Protecting the Rights and Interests of the Absolute Poor
Photo of the family and the surviving children outside the
Yesterday I was deep in the bush in north eastern Zimbabwe conducting an
audit of Party structures in a remote Constituency. At mid day a call came
through on my cell phone that a homestead of a Party activist had been
attacked in the night and a child had died. When we had finished our meeting
we decided to drive to the village to see if there was anything we could do
Two had a half hours of really tough driving took us to Village 55 in what
had been the commercial farming district of Headlands, where a senior Zanu
PF leader, Didimus Mutasa is the present Member of Parliament. We found the
community gathered at the homestead, the Police present and the child in a
body bag in the back of the Police truck. The father Shepherd Maisiri
wrapped his arms around me in grief when we walked into the homestead. His
wife was in a hut with the women and we went in to see her, she wept when
she saw us.
I have written and talked about the strategy of Zanu in the Commercial
farming areas many times. When they began the farm invasions in 2000, it was
two weeks after they had almost been beaten in a carefully rigged election
by a Party that was barely six months old. The object was quite simple -
destroy the group of about 600 000 voters on the farms who held the balance
of electoral power between the Tribal areas and the urban areas. This has
now evolved into a strategy to totally control these areas, now resettled
with thousands of people like the Maisirie's.
The reason is that these areas contain as many seats as the urban areas
where the MDC dominates. So they are removing from these areas any who might
be opponents and any who might witness what they will do in the elections.
It is in these areas that they will stuff ballots and misrepresent the
actual results. In 2008 they falsified the results for 60 seats in this
Shepherd Maisiri is Zanu PF's nightmare, after being settled on a small
plot, he was elected Village Chairman for Village 55. Now only four families
in the Village support Zanu PF, the rest are firm MDC supporters. Everyone
watching this situation evolve focuses on the remaining white large scale
commercial farmers who are now being evicted if they are not firmly
committed to Zanu PF. But what is seldom recognised is that Zanu reserves
its toughest penalties for the small people like Shepherd and his family.
In the past decade, he has been imprisoned, his home burnt down several
times, his arable land taken from him and given to a member of the CIO, his
wife raped (Shepherd pressed this case until the perpetrator - a senior Zanu
PF official was sent to prison for a total of 56 years for the crime). In
all, he now has been attacked 9 times in ten years. Yet his political
commitment and determination is not diminished in any way. Now this.
I spoke to the two smallest children who were saved by the boy who died. The
little boy - barely 3 years old was completely traumatized. His sister,
perhaps 6 or 7 years old dressed in white for mourning like her mother, was
similarly traumatized. They will never forget the night strangers came with
a bottle of petrol and fired their hut roof. The senior Police Officer stood
nearby, Member in Charge from the Nyati Police Station just a few kilometers
away. The people told me that they did not expect any action on the incident
- he had never been helpful before, why now? Perhaps it was no coincidence
that a notorious Zanu PF thug, Jabulani Sibanda, was in the District at the
time. The people in the Village said they knew the perpetrators.
Shepherd and his family own 5 donkeys. His only other significant asset was
a bicycle that was melted into a pile of junk in the fire. They will earn
perhaps $2000 from tobacco and grow enough maize to feed them through to the
next season, but these are the absolute poor, eking out a living in a rural
village like millions of others. Their sin is that they do not support a
political Party and will not bow to pressure. They can expect little but
sympathy from their own Party which is as broke as they are, from the Police
and the Justice system they can expect even less.
The only way to control this sort of subliminal violence is to strengthen
JOMIC - the monitoring system created under the GPA and supported by the
SADC. What we need NOW is a JOMIC team, with SADC observers embedded, in
every District until the elections so that incidents like this can be
investigated and appropriate action taken against the perpetrators. The one
thing that Zanu PF fears in these areas are eyes and ears, especially from
Altogether I spent a full day in this remote corner of Zimbabwe - all in the
former commercial farming areas that are reportedly solidly Zanu PF. I gave
the people I passed the MDC open hand wave and in every case was greeted
with smiles and a similar wave in return. I was astonished and pleased and
if this is in any way true in other areas, then Zanu PF is in big trouble.
You have to be desperate to kill children to try and sway the political
affiliation of the parents or their neighbors.
Harare 25th February 2013