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Lorraine

This message is from Lorraine in Zimbabwe.

Hi there folks. Sorry for the delay in getting my emails out. The last couple of weeks have been very frustrating. I have had many requests from folk all over the world to be added to the mailing list. The emails I send out to the mailing list, however, just do not suffice in my need to tell all. I am getting more and more worried about personal safety, and the safety of my family & friends.

The last few weeks has seen an increase in the bashings being meted out by the war vets to Managers etc. in the towns, especially here in Harare. I had reported previously on beatings at Design Inc. and other firms. Staff members have told me that there are small gangs of war veterans roaming the Industrial areas and the city centre, enquiring of staff if they are having a dispute with management at their companies, or if they feel management is unfairly treating them. If the employees reply in the positive, the war vets then bring a crowd and proceed to beat management. In most cases of this sort, the management is taken to ZanuPF headquarters, where they are interrogated and beaten, and then forced to re-instate the workers, or pay out huge sums to them. Joseph Chinotimba, one of the war vet leaders whom I have mentioned on many occasions, seems to be the organiser of this action. He, incidentally, is awaiting his trial for shooting a woman.

All of this concerns me - an employee of ours was fired for theft 2 weeks ago, and reported us to ZanuPF last week. He actually had the gall to come into work and tell one of our managers that he had done this, and that we were to expect the war vets. It was quite a shock to all of us, and the managers who were involved in dismissing this particular employee are very worried. We waited all Thursday and Friday, but as yet there are no signs of the war vets. Are they going to come ? I donít know. I had thought they seemed to be interfering only in cases where there were a large number of dismissals or labour disputes. But last weekend that was not the case. Our Daily News this morning reports cases where they have interfered on behalf of even one worker. The manager of Mbizi Lodge, Mervin Senior, and his wife Barbara, were victims of the war vets on Saturday. Mbizi Lodge is about 10 minutes drive from the Harare Airport. We have spent a weekend there as a family and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Seniors are lovely people. They were both abducted from the lodge on Saturday and beaten up by ZanuPF members, following a labour dispute with some of their employees. They were held for 4 hours at ZanuPF headquarters, where they were thrown into a cellar, after being pummeled all over. In another case at the weekend, war vets beat lawyer and businessman Tinofara Hove with an iron bar. They also beat the four policemen who were accompanying Hove. They accused him of hiding a Pakistani businessman Imran Chaudry, who has fled the country in fear of the war veterans.

At Clan Holdings, another big company here in Harare, war vets arrived there in 2 trucks on Thursday. They spread themselves throughout the premises, including the offices. Wally Hammond, one of the managers, and an unnamed employee were taken to ZanuPF HQ. Wally returned after a few hours with an eye injury and bruises on his face and neck. His clothing showed that he had been roughed up. He declined to comment. The Police will NOT get involved at all, even when called. They say these matters are political and have nothing to do with them.

I am actually very worried Ė not just for myself, but for all of us here. The violence has escalated in the last few weeks, and seems to be getting worse. I cannot believe all that is happening. What are we doing here ? I am beginning to think that we are fooling ourselves by thinking that things will improve. How can I possibly manage the Company I work for effectively when I am constantly looking over my shoulder for war vets, or treading very cautiously with staff in case one of them should report us to ZanuPF? It is impossible. How can any business function normally in this climate. Itís all very well trying to be brave and manage the business in a normal manner, but I do not think I would cope very well if the war vets actually came and started beating me.

And the fact that I am a woman will make no difference to them at all. My husband and I have really started considering leaving Zimbabwe. We can see no light at the end of this tunnel, and are both very down at the moment. We have no doubt that the violence will continue to escalate right through this year, leading to the Presidential elections next April. And then what ?? No-one here knows.

I long for a return to normal life, and I don't think it will happen here. Lorraine

Thanks for listening !