By KITSEPILE NYATHI, NATION CorrespondentPosted Sunday, December 6 2009 at
Zimbabwe's three governing parties are close to reaching an agreement on a
range of thorny disputes threatening their power sharing agreement, insiders
revealed at the weekend.
Sources close to the talks said negotiators from Zanu PF and the two
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations who have been meeting in
secrecy since November 23 had agreed on a raft of media reforms.
An announcement is also expected early this week on the establishment of
media, human rights, anti-corruption and electoral commissions as spelt out
in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed last year.
The parties have also agreed on the issue of provincial governors and they
will now work on the dates for implementation.
A total of 27 items have been placed on the agenda and the most divisive
include President Robert Mugabe's unilateral appointment of his cronies to
head the central bank and the attorney general's office.
The respected Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that the negotiators
have already gone over 15 items, agreeing on 12 of them.
They have also agreed to put the issue of the appointment of MDC treasurer
general Mr Roy Bennett who is facing terrorism and banditry charges on hold
until they agree on the matters because they fear it could jeopardize the
President Mugabe has refused to swear in Mr Bennett as deputy Agriculture
minister until he is cleared of the charges, which his party says were
The negotiations gathered pace last week after South African President Jacob
Zuma sent a new facilitation team that met the principals in the unity
government -President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - and urged them to respect a
Mr Tsvangirai and his MDC on November 5 ended their boycott of the unity
government after an emergency summit of the Southern African Development
Community.The party had given Mr Mugabe 30 days to fully implement the GPA
but the deadline passed on Saturday without any major announcement.
|Written by Never Chanda|
|Saturday, 05 December 2009 12:36|
|HARARE – Finance Minister Tendai Biti has described
conditions under which Zimbabwe’s coalition government has had to operate since
its formation in February as a political minefield littered with “landmines”
meant to derail plans to restore sanity in the troubled country. (Pictured:
Biti said the greatest challenge facing Zimbabwe at present was a “balkanised” coalition government where the constituent members of the new administration pursued “politics of the past”. President Robert Mugabe and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai joined forces to establish a coalition government 10 months ago.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai became Prime Minister under the compromise regime formed with the assistance of the Southern African Development Community following disputed polls last year.
Biti, who is from Tsvangirai’s party, said the new Harare regime lacked of common vision among the three parties represented in government. “We have to speak with one voice and if we have a balkanized government in respect of which the government is a mirror image or an asymmetrical reproduction of the politics of the past, the politics of attrition, murder and dishonesty, then that's a landmine,” he told the latest edition of a weekly newsletter published by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Another booby trap was the slow pace of political reforms, which was costing the country dearly in terms of winning over crucial Western aid to revive the economy. Hardliners in Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) have been working to derail the fragile unity government which they see as a threat to the patronage system they had become used to during the past decade.
They are resisting reforms such as the repeal of tough security and media laws and the roll-out of the process towards the creation of a new democratic constitution.
Biti said all parties to the power-sharing agreement which led to the formation of the unity government should comply with the guidelines and timelines with regards crucial democratisation processes like the constitutional making process. He said the booby traps could “curtail and smother” Zimbabwe’s investment potential and affect the implementation of the 2010 national budget that he presented last week.
Dec 6, 2009, 13:10 GMT
Harare - Foreign airlines have stopped using Zimbabwe's airspace because the
country's meteorological service is incapable of supplying weather
information they need, according to officials.
The state-run Department of Meteorological Services automatic equipment at
Zimbabwe's airports is antiquated and cannot issue the mandatory and crucial
minute-by-minute information to aircraft flying over our airspace, met
office acting-director Morris Sahanga was quoted as saying in the
government-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper.
'Aircraft depend on these weather updates, and so they are bypassing our
airspace because we can't provide that information,' he said.
Zimbabwe lies directly on the major route of airlines travelling between
Europe and South Africa, but aircraft now fly over countries to the west of
Zimbabwe or over the Mozambique channel to the east, he said.
The met office needed 2 million US dollars to upgrade its equipment, but
received only 300,000 from President Robert Mugabe's effectively bankrupt
government, said Sahanga.
'The expertise is there, but we lack the equipment,' he said. 'We would have
wanted to install the new equipment before 2010 and trial- run it.'
Zimbabwe has been hoping for a spillover of tourists flying into
neighbouring South Africa for football's World Cup finals next year.
'Unless we address this anomaly we may not get any new airlines landing at
our airports,' said Sahanga. 'How do we attract tourists?'
Zimbabwe holds major tourism attractions, including the Victoria Falls, the
worlds largest waterfall, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
About 20 international airlines from around the world used to fly into
Harare, but now Air Zimbabwe, the state-owned national airline, is the only
carrier that flies direct from here to major international destinations.
Only about four African airlines fly into Harare on regional routes.
A space reserved in daily newspapers for weather bulletins mostly states
that the weather report was not available from the Meteorological Office.
Sun Dec 6, 2009 11:26am GMT
By Chris Mfula
CHIRUNDU (Reuters) - Zambia and Zimbabwe's new one-stop border post will
help to facilitate trade between the two countries and save about $486
million a year in logistical costs, a senior official at the agency in
charge of the project said.
Trucks using the Chirundu post, about 136 km south of Lusaka, will take two
hours to clear the post instead of the two to five days it used to take,
Juma Mwapachu, secretary general of the Eastern African Commission, said
late on Saturday, when the border post was opened.
The East African Commission, a part of the intergovernmental East African
Community, managed the project to build the border crossing.
"The one-stop border post will lead to logistical efficiency and about $486
million will be saved annually in costs that would have been incurred due to
prolonged delays at the border," Mwapachu said.
"The transit time will become more predictable and this will enhance the
trade competitiveness for the two countries."
A World Bank study showed that the major contributor to the high cost of
transport was lack of facilitation, such as the improvement of border
clearance procedures, Mwapachu said.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda, who was at the opening ceremony for the
crossing said the one-stop border post would promote the smooth and
efficient flow of goods, resulting in increased inter-regional trade.
"If we facilitate trade and reduce the cost of doing business as well as
improve the flow of foreign direct investment, the result will be increased
growth and prosperity in our region," Banda said.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe told the launch ceremony that border post
was a practical demonstration of regional integration and asked for
investment in the congested border crossing between South and Zimbabwe.
"We are appealing for development and cooperation partners to join us in the
development of Beitbridge into a one-stop border post to complement the
efficiencies at Chirundu," Mugabe said.
A report by the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa in November showed
service costs were high in sub-Saharan Africa due to poor roads, water and
power networks and the region needed to double its infrastructure spending
to $93 billion a year to improve it.
Written by JUMA DONKE
Saturday, 05 December 2009 14:27
CAPE TOWN -- Zimbabweans were among nearly 60 children who were rescued from
traffickers in southern Africa over the last four years, a leading
international migration organisation said here last weekend.
Zoe Rohde of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said six
Zimbabweans children along with 48 others from African countries had fallen
victim to child traffickers working on the continent.
"Nigerian organised crime syndicates operate heavily in Pretoria, Port
Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein and traffic local black South
African females into commercial sexual exploitation," she said, adding
"Advertisements in newspapers have been used as a recruitment technique to
deceive young women into the sex industry." Speaking at a Victim Empowerment
conference organised by the South African Department of Social Development
in Wellington, Rohde said girls were usually employed as commercial sex
workers walking the streets, bars, brothels, massage parlors, saunas, and
were forced to work as call-girls and for escort agencies.
Boys were meanwhile forced to work in agriculture, fishery, construction,
mines, sweatshops and catering. She said in certain situations, the children
were held for domestic servitude, street begging or peddling, forced
military service, removal of body parts for muti purposes while others were
trafficked for adoption and forced marriage.
The freed children were from Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Kenya,
Cameroon, Somalia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Angola,
Nigeria and RSA. The majority of the rescued children were from the DRC,
24, and 10 from Mozambique.
She said the children were lured with promises of domestic work and
educational opportunities while adults were promised jobs in restaurants,
massage parlors, marriage, domestic work, beauty and hair salons, au pairs,
construction and agriculture. "Men and young boys from Malawi, Mozambique
and Zimbabwe are trafficked into S.A for agricultural labour" she said.
South Africa was a source, transit and destination country. As a result,
women and girls were trafficked internally and occasionally onward to Asian
countries for sexual exploitation.
"Chinese, Thai and Eastern European women are trafficked into South Africa
for debt-bonded sexual exploitation. Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi as well as
refugee producing countries for example Angola, Rwanda, DRC are source
countries for women and children trafficked into South Africa."
The Geneva based organised, which works globally to manage migration
challenges has a mandate from its 127 member countries and 91 observers
working in more than 440 field locations globally. IOM works to support
Member States in their migration management efforts, while providing
technical capacity to assist in meeting the challenges of managing migration
to benefit Member States, migrants and societies.
In southern Africa, IOM has teamed up with the Southern African Counter
Trafficking Programme (SACTAP) to break trafficking syndicates that abduct
women and children from the region for sale in Europe and Asia or deploy
them in South Africa.
Last year alone, IOM trained over 3000 government officials, particularly
immigration and airline officials, in the region on human trafficking and
1328 in South Africa. At least 500 civil society representatives in the SADC
region including shelter managers, counselors, medical personnel, advocacy
groups, refugee assistance organisations and hotline operators received this
Written by The Zimbabwean
Saturday, 05 December 2009 14:24
HARARE - Former Media and Information Commission boss Tafataona Mahoso will
occupy only half of the 400-hactare Welverdien farm near Mutare with the
remainder of the property remaining in the hands of owner Charles
Bezuidenhout, according to the latest information made available to The
Zimbabwean on Sunday.
Mahoso, who visited Welverdien farm last October, has an offer letter for
200 hectares of the property. The latest sub-division of Bezuidenhout's
farm is the second time that the farmer will cede land under the government's
land reform programme after he gave up 133 hectares of his originally
533-hectare farm in November last year.
When the land was sub-divided last year provincial land officers told
Bezuidenhout that no one would interfere with his property again. Asked why
they were going back on last year's promise, the officers simply said they
were "following orders". However the land officers told Mahoso that
Bezuidenhout was to keep the section of the farm where he carries out his
dairy operations, during a transaction that was not as acrimonious as we
erroneously reported last week. In our report last Sunday we incorrectly
stated that Mahoso stormed Welverdien farm accompanied by an army of land
officers and that he gave the farmer 48 hours to leave.
According to Bezuidenhout: "Mahoso did not arrive and give me 48 hours to
leave the farm. I did not contact the police and ask for help as it was not
needed." Meanwhile provincial land officers are expected to return to
Welverdien farm to finalise demarcation of the property following a
misunderstanding between Bezuidenhout and Mahoso after the former journalism
lecturer had indicated he wanted the section where the farmer grows maize
and sunflowers for his dairy cattle.
We apologise to Bezuidenhout, Mahoso and Manicaland provincial land officers
for any inconveniences caused by the inaccuracies in our report last week.
While it is common cause that the fast-track land reform programme has
largely been chaotic and often violent there are a few instances - as
appears to be the case with Welverdien farm - where commercial farmers and
new settlers have with assistance from land officers been able to amicably
agree on how to share a property.
Bulawayo, December 06 2009 -The much awaited upgrading and refurbishment of
the country's strategic airports is now a reality following allocation of
funds to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) by Minister of
Finance Tendai Biti.
Joshua Mqabuko International Airport in Bulawayo was allocated USd4, 1
million while the Buffalo Range Airport in Masvingo was allocated US 1
million and USd 14, 4 million would go to Harare International Airport,
constructed a few years ago to replace its old and small terminal.
The upgrade of the airports is aimed at accommodating the numerous visitors
anticipated in the country during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"Following the disbursement of the funds the government has already ordered
CAAZ to complete the upgrading of the airports. Government can no longer
afford to continue prolonging the projects... ahead of next year's soccer
showcase which will see a lot of tourists converging in the region," said
Transport Minister Nicholas Goche.
A lot of international airlines have expressed their willingness to fly to
Victoria Falls, for instance, complaining about the state of the runway,
which they say is small and rough.
" Once our airports are upgraded and refurbished we will be able to attract
bigger and more airlines. Once that is done the country will be able to deal
directly with tourists from all over the world and that will change the face
of our tourism," said Goche.
Zimbabwe has for the last decade been battling to boost its tourism industry
due to negative publicity which has been a result of a political and
economic crisis the country was going through. At present a lot of airlines
do not fly into the country.
The upgrading of the Mqabuko international airport, named after the late
Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, was initially scheduled to be completed
in December 2004 but has been dogged by numerous problems.
In April 2003 the project was grounded to a standstill due to a nationwide
shortage of cement. The timely intervention by the government through the
then Ministry of Transport and Communication enabled the project to continue
even though costs had gone up from an initial of $5, 6 billion to $60
billion Zimbabwe dollar. A Chinese company also rescued CAAZ with a $US5
million line of credit in February 2004. Rains also delayed construction
work at the site.
Work at the airport includes expansion of the existing terminal building and
infrastructure, refurbishment of international arrivals hall and a larger
area to house several shops. The project also includes the expansion of a
car park and road network while a separate state pavilion will also be
built. The government availed the tender for the refurbishment of the
airport to Reliance Equipment; a Bulawayo based indigenous company which is
in joint partnership with an international construction company, Murray and
Harare, December 06, 2009 - The Zimbabwe delegation has failed to lure any
of the 2010 World Cup finalists to set up their training bases in Harare and
Bulawayo next year.
The Zimbabwe delegation comprising Vice President Joice Mujuru, Minister of
Tourism and Hospitality Walter Mzembi and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief
executive officer Karikoga Kaseke had travelled to CApe Town, South Africa
to attend the glittering World Cup Draw held at Cape Town International
Convention Centre on Friday night.
The delegation told reporters at the weekend, upon its return that they were
trying to lure Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil to
set up their training bases in Zimbabwe next year.
"We have not finalized anything. Several countries are chasing the same
countries," Minister Walter Mzembi said.
The glamorous occasion, graced by an array of dignitaries was conducted by
movie star Charlise Theron.
Other celebrities who assisted in the draw included England soccer star
David Beckham, cricket fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and Bafana Bafana star
defender Mathew Booth.
Harare, December 6, 2009 - United Nations deputy secretary for Humanitarian
Affairs Catherine Bragg is expected in the country on Sunday for the
official launch of the 2010 Consolidated Appeal to assist over six million
people who remain affected by the erosion of basic services and livelihoods
over the years.
The Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation,Priscilla
Misihairambwi-Mushonga will represent government in the appeal that will be
held in the capital Harare on Monday.
"Ms Catherine Bragg, in collaboration with the Minister of Regional
Integration and International Cooperation, will launch the Consolidated
Appeal for Zimbabwe for 2010. Ms Bragg will visit some humanitarian projects
and meet with vulnerable people facing humanitarian challenges to gain a
better understanding of their situation and assess the response by aid
organizations," said the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
"She will also meet high-level government officials and humanitarian actors
to explore ways of improving the humanitarian response. Ms Bragg will also
meet the donor community to discuss support for both humanitarian and
recovery activities in 2010."
This year the country secured over US 700 million dollars from the UN and
this year the country's requirements are expected to be below US 500 million
as the country's economy has stabilized from years of collapse and major
hospitals have been re-opened.
OCHA said over 1.9 million people will require food assistance in the
2009-2010 farming season at the height of hunger between January and March
OCHA will use the funds obtained from the appeal to assist people living
with HIV/AIDS, orphans, child headed families,access to safe water and
sanitation facilities, assist the education sector and provide food for the
Zimbabwe humanitarian situation worsened last year when cholera killed over
4200 people due to unsafe water and poor sanitary facilities as well as the
collapse of the health delivery system.
Hunger has been a problem in the country as newly resettled farmers are
failing to produce enough food to feed the nation and has been blamed on
President Robert Mugabe's controversial land reform programmes which
expropriated productive white owned land to resettle landless blacks, but
critics have said the land reform benefited
Mugabe's cronies who lack farming knowledge.
Saturday, 05 December 2009 18:19
ZIMBABWE has been recording huge monthly trade deficits with China since the
beginning of the year in yet another blow to Zanu PF's populist "Look East
Policy", latest data from the government statistical agency has revealed.
The only time Zimbabwe recorded a trade surplus was in February when exports
of US$28.8 million were more than imports of US$6 032 612, according to data
from the Central Statistical Office (CSO).
CSO data for October shows that Zimbabwe only exported US$487 719 to China
but imported goods worth US$6.7 million during the same month.
The huge trade deficit came at a time when Zimbabwe had narrowed the gap in
the previous month with a deficit of US$2 million in September from US$23.4
million in August.
In October, Zimbabwe exported macadamia nuts (US$10 008), tobacco, partly or
wholly stemmed (US$262 354) and chromium ore concentrates (US$213 330)
Imports from China were mainly made up of insecticides (US$207 703), sodium
hydroxides (US$205 249) and new pneumatic tyre rubber used on motor cars
Surprisingly Zimbabwe imported goods for lowly amounts.
For instance, Zimbabwe imported vinegar and substitutes for vinegar obtained
from acetic acid (US$780 and other spices (US$87).
China has been dubbed Zimbabwe's "all-weather friend" as it loosened the
purse at a time the world was tightening the strings against perceived rogue
regimes, Zimbabwe included.
By ignoring the human rights record and the political situation in its
trading relations, China got an edge over the western countries and is
spreading its tentacles across Africa.
Analysts attribute the trade deficit to low production in the country.
The deficit which comes after the formation of the inclusive government
might force the authorities to re-think their trade policies at a time when
there are intensifying calls for Zimbabwe to look at all corners of the
globe in trade matters instead of looking East.
Zimbabwe turned to the East in 2004 as Western powers tightened the screws
on President Robert Mugabe's regime in a bid to force political reforms and
the respect for human rights.
BY NDAMU SANDU
Saturday, 05 December 2009
FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti’s pro-poor budget might have brightened the
faces of some poverty weary Zimbabweans but analysts warn that, without an
increase in capital expenditure, very little economic growth can take place.
Biti projected an economic growth of seven percent next year driven by
mining agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.
Expenditure is projected to hit US$2.250 billion while taxes are expected to
rake in US$1.440 billion in revenue. The balance will be met by budgetary
support from multilateral and donor institutions.
Announcing the 2010 budget on Wednesday, Biti offered a modest tax relief to
workers by reviewing the tax free threshold to US$160 per month effective
January from US$150.
It is a modest review by any standards considering that the civil service
constituting the bulk of the workforce is earning in the region of US$150
and US$200 in monthly salaries.
Statistics unveiled by Biti show that it is a long way before Zimbabwe moves
from a consumption economy.
As of October, Value added tax (VAT) contributed 39% of total revenue.
Customs duty weighed in with 26% while Pay as you Earn (PAYE) and corporate
tax contributed 15% and 4% respectively.
This means that revenue was driven by consumption with little production.
The health status of any nation is measured by looking at the contribution
of PAYE and corporate tax to revenue.
“It’s not good for an economy and it shows that we are being driven by
indirect taxes,” an economic analyst with a commercial bank said.
Although Biti cut corporate tax to 25% from 30% in the 2010 budget, analysts
contend that without an improvement in the so-called enablers- water
supplies and power supplies- capacity utilisation cannot rise to expected
levels and it means that very little will go to government coffers through
But others contend that the slash of the tax itself attracts other investors
into the economy and this will boost treasury coffers with corporate tax
Biti’s pro-poor budget was premised on reconstruction, equitable growth and
stabilisation all designed to bring back the cheers on the faces of the
“submerged and drowning poor” which he said constitute 85% of the
However, vote allocations were below the international and regional
For instance the 2001 Abuja Declaration by African leaders pledged to
allocate at least 15% of the total budget on health.
Biti’s allocation of US$285.4 million is 12.7% of the budget.
This means that health allocation is below the Abuja declaration.
However, this is the first time that health’s allocation has come within
three percentage points short of the 2001 declaration.
Analysts were also worried about the mismatch between recurrent and capital
The ideal situation should be 75% and 25%. But the 2010 budget makes for sad
Capital expenditure constitutes only eight percent. They argued that water
and power supplies have disappointed when it mattered most and thereby
slowing the wheels of growth.
“A government that fails to increase its capital budget does not promote
investment,” said Witness Chinyama who is the group economist at Kingdom
Financial Holdings Limited.
He said the business sector needs an enabling environment to operate and
this must be reflected in the capital budget.
Water and power supplies are erratic and analysts say they were the weakest
link in cranking up capacity utilisation.
“As a developmental economy the ideal situation should see more resources
devoted to capital expenditure,” an analyst said.
Analysts say the huge wage bill is anti-development at a time resources
should have been channelled to boost the economy.
With civil servants’ salaries including pensions taking up 63% of the total
expenditure as at October, it means there was a crowding out effect as other
requirements scrambled for the remaining 37%.
Analysts say the civil service salary bill is unsustainable and they hope
the ongoing audit will reduce the bill if it flushes out ghost workers.
Biti’s budget also delivered a killer blow to the struggling vehicle
By slashing duty to 25% from 40% to enable young professionals to buy cars,
Biti inadvertently left the struggling car assemblers at the mercy of cheap
This is likely to trigger retrenchments which goes against his thrust of
brightening the faces of the 85% submerged and drowning poor.
The extension of the moratorium of duty on basic commodities to July 31
means that prices remain in check and inflation will be within the 5.1%
percent target at the end of 2010.
BY NDAMU SANDU
Dear Family and Friends,
A month before Christmas the heavens finally opened over many parts
of Zimbabwe. In my home town we had 73 mm (almost 3 inches) in an
afternoon and then another 50 mm ( 2 inches) in the next four days.
After seven long dry months, the wet, the green and the overnight
revival of life and growth are so welcome. With the rains have come a
sudden explosion of flying ants and sausage flies, chongololos and
beetles of all colours, shapes and sizes. The snakes are back too and
a wonderful array of birds including big, circling flocks of Abdim
Storks, stopping over on their annual migration from the top of
The rains have also bought back the problems for Zimbabwe including
the nightmare state of most of our roads. During the dry months many
of our residential roads grew in width as vehicles drove first with
one wheel and then two wheels on the verge in order to avoid deep,
unfilled potholes. These unofficially widened roads are now a sea of
slippery red mud and the tar a maze of potholes.
Five inches of rain in a week have made many of these un-maintained
roads unusable. Storm drains clogged with silt, litter and vegetation
have caused all the roads to flood and and overflowing water has
scoured deep gullies under the tar and along the edges. There are now
many places in low lying suburban areas where the tar is less than 8
inches wide - the rest has simply eroded away.
I counted 197 potholes in a one kilometre stretch of suburban road
this week. The road leads to a pre-school with 150 children; a junior
school with 500 children and a senior school with 600 children.
This week in my neighbourhood residents have had to start every day
with bags of rubble, wheelbarrows of stones, broken roof tiles, sacks
of soil and anything else we can find to dump into deep gullies in
order to make the roads safe to drive on.
Despite ten months of repeated requests, appeals and complaints to
our new MDC Municipal council to repair suburban roads, clear storm
drains, fill potholes and gullies and repair eroding road edges,
nothing has been done at all in my neighbourhood and many others in
What could and should have been relatively easy maintenance tasks for
our largely invisible MDC Municipal council in the dry season have now
become major jobs. Everyone is getting very fed up with the inaction
and lack of interest at local council level and saying that not only
were we promised better, but we deserve it, especially after all the
huge sacrifices people made to effect the change and install new
Until next week from a very wet and muddy Zimbabwe, thanks for
reading, love cathy �Copyright cathy buckle 5th December 2009
Posse of Father Christmases Pupils from Leyland St Mary’s School
Our green cathedral Fixing our tarpaulin
A cold wet Vigil as we in the UK approach the winter solstice – the year’s shortest day (less than eight hours of daylight in London). Our pictures tell the story: starting off in the light and ending in darkness at 6 pm. The weather at this time of the year certainly makes you question what you are doing and whether it’s worthwhile – especially when you hear that the MDC negotiators at home seem to consider that a really important decision facing Zimbabwe is who should be buried at Heroes’ Acre.
We at the Vigil couldn’t believe that this is now said to be one of the sticking points. Never mind the disregard of the rule of law, never mind the selective prosecutions, farm invasions and continued hate speech, never mind the refusal of Zanu PF to implement the GPA, the MDC is worried that they haven’t been given a plot at Heroes’ Acre. What is going on?
Vigil supporters noted the massive hole in Biti’s budget and were curious at how it was to be plugged. The German Ambassador has come up with an explanation – aid money from the West. The UK, the EU, the US, the World Bank – all the so-called ‘Friends of Zimbabwe’ – have apparently decided to pump money into the Zimbabwe regime. As the Ambassador put it: ‘attitudes of the West towards Zimbabwe had been strongly influenced by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's statement earlier this year that although President Robert Mugabe was part of Zimbabwe's problems, he was also key to solving the country's 10-year crisis’. (Western Donors say Zimbabwe’s Budget needs their support – http://www1.zimbabwesituation.com/dec5_2009.html#Z3)
So it seems that whatever deal is cobbled up by SADC will be rubber-stamped by the ‘Friends’. Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers in the UK get ready to pack your bags because you are going to be sent home to Mr Tsvangirai.
A passer-by – who said she was a journalist – added to our pessimism. ‘What are you doing?’ she said. ‘I know all about Zimbabwe – don’t you know it is all sorted out’. This is a growing refrain. The BBC proudly boasted this week of a 2 hour live broadcast from Harare. The announcer admitted she had only been there a couple of days and hadn’t actually been anywhere. But it adds to the popular notion that everything is returning to normal. What kind of normality is this to build on: undisguised deceit, corruption, exploitation, violence, greed, selfishness . . . All is ready for Prince Charles to be there for Mugabe’s 90th birthday to shake his hand again. ‘You haven’t changed a bit since Rome’.
Well the Vigil was facing a more immediate problem – the weather on a day when tens of thousands of people converged on London to urge action to deal with climate change. The activists tell us that London is going to get wetter in the winter. So far as we can judge it’s already happening!
Armed with a new and bigger tarpaulin we created a veritable green cathedral on the Strand, which drew lots of attention including from a posse of Father Christmases out on their pre-Christmas revels. Other visitors were dozens of teenagers from Leyland St Mary’s School who had come down to London all the way from Lancashire to take part in the climate demonstration. They spent a long time with us and were impressed that we had been occupying our spot since 2002. We were so encouraged by their prayers for us.
The big turnout at this wintry Vigil and the singing and dancing encourages us to continue to campaign for human rights and free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. And we know who that plot in Heroes’ Acre should be for – ‘the unknown Zimbabwean’ – poor, sick, oppressed and abandoned by his leaders.
Some other points:
· We celebrated two birthdays today – Jenatry Muranganwa and Kimpton Samkange.
· Thanks to Godfrey Madzunga and Greetmore Musunda who were at the Vigil at 2 pm to help set up, then helped throughout the Vigil and stayed to the end to clear up.
· We hope that ROHR supporters had a good gathering today in Milton Keynes for their workshops and Christmas party – at least they were out of the rain!
For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/.
FOR THE RECORD: 163 signed the register.
EVENTS AND NOTICES:
· ROHR Liverpool Demonstration. Saturday 12th December 2009 from 2 – 5 pm. Venue: Liverpool City Centre, Church Street (outside Primark). Contact: Desire Chimuka 07917733711, Anywhere Mungoyo 07939913688, Patrick Kushonga 07900857605, Trywell Migeri 07956083758. Future demonstrations: Saturdays 19th and 26th December 2009. Same time and venue.
· ROHR Brighton general meeting. Saturday 12th December from 1 – 4 pm. Venue: Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3XG. Rohr executives present and a well known lawyer. Substantive committee to be elected. Contact Sinikiwe Dube 07824668763, Wellington Mamvura 07949595506 or P Mapfumo 07915926323 / 07932216070.
· ROHR North London general meeting. Saturday 12th December from 1.30 – 5.30 pm. Venue: Tottenham Chances, 399 High Road, Tottenham, London N17 6QN. Closest Tube Station is Seven Sisters and buses from the station towards Tottenham are 123, 149, 259, 349, 341, 476 and it's the third stop. Contact: Gladys Mapanda 07877670522, Bekithemba Nyahwa 07534905348, Philomina Ngirazi 07898961410.
· Zimbabwe Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre. Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The Fire Station Community and ICT Centre, 84 Mayton Street, London N7 6QT, Tel: 020 7607 9764. Nearest underground: Finsbury Park. For more information contact the Zimbabwe Association 020 7549 0355 (open Tuesdays and Thursdays).
· Strategic Internship for Zimbabweans organised by Citizens for Sanctuary which is trying to secure work placements for qualified Zimbabweans with refugee status or asylum seekers. For information: http://www.citizensforsanctuary.org.uk/pages/Strategic.html or contact: email@example.com.
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.
Mugabe's angry rhetoric and violent farm seizures blamed for decline in
By Zimbabwe Correspondent (author cannot be identified because of Zimbabwe's
Published: December 6, 2009 08:25 ET
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe has recently been flooded with glowing reports
in the state media of a dramatic recovery in tourism. But those bulletins
may be premature.
Tourist numbers have risen from 100,000 last year to 362,000 this year,
according to industry reports, and many hotels have reported an increase in
occupancy rates. But the hotel numbers do not take account of whole floors
of leading hotels being blocked off.
Hotel swimming pools, once surrounded by flight crews seeking a tan in
Zimbabwe's perennial sunshine, are deserted. And while the number of
visitors has undoubtedly increased, many are Chinese tourists who do not
spend money or visitors from other African states who stay with relatives.
There has been a concerted campaign to bring in travelers from China where
Air Zimbabwe now operates routes. But Chinese tourists move around in
supervised gangs - called duck tours - and keep their hands in their pockets
when visiting curio stalls.
"It's a disaster," said travel writer Dusty Miller of Zimbabwe's "Look East"
policy. "They are not big spenders and cannot substitute for tourists from
our traditional markets in Europe and North America."
In particular Miller laments the loss of the "golden triangle" - the
London/Mauritius/ Australia route which delivered thousands of visitors
including carefree backpackers into the Zimbabwean market.
Zimbabwe's world-class facilities and attractions, particularly its game
parks and Victoria Falls, saw a dramatic growth of the tourism industry in
the 1980s and 90s when new players entered the scene. By 1999 Zimbabwe was
expecting to attract 1 million tourists. But once Zimbabwe's political and
economic crisis hit, and the country was viewed as volatile, tourist numbers
President Robert Mugabe's penchant for making angry anti-Western rhetoric is
a major obstacle to a recovery in tourism. While Western countries have
lifted their travel warnings on Zimbabwe, the impression of a nation ruled
by a hostile dictator has not changed. An Economic Empowerment Act which
requires investors to surrender a 51 percent holding to locals in any
project is another deterrent.
The power-sharing government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is a distinctly uneasy
alliance. While the Tsvangirai side is working to put Zimbabwe on a better
footing, for tourism and everything else, the Mugabe half of the government
carries on as it has for nearly 30 years. These mixed signals do not
reassure potential tourists.
Tourism may be finding its feet after 10 years of recession and turmoil but
it is not all plain sailing. The sector is governed by a state body, the
Zimbabwe Tourism Association (ZTA), which draws its funding from levies on
the private-sector. The ZTA puts out a stream of sunshine stories about the
need to "change perceptions" of Zimbabwe which ignore developments on the
ground such as the continuing violent farm seizures.
There is, however, one notable success story to emerge from the tourism
sector. It comes from the African Sun group which is headed by the
flamboyant Shingi Munyeza, a self-made businessman.
His group has expanded into West Africa and oil-rich Equatorial Guinea where
its hotel rooms are much in demand. He believes it is necessary to take
risks or be left behind.
"The opportunities for business in Zimbabwe are immense," Munyeza told the
AP recently. "The question is: Do you get in now or later? Later is very
costly. Early is very risky."
But as every operator in the private sector will testify, Zimbabwe's future
success lies in political stability. Mugabe is currently obstructing
economic recovery by reckless policy measures - such as threatening to
reintroduce the discredited Zimbabwe dollar before Christmas - while the
world watches in trepidation. The U.S. dollar has over the past year reduced
Zimbabwe's million percent inflation to manageable levels and has provided a
steady anchor to a troubled economy.
British ambassador Mark Canning noted last week that while there had been
some improvement on the economic front, investors were still concerned with
the ongoing farm seizures, lack of security of tenure, and a sound legal
framework to protect investments.
Britain is Zimbabwe's biggest investor.
"Once the provisions of the global political agreement (between Zanu-PF and
the MDC) are fulfilled," Canning said, "I am certain significant investment
will be made in Zimbabwe and British companies are ready to move in, in a
big way. But for now everything is being watched closely."
A further problem on the country's path to recovery of its tourism is the
decimation of its wildlife. In particular the numbers of rare rhinoceros
have dropped precipitously. Rhinos were moved to the southern parts of the
country 10 years ago to remove them from the reach of Zambian poachers. They
have now come under siege, not from hungry poachers, but from new land
occupiers and army officers in the southern conservancies.
More problems come from the hemorrhaging state companies like Air Zimbabwe
and National Railways which Mugabe won't let go of for what he claims are
"strategic" reasons. He means sheltered employment for his followers. But
those key companies operate very inefficiently and run up huge state debts.
Zimbabwe's most marketable products - its reliably sunny weather and its
friendly, well-educated people - may compensate for some of these
shortcomings and encourage first-time, but more political and economic
stability are needed to get the country's tourism back to healthy levels.
|Written by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum|
|Saturday, 05 December 2009 14:59|
|Zimbabwe's history has been tainted by allegations of
gross human rights violations. One serious human rights violation that has
characterized this history is torture. (Pictured: Police brutality - The police
have been accused of assaulting and torturing MDC supporters and other perceived
opponents of Zanu (PF). Since its inception in 1998, the
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) has been concerned with, and
working on issues of Organized Violence and Torture (OVT). From the beginning,
the Forum has documented a lot of cases of gross human rights violations,
especially torture. Claims of torture have been leveled mainly but not
exclusively, against state agents such as police, army and other state security
What is torture?
Torture is the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering by or with the consent of state authorities for a specific purpose such as gaining information, or as a form of punishment or intimidation.
Torture involves the following
1. The deliberate causing of severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental;
2. The purpose of causing such pain or suffering must be to obtain from the victim or another person information or a confession; that the victim or another person has committed or is suspected of having committed; to scare or force the victim or another person; or for any reason based upon discrimination of any kind;
3. The pain or suffering must be inflicted by or at the instruction of or with the consent or agreement of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Forms of torture
The practice of torture in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world has taken different forms. Depending on the method used, torture can either be physical or psychological. Physical torture includes beatings, electric shocks, burns, sexual torture, stretching, submersion and suffocation.
The most common methods of physical torture recorded over the years in Zimbabwe are beatings, electric shocks, burns, submersion, suspension and sexual torture.
Consequences of torture
Depending on the torture method used, the effects of torture vary.
Torture can result in:
. Death of the victim
. Permanent disability or loss of human organ/s
. Loss of dignity/self respect
. Mental health problems such asposttraumatic stress disorder and major depression
. Loss of faith in the rule of law
International law and torture
Torture is prohibited in a number of international human rights instruments.
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Zimbabwe has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Both these instruments clearly prohibit torture in Articles 21 and 5 respectively. However, it has not ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which Death of the victim entered into force on 26 June 1987. Some 146 countries have ratified this important Convention.
The significance of the Torture Convention In its introduction, the Convention states that State Parties are keen to make "more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world." This is a noble goal that Zimbabwe should strive to pursue as well. The Torture Convention contains a series of provisions that are indeed likely to make the international struggle against the use of torture far more effective.
On 26 June each year the world comes together to commemorate the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a day set aside by the United Nations. During this year's commemoration of this day, the Forum officially launched its campaign for the ratification of CAT. The Forum urges the inclusive government to take serious steps to ensure that torture is outlawed in Zimbabwe.
Editor's Note: The Human Rights Fact Sheet is produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
Saturday, 05 December 2009 18:58
SYSTEMS of Governance are sets of political institutions by which
governments are organized in order to exert power over body politics.
Systems of governance must ensure separation of powers and checks and
balances among the three branches of governance, the executive, legislative
The legislature must pass laws, the Executive must execute policy and the
Judiciary must review executive actions; each arm playing its role within
the broad confines of the constitution.
Fixation with systems of governance therefore reflects a quest for
excellence in the operations of government, in particular a search for best
practices of accountability, transparency, fairness, responsiveness,
efficiency and representativeness.
The systems of governance discourse invoke fundamental constitutional choice
questions between parliamentary and presidential systems, unitary and
federal systems, unicameral and bicameral systems. Within each choice are
attendant opportunity costs and benefits.
In a parliamentary system, there is differentiation between the Head of
Government and the Head of State. The Head of State [President] is a
ceremonial head. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister and has
Executive powers. The prime minister is elected by parliament from the party
with the majority. Since the prime minister is a member of the legislature,
he/she is subject to questioning by the legislature during question time. In
this way the prime minister is made accountable to the nation though the
Legislature. The system also provides for the prime minister to resign when
he/she loses the support of the majority in the legislature on a significant
vote. This system of governance was operational in Zimbabwe from 1980 to
The strength of parliamentary systems therefore lie in that the Executive
[prime minister] is directly accountable to the nation through the
legislature, it is workable for nations that are ethnically, racially or
ideologically divided, and also evenly spreads power among governmental
structures. In this way, shocks and frictions that may ensue are absorbed.
Its major disadvantages include that the head of government is not directly
elected, that there is no independent body to oppose and veto legislation
passed by parliament.
In presidential systems there is a president with no prime minister as is
the case in Zimbabwe since 1987. The president is both head of state and
government implying that all executive authority rests in the president. The
president is elected separately from members of parliament. While the system
may provide for the impeachment of the President, in practice, it is
impossible to execute it. The president is not a member of parliament and is
therefore not directly accountable to Parliament.
The president as chief executive has wide appointive powers and can exercise
wide discretionary powers in dissolving parliament and removal of vice
president[s]. The president also has the power to veto laws, can appoint
members of parliament, can issue decrees under certain conditions, executive
powers that can weaken legislative powers. Presidential systems therefore
carry the risk of an omnipresent executive.
Whether it is a parliamentary or presidential model adopted, a
constitutional choice has to be made between bicameral or unicameral
systems. Under a bicameral parliamentary set up, there is a Lower [House of
Assembly] and upper house [Senate]. The Lower House which is also called the
first chamber is the principal House of Parliament and is where all the
representatives are directly elected. In a parliamentary system, this is the
chamber from which the executive powers originate.
The Upper House or the second chamber is the Senate whose powers may purely
review or definitive. Where the Senate enjoys purely reviewing authority, it
has the power to send legislation back to the principal chamber with
comments. However some second chamber, as is the case in Zimbabwe, cannot
stop legislation. Where an upper house has definitive powers/ powerful
chamber, legislation must pass both chambers to become law. Under a
unicameral system there is only one chamber. Many countries' parliaments
have only one chamber-usually the House of Assembly. Implied here is that a
choice has to be made between having a second chamber with reviewing or
Choosing a model of governance also entails deciding between a unitary or
federal system and others. In Zimbabwe, constitution-making processes
currently underway have revived animated debates on the prospects for
federalism in Zimbabwe, the issue of regional marginalization cited as major
Unitary systems confer all political power to national/central government
and are thus single, centralized governments in which all political power is
exercised at the centre. While government can decentralize functions to
local levels, it has power to revoke the decentralized powers. Central
government establishes national laws and guidelines that are applied
uniformly throughout the country.
The advantages of such a system lie in that it offers uniformity of policy
and services. There is one set of government offices and employees for key
government offices. Broader national interests take precedence resulting in
balanced public policy. There are also high stakes of reducing
discrimination against minorities because policy control resides in central
government. However, the system has its own trade-offs, namely that local
priorities and conditions may be sacrificed in implementing national
policies and that government may be unaware of grassroots problems.
In a federal system of government, sovereignty is constitutionally divided
between a central governing authority and constituent political units like
states or provinces. There is self-rule and shared rule. The State resembles
a miniature version of the whole in "congruent federalism".
Advantages associated with federalism therefore include ensuring that there
is devolution of power, that government remains close to the people in tune
with the daily needs and aspirations, that decentralized forms of
development are encouraged, that it allows unique and innovative methods for
attacking social, economic and political problems, that it provides
effective ways of linking together diverse people who happen to end up in a
single political entity and that it is a way of resolving tensions between
centre and periphery. Giving regions or states autonomy will go a long way
in national healing as each region/state will have equal representation in
the development of their respective areas. In the case of Zimbabwe, it
ensures equal growth and development opportunities as opposed to the current
system where everything is done and approved in Harare. Proponents of
federalism further argue that the Zimbabwean economy now needs hands on
management if national goals and targets are to be realized.
However their geographic and ethnic bases incline them prone to group
conflicts and delays in making swift decisions. In Australia, the
constitution can only be amended through a national referendum after a
majority of voters in the affected states agree to the change. Since its
federation in 1901, only eight out of 44 amendment proposals have been
Saturday, 05 December 2009 18:55
DISAGREEMENTS between the three main parties to the Global Political
Agreement (GPA) threaten the vital work being carried out by
non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs are engaged in an exercise to
ensure critical agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and seed reach nearly
three quarters of a million villagers throughout the country to avoid
reliance on food aid.
But a fortnight ago the governor for Mashonaland Central announced a "ban"
on one NGO - Development Aid from People to People - from operating in
Mazowe District. Quite why such drastic action is necessary at this critical
juncture and in this era of inclusivity is puzzling.
The irony of the "ban" is that the NGO affected has had a long history of
working with Zanu PF and comrades from that party ever since the return of
refugee children from the war front immediately after Independence. Senator
Misheck Chando (Zanu PF), who died recently in a car accident and was
declared a national hero, worked closely with DAPP. It would have been
interesting to hear what he thinks of the ban had he been alive.
These conflicting signals affect the country's reconstruction and
significantly the rate at which Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will return as
well as international responses to the recovery process.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was in South Africa last week where he
encouraged Zimbabweans to return home to take part in the reconstruction of
the country saying that they have a role to play in rebuilding the country.
"My message is that this is the time to consider taking part in the
reconstruction phase of Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans who are in the Diaspora,"
Tsvangirai said. He spoke of the country turning a new chapter, which
provides opportunities for Zimbabweans abroad.
There is no doubt that there have been significant changes since the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) was signed last year and that the past 10 months
have seen some social and economic progress.
There are considerable numbers of Zimbabweans among the estimated four
million in the Diaspora with different skills required for Zimbabwe's
reconstruction. But the plight and experiences of returning teachers will
persuade many Zimbabweans in the Diaspora against rushing home.
In order to encourage the return of more teachers and ensure results and
stability in the sector the Minister of Education, Senator David Coltart,
declared an amnesty for teachers who had left their jobs either as a result
of electoral violence and political victimisation or because of economic
Senator Coltart's call for special concessions to be extended to the
returning teachers resulted in about 17 000 teachers - mostly those who had
fled to South Africa - coming back. But once here the teachers believe there
was significant misrepresentation in the call from the Ministry. This is
because out of the 17 000 who returned less than 500 have been formally
accepted back into the Ministry of Education.
Teachers' organisations say the process is deliberately slow and
frustrating. They blame bureaucracy saying repeated efforts on their side
have yielded little success -hardly the sort of thing that will make the
Prime Minister's mission easier.
Yet the same bureaucracy has been able to fast-track 13 000 Zanu PF youths
onto the government payroll. Senator Coltart's efforts deserve support and
the funding from international organisations that are designed to restore
the education sector to its previous status has to produce specific
This is critical if invigilation and marking of examinations for this year
are to proceed and the results come out in time for the first term of 2010.
Saturday, 05 December 2009 18:57
ZIMBABWE adopted the British First-Past-the-Post electoral system in 1985.
This was undoubtedly part of the love-hate relationship that Zanu PF has
with our former colonisers. We are sometimes like teenagers always
rebelling against our parents, swearing at them, cursing them. At the same
time we remain slaves of our colonisers, always aping the way they do
things, including their electoral system.
The 1980 electoral system was more like the present South African electoral
system, where the electorate voted for candidates selected by political
parties. The British system is known as the First Past the Post system.
The South African system, which is the more widespread system in modern
times, although it is expressed in many varied ways, is known as
Proportional Representation. The two systems are often combined, for
example with 70% of the seats through the First Past the Post system, and
30% through the Proportional Representation system.
There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to each system, and it is
appropriate for Zimbabweans to choose the most suitable system for our
situation. The First Past the Post system which has been in place in
Zimbabwe since the 1985 Elections, has the advantage of simplicity: whether
you win by 30 votes, 300 votes, 3000 votes, or 30 000 votes, you are the
winner. This has led to what is sometimes called "corruption", where a
losing candidate will appeal to the local army battalion to come to the
polls, and tip the balance. This has been a well known Zanu PF strategy for
almost every election.
Another disadvantage has been the manipulation and violence which have
characterised intra-party primary elections, with accusations that winning
candidates got in through patronage from the big shots or chefs, rather than
through popular votes. Primary elections have caused serious divisions in
every party. Bribery of the electorate, bussing in of voters, and other
such moves are common.
Primary elections have also brought about more tribalism, as candidates
appealed to local tribal loyalties, making it difficult if not impossible
for the best candidate to win.
It is noticeable that the number of women candidates has decreased
considerably since 1980. This is because women candidates may not be
ruthless enough to win the primary elections within their own party, given
the level of patronage in place.
One disadvantage of Proportional Representation is that the party has a
greater say in the choice of the candidate, although the system of candidate
selection within each party may bring in different degrees of democracy. An
advantage is that a party may ensure greater gender representation than the
present primary elections system. A party may also be able to ensure that
its candidates provide a greater variety of skills and experience.
At this point in time it is important for every Zimbabwean to consider what
electoral system is put in place under the new Constitution. Are we about
to repeat the mistakes of the past, in particular slavish imitation of our
former colonial masters? There is need for a vigorous debate on what
combination of First Past the Post and Proportional Representation would
serve Zimbabwe best.
BY FAY CHUNG
Saturday, 05 December 2009 18:54
ON September 28, the world awoke to fresh reports of unspeakable violence
against women. In Guinea, the "berets rouges," the Presidential guard, raped
women of all ages - in groups, with weapons, and with such brutality that
many who weren't immediately killed died soon afterwards of their injuries.
Neither the scale nor the scope of this violence is new. For the past ten
years, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, soldiers have been raping and
mutilating women as part of a deliberate and coordinated strategy to destroy
civilian communities. And gender-based violence is not limited to war zones
or regions in conflict.
Girls and women are targeted because of their sex at every point in their
lives, from female feticide, to inadequate healthcare and nutrition given to
girls, to child marriage, trafficking, so-called "honour" killings,
dowry-related murder, and the neglect and ostracism of widows - and this is
not an exhaustive list.
In Zimbabwe, women have suffered violence including rape and beatings
perpetrated by soldiers, youth militia, and their own husbands and family
members. Last month in New York, a locally-produced documentary called Hear
Us: Women Affected by Political Violence in Zimbabwe Speak Out, was featured
at a gala organized by the American NGO Witness in New York. The film,
which profiles Zimbabwean survivors of rape and torture, was also shown as
part of the ongoing International Images Film Festival for Women that is
focusing on women's ability to empower themselves to overcome hardships and
This violence is a global pandemic. It cuts across ethnicity, race, class,
religion, educational level, and international borders: the only common
element is that the victims are selected because they are women.
Since 1991, the world has set aside the 16 days that link November 25, the
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, with
December 10, International Human Rights Day, to underscore the idea that
violence committed against women because of their sex is a fundamental
violation of human rights. This violence is not "cultural"; it is
criminal. It is every nation's problem, and it needs a response that is
commensurate with the seriousness of these crimes.
The assaults on women cannot be blamed on a few aberrant perpetrators.
Rather, these diverse forms of violence stem from the entrenched and
enduring low status of women and girls around the world. Ending the
violence - treating the causes as well as the symptoms - requires not only
that we increase prosecutions of perpetrators but also that we work towards
women's complete equality in every sphere of life.
Gender-based violence is not solely a women's issue; it is a global
challenge to human rights and security. As an international problem, it
requires international solutions.
And the United States is committed to working with governments, multilateral
institutions, and a wide range of private partners - from activists and
advocates, to survivors and civil society leaders - to end impunity for
those who perpetrate these crimes, and to ensure that laws that recognize
women's equality and right to be free from violence are implemented fully.
We're working to promote men's engagement in ending the violence. We're
asking religious leaders to incorporate these messages, so consistent with
all faiths, into their activities and outreach.
And we're helping to ensure that boys and girls in all nations have safe and
equal access to high-quality education that teaches the intrinsic worth of
Secretary Hilary Clinton has made this issue a top priority for American
foreign policy. And the Obama Administration is also committed to ending
violence against women in the United States, where too many women are still
mistreated and abused.
Women are the key to progress and prosperity in the 21st century. When they
are marginalized and mistreated, humanity cannot progress. When they are
accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, health
care, employment, and political participation, they lift up their families,
their communities, and their nations.
It is time that ending violence against women became a priority for us all.
Katherine Dhanani is Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Harare.
BY KATHERINE DHANANI