By Jane Fields
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe hosts a £50 million party to celebrate his 84th
birthday today in the border town of Beitbridge.
It appears a last-ditch attempt to butter up Zimbabweans ahead of next
More than 10,000 people were expected to attend the feast, with hotels in
the dusty town fully booked. It will be a rare chance for many to get a
Beitbridge is normally the last stop for the hundreds of illegal border
jumpers who try to sneak out of Zimbabwe every day.
Parties are out of the question for most Zimbabweans - a single balloon
costs more than Z$1 million as annual inflation runs at 100,580.2 per cent.
But a fundraising committee set up to raise "donations" for the party from
struggling businesspeople has surpassed its Z$3 trillion target . That is
£50 million at the official exchange rate Mr Mugabe uses, but less than
£200,000 at black market rates.
The president clearly intends to celebrate in style. At a "private" birthday
party on Thursday, state television showed footage of a white-gloved waiter
handing out slices of an enormous cake in the shape of an 84, as musicians
performed a song specially composed for the occasion.
Aid agencies say up to four million Zimbabweans will need food aid before
the 29 March polls,
which may be the toughest Mr Mugabe has ever faced, after an unexpected
electoral challenge from his former finance minister Simba Makoni.
In a special birthday message broadcast on national ZBC television, Mr
Mugabe called Makoni a "political prostitute".
Last Updated: 22 February 2008 10:19 PM
By Lance Guma
23 February 2008.
Over 1200 Zimbabwean protesters based in South Africa swamped the Beitbridge border post Saturday to demonstrate against Robert Mugabe’s birthday celebrations on the other side of the border. Owing to massive food shortages in the country Mugabe is said to have chosen Beitbridge as the ideal location in order to facilitate the easy purchase and transport of food from neighbouring Musina in South Africa. Various exile groups however came together and organized a protest to counter this birthday bash.
Over 30 police officers were called in to manage trucks and buses that had formed a 2-kilometre queue to cross the border while the protesters positioned themselves just meters from the customs office. MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennet who is based in South Africa addressed the crowd in the native Shona language. Speaking to Newsreel later in the day Bennet said they had underestimated the turnout and after only printing 1000 t-shirts at least over 200 activists failed to get any.
Simon Mudekwa from the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Youth Movement said they had brought in their supporters using 6 buses from Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa. ‘Many from Zimbabwe walked over the bridge to come and join us because we had put out the word that there would be a rally here to counter Mugabe's celebrations that side,’ he told reporters. The protesters released a helium-filled blimp that had the words ‘Free and fair or just hot air,’ a reference to coming elections on March 29. Another helium balloon left to float in the air was written, ‘Bob you’ve had your cake, now beat it.’
More stunts were still to follow, as a giant cardboard cake was unveiled.
Four men dressed as skeletons jumped out and started dancing to the cheering
crowds while holding out banners that read out the names of liberation war
heroes like Josiah Tongogara.
Sat Feb 23, 9:43 AM ET
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (AFP) - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
launched his election campaign Saturday pledging to revive the country's
moribund economy and mend strained relations with the West.
Tsvangirai, who is taking on long-ruling President Robert Mugabe for the
presidency in March 29 general polls, also promised a new constitution for
Zimbabwe within two years if elected into power.
"We believe the Zimbabwean economy is an enclave economy that is uneven,
unequal and virtually dead," Tsvangirai told thousands of supporters
gathered at a stadium in the eastern border town of Mutare.
Zimbabwe is reeling under an economic crisis with annual inflation
officially at 100,580 percent - the highest in the world - and chronic
shortages of basic commodities like fuel, cooking oil and sugar.
At least three million of its citizens, among them highly skilled
professionals, have migrated to neighbouring South Africa, the United
Kingdom and Australia.
"We are not going to patch up the tattered economy," Tsvangirai said. "The
economy has been destroyed to such an extent that we need to start afresh."
"Zimbabwe is one of the world's great humanitarian crises. We need food,
drugs and medical care. The nations of the world are helping but we need
"Beyond the humanitarian aid, we need the help of the world to rebuild our
economy, but more than anything, we must look after our own."
He said 10 billion US dollars would be required to revive the economy,
including resuscitating companies that have folded and establishing a trust
fund to woo back professionals who have left the country.
In its election manifesto, the opposition party said that if elected, it
would provide free primary education and healthcare for people living with
HIV/AIDS, crack down on corruption, pare down the cabinet and launch an
audit targetting land, a highly sensitive issue.
Once a force which posed the most serious challenge to Mugabe's nearly three
decade rule, the MDC was torn into two factions following a row over a
decision about whether to boycott or contest senate elections in 2006.
A bid to patch-up and forge a united front against Mugabe flopped three
weeks ago when the factions disagreed on the allocation of constituencies.
Saturday, 23 February 2008 06:38
HARARE - A former ally of President Robert Mugabe contesting Zimbabwe's
presidential election against the veteran leader next month has unveiled a
raft of measures which he said would breathe new life into the comatose
Launching his election manifesto in Harare Wednesday, opposition
leader, Simba Makoni, pledged to undertake immediate and urgent tasks to
resolve the food, power, fuel, water and sanitation problems' affecting the
Makoni said he would crush the black market by removing the structural
distortions in the economy. He also expressed need for the independence of
the central bank and said he would stop the RBZ from dabbling in
He promised that his government would initiate a people-driven
constitution making process. He also highlighted the need to re-engage the
international community† as well as bi-lateral and multi-lateral lenders to
access desperately needed balance-of-payments support.
An ex-Finance minister in Mugabe's government, Makoni is hoping to
channel discontent with the state's worsening economy into votes in the
election on March 29.
He knows the hazards of doing this.
Pedzisai Ruhanya of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said Makoni's
manifesto was "bankrupt and content free" adding there was nothing new in
†Makoni accused Mugabe and his ruling party of ruling through fear and
vote buying, alleging farming implements were being used as part of a
stimulus package on the eve of the election.
Makoni said: "The Zimbabwe of today ... is a nation full of fear, a
nation in deep stress, a tense and polarised nation, a nation also
characterised by disease and extreme poverty. However, we believe that
solving these problems will not be intractable once we remove these barriers
and impediments that bar the expression and pursuit of our common interest
and common purpose."
The centre-piece of Makoni's manifesto is a declaration that he would
"institute a process of national healing and reconciliation".
Makoni reportedly has the support of senior figures in President
Mugabe's government. He said he invited his "compatriots who have been
pushed into despair and despondency," to join him in the race.
"I also invite those in Zanu-PF who ... share our yearning for renewal
to contest the election as independent candidates under our banner," Makoni
Realising the hazards of challenging the iron-fisted ruler in the
March 29 poll, Makoni said: "Let this not be a contest of fists, a contest
of stones, knives and guns, but let it be a contest of ideas, a contest of
vision and commitment to the people. No one is worth killing for, nor dying
for, not Mr Mugabe nor Simba Makoni."
In a chilling warning, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai chronicled
the hazards of opposition politics at a press briefing in Jozi.
Tsvangirai said: "Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe face arrest, beating,
tear gas, treason trials and the shock of seeing their candidates and
supporters murdered. Dr Makoni knows this, he has seen it from the safety of
the Zanu (PF) politburo. He may soon experience it first hand
THE SIMBA MAKONI MANIFESTO
MAVAMBO. KUSILE. DAWN
ELEMENTS OF THE MANIFESTO
THE ZIMBABWE OF TODAY
FEAR, STRESS AND TENSION
Zimbabweans are experiencing stress and tension because of the following :
* Poverty that affects over 80% of the population.
* Rampant unemployment especially amongst the youth.
* Dispersion and disintegration of the national and family fabric as
Zimbabweans become economic refugees and live in the diaspora, many
in conditions of deprivation and want.
* Spiralling inflation and high cost of living.
* The cash crisis which results in people having restricted access to
their hard-earned cash.
* Massive decline in the condition and quality of education, health,
housing, energy, water, sanitation, and other services.
* Transport problems nationwide and the parlous state of road network.
* Corruption and lack of accountability in the conduct of national affairs.
* Social and political polarisation of our society. Division between
the people and leaders.
* Siege mentality in the state with the state resorting to violence
to suppress dissent.
* Lack of respect for the law.
* Gross abuse of state resources which has contributed to the
economic decline in Zimbabwe.
* National institutions have been corrupted, privatised and politicised.
* Scourge of patronage and gross abuse of power and culture of "chefdom".
* Lack of a national vision and agenda on the basis of which all
Zimbabweans could be mobilised for national reconciliation and
DISEASE AND POVERTY
* The food crisis affecting the majority of Zimbabweans, resulting in
malnutrition, vulnerability to various infections and dependence on
agencies dispersing food.
* High HIV prevalence and mortality from AIDS.
* Lack of resources in hospitals, resulting in poor health care
including many neo-natal deaths.
DECLINE IN CAPACITY AND POLICY FAILURE
There has been a decline in capacity and capability to deliver
throughout the economy and society:
* Human capital erosion, attrition and lack of capacity to replace
and produce new skills and capacities needed in different sectors of
* There has been failure in policy making and implementation,
resulting in stillborn attempts to turn around the economy.
* There has been failure in leadership, resulting in short-term and
ad hoc policies that have not yielded positive results.
THE ZIMBABWE WE MUST CREATE
NATIONAL RE-ENGAGEMENT AND DIALOGUE FOR ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL
* Undertake immediate and urgent tasks to:
o Resolve the food, power and fuel, water and sanitation problems.
o Restore health and education services.
* Determine national priorities.
* Develop a policy framework for economic and social renewal, in the
short, medium and long term.
* Re-engage key national constituencies namely youth, women, workers,
students, employers, rural and urban people with the state in
* Implement gender policies to ensure equal rights and opportunities
for both men and women.
* The youth offer a window of opportunity for future development.
Special focus will be placed on the values and personal development
of youth as the leaders of the future. A stronger emphasis on
technical/ vocational training to develop skills will strengthen
employment creation programmes.
* Develop a housing policy that addresses the needs of the poor and
encourage the public and private sectors to institute house ownership
schemes for their workers.
* Strengthen and accelerate HIV prevention programmes and increase
support for HIV/AIDS victims.
* Strengthen the implementation of environmental improvement programmes.
REVIVING PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY
Land and Agriculture
* Affirm the necessity for land reform.
* Ensure transparent and equitable processes of land reform.
* Review the current land tenure systems as a means of rationalising
and refining the land reform and stimulating productivity.
* Institute comprehensive rural development programmes to transform
the communal areas.
* Revive agricultural production through programmes to ensure that
agricultural inputs and other resources are available to farmers.
Industrialisation, Empowerment and Employment Creation
* Establish the key role of the state in facilitating and regulating
rather than controlling industrialisation.
* Establish tax incentives and loans through the banking system to
support industrialization and boost production.
* Generate greater national and foreign investment.
* Support the manufacturing sector as one of the major drivers of
growth, employment and generation of foreign currency.
* Generate competitiveness and efficiency of the manufacturing sector.
* Improve the supply of raw materials for manufacturing.
* Establish frameworks for the diaspora to play an important role in
support of industrialization as both active participants and
* Restore the rule of law, particularly in the mining sector which is
critical for foreign currency inflows through the sales of gold,
platinum, diamonds, chrome and other minerals.
* Monitor transparency and accountability, particularly in the mining
* Establish programmes to protect the environment in the mining industry.
* Support the beneficiation of minerals in Zimbabwe to create
employment and grow the economy.
* Support the improvement and expansion of the information and
communications technology industries as a key for technological
enhancement and employment creation.
* Establish people-centred processes closer to grassroots to drive
* Investigate and strengthen empowerment mechanisms and tools for
specific groups including women, youths, rural and urban dwellers
* Establish state policies and incentives for the private sector and
non-governmental sector to facilitate employment creation
* Support the construction sector as a major player in employment
creation across the country.
* Increase public works programmes to develop infrastructure such as
dams, schools, clinics and roads as a mechanism for employment
* Support housing construction as one of the main drivers of both
economic development and employment creation.
THE FINANCIAL SECTOR
* Examine and define the mandate of the Central Bank and its
relationship to the state.
* Restore the autonomy of the Central Bank as a regulator.
* Remove different foreign exchange rates as a tool for doing away
with the parallel market and removing distortions in the economy.
* Improve the relationship between the Central Bank and the financial
* Restore the integrity of the financial sector.
* Place emphasis on micro-finance to create employment and grow the economy.
Education, Health, Housing and Other Services
* Provide better, more effective and more efficient services to the people.
* Restore government commitment to universal primary school
education, affordable and good quality secondary and tertiary
education in order to build up skills base.
* Restore government commitment to free preventive medical services
and affordable curative services.
* Establish a top-up fund to finance policies and measures to attract
and retain teachers, doctors, nurses and other skilled and
* Attract back skills from the diaspora to strengthen service provision.
The Public Sector
* Strengthen the civil service and provide better conditions of
service for more effective and speedy service delivery.
* Remove patronage and corruption as pre-requisites for service provision.
* Revive and reinforce the capacities and powers of local authorities
to deliver services efficiently.
* Rationalize parastatals to make them more efficient and cost effective.
* Adopt privatisation measures where they would ensure more effective
The Uniformed Services
* Enhance security and protection services for the benefit of the people.
NATIONAL HEALING AND RECONCILIATION
* Address national issues that separate and divide us as a nation and
institute a process of national healing and reconciliation, including:
o Problems and challenges based on race and ethnicity;
o Rural and urban divide;
o Inter and intra party violence;
o The fuller integration of war veterans into society. War veterans
are the victims as well as the potential agents of national healing
o Replacing the state/party patronage system with rational and
effective social security provisions for war veterans as part of the
national social security system.
* Constitutional reform. A new people-driven national constitution
will be developed after full consultation.
* Harness the key political and technocratic skills required for a
representative and efficient government after the elections.
* Our mission is to:
o Restore people's independence, dignity and confidence,
o Increase respect for our institutions and values.
o Project national interests before personal interests.
o Restore Zimbabwe's standing within the international community.
By Cris Chinaka
BEITBRIDGE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe dismissed his two
challengers in next month's Zimbabwean elections as a lightweight and a
Western puppet on Saturday.
In a rally to mark his 84th birthday and launch his campaign for another
five-year term, Mugabe said his ruling ZANU-PF party would win the March 29
Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, who says he has the support of a
number of ZANU-PF officials, is standing against Mugabe in the presidential
"He is like a frog trying to inflate itself up to the size of an ox. It will
burst," Mugabe told thousands of party activists in a dusty sports field in
Beitbridge on the South African border.
Mugabe also lashed out at Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the largest
faction of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), describing him as a "puppet" of former colonial power Britain
and the United States.
Mugabe's government has accused the two Western nations and their allies of
using sanctions to undermine and sabotage Zimbabwe's economy, which is in
crisis with inflation of more than 100,000 percent, unemployment at more
than 80 percent, and chronic food and fuel shortages.
"It is the sanctions that they have imposed which have caused a great deal
of harm on the economy," Mugabe said. He expected he and his party would win
"resoundingly" in the presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.
Tsvangirai, a former union leader who has come closest to ousting Mugabe in
previous elections, told thousands of supporters at a rally that Zimbabweans
were ready to end the Mugabe era and hand the MDC power.
"We remain the legitimate voice of democratic change in this country,"
Tsvangirai said in a stadium in Mutare, some 265 km (165 miles) east of the
"All of Zimbabwe is in the custody of a dictatorship. We're all bleeding,
but we're marching on. We're weak with hunger, but we're stronger with
The MDC has been weakened in the past year by a government crackdown on
anti-Mugabe activists, divisions within its ranks and Makoni's emergence.
Tsvangirai and Makoni could divide the anti-Mugabe vote and hand victory to
the veteran leader, who has been in power since independence from Britain in
The MDC leader, who accuses Mugabe of rigging past elections, has refused to
run a joint campaign with Makoni and a splinter MDC group has thrown its
weight behind the former finance minister.
Both opposition candidates are campaigning on a platform of ending
Zimbabwe's economic crisis which they and Western nations blame on
government mismanagement and policies such as the seizure of thousands of
Tsvangirai raised the prospect that a new government could win help from the
international community to rebuild Zimbabwe's economy.
"Robert Mugabe is one of the greatest tyrants of the 21st century, when we
bring him down, they will be there to help us, I can assure you of this," he
(Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Mutare and Nelson Banya in
Harare; Editing by Paul Simao and Robert Woodward)
From The Star (SA), 23 February
A trip to Beit Bridge yesterday was an interesting affair. The Zimbabwean
town showed little sign at first of the pending celebration for President
Robert Mugabe's 84th birthday bash. There were no posters with adulations.
Instead, groups of people listlessly sat about, or moved slowly in the
streets. The midday atmosphere was dusty and hot. Everyone looked tired. The
fridges in a large supermarket stocked no dairy products or cool drinks, and
there were few loaves of bread. Local newspapers had not been delivered for
two weeks. Old issues of a South African weekly newspaper were still on
sale. Another shelf had November issues of magazines on the shelves. The
first sign of Mugabe's birthday came in a side street with lines of ruling
party colours leading to a large marquee. But we beat a hasty retreat when a
truck loaded with uniformed soldiers pulled up, while two Zanu PF bakkies
passed our car along the pockmarked street. However, the president loomed
large at a chain hotel where the dining room was packed with Zanu PF bigwigs
and supporters, with some sporting T-shirts supporting Mugabe. The parking
lot outside was full of luxury vehicles, while inside a jovial atmosphere
There was also no evidence of the food shortages that plague the
impoverished country. Guests tucked into salads, chicken, beef, rice, pap
and vegetables, followed by cake and fruit salad. The hotel has a full bar,
stocked with top brands, and guests can even have milk with their tea or
coffee - unlike a downtown eatery that had black tea as the sole choice of
hot refreshments. People in Beit Bridge were cautious. It soon became
apparent that questions were being asked about us, and the realisation that
suspicious eyes had tracked our every movement hit home when our car was
closely inspected by hotel staff and, later, by a policeman. Later at the
border, as we crossed back into South Africa, an immigration officer queried
a form given earlier with our Zimbabwe entry stamps that specified a
same-day return. "And why did they give you this?" she asked. Such forms are
given to people that authorities had suspicions about, like journalists and
artists, we were told. So even though we had entered as tourists, it became
clear that we had been fingered as journalists at least three times: once in
SA and twice in Zimbabwe. Driving back into Musina, a massive unbranded
billboard called for Zimbabweans to return home and vote. "We know why
you're in SA. Life in Zimbabwe is murder these days. Just remember your
country still needs you. Come home at election time and vote for freedom,"
2008 05:17 PM
The Roosters are Crowing: It's Time for Africans to Sweep Our Huts Clean of
By Mr. Obang O. Metho
The African roosters are crowing from the north to the south to the east and
to the west as the first rays of dawn's light are cracking through the
darkness hanging over Africa. From all over the continent, Africans are
awakening to a new understanding of their God-given rights, their democratic
rights and with them, to the desire to rule themselves. No longer are they
willing to put up with a legacy of corrupt, greedy and power-hungry
dictators, no different from the colonizers, who controlled the continent
for years with their evil policies of divide and conquer.
The people of Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Chad, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, the
Congo-too many places to name, are challenging the status quo of dirty
politics and dirty politicians, not with guns, but with their brooms! We are
entering a new era and it is time to clean our huts of corrupt leaders who
refuse to give up power while robbing and oppressing the people they are
supposed to serve! This is the root of our suffering, misery and pain.
Dear Africans, it does not matter our ethnic group, region, country,
religion, political group, gender, age, language or culture, it is time to
truly choose leaders who follow the rule of law and respect the rights of
the people. We must start by sweeping away the ill-smelling garbage they
helped to produce-hatred, ethnic divisions, violence, poverty, oppression,
injustice, immorality and greed-it is contaminating our continent and if we
don't sweep out the dirt and the rot ourselves, no one else will do it for
Part of cleaning up that dirt begins with understanding better how it got
there. In other words, we must be careful not to fall in the trap of the
corrupt politicians by fighting the wrong fight as they turn the truth
upside down just to confuse the public. A good example of this is what
happened in the general elections in Zimbabwe on March 11, 2002, in Ethiopia
on May 15, 2005, in Uganda on February 23, 2006, in the Congo on July 30,
2006, in Nigeria on April 21, 2007, and now in Kenya since the national
election on December 27, 2007.
The truth is that it is not a battle of politicians and their political
agendas; it is a battle for real democracy, freedom, justice and peace
against corruption of the democratic process. Any peace agreement that does
not fearlessly address this key issue will be a cover up of the truth. Yet,
in both Ethiopia and Kenya, the incumbents have attempted to convince others
that the real problem was with those who protested against their claimed
victory rather than with the actual stolen election.
When the protest in Kenya became violent, the incumbent was quick to define
it as "ethnically-based protest." This seemed to best serve to advance the
cause of the incumbent who then can blame the opposition for not bringing an
end to the violence and humanitarian crisis by simply accepting their loss.
If Africans do not understand these manipulations, they may fall into the
trap of committing violence against their fellow innocent
countrymen-something that has already created deep societal wounds that will
take years to heal. Yet, the motivation to create the illusion that the
violence is only a power struggle between ethnic groups, vying for power, is
simply a diversionary tactic meant to cover up the allegedly fraudulent
election so as to undermine totally or at least delay calls for a re-count
or re-vote that might lead to a different election outcome.
In a Reuters' press release on February 16, 2008, Jendayi Frazer, the U. S.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs was reported to say that
both Kibaki and Odinga "understood they had to find a credible lasting
solution to the dispute." She added, "Any individuals seen as obstructing
the effort for a peace process, a power-sharing agreement, the president
stated, will be subject to possible further sanctions by the U.S."
Hopefully, this does not mean peace at any price, such as through a cover-up
that focuses on the aftermath of the alleged election fraud rather than on
the alleged fraud itself that ignited the unrest. If there was fraud on the
part of Kibaki, why should there be power-sharing and how could Kibaki be
trusted under those conditions to actually share the power? Would a
power-sharing agreement, something which would never be considered in a
western country, work in Kenya? Why is the west proposing something like
this rather than standing up for a fair election? What would Jendayi Frazer
say about Bush sharing power with Gore after the 2000 election dispute in
One of them would certainly have ended up with more power than the other.
Instead, democratic enthusiasts should be lobbying for the truth, now
popularly called "good governance confronting their so-called allies in the
War on Terror, like both Kibaki and Meles, on their failures to hold fair
elections and to respect the human rights of their citizens!
Disturbingly, throughout the international media, much of the coverage about
what was happening in Kenya focused not on the election irregularities, but
on the ethnic dimensions of the violence and ways to re-stabilize the
country. There was little voice calling for examination of the root of the
problem originating in Kibaki declaring himself a winner before the dispute
If the emphasis is not on conducting a fair and honest election, what price
will Kenyans and other Africans have to pay in the future for choosing a
"feeble peace" over the establishment of long-term justice? It is simply
another example of sweeping the dirt and rot under the carpet rather than
out of the house-it will still smell! If it does not work in the US, the UK,
Canada, Europe and other western countries, why should we think it would it
work in Africa?
The people chose the ballot box to vote for change rather than the gun. They
did everything right, but were cheated out of the fruits of their earnest
desire for justice, opportunity, the rule of law, development and human
rights. Those who historically benefited from the favors of the incumbent,
including those outside the country, largely supported Kibaki's assertion of
winning, despite the evidence to the contrary.
The Kikuyus, Luos, Kalenjins, Luhyias, Kisiis and others should join
together and vote for fair elections; thereby refusing to fall victim to an
ethnic struggle no matter how much pressure there is to put them in an
ethnic box. Kenyans with vision and wisdom must stand together with other
Africans in destroying the ethnic manipulations that keep the corrupt in
power by using the people against each other! Instead, it is a great insult
to freedom-loving Africans who have been cheated out of their votes by a
deceitful leader posing in democratic clothes that do not fit his actions!
Please learn from what happened in Ethiopia. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
never was held accountable for the rigged election or for the deaths of the
protestors following that election, killed by his own security agents. He
remains in power today and he has only proceeded to further suppress any
resistance to his falsely won regime. The majority of the people of Ethiopia
are deeply suffering.
Look at what God says about it in the Biblical book of Ezekiel when he
condemns the "princes" who plot ways to oppress and rob the people of their
rights, property, justice and lives.
"There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing
its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make
many widows within her.Her officials within her are like wolves tearing
their prey: they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. Her
prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying
divinations. The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery;
they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them
justice. I looked for a man among them who would.stand before me in the gap
on behalf of the land so I would not destroy it, but I found none." (Ezekiel
22: 25, 27-30)
People of Africa, we must first see ourselves and others as being equally
created in the image of God. We will all face judgment someday and the
decisions we make now, may forever influence the outcome. Will you be one of
those willing to do the right thing? If we refuse to stand in the gap for
what is right, we will see the destruction of not only ourselves, our
families and our communities, but we will bring destruction to our countries
and to our continent! Yet, if we fear God with all our heart, soul and mind
the darkness will lift off of Africa.
It will require that we treat our fellow Africans and all of human kind,
especially the vulnerable, as part of us and as someone equally precious to
God. If we do, He promises to bless us as seen in Psalm 41: 1 and in Psalm
72: 4. Let us seek such a blessing and deliverance for our continent!
"Blessed is he who has regard for the weak: the LORD delivers him in times
of trouble." "He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the
children of the needy: he will crush the oppressor."
The darkest part of the night is right before the dawn so expect that those
who see the darkness as an opportunity for evil to increasingly resist the
people who love the daylight, but the daylight is coming anyway. Therefore,
we should not be discouraged but instead, we should press on all the harder
by joining together with others who value doing what is right. It is not a
time to be timid or to give up.
Even dictators, who many times flourish only because of the support of
outsiders, cannot overcome a united people who join together to sing the
praises of freedom, justice, equality and love towards each other. As such a
groundswell from the people emerges; it will become like the journey of the
sun through the day-- impossible to alter. The sun is setting on the old
Africa of dictators and they know it, yet we too must change! We Africans
must come out to the light if we want Africa to come out of the dark! It is
not only about our dictators-we too have a responsibility!
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have
fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the
truth. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still
in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is
nothing in him to make him stumble. (I John 1:5-6, 2:9-10)
This means an end to ethnic hatred or discrimination. This means an end to
violence and barbaric acts. This means an end to corruption, bribery and
false testimony. This means returning to God, promoting respect for the
rights and lives of the people He has created. This means we must choose the
side of morality, righteousness, compassion, integrity, forgiveness,
reconciliation and goodness as we call out for God's help or He will not be
with us and we will be no better than those we are fighting against.
Look at the following passage from Psalm 34: 17 and Psalm 35: 4-5 where God
hears the cries of the righteous and those righteous may be the ones we have
wounded by our actions. May we be willing for God to change us quickly where
we have done wrong!
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all
their troubles. May those who seek [our lives] be disgraced and put to
shame.May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD
driving them away."
The real struggle in Africa is no longer between different power-hungry
leaders, but it is between people who want freedom and those who are trying
to repress it. It is between morality and immorality and between truth and
the lie. With some exceptions, our institutions, like the African Union,
have become "social clubs of dictators for life." They back up each other so
that they will not be held responsible for the crimes they have committed to
gain and maintain their power and riches. They are a union of the shameless,
leaving a trail of blood, horror and immoral actions behind them.
They are unconscious and uncaring about the pain of the child whose limbs
have been cut off, the orphan without parents, the screams of the woman who
was raped by a gang of soldiers and the widow whose hovel was bull-dozed to
make room for the business of the privileged elite who have been favored for
supporting the regime. These dictators have abandoned their duties like
parents who have come into a union of marriage and given birth to a child
they refuse to parent.
Where was their voice when the Rwandan genocide occurred or when the
atrocities against young children were occurring in Liberia, Sierra Leone
and which are still occurring in Northern Uganda? Where is their voice for
those in Darfur, the Congo, Somalia and Ethiopia?
As the African Union accepted Kibaki's participation in this past months'
summit meeting, protecting him by refusing to put the election dispute and
ensuing crisis on the agenda, they showed their refusal to face the hard
issues of Africans. Instead the crisis was referred to IGAD, another
ineffective organization which is headed by Kenya, which is no different
than telling a criminal to investigate his own crime!
This all happened in Addis Ababa where their host, Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi, is trying desperately to hang on to power after his own stolen
election of 2005. Is he going to speak up for the execution of justice when
such a thing does not exist anywhere in Ethiopia? Is he going to stand up
for the oppressed when his own people are oppressed and terrorized by him?
Will he speak out against human rights abuses when in southeastern Ethiopia,
in the Ogaden region, and all the way to Mogadishu, Somalia, Ethiopian
National Defense Forces are committing widespread crimes against
humanity-even carpet-bombing Ethiopian civilians in the Ogaden? Should we
expect Mugabe to speak out or Museveni, al Bashir and others in the Union of
Dictators? Who will speak for the people of Africa who have been abandoned
by those who are supposed to care?
This African Union should be a union that gives life, nurturing, compassion
and wise guidance to the continent, but instead it has become a union that
promotes the perpetrators of death and destruction to the continent. Those
of integrity, courage and moral strength are too few. As long as the major
players, including the West, are willing to "look the other way to
corruption, human rights abuses and electoral fraud," it appears that the
payoff is worth the risk-look at Ethiopia. However, in Kenya, the results
have not gone as smoothly as they have in other African countries, having
turned one of the most stable countries in Africa into political turmoil,
seriously affecting the Kenyan economy. Unfortunately, many innocent
Africans, from all different groups, have suffered for it.
Let us first look at how it played out. On election day, Kenyans did exactly
what they were supposed to-they came out in the millions and peacefully
voted, standing in line with other Kenyans from every ethnic group and
political persuasion to cast their votes, some for President Mwai Kibaki,
others for Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
At their polling booths, the Kenyan people voted not only for a president,
but even more so for democracy. Tragically, the deciding vote against
democracy was cast when President Kibaki, according to credible sources,
stole the election and defrauded the Kenyan people out of their vote.
Look at the chaos that erupted when Kibaki refused to accept the truthful
results of the election. One thousand lives were lost, a tragedy that could
have been avoided had he acted with integrity and morality instead of
hurriedly being sworn in as president by Mr. Samuel Kivuitu the Chairman of
the Kenyan Election commission when both knew the election dispute was
Despite being a Kibaki supporter, Mr. Samuel Kivuitu could have refused to
support the flawed election, but he instead lied about the results, along
with 22 others on the Board. The next few days when Mr. Samuel Kivuitu took
back his declaration of Kibaki as winner of the election, stating it was
impossible to know the real winner, it was already too late-the chaos had
Even though voters did not follow rigid ethnic lines in voting for Odinga
and the ODM, causing them to win in six out of eight of the provinces and
the majority of parliamentary seats, it was later falsely defined as a power
battle along ethnic lines, between Odinga and Kibaki, rather than a power
struggle between a leader who wants to stay in power at any cost and the
people, who should have the right to decide.
The West should be affronted by this Kenyan result for in a perverse way the
West has now become victim of its own values and rhetoric - freedom and
democracy and the right of the people to choose their leaders through the
ballot box. Here is the real dilemma for the Western liberal democracies -
in the Kenya case which represents blatant electoral fraud - can we allow
Kibaki to continue when all know the political class whom he represents will
flaunt democracy at every moment in order to remain in power.
How can the West preach democracy and `good governance' when the people of
the most advanced and stable country in East and Central Africa are robbed
of their voice? What are we to do now? Support Kibaki, court Kibaki, install
of minor sharing of power under the title of `power sharing', or, more
appropriately, disown Kibaki as no true friend of democracy and demand his
resignation in favour of Odinga and the ODM. Given that Kibaki was willing
to sacrifice his own people in the post-election violence and turn his
police on non-Kikuyu protestors, can the West expect him to suddenly
acquiesce to `power-sharing'?
As donor countries are placing incentives and expectations on these
countries to become democratic, the voting public will be betrayed if
election fraud is ignored by those donors who choose a band-aid approach to
peace that will not lead to sustainable resolution of the root problem.
Honest and fair elections are the groundwork for a free society and Africans
should not ever side with corruption. It is the wrong side and pits
like-minded people against each other along ethnic lines instead of bringing
them together to stand against injustice. Today's injustice will tomorrow
become one's own.
Therefore, the desire for a free and democratic Kenya should unify Kikuyus,
Luos, Kalenjins, Luhyias, Kisiis and all the other many ethnic groups in
Kenya to fight against electoral manipulations or all will lose. This does
not mean that they do not have legitimate complaints and disagreements (like
land disputes) that must be fairly settled, but these may be all the more
difficult to settle after a fraudulent election, especially if a
peace-agreement is only superficial and used to further suppress justice,
truth and honest democratic expression.
Let us look again at the ethnic tensions that continue to exist in Ethiopia.
They are serious enough that the wrong set of circumstances, like another
flawed election, could potentially explode into chaos that could exceed that
in Kenya. However, the many legitimate complaints that various groups and
factions have against one another; should not be approached using violence.
Instead, Ethiopians and Kenyans need to rally behind a consensus to resolve
these disagreements fairly and civilly. Yet, in Ethiopia, Meles has been
masterful at inciting dissension between groups, a tactic that most
certainly will backfire and is now also being used in Kenya. In fact, there
are allegations being made that some are stirring up the violence for their
Currently, some witnesses have come forward to report that some of the
financial elite within Kenyan society, who have a vested interest in
ensuring that Kibaki stays in power, have reportedly been bribing "Mungiki"
or unemployed youths on the streets to commit violence, even violence
directed at innocent members of Kibaki's own ethnic group, the Kikuyus, in
order to exert pressure on Odinga and the ODM to give up their positions by
blaming their refusal to accept Kibaki as the winner as the reason for the
continued violence. Such subterfuge! However, this tactic is not
Let us look how the same thing was done in Ethiopia. The opposition party
was blamed for the violence following the rigged election even though a
later governmental report was leaked that indicated Meles' security agents
were responsible. The Opposition Party, under pressure from outsiders,
agreed not to protest, but later were thrown in prison for twenty months.
The movement lost its momentum. Meles is still in power and has only become
more and more repressive due to his fear of being overthrown.
Most all sources of communication in the country are blocked. For instance,
because the radio, TV and newspapers are all controlled by the government,
because many Internet sites are blocked and because spies are all over,
Meles has effectively created a wall of silence around Ethiopia. Many
Ethiopians have no idea what is going on in Kenya and Meles obviously would
like to keep it that way.
As long as ethnic groups are divided, Meles is stronger, but Ethiopians are
starting to see through this, including many Tigrayans from his own ethnic
group who do not support him. The soil of Ethiopia is stained with the blood
of its citizens due to immoral leaders who are willing to sacrifice their
own people. Do not let this happen in Kenya!
Certainly some are always willing to commit violence against their fellow
countrymen and women, but just like there are criminals in every society,
the majority should not condone it. However, when it is supported by those
in power, the people of Ethiopia, Kenya and others should be outraged and
stand against it in a joint effort of diverse, but united people who value
life and liberty.
When Kenyans first began their protest, it was governed by the Kenyan
values, conscience and the constitution. It was peaceful and respectful
until the police shot live bullets and sprayed water canyons at the people.
Now, a thousand or more Kenyans have been killed and 500,000 others
Africans and others in the world are closely watching what happens in Kenya.
What happens there will have an effect in other places on the continent.
Freedom and democracy must be the winner. Humanity over ethnicity must win.
We must unite against the dictators who have united themselves against us.
Mr. Kibaki can go to the school of other dictators who will support them and
instruct them in the fine nuances of maintaining control.
Mr. Kibaki can learn from the likes of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Robert
Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Museveni of Uganda, Kabila of the Congo, Al Bashir of
Sudan, Isayas of Eritrea, Deba of Chad, along with many others. They will be
tutored on the fine details of how to subvert democracy, how to silence the
opposition, how to divert attention by instigating ethnic conflict and
humanitarian crises while at the same time, reaping the financial benefits.
However, these dictators will never stop the light that is bringing Africans
to see each other as fellow Africans.
The signs are everywhere that the roosters of Africa are crowing. They are
crowing for a new day for Africans where we will look upwards to God, our
Creator, the provider of that light who cares about the oppressed and the
harassed. He cares for our neighbors like He cares for us. As we can have
perfect trust that the light of dawn and will bring a new day, we can have
faith that a humble people who look to God, will never be disappointed. As
we do, we will see our African-ness more than our ethnicity and our humanity
more than our African-ness.
This is a fight for a new Africa by new Africans. The old Africans are like
old seeds you put in the ground that never rises from the ground to produce
any crop. It is the old Africans that makes Africa to be known as a dark
continent, full of misery, pain, death, bloodshed and sorrow. These old
Africans are not like our African forefathers who invest their wisdom, love
and strength in guiding and helping the next generation. Instead they are
those who want to devour the young as they might rise up to challenge them.
They have failed Africa and have created institutions of nothingness. This
is the reason why the first places African leaders go to when they are in
need, is the west rather than to African institutions where corruption is
upheld too often.
This past week, a doctor from Toronto, Canada, was charged for stealing
kidneys from unwilling victims in India. He tricked them by first promising
jobs, then secretly sedating them. In a private operating room in the back
of his home, he then proceeded to remove one of their kidneys in order to
sell it to someone needing one. After the forced donor awakened from the
surgery, he was threatened that if he told, he would be killed.
Is this any different from the danger that is lurking in the dark corners on
our continent? We have been seduced by the promises of those among us who
only talk the words of democracy, justice and freedom, but who have no heart
for the people. They get us to go along with them, but then use that power
to exploit us-removing our lives, souls, resources and the future of our
If we complain, our lives our threatened or ended. As long as we are silent,
the evil system continues, preying on new victims. But, the roosters are
crowing and waking up Africans to this deception. We must start talking
about it and unifying against it as one force and now it is up to all
Kenyans to make sure they do not fall for this deception in their own
By supporting the outcome of a stolen election, the people of Kenya, from
every group, are supporting continued corruption-and giving up far more than
they realize. It is not about which leader they supported, it is about
protecting the establishment of justice!
As we write this article, we are not choosing Odinga over Kibaki or Kibaki
over Odinga-that is for the Kenyan people to decide. That is exactly the
major point! Nothing less should be tolerated any longer in Kenya or in any
other country in Africa. Africa does not need sham democracies and anyone
who pressures Africans to accept such false substitutes is not a friend of
Africa and instead is trying to keep us in the darkness while "our organs"
are being removed!
Now is the time for this new Africans to connect with each other, putting
the entire puzzle together for the first time. Those who are seeing the
light in Ethiopia must be connected to those seeing the light in Kenya.
Those seeing the light in Zimbabwe must be connected to those seeing the
light in Chad, Nigeria, Uganda, Somalia-the list goes on. This cannot be
accomplished by organizations consumed and controlled by tribal loyalties
which blind them to the humanity of others.
Africa must move away from the politicization of ethnicity. Celebrate the
ethnic and cultural mosaic of Africa but at the same time create an `a -
ethnic' or non-ethnic politics. Africans must surrender their ethnic clothes
when they move into the political arena and assume positions of power. It is
time for a Movement for a New Africa, one shorn of ethnic chauvinism in the
world of politics.
Unless this happens then political leaders will play one ethnic group off
against another for political advantage parallel to the past colonial
practice of `divide and rule' and the current neo-colonial practice of
foreign intervention in ethically-based strife; mounting the war on terror;
and, driving for control over valued resources. Africans have been divided
for too long and separated from their common heritage by artificial
boundaries and the ethnic and regional and religious divides. Africa must
re-discover its soul and celebrate its African-ness. The soil of African
continues to be stained by the blood of its sons and daughters all in the
name of mindless ethnic power struggles. A politics of collaboration and
consensus must be re-asserted drawing on African tradition within the local
In Ethiopia, we are convinced that what must happen is to create a Movement
for a New Ethiopia which includes everyone. The strategic goal of this
Movement is to reclaim Ethiopia from its tyrannical rulers and their
associates. Our path is about life enhancement for all not matter their
ethnic identity for in the end we are all Ethiopians and Africans. We are
not pursuing State sovereignty here but rather people sovereignty, to set
our people free from oppressive rule.
Those who want to create ethnic conflicts and issues want us to remain
backwards so we put our heads down while they rob us of our natural
resources as well as our lives. These are the politics of colonization and
enslavement. Part of what must be done is to stop the exploitation of not
only the natural resources, but of the precious people of Africa. This will
only happen when we see ourselves and our neighbors as God's children,
beautifully made and full of purpose and potential.
This is the only way to prevent us from being thrown into cages to fight and
kill each other like dogs or roosters, while we hardly utter a complaint.
These power-hungry leaders are out to kill the brightest and most
compassionate among us so they can continue the economic colonization of the
We Africans must resist by coming together within our countries and within
our continent. It should be done in Zimbabwe before the election next month
and in Ethiopia and Uganda before their elections. Africans have been
divided for too long. We have put up with this political game that is
destroying us from within. We can prosper together, knowing that we are a
continent with some of the greatest and richest of natural resources,
including ourselves, despite having the poorest of opportunities for our
We must change the way we think and it will require a spiritual
transformation with God at the center! If Europe, who used to fight and kill
each other, can live with the same money and can travel between twenty-four
countries on that continent without a checkpoint, this can be done in
Africa, but only if we begin to think differently. We must refuse to be
by-standers while the continent is engulfed in flames!
Africans who see this must start connecting with one another in making this
dream of living peacefully with others come true. It can be done! It will
not be easy because there will be some who do not want it because they make
money off of our lives, but if we believe in God and seek Him and if we
respect and love one another, it is more than possible! God can provide a
new path through the jungles, savannahs, deserts and over the mountains
where none yet exists!
This can be the starting point from where Africans begin connecting with
each other, giving life to the continent, constructing a new Africa, through
the power of God that will include all people regardless of differences. It
is up to us Africans to start the journey with God at every side.
Right now we, as well as these African dictators, know that the sun is
setting on them. Their power is like a piece of hanging pottery, held up
only by an unraveling cord, but yet holding the heavy offenses they have
committed against the people of Africa. Soon the weight of those offenses
will become too much for that cord that has been holding their power up for
years and it will snap. When the fragile pottery crashes into many, unusable
pieces, everybody will see how weak they really are.
This is what the Holy One of Israel says: "Because you have rejected this
message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become
for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in
an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly
that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a
hearth or scooping water out of a cistern. In repentance and rest is your
salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none
of it.... Yet, the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you
compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for
Him! (Isaiah 30:12-15, 18).
Change is possible individually and collectively. The Chairman of the Kenyan
Election commission Mr. Samuel Kivuitu was part of the deceit that made
Kibaki the winner of the election, unleashing violence and chaos in the
country; yet, something changed in him overnight and he admitted his
Mr. Samuel Kivuitu had done his job well in 2002, but had failed this time.
Perhaps his God-given conscience convicted him, giving him the courage to
correct what he had done the previous day-we do not know, but we do know
that as people we can make mistakes and those mistakes can have consequences
for others, but that should not stop us from later admitting our failures
and changing our ways.
Imagine what would happen if Kibaki or others would admit theirs-like King
Nebuchadnezzar was warned in a dream to do? Confused by the dream, the
prophet Daniel interpreted it for him, telling him that until he
acknowledged that "the Most High God was sovereign over the kingdoms of men
and gives them to anyone he wishes" that he would literally go crazy. Daniel
advised him not to boast of his power and instead to:
"Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind
to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue."
At first he refused, but later heeded the warning. May our African dictators
change their ways for the good of the people and because some day they also
will be held accountable before God! However, regardless of what they do, we
Africans have such a great resource in a gracious and merciful God, who will
show us the way to walk in humility, love, compassion, integrity and
Let us pray that through the "bread of affliction" and through the "water of
adversity," that we Africans have gone through, that we will discover a way
out of our legacy of pain, misery and suffering that will change the
direction of Africa for future generations to come! May God provide light to
the path we must walk together!
For information, please contact: Mr. Obang Metho, E-mail:
Sat 23 Feb 2008, 8:58 GMT
HARARE (Reuters) - China will loan Zimbabwe $42 million to help the once
prosperous southern African nation buy farm equipment, Zimbabwe's state
media reported on Saturday.
Zimbabwe, which used to export food to its neighbours, has seen agricultural
production fall sharply since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe began
seizing thousands of white-owned farms and redistributing the land to poor
Food shortages are a common feature of life in the nation.
Mugabe's government has pinned its hopes of an economic recovery on a good
harvest in 2008, but production is likely to be handicapped by a lack of
technical expertise, funding and equipment.
The Chinese loan, which was signed by central bank Governor Gideon Gono and
Chinese deputy Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng during a visit in Harare, will
help finance a programme to buy new equipment for the nation's desperate
farmers, the Herald newspaper reported.
The Chinese will supply some of the equipment.
Mugabe, who attended the signing, hailed the Chinese for standing by his
government, which has been shunned by Britain, the United States and other
Western nations, which accuse him of human rights abuses, rigging elections
and ruining the economy.
"This friendship is rooted in a formidable relationship ... but we now need
to embark on developing this relationship of co-operation with programmes
that would enhance and continue what we have built over the years," Mugabe
was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader, who has been in power since independence
from Britain in 1980, is running for another five-year term in a March 29
general election. He blames the country's economic problems on sabotage by
A Chinese delegation visiting Zimbabwe was keen to invest in the
almost-bankrupt country's gold and platinum sector according to reports.
Author: Tawanda Karombo
Posted:† Saturday , 23 Feb 2008
China is courting Zimbabwe for investment and exploration opportunities in
the gold and platinum mining sectors following a visit there by the Chinese
deputy minister of Commerce and a 22 member delegation comprising experts in
the mining, exploration and trade sectors.
The delegation, led by Deputy Minister Gao Hucheng met Zimbabwe's cabinet
Sources who attended the meeting said the Chinese deputy minister expressed
China's interest and capability to pursue exploration activities in
Zimbabwe, especially in the area of gold and platinum.
"Amos Midzi, (Zimbabwe's Mines and Mining Development minister) was
delighted after meeting the delegation from China as he told the mining and
exploration experts from the visiting Chinese delegation that government
would be delighted to forge partnerships in the mining sector," a source who
attended the meeting said.
Contacted for comment, Midzi said: "The visit has been very helpful as we
have agreed to what the delegation has asked for from us. They want gold and
platinum mining exploration and investment opportunities and we are willing
as government to partner them because they are sincere investors," he said.
President Robert Mugabe, who attended the signing, hailed the Chinese for
standing by his government, which has been shunned by Britain, the United
States and other Western nations, which accuse him of human rights abuses,
rigging elections and ruining the economy.
"This friendship is rooted in a formidable relationship ... but we now need
to embark on developing this relationship of co-operation with programmes
that would enhance and continue what we have built over the years," Mugabe
is reported to have said during the meeting in Harare yesterday.
The Chinese have already entered into Zimbabwe's mining sector after a
Chinese mining and trading group Sinosteel Corp bought a stake in Zimasco
Consolidated Enterprises Ltd, the holding company for Zimbabwe's largest
Zimasco produces 210,000 tonnes of high carbon ferrochrome annually,
accounting for about 4 percent of global ferrochrome production.
State-owned Sinosteel and Zimasco inked the deal on Sept. 19 last year.
"The deal will benefit the trade cooperation between the two countries, and
help local economic development, create employment opportunities, and
promote social stability in Zimbabwe," Sinosteel said at the time when the
deal was struck.
China's investment invasion of Africa has been met with widespread reaction,
with some doubting the sincerity of China's spending on African projects.
Saturday 23rd February 2008
Dear Family and Friends,
Headline news on the propaganda mill one day this week was that three
trillion Zimbabwe dollars had been raised for President Mugabe's 84th
birthday party. I thought about what you could do with that much money but
before I could work it out I had to check in a dictionary just exactly how
much a trillion was.
My sources say that a billion is a thousand million and a trillion is a
million million. This means that for the President's birthday celebration
being held in Beitbridge, there is a pile of money which on paper is a 3
followed by 12 zeroes. Even in Zimbabwe's collapsed state, 3 trillion
dollars is a huge amount of money. It didn't take long before my kitchen
table was littered with bits of scrap paper covered with handwritten sums.
Why didn't I just use a calculator you might ask? That's simple, there are
too many digits and so this sum had to be done by hand.
The calculations took some time to perform and the results were shocking.
For three trillion dollars I could buy three million kilograms of maize meal
at the present Grain Marketing Board price of a million dollars a kg. This,
of course, is assuming that the GMB had any maize meal for sale, which they
say they haven't. Allowing half a kg of maize meal per person, 6 million
Zimbabweans, half the population of the country, could have had one decent
meal with the President's birthday party money. A friend who is far more
mathematically minded than me, and had more patience with all those lines of
zeroes, worked the figures out a different way. 85 trucks, each holding 35
tonnes of maize, could have been filled with the three trillion dollars of
birthday party money.
Moving away from the dollars, I went in search of ingredients usually found
at a birthday party. Three major supermarket chains which have outlets all
over the country were visited. The cake came first on my list but there was
no flour, sugar, margarine, baking powder, milk or eggs in any of the
Puddings and sweet treats were next on my list but there was no jelly,
instant pudding, custard, biscuits or tarts to buy. Sandwiches, I thought,
they are good for parties but there was no bread or rolls, no spread,
cheese, cold meats or sandwich fillings to buy. What about a hot meal I
thought but there was no maize meal, rice, pasta or potatoes and so that
idea was also a non starter.
The shopping list and the search for ingredients was a pointless exercise
but at least it was easier than trying to understand the latest official
inflation figures. In January 2008 inflation was one hundred thousand, five
hundred and eighty percent - it is the stuff of hellish nightmares and the
reason why we parents can't sleep at night.
Trying to understand three trillion dollars was utterly absurd for an
ordinary mum in a collapsed country. Hardest of all though was knowing that
half the population of the country could have gone to bed tonight on a full
stomach if the birthday party had been sacrificed for the suffering, hungry
people of a country whose 84 year old ruler has been in power for almost 28
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.
Saturday 23rd February 2008
'Raring to go, raring to fly' declared Robert Mugabe this week, referring to
his bid to rule Zimbabwe for another five years. I'm sure I wasn't the only
one to breathe a fervent ' And so say all of us'!
The picture on the front of this week's Zimbabwean of the presidential
helicopter parked on the state house lawn all ready for takeoff confirms
what I have always believed: that when push finally comes to shove, Robert
Mugabe will just take off into the bright blue yonder. The last we see of
him will be flying off to some 'safe haven' leaving behind a torn and broken
nation. Of course, we won't actually see his final departure because it will
be in the dead of night and Zimbabweans will wake up the next morning to an
eerie silence from the assorted propaganda merchants, the crooks and thugs
who have kept the old man in power all these years. Long experience of
classroom bullies has taught me that when someone finds the courage to stand
up to them, these characters crumple up like the paper tigers they really
are. Bullies are, by their very nature, cowards; they live by violence and
when faced with an opponent whose strength rests not in brute force but in
moral certainty, they have no answer.
The one thing we can be sure of is that Robert Mugabe will unleash even more
violence on Zimbabweans in the next few weeks. We have seen it already in
the brutal attack on the top members of the PTUZ, the alternative teachers'
union, for distributing fliers protesting at the parlous state of education
in the country. Some 8000 teachers have left the country since the beginning
of the year and now teachers are once again in the frontline, the perceived
enemies of the state in the same way that whites were once declared by
Mugabe to be the enemy within, to be made, he said, to tremble with fear. In
the rural areas, teachers are traditionally polling officers and Mugabe has
once again unleashed his thugs to beat them up; presumably in the belief
that anyone capable of independent thought must be pro-MDC. Is it any wonder
teachers leave the country and that our education system is in ruins?
This week we had the official Central Statistical Office announcement that
inflation has lifted off into the stratosphere at 100.000%. Mugabe has no
solution; violence is the only weapon left in his armoury. His Price
Controls have failed to tame inflation, his minions at RBZ continue to print
useless Zim dollars thus driving up inflation even higher and his army and
police force all have to be paid more and more to keep them doing his dirty
work of brutalising the population. But Mugabe will still celebrate his 84th
birthday with a $3 trillion birthday party and no doubt his usual tirade
against the Brits and anyone else who dares to question his right to govern
in perpetuity because he won our freedom he will tell us - again.
The question I often ask myself is why would anyone in their right mind vote
for Mugabe and Zanu PF when all around them they see the evidence of a
government that has totally failed to govern? What exactly would they be
voting for; another five years of poverty and desperation, a future without
hope for themselves and their children? There is a generation of 'born
frees' who have known nothing but Zanu PF's misrule, surely they want
something different? Even if we see a 'reformed' Zanu PF without Mugabe at
the helm, do Zimbabweans really believe that life will get better for them?
To me the label 'reformed' Zanu PF is a contradiction in terms; it's rather
like the desperate apartheid government back in the eighties promising a
reformed apartheid state as the way forward for South Africa. The truth is
that Zanu PF cannot be reformed, whatever Thabo Mbeki and western diplomats
may want to believe. It is for the people of Zimbabwe to demonstrate to
Africa and the rest of the world that they want real change, not some
cosmetic adjustment that satisfies no one but the international power
An example from the international scene serves a very useful lesson here. In
Pakistan's recent elections, Mushareff's party was clearly defeated but the
US and UK are pressuring the electoral winners to allow Mushareff to stay in
power; not because it reflects the will of the Pakistani people but because
it suits the western agenda to have a man they regard as an ally in the 'war
on terror.' In Zimbabwe too, it will suit the international backers of Simba
Makoni to have a new, 'reformed' Zanu PF in power. A|pparently, they believe
that Simba Makoni, the onetime Minister of Finance in Mugabe's government,
can fix Zimbabwe's shattered economy. It's hard to understand why they think
that when we all know that Makoni was a part of the old Zanu PF that caused
all the mess in the first place. and to quote his own words, he is not
against Robert Mugabe, not against Zanu PF. My question remains: Where
exactly does Simba Makoni stand? What are his true intentions should he
happen to win the presidential election? Which party will he turn to since
he has no party structure of his own? These are urgent questions that need
to be answered before Zimbabweans cast their precious votes.
Yours in the struggle. PH
†Saturday, 23 February 2008 06:15
ZINASU Gender and Human Rights Secretary badly assaulted by police after
leading a demonstration.
Over 150 tertiary students took to the streets of Bulawayo in a peaceful
protest which later turned bloody after the police forcefully dispersed the
crowd. Gender and Human Rights Secretary, Privilege Mutanga, who is nine
months pregnant, was badly assaulted and suffered a broken hand and a
twisted ankle, she is currently admitted at Galen House† where she is
getting medical attention. The ZINASU President Clever Bere, NUST Secretary
General Isheunesu Nyoni and ten other students were briefly detained at
Bulawayo Central were they were subjected to inhumane treatment.
Three of the arrested students were forced to masturbate and some were badly
beaten. The street action was motivated by the continued decline of
education standards. Students also expressed the crucial need for a free and
fair election in the coming March 29 polls; they were also denouncing
political violence and the use of physical coercion and intimidation of
innocent citizens by politicians. The violent retaliation by the regime is a
pure reflection of the growing political mayhem as Zimbabwe approaches the
March Presidential, parliamentary and local government election and clear
evidence that the regime is not prepared to afford democratic space for free
participation to all.
Secretary General, Lovemore Chinoputsa, University of Zimbabwe Secretary for
Legal and Academic Affairs, Fortune Chamba and Former UZ student leader
Sambulo Matema were heavily beaten and arrested after leading a peaceful
protest in Harare. The Information and Publicity Secretary Blessing Vava
together with other five students were beaten but have not been
arrested.They intended to hand a petition to the Minister of Higher and
Tertiary Education which was demanding a conclusion to the SADC-led talks,
free and fair elections, media freedoms among other things. They are
currently detained at Harare Central† Police Station .
ZINASU condemns in the most vehement of terms the continued harassment of
students.It is quite saddening that the very same government that purports
to be promoting the participation of women should harass female human rights
defenders. The case of the severe assault of nine months pregnant Mutanga
exposes the hypocrisy of the regime that continues to scare women away from
We also condemn gender-based violence such as the that witnessed today of
three male students who were forced to masturbate by police.
Gender and Human Rights Department
Zimbabwe National Students Union
53 Hebert Chitepo Ave,
Defending academic freedoms in Zimbabwe