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Zimbabwe camp offers AIDS orphans desperately-needed support

MAPHISA, Zimbabwe (AFP) - During every school vacation, the Sikhethimpilo Centre in remote southwestern Zimbabwe gathers dozens of children for week-long camps to help them deal with the trauma of losing their parents to HIV

Sikhethimpilo, (translated to mean 'we choose life'), through its 240 volunteer carers spread across the Matobo district of 35,000 people, select children most affected by HIV/AIDS to attend the camps.

They are divided into two categories - the 10-12 year olds and the 13-18 year olds to go through individual and group counselling sessions.

They are also taught the basics of HIV/AIDS, how to cope with stigma and bereavement.

"The main thrust of programme is to provide psychosocial support and life skills training for the orphans," said one of the camps organisers, Meck Sibanda.

"Most of the children have been referred to as AIDS orphans and even at school other children ostracise them. So we instil in them confidence, so that they do not lose self esteem," he said.

Almost a million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Some have nursed their parents until death but have not been given the opportunity to deal with the psychological impact of such experiences.

Many are not even told that their parents have died until they get to school where other children mock them that their parents died of AIDS and therefore they must be infected with HIV.

Traditional practice in the area decrees that when a parent dies, the children are removed from the homestead to a faraway village so they do not witness the funeral.

They are told that their parents have emigrated to neighbouring South Africa or Botswana.

"Here we give the children the opportunity to express their emotions and how to deal with them," Sibanda said.

Because they are shunned in their communities, at the centre they realise they are not alone in their situation. Many of them make friends during camping, something they lack back home.

"Here I have found a friend," says Senzeni, 11, who has lost both parents and does not even remember her mother who died while she was still an infant.

"They hardly have friends back at their villages, so this is the place where they feel loved and it boosts their self-esteem," said Israel Nkomo, a youth co-ordinator.

Their first session after arrival is to draw and write about themselves. This helps the teachers establish the opinion they have of themselves. In a caption under her drawing, Yukelia wrote: 'I hate those who hate me for nothing'.

The feelings expressed in the pictures are those of sadness and anger.

They are taught that they may be different from other children, but each one of them is special.

Through dance, music and games, they are taught children's rights - the right to food, shelter, education and clothing. But hardly half of the 33 camping this holdiday wear shoes.

In suggestion boxes, provided for them to write anything they want to express anonymously, "hunger, school fees and clothes are the issues that dominate", according to Sibanda.

After the emotional and psychosocial counselling, the 13-18 years olds, many of whom are heading their families, go through practical skills training.

The teenage household heads are trained to look after their younger siblings through such skills as housekeeping, gardening, small livestock rearing, cookery and sewing clothes.

The project which started in 1998, is the brainchild of a Catholic nun, Sister Ludbirga. So far 1,800 orphans have been through the centre, and the number of orphans is increasing according to Sibanda.

After the camps, Sikhethimpilo refers children with special problems to psychiatrists or the government social welfare department.

Follow-up visits are conducted regularly to guard against neglect and abuse by relatives or neighbours.

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Zim elections: to boycott or not to boycott?

    December 19 2004 at 05:09PM

By Peta Thornycroft

Morgan Tsvangirai is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't take his party into Zimbabwe's general legislative election expected to take place in March next year.

The threat of boycott is his beleaguered party's only weapon to try to pressure President Robert Mugabe to level the political playing field before the election. Yet if he stays out, his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) may fade into insignificance.

"It's an excruciating moment, an excruciating decision," says MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi.

'It's an excruciating moment, an excruciating decision'
The party has blown hot and cold on the question. Earlier this year, it announced it would not contest the election unless Mugabe reformed the election laws to conform with regional guidelines.

Then three months ago, it seemed those for participation in the national election had regained the upper hand. Now, in the absence of any meaningful electoral reforms, it seems the MDC's national executive is once again against participation.

The MDC leaders have all heard and debated the argument that it is better to have a small presence in parliament than none at all, to keep and eye on the ruling Zanu-PF.

They know that for a few of their younger MPs, keeping the only job they ever had is crucial as unemployment increases.

And MDC leaders say the party has been strongly advised by African governments to take part.
Western governments advise the same, though less enthusiastically.
'Workers have taken the brunt of the brutality'

But at home it's different and external opinion counts for little in the hard bargaining of such a strategic decision.

MDC insiders say Tsvangirai and other leaders who have been travelling far and wide, consulting and lobbying for support, are now resigned to the fact that Africa is unable or unprepared to cajole or pressure Zanu-PF to gamble its fate with free ai

However, the West will stay the course by keeping up pressure on Mugabe. Even if there is nothing they can do to assist a return to democracy, Western diplomats have told the MDC they will not give Mugabe legitimacy without fundamental electoral reform, no matter how large Zanu-PF's majority in March, either against the MDC or new "stooge" parties.

Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from which the MDC emerged in 1999, said: "As ZCTU will not take a position until late January, the elections are irrelevant.

"We have the most repressive legislation in our history ahead of these elections. Workers have taken the brunt of the brutality and that will continue whether the MDC takes part or not."

Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the MDC, said time had run out for any of Mugabe's "so-called" electoral reforms, including the establishment of a new election commission - to be in place for elections in March.

"Even if people of integrity are appointed to the Zimbabwe Election Commission - and the law has not yet been signed by the president - that will only happen next month, 10 weeks before elections, and it doe s not even have a desk or a telephone.

"So the registrar general's office will run the elections as usual with the same flawed voters rolls. Reforms such as one-day voting and translucent ballot boxes are cosmetic."

He said even in past elections, foreign election observers had found few problems on election day itself. The real problems had been in the run-up.

Brian Raftopoulos, co chair of the Crisis Coalition, one of the group of non-governmental organisations which will be banned when Mugabe signs the law passed by parliament a week ago, said: "The ability of the MDC to mobilise without state violence are limited and the chances of a legitimate election in March are almost zero."

Civil society is united in its opposition to the MDC participating in the poll. And so, privately at this stage, are the unions, the MDC's roots.

"If they have a clear post-election programme of resistance, then they should not take part. If they don't, then they will become just a small political party like others in the past," said Lovemore Madhuku, leader of a constitutional reform pressure group, the National Constitutional Assembly.

The MDC has serious internal problems, its morale and resilience have been shattered by five years of persecution; there are internal squabbles and insufficient funds to pay even the telephone bills at its headquarters, let alone run an election campaign which inevitably entails not only the usual costs but also huge amounts of money to hire lawyers to free campaigners after arrests.

Why is Africa indifferent to the MDC's plight? President Thabo Mbeki revealed some of the answers when he addressed the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) before the last Zimbabwe legislative elections during June 2000.

He reportedly said that only 13 percent of Zimbabwean voters supported the MDC, lowering the ANC's earlier estimate at about 24 percent.

Mbeki briefed the NEC that the MDC was an imperialist creation and that a new reactionary force was threatening southern Africa - an alliance of Renamo, Unita, possibly also the MDC and others, and that it should be stopped.

The MDC went on to win at least 49 percent of the vote a month later, and probably well over 55 percent in the disputed presidential poll in March 2000, according to evidence led in legal challenges to both elections.

These results have helped to change the ANC's perception of the MDC somewhat and to accept that it represents the real aspirations of many Zimbabweans.

That change probably does not go far enough and, in any case, it has come too late for the MDC, say some analysts.

Many argue that the MDC has already become irrelevant, not necessarily through its own fault.

That it will make no difference whether or not it participates in the elections.

Whether the MDC participates in a twisted plebiscite and is defeated, or stays out - and whether or not that decision leads to its disintegration - the country's humanitarian and economic crisis will deepen. - Independent Foreign Service

    • This article was originally published on page 25 of Sunday Argus on December 19, 2004
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Zimbabwe opposition to decide on March poll in January

December 19, 2004, 23:45

Zimbabwe's main opposition said today it would decide in early January whether to contest general parliamentary elections set for March, which it had previously threatened to boycott.

In August, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) announced it was suspending participation in all elections until President Robert Mugabe's government implemented "real" electoral reforms in line with those agreed by the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The MDC says reforms recently passed by the government will not guarantee free and fair parliamentary elections in March and has called on regional leaders to reject them. Today, the MDC's national executive said it had reviewed Zimbabwe's political situation, and decided to continue consultations until early next year.

"The MDC national executive resolved to convene a meeting of the national council soon thereafter in January 2005 so that a final decision on the question is made by the council," it said in a statement. In early December Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party used its majority in parliament to pass a set of electoral reforms, including setting up an independent election commission, a single day of voting instead of two, and counting of votes at polling centres.

But the MDC said the reforms were not enough to guarantee a fair vote in a country where critics say an independent media has been under relentless attack and where the courts are seen as being in the pocket of the ruling party. Foreign critics ranging from Western governments to African churches have said Zimbabwe's ruling party rigged the last parliamentary elections in 2000 and the 2002 presidential poll and accuse the government of widespread human rights abuses. - Reuters

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From The Sunday Mirror, 19 December
Mnangagwa down…but out?

Better to have him inside than out

Kuda Chikwanda, Mabasa Sasa, Kudzanai Musengi
Alleged beneficiary-in-chief of the Tsholotsho Declaration, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was demoted from being Secretary of Administration to becoming Secretary for Legal Affairs, is likely to become the country’s next Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister in what appears to be appeasement on the part of the Zanu PF Presidium. Mnangagwa lost the post that made him the fifth most powerful man in Zanu PF to Anti-corruption and Anti-monopolies minister, Didymus Mutasa – who was touted as another vice presidential aspirant – during the politburo appointments made on Friday. President Robert Mugabe flexed his muscle in legendary style on the all fingered Tsholotsho Declaration conspirators, announcing a new look politburo that saw some party members who tried to scuttle Joyce Mujuru’s bid to become the country’s first female Vice President, fall by the wayside.
Sources told the Sunday Mirror that there had been concerns in the ruling party over the form of punishment to be meted out to Mnangagwa, with the ultimate result being the inclusion of the Speaker of Parliament in the new look politburo, albeit in a less influential post. The sources further allege that prior to the announcement of the new Politburo on Friday, indications were showing that despite his central role in the Tsholotsho debacle, Mnangagwa was too senior within the ruling party’s hierarchy to suffer the same fate as "mafikizolos" like Jonathan Moyo who lost his post as deputy information secretary. "It is definitely better to have the man on the inside than on the outside. He is a formidable opponent …the leadership could not bear to think of Mnangagwa leading all disgruntled party members and fighting the party from the outside," said one highly placed party insider who refused to be named.
Mnangagwa’s appointment has been seen as some form of appeasement for the man many see as Zanu PF’s ultimate Presidential candidate when the time comes. The source added: "He is likely to become minister, and if he performs quite well in the coming parliamentary polls, he will definitely make it to cabinet as Justice minister." The source added that President Mugabe was now using the "divide and rule" tenet over all the Tsholotsho conspirators, whose botched attempt to influence to sideline Mujuru’s presidium ambitions was a serious threat to the party. "They all cannot be punished. Some are to senior to be just dumped like Moyo and Chinamasa, so the Presidium has decided to re-orient these influential party gurus while punishing those who are seen to be insignificant in the party. It is safer to have people like Mnangagwa on the inside," said the source.
On the different treatment of all implicated in the Tsholotsho fiasco, the source said: "By retaining others in the party, all disgruntlement will be contained ensuring these people will not gang up again and become a threat to the party. In addition those who are left out in the cold will be unhappy with their colleagues who will have been spared." Apart from the Mnangagwa issue, the nation could witness interesting changes in the Cabinet – in which major appointments are based on the structures of the politburo, despite cabinet appointments being a Presidential prerogative – after Jonathan Moyo was axed from his post as deputy secretary of Information and Publicity.Moyo’s boss and veteran politician Nathan Shamuyarira, who clashed with Moyo over a number of issues – the most notable being the Sky News fiasco – retained his post as secretary for information and publicity. Speculation is rife that the country’s next Information minister could be Mashonaland Central governor, Ephraim Masawi, who took over Moyo’s post in the politburo. It has been alleged that Shamuyarira – who is reported to be good friends with Masawi – facilitated the latter’s rise to the post of deputy secretary for information and publicity. However other sources have said current Minister of Policy Implementation, Webster Shamu, who is a veteran journalist, could land the information ministry ahead of Masawi.
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From The Zimbabwe Standard, 19 December
Police disrupt MDC meeting

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s crucial national consultative meeting yesterday deferred to today a decision on whether or not to take part in the March 2005 parliamentary elections. Paul Themba-Nyathi, the MDC spokesperson, told The Standard last night: "We have not yet concluded our discussion. It will continue tomorrow." Yesterday's meeting comes against the background of complaints by the opposition party that police were deliberately disrupting their meetings. Police in Masvingo disrupted a strategic meeting by the leadership in the Province, according to the opposition party. Themba-Nyathi said the opposition's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, was billed to address the meeting that was authorised by the police at the Civic Centre on Friday. "The consultative meeting in which the president (Tsvangirai) sought to meet provincial, district, ward and branch structures was scheduled to start at 9 am but the police came to the venue of the meeting and demanded to be part of the meeting," Themba-Nyathi said. According to the SADC Principles and Guidelines on democratic elections that were agreed in Mauritius this year, police should be impartial to all political parties. "The disruption of the Masvingo meeting follows the refusal to authorise two other meetings in Harare and Chitungwiza this week. All the meetings are part of the consultative process that will culminate in a decision by the National Council of the party as to whether the party will take part in the 2005 parliamentary elections," he said.
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From The Sunday Argus (SA), 19 December
First score for 'Free Bennett' campaign

Jailers handcuffed opposition lawmaker Roy Bennett and forced him to kneel on the concrete floor during a visit by his lawyer. He was not allowed to wear a hat while working under the searing African sun which burned weals into his skin. Now supporters of the popular white lawmaker are fighting back. The "Free Bennett" campaign has generated a website, street graffiti and thousands of support letters - rallying opposition among both blacks and whites to President Robert Mugabe's increasingly autocratic rule. Bennett, 47, is the first legislator to be imprisoned by parliament's Privilege Committee, which has powers of arrest for breaches of conduct. He was jailed for a year with hard labour on October 18 for getting into an altercation with a cabinet minister during a particularly heated debate. Assault cases in Zimbabwe typically carry small fines of less than Z$20 000. But the ruling Zanu PF-dominated parliament appears to have sought to make an example of Bennett, a member of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Friends and family formed the Free Roy Bennett Campaign to call attention to his arrest and what his wife, Heather, describes as the degrading treatment he receives from vindictive prison guards egged on by ruling party officials. The campaign has been overwhelmed with messages of support from around the world, including human rights and lawyers groups, foreign governments and parliamentarians. "Free Bennett" graffiti has appeared on fences and walls around the country. And the campaign website recorded more than 1 000 hits on its first day on December 1. Last week, they had their first success: Bennett got a hat to wear when he digs trenches inside the prison yard. But that is little consolation to Heather Bennett, 42, the mother of his two teenage children. "Nothing has had an effect, nothing gets done," she lamented. Bennett is not allowed food or clothing from outside the spartan prison at Mutoko, 150 kilometres northeast of Harare. He shares a cramped, filthy and lice-infested cell with 38 convicts who sleep on the floor with a single blanket each. Their meals comprise a teacup of rice or beans served with cabbage gruel twice a day. Bennett's wife is permitted to see him through a fence once every two weeks for just 10 minutes, though she managed to stretch out the last visit to 30 minutes. Mugabe's government and prison authorities "are not in a conciliatory mood," said Bennett's campaign.
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Zim Online (SA), 18 December
Put on wrong outfit in Bulawayo, and you are off to the cells

Bulawayo - A keen sense of fashion is fast becoming a necessary survival skill for women shoppers in Zimbabwe's second largest city here. These days, venturing into downtown Bulawayo wearing the "wrong outfit" in the eyes of the police can easily land women shoppers in cells. The Zimbabwe Republic Police, desperate to clear the streets of illegal foreign currency dealers has deployed plain clothes and uniformed officers to arrest suspects. But the police must first catch culprits physically exchanging money before they can arrest them - an almost impossible scenario given the deep secrecy with which illegal money changers carry out their activities. But an equally easy solution as far as the police here are concerned. For easy identification by their clients, illicit money changers, most of them women, prefer to wear certain trendy outfits. For example, the attire in vogue these days among women illegal forex traders in Bulawayo are tailored denim skirts worn with multi-coloured tops with or without a lacy white head scarf.
And that is what the police simply look for before pouncing on and arresting their victims. Because the Foreign Currency Exchange Control Act requires that only suspects caught in the act changing money illegally can be charged, police simply resort to the archaic Miscellaneous Offences Act to make their charges stick. Under section 3 (g) of the colonial Act, Zimbabweans can be fined for blocking pavements and that is the section under which suspected money changers are charged. But in the process of rounding up the money changers, innocent shoppers have been caught and harassed by the police simply because they wore the wrong dress to town. As Sinini Moyo narrated to Zim Online: "I was walking from a movie house when a police officer stopped me and said I was a money changer. He said I dressed like them (foreign currency dealers.) But he later changed and accused me of blocking the pavement."
Suspects are fined Z$25 000 for blocking pavements. Sources at Bulawayo Central Police Station where the shoppers are detained told Zim Online the force was collecting an average of Z$3.5 million a day from the pavement blockers. And men have also fallen foul of the police's new and certainly legally questionable tactic of ridding Bulawayo of illegal money changers. For example, Mandlenkosi Sibanda, who is an accountant with one of the country's biggest accounting firms, says he was picked up for blocking the pavement while talking to a friend outside a supermarket. Suspects who fail to pay the fines are detained in overcrowded cells until they pay up. And another, who would only identify himself as Msipha said: "I spent four days in detention for allegedly blocking the pavement. I was arrested when I was about to enter a supermarket to buy some groceries." But occasionally, the officers are on target and pick up the foreign currency dealers. Lungile Moyo admits she changes money downtown. Moyo has been arrested several times but vows she will never abandon the World Bank as Bulawayo's foreign currency black-market is known in local parlance. She said: "It is not easy to pay a bribe or pay a fine everyday. But I have an ill husband who needs about $56 000 for tablets every month. And I have children to look after. I have no option but to stick to money changing which I know."
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Basil February a hero to friend and foe

    December 19 2004 at 02:38PM

By Nicky Van Driel

A small group of former Rhodesian British South Africa Police (BSAP) members, now living in South Africa, have taken the unprecedented step of revealing the circumstances in which Umkhonto weSizwe guerrilla Basil February died.

Their dramatic account recalls a farm labourer alerting people to February's presence on the farm and that his last words, actions and instincts were to protect a white farmer's wife and children before he was shot dead in Figtree, near Bulawayo, on Tuesday August 15 1967.

February was a brilliant student who had left the University of Cape Town's medical school in his second year to join the military wing of the ANC. It was the early 1960s, and the repression of the apartheid government at Sharpeville and Langa had prompted most groups in the liberation movement to recognise that freedom was possible only through the barrel of the gun.

'I did not come here to kill women and children'
In 1964, February left the country with James April, his best friend and comrade. They trained together in the ANC's camps in Africa and spent a year at a military academy in Czechoslovakia.

Much mystery had surrounded February's death in Rhodesia. Adding to the mystique is the fact that February was the first coloured MK guerrilla to fall in the struggle for freedom.

He is remembered in popular history for the sacrifice he made and the fact that he transformed himself from an intellectual into a freedom fighter. February and April were the first coloured MK guerrillas and were part of the Luthuli detachment.

Lennox Lagu, also known as General Tshali, was the commander of the Luthuli detachment and Chris Hani was the political commissar. On July 31 1967 the Luthuli detachment joined forces with the Zimbabwean African People's Union (Zapu) and crossed the Zambezi River from Zambia into Rhodesia.

Zapu was fighting the white minority regime of prime minister Ian Smith and was en route to set up a base at Lupane in northeast Rhodesia. The ANC guerrillas were on a long march home to South Africa, where they hoped to resuscitate political activity after the severe repression of the 1960s.

The BSAP version of his death differs from Al J Venter's
Although the ANC-Zapu guerrillas had entered Rhodesian soil on August 1, their presence was detected only on August 10, when one ANC guerrilla was caught near Lukozi Bridge.

The captured guerrilla, during interrogation at Wankie, gave the impression that he was one of a group of only seven. The Rhodesian authorities were thus unaware that 79 guerrillas had crossed the Zambezi into Rhodesia.

After entering Rhodesian soil, the guerrillas marched through the Wankie Game Reserve, hoping to avoid detection. The guerrillas, although well trained and prepared, encountered two main problems: a lack of food and water, and poor compasses. After marching for about a week, the big unit split into two and pursued their separate goals.

February accompanied the Lupane-bound group and April the South African-bound group, which were meant to rendezvous in the Western Cape.

The last time ANC guerrillas saw February alive was when they assisted him to board a train at a siding. It was said that he had a special mission and would contact the ANC guerrillas in two months' time. February boarded the train with a pistol and left his Uzi machine-gun behind with the other guerrillas.

This is what the former BSAP members said happened afterwards: "On a Saturday night, August 12 1967, February asked the night railway guard at Dett railway station about trains into Bulawayo.

The railway guard became suspicious; February looked white and something did not add up. The police constable on night duty was called, and after a discussion with February, they all agreed to go across to the Dett police mess, where a group of four Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (Patu) members were asleep on the verandah.

"As the constable stepped onto the verandah, February drew his pistol, shot the unarmed railway guard twice in the stomach and then fired twice at the constable, who fell to the floor and feigned death. February then escaped.

"Two of the Patu members awoke during the commotion and pursued February. Halfway down the road, the Patu member in first pursuit of February turned to his colleague behind him and said: 'Let's go back, this is a terrorist, he has mistakenly dropped a grenade in the road'.

"The two returned to the armoury and fetched their weapons, which were locked away. On their return, they met a herd of buffalo in the road and could go no further. In the meanwhile, it seems February stole a bicycle. Later, the two Patu members saw a vehicle leaving Dett and the driver waved at them. Thinking it was a railway employee, they waved back, only to discover that the driver was February, in a vehicle he had stolen.

"Thus a roadblock was set up between Bulawayo and Lupane. On Sunday morning, February managed to burst through the roadblock and head for Bulawayo. Two highway patrolmen were dispatched in pursuit. At one stage they almost collided with him, but the description of the wanted vehicle and the one they narrowly missed differed, so the patrolmen decided to forgo chasing the errant driver. Only later did they realise it was one and the same vehicle they were looking for.

"The police in Bulawayo and the surrounding areas were put on high alert. The stolen vehicle was found the following day in the lower end of Bulawayo, near the Mzilikazi township.

"On Monday August 14 there were reports of a possible guerrilla presence towards the Matopas area. Patu was sent to do a follow-up. It was surmised that the guerrillas were moving towards the Figtree area - the boots they wore had a unique eight-pattern on the sole. Farmers in the Figtree, Marula and Matopas areas were alerted and they commenced checking their farms.

"On Tuesday August 15 a farm labourer in the Figtree area reported a suspicious spoor to the farmer. The local police and farmers joined in and commenced a search of the farm.

In the meanwhile, February had entered the homestead and demanded to know from the wife and young children where the farmer was, to which the farmer's wife replied: 'Out there looking for you!' February replied: 'I did not come here to kill women and children.' He demanded that the farmer's wife make him breakfast. By then, the search party realised that the eight-pattern spoor led back to the farmhouse.

"As February finished eating, they heard the sound of the approaching patrol. He then told the farmer's wife to take her children and go down the passage and hide. He then walked to the glass French doors, drew his sidearm and fired on the patrol. He was in full view and made no attempt to hide. One shot was fired in return by the senior policeman present and Basil February was killed."

The BSAP version of February's death differs to that of Al J Venter, who said: "He [February] was killed by Rhodesian security forces after a day-long battle which involved hundreds of men, as well as jet fighters of the Rhodesian air force.

Afterwards, the Rhodesians commented on the group's determination and in particular February's bravery in the face of terrifying odds. (From Al J Venter, The Zambezi Salient: Conflict in Southern Africa [Cape Town, Howard Timmins, 1974] pp. 77-78).

If we are to believe the BSAP version, then the truth is that, when faced with a life-and-death situation, February's first instinct was to protect the white farmer's wife and children.

This was not lost on the BSAP members. At the end of my interviews with Lionel Baker, who was a member of the Patu sleeping on the verandah at Dett, and another who chased February on foot, both said February was a hero who did not want the white farmer's wife and children to be hurt, a true gentleman who had lived by the same standards used by the BSAP.

However, not all ex-BSAP members hold this view. After reading the written reconstruction of February's death, Rob Hamilton, the chairperson of the BSAP Regimental Association (Natal), noted: "February was carrying arms of war in a foreign country, having entered illegally for the purpose of furthering the cause of the banned South African organisations. Being armed with a machine-gun and explosives, clearly his purpose was such that he could be expected to kill innocent civilians if confronted.

"Had he survived, he would have been charged and prosecuted with attempted murder, car theft and, of course, charges elating to his unlawful terrorist activities."

Baker argues that February did not want to be arrested as he thought he had killed the police constable at the Dett police station. February was unaware that the railway guard had only sustained an abdominal injury.

At the end of August 1967, April was arrested and convicted in Botswana for the illegal possession of weapons. Along with Hani and other comrades of the Luthuli detachment, he later served a 15-year sentence on Robben Island from 1971.

February still lives on in the hearts and dreams of many people. One morning, April told me of his dream the night before: he met February and they were overjoyed to see each other.

February told him that he had not really died in Rhodesia. Instead he had got lost in the bush, where he had lived for the past 20 years or so. He had decided to come home after all.

    • This article was originally published on page 6 of Sunday Independent on December 19, 2004
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GHANA  18/12/2004 13:35
Politics/Economy, Brief

Chilli pepper has proved to be more effective and also much cheaper than costly electric fencing in protecting crops from attack by hungry elephants. Invented in Zimbabwe, the technique has now been applied successfully in Ghana to resolve a long-running dispute between farmers living on the edge of the Kakum national park in the centre of the country and elephants in the reserve. The latter were in the habit of raiding the crops grown by the 600 families living in roughly 40 villages a few kilometres outside the boundary of the park, which represent their only source of food and income. Consequently, over the years cases of elephant killings and poaching have been on the rise. However, it seems that it has been sufficient to hang lengths of cloth soaked in oil and red chilli pepper around the fields to keep the animals away. “It is a simple and cost-efficient method that many farmers in this area are now eager to take up," said Yaw Osei-Owusi of Conservation International, who is working on the project together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the government of Accra.[LC]
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