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Priscilla Misihairabwi’s defeat is a defeat for all women

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Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 by Fungisai Sithole

I attended Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga’s press conference yesterday the 17th of May 2010 at Meikles Hotel where she announced that she was relinquishing all her claims to her late husband Christopher Mushonga’s estate. As she went through her statement outlining the challenges she had endured since the death of her husband in August last year, I could see a tormented face, a face filled with bitterness, anger and frustration.  Tears filled my eyes as in front of me stood a defeated woman who was using the little strength left in her to announce her defeat.  The most confusing part was the involvement of the CIOs and the police in an issue that was already in the civil courts. Priscilla’s relatives were being harassed and intimidated and all this was meant to break her spirit not only to fight for her husband’s estate but also her political spirit.

The painful part is that I have known Priscilla Misihairabwi as a fighter and a woman liberator and for her to end up throwing in the towel on an issue I believed she had every right to contest, I got scared, scared for myself and all the other women that are in marriages and those that are widows.

After the press conference people stood in groups discussing Minister Mushonga’s announcement. People held mixed views on this because some felt Priscilla had disappointed and broke the spirits of all the people who believe in women’s liberation and some felt that she was only human and could only take so much. To me what Priscilla did might be a disappointment to many but her action and decision is a sign and a depiction of the reality in Zimbabwe. Our society is still very patriarchal and continues to pull down and destroy women who attempt to liberate themselves. All those women who attempt to fight for their survival are labelled as prostitutes, witches and gold diggers. Clearly, Zimbabweans have not fully addressed the issue of supporting women and the civic society groups have not clearly supported Priscillah yet they claim to support disadvantaged women and to me she is one woman who has been disappointed.

Priscilla’s defeat is defeat for all of us. I therefore urge women to rise up in support of her so that she at least gets a decent home to live in.

The prospects of a Government of National Unity

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Friday, February 6th, 2009 by Fungisai Sithole

The agreement to form a government of national unity between ZANU PF and the two MDC formations has been concluded, raising hopes for Zimbabweans to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding the country.

The GNU, signed by the three political parties namely ZANU PF represented by its President, Robert Mugabe, MDC-T by President, Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC represented by Professor Arthur Mutambara has come at a time when Zimbabwe is experiencing economic meltdown of immense proportions with all economic indicators pointing to a collapsing economy. The agreement has come at a time when Zimbabwens are exhausted and weary and are leaving the country in droves as they see no prospects for positive change both politically and economically. They see no prospect for change if the regime of Robert Mugabe is not democratically transformed so that it seriously addresses the issues that at the core of the citizen’s needs. The agreement has come in at a time when there seems to be no consensus both at home and abroad on what should be done first in order to deliver change to the people of Zimbabwe.

While there is a general agreement among political analysts both locally and internationally, that the agreement could have given ZANU PF breathing space to re-strategize, entrench itself and ultimately destroy the opposition, there is equally strong arguments that support the agreement and see it as the prescription that will turn the fortunes of Zimbabwe.

Given that the agreement was signed at the behest of the regional grouping, SADC as its under writers, one gets solace in that the regional body would want to ensure that the agreement succeeds. While the history of ZANU PF will vindicate those who argue that the agreement will fail because of ZANU PF’s unreliability and insincerity to the observance of the agreement, it is equally true that ZANU PF has never been subjected to an embarrassing electoral defeat such as the one handed to them by the MDC. This is likely to force ZANU PF to take a serious view of the power-sharing arrangement, as they would want to use it to restore some measure of respectability on the electoral loss suffered at the hands of MDC.

The MDC on the other hand has the opportunity to prove to all and sundry that the future of  Zimbabwe belongs to them and if given the opportunity to govern, they are an excellent alternative. One other aspect that works in favour of the MDC is the economy which seems to have bolted out of the control of ZANU PF and has over a decade shown to be their greatest opposition. ZANU PF cannot and will not turnaround the economy. If as expected under the inclusive government, the economy begins to work positively whether on account of the removal of sanctions or not, credit will go to the MDC. ZANU PF has had its fair share of 29 years of total failure and Zimbabweans are well aware of that.

One argument that has been proffered is that ZANU PF has allocated itself all the powerful security Ministries and will thus prevail over the opposition.  While this might sound true, I do not believe the allegiance and sympathy of Zimbabweans is earned on account of the power of force that one yields but rather on the fulfilment of promises that one has made to the Zimbabwean people. The ball is in the court of the opposition to prove to Zimbabweans that they can walk the talk by fulfilling the promises made over the years during their struggle for the democratisation of Zimbabwe.

Dead by the road side

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Monday, January 12th, 2009 by Fungisai Sithole

A pitiable sight of a young girl aged around six to seven years, seated by the roadside, with a huge black bungle lying on her thighs caught my attention. The young girl was seated in an awkward area, in the middle of nowhere, a place not meant for anyone to rest as it was bare with not even a tree for shade. I saw her as I drove from Bulawayo to Harare on Christmas day.

I stopped. I got out of the car and called to the child who then told me that lying on her knees was her mother who was resting and they were going to proceed home once her mother had rested enough. I moved closer to them only to realise that her mother was already dead. I looked at the child who looked hungry and emaciated yet convinced and hopeful that they were going to proceed with their journey back home. What was not known to her was that her mother was dead. Dead by the roadside.

Tears streamed down my eyes as I pitied the child whose fate no one knew. I could not tell her that her mother was dead. I simply left and phoned the Bulawayo Central Police Station and reported the case. The response from the police officer I spoke to, Constable Phiri, shocked me. He told me that the station had no fuel to go and collect the body and suggested that I find a private funeral home to assist the child.

I was so upset and decided to leave the issue hoping that someone from close by would assist the child. This decision I made never put my heart to rest. The thoughts and picture of the little girl still haunt me. The scene reflected the level of the socio-economic crisis bedeviling Zimbabwe with children left to their own devices to deal with issues they can hardly fathom.

Objects of pity

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Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

I recently travelled to South Africa to attend a work related seminar. From the moment I heard that I was going to be part of the team that would travel to South Africa I was overjoyed. Some people may wonder why this was so? The joy arose just from the thought that I was going to eat a healthy meal, be in an environment where there were no burst sewage pipes, get clean cholera free water from a tap and just enjoy a hot shower and more so be able to watch my favourite TV programme as there would be electricity.

With just the thought of travelling to Johannesburg, my pregnancy suddenly felt light, my body was rejuvenated and energised because of the excitement. The moment I got out of the airport in Johannesburg, a sense of relief engulfed me, that feeling one enjoys when a huge burden has been lifted off his or her shoulders. Just the thought of being away from grim poverty, frustration and misery aroused this euphoria in me, the euphoria I last felt as a kid when Xmas was approaching.

On my day of arrival in Johannesburg I did not have any meeting scheduled so I had time to move around and admire the plenty and abundance in the South African shops.  As I moved around the Johannesburg shopping malls I was surprised to hear the jingle of Christmas carols signalling the coming festive season, a thing you hardly find in Zimbabwe. I was suddenly drawn to the reality of the times. What really shocked me was that we were approaching the end of 2008 and yet I did not feel the festive mood in Zimbabwe. As I continued moving down the malls, I was surprised at the number of people doing their Christmas shopping and the fully stocked shops. I rushed into the baby shops and bought stuff for my baby to come. I wanted to buy everything in the shop as I was surprised by both the affordability and availability of goods, the goods I never find in my country.

In the grocery shop, I bought basic food stuffs and even bought sour milk as I have a serious craving for it. Unfortunately when I got to the airport I did not know that liquids such as milk and drink were not allowed into the plane as hand luggage. The South African security officer told me to go back to the checking in point and request inclusion of the milk and drink in my luggage. She told me that I could not leave my stuff as I would need the stuff back home. The South Africans wrapped my two  2 litre bottles and helped me to check them in telling me that with the suffering in Zimbabwe I needed to carry the stuff. I appreciated the gesture of help but also felt pity for myself as by virtue of being a Zimbabwean people felt obliged to assist me as I came from a country well known for its humanitarian crisis.

Getting home, the first thing I noticed was the lifeless and miserable airport with little activity and this was a significant cue of the lifelessness of the Zimbabwean nation. The saddest part is that this is my home and this is where my baby is going to be born.

A death warrant to all Zimbabweans

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

A death warrant has been issued with immediate effect to all Zimbabweans following the closure of major government hospitals and clinics countrywide.

The Parirenyatwa and Harare Hospitals are just a few of many hospitals that have been closed for public treatment and consultations. The hospitals have been closed because of the unavailability of drugs, health personnel, water and electricity. Hospitals are now just dilapidated buildings whose state is symbolic of the crisis bedeviling the health sector. The hospitals are death waiting rooms where only those on the verge of dying are admitted hence the hospital authorities claim that only emergency cases are attended to. Recently, my friend lost a brother in law, a cholera case, who could not be attended to as he was deemed “not to be an emergency case.” As long as one goes to the hospital with a semblance of life, that person is deemed fit and therefore does not qualify to be an emergency case. One can only get admitted when through the naked eye he or she is clearly on their death bed and all they do at the hospital is to speed up your death as they have totally nothing to resuscitate life – from equipment to staff.

What the hospital authorities and the government of Zimbabwe need to know is that Zimbabweans are all emergency cases. No one can really be sane and healthy living in such miserable and unsafe conditions. The environment just makes one sick. People have no access to water, electricity, food, education and even their own cash in the banks. People now sleep in bank queues all for 500 000 dollars which is enough to buy a bunch of green vegetables. One wonders how Zimbabweans really survive and how such people can be normal and healthy when they are subjected to such injustices and disregard by the government that claims to be for them.

Denial of water is denial of life

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

Zimbabwe’s urban areas have for the past years been operating without adequate water supplies among other basic necessities such as food and electricity. Most cities have been transformed into rural areas as hordes of men and women carrying buckets of water for use at home are now a common sight. The only available sources of water are unsafe dug up wells and burst water pipes. Water taps have become relics of urban yesteryear life. To see water coming out of taps is now seen as a privilege and favour not a basic human right. Seeing water coming out of the taps now induces an element of fear, anxiety and uncertainty as people wonder when this privilege will end, somewhat bestowed on them by some mysterious water god.

If the water comes in the middle of the night, one is jolted out of deep sleep by the purring sound of pressure that spurs one into filling up containers before the life saving liquid disappears into the night. Zimbabweans have been stripped bare of their rights by an insensitive government concerned only about its survival. People move around with buckets in their hands and cars while some go to work carrying towels and soap with the hope of finding somewhere to fetch water or bath. Despite poor delivery of such basic social services Zimbabweans have continued to endure the suffering without any signs of spontaneous protests.

The situation however, seems to get worse by the day. Budiriro, Glenview and surrounding residential areas in Harare have been hit by a cholera outbreak which the government seems to play down. One of my friends recently lost a brother in Budiriro because of cholera and in that neighbourhood about five people have died during the month of October 2008. These deaths are a result of negligence and disrespect for human life by the responsible authorities. Budiriro has been without water for more than six months and the deaths I have mentioned are only those I am aware of. I believe there are many people who have died without being mentioned under the pretense of not wanting to cause alarm and despondency in the City of Harare.

Harare residents have been left to their own means and devices and they await the day cholera will strike them. Their life is at the mercy of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the government who does not seem to be moved at all by this calamity.

ZINWA’s motto:-”Water is Life” is emblazoned on ZINWA vehicles and office walls. The irony is amazing.  An institution mandated to facilitate accessibility of water is now infamous for denying people their right to life. People continue to die because they are being denied water, a basic human necessity.

How many people will have to die for ZINWA to act and provide people with safe water?