South Africa has been gripped by the story of Aher Arop Bol, a young refugee who now sells sweets and cigarettes from a stall while he studies to be a lawyer
Saturday, 04 July 2009 20:45
CHINHOYI - Zanu PF deputy secretary for Youth Saviour Kasukuwere on
Friday admitted that the former ruling party deployed militias to spearhead
its violent election campaign last year that left hundreds of opposition
Kasukuwere, who is also the Minister of Youth Development,
Indigenisation and Empowerment, told journalists at the Chinhoyi Press Club
that all the political parties "abused" the youths to further their own
"We have done it . . . all political party youths were involved in
it," he said.
"MDC have done it as well. It's easy to take advantage of a young man
or woman who is doing nothing.
What do you do? You buy them beer . . . four crates after that you say
let's go and do such and such a thing. They are young, naive and under the
influence of alcohol. Wrong direction. . .wrong leadership.
"The youth do it because normally they are easy to mobilise to do
activities of violence that are not in the long run helpful to themselves. I
think we have learnt our lessons."
In the past Zanu PF has denied accusations that it was using youth
militia recruited for the controversial national service to launch terror
campaigns against its opponents during the elections.
The youths popularly known as the Green Bombers because of their green
uniforms are trained at the so-called Border Gezi centres and deployed in
rural areas to campaign for Zanu PF.
There are fresh reports that youths have been deployed in rural wards
to campaign for Zanu PF's position on the new constitution.
"These are young people employed by government to co-ordinate youth
activities at ward level and their duties are to attend to problems
affecting youths at that level," Kasukuwere said.
"They are looking at leadership problems in the area and looking out
at NGOs activities with the intention to be involved and also to hear the
concerns of young people and bring them forward to central government."
But he admitted that there "was a general dislike" of the youth
officers in the areas where they were operating.
"I will not run away from the fact that we might have one or two bad
apples in the system," Kasukuwere said.
Villagers in Zvimba and Hurungwe districts say Zanu PF youth
co-ordinators are going around telling people not to be "too excited" about
the unity government.
The youths are reportedly threatening to unleash another reign of
terror if the country holds another election.
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
Saturday, 04 July 2009 20:24
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has warned that workers
are losing patience with employers who continue to pay wages below the
poverty datum line despite signs that the economy is recovering.
The majority of workers who are civil servants have been earning
allowances of US$100 a month since the government formally adopted multiple
currencies in February.
Unions want workers to be paid at least US$454 a month, which is the
poverty datum line.
"Workers have been patient enough and lack of interest on the part of
employers to address the issue of low salaries will throw the country into
chaos," ZCTU secretary- general Wellington Chibebe said in a statement.
"The workers continue to bear the brunt as politicians' promises fail
Chibebe said claims that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai were also surviving on the US$100 allowances were
He said politicians and senior civil servants had other sources of
"There are workers earning as little as $10 a month and they have no
other sources of income," Chibebe said.
Workers in urban areas such as Harare also have to grapple with high
utility bills with an average Zesa monthly charge pegged at US$30.
"A low salary coupled with huge utility bills is a recipe for
"This country cannot afford a de-motivated workforce. There is no
production if workers constantly worry about how they are going to make ends
"They will be forced to take matters into their own hands if the
situation continues unchecked," Chibebe said.
In a desperate bid to persuade teachers to abandon their threatened
job boycott, the government promised that it would start paying civil
servants proper salaries this month.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti is expected to announce the new package
when he presents his mid-term fiscal policy review later this month.
BY OUR STAFF
Saturday, 04 July 2009 20:23
FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti says China has not promised Zimbabwe any
lines of credit, contradicting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's
announcement that the country has secured a US$950 million from China.
Biti's denial fuelled speculation that Tsvangirai is at odds with
senior figures in his MDC-T who believe that the Prime Minister is being
soft with President Robert Mugabe.
On Tuesday Tsvangirai told journalists during a briefing on his
three-week fundraising tour of Europe and the United States that Biti had
secured a loan from China to help rebuild the economy.
"While I was away, government through Finance Minister Tendai Biti
also secured lines of credit from China totalling US$950 million," he said.
But Biti was singing a different tune on Friday saying the government
had not received a cent from the Chinese, described by President Mugabe and
Zanu PF as Zimbabwe's "all weather friend".
"There's no foundation at all in reports that we have received US$950
million from China," the MDC-T secretary-general said.
Zimbabwe had made an unsuccessful application for lines credit from
China in 2005 for a similar amount, Biti said.
Last year, the Ministry of Finance reactivated the application but
nothing had materialised.
Tsvangirai's spokesman, James Maridadi said the US$950 million was
only in pledges but he could not explain why Biti was insisting there was no
funding coming from China.
He referred further questions to Economic Planning and Investment
Promotion Minister Elton Mangoma and the Prime Minister's chief secretary,
Ian Makone who were unreachable.
Biti also used the hastily arranged press conference to dismiss
reports that he had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese
government that would have seen Zimbabwe receive another US$5 billion in
exchange for platinum mining rights.
"Zimbabwe government has not signed or executed an agreement with
China in relation to a disposal of any asset or platinum in Zimbabwe," Biti
Zimbabwe requires US$8.3 billion to kick-start the revival of the
Tsvangirai's trip to western capitals did not bring inflows into the
state coffers although there were pledges to be fulfilled if Zimbabwe
addresses "grey areas".
Lines of credit amounting to US$2 billion have been secured for the
private sector but nothing has come into government coffers.
The money that has been mobilised so far does not meet government's
Although revenue inflows topped US$60 million in May from US$4.7
million in January, the money is inadequate to meet the country's growing
Of the money raised in May, the civil service bill alone took half of
the amount meaning that the other requirements had to fit into the remaining
The government has organised an investment conference for Thursday and
Friday as it seeks to intensify its fundraising efforts.
Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister, Elton Mangoma on
Thursday said a number of delegations have visited Zimbabwe to look for
"Mines that had been closed are reopening and it is an investment," he
said adding that industry is already responding to government interventions.
Mangoma said capacity utilisation in industries has increased to 30%
from 10% and government aims to increase capacity utilisation to 60% by the
end of the year.
But the mini-revival of industry is threatened by crippling power
outages that have intensified during the past two weeks.
Biti said Zimbabwe was seeking a US$80 million credit facility with
the Development Bank of Southern Africa to revamp the Hwange thermal power
station and increase Hwange Colliery Company's coal output.
Despite having an installed capacity of 920MW, Hwange Power station is
generating only 80MW due to coal shortages and refurbishments on one of the
Analysts say for Zimbabwe to get lines of credit, it has to clear its
external debt as a means of re-engaging international financiers.
As at June 30, 2009, Zimbabwe's external debt stood at US$4.6 billion.
Of that amount US$3.2 billion (at least 65%) is in arrears and analysts say
without clearing the debt global lenders will not open lines of credit. They
will only offer technical assistance.
A joint note by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and
African Development Bank says Zimbabwe has to clear its debt if lenders were
to loosen their purse strings.
BY NDAMU SANDU
Saturday, 04 July 2009 20:20
PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says he differs with President Robert
Mugabe on tactics and strategy but will defend the veteran leader's place in
the transitional government to save the country from total collapse.
Tsvangirai was speaking during a meeting with French journalists in
Paris on his last leg of his three-week European and United States trip two
There were already swirling murmurs of disapproval over the Prime
Minister's statements glossing over continued human rights violations and
"Our relationship is business like," he said responding to questions
on his working relationship with Mugabe.
"We differ on strategy and tactics but we all realise that we have to
put the interests of Zimbabweans first."
He said the two differed on land reforms as his party preferred an
orderly redistribution of land.
Last week the Solidarity Peace Trust, a human rights group said
Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement was still yet to be fully implemented
because Zanu PF and the MDC formations were forced into the coalition by
The group called on the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)
and the African Union (AU) - the guarantors of the September 15
power-sharing agreement - to ensure that the parties adhered to their part
of the bargain.
But Tsvangirai told French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner
during a lunch meeting that although the MDC- T was initially reluctant to
join hands with Mugabe it realised that the new dispensation was
"The situation was not as clear as we have seen it in the past four
months," he said. "Zimbabwe is changing and it is now on an irreversible
path to democracy and in the next 18 months we will hold free and fair
elections after we craft a new constitution.
"Before we came into government it was totally inconceivable that I
will sit in the same cabinet with Mugabe but I will be the first one to
defend his right to a place in the transition."
Tsvangirai was also asked about his previous Zanu PF membership which
he said fell away after he became disgruntled with the party's policies.
He said Mugabe's transformation from being a liberation hero to a
ruthless leader "confounds friend and foes alike".
The Prime Minister also said there was need to bring closure to the
circumstances leading to the death of his wife, Susan, saying he is
convinced that it was a genuine accident.
Tsvangirai's wife died on the spot just three weeks after he was sworn
when their car collided with a truck on the Harare- Masvingo highway.
"I could have died in that accident," he said. "I saw what happened
and believe it was an accident.
"This came against the background of a number of accidents in Zimbabwe
that involved politicians that were never explained."
He said he never considered quitting politics after the accident as it
would have been "a betrayal of the party and the people who gave us the
mandate to lead them".
BY KHOLWANI NYATHI
Saturday, 04 July 2009 19:02
ONGOING consultations by the Parliamentary Select Committee
spearheading the crafting of a new constitution has revealed that
Zimbabweans are not happy with attempts to impose the Kariba draft,
committee co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora said on Friday.
President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have been campaigning vigorously
for the Kariba draft, which was drawn-up by negotiators from the former
ruling party and the two MDC formations in September 2007.
But there were reports of serious clashes in Masvingo, the Midlands
and Manicaland provinces during consultative meetings after hired Zanu PF
crowds tried to stop discussions on the new supreme law saying there was
already a draft that had to be taken to a referendum.
Mwonzora who is an MDC-T MP said the response by the people during the
whirlwind consultations held between June 24 and 27 had demonstrated that
politicians would not succeed if they tried to impose their views on what
should be in the new constitution.
"In the Midlands, there was resistance when one of the panelists
advocated for the adoption of the Kariba draft as a basis for the new
constitution," Mwonzora told a civil society convention on the new
constitution in Harare.
"We then explained to people that the Kariba draft document cannot be
thrust down the throats of Zimbabweans.
"We will allow political parties to campaign for positions they want
but we will not allow anyone to hijack the constitution-making process to
impose their will, never ever!"
There was pandemonium in Masvingo after Zanu PF bused scores of its
supporters from different parts of the province to try and drum up support
for the Kariba draft.
Mwonzora reiterated that the draft would only be used as a reference
point along other available drafts but said Zanu PF would be free to
campaign for its views to be incorporated.
"There is nothing wrong with Zanu PF advocating for a document that
they want or even President Mugabe advocating for the Kariba draft if that
is the document he wants," Mwonzora said.
Zanu PF and the two MDC formations only acknowledged the existence of
the Kariba draft and did not say it would be used as a basis for
constitution-making, Mwonzora said.
"Zimbabweans should disabuse themselves of a history which saw
whatever President Mugabe said being translated into national policy and
realise that Zimbabwe is changing and it is changing fast," he said.
However, Mwonzora's assurances did not convince activists who have
threatened to campaign against the new constitution if the draft is imposed.
"The politicians do not always tell the truth. They tell you what you
want to hear.
"The Kariba draft is the only inclusion in the GPA. It was given
prominence and no other draft was given the same treatment in the GPA,"
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras told the convention.
"We are not quite sure why it has become a Zanu PF draft when it was
signed by the three political parties and we must be wary of that."
Petras said only party interests were represented in the Kariba draft
and it was civil society's mandate to ensure that it was not foisted on the
The convention was organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and
the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations.
The National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions boycotted the convention arguing that the whole
constitution-making process is flawed.
However, University of Zimbabwe lecturer and well-known Mugabe critic,
Professor John Makumbe warned civil society against boycotting the process
saying they risked being left out.
BY JENNIFER DUBE AND GODFREY MUTIMBA
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:53
BARE-FOOTED and unkempt, 10-year-old Samson Phiri rummages through
mounds of uncollected garbage in search of "toys".
Hordes of green flies, cockroaches and rats scurry for cover as the
young boy forages deeper into the garbage with his bare hands.
A few metres away a group of young girls run up and down rivulets of
raw sewage flowing through their parents' home along Mukonde Street in
They are happily playing house oblivious of the danger to which they
are exposing themselves.
This scenario is not unique to Mufakose. It has become prevalent in
most of Harare's high-density areas where garbage is never collected.
The areas have also been without running water for years.
Taps in suburbs such as Tafara and Mabvuku have been dry for four
years while residents of Budiriro, Mufakose, Kambuzuma, Glen View, Mt
Pleasant, Greendale and Kuwadzana only get intermittent water supply.
In some suburbs, residents continue to fetch their drinking water from
heavily polluted streams and shallow wells they have dug just outside their
When there is running water raw sewage spews out at every street
corner exposing residents to water-borne diseases such as cholera and
The lush community recreational facilities that were once a common
feature of the "Sunshine City" have virtually crumbled with football pitches
having been turned into dump sites.
Youths now spend their time playing soccer in the dusty, potholed and
littered streets where motorists struggle to navigate.
In Harare's central business district (CBD) many traffic lights don't
work while in the high-density suburbs street lighting is virtually
Vagrants and street children have turned shop verandas and alleys in
the city centre into their homes.
Every morning, shop attendants have to scrub fresh human excreta from
their doorways and verandas.
Kombis pick up and drop passengers anywhere they want causing
accidents and disrupting the flow of traffic.
Residents are not amused by the chaos in the city and the
deterioration of service provision five months after the city council
started charging rates and services in foreign currency.
"It's an insult to residents," said Dryden Mugombi of Glen View.
"We have been paying huge bills in foreign currency since February but
nothing has improved apart from the efficiency with which council sends
estimated bills for services it does not offer."
Harare businessman Moses Mazhande said council was failing to provide
service because all its revenue was being gobbled up by the huge municipal
"Council employees are among the highest paid workers and yet they are
the worst performing entity in the country," Mazhande said.
He urged councils to charge rates that related to what ordinary
workers across the country were earning.
Civil servants, who constitute the highest percentage of the workforce
in the country, earn US$100 a month.
Arnold Gwesheni of Kambuzuma said: "Residents are saying if they are
paying for water and refuse collection, why is the city council failing to
provide the services?
"Where is the money going?"
The Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA) also expressed shock
at the continued deterioration of service delivery in the city.
CHRA chairman Simbarashe Moyo said it was "fraudulent" for the council
to force residents to pay for services they were not receiving.
He urged council to prioritise service provision instead of awarding
its employees better salaries and perks.
"If the City of Harare is paying such hefty salaries, then they do not
have any excuse for neglecting their core business of restoring Harare to
its sunshine status," said Moyo whose association is an umbrella body for
residents' associations in Harare.
But Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said service delivery had improved
since the council started charging services in foreign currency.
But he was quick to add that a lot still needed to be done because
"everything" had collapsed when he came into office following his nomination
by MDC-T last year.
"I think you agree with me that the city is now cleaner than before
but I also agree that a lot still needs to be done," Masunda said.
He urged residents to settle their outstanding bills adding that
council was working hard to ensure that normalcy returns in Harare.
"Residents should be part of the solution rather than be part of the
problem," he said.
Masunda, who sits on several boards of companies, said the council was
working with private firms and multilateral agencies to ensure that Harare
retains its "Sunshine City" status.
"For example, we have struck a deal with Lafarge and Sisk to help in
the clean up exercises in Mabvuku and Tafara and Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco is
doing the same in Kambuzuma and Warren Park," he said.
The mayor bemoaned the lack of qualified and professional people
among the crop of councillors saying it was hampering council efforts to
discharge its mandate.
There have been complaints that most of the councillors lacked the
basic knowledge to carry out their mandates because they are young and most
of them were political activists before they were voted into office.
"There is a huge skills gap in the council and this is affecting the
way we discharge our mandate," Masunda said. "I have problems filling
committees such as engineering, human resources and accounting."
Masunda even took the matter up with the Minister of Local Government
and Urban and Rural Development, Ignatious Chombo, urging him to appoint
professional people to councils through the special interest groups quota.
"But out of the 11 he appointed, only four are real professionals who
can stand up for the job," said Masunda, himself a lawyer by profession.
Meanwhile, health experts recently warned of a possible outbreak of
cholera because of the deteriorating unhygienic conditions in Harare.
They said cholera may not be completely eradicated in the near future
because underlying causes remained unattended to.
According to the World Health Organisation over 4 200 people have died
of cholera in the country since August last year.
For young Samson, the risk of contracting cholera is as close as the
distance between his mouth and hands.
BY CAIPHAS CHIMHETE
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:43
THE hostile reception that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai received
from Zimbabwean exiles in the United Kingdom demonstrated that people in the
Diaspora fear that they will be forced to return home if things normalise in
the country, analysts said last week.
Tsvangirai was forced to cut short his speech by hecklers at Southwark
Cathedral in London after he declared that there was peace and stability in
the country and called on the exiles to return so that they can play a part
in the country's recovery process.
Many of the estimated five million Zimbabwean economic refugees
scattered all over the world claimed that they were victims of political
persecution in a desperate bid to be granted refugee status.
But analysts said although there was a significant number of
Zimbabweans who were forced out of the country by marauding Zanu PF militias
in the past decade, most of the exiles were seeking a better life abroad.
Thousands, especially in the UK, were denied asylum and might be
deported back home if the political situation continues to stabilise.
"Some people came here and have been waiting for the determination of
their applications for asylum to this day," said Brilliant Mhlanga, a
Zimbabwean academic based at the University of Westminster in London.
"This means that by pronouncing those statements, Tsvangirai
immediately dented their chances of ever being granted asylum."
He said the majority of Zimbabweans in the UK used the asylum card
although it was known that they were economic refugees.
"Their greatest fear has been imagining how they will fit into a
society they had long shunned and never even imagined going back to,"
"This implies that by pronouncing those statements Tsvangirai was
making it dawn in their minds and stating a reality for many that some day
they will have to return to Zimbabwe, a thing they will never wish to do."
Minister in the Foreign Office, Mark Malloch- Brown, shared the same
sentiments in an interview with BBC's Radio 5 Live when he said although it
was true that some Zimbabweans were frustrated with the pace of reforms back
home, the hecklers had other motives.
"I think there was a lot going on in that church meeting and it wasn't
just a commentary on Morgan Tsvangirai's performance in Zimbabwe," he said.
"It had a lot to do with asylum and refugee issues as well."
Two campaign groups - Zimbabwe Vigil and Restoration of Human Rights
(ROHR) - that were fingered by Tsvangirai's supporters in the UK for
embarrassing the Prime Minister have distanced themselves from the episode.
The heckling marked one of the lowest points in Tsvangirai's
three-week visit to the United States and Europe where he won praises from
world leaders including US President Barack Obama for trying to lead the
country out of its long running political and economic crisis.
However, some Zimbabweans were not happy that Tsvangirai went out of
his way to defend Mugabe and for downplaying continued human rights
Zimrights director Okay Machisa said the heckling was a reflection
that Zimbabweans were not happy that Tsvangirai appeared to be doing public
relations for Mugabe who is still resisting change.
"Even as Tsvangirai was in the West trying to promote the unity
government, the state media back home were busy vilifying him," Machisa
"There are so many issues happening on the ground such as farm
invasions that are undermining the global political agreement.
"The cabinet boycott by MDC-T ministers was itself an indication that
things were not moving in the right direction and as human rights defenders
we are concerned that the political parties are not respecting the GPA."
But Mhlanga argued that the exiles were just giving excuses to remain
outside the country instead of helping in the reconstruction efforts.
"If people are genuine in seeking a lasting solution to the cause of
Zimbabwe, surely they must not put any price tag or condition for returning
to build a country that they claim to love so much," he said.
"We can now clearly see that Tsvangirai, much as he genuinely uttered
those statements, is beginning to lose a lot of friends who are feeling
threatened by the fact that his statements have made the reality of their
temporal sojourn obvious."
Statistics on the number of Zimbabweans who have left the country are
not available but analysts put them at over three million.
A number of professionals migrated in search of greener pastures while
others escaped the high unemployment rate in the country now estimated at
BY KHOLWANI NYATHI
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:26
CHIPO Tembo and her triplets are well known in the populous suburb of
Glen View albeit for the unfortunate circumstances they find themselves in.
The triplets drew sympathy from around the country after their father
deserted them last year in November soon after their birth saying it was a
taboo and a bad omen for his clan to be blessed with triplets.
It was Tembo's plight that drew some peri-urban farmers from Glen View
to donate part of their harvest to the single mother at a function held
recently at Ishe Anesu home for the disabled. The farmers also donated part
of their produce to Farirai and Tariro Centre orphanages.
Tembo received 50kg of maize and was ecstatic. The mother of three
said she has found a reason to go on with her life because of the "big
heart" of many Zimbabweans.
"I survive through well wishers in taking care of my three girls," she
"I don't know what I would have done without such support from people
from this beautiful country. I am deeply moved by the kindness and support
Another beneficiary, 78-year-old Nelson Banduza who stays with five
orphaned grandchildren also received 50kg.
"My grandchildren's parents all succumbed to Aids. I do not work and
my legs are swollen and my eyesight is poor. This is such a great relief for
Ironically some of this produce that is set to make a difference to
Tembo and other less privileged members of the society was grown "illegally"
on under-utilised dairy farms belonging to the Harare City Council.
After much persuasion the city fathers finally gave residents
permission to farm. In the end council allowed farming on the land after
finally accepting representations made by residents on the food crisis in
The chairman of the Glen View Peri-Urban Farming Services, Peter Ngani
said he felt proud that residents had fought hard to get land, which is now
benefiting other needy people.
"Despite the city council sometimes threatening to slash the crops and
confiscating our hoes, we remained steadfast on freeing this land which is
now being used to take care of people in this constituency," Ngani said.
The association has since approached the council for more land in
order to help alleviate the poverty in the constituency, an idea supported
by Glen View legislator, Paul Madzore.
Speaking at the same function, a representative of the city council,
Gilbert Mashambanhaka said residents would most likely be given the go-
ahead to use some of the dairy farms for farming until council is ready to
use the land again.
BY JOHN MOKWETSI
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:23
THE majority of maternal and newborn deaths that occur in Zimbabwe can
be prevented with affordable interventions, a new report by three United
Nations agencies and government has revealed.
According to the report titled Maternal and Perinatal Mortality Study
released at the end of last month at least 73% of maternal deaths recorded
in 2007 during the time of the study, were avoidable.
The report which was compiled by the Ministry of Health and Child in
partnership with the UN Children's Fund, UN Population Fund, World Health
Organisation, University of Zimbabwe and Umea, a Swedish university drew its
conclusions from a study done throughout 2007 in 11 of 61 districts in the
It established that the maternal mortality ratio was around 725 per
100 000 live births.
This means that for every 100 000 women who give birth about 725 die
due to complications at child birth.
The leading cause of maternal deaths is HIV and AIDS accounting for at
least 25.5% of all deaths.
This was attributed to the high prevalence of HIV infections, low
percentage of women whose status is known during pregnancy and the lack of
access by women to anti-retroviral drugs.
In a speech read on his behalf by National Reproductive Officer
Hillary Chiguvare at the presentation of the report last week, the United
Nations Population Fund (NFPA) country representative Bruce Campbell raised
concern that HIV/AIDS continued to be the leading cause of maternal deaths.
"We note with concern that HIV/AIDS has become the leading cause of
maternal mortality yet the national response to HIV/AIDS within maternal
health programs seems to be very weak," Campbell said.
"Though 91% of the women booked for antenatal care only 4.7 percent of
the women knew their HIV status before pregnancy, and the coverage for
antenatal ARVs was a paltry 1.8%."
Postpartum haemorrhage (excessive bleeding after delivery) was the
second highest cause of maternal deaths at 14.4% followed by hypertension at
Other causes such as puerperal sepsis or infection accounted for 7.8%
of the deaths while abortion complications account for at least 5.85% of the
The report says the majority of deaths occurred at home where women
cannot get expert care when complications occur.
Some of the reasons cited as the cause of the high maternal deaths
include the lack of money for treatment and to hire transport to health
facilities when pregnancy complications occur.
The other reasons are the long distances pregnant women travel to
health centres and lack of drugs when they arrive at a health centre.
"The sad thing is that interventions exist to treat complications, and
deaths from them are avoidable," says the report.
"Successful prevention and treatment of these complications represents
the potential to reduce maternal deaths by 46%.
"None of the interventions are complex or beyond the capacity of a
functional health system in Zimbabwe.
"More women need to reach the health facilities before onset of
labour. when they do so; they need to receive effective treatment."
The reluctance by some religious sects such as the Apostolic mission
to utilise health institutions was also cited as another major challenge.
"This poses a big problem because 29% of pregnant women belong to this
sect," noted the report.
"Even after the problems of the health system have been addressed a
huge percentage of women may still not have access because of their
"The major challenge will be to develop a sensitive approach to the
sect, which respects their right to religious freedom but also asserts women's
right to health."
The report recommended the setting up of maternity waiting homes,
which can be set aside for use as temporary shelter by expecting women who
stay far away from health centres.
According to the UNFPA, maternal and perinatal mortality constitute a
significant burden of disease in Zimbabwe.
"The estimates of maternal and perinatal mortality ratios must be
precisely known in order to monitor progress in safe motherhood and newborn
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration, which created
goals (MDGs) that require countries to reduce the maternal deaths by 75% in
BY BERTHA SHOKO
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:19
THE government must adequately fund the National Blood Transfusion
Services (NBTS) so that it can subsidise the cost of blood which is beyond
the reach of many, Harare Hospital chief executive officer Jealous Nderere
Nderere said the price of a pint of blood was too high for ordinary
people and this reduced their chances of survival in case of emergencies.
A unit of blood costs at least US$120 at public hospitals.
"This is too expensive for the ordinary person let alone accident
victims or maternity patients who may require up to four units of blood at
one time," Nderere said.
"These are extreme emergencies which cannot do without blood.
"There is need for government to avail enough resources to NBTS to
subsidise the cost of blood to around US$10 and US$20."
Other than the high cost of blood, Nderere said the NBTS was failing
to supply hospitals with enough blood and that supply was erratic.
He said Harare Hospital requires between 300 and 400 units of blood
"We receive approximately 70% of our requirements. We are not meeting
demand," Nderere said.
NBTS public relations manager, Emmanuel Masvikeni said the Ministry of
Health and Child Welfare's grant was too little to subsidise blood products.
"The greater the grant we receive from the ministry, the lower our
charges to the public sector will be," he said.
"However, in order to continue supplying safe blood, we must be able
to cover our expenses."
He said the current charges reflected the cost of the processes
involved in securing clean blood.
"The service would like to supply blood free of charge. But if it
cannot recover the costs incurred in collecting, testing and distributing
blood, it would not be able to continue operating," he said.
"Consequently the health delivery system will be compromised without
an adequate supply of blood and blood products."
Various costs that are associated with collecting blood include
qualified staff, special packs which are imported and the provision of food
to encourage donors, he said.
The blood also has to be tested for HIV I and II, hepatitis and
NBTS gets all its blood from volunteers' inline with WHO
BY MOSES CHIBAYA
Saturday, 04 July 2009 14:53
TAP Zambia, a subsidiary of Africa Resources Limited, has written to
Finance Minister Tendai Biti seeking assistance to recover US$700 000
extracted from the company when it was under the stewardship of SMM
administrator, Arafas Gwaradzimba.
The letter seen by this paper last week, claimed that Gwaradzimba
obtained US$698 688.75 from TAP between 2006 and August last year, which
adversely affected the operations of the Zambia firm.
"We humbly seek your assistance and advice in the recovery of the
above funds, given that Mr. A M Gwaradzimba was acting as an agent of
Zimbabwe government," reads part of the letter signed by TAP chairman,
Gwaradzimba assumed control of TAP in 2006 after the Zambian High
Court had ruled that by virtue of the expropriation decrees promulgated by
President Robert Mugabe in September 2004 targeting SMM holdings, TAP was
deemed to under the administrator's control.
Gwaradzimba had been appointed SMM Holdings administrator pursuant to
the operation of the controversial legislation that permitted the government
to take over the control and management of Mutumwa Mawere's companies
without the involvement of the judiciary.
But the Supreme Court ruled in August that reconstruction laws cannot
be applied across the Zambezi as Zambia was a sovereign state with its own
This left Gwaradzimba with a mountain to climb on how the funds could
The amount exhausted under Gwaradzimba's administration covered
administration, legal, statutory and audit fees, air tickets and
accommodation expenses for board members.
Gwaradzimba's firm, AMG Global raked in US$345 830 in administration
fees and Mulenga Mundashi & Co received US$127 346.10 in legal fees.
Board fees paid to members, that included four Zimbabweans on the
six-member board namely Oliver Mtasa, Edwin Manikai, Peter Moyo and Chirandu
Dhlembeu totalled US$111 679.11.
The other expenses incurred by TAP were for the Zimbabwean delegation
to attend meetings.
The Zambian firm covered the accommodation and flight expenses for the
Zimbabwean quartet which totalled US$25 639.27.
The claim by TAP, if not handled properly, will spark a diplomatic row
between Zimbabwe and Zambia and the Reserve Bank had advised President
Robert Mugabe on the matter, sources said.
Sources said RBZ was not aware of the Zambian transactions and will
investigate whether the receipt of the funds were declared by the
administrator for exchange control purposes, a development that might put
Gwaradzimba on the spot.
Since Gwaradzimba is an agent of the government, sources say TAP
cannot recover the money as the administrator is protected by the
Curiously, Gwaradzimba omitted the Zambian debacle in his May 19
letter to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa updating him on SMM operations.
On Thursday he said he had not received the letter and a day later
said he could not comment because he was attending a meeting.
Gwaradzimba said it would be improper for him to comment saying there
"are many things being discussed by various parties".
He said: "The relevant authorities will make the announcements and
pronouncements as and when they are due."
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on Wednesday said the new
dispensation should repeal and remove from statutes vindictive laws targeted
"We don't want any laws that are a creation of vindictiveness," he
BY NDAMU SANDU
Saturday, 04 July 2009 13:47
THE inclusive government is preparing an energy policy that will
address the worsening electricity shortages and other pressing problems in
the sector, a cabinet minister has said.
Energy and Power Development Minister, Elias Mudzuri told stakeholders
at a recent workshop to discuss the policy in Mutare that the country had
been without a proper framework for the energy sector for a long time.
He blamed the long running electricity and fuel shortages in the
country on the policy vacuum.
"There is need for a decisive and progressive policy based on
sustainable development principles in order to enhance the energy industry",
"Energy plays an invaluable role in social and economic development as
it is a critical factor of production, whose cost impacts directly on other
services and the competitiveness of enterprises.
"The national energy policy that is being drafted aims at increasing
access to affordable energy services to all sectors of the economy, in a
He said government wanted a significant overhaul of the energy sector
to create an enabling environment where the country gets adequate energy
supplies in a sustainable manner.
Mudzuri said some of the challenges facing the sector included lack of
investment in new power generation projects and minimal maintenance of
existing ones and the erratic supplies of electricity, coal and petroleum
Participants at the workshop funded by the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) called for a policy that will address the country's
perennial power shortages without pushing tariffs further.
The Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA) and the Consumer
Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) among other stakeholders said the policy should
ensure that energy sources become affordable and accessible.
"The current supply and infrastructure does not meet current energy
demand and the energy tariff charges are unaffordable", the stakeholders
said in their presentation.
"The country should develop an energy policy which seeks to ensure
reliability, diversity, equity, affordability, accessibility, availability
and sufficient energy requirements to consumers with transparency and
On the other hand energy suppliers who included fuel dealers said
shortages experienced on the local market were a result of the sub economic
prices they were forced to charge for their products.
They called for a policy, which will promote tariffs that can ensure
The CCZ called for a policy that will promote alternative energy
sources like solar, clean nuclear energy and recycling of waste material to
reduce the over reliance on electricity.
There were also calls for the promotion of independent power producers
(IPPs) and the promotion public-private partnerships (PPPs) to improve
BY JENNIFER DUBE
Saturday, 04 July 2009 13:49
ZIMBABWE is finalising documentation on a proposed fund-raising
initiative targeting millions of residents living abroad to finance the
country's reconstruction programme, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said last
The Diaspora bond, guaranteed by the Cairo-based African Export-Import
Bank (Afreximbank), was supposed to be floated this month but has been
pushed to a later date.
"We are busy finalising the contractual documentation with the
guarantor," Biti said.
He said the government wanted to make sure that every Zimbabwean
living abroad gets a chance to participate in the process.
The idea of the Diaspora bond was mooted in May in a bid to enlist the
services of Zimbabweans to help rebuild the economy but Biti could not be
drawn into disclosing the amount the government wants to raise.
A bond is a formal contract to repay borrowed money with interest at
Analysts say the Diaspora bond was likely to be under-subscribed if
the reception Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's address in London where he
was booed is anything to go by.
Government bonds are affected by a number of variables such as
inflation and the perceived country risk.
Countries that are seen to be riskier than others have to offer a
higher coupon (interest) in the first place to attract investors than those
that have stable economies like the United States.
The riskier, the lower the price (and therefore the higher the yield)
and vice versa. If a bond's price falls, its yield rises and vice versa.
Falling yields are good for an economy and are referred to by
economists and politicians as "long-term interest rates" as it enables
companies and government to borrow more cheaply next time they need to.
In the case of Zimbabwe, despite the formation of a coalition
government in February investors have raised concerns on the absence of the
rule of law and wanton violation of property rights through farm invasions.
In addition, there are some outstanding issues such as the appointment
of provincial governors and key reforms promised in the power-sharing deal
which are yet to be implemented.
Daniel Ndlela, an independent economist said while trying to tap into
the Diaspora would be a bold move, the majority of Zimbabweans living abroad
have no money to invest.
"The money they have is emergency money to support their kith and
kin," he said adding that the response will be slow.
Zimbabwe desperately needs US$8.3 billion to fund the reconstruction
The country's revenue inflows have been increasing since January but
they remain inadequate to meet the daily needs.
From US$4.7 million in January, revenue inflows into the government's
coffers increased to US$66.8 million in May.
BY OUR STAFF
Saturday, 04 July 2009 13:41
THIS year's Sanganai World Travel and Tourism Africa showcase hangs in
the balance following revelations on Friday that the joint partners to the
project are still haggling over fees and the venue.
According to a three-year deal signed last year between the Zimbabwe
Tourism Authority (ZTA) and Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF)
company, the annual travel showcase would be held in Bulawayo up to 2010.
But in a June 19 letter to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, ZITF
general manager Daniel Chigaru said the company was not prepared to organise
and host Sanganai 2009 "because ZTA did not adhere to the terms and
conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding".
"ZITF Company complied to the best of its ability, with all the terms
of our agreement but ZTA has up to now not paid for use of the venue, stand
building system and for time and efforts of ZITF company's staff," he wrote.
He said payment demands had been made in writing and verbally to ZTA
since November 2008, but the debt remained outstanding even after promises
by the authority's management to pay.
Chigaru said his company will only cooperate if the outstanding "venue
and equipment rental for last year is paid first".
He said the ZITF will co-operate if "hire charges for the venue,
exhibition stand service and furniture for Sanganai 2009 are paid upfront".
Chigaru said ZTA should organise and manage the exhibition while ZITF
management co-operates in providing the venue, equipment and necessary
manpower to service the hired facilities.
"We appreciated and welcomed our involvement in organising and
managing Sanganai 2008 and indeed we still do, however ZITF company cannot
support ZTA in this regard without any financial benefit to it," Chigaru
The move to switch venues for Sanganai 2009 has irked senior
politicians in the region who feel that it is being marginalised in terms of
hosting national events and political heavyweights have joined the fray.
The politicians are said to be insisting that this year's travel show
should be held in Bulawayo.
According to the agreement hammered out last year, ZTA were supposed
to pay ZITF a facility fee of US$168 265 in Zimbabwe dollars at an exchange
rate set by ZITF's bankers on the date of payment.
ZTA paid the money but because of changes in the exchange rates, ZITF
said the authority should pay more.
As a result, ZITF says ZTA owes them US$123 000 and for Sanganai to be
held in Bulawayo the money has to be settled on top of a US$168 000 payment
upfront for this year's edition.
Sanganai 2009 runs from October 14-18.
As a result of the impasse, ZTA has reportedly settled for Exhibition
Park in Harare.
Ironically when ZTA settled for ZITF grounds last year, they said
Showgrounds did not meet their standards.
ZTA chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke was said to be in South
Africa on World Cup business when this paper sought his comment on Friday.
A senior official at ZTA confirmed the impasse but said "as to the
best of our knowledge the authority does not owe them (ZITF) anything".
The executive said ZTA had clinched a deal with the Zimbabwe
Agricultural Society for the use of the Exhibition Park because the
authority "had no option but to look for alternatives."
Asked whether ZAS would meet their standards this time around, the
executive said: "We are happy with the level of improvements taking place
and if they do what they promised we think we will get somewhere closer to
what we want."
Chigaru could not be reached for comment on Friday as he was said to
be attending a board meeting.
BY NDAMU SANDU
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:42
THE constitution-making season appears to have begun, albeit with
squabbles over the notorious Kariba Draft concocted by a collection of
politicians sometime in 2007.
When the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore
Madhuku protested against entrusting politicians with the
constitution-making process, vamwe vakati anorwara nepfungwa (some said
Madhuku is mad).
Hopefully, now they respect Madhuku's right to be "mad" especially if
in that "madness" he points to some uncomfortable truths.
As Zimbabwe embarks on this admittedly important process, another
cautionary note is pertinent.
As a people, we need to look beyond the constitution as the panacea to
all our troubles. I notice, with particular concern, what appears to be a
pre-occupation with the idea that the crafting of a new constitution will
pave the way for a free and fair election, something that has eluded us for
a long time.
Underlying this notion is the belief often couched in mathematical
formulae that a new constitution will lay conditions for a free and fair
election and consequently will help resolve many of our governance problems.
That, to my mind, is naïve and too simplistic a view of politics in
Zimbabwe. It shows that we have not yet properly understood the core
elements of our problems, which in reality lie beyond the text of the
Regular readers have heard this before in these pages but it is
important that the message be communicated again. It would be a great
mistake if we thought that the constitutional issue represents the Alpha and
Omega of our national problems and consequently the solutions.
There is something more critical; something that has little to do with
the constitution but more to do with the progression and evolution of
society as a civilised entity.
The trouble, as I see it, is that a lot that has gone wrong in
Zimbabwean politics cannot simply be placed at the door of a defective
constitution. These problems have happened not because of but in spite of
the constitution. Let us consider a few examples:
First, when the military generals declared that they would neither
support nor salute anyone who did not participate in the liberation
struggle - participation here being narrowly defined because in reality
everyone played a role in that struggle - they were not acting in terms of
In fact, they were defying the constitution which requires them to
defend it as the supreme law of the land. So, no, you cannot lay blame on
the constitution for the conduct of the men in uniform. Their behaviour
cannot simply be explained by the argument that there is a defective
Second, when law enforcement authorities abduct or become violent
towards ordinary citizens, it is not because the constitution prohibits
people from demonstrating or that the constitution commands the authorities
to be violent to ordinary citizens. They do so in spite of the provisions of
the constitution which safeguards citizens' liberty and protection of the
Citizens are entitled to seek recourse in the courts of law. The
courts of law may pronounce judgment in favour of citizens but that is only
half the story. That order will have to be enforced against the state.
However, there is no guarantee that the state will obey the order.
As we have seen in Zimbabwe, ministers can choose to ignore the
judgment and absolutely nothing will happen to them. We saw this very
recently when the High Court authorised journalists to cover the COMESA
Summit without the need for registration with the authorities. However, the
authorities chose to ignore the judgment. Can you really blame the
constitution for that behaviour? I do not think so.
The constitution does not make people behave badly. And the
constitution alone will not stop them from behaving badly.
There is some other cause for their behaviour, beyond the
constitutional rules just as there is probably another way of minimising
that behaviour that cannot simply be mandated by the law.
This clearly shows us that there is something fundamentally wrong in
the moral fabric of our society or at least, at the leadership level. It is
this that needs to be attended to and I confess I do not know how best to do
it. But I am not persuaded that the law alone provides answers to these hard
And I do fear that in trying to deal with our national problems, we
often place faith in the law, perhaps too much faith, when in fact the law
is one of many facets of society's architecture that guides our behaviour
We must search for those other facets; for those other elements that
can more effectively compliment the law in achieving its purpose. I do not
know what these elements are but I like to think there are others better
schooled and well-positioned to at least think about these things.
There is something more, beyond having a constitution, that is vital
in controlling the behaviour of leaders and their use of political power. It
is often referred to as constitutionalism.
The constitution is the national covenant on the way a country is
governed but constitutionalism goes further, embracing the culture by which
the constitutional rules are created and given full effect. In other words,
there is a distinction between on the one hand having a good constitution
and on the other hand, the concept of constitutionalism - the culture of
obeying the demands of that constitution.
It's a cultural issue; one that I think grows with the progressive
evolution of society. It means that in exercising its powers, the state
should not only be limited by law but it must have regard to the generally
accepted principles and values of society.
Things should be done not just because the law/constitution demands
them but because the principles and values of society compel actors to obey
them. We can use an example here:
Few people may be aware but the British Constitution is largely
unwritten. There is no single document which can be said to be the British
Constitution. In fact, some governance issues are addressed by way of what
are called "constitutional conventions", which are not necessarily
enforceable at law.
The question one must ask is: what is it that makes the relevant
actors obey these conventions if in fact they do not necessarily impose
We can observe that there is something more, beyond the force of law,
which compels them to obey these long-held conventions. It is this, among
other things, that we must try to grasp: that some things do not require the
force of law; that there are higher values and traditions that are not
necessarily couched in legal terms, which our leaders must obey because they
are right and accepted by society.
The Queen will always give assent to Bills passed by Parliament
because this is an expression of the popularly elected representatives. In
the same way, the President should not use his power to override laws passed
by the Zimbabwe parliament. The fact that he does so might make it legal and
constitutional but it does not make it right in a democratic context where
the majority will must be respected.
We must, as we craft a new constitution, define those general
principles and values by which we expect the nation to be governed. These
fundamental principles and values include fairness, justice, equality,
separation of powers, due process of law, supremacy of the constitution, and
It is in accordance with these values, not just the words of a
constitution, that the state must be governed. We should, even in a deadlock
over the words contained in a constitution, be able to appeal to those
higher values and principles for guidance.
Let us remember that not even the most beautiful words of a
constitution will stop election violence. They will not compel the police to
act fairly and impartially. They will not make the electoral commission
fairer and more impartial.
They will not cause ministers to evolve to a stage where they actually
obey the orders of the courts without cherry-picking them.
Sometimes we place too much reliance on the constitution but not even
the constitution can save us from the bad things that have happened.
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:35
ELEVEN years ago when I opened the Rome conference that led to the
founding of the International Criminal Court, I reminded the delegates that
the eyes of the victims of past crimes and the potential victims of future
ones were fixed firmly upon them.
The delegates, many of whom were African, acted on that unique
opportunity and created an institution to strengthen justice and the rule of
Now that important legacy rests once more in the hands of African
leaders as they meet in Libya. The African Union summit meeting will be the
first since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant
for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of crimes against
humanity and war crimes for his alleged role in the atrocities in Darfur.
The African Union's repeatedly stated commitment to battle impunity
will be put to the test. On the agenda is an initiative by a few states to
denounce and undermine the international court. In recent months, some
African leaders have expressed the view that international justice as
represented by the ICC is an imposition, if not a plot, by the
In my view, this outcry against justice demeans the yearning for human
dignity that resides in every African heart. It also represents a step
backward in the battle against impunity.
Over the course of my 10 years as United Nations secretary-general,
the promise of justice and its potential as a deterrent came closer to
reality. The atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia moved
the Security Council to set up two ad hoc tribunals, building on the
principles of post-World War II courts in Nuremberg and Tokyo.
These new tribunals showed that there is such a thing as effective
But these ad hoc tribunals were not enough. People the world over
wanted to know that wherever and whenever the worst atrocities were
committed - genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity - there would be
a court to bring to justice anyone in a government hierarchy or military
chain of command who was responsible. That principle would be applied
without exception, whether to the lowliest soldier or the loftiest ruler.
Thus the International Criminal Court was formed. It now has 108
states, including 30 African countries, representing the largest regional
bloc among the member states. Five of the court's 18 judges are African.
The ICC reflects the demand of people everywhere for a court that can
punish these serious crimes and deter others from committing them.
The African opponents of the international court argue that it is
fixated on Africa because its four cases so far all concern alleged crimes
against African victims.
One must begin by asking why African leaders shouldn't celebrate this
focus on African victims. Do these leaders really want to side with the
alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities rather than their victims? Is the
court's failure to date to answer the calls of victims outside of Africa
really a reason to leave the calls of African victims unheeded?
Moreover, in three of these cases, it was the government itself that
called for ICC intervention - the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central
African Republic and Uganda. The fourth case, that of Darfur, was selected
not by the international court but forwarded by the UN Security Council.
It's also important to remember that the ICC, as a court of last
resort, acts only when national justice systems are unwilling or unable to
do so. There will be less need for it to protect African victims only when
African governments themselves improve their record of bringing to justice
those responsible for mass atrocities.
The ICC represents hope for victims of atrocities and sends a message
that no one is above the law.
That hope and message will be undermined if the African Union condemns
the court because it has charged an African head of state. The African Union
should not abandon its promise to fight impunity.
Unless indicted war criminals are held to account, regardless of their
rank, others tempted to emulate them will not be deterred, and African
people will suffer.
We have little hope of preventing the worst crimes known to mankind,
or reassuring those who live in fear of their recurrence, if African leaders
stop supporting justice for the most heinous crimes just because one of
their own stands accused. - International Herald Tribune.
* Kofi Annan served as secretary-general of the United Nations from
1997-2006 and is now president of the Kofi Annan Foundation.
BY KOFI ANNAN
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:29
THE more things seem to change, the more they remain stubbornly the
On Friday Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu,
held a three-hour meeting at his Munhumutapa building offices with editors
from both the private and public sectors. He wanted to advance media reform
and establish dialogue with all editors, he told the media leadership
He spoke of the ministry's desire to open a new chapter in the way it
related to all editors, irrespective of the organisations where they worked.
He was at pains to explain that the government had not hounded out of
the country Zimbabweans who have gone on to establish external radio
stations. He also said that contrary to widespread perceptions, the
government had not banned foreign networks such as the BBC, CNN and Sky News
from visiting Zimbabwe.
He said he wanted a new beginning and suggested that he would take up
a proposal for the three principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA)
to interface with the editors regularly, perhaps on a quarterly basis.
He also appealed to the editors to ensure that high on their list of
priorities should be the practice of fair, balanced, ethical and factual
Editors from the private sector were surprised by this frank approach.
They welcomed the move believing that is what the country requires,
particularly as it embarks on the recovery process.
Although sceptical, they believed the minister deserved the benefit of
the doubt in this initiative. The editors suggested that more could be
achieved if the government started implementing sections of the GPA relating
to the opening up of the media landscape and allowing the return of exiled
The gesture, argued the editors, would go a long way in changing the
West's response and contribution to Zimbabwe's reform process. On Wednesday,
Sweden, the new chair of the European Union through its ambassador to
Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, pledged support for the inclusive government, but
he in turn asked that the new government to do more to demonstrate its
commitment to the GPA.
On the same day the minister was promising media reform, outgoing US
ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee, rejecting the idea that Zimbabwe needs
more donor support to return to normalcy, said it does not cost anything for
Zimbabwe to license new private media, stop arrests of political activists
and independent journalists and allow international journalists to practise
openly in Zimbabwe.
Freeing of the media would demonstrate commitment to "real change" and
would be critical to unlocking the West's support for the inclusive
government, he said.
Subsequent to the meeting at Munhumutapa building, The Herald, acting
as if it was not present at the meeting, dutifully reported what the
minister had said and omitted the contributions of the editors. It was a
classic example of old-style selective reporting.
So what began as a useful dialogue ended up as a lecture on the need
to support national unity. We are sure that is not what the minister
intended. Unless there is something we do not understand here, someone is
trying hard to sabotage Friday's initiative.
The defiance seems to be becoming more pronounced as it was
accompanied yesterday by the return of "Nathaniel Manheru's" column in the
Herald with all its venomous language and visceral hostility to Morgan
Tsvangirai. Clearly this is not the change or national unity the minister
spoke of. It can only suggest a slap in the face for his efforts.
So long as these reactionary elements continue to block reform and
denounce their GPA partners, change which Friday's meeting betokened will be
Why Diasporans Must be Prepared to Return Home
Saturday, 04 July 2009 18:15
THE recent debate sparked by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on
whether Zimbabweans in the Diaspora should go back home to assist in the
reconstruction of Zimbabwe following the formation of the inclusive
government brought to the fore the degree of commitment we have to our
In fact, Zimbabweans have mastered the art of coming up with excuses
in order to extend their stay enjoying the comforts of foreign lands.
Zimbabwe is haemorrhaging and urgently needs its nationals back.
Arguments have been advanced as to the timing of the Prime Minister's call.
If we are to be honest with ourselves we all knew this day was coming,
but instead we decided to bury our heads in the sand and pretended that
Zimbabwe would sort itself out and we will be invited at the end of it all
to take up high-flying positions without so much as lifting a finger to fix
Yes we have been remitting our hard-earned income to our families in
Zimbabwe, but this has been largely subsistence money. None of that money
could be regarded as enough to get the industries going again.
The second argument advanced in dismissing Tsvangirai's call relates
to the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans decided to
disregard this and instead relied on a report authored by Amnesty
In Britain sacrifices were made through the industrial revolution by
its citizens to bring this island to its current status as the desired
destination of every national in the world.
The Industrial revolution was a period when the British people decided
to take charge of their economic destiny following years of poverty and
They came up with innovative ways of producing goods, manufacturing
services and created new methods of transportation.
This not only revolutionised the way their market system operated, but
also changed the way they themselves perceived their status in the wider
world. In other words they redefined their psyche bringing it in harmony
with their national agenda.
They defined what they required as basic necessities for their growth.
Sacrifices were made and society in general paid a heavy price for the
emergence of the society that we now seek to become a part of. The welfare
system in place did not come over night. Their revolution was total. Hence
the subsequent benefits.
Prior to the industrial revolution they pretty much survived the way
we are surviving in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe needs men and women who will pioneer this kind of economic
revolution. However it is also equally true that dynamic economic agendas
can also bring about a new political dispensation in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe needs its citizens now.
The other argument being advanced relates to the availability of jobs
in Zimbabwe and the allowances being paid.
Whilst I understand the problems associated with the major adjustment
required psychologically, it is however beyond comprehension as to why a
Zimbabwean exposed to the West for the better part of the last 10 years
would be doing looking for a job in Zimbabwe. This class of people should
come home and be the job creators.
The last census in 1992 reported a population of 10.4 million. The
estimated population in 2002 was 12.8m. It is estimated that at least 4
million Zimbabweans are outside the country.
That leaves a total of at least 8 million Zimbabweans at home. However
if we factor in the realities of the high mortality rate post 2000, Zimbabwe
has at most 6 million citizens within its borders. The demographic shape of
this population shows a high number of elderly people and children.
The required demographic numbers to jump-start an economy does not
exist in Zimbabwe. Numbers are needed for the government and the state to
get Zimbabwe working again.
Zimbabwe is in its current state mainly due to the attitude of its
citizens. Exiled Zimbabweans are theoretically victims of state power being
used against them.
The issue is that we are responsible at the end of the day for the
government we choose whether it treats us right or not. The fact that we
failed to stand our ground means that we are not prepared to face the
"monster" we created, hence we run to safer countries.
Let's put all the excuses aside and be realistic. I will be making my
own individual plans to go home and play my role in bringing Zimbabwe on its
No to Imposed Kariba Draft
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:52
THE continued utterances by Zanu PF that the so-called Kariba
draft will be used as a roadmap to draft the new constitution is
unacceptable and regrettable.
Zanu PF is behaving as if there is no one in its circles who is
well vested with legal issues. How can a document that was crafted by three
people at a tourist resort centre be imposed on the people of Zimbabwe? The
people of Zimbabwe have a right and a responsibility to write their own
constitution that is democratic and people-driven.
The Kariba draft is therefore null and void and to impose it on
the people would be retrogressive. The people must strongly reject this
imposition. As for the civic society, they must participate in the
constitution-making process, but under protest. If they boycott, politicians
or the wrong people will manipulate the process.
The watchdog role of the civic society is indispensable in as
far as education and transparency is concerned.
The constitution-making process is a thorn-in-the-flesh for Zanu
PF, since it cannot exist in a free society or at least a semi-free society.
Free and fair elections, freedom of speech, assembly, association and
movement will emanate from this constitution and Zanu PF knows that it will
be digging its own grave by participating in the process.
GNU Must Fight for Dual Citizenship
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:45
I am concerned that it looks like Zimbabweans living in New
zealand have been forgotten by MDC-T.
There is no strong party representation, not even a high-ranking
party official visiting to address us. There is no clear leadership in this
part of the world.
The Prime Minister, Morgn Tsvangirai (pictured) has been
travelling around the world but he never thought of passing through New
Zealand and Australia. I hope this issue can be addressed because we don't
want to be forgotten and left out. MDC-T represents the people.
My second issue of concern is citizenship. A lot of people took
up foreign citizenship, not because they don't like being Zimbabweans
anymore but because they wanted security from wherever they are around the
The government of Zanu PF banned dual citizenship, a right taken
away from thousands of people.
There are a number of Zimbabweans who would love to return home
since things are starting to shape up positively but the question is: What
would be their fate if they had to return on a New Zealand or UK passport?
I think the new government should fight for the right of dual
citizenship to be granted back to the people. That's empowering the people
I know this might look like a minor issue that does not need
urgent attention but it is an issue that might affect the future of the
country as a lot of well- educated people would have to think twice before
considering returning home where they wouldn't be sure of their fate.
I think instead of pleading with the people to return home, our
PM should make the environment more conducive and welcoming for those
wishing to return. Not many of us want to die and be buried here. We love
Zimbabwe because it's in our blood.
Power Games in Mutambara's MDC
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:33
WHAT'S going on? While I chose to belong to the MDC-T after the
original MDC split, I am still not an enemy of the MDC and have been
exchanging my views with some of the MDC leadership.
Sometimes I have been well received, but sometimes I have been
misconstrued and given a hostile reception. A case in point was when
Professor Arthur Mutambara called me a foolish loser after expressing an
The way I see things, the party is headed for the political dust
bin, Aunless something is done urgently to change it's direction.
In my opinion, some leaders in the party are doing the same
things that they accused Morgan Tsvangirai of doing to the party, which led
to the split in 2005. It's all about power.
The failure by the MDC formations to go into the March 2008
elections as one party was all based on power.
Reports say that the MDC leadership failed to agree with MDC-T's
position on allocation of newly created constituencies in Bulawayo and
Their decision was certainly based on their failure to read the
will of the people in those provinces as was proved by the election results.
The MDC formations could have gained more seats in Parliament than they
currently have if they had gone into the elections as partners.
The other serious mistake MDC made was in its appointment of
cabinet ministers, where the majority of its ministers were unelected
appointees. Elected competent parliamentarians like former Gwanda Mayor
Zinti Mnkandla and Abednico Bhebhe were left out of cabinet positions.
In my opinion, Mnkandla, an experienced educationist and
administrator, could easily have been appointed Minister of Education while
David Coltart could have taken either Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga's or
Professor Welshman Ncube's ministerial positions.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga could have been allocated another
ministerial position while Professor Ncube could have remained in the party
to co-ordinate party activities. That way, the MDC could have fielded more
elected ministers than the present scenario where the majority of the party's
ministers are unelected.
And to prove the point that it is all about power, when
Professor Mutambara successfully negotiated for a Minister of State, the
whole intention was to accommodate Gibson Sibanda, at the expense of elected
One concludes that the current crisis in the party which has
resulted in the suspension of five legislators is all about unelected
officials wanting to be recognised more than popularly elected MPs.
I hope the MDC takes this as constructive criticism and
re-visits their policies in the areas of concern if they want to move
forward as a party.
SMS The Standard
Saturday, 04 July 2009 17:32
Thank you, McGee
I wish to thank Ambassador James McGee and his wife, Shirley. We
salute you. Thank you for your work.
Through your work and efforts you helped save many lives and
brought smiles and hope to many. Please pass our profound gratitude to
President Barack Obama as your return at the end of your tour of duty. Go
well. Hamba kuhle. Fambai mushe. - Gurundoro, Sanyati.
THANK you to the South African Broadcasting Corporation's
International channel. You did us proud by providing Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai the much-needed platform to explain the rationale and outcomes of
his three-week mission abroad. Shame on ZBC for denying the Prime Minister a
similar opportunity. -OK, Harare.
Word of advice
I am appealing to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the
constitution-making process to use local languages when conducting their
business unlike those who were in Gwanda and addressed the people in Shona.
Was it deliberate sabotage or mere stupidity? - Sa Junior, Garanyemba.
PEOPLE should not worry about the process or the draft
constitution to be used. They should worry about the contents where we will
advocate for devolution of power, proportional representation and Bill of
Rights. - Ndabitshekile, Bulawayo.
WHAT is the fuss about a new constitution? We have one
protecting civil rights but the government ignores it. How can another one
guarantee Zanu PF will respect our rights any more than before? This
exercise is another delaying tactic that the forces of freedom have fallen
for. - A McCormick, Harare.
AFTER the organisers of the transport ferrying Zimbabwe soccer
supporters to South Africa for the Confederation Cup botched up the whole
thing, I am convinced that their intention was to lay their fingers on the
supporters' money and as if to rub salt into wounds, lie to the supporters
afterwards. - Must Go, Harare.
I am relieved to hear that police have identified two of the
suspects in the brutal raid on Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga's
residence in Mount Pleasant which left their police security detail and the
minister's husband for dead. Why would the robbers attack everyone who was
at the house except the gardener, who they decided to lock up? And why is
the government releasing criminals with potential to re-offend under some
kind of amnesty when it clearly has no resources to prevent such heinous
attacks? Minister Patrick Chinamasa has already said the country has 14 000
offenders against holding capacity of 18 000. - Get real.
IT is not that easy for the Diasporans to just pack their bags
and come back home. This also applies to the wealthy West and the donor
community. What confronts these different entities is the lack of impetus
with regards to reforms. It is better to live in a foreign land where your
bread is well buttered, your rights respected and your energy and talents
rewarded instead of being punished. Reforms are central to recovery.
However, they need not be cosmetic in their scope. Many Diasporans will not
return because most of them have become way too comfortable. It is sad that
we had to force our brothers to adopt new lands and identities because most
of them will never identify themselves with us. Let's give them reasonable
incentives. Things may turn out better. - Charles Saki.
I have a message to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora after reading
the fiasco involving the Prime Minister's meeting in Southwark, London. I
was ashamed. Initially I thought the people who fled the country were wiser
than those who remained behind. But I have second thoughts. They are nothing
but cowards and fortune hunters. They are no better than some of the
criminals who found refuge in the war and purport to have gone there in
order to liberate us. What do those of us who remained to confront and fight
President Robert Mugabe and his violent party so that an environment
conducive for talks is realised gain? Ridicule! If they don't want to come
back why could they not just say so? If they do not want to come they could
at least have each contributed something - like establish a Diaspora-driven
fund to assist in the recovery process so that when they do decide to
return, the economy will be in a better shape. A fund that is replenished by
monthly contributions would make a real difference. And we would view
Diasporans differently. - Matigari.
Running out of excuses
THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) should simply
explain why one area in Nashville, Gweru, hasn't had electricity since
November last year. Is it shortage of foreign currency or mere
incompetence? - Furious, Gweru.
SINCE May we have been in darkness. I wonder how the Zimbabwe
Electricity Supply Authority can forget us for so long. We live in fear of
losing our property to thugs who are taking advantage of the darkness to
break into homes. - Worried, Eastlea, Harare.
PLEASE could you include the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA) draft constitution as a supplement in your newspaper so that we can
have an opportunity to compare it with the Kariba draft, which was published
by the state media last week?- E Ndlovu, Bulawayo.
WE need a constitution that will outlive us and withstand
generational leadership changes and serve us for posterity as a sacred
document, not one that is meant to appease today's politicians. - No to
THE Presidential scholarship has become a sham. It used to give
many young Zimbabweans from poor backgrounds a sense of hope, but now the
candidates are selected from children of Zanu PF's elite. - Real povo.
WATER has been gushing out on Amby Drive near Chalkmead and
people have been washing their laundry there. One wonders who is going to
foot the bill for all the water lost when nearby areas have gone without
water since September 2008. - Livid, Greendale, Harare.
ZIMRA has no intention of respecting Comesa. How can it demand
duty on a small truck which I bought for business for US$1 000 but am now
being asked to pay duty of US$700? They said they charge duty on transport
costs when I am the one who incurred the costs for bringing the truck up to
Beitbridge. - RTK.
July 5, 2009
By Owen Chikari
MASVINGO - A group of about 50 teachers took to the streets of Masvingo on
Friday, while protesting over the non-payment of salaries by the inclusive
government since its formation in February this year.Teachers in Zimbabwe
and the rest of the civil service are currently entitled to earnings of $100
in monthly allowances. The protesting teachers say they have not been paid
the promised allowances since the beginning of the year when Zimbabwe
dollarised its economy.
The teachers mainly women marched through the streets of the city on Friday
waving placards and singing songs.
They later gathered at the Ministry of Education offices at Wigley House
where they handed over a petition addressed to the ministers of Education,
Sport and Culture, Senator David Coltart and Professor Eliphas
Mukonoweshuro, the Minister of the Public Service.
In the one-page petition the teachers gave the inclusive government two
weeks to solve their grievances, failing which would boycott classes every
Thursday and Friday.
"Concerned by the government's failure to pay us salaries and failure to
address our grievances we therefore give the government two weeks to address
our plight, failing which we will not report for work every Thursdays and
Fridays," reads part of the petition.
"We demand that we be paid a monthly salary of USD 500 and that our working
conditions be improved."
In the petition the teachers also alleged that their colleagues who were
re-engaged following an amnesty by the ministry have not received their
salaries and allowances since March this year.
In February the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture granted all
teachers who had left the civil service a blanket amnesty in which they were
allowed to re-apply for re-engagement without any questions being asked.
The ministry had realised that nearly half of the teachers had left the
profession and left the country for greener pastures.
"We demand that teachers who were re-engaged by the government should
unconditionally be paid their allowances and salaries with immediate effect",
said the petition.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou
said on Friday that his organisation had organised the demonstration.
"We are saying teachers should be paid decent salaries," said Zhou. "The
$100 allowance they are getting is too little to cater for their daily
"We demand a monthly salary of USD 500 and that all teachers who were
re-engaged after leaving the civil service should be paid their dues."
PTUZ says the burden to pay teachers is now being shouldered by parents who
are forking out money to pay teachers so that they come to work.
"We realise the right for children to learn but we are saying parents are
not our employers," said Zhou.
A teacher at a rural school said some parents, who could not afford cash
payments, were offering the teachers crops such as maize and sweet-potatoes
as payment for their services.
Neither Coltart nor Mukonoweshuro could be reached for comment on Friday.
Mukonoweshuro is, however, on record as saying he would address the problem
of salaries within the civil service once more funds were made available.
2 July 2009
By Own correspondent
"I am not going to be a state witness. I find it surprising. Bennett has
nothing to do with it" "I have been in many difficult situations but I had
never seen humans die in conditions worse than animals."
MUTARE - Registered gun collector Peter Michael Hitschmann, who was jailed
for possessing an arms cache, was released last Thursday and vowed not to be
a state witness in the trial of MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate
Roy Bennett in October. (Pictured: AG Johannes Tomana - His case against Roy
Bennett seriously weakened by Peter Michael Hitschmann's refusal to testify
against the MDC politician.)
State prosecutors say Hitschmann is the key witness in the trial of Bennett,
facing charges of attempting to commit acts of sabotage, banditry,
insurgency and terrorism.
Bennett's trial will kick-off on October 13 this year. He faces life in jail
if convicted. Bennett dismisses the charges as politically motivated.
But Hitschmann told journalists in this eastern border city he would not be
a state witness in Bennett's case.
He said Bennett had nothing to do with the arms cache that was found in his
Hitschmann was initially charged with attempting to assassinate President
Robert Mugabe and key Zanu (PF) politicians in Manicaland but the charges
were thrown out due to lack of evidence. He was then convicted on lesser
charges of possessing arms without a licence.
He was sentenced to four years in jail but served three years and three
"I was surprised to hear that I was a state witness (in Bennett's case),"
Hitschmann said. "I am certainly not going to be a state witness. I find it
surprising. Bennett has nothing to do with it."
Hitschmann added: "He has not been to my premise and there is no link
between Bennett and the fire arms."
He said he was forced to incriminate Bennett during torture by security
"On the night of March 6, 2006, we were taken to Adams Barracks were we were
tortured and forced to make certain confessions and one of the confessions
incriminated Roy," Hitschmann said.
Adams Barracks is an army camp, on the Mozambican border.
"According to that confession Roy and I were plotting sabotage specifically
of radio and communication equipment in the area of Bromley, somewhere
He said some of the forced confessions were that he was plotting to
assassinate Mugabe as he celebrated his birthday bash in Mutare.
Hitschmann said he was also forced to confess that he was planning to
assassinate key Zanu (PF) members in Mutare - Esau Mupfumi, a wealthy
businessman and Enock Porusingazi, also a businessman and former MP for
Charges that he wanted to assassinate Mugabe and the two Zanu (PF) officials
from Mutare were thrown out by High Court Judge, Justice Chitakunye due to
lack of evidence.
Hitschmann said he was disappointed he had completed his sentence while his
appeal against conviction and sentence was still pending at the Supreme
He said this was an indication that the justice delivery system in Zimbabwe
Hitschmann said prison conditions were appalling and during his 40 months'
stay in prison he saw close to 50 people die.
"The conditions can be described as a death camp," he said. "In my life I
have been in many difficult situations but I have never seen humans die in
conditions worse than animals."
He said he survived the harsh conditions because of the support he got from
his family and friends.
2 July 2009
By The Editor
By all definitions, Zimbabwe is caught in a debt trap. The exact figures
vary depending on who is your source. But all agree that, of the more than
US$5 billion we owe external creditors such as the IMF and the World Bank,
we have not a single dime to pay them back.
In fact, we need to borrow more money - US$10 billion. Double what we owe
already. Hopefully, the new loans, if we get them, will enable us to revive
the economy and not turn out to have been just a quicker way to plunge
crisis-sapped Zimbabwe deeper into insolvency. But this is not our point.
The point is: how did we accrue so much debt? Where did all that money go,
when public schools and hospitals were closed because there was no money to
pay teachers and health workers?
Put differently: the legitimacy of national debt needs to be established
beyond doubt. This is a task as urgent as the writing of a new constitution,
but one that, for the sake of convenience and compromise, remains taboo in
the unity government.
For a nation emerging from a situation such as the one that prevailed in
Zimbabwe -where the government, according to President Robert Mugabe,
"ditched textbook economics" and, so it seems, conventional bookkeeping - it
is critical that an independent audit of national debt is carried out.
Before this government can be allowed to borrow more money in our name, it
is crucial that we know what happened to funds borrowed in the past. How
much went to the people and how much was simply dished out like candy to a
privileged elite? In other modern societies this is known as accountability.
We do not wish to besmirch people's reputations. But the explanation that
some have tried to hawk around: that the rules had to be twisted and corners
cut because "we were busting sanctions", is simply not good enough.
In this regard we would want to believe that Mugabe and Zanu (PF)'s
obsession with keeping Gideon Gono at the central bank is motivated by
nothing other the reason stated, that his appointment was in accordance with
Gono ran - some say illegally so - the nerve centre of the previous
government's financial operations. These infamous quasi-fiscal activities
saw billions of dollars pumped into such pie-in-the-sky projects as
"Operation Maguta" that was meant to produce food for the country. We are
still waiting for that food.
In saying this, we do not suggest any wrongdoing by Gono. But we insist that
only an independent audit of the previous administration's books can clear
the man and others who handled public funds.
Ultimately, Zimbabwe must honour all debt in its name, regardless of how the
money was used. But it would be the greatest betrayal to bestow upon our
children the heavy weight of a debt accrued in the pursuit of luxury for a
few. We say those who looted public funds must go to jail.
Dear Family and Friends,
After weeks of peculiarly warm weather which wasn't winter but wasn't
summer, people had begun commenting that even the trees were confused!
A large, old Msasa tree standing alone on an urban street corner
suddenly dropped all its leaves and produced a glorious canopy of new
red leaves. It's a good six weeks too early and the precious new
growth is exposed to a winter which has now finally arrived. In one
freezing night a bitter wind bought our belated winter. For the first
time ever in my memory the water in my birdbath turned to ice
overnight and didn't thaw until mid morning. A cold wind, drizzle,
mist and grey skies are now the order of our highveld winter days. In
this atmosphere a cruel and heartless act was undertaken in my home
The word being used on the street in my neighbourhood is
"Murambatsvina." People were comparing the cruelty of events this week
to the government's massive human evictions of mid winter 2005.
ZESA, the government controlled electricity supply company went door
to door and disconnected people's electricity. Working in pairs, they
walked through residential neighbourhoods and house by house they
switched people off. In the road where I live, 90% of homes were
disconnected on a freezing July afternoon. The picture was repeated
across town. Families with babies in the house were not spared; homes
with sick and disabled occupants were switched off; homes with elderly
people in their 90's were disconnected. There was no mercy or
compassion, no compromise or humanity - just like it had been in
Worst affected were civil servants who earn just 100 US dollars a
month. Not even these dedicated professionals who could be earning ten
times their wage if they left the country were spared. Their
patriotism was punished with the flick of a switch
Since February most civil servants have been paying 10 or 20 US
dollars a month to ZESA for their electricity. This is all, if not
more than they can afford on a salary of 100 dollars, it is 10 or 20%
of their wage. Zesa say it's not enough and are demanding massive and
backdated amounts ranging from 250 to 500 US dollars for small
The reality of the disconnections is very cruel. Teachers at work all
day educating our children are coming home an hour before dark and
having to light fires outside to cook on, to heat water for bathing
and washing and then have to sit and mark books by candle light.
Four months into our supposedly new and improved Zimbabwe the sound
of wood chopping fills the air, smoke constantly rises and women
stream out of the bush with mounds of newly cut Msasa branches
balanced on their heads. Shame on you ZESA!
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.Copyright cathy
buckle 4th July 2009.
South Africa has been gripped by the
story of Aher Arop Bol, a young refugee who now sells sweets and cigarettes from
a stall while he studies to be a lawyer By the age of 18 he had travelled more than 4,000 miles, crossing eight
African borders without a passport - a lone boy living on his wits and depending
on the kindness of strangers. Now Aher Arop Bol sells sweets and cigarettes under a railway bridge in the
South African capital, Pretoria, but his adventure is not over. He has just
become one of the most extraordinary authors in the history of African
literature. Arop Bol has shared his story in a unique memoir, The Lost Boy (published by
Kwela Books), which offers a rare insight into the life of a child on the run
from war. South
Africa, which in May last year was the scene of more than 100 xenophobic
killings directed at refugees such as Arop Bol,
has greeted his story with fascination. Drum magazine called it an
"extraordinary tale of pain, desperation and, above all, survival against all
odds". The respected poet and journalist Antjie Krog said simply: "This story
stays with me." It is not hard to see why. The book's publication, and the astonishing world
it opens up, is further evidence of the tenacity and desire that took a young
boy across a vast continent. ''My motivation is to make money to pay my law studies which cost 27,000
rands a year [£2,000]," he said "and to get my two brothers through school. I
have put them into a boarding school in Uganda." His pride and joy are the brilliant school reports, sent from St Mary's
School, Kisubi, Uganda, by Thokriel, 13, and Majok, 14. Arop Bol himself is
halfway through a correspondence law course at the University of South Africa
(Unisa) but can never attend lectures as he sets up shop outside Wonderboom
station, Pretoria, every weekday at 4am. His stall - a sheet of plywood, balanced on two crates and displaying boiled
sweets, matches and single cigarettes - looks like any other serving commuters
outside the station. But unlike the other informal traders, Arop Bol wears a
suit and exhibits the seriousness and restraint of a man twice his age. "Business has gone down," he says with a sigh. "My customers are mainly the
gardeners and domestics in the northern suburbs. I offer haircuts and I
sometimes sell airtime. But no one has money because of the recession. I will
have to find another solution soon." The hope is that one may emerge from the public reaction to the publication
of his extraordinary tale. The book is unlikely to become a bestseller, but
never before has the desolate, desperate experience of the refugee children of
Sudan been so
authoritatively conveyed. The son of Dinka cattle-herding parents, Arop Bol arrived in South Africa in
2002 - 15 years after he was separated from his parents during an attack on
their village. His solitary journey took him, in fits and starts, through Kenya,
Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Finally he reached Pretoria and the
loving haven of the home of a retired Afrikaner teacher, Sannie Meiring, where
he still lodges. It was a refugee's odyssey. "I was three years old," he said. "My uncle
carried me for several days until we reached Ethiopia." At the first of a dozen
refugee settlements in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, he saw men and women starve
to death in such numbers that their bodies lay "like firewood" on the ground.
Others died from feasting when aid arrived, after subjecting their food-deprived
bodies to too much maize. He saw people so weakened from thirst that they
drowned while trying to drink from a river. When he was five, his uncle was enlisted by the Sudanese People's Liberation
Army. From then on Arop Bol brought himself up, alongside thousands of "lost
boys" who fought among themselves for food but shared "blankets" made from rice
sacks and helped each other escape bombing from Antonovs. He spent a night in a
tree to escape being eaten by three lions. Somehow avoiding enrolment, he learnt
the alphabet by carving letters in the dust. Arop Bol speaks with affection of the other "lost boys", the comrades in
adversity from southern Sudan, whom he met along the way. Each had a similar
story of being separated from their parents amid the chaos of fighting. In 1995, from a base in Kenya, 7,000 teenage boys were fostered by families
in the US, Canada and Australia. He attended countless interviews, but, at 11,
was told he was too young to be accepted for resettlement. "The rules the
agencies impose are so stringent. Even if you meet officials who are concerned
about you, they end up saying, 'Sorry, you're a minor'. It makes you wish you
could grow up quickly. You hate yourself." Friends made en route were still the only people who understood him. "I have
about 50 on my Facebook account and we keep in touch. We encourage each other.
We talk about the future and what we can do to save our country." They knew, he said, the real pain of separation. They were the only ones who
truly knew that the question, "Why am I here?" had no answer. "You are escaping
bullets, but you do not know where you are going, or why. You do not know
whether you still have parents. Many times while I was on the road I thought it
would be best if the robbers killed me. Then I would be free. If they did not
kill me, if they just wanted my shirt, I put it down to luck and God." Arop Bol wants to go back to southern Sudan and go into business. "I will not
sit on my profits. I will build a school. Then I will take people back to the
land and show them that it is fertile and that they can use water to grow
things." Even though he sees his book as a means of informing others, Arop Bol
resisted sending it to a publisher. "It was catharsis, nothing more. I wrote it
in six weeks because everything in there was already in my brain. The publishers
said, 'Most people are delighted when their manuscripts are accepted, why can't
you be happy?' But for me the line between happiness and sadness is very
fine." Despairing of UN officialdom, he gathered the capital to set up his tuckshop.
In 2003, having saved enough money, he flew back to Sudan to search for his
mother and father. "I found them," he said, but his face did not light up. "They had got used to
life without me." And he said, painfully, "they are cattle herders" - as if to
say that he had, through the education he had gained, outgrown them. But one thing he did bring back was the knowledge of his own age. "Until I
met them I didn't know exactly which year I was born. Now I know I am
South Africa has been gripped by the story of Aher Arop Bol, a young refugee who now sells sweets and cigarettes from a stall while he studies to be a lawyer
By the age of 18 he had travelled more than 4,000 miles, crossing eight African borders without a passport - a lone boy living on his wits and depending on the kindness of strangers.
Now Aher Arop Bol sells sweets and cigarettes under a railway bridge in the South African capital, Pretoria, but his adventure is not over. He has just become one of the most extraordinary authors in the history of African literature.
Arop Bol has shared his story in a unique memoir, The Lost Boy (published by Kwela Books), which offers a rare insight into the life of a child on the run from war. South Africa, which in May last year was the scene of more than 100 xenophobic killings directed at refugees such as Arop Bol, has greeted his story with fascination. Drum magazine called it an "extraordinary tale of pain, desperation and, above all, survival against all odds". The respected poet and journalist Antjie Krog said simply: "This story stays with me."
It is not hard to see why. The book's publication, and the astonishing world it opens up, is further evidence of the tenacity and desire that took a young boy across a vast continent.
''My motivation is to make money to pay my law studies which cost 27,000 rands a year [£2,000]," he said "and to get my two brothers through school. I have put them into a boarding school in Uganda."
His pride and joy are the brilliant school reports, sent from St Mary's School, Kisubi, Uganda, by Thokriel, 13, and Majok, 14. Arop Bol himself is halfway through a correspondence law course at the University of South Africa (Unisa) but can never attend lectures as he sets up shop outside Wonderboom station, Pretoria, every weekday at 4am.
His stall - a sheet of plywood, balanced on two crates and displaying boiled sweets, matches and single cigarettes - looks like any other serving commuters outside the station. But unlike the other informal traders, Arop Bol wears a suit and exhibits the seriousness and restraint of a man twice his age.
"Business has gone down," he says with a sigh. "My customers are mainly the gardeners and domestics in the northern suburbs. I offer haircuts and I sometimes sell airtime. But no one has money because of the recession. I will have to find another solution soon."
The hope is that one may emerge from the public reaction to the publication of his extraordinary tale. The book is unlikely to become a bestseller, but never before has the desolate, desperate experience of the refugee children of Sudan been so authoritatively conveyed.
The son of Dinka cattle-herding parents, Arop Bol arrived in South Africa in 2002 - 15 years after he was separated from his parents during an attack on their village. His solitary journey took him, in fits and starts, through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Finally he reached Pretoria and the loving haven of the home of a retired Afrikaner teacher, Sannie Meiring, where he still lodges.
It was a refugee's odyssey. "I was three years old," he said. "My uncle carried me for several days until we reached Ethiopia." At the first of a dozen refugee settlements in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, he saw men and women starve to death in such numbers that their bodies lay "like firewood" on the ground. Others died from feasting when aid arrived, after subjecting their food-deprived bodies to too much maize. He saw people so weakened from thirst that they drowned while trying to drink from a river.
When he was five, his uncle was enlisted by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. From then on Arop Bol brought himself up, alongside thousands of "lost boys" who fought among themselves for food but shared "blankets" made from rice sacks and helped each other escape bombing from Antonovs. He spent a night in a tree to escape being eaten by three lions. Somehow avoiding enrolment, he learnt the alphabet by carving letters in the dust.
Arop Bol speaks with affection of the other "lost boys", the comrades in adversity from southern Sudan, whom he met along the way. Each had a similar story of being separated from their parents amid the chaos of fighting.
In 1995, from a base in Kenya, 7,000 teenage boys were fostered by families in the US, Canada and Australia. He attended countless interviews, but, at 11, was told he was too young to be accepted for resettlement. "The rules the agencies impose are so stringent. Even if you meet officials who are concerned about you, they end up saying, 'Sorry, you're a minor'. It makes you wish you could grow up quickly. You hate yourself."
Friends made en route were still the only people who understood him. "I have about 50 on my Facebook account and we keep in touch. We encourage each other. We talk about the future and what we can do to save our country."
They knew, he said, the real pain of separation. They were the only ones who truly knew that the question, "Why am I here?" had no answer. "You are escaping bullets, but you do not know where you are going, or why. You do not know whether you still have parents. Many times while I was on the road I thought it would be best if the robbers killed me. Then I would be free. If they did not kill me, if they just wanted my shirt, I put it down to luck and God."
Arop Bol wants to go back to southern Sudan and go into business. "I will not sit on my profits. I will build a school. Then I will take people back to the land and show them that it is fertile and that they can use water to grow things."
Even though he sees his book as a means of informing others, Arop Bol resisted sending it to a publisher. "It was catharsis, nothing more. I wrote it in six weeks because everything in there was already in my brain. The publishers said, 'Most people are delighted when their manuscripts are accepted, why can't you be happy?' But for me the line between happiness and sadness is very fine."
Despairing of UN officialdom, he gathered the capital to set up his tuckshop. In 2003, having saved enough money, he flew back to Sudan to search for his mother and father.
"I found them," he said, but his face did not light up. "They had got used to life without me." And he said, painfully, "they are cattle herders" - as if to say that he had, through the education he had gained, outgrown them.
But one thing he did bring back was the knowledge of his own age. "Until I met them I didn't know exactly which year I was born. Now I know I am 25."