Zimbabwe News letter to friends from Cathy Buckle
- This week


Prisoner of conscience

Saturday 10th July 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
A blackheaded Oriole is sitting in an avocado pear tree in my garden as I write this letter on a wintry Saturday morning. The electricity has been off for a couple of days, the fridge has defrosted, the milk gone sour and the geyser has long since run cold.

The bird's loud voice consists of a single, short, sharp call described in the bird book as: 'kleeu.' Again and again it calls: demanding attention and earning admiration. It takes a little while to locate the bright yellow belly and glossy black head of the bird amongst the leaves but when you do the search is worthwhile. Feeding on the soft green flesh of the avocado, the bird seems completely unconcerned at being watched. He scrapes away at the fruit with his pink bill, stopping to listen and then to call every few minutes and the magnificence of the oriole dissolves anger and frustration at a Zimbabwe still so far from being right.

As I stand watching the Oriole I can't help thinking of the strange and disturbing things going on around us this winter. A constitutional outreach programme riddled with intimidation, confusion and disruption as teams try to get opinions from a population still deeply fearful after a decade of being repeatedly punished for daring to differ and to strive for change.

Equally disturbing and out of sight but not out of mind is the case of Farai Maguwu. Head of the Centre for Research and Development, he was investigating and highlighting human rights violations at the Chiadzwa diamond mines. Mr Maguwu has now been held in detention without trail for over a month and is apparently to be charged with 'endangering Zimbabwe's economic interests.'

This week Amnesty International called for the release of Mr Maguwu but so far their words have fallen on deaf ears. Amnesty said that Mr Maguwu was: " being persecuted for carrying out his lawful work of monitoring and documenting alleged human rights violations by security forces at some of Zimbabwe's richest diamond fields." Amnesty International say that they consider Mr Maguwu to be a 'prisoner of conscience' and it is with a sense of despair and helplessness that we watch and wait to know the fate of a man who dared expose what's been happening in the dirty scramble for diamonds.

Diamonds, would I wear one knowing people have died for it - not a chance.

It remains to be seen if the Chiadzwa diamonds will be Zimbabwe's salvation or her downfall.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

Where's that fire engine?

Saturday 3rd July 2010


Dear Family and Friends,
For the last decade we've been struggling to get local municipal councils to provide the services we pay them for. Services like clean and continuous supplies of water; garbage removal; road repairs and street lighting. Sadly, despite the election of MDC councillors to run our towns and cities two years ago, very little has changed. Services in the majority of urban areas remain erratic, elusive or simply non existent. Local councils complain of operations having being sabotaged, of town assets having been looted, of previous office bearers refusing to hand back council property and of massive political infiltration and faction fighting tearing our councils apart.

Zimbabweans have become very adept at 'making a plan' to cope with non existent municipal services and then living in the safety-bubble created around their own homes - thereby absolving the municipalities from doing the jobs we pay them to do.

Its very common to see people dumping wheelbarrow and truck loads of garbage on the roadside; trucks pumping up bowser loads of water from steams and rivers; vehicles compacting tracks in the grass parallel to existing roads which are so littered with potholes and gullies that they have become unusable. When a funeral is planned relations have to go the cemetery the day before with grass slashers and rakes to clear a path for mourners to use in order to get to the graveside. At a cemetery near my home the grass is eight foot tall, graves are invisible amongst the weeds, fences and signposts have gone, rotting household garbage, broken glass, condoms and car wrecks adorn the road and surroundings. Amongst this squalor lie the graves of the great men and women who built up the town. A welling of shame rises in your throat as you clamber through the jungle and the filth in order to pay respect to friends and relations long gone.

There is, however, a note of tragic humour in this sorry state of affairs. Every month we pay what is called a fire levy on our municipal bills - supposedly for the upkeep of the fire engine and equipment needed to fight fires. This week the fire engine in my home town has been very visible. Everyone's talking about repeated sightings of the fire engine racing around town - ladders, hoses and all. Not putting out fires though, instead confiscating the wares of roadside vendors and apprehending people they accuse of trading without licences. And this is being done with the town's one and only fire engine. It doesn't bear thinking what will happen when there's a real fire to put out.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy


   

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OTHER LETTERS:

A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


OTHER REPORTS:

Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

QUICK LINKS:
THE ZIMBABWEAN
SW RADIO AFRICA
Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation

 

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The soul of Zimbabwe

Saturday 24th July 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
Oh to be in Zimbabwe when spring is in the air, what a gorgeous place it is. The cold of winter has almost gone and the wind is running through golden grass, preparing to lift up and shake off last year's dusty leaves. White Helmetshrikes and Glossy Starlings are back in our gardens, Cardinal Woodpeckers are tapping in the trees while Hoopoes spend their days stabbing termites in dry, dusty, scratchy lawns. In the highveld bush the Lucky Bean trees have lost all their leaves and are covered in spectacular red flowers. The pods on the Msasa trees are turning dark chocolate brown and starting to crack, preparing to spit seeds in all directions. Lining the streets of so many towns, the Bauhinia trees are bursting with pink and white flowers and the leaves on the Jacarandas have all gone yellow and are about to fall.

This year another dramatic aspect of our beautiful Zimbabwe is lining roads everywhere as hundreds of miles of trenches are being dug for a communication cable. It is breathtaking to see the magnificent patchwork of colours of soil piled in heaps along the road. Yellow, beige, orange, red, brown, grey, black: it leaves you feeling as if you've seen into the very soul of Zimbabwe.

Sadly, however, all is not beautiful as spring arrives and our chance in a lifetime constitution making process has turned into a shambles. Every day the reports just get worse and worse. The words used by one senior official to describe the outreach programme, expose the truth of the story: tension, friction, hostile, ugly. We hear of public meetings turning into shouting matches, of people being abducted, assaulted, kidnapped and of villagers being frog marched, intimidated and commandeered. Then there are reports of COPAC (constitutional outreach) drivers and technicians threatening to stop work as they say they aren't getting the pay they were promised. Other reports tell of hotels evicting COPAC personnel or refusing to give them meals due to massive unpaid bills.

In a country where over 90% of the population is unemployed and civil servants only earn 160 US dollars a month, its hard to find perspective in this whole mess. One report tells of COPAC technicians being very disgruntled at only receiving 55 US dollars a day for their services and another 15 a day for their meals. For teachers with degrees surviving on less than 5 US dollars a day, it doesn't really make sense - does it?
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

A festering antheap

Saturday 17th July 2010

Dear Family and Friends,
When businessman Temba Mliswa was arrested and charged a couple of weeks ago for allegedly seizing shares worth US$1 million in a local company, our eyebrows went up. Having been right up there at the top of the indigenous empowerment actors, Mliswa had obviously stepped on someone's toes. Was this the beginning of something big, we wondered, could it really be possible that Zanu PF were going to bring down one of their own? A big fuss ensued as one of the others accused in the case was Martin Mutasa, the son of Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa. Newly appointed MDC co Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makoni went to the aid of Minister Mutasa and that caused even more of a stir and the worms have continued pouring out of the can ever since.

Moments after being released on bail, Mliswa was arrested again; more charges had been raised and he was taken back into custody. This time the charges related to farms and involve generators, tractors, bulldozers, trucks and cattle. Was someone finally going to be held to account for the decade long looting of assets, livestock and equipment from commercial farms we wondered?

At the he earliest opportunity, Mliswa started squealing. In the brand new independent daily paper, Newsday, came the tantalizing headlines: 'Mliswa spills the beans... implicates Chihuri, Chiwenga.' The former being Zimbabwe's Commissioner of Police, the latter being the wife of the commander of the Defence Forces.

The next day NewsDay's front page was even juicier: "Chihuri threatens Temba Mliswa."

At the time of writing there are apparently more than 70 charges hanging over Mliswa's head and possibly more to come.

The real question is whether the sudden rash of charges against Temba Mliswa is a serious case of police investigation into the looting of farms or if dirty politics is really behind this matter.

The most famous, or infamous statement used by the police for not investigating incidents and reports from farmers for the last decade is :"it is political." Behind these three little words are hidden hundreds of thousands of reports from farmers. Reports that involve illegal entry, breaking and entry, theft, stock theft, malicious damage, abduction, extortion, beating, arson, rape, murder and many, many more.

Just one lawyer interviewed on SW Radio Africa said that he personally had over 600 cases relating to farms that have been pending for over five years.

Temba Mliswa is the tip of a gigantic antheap. An antheap that is festering underground, hot and humid and crammed with a seething mass of criminals, small, big and very big. Is their day finally coming?

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

 
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