Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Saturday, April 19, 2003


By Eddie Cross in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

I have always enjoyed Shona names for girls. So many are really beautiful and have deep meanings. Last year I was asked by a Foundation in Germany to come to a conference that was dealing with the issue of poverty in the world and to speak at the formal dinner on the second evening. I accepted their kind invitation and flew to Germany with much on my mind as to what to speak about.

The Conference was organised by a foundation set up by the family that owned a large, international business in Germany selling medical equipment across the globe. It was held in a beautiful German coastal city and the actual dinner was in a public house that was centuries old. My audience was made up of eminent scientists and executives from a number of countries and multilateral agencies.

What I eventually decided to speak on was the perspective of development and poverty elimination from the perspective of a small girl, born in a rural village in Africa – in the "Shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro". I do not enjoy after dinner speaking as I am not a humorist and find speaking to people who have full bellies and not a little beer in them, sometimes difficult. Not this time, my audience, all of whom spend their days studying poverty from their book lined retreats all over the world, suddenly saw the problem through the eyes of someone who was actually there.

Why a little girl? Well quite simply if we are going to overcome poverty in the world, then we have to focus on a given specific target – if we hit that, then the rest follows. I felt that if we were able, somehow, to give Chipo a chance of a better life, not outside the country in which she was born but right there, where she came from, perhaps, just perhaps, we would hit all the other targets we were aiming for.

What were her basic needs? First I said we should provide a simple, low cost, locally owned and managed health care system that would deliver to Chipo’s mother, advice on her reproductive activities, basic health care during and after her pregnancy and then basic advice on looking after her daughter. For Chipo, the basic inoculations and other simple health care remedies that are available globally at low cost. This system should be within walking distance and should be able to deal with 85 per cent of all basic health care needs. What cost? We estimated that such a system would cost at most Z$2000 per family per annum or US$10. With an average family being 5 people, the cost to support Chipo with this simple program – US$2 per annum.

Her second need would be for a good basic education. Her parents would be barely literate and for them, educating a girl would be a low priority, if it came to paying, the boy got the opportunity. So it has to be virtually free. I thought again of what was needed – a school with a maximum of 600 kids in it, classes averaging 35 per teacher. 20 teachers and a school head with one or two support staff. The classes should be brick under tile, plastered with glass in all windows, properly ventilated and light. The children should have desks and chairs and proper toilet facilities with running clean water. There should be electricity and a telephone connection to the outside world. The upper classes should have access to a computer center for several hours each day under supervision. Every child should have adequate writing and other materials. Every child should get at least one nutritional meal a day whilst at school. Teachers should be paid above average salaries and should be well qualified and trained. Every teacher should have his or her own home and the Headmaster should be recognised as a senior person in the entire community.

A pipe dream? Not at all, we have costed this system and think that we could put all primary school kids through schools like this for about Z$100 billion a year or Z$45 000 per child per annum. That’s US$225 per child per annum.

Then we need to give Chipo some choices when it came to going on after primary school. If she was gifted, there should be no ceiling to her schooling opportunities. If she was less than academic in her potential then at least 4 more years of education to give her life skills. At the age of 18 she would go into the world. She could go to college or some other training institution or into a work environment where she would be expected to start to make her way – but she would be healthy and have sufficient education to make the most of what the world can give her at that stage. She would be sufficiently independent to make her own choices about relationships and careers. The total cost – less than US$3000.

I said that we in the third world should be required to carry what we can of that cost – say on a simple formula basis – collect 30 per cent of GDP as tax and spend 20 per cent of all taxes on education. The international community to pick up the rest in the form of programme grants to the system subject to stringent audit and other controls. Chipo’s parents own resources would be freed up to boost the quality of life at home in the villages.

I said that we should not rest until every Chipo was able to walk to school every day and when she walked through the gates of the school find herself in a first world environment with libraries and computers and communications. With teachers who would also be agents of change in their societies and the ever present nursing sisters at the clinic, if there was a health problem.

Today, Chipo has no hope of any kind; up to 40 per cent of her mothers are HIV positive. Many Chipo’s will not survive beyond five years of age and if they do will be retarded in their abilities by simple health problems and poor nutrition. 20 per cent of our Chipo’s will not even get to school and will be illiterate and inumerate all their lives. Half will drop out before they can finish primary school because of cost to the family.

Even when they do get to school, classes are up to 90 pupils per teacher. Teachers are poorly paid and poorly motivated. Three teachers plus their families live in one house designed for a small family on average. Heads of schools are no better off. Chipo has a better chance of being molested by a teacher than being liberated intellectually. When she reaches sexual maturity, or even before that point in time she is the subject of constant harassment and abuse. Very often she will see sex as the only way out of a life of deprivation and struggle that she sees her mother locked into every day. Choice? That’s another world.

I do not think these things are impossible – not if we have the will. The rich world has said that this is exactly what they would like to see happen in poor countries. It will not happen if we do not show resolve. I belong to the MDC, a political Party that is determined when it comes to power in Zimbabwe to make this type of programming a reality. We want to see Chipo treated as a real person, given an education that will open up her choices and secure her freedom in a competitive world. We want to enable her to participate in a vibrant democracy where there is freedom of speech and association, where the human fundamentals can be taken for granted again. Its Chipo’s future we are trying to secure and I asked my German after dinner audience if they would not help us secure that better world. When I sat down I was shaking with emotion about these issues which are treated with such disregard by those who, in our eyes, have everything. The audience rose to their feet and said yes, in an unmistakable way, it was a moment I will never forget.

Chipo, hold fast girl, help is on the way. Chipo means "gift" in Shona and I like to think that she is Gods gift to all of us, if only we would see it. Those who are violating that gift in Zimbabwe? Well you know what a man in Israel said about that many years ago – "it were better for them to have a millstone hung about their necks and be flung into the sea to drown, than face the gift giver", as one day we all must do.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Friday, April 18, 2003

By: Hon Charlie Lynn MLC

Prime Minister John Howard officially opened the magnificient memorial at the Isurava battlesite on the Kokoda Track on 14 August, 2002.

This is the first memorial to erected on the Kokoda Track since the campaign, 60 years ago. I believe it is the first time an Australian Prime Minister will have been on the Track.

Isurava is Australia's Alamo! The battle during the period 26-30 August 1942 has been described by some historians as 'the battle that saved Australia'. Private Bruce Kingsbury was awarded the first Victoria Cross on Australian territory at this site.

The battlesite was reclaimed by the jungle and was overgrown until we found it, using a GPS, in 1998. The memorial has been constructed at the spot where Private Kingsbury was killed by a Japanese sniper.



Australians have not forgotten the wanton massacre of wild horses in October 2000 by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. That outrage branded the NPWS as a rogue organisation wholly out of touch with the sensibilities of decent people.

In 1964 Bradleys Head on Sydney Harbour was dedicated as a permanent memorial to RAN sailors and ships lost to enemy action. Centrepiece of the memorial, installed in 1933, is the mast of the first HMAS Sydney.

On 14 June 2000, following an effective campaign by the Mosman Sub-Branch of the RSL and the Warringah Branch of the Australia Remembers Trust, the mast gained its own permanent illumination, with Prime Minister John Howard switching on the floodlights.

In 1964 three handsome trees were planted to commemorate the losses of:

§ The second HMAS Sydney, lost with its whole crew of 645 on 19 November 1941, in the course of sinking the German raider, Kormoran off Geraldton.

§ HMAS Perth, lost in the Battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. 453 of her crew were killed in the battle or died while prisoners of war.

§ HMAS Canberra, sunk in the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942, with the loss of 84 lives.

The Mayor of Mosman, Cr Jim Reid has revealed that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has CUT DOWN the HMAS Canberra tree! Although N.P.W.S. officers claim that the tree was dead, the stump shows no evidence of rot.

The locals suspect that the destruction of this important memorial might be connected with the obsessive dislike of non-native trees expressed by some NSWS officers.

According to Mayor Reid, Returned Servicemen and particularly Naval veterans have every right to be incensed by the callous actions of NPWS. . in cutting down one of the three cruiser memorial trees on Bradleys Head.

The Mayor’s conclusion is that the wanton destruction of the HMAS Canberra memorial tree demonstrates that N.P.W.S. is not capable of caring for this important headland, which should revert to control by the Navy.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Thursday, April 17, 2003


March 2003 has gone down as the month when the non-coherent macro-economic policies of ZANU PF’s policies entered into a whirlwind confusion and panic stance, ultimately plunging the Zimbabwean economy into deeper catastrophe.

The plunge of the economy did not just set off from a blue sky. As has long been anticipated, the chickens have now come home to the roost. The government’s loose fiscal policy proven by the huge budget deficits, were recorded at -22.6% of GDP in 2000, -16.5% in 2001 and -14.1% in 2002. From an undiscerning eye, the figures appear to be on the decline, yet this hides the fact that the country’s central bank is buying back the deficits, which must be much higher now than was the case in 2000. Furthermore Zimbabwe’s GDP’s has been on a consecutive decline since 1999, from a -2.7% negative growth in 1999, the trend was set: -4.8% in 2000, -7.3% in 2001, -11.9% in 2002 and a projected -15% in 2003.

Macroeconomic distortions have continued unabated despite the devaluation from Z$55/US$ to Z$824/US$, a palliative care measure to provide temporary viability for many exporters. The pro-inflationary monetary policy, suppressed interest rates since the start of 2001 with negative real rates presently standing at around -60%, coupled with expanded credit; a perverse fixed exchange regime side by side with the Z$55/US$ for the so called official transactions (fuel, electricity inputs and government procurement); The price controls on basic food stuffs originally introduced in 2001 extended to virtually all domestically produced goods November 2002 continue to cause untold suffering to business and the Zimbabwean populace. With the continued shortages of basic foodstuffs owing to the illegitimate regimes chaotic land reform programme Zimbabweans are left at the mercy of God for survival. Firms on the other hand have adopted survival strategies to evade the controls by packaging the scarce commodities in either too small or too large forms with prices beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans.

As if the suffering is not enough the ZANU PF government recently hiked the fuel price, but kept the lead on price controls intact, causing a total disaster for both businesses and consumers. Because of this and many other factors inflation rate hit 220.9% in February 2003 rising by 12.8 points over the previous month rate with food inflation accounting for 79% and non-food inflation 141.9%. Independent estimates indicate that inflation is likely to reach 500% by year-end a total contrast of the Finance Minister’s hope of slashing inflation down to 96% by end of the year. To show how much our economy has crumbled, inflation rates for Zimbabwe’s trading partners in the region over the same period (February 2003) reads like Zimbabwe is placed in a different planet: Botswana 11.1%, Malawi 16.7%, South Africa 11.8%, Tanzania 4.4% and Zambia 25.0%

The effects of the economic plunge authored by Zanu PF government are also being felt through continued collapse in infrastructure - with NRZ, ZESA, Wankie Colliery and Air Zimbabwe now virtually on their knees. Years of neglect of the railway signals infrastructure culminated into the horrendous train accident near Hwange, which killed many people. The mismanagement at ZESA has plunged the parastatal into US$3m arrears to FINNVERA (Finnish Company), and suspension of its credit insurance cover. The parastatal also owes Eskom of South African and Cahora Bassa of Mozambique R11.2 million and US$5 million respectively and have since, threatened to cut off electricity supplies amid the foreign currency crisis at the RBZ.


Two moments of truths were driven home during the month for ZANU PF. The Commonwealth threw away the attempted coveted lie and re-packaging of Mugabe as a having reformed and embraced good governance by Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki, and extended sanctions until December 2003. Secondly the call for mass stay away led by the opposition MDC and Zimbabwe’s civil society was heeded to the letter by the people of this country.

Amid loud denials by ZANU PF that the country is now on its knees and in dire straights, the mass stayaway called to register the citizens’ concerns and anger over ZANU PF’s disregard of the rule of law, respect for human rights and outright economic collapse, was a resounding success. The mass action was much about ZANU PF’s politically-induced economic plunder and mismanagement as it was about government sponsored violence and repression. On the economic collapse scenario, mass action registered the peoples’ anger on the evils of inflation, business closures, unemployment


Mail from Andrew Heggie in Manchester:

Melissa and I have only visited the Middle East very briefly - 2 days in Dubai.

What I can say about that particular emirate is that taxation is virtually non existent (and this has been the case for well over 100 years). The Sheik who initially brought prosperity to Dubai by making it a free trade port certainly had great wisdom and foresight.

At the moment petrol costs about 23c (Australian) per litre. The streets were clean and there were no beggars. Prices were also very reasonable. The ruling family also seems to have decreed that non Muslims are to be tolerated, if not encouraged - there are western restaurants and bars, and women are not forced to wear unreasonable covering (the level of covering expected in any of the churches you might visit in Italy would be a fair comparison).

There is no good reason why Iraq could not enjoy a similar level of prosperity.

The only things that could possibly prevent this would be excessive interference by the UN, or religious and ethnic unrest. Although the idea of regional [Federal] government in Iraq would seem a good remedy for religious or other civil unrest, I feel that regional government might lead to a greater hardening of prejudice against the 'other' - followed by strife between the regions. It seems to be in the nature of the people of the Middle East, particularly Muslims, to be violently intolerant of differing opinion (maybe it is just a part of general human nature that has been controlled better in the West).


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Wednesday, April 16, 2003


How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world?

As a minister and due to my personal convictions I have always been against war for any and all reasons. It was precisely this moral conviction that led me to do all I could to stop the current war in Iraq.

It was with that feeling, together with supplies for our Church and family that I went to Iraq to do all I could to help make a difference.

The first order of business was to attend Church. It was here where my morals were raked over the coals and I was first forced to examine them in the harsh light of reality.

Sitting next to me was an older man who carefully began to sound me out. Apparently feeling the freedom to talk in the midst of the mingling crowd he suddenly turned to me and said `There is something you should know.` `What` I asked surprised at the sudden comment. “We don't want peace”

Simply put, those living in Iraq, the common, regular people are in a living nightmare. From the terror that would come across the faces of my family at a unknown visitor, telephone call, knock at the door I began to realize the horror they lived with every day.

Over and over I questioned them `Why could you want war? Why could any human being desire war?` They're answer was quiet and measured. `Look at our lives!`We are living like animals. No food, no car, no telephone, no job and most of all no hope.`

Then I began to see around me those seemingly in every household who had lost their minds. It seemed in every household there was one or more people who in any other society would be in a Mental Hospital and the ever present picture of a family member killed in one of the many wars.

I wept with family members as I shared their pain and with great difficulty and deep soul searching began little by little to understand their desire for war to finally rid them of the nightmare they were living in.

The terrible price paid in simple, down to earth ways - the family member with a son who just screams all the time, the family member who lost his wife who left unable to cope anymore, the family member going to a daily job with nothing to do, the family member with a son lost to the war, a husband lost to alcoholism the daily, difficult to perceive slow death of people for whom all hope is lost.

“Life is hell. We have no hope. But everything will be ok once the war is over.” The bizarre desire for a war that would rid them of the hopelessness was at best hard to understand.

Coming back to family members and telling them of progress in the talks at the United Nations on working some sort of compromise with Iraq I was welcomed not with joy but anger. `No, there is no other way! We want the war! It is the only way he will get out of our lives`

I had been demonstrating against the war thinking I had been doing it for the very people I was here with now and yet I had not ever bothered to ask them what they wanted.

Then I began to feel so terrible. Here I had been demonstrating against the war thinking I had been doing it for the very people I was here now with and yet I had not ever bothered to ask them what they wanted. What they wanted me to do.

More here.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Tuesday, April 15, 2003


Dear America, you quirky mix of 280 million misfits that have somehow blended into the strongest nation in the world, I write to offer you four apologies and two vows.

I, James Black, a European passport holder whose parents are Scottish, whose wife is English, and whose four children are free to be whatever they may want to be (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation), am ashamed for pointing out to a colleague while visiting your country a few days ago that Winston Churchill was wrong when he said the biggest difference between Britain and the United States was the fact we both spoke the same language -- and instead, telling him that the real difference between our peoples was actually about 100 pounds per person.

I, who work as a journalist with the Daily Mail, one of Britain's national newspapers, and (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) is able to say exactly what he wants whenever he wants without fear of death or imprisonment, also apologize for saying to the same colleague that many of the Americans I met were far less sophisticated and worldly than Europeans.

I, James Black, a man born free of social or physical shackles and chains, who is able to travel around the world and visit other countries and who (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) is able to converse, discuss, even argue with people from other nations, would like to apologize for mocking your president and your political system.

Your president may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery set, but I now understand he and the good people of the United States operate not just from a high intellectual stance, but also from the heart -- a heart that knows the difference between good and evil. And importantly, your president was smart enough to have picked the best to sit with him at the world table.

I, whose friends, family and colleagues are allowed to set up home, take a job, even run for politician, in any part of the European Union (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) without being rounded up because of their religion or shot on the spot for their place of birth would finally like to apologize for the biggest mistake the people of my continent have ever made -- their total lack of respect for the greatest friend they will ever have -- the United States of America.

My anger at some of my fellow Europeans is more than palpable. I hear the self-centred, cowardly, and just plain annoying words thrown out by old-minded -- old world -- so-called leaders of the Free World.

I may have made fun of America and Americans, but deep down I know this is only friendly banter between the greatest of friends -- and friends who should give their all to each other when called upon to do so.

So I, whose grandfather fought in both World Wars and had the good humour to suggest the Americans were late for both events, but the sense to point out they ensured victory when they finally did show up, make my first vow:

I will never forget or dishonour the amazing and courageous sacrifice of the people of the United States in coming to the aid of the world over the past ten decades. The men and women who left peace and prosperity in a land of plenty to face bullet and shrapnel on the beaches of Normandy and around the World.

I will honour the debt my small island nation owes for your unswerving devotion to aiding our continued freedom. Your help when we stood small and alone against the plague of Nazi aggression. Your assistance in making us strong when the battle was finished and the peace began, and your protection from a colder enemy in the decades that followed.

I have stood, and I will stand again, with my own family, in places such as the cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, an eternal resting place for over 10,000 teen and twenty-something Americans who gave over ALL their future so that I and my children could have a future today, and I will again pledge my eternal gratitude.

I, James Black, a man who simply wants his children to live in a future where all good and constructive things are possible, a future where we can discover, invent, enjoy, without fear of fanatics or madmen or the weapons and pain they may wreak, pledge my assistance to the United States in its fight against evil.

This is not brainwashed verse, but based on the honourable history and proven friendship the United States has with Europe.

Further, it is based on the fact that the people and leaders of the United States have the foresight to see the world, even life itself, is futile without someone to love, things to build and create, and things to look forward to -- and none of these things are possible in a world awash with nuclear, chemical and biological arms controlled by those who despise the life we lead.

I am one person, but there are millions like me who thank the USA and wish your nation and your people all the best over the next few months -- and will be there by your side when the times get tough.

Yours with all my gratitude,

James Black


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Monday, April 14, 2003

A Great Nation Called Assyria

Assyrians all over the world are looking forward to regaining the freedom and some of the rights, which their people in Iraq have lost in the last 40 years. They appreciate the job that the Prime Minister of Australia is doing to help them and the rest of the people of Iraq.

Assyrians are law-abiding citizens; they have participated in the political life in their beloved adopted country here in Australia. They have several members in the Liberal Party and other parties. Some of the Assyrian members of the Liberal Party were candidates for State Parliament and local government. Persons like Bob Robertson, Andy Rohan. And the writers of this article Caroline and Samy Ishak have held positions in their Smithfield branch including their current positions as Delegates to the State Council of The NSW Liberal Party.

Assyria is located in north Mesopotamia and spans four countries: In Syria it extends west to the Euphrates River; in Turkey it extends north to Harran, Edessa, Diyarbakir, and Lake Van; in Iran it extends east to Lake Urmi, and in Iraq it extends to about 100 miles south of Kirkuk. This is the Assyrian heartland, from which so much of the ancient Near East came to be controlled.

Two great rivers run through Assyria, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and many lesser ones, the most important of which being the Upper Zab and Lower Zab, both tributaries to the Tigris. Strategically surrounding the Tigris and the two Zabs are the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur, Arbel, Nimrod and Arrapkha.

To the north and east of Assyria lie the Taurus and Zagros mountains. To the west and south lies a great, low limestone plateau. At the southern end of Assyria the gravel plains give way to alluvium deposited by the Tigris, and farther south there is insufficient rainfall for agriculture without irrigation. These two features create a geogrpahical boundary between Assyria and the neighboring land to the south.

To the south of Baghdad lies Babylon. There is a stark geographical distinction between Babylonia and Assyria

The Assyrian land is rich and fertile, with growing fields found in every region. Two large areas comprise the Assyrian breadbasket: the Arbel plain and the Nineveh plain. To this day these areas remain critical crop producers. This is from where Assyria derived her strength, as it could feed a large population of professionals and craftsman, which allowed the nation to expand and advance the art of civilization.

Assyrians have used two languages throughout their history: ancient Assyrian (Akkadian), and Modern Assyrian (neo-syriac). Akkadian was written with the cuneiform writing system, on clay tablets, and was in use from the beginning to about 750 B.C.. By 750 B.C., a new way of writing, on parchment, leather, or papyrus, was developed, and the people who brought this method of writing with them, the Arameans, would eventually see their language, Aramaic, supplant Ancient Assyrian because of the technological breakthrough in writing. Aramaic was made the second official language of the Assyrian empire in 752 B.C. Although Assyrians switched to Aramaic, it was not wholesale transplantation. The brand of Aramaic that Assyrians spoke was, and is, heavily infused with Akkadian words, so much so that scholars refer to it as Assyrian Aramaic.

Assyrians are Semitic peoples indigenous to Mesopotamia. They are Mediterranean Caucasoids, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs and Jews. Assyrians were the first nation to accept Christianity, and the Assyrian Church was founded in 33 A.D. by Thomas, Bortholemew and Thaddeu.

Assyrians have suffered massive genocide, have lost control of their ancestral lands, and are in a struggle for survival. The Assyrian nation today stands at a crossroad. One third of the population is in a diaspora, while the remaining two-thirds lives perilously in its native lands. These are some of the dangers facing the Assyrians.

More here.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page


Sunday, April 13, 2003


My own observation of United Nations operations in Cambodia and East Timor reinforces Stephen Schwartz’s concerns (posted here yesterday) about the United Nations. If the UN gets a foothold in Iraq, instantly the highest priority will become the accommodation, catering, pay and allowances required to give the International Aid Conspiracy all the privileges its members demand. By contrast, American Service personnel, like their Australian and British counterparts, are consistently kind, generous and highly motivated in caring for suffering and persecuted humans, who for the UN represent only an impediment in the career path.

In the meantime, we must not allow continuing strife in Iraq to shut out of our minds the desperate humanitarian and political tragedy which has been imposed upon the hapless Zimbabwean people by the ghastly Robert Mugabe, a creature every bit as brutal as (the late?) Saddam Hussein.



An excerpt from Cathy Buckle’s latest letter:

A few days ago a large and menacing Gymnogene repeatedly circled lazily over my garden. This big grey bird of prey came to rest on a branch of a dead tree on my front lawn and immediately started trying to get the chicks of a pair of crested barbets out of their nest. It was an amazing sight watching the huge raptor using first its curved claws and then its bright yellow and very sharp beak trying to spear the helpless babies. The barbet parents were going mad, screeching alarm calls and hurling themselves at the raptor trying to stop it from destroying their babies. They mobbed him, flying closer and closer to the huge bird, hitting him with their own bodies in desperation. I ran outside to try and scare the Gymnogene away. The barbets are residents in my garden and having watched them over the weeks as they built the nest and then incubated and hatched the eggs, the barbets had become a part of my life. It wasn't easy persuading the raptor to leave. Shouting didn't do it, waving my arms was pointless and it finally took a stone hitting the trunk inches from the bird's feet that made him leave. The Raptor didn't go far, he sat in a tree across the garden and whenever the coast was clear he tried again. All afternoon it was only the screaming of the adult barbets that told me he was back and I would run outside again to chase him away.

For the last three years ordinary Zimbabwean have been very much like the crested barbets in my garden. We've been screaming out for help, we've been shouting out alarms and have been desperate for someone to hear our calls. In the last month our calls have got more frantic but now no one is hearing them. The Iraq war has totally overshadowed the horrors in Zimbabwe. Day after day, hour after hour, the BBC, CNN and SKY television tell of the moment by moment developments in Iraq. We scream of murder, torture, beating, abductions and gang rape of school girls as young as 12 but no one is listening. Night after night Short Wave Radio Africa interviews ordinary men and women in Zimbabwe who tell of horrors so barbaric that they belong in 16th century history books. Our government are using the incessant international media coverage of the Iraq war as a smoke screen and behind it they are crushing all dissent in Zimbabwe.

A visiting delegation of Southern African Foreign Ministers were in Zimbabwe this week. At the close of their 9 hour meeting in Harare, a spokesman for the South African Foreign Ministry said: "Our position is that the people of Zimbabwe must be the masters of their own destiny." That's a bit like saying that two tiny, naked, helpless and flightless chicks should get rid of a massive bird of prey without assistance.


Comments? Email Michael Darby
Home Page