Interview: Baby Bust
Safety: Dust To Dust
Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
International: Bulk Bullies
History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Review: The Art Of Work
Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Saving The Planet
Don’t Give Up the Fight
Getting through immigration is the first test, trying not appear a farmer, a unionist, a journalist, a human rights activist. Then customs - hiding the rice, flour and sugar in the bottom of my bag to give to friends.
Getting from the airport to town is the another question, will there be any petrol? Changing money has become a drama, with the foreign exchange bureaux outlawed, and new threats to anyone caught changing money on the street.
Officially the US dollar was fixed at 55 Zim dollars, but now it exchanges for $1000! And inflation is nearing 1000%. Workers on a basic wage of $50,000 Zim per month, cannot afford to go to work. A bus fare one way is $1,000, a loaf of bread when you can get it is $4,000. Staple foods are in short supply: corn meal, wheat flour, sugar, oil, rice, pasta, salt and bread. Newspapers, only $2 a couple of years ago, now sell for $800 -- that's if they haven't been declared illegal, like the Daily News.
Around 3000 people die in Zimbabwe each week from AIDS, and it seems every household has taken in children whose parents have died. But who can pay
school fees for 2004, or feed extra mouths or purchase uniforms or school books?
Despite repression, the trade unions have been running a model national training program so that union delegates and officers can promote safe sex and solidarity with workers who have HIV.
The unions are demanding roll-out of HIV treatments, as in Brazil, but they know the once-proud health system has broken down, with many doctors and nurses gone to earn hard currency in other countries, rather than staff clinics or hospitals that have no medicines.
According to one report, only 900 doctors remain for a country of over 11 million people, and more than half of the dialysis patients have died due to a lack of supplies.
Health workers are not the only ones to have fled Zimbabwe. Officially 3.4 million citizens (a quarter of the population) are out of the country. There are hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in London and in Botswana, and two million south of the border in South Africa, selling handmade wire decorations, embroidery, or working on farms.
Bulawayo's city council is run by the opposition (labour-backed) Movement for Democratic Change, so the unions were allowed to hold a Labour Forum in the town hall, a rare opportunity to bring together hundreds of trade union members, now that all gatherings other than church services are illegal without police permission. Even so, it is only the brave, and the secret police, who turn up.
The chants are the same as in South Africa in the 70s and 80s: "Amandla, Ngawethu!" - Power to the people!
From the stage, general secretary Wellington Chibebe, blends humour and satire with determination and political clarity. The strikes and marches have so far been hit by severe Repression. Chibebe reminded the workers that immediate responses from unions around the world, particularly COSATU in South Africa and the ACTU in Australia, have seen trade unionists have been released relatively promptly after being arrested for planning protests, rather than being held and tortured for long periods.
The ZCTU regional secretary says she was in a women's march recently that was stopped by police with dogs that bit chunks from women's legs. As they beat the women the police asked "why don't you get thousands to march and get it over with? If you keep having small demonstrations, we just have to keep beating you".
People sing the song written by the women's drama team: "ZCTU Ndlovu Mafohloza", --ZCTU is an elephant that destroys (obstacles), and everyone rises to toyi-toyi (dance)- One man asks "why does he (Mugabe) say he liberated us? Now we are living in hell." One young worker chants "Another Zimbabwe is possible!", and then says what Zimbabweans want is what happened last year in Georgia, a peaceful mass action to overthrow a dictatorship and call free elections. An older woman says we must all march on Salisbury, deliberately using the colonial name of the capital.
The governing elite is angry: an opposition group called "Enough!" has been distributing condoms with Bob Marley's lyrics "Get up, Stand Up" on them, recalling the moment when Marley sang at the independence celebrations in Harare in 1980. When Mugabe celebrated his 80th birthday last month, they circulated cards with Mugabe's address and carrying a photograph of two frightened, sickly children. "There is no reason to celebrate your 80th birthday," it said on the back of the card. "HIV/Aids, poverty and hunger are robbing our children and our country of a future. Why don't you care?"
Citing the torture and rape of protesters during the last cricket tour, the opposition in Zimbabwe is calling on Australia not to send its team, since the president will use it to pretend that the situation is normal.
Meanwhile, Mugabe supervises the construction of what has been dubbed "Gracelands", a vast new palace in honour of his young wife near Harare.
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