A letter from the diaspora

Dear Friends.
‘While the cat’s away the mice will play’ goes the old English proverb. I’m pretty sure there’s a Shona equivalent – something involving the endearing ‘kitsi’ no doubt! But whatever the language, there’s a great deal of truth in the old proverb. As soon as Prime Minister Tsangirai boarded that plane to take him away for three weeks it was clear that the mice – for mice, read rats – would indeed come out to ‘play’. And so they did, though if truth be told, they would probably have done much the same if he had been in the country. These malcontents are out to prove that the only power they respect is the power of the gun, the bullet and the clenched fist. Time and again we have seen that the law means nothing to them; why should it when they know that the police themselves ignore court orders? To hear James Maridadi, the MDC spokesperson, describe Zimbabwe as “a country that respects the rule of law”, you could be forgiven for wondering what country he was talking about.

While the Prime Minister travels the world trying to convince wealthy western democracies that after four months of the GNU, Zimbabwe is already a different country, at home, President Mugabe and his followers continue in their bad old ways. The photograph of Robert Mugabe standing alongside Mwai Kibaki and the Sudanese President al Bashir (see The Zimbabwean 11-17 June) illustrates very clearly the truth that democratic rights mean nothing to Mugabe and his friends. Kibaki rigged the Kenyan election back in 2007 which led to the bloody upheaval that rocked Kenya and resulted in an uneasy power-sharing government with the opposition leader, Raila Odinga. As for Sudan’s al Bashir, he is facing an arrest warrant from the ICC for crimes against humanity involving thousands of victims in the Dafur region. None of this makes any difference to Mugabe; he has never been particular about the ‘friends’ he chooses, as long as they share his anti-western paranoia he will happily disregard their human rights record. It was a North Korean Minister a few weeks back and Mugabe’s mouthpiece The Herald, this week devoted a double page spread in defence of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

It’s hardly surprising then that Morgan Tsvangirai is facing an uphill task trying to convince the west that Zimbabwe has changed for the better. Inside the country there are too many examples that, in the areas of human rights and media freedom, little has changed. Even though they had a High Court order allowing them the right to cover the Comesa Summit on the grounds that they no longer required MIC accreditation, since that body had ceased to exist, four journalists were still refused entry to the Summit. It was a clear slap in the face for the Prime Minister’s authority; he had very clearly stated that MIC accreditation was no longer necessary before he left the country. ‘While the cat’s away.’ Lawyers too, continue to be harassed and charged. The brave Alec Muchadehama, incidentally the lawyer defending Jestina Mukoko and others, himself faces charges of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice; another clear example of Mugabe’s hand-picked Attorney General seeking to silence independent minded lawyers, especially when the are defending MDC and civil rights activists. The continuing land invasions further exemplify Mugabe’s vice-like grip on power. When an army Brigadier and dozens of uniformed soldiers can march onto a farm, with no paper work, no title deeds and no court decision in their favour, it is very obvious that the rule of law has broken down in Zimbabwe. The farmer in question had been acquitted of charges against him of ‘illegal occupation’. He had every legal right to be there on his own property but it made no difference, the Brigadier went ahead and took what did not belong to him anyway while the police looked the other way.

But it is the identity of another farm invader that has obsessed the media in Zimbabwe all week; the pretty woman who was seen walking with Morgan Tsvangirai at President Zuma’s inauguration. Is she Tsvangirai’s niece or is she not? That’s the question! For myself, I could not care less, in fact I rather agree with James Maridadi on this one: Tsvangirai can hardly be held responsible for the behaviour of a 52 year old relative! All I know is that as soon as I heard the usual anti-white rhetoric coming from her lips in an interview with Violet Gonda on SW Radio, I knew the woman was a product of her thirty years in the States. When she was asked whether the alleged racist language from the white farmer in question justified her taking his farm she replied with the standard Zanu PF justification that land invasions are all about ‘righting colonial injustices’ Anyone who still believes that lie must be totally ignorant of the reality on the ground. As for the behaviour of the white farmer and the racist language he is alleged to have uttered, I find that pretty hard to believe too. Ten years ago it may well have been the norm for white farmers to talk like that – but today, I think not. For the most part, the farmers who thought that way that have long since left the country; most of them, now are too terrified to open their mouths, let alone use racially abusive language of the sort the pretty woman describes. Rumour has it that she has now dropped her claim to the farm in question but to my mind the whole incident was yet another example of Zanu PF dirty tricks to discredit the MDC leader – especially while he was out of the country. ‘While the cat’s away.’
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.aka Pauline Henson author of Going Home and Countdown, political detective stories set in Zimbabwe and available on Amazon and Lulu.com

This letter is published with kind permission of the author.


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