|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Early this Sunday morning, I walked across the road to see Dave Coltart. We had arranged an early morning session to discuss some plans we had for the presidential campaign that is now in full swing and one or two other concerns. Dave is not that hot early in the morning – the dogs gave me a big welcome and I found Dave in the study, babysitting his baby girl – born a couple of months ago, so that his wife Jenny could get some sleep.
It was a lovely morning – typical of the Matebeleland area, crisp and fresh with warm blue sky and the promise that it was going to be hot. Dave was leaving at 11.00 hrs that same day for another protracted trip overseas, this time on human rights work. Last night he took the family out for the evening and while we spoke his youngest son, Scott, came into the study and sat in his dad’s chair doodling. He was obviously upset that his dad was once again leaving to go outside the country, he only got in on Saturday, they saw each other so little as it is, it seemed unfair.
This evening I wondered if people realised just what a sacrifice people like Dave are making every day to see this country through the present crisis and into calmer political and economic waters. Dave is a very successful lawyer, heads of the largest practice in Matebeleland and at the same time does a lot of basic human rights work through the legal foundation he help start. In addition he a serving Member of Parliament, Chairman of the Legal Committee in Parliament and holds down the portfolio of Shadow Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in the Movement for Democratic Change.
But it’s not just the extent of the formal commitments he has that puts pressure on Dave in his daily round. He has in recent months spoken to thousands of farmers in all parts of Zimbabwe, encouraging them not to give in to the thugs, telling them that better days are coming and that they as whites are appreciated and have a place in the new dispensation that he is sure is coming. He is a white African, but is known throughout the country simply as "Dave". His constituency is 90 per cent low income black electorate and he is greeted wherever he goes as "one of us". David takes on too much, he is so committed to what he is doing that he cannot understand those who quit the battle field at this late stage in our history. He feels the struggle of the community to make ends meet and the injustice of it all so deeply that on occasion it gets to him and he breaks down – sometimes in the middle of a talk in some remote corner of the country.
A devout Christian and sports lover, he is also a family man with 4 children and a very supportive and understanding wife, Jenny. It’s unbelievably tough on Jenny and the kids. Police and others at the gate with warrants of detention, dad in hiding while others sort things out. The constant threats against his business and person necessitating a guard on the house 24 hours a day and special close protection when he goes out in public. The family have sacrificed enormously this past year, they miss Dave every time he goes away and the threats against him because of his stand, are constantly in their minds. It affects the kids in ways that few of us understand.
Why? What for? Certainly not money – he would be much better off anywhere else he chose to live, certainly not the desire for power, as a white African, he knows he will never be able to wield real power in an African country. Fame – he knows well that the accolades of men and women are not to be relied upon and that it may be good today but gone tomorrow. No, it’s far deeper than any of these normal motivations and it may sound crazy in today’s materialistic world. No he does it because he feels so deeply about the ordinary people of this country who suffer under a repressive and brutal government. He does it for principle – the pursuit of basic human and legal rights, he does it because he loves his country and wants to make sure that there will be a better place in the Zimbabwe sun for his children.
But most of all, he does it because he really does feel that this is where God wants him to be and this is what God has called him to do. Sounds corny in today’s world and our agnostic societies, but it’s true. Jesus said 2000 years ago that those who would seek to save their lives for themselves, would lose their lives, those who gave their lives up would find real life in what they did. It’s a commitment far beyond a political campaign; it is the kind of commitment which will see us win this particular battle against injustice and corruption in Zimbabwe. When that battle is won, it will be because people like Dave stayed the course, ran the race and did not quit to pursue softer options.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve, with Dave and the many thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans who are working in the MDC to secure a better future. I am excited about the struggle that lies ahead and I am absolutely sure of the outcome because justice in on our side.
Many years ago I took a group of 60 small boys camping in the Vumba mountains. As was our practice we divided them into teams for a daily round of sport and games designed to exhaust them by bedtime and to teach them teamwork. On this camp one team ended up with all the midgets. For the first few days they were licked at every game they played. I sat down with the leaders and debated what to do. We decided to take our most outstanding young leader and put him in charge of the team as a coach. After two days they began to win, by the end of camp they were winning all the time. It was a question of commitment, leadership and will. They were still the midgets, but they were winning big time. That’s us.
Bulawayo, 7th October 2001.
From The Daily News, 6 October
Judge orders Chihuri to probe base commander
High Court judge, Justice George Smith has ordered Augustine Chihuri, the Police Commissioner, to investigate the commander of a war veterans’ base at Beaconhill Farm near Bindura. The commander is alleged to have directed 10 Zanu PF youths to assault nine teachers, suspected to be MDC supporters, at Uronga South Primary School last June. The teachers were beaten up in front of their pupils. The base commander had allegedly promised land to the unemployed youths, aged between 18 and 23 years.
"It seems highly probable that the accused were acting on the instructions of the base commander," Smith said. "If that was, in fact, the case, then the moral blameworthiness of the commander is far greater than that of the youths. He should not be allowed to go scot-free if he was the one who ordered the attack. The use of young men who want land as pawns in the political struggle and to make them go out and assault and intimidate innocent members of the public who are going about their own business, in order to qualify for land cannot be condoned."
The youths all pleaded guilty to public violence. Smith was reviewing the trial of the 10 youths at the Bindura Magistrates’ Courts. The magistrates’ court sentenced each of the youths to three years’ imprisonment, of which nine months were suspended for five years on condition they do not, within that period, commit an offence involving assault, arson or malicious injury to property. Smith said the sentence was appropriate. He said: "Public violence committed by the youths on the teachers, in front of their pupils, on the scale that was done in this case, merely because the teachers were suspected to belong to an opposition political party, cannot be condoned. The police are to be commended for having the accused brought before the court, but they must not stop half-way."
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 8 October
Invaders cripple Zimbabwe farms
Hwedza - Zimbabwean farmers are being forced to slaughter prime breeding cattle after their pastures were destroyed by land invaders, agricultural organisations said yesterday. Commercial farmers have had to send about half the national breeding herd of 550,000 animals, including thousands of pregnant cows, to abattoirs because supporters of President Mugabe set thousands of acres on fire last month. Yesterday, Mike Clarke, a regional executive of the Commercial Farmers' Union, said: "The commercial breeding herd is being decimated because farmers can't find grazing. I have never seen cattle lose condition so dramatically as in the last few weeks." He said abattoirs were fully booked until late November.
A growing number of breeding cattle had been slaughtered by land invaders in recent weeks and wild animals were also being killed. At the same time the mobs were extorting enormous sums of money from white farmers. He said: "When the rains come next month, tens of thousands of cattle will be sent for slaughter because we know the squatters will extort money from us, saying our cattle have ruined their crops growing on our land." Mr Mugabe's supporters, mostly unemployed youths and a few veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war, were officially sponsored to invade nearly two thirds of white-owned farms last February after voters rejected a new constitution. The continuing breakdown and looting of the agricultural sector, which contributes at least 40 per cent of exports, has led to chaotic movements of cattle, with many crossing broken fences. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease in August led to the cancellation of valuable beef exports. New farm invasions and a sharp rise in violence followed Mr Mugabe's pledge to honour the Commonwealth's Abuja agreement last month, which should have ended chaos on the farms and returned Zimbabwe to the rule of law.
At the weekend, Mike Whitfield, 60, who served with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards for 10 years, was barricaded in his farm in the Hwedza district, 120 miles south-east of Harare. About 350 cattle were driven into the homestead garden by supporters of Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party too young to have seen service in the independence war. One said: "We are comrades, we are war veterans, we own this place, his cattle will spoil our crops." Police restored order 24 hours after they were called following a night of terror for Mr Whitfield, his wife and the workers. On a nearby farm in Hwedza, a 90-year-old farmer's widow was recovering from an attack in her homestead last week. She had been coshed on the head, stripped of most of her clothes and left for dead. Because of the turmoil in its agricultural sector Zimbabwe, which used to be self-sufficient in grain, needs to import at least 200,000 tons of maize by February. But grain industry sources said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had no foreign currency with which to buy it.
From ZWNEWS, 8 October
Just a very few of the Abuja violations from the last week...
On 1 October, Minister Ignatius Combo and Philip Chiyangwa MP addressed a meeting of farmers in Banket. In the course of the meeting, in front of 200 witnesses, Mr Chiyangwa said "…anyone who supports the MDC will be eliminated".
On 4 October, a farmer in Mashonaland West was told by the District Administrator that, despite his farm being unlisted, he would have to live with the squatters who would not be moving from his land.
On 6 and 7 October, drunken squatters on two farms near Lake Mazwikadei set up road blocks on access roads, preventing tourists from leaving camp sites on the farms.
On 7 October, a senior civil servant, Willard Chiwewe, admitted to the Zimbabwe Standard that he has been trying to force the takeover, for himself, of an unlisted farm in the Shamva area. Mr Chiwewe already has a lease on a farm under the "VIP resettlement scheme" detailed in the Dongo List. Recently, some observers, and the Zimbabwe government, have said that time is needed for the details of the Abuja agreement to be passed down to the people on the ground. As the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Chiwewe has no excuse for not knowing what was agreed at Abuja. He may even have been there.
From The San Francisco Chronicle, 7 October
In Zimbabwe, brides come at a price - and the price is going up
Harare - The church bells are pealing, the red hibiscus flowers are blazing and the jacaranda trees are shedding so many purple petals that the sidewalks seem awash in fairy dust. Love is in the air, and giddy couples are drifting through Africa Unity Square while dreamy brides-to-be are twirling in gowns at B B Boutique on Robert Mugabe Road. It is springtime in Zimbabwe, when hearts turn to romance and pockets empty for "roora," the word for bride price in the local Shona language. Roora is the gift offered to prospective in-laws by suitors hoping to win a young woman's hand and the blessing of the ancestors. It is meant to be a token of appreciation, a gift that unites two families - loosely akin to an engagement ring. The tradition has passed from great- grandfathers who once herded cows through green grasslands to suit-and-tie civil servants who toil in this capital city's office towers. But these days, this nation racked by political and economic turmoil has added wedding woes to its troubles as parents charge higher and higher bride prices to earn extra income. Some people are requesting cell phones, second-hand cars or even canisters of gasoline to sweeten the deal.
In rural communities, men typically offer 5 to 10 cows as a bride price; in cities, the tradition was for men to offer the cash equivalent. But inflation has sent the price of cows from $54 a head to as much as $200, while most salaries have not kept pace. Local newspapers report that some prominent families are charging thousands of dollars at a time when the average private-sector employee earns only about $1,800 a year. Some families, mindful of the plummeting value of the Zimbabwe dollar, are demanding payment in American dollars. All this has horrified both traditional leaders and sociologists here, not to mention some potential grooms. As for the ancestors, some people warn, they must be shaking their heads in disgust. "With this poverty these days, people are capitalizing on tradition," said Richard Mhike, 33, who works as a printer. "Any reasonable person would tell you it's just not right to charge such exorbitant amounts of money. It's bad, bad, bad." Mhike should know. Three weeks ago, he was sitting in a mud hut with a black satchel full of cash. He was negotiating a bride price for his brother, an electronics technician who was seeking permission to marry his sweetheart, a clothing store clerk.
Uncles and brothers typically negotiate on behalf of the future groom, and aunts and sisters for the future bride. The discussions usually take place in the rural home village, even if the lovers are city people with brick houses and satellite dishes. Mhike had about $545 with him, which he thought would be plenty. But when the bride's family told him they wanted $3,800, close to his brother's entire annual salary, he walked out in protest. The groom-to-be threatened to cancel the wedding. His fiancée wept. After some nail-biting negotiations, her relatives reduced the price by 10 percent. They took the $545 as a deposit and agreed to accept the rest in instalments over the life of the marriage. Mhike said the bride's extended family probably needed the money to buy groceries. "If you love her," Mhike said glumly, "you have to accept it."
But advocates for women warn that the trend may have ugly consequences. Even before prices started rising, they condemned the tradition, saying it leaves women vulnerable to abusive husbands who believe they own their wives. Claude Mararike, a sociologist at the University of Zimbabwe, worries about what the trend might mean for poor men. Poverty is on the rise in this country, which has lost some Western aid because of the government's support for invasions of white-owned farms. "People are saying that this is the only chance to make a lot of money, but a poor man must also marry," Mararike said.
From a reader
I write with concern, once again, Zimbabwean citizens of Indian descent have been totally forgotten by the media and yourself. There are approximately 10 000 - plus or minus - Zimbabweans of Indian descent who are Zimbabweans, with no other claims to any other citizenship. We are not mentioned in your article at all as being affected. Approximately 80% of this figure will be affected by this unjust citizenship regulation.
The local community has been attempting to get some form of information from the Indian High Commission on the way to process the applications for renunciation of Indian citizenship, but have not reached an agreement to date. I am also aware of one man in his early fifties who came to Zimbabwe with his parents from Tanzania in the early 1950s. He was made to renounce British as well as Tanzanian citizenship, because at the time that he was born Tanzania was a British colony.
I was born in Zambia, my mother in Zimbabwe and my late father in India whilst India was a British colony. Where does that leave me? I have decided that when my Zimbabwean passport expires in mid 2002 I will wait and see if I am made stateless. I have a document from the Zambian High Commission stating that I renounced Zambian citizenship in 1988. I am aware that what the Zimbabwean passport office is doing is illegal, but many citizens are not aware that they can fight the system. I have spoken to many people of all races who have been blissfully unaware of these regulations and how they are affected.
The media, both local and international has only been concentrating on the land issue. The results of this regulation, will mean less voters, and many stateless persons. How will this be tackled by foreign governments? Will money still be ploughed into Zimbabwe to sort out the land issue? Or will the broader picture be looked at?