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End harassment and persecution of Zimbabwean activists

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

At a press conference attended by the media and diplomats including a representative of the Embassy of Spain, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemned the persecution and harassment of civil society activists.  In a speech by Mr. Pedzisai Ruhanya, the Coalition demanded that the Government of National Unity brings to end the persecution.

Cases in point included that of Farai Maguyu, the director of Mutare based Centre for Research and Development (CRD). Mr Runanya said Mr. Maguyu handed himself to the police on the 3rd of June, after his family members and fellow CRD employees were severely threatened and harassed by state security agents. It is believed that Mr. Maguyu is being accused of publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state in contravention of section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Mr. Maguyu is said to have had a meeting with the Kimberly Process Monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane discussing human rights abuses and smuggling of diamonds from Marange.

The Coalition said that Mr. Maguyu was arrested in Mutare and transferred to Harare without any known reason, and was detained by the police for over 48 hours before trial, a period which is beyond the legal limit of detention before court trial. The Coalition views this detention as a punishment being put on Mr. Maguyu for “…exposing injustice and for speaking out for the oppressed people of Marange.” The Crisis also believes that the government is “…aware that Mr. Maguyu is supposed to travel to Israel later in June to give evidence at the Kimberly process plenary regarding abuses in Marange.”

The Coalition called upon the Kimberly process to order an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this arrest. The Coalition further warned the government that the world is following the development of this case and will not be silent about it. Mr. Ruhanya further warned the state against any further harm to Mr. Maguwu.

The Coalition saluted the CRD staff members who are reported to be still in hiding and promised to be firm in support of Mr. Maguyu whose arrest, they say, is unwarranted interference with his liberty and is not in recognition of Mr. Maguyu’s basic human rights.

The Coalition also expressed deep concern over the resurgence of attacks and harassment of civil society organization and activists. Citing various cases such as Mrs Getrude Hambira, the Vice Chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Secretary General of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union (GAPWUZ) who was forced to flee Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa who was arrested in line with a photo exhibition, and lastly the case of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) employees who were reportedly tortured in police custody and later granted bail.

The Coalition further called for a complete overhaul of the government system “…to ensure that the judiciary, public prosecutors and state security agents are non-partisan, independent, impartial and professional.”

During the conference news arrived that Mr. Maguyu was finally brought to court on the 8th of June 2010, and the state was opposing a bail application by Mr. Maguyu’s lawyer.

Foreign investors need their due respect

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

The Zimbabwean newspaper of 7 June 2010 reports that the Minister Kasukuvere threatened foreign business people with unknown action if they continue working in areas designated for locals by the law. The paper quotes Kasukuvere as saying,

“Come the 30th of June if they are still operating in areas which are reserved for our people by the Indigenisation law they will see what will happen to them. They have come in our country and taken our buildings, displaced our people and even gone to our rural areas to displace our small business traders. How do you come from all that far and come sell milk here in Zimbabwe where do you want milk from our people to be sold to when foreigners are taking the market?”

The head of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Economic Empowerment organization, President Paddington Japajapa, is also reported to have promised to incite local business people to attack foreign owned businesses if Kasukuwere failed to chase them away.

From the look of these threats there are plans to chase these business people the Murambatsvina way, which is grossly inhuman. After all a months notice is unfair. It should be known that these people never entered through closed doors. Neither did they just swarm to occupy these premises without the consent of the owners of the buildings and the government itself.

These entrepreneurs only took advantage of a niche that existed – where were our local businessmen when the premises were taken over?  Where were Kasukuvere and Japajapa? If they the foreigners are selling milk, it means no one was selling that milk before they came.

It seems our local entrepreneurs are not risk takers at all. They have watched the premises being taken by better innovative people. Now they are seeing success and are now resorting to the law to chase them away.

All I am saying is that there is no need to treat these foreigners without respect as if they raided our premises in our absence. There is no need to hate them as if they have not helped us in our times of need by investing in this country.

Has the Zimbabwean police force turned commercial?

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

There are media reports that the police have applied for a license to mine diamonds at Chiadzwa. The police are also said to be demanding $3 million to offer security to COPAC during the Constitution consultation excise.  I am not a policeman, neither do I know much about policing, but I think the force has gone offside. It is the duty of the policeman to offer security to its citizenry; we have always known that the police offer services free of charge. Ensuring security during the constitution making process is just but one such duty.

Maybe the police need to clarify if it has turned into yet another parastatal, or if we now operate with a private police force in the country. This move by the police has potential to bring commotion in the near future. For example, if the police have a license to mine the precious diamonds, the army will need the same privilege and the same applies to all civil servants.

I am personally convinced that once the mining system operates in a transparent and accountable way, the income flows into government coffers should benefit all Zimbabweans, including the police.

We as citizens demand that businesses be run as businesses and that greedy spirits should not ruin our country. Policemen at roadblocks and anywhere else have turned corrupt.

It seems the whole system is becoming rotten.

God intervene.

Ndeipi Msika – Zimbabwe’s vendors get information

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Monday, May 31st, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

The formal sector of Zimbabwe is struggling to revive. Many people are surviving through informal and largely illegal means. Vending is an activity that has kept poor families alive and their children in school. Despite this important contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of the Zimbabwean, vending has always been a risky business.

On Friday 28 May 2010, Kubatana.net launched a vendor-wrapping sheet called “Ndeipi Msika“. The aim of this paper is to have the vendor community made aware of social issues that affect them, their relatives and friends. The majority of vendors are women; it is therefore no accident that the first wrapper contains significant coverage of women issues.

Vendors took advantage of the opportunity of meeting us to air pertinent issues, which they want addressed by authorities.

The hottest issue was the affordability, availability and accessibility of vendor licenses. The current annual charge for licenses is about US$150. Vendors complain that this amount is too much for them to afford given that their products give them a turnover of less than US$20 on a good day.

One vendor suggested that a system be introduced where vendors pay for their licenses on a monthly basis rather than the hefty once off payment. She further complained that the geographical coverage of the licenses is too small for a viable vending business.  She suggested that there be introduced a vendor license which covers the whole country so that vendors can easily follow the geographical demand of the goods that they offer.

Other vendors complained about shop managers who chase them away from places where they have been vending for the past 14 years or more. The vendor described the managers as overzealous people who forget that whenever thieves’ loot from their shops, vendors always help by chasing and catching the shoplifters. She added that the vendors often cover the gap when shops run out of stock of a given commodity, and thus the shopping centre does not loose its customers to other shopping centres. She concluded by reminding the shop managers that in business even competitors need each other.

Vendors also complained about the police behaviour. There is the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on the one hand, and the Municipality police on the other. Of the two, licensed vendors prefer to deal with the municipality police whom they think understand them. They do not really understand the role of the ZRP in the vending business. They blame the ZRP for arresting, tormenting and demanding kickbacks. This, they said, puts unnecessary pressure on their business, which generally does not have a lot of profit.

The vendor wrapper was welcomed by a lot of vendors and they expressed hope that the wrapper will include information on their issues.

Arrest one, imprison all in Zimbabwe

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Thursday, May 20th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

One society that we often forget and rarely think of, mainly because, by its very nature it is isolated from our day-to-day association and interaction, is the prison. The conditions in prisons are therefore usually understated unless being narrated by a prisoner.

Recently I met a lady in her fifties carrying a basket of food and a lunch box. She hesitantly approached me and asked, “Son, do you know how I can get to the remand prison near Newlands?”

“Oh yes mama let me show you”, I answered.

She must have realized that I was a bit interested in talking further with her, because she waited a moment longer after I had shown her directions. This was a chance I could not let go. I asked why she was going to the prison at that time of the day carrying such luggage as food. Her face suddenly changed, she turned and spoke slowly with gasps of sighs in between her words. I could see tiny drips of tears making their way along the wrinkles around her eyes. To avoid direct eye contact, she looked down and started to narrate the story of her son who was arrested and sentenced to three months in prison. She said her son was at Matapi in Mbare, and when she got there with the food this morning she heard that he was taken to the Remand Prison. Where he will be taken to after Remand, she is not sure but what she is sure of is that he was sentenced to serve three months and that she was supposed to look for his food daily for that long. She was not sure if she could sustain the three months of moving about every morning, where would she get the money for transport let alone the food itself? It seems the son was the breadwinner of the family and the old lady had to pay for his sins; the whole family behind, so to speak.

The food supply in prisons is reprehensible; families are struggling to feed their imprisoned. A one-year sentence means the family suffers for a year as well. That led me to ask a policeman what happens to those whose relatives are far from the prisons or those who cannot afford to bring food. He chose to use the phrase “survival of the fittest” and didn’t divulge much detail. He was only at liberty to disclose that cigarettes are in demand in prisons. If one has a pack of cigarettes, then he is assured of food as he can trade it with food with those whose relatives can supply it daily.

Zimbabwean prisoners might never face a worse hell than the present. The punishment ripples out to innocent family members who have to supply for food on daily basis. If one member is arrested, practically every family member is in prison. What a horrible state.

Wielding a sword against corruption

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Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

Corruption is a deplorable activity that haunts Zimbabwe across all walks of life. Corruption is spreading like a veldt fire and a tough stance by all stakeholders is well overdue. The African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption (APNAC) Zimbabwe chapter has taken it upon its shoulders to weather the storm by calling their first press conference to publicly express their denunciation of any form of corruption in the country.

Speaking at the conference, the Chairman for APNAC, Honourable Willas Madzimure, expressed concern that some public office bearers are busy enriching themselves at a time when the taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. He called upon the President of Zimbabwe to quickly appoint the Anti Corruption Commission, which might help look into these issues. He also added that the Commission so assigned should promptly give feed feedback to the parliamentarians. Honourable Madzimure also called upon the government to implement the law that requires members of parliament and senior government officials to declare their assets to the state before assuming public office, stressing also that their accumulation of wealth should be put under public scrutiny.

Honourable Madzimure made it clear that Members of Parliament have the right to access any sector to find facts on behalf of the people whom they represent. His statement comes amid reports that the government barred MPs from the Mines and Energy portfolio committee from touring the Chiadzwa diamond fields on a fact-finding mission to understand the background to the allegations of corrupt dealings involving senior government officials.

APNAC expressed condemnation of the mis-allocation of residential stands, approval of substandard and incomplete infrastructure developments and abuse of council property including vehicles. He also expressed concern over the reports that councilors are allegedly allocating themselves houses belonging to the poor and on reports that illustrate corruption by high-level government official and influential business people. He called upon the police to desist from assuming a reluctant stance when handling corruption cases that involve government officials when they are reported.

Though the Honourable Madzimure did not mention any names, it was apparent that the APNAC criticism was directed at the council house scandal and the corruption that has entangled Minister Chombo and the flamboyant businessman, Chiyangwa, who boasts of owning almost a fifth of the city of Harare. The two men are alleged to have connived with top city officials to allocate themselves vast tracts of land. The case is still under police investigation, though a council report clearly pointed out anomalies in the manner in which land deals were undertaken.

Responding to the question whether APNAC is prepared to shoulder potential victimisation and dangerous consequences in their endeavor to combat corruption involving very powerful politicians, APNAC members stressed that they have sacrificially placed themselves on the persecution altar, for the cause of good governance. However to achieve better results the APNAC called for synergies with the police and other interested parties that share the same hatred for corruption.