The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Dear Family and Friends,
Almost every day someone asks me what hope there is for Zimbabwe. I must admit that I struggle to find an answer some days but when I see the incredible bravery and outstanding work of ordinary people it gives enormous hope and inspiration. I asked a friend in the Human Rights Forum to help me update the list of names of people murdered in political violence for the roll of honour on my website. She agreed but asked if she could also include a few details on each person so that they don't just become numbers and statistics. This alone gives me hope because it means that people care, no one has suffered in vain and every person who has died for freedom will not be forgotten - they have each taken us a step closer to democracy. Another cause for hope came this week as the Zimbabwe Women Lawyer's Association began gathering evidence to help release women being held and sexually abused in camps run by government youths. Horrific tales are surfacing of women and girls being abducted, gang raped and used day after day by young men who clearly think they are above the law - their day of reckoning is now approaching thanks to these caring Harare lawyers. Two women recounted their horrific tales, one, a 55 year old from Murombedzi, told how she was forced to attend a rally and gang raped when she tried to leave. "I did not do anything wrong. ... For these youths to do this to someone old enough to be their mother is unthinkable. ... They all took turns to rape me..."   Another woman from Rushinga said: "How can you be a legitimate leader to me when you got that position by raping me, beating me up, burning my property, scarring my son's back, taking over my home and taking away my dignity..." .
This week has seen  renewed attempts by our government to silence journalists in Zimbabwe. Under the guise of either the Public Order and Security Act or the newly passed Access to Information Bill, some of our country's bravest people have been picked up and charged with various offences. Daily News owner and editor in chief, Geoff Nyarota was arrested as was his chief reporter Pedzisai Ruhenya.  The Zimbabwe Independent's Editor, Iden Wetherell and senior correspondent Dumisani Muleya were also picked up and charged. These journalists will not give up though and as our crisis deepens more and more people are joining them, finding their voices and principles and doing the right thing for Zimbabwe . All of these things are cause for hope and help to dispel the despair that often threatens to engulf us. This week's Financial Gazette carries the story that war veterans have made new demands to the government. These include a 150% rise in their monthly pension, a 60% increase in the school fee allowance for each of their children and a new state subsidised medical aid scheme to cover war veterans and their dependants. War veteran Andrew Ndlovu also said to the Financial Gazette: "The war veterans should be appointed as ministers or deputy ministers, governors, high commissioners, district administrators and senior police officers." Very soon now we will again see who is really in charge of Zimbabwe. Thanks as always for the messages of support and encouragement and sorry that so many of you say you aren't receiving my letter direct anymore - my email address has not changed so be persistent. Do also let me know if you would rather be taken off my mailing list. Until next week, with love, cathy.
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Mugabe regime threatens media critics with jail

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Saturday April 20, 2002
The Guardian

The top United Nations human rights watchdog considered alleged abuses in
Zimbabwe yesterday at the end of a week in which President Robert Mugabe's
government used its repressive new media laws to crack down on the press.
However, the 53-member UN human rights commission did not vote on a
resolution on Zimbabwe, sponsored by the European Union, which criticises
the allegedly rigged presidential election in March and political
intimidation by the ruling party, after Nigeria blocked the discussion.

Two newspaper editors and one reporter were arrested and charged this week:
Geoff Nyarota, editor of the country's only independent daily, the Daily
News, was charged under the new law for publishing a story that alleged Mr
Mugabe's officials rigged the election; and Iden Wetherell, editor of the
weekly Zimbabwe Independent, and the paper's senior reporter, Dumisani
Muleya, were charged under the new act for publishing a story about the Mr
Mugabe's brother-in-law.

The report stated that the brother of Grace Mugabe had sought her help to
seize control of a white-owned food processing company. All three
journalists could face two years in jail under the new law.

"Our story was not remotely defamatory," Mr Wetherell said. "The charge of
criminal defamation is widely discredited internationally and has been
repealed or struck down by courts in most other Commonwealth countries.

"Such laws to muzzle the media have no place in a democracy. We will not
give in to such crude and clumsy efforts to silence us."

The government also prevented the top international analyst John Prendergast
from entering Zimbabwe. The former advisor to Bill Clinton on African
affairs, who is now with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think
tank, was refused entry to the country on Wednesday although he had a valid

As co-director of the group's Africa programme, Mr Prendergast had issued
several reports critical of the government and recently described Mr
Mugabe's re-election as "illegitimate". He also lobbied the US and the EU to
impose targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his ruling clique.

Speaking from South Africa, Mr Prendergast said his expulsion "illustrates a
larger pattern of the government's subversion of any dialogue to find a
positive way forward for Zimbabwe's future". He added: "The international
community must take more robust action to isolate the top officials of this
regime until they take specific steps to restore democracy and the rule of

These are the latest incidents of growing repression by the Mugabe
government since the presidential election last month. Pro-Mugabe militias
have carried out a wave of violent retribution against people suspected of
having supported the opposition Movement of Democratic Change, according to
human rights monitors.
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From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 19 April
Concern over SA's stance on Zim
Amnesty International has voiced "deep concern" over South Africa's unclear
stance on a European Union resolution on violence by militia members and
"war veterans" in Zimbabwe, tabled at the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva. Amnesty's UN lobbyist Cathy Turner said Amnesty saw
South Africa as a "key player" in the commission and among African states,
and had not yet committed itself to the resolution. Amnesty and the rest of
the world community expected South Africa to take a stand against human
rights violations because of its experience of apartheid, she said. Rumours
were rife in UN corridors that South Africa might sponsor a "no action"
motion against the resolution. This device, routinely used by China to block
scrutiny of its human rights record, would prevent the commission from
considering the EU resolution. Turner pointed out that the African bloc in
the 53-member commission tabled a resolution last year stipulating that only
they had the right to table issues of concern to the continent. Similar
sentiments were echoed at the New Economic Partnership for Africa's
Development talks, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, this week. South African
presidential economic adviser Wiseman Nkuhlu, who is at the summit, told the
SABC that African countries wanted to be left alone to deal with African
issues such as Zimbabwe in their own way.
The SABC also reported that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had
criticised the "trade union stance" - continental solidarity – adopted by
the African states on Zimbabwe. Agency reports have speculated that
President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo did not turn
up at the conference as a possible rebuke to Wade for his critical stance.
Turner said the EU had held talks with the African states on the resolution,
which asks Zimbabwe to ratify the UN convention against torture and urges
the government "to fully cooperate with all relevant mechanisms of the
Commission on Human Rights, including inviting them to visit the country."
Requests by several UN human rights special rapporteurs to visit Zimbabwe
have been turned down by the government.
Sources said that at South Africa's insistence the EU incorporated a
paragraph recognising "the importance of fair, just and sustainable land
reform" in Zimbabwe. The UN representative from Spain, now chairing the EU
bloc, closely consulted the South African delegation on the wording. The
resolution urges Zimbabwean authorities to allow civil society "to operate
without fear of harassment or intimidation", as well as seeking government
assurances of "full respect for freedom of opinion and expression, including
freedom of the press in relation to all types of mass media." Reports also
indicated that South Africa might be softening its support for an optional
protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. After 10 years of drafting, a
compromise proposal has been tabled which would allow human rights experts
to inspect prisons round the world. Human rights monitors in Zimbabwe have
alleged widespread torture of opposition members by militiamen and war
South Africa's permanent representative at the UN in Geneva, SG Nene,
originally pledged to co-sponsor a motion to pass the proposal. But last
Wednesday diplomats were baffled when Nene stated that all such new human
rights treaties should be adopted by consensus, not by a majority vote.
Raising the bar in this way would almost certainly ensure that the proposal
dies. However, Turner said the South Africans "now seemed to be on board".
Nene could not be reached for comment on South Africa's position this week.
Foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa confirmed that the African bloc at
the UN would abstain when the vote on the European resolution is taken on
Friday. South Africa had not decided how it would vote.
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Price of Fuel Set to Go Up

The Daily News (Harare)

April 19, 2002
Posted to the web April 19, 2002

Collin Chiwanza

THE price of fuel is set to go up next month despite denials by the government. The increase will trigger off a new wave of price rises in a host of products as well as in transport charges.

The last fuel price increases in June 2001 saw a massive 70 percent rise in the cost of fuel.

A senior official at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim), the country's sole fuel procurement agency, said prices would go up early next month.

Officials in the oil industry yesterday dismissed as a mere political statement, the recent assurances by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Edward Chindori-Chininga, that there would be no fuel price rise in the near future.

The minister's statement comes in the wake of reports that some motorists were now hoarding petrol and diesel in anticipation of an increase.

Staff at most service stations confirmed to The Daily News yesterday that a number of motorists were stockpiling large quantities of fuel because of the widespread rumours of another price jump.

The senior Noczim official said: "The minister is just playing politics. We know as a matter of fact that fuel prices will go up in the next two to three weeks. In fact, prices were supposed to have gone up at the beginning of April, but this was stopped for political reasons."

Speculation has been rife over the past few days that the government was planning to increase the price of fuel by between 15 and 25 percent.

Petrol is now pegged at $74,47 a litre, while diesel costs $66,39 a litre.

Increases in the price of fuel will trigger a fresh wave of price rises across the board, worsening the plight of the majority of the people, for whom transport cost constitutes a major part of their expenses. A worker on average spends at least $1 400 a month on transport alone.

Chindori-Chininga said another increase was not planned because of the turnaround at Noczim, which he said had seen the parastatal "shedding off a $12 billion debt".

Libya is providing 70 percent of Zimbabwe's fuel requirements amounting to US$30 million (Z$1,65 billion) monthly following the signing of a US$360 million (Z$19,8 billion) facility between the two countries last year.

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Too hungry to celebrate

Curiosity Tangireni

Harare - A new sound has joined the sounds of brotherly camaraderie amongst
Zimbabwe war vets - the grumble of hungry stomachs.

As it celebrated its 22nd Independence Day on Thursday, Zimbabwe's hangover
from a cocktail of economic problems was evident.

The sea of economic deprivation, poverty and hunger dampened the vigour and
electric atmosphere of previous celebrations.

"Celebrating what? Independence, I can't rejoice with an empty stomach,"
said war veteran Useni Rugotwi.

Rugotwi fought hard in the liberation war that booted the British from power
in 1980. But the struggle he now faces is that of survival.

"My children are starving, so I better queue for mealie meal," he said.

Zimbabwe is reeling in the wake of political violence, debt, foreign
sanctions and food shortages.

Foreign debt currently stands at US$5 billion and conservative estimates put
the inflation rate at 116%. Independent economists however put the figure at
over 300%.

Food the most immediate need

A more immediate challenge that ordinary Zimbabweans face is where their
next meal will come from.

The drought has left over five million people in desperate need of food aid.

Most urban and rural families can only afford one meal a day - the luxury of
an appetising breakfast has been foregone as the price of basic commodities
continues to skyrocket.

That aside, many of the basics like sugar, mealie meal and cooking oil
simply are not available in shops.

President Robert Mugabe, who was re-elected in last month's controversial
poll, is facing a daunting task trying to import enough maize to feed his
starving population.

Zimbabwe's neighbours are also feeling the affects of the crippling drought
and South Africa has stopped exporting to Zimbabwe because its own stocks
are running low.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank used to come to
Zimbabwe's aid in times of need. They have now turned their backs on the
country, saying Mugabe should accept responsibility for his debilitating
economic policies.

Politics 'of little importance'

They cited poor economic policies, the absence of rule of law and the
country's costly military intervention in Democratic Republic of Congo's war
as the root of Zimbabwe's economic crisis.

A recent report by the Zimbabwe coalition on debt however placed the blame
of the recession firmly on the policies instigated by the two institutions.
The World Bank has since said it misjudged Zimbabwe's ability to take
advantage of economic liberalisation.

But the politics of who is to blame is of little importance to the people on
the streets. What is important, is that their basic needs of food, clothes,
shelter and employment are met.

To commemorate the country's hard-won independence when there is no food in
your stomach is a hollow celebration.

Shifting blame and trading racial remarks won't do the country any good,
said one analyst.

"Zimbabwe needs a dedicated leadership to practically direct the country's
economy," he said.

Unless the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) wins a court
battle challenging the election result, 78-year-old Mugabe will rule for
another six years. - African Eye News Service

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From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 18 April

Prophet of hope for a nation in turmoil

At a time of violent political upheaval, millions of Zimbabweans regard singer Oliver Mtukudzi as a symbol of unity.

It is a long way from the courtyard of the Queen's Hotel in Harare, where his all-night shows in the Eighties and Nineties were legendary, but when Zimbabwe's musical giant Oliver Mtukudzi plays in London this weekend it will, in many ways, be a homecoming. Thousands of Zimbabweans have fled their country in recent years for economic and political sanctuary in the UK, and many of them will descend on the Stratford Rex on Saturday to welcome a man who is both the social conscience and creative musical force of an entire nation. Mtukudzi is here to promote his new album Vhunze Moto ("Burning Embers" in his native Shona language). It is the 44th album in a career that stretches back to the late Seventies, when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, Ian Smith was in power and the country was in flames. Two decades on, Zimbabwe is burning once more, wrecked by horrific political violence, economic meltdown and one of the worst Aids crises in Africa. If "burning embers" is an appropriate metaphor for the nation, Mtukudzi's role as artist, social commentator and national unifier is as vital today as it has ever been.

Surprisingly, Vhunze Moto has not been banned in Zimbabwe. The album cover depicts a map of the country in flames, and the track from which the title comes, Moto Moto ("Fire is Fire") is a moving Shona ballad that fans interpret as a warning to President Mugabe of impending catastrophe. "Even embers are fire," it translates. "Why wait until it's a huge flame to accept that it's fire?" Despite its often upbeat jiti rhythms and soaring vocal harmonies, a sense of foreboding permeates much of the album. Tapera ("We Have Been Decimated") is a tragic ballad about Aids - more than one million Zimbabweans are HIV positive. Perhaps most controversial is Magumo ("How Will It All End?"), a call-and-response number sung in Shona and Ndebele, the language of the minority Matabele, 20,000 of whom were killed in the genocide Mugabe unleashed in Matabeleland in the Eighties. "You may have the power, much power, and you oppress those who are weak. How will it all end?" Mtukudzi asks.

To millions of Zimbabweans, Mtukudzi's lyrics are nothing less than the teachings of a Shona prophet, and the inferences they draw are clear: Zimbabwe is burning and Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party will soon have to suffer the backlash. For Mtukudzi, though, there are no such simple interpretations. "I'm not a politician, I don't understand politics," he tells me, speaking from Harare. "My songs are about what I see around me, the happiness and sadness in my country. I don't believe in singing for a particular time. My songs should mean something yesterday, today and tomorrow."

Mtukudzi never openly refers to politics in his work, nor does he openly criticise Zimbabwe's leadership. Instead, he uses Shona imagery and African parables to tell stories that his listeners can interpret for themselves. On Yave Mbodza ("What Kind of Rearing is That?"), Mtukudzi asks why the ancient Shona practice of a parent chewing traditional root medicine and passing it on to a baby is no longer followed. On the surface, it is a simple morality tale. Look deeper, say his fans, and Tuku, as they like to call him, is singing about the corruption of the ageing generation of Zanu PF rulers who are keeping all the goodness of the country for themselves. "Oliver is an iron fist in a velvet glove," says John Matinde, a DJ on SW Radio Africa, a station set up in London last year to broadcast to Zimbabwe the music and independent news that state-owned radio no longer airs. "It is an open secret that he is referring to the political situation in Zimbabwe, but Oliver speaks in tongues. People can interpret him any way they wish."

The minstrel observing from the sidelines - it is a tactic that has served him well. Unlike his friend Thomas Mapfumo - Zimbabwe's only other bona fide international superstar - Mtukudzi has never allied himself with a political party, even in Zanu PF's heyday after independence. It has meant that, although state radio no longer plays his new work, the government has not been able to ban him either, and respect for him among the people is greater than ever. He still plays more than 100 concerts a year in Zimbabwe, many in remote rural areas where people cannot afford to buy his albums. The shows are always sold out and fans will cross the country to watch him. That said, he does not have an easy ride either. Several recent concerts have been cancelled after warnings that the CIO - Mugabe's notorious Central Intelligence Organisation - would beat up fans if he performed certain songs. A pre-election concert near Harare was invaded by 30 Zanu PF youths, who tried to force the band to wear Zanu PF T-shirts and caps during the performance. Mtukudzi refused, carried on the concert, and publicly rebuked the youths.

But the track that has caused most controversy is Wasakara, from the album Bvuma ("Tolerance"), which was released at the end of 2000 when the political violence was gaining momentum. Wasakara refers to an old man and the chorus translates: "You are old, you are spent, it is time to accept you are old." Zimbabweans immediately interpreted it as a reference to the 78-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980 and shows no sign of stepping down. Once again, Mtukudzi refuses to commit to interpretations. When I ask him what Wasakara is about, he says: "It's about a man getting old." Asked what he thought of the MDC using it as their anthem, he replies: "I'm happy for people to get meaning from my songs." And when asked why state radio no longer airs his new albums, he responds, with perfect PR spin: "Maybe it's because my PR is weak. I should promote myself more." It is possible that were he not speaking from Zimbabwe he would be more forthcoming, but Mtukudzi has always been opposed to confrontation and remains the ultimate unifier.

He is also the ultimate performer. He sings, plays guitar and dances throughout his shows - often for four hours straight - although, at 49, he has stopped playing Pungwes, traditional 12-hour concerts that would end at 6am. His nine-piece Black Spirits band (with three rousing backing singers) have been with him since the Eighties, and they contribute to his big-voice gospel-blues sound, which merges Zimbabwean jiti and South African mbaqanga, while retaining a style all its own. In Zimbabwe, they even call the genre "Tuku music". What, though, of his fans in London? So many Zimbabweans now live in exile in the UK that on the streets back home they refer to London as Harare North. "I will tell them their parents and families are missing them, and that they must not forget where they come from," says Mtukudzi. "One day, I hope they will go back."

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Harare Situation
The Nation (Nairobi)

April 20, 2002
Posted to the web April 20, 2002

L. Muthoni Wanyeki
Last week, the post-elections mediation effort by Nigeria and South Africa
between President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's
opposition MDC began in Zimbabwe.

In neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabweans from key academic institutions,
human rights, legal and media organisations met with some external
participants from the rest of Africa to analyse recent events in Zimbabwe
and strategise on what civil society could and should be doing now.

For an excerpt from the Africa 2002 guidebook, click here.
(Adobe Acrobat).

To buy the book, click here.

Zimbabwe has been the subject of more heated debates and the cause of more
deep disagreements among those who normally find themselves in concurrence
than anything I can remember. And the unfortunate result has been that the
provision of appropriate, strategic and useful solidarity to Zimbabweans, as
other Africans, has been next to impossible.

Let us first consider the facts. One, the obviously increasing limitations
on the rights to freedom of expression and association through fast-tracked
legislation in Zimbabwe.

Fact two, the formal and informal militarisation of the Zimbabwean state
through the increasing placement of ex-combatants and high-ranking military
personnel into key positions throughout the civil service as well as within
law-enforcement agencies and the enforced recruitment of Zimbabwean youth,
particularly in the rural areas, for militia training.

Fact three, the violence wrought against ordinary Zimbabweans, again
particularly in the rural areas.

And fact four, the growing number of Zimbabweans who are internally
displaced as a result of violence, now estimated at more than 70,000.

Why such disagreement?

So why is there such disagreement on whether what is happening in Zimbabwe
is acceptable or not? Do these facts not relate to basic human rights
standards - African or otherwise - that can be applied objectively?

Those present at the strategy session spent considerable time analysing the
causes for this disagreement.

The first and most important reason behind the African response can be found
in Mugabe's own comments during the elections. He repeatedly referred to the
second "chimurenga", that Zimbabwe was purportedly going through, saying
that these were therefore a "different kind of elections."

The implication was that when there is a higher goal, a popular uprising, a
revolutionary purpose, all actions are apparently justified.

It is this call to chimurenga that most African leaders and (however
misguidedly and unfortunately) many African progressives have responded to.

But more concretely, another fact is simply that there is a very real
material basis to Mugabe's call - both internally and externally. A Kenyan
colleague based in South Africa expounded on this point simply. The need for
land re-distribution in Zimbabwe is inescapable and unavoidable.

The United Kingdom has effectively reneged on its independence agreement to
fund land re-distribution efforts beginning ten years after independence.

However, it would be unwise to blindly support this current fast-tracked
land redistribution effort. Not only because of the evident flaws in the
process and the havoc it has wrought on ordinary Zimbabweans. But because
documentation already exists about the failings of previous land
re-distribution efforts in Zimbabwe.

Those failings and problems need to be investigated and addressed. As do
more serious current allegations about those benefiting from current efforts
before we buy into the idea that what is going on is for the benefit of
ordinary Zimbabweans.

That aside, yet another fact is that the response of the international
community and its media has been completely disproportionate and therefore
ultimately unhelpful in relation to its responses to similar situations in
the rest of Africa - witness the coverage and reactions to recent, also
contested elections from Madagascar to Zambia.

This observation is in no way meant to urge a downward levelling of
international response. But clearly race has coloured both coverage of and
international responses to Zimbabwe.

And if the impact of recent events in Zimbabwe on ordinary, non-white
Zimbabweans is not responded to across Africa, that is in no small measure
due to the fact that that the impact is not known by other Africans.

Outcome of mediation efforts

As we await the outcome of the mediation efforts and their results in terms
of actually addressing the deteriorating situation of most ordinary
Zimbabweans, let us heed the appeal from those Zimbabweans present at the
strategy session. Zimbabwe is not an either/or situation, as is being
currently portrayed. Both the internal and the external have to be

In the meantime, we in no way go counter to the use of the nationalist and
pan-Africanist claims of Mugabe and Zanu-PF by pointing out and insisting
that the human rights situation in the country be dealt with.

In the words of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform, a forum for genuine
ex-combatants and war veterans: "The first deliverable of any freedom
struggle is freedom."

Ms Wanyeki is executive director, African Women's Development and
Communication Network.
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ABC Australia
Posted: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 21:08 AEST

UN resolution defeat a 'victory over imperialism': Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has welcomed an African-led vote that blocked a European Union call
for United Nations human rights investigations into the southern African

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run daily, The Herald, the
vote is a victory over imperialism.

"Once again we have been able to kill and frustrate the machinations of
imperialist forces," he said.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Commission voted by 26 to 24 not to take
action on a draft resolution presented by European Union countries.

The resolution would have urged Harare to invite UN rights experts to visit
the country.

"I am happy that so many countries have been able to see through the
machinations of imperialist powers such as the EU led by Britain to
re-colonise Zimbabwe," Mr Chinamasa said.

"I am pleased once again that he [British Foreign Minister Jack Straw] has
not succeeded."

African nations on the UN's top rights forum, along with some Asian and
Middle Eastern states opposed the bid.

"Those who voted for us are indeed our friends. We hope those who voted
against us will in future appreciate our position," he said.

Three countries abstained, among them the west African state of Cameroon.

The draft had also expressed concern at "violations of human rights by the
Government of Zimbabwe".

Nigeria rejected the EU's move as "politically motivated", and said it had
failed to take into account the root causes of Zimbabwe's human rights

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Made hits out at ministry officials

4/19/02 12:17:18 PM (GMT +2)

Staff Reporter

DR Joseph Made, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, has lashed out at unidentified officials in his ministry accusing them of delaying the government’s controversial and often violent fast-track land resettlement programme.

In remarks in a statement on the implementation of the programme over the past 18 months, Made said: “The ministry’s civil servants have done a hard job so far. However, a serious problem has arisen of different levels not working at the same pace.

“A number of critical officers seem to be putting brakes on the implementation of the land reform programme.

“Numerous reports on the ground allege that civil servants in my ministry at certain levels are working hand-in-hand with commercial farmers to derail and delay the gains so far achieved on the future of the programme.”

Made said he would “not hesitate to deal with officials that derail and or delay the land reform programme”.

His remarks were part of a statement indicating the measures and the direction the government was taking in order to conclude the land reform programme.

Made said some of the challenges the government has faced in implementing the land reform programme are resistance by the commercial farmers, delays in the administrative courts, bureaucratic delays in the ministry, officers wanting to formulate rather than implement policy, and lack of adequate financial, human and physical resources.

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Children’s issues sidelined by changing times says child expert

4/19/02 11:24:54 AM (GMT +2)

By Foster Dongozi Features Writer

THE welfare of children was a collective responsibility of the community in African culture.

In the event of children losing one or both parents, the extended family would readily absorb them.

But with urbanisation, the break-up of the extended family has left children exposed and vulnerable.

The demise of the extended family, has also seen the emergence of bizarre crimes, which until recently, were unheard of.

Some of the crimes include raping infants, some of them as young as six months and dumping newly-born babies.

The former is the result of a misguided belief that a person infected with
HIV/Aids can be cured by having sex with a minor.

The latter is the result of unwanted pregnancies or the refusal of responsibility by the responsible male partner.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association dismissed claims of Aids cures by traditional healers and condemned n’angas who instigate their clients to commit such crimes.

When the government added the element of Child Welfare to the Ministry of
Health in 1996, it was applauded as the decision was interpreted to mean it cared for the well-being of children.

The government quickly eroded those gains by depriving tens of thousands of children of their fathers by sending them on a risky and profitless military misadventure to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two years later.

A large number have returned in body bags, while their colleagues in the DRC remain constantly exposed to the risks of malaria and the deadly Ebola virus.

On officially becoming the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, emulated her predecessor, Sally Mugabe, whose involvement in the Child Survival and Development Foundation improved the welfare of hundreds of children and endeared her to a large number of Zimbabweans.

In a desperate bid to win the hearts of Zimbabweans, the new First Lady launched the Zimbabwe Children’s Rehabilitation Trust, one of whose objectives was to rehabilitate vagrant children.

The project lies largely forgotten, let alone the success it was expected to achieve.

Plans to build homes for street children in Bulawayo and Harare were temporarily dropped due to the opinion of members of the trust that the centres were modelled like prisons.

A social worker involved with the rehabilitation of homeless children in
Bulawayo said the project to give street-kids a start in life was bound to fail. This was because “ it is not possible to rehabilitate children by imprisoning them”.

The social worker, who declined to be identified, said: “Children are very vulnerable and can easily be taken advantage of by people who used them to launch what looked suspiciously like a public relations campaign to win acceptance by Zimbabweans.”

Over the last few years, she has paid more attention to Davis Cup tennis functions rather than being close to the grime and stench of street urchins.

As desperation continues to stalk vulnerable children, an organisation which has been helping children deal with problems and the pressure of dealing with growing up has tried to alleviate their plight.

Formed in 1997, Childline Zimbabwe affords children an opportunity receive counselling through a free telephone service by simply dialling the number 961.

Those who have no access to the telephone can write to the organisation’s specially trained social workers and counselling officers on Free Post, Box CY 1400 Harare or on Box 1795, Bulawayo.

The service is free and troubled children need not buy stamps for the letters.

Dr Liz Robb, the director of the organisation, said : “Childline is a free multi-lingual helpline and counselling service for young people. Sometimes children feel they can’t talk to their family or friends about problems or personal matters.

“That is when Childline comes in.”

She said all dealings with children remained confidential except when their lives were in danger.

Robb said Childline used the country’s three official languages, Ndebele,
Shona and English to converse with and counsel the children.

“It is important to use the children’s mother languages as they would be more comfortable to speak and be spoken to in languages they are proficient in.

“We also have an arrangement with MARS ambulance services to ferry any children injured as a result of abuse to hospital,” Robb said.

She laughed off suggestions that the organisation risked being labelled elitist.

“That is far from the truth, we are not contacted by urban children only, but have assisted children from all the rural areas of Zimbabwe.

Childline Zimbabwe also receives regular mail from traumatised children from
Kenya while some grandmothers have telephoned to seek advice on how to deal with marriage problems.

She added that on average, the organisation received about 200 calls a day and 100 letters a week which were all responded to.

Liz said some of the issues haunting the young were problems affecting their relationships, dealing with divorces in the family, failure to get birth certificates, early pregnancy, HIV/Aids, sexual abuse and problems arising from inability to pay school fees.

Childline Zimbabwe, which has a drop-in centre in Harare, will soon be launching an outreach programme in Mashonaland West in conjunction with Redd Barna and the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture to equip teachers with skills to identify and deal with child abuse cases.

Robb, who resigned from a thriving dentistry practice where she was a senior partner to start Childline Zimbabwe, said she wanted to create a generation of children who would be able to deal with cases of child abuse.

“The programme will give teachers skills to identify signs and symptoms of an an abused child and how to tackle the problem and to help children fight abuse,” she said.

The children really need to be able to deal with abuse as it emerged that some boys telephone the organisation to get advice on how to deal with their mothers demanding to be intimate with them.

Young boys were also traumatised by sisters-in-law who wanted to molest them, while female infants were also at the risk of being raped by their male relatives, including their own fathers.

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