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To Obert and His Boys: Passengers have Rights


Zimbabwe is commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, and the key message is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in our communities: ‘Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.’ Safe spaces are secure spaces. They are spaces in which human security-the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure-is guaranteed. They are spaces in which women and girls are free from fear and free from want. These spaces are about the protection of women and girls from unnecessary harm and exposure to risky circumstances. The majority of women, men and children in Zimbabwe use the public transport system and the levels of risk they are exposed to within that system have precipitated my blog.

Sometime in March, while aboard a New York taxi, I learnt that there is something called the Livery Passenger’s Bill Of Rights.The Bill gives passengers the following rights to:

  1. Ride in a car that is clean, in good condition and has passed all required inspections.
  2. Be driven by a TLC (Taxi and Limousine Company) licenced driver in good standing whose licence is clearly displayed.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise.
  5. Receive a far quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed).
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted).
  7. A smoke and scent free ride.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers (please use them!).
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service.

    Photo I took on a New York Taxi: The Livery Passenger’s Bill of Rights

What?!-I am sure many Zimbabweans are asking as they read this. How can passengers have as many rights in their transport Bill of Rights as we have in our constitutional Bill of Rights? What we need to interrogate is why New York chose to make what seems like a very unimportant issue so very important.

First of all, in New York as in Zimbabwe the majority of people cannot afford owning cars. Whereas in New York buying a car is not as difficult as maintaining it (including the taxes and parking fees), many Zimbabweans simply cannot afford cars.

Second, the ability to access a clean, safe and secure alternative mode of transportation is central to guaranteeing the safety of the residents of New York. It is also central to the productivity and development of the city as residents commute between their homes and work, 24 hours a day.

The more I have listened to the grievances about combis (commuter omnibuses) and the service they give to my fellow Zimbabweans, the more I have wondered how many of them would be out of business if a similar bill of rights existed in Zimbabwe.

  1. Clean car in good condition:How many times have you been in a dirty combi or taxi, dusty even that you had to use tissue to wipe the seat before you sat? How many times have you seen combis and taxis that look like they want to fall over on one side? How many times also have you been in a combi or taxi that feels like the moment the driver changes the gears, that is the last sputter that the combi is going to give then die…on the spot? The combis are health hazards, so much that if anyone gets a cut from the edges of the folded aisle seats while dropping off or getting onto the combi, they need to get an immediate Tetanus shot.
  2. Licenced drivers:We know that many combi and taxi (mshikashika) drivers are unlicensed. In investigations following one of the accidents in Chitungwiza, it emerged that the driver was unlicensed. The majority of those who are currently licensed need a retest because they either procured their licenses through fraudulent means and never actually had proper driving tests or they have been driving hazardously for so long they have forgotten what the correct and proper procedures on the road are. When they get to the police and are asked for a licence, they produce a piece of paper with $5 or $10 or $20 stuck in the middle and police officers immediately forget what they were asking for.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys traffic laws:That is something you do not see among combi and taxi drivers. What you see are near death experiences in which 98% of the time the combi drivers are in the wrong. Passengers sit and grit their teeth as their drivers overtake where there are continuous lines (clearly saying do not overtake), break the rules and drive up the wrong lanes in opposing traffic, shoot through red robots (traffic lights), filter into traffic at the wrong time forcing other drivers to hit their emergency brakes, skip over speed humps (not slowing down as they should) and turn dangerously close in front of oncoming traffic. I always say, if our roads had traffic cameras, which award automatic fines to a license plate as penalties for every road traffic offence, then our government would not need to tax us (law abiding citizens). They would generate all the revenue needed just from traffic fines.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise:This is one right where those who use public transport daily would agree with me that the adage “if wishes were horses then beggars would ride” applies. From the loud urban grooves sounds of Stunner singing “Tisu Mashark,” to the Zim Dancehall vibes of “Tocky Vibes” and the legendary Winky D, to the lewd sounds of Jacob Moyana singing “Munotidako,” the combi drivers “blast” (literally) the music. They play the music so loudly that anyone trying to have a conversation has to shout. Some drivers are courteous enough to turn down the volume when they see a passenger talking on the phone but the majority could not be bothered. When passengers sometimes request they turn down the volume they are told “Tenga yako kana usingade zvenoise” –“Buy your own car if you have a problem with the noise.”
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed)-The dog eat dog mentality that has permeated our society also affects public transport operators. Although certain fares are known i.e. it should cost $0.50 from the city centre to any residential surburbs in Harare using combis, the combis always take every opportunity available to charge more. If it is raining the fare goes up to a $1, during rush hour when everyone wants to go home-suddenly the fare also goes up to $1, if there is a big event somewhere (a soccer match, a Makandiwa judgement day) suddenly all operators want to carry passengers to that route reducing the numbers of buses available on the normal route-those that remain want to charge $1 because those going to the “hot and busy” route also charge $1. Nobody constantly monitors and enforces fares.
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted): Dream on! Some drivers do not only talk on the phone as they drive, they even text; what with all this WhatsApp business.
  7. A smoke and scent free ride:Luckily Zimbabwe has very strict laws against public smoking and so in this instance public transport users are covered. I can’t say the same for the smell issue though because the buses are not always clean. Sometimes the problem and source of discomfort is not with the bus itself but the sweaty armpit of the conductor, stuck in someone’s nose as the conductor squeezes himself tightly between the door and the passenger on the edge of the first seat behind the driver’s seat.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request:Again, dream on! Some combis and taxis do not even have functional windows; the windows are broken, missing, stuck and won’t open, not proper windows but rather cardboard paper or furniture boards. The ventilation is either poor creating a stifling environment or the wind lashes the passengers’ faces.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers:What seatbelts? This is why in many accidents the passengers on the front seat fly though the windscreens while the driver survives. At police roadblocks, the police are concerned with the driver putting on his seatbelt and are not bothered about the safety of the passengers seating next to the driver without their seatbelts on. RATIONALE: the driver can pay a bribe if he is caught not wearing his seatbelt; it is harder to solicit for bribes from passengers-you never know who they are, right?
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to:Huh! Dream on. Not only are passengers forced to share but they share with more people than is necessary. Packed like sardines, seats that should accommodate 3 people have 4 people on them. The situation gets worse if one of the passengers is a big person; never mind if there are two big people in one row of seats. They end up squashed to each other, literally sharing body fluids (sweat). I used to shout at the drivers many times when they tried to fit a 4thperson in the front seat. It was bad enough that the seatbelts were dysfunctional and the risk of flying out through the windscreen if the driver suddenly applied his brakes was high, but to share the seat meant for two people with a 3rd person, practically sitting on your lap was an added annoyance.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal: Service animals are specially trained animals (mostly dogs)meant to help people with disabilities e. g. visual impairment, hearing impairment, mental illness, diabetes, autism, seizures and others. This greatly improves the safety and security of persons living with disabilities as they navigate their way using public transport. In Zimbabwe, not only do we not have such service animals but as it is animals are not allowed on public transport. Besides the animals, fellow human beings are not very helpful to the disabled. Many combis avoid carrying paraplegics arguing that they have no space for wheelchairs; when it truth they want to use that space to carry goods that will get them more money.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service: Well we don’t have to worry about this one because the service is guaranteed to be poor. No tips coming! Or going!-whatever the case may be.

Clearly the combi structure of providing public transport in Zimbabwe is problematic on many levels.

  • There is no uniformity in the quality of service.
  • There is no guarantee that passengers will get their change as some conductors assault or insult passengers for demanding change.
  • There is no guarantee how long the trip will take as there are no strict timetables.
  • The combis are not maintained to the same standard. Some buses are fully serviced while others have broken seats, torn interiors, missing windows.
  • The system of licensing is not properly monitored as the police take bribes instead of enforcing the law.
  • The buses are overcrowded.
  • The fares are not strictly standardised, monitored and enforced.

What is the solution?

The Minister of Transport, Obert Mpofu suggested banning the combis. But to me that pseudo-solution would only create more problems. The reality is that:

  • Combis constitute the largest transport providers for the majority of Zimbabweans on local routes within cities, between urban centres, between urban and rural centres and some even across borders.
  • Combis are a source of employment and income for thousands of combi owners, drivers and conductors and their families.
  • In urban centres they also provide employment to a unique group of individuals known as the ‘rank Marshall’s (effectively a group of touts who have dignified their loafing by creating a system of accountability among bus operators by giving them equal turns to ferry passengers in exchange for a $1 for every trip that each combi takes.
  • The dynamics become even more interesting when one observes the organised trade that takes place around the different bus termini known as ‘ranks.’ Vegetable, airtime, food and fruit vendors take advantage of the movement of people to and from the combis to do business.
  • Urban councils charge these combis for parking and this revenue going directly to the local governance structures.

To create a safe and secure transport system that gives men, women and children the dignity they deserve, Obert and his boys should consider creating a bus service (including combis) that operates on timetable and in line with a set list of rules and procedures observing the strictest standards including proper licensing, full insurance, being roadworthy with a cut-off date for the vehicle life span e.g. Anything older than 10 years should be taken off the roads as un-roadworthy! Every combi should have a bin to throw litter in to avoid littering by passengers, all seats should be properly functional –not broken or torn seats, combis should maintain a set level of cleanliness and hygiene in their interior including having functional heating and air-conditioning, every combi should abide by the regulations on maximum number of passengers to be carried; 3 per seat instead of 4, staff that is helpful to the disabled. In other words, an enforceable look-alike to the New York Passengers Bill of Rights would be a welcome development for Zimbabwe to guarantee citizens safety and security on the roads.

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Governance, Human Rights, Politics

 

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Is protest through satire enough? #zvirikumbofambasei Part 2


The greatest enemy for any people is apathy for it breeds a sense of comfort that prevents further interrogation of issues that affect communities. But I guess it would be inaccurate to label Zimbabwean society as apathetic as some citizens do engage issues in many different ways, satire being one of them. My last article spoke to this as I looked through the meaning of the #zvirikumbofambasei skits.

Over the past few months Zimbabweans have watched in horror as shocking events have unfolded, the majority of them involving the “mother of the nation.” First the First Lady got a miracle PHD. Her fast-tracked academic qualification from the University of Zimbabwe, where her husband is the Chancellor, was procured in a record 2 months whereas scholars of repute globally have spent an average of 3-7 years to achieve the same feat. Second; she bumped her way up the political ladder jumping from being the mere spouse of the first secretary of the party to the head of the women’s league, a powerful position within the party and the nation’s politic. Next, she was touted as the possible successor to her husband; a process that saw her crossing the country to conduct rallies with members of her party; calling out supposed faction leaders and threatening to “baby dump” them; embarrassing other party officials vana Kakukonde vakamakwa bigtime!, and insulting Zimbabweans at large especially “Ndebele men who just drink beer, impregnate women then skip the border to engage in criminality”.

Meanwhile Zimbabweans responded to all three incidents; particularly through the Twitter-sphere, with ridicule; writing tweets that dripped with sarcasm. A special hashtag #tweetlikedramai, emerged, and another #dramai was created for the sole purpose of making a caricature of the First Lady. Twimbos, as Zimbabweans on Twitter are known questioned her conduct with tweets such as;
“Hello UZ, what other degrees are you guys selling”
“Worry not Zimbos. If the economy collapses, I will adopt everyone and you will all live at my orphanage in Mazoe.”
“Our police are working hard to bring electricity to your homes”

Ultimately, these tweets were a form of protest as young people flocked to social media to register their discontent, shock and outrage at the events as they unfolded. However, that’s as far as it went. Today we complain about the government’s neglect of the medical sector. Doctors are on strike; there isn’t enough medical equipment in the hospitals; people are dying in circumstances where they should not have to; senior officials in the ministry keep getting new cars while our dearly beloved leader flies to Singapore for eye-check-ups. Youths spend their days loitering, jobless, hopeless. Diseases we never dreamt we would face, ravage our population, cholera, dysentery, typhoid-the result of a negligent government that expends its budget on luxury cars instead of providing its people with clean water and proper sanitation. We are all in agreement; this is not the Zimbabwe we want. Yet only a handful of Zimbabweans, led by Itai Dzamara have taken this to protest launching the #occupyafricaunitysquare campaign, a non-violent movement aimed at demanding an end to Zimbabwe’s cycle of national failure and suffering.

Burkina 1 Burkina 4 Burkina 5In other parts of the continent we saw the people of Burkina Faso take to the streets. The actions of the Burkinabe represented the rising up of a downtrodden population that had reached the limits of its resilience, a population that was prepared to die for anything different from their status quo. 27 years of selfish leadership and an attempt to amend the constitution to continue this legacy was met with emphatic protests that signalled the Burkinabe had had enough. 27 years in which there was no evidence that the lives of the ordinary people had improved for the better; 27 years in which the leader enriched his inner circle and one could not tell the difference between corruption and official governance machinery; 27 years of oppression and suppression of dissenting voices; 27 years of cronyism characterised by immense privilege among the elite, touting their opulence to the poor hungry on the street; 27 years of unemployment, increased poverty and want among the majority.

How different this is from the Zimbabwe, 34 years on? So then, what are we missing? What shall drive us to be as incensed as the Burkinabe? Is the might of those in power really that indestructible? If it is the army we fear, is the wrath of the army mightier than that of the masses?

History has shown the power of mass movements from the French Revolution, the Egyptian #Jan25 Revolution to the Burkinabe Protests. Those in power might resist, throw teargas at, shoot at, declare states of emergencies against, the masses but eventually the strength of a united mass cannot be thwarted by the resources of a few bullies. As the t-shirt of one of the Burkinabe protestors read, “Notre Nombre est notre force” (Our number is our strength.”

One of my favourite bloggers writes,
“… revolution is not like an apocalypse. It is a dedicated process carried out through mass political education, destruction of the structural pillars of the old regime to build a new foundation from rock bottom. Revolution is abandoning the old and embracing the new. It is process you cannot go through without tears, blood and pain along the way. It is the rebirth of the new man and woman, in mind and spirit, resulting in the emergence of the envisioned self.”

At the centre of it all is the fact that the community, our community is a social organism that needs nourishment in political, economic and social ways. It needs to breed and sustain intellectual capital but beyond intellectualism it needs self-organisation by the communities themselves without depending on, or fearing the government to liberate it. We are our own saviour and if we are waiting to be liberated then we shall be waiting for another 1000 years. We have successfuly developed a culture of resilience but we need to grow fearlessness. Our leaders have used fear as a tool to cripple any social movements. I once said, regarding the arrest and harassment of Beatrice Mtetwa that to silence dissent, the state targets the few vocal and visible individuals to serve as an example and unleash a silent indirect threat to the rest of the faint and weak-hearted.

With the sowing of the seeds of fear they have taken away the power away from us; away from the people. The violence that we have witnessed persistently against WOZA women and more recently against Itai Dzamara and his colleagues is a reminder, watering the seeds of fear and letting it grow exponentially in our hearts and minds. But until when shall we continue to let our fear of death or injury overpower our quest for dignity and freedom? When shall we recognise that there is unity in strength?

We must recognise that beyond the different political party affiliation or non-affiliation as the case may be, we have greater humane interests that bind us together- interests that even those within the privileged circle will need protected the day they fall into disfavour among their peers.

Above all we must remember the words of Frederick Douglass for they speak truth to our situation and until we internalise them and act on them, we shall remain where we are, desperate but not driven to action, angry but fearful and incensed but too scared to chart our own path.

He said;
“Power concedes nothing and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of the injustice or the wrong which will be imposed upon them and these will continue until they are resisted. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
– Frederick Douglass 1818–1895

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Activism, Governance, Human Rights, Zimbabwe

 

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Is Satire Our Protest? #Zvirikumbofambasei


Satire: “The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices.”

Protest: “A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.”

People often ask why Zimbabweans speak of a repressive government when freedom ‘of’ expression is guaranteed in the Constitution and articles such as mine can be published. However, they often overlook that freedom ‘of’ expression does not guarantee freedom ‘after’ expression. Citizens only get clarity on whether their thoughts and words fit within the political establishment’s definition of freedom ‘of’ expression when they get a response befitting the acceptability of their words.  Such a ‘response’ often consists of ‘visits’ to police cells; in other words unlawful detention; and often extends to bruises and broken bones for those who dare go onto the street to protest.

So, since we can’t go on the streets and hold placards or march and get our voices heard; we (Zimbabweans) have taken to our creative juices; letting our grievances out in the flow of our words; words often spoken so eloquently; with so much hidden meaning that those who block our protests on the streets become ignorant participants in spreading the word of our protest. In satire we have found expression, saying things we would dare not say openly; and Richard Matimba popularly known as “Uncle Richie”’s skit has widened the doors to our freedom of expression and opinion.

Mbiri yavo ndeyei? What is Uncle Richie’s fame?

Uncle Richie is the brains behind the “unotoshaya kuti zviri kumbofamba sei” craze that has hit Zimbabwe. In polite terms his message is “what exactly is going on” but in liberated speech what he means is: what the f*** is going on?!!!”  Nowadays, every statement and joke among Zimbabweans is punctuated with this statement. The message began as an audio recording circulating on WhatsApp (a cross-platform mobile messaging App which allows people to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.)

Picture Credit-imgflip.com

Picture Credit-imgflip.com

When one first listens to it, the audio sounds like the incomprehensible rantings of a drunkard. The words are mumbled in a slur; the thoughts sound disjointed and discordant, unrelated even, what one would call mumbo jumbo.

But upon listening carefully, one gets Uncle Richie’s crazy wisdom.  In Uncle Richie’s words is a fascinating exercise of agency in which he strings together narratives of the economy, society and politics. He talks of people getting haircuts in butcheries (Unotoona vamwe vachitogerwa zuda mumabutcher-You see people getting haircuts in butcheries) [who does that?!]. He hints at the dearth in leadership and true representation of constituencies in Parliament (Wotoona kuti ah vanhu vese pa.. vanotoshaya mumiriri anotovamiririra…And then you see that all the people at… cannot find leaders to represent them). He talks of the lack of transparency and accountability in Parliament as a representative body as citizens are left wondering what exactly Parliament’s business is (Pavanozodiscusser muParliament vanenge vachitodiscusser nenyaya dzei-In Parliament, you really wonder what they will be discussing).

He goes further to explore issues of social justice. He addresses the rampant lack of decent housing (unotoshaya kuti vamwe vari kutoshaya dzimba-and then you can’t get how some people do not have houses). He speaks to the issue of hunger and unavailability of food to eat for some, dashing the assumption that everyone has all meals on the table each day; (vamwe vanenge vadya makuseni-some would have had food in the morning). He throws in the common practice of self-medication, given that a visit to the doctor for something as “silly” as flu is out of the question in Zimbabwe though it should be if we had proper health care (vamwe vanoto.. vanotoshandisa Vicks kana vachida kuti flu yavo iite kakudzikira- some  use Vicks if they want their flu to get better). Lastly he addresses the lack of access to clean and safe water; alluding to how, instead of simply opening the taps in their homes and getting clean and safe water, citizens have created their own alternatives; failed by local government (Vanotochera mvura mumigodhi- they fetch water from wells).

Added to all the obvious confusion caused by the governance deficit at a local and national level, Uncle Richie expresses his confusion at the unusual events that have baffled mankind; Zimbabweans included making us all wonder what our world has come to. First the inexplicable and mysterious disappearance of the Indian man in Mt Nyanga, in Zimbabwe (vamwe hanzi akwira mugomo ashaikwa-some are said to have climbed up a mountain and disappeared) and the strange disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370 (hanzi yatoshaikwa ndege yacho-they say that the plane can’t be found). Both incidences have led to so many conspiracy theories. In Nyanga some people speculate that maybe mystical powers of the hills made the man disappear, or the man was simply attacked by wild-life or thieves and the state doesn’t want to raise security concerns or this was a direct attack on a targeted individual for other reasons that we will all never know. With MH370, the speculations range from; “the pilot was a terrorist” to “there was a man on the plane with evidence of how the Americans created Ebola” and “the victims were trafficked to get their internal organs.”

Through his satirical skit, Uncle Richie paints a clear picture of the acute discord that characterises our economic, social and political landscape, both nationally and globally. As millions of Zimbabweans share the audio, and laugh at Uncle Richie’s words his message continues to build a shared consensus that something is wrong with our society. Through his words, he builds confidence for agency and legitimises the idea that it is only right to talk about all these injustices and unusual events.

And so when the police chief, Commissioner Chihuri collapsed and claimed he fainted because he wore the wrong shoe on the wrong foot, Zimbabweans asked “Zviri kumbofamba sei?” How does a whole general mistake left from right? Kupfeka banana here shuwa?

When we all heard that members of the Apostolic Faith Johane Masowe Sect had beaten up police officers, we asked-Zviri kumbofamba sei? Many felt the police had it coming given their history of brutality against unarmed civilians. Others wondered if we were progressing into a state of lawlessness.

Picture Credit-www.dailynews.co.zw

Picture Credit-www.dailynews.co.zw

Each day, pedestrians and motorists alike, grit their teeth  as vehicles that take them from point A to B, plod through potholes and ask; Zviri kumbofamba sei? How come our roads [with the exception of a few] are not getting fixed when money is being collected for that? Isn’t that why police have waged a war against combis, to ensure that they comply with all road regulations including paying for operating licenses? Or do our police just get a kick out of smashing private vehicles’ windscreens for no reason?

And when it emerged that a man had been arrested for setting his dogs   on wild animals in the President’s backyard, we asked- Zviri kumbofamba sei? The President has deer in his backyard? Wow! When I grow up I also want to be President so I can have deer in my backyard!

And when we had half-naked Brazilian dancers paraded during the Carnival; we asked -Zviri kumbofamba sei? How do we as a society still have people who cat-call and wolf-whistle at women wearing short skirts or dresses yet we have naked women paraded on our streets as part of a “cultural event?” and have no problems with it? How come people will castigate the organisers of the #miniskirt march for speaking out against sexual harassment of women yet they cheered the Minister of tourism for bringing half-naked Brazilian women onto our streets?

When we heard that popular Sungura music artist, Alick Macheso ejaculated in his daughter’s mouth, in an unorthodox traditional method of curing his daughter’s fontanelle (nhova) called kutara we asked; Zviri kumbofamba sei? Was there no other way of curing her? Should a daughter ever suffer the misfortune of seeing her father’s privates? Kuoneswa nhengo yesikarudzi yababa here shuwa!! What is wrong with the man! Two wives in the house and he chose his daughter’s mouth as the destination to empty his sperms!

We also heard of miracle money, miracle gold, miracle weight loss and miracle babies in this era of prophets or “profiteers” as some would call them and ask; Zviri kumbofamba sei? Are these men of God or men of gold? Let us not even talk of ‘Pastor’ Robert Martin Gumbura and his insatiable sexual appetite.

Source-Unknown

Source-Unknown

Again when we heard about the internal fights within both the major political parties and we asked; Zviri kumbofamba sei? In MDC-T we heard that Tsvangirai fired Biti or Biti fired Tsvangirai; with Mangoma featuring somewhere in that equation. In ZANU PF it was, Mnangagwa is going to take over from Mugabe or is it going to be Mujuru; then we heard Mujuru never shot down a helicopter during the liberation struggle and suddenly ‘Gamatox’ and ‘Mazoe Crush’ were political slogans. We are still wondering- whose narrative should we believe? What narrative of history was and is true? What is the future of our country with such messy politics?

To top it all, we have followed over the past few weeks, the emergence of a new strand of STD (Sexually Transmitted Dictatorship). A political party constitution has been flouted; dictates of seniority, merit and experience thrown away to hungry dogs as the first lady has risen dramatically through the power ranks, blazing at a comet’s speed from the shadows of her powerful husband’s kitchen to the highest seat in the Women’s league and maybe even HIS seat. Is it any wonder that we ask,  Zviri kumbofamba sei?

One thing remains constant; using the Zviri kumbofamba sei? phrase, as Zimbabweans we have developed a voice in calling out the political discord that surrounds us. We are naming and shaming the rot and those responsible for it in our politics, economy and society. I am inclined to agree with Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s who both argue (in their book called Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Non-Violent Conflict) that, the assumption that the most effective and forceful way of waging political struggle is through violence or the threat of it, is not true.  It takes the stirrings of dissent among a few, then adopted through high levels of participation by members of the population to grow a movement. The quiet protest Zimbabweans have grown through satire has enhanced the population’s resilience, invoked public loyalty and is grounded in local mobilisation.  We have created a home-grown movement with high levels of participation by ordinary citizens in which we are saying “this is ridiculous” to things that are ridiculous or “get your act together” to those who need to do so. We might not be toyi-toying/picketing on the streets but in our numbers as we pass the messages from phone to phone, one WhatsApp message to the next we are certainly getting heard. The icing on the cake, even those who would ordinarily arrest us for saying these things are passing along the messages; Unotonzwa maMinister achiti, Zviri kumbofamba sei? Either they have caught onto the dominant spirit or they are just too dense to get its import.

Whether using satire as our protest in itself is enough to change our fortunes is the subject of my next blog.

Below is a full transcript of Uncle Richie’s First Zviri kumbofamba sei skit

Unotoona vamwe vachitogerwa zuda mumabutcher (You see people getting haircuts in butcheries)

Vamwe vachitoseka (While others are laughing)

Wotonzwa vamwe…vamwe…vachitochema (Then you hear others crying)

Uchitoona…unotoona kuti pamwe vanhu vacho vanenge vakatosiyana siyana (Then you see that maybe the people are different)

Unotonzwa vanhu vachitoita ruzha (You hear some people making noise)

Vamwe vachitoita zvinhu zvekuti unotoshaya kuti vanhu vari kutombozvi…zvifambisa sei (And others will be doing things that make you wonder what exactly is going on)

Unototadza kutozvinzwisisa kutoti (You fail to understand that…)

Uno…unotoona vanhu vachitomhanya (You see people running)

Vamwe vachitongoramba vakamira (While others remain standing)

Wotoshaya kuti..kuti zvese vanenge vachida kuti zvizoitwe sei (Then you wonder that..ah…how do they they want things to work out)

Vana makanika unotoona vachitosangana pamwechete (You see the mechanics coming together in one place)

Vana hwindi kana wotonzwa vakutoti yeee uyeee (Then you hear the touts shouting yay oh yay)

Uchitoshaya kuti Ah zvinhu zvacho zviri kutombofamba sei (And you wonder what exactly is going on)

Wotoona kuti ah vanhu vese pa..vanotoshaya mumiriri anotovamiririra kuitira kuti (And then you see that all the people at… cannot find leaders to represent them so that…)

Pavanozodiscusser muParliament vanenge vachitodiscusser nenyaya dzei (In Parliament, you really wonder what they will be discussing)

Ndopaunotoshamisika kuti nyaya yacho yakatomira sei (And then you wonder, what exactly is this story)

Zvinhu zvacho hazvi hazvi hazvina..hazvitombonzwisisiki (You can’t understand these things)

Vanotoshaya kuti vamwe vari kutoshaya dzimba (And then you can’t understand how some people do not have houses)

Ah vari kuto ah vari kuto to ah vari kutoshaya ah kuti zvakatombomira sei (Ah they are..they are..they are wondering how things are)

Vamwe vanenge vadya makuseni (Some would have had food in the morning)

Vamwe vanoto..vanotoshandisa Vicks kana vachida kuti flu yavo iite kakudzikira (Others use Vicks if they want their flu to get better)

Vanotomboshaya kuti ah vamwe vanotoshaya… (They wonder what..ah some wonder)

Vanotochera mi..mvura ne..mumigodhi (They fetch water from wells)

Ah utotototi zvinhu zvacho ah zviri kumbofamba sei (Then you wonder what exactly is going on)

Vamwe hanzi akwira mugomo ashaikwa (Some say someone climbed up a mountain and disappeared)

Ah zvinhu zvacho utototi anhu ah handitombonzwisisi kutoti  ah (Ah,,,these things,,,you say people,,,ah,, I can’t understand what,,,)

Hanzi yatoshaikwa ndege yacho(It is said, that the plane has disappeared)

Ah ah woto…kuda kuzvibatanidza zvinhu zvacho soo wotoona kuti ah (Ah then you…trying to piece these things together, then you see that…)

Zvotonetsa zvinhu zvacho (These things are difficult to understand)

Ah hamheno kuti to.. to.. tinganyatsozvibatanidza sei kuti zvinhu zvacho (I don’t know if we should…should…how do we bring these  things together)

Tinyatso..nyatso…nyatsonzwisisa kuti zvinhu zvinenge zvakatonyatsofamba sei (So we fully…fully understand how things happened)

Unoti ah mupfungwa macho munenge ndimo makutonzvenga (You then think to yourself, maybe my brains are playing tricks on me)

 

 

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24 January 2063: Dear Kwame from Nkosazana


They are dreamers my friends, just as I am one too and, as I always say, I shall continue to dream for  dreams turn into visions, visions become plans, plans can be turned into designs and designs can be implemented and spring forth the change I want to see. In my optimism I find hope, for it is my hope that the Africa you shall read about in the letter below shall BE. It is the vision of that Africa that fuels my anger, energy and passion in doing the work that I do; for I know, Africa is better than what many say she is-Africa is capable of doing better than she is doing today.  So may the pessimists close this page before you throw up from the high dosage of optimism it contains. But may the optimists and hopefuls be encouraged in the knowledge that Africa INDEED shall rise!

*Beautiful note, written by Chika Onyeani of the Africa Sun Times; first published on the African Diaspora Network mailing list by Melvin Foote.

Date: 24 January 2063*

To: Kwame@iamafrican.com
From: Nkosazana@confedafrica.gov
Subject: African Unity

My dear friend Kwame,

Greetings to the family and friends, and good health and best wishes for 2063.

I write to you from the beautiful Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, as we finalize preparations for the Centenary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity, which evolved to the African Union in 2002 and laid the foundations for what is now our Confederation of African States (CAS).

Yes, who would have thought that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah and his generations, when they called in 1963 on Africans to unite or perish, would one day become a reality. And what a grand reality.

At the beginning of the twenty first century, we used to get irritated with foreigners when they treated Africa as one country: as if we were not a continent of over a billion people and 55 sovereign states! But, the advancing global trend towards regional blocks, reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage.

In fact, if Africa was one country in 2006, we would have been the 10th largest economy in the world! However, instead of acting as one, with virtually every resource in the world (land, oceans, minerals, energy, forests) and over a billion people, we acted as fifty-five small and fragmented individual countries.

The bigger countries that should have been the locomotives of African integration, failed to play their role at that time, and that is part of the reasons it took us so long. We did not realize our power, but instead relied on donors, that we euphemistically called partners.

That was the case in 2013, but reality finally dawned and we had long debates about the form that our unity should take: confederation, a united states, a federation or a union.As you can see, my friend, those debates are over and the Confederation of African States is now twelve years old, launched in 2051.

The role played by successive generations of African youth contributed to our success. Already in 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, it was the youth that loudly questioned the slow progress towards integration.
They formed African Union Clubs in schools and universities across the continent, and linked with each other on social media. Thus we saw the grand push for integration, for the free movement of people, for harmonization of education and professional qualifications, with the Pan African University and indeed the university sector and intelligentsia playing an instrumental role.

We were a youthful continent at the start of the 21st century, but as our youth bulge grew, young men and women became even more active, creative, impatient and assertive, often telling us oldies that they are the future, and that they (together with women) form the largest part of the electorates in all our countries!

Of course this was but one of the drivers towards unity. The accelerated implementation of the Abuja Treaty and the creation of the African Economic Community by 2034 saw economic integration moved to unexpected levels. Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045. This integration was further consolidated with the growth of commodity exchanges and continental commercial giants.

Starting with the African pharmaceutical company, Pan African companies now not only dominate our domestic market of over two billion people, but they have overtaken multi-nationals from the rest of the world in their own markets.

Even more significant than this, was the growth of regional manufacturing hubs, around the beneficiation of our minerals and natural resources, such as in the Eastern Congo, north-eastern Angola and Zambia’s copper belt and at major Silicon valleys in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa, to mention but a few such hubs.

My friend, Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization.

Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors. Africa is now the third largest economy in the world. As the Foreign Minister’s retreat in Bahir Dar in January 2014 emphasized, we did this by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and RECS to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialization and economic integration.

Let me recall what our mutual friend recently wrote:
“The (African) agrarian revolution had small beginnings. Successful business persons (and local governments) with roots in the rural areas started massive irrigation schemes to harness the waters of the continent’s huge river systems.

The pan-African river projects – on the Congo, the Nile, Niger, Gambia, Zambezi, Kunene, Limpopo and many others – financed by PPPs that involved African and BRIC investors, as well as the African Diaspora, released the continent’s untapped agricultural potential.

By the intelligent application of centuries-old indigenous knowledge, acquired and conserved by African women who have tended crops in all seasons, within the first few years bumper harvests were being reported. Agronomists consulted women about the qualities of various grains – which ones survived low rainfalls and which thrived in wet weather; what pests threatened crops and how could they be combated without undermining delicate ecological systems.

The social impact of the agrarian revolution was perhaps the most enduring change it brought about. The status of women, the tillers of the soil by tradition, rose exponentially. The girl child, condemned to a future in the kitchen or the fields in our not too distant past, now has an equal chance of acquiring a modern education (and owning a farm or an agribusiness). African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled.

The producers’ cooperatives, (agribusinesses) and marketing boards these women established help move their produce and became the giant food companies we see today.’

We refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the Green economy and to claim the Blue economy as ours. We lit up Africa, the formerly dark continent, using hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels.

And, whilst I’m on the Blue economy, the decision to form Africa-wide shipping companies, and encourage mining houses to ship their goods in vessels flying under African flags, meant a major growth spurt. Of course the decision taken in Dakar to form an African Naval Command to provide for the collective security of our long coastlines, certainly also helped.

Let me quote from our mutual friend again:
‘Africa’s river system, lakes and coast-lines abound with tons of fish. With funding from the different states and the Diaspora, young entrepreneurs discovered… that the mouths of virtually all the rivers along the east coast are rich in a species of eel considered a delicacy across the continent and the world.

Clever marketing also created a growing market for Nile perch, a species whose uncontrolled proliferation had at one time threatened the survival of others in Lake Victoria and the Nile.

Today Namibia and Angola exploit the Benguela current, teaming with marine life, through the joint ventures funded by sovereign funds and the African Development Bank.”

On the east coast, former island states of Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius are leading lights of the Blue economy and their universities and research institutes attract marine scientists and students from all over the world.

My dear friend, you reminded me in your last e-mail how some magazine once called us ‘the hopeless continent’, citing conflicts, hunger and malnutrition, disease and poverty as if it was a permanent African condition. Few believed that our pledge in the 50th Anniversary Declaration to silence the guns by 2020 was possible. Because of our first-hand experience of the devastation of conflicts, we tackled the root causes, including diversity, inclusion and the management of our resources.

If I have to single out one issue that made peace happened, it was our commitment to invest in our people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013 we said Africa needed a skills revolution and that we must change our education systems to produce young people that are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.

From early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education – we experienced a true renaissance, through the investments we made, as governments and the private sector in education and in technology, science, research and innovation.

Coupled with our concerted campaigns to eradicate the major diseases, to provide access to health services, good nutrition, water and sanitation, energy and shelter, our people indeed became and are our most important resource. Can you believe it my friend, even the dreaded malaria is a thing of the past.

Of course this shift could not happen without Africa taking charge of its transformation, including the financing of our development. As one esteemed Foreign minister said in 2014: Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.

With concerted political determination and solidarity, and sometimes one step back and two steps forward, we made financing our development and taking charge of our resources a priority, starting with financing the African Union, our democratic elections and our peacekeeping missions.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations were the start of a major paradigm shift, about taking charge of our narrative.
Agenda 2063, its implementation and the milestones it set, was part of what brought about this shift. We developed Agenda 2063 to galvanize and unite in action all Africans and the Diaspora around the common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa. As an overarching framework, Agenda 2063 provided internal coherence to our various sectorial frameworks and plans adopted under the OAU and AU.

It linked and coordinated our many national and regional frameworks into a common continental transformation drive.

Planning fifty years ahead, allowed us to dream, think creatively, and sometimes crazy, to see us leapfrog beyond the immediate challenges.

Anchored in Pan Africanism and the African renaissance, Agenda 2063 promoted the values of solidarity, self-belief, non-sexism, self-reliance and celebration of our diversity.

As our societies developed, as our working and middle classes grew, as women took their rightful place in our societies, our recreational, heritage and leisure industries grew: arts and culture, literature, media, languages, music and film. WEB du Bois grand project of Encyclopaedia Africana finally saw the light and Kinshasa is now the fashion capital of the world.

From the onset, the Diaspora in the traditions of Pan Africanism, played its part, through investments, returning to the continent with their skills and contributing not only to their place of origin, but where the opportunities and needs were found.

Let me conclude this e-mail, with some family news. The twins, after completing their space studies at Bahir Dar University, decided to take the month off before they start work at the African Space Agency, to travel the continent. My old friend, in our days, trying to do that in one month would have been impossible!

But, the African Express Rail now connects all the capitals of our former states, and indeed they will be able to crisscross and see the beauty, culture and diversity of this cradle of humankind.

The marvel of the African Express Rail is that it is not only a high speed-train, with adjacent highways, but also contains pipelines for gas, oil and water, as well as ICT broadband cables: African ownership, integrated planning and execution at its best!

The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, makes tourism one of our largest economic sectors.

Our eldest daughter, the linguist, still lectures in Kiswahili in Cabo Verde, at the headquarters of the Pan African Virtual University. Kiswahili is now a major African working language, and a global language taught at most faculties across the world.

Our grandchildren find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight that the English version is not in line with the French or Arabic text!
Now we have a lingua franca, and multi-lingualism is the order of the day.

Remember how we used to complain about our voice not being heard in trade negotiations and the Security Council, how disorganized, sometimes divided and nationalistic we used to be in those forums, how we used to be summoned by various countries to their capitals to discuss their policies on Africa?

How things have changed. The Confederation last year celebrated twenty years since we took our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and we are a major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice.

My dear friend, I hope to see you next month in Haiti, for the second round of unity talks between the Confederation of African States and the Caribbean states.

This is a logical step, since Pan Africanism had its roots amongst those early generations, as a movement of Africans from the mother continent and the Diaspora for liberation, self-determination and our common progress.

I end this e-mail, and look forward to seeing you in February. I will bring along some of the chocolates from Accra that you so love, which our children can now afford.

Till we meet again, Nkosazana

 

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#CSW58- MDG 8: Developing Global Partnership for Development


As the era of the MDGs draws to a close-(2000-2015) – one of the things that need paying attention to is; why did we fail to achieve the milestones? Why did Zimbabwe fall short on so many of the indicators? Central to these questions, is the issue of resources. This is because no policy, however brilliant, cannot be successfully implemented without the required financial and human resources. These resources can be attained where there is a clear fundraising strategy. Usually states fundraise through sustained economic growth in areas such as taxation, trade and consequently decreasing debt.

Zimbabwe has seen a steady growth of its GDP since 2009 recovering from the terrible 2007-2009 period of economic decline. However this growth has not translated into increased income in the home. External debt remains high, pegged at 113 % of the GDP. Overall availability of vital medicines has increased although there is low production of drugs, with CAPS-the leading pharmaceutical company- almost shutting down.  There is general improvement in access to cellular networks and internet with about 20% coverage. 65 in every 1000 people have access to a laptop. However the uptake of ICT’s remains largely centralised to the young and urban population. The lack of ICT legislation continues to hamper access.

What have we done well?

  • The Economic Recovery Programme implemented by former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, emphasised economic and governance reforms which brought stability and recovery to the economy
  • Overall availability of vital medicines has remained stable because of the local production of drugs, enough to actually export some of the drugs.
  • Our creation and use of technology continues to improve; both mobile penetration and internet usage have significantly increased.
  • We are linked to both the Seacom and the EASSy undersea fibre optic cables, developments that have significantly improved our country’s internet connectivity.

What have we not done well?

  • We have no industry to talk of. Our manufacturing sector is still underproductive because of the many challenges it faces such as electricity load shedding and the liquidity crunch.
  • Domestic policy such as indigenisation and land reform, whose implementation is unclear continue to pose a threat to investment resulting in low foreign direct investment
  • Our proud and arrogant stance in our engagement with the international community continues to alienate possible allies in spearheading economic recovery.
  • The health sector still relies heavily on foreign funding, with our main donors being the Unites States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom and Australia. Our own government has not dedicated enough money to fund our health system.
  • We have not taken full advantage of our membership to regional integration initiatives such as COMESA, SADC and EU-ACP; for instance, we have not utilised the fact that SADC is a Free Trade Area which represents a large market to our goods and produce.
  • Although we are producing and exporting vital medicines, they are still expensive for the average person on the ground; as there is a leaning towards protecting the interests of the pharmaceuticals above those of the patients who are just ordinary citizens
  • We do not have an ICT policy to regulate the ICT industry resulting in stunted growth in that area.

What more can we do?

  • We need to re-engage the international community understanding that we live in a global village where we need allies and partners. Re-engagement should not mean begging, we do not need donations- we need good trade relations in which we bargain for the true value of our goods, both processed and raw.
  • We need an ICT policy to cater to the needs of a constantly changing technology landscape
  • We must learn lessons from the region. Rwanda is a good example, especially where the health system is concerned. In just 19 years Rwanda;
    •  increased its life expectancy from 28 years to 56 years;
    • decreased the size of its population living below the poverty line from 77.8% to 44.9%;
    • decreased child deaths from 18% to 6%;
    • increased the size of the population with health insurance from almost 0% to 90.6%;
    • maternal mortality dropped by 60%;
    • HIV,TB and Malaria deaths decreased by close to 80%;
    • The poorest pay nothing to access health care.

We have so much potential as a nation. We do not need aid! We have enough resources. If we deal with corruption, work to redistribute our resources equitably ad ensure that everyone, and not just the big fat-fatty cats continue to benefit, the challenge of failing to implement the MDG’s will cease to exist and be another old archive in the history books.

 
 

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Part 2-One Good Road


So as the BUS DROVE ON, we all gulped the dust, bore the bumpy road with gritted teeth and wished the driver could slow down just a little bit. He could not have cared less that the once-tarred-road was now more of a gravel road. He was out to make money and make it fast. It being a holiday, (Christmas and the New Year), business was good and he needed to drive as fast as possible, dump us at our destinations and go back for another load.

I thought to myself; all it will take is one good road. One good road that links the farmers to the market to sell their produce. One good road that allows the citizens to have access to a reliable transport network. One good road that allows businesses to transport their goods to the farming communities and limit the time farmers spend travelling to get basic goods. One good road that enables the citizens to have quick and easy access to hospitals. I recalled the stories told of the women dying of complications in childbirth, and the many other people who died on their way to the hospital.

The area I am concerned with today is among the highest cotton producing areas in Zimbabwe. The road is frequented by large haulage trucks transporting farming produce, linking the farmers to the market. That road is so terrible, however, that I had to park my car in Kadoma and use public transport. Many transport operators are unwilling to tour the route arguing that the road will damage their vehicles, causing them to incur more expenses in repairs hence making their businesses unprofitable. The value of a good road both for human development and economic development cannot be overstated and as the African Development Bank always emphasises, good roads facilitate the movement of goods and people from remote areas to the main economic and social structure of the country.  The availability of a good road network, increases traffic flows and hence decreases the economic costs of transporting goods to and from markets. The same roads facilitate access to health, education and information.

The road stretches for only 140 kilometres connecting Kadoma, Patchway, Chakari, Golden Valley, Sanyati, Copper-Queen and Gokwe.Five ( 5 ) different MPs represent the people who need this road to work; Kadoma Central MP -Fani Phanuel Phiri of ZANU (PF), Chakari MP-Aldrin Musiiwa of ZANU (PF), Sanyati MP-Blessed Runesu of ZANU (PF), Gokwe Nembudziya  MP-Mayor Wadyajena of ZANU (PF) and Gokwe Mapfungautsi MP-Mirriam Makweya of ZANU (PF).

Surely if these 4 men and 1 woman are true representatives of their constituencies, the issue of this road shall be a priority on their 5 year mandate as the issue of jackals/hyenas in Buhera is to Comrade Chinotimba. Yes, the rural district councils in some of these areas are tasked with the responsibility to construct and maintain the roads but central government, which the MPs have direct access to and are part of, is bound by national policy to provide resources through the national fiscus, to ensure that the local authorities perform their responsibilities as provided for in the Local Government Act.

I will certainly be watching them. After all, it’s only one good road.

 

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An ode to a great man: Celebrating Mandela


A bright light has been dimmed in Africa, our motherland. No it hasn’t been switched off, for the legacy of this great nation-builder remains with us. We mourn, we remember but above all we celebrate a life well lived, fighting for peace, dignity and freedom for the down-trodden.  Individuals like Nelson Mandela are not mourned, they are celebrated for he inspired change wherever he went and the millions of condolence messages pouring in are a testimony of the depth of character of this great leader.

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

He led a selfless life, sacrificed his youth to the advancement of human dignity and the freedom of his nation and people. His courage of conviction led him through the 27 years of incarceration, as he envisioned a free South Africa in which black and white co-existed peacefully. His release signified the beginning of freedom and unity as he sought progress for his country through reconciliation. He inspired many with his integrity and compassion, including myself, and we shall continue to pursue the ideals that he preached and lived.

 

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