Pambazuka News 300: Zimbabwe: Time for civil society to seize the space?
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.
To view online, go to www.pambazuka.org/
Want to get off our subscriber list? Write to email@example.com and your address will be removed
CONTENTS: 1. Highlights from this issue, 2. Announcements, 3. Features, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. Books & arts, 8. Blogging Africa, 9. African Union Monitor
Support the struggle for social justice in Africa. Give generously!
Donate at: www.pambazuka.org/en/donate.php
This week's highlights
In Part I of Pambazuka News published yesterday we featured:
ANNOUCEMENTS: Pambazuka News celebrates its 300th issue
FEATURES: Sam Kebele asks whether Zimbabwe’s civil society is ready to act
COMMENT AND ANALYSIS:
- An interview with the Zimbabwean feminist activist Shereen Essof
- Raj Patel provides background to the recent hunger strike by five Abahlali members
- Nicholas Watson presents a cultural paradigm for Liberia’s reconstruction
- Innocent Ukabam responds to Ike Okonta’s piece on the Nigerian elections
- Sharie Blanton on Grace Kwinje's article 'The woman in me'
BLOGGING AFRICA: Nigerian elections; environment riots in Uganda; language policy in Senegal
BOOKS & ARTS:
- Poem by Annie Quarcoopome; review of the film Yes I Am; call for submissions from Kenyan writers
AFRICAN MONITOR: Countdown to AU and CSO activity around the 'continental government' debate
Today in Links and Resources, we feature:
WOMEN AND GENDER: The African Charter of Feminist Principles
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Algerians in shock after attacks
HUMAN RIGHTS: DRC soldiers ‘rape and execute civilians’
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: UN cuts food rations to 1 million Ugandans
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Rigged ballots intercepted in Nigeria
CORRUPTION: World Bank board delays decision on Wolfowitz
DEVELOPMENT: Inequalities and equity in Africa
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: HIV rates go up in Namibia
EDUCATION: Rural education suffers in Zimbabwe
LGBTI: Botswana rights group protests ill-treatment
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Ugandan president reassures Asian community
ENVIRONMENT: Resistance to illegal logging in Mozambique
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Land allocations suspended in Kenya
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Assassinated Burkinabe journalist commemorated
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Special computer developed for rural schools
PLUS: e-Newsletters and Mailings Lists; Fundraising and Useful Resources; Courses, Seminars and Workshops and Jobs
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
Catching history on its wings
Pambazuka News: 300 issues old today
Pambazuka News is 300 issues old today. Starting life in December 2000 as a service to a limited group of human rights organisations in eastern and southern Africa, the weekly newsletter has grown into an important platform for analysis, discussion, debate, and information about the struggle for social justice in Africa with an estimated readership in the region of 500,000.
Pambazuka News grew out of the recognition for the need to nurture the re-emergence of a progressive pan-African movement. We wanted to break the isolation that was apparent, whereby those in one country knew little of what was happening elsewhere on the continent. We wanted to find a way of linking struggles across national boundaries, and between different sectors. We wanted to challenge Northern constructs of division between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. We wanted to provide a platform for those whose views rarely get aired in the mainstream media.
And we wanted to challenge parochial visions of what ‘Africa’ means: break with divisive Northern constructs of ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ that attempt to disarticulate the history and heritage of most of North Africa from being a part of our own history.
Africa cannot be adequately defined merely geographically: it must be understood in terms of the history of its struggles. That history has involved the dispersal of its people into a diaspora, as a result of forced and voluntary migrations, and the absorption of peoples from other continents into a rich web of struggles. A definition of Africa based on the history of the struggles of its people is an embracing not an exclusionist history.
Above all, our ambition was to catch history on its wings. To enable people across the continent to be inspired by the spirit and work of other Africans who are influencing, making and changing history. We wanted to establish a platform that reflected the aspirations of the many who believe that a better world is possible. By engaging with one another, we wanted to build an alternative to the dominant, destructive, get-rich-quick, beggar-thy-neighbour ideologies that predominate today. We had to avoid dogmatism and sectarianism that has so seriously undermined our movements in the past, and instead encourage constructive debate and enable diverse viewpoints to be expressed.
Central to the strategy for developing Pambazuka News was the need to move beyond commentary and analysis. We wanted to put Pambazuka News at the service of movements for social change; as a tool in the armory of the movements for social justice, to be used by them as part of their day-to-day work.
How far have we achieved these lofty ambitions? I think we have made some progress. We believe we have contributed in a small way to the emergence of a progressive pan-African movement. Much remains to be done. Our connections with social movements and with the trade union movement could be stronger. We still only publish in two imperial languages – English and French, and not yet in any African languages.
As an electronic publication, we reach but a tiny minority - and only those with access to email or the web. If we are to extend our reach to those who are increasingly disenfranchised in today’s technologically driven world, I believe that we need consider making Pambazuka News available in printed format, perhaps in the form of a newspaper available on the streets. To make that happen will take time and resources.
Over the last year, we have published more than 300 articles from African intellectuals, activists, academics, writers, thinkers and movements across the continent. Some of these have been compiled into special issues and books. Our French-language edition, produced from Senegal, was launched in January 2006. In September, we began producing audiovisual materials (‘podcasts’), making the voices of those in the frontline of struggles heard across the continent.
Pambazuka News continues to be used by social movements and coalitions, such as the Solidarity for African Women's Rights coalition on the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as a vehicle for campaigns. Pambazuka News has nurtured the establishment of the African Union monitor initiative which aims to strengthen the ability of CSOs to engage constructively with the AU in the interests of promoting justice, equity and accountability.
All of this has been done with few resources. While there are many individuals involved in the production of Pambazuka News, it is - believe it or not - produced by the equivalent of about three full-time staff only.
But if Pambazuka News is considered a ‘success’ - whatever that means, it is because of you - our readers and contributors. It is you who have kept us going through your generosity in submitting articles, letters, commentaries and information. A few of you have even been able to give us a little bit of cash! It is you who have let others know about our work. You, who have enabled us to show fidelity in the struggle for a better world.
So, thank you, readers and contributors alike. Come, celebrate with us this 300th birthday.
If you would like to send a message on our 300th birthday, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org We hope to publish a selection of such messages next week.
* Firoze Manji is Editor, Pambazuka News and Director of Fahamu
* Please send comments to email@example.com
Zimbabwe: time for civil society to seize the space?
Sam Kebele’s analysis of recent events in Zimbabwe highlights the internal and external complexities at work in the country. He considers the possibilities of a broad non-partisan front emerging from the ranks of Zimbabwean civil society with a common agenda. He suggests ways in which outsiders and human rights activists can support Zimbabwean civil society in effecting sustainable change in the country.
Following Mary Ndlovu’s excellent article in Pambazuka News...
From last month, possibly for the first time, it seemed that in the African context, Zimbabwe was finally losing the propaganda war it had successfully pursued amongst its traditional allies.
The beatings in March of Morgan Tsvangirai and others flashed around the world caused an immediate drop in the Zimbabwe dollar of a quarter of its value. Any remaining tourism took another hit with mass cancellations at Victoria Falls hotels.
The strategies of the Zimbabwean state of both structural and physical violence reminiscent of the last years of apartheid seem to be both unravelling and becoming more vicious.
The combination of a centrally directed, presidential-inspired incitement to violence, securitisation of state institutions, state of emergency in all but name, use of informer networks and hit squads to destroy the opposition, and manipulation of the media seek to provide ideological justification for the demonisation of the opposition, and licensed informal violence.
Greater unity amongst independent democratic forces and the statement of the Catholic bishops conference unequivocally laying the blame for the first time for the current situation at the door of a ‘corrupt, greedy and repressive elite’ marks a significant step.
It is clear that regional uneasiness and internal ZANU PF struggles have created space for independent voices to organise for systemic democratic change. But, as in the scenarios that Mary Ndlovu outlines, there needs to be a realistic assessment of what can be done as well as strategic regional and international solidarity directed towards progressive targets.
The emergency Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders' summit in Dar es Salaam on 29 March discussed the crisis. It appeared to give some succour to Mugabe’s regime, in line with its stance since the start of the crisis seven to ten years ago.
SADC appointed Thabo Mbeki, seen here in Zimbabwe as Mugabe’s chief defender, as mediator. It called for sanctions, i.e. the asset freeze and travel bans on Mugabe and cronies, to be lifted; and for the UK government to honour its land reform aid package promises.
Since these changes are unlikely to be implemented without some serious reform, this appears to some as yet more of the same non-interference and ‘Áfrican leadership solidarity’.
The alternative more optimistic assessment was that these two demands were a face-saving formula to get Mugabe to accept that SADC wanted an end to the crisis, which has begun to have a serious impact on the region.
For the first time there has been recent and outspoken public criticism of ZImbabwe from continental and regional leaders, notably the Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, on more than one occasion.
This reading of the situation suggests there will be a more sustained engagement in Zimbabwe and the possibility for opening a space for manoeuvre.
Widely believed sources say that Mugabe was given the choice either to leave office at the end of his current term in March 2008, or to introduce significant reforms to end the economic and political crisis.
Many inside Zimbabwe felt that SADC could and should have gone much further in applying open political pressure. They argue that the regional organisation has dealt Mugabe a card to play.
The government press has certainly trumpeted the SADC statements as vindicating Mugabe’s speech to his fellow leaders: outlining his liberation war credentials, and berating the British as the sole cause of the crisis. One effect has been to give Mugabe a stronger hand to deal with his internal party critics.
At one point in the week of 26 March just before a politbureau meeting, sources within the Mujuru faction were reportedly informing journalists that they could persuade Mugabe to stand down for re-election in 2008. They allied opportunistically with the Mnangagwa faction (see below) to see off Mugabe’s bid to ‘standardise’ the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010.
The assumption has been widely canvassed that Mugabe would become a ceremonial president with a Prime Minister. He would retire soon afterwards with no dangers of being whisked away to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Then opposition factions could re-engage with the West.
The problem for both factions was that Mugabe was too paranoid to trust anyone, and had probably seen that impunity often has a limited shelf life.
The party’s central committee, packed with Mugabe supporters such as the youth and women’s league, duly endorsed the president as their sole candidate for the 2008 elections.
This has left the two different factions on the back foot. Despite claims that this time they would force the issue of succession, they appear to have retreated. They are perhaps biding their time to see what the SADC mission looks like.
At face value though, and as has happened without fail in the past, Mugabe has proved a better street fighter when he has his back against the wall than his would-be party presidential opponents. But the deep rifts in ZANU PF are very unlikely to go away.
It is far from certain, however, that Mugabe will automatically see off his critics outside the party whether internal, regional or international.
There was huge support for a signed petition in the press from regional civil society. There is considerable international support for the ZCTU stay away on 3-4 April. There has also been consolidation of concern and critical statements from church leaders. The deposing of the President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Trevor Mananga, who was suspected of getting to close to the ruling party, and who denounced the ZCTU stay away on state television, points to renewed energy amongst opposition forces, and possibilities for change.
Since the late 1990s, Zimbabwe has been trapped in major interlinked crises that have resulted in economic and political free fall. This situation has been described by diplomatic sources, even with the examples of DRC and Somalia in mind, as ‘just about unsustainable’.
A series of disastrous land reform policies; the adoption by ZANU-PF of draconian measures curbing civil and political liberties; a devastating HIV/ AIDS epidemic; widespread hunger and food; 80 per cent unemployment in the formal sector has driven tens of thousands of professionals to leave the country to find work abroad in the region and Europe.
This was compounded by the attack on urban dwellers known as Operation Murambatsvina (‘clear out the filth’). Inflation is now running at 1,720 per cent and rising, expected by the IMF to hit 5000 per cent by the end of the year.
The Fund says Zimbabwe is losing control of its economy. Anecdotal evidence is of the government having to visit the parallel market to gain US dollars to pay off debts on a day-by-day basis. Fiscal deficit is 40 per cent of GDP, which has fallen by 35 per cent.
Official UN statistics show that life expectancy for women is now just 34 years. The HIV infection rate has been 25 per cent, one of the highest in the world.
Zimbabwe has fallen 23 places over the last decade in the ranking of the world’s poorest countries and now stands as the 145th poorest out of 177 ranked countries (UNDP Human Development Report 2005).
So what is the likelihood of serious change? For those who remember some of their Leninist theory, the ideal conditions for radical change include fractures in the state and its apparatuses, unity of the opposition with a vision, leadership and a strategy, serious multiple crises and significant outside support.
It is hard to say that any of these major elements are in place, although there are some recognisable characteristics and opportunities for the development of more. According to a young civil society activist the current choice is between ‘Á New Zimbabwe’ or Somalia’.
There are other options beyond this binary interpretation, including the danger of a tainted and compromised transition brokered by the region with the support of the West. This could leave in place the systemic features of the repressive and kleptocratic regime, impunity and little real democratic change.
There is a danger that there will not be adequate forces to prevent this as many in Zimbabwe may accept this arrangement, especially if accompanied, as it was apparently proposed at the SADC meeting, by a substantial rescue package put together by the US and UK governments. It would probably save lives.
In terms of possible fractures in the state, divisions, often underpinned by ethnic rivalries within and without the majority Shona-speaking group, have been endemic in ZANU-PF for many years, although they have sharpened considerably over the last year.
Mugabe has been able to use and contain divisions with lesser or greater degrees of coercion, given his awareness of ‘where the bodies are buried’.
The current major divisions are between the equally corrupt Vice-President Joyce Mujuru (and husband Solomon) and Emmerson Mnangagwa factions, all of whom represent the ageing liberation generation.
Mugabe appears to retain most support. Although now arguably a faction leader himself, he remains dominant and is unlikely to be unseated before 2008.
As a result of the fallouts, Mnangagwa’s faction may be on top at the moment. Since Mugabe has explicity attacked the Mujuru faction for plotting against him, it might be now or never for Mnangagwa since he is widely believed to be dependent on anti-retro virals.
Much of the faction-fighting – beyond the usual desire for power and control of resources - is over who controls the army, Mugabe’s power base. The army controls most of the major institutions of the state and is likely to be a power broker in any new situation, through, it is generally thought, Solomon Mujuru, given his former position as liberation war vet and post independence army commander.
At his recent 83rd birthday party, Mugabe attacked Joyce Mujuru in a long rambling tirade that even ZBC felt obliged to censor - in itself an amazing step. Joyce it is understood subsequently to have resigned, but was reportedly persuaded by her husband to withdraw it.
Mujuru remains one of the richest men in ZImbabwe. Whilst he is largely believed to have significant army support, there is talk that this is not as strong as previously thought. There may be elements in the army who prefer Emmerson Mnangagwa to come out on top in the feuding over who would succeed Mugabe.
Whether there would be actual armed violence between the two factions is a matter of debate with younger activists seeming to expect it and older ones less sure. However, there have been no reports of conflicts so far. If they do occur, the point of conflict may be the recently discovered diamond field (se below) in which the Mujurus have a stake. There are also reports of plenty of buried weapons just over the border, from Mozambican war days.
There have been reports of great disaffection within the lower ranks of the army and police, even within the presidential guard, with reports of shootings at State House (and allegedly 22 executions, although in Zimababwe wild rumours are not uncommon).
It is believed that the presidential guard now consists of Congolese troops which suggests a deep mistrust of Zimbabwe’s own military. The lower ranks have also seen an increased rate of desertions which the regime has been unable to stem even by using the war veterans and the Green Bombers.
Reports of the imminent deployment of Angolan police units have been denied, with Luanda claiming they are providing ‘training’ to help replace the deserters. If, as is claimed, 3,000 Angolans will be deployed, this is clearly more that just a training mission.
There are also no facilities to support their deployment. According to the (London) Times correspondent, the police being sent are supposed be the dreaded Ninjas, famed for their brutality in Angola and in action against illegal garimpeiro miners from the DRC - which may not be coincidental.
If the Angolans are sending police, this strategy could backfire by generating further resentment from the ranks of the ZRP indigenous police as well as the population. Even the Angolans stressed the need for peace and security in overcoming internal problems.
It would not seem necessary that the Zimbabwean police need training in handing out beatings. There have been suggestions that the beatings meted out on and since 11 March are the responsibility of several special units, possibly including army in police uniforms. The violence also suggests the involvement of special units in ‘black operations’, such as the attacks on police stations and a passenger train – which the regime subsequently used as part of its propaganda in the region to portray their actions as necessary in the face of 'terrorism', which the state claims is being orchestrated by the MDC. The confessions in the Mail and Guardian at the beginning of April of ‘John Gweru’, a special operative in the Charlie Four hit squad, provide disquieting reminders of the tactics of the last years of apartheid.
For the people, the major problem remains the expected massive food deficit of 1.2 million tonnes (Zimbabwe needs 1.8m tonnes), and the likelihood of politicisation of any aid, especially in an election.
The region as a whole needs to monitor this situation far more carefully than for instance at the time of the 2005 election. Assuring independent verifiable information must be made a central component of the mediation.
The government continues to deny there is a problem, yet in one incident a permanent secretary is believed to have followed the visiting World Food Programme head out of a meeting saying that he had made denials of food shortages because CIO intelligence people were present in the meeting and that Zimbabwe really did need emergency and food aid.
Only belatedly has the country asked the EU to provide food aid. Nor is the region likely to help out with maize, given shortfalls and drought in countries such as Zambia and South Africa: the latter will have to import in a situation of high world maize prices. Malawi may have a surplus, but wishes to build up a strategic reserve. Discussions about a regional food security stockpile are only in an early stage. The UN has already launched a US$215 million appeal, of which $62m is for food aid. The Zimbabwe government has so far imported 400,000 tonnes to cover deficit. Zambia says it will honour existing contracts.
On energy, South Africa will also need all it produces and Zimbabwe is in debt to ESKOM (the South African energy parastatal), Mozambique and to SNEL, the Congolese power authority, which was in Harare in early April chasing the money it has already been promised several times.
Tobacco farmers who provide much of the foreign exchange are in dispute with the government over price and are not bringing their reduced crop to the selling floors.
So are the Zimbabweans losing their automatic regional and continental outside support? The Zambian president Mwanawasa, who will be the next chair of SADC, has compared Zimbabwe with a sinking Titanic - a statement that drew an immediate visit to Lusaka from Zimbabwean officials.
This followed a visit from Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and head of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. The SADC troika of Tanzania, Lesotho, Namibia allegedly want Zimbabwe to be top of the agenda at the next organ meeting (or did do before the recent summit). As well as being tasked with re-engagement with Zimbabwe and with the SA ambassador having had talks with Tsvangirai, the South Africans had already made it clear that they wanted commitment to at least formal democratic practices.
Furthermore, given their own history and that of the region, a declaration of a formal state of emergency would be received very negatively. It is arguable of course that Zimbabwe already has an informal one given the defiance by the state of its own repressive legislation e.g. refusing to obey court orders on allowing the opposition to stage rallies.
The ACP countries are also planning a special mission, according to diplomatic sources. Harare is said not to be resisting – presumably on the grounds they can continue to play the line: ‘imperialists are using terror against us’. Leaders of the African Union and African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights have offered to help Zimbabwe. This marks a further stage on from initial non-interference, then concerns expressed over Operation Murambatsvina, and now offers to help. Credibility will no doubt depend on what any mission does and who it talks to, and not falling for the benign guided tour Harare is likely to provide.
It seems unlikely that Harare’s historic allies, the Angolans and Namibians, will abandon their fellow invader of the DRC – despite reports that the Brazilians warned Angola not to overtly support Mugabe. But interestingly, the Namibian president remained silent during the Mwanawasa statement.
There is of course China and the ‘Look East’ policy. This policy follows a long line of failed rescue initiatives from the Libyans to the Malaysians. But each of those in the end want something in return for support, and the Zimbabweans had little to offer. According to diplomats, the Chinese are 'risk averse' and were tired of the Zimbabweans claiming after meetings that the Chinese would be providing support e.g. building a steel mill – a story the Chinese immediately denied. Zimbabwe was notably absent from the itinerary for the recent Chinese Premier’s visit.
The five person Southern African team charged with negotiations and coming up with solutions looks like being coordinated from the President’s Office by Rev Frank Chikane, a one time key anti-apartheid activist. According to reliable sources, the Tanzanian president, Kikwete, will be brought in to talk to Mugabe, Mbeki will liaise with the MDC, AND South African local government minister Sydney Mufamadi with ZANU-PF. There are two deputy ministers and two other DGs as part of the team.
This will occur against the background of the US and EU looking at how they might sharpen up existing ‘sanctions’. Such sanctions possibilities might be extended to include relatives of those banned from travelling to the EU, business leaders of ZPF companies or to widen areas.
SADC’s call for the lifting of sanctions is a sign of moral disapproval rather than a serious overture to ease Zimbabwe’s economic woes, despite claims by Harare that sanctions are responsible for the economy’s collapse.
It is highly unlikely that there would be major investment anyway given the economic downturn and extremely unfriendly investment climate with threats to nationalise major parts of the economy. One possible advantage to the Zimbabwean government is, as stated, the recent discovery of a major diamond field near Marange whose ownership is disputed and could exacerbate tensions within ZANU PF. However the possible deal with Equatorial Guinea trading oil debts for diamonds could run into legaL problems with the Kimberley Process, which regulates the diamond industry.
How united are the democratic forces and the opposition?
It is clear that the Mugabe regime retains some measure of support both within SADC and the AU leaderships. Domestically, Mugabe can call on much of the party, in particular the women’s league. Mugabe/ZANU PF also retains some support amongst sections of the church and other civic leaders, although outright support does appear to be waning.
But this situation is far from static. A shrinking economy has inevitably eroded the regime’s ability to service its client or find new sources of patronage. This situation has undermined the government’s means to retain all-inclusive loyalty from the police and army, to some extent elements of the war vets, and from other state employees.
This is a serious problem for the authorities, and will only get worse as the economy continues to shrink. Indeed, the state can no longer insulate most civil servants from the desperation that ordinary Zimbabweans have been living with for some time as they try to make ends meet.
Already, teachers, nurses and other civil servants have signalled their displeasure with the government – the reports of mass desertions from the police and military are a signal of these groupings voting with their feet. The extent to which, if at all, the democratic opposition can capitalise on these fissures remains to be seen.
But larger questions must be asked. It remains to be seen whether SADC’s intervention will take heed of Zimbabwean civil society’s concerns and priorities. For it to do so, Zimbabwe’s civil society will need to organise itself sufficiently to ensure the mediation team is aware of those concerns and priorities and not leave it at state and party level. The prospective mediation may provide an unprecedented opportunity, but this will certainly require significant coalition building and greater cohesion amongst opposition forces, as well as an awareness that reliance on US funding is not going to help their regional image.
As mentioned, Lenin stressed that democratic opposition must have have unity, vision and leadership. The democratic/social movement in Zimbabwe, however, has been largely characterised by turf wars, parallel forms of opposition, a multiplicity of largely uncoordinated activities, and personalist forms of leadership.
Since January 2006 and the launch of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) and the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, there appears to be signs of a greater unity and sense of purpose – not only rhetorically, but also in practice. It was noticeable, for example, that when police raided ZCTU offices and stole the posters advertising the stayaway of 3-4 April, other parts of civil society were able to help out.
So what are the possibilities of a broad front emerging from the ranks of Zimbabwean civil society, a non-partisan platform, with a common agenda in relation to a new constitution, and a commitment to no engagement with electoral process without major changes and a level playing field?
Despite the split in the main opposition MDC and a sustained attack on their structures, the two factions, Tsvangirai and Mutambar, are generally working together; although there are clearly differences and many of the issues that precipitated their falling out have not been addressed.
Nevertheless, their cooperation intensified after the events of 1 March and was much in evidence at the memorial service for activist Gift Tandare – shot by police and secretly buried. It seems as if police tactics of allowing Mutambare rallies to go ahead with the objective of promoting suspicion that he was a government stooge have failed to work. Unity is thought to be better in rural areas – activists belong to most of the relevant groups and work together, although there has been a major crackdown on opposition supporters in rural areas.
The ZCA report great enthusiasm for their approach from the grassroots and their driving of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign. Civil society at one time appeared purely reactive, but some now feel that they have the government on the back foot instead of proactive. Certainly, continuous pressure appears to be forcing the regime to commit unnecessary public relations blunders like the beating up of opposition MP Nelson Chamisa at the airport on his way to an EU-ACP meeting.
Whether or not civil society groupings have the capacity and commitment to take advantage of these developments is a moot point. As ever, the problem is how to keep the democratic momentum going, and what route it should take. Their inability to capitalise on opportunities in the past does not generate much optimism in the current circumstances.
In terms of strategy, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) is continuing its brave street protests with the state seemingly only too willing to accept the invitation to commit unacceptable brutality. But these are often not well supported. A possible second phase to street protests is not yet there.
Amongst the talk of a new constitution there is also some disagreement around issues of process and what are the necessary preconditions. The opposition needs greater coordination behind the scenes as well, so that medics and lawyers who are prepared to put themselves in the front line, facing threats, do not end up doing all the mundane work.
What underground structures might be necessary, and who is willing to be out of the limelight? This ‘twilight zone’, between acting above board and covertly, has contributed to inertia and confusion – as the MDC and most of civil society continue to operate within the parameters of laws that they do not accept. Whilst some see the inevitability and utility of operating covertly, most are unwilling and indeed seemingly unprepared to do so.
There is also need to establish what strategies should be employed towards talks with the government. At the same time as calling for stayaways such as the partially successful one on 3-4 April 2007, the ZCTU is engaging with the government through the Tripartite National Forum on Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s ‘social contract’ – not that the latter which calls for price and wage stabilisation is likely to have any success given that even if prices stabilise -when they are rising astronomically - most goods only come through the parallel/black market.
The big question is whether civil society concerns are even on the mediators’ agenda. The intervention is essentially political – to talk to the Zimbabwe government (and Mugabe), ZANU PF and the MDC.
Civil society will not be on the radar screen unless they put themselves there. The small space will soon be gone. Unless civil society uses this brief opportunity to sent clear articulated message on what must be addressed they will be sidelined. They must do this in concert with their solidarity partners in the region, so they can also exert pressure on their respective governments.
In this regard, their link to the South African groupings is critical – but to date, solidarity has been piecemeal. This requires a clear communication strategy, not only between Zimbabwean groupings and the region, but within Zimbabwe civic society itself. At present, civil society is seen as a group of disparate groups and individuals, with a limited constituency base. Why should the mediators take them seriously? Despite the parallels with South Africa, there has not been the emergence of a UDF-type leadership that could provide strategic direction and utilise the practical energies of its constituent parts. Much work has been generated over the last few years, but there has not been a strategic division of labour that will pull activities and outputs towards a common vision.
Up to recently, church leaders in this very religious country have been seen as either ineffective, in collusion with the government, or silent, or self-serving, with notable exceptions such as the Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube. Even those who were not ZANU PF and/or alleged intelligence (CIO) agents (and there are plenty of allegations) had appeared more concerned about their hierarchical status and their conversations with the President and Gono, not dissimilar from other parts of civil society that seem to prefer constructive engagement, at cost to their perceived integrity. This had disappointed many Zimbabweans, given what impact they could have had.
There now appears to be a turning point: the pastoral statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference stressed the unacceptable face of the state in repression, violence, economic decline and lack of moral values. Unlike previous ecumenical statements from the Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical churches, which have been watered down to the lowest common denominator, and attempted to equate blame for violence to ‘both sides’.
The recent Catholic declaration followed a rather more hard-hitting Zimbabwe Council of Churches statement and was followed by the ousting of Bishop Mananga as President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, who was seen as getting closer to the ruling regime. We wait to see if the recent Catholic pastoral letter has similar impact to their Malawian counterparts in 1993, or is dismissed as has happened to previous statements.
However it does not appear that the churches want to lead a civil society movement as yet, preferring for the time being to attempt to represent ‘all of their flock’, including no doubt their fellow Catholic Mugabe; and to continue ‘negotiations’ with the government; and talk to the South African churches about their government’s role in negotiations.
In talks with a church leader, there is as yet no follow-up on the letters although the called for days of prayer and fasting could provide such opportunities. There is also the National Vision Document process to integrate into this, whereby church leaders produced a document ‘The Zimbabwe We Want’; for some in the church this process had many contradictions and was seen as very hierarchical and topdown.
The consultations with government led to a second draft which had been substantially watered down at presumed government insistence. There is also, as with the trade unions, the contradictions of debating with the government as the space for debate is brutally closed down in all other areas. As one civil society activist put it ‘why engage with the government when they are beating you up?’
The ways forward
Are there yet key demands, commitments to an understood and widely-accepted process and some awareness of interactions with outside forces? It is difficult to ascertain, although the new situation presented by SADC’s intervention presents an opportunity that needs to be quickly seized.
There needs to be a solid front especially on not contesting elections under the present unfair and unfree conditions and for civil society and other democratic forces to organise to make that apparent to the South (ern) African team. To some extent as with the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe (grouping NGOs) there could be a dual approach of calling for a boycott but preparing in case minimum conditions can be achieved.
The two MDC factions have stated both their wish to cooperate (possibly re-merge) and their determination not to stand in ‘pre-determined elections’ -said by Tsvangirai at the memorial service for killed activist Gift Tandare. In the past there have been calls for electoral boycotts but the MDC has then taken part, often under outside pressure. How can MPs, often desperate to keep their posts, be persuaded not to take part in elections; or even if the boycott is maintained not to enter stooge parties set up by the regime to provide democratic veneer?
One approach from a leading human rights activist says:
'The government is illegitimate and therefore it must go. We need a transition authority just to narrowly get the economy back on feet and perhaps prepare the ground for elections. Once in place we can have free and fair elections internationally observed.'
Other thinking revolves around calling for a national convention (parallel parliament) on the West African model, involving different sectors in policy making and transition. There may be need to call on outside regional civil society assistance. In other places the churches have played a major role in these types of initiatives, although that would not yet seem the case in Zimbabwe. Any such actions must incorporate an effective communications strategy within and outside the country, especially key players in the mediation process (including the MDC).
Areas that also need consideration are: who can help recapitalise and reprofessionalise the country? What mobilisation strategies are possible against rural chiefs in the regime’s pocket? What would be the earliest time it is possible to hold free and fair elections?
1) Stasis quo – maintenance of the present system whilst Mugabe purges his opponents inside ZANU-PF, enlarges the number of parliamentary, especially rural seats to ensure his tenure in power, and maintains what the South Africans called the kragdadigheid system of brutality.
This of course would be contrary to what SADC is planning, and would further economic and political freefall, anger and mass migration, and is not sustainable for much longer.
How would the Mbeki team counter it, and is the South African president wanting to make solving Zimbabwe part of his legacy – the recent interview with the Financial Times made reference to the Blair fix of Northern Ireland?
Some, including within diplomatic circles in Zimbabwe, would suggest that South Africa is too crippled by its own contradictions of the African Renaissance, bridge between North and South, not acting at the behest of the West, incomplete transition from liberation movement to governing party, historic and present day neo-liberal policies of the ANC to be able to make a significant difference. Zimbabweans are going to remain very suspicious of the true intentions of Pretoria/ Tshwane – despite the welcome from the MDC.
2) Outside-brokered incomplete transition. This still seems the most likely. Weary Zimbabweans might prefer it to what they have now, or to complete breakdown. The parallels with the incomplete transition of 1979 when ZANU took power are many.
If the solution is a government of national unity/ reformed ZANU-PF without Mugabe acting more or less under international tutelage, what happens to issues of accountability, impunity, genuine grass roots reconciliation, and whether the thieves keep their loot?
As well as keeping sections of the elite in power, the problems are of who can staff the transition given the systemic corruption and repression of precisely those organisations/institutions that need to lead change.
The alternative of parachuting in outside experts would quickly lead to alienation and possibly similar events as seen in Timor Leste. There is the diaspora to call on, but there is little sign of planning for the future bar some small organisations, mostly outside the country. There are however other transitions to provide comparative work – reunification of Germany, South Africa, Liberia perhaps.
Secondly who is it precisely that Mbeki is negotiating with and with what mandate? He seemed to pull out of involvement in Zimbabwe when things got tricky and much the same could be said of his peacebuilding attempts in DRC and Cote d’Ívoire He has courted disillusionment in Zimbabwe, feeding in wildly optimistic assessments of the government and opposition parties willingness to undertake genuine discussions and consider transformation. Few in Zimbabwe trust him given South Africa’s track record in defending Zimbabwe at the Human Rights Commission (as was) and in other forums. Obviously the democratic forces need enormous support from allies in South Africa such as COSATU, the church leaderships, the human rights activists and indeed ordinary people.
3) Spontaneous explosion possibly leading to option 4? There is the danger that anger could suddenly erupt out of nowhere as an inchoate explosion leading to possible reprisals and the dangers of formal army action.
4) Military option – either by a more overt military coup than the creeping securitisation that has so far characterised the state, or disaffected different parts of the army allied perhaps to different factions contesting power.
5) Civil society driven transition with some kind of national convention/ constitutent assembly process? At present there is no sign of this achieving critical mass and there needs to be an assessment what needs to be done internally and what pressure outside forces can provide – regionally and internationally.
There needs to be a multipronged approach, involving information gathering and dissemination on human rights abuses in international and regional forums, showing that the government is acting extra-legally as a matter of state policy.
The record of human rights abuse is a sustained and entirely credible one, but pressure for international reaction and action needs to be maintained. There is talk of a Human Rights Council office in Zimbabwe to monitor abuse. This needs to be backed up with interventions to the mediation team and maintenance of international support.
Outside supporters role
Assistance to Zimbabwean civil society in working out its strategies including toward the SADC/South African ‘negotiating’ team. There needs to be pressure from outsiders such as the EU to provide greater and practical support for human rights defenders; maintaining the Common Position (‘sanctions’) in particular on no invitation to Zimbabwe to the EU-Africa Summit in November/December 2007; what use can be made of the money from the European Development Funding (EDF) line from 2002 and can it be used to help Zimbabwean civil society?; to ask trades unions, churches, youth groups to create/sustain links with Zimbabwean counterpart groups and to engage with South African counterparts to the same purpose; to ensure that the Commonwealth remains focused on the Zimbabwean issue (despite Zimbabwe expelling itself from the body); help Zimbabwean civil society and take up the issue for further discussion at CHOGM in November in Uganda.
5-8 April, Harare/Johannesburg
* Sam Kebele is a writer on Zimbabwe currently having to use a pseudonym.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Zimbabwean feminist speaks
Shereen Essof is a Zimbabwean feminist and revolutionary activist currently based in Cape Town. She is known for her role in the women’s movement in Zimbabwe. Ronald Wesso spoke to her on 18 March following a week of unashamed and escalating brutality visited on the opposition by the Mugabe regime, a month before Zimbabwe's 27th year of independence.
RW: Shereen, where do we begin if we are talking about Zimbabwe today?
SE: I think that today I would begin with a woman by the name of Grace Kwinjeh, the deputy secretary for international relations in the Tsvangirai MDC, but also a women who is part of the broader women’s movement in Zimbabwe. A women who was beaten, tortured and denied medical assistance. That is what freedom has translated into in Zimbabwe, and that is where I would begin.
RW: Does her experience mean women have been specifically targeted in the spate of state violence we have seen?
SE: Women are always targeted. They are targeted differently depending on what the political economic and social context is. Our society is deeply patriarchal and misogynistic. During the liberation war, women's bodies were used as part of the struggle. That struggle was by no means equitable.
In the 1980s when the state went into moral panic about the freedoms women had gained after independence they targeted 'women as prostitutes' in something known as Operation Clean Up where any women out after 6pm was arrested. Now 27 years later, women are being targeted for being women and political activists. The violence is sexualised, that is why they can be called 'Tsvangirai's whores'.
Gender-based violence against women is more acute where, as in Zimbabwe, traditionalist patriarchal values persist. This is not only due to a value system which treats women as being in some way lesser people than men, and thus not worthy of the protection of the law. It also arises directly from a certain proprietal attitude.
As male 'property' women are not treated as actors in their own right. Hence the epithet 'Tsvangirai’s whores' directed at female members of the opposition by state agents and Zanu PF supporters, implying that they are merely acting on behalf of a man, motivated by considerations other than their own desire for change or political activism.
Furthermore, sexual violence perpetrated upon women is perceived not so much as an assault on the woman herself, but an attack on the 'property' of the 'owning' male. Combined with traditionalist attitudes towards sexuality and virginity, there is a perception that sexual violence perpetrated upon women members of the opposition is viewed by the perpetrator as a particularly effective way of attacking and humiliating male members of the opposition. The resultant social disruption is extensive.
RW: I take from what you are saying that the clampdown is on the opposition but that it’s also important to understand it as a clampdown on women specifically. Let's talk about Gukurahundi, which can also be understood as a clampdown on opposition with an ethnic dimension - the targeting of the Ndebele people. Would you argue that it was also a violent attack on women?
SE: Gukurahundi was an early example of the extent Zanu PF would go to in order to stifle dissent and opposition. Gukurahundi means 'the early rain which washes away the chaff'.
And yes, gukurahundi is the euphemism used for the actions of Mugabe's fifth brigade in the Zapu areas, the Ndebele provinces of Matabeleland and the Midlands during the 1980s. An estimated 20,000 civilians, mostly Ndebele, were killed or disappeared and have not been accounted for to this date. It was vicious and violent.
As Yvonne Vera’s Stone Virgins testifies, it was played out across women’s bodies in very particular ways: rape, brutality, the ripping apart of women, of people and families and communities. Gukurahundi is part of the same continuum that leads us to the events of the last month.
RW: Speaking about Murambatsvina. You spoke about how today and in the past violence was deployed to demobilise and repress women. In the public discourse on today’s events and on Gukurahundi this aspect is played down or left out. It is seen respectively as an attack on Ndebeles and the MDC. Murambatsvina is understood as an attack on the urban poor. Was there a dimension of targeting women?
SE: Look. Murambatsvina was specifically aimed at ‘cleaning up the filth’ and in this instance the filth was people staying in structures for which there had been no legal permission to build. The way this thing played itself out was that the majority of people in the front-line of feeling and dealing with the effects of Murambatsvina were women and it saw the displacement of an estimated 700 000 people.
Women and children are the most common victims in situations where organised violence and torture become prevalent and are frequently the first victims in civil conflict. They are also the most greatly affected in cases of internal displacement. Mrambatsvian was no different.
RW: What is the purpose of all this violence from the state’s side?
SE: The purpose of this violence is about clinging to state power at all costs.
RW: Okay, so given all that, can you see a positive purpose and role for state power?
SE: As long as a minority make decisions on our behalf then we cannot be free. The decision making and enforcing apparatus this minority uses is the state. The state apparatus and way it is conceptualised needs to change radically.
I’m going to go back to women. If one looks at the experience of women in Zimbabwe and one looks at the role of the state in relation to women’s lives the state has never had the interests of women at heart. Women have actually never been considered full citizens of Zimbabwe. They are only considered citizens when the state has something to gain. For example, in March 2007 the state held a celebration for international women’s day under the theme of ‘stop violence against women', on the grounds that they had passed a domestic violence bill. This is interesting and intriguing, given that at the exact same time you had women being detained and tortured by the very same state.
RW: Let’s talk a bit about the MDC that has been placed so centrally in these events. What do you think of the MDC?
SE: The MDC was born out of a dynamic process of social justice activism. Many of the people who are in the MDC came out of the trade unions and civic structures, when people realised that the prevailing energy could be turned into some kind of power, some kind of counterforce to the Zanu regime. That is how the MDC was born. The MDC came to prominence on a wave of popular support in that they provided an alternative.
But I think things did not continue in that spirit, with a commitment to true democracy, to a struggle that is guided by principles of freedom and alternatives. There is no sound articulated strategy to fight for change. True change. In very real ways the MDC have adopted the political culture of Zanu.
So it would seem that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does the MDC offer a viable alternative? We should be clear about what the MDC is and what its policies are. While the word 'democratic' in the opposition’s Movement for Democratic Change evokes pleasant feelings, some of the party’s policies are rooted in neo-liberal ideology.
In fact, what needs to be happening now is the building of a mass movement, linking the struggles by women, workers, residents, traders, Aids activists, students, disability rights activists, debt cancellation activists, the rural poor to start defining the content of the change we want. That means a movement that fights for a new political, economic and social order.
RW: Shereen, let us move the discussion away from the dramatic events of the last few days, as well as the drama of Murambatsvina and Gukurahundi. Let us talk a little bit about what some call the normalcy of everyday life in Zimbabwe. Life expectancy for men in Zimbabwe is now 37 and for women 34. What does it say about normality and everyday life?
SE: I read something about Zimbabwe the other day:
'Yes there is tension in some places, but for the majority life goes on normally. And unfortunately within that "normality" is a gross amount of struggle.'
What is normal? And what is abnormal?
I think that in Zimbabwe right now the lines are incredibly blurred. People find ways to continue and to survive, brutally. Perhaps surviving is resistance. Is that normal or abnormal? What does everyday life look like given life expectancies of 37 and 34?
Inflation is at 1700 per cent at the moment. If you go into the shop today and pay 40000 Zimbabwean dollars for something, the next day it could cost 65000 dollars. Not many people are earning salaries that keep up with inflation. The strikes by teachers and doctors are indicative of that. Everyday life in Zimbabwe is for many a life of struggle, hardship and deprivation. A life of brutality, without the basic things that you need to be human.
But there is something else that is very interesting about everyday life in Zimbabwe. You can arrive at Harare international airport and drive into town and you will see luxury cars everywhere. You will see BMWs. You will Mercedes Benz’. You can go to restaurants and have the best seafood. In the face of all this deprivation you have the consolidation of a very small elite. There are flows of money outside of the formal economy that means that people are making money from the current situation. And for such people it is not in their best interests that anything should change.
RW: All of this happens against a backdrop of a Zimbabwe that’s actually at war in the DRC. What is the importance of that?
SE: It’s interesting that you pick up on the DRC because I think that Zimbabwe’s involvement in the DRC was yet another watershed in the spiral downwards. In 1998, the war veterans under the leadership of Chejerai Hilter Hunzvi basically held Mugabe hostage and demanded a pay out for war veterans, which the budget of the country could not sustain. In the same year Zimbabwe sent troops into the DRC even though financially it was not viable. But it is common knowledge that the elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean political, military and commercial interests seek to maintain their grip on the main mineral resources, diamonds, cobalt, copper, germanium.
RW: Which of course raises the question of Zimbabwe’s place in the continent and the world, its political and economic relations with other countries. Let’s approach this through South Africa’s role. What do you think South Africa's role is? And what do you think of the many calls on SA to intervene?
SE: It is imperative for the South African government and SADC to take action to hasten an end to the oppression of the Zimbabwean people. The existing softly-softly policy of quiet diplomacy to encourage internal dialogue has failed. One needs to listen to the call by Desmond Tutu and civil society organisations in southern Africa for intervention. The Mugabe regime needs to know that it can no longer rely on the unconditional support of the South African government.
RW: What would an intervention from SADC and South Africa look like?
SE: Mugabe must be called to task. He must be called to account. If he is not, all African leaders are as guilty as Mugabe.
For a start they need to explicitly condemn the violent actions being undertaken in the name of Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean government. End all defence force, security and intelligence collaboration. Cease supplies of all military hardware. Cease to roll over all loans. Respond sympathetically to asylum requests. The argument that it is wrong to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign country is no longer sustainable. Without international intervention against apartheid, the struggle for liberation in South Africa would undoubtedly have taken longer and been even more bloody.
RW: I want us to talk about art and culture. Zimbabwe still has the highest literacy rate in the SADC region. The Harare International Arts Festival (HIFA) is in the world’s top ten. And the recurring theme of Zimbabwean art through the ages is the transformation of a human being into a beast. I just want you to reflect a little on that side of Zimbabwe.
SE: Interesting. Zimbabwe is rich in cultural production, pottery, textiles, jewellery, carvings, baskets, sculpture, music, theatre, writing. There’s some really amazing work that is being done. I think that the transformation of human being into beast in something that in some ways Zimbabweans know about intimately. If cultural production is about a critique of what is happening at a socio-economic and political level, then that is what is going to be woven into cloth or chiselled out of stone. Human to beast.
HIFA is an annual international arts festival that encompasses five main disciplines: music, theatre, fine arts, dance and the spoken word. HIFA began in 1999 and since then has taken the Zimbabwean and Southern African arts scene by storm. The Festival showcases the best of Zimbabwean performances and fine arts while at the same time staging and exhibiting the most exciting and creative international and regional performances.
HIFA 2007 is dedicated to artistic expression that has meaning and purpose for a community that is facing challenging balancing acts every day. It is a time to show that in Zimbabwe in 2007, the arts express our desire to make life better for ourselves as individuals and as a diverse community; a time to show that HIFA and artists recognise the paradoxes faced by Zimbabweans each day as we step out on to our own personal tight rope.
Most of all, it is a time to show that creativity surrounds us and makes us smile each day- HIFA 2007 is a celebration of all the small-scale acts of creative heroism that give magic, enchantment, existentialist ideals to ordinary things.
RW: So Shereen, how do we get from beastliness and brutality to humanity and tenderness?
SE: Chirukure Chirukure in his poem 'Smoke, Dust, Tear-gas' hints at this:
'in the heavy, belching clouds of dry dust there in your tired, barren patch of rocky land you could still tender the grey, shrivelled crops, weeding the way to the starving family’s future...in the crude, suffocating thunder of tear gas, there in your tense neighbourhood turned into battlefields, you could still see the damp, blood-soaked secret paths, tenderly shuttling to give direction and inspiration to the cause ... in the perfume, tobacco, alcohol and laughter fumes, there in the extensive, excited victory celebration parties, your eyes could stretch beyond the beaming rainbow knowing that out of the brutality, there is the humanity, that this is only but a seed germinating...'
RW: Are there such spaces for the creation of this humanness in Zimbabwe, or at least in the process of creation?
SE: I think the spaces have to be created. They are not just delivered to you on a platter. People are creating the spaces. Women are creating the spaces. There have been a number of women who have been very involved in the 1980s and the 1990s who because of political and social and economic reasons are now scattered around the region. Who have reached out to each other in order to create those spaces to see what possibilities can spring from that. So spaces have to be created, and they will be.
RW: Is this the Feminist Political Education Project?
RW: So tell us a bit more about it.
SE: The Feminist Political Education Project in some ways was born out of shared experience and friendships. Shared experience within the women’s movement and within the National Constitutional Assembly [NCA] across the MDC and friendship, in that the women who came together to form the project were friends.
They understood the urgent need for something. In 2003 we didn’t know what that something was, but we agreed that as an alternative to the way that the mainstream malestream works we would come together as a very loose network. We would not consolidate as an organisation. We would pool our skills and resources and come up with interventions based on what was happening at a particular time in the country and create spaces for women to come together both to share and reflect but also to think through ways of doing even in the limited room that exists in Zimbabwe right now to organise and to do. And so we have been working since 2003. The Feminist Political Education Project is a space of hope.
RW: Apart from the Feminist Political Education Project are there any other projects or groups or movements that you would urge people to join and build?
SE: I think the Zimbabwe Social Forum is an important space in the struggle against globalisation and in building mass based resistance on the ground. You know, that’s important. I think Zvakwana is important. SW Radio is important. Many formations that are contributing to the dreaming of a new dispensation.
RW: What are the prospects for Zimbabwe Shereen?
SE: This last week has been a watershed. Things may get worse before they get better but things are going to come to a head either way. People outside and inside the country are preparing for that. They are consolidating networks to come with strategies and I think that the pressure is now on. It’s a different game.
RW: What would true freedom and democracy look like?
SE: A Zimbabwe that confronts its various pasts and names the violations its peoples have suffered; freedom would look like a space to look at the militia in the eye and say, ‘you violated me’. It would be a chance to talk back to the commercial farmer, for all those years of exploitation and abuse. To be able to point a finger at the minister and the war vet and ask: 'why?' It would allow for a woman to define the Zimbabwe she wants to live in. Is that not what democracy is about? A chance to be listened to. And be heard. An acknowledgement of the pain endured? A piece of land to call one’s own would go a long way. Space to be a citizen. Speaking on our own behalf. Defining our own futures. Ukuba ngumuntu – muntu. To become people. Our personhood restored.
* "Shereen Essof is a Zimbabwean feminist and activist
* Please send comments to email@example.com
Anatomy of a hunger strike
Over the past month the Durban shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, has been systematically harassed and criminalised by the local police and municipality. Five Kennedy Road members of Abahlali have been arrested and detained. The five have been released on bail following a twelve day hunger strike. Raj Patel provides a brief background to the recent events and the response of the shack dwellers.
Unwanted and derided by their municipalities, the billion people who live in the world's shacks and slums are used to being called criminals. But the minute they stand up to such accusations, the minute that the poor reclaim their dignity, the state rains violence on their heads.
This is what members of the KwaZulu-Natal-based Shack dwellers Movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, have discovered since they began their struggle in 1995. It has been confirmed, unnecessarily and brutally, in the past month. Five members of the movement, all from the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban, are now recovering from a twelve day hunger strike, after their incarceration in the city's notorious Westville Prison. The plight of the Kennedy Road Five illustrated the South African government's new plan to deal with the emerging politics of the poor: criminalise it.
The story begins on 15 February 2007. While out for a training jog, Thina Khanyile, a resident of the Kennedy Road settlement and a marathon runner, was attacked. His watch and shoes were stolen and he was stabbed eighteen times. He would have died had not a passing truck driver from the settlement picked him and brought him home, where help was called.
In the words of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, the democratically elected organisation representing shack dwellers from the settlement, this is what happened next:
'On 18 February a well known and dangerous criminal living in the settlement told people in the community that Khanyile's attacker was in the Kennedy Road settlement. Those people restrained the suspect without causing any hurt to him and sent for Khanyile. Khanyile recognized him as the man who had almost killed him. At that point some people in the community began to assault the man who we now know was Mzwakhe Sithole from Ntuzuma.'
The committee continues:
'Members of the Safety & Security sub-committee in the Kennedy Road Development Committee immediately called the police. They called the police because even though there are such bad problems with most of the police here we still have to go to the few good police officers for serious cases like attempted murder and murder. When the police arrived the man looked to be fine. The crowd of more than 50 people all saw the police assaulting the man with kicks and punches as he walked to the van and climbed inside.'
Khanyile then tried, twice, to register a case against his attacker. Nothing was heard from the police until Human Rights Day on 21 March 2007. Nine residents were arrested at 3am. They were told that Sithole had died a week after his arrest and that they were being arrested for his murder. After a two day women's protest, five people were released. And then another person was arrested. Among the five who were charged was Khanyile himself, together with Cosmos Nkwanyana, S'thembiso Bhengu, S'bongiseni Gwala, and M'du Ngqulunga.
According to Police Supt Vincent Mdunge, the Sydenham police had rescued Sithole, who had been 'seriously assaulted', and 'because of the seriousness of the situation, he was taken through to the police station for safety reasons'. One week later, according to the police, Sithole died right outside the station after a successful escape.
Five members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee who the police allege were involved with the assault now stand charged with murder. It is they who were until recently behind bars and who, on 1 April, decided to go on hunger strike to bring attention to their plight, and to the open repression of democratic, but non-state-authorised, organising in Durban.
The Sydenham police, under the command of Senior Superintendent Glen Nayager, remain adamant that they are serving the causes of justice. The police's story, just to be clear, it this: Sithole was assaulted so badly that five residents of the Kennedy Road settlement are now charged with his murder. On the other hand, a week later Sithole was spry enough to break out of a high-security holding facility at Sydenham Police Station, to which he had been taken 'for his own safety', only then to drop dead just outside the gates, where Nayager and his men rushed to save him but, alas, too late.
'It's the same lies as they told under apartheid', said one shack dweller, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal. Shack dwellers offer another story. They point to the fact that, other than Khanyile, the other arrested men are all key members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, an organisation that has been systematically targeted by Spt Nayager.
Shackdwellers observe that one of the arrested men, M'du Ngqulunga, was only himself detained and charged after claiming at a protest the following day that the arrests were political. Local residents also recall the history of arbitrary arrests of shackdwellers by Spt Nayager, and the number of shackdwellers who have been brutally beaten by the Sydenham Police. They also note that Spt Nayager's arrests are always accompanied by tirades of political abuse and public promises to drive the 'Red Shirts' -the ANC's name for Abahlali baseMjondolo - out of this area.
The hunger strikers' statement asserted that they were political prisoners protesting their wrongful arrest and demanding their immediate release.
Their refusal of food was the only way, they claimed, of asserting their dignity and withholding their consent to their imprisonment.
When Anglican Bishop Ruben Phillip visited the hunger strikers, he told journalists that he was deeply moved and humbled by their courage and conviction. He also said that he feared for their lives, especially those of the two who were seriously unwell when the hunger strike began. During this visit, M'du Ngqulunga explained that Nayager had personally tried to force him to shout ANC slogans while he was detained in Sydenham but that he had refused.
The community twice tried to march on Sydenham Police Station in protest at the arrests. The first march was broken up by the police. Spt Nayager illegally banned the second march but, at a meeting with Abahlali leaders held under pressure from a vigorous protest, eventually conceded that the law unequivocally allowed for 14 or fewer people to legally present him with their demands.
The community-delegated representatives were able to present him with their memorandum, which included documentation of incidents of racism, theft of photographic evidence, threatening journalists, and ignoring 'real crimes against shack dwellers but acting as though it is a crime for shack dwellers to speak for themselves'.
Finally, on Friday 13 April, the Kennedy Road Five got their bail hearing. The Investigating Officer, whom Nayager openly boasts about giving orders to, had been pushing a hard no-bail line. But pressure from the protests, the media, the church support and the river of red T-shirts running through the corridors of the court had softened the prosecutors. By 10am, they were ready to make a deal, but the bargain was still hard.
Bail was set at R5,000 (US$700) per person. For penniless and unemployed people, the sum was preposterous, and only made possible through a series of generous donations. On top of that, the prosecutor claimed that she had information from the Investigating Officer that the 5 were planning to intimidate the witnesses. Because of this, they could not return to their homes or their community. So they have been banned from their homes and their communities, from the places where they might find work, and where they would volunteer their time in their democracy.
This banning order, in which they are specifically restricted from particular urban areas on the pretext of 'health and safety', but on the grounds that were they to return there they would engage in politics, is a rather direct throwback to Apartheid-era tactics. The five, having spent a night in hospital on a drip, are now homeless. They are unlikely to be convicted - fifty people saw Sithole alive and well as he entered the police van. But the state's attempts to smash poor peoples' organising have escalated. The wanton use of police and judiciary to silence the poor augurs badly for social movement organizing in South Africa.
* Raj Patel is a sisiting scholar at the Center for African Studies, University of California at Berkeley. Perhaps more to the point he once had his camera stolen by Superintendent Nayager (see www.voiceoftheturtle.org/raj/blog/2005/11/fucker-stole-my-camera-and-shot-my.html.)
* Listen to the Pambazuka Podcast interview with System Cele from shack dweller association Abahlali.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
The embarrassing grotesqueness of presidents
Tajudeen Abdul Raheem
I was going to write this week about which of the numerous Presidential candidates in Nigeria's Presidential elections this weekend. But so grotesque and tragic have been the monumental irregularities in the elections of last weekend that the less about them the better because they were too blatant. They do not inspire any confidence that this weekend's ones will be any better.
The sad thing is that I believe that the candidate I would have voted for if I had the vote, Umar Musa Yar Adua, would still win but the credibility deficit is so highly debited that no one will concede that he has won fairly. PDP has finally succeeded in giving 'rigging' a bad name. So political scientists in Nigeria will either have to close shop or admit that they are now ghost social scientists!
Unfortunately for me this week there is no respite from embarrassments. I have been getting many embarrassing questions these days about a number of African leaders with whom many of the mostly hostile questioners and even curious friendly critics believe I enjoy close association. The questions are embarrassing because I am supposed to have answers or insights about them but my knowledge may not be more than that of an average observer.
On top of the list of these leaders is President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni followed by a whole club of leaders generally referred to as ‘New Generation of African Leaders’ that include Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, President Issias Afworki, President Paul Kagame and others. In a class of his own among leaders about whom I get embarrassing questions is Uncle Robert Mugabe. He is not so much a New Generation leader as a now pathetic relic of a glorious liberation epoch.
I am not complaining about these questions because they are based on concrete political realities of my personal ideological and political positions. I supported all of these leaders, wrote and spoke positively about many of them for many years. Therefore those asking me about what is happening to these leaders now even when their intentions are hostile what they are demanding of people like me is to tell them what has happened to our Dear Leaders? For instance while the same people may ask me about what is happening in Nigeria they will never try to embarrass me by asking: What has happened to General Olushegun Obasanjo since they do not think that both he and I have any shared ideological perspectives.
I have received more questions recently about two of these leaders: Museveni and Meles. How I wish I had inside knowledge to explain to these questioners Why President Museveni who came to power promising fundamental change has now raised to the status of theory the reactionary slogan of ‘No change’! How can I explain that a president who opened up the political space in the country, introduced so many political reforms that arrested the country’s political and economic decline and historically sectarian politics is now accused by many of his former comrades of being guilty of political infanticide, killing institutions which he created because they no longer serve his political purposes? Is it the same President who refused to allow any streets to be named after him that is now inaugurating his Saddam-like Statues? How can one explain the recent attacks on the judiciary and threats to liberty and the rule of Law that is even turning sedate judges into judicial militants? And even more what about the current controversy about the Mabira forest which has pitched even many loyalists of the President and a broad section of the populace including the Buganda royalty against the President and his dwindling band of hack men and women?
As for Premier Meles he has in recent years bungled his way from one unpopular decision and action to the other. He locked up people who defeated his ruling party in the 2005 elections charging them with treason and genocide! Only two weeks ago did he start releasing some of them but a majority (including two CSO activists, Daniel and Natsenat) are still detained because they allegedly stil have case to answer after two years in detention! Those who were detained were luckier than the many demonstrators protesting the irregularities of the elections who were murdered by Security forces. How can one explain how a leader and ruling party that overthrew the Stalinist murderous regime of the Dergue / Mengistu is today as totalitarian as the regime they threw out? Unlike the NRM (which had ideological people but was never a doctrinaire group) the TPLF/ EPRDF were very ideological in the old Stalinist ways but like the NRM they have become more free market than Adam Smith!
Both Meles and Museveni are happy to be Bush's allies without any shame.
Why do leaders who promise National rebirth and inspire their compatriots to believe in them end up disappointing them?
The one answer I can give to all these and many other questions about these leaders is: STAYING TOO LONG in power. No matter how great they may be they are ordinary mortals even if their propagandists deify them. They wither, become tired but their wear and tear have serious impact on the body politic. As they say ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. When leaders become tired they tire the nation with them. It is not just in Africa, look at Britain, rudderless under Blair who is finished but refusing to go but sinking lower and lower.
But at least in Britain it is not a question of if Blair leaves, it is when and there is certainty that it may be soon after the local elections in May but definitely before the October conference of the Labour Party. Imagine if he was an African Leader, he would have dissolved the party by now and Gordon Brown (his putative successor) will either be in Jail or facing all kinds of charges, or in exile or even dead!
But one thing is clear: afrika will survive these leaders but more than that we shall overcome these obstacles. We just have to keep hope alive and continue with the struggles.
* Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is the Deputy Director for the UN Millennium Campaign in Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He writes this article in his personal capacity as a concerned pan-Africanist.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
The woman in me
Sharie A. Blanton
I have been following this story for quite sometime and was so glad to read the account by Grace at the end of her ordeal. Unfortunately the fight will continue until justice arrives in Zimbabwe. I have spent the last six years working in southern Africa, and often in Zimbabwe. The Africare staff there were all courageous. Each person that we helped through our programmes were probably the neediest out of all eight countries where we had operations in southern Africa.
I applaud their ongoing commitment to human rights and pray that they will be safe and for peace and prosperity to return to Zimbabwe.
Sharie A. Blanton, Executive Director St. Alban's Child Enrichment Center Coconut Grove ~ South Miami ~ Little Havana
A cultural paradigm for Liberia's reconstruction
Nicholas T. Watson
To initiate consideration of the reconstruction of Liberian cultural traditions is a worthwhile enterprise. The view there is need for cultural renaissance in Liberia must be welcomed by the marginalised, indigenous and economically disadvantaged. It is interesting to note that this enterprise requires rigorous and sustained efforts imbued with dedication and commitment.
The arrival of the settlers from 1821-1822 to the present day on to these shores has been over a considerable period of time. Let it be noted that during this period, much has happened that can not be easily undone. The devastation of our traditional culture, which once cohesively held us together prior to the advent of the freed slaves, has been massive.
The settlers have calculatedly manipulated the environment, thereby giving them advantage to firmly hold on to their power base. They are too economically potent; they are well educated; they cooperate mightily; and they are firmly united, disallowing penetration by any outside force.
Persons like us who have been in the country since, and have witnessed many unfolding events: political as well as military have endeavoured to identify the attendant dynamics. The natives failed to consolidate the power they obtained by staging the 1980 coup which brought Samuel Doe from Grand Gedeh County to power. We failed to entrench ourselves.
The settlers 'divide and rule' tactics disintegrated the government. They bounced back in December 1989 by using ourselves against one another in full scale rebel unconventional warfare. Their resolve was to totally disorganise, disintegrate, neutralise; in fact to politically, economically, socially and inhumanely vaporise us.
The settlers, through their strongman Charles Taylor, made children murder their own parents; and brothers fought and killed one another. The by-product of the over 14 years' conflict is a whole wasted generation, trained only to understand ruthlessness, crime, quick-fixed financial gains and drug addiction. They lack interest in education of any kind. Above all, there is a void in the ability to reason by logical analysis.
To mention the worst, our sacred ancestral shrines have been ruined and desecrated, therefore exposing our traditional heritage and beliefs. The settlers have made significant gains.
The Pambuzuka movement must endeavour to undo this by challenging what has been established. It must begin now. The many of you in the diaspora must begin to establish the movement at home. You who have acquired such a level of education from amongst the grassroots have resided among the white man and learnt his culture. If you return to your people, they will definitely respect your views. You must come, and have an impact on their lives by establishing institutions, building capacities and empowering them.
The presence of the indigenous brothers in the diaspora on the ground will reinvigorate the masses with new ideas, experiences and professionalism. The return of qualified indigenous Liberian professionals to contribute to the reconstruction of the country will buttress the success of the culture renaissance.
The movement to re-establish indigenous traditions must empower and engage communities, especially the poor and vulnerable within the villages and towns of our country. The recognition and embracing of the movement will be predicated upon investment in human capital, human development focusing on health education, and poverty reduction. These will guarantee food security by facilitating the expansion of food production and distribution; making food accessible and affordable; and improving food absorption.
Some of us have been here, watching and waiting to exert our full potentialities in a peaceful and normal environment. We want to see a very competitive society: native versus settlers. We can win, only if we trust and believe in ourselves and cooperate in unity and oneness in purpose. Our number is more than theirs. We have the numerical strength as well as the geographical advantage. The cultural renaissance must begin now. The change we desire to see must be ourselves.
Ike Okonta: Nigerian elections
I write to congratulate Ike Okonta on his wonderful analysis. It is the best I have read, since the current intensification of media attention on the Nigerian elections.
But I am curious as to why Okonta totally left out any serious mention of the fate and possible role of the Igbos in the emerging scenarios he painted?
This ethnic group, hitherto one of the so-called tripod on which the country stood, has suffered untold marginalisation and denial of rights since the end of the civil war. Have they become so irrelevant that they no longer count in the calculus of Nigeria's political evolution?
Thanks again for a wonderful piece. I hope Obasanjo and his foreign and domestic minions are paying attention.
Kenyan writers – call for submissions
Ishmael Reed Publishing Co. is looking for new short stories, preferably not published elsewhere, by Kenyan authors for publication in January 2008. Please send your short story, accompanied by a short author biography, to the editor, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading, Kenya - new short fiction. The submission deadline is 15 July 2007.
Poem: The Black Horde
The black horde was coming and you were afraid
Afraid you pushed and pushed and grunted as you did so
So you held them back long enough to feel the strength in your own arms
Arms that had tried eight times to drown that accursed black kitten
But then the black horde came anyway
Surging into the streets, across the big roads that divided
Into the towns of the nation
And they came, some chanting, some singing
But all dancing, because that it what black people do
Long black fingers clawed at your throat
Would not stop choking until you stopped pushing
So you sighed and said, 'I surrender'
And showed your hands—although stuffed with money—to prove that you had stopped pushing
And the angry black horde drew back.
Now it is hanging back in shadows as dark as itself
A little smaller now (some of its number has been emancipated) but only a little
Agitated, but only enough to hurt itself
With delicate wrist flicks of knife wielding hands
And angry pressure on triggers meant for the past struggle
I am the black horde come again
No one struggles with me
Or if they do, they hide
And I am the only one among the horde
But even my eyes are averted…inward?
The black horde is waiting again
For another couple of centuries of pushing
Yes I Am - film review
The documentary film, Yes I Am, tells the story of Flame, Mamadee, Xavier and Adé and the story of the Brothers Keepers/Sisters Keepers. It tells of the power of music and shows how good it feels to raise one's voice as a group.
When Flame was sixteen, he left his parents' place to live in a home where he learnt the "gangsta" trade. When Mamadee was ten, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) collapsed, dashing her dreams of wearing the Thälmann pioneers' red scarf. When Adé was fifteen, his father was killed and he left Nigeria for Leverkusenin Germany. Xavier Naidoo learnt early from his parents that owning a car made one respectable in the community.
These artists grew up as German children of African fathers and German mothers, except for Xavier whose father had some Indian ancestry and D-Flame whose father was an African-American GI soldier. In the end, all of them grew up without their fathers. Yet they have made it big time through determination, self-will and religious faith.
Their paths never crossed till an African from Mozambique, Alberto Adriano, was brutally killed by three Nazi youths in a park in the Eastern German city of Dessau. Following the murder, more than twenty of the best-known African-German musicians joined up to found the band project Brothers Keepers. They recorded the maxi Adriano (Last Warning) and the album Lightkultur on which they were partnered by the female counterpart, Sisters Keepers. They visited, and still visit, schools in East Germany to talk to schoolchildren.
Review of African blogs
Grandiose Parlor comments on the apathy amongst Nigerian bloggers not writing on the elections and is particularly irritated by the response from bloggers and media using the phrase 'I am not surprised' in reaction to the violence and chaos. He goes on to say
'We can’t all fold our arms and watch some rogues make nonsense of these votes. Although the majority of Nigerian bloggers operate from the Diaspora, of the Nigeria-based blogs, very few has substantial posts on the elections.
If 70 year old men and women spent hours in the sun waiting to vote, if foreign observers dodged bullets and confronted teargas fumes to capture the “tone of the elections,” then Nigerian bloggers have no excuse!.....For the sake of those men and women that voted, the least Nigerian bloggers can do at this time is do a post on the elections - if you can’t write, link to another blog or a news site that has something relevant on the elections.'
It is disappointing that considering the number of Nigerian bloggers, so few have commented or reported on the elections. Any comment whether negative or positive is better than silence which in the Nigerian blogosphere has become very loud indeed.
More and more bloggers are writing about Uganda, both Ugandans and foreigners working in the country. Below are a couple of relatively new entries to the blogosphere.
Country Boyi Boyi celebrates the election of Susan Abbo as guild president at Makerere Univeristy as she becomes the third female to hold this position and quotes her acceptance speech.
'I’ve come as the only organic students autonomy who will never give up in times of moral crisis', she said amid thunderous applause. 'I’ve come as an agent of transformation because our freedom has been bedevilled by agents of false propaganda, of inefficiency, and of slavery. Am going to use my strong will and dedication to make things happen.'
However all is not well with this post as the Boyi has a strange way of emphasising the need for the university authorities to work with Ms Abbo and the students – surely he could have come up with something less offensive and sexist than this:
'Can she woo the university authorities to come to bed with her so that the great power that the 84-old Makerere once wielded is rejuvenated?'
In An African Minute is a blog by an American working on post-conflict development in Uganda. In the 'Dark Side of Mobilisation' he comments on the Ugandan governments intention to 'hand over one of the nation's most prominent tropical forest to Kakira Sugar Works, a subsidiary of a huge Asian-owned conglomerate'. The response by grassroots organisation has been to start a campaign to block the move. One of the tools they are using are SMS messaging via mobile phones. Unfortantely last week the campaign turned ugly as:
'we wondered what the results of such a massive mobilization would be. Western observers may be saddened that the results may be far from positive, and even catastrophic. A peaceful protest march in Kampala gave way to anti-Asian riots which resulted in three deaths, including one Asian who was stoned to deal in the streets.'
What is interesting is the use of mobile phone technology as a tool for activism. Using SMS for campaigning, distributing information and education is becoming more and more widespread across the continent.
Ernest Bazanye has a different take on the riots mentioned by 'In An African Minute'
'Ugandans don’t care about the environment. Well, you might, but that that mob doesn't. If Ugandans gave a shit, why would we still have a problem with buveeras and why would people still not be using energy saving bulbs, and why would they still be doing their laundry at the lakeside, right next to the sign that asks them not to, and what about that mess called Nakivubo channel? And why are they always encroaching on wetlands? They are encroaching on forests too! And what about all the kasasiro and rubbish heaps everywhere you go? And why is it everyone’s ambition to own a gas-guzzling smoke belching 4-wheel drive?'
I think he is being somewhat harsh on the Ugandan public. If we are honest most people in the world don’t care about the environment. Ugandans are not the only people aspiring to drive around in huge guzzling 4x4s – the same can be said of Americans who use 3 and 4 litre engine vehicles not to speak of the hummer which is basically a tank for god’s sake. The same goes for plastic soda bottles, bags and so on. Partly it is lack of information but it is also a 'don’t give a damn selfish' mentality driven for one thing by capitalist imperatives to constantly produce more for less.
Oneafrikan tried to organise a Web2 conference in South Africa but unfortunately there has so far been little interest in the idea possibly because of the marketing strategy used. The conference 'Technology for Africa 07' is due to take place in May. It reminds me of the Africa Blogging Indaba that took place last year under much controversy, although this one will cover technology in general and not just blogging. It will be interesting to see, if it does happen, who attends, who the guest speakers are and the content of the discussions especially how they address access and take up of technology in South Africa.
Sociolingo I am not sure who writes this blog except that at present s/he is living in Mali and writes about a wide range of African issues including language and in this piece he posts an interview with Senegalese Deputy Minister in charge of Basic Education and National Languages of Senegal on language policy in Senegal. I chose this piece as the issue of codification, translating and teaching African indigenous languages is essential if languages are to remain alive. In Nigeria for example where there are some 250 languages, there are still many that have not been codified and because of the movement from the rural areas to cities are in danger of dying out in the next 50 years. Sociolingo also raises the point of a “common” language or linga franca in those countries where multiple languages are spoken. This has generally been the colonial language such as English, French and Portuguese. The question
'Can languages be planned? Is it desirable to intervene in the maturing process of languages?(2)……If that quotation is put back into context, it means that, where languages are concerned, there is a need for mediation that a decree cannot resolve. This problem has come up in Senegal. It has been said that In order to achieve national unity, there must be a language of unification in Senegal. But which language should we choose? Obviously, if the government decides to choose one language rather than another, that doesn’t mean that the social process taking place in the real world will obey the decree exactly as issued. Languages have their own dynamic. There are many factors involved, such as trade, migrations, historical and social factors, that cause one language to spread more than another. If a government arbitrarily decides that a particular language must be the language of national unification instead of acknowledging these ongoing processes for what they are, it’s on the wrong track.'
It will be interesting to see how Senegal deals with this issue which affects a large number of African countries with multiple languages. Languages do not exist on their own, they are an intricate part of culture, tradition and history so choosing one over another can easily become a highly continuous issue.
Black Looks comments on the Don Imus affair in which he, a US TV journalist describes a black female basketball player as 'nappy-headed ho'. Fortunately he has since been relieved of his job but the fall out from this remains in the news.
Last week hip hop commentator Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur of AllHipHop.com was calling for Hip Hop to apologise to Black women for it’s misogyny and sexism. This week an American sports commentator was openly dissing Black women 'nappy head ho' - how bad can it get? Where did this white man get to speak this language - well he got some of it from this same Black Hip Hop and street language. So before we rush and condemn the white man and hey on that side I have learned to have little expectations but lets speak the truth - and the truth is that this is Black man talk. Not just in US but also in Britain and here in Africa as local youth get off on using this same kind of misogynist language.
• Sokari Ekine is the Onlne News Editor of Pambazuka News and produces the blog Black Looks, www.blacklooks.org
• Please send comments to email@example.com
AU and CSO activity in the 'continental government' debate
In advance of the June 2007 African Union Summit in Accra, Ghana, the AU-Monitor has uploaded a draft calendar of African Union and CSO activities, and events related to the debate on 'continental government'.
This debate is set to be the single issue on the formal agenda of the African Union proceedings in Ghana. The calendar is meant to provide updated information to African civil society organisations to enable them to stay abreast of events, activities and advocacy opportunities. Please send additions or comments for the calendar to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to check the AU-Monitor regularly for new entries, information and analysis.
Democratic political leadership: pre-condition for continental Union
Interview with Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Arnold Tsunga is a lawyer based in Harare Zimbabwe and working on human rights law in Zimbabwe. In March, Saloman Kebede interviewed him on the upcoming Grand Debate on Continental Government during the next African Union Summit, June – July 2007. The full proposal being considered by the Heads of States can be viewed at www.pambazuka.org/aumonitor
SK: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current proposal for Continental Union?
AT: The recommendations in the Study for Continental Government are not currently binding. Our leaders will end up doing what favours their governments as opposed to what would be of benefit to Africa as a whole. This weakens proposal. The appalling state of leadership is a great misfortune in Africa and has victimized citizens through the violation of human rights in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda and elsewhere. The strength of this proposal shall lie in its ability to uphold the status of human rights in Africa and address situations in particular countries where democracy has been abused.
SK: Should it be adopted in Accra in July 2007, what would you like to see the African Union Commission achieve within the first phase (2007-2009)?
AT: Enable Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals. As the African Union is still a growing institution, civil society organizations can assist to ensure good political leadership and the governance that will guarantee that Africa meets the MDGs.
SK: And why would this form of continental union be important to African citizens & particular the poor and marginalized?
AT: It is important for Africa to have a unified focus and accountability as a continent.
SK: How could states and non-states ensure that continental union efforts are transparent, participatory and driven by an appreciation of political and economic rights?
AT: The effective involvement of grass root communities is central to its success. We must consider the power of civil society actors, the power of human right defenders and the power of political activists on the ground. We must take into account what they say and try to implement.
SK: What obstacles must the AU overcome for the continental union to be successful?
AT: The AU should do away with the culture of a leadership uniting against its own people. They instead must empower the people to facilitate development.
SK: In what policy area, would you like to see greater convergence and unity across Africa and why?
This interview is the first of several interviews with African citizens and CSO leaders on the AU proposal for Continental Government. Emily Mghanga of Pan Africa Programme Oxfam edited this interview. The views expressed here are the perspectives of the interviewee. Arnold Tsunga can be reached at Email: email@example.com
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
Is Accra set to reverse trend of elite African Union summits?
Ghanaian organisations lay plans for peoples' participation in the June-July summit
Irungu Houghton and Desire Assogbavi
Thirty Ghanaian, regional and international faith-based, labour and advocacy organisations attended the 'Teach-in Workshop on the African Union: Understanding the African Union and Seizing Opportunities for Change'.
Meeting on 2 April in Accra, the organisations reviewed the African Union’s progress, discussed the proposal for continental government and generated plans for the forthcoming summit.
The meeting was organised by the Ghanaian Poverty and Growth Forum, The Global Call to Action Against Poverty – Ghana and the Organisation of African Trade Unions and supported by Oxfam, ActionAid International and the UN Millennium Campaign. The Heads of CIDO at the African Union Commission and the AU desk at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs also attended and spoke at the meeting.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS IS PRODUCED AND PUBLISHED BY FAHAMU
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
UK: 2nd Floor, 51 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3HA
SOUTH AFRICA: The Studio, 06 Cromer Road, Muizenberg 7945, Cape Town, South Africa
KENYA: 1st Floor, Shelter Afrique Building, Mamlaka Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Fahamu Trust is registered as a charity in the UK No 1100304
Fahamu Ltd is registered as a company limited by guarantee 4241054 in the United Kingdom
Fahamu Ltd is registered a company limited by guarantee F. 15/2006 in Kenya
Fahamu SA is registered as a trust in South Africa IT 372/01
Fahumu is a Global Support Fund of the Tides Foundation, a duly registered public charity, exempt from Federal income taxation under Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Support the struggle for social justice: $2 (one pound) a week can make a real difference Donate online at www.pambazuka.org/en/donate.php
Get Pambazuka News Headlines Displayed On Your Site
Would you like Pambazuka News headlines to be displayed on your website?
RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication) is an easy way for you to keep updated automatically on Pambazuka News. Instead of going to our website to see what's news, you can use RSS to let you know each time there's something new.
Visit: www.pambazuka.org/en/newsfeed.php You can choose headlines from any or all of the Pambazuka News categories, and there is also a choice of format and style. Email email@example.com for more information.
Visit: www.pambazuka.org/ for some 40,000 news items, editorials, letters, reviews, etc that have appeared in Pambazuka News during the last two years.
Editor: Firoze Manji
Online News Editor: Sokari Ekine
Contributing Editor: Patrick Burnett
French Edition Online News Editor: Hawa Ba
Editorial advisor: Rotimi Sankore
Blog reviewer: Sokari Ekine
Links and Resources Researcher: Joshua Ogada
African Union Monitor editor: Hakima Abbas
Multimedia producers: Heidi Bachram, Robtel Pailey
Online Volunteer: Elizabeth Onyango
Website technical management: Mark Rogerson
Website design: Judith Charlton
Publications manager: Stephanie Kitchen
Pambazuka News currently receives support from Christian Aid, Fahamu Trust, Ford Foundation, Oxfam GB, New Field Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, HIVOS, Open Society Initiative, and TrustAfrica and many individual donors.
The French edition is supported by New Field Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation and by OSIWA.
SUBMITTING NEWS: send to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Newsletter comes out weekly and is delivered to subscribers by e-mail. Subscription is free. To subscribe, send an e-mail to with only the word 'subscribe' in the subject or body. To subscribe online, visit: www.pambazuka.org/
This Newsletter is produced under the principles of 'fair use'. We strive to attribute sources by providing direct links to authors and websites. When full text is submitted to us and no website is provided, we make the text available on our website via a "for more information" link. Please contact email@example.com immediately regarding copyright issues.
Pambazuka News includes short snippets from, with corresponding web links to, commercial and other sites in order to bring the attention of our readers to useful information on these sites. We do this on the basis of fair use and on a non-commercial basis and in what we believe to be the public interest. If you object to our inclusion of the snippets from your website and the associated link, please let us know and we will desist from using your website as a source. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this newsletter, including the signed editorials, do not necessarily represent those of Fahamu or the editors of Pambazuka News. While we make every effort to ensure that all facts and figures quoted by authors are accurate, Fahamu and the editors of Pambazuka News cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies contained in any articles. Please contact email@example.com if you believe that errors are contained in any article and we will investigate and provide feedback.
(c) Fahamu 2007
If you wish to stop receiving the newsletter, unsubscribe immediately by sending a message FROM THE ADDRESS YOU WANT REMOVED to firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact email@example.com should you need further assistance subscribing or unsubscribing.