Only this afternoon I met someone, a friend-of-a-friend, from Zimbabwe. I lived there from 1992 – 1995. “Difficult times” he said. But not nearly as difficult, as horrific as now, I replied. And here’s the evidence.
Difficult viewing, too, but if you want to know what life is like in Zimbabwe, why it’s a situation we should all be concerned about, please watch.For background read Ethan’s post on this video – he recently visited and his posts on Zimbabwe contain much up-to-date information.The video was made by SW Radio and today shown to South African President Thabo Mbeki, in an effort to persuade him to use his influence in Zimbabwe. Here a link to the complete original programme in streaming video and below the break there is a transcript of the (slightly shorter) clip on YouTube.
Toendepi Shone – MDC organizing secretary, Harare province:
I believe that as Zimbabweans we deserve first of all employment – which I have lost – we deserve better salaries, we deserve drugs for HIV, we deserve better treatment from the employers and the government. So we wanted to just present a petition to the government and to the employers that we deserve a better standard of living.
ZCTU supporter (1):
We decided to demonstrate. That is only the way. We were holding a peaceful demonstration whereby we wanted the government to see the route we were using… we are going through the companies so that we want to show the world at large and the leadership of Zimbabwe that the Zimbabweans are suffering. The money that they are getting is peanuts. It doesn’t take them anywhere. It is the government that regulates the prices. The fuel has gone up, the school fees… you know you can hardlypay for a child in school. I have to feed the family, so the end of the day, the family only manages to have one meal per day. So today we wanted to demonstrate so that we could show the leadership of this government that what they are doing to us is not fair.
Wellington Chibebe, ZCTU secretary general:
It’s very clear: we’re demonstrating against these slave wages, we are also calling for ARVs [anti-retroviral drugs], we were calling for reduction of taxation, and the stoppage of harrasment of vendors and people in the informal sector.
James Gumbi, ZCTU General Council member:
We had arranged a demonstration against high tax provisions on anti-retroviral [drugs] for those infected with AIDS. So when we started to gather to do the demonstration, we were surrounding by heavily armed police forces and the plainclothed security intelligence.
(Footage of demonstrators on a street in downtown Harare.)
Patricia Matbenga, ZCTU 1st Vice President:
So we started walking on the street, the others and myself including the leader, President Motumbo, the secretary general Wellington Chibebe and other general council members. So we had hardly walked for ten meters when a police officer beckoned us to stop. The President stopped – he’s the one who was in front, and all of us stopped. We were ordered to sit down. We did sit down on the ground.
(Footage of police forcing demonstrators to sit in the middle of the
And then we were eventually ordered to get on a truck, a Mazda B18 with a canopy. And we got onto that Mazda truck.
(Policemen shove demonstrators into a truck, begin beating the demonstrators with batons.)
And 15 of us were bundled into that pickup truck. And before the door of the truck could be closed, police were busy beating up Shone and Wellington Chibebe who were sitting right at the end of the truck near the door to force the door to close.
(Beating of the demonstrators as the are forced into the truck by at least two officers with batons.)
…two at a time. So I was on of the first, with my other colleague, Chiwawa[?]. We were the first ones to be beaten. There were five of them indiscriminately beating us. This is why, when they failed to emphatically deal with me, they then beat me on the head. That’s when I fell down and passed out.
…twos – in pairs, rather – and we were being led to this cell where there were five people dressed in police uniform and those grey or bluish caps, holding baton sticks, who were beating the hell out of us. They would beat each pair for something between fifteen and twenty minutes, after which they would order the pair to go out and get the next pair from the van.
You could tell that these guys had been heavily beaten. Since we were fifteen, I was the last one, so they all five were on me.
(Gumbi shows heavy scarring on his left buttock.)
I had the blisters all over my buttocks and the back.
I was beaten all over the body. All over the body – as you can see, I have a deep gash on my leg and you can see the bleeding is just continuous. You can see I have a fracture on my hand. My whole body is swollen.
(Shone shows his bandages and injuries, including large bruises on his side.)
We started screaming what they were doing was bad, they should not beat us, and we had not committed any crime. They were also answering back that we had committed a crime by planning to overthrow the government.
They were saying to me, why is it that I wanted to return the country to the whites. What was I thinking I was doing? Who the hell did I think I was? And they were also telling me that they are not trained to write any dockets – they are trained to kill people. And that they are going to kill me. The person, Ian Makone, the one with whom I was when were were being beaten: we never answered back. But eventually when the beating was so hard on my buttocks and on my back… and sometimes I was trying to cover my face with my arms. This explains why my arms are also beaten up.
(Matbenga shows the bruises on her back and side.)
And they three times banged my head on the wall, and I fell down. Then there were some claps [blows given with the hand held flat] on my cheeks, and this resulted in my ear, my right ear bleeding. Then, after the examination, now the doctor is telling me that my right ear drum is perforated. This is how the beating took place. It took a long time according to what I was seeing, and I was only praying if they could stop.
(Matbenga’s t-shirt reads “Proud to be ZCTU” on the back.)
Tererai Tondini – Youth Chairperson, MDC Mbare District:
They started to beat us with their baton sticks, then we asked them why are you beating us?, they said because you want to take off the government. We said “no, the issue is not taking off the government. It is about we as workers to get better salaries. It is an issue of bread and butter.”
They were accusing me of trying to mastermind an overthrow of the government which was constitutionally elected, and also teasing me that there was no way I could overthrow the government because I had no arms and the government was armed to the teeth in terms of their preparedness to deal with me, and that I was an agent of the western governments.
James Gumbi, ZCTU General Council member:
I personally suspect that since there is this threat from the MDC and they know that there is some alliance to some extent, if this was going to succeed obviously when the MDC would call one a lot of people were going to take part. So they just want to send a clear message to those who would one day dare to demonstrate against this regime.
(ZCTU supporters attempt to join march)
ZCTU supporter (1):
What it is really when we were going to the demonstration we were about 200 to 250 people there made up of, I would say, maybe 60 were women and the rest were men. So when they stopped us, the police, 30 were holding guns, the other 60 were holding batons, the ones that they used for beating us. That’s when they stopped us and started beating us. There, after beating us they told all the people to run away. But then we said why should we run away? I’m not running away. You’ve beaten me, you’ve told me to go, you haven’t told me the reason why you are beating me.
ZCTU Supporter (2):
I was getting to town to demonstrate. I wanted to tell the government that what you are getting is peanuts. Like myself I am earning 15 thousand [Zimbabwe dollars; 1 US Dollar (USD) = 240.560 Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD)] a month and I have a family of four.
(YouTube video clip ends)