Moral blameworthiness, but wait, no pens allowed!
By Cathy Buckle
Dear Family and Friends,
After weeks of extremely high temperatures there’s nothing nicer than going out early in the morning before the October heats sets in for the day. If you’re lucky you might hear a night jar calling to its mate before it settles down to sleep for the day; or a spotted Eagle Owl gliding silently back to its roost. If you’re out walking early there aren’t many people around but those you pass always smile and call back a greeting in response to yours.
Some things you see force you to face the reality of life in Zimbabwe: the people already heading to the bank queue at four in the morning; children already walking to school at five thirty in the morning. Some mornings, if you’re really lucky, and if you are watching where you walk, you might see a tiny footprint in the sand: a genet, mongoose or even a duiker walked there under cover of darkness.
How they have survived the ravages of widespread urban habitat destruction, illegal cultivation and litter dumped everywhere is a mystery. The fact that they have, gives hope and conviction that Zimbabwe can recover.
Where are we going from here? That’s the question everyone’s asking in Zimbabwe as the clock ticks down to the introduction of Bond notes in the country. For months we’ve been told that Bond notes are coming; money that’s not real money, that’s not trade-able or exchangeable outside the country but will supposedly be worth the same as the US dollar.
We expected them in July, then August and September and now we hear from the Reserve Bank that Bond notes will be released at the end of October, a couple of days from now. “Bomb notes,” is what people are calling them, before they’ve even arrived, saying that they’ll have the same effect as a bomb being dropping on our economy and will cause havoc and mayhem in our already precarious situation.
The shortage of money in the banks and the length of queues outside the banks grows worse by the day, a situation that our government have managed to completely ignore for months. The papers are full of their political power struggles and faction fights a situation which has thrown a dense smoke screen over the real crisis unfolding in ordinary people’s lives.
Lately we seem to have deteriorated into the realms of the absurd as the cash flow worsens and the paranoia of the authorities increases. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago you could buy a Zimbabwe flag at most intersections in Harare and on many street corners in every town. Now they’ve completely disappeared after it was publicized that there’s apparently a one year jail term or $300 fine for selling a Zimbabwe flag without permission from the Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Strange that flag selling, carrying and wearing was common practice when it was being used to show support of Zanu PF but after activists for change dared to express their patriotism to our country and our flag, the rules suddenly changed. A few weeks ago the Minister of Local Government even turned it into a racist issue when he said: “You see some protesting white women donning our national flag as dresses. They are undermining our authority, and we will not tolerate that.”
The Minister didn’t say anything about the hundreds of men and women of other skin colours who wrapped the flag around themselves as they gathered and called for the release of Pastor Evan Mawarire, the founder of a movement for change called This Flag. The Zimbabwe Flag Act says it’s an offence to burn, mutilate, insult or show disrespect for the Flag or bring it into disrepute. It doesn’t say anything about your skin colour. But wait, matters concerning our flag get even more absurd!
This week a Chinese businessman was fined for selling Zimbabwe flags from a shop in Harare. 314 flags were seized and forfeited to the State and the man was fined $20. Passing sentence in court the Magistrate said: “As a first offender who pleaded guilty, who bought the flags in China and was selling them for a profit, your moral blameworthiness is low…”.
‘Moral blameworthiness,’ relating to a Chinese man making profit selling Zimbabwean flags but not for ordinary Zimbabweans carrying their own flag in their own country? Moral blameworthiness is something that’s been in very short supply in Zimbabwe for decades.
Then came events in Parliament on Wednesday when MDC MP for Budiriro, Costa Machingauta, was ordered to leave the House because he was wearing a jacket in the colours of the Zimbabwe flag. The MP argued that it was his constitutional right to wear the jacket and a fracas broke out when other MP’s blocked the Sergeant-at-Arms from ejecting Mr Machinguta.
Police arrived, climbed on top of Parliamentary benches knocking people over in their attempt to get to MP Machinguta and chaos ensued. The MP was forcibly carried out of Parliament by Police and shortly afterwards all the MDC MP’s walked out of Parliament in protest at the arrest of their colleague. Two female MP’s said they had been inappropriately touched by the Police in the melee and an investigation is underway.
There’s one last bizarre story that best illustrates the levels of absurdity and paranoia prevailing in Zimbabwe right now. At a graduation ceremony at Lupane State University at which President Mugabe was the guest of honour, state security agents searched arriving parents and graduants and confiscated their pens.
Even journalists had their pens taken away from them and were told by security details that they were simply following orders: no pens allowed. One classic newspaper report said it was feared that the pens could be used to produce offensive banners against President Mugabe.
If you don’t laugh you’ll cry and if we start crying in Zimbabwe we’ll never stop. Until next time, thanks for reading,
You can follow Cathy on her blog Cathy Buckle