Dear Family and Friends,
Almost every day someone asks me what hope there is
for Zimbabwe. I must admit that I struggle to find an answer some days but when
I see the incredible bravery and outstanding work of ordinary people it gives
enormous hope and inspiration. I asked a friend in the Human Rights Forum to
help me update the list of names of people murdered in political violence for
the roll of honour on my website. She agreed but asked if she could also include
a few details on each person so that they don't just become numbers and
statistics. This alone gives me hope because it means that people care, no one
has suffered in vain and every person who has died for freedom will not be
forgotten - they have each taken us a step closer to democracy. Another cause
for hope came this week as the Zimbabwe Women Lawyer's Association began
gathering evidence to help release women being held and sexually abused in
camps run by government youths. Horrific tales are surfacing of women and girls
being abducted, gang raped and used day after day by young men who clearly think
they are above the law - their day of reckoning is now approaching thanks to
these caring Harare lawyers. Two women recounted
their horrific tales, one, a 55 year old from Murombedzi, told how she was
forced to attend a rally and gang raped when she tried to leave. "I did not do
anything wrong. ... For these youths to do this to someone old enough to be
their mother is unthinkable. ... They all took turns to rape me..." Another
woman from Rushinga said: "How can you be a legitimate leader to me when you got
that position by raping me, beating me up, burning my property, scarring my
son's back, taking over my home and taking away my dignity..." .
This week has seen renewed attempts by our
government to silence journalists in Zimbabwe. Under the guise of either the
Public Order and Security Act or the newly passed Access to Information Bill,
some of our country's bravest people have been picked up and charged with
various offences. Daily News owner and editor in chief, Geoff Nyarota was
arrested as was his chief reporter Pedzisai Ruhenya. The Zimbabwe Independent's
Editor, Iden Wetherell and senior correspondent Dumisani Muleya were also picked
up and charged. These journalists will not give up though and as our crisis
deepens more and more people are joining them, finding their voices and
principles and doing the right thing for Zimbabwe . All of these things are
cause for hope and help to dispel the
despair that often threatens to engulf us. This week's Financial Gazette carries
the story that war veterans have made new demands to the government. These
include a 150% rise in their monthly pension, a 60% increase in the school fee
allowance for each of their children and a new state subsidised medical aid
scheme to cover war veterans and their dependants. War veteran Andrew
Ndlovu also said to the Financial Gazette: "The war veterans should be appointed
as ministers or deputy ministers, governors, high commissioners, district
administrators and senior police officers." Very soon now we will again see who
is really in charge of Zimbabwe. Thanks as always for the messages of support
and encouragement and sorry that so many of you say you aren't receiving my
letter direct anymore - my email address has not changed so be persistent. Do
also let me know if you would rather be taken off my mailing list. Until next
week, with love, cathy. http://africantears.netfirms.com
Mugabe regime threatens media critics with jail
Andrew Meldrum in
Saturday April 20, 2002
The top United Nations
human rights watchdog considered alleged abuses in
Zimbabwe yesterday at the
end of a week in which President Robert Mugabe's
government used its
repressive new media laws to crack down on the press.
However, the 53-member
UN human rights commission did not vote on a
resolution on Zimbabwe,
sponsored by the European Union, which criticises
the allegedly rigged
presidential election in March and political
intimidation by the ruling
party, after Nigeria blocked the discussion.
Two newspaper editors and
one reporter were arrested and charged this week:
Geoff Nyarota, editor of
the country's only independent daily, the Daily
News, was charged under the
new law for publishing a story that alleged Mr
Mugabe's officials rigged the
election; and Iden Wetherell, editor of the
weekly Zimbabwe Independent, and
the paper's senior reporter, Dumisani
Muleya, were charged under the new act
for publishing a story about the Mr
report stated that the brother of Grace Mugabe had sought her help to
control of a white-owned food processing company. All three
face two years in jail under the new law.
"Our story was not remotely
defamatory," Mr Wetherell said. "The charge of
criminal defamation is widely
discredited internationally and has been
repealed or struck down by courts in
most other Commonwealth countries.
"Such laws to muzzle the media have no
place in a democracy. We will not
give in to such crude and clumsy efforts to
The government also prevented the top international analyst
from entering Zimbabwe. The former advisor to Bill Clinton
affairs, who is now with the International Crisis Group, a
tank, was refused entry to the country on Wednesday although
he had a valid
As co-director of the group's Africa programme,
Mr Prendergast had issued
several reports critical of the government and
recently described Mr
Mugabe's re-election as "illegitimate". He also lobbied
the US and the EU to
impose targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his
Speaking from South Africa, Mr Prendergast said his
expulsion "illustrates a
larger pattern of the government's subversion of any
dialogue to find a
positive way forward for Zimbabwe's future". He added:
community must take more robust action to isolate the top
officials of this
regime until they take specific steps to restore democracy
and the rule of
These are the latest incidents of growing
repression by the Mugabe
government since the presidential election last
month. Pro-Mugabe militias
have carried out a wave of violent retribution
against people suspected of
having supported the opposition Movement of
Democratic Change, according to
human rights monitors.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 19 April
Concern over SA's stance
Amnesty International has voiced "deep concern" over South
stance on a European Union resolution on violence by militia
"war veterans" in Zimbabwe, tabled at the United Nations Human
Commission in Geneva. Amnesty's UN lobbyist Cathy Turner said Amnesty
South Africa as a "key player" in the commission and among African
and had not yet committed itself to the resolution. Amnesty and the
the world community expected South Africa to take a stand against
rights violations because of its experience of apartheid, she said.
were rife in UN corridors that South Africa might sponsor a "no
motion against the resolution. This device, routinely used by China
scrutiny of its human rights record, would prevent the commission
considering the EU resolution. Turner pointed out that the African bloc
the 53-member commission tabled a resolution last year stipulating that
they had the right to table issues of concern to the continent.
sentiments were echoed at the New Economic Partnership for
Development talks, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, this week. South
presidential economic adviser Wiseman Nkuhlu, who is at the summit,
SABC that African countries wanted to be left alone to deal with
issues such as Zimbabwe in their own way.
The SABC also
reported that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had
criticised the "trade
union stance" - continental solidarity – adopted by
the African states on
Zimbabwe. Agency reports have speculated that
President Thabo Mbeki and
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo did not turn
up at the conference as a
possible rebuke to Wade for his critical stance.
Turner said the EU had held
talks with the African states on the resolution,
which asks Zimbabwe to
ratify the UN convention against torture and urges
the government "to fully
cooperate with all relevant mechanisms of the
Commission on Human Rights,
including inviting them to visit the country."
Requests by several UN human
rights special rapporteurs to visit Zimbabwe
have been turned down by the
Sources said that at South Africa's insistence the EU
paragraph recognising "the importance of fair, just and
reform" in Zimbabwe. The UN representative from Spain, now
chairing the EU
bloc, closely consulted the South African delegation on the
resolution urges Zimbabwean authorities to allow civil society
without fear of harassment or intimidation", as well as seeking
assurances of "full respect for freedom of opinion and expression,
freedom of the press in relation to all types of mass media."
indicated that South Africa might be softening its support for
protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. After 10 years of
compromise proposal has been tabled which would allow human
to inspect prisons round the world. Human rights monitors in
alleged widespread torture of opposition members by militiamen
South Africa's permanent representative at the
UN in Geneva, SG Nene,
originally pledged to co-sponsor a motion to pass the
proposal. But last
Wednesday diplomats were baffled when Nene stated that all
such new human
rights treaties should be adopted by consensus, not by a
Raising the bar in this way would almost certainly ensure that
dies. However, Turner said the South Africans "now seemed to be
Nene could not be reached for comment on South Africa's position
Foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa confirmed that the
African bloc at
the UN would abstain when the vote on the European resolution
is taken on
Friday. South Africa had not decided how it would vote.
Price of Fuel Set to Go Up
Daily News (Harare)
April 19, 2002
to the web April 19, 2002
THE price of fuel is set to go up next month despite denials
by the government. The increase will trigger off a new wave of price rises in a
host of products as well as in transport charges.
The last fuel price increases in June 2001 saw a massive 70
percent rise in the cost of fuel.
A senior official at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe
(Noczim), the country's sole fuel procurement agency, said prices would go up
early next month.
Officials in the oil industry yesterday dismissed as a mere
political statement, the recent assurances by the Minister of Mines and Energy,
Edward Chindori-Chininga, that there would be no fuel price rise in the near
The minister's statement comes in the wake of reports that
some motorists were now hoarding petrol and diesel in anticipation of an
Staff at most service stations confirmed to The Daily News
yesterday that a number of motorists were stockpiling large quantities of fuel
because of the widespread rumours of another price jump.
The senior Noczim official said: "The minister is just
playing politics. We know as a matter of fact that fuel prices will go up in the
next two to three weeks. In fact, prices were supposed to have gone up at the
beginning of April, but this was stopped for political reasons."
Speculation has been rife over the past few days that the
government was planning to increase the price of fuel by between 15 and 25
Petrol is now pegged at $74,47 a litre, while diesel costs
$66,39 a litre.
Increases in the price of fuel will trigger a fresh wave of
price rises across the board, worsening the plight of the majority of the
people, for whom transport cost constitutes a major part of their expenses. A
worker on average spends at least $1 400 a month on transport alone.
Chindori-Chininga said another increase was not planned
because of the turnaround at Noczim, which he said had seen the parastatal
"shedding off a $12 billion debt".
Libya is providing 70 percent of Zimbabwe's fuel
requirements amounting to US$30 million (Z$1,65 billion) monthly following the
signing of a US$360 million (Z$19,8 billion) facility between the two countries
Too hungry to celebrate
A new sound has joined the sounds of brotherly camaraderie amongst
war vets - the grumble of hungry stomachs.
As it celebrated its 22nd
Independence Day on Thursday, Zimbabwe's hangover
from a cocktail of economic
problems was evident.
The sea of economic deprivation, poverty and hunger
dampened the vigour and
electric atmosphere of previous
"Celebrating what? Independence, I can't rejoice with an
said war veteran Useni Rugotwi.
Rugotwi fought hard in
the liberation war that booted the British from power
in 1980. But the
struggle he now faces is that of survival.
"My children are starving, so
I better queue for mealie meal," he said.
Zimbabwe is reeling in the wake
of political violence, debt, foreign
sanctions and food
Foreign debt currently stands at US$5 billion and conservative
the inflation rate at 116%. Independent economists however put
the figure at
Food the most immediate need
immediate challenge that ordinary Zimbabweans face is where their
will come from.
The drought has left over five million people in
desperate need of food aid.
Most urban and rural families can only afford
one meal a day - the luxury of
an appetising breakfast has been foregone as
the price of basic commodities
continues to skyrocket.
many of the basics like sugar, mealie meal and cooking oil
simply are not
available in shops.
President Robert Mugabe, who was re-elected in last
poll, is facing a daunting task trying to import enough
maize to feed his
Zimbabwe's neighbours are also
feeling the affects of the crippling drought
and South Africa has stopped
exporting to Zimbabwe because its own stocks
are running low.
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank used to come to
in times of need. They have now turned their backs on the
Mugabe should accept responsibility for his debilitating
Politics 'of little importance'
They cited poor economic
policies, the absence of rule of law and the
country's costly military
intervention in Democratic Republic of Congo's war
as the root of Zimbabwe's
A recent report by the Zimbabwe coalition on debt
however placed the blame
of the recession firmly on the policies instigated
by the two institutions.
The World Bank has since said it misjudged
Zimbabwe's ability to take
advantage of economic liberalisation.
the politics of who is to blame is of little importance to the people on
streets. What is important, is that their basic needs of food,
shelter and employment are met.
To commemorate the country's
hard-won independence when there is no food in
your stomach is a hollow
Shifting blame and trading racial remarks won't do the
country any good,
said one analyst.
"Zimbabwe needs a dedicated
leadership to practically direct the country's
Unless the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) wins a
battle challenging the election result, 78-year-old Mugabe will rule
another six years. - African Eye News Service
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 18
Prophet of hope for a nation in
At a time of violent political
upheaval, millions of Zimbabweans regard singer Oliver Mtukudzi as a symbol of
It is a long way from the courtyard of the Queen's Hotel in
Harare, where his all-night shows in the Eighties and Nineties were legendary,
but when Zimbabwe's musical giant Oliver Mtukudzi plays in London this weekend
it will, in many ways, be a homecoming. Thousands of Zimbabweans have fled their
country in recent years for economic and political sanctuary in the UK, and many
of them will descend on the Stratford Rex on Saturday to welcome a man who is
both the social conscience and creative musical force of an entire nation.
Mtukudzi is here to promote his new album Vhunze Moto ("Burning Embers" in his
native Shona language). It is the 44th album in a career that stretches back to
the late Seventies, when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, Ian Smith was in power and the
country was in flames. Two decades on, Zimbabwe is burning once more, wrecked by
horrific political violence, economic meltdown and one of the worst Aids crises
in Africa. If "burning embers" is an appropriate metaphor for the nation,
Mtukudzi's role as artist, social commentator and national unifier is as vital
today as it has ever been.
Surprisingly, Vhunze Moto has not been banned in Zimbabwe. The
album cover depicts a map of the country in flames, and the track from which the
title comes, Moto Moto ("Fire is Fire") is a moving Shona ballad that fans
interpret as a warning to President Mugabe of impending catastrophe. "Even
embers are fire," it translates. "Why wait until it's a huge flame to accept
that it's fire?" Despite its often upbeat jiti rhythms and soaring vocal
harmonies, a sense of foreboding permeates much of the album. Tapera ("We Have
Been Decimated") is a tragic ballad about Aids - more than one million
Zimbabweans are HIV positive. Perhaps most controversial is Magumo ("How Will It
All End?"), a call-and-response number sung in Shona and Ndebele, the language
of the minority Matabele, 20,000 of whom were killed in the genocide Mugabe
unleashed in Matabeleland in the Eighties. "You may have the power, much power,
and you oppress those who are weak. How will it all end?" Mtukudzi asks.
To millions of Zimbabweans, Mtukudzi's lyrics are nothing less
than the teachings of a Shona prophet, and the inferences they draw are clear:
Zimbabwe is burning and Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party will soon have to
suffer the backlash. For Mtukudzi, though, there are no such simple
interpretations. "I'm not a politician, I don't understand politics," he tells
me, speaking from Harare. "My songs are about what I see around me, the
happiness and sadness in my country. I don't believe in singing for a particular
time. My songs should mean something yesterday, today and tomorrow."
Mtukudzi never openly refers to politics in his work, nor does
he openly criticise Zimbabwe's leadership. Instead, he uses Shona imagery and
African parables to tell stories that his listeners can interpret for
themselves. On Yave Mbodza ("What Kind of Rearing is That?"), Mtukudzi asks why
the ancient Shona practice of a parent chewing traditional root medicine and
passing it on to a baby is no longer followed. On the surface, it is a simple
morality tale. Look deeper, say his fans, and Tuku, as they like to call him, is
singing about the corruption of the ageing generation of Zanu PF rulers who are
keeping all the goodness of the country for themselves. "Oliver is an iron fist
in a velvet glove," says John Matinde, a DJ on SW Radio Africa, a station set up
in London last year to broadcast to Zimbabwe the music and independent news that
state-owned radio no longer airs. "It is an open secret that he is referring to
the political situation in Zimbabwe, but Oliver speaks in tongues. People can
interpret him any way they wish."
The minstrel observing from the sidelines - it is a tactic that
has served him well. Unlike his friend Thomas Mapfumo - Zimbabwe's only other
bona fide international superstar - Mtukudzi has never allied himself with a
political party, even in Zanu PF's heyday after independence. It has meant that,
although state radio no longer plays his new work, the government has not been
able to ban him either, and respect for him among the people is greater than
ever. He still plays more than 100 concerts a year in Zimbabwe, many in remote
rural areas where people cannot afford to buy his albums. The shows are always
sold out and fans will cross the country to watch him. That said, he does not
have an easy ride either. Several recent concerts have been cancelled after
warnings that the CIO - Mugabe's notorious Central Intelligence Organisation -
would beat up fans if he performed certain songs. A pre-election concert near
Harare was invaded by 30 Zanu PF youths, who tried to force the band to wear
Zanu PF T-shirts and caps during the performance. Mtukudzi refused, carried on
the concert, and publicly rebuked the youths.
But the track that has caused most controversy is Wasakara,
from the album Bvuma ("Tolerance"), which was released at the end of 2000 when
the political violence was gaining momentum. Wasakara refers to an old man and
the chorus translates: "You are old, you are spent, it is time to accept you are
old." Zimbabweans immediately interpreted it as a reference to the 78-year-old
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980 and shows no sign of stepping down.
Once again, Mtukudzi refuses to commit to interpretations. When I ask him what
Wasakara is about, he says: "It's about a man getting old." Asked what he
thought of the MDC using it as their anthem, he replies: "I'm happy for people
to get meaning from my songs." And when asked why state radio no longer airs his
new albums, he responds, with perfect PR spin: "Maybe it's because my PR is
weak. I should promote myself more." It is possible that were he not speaking
from Zimbabwe he would be more forthcoming, but Mtukudzi has always been opposed
to confrontation and remains the ultimate unifier.
He is also the ultimate performer. He sings, plays guitar and
dances throughout his shows - often for four hours straight - although, at 49,
he has stopped playing Pungwes, traditional 12-hour concerts that would end at
6am. His nine-piece Black Spirits band (with three rousing backing singers) have
been with him since the Eighties, and they contribute to his big-voice
gospel-blues sound, which merges Zimbabwean jiti and South African mbaqanga,
while retaining a style all its own. In Zimbabwe, they even call the genre "Tuku
music". What, though, of his fans in London? So many Zimbabweans now live in
exile in the UK that on the streets back home they refer to London as Harare
North. "I will tell them their parents and families are missing them, and that
they must not forget where they come from," says Mtukudzi. "One day, I hope they
will go back."
The Nation (Nairobi)
Posted to the web April 20, 2002
Last week, the post-elections mediation effort by Nigeria and
between President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and Morgan
opposition MDC began in Zimbabwe.
In neighbouring South
Africa, Zimbabweans from key academic institutions,
human rights, legal and
media organisations met with some external
participants from the rest of
Africa to analyse recent events in Zimbabwe
and strategise on what civil
society could and should be doing now.
For an excerpt from the Africa
2002 guidebook, click here.
To buy the book,
Zimbabwe has been the subject of more heated debates
and the cause of more
deep disagreements among those who normally find
themselves in concurrence
than anything I can remember. And the unfortunate
result has been that the
provision of appropriate, strategic and useful
solidarity to Zimbabweans, as
other Africans, has been next to
Let us first consider the facts. One, the obviously
on the rights to freedom of expression and association
legislation in Zimbabwe.
Fact two, the formal and
informal militarisation of the Zimbabwean state
through the increasing
placement of ex-combatants and high-ranking military
personnel into key
positions throughout the civil service as well as within
agencies and the enforced recruitment of Zimbabwean youth,
the rural areas, for militia training.
Fact three, the violence wrought
against ordinary Zimbabweans, again
particularly in the rural
And fact four, the growing number of Zimbabweans who are
displaced as a result of violence, now estimated at more than
Why such disagreement?
So why is there such disagreement
on whether what is happening in Zimbabwe
is acceptable or not? Do these facts
not relate to basic human rights
standards - African or otherwise - that can
be applied objectively?
Those present at the strategy session spent
considerable time analysing the
causes for this disagreement.
first and most important reason behind the African response can be found
Mugabe's own comments during the elections. He repeatedly referred to
second "chimurenga", that Zimbabwe was purportedly going through,
that these were therefore a "different kind of elections."
implication was that when there is a higher goal, a popular uprising,
revolutionary purpose, all actions are apparently justified.
this call to chimurenga that most African leaders and (however
and unfortunately) many African progressives have responded to.
concretely, another fact is simply that there is a very real
to Mugabe's call - both internally and externally. A Kenyan
in South Africa expounded on this point simply. The need for
re-distribution in Zimbabwe is inescapable and unavoidable.
Kingdom has effectively reneged on its independence agreement to
re-distribution efforts beginning ten years after independence.
it would be unwise to blindly support this current fast-tracked
redistribution effort. Not only because of the evident flaws in the
and the havoc it has wrought on ordinary Zimbabweans. But
documentation already exists about the failings of previous
re-distribution efforts in Zimbabwe.
Those failings and problems
need to be investigated and addressed. As do
more serious current allegations
about those benefiting from current efforts
before we buy into the idea that
what is going on is for the benefit of
aside, yet another fact is that the response of the international
and its media has been completely disproportionate and therefore
unhelpful in relation to its responses to similar situations in
the rest of
Africa - witness the coverage and reactions to recent, also
elections from Madagascar to Zambia.
This observation is in no way meant
to urge a downward levelling of
international response. But clearly race has
coloured both coverage of and
international responses to Zimbabwe.
if the impact of recent events in Zimbabwe on ordinary, non-white
is not responded to across Africa, that is in no small measure
due to the
fact that that the impact is not known by other Africans.
As we await the outcome of the mediation efforts and
their results in terms
of actually addressing the deteriorating situation of
Zimbabweans, let us heed the appeal from those Zimbabweans
present at the
strategy session. Zimbabwe is not an either/or situation, as
currently portrayed. Both the internal and the external have to
In the meantime, we in no way go counter to the use of
the nationalist and
pan-Africanist claims of Mugabe and Zanu-PF by pointing
out and insisting
that the human rights situation in the country be dealt
In the words of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform, a forum for
ex-combatants and war veterans: "The first deliverable of any
struggle is freedom."
Ms Wanyeki is executive director,
African Women's Development and
Posted: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 21:08 AEST
resolution defeat a 'victory over imperialism': Zimbabwe
welcomed an African-led vote that blocked a European Union call
Nations human rights investigations into the southern
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run
daily, The Herald, the
vote is a victory over imperialism.
we have been able to kill and frustrate the machinations of
forces," he said.
On Friday, the UN Human Rights Commission voted by 26
to 24 not to take
action on a draft resolution presented by European Union
The resolution would have urged Harare to invite UN rights
experts to visit
"I am happy that so many countries have
been able to see through the
machinations of imperialist powers such as the
EU led by Britain to
re-colonise Zimbabwe," Mr Chinamasa said.
pleased once again that he [British Foreign Minister Jack Straw] has
African nations on the UN's top rights forum, along with some
Middle Eastern states opposed the bid.
"Those who voted for
us are indeed our friends. We hope those who voted
against us will in future
appreciate our position," he said.
Three countries abstained, among them
the west African state of Cameroon.
The draft had also expressed concern
at "violations of human rights by the
Government of Zimbabwe".
rejected the EU's move as "politically motivated", and said it had
take into account the root causes of Zimbabwe's human
|Made hits out at ministry officials
4/19/02 12:17:18 PM (GMT
DR Joseph Made, the
Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, has lashed out at
unidentified officials in his ministry accusing them of delaying the
government’s controversial and often violent fast-track land resettlement
In remarks in a statement
on the implementation of the programme over the past 18 months, Made said: “The
ministry’s civil servants have done a hard job so far. However, a serious
problem has arisen of different levels not working at the same pace.
number of critical officers seem to be putting brakes on the implementation of
the land reform programme.
“Numerous reports on the ground allege that
civil servants in my ministry at certain levels are working hand-in-hand with
commercial farmers to derail and delay the gains so far achieved on the future
of the programme.”
Made said he would “not hesitate to deal with
officials that derail and or delay the land reform programme”.
remarks were part of a statement indicating the measures and the direction the
government was taking in order to conclude the land reform programme.
Made said some of the challenges the government has faced in
implementing the land reform programme are resistance by the commercial farmers,
delays in the administrative courts, bureaucratic delays in the ministry,
officers wanting to formulate rather than implement policy, and lack of adequate
financial, human and physical resources.
|Children’s issues sidelined by changing times says child
4/19/02 11:24:54 AM (GMT
By Foster Dongozi
THE welfare of children
was a collective responsibility of the community in African culture.
In the event of children
losing one or both parents, the extended family would readily absorb them.
But with urbanisation, the break-up of the extended family has left
children exposed and vulnerable.
The demise of the extended family, has
also seen the emergence of bizarre crimes, which until recently, were unheard
Some of the crimes include raping infants, some of them as young as
six months and dumping newly-born babies.
The former is the result of a
misguided belief that a person infected with
HIV/Aids can be cured by having
sex with a minor.
The latter is the result of unwanted pregnancies or
the refusal of responsibility by the responsible male partner.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association dismissed claims of Aids
cures by traditional healers and condemned n’angas who instigate their clients
to commit such crimes.
When the government added the element of Child
Welfare to the Ministry of
Health in 1996, it was applauded as the decision
was interpreted to mean it cared for the well-being of children.
government quickly eroded those gains by depriving tens of thousands of children
of their fathers by sending them on a risky and profitless military misadventure
to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two years later.
number have returned in body bags, while their colleagues in the DRC remain
constantly exposed to the risks of malaria and the deadly Ebola virus.
On officially becoming the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, emulated her
predecessor, Sally Mugabe, whose involvement in the Child Survival and
Development Foundation improved the welfare of hundreds of children and endeared
her to a large number of Zimbabweans.
In a desperate bid to win the
hearts of Zimbabweans, the new First Lady launched the Zimbabwe Children’s
Rehabilitation Trust, one of whose objectives was to rehabilitate vagrant
The project lies largely forgotten, let alone the success it
was expected to achieve.
Plans to build homes for street children in
Bulawayo and Harare were temporarily dropped due to the opinion of members of
the trust that the centres were modelled like prisons.
A social worker
involved with the rehabilitation of homeless children in
Bulawayo said the
project to give street-kids a start in life was bound to fail. This was because
“ it is not possible to rehabilitate children by imprisoning them”.
social worker, who declined to be identified, said: “Children are very
vulnerable and can easily be taken advantage of by people who used them to
launch what looked suspiciously like a public relations campaign to win
acceptance by Zimbabweans.”
Over the last few years, she has paid more
attention to Davis Cup tennis functions rather than being close to the grime and
stench of street urchins.
As desperation continues to stalk vulnerable
children, an organisation which has been helping children deal with problems and
the pressure of dealing with growing up has tried to alleviate their plight.
Formed in 1997, Childline Zimbabwe affords children an opportunity
receive counselling through a free telephone service by simply dialling the
Those who have no access to the telephone can write to the
organisation’s specially trained social workers and counselling officers on Free
Post, Box CY 1400 Harare or on Box 1795, Bulawayo.
The service is free
and troubled children need not buy stamps for the letters.
Dr Liz Robb,
the director of the organisation, said : “Childline is a free multi-lingual
helpline and counselling service for young people. Sometimes children feel they
can’t talk to their family or friends about problems or personal matters.
“That is when Childline comes in.”
She said all dealings with
children remained confidential except when their lives were in danger.
Robb said Childline used the country’s three official languages,
Shona and English to converse with and counsel the children.
“It is important to use the children’s mother languages as they would be
more comfortable to speak and be spoken to in languages they are proficient in.
“We also have an arrangement with MARS ambulance services to ferry any
children injured as a result of abuse to hospital,” Robb said.
laughed off suggestions that the organisation risked being labelled elitist.
“That is far from the truth, we are not contacted by urban children
only, but have assisted children from all the rural areas of Zimbabwe.
Childline Zimbabwe also receives regular mail from traumatised children
Kenya while some grandmothers have telephoned to seek advice on how to
deal with marriage problems.
She added that on average, the organisation
received about 200 calls a day and 100 letters a week which were all responded
Liz said some of the issues haunting the young were problems
affecting their relationships, dealing with divorces in the family, failure to
get birth certificates, early pregnancy, HIV/Aids, sexual abuse and problems
arising from inability to pay school fees.
Childline Zimbabwe, which has
a drop-in centre in Harare, will soon be launching an outreach programme in
Mashonaland West in conjunction with Redd Barna and the Ministry of Education,
Sport and Culture to equip teachers with skills to identify and deal with child
Robb, who resigned from a thriving dentistry practice where
she was a senior partner to start Childline Zimbabwe, said she wanted to create
a generation of children who would be able to deal with cases of child abuse.
“The programme will give teachers skills to identify signs and symptoms
of an an abused child and how to tackle the problem and to help children fight
abuse,” she said.
The children really need to be able to deal with abuse
as it emerged that some boys telephone the organisation to get advice on how to
deal with their mothers demanding to be intimate with them.
were also traumatised by sisters-in-law who wanted to molest them, while female
infants were also at the risk of being raped by their male relatives, including
their own fathers.