Hot Seat interview: Margaret Dongo and Wilfred Mhanda
Broadcast 14 th August 2007
Violet Gonda: The scheduled programme with Dr. John Makumbe will be flighted at a later date. Instead we bring you a Heroes Day debate with two former freedom fighters. Is the day still significant given the current crisis?
On the 11 th of August Zimbabweans commemorate Heroes Day, an event meant to honour the thousands who died fighting in the liberation war against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith. But events in Zimbabwe have rendered the occasion meaningless due to a crisis of governance that has produced hunger, hyper-inflation, state sponsored violence and oppression at the hands of the same government that was supposed to liberate Zimbabweans. Read the rest of this entry »
Zim Alive continues its â€œExodusâ€ series looking at Zimbabwean refugees. A former soldier from the Presidential Guard who is now sleeping on the floor at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg tells Tererai why he fled from Zimbabwe. And Joyce Dube of the South Africa Womenâ€™s Institute for Migration Affairs, explains why so many Zimbabwean refugees are suffering while S.A. spends millions to deport them, without ever attempting to help. Hear the sordid details on Zim Alive.
Soldiers beat and force Kuwadzana residents to Heroes Day celebrations
By Tererai Karimakwenda
13 August, 2007
The Heroes and Defence Forces holiday began with reports that uniformed soldiers continued to beat up vendors and residents of Kuwadzana high-density suburb in Harare. Gertrude Kuudzehwe, a representative of the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in Kuwadzana, said the soldiers beat up vendors and innocent civilians, forcing them to walk to the Heroes celebrations at the Heroes Acre. The soldiers confiscated vegetables and other food items as the vendors fled for safety. Kuudzehwe said the primary reason was to increase numbers at the ceremony to make it look crowded on television and score a propaganda victory for the regime. She said many lost their valuable goods and business for the day.
Precious Shumba, spokesperson for CHRA said the soldiers descended on the area around 10:00 A.M. Monday, took a lunch break and returned again in the afternoon. But targeting vendors takes away their only option to make a living. It is not clear why they are targeting Kuwadzana, but they attacked vendors there last week as well, in a move seen to be linked to the price control exercise.
The holiday is meant to commemorate the liberation war that led to independence in 1980. But what is usually a happy time for Zimbabweans has been marred for the last few years by critical shortages of goods and services in the country. Shumba said this year was the worst so far. He spoke to people who said they had been stranded for days in Mbare. Many travellers told him they had not been able to find groceries to bring their relatives.
Over the weekend thousands of commuters around the country found themselves stranded due to serious fuel shortages. Privately owned buses stopped operating weeks ago after government ordered a 50% price-cut on travel fares. Bus terminals were crowded with many people waiting hours for transport. Riot police were called to the Mbare terminus in Harare Saturday to stop passengers fighting to board the buses. The state controlled Sunday Mail reported that 51 bus drivers were arrested on Saturday for overcharging. A police spokesman said they have been forced to pay Z$40,000 fines. The report also said some commuters were unwilling to incriminate their bus drivers, and refused to disclose what they had been charged.
Even the more affluent are being affected by the latest crisis and those who attended a cricket match between Zimbabwe and South Africa at the Harare Sports Club found there were no beers, no bread rolls no meat for burgers. The government over the weekend made a u-turn on its ban on private slaughter houses, reinstating licenses of some private abattoirs.
The regime has gone on a major international publicity stunt lately, claiming the problems we face are due to sanctions imposed by â€˜western imperial powersâ€™ and the UK. But the only sanctions that exist are targeted sanctions that ban Robert Mugabe and his closest allies from travelling abroad. Their personal assets have also been frozen. Economic experts blame the current crisis on the price blitz initiated by government 6 weeks ago. Panic buying and massive looting by authorities left shelves empty and created shortages as most retailers just cannot afford to reorder supplies that they then have to sell at a loss.
Zimbabwe will top agenda at SADC summit
By Tichaona Sibanda
13 August 2007
The serious deterioration in the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe will top the agenda of the Southern African Development Community summit in Lusaka, Zambia.
Foreign, security and defence ministers from the SADC bloc will meet on Wednesday on the eve of the Heads of State summit to discuss the Zimbabwe issue and that of Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A delegation from Zimbabweâ€™s government is already in Lusaka and will attend SADC ministerial meetings scheduled from Monday through to Friday.
The highlight of the summit will be a briefing on Friday by South African President Thabo Mbeki to his counterparts on the progress of the mediation talks between the Zanu (PF) and the MDC. An extraordinary SADC summit in March tasked Mbeki to mediate talks between the ruling party and the opposition in an attempt to resolve the countryâ€™s long political crisis, which has brought in its wake a deepening economic crisis.
A high-powered delegation from the Tsvangirai led MDC is also in Lusaka and is being headed by Vice-President of the party, Thokozani Khupe. Secretary for Foreign Affairs Elphas Mukonoweshuro, who is also in Lusaka, said their game plan was to maintain a high profile presence in order to engage key players in the region, especially foreign ministers.
â€˜We want to ensure that as they (foreign ministers) deliberate as council of ministers, they are able through our inputs to have a balanced idea of the ingredients for a resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis,â€™ he said.
Mukonoweshuro said it was generally agreed among the key players in the region, from foreign ministers to heads of state, that Robert Mugabeâ€™s report at the SADC summit in Dar es Salaam has now been discredited and could work against him during the summit. During the Dar es Salaam summit, Mugabe blamed tensions in the country on an opposition campaign of violence.
Last week we reported that SADC heads of state were left with egg on their face after allowing Mugabe the benefit of the doubt when he claimed at a meeting his regime was cracking down on the opposition to stem a terrorism plot.
The brutal assault on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several other activists had put Mugabe in the spotlight and he had responded by getting the Home Affairs ministry to produce mountains of â€˜informationâ€™ packed into a dossier incriminating the MDC. But the terrorism charges against the MDC have all been dropped.
The MDC delegation in Lusaka this week has also been updating delegates about the collapse of the state case. Apart from scheduled meetings with SADC foreign ministers, other party representatives have been lobbying and seeking support for their positions ahead of the summit.
An advance team led by the MDCâ€™s regional officer based in South Africa, Nqobizitha Mlilo, met with Tilenje Kaunda, brother of former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and president of the United National Independence Party, formerly Zambiaâ€™s ruling party over the weekend.
The MDC delegation has also met with civil activists, church leaders and students, whose support is important because Zambia is assuming the SADC chair. Regional powerhouse South Africa has meanwhile shocked observers by blaming Britain for the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe.
A document circulating among diplomats, ahead of the SADC summit, accuses the UK of leading a campaign to â€˜strangleâ€™ the economy of Zimbabwe.
Heroes Day commemoration just another Zanu PF showpiece
By Lance Guma
14 August 2007.
Twenty-seven years ago thousands of Zimbabweans had died fighting against the colonial regime led by Ian Smith, during a 7-year guerrilla war. Although Robert Mugabe and his â€˜comradesâ€™ who led that liberation struggle now rule the country, hundreds of thousands are now perishing from a combination of hunger, violence and bad governance. So when it came to celebrating Heroes Day on Monday there was a shift in focus from remembering the fallen heroes to worrying about economic and political problems besetting the country. People interviewed by Newsreel all said there was nothing to celebrate.
For the ruling Zanu PF party the holiday provided the perfect opportunity to take pot shots at the opposition and dwell on glories past. Lionel Saungweme reporting from Bulawayo says the state media was awash with propaganda meant to shore up Zanu PFâ€™s image as a liberation war party. A state sponsored gala in Chinhoyi gave the platform to musicians like Minister Elliot Manyika to perform his â€˜Noraâ€™ song. The song branded as containing violent lyrics, talks about opposition puppets and how they are manipulated by the west. The song urges them to be whipped into the Zanu PF way of doing things. Saungweme says this is the problem. Holidays such as these are hardly national and only serve to whip up animosity between the political parties.
On Tuesday the country celebrates Defence Forces Day. The day celebrates Zimbabweâ€™s defence capabilities but for many all they can reflect on is the brutal role the army has taken in suppressing dissent. The MDC meanwhile issued a statement saying it will join the families and relatives of the fallen heroes in marking the day. Zanu PF has always been accused of trying to monopolize the event. Speaking for the Tsvangirai MDC, spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said they would only join in government celebrations once Mugabe stopped insulting the opposition. He also criticised the criteria for hero status as being too partisan. Their rivals in the Mutambara camp echoed the same sentiments, adding the day should not be owned by any party or tribe.