‘You have to laugh’ – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 26th September 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 September 2020 14:09

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/50389375466/sizes/m/

 

The hypocrisy of President Ramaphosa calling at the United Nations for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe while himself recognising that Zimbabwe is suffering from a crisis of misgovernance is only to be expected of the chairman of the African Union.

 

Like the United Nations itself, the African Union is fatally divided between democracies and tyrannies so Ramaphosa feels he must compromise and rely on the old policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’. But in reality South Africa’s attitude has hardened. Its attitude now means: ‘Do this or you’ll get no more money or co-operation from us’.

 

How serious the situation now is in Zimbabwe is graphically described in a newsletter by the human rights campaigner Ben Freeth, who recently returned home after a visit to the UK, protracted by the lockdown over the Covid-19 pandemic. He writes: ‘In Zimbabwe it was not lockdown. It had been a time of crackdown – and curfew. I was struck by the desolate dryness as we drove through the maze of road blocks on the potholed streets. Masked army and police personnel are out in force to ensure no insurrection and to collect bribes - all in the name of Covid-19. I was struck how even they were thin. Zimbabwe is facing major hunger with estimates of two thirds of the population needing food aid by Christmas.

 

‘On the afternoon that I arrived I spoke to Martin Grobler. His farm had been invaded at lunchtime. Twenty-five policemen arrived with guns and, in direct defiance of all international law, human rights instruments and our own SADC Tribunal Judgment, evicted him. By the end of the weekend he was off. He has over 100 employees who, with their families, will add to the hunger problem this year.

 

‘On Monday I went to meet up with the brave, award-winning journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, and show him some solidarity in the Magistrate’s Court after 45 days in the most unimaginable jail conditions. I managed to get in and find Hopewell. The magistrate was late - as usual - so we had a spare hour or two to chat. He was defiant; but he told me of the conditions he had been kept in: a cell of approximately 7 metres by 4 metres with 44 people. The usual routine of a Zimbabwe jail applied: everyone lay like sardines and when one person in the line turned, everybody had to turn together . . . In the corner is a bucket for anyone needing the toilet. There’s no privacy, no running water, no soap, no detergent, no masks and as for the social distancing required in the rest of the world there is instead desperate and unimaginable overcrowding.

 

‘Hopewell’s crime was exposing multi-million dollar corruption at the very highest level in a Covid-19 deal. I chatted to Beatrice Mtetwa too, the award-winning lawyer. She had been due to go to the UK with me in March but had had to cancel at the last minute. I reminded her of when she had got me out of the torture chambers at Harare Central years before and we laughed. You have to laugh. Beatrice has been prevented by the magistrate from representing Hopewell. The magistrate wants her struck off the legal register so that she cannot represent anyone. Human rights lawyers are persecuted in Zimbabwe. After several hours the magistrate finally arrived and remanded the case for another month - just to frustrate everyone.

 

Freeth said he had also talked to another lawyer Dave Drury who told him how two of his children had been in jail for displaying anti-corruption and anti-violence placards. His daughter was released after one night but his son Simon was held for 3 days in the same conditions as Hopewell.

 

Freeth continued: ‘Some of those in the cell had been waiting months for a trial; others years - even up to 14 years in those inhuman cells without trial or any verdict from a court. Suddenly though Simon was fished out from amongst the sea of fellow inmates. After the clanking of doors and turning of keys and other formalities he was suddenly out under the magnificent African sky. It was then that one of the most heart-rending cries I can ever remember hearing echoed right up to the stars from a little aperture in the dark, fetid and overcrowded “hole” that Simon had just left: “Simon, don’t forget us . . .’ (See: https://media.wix.com/ugd/02876c_20eb97a0877e4f4b8fc9b0d1459c3ced.pdf.)

 

Other Points:

  • Freeth also talked to the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga who has been nominated for the prestigious Booker prize for her latest novel ‘This Mournable Body’ about life in independent Zimbabwe. She was also recently detained accused of inciting public violence for demonstrating against government corruption. She told National Public Radio: ‘having become an adult in the 1980s after independence and having experienced the whole hope of the new nation and seeing the potential, it was really heartbreaking to come to a point where I am told I am not allowed to exercise my right to demonstrate. And when I do, the weight of the state comes down on me. It was a very sad moment for me’ (see: https://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/this-mournable-body-a-novel-about-life-in-independent-zimbabwe/).
  • We are praying for six-year-old Jesse who has been diagnosed with bone cancer. He is the son of Vigil activist Isabell Gwatidzo and often came to the Vigil with her. If you wish to contribute to Jesse’s recovery check: https://gf.me/u/yzqiwz.
  • Because of the coronavirus we can no longer physically meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, so we have a virtual Vigil while the restrictions continue. We ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/albums/72157716142549321Our virtual Vigil activist today was Deborah Harry who kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
  • For Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.

 

Notices:

  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions,
  • events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe's work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
  • Facebook pages:
 
Mnangagwa on helium? – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 19th September 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 20 September 2020 13:55

There is mounting hysteria in Zanu PF over South Africa’s attempt to help Zimbabwe resolve its economic and political crisis. President Mnangagwa seems more and more like a crocodile on helium – the experiment that was awarded the Ig Nobel prize this week (see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-54197198).

 

South African’s ruling African National Congress maintains that it will soon send a delegation back to Zimbabwe to meet the opposition and civil society stakeholders in an attempt to initiate dialogue between them and Zanu PF. It said it was ‘excited’ about the position on this taken by Zanu PF’s Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu at their recent meeting in Harare (see: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2020/09/we-are-coming-back-anc/).

 

On the return home of the ANC delegation there was talk that ‘Zimbabwe is burning’. Blade Dzimande, the South African higher education minister, said that denying that Zimbabwe was in a political crisis was tantamount to denying self-evident truth. But Zanu PF seems to have performed a helium somersault. President Mnangagwa has now made it clear that he doesn’t want a South African delegation to meet the opposition. And Zanu PF’s director of publicity and information, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, accused the ANC of acting in bad faith in ‘forcing’ it to meet the opposition and civil society groups

 

After a politburo meeting, Zanu PF’s acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa called on the ANC to ‘rein in its errant elements who are communicating unfairly on our nation’. Chinamasa said that the politburo had agreed that the opposition’s ‘happiness in creating drama and faking abductions . . . should be ignored.’ He added that Zanu PF was instead setting its sights on winning the 2023 elections (see: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2020/09/ed-slams-door-on-ramaphosa/).

 

What did Mnangagwa, still buoyed by his crocodile nickname from the Gukurahundi massacres, have to say on that? ‘With 2023 elections in sight and our resounding and landslide victory imminent, let us remain unwavering in our revolutionary course by consistently strengthening and increasing our party membership base’ (see: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2020-09-16-zanu-pf-accuses-anc-envoys-of-meddling-in-zimbabwes-affairs/).

 

The Vigil can only agree that Zanu PF victory is inevitable. With the electoral commission, the judiciary, the army and the police in his pocket how could the outcome possibly be different from the rigged elections of the past two decades?

 

MDC Alliance Vice-President Tendai Biti is more positive. The Zanu PF statements are all false bravado he said. ‘They are facing a crisis of legitimacy and delivery. A solution will be found.’ But perhaps he’s on helium too . . .?

 

Other Points:

  • The Zimbabwe Working Group – comprising mainly American diplomats and academics – has welcomed South Africa’s efforts to address the Zimbabwe crisis and said the African Union should support these instead of providing a whitewash for Zanu PF. The list of signatories is short of former British ambassadors to Zimbabwe. Perhaps they were swallowed by the crocodile . . . (see: https://www.zimlive.com/2020/09/17/zimbabwe-working-group-statement-act-now-to-stop-zimbabwe-abuses/).
  • Former Botswanan President Ian Khama says there is a crisis in Zimbabwe and not just challenges. Zimbabweans had shown tremendous resilience in the face of a brutal regime (see: https://www.enca.com/news/ian-khama-zimbabwean-lives-matter).
  • President Mnangagwa has now confirmed our suspicion that the land settlement deal he announced recently is pie in the sky, In effect, the commercial farmers whose land was seized will have to pay their own compensation. Mnangagwa said no taxpayers’ funds will be used and the money would be sourced externally. ‘We have set up a committee to go Europe where they will raise the money’. No doubt they will be looking for people on helium (see:https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/president-clears-air-on-land-sa-envoys).
  • Because of the coronavirus we can no longer physically meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, so we have a virtual Vigil while the restrictions continue. We ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site.
  • For Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.

 

Notices:

  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe's work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
  • Facebook pages:

         Vigil: https://www.facebook.com/zimbabwevigil

         ROHR: https://www.facebook.com/Restoration-of-Human-Rights-ROHR-Zimbabwe-International-370825706588551/

         ZAF: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zimbabwe-Action-Forum-ZAF/490257051027515
 
Beware a woman scorned – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 12th September 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 September 2020 15:28

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/50337488161/sizes/m/

 

When is a crisis not a crisis? When it’s a challenge. Despite the manifest economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe the ANC agreed to refer to it only as a challenge when it held a crucial meeting with Zanu PF in Harare this week.

 

Their eight-hour meeting followed an unsuccessful mediation effort by South African government representatives last month, when President Mnangagwa opposed the envoys’ suggestion that they should also meet the Zimbabwe opposition to get their side of the picture.

 

This time the ANC delegation also left without meeting the opposition but it made it clear that it would return to see them or arrange that they came to South Africa.

 

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who heads the ANC’s international relations sub-committee, said the ‘no holds barred’ meeting with Zanu PF had been ‘very worthwhile and brutally honest’.

 

Ms Zulu has skin in the game because, as we reported last week, Zanu PF had rudely dismissed her in their usual arrogant way as ‘a stupid and idiotic street girl’ for referring to a crisis in Zimbabwe.

 

Zimbabwean political analyst Ibbo Mandaza told the Daily Maverick that he had heard that Ms Zulu had been particularly firm with Zanu PF during the meeting. ‘From all indications the engagement was robust.’ (See: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-09-10-anc-hails-no-holds-barred-meeting-with-zanu-pf-in-harare-but-no-talks-with-opposition-parties-yet/.)

 

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said his delegation had not met other parties because it had run out of time but that Zanu PF had agreed it would return to meet them, including MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

 

Ms Zulu also dismissed reports that the delegation had returned empty-handed. She said the meeting with Zanu PF had lasted all day and the delegation did not want then to have hasty meetings with other stakeholders just for show. The ANC would arrange meetings with them itself.

 

She said the ANC had put all its concerns on the table, including issues about human rights abuses, democracy, violence, people going hungry and the migration of Zimbabweans into South Africa. ‘The concerns being expressed in South Africa about Zimbabweans taking local jobs is an issue of national interest, not just party interest. If we don’t deal with it, we will end up with foreign nationals being attacked and spaza shops burnt.’

 

Piers Pigou, Zimbabwe expert at the International Crisis Group said there was potential for progress. ‘For a liberation movement to now start talking to other stakeholders, that’s a first.’

 

Other Points:

 

Notices:

  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe's work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
  • Facebook pages:
 
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Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights of 2010
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