Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for May, 2012

If HIV treatment is available, stigma will diminish

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Amanda Atwood

The other day I was speaking with a friend who’s just spent a few years in Malawi. He remarked on how much more open Malawi is in terms of talking about HIV/AIDS. I said this surprised me, as I’d imagined Malawi to be more conservative even than Zimbabwe, particularly with regard to sexually transmitted infections. However, he reminded me that treatment for HIV and anti-retro virals are readily available in Malawi. Because people know they can get treated, they have been willing to overcome any shame or stigma associated with being HIV-positive. And because so many people are open about their status (because knowing their status and being open about it helps them get treatment), the stigma around HIV has diminished severely.

In Zimbabwe, on the other hand, ARVs are still not readily available – and even when people get on treatment, there is no guarantee they’ll be able to stay on it. Note as a case in point a recent report from CHRA about a lack of ARV availability at Mabvuku Clinic in Harare. Because treatment is not a sure thing, people have no reason to submit themselves to the vulnerability of knowing their status, or having other people know their status.

This reminded me of the feedback we received from many Zimbabweans about a proposal to engage door-to-door HIV testing. Whilst some were in favour of it, many questioned the usefulness of a large testing drive without the treatment resources to support it – and in the face of continued stigma around being HIV-positive. If Malawi is anything to go by, maybe Zimbabwe needs to focus on securing universal access to HIV treatment, and the distigmatisation will follow more readily on its own.

Chips and porn. But never together

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Bev Clark

Kubatana went Inside/Out with Ian Von Memerty, Performer, A Handful of Keys, HIFA 2012, versatile captain entertainment, the superhero with bad underpants.

Describe yourself in five words?
Energetic, mercurial, passionate, paradoxical, committed.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
- The long-term view is this too shall pass.
- Other people’s opinion of me is none of my concern.
- Prepare.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done?
I have no shame so I cannot answer this question . . . I did swear on National Television by mistake. I called myself a fuckwit. Later it came through on SMS – “Some woman just said fuckwit.”

What is your most treasured possession?
My family.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Global: the fact that humankind can be so magical and so monstrously inhuman, at the same time.
Personal: four months a go I would have said losing a child, but actually there is nothing compared to the whirlwind of a mental illness.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
I live on a little farm. I wear gumboots. My favourite thing is driving the mower – a quad bike with a purpose. My son said, “Dad, you look like a three year old on a tricycle.”

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I wish I could just get my weight down by 6kgs. When I was 23 I had it together: I was a pretty boy. I had a little butt; they would review my arse before the piano playing – it was that good.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel and books.

What have you got in your fridge?
Viv and I, we hate those fucking crowded fridges. There’s always Greek yoghurt, cheese, white wine, salad stuff, and hopefully she will not have thrown away the leftovers before I’ve had a chance to eat them.

What is your greatest fear?
Personal: I’ve lived through my greatest fear – losing my child.
Greatest fear: Having to go to jail and they can’t get medication to you.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
Some dollars and a room card key – I’ve lost the other four. Not wanting to offend but the Zimbabwean US Dollars are the dirtiest in the world. One was so dirty it was pleading to be released from this earth and flung into the flames of middle earth.

What is your favourite journey?
Seven weeks as a family in London, Paris, Tuscany, Rome and Greece.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My son. And every unsung parent who does the job really well. Because if the world was made up of that, everything would come right.

When and where were you happiest?
Holidays with my family. And …I am most stimulated when I am performing but it must be live.

What’s your biggest vice?
Chips and porn. But never together. (See earlier, I have no shame)

What were you like at school?
Really clever and really frightened.

What are you doing next?
On Monday I fly to Cape Town to direct and MC a road show for a large car company. On Thursday my first original CD with a Big Band goes into the shops. It’s called U R Fantastic. And then presenting on Strictly Come Dancing and judging on SAs Got Talent. And taking a Handful of Keys overseas.

Remembering Dr Monica

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Bev Clark

Last year I started The Teabag Project. It didn’t really take off … but the idea was to stave off Facebook in that I wanted to use the postal system to communicate with a few people. So I sent off a letter + a teabag and asked folks to brew a pot and then write something; anything. Many months later I received this wonderful reflection on the fabulous Dr Monica Glenshaw.

Thanks Rosemary…

Just over a year ago Monica touched down on Australian soil for a holiday. I always love it when she is here. It is a very happy time. Of course I had plans. We ferried over to Rottnest Island where I had rented a cottage overlooking the Indian Ocean, back to the Perth skyline. Rottnest is an island without cars, so one walks, or cycles, or catches the one bus that makes hourly trips around the island. We hired bikes, with Monica selecting one without gears.  I thought it would make the hills much more difficult but, of course, Monica defied that notion, rising from her seat on the inclines to give extra strength and pump to her legs as required. I tried to pace our daily riding so as not to tire her, but she seemed to grow stronger and more accomplished on the bike with each day. We saw birds and dolphins and sparkling coves and white beaches.  We had picnics along the way and always had a cider stored in a bag for a lunchtime refreshment. One evening we rented a DVD from the local store – Miss Potter – which delighted Monica. She craved films and, indeed, input that might remove her to another world other than her own for a time. I got her to sit through 2 hours of my favourite show, Big Love, about polygamous mormons in Utah.  Viewed on the island, with Monica as witness, the series left me feeling morose and I wondered how I had become so enamoured with it.

On the day we were to leave we sat on a wooden bench again looking out across the ocean to the city. We were eating hard-boiled eggs, Monica’s with ample salt, and bread that we had bought from home. I looked across at her and saw gentle tears.  I moved closer but don’t recall saying anything to her. Was it out of respect for her privacy, or my own fear of what she might be thinking? I don’t remember anymore, but I still see the scene these days. I thought she looked and seemed so well during those days in Australia.  It never ever crossed my mind that I may not see her again. Did she fear it? Did she somehow know? Did she cry for her lost health?

And now she has been dead for 7 months. So many questions I have for her. So many conversations I would like to pursue. But – this is life now.  It doesn’t always go the way we would like it to. It can be entirely out of our control. And I am forced, again, to learn patience, acceptance, to move graciously forward with the inevitable flow of life.

I am grateful for what has been.

There is no other choice available.

Arriving in Arusha

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Brenda Burrell

Flying to Arusha, we went via Lusaka making it a 7 hour flight. We were in a big plane that was barely full, so it was a comfortable flight. The wait between flights in Nairobi was just long enough for a cup of coffee and a bun and then off again on a smaller (but not tiny) plane to Kilimanjaro airport. I was hoping to see Kilimanjaro from the plane but no luck as it was on the other side.

The road to Arusha is good tar but Very Dangerous. We came within a whisper of slamming into the back of a large truck with no lights or reflectors. Thank God for Tich whose sharp eyes saw something ahead. People pay no attention to solid white lines and overtake and push back in, willy nilly. Yikes.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Tony’s – a basic fish and chicken joint where the food is cooked outside over a braai and you wash your hands at a central urn that contains hot water and has a bottle of liquid soap attached to it. The only veg – braai’d bananas. All the tables are outside on a dusty little road where the cars park. People around us fed their scraps and bones to 2 stripey cats and 3 or 4 happy African hunters. All very laid back.

Safety for all

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Bev Clark

I placed the sticker at a footbridge. The bridge is badly damaged and broken and needs quick attention. It was built in 1987 and since then no repairs have been done. Now it is dangerous for the people, eg school children, the old, the deaf and drunkards.
- Andreki, a Kubatana member and participant in our FIX THIS.please campaign

A party negotiated constitution not for Zimbabwe

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Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Lenard Kamwendo

Media is now the new battlefield for the two main political parties in the country who are trying to sell their views to the people on the new constitution. By just reading an opinion article in the press with regards to the new constitution one can easily tell which party the author belongs to. State media has roped in the services of some of Zimbabwe’s finest spin-doctors to write damning articles about the new constitution process. One prominent columnist who featured in the one of the state’s weekly bulletins went on to label the Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) as a ‘mafia’ and writing in support the other columnist also added venom to the onslaught by describing the first draft of the constitution published by COPAC a ‘regime change tool’. They are using the issue of “homosexuals rights” as a match winner for their campaign. A whole page full of nothing but anti-West sentiments is dedicated to the prominent and regular columnists who are now working full time to discredit COPAC.

What should be a people driven constitution like what Professor Lovemore Madhuku always called for is now turning into a party driven constitution. The views of the people are now slowly being disregarded and thrown out the window. Not to be outdone the opposition parties have taken their views to the private media and their battle is in support of the constitution drafting process lead by the COPAC team and hoping for reforms to some of the laws in the current constitution. Advocating for the early rejection of the COPAC process is like what some stakeholders and columnists are already doing clearly shows that the end result will be a negotiated constitution with some sections of it being borrowed from the Kariba draft and the current Lancaster House constitution.

If the predictions of the end results are correct why then did the three signatories to the Global Peace Agreement endorse COPAC and waste millions of donor funds on a document, which can be negotiated in the comfort of their offices. And if there is going to be a referendum as promised it will be used as benchmark in preparation for the promised elections just like what happened after the rejection of the 2000 draft constitution. Another government of national unity is the least that the people of Zimbabwe will expect after the next elections.