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Zimbabwe unleashes lethal force on the enemy — its people PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 20 January 2019 13:23

Zimbabwe unleashes lethal force on the enemy — its people

Children and the elderly are among those dragged from their homes and viciously beaten by police and soldiers following fuel price protests

Christina Lamb 20/01/2019, The Sunday Times



The 15-year-old schoolgirl lies corpse-like on the metal hospital trolley, legs weirdly twisted, skin waxy from the intense heat, the only movement her eyelids fluttering in pain. When her eyes do open, they look out with utter terror, quickly closing again as her two aunts negotiate with nurses how to pay the $200 for the X-rays she needs — the equivalent to a monthly wage.


Her name is Sarah Mupandi, she dreams of being a lawyer and she is the face of a people so despised by their government that over the past week it has set police, soldiers and dogs on everyone from children to the elderly, then expects them to pay for their hospital treatment.


Around midnight on Monday, when Saraccah was sleeping, seven masked police officers smashed the door of her home in Epworth, a poor township in the east of Harare, dragged her and her 18-year-old brother from their beds and began savagely beating them with sticks and sjamboks, or whips.


“I was screaming,” she says weakly. “They shouted, ‘Why are you screaming?’ and beat me more.”

“They beat me here, here, here,” she adds, pointing at her left arm, her chest, her legs and buttocks.

The officers took her to Harare Central police station with dozens of other local people, almost all men, then to Chikurubi, a maximum-security prison notorious for disease and torture.


Only on Thursday afternoon was she released to the aunts she has lived with since her parents moved to South Africa to try to earn money to pay for her schooling, and ordered to appear in court on Friday.


It was there that she collapsed and ended up in Parirenyatwa hospital. One nurse there says quietly: “We’ve seen dozens of cases — the morgue is full.”


Sarah is one of hundreds of people who have been dragged from their homes over the past few days across Zimbabwe and beaten in a brutal crackdown that seems designed to terrify a population into submission and quell protests at the almost tripling of fuel prices last Sunday.


The price hike to $3.31 a litre, making Zimbabwe the most expensive place in the world to fill up a car, was the last straw in a country with 90% unemployment where people rely on “kombi” minibuses to get from the townships to the city to sell their few tomatoes or potatoes.


When trade union leaders, as well as a well-known preacher, Pastor Evan Mawarire, called for a nationwide stay-away on Monday, almost all shops and businesses closed and there were clashes in the streets.


The response was swift. The regime reacted with brutality, shocking even to those worn down by decades of Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship.


Police and soldiers went house to house dragging people out and beating them, while plain-clothes men with AK-47s shot others.


On Tuesday morning the state shut down the internet in a clear attempt to stop information getting out as President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan trying to get money for his bankrupt country — as well as signing an agreement for military training from Moscow.


Tomorrow he heads for Davos where he will hobnob with world leaders in the Swiss resort, enjoying lobster and champagne and plugging his slogan “Zimbabwe is open for business”, which is on billboards all over Harare.


While he has been away, the world has been largely blind to what his security forces have been doing. With the internet shut down for all but a few hours of the past few days, only a few anguished appeals for help and fragmented reports have emerged.


Now the truth about the vicious crackdown can be revealed.


The Sunday Times has secretly met dozens of victims in safehouses and clinics across Harare, the country’s capital, ranging from a 10-year-old boy to an 80-year-old man. We have seen numerous scars from beatings, burns and even dog bites as police set bulldogs on their own people.


Information is scarce. The government says 300 people have been arrested and three killed, but by Friday the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum had catalogued 12 dead, 78 with gunshot wounds and 242 with dog bites, as well as hundreds of victims of beatings.


One western diplomat had heard of “as many as 200 dead, certainly 50”. Many of the gunshot victims are rumoured to have been taken into the headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.


We the People, a nationwide network of monitors that runs a freephone number, reports that one Harare clinic saw 63 injured people over a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday and referred a further 30 more critical cases to hospital. Yesterday more reports were coming in of beatings overnight.


Four heads of non-governmental organisations have gone into hiding, including Rashid Mahiya, head of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella group. His mother and brother were both picked up and beaten by soldiers searching for him.


More than 700 people are believed to have been detained. “Over the last few days we’ve been totally overrun,” said Doug Coltart, a young lawyer representing some teachers who were picked up and beaten. “There have been so many arrests and abductions that we don’t have enough people to respond.”


“Even under Mugabe we never saw anything like this,” said his father, David Coltart, a senator and long-time opposition activist.


“We are even wishing Mugabe hadn’t gone,” says Farai, a driver in Harare, who regularly has to queue 20 hours for petrol. “We are poorer than ever. Mnangagwa has done worse things in 14 months in power than Mugabe in 37 years. He never shot people or switched off the internet.”


The euphoria of November 2017, when people came out into the streets following Mugabe’s arrest by the military, now seems sadly mistaken.


At the time General Constantino Chiwenga, the military chief, was lauded as a hero and made vice-president.


Many now blame Chiwenga for the current brutal repression and believe they were used by the military in 2017 to legitimise what was in fact a coup.


Chiwenga has been in charge while Mnangagwa is travelling and there is reputedly little love lost between the two men, prompting some to see what is happening now as a second coup.


“What’s different from Mugabe’s time is the militarisation and randomness,” said one of those monitoring the attacks. “Most of the victims are not activists or opposition supporters, just poor people minding their own business and trying to survive.


Among them was Precious, a widow of 45, who looks after eight children — four of her own and four of her sister who died. She often lives on blackjack, edible weeds, in order to survive.


On Monday afternoon during the stay-away, she was at home in Dzivarasekwa, southwest of Harare, with all her children and locked the door fearing trouble.


“Around 3pm we heard a noise and saw eight men — four police and four soldiers,” she said. “They kicked the gate and door and yelled, ‘All out!’.”


The terrified family came outside where police ordered the children to roll in the mud and started to beat two of the boys and a girl. The youngest was her nephew, Ezekiel, aged just 10.


“They were all crying,” said Precious, whose name has been changed to protect her. “I was crying but I couldn’t do anything. The police told my children, ‘You are the youth and we are going to stop you.’”


Ezekiel was left covered in slashes and open wounds, which Precious had to wash and patch up since no one could go out to a clinic. “He already lost his parents,” she said. “Now this — he is having nightmares and cannot sleep.


After beating the 10-year-old, the police went door to door. Precious said when her neighbours refused to open the door, the police broke the window and tear-gassed the house to force them out.


Civil society activists and volunteers have a set up network of safehouses to deal with the victims as they did in the Mugabe days. In one clinic yesterday, among 15 people waiting for treatment I met Samuel Takawira, walking on wooden crutches with a badly swollen foot with clear tooth marks.


He explained that he was walking back from Harare, where he had been doing some carpentry, to his home in Hopley when soldiers and police stopped him and two others. “They ordered us to lie down then began beating us with sticks and sjamboks,” he said. “Then they released two bulldogs on us and laughed as they bit us.”


Nor is the violence just in Harare. In one safehouse I met Alex and Shadrek from the rural town of Karoi, who told me they were dragged from their homes to the road and beaten.


Alex showed the burns on his hand where they forced him to put it in the fire of a burning tyre then roll in the road. “I kept telling them I wasn’t involved but they kept beating us.”


The two men managed to flee into the bush where they hid for two days before making their way to Harare, but they say 26 others are still detained.


“The police keep coming to my house to look for me so I can’t go back,” said Shadrek. “My wife and children are terrified.”


At the magistrates’ courts in Rotten Row, Harare, on Friday afternoon I met dozens of families whose husbands or sons had been picked up. In courtroom after courtroom, one group after another were being denied bail.


In court 9, Fadzizai Chibanda and her friend Caroline were waiting for news of their husbands, Patrick and Victor, who had been dragged from their homes in Epworth at midnight on Monday.


“Around 50 masked men with guns came and broke down doors,” said Caroline. “It was terrifying.”


Fadzizai said: “We don’t know where [our husbands] are to send them food and don’t have money for lawyers or to come to courts.”


At about 3pm, after hours of waiting, 61 prisoners shuffled into court 9, several of them with clear signs of beating. Bail was denied and the prisoners were told their cases would go straight to trial for inciting violence.


A similar scene was under way in court 11, where six prisoners were brought in. They were being represented by Rusty Markham, MP for Harare North from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.


“What is happening is completely unconstitutional,” he said. “The fact every single court is doing the same shows it is political and state sponsored.”


Elsewhere another lawyer was desperately trying to find out what had happened to a policeman who had disappeared after apparently refusing to be part of the beatings. With the internet shut off for the second time, accessing information was difficult.


Downstairs in court 6, Pastor Mawarire was appearing, accused of inciting violence and trying to topple the government. “He told people to stay away, not be violent,” said his brother Alan Mawarire. “He is being made a scapegoat.”


“What’s happening is inhumane, unconstitutional and breaks my heart,” said Shorai Chidena, a lawyer. “They are shutting off everything so the outside world doesn’t find out.”


Outside in the car park a colony of rats ran around the food van where the few people with money were buying greasy sandwiches and talking about what might happen next.


Just along the road was the town centre where six people were shot dead protesting against election results last August that gave a landslide majority to Zanu-PF, which has governed the country since independence and left them in this situation.


Just as then, the regime has blamed last week’s violence on the opposition. “The timing of the protests, targeting of police stations, inflating of the number of victims among other shenanigans . . . all point to a poorly concealed political agenda oiled by the country’s traditional foe,” declared The Herald, the state-owned newspaper, yesterday.


No one knows what will happen next. Though shops reopened on Friday and coffee shops were still busy in the affluent northern suburbs, in the centre yesterday the streets were quiet and the atmosphere was menacing. Soldiers in trucks watched the townships.


With talk of another stay-away tomorrow, supermarkets had large queues. Word had spread that there was fuel in a petrol station in Belvedere and motorists had been gathering since the early hours. I counted more than 250 cars in the line.


Back at the hospital, Sarah and her aunts were wondering how they would get home and how safe they would be. “We are very scared,” Sarah said. “At school we learn governments and police are supposed to protect their people. But these ones are wicked.”

Exposed: the horror Zimbabwe is hiding behind a news blackout PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 20 January 2019 12:47

Exposed: the horror Zimbabwe is hiding behind a news blackout

Mugabe’s successors beat and kill in a brutal betrayal of the hopes raised by his downfall — and try to stop the world seeing

Christina Lamb 20/01/2019, The Sunday Times

Hundreds of people, including children as young as 10, have been killed or beaten in Zimbabwe in recent days in a crackdown the regime has tried to hide by shutting down the internet and deporting foreign journalists.

The violence comes as the country’s president heads to the economic summit in Davos by private jet tomorrow to brush shoulders with the rich and powerful in his quest for international recognition and investment in his bankrupt nation.

Last week civil society groups, led by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, wrote to the EU accusing President Emmerson Mnangagwa of using “murder of unarmed civilians as a tool to retain power”.

They demanded that he be barred from entering Switzerland unless he “immediately cease the ongoing human rights violations”.

The government has admitted only to three deaths and 300 detentions, but in the past few days The Sunday Times has secretly met hundreds of people in safe houses, hospitals and courts who have been beaten or had dogs set on them by masked police or soldiers.

Among them were a 15-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.

The closure of the internet for periods since Tuesday, on government orders, has made information difficult to obtain, but a doctor at Harare’s biggest hospital said the morgue was full. One western diplomat said they had heard of as many as 200 deaths, certainly 50.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said they had treated 72 people for gunshot wounds.

Hundreds of people have been detained and denied bail by magistrates who seem to be acting on government orders.

When diplomats demanded a meeting with the government, they were given what one described as “a command briefing” by Cain Mathema, the acting foreign minister. No questions were allowed.

The crackdown followed a more than doubling of fuel prices, with petrol costing $3.31 (£2.57) a litre, the most expensive in the world. It prompted a nationwide shutdown on Monday as well as protests and looting.

The midnight abductions and widespread beatings across the country that followed represent another dashing of hopes for Zimbabweans who believed things would change with the removal of long-time dictator Robert Mugabe, 94, whose authoritarian 37-year rule ended in November 2017.

Last August six people were shot in front of foreign journalists during protests against the election of Mnangagwa, who had been Mugabe’s deputy and right-hand man for decades but has tried to sell himself internationally as something new.

“This is worse than Mugabe,” said Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, yesterday. “These are old wolves in new clothing, using the same old methods of human rights abuses and internal displacement. They are telling the world they are open for business when they are selling a dummy.”

He spoke after attending the funeral of Kelvin Tinashe Choto, 22, a talented footballer and captain of the team in his township of Chitungwiza, who was one of those shot.

Chamisa paid tribute to “a young man with a bright future who was not politically involved in any way, yet was so badly shot his skull could not be reconstructed”.

Zimbabwe: the silencing of our voices PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 19 January 2019 20:53

From Cathy Buckle 18/09/2019

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been one of the worst weeks in Zimbabwe for many years and has left us shocked, frightened and very uncertain about what is happening  and what lies ahead for us  in the coming days and weeks. I am writing this letter from Zimbabwe during a brief window in which a court order has just been granted to re-open access to the internet but not to social media sites and communication Apps. We all know this window to the world will not last 

It has been almost impossible to follow what has been going on for most of this week. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday it was mostly too dangerous for people to venture out of their homes. A three day stayaway called by the Congress of Trade Unions and other civic groups rapidly spiralled out of control on Monday: violent protests, burning vehicles and buildings, looting shops, barricaded roads and vigilante groups running riot in our towns and cities. Many people reported hearing gun shots, helicopters hovering and pillars of black smoke rising. On Monday and early on Tuesday many thousands of messages about what was going on and what people were seeing, flooded social media, along with  horrific pictures and videos showing  destruction, looting, injured and dead people and a massive crackdown by police and soldiers. By about 9.00 am on Tuesday morning the government ordered the internet to be shut down and then we were in the dark about what was going on, and so was the world. The silence of our phones and computers was very frightening. We had no way of knowing who was in trouble, who needed help, if it was safe to go out, if we’d be able to get back home if we did venture out; if our children at school were OK, if our friends in other parts of the country were OK.  

By Wednesday we heard that over 600 people had been arrested including Pastor Evan Mawarire  who led the This Flag movement in 2017. We still don’t know officially how many people have died in the past few days. We have heard that doctors handled 68 gunshot wounds and over 170 injuries. There are thousands of stories and eye witness accounts that cannot be told now.

On Thursday and Friday people have ventured out, restocked as many groceries as they can find and afford and about 50% of shops are still closed. In my home town today there are riot police and armed soldiers on the streets, outside the supermarkets that are open and at the road blocks out of town. The sight of armed soldiers in our towns is very un-nerving. There are big gaps on supermarket shelves where goods have not been restocked because delivery trucks have not been coming from Harare. Vegetables and perishable goods are in short supply, there is no bread and we have not had water for a week.  During ongoing internet blackouts we are unable to use our bank cards at many outlets as they require internet connections; we cannot pay for essential services, cannot pay wages, cannot contact our families, cannot keep up with national development.

We do not know what next week holds for us, we do not know what tomorrow holds; we do not even know if the internet will still be on by tomorrow morning.  The silencing of our voices is very chilling. Please keep Zimbabwe in your hearts, thoughts and prayers in this very frightening time in our country.
Apartheid style evictions in Zimbabwe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 13 January 2019 12:48

11 January 2019 


News is breaking of the violent eviction of a whole community living close to Bulawayo. Yesterday (10 January) residents of what is known locally as the McDonald Bricks site, some 20 miles east of the city, found themselves faced with three truck loads of ZRP (Police) and a support unit which had come with orders to destroy their homes forthwith.


Approximately 1,400 families live in this community.  Some of these have been living here for a lifetime, though their number has been increased in recent years by others drawn to the site, which has no water or other amenities, by the opportunity to avoid municipal charges they cannot afford. Together they comprise an impoverished community which, without any help from the State, has been forced to fend for itself under the harshest conditions. Their very survival is a mark of their resilience.

Shocked and surprised by the arrival of a large police contingent and the demand they should step aside to allow their cherished homes to be demolished, the residents responded angrily. An ugly scene was developing between, on the one hand, the police and their support unit, brandishing batons and guns, and on the other, the residents, some of whom seized spears and knobkerries to defend their property.  At this point, eyewitnesses report, the Commander of the support unit addressed the people. He reminded them of what had happened in Harare following the disputed elections last year, when the army opened fire on unarmed civilians already in flight, killing six and wounding many others. He said the people should remember the army’s reputation and not stand in their way.


Bulldozers then moved in and the brutal destruction of the dwellings followed, accompanied by the wailing of distraught women. Some of the structures were flimsy but others were more substantial. Many had been constructed of quality building material, including the occasional tiled roof here and there. The demolitions proceeded relentlessly, while the residents could only stand by, scarcely believing their eyes, as they watched their only security in life being trashed.  A local pastor was one of those who witnessed the unbelievable cruelty. He has ministered to these people for over 20 years and was in shock.


Not only is this a moral outrage but the legality of it is, to say the least, questionable. The ownership of the land on which the “McDonald Bricks” community lives is disputed.  An attempt a few years ago by a would-be developer to establish ownership of the freehold of the site was rejected by the Court on the evidence of a surveyor called in to interpret the only available maps. That decision was appealed to the High Court, but the matter was not then resolved. As far as the residents were concerned, pending any further application to the Courts, they were entitled to remain in occupation of their properties.   


The residents were not even permitted to remove their belongings. This the police did in their own fashion, later dumping items seized from the dwellings along the Old Gwanda Road. No compensation was offered to those evicted, nor any assistance with relocation.


The distraught evictees have no reserves of food or cash for transport. A few have been offered temporary lodging by Christian friends but most are now sleeping in the open. Without shelter, food or the most basic facilities, all – and particularly little children and the frail elderly – must be considered at great risk.


The exercise of such brute power in the name of the State against poor, defenceless citizens must surely invite comparison with some of the worst atrocities committed by the Apartheid regime against some of the long-settled communities in South Africa that were perceived to stand in the way of that regime’s racist ideology.


Graham Shaw
Zimbabwe Victims' Support Fund 

Zimbabwe has no choice but to embark on painful reforms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 18 November 2018 20:14


Zimbabwe has no choice but to embark on painful reforms


Spending cuts, new taxes and an anti-corruption drive can help to revive the economy




When Margaret Thatcher was elected UK prime minister in 1979, she recognised that piecemeal change would not be sufficient to tackle the problems of labour unrest, rampant inflation and economic stagnation. A wholesale transformation and modernisation of the British economy was required. While there would inevitably be downsides to such rapid change, Thatcher was undeterred.


The challenges that Zimbabwe faces today are no less acute. But my government is committed to tackling them head on. Like Thatcher, we are not afraid of taking tough, and at times painful, decisions. As she used to put it, there is no alternative.


In order to reform, restructure and rebuild the Zimbabwean economy, the national budget must be balanced and spending reined in. The government wage bill is unsustainable.


A large and inefficient public sector cannot be allowed to hold back private enterprise. We have set about cutting unnecessary expenditure, therefore. We are reducing the number of ministries, limiting foreign travel and perks for officials, and retiring or redeploying senior officers.


Privatisation and the reform of state-owned enterprises are also key components of this strategy. Organisations which have outlived their commercial viability or necessity will be dissolved.


Over the past two years, we have spent large sums to support struggling state-owned enterprises. But we cannot continue to prop them up. So we have earmarked under-performing bodies for sale and have given them strict deadlines to conclude privatisation deals.


Governments do not only cut. They must also collect. As part of an effort to broaden the tax base, we recently introduced a 2 per cent levy on electronic transfers, which make up around 96 per cent of all financial transactions. Collecting revenue effectively and efficiently, combined with cuts and privatisations, will enable us to cut the budget deficit.


These measures are being complemented by an anti-corruption drive that will save Zimbabwe hundreds of millions of dollars. Investigations are under way and arrests are already being made, including of ministers and senior executives. The era of zero tolerance for corruption is here.


The economy is already quietly showing signs of improvement, with growth forecasts revised upwards. Many sectors are thriving. The country’s gold mines have already surpassed the total output of 2017, for example, while a plant for the production of lithium carbonate project in Kwekwe is off to a promising start. Critically, agriculture is increasingly being funded by the private sector.


However, Zimbabwe cannot succeed alone. We are seeking new areas for co-operation and partnership. I was delighted, therefore, by the warm welcome our delegation received at the recent UN general assembly, where I urged the international community to support us as we revive our economy and build a better future.


Mthuli Ncube, the minister of finance, a former African Development Bank chief economist, delivered this message at the recent IMF and World Bank meetings in Bali. There, he met development partners and creditors who welcomed Zimbabwe’s debt-settlement and transitional stabilisation plans.


The process of change is not smooth. Some pain and discomfort along the way is inevitable. The arduousness of the path of reform can sometimes lead governments to stall or backtrack. But as a passionate reformer leading a reformist government, I know there is no other way. We cannot allow anything to slow us down.


As Thatcher once said: “Yes, the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it in order to live.”


The writer is president of Zimbabwe 

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