Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for August, 2011

“Go Faster to Heaven” … Zimbabwean transport operators drive to kill

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Lenard Kamwendo

I commute to work everyday and everyday I hear this statement “Rovera bhora mberi driver” coming from the commuter omnibus crew. After hearing this statement you have to prepare yourself for a Formula 1 kind of driving along Zimbabwe’s narrow pothole infested roads. 20 people who have lost their lives in another accident along Harare-Bulawayo road.  I read this sad story in the Herald and one of the passengers in the Chawasarira bus narrated how it all started and I quote,

“From Mbare, the bus was speeding and they were racing with the Lofombo bus. Conductor nemaloader vanga vachingoti rovera bhora mberi driver, vachimhanyisana. (The conductor and the loaders were urging the driver to speed.) As he was overtaking, I heard a sound of something bursting and the next thing I saw was blood in the bus,” she said.

It seems like some people are driven by the passion of making money at any cost. The reason why these two bus drivers in this story were over speeding is “targets”. Bus owners set a target of the amount money their workers are supposed to bring to the company at the end of each day. So in order to meet the target, bus drivers tend to over speed and reach the target and make extra money for themselves. Even at a time when the bus develops a mechanical fault you find out that there was little attention paid for servicing the bus leading to passengers putting their lives at risk. I remember at one time Mhunga Bus Company lost its operator’s license after a series of accidents but it didn’t take long for the same company to come back on the roads.

Although bad roads can contribute to these road accidents the main cause is still over speeding and negligence. Lately the small commuter omnibuses “kombis” have been given a new name “Go Faster” meaning it can take you to your destination in a short time. Of late this name has been translated to “Go Faster to Heaven” because of the rate at which these buses are killing people. As Zimbabweans should we continue to be silent and listen to the conductor edging his driver to go full throttle when we know we do something?  Should we allow bus operators to continue making profits at the expense of our lives? Isn’t it time we tell bus conductor that our lives cannot be compared to a soccer ball just waiting to be tossed around?

What you see sure ain’t always what you get!

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Marko Phiri

So, the Libyan ambassador Taher Elmagrahi got himself into trouble for hoisting the “rebel flag” in Harare.

You just have to ask yourself when he actually had the flag in his possession for him to raise it as soon as word got out Gaddafi literally had one foot in the grave. Could be Libya’s point man in Harare always was a sympathiser and was waiting for that aha! moment. And of course all that claim about “following the people’s will” is just but a ruse veiled as diplomatic-speak, meaning he could have defected long ago had he the gall to dare Mugabe, a known long-time ally of the Libyan strongman! After all, we have just been told our own Sylvester Nguni made generous donations to his employer’s political opponents, meaning he could well just be waiting for his own aha moment and then he like Pilate will wash his hands of his allegiance to the regime and claim he is “following the will of the people of Zimbabwe” when the moment arrives. But then why not?

Who then can you trust in this wily game of politics? It’s great though when folks show their true colours, or in the case of Nguni, when their true colours are exposed in a court of law of all places! From the terraces, we damn sure are loving it.

The 10 Commandments of the Feeding Trough

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Thandi Mpofu

In Zimbabwe there is bountiful enjoyment by an elite few who are favoured to partake from the lofty feeding trough.  After all, it provides generous sustenance for their privileged lives.  Not surprisingly, many of us mere citizens wish to one day be among the chosen who take their place and gorge at the feeding trough too.  However, a word of caution.  The preservation of feeding trough’s status quo is pivotal and is guarded at all costs.  The blood of many has been spilled for it.
Read and understand the laws that govern the feeding trough and then decide if you are still willing and able.
1. You shall have no other masters except those at the feeding trough; they who brought you out of slavery.  Neither shall you have close friends from outside the feeding trough.  For your colleagues at the feeding trough are jealous colleagues and they will not hesitate to punish the fault of the father in the sons, grandsons, great grandsons, distant relatives,  family pets or tea cups.

2. You shall not speak ill of the feeding trough or utter its name in misuse.  For this will not go unpunished.  Food poisoning cures anyone’s inability to keep their mouth shut.

3. Observe the customs of the feeding trough and keep them sacred.  Lengthy periods spent languishing in jail have been known to remind the errant of the importance of the hierarchy at the feeding trough.  Neglecting to pay tithes can lead to banishment or even death.

4. Honour the feeding trough’s god-father and patriarch so that you may have a long, accident-free life.  Elevation and prosperity are the rewards of those who take heed.

5. You shall not kill any colleague at the feeding trough, unless this is deemed necessary and you are instructed to.

6. You shall not commit adultery with the spouse of any colleague at the feeding trough, unless this is deemed necessary and you are instructed to.

7. You shall not steal from another at the feeding trough.  Theft from a fellow colleague will result in the pain of death.  Theft from anyone else will result in the easy accumulation of great wealth.

8. You shall not bear witness, truthful or otherwise, against others at the feeding trough.  This is tantamount to treason and can only lead to the loss of life … yours.

9. You shall not covet the god-father’s position.  Should you discuss or even think about this, you will find yourself consumed in a blazing inferno, with no one coming to your aid, and there will be grinding and gnashing of teeth.

10. You shall not set your heart on the wife, house, fields or wealth of a colleague at the feeding trough.  However, should your desires for these become too great and you set about to make them you own, don’t get caught.  If your space at the feeding trough increases, questions won’t be asked.  Such is the way of life at the feeding trough and everyone will have to leave at sometime.

ZANU PF are the new Rhodesians

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Michael Laban

The concept is, ZANU PF are now the new Rhodesians.

Why do I say this? Let us look at parallels.

In the end (and also not far from the beginning), Rhodesia stood for nothing. They were simply against.

Rhodesia – “Keep out the godless communists!”
Zanu PF (listening to the ZPFer at the MPOI security sector debate) – “Keep out the whites!”

But what exactly they both wanted to implement was a mystery.
And never mind the fact that Rhodesia was one of the most socialist countries the world has ever known (aside from the apartheid regime).
And never mind the fact that Zanu PF just asked me (a white) to be the local area treasurer!

Really, they are/were both against democracy.
They are/were for entrenched power (and privileges).

For Rhodesia, it was race. It was a strongly classed, and stratified, society.
The upper class – paid, moneyed, educated, healthy, infrastructure there for (pools, cars, roads). Socially distinct, by race.
The lower class – there for labour. Some education, some health (had food!), some infrastructure (bicycle tracks).

There was no middle class. Thanks to PK vd Byl, for the most part. While Rhodesia was not racist, but had a qualified voting system (A and B voters rolls, based on property, income or wealth), in the early 70′s the voters rolls were ‘upgraded’. It was made more difficult to get on the voters roll. You had to own more property, make more money, or have a bigger bank balance. And people were taken off the voters roll. Why? Read Hansard. “Too many blacks were getting the right to vote.” said one MP.

So, instead of building a black middle class who might have voted for the RF, and stood with them for property rights, law and order, decency, etc. the Rhodesians decided to make enemies of everyone!

For Zimbabwe. How do they know who is kissing who’s ass? How do they know who is ‘onsides’ and who is a ‘national security threat’?
Upper class – paid, moneyed, educated, healthy, infrastructure falling apart for. They live in the same suburbs. They go to the best schools (not the government ones). They have offshore medical aid schemes, and go ‘away’ (Singapore) for hospitals. They drive nice, fancy cars. (and fast too!)
Lower class – there for labour. Education – there are the government schools to go to, but no one can afford. Health – go to Pariyanetwa, there might be a doctor on duty. Infrastructure – a pothole on every corner. Power lines hanging on from every pole (but only generators provide power). A tap in every garden, but the water is a bit brown, better get a borehole.

There is no middle class. They are in London (Harare North) or South Africa, where people can get jobs. Called the brain drain.

And what are the middle class? They are biggest threat to a radical, extremist regime. They are the ones who want to develop themselves and their community through standard hard work. Simple solid day’s pay for day’s work. Not the briefcase businessman. Not a fast buck specialist. Not the fly by night company. The builders, with companies with reputations, and personal reputations. Children, modest cars, plain holidays. Eyes on the future. They want good schools, good hospitals, roads with no holes in them, street lighting, clean water it the taps, electricity with a switch. They pay their bills, and expect others to do the same.

Similar? Rhodesia and Zanu PF land look the same to me.

Rhodesians never actually did anything. Unable to do labour. Good at getting others to do things, but not themselves. Their hands were not dirty.

For example, I knew an Afrikaner (ex Rhodie) in Pretoria, who never let it be known he was a Rhodesian. He got dumped on for all the Rhodies who came down, got jobs (based on their white skin), but could not put out the work. Another white came back from Australia, where he did not make it in farming. He was so glad to be back. He could come from a day ‘working’ in the fields here, and just throw his boots at the maid, “Clean them”, and they would be cleaned. He could not clean them himself. Zimbabwe was a wonderful place. Numerous stories like that. And of course, many did make it good overseas too! Listening to the Rhodesian farmers now in Nigeria on the BBC. Stunning stuff!

And here in Zimbabwe, why is the infrastructure falling apart? Because no one here can work. The civil service was stacked with Zanu PF loyalists, because they were Zanu PF loyalists and patronage needed to be handed out. Based on Zanu PF loyalty, and not technical merit, or ability. When I was a councilor, the City or Harare was the third biggest employer of people in Zimbabwe. Now, we are trying to paint the MacDonald Park Pool (owned by the City of Harare). And there are 6 painters in the employ of the CoH! Anyone with any skills or ability have moved to London or South Africa for a job. What do the others on the payroll do? The ghost workers (650) have been found and sacked. An independent body says CoH could be/should be run by a staff of 6000. But the patronage has been handed out, (not that it is worth much anymore). And no one wanted a job anyways, they just wanted the pay cheque. (The farms and factories syndrome.)


I also noticed that the Rhodesians were HUGELY anti homosexual. Homophobic in fact. Yet, having done a lot of lights at a lot of Reps shows, I KNOW that the acts in any variety shows, that always got the hugest ovations – audience standing in their seats, hollering and clapping in adoration – that act was the cross dress, most faggoty, camp, blatant, men dressed up as women and singing women’s songs in high voices act.

And Zimbabwe? The main man states they are ‘lower than pigs and dogs’, and there are gangs of professionals beating them up and tearing down their stands, etc. However, I KNOW they exist. I have met them. And they did not pick it up overseas, as some have never left this country!

(And for the record, while I know I should not condemn something I have never tried and have no experience of, I am quite sure I am not gay. Don’t hit on me, as I am quite sure I will hit back. I suspect I am homophobic, and a product of my society. So we can keep sexual preference in some back closet.)

Similar? Again, it is to me.

So, the big question then is, if the ZPFers are the new Rhodesians, who are the new kaffirs?

Beating the wrong dead horse

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, August 29th, 2011 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

When it was reported that Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence had dropped, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. For years our televisions and radios had been blaring HIV awareness messages ad nauseum, and apparently it had worked. The average Zimbabwean seemed very knowledgeable about HIV, how one could and couldn’t contract the virus, what one could do to protect themselves and condoms could be found in even the most remotely located bottle store. Even at Chiadzwa, before the soldiers, the dogs and the guns, I’m told you could be guaranteed to find four things: cheap alcohol, prostitutes, diamonds and condoms.

We’ve spent some time speaking with young people about HIV and sexuality and I’m beginning to think that there’s another reason why the prevalence is so low. I believe the statistics that are available do not truly reflect the Zimbabwean population. Young Zimbabweans, especially those in the highest risk groups are not getting tested and it’s because they are afraid. Attitudes about what it means to have HIV have not changed since the 80s. Back then having HIV meant it was only a matter of time before you succumbed and died horribly of an opportunistic infection. HIV was shrouded in mystery, like some sort of evil spirit, no one wanted to admit that they so much as knew it existed. This attitude has not changed over the last two decades.

Since the advent of treatments that prevent mother-to-child infections in the 90s, there is an entire generation of Zimbabweans, who are now reaching adulthood who are not addressed by HIV awareness campaigns, and there is nothing is the school curriculum that speaks to their particular set of circumstances. Now reaching young adulthood, this generation of young people has many questions about their status; life and their place in societies that have gone unanswered making life almost un-navigable. Our discussions also reveal that even amongst people living with HIV, and the families that support them, there is a general lack of knowledge about the course of the disease in complement to ARV treatments and proper nutrition.  During the discussion we were told a story about a young girl born with HIV whose father refused to let her take her ARVs because she looked healthy. ‘Hasisina chirwere.’ He said. (She’s not sick anymore)

Donor organisations are notorious for being fickle, and for funding programmes and community organisations that meet their agenda at that point in time, which then creates contradictions and gaps in information and in effect reduces the efficacy of the entire communication exercise.  There seems to be copious amounts of donor funding going towards patronising and poorly constructed awareness campaigns. How often do people actually pay attention to these? And are they even likely to create behaviour change? It is frustrating that in comparison, very little funding goes towards addressing the gaps in knowledge that have existed for twenty years, a consequence of this being found in the attitudes of health workers in the HIV field, who reportedly are creating stigma around the patients they are supposed to treat. Moreover, there is little or no funding going towards that generation of young people born with HIV that is coming of age today. The campaigns that are in the public space create the wrong impression in the public mind about HIV, that the only means of transmission is through sex, and more recently sexual networking, therefore a young child with HIV must either have had a sugar daddy or been raped.  There is no room in this for an alternative narrative, and that is victimisation.

Sex for education

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, August 25th, 2011 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

We held a discussion group this morning with a vibrant and energetic group of students from several tertiary institutions across the country including the University of Zimbabwe, Harare Polytechnic, Africa University and Harare Institute of Technology. In some respects things haven’t changed much since I was a student; they worry about the same things I did then. But while getting a degree and wondering if it will be good enough to guarantee a (high-paying) job is an obvious and universal concern, I think our tertiary institutions are letting their students down by not addressing the social issues that affect them.

Sexual harassment of women students by men in general seems to be one of the biggest problems. In the period when the UZs halls of residence were closed, numerous students had to find alternative accommodation close to the university. One student reported cases of women students staying with gardeners in Mount Pleasant. In addition to paying rent, the women students would also have to give them sexual favours.

Women students are also exploited by their lecturers, and what concerns me most is that the students themselves were unable to even imagine a possible solution for addressing this. The newer institutions like Africa University seem to have the correct structures in place for reporting and investigation, while the older ones like Harare Polytechnic and the University of Zimbabwe simply discourage it by not having or not informing students of the channels in place for bringing up this issue with administrative or faculty staff. Alarmingly, all our women participants reported a lack of faith in any attempt to seek redress by reporting to school authorities. In one story a student reported harassment to a departmental head, who was a woman, but nothing was done to help the distressed student or investigate her claims.

When asked to estimate how many women students got their degrees because they had sexual relationships with lecturers, the average was 80%. The general consensus was that while this relationship was not desired at all by the student, it was in the student’s best interests to endure and make the best of it. One woman student who attends the University of Zimbabwe said: ‘We know that as girls we just have to accept some of these things. If she reports him [for harassment] he will fail her and stop her from getting her degree by talking to all his friends in the faculty.’

Zimbabwe boasts thirty-one government funded universities and colleges whose purpose is to be bastions of knowledge and enlightenment. Instead they have become a playground for the sexual exploitation of women, where every man with so much as a modicum of power seeks to manipulate his way in to gaining sexual favours. Equally culpable are lecturers, department heads and faculty staff; men and women who are aware of this situation but for whatever reason choose to do nothing. It is not enough to protect your own daughter, every woman is someone’s daughter, and every woman has the right to gain an education without harassment. Shame on you!