By Tony Hawkins in Harare
Published: August 15 2007 19:39 | Last updated: August 15 2007 19:39
Zimbabwe will top the agenda at the two-day Southern African Development
Community summit in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, but observers are almost
unanimous in predicting little or no progress on the crisis.
When the Southern African leaders last met in Tanzania at the end of March,
they appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between the
Zimbabwe government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, while
also instructing SADC's executive Secretary, Mr Tomaz Salamao to prepare a
report recommending measures to revive Zimbabwe's collapsing economy.
Neither appears to have made much headway and earlier this week the South
African Foreign Minister, Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma distanced her
government from a South African report circulating amongst diplomats in
Lusaka that blames Britain for "strangling Zimbabwe's economy" and accuses
London of "persisting with its activities to isolate Zimbabwe."
The leaked report claims also that talks between President Robert Mugabe's
ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition MDC are close to agreement.
But in an interview with South African state radio Mrs Dlamini-Zuma said
President Mbeki was still working on his report to the summit, and some
analysts in Harare believe that the leaked report is more likely to have
been the work of the SADC Secretariat than the South African government.
In a move that has angered the Zimbabwe government, South Africa widened the
scope of mediation talks on Tuesday when its local government minister, Mr
Sydney Mufamadi agreed to meet representatives of a number of Zimbabwe civil
A member of the Zimbabwe delegation, Mr Jacob Mafume of the Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition said issues discussed at the four-hour meeting included
constitutional and electoral reform, the rule of law, media freedom and the
activities of the police. A Zimbabwe government official criticised the
meeting saying it had given credibility to unrepresentative and unelected
The opposition MDC says there has been no meaningful progress in the two
substantive sessions of talks between the two sides, while Mr Mugabe has
shrugged off the SADC mediation initiative, saying that Zimbabwe does not
need a new constitution. On Monday he reaffirmed the government's plans to
call "harmonised" presidential and parliamentary elections, under the
existing constitution, next March.
The constitution is currently being amended to increase the number of
representatives in both the lower and upper houses of parliament, in such a
way that will increase the number of MPs elected by rural constituencies
which are the government's stronghold.
Despite the mood of low expectations, there have been two major changes in
the situation since the SADC leaders last met nearly five months ago.
Zimbabwe's economic meltdown has accelerated dramatically forcing the
government to impose blanket price controls at the end of June that are
already beginning to break down while factory warehouses and supermarket
shelves become increasingly bare.
Secondly, Zimbabwe's immediate neighbours - but especially South Africa -
are becoming increasingly concerned at the growing flood of Zimbabwe
refugees across their borders. One informed estimate is that 100,000 people
a month (about one percent of the population) are emigrating, mostly
illegally, from the country each month. Most - perhaps 3,000 a day - are
going to South Africa, as a result of which there is growing pressure on
President Mbeki to find a solution to the seven-year-old Zimbabwe crisis.
Business Daily Africa, Kenya
Written by Gareth Evans
16-August-2007: Zimbabwe is not fertile ground for optimists. The
internal situation is catastrophic, with the country's economy in freefall
and its people suffering grievously.
Economists are putting current inflation rates at 9,000 per cent or
worse. Over 80 per cent of the population of some 12 million is living below
the poverty line, and 80 per cent is unemployed.
The internal opposition is fragmented.
The opposition MDC is trying to coordinate a common front but remains
split between two wings and both strategically and tactically less effective
as a result. The ZANU-PF is internally divided with a numerically strong
There are divisions in the security services, reflecting the stress
felt by families in every walk of life as a result of the economic meltdown,
but these have not been enough to give anyone confidence that anything
resembling a velvet revolution could succeed.
And civil society organisations continue to struggle to exercise any
influence at all on the course of events. External pressure remains
International sanctions are shrugged off, with general economic
sanctions hardly likely to make any difference - except to further
immiserise the poor.South Africa continues to decline to use such leverage
as it has, and the regional countries have - until very recently -
contributed nothing but support for Mugabe's leadership.
All this means that there is little or no prospect of Mugabe being
bludgeoned out of office in the foreseeable future - from below, within the
country; from above, by the international community; or from the side - by
any really coercive pressure from his regional neighbours.
The first piece of more heartening news is that none of the causes of
Zimbabwe's current discontents seem to have roots so deep that the situation
cannot be quickly turned round once some decent leadership is restored.
Time is running out to create the minimum conditions necessary for
reasonably legitimate elections in March 2008.
If the South African mediation is unable to achieve the outcomes
necessary for free and fair elections, SADC can publicly state, before the
elections, that the conditions are simply not in place for any possible
outcome to be free and fair.
The second track in play is a behind the scenes exercise to try to
negotiate a "soft landing" for Mugabe. A reasonably graceful exit combined
with assurances that he would not face prosecution in any domestic or
Evans is the president of the International Crisis Group
Wed 15 Aug 2007, 18:04 GMT
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Forty Zimbabwean activists stopped at the
border with Zambia on Tuesday were heading back home on Wednesday while 25
others managed to get into Zambia, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
The human rights activists were going to Zambia to lobby Southern African
leaders meeting there for a two-day summit starting Thursday on the
situation in their country, the ZCTU said in a statement.
"The police have seized campaign material that includes posters, T-shirts,
fliers etc. Some activists were stripped of T-shirts they were wearing as
the police considered them offensive," the organisation said.
"Forty were detained from yesterday and through today ... they were on their
way back," Khumbulani Ndlovu, information officer for ZCTU, told Reuters on
the phone. "Twenty-five managed to come to Zambia."
South African President Thabo Mbeki is due to report to fellow leaders of
the 14-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) at the Lusaka
summit on his efforts to mediate between Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition Movement for
Mugabe, 83, who has been in power for 27 years, blames the West for the
economic problems in Zimbabwe, which has the world's highest inflation
rate -- spiralling above 4,500 percent -- and rising unemployment and
15 August 2007
Posted to the web 15 August 2007
Government says it is not aware of a purportedly leaked report on Zimbabwe,
and if such a report exists, it was not written by the Presidency.
The Presidency says it has noted media reports citing aspects of what is
claimed to arise from a leaked report which President Thabo Mbeki will
supposedly present to the Southern African Development Community Summit in
Zambia this week.
"The Presidency wishes to make it clear that it is not aware of such a
report and that if it exists, it was not authored by the Government of the
Republic of South Africa," President Mbeki's office said in a statement
President Mbeki departed on Wednesday for Zambia, ahead of the SADC Summit,
which kicks off on Thursday.
Mr Mbeki's office reassured the nation that "the object of the process of
facilitation of dialogue between the political leadership of Zimbabwe with
which President Mbeki is engaged is to assist in finding a lasting solution
to the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe."A critical part of
support for the process, explained the Presidency, is the communication of
factual information about all aspects of the situation in Zimbabwe.
"Finally, while we endeavour to be transparent, cognizance should be taken
of the fact that the facilitation process requires a measure of
confidentiality - to which all parties involved have committed themselves -
if it is to be successful."
Later on Wednesday, President Mbeki and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma are expected to participate in a meeting to discuss
the regional political situation in a meeting of the Organ on Politics,
Defence and Security.
On Thursday and Friday, President Mbeki will lead the SA delegation to the
summit to discuss the political situation in countries such as Lesotho, the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
By Joe De Capua
15 August 2007
The South African government is denying reports that President Thabo Mbeki
will blame Britain for Zimbabwe's economic problems. A number of observers
and analysts also deny those rumors.
In recent days, bits and pieces of an alleged draft report President Mbeki
will present to the Southern African Development Community have been leaked
to the media.
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she
spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
"The president's office issued a statement today in which they categorically
stated that this is not a report that has its origins in any office of the
South African government. They said they have not seen the report (and) are
unable to comment on its origins, but that it's not a South African report,"
Regarding the allegation that Mr. Mbeki will criticize the British,
Robertson says, "It sort of flies in the face of what South Africa hopes
Britain's role will be if the mediation in Zimbabwe is fruitful. They hope
that Britain will be extremely supportive and help with the reconstruction
of the country. And so, if they were to make statements like this it would
clearly alienate the British government and perhaps foul any chance of them
bringing the British government on board for reconstruction if it gets to
As for possible origins of the alleged report, she says, "There have been
some rumors floating around that it is the product of the Zimbabwe Central
Intelligence Organization. I haven't seen the document. I have been trying
to get my hands on it. So, it's difficult to assess, but essentially what I
understand is that some diplomats in Lusaka are reading excerpts of this
document to journalists. And that is how the story originated."
President Mbeki has been silent on his mediation efforts and the report he'll
present to SADC this week. "The only comment about what may or may not be in
that report is what the deputy foreign minister said today. And he said that
there is no word of any allegation against Britain in the report. I suspect
the report will be quite careful because.not a great deal of progress has
been made in the mediation. But I'm sure Mr. Mbeki will try and make the
best of it," she says.
Robertson says it's unclear whether the Mbeki report will be made public at
this week's SADC summit in Lusaka.
By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 August, 2007
Zimbabwean civil organisations that met with a South African team of
facilitators in Pretoria on Tuesday report that they strongly opposed the
idea of using Zimbabwe's parliament to reform the constitution, ahead of the
elections next year. The groups met with President Thabo Mbeki's chief
negotiator Sydney Mufamadi and Mbeki's advisor on legal matters Advocate
Washington Katema, coordinator of the Zimbabwe National Students Union
(ZINASU), participated in this consultative process on behalf of youth
groups in Zimbabwe. Katema said Advocate Gumbi raised the constitutional
issue, saying the all-stakeholders approach to reform that the groups and
Zimbabwe's opposition are insisting on had failed in 1999 and was a sheer
waste of time and resources. Instead, she suggested that Zimbabwe adopt the
South African model where parliament is turned into a constitutional
assembly with the mandate to make amendments.
Constitutional amendments made by parliament would not be acceptable to most
Zimbabweans and both factions of the MDC insist they will not participate in
any election unless there is a new people-driven constitution. This has been
one of their major demands during the SADC initiated talks mediated by
Katema said: "We vehemently opposed this and insisted that Zimbabweans want
a people-driven constitution. We all know that parliament does not represent
the majority of Zimbabweans." The objections do not guarantee anything
because the facilitation team was there in a consultative role only.
Zimbabwe's civil groups have no participatory role in the Mbeki mediated
talks but Katema explained that the process in Pretoria Tuesday opened doors
and avenues of communication for the civil organisations.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
From The Mercury (SA), 15 August
By Hans Pienaar and Basildon Peta
Lusaka - President Mbeki's chief negotiator has told Zimbabwe civil society
leaders that it is too late to negotiate a new constitution for Zimbabwe and
so the negotiations will only be about constitutional amendments and
electoral reform. The leaders met chief negotiator Sydney Mufamadi and other
members of Mbeki's mediation team in Pretoria yesterday to exchange views on
the negotiations to prepare for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next
year. So far, only the ruling Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) parties have participated, but recently they agreed to inputs
from civil society. The civic leaders told Mufamadi that a "people-driven
constitution" that entrenched democratic governance was a pre-requisite to
holding the elections and ending the long-running Zimbabwe crisis. But
Mufamadi told them there was no time for that and suggested instead that the
constitution of Zimbabwe be reformed by parliament, according to Jenni
Williams, one of the leaders who met Mufamadi and his team.
She said Mbeki's mediation team had also suggested concentrating on
electoral reforms to ensure that the outcome of the elections was not
contested. This is understood to have been agreed to by Zanu PF and the MDC
in their separate secret talks. Williams said although Zimbabwean civil
society had serious problems with reforming the constitution using the
current "rubber-stamp" parliament in which Mugabe had a majority, they could
accept it if it ultimately resulted in free and fair elections. Williams
said the civic groups had then suggested to the South Africans that
"indicators for a climate that allows for free and fair elections" needed to
be developed and time-frames had to be stipulated so that the process (by
Mbeki) could be credible and transparent. Meanwhile in Lusaka, where Mbeki
will report on his Zimbabwe mediation to the Southern African Development
Community summit, some MDC leaders claimed Mbeki was merely trying to broker
a deal favourable to Mugabe.
Wed 15 Aug 2007, 14:38 GMT
By Michael Georgy and Shapi Shacinda
LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's justice minister on Wednesday dismissed the
suggestion his government might open dialogue with opposition groups and
accused them of carrying out violent acts to seize power.
Speaking ahead of a summit of southern African leaders, where Zimbabwe's
crisis is expected to be high on the agenda, Patrick Chinamasa told Zambian
state television: "There can be no justification to make us (engage in)
"There is no justification whatsoever for committing violence against
innocent people," he said after ZNBC asked him if dialogue was possible.
Chinamasa accused the opposition of carrying out bombings and arson.
"They are only interested in getting into power through unconstitutional
means," he said.
The opposition denies carrying out violent acts.
Leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) start formal
talks in Lusaka on Thursday and are expected to address the issue of
Zimbabwe, once a symbol of African liberation and regional breadbasket that
now faces economic meltdown.
President Robert Mugabe has been cracking down on the opposition as he faces
hyperinflation and growing pressure from Western powers for reform. A weak
and divided opposition has allowed him to keep a tight grip on power.
SOFT LINE ON ZIMBABWE?
South African President Thabo Mbeki has engaged in quiet diplomacy in a bid
to promote dialogue between Mugabe and his foes. He may report progress on
his efforts during the two-day summit in the Zambian capital.
Mbeki and other African leaders have been accused of taking a soft line,
allowing Mugabe room for manoeuvre as Zimbabweans suffer deepening poverty
and as political tension rises.
Zambia was the first African country to openly criticise Mugabe, saying the
country was "a sinking Titanic". But Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has
since toned down his position.
As southern African leaders gather for SADC's 27th summit, Zimbabweans face
the world's highest inflation rate, severe food, fuel and foreign currency
shortages and what Mugabe's critics say is a ruthless suppression of his
Mugabe calls opposition groups puppets of the United States and Zimbabwe's
former colonial ruler Britain, saying the Western powers have imposed
sanctions on Zimbabwe because he seized white-owned farms for distribution
to landless blacks.
Chinamasa urged Britain to end its campaign of "demonisation" of Mugabe's
government and called for an immediate end to sanctions.
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, has forced businesses to cut
prices to try tame inflation, but the move has only deepened hardship and
forced more Zimbabweans to flee to countries such as South Africa --
increasing pressure on regional economies.
Sunday Times. SA
By Evan Pickworth, I-Net Bridge
Published:Aug 15, 2007
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe may not be in power by the end of the
year as the only way to eradicate hyper-inflation will be via a regime
change, said Director and Chief Economist of Econometrix, Dr Azar Jammine.
"I am relying on my knowledge of economic history here and in no country
throughout history has hyper-inflation disappeared without a major change in
government or leadership. I would submit Mugabe will not be in power by the
end of the year," said Jammine.
He pointed out that prices in Zimbabwe are rising at the rate of 3% a day -
and may even be higher.
Jammine explained that the strategy of setting price controls had simply
seen producers stopping supply as they could not meet their costs, leading
to huge demand and little supply and hence higher and higher prices.
He added he was not as optimistic as some on the timeframe for Zimbabwean
recovery once Mugabe left.
"It is not easy to eliminate hyper-inflation. There is too much damage.
Apart from the change in the regime it will require other things like fiscal
discipline and currency changes," he pointed out.
"To get rid of hyper-inflation you need to go cold turkey," concluded
Interest rates in Zimbabwe are at 600% and inflation at over 5,000%.
By Alec Russell
Published: August 14 2007 18:41 | Last updated: August 14 2007 18:41
When dictators finally lose their aura of power, their ejection from their
presidential palace can be wonderfully swift. How many times in the past
decade or so has the world agonised over how a people can be liberated from
a tyrant, only to see his authority implode overnight? It happened in the
Romanian capital Bucharest in December 1989, when just days after his forces
had mown down anti-government demonstrators, an incredulous President
Nicolae Ceausescu was booed off the Central Committee building balcony,
deposed and then executed. Then again in Belgrade in 2000, weeks after
rigging an election to stay in power, the Yugoslav president and warmonger
Slobodan Milosevic was forced out by crowds on the streets.
The situation in Zimbabwe is very different to the Balkans. But recent
events have led the Zimbabwean opposition - and many abroad - to dare to
believe that after 27 years the Mugabe regime has also reached its "tipping
point". They may yet be disappointed.
When the history of the Mugabe era is written, there is little doubt the
events of these past few months will be deemed to have hastened his
departure. The International Monetary Fund recently said that annual
inflation could reach 100,000 per cent by the end of this year. Now the
government is penalising casual importers of food, depriving many people of
their primary source of supplies. Yet, despite all this, it is still unclear
what will tip the regime over the edge.
What is increasingly clear, however, is that the implosion of the economy
may not in itself be enough to bring Mr Mugabe down. A recent study by
Professor Stephen Hanke of Washington's Cato Institute highlights how the
former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s suffered from far worse hyperinflation.
Mr Milosevic still survived, in part by doing just what Mr Mugabe has been
doing: blaming his economic woes on the outside world. There are plenty of
countries in Africa where the economy and infrastructure have been far more
systematically destroyed than in Zimbabwe without causing regime change.
Apart from dying, one of three things has to happen to Mr Mugabe to bring
his departure: a popular uprising, the application of irresistible
international pressure, or a palace coup.
A chance event, such as a police car crashing into a crowd and killing a
child, could spark popular fury and lead to the first scenario. But
Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is in no
shape to precipitate a revolution. Its members have been brutally oppressed
by the security forces and it is split into two bitterly opposed factions.
Also, of immense value to Mr Mugabe, the country has a pressure valve, the
border with South Africa across which thousands of mutinous citizens flee in
search of employment each month.
As for outside pressure forcing Mr Mugabe out, that scenario can be all but
dismissed. South Africa has worked hard to mediate between the MDC and the
ruling Zanu-PF, but Mr Mugabe retains a mesmeric hold over many of his
regional peers, so there is little chance of any meaningful pressure coming
That leaves a palace coup as the most likely conduit for change. Most of the
Zanu-PF bigwigs appear to have lost their respect for Mugabe. But there are
still plenty of reasons for them not to act. Many party chiefs are profiting
handsomely from the meltdown. For the time being, the all-powerful security
bosses appear to have calculated that until there is a clear post-Mugabe
scenario that preserves their interests, the status quo is the safest
The outgoing US ambassador Christopher Dell recently predicted that economic
meltdown would force Mr Mugabe out by Christmas. This rattled Mr Mugabe's
inner circle, but the prospect of his clinging on, before stepping down in
favour of a Zanu-PF successor, seems far more likely. Regional leaders would
rush to the microphones to hail such a turn of events, delighted at a crisis
The west should resist the temptation to do likewise. A successor government
that gave the elite a second sitting at the state trough would be a tragedy
for Zimbabweans. The west should dangle its recovery package for the
post-Mugabe era as an incentive for a new start, but only under a genuinely
"reformist" government. Romania's grim experience once the euphoria of the
revolution died down was of several wasted years under rebranded members of
the old guard. Sadly, at the moment that is the most likely outcome to the
Wednesday 15 August 2007
By Nqobizitha Khumalo
BULAWAYO - The smaller faction of Zimbabwe's divided opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party could be facing an exodus of officials amid
reports the party's main wing is courting members from other parties to
bolster opposition chances of dislodging the ruling ZANU PF party.
Authoritative sources said the main MDC wing headed by the party's founding
president Morgan Tsvangirai was luring back former party members from the
Arthur Mutambara-led faction.
The sources said a team led by the Tsvangirai faction's organising secretary
Elias Mudzuri has been to Matabeleland and other regions in the last two
weeks for secret meetings with members of the Mutambara camp.
At least 10 sitting MPs from the Mutambara faction and several senior
Matabeleland politicians are believed to have indicated their willingness to
cross the floor back to the Tsvangirai wing.
"The negotiations are complete and most of the MPs in the Mutambara faction
are going to cross over very soon.
"They have been having meetings with Tsvangirai's emissaries and what is
left is for them to get guarantees that they will not be challenged in their
constituencies," a source told ZimOnline yesterday.
The sitting MPs from the Mutambara faction are said to have demanded
guarantees that they would not be subjected to primary elections in
preparation for next year's parliamentary elections if they cross over to
the other faction.
The Tsvangirai faction is also said to be trying to court other opposition
parties such as ZAPU led by Paul Siwela.
The sources said an agreement was recently reached that would see ZAPU
joining forces with the Tsvangirai faction ahead of the harmonised elections
due early next year.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the Tsvangirai faction, confirmed his party was
actively pursuing unity of all democratic forces in the fight against ZANU
PF and President Robert Mugabe but refused to comment on individual cases of
officials being targeted.
"I am not aware of specific cases but we are pursuing unity of all
democratic forces in the fight against Mugabe and we believe no effort
should be wasted on bickering.
"We need to expend our energies on this fight against Mugabe. That can only
be done by a united force," Chamisa said, adding that his faction of the MDC
welcomed any like-minded democratic forces to their camp.
Mutambara camp spokesman Gabriel Chaibva also confirmed his party was aware
of its officials being lured back to the Tsvangirai camp, saying it was
their democratic right to do so.
He however could not be drawn to reveal names of those planning to leave his
"The struggle has never been a picnic. Those that want to make it a picnic
can do so if they want and we say they can fall by the wayside if they want
but the future of Zimbabwe stands with us," Chaibva said.
The MDC split into two in 2005 following sharp differences on the party's
participation in that year's senatorial elections, which were won by ZANU
The Tsvangirai faction was against participation while the Mutambara wing
was of the view that the best way of tackling Mugabe was through the ballot
box. - ZimOnline
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye
14 August 2007
President Robert Mugabe's pledge to extend controversial price cuts imposed
by the Zimbabwean government through the end of 2007, made during a Heroes
Day holiday speech Monday, has some experts forecasting economic ruin for
In an address at the National Heroes Acre honoring fallen liberation heroes,
Mr. Mugabe not only warned merchants against raising prices without state
authorization, but also threatened state action against those who ignored
Economists said Harare's imposition of price cuts without subsidies to
manufacturers would only worsen shortages of a wide range of goods, while
business contraction will erode the tax base, forcing Harare to print more
money, driving inflation higher.
Economist John Robertson of Harare and communications chief Eric Chinje of
the African Development Bank offered their perspectives on the government
price policy in a discussion with reporter Ndimyake Mwakalye of VOA's Studio
7 for Zimbabwe.
Chinje said trying to cap prices rather than letting market forces work is a
August 15 2007 at 08:58AM
By Thando Ncube
The South Africa A cricketers touring Zimbabwe amid controversy came
up against the food shortages when they were turned away by restaurants that
had run out of ingredients in Bulawayo.
The team had earlier toured Matopos National Park, a World Heritage
Site outside Bulawayo.
When they returned in the evening, they went shopping for take-aways,
but were told there was no food at either Nandos or Chicken Inn.
Pizza Inn was serving but there was a long, winding queue and most of
the players were not prepared to wait.
Instead, they returned to the team hotel. Only fast bowler Andre Nel
and all-rounder Andrew Hall were prepared to queue and were later picked up
by the team bus.
Mens News Daily
August 15, 2007 at 8:25 am
In the next two days the immediate future of this country may be decided.
Heads of State are gathering in Lusaka and today, in preparation, the
Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Security and Finance meet to work through what
will go to the Presidents when they meet on Thursday. According to the South
African Foreign Minister, Mr. Mbeki will report on his facilitation of the
Zimbabwe crisis on Thursday.
Already there is so much nonsense flying about that it is impossible to see
what exactly is going on. We (the MDC) have a large and powerful group in
Lusaka to lobby the different delegations and from all the media reports
they are active.
But I wanted to set out a different reality - just what is the real
situation like here on the ground for the ordinary, decent, hard working
Zimbabwean? I was thinking about what I might write when walking the dogs
last evening. It had been a lovely day - typical winters day in
Matabeleland, cool, crisp, zero humidity, deep blue sky with little wind.
The dogs were having a great time hunting hares and mice in the open
savannah grassland that stretches out for several kilometers from the bottom
of our road.
A young man, about 25 years old, with large boots on his feet was striding
down the road and we greeted each other. He surprised me by speaking in good
English. He was carrying a small bag across his shoulders. We walked
together for a while and he asked me if I knew anyone with work that he
could do - anything. I said things were quite impossible for business now
and I could not think of any sort of job openings. He then told me of his
He was a High School graduate, could not find any sort of work commensurate
with his basic qualifications and had been jobbing - working on building
sites around the City where people from the Diaspora are building homes
using their foreign earnings. All work had stopped because of the price
control operation, which had resulted in all suppliers of materials halting
deliveries - no cement, no sand or bricks because there was no fuel. He was
living on the site because he had nowhere else to go but was not being
paid - now for one month.
That morning he had gone to the "Renkini" (a word derived from the words
"Taxi Rank") where he had gone to try and buy some maize meal. He had some
savings from his work and was using these to buy food. The distance to the
Rank would be about 15 kilometers from his building site home. He had found
no transport and had walked all that way that morning. Spent several hours
finding maize meal and then had paid Z$500 000 for a tin of maize. That is
about 12 kilograms. He had then had to walk back and was now about two
kilometers from his "home".
Before the price control exercise he was gainfully, if inadequately,
employed. He would have been able to catch a bus to town and would have had
to queue but he would have been able to get a bag of maize meal for about
$150 000. Now, after just a month of this stupidity (you cannot describe
what this regime is doing as "policy") he is unemployed, close to
starvation, has to walk everywhere and paid 10 times the so called
"controlled price" for maize meal of $50 000. For thirty kilometers of hard
walking he had been able to buy enough food for himself for about 15 days.
No protein is available even if he could afford it, so he was going to try
and catch something in the nearby bush.
Now what I would say to people is that his experience yesterday was typical,
he is not an exceptional case at all. He is about the average age of an
adult here (life expectancy is about 35 years), he has the sort of basic
education, as a post independence child would have expected (and would not
get today from the same system). He was underemployed, now unemployed and is
facing a daily struggle to feed himself (he is single).
Mr. Mugabe said this weekend (and it was repeated several times on the SABC
network) that the price controls are meant to stop business from
overcharging and that he was going to keep them in place indefinitely. In
reality all he has succeeded in doing is to lose what little control they
had over prices and the ordinary Zimbabwean now faces the harsh reality of
being unable to buy anything in the shops and is forced back onto the back
streets to find what he/she can at several times the cost before these
controls were introduced. Suddenly everyone is much worse off than before.
If the regime here maintains its position that every business must get the
Ministers written approval for every price they charge on every product and
must go through the Ministry if they want to change anything - pack size,
packaging, prices, contents. Then business as we have known it is simply
going to die. Unless ordinary market principles are permitted, industry in
Zimbabwe is history and with it most of the retail sector.
They have destroyed the commercial farming sector and with it the support
infrastructure that made it all possible, this has resulted in farm output
across the whole industry falling by a massive 80 per cent. Tourism is in a
similar situation and is barely ticking over. Industrial production has
declined already by close to 50 per cent and in the past month I would
suggest it has slumped still further to about the same levels as
Agriculture - 20 per cent of normal. The mining industry is the least
affected but even so, output is falling and we can expect no further
investment either in maintenance or in new ventures until a new government
is installed and sensible policies are reinstated.
Impossible as it may seem, this will result in overall GDP declining still
further this year - already down by half with a forecast decline of 7 per
cent in GDP this year (the 9th successive year of decline in GDP). Exports,
already down by two thirds will decline still further and employment, down
from 1,4 million in 1997 will slump to new lows of no more than about 500
000 - half of them in the public service. The collapse of the Zimbabwe
economy is now a reality.
For my walking companion what options does he have? I suggest he has only
one. That is to pack his bags, take what food he has left and walk or hitch
a ride to the South African border. He will know people in South Africa and
once he is through the border region he can find himself a small patch of
land in a slum, build a shack and then start making a living for himself and
perhaps find a couple of hundred Rand to send home each month. His main
option for employment in South Africa will be crime unless he risks finding
work without the required documents.
It is strange that in this way he becomes perhaps the only means we have of
influencing the leadership of South Africa as to our plight. It is the
presence of over 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa and the arrival of
thousands more on a daily basis that is now driving SA foreign policy. Not
human and political rights, not the issues of freedom and democracy that
once fuelled the struggle in the region and in South Africa itself. Just
crude self-defence against the only weapon left to the ordinary Zimbabwean -
that of forced flight.
Bulawayo 14th August 2007
From Business Day, 15 August
Zimbabwean foreign currency dealers and economic experts have always claimed
the biggest buyer of foreign currency on the black market is the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). But since the bank uses individuals who have no
formal ties to it, there has never been any real proof of the illegal deals.
That is until this week, when The Zimbabwean newspaper reported that a
division head at the RBZ had been suspended over a foreign currency scandal
that has exposed the central bank as the key player in illegal foreign
currency deals. According to The Zimbabwean, RBZ governor Gideon Gono last
week suspended Mirirai Chiremba, head of the bank's financial intelligence
division and a former operative with the Central Intelligence Organisation,
after it was discovered that he was misrepresenting the exchange rates he
paid to black- market dealers. Chiremba allegedly inflated the rates at
which he purchased the forex, and made huge sums for himself from each
transaction. Wilf Mbanga, publisher of The Zimbabwean, said Gono became
suspicious because Chiremba kept providing exchange rates that were not
correct, so he put a tail on him. And that is how the scandal unravelled.
Tellingly, Chiremba escaped with a mere slap on the wrist, coming in the
form of a two-week suspension.
From Business Day (SA), 15 August
Lusaka - President Thabo Mbeki's efforts to mediate an end to Zimbabwe's
crisis have made no headway, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
said yesterday. "We are five months down the line" since Mbeki was appointed
to mediate between Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe's government and the MDC,
the party's vice-president, Thokozani Khupe, said in Lusaka yesterday. "I
don't think there is any progress at all." A leaked report suggests Mbeki
will tell Southern African Development Community leaders in Lusaka tomorrow
there has been progress in the talks. He has been trying to negotiate a new
constitution for Zimbabwe and ensure credible elections next March.
The Herald (Harare) Published by the government of Zimbabwe
14 August 2007
Posted to the web 15 August 2007
DOROWA town in Buhera District has been without water for the past
two-and-a-half months, posing a serious health risk to residents in the
mining town and surrounding areas.
The unavailability of water has been attributed to vandalism, which saw the
breakdown of a Zesa transformer halting pumping of water to residents for
domestic consumption and plunging the area into darkness.
Residents who spoke to The Herald last week said the transformer had its oil
drained by some unscrupulous people.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority had no diesel for a generator, which
could be used as an alternative for power to pump water.
The affected areas are Dorowa homeownership location, Holy Family primary
and secondary schools, the police station, post office and business centre.
This has seen residents fetching water from unprotected sources. There is
only one borehole at Holy Family Secondary School which cannot service the
whole population of more than 20 000 people.
"The situation has been like this since June this year. Our toilets use
flushing systems and you can imagine what happens when there is no water for
such a long period," said Mrs Sarah Mahwite, a resident in the town.
Residents also faced problems getting their maize milled into maize meal
because the grinding mill in the area uses electricity.
They have to travel to Murambinda, which is about 30 kilometres away to get
to the nearest grinding mill.
"Even at Murambinda, the grinding mill works during the evening because
there won't be electricity during the day, so we have to get there at
night," said another resident, Mr Jairos Kamhunga.
The prolonged unavailability of electricity in the area has also seen wanton
cutting down of trees for firewood.
Indiscriminate cutting down of trees has seen thick forests being cleared by
those selling firewood.
A scotch cart full of firewood is sold for $800 000 and desperate residents
have no option but to buy.
Zesa has been urging consumers to also guard against the vandalism of
electricity infrastructure, which has become rampant with thefts of cables
and transformer oil. A Zesa official in the area said the power utility was
working flat out to restore electricity supplies in Dorowa.
SW Radio Africa (London)
14 August 2007
Posted to the web 14 August 2007
Robert Mugabe's latest attempt at fanning his flagging popularity with the
country's urban populace by controlling accommodation rentals was on Tuesday
roundly condemned by the opposition and ordinary members of the public.
Addressing a rented crowd, most of them force marched by the army to the
National Heroes Day commemorations in Harare on Monday, Mugabe fired a
broadside at urban landlords for overcharging their lodgers.
The ageing dictator warned estate agents and landlords they should respect
the laws of the land, pointing out that the moratorium on rent increases was
still in force.
MDC MP for Glen View, Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, swiftly brushed off
Mugabe's latest strategy as a 'cheap and half-thought' economic strategy.
The secretary-general from the Mutambara MDC faction added; 'It won't
happen. You can't deal with the symptoms before addressing the cause of a
crisis. We are living in a distorted economy and you cannot address that
distortion by playing around with the symptoms that keep cropping about. He
(Mugabe) needs to address the political fundamentals which are pushing the
economic fundamentals, leading us to this crisis.'
The MP said tenants will still pay what the landlords charge for rent and
not yield to the government's calls as they will end up on the streets.
'It's a scenario akin to the price freeze Mugabe recently enforced which
ended with goods off the formal places and on the streets and black market.
The housing issue will again end up dealt with amoungst the people
themselves underground. Where there's a commodity there will always be
demand. If they have failed to control prostitution, which is actually on
the rise, how then can they control housing? Asked Misihairambwi-Mushonga.
The legislator's sentiments were echoed by Albert Mthembo, a lodger in
Harare's Kuwadzana high density suburb.
He said; 'Besides attacking innocent landlords Mugabe had nothing new to say
again yesterday. All he wants to create is another chaotic situation that
will lead the less fortunate amongst us homeless. What this will lead the
landlords to do, if put under pressure by government, is to simply tell us
to pack up and ship out.'
Edna Sithole, a house owner in Mutare, said landlords may be forced to
resort to barter deals such as 'groceries to stay' with their tenants if the
government cornered them with its proposed new policy.
She added; 'The little money we are charging our lodgers is not enough to
buy groceries to even last a week, maybe a bag of sugar. At the moment
rentals for a room in the high density locations are pegged at an average of
Z$200 000 which can't even buy a laundry bar. It's another disastrous move
by Musharukwa (The Old Man - a reference to the ageing Mugabe)."
By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Aug 15 (IPS) - Sithabile Khuzwayo is one of many women who bring
groceries and clothing from across the borders of neighbouring Botswana and
South Africa to sell at the flourishing flea markets of Zimbabwe's second
largest city, Bulawayo.
She told IPS that the hostility of Botswana's locals to Zimbabwean traders
has made buying wares in Botswana risky. ''Before the problems began in
Zimbabwe, we could move around without attracting any trouble, but now we
have become targets. Some traders are mugged and their goods taken by
Batswana,'' she said.
The 30-year-old Khuzwayo complains that ''the exchange rates are so volatile
it has become difficult to price my wares to at least show a bit of profit''.
The city's markets have become centres of trade and finance where
cross-border traders sell their wares and also source foreign exchange. For
many residents struggling in a harsh economic environment amid growing
shortages of basic commodities, cross-border traders have become the only
suppliers of food.
Apart from groceries, cheap clothing from Botswana -- originally imported
from China -- is the other essential product being sold in Bulawayo's flea
The dire economic circumstances have attracted thousands of women to
informal trade in Bulawayo, a city of more than two million people. Recently
even professionals like teachers and nurses have joined in to keep head
The scarcity of foreign currency in Zimbabwe has meant that these small
enterprises operate below capacity. It has forced cross-border traders to
turn to the thriving illegal parallel market.
At the Plumtree border post, where thousands of Zimbabweans cross into
Botswana each week, traders say it is becoming increasingly difficult to
move goods. Groceries are now in short supply after a government decree
forced retailers to slash prices by half. This has left supermarket shelves
There was panic last month when the ZANU-PF government announced it was
banning the importation of groceries from neighbouring countries as part of
its price blitz against retailers. Without explanation, the government
accused traders of fuelling the shortages of scarce basic commodities.
The authorities reversed the directive after a public outcry. The selling of
commodities such as cooking oil, maize meal, shoes and clothing from
Botswana in the streets of Bulawayo shows that informal cross-border trade
continues despite the hardships faced by the thousands of women who have
found a lifeline in this sector.
Traders point to the high import tariffs charged by Zimbabwean customs as
one of the reasons for bringing limited volumes of goods into the country.
''I have been asked to fork out money at customs which was almost equivalent
to the goods I purchased in Botswana. This does not make any business sense
as I have to make something from these trips,'' 27-year-old Portia Zuze told
IPS at the Plumtree border post, about 100 km south of Bulawayo.
She said this is not the only challenge she has run up against. ''Transport
is hell here. Once I took the cheap Bulawayo-Francistown train. But once you
get to the Bulawayo train station, it is a hassle to get your goods released
by the customs officials.''
Zuze added that there have been reports of women jumping off the
Francistown-Bulawayo train once they get to Plumtree, in an attempt to
escape paying the import duties.
''There are instances where one customs official just waves you through
while another one asks you to pay duty. We do not know what is going on,"
Zuze told IPS.
Zimbabwe and Botswana have signed a bilateral agreement on the avoidance of
double taxation as part of what Zimbabwe sees as a move to bolster trade
across the borders. However, these stories show that Zimbabwean authorities
are still making life difficult for small-scale cross-border traders.
The continued economic instability in Zimbabwe has deprived informal
cross-border traders of opportunities for growth.
In 1997, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) set up a
fund to assist small cross-border traders via its investment promotion and
private sector development desk. There has been little participation by
Zimbabwe in the initiative.
Mavis Jubane of the Zimbabwe Informal Traders Association says not many
people have heard about the COMESA initiative.
''Many women do not set targets for possible expansion, being happy to make
trips that will make just enough to feed their families because they are
failing to secure enough foreign currency,'' Jubane told IPS. (END/2007)
August 15, 2007, 18:30
Hundreds more foreign teachers are expected in South African classrooms at
the beginning of next year. The majority is expected to come from Zimbabwe.
About 1 000 foreign teachers currently work in South African schools. The
South African Council for Educators says the majority are Zimbabwean
nationals, with more than 500 foreign nationals on the waiting list.
Mufadzi Shumba is a Zimbabwean asylum seeker and just one of about 60
qualified Zimbabwean teachers who live in South Africa. Her country faces an
economic meltdown. Her salary has shrunk to R150 a month -- after nine years
of service. Shumba says the situation has deteriorated: "It's worse now
because there's nothing - no food." She has a two-year teaching diploma but
lacks sufficient paperwork.
Teacher recruitment consultant, Louis White, says: "Since January this year,
there's been a marked increase in applications from Zimbabwean teachers.
Every advertisement that I've placed in the paper had a very positive
response from Zimbabwean teachers."
The department of home affairs has availed 1 000 work permits to the
education department and the number could rise following the needs
assessment currently under way. Qualified maths and science teachers are
sorely needed in South Africa.
The director general of education, Duncan Hindle, says: "Certainly we will
favour Zimbabwean teachers who are here in the country, and I think we must
acknowledge many of them are very well trained. They have degrees in maths
and science, their language ability is very good, so yes, they would be a
prime source of recruitment for us."
South African Democratic Teachers' Union wants the stay of foreign teachers
to be limited. It says local teachers must be properly trained.
15th Aug 2007 09:16 GMT
By Trust Matsilele
THE Coalition for Zambian's Civic Societies organisations, Oasis Forum, says
it will send a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe in a few weeks time, to
ascertain the extend of the crisis Zimbabweans are going through.
These CSO says solidarity efforts should be intensified if Zimbabweans are
to find a quick solution to their political and economic crisis.
The call by the coalition comes a few months after Zambian leader President
Levy Mwanawasa likened the Zimbabwean economy to a sinking titanic.
The Oasis Forum met a delegation from the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) which is in Zambia attending meetings on the sidelines of the SADC
summit where South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki is expected to report
progress on the talks between Zanu PF and the opposition.
The fact-finding mission is expected to travel to Zimbabwe around September,
a few weeks before the visit to the country by the Pan African Parliament
delegation to assess alleged gross human rights violations and press
Meanwhile a coalition of churches in Zambia has called for a regional day of
prayer on the 21st of September to ask for a divine intervention in efforts
to finding a lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.
The Zambian churches are also set to meet President Mwanawasa who will be
assuming the chairmanship of SADC soon to pressure him to talk to Zimbabwe's
President Robert Mugabe so as to bring political normalcy to the southern
The Oasis Forum also confirmed that it will send election observers four
months in advance next year to ensure that it has a true picture about the
elections in which Mugabe is expected to contest again for the country's top
Zanu PF has harmonised parliamentary and presidential elections so that they
can be held at the same time.
By Lance Guma
15 August 2007
The first play to be banned in independent Zimbabwe, Super Patriots and
Morons, has resurfaced in the United Kingdom and generating rave reviews 3
years later. The play nominated for the Amnesty International 2007 freedom
of expression award is running alongside another political satire, Pregnant
with Emotions, both the works of renowned producer Daves Guzha. Featuring a
high-powered cast of Chiwoniso Maraire, Chirikure Chirukure, Walter Mparutsa
and Guzha himself, the two plays will run 40 times in 3 different countries,
namely Denmark, Sweden and the UK.
The play debuted in 2003 and featured an unnamed country whose economy had
collapsed and was dominated by chronic shortages of basic commodities and
long queues at every supermarket. After being allowed to run for some time
the play only caught the attention of the government at the Harare
International Festival of the Arts that year. Censors asked for the script
before banning it. The other play Pregnant with Emotions received similar
attention from Mugabe's regime with the police refusing to sanction
performances at venues around the country.
While acknowledging the good reception they have received at the UK
festival, Guzha told Newsreel they eagerly await the chance to challenge the
banning of their plays in the Supreme Court. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights are helping them launch a constitutional challenge to the Censorship
and Entertainment Act of 1967. Guzha says they have been told the first
hearing in the case has been set for October this year. He blasted
government paranoia saying they saw agenda's where none existed. He said
there is a tradition of villages using, 'Dare' where people debate various
kinds of issues and government is now trying to stifle this cultural
Meanwhile songstress Chiwoniso Maraire said she had no problem performing in
a politically charged play. Although she says she has no affiliation to any
political party, she insists artists cannot be ignorant of the environment
they live in. Chirikure Chirikure was upbeat about the reception they have
received so far adding that Zimbabweans now resident in the UK have come to
support their shows.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
This report covers the period from 7/1/2007 to 8/15/2007
So far, government maize imports are ahead of schedule, with almost 115,000 MT delivered from Malawi. However, a significant gap remains to be filled. Cereal deficits are highest in the southern and western parts of the country, where household stocks have already run out for most people.
The government’s plans to import maize to meet needs, combined with the current progress in implementing these plans, is encouraging. But, while it is conceivable that national maize requirements could be met, the Grain Marketing Board’s (GMB) ability to distribute available grain is a serious concern, as in the past, GMB distributions have been erratic and have not been coordinated with relief efforts, and local shortages have been common.
Recent attempts by the government to arrest the rampant increases of basic commodity prices by introducing price controls only exacerbated the already out-of-reach cost of basic necessities. Quickly, commodities affected by price controls became unavailable in markets, either because they had immediately sold out at controlled prices or simply became uneconomical to sell at the set prices. Either way, the food access of poor households continues to diminish at an alarming rate, especially in urban areas.
This year’s winter wheat crop is expected to be far less than last year’s harvest due to frequent power cuts affecting irrigation, a large and poorly controlled quelea bird infestation, fuel shortages and unattractive producer prices for the commodity.
By James Elder
NYAMKUWARA, Zimbabwe, 15 August 2007 - Standing in a ditch, her feet and
knees hidden in soiled water, her face splattered with dried mud and her
body tiring from the labour, 60-year-old Agnes Mutima looks like a worker in
a diamond mine.
But her goal is richer than the coveted rock. Ms. Mutima is digging deep to
mould bricks and build a school.
High in the hills of eastern Zimbabwe, 1,000 people who were taken to this
isolated patch of forest two years ago, with nothing beyond what they could
carry, have built a community and are now constructing a school.
"These are our children and they need a good environment to study in," says
Ms. Mutima, who has cared for her six orphaned grandchildren since their
mothers died. "When it rained, these children were rained on, when it was
cold they were very cold. This will now change and they will have a proper
Support from Schools for Africa
As Zimbabweans are slapped by one crisis after another - with inflation
above 4,500 per cent and more orphans as a percentage of children than any
other country in the world - Ms. Mutima's spirit can be seen across the
It is backed by continued support from the Schools for Africa campaign, a
partnership between UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg
Society, with significant funding from the German National Committee for
UNICEF and others.
This support is enabling, among many other activities, 20 communities like
Ms. Mutima's to construct more than 55 classrooms in all corners of the
country by the end of this year. Launched in late 2004, Schools for Africa
has thus far benefited more than 100,000 children across the continent.
"Through UNICEF, the people of Germany have been tireless supporters of
Zimbabwean children and communities," says UNICEF's Representative in
Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe. "From HIV assistance to emergency funds to
early childhood development and education, they are a constant friend to
those in need."
Rising above economic adversity
Ms. Mutima's family is one of 300 families in her community who were
resettled during the government's highly controversial 'clean-up' campaign
of 2005, which the United Nations said left 700,000 people homeless. Since
then, UNICEF has provided this community with wells for clean water,
toilets, a temporary school, teaching materials and one textbook per pupil.
"Our houses on the farms were burnt and we were sent here," says Ms. Mutima.
"For three months we were in the open, but with help we are now really
making a life for ourselves."
Despite the nation's unprecedented economic adversity, Zimbabweans have kept
a large majority of their children enrolled in school. The challenge for
this community is to provide them with a safe place in which to learn.
'We have to build'
The four-classroom school that Ms. Mutima is helping to build will
accommodate 280 children. Its construction will require 100,000 bricks.
Working 12-hour days and utilizing local resources, the community can mould
1,500 mud bricks each day. After two days, they put 3,000 dry bricks in a
kiln to fire, resulting in sturdy bricks that will soon shelter their
Waist-high in the pit of clay mud at midday, Ms. Mutima works side-by-side
with her best friend Joyce Chapauka, 59, who has been digging since 6 a.m.
"You get tired," says Ms. Chapauka, "but when you're poor you can't afford
to be tired. We have to make sure our grandchildren are in school, so we
have to build."