OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A letter from the diaspora

Thanks to Cathy Buckles Family and Friends letter last week I now know how the ZTV is covering or rather, not covering events in Egypt.

In this age of mass communications it is despicable that a public broadcaster can abandon all objectivity and actually conceal real news from the public because it is not in the interests of the ruling party to hear about popular unrest on the African continent. The Herald, too, in its craven support of Mugabe and his Zanu PF resorts to downright lies in their efforts to besmirch Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC claiming that the opposition is about to unleash a Cairo style mass demonstration against the government. This week Harare was rocked by looting of foreign-owned businesses by known Zanu PF supporters escorted by the police who once again demonstrated their abject failure to uphold law and order. We are told that the looted businesses were owned by people from Nigeria, Ghana and the DRC. Interesting that Chinese-owned businesses were not included in the looting spree; no doubt the revelation that the Chinese government is about to inject $US 10 billion into the Zimbabwean economy in exchange for a platinum deal had something to do with that! Speaking in Marondera, Saviour Kasukuwere added his familiar racist spin, saying, The indigenization programme should benefit people with black skin only.

All over the country, violence against the opposition has been stepped up in an attempt to prove that the MDC is about to mount a mass protest against the 86 year old dictator in Harare. VOA reported a senior ZRP officer telling the ZBC, The situation in Egypt will never be tolerated anywhere in Zimbabwe. We want to assure the nation that we are fully prepared for such violent activities and our officers are already on the ground to ensure peace and tranquillity prevails in the country. Civic society too has been under attack this week. On Wednesday the Executive Director of the Human Rights Forum, Abel Chikomo, was detained along with two other officials and held for six hours of interrogation about the objectives of the Human Rights Forum. The purpose behind these daily assaults on civil liberties in Zimbabwe is very clear: to engender paralysing fear in every sector of society; newspaper vendors beaten up for selling independent papers and ordinary MDC members detained for no reason other than to deter them from legitimate civic action. It is a pattern Zimbabweans are very familiar with in the run-up to elections. Through it all, Robert Mugabe remains silent and his silence surely denotes consent while his thugs on the ground attempt to silence all dissent.

Yet it does not take very much intelligence to see that what is happening in Cairo is precisely the result of such oppression. Like Zimbabwe, Egypt has suffered for three decades under a ruler who has become increasingly autocratic. Like Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak was once the peoples hero but, as his speech last night showed he has completely lost touch with the grass roots. Even for a non-Arabic speaker, what was very clear from his address was the patronising tone he adopted toward the thousands gathered in Tahrir Square and in towns and cities all over Egypt. As their protest entered its seventeenth day his only words were, in essence, that he knew what was best for Egypt and he would not leave until he was ready to go. I was struck by the comment of one observer that the median age of the demonstrators was 24 and the roar of anger that went up from the crowd showed how they reacted to the father or should it be grandfather of the nation, an 82 year old man, telling them that he knew what was best for them and that they should all just go home as if they were naughty children. With that speech, I believe, Mubarak has brought about his own demise. As with all dictatorships, the role of the army is crucial but by today, Friday lunchtime, there are as yet no signs that the military are prepared to fire on the protesters. What makes the protest in Egypt so remarkable is that it has been entirely peaceful. Armed with nothing more than their voices and placards the thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life have proved, in the words of the old anti-apartheid slogan, that A people united can never be divided

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. author of Samis Story, an account of Murambatsvina as seen through the eyes of a young boy, available on Lulu.com.

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