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Indigenous hot air – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

As far as producing hot air is concerned the Vigil is confident that Zimbabwe is a world  beater. With swarms of political parties quacking away like ducks on steroids, it is one industry in which we can more than compete.

Activists from the Zimbabwe Vigil in London
Activists from the Zimbabwe Vigil in London

So it comes as a surprise that in the ‘clarified’ indigenisation guidelines just announced the government has seen it necessary to include air (and grass, birds and swamps for that matter).

‘How can you possibly indigenise a commodity such as air?’ asked MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu. Economist John Robertson said it was the product of ‘shallow thinking’ and exposed the government to ridicule.

The guidelines were, in fact, the product of a compromise between ridiculous Finance Minister Chinamasa and shallow Indigenisation Minister Zhuwao, nephew of Mugabe.

If Chinamasa thinks it will satisfy the International Monetary Fund and encourage foreign investment he is even more deluded than we thought.

As for Zhuwao, he says foreign investment is not wanted: money can be raised within Zimbabwe – not just by increasing traffic fines from $20 to $100 but by, for instance, raising import taxes and implementing plans to tax vendors and churches.

And surely NGOs have loads of money to tax, let alone foreign-owned businesses which should be made to disgorge some oftheir profits. 

But even Zhuwao is outdone for hot air by Zanu PF spokesman Simon Kaya Moyo who says his party has done ‘extremely well’ over the past two years in particular with ‘the generality of the population feeling the effects of ZimAsset’. We suppose the hot air has at least kept them warm.

Mr Moyo has put our minds at rest. The Vigil was worried about people back home who always seem to be hard up and asking us for morecash. But we now learn that there’s loads of money around. 

We at the Vigil look forward to meeting the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mabel Chinomona who is apparently taking aholiday in the UK.

Like her colleagues, she will get $600 a day for two weeks for her accommodation and food. That’s more than some people here get a week so she will be comfortably off. It amounts to $8,400 – apart from the allowance for her family.

In all, the budget for the holidays of the National Assembly speaker and his deputy and the Senate President and her deputy is put at $110,000. The government may not be able to pay the workers but it can certainly look after itself.

As the Vigil marked the passing of ten months since the abduction of Itai Dzamara on 9th March, we were encouraged to hear the message of Pastor Patrick Mugadza who has called on Mugabe to step aside and hand power to an interim authority.

He said ‘Fear has gotten us to where we are. Dzamara, whether he just disappeared or died, he was a seed and many Dzamaras will come up if I disappear.

Other points

At the Zimbabwe Action Forum after the Vigil, our representative who recently made an undercover trip home gave us more details of what he had found. He spoke of mounting frustration and unrest against a backdrop of increased oppression and hunger.

Widespread food shortages loomed but the government had not declared a state of emergency. It promised to bring in more food but no one knew where the money would come from or where the food would be procured. The longevity of Mugabe was now seen as a threat to national security but there were fears of civil war when he went caused by splits in Zanu PF.

It was good to have with us Takunda Maravanyika an actor who outlined plans to work with us to produce a piece of solo political theatre. He will be performing at our next forum on 23rd January.

Sarah Harland of the Zimbabwe Association dropped in at the Vigil to borrow our spare banner ‘End murder, rape and torture in Zimbabwe’ for an exhibition opening on Monday 18th January – ‘Stories of Resilience: oral accounts of Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK from 2001 to 2013’. For details see ‘Events and Notices’.

Thanks to those who came early on a very wet day to help set up: Barbara Kachidza, Edna Mdoka, Esther Munyira, Isabell Gwatidzo, Innocent Maya, Jenniffer Maritsa, Joel Kaziboni,Sharon Moyo and Taurayi Tsandukwa. Thanks to Sharon for looking after the front table throughout.

Below you can find the last of three summaries of the 2015 Vigil diaries. It covers highlights from the last four months of the year.

Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights: September – December 2015

‘What have we to lose?’ – Saturday 5th September: This week the Vigil’s sister organization Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe took to the streets. They staged a demonstration in Harare against the Mugabe regime and joined in a protest march in Bulawayo against pre-paid water meters which it is argued will worsen the situation of the poor. ROHR leader Ephraim Tapa said he had told members in Harare that it was their constitutional right to demonstrate regardless of what the police said. Ephraim, who was speaking at the Action Forum held after the Vigil, disclosed he had just made an undercover visit to Zimbabwe. He said plans were underway for demonstrations in other areas.

IMF says no money for Zimbabwe – Saturday 12th September: The International Monetary Fund says that even if the Zimbabwean government makes economic reforms it will take at least three years before it can expect loans from international lenders. For his part, the European Ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe van Damme said Zimbabwe needed a return to the rule of law and respect for property rights if it is to attract foreign investment. These comments will be part of the message the Vigil will be presenting to any customers gullible enough to attend a Zanu PF fundraiser in London on 22nd September. The Vigil remembered civil rights activist Itai Dzamara on the 6-month anniversary of his abduction by government agents.

End of Mugabe Era – Saturday 19th September: The fiasco of 91-year-old Mugabe reading the wrong speech at the opening of Parliament cannot be dismissed as ‘a common era’ as the Herald put it (before correcting its spelling error!). Zanu PF MPs clapped sagely, suggesting that anything Mugabe said is alright with them. The opposition, which had heckled the State of the Nation Address when it was first delivered, had received death warnings to behave this time so they tried tokeep a straight face.

London anti-Zanu PF demo – Tuesday 22nd September: The Vigil protested outside a meeting in London’s financial district at which a delegation representing the Mugabe regime tried to persuade people to invest in Zimbabwe. The delegation was led by Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha and included leaders of some bankrupt parastatals. Protestors displayed posters reading: ‘Don’t fund Mugabe’, ‘51% tax on investment’, ‘Britain don’t invest with Mugabe’s govt of thieves’ and ‘Where is Itai Dzamara?’

Minister flees London demo – Wednesday 23rd September: Zimbabwean minister Mike Bimha and Zanu PF cronies had to change venues for a London conference because of ourprotest. The conference aimed at getting money from the diaspora was scheduled to be held at the Embassy. Vigil and ROHR demonstrators gathered ahead of the planned start and put up banners. But the Embassy remained quiet with the front door locked and no staff in sight. Later we were informed by a policeman that the conference had been moved to a hotel.

Mugabe’s same old song – Saturday 26th September: For the second time in a few weeks Mugabe has delivered an old speech – this time recycling his clapped-out ideas at the United Nations, complaining that Zimbabwe lacks resources to implement the new UN development programme because of (the long-suspended!) sanctions imposed by Western countries. After our weekday protests we had a lot of encouraging messages. One read: ‘All the leaderless folks back home salute you for your courage and patriotism’.

Mugabe’s prosperity gospel – Saturday 3rd October: A Zimbabwean website’s story has been given splash treatment in the mass circulation Daily Mail here in the UK. The story taps into one of the few thriving industries in Zimbabwe – the prosperity prophet phenomenon. The prophet involved this time is Malawi-born Shepherd Bushiri who claims to have a private jet so private that nobody can see it and to be able to walk on air(presumably when he is not using his private jet). The website’s video about the miraculous ‘walking in the air’ has gone viral after being uploaded to Youtube. But the Mail, along with others, points to the unexplained shadow of someone apparently helping to support the floating prophet. The hoax helps explain the superstitious support for false prophet Mugabe and his creed of‘believe in me: I can perform miracles’. A meeting of our Action Forum heard that ROHR has now, with the addition of Matabeleland South and MatabelelandNorth, set up structures in all ten provinces.

Khama save Zimbabwe – Saturday 10th October: To mark the Vigil’s 13th anniversary we launched a new petition warning that the situation in Zimbabwe is on a knife-edge because of threats by the army to wield ‘the Zanu PF axe’ against Mugabe’s opponents.  The petition is addressed to SADC Chair President Khama of Botswana and calls on SADC to intervene to stop a meltdown. We were sorry to see that about ten Zimbabweans saw fit to hold their own ‘vigil’ outside the Embassy at the same time as us – a sad example of how Zimbabweans can’t seem to work together. Thanks to Fungayi Mabhunu for donning our Mugabe mask to be pictured standing in front of the ‘anti-vigil’ holding a poster ‘thanks to Zanu PF Vigil for your support’.

Expel British farmlooter – Saturday 17th October: The Vigil has called on the British authorities to take action against a UK doctor who is attempting to seize a farm in Zimbabwe. It is the latest incident in which Zimbabwean exiles given refuge in the UK have revealed the hypocrisy evidenced in the growth of Zanu PF activities in Britain.

Confusion Award – Saturday 24th October: China’s award of the Confusion Prize to Mugabe will be welcomed by all right-mindedZimbabweans. At last the confused leader is getting the recognition he deserves. The awardcomes at the right time for Mugabe. It brings in some money which will help the family’s struggling milk business, which apparently has run into ‘liquidity’ problems. In short, some people have been milking him.

Nottingham demonstration against farm looter – Tuesday 27th October:

About fifty people gathered outside a clinic in Nottingham run by Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro who istrying to seize a farm in Zimbabwe.  Dr Nyatsuro, now a British citizen having lived here for more than 10 years is trying to take over a farm from a white Zimbabwean, Philip Rankin who bought the farm after Independence with the approval of the Mugabe authorities. Vigil activists displayed posters reading: ‘Down with farm looter Dr Nyatsuro’, ‘No to Mugabe supporters in UK’.

UK demand for expulsion of Zim doctor – Saturday 31st October: The attempt by a British GP to seize a farm in Zimbabwe was condemned by Ephraim Tapa, founder member of the Vigil and President of ROHR. Ephraim accused the doctor of hypocrisy in trying tograb a farm from a white Zimbabwean farmer and in an interview with Voice of America he said that Dr Nyatsuro’s British citizenship must be revoked. ‘You can’t have it both ways. No to cronyism and no to tourism farming.’

Zanu PF swaggers in UK – Saturday 7th November: Attempts to disrupt the Vigil as we embark on our 14th year are linked we believe to a growing Zanu PF mafia in the UK. It is clear that some Zimbabweans who have settled here are unrepentant Mugabe supporters. While the Vigil is busy challenging a British GP who is trying to take over a farm in Zimbabwe we ourselves are under siege from a determined group who are seeking to profit from the asylum industry. They are trying to hijack our brand for their own purposes. At the Vigil today we marked eight months since theabduction by state intelligence agents of human rights activist Itai Dzamara.

Zimbabweans protest again at looting British GP – Friday 13th November: Thirty people went to Nottingham to stage another demonstration outside the clinic run by Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro and his wife Veronica who are trying to seize a farm in Zimbabwe although they have lived in the UK for more than ten years.  The supporters of the Vigil and  ROHR sang and danced and handed out flyers to passers-by.

Zanu PF‘s Fantasyland – Saturday 14th November: All Zimbabweans will have rejoiced that Zimbabwe is to produce its very own car and export it to the rest of Africa. The announcement in the Herald spoke of turning the country into ‘a regional giant of exporting finished products’. A note of reality came in the American magazine ‘Foreign Affairs’, which questioned Zimbabwe’s plan to borrow money from the international financial institutions so that it can begin to pay off the interest on its debts so that it can borrow more money which it will of course not repay. The Vigil expressed our solidarity with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris by wearing mourning bands.

Zimbabwe’s ‘perfect storm’ – Saturday 21st November: With Christmas approaching, Zimbabwe seems to be facing all the gifts from hell: economic meltdown, simmering violence, a looming food crisis and a witch on the rampage. The South Africa-based think tank NKC African Economics says Zimbabwe is on the brink of total collapse and the infighting in Zanu PF could trigger unprecedented chaos. As Zanu PF gathers at Victoria Falls for its conference. Zimbabweans can only be grateful that mother of the nation Dr Grace will bethere to hand out adult size 12 plastic shoes to the children.

Ugly budget – Saturday 28th November: The ugly situation in Zimbabwe was reflected in the pitiful budget of $4 billion announced by Finance Minister Chinamasa. To put it in perspective, the money involved is less than half the annual turnover of the South African food retailer Shoprite . . . The Vigil is sad that Zimbabwe is not under the leadership of someone with the vision of new Tanzanian President Magufuli whose first move was to cancel independence day celebrations to spend the money on a clean up campaign. This is not Mugabe’s way. He went on from his Paris shopping trip to triumph at the Vigil’s Mr Ugly competition, winning the Nikuv floating trophy.

Goblin economics – Saturday 5th December: Zanu PF says it has raised well over the $3 million it wanted for its conference at Victoria Falls. Most of this money will come, in reality, from state coffers. Our galaxy of parastatals – driven into bankruptcy by Zanu PF looting – paid up to $100,000 each for a boastful table at dinners in Harare and Bulawayo held to raise funds for the conference. First Lady Dr Goblin Mugabe accused non-governmental organisations of giving food handouts to hungry people ‘year in and year out’. Dr Goblin continued ‘this shows that they don’t have the people at heart. They want us to be beggars for the rest of our lives.’

United for human rights  – Saturday 12th December: Zimbabweans supported our friends of the Swaziland Vigil when they presented a petition to the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street calling for the suspension of Swaziland from the Commonwealth until there is democracy and an end to human rights abuses. Nine months after Itai Dzamara was abducted, the Vigil held its monthly protest to ensure he is not forgotten.

Quoting Bible a crime – Saturday 19th December: The hypocrisy of the Zanu PF regime and the complicity of the outside world have been exposed by the solitary pilgrimage of Pastor Patrick Mugadza who took the road to Calvary from Kariba to protest against Mugabe at the Victoria Fallsconference. Despite our lauded and expensive yet-to-be-implemented 2013 constitution which enshrined human rights, Pastor Patrick was thrown into prison for displaying a poster ‘Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs 21, 13’ (‘Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard’.)  The Vigil is particularly disappointed at the failure of the UK and the West to promote the new constitution for which they provided so much money in a time-consuming process which succeeded only in distracting attention from Zanu PF’s stealing the last elections.

Mugabe’s happy Christmas – Saturday 26th December: As we spent another Christmas in exile we were surprised to hear from the United Nations that ‘Zimbabwe had done tremendously well’ on the human rights front. We would never have known this if the Herald had not carried an article by the UN’s acting resident co-ordinator Dr David Okello. The Herald quoted him as saying: ‘Zimbabwe has made tremendous strides in living the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. The latest UN ravings must have cheered Mugabe as he set off for his annual holiday in the Far East after a celebratory banquet at State House for Zanu PF bigwigs. Zimbabwe now closes down for the next month or so until the geriatric reappears to replenish his funds for his 92nd birthday celebrations.

For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.

FOR THE RECORD: 52 signed the register.