28 March 2007
What is life is like in a country where any sign of dissent or defiance to the Government can result in beatings or jail? Where media is either state-owned or regulated? And where blogging is dangerous.
All this week the Sky News Insider Blog comes from inside Zimbabwe - where activists hoping for democracy are beaten or killed; where HIV/AIDS is rife; where life expectancy is low.
"Hope" is an activist opposed to President Mugabe. She is having to blog under a pseudonym to avoid recrimination. This is her blog:
More people die in Zimbabwe every day than in Darfur or Iraq, but we are dying silently and the world doesn't seem to know how bad it really is.
Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDs statistics are among the highest in the world and this terrible pandemic, combined with a lack of drugs in our country, corruption by government ministers, food shortages and 1,800% inflation, makes it a swift killer in our society.
Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 34 years for women and 37 years for men.
I would really like you to think about that for a moment. How old are you? How much longer would that leave you to live or have you already exceeded our life expectancy?
Attending funerals is a regular occurrence in Zimbabwe.
I know many people who have died over the last few years.
Last year two of my work colleagues died within the space of a couple of months of each other. I go to funerals, I experience the awfulness of funerals, and then I come home.
But even though this is 'normal', I am sometimes woken up and stunned by something, and I am left horrified and shocked and very sensitive to how extreme life is in Zimbabwe.
For example, a couple of days ago I attended a child's funeral. This is hard enough as it is, but through my tears I noticed how many freshly dug graves there were in the children's section of the cemetery, clear evidence that lots of children are dying.
Even worse, this is a new cemetery and it's already almost full.
I saw two women digging a child-sized grave on their own, and I was told that this was because they could not afford to pay a gravedigger to do it for them.
I was told they were alone because their men were probably out of the country working in South Africa.
The painful reality of what I saw in that place was emphasised by our Zimbabwean tradition of leaving some of the possessions belonging to the person who has died on the grave.
For children this means I was looking at a scene of small graves with bottles, toys, baby baths and other plastic pieces of childhood treasures piled on them. It is wrong, very very wrong, to see these sort of things.
I felt overcome with grief and anger at what I saw. It is like being trapped inside a horror film - a truly terrible thing to see.
I want to bring a chair to this section of the graveyard, and make Robert Mugabe sit in it for a day.
I want him to sit there for hours looking at the graves and the toys. I want the message of what this means to wash over him, for him to know he's destroying our country's future.
He is stripping the joy from parents’ lives, and he is creating a legacy where he will be remembered for many years as the man who inflicted misery and pain and suffering on a nation.
Most of all, I want him to step out from the security of his Mercedes Benz and his soldier patrolled mansions, and I want him to stand here in the blazing sun in that dusty graveyard surrounded by bright plastic toys that testify to the lives of children and babies.
I want him to talk to the parents, to be forced to explain to them - face to face - why he is doing nothing to help them save their children's lives.
Sometimes I can go through a day and just live my life like everyone has to - that’s surviving - one step at a time. Then there are days like that one, where I am consumed with rage and grief and pure frustration. I am still furious and torn-up two days later, and it makes me very ready to march for change and to defy this regime.
Hope, a Sokwanele activist
Blogging at: www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe