A darker side of HIFA

7 05 2012

On Saturday night I left the recital hall at about 19h30 having watched The Armed Man and taken photos. Driving past the main gate to HIFA was chaos; people parked all over the place and a seething crowd. I made an easy decision to just keep going. Turning left onto 2nd Street it was a lot quieter and I stopped at the traffic lights on Herbert Chitepo. There was a small car parked to the left of me. Then there was a load pop and a hissing noise and someone walked fast between us and away to the opposite corner of the intersection. I thought, “You bastard, you’ve slashed my tyre” as the lights changed and I moved off.

The rear back tyre went flat in a matter of metres but I saw a minibus parked at a pickup point some 50m up the street with a number of people milling round and it was quite brightly lit so I pulled in there. I was immediately surrounded by people all telling me I had a puncture! I got out warily after checking that my camera bag was out of sight and expecting the worst but they were being genuinely helpful and some 20 minutes later the spare was on and I gave them $20 (Shelton, my French teacher said a dollar would have done) which was received with much delight and I was out of there.

I found out on Sunday that another of the HIFA photographers was accosted in the same manner except his tyre went down gradually and when he stopped to change the wheel on Josiah Tongagara Ave an unmarked (no licence plate) car pulled up and two men accosted him. He and his wife fought them off with a wheel spanner and fire extinguisher and luckily nothing was lost.

Was this a coincidence? I don’t think so. There are all sorts of people around at HIFA and a fair proportion of those employed to assist with parking are street kids/adults who very likely have unsavoury contacts. It would not take a lot of surveillance to see who was arriving every day with cameras and keep tabs on them. I drive a very distinctive white and maroon Landcruiser at night (it has attitude to keep ‘Benzs from cutting me up) and I have a distinct limping gait too. I have no idea if I was followed from the recital room. I was just lucky that the person who slashed the tyre misjudged the cut and it went down fast. Yesterday I used a different vehicle which is very nondescript.

A small step

16 09 2008

Unlike Neil Armstrong’s words there is no giant leap in the offing. Indeed, the BBC correspondent got it right; no-one is dancing in the streets. I am referring of course to the power sharing deal signed yesterday between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangarai. Both the EU and USA have said that they will not do anything until they see concrete signs of change. And change there had better be; the WFP estimates that 5 million people (half the population) will need food aid by January next year. That is quite and achievement for a country that only 10 years ago was a net food exporter.

A lot of really odious laws have to go too. The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) that effectively allows the government to prosecute anyone for anything including criticism of the president or the police has to be one of the first. I am curious to see what is going to become of the state controlled media that will hopefully have to become self-funding and a little less fawning. The ruling party (ZANU-PF) has relied on state funding for most of its tenure – will that be withdrawn? I hope so. Will the culprits of political violence meet their true justice? I doubt it, certainly not the fat cats who really should. No, this is definitely not first prize, it is a pragmatic solution. I would really like to see Robert and his cronies in The Hague with the good company of various eastern European criminals but that is unlikely. The best I can hope for is that he suffers a massive, debilitating stroke that leaves him irrelevant and wallowing in his own excrement and bitterness. I did not watch or listen to the signing ceremony yesterday but one who did hear him droning on about colonialism and the “War of Liberation” (that ended 28 years ago) said that he looked like a distinctly spent force. There is hope yet.