Voices from Zimbabwe

It has been a busy two weeks in Zimbabwe.

The major headline out of Zimbabwe over the last two weeks was the submission to President Mugabe of a vision document drawn up by Zimbabwe's churchleaders titled “The Zimbabwe We Want: Towards A National Vision for Zimbabwe“. Kubatana Blogs has a round up of the different responses to the document.

For his part, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC responded thus to the document,

We believe the latest initiative from the Church, like previous efforts by both local and international political players to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, shall lead us to a cul-de-sac as long as Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF remain stuck in a state of denial. The absence of a political will to attend to our bleeding nation has become the single biggest obstacle to progress.

A national consensus and a national vision shall remain elusive for as long as the dictatorship defines, in its own terms, what constitutes people’s freedoms, people’s choices and a people’s way of life.

We believe it is important for our nation to heal its wounds and re-build for the future, recognising that what binds us is far greater than what divides us, celebrating our diversity and differences as individuals and as communities, and with a common resolve to institute safeguards to ensure that never again will our dignity be undermined by any one person or political party.

While the church effort is a well intentioned and a noble attempt to reaffirm what the rest of the country has been aware of for the past 26 years, a speedy breakthrough to this national crisis hinges on the behaviour of Mugabe and Zanu PF. The urgency of the matter cannot be over-emphasized. We believe Mugabe and Zanu PF must embrace the reality and allow the nation to express itself out of the crisis.

The crisis is essentially political; we need to work together and create an enabling political environment for a national vision to be realized. We are ready to make an unconditional contribution through open and principled dialogue towards a new Zimbabwe in the national interest.

In our national executive meeting we noted that Zimbabwe needs a stable political environment to allow for a new Constitution; open the way for a free and fair election; and enable us to embark on a reconstruction agenda, national healing and a stabilization programme.

Kubatana is also highlighting news of unsung conservationist, Zephaniah Maseko Phiri,

Early this week Zephaniah Maseko Phiri, a 79 year old Zimbabwean peasant farmer made news worldwide by being the first African to win the prestigious National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.

Sadly, Maseko’s great achievement has not been reported in the local Zimbabwean media. The farmer is one of the many dedicated Zimbabweans who have put this country onto the international map but have received little recognition for their hard work at home.

Maseko who jointly won the award with Nicaraguan environmentalist Jaime Incer will receive a cash prize of US$25,000.

According to the National Geographic Society, Maseko founded the Zvishavane Water Project in 1986. It is said to have been one of Zimbabwe’s first indigenous NGOs.

The water project’s objectives are to educate others about water harvesting and conservation, promote sustainable farming and increase farm income.

While Zimbabwe's repressive Interceptions of Communications Bill (ICB) has been withdrawn following reservations expressed by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC), Ethan Zuckerman blogs at My Heart's in Accra that Zimbabwe's spy agency, the CIO, will in fact spy on people accessing the web in internet cafes,

There’s two ways to read this development. One is that the government is already monitoring net communications and realizes that cybercafe usage is a weak link in their surveillance system. I think this is pretty unlikely – the tests I ran in Zimbabwe showed no overt net filtering and no blockage of proxies, Tor or other circumvention tools. That means that cybercafes are hardly the biggest security hole from the government’s perspective. More likely, I think, is that this is part of the overall Zimbabwean strategy to encourage self-censorship through intimidation. If CIO and PISI officers could be in any cybercafe, you might think twice about sending information to friends outside the country. It doesn’t matter if the officers are actually there or not – if you think they might be, you’re likely to self-censor.

(Furthermore, if the Zim government were really watching the Internet closely, they’d be able to intercept unencrypted communications with journalists outside the country and trace them to an individual cybercafe. By requiring cybercafe patrons to register and show ID before using computers, they could keep close track of where this information was coming from. Putting intelligence officers in cybercafes is basically an admission that the government doesn’t have the expertise or resources to monitor the network, and therefore needs to try the more inexact process of monitoring people’s posting of information…)

David Coltart, an MDC Legislator from Bulawayo, is decrying the fact that most of the country's cemetries are nearing capacity as Zimbabwe now has the world's lowest life expectancy.

As if the economic fracas and the frequent power cuts aren't enough, This is Zimbabwe chronicles the shoddy treatment custmers get at ZESA Zimbabwe's main power utility,

Boy, is my neighbour steamed up! He is the kind of guy who regularly pays his bills on time, and always used to get that little note printed on his electricity bill “Thank you for keeping your account up to date”. However, loyalty to customers seems to be slipping into obscurity as far as ZESA (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) are concerned, as they try desperately to rake in every cent they can to save it from financial (zanupf – caused) ruin.

On 20th of October he got a phonecall from home, to say that ZESA had paid a visit and left a disconnection notice. Now that is something you don’t ignore in Zim. If they say you are going to be disconnected, you jump around – it can take many days to get re-connected. When he got home, he examined the document and found that in fact , he hadn’t paid his bill, so they were going to charge him not only what he owed – Z$5,300.00 – but a penalty of Z$3,000.00, and just for good measure, a re-connection fee of about Z$8,000.00! The trouble was – he had not received a bill from them for the outstanding amount.

Just to add insult to injury, he received his bill in yesterday’s post. The date of the bill was the 22nd September and the due date was 6th October. But the date on which the bill was posted? – 1st November – over 3 weeks AFTER it was due for payment!

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