Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Wednesday denounced as “obscene” a planned bash to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday at a time the economy is on a downturn.
Mugabe turns 91 on Saturday and each year his Zanu-PF party lays on a lavish party using funds raised through public donations.
This year a belated feast is set for February 28 at a hotel in the prime resort town of Victoria Falls where guests will be served with game meat donated by a local farmer.
But the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the country’s main opposition, wants the funds raised for the party to be used instead to fix infrastructure such as hospitals.
“All the money that has been collected to bankroll this obscene jamboree should be immediately channeled towards rehabilitating the collapsed public hospitals, clinics and rural schools in Matabeleland North province,” Obert Gutu, spokesperson for the MDC party said in a statement.
Victoria Falls is in Matabeleland North province where public facilities such as clinics and roads are in a state of disrepair for lack of funds – as elsewhere in rural Zimbabwe.
The town is home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the Victoria Falls.
Gutu also suggested that food donated for the birthday be “handed over” to charities for the disabled and to orphanages.
A businessman in Victoria Falls last week reportedly offered two elephants, two buffalos, two sable antelopes and five impala to be slaughtered for Mugabe’s birthday party.
Africa’s leaders have appointed Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to the largely ceremonial role of chairman of the 54-state African Union.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is still respected by many for leading his country to independence from Britain. But critics believe the ‘president for life’ is out of touch with the people the African Union claims to represent.
Age is not a factor is the selection process for position for chairman of the Africa Union, but Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and at 90 years-old, Mugabe is among the estimated 5% of Africans who manage to live past their sixtieth birthday. In 2012, 85% of the population was under the age of 45, and life expectancy across the continent was 58 years.
Wealth Mugabe’s government has been widely blamed for mismanaging Zimbabwe’s economy, plunging the country into desperate times. Though the extent of his personal wealth is not known, his penchant for expensive and “insensitive” parties is well documented. Lavish celebrations for the leader’s 90th birthday were said to have cost Zimbabwe taxpayers $1m, despite around 70% of the population living in poverty.
Rights The African Union’s main objectives include the promotion of good governance, democracy and human rights. Under Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe has consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for civil liberties. “The police use outdated and abusive laws to violate basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly…” according to the Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report. “There has been no progress toward justice for human rights abuses and past political violence.”
Democracy Africa is home to half of the world’s longest serving leaders, including Mugabe, who was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president for the seventh time in 2013. Protests against veteran leaders have recently flared in Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso, when president Blaise Compaore was forced to step down after a failed attempt to extend his 27-year rule. Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, has indicated she may try to succeed her husband as leader one day.
Resources In his acceptance speech for his new role as chairman, Mugabe spoke of the need to guard Africa’s resources against foreign exploitation. Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party was accused of siphoning millions of dollars in profits from state-owned diamond mines to finance Mugabe’s re-election campaign in 2013. Officials deny the claims.
Women’s empowerment is the theme of the African Union summit being held in Addis Ababa. In an interview with Voice of America, Mugabe said it is “not possible that women can be at par with men.” It was unclear whether he was endorsing the status quo, or lamenting the lack of opportunities for African women. Either way, in a continent where gender discrimination remains widespread, it’s not the best choice of words.
Conflict Another of the African Union’s vows is to promote peace and stability across the continent. Mugabe and his associates are subject to EU and US sanctions following Zanu-PF’s victories in the 2002 and 2008 elections, which were marred by allegations of vote-rigging, violence and intimidation. Mugabe denies any wrongdoing, and accuses the west of trying to encourage regime change.
I am a Zimbabwean and I have decided to leave the country! Yes, you heard that right, I have decided to leave the country!
But first things first.
My name is Jimmy, and I am an ICT professional (an Internationally Certified Computer Programmer). I have had my fair share of good fortune in Zimbabwe. I have worked for the financial services industry, from the stock market, asset management, to the banking sector. I have even worked for software houses that are into fulltime software development. Yeah, yeah, one can say I have prospered in the republic.
But why leave the beloved Republic of Zimbabwe?
I can promise you it has nothing to do with my hatred for this country or because I have always wanted to leave, or because some friend or relative has decided to send me a ‘ticket’.
At this point I can only tell you of a few reasons why I decided to leave the beloved republic.
Trust me, I am patriotic to Zimbabwe. I love Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is in my heart.
After all, I have lived for over 30 years in the beloved republic. I was born here. I was raised here. I was educated here. My entire life has been in the republic. In fact, when all my peers and former school mates left I stayed because I was patriotic to the land. I saw a future where others couldn’t see one. I told myself that whatever we were going through as a country would soon come to an end and that in no time things would be better.
For a long time I didn’t even wish to get a passport. I didn’t see the need for one. I wasn’t going anywhere, and no one could convince me to step outside the borders of the republic.
And then most of my cousins started leaving.
Some of my friends left too. Within about two years or so of their leaving, they started sending us pictures of their nice cars, houses, the fancy restaurants, the food they ate … blah blah blah.
But that didn’t bother me. I wasn’t moved. I was a patriot. I loved my country. I was optimistic and very hopeful that in a few years things would change. I told myself that I too would one day, in the republic, drive a Range Rover.
But then things changed for me.
In short, allow me to say I married and along came two children. Life in Zimbabwe is something else once you start having kids and you need to feed them. Suddenly you need a two- or more bedroom house to rent. Of course in the republic we don’t buy houses, they are very expensive, and the banks are not giving mortgage loans.
Then came the 2012 elections. Then came the company closures. Then banks started closing.
Of course the factories have been closed for a while and I sort of winked at that because I worked for a bank. But when my bank started facing the liquidity crisis and closure I knew at once that no one was immune to the environment.
Then I started realising something about the republic.
No one cares for the public. We have dirty water in the taps and no one cares. We have erratic supply of electricity and no one cares. The roads are in shambles and no one is doing anything about it. Fuel prices go up and we can’t do anything about it. New taxes are introduced and we can only comply. Internet is very expensive. The public hospitals, the ones which we can afford, provide crappy service and people are dying because the nurses don’t care. I know because I watched my mother-in-law die at the hands of poor service delivery. And no one cares. Not them, not you, not the minister of health. No one. The company CEOs get treated outside the country now. But what about me? What about my kids?
Become an entrepreneur, they keep telling us. Start your own business. Create your own job.
But not everybody has dreams of owning or running a business. Some of us are just content to be the spanner boys and the foot soldiers. Some of us are content just doing our jobs and getting paid for it.
I don’t know about you but I am tired of the dirty tap water. I am tired of seeing all those potholes in a road. I am tired of sometimes available power supply. I am tired of walking the streets of a capital city that are infested with ‘bhero-stalls’ and cheap, crappy, Chinese products. I am tired of calling the national electricity department for a fault and they come 10 days later. I am tired of poor internet speeds. I am tired of expensive fuel. I am tired of working for ‘hand-to-mouth’ pay-outs. You can’t have savings accounts in the republic. Your bank could just close tomorrow. I am just tired of struggling for everything. Why does it cost me an arm and a leg to buy a flat-screen TV?
And guess what, my children have to grow up in such an environment and go to schools whose teachers don’t even know why they are doing what they do.
I am sick and tired of it all.
Surely I wasn’t born to suffer. I just want a better life, that’s all.
And where am I gonna go?
Anywhere outside Zimbabwe.
Perhaps Botswana? Perhaps South Africa? (Wait, those guys don’t want us anymore). Perhaps Zambia? Perhaps Kenya? Perhaps Namibia? Take me anywhere where the visa application is not a hassle and I’ll gladly go.
Once again, my name is Jimmy and I am a Zimbabwean. I am an ICT professional and I am leaving Zimbabwe!
When I received Pastor James David Manning’s “Black Folk” sermon for the second time on Whatsapp two weeks ago I cringed. It was first forwarded to me by a Malawian living in South Africa and, this time, from a Zimbabwean living in the US. This signaled to me that his controversial sermon had resurfaced for the holiday season and was going viral amongst Africans on social media. When a Kenyan friend in the US first showed it to me two years ago, I dismissed its relevance. I thought that surely no one would take it seriously given that is was encouraging self-deprecating attitudes among Africans based on historical inaccuracies. However, when it resurfaced two weeks ago, and none of the senders provided a comment regarding the absurdity of his words, I realised that this damaging sermon in which he proclaims that all black people have a problem was being taken seriously.
The video is part of a Manning’s sermon captured in 2012 from his pulpit at the All The Land Anointed Holy (ATLAH) World Missionaries Church in New York City in which he professes to his mostly black audience that “black people have a problem”. In what may be best described as a rant, Manning points at what he deems are the failures of black people worldwide. The premise of his argument is that black people both in Africa and its diaspora never contributed anything of significance nor did they build anything. He further goes on to say that even when they were brought to the US., they only built things under the white man’s supervision, which he provides as evidence that they cannot manage a country either. Manning proclaims that black people just “don’t understand the world we live in”. The irony of his whole argument is that Manning justifies his statements using a long list of examples that begs him to look in the mirror: Manning is the epitome of the man he denigrates. He is a black man who doesn’t understand the world himself.
Manning’s historical digressions
Manning’s analysis is predicated on historical inaccuracies and unfounded stereotypes about the continent. They show general misunderstanding about the conditions of black people historically and in contemporary times that need to be addressed.
Manning’s first claim is that “Africans never built [a] boat that’s sea worthy” which is far from the truth. Precolonial Africa consisted of some of the most competent sailors. African navy’s existed all across Africa. In North Africa as an example, Egypt and Chad navigated the Nile with the use of papyrus, ceremonial, and war canoes. In East Africa, Somalia and Ethiopia were known to have “sea worthy” boats. Somali soldiers fought battles against the Portuguese along the East African coast as early as 1500s. In South Eastern Africa, there is evidence of large warships carrying up to 120 people that sailed its waters. During the Indian Ocean slave trade, a large number of Africans were forced to work on ships as sailors due to their seafaring skills. Lastly, in West Africa nations were infamous for their sea faring activities which were led by powerful, organised militaries. Images of their military and navy were often depicted in West African artwork. In fact, there is evidence that people of African descent travelled to America long before Columbus. Historian Ivan Van Sertima dedicates his book, “They Came before Columbus” to precolonial African contact with America. Contrary to Manning’s statements, not only did Africans build boats that were lake, river and sea worthy, they were ocean worthy.
His second claim is that Africans did not build a single monument. However, there are existing monuments all over the continent that are still standing that disprove this claim – the most obvious being the Egyptian pyramids. Manning of course quickly aligns with divisive sentiments which center on treating Egypt as separate from the rest of the continent and claims that “Egypt is not in Africa”. Egypt and its people are as African as they are Arab. They have never been never been homogenous in spite of the claims justified by scientific racism or representations made of them. Recently, Hollywood’s depiction of Egyptians as white has received such harsh criticism. It has led to calls to boycott the movie, Exodus Gods and Kings (2014) and a Facebook page dedicated to more accurate portrayals of Egyptians as primarily brown and black peoples.
One only has to look at ancient Egyptian’s self-portraits to see how Egyptians were portraying themselves to realise that denying their African heritage is problematic and is a symptom of historical attempts to regroup Egypt as a “pure” product of Asia (Middle East) due to political or economic ideologies. However, it needs to be noted that when Europe was dividing Africa at the 1885 Berlin Conference, Egypt was considered African and colonised with the rest of the continent. Egypt was an integral part of the Pan-Africanist anti-colonial movements and was a founder of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union. Many of these ideas separating Egypt from the rest of the continent have been sustained by Afro-pessimists like Manning who share underlying premise is that black Africans could never have built the pyramids, (alien origin theories of the Pyramids seem to be popular) However, the theories that say black Africans still fail to explain why Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt. Neither does it explain the creation of other monuments such as the Obelisk in Ethiopia which was stolen from the Axum Empire years back.
His third claim was that there are not great cities. In fact, Africa had many great civilisations and empires which are too many to mention. They include the Kush, Nubia, Meroe, Axum, Songhai, Kongo, Angola and Mali to name a few. In fact, Timbuktu in Mali was cosmopolitan educational hub well renowned by scholars and philosophers around the world. Other great cities were renowned for trade such as Great Zimbabwe, which was a large enclosed trading center and settlement constructed from granite located in Zimbabwe that accommodated up to 20 000 people. Similar sites that smaller in size can be found in other parts of Africa. Nevertheless, contrary to Manning’s claims, Africa had great cities in its past. Africa also has great popular cities in its present that are great to work, visit or live in. Lagos, Nigeria home to 21 million people is considered a great African city. It is an economic hub that recently surpassed Cairo, Egypt as the largest city in Africa.
In his other claims Manning states that Africa built no sewer systems or no houses made out of stone, “only grass and wood.” In fact Africans built housing and buildings out of very diverse material including granite stone, thatch (not grass), mud, and wood. His claim that they also needed to be two story is also problematic. The idea that Africans need to adopt certain material or meet height requirements for their dwellings to be considered a “house” is ludicrous and Eurocentric. What use is two story house in areas that are prone to weather conditions such as frequent earthquakes? Houses should be built based on available material in their environment and the climate conditions there. With regards to the global problem of inadequate sewer systems, pit latrines are such systems. They may not be like Europe’s, but nonetheless the conception of a sewer system was there and was implemented. In sum, his ideas on “progress” and modernity mean being more like Europe. Moreover, many houses in the Global North are made of wood and are one story.
Manning offers a narrow analysis of contemporary global politics and economics. He problematises the situations situation in Rwanda and Zimbabwe as example but provides no context. There is no mention of how both national and international politics and economics have informed the situation in these countries. There is no mention of Europe’s ongoing involvement in Zimbabwe or Rwanda and their involvement has played a role in creating the situations there. Manning seems content on placing the blame for Africa’s woes squarely on Africans.
In fact, not even the beloved Nelson Mandela is spared. He states that “the worst thing that could happen to South Africa was when they gave it to Mandela and Black Folk”. He states that he understands that apartheid was wrong (meaning that he does not agree with white minority rule). However, he contends that they should have not “given” it to Mandela. An argument that is highly problematic because Mandela was democratically elected by the majority in a democratic process. In fact, many will argue that South Africa wasn’t the National Party’s to “give” in the first place. Manning substantiates his tirade against majority Black rule by saying that it’s because “disease, AIDS, and crime is running rampart in Johannesburg”. Again, he fails to put it all in perspective – crime and other public health concerns are not limited to Johannesburg nor African-ruled countries. Lastly, he fails to account for the Western Multinational Corporation’s role in exacerbating the AIDS situation through patent monopolies.
He makes similar statements about Nigeria in his claims that “Nigeria produces oil every year, yet the children there are hungry and starving”. He does not mention how the big oils companies exacerbate the situation by degrading the environment, exploiting workers and extracting from Nigeria. This is not to say that the Nigerian government does not play a role in the current situation. However, his propensity to defend profit over people is reminiscent of Afro-pessimist attitudes in which Africa is blamed for all of its problems.
Manning’s tirade is not limited to Africa – he also disparages leaders such as Coretta Scott King, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm and Barack Obama. He uses examples from Africa in his sermon to denigrate African-Americans on the basis that they are descendants of Africa. Although, I understand how an American audience could believe his tirade against Africa. Generally, Americans should be more susceptible to such propaganda about Africa. After all, America is constantly bombarded with negative images of Africa. Additionally, African history is not taught in American schools. Therefore the image of Africa that remains in the popular American culture is one of a continent that did not produce anything and is frozen in time. However, what really surprised me was the number of Africans from all over the continent forwarding this sermon. The image of Africans internalising his negative ideas about Africa whilst Great Zimbabwe, the Pyramids, and Obelisk looming in their own backyards is very problematic. It prompts me to wonder if our educational systems were failing to teach us about each other when the words of an outside person with little understanding of Africa bears so much meaning.
Grant it, “Doctor” Manning holds a Masters degree in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. His PhD however, comes from the ATLAH Theological Seminary – his own unaccredited educational institution. Although he is neither historian nor is he Africanist (or arguably a Doctor), he posits himself as an “expert” on African people, politics and economics. He challenges black people to take a long look at the ‘truth’ about their present day situation based on their history. However, his analysis is predicated on historical inaccuracies and unfounded stereotypes about the continent which is dangerous for African and African diaspora identities. At this juncture, we should be able to able to quickly quash – not believe – such ideas about the continent. We need to arm each other with facts about the continent and not the Africa that is a figment of the imagination of an already controversial pastor who has built his religious career from stirring controversy.
The popularity of his video also prompted me to wonder what was currently happening in Africa that was leading people to accept words of such pastors without really interrogating the information we were being told. Perhaps part of the acceptance of Manning’s sermon speaks to the rise of preachers and prophets in African countries, which we need to pay closer attention to.
Sitinga Kachipande is a blogger and PhD student in Sociology at Virginia Tech with an Africana Studies concentration. Her research interests include tourism, development, global political economy, women’s studies, identity and representation. Follow her on Twitter: @MsTingaK
Jairos Maruwe used to beat up his wife so badly he once knocked her unconscious and broke her arm. It landed him in jail at least once, but it was the way he was raised.
“We grew up thinking that women are our tools and we can do whatever we want with them,” the 34-year-old farmer in northeastern Zimbabwe’s Marondera region told IRIN.
“We have this tendency to resort to violence and emotional abuse when we think they have wronged us,” he said.
That was then.
Now, Maruwe is the secretary of the local branch of a group set up to reduce domestic abuse in Zimbabwe, where one in three women, according to a 2013 study, experience physical violence by their spouse or partner during their lifetime.
“It is important for us as men to accept that we are the main culprits where GBV [gender-based violence] is concerned,” he told IRIN.
“The reality is that, in most of the cases, we are the ones that are wrong. My involvement in the GBV group has taught me that there are many ways of solving domestic disputes without having to resort to violence. I now preach the anti-violence gospel,” he said.
Maruwe is among hundreds of men in 26 rural districts (Zimbabwe has 59 districts in all, over 40 of which are in rural areas) to have taken part in an innovative project set up this year by local NGO Padare/Enkundleni, with funding and logistical support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The scheme encourages men to get involved in the fight against GBV.
It forms part of a four-year, US$96 million Integrated Support Programme (ISP) on Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV prevention launched by the government last year in conjunction with UN agencies, international donors and local NGOs in an effort to reduce maternal mortality, cervical cancer, HIV and GBV.
ISP aims to provide services to 7 000 survivors of sexual assault and rape, in addition to reaching more than a million people with interventions to address some of the underlying issues that result in violence against women and girls.
Village groups Kelvin Hazangwi, director of Padare/Enkundleni, told IRIN rural communities have been largely by-passed by anti-GBV initiatives which have tended to focus on towns and cities.
He said they had so far trained about 50 men in each district on community engagement, gender and human rights issues and methods for working with men to combat GBV. Those men then transfer their skills and knowledge to village groups (each with up to 50 members).
The men in these groups meet to talk about local reports of domestic violence and how to deal with them, in part by engaging with known perpetrators about the negative effects of GBV.
“While there are numerous initiatives and tools to fight GBV, men, who are generally seen as the perpetrators, have largely been ignored as agents of change,” Hazangwi told IRIN.
The groups write “commitment charters” which promise, among other things, to speak out against GBV and use dialogue to stop violence, to end child marriages, and to create partnerships with relevant local institutions such as the police and health centres. The charters, which are written in local languages, are posted on billboards close to busy places such as rural business centres, while local male artists are hired to paint murals at local community halls and livestock dipping points.
Padare is also targeting two schools per district where groups of a 100 male students have been formed to educate their peers about GBV.
In Marondera, where anti-GBV men’s groups have been set up in several villages, the programme is already paying dividends, say activists.
Rugare Samuriwo (60), an elder in Maruwe’s village and a member of the men’s group, told IRIN that cases of domestic violence had dropped sharply since the programme began.
“The village is now more peaceful. Involving us [men] in fighting violence in the home works, because we have the power to change our own attitudes by talking to and counselling each other. Men are now generally ashamed to be violent because they have been made aware of the negative effects of doing so,” said Samuriwo.
Hazangwi said there are plans to evaluate the programme to establish its efficacy; to date there has not been any independent assessment of the project’s impact.
Obstacles Samuriwo admitted they faced resistance from some male villagers who refused to be part of the group and still felt that beating up their spouses and subjecting them to abuse was a way of asserting their authority in the home.
Female victims of domestic violence, he added, generally still avoided reporting their cases to the police or health institutions.
According to the 2013 study (a baseline survey on GBV in Zimbabwe), only one in every 14 women who were physically abused reported it to the police and one in 13 sought medical attention.