Tuesday, May 5, 2009

HIFA plays.......and some news....05/04/09

War Has 3 Faces in HIFA Farm Invasions Play ....

A black peasant farmer who has had his home burnt during a politically motivated attack and white commercial farmer who has lost his farm and his father during a farm invasion meet and realise that they have more in common than they previously imagined- including a feeling of powerlessness to do anything about this third force that has brought them both to their knees. Welcome to Allegations.

Written by the award winning writer and director of Loupe, Mandisi Gobodi, and directed by a rising theatrical giant, Patience Tawengwa, Allegations is a moving play with a lot of you-did-not-just-say-that honesty in the verbal exchange between the two protagonists.

Allegations is a product of the HIFA-Direct mentoring project for Zimbabwean writers and directors run by the British Council. It was produced with the support of the Young Vic in London.

The play was performed yesterday to a packed audience at the Standard Theatre.

The storyline goes thus:

Spud () recounts how he had to flee his farm after a mob of youth and war veterans invaded it. In the process of the invasion, his father was shot- and died. Spud is angered by how he is seen as not being Zimbabwean, by how all that his family has built has been lost in the flicker of a flame. Fearing for his life he runs away with his wife carrying only the title deeds for the farm.

Reason () tells how he was accused of being a member of the opposition by ruling party youth and how his hut was set on fire. He was then dragged to a political rally where was tortured and witnessed a prominent businessman get murdered for being part of the opposition party. Reason manages to escape while the businessman is being dealt with.

 When the two meet, the exchange is fierce with each alleging that the other is the cause for their problems and each claiming to be the greater victim.

An interesting point is how the set for the play is simply a huge jungle gym piece surrounded by piles of newspapers and a huge tractor tyre to one end. During the play, the jungle gym serves as Spud’s farm house, Reason’s hut, a mountain, a place of rest for reason when he is fleeing the youth and a hiding place for Spud when he is running away from the war veterans.

It is as if the writer is saying that this whole story, this tale of woe and loss and chaos is but a big game for someone.

Zimbabwe's National Unity Government Locks Horns on Land

Western reconstruction assistance to Zimbabwe is being held up because President Robert Mugabe's supporters are continuing to disrupt farming activity on white-run farms. Meanwhile, a white Zimbabwe commercial farmer has been elected as president of the regional agricultural union and vice president for Africa on the world body representing most small-scale and communal farmers.

From the launch of the unity government in Zimbabwe in February, Western governments stipulated that development aid would only be given to Zimbabwe if several conditions were met. One of those was a cessation of farm invasions and other disruptions on farms by supporters of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party; and, the security services which still answer only to him.

These activities are a continuation of the chaotic land-reform process begun in 2000 by Mr. Mugabe's government, under which some 4,000 commercial farmers have lost their land, much of it to high-ranking ZANU-PF members and Mr. Mugabe's cronies.

Despite that, invasions have continued and there has been a continuous effort by supporters of President Mugabe to disrupt and prevent farming activity, and police are charging landowners with trespass.

Both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change have demanded an end to these actions and say there must be a moratorium on the question of land. President Robert Mugabe says the land seizures by his supporters must continue, because all agricultural land has been nationalized.

Sources tell VOA that negotiations between Mr. Mugabe and the two MDC leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambare, to resolve the matter remain stuck on several important points. A new round of negotiations begins Monday.

Western diplomats say, until this issue is settled and production allowed to continue, there will be no meaningful Western aid to begin the massive start of rebuilding Zimbabwe's destroyed economy.

Doug Taylor-Freeme, who will be prosecuted for trespass in a district court in northern Zimbabwe, Tuesday, was recently elected as president of the Southern Africa Development Community's Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions. He was also elected the African vice president of the World Federation of International Agricultural Producers, which represents millions of mainly small-scale and communal farmers around the world.

He says his election means he represents the vast majority of southern African farmers. He says the confederation's support for beleaguered Zimbabwean farmers in the last few years has been crucial.

"There's been a very consistent message from them," he said. "These bodies are structures to promote agriculture and, with the destruction of the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe, this goes against all their principles, and so they have been pretty strong . With SADC being given the mandate to resolve the Zimbabwe issue and because SACAU is part of SADC it puts us, or it puts me, in a very strong position to try and deal with the recovery of agriculture."

Taylor-Freeme says all Zimbabwe's farmers are impatient for a resolution of the land question, which has led, in large part, to the collapse of the economy which has depended on agriculture for generations.

"So in Zimbabwe, both large or small-scale farmers, none of us can farm effectively. So collectively there is a message from the grassroots levels, saying come on we need a balance. We need to help each other.  I believe there is enough land for everybody and so there is a voice coming from the bottom to political leaders, we need to resolve this and get the country productive again," he said.

Taylor-Freeme remains hopeful there will be a resolution to the current deadlock.

"I am still pretty confident that with time, reality will dawn," he said. "If you want investment, if you want financial access to the world's resources, you have got to come into line with international policies and regional policies. I give it a couple of months before that will all come into line. I am still pretty confident that it will come right."

Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mutambara, the deputy prime minister, have failed to find common ground on land ownership and farm disruptions. However, they are now discussing a moratorium on action against land owners.

Shallow Plot, Great Acting in Disconnection

The story is one that many Zimbabweans will be familiar with- a family torn apart emotionally and spiritually by the tough economic conditions in the country finally ends up physically separated as mother and daughter go off to the UK while father and son are left to contend with the daily challenges of pre-GNU (Government of National Unity) Zimbabwe.

The play Disconnection which premiered at HIFA last week tells the painful story of the tough choices that many Zimbabwean families have had to make in the last few years- choices which often led to the separation of families in more ways than physical.

Part of the HIFA Direct mentoring project for Zimbabwean writers and directors, the play was written by Musekiwa Samuriwo and directed by Blessing Hungwe.

The casting is perfect and the actors deliver awesome performances. Chipo Bizure, who acts the mother, cries real tears when she receives news that her son (in the play) is dead.

However, the story unfolds along a pretty predictable path- children go off on a tangent, parents get angry and upset, children pay for their mistakes- the son with death and the daughter by being raped- parents grieve and the story ends.

It is a story that definitely needs to be told to many people because it is such a part of what the nation has become as millions of Zimbabweans eke out a living in various countries around the world. However, we must tell it with the skill that leaves audiences not just moved emotionally but challenged mentally as well.

Zimbabwean actor Jonathan Khumbulani performs in a play at the Harare International Festive of the Arts (HIFA) at Harare Gardens, April 29, 2009.

British born Canadian soprano singer Lynn Marie Boudreau performs at the Harare International Festive of the Arts (HIFA) at Harare Gardens, April 29, 2009.

ZIMBABWE: Making schools work.


HARARE, 4 May 2009 (IRIN) - The authorities announced a package of measures on 4 May to revive Zimbabwe's beleaguered education system and get teachers and children back into classrooms, as schools are expected to reopen this week.

"Cabinet will shortly decide on tuition fees, which will be substantially reduced," David Coltart, the minister of education, sport, arts and culture, told a press conference.

He said school fees would be reduced and parents would only have to pay admission fees to keep their children in schools while consultations on the fees to be charged took place. The admission fees range from US$5 to US$20.

Teacher unions have said educators would not return to work unless their salaries were improved, so as an inducement to get them back to school he announced that their children would not have to pay school fees.

Coltart said he had met with several donor organisations who had promised to help the government revive the education sector through capitalization. Zimbabwe's economic meltdown, with around 90 percent unemployment and crippling shortages of basic commodities, has made survival a priority.

According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), school attendance rates dropped from 80 percent to 20 percent in 2008. Unaffordable school fees and absentee teachers meant more than 90 percent of Zimbabwe's rural schools, which most children attend, could not reopen at the beginning of the 2009 school year.

At present, school fees will cost the parents of primary school children in affluent low-density suburbs US$150 per child, while those in high-density townships will pay US$20. Civil servants earn about US$100 a month, making education unaffordable for most children.

The parents of high school students in low-density areas will have to fork out up to US$280 per term, while those in high-density areas will have to lay out US$180.

Students in rural secondary schools are expected to pay US$50 per term, but even with provisions to stagger payments, parents throughout the country failed to pay fees.

According to available statistics, more than 20,000 teachers left the profession between 2007 and 2008 in search of greener pastures, mainly in neighbouring southern African countries.

While individual teachers said they would "wait and see", union leaders on 4 May urged their members to return to work. "We are calling on all teachers to report for duty. We are doing this with heavy hearts, but we have faith in the minister," said Sifiso Ndlovu, chief executive of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association.

Raymond Majongwe, secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, told IRIN that donor representatives had assured them they would receive money to improve salaries. "After meeting the donors, we have reason to believe that our case is now in legitimate hands ... we have confidence in them."

Dubai World eyes Zimbabwe game park.

Dubai World is investing in a game park in Zimbabwe as part of its expansion plans in Africa.

The investment follows Dubai World’s acquisition of major stakes in three game reserves in South Africa, part of a push by the government-owned company to expand its African presence.

Sultan bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, said its Africa subsidiary was investing “in game parks both in Zimbabwe as well as in South Africa”.

“The game parks are basically nature reserves. Part of it is the social responsibility that we feel towards being in a country, but also part of it is investment,” Mr bin Sulayem said yesterday at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.

A company official said the project in question was the Bubye Reserve Zimbabwe, according to Reuters.

Investor interest in Zimbabwe has grown since a power-sharing government was formed in February between Robert Mugabe, the president, and the former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. But the country is still subject to US and EU sanctions.

“Africa is a very interesting place,” said Mr bin Sulayem. “It is a place where you can see growth. In Africa, you will see double-digit growth. Africa is virgin, Africa has so much charm, nature. This is something that we know we can add value to.”

He said Africa’s “scenery would fit” the One&Only brand, through which Nakheel Hotels opened its first resort in South Africa, in Cape Town last month.

Dubai World and its divisions – including Nakheel Hotels, Leisurecorp, Dubai World Africa and DP World – have a number of investments in Africa. In February, Nakheel opened a second phase of Djibouti’s first five-star hotel, the Djibouti Palace Kempinski, which it said had shown excellent returns since its opening in 2006.

Dubai World has invested more than US$800 million (Dh2.93 trillion) in projects in Djibouti. Last year, Dubai World bought a 50 per cent interest in the Kruger National Park concession owned by Singita Game Reserves.


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