Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for December, 2009

Christmas in Zimbabwe

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Friday, December 11th, 2009 by Marko Phiri

Empty pockets, empty minds, empty hopes

The trees standstill
Giant jacarandas
Flowering bougainvillaeas
Meander and strangle vleis
Leaves shake not
Under the shades
Men young and old
Play draughts
Plenty laughs
A great day for anything
Beer, banter, family and.
Yes sex

A great day for anything
Very empty pockets
Draughts, beer go hand in glove
After all, is this not December
The month of merriment
But what is Christmas without…
Yep, beer and sex

Can’t make love on an empty pocket
What to buy condoms with here in the pub, no?
What to buy food with for the mother of the house?
Can’t make love on an empty stomach, no?
The trees standstill
Clear sky
The rains have for a moment disappeared

A great day for anything?

Except this is my Christmas.
Empty pockets, empty minds, empty hopes

Rape as campaign tactic in Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections

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Thursday, December 10th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

Aids Free World has released their report Electing to rape: Sexual terror in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Based on interviews with 72 survivors and witnesses, and documentation of 380 rapes, the report describes the deliberate, systematic use of rape as a campaign tactic by Zanu PF.

According to their press release:

The testimony demonstrates that the rape campaign waged by ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe was both widespread and systematic, with recurring patterns throughout that cannot be coincidental. For example, the striking similarity of rhetoric about MDC political activity made before and during the violence; the uniform physical and emotional brutality of the rapes; the specific types of beatings and weapons on common parts of the body; the modes of detention and locations of the rapes; the circumstances and concurrent crimes as part of the broader attacks; and the consistent refusal of police to investigate and refer these cases for prosecution, taken together, demonstrate a systematic, organized campaign.

Read more here

Correct everything that stands against love

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Thursday, December 10th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

I was reading Ugandan feminist and lawyer Sylvia Tamale’s powerful response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill last night.

In a scathing assessment of this legislation, and the damage it would do to Uganda’s legal and social framework, she quotes Martin Luther King Jr., writing “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Regarding the bill, a few important points stood out for me.

For example, objectives of the Bill include to protect “the family unit” from “internal and external threats,” and to protect Ugandan children, youth and culture.

Tamale acknowledges the many issues which threaten Ugandan families such as rape, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual predation, poverty, patriarchy, civil unrest and poverty.

According to a 2005 report by Raising Voices and Save the Children, 90% of Ugandan children – the vast majority of whom are children of heterosexual parents living in heterosexual “family units” – experience domestic violence and defilement.

According to a 2006 national study by the Ugandan Law Reform Commission, 66% of people across Uganda reported that domestic violence occurred in their (again, predominantly heterosexual “family unit” type) homes, and that the majority of the perpetrators were “male heads of households.” The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of the same year put this figure at 68%.

As Tamale writes: “I do not see how two people who are in a loving relationship and harming no one pose a threat to the family simply because they happen to be of the same sex.”

She continues “Homosexuals have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of families that sleep without a meal or the thousands of children who die unnecessarily every day from preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, measles, pneumonia, etc. Homosexuals are not the ones responsible for the lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care centres.

Not only does the bill not achieve the stated purpose of protecting Ugandan families and their children, it also “requires Uganda to opt out of any international treaty that [it has] previously ratified that goes against the spirit of the bill.” This would require Uganda to violate – or change – its Constitution, which obligates Uganda to honour all international treaties it ratified before the Constitution was passed in 2005.

Read more of Tamale’s thoughts on the historic, social and legal ramifications of this bill here.


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Thursday, December 10th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

Photo Credit: Benedicte Kurzen/The New York Times/ReduxAs discussed in the previous post, the question of presidential portraits has symbolic importance for some Zimbabweans. As Bev Clark wrote in 2005, framed photographs of Mugabe hang on the walls of many banks, shops, and hotels – despite there being no law requiring this.  Contrast this with Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, who, soon after being elected in 2000, banned photos of himself in hotels and airports. This prompted a BBC listener forum asking if Presidential photos are a bad idea. (Gbagbo’s term expired in 2005 and yet Cote d’Ivoire has yet to hold elections fresh elections, but that’s another story.)

Even with the transitional, inclusive government, little has changed. In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Minister of Education, Sport and Culture David Coltart (of the Movement for Democratic Change) is depicted sitting below Mugabe’s portrait.

This week, we shared this photograph with our subscribers, with the question:

Should MDC members of the Unity Government uphold the portraits of the old Zanu PF guard? Write to us at info [at] kubatana [dot] net

We’ve been delighted with the volume – and variety – of feedback we’ve received. Read some of these responses below.

My thinking they should do away with the portraits of Mugabe

- VV


Yes the potrait should remain for now.
- CM


All portraits should be removed and never replaced.
- AC


I am against upholding the potraits of the old guard. If we have to then let both the Prime Minister’s and President’s potraits both be displayed.
- MD


I say no, members of the unity governement should remove that portrait and replace with theirs. I am sure that portrait is now tired of hanging all these 2 decades. It simpy needs a replacement. Thats my opinion . . . as long as i will get my freedom after expression will keep on writting.
- TT


MDC T & M clearly seem happy to be pandering  and fawning over the old guard for reasons best known to themselves that they clearly haven’t shared with the resent of us. Attending their parties, eating their food and generally showing  a camaraderie that seems to be saying for them, as far as they are concerned the war is over now!


I would like to put across my opinion on this matter (which you have sought opinions for from across the Kubatana family), which goes like this:

His Excellency, Comrade R. G. Mugabe is the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. According to the agreement that ZANU (PF) signed with the 2 MDC formations, it is an agreed fact that he is also the Head of State and Commander of the Defence Forces. Now, in these 3 capacities, especially, the first 2, the portrait has every right to be put up in every important office and public place.

Maybe, the question we should be asking ourselves is, should the portrait of the Prime Minister’s be put up  there as well besides that of the President (in other words, should the 2 portraits share the same space)? My humble opinion is, maybe we need to look back into history to the time when the current President was still the Prime Minister. Did we have 2 portraits? I have done a little research, and I am informed that the 2 portraits of H. E. (the late) Canaan Banana and the then Prime Minister, Comrade R. G. Mugabe were pinned together (I stand to be corrected).

It is against this backdrop, therefore, that I opine that, maybe it will be pertinent to ask whether the portrait of the Prime Minister be pinned alongside that of the President.

Zimbabwe is a multi-racial country. A beautiful country with a beautiful people! I am thrilled to notice that in front of the President’s portrait (I am referring to the photo that you have circulated to spark this debate) we have a person of a Caucasian origin. This shows that, the portrait of the President is still accepted as a symbol of state leadership by all Zimbabweans.

In a nutshell, I feel the portrait of Comrade R. G. Mugabe who is the current Head of State and President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, should stay up there! We need to pin it up where everyone will be able to see it!

Thank you for giving me time to provide my own opinion on this matter.
- JC


1. Unfortunately, Mugabe is still the President. It is not possible to separate the President from the old ZANU(PF) guard. (Yet.)
2. Please stop calling it a Unity Government. It’s an Inclusive Government. We know there is no “unity”. So do all the parties involved. They don’t call it a unity government. They call it an inclusive government. The only people who call it a unity government are the press and commentators. Please use the name that says what it it, not what it is not!
- RS


I am so worried that as a nation we are not looking for the things that can build us and brng us closer to each other. We have in the last 27 years suffered a lot being divided by a fellow African. Should we at time time keep this division.. the Zanu and MDC to an extent of killing each other as we did running up to the presidential elections re-run…

What is a picture when there are more pressing issues, the continued tortue of the opposition, abuse and victimisation of women and children for poltical expendience. I warn your platform not to play in the hands of Zanu to further divide our people.

To hell with the divisions.
- JS


Nope. We either need to have no portraits (unlikely) or two portraits – one for the president and one for our prime minister (yes, the pronouns are intentional).
- LL


Zanu are not the masters of anyone. They lost the elections fair and square. Therefore a photo of Mugabe should not be hung . Imagine if a photo of Ian Smith was still hung what would be said by all and sundry. I for one will never accept a leader who has virtually forced himself on others.
- VN


Yes, the portrait of a politician can not be mandatory for public places and still less for private offices. In Germany it is unbelievable that the portrait of the president would hang from every wall. Also streets and public places are never receiving names of living persons. Not one living person would ever accept such a treatment. Only extremely proud and fallacious persons can accept or even demand such acts. It shows that they are personally not self-confident. Streets and public places all over the world should never be named after politicians and military people. Often you only hear years after their death what kind of scrupulous people they were. Would Zimbabweans ever have believed before independance who has freed them from the colonialists so to grant them less freedom after independance? Education in democratic behaviour must start in the family and is continued at school. Women must play a more important role in  family and society. At the top of crime statistics are always men. The woman is the future of humanity. This declaration is signed by a man.
- DK


They should be removed we dont want those old photos. Why should we want people’s photos anyway?
- AM


No, of course not! He is not a monarch – it is ridiculous. There’s a great entrepreneurial opportunity here – print the image onto dart boards!
- LM


The issue of the portrait that hangs in every public office (and some private ones too) is all about vanity on the part of the subject matter.  Many people do mistakenly think that the hanging of that portrait is legislated for – it is not. Rather, it is an instrument of intimidation – a constant reminder of who is boss.  Zimbabweans should revere the flag which will remain constant regardless of who is running the country.  Portrait worship remains the preserve of some African dictatorship, China and North Korea.  Never mind that it is a totally unnecessary public expense, unless it is someone’s brilliant idea to remind visiting foreignors of who exactly is the leader – yeah  I think thats it!
- AM


I do not think its a good idea under the inclusive government to put Mugabe’s potrait in offices of the MDC government office bearers. The inclusive government according to me should be based on equal share of power.
- PT


The continuance of the use of Zanu PF symbols and institutions has surprisingly been tolerated by the 2 MDC formations. I am not so sure if the guys don’t attach a lot of value to it or they are busy carrying out their onerous tasks so that they can make a difference. I hope that we do not have a situation whereby they are just happy with what they have got already and that will be disastrous.

I am given to believe that some of the MDC chaps (especially those that are ‘employed’ by politics) may have self actualized quite early and may even not be keen to see the elections coming their way! I hope I am wrong about this!

Besides, I am one of those people who do not believe in portraits for individuals as this tends to create a feeling among the leadership that they are demi-gods (mugabe is a typical example as he believes or has been made to believe that he is indispensable). If you look at the way people fall over each other to wear anything that bears his image as a sign of allegiance to the party; its unfortunate. I do not believe that wearing ‘President Morgan’ t-shirts is necessarily a measure of my allegiance to him.
- GN

Zimbabwe is changing

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Thursday, December 10th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

I'm not changing

Over dinner on the weekend, the conversation turned to how different this year has felt from the past few.

Of course, the difference is tinged with a mixture of relief and frustration. Economically, the relief of stable (even if high) prices, and goods (even when unaffordable) on the shelves has made the basic day-to-day requirements of getting by more predictable – but at the same time has made for a more expensive – and therefore even more tenuous – existence for many.

Politically, the negotiated settlement has left Zimbabweans increasingly outside a decision-making process that is run by politicians for their own interests. A recent report by the Research and Advocacy Unit condemned the constitution making process as “make believe politics,” in which the citizenry is increasingly left out. People spoke of an unfortunate fatigue with and disengagement from politics.

We spoke a bit about what “real change” would look like for each of us, a bit like the “what would you like in a new Zimbabwe” idea. One person spoke up immediately, and adamantly, against presidential portraits. For him, a new Zimbabwe would be one in which people took the portraits of Mugabe off their walls, and never put them back. He recalled being in China some 10 years ago, and seeing Mao’s official portrait redone as a table mat – simply, subtly and tastefully captioned with the words “I didn’t change. But China is changing.” He recalled his surprise at seeing something so controversial so openly displayed. Mugabe – and the rest of our politicians – might not be changing. But Zimbabwe is changing.

No power to the people

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Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 by Bev Clark

From a Kubatana subscriber:

Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA)’s bills are really worrying urban residents.  The rates being charged by ZESA are too far beyond resident’s earnings and too difficult to pay by the end of the month.  Can the responsible Ministry look into this issue and save the already suffering people of Zimbabwe. People are ailing to meet these bills and worse that there is no improvement in power supply in residential areas. Can the responsible people consider this and set charges that can be managed by people taking into consideration what people earn.