Monday, November 27, 2006


You know, there is something so abominable about fat politicians in a five star hotel at a prime tourist resort in a country whose economy they have plunder, meeting to discuss how to squeeze more out of its poor people.

I am talking about this past weekend's meeting between South African and Zimbabwean security ministers in Victoria Falls where they agreed to charge the thousands of Zimbabweans crossing the Limpopo legally to seek employment and/or visit relatives and friends.

Zimbabwean travellers now have to pay a security deposit of between $108 000 and $148 000 depending on the destination, have traveller’s cheques amounting to 1 000 rand and produce a letter of invitation, among other requirements.

Now, politicians have always been known to be dumb, but I did not know they would be this dumb.

Hey, those people you are charging more have already been paying you. I would have thought the meeting would seek solutions to the decades-old problem of border jumping - you know, those guys who swim across the river or bribe the border guards.

They are the ones who are flooding South Africa by the millions and they do not do it because they are daredevil who just want to see if they can cross the limpopo without being killed by crocodiles and hippos or being shot by border guards.

These are people who are fleeing human rights violations and are seeking employment in South Africa. These are people who need a solution so they don't risk their lives jumping the border. These are the people for whom meetings are supposed to be called and decisions made.




It is now common knowledge that Canada will not indict President Robert Mugabe if he happens to come this side of ther world.

Federal Justice Minister, Vic Toews saw no compelling reason for parliament to pass a Bill to indict Mugabe under the crimes against humanity law. The reason? Whatever Mugabe's government is doing against the people of Zimbabwe is too remote for Canadians to lose sleep over.

This is despite that thousands of Zimbabweans have sought refuge here fleeing human rights atrocities back home. Early this month Zimbabwean human rights lawyer and torture victim, Gabriel Shumba was here to tell his story and lobby for the indictment. Another human rights lawyer, Arnold Tsunga was actually honoured here this month, for lobbying against the same human rights violations.

All those speeches, all those pleas, all those radio, televisions and newspaper interviews and graphic pictures, they produced nothing.

No, actually the decision by Canada saved the skin of Zimbabwean Ambassador to Canada, Florence Chideya, who welcomed the "obvious and expected outcome". She will be rewarded handsomely, I can assure you.

For the rest of us, I have a question that we should all answer: WHAT DO WE DO??


Monday, November 13, 2006


News from Zimbabwe continues getting bad for journalists.

According to Zimbabwe News Online, last week a government appointed media regulating body, the Media and Information Commission (MIC) issued a directive to officials at Harare Polytechnic, which houses the School of Journalism, to accept only students who passed through the controversial national youth service training programme.

Many countries have some form of national service for their youths and that in itself is not a problem. The youths are taught the virtues of nationhood; they learn to help the needy and to appreciate their country, its history and sovereignty.

However, the youth national service in Zimbabwe is basically a politicization and military boot camp. It is managed by President Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party, administered by sworn Zanu PF members of the army, the war veterans and bona fide zealots. The message taught to the youths is simply “Zanu PF – Excellent, Anything else – Very Bad”. There is no reasoning, not justification.

At completion of the training, the youths would have been transformed into a well-drilled brutal propaganda-enforcing machine called the “Green Bombers”. The name “Green Bombers” is derived from the huge green housefly common in tropical regions. It is such a menace.

The Green Bomber flies with a buzz that resembles a First World War bomber, stings like a bee and spreads disease at a fast and deadly rate. The Zanu PF youths wear green uniforms, attack opposition members with deadly ferocity and have contributed to more killing and maiming of innocent Zimbabweans than the army, police, war veterans and secret police combined. Imagine a bunch of journalists with such qualities.

What boggles the mind is that Professor Tafataona Mahoso, a former head of the journalism school, leads the MIC. He is the one who issued the directive for journalists to undergo the youth service training.

This follows immediately after a directive from the president for security details to invade Internet cafes in an effort to ferret out journalists who keep supplying foreign media with stories like this one which Mugabe and his government consider “falsehoods”.

Hundreds of Zimbabwean journalists have been killed, jailed, maimed or exiled for reporting truths about the Zanu PF government’s undemocratic rule, its atrocious human rights record and its plunder of what used to be one of Africa’s best managed economies.

When will it end?


Sunday, November 05, 2006


Last week reports from Harare said President Robert Mugabe had angrily instructed his security people to raid Internet cafes in the whole country to smoke out all the “traitors” allegedly using the Internet to spread “falsehoods” about Zimbabwe.

This is by no means news, it is just that what the Central Intelligency Organisation (CIO) was doing clandestinely now has the weight of presidential powers and is being done jojntly with the police, the army and other security agents.

Now, the real target of Mugabe's order are Zimbabwean journalists based in the country, who bravely defy all odds to tell the world of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Zanu PF government.

The government banned most foreign media organizations from operating in Zimbabwe; however, because of the nature of Internet technology, it cannot effectively ban journalists and other concerned citizens from sending out information by e-mail.

But this crackdown will not only affect journalists. Its real victims are ordinary Zimbabweans who find it cheaper to use e-mails to exchange information and pictures with their relatives in the Diaspora.

Now they will experience the indignity of having their mail opened and read by faceless people who will then use the information in the mail to keep tabs on them and, inevitably, harm them.

However, one thing Mugabe and his party did well despite everything, was to ensure a very high rate of education among Zimbabweans. Education necessitates innovation and soon Zimbabweans will come up with a way to beat the system, if they haven’t invented it already.

Just watch out for coded mail from Zimbabwe. It should be fun to read. Get this: Mother in rural Gokwe writing to son in Toronto;

"Oh, by the way, son, Gushungo's rogue oxen broke into our cattle pen the other night and gored all of my cows. I just hope you and your siblings will be able to do something to make sure Gushungo makes sure his oxen do not keep goring my cows."

Translation: "Oh, by the way, son, those good for nothing Zanu PF youths came to our village and beat up everyone. I hope you and your others out there can do something to rid us of Mugabe and his overzealous party."


Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I respect the adage "do not speak ill of the dead" but in the case of Pieter Willem Botha, the former apartheid president of South Africa, facts would seem like I do not wish his soul to rest in peace.

Those who know the history of Botha's rule in the 1980s will agree with me that the man simply known as "PW" by both his supporters and victims personified the evil of a racist regime.
During the peak of his rule, I was in high school in Zimbabwe. Due to colonial links between the two countries, what happened south of the Limpopo River affected us.

Zimbabwe had just won its independence from another white racist regime, that of of Ian Smith; however, because the new majority government of Robert Mugabe refused to kick the then jailed Nelson Mandela's African National Congress out of the country, Botha targeted
Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, with a ferocity that could only be equated to that of a crocodile.

Fittingly, Botha was already known in Afrikaans as "Die Groot Krokodil" (The Great Crocodile). He is said to have liked the nickname, which was uttered in endearing ways by his supporters and in utter fear by the persecuted.

I was school in 1986 when Botha's ferocity was unleashed with staggering effects around the world. Sweden's anti-apartheid prime minister, Olof Palme, was assassinated and the plane carrying Mozambique's president, Samora Moises Machel, was shot down. Fingers were pointed at PW.

In Zimbabwe, ANC offices and safe houses in Harare and Bulawayo were bombed, killing the comrades of president Thabo Mbeki (who is now South Africa's president).

Fed up with seeing his backyard in Zimbabwe bombed at will by Botha's "birds of fire," Mugabe -- considered the toughest among all southern African leaders -- dared to challenge PW to a military duel along the Limpopo. It never happened.

Gossip making the rounds in Zimbabwe at the time was that Botha considered the invitation but was told by his generals that the Zimbabwe National Army was a small but mean machine, fired up by former guerrilla strategists who could beat the best conventional armies. I know the ZNA is mean, but that's all I know.

I also know "PW" was hated with a passion in Zimbabwe. Mugabe, ever the master of name-calling, got us all fired up with a daily dose of derogatory Shona names he gave Botha: "Chimbwasungata" (Mad Dog), "Chisveta Simba" (Blood Sucker) and "Mudzvanyiriri" (The Persecutor).

Musicians, too, took their best shot at the man with a permanent sneer. Zimbabwe's best known singer, Thomas Mapfumo (Canadians might remember him. He performed recently in Calgary and Toronto) produced one of his all-time hits whose main refrain was "Botha, Gandanga guru, ngaaurayiwe" (Botha, the biggest terrorist, must be killed).

Calypso king Eddie Grant mocked Botha with Johanna Gimme Hope, a worldwide hit that likened Botha to a mean woman who runs a country with such cruelty that her victims were forced to look up to her for salvation. Michael Jackson sang The Man in the Mirror.