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Archive for February, 2010

Zimbabweans being abused by the GNU

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Monday, February 15th, 2010 by Bev Clark

An organisation called Voice for Democracy occasionally publishes articles regarding the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. Usually they’re pretty much on the money when it comes to providing an astute analysis of what’s really going on. Of course their analysis and perspective often differs from that of the MDC and its many groupies. On the one hand the MDC continues to desperately try and fool themselves that they have a hope in hell of changing things in Zimbabwe whilst cuddling up to Mugabe, while the Voice of Democracy rightly points out that the MDC is installed in a marriage of abuse. And by extension, so too are the people of Zimbabwe. Here’s their latest article:

The MDC did not enter into a marriage of convenience, but one of abuse. For all its goodwill, compromises and appeasement, the MDC has been repaid with contempt, provocations and lawlessness. Robert Mugabe has not just been reluctant to implement the provisions of the GPA, he has deliberately set out to sabotage and destroy it. Yet, even as he flexed his muscles and hurled abuse, a battered and deeply compromised MDC smiled for the cameras, vowing never to leave its faithless partner. The Prime Minister soothed the worries of the Friends of Zimbabwe, reassuring them that its rocky marriage was still working, that Robert Mugabe was part of the solution, and that their marriage – the Inclusive Government – should be blessed by the removal of sanctions and rewarded with development aid for its achievements.

The diplomatic dilemma

Having won the March 2008 elections, the MDC surrendered wide presidential powers to the very man, Robert Mugabe, who had brought nothing but violence, ruin and misery to the people of Zimbabwe – and left Western diplomats groping for an adequate response. How are the Friends of Zimbabwe to reward the MDC for its efforts to bring peace and recovery while pressuring Mugabe to restore human rights and the rule of law under the GPA? How can they provide development aid to the MDC while maintaining sanctions on Mugabe and ZANU(PF)? In truth, they cannot. The MDC and ZANU(PF) forged an Inclusive Government in which they became two sides of the same coin.

The International Crisis Group’s sanguine belief that increased development aid would reward the moderates while isolating the hardliners was always illusionary. As long as Mugabe maintains his grip on power, any attempts to increase development aid or foster trade and investment will inevitably be captured by ZANU(PF). Similarly, any development aid or the lifting of sanctions to reward the Inclusive Government for achieving a modicum of economic stability will send an unmistakable message to Mugabe: that he and his supporters will not be held accountable for continued human rights violations and their disregard for the rule of law. Their very impunity will be rewarded.

This conundrum for Western powers is now being played out within the EU. Divisions have emerged between Germany and the Denmark that want sanctions eased and Britain and the Netherlands that want them maintained. The expectation is that they will reach a tepid compromise and again urge the Zimbabwean parties to implement the GPA in full. Whatever their decision, the EU and the MDC should disabuse themselves of any hope that easing sanctions will coax Mugabe into meeting his GPA commitments.  There is none.

Western donor countries face similar contradictions in their diplomatic relations with SADC and the African Union, which have repeatedly supported the Inclusive Government’s call for the lifting of limited sanctions and the resumption of development aid. How then do Western governments align themselves to the policies of African countries when SADC, as the guarantor of the GPA, has proved unable to enforce its provisions? Indeed, how can the donors align themselves to SADC decisions when the underlying reasons for imposing targeted sanctions in the first place remain unresolved? The question is: how can the Friends of Zimbabwe extricate themselves from these diplomatic dilemmas and realign their policies with SADC and the African Union?

International realignment behind a democratic transition

The first is to face the facts. The international donor community should resist repeating the tired mantra that the parties must implement the GPA in full. The self-evident fact is that the GPA is dead in letter and spirit. Second, they should listen carefully to the voices for democracy.  When the MDC disengaged from their ‘dishonest and unreliable partner’ in October 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai said that the obvious solution would be the holding of a free and fair election to be conducted by SADC and the AU and under UN supervision. As Mugabe still refuses to comply with the GPA, Tsvangirai now says that the only solution is to agree on a road map to an election.

This presents the international donor community with an ideal opportunity to realign itself with the MDC’s democratic principles and with key advocates of a democratic transition within SADC, notably President Khama of Botswana. Given South Africa’s frustration over the painfully slow implementation of the GPA, diplomatic efforts should be redirected towards convincing an increasingly impatient President Zuma that elections provide a compelling alternative to the GPA. It would not only bring finality to a festering regional problem, but it would enable Zimbabwe’s full reengagement with the international community. Almost immediately, targeted sanctions could be lifted, debts rescheduled, and international development aid resumed. Crucially, it would bring the international community’s policy towards Zimbabwe into alignment with those of the SADC countries.

The Responsibility to Protect

Yet, for all the possibilities of democratic elections bringing peace, recovery and growth to Zimbabwe, there stands Robert Mugabe, ready to unleash his dreaded state security and militia on any who dare challenge his self-proclaimed right to rule. And here the Friends of Zimbabwe should heed the words of Finance Minister and the MDC General Secretary, Tendai Biti, when he called for the “holding of free and fair elections under the protection and supervision of SADC to ensure that the dreams of the people are never again dashed nor denied.” Unless the citizens of Zimbabwe are protected to cast their ballots in peace and security there can be no guarantee of free and fair elections: not now, not when we have a new constitution, nor in 3 or 5 years hence.

Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group, has been the boldest advocate of the international community’s responsibility to protect citizens who are threatened with crimes against humanity by their own state. Having realigned themselves behind a democratic transition, western donors and SADC countries should immediately start building a ‘Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect’ that allow Zimbabwean voters to cast their ballots in peace and security during the next election.

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) has already called for the immediate deployment of a SADC delegation to secure an end to political violence. Theirs is an urgent appeal for a comprehensive, standing presence of SADC to be stationed in Zimbabwe until the draft Constitution has been submitted to a referendum and that free and fair presidential and legislative elections have been held. The Voice for Democracy has gone further. We have called for this security presence to be in place until there has been an incontrovertible and peaceful handover of power to the winners of the next election.

We the Jury

The MDC has bravely endured endless public humiliations by its arrogant and abusive partner. It must now drop any pretence that its marriage is working and file for divorce by taking its case to SADC and the international community for adjudication, who must let the jury – the people of Zimbabwe – decide on its own leaders through free and fair elections. Therein lies our hope, dignity and freedom.

Traditional leaders in Zimbabwe undermine the democratic process

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Friday, February 12th, 2010 by Bev Clark

The Sexual Rights Centre in Zimbabwe issues a press statement today criticising a recent newspaper article in which Chief Charumbira said sexual minorities have no place in new constitution:

The Sexual Rights Centre noted with concern statements on homosexuality that appeared in the Sunday News of 7-13 February, 2010 from the President of the Chiefs’ Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira.

In the article entitled, Chiefs say gays have no place in new constitution of Zimbabwe, Chief Charumbira is quoted as saying that homosexuality is “a social wrong that progressive minds should resist” and that it is “alien to Zimbabwe and is a taboo”. Chief Charumbira is also quoted as saying that “even the platform to discuss such issues should not be accorded”.

The Sunday News continued to quote Chief Charumbira saying that Uganda has passed a law that says homosexuals should be killed and that traditional leaders in the country will soon advocate for that if some sectors of the population continue to call for the recognition of the rights of  homosexuals in the new constitution.

Chief Charumbira’s statements are discriminatory and inaccurate. Chief Charumbira’s statements reveal a clear lack of understanding and appreciation of human rights and sexual rights in particular. These rights include the right to life, liberty and security, the right to freedom of expression and access to information, the right to equal protection and non-discrimination, the right to family and the right to health. The Chief’s statements are inflammatory and disregard the democratic process of a people-driven Constitution.

The Sexual Rights Centre strongly feels that the Sunday News has demonstrated irresponsible journalism by not printing a reasoned and balanced articles about this issue.

As an organisation we work with sexual minorities to reduce stigma and discrimination, increase understanding and awareness, emphasize best and ethical practice in programmes working with Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Inter-sex (LGBTI) persons. We frame the LGBTI issues within the context of human rights and we encourage the nation to uphold the rights of every individual and to respect them.

The Sexual Rights Centre encourages journalists and editors to present both sides of the debate and not allow one-dimensional and ill-informed opinions to dominate the media.

It is essential that traditional leaders, government officials and those involved in the constitution making process should respect the views of all groups and should ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.


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Friday, February 12th, 2010 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

Shona is a term that was introduced in the 1920’s and was originally used to refer to the Karanga by people who didn’t know any better. The term evolved over time and was used to refer to the various Bantu groups who had settled on the Zimbabwe Plateau and whose languages belonged to the Shona group of languages.

Standardized Shona, based on the Karanga and Zezuru dialects only came into existence in the 1950s. Taught in schools throughout Zimbabwe Standardized Shona while preserving the shona language has managed to cause the death of major and minor dialects. Those spoken by handfuls of people like the Tonga or Kalanga are quickly disappearing. Even the major dialects of Karanga and Zezuru are not what they were, say twenty years ago, parts of speech and the various subtle nuances that made them unique are dying with each passing generation. Worse still Standardized Shona is being diluted by English.

A people’s cultural identity is deeply rooted in their language and its use. Arabs speak their Arabic with pride, and have even adapted the format of the printed word to their own needs with books, newspapers and even computer keyboards made to suit. The French have a reputation for the zeal with which they preserve the way their language is spoken, right down to the accent. And in the US of A the very minimum requirement for having a satisfactory sojourn there is that you must at the very least ‘speak American!’

We, however, appear to have lost ourselves. Our primary language of communication is English, for business, at home, in school and even sometimes in art, we insist that to be heard one must speak a language that doesn’t belong to us. Academics and pseudo-intellectuals have devoted long hours to research and debate over how colonialism is to blame for our loss of language, passing the blame to another. Yes it happened, and in many ways our minds are still colonised. But that doesn’t mean that we are helpless. At some point, we have to take responsibility as a group and as individuals. More than that we have to own our identities. The histories of our various peoples, our languages and even cultures are being lost to time. The relevance of what is passed down from parent to child through oral tradition is lost to a generation that has assimilated foreign cultures and values. The education given to that generation so that they will find their place in a globalized world comes at the cost of their language and culture. The world as seen on television appears to be moving towards a sort of cultural uniformity. How will we live with ourselves without that which makes us, by our own tradition people?

Brains and beauty

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Friday, February 12th, 2010 by Zanele Manhenga

On Saturday I went to Miss Tourism. I went there for two reasons.  One – to watch the pageant live because I have only ever watched it on television. I must say I was impressed with the décor, the lighting and the sound was up to the note. Except for the time sho! The programme started around nine and that did not go too well with me. Fortunately I had a great bunch of people around me so the time sort of moved fast. Two  – I did not pay for the ticket, it was given. Call it bragging or whatever but it helps to know people in high places. If I had not been given the ticket I was probably going to wait at home and hope against hope that ZESA stayed on and our broadcaster shows us the live happenings. So I dolled up and headed for the Harare International Conference Centre. The girls on stage disappointed me with the outrageous answers they gave the judges. You see I had hoped that somehow it was going to be different with me watching live that these girls were going to answer meaningfully. My thought was maybe the television gives us what is not so true but I heard it all with my own ears. One girl was asked what she thinks about domestic violence and I quote “domestic violence should be fought agenest because it causes other people not to have self confidence”. I cringed at that statement. Who does not know what is involved in domestic violence especially in our country. She should have spoken on how it separates families and that it should attract a heavy fine on the perpetuators, and how it is still happening in this day and age and how our mothers are still telling us “that there is no house without smoke so we should deal with it, that’s how men show their love”. Anyway that’s a topic for another day. The lady representing Masvingo was asked if you were asked to give a tour of your hometown where would you take me and why. She said I would take you to Heroes Acre or something that disturbing. I had come to a point of thinking that the statement beauty without brains is getting old and over sung. Clearly I am wrong.

Deliver on what you promised

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Thursday, February 11th, 2010 by Bev Clark

Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have just released a report on the state of democracy in Zimbabwe one year after formation of GNU.  Below are the main findings of the report, the full text of which can be found on www.wozazimbabwe.org

- The belief that the power-sharing government has decreased democratic space in Zimbabwe.

- There has been some change for those who are rich but for the poor nothing has changed. It has remained survival of the fittest. The dollarisation of the economy stabilised prices and the economy in general but the gap between rich and poor widened.

- Many expressed no confidence in an election before the constitutional process is complete.

- People want to give their views and write their own constitution but worry that the current consultation process has too many loopholes that can be manipulated to change their views into those wanted by politicians.

- Most agree that they believe that public funds should go through the Ministry of Finance but the Minister must also be transparent about what he does with it.

- The personal security situation for ordinary people is still very insecure.

- Most people polled believe that the rule of law in the country has worsened.

Zimbabwe’s diamond plunderers

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Thursday, February 11th, 2010 by Bev Clark

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a cartoonist like Zapiro in Zimbabwe, a newspaper like the Mail & Guardian and a media environment similar to South Africa where people can shout it out like it is.  If Zuma’s got that shower head, I’d like to see caricatures of our chef politicians walking around with diamonds for balls.