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Archive for the 'Activism' Category

Show us some respect, City of Harare

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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

This morning, I attended a seminar at which Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Samuel Undenge, said that information in the public interest should be available to the public, across every area of government.

This statement in itself is refreshing, given Zimbabwe’s tendency to make even public information inaccessible to people (take the recent examples of polling stations and local government election results). And his comments came at a discussion on ZimAsset, which explicitly lists ICT and e-Governance (including getting the Registrar General’s office online by this month!) as one of its goals.

This afternoon, my experience showed just how far Zimbabwe has to go to honour this pledge, if indeed government is sincere in offering it.

The City of Harare 2014 Budget is currently under review, and the proposed tariffs for 2014 are available for public inspection. The idea is that, since it’s residents who will have to pay the fees, residents should be able to inspect the fees before they are finalized, and also should be able to register any complaints about them. Residents have one month to do this, and this year the complaints submission phase ends at close of business on 11 December 2013. (If you’re a super keen outraged resident type, find more details about how to do this on the tariff document.)

So this afternoon, I went to my district office and asked to see the income and expenditure budget. “You want to see it here?” The receptionist asked me. Yes, I told her, and she handed me a 37 page document. She could not photocopy it for me, and I was not allowed to take it away to make a copy of it and return it. So instead, I took a picture of each page, and pasted these into a PDF document.

This is a ridiculously inefficient way to do things. The City of Harare 2014 Budget is available on their website. Why not make the tariff schedule available there too? And, what about a completely radical suggestion – Make the documents spreadsheet friendly and easily computer readable, so that people can actually analyse the data more easily, not just consume it. The way it stands, you can’t even readily tell if the tariffs they are referring to are monthly, quarterly, annual, or what.

Even more worryingly, the tariff schedule is a tiny fraction of what someone would need to know to assess concerns with the city budget. It lists what will be charged for city services – but not how many people might consume them, or how often. And it tells you nothing about expenditure. Even the budget speech, which is publicly available, is vague on detail particularly when it comes to expenditure.

When I phoned the city council to try and get more information, it was not readily available. I was referred to the health department, if I wanted more detail on the health licensing fees, and I was told to go to Cleveland House in person to ask any questions about advertising charges (the woman at Town House told me their phones don’t work). If I wanted more detail on the actual budget estimates for income and expenditure, I could come to the Chamber Secretary’s office, again in person, in the hopes that maybe they could help me.

In Section 288, the Urban Councils Act requires a city’s Finance Committee to “draw up and present for the approval of the council estimates in such detail as the council may require of the income and expenditure on revenue and capital accounts of the council for the next succeeding financial year.”

The same section also states that “Copies of the estimates approved in terms of subsection (1) shall be available for purchase by any person at such charge as may be fixed by the council: Provided that the charge fixed by the council shall not exceed such amount, if any, as may be prescribed.”

I find it hard to believe that the 2014 Budget Speech, which is available on the City of Harare website, represents the “council estimates in such detail as the council may require.” The document is readable, but it’s not detailed. Someone applying for a bank loan or developing a business plan would provide more detail on where their income would be coming from and how it would be spent.

So why does the City of Harare not treat its residents (read its revenue base) with the same respect?

Charges against Beatrice Mtetwa dropped

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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum shares this statement about the charges against Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa being dropped today:

In a week that shall always be remembered as consequential for the vindication of  Zimbabwean human rights defenders and civil society organisations, on 26 November,  Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa delivered a verdict of not guilty in the Beatrice Mtetwa  trial where charges of contravening Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The Prosecution had alleged that Mtetwa, a fiery and prominent human rights lawyer, had defeated or obstructed the course of justice. She was arrested on 17 March 2013 and had been defending the matter  in court since  10 June 2013.

According to the Forum’s Court Report, The Magistrate gave reasons for her judgment saying that  Mtetwa had done nothing to interfere with the investigations the police were conducting. She cited that the police testimony was contradictory and it did nothing to put the Mtetwa to her defence.

The inspection in loco conducted at the premises where the arrest was effected also served to cast the State’s case in doubt and bad light as it was established that there was no way Mtetwa could have interfered with what was going on in an area of the house where she could not see what was happening; whilst guarded and  in handcuffs  in a vehicle outside the premises.

The Magistrate castigated the police for presenting contradictory testaments when they are professionals whose work relies on observation. She also made it clear that it is not an offence to take photographs and in any case after forensic examination, Mtetwa’s phone was found without any evidence that photographs of the scene had been taken. The Magistrate found that there is no evidence that  Mtetwa stopped or interfered with the search and returned a verdict of not guilty.

In addition to the Mtetwa case, on 22 November the same Magistrates Court acquitted Abel Chikomo, the Forum’s Director on charges of running an ‘illegal’ organisation. The details of the case and our analysis can be accessed here.

Both the Mtetwa and Chikomo cases  are reminiscent of the infamous Glen View 29 case, in which Justice Bhunu chided police officers for their unprofessional conduct in arresting human rights campaigner Cynthia Manjoro and MDC-T youth assembly president Solomon Madzore and other activists as they did not have credible evidence linking them to the commission of the offence. In that case the judge said the police had arrested Manjoro as an inducement for her boyfriend to surrender himself to the police in connection with the commission of the offence. The Judge made these remarks  on 19 September when he passed a not guilty verdict on 21 of the Glen View 29 activists who include Cynthia Manjoro, Solomon Madzore, Stanford Maengahama, and others.

Given this pattern where the police arrest human rights defenders and the judiciary takes a different stance, albeit, very late, could this be the beginning of a new era in the Zimbabwean Judiciary? The jury is still out on this. There is more to be said about Zimbabwe’s justice delivery system.

Consultative meeting on Marlborough Wetland

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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

Notice from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA)

Dear All

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) invited Marlborough Residents and all Stakeholders to a consultative meeting on Local Environmental Planning (LEAP) for the restoration and conservation of Marlborough Vlei.

Marlborough Vlei is a Protected Wetland which provies many wetland and water provisioning services and functions to the people of Harare. The meeting seeks to raise awareness on the importance and value of wetlands. Together residents and local authorities, as well as all stakeholders, have an opportunity to decide the best way forward for the restoration and conservation of Marlborough Vlei.

Place: Marlborough Vlei, Newstead Road, Marlborough
Time: 8am – 1pm
Date: Saturday 23 November 2013

For further information please contact
EMA: 0773 609289 or 0773 404779
Marlborough District Office: 0774325882
Email: ema@ema.co.zw

British Embassy Harare Twitter Q&A Thursday

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

Ever wondered what an embassy does?

British Embassy Harare Deputy Head of Mission Chris Brown will be hosting a Twitter Question and Answer session on Thursday 21 November at 3pm Zimbabwe time. Follow him on @DHMChrisBrown and ask those burning questions.

For British Embassy Harare information updates including events, scholarships, and UK policy updates follow Ambassador Deborah Bronnert on Twitter @DeborahBronnert.

Don’t demonstrate against the wrong thing if you don’t want to get arrested

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Friday, November 15th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

Yesterday, demonstrators gathered outside the US Embassy to protest sanctions. They got a bit of attention on Twitter, and an article in The Herald, but it doesn’t sound like anyone was arrested. Never mind that actually, according to the US Embassy in Harare, the US “does not maintain sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe or the country of Zimbabwe.”

Meanwhile, last weekend students at Eveline Girls High School in Bulawayo held a peaceful demonstration to protest the lack of electricity at their boarding hostels.  Eight students were taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station and detained for around four hours.

Moral of the story? Demonstrate against non-existent sanctions and you won’t get arrested. But demonstrate against all-too-real failures at the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and you will.

Demolitions in Zimbabwe – People’s perspectives

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Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

Given the destruction of illegal structures which began in Ruwa this week, and the Ministry of Local Government’s take that they are actually trying to protect people, we asked our subscribers for their perspective on the demolition of illegal structures, and what they were seeing on the ground. This is some of their feedback:

  • Destruction of homes is inhuman with the crisis faced by people now, and in the rainy season. Some people are ruthless. I am not affected yet.
  • Yes, I am affected by the destruction of homes. It is not good, we are left homeless.
  • Here in Norton nothing much.
  • They must first provide shelter then destroy. If they destroy now, where are they going to stay? Too bad.
  • Nothing has happened yet in Chitungwiza butpeople have been warned. But this time we are going to fight back because this is politics. We have been allocated these stands by council and some buying from registered cooperatives. Chitown council approved these stands but today Zanu PF wants to destroy them.
  • Tsunami again
  • Ndiyo inonzi bhora mugedhi akomona. Let us not be more worried about these people whose houses and tuck shops are being destroyed by Murambatsvina. They are the same people who voted Zanu PF, it is again an eye opener. They forgot Murambatsvina yekuma2005. Hazvititadzise kudya sadza.
  • This destruction is killing people. If for the bet they have to build houses for people and market places or give people stands.
  • Murambatsvina 2 ma 1. But here in rural Chipinge hatisati taiona. Keep on updating us.
  • It is so touching that the authorities let people build and then at last they say it is illegal so togarepi nhayi Havana tsitsi nesu shuwa.
  • I have not yet seen this, I’m in Mutare. As soon as zvangosvika we will let you know.
  • This move is wrongly timed and what is the solution since our economy is down, those tuck shops are sustaining lives for many Zimbabweans.
  • This is nuisance and those affected should retaliate
  • Buhera RDC abolished illegal vendors within the growth point, a public notice of one month. The vendors were a menace polluting and evading tax shrinking council revenue.
  • These are the same people who gave us these so called illegal stands before the elections and now they want to divide the population again and drive people back to their strong holds namely rural areas. It’s wrong.
  • I think all Zimbabweans must unite and demonstrate against Zanu PF plan because if we cannot show them true colour they think that is in good direction.
  • Shanties bad but planning important.
  • I am not affected by this but this is not fair. Where are those people going to stay. Zvavarikushandisa pakuputsa zvadii zvashandiswa pakukudevelopa. Marod akafa, magetsi arikunetsa. Hurumende ngaisada kutambudza vanhu ichidaro.
  • Hey, I wonder what was that same minister doing when he allowed erection of illegal structures for the past years. Wasn’t he looting people’s money from such illegal land allocation? The so-called Mr Weapon is so wrong cause I don’t see any reason why he take such a stance as if when such activities were happening. I feel pity for those who will be affected.
  • I am not affected but I foresee some disaster. A real crisis. Rise in rentals. Invasion of some neighbouring farms or forests just like the Hopley case. Ma1.And this will be disorder by trying to put order. I believe remedies should be done at appropriate times. My bigger question is why did they allow this to take place for the past years if they knew it was not apt?
  • Report frm the ground; vagari vemaseke vanogara munharaunda dzinoti Murisa,kuora,chitsvatsva and kaseke varikuchema chaizvo mushure mekunge pabhuda nyaya yekuputsirwa dzimba varikuti ivo havasi kuzorega kusungisa avo vakavatengesera.apo vakapihwa piriod ye7days kuti vapaze dzimba idzi nekumira kuvaka bt as for nw hapana ati apaza.vamwe vevatengesi veland iyi varikutiza munyika nekuti havasisina mari yekudzosera varidzi they were nt investing they just buy car’s 2 cover there povart.
  •  Hie i’m from ruwa.the destruction of tuckshops happened and it was bad, but now people still sell here tuckshops were destroyed, but now in open space
  • Yes the destruction of homes & tuckshops has begun. Yes i’m really affected though not direct bcoz my relatives and friends ar suffering as a result of this  second phase of murambatsvina/vanhu. It is very painful and a great lose to all investments done by the pple only to be destroyed within some seconds by the notorious zanu pf. Im experiencing the ongoing suffering of the zimbabweans & th highest level criminal activities being enforced by this government. We ar now experiencing a bad system of governance.   I think pple should unite and stand up.