Our governance system has let us down

We recommend that you read what Samantha Rutendo Sanangurai writes . . . check out her blog and here’s her latest:

Today I found myself thinking about Itai Dzamara. We all have come to know him in the last few months as the journalist who went missing. He dared the system and sounded an alarm which was loud and clear enough for the powers that be. He dared to say what some of us whisper behind closed doors and what many of us say in combis, workplaces and during gatherings. You know how much we talk about it whenever anything has gone wrong in our personal lives. We say it with frustration when a child has graduated and 2 years down the line that child has no job, or when you work for ten years and you still can’t afford to buy a house let alone a 200 square meter stand. I have heard it often times when water does not come out of our tapes for days on end and when we can’t afford to take our beloved to hospital when they fall sick. We think about it all the time and have come to a moment of truth where we have realised that we can’t run away from the fact that our governance system has let us down, our leaders have let us down. Hell we can’t even join their fights when they expose corrupt leaders because we know it is just a case of a black kettle calling another kettle black. Tinotoseka zvedu nhamo kunga rugare (we laugh at adversity as if its nothing).

I can’t say I knew Itai although I had met him a few times over the years. Often times he was with someone I know and we would take time to debate on a few issues of national development. I now know that he has a family. He has a wife but I do not know the number of his children. Itai also has a brother and like all of us cousins, aunts and uncles who love him and miss him.

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I also know that he was 35 at the time of his disappearance. Sad isn’t it. Such a young and courageous man. He had the courage to sit-in in Africa Unity Square park the whole day just to express words that most of us say in our personal spaces. Some of us thought that these actions were foolishness. Who in his/her right senses carries a placard demanding a sitting president to leave his post? But he did, didn’t he? He went to the park almost everyday with a small group of friends, not more than ten at any given time. Occasionally they would run down the street whistling, I guess the whistling was a form of alarm saying “Your time is up”. It was a shocking thing for anyone to do and I imagine whenever this whistling was done people in town would stop whatever they were doing just to catch a glimpse of these crazy young men. “Zvinoita kushaya zvekuita, vana vemazuvaono dai vaine basa mhoti waiwana nguva yekumhanya mhanya here” could have been the comments coming out of bystanders. But run they did and sit they did!

I did not think such a young, almost insignificant man and his similarly insignificant friends would be heard in such a frightening way. Ko Itai amborianiko nhai (who is Itai), like I said I hardly knew him and most of us still do not know him. That is why we have forgotten that he is still somewhere out there, his body probably cold, lying in a drain that’s overgrown with weeds and littered with all form of garbage from our homes (since city council believes their responsibility to pick garbage is optional) and his soul hovering searching for someone to find him. Oops, I have said it out loud, hatisati taziva kuti aripi and we need to keep our hopes high… but it is the worst case scenario that those of us who knew him enough to remember have in our mind everyday.

Moving on what I do not understand is why him, I mean there are so many outspoken and well-known people out there who remain a threat. I know you would agree with me kuti why would anyone waste their energy on someone that insignificant. It was even more confusing for me this morning why they would need to take him out until I went back in time only to realise that it was young men and women like him who brought this country independence. Yes, the old men whom we see today on our national TV telling us tales of the struggles, those white-haired men and women who remind us of our ingratitude for expressing the difficulties of our poor lives, those pot-bellied men and women whose riches are enough to get this country out of its economic mayhem were once young and energetic too. Was Tongogara not 25 when he became politically active in 1963, was His Excellency not 36 when he joined active politics (the Joshua Nkomo Led National Democratic Party) in 1960, was Kumbirai Kangai not in his late 20s when he joined active politics, was it not in the 1940s that Joshua Nkomo became active in politics whilst in South Africa (he was in his late 20s at that time), were members of the Crocodile Gang of 1964 not young when the performed acts of sabotage as instructed by the ZANU commando.

My list could go on but my point here is that Itai was not just young and therefore insignificant. He was at that age where the young speak into their future and that of their children. It is an age when one speaks boldly to that future and I imagine that when the Joshuas’ and Kumbirais’ of the liberation time spoke, oppressive pillars of their time shook. Age is of great significance when seeking social transformation. Those of the grey hair generation understand the significance of age and they do not underestimate it. Moreso they understand the context in which the younger voices seek to be heard, the context of oppression and hopelessness. What I do not understand is their quickness to forget how their voices grew louder each time they were quietened.

There is a shaking when the voices of our generation demand transparency and accountability. That voice has been demanding of our leaders for such a long time and the candle that was lit more than a decade ago when democratic forces came together has refused to be extinguished. Even though the bushel of an oppressive system creates darkness and gloom for our aspirations; the will power of this generation to be free, to experience economic and political freedom can’t ever be extinguished. Even as one voice is killed many more are born through the pains of our hearts and as we turn 35 as a country I understand that Zimbabwe’s “age” demands what the young have always demanded – Political and economic freedom!

I woke up thinking about Itai this morning.

A crumb called bonus

by Fambai Ngirande

A loud thud was heard on Independence Day dwarfed in decibels only by the loud cheers and ululating that welcomed it. It was a crumb falling from the high table; an Independence Day present from the Commander in Chief, Head of State, President of the Republic & co to his struggling Civil Servants. “Never never” he said, was a directive issued from the Presidium to halt the payment of bonuses for Civil Servants. For earlier on, his Finance Minister most probably under the toxic neo-liberal influence of the government’s advisors and lords of austerity: the World Bank and IMF, had announced amongst other austerity measures the cutting down of Civil Servants’ bonuses. Seems he had taken austerity a step too far for the Presidium.

It seems strange though that the Presidium would baulk at this one measure of austerity when the whole while government has been busy imposing numerous other austerity measures whilst concurrently failing to meet its already watered down public service delivery commitments. This makes us the kind of society which leaves close to 3 000 women to die during child birth primarily because government only budgets to spend $22 to meet each Zimbabwean’s health needs. As if that’s not enough we have also become the kind of cruel society that detains new mothers on hospital floors for failing to pay maternity fees in public hospitals.

Strictly speaking it wasn’t really up to the President to give or to take the bonuses since these are a contractually binding obligation upon the government as an employer. But then this is Zimbabwe; receiving salaries at all or on time are major achievements in themselves. That notwithstanding, the announcement was by all means and intents heralded by the government’s propaganda machinery as a gracious act of benevolence. However, the truth of the matter is that this government has been taking from workers and Civil Servants way more than it has bothered to give back. Civil Servants as with all other workers are now worse off than at any other point in post-independence history.

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Conversely, the benefits that have accrued to political elites by virtue of occupying governmental office are in stark contrast to the extinction of a former middle class that was predominantly occupied by educated Civil Servants. Nowadays it’s not odd to see the teacher’s child chased from school for lack of school fees or the nurse’s child refused treatment for lack of medical aid.

Perhaps this crumb called bonuses is meant to make the political elites feel better about themselves.  But then if the idea is to improve the painful lot of Civil Servants then nothing short of the destruction of the high table and the redistribution of the choice offerings exclusively reserved for political elites and their cronies will suffice. Care to share profits from the bank Obert? How about some chicken money for the people Gideon? Or perhaps some dairy profits from the first family? After all sharing is caring. But more importantly sharing the wealth is indispensable to our nation’s survival. The obscene gap between the majority poor and the minority rich is at once the greatest danger to the country’s future. It is unsustainable and destabilising. It undermines the potential contributions of millions of Zimbabweans to our shared future by locking them in a perpetual cycle of poverty. It further rubbishes our constitutional ambitions to secure the rights of all by channelling the resources meant for all into the hands of the few.

The contradictions surrounding the whole matter are frustrating. Earlier in his Independence Day speech the Commander in Chief, Head of State, President of the Republic & co had indicated government’s intention to cut down the public service. You can decide for yourself what’s worse – retrenchments or cuts in bonuses. Still there is no disputing the fact that for those who will remain in the Civil Service, the bonus is a welcome windfall and will no doubt go a long way in meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of dependants who rely on overstretched Civil Servants salaries. To those who will have already been retrenched by December and the millions who are currently unemployed it matter little whether or not government decides to pay bonuses to the lucky Civil Servants still in employment.

The State has been shrinking for a long time now. Consistently and in many cases cruelly, the State has been implementing savage cuts to public service delivery in a manner that further impoverishes the poor. Unlike the structural adjustment programmes of the 90s, this has been a much quieter and more devastating storm. Through the removal of subsidies, privatisation and imposition of service charges the government has basically left the poor to their own devices and forced them to subsidise the State by providing alternatives to failed public services. In areas such as housing, new slummified settlements such as Hopley epitomise the subsidisation of government by the poor, where the poor having left government behind have taken it upon themselves to provide a basic need albeit at a much lower standard and at the expense of other pressing needs.  University students at MSU squashed in rented quarters eight per room in Senga Township are another example of the fate of the poor after the drastic cuts to state subsidies for higher education. The vastly over stretched social welfare provisions for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups that run out in the first quarter are yet another example. So too, are the millions of workers earning a living in the informal sector without basic protection, recognition or even toilets. There are numerous other examples that put this crumb called bonus into perspective. Whichever way you look at it, this crumb called bonus is too little to make up for all that has been taken from the poor and transferred into the pockets of the politically connected rich.

Fambai Ngirande writes what he likes

University tags in Zimbabwe

A popular saying goes, ‘Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are’. It’s always nice if you have friends whom you would feel proud being associated with. So extending this, how about “Tell me the university you attended and I will tell you your character.” Students at local universities move around with a ‘university tag’. Last week I met of group of students whose stories related the ‘university tag’. They shared with me some of the experiences they went through during their third year industrial attachment.

“I was thrown into the advertising department and not the newsroom because they told me I could smile.” According to her, smiling has been associated with female students from the institution.

Another shared that she was only assigned to cover beauty pageants and all other late night events yet other students on attachment from other institutions were given various events to cover during the day. She was told, “you are used to walking at night.”

The saddest was the young woman who shared, “Even if you know you are very ugly you will see men chasing after you.”

They say they have been labeled ‘loose’ because they are studying at Midlands State University. This institution is not new to the media. In March this year, The Herald reported that the AIDS body NAC, had ‘singled out the students reckless sexual behaviour as the major drive of the sharp increase of the province’s HIV prevalence rate.’ Such findings, whether backed up by substantive research or mere speculation, throw the institution into the deep end. No institution wants to be associated with such statistics.

It is so cool to be tagged on conversations that are of interest to you on online platforms. It’s so cool to be told you have friends of good character, and that you are of good character too. But a ‘university tag’ that will exist with you as long as you live is not so cool. The job market is already hard to penetrate as it is, and I challenge institutions not to make it worse for their graduates by creating negative ‘university tags’ that get associated with graduates.

Where: University of Zimbabwe, Faculty of Education Lecture Theatre
When: 07 May 2015
Time: 1400 – 1630hrs

Educational institutions, policy makers in various government sectors; non-governmental organisations; development partners, private sector (corporate sector); civil society organisations (including disabled people’s organisations), parents of children with disabilities, research and legal institutions; media fraternity; development agencies and anyone who wants see inclusive development becoming a reality in Zimbabwe and beyond are all invited. We would be very happy to see you or your organisation/institution represented.

Your contribution to the Forum will be valued as our aim is to engage in practical ways of influencing disability inclusion in Zimbabwe.

We are looking forward to having you at the Forum.

Contact Details – Tsitsi Chataika (PhD);
Zimbabwe Disability Inclusive Development Forum Coordinator

Email: tsitsi.chataika [at] gmail [dot] com
Skype ID: tcblessed
Phone: 0774 429 687

The best thing to do

represent-yourself

Press statement from Harare Residents Trust

Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) has threatened to mobilize city residents and demonstrate against council’s chaotic water billing system amid reports many households are receiving huge bills even though they will have been cut-off over non-payment. HRT director Precious Shumba said the demonstrations will be part of broad strategies used by residents to force council action over the issue. “As part of our multi-pronged approach, we will soon hold demonstrations against council’s billing system which has seen over 1 200 residents being cut–off from water supplies but continue to receive huge “current bills”. The council will never win the hearts and trust of the residents as long as they have this arrogant attitude where they believe in force instead of dialogue and being proactive, responding to the residents’ concerns,” said Shumba. Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni recently admitted the city’s billing system was in shambles. Although council spokesperson Michael Chideme was not immediately available for comment, council deputy chairperson for finance, Urayayi Mangwiro, told Talking Harare a new billing system will soon be unveiled to try and address some of the concerns being raised by stakeholders.

Colour of Truth

colour_of_truth_1504

We just got this from Tendai who lives in Redcliff:

Below is a copy of a query I sent the Kwekwe Zimbabwe Republic Police regarding the legality of their traffic officers impounding cars of those who fail to pay spot fines, as nearly happened to me and my mom:

“I stay in Redcliff. My mom recently bought a car from Japan. It crossed the Chirundu Border Post from Zambia on the 2nd of April 2015. So three weeks ago (when the car had only been in the country for a week) we were stopped twice. First by Redcliff traffic police near Steelmakers Pvt Ltd and then by Kwekwe traffic police at Chicago (on the Bulawayo road). The story was the same…that we did not have temporary paper plates. My mom explained that she didn’t know anything about temporary paper plates, as the border officials had only told her about the need to register the car within 14 days of crossing the border. (We later learnt that Chirundu Border Post does not even have these temporary paper plates available). The traffic officers then said she should pay a $10 spot fine. She said that she did not have it. That is when the officers said that they were taking the car. My mom replied that they could take the car, as she honestly did not have any cash with her. But after a few minutes of the same threats from the officers to impound the car, they then told my mom that she could go. So we failed to understand what was going on, and the legal basis for their actions. Is it legal for traffic officers to impound cars in such a scenario?”

The only response I received from the ZRP was that it was not legal. They did not elaborate further.

Is what these traffic officers did, legal?

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