Saturday, May 27, 2006


So, South Africa has denied Roy Bennett political asylum. I see politicking in this case, if not outright racial discrimination by President Thabo Mbeki’s African National Congress (ANC) government.

From what I know of the United Nations’ definition of a Convention refugee or person in need of protection, Roy Bennett fits the bill of a consistently persecuted person.

The former Member of Parliament for Chimanimani personifies persecution of the opposition by the ruling Zanu PF and all its proxies. Right from President Robert Mugabe himself, his Security Minister, Didymus Mutasa and his Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), the army, the police, the government-leaning war veterans, the Zanu PF youth brigade (the Green Bombers), they have all had a go at Bennett.

Since he signed on and started campaigning for the Chimanimani seat in 2000, Bennett has suffered abuse ranging from verbal harassment, physical assault, imprisonment, destruction of property and seizure of the said property.

Yes, the trumped up charges, earlier this year, that he was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Mugabe (which is the primary reason he fled to South Africa), were dismissed. But does this disqualify him as a Convention refugee? I do not think so.

His problems have been well documented and publicized that it will be a waste of space and reading time to repeat them here.

This decision by South Africa has shown clearly that Mbeki and his government are really in support of the Zanu PF government, no matter how bad it gets. This explains Mbeki’s shilly-shallying over the issue of regime change in Zimbabwe. Its all about comrades in the armed struggle owing each other favours and Mbeki seems to be paying his dues.

The danger though is that this decision could be used as a precedent to deny other vulnerable asylum seekers because I cannot imagine anybody else being granted refugee status when Bennett has been denied.

I wish you good luck in your appeal, Roy, you need it.


Friday, May 19, 2006


If anybody ever doubted that President Robert Gabriel Chatunga Mugabe intends to stay in power at least beyond his much anticipated retirement in 2008, then news from Zimbabwe yesterday must have ended those doubts.

According to the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, Mugabe’s government is expected to soon implement a plan to have veterans of the liberation war incorporated into the national army.

This means salaries and other benefits for the more than 40 000 ex-combatants and its 1997 all over again.

For those who do not know, it was August 1997 when the former fighters were awarded Z$ 50,000 each in one-off gratuities plus more than Z$ 2,000 monthly allowances and free medical coverage for life.

That madness of 1997 turned Zimbabwe’s economy for the worst and it has been downhill since.

We all know that Mugabe is intelligent and still very alert. So are his advisers in this matter, former Zipra (Zimbabwe People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of late Vice President, Dr. Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo's ZAPU - Zimbabwe African People's Union) Military Intelligence boss, Dumiso Dabengwa, former Zanla (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, the armed wing of Mugabe's ZANU - Zimbabwe African National Union) Supreme Commander, Solomon Mujuru, and former Zimbabwe National Army Commander, General Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Mugabe, these three men and others around them, know what happened in 1997 and subsequently. Consequently, they know what will happen to the economy if they incorporate war veterans into the army.

They, of course, do not care because the ultimate goal is the absolute protection the zealots among them (who are the majority) will ensure for Mugabe to stay in power.

These guys are masters in intimidating the nation and like bees around their Queen; they sting to death without remorse. For this reason, Mugabe will have no problem bankrupting the country to stay in Zimbabwe House a little more than we are ready to allow him.

One guy who might gain financially, if you ask me, is folk singer, Steve "Dhongi" Makoni, if he re-releases his 1990s hit song “Handiende” (I will not leave). Is Dhongi still around anyway?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Well, after procrastinating for very long, United States President, George W. Bush has laid out his immigration policy. The pundits were already on his case before the cameras were turned off, poor guy.

Anyway, my concern is not whether the proposed border controls are good or not or whether his poll rating will go up or down into the teens. My concern is with the 12 million so-called illegal immigrants in the US, a significant number of who are my homeboys, Zimbabweans.

After all is said and done, Bush’s bill, if it passes in the Senate within the next few weeks, invites illegal immigrants to come forward and register themselves under an amnesty that allows them to stay and work in the US.

This is what most people in this situation have been waiting for. But I advise caution and thorough reading of the fine print and getting definite answers to ambiguous clauses and terms.

On the face of it, Bush is saying, you come and register yourselves, get an electronically traceable identity card that makes authorities track you wherever you go, whatever you do and with whom. How far will that go in so far as infringement of people’s rights and freedoms are concerned?

Bush wants immigrants to apply for temporary work permits. What is the cut off point in terms of the number of years one has been in the US? If one is out of the range, then what?

Immigrants will have to pay penalties for being in the US illegally. How much are these penalties? What of those who have been paying taxes (a majority of illegal immigrants actually pay taxes) but have not benefited from social services due to their status? Is that going to be taken into consideration?

Criminal background checks: those traffic tickets, the DUIs, domestic violence, shoplifting, how many will be excluded? Not that I advocate any criminal behavior.

Immigrants also have to consider, how many years will the temporary work permit allow, bearing in mind that when the permit expires, you will be required to go back home and reapply. The question really is, do you still have a home to go back to and even if you have, will you be allowed back to the US a second time around?

Worse, there are people who had gotten themselves into marriages of convenience and other extra-legal arrangements to stay in the US, how will their cases be handled? There are many more questions to ponder over and get answers before one takes their position in line to apply under this amnesty. Once again, the advice is caution.

Fortunately for those who fall under the Safe Third Country protocol between Canada and the US, among them Zimbabweans, Rwandans, Mexicans, Colombians, the border up north is still open. It might not be for long though.


Sunday, May 07, 2006


UNESCO has declared May 2006, the month to reflect on the media and poverty and here is my own reflection.

Poverty is synonymous with African countries, their chronic hunger, diseases, civil strife and wars.

The word conjures, in our minds, pictures we see on television all the time. Babies wilting of hunger in Ethiopia and Niger, bone-dry farmlands in Sudan and Kenya, ghost-like people ravaged by the AIDS disease in South Africa and Zimbabwe and gun-totting youths in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia.

It makes for good pictures on television, correspondents from the world’s leading media organizations pitching their best “piece to camera” with the scourge of Africa playing out behind them or the best feature writers showing off their wordsmith prowess on major international publications, all the way to Pulitzer Prizes.

Then Bill Gates, Sir Bob Geldof and Angelina Jolie lead another phalanx of the best in media to showcase their goodwill and financial efforts to eradicate poverty on the forsaken continent.

Then, in the wink of an eye, deafening silence.

The babies have been fed nutritional supplements. Their hollow eyes dance excitedly as they drink from plastic mugs donated by well-wishers from thousands of miles away. What else do they need, right?


Just like the television pictures which suddenly vanish from our screens, the nutritional supplements soon run out and nobody knows whether the wilting baby ever grew to be a man or a woman.

This is the folly of the media reporting on Africa’s poverty. It is the dramatic images of suffering we chase and send our best to cover. There is never a follow up and this is where the media fails the continent.

Out of the media spotlight, the usual culprits, corrupt government officials and their cohorts, come out from behind their “champions of the poor” shields and their vulture instinct is back.

The food is diverted to their favored and already well-fed relatives. The money and resources donated by western benefactors is re-channeled to “more important” projects and programs; that is, arms to fight their own people, planes to fly over their dying subjects and such other “essentials”.

Without the media lurking around, experts’ advice on the best drought mitigating farming methods, the need to ensure democracy, the need to prevent and eradicate disease and the virtues of peace and power-sharing, are ignored.

Until the next round of drought, pandemics, wars and other vagaries of Africa, the continent (or whatever part of it that is not in distress) is truly dark.