World Yoga Day 2009

This year we like to support people in Zimbabwe. The country has been deteriorated in the 28 years regime under Robert Mugabe and brought about massive suffering to its population.

The chaotic implementation of the land reform in Zimbabwe led to a sharp decline in agricultural exports, traditionally the country's leading export producing sector. As a result, Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe hard-currency shortage, which has led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods.

The current economic and food crisis, described by some observers as the country's worst humanitarian crisis since independence, has been attributed in varying degrees, to a drought affecting the entire region, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the government's price controls and land reforms. A country once so rich in agricultural produce that it was dubbed the "bread basket" of Southern Africa, is now struggling to feed its own population. A staggering 45 percent of the population is considered malnourished.

Life expectancy at birth for males in Zimbabwe has dramatically declined since 1990 from 60 to 37, the lowest in the world. Life expectancy for females is even lower at 34 years. Concurrently, the infant mortality rate has climbed from 53 to 81 deaths per 1,000 live births in the same period. Currently, 1.8 million Zimbabweans live with HIV.

According to human rights organisations the government of Zimbabwe violates the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. There are assaults on the media, the political opposition, civil society activists, and human rights defenders.

Cont Mhlanga, an acclaimed playwright and theatre director runs a cultural centre, the Amakhosi Cultural Center in Bulawayo. Through his proflific cultural work he provides a space for artists and audiences to deal with their difficult and repressed living circumstances. He also is a councilor for a small community in the Lupane District. The Matshiya ward community is a rural based community of Lupane District in Matebeleland North Province of Zimbabwe. It has a population of about 19 500 people staying in 1080 house holds.

This community is exmplaire for the country's situation and the peoples living condition. Through his work as a councilor Cont opposes the repressive system and to improve peoples situation.

WYD 2009 efforts will be awarded to the people living in the Matshiya Community. Cont Mhlanga will be our main contact and also administer the donations. The Amakhosi Cultural Center will be our local corresponding organization (for paperwork, accounts, receipts). The money will not be used for any of Amakhosi's Cultural Center activities but only and directly for the people living in the Matshiya Community to improve their lives.

This way we won't go through a big, international organisation this year but rather try to get our help more directly to the people who are suffering.
It brings about that their are no websites or other official posted material to hold on to. Under Ressources you find a few links that will give you furhter information on Cont Mhlanga, his work and Zimbabwe. You can also contact Cont directly if you have any questions [email protected] regarding his work and our project.

To give you a better insight of how people live in Zimbabwe and why we decided to support this cause you will find below a copy of an Email from the 15th of May 2008 in which Cont suggested his project to us:

Thanks for your thoughts. I was looking at Amakhosi as the local corresponding organization that is not being funded and benefiting from the support in any way but just linking WYD with the Matshiya community. This is because the Matshiya community is a rural community that is not connected to the web, no radio, no television and no news papers. It would be very difficult for both the Matshiya community and WYD to link with no urban based organization as a go between.

The Matshiya ward community is a rural based community of Lupane District in Matebeleland North Province of Zimbabwe. It has a population of about 19 500 people staying in 1080 house holds. It has 5 villages led by 36 village heads. Each village head has a number of house holds under them. All these village heads report to a Kraal Head who in turn reports to the Chief. The Chief links to the District Administrator who is a civil servant. This is the traditional leadership structure. It is this structure that Zanu PF manipulates and controls as it is not an elected structure and connects to every house hold. They buy the Chiefs, Kraal Heads and Village Heads with food and beer to mobilize people to all support the ruling party and do not allow any opposition party members to come to the villages to organize meetings. Those that oppose this are reported to the party chefs who work with the police who in turn pick up the person and lock them up with no trial or beat them up and then let them free to go and die at their homes.

The community is led by a councilor on the political front who connects to the District Administrator. Below the councilor is an elected Ward Development Board and below it is the Village Development Committee. The Ward Assembly is the open community meeting by all interested villagers who come to this meeting to make and influence policy decisions that affect them. These Committees and meeting are lawfully provided for by the Rural District Act. They even have a legal mandate by law and through this Act of Parliament to develop their own Ward and District Annually Development Plans that government should follow and give priorities to. It is how ever sad that government undermines these democratic community structures so that the community is unable to hold it accountable on its actions. These are the political structures that political parties contest to control. Because they are people elected structures the government always undermines them by not using them and not educating the villagers on legal frameworks that empower then as it is aware that then people will become empowered and will not allow corruption and human rights abuse. They instead use their illegal dictatorship structures like the War Veterans Association who will threaten people and not allow the people’s voices to be heard. This is the fertile ground for massive human rights abuse in Matshiya ward and Zimbabwe generally and more venerable is these rural communities. This community like all the rural communities have no access to legal support with all human rights organizations concentrating in cities because of the very reason mentioned above of Village Heads who are manipulated by Mugabe’s government to isolate their communities.

This community has been so undermined that they are not even able now to grow their own food! Fields lie idle year in and year out with government promising them that if they vote for it, government will give them food.

The Matshiya community has 5 primary schools one Secondary School and one High School. These are schools by name especially the primary schools as they do not have any reading books or writing exercise books. Some class rooms have no doors while most of them have no desks for kids to sit on while government is just politicking and not doing anything about it. It’s really sad. There is no kinder garden for little kids and there is no technical college the whole district that has a population of about 350 000 people.

Way Forward

A week ago after government sent solders and war veterans to camp in the ward because of the coming presidential elections run off the villagers came to me with a request of how they can be protected from abuse. We agreed that the community should rent a Matshiya Ward Office where any one whose rights are violated should come and report and the community office will intern instruct human rights layers to take action against the perpetrators. I contributed a deposit and the first rent of the community office. There is how ever no furniture or any thing. The most crucial office tool here would be a photocopying machine and bond paper so that awareness papers on human rights abuse could be copied and given to all the 1080 house holds. Tell the members of the community what to do should any one violet them. I then met with the law firm Cheda and Partners in Bulawayo a city that is 170km away who welcomed the community initiative and agreed to provide legal services to the community any time they are called upon by the community office to do so. All they needed was a deposit of equivalent to US$450.00 This is the first ever such rural community initiative in the country and its success will show other communities that it is possible to collectively stand up against any human rights abuse especially by the state. And more such initiatives will mushroom across the village communities. How ever as you can imagine this service and community awareness program comes at a cost which the community and myself cannot afford alone for the start of the program. I am how ever sure that once it’s set up and it proves to be useful to villagers they will contribute to building this legal fund as a community per house hold. I am sure this is where the WYD network can come in.

Just three days ago four young boys in the next ward to Matshiya were picked up by the police and locked up for four days beaten and tortured on cooked up charges that they went into a farm occupied by a Zanu PF businessman who lost elections and vandalized a dam wall were game animals drink!!! They are being forced to admit that they were sent by the former
white owner of the farm who was chased away by the war veterans and lost all his property and investment working with a local opposition politician. And I am sure they are targeting me here and trying to build a case. The boys have no money for medical care, no legal representation and continue to be threatened on these false charges were the Zanu Pf official is clearly working with the police to victimize these young people for political reasons other than anything else. It is such cases that are many in the rural communities and they do so because they have been able to isolate these communities from the rest of the country and the world out there. It desperate!

We are just starting on building a website for Matshiya ward community and Lupane district. It is still just a discussion forum meant to bring together those born in Lupane and Matshiya who are now working out of the country together to discuss the challenges faced by their community back home and encourage them to do something in what ever little way they can. I set this up 2 months ago. It’s on

It’s good we have made contact and lets keep in touch.

Cont Mhlanga
Director Amakhosi
Councilor Matshiya Ward 15
Lupane District.