef, another car

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Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Bev Clark

Catherine Makoni makes several good points about Mayor Masunda and his new Mercedes Benz. For some back ground information here is the full text of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) statement:

CHRA remains committed to advocating for good, transparent and accountable local governance as well as lobbying for quality and affordable municipal (and other) services on a non partisan basis.

The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is disappointed by Mayor Masunda’s defensive statements on Council’s acquisition of a high profile and expensive Mercedes Benz for him. The Mayor’s statements have done nothing except to provoke the anger of the ratepayers who are failing to put food on their tables because most of their earnings are going to the City’s Treasury and yet little is being done to improve service delivery.

The Mayor’s arguments that the car was budgeted for and that it is Council property do not hold water. Residents are not concerned about what has, and has not been budgeted for but what they want is to see their hard earned money being put to good use. Furthermore, when the City of Harare announced its 2009 budget, nothing was mentioned about the purchase of an expensive car for the Mayor. The Mayor must note that the purchase of an expensive car at a time when the Council is making noise about being bankrupt and harassing residents with letters of final demand is reflective of a Council that has a serious problem of misdirected priorities. Residents understand that the Mayor also needs to drive a good car as he goes about his official duties but would it not be more reasonable to purchase a less expensive but good car? It is a known fact that the Council has not done much to show for its existence at Town House taking into consideration the poor state of service delivery in Harare. Roads are flowered by pot holes; street and traffic lights are not working and they have not been maintained; piles of garbage are littered at most street corners in the residential areas and shopping centers; raw sewerage is still a dreaded neighbor in most high density areas. In spite of all these calamities, the City of Harare is harassing residents with letters of final demand and threatening them with legal action. How can the Mayor have the guts to say that the residents’ complaints are not founded?

Residents know that the car is part of Council property but they would rather have garbage trucks to remove the menacing garbage piles rather than have an expensive Mercedes that will only benefit one person. It is also unexpected of the Mayor to brag about the numerous personal cars that he has. If he does not need the car why is he accepting it? The Mayor must also remember that when he got into office he said that he has his own things and that he would not allow Council to pamper him with the ratepayers’ money. The Mayor also graced the media talking about his various connections in the business world and made promises that he would turn around the state of service delivery in Harare. Residents want to see things happening on the ground and it is the job of the Mayor to make sure that residents get value for their money.

This move is a blatant insult to residents who have been served with final letters of demand under the guise that the city has run out of money. Residents maintain that they will not pay for non-existent services.