Reportersâ€™ Forum looks at the SADC summit in Zambia and the meeting in South Africa between Zimbabweâ€™s civil society leaders and the SA mediation team. Are there too many red herrings swimming around the process? Is it time for Zimbabweans to give Mbeki the boot and reclaim ownership of their own destiny. As usual the editor of Talk Zimbabwe.com Itayi Garande joins Lance Guma to provide expert media analysis.
With Zimbabwe in the spotlight at the SADC summit in Lusaka, the international human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch launched a report Tuesday recommending that the regional grouping deploy a team to assess the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe and report back. Gugulethu Moyo speaks to researcher Tiseke Kasambala In The Balance. She said the SADC team would look at issues such as freedom of expression, state-sponsored violence and torture, impunity and excessive use of force by the police. Hear more deatils In The Balance.
ZBC journalists moonlight as commuter operators
By Henry Makiwa
15 August 15 2007
TOUGH times have hit hard at the propaganda-churning Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) where journalists have turned to supplementing their poor salaries by using resources at the state broadcaster for personal gain.
ZBC workers have assumed the habit of converting company cars into commuter vehicles, as well as moonlighting for rival and foreign media organizations.
â€œAround here its called a Shura, that is when one, contrary to the companyâ€™s code, makes a sensational trip ostensibly to do a report assignment or company work when they are actually using the vehicle to commute stranded commuters in town.â€ A ZBC reporter who refused to be named told us.
â€œThe average net salary for most of us here is around $Z3 million which is just sad. Considering our stories are peppered with the glorious achievements of Mugabeâ€™s regime, we deserve better. Our only option is to make the most of any opportunity to make a buck on the side by using their cars and also equipment, such as computers and recorders to work for other better paying companies, especially as news about the Zimbabwe crisis is of much demand from international media organizations,â€ she said. This highlights the tragedy of Zimbabwean journalism where reporters from the state-controlled media have to always report positively about the state of affairs, contrary to their personal judgement.
The salary crisis at the state broadcaster has come to the fore following the death of ZBCâ€™s veteran journalist Moses Gumbo, who crashed a car chock-full with more than 11 passengers last week. Gumbo is understood to have taken his life out of anguish soon after the accident.
Loughty Dube, chairman of the Media Institute Of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter, blasted the government for neglecting the financial affairs of the state controlled journalists.
He said: â€œFor starters these guys work under very severe pressure from their bosses who instruct them to churn out unbelievable propaganda. Yet they are not even paid well to sustain their livelihoods. Considering the manipulation and abuse they are subjected to, what they do is not proportional to what they earn.â€
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general, Forster Dongozi added:â€œTheir pay is just a pittance, slave wages. Their take home salary cannot take them home. That is why you hear of all these stories of journalists engaging in what they have dubbed â€œtransport alleviation schemesâ€ or â€œextra-curricular activitiesâ€. The government needs to make a redress of these journalists wellbeing.â€
Zim civil groups reject SAâ€™s suggestions on constitutional reform
By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 August, 2007
Zimbabwean civil organisations that met with a South African team of facilitators in Pretoria on Tuesday report that they strongly opposed the idea of using Zimbabweâ€™s parliament to reform the constitution, ahead of the elections next year. The groups met with President Thabo Mbekiâ€™s chief negotiator Sydney Mufamadi and Mbekiâ€™s advisor on legal matters Advocate Gumbi.
Washington Katema, coordinator of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), participated in this consultative process on behalf of youth groups in Zimbabwe. Katema said Advocate Gumbi raised the constitutional issue, saying the all-stakeholders approach to reform that the groups and Zimbabweâ€™s opposition are insisting on had failed in 1999 and was a sheer waste of time and resources. Instead, she suggested that Zimbabwe adopt the South African model where parliament is turned into a constitutional assembly with the mandate to make amendments.
Constitutional amendments made by parliament would not be acceptable to most Zimbabweans and both factions of the MDC insist they will not participate in any election unless there is a new people-driven constitution. This has been one of their major demands during the SADC initiated talks mediated by President Mbeki.
Katema said: â€œWe vehemently opposed this and insisted that Zimbabweans want a people-driven constitution. We all know thatÂ parliament does not represent the majority of Zimbabweans.â€ The objections do not guarantee anything because the facilitation team was there in a consultative role only. Zimbabweâ€™s civil groups have no participatory role in the Mbeki mediated talks but Katema explained that the process in Pretoria Tuesday opened doors and avenues of communication for the civil organisations.
Zambia deports 60 Zimbabwe Human Rights Activists
By Tichaona Sibanda
15 August 2007
Zambian immigration authorities on Tuesday night blocked 60 Zimbabwe Human Rights activists from travelling to Lusaka. They then deported them back into the hands of state security agents at Chirundu border post.
However 20 activists managed to slip through the net and sneaked back into Zambia, while 40 remain with authorities in Chirundu. The activists were travelling to Lusaka for the 27th Southern African Development Community summit, which opens in the Zambian capital on Thursday. The detained activists spent most of Wednesday being interrogated at Chirundu police station.
Joy Mabenge, a human rights activist who organised the trip for the group, said they had gone through most of the immigration formalities, including having visas stamped in their passports when Zambian authorities decided to search their bus.
Mabenge said the group had a consignment of T-shirts inside the bus that were inscribed with the words â€˜SADC peopleâ€™s summit, let the people speakâ€™ and immigration officials thought they were going to Lusaka to demonstrate.
â€˜At first, immigration officials told the group they were going to confiscate the t-shirts and when the activists did not object to it, they made a u-turn and said they have instructions from high offices in Lusaka not to let them in,â€™ Mabenge said.
Fortunately he added, 20 of the activists managed to sneak back into Zambia under the cover of darkness because they already had visas. Enraged pro-democracy Zimbabwean activists already in Zambia for the summit said they would make an issue of the deportations with the Zambian authorities.
â€˜The activists were coming here to talk about a just and equal society, but again we are having to talk about our lost rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other human rights violations where we thought we were safe,â€™ Mabenge said.
A heavy presence of central intelligence organisation agents has also generated an atmosphere of intimidation among pro-democracy activists in Lusaka.
While many are able to talk and participate freely in forums and meetings they are however coming under physical and verbal intimidation from planted government agents.
â€˜For example, we have delegates from Zimbabwe who have been briefing others here about the situation back home and have been heckled and threatened by people claiming to be patriots of Zimbabwe,â€™ Mabenge said.
Human Rights Watch urges SADC to deploy team to Zimbabwe
By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 August, 2007
With Zimbabwe in the spotlight at the SADC summit in Lusaka, an international human rights watchdog is urging the African Heads of State to focus on the deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Human Rights Watch drafted a report that was launched Tuesday which recommends that the regional grouping deploy a team to assess the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe and report back.
Speaking to Gugulethu Moyo on the programme In The Balance, researcher Tiseke Kasambala said they recommended that the SADC team looks at issues such as freedom of expression, state-sponsored violence and torture, impunity and excessive use of force by the police. She added that Human Rights Watch was disappointed that SADC had not dealt with humanitarian issues at the last summit in March when they appointed Thabo Mbeki as mediator. This new report was a reminder that the situation still exists, and had actually become worse.
Kasambala said SADC has a mandate to promote and protect democracy within member states. Sending a team to Zimbabwe would be one way for the African leaders themselves to monitor the crisis. She stressed that all this must be done within a specific time frame since elections are scheduled in Zimbabwe within 6 months. Human Rights Watch recommends the deployment of observers at least 3 months ahead of the elections.
The new report is being circulated to civil organisations and to SADC delegates so they can exert pressure for the Zimbabwe crisis to be dealt with. Kasambala said posters for Zimbabwe discussions and briefings are everywhere. She explained that unless human rights issues are addressed by the Heads of State, it will be impossible to adhere to SADCâ€™s own guidelines on free and fair elections, come March.
Banned Zimbabwean plays set the UK alight
By Lance Guma
15 August 2007
The first play to be banned in independent Zimbabwe, Super Patriots and Morons, has resurfaced in the United Kingdom and generating rave reviews 3 years later. The play nominated for the Amnesty International 2007 freedom of expression award is running alongside another political satire, Pregnant with Emotions, both the works of renowned producer Daves Guzha. Featuring a high-powered cast of Chiwoniso Maraire, Chirikure Chirukure, Walter Mparutsa and Guzha himself, the two plays will run 40 times in 3 different countries, namely Denmark, Sweden and the UK.
The play debuted in 2003 and featured an unnamed country whose economy had collapsed and was dominated by chronic shortages of basic commodities and long queues at every supermarket. After being allowed to run for some time the play only caught the attention of the government at the Harare International Festival of the Arts that year. Censors asked for the script before banning it. The other play Pregnant with Emotions received similar attention from Mugabeâ€™s regime with the police refusing to sanction performances at venues around the country.
While acknowledging the good reception they have received at the UK festival, Guzha told Newsreel they eagerly await the chance to challenge the banning of their plays in the Supreme Court. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights are helping them launch a constitutional challenge to the Censorship and Entertainment Act of 1967. Guzha says they have been told the first hearing in the case has been set for October this year. He blasted government paranoia saying they saw agendaâ€™s where none existed. He said there is a tradition of villages using, â€˜Dareâ€™ where people debate various kinds of issues and government is now trying to stifle this cultural practice.
Meanwhile songstress Chiwoniso Maraire said she had no problem performing in a politically charged play. Although she says she has no affiliation to any political party, she insists artists cannot be ignorant of the environment they live in. Chirikure Chirikure was upbeat about the reception they have received so far adding that Zimbabweans now resident in the UK have come to support their shows.
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 »