July 27, 2007
Jan Raath in Harare
A group of nursing mothers were ordered to put down their babies by
Zimbabwean police before being beaten for hours.
The six women were among 160 people rounded up at the offices of the
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an organisation dedicated to
constitutional reform, after activists tried to hold a demonstration.
They were taken to Harare central police station and told to leave their
babies in the corner of a hall and join other adults lying on their
For the next four or five hours, witnesses say, the infants screamed as
police lashed their mothers and the other adults continuously with
metre-long, heavy rubber sticks.
"We were half men, half women. There were six women with children. There
were grandmummies," said a 35-year-old woman in hospital with a suspected
broken shoulder. "We were made to lie down on our stomachs in rows of five
or ten with our hands stretched out in front. All were beaten.
"From about 6pm to 11pm they were beating us, nonstop, going up and down the
rows, one after another. When one group of police got tired another would
"They trampled on our bodies with their boots. One of them hit me on my ear
with his hand. Now I cannot hear. They said we wanted to have the country
recolonised by Bush and Blair."
One of the mothers - a thin, desperate-looking young woman in a worn, soiled
red dress - had not been on the march, but was arrested anyway. Her infant
son, who had been strapped to her back, was struck with a baton as she was
being forced on to the back of a police truck. Still in shock in hospital
yesterday, she was unable to answer questions.
She was given a packet of powerful painkilling tablets for deep soft-tissue
bruising to her buttocks, back and the back of her thighs. "This is so
perverse it makes me want to vomit," the doctor examining her and her child
Wednesday night's beatings were the largest mass assault yet carried out by
Zimbabwean police. Violence in March, when Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition
leader, and about 30 others were beaten for 2½ hours, sparked international
"This time the intensity was ten times worse," said the NCA chairman,
Lovemore Madhuku, who was among those assaulted in March but was not at the
organisation's offices when the police raided it on Wednesday. The victims
yesterday were so numerous that they had to have beds made for them on the
floors of at least two private hospitals. At a private clinic about 20 were
still queueing for attention at 10am, including a scrawny, elderly woman on
her knees babbling prayers.
Among the injuries were more than 30 skull, hand, arm and rib fractures.
Nearly everyone had widespread deep soft-tissue injuries.
After the March assaults President Mugabe said that the victims "got what
they asked for". Mr Tsvangirai and the others were arrested on their way to
a prayer rally for peace, which police had been ordered not to interfere
with by the High Court.
The NCA holds "guerrilla" demonstrations in the face of police brutality so
often that they are scarcely reported on. Almost every week young activists
wander into the city centre in ones and twos and, at a given signal, sprint
through the streets holding banners demanding a new constitution, dispersing
and regrouping with the riot police in pursuit. Inevitably, several are
caught and emerge a few days later, bloodied and battered. "Yes, you will be
beaten up, for sure," Mr Mugabe said last year after trade union leaders had
been assaulted for attempting to hold a peaceful demonstration in Harare.
All those arrested yesterday were released later. "We weren't made to pay a
fine. There were no charges," a man who gave his name as Ernest said. "All
they did was take our names. They didn't detain us overnight because they
knew it would be embarrassing to take us all to court."
A woman said that Mr Madhuku had warned them that if they were caught they
could be beaten up. "I was scared. But I made myself strong. I told myself
if anything happens to me, it will happen to all of us," she said.
"These beatings are to break our resolve," Ernest said. "But they have
strengthened it. The more they beat us, the more we realise we have serious
work to do."
July 27 2007 at 02:22AM
Washington - The United States on Thursday accused Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe of blatantly trying to shut out criticism ahead of
elections next year.
Citing the beating by riot police of more than 200 Zimbabweans
peacefully demonstrating for a new constitution in Harare on Wednesday, the
state department said Mugabe should respect the right of Zimbabweans to
participate in the democratic process and to guarantee the safety of
The beating "is an overt attempt by the government of Zimbabwe to
eliminate any criticism in advance of elections planned for next year",
department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters.
"This latest action continues to call into question the government of
Zimbabwe's commitment to the SADC (Southern African Development Community)
mediation effort to establish conditions for free and fair elections," he
The SADC has mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki to broker a
dialogue between Mugabe's government and the opposition.
The opposition has charged that the last presidential polls in 2002
were rigged to hand victory to the 83-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power
since 1980. - Sapa-AFP
By Patience Rusere
26 July 2007
Police in Harare, Zimbabwe, closed the headquarters of the National
Constitutional Assembly, a leading civil society organization, and placed it
under heavy guard in the wake of national demonstrations organized Wednesday
by the activist group.
NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said police detained 33 organization members
in the cities of Masvingo, Mutare and Gweru without pressing charges. He
said lawyers for the detained activists had been denied access to their
NCA members demonstrated in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Gweru to protest
the governments intention, announced this week by President Robert Mugabe,
of moving ahead with a constitutional amendment that will rearrange the
Civil society groups and the political opposition want an entirely new
constitution, and such a sweeping revision has emerged as a main point of
crisis negotiations between the president's ruling ZANU-PF party and the
Movement for Democratic Change.
The government's amendment adds scores of seats in the lower and upper
houses of parliament, among other changes that will further tilt the
electoral playing field.
Madhuku said that police in the capital soon released the approximately 200
members of his organization they had detained, some charging they had been
Madhuku told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
despite the arrests and beatings, the NCA plans to organize further
SW Radio Africa (London)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
Outspoken NCA chairperson Dr Lovemore Madhuku said the Mugabe regime has
once again shown it does not care about international opinion and it does
not care about regional efforts, after carrying out a brutal and vicious
crackdown on NCA activists on Wednesday.
The chairperson said 243 people were arrested in the afternoon and spent
several hours at Harare Central police station being brutalised. They were
later released close to midnight. Madhuku was speaking from the Avenues
clinic where more than 170 activists were receiving treatment for injuries
sustained whilst in police custody.
He said: "Imagine there are so-called mediation efforts by SADC, where the
ZANU PF government is supposed to have taken lessons from March 11 (where
opposition and civic leaders were severely assaulted by the police). But
what happened yesterday is 10 times worse than March 11 because you have
over 200 people being beaten, some of them quite old women - brutalised by
young people wearing police uniforms and ZANU PF regalia."
The pressure group had staged a series of demonstration in all the major
towns. Scores of people were also arrested in Masvingo, Mutare, Gweru,
Midlands and Bulawayo. They are all still in police custody.
It's reported the violence was more severe in Harare where police also
followed some of the demonstrators to the NCA headquarters and continued to
assault them. NCA Director Earnest Mudzengi was one of those arrested from
the offices. It's reported the police fired shots in the air and threw tear
gas at the activists at the offices. Madhuku confirmed that the police had
barricaded the NCA headquarters and no one was allowed to enter the premises
Speaking from the Avenues Clinic one of the victims, Shepherd Gotora, said
they were made to lie down in rows and severely assaulted at the NCA offices
and later at the police station and even elderly women were not spared.
Madhuku said upon their release on Wednesday night: "Most of them
(activists) could not walk for more than a few metres from the police
station. So they just collapsed along the road called Robson Manyika." He
said they were being attended to at the Avenues Clinic and Dandaro Clinic
and by late Thursday about 50 people remained in hospital.
The pressure group are leading campaigners for a new and people driven
constitution and they said they will not be deterred by the repressive
actions of the state. The group said their cause had been strengthened by
the police brutality and that they will maintain their presence in the
The police refused to comment.
Friday 27 July 2007
By Patricia Mpofu
HARARE - Zimbabwean police were last night still detaining 33 members of the
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) pressure group who were arrested on
Wednesday for demonstrating in Harare.
The 33 were part of a group of about 300 NCA members who staged an impromptu
demonstration in the capital demanding a new, democratic constitution for
Yesterday, the police sealed off the NCA offices in Harare and barred
workers from gaining entry into the premises. Two police officers were by
late yesterday still manning the NCA premises.
NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the police were still detaining the 33
activists while several others who were beaten up during the protest,
including the group's director Ernest Mudzengi, were still being treated in
"I can confirm that today we have not been able to enter our offices after
police sealed then off after assaulting our officials and officers after
successful demonstrations countrywide on Wednesday night.
"Mudzengi is in a critical condition at Dandaro Clinic while about 280
others are hospitalised at the Avenues Clinic and other health facilities in
Harare," said Madhuku.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena could not be reached for comment on the
matter last night.
Under the Zimbabwe's tough Public Order and Security Act (POSA), it is
illegal to stage demonstrations and marches around the country without first
seeking permission from the police.
But the NCA has consistently ignored the tough security law to stage
protests demanding that President Robert Mugabe's government agree to a new,
democratic constitution for the country.
Mugabe two weeks ago rejected calls by civic groups and the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party for a new constitution telling
the media that there was nothing wrong with Zimbabwe's present
constitution. - ZimOnline
Friday 27 July 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - The Zimbabwean government on Thursday said it will not lose
sleep over a United States plan to widen targeted sanctions imposed on
President Robert Mugabe and his top lieutenants.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa told ZimOnline last night that
the plan to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe's political leadership announced on
Wednesday will not worry Harare as it has survived under the punitive
sanctions imposed about five years ago.
"We don't really give a damn. We have survived under the illegal
sanctions that they imposed and we will not lose sleep over their (new)
plans," said Mutasa.
Mutasa spoke a day after US assistant secretary of state for African
affairs Jendayi Fraser said Washington was planning to extend targeted
sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his senior ruling ZANU PF party officials.
"We are looking at additional sanctions against individuals who are
supporting this regime. We can deepen the sanctions that are already there,
can add more individuals to those travel sanctions," said Fraser.
Sources within the diplomatic community yesterday said the measures
could see Washington expel children and close relatives of top government
officials who are studying in the US.
The United States and Britain imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and
his senior government officials about six years ago in protest over the
veteran Zimbabwean leader's abuse of human rights and failure to uphold
Under the sanctions, Mugabe and his government officials are banned
from visiting the US and Europe as well as Australia.
Mugabe, who is accused of ruining what was once one of Africa's best
prospects, on Tuesday said Britain and her western allies had "redoubled"
their efforts to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.
The veteran Zimbabwean leader accused western countries of sponsoring
violence in the country to remove his government from power.
Zimbabwe, which was once a model African economy, is in the grip of an
unprecedented economic meltdown that is shown in the world's highest
inflation of over 4 500 percent, shortages of food, rising unemployment and
Critics blame Mugabe, who has ruled the country since its 1980
independence from Britain, for ruining the economy through repression and
wrong policies. He denies the charge. - ZimOnline
Friday 27 July 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - A Zimbabwe High Court judge on Thursday indefinitely reserved
judgment in a case in which a British national Simon Mann is appealing
against a ruling to extradite him to Equatorial Guinea.
Mann is fighting extradition to Equatorial Guinea where he is wanted in
connection with a 2004 coup attempt against that country's ruler Teodoro
Mann's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange filed the appeal at the High Court to
nullify a decision by a lower court to transfer the former British special
forces officer to the oil rich West African country.
Yesterday, Samkange said his client should not be extradited to Equatorial
Guinea as he was too ill to withstand trial in the West African country.
"He is so ill he should not be extradited. He will not be able to withstand
"Equatorial Guinea does not send its prisoners for treatment. It only allows
doctors to visit inmates. If he is sent, it will be like he is being sent to
die," said Samkange.
Samkange wants the court to release Mann from Chikurubi Maximum Security
Prison in Harare where he is being kept and deported to England.
Mann last month completed serving his three-year jail term that slapped on
him after he was convicted of a lesser charge of trying to buy weapons
without a licence.
Yesterday, Judge President Rita Makarau indefinitely reserved judgment on
Mann's appeal saying the court needed time to study submissions by both
"Judgment is hereby reserved," said Makarau.
The High Court's ruling means that Mann remains holed up at Chikurubi where
he is being detained on an immigration detention warrant pending a ruling in
the extradition case.
Mann was arrested in March 2004 along with 70 other suspected mercenaries,
when their plane landed in Harare to pick up weapons en route to Equatorial
Guinea where they were accused of plotting a coup against that country's
Mann's colleagues were released a year later after having served their
sentences for flouting Zimbabwe's immigration and aviation laws, leaving the
Briton to serve an additional two years.
The Zimbabwe government refused to release Mann on completion of his
sentence, instead holding him in prison while preparing for his extradition
to Equatorial Guinea to face treason charges and a possible death sentence
if found guilty.
Mann's lawyers have resisted the extradition arguing that their client faced
the death penalty if he is convicted in Equatorial Guinea while the
authorities in the West African country insist that he will receive a fair
trial there. - ZimOnline
Friday 27 July 2007
By Tanonoka Joseph Whande
HARARE - Although I am very hopeful and optimistic about SADC's lame efforts
to bring a solution to the Zimbabwean problem, any casual observer can see
there is no way there is going to be a 'negotiated settlement' to the
Too many factors militate against it. Not that the principals are incapable
but because the man at the centre of the putrid state of affairs is not
going to let a solution be found.
It is clear that President Robert Mugabe is safer without a solution to the
problem. Mugabe is not going to retire or leave office. He is going to die
in office to save himself from humiliation and prosecution.
Everyone knows and can see that so why Mbeki and SADC want to fool the world
into believing that something might come out of his efforts is a mystery.
Already, Mugabe is setting preconditions for the talks and attendance by his
proxies at the talks is getting erratic. But Mbeki is not a fool either.
Mugabe needs the Zimbabwean presidency for his own personal security.
Vacating that position leaves him open to arrest or, God forbid, even
Mugabe has caused the deaths of too many people; he has abused many more and
is responsible for atrocities that are well-documented even by his own
commissions of enquiry.
He cannot retire and live in Zimbabwe simply because there is absolutely no
way he can be safe there and no amount of guarantees will change that.
Besides, he would be a serious liability to any person who takes over from
him. There is no doubt as to the amount of pressure that would be brought to
bear on the sitting president to "do something about Mugabe."
That president would have the most difficult of times with the Zimbabwean
people pressurising him and crying for justice. It would also be difficult
for anyone to be seen protecting him from the people's demand for justice.
There are also enemies outside Zimbabwe, and he knows it, which is why he
avoids certain countries even without the travel ban on him.
What happened to the late dictator Augusto Pinochet is still fresh in Mugabe's
And guarantees of no arrest should never be taken seriously because other
countries have what is called 'the rule of law' where such flimsy assurances
do not stand a chance in court.
Wherever he goes, the laws of that country would get him faster than
vengeful Zimbabwean citizens. No one should waste time discussing Mugabe's
immunity from prosecution. There is no immunity. Period.
The so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) worked for South
Africa and it will not work for Mugabe under any circumstances. South
Africans were polarised and there were racial overtones.
Much as we may deny it, the fight in South Africa was a racial fight,
although politicians are fond of saying they were fighting against a system
not a race. A TRC will not work for Mugabe because his malevolence is
Who is he fighting in Zimbabwe? It's just Mugabe versus the people. Like a
cow in a maize field, he has been munching away at the citizens for no other
reason than that they hold a different opinion from his own.
Is he not fighting Zimbabweans, his own masters? Is he not abusing and
killing the very custodians of independence and freedom; the owners of the
Is he not maiming people because the people are telling him they don't want
him anymore? How will he explain his starving of old men, women and children
because he suspects them of belonging to the opposition party?
And if they do belong to the opposition party, so what? And there are plenty
of other things we don't know about yet. They will become known the minute
he folds his presidential sash and leaves State House.
His ministers will talk; no problem there. Then there are issues and
incidences from the liberation struggle that will throttle him the minute he
He has a lot of explaining to do and many a grave will be dug up in and
The man has no chance, for goodness sake. It's just payback time and that
cannot be avoided. Going into exile leaves him wide open to arrest. Exile is
not a guarantee because 'if they want you, they will get you.'
It is as easy as that. It would be just a matter of time as Nicaraguan
dictator, Anastasio ("Tachito") Somoza Debayle, found out.
He was assassinated in Asunción, Paraguay, at the age of 54, by a commando
team led by the Argentinean Enrique Gorriarán Merlo.
He was blown up and it is doubtful if they recovered every piece of him
after that attack.
And, in spite of providing heavy security, how many times has Mugabe himself
apprehended Ethiopian would-be-assassins near the secluded Gunhill premises
of Mengistu Haile Mariam and wondered how they got so close with arms?
In short, there is no safe place for Mugabe; once he leaves the presidency
he is a dead man.
Because, unfortunately, too many people want to see him dead while more want
to see him pay for his crimes. There is no such thing as a "former dictator",
only dead dictators and Mugabe is no fool.
Mugabe is also aware that no one can rule Zimbabwe with him alive and that
is why he is going to die in office, unless his army removes him, which is
unlikely, given the caliber of his generals and military leaders.
Mugabe is aware that no one can guarantee his safety and that nobody can
really guarantee him immunity from prosecution in or outside Zimbabwe. If
they do, they'd be lying, just to get him aside till they grab him.
Not only Zimbabweans but many people around the world would like to see
Mugabe in the dock. His arrogance has guaranteed very few friends and the
country of exile might cause to be a problem.
In Africa, South Africa appears to be the safest, in spite of its proximity
to Zimbabwe. But would South Africans accept Mugabe to live in their
It is not going to be an easy decision to arrive at and Mbeki is aware of
that. Mugabe is not Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Exile is running away from your
own people, isn't it? And does Mugabe himself want exile?
Is he naïve enough to believe he can actually be safe away from Zimbabwe
State House? The answer is 'no' and I dare Mbeki to prove me wrong. In the
meantime, Mbeki is having it both ways.
Why should he hurry to solve the Zimbabwean crisis? Even without outside
help, the Zimbabwean situation is reaching 'saturation point' and will
inevitably straighten itself out.
But the vultures are circling. Many big companies in Zimbabwe closed down
and relocated to South Africa and other countries in the region.
Supermarkets are closing down because there are no suppliers.
There is no food in the country. There is no fuel or spares. Zimbabwe does
not even have money; it uses paper money and has no coins. There are no
chemicals for water reticulation.
Hospital beds, like supermarket shelves, are empty because there are no
medicines in the hospitals. Patients are asked to bring their own food which
they can no longer find in the empty shops.
And South African business is watching, don't you see? Mugabe is going to
go, one way or the other. He is about to expire, both physically and
politically, and South African business is best poised to rush in and set up
They have the money; they have the means and they are nearest. So Mbeki is
not losing sleep over Zimbabwe. Either way it goes, he and his country come
We hear so much about the SADC initiative, spearheaded by Mbeki. Hogwash.
SADC, with its united inadequacy, is too cowardly and unwilling to solve
problems that directly affect it.
There is nothing to negotiate in or about Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe is the
redundant culprit. If SADC is serious about solving this problem, they
should just impose sanctions on him, just like the US and the EU did.
Yes, people will suffer because of such sanctions but people have been
suffering for a long time and there is no end in sight.
Suffer we will because of the sanctions but the pain I feel while a
troublesome aching tooth is being removed is much more welcome than the
prolonged, drawn out torture of the decayed tooth.
SADC must do something to show a collective serious resolve in protecting
and promoting the region.
*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean writer.
By Blessing Zulu
26 July 2007
Facing the total collapse of the meat supply chain from slaughterhouses to
wholesale butchers to retailers, the Zimbabwean government has made a sharp
policy turn in asking a major private producer to step in where a state
monopoly has failed.
The government asked Surrey Abattoirs, a major private slaughterhouse it
shut down three weeks ago while giving the state-controlled Cold Storage
Company a monopoly in the sector, to gear up to supply sides of beef to a
market that has run dry.
CSC was unable to meet demand after Harare revoked the licenses of private
firms, and supermarkets have been closing meat departments for lack of
product. to sell. A Surrey manager, speaking on condition of anonymity, told
VOA that members of the price task force instructed the firm on Wednesday
to resume operations.
But the manager said Surrey Abattoirs might not be able to meet demand
because cattle farmers are reluctant to accept low mandated prices. The
state is paying Z$5 million (US$20) a head for cattle, compared with Z$30
million on the open market.
Butcher shops in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, also
said the Cold Storage Company has been restricting meat sales to government
entities such as police and army barracks, forcing the smaller private
outlets to close their doors.
Economist Eddie Cross, an opposition policy cordinator, told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ongoing price blitz
has had a serious impact on his family grocery business, forcing the closer
of its meat counter in Bulawayo.
Elsewhere, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has taken steps to halt moves
by a cabinet-level price task force to seize commercial banking records for
Gono informed Industry Minister Obert Mpofu, task force chairman, Finance
Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri that
the financial sector is within his jurisdiction and that the task force must
not meddle there.
Gono said demands for confidential bank client information and banking
documents risked destabilizing the financial system and undermining public
trust in banks.
Gono has told bank executives to politely show the door to any members of
the task force who demand information, summoning the police if they refuse
Bankers told VOA that the situation is still unclear and that after a
shake-up in banking sector carried out by Gono in 2003-2004 it is vulnerable
Economist Tony Hawkins said Gono is correct to assert his authority over
Mail and Guardian
Mail & Guardian reporter
26 July 2007 11:59
In the clearest indications yet that talks brokered by the
Southern African Development Community (SADC), aimed at resolving the crisis
in Zimbabwe, will not meet opposition demands for a new constitution,
President Robert Mugabe this week pushed ahead with plans to amend the
existing Constitution to allow him to hand-pick his successor.
Opening the latest sitting of Zimbabwe's Parliament on
Wednesday, Mugabe -- in a speech in which he did not make reference to the
South African-brokered talks with the political opposition -- said the 18th
amendment to the Constitution would be passed in this session of the house.
The amendment would facilitate the reduction of the presidential
term from the current six years to five years and harmonise the
presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
Crucially, the amendment would give Parliament, where Zanu-PF
enjoys a majority, the power to elect a successor to Mugabe if, as analysts
have speculated, he leaves office soon after the elections scheduled to take
place early next year.
The Sunday Mail, a government-run weekly that closely reflects
the thinking of Zanu-PF's politburo, argued in its editorial last weekend
that there is an "unfortunate view entertained by the Movement for
Democratic Change's (MDC) factions" that "Britain and America or even South
Africa should preside over the drafting of a new Constitution for Zimbabwe".
The paper said such a scenario was like "surrendering the sovereign
legislative powers of our Parliament to the wrong people".
"We don't expect the people at the ongoing talks between Zanu-PF
and the MDC factions to expend their energy by inviting South Africa to
oversee the drafting of a new constitution when the doors of Parliament are
open for our legislators to debate the 18th amendment."
Asked for comment on the continuing talks in Pretoria, MDC
officials Tendayi Biti and Paul Themba Nyathi preferred to remain silent.
But an MDC source close to the talks said they do not expect them to yield
their primary demand: a new constitution that would "curtail Mugabe's
powers" and which is a prerequisite for a "free and fair election".
If he did agree to a new constitution, the source said, Mugabe
"would have negotiated himself out of power". Among other things the new
constitution would "provide room for [a] legal challenge in the event that
we are not happy with an electoral result".
Meanwhile, explaining the reason for Zanu-PF negotiators Patrick
Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche's recent no-show at the July 7 round of
negotiations in Pretoria, former Zimbabwean information minister and MP
Jonathan Moyo said that on the eve of that date Mugabe had poured scorn on
the idea of a new constitution.
"It became clear to [Goche and Chinamasa] that the idea of a new
constitution had no takers in ZanuPF," Moyo said.
He said the Zanu-PF elite were shocked to hear that Goche and
Chinamasa had initially told South African mediators that they would discuss
a new constitution. After hearing Mugabe's message the two decided not to
show up "as they would not negotiate in a meaningful way".
David Monyae of the international relations department at Wits
University said Mugabe is not interested in the talks and is not willing to
make huge concessions.
No comment could be obtained from the South African government.
Mail and Guardian
Sumayya Ismail | Johannesburg, South Africa
26 July 2007 11:59
Jennifer Khumalo stands meekly at an intersection on Jan Smuts
Avenue in Rosebank, Johannesburg. In a black skirt and striped
blue-and-white jersey she wore the day before, this 42-year-old blind mother
of four mans her spot for about eight hours every day.
Dumisani Moyo, her 21-year-old brother, holds her hand, being
the eyes that guide her through the swerving traffic. He clutches a peeling
green enamel cup; passers-by peer at them through half-open car windows,
sometimes dropping a few coins into it.
Many Zimbabwean nationals such as Khumalo and Moyo have found a
place on corners and intersections throughout the city. "We have nothing at
home," Khumalo says, "There is nothing to eat, welfare doesn't give us
anything and there are children who have to go to school ... so we came
Wayne Minnaar, spokesperson for the Johannesburg metro police,
says: "It is just a source of income for them, to get a few cents for bread
and just to survive."
Khumalo came to Johannesburg in June this year, but says other
Zimbabweans have been here since 2000 because it is "better" in South
Africa. "People used to talk around where we stayed; they said it was easier
to make money here," she recalls of her decision to move. "And it is better
because at least here we have something."
Most of the money they make through begging is sent back to
Zimbabwe. Khumalo makes between R30 and R40 -- between Z$1 097 and Z$1
462 -- a day. Khumalo's husband is also blind after contracting German
measles as a child. He stands at a nearby intersection, helped by their
Together, the money they make goes to their three young children
now living with a grandparent back home in Masvingo. Once a month Khumalo
travels home by bus, taking the money with her. But for the rest of the time
she lives in a flat in Yeoville, sharing a room with 10 other people.
"There are many there where we stay. We are 10 per room and all
sleep on the floor. Rent is R10 a month per person," Khumalo says.
"But these days there is no money," she adds, referring to the
amount she makes now compared with when she first got here. "I want to go
back home, but there is no work, and the family is waiting for the money."
Many others like Khumalo were reluctant to speak when approached
by the Mail & Guardian Online this week. Those who did speak to us declined
to have their pictures taken for fear of backlash, saying it could affect
them when they cross the border.
Admire Dingwiza and his brother-in-law Muchongwe Johane stand at
different intersections along Empire Road. They refuse to be photographed.
"We are just looking for money for eating and for buying
clothing," Dingwiza says. He alternates his time between Johane and his
sister Saliwe, who is Johane's wife. Both the Johanes have been blind since
Starting at 7am each morning, Dingwiza estimates they make about
R25 (Z$915) a day. The money goes to the Johanes, who help him out with
food, clothes and a place to stay.
The Johanes came with him from Zimbabwe in 2005, and they all
live together on End Street in Johannesburg's inner city. Weekends are
better because people tend to give them more money. "But it's too hard
moving up and down," Muchongwe Johane says. "Some days I can have some
problems of headaches, because of the sun or the cold."
Dingwiza's family lives in Zimbabwe, where his wife earns money
by buying and selling or doing piece jobs. "Life in Zimbabwe is very
difficult, because of inflation, and there are no jobs or money. We are just
sitting. There is nothing we can do," he says.
He and the Johanes share a room with four other Zimbabweans.
They pay a combined rent of R300 a month. "There is no electricity, no
bathrooms, but there is cold water. We just use dishes and fill them up to
wash," Dingwiza says.
Their roommates also beg for money at intersections along the
city's main routes. "The metro police are sometimes a problem," Dingwiza
says. "They harass us and tell us to stay away from the robots ... and they
can just ask for passports"
Says the metro police's Minnaar: "They are not allowed to be
[begging at the intersections] and from time to time we do use the metro
police bus to pick them up, bringing them to the station. But begging is not
a serious crime; you can't compare it to robbery, murder or rape."
He adds: "We communicate to them the disadvantages of begging,
that they are in contravention of the by-laws and the Road Traffic Act, for
their own safety ... We sometimes take the Zimbabwean ones to Lindela
[repatriation facility] or we fine them R100 ... but after we release them,
they go back there.
"It's difficult to enforce these by-laws on blind beggars. For
them it's about a means for survival, and we can't lock them up, so they
will be back there the next day."
THE shooting and wounding of journalist Abel Mutsakani is very sad, indeed. I know Abel very well. We worked together at The Financial Gazette with Sydney Masamvu, Basildon Peta, Nqobile Nyathi, Patience Rusere and others under the editorship of Francis Mdlongwa.
He is a great guy to work with. He is arguably one of the finest journalists to emerge from post-independent Zimbabwe. He does not deserve this.
I last saw him in Rosebank last year some time and we chatted briefly. I had not seen him in years.
I wish him a speedy recovery, and that his attackers rot in jail.
Something disturbs me, though. I do not mean to be insensitive, but perhaps this will help you understand why editors in South Africa shun using copy from certain journalists and certain news agencies. In the end, we get accused of not supporting the Zimbabwe cause, and that allegation is as baseless and idiotic as it is moronic.
The truth is that they are not impartial in their reportage.
Finding a Zimbabwean journalist whose writing is balanced and impartial is like finding a virgin in Hillbrow, and that's very worrying for me.
What kind of news are we feeding the international community? Is the world so naïve as to believe this kind of reportage?
It’s like someone sending me a story that says Archbishop Pius Ncube has been set up because he is a critic of President Robert Mugabe. I mean, gentlemen, did Mugabe plant that woman in the good reverend's bedroom? And unzip the good reverend's pants?
Sure, Mugabe is an evil despot who deserves death by vicious lightning, but are we going to always find a Mugabe link in our reportage of Zimbabwe? Even if it happens in a sovereign, democratic place like South Africa?
The cleric has neither denied nor confirmed he is indeed the gentleman in that shocking footage, but journalists have already made up their minds that he is being victimised because of his calls for Britain to invade Zimbabwe.
I reject the story because I thrive to be an open-minded news editor who thinks out of the box, and I get called all sorts of names by Zimbabweans in the diaspora, who believe that for me to earn their respect, I must run these relentless, unbalanced and unsubstantiated stories on Mugabe and Zimbabwe.
Is that the journalism Zimbabweans want the world to remember them for?
Sure, let's wage war against the bloodthirsty Mugabe regime by exposing the human rights abuses, the suffering of the people, the collapse of that country, and so on. But let's do it responsibly and truthfully. There are a zillion stories of this nature that can be done in Zimbabwe today.
But how many times have you seen some stories on Zimbabwe, written by a journalist who has not set foot in Zimbabwe in years? With no comment from anyone? At least City Press's man in Zimbabwe is on the ground with the people. We hired him for a reason: he knows what's going on better than we do up here in Jo’burg. The economic and political crisis affects him every single second.
At least Peta Thornycroft, one of my earliest inspirations while she worked with Andy Moyse at Parade magazine, goes to Zimbabwe every now and again. She has first-hand information on what is going down in that ruined country. I am bound to believe what she writes.
I just want us to think clearly, as journalists, before we decide on angles that will sell our stories better in Britain and America, even if we as journalists know we are not being truthful and honest.
Has it been confirmed that the attack on Mutsakani was an assassination attempt? Where is the Cross Border Association of Journalists (CAJ) getting these facts, because we would be interested in running the story if you can prove this to us?
And how do we get the Zanu PF link? Also, why would they come and shoot someone here in Jo’burg when they can't shoot the journalists and MDC officials roaming the streets of Harare and Bulawayo? Pardon me, but I find that very strange.
Or do you know something we do not know? Why are you not taking that valuable information to the police then, to speed up justice so that Abel's family can know the truth?
ZimOnline has not made any claims of a link between this shooting and the government. I read their story when I heard about this from former colleague Eric Matingo, who is in Harare. So where does CAJ get this link?
Why Abel? Why not Basildon Peta, their biggest enemy among the exiled newspapermen? Why not me? Why not Savious Kwinika? Why not Mutumwa Mawere, who is a pain in Mugabe's ass? Why not Morgan Tsvangirai, who comes here all the time without any bodyguards?
Is Abel not a victim of crime in SA? Did it not cross your mind that this could be a criminal act? Is the story then not that this guy who ran away from persecution from Mugabe has found himself in a classic case of jumping from the pan into the fire, from political persecution to crime?
If I were you I would wait for Abel to recover and come to tell his story of how he survived at the hands of the three nameless, faceless cowards. Either way, whether it was an "assassination attempt" or a pure criminal act, it would make for touching, riveting writing rarely seen in the newspapers today.
When I get shot in Jo’burg sometime, which is possible if you look at the crime statistics recently released, I do not want people to rush into these kinds of conclusions.
South Africa faces a serious crime problem, and people get shot all the time. You saw Dumisani Khumalo's story. He is the envoy to the UN and was shot at a party just after he arrived from the airport. There was no political link there. It was purely crime.
The Necsa manager who was gunned down two weeks ago, that too was a criminal act. Police are still investigating; we can't rush to say it was a hit.
David Bullard, the Sunday Times columnist, was also shot at his home while he and his wife were minding their own business. He could have easily claimed he was being attacked for what he writes. But he is not headline hungry, yet his story was told and it touched many of us, even if we did not know him personally.
The same happened with former CNN correspondent Jeff Koinange who was robbed at gunpoint outside CNN's office in Jo’burg.
Koinange said he had a gun pointed to his head while four armed young men stole everything he was carrying in what he called a 'brazen' assault that occurred in broad daylight with people walking by and cars driving past.
There are many other recent cases, which show you that in this country, like everywhere else in the world, crime knows no race, no tribe. Journalists, envoys, businessmen, CEOs, MECs, spin doctors, we all get attacked from time to time. We become statistics.
Did Abel know his attackers perhaps? And has he spoken to your agency to confirm that he knows them, that they are CIO operatives (agcwele ama CIO here in Jozi by the way)?
My view is that your agency, which tends to behave like a division of the MDC, could still have sold this story to all your outlets worldwide without having to find a Zanu PF link you can't prove. That a top editor and former Zimbabwean journalist has been shot and is battling for his life in a Jo’burg hospital would still be a hot news item. Even The Herald would run that story on their front page, regardless of Abel's political affiliation, if any.
I can even vividly remember my discussion with you, Kwinika, over the double standards you display. One of your stories appeared in The Herald not long ago. And I asked you: how do you come here and claim political asylum, when you write for the government mouthpiece? A paper which answers to the same man whom you fled from? Does it make any sense?
You did not answer me. Water under the bridge for me, but it tells you exactly what I am trying to say in so many words: that Zimbabwean journalism needs to look at itself. I can assure you that we won't like what we see.
Ethics of this loved craft have been massacred by some among us because we have, wittingly or unwittingly, swallowed the political hook and this time we sing for a different master. We are no better than our friends and colleagues at The Herald and Sunday Mail, who have to get used to naked propaganda.
Believe me, Mugabe won't lose sleep over the stories you guys publish outside his borders. He should worry more about the guys writing right back in Zimbabwe, the likes of Dumisani Muleya, because the people that matter most are those inside Zimbabwe, who will vote. How many Zimbabweans back home have access to Internet newspapers? Only the elite, and they are in the minority.
Why do you think The Daily News was banned? Do you think Mugabe would care if you came to publish it here? No he won't! The threat was internally, not external. He managed to silence that voice.
If you drive across Zimbabwe today, anytime, you will see The Zimbabwean, Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, etc, being sold on the streets. Do you think Mugabe cares about them? No, he doesn't.
His eyes are now squarely on the last remaining independent papers inside Zimbabwe -- The Independent, The Standard and The Financial Gazette. If he is going to shoot anyone for what they write, he knows exactly where to find them.
I find it very funny that Mugabe would send his henchmen to Jo’burg to shoot Abel, and leave the guys at The Standard, The Independent and The Financial Gazette. City Press has a full-time correspondent in Harare, Tangai Chipangura. He writes whatever he likes and we publish. Is he going to get shot? Possibly. And if he is mugged or attacked with a knife, we will not jump into conclusions.
Let's rally behind Mutsakani in his hour of need, but let us also be careful not to jump the gun. Police will investigate the shooting and release their findings. This is not Zimbabwe. We have a functional police and justice system in this country. Let's wait for due processes before we find Mugabe guilty.
Even when Mugabe is eventually nailed, which will happen someday, he will be taken to court and the people will present evidence of his human rights abuses. The judge will be an impartial chap who will listen to the evidence, then decide Bob's fate.
I hate Zanu PF with all my heart. I detest Robert Mugabe to the last drop of my Ndebele blood, but let's be impartial in our coverage of Zimbabwe. We are journalists, not opposition members.
Trust me, I would never even take up the editorship of The Herald or Sunday Mail even if you paid me 20 barrels of fuel a day. Never! Not in Mugabe's lifetime. It is because my soul cannot be sold.
I still stand for impartial, balanced journalism. If I err, which is human, I own up and life goes on. I will not go out of my way to lie.
I do not have to be a member of the MDC or any other opposition party for me to be part of the struggle for a better, free Zimbabwe. In my own way, I can help in the struggle. For that reason, I will not sell my soul. Not to the MDC, not to Zanu PF, not to anyone.
And that's what I would like to be remembered for.
Japhet Mathanda Ncube