Over the rainbow

In recent weeks the media has been full of stories of the Zimbabwean elections, with continuing controversy over the vote counts and shifting deadlines, Reuters reports the electoral commission ruling on a new deadline of the end of July for a run-off vote, which has been rejected by the MDC. Among the war of words and all the political to-ing and fro-ing what remains ever present is the human cost and suffering of the Zimbabwean people. There has been a stream of images of severley beaten civilians and continual allegations of harassment and torture of innocent people for daring to go against their government at the polls.


Here at Amnesty we’ve issued an urgent action expressing grave concern for the safety of two trade unionists who are being held in police custody. They have been beaten and severely tortured on a previous occasion and we are urging people to appeal to the Minister of Justice.


With an average life expectancy of 34 for women and 37 for men, and their children dubbed the lost generation, facing daily hunger, and an economy in free fall; the BBC reports that the Zimbabwe bank has issued a 500 million dollar note, you can’t blame people for wanting to escape by any means possible. Large numbers have fled over the borders into neighbouring South Africa in the hope of a better life in the so-called rainbow nation; there are an estimated three million Zimbabweans living in the country unofficially. But having escaped the crisis in their own country they are faced with hostility and violence in the South African townships.


The Times today reports on growing tensions and an explosion in violence. Gangs target groups of foreigners, particularly Zimbabweans, who they accuse of taking jobs and contributing to crime rates, the exchanges are often brutal with beatings, gang rape and murder. The ruling ANC government has condemned such attacks but so far has done little to address the growing immigration issue, and has been reluctant to speak up against Mugabe’s brutal regime.


In other news on South Africa, the BBC has reported the discrimination facing soldiers who carry the HIV virus. A trade union representing South African soldiers is taking court action against the defence ministry following cases where people with the virus are either not recruited at all or are refused promotion. Such attitudes serve only to exacerbate an already critical situation. It is estimated that 35% of the army is HIV positive as is 11% of the population. It’s a depressing statistic and denying people their dignity and right to work with such overt discrimination is something we need to speak up about.

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