News in brief 11/05/06

US envoy speaks out against propagandist press
HARARE - The outspoken American ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, has (after many months of silence) spoken out again in criticism of President Robert Mugabe's government. He reportedly told a group of journalism stu

dents last week that the crackdown on press freedoms in Zimbabwe has contributed to the country’s economic decline by impairing the free flow of ideas.
In October last year Dell was threatened with expulsion for accusing Mugabe’s government of destroying the economy through mismanagement and corruption. On World Press freedom day his speech included sharply worded passages that contrasted Zimbabwe with other countries in southern Africa that are experiencing economic growth and increasing freedoms.
“It is undeniable that Zimbabwe’s economy is in a downward spiral unmatched by any other country not at war,” said Dell, according to a transcript provided by the U.S. Embassy. “And yet, if you rely on the state media, things aren’t that bad. In fact, the outlook is very rosy indeed and recovery is only months away.”
He noted that all daily newspapers and radio and television stations were owned by the government. The nation’s rapidly shrinking economy, he said, was a direct result.
“Look behind nearly every economic dysfunction and shortage in this country — unavailability of fertilizer and fuel, underutilization of land, burgeoning corruption — and you will likely find some impediment to a free flow of information or the freedom to act on that information,” Dell said.
“Such systems – with their obsession to control political and economic information – didn’t work in 1930s Soviet Union or 1950s China, and it seems doubtful that they’ll ever work elsewhere.”
The official response to his speech has so far been muted. Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya played down Dell’s remarks in comments to Zimbabwean reporters and said that freedom of expression was flourishing in Zimbabwe, while the United States had limitations on speech that were “much more draconian” than those found in Zimbabwe. He called the USA Patriot Act “absolutely horrifying.”

Violence in schools is forcing girls out of class
HARARE – Girls in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Vietnam are missing out on their right to education because of violence in and around their schools. This is the key finding of research carried out in various countries across the world.
“If they are abused, the girls are blamed. Not the perpetrators. Actual and the threat of sexual violence is a significant factor that impedes girls’ access to education, especially when the schools are at a distance from their residences”, says feminist Everjoice Win of Action Aid International, which conducted the research.
Win is part of a team of women’s rights advocates hosting a three day conference on Violence Against Girls in Schools in Harare, Zimbabwe May 8 to 10, 2006.
“The stakes are now higher than ever. This situation of gender inequality and violence exacerbates women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. In many countries the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is high in schools and it is young girls who are the most vulnerable. Challenging violence in this context can really be a matter of saving lives,” says Grace Kaimila Kanjo head of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)’s education department.
Yet schools ought to be safe. And that is the focus of the conference which will see 75 participants from across the SADC region gather to craft strategies to make schools oases of peace. Representatives from Ministries of Education, Teachers’ Unions, non governmental groups working in the area of education and women’s rights activists will be finding a way in which governments can put in place policies to address violence against girls.
“Governments can set up reporting mechanisms, punish perpetrators and support the survivors. If they fail to do so then they have let themselves become accomplices to a system of impunity”, says Win. – For more information contact Isabella Matambanadzo, Zimbabwe Programme Manager, OSISA, [email protected]
Mobile + 263 91 345 526 or + 27 82 610 6704

Mugabe motorcade guard beats up young mother
HARARE – A uniformed presidential guard dragged a woman from her car and beat her up on the Borrowdale road in front of her 3-year-old daughter, baby son and child minder, and no one intervened,.
The attack, among incidents reported by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in its political violence report for March, was by no means the most serious – the Forum reported an increase in torture by state security agents. But it illustrated the mindless brutality of guards on Robert Mugabe’s motorcade and the fear instilled in all those who simply stood by while the officer knocked the woman to the ground, drawing blood and yelling abuse in front of her terrified child.
The woman, who approached from Gun Hill, was waiting on March 28 for traffic to clear the road when Mugabe’s motorcade approached. She obeyed instructions to remain stationary. When the last of the motorcade passed the officer got out, pulled her from her car and, screaming abuse, punched her in the face and then hit her with a baton. She sank to the ground and he left her. Other presidential guard officers and passers-by just stared.
The Forum reported 19 cases of torture during March, up from three in the previous two months. There were also assaults and 46 unlawful arrests by state security agents.- Own Correspondent

Bocapa Xposure winners set for first gig
HARARE – The inaugural winners of the Bocapa Xposure Programme have finally been selected. In a tightly competed selection process, Afro Roots, a reggae duo and Gasten Membe, came tops in the groups and solos categories, respectively.
Gasten {31} plays solo guitar much to the style of the older generation of players like Ngwaru Mapundu, John White and the more recent Kireni Zulu. He joins the world of witty humour and charismatic lyrics with his bag of well thought out lyrics and a fair share of humour.
Afro Roots on the other hand are two young men, Marco Gozho (25) and Tendai Chirinda (26) who have polished their act over the past two years. Having only played only at Harare’s and possibly Africa’s liveliest Cultural Oasis-The Book Café, the duo have released one album, Zvekurarama Pasi pano. This is an album with well thought out lyrics and a young energetic vibe.
Besides their prize money, the duo alsoget to share the stage on Saturday May 20 with the winner of the solo category, Gasten Membe. This is part of Pamberi Trust’s Exposure package, which will see the group and solo working hand in hand with The Book Café and the Media in order for them to expose their talent.
Bocapa Xposure is an upgrade of the seven-year-old Book Café Academy of Performing Arts, which sought to give upcoming musicians the chance to perform their acts before a live audience. Bocapa Xposure aims at working with the Artistes through a four-week programme, which will see groups and solos selected to compete for the hot spot.
Also in the pipe line for them is Bocapa Be True which seeks to encourage Artistes to work on material that focuses on the Artistes responsibility towards the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The Artistes will be involved in workshops conscientizing them on the effects and nature of the Pandemic. This is geared to raise a generation of socially conscious and responsible young musicians. Courtesy of the Pamberi Trust, The Book Café will make available the necessary mechanisms to ensure the success of the projects

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