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ZAPU President Isaac Mabuka speaks

24 Jun 2020 at 13:15hrs | Views
Q1: Thank you Mr. Mabuka for your time. Please introduce yourself to the people. Who is Mabuka?

A: I am Isaac Mabuka. I was born in 1953 on 26 April in Gwanda South. I did my primary education in local schools. During that time there was lower and upper primary school and I did my upper primary education at Halisupi Upper Primary School. I could not go for further education up to Form 1 because my father did not have enough to pay for me. I had done very well but I decided to go on private studies through CACC (Central Africa Correspondence College). I finished my Standard 6 in 1968. Then in 1968 I decided to go to Bulawayo to for employment. I was actually employed in 1970 at PG Timbers in Bulawayo and I started my studies there and there because I wanted to increase my education. I had to go on night school at Sizane School in Phelandaba and I went and did my Form 2. However, during that time there was this issue about qualified franchise which was introduced by Ian Smith who said he wanted to have majority rule to Africans but he could only do so through what he called a qualified franchise where only the educated and the rich would be allowed to vote. I was one of those young people who attended meetings every time during weekends and we agreed that that could not work. We wanted proper majority rule for everybody.

There were groups of people like Abel Muzorewa, Gabela and others who were instructed by our nationalists who were in jail that people must be told to vote no against this system. There was a commission called by the British and brought to Ian Smith called the Pearce Commission. This commission was to find out whether Africans would allow a majority rule with a qualified franchise where the educated and those with a house could be allowed to vote and the rest would not be allowed to vote. I was one of those young people who were sent around. We went all over the townships to tell people to vote no. It was that time that I realised I had to go into politics. Back to my being, I did my education through CACC and did the rest of my education after independence mind you. I had to write my O' Levels after independence. I had to go to Bulawayo Polytechnic on full time studies which was a leave given by the army and I did my business studies accounting HND and then went back into the army and worked as an accountant in the purchasing department and went back to Harare as an accountant at Army Headquarters. That is purely about my education, the rest will follow.

Now to continue, I worked at PG Timbers and I started being a politician. I had to attend all the meetings that were called around Barbourfields and everywhere, then it was at that time when I realised that oppression was oppression. Several white people that were working stayed in the suburbs and we blacks were staying in the townships. That hurt me so much. Young men who were brought in to work with us from England immediately would be given a house and a car.  Then one day I went for lunch with one of them in Montrose Suburbs where I later bought a house because I did not like what happened there. I was told that as an African I was not supposed to dine together with a friend who was white and the person who said was representing the residents association told us point blank that you cannot dine with this African, that is the rule within the suburb. He said in the suburb of Montrose you are not allowed to do that. My friend  tried to explain and asked why, and there was no reason given; he was just told you cannot do that. Then one day as we were talking I said this thing is very bad and he said to me I can see the reason why most of the young men are joining the terrorists. I then felt there was need for me to go and join the "terrorists". That is what guerrillas were called during the Rhodesian time. And early 1976 we agreed cross over to Botswana; I told my friends that I knew the route to Botswana. I then invited those who wanted to go to meet me at the Phelandaba bus number 12 which went to Kafusi. One of the young men called Agent Mahlangu joined me. I do not know where he is because when we got to the struggle and he saw people who came from his home area and I saw people who came from my area we separated because I did not know him, I just knew him the day before we boarded the bus together and we went to my home in Kafusi and slept there before crossing over to Botswana in the morning. As we got into Botswana we met some guerrillas who were moving from Mozambique, Zuze, Dubaduba, the rest and I went and stayed in a Botswana jail. This is me before the struggle. I will now go into what I did during the struggle.

We stayed in a Botswana jail nearly six months. Because there were problems in Mozambique, Tanzania, Mgagao and other areas like that. So we were being told to be patient. Cde Skhwili Moyo who was the representative and Cde Mnyamana Belafonte who was also assistant representative to Botswana used to bring us bread in jail. They brought us almost everything in jail. We had some guerrillas that would they would pick for some reason, either to go on operations and something like that but would later  come back. We stayed in that jail and we were being locked in like any other prison because they were afraid that should Rhodesians come to know about our presence there they were going to bomb the jail. Around August, maybe July, we were flown to Zambia and we got to  Nampundwe Camp and we saw that we were now in the struggle.

There was the toyi toyi, and we were taken around for judo training. We were told that the President is coming, so we should meet him. We were told soon you will be thrown on the ground,  roll and so on. That was the introduction to the struggle. I later went for training at Mwembeshi. We had the first group of 300 and the second group of 400 that trained together. Although I was not an instructor, I estimate we were around 700. Our instructors were Sigoge, Gagisa, Cephas, Mamba, and I can say a few of them and we were thoroughly trained. After training we were deployed to the front. My nom de guerre (war name) was Forgive Tshabalala.  I was deployed with a group of, I think, 30. I was appointed commander as we were about to leave. That is how they appointed a commander. I was told I was going to be the leader of the group. We went to BL One and when we got there we found the Commander Richard Mataure who quickly disbanded us and said these ones are joining this group, these ones joining this group and these ones joining that group. I remained with him and that night there was the bombardment of the Kariba and now you could smell the war. For the whole night we were throwing bombs into the Kariba town from the Zambian side and changing places. Richard had said he would be with me throughout the battle. I was running around with him. Then we went back to our base in Lisito and others went to their bases also in other places. This is the I was in the front. Later I was picked up with a group of 10 people. Usually you were not told where you were going. You would just be told to pick up your goods we are going. We went in, we were in a Land Rover, about 10 of us. As we got to Lusaka, 5 of us were taken for cadet training by the Zambians. Those included people like Barberton and some of them I did not know their names because they were taken from different bases. I was left with the other 5 and we were told to go and stay in Nampundwe for some time. Later we were given a group of about 300, some were semi trained, others were just from training, to go to Libya. As I say you would not be told where you were going. I was introduced to the Commander Brighton Jones just before we left, in the last minute before we left. This is the guy that the 5 of us were going to be assisting in commanding the group.  We landed in Libya and we were given our own place to administer ourselves. The Libyans only gave us the tents. They said you must administer yourselves. They would give us food in the morning but we were responsible for our own parade, forming up, our own sleeping, and so on and so on.

And I was then told by Brighton Jones that I was going to be the Chief of Staff of the group. Later another group came and joined us with the late Brigadier Maponga who was then appointed Commissar of the group.  We stayed in Libya but there were problems. We were supposed to go and train anti-tank weapons and other things that were higher than being a guerrilla. But, unfortunately, the Libyans kept on teaching us Islam for a long time in such a way that some of the Comrades were not happy with that until National Commissar Munodawafa came.  He explained to us that the training that was supposed to be done had not been done accordingly but that we were going to do further training in another country. We came back to Zambia and we were bombed on the second bombardment of the FC camp. We found the camp was almost completely deserted.

Only a few old people were ploughing. Remember this is the camp that was very good when we left for Libya. I was one of the Commanders there because Brighton Jones had been quickly taken by Land Rover to Lusaka. I did not see him later. I was left in command of the group. The Rhodesians came on the second bombardment of the FC camp and I think they were also bombing the ZIPRA Intelligence Camp. They threw missiles and that is the day I nearly died. I was in a tent with a Comrade known as Silver and I think he is still alive.   The tent was in the middle of camp and in the morning a big sound hit the ground. It was a bomb, but, fortunately, it did not explode. This was followed by three more missiles. One hit  the kitchen and  killed many people, one hit the hospital and blew the hospital off to nothing. And the fourth one hit the area where some of the Comrades who had just came back from the Soviet Union were. We lost about 19 men. That is when I realised that the struggle is not as easy as all that. As I tried to take my weapon and run into the fields I could hear people screaming, so I decided to stand and said okungasikusa yikuphi, let me go back.   I got back in the kitchen and most of the comrades were screaming, others lying on the ground. I remember one Comrade, I think he was called Frank, who stood up and said to me, Commander amakhiwa ayalwa and ngiyathaba ukuthi wena usaphila lizathatha irevolution liyise phambili.  This guy was hit by a splinter in the chest and it came out from his back. Blood was flowing, and I think he died on the spot because immediately fell down. Again I said to myself  if that missile had exploded I would have died.

When we came back from Libya we did not stay long before we proceeded for further training.  This time, end of 1979, we went to the Soviet Union. I was appointed the national group leader. I think, if am not mistaken, I was the last national group leader of ZAPU in a place called Cenfropoly where we had training of Namibians, ANC cadres, PLO cadres, etc. We were many liberation movements. We did very well. Independence came when we were in the Soviet Union but we had a few problems here and there. The Russians, especially the Commandant who was a feared man, no one would talk to him, but now and then he called me and say come now your country has been liberated and elections have been done, so it is time to go. He made a party for us to celebrate the independence of Zimbabwe in April 1980. There was this debate now and then among ourselves, where do we go? We asked ourselves whether from the Soviet Union we were going to land in Salisbury, which is now Harare, or in Lusaka where we came from? Everybody in Lusaka seemed to be preparing to go back home and I had this problem now. I was doing a company commanders course and I had two guys who always would sit and say guys if we go to Salisbury and we are arrested by the Rhodesians what happens? If we go to Lusaka and find people are gone, what happens? Those were the late Colonel Moyo TT and the late Major Charle Ntini. But they were good advisers to me. Every time Commandant Kalashick would call me I would call them and say guys if they ask me and TT would say let us go to Lusaka. We had now finished training and were preparing to go back.  I agreed that we had to go back to Lusaka and we were flown back to Lusaka. When got there, we met some guys in the armoured car camp and of course my instructor Jack Mpofu, Darkie, who quickly had to brief us that some had gone home but we did not know what was happening there. He told us that as we get there we must be prepared to salute  amakhiwa and if you did not they would hit us hard. He was just joking, of course.

We left Lusaka and we were transferred to Gwayi River Mine Assembly Point. I was group leader of that group until we got to Gwayi. When we got there Brigadier Charles Grey gave me a house next to his where we stayed with a Dry Phetsheya, Charles Nhlamba, Butata and so on and so on.

Now let me come to Mabuka after independence. I got to the Army and I became a captain. I served in several battalions, about 2 battalions, 3:2 and 3:3 and then went to BBS which we used to call Battalion Battle School, where I became a DS (a Directing Staff), that is an instructor basically. We worked with the British who were teaching both tactics and weapons training and I was in the B Company. Every company had its Zimbabwean counterpart and a British counterpart. There I worked with the likes of Major Themba Mlalazi. I never forgot what I wanted to learn. I did a lot of private studies even during that time. I could prove that it was paying a lot. Even when we talked about economics, when I was doing economics at O' Level, some of the British guys would come to me and say what are you saying about this subsistence farming that is going on in this country. I would tell them that once we do this subsistence farming we will then go into commercial farming and I did understand some of these things. I remember one day when the Deputy Minister of Finance Masaya who came from Nyanga, when he was at the officers mess, he saw me talking to the British Army officers. After listening for a long time, he came to me and said I am happy that you understand economics, that you can tell these guys what you think about economics. That is when I continued my studies, wrote my five O Levels and passed them all.  During that time ex combatants were encouraged to go school and the Army committed itself to pay for your school fees.  I then approached the Commander Colonel Chitekeza and told him I wanted to go to school, and he said it was fine but I had to find a place first then you apply  for study leave.  I came to Bulawayo Polytechnic and showed them my results and told them that I wanted to do business studies. I remember one of them advising me that business studies was very difficult, and advised me  to change to another course. I told them that is what I had chosen. He said I would not finish as most of the people drop on the way and never get to HND. I said, no I will try. I had to get a letter to take to the Army which would allow them to give me study leave on full pay for a period of 3 years. It was written by the Principal himself because I could not waste time waiting for the letter as they had told me that it will take time to get the letter. So I asked to see the principal. I remember one woman saying yes you can go and see him. The principal was Mr. Maboyi and I remember him dictating the letter to his secretary, and the letter was done and I went on a study leave. I culminated in doing HND studies, accounting, then went back to the Army in 1994 now being an accountant, after having been at school since 1991. I worked in the Army as an accountant until I retired in January 2001.

Having done business studies, I decided to be a businessman. It is very interesting how I got to be a businessman. It was at the time when I was working for the Army that I met a certain guy called Charles Chiponda. He was running his business in town but he was running short of money here and there and would say I am failing to order things and things like that, and I would assist him here and there in thinking through how he could save his business. While we were doing that, there came the time when all war veterans were given $50 000. I said I am a businessman by profession, this is the time I must be a businessman for sure and this is the money I must use. So I took that $50 000 and invested it at Central Bottle Store which was owned by Mr. Chiponda who used to say I have no money. I put the whole of $48 000 that I got. That is how I became a businessman.

As a businessman in Bulawayo, I had that first shop which Mr. Choponda left with me. I borrowed the money from SEDCO and paid him. I started running the shop and then opened a supermarket on the corner of 1st Avenue and Fort Street called  Central Supermarket. I went on and opened another liquor outlet on 15th Avenue and Main Street. During that time, I became a member of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC). I became the Chairman of the ZNCC in 2009. Just to conclude about myself, I became a member of the Rotary Club of Belmont and became the President of the Rotary Club of Belmont in 2014/15. I was a Board member of Mpilo Hospital for about 6 years, although it was toothless. We were just endorsing decisions by the medical council.

I joined politics as I said early 1970s and went to the struggle. During the struggle I was more of a cadre than a politician. After retirement from the Army, I came back and joined Zanu PF. It was for a short period. I joined Zanu PF in 2007 and in 2008/09 we decided to re-establish ZAPU. I was one of the people who spoke about the idea. Dabengwa had already left Zanu PF to Mavambo/Kusile. We remained behind. I remember most of us, people like Tshawe, Andrew Ndlovu and Mrs Nhliziyo and Mrs Mhodi, we decided Dabengwa should not have left us. He should have made sure that everybody moves out of Zanu PF because there were a lot of things that I will talk about later. Then we agreed. I was one of the people who pioneered the pull out. We had agreed that as we were going to the Provincial Coordinating Committee we were going to raise that matter and we did raise it and many people agreed with us. We agreed that a group was going to go and see Cde Msika who was then Vice President of Zimbabwe.  The group went and talked to Msika. I was not part of the group. They spoke to Msika and came and reported that Msika said if you have decided to re-establish ZAPU you must call for a Convention and thereafter call for a Special Congress.  All that was done and Dabengwa was requested to lead the organisation up to the time of his death, although he was going to step  down this coming August as per 2 term limits. I then remained handling his position until August 2020.  

Q2:  You participated in the liberation struggle. What were the core issues that led you to join those who took up arms against the colonial regime and do you consider these issues to have been addressed?

There were so many as I was explaining. The rulers of the country at that time, Ian Smith and his group showed that they did not recognise an African as a human being. Although you could be allowed to wonder around the Eastern Suburbs you could be arrested any time in the evening unless you could prove that you were employed in the suburb by Mr. So and So. Do not forget that there were many people who held various low paying jobs but who were better than white men. Whilst white people were given cars, blacks were not even if they had the same positions. If you were to compare the salary of a black person with that of a white person you could kill yourself. So I decided to leave for the liberation struggle. This was the main issue although there are other issues like what was done to me personally by white people.

As to whether the issues have been addressed I can say partly. The issue of racialism has been addressed. The only issue is the gap between the rich and poor among black poor. New problems have arisen. There is now a lot of tribalism, corruption, regionalism and this and that. Today people come all the way from Mutoko to and work in Bulawayo while locals who are qualified are jobless. How can a sweeper come all the way from Mashonaland East to come and sweep in Bulawayo when the locals have no jobs? How can a sweeper from Bulawayo go and work in Mutare when the locals there have no jobs? These things need to be fixed.

Q3:  What were the influences of the liberation struggle on your personal and professional life, including as a businessman and political leader?

There was much that I learnt from the liberation struggle. First, that you must be brave in whatever you are doing. Secondly, that you must always understand your friends and build strong group work and teamwork. Going through Libya and the Soviet Union I learnt that education was very important. I took the lessons and went into class where at 50 years old I was learning with 18 year olds and 25 year olds. I did not mind. Then I achieved that. I would ask young people who had done A Level Maths to assist me with statistics. The discipline I learnt in the struggle made me to use the $50 000 we got as war veterans to open my businesses, something at the time my wife could not stomach as other women were buying sofas, dining tables and other things with that money.  We postponed enjoyment so as to invest, and it paid.

Q4:  What would you consider to have been the greatest successes of the liberation struggle? Any regrets or failures?

There were many successes. The main one is that we managed to get majority rule which was a key objective of the liberation struggle. Indigenous people became part of government although they immediately did exactly what white people had done to black people. Oppression and repression became the order of the day. People were denied freedoms of association, expression, demonstration, and other rights,  and elections were allegedly rigged in favour of those in power. People have become poor and many have no jobs. Government must change this and focus on creating jobs by smoothening international relations, eradicating corruption and attracting investments.

Q5:  As ZAPU President you sit where Dr. Joshua Nkomo sat before and after 1980. He was a larger than life figure whose influence spanned decades. What would you consider to have been his greatest contributions for the country and for the continent before and after 1980?

Joshua Nkomo is known all over the world and there is no way any other ZAPU leader would compare with him. He led the revolution and conscientised Zimbabweans all over the country to join the liberation struggle. He was imprisoned and survived assassination attempts on his life. We believe Nkomo was created by God for the job. He was humble and always willing to serve under others. He is a man who taught us and led us. We believed he achieved his goals of having Zimbabwe liberated. Robert Mugabe feared Nkomo and as a result persecuted him forgetting that he joined the liberation struggle because of Nkomo. We are therefore saying people should respect this man. No one will ever compare with him. I have heard some people saying Nkomo made mistakes, he should have done this or that, that is nonsense. Yes, there were mistakes here and there but not what people say that he should have fought there and there. The goal of liberating people had been achieved, it was now left to those in power to protect the legacy of the liberation struggle instead of persecuting fellow blacks. We salute Joshua Nkomo as a leader and respect what he did.

Q6:  In the light of Mgagao massacres, Gukurahundi genocide and other injustices that have been perpetrated by Zanu against the people, is there anything that you think ZAPU could have done differently to (a) prevent Zanu from taking over power in 1980, and (b) prevent the Gukurahundi atrocities?

Unfortunately I was not there at Mgagao. What led to the fight at Mgagao was that there was no trust between the forces to work together. I think it could have been avoided by not bringing the forces together. ZAPU was not against Zanu, so there was no plan as such on stopping them from taking over power through war. Mugabe though did not trust ZIPRA and ZAPU, he thought they were going to fight, so he made this Gukurahundi.

The only thing that could have been done to prevent Gukurahundi was that the Lancaster House Conference should not have been done. We should not have joined the Lancaster House Conference. Remember it was during the Cold War, so the British wanted someone on their side so that they could fight the Soviet Union and Communism in Africa. So they sided with Robert Mugabe. We could not do anything once the Conference had taken place. The Conference allowed the British to come in into the country and throughout Gukurahundi they sided with Mugabe. They wanted to silence communism by killing innocent ZAPU supporters. But the fact that ZIPRA and ZAPU leaders had trained in the Soviet Union did not mean that every child or woman was a communist.  Avoiding the Lancaster House Conference was the only way to avoid Gukurahundi. If we had fought until we won, Zanla fighting the whites on their side and us on our side, there was not going to be any Gukurahundi because we would have respected each other. The whites were already defeated, so we should have fought to the last man of the Rhodesian government.  

Q7:  The tragedy of Gukurahundi genocide is still with us and nothing has been done to address it. What is ZAPU's position on this issue?

The solution on Gukurahundi is to investigate who gave instructions and orders to kill people and take them to court. It would be difficult though given the fact that some of those who are alleged to have committed the crimes are still there and holding high positions. It would be difficult for those in power to investigate themselves and take themselves to court. Then there is the political side where we are saying government must admit and accept that people were killed. After a public acknowledgement, government should then apologise for the murders and atrocities that were committed by Gukurahundi in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces. Government must compensate the victims and such reparations should take place at regional, community, family and individual levels. Government must return all ZAPU/ZIPRA properties that were confiscated by the regime as part of the execution of the genocide in Matebeleland and Midlands. Government must return all ZAPU/ZIPRA archives that were confiscated by the regime at the height of the genocide in the 1980s.  Government must declare all persons who were caused to disappear through being killed or illegally executed by the murderous soldiers and other organs of the state as dead and issue civil documents to the families of the deceased. Government must release without delay the Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe Commissions. Once the above is done, we think healing can begin.

Q8: Why did ZAPU pull out of the Unity Accord? Any word for those who still remain in government in the name of ZAPU?

When you are part of a person and he decides to go into the mud and continues in the mud, there is a time when you begin to ask yourself how will people separate me from the dirty person. The only thing you can do is to separate yourself and show people that you are not like the person in the mud. That is the main thing that made us to pull out. We could not continue ignoring the governance issues. I remember me discussing with people like Tshawe and Andrew Ndlovu asking ourselves: did we fight for this? We said no. That is the time we agreed to go and revive ZAPU.  Principle was far more important than just winning elections. So whether ZAPU was going to win elections or not, we had to take a stand against bad governance. Secondly, slowly the history of ZAPU was being erased from the face of Zimbabwe. Even within Zanu PF talking about ZAPU was now taboo. Only a fool can allow his history to be erased from the books. Now people are talking about ZAPU and even putting on ZAPU T-shirts. I hope that those who remained will see the light someday. I can see people like our Commander Tshinga Dube are talking about the wrong things in Zanu. To those who still in Zanu, I want to say we are still waiting for you because you will never change Zanu.

Q9: What would you consider to be the key source of Zimbabwe's political and economic problems?

There are many causes. The first one is that those who are ruling do not see that the country has political and economic problems. We need political, economic, media and electoral reforms. For example, if you have one TV station that covers the ruling party 50 times during the news bulletin while ignoring opposition parties, that cannot be right. It must change. We need a truly independent electoral commission that will be fair and not allow Zanu to buy votes. We need security reforms. We do not want to politicise our security services and police, so they must not be an extension of a political party but must arrest whoever has done wrong instead of ignoring what Zanu is doing. We need judiciary reforms that will make the courts truly independent. As you can see the proposed Constitutional Amendment No.2 seeks to make the judiciary subservient to the President. That cannot be accepted. In regards economic reforms, we really need the international community and the investing public that we are doing the right thing. Unfortunately there many policy inconsistencies. Our currency changes every day. When the Minister of Finance came he said we will retain the multi-currency system, then 3 months down the line he said no, no, the multi-currency is out we are going to use our own currency. A few months down the line he changed again to an auction system. Really! No investor can invest with all those changes in one year. The black market is not the problem, the problem is shortage of foreign currency. If you go to South Africa or Botswana the black market currency exchange cannot change anything because banks have foreign currency.

Q10:  ZAPU has taken a position for disbanding the Zanu PF government and replacing it with a Transitional Authority. Please take us through why we need a Transitional Authority, what would be its mandate and how will it be run in order to change the lives of poor and oppressed Zimbabweans?

It is not about disbanding government but correcting what is wrong. The National Transitional Authority was not originally a ZAPU concept but we adopted it after realising that the international community was never going to change as the new government was continuing with old habits such as shooting demonstrators. There are a lot of dents in such a way that international reengagements cannot happen. The Transitional Authority composed of a cross-section of Zimbabweans is the way to go. Its mandate will be to conduct all the necessary reforms, including ensuring attracting investors and ensuring free and fair elections. Once that has been done, the Transitional Authority will run elections meeting international standards through a truly independent electoral commission. In the end the Transitional Authority will facilitate a smooth economic and political transition to a new order. As ZAPU we feel this is the best way of moving from an autocracy to a democracy. Zanu on its own will never be trusted. People, locally and internationally, always remember what Zanu is all about.

Q11:  Please take us through ZAPU's vision for the country?

As ZAPU we believe in proper devolution where provinces have to elect their own leaders not have the President  appointing people into provincial governments. Secondly, ZAPU wants to see political, security, electoral and economic reforms like I said earlier. Currently investors are flocking to Botswana because there is order. We believe in stability, and stability comes with fairness. The madness we see now where you wake up in the morning to go and sign a very big contract and you are blocked by the police who tell you today no one is allowed into town must go, you have to go back. If there is need to prevent people from getting into town, then that has to be communicated at least two days in advance so that people plan accordingly. These are small things that mean a lot to investors. With what I have said in the other questions above also form part of the ZAPU vision, a democratic and prosperous country based on the rule of law, respect for human rights, free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and professional security and police sector.

Thank you.

Thank you Mr. Mabuka for your time. We are indebted

Source - The Phutheho News
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