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Mahere: The tragedy of Zim – NewsDay

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere

Main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere last week spoke at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy — a major United Nations conference that shines a spotlight on urgent human rights in need of global attention.

Her speech, titled the Tragedy of Zimbabwe, drew the anger of Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF, at a time when the country will go to the polls in little under four months. Below is her speech.

Two years ago, I woke up in an overcrowded jail cell in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. No water, no toilet, no underwear, no dignity, no rights.

Inmates ate watery porridge with their bare hands because spoons were not allowed.

Before the lights were off, we had to line up in queues for roll-call — groups A, B, C and D. D stood for dangerous.

Even though the other women there had committed crimes such as murder, armed robbery and infanticide, I was the only one put in the dangerous group.

I had committed the dangerous crime of tweeting against police brutality. Local police had been captured on camera smashing a baton stick into the windshield of a small public transport bus.

In the video that went viral online, a woman stood crying and grabbing a policeman by his collar.

She was surrounded by a mob, yelling that the policeman had killed a baby. The baby lay motionless and pale in the woman’s arms.

By all accounts published online, the baby had died, but the State denied the death. In the face of public outrage, the police themselves issued a statement that they would investigate.

I joined the country in calling for justice. I tweeted, condemning this act of rogue policing and the unconstitutional and disproportionate use of force that had caused the death of a child.

Thousands tweeted about it, but they targeted me, a vocal opposition politician, for arrest. They alleged that I lied that the baby had died.

The violent policeman was never brought to book. This is how I ended up in a maximum security prison, charged with “communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State”.

This offence has long been struck off the statute books by the Constitutional Court. However, in a nation where the government is at war with citizens demanding a better society, human rights don’t seem to matter.

The legal system is weaponised as a tool to silence, intimidate and harass. I was convicted four weeks ago and narrowly escaped a 20-year prison sentence.

I walked away from the ordeal knowing that, unless there is a true change in how Zimbabwe is governed, we are all serving a collective prison sentence.

Nobody is free.

The experience was more stark for me because I came out of the womb knowing I would become a lawyer.

I love to talk. I love to argue. Despite growing up under the later former President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship, the ideals of justice and fairness became the dreams my older self would live to pursue.

Life would later provide me with an opportunity to work for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda and for the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

It was during these times that the need for truth and justice for Zimbabwe’s own 1982 genocide, infamously described by Mugabe as “a moment of madness”, came again to the fore.

Prosecuting crimes against humanity and war crimes in places like Darfur, the Eastern Congo and the Central African Republic, brought Zimbabwe’s oppressive reality into sharper focus for me.

Ours has been a slow-burning struggle for democracy following a liberation war of independence that provided the illusion of freedom, but no tangible sign of its much-needed fruits.

Over time, I have come to understand the complexity of history and that those who were once modelled as heroes can eventually morph into the very villains they once fought.

Colonial oppressors and post-independence dictators have one thing in common: they both play from the Dictators’ Handbook.

It is the citizens who suffer. But just like the international courts and tribunals I worked in, where there is injustice, there is also hope that a few good men and women will fight the cause of justice, wherever it may lead them.

In 2016, after I returned to Zimbabwe, upon completing my studies and international work, the government announced the return of the world-famous Zimbabwe dollar.

I was horrified. But I also saw, for the first time, an opportunity to publicly speak truth to power. I stepped out of my comfortable, safe, professional world into the more treacherous world of political doers, actively calling out injustice and illegality.

Before I knew it, I had entered the dictator’s arena, naively paving way for the dangerous political journey I now find myself on.

Inspired by Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign, I experienced an awakening. He started a movement that urged Zimbabweans to speak up, demand accountability, and be active citizens.

I registered to vote, attended protests, and got arrested, but I kept going back because of the clarion call that we must be relentless in the pursuit of what is right.

Soon, we realised the limits of activism. Movements get people excited, but they cannot change the political system.

Only active, ethical political participation can drive lasting social change. So, when most women my age were getting married and starting a family, I announced my candidacy as an independent Member of Parliament for the constituency of Mt Pleasant.

I ran for office under the tagline #BeTheChange — for it is only when individuals step out and are counted that change takes root.

We must intentionally shape the world into a better place and not accept it for what it is.

I believed that, if our campaign could just inspire hope and a thirst for change, I would change everything, but the person I changed the most was myself.

I eventually lost the parliamentary seat, but gained a cause undoubtedly bigger than myself — a pursuit for justice and fairness that goes deeper than the law, but is personified in the everyday lived experience of the ordinary Zimbabwean.

I have seen hope in action as I have proudly taken on the role of spokesperson for CCC, the country’s main opposition party.

In spite of the violence, arrests and manipulation of the legal system, we will fight to win the upcoming election in Zimbabwe against numerous odds.

I stand here today to let the world know that Zimbabwe is currently reeling under a dictatorship much worse than Mugabe’s.

Half the population lives in extreme poverty, US$2,2 billion (about R44 billion) is lost to corruption annually, and we have the highest hyperinflation rate in the world — all because those in power would rather loot and persecute than lead.

Government’s war against freedom and its weaponisation of the law against myself and other government critics, such as Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume, is calculated to send a chilling message to the rest of society:

“We’re watching you, even on Twitter. And this is the punishment you get for participating in opposition politics.”

To date, Sikhala (CCC member) and Ngarivhume (leader of opposition Transform Zimbabwe) remain political prisoners.

We will not stop demanding their freedom. We call on the world to do the same.

In closing, I wouldn’t risk my life and freedom if I didn’t sincerely believe that change is possible.

Courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. It means that you act in spite of your fear because you believe in a greater cause.

I choose courage. And I choose hope.

This August, Zimbabweans go to the ballot box with one simple mission: to win Zimbabwe for change and to install ethical, competent leaders who believe in freedom, dignity and prosperity for everyone.

The world must insist on the election being free, fair and credible. The will of the people has to prevail.

It is difficult, but we must emancipate the jewel of Africa from the imprisonment of its current dictatorship.

Hope and action are the sustenance of those who change the world.

Thank you

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Miss Universe Zimbabwe set for September – The Herald

Nomxolisi Museta Arts Correspondent

In what promises to be the best news in the modelling industry this year in Zimbabwe, organisers of Miss Universe Zimbabwe (MUZ) have said the beauty pageant will be held on September 9.

This came after former Miss Zimbabwe 2014  Tendai Hunda was awarded a licence to hold the local version of Miss Universe Zimbabwe after 22 years’ hiatus.

The last model to have taken part was Tsungai Muswerakuenda in 2001, while the licence was held by Yvette D’Almeda-Chakras.

On April 4, Hunda got a call from the organisers of Miss Universe congratulating her for being awarded the licence after she had applied for it.

Speaking at a press conference held in Harare at Rainbow Towers, Hunda, who is the national director for MUZ, said they were ready to host the local pageant, with the winner to be sent to the international pageant.

“We have scheduled an introductory fundraising dinner for June 10 ahead of September 9, the date earmarked for the Miss Universe Zimbabwe pageant in Harare,” she said.

“The main purpose of the MUZ contest is to choose a Zimbabwean representative to appear at the Miss Universe stage in December in El Salvador, Central America. As you can imagine, holding the national competition to choose our delegate won’t be a simple task, thus we humbly ask for support from Government, the corporate sector, media and every other sector key to make this endeavour a success.”

Hunda, who is also co-director of the Miss Zimbabwe Queen beauty pageant which selects contestants to represent Zimbabwe at regional and international pageants like Miss Intercontinental Africa and Miss Top Model of the World, said this was a great opportunity for Zimbabwean girls to shine.

“Good thing, the Miss Universe has opened doors to the young girls, married or not married, pregnant and those with children to take part. The age limit is 28.

“By the way, I was crowned Miss Zimbabwe 2014 and represented Zimbabwe at the Miss World competition 2014 hosted in London, United Kingdom. I created a platform called Hundah, which today is one of Zimbabwe’s leading modelling agencies.

“As the Miss Zimbabwe Queen organisation, we realised that Zimbabwe was not being given a fair chance to participate on the Miss Universe global platform which claims to be an inclusive stage for the modelling and beauty industry.”

Hunda said against this background, she felt compelled to take on the challenge to have Zimbabwe reinstated to the Miss Universe competition, resulting in her acquiring the licence to host Miss Universe Zimbabwe.

“I am absolutely elated that Zimbabwe is about to end its protracted absence and resume its participation in the coveted Miss Universe pageant. One of the top four beauty pageants in the world, Miss Universe, is owned and operated by the Miss Universe Organisation in the United States.

“Simply by joining, its candidates are exposed to a variety of networking and employment prospects.

“This organisation exists to advocate for a future fashioned by women with the guts to push the boundaries of what is possible.

“We have engaged the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, key stakeholders in the successful hosting of this pageant as they are the custodians of our arts sector and youth empowerment.”

Hunda said the return of Miss Universe Zimbabwe was valuable.

“We also firmly believe the return of Miss Universe Zimbabwe is symbiotic and will provide a valuable lifeline to the country’s arts sector while contributing towards youth empowerment as the country’s fashion designers, makeup artists and even musicians get an opportunity to showcase their work,” he said.

“If successful, the competition will not only be a historic occasion, but will also significantly raise Zimbabwe’s international status.”

Hunda said the pageant perfectly fits the Government’s policy of engagement and re-engagement and presents a great opportunity for progressive corporates to come on board and collaborate.

“After all, the proverb goes, ‘Alone you can go far, but together we can go further’. Again, in line with the President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business,” what better way to signal that Zimbabwe is open for international collaboration than by participating in one of the world’s biggest competitions,” she said.

Hunda said they had started the process of registering the competition.

Speaking at the same press conference, former Miss Universe Zimbabwe, Langa Lloyd Sibanda, said the return of Zimbabwe on the international scene was good news to the industry.

“I have pledged my full support to the organisation, coming from a background that I was once there, on such a stage,” she said. “I remember 27 years ago in Las Vegas, the US, that I represented Zimbabwe on that stage.

“It was a great opportunity coming from a rural background. It was something I never thought would happen for a Zimbabwean girl. It was exciting and daunting at the same time.

“Nobody called me Langa at the show, but they just shouted ‘Zimbabwe’. Congrats to the licence holders and let’s make it happen and I am happy for this.”

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Mnangagwa calls August 23 election amid concerns over voters roll –

HARARE – Zimbabweans will vote in general elections on August 23, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced in a proclamation on Wednesday.

The nomination court will sit on June 21 to vet candidates, and should the election produce no clear winner, a run-off election will be held on October 2, the Zanu PF leader announced.

Mnangagwa said in the proclamation published in a government gazette: “In relation to the election to the office of president referred to in section 92(1) of the constitution, determine that a nomination court shall sit on the 21st day of June, 2023, commencing at 10 o’clock in the morning, in the High Court, Court A, Mapondera Building, Samora Machel Avenue, Harare.

“Now, therefore, under and by virtue of the powers vested in the president as aforesaid, I do, by this proclamation… fix the 23rd day of August, 2023, as the day of the election to the office of president, the election of members of the National Assembly and election of councillors.

“And… fix the 2nd day of October, 2023, as the day of the runoff election to the office of president, that is to say as the day on which a poll shall be taken if such a poll becomes necessary in terms of section 38(1)(a)(iii) of the Electoral Act.”

The proclamation means Zimbabweans not yet registered to vote have until end of day on Friday to register as voters if they are to cast their ballots in August’s election.

The announcement came as the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change accused Zanu PF of using shadowy organisations to meddle in ongoing voters roll verification by voters.

Tendai Biti, the party’s deputy leader, told parliament on Tuesday that agents of on organisation known as Forever Associate Zimbabwe (FAZ) had been seen at polling stations throughout the country purportedly providing “security.”

“They are virtually in every polling station,” Biti said. “We read that they purport to come from the intelligence service but we know the intelligence service and our intelligence authority. What is this creature called FAZ and why is it interfering with our elections? If we create parallel structures, it will lead to disaster and military coups.”

FAZ is reportedly run by the Central Intelligence Organisation, raising  questions about the agency’s partisan role in sustaining Zanu PF’s rule.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is also facing criticism for refusing to release a searchable voters roll to opposition parties, while the same is available to Zanu PF. Many voters are reporting failing to find their names on the roll of voters at polling stations where they previously voted, and are registered.

CCC leader Nelson Chamisa is reportedly anxious to avoid focusing too much on ZEC’s shortcomings, fearing this could discourage voters from coming out on August 23.

Some fear ZEC is not ready to conduct a free-and-fair election.

“The fact that, following today’s election proclamation, the cut-off date for voter registration for the forthcoming election is June 2, 2023, only a day after the end of the ongoing voter inspection of the provisional voters roll means that ZEC’s preparation and compilation of the final voters roll will be based on a poorly audited provisional voters roll. That’s bad news,” said former Tsholotsho North MP and political scientist Professor Jonathan Moyo.

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Zimbabwe to hold general elections in August; summons US ambassador for ‘meddling’ tweets – WION

Zimbabwe will hold its presidential and parliamentary elections on August 23, the country’s president announced on Wednesday (May 31). The southern African country which has a history of violent and disputed elections, summoned the United States deputy ambassador over a series of tweets which called for a peaceful election. 

Zimbabwe gears up for national elections

The announcement of the dates was made by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa through a government gazette, on Wednesday, which also set the date October 2 as a potential presidential runoff vote. Mnangagwa who was elected president in 2018, replaced his predecessor Robert Mugabe who led the country for nearly four decades. 

Mugabe was ousted in 2017 after a military coup. The 80-year-old incumbent is already facing allegations of violence and intimidation by the opposition, while human rights groups have said that the Zimbabwe president is silencing criticism. Mnangagwa took office in 2018 following the general election a year after the coup.

In addition to the presidential election, the country will also vote for the 300-seat parliament and close to 2,000 local council positions. The southern African nation has only had two leaders since it gained independence in 1980. 

Notably, Mnangagwa was a close ally of Mugabe and has attempted to present himself as a reformer, however, he has been accused of being more repressive than his predecessor who he helped remove from power. 

In the upcoming election, Mnangagwa will compete with the 45-year-old lawyer and pastor Nelson Chamisa, party leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). The announcement of the election also comes amid the ongoing parliamentary debates over electoral reforms. 

As per reports, Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa, in 2018 while his claims of election rigging were dismissed by the country’s Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, political analysts have said that the failure to implement electoral reforms may lead Zimbabwe up for another disputed election, reported Reuters. 

The southern African nation is also in the midst of an economic crisis which has been attributed to Mugabe’s leadership. The opposition parties have reportedly also blamed the current government for corruption and economic mismanagement while Mnangagwa defending his ZANU-PF-led government blamed Western sanctions for the country’s financial and economic woes. 

US deputy ambassador summoned by Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry

The election announcement came a day after Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry summoned the US Deputy Ambassador Elaine French, for a meeting with the country’s foreign affairs acting permanent secretary Rofina Chikava for “election-related social media posts bordering on activism and meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs,” reported the Associated Press. 

The US embassy, took to Twitter, on May 26 posted an image and called for Zimbabweans to “Register to vote and make sure your voice is heard.” The foreign ministry said the tweet was against diplomatic protocols. However, US Embassy spokeswoman Meg Riggs said that they stand by their message of calling for peace during the election season and called the process a part of a “functioning democracy.”

(With inputs from agencies) 


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