Monday, January 08, 2007


Normblog draws our attention to a chilling piece on Zimbabwe by R W Johnson.

"A vast human cull is under way in Zimbabwe and the great majority of deaths are a direct result of deliberate government policies. Ignored by the United Nations, it is a genocide perhaps 10 times greater than Darfur’s and more than twice as large as Rwanda’s".

Read it all here.

After reading it, I looked back to an old prospectus from our Centre documenting our work as part of a British Council link programme with the University of Harare a few years ago. I was not involved, but my good friends Gill and Daniel were. Part of what my colleagues did, in partnership with Hull's Developing Our Communities, was to deliver participatory appraisal training courses. One of the groups they worked with were displaced women living in Hatcliffe, a township outside Harare. The women identified the production and sale of hand-made textile goods as a way of beginning an independent micro business and they made two bedspreads which were brought back and raffled for funds to invest in their new business. Despite Gill's attempt to fiddle the raffle by putting my winning ticket back first time, the second ticket was also mine and she gave in to fate. The bedspread sits resplendent in my house in Greece. Then I read this.

I see Trudy Stevenson, an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who has carried out her own survey of Murambatsvina victims in Harare’s Hatcliffe Extension township, work that earned her a brutal assault by Zanu-PF thugs from which she narrowly escaped with her life. Stevenson estimates the death toll there at around a quarter.

I go out to Hatcliffe and talk to some of the survivors. One of them, Philomena Makoni, tells me that her family had a legal lease for their dwelling but this did not prevent the police from tearing it down.

“They came at night, shouting and yelling, made us get out of the house and just levelled it to the ground. “Then we were carted off into the countryside and dropped there. The president had said that people like us had lost our roots and that we must rediscover them.

“My baby that I was nursing died — I had no food and could give her no milk. We buried her in the bush. My other two children are terribly thin and sick. “We walked all the way back to Hatcliffe, it was many miles, but things are much harder even than before. My husband lost his job through being sent away and we have no income.

“We are only alive because the churches give us some food, but I am very frightened for my children. They are no longer in school and they are now begging at the roadside. I cannot see what will become of us.”

Now, rather than a symbol of hope for the future of a group of poor, but enterprising and positive women, my bedspread has a sense of poignancy, of hope destroyed under an unceasing oppression and institutionalised, systematic violence. Are the women who made it still alive? I don't know. Mugabe most certainly is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,

I remember the fuss over Ian Smith and UDI and his comments about the intrinsic untrustworthiness of the negro. Whilst his comments were racist, he was right about the the potential for instability in Rhodesia. I think that the negro was not trusted enough in reality for a form of anarchic settlement in which power was devolved to the four main tribal regions and right down to township level could perhaps have prevented anarchy. I often think that this would also have been a solution to Northern ireland's problems with power being devolved right down to street level with a facilitating civil service run by knee-capped political eunuchs!

Graham Shields