by Hendricks Chizhanje Thursday 25 June 2009
HARARE - Zimbabwe's Supreme Court today begins hearing a constitutional
challenge filed by prominent human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko to
determine a series of violations of her constitutional rights at the hands
of state security agents.
Lawyers want a permanent stay of criminal proceedings against Mukoko whose
trial for plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe's previous
administration was scheduled for early next month, on the grounds that she
is a complainant in a case of kidnapping and abduction.
Mukoko, a former staffer at the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation and now director of human rights organisation Zimbabwe Peace
Project (ZPP), and some members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC
party are charged with attempting to recruit people for military training in
neighbouring Botswana to overthrow Mugabe.
Mukoko was abducted from her Norton home by state security agents in
December 2008 and held incommunicado at various secret locations where her
lawyers say she was tortured.
The proceedings in the Supreme Court follow the granting of an application
filed by human rights lawyers early this year seeking a referral of Mukoko's
case to the Supreme Court by a Harare Magistrate.
If convicted she faces the death penalty, in a case that has potential to
scuttle Zimbabwe's unity government between Mugabe and MDC party leader
Western governments and international rights groups have been calling for
Zimbabwe's inclusive government to carry out comprehensive political,
economic and justice reforms without delay to uphold human rights and the
rule of law before they provide financial support and lift sanctions on
Mugabe and his inner circle. - ZimOnline
by Cuthbert Nzou Thursday 25 June 2009
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has "fairly managed to contain people's
desire for change" by agreeing a unity government with long time rival
Morgan Tsvangirai but without giving away much, Zimbabwe's student movement
The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINSAU) said it remained skeptical
about the unity government that came into power last February, citing
continuing human rights violations, harassment of rights defenders,
journalists and legislators of Tsvangirai's MDC party as examples that the
new administration was having little impact on the ground.
ZINASU, an umbrella union for students in the country, criticised an
exercise to write a new constitution launched on Wednesday, saying it was
controlled by politicians because parliamentarians were leading the process.
"We remain skeptical of this unity government. It will achieve nothing but
distract Zimbabweans from their struggle to achieve democracy and create a
better society," ZINASU said in resolutions adopted by its general council
at a meeting held on June 20 and made available yesterday.
"One might be tempted to argue that ZANU PF (Mugabe's party) has fairly
managed to contain the people's desire for change," the student body said.
The union said the MDC had failed to pressure ZANU PF to adhere to all the
provisions of the power-sharing agreement and said repressive state security
and media laws remained on the statute books and were being used to jail
members of Tsvangirai's party and journalists.
It said a constitutional reform drive launched across the country yesterday
would only help create an illusion of a "people driven" constitution making
process but politicians would control the process.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and National Constitutional Assembly
political pressure group have also criticised the new constitutional reform
process on similar grounds that it would subjugate the wishes of citizens to
those of the three main political parties that are represented in
ZINASU also bemoaned what it termed lack of access to quality education by
the majority of learners in the country due mainly to the cost structure in
place in most schools and institutions.
"Students who can not afford (fees and other costs) are, in many cases,
quarantined and excluded from learning," it said.
The coalition government is seen as offering Zimbabwe the best opportunity
in a decade to restore stability and end a devastating economic and
humanitarian crisis that had seen the once prosperous country suffer rampant
inflation, acute food shortages affecting more than half of the country's
population, record unemployment and deepening poverty.
But reluctance by Western donor governments to give financial support to the
Harare administration could hamper its effectiveness. Western countries
insist they want to see more reforms including a new and democratic
constitution before they can give support.
Under the power-sharing agreement signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy
Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who heads a smaller MDC faction, a new
constitution should be in place within about 18 months after which new
elections will be called. - ZimOnline
25 June 2009
By The Zimbabwean
Five Student Leaders appeared in court in Bulawayo today facing charges of
"participating in an unlawful gathering with an intention to cause public
violence, bigotry and breach to peace, This is according to chapter 37
(1)(a) of the Criminal Law and Codification Act. The charges arose from a
demonstration organized by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) on the
11th of November 2008.
The five are ZINASU Treasurer General Sheunesu Nyoni, Brian Mtisi, Samson
Nxumalo, Melusi Hlabano and Archieford Mudzengi.Ms Nqobile Ndlovu from the
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights representing the students arguing that the
court in question must agree with the application that the case must be
referred to the Supreme Court or be thrown away. She was citing a Supreme
Court ruling three weeks ago in the case of Jenni Williams and Magodonga
Mahlangu vs. Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. The
justification is that Section 37(1) (a) of the Codification Act was declared
to be unconstitutional because it takes away the same rights to freedom of
assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association guaranteed in
Section 24.1 of the constitution.
Meanwhile Dr Lovemore Madhuku,the the national chairperson of NCA attended
the court session but did not testify as witness because of the new twist to
the case. The five will appear in court on the 15th of July.
22 June 2009
By Joel Mhizha
HARARE - Human rights lawyers representing eight nationals from the
Democratic Republic of Congo, who have been in remand prison for the past
four months for disrupting the course of justice, have described the
reluctance to grant bail and deliberate delay in finalising the case as
tantamount to xenophobia.
Harare magistrate, Achy Ochiunga, has ordered a new prosecutor to cover the
case after the court heard that Andrew Mutsiwa, who was prosecuting from the
initial stage, resigned last week Friday.
"This is gross incompetence on the part of the state, and it's equivalent to
xenophobia given the fact that these foreign nationals were denied bail
under unclear circumstances," said the lawyers in an interview after the
court session. The case has been postponed to June 26.
Allegations are that the eight threatened Kudakwashe Ndudzo with unspecified
action to stop her supplying information to the police who were
investigating a case of child abuse perpetrated by Sarah Bady.
Bady, a Congolese national, has since been convicted and is serving a
five-year jail term at Chikurubi Prison.
22 June 2009
By Joel Mhizha
HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police Support Unit continuously gets
directives from Zanu (PF) hardliners to beat and detain anyone suspected to
be planning a demonstration without investigating the cause of such
gatherings, said a top police official.
"Orders to beat up anybody opposing Zanu (PF) are still coming from the
police top officials who are not happy with the current political set-up.
"We are instructed to harass civilians who happen to stage demos without
finding out the reasons and basis for such actions. What we know as police
is that we can only apply force to violent demonstrations, not small
law-abiding civilians organizing their social meetings. The directives are
so barbaric and we have told junior officers not to follow them," said the
senior policeman, who requested anonymity for fear of victimization.
23 June 2009
By The Zimbabwean
MUTARE - Two of the five security agents facing allegations of robbing a
suspected diamond dealer of US$17 580 have skipped the country. The trial of
the five enforcement agents failed to kick off at Mutare Magistrate court
last week after the two absconded the court session. A warrant of arrest has
been issued for them.
The court did not name the two accused, but sources told The Zimbabwean that
Kudzanai Kuudzadombo (30) from the Central Intelligence Office in Mutare
fled to South Africa while Simbarashe Mashayamombe fled to Mozambique.
The other three accused who were attached to Operation Hakudzokwi in
Chiadzwa, Marange are Bramwell Gengezha (31) of Changazi Support Unit base
in Birchenough Bridge, Taka Gutsa (27) and Bernard Magaisa (41) - all army
intelligence officers based in Masvingo.
In a state case led by prosecutor Jane-Rose Matsikidze it is alleged that on
May 15 2009 Trust Mazonde, who is the complainant, and Naison Dhlakama, a
Mozambican national, went to Chiadzwa diamond fields with the intention of
buying some diamonds.
They went to Itayi Kayisa's homestead and asked him to go and purchase the
precious gems at Mashukashuka Business Centre.
While at the business centre, Kayisa was approached by the five security
agents who accused him of dealing in diamonds and harbouring foreign
currency dealers at his homestead.
"Kayisa was ordered to drive them (the five) to his homestead in his Toyota
truck. When they arrived at the homestead, everyone was ordered to lie down
with their stomachs before assaulting everyone with logs. They started
demanding diamonds and some cash. One of the security officers then
brandished a service pistol at Mazonde's cheek," said Matsikidze.
Fearing for his life, the court was told that Mazonde succumbed to the
frightening security officers. He took US$13 500 from his pocket and handed
it to one of the accused persons.
"Kayisa was forced to drive back at Mashukashuka business centre to get more
money. Mazonde and Dhlakama were told to disappear from the area. The
following day Mazonde reported the matter to the police leading to the
arrest of the five," said Matsikidze.
23 June 2009
By The Zimbabwean
MUTARE - Zimbabwe's popular musician Hosiah Chipanga has said he fears for
his life after receiving threats from unknown callers over his latest album
Hero Shoko (The Message) that has since been banned from the state airwaves.
(Pictured: Hosiah Chipanga)
In an interview with The Zimbabwean this week Chipanga said: "This is a
mafia type of blacklisting my latest album. I have talked to Webster Shamhu
(Minister of Media, Information and Publicity) and he referred me to
Happison Muchechetere (ZBC Chief Executive Officer). Muchechetere then
professed ignorance on the banning of the album. He summoned Allan Chiweshe
(the head of all radio stations). Chiweshe also professed ignorance and told
me that my album was not banned. But, I have realized that they cannot admit
that the album has been banned or disclose that they have been given orders
to make sure that the album cannot be played on the airwaves," said
The popular lyricist, famous for his hard-hitting socio-economic commentary,
said he has since gathered that some top Zanu (PF) chefs and war veterans
were responsible for banning the album.
A presenter from Radio Zimbabwe, who requested anonymity for fear of
reprisals, said: "We have been told not to play the album." "I have tried to
make noise about my album, but they have told me to shut my mouth up. I am
now spreading the message through live shows and other private media. They
are now working on ways to block me to sing to the people on live shows,"
"I am now going to some embassies to seek political asylum because I fear
for my safety."
He there was no point in Zanu (PF) talking about reconciliation when people
are denied freedom of expression. "Singing is my job so when they tell me to
shut up then I am rendered jobless," said Chipanga.
By Blessing Zulu
24 June 2009
As Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wraps up a three-week
re-engagement and fund-raising tour of Western capitals, the European Union
has established a troika or working group to engage Harare and normalize
relations between Zimbabwe and the EU.
But political analysts warn that tensions between Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement
For Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF could hinder
The EU troika includes the Swedish and Czech ambassadors to Zimbabwe along
with the European Union's representative in Harare. The Zimbabwean
government will be represented by top officials from the foreign and finance
ministries, among others.
Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation this week said it is lodging a complaint with
the Southern African Development Community, a guarantor of the power-sharing
arrangement, that ZANU-PF is mounting a crackdown on its members in
violation of the global political agreement.
The power-sharing partners also differ on how a new constitution should be
drafted. There is already discord between the government and civic groups on
the revision process.
President Mugabe told the ZANU-PF central committee on Wednesday that the
new constitution must be "guided" by the so-called Kariba compromise
constitutional draft written by MDC and ZANU-PF party officials aboard a
houseboat in the Zambezi River town in 2007.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Mr. Mugabe's remarks reflected
"wishful thinking" as to how the country's basic document should be
Mr. Mugabe also urged Mr. Tsvangirai to demand of his Western interlocutors
that they lift the sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle for the
better part of a decade.
Mr. Tsvangirai was in Paris on Wednesday for the final stop in his
diplomatic voyage. He was scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas
Sarkozy on Thursday.
Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube of the MDC formation led by
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that normalization of relations with the European
Union is a priority.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said reforms in Harare - not talks with
the EU - are most needed to return Zimbabwe to the community of nations.
June 25, 2009
By Our Correspondent
THE financially-troubled National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) says it will
embark on a programme aimed at raising public awareness on what it described
as dangers of a parliamentary-driven constitutional reform process.NCA
chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku said there had been a change in programming
from what they had set themselves to do as the NCA after Parliament
announced the roll-out of its own consultative programmes.
The NCA, instead, announced it would also embark on parallel constitutional
consultative meetings in which it sought to come up with its own draft
However, donors reportedly pulled out after the announcement of the parallel
process, with most of them joining the funding of the parliament-driven
This however, left Madhuku and his NCA smarting from financial problems that
have seen the organization shelving the plans for a parallel process.
Madhuku, told The Zimbabwe Times in an interview Thursday, the NCA would now
concentrate on educating the masses on the dangers and pitfalls of the
current constitution-making process.
"We have decided we will not be part and parcel of the entire process of
consulting the people parallel to the one Parliament is embarking on,"
"We have, instead decided to embark on a process that seeks to educate the
people the weaknesses, dangers, and other pitfalls associated with the
current constitutional consultation process."
He added that at the moment, there was agreement amongst NCA and other
forces that the current process could not have been the best for Zimbabwe.
He said despite that agreement, the NCA and its allies were convinced the
process could still produce a flawed outcome.
"What we have set ourselves to do is that we will educate the people on
these pitfalls so that when they take part in that flawed process, they are
clear on what they are putting themselves into," said Madhuku.
He revealed that after the process by parliament has been concluded, the NCA
would "bounce back into activity as Zimbabwe proceeds to produce a draft
constitution which will eventually be the basis of the country's new
He said: "After they have managed to deal with their consultations, we will
be very active once again as we seek to help Zimbabweans realize the
weaknesses of that draft constitution.
"For now, we are saying let them go ahead with their process and let us see
whether that will bring about the desired changes that Zimbabweans want."
The NCA position follows the roll-out of the parliamentary process which is
expected to gobble up about US$36 million in outreach programmes.
25 Jun 2009 08:56:21 GMT
ROME, June 25 (Reuters) -Zimbabwe's agricultural production is estimated to
have risen significantly this year but many people still face serious
problems finding basic foods, the United Nations said on Thursday.
"High food insecurity persists in Zimbabwe in spite of improvements in
agricultural production and a more liberal import policy this year," said
the report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food
By Sandra Nyaira and Jonga Kandemiiri
24 June 2009
Though Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's told investors in London
this week that foreigners should be allowed to hold majority stakes in
mining enterprises, some observers question whether President Robert Mugabe
is likely to accept this reform.
The Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act signed into law 15 months
ago by Mr. Mugabe says Zimbabweans may assume 51% stakes in foreign-owned
companies. Although the law does not specify which companies are subject to
such a transfer of ownership, the legislation was aimed in particular at the
country's mining sector.
Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research
Institute told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe he does
not think Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party will agree to repealing or
revising the act whatever the potential benefits in terms of increased
foreign direct investment in the sector.
Elsewhere, Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma told investors in London
that Harare has no plans to re-introduce the Zimbabwe dollar and will
continue with the current monetary regimen of hard currencies such as the
U.S dollar, aiming to bolster investor confidence.
Economist Callisto Jokonya told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri he supports
the continued circulation of the U.S dollar, the South African rand and
other hard currencies.
by Mufaro Gunduza Thursday 25 June 2009
OPINION: It is true that between 1980 and 1990 Zimbabwe witnessed an
unprecedented golden leap in skills development largely because of the
Marxist aspirations of a developmental state, ideals whose success relied
heavily on vigorous mass literacy campaigns.
It was expedient for the new government to double if not triple the number
of school teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, artisans and technicians
among other critical areas.
The collapse of the Soviet Union to whom we were greatly affiliated and
append-aged created new realities on the ground. Such a radical grand plan
had to be revised if it was to be sustainable.
Moreso, as a country we had produced enough teachers and emphasis had to be
The country had dumped the socialist outfit in 1990 in favour of the free
market system (the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme), which is the
basis of capitalist state. What we had painfully and passionately put
together in terms of the national skills vision was unfortunately no longer
Also the interface between socio-economic realities and national curricula
was waning and a yawning gap became apparent.
The challenge then was: should we bury our heads in the sands of time and
wish that this set up would correct itself somehow or should we re-orient
our national skills vision and redesign the foundations of the new fully
fledged capitalist economic order which was yearning for cutting-edge
entrepreneurial drive as its Trojan horse.
Surprisingly intellectuals were still riding on the crest and entrapments of
the euphoria of independence. The communist injection which they had
received at independence had proved to be quite an overdose.
They were engaged in useless moral debates about the sanity of socialism and
the unrighteousness of capitalism.
At a curriculum level universities and associated colleges were in some kind
of limbo and they adopted a wait and see attitude.
This is the moment when the role of the African intelligentsia as a
curriculum developer, planner and change agent was severely tested and found
It became clear that the African intellectual was like the proverbial owl
with fake horns. He was a comprador knowledge lackey.
He was used to the culture of being baby-seated by his erstwhile colonial
professors. He was a willing perpetual infant with infantilised habits. He
lacked creativity and innovation. He was imprisoned in an academic
penitentiary with a straight jacket mindset and pigeon-holed thinking
patterns, an outfit which was to warm to discard in favor of un-chartered
In fact he was a chameleon caught up between the cobweb of lack of
confidence and the hesitancy to revamp the national curriculum.
Universities are knowledge dispensing institutions. They are barracudas of
new insights, research and transformation. Because of the educational
massification tendencies of the 80s and 90s universities were compelled to
admit more numbers.
This scenario overwhelmed the black comprador intellectual. Previously, they
had literally boot-licked their way to these positions because the system
had been oppressive. Surprisingly they started meting the same blockade on
upcoming black intellectuals of the "free-born" outfit.
The balkanisation of university departments by the comprador intellectual
elites became entrenched. The new young black intellectual was considered to
be the "uninitiated" or a member of those "with milk not yet dry on their
Academic posts would go vacant for years even though there were qualified
personnel from the departmental threshing floors being churned out every
The comprador elite felt threatened by the very products that were coming
from their academic assembly lines. It is true that the partridge loves peas
but not the ones that go into the pot with it. The partridge syndrome became
Departments and faculties were being run as personal or family spaza shops
where certain unscrupulous intellectual demi-gods possessed a magisterial
final say over matters of staff recruitment.
They behaved like bird chichidodo in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautiful Ones Are
Not Yet Born. It makes public pronouncements about its hatred of human
excrement yet it feeds on the maggots or worms that breed from that very
They caused the first wave of brain drain among academics in the country.
The first crop of skills flight in Zimbabwean universities was influenced by
the tsunamic frustration meted out on them rather than economic push and
There are several cases or instances whereby some academics who were fed up
with this type of patronage quit the entire academic enterprise altogether
and sought fresh careers in the non-academic spheres of life.
People who would attain master's degrees would literally fossilise in their
uncomfortable positions as teaching assistants half their careers yet
elsewhere in the world if one had a master's degree he/she would
automatically qualify as a lecturer.
Doctorates were mystified and fetishised as the preserve of these
self-imposed intellectual extremists. The processes and procedures to
acquire these qualifications were shrouded in arduous terminology and
presented as impregnable fortresses.
This was meant to burn the crap out of the uninitiated candidates. Several
candidates surrendered their studies midway in despair and disdain.
This intellectual confidence-breaking practice styled along the lines of the
"Berlin wall" mentality to academia took many shapes and forms. Such wicked
rites of passage robbed the learning process of the enthusiasm and
excitement of discovering new ideas.
It is common knowledge that the knowledge making enterprise has more to
offer than the accumulation of grey hairs. In this instance it propelled
academics into a state of derangement in the form of nutty-professors.
It hatched academics of the parochial category and researchers of the
narrow-minded scope outfit who were taught to discover the foundations of
the earth in a grain of sand: an exercise in futility!
Today these academics of the skewed mentality type are many. They still bear
visible signs and symptoms of intellectual torture as if thought processes
are painful per se.
Creativity was stifled, research enthusiasm dampened, confidence levels
dented and enmities created for life.
It is my humble submission that if the education system in Zimbabwe is to be
revitalised, academics and curriculum planners have to check themselves 360
degrees before pointing fingers at others.
They need to look themselves inside-out and outside-in if to dissect and
trace where the rain began to beat us for when one wants to trace the root
of murder he has to go to the village and look for the blacksmith who made
Mufaro Gunduza is a Professor of Business Ethics and Strategic Leadership.
He has taught at Zimbabwe Open University, University of Zimbabwe, Walter
Sisulu University and UNISA. He is currently developing and establishing
multimedia articulated blended learning platforms at Mount Carmel University
Without Walls. He can be contacted on email@example.com -- ZimOnline
The current world is characterized by global inequalities, discrimination,
coercion and brutality. These attributes are always morally wrong for they
show no respect for persons. Since the moral responsibility of the state is
to its people, an opportunity to draft a constitution in this environment
can present an opportunity to embody ethical or moral laws into public laws
and policies. The strength of embodiment of moral laws lies in the notion
that universal laws play themselves out in different venues and demands on
place and agents, while ultimate moral principles have long been regarded as
inviolate across people. Their applicability remains impartial, universal
and constant in time and place.
The legitimacy of the constitutional process and the constitution itself is
measured by the degree to which the process is participatory, open,
democratic, socially (William 2006). The open participatory notion is
enshrined in the moral principle of respect for persons and respect for
autonomy. Autonomy and respect for autonomy are terms loosely associated
with several ideas, such as privacy, free choice, etc (Beauchamp 1997:
185-208). It, as the ability and freedom to make the choices that shape our
lives, is quite crucial in giving to each life its own special and peculiar
value (Harris 1995: 11). In Kantian terms, human beings have "an intrinsic
worth, that is, dignity," which makes them valuable "above all price"
(Rachels 1987: 130) and hence the need to treat them as ends in themselves.
In some constitutional making processes, constitutional compromise was
dictated by the mutual dependence of the political parties (Burnham 1997).
This seems to be going against the moral principle of self-determination as
claims should be made to liberty, individual autonomy and justice in
reaching compromise as these principles are timeless.
Enshrined as basic tenets of ethics are various rights accorded to humans
like the right to freedom to participate or not to participate in research,
the right not to be harmed, deceived, or exploited, and the right to be
treated with dignity and fairness. It is prudent that The Constitutional
Commissions (CC) should serve as a third party that has the mandate to
review and minimize conflict of interests, just like Research Ethics
Committees (RECs). Through what they do and what they do not do, the CC can
act as a moral authority to structure the moral and legislative environment.
However, the quality and efficiency of constitutional making may be
fundamentally a function of the expertise constituting the respective
commission, among others. It is plausible that difficulties could emerge if
the CC lacks expertise within its membership in the respective fields of
inquiry, leading to lack of full examination of certain sections. One of the
functions of the CC includes research and expert consultation, during which
the Commissioners will research and consult with relevant experts on
constitutional options for the Constitution. However, certain areas could be
negated where such competence and expertise lack. Preponderance of a people
in similar expertise could affect the commission's function. How members are
appointed onto the CC will determine the expertise that exists in these
commissions. The political appointment of members to a CC poses some
challenges which could impact on its integrity, independence and efficiency.
It could also negate the multidisciplinary and multi-sector framework that
is vital for good CC functioning.
In Afghanistan, the Constitutional Commission consisted of approximately 30
commissioners appointed by the President, where the President also appointed
the Chair of the Commission from among the commissioners. This poses as a
problem as the commissioners would be vulnerable to political manipulation.
These have grave consequences both in terms of erosion public trust in
governmental activities and morality of the country.
In conclusion the constitutional making process is an ethical process where
the CC serves as a moral authority that structures the moral and legislative
environment. Their ethical oversight of the consultation processes serves a
public affirmation to the government's commitment to respecting of persons
and morality of the country as a whole. The CC should be balanced and
commissioners should have no conflict of interests so as to maintain the
integrity, independence and efficiency of the commission. Bioethicists are
usually underrepresented in these commissions and should take their place in
moulding the morality of the nation.
Dr. R. Chawana
(Medical Practitioner and Bioethicist)
University of the Witwatersrand
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
There has been a religious foundation on the Southwark site where the
present Cathedral stands for over a thousand years. I wonder if, in all
those centuries, there have been many scenes that matched in sheer drama
what happened there on Saturday June 20th.
Southwark Cathedral has strong ties with Zimbabwe and the Bishop of
Southwark is himself clearly in sympathy with the Movement for Democratic
Change and has links to many parishes in Zimbabwe. There was thus no reason
for him to think that Saturday's address by the Prime Minister would be any
other than a joyful occasion. Zimbabweans had travelled from all over the UK
to be present to hear Morgan Tsvangirai address them. The vast cathedral was
crowded with over a thousand Zimbabweans. I was one of them and what follows
is my personal reaction to the tumultuous scene we witnessed.
After two weeks of travel to various capitals and being feted by Heads of
State, including President Obama of the US., Morgan Tsvangirai arrived in
London. Perhaps the Zimbabwean Prime Minister was a touch complacent about
the welcome he would receive from his own compatriots but whatever the
reason he was certainly ill-prepared for what happened. It started so well;
he entered the Cathedral to a warm welcome from the huge crowd. There was no
doubt at all that we all loved him and wished him well. So what happened,
where did it all go wrong? There had been press reports all week that the
Prime Minister was going to urge the people to go back to Zimbabwe. Indeed
on that very Saturday, the UK Independent carried a whole page headed 'Come
home, Tsvangirai tells ex-pats. Prime Minister comes to London with message
for the Zimbabwean diaspora.' I read it on the train going into London; we
knew in advance what he was going to say and they were almost his first
words as he stood in the pulpit of this ancient church. That was Morgan
Tsvangiral's biggest mistake. He totally failed to gauge the mood of his
audience and he failed to understand the strength of feeling among his
compatriots, many of whom had lost everything and been brutalised and
tortured by the Mugabe regime. By the time he was telling the audience that
'peace and stability prevailed in Zimbabwe,' that schools and hospital were
open again and that there were goods in the shops, Morgan Tsvangirai had
completely lost his audience. He was hit by a wave of highly vocal anger and
he stood apparently bemused by what he was hearing. Instead of raising his
voice and reasserting his authority he simply left the pulpit; that was the
very worst thing he could have done. When he returned some minutes later, he
made things even worse by asking in a rather aggrieved way, 'Did I say start
packing now? No, I said you should be thinking about going home.' As if we
don't think about that all the time, the audience muttered angrily. The
questions from the floor, apart from being very badly organised, were direct
and to the point. 'What is there for us to go back to while Mugabe is still
there?' And that was the focal point for the crowd's anger; a huge shout
went up, 'Mugabe Out, Mugabe Out' but of course, Tsvangirai couldn't respond
to that. After all, he sits in partnership with the same man who has given
and is still giving the orders to continue the oppression of all dissenting
voices. The 'change' we all long for has not come about and the original MDC
slogan, 'Chinga' has become no more than an ironical comment on the path the
MDC has taken.
Utterly sickened by it all, I walked out of the cathedral only to find
hundreds of people already outside. Intensely angry and profoundly
disappointed, they sang out their fury at the Prime Minister's message. I
spoke to lots of people and I heard nothing but intense disappointment: 'The
struggle continues' was the message from everyone I spoke to. What should
have been an occasion for renewed hope and belief in the future had turned
into a miserable fiasco. One woman, shaking with anger, said "I was raped,
my children were beaten and traumatised and Morgan Tsvangirai tells me to go
back, go back to what?" she demanded.
I was no longer in the cathedral when Tendai Biti attempted to speak but I
understand he was drowned out and the meeting ended with the MDC team being
led out of the cathedral by the clerics. It was all over, at least an hour
earlier than expected. There are many possible explanations for the
ignominious failure of the Prime Minister to make his case. While I
understand the choice of Southwark Cathedral as a 'neutral' venue, the
setting itself did not make for a suitable meeting place. All the chairs had
been removed so the crowd were standing for a long time; the PM was late
arriving; the sound system was so poor that much of the input was
practically inaudible; there was no obvious chairman to control the meeting
and the question and answer session was consequently chaotic. My own
impression, however, is that Morgan Tsvangiri himself was not prepared. I
had the distinct feeling that he had given little thought to what he was
going to say. Perhaps, after weeks of international adulation he just could
not believe that his harshest critics would be his own countrymen and women?
Yes, there may have been trouble-makers in the audience but if there were,
they were tapping into the very real anger of the crowd. Whatever the
reason, Saturday June 20th was a disaster for Morgan Tsvangirai and the
media, who were present in force in the Cathedral, were not slow to pick up
the story. For Zimbabweans in the diaspora their Prime Minister himself had
given the British authorities the perfect reason to send them home. Why
should the British Home Office allow them to stay here when the Zimbabwean
Prime Minister tells his own people that there is 'peace and stability' in
Zimbabwe? Just the day before the Prime Minister made that nonsensical
claim, the Woza women were savagely beaten by the police and the violent
farm invasions were continuing but the Prime Minister made no mention of
those unpleasant truths.
As they left the Cathedral, people were asking why could Morgan Tsvangirai
not just have told them the truth; that things were not yet right at home
but that he and his fellow MDC ministers were working hard to rectify the
situation? Instead, he was assuring them all was well. He forgets that all
of us in the diaspora are in regular communication with families and friends
back home. We understand very well the reality on the ground. He also
forgets that without the hard-earned cash contributions from Zimbabweans in
the diaspora, thousands of families at home might never have survived. Yet,
still, he tells us to Go home. Go home to what? To a country where there is,
on Tendai Biti's own admission, 94% unemployment and NGO's are feeding an
estimated 5 million people, expected to rise to 7 million next year. It was
all utterly incomprehensible and has left Zimbabweans in the UK diaspora
stunned and bereft of hope. Instead of an honest and realistic assessment of
the situation, the truth was distorted and the man we trusted, the man who
was our hero has shown himself no more honest than any other politician.
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of Going
Home and Countdown, political detective stories set in Zimbabwe and
available on Amazon and Lulu.com.
June 25, 2009
OF late I detect an unfortunate tendency among some readers of The Zimbabwe
Times, especially those who were opposition supporters when the Movement for
democratic Change (MDC) was still the nation's official opposition party.
They will rush to lash out fiercely at fellow readers as well as the Editor,
should they have the temerity to articulate any sentiment viewed as being
critical, however mildly, of the MDC in general or Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai, in particular.
Their favourite stratagem is to instantly brand both the Editor and such
readers as supporters of Zanu-PF or lovers of President Mugabe. An observer
would be excused if he reached the conclusion that such MDC zealots were
placed in a freezer around August, 2008, only to be defrosted last week,
during the Prime Ministers tour of Washington DC and European capitals.
The Prime Minister is currently faced with an increasingly daunting
challenges and thankless tasks. It would be a miracle if he were not to make
the odd error of judgement. On reflection, the Prime Minister's visit to the
United States and the ferocious defence by the party faithful thereafter of
all of his actions, both there and in Europe thereafter, remind me of the
story of Rip van Winkle.
The fascinating story of Rip is set in the years before and after the
American Revolution during the last half of the 18th Century. A villager of
Dutch descent, Rip Van Winkle, lived in a nice village at the foot of New
York's Catskill Mountains. He was a quiet and amiable man, whose his home
and farm suffered from his lazy neglect.
One day he wandered up the mountains to escape his nagging wife. Up in the
mountains he encountered strangely dressed men and proceeded to partake in
the liquor they offered.
He settled down under a shady tree as he succumbed to the soporific effect
of the portent brew. Rip woke up 20 years thereafter and returned to his
village, only to discover that his wife had died. He was informed that his
close friends had died in a war or moved elsewhere.
Rip van Winkle got into trouble when he proclaimed that he was a loyal
subject of King George III, not knowing that the American Revolutionary War
had taken place and the reign of the king had been consigned to the annals
of the young nation's history.
Over the past two weeks the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe has travelled the
length and breath of Europe and astounded us all by heaping praise on
President Mugabe. Presumably that is the price that we are all now forced to
pay for our folly in meekly accepting without question or protest the
government of national unity which was thrust upon us by Messrs Robert
Gabriel Mugabe (85), Morgan Richard Tsvangirai (57) and Arthur Guseni Oliver
Mutambara (born May 25 1966) in September 2008.
An opinion piece crafted by Jonathan Steele, a columnist in The Guardian of
London is illuminating.
The article in question appears on this page under the headline: "PM
preaches reconciliation with Mugabe."
"I am not a Mandela," Steele quotes Prime Minister Tsvangirai as saying
poignantly and rather incongruously as he urged British ministers and media
interviewers to drop what the journalist described as their fixation with
seeing Robert Mugabe punished.
"Well said, Morgan," Steele intoned in his article. "It's a tough and
unpopular line to take, but there is no better way."
Well, like the Prime Minister, I am no Mandela either, I will hasten to
point out kindly to readers who will brook no criticism of the MDC, however
mild, or of Prime Minister Tsvangirai. In fact, I have a vivid recollection
of being excoriated by readers in these columns before the March elections
when I made a similar proposal. I suppose their ranks were inflated by many
in the MDC as well as in the British political and media establishments when
I made what must have sounded like a sell-put suggestion.
In the original article published in The Financial Gazette under the
headline "Proposal for a 'win-win' solution to Zimbabwe's current", I
proposed that the time may have arrived for the MDC to consider cutting some
form of deal with Mugabe so that he would relinquish his control on power,
such deal being in the interests of national development.
"Essentially, they (the people of Zimbabwe) would be requested to choose
between holding Mugabe permanently hostage in State House to the continuing
detriment of the nation while hoping to inflict punishment on him one day;
or releasing him on some irrevocable guarantee of immunity so that we can
get on with the momentous task of rebuilding our nation and rehabilitating
our wrecked economy," I argued.
The article was published on June 1, 2006.
A few weeks earlier the MDC leader, Tsvangirai and his party's then new
secretary general Tendai Biti, had visited London.
Biti had been quoted by Reuters news agency as having disclosed that the MDC
had accepted in principle a proposal to grant to Mugabe immunity from
prosecution for human rights violations, if that would help to save the
nation from further catastrophe.
In my article I made reference to another article, one published back in
May, 2005, in the respected British newspaper The Times. In this article
revered Africanist, Richard Dowden postulated: "There is a chance of an
internal deal that may involve immunity for past crimes. Zimbabwe may be one
of the places where justice has to be delayed - perhaps until the next
world - for the sake of peace."
The Prime Minister during his current tour abroad has presented himself as
one prepared to extend the hand of reconciliation to President Mugabe. His
predicament is that there is no guarantee that the President will seize that
hand firmly in his grip, while giving and undertaking in return to deliver
on various outstanding issues in terms of the much maligned GPA.
A good take-off point for such delivery would be those issues whose delivery
requires no financial investment; liberation of the media environment, for
Meanwhile to those who feel betrayed when The Zimbabwe Times castigates the
MDC, in our nation's new political dispensation, any professional newspaper
has, of necessity, to be watchdog over both Zanu-PF and the MDC - a tough
assignment that. The MDC is no longer the opposition. It is now an intrinsic
part of the government of Zimbabwe, notwithstanding that it is now
effectively confusing the public by publishing its own government newspaper
to challenge the other government newspapers.
More importantly, the MDC has moved to centre stage of political activity
and governance, while Zanu-PF has effectively retreated to the sidelines,
with some of its functionaries becoming virtually dormant. It is those who
are active who are bound to make mistakes that invite censure.
By the way, I have a burning wish that our colleagues in the British press
would appreciate that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe is not an Englishman
and can, therefore, not officially be referred to as plain Morgan. His name
is Morgan Tsvangirai (57) or Tsvangirai. Strangely, they don't refer to
British Premier, Gordon Brown (58), as plain Gordon.
Just one year between the two cannot make such a world of difference.