Saturday, July 28, 2007


Friday 27th July 2007
Dear Friends.

Someone who knows I come from Zimbabwe said to me just yesterday, 'I don't know if it's my imagination but I think there's increased coverage of the situation in Zimbabwe over the last few weeks'. He was referring to the UK media, of course, and - as if to prove his point - the BBC's flagship news programme Newsnight covered the opening of parliament in Harare this week with a commentary to the effect that while Robert Mugabe rode in a Rolls Royce with all the pomp and ceremony befitting a Head of State, albeit a failed state, the Zimbabwean people were suffering shortages of even the most basic means of survival. That report was on Tuesday the 24th July 2007. The same story was covered in The Times and The Telegraph but, that apart, there has been a steady drip of news coming out for the last couple of weeks. Papers like The Guardian and The Independent, not noted for their coverage of Zimbabwe, have both carried stories about Zimbabwe and the steadily deteriorating situation in the country.

For three or four weeks now the media in this country has been concerned with the floods; the heaviest rains since records began with major rivers breaking their banks and thousands of people flooded out of their homes, without fresh drinking water or power. It was major news so it was quite a surprise that any other story should make it into the headlines but last night it was ITV who turned the spotlight on Zimbabwe in their 10.30 News broadcast that is watched by millions. Using a hidden camera ITV showed horrific pictures of the men and women beaten by the police for taking part in NCA demos up and down the country. We saw the demonstrators running, literally running down what looked like Samora Machel Avenue only to be set upon minutes later by the police and hauled away. The film then moved to the private clinics where the people were being treated. There were dozens of them and we saw them lying on the floor, too exhausted even to stand, while they waited to be treated for broken limbs, bruises and lacerations. There were men and women of all ages, ordinary people, many of them deeply traumatized by the experience. Their faces told the story, their eyes wide with shock at what had been done to them by brutal men with baton sticks, fists and heavy black boots.

I read today that the mothers were ordered to leave their babies at one end of the room at the police station while they lay face down on the floor and the police took it in turns to beat them and even to walk all over them while they lay there. For five hours it went on and the children wailed and screamed in terror as they saw their mothers being beaten and trampled on by men in uniform, men who are themselves husbands, brothers, fathers and uncles. And what was the reason for this savage brutality? These brave and wonderful ordinary Zimbabweans, armed with nothing more that their banners, had dared to demonstrate for a new constitution. They demonstrated not just in Harare but up and down the country they took to the streets in their hundreds to demonstrate the will of the people, zvido zvevanhu.

Watching the ITV coverage, I felt a deep sense of shame, a) that I was not there with my brothers and sisters sharing their pain and b) that I had ever doubted the courage of the ordinary people to bring about change in Zimbabwe. Time and time again it is the ordinary men and women of Woza and the NCA who have risked life and limb for what they believe in only to be beaten back by a ruthless regime armed with all the crushing apparatus of the state machine. But a machine needs men to operate it and it is those same men who are prepared to beat, torture and even kill their own people in order to keep Robert Mugabe in power. How do they sleep at night? How do they go home at the end of the day and look into the eyes of their own innocent children and answer the question Maswera sei baba? How was your day, Daddy?

Political analysts and learned academics may drone on and on, week after week, about the causes for all this mayhem; they may give us learned analyses of the political ramifications of this or that policy but the truth is that until they too find the courage to get out on the streets with the people this nightmare of repression and brutality in Zimbabwe will never end. We all know that the end will not come because of Thabo Mbeki's intervention; it will not come because of SADC's mealy-mouthed platitudes or the West's passive outrage or the AU's continuing inaction. The end will come when the people of Zimbabwe stand together, united in courage and determination to tell the dictator what sort of future they want for their children. Last night the British people saw that courage demonstrated by the brave men and women of the NCA. Of course, in Zimbabwe, the likes of Tafataona Mahosa and ZTV will ensure that ordinary Zimbabweans don't see the same footage but you can be very sure, the world is watching.

Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH



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