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PM’s speech: long on words and short on action

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Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

We have just had 3 days dedicated to peace, healing and reconciliation; an initiative driven by the 3 political parties, ZANU PF, MDC-M and MDC-T’s joint Organ for National Healing.

In his speech on the 24th July, the Prime Minister made impressive remarks on national healing, reconciliation and integration. He noted at the outset that the dedication marked the beginning of what can only be “a long but essential journey to heal our nation”. He also made the very important point that there can be “no short cuts on this journey and no easy way to deal wit the pain and suffering that has been experienced by so many of our people”. The process must be “open, genuine and frank”. That is all very good. In terms of the theory, the PM hit all the right notes touching on issues of transitional justice, help for victims to begin to build their lives, truth and acceptance of responsibility for wrongs done.  He had most people nodding their heads in agreement as he went through his speech.

The PM’s speech however was woefully inadequate when it came to concrete action. There were no definitive pronouncements from him regarding the actions his government was going to take to make sure that all these wonderful ideals were realised. Listening to his speech l kept saying to myself at different points in his speech; “so what are you going to do about that,” until it became a never ending refrain until suddenly the speech was over.

The PM could have and should have taken this opportunity to announce the plans his government has put in place to begin to address the issues. What plans for justice for the Gukurahundi massacres? Even though he extolled the virtues of justice, the PM should be reminded that justice delayed is justice denied. This process cannot be unduly long. Does his government have a time frame for gathering the views of the victims of those and other atrocities? From his speech, it would appear that the Organ for National Healing has only been charged with undertaking “grassroots consultation” to define the form and content of the healing programme.

I am worried that the PM can acknowledge that “the State media continues to propagate hate speech and political divisions through publishing of blatant lies and deliberate distortions” but he does not propose any action to remedy this. What does that signify? Is he powerless to put a stop to it? If a crime is being committed by the State media, why doesn’t he charge the police to investigate and the Attorney General to prosecute the culprits?  Who is the PM asking whether the next election will be held in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect? Who is he asking whether government institutions will act with impartiality, openness and accountability? Who should hold the answers to these questions if not the government of which he is a significant part? If as he says the cooperation and communication at top of the political spectrum is not cascading down the party structures, what is he going to do about it, seeing as he occupies the highest seat in his party’s structure? What has he done with his counterparts in the other party formations?

We have been asking these questions of our elected leaders. We demand answers to those questions. If the people who disrupted the Constitutional Reform consultative process were identified, why did the PM not insist on their being arrested? If the State media continues to propagate hate speech, is that not a crime? If these crimes then are prosecuted would that not send a message to anyone else so inclined that we are under a new political dispensation and any behaviour that undermines the rule of law will not be tolerated. If no consequences follow their actions, isn’t that how impunity happens Mr PM?

A last word for the PM and his team in the Organ for National Healing;

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
- Oscar Romero

Where is our outrage?

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Thursday, August 6th, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

And so 40 more people have died on the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge road. Before that it was 30, and before that? Many more.

As a nation we seem to have lost our sense of outrage. We have become inured to death and loss. It seems as if over the past ten years, we have lost so many people we have become desensitised to death. Whether it is 1 of fifty people dead doesn’t seem to matter.  Just earlier this year we were losing hundreds of people to cholera by the week.  Mothers, fathers and children, gone.

Now this bus crash has claimed so many lives. Mothers, fathers, children. We will not hold our breath that something will be done soon. When Susan Tsvangirai lost her life on the same stretch of road, noises were made. Months later, those noises had died down. Until this. Now I suspect there will be a resumed frenzied cacophony of them. But after all the noise has died down, after the State has bought coffins, doled out bags of maize and provided transport for the dead, life will go back to normal. We will be stuck once more with a State which helps people when they die, but does not help them live.  Then officialdom like circling vultures will wait. Wait for the next crash (it cannot be an accident when we can pretty much predetermine the cause). Wait for the next batch of people to die. Wait to declare a state of disaster and buy more coffins, dole out more maize and provide more transport for the dead. Shedding crocodile tears while leaving the road unfixed.

Reflections on the Diaspora

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Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

I am tired. Ndaneta. I am leaving. You stay. Keep the house. Keep everything. I will take the children with me, they are on my permit. You don’t want this marriage. You don’t even want your children. I have struggled to look after them. At least now I have a job that will make it easier for me to do so.


My mom sent me a play station and a Barbie doll. She cannot come back right now because she is working. She will come back once she has raised enough money to buy us a house. I cannot go and see her because she is so busy working.


Let me go first. I will look for a job and settle down. Then I will send for you. Of course I still love you but we cannot eat love.  I will send for you once I have saved enough money.

It has been 5 years since he went. He has not sent for me tete … I don’t think he is coming back for me.


Nematambudziko. Did you receive the money that I sent? Please buy him a beautiful coffin. I cannot come because my papers haasi right.

Equality and safety of Zimbabwean roads

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC-T Co-Home Affairs Minister was involved in a car accident on Tuesday last week – another in a series of car accidents in which MDC officials and their families have been involved. Mutsekwa was travelling to Harare on the Mucheke road when the car in which he was travelling was rammed from behind by a Nissan Hard Body truck. The Co-Minister survived unscathed. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident is reported to be in police custody. Mutsekwa heads the Home Affairs ministry jointly with Kembo Mohadi of Zanu PF. This is the fourth accident involving MDC officials since the unity government was established. Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s wife was killed in an accident which left Tsvangirai injured. Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe’s mother died from injuries received in an accident on the Bulawayo-Harare road last month. MDC ministers Gorden Moyo and Sam Nkomo were travelling to Harare airport last month when the vehicle in which they were travelling was also struck from behind by another vehicle. I am not about to launch into a conspiracy theory analysis. In fact, I was disappointed by some of the comments made at the time of Susan Tsvangirai’s death. One MDC official ignoring the bad state of Zimbabwe’s roads made the comment that the accident or at the least the death would not have happened if there had been police escort. I remember thinking of all the thousands of people who daily traverse the Masvingo road on their way to Beitbridge and beyond to South Africa. I thought then as l do now that they have never had police escort. They get on those buses and in those cars on a wing and a prayer and hope that they make it back home with their lives intact. Because of the shock surrounding this sad incident and the conspiracy theories then doing the rounds, people did not analyse this statement too much. But perhaps it needs to be critiqued.

We do not rejoice in the death of a human being. Everyone has a right to life. From the poorest among us to the richest.  From the lowest among us to the most influential. We must reject the notion that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. This is the thinking that has seen politicians sending their children to schools overseas while presiding over the destruction of our schools and universities. It is the same thinking that has seen politicians going for treatment in South Africa, the UK, China and beyond, while presiding over the collapse of our health delivery system.  It was normal under the ZANU PF government, but we do not expect it from the MDC. It is the disease that comes with closeness to power that Alex Magaisa in his latest opinion piece talks about. It is the former mayor of Harare demanding a four wheel drive vehicle because the roads in Harare were so bad.

Now we have had a lot of talk about the roads in Zimbabwe. The terrible state that they are in and the loss of lives that this has resulted in. Every time there is an accident, politicians talk about the deplorable state of the roads in Zimbabwe. When l started writing this piece, it was my intention to discuss the accidents that have happened involving prominent politicians in the past two or three months, including the latest one involving Giles Mutsekwa. Before l finished this piece, news came through that there had been yet another accident. This time a bus travelling on the same highway where Susan Tsvangirai’s accident occurred apparently burst a front tyre and plunged into a river a few kilometres from the spot where the Prime Minister’s wife lost her life. 29 people perished on the spot and another 44 were injured. 29 nameless and faceless people. 29 people who were someone’s mother, father, son and daughter. Someone’s breadwinner. 44 people who now have to contend with hospitals that have no drips, no doctors, no nurses, no medicines, no theatres, no x-ray machines and no traction machines. They had no police escort.

And so more carnage on our roads. But in a country where human life has been cheapened by politicians, l fear that their deaths will be in vain. No one will be galvanised to act to prevent further loss of life. No lessons will be drawn from this sad event and no one will pledge-never again . . . until the next “important” person is involved.

When some animals are more equal than others

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

So the MPs have been the recipients of the RBZ’s largesse? Suddenly the Guv’s activities are not quasi-fiscal now that the MPs are the beneficiaries?  “But what about the luxury vehicles that Ministers took delivery of on being sworn in?” Cried the MPs, when they received orders from the Minister of Finance to return the vehicles. “We too deserve luxury cars!” They whined.

“Comrades!”  he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.”*

“Surely, comrades, surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?”

Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say. The importance of keeping the pigs in good health was all too obvious. So it was agreed without further argument that the milk and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) should be reserved for the pigs alone.

So the hospitals remain without doctors, medication and equipment. The schools remain without books, teachers and pupils. Budiriro remains without water; in the grip of a now unspoken cholera epidemic. The killer highways remain. 500 km away from the seat of power, crocodiles maintain their vigil in the Limpopo River, patiently waiting for the border jumper, wading into the river’s deadly depths. Still hoping for a better life on the other side. Better this animal, than the one in Harare. 7 bus loads of women, occupying a 75 seater bus will die this year while delivering the nation’s next generation. Children who will join and swell the ranks of the country’s 1.3 million orphans; to continue inexorably on the road to destitution. While the new political elite jostle at the trough.

* George Orwell

Give us some light

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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by Catherine Makoni

On the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) website they explain this year’s theme:

Enlightenment is the striving for and achievement of greater knowledge and understanding, the process through which we ‘see the light’

I have just one issue. I cannot see the lights on Julius Nyerere Avenue and Parklane Street. Could the organisers liaise with the City of Harare to have the street lights fixed on Julius Nyerere Avenue and Parklane Street? We cannot have “enlightenment” without light and l sure do not relish being mugged while l go in search of enlightenment in the Harare Gardens. So how about it HIFA organisers? How about some corporate social responsibility which makes your venues safer for your public?