Edith WeUtonga at ZGS Saturday

Edith ZGS Poster

by Musapindira Mlambo

Veld fires in Zimbabwe have become so prevalent and a recurring problem that has plagued all facets of our society since the turn of the millennium. Many people have lost their lives, properties, forests have been destroyed, animals displaced and livelihoods disrupted as a result of these out of control blazes. According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), 27392 fire incidences have been recorded in the period 2009-2013 alone not withstanding unreported cases, the trend is just unhealthy.

Given this year’s prolonged dry season and hot temperatures in most parts of the country coupled with the recent heat wave, cases of veld fires have generally increased.  Veld fires are caused by both natural and human factors. However, in Zimbabwe the causes are attributed to human negligence and carelessness. It is against this background that a collective approach is taken in preventing occurrences of veld fires that are threatening our societies, environment and the economy at large.

Hunting, throwing of burning cigarette stubs or match sticks, land clearing and arson are the main causes of veld fires in Zimbabwe. All these causes are avoidable if people are careful enough when they go about their daily activities. The Environmental Management Agency’s (EMA) publicity manager, Steady Kangata was at one time quoted by a local newspaper saying, “People should just avoid negligence. We cannot speak of natural causes because they are very rare in this country. We are urging the community to be very careful to avoid the occurrence of veld fires.”


This therefore calls for a mindset and attitude change on the part of every citizen of this country and if people have a healthy fear of their respective environments, they would not start fires wantonly which will end up going out of control.

The responsibility for the prevention and management of fire outbreaks does not lie only with regulating authorities such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Environmental Management Agency (EMA) or Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). It is everyone’s responsibility and the communities who are on the ground are the once who should take centre stage in safeguarding their environments and taking needed action to curb the occurrence and spread of fires. Legislation alone is not enough to stop veld fires.

SI 7 of 2007 Environmental Management as read with the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27) clearly stipulates that, “No person is allowed to light a fire outside residential and commercial premises during the period 31 July to 31 October of each year” However, the opposite has been true. If people take their responsibilities seriously as environmental stewards, there would not be any need for punitive measures and this will improve the agricultural and economic viability of the country.

More education and awareness on fire management cannot be overly emphasised as they play a key role in achieving a changed and environmentally empowered mindset that can live in symbiosis with the surrounding environment. To this end, the Environmental Management Agency should be applauded for taking a gear up in their education and awareness drive on the issue of fires as they roped in the telecommunication companies such as Netone who were sending fire awareness messages to their subscribers.

This works well since the method reaches even remote areas that are not easily accessible and such messages should also be translated into vernacular languages for the benefit of everybody. In addition to this, traditional chiefs as guardians of societies should monitor their respective environments to ensure that nobody starts fires unnecessarily and anybody found on the wrong side of the law should be reported immediately and severe penalties must be imposed.

The government and the civil society in particular, have a role to play in the enforcement of legislation and dissemination of information on veld fires. Recently Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri was quoted by the media bemoaning the loss of vast tracts of land due to veld fires.  “Veld fires have broken out and destroyed over 800 000 hectares, and through these veld fires we have lost a lot of lives”, she said. She also called for a 5 year mandatory imprisonment for offenders. This is a welcome development that will go a long way in taming this negligent starting of fires and enlightening people that environmental crimes carry equal force as other lawfully punishable offenses.

Over and above all, control measures such as the construction of fireguards are critical in reducing the impact of veld fires in cases of their occurrences. It is therefore imperative that all people especially farmers in the farming areas ensure that they construct these fireguards instead of waiting to be punished by authorities for failure to comply.

True to the saying, prevention is better than cure, avoiding the unnecessary starting of fires is crucial in reducing the outbreak of veld fires. Given, the global rate at which veld fires are negatively impacting on the sustainability of the environment where millions of hectares of land are being destroyed with statistics showing that the United States alone loses 1.6 to 2 million hectares of land every year and in Australia they are a constant problem, it is then clear that more action is needed in curbing veld fires.

Zimbabwe as enunciated, is suffering from this global problem of veld fires which primarily is a result of human negligence and as such the solution lies squarely on everybody working collectively starting at grassroots level right up to national level. Mahatma Gandhi, the former Indian statesman once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” and true to that, veld fire management is not a one-man show but a collective responsibility and resultantly, the buck stops with everybody.

Feedback: Musapindira Mlambo is an independent environmental researcher and activist who writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on 0718-110742 or email: musapindiram [at] gmail [dot] com

An Ode in Memory of Chimusoro Sam Moyo


By Bella Matambanadzo

An unimaginable loss has happened. Our phenomenal intellectual pan African giant on land issues, Professor Sam Moyo, has died following injuries sustained during a terrible car accident in New Delhi, India. We are in disbelief. We are waiting for him to come home. We feel ripped apart with pain.

We grew up following you in our townships. We nicknamed you Sekuru ‘Chimusoro’, the one with the very big head. All our parents wanted us to be exactly like you. At the end of every school term, you would come home with a report card full of number ones. Your arms would be laden with trophies and certificates for best student in this subject; outstanding record in that.

Your mother, Gogo Mavis Moyo’s face would beam with enough joy to light up the whole continent. She was a woman of her own accolades, a pioneer black female broadcaster at a time when radio was segregated by racism. But somehow your achievements made her glow in the way that only a mother can do.

We always marveled at the shiny silver cups with your name on them. Playfully, you would fill them with cherry plum juice and serve us to drink along with candy cakes. The pink icing would crease between our fingers. Domestic chores, serving those around you, never bothered you. You had such a deep sense of the hospitality of food, and the power of sharing drinks with those you loved, that we always felt welcome to your side. Our great tree that bore so much fruit. Yes we would laugh, but you would steer us to talk about the thing that mattered most to you; and even if we did not know it then, to us. How to fully reclaim the land that was stolen by the colonial forces.

Throughout your life, you carried your intellectual smarts with so much ease. In your later years, when your trophies had turned to degrees, you would seek us out so we could sit in your seminars. At that time I think you were at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies (ZIDS). Later on you moved to SAPES and taught the SARIPS Masters Programme with radical feminists like Dr Patricia Macfadden you made our brains sweat. In the beginning we would all look at each other unable to write down some of the big words and theories you used.  And yet you persisted. Sharing your knowledge with us, crafting an epistemology around land and agrarian rights. Together you showed us why land was a critical resource for women to have ownership and control over.


When we tried to call you Prof, you would smile and say, ‘vafana vangu, ndinonzi Sam’ – ‘my youngsters, I am just Sam.’ It didn’t matter that you had ‘eaten many books’ as the saying used to go. You would listen to our elementary theories, nurture us with love and suggest, ‘let’s write a policy brief on this subject. That’s how we will change the world’.

You lent your brilliance to the environmental think tank Zero, pulled us into the Senegal based Codesria and introduced us to people who wore Dashiki shirts as a form of political expression. People whose papers you had photocopied for us to read. This was before computers. It was the time of type-writers. Your scrawl was impossible to decipher, but we knew that if we didn’t figure out your handwriting, there would be trouble. You could not abide intellectual laziness.

On Bodle Road, in Harare’s Eastlea suburb you set up the African Institute of Agrarian Studies (AIAS). It was nothing short of a bold move. This was Zimbabwe in the early 2000s when land invasions were at their apex. Nothing could deter you. Not physical threats, nor slurs to your name. And who can forget the raid of your home office in Borrowdale. You put your ubiquitous cigarette to your mouth and shook your head. ‘Why did they have to mess my papers up? I had order here’. I would look at the piles and piles of papers you had and wonder what kind of order you meant. Your office was a project for a neat freak.

Last year, we danced until dawn in your front garden. Your lawn groaned underfoot of our stampede. It was your 60th birthday party. Food, music, friends and land politics. The delicious chocolate cake was a creative meme of your desk. Cellphone, books on land with the spine carrying your name. And of course your friends from all over the world filled your yard. Or Skype feed.

By your side was your sweetheart and partner, the top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. We marveled at how possible it was for two wonderful, strong and brilliant human beings to love each other so much. It made us feel good to see you dancing. It was as if no one else was around as you smiled at each other and twirled each other to Hugh Masekela’s trumpet. Power couples that publicly show each other affection and validation are so very rare in our activist civil society worlds. We were hoping for a huge international African wedding and had decided we were going to be in the bridal party. I don’t know how we will comfort you Beatrice. I don’t know how we will comfort Gogo Moyo. What will we do for Sibongile and her sisters?

On the days I forgot to call to check on you, you would ring. And demand our company. ‘Is Nancy (Kachingwe) around? Where is Saru? Let me make you oxtail. Bring your friends over’. You always offered your home to us, whether you were there or not.

Thank you for giving us so much of you Sekuru Chimusoro. Siyabonga Moyondizvo. We will forever carry you in our hearts. Broken as they are by your untimely and devastatingly painful death. Alone, so far away from the homeland you fought so hard for.

Litfest Harare 2015 Programme

LitFest Harare – Get there

Download the programme for Thursday, 26 November – Saturday, 28 November @ SAPES Trust, University of Zimbabwe, Theatre In the Park and Gallery Delta here

Being a woman

by Ivy Chibanda

Her first cry marks the beginning of her trials and tribulations, the beginning of being stereotyped. Already her life is planned, the society celebrates because not only have they received a daughter, but also at the end of the day, they are looking forward to the wealth that will come from her in the form of bride price.

From a tender age, she is taught to be dependent. She is allowed to cry, girls do cry but boys don’t, it’s a girl thing. She is molded into a woman already, burdened with the responsibility of taking care of dolls and plaiting them, she has to ‘nurse’ them and put them to sleep, in preparation of what will become of her in the years to come.

Her hair is plaited and colorful, with bands and all, so that she looks beautiful. She is taught from a tender age that a woman has to look her best; it’s the way you look that attracts men.

She is not allowed to socialise with boys and play their kind of games, because she might grow up with the mentality of men. Games like tug-of-war, wrestling and racing are not hers, those are meant for boys. Her place is to play house. In playing house, she acts as the mother, who stays home with the children and waits for the ‘father’ to come back home with food. Again, she is taught to be dependent.


At school, she is groomed to become a woman who has all the skills to sustain a home. She is not expected to fail home economics it would be a disgrace. Failing math is not a big issue because it’s in the nature of women to fail science subjects.

As she gets to high school, she becomes more aware of her beauty, focuses on her beauty and the books come second. She has to look good for the men around her, so that she gets the hottest guy at school. It’s how she is groomed. When doing household chores and she appears to be lazy or fails to do something in connection with household chores, she is told she should try harder, they don’t want to be disgraced when she gets married. Her line of thinking is channeled to marriage. She is even told no matter how well educated you are, education doesn’t matter when you get married it is a secondary issue.

Beautifying herself causes trouble and pain but she has to look pretty. When the hair is plaited, it is very painful but she is told to endure, women have to endure no matter what. Looking natural becomes something that is not classy, you have to have the fake lashes, lipstick, eye shadows, fake nails and all, so as to look ‘presentable’ – it’s how you look that attracts different types of men.

When she is ready to settle down, she gets a man, and falls in love, she gives her all in the hope that the guy who proposed to her gives his all as well. It works at first but as time goes by he changes, breaks her heart and moves on. She cries and cries for her lost love and each time, she swears never to fall in love again. Again comes another, who pulls her out of her misery and promises to take care of her and promises to never hurt her. After some time, the same thing happens, and he finds another, her heart is left in tatters again.

She could decide to stay single but she has been taught to be dependent. She moves on, finds another and finally she gets married. As usual, it’s all rosy at first but as time goes on things change, the man even beats her up or abuses her emotionally. She cannot go home, she will be told that that’s what all marriages are like, and as she was taught when she was growing up, a woman endures, and it’s in her ‘nature’ to endure. She endures with all the scars in her heart and on her face, all because of love. Love is what makes her suffer. Till death, she suffers and endures, and stays because of her children and fear of being labeled in society.

She could have stayed single, but society has no respect for unmarried successful women, they are labeled. Being in a tortuous marriage may be seen as better than being labeled in society as the woman who never got married; it may even be associated with a bad omen. Again, being very successful as a young woman scares the men away. When educating herself, she gives herself a limit, because she fears rejection from the men she likes. Pressure from society also causes her to fall in love with whomever so that she gets married.

Till death, the woman aims to please, and at times with getting no appreciation at all from those she tries to please. Not only is she hurt by the men, but even the fellow women, they make each other suffer, maybe as mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, friends and even strangers.

If it is men that cause women pain, they should learn to appreciate those who love them and treat them well. If it be fellow women causing pain to other women, remember tomorrow, one way or the other, it may come back to you. If it is nature that makes women seem so weak, then nature is unfair. If it be society, then society must change the way they view women.

Getting to know Marko Phiri

Yesterday we went Inside/Out with the Zimbabwean writer Marko Phiri and discovered that his pockets are very, very empty. A lot of Zimbabweans are saying the same thing! We also found out that he loves lager, he reckons that his sons are heroes for being born into this “Zanu PF nonsense” and that he has just had an e-Book published by Bahati Books. You can get his book here. And you can check out his full Inside/Out interview here

Via TEDxHarare:

“I attended a ZIMRA training meeting on the various forms of taxation in Zimbabwe. Salons and beer businesses pay presumed tax. Salons are being charged USD1500/3 months while bottle stores are charged USD300/3months. Women run the bulk of salons in Zimbabwe while men run bottle stores. One wonders what is the rationality of charging salons more than bottle stores? There seems to be a gender bias in determining the tax in favour of male businesses while female businesses continue to suffer the patriarchal society. I asked the ZIMRA official making the presentation on the rationality of coming up with the presumptive tax for various businesses. He blames it on a ‘mischievous legislator’, which is not convincing. It can only mean such decisions were made by men. Where are you female legislators and women in businesses? Women arise to demand your business space.”

David’s reflections as he departs Africa are well worth a read. Here is an excerpt about Zimbabwe:

But the country that truly got under my skin was the one I visited most: Zimbabwe. Here was the classic struggle in post-independence Africa between citizens thirsty for multiparty democracy and a leader who claims that only he can hold his nation together. Robert Mugabe – a prisoner-turned-president who espoused racial reconciliation before Mandela – is the only leader the 35-year-old country has ever known and, aged 91, the oldest in the world. This warped political genius had the last laugh over the west, where he is seen as a pantomime villain; but to millions of Zimbabweans, he is a destroyer of dreams. His indelicate wife, Grace, 50, a pampered shopper turned political attack dog, might even succeed him.

The weird, conspiratorial, sinister atmosphere – in which deaths in “mysterious” car crashes and house fires are not uncommon – makes Zimbabwe feel more like an island than a landlocked country and makes it intriguing to outsiders. The best climate in the world and ravishing scenery doesn’t do any harm, either. But I think there was something else.

This, I soon discovered, was a land where O-levels and A-levels were studied, cricket and football were played and programmes such as All Creatures Great and Small were shown on TV. The people I interviewed spoke an ornate, metaphor-rich English no longer spoken in England itself, and the fading department stores reminded me of my childhood in Birmingham. Mugabe himself earned comparisons with a Victorian gentleman who adored the Queen and was never seen in anything but a Savile Row suit.

I wonder if this combination – both strange and familiar, satisfying a lust for African adventure but leavened by a nostalgic scent of home – is why Zimbabwe seduces so many British correspondents, even those who despise European colonialism and all it stood for. Indeed, from the Central African Republic to Kenya, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Namibia, the crimes of the Berlin conference that sliced up Africa in the late 19th century still shadow the present.

We are often told to be proud to be British but, in Africa, I found plenty of reasons to be ashamed, too. From food to fashion to the very words people spoke, I could see how my ancestors imposed a colonisation of the mind. Now I find it impossible to look at the grand municipal buildings and railways stations of towns across Britain without considering the continent that was enslaved, plundered and looted to build an empire.

More here

Condemning political violence

Here is a press statement just released by the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA):

The Combined Harare Residents Association would like to endorse the call to end politically motivated violence made by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which CHRA is affiliated to as an active member. We have noted with concern the sudden eruption of politically motivated violence. Last week, two members of the Harare Residents Alliance (who are members of HamRef) were brutally tortured in Mbare after they failed to produce Zanu PF membership cards. They fell victim to an ongoing surveillance initiative in Mbare were people are being asked to produce Zanu PF cards or risk losing their market stalls. The two, Keith Charumbira and Patson Chidhakwa were admitted at the CSU were they got medical assistance. This past month in Mbare again, officials from the City of Harare traffic section were fatally assaulted in Mbare again before they took to their feet leaving their cars and equipment. This occurred after they tried to enforce traffic order. The youths who took part in the assault are on record of having political immunity that is an incentive for their actions. CHRA views violence as an old adage, which has not place in modern-day human society. As residents, one of the core drivers of development is a peaceful community where tolerance is a must and plurality is a virtue. It is against this background that we endorse the statement released by the Coalition in a bid to end violence.

Orange the world