|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
SHE already has brains, wealth and the ear of the president. Now a little-known former woman guerrilla-leader with the chilling nickname of ‘Spillblood’ is laying plans to become Zimbabwe’s first female head of state.
When she was a teenager in 1974, Joyce Mujuru told her mother that she was leaving home to join Robert Mugabe’s fight for freedom in the then white-ruled Rhodesia.
She said to her startled parent: "I want to be called Spillblood because my ambition is to spill as much white blood as I can."
During the war against Ian Smith’s white-officered army and air force she proudly boasted of taking an AK47 from a dying black soldier and shooting a Rhodesian Air Force helicopter out of the sky.
"A helicopter saw me," she recalled. "I lay on my back, aimed and fired. Bullets hit the machine and it fell out of the sky. There was black smoke everywhere as it hit the ground. A big bang followed."
A big bang and later lots of fame and money for the ruling party stalwart who joined Mugabe’s first Cabinet in April 1980, though she could then hardly speak a word of English.
After being anointed one of Mugabe’s two vice-presidents at the ruling party’s annual congress yesterday, the 49-year-old will be in a strong position to take over as national leader after the death, retirement or downfall of her mentor.
"Spillblood is one of our most wonderful women," Zimbabwe’s first vice-president, Simon Muzenda, used to tell British journalists in Harare before his death last year.
And Spillblood now sees herself as Zimbabwe’s first woman head of state. So does her wealthy and influential husband, Solomon Mujuru, who white soldiers tried to capture and kill when he was head of Mugabe’s ‘terrorist’ forces during the Rhodesian War (1972-1979) which cost at least 32,000 African lives.
In those days he was known as Rex Nhongo. Soon after Independence, he told a group of fellow tribesmen at the plush Harare Club: "I didn’t fight the liberation war to end up a poor man."
Today, he’s one of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest black farmers after buying up a large percentage of the country’s once grain-rich provinces close to the capital city.
He and Spillblood have five children, all of them educated in England. Both are on UN/EU/UK sanctions lists. Neither is allowed into Britain, not even for shopping at Harrods.
Comrade Spillblood tells friends in Harare that she is determined to serve her country to the best of her abilities and few doubt her hunger for supreme power.
A senior Zimbabwean journalist said that with the vice-presidency secured, it was almost certain she would become Mugabe’s number two after next March’s elections. The other vice president will be 81-year-old Joseph Msika, who says he also intends to leave politics when Mugabe retires in 2008, clearing Mujuru’s route to the presidency.
Mujuru has the backing of an influential lobby. Powerful women’s leaders told Mugabe last week that if he wanted their support at the elections he must appoint a woman with a sound guerrilla war background who had become associated with government.
Mujuru already enjoys the trappings of power. Comrade Spillblood owns several farms, sits in the back of a chauffeur driven Mercedes-Benz and takes her holidays in Cape Town with her husband, still known to millions of people as "the general".
But she also poses as a champion of the poor. "She likes to see herself as Zimbabwe’s answer to Winnie Mandela," says Sikota Chiume of the now dwindling opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"My war experience changed my entire life," Mujuru has said. "I became very, very strong and learned to make decisions and not to wait for men to decide everything."
She tells male MPs who insist a woman will never lead Zimbabwe, that while they were at home by the fire in Rhodesia she was busy killing white soldiers in the African bush.
When Mugabe ordered the occupation of more than 4,000 white-owned farms in 2000, Comrade Spillblood advised Mugabe supporters to go out and return with the blood-soaked T-shirts of not only whites but any blacks who wanted them to stay on the land.
At last week’s congress Mugabe, once again, underlined his awesome strength by presenting himself, Msika and Spillblood as the country’s three candidates for national leadership.
Political observers point out that all three are from the same small ethnic branch of the majority Shona tribe - the Zezurus. Tribalism is known throughout Africa as "the wasting disease".
Like HIV and Aids, it is biting hard in Zimbabwe where national leaders from other ethnic groups, including the powerful Karangas and Ndebeles, are being sidelined as Africa’s most ambitious octogenarian dictator goes for yet another three years of power.
The row over the England cricket tour, which went ahead last week only after Mugabe allowed in the media organisations he had previously banned in another display of political muscle, was a distraction from the cathartic events that preceded the assembly.
While most of the world counted runs, 81-year-old Mugabe stepped up an already advanced campaign to win - by fair meals or foul - next year’s general election.
He suspended six ruling provincial chairman of the ruling party Zanu (PF) for daring to oppose his approval of Comrade Spillblood as one of the country’s two vice-presidents.
He also indicated that the man who once seemed almost certain to take over from him when he retires from politics, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Speaker of the Parliament, was now out of the race for the presidency.
To further bolster his power, the President approved legislation that will make it a criminal offence, with a possible sentence of 20 years in jail, to "make a falsehood" about Mugabe, the police or the army or to criticise Mugabe in a private letter or e-mail.
Ian Coltart, legal adviser to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said: "This is the most fascist legislation we have ever seen - worse than anything done by Ian Smith when he ran Rhodesia."
Streak remains defiant in the
By Scyld Berry
Life still isn't bad at Heath Streak's farm. While Zimbabwe's youthful players have been losing every game against England, their finest bowler has been watching a paradise fly-catcher - little larger than a humming-bird - nesting in a tree in his garden.
As Streak and his wife Nadine are expecting their third child in January, he can empathise as he sits on the verandah which he has built beneath the paradise fly-catcher's tree. From his hill-top house, beside granite outcrops, he looks down towards the watering hole which has remained faithful through every drought. "See the wildebeest," he said, pointing at dark specks in the distance. "Giraffe came early this morning before the lightning scared them.'
The legs above and below Streak's slightly dodgy knees are thicker than branches of the shading tree. The Zimbabwean needs just 186 runs to become only the 12th player in the game's Test history to score 2,000 runs and take 200 wickets, and he is still only 30. Without Streak, who has taken three times as many Test wickets as any other Zimbabwe bowler, the country will be unable to justify the restoration of Test status next year. Yet when two leading officials from Zimbabwe Cricket came to Streak's farm in October, they could not tempt Achilles from his tent.
Rain during the night has greened up the 8,000 acres which are left of Streak's farm after the land resettlement programme accounted for the other 24,000 acres. Inside the stone farmhouse his 12-year-old daughter Holly has baked chocolate brownies on the first day of her Christmas holidays. While we eat them, the wind which puffs the verandah is warm. You can see why the fly-catcher decided to swap her original home for this bush an hour or so's drive from Bulawayo.
Seven years ago, when England made their first Test tour of Zimbabwe, the road from Bulawayo was not so bare of traffic as it is now. Nor did it have two roadblocks, at which police searched our car for guns. But the most telling sight en route was how at every wayside store and shelter men and women sat, and sat; and this was not Africa conserving energy in the heat, but people starting each day without employment.
Last Sunday morning in Harare no demonstrations occurred at the ground where England played. A kilometre away, however, a crowd of thousands queued around three sides of the huge government building that is the passport office. Not a political demonstration, but it said as much about the politics of Zimbabwe as the official admissions in last week's newspapers that GDP had contracted by 30 per cent in the last four years and that inflation earlier this year stood at 600 per cent.
There surely had to be some decolonisation. When England made their one and only Test tour, a former Zimbabwe Test cricketer ran a hotel in the highlands where the African workers were allowed home only three days a month - even mothers and fathers who were forced to leave their children at home. But whatever the current political theory, this country is not keeping enough people employed and nourished; or as Streak says: "Zimbabwe's cricket is reflective of the situation as a whole." In translation, almost all of those in power have dirty secrets.
What does Streak want before he will return to Test cricket and act as the experienced all-rounder whom the youngsters can bat and bowl around instead of going in circles? Some observers, though not this one, called Streak an appeaser when he remained his country's captain through the transformation process which started in 2000 and was meant to achieve racial integration (and Zimbabwe's cricket is far more integrated than South Africa's, where no African batsman made a first-class hundred until 2002-3). But now he is less appeaseable than Achilles.
"I've consistently said that before I return Max Ebrahim (convenor of national selectors inter alia) and Ozias Bvute (acting managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket) have to be made accountable for their behaviour. In my view they shouldn't be involved in any capacity in cricket in this country.
"After the 1999 World Cup [when Zimbabwe's best-ever side qualified for the Super Six stage, and England didn't] more money came into our game, and more sponsorships, but was that money used wisely? Definitely not.
"I guess the equivalent of US$150,000 was spent on sending 11 or 12 Board members on our last tour of Australia. That's all expenses paid and allowances and business-class airfares as only a couple were guests of Cricket Australia. Now it's normal for one or two Board members to go on tour but not all at once.
"Then you look at some clubs here, even at the top level, which are collapsing. Queen's, a national first-team club, couldn't fulfil a fixture because they didn't have enough cricket bats, only one that wasn't broken. All this money is being squandered."
Even though he is still sitting on the verandah, Streak is now coming in off his long run. "I don't have a problem with the concept of assisting young black players to get to the top, it's the manner in which the Board do it. All the young black guys in the team like Tatenda Taibu have come through privileged schools [one 12-boy dorm at Churchill school in Harare contained Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Hamilton Masakadza]. To me that's not a reflection of a development programme.
"My other issue is that these guys [Bvute and Ebrahim] are happy for two or three of us to return, because they need that experience base, and the rest to move on." Streak is referring to the 15 white dissidents who were sacked by the Board this summer, of whom only two have gone back. "I think deep down they'd rather be playing for their country but they've been unemployed for a certain period and have had to seek it elsewhere.
"Take a guy like Ray Price [the left-arm spinner who has signed for Worcestershire as a Kolpak player]. Say he gets £50,000 from Worcestershire, he's not going to get half that here - and he's got a guaranteed future in county cricket until his career ends." Last year Streak, as far as he knows, became the first player to be granted anything longer than a one-year contract by the Zimbabwe Board. (Ebrahim is also the Board's director of human resources, which Streak says is a conflict of interest.)
It is probably an irretrievable mess, beyond the capacity of ICC to sort out. Just as all good Zimbabwean footballers emigrate to South Africa or Europe, so have almost all the good Zimbabwean cricketers emigrated, except for Streak who feels tied to the land (his great grandfather bought his farm in the 1890s). That wretched Kolpak ruling has already enabled five of Zimbabwe's dissidents to sign up for county cricket, on condition they never play outside England: it does nothing for county cricket and lowers Zimbabwe's standard even further.
Streak himself will be all right, even if he is unable to fulfil his Test ambition of reaching 3,000 runs and 300 wickets (last week Shaun Pollock was fifth to that landmark). He has a two-year contract with Warwickshire - as their overseas player, not a Kolpak - with the option of a third, after assisting them to the championship last season. And a few tourists with American dollars still come to the farm to shoot game with guns or cameras.
If all families are unhappy in their own way, something is still familiar about the relationship between Britain and Zimbabwe, or at least their Governments. Britain is in the role of a single parent, perhaps a bereaved widow; while Zimbabwe is the 24-year-old (independence was in 1980), wilful enough to want to do things its own way, whatever the mistakes, and however totalitarian the regime. It is a love-hate relationship, the hatred so bitter perhaps because the love was so intense, for this is a naturally blessed place: no sea, no beaches, but as delicious as anywhere inland on earth. And cricket is trapped in the middle of this irreconcilable breakdown.