Saturday, May 30, 2009

ZIMBABWE - LETTER FROM THE DIASPORA

Friday 29th May 2009

Dear Friends.

Over the years, Zimbabweans have grown used to hearing half-truths and downright lies from Zanu PF and their associated hangers-on. We learned that from Zanu PF we could expect nothing but lies and propaganda.
The emergence of the MDC on the political scene was like a breath of fresh air blowing across the arid political landscape of Zanu PF hegemony. Here at last were men and women of integrity and courage, we thought. They would not lie to us or try to mislead us. Theirs was the political and moral high ground, they stood for truth and justice for all, no 'spin' or lying propaganda from them. That's what we thought. Papa Morgan was our hero. When we saw him beaten and bloody, we wept for him and all the other brave cadres who were putting their lives on the line for the New Beginning we all dreamed of for our beloved country.

Then came the Inclusive Government. The unbelievable had happened: after months of tortuous negotiations, the MDC had sat down with their former oppressors in a so-called Government of National Unity. The past was behind us, we must forgive and forget, we were told. 'National Reconciliation' was what we must all work for now. And if that meant drawing a veil over past and present horrors then that must be done. Whatever the price, we must preserve the illusion that all is now well in Zimbabwe. We must present a united front to the world - or no money would come Zimbabwe's way.

That, apparently, is the thinking within the MDC leadership team now. How else can we explain Morgan Tsvangirai's extraordinary statement this week during an interview he gave to highlight the achievements of the first 100days of the GNU. The pictures of beaten and bloodied white farmers and terrified farm workers, imprisoned and beaten, the stories of their nightmarish ordeals on invaded farms continue to be seen and heard on an almost daily basis; yet Morgan Tsvangirai chooses this moment to refer to the " so-called farm invasions" as "isolated incidents…blown out of proportion. We have investigated examples of these so-called farm invasions…we have asked the Minister of Lands to give us a detailed report of what has been happening over all these so-called land invasions and the outcry over that."

Total disbelief as we listened to the report of Tsvangirai's words; we just could not believe what we were hearing. From the farmers themselves came stunned incredulity and deep shock. How could the Prime Minister deny the truth that was staring at him from the faces of beaten farmers, farmers to whom he had promised the restoration of law and order and punishment for the perpetrators of violence? In the week when Zimbabwe earned the dubious accolade of 'the most food-aid dependent country in the world' and the Red Cross/ Red Crescent figures showed that 80% of Zimbabwe's population is now reliant on food-aid to survive, Morgan Tsvangirai chooses to deny the widespread reality of farm invasions and the subsequent loss of agricultural production. Instead, he describes the chaos as 'so-called'. Since April, Ben Freeth reports, "We have reaped absolutely nothing. 150 farm workers have been unable to work and are living in terror." In an Open Letter to the Prime Minister dated May 26 from his Mount Carmel farm in the heat of the continuing violent invasion of his property, Freeth graphically describes the horror and blatant illegality of the invaders' actions. "As you will know", he writes, "this is not just an isolated incident. In this area where approximately 6000 hectares of irrigated winter wheat used to be grown, I do not know of a single hectare of winter wheat being sown this year."

It is utterly incomprehensible that Morgan Tsvangirai should now choose to deny the reality in the light of such facts. Is this the same man who, just four weeks ago, said, "The rule of law is a moral imperative and a business necessity. The responsibility to save and protect the quality of life for all must preoccupy us in political leadership, regardless of race, colour, tribe, religion or political affiliation." What has happened in four short weeks to so radically change the Prime Minister's vision of the reality on the ground? As he goes back to SADC over Mugabe's refusal to remove Gideon Gono from the Reserve Bank, the Prime Minister denies the reality of farm invasions and says not a word about protecting property rights or even of the urgent necessity of allowing the farmers to grow food, both issues which are specifically covered under the GPA. It is hardly likely that foreign investors will accepts the validity of Tsvangirai's claim that farm invasions are just "isolated incidents blown out of all proportion" when the evidence of their own eyes tells them that the invasions are widespread and violent and the food shortages are desperately real. Today the EU stepped into the debate. The EU's argument is that all farm and conservancy invasions should cease; not, ironically, because of the human rights issue or the rampant food shortages in the country, but because of the damage to wild life and tourism. While that is certainly true, it makes little difference to the central argument which is that farmers, be they black or white, are being prevented from growing food by violent thugs with police and government connivance. So much for the 'Moral imperative'of the Rule of Law that the Prime Minister talked about so passionately just four weeks ago!

For those of us who so much wanted to believe that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC might bring change from within when they joined this (so-called) Unity Government, this is a moment of bitter disillusion. We see no real change from Zanu PF; it is the MDC who are now changing their tune to chime with their former adversaries. The MDC would do well to remember that their courageous supporters up and down the country risked life and limb to vote for them back in March. Half-truths, expediency, spin and downright lies are Zanu PF tactics, we did not expect them from the MDC. The people are neither blind nor deaf; a disenchanted electorate is not likely to forget when it comes time to exercise their democratic right again. The more the MDC sounds and looks like Zanu PF, the less likely the people are to vote for them. That's how I see it.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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