Saturday, June 14, 2008

Closed for raids

Another email:

Home from work today, as I don't know if ZLHR is open or closed. Nobody's picking up the phone, and the Internet is down. Once again, a strange life -- I'm writing on the shady veranda looking at the flowers waving under the jacaranda tree watching the gardeners going about their business and Louise's grandmother tending to her nursery. But God only knows where the ZLHR lawyers are. I don't know if they went home yesterday to hide away or if they went to Harare Central Police Station to try and bail out all the human rights activists they arrested yesterday. I hope they didn't go to Harare Central -- it's a genuine house of horrors, that place, and by now they know the ZLHR lawyers well. If they went to the station, it's entirely likely that they were all rounded up and are in some concrete cell. Meanwhile, I'm safe and sound in the compound under a blue sky.

More and more stories are starting to trickle out of the countryside. Mbuya's brother Edward was telling us yesterday that every night his son is rounded up by ZANU-PF militiamen to attend nightly "re-education" rallies where they hold bonfires and make vicious lying speeches all night long. They register everyone in a book (a genuine Doomsday Book), and retaliate brutally against anyone who misses a night.

Hopefully monitors will start coming into the country over the next couple of weeks, so things should quiet down a little bit, at least in the townships (which is what they call the slum areas of the major cities). The rural areas are totally sealed off from foreigners, though, so they'll keep doing whatever they like out there.

Sorry for all the politics -- it's all anyone talks about these days. There's just no end of horror stories -- people who have spent a night or two in jail, "domestics" whose relatives are suffering in the countryside, news reports from exile newspapers, speculation about coalition talks, NGO news, so on, are all our conversations. What will actually happen after the election nobody thinks about.

Anyway, my life is very pleasant. I'm going to a dinner party tonight with some guy from Amnesty International, then to a party with Golden Boy. Might play squash this afternoon. Going to a play tomorrow night, then a lunch party on Sunday. Colonial life continues apace, crisis or no crisis. It's a nice tune we fiddle while Harare burns.

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