Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for January, 2010

Political types in suits with stripes

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Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 by Bev Clark

A Kubatana subscriber recently emailed us his Letter to Zimbabwe. Our mailing list is pretty big, but not That Big. But Mathias Makozhombwe makes an awful lot of sense. It makes me think of that quote that suggests that the people who should be running the country are driving taxis and cutting hair. Here’s Mathias on what he wants for Zimbabwe.

I feel the need to talk about Zimbabwe, and share my thoughts. We need to elevate our game and stop the rot that has plagued this beautiful nation. It’s a well-known fact that Zanu more than sold us short, so I won’t dwell much on that because you know the lot. The question my brothers and sisters is how do we move forward, break free from the shackles of poverty, violence, misrepresentation and institutional tribalism?

How do we break free, stay free and never return to this unbearable situation of perpetual abuse of power? How do we differentiate the real from the fake, cheap talk from real talk? I don’t have all the questions or answers but these are issues that we need to consider when signing up for any future situations. The word I hear a lot is change; sure enough that’s a start, but not good enough. We need SMART change, a set of objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time Bound.

For clarity Zanu not only failed, they were a major catastrophe. Now as we stand up, speak up and unite for the sake of peace, it is important to note that there can be no peace without equality, and there can be no sustainable progress and stability without well-considered policies that have been debated at every level, with the Policy Makers and Implementers held accountable through effective regulation.

So when these political types in suits with stripes knock on our doors and ask for our votes, it’s our responsibility to demand accountability. For over 25 years the War Vets have held the nation to ransom. The nation owes the debt for their sacrifice, but when you cheat, steal and kill the very people you sought to liberate the debt owed to you becomes null and void.

My message to Mugabe, Chihuri and the gang, your days are numbered, you are way past your sell by date and judgment day is on the way. To Tsvangirai, Biti and the team, you have huge task ahead of you, and failure is not an option. You need to deliver, if or when you assume full power of Government. For now less whining and more action.

To my fellow Zimbabweans we are at a cross roads; the battle for freedom, equality and long term prosperity is only in it’s infancy. It is up to us whether we sink or swim, lose or win, die on our feet or live on our knees. I am not Dr King but I do have dreams. I am just an ordinary man who believes that one day peace and prosperity will return to Zimbabwe, and that all Zimbabweans will have equal opportunity and be judged not by the colour of their skin, tribal descent or sexual orientation, but by the nature and quality of their moral fibre.

147 phone calls

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Monday, January 11th, 2010 by Bev Clark

A Kubatana subscriber is convening meetings with residents in Avondale in Harare to discuss local problems and how to solve them. Here’s a small excerpt from his report illustrating the lack of vigour and interest on the part of our City Council to rectify water leaks while, when we turn on our taps, nothing comes Out.

Stan was there, and reported back on the ‘leak’ (flood) coming out of the Reps Theatre property since the beginning of October 2009. This is not a Reps leak, it is the city side of the meter, and is city pipes. It is a large flow (considering a major water main runs up East Road under them), somewhat reminiscent of a small stream. The count to date – Reps have made 147 phone calls to the City to repair and stop our water loss. The Director of Works went out to see it in November. However, now, mid January, the water still flows, unimpeded and without the benefit of pipes! And without benefiting anyone in Harare.

The rich get richer

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Monday, January 11th, 2010 by Bev Clark

I’ve just read that war veterans in Zimbabwe are demanding a 20% share in Zimbabwe’s wealth. I wonder why they don’t start with demanding a percentage of Robert Mugabe’s wealth. Why is there no investigation of this man’s wealth and opulent life style? Transparency International Zimbabwe . . .  Do Something

Rats running riot in Harare

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Monday, January 11th, 2010 by Natasha Msonza

Many years ago in a little German town called Hamelin, the people had a terrible problem of rats. They were everywhere – in the streets, houses, beds and even baby cots. The mayor and his people were stumped. One day the Pied Piper came along and said he could deal with the rat problem, if the Mayor would pay a huge sum of money. The mayor agreed. So the Pied Piper played his pipes and all the rats gathered, followed him out of Hamelin and fell off a cliff. When it was time to cough up, the mayor balked. So the Pied Piper played another tune and this time, all the children followed him and never returned.

The story of the Pied Piper might just be folklore, but in a little town called Harare, in a country where the economy is dysfunctional and politicians make empty promises, people are generally preoccupied with daily survival and keeping body and soul together above all else. Crucial social services like garbage collection and disposal are neglected, sometimes to the detriment of the people concerned. As street corners pile up with garbage, a new menace has surfaced and its kind has an unparalleled reproductive ability.

They are everywhere, living and rummaging in the corners where we store our garbage, occupying private spaces and threatening to invade our homes as their numbers grow exponentially in direct response to the piling rubbish. Hundreds of them are being born each day threatening to colonize and congest our cities as well as spread disease. Their exaggerated shapes and sizes have made the once ordinary rodents almost unrecognizable. The little nocturnal creatures now shamelessly dart across alleys in broad daylight; have become resistant to most common traditional poisons and have grown less and less fearful of man. They have become a silent but perilous plague that threatens our very lives, yet a lot of us are oblivious to the real dangers presented by rats. Because of their tendency to live where we live, rats are an effective agent of disease transmission. We have been unaware of the risks of catching all sorts of diseases and some awful things from this vermin. A single rat by itself is unimpressive and each time I spot one, I am reminded of the infamous bubonic plague which wiped out whole communities and half the populations of Europe and Asia circa the 1300s.

While piles of rubbish continue to compete for space on street corners and open spaces, street cleaning and inspection systems have gone to the dogs and cutbacks in pest control expenditure and increases in takeaway food shop and food litter have consequently contributed to the dramatic increase in the thriving rat population that has become very comfortable guests in our backyards.

Where I live in the avenues, the problem of rats in the alleys has become a seriously worrying risk to public health because of garbage that goes uncollected for weeks.  Visiting the communal garbage corner in my yard is a frightening experience. Fearless rats the size of cats dominate the area to the extent that nobody bothers to deposit their garbage properly into the metal bins anymore. The way to do it now is to stand a few feet away, take aim, and then smash and run. Just behind this space is an open playground where the children run around all day and play – care free; their parents oblivious to the impending danger just beyond the wall. They are all exposed to the risk of catching rat-bite fever – a systemic bacterial illness that can be passed on from rodents to humans. All it takes is one bite or a scratch from a rodent. Ingestion of food or water contaminated with rat excreta or urine also causes deadly types of food poisoning whose symptoms can certainly not pretty.

At the corner of Fife Avenue and 5th Street in the Avenues, there is a huge rubbish dump container the size of a space ship that is eternally overflowing with rotting garbage coming from the adjacent supermarkets. The air in that whole area has literally become oppressively rotten and unbreathable. The shops should be taking better responsibility in careful disposal of rubbish and cleaning up after themselves. However there is currently no enforcement, but it would be gratifying to see some huge fines imposed for careless rubbish dumping especially by corporate companies.

The city council has sometimes justifiably been blamed for not providing bins. In the not too distant past, every street corner was occupied by rubbish bins that were constantly emptied. Many corporate businesses used to even donate branded bins to the city in those days. I am not sure if this is no longer a lucrative marketing gimmick or billboards are just the new favorite. Nowadays, it is not surprising to cut across the city centre without ever bumping into a bin. I have too often experienced the little annoyance of carrying around a banana peel hoping to find a bin soon then finally being forced to deposit it into my backpack because I’m just not gifted with the ability to litter.

We need to go back to basics on public health before this thing goes out of control, that’s the small price to pay or we will soon cry foul after the Pied Piper has left town with our kids in tow. It is our responsibility to make sure our neighbor doesn’t throw rubbish on pavements; if government is too preoccupied to put in place fines, enforce sanitary laws and improve efforts to collect and dispose of trash. The starting point for a coordinated approach needed is for us as citizens to realize our duty to practice good sanitation. It is the only rat proofing technique and we might even consider adopting traditional ways of disposing garbage by digging dirt pits in our backyards and other places where rubbish dumping occurs. If we are prepared to dig boreholes in urban Harare for clean supply of water, we should have no problem digging rubbish pits for waste disposal to ensure our health before the rats, flies, mosquitoes and all other vermin imaginable gain in on us.

The dead legends’ society

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Monday, January 11th, 2010 by Fungai Machirori

So I have a problem with making fashion out of dead legends. I am sure you have all seen bags and T-shirts bearing the images of greats like Steve Biko and Martin Luther King Jnr. I often cringe to think that these men, who fought for the emancipation of their people, now find themselves pasted onto brightly coloured garb, forming a part of popular culture.

Okay, so I think it’s important for young people to be conscious of the past, to be able to identify with the efforts of predecessors who have paved the way for a better today. But I am not so sure if a T-shirt will achieve this. What about a visit to a museum or a look through a history book?

Oh, but you will tell me that young people don’t have time for that, that between Face Book and their i-pods, there is simply no time for that. So how exactly does regalia ensure that these people are conscious of who these heroes are?

I tend to feel that all these artefacts are commercial gimmicks that ensure that ordinary people feed into the capitalist machine. In a world where everything and everyone famous is patented, it’s not hard to see how all these products largely serve the interests of a few. So we think it’s cool and conscious to buy something that says Kenyatta on it, or to cruise around wearing something emblazoned with Saartjie Baartman’s derriere when all it usually is some company churning out mass-produced goods for the health of their pockets and not history.

I do agree that these products make young people more curious about the past, but it’s saying something if they are not made aware of history within the school setting, or at home.

I remember that when I was in high school – at a private school – we were never taught Zimbabwean liberation war history because our school believed it was time to bury the hatchet between blacks and whites, the two main race groups in our school. And so instead, we learnt about Chinese feudalism, the Egyptian pyramids, 18th Century England and everything else that took us away from the gory details of Rhodesian history. I believe that was the wrong way to go about things.

Imagine if German kids weren’t taught about Nazism. It’s an ugly horrible shameful past, but one that must be confronted and accepted. It is what happened, and this can never change.

And it still saddens me to think that many young people, like I once did, go to school in Zimbabwe and know zip about their own culture and history. Sadly, T-shirts, caps and bags aren’t the real solution to unlocking one’s history.

It is a far more intricate process of unraveling the hidden layers of self.