|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Harare election blog II: Music in the air
|In the run-up to
Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on 31 March, 22-year-old receptionist Lucy
Gomo (not her real name) is keeping a diary about life in Harare.
Tuesday 22 March
I've got a cold - like everybody else. The overcast weather seems to have brought along flu with it. But it hasn't dampened people's spirits too much as there is a hint now of election excitement.
I've seen a lot more people wearing T-shirts supporting both the ruling party and opposition; while radio stations keep playing a song in support of the ruling Zanu-PF.
Before the weekend everyone in Harare was talking about a free music concert to take place on Saturday afternoon - it sounded as if it was going to be big with loads of local artists billed.
I was meant to be going, but one of my friends got too drunk and we didn't bother in the end.
So I was surprised to hear afterwards that it had all been a trap, as it turned out to be a Zanu-PF campaign rally.
Loads of those who did go said they'd been misled and one of my colleagues was saying it had nothing to do with music.
Otherwise, life in Harare goes on as usual. I find it tiring fitting in work with night school.
I spent time on Sunday trying to find new accommodation and went to have a look at a small cottage, but it was too expensive.
Some monthly cottage rents are as high as $2.5m Zimbabwean dollars (US$415). My limit is Z$600,000 (US$100) but it's proving tough to find something - and I've been searching since January.
Last night the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had an interview on state-run television at 9 o'clock. I missed it as I was out at college - and it wasn't advertised.
My friend, who was watching TV at the time, rang to tell me it was on.
I haven't spoken to her since, so I don't know what it was like and nobody at work today seems to have watched it either.
The ruling party, meanwhile, calls its campaign an "Anti-Blair" campaign - in reference to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Most days when I read the state-run Herald newspapers it lists on its inside pages what anti-Blair means: "getting back your land; an end to racist factory closures; an end to politically motivated price increases; an end to sanctions; no safe havens for corrupt bankers; no disruption of fuel supplies; no to political interference; an end to Blair's MDC; keeping our Zimbabwe".
While I was reading the paper this morning, I was looking at a photograph of a new national dress that's been launched.
It's a long robe with horizontal stripes - I think in the colour of the national flag, although this was a black and white picture.
Anyway, we were having a giggle about it, when a customer came in, leaned over to look at the article and said: "Are we going to be able to eat that?"
Will you be voting in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections? Please send us your comments on this blog and your own experiences using the form below.
A selection of your comments will be posted below.
We really need help from Britain and the US otherwise we can never dream of
change in this country. All you people outside the country, please help us to
remove this regime. Oppression is on the increase. Never think there is no
violence, intimidation is at its peak. Surely this will never be a free and fair
I feel Zimbabwe is very much OK right now. There is no violence that's worth
fussing about and elections are going to be very free and fair. All contesting
parties have been and are being given adequate airtime on the television and
radio. That's good news.
I know this is slightly off the point, but thought it worth mentioning
considering South Africa is Zimbabwe's key friend. As a South African citizen in
New Zealand on a work permit I am not entitled to vote in a South African
election. Does this qualify South Africa as being
I have not been to Zimbabwe since 1998. I always found the people of this
beautiful country to be friendly, enthusiastic and vibrant. However, you could
see the decay beginning around the edges. Certain foods were becoming scarce.
The exchange rates were beginning to change at a rapid pace and modern materials
such as computers and such were becoming exceedingly rare to see in modern
cities like Bulawayo. The game parks which I loved were becoming empty because
of the uncertainty and the fact that no foreigners were coming to this country.
Today the animals are gone, the people are hungry and Mugabe is still there.
Desperate measures must be taken by the Zimbabweans and remove Mugabe and his
cronies at any cost. When this occurs, all of the nations of the world must aid
in rebuilding this beautiful nation and bring dignity to its
Compared to most African countries, I see a thriving democracy in Zimbabwe
contrary to western countries and media positions. Yes the land issue could have
been handle better by the ruling party but everything else has been democratic
so far. Since when did it became an issue that Africans abroad did or did not
vote? Can you tell me about any other African country that facilitate this? The
land issue have been dealt with and folks around the world should learn to
accept and respect the democratic will of the majority which in this case did
not favour the affluent white farmers!
John Sawyer (pictured right) takes a tour of the farmland in central Nigeria allocated to him and other Zimbabwean farmers
SHONGA, 22 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - On a
steamy day in central Nigeria, four white Zimbabwean farmers who were kicked off
their land back home, are carving out a new future -- mapping out fields,
building houses and drilling boreholes.
They may have moved north of the Equator and more than 4,000 km from Zimbabwe but farming is familiar territory.
"We are very happy to have this place. The land is rich," said farmer John Sawyer, pointing to the dark soil of the land that runs alongside the River Niger near the town of Shonga.
Sawyer and his three companions were chased off their farms in Zimbabwe by machete-wielding supporters of President Robert Mugabe, who has made land redistribution one of the tenets of his increasingly-criticised rule.
Many white farmers, despairing of ever getting their homesteads back, have quit farming and headed for a better life in Australia or New Zealand. Others have opted to start afresh in other Southern African countries like Zambia and Mozambique. But Sawyer and his cohorts are the first to venture so far north and west.
Their destination: Kwara State, Nigeria, where the local governor has allocated some 16,000 hectares to 15 Zimbabwean farmers on a 25-year lease.
Sawyer and three colleagues are the advance party, with the others set to follow later in the year along with their families, 50 black Zimbabwean farmhands and 2,000 cattle. They will run dairy farms and grow maize, rice and soybeans.
Authorities and farmers alike are bent on avoiding tensions between the newcomers and local Nigerians.
"We recommended them to be settlers not as sole proprietors of land," Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello told state-owned Radio Nigeria. "We want to benefit from their wealth of knowledge but we would not allow anybody to become lords over our people."
Alongside the 15 Zimbabwean farms, there will be a 16th farm which will act as a government-funded training centre, where Zimbabwean farmers will teach Nigeria's largely-subsistence farmers the techniques of modern mass-scale farming.
"I think the project will be very successful and we hope to impart our knowledge to help the Nigerian local farmer," Sawyer told IRIN.
Kwara State Governor Busola Saraki has said he also expects the farmers to generate jobs for local people and help boost Nigeria's agricultural production.
Some officials have talked about the area becoming the breadbasket of West Africa, pumping out crops of maize, rice and soybeans. Prior to independence and before oil warped Nigeria's economy, the country's fertile soils provided the nations wealth.
The Zimbabwean farmers have the credentials to bring about that change. Aid workers blame current food shortages in Zimbabwe on their eviction from farms that once fed much of the surrounding region and whose produce was exported worldwide.
Among the 8,000 or so residents of Shonga, hopes are equally high. The immediate expectations are for jobs and improved earnings.
"We are willing to leave our farms to go and work for them for a monthly wage," said Idris Hassan, a subsistence farmer working small plots as is the practice in most of Nigeria. He wants to learn about the latest farming equipment and methods by working for the Zimbabweans.
The incoming farmers have said they hope to employ hundreds of local Nigerians, but have avoided setting a specific target.
Aside from the direct knock-on effect of employment, Shonga residents also hope the arrival of the Zimbabweans will focus national government efforts on an improvement in basic infrastructure and services.
"We've not been making money from our farms mainly because of the difficulties we face transporting our produce to town," he explained.
Poor roads, no electricity, scarce water
The only paved road in Shonga is the one that runs from the state capital, Ilorin, but it is in poor shape and has collapsed in some places.
The town, which lies 400 kilometres north of Nigeria's de facto capital Lagos, has been without electricity for the last decade since a previous government agricultural project collapsed.
People rely on streams and a scattering of boreholes for drinking water.
All these things need addressing, explained Halina Yahaya, the traditional Emir ruler of Shonga.
"We expect that this project will bring development to the villagers," he told IRIN.
|Fulani herder leads cattle to graze on the farmland
allocated to the Zimbabwe farmers
Secret police look into logo change
March 22, 2005
Daily life in Zimbabwe throws up some bizarre stories, but few as odd as the one doing the rounds this week concerning the Zimbabwe Cricket Union's new logo.
Introduced in November as part of a brand re-launch, the new logo has apparently attracted the attention of the government's infamous Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) who, so the reports go, held an investigation into a possible hidden agenda.
The logo appears harmless at first glance, featuring three stumps, a white line (representing a boundary line) on a green background, and a cricket ball. But that innocence was lost on the CIO which saw more in the emblem than most. Instead of three stumps, it saw a letter M; the cricket ball became a D; and the boundary line became a C. That spelt out the initials of the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's major opposition party.
A source close to the ZCU told Cricinfo that the matter had been raised at a board meeting although that was categorically denied by Lovemore Banda, the ZCU's media manager. It is inconceivable that the ZCU (patron, Robert Mugabe) would in any way be linked with such a potentially embarrassing situation. It is probably more an indication of how paranoid the authorities have become about anyone opposing the government.
But the incident has a darker side. A former Zimbabwe Cricket employee told Cricinfo how he was nearly beaten up by ruling ZANU PF supporters when he was spotted wearing a Zimbabwe one-day replica shirt with the new logo. The supporters asked him why he was wearing an MDC T-shirt and he had to do some fast-talking to avoid being attacked. He said that the situation was inflamed by the colour of the T-shirt. Red is synonymous with the MDC.