Tuesday, September 26, 2006

With Mugabe's approval, police quash another demo

In what has been widely condemned as the state's approval of police cruelty, Mugabe berated Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders for crying foul after police brutalized them for their attempted demonstrations last week. Speaking at an official event during a stopover on his way back from Cuba and New York, Mugabed raged at the demonsrators accusing them of putting on a charade for western media to document,
The President said the ZCTU leaders — who were beaten up by police for holding an illegal gathering in Harare — got the treatment they deserved for ignoring warnings to disperse.

"We cannot have a situation where people decide to sit in places not allowed and when the police remove them, they say no. We can’t have that, that is a revolt to the system. Vamwe vaakuchema kuti takarohwa, ehe unodashurwa. When the police say move, move. If you don’t move, you invite the police to use force," the President said.
And as if they had planned it ahead, the police did it again.
27 people on Monday were left with bruises after police in Harare crushed a protest march by the pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). Demonstrations, which took part in several cities last Wednesday, had failed to take place in Harare due to heavy police presence.

Dr Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the NCA, said the impromptu strike action which was attended by around 300 people was to make the people of Harare go back to the streets and regain their confidence as the police blocked the protests last week. He said; “The objective is to raise awareness and putting pressure on the government.”

Police are said to have started beating the protesters who were not resisting but merely sat on the road. There were no arrests. Madhuku believes it was a well calculated plot by the authorities not to arrest anyone so as to create the impression that there were very few people in the streets. He also said perhaps it was coinciding with the return of Robert Mugabe who was returning home from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
All this does is instill tremendous amounts of fear in an already fearful lay population in Zimbabwe. One of the things Mugabe's propaganda has done extremely well is overmagnifying the consequences of opposing them whilst underplaying or downright ignoring the progress made by activists for a better Zimbabwe. Ultimately, as ordinary Zimbabweans engage in the cost-benefit analysis of whether it's worth the risk of going out on the streets, there are huge disincentives for the people to be involved in street protest. We cannot forget the plain reality here; at just 7 years of age, the MDC has attained heights scaled by no other opposition party in Zimbabwe. And despite Mugabe's constant belittling, the NCA and ZCTU are still out there for the people. Don't forget the other civic activists braving assured police torture on a daily basis either.

As for the Bull Conner like government, their time is fast approaching. They too, like their infamous predecessor will realize that just the most violent beatings, the most inhumane punishment, and the most demeaning things they can do and say will not take away from the people of Zimbabwe that which the government didn't give; our God-given right to freedom and dignity. Pretty soon, the people will have nothing left to fear anymore. In Why we can't wait, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. describes Mugabe's impending reality,
When for decades you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you an says: "Punish me. I do accept it so that the world will know that I am right and you are wrong," you hardly konw what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed. You know that this man is as good a man as you are; that from the some mysterious source he has found te courage and the conviction to meet meet physical force with soul force." p.16
It's only a matter of time....

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  • Monday, September 25, 2006

    Zimbabwe from a different perpective

    Ethan Zuckerman, one of my bosses at the award winning Global Voices project has just returned from a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. As can be expected of Ethan, he invested a lot time in chronicling his experiences inside Zimbabwe's boarders. Go over and read his posts on his time in Zimbabwe here, here, here, here, here, and here.

    Like PRI's Sheri Fink, Ethan is surprised to find that we continue to survive in Zimbabwe despite massive odds stacked against us. Life in Zimbabwe seems more tranquil than circumstances warrant. Ethan explains that the apparent reticence to rebel is due to the stretchability and adaptability of my country men and women, a phenomenon he labels "makeaplan."
    But Zimbabweans may also be avoiding the demonstrations because it’s just so hard to keep their families sheltered and fed. Operation Murambatsvina may have displaced as many as 2.4 million families from their homes; bread shortages are forcing the government to release hard currency to import wheat; petrol shortages make transport so expensive that some people can’t commute to work any more. These privations might inspire revolution in some countries. In Zimbabwe, it inspires people to “make a plan”.

    The phrase is said as a single word - “makeaplan” - and reflects the incredible resilience of the Zimbabwean people. Power cuts mean the kids cannot study their books? Send the kids over to one house and light lamps, conserving expensive lamp oil. Can’t afford transport to your village? Trucks leaving Harare stop and load passengers on top of their loads, taking money to help with petrol costs. People who can’t afford prescription medicines - in short supply because of the currency crisis - make friends with people who travel to South Africa, who can smuggle medicines over the border.

    Walking into town one morning, trying to find a taxi, I find myself in step with two young men walking to work. They tell me the taxis don’t come by here any more - it uses too much petrol to cruise for passengers - and encourage me to walk for another half an hour, into downtown, where I might find a cab. “It’s good exercise,” they tell me. “Look how strong we’ve become,” they say, laughing.

    It’s amazing what you can accomplish by making a plan. My friend Kennedy Mavhumashava talks about a story she recently wrote for a Panos website. Despite AIDS donors deciding to cut programs in Zimbabwe, HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe is falling, both in the adult population and in mother to child transmission. What’s astonishing about this is that Zimbabwe spends much, much less on HIV care than other countries. Well-funded nations like Botswana spend $74 per patient per year - Zimbabwe spends $4.

    Every once in a while, a few people in my reading audience, will, having been captivated by the grotesque realities of life in Zimbabwe, ask me why we can tolerate so much anguish. There it is then. Explained and illustrated better than I've been able to articulate it all the times I have tried.

    Don't mistake the Zimbabweans' "makeaplan" abilities for an improvement in the dire circumstances in Zimbabwe; life in Zimbabwe is horrible. There's no denying it. It's just that the numerous dialectics in play in the Zimbabwean crisis make it difficult to adopt a mon0logical stance on my country. Post's like this one have elicited passionate responses from some in my readership who equate my documentation of what what the people on the ground are thinking to tacit support for the regime. I'm just calling them like I see them.

    Zimbabweans are among some of the most resilient people in the world, sometimes to our own detriment. As much as our victimization by Mugabe pilories his reputation, our own resourcefulness is the crutch by which his regime is propped up. Now I'm beginning to wonder should we be less resourceful then to catalyse the regimes demise? Should the majority in Zimbabwe be incapable of defending themselves against the harsh realities that have become modus operandi in the country? How much worse do things need to get before we reach point break?

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  • Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Elevating the Struggle

    Barely a week after their counterparts from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions were arrested and tortured for demonstrating against the government, Lovemore Madhuku's National Constituitonal Assembly (NCA) have promised they'll be out on the streets today. From Zimonline,
    Zimbabwe’s National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) civic alliance will today stage street protests in Harare and other major cities against alleged police torture of trade union leaders last week, ZimOnline has learnt.

    “We are not happy with the way the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leadership was brutally attacked (by the police),” said Madhuku. “There is anger out there but I cannot confirm when exactly the demonstrations will take place,” he added.

    NCA insiders said alliance leaders were not letting out the exact time protests will kick off in order to surprise the police, who are expected to again mount a similarly massive security operation as last week when they thwarted ZCTU-led worker protests.

    But they said more than 300 NCA activists were expected to march across Harare while almost similar numbers of protestors were expected in the cities of Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo and Kadoma.

    In our repressive situation, I have no information yet of how the demonstration is going thus far. That's not what is most important to me though. Here's what I find interesting; that the NCA will purpotedly be on the streets in protest of what they know the police did to the ZCTU, and more importantly they're going to be on the street despite their knowledge of what they know will happen. That, is called defiance and marks a new horizon in the Zimbabwean struggle for the restoration of our democracy.

    I am not waxing nostalgic over nothing here. I know that every time we've had a protest in Zimbabwe, the government has always come out threatening, with actions to back up their words too. So there is a sense in which every protest that has gone on in Zimbabwe has been defiant. What I'm talking about here is something different though. Right after the ZCTU protest was crushed last week, the MDC came out and said that their march is still on. Now NCA is doing the same. What is more is that ZCTU went into last weeks protest knowing their march had been banned by government! See the trend, it is called defiance, but it's to detriment of the leaders who are doing so. That is something refreshingly new.

    I have long criticised for the opposition movement in Zimbabwe for excercising restrained opposition. I've called them out for engaging the diabolic forces that are dominating Zimbabwe only as far as it was at no personal peril. Now it seems our leaders are maturing in their leadership of the people. We the people follow their lead, we'll only engage in the struggle only as much as they do. If they show restraint, we have to do likewise. And if they don't, it allows us to sell out to the cause of our democracy. That's why I mantain that the struggle has elevated to a new level. We've long been waiting for the leaders to do this.

    So despite its success or failure, today's NCA protest together with that of the ZCTU from last week and that which is to come from the MDC will go down in my book as the markers of new heights in the fight for Zimbabwe. Enough! Zvakwana! Sokwanele!

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  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    Eddie Cross: A week in time

    A week is a long time in politics.

    Sometimes it is quite hard to keep track of all that is going on in this small corner of the world that is so important to us who live here. Must be doubly difficult for those who live “out there”. If you take the past week for example, the main points that we might record are as follows: -

    Inflation rose in August to 28 per cent for the month – raising the annual average so far to 1204 per cent. This is dramatically up on the figure for July and the IMF followed this with a brief report that said that inflation was out of control and might reach 4000 per cent in 2007. On the ground the CEO of Dairibord was arrested when he raised the price of milk and the CIO started raids on the homes of senior executives of other companies alleging price fixing and profiteering. After claiming that fuel at controlled prices (Z$330 per litre) would be available, prices rose today to about Z$1000 a litre at retail outlets – local commuter transport charges rose by a third

    The Deputy Minister of Mines reiterated that the State was determined to take 51 per cent of the equity in all mining concerns. Although the mining industry remained silent in the face of this threat, with the sole exception of the Zimplats operation, it now looks as if the rest of the industry will simply sit tight and await developments. All major maintenance and expansion is on hold and will remain so until the policy environment is clarified. Literally billions of US dollars of investment are on hold as a result. It is yet another example of Zanu PF stupidity and greed.

    The IMF announced that in their own view the Zimbabwe economy would contract by about 5 per cent again this year – bringing to 7 years the continuous decline in national economic output and coming on top of an over 7 per cent decline in 2005. In the same week the IMF and the World Bank raised their estimate of global expansion to 5,7 percent in 2006, citing strong growth in China and India and stronger performance in Africa. Global trade is growing strongly and the oil exporters are on a global spending spree that is helping offset the higher oil prices.

    The Minister of Agriculture, that nutty guy Made, accepted for the first time that we might be short of grain. He explained to a Committee of Parliament that the GMB did not have the required stocks to overcome a shortfall in imports. This after he has persistently claimed we had grown a large crop of maize and would reap over 200 000 tonnes of winter wheat. The reality is that we have grown a small crop of maize (about 700 000 to 800 000 tonnes) and cannot expect to reap more than a tiny wheat and barley crop – no more than about 50 000 tonnes or 15 per cent of our needs.

    What nobody has admitted is that the cotton crop – grown almost completely by small-scale farmers who are largely unaffected directly by the farm invasions, has declined by 30 per cent in a year of above average rainfall –a serious development. To emphasize the impact of this, the largest cotton spinner cut back production by 50 per cent last week and went onto short time. Clothing manufacturers were all rushing to try and find fabric to fill the hole in their programmes in advance of the Christmas season when demand is normally high.

    On the democratic front, the State announced last Monday in the form of adverts in the government owned press that Rural District Council elections would be held at the end of October and that candidates had to register by Friday morning. Just to make sure everyone had the opportunity to serve their communities, the compulsory police clearances needed by all prospective candidates had to be processed in Harare and would cost Z$2 000.00 (two million dollars in the “old” currency). Now remember there are nearly 2000 seats up for election in these Districts – many in the most remote corners of the country. The Nomination Courts would be held at all Rural District Council Offices in each District.

    The MDC had to find candidates, put them through selection procedures and clearance procedures, get their fingerprints done at local police stations and then send the prints to Harare by whatever means possible, get clearance and then get them back to the Districts in time for the applicants to submit their documents – which must include the new “long” birth certificates. All in 5 days! Well, that proved too much even for Zanu PF who knew of this plan well in advance and was working on candidates and we got an extension to Wednesday – another 3 working days. Still this makes a complete mockery of the democratic system – how on earth can people work within a system that is managed like this – we have not seen the voters roll and there has been very little voter registration activity.

    Then Mr. Mugabe commandeered a plane from Air Zimbabwe, leaving passengers stranded all over the world (as we only have one long distance aircraft flying) and flew to Cuba for the Non Aligned Movement summit. He was in good company as he stridently announced to the world that “democracy was stupid” and that the demand for adherence to democratic principle was an excuse for regime change in counties like his own. How right he is – if we had a real democracy here, he and his clowns would be history, voted into oblivion by the people.

    Just to endorse his view of the values of the rest of the world, the Minister of Information here said that “a free press would result in Zanu PF losing power” and this was why they were going to keep a tight grip on the press and the electronic media. We all knew that, but it was nice to have it confirmed by the regime itself.

    Just to confirm the character of the regime we had the spectacle on Wednesday of 40 000 baton wielding riot police backed up by at least 24 water cannon – most of them brand new, freshly trained by Chinese experts in freedom and democracy, chasing a few hundred Unionists and MDC leaders who were trying to deliver a document to the Minister of Labor. By my own tally, 260 people were arrested, many beaten in front of thousands of by standers and then taken off to Police Cells. There the leadership of the ZCTU was subjected to a brutal and savage beating. At least two – Lucie Mativenga and Wellington Chibebe were beaten about the head and have serious head injuries. They and others have broken arms and legs and crushed hands. We will find out who was responsible (not just the Ministers) and we will eventually get justice for those injured in this appalling action.

    A long overdue, but still welcome development was a strong statement from the traditional leaders of the Church in Zimbabwe calling for negotiations centered on a fresh vision of the future and to agree on a solution to the present crisis. This was echoed by voices abroad that said it was time to prepare for a post Mugabe era. We in the MDC agree with both sentiments but Mugabe remains obdurate and stuck in a morass of his own making.

    Finally, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, was on BBC World yesterday on a call-in programme called “Have your say”. The programme was recorded in South Africa because the BBC could not get a permit to enter Zimbabwe. I may be biased, but frankly I thought he was fantastic. It was just what those of us who have worked with the man for the past decade have come to respect. He came across as a man of compassion and intellect, a real human being who wanted the best for his country and its people. There was one “planted” e-mail from a group in Zimbabwe that came via Ireland, but the rest were genuine questions and I think they mostly got a good thoughtful response. It was like a breath of clean air after all the rest. Pity it’s only on DSTV and the great majority of Zimbabweans will not have had the chance (the very few such chances) to actually see the man who almost certainly will be our next President.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 18th September 2006

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  • Eddie Cross: Seven years of courage and determination

    Seven years ago I sat in the aquatic stadium in Chitungwiza and watched as 8000 ordinary Zimbabweans - mostly low-income workers and rural peasant farmers, formed a new political Party, which they called the "Movement for Democratic Change". It was the start of a new era in Zimbabwean politics.

    I seem to have been in opposition politics all my life. It started in the 60's when I was a student at the University in Harare and underwent a metamorphosis in political terms - discovering the conditions under which people were living and working and for the first time appreciating the
    unjustness of the situation. I vowed to work towards resolving the problem and spent the next 12 years in opposition politics - working against the Smith government.

    At independence in 1980 I was part of the transition team - working to help the incoming administration (Zanu or Zapu) to come to grips with what had been a closed book to the rest of the world for 13 years following the imposition of mandatory UN sanctions in 1967. I then worked on the first donor conference and did the background papers that laid the groundwork for a very successful transition in agriculture. Over the next 15 years the farm sector was Zimbabwe's most consistent performer.

    Although I sympathized with the forces that came to power in 1980, I always had an uneasy relationship with them even though I occupied quite senior positions in the first 8 years of Mr. Mugabe's rule. This was accentuated in 1983 when I was brought face to face with the early effects of the Gukurahundi exercise and raised my disquiet with the then Secretary to the Cabinet, Charles Utete. I went on to raise my concerns with certain European governments and got my first serious reprimand and threat from the Minister of State Security, Emerson Munangagwa.

    It was the beginning of the end for me - the last time I had been threatened by a Minister of Security, it was by a Minister in the Smith government who called me a "threat to national security". Somewhat exaggerated in my view at the time and also in retrospect, but as we have come to learn, political paranoia has no bounds.

    I eventually parted way with the regime here in 1990 and participated in various attempts to initiate real opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Those attempts culminated in the failed Forum Party and then came the action by the ZCTU.

    At the time I was Chairman of the Industrial Employers Committee for the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry and in that capacity watched over the issues that related to the working conditions of the 300 000 workers in industry. I met with the ZCTU leadership several times a year - usually at a labour summit that paved the way for subsequent detailed negotiations with over 30 trade unions. The ZCTU exhibited much more courage than the employer's organisation in confronting the real issues and early on stated that our growing economic difficulties were due to poor macro economic policies and management.

    Attempts by the Unions to get their voice heard fell on deaf ears and eventually they decided that they had to confront the ruling party in the one area where they had no choice but to listen - national politics.

    A long process then began that eventually led to the meeting I was attending 7 years ago today. I attended as an employer and curious bystander. It did not go unnoticed and shortly after the first Congress - I was invited to join the leadership as Secretary for Economic Affairs. I have remained in the leadership since then holding various positions and trying to help in the one field where I can contribute - that of policy formulation.

    None of us appreciated what we were letting ourselves in for that day. What followed has been, to some extent, the classical African nightmare: the collapse and implosion of post independence African economy that was handed over in reasonable condition by those who had run it before.

    I can recall visiting Ghana in 1983 - seeing first hand for the first time just what a lousy government can do. Subsequently I saw the situation in many other African States that we had never been able to visit before our own independence process. It was not a pleasant experience; I saw countries decimated by war and bad policies, massive corruption and the complete subordination of the people's will and welfare to the needs and greed of a tiny minority in power.

    But life does not stand still - Ghana is now a thriving democracy with a booming economy. Africa as a whole this year will grow at above the average growth for the global economy and generally experience inflation below 10 per cent. If we take South Africa and Zimbabwe out of the SADC the region is doing even better than Africa as a whole. This gives me the conviction that we will one day also see Zimbabwe turn the corner and rediscover the values and principles on which it's independence struggle was founded.

    But in September 1999 none of that was in view - we were embarking on the long road back to sanity and in the process would see our own government destroy its economy and undermine every principle on which it had led the struggle for justice during the earlier regime. Since then we have seen
    hundreds killed, thousands beaten and maimed and been slandered and mocked in all State controlled media. We as a Party have been subjected to regional ostracism and isolation as well as propaganda led by South Africa - the one country we thought might help and one that has the power to change things here overnight.

    But we have survived - we certainly won the 2002 Presidential elections -probably by a two-thirds majority, we probably won the 2000 elections and the subsequent parliamentary election in 2005. In the process we have sacrificed and worked - our leadership has often gone to jail and been beaten. We have been infiltrated by State agents using their money and training to do so and have been failed by elements of our own leadership. But we have survived.

    We know, better than most that that is not enough. Political parties are judged by history and by their ability to deliver real change and transformation for their followers, which we have not yet managed to do. But we remain the main threat to this regime and the only hope of a new and better Zimbabwe. No amount of reform is going to rescue Zanu PF and those who record our history are judging their leadership harshly. Their weakness, paranoia and failure was no better demonstrated this past week, when they arrested and then subjected to savage, brutal beatings, the entire elected leadership of our Trade Union movement because they dared to want to submit a memorandum to government on the problems of the workers in this country.

    I want to pay tribute today to those who have had the courage to stand up to this tyranny in Zimbabwe. I looked at the roll of honor we keep at the MDC recording the names of those killed in politically inspired murders since 2000. They include many friends and I am proud that there are a number of white Africans listed there. We salute the ZCTU leadership, we salute our own leadership who participated and were also imprisoned and beaten this past week. We commit ourselves afresh to this struggle and to achieving a new and better Zimbabwe, one that will make us proud to be Zimbabweans again. The one thing this regime and its supporters need to know is that we in the MDC will not quit this struggle until we have achieved our objectives - those set for us 7 years ago by the real representatives of the people of this great country.

    Eddie Cross
    16th September 2006

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  • Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    ZCTU: Protest Roundup

    Harare : 15 people, including the ZCTU Secretary General, President Lovemore Matombo arrested. They were assaulted during his arrest. There was heavy police presence in the city since morning. The march route was sealed. Last night 4 people were arrested. Zanu PF militia wearing party regalia moved from point to point intimidating people.

    Chitungwiza: Heavy deployment of the army with tankers. 50 arrested including members of the Chitungwiza Residents Associationand the former Chitungwiza Mayor’s wife. All the 50 are in detention

    Plumtree: Heavy Police presence

    Gwanda: Heavy Police presence

    Hwange: Daniel Ncube taken for 4hrs being interrogated.

    Bulawayo: About 20 people arrested, including regional Chairperson, Secretary, and organiser. Two people arrested yesterday and still at the Police.

    Beitbridge: 3 people arrested.

    Masvingo: No arrests so far. Mr. Gapare questioned by Masvingo Police. 15 Police Officers with button sticks, with canisters and guns seal ZCTU Offices.

    Mutare : 20 people arrested, 8 Police Officers surrounding the Mutare ZCTU Office with button sticks and canisters. Ordinary citizens being bitten up and situation tense.

    Chinhoyi: 15 Workers arrested , Regional chairperson taken for 4hours interrogation. Regional Officer and three others arrested yesterday and still in detention, including one who had brought food.

    Kariba : Committee members intimidated by Police.

    Gweru : 16 Arrested one arrested yesterday morning, released but recalled today.

    Shurugwi : Executive members taken for interrogation.

    Gokwe: Executive members taken for interrogation.

    Kwekwe: Executive members taken for interrogation.

    Chegutu: 15 Arrested two were picked for interrogation yesterday.

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  • Eddie Cross: ZCTU boss arrested, beaten

    The head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Wellington Chibebe, says he has been arrested and beaten by police at a demonstration in support of strikes in the country. Riot police are reported to have sealed off the centre of Harare to try to prevent the
    strikes. The unions are reported to have called off a march demanding higher wages, lower taxes and access to drugs to fight HIV/AIDS. Mr Chibebe told NEWSHOUR (by mobile phone) that he had been arrested in the capital, Harare, along with at least fifteen other people, after around one-thousand-five-hundred demonstrators gathered for the protest: Wellington CHIBEBE (on his phone)
    "I'm saying, we've been arrested when we started our demo. We'vebeen badly beaten. We are in the police truck going into {UNCLEAR} police cells."

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  • Eddie Cross; No news

    The ZCTU action in Bulawayo and Masvingo today was a near complete failure. Both towns were operating normally at noon and remained quiet with no sign of any Union led activity. The Police were not in view to any great extent -one water cannon in Bulawayo wondered around the City looking for people to squirt their water at while in Masvingo three cannon surrounded the local Government building with armed riot police in support. In Bulawayo small groups of riot police were visible - one team with three dogs but by 13.30 hrs they were being stood down. Only one internal road block was reported.

    I went to our own factory and asked the workers committee what the problem was - they replied that they had had no communication from the ZCTU, they also could not see any point in demonstrating when there was no chance of seeing any sort of change. They would get "locked up for nothing". It ammounts to cheerful resignation to the status quo at this stage.

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  • Eddie Cross; Action in Masvingo

    This evening it was reported that the Police in trucks and accompanied by water cannon patrolled the high density areas in Masvingo Town today. They used loud hailers to instruct businesses not to close on the Wednesday and for workers to ignore the call by the ZCTU to march to the Town Centre on Wednesday at midday. Tension was palpable in the Town as a result.

    Eddie Cross
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  • Eddie Cross; President Tsvangirai’s message to the people of Zimbabwe on the eve of the ZCTU organised action

    Zimbabwean workers have a right to demonstrate and express themselves. In a situation where their condition and the cost of living continue to sky-rocket, the people have to exercise their democratic right to show their displeasure, suggest solutions and confront what is before them.

    However, information reaching the MDC indicates that the regime wishes to suppress the planned demonstrations through brutality, massive arrests and state-sponsored violence. May I take this opportunity to warn Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe against making such a move? Any attempt to turn peaceful workers’ marches into chaotic scenes is counter-productive and unfortunate. For the past six months, we have openly advised the Mugabe regime that we are organizing mass protests as part of our comprehensive programme of democratic resistance. Since the ZCTU action is driven by the people and is a people’s project to address an obvious national grievance, the MDC is fully behind such an effort. Disrupting the planned action shall invite the ire of the party and generate the requisite response.

    Come out in your millions and show the regime that you have had enough. We maintain that Zanu PF and Mugabe must be forced to negotiate Zimbabwe out of the national crisis. Already, we have put forward our suggestions on how to save our country and to start afresh. Our roadmap to legitimacy has what we believe are the necessary signposts to rebuild the people’s confidence to pull Zimbabwe out of the woods.

    In any society, responsible stakeholders have a duty and a responsibility to proffer suggestions for change and to act, using universal habits of citizenship, to remedy an already deteriorating political, social and economic situation. I wish to congratulate the ZCTU and the entire civil society for their initiative and to inform them that as a political party we are fully behind their efforts. Nothing will stop the people from exercising their generic right to express themselves.

    On our part, we remain on course. Our preparations for sustained resistance are complete. We are ready to roll-out our programme. We are watching the regime’s response to the ZCTU action with a keen interest.

    Lastly, may I appeal to the church and the business community to work with us to save our country from the current uncertainty? May I extend the same plea to our security forces to refrain from acts that shall put them on a collision course with the people?

    We respect the Constitutional and professional mandate of our security forces to protect the people and we look forward to working with you in this regard. We harbour no grievances against you. What we face is crisis of governance, initiated and perpetuated by Zanu PF, a failed political party. Resist abuse. Stay out of party politics.

    Morgan Tsvangirai,


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  • Monday, September 11, 2006

    On 9/11: An ode to reality

    On 9/11 America woke up in so many ways to a different reality. It became clear on that day that despite its success, America really isn't that far removed from the harsh realities many in the world face daily. I'm sure that was a pessimistic discovery to make. Before then, and several times since that moment America has been lauded as the greatest success of the human experiment. It must have been harrowing at best to discover that your lives are just vulnerable, just as terminable as those of us who live without the benefit of your technology or nuclear firepower. As you remember that ghastly day, I exhort you to remember the experiences not only for their negativity and how much they disrupted your way of life. Think also of how they brought you back to the things that matter most in life and concentrated you on those.

    One of the surving fireman from the NYFD from that great calamity Antonios "Tony" Benetatos has suggested that the greatest test of human character isn't in the severity of circumastances faced, but in how one responds to those tough moments. As the world remembers, this is my ode to the reality that when all else fails you and I have you and I to count on; an alternative nugget to sift from the debris of that dark day.

    In the billowing dust, the towering smoke, the piercing screams, and the harrowing sites from 9/11 America found this redemptive reality; that when all had been said and done, it was the basic notion of our mutual humanity that meant most to her people in their darkest hour. On that day, stripped of the lofty benefits of sophisticated technology and the perrenial deification of the individual a vacuum was created; one that could only be filled by the deeper notion that life could and should be different. In that dear friends, you found the most common, the most inspiring, and the most enduring bond that sets the human species apart from all everything else in this cosmos; the ability to dream and conceive an alternative to the status quo.

    In that, you stepped into the very souls of the valiant individuals who led the Civil Rights Movement. That very moment brought you into concert with enduring cries for a better world that ring from Auschwitz to Waterloo in antiquity; and through Bhagdad, Beirut, Darfur, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe in modern times. In all those places; at ground zero, but most importantly in each every human heart resides an inextinguishable flame of an alternative to reality. And at it's core is the ability only human beings posses to see beyond the visual.

    As you rise like the Phoenix from the flames of your toughest test America, don't forget the reality that saw you through your darkest depression. Hold fast to that reality of the mutuality of our humanity America; for when all else fails you know you can always hang onto that hope that only humans are capable of producing. Remember my dear friends that even though the toughest gap to bridge spans from your mind to mine; the toughest bond to break break runs between your heart and mine. And that America, is my ode to reality.

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  • Thursday, September 07, 2006

    No money for democracy

    Against a backdrop of government splurging on new parliament decor and, a new presidential mansion, expensive SUV's for Reserve Bank officials and much more finicky exhorbitancy, the Herald is reporting that Mugabe's government has no money to register new voters;
    THE Registrar General’s Office has no money for mobile registration of voters, national identity cards and birth certificates while foreign currency shortages hamper the production of passports.

    Registrar General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede told the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Home Affairs on Tuesday that his office was so under-funded that it had not started its yearly mobile registration because it did not have the money.

    "We do that every year and we could have started in August but there is no money," he said.

    "What this means is that a person who has attained 18 years can not vote because he is not on the voters’ roll and this should be a concern to politicians," he said.

    Mr Mudede said the shortage of foreign currency was seriously affecting operations as some consumables could not be bought to produce passports and the new national registration cards.
    If democracy is based on the notion of each individual exerting their influence on who leads them via one's vote, the notion is too expensive for Zimbabweans.
    Don't take this for granted. This public admission might well signify the modus operandi of ZANU-PF's fraudalent activities around the presidential elections coming up in 2008. If you go back and scrutinize the MDC's numerous electoral petitions, one constant theme threading through all the protests is an allegation of tampering with the voters role.

    Do you see what I mean? This very article might be the scapegoat employed when ZANU-PF 'influences' the outcome of the elections.

    There's a heartwrenching side to this too. Notice that it is the rural population that is essentially being disenfranchised. Not a big deal? I think not. In Zimbabwe, most of our population is rural. These people are the heart and soul of our democracy. That they aren't even guaraneteed a birth certificate, national ID card and access to voting is beyond unfathomable! Rural Zimbabweans are constantly getting the shortend of the stick; when the currency switch happenend just a few weeks ago guess who was stuck with their old currency because they don't access to media that would have informed them of the change? Guess who walks the longest to school and medical facilities? The government has ensured that 26 years after independence these people live like paupers even though they are the most important segment of the electorate.

    The sad thing is that it would be so easy to meet the needs of Zimbabwe's longsuffering rural population. It's not asking the world to expect that the nation's sole broadcaster would expend it's broadcast capacity to extend full coverage to all Zimbabweans for example. Requiring space in the national registry is not demanding the moon either. These people must have the same access to government function enjoyed by their urban countrymen it is non-negotiable.

    After Murambatsvina over a year ago Jonathan Moyo Zimbabwe's controversial former information minister slapped the Mugabe regime with a stark new label. He claimed that we have in Zimbabwe isn't governance anymore, he it is now GBO; Governnance By Operation. He was right, Mugabe & Co. are not doing anything more than making hollow policy pronouncement all while the country burns.

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  • Monday, September 04, 2006

    Tsvangirai surprise march surprisingly late

    Anti Senate leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his executives "surprised" police and Zimbabwean authorities when they marched from their party's national headquarters to the parliament building on Friday. Reports of the event can be found here, here, and here.

    There are many differences in the accounts of the march from the various media outlets that reported the event as has become the standard for any public event held by the MDC either at home or abroad. The most contested fact is the number of public protestors that joined the fray; some reports claim it was 1 000 people and others say it was just 500. Despite this, the reports find common ground in the much celebrated fact that both the police and parliamentary authorities where caught "flat footed" by the march.

    Under Zimbabwe's oppressive regime and conditions, there's no doubt Tsvangirai needed to employ the element of surprise to succesfully hold any public protest. Zimbabwean authorities are notorious for unleashing brutal police and military force on their own civilian protestors. Like the British, Zimbabweans enjoy no protection for the freedom of expression. In this sense, the suprise was both neccesary and positive.

    But I couldn't help feeling unsettled at just how surprising the march was to Zimbabwe's authorities. What surprises me is that police don't percieve MDC to be viable threat so they've essentially stopped monitoring the part looking elsewhere for undrest threats to the state. This despite Tsvangirai's insistant protestations that this winter was going to be a "winter of discontent." With Zimbabwe's winter gone and no protests led by the MDC, it's surprising that the police or other government authories weren't expecting the march. It is clear how low on the threat matrix Tsvangirai is. That is disturbing.

    Immediately following the march, the faction's publicity and information secretary Nelson Chamisa issued a statement tauting the "success" of the event which read in part,
    Today’s occasion was just but a warning shot; a harbinger of more protracted, nationwide and decentralized response by the people of Zimbabwe to express their need for a free, prosperous and democratic society.

    Today’s occasion was an expression by the MDC President and the leadership of their commitment to lead from the front in the people’s struggle for a new Zimbabwe. The response of the people was overwhelming as they gave thumbs up to the gesture by the leadership. The nation is ripe for change. A new Zimbabwe is obvious.
    Judging from the "winter of discontent" track record whether we're on the verge of a "protracted" struggle towards the demise of the Mugabe regime is still very much in the air.

    The most important thing though is that they actually did something. For months, and even years some of us have ponitificated on the status quo but have zero action to back up our verbage. History will laud the MDC for taking some kind of action directly against the regime that has visit so much distress on our people.

    As to whether this march was really about "firing warning shots," well, the jury is still out on that one.

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