News - March 2008





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Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

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Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror

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NEW - Letters from the diaspora - click here

Unchartered water

Sunday 30th March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
We finally arrived at the March 29th elections in typical Zimbabwean splendour. It was a glorious day with a clear, bright blue sky, a warm sun and everywhere an overwhelmingly positive feeling. The mood was one of anticipation and relief that at last this momentous day had arrived and it would surely mark the turning point and define the future of Zimbabwe.

Voting started with long queues at a few polling stations in my home area but nothing even remotely similar to the elections of 2002 and 2005 when we had waited for ten or more hours to vote. This time people waited for short periods and by mid day the queues had reduced considerably. The actual voting process was efficient and streamlined and many polling stations were completely deserted by early afternoon - hours before the close of the election.

At 7am on the 30th March, 12 hours after polling stations had closed and counting had been underway, there was still no official information or any election results.

By 11 am, 16 hours into the counting process numerous phone calls had come in from excited, exhausted people telling of major opposition wins but still no official announcements were forthcoming. On the government controlled ZBC television there were no analysts, commentators or even news stories of Zimbabwe's most crucial election. Finally at midday a short announcement was made by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. They said results were being collated and verified and would be announced in "due course."

As I write this letter the polls have been closed and counting has been underway for over 27 hours and still not a single official result from even one constituency has been announced. Tallying results publicly displayed at individual polling stations, the MDC have declared that they have a strong advantage. British Foreign Secretary Lord Malloch Brown has said that it is "quite likely that Mr Mugabe has lost the election" and Pan African Election Observers are expressing growing concern at the lack of official results.

As each hour passes without any official results, anxiety and suspicions are growing. We are in uncharted water. Never before has there been a complete media blackout after an election. We can do nothing but hope and pray that somehow we will emerge from this with a true and honest reflection of the will of the people. Perhaps by the time you read this letter the facts will be known, I hope so.
Until next time, love cathy.

No question

Easter Sunday - 23rd March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
When Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF came to power in April 1980, inflation in the newly named Zimbabwe was 7%.

Twenty years later, Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF were still in power and in June 2000 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Farm invasions had been underway for nearly four months and inflation was at 59,3%. A standard loaf of bread cost sixteen dollars, a single banana was four dollars and a dozen eggs were thirty five dollars. Zanu PF retained power in the elections.

In March 2002 Presidential elections were held in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe was again the candidate for the ruling party and had just turned 78. Farm invasions were continuing, companies and businesses had been invaded and inflation was 113%. Maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and margarine were not available in shops and a dozen eggs cost a hundred and fifty dollars. Mr Mugabe was declared the winner of the elections.

In April 2005 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Zanu PF and Mr Mugabe had been in power for 25 years, factories were closing or relocating to other countries. Most commercial farms had been taken over and inflation was at 129%. Daily electricity cuts of 2-4 hours were commonplace, fuel queues stretched to many hundreds of vehicles and the shops were bare of sugar, salt, margarine and other basics. A loaf of bread cost four thousand dollars and a single banana was one thousand dollars. Zanu PF were declared the winners of the election.

In November 2005 elections were held for the previously disbanded Senate. Inflation in the country was at 502% and a loaf of bread cost twenty thousand dollars.

On the 29th of March 2008 Zimbabwe will hold combined Parliamentary, Presidential, Senate and Municipal elections. Mr Mugabe is 84 years old and is again standing as the head of the party. Zanu PF have been in power 28 years. Inflation stands at over 100 thousand percent. Electricity cuts last for 16 hours a day at least, water is rare, fuel only obtainable to people with US dollars. Shops are empty of all goods. A loaf of bread costs 7 million dollars (actually 7 billion dollars as three zeroes were removed from the currency.) A dozen eggs costs 36 million dollars (actually 36 billion dollars) and a single banana is 3 million (actually 3 billion dollars).

There is no question who to vote for in a few days time. We must vote for ourselves, our children and our physical survival.The time is now, the power is in our hands.
Until next time, love cathy.

Not too late

Saturday 15th March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
A Zimbabwean in the Diaspora phoned me this week and told me how desperately she longs to come home. She misses everything so much: familiar faces and beautiful places, old friends and casual acquaintances, the overwhelming friendliness of people and of course the glorious climate and magnificent countryside. She asked me how things were now in Zimbabwe and I replied that they are very bad, and still getting worse. You cannot really describe what a hundred thousand percent inflation looks like, or shops without food or hospitals without medicine. My friend, like so many others that have been struggling to survive these years in exile in foreign countries, wonders when she will be able to come home. She says she meets Zimbabweans all the time and always the talk is of home and plans for the day when they can return. Everyone wonders if it will be soon, asks if March 2008 will finally see an end to the need for exile.

My friend asked if anything was as she remembered it at home and I looked out of the window. On the surface and for a few minutes nothing at all had changed. The sun is still bright and the sky blue; babblers and bulbuls splash in the birdbath; the Msasa trees are covered in new pods and the wild orange trees in hard, green, cricket-ball fruits. In the canopy of trees overhead the voice of an Oriole sings out again and again and a Paradise Flycatcher, still with its long orange breeding tail, flits backwards and forwards. Children still play on the streets with home made footballs and roll bicycle rims along dusty paths. On the roadside women still sit selling tomatoes and avocadoes that they've carefully arranged into pyramids. Some even have a few ground nuts for sale but like most things they are a luxury - an enamel cupful for two and a half million dollars tipped into a newspaper cone. The ordinary people are still the same too, friendly, courteous, smiling, welcoming and generous.

After the conversation with my friend, I felt so sad about this great extended family of Zimbabweans now living away from home. Such trauma we have all been through these past nine years - those of us who have stayed and those who have gone. But we still have one thing in common and that is that now, after nine years of struggle, we have all had enough. Now it is time for families to be reunited, communities to be rebuilt and for Zimbabwe to stand straight, tall and proud again. It is not too late.

I close with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
"When I despair I always remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall, always."
Until next time, thanks for reading, with love cathy.

Cauldron bubble

Saturday 1st March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

"Double double, toil and trouble;
fire burn and cauldron bubble."

These two lines from Macbeth are particularly appropriate for Zimbabwe this week as elections draw nearer and the ruling party condemn their opponents, point accusing fingers and talk of witches, political prostitutes and charlatans.

Two minutes before President Mugabe stepped up to the podium to launch his party's election manifesto, the electricity came back on in my home town. It had been off for the past ten hours in a week where it's been off more than on.
Wearing a black and red baseball cap and a green shirt covered with pictures of himself on it, Mr Mugabe leant on the podium and looked out at the audience.
Many of them were also wearing clothes decorated with Mr Mugabe's face and they waved little paper flags as their leader raised his clenched fist.

"Pasi na Morgan!" (Down with Morgan Tsvangirai) He called out and waited for the traditional echoed, damning response.
"Pasi na Makoni!" (Down with Simba Makoni) he shouted next and again the response was immediate. This then was the start of yet another angry, divisive, Zanu PF campaign - nothing new for our beleaguered country and people here.

The posters in the stands expose the prevailing Zanu PF thinking nine years into our country's deep crisis: "No to Sanctions!" said one; "See the revolution through Cde R.G. Mugabe!" said another. "They only give sanctions not freedom!"
proclaimed a third but none offered solutions to a hundred thousand percent inflation, no food in the shops, scarce electricity and water or a quarter of the population living in exile around the world. The Zanu PF theme for the coming elections is: "Defending our land and sovereignty."

Mr Mugabe spoke for an hour and a half - about the past, the Independence struggle, religion, the old days and at one point went into a lengthy aside about the fact that he couldn't speak French and neither could anyone in his offices. The audience were largely quiet during the ninety minutes and there were few interruptions for cheers or clapping - that is until the insults began.
The crowd came to life when Mr Mugabe started condemning his opponents. Portly women and big bellied men roared with laughter, ululated and applauded when the President called on them to: "Reject the bootlicking British stooges, the political witches and political prostitutes."

Ten minutes after the end of the live Zanu PF election campaign launch, the electricity went off and everything shuddered to a stop again. One thing stayed in my mind from Mr Mugabe's speech and that was his statement that "every child must go back to school." The words are a far, far cry from the reality of this weekend in education in Zimbabwe. Across the country our children have come home for half term with additional accounts for "Top-Up" school fees. Most schools face imminent collapse this term as they cannot cope with over a hundred thousand percent inflation. The Top Ups range from thirty million for children at rural government schools to hundreds of millions for urban schools and billions for some private schools. Children whose parents are unable to pay the extra fees before Tuesday will not be allowed back into school. At the same time government school teachers are about to go on strike. Their salaries are not even enough to buy basic food. One heartbreaking report this week tells of teachers at a rural primary school signing up for emergency food aid. They say it is embarrassing to have to do so and they are being laughed at but it is better than fainting in class.

This is a tragic state of affairs for a country whose education was always a shining beacon in the whole of Southern Africa. We can only hope and pray that come March 29th we can begin repairing the damage and restore our teachers to their rightful places of dignity and respect in our society.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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