Central bank chief Gideon Gono makes no apology for continuing to crank out
money, which economists say fuels hyperinflation. Critics call him a
megalomaniac with a vise-like grip on the economy.
By Robyn Dixon
January 1, 2009
Reporting from Harare, Zimbabwe -- Gideon Gono prints money, lots and lots
of money that's worth next to nothing. Depending on whom you talk to, the
architect of Zimbabwe's hyperinflation is a megalomaniac, a workaholic, a
thief -- or the country's savior.
Zimbabwe's central bank chief seems to have a finger in every government
ministry. No project goes ahead without his approval. No underling
approaches without fear and trembling.
He makes no apologies for his furious money-printing, as the country, mired
in disease and hunger, inflation beyond calculation and political crisis,
keeps on spiraling downward. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary
measures, he says.
The 49-year-old former tea boy, target of Western economic sanctions and
confidant of President Robert Mugabe has made more enemies in the ruling
ZANU-PF party than any other senior member. And some people think he may be
its weak link. But for now, it's his obsession with photo ops and his
autocratic control over government affairs that dominate.
One pro-ZANU-PF banker shudders while recalling Gono's summons of top
banking officials to his office in early December. It was a
made-for-television ambush. As the cameras rolled, Gono berated the bankers
for releasing new bank notes a day before their launch.
They weren't even his employees, but he fired them anyway. On television.
But Gono wasn't done with them. The lobby was full of police waiting to
arrest them when their elevator opened on the ground floor.
"I had to sleep on the floor in the cell," the banker said, deeply shaken,
two days after his release on bail. "I've never slept on the floor in my
life. There was water dripping everywhere." He spoke on condition of
anonymity for fear of jeopardizing his trial.
As pressure on Gono has grown with the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy, he
has blamed banks, the stock exchange, black market currency dealers and
insurance companies. As well as firing the bankers, he blacklisted 20
investment companies and froze their accounts.
As a survival tactic, it has worked. Despite the highest inflation rate on
Earth, estimated by independent economists in at least quadrillions of
percents, Mugabe recently reappointed Gono for another five-year term. It
sparked as much outrage in the ZANU-PF as it did in the opposition.
"Not only is he destroying the country, he is destroying the party," growled
one senior ZANU-PF official.
Gono employs florid, indignant rhetoric and wears a large, flashy gold
watch. When he strides into the bank at his usual breakneck pace in the
morning, there's a flurry of panic. A security guard who fails to open the
door before Gono reaches it faces certain punishment and possible dismissal,
according to one Reserve Bank manager. The manager, who like others
interviewed for this story, is afraid of getting fired and spoke on
condition of anonymity.
Gono usually works until midnight. Under his leadership, the Reserve Bank
has taken on myriad tasks unrelated to central banking: buying government
cars, supplying farm equipment and fertilizer, setting up and supplying
"People's Shops" to sell cheap goods, setting up foreign currency shops,
supplying medicines to state hospitals, mobilizing rigs to drill bore holes
for clean water in the cholera crisis and a biofuels project, to name a few.
"He's now like the head of state. He's reaching almost everything," the
"People fall over each other to please him and some get hurt in the process,
and he likes that. He likes that attention. He likes power," said another
Reserve Bank employee. "He's very vindictive. He can hold a grudge for
Like Mugabe, Gono blames Zimbabwe's ills on Western sanctions. U.S. and
European countries imposed bans on senior officials, preventing them from
traveling to or doing business with the West. Gono is among those under
The Times requested a phone interview with Gono but did not receive a
Rejecting what he calls "traditional" economics (like the principle that
printing money endlessly causes runaway inflation), he contends that
printing money is actually a form of "sanctions busting."
"I must reiterate that I am going to print and print and sign the money
until sanctions are removed and there is balance-of-payments support. It's a
commitment I am ready to be fired for because we need money for
infrastructural development," Gono said, quoted in the government-owned
Herald on Oct. 1.
But the senior ZANU-PF official scoffs at that argument. "If the money was
being provided to build hospitals, schools and roads, it might be sanctions
busting. But it's being used for conspicuous consumption. Everywhere you go
there are Mercedeses."
Gono's own website, www.gideongono.com, gives a taste of the Reserve Bank
governor's ego, charting his course from tea boy and cleaner at a provincial
brewery to becoming one of the most powerful men in the country.
But Gonogonow.com, a website run by activists, offers a sense of how loathed
he is. It (and his enemies in ZANU-PF) accuse him of massive looting of
state finances, claims he has denied.
The activists print anti-Gono fliers in English and Shona and target people
standing in line at banks to withdraw money. They feature cartoons of Gono
loading Reserve Bank money into the back of cars or gulping down feasts,
usually with his foot on a child's skeleton.
"Gono is the weak link in the Mugabe regime because he's become incredibly
powerful and incredibly bloated, and he's got very few friends in the
system," said one activist involved in the project, who spoke anonymously
for fear of reprisals. "No ministry can get access to cash without going to
Gono. He controls everything. He's become this power-mad individual who's
loathed by the whole country."
He said other members of the group regarded the GonoGoNow project as their
most dangerous anti-regime activity. "They think Gono would kill over this,"
said the activist.
Gono recently launched his book, "Zimbabwe's Casino Economy," dashed off in
60 days. In an economy where most U.S. dollar transactions are banned, his
book is priced at $40.
Tony Hawkins, an independent Harare-based economist whose citation awarding
Gono an MBA distinction is appended, these days describes Gono's performance
"We've got to the point where his policy seems to be living from day to day
and making sure there's cash. There's no policy, there's no strategy,
there's no direction, there's nothing," said Hawkins.
But Gono sees himself as the country's shepherd. Blaming him for the
economy, he said, "is the worst form of diabolical nonsense and the highest
form of intellectual naivete and dishonesty . . . only matched by a hyena
trying to tell a flock of sheep that the worst enemy is their shepherd,"
according to a report in the Herald on Sept. 30.
Before he went to the Reserve Bank, Gono had a reputation as a solid banker.
In 2003, Hawkins warned Gono not to take the Reserve Bank job because it
would destroy him.
Hawkins remembers: "He said, 'No, I'm going to sort everything out.' "
HARARE, Jan 1 (AFP)
Zimbabwe's economy is now virtually based on foreign exchange, a state daily
said Thursday, with fewer goods and services available in the local dollar
which is rapidly losing its worth because of galloping inflation,
"A survey by The Herald this week revealed a significant drop in demand for
the local unit as very few shops and traders were still selling products in
Zim dollars," the newspaper reported.
The Zimbabwe dollar continues to lose its worth as the country's chronic
economic woes show no sign of abating. One US dollar is worth four million
Zim dollars at the official exchange rate and three billion Zim dollars on
the black market.
Most traders and service providers from streetside vegetable vendors to
mobile phone service providers are pegging their prices in foreign currency
to hedge against losses.
Since September last year, Zimbabwe's central bank has licensed at least
1,000 shops to sell goods in foreign currency in a move aimed at helping
businesses suffering from a chronic shortage of foreign currency to import
spare parts and foreign goods.
Others shops and service providers have followed suit although they have not
been authorised by the government and despite warnings that those arrested
for flouting foreign exchange regulations would be prosecuted.
A single journey by minibus within Harare costs one US dollar while hired
taxis charge at the rate of one dollar per kilometre (about half a mile).
In the latest move, the authorities licenced mobile phone service providers
to charge for airtime and other services in foreign currency.
The Herald said the prevalent use of foreign exchange is threatening the
once flourishing parallel foreign exchange market as traders get fewer
people in need of the local currency.
Once a regional economic model, Zimbabwe is in the throes of economic crisis
with inflation officially at 231 million percent and most families unable to
afford a square meal.
A power-sharing deal aimed at reviving the moribund economy and ending
tensions between the country's main political rivals stalled over the
allocation of key cabinet ministries.
January 1, 2009
By Raymond Maingire
HARARE - Didymus Mutasa, who continues to act as State Security Minister,
attempted on Wednesday to block attempts by lawyers representing Zimbabwe
Peace Project director, Jestina Mukoko and eight others, to compel the state
to disclose the identity of the abductors of the accused persons.
The defence had filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking to
stop any further prosecution of the group pending a full enquiry into their
The defence also wanted the police to arrest the kidnappers and the state to
further disclose where the accused persons were being held for nearly two
months after their kidnappings.
The state last month admitted in court the accused persons were abducted.
The defence also wants the state to summon one Chigumira, an army medical
doctor who is said to have examined the accused persons in their torture
chambers, to appear in court and disclose who called him.
The defence says it cannot rely on the findings of a state doctor who could
have been called to "minimize the trauma" the accused suffered.
The accused persons claim torture at the hands of state security agents.
A private doctor, who examined them in prison on Tuesday, confirmed the
In its argument, the state said the Attorney General's office was not
subject to directives by anybody including the courts.
Mutasa, in an affidavit to support the state's contention, said the charges
faced by the accused persons make it "imperative" for the state not to
disclose matters of state security even in court.
"The said allegations constitute a clear and present threat to national
security which threat if left unchecked could result in consequences too
ghastly to contemplate," Mutasa said.
The accused persons are being held on alleged attempts to seek the overthrow
of President Robert Mugabe through recruiting persons to train as bandits
Said Mutasa, "The state of affairs warranted state security agents whose
mandate and responsibility it is to promote and preserve the security of the
state to undertake investigations into the matter.
"Investigations are still ongoing and in view of the sensitivity of the
matter, and necessarily clandestine modus operandi and nature of state
security organs, it is imperative and prudent that the identities of
officers charged with investigating matters of this nature and any
facilities involved be kept a closely guarded secret.
"To do otherwise would not be in the best interests of national security."
After hearing both submissions by the state and the defence, Justice Elphas
Chitakunye reserved judgement until Friday, January 2, 2009.
Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the lawyers handling the matter was evidently
"So you have a minister in the government saying that in fact it has certain
undisclosed facilities where they keep people who have been abducted by
stated security agents and that courts should not enquire into those forced
disappearances," she said.
"If anybody has committed an offence in Zimbabwe, the law is very clear as
to how they should be dealt with.
"The court situation does not get suspended because they are allegations of
state security issues.
"There is no law in Zimbabwe that allows anybody to grab you in your night
clothes, put you in a car, blind fold you and take you to undisclosed places
for three weeks without your family knowing where you are."
The accused persons were seized by armed squads from their homes and
workplaces in Harare, Norton, Chinhoyi and Banket on different occasions
since October end.
Until December 22 when the police apparently took custody of them, they
continuously denied any knowledge of their whereabouts.
"We are clearly not satisfied with that," said Mtetwa.
"The courts are there to ensure that if it is alleged you have committed an
offence you are dealt with in terms of the law; not through some operations
that are not subject to any form of judicial review."
January 01 2009 at 05:38PM
The Anglican bishop of Pretoria - Right Reverend Dr Jo Seoka - on Thursday
called upon President Kgalema Motlanthe to act against Zimbabwe's Robert
"Looking at the situation in Zimbabwe, one cannot help but challenge the
government of South Africa to consider seriously the humanitarian crisis
faced by the Zimbabwean people in Musina and act decisively on it," the
He added that he had previously called upon both the government and the SADC
to take tougher action against Mugabe.
"However, no action has been taken by the political leaders of our country
to protect the Zimbabwean nationals within our borders.
"Yet people continue to be detained without trial, and to die of diseases of
impoverishment such as cholera."
The conditions under which the Zimbabweans found themselves could no longer
be tolerated, Seoka said.
"As a spiritual leader and the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria, I
challenge my own government first, to send a delegation on a fact-finding
mission that will inform and empower us to act decisively to rescue the
innocent nationals of Zimbabwe, both in their country, and in such places as
Musina, where they are being treated to a fate worse than animals."
He said it was tragic to learn that one of the observers in the area (as
reported in the Mail and Guardian) noted that even his dogs did not live
under the conditions to which the Zimbabwean nationals were being subjected.
The bishop added that SA had to now consider sending a peacekeeping force to
Zimbabwe, to protect civilians, "particularly those who are human rights
advocates, such as Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted and molested".
He also called upon SA to stop supplying electricity and water to Zimbabwe,
"simply because these amenities have become accessible only to Mugabe and
his cronies, and not the poor who are evidently dying of starvation and
Seoka said it was the right of SA citizens to speak out on such matters, "as
it is our tax which subsidises the supply of these amenities".
He added that should peacekeeping fail, "we must, as a country, call upon
our President, Kgalema Motlanthe, to exercise his responsibility as the
chair of Southern African Development Community (SADC), to mobilise SADC
forces to go to Zimbabwe as peacemakers". - Sapa
GENEVA, Jan 1 (AFP)
More than 30,000 people in Zimbabwe have been diagnosed with cholera, the
World Health Organisation said Thursday, as the number of those contracting
the deadly disease continues to mount.
As many as 31,656 suspected cases were diagnosed to date with one third of
them in the capital of Harare, the WHO said.
The organisation last reported some 29,131 suspected cases on Monday and
1,564 deaths from the water-borne disease.
Cholera also continues to plague neighbouring South Africa, where it has
killed 13 people, mainly in the Limpopo border region where nine people have
died from a total of 1,334 suspected cases, the WHO said citing South
United Nations aid agencies fear Zimbabwe may be hit with up to 60,000
cases, with the upcoming rainy season likely to spread the disease more
The Red Cross announced on Wednesday that it would send seven international
emergency response teams to the impoverished southern African country to
help fight the spread.
Zimbabweans are also struggling against hyper-inflation, severe food
shortages and chronic political instability.
APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Cumulative donor assistance for Zimbabwe's cholera
outbreak reached more than US$35 million at the end of 2008, the UN Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) said here Thursday.
A total of US$35.6 million had by December 31 been donated towards helping
Zimbabwe fight a deadly cholera outbreak that killed more than 1,600 people
in the last four months of 2008.
Zimbabwe's former colonial masters Britain accounted for nearly 40 percent
of the donations, with a cumulative total of US$13.8 million channelled
through UN agencies and the Red Cross.
Other significant donations came from the United States which gave US$6.8
million, the Netherlands provided US$2.5 million, pharmaceutical firm
GlaxoSmithKline which chipped in with US$1.3 million, and Japan which
offered US$1.5 million for water purification chemicals and health
Most of the donor assistance poured in after the Zimbabwe government
declared cholera a national emergency at the beginning of December.
The cholera outbreak has spread to other southern African countries, with
cases reported in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.
By CLARE NULLIS - 1 hour ago
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) - South African anti-apartheid activist Helen
Suzman, who won international acclaim as one of the few white lawmakers to
fight against the injustices of racist rule, died Thursday. She was 91.
Suzman, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, fought a long and
lonely battle in the South African parliament against government repression
of the country's black majority and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Achmat Dangor said Suzman was a
"great patriot and a fearless fighter against apartheid."
Suzman's daughter, Frances Jowell, said that Suzman died peacefully at her
Johannesburg home. Jowell told the South African Press Association that
there would be a private funeral this weekend and a public memorial service
For 13 years, Suzman was the sole opposition lawmaker in South Africa's
parliament, raising her voice time after time against the introduction of
racist legislation by the National Party government.
After her retirement from parliament in 1989, she served on a variety of top
public institutions, including the Independent Electoral Commission that
oversaw the country's first multiracial elections in 1994.
She was at Mandela's side when he signed the new constitution in 1996 as
South Africa's first black president. A year later, Mandela awarded her a
special gold medal in honor of her contributions.
"It is a courage born of the yearning for freedom; of hatred of oppression,
injustice and inequity whether the victim be oneself or another; a fortitude
that draws its strength from the conviction that no person can be free while
others are unfree," Mandela said at the time.
Suzman had first visited Mandela in prison on Robben Island in 1967, when
she heard his grievances about prison conditions.
"It was an odd and wonderful sight to see this courageous woman peering into
our cells and strolling around our courtyard. She was the first and only
woman ever to grace our cells," Mandela later recalled.
"Mrs. Suzman was one of the few, if not the only, member of Parliament who
took an interest in the plight of political prisoners," he said.
Suzman was born in the mining town of Germiston, east of Johannesburg, to
Lithuanian-Jewish parents who had fled anti-Semitism. Her childhood was the
charmed one of most whites - tennis, swimming lessons and private schooling.
When Suzman got to university, she began to speak out against the conditions
under which black people were forced to live, especially the dreaded pass
system that restricted their movement.
In 1953, she was elected to parliament for General Jan Smuts' United Party.
A few years later, she helped formed the liberal democratic Progressive
Party, a later reincarnation of which is still the official opposition. A
snap election in 1961 devastated the party, leaving Suzman on her own until
1974. She kept her seat until her retirement in 1989 at the age of 72.
She was especially jubilant about the 1986 abolition of the pass laws as
part of the slow and uneven unravelling of apartheid legislation and had
just one regret about leaving Parliament: "That I didn't stay on one extra
year to watch all the bills that I'd opposed being repealed."
In interview with The Associated Press on her 90th birthday in November
2007, Suzman said: "I had a wonderful opportunity to use the parliamentary
stage to bring the world's attention to what was going on."
Suzman's relationship with former President P.W. Botha, one of the most
ruthless enforcers of apartheid laws, was one of mutual loathing. She
described him as "an obnoxious bully" and said that if he were female, "he
would arrive in Parliament on a broomstick," according to the Helen Suzman
Foundation Web site.
Botha once referred to her as "a vicious little cat" - Suzman didn't mind as
she adored animals and was surrounded by them at her home.
Suzman was bestowed with 27 honorary doctorates, including ones from Oxford,
Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and Cambridge universities. She was made Dame of
the British Empire in 1989 - a rare honor for a foreigner.
In addition to many other titles, she said she was especially proud of being
declared "Enemy of the State" by Zimbabwe's autocratic President Robert
Mugabe in 2001.
At her 90th birthday, she spoke openly about her disillusionment with the
lack of progress in addressing crime, unemployment and poverty in South
Africa but praised the post-apartheid government for economic policy
"Masses of black people are very disappointed with lack of delivery of
housing, water and sanitation," she told the AP.
Suzman prided herself for reading four newspapers every morning and
championing causes close to her heart - including the decriminalization of
"The great thing about my life is that is has never been boring - long,
interesting, maddening at times but never boring," she said.
Associated Press Writer Celean Jacobson in Johannesburg contributed to this
Blake Lambert 01 Jan 2009
World Politics Review
Pray for Zimbabweans. Their economy, shrinking for a decade, is
suffering hyperinflation of more than 230 million percent. The government,
which has no money to keep most primary and secondary schools open, has even
closed down several hospitals during a cholera epidemic. The disease has
left nearly 1,200 people dead and more than 23,000 others infected,
according to the United Nations. With food, water, electricity and public
services all scarce, Zimbabwe confirms Hobbes' belief in the harshness of
President Robert Mugabe, the country's sole leader since independence
in 1980, deserves much of the blame. He has clung to power, emboldened by
his ZANU-PF party, no matter what the national cost. Still, it is unclear
how to effect the necessary change to begin Zimbabwe's reconstruction.
For Western officials, that process no longer includes a role for
Mugabe, with outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush going so far as to say
recently, "It is time for Robert Mugabe to go." The stalemated Sept. 11
power sharing agreement, which attempted to create an inclusive government
between ZANU-PF and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change, is now a non-starter for the U.S. and perhaps Britain.
Beyond their rhetoric, the U.S. and the European Union have also imposed
sanctions on members of Mugabe's regime and his financial enablers.
Given the depths of Zimbabwe's catastrophe, however, such actions seem
insufficient. Not surprisingly, more robust solutions are now being
proffered to dislodge Mugabe, including the threat of military force,
invoking the U.N. principle of "responsibility to protect," and charging
Mugabe with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for
mass atrocities. While theoretically legitimate, all three options
demonstrate an idealistic approach to international affairs that is
ill-suited to Zimbabwe.
Start with the ICC. Though very few individuals are more deserving of
being brought before it than Mugabe, the court has no army or police force
to arrest suspects. Charges would likely strengthen the will of Mugabe and
his compatriots to cling even more stubbornly to power, relying on allies
such as China for their bankroll.
Threatening force, meanwhile, requires military capacity and political
will. But which country, if any, will supply the troops to level the threat?
As for the extreme edge of the responsibility to protect, an actual
military intervention would require approval from the U.N. Security Council
or from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community,
according to the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention
organization. Neither option is likely because of China and Russia's veto at
the Security Council, and the respect Mugabe commands from his neighbors for
having liberated Zimbabwe from colonial rule.
Negotiation, as tepid it has been, may be the most viable option. The
International Crisis Group proposed the establishment of an 18-month
"transitional administration, run by non-partisan experts, in which neither
Mugabe nor Tsvangirai would have any position." The government should be led
by a Chief Administrator who would be banned from running for office or
serving as prime minister. Its chief tasks would be to implement economic
and political reforms, and to prepare new presidential elections. In
exchange for Mugabe leaving the presidency, he would receive guarantees of
immunity from domestic prosecution and extradition, along with security for
his family. This amnesty would also apply to senior military commanders who
accepted retirement and did not threaten Zimbabwe's stability.
That final plank horrified AIDS-Free World, a U.S.-based advocacy
group that focuses on HIV/AIDS. "Amnesty is deeply offensive to anyone who
has even an inkling of the devastation this man has wrought," it said in a
press release. "The idea that if the top ranks of ZANU-PF retire quietly,
the rest will stop the carnage and blithely rebuild their country while the
world watches in approval, is ludicrous."
AIDS-Free World has instead called on southern African countries to
"end . . . Africa's failure to solve Africa's problem" by pressuring Mugabe
to step down. But that ignores both the region's political realities and
Mugabe's intransigence. While Botswana and Zambia, both members of SADC,
have spoken out against Mugabe, their words are feeble compared to South
Africa's ambivalent embrace of the former revolutionary. Meanwhile, human
rights groups report that the ZANU-PF regime is terrorizing both human
rights activists and members of the MDC in order to strengthen itself.
Sadly, the best option for Zimbabwe requires swallowing the poison
pill of granting immunity to Mugabe. But that is relative and offers little
reason to expect the situation to improve. No wonder hope is in dreadfully
Blake Lambert is a veteran Africa correspondent and a World Politics
Review contributing editor. He has reported for the Economist, the Christian
Science Monitor and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, amongst other
January 1, 2009
The pictures are harder to take than the words. The words you can skip over.
The pictures take you by the throat. All of my boyhood in Southern Rhodesia,
now Zimbabwe, came surging back to me with choking sorrow when I saw press
pictures of Zimbabwean children digging through the roadside gravel, in the
hopes of finding kernels of maize - corn in American English - that may have
blown off passing trucks.
When hunger stalks Africa, maize is more important than gold - the
difference between living and dying. It is eaten in several ways. Even the
stalks are chewed in the way Latin Americans chew sugar cane. Mostly, it is
made into a stiff porridge called sadza.
Some of my earliest memories of the vital importance attached to maize go
back to when I was nine years old and was awarded the job in our household
of measuring the weekly maize ration to each employee. By law, every man -
and domestic helpers were mostly men - received 15 pounds of maize each
My job was to watch the precious ground maize - grits to Americans - weighed
out of 100-pound sacks into smaller sacks. The weekly weighing was a jolly
time, with much joking and laughing (and you have not laughed until you have
laughed in Africa) while the meal was dispensed, weighed with a scale hung
on a tree limb.
This weekly ceremony, together with the distribution of stewing beef, was
symptomatic of everything that was right and wrong with life in colonial
Africa. It was humanitarian; it was generous; and it was patronizing. The
amount of meal far exceeded the daily consumption of one person and was
designed, although this was not mentioned, to feed more than one hungry
mouth. It was a government-abetted welfare - paternalism in action.
I have often thought about this conscious food distribution from the
better-off whites to the poor blacks as less an act of racism than of
British class snobbery - noblesse oblige in the colonial context. It was the
same instinct that caused the viceroy of India to pretend to find work for
5,000 people at his palace in New Delhi.
Much of the meal ration found its way to extended families in the townships
or to peddlers who came around on bicycles. None of it went to waste. The
classic meal, eaten with little variation, was sadza, which is a dumpling
that diners shape with their hands and dip into a stew made ideally with
meat, but sometimes with other protein-rich ingredients like beans, or
termites and caterpillars, which were harvested as delicacies. I ate a lot
sadza with various stews, but the caterpillars were beyond me.
The question I have most often been asked is, "What was it like in
Rhodesia?" I have never had a good answer except to say that it was like
living in a good London suburb, but with a back story of indigenous people
who came and went in our lives without really registering. British author
Evelyn Waugh described this phenomenon as far back as 1937, when he wondered
at the "morbid lack of curiosity" of the settlers for the indigenous people.
He might have been told that it was the selfsame lack of curiosity that his
characters in Brideshead Revisited had about the workers in the rest of
At this passage of time, it is almost possible to defend the British in
Rhodesia. Their greatest gift, I sometimes think, was not democracy, law,
literacy or religion, but the golden maize they brought with them in 1890,
which replaced rapoco, a low-yield grain grown in the region. Maize was
produced in such abundance in Zimbabwe, before President Robert Mugabe
destroyed the commercial farms, that it was exported throughout southern
Now the breadbasket is empty, and children sift through roadside gravel for
corn kernels blown from trucks. Would that I could fix my scale to a tree
and weigh out a plentiful measure for those children, who are no older than
I was, when I was the quartermaster in another time.
By Martin Ngwenya
01 January 2009
Civic organizations in Botswana recently presented a play highlighting the
human rights abuses and violations Zimbabweans in the country are subjected
to. It focuses on the plight of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, as they
continue their search for better opportunities. Martin Ngwenya saw the play
and filed this report.
The play is titled "Voice of the People". Its main theme tackles the dismal
lives and problems confronting Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, including
The play features both Zimbabwean and Botswana actors. It's a frank account
of the hardships endured by immigrants in a new environment. In particular,
it zooms in on the suspicion and mistrust with which Zimbabweans are often
viewed in countries like Botswana and South Africa.
The opening scene portrays a post on the Zimbabwe/Botswana border.
Immigration officials are seen abusing and belittling Zimbabwean immigrants.
Their journey then continues to the streets of the capital, Gaborone, where
foreigners scramble for odd jobs.... only to attract the scorn and wrath of
locals. Police harassment is the order of the day. The play questions the
attitudes of law enforcement and government officials.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabweans yearn for the day when they'll be able to return
to their homeland. At the end, the main characters appeal to the leadership
to listen to the "voice of the people".
One Zimbabwean actor, who requested anonymity, says the drama reflects the
views and tribulations of ordinary Zimbabweans in Botswana.
He says the play is the result of extensive interviews with Zimbabweans both
in Botswana and South Africa.
"What we are reflecting," he says,"are the real issues raised by the people.
We carried out interviews before we came up with the show and we want
ordinary people to say yes, these are the issues that affect us. Leaders are
not affected; it is the ordinary person who is suffering. We hope that at
the end of the day, the leaders can hear the voices of the people on the
The play was part of a series of activities specifically lined up to focus
on human rights abuses.
Other events included a photo exhibition by Amnesty International featuring
images of Zimbabwe in the run-up to the March 29 elections and the violence
January 2, 2009
SOUTH AFRICA needs to rethink its relationship with the spiteful crooks
running Zimbabwe. Likewise in this euphoric hour, Cricket South Africa ought
to cut its close ties with the charming creeps plundering Zimbabwean
cricket. As could be told from the spirited performance these last few
weeks, CSA is doing an awful lot right. All the more reason to cast aside a
bloated and benighted Zimbabwe board with money in its pockets and blood on
its hands. Some of the leading lights at CSA stood firm against apartheid
and now must reject the tyranny of Zanu PF. In both cases, the common man
was crushed by a ruthless elite.
Over the years, CSA has backed the Zimbabwean rulers to the hilt. Black
Africa has produced some of the greatest leaders the world has known but
cricket fell into the hands of lesser men. The late Percy Sonn started the
rot by blithely backing Zanu and ZC in the face of mounting evidence of
their greed. Nobody is so blind as the zealot. Sent as an observer, Sonn
declared legitimate an election every sane person knew had been rigged, and
in his cricketing capacity supported ZC's senior officers, Peter Chingoka
and Ozias Bvute, wealthy thugs whose fondness for whisky matched his own.
This unholy trinity came to be called the Black Label Brotherhood. Nor did
Sonn spare his own country, once intervening to demand the inclusion of
Justin Ontong and the omission of Jacques Rudolph, thereby scoring a
political point and harming the careers of two promising players.
Sonn's death merely paved the day for Ray Mali, a man with many of his
faults and none of his intelligence. Already compromised by his antics in
one of the homelands set up by the apartheid government, Mali forged a
friendship with the ZC elders, paid them a visit, drank their grog, took the
guided tour and returned to say that Zimbabwe was well on its way to taking
first place in the ODI rankings. It was a betrayal of underpaid and
intimidated black cricketers and honest officials. Presumably, he fell for
the spiel about ZC trying to make the best of a bad job. And so he seemingly
ignored the suffering and sided with the tyrant.
Norman "Stormin" Arendse was CSA's next senior officer, a forthright,
clever, outspoken, well-connected lawyer whose firm had done a lot of work
for ZC. Against expectations, Arendse led CSA away from its close links with
its neighbour across the Limpopo. By then ZC's finances were coming under
closer scrutiny, as was its legitimacy and ties with a despised government.
Pictures had been published of overgrown grounds, reports had spread of
unpaid bills and wages and jobs for the boys, with 14 officials accompanying
the last under-19 tour and so forth. Where had the tens of millions provided
by the ICC gone? Meanwhile, Chingoka invested millions, built a house in
Cape Town and kept his family in London. Bvute spent most of his time in New
York and bought a house in the richest suburb in Harare, not far from the
47-bedroom house recently built by the governor of the country's reserve
bank. Perhaps, too, Arendse had heard about the threats to Tatenda Taibu
that caused him to flee the country. Now Taibu is fighting ZC again,
demanding that the accounts be presented in court as a way of proving that
the assault case mounted against him is nothing more than a ruse to silence
Under Arendse, CSA stopped inviting Zimbabwean teams to play in its domestic
competitions. Previously, it had allowed Zimbabwean squads to attend its
high-performance centre in Pretoria and arranged A-team tours. Obviously,
the players were not to blame. Eventually, it realised that cricket and
politics could not so easily be separated. ZC has lent broadcast vans to
Zanu at election time, and Chingoka is a business partner and close ally of
Solomon and Joyce Mujuru, a ruthless pair who have risen to eminent
positions in Zanu's military and political establishment.
But Arendse clashed with his chief executive and handed in his papers. He
has been replaced by Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka. By all accounts, the newcomer is
capable and careful so it was discouraging that in his first pronouncement
he sent an olive branch to Chingoka, thereby following in the footsteps laid
by numerous Indian officials. India's position on Zimbabwe is cynical and
pathetic. If sporting boycotts were valid in the apartheid years, they are
Despite Nyoka's opening remarks, CSA has not restored full links with ZC.
Elsewhere the world is slowly waking up. As someone assisting 36
impoverished Zimbabwean students, I have long been aware of the collapse of
hospitals, justice, free speech, schooling and hope. Bright girls have been
forced into prostitution, brilliant students sweep streets to avoid
starvation, critics are killed and all the while the corpulent cats widen
Australia's new government has added Chingoka and Bvute to its banned list;
England banned them ages ago. Far from protecting them, CSA should seize
their houses and funds and distribute them to struggling cricketers and
CSA is right. Cricket must become a truly African game. All the more reason
to suck out the poison.