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Archive for September, 2009

A shedding of the old self

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Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

I positively detest snakes. To me, they are slithery, slimy and plain creepy creatures.

But right now, as I write, they are the only things that I can think of.

No, I do not want to dwell on their flashing forked tongues or hissing venom – that could give me nightmares for the rest of this week! Instead, I would like you to consider one of their most interesting attributes:

The fact that they periodically shed their skin.

According to the experts, this activity takes place due to hormonal responses and is associated with growth. And usually, snakes shed their skin 4-8 times per year.

In case you didn’t know, we humans also shed a load of skin. But unlike our reptilian friends, ours doesn’t come off in the perfectly intact shape and form of our old selves.

Maybe if it did, we would look with more awe and amazement at our ability to grow out of what we once were, and into the new beings that we continually change into.

This explains my current fascination with snakes – the fact that they leave their old confinements to grow into something bigger and better (and of course, scarier!).

And also, the fact they can keep a reminder of that activity, which is the cocoon shape that trails them as they undergo the process of renewal.

I am in that same process of renewal, shedding away who I once was to become bigger and better. And when I look back in my mind at who I once was, at what that cocoon shape I am leaving behind looks like, I see all the errors, trials, tribulations and sorrows that I do not want to experience as I grow into a new wiser version of myself.

As I shed the old and grow into the new, I am excited and scared alike.

Will I fit into my new skin? Will it wear and tear and cause me to bleed? Will I want to run back and fit snuggly into what I once was?

I do not know the answers, but I know that growth into self-awareness and enlightenment is well worth the effort.

Instead of growing a thick callous uncaring layer, why not shed that and open yourself to growth and revival?

The axes in our heads

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Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Natasha Msonza

Author and playwright Steven Chifunyise never fails to tickle the funny bone in me. Last night I was at Theatre in the Park, excited at the thought of getting a dose of political satire from his new play, Heal the Wounds and equally excited about the opportunity to unwind in the cool breeze of the evening while breathing in the garden’s fresh soil and grass. While we waited for the play to start, the breeze was indeed cool, but it also transported the stinks of urine and other forms or human waste thanks to the vagrants who often use the park for ablution facilities. Thankfully the play was not as disappointing. It featured two brothers who, because of their different political orientations, could never be imagined as friends but at some point find themselves working and sitting together in a committee of national healing and reconciliation.

Sophisticated terminology, concepts and all, they are seen trying to sell the idea to their elderly rural parents who seem skeptical of the Global National Unity and the process of healing. Forgiveness is the gospel they both vociferously preach and believe to be the only ‘practical’ way forward to achieving healing and forming the basis of national development.

The parents believe that it is so simple for the people in Harare to just forgive and move on because they didn’t lose any cattle and their houses weren’t razed for perceived differing political orientation. The parents use an old metaphor to ask their sons how any healing is possible if lots of people in the village were still walking around with axes stuck in their heads. Of course the ‘masalad’ sons took the literal meaning, discarded it as ludicrous and soon started to argue between themselves about which party did what, in the violence of 2008.

Their short display of ‘disunity’ invites the mockery of, and convinces the old men that nothing reasonable was being done in the ‘committee healing national’ as one of them kept confusing it. The long and short of it all was that this process is out of touch with the people and is not being done in as inclusive a way as it should be, that is by involving all stakeholders. The gospel of forgiveness that is being preached by politicians, some of who were themselves responsible for the atrocities surrounding the June 2008 elections, (abductions, rape, torture and murder), is just not enough for ordinary Zimbabweans.

The old men towards the end of the play prescribed 10 panaceas that they felt needed to be presented to the committee in order to allow real discussions about national healing to begin. In short, they described a number of transitional justice mechanisms, some of which are not practical, and seem very silly to the sons, but actually do lie buried deep in the hearts of many.

The emotional weight carried by most Zimbabweans from the many violent episodes since independence are the axes Chifunyise refers to. They are a constant reminder, which cannot be wished away, and they lie so deep they cannot just die a natural death at the prompt of forgiveness, especially coming from the highest offenders. Known offenders need to apologize in public; property-grabbers have to return the cattle, chickens, wives and whatever else they stole, to their rightful owners. In the rural areas, some people live with the reality of seeing their livestock in the stock pens of their neighbors.

People want to freely bury and mourn their dead, have a chance to be heard, to tell their story and to create a record so that there is a certain measure of closure. They want a commission of inquiry; but nothing like the joke that was the Chihambakwe commission of the 1980s. Insulted chiefs want to be apologized to. So do parents whose sons and daughters insulted them because of differing political views.

This all sounds petty, but could it be that the real journey towards true healing begins at the grassroots level and that the answer lies in each one of us finding a way of shedding the axes that we each carry in our heads?

Remembering September 11, 2001

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Saturday, September 19th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

The horrific terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center in the United States on September 11, 2001, shocked and enraged the world’s conscience. Events of that day are permanently etched in the memory of mankind. I, too remember how the world stood still as the news slowly filtered to the four corners of the world. I remember that the Daily News, (it had not yet been banned then) even ran a second, special edition of the paper detailing the 9/11 attacks. I also, with tears and much pain, remember another cowardly and dastardly act that was committed on the same day several thousands of miles away, in Zimbabwe’s small town of Chivhu, at little known Mboe primary school. Mboe primary school is in Chikomba district, which, on September 22 and 23 was scheduled to hold a parliamentary by-election to fill-in the seat left vacant following the death of ZANU-PF MP, war veterans leader, Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi.  On Monday, September 10, Mboe Primary School Headmaster, Felix Mazava, 47, returned from holiday at the nearby town of Marondera to prepare for the new school term. A truly committed teacher serving his country, Mr Mazava had elected to work at the remote primary school in the middle of nowhere, a choice only the dedicated, qualified teachers make.

At the end of the day, as Mr Mazava was closing his makeshift ‘office,’ his son came running to tell him that there were 7 men in two white pick-up trucks who wanted to talk to him. It was getting dark. Fear was written all over his son’s face. Campaigners for the ZANU-PF candidate, a one Makokove, in the by-elections had on several occasions threatened to deal with Mr Mazava for trying ‘to be too clever’ by bringing MDC influence into the small-scale farming community which was wrongly presumed to support ZANU-PF. Mr Mazava thought that he could amicably talk things over with the ‘visitors.’ He went to the road to meet the visitors who promptly set upon him, fists and boots flying, before bundling him into one of the trucks and driving off at high speed.

His son, who had witnessed the abduction, immediately set off running in the opposite direction, never stopping for the entire 13km -distance to his grandfather, Mavheneka Matsongoni Mazava, to raise alarm and seek help. Meanwhile, Mr Mazava’s abductors drove with him for some 20km to Masasa communal area, where they stopped and started interrogating him about his alleged support for MDC. They bludgeoned him, stabbed him and kicked him for several hours.

Mr Mazava cried out and appealed to the thugs to spare his life. The thugs did not relent. He cried out to people sleeping in their huts to come out and rescue him. No-one dared come out. None came to his rescue. For supporting MDC he was kicked and stabbed repeatedly. During the vicious and frenzied attack his arms were broken in several places, his ribs too. Finally he died just as dawn was breaking on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

His attackers, after killing him, searched and stole all valuables from him, including school fees he was due to pay for his daughter at a mission school in the district, put a ZANU-PF card on his forehead and dumped his body in Masasa. Later that Tuesday morning, his father, following tip offs from Masasa villagers, recovered his body and took it for burial.  He died and left behind a wife and four children, the eldest daughter, then barely 18, was in her first year at university. Suddenly and violently, their world had been thrown upside down, they were in turmoil.

Today, as I remember Felix Mazava, I wonder why died. For what cause did he have to meet such a cruel and violent death? What justice is there for him? What justice for his widow and young children? Soon after Mazava’s killing, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said ‘police will investigate.’ Today, 8 years later, nothing has come of that investigation. Today, 8 years later, scores more have met a fate similar to that of Mazava, with no justice.

Where is Zimbabwe’s conscience? What kind of society is it that we live in, where people, young people even, to advance a political cause, can shed blood without batting an eyelid? Where people live in the shadow of fear? Where people are forever whispering and looking over their shoulders? Where there is no freedom whatsoever?

As I remember the needles and cruel death that Felix Mazava suffered, and which many more continue to suffer, I am convinced that a political party that either explicitly or implicitly condones use of violence as a means of propagating its message is not worth supporting. It is the sacred duty of every citizen not only to not support such a political party, but to actively campaign against the use of violence of any form as an aid to propagating ideas or to winning votes.

There is a political party in Zimbabwe whose legacy, the way I see it, has made human life cheap. Human life has lost its sanctity and its inviolability. For a mere vote, life is dispensed of. For daring to speak your mind, life is snuffed out of you. For daring to defend your property from marauding, jobless and homeless invaders, you risk paying the ultimate price. It is as if, in the eyes of the powers that be, Zimbabwean life has been hit by inflation and has lost almost all of its value. As if to confirm this strange scenario, life expectancy in Zimbabwe is officially the lowest in the world.

Some people seem to have forgotten that simple truth that, no matter how glorious it may appear to be, there is no political or other opinion worth shedding blood for. There is none. This is not the stone-age. Regardless of whatever claim to whatever legacy, there is no party or person worth killing for. I believe we should strive to create a society an idea alone, persuades people, where the strength of a political party directly corresponds to the strength of the ideas it puts to the people, and is not based on the size of its militia or its ability to control and unleash instruments of violence and repression. Life is precious; it must be regarded as such.

Unless more and more people openly and absolutely reject violence and embrace freedom, Zimbabwe will remain shackled to the past, unable to face the future with confidence and hope. One can declare that Zimbabwe will never, never, never, become a colony again, But already, the majority of Zimbabweans are colonised by a crippling fear of a minority that itself is colonised by a wounded and tortured psyche that believes in violence and coercion as legitimate pieces of the political chessboard. To echo the words of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Zimbabwe, ‘choose love.’

In memory of Felix Mazava and thousands of other people robbed of their lives for the cause of freedom, I make this rallying cry to all democracy-loving, love-loving and peace-loving Zimbabweans to get up and make a stand. I believe that was Felix’s dream. May the soul of this gallant son of the soil and this unsung hero in the battle for democracy and freedom, rest in eternal peace. And may his death not be in vain.

MDC must take responsibility for actions of the inclusive govt

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Thursday, September 17th, 2009 by Brenda Burrell

Is it just me, or do other people read the MDC’s recent press statement entitled “MDC condemns grab of Meikles assets”, with deep cynicism?

Peta Thornycroft, writing for IOL said:

Zimbabwe’s government has effectively expropriated the country’s largest public company, Kingdom Meikles Africa Ltd, under a much criticised so-called anti-corruption law.

Kingdom Meikles was “specified” last Friday in the Government Gazette under the “Prevention of Corruption Act”

This means the company, also listed in London, and all its subsidiaries cannot make any transactions without the approval of an investigator appointed by the government to examine allegations of corruption.

The group represents hundreds of indigenous investors and employs thousands of Zimbabweans.

The specification law was established by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF administration, but the action against the Kingdom Meikles group was, surprisingly, endorsed by the Movement for Democratic Change’s co-minister of home affairs, Giles Mutsekwa.

The “specification” order in the Government Gazette was signed by the two ministers, Zanu-PF’s Kembo Mohadi and Mutsekwa.

The MDC’s press statement, in response to this action says:

The MDC condemns the inclusive government’s mafia-style grab of the assets of the Stock Exchange-listed Kingdom Meikles Limited group of companies.

We urge the inclusive government to be serious in creating an atmosphere of confidence, investment and goodwill. No serious investor will pour in their money in an economy where a government can grab their assets in the wink of an eye. Seizing people’s assets is inimical to investment, economic growth and development.

The co-Ministers of Home Affairs Hon Kembo Mohadi and Hon Giles Mutsekwa have more pressing issues to attend to than seizing the assets of private companies. Zimbabweans want to see a professional police force that enforces the rule of law without fear or favour. They want to see perpetrators of violence brought to book. They want to see a corrupt-free police force which professionally discharges its duties. These are the issues that must grab the attention of the ministers rather than the unbridled pursuit of private property.

The MDC is a party of excellence. We believe in delivering real change to the people of Zimbabwe. We believe in restoring people’s dignity, security, prosperity and basic freedoms. We want to give the nation hope for a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning.

The MDC make it sound like:
a) they’re not a major partner in the inclusive government
b) Giles Mutsekwa doesn’t hold a senior position – Secretary for Security & Intelligence – within their party

Come on! They are and he is.

One of the major problems with this inclusive government is a complete lack of transparency. What are we to make of politicians who earlier criticized the perks of the political elite, only to grab them for themselves at the first opportunity offered? Politicians who beat each other up at election time then go drinking and making business deals together in between elections.

The MDC can’t have it both ways. Either they are part of this stillborn beast called the inclusive government – and accept responsibility for its actions – or they are not, and they extricate themselves from it before it consumes them boots and all.

Minister, take a listen

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Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Zanele Manhenga

I am not a comfort zone person so I am not going to sit back and just enjoy or act as if I don’t see anything wrong. Actually I am taking advice from Dewa Mavinga who said Zimbabweans need to stand up and say something. So here I am standing up. I would like the Minister of Transport to view me as an adviser and heavens knows we need a lot of us in this country. Who in this beautiful country advised what’s his name to buy a fleet of cars when the City of Harare lies in ruins? However my advice goes to the Transport Minister, not to the guy who has nice cars. I mean he doesn’t have his sole hope of going back home with a windi in a combi. I have left my 5 Rands, 50 cents or 3 trillion in over three combis in the last few weeks and I have had enough. Things were going well when the windis did not mind us, the people, having just the 17 notes of the 60 notes that make up 3 trillion. But yo after this high rate craze not only do the windis want the full 3 trillion; they don’t even have any form of change. Now my Minister take a listen; unless you have a plan to solve this dollar for two business, I have a solution. Why don’t you and your Ministry introduce a ticket system? Have people buy a week worth of transport tickets then the combi people can collect their money every end of day or month. That way I am just getting in and out of the combi hastle free. I don’t have to follow a perfect stranger so that we can split a dollar which never happens. I end up leaving the whole dollar with the other person because I cannot parade the streets of Harare when I am late for work. What pains me the most is that when you go to the windis asking for reimbursement they have conveniently forgotten you. I will not stand for this daylight robbery, so Minister do something. Hey whatever the pros and cons of this advice, you can deal with them until you have thought of a better idea. I have just suggested something you haven’t thought about.

Media reform means employment creation

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Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

Another intake of National University of Science and Technology (NUST) media students has just finished their four-year degree programme this month. As a recent graduate of the same school, I know the feelings of sheer relief and satisfaction that completing such a grueling course prompts.

But, I also know the fears that this new dispensation brings with it.

With a national unemployment rate soaring at over 90%, the prospects for many Zimbabwean graduates are bleak and demoralising. Inevitably, inactivity awaits many of these promising minds.

A case in point would be my class of 24 students which completed studies in May 2008. In my humble estimation, we were all keen and bright learners – and yet, 15 months later, less than half of us are employed.

And bear in mind too that the NUST media department is just one of a few journalism schools in Zimbabwe. Each year, Midlands State University, the Harare Polytechnic and other institutions churn out enthusiastic media scholars who can’t find gainful means of making use of their professional qualifications.

In most cases, it is not through a lack of effort, or even a lack of requisite skills for a job or training opportunity.

It is simply because so few of them exist.

Reading the Global Political Agreement, I have noted the great potential that Article 19, on freedom of expression and communication, has to begin to redress this unfortunate situation.

In the document, Zimbabwe’s main political parties agree that the government should ensure the immediate processing of all applications for media registration in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Since its inception in 2001, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has failed to license a single private or community-based broadcast station, while the now defunct Media and Information Commission only served to close up space for alternative print media voices.

I hope that this will change with the reforms currently being implemented, particularly with the introduction of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and the re-constitution of BAZ. Yes, the process already has its own controversies, but I sincerely hope that the two bodies will function to register more entities into our starved media environment soon, thereby creating employment opportunities for many.

At the public hearing with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology a few weeks ago, I raised the issue with the chairman and Member of Parliament, Mr. Gift Chimanikire. As he himself had mentioned in his introduction, the reason for opening up parliamentary bodies to dialogue with the public is to ensure that ordinary Zimbabweans are able to exercise an oversight role in monitoring government’s implementation of various policies.

Indeed, current media policy has been argued to be un-democratic and non-representative. But more so, it is depriving many young people the opportunity to become a part of the process of change in Zimbabwe. As the generation with the greatest potential to rebuild and re-harmonise this nation, we deserve outlets to exhibit our creativity, innovativeness and professionalism.

In response to my concern, Mr Chaminikire noted the importance of promoting media pluralism in Zimbabwe stating, “We should be able to deliver on this because not only does it create employment, but diversity in terms of reporting. Pluralism means the people will be more informed and I can assure you the committee is committed to that.”

For the sake of the many currently unemployed media professionals, and those who are still involved in their studies, I sincerely hope that this committee, as well as the various organs created to facilitate Zimbabwe’s media reform, will deliver on their promises in a timely and unbiased manner.