President Mnangagwa came back from his expensive public relations trip to Glasgow as an even more insignificant figure than expected. He bumped into US President Joe Biden at the climate change conference in Scotland – probably in the lavatory – and the Zanu PF media immediately saw the encounter as a game-changing event, as Biden actually exchanged words with him.
He probably said something as banal as ‘How do you do?’ or ‘Your zip is undone’. Anyway, it turns out that the encounter has not prevented the US from excluding Zimbabwe from what has been described as an historic summit to discuss the challenges facing democracy. The two day virtual meeting next month is expected to include 100 leaders from around the globe including those of SADC countries except Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Eswatini.
No reason was given for their exclusion, but a research fellow at Witwatersrand University, Dr William Mpofu, said Zimbabwe was failing to uphold human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law which were basic requirements for democracy. ‘If you look at the diplomatic performance of Zimbabwe, all the attempts to re-engage and even join the Commonwealth, they have been Idi Amin in nature’, he said, adding that Mnangagwa should ‘do better than lying to the people’.
According to global human rights and democracy think tank Freedom House, Zimbabwe’s status in the past two years had deteriorated from partly free to not free because of the authorities’ intensifying persecution of opposition figures and civic activists (see: https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/us-president-joe-biden-excludes-zimbabwe-from-historic-democracy-summit-20211110).
In another development, the salaries of civil servants such as teachers and nurses have been cut by the government by as much as Zim$4,000 without announcement. Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers’ Union, described the move as cruel and said it had been done to make up for looting at the National Social Security Authority. Most civil servants have earned between Zim$24,000 and Zim$27,000 which was already below the poverty datum line for a family (see: https://www.newzimbabwe.com/govt-cuts-civil-servants-salaries/).
The government is resisting trade union demands that civil servants be paid in US dollars. The demand for US dollars is overwhelming the banking system in Zimbabwe. Newsday says: ‘A recent central bank report outlined shocking details about how a system that was rolled out to ameliorate a dire forex crisis, has been manipulated to enrich big shots behind leading corporations at the expense of millions. Eligible companies that have failed to access foreign currency have ended up scaling down or winding up operations. Big exporters with easy access to the auction forex have been bidding on behalf of third parties to circumvent the system.’ (See: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2021/11/zim-banks-overwhelmed/.)
- Newsday also reports that several school heads in Manicaland have been forced to attend induction training courses by Zanu PF. Obert Masaraure of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said the induction drills were illegal but were going on nationwide. ‘Our ruling party is once again wantonly violating the constitution it is expected to uphold,’ Masaraure said (see: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2021/11/school-heads-forced-to-attend-zanu-pf-induction/).
- Vigil activists have long supported the work of Pastor Albert Chatindo who sadly died a month ago after many years of unstinting work for the poor in the Bulawayo area. He left a community bereft but his work is continuing, supported by the British charity Zimbabwe Victims’ Support Fund. They have just taken delivery of over 5 tonnes of special seed maize provided by Zimbabwean farmer Ben Freeth of the Mike Campbell Foundation. The maize is game-changing because future crops can be grown from the seed it produces. The seed is being delivered to over 1,000 families included a child-headed family.
- Today was a virtual Vigil. For the moment we are meeting outside the Embassy every other week and our next gathering will be on 20th November. On the alternate Saturdays we will continue with the virtual Vigil. To be recorded as participating in a virtual Vigil your photo, taken with a poster with a message reflecting the situation in Zimbabwe, must be taken at one of the actual Vigils. There will be a small charge to cover admin costs, the ongoing upkeep of the Vigil and our support for the human rights work of ROHR, our sister organisation in Zimbabwe. The photos will then be labelled with your name, uploaded on our website, Flickr site and Facebook pages. For today’s photos, see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/albums/72157720140935326. Our virtual Vigil activists today were Philip Maponga and Joyce Mbairatsunga who both kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
Events and Notices:
- The next Vigil. Saturday 20th November from 2 – 5 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London.
- The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organisation based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organisation on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
- The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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