|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Weekly Media Update 2004-18
Monday May 3rd - Sunday May 9th 2004
1. GENERAL COMMENT
3. INDICATORS OF AN AILING ECONOMY
ELECTION reporting fatigue appeared to be taking its toll on the media as was reflected by the way they covered the run-up to the Lupane by-election scheduled for this weekend (May 15th and 16th).
While the private media generally have reported political violence and manipulation of the electorate in recent weeks, there were virtually no stories updating their audiences of the situation in the final week leading to the election, and precious little information about the electoral process itself. For example, none of the media fully examined the state of the voters’ roll, which the opposition has previously accused government agencies of tampering with to ensure a ruling party victory, or other related electoral mechanics, such as logistics on the number and nature of polling stations, or the composition and number of election officials, including monitors and observers, all crucial elements in the exercise of democracy.
Rather, the government media, as epitomized by The Sunday News (9/5), seemed pre-occupied with campaigning exclusively for the ruling party in its two articles, Zanu-PF vows to bury MDC in Lupane and, A choice between barren politics of protest and fruitful politics of progress.
On the other hand, the private media did not carry any specific stories on the Lupane by-election, focusing instead on broader interpretative reports exposing ZANU PF’s methodical but unorthodox plans to tilt the outcome of next year’s parliamentary elections in its favour. For example, the Zimbabwe Independent (7/5) quoted the MDC alleging that the ruling party wanted to eject food aid agencies from the country on the pretext that the nation has enough food, so it could “use total control over relief food distribution as a key campaign tool in the next year’s parliamentary election”.
The MDC’s shadow agriculture minister, Renson Gasela, is reported alleging that ZANU PF had stocked maize for the purpose.
The Standard (9/5) also viewed government’s recent hefty salary awards to chiefs as part of the ruling party’s attempts to buy their support as happened during the March Gutu North by-election.
Besides the vote-buying claims however, The Zimbabwe Independent also warned that ZANU PF was likely to intensify its violent campaign to subdue the opposition during the parliamentary election due in 2005, but which the paper suggested could be held as early as October this year. It cited the recent retribution exercise conducted by ZANU PF supporters against the MDC supporters in Chiendambuya, Manicaland, as an example. Opposition supporters were severely assaulted for attending a rally addressed by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Despite such adversity an optimistic MDC secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, told The Financial Gazette (6/5) that he expected the ruling party would concede to his party’s demands to overhaul the flawed electoral laws and level the playing field ahead of the parliamentary poll.
The paper did not however question the source of his confidence.
THE docile manner in which the government-controlled media, particularly ZBC, covered the government’s use of the police to enforce its closure of private schools it accused of massively hiking school fees further underscored the extent to which the authorities have transformed these media into unquestioning conduits of racial bigotry.
The government broadcaster allowed Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere to claim – without substantiation – that private schools were “racist” and were therefore increasing fees to discriminate against black people.
The broadcaster’s complicity in this regard was more pronounced in the way it regurgitated these claims without subjecting them to any analysis or balancing them with comments from the affected parents and the school authorities on the reasons behind the increased fees.
Notably, Zimpapers’ publications, which usually adopt a similar stance to ZBC on topical issues, initially steered clear of Chigwedere’s unproven racial claims and preferred to carry factual, fair and relatively balanced event reports on the matter. Thus, unlike their electronic counterpart, the papers also quoted the affected parents’ condemnation of the closures. However, by the end of the week their “independent” stance was brought into line following more racist remarks made by Chigwedere on ZTV’s Face the Nation programme. Opinion pieces in the Chronicle (8/5), the Sunday News and The Sunday Mail (9/5) unquestioningly echoed Chigwedere’s allegations and called for tougher action against the schools.
Like ZBC, the government papers did not fully discuss the legality of the government action.
The private media however, categorically condemned the schools’ closure as illegal since the Education Act, which the authorities and the media they control used to justify the shutdowns, has no provision for this action.
As news of government’s closure of the 45 private schools emerged in The Herald (4/5), ZTV (4/5, 6pm) tried to justify the move saying it was meant to “preserve the gains made by government in the education sector since independence”. The station and Power FM (4/5, 8pm) then quoted Chigwedere contriving a racial factor to defend the illegal shutdown. Citing St George’s College and Peterhouse as examples, Chigwedere described the private schools as “racist schools” which wanted “to throw the black majority out of education” and added that, “government won’t hesitate to deal with this racist attitude”.
To give the government action a seal of public approval, ZTV (4/5, 8pm) then conducted street interviews with selected members of the public and claimed that most parents had condemned the fee hikes because they felt the move was aimed at discriminating against “the black majority and move back to the era when some schools were meant for whites only.” No comment was sought from the schools’ authorities. Neither did the broadcaster try to relate the fee increases to the runaway cost of living. Instead, it quoted Chigwedere downplaying this by allowing him to claim that the “Prices of most goods are going down.”
Some corroboration of these claims appeared in The Herald (6/5). The paper quoted parents as having told Chigwedere that 80 percent of children enrolled at private schools were blacks thereby “significantly exceeding” government’s stipulated quota of 60 percent. The paper also deviated from its usual passivity when reporting government policies by quoting parents condemning the closure. The authorities should “raise standards at its own schools” rather than “focusing on closing private schools”, said one parent. Similar views appeared in The Herald (5/5) and even The Sunday Mail.
But the public broadcaster refused to exercise even this minimal professional standard. Rather, it meekly provided Chigwedere (ZTV’s Face the Nation (6/5, 9.30pm) with an unbridled platform to divert public attention from the real issues bedeviling the education sector in Zimbabwe by allowing him to dabble in racial and nationalist rhetoric.
Said Chigwedere, fully exposing the source of deep-seated racial hatred that has characterized Zimbabwean politics for the past four years: “These schools… are the factories that manufacture the Rhodesians. At any rate, look at their history; they were established by the Rhodesian regime to produce future Rhodesian leaders and they have remained Rhodesian to this day. And the ownership is foreign, it is British. The very war that we are fighting against Britain is the very war we are fighting against these schools… this is another front of the racist war that we are fighting”.
Instead of subjecting these absurd allegations to analysis, the Chronicle (8/5), Sunday News and The Sunday Mail rehashed and approved such insidious racism. For example, the Chronicle’s Busybody column, notable for its crude attacks against perceived government opponents, celebrated government’s crackdown on the schools, describing them as an “extension of apartheid”. The column claimed that “whites” established “whites only” schools after realizing “that they could not practice racism in independent Zimbabwe”, adding that it “liked” Chigwedere’s comments.
The Sunday News’s Goings-On column also welcomed the closure saying “little Rhodesians” were “unacceptable” while The Sunday Mail’s Tafataona Mahoso likened government’s action to the “Third Chimurenga”, which would prevent private schools from producing “another bunch of Rhodies in African skin”.
These papers however, conveniently ignored the fact that not all the closed private schools are white-owned, as illustrated by Tynwald Primary School, owned by retired army commander, Vitalis Zvinavashe.
Eventually however, the schools’ response to their closure obliged the media to reveal the illegal nature of government’s action. ZTV (6/5, 8pm), The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent (7/5) reported that the High Court, with the consent of the State, had ordered the reopening of Hartmann House Preparatory School, which had filed an urgent application against the government’s action.
The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent also revealed that other private schools in Masvingo and Bulawayo had also filed court applications seeking to nullify the closure.
The Independent quoted the schools’ lawyer, Richard Majwabu-Moyo, saying, “There is no provision in the Education Act that gives the Minister of Education powers to shut down schools for raising fees and what he has done is illegal.”
The Standard and Studio 7 (6/5) quoted other legal experts making similar observations.
Despite this, ZBC (6/5, 8pm), The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent (7/5) still reported the police as having arrested some of the school headmasters accused of unilaterally hiking fees.
Unlike the Independent however, The Herald did not name some of the arrested headmasters or their schools. Rather, it only revealed that those arrested in Marondera had paid deposit fines after signing admission of guilt forms and quoted police spokesman Andrew Phiri saying the police “were enforcing the laws that exist and we will continue to do so until everyone complies…”
The paper did not question this falsehood.
Studio 7 (6/5), however, quoted Harare lawyer Simon Ziva saying there are no legal provisions for such arrests as private school staffers “do no fall under the essential category in terms of the Public Service Act.”
But the authorities’ disdain for the law and their continued abuse of office to formulate self-serving legislation without regard to other people’s freedoms was clearly demonstrated by Chigwedere’s remarks on ZTV’s Face The Nation. Chigwedere pointed out that government would circumvent the law by amending the Education Act so as to legitimize its demands on private schools. Citing the Hartmann court victory, he said private schools might “win (court cases) because they have exploited a loophole somewhere. In two, three weeks, we will have plugged the hole. They discover another one and exploit it, six months thereafter, we plug the hole… there is no way they can win…”
3. Indicators of an ailing economy
BARELY three weeks after the government media hailed the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s monetary policy review statement as the tonic for the country’s economic ills, symptoms of economic recession littered media space in the week. Even the government Press, which so assiduously assures the public of the country’s economic recovery, gave the game away when they increased their cover prices, attributing the hikes to increased production costs including newsprint.
The week also witnessed an increase in the price of a loaf of bread from about $2,000 to $2,900, The Herald (5/5), Radio Zimbabwe (5/5, 1pm), Power FM (5/5, 1pm), and The Manica Post (7/5). In their reports, these media quoted bakers justifying the bread price hike by citing the increase in the price of flour from $2,5 million to $3,4 million dollars a tonne. Other factors such as increases in wages, electricity, transport and spare parts were also cited.
However, the government media merely presented these problems as peculiar to the baking industry and not representative of the broader economic environment.
The Sunday Mail claimed that price increases were not justified because of the “decline in the country’s inflation rate and the cheap funds being made available to the manufacturers through the Reserve Bank’s Productive Sector Facility”.
The paper then tried to give the impression that government policies have resulted in phenomenal growth in the manufacturing sector. It quoted unnamed “retailers” as saying “manufacturers who increase prices unreasonably risk going out of business as there is increased competition” as “indigenous players are now venturing into manufacturing, with some of them even running promotions to outdo established manufacturers”.
The same article quoted the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) calling on government to reintroduce food subsidies on basic commodities “to make them affordable”. The implications of this were studiously avoided. In fact, the failure by the government media to examine the adverse effects of subsidies on the economy manifested itself in the manner they reported the increase in the producer price of maize.
ZBC (4/5, 8pm), The Herald and the Chronicle (5/5) announced that the government-run Grain Marketing Board would now buy a tonne of maize from farmers for $750,000 up from last year’s $300,000 a tonne while maintaining its selling price to millers at $400,000 a tonne and to drought-stricken areas at $9,000 a tonne.
However, none of them examined how this economically senseless decision would affect the fiscus. Neither did they examine the inflationary effects of offering resettled farmers free transport to ferry their produce to the GMB, The Herald (7/5).
The private media paid lip service to the issue. Nevertheless, they highlighted the continued erosion of workers’ incomes due to the recent price increases. For example, The Sunday Mirror (9/5) pointed out that although CCZ and the Central Statistical Office (CSO) use different figures to measure workers’ incomes, they both illustrated the difficulties workers are encountering. For instance, the conservative CSO figures show that a family of six, whose breadwinner earns a minimum wage of $47,696 “needs $475 525 a month for the food basket alone…” while CCZ figures put the poverty datum line at “$968 525 a month”. The Tribune (7/5) carried similar CCZ figures.
The week also witnessed the Zimbabwean currency sliding from $5,200 to $5,333 against the US dollar. The Daily Mirror (5/7) attributed this to the central bank’s decision to allow the local currency “to operate in free market conditions”. The paper (7/5) quoted an economist pointing out that this would result in increases in the price of most goods, including basic commodities. Said the economist: “All these changes will lead to demands for higher wages as price increases will erode the disposable income of workers and consumers and this will have an inflationary impact on the economy”.
The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to write to MMPZ. We may not able to respond to everything but we will look at each message. For previous MMPZ reports, and more information about the Project, please visit our website at http://www.mmpz.org.zw
Enough is Enough
We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!
Sokwanele : 14 May 2004
This weekend, the people of Lupane will be queuing to cast their vote in a by-election resulting from the death of David Mpala, the MDC Member of Parliament elected in 2000. Theirs is no ordinary constituency: Lupane is a name synonymous with some of the worst human rights violations imaginable. This drought stricken remote rural area of Zimbabwe has a long acquaintance with violence. During the liberation struggle, international newspapers carried reports of vicious attacks on missionaries and civilians in the area. But freedom did not bring peace; international attention was once again focussed on Lupane in post-independence Zimbabwe in July 1982 when six foreign tourists were allegedly abducted.
Within days of the disappearance of the tourists, Robert Mugabe deployed troops into the Matabeleland North areas of Lupane and Tsholotsho under the pretext of searching for the whereabouts of the missing six tourists. The Mthwakazi Action Group on Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in Matabeleland and Midlands 2000 (based in London) maintain that the abductions were orchestrated by Robert Mugabe to justify a crackdown on the area, resulting in the torture and murder of thousands of civilians with the intent to undermine the main opposition at the time, Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU. They note: "Scores of villagers and communities were raped, beaten, tortured, killed or disappeared. Hundreds of thousands more were compelled with threats of torture, beatings and killings to join and buy ZANU-PF membership cards".
It was not until the late 1990s that the full extent of the atrocities reached international public attention through the publication of the Breaking the Silence report, but that is not to say that the International community was unaware of what was happening during the 1980s.
Donald Trelford, editor of The Observer (UK) recalled an interview that he had with Robert Mugabe in 1984 where he asked Mugabe whether he would ever consider a political solution to the Matabeleland issue rather then the military one. Trelford describes Mugabe's response to his question as 'blunt' and 'chilling'. Mugabe replied:
'The solution is a military one. Their grievances are unfounded. The verdict of the voters was cast in 1980. They should have accepted defeat then… The situation in Matabeleland is one that requires a change. The people must be reoriented.'
The Breaking the Silence report describes in detail what a militaristic reorientation programme involves: curfews are imposed, journalists are forbidden to enter the area, but worst of all, troops trained in 'counter insurgency', or, to use Mugabe's euphemism, 'reorientation' are let loose on a community.
In 1983, the infamous red-bereted 5 Brigade was deployed in Matabeleland. These were no ordinary troops: they were soldiers equipped with unusually cruel skills, trained by North Koreans recruited specifically to impart this knowledge. We learn through the Breaking the Silence report that the methods used to address "reorientation", "change", "unfounded grievances", to teach a community to "accept defeat", were methods that involved civilian murders, civilian rapes, civilian torture and the destruction of civilian property.
"Five Brigade passed first through Tsholotsho, spreading out rapidly through Lupane and Nkayi, and their impact on all these communal areas was shocking. Within the space of six weeks more than 2000 civilians had died, hundreds of homesteads had been burnt and thousands of civilians had been beaten. Most of the dead were killed in public executions involving between one and 12 people at a time."
The same report describes in detail some of the techniques used. Most would defy the most creative imagination of Hollywood's horror film directors; all techniques were intended to maximise terror, pain, grief and humiliation.
One of the most difficult things to comprehend is that these perverse barbaric acts of cruelty were not the actions of psychopaths, but soldiers. Their 'enemy' was not an invading army from foreign borders, nor were they fighting for freedom against a repressive racist regime; the 'enemy' were our fellow Zimbabweans - men, women, children, the elderly: the innocent and the defenceless; the helplessly isolated.
Lupane is singled out in the Breaking the Silence report as being the area where, more than other areas, entire villages were destroyed - huts deliberately burned down by the 5 Brigade, sometimes while people were still in them. Lupane is also singled out as an area where people were frequently denied the right to bury their dead:
“burial was on occasion forbidden, and relatives of the dead were reportedly forced to observe the remains of their dead rotting away and being scavenged. In these cases, bones were sometimes buried months or years later, and in other cases, bones were removed by the 5 Brigade, who came past in trucks and collected them. In cases where bones were removed by 5 Brigade, chances of recovery now are almost non-existent” (Breaking the Silence 1997).
Offences for Lupane are conservatively estimated in the report as follows:
Property loss: 58
Physical torture: 2
Detention (by Govt. agencies): 158
Physical torture: Assault with Sticks, or other blunt weapon: 186
Physical torture: Assault with Burning object, or enclosure of victim in burning building : 10
Physical torture: Assault with Bayonette, or other sharp weapon: 1
Physical injury: Gun Shot Wound: 37
"Reorientation" and "Accepting defeat": these were the words used by Mugabe to sweep away and justify the calculated cruelty, murder, torture, degradation, humiliation and intimidation of his own people, his fellow Zimbabweans.
In an open letter to Mugabe in 1997, Amnesty International called on Mugabe to acknowledge the horror that had happened years earlier. But it was not until 1999, at Joshua Nkomo's funeral, that Mugabe flirted, for the first time, with the notion of accountability by acknowledging the impact on innocent people, saying, "The conflict which took place caused great suffering among innocent people, we regret that". His 'almost apology' was immediately qualified, however, with the words "but these conflicts always do that".
A year later, in July 2000, Mugabe tried again to perpetuate the myth that his specially trained troops were fighting a justifiable conflict, a war against an identifiable and dangerous enemy, rather than indiscriminately massacring thousands of civilians. This time he was speaking at a memorial service for Joshua Nkomo. Possibly still reeling from shock at the number of seats won by the MDC at the general elections earlier in the year, Mugabe said: "It was an act of madness, we killed each other and destroyed each other's property" and "It was wrong". But again, the 'almost apology' is qualified with the ready words "both sides were to blame".
This is unacceptable to the communities who endured 5 Brigade's special brand of cruelty, as the words of one Gukuruhundi survivor clearly illustrates:
"Mugabe, whose praises we were made to sing while these people were being murdered, is not saying anything. "The people whom we regarded as our leaders in PF Zapu, are now living in glass houses, and our children remain where the killers decided they should remain. Is that the type of country we fought for?"
If this was a 'war', a 'national security issue' where 'both sides' were wrong, why has Mugabe been so reluctant to release the findings of the Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe reports into the Matabeleland atrocities? Further, are we to believe that it is purely coincidental that the only existing copy of the Dumbutshena report was reportedly removed from the National Archives by the CIO? Why have the mass graves of those killed 'in action' (as Mugabe would like us to believe) been dug up and the bones moved to unknown locations?
Years later, the ruling party's efforts to impose 'reorientation' and 'accepting defeat' on a civilian population continues. The familiar pattern emerges once more - an absence of journalists, no-go areas : yet another "curtain of silence". The people of Lupane found their voice in 2000 despite all the 'lessons' ruthlessly forced upon the people of Lupane by Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF over the years; despite the fact that the genocide, rapes, murders and torture incurred very little response from the international community; and despite the fact that they were once again isolated from the media. They collectively, and courageously, spoke through the ballot box by electing David Mpala of the MDC as their Member of Parliament.
Once again, the response was murder.
In February 2001 the MDC's ward chairman for Sizangobuhle ward, Jameson Sicwe, was murdered by a group of war veterans who dragged him from his home and beat him with thick sticks all over his body. He died on the spot.
One year earlier, in April 2000, David Mpala had been abducted and severely beaten by a group of about 40 ruling ZANU-PF supporters. A year after the death of Jameson Sicwe, the Daily News reported that David Mpala was fighting for his life after being abducted by ZANU-PF supporters on a Sunday afternoon, who then went on to "slit his abdomen with knives" and try to crush his skull. Unlike Jameson Sicwe, David Mpala's wounds did not kill him immediately. He died earlier this year, in February 2004, two years after being stabbed. The MDC have stated that Mpala's death was brought about by injuries sustained in 2002, while the state-controlled media trumpeted that he had died of meningitis.
Whatever the cause of David Mpala's death, Lupane is once again the centre of attention. Dates for the by-election have been set for 15 and 16 May 2004. The two main candidates are Njabuliso Mguni for the MDC, and Martin Khumalo for ZANU-PF.
The 5 Brigade have not returned, but the 'curtain of silence' that has once again fallen now conceals the activities of another specially trained wing of ZANU-PF; the 'Green Bombers' - so-named by the public because of their green uniforms and thuggish brutality. (A recent Herald article suggests too that the notorious red-beret, a visual reminder of the infamous 5 Brigade, is also a part of their uniform).
These are not soldiers: they are our own youth. Young people whose minds have been deliberately and systematically broken down through a programme of calculated abuse to teach them to accommodate ZANU-PF's unpalatable view that torturing and attacking their own communities, sometimes their own families, is their duty. The following transcript details a conversation between Hillary Andersson, a BBC correspondent, and Edward, a young man who now works in the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation:
ANDERSSON: […] The next vital stage of training is an intense programme of indoctrination. The youths are taught to think like Mugabe. Edward, back in the ministry, only qualified for his job monitoring the camps after going through the process of psychological training himself.
EDWARD: They have to deal with you physically and then they have to take out the stuff which you have in your mind and then put in the new stuff which is literally brainwashing.
ANDERSSON: Is that what they told you?
ANDERSSON: That they wanted….
EDWARD: Yes, they want to empty your mind out and then once you're called in, you go with an empty mind.
ANDERSSON: This is a lesson taking place inside a camp. The youths are taught Mugabe's own version of history. The manual they learn from is written by the President himself. The lesson is simple and racist. Mugabe and his party Zanu, are the heroes of blacks. The opposition party, the MDC is backed by whites and is bad. Questioning this is forbidden.
EDWARD: I was taught that the enemy was obviously the opposition and mostly the whites. Those were the main enemies of Zimbabwe.
ANDERSSON: Mugabe repeats this message again and again to the youth and the nation. Enemies of the state, enemies of Mugabe's party Zanu-PF must be made to repent (BBC, Panorama, 6 March 2004).
On the 28th March 2004, The Standard reported the inevitable: hundreds of green bombers were being bussed into Lupane to prepare for the upcoming by-election. The success of the MDC in 2000 showed that grotesque violence might not be enough to support Mugabe's party; perhaps realising this, ZANU-PF has adjusted to accommodate other vote-acquiring tactics. It was not long before the MDC called attention to the fact that hundreds of green bombers were now also being registered as voters in the Lupane constituency. One political analyst observed that the ghost of the 1980s, which had previously helped the MDC win support from this embattled community, was no longer a threat to ZANU-PF: he commented that the "ghost can also be "rigged out"".
Nevertheless, violence is deeply instilled in the ZANU-PF pathology and appears to be a hard habit to break. Favourite techniques are still being employed to lend support to any rigging operations set in place. The MDC's candidate, Njabuliso Mguni, campaigns daily with the sobering knowledge that the previous MP was abducted and brutally stabbed, later dying from his injuries; that Lupane's ward chairman was also brutally murdered. He takes the precautions of travelling around this rural constituency in a special armour plated vehicle, and of sleeping in different hiding places every night. During the day, he has to contend with his campaign meetings being disrupted or cancelled, as well as constant police harassment.
This testimony from an eyewitness at one of Njabuliso Mguni's campaign rallies has been extracted from a report carried in The Standard:
"As suddenly as they arrived, some of the vehicles - laden with war veterans and Zanu PF youths - started moving fast in a circle right round the open space entrapping hundreds of MDC supporters who were listening to a fired up Mguni. Mguni, a veteran educationist, was urging them to shun the ruling party in the by-election set for May 15 and 16 and instead vote for the MDC. At the same time, other vehicles with menacing looking occupants, were being revved, making such ear-shattering noise that it was obvious this was a deliberate ploy to make it impossible for Mguni to communicate with his audience. Apart from that, the vehicles also raised so much dust that engulfed the gathering within seconds.
Confronted by this frightful scenario, it didn't take long for the faint-hearted to take to their heels escaping from what turned out to be the Gomoza circle of despair. Among those caught up in the stampede were elderly men, women and children. Only a few people, mainly MDC officials and ex-Zipra combatants stood their ground and remained at the venue until the hullabaloo died down. Out came the leaders of the war veterans and the militia who announced that the meeting was illegal and everyone had to disperse. "Abandon your rally and get away now," said a fierce looking war veteran threateningly, as he and his mates pranced about like prize fighters.”
The journalist who witnessed these events went on to report that two people, civilians, were fighting for their lives as a result of attacks by war veterans and ZANU-PF supporters. In a chilling reminder of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of David Mpala and Jameson Sicwe, the same newspaper reported a week later that five opposition supporters had been abducted by ZANU-PF supporters and taken to a place where they were severely assaulted. Two days before polling was due to start, newspapers reported that at least 64 MDC supporters had been indiscriminately arrested by the police.
When the people of Lupane queue to vote on the 15 and 16 May, they must do so with mixed feelings. Without doubt, everyone in the community will know the story of the Gukuruhundi, many will have heard tales about members of their family, many others may have had families who preferred silence, because the pain of the story is too hard to tell. This is a community with a collective scarred psyche. But it is also an incredibly brave and defiant community.
Many of us fear speaking out in Zimbabwe these days, because the repercussions are thuggish and swift. We have slowly learned too that the likelihood of the international community coming to our rescue is small, infinitesimal. The people of Lupane know this far better than any of us can ever imagine, and yet they still attend rallies, they will still try, however futile it may turn out to be, to cast their vote this weekend. In the face of their instinct for survival, 'freedom' and 'democracy' still matter. Their courage is humbling and an inspiration to us all.
Let us resolve this weekend that despite the rigging, the violence and the brutality that may be taking place at this very moment, despite our own despair at the government's efforts to continue to break down our spirit through forced school closures and the destruction of the economy, that each and every one of us spares a thought for the people of Lupane. Talk about them to your family and friends. Above all, pray for them.
Mugabe would have you believe that land is everything in this country of ours, but a nation would be nothing without its people. Mugabe has taken the land, but the only way he can say he has the support of the people is through brute force, theft, deception and cruelty. Journalists may find it difficult to do their job in Lupane this weekend, but let us not forget that we are all storytellers. If the media cannot represent the people of Lupane, then it falls to us, their fellow Zimbabweans, to honour them with our memories, and to ensure that their story of tragedy, and bravery, is never forgotten.
For a more detailed overview of Lupane, please visit www.sokwanele.com .