‘Life is getting better in Zimbabwe’ reads the headline over a ‘review’ in the London Telegraph by a former director of Britain’s National Theatre Richard Eyre. ‘Many Zimbabweans are now prospering’.
Mr Eyre says: ‘I’ve just returned from Zimbabwe, where my daughter has recently gone to live with her family. Six years ago inflation was at 231 million per cent, there was widespread unrest and massive unemployment. But, at least on my brief visit, the city of Harare utterly failed to live down to my expectations. The US dollar is now the local currency and, in spite of forceful government and forced land redistribution, if you walk around the centre and the suburbs of the city you will witness no violence and encounter universal courtesy.’ (See: Richard Eyre: life is getting better in Zimbabwe – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/10891638/Richard-Eyre-life-is-getting-better-in-Zimbabwe.html).
The Vigil is glad that Mr Eyre had a pleasant visit. But we don’t think we can pack up our protest and all go home. What must give us pause is that Mr Eyre appears to be less than fully informed of the situation he surveyed from the verdant suburbs of Harare. We ask ourselves: did this theatrical giant bestride Chintingwiza?
We at the Vigil would hesitate to publish our views on one of his productions (say ‘Sunny Zimbos’) on the basis of Act 1, Scene 1 (Enter Fool Stage Left). We would suggest he turns his theatrical talent to a more Sophoclean image: ‘Zimbabwean rips out man’s heart, then feasts with fork and knife’ (see: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit_t_bulawayo24-news-zimbabwean-rips-out-mans-heart-then-feasts-with-fork-and-knife/).
This story is certainly no more the whole truth about Zimbabwe than Mr Eyre’s ‘Sunny Zimbos’ but it might offer a man of the theatre more dramatic possibilities.
He could explore other human stories from this week’s press: two schoolboys walking 100 kilometres during the night to write their exams in the morning (see: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit_g_government-slammed-failing-on-education/ – Government slammed, failing on education).
Talent Musasa, baby on back, lifts a 14 pound hammer above her head to crush stones for a living (Crushing stones – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit_g_crushing-stones-for-a-living-as-job-market-crashes-newsday-zimbabwe/).
Minister Didymus Mutasa, Secretary for Administration, warns: ‘Be careful not to denigrate our president; we will visit your bedrooms and expose what you will be doing. We have our means of seeing things these days, we just see things through our system. So no-one can hide from us in this country.’ (See: Mutasa threats archaic – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/mutasa-threats-archaic/).
Mr Eyre goes to Harare and finds no drama. He might like to read this poem by Vigil supporter Tendai Chadehumbe (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/594-tendais-poems – Tendai’s poems):
My hospital is very big and people are coming every day because they still have hope, but no one is going back home happily, because my hospital is a dead end.
There is no food, people are starving,
No treatment; people are in pain,
No medication, people are dying. No qualified nurses and doctors because they are not earning enough.
I have watched my loved ones dying, Young ones and elderly people crying, Crying for their loved ones. Everyone is now scared of my hospital.
There is no water, no electricity; the resources are not enough. People are going home without treatment.
In my hospital, people are dying every day.
With his sweeping ignorance, Mr Eyre might not be aware that hospitals in Zimbabwe are desperately short of medicines but one in Bulawayo recently destroyed a batch of drugs which were time-expired because none of the patients could afford to pay the bribes for them (see: http://www.swradioafrica.com/2014/06/05/bulawayo-hospitals-shamed-over-expired-drugs/ – Bulawayo hospitals shamed over expired drugs). The Vigil hopes that Mr Eyre’s daughter will not need treatment in a Zimbabwean hospital.
· The Vigil today launched a new petition to the European Union calling for voting rights for the diaspora to be made a precondition for further re-engagement with Zanu PF. The petition reads: A petition to the European Union: Millions of Zimbabweans have been forced into exile by the brutality, incompetence and corruption of the Zanu PF regime of Robert Mugabe. Despite the absence of any reforms, including the holding of free and fair elections, the EU is moving to normalise relations with the illegitimate Zimbabwean regime, promising hundreds of millions of dollars in aid direct to Mugabe’s party. We urge the EU to insist that the diaspora is guaranteed the vote in future elections, as ordered by the African Union, before re-engagement goes any further.
· Vigil supporter Dr Clifford Mashiri has started a social media campaign against the EU’s policy of appeasement. He calls on people around the world to take to Twitter to tweet and retweet the #RestoreZimDiasporaVote, as a form of public pressure on the EU (see: Diaspora calls for voting rights as precondition for EU re-engagement – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit_diaspora-calls-for-voting-rights-as-precondition-for-eu-re-engagement/).
· The group tasked to carry forward the aims of the Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF) met before the Vigil and discussed, among other matters, our relationship with the emerging political dispensation in Zimbabwe and how we should engage the diaspora in the UK and elsewhere as well as the people on the ground in Zimbabwe. It was agreed that education about constitutional rights was paramount but it was felt that the Zimbabwe Vigil should be clear about where we stand.
· Thanks to those who came early to set up the Vigil: Isaac Chatikobo, Fungayi Mabhunu, Bridget Zhakata and her small cousin 7 year-old Ruva.
For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.
FOR THE RECORD: 18 signed the register.
EVENTS AND NOTICES:
· Zimbabwe Yes We Can meeting. Saturday 21st June at 12 noon. Venue: The Theodore Bullfrog, 26-30 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HL.
· Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF). Saturday 21st June from 6.15 pm. Venue: Strand Continental Hotel (first floor lounge), 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA. From the Vigil it’s about a 10 minute walk, in the direction away from Trafalgar Square. The Strand Continental is situated on the south side of the Strand between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge. The entrance is marked by a sign at street level. It’s between a newsagent and Pizza Express. Nearest underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and Holborn.
· ROHR Southampton Branch general meeting. Saturday 21st June from 2 – 5 pm. Venue: Age Concern Building, 20 Romsey Road, Eastleigh S050 9AL. For further enquiries contact: Sally Mutseyami (Chairperson) 07448730581, Wellington Mukucha (Vice Chairperson), 07450264733, Sekayi Mwenye (Secretary) 07428570134, Chipo Mtetwa (Organising Secretary) 07403341214 & Regina Matongo 07401 112210 (Info & Publicity Secretary).
· ROHR Reading Branch general meeting. Saturday 28th June from 2 – 5 pm. Venue: RISC, 35-39 London St, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4PS. For further enquiries contact: Erick Eluwasi, the Information and Publicity Officer on 07532021348
· ROHR Slough Branch general meeting. Saturday 28th June 2014 from 1 pm – 3.30 pm. Venue: Upton Lea Community Hall, Wexham Road, Slough SL2 5JW. For further information contact Patricia Masamba (Chairperson on 07708116625, Nkosikona Tshabangu Vice Chairperson 07887398247, Sharon Zimuto Secretary 07988165394, Fungisai Mupandira 077988958803, Iline Manhunzi Treasurer 07824886092 and Tichaona Mafokosho Information and Publicity 07939696521.
· Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights 2013 can be viewed on this link: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/560-vigil-highlights-2013. Links to previous years’ highlights are listed on 2013 Highlights page.
· The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents the views and opinions of ROHR.
· Zimbabwe Yes We Can Movement holds monthly meetings in London as the political face of ROHR and the Vigil.
· The Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF) meets twice a month after the Vigil to discuss ways to help those back in Zimbabwe to fight oppression and achieve true democracy
· For the Zimbabwean Diary, check: http://www.thezimbabwean.co/entertainment/film-and-theatre/71964/welcome-to-whats-on.html.
· Facebook pages:
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe. http:/www.zimvigil.co.uk.