Interview: Minority Report
Industrial: Girl Power
Unions: Made in NZ
History: Spirit for a Fair Go
Economics: Fool's Gold
Politics: Worth Fighting For
Health: The Force Behind Medibank
Legal: Robust Justice
International: After the Revolution
Poetry: The Sound of Unions
Review: Bad Santa
The Locker Room
Not A Casey Fan
Postcard from Harare
Although the government insists the situation is calm and is getting better and better, with genuine economic re-growth, after a day you notice that the water and electricity supply is seriously interrupted, and that's not the only problem.
At least petrol and fuel are on sale, the famine has abated, and inflation is down to 400%, even if most people don't have money to pay for rent, transport, food, medicines and schooling.
70% of workers are unemployed, and 5,000 people die each week of HIV. Official figures show that 24.6 per cent of the adult population has HIV, one of the highest rates in the world. 90 per cent of the country's 11.8 million people live on less than US $1 a day.
More than 3 million Zimbabweans (a quarter of the population) have gone to neighbouring countries or to Europe to find work and escape repression.
The elimination of critical media is almost complete, as is the banning of western music on television and radio, which is at least a welcome boost to local musicians -- well at least those who haven't written songs critical of the president.
Just after I visited the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), with whom Union Aid Abroad runs a national HIV training program for shop stewards, a 14-member delegation from the Congress of South African Trade Unions was badly treated by the government, forbidden to meet with civil society groups, arrested at the ZCTU offices, forcibly detained and bussed 800km to the Beitbridge-Musina border post to be expelled, despite a ruling in their favour by the Harare High Court and protests from unionists around the world.
Following the expulsion of the South African trade unionists, the home of acting ZCTU secretary-general, Collen Gwiyo, was ransacked, and messages were left saying he had to present himself to the security police.
Opposition leader, and former ZCTU general secretary, Morgan Tsvangirai, was acquitted of treason charges on 17 October, but faces yet more treason charges due to a speech he made at an opposition rally. Supporters gathering outside the court house to hear the verdict were driven away by baton-wielding police, who in the process assaulted ambassadors monitoring the court-case.
Another opposition leader, Roy Bennett, is now on hunger strike after being gaoled for a year after a heated debate in parliament.
A new phase of the "land reform" is underway, with farms being reassigned to the elite to restore commercial production, and drive off the poor who divided the farms into small plots, but couldn't produce enough food without water, seeds, tools, fertilisers, pesticides or training. These poor farmers join the 300,000 farm workers displaced by the previous "farm invasions".
Police are being sent to re-education camps to ensure they tow the government's line that those Zimbabweans seeking the restoration of labour and democratic rights, free elections and a new government, are part of an colonialist conspiracy under the leadership of British homosexuals and Tony
The HIV education program run by the ZCTU is one of the only ways unionists are allowed to meet. Meetings on taxation and other issues have been broken up by the police. ZCTU is able to assist union delegates gain the skills to respond to the needs of the epidemic: how to include HIV issues in bargaining, how to implement African regional trade union policy on HIV, how to mobilise workplace support for sick workers and bereaved families, how to counsel workers about HIV, and how to promote safe sex to couples.
With funding donated from the African community members in Sydney through the African Heritage group, Union Aid Abroad also supports a project in Chegutu in northern Zimbabwe taking care of 98 children who have lost parents to AIDS.
President Mugabe is confidently preparing for parliamentary elections in March 2005, knowing that voter rolls and electoral authorities have been "filtered", that police and militia can intimidate opposition supporters, that the trade unions are under threat, that all media is controlled, that emails, faxes and phone-calls are monitored, that all political gatherings are illegal, and that overseas observers will be refused.
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