Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Author Archive

Inspiring conversation through art

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

Last week I got to meet Toni Crabb a Zimbabwean Barcelona based visual artist. Toni has been working in the arts industry for the past 23 years and has done quite a number of exhibitions. Drawing her inspiration from things, which worry her, and things which give her energy Toni, inspires conversation through her art work.

In a small village in Spain with 300 inhabitants, she went onto the football pitch and painted the goalpost pink decorating it with flowers, plants chairs making it into a space for doing interviews with people. “I wanted audience participation, I didn’t want to be the one making the images. I wanted to gather images from the audience relating to female sex pleasure. At first I didn’t know if it would work but I got a got a lot of interest and people participating,” Toni said. After showing the audience the sexual response curve – a line that shows pleasure and orgasm – she got people to discuss the results.

Asked on why Toni specifically chose this topic Toni had this to say, “The reason I did this is because there is little imagery that women make that we can actually feel and relate to about our own pleasure and sexual experience.” Other issues that the artist covers in her work are social issues like people’s relationship to the space around them and people’s relationship to the environment. You can follow Toni on her website here.

Zimbabwe improves on the Visa Restriction Index

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

The Visa Restriction Index reveals that Zimbabweans can visit 60 nations with just a passport. Zimbabwe has improved by two countries from its 2012 position. The compilers of the list, Henley and Partners state that there are 219 countries in the world. UK, Finland and Sweden have 173 nations allowing their citizens passport only access while Afghanistan citizens can only visit 28 countries with just a passport.

Analytical reports on the Visa Restriction Index have revealed that this list shows that membership of the European Union is a key determinant of ease of movement across frontiers as evidenced by countries who are at bottom of the list – Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also they have pointed out the imbalance between ease of access for citizens of rich nations and poor nations – no African country made it to the top ten.

World Postal Day

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

9 October marks the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union established in 1874. Today many years down the line the use of post has dwindled due to the advancement of technology. I remember when I was growing up I would check the ‘letterbox’ each time I walked past the gate. Sometimes I would go to gate solely to check the letterbox. Now I click buttons to check my Gmail mailbox.

Walking into a local post office in Harare you will discover that they have now ventured into offering other services like Ecocash, selling motor insurance and selling CDs. They have taken the stance of being ‘bambazonke’ in their quest for business survival. Who can blame them in Zimbabwe where many businesses have expanded their services to survive? Word on the street has it Chicken Inn will be selling sadza soon.

Despite the challenges being faced by post offices in Zimbabwe, it is important to recognise their efforts in delivering mail. Over the years Kubatana has been sending postal products to its membership. Most recently Kubatana sent out postcards through the postal service and one enthusiastic subscriber had this to say when they asked to get some postcards: “I cant wait to get the postcards so I can send a love letter to my mum and sweetheart. Technology has killed letter writing and the anxiety of waiting for the postman to deliver that special letter…”

Despite Internet uptake being high in Zimbabwe there still exists that group of people who do not have access to the Internet. By sending postal products to its membership Kubatana has been able to reach some of its remotest members in Sadza, Mbalabala, Mudzi, Watsomba, Mbire, Chibuwe to mention a few who do not have access to the Internet.

Thus joining the world as it commemorates World Postal Day is of paramount importance to Kubatana. Thank you Mr Postman for that anticipation of waiting for a letter in the letterbox by delivering our products using your services!

It comes down to deciding to live life in the moment

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Friday, September 20th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

A short interview with Tom Soper

In your last interview with Kubatana you were recovering from a serious, life altering accident. Share with us your hospital experience.
It was really terrifying particularly at the outset because I was supposedly unconscious for two weeks. But actually even though I was unconscious it was a different kind of consciousness. There were a lot of nightmares in it. It was a gradual awareness of the changes that were coming with physical disability. It was reshaping my life. This was an opportunity to come back with a different perspective on day-to-day activities, things I had taken for granted, getting back on the spiritual path and being able to inspire others.

Can you share with us what has inspired you lately, or what inspires you in general?
I am inspired by the sheer wonder of life. I am inspired by the night sky. I am inspired by the sheer extent of space and time. I am inspired by the infinite detail of what’s around us. I am inspired by people’s courage, goodness and potential. Some people who go about using their potential like yourselves at Kubatana; Bev and Amanda inspire me.

What are your views on the key ingredients for the future of a successful Zimbabwe?
With my background in finance the straightforward answer is that we need some liquidity in this economy. That basically means direct foreign investment. We do not have the industry that is adding value to create that internal ability to get back on track. If we are exporting one or two billion dollars of goods every year and importing 7 billion there is a gap there that needs to be filled with simple economics. That can be filled by direct foreign investment and therefore there should be a platform to attract that investment … which comes down to politics.

What advice would you give yourself if you were starting all over again?
The rules I work on now are the generic rules like no matter how bad things may seem, they could always be quite a lot worse for others. To get stuck in your own problems is really not helpful at all. If you sit back and look at your own problems and then think of other people’s problems they tend to get smaller quite quickly. So in terms of philosophy, nothing is permanent. If nothing is permanent, it means problems will go away, but it’s up to you to take note of how much you want to suffer until that point. It takes patience, strength and the knowledge that life is full of injustices.

The other advice I try and reflect on every morning is to try and not take too much for granted. Also to look at time and perspective; a Buddhist perspective that says the past is gone and you can’t change it leaves you with a clean slate of the present. A lot of people are caught up in the past and do not realise how much influence they really have over their way of being.

In your own view should anything be labeled wrong or right?
I think the question of right or wrong is quite subjective because society has set certain rules that say this is right or wrong which is a basis for the law and a moral system. But I think society has gone a little bit too far – in particular education and religious systems – they are not as flexible as they might be.

What is your present state of mind?
I am in a good space. I am developing the ability to take a step back and have a look around me without getting caught up in my distractions. Whilst I see things that may be painful, I am more okay with that, than I used to be. I wouldn’t say positive, but I would say open.

The renowned poet Seamus Heaney died recently. He wrote: “The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life.” What comes up for you when you reflect on his words?
I think that for me, it comes down to deciding to live life in the moment. I know it’s a cliché as if there is no tomorrow! You can either be bold and go for things that you are passionate about, or you can live in a shell – thinking that it’s probably a safer place. When I heard those words they reminded me of the quote I have in my office, “Life begins at the outer edge of your comfort zone,” and I would equate that to the bold in the poem. That is really where life does begin; if you are not bold about looking for and accepting new things, you will probably reach your deathbed with quite a lot of regrets.

The Naked Option: examples of activism

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Thursday, August 29th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

The Naked Option, Last Resort documentary was screened at the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) in Harare this week. The documentary is a bold inspiration to the many women’s groups and movements across Africa that have taken up protest as part of their activist campaigns. Directed by Candace Schermerhorn and set in Nigeria’s Delta region, which is very rich in oil, the documentary chronicles the challenges grassroots women, and the environment face at the hands of oil companies operating in this region.

The women were pushed to protest due to the high level of environmental degradation caused by oil companies in the Niger delta who flared out gas into the air, polluting water and land. As a result farming and fishing was no longer viable for the women. Another factor that brought outrage was the companies’ reluctance in employing their husbands, brothers and sons. In the documentary the women said that the only benefit they derived from Chevron’s operation in the community was the heat produced when they flared gas. They would dry their cassava using this heat; a process, which usually took days, using the sun’s heat, would only take 5 hours. To them, in as much as this flared gas was a major threat to their environment and health, they saw it as the only direct benefit to their community. However, there then came a time when they were not allowed to enter the oil company’s premises so they could dry or collect their cassava.

In South Africa they famously say ‘Wathintha umfazi wathintha imboko’ (you strike a rock you strike a woman). With all these misgivings about the oil company’s operations, the women took it upon themselves to protest at Chevron’s premises. They spent weeks on the site and disrupted the company’s operations. They gained the attention of the company when they resorted to stripping naked during the protests. In the documentary one of the activists said, “Naked I came to this world, naked I leave”, to show how they had removed the shyness of being naked in peoples eyes as well as their determination. In their tradition it is taboo to strip naked, especially an elderly woman. An example was given that if an elderly woman is offended and strips naked in front of their offender they would have cursed the offender. This group of women protesting comprised of women of all ages, and elderly women were also a part of the group. Thus them stripping naked brought the attention of local and international media and the oil companies too who agreed to sign MOUs with the women where they made ‘empty’ promises. Empty as in up to when the documentary was screened in 2011; none of those promises had been achieved.

This documentary shows the power of women coming together. It took a few minutes for those women to decide they were going to invade Chevron’s premises and then when they managed to stop the company’s operations the women would take 12 hour duties to guard and protest within the premises giving each other time to attend to their household chores.

The Naked Option is a great inspiration to women’s activism and to also question corporate responsibility. Often companies come to extract minerals within communities and concentrate on making the minimum operational costs at the expense of the community’s health, environment and development. My mind went to the families in Chiadzwa and I felt that Sheila Mutsenhu, the lady who stripped naked in front of the US Ambassador in Mutare earlier this year protesting against sanctions in Zimbabwe, should have better directed her efforts. Her being a citizen in the Manicaland province where Chiadzwa diamond mines are located, her zeal would be more beneficial if directed to the cause of women’s issues in the area. Maybe one day she will lead a group of the Manica women to protest demanding better living conditions.

This year is the 12th edition of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) and it will run from the 23rd to the 31st of August in Harare. It will move to Bulawayo from the 5th to the 7th of September. You can download the programme here.

Citizen journalism in Zimbabwe

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

Liz blog

Mobile phones have played an important role in bridging the information gap with the use of SMS and Whatsapp to mention just a couple. In Zimbabwe a great majority of the population own a mobile handset with a greater proportion having access to the Internet on their phone. Many think that phones are merely used to convey messages but smart phones have changed the dynamics. I know a book, Diary of a Zulu Girl, which was written using a mobile phone.

I was privileged to participate in the Mobile Community Zimbabwe (MCZ) project. According to their website: “MCZ is a project that gives ambitious young Zimbabweans a voice and a platform to share and exchange information through mobile telephony, video and social media. Using an application called StoryMaker, the MCZ project equips young Zimbabweans from across the country with skills to use mobile phones to tell effective stories about themselves and their communities.”

I attended a one-week training where a group of other enthusiastic young Zimbabweans from different walks of life were trained to use the software application StoryMaker on our mobile phones. With the aim of promoting citizen journalism MCZ encouraged participants to tell those untold stories in our communities.

I appreciate that MCZ made me open my eyes to various challenges and activities going on in communities. Without MCZ I would have not spent a day feeding children in Mbare at a soup kitchen. Without MCZ I would have not met the mentally challenged women at Harare Central Hospital who make beautiful bags to generate income to take their mind away from the stressing issues of life that cause depression.

Despite the repressive media laws in the country which inhibit such projects, a lot of participants went out of their way to make MCZ a success as evidenced by the video stories published on their website. For me my journey has been fruitful. MCZ has taught and equipped me to tell video stories. I have made friendships, which support my different spheres of life. A big thanks to Free Press and trainers for making this journey possible.