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Death & Unrelated Statistics

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1. Political Killing.
2. Death of a Zimbabwean activist.
3. Obituary: Rest in Peace Tonderai Ndira!.
4. Tonderai Ndira - human rights activist mutilated, and murdered.

5. Statscan public transit spin is out of control.

Political Killing, Stephanie Nolen, May 24, 2008.

POLITICAL KILLINGS, Another violent loss for Zimbabwe's opposition. Likened to Steve Biko, 32-year-old activist was fifth Movement for Democratic Change leader slain in the past 10 days.

JOHANNESBURG -- The first time the Zimbabwe police arrested Tonderai Ndira back in 1998, he didn't resist. In fact, he was smiling when they crammed him into a tiny prison cell with other democracy activists, and his comrades asked him why.

"He said we had to be strong because we were going to see such things," Reuben Tichareva, who has been one of Mr. Ndira's closest friends since the age of 5, recalled yesterday. "He said such arrests will become a routine thing as the struggle continues."

Indeed they did. Mr. Ndira was arrested so often over the next decade - 35 times in all - that his friends and family started to believe he was invincible. No matter how long the police held him, or how much they beat him, he emerged alive and gentle and suffused with enthusiasm to educate people about the need for political change.

Because Mr. Ndira led with such dignity and courage, "we called him our Steve Biko," Mr. Tichareva said, in a reference to the legendary South African anti-apartheid activist.

And now he and Mr. Biko have something else in common: Mr. Ndira, too, has been viciously slain in his early 30s.

He was dragged from his bed by six armed men on May 13, beaten savagely in front of his wife and two children, and stuffed into an unmarked car.

His body, or most of it, was found Wednesday on the other side of town.

Mr. Ndira was part of a group of young people who helped found Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. But he had been politically active long before that, campaigning for the rights of people in Mabvuku, the slum neighbourhood where he grew up, then pushing for a democratic constitution as the regime of President Robert Mugabe grew increasingly autocratic.

Mr. Ndira rose through the ranks of the MDC, and for the past few years had served as an irrepressible "advance man" for party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

His slaying, and that of four other young MDC leaders in the past 10 days, is widely believed to be the work of pro-government forces that have launched a ruthless campaign to cripple the opposition as it tries to prepare for a runoff presidential vote on June 27.

Mr. Tsvangirai is to return to Zimbabwe today, despite threats to his safety, in part because he is determined to attend Mr. Ndira's funeral. However, it is not yet clear that the government will allow the funeral, scheduled for today, to go ahead.

From the time he was a child, Mr. Ndira stood up against the abuse of power. Girls who went to school with him remember him for intervening when boys taunted them. He abhorred violence. "He would say, 'We are not fighting people, but the system,' " Mr. Tichareva said.

Mr. Ndira had been in hiding since a wave of state-sponsored violence began after it became clear that Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had lost the March 29 election, for the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980.

His family at first sought safety in rural areas, but when the violence moved there, they came back to Mabvuku. Last Tuesday night, a worn-out Mr. Ndira sneaked home to see them.

Shortly after dawn, as he lay sleeping, six men in dark glasses burst into the house. One put a pistol to the head of Mr. Ndira's wife, Plaxedess Mutariswa, who was in the kitchen, and ordered her to be quiet and show them where her husband was.

Mr. Ndira awoke as they burst into the room, and for once, he did not go willingly. "One of them said, 'Let me hit him' and dragged him out of the room," Ms. Mutariswa said, weeping. "They started hitting him. He started screaming for help. As they were busy hitting him I tried to run for the door to call for help but I found another man with a gun on the door. He said, 'Just let a word out and I will blow your MDC head off.' " The men, believed to be agents of the Central Intelligence Organization, carried Mr. Ndira out to the car. His children Raphael, 10, and Linity, 7, watched from the doorway.

"They threw Tonderai into the car as he pleaded with the people around him to help save his life," Ms. Mutariswa said. She saw two of the men sit on her husband to keep him down inside the car as they drove off, saw another stuff a cloth into his mouth and blindfold him.

"When they took him, I could feel a shiver down my spine," said Ms. Mutariswa. "I have seen police coming to take him 35 times, but this time something in me told me that there was something very wrong."

The family tried without success for a week to get information from the authorities about where Mr. Ndira had been taken.

On Wednesday, a team from the MDC went to Harare's largest hospital to claim the bodies of a pair of activists from the mortuary. The staff person on duty told them there was another body, found on a farm outside the city, which had not been claimed and suggested they try to identify it.

It fell to Mr. Tichareva to do that job. "It was horrific: his face had been crushed and I could see a maggot on the left side. His left eye had been removed, his nose was damaged, his tongue was missing. He had two holes, one just below the ribcage and the other just near the heart. His body was black with bruises. The murderers had used his boxers to cover his face."

In fact, Mr. Tichareva would have been unable to say this body was his friend's, but for the bangle he always wore on his left hand.

Ms. Mutariswa, who lapsed frequently into racking sobs at the wake, described how, years ago, she tried to dissuade her husband from politics.

As she spoke, more than 100 people gathered outside the house, singing and drumming in what became one of the largest opposition gatherings since the election. Mr. Ndira's brothers emerged defiantly from hiding to attend; inside, their mother could only sit and keen.

While those who gathered in Mabvuku for his wake yesterday vowed to fight on in his name, they also said they didn't know how they could carry on without his leadership. "We can only say we will try, but I don't think we can match that level where Tonderai had taken this to," Mr. Tichareva said.

Death of a Zimbabwean activist

The body of Tonderai Ndira was found this week, the 43rd Zimbabwean opposition activist to die in violence since elections in March. Journalist Farai Sevenzo looks back at his life and the circumstances leading up to his murder.

"It is clear that the change we were waiting for is here. If we do not get it, the people must rise up and fight for their victory," Tonderai Ndira

Tonderai Ndira lived in the desperately poor township of Mabvuku and Tafara, east of Harare.

He was no stranger to the Zimbabwean police and at one stage had 38 charges levelled against him, ranging from "political nuisance" to attempted murder.

He was one of a group of young men and women, barely in their thirties, who formed the backbone of the opposition's ranks.

Theirs was the thankless and arduous task of mobilising moribund, disillusioned and tired folk to believe in this new concept called change and to sign up to the messages of the eight-year-old opposition - the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

On election day, 29 March, the tall and charismatic Ndira was hanging around by what passes for shops in his sewage-ridden constituency, where electricity is erratic and where cholera has already claimed lives in the last 12 months.

I asked him what he felt that day would bring, and if, given the history of elections in this country, the day would make any difference.

"It is clear that the change we were waiting for is here. If we do not get it, the people must rise up and fight for their victory," he said.

Rising up and fighting for victory pits one against the awesome strength of the security machinery the state has at its disposal.

That is an undisputed fact in the history of this country's opposition.

It is an impossible task.

Beyond politics

In the weeks following polling day, a campaign of intimidation was unfurled which largely affected opposition people rather than ruling party folk.

Huts and houses were torched on both sides of the political divide; images of the beaten and tortured were wired around the world, and diplomats based in Harare collected eyewitness accounts of the horrors being unleashed in the countryside by people variously described as war veterans, militias or soldiers.

It was with this background that Tonderai Ndira continued to lend his leadership to the idea of democratic change, and his activism went beyond the politics of the MDC.

An official from human rights organisation ZimRights, who declined to be named, outlined what Ndira meant to civic society in and around Harare.

"I knew him personally, he was a youth activist who went around the country holding workshops and teaching people their rights.

"He was very active in the Combined Harare Residents Association - campaigning for things like better streets, more rubbish collections, healthy water supplies.

"And so he became a target for the Zanu-PF, because they are targeting active members."

And why would such people become targets of the ruling party?

"They know that if people like Ndira are removed, there will be less likelihood of an uprising."


Ordinarily it was a mission to find Ndira.

He would venture into the centre of town for the odd demonstration and then disappear for days on end.

His wife and three young children became used to the idea of him coming home after weeks away because a healthy sense of paranoia was needed to avoid spurious charges and lengthy stays in remand prison.

But on Tuesday 13 May, according to his friends and eyewitnesses, Ndira came home and slept the sleep of the exhausted in Mabvuku township.

At around 0645, a pick-up truck packed with 10 men arrived on his narrow street and drove past his house, stopping at the neighbours.

The 10 men were armed with revolvers and AK-47s - some of them wore masks.

The neighbour's child duly told them the right address and they reversed, disembarked and told Ndira's wife they were looking for her husband.

The presence of so many armed men frightened her into calling out his name and announcing that there were people there to see him.

He answered with a voice drunk with sleep and asked her to tell them to come by later, as he needed his rest.

"We are like chickens waiting for the knife to reach our throats" Tonderai Ndira's brother Cosmas

He was abducted in his underwear, in front of his young children as they were heading to school and beaten into the truck until he was bleeding.

In the ensuing week, his family and friends desperately tried to locate him.

The omens were not good, several activists had been found dead and funerals were happening throughout the city and the rural areas - all connected to Zimbabwe's protracted political impasse.

On Wednesday, the MDC went to claim two more bodies from Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital morgue.

Party officials were told by the mortician there was another body that had not been claimed.


This new body was badly decomposed; a pair of bloody shorts was plastered to a face clearly broken and shattered.

"We only knew it was my brother by his distinctive ring, his bangles, and his unmistakeable height," said Cosmas Ndira, as family and friends filled his small home to mourn his passing before his funeral, which is yet to be finalised.

"His jaw was shattered, his knuckles broken, a bullet hole below his heart, many many stab wounds and a large hole at the back of his head which seemed to have been caused by a hammer."

Jimmy Chidakwa, a colleague and fellow activist, struggled to contain his anger both at the assassins and his party's leadership.

"They are cowards, all of them. Ten men to take down one unarmed man.

"And where are our leaders? Out of the country."

Cosmas chipped in: "Yes, we are like chickens waiting for the knife to reach our throats.

"Given his position in the party, my brother should have had more protection.

"I know so many people now too frightened to vote with their hearts come the run-off."

Unlike the opposition leadership, who are not here and have been at pains to tell the world of diplomatic efforts under way as they travel - to Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, the UN headquarters in New York - the foot soldiers like Tonderai Ndira remained on the ground, visiting the injured, co-ordinating relief efforts to the displaced.

The opposition may yet feel the full force of the loss of such urban activists in the weeks to come as the country heads for the presidential run-off on 27 June.

Obituary: Rest in Peace Tonderai Ndira!, Thursday, May 22, 2008, by Beloved Chiweshe.

Fellow Comrades,

On one Saturday afternoon I drove in a white Nissan Hardbody with a colleague.We had bumped into each other at the MDC headquarters and upon deliberations realised we were heading the same direction.We were heading for Chinhoyi.He had a workshop in the rural Chinhoyi and I was travelling to the university.

He immediately offered me a lift and we departed.On arrival at the university, he convinced me he would drop me on his way back from his workshop.I agreed.On arrival at the homestead,the venue of the workshop,I was surprised at how popular the comrade was in the area.

I later learnt that he had stayed there for some time during the formative stages of the party.Braving the harsh political climate that was there in Mashonaland at the time.I was inspired by the bravery and the passion that the comrade had shown me over years for the people and the party.

The colleague is now late. Rest in peace Tonderai Ndira.

Today I received the worst news in years.The body of Tonderai Ndira,who was abducted from his Mabuku home on 14 May 2008 was found dumped at Parirenyatwa Hospital decomposing,his lips and tongue cut.

Oh what brutality,I never thought we could turn to each other with such brutality, after the bitter and protracted struggle that our people went through to be free.It pains me.

Oh Rest in Peace Tonderai.

Your blood will water the revolutionary tree and keep the revolutionary garrison going.I am sorry for this posting which seems not have any way forward but I hope it may stimulate thought and inculcate a spirit of oneness among all of us who share the same vision and aspirations for our country.

I thought I should share with you comrades,the pain and agony I am going through due to the continued callous murders of opposition leaders,activist and supporters in Zimbabwe.

The pandemonium that ensued today 21 May 2008 at the burial of two other gallant sons of the struggle Godfrey Kauzani and Ken Nyeve also makes me wonder whether insanity has become as contagious as the Ebola virus within ZANU PF.Surely idiocy can not be allowed to rampage with such impunity.

ZANU PF youth arrived in lorries and covered the empty graves of Godfrey and Ken before they were buried.Surely messing up with the dead has never gone unpunished.

A number of people including ZINASU president Clever Bere were injured as the mob charged towards the mourners,who fled for cover.A number of cars were damaged in the process.Call it whatever you prefer.I call it madness and evil.

The death of Tonderai Ndira touched me most.It is my hope that we will be able to fulfil his dream of a free Zimbabwe.

For those who worked closely with the Youth Assembly, they will remember Tonderai as an easy going,committed and hard working youth of the MDC.He will long be credited with his single handed repossession of a party truck that had been impounded.His courage was inspiration to all of us.

Call him an alarmist or whatever,Honourable Biti's skills in preempting the regime have worked very well to deter ZANU PF from most of its planned actions.Announcing results was not a bad idea either,without that they were going to RIG that election.

In an appeal to the international community to act expeditiously to the then folding crisis and escalating cases of violence,Biti asked if the international community was only going to react after dead bodies littered the streets of Harare.

Little did he know that even with a Harare littered with dead bodies no one was going to respond either.Probably only Hollywood responded by investigating if the genocide was bad enough to warrant scripting yet another Hotel Rwanda.

It seems we may have to find our own solutions comrades,raising our expectation high from the international community will only worsen our misery.

Not withstanding the support we have received from friendly nations,their support may only be complementary, we have to find a way.If it means war let it be.After all we are already in a war.

Rest in Peace Tonderai.We will certainly remember you and your sacrifice towards our freedom

* Beloved Chiweshe is a Former Zimbabwean Student Leader

Tonderai Ndira - human rights activist mutilated, and murdered

This very distressing information alert from Advocacy & Community Organizing Centre for Community Development In Zimbabwe (CCDZ), via SW Radio Africa:

We can’t believe that the youthful, soft-spoken,humble, truthful, dreadlocked Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist, Tonderai Ndira is no more. Today we give this eulogy for a courageous men who stood against evil. Tonderai Ndira was abducted last week at his Mabvuku home by members of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

We have just received the news that Tonderai’s body was found near Parirenyatwa Hospital with the lips and tounge cut off. Tonderai was a community mobilizer, a leader and someone who always stepped in to help people either as an associate of the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ).

Ndira was a selfless human rights defender who assisted many people and organizations run their advocacy campaigns for a better Zimbabwe. The forces of evil responsible for murder, abduction and torture of opposition activists shall be

The Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) urges all MDC activists and members of civic groups like Crisis Coalition, National Constitutional Assembly, Combined Harare Residents Association, Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, Youth Forum, Zimbabwe National Students Union, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimrights, International Socialist Organization, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Restoration of Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum to be on the lookout out against the forces of evil.

We have it on good record that the Central Intelligence Organization would like to wipe out leaders of the above mentioned organizations before the presidential run-off scheduled for the 27th June, 2008. We urge all the political leaders to take precautionary measures and avoid isolated places where they can be easily ambushed by the notorios CIOs.

We urge prominent lawyers in Harare and Bulawayo who have handled MDC cases and the journalists who have provided coverage to the MDC to exercise extreme caution in the face of these assasinations and abductions.

We salute You Tonderai Ndira, you are Our Hero. Our message is that the tree of Liberty that has been watered by your blood, shall forever grow. Rest in Peace. We shall continue to fly high the flag of liberty that you left behind.

Statscan public transit spin is out of control, Neil Reynolds, May 28, 2008.

Public transit is making progress of a kind in Canada – though it's not always visible.

In its report called Commuting Patterns, Statistics Canada noted last year that the percentage of Canadians who drive to work fell to 80.0 per cent in 2006, a decline – wait for it – of 0.7 per cent in the past decade. The car maintains its enduring edge over public transit across the entire country.

Thus, 78.2 per cent of Quebec commuters get to work by car (the lowest level in any of the provinces); 90.7 per cent of Prince Edward Island commuters get to work by car (the highest). In Ontario, it's 79.2 per cent. In New Brunswick, it's 89.1 per cent. In Saskatchewan, it's 86.5 per cent.

Statscan nevertheless manages to declare a victory of sorts for what it calls “sustainable transportation” – an arbitrary classification that appears to measure advances in public transit but slyly encompasses everyone who walks or cycles to work. By this definition, an exhaust-belching bus is “sustainable” but no car ever is. From a supposedly objective statistical agency, this sort of manipulation is a perversion.

More people walk to work, by the way, than you might think. Indeed, in some cities, far more people walk to work than use public transit. In Kingston, for example, 10 per cent of workers walk and another 2.2 per cent cycle – together, three times as many people as the 3.5 per cent of workers who use public transit.

Using this lenient definition, and analyzing selected municipalities, Statscan confidently asserts a feel-good conclusion: “Between 2001 and 2006, 20 of the 25 municipalities with the highest number of workers reported an increase in the use of sustainable transportation.” By this standard, 43.0 per cent of Toronto workers now use “sustainable transportation,” an increase of 1.9 per cent (the largest increase in the selected municipalities).

Statscan finds further progress in public transit still by arbitrarily distinguishing between workers who drive cars and workers who merely ride in them. Thus: “[In the period from 2001 through 2006], there was a decrease in the proportion of drivers, from 73.8 per cent of workers to 72.3 per cent.” The agency concludes, again confidently: “The proportion of drivers is decreasing.”

But wait. We already know that 80.0 per cent of Canadian workers drive to work, right? How can Statscan simultaneously report that only 72.3 per cent drive to work? Well, quite easily – by not counting the passengers in the 10 million cars, vans and pickup trucks that (as the agency appears to imply) carry only “drivers.”

Elsewhere, Statscan concedes that 714,900 additional workers chose to drive to work in 2006 (compared with 2001) – and finds solace in the fact that a larger number still (1,000,000) chose cars over public transit in the five years from 1996 through 2001.

The proportion of commuters who used public transit did increase marginally from 2001 through 2006 – from 10.5 per cent to 11.0 per cent. Halifax went from 2.8 per cent to 2.9 per cent. Saint John went from 4.3 per cent to 4.4 per cent. Vancouver went from 11.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent – an extraordinary increase.

Helpful though this increase may have been in producing a statistical increase in public transit use, this particular success was essentially phony, arising as it did from the infamous public transit strike in 2001 (which many Vancouver drivers still recall as a Golden Age of hassle-free commuting).

On the other hand, notwithstanding its apparent rise in “sustainable transportation,” Toronto fell from 22.4 per cent to 22.2 per cent. Windsor fell from 3.1 per cent to 2.9 per cent. Trois-Rivières fell from 3.0 per cent to 2.4 per cent. Saskatoon fell from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent.

In fact, the biggest real change in this five-year period was probably the increase in passengers in cars. In 2001, 6.9 per cent of workers got to work as passengers in cars; in 2007, 7.7 per cent. As Statscan does note, this was a significant increase – an honest-to-God increase of 22.6 per cent (or more than 200,000 people). In the previous five-year period, passengers had increased by only 2.7 per cent.

Public transit is important enough as a commuter service, notably in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Yet there is no good reason to exaggerate this importance – especially since the subsidies provided for it inflate the use of it. Cars routinely get 80 per cent of people to work in this country. Other forms of transportation (walking, cycling, inline skating, snowmobiling, etc.) routinely get another 8.9 per cent of people to work.

(Without benefit of subsidies, these self-reliant commuters equal public transit users, or outnumber them, in five provinces.)

Here is the measure of Canada's reliance on public transit to get people to work: Newfoundland and Labrador, 1.9 per cent; PEI, 0.5 per cent; Nova Scotia, 5.9 per cent; New Brunswick, 2.0 per cent; Quebec, 12.8 per cent; Ontario, 12.9 per cent; Manitoba, 8.9 per cent; Saskatchewan, 2.2 per cent; Alberta, 9.2 per cent; British Columbia, 10.3 per cent.

All in all, only a very small minority of Canadians appear to need much help getting to work.