The Persecution Of Martha O’donavan & Why It Should Matter To You | #FreeMartha

 

Murungu Mutema

Today is Wednesday 8th November. I am just back from the High Court where Martha O’Donovan’s bail hearing has been postponed because the state has not handed in required papers – a standard delaying tactic. This means that Martha (A US citizen) will spend at least one more night in the maximum security section of Chikurubi prison.

If you’re on Zimbabwean social media, you might have heard the name Martha O’Donovan, and seen #FreeMartha. Heck, if you’re outside Zim you might have come across it in international media. Asides from her friends and social circle here in Harare though, most people don’t know her from a bar of soap.

Who is Martha? I first met this young lady in the context of Shoko Festival. I met a lively, intelligent girl interested in music, brought here by her interest in genuine (and mostly underground) hip-hop. When she arrived here, a guest to our country, she knew nothing of local politics, and didn’t really care. She cared about her work, meeting people, getting involved in the creative scene. Like many visitors to our beautiful country, she fell in love with our places and people. 

So why was she arrested? What could a personable and charming young person like her possibly have done to deserve incarceration in Chikurubi? The short answer is nothing.

Martha was arrested on a pretext. When the police picked her up, apparently under instructions from Chinamasa’s dubious new ministry, they said she had insulted or undermined the President. Later the charge of subverting a constitutionally elected government was added. A quick look at Zimbabwean twitter postings will show a plethora of such opinions. Why are none of the others behind bars? And in the first place, what justifies muzzling our constitutional right to free expression?

It is in the timing. Elections are approaching, young people are disenchanted with the government and starting to organize and mobilize against its perennial injustice and corruption. And Moto Republik, Magamba Network’s tech hub, is a creative space full of young minds, a place where progressive, free thinking Zimbabweans meet and work together, resulting in such satirical comedy as Zambezi News and #TheWeek. And to a regime that uses propaganda, misinformation and suppression as means to maintain its shaky grip on power, that sort of space is a threat. They have already tried to use City Council to tear it down on a pretext, which failed. This is part of an ongoing persecution of a bastion of free speech and online journalism. And Martha is caught in the crossfire, an arbitrary target for this regime’s increasingly bizarre acts of repression.

So even if you don’t know Martha, you can support her as an innocent young person being unjustly prosecuted. But at the end of the day, this isn’t about Martha. It’s about you. The second and more important reason you should stand with Martha is that this is the first and surely not the last such case where the new cyber-ministry and bogus claims of cyber-security concerns are used to violate constitutional rights in Zimbabwe. This means that the government will use the pretext of a tweet, a facebook post, perhaps even hearsay, to arbitrarily deprive us of our freedom and tie us up in lengthy and exhausting court proceedings. So this is why you must fight. Rights are just words on paper until they are exercised. Oppressors will never give them to you easily; you must claim them and defend them. And this is the time and opportunity to defend your right to speak freely using the internet and mobile devices. Evan Mawarire was acquitted not least because there were thousands of people outside Rotten Row Magistrates court. So I urge you, speak out. Tweet #FreeMartha. Come to High  court tomorrow Thursday 9 November 2017  in solidarity. Not for Martha, for YOU.

Kudos To WHO, Mugabe Doesn’t know anything about Zim health system

 

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Revoking of President Robert Mugabe’s appointment as World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador on NCDs(Non-Communicable Diseases)has been welcomed by many #Twimbos.

The announcement was made on Sunday after the state media as usual had already gone gaga over his appointment.

The humiliation is a double tragedy to the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Engineer Walter Mzembi after a failed dream to lead the UNWTO, rumours have it that the defeat could have been as a result of his allegiance to the 93-year –old leader.

Now at a time when the foreign minister thought he had made a milestone in his new portfolio, he suffered yet another setback, this can be construed from his tone where he called for a complete overhaul of the UN agencies.

Linda Masarira, political activist who is also vying for the Harare Central legislator’s post in next year’s polls, had earlier posted on Twitter denouncing the appointment before the rescinding

 

A snap survey by this publication indicates that most citizens welcomed the decision by WHO looking at the sentiments that were posted on social media platforms.

One #Twimbo by the name M Matigari praised the decision applauding all people who stood against the appointment. Below is the excerpt of his post.

 

 

Commenting on his twitter handle, former ZBC staffer and NewZimbabwe.com  editor Gilbert Nyambabvu sarcastically said that by revoking the decision, parastatals have been spared from coughing out money through advertorials but might be forced to condemn it.

 

WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who made the appointment at a high-level meeting on  NCDs in Uruguay on Wednesday, said in a statement on Sunday that he had listened to the concerns of many expressed on social media.

 

Commenting following his boss’s fate, Mzembi said he respected the decision which had been taken by WHO to reshuffle Mugabe.

President Mugabe spokesperson George Charamba chose to backtrack ignoring facts saying Mugabe had never been appointed as WHO ambassador and could have rejected the offer.

“For his entire stay in Uruguay, there was nothing that was intimated to him suggesting that designation, and, in any case, there is always a formal way of communicating with Heads of States and to date there is no such communication. What it means, therefore, is that the WHO cannot take back what it never gave in the first place, and as far as he is concerned, all this hullabaloo over a non-appointment is in fact a non-event, but a non-event which reflects a negative predisposition towards Zimbabwe”, Charamba was quoted by the state-owned Herald.

Among some of the concerns was that Mugabe is now frail and is always flying to seek medical attention in the Middle East because back home the health delivery system was in the doldrums.

 

Pic credit: Newsday

 

 

No Progress, no improvement: 2018 Elections likely to replicate same challenges

 

By Watmore Makokoba

With only a few months to go before the 2018 general elections, there is no significant change that guarantees a paradigm shift in reforms and governance, signifying a high possibility that the forthcoming elections will be yet another flaw and sham.

According to the Election Barometer launched by the Election Resource Centre in Harare last week, the year under review – June 2016 to August 2017 witnessed little progress in the reform of the assessed frameworks.

“2013 election was held amidst several challenges including unavailability of voters’ roll, administrative challenges with special voting, political intolerance, hate speech, inadequate funding, excessive ballot papers restricted access to public media by the opposition, and limited voter education among others.

However, myriad of problems still exist concerning the administrative, political and legislative framework within which elections are held” the Barometer noted.

“With approximately twelve (12) months before the 2018 harmonized elections, the country is now in the pre-election period of the electoral cycle,

“There are certain prerequisites that must be undertaken ahead of an election, fundamental to these processes are planning, information, training and registration. Under planning, ZEC as the Electoral Management Body (EMB) must consider issues such as election budgeting and funding, procurement, election timeliness and recruitment of staff,

The barometer further noted that “Trust in ZEC remains average at 50%, according to Round 7 of Afrobarometer findings in 2017,

Previous surveys by ERC and Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) pointed to 48% level of trust gaining by a paltry 2% margin a year before a general election does not suffice for an overall credibility and integrity rating,

“A key element of integrity is oversight and enforcement, there are no or limited legal frameworks for oversight of the voter registration process, the six by-elections under review witnessed limited voter registration process and there were no accredited observers for the process”.

Concurring with the Election Barometer, the Zimbabwe Human rights Association (ZimRights) noted that the pace at which voter registration has been happening was slow at some of the registration centres to an extent that people would wait the whole day.

“In some cases, those frustrated at the registration exercise slow pace ended up going back home, such experiences of the BVR process by prospective registrants can result in apathy. The ability to register as a voter is a crucial step to the realization of the constitutional right to vote,

“Some of the registration centres did not have signage to aid people to easily find them”, says ZimRights.

In an effort to deal with the proof of residence requirement, many people are preferring to use the VR 1 and VR 9 forms provided by ZEC and have a commissioner of oaths to stamp them, however, in many cases, the commissioner of oaths was not present to assist people. Some registration centres did not have the stationery and people had to photocopy them on their own and pay the commissioner of oaths.

The Election Reform Barometer was published from the pre-election to the post-electoral period of the election cycle focusing on the specific election period measured against international principles and electoral law. The latest issue assesses the pre-election period using four indicators – voter registration, voter education, access to media and political environment.

 

A Paranoid Govt Responds In Limited Manner to Economic Crisis

 

By Wisdom Mumera

 

As the long expected economic meltdown suddenly exploded this week with the tripling of prices, panic buying of basic goods,  heightening of the three-tier price system and an increased scarcity of cash the government has responded in the only way that it knows, using force and intimidation.

Two days after the cataclysmic meltdown began, on Sunday 24 September #ThisFlag frontman Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested and charged with inciting the public to commit public violence after he posted a Facebook video.

“The shortages have begun to happen. Things in Zimbabwe have become very urgent. We’ve begun to experience what we experienced in 2008. The shortages have begun to happen. In a normal nation, people shouldn’t be panicking at all. We are supposed to be at peace in our country”, he says in the video.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has also come out with veiled threats.

According to Ignatius Chombo, “spreading alarm and despondency is not an expression of democracy nor is it media freedom. It is a criminal offence and is therefore punishable.

“In the circumstances, Government is closely monitoring the press and social media reports in question with a view to taking decisive action to deal a telling blow to perpetrators of the crime”, he said.

On Monday some alleged ZANU youths posted a message calling for demonstrations against retailers and wholesalers whom they accused of increasing prices.

“As ZANU youths, we are tired of detractors, those agents of doom who want to hike prices of goods whenever we are towards elections. We have resolved that, if prices do not normalize by Tuesday 26 September we will take action against manufacturers and wholesalers and all those retailers who are hiking prices”, it said.

To them the whole economic issue is fueled by the paranoia often exhibited by their party leadership, seeing the West and political undertones in everything.

The trend is very worrying as more economically aware individuals have previously warned of the implosion that we are now experiencing.

In 2015 The Economist gave a sobering warning to Zimbabwe.

“The collection of value-added tax has slumped by 8%. Corporate tax receipts have fallen sharply, too, as have sales of tobacco, Zimbabwe’s main export crop.

“This crisis is particularly acute largely because the government’s responses to each previous one have narrowed its options. In the 1990s, when faced with a debt crisis, Mr Mugabe simply defaulted. In the 2000s, when he ran out of money, he simply printed more. When that sparked hyperinflation he ditched Zimbabwe’s currency in favour of the dollar.

“Now Zimbabwe has run out of road: it can neither borrow money nor print it. By surrendering its currency it has lost not just control over monetary policy but also an important shock-absorber”, it said.

Industrialist, Kumbirai Katsande, a former president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), warned that the economic situation was “very difficult”.

“(The economy) needs major initiatives on a massive scale to turn it around in the short term; it’s quite a task because the situation on the ground is that we have approximately 300 000 graduates coming out of school each year and we are faced with increasing company closures with many workers losing jobs.

We need solutions around these realities. We need hospitals to function. We need the economy to function. I don’t see this happening this year. It’s likely to be worse this year,” said Katsande.

Today we are realising the warnings and instead of going around giving out threats government should be working to allay public fears and reassuring the market.

It should be seeking for ways to bring back economic sanity to a country whose rot has been coming for a long time.