April 23 2006 at 08:59AM
By Peta Thornycroft
Harare - While looting and evictions of white farmers surged this
week, the Zimbabwe government has confirmed that it is going to let them
return to their land.
Didymus Mutasa, the lands minister, said on Friday: "I will go to that
area where there has been jambanja [violence] and investigate and see what
is going on."
At least two productive farmers who believed they were "safe" after
surviving six years of violent evictions were forced off their farms in
terror this week while another was also attacked.
All the farms were near the midlands town of Kwekwe.
Mutasa said the move to allow selected white farmers to go home was
"not a reversal of the land reform programme.
"We will have thorough interviews of all people to be allocated AT2
[large-scale] farms, to be sure they know how to use the land.
"At present, in terms of the 17th constitutional amendment last year,
all agricultural land is state land and anyone who wants to use it must do
so legally. Our ministry is processing applications from several white
"When white farmers go back to their land, I hope they will say they
were allowed to go home by President [Robert] Mugabe. He let this happen.
"And we hope these white farmers will refrain from doing agriculture
in a political way, they must just be farmers and resist from politics on
"If they want to be involved in politics then they must do it openly.
If the hand of reconciliation was accepted by all, then all our problems
would be solved."
The government says it will eventually issue 99-year leases, but the
paperwork still has to be completed.
One farmer, about 80km north of Harare, who got a letter shortly
before the Easter holidays confirming that he could continue farming, said:
"It is an extraordinary feeling after so many years of uncertainty and
violence. Things have really quietened."
Most of the 300 white farmers who have applied to be officially
allowed to remain on their land are still living in their homesteads, but
are allowed to use only a small portion of their land.
Some have been allowed to remain in their houses but are not allowed
to farm at all.
Some farmers who were forced off their land and are living in towns or
even in foreign countries are applying to be allowed to return. Some are
checking out whether there is any infrastructure left on their farms.
Destruction on Zimbabwe's commercial farms since early 2000 is
staggering. Only a fraction of the irrigation schemes in the main cropping
province, Mashonaland West, are operating.
Pipes, pumps, sprinklers and other equipment have been looted, and
mostly melted down and smuggled out as scrap metal to South Africa.
The top beef herds have largely been eaten, thousands of hectares of
mature coffee, fruit and nut trees have been burned and most of the export
flower farms are no more.
Tobacco is now too small to attract any serious buyers and stands at
less than a quarter of its production prior to land invasions. It used to
provide nearly 40 percent of foreign exchange earnings.
The approximately 6 000 title deeds in commercial farming areas were
owned by about 4 000 white farmers before Mugabe called on veterans from the
liberation war to spearhead often violent evictions of white farmers.
Two white farmers were killed in brutal circumstances within the first
few months of invasions and most then offered little or no resistance.
Mugabe was furious when he discovered that many white farmers were
secretly funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Farmers employed up to 300 000 workers, who with their spouses and
adult children were the largest voting block and were encouraged by their
employers to vote for the MDC.
Mugabe's fury at white farmers knew no bounds. He rewrote property
laws, changed the constitution and nationalised 90 percent of white-owned
War veterans began warning the ruling Zanu-PF last year that the land
invasions had gone "too far".
Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank governor, repeatedly warned there could
be no economic recovery while evictions of productive white farmers
Very quietly some government officials began to plan, along with some
commercial farmers, ways of reversing plunging agricultural output,
particularly export crops like tobacco.
John Worsley-Worswick, the spokesperson for Justice for Agriculture,
pressing for compensation for dispossessed farmers and their workers said:
"Farmers are still being kicked off. Where will they get money to get going
again? The banks aren't going to take any risk."
This article was originally published on page 2 of Sunday Independent
on April 23, 2006
Mon 24 April 2006
HARARE - Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders say the
government plans to arrest them on trumped up charges to stop them from
standing for re-election at the union's congress next month.
The government perceives ZCTU leaders as staunch allies of the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), itself sired by the
labour union six years ago.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told ZimOnline that the government
planned to use the findings of an investigator it appointed to probe the
labour movement to "cook up charges" that would be used to either arrest or
suspend his executive and pave way for new pro-government officials to take
control of the union at the 19 May congress.
He said: "We have authoritative information that the government
doesn't want us to run for office again at the forthcoming congress. To
achieve this, they will suspend us or even arrest us on fake charges," said
Matombo said the planned move to remove them from the ZCTU would be a
pre-emptive strike by the government meant to prevent the union leaders from
rallying workers to back mass anti-government protests MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai has called for this winter.
While Labour Minister Nicholas Goche accused Matombo and his executive
of using the ZCTU to launch political careers the same way Tsvangirai - who
was union secretary general before forming the MDC in 1999 - he denied the
government was plotting to arrest or suspend the labour leaders on false
Goche said state investigator Tendai Chatsauka was not under
instruction to target anyone, adding that ZCTU officials need not be jittery
if they have not broken the law.
He said: "We have instituted investigations at the ZCTU. Anyone found
guilty of any underhand dealings will be subjected to the law. We have no
targets. It's an open-ended investigation. No one should be jittery if they
have not done anything wrong."
Although ZCTU leaders are appointed by the unions' congress, the
Labour Act empowers the Minister of Labour to institute investigations into
the affairs of the union and to take whatever action necessary, including
suspending the executive.
The state in January this year appointed Chatsauka to investigate
alleged financial irregularities at the ZCTU's Chester House head office in
Harare. But Chatsauka was unable to unearth evidence of wrong doing by
Matombo's executive and was three weeks ago ordered to re-investigate the
Matombo said: "After failing to come up with any irregularities on our
part, the investigator has now been given a mandate to at least find
something that could be used to nail us."
The government - which has sponsored the formation of the Zimbabwe
Federation of Trade Unions in a bid to neutralise ZCTU influence among
workers - accuses Matombo and his executive of working with the MDC to oust
it from power.
The ZCTU, some of whose senior leaders also hold positions in the MDC,
is among other several civic and human rights groups and non-governmental
organisations as well as churches that have backed Tsvangirai's calls for
Tsvangirai, who has in the past month toured major cities and towns
mobilising supporters, says the protests are meant to force Mugabe to pave
way for a transitional government that will be tasked to lead the writing of
a new constitution and to organise fresh elections under international
Mugabe, who has in the past deployed soldiers to stop opposition
street protests, has vowed to ruthlessly crush the planned protests, warning
Tsvangirai he was playing "with fire" by attempting to instigate
Ukraine-style mass revolt in Zimbabwe. But political analysts say despite
Mugabe's sabre rattling, Tsvangirai's protest calls resonated with the
majority, who are battling to eke out a living as Zimbabwe's economy sinks
deeper into the mire.
With strong leadership and proper planning the mass demonstrations,
whose date Tsvangirai has not yet announced, could be successful, according
to analysts. - ZimOnline
Mon 24 April 2006
PLUMTREE - Fifty-four year old Nomathemba Dube trudges cautiously
towards an undesignated crossing point along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
With a black rucksack strapped to her back, the elderly woman
constantly checks behind her shoulders in case Botswana immigration officers
who normally patrol the area to clamp down on illegal border jumpers pounce.
With the agility of a teenager, Dube scales the two-metre border fence
and heads towards Dagwi village in rural Botswana to sell some earthenware
and dried vegetables.
"I sell each clay pot for ten pula (about US$1.60). I also have some
dried traditional vegetables in this bag that go for a similar price. People
here like traditional stuff and they are very friendly," says Dube with a
grin on her face.
Dube, of Mangubo village in Zimbabwe's poverty-stricken Matabeleland
South province, is among thousands of villagers who have been driven by
hunger to make daring trips across the border into Botswana to sell clay
pots and dried vegetables, which for some reason appear plentiful in one of
Zimbabwe's most arid regions.
Faced with failed crops and lack of income, Dube who is a widow, says
she has had to play cat-and-mouse with Botswana's police officers who are
notorious for their brutal treatment of Zimbabweans, to fend for her six
"I no longer have any food provisions remaining at my homestead. The
situation is so bad I accept things like maize-meal and tinned fish in
exchange for these clay pots and dried vegetables.
"I have a tiny field at home but the harvest will not be enough, so I
really have to be in this business for quiet some time," says Dube carefully
checking that her merchandise has not been damaged.
And the scene not far from where we stood with Dube was probably all
the confirmation one could need that the widow will not be alone "in this
There, a group of three young men could be seen assisting each other
scale the fence on the portion where it is not electrified.
Unlike Dube, the men said their "illegal mission" to Botswana was not
to sell merchandise but their labour doing menial jobs at farms and in
"What else can we do? We are starving here," said Mandla, who appeared
the older of the three men. They all refused to give their full names,
apparently disbelieving our promises that we would not tell on them to the
Community leaders in Mangubo say while harvests appeared to have
improved this year due to the good rains, a lot of villagers are still
facing hunger after they failed to harvest enough as a result of lack of
draught power and inputs.
More of their youths and widows will have to keep jumping the border
into Botswana in search of survival, headman Ndabeni Maseko said.
He said: "The situation has definitely improved from what we
experienced last year, but there are still some people who are going for
days without food.
"As a result, some of them cross the border to villages like Nkange
and Dagwi to sell clay pots or look for menial jobs that will give them
"While it is illegal, there is nothing they can do because they have
to survive. The situation is really bad here."
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe food and economic crisis which
critics blame on repression and wrong policies by President Robert Mugabe
such as his seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless
blacks six years ago.
The farm disturbances slashed food production by about 60 percent
leaving Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, dependent on food handouts
from international donors.
With inflation pegged at 913.6 percent and still rising, life has
become a real grind for these villagers forcing most of them to trek into
Botswana for survival.
But a trip into Botswana is no stroll in the park as the Gaborone
authorities crack down on illegal Zimbabwean immigrants whom they accuse of
fanning crime in that country.
The exodus of hungry Zimbabweans into Botswana has strained relations
between the two neighbours with Harare accusing Gaborone of targeting its
citizens visiting that country for ill-treatment.
Zimbabwe often cites an electric fence Botswana has erected between
the two countries which it says is a Gaza-style barrier that could see
hundreds of Zimbabweans trying to jump the frontier being electrocuted.
Harare, which publicly insists relations with Botswana are cordial,
also says the electric fence mirrors Gaborone's xenophobic treatment of
Botswana, almost alone among Zimbabwe's southern African neighbours to
have voiced concern over Mugabe's controversial rule, denies ill-treating
immigrants from its northern neighbour and says the electric fence is meant
to block free movement of wild animals and livestock across the frontier in
order to curb the spread of animal diseases.
But whatever the true purpose of the deadly electric fence, Dube and
hundreds of other villagers along the frontier here say it will not halt
them from doing what they have to do to survive and that is, regularly and
illegally skipping the border to trade their handmade wares or labour in
return for food. - ZimOnline
Mon 24 April 2006
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's 47th trade fair opens in the second largest city
of Bulawayo tomorrow with only a dozen foreign companies exhibiting and none
of them from the major American and European Union economies.
A total of 369 local companies, a huge number of them small-scale
businesses operated by indigenous black entrepreneurs, are expected to
showcase their wares at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
Once one of the premier events on southern Africa's commercial
calendar, the ZITF has lost its glamour after six years of an acute economic
crisis that set in after the International Monetary Fund cut financial
assistance to Harare in 1999 and picked up pace after President Robert
Mugabe began seizing white farms the following year.
The farm seizures destabilised the mainstay agriculture sector,
causing an estimated 60 percent drop in food production to leave Zimbabwe
dependent on food handouts from international donors.
In an advertent but dramatic illustration of how far the ZITF has
fallen from the pedestal show, chairman Nhlanhla Masuku said the highlight
of this year's edition would be the return of livestock for exhibition at
He said: "This year we welcome back the agricultural show that has not
been featured in the previous editions of the ZITF and we expect to have
livestock that includes cattle and sheep among other livestock that would be
Livestock have not been exhibited in recent editions because of
disruptions in the farming sector caused by land invasions by militant
supporters of Mugabe who also slaughtered most of the animals left on farms
by fleeing whites.
Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete will be the guest of honour at the
ZITF and is scheduled to officially open the fair on Friday afternoon.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst ever economic crisis, marked by
the highest inflation rate in the world of 913.6 percent and still edging
higher, unemployment above 80 percent and shortages of foreign currency and
nearly every basic survival commodity. - ZimOnline
April 23 2006 at 04:15PM
Harare - Young Zimbabweans are not "patriots," Vice- President Joseph
Msika said Sunday.
In an interview in the state-run Sunday Mail, Msika said one of the
big challenges that the Zimbabwean government was facing was that young
people didn't love their country.
"Our people are not patriots," lamented Msika, who was recently in
hospital in South Africa for an undisclosed ailment.
He said that President Robert Mugabe's government had "tried very
much" to satisfy the aspirations of the young, "but we have not achieved the
objective to the level we want."
Shaken by recent threats of mass action from the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, the Zimbabwean authorities are
battling to contain the country's burgeoning economic crisis that is
contributing to growing dissatisfaction here.
Inflation has reached a record 913,6 percent, while unemployment
levels are believed to be around 70 percent.
Many young Zimbabweans dream of travelling abroad to join the
estimated three million or so locals now working and living in the diaspora.
The 82-year-old Msika, who has denied reports he is keen to retire,
said youths should "stop being crybabies."
"It's not for the young generation to cry foul. It's for them to come
together to find ways and means of doing better," he said.
In a separate front-page report, the Sunday Mail alleged that the
MDC's threatened mass action might be postponed to see whether an ambitious
economic turnaround programme launched earlier this week by the government
would succeed. - Sapa-dpa
By Dan Griffiths
BBC News, Beijing
President Hu Jintao's visit to Africa comes at a time of growing
Chinese interest in the continent.
Beijing is desperate for oil and natural resources to fuel its booming
economy. And some African nations have plenty of both.
China is also keen to find new markets for its booming factories which
are churning out everything from shoes and cars to textiles and TV sets.
During the Cold War, Chairman Mao established links with many
developing countries in Africa.
But now the old ties of communism are being replaced by capitalism.
The most recent Chinese foray into Africa came earlier this month,
when China National Offshore Oil Corporation completed a deal to buy a 45%
stake in a Nigerian oil block for more than $2bn.
The oil field will be able to pump 225,000 barrels of oil per day when
it comes on-stream in 2008.
It is the latest in a series of energy and minerals deals that China
has signed with African countries, including Sudan, Chad, Angola, and
China's foreign minister recently concluded a tour of Africa
Trade between China and Africa is also increasing rapidly. Official
statistics suggest that business ties are now worth more than $30bn and
But it's not just trade and oil that are driving this relationship.
China also has construction projects in countries as far apart as
Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia. Until recently Beijing also had peacekeepers
China also wants good relations with African countries in order to get
their diplomatic backing in Beijing's ongoing wrangle with Taiwan.
It considers Taiwan part of China and has threatened to use force if
the island declares formal independence.
But China's interest in Africa has also sparked anger in the US and
There are concerns about Beijing's willingness to do business with
countries whose governments have been the subject of sustained international
criticism like Sudan and Zimbabwe.
China insists it is merely trading with these nations and adhering to
its policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.
But it is not that simple - Beijing has used its veto at the United
Nations to block pressure on Sudan's leaders to halt the ongoing violence in
And in the past it has sold arms to Zimbabwe.
There are also concerns in Washington that China's growing clout will
undermine American interests.
The US is also looking for energy on the continent, which could lead
to a growing competition for influence in Africa.
So China's presence is not without controversy. But Beijing's need for
energy and minerals, combined with its desire to increase trade, means that
the country's leaders will be making far more visits to Africa in the
April 23, 2006
By ANDnetwork .com
Conmem and shady dealers operating from flea markets and undesignated
points in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe are selling fake capsules filled with
mealie-meal to people living with HIV and AIDS after fooling the patients
that they are anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
Sunday News can reveal that AIDS patients who have fallen victim to
the tricksters are now in danger because the disruption or discontinuation
of ARV therapy is often life-threatening.
The problem is being aggravated by some medical doctors, nurses and
pharmacists who work in public health institutions who are allegedly
stealing incomplete courses of ARV drugs and selling them to desperate
The Matabeleland AIDS Council (MAC) this week urged the public not to
buy ARVs from flea markets and unlicensed dealers as they risked buying fake
or substandard drugs.
Speaking in an interview with the Sunday News on Friday, the MAC's
voluntary counselling, testing, support and care manager, Mr Midian Dube,
said many people living with HIV and AIDS have fallen prey to unscrupulous
traders who sell fake ARV drugs in the city.
"There are people who are selling these drugs at flea markets and
around the city. This endangers the lives of the people who use these drugs
unknowingly. The background to this problem is that when ARVs were
introduced in Zimbabwe, they arrived in the private sector and most people
did not have access to them," he said.
Mr Dube said he first learnt of the scandal when he went to Mpilo
Central Hospital where he interacted with many people who told him where
they had been buying their tablets.
"During my stay at Mpilo Central Hospital, I interacted with a lot of
people who are living with HIV and AIDS who then informed me that there are
some people selling ARVs and herbs that are said to cure the disease.
"Many patients said these people get them (ARVs) from South Africa and
the UK, but unfortunately these traders have become financially driven to an
extent that they fill the capsules with mealie-meal and sell them to
unsuspecting victims," he said.
A medical doctor who spoke to the Sunday News on condition of
anonymity for professional reasons said a person should start taking ARVs
prescribed by a qualified doctor only after testing HIV-positive and when
the CD4 count is at 200 or below.
The ARVs are administered in triple-therapy comprising Stavudine,
Lamivudine and Nevirapine - commonly abbreviated to Stalanev. The other
recommended drugs are Triviri and Triomune.
A person should start taking the drugs at stage four of classification
and when their CD4 count is at 200 and below. It costs between US$20 and
US$25 for a month's treatment, an amount which translates to between Z$500
000 and Z$625 000.
Mr Dube said some unethical doctors were even selling incomplete
courses to unsuspecting patients. But he advised the public not to buy ARVs
from unauthorised sources as chances were very high that they were fake.
"These tablets are in three combinations and we have gathered that
some private doctors sell one set of drugs. We advise the community to
purchase the drugs from Opportunistic Infection Clinics at hospitals and
pharmacies. MAC will be organising a meeting with stakeholders to discuss
the issue and to come up with the best strategy to curb this corruption," he
Mr Dube said the scandal has not yet been reported to the police
because MAC is still organising a meeting with stakeholders, including the
"We are still in the process of organising the way forward. We will
organise a meeting with various stakeholders, who include the police and
pharmacies, to come up with strategies to stop this practice. We will also
visit the community offering voluntary testing and counselling and create
more awareness about this disease and ARVs," he said.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Edwin Muguti, said
he was not aware of the fake drugs but acknowledged that bringing the
corrupt dealers to book would be a big struggle.
"We are not aware of that yet. This is corruption and it's very sad
that people fall victim to these people. These people are taking advantage
of society and it will be a big challenge to stop this corruption," he said.
Dr Muguti said the public should avoid purchasing drugs from
unauthorised sources and urged the public sector to improve the supply of
"These are prescription drugs, and its dangerous to just buy them from
anywhere. There is an issue of resistance and poisoning, these people don't
know how these drugs work, these drugs are arranged, designed and
prescribed. The public health sector needs to improve the availability of
ARVs," said Dr Muguti.
Source : Sunday News
What a wonderful day: bathed in gentle, warm sunshine, our 4 maple trees
bursting into leaf. And such thrilling drumming by Bie Tapa and Mike
Bennett with the dancing led with Spring exuberance by Vigil Co-ordinators
Dumi Tutani and Evelyn Tafirenyika.
Joining in was the Rev Dr Martine Stemerick whose filmed reports about what
is happening in Zimbabwe provide such powerful ammunition for our cause.
(She is to speak at the Zimbabwe Forum on Monday, see below.) Also with us
was Yvonne Mahlunge, a lawyer and MDC activist who works tirelessly for
Zimbabwean asylum seekers.
It was very moving to have such a rich mixture of people joining hands in a
wide circle outside the trees to sing the national anthem. This always
attracts attention from passers-by. By then we have already taken down our
banners and all we are left with is the Zimbabwean flag.
Welcome back to Wiz who had just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe and
Mozambique to visit her sister, Cathy Buckle (see:
http://africantears.netfirms.com). She brought back many interesting
stories about life in Zimbabwe and a thick wad of Zimbabwean bank notes
which we displayed as only buying half a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe.
News from Angie and Alex Guinness: a baby sister for Callum was born this
week. They did such useful work for us updating our "Mugabe wanted for
murder" poster, listing the victims of the Zanu-PF regime. We look forward
to meeting Elin soon to join other Vigil babies including Simba, son of
Lotricia and Japan who came today, and the Vigil child Tinotenda Muzuwa.
The Vigil was pleased that three young men who have just graduated from
Peterhouse sought us out and knew that there are people here who are trying
to help Zimbabwe.
FOR THE RECORD: 51 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY: Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28
John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go
down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub).
· Monday, 24th April, 7.30 pm - Rev Martine Stemerick will give a
video presentation about what is happening to the poor in Zimbabwe including
interviews with Pius Ncube.
· Monday, 1st May - bank holiday. No forum.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 16 April
Permit 'loopholes' allows employers to pay foreign workers a slave wage
By Kristy Siegfried
Picking season is about to begin in the Tshipise area of Limpopo, 50km south
of the Zimbabwean border. Most of the cell-like rooms for workers on this
orange farm are still empty; but over the next couple of weeks they will
fill up. Four early arrivals braved crocodiles to cross the Limpopo River
two days ago, carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs and
photocopies of their Zimbabwean IDs.They claim to be over 18 but have the
wide-eyed look of schoolboys just embarked on their first great adventure.
The other side of the border offers no hope of work, but plentiful advice on
how to duck razor wire, avoid crocodiles (apparently they don't like human
urine) and dodge border guards. At special workshops, prospective border
jumpers are even instructed on which farms to head for once they've crossed.
The boys have been told to expect around R600 a month for picking oranges,
but without legal documents they are in no position to negotiate. Asked if
they would accept less, they shrug and nod.
Shirami Shirinda of the Nkuzi Development Association, an NGO that champions
the rights of farm-dwellers, estimates that 90 percent of farm workers in
this region are Zimbabwean. There is a long history of movement back and
forth across the border, Shirinda says, but the major influx began a few
years ago when Zimbabweans started fleeing their country's economic decline.
The introduction of a minimum wage for farm workers three years ago appears
to have increased the demand among some South African farmers for cheap,
imported labour. The minimum wage, which now stands at R885 per month or
R4,54 an hour, was supposed to help protect farm workers from exploitation,
but in some cases the result has been the loss of jobs by South Africans and
the exploitation of their Zimbabwean replacements. Corrupt practices within
the departments of home affairs and labour, such as the issuing of illegal
work permits, have served to facilitate farmers' mistreatment of their
Joseph (not his real name) left his home near Harare last December to find
work in South Africa. His father had died four years earlier and his mother
two years ago, leaving the 19-year-old responsible for his three younger
siblings. Joseph entered the country using an emergency travel document
issued in Zimbabwe. His new employer met him at the Beitbridge border
crossing and drove him back to his new home - a drafty, unfurnished shack
with no electricity or toilets and an outside tap. The farmer had already
obtained a work permit for Joseph, despite the fact he does not own a
passport and had never visited a home affairs office. The permit is valid
for one year and looks genuine but it has not prevented Joseph's employer
from paying him way below the minimum wage. He and the two other young
Zimbabweans who share his patch of concrete floor earn R10 a day. With no
other options, they are forced to buy food from their employer at inflated
prices. After deductions for food, Joseph is left with about R200 a month,
less if the farmer accuses him of stealing milk from his cattle and docks
R100 from his pay, as he did last month.
Joseph had hoped to return home this month with enough money to pay his
siblings' school fees and continue his own studies. But in four months he
has been able to save just R270 and says that in any case, he is unable to
leave because his employer has confiscated his Zimbabwean ID. Nor is looking
for a better deal at another farm an option, as the farmer keeps all his
employees' work permits safely in his possession. A man who at first
presents himself as Joseph's foreman, but later admits he is in fact his
employer, says he belongs to an association that leases plots of land from
the government. Dressed in the same dusty work clothes and broken shoes as
his workers and claiming to live in the same shed-like housing, he says he
cannot afford to pay his workers a minimum wage because costs such as
fertiliser and electricity have risen in recent years and he receives no
government subsidies. Other Zimbabwean workers on the farm say they also
have permits, even those who admit they jumped the border. The farmer says
his association simply writes a request to home affairs when they need work
permits. Explaining why he hires only Zimbabweans he says: "South Africans
don't want to work because they get child support grants and disability
grants. Before 1994 they would work for R150 a month. Now they won't even
work for R1 000."
Mark Wegerif, the manager of policy and research at Nkuzi, has little
sympathy for such arguments. "Farmers say South Africans aren't willing to
work, but they're just not willing to work for R300 a month," he counters.
"There are tens of thousands of South Africans in that area who would be
willing to work for a fair package." Wegerif says that the government has
made various agreements over the years with certain groups of farmers in the
area, allowing them to employ illegal Zimbabwean immigrants. Through what he
describes as "corruption that's condoned at a high level", workers are
issued work permits but often lack the same labour rights and minimum wages
that are legally guaranteed to their South African counterparts. "We
shouldn't be taking advantage of people's desperation," Wegerif says.
"You've got people who work full-time and go to bed hungry, and they have no
opportunity for a better future." Ngosana Sibuyi, a home affairs
spokesperson, denies any knowledge of the agreements Wegerif refers to and
insists that work permits are not issued directly to employers and cannot be
issued without a passport. He speculates that the permits we saw were either
forged or issued by corrupt officials.
Mokgadi Pela, a spokesperson for the department of labour, sheds more light
on the possible origins of the work permits. Last March, the ministries of
labour in South Africa and Zimbabwe signed a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) aimed at regularising the status of Zimbabwean workers in South
Africa. Key to the agreement was the building of a recruitment centre at the
Beitbridge border that is due to open next month. Funded by the British
government's department for international development, the Geneva-based
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will run the centre in
collaboration with the South African and Zimbabwean governments. One of the
functions of the centre will be to issue corporate work permits to
Zimbabweans in cases where employers cannot find South Africans to fill
jobs. But, admits Pela, many farmers in the area have already managed to
obtain the corporate work permits. "There are many loopholes that are being
exploited in that MOU," he says. "Those corporate work permits, their status
is questionable to say the least."
Several farmers we spoke to in the Tshipise area said they obtained work
permits for their Zimbabwean workers through self-employed "labour
consultants". Pela characterises these consultants as "menaces" who are
creating chaos while making a roaring business. "Most of these workers are
hired by these labour consultants," Pela says. "The opening of the centre
tells of our intention to bring order to that situation." But Wegerif
wonders how the centre will ensure that Zimbabwean workers receive the
minimum salaries the permits should entitle them to. "My concern would be
that you're just facilitating the provision of cheap labour to farmers," he
says. With a local unemployment rate of more than 50 percent, perhaps the
biggest losers in the large-scale employment of Zimbabweans on Limpopo farms
are jobless South Africans. "They [the government] are assisting employers
to hire Zimbabweans, but they're not assisting unemployed South Africans,"
says Shirinda. "It's not what people were fighting for during the struggle.
I don't see freedom if people are still exploited or are staying without
April 23 2006 at 09:11AM
"There's nothing more ex- than an ex-MP," the liberal Helen Suzman
used to say after she retired from parliament many years ago. Except perhaps
an ex-African president, one might add.
Former African presidents were becoming extinct. But since removing
governments by ballot rather than bullet has become more fashionable, they
are becoming more and more extant.
Charles Stith, the former United States ambassador to Tanzania, who
heads the African Presidential Archives and Research Centre at Boston
University, has gathered them together in a forum that annually debates big
issues perplexing Africa.
This week 10 of them met at the University of the Witwatersrand to
discuss how to improve Africa's negative image in the United States media
and how to tap the skills and capital of the African diaspora to help
develop the continent.
Afterwards the 10 ex-presidents held a press conference and then
answered questions from Wits students.
The students mostly gave them big cheers when they were introduced in
the Great Hall - especially the feisty Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and Kenneth
Kaunda, the liberation hero of Zambia, who waved his trademark snowy-white
handkerchief to acknowledge their acclaim.
But the applause often turned to bemusement and sometimes even
astonishment when the ex-presidents answered questions. Nicéphore Soglo of
Benin, drew gasps when he was asked what Africa should do about the endemic
problem of corruption. He opined that corruption was not just a moral issue
but a business decision and explained how the governments of western powers
budgeted specific percentages for corruption in international contracts.
"Corruption is the backbone of international trade," Soglo said. He
probably intended to sound ironic but English is not his first language, so
he ended up sounding rather cynical and blasé.
Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania made explicit Soglo's implicit point -
that Africans should not be blamed entirely for corruption, as it was
"two-way traffic" involving both a giver and a receiver.
At this point an irreverent student doodled a caricature of Mwinyi in
her notebook and paraphrased him in a bubble to say; "corruption is like gay
sex; there is a giver and a receiver".
The first question about corruption had been directed, significantly,
to Kenya's Daniel arap Moi. With a completely straight face, he catalogued
the many measures his country was allegedly taking to tackle it. Then one
student asked, to loud applause, whether it was really in Africa's interests
for even democratically elected presidents to stay in office for a long
Ketumile Masire, who was Botswana president for 19 years, said leaders
should stay in office as long as their people thought they were performing
well. "We have somehow got carried away with new arrivals," he said,
dismissing growing trend towards two-term limits as a fashion apeing
Even the Americans had only introduced a two-term limit for presidents
after one of their presidents (Franklin Roosevelt) "overstayed his
No one complained about Britain's Margaret Thatcher or France's
Jacques Chirac staying in office for more than two terms, Masire said. No
one - "except Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe" - objected to Britain's
Prime Minister Tony Blair serving more than two terms.
Kaunda boldly declared: "I was 27 years in office, without any
apologies to anybody." He explained that he had harboured and supported all
the liberation movements in Southern Africa. If he had not been president
through all this time, liberation might not have happened.
The combative Rawlings, who spent a total of 20 years in state house,
tackled Kaunda, saying he would like to debate with him about which was
worse, fighting colonial powers - or fighting "neo-colonial traitors" among
your own people, as he had.
The likes of Kaunda had not had to use the methods he was compelled
to, when he seized power in a 1979 coup and executed three generals "to save
the officers' corps and the country".
The people and the students were calling for blood and the generals
had to be "sacrificed" to stop the problem spilling out from the barracks
into the streets, he said. He had reluctantly returned to office in 1981
"because I had come to epitomise their [the people's] aspirations", he said.
"If I hadn't, some corporal would have taken over," said Rawlings, who
still calls himself "flight lieutenant", the rank he held when he first
seized power. "I mean no disrespect to corporals, but we would have been
back where we started."
Rawlings said it didn't matter how long a leader stayed in office -
"so long as he has vision and discipline".
Mwinyi appeared to differ, noting his country had had four presidents
since independence. Both he and his successor, Benjamin Mkapa, served the
regulation two terms each. But most of these remarks suggested that the aim
of the forum was not so much to tap the collective wisdom of the
ex-presidents as to keep them out of mischief - such as trying to get back
Stroking their considerable egos by consulting them on important
matters, Stith's aim seems to be to raise the status of ex-presidents to
elder statesman, thereby encouraging a few more current presidents to join
Stith concluded the session by heaping praise on the "extraordinary"
leaders and suggesting that if one but followed their examples "all of our
hopes and aspirations for the people of this continent will be realised".
Perhaps he meant that other African leaders should follow their
example of leaving office at last.
This article was originally published on page 3 of Sunday Independent
on April 23, 2006
Memory overload has resulted in a change to our petition address. It is now
The Petition will be delivered to the British Minister of State on the 30th
of June 2006. Almost 2000 signatures will be on it. PLEASE join petition if
you haven't already.
In May I will be lobbying for support in accordance with the Action Plan.
I ask all supporters to visit our new BLOG PAGE
www.zim-pensions.blogspot.com to comment on the distress and suffering being
endured by many Zimbabwe pensioners and their families. Your comments will
provide material for my weekly Blog summary and analysis.
The Blog Page will be available to bloggers worldwide. If you want their
support, make your comments. Keep them brief, to the point, but significant
and effective to arouse the sympathetic support we need.
Please encourage all and sundry to visit this page. It is a forum, which
could become a court of public opinion, anyone can log in, comment, exchange
viewpoints, or offer support.
We are petitioning for payment at the historic rate of Z$2 to one pound
Stirling, as recorded in the British House of Lords debate in 2001.
The Petition Site will close on the 30th of June. The Blog Page will remain
as a website for comment, discussion and, hopefully, offers of pro bono
legal help. It will be our only means of communication and the only way to
continue the fight for our pensions entitlements. The torch has been lit by
one very old man; now, all of you must keep it burning.
Dear Family and Friends, I don't know why, but after a short stay outside
of Zimbabwe, and with things as tense as they are, you come back into the
country and expect something to have happened. Its hard to believe that
with inflation at 913% the country can carry on, the people can survive
and tolerate or that anything can be maintained at all. Amazingly though,
a fortnight has passed since my last letter and everything in Zimbabwe
seems to be the same as ever.
Coming back into the country by road and at night took me back in time 40
years. On the main highway I travelled, for mile after mile the roadside
vegetation has not been cut and golden grass, 6 foot high, waves and
sways, dipping into the road as you pass. On either side of the road and
in the valleys there are no lights from farms anymore and in the distance
- as far as you can see in any direction - there is only darkness, not
even an orange glow on the horizon from a big town or city. The sight of
the bending grass and the intense darkness took me back to journeys in
remote country areas during my childhood. Journeys sitting in the back of
the family station wagon, elbowing siblings and squabbling, looking out
into the darkness watching for eyes. 40 years on though, and the roadside
darkness is not from a sparsely populated countryside but from mile after
mile of empty or subsitence level farms. Farms once overflowing with
production, powered by generators when necessary, which ensured the lights
stayed on over vast fields of export flowers and vegetables and kept cold
rooms humming day and night. The farms now are just silent and dark.
The lack of urban lights in Zimbabwe these nights is from major and
widespread power cuts. On the night of my journey the electricity had
apparently been off in an area covering three main towns and over 100
kilometres for twelve hours. The long roadside grass is from municipal
negligence - there are no excuses for it - we have abundant manpower due
to massive unemployment and pay exhorbitant rates every month in all rural
and urban areas. The lack of road signs and reflective lenses to give some
light in the night are the result of people desperate for money removing
anything and everything they come across - even tin road signs and little
squares of shiny material buried in the tar.
The only thing about travelling at night that is not reminiscent of 4
ago is that now there are no eyes in the dark. As a child I remember
the road ahead and being filled with excitement, anticipation and even a
fear as the night time world came into view and raced passed in fleeting
glimpses. The eyes of wild animals used to be caught, just for a split
the car headlights - hares, antelope, civet and genet cats, mongoose and
creatures you couldn't identify but whose eyes glowed orange, even red as
passed. Now you see nothing, just nothing; the animals seem poached almost
of existence but still you watch, ever hopeful, mesmerised by the long grass
bending and swaying along the roasdsides. Zimbabwe is staggering back in
and still there seems nothing happening to halt the regression. It is,
very good to be home and, like looking for eyes in the night, I remain ever
hopeful. Until next week, love cathy. Copyright cathy buckle 22 April
My books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from: