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Archive for September, 2009


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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

When I was offered the opportunity to work on Inzwa I was excited. I believe that using mobile technology to disseminate information, civic or otherwise is ingenious. With its high usage among people in general, the mobile phone is the easiest and cheapest way to reach any target audience. More than that it meant that I could go out and do what I enjoy: listening to people talk about what’s important to them.

I learnt a lot interviewing the various activists for Everyday Heroes. My favourite interview was with Eleanor Alfred, from whom I learnt that you don’t have to have done anything extraordinary to be extraordinary in yourself. I think she set the bar as far as interviewees go, and while I did enjoy the ones that followed she helped to change my perception of the world. Many of my interviewees helped to dispel my misconceptions about government and the way in which it, and civic organizations, work. One of these was George Makoni. He showed me that politicians are not just found in politics, but everywhere. While he raised the question of activists for hire, it occurred to me during my interview with him that, like those he criticized, he wasn’t doing his work for the Youth Forum because he believed in the cause, or the values of the organization. It was more because he hoped someday to be in the same position as the politicians that are currently in government.

There were two interviews that gave me insight into who I am. The first was Tsitsi Dangarembga. I’ve been a fan of hers since I picked up Nervous Conditions and couldn’t put it down until the last page, ten years ago. She creates with such relative ease, something that I labour to do, that I find myself awed by her. I also enjoyed that she was honest in her appraisal of her self as a woman with many roles. I wouldn’t call Charity Maruta unorthodox, but she has a way of looking at the relationships in her life, and life in general, that I found refreshing. My insight was that neither of these women’s view of themselves was coloured by what was expected of them by anyone. Since I’m trying to get there myself, I think it very admirable.

I don’t think there were very many challenges associated with gathering content for Inzwa. Although at first, it was hard to wrap my mind around packaging detailed news items into sixty seconds. In doing the interviews for Everyday Heroes, getting change from the whindi on a combi was the biggest and most frustrating issue.

From helping out with the survey, I think Inzwa will face a challenge in being accessible to people. The most frequent criticism of the project was the money spent in listening to the programmes. I’m not certain if there was a target audience for this pilot, but in future it will have to be defined. From that, issues of giving free access or paid access can then be addressed. Further to that, if Inzwa were a paid access service, then it could be made to be self-sustaining.

I really hope Inzwa out lives these three experimental months. Unlike any form of media that is currently available to the public, it provides an alternative source of unbiased information, which is becoming increasingly important to people. From the very beginning I expected that Inzwa would take a lot of time and energy. I will admit to having underestimated exactly how much energy was required. As time went on, I found that I had to suspend my other projects so I could dedicate more energy towards it. I feel that it was time well spent.

Hello Everybody!

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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Zanele Manhenga

Somebody said to me “clever girl you are paid to teach yourself” and I was too modest at that time to say yes. So today I would like to actually agree because that’s the plain truth. I went out there interviewing artists asking those questions that I had no answers to myself and some that I did. I was really trying to find out what the people in my industry think and what their intentions are concerning the industry I so love. I educated myself all right. I learnt so much that I would otherwise not have learnt in the music industry. The arts industry in Zimbabwe right now does not teach half of what I have learnt at Kubatana. This experience has not only changed me as an artist but as a person as well. I am not the same person I was three months ago I can tell you that much. This person also said “so you are now a double agent” meaning I was now on the other side of the mic not being interviewed, but actually doing the interviewing. Yes I have had the chance to live double lives thanks to Kubatana. As a result of these three months it’s up up and away for me. I have realised there is much in life that can be done and that this is not the end of the road for me but the beginning of a journey. Who could have thought that I would have the guts to write my mind on paper and be content with it being read by anybody, anywhere? One thing that amazes me about these three months is that I have just developed this sponge attitude, to absorb and learn so much from the interviews I did, the office work and the day-to-day happenings around me. I have grown to appreciate the little bit of information I get and wonder how it affects me and what part I need to play to change things or to enhance a situation. By the way this is not a goodbye note but a hello note to a completely different me. So hello everybody!

Inclusive government restores hope

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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

The Mass Public Opinion Institute conducted round 4 of the Afrobarometer survey in Zimbabwe in May 2009. The purpose of the survey is to compare public opinion about various economic civic and social issues across African countries.

The survey was supposed to have been undertaken in 2008, but the political instability prevalent in the country at the time made this impossible. Further, the sample size is based on 2002 Census figures, which are projected to 2008 figures with consideration being given to issues such as mass migration and displacement.

Despite many criticisms at its formation the majority of respondents expressed a belief that the Inclusive Government was the best way forward. Added to that 57% of respondents said that they would vote for MDC–T in the next election, as compared to 10% for ZANU PF. The popularity of the MDC is also mirrored in the high approval rating for Morgan Tsvangirai and his work in the Inclusive Government. Interestingly, Mr. Tsvangirai’s job performance is viewed positively by members of both parties.

It may be inferred that hope was restored to the public because 71% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the way government was managing the economy. Despite this, day to day issues were also seen in the survey, with the majority of respondents ranking management of the economy as the most important problem facing the country. Second to this were the issues of unemployment and education. Interestingly, a majority of respondents expressed greater satisfaction with the current state of the economy as compared with other years including 2004, 2005 and most notably 1999.

Issues of contention which arose during the survey presentation included the survey sample being based on 2002 census data; the fact that more respondents expressed greater satisfaction with the economy in 2009 as compared to 1999 and what the terms ‘economic policies’ and ‘economic management’ meant to the respondents.

What is most evident from the survey is that the formation of the inclusive government has restored hope in people. While many acknowledge the challenges in their own lives, they are optimistic that the country’s fortunes are on their way up.

Only time will tell if this hope is well founded.

Erections don’t mean affection!

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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

I am sorry if you will think that is vulgar, but I believe it has to be said, especially for all those young women falling prey to the idea that ‘turning a man on’ means that they love them.

Recently, a young lady, just about 19 years of age, approached me to talk about a messy situation that had befallen her. As she sobbed through the story, she told me about a man, 12 years older than her, who had wooed her for a few months and told her that he was desperately in love with her.

When she finally gave in to his sexual requests (because apparently, the guy kept telling her that his spontaneous erections meant that he was seriously in love with her), the relationship suddenly came to an abrupt end.

She says this man just stopped calling her and told her he had lost interest.

Sadly enough, this girl claims that this was the first man she had ever slept with.

Now, I can’t be 100% sure that her side of the story is the whole truth as other factors may have led to the ending of the relationship, but I must say that it is not the first time I have heard of women who confuse male sexual arousal and responses with love.

Those in the know say that an erection occurs when the nervous system activates a rapid increase in blood flow to the penis, thereby making it hard and ready for penetrative sex.

But almost any stimulus can cause these, whether a man is in love with a woman, just physically attracted to.

And that’s not to say that all men fall into this general category. Some genuinely combine physical attraction and emotional affection to their responses to their partners. And that would be the best kind of combination in a healthy relationship.

I am no expert but the best advice I gave to the young lady was to be sure next time that the man she was with was with her for genuine love.

If he won’t wait for you to be ready, or respect your decision to abstain, then he is not worth your time, or the tears you will cry in retrospect.

In this world where physical attributes – such as money, good looks, status and yes, erections – are equated to love, it is important to dig deeper beyond those to see what lies within the heart of the one who claims to love you.

When salesmen become demons

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Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

Every morning, I dread getting to the Newlands shopping centre area where – it would seem – vendors of all nature are waiting for me to make my way past them so that they can sell me whatever they have on offer for the day.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bunch of guys trying to make a decent living out of selling their wares. In fact, that is a noble gesture.

But sometimes, it’s all about how a person tries to persuade you to buy into their business that is all wrong.

These guys obviously have zero appreciation of the fine art of selling. As they crowd around me with their pockets of strawberries, or sunglasses or whatever else, I develop a deep sense of dread at the conversation to ensue.

“Sisi, buy these strawberries/ sunglasses/ sweets, please,” one will say.

“I don’t have money today,” I will respond.

“But sisi, just one dollar,” he will continue. “I promise you won’t regret it.”

“Sorry, not today,” I will respond, hoping that this will conclude the conversation.

Far from it.

Rather, these responses seem to provide them with the fuel to carry on and on until I have to completely shut myself off from responding to them and disappear into the nearby office complex.

I know these are desperate times and everyone is looking for a means to survive, but these guys actually put me off buying from them.


Because their techniques are more about harassment than selling.

Because they do not appreciate the fact that I perhaps do not need to buy strawberries or sweets or air time daily!

Take the one who sells tennis rackets.

Each day, he lurks around the corner waiting for me to pass by so that he can spring his rackets on me and try to convince me that I need to buy one.

“But I don’t play tennis,” I once told him.

“So get it for your child,” he responded.

The cheek and nerve for him to even insinuate that I had a child old enough to be able to hold a tennis racket!

A good salesperson knows to not make assumptions about their customers, especially ones that can backfire in their face!

As a result of his statement, he has served himself a life ban from my service – even if I one day decide to emulate Serena Williams’ ferocious forehand.

But most importantly, a good salesman knows that hounding his potential customers like prey won’t encourage them to buy anything. It will only make them more resolute to never buy anything from him, thereby shutting out all possibility of him ever attempting to make a follow-up sale.

Democratic pursuit of regime change a human right

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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

I cannot help but notice, in great wonder and sometimes exasperation, how some politicians, who are now well past their sell by dates, now spit out the phrase ‘regime change agenda’ with all the  innuendos and insinuations that it is either treacherous or outright treasonous for a Zimbabwean to even think of regime change.

Recently, when confronted with a quite innocuous question from a journalist, the Head of State and Government, and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, His Excellency, cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe angrily cut him off, “now you are asking a regime change agenda,” he snapped.

The basic idea underpinning the concept of democracy is that ordinary Zimbabwean citizens have a fundamental right and should be entitled to freely decide who should govern them. In other words, the right to change a regime if they so wish. The process of translating that choice to reality is accomplished by way of voting, which is often done periodically, to enable ordinary people to make a clear statement about their leaders.

Another tenet of democracy, consistent with the first above, is that potential leaders must be able to, through various – peaceful means, present themselves, and their ideas through manifestos to the people – marketing themselves as the best leaders to govern and make policy decisions for the country. In this noble battle of ideas, whoever has the better idea should, ordinarily, following a vote to confirm them, be the new leaders of a new regime taking the country in a new, and hopefully better direction. The primary purpose of an election is to change or renew leadership. Even in situations where the incumbent is retained, the process of an election would have offered the public an opportunity to reaffirm his leadership.

This vital process, which I will, with Fungai Machirori’s recent, brilliant blog in mind, refer to as the nation’s shedding off of its old skin of failed policies and broken promises to reveal a new skin of hope and expectation, has been suppressed in Zimbabwe for the past 3 decades. Leaders are in denial – attempting to do the impossible – to defy nature. They vainly attempt to banish all evidence of the passage of time, tucking away strands of white hair and sagging skin, tragically locking the nation in a time warp. Imagine the snake clinging to its old skin, refusing to shed it off and make way for newness, for rebirth and revival?

For these leaders, elections are but a mere formality, their objective must never be to deliver regime change, but to endorse the status quo. Since elections are not really meant to deliver regime change, then it follows that it is not necessary to ensure free space for the contestation of ideas and free space for leaders of different political formations to market their vision for the country. The very concept of democracy would become, as a colleague is fond of saying, anathema to defenders of the indefensible status quo.

To ensure that the ideals of genuine democracy are defeated various instruments are deployed by incumbent regime. When the risk of losing power is deemed low, then the regime would simply fiddle with figures, rig here and there and ensure and outcome that restores prevailing balance of power. For good measure associates of the regime are deployed to oversee the counting of votes. For this reason, in African politics the counting of votes is much more important than the actual voting itself.

The bottom line for all these shenanigans being that power must be retained at any cost. While alternative democratic voices are denied space in national media to articulate their views, the incumbent regime is granted full coverage to propagate its ideas, which, often enough, it does not do but devotes its attention squarely to denigrate, demonise and abuse those advancing alternative views.

Where the risk of losing power is deemed greater, then there is no hesitation to deploy the threat of violence and violence in an attempt to alter the workings of democracy in the incumbent regime’s favour. On June 27, 2008, the day of the ill-fated one-man presidential runoff election, I offered a lift to a ‘war veteran’ who gave me an insight into this thinking. Quite unbidden, he commented on the election process,

“Holding elections is utter madness, how can people think that, by merely putting an ‘x’ on a piece of paper they can remove a president from power? How can a pen and paper have such an effect? We (presumably talking on behalf of so-called ‘war veterans’) will not allow people, just with the index finger (the one dipped in indelible ink as an indication that one has voted), to effect regime change. If that happens we will take our guns and go back to the bush.”

I believe the ‘war veteran’ gave and accurate diagnosis of the disease plaguing Zimbabwe – that the incumbent regime does not respect the concept of democracy and its corollary of regime change. After realising that indeed the wish of the people, as reflected in the March 29, 2008 elections, was for the country to renew its leadership and try fresh ideas, patrons and benefactors of the old regime quickly moved stop any peaceful transfer of power. Instruments of coercion were quickly activated to crush any dissent and ensure that the status quo is maintained at all costs.

The present arrangement, which primarily retained the status quo, albeit with a modicum of space at the high table for the true victors in the elections, derives its authority, not from tenets of democracy, but from undemocratic negotiations that the main political parties entered into in order to deal with a crisis triggered by a refusal to peaceful transfer power in accordance with democratic principles.

Although this arrangement dealt a severe blow to the development of our embryonic democracy, it by no means crushed the ideals of this enduring ideology. Even within ZANU-PF the institution, there is now a realisation that chickens of authoritarianism are now coming home to roost. Media reports indicate that elections in both ZANU-PF’s youth and women’s leagues were characterised by chaos and violence. Quite ironically, reports indicate that Mugabe pleaded with the youth league to respect election results and appealed to losers to magnanimously accept defeat in polls!

The creature called power-sharing government is only transitional; it can never replace the concept of true democracy and the right of every Zimbabwean to fully participate in the election of leaders of their choice. This fundamental right to regime change is recognised in article 13 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose article 21 provides that Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and more importantly, further that, the will of the people (as expressed in periodic, genuine elections) shall be the basis of the authority of government.

Relentless propaganda against regime change seeks to create the false impression that it is wrong to seek regime change, or to seek leadership renewal. It is not. It is a natural process that cannot be stalled indefinitely. It is a reality that, though it is temporarily denied, will surely come to pass.

Despite the hype about the liberation struggle and all, ZANU-PF came to power through the ballot box. In 1980 people were free to make a democratic choice. Likewise, Zimbabweans today should have the freedom to choose whosoever they wish as their leader. The right to regime change is a fundamental right that must be respected and be cherished by all.

Temporary setbacks and spanners being thrown in the works by elements resisting change cannot be reason enough to lose faith in the enduring power of the idea of democracy. Rather, it these challenges should spur activists on and strengthen their resolve to ensure that they exercise their right to vote, defend their vote, and ensure that the vote is counted and counts.