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February 13, 2008 > World Friendship Day

World Friendship Day

Submitted By Karen L. McCready and Violet Gonda
Photos By Ivan Heling

Friendship Force of the San Francisco Bay Area (FFSFBA) prepares to celebrate its 24th anniversary on Feb. 17, with a guest speaker from one of South Africa's neighboring countries, Zimbabwe. Violet Gonda, a visiting journalist in Stanford's Knight Fellows program, will speak on the theme of "Zimbabwe: A Manmade Crisis." Like Kenya and other African countries, Zimbabwe has been in the news lately, but local and national issues push it to the back pages, where it gets scanty coverage.

During the current school year at Stanford University in the Knight Fellows program, Gonda's study focus is on "Development of Media in Emerging Democracies." Some of us may have impressions of Zimbabwe as a prime site for photographic and hunting safaris, the magnificent Victoria Falls (one of the seven wonders of the world), and also the home of the famous Shona stone sculptures featured in many California galleries. Gonda will reveal other facets of her country, expressing its current struggles. She says that the crisis in Zimbabwe is more subtle: you won't see dead bodies like in Sudan and, most recently, Kenya. Nevertheless, she added, "The citizens in Zimbabwe are equally tormented by the brutal and corrupt regime of President Robert Mugabe."

She said that the statistics in the Southern African country speak for themselves. "Officially, inflation in Zimbabwe is pegged at 24,000 percent, but independent experts say the figure is much higher. Zimbabwe has the fastest shrinking economy in the world and thousands of people are fleeing the country daily, mostly to neighboring South Africa due to the collapsing economy." She said it's also estimated that at least 4,000 people are dying every week from HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Unemployment is more than 80 percent while food shortages, water, and power cuts have become part of daily life in Zimbabwe.

As the featured speaker for World Friendship Day, journalist Gonda will talk on the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe and her unique position of reporting on the deteriorating situation in her country from exile. She will bring her beloved homeland to life for us and send us away with indelible impressions of a country we would like to know better. Where in the world is Zimbabwe? We are about to find out.

For more information, please call (510) 794-6844 or visit or

World Friendship Day
Sunday, Feb 17
1 - 3 p.m.
Olive Hyde Art Center Mission Room
123 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 794-6844 or

Cost: Free

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