|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Dear Family and Friends,
In a report this week the Washington based Centre for Global Development
said that the purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean had plunged to
levels that prevailed over 50 years ago in 1953. The CGD, which tracks
economic and developmental trends, said that gains made by Zimbabwe over
the past five decades had been wiped away in the last six years. The CGD
said that the scale and speed of income decline in Zimbabwe was greater
than that seen during recent conflicts in the Ivory Coast, the DR Congo
and Sierra Leone. These are chilling figures to try and take in and it is
very, very hard to see how Zimbabwe can come back from where it is without
radical and dramatic changes at every single level.
Ever since the March elections, we have been slipping backwards and the
pace has accelerated with each passing week. Inflation is soaring again,
almost all basic commodities have disappeared from our shelves, fuel is
virtually unobtainable, electricity supplies are erratic and the water, in
my home town anyway, has literally been unfit to drink for the last
fortnight. The country is in a state of almost complete paralysis and it
is utterly absurd that we are sitting here like beggars waiting for a
multi million dollar loan from South Africa when right there, on our front
door step, nature is again holding out the key to change as summer
For the last half century Zimbabwe has fed itself from her own fields. We
have survived crippling repeated years of drought. We mastered the art of
growing crops that we could export in order to earn foreign currency; we
filled our silos and warehouses in abundant years to see us through the
bad seasons we knew would invariably follow. We built dams and reservoirs
and dug wells and boreholes to give us water in dry times. We learnt to
grow flowers under floodlights and exotic vegetables in plastic tunnels,
to rear ostriches for their leather and to make fuel from ethanol and
And now, hah, what shame upon Zimbabwe and her leaders with their masters
degrees and doctorates. Now, in 2005, we wait for South Africa to give us
food. We have no foreign money to buy fuel. Our fields are unploughed, our
lands unprepared for the new season. Every year, as we get poorer and
hungrier there is an excuse, a reason why, having produced more than
enough food for fifty years, now we can't do it anymore. Our national
newspaper tells us that our winter wheat crop has been severely depleted
this year because Quelea birds are eating the grain. It does not tell us
how, for half a century, our commercial farmers managed to keep bread on
our tables and flour in our shops. Instead it tells us that this week the
price of a loaf of bread went from four and half to seven thousand dollars
and it tells us that instead of going hungry we should eat the Quelea
birds that are stealing the national wheat crop. The Herald newspaper
tells us we should find ways of catching, killing and canning Quelea birds
and then exporting them to Europe for gourmet restaurants. Oh please, what
shame, what utter shame. Until next week, love cathy Copyright cathy
buckle 13 August 2005. http://africantears.netfirms.com
In the wake of
Operation Murambatsvina - the aftermath
Sokwanele Report : 13 August 2005
Robert Mugabe and those of his partners in crime responsible for the crime against humanity called Operation Murambatsvina, would like nothing better than that the media should move their attention on to other things. But that is the one thing the independent press and the international media must not do at any cost. Mugabe and his apologists would far prefer that Zimbabweans, and the world, should accept the fiction that the military operation is over, the deed is done, and the government is now engaged in the next (positive) phase of rebuilding. But that is so much fiction. The reality is altogether different, and for three reasons.
First, the destructive phase is not yet over, as reports from around the country confirm. Second, the so-called rebuilding phase, Operation Garikai, is patently nothing other than window dressing - frantic damage control by the regime, without any real substance, after a particularly damaging episode (from their point of view) of exposure to the truth. And third, the catastrophic consequences of Operation Murambatsvina are not yet over. Far from it. In fact, just as the full extent of the suffering caused by a natural tsunami only becomes evident some time after the tidal wave has struck, so are Zimbabweans only now beginning to see the huge damage inflicted by their man-made tsunami. There is still a story to be told. We dare not fall for the Mugabe fiction, and the world's free press dare not shy away because of the difficulties or dangers of following the story in a country under fascist rule.
Certainly it is not easy to get the facts - and nor is that by chance, because the regime is working around the clock to remove its unfortunate victims from view, closing down the notorious transit camps and dumping the victims as far into the rural areas as possible. And yes, in what is effectively a police state, there is surely a measure of risk both for those willing to talk of their traumatic experiences and for those recording them. But that it can be done was again proved this week by one of our reporters. This is what he found on speaking to pastors and church workers still actively involved in caring for the homeless and destitute who, until they were forcibly and unlawfully removed by the riot police, had been receiving succour and support from a number of churches in and around Bulawayo. (To protect our informants we shall not give their names)
Of the more than a thousand victims concerned, the church has already re-established contact with 770 of them, and is pressing on with the task of finding the remainder. This is no mean feat, but faithful pastors and active lay workers have willingly taken upon themselves the gruelling task of locating the displaced victims, finding where they have been dumped by the police after their forced removals, and making contact again. Thereafter the church leaders have resumed their task of feeding and caring for those with no other means of support.
One of those most closely involved in this mission of mercy said that in his experience less than 5 per cent of those hurriedly dumped in remote locations had been able to secure a place they might again call "home" or even a prospect of shelter, food or the basic necessities of life. He related how many of the victims had been moved five or six times in recent weeks - from their original homes in Killarney or Ngozi Mine, to a church; then onwards to another church to link up with family members from whom they had become separated; before being forcibly removed by the riot police, first to the holding camp at Helensvale Farm and then onwards to a rural dumping place; and finally back, usually by foot, to somewhere close to where they had started from.
Moreover the link between the rural destinations chosen by the police to relocate the victims and the victims themselves was at best tenuous, and at worst non-existent. Like some of those of Malawian descent who described to one of the pastors how their interrogation proceeded:
Police: "Where is your home ?"
Victim: "In Malawi."
Police: "Have you heard of a place called Tsholotsho ?"
Police: "Then that is where we are taking you."
Recalling that these are all people who live well below the bread line at the best of times, and that the police and State agents who transported them from one site to another, offered them neither food nor blankets en route, one can begin to appreciate their desperate plight. Long before they were finally put out of the police vehicles at their intended rural destinations, they were all in a very low state, both physically and emotionally. Most were dumped unceremoniously outside the offices of the local district administrator, in either Tsholotsho or Gwanda, in Nkayi or Esigodini. Some were simply dumped along the roadside, like the two men whom one of our informants had spoken to, who were put down by the road in the Matobo area and later found sheltering in the hills among the rocks. No food, no shelter, no relatives, no money - and certainly not one iota of compassion from those responsible for their predicament. Such is the plight of those whom Zimbabwe's dictator deems so much "filth" to be "swept away".
Some did not make it.
Like Sophie Sithole, a middle-aged woman who had been sheltering at the Brethren in Christ Church in Lobengula West, but who became so distressed on hearing of the other forceful evictions through the long night of July 20th, that when the riot police arrived at her church she suffered a heart attack, from which she died a few hours later. (She had no known medical history of a heart complaint)
Or like Amina Muponda, a 12 year old girl (again with no known prior medical condition) who was forcibly removed from the Church of the Ascension to the transit camp where she contracted flu and died within 24 hours. (Amina's parents were subsequently prohibited by the police from entering the transit camp to view her body. She was given a pauper's burial which neither her close family nor even her pastor were permitted to attend).
Or Lameck Nkomo, a young man in his 30s, who was known to be ill when he was removed forcibly from the transit camp and transported to Tsholotsho. There he was dumped by the police and told to make his own way to his rural home some 50 kilometres distant. Lameck had a known medical condition and had been warned in the strongest terms by his doctor that he should not on any account drink any alcohol. For him the whole nightmare of destruction and forced removals proved just too much. He told those around him "I don't want to go on any more. I've had enough". From someone, somehow, he solicited a bottle of beer. He drank it down and died soon after.
Or the older man (name unknown) who, when his hut at Ngozi Mine was demolished, simply wandered off into the bush - his decomposing body later to be found nearby.
Or the 4 month old child from Killarney who was given shelter with her parents at Agape Church, but who had already contracted pneumonia from her earlier exposure to the cold, and who died at the church.
And no doubt, many others besides. Bulawayo pastors indeed confirmed to our reporter 6 known deaths closely related to Murambatsvina. And how many others, we ask, are still to come to light in this region or elsewhere, the more so in places where the Church has not played such a high profile role in support of the victims ? And how many others again whose deaths will just pass unnoticed and unrecorded ?
No, Murambatsvina is not over yet, and certainly the effects of the devastating aftermath will be felt for many years to come. For hundreds of thousands of victims life can never be the same again. Which makes it all the more important that we continue to track events on the ground closely, and to monitor and record as many as possible of the gross human rights abuses perpetrated. The world needs to know the scale of the disaster that is still unfolding, and human rights lawyers and others must continue to record the violations of national and international law so that, as Anna Tibaijuka, the UN Special Envoy has recommended, all those responsible will be held to account.
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