Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I received an email from a friend worried about safety in Zim. Here's the story.

While I'm not technically working with the opposition, I am working with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an extremely disfavored group of people at the moment. Some high profile human rights lawyers have been profiled, and it's been impossible for some time for less well-known lawyers to practice -- going to prisons to represent clients or to court houses to serve papers is too dangerous these days. But I feel pretty safe, because Harare remains a bubble of peace in the midst of the rural violence. The violence in the cities is targeted at leading, vocal critics of the government and at MDC leadership. In the townships and villages the story is different.

As for where I'm staying, it's quite secure. First of all because it's in a well-off low-density suburb with a lot of whites in it, and second of all because my girlfriend's parents, like most "middle class" people here, have walled off their land, topped the wall with an electric fence, and installed an electric gate.

The building where I work is a generic office building, and while ZLHR's address is well known (it has to be for them to practice law), there's no reason for anyone seeing me walk in to assume that that's where I'm headed. Also, I know one of the partners at a private law firm one floor up from me, who has kindly let me work from their library whenever I feel nervous. If it comes to it, he's offered to cover for me by saying that I'm interning for his firm over the summer -- which is what I tell just about everyone I meet.

So I feel pretty safe, but tense just about all the time. This is a tense time for everyone -- me least of all, in fact -- as the run off approaches on Friday, but with MDC out of the picture I think the worst is over for now. What happens after the election is impossible to know, but there's nothing to be done but wait and see, and make choices accordingly.

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