This description by British minister Alan Duncan was spot on. He was speaking on his way to the UN to discuss Venezuela. But he could equally well have been talking about Zimbabwe.
Venezuela was seen by the UN to be the more pressing problem. 20 years ago it was one of the richest countries in Latin America with perhaps the largest oil reserves in the world. All was set fair until a socialist ideologue came to power. Inflation exceeded one million per cent last year. A tenth of the people have fled the country in the last four years. Food is scarce, leaving half of children malnourished. What medicine you can get must be paid for in US dollars.
Sound familiar? But here the paths diverge. In Venezuela hundred of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and the opposition leader declared himself President, immediately supported by neighbouring Colombia and the continental giants Brazil and Argentina, as well as the United States (and the UK).
In Zimbabwe, when the people took to the streets the government launched a campaign of intimidation, beating and torturing civilians including women and children as young as nine. But there has been no criticism from neighbouring giant South Africa. On the contrary, President Ramaphosa chose to throw in his lot with Zanu PF, appealing at the Davos summit for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted because the country was ‘on the right path’. If this is the right path then Zimbabwe is doomed.
The Vigil thinks that Zimbabwe is on the wrong path and fears it has been joined on it by South Africa. The irony of ironies is that even the South African demagogue Julius Malema has condemned the Zimbabwean repression.
We think it’s a pity that Ramaphosa turned down Mnangagwa’s recent plea for a billion dollar loan to bail out Zimbabwe. Ramaphosa, reportedly himself a billionaire, claims South Africa does not have the money. But he would have found sympathetic governments ready to back a loan in return for talks on a power-sharing deal necessary if Zimbabwe is ever to regain investor confidence and stop being a ‘poor, bankrupt, miserable country’.
- After realising the gravity of the situation rather late, the British media has given saturation coverage to Zimbabwe (see for instance: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/995-who-really-calls-the-shots-in-bloody-zimbabwe-crackdown).
- Vigil activists have been receiving heartbreaking messages from their families and friends on what’sapp. Sent from a friend on 26/01/2019. ‘The above picture is my nephew. Shot five bullets in the tummy in our family house in Harare this morning This is the fourth member of the family dead this week. Two were in a combi that was shot by the army and overturned when they were trying to escape from the city to Domboshava. Another was shot by army whilst he was escaping to South Africa where he was at University.’ We were also sent a picture of a young man with very swollen lips and the following message: ‘24/01/2019. This guy is my brother and he is in Chikurubi prison. He did nothing but he was watching people demonstrating peacefully and the soldiers and police assaulted him badly. They burned his back and he has wounds all over his back. We are trying to find ways to help him get lawyers and his treatment. He is unwell at the moment. We sent painkillers but they were confiscated for verification. He said pain is too much especially headache.’
- It was good to be joined by Claire Freeth of the Mike Campbell Foundation and Sunit Bagree of ACTSA.
- Thanks to those who came early to help set up the table and put up the banners: Josephine Jombe, Thomas Mahasoh, Rosemary Maponga, Charles Mararirakwenda, Patricia Masamba, Lucia Mungwari, Esther Munyira, Patience Muyeye, Bigboy Sibanda and Ephraim Tapa. Thanks to Patience and Josephine for looking after the front table and to Bigboy, Thomas, Lucia and Netsayi Makarichi for handing out flyers.
- For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.
FOR THE RECORD: 26 signed the register.
EVENTS AND NOTICES:
- ROHR Central London branch meeting. Saturday 16th February from 11.30 am – 1.30 pm. Venue: Royal Festival Hall. Contact: Daizy Fabian 07708653640, Maxmus Savanhu 07397809056, Sipho Ndlovu 07400566013.
- The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization 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 over the past 15 years 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 for £10. All proceeds will 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.
- Facebook pages:ROHR: https://www.facebook.com/Restoration-of-Human-Rights-ROHR-Zimbabwe-International-370825706588551/