Letters (i) 8-6-06

1,000 houses in 1,000 days
EDITOR - I have a 'dream', a dream to help provide housing to the less fortunate in Zimbabwe. To rebuild the houses recently demolished in Zimbabwe will be no easy task.
Low income houses can be rebuilt in few months provided there was a st

rategy put in place and a product/building system that addresses all the resources lacking within the building Industry – cement, bricks, skills.
I believe it is “completely possible” to build 1,000 houses in about 1,000 days. Don’t let anybody tell you that its NOT possible – particularly not ‘big-mouth’ politicians who are too scared to be named. There are new products and building systems on the South African market that address all the resources lacking. The SA government is fully aware (or should be aware) of these new products and building systems. I have repeatedly challenged governments and, particularly, the SA housing ministers to debate this topic ‘live’ with me on television, but, because they have all fallen into the category of ‘incompetent’ they have failed/refused/neglected to accept any of the said challenges.
All those ‘groot bekke’, who were signatories to the South African Housing Accord at Botshebelo, where are they today and what contributions, if any, have they made to make the late Joe Slovo’s dream to become a reality? – (1,000,000 houses in 5 years) I would like to submit that as long as ‘certain people’ claim the impossibility of the possible there will always be jobs for ‘buddies and relatives’ in the government housing sector and people will have to be content with ‘living under pieces of cardboard and plastic’ all along our beautiful highways. I challenge governments and the donor community to make a concerted effort to house the people of Zimbabwe. I hereby offer my skills, free of charge, to train the people who were deprived of their homes to make their own bricks ‘by hand’ and build their own houses. I appeal to the government, businessmen, communities and professionals to make a concerted effort to meet and discuss a ‘way forward’ – as a matter of urgency.
DAVE SASSMAN, Former Executive City Councillor – Cape Town.
1, Edgemere, Heathfield. 7945 Tel: (021) 712-1259 – Mobile: 073 172 8048

Thank you Amnesty
EDITOR – I would like to thank Amnesty International for publishing satellite images of Porta farm prior and post Operation Murambatsvina. Though shocking, the images reflect what the late Dambudzo Marechera called “a scrubland where independence was won yesterday but today poverty tasted ” The objective images are clear evidence of the impact of the shelter demolitions. Maybe pressure is put on UN boss Kofi Annan to hasten his trip to Zimbabwe and voice his concern. Thank you Amnesty International for standing up for the people of Zimbabwe. Shame on the African leaders dangling their asses on the fence while Zimbabwe is burning!

Must it be one or the other?
EDITOR – Must it be UN intervention or the presence of Zimbabweans on the streets in a winter of discontent to force Mugabe out; does it have to be one or the other? That is the question and it is directed to all Zimbabweans, in the diaspora and those in the front line of the struggle inside the country.
Like hundreds of other Zimbabweans in the diaspora, I was inspired by Morgan Tsvangirai and the liberation team when they visited London recently. I listened very carefully to every word that was spoken and I did not hear any reference to an either/or question. What I heard loud and clear was the word PRESSURE; we have to put pressure on the regime to force them to the negotiating table. I was considerably surprised therefore in the days that followed to hear that the MDC is prepared to abandon its call for action on the streets, the so-called’ winter of discontent’ demonstrations, in favour of the diplomatic option. If we in the diaspora with free access to the media are confused about what is really happening on the Mbeki/Annan diplomatic front, one can only imagine how it must be for people at home with a hopelessly one-sided media reporting on developments. Unnamed ‘sources’ are quoted as saying that the MDC has postponed its plan of street protests against the regime. This claim is immediately denied and the ordinary man or woman in the street is once again thrown into confusion. What exactly is going on? When are we as a people going to understand that when it comes to news reporting we can take nothing at face value? The so-called ‘sources’ of news need to be very carefully scrutinised because in the Zimbabwean situation there is no such thing as an objective and impartial ‘source’. There are now so many dissenting voices within both sides of the great divide in Zimbabwean politics that it is impossible to take what anyone says at face value; everyone has their own agenda and very often it is nothing more than a mischievous desire to cause trouble and confusion in the opposite camp. One thing however is clear. If there is to be a lasting solution to the problem of Zimbabwe, it is imperative that the people on the ground, the suffering masses of Zimbabwe are a part of that pressure. For the truth is that Kofi Anan may or may not intervene; Thabo Mbeki may or may not finally abandon his quiet diplomacy in favour of more direct intervention; the west may or may not intensify its pressure on the Mugabe regime – all of these options are possible but not certain. The key element in all options is pressure, sustained pressure from all quarters. The diplomats have tried before but the one thing that has been lacking is visible ‘people power.’ on the streets. In combination with serious and sustained diplomatic pressure, a collapsed economy and international isolation, the presence of thousands of ordinary people marching down Samora Machel towards State House must finally convince Mugabe that it is time to go and that time is NOW. Whether the thousands of Zimbabweans who have suffered and continue to suffer under this cruel dictator are prepared to grant him immunity from his crimes in return for his departure is another matter. For now, the over-riding consideration is how to force Mugabe to sit down and talk. The only way that can be done is through pressure from all sides. It is not a question of one or the other.
Pauline Henson, Worcester, UK

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