Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Poem for Roy Bennett

Poem written for Roy Bennett – prisoner of conscience incarcerated in Zimbabwe

Lunar Rainbow Promise

When through the cell bars the moonbeam fingers come,
To dance in shaded yellow blue white transparency
On the darkness of the dirty walls
And the moaning of men has given way to restless mutterings -
This silent time, alone, a merciful escape from the heated toil of the day,
Brief respite from shackled injustice.
An uneasy quiet settles, where the mosquito’s hum
Becomes a symbol of self-determination droning on defiantly,
Far beyond the command of men.
In that moment, I will come and be with you
Sit beside you on the sparse floor
To share your space,
Cramped though it is,
To gently embrace your weariness
Remind you -
My kingdom is greater than this earthly span.
Another day is spent – one solid step towards liberty.
Hold to the dream,
Be strong in the truth,
For my hand is raised to protect you through voices raised in protest.
A trial by fire for a perfect vessel
To bear testimony for those who cannot speak
Long since forgotten in the place where you are.
You are my witness for them.
The moon is my messenger, my ethereal angel.
Reaching in beyond the confines,
To heal your heart and mind.
Her gentle light is your lunar rainbow promise,
Alone in this time, you are not.
Freedom is the right of the just.
None can shackle your spirit, when you rest in me.

Free Roy Bennett Website

Dear Friends,

The Free Roy Bennett Campaign website is now live and can be found at http://www.freeroybennett.com.

Please can you help us to publicise the website. We'd be very appreciative if you would circulate information about the site to everyone on your mailing lists.

The Free Roy Bennett website provides downloadable factsheets; petitions; emailing facilities to easily enable people to contact their friends with information about Roy; collected articles about what Roy, his family and employees have endured for the past few years; and images which record some of those events. The website has been designed to give people as much opportunity as possible to participate in the campaign to free Roy; in particular, by helping to spread the word and by collecting petition signatures.

We'd be grateful if you would consider adding a link to our website from yours, and we have provided images for this purpose to be used by your webmasters - visit the 'Add a link to your site' section of the website.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and thank you very much for your support.

With best wishes,
The Free Roy Bennett Campaign

"We do not need titles or fancy cars. We just need the courage to stand up, and oppose the oppression we face." Roy Bennett, August 2003

Visit: www.freeroybennett.com
Email: info@freeroybennett.com

CTJP Statement in Support of Roy Bennett

We, Christians Together for Justice and Peace, an informal, ecumenical group of church leaders meeting in Bulawayo, write to express our sense of outrage at the persecution of the Hon. Roy Bennett, MDC Member of Parliament for Chimanimani – a sustained persecution which culminated in the sentence imposed on him by Parliament in October. We write, not in a partisan spirit, but rather because we are confronted here with a blatant example of a gross injustice, to which we would feel bound to respond whatever the colour, ethnicity or political affiliation of the victim.

We believe his sentence to be totally disproportionate to the incident in question. In fact we regard him as a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his stand as a popular opposition MP in a rural constituency. We fully endorse the statement made recently by the Churches in Manicaland in his support.

We view Roy Bennett’s case as being representative of all those who have been detained without trial or through the abuse of the legal system, and all those who are being held in sub-human conditions in jails and holding cells across the country. Many of these people do not have a voice to protest at the injustice done to them.

We therefore encourage individuals to sign the “Free Roy Bennett” petition, which is circulating throughout the churches and civic society, and to continue to uphold him and his family in prayer. Let us pray and work together for the coming of that day when justice will “roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream”. (Amos 5/24)

Christians Together for Justice and Peace,
15th December, 2004

Merry Christmas for Who?

Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
December 23, 2004

Gift Phiri

UPMARKET Barbours department store on First Street is a hive of activity as bargain hunters rush to do their Christmas shopping. The high-class department store has extended its shopping hours. Gilded smiling half-moons on red crepe paper are part of the decorations put up to capture the festive mood.

In the third-floor children's department, kids are receiving presents from "Father Christmas", who is sitting adjacent to the till. A harassed mother in the latest hipster and a turqouise blouse watches a toddler eyeing an American punchball set.

There is a selection of Barbie dolls and some Fisher Price-imitation lorries. A little girl with braided hair clutches a giant pink teddy bear. Price: $946 000 - a farcry from the average monthly wage of most domestic workers.

At Borrowdale Brooke's new Spar superstore, on special offer this week are Albany Christmas mince pies, giant focaccia bread, prawns and fresh oysters.

In this marble-floored heaven, Brian peers at sirloin steaks on the refrigerated display. He is prepared to part with a cool $200 000 for 4 kg of the meat which will be marinated, braised and barbecued on Saturday afternoon on manicured lawns. The leftovers, usually in abundance, are thrown to the Bull Mastiff and the Rottweiler.

Across the city to the south of the capital at a clearing adjacent to Mbare Musika, hundreds of residents go through their daily routine of shopping for meat. There are no shops, not even stalls but women with dishes full of fresh meat of all sorts. The street-side market offers beef, chicken, pork, mutton and offal, which attract the poor residents as much as it lures swarms of flies.

James from a squatter camp on the banks of Mukuvisi River peers closely at the meat. He has only $3 000. It is enough to get him a meal. The lady entrepreneur can offer him a bit of pig liver for that amount. It's not much, perhaps 75 grammes. But he carries it off happily. It will be shared by his partner and two kids. He is greeted like a conquering hero back from a successful hunt.

The family will not even notice the stench from the piece of meat. Today they can bribe their stomachs that they are having meat instead of the never-changing diet of boiled vegetables.

Brian and James live in the same city but are worlds apart. They voted in the 2000 general election and they both intend to vote in March next year. Brian says he will vote because it is his democratic right to do so. But James prefers the prospective candidate who visited the camp recently and promised to relocate them to new flats being built "kuWillowvale".

The gap between the "have and the have-nots" has never been so pronounced in the country's 24 years of Independence. With Zimbabwe's silver jubilee beckoning, the general populace has become poorer in direct contrast with its rulers who are wallowing in astonishing prosperity.

UNAids in its latest global report has said life expectancy in Zimbabwe has

plunged to 35 years due to the HIV and Aids pandemic. The Zimbabwe Human Development report says 70% of the country's populations can be classified as poor. Here is an ever-lengthening housing waiting list, schools have no furniture or books, hospital drug stores are not replenished on time and unemployment has remained high at over 70%.

This underlines the country's "remarkable achievements" - we are always reminded of - in the last 24 years.

In the rural areas, thousands are going hungry. The World Food Programme (WFP) has said there is "mounting and compelling evidence" of food insecurity in Zimbabwe,

"There is belt-tightening going on in Zimbabwe," said WFP regional director for southern Africa, Mike Sackett. "Between now and the next harvest, it is unlikely to improve."

Although government claims inflation has declined to 149,3%, independent analysts say that it is still the highest in the world.

The "pro-poor" policies which government has tried to implement in the last two decades have failed to achieve the desired results. The policy of indigenisation seems to have been hi-jacked by a few party sharks to enrich themselves. The land reform exercise, which was touted as the panacea for all the country's ills, is yet to achieve tangible results as there is low production on the ground.

People are still poor as evidenced by the legion of street children in all major urban centres and Harare in particular. At the intersection of Rotten Row and Jason Moyo the dozen children staying there are incongruous with the rich and famous whose vehicles drive to and from the Harare Sheraton Hotel. Or perhaps they have not yet attracted the attention of President Mugabe who drives past the spot in his 15-vehicle motorcade. Life is still a long struggle and these children will be on the streets this Christmas and the best they can get are scraps from the tables of the rich.

But for Brian and his friends, a big party in the gazebo is ideal. He is grappling with the guest list. He hopes everyone invited turns up. What will he do with all this food if it rains and noone turns up? The Christmas tree he brought home is too small and his wife has ordered him back to get a proper tree. The electrician he hired is taking too long to install Christmas lights in the garden. He has to take the Rotti and the Mastiff to boarding kennels so that they do not disturb guests with their wild howling at night. A party would be thrown for the two together with other canines.

Blessed are the poor for theirs is the world?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Zimbabwe Church Leaders Shy From Discussing Crisis

An ecumenical regional solidarity conference on Zimbabwe held in Mozambique, last week, almost ended in chaos after senior Zimbabwe Council of Churches delegates denied that the country is embroiled in economic and political crisis.

The ZCC senior delegates shied from talking about the crisis situation in Zimbabwe alleging that the organizers of the conference, EDICESA, were not specific about the agenda of the meeting. The ZCC delegates included the president, general secretary and other senior bishops.

Other delegates from the neighboring countries were however, frustrated by failure of the Zimbabwean council of churches leaders to clearly articulate issues and threatened to leave the meeting.

As a compromise the meeting then resolved to look at issues faced by the whole southern Africa region. The strategy for action was focused on issues faced by Angola, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. FOCCISA resolved to mediate between the two major political parties to resurrect the negotiation process in Zimbabwe. The regional body also agreed to set up a SADC elections monitoring unit to enforce the regional principles and guidelines on elections.

Addressing the same gathering the AEA Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission executive secretary, Rev Patson Netha, urged the church in Zimbabwe to unite and resolve the crisis. The meeting was also addressed by the director of OSISA Mr. Tawanda Mutasa, who facilitated discussion on the SADC Principles and Guidelines on Elections.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Prayer Request

Christians in Zimbabwe ask that you pray for these matters:

  • NGO bill: which has gone through Parliament, and now just requires the presidential stamp.

  • The hungry; the NGOs who want to feed but can’t; those who are being persecuted for raising the issue of starvation in the media; pray that the NGO’s will be able to distribute food without fear or favour to those most in need; pray that the world (including within our country) will wake up to the reality of the fact that we have a
    serious food deficit.

  • Zanu PF conference which starts on Wednesday 1 December: that hearts, minds and consciences will be awakened.

  • Cricket: that there will be no violence or wrongful detention in the wake of possible protests at the England vs Zimbabwe cricket matches.

  • Roy Bennett (now moved to Mutoko, some 100kms outside Harare) and his wife and family. Roy was imprisoned for a year by a parliamentary court for pushing the Speaker of the House of Parliament in May.

We value your prayers and the prayers of all those concerned with righteousness, justice and peace.

In Christ,
Christians in Zimbabwe