Justin Pearce reflects on the hardships of life in Zimbabwe -
for those delivering aid and for journalists trying to find out what is
Delivering food aid is not a crime in Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, I saw a priest interrogated by the secret police for that very
reason. Legal or illegal, delivering food aid in Zimbabwe is certainly a
slow business, mostly because no one knows where exactly the needy people
are. I had spent the best part of 24 hours rumbling around the dirt roads of
rural Matabeleland in a truck laden with maize meal and blankets - intended
for some of the people who have been dumped in the countryside after
government knocked down the homes of 500,000 people. Whenever we saw someone
on the road, the priest and the driver who were delivering the food asked if
they knew of any displaced people in the area. When we stopped at a cluster
of shops by the main road, the priest got out to ask the same question once
again. He seemed to be spending a long time in conversation with one man in
a smart white shirt. I asked the truck driver what was going on. "The pastor
is under arrest," the driver explained. "That gentleman is from the CIO."
The CIO is the Central Intelligence Organisation: Zimbabwe's secret police.
In this case, the pastor was lucky that he managed to talk his way out of
the situation. And since unauthorised journalism in Zimbabwe carries a
20-year prison sentence, I suppose I too was lucky that the CIO man didn't
see me behind the driver's seat.
From the day I arrived in
Zimbabwe, I had been frightened - not because of anything I had seen or
experienced, but because of the fear I had sensed in other people. I felt it
in the way that no one wanted to be photographed, or to give their name when
interviewed, or even be seen in public with me when I was carrying a camera.
(This explains why the photos accompanying my articles over the past week
include so many silhouetted faces.) I felt that same second-hand fear when I
went to interview a Zimbabwean aid official - and saw him keep his door shut
during the interview, and lie to his colleagues about the purpose of my
visit, lest the wrong person get wind of the fact that there was a
journalist on the premises. I felt it in the way that some people would have
incredibly cryptic conversations by phone or e-mail - while others said what
they liked, realising that if you were going to succumb to the fear you'd
never communicate at all. The problem was, you never knew whether the CIO
would be listening in or not.
I felt the fear in the way I was unable
to go and interview people at the Hopley Farm resettlement area - and when
some of them came to talk to me in a secret location, they told me how even
prayer meetings there are broken up by the police. I felt it after I had
lunch with a contact in the resort town of Victoria Falls - and afterwards,
one of the touts who hang around the tourist shops demanded to know: "Who
was that black guy you were talking to?" Perhaps he thought my friend was a
freelance tour guide who had ventured onto his own turf - or perhaps he was
motivated by something other than commercial rivalry. The uncertainty made
the experience even more unnerving. So I was almost grateful for that near
miss with the security police in the bush of Matabeleland. After 10 days of
being infected by other people's fear, at last I could see, just the other
side of the truck's windscreen, the kind of thing that people were
frightened of. And I, of course, had the luxury of being booked on a flight
out of the country the next day.
PRISTINA, Kosovo - "You cannot build democracy with troops from
Zimbabwe," says the director of Kosovo's leading think tank, Lulzim Peci,
offering what would seem to be reasonable, if exceedingly obvious, advice on
the dos and don'ts of nation-building. Yet Peci lives in a territory
administered by the United Nations, which, over the course of its six year
trusteeship in Kosovo, has demonstrated its own perverse understanding of
what it considers reasonable and obvious.
As it happens, Kosovo is in
fact host to a contingent of Zimbabwean police officers, members in good
standing of the United Nations's 54-nation-strong international constabulary
force. Their mission? To conduct law enforcement in this collapsed corner of
the former Yugoslavia, while simultaneously standing up an indigenous
Kosovar police....[rest of articl unavailable]
'We'll take over your company now, thank you' Basildon
Peta August 26 2005 at 11:42AM
As Zimbabwe opens its
books to the visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives,
concern about the rule of law and property rights has been heightened as a
result of the current constitutional amendments before
The causal link between a stable macroeconomic
environment and investment has been well established.
developments in Zimbabwe since the controversial land reform programme is of
concern to any investor because laws have been passed that provide for the
state to expropriate private assets without compensation.
the plight of the white commercial farmers has been global news, black
victims of the Zimbabwean government have not attracted much
Entrepreneurs like Mutumwa
Mawere, now based in South Africa, and other businessmen who either have
been harassed through trumped-up charges or are now in exile, have seen
their assets being expropriated by the state.
The case of Mawere
and how the state targeted him personally and subsequently passed a law to
strip him of all his assets under the guise of reconstruction demonstrates
how exposed businesses are in what analysts describe as failed states.
Mawere, formerly employed by the World Bank, relocated to South Africa in
1995 from Washington DC, where he used to be based.
negotiated and successfully closed a $60-million leveraged buy-out of T
& N's remaining asbestos and other industrial interests in Zimbabwe and
Zimbabwe is the third largest producer of asbestos in
the world. This was the first major transaction involving a black person in
Zimbabwe acquiring significant assets in the country.
asbestos is a distressed commodity because of the environmental and health
issues associated with it, Mawere built up a conglomerate with interests in
financial services, manufacturing, logistic, agribusiness and other
He built up the company organically and through
acquisitions and it now employs about 19 000 people and is valued at about
Zimbabwe does not have any coherent black economic
empowerment (BEE) policy and the government has over the years been claiming
credit for any black participation in the economy. Mawere was not an
exception and the market came to believe that his acquisition was
The facts show otherwise. A dossier about how he
acquired his properties fully supports his story.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa in response to a
question from Job Sikhala, a Movement for Democratic Change MP, misled
parliament when he said Mawere had acquired his business empire using a
This version has been repeated in the media
so many times that many in government ended up believing that President
Robert Mugabe had indeed bankrolled his acquisitions.
had this to say about this perception: "Unfortunately when a black man does
anything unusual, the easy conclusion is that someone is behind him. You can
understand that even in South Africa it is not unusual that the public would
attribute the success of certain BEE (ventures) to government ministers and
in some instances to the president.
"This is not surprising given
our history that often condemned black people to poverty, but it has led to
the rational expectation that big business is not for us unless we are
Mawere's problems began in 2003 when he was elected in
absentia as secretary of economic affairs of the ruling Zanu-PF's Masvingo
Province. He politely turned down the post, saying he was not a
He explained that he was not even an ordinary member of
Zanu-PF and he found it bizarre to be offered a post by a political party of
which he was not a member.
For that "grave error" or "cardinal
sin" - as some would call it later - Mawere has paid a heavy price. He has
lost his entire business empire which Mugabe nationalised earlier this
At one Zanu-PF Politburo meeting, a furious Mugabe reportedly
railed against Mawere for declaring that he was not a member of
Mugabe reportedly said that was an unkind way of being
thanked for the assistance his government had rendered Mawere. He vowed to
Of course, his regime had not been involved in the
acquisition of the asbestos mines. It had nonetheless given a guarantee to
Belgium's KBC Bank that provided a $60-million external loan to Shabanie
Mashaba Mines, a company controlled by Mawere.
loan was used to finance the company's working capital requirements at a
time when Zimbabwe was unable to access international capital markets
because of sovereign risk perception. The loan was fully repaid in November
Mawere was first targeted personally when the state
unsuccessfully sought his extradition from South Africa last year. When this
attempt failed, the state proceeded to specify him, paving the way for the
state to freeze any asset controlled by him.
This was followed
by the specification of his companies and the use of regulations passed
under the president's emergency powers to appoint an administrator to take
over control of those of his companies deemed to be state-indebted and
The regulations allowed the state to avoid the courts,
where they would have had difficulty explaining how a private company can
ever be indebted to the state.
Mawere said: "For the first time
the state was defined mischievously to include all state corporations,
although these institutions have their own legal personae.
you imagine, the state claiming that an institution like Eskom is no longer
a juristic person, but part of the state in the definition of
It was clear that after refusing to accept
the Zanu-PF post, Mawere was a targeted man of the vindictiveness of
"Mugabe does not hesitate to use state machinery to settle
personal scores," one analyst said.
But Mawere and other
analysts warn that the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies
(RSIIC) regulations can now be used to seize any businesses whose owners
cross Mugabe's path.
South African companies that are heavily
investing in Zimbabwe are not immune to the vagaries of this law either.
Like Zimbabwe's security and media laws, it is so broadly and vaguely worded
that the state can use it to achieve anything it wishes.
a satanic law," said Eric Dehwa, a Zimbabwean economist.
wording is so broad that the state can intervene and take over your
businesses if, for instance, they fail to or delay paying electricity, water
or any bills to state companies and institutions, because that can be
interpreted as being indebted to the state," said Dehwa.
state has effectively assumed the role of a bank.
companies investing in Zimbabwe that their "cavalier attitude" in not
vigorously fighting this law and the general assault on property rights
could still backfire.
When Mawere's business empire was seized, it
was neither insolvent nor broke.
It was also not indebted to
the state. In fact, the indebtedness to the state was created by the
government's appointees when it took over the firm.
the judiciary muzzled, there are no effective options for
To make matters worse for business, the RSIIC will
soon be complemented by "monstrous" constitutional amendments being
railroaded through parliament.
These will remove the rights of
those whose properties are nationalised to seek adjudication by the courts
and allow the government to withdraw the passports of citizens in "the
In the face of all this, observers are puzzled
that Zimbabwean businesses and key foreign investors have remained
"Maybe when one day they face Mawere's fate they will wake
up. But it might be too late," said Dehwa.
He believes South
African businesses investing in Zimbabwe should play a more pro-active role
in fighting the regulations.
He urges them to implore President
Mbeki's government to demand a repeal of all laws that impact negatively on
business and property rights before they consider Zimbabwe's request for a
$1-billion bail-out loan.
Asked to respond, Anglo American
Corporation spokesperson Daniel Mwape said his organisation was not a
political think-tank which could readily address issues through the
"We are a major investor in Zimbabwe and we have certain
lines of communication with the Zimbabwean government over issues that may
concern us," he said. "We prefer to use those channels."
loan issue was a matter between South Africa and the Zimbabwe governments
and Anglo had nothing do do with it, he said.
Other major investors
in Zimbabwe, Impala Platinum and Mzi Khumalo's Mettallon Corporation, did
not return calls.
This article was originally published on page
13 of Pretoria News on August 26, 2005
coordinator paints grim picture of Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis UNITED
NATIONS, Aug 26 (AFP) - UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland on Friday painted
a grim picture of Zimbabwe's humanitarian situation in the wake of the
government's recent slum demolition campaign which has affected hundreds of
Egeland said that following a 11.9-million-dollar
(10-million-euro) appeal launched by his Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs in early July, "we are undertaking a big humanitarian
program... and have been able to reach between 100,000 and 200,000
But he said the Harare government was refusing to cooperate with
a larger UN program to assist those hardest hit by the eviction campaign,
including a longer-term component to resettle affected
"We have not reached agreement with the government .. (on)
how many are affected, how to help them, the role of (non-governmental
organizations) and other operational aspects," he told a press briefing
"We will continue our dialogue with the government," he noted. "We
are working hard to gain access to people in need and to get donors'
Egeland said the evicted slum dwellers had gone back to live
with relatives in the countryside or had gone to other urban slums, many of
them drifting around or sleeping outside or living in overcrowded urban
The largest concentration of such people is now in Hopley Farm
near Harare, where at least 4,000 to 5,000 people were living in rudimentary
conditions, he added.
He noted that the demolition campaign could not
have come at the worst time for Zimbabwe, which is being blighted by the
effects of AIDS, food insecurity and crumbling basic services.
expectancy has plummeted from around 63 years in later 1980's and early
1990's to 33.9 years in 2004... this is a meltdown," he lamented.
quarter of the country's population is infected by the AIDS virus, with
3,000 people dying from the disease per week and 1.3 million children
orphaned, he noted.
"Food insecurity is also now very severe and
growing in Zimbabwe," he added.
A drought across the Southern African
sub-region means that 10 million people will likely need food assistance,
according to Egeland.
He said the World Food Program was already feeding
one million people in Zimbabwe and was making preparations to feed 2.9
million people before the end of the year.
Zimbabwe on May 18
launched the two-pronged Operation Restore Order and Operation
Murambatsvina, razing shacks, homes, small businesses and market stalls in
shantytowns and other poor urban areas.
The government has portrayed the
cleanup blitz that took place amid severe food and fuel shortages as an
urban renewal campaign and says it is building new housing for those
displaced in the operations that ended in late July.
But a report
released by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka last month estimated that 700,000 people
had lost their homes or their livelihoods, or both, in the 10-week campaign,
and that a further 2.4 million Zimbabweans "had been affected in varying
But the Harare government accused Tibaijuka of choosing to
"indulge in mathematical extrapolation so as to produce the grossly inflated
figure of 700,000".
Still no accord on UN donor aid appeal as country faces 'meltdown' With
Zimbabwe facing a meltdown and life expectancy cut in half, the United
Nations has not yet reached agreement with the country's Government on an
overall international aid appeal for a crisis which has been exacerbated by
the authority's mass urban eviction campaign, the UN chief humanitarian
"We have not reached agreement with the government on the
text (of an appeal), we have not agreed on how many are affected, how to
help them, the role of (non-governmental organizations) NGOs and other
operational aspects," Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs, told a news briefing today in UN headquarters in New
The complex emergency in Zimbabwe comprises a combination of
widespread food insecurity, high unemployment and a 25 percent HIV/AIDS
Most recently, the two-month old Government Operation
Murambatsvina (Restore Order) urban eviction programme, described by senior
UN officials as an ongoing violation of human rights, has forced an
estimated 650,000 to 700,000 into conditions much worse in many cases than
they had before they were evicted.
Mr. Egeland said the world body
has been using funding from an earlier appeal to provide some aid to 170,000
and 100,000 people affected by the evictions and of that number about
100,000 are getting regular assistance to include food, temporary shelter,
water and sanitation. But a much broader programme is still lacking and is
sorely needed to address the broader emergency in the country, he added
"The backdrop is a dramatic one in Zimbabwe, one of the most
dramatic in the world. Life expectancy has plummeted from around 63 years in
the late 1980s and early 1990s to 33.9 years in 2004. This is a meltdown.
This is a nearly halving of life expectancy," Egeland said.
talks were continuing with the Zimbabwean Government and in the absence of
an agreement, the UN has not been able to get out an appeal to donors. "We
made an appeal for $11.9 million in July and we've gotten quite a bit of
that, but we would like to have a more comprehensive plan to help more
people and we need government help for that."
He said most people
affected by the eviction have gone back to the countryside to live with
relatives, have been absorbed by countryside villages, or absorbed by other
urban areas But many live now out in the open, or urban shelters, or in the
rubble of the demolished homes in which they'd lived before being
Central to the problems in the country is an HIV/AIDS prevalence
rate, which now stands at about one-quarter of the adult population. Some
3,000 people die from HIV/AIDS per week in Zimbabwe and about 1.3 million
children have been orphaned by the pandemic.
He also said that
although Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been considering a visit to
Zimbabwe as a means of focusing more international attention on the crisis,
as he did this week in Niger, no decision has been made.
"I think we have
to make some progress - and I think we will - before he visits," Mr. Egeland
SA offered Zimbabwe a loan - Harare minister August 26
2005 at 11:41AM
Harare - South Africa offered Zimbabwe a
much-needed loan to help it out of its economic crisis following a request
from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a Zimbabwean cabinet minister
claimed in a newspaper report published on Friday.
state-run Herald newspaper quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as
saying Harare "had not requested South Africa to rescue Zimbabwe with a
financial package but instead the loan was being offered to Harare on the
instigation of the IMF".
"We have not approached any government for
a loan. We are being offered loans and I am aware some of the loans are
being offered to us at the instigation of the IMF," Chinamasa
Discussions are reported to be ongoing between the
authorities in Zimbabwe and South Africa over the terms of a loan to be used
partly to pay off Zimbabwe's crippling debt of nearly $300-million to the
There has been widespread speculation that President Robert
Mugabe's government is not happy with the conditions South Africa may want
to attach to the loan.
Chinamasa told parliament on Wednesday
that Harare would not accept any loan "that has political conditions
attached to it", the Herald reported.
"He told parliament...
that the state would only accept a financial package that had commercial
conditions such as those related to interest rates," the newspaper
Reports that Pretoria is demanding talks between Mugabe's
ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as a
condition for the loan have been denied by sources in South
A team of IMF assessors is in Zimbabwe this week for talks
with government officials. The IMF's executive board is due to meet in early
September, when it is likely to discuss Zimbabwe's possible expulsion. -
Very little information has been released to the
press about the loan that South Africa is considering to bailout Zimbabwe
from IMF expulsion and total economic collapse. Even now, no-one is sure
exactly who initiated the deal, just how much money is being considered, and
what conditions, if any, will be placed on the government in Harare. It was
only on Thursday that the press got confirmation that a deal is indeed being
discussed and that was during a press conference at the reserve bank of
South Africa's annual general meeting.
Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni told reporters at the press event that
there was a media frenzy about the Zimbabwe loan. But when pressed for more
details, Mboweni became irritated and refused to answer any more questions
about Zimbabwe. Thami Dickson, political correspondent for SABC, was at the
Mboweni press briefing. He says the reserve bank governor confirmed that
discussions are going on, and that the amount is less than reported. He also
confirmed there is talk about economic policies that Zimbabwe would need to
Dickson says reporters in South Africa are not getting
enough information and most reports, especially print, are quite
Published: August 26,
2005 Last Modified: August 26, 2005 at 07:44 AM
President Robert Mugabe likes to blame his country's manifold and mounting
woes on a legacy of white colonialism and imperialism. And at one time there
might have been something to that, but no longer.
Rhodesia, and before that Southern Rhodesia, took its name from
arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes, who invaded the country as a commercial
mining venture in 1888 and, after fighting off the outgunned local tribes,
ran it as a private business enterprise until it became a regular British
colony in 1920.
The colony's white population steadily grew with
immigrants, mainly from Britain, who were attracted by the farms, mines and
scenery. It grew especially fast after World War II, and by 1974 the white
population had reached 293,000. It was a pleasant life of clubs, sports and
drinks on the verandah of the Meikles Hotel in a social milieu that reminded
some observers of prewar England.
The tide of black African
independence and nationalism was rising, but the white minority was not
about to give up its solid grip on power and its privileged status in a
majority black country. That position was not only immoral; it was also
The minority government declared independence in 1965 and
almost immediately the United Nations imposed economic sanctions. There
followed a guerrilla war that the white government more or less kept under
control until 1975, when Mozambique became independent of Portugal and
guerrillas then had safe haven on Rhodesia's eastern border.
after an ineffectual African interim government failed, elections that
included the two main guerrilla groups, ZANU and ZAPU, were held. The ZANU
leader, Mugabe, was elected president in what is now an extinct institution
in Zimbabwe - a free and fair election.
Mugabe inherited a thriving
country. Because of the sanctions, the economy was thrifty and self-reliant.
Because of the white-owned commercial farms, the country was a major food
exporter. Its mining sector was still vibrant and, had there been no
sanctions in place, it had immense tourist potential.
As Mugabe's misrule
grew, the white population dwindled. Its exodus was accelerated by the
confiscation of white-owned farms, a feat of political grandstanding that
has left the country starving. The last official report said that there were
about 46,700 whites left, although the Associated Press cites sources that
say the figure now is likely fewer than 30,000.
Zimbabwe is moribund: Its
currency worthless, its population starving and stricken by a 34 percent
HIV/AIDS rate and its unemployment off the charts. To add to Zimbabwe's
woes, Mugabe's government is bulldozing the shanty homes of tens of
thousands of its poorest and most miserable citizens in the chillingly named
Operation Drive Out Trash.
What was once called with some accuracy one of
the white tribes of Africa has now been thoroughly dispersed. Whom will
Mugabe blame now?
Josiah Tungamirai, Minister for Black Empowerment and Indigenisation in
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government, has died while receiving
treatment at a clinic in South Africa, state radio announced on Friday.
Family members, who asked not to be identified, said the retired Air Force
of Zimbabwe (AFZ) commander had been having problems with the rejection of a
kidney transplant carried out several years ago. He was reported to be in
his late 50s. Mugabe's politburo was convening to declare him a national
hero and a state funeral was expected at the Heroes' Acre national cemetery
outside Harare. Mugabe customarily uses such occasions to make fiery
statements on pressing issues, which may include Zimbabwe's request for
"unconditional" South African help meeting $295-million arrears to the
International Monetary Fund. The chief political commissar of Mugabe's
Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army during its 1964-1980 war to
overthrow white rule in former Rhodesia, Tungamirai became a brigadier in
the newly formed Zimbabwe National Army after 1980 independence. In 1982
Mugabe transferred him to command the air force, which had had an all-white
officer corps. Tungamirai insisted on being taught to fly and obtained his
In line with Mugabe's policy of having senior soldiers,
civil servants and judges active in the ruling Zanu PF party, he appointed
Tungamirai to its top policy-making body, the 40 member politburo, as
secretary for youth affairs. On retirement he was brought into Parliament
and the Cabinet. He was on the "targeted sanctions" list of prominent regime
supporters banned from travel to the United States, the European Union,
Australia and New Zealand, and barred from having bank accounts there.
Tungamirai bought a farm near Masvingo, on a willing-buyer, willing-seller
basis, before the February 2000 launch of Mugabe's "fast track"
redistribution of former white owned land to black Zimbabweans. He was
considered a model emergent commercial farmer. Mugabe made unsuccessful
attempts to promote Tungamirai as a political strongman of the influential
Karanga section of Zimbabwe's majority Shona tribal group, but he never
succeeded in ousting Eddison Zvobgo, who died last year. Tungamirai and
Zvobgo were seriously injured 10 years ago when the car in which they were
travelling together crashed in their home area near the southern town of
Masvingo. To calm a nationwide frenzy of speculation, both were forced to
issue strong statements there was no foul play involved.
Zimbabwe officials discuss South African loan offer with
IMF Sat 27 August 2005
HARARE -- International Monetary Fund
(IMF) officials on Friday discussed with Zimbabwean officials details of a
US$500 million South African loan offer to Harare to help it pay off
outstanding debts to the fund, authoritative sources told
The IMF, which visited Zimbabwe this week to assess
economic conditions in the country, will decide at its board meeting on
September 9 whether to expel the southern African nation for nonpayment of a
US$295 million debt.
South Africa, fearing IMF expulsion would
hasten Zimbabwe's total collapse and trigger a humanitarian crisis that
would spill beyond its northern neighbour's borders, has offered a hard cash
loan to Harare to pay off the fund as well as to buy critically short food
The sources said Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono discussed the loan offer with
IMF officials, who they said had made their own "suggestions and
observations" to be incorporated in the loan deal.
Gono held extensive discussions with the IMF team comprising, Sharmini
Coorey, Sonia Munoz and Kevin Fletcher on Friday morning," said a senior
Finance Ministry official, who cannot be named.
added: "They discussed fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policy as well as
the loan offer by South Africa. The IMF guys made their suggestions which
will be incorporated into the whole loan deal and forwarded to President
Thabo Mbeki who will review them with his Cabinet."
and Gono could not be immediately reached for comment on the
But the official added that Pretoria was most likely to
advance money to payoff Zimbabwe's debts once it had reviewed "positions
agreed between Harare and the IMF team".
The loan deal had
appeared in jeopardy after President Robert Mugabe publicly objected to
demands by Pretoria to reopen dialogue with the opposition to find a
solution to Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.
sources Pretoria was no longer specifically demanding talks between Mugabe
and his ruling ZANU PF party and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his
Movement for Democratic Change party. Mbeki and his government were now
pushing for wider and democratic constitutional reforms in Zimbabwe, they
Traditional healers make a killing as healthcare costs rocket
report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
HARARE, 26 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - An increasing number of
Zimbabweans are turning to traditional healers for inexpensive medical care
as health costs continue their upward trajectory.
state hospitals and clinics charge around Zim $20,000 (US 8 cents) per
consultation, but the cost at better-equipped private hospitals is around
Zim $500,000 (US $20) and patients can quite easily run up a bill of Zim $15
million (US $615) in a week.
Gordon Chavhunduka, the director of the
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association (ZINATHA), said
prohibitive medical costs had made it difficult for the poor to access
healthcare and most government and private hospitals demanded cash
"We have, for a long time, been telling the government that they
cannot go it alone in the delivery of health. There has been a lot of
tension between the government and us over our usefulness, and it is
encouraging that they are seeing the light now," Chavhunduka told
The authorities have been sceptical about traditional herbalists,
raising concerns that their medicines were not properly administered nor
scientifically proven, despite the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act,
which was aimed at regulating the work of 'n'angas' (Shona for traditional
healer), being passed some 25 years ago.
Minister of Health David
Parirenyatwa recently publicly acknowledged that Zimbabwe has been slow in
incorporating traditional healers into mainstream healthcare
"This is one of the few remaining countries in the [southern
African] region that does not have a proper council representing traditional
healers and their operations," Parirenyatwa told a gathering of traditional
He added that the ministry of health had appointed
a director of traditional medicine, who would focus on regulating the work
of traditional healers.
Traditional medicine experts said the formal
recognition of healers by government was long overdue, but warned that
tighter control was needed to rein in those using unorthodox methods to
ZINATHA has already established a team of health
inspectors who carry out nationwide checks on registered traditional healers
to ensure that they conform to the organisation's
Ironically, the difficulties facing Zimbabwe's healthcare
sector have brought a business boom to many traditional
Sekuru Chamunorwa Masamba, 60, a registered ZINATHA
practitioner, is working long hours in Harare's Rugare suburb, where he
specialises in infertility and mental illness, and claims he can help people
Even people living with HIV are among his patients, but he
points out that while he administers herbs to deal with the symptoms of the
virus, he does not have a cure.
"I wake up at around 4 o'clock in the
morning and begin attending to my patients at 5 o'clock and usually go to
rest at midnight - there is always a long queue of people who come to me
with different complaints, with some of them sleeping at my house either
because they come from outside Harare or want to be attended to
"Five years ago, patients would come in trickles, but these days I
am kept busy throughout the day and people sometimes request me to work
throughout the night, but I am getting old and I also need to rest," Sekuru
Masamba told IRIN.
He often gets requests to travel outside the
capital city and says even foreigners approach him for help.
charge a consultation fee of Zim $20,000 and ask my patients to pay me
according to their capability. Even though I don't ask for much, I also
attract rich people and have been called to attend to sick people in
Botswana and South Africa," said Masamba, who has been practicing as a
traditional healer for the past 40 years.
Stella Moyo, 34, a teacher
who had travelled from the small town of Chegutu about 100 km from Harare,
told IRIN that she decided to consult Masamba after doctors failed to cure
her persistent headaches.
"I visited several doctors but they could not
help me, even though I spent a lot of money hoping that the headaches would
be cured - I would be admitted in hospitals for weeks. But what surprises me
is that the doctors said they could not identify what was wrong and, in some
cases, they did not even have pills to relieve my pain.
"I have been
here for a week and I feel much better, and what is encouraging is that
Sekuru Masamba has told me that I will pay him only when my problem has been
solved," Moyo said.
The African Union (AU) envoy to Zimbabwe and Joachim
Chissano, the former Mozambican president, says his mission to mediate in
Zimbabwe between Robert Mugabe's government and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) failed long before it could start.
was attending a conference on refugees and displaced people in southern
Africa. The conference has been organised by the UN's High Commission for
Refugees (UNHCR). Chissano said the mission could not get off the ground as
both parties never had consensus for a dialogue.
It is not only
Chissano's mission that failed to bring the parties to the negotiation
table. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of states
meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, held extensive discussion with Robert Mugabe,
but yielded very little results.
A nation in distress Meanwhile, as
the political bickering continues, thousands of Zimbabweans are facing a
bleak and uncertain future. Critical shortage of food, fuel and foreign
currency continue unabated.
Chissano declined to endorse or disapprove
the recent demolition campaign of urban slums in Zimbabwe, where thousands
of people have been uprooted under operation Marumbazena. Asked whether the
Zimbabwean government acted properly, Chissano said sometimes governments
are forced to take unpleasant measures in the best interest of its
A group of female leaders
in and around Bulawayo have resolved to organise a 2-week boycott of schools
when the last term of the year begins in September. The women were
participating in a focus group discussion sponsored by Bulawayo Agenda, an
organisation that facilitates public debates on important issues. The
purpose of this session was to discuss the implications of the United
Nations report on Operation Murambatsvina, but the key issue became the
recent hikes in school fees that have made education unaffordable for
The gathering on Thursday was attended by female
representatives from various organisations including Women of Zimbabwe Arise
(WOZA), the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimrights and the MDC. Busani
Ncube, events coordinator for Bulawayo Agenda, said an invitation was
extended to ZANU-PF female leaders but none of them had attended. He said
ruling party officials rarely show up for these public debates on key issues
affecting the country.
The women resolved that they would urge
students to boycott school for the first 2 weeks of the last term starting
in September. This is to protest the drastic increases in school fees
recently announced by the government. Fees went up in some cases by a
thousand percent, with the Minister of Education Aeneas Chigwedere claiming
schools need to buy teaching and learning materials.
in parliament on Wednesday Chigwedere said some schools charging fees that
were as low as Z$225 per term had raised their fees to Z$200 000 while
parents who were paying Z$500 per term would now be required to pay Z$500
Unicef calls for help to keep Zimbabwean children in
Liz Ford Friday August 26, 2005
Nation's children fund, Unicef, has called on the international community to
support efforts to get Zimbabwean pupils back to school in
September. Despite the country's unstable domestic situation, school
enrolment rates have actually risen over the past five years, and Unicef
said it was keen to ensure this trend continued.
representative in Zimbabwe, Festo Kavishe, said this week that Zimbabweans
were making "great sacrifices" so their children could continue going to
school in the face of a declining economy, high unemployment, food shortages
and an increasing number of orphans, caused in part by the rise of HIV and
Aids cases. Zimbabwe now has the world's fourth highest rate of
"General enrolment is up, while families who have been
greatly stretched by absorbing this country's 1.3 million orphans are
somehow finding the means to keep orphans in school," said Mr
But he added: "Recent surveys show signs of strain in the
families' ability to support their children to go to school. I can think of
no clearer reason why Zimbabweans deserve the full support of the
Between 2000 and 2004, national primary school
enrolment rates rose from 92% to 96% and nearly four out of five orphans and
other vulnerable children continued in education, according to UN figures.
The country also managed to achieve gender parity.
government's recent "restore order" programme to clear slum dwellings, known
as Operation Murambatsvina - affected most of the country's cities and over
the past two months has left thousands homeless and displaced. But it has
also failed to significantly reduce the number of children in school. Some
90% of children affected by the forced evictions remain in
Mr Kavishe said Unicef wanted to ensure numbers did not drop
and is supporting the Zimbabwean ministry of education's back to school
campaign next month. The campaign will seek to re-enrol all children who
recently left school because of the clearance operation and encourage more
vulnerable children to attend.
Children's charities and politicians
have pinpointed education as key to tackling poverty and reducing HIV and
Aids rates, but the cost of tuition fees remains a huge barrier to achieving
the UN's millennium goal of giving all children a primary
Although primary education is now free in state schools in
some parts of Africa, like Uganda, for example, education in Zimbabwe has to
be paid for, although the government is trying to keep costs down. It also
says it is working towards primary education for all.
remains the engine to drive Zimbabwe's long-term prospects, and it is clear
from this data that Zimbabwean parents know that," added Mr Kavishe. "With
additional international assistance we can support the admirable endeavours
of parents and communities across this country."
TWO deep lines of worry appeared between the eyes of Mrs
Leticia Muzuva of Nhekairo Village in the Dendenyore ward of Hwedza
district, as she bemoaned the collapse of mushroom projects that only a few
years ago had become a symbolic development initiative to fight hunger,
poverty and unemployment.
Mrs Muzuva's mood is reflected in the fear
among many residents of Hwedza over the decreasing number of mushroom
growers from Hwedza Centre through to St Anne's Goto, Mt St Mary's,
Zviyambe, Goto, Chigondo, Dendenyore and Goneso areas of Hwedza
"We can't get water to sustain mushroom projects," Mrs Muzuva
said, "For us to get water we have to travel for more than five
"Water is the problem and we can't get the spawn and plastic
pockets," she added.
Some smallholder farmers in Hwedza are now
disillusioned that they have virtually abandoned growing mushrooms owing
largely to the shortage of spawn, water and the rising costs of plastic bags
and other inputs required in mushroom growing.
Before the collapse of
the mushroom projects, smallholder farmers with sheer interest and
determination received training from the University of Zimbabwe's (UZ)
Biological Sciences Mushroom Project, built structures for mushroom
cultivation, dug wells for water and even opened markets for the oyster
Growers could buy spawn from the UZ project, which was
usually on wheat straw and placed in heavy-duty plastic bags.
dotted around Hwedza district could, around 2002, harvest up to 50kg of
mushroom every month raising incomes from sales and enhancing the
nutritional levels of their families.
At that time, demand for
mushroom was high and a kilogramme could be sold for about $1 200 in urban
Hope was also high that mushroom growers in the Dzvairo,
Nhekairo, Chitongo, Nyamhemba, Mvurachena and Dendenyore areas under Chief
Svosve would eventually build a storage centre to build up stocks for sale
to retail chains such as OK, TM, Spar and Food Chain.
expert in Hwedza says that most farmers are failing to get spawn, as they
cannot afford to go to Harare were it is sold.
"We can't get it here in
Hwedza closer to our homes. If we could get it somewhere near, then these
mushroom projects would be thriving by now," she said.
projects which once thrived here are now at a standstill because of water
and spawn shortages. Trained mushroom growers are there but they need
support in terms of accessing the spawn and water," she added.
projects in Hwedza had risen from six around 2002 to about 25 by last year
owing largely to growing interest in the cultivation of the
"It is important to smallholder farmers in terms of
nutritional status, finance and employment creation," says the agricultural
expert. "The will is there but how to access the spawn, plastic bags and
water is the problem especially now with drought ravaging most parts of the
Mrs Chishamiso Mugandani lamented the lack of a dam in
Dendenyore that could at least help them sustain the mushroom
"When we have good rains, we don't cry but with these droughts
we can't sustain mushroom growing which requires a lot of water," she said,
"Our mushroom structures are lying idle and there is nothing we can do. The
drought has really hit us hard in our area."
The Chitukuta and the
Mukada families from the Matsine area close to Goto also echoed similar
sentiments and pointed out the need to resuscitate the mushroom projects
that had, in the last few years, thrown a lifeline to many smallholder
farmers in the area.
"We can't get the spawn and money to buy plastic
bags. It is a big hustle and we can't move forward with the projects," added
Mrs Rudo Gunda of Dendenyore.
"On a good day I could get between $250
000 and $300 000 a day from mushroom sales," she said, "It helped us a lot
to get money to buy soap, sugar, salt, flour and other things we needed in
our day-to-day living."
With earnings from mushroom sales, she
maintained, they could afford to send their children to boarding
To grow the mushrooms, one needs to build simple structures
using farm bricks, thatching grass, have adequate water and plastic
Bags with spawn are then hanged inside the structures under certain
In the initial stages, the room has to remain closed to
maintain moisture, an essential factor in the growth of oyster
Growers then have to pour water on the floor of the room
everyday until mushrooms germinate after six weeks.
mushrooms have colonised the bags, the grower spikes some holes around the
bags for the mushroom to sprout.
At this time, doors and windows have to
be opened for a certain period for mushroom shoots to grow.
about three months for the bags to be fully colonised by the
A grower is rewarded for his patience and resilience after
three months when the mushroom begins to fruit.
Kashangura of the UZ project once remarked that mushroom cultivation is
relatively cheaper and not much inputs are required.
He said mushrooms
are rich in proteins and vitamins and boost the immune system particularly
for people suffering from heart and kidney ailments.
"Mushrooms have some
medicinal properties and can help lower blood cholesterol levels," he said
in 2002 while working on a pilot mushroom project in Hwedza and
"If there is too much cholesterol, arteries and veins can be
blocked creating problems in the people."
Mushroom cultivation is
popular in urban areas too and many people have converted their houses into
structures for growing the delicacy.
Zimbabwe consumes about 500 tonnes
of mushroom and about half of the produce is imported during the dry
The challenges facing the Hwedza growers all point to
difficulties that face farmers once donors leave.
development initiatives many of them donor supported have failed to survive
in the long run owing to the donor dependency syndrome that at times does
not put adequate structures in place to ensure continuity.
But this does
not mean smallholder farmers in Hwedza should resign to fate.
resuscitate the projects and take advantage of the profit opportunities
availed by cash crops.
There is great potential and scope for the
development of mushroom growing in Hwedza and relevant government agencies
have to find meaningful ways to ensure growers can buy spawn from the Grain
Marketing Board depot at Hwedza centre.
Mushroom growing is still
critical as a means of addressing food security, financial and social
security for the people of Hwedza, apart from spurring agricultural
production in the countryside.