Citizen.Speak.Amplify

Zimbabwe’s villagers hope for an end to Grace Mugabe’s land grab

Seventeen years ago, hundreds of families were resettled onto a lush green estate in Mazowe, a farming district 35km north of Zimbabwe’s capital. In recent years, the villagers have had to fight to keep their land. From frequent police raids, alleged beatings and threats of eviction, the peasant farmers of Manzou Farm have withstood efforts by former First Lady Grace Mugabe to expand her empire and allegedly turn the state-owned estate into a private game reserve. When news of President Robert Mugabe’s resignation broke last…

A letter from a Zimbabwean observing the unthinkable

The unthinkable has happened in Zimbabwe. After a day of fake news and hyped up versions of reality, of military tanks spotted around the capital, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his wife Grace, are now reportedly under house arrest. They’ve been cornered by General Constantino Chiwenga, the head of the armed forces whose arguably the most feared man in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe. It just feels so surreal. Time needs to pause a century for one to fully digest the news that Mugabe has been detained by one of…

A letter from a Zimbabwean about our (dis)Grace

Landing in Johannesburg on a late Tuesday afternoon, I was welcomed to OR Tambo International Airport by the embarrassing news that First Lady Grace Mugabe had allegedly whipped a young model, Gabriella Engels, with an electric cord. As shocking as the headlines were, it’s somewhat unsurprising; that’s our (dis)Grace. At that point I wished I could rewind back the last 18 hours, to a simpler time when I was hopping between East Africa’s cities with limited internet connection, but there I was at passport control waiting for…

‘Funny’ photos of Mugabe are no joke for Zimbabwean freelancers

If ever I needed a reminder of how much trouble the term “freelancer” can cause in Zimbabwe, Friday was it. President Robert Mugabe was due to address his first youth rally in rural Lupane, since jetting off to Singapore for a health checkup a few weeks ago. Naturally, there was a lot of media interest in seeing the world’s oldest sitting president take to the podium so I went along, only to get hassled for being a freelancer. Of course Friday was nothing near as intense as other situations I’ve found myself in, and it…

Med students at University of Zimbabwe evicted for protesting 100% fee increase

Hundreds of protesting medical students brought the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) to a standstill last week as they demonstrated against a fee hike that saw tuition costs double from $450/semester to $900. Several student leaders were arrested, and over 600 students were evicted from residences and given just 15 minutes to pack up and leave. After an urgent court challenge and a threat to sue, UZ backed down and allowed students to return at the weekend. In solidarity, activist pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag movement…

A letter from Zimbabwe at 37 and a day

Marching bands, long speeches and colourful acrobatic displays marked Zimbabwe’s 37th independence celebrations held around the country on Tuesday. People filled up White City Stadium in the second-biggest city of Bulawayo, just as they do every year, to watch politicians wax lyrical about the nation’s hard-won freedom while the majority of the umbrella-less crowd burns in the hot noon sun. Naturally the end of white minority rule will always be reason to cheer, especially here, the last African country to be freed from…

A flood of worry in Zimbabwe’s rescue camp

In mid-February, tropical storm Dineo swept across Southern Africa, causing severe damage in parts of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Almost 250 people in Zimbabwe have died during the 2016/17 rainy season, but the trail of destruction left by downgraded cyclone Dineo prompted the government to declare its effects a national disaster. The southern and western belts of Zimbabwe were the hardest hit as schools, bridges, clinics and homesteads were wrecked. In Sipepa, a rural area on the far western side of Zimbabwe,…

A letter from Zimbabwe after Bob’s birthday bash

Ever since I was young, I’d always wanted to attend one of President Robert Mugabe’s birthday parties. At school, the headmaster would call out the names of children born on Mugabe’s birthday, 21 February. Whenever they returned from the president’s parties they would be paraded on stage before the whole school at assembly. On the day of the 21st February Movement, children would wear these bright red sashes around their necks, beaming with pride. I envied them. But this year, I finally got my chance. Not that I was still…

A letter from flooded Setswetla after Zuma’s tour

A long row of mobile toilets separates the East Bank cemetery from Setswetla informal settlement where scores have been left homeless by Johannesburg’s recent flash floods. The rain’s trail of destruction is visible along the banks of the brown Jukskei River. Wrecked shacks and broken branches jut of the eroded embankment and, even a week after the fatal storm, debris still floats in the polluted Jukskei. In sympathy with those who’d lost loved ones and their homes, President Jacob Zuma, flanked by security and city public…

These South Sudanese women were born as refugees and gave birth to their children in refugee camps

Fleeing a seemingly endless conflict, close to half of South Sudan’s one million refugees have fled across the borders of Africa’s youngest nation into Uganda where they and their families have found refuge from civil war that began in December 2013 and flared up in July. For Christina Lio and Kevin Foni, history seems to repeats itself. Decades ago, their parents were displaced by South Sudan’s long war of liberation from Sudan. Both women were born as refugees in Uganda and now they have given birth to their children in…

A letter from Zimbabwe’s summer of prohibitions

The Zimbabwean state has banned protests, again. For a month, the people cannot picket or petition as police restrict gatherings in the capital, Harare. At first, a two-week ban had been imposed, but after a court challenge, the police order was set aside for seven days. But another prohibition has been declared in the interests of public safety, the police say. But after the last big demo in Harare last month, maybe the state needs some chill too. That Friday, 26 August, was crazy. People barricaded the streets and lit…

A letter from Zimbabwe where the people ‘battle to breathe’

Marching Wednesdays seems to be the country's new fad since the citizen movement #ThisFlag and civil servants' strike shut the nation down on the 6th of July. After weeks of Zanu PF demonstrators dominating the streets of the capital, pro-change protesters had their turn to march against bond notes, a local US dollar-backed currency proposed as a measure to resolve the country's cash shortages and stimulate exports. Unfortunately for many, bond notes, among their many other complications, sound like an attempt to bring back…

A letter from Zimbabwe, where the former foot soldier cannot speak

After last week's march of thousands in solidarity with President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's war veterans are now having their turn at the wheel meeting in praise of the great Comrade. The gathering comes after an unsigned statement was issued last week by the war veterans association calling on the “dictatorial” leader to step down. They say their meeting is an expression of their loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief, but with denials and anonymous sources saying this and that, I'm not sure what to make of things anymore. The…

Here’s what you need to know about the crisis in Zimbabwe

In just 48 hours, Zimbabwe's law enforcers and prosecutors have gone arresting from a popular activist to bungling a case and having it thrown out of court. If you haven't been able to keep up with the rapid developments, The Daily Vox rounds up. So what's all the fuss about? On the 3rd of July, Evan Mawarire, leader of a citizen movement called #ThisFlag, put out a video calling on people to stay at home as a way of protesting Zimbabwe's economic crisis. So on Wednesday, July 6th, most shops, schools and businesses in urban…

A letter for a Zimbabwe where fear cannot rule

Shortly after yesterday's arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire, the leader of the #ThisFlag citizen protest movement, I walked back uptown from Harare's downtown charge office. On First Street, a bustling shopping area in the heart of the capital, was a man, drunk and high on cough syrup, walking in and out of stores telling people to close their shops on Wednesday and Thursday as #ThisFlag have peacefully called for. But he warned if anyone dare open, their premises would be ransacked. He seemed a funny sight. But a man barely…

A letter from the frontlines of “Shutdown Zimbabwe”

If there's one picture I wish I could have taken of Zimbabwe's national stayaway protest yesterday, it's the police playing pool at the local shops in Budiriro, a high-density suburb in the eastern part of the capital. After two vendors’ stalls had been burnt to a cinder and big black tyres lit in the streets during a fracas with protesters in the neighbourhood, uniformed officers were shooting coloured balls on a red-rimmed green table. We asked, but they wouldn't allow the press to take pictures of police while relaxing.…

A letter from Zimbabwe, where the people say “zvakwana (enough)”

The people of Zimbabwe are angry. They've been stewing for a long time and now it's starting to show. Minibus taxi drivers in the poorer satellite areas east of the capital, Harare, demonstrated on Monday against the increasing number of road blocks and the accompanying fines police demand are paid on the spot. Around the country, teachers, nurses and doctors are threatening work stayaways and strikes of varying degrees because they're unhappy with receiving delayed salaries as a broke government struggles to pay its…

Alternative protest is on the rise in Zimbabwe

From camp-outs to petitions, young Zimbabweans are finding alternative ways to organise and express their frustration with a worsening economic crisis and political repression. As the government resorts to shifting civil servant pay dates and considers re-issuing  the fallen rand, Zimbabwe's young people are digging in their heels and continuing their resistance. Through winter's cold nights, an Occupy movement of roughly two dozen protesters endured threats and assaults for squatting in Harare’s Africa Unity Square and…

#ThisFlag or #OurFlag? The digital fray for Zimbabwe’s soul

In the run-up to this year's Africa Day celebrations, two clashing social media movements are revealing  Zimbabweans' political loyalties. TENDAI MARIMA rounds up the storm around #ThisFlag and #OurFlag, and asks whether either movement will show tangible results for Zimbabwe's long-suffering population.  Tagged #OurFlag, pro-Mugabe adverts are appearing on Zimbabwe state broadcaster and publications in the lead-up to the 25 May Million Man March in support of President Robert Mugabe. Reminiscent of yesteryear's fast track…

A letter after visiting hyper-alert Nairobi

TENDAI MARIMA ponders how much has changed in Kenya as a result of the attacks by Al-Shabaab, and whether the increased security measures are actually making Kenya any safer. On a side street veering off a busy roundabout lies Nairobi's multi-storey Westgate Mall. Having tea and (eggless) cake there feels surreal. Watching shoppers and late lunchers do as they do on a sunny afternoon, it's hard to come to terms with the fact that, almost three years ago, close to 70 people were shot dead by Al-Shabaab gunmen who for four…