Pro-democracy activists have vowed to continue holding protests against President Robert Mugabe and his under-fire government, despite increased State thuggery and human rights violations by security agents
This comes as Mugabe’s panicking government has cranked up its suppression of protests through police decrees outlawing mass actions, as well as increased deployments of security agents around the country.
“Despite the fact that I lost my car … and other valuables, including three smart phones, an IPad, a laptop and clothes, I am not at all moved.
“The same God who blessed me with those items will still provide for me,” activist Patson Dzamara, who was last week abducted and tortured severely by suspected security agents ahead of a planned demonstration in Harare, said.
“Neither am I discouraged from pursuing the quest towards a better Zimbabwe. This experience has actually emboldened my resolve to work and fight for a better Zimbabwe. I am not done yet and it’s not over yet. I still have something to give.
“Come what may, I won’t be silenced over what these evil men and women did to Itai (his missing brother) and also Mugabe and his minions’ failure to run the affairs of this nation.
“Not only shall I speak out, but I give myself away as a solution bearer. Oh yes, we shall lead this country to where it belongs,” Patson — whose elder brother Itai was abducted last year in March while having a hair cut in Glen View — said.
Dzamara junior was among the organisers of last week’s aborted demo, and was abducted, tortured and left for dead in the wee hours of Friday morning, together with his three comrades — Ishmael Kauzani, Nathan Matadza and Nashe Salami.
They suffered their horrendous ordeal when unidentified armed men, suspected to be intelligence operatives, appeared from nowhere and blocked their car in the Harare high density suburb of Mufakose, where they had gone to pick up their other colleagues.
And before the hapless activists and bystanders had enough time to suss out what was happening, their assailants fired a volley of live bullets in the air to scare away any potential witnesses — leaving the quartet at the complete mercy of their abductors.
They were severely assaulted and tortured before they were dumped separately, in bushy areas on the outskirts of Harare.
On his part, fearless National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) chairperson, Stendrick Zvorwadza — who has also been routinely savaged by police during protests — warned Mugabe and his administration that ordinary citizens would escalate their demos.
“Does Robert Mugabe think that brutalising hungry Zimbabweans will make them quiet?
“Does he believe that arrests and abductions will somehow make food appear in the homes of families who have suffered for so long?
“This rogue fascist government has run out of ideas by trying to thwart hungry people from demonstrating. In a new Zimbabwe, all perpetrators of crimes against humanity will face the music. That chapter will surely come.
“Using guns in a war zone against the colonial regime was justified, but using guns against hungry, defenceless and peaceful protesters is total madness,” Zvorwadza, who now wears a helmet during protests to avoid damage to his head, told the Daily News.
A leading member of the radical Tajamuka/Sesijikilie group, Sylvanos “Bhanditi” Mudzvova — who was also abducted and left for dead by suspected security agents last month — said as long Zimbabwe’s current myriad problems were not solved, they would continue with their protests.
“They can do whatever they want to us but our message is very clear, we want a solution to the current economic crises. We are going to continue with our protests,” Mudzvova asserted in an interview with the Daily News.
Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980, is facing growing pressure from ordinary citizens, who accuse him and his government of ruining the country’s once vibrant economy, to quit office.
Safety nightmare at Zim airports
HARARE – Zimbabwe must urgently address air transportation safety amid revelations that local airports are grappling with modernisation problems, budget limitations, human factors, and security threats.
The current air-navigation equipment being used and other equipment is outdated, making managing flight traffic in the country’s airspace difficult; and also markedly increasing the workload for pilots and air traffic control.
Air traffic controllers (ATC) are unable to provide efficient and effective air navigation services, a new report has warned, adding aircraft struggled to land.
The parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development reported a frequent breakdown of radios, and in some cases, pilots resorting to use of cell phones to communicate with controllers.
The report revealed how basic equipment such as microphones, headsets and handsets were in a sorry state and in short supply, with no backup communication systems in the event of a breakdown of the equipment. As a result, pilots have to be skilled enough to navigate their way in to land.
The committee, chaired by Chegutu West Zanu PF legislator Dexter Nduna, feared the worst for aircraft flying in the lower space, raising the spectre of collisions due to lack of traffic information and traffic avoidance advice.
The assessment was gathered from meetings with Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz), Air Zimbabwe board and management and National Handling Services and was augmented by site visits to the Harare International Airport and the Victoria Falls Airport.
“Lack of radio surveillance in the lower airspace may also result in security infringement and delayed or no rescue in the case of a crash,” the report said.
ATC officials who spoke to parliamentarians noted the lack of emergency escape routes for control towers at Harare, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Victoria Falls, Kariba, and Charles Prince airports.
There were also concerns over outdated aeronautical charts which have resulted in pilots using inaccurate data.
The committee reported “absence of wind direction and speed indicators at Hwange National Park Airport; absence of a standby generator at Hwange National Park Airport resulting in limited VHF radio range when mains power fails; and, unserviceable crash alarm at Victoria Falls Airport.”
Given the rapid growth of emerging carriers, terrorist threats, demands in air travel, ageing infrastructure at airports and air-traffic facilities; sustaining airline profitability, air-passenger safety, and industry security are not responsibilities to be taken lightly, the committee noted.
Zimbabwe’s aviation industry urgently requires $50 million for construction and upgrading of airports infrastructure as well as the modernisation of ATC communication systems and air navigation aids. But despite limited funds, problems facing the country’s airports appear to originate from a misplaced priorities and incompetence at the Caaz which is mandated to develop civil aviation and promote its safe, regular and efficient use inside and outside the country.
“Caaz is committing the bulk of its resources towards to non-priority at the expense of core activities in spite of the challenge of inadequate resources,” the report said.
Caaz was said to have financed a range of non-core activities including golf tournaments, and customer service celebrations over procurement of standby communication radios.
“ . . . not celebrating customer service week has no effect on the safety of aircraft whereas loss of communication with aircraft may result in loss of property, lives and stretches the nation’s fiscal space through litigation,” the report further added.
Parliamentarians also blasted aviation authorities for failing to curb wildlife which had continue to pose a major hazard at the country’s airports. As recent as 2010, the country lost an MA60 aircraft owned by Air Zimbabwe in a runway accident involving warthogs.
“While wildlife remains a looming threat at airports such as Victoria Falls, Buffalo Range, Hwange and Kariba, Caaz had not put in place robust measures to mitigate accidents similar to the one that occurred at Harare airport,” the report said.
“Simple, inexpensive measures like grass cutting, bush clearance and allocation of vehicles and personnel for the sole purpose of clearing identified wildlife were not being implemented by management,” the report added.
“This resulted in aircraft delays and increased workload on the pilots and controllers due to aborted landings and takeoffs.”
Caaz also came under fire for neglecting the training of traffic control personnel on modern trends and developments in the aviation industry at the expense of golf tournaments.
“They contended that ATC training programmes are afforded minimal funds in favour of non-core activities that include but are not limited to golf tournaments, football tournaments, secretaries’ and office orderlies’ retreats,” the report said.
“The air traffic controllers pointed out that there are some officers that were last trained over 20 years ago and have not received any further refresher training since their basic ATC training.”
The report noted that the runway rehabilitation at Harare International Airport remains incomplete, more than a decade after it began.
“Consequently, a significant stretch along the runway has a rough surface, which has the potential to damage aircraft. Moreover, there is no lighting on runway centre line and all taxiways. The airfield lighting cannot be switched on or off from the tower and the brilliance cannot be adjusted from the control tower as well.
“This is particularly important in harsh weather conditions when aircraft on final approach request that lights be turned on or brilliance be increased or decreased at that instant. Coordinating with an electrician with that capability is not instantaneous and usually the aircraft lands without any of the requested action complied with which is very dangerous and exposes the aircraft to risks of bad landings and accidents.”
In its recommendations, the report called for the expeditious procurement and implementation of secondary surveillance radar and Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast.
This will enhance the air traffic controllers’ awareness of aircraft in the airspace and enables them to identify and resolve potentially hazardous situations quickly and effectively.
ATC officials who met parliamentarians pleaded with the legislators to intervene, insisting if the current situation persists, thousands of lives could be lost.
In the meantime, the national airline itself, Air Zimbabwe, is reeling under a $300 million debt, even though it now has a virtually captive market when it comes to people flying into the country or around the country