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Zimbabwe Police Raid Opposition Office

New York Times

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 26, 2007 (AP Online via COMTEX)

†-- Riot police in Zimbabwe raided the headquarters of the main opposition
party on Saturday and arrested dozens of supporters, a spokesman said.

Nelson Chamisa said close to 200 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
supporters had been seized in the raid on the party's headquarters in
central Harare.

Three truckloads of riot police arrived at the headquarters around midday.
The police broke up a "routine meeting" called by the MDC to discuss party
issues ahead of next year's crucial presidential and parliamentary polls,
Chamisa said in a telephone interview.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

President Robert Mugabe's government embarked on a fierce clampdown on the
opposition in March, worried that Zimbabwe's fast-deteriorating economic
crisis could spark an uprising. Since then hundreds of opposition party
supporters have been arrested and dozens beaten, including main opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Most recently, police arrested and assaulted defense lawyers acting on
behalf of opposition members.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is heading an initiative to bring the
Mugabe government and the opposition to the negotiating table, but there
have been few signs of success so far.

Chamisa said many of those arrested in Saturday's raid were members of the
youth wing.

"This is hypocrisy by this regime," he said. "This is a selective
application of what they call the law."

Earlier this week, police in Harare extended a controversial ban on
demonstrations and rallies for one month, citing fears of political
violence.

But Saturday's meeting "was neither a demonstration nor a rally," Chamisa
said.

"We are worried for the safety" of those arrested, he said. At least 12
opposition supporters arrested in a similar raid on the party's headquarters
in March are still in custody, accused of planning acts of terrorism.

Tensions are rising in Zimbabwe, where inflation last month reached a record
3,714 percent annually. Teachers and civil servants are threatening strikes
in a move likely to anger the authorities.

On Friday, the deputy information minister was forced to issue an official
denial that Zimbabwe's soldiers were starving following claims in a local
weekly that the army was fast running out of food and might have to suspend
training of recruits.

Mugabe insists Zimbabwe's worst-ever economic crisis is a result of Western
sanctions and has nothing to do with a seven-year-old program of white land
seizures that has seen agricultural production in this once-prosperous
nation plummet.

Government officials routinely tell Zimbabweans that the MDC is responsible
for the sanctions and urge them to vote for the ruling party in upcoming
elections.

The MDC and other government critics have been calling for the repeal of
controversial legislation including tough security and press laws.

But National Security Minister Didymus Mutasa has ruled out a repeal of the
Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the official Herald newspaper reported
Saturday.

Mutasa said the act which has been used to ban public meetings was "vital in
checking Western-sponsored pandemonium in the country," the Herald said.

Copyright (C) 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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Police arrest 200 opposition activists

Yahoo News

By Cris Chinaka Sat May 26, 10:15 AM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe riot police arrested more than 200 opposition
activists and officials on Saturday during a meeting they were holding at
their party headquarters, an opposition spokesman said.

"They raided the offices at Harvest House. They had no search warrant. They
gave no reasons but they have taken in our members who were holding meetings
there," Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told
Reuters.
"We believe this is part of the harassment that we are being subjected to."

Police wielding pistols and batons raided the meeting, which did not include
top opposition figures. Activists were taken away in three police vans, said
Chamisa.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

The arrests came a day after Zimbabwe police extended a ban on political
rallies and protests in Harare which the country's embattled opposition has
likened to "a state of emergency."

President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF administration has routinely used riot
police squads to crush anti-government rallies in the southern African
country, which is suffering from severe shortages of food and fuel.

Tensions rose sharply in early March after opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and dozens of other MDC members sustained injuries after being
arrested by police at an aborted prayer rally in Harare.

Opposition groups and Western powers have accused Mugabe of widespread human
rights abuses in a crackdown on dissent.

But he has remained defiant, deflecting criticism while facing an economic
meltdown that critics blame on his policies.

The 83-year-old Mugabe accuses the MDC of being stooges of Zimbabwe's former
colonial power Britain and trying to oust his government as punishment for
seizing and redistributing white-owned commercial farms to landless blacks.

Critics say Mugabe has mismanaged Zimbabwe's economy, sending the
once-prosperous nation into a relentless crisis marked by annual inflation
of more than 3,700 percent and unemployment of more than 80 percent.


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Web shopping offers lifeline in Zimbabwe

The Sunday Times
May 27, 2007

Exiles log on to help relatives beat shortages and soaring inflation in a
starving country

Christina Lamb
LIKE millions of people across Britain, Tracy Mavuka does most of her
grocery shopping online. Each week the 27-year-old care worker sets aside
£20 and orders items such as rice, cooking oil, salt, chicken and soap.

But no van draws up outside her flat in Southend, Essex. Instead, the box
will arrive two days later at her mother's shack in Chitungwiza township,
just outside Harare. Without it, Mavuka fears that her mother and five
younger brothers and sisters would starve.

"I used to send money home," she says, "but inflation is so high that, from
the moment Mum got it, it would be losing value. Then it would cost her a
fortune for transport to the shops, which half the time had empty shelves.
Now at least I can make sure they eat."

Over the past year several innovative UK-based websites and text messaging
services have sprung up enabling the millions of Zimbabweans who have fled
their country to transform hard currency into anything from a tankful of
petrol for a friend in Harare to a month's supply of blood pressure tablets
for an ageing aunt in Bulawayo.

Such transfers are enabling friends and family back home to survive amid
inflation of more than 3,700%, which has rendered the Zimbabwean dollar
almost worthless.
Apart from food and petrol, these websites offer generators to survive
Harare's 20-hour power cuts, satellite TV subscriptions, mobile phone time
and even the chance to pay for medical check-ups.

More than a quarter of Zimbabwe's population has left since 2000 - an
estimated 3.4m people. Most are in South Africa but hundreds of thousands
are believed to be in Britain. According to the International Organisation
for Migration, 74% of Zimbabweans abroad send money and goods back home.

Research presented at a migration forum two weeks ago by Bat-sirai Mubaiwa,
from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe,
revealed that more than half of all Zimbabweans are now dependent on
relatives abroad.

While the official exchange rate is Z$500 to £1, the market rate is Z$80,000
to £1. Thus someone remitting £100 per month from Britain is providing Z$8
million - about 20 times the average monthly salary for a secretary in
Zimbabwe.

Without these remittances, many Zimbabweans say they would starve. The cost
of living doubled last month and, according to the Central Statistical
Office, prices rose by 100.7%.

Four out of five Zimbabweans are jobless, and those in work earn on average
only Z$300,000 to Z$600,000 a month, not enough to buy groceries for the
family, let alone to pay for transport, clothes and education.

Zimbabwe, under the rule of Robert Mugabe, now has the world's lowest life
expectancy, and people say they are living "an 001 type of life",
explaining: "0 breakfast, 0 lunch, 1 dinner."

It is not just the poorest who have become dependent on relatives overseas.
"I've started sending money back to my mum," said James Mushore, a merchant
banker now living in Surrey. "Yet my dad was the first black millionaire in
the country. Everyone is being pauperised."

A study by a London money-transfer company has estimated that half the
Zimbabweans in Britain are sending £50 a month, making a total of many
millions per year. Even more is thought to be sent back by Zimbabweans in
South Africa. "That's what keeps the regime going," said Mushore. "They've
destroyed exports and it's their main source of foreign exchange."

But with the value of the currency declining so fast that workers are
demanding to be paid weekly, many Zimbabwean exiles share Tracy Mavuka's
preference for sending goods rather than money.

Perhaps the most innovative site is Mukuru.com through which petrol can be
ordered by text message. The company is the brainchild of eight young
Zimbabweans working from their bedsits in London. One of them, Rob,
explained: "We're basically a bunch of geeks playing around with SMS and
realised the power of sending text directly from the First World into the
Third World."

A payment made in sterling over the internet leads to a 10-digit number
being sent by SMS to the mobile phone of the recipient in Zimbabwe. He or
she can then collect 20-litre vouchers redeemable at six different petrol
stations in Harare, thus avoiding long queues as well as having to find the
money.

Since the company started last year, Mukuru.com has acquired 8,000 clients.
"Yes, we may be propping up the regime," said Rob, "but if it comes down to
your own flesh and blood - is your sister going to eat or starve - what
would you do?

"You send them money; now you can send them health" states the website of
Beepee Medical Services, which offers anything from a regular supply of
insulin for diabetics to open heart surgery. The company was set up in
November by a Zimbabwean doctor in Canterbury after he lost his 19-year-old
brother to kidney failure in 2005.

"He could have lived for years with regular dialysis," said Dr Brighton
Chireka, who has lived in Britain since 2000. "We could not get the
medicines in Zimbabwe and had to get people to bring them in from South
Africa, which was very difficult and haphazard. The time came when he needed
medicine and we couldn't get it and we lost him."

Anyone with hard currency can go to Chireka's site and book a medical
consultation or order medicines for a relative in Zimbabwe. He works with a
group of doctors and pharmacists who bring in the medicines from South
Africa.

"The situation in Zimbabwe is critical," he said. "If you go into hospital
in Zimbabwe, it's like going to a bring-a-bottle party: you have to bring
your own medicine, your own drip, everything. Doctors are on strike. I have
no doubt thousands of people are dying unnecessarily."

Zimbuyer.com, where Mavuka does her shopping, is an online supermarket that
works like Ocado or Tesco.com but has no name on its lorries for fear of
reprisals. The company takes 60-70 orders a week for deliveries in Harare
and Bulawayo, and its most popular products are cooking oil and salt, which
are hard to find.

"Previously people would send money to their families to buy groceries,"
said a spokesman for the company in Harare, "but because of shortages and
constant price increases, money wouldn't be converted to food.

"Prices are going up every day. Yesterday I was looking at some electricity
cable and it was Z$1.9m. Today I went back to the shop and it was Z$2.5m."

One of the biggest difficulties for Zimbabweans is finding money for
education. When the new term started last week, school fees had risen by
600%-1,000%, forcing many parents to withdraw their children.

The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe said recently that the country
had already lost 4,500 teachers this year. Last year the figure was 6,000.
Some have emigrated. Others cannot afford to teach and look for jobs
elsewhere.

Yet astonishingly this country - which has seen its economy shrink more than
any country in peacetime - was last week elected deputy head of Africa's
largest trading bloc and will host its next summit. The state-con-trolled
Zimbabwe Herald described it as "another show of confidence in Harare's
leadership in regional and international fora".

The election of Zimbabwe as vice-chair of the Common Market for Eastern and
Southern Africa comes on the back of its much criticised selection to head
the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and a seat on the
executive board of the African Development Bank.

Not only is the country's maize crop predicted to be less than a third of
requirements, making this the sixth consecutive year of insufficient food,
but widespread bread shortages are expected. The state media reported last
week that only 10% of the targeted winter wheat crop had been planted.

This was blamed partly on a lack of tractors. As the slide backwards
continues, the Central Bank announced last week that it was setting up
technical colleges to produce at least half a million ox-drawn carts and
ploughs.

Cost of helping

One month's supply of frusemide blood pressure pills: £1

An x-ray: £10

20 litres of petrol: £10

10 chickens delivered to the doorstep: £25

Two litres of cooking oil: £3.28

School exercise book: 85p

Four toilet rolls: £2.95

Small generator: £375


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Healthy talks still not viable in Zimbabwe

SABC

May 26, 2007, 08:15

Zimbabwean civil organisations say conditions are not conducive for the
facilitation of talks for political stability in that country. President
Thabo Mbeki has been mandated by SADC to facilitate talks between Zanu-PF
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Civil society groups say it is difficult for the process to succeed, because
terms of reference have not been given.

The media coverage of the current situation of Zimbabwe was in the spotlight
at a panel discussion hosted by the South African National Editors' Forum
(Sanef) in Durban.

Participating in the panel discussion was Professor David Moore, of the
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Bishop Paul Verryn, of the Central District in
the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Tapera Kapuya, of the National
Constitutional Assembly, and Reverend Nicholas Mkaronda, of the Crisis
Coalition in Zimbabwe. The speakers said while coverage of the situation in
Zimbabwe in the South African media has been fair, there needs to be more
contextualisation.

Moore says there seems to be a news black-out on the current mediation
process led by President Mbeki. "I think there needs to be a comparative
analysis to seen how the Zanu (PF) has reneged on the agreements," he said.

Mutual dialogue
A SADC summit mandated Mbeki in March to foster dialogue between rival
political organisations in Zimbabwe. However, civil society expressed doubt
about the success of the process.

Kapuya referred to the reported political violence and arrests of activists
and journalists as an environment not conducive for mutual dialogue. "The
infrastructure of political violence in Zimbabwe is still intact. We are
experiencing a number of abductions, punitive detentions, punitive
prosecutions of political activists, a number of people are thrown out of
the country by the ruling government. And in the absence of an environment
which promotes mutual dialogue, promotes mutual understanding and openness
for a dialogue . we will be always skeptical of mediation processes."

Kapuya and Mkaronda were also critical of the exclusion of civil society
groups in the talks. Kapuya described it as an elite political process to
the exclusion of the majority of the people of Zimbabwe. He says it would be
difficult for the process to succeed because clear terms of reference have
not been given.

Meanwhile, Bishop Verryn says the media has a role to play in the fight
against hostilities such as xenophobia, faced by many desperate Zimbabweans
who seek refuge in the country.

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) has said that a fact-finding mission will
visit Zimbabwe to establish the true situation on the ground in the light of
negative media reports. Meanwhile Mbeki and the MDC have said negotiations
with Zanu (PF) are progressing well.


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Zimbabwe As Likely to End With a Whimper As With a Bang



Cape Argus (Cape Town)

COLUMN
26 May 2007
Posted to the web 26 May 2007

William Saunderson-Meyer

There is some buzz about a breakthrough in Zimbabwean politics. Writing in
his influential newsletter, Eddie Cross - a well-informed political
commentator, and balanced despite his ties with the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change - talks about "surprising and significant developments"
that might herald resolution of the crisis.

He refuses to elaborate in order not to jeopardise the progress being made
towards an "African-crafted solution by powerful African leaders". While an
imminent solution would be a fine thing, the optimism of Cross is probably
premature.

It is part perhaps of the human condition that we somehow believe everything
will come right, that the darkest hour is before dawn, and that when all
appears lost to those besieged, the cavalry will miraculously save the day.

Zimbabwe has been in terminal decline for more than a decade. But somehow
defying numerous predictions of its imminent demise and the exit of its
despotic leader, President Robert Mugabe, it continues to stagger from
crisis to crisis.

This week its inflation rate, already the worst in the world, moved from 2
217.4% to 3 713.9% a year. With hyperinflation of this nature, for the
Zimbabwe Reserve Bank to pretend such exactitude about the statistics is
patently risible - the unmassaged rate is probably in the region of 8 000%.

This is reflected in an official exchange rate of US$1 to Zim$250, but a
black market rate of Zim$38 000. The currency decline is exacerbated by the
decision of Zimbabweans to put their money in real assets as fast as
possible, rather than hold local cash which becomes worthless literally
overnight.

More than 80% of the population is unemployed and 70% is underfed. Yet as
the Zimbabwean government plans to set up technical colleges to produce half
a million ox-drawn carts and ploughs to rescue the collapsed agriculture
sector, Mugabe still routinely draws ovations from his fellow African
leaders.

It is probably foolhardy to forecast that something must snap soon. Failing
states do not necessarily judder to a halt. It is possible for a formerly
successful modern economy to spiral into economic social coma without the
catharsis of a dramatic denouement which would herald a new beginning.

Instead, like some primordial creature, national life for the general public
contracts into a scarred and nicked carapace, barely surviving but still
breathing. There are a number of such African states, about which no one
gives a stuff.

In contrast, there are many who do care about Zimbabwe. Not because of a
racist attachment to the fate of a handful of white farmers, as some in the
African National Congress like to claim. They care because Zimbabwe is
different from other basket case states in that it had already crawled from
the primal swamp and evolved into a functioning, democratic, modern economy.

We care because there is more pathos in watching a person get up and being
struck down, than observing a life form that is not going to progress beyond
slithering. We care because Zimbabweans are neighbours and made sacrifices
on our behalf during the liberation struggle.

It is a matter, too, of self-interest. Our fate is bound up with theirs.
Exiled Zimbabweans and refugees already must make up one of the biggest
ethnic groups in South Africa. For those who daily lose their jobs as the
Zimbabwean economy contracts, illegal immigration to South Africa is the
remaining hope.

It is a bitter irony that the Mugabe regime is propped up by the very people
who most loathe him - the three to four million Zimbabweans who have fled to
South Africa and the United Kingdom. The monthly hard-currency remittances
they make to feed their families back home are crucial to the Zimbabwean
economy.

What a dilemma: to feed your family and nurture Mugabe or to starve your
loved ones in the hope that the monster exits sooner than they do.


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The woman who would be president of Zimbabwe

IOL

May 26 2007 at 11:56AM

By By Basildon Peta

At the moment, the odds seem stacked against her. But her ascension to
Zimbabwe's highest office cannot be ruled out.

In fact, many ruling party insiders still consider her to be very much
in the running to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

Until recently, Joyce Mujuru, 52, enjoyed Mugabe's personal support
and appeared to be his obvious choice for successor.

Mugabe even risked splitting his party in 2005 after handpicking
Mujuru to fill the deputy president post left vacant by the death of Simon
Muzenda.

This came at the expense of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had the most
support for the job. Soon after, Mugabe all but confirmed his choice of
Mujuru as successor, telling her at a public rally not to confine herself to
being deputy but to "aim higher".

The tables turned on Mujuru when she and her powerful husband, the
former Zimbabwe army commander, Solomon Mujuru, grew too impatient to become
Zimbabwe's next first family.

They successfully lobbied the party to block Mugabe's plans to extend
his rule until 2010 by postponing next year's presidential elections. They
also incensed Mugabe by their alleged involvement in a book by the former
Zanu-PF secretary-general Edgar Tekere, which questioned Mugabe's role in
the liberation struggle.

Facing severe internal resistance, a furious Mugabe dropped plans to
stay in power until 2010 but then announced he would make himself available
as the party's presidential candidate next year. He excoriated Joyce Mujuru
in a state television interview for backing internal party dissent and said
she had ruined her chances of succeeding him.

At a central committee meeting in March, Mugabe's candidature was
railroaded by his supporters, led by secretary for the commissariat Elliot
Manyika, and little debate was allowed.

But the Mujurus struck back. They managed to force the convening of a
special congress later this year at which the ruling party would have to
formally endorse Mugabe's candidature.

This they achieved despite the argument by Mugabe's supporters that he
was elected as party leader at the 2005 congress and that this mandate
allowed him to stand on behalf of the party without the endorsement of a
special congress.

Party insiders said the Mujurus certainly haven't given up. They are
now involved in serious manoeuvring to block Mugabe's endorsement at the
special congress.

"They have lost a battle, but they think they haven't lost the war
yet," said a party insider who preferred anonymity.

If the Mujurus manage to turn the tables and to block Mugabe's
endorsement, then Joyce Mujuru's candidature is all but guaranteed. If they
fail, the Mujurus still command enough support and financial resources to
secure the presidency at some time in the future when the 83-year-old Mugabe
eventually goes.

"Either way we are faced with the reality of a Mujuru presidency,"
said political observer Simon Mushayavanhu.

The big question is: will they be an improvement on Mugabe or actually
be worse?

Mujuru's husband, Solomon, wants her to occupy the top seat so that he
can be the power behind the throne and consolidate his vast, controversial
business empire.

The Mujurus got married in the liberation struggle and at the tender
age of 25, at independence in 1980, Joyce Mujuru became Mugabe's youngest
cabinet minister, despite being barely literate. She has since educated
herself through correspondence courses and recently earned a degree at a
small university for women in Marondera.

It is Mujuru's tough talking and her controversial business dealings
with her husband that sends cold shivers down the spines of many.

On occasion Mujuru has far outdone Mugabe's confrontational and
divisive rhetoric. In the liberation struggle, she gave herself the nom de
guerre, Teurai Ropa, which means "spill blood".

She has boasted how as a young woman during the war she grabbed an
AK-47 rifle from a dying guerrilla fighter and single-handedly shot down and
destroyed a Rhodesian Air Force helicopter, killing all aboard. Her claim
has never been independently verified by anyone who fought alongside her in
the liberation war.

When violent land seizures began in 2000, Mujuru kept to the spirit of
her nom de guerre by urging Zimbabweans not to hesitate to "spill the blood
of white farmers" to recapture their land heritage.

She is said to have personally led several land invasions and
threatened families with death unless they vacated their properties. At a
time when Zimbabwe needs a conciliator, she seems to represent the opposite.

Her husband Solomon had no qualms in invading and seizing Guy
Watson-Smith's 4 500 hectare farm south of Harare and then selling off
equipment on the farm.

The High Court declared Mujuru's occupation of the farm and subsequent
disposal of equipment worth more than R2-million illegal.

But Solomon Mujuru has remained on the farm since 2001 and
Watson-Smith has given up on ever getting his farm back. Reports have
suggested that the Mujurus control more than 30 farms between them.

They have been linked to corruption and looting wrangles at the
Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) and in serious irregularities in
Solomon Mujuru's acquisition of Zimbabwe's only diamond mine.

They have also been accused of involvement in shady foreign currency
dealings.

In fact, when they fell out with Mugabe, the president indirectly
accused the Mujurus of smuggling diamonds.

The conventional wisdom in Zimbabwe now is that anyone who succeeds
Mugabe cannot but do better. But judging by the calibre of the candidates in
the succession race, this is by no means guaranteed.

It is a sad measure of the rot in Zimbabwean society that the Mujurus
are still contenders for succession at a time when the country needs a
serious renewal of leadership.

This article was originally published on page 15 of Cape Argus on May
26, 2007


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Thanks to the Professor

http://africantears.netfirms.com/thisweek.shtml

Saturday 26th May 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
A friend phoned recently with the news that her grand-daughter had just had
a baby. The words of congratulations for the great grandmother froze when I
heard that there were serious complications. The baby had been born with her
bowel and intestine outside of her abdomen. Under normal circumstances in a
fully functioning country this would be dire news. In Zimbabwe it sounded
like an almost certain death sentence. Doctors and nurses strikes, chronic
shortages of drugs, ten to twelve hour electricity cuts, interrupted water
supplies and worst of all, the brain drain. Seven years of political
turmoil, oppressive laws dictating every facet of our lives and the
devastating economic collapse has seen professionals pour out of the country
in hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions.

Every single step of the way in saving my friends newly born great grand
daughter was littered with problems. Nothing at all was guaranteed from fuel
for the ambulance to doctors not on strike, electricity being on and water
coming out of the taps. From the University of Zimbabwe where we normally
hear that the lecturers are on strike, the students are protesting or the
student leaders are being arrested - out of this came one professor. A
fortnight of delicate operations and proceedures, highly professional
expertise and care and then came the wondrous news that the baby girl can go
home. By now no one is calling the baby by her name, she is known as 'the
miracle baby' and every one knows that without the 'Professor', this little
Zimbabwean girl would not have made it.

On Africa Day, a public holiday, I had no water at home and the electricity
was off for just over ten hours and I found myself thinking about this
little miracle baby and the Professor who had saved her. It is very hard to
stay in Zimbabwe when everything around you is collapsing. It is even harder
for the young, highly educated professionals to stay. Without a doubt these
men and women could get work anywhere in the world and the temptation to
leave is very high. Those few who have been able to stay are doing so at
great sacrifice to themselves and I don't know how we ordinary Zimbabweans
can thank them - but we do.

It would be unrealistic to believe that all the hundreds of thousands of
professionals who have left Zimbabwe these past seven years will come home,
but we hope some will. The load on Zimbabwe's professionals is very heavy
but for many of us it is because they have found a way to stay they have
ensured that we too are able to stay. It was a bleak Africa Day for many
Zimbabweans but for the family of the miracle baby, it was a day of peace
and love and one filled with gratitude.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.


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From the diaspora

http://africantears.netfirms.com/indexph.shtml

†Friday 25th May 2007

Dear Friends.
As I write this it's Africa Day, May 24th., a good time to look back at how
colonialism in Africa all began. I used to think, before I learned better,
that it was rather an odd thing to have a special Africa Day. Celebrating
National Days I could understand but it seemed strange to celebrate the fact
that Africans are all part of the same continent. It reflected, I thought, a
Euro-centric view of Africa as one vast country when in fact it's
fifty-three sovereign countries and hundreds of different ethnic groups,
cultures and languages.

There is one thing, however, that unites all these countries: they were all,
or nearly all, colonised by the Europeans. Ethiopia was the last one to go
when Mussolini annexed a part of it for Italy in 1935. The same borders
drawn up by the European powers at the Berlin Conference are still in place
and if you take a look at the official languages of Africa you'll see
English, French, Portuguese and Afrikaans. At the Berlin Conference in 1885
fourteen European powers, without consulting a single African, decided just
which bits of Africa they were each going to have and the rules by which
they were going to govern their territories. In reality the whole exercise
was about trade and imperial expansion but it was agreed that the mission -
and I use the word deliberately- was to 'civilize' Africa. The definition of
'civilization' was of course the western version and with it came the
near-total destruction of indigenous cultures. African languages were
relegated to second-class status and African spiritual values were
undermined and often dismissed by Christan missionaries who for the most
part showed little respect for African religious beliefs. The Europeans came
with the gun in one hand and the bible in the other forcing African people
as the saying goes 'to raise their eyes to heaven so that they wouldn't see
the land being stolen from under their feet.'

Pan-Africanists argue that this was the start of the present problems.
Africa's troubles. can all be traced back to the European invasion of Africa
they say; colonization is responsible for all of Africa's problems today and
when you consider just the one example in the terrible damage done to the
African national psyche, you have to admit the Pan-Africanist view is valid.
The destruction of indigenous culture and the damage it does to a people's
belief in themselves is poignantly depicted in Chinua Achebe's classic novel
Things Fall Apart.

On the other side of the argument - and it is still an argument in academic
circles - is the view that colonization brought progress to Africa. Roads,
railways and infrastructure were developed. Schools and hospitals were
built. The health of the indigenous populations improved, mothers died less
frequently in childbirth, infant mortality decreased, 'superstitious'
beliefs were eradicated and twins were no longer slaughtered at birth.
African youngsters were taught to read and write but in that seeming
'advance' the myths and legends that had once transmitted African culture
were almost lost as the oral tradition was steadily eroded by the literacy
introduced, or so they said, by the Europeans. The written word became the
standard by which 'civilization' was judged. It's not difficult once you
have grasped this background to understand how easy it is for men like
Robert Mugabe to tap into the deep anti-colonial resentment and use it for
his own anti-democratic purposes. Looking back, it seems strange that the
colonisers didn't realise that education was a two-edged sword. A rapidly
growing literate population with access to books and ideas was never going
to accept that Africa could be ruled by foreign invaders, however benevolent
and well-intentioned some of them might be. After the end of WW2 the
European empires began to crumble. India was the first to go with
independence in 1947 and then, like dominoes falling, African countries
began to campaign for freedom from colonial rule. Ghana was the first
African country to become independent in 1956 but it took another forty
years and thousands of deaths in anti-colonial wars before Africa shook off
of the last vestiges of colonialism. With the inauguration of Nelson Mandela
as the President of South Africa on May 10th 1994 the long and bloody
struggle was over. Africa was free at last.

Or so we thought. Now perhaps there really was a reason to celebrate Africa
Day and all the rich diversity of African culture. But freedom is more than
a word, more than a flag or anthem or the outward symbols of independence.
Freedom is the belief in the hearts and minds of men and women that they
have rights that will be respected by those who hold power on their behalf:
the right to food and shelter, the right to education and jobs, the right to
hold and express opinions and beliefs of their own, the right to a free
press that fairly represents all shades of opinion. And above all freedom
means the right to live without fear.

These rights and freedoms are not restricted to any one section of the
population; they are not the prerogative of any one political or ethnic
group. True freedom lies in tolerance and acceptance of the differences that
make up the human condition. Without that acceptance of different points of
view there is no freedom. This is perfectly summed up in the slogan of the
South African trade union movement, COSATU, during the long and bitter
struggle against apartheid 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'

So when a good friend phoned me from home this week to tell me that he and
fellow Catholics in my old home area are being persecuted and threatened
with 'disappearance' by a group of Zanu PF youths, then it simply confirms
my belief that freedom is still a long way off in Zimbabwe. What is
happening to my friends and many others around the country is nothing more
than religious and political persecution of the most barbarous kind. Of
course, we know the brain-washed Zanu PF youths are just blindly following
their President's lead. His vitriolic condemnation of the Catholic bishops
after they issued their Pastoral Letter simply kindled the fires of hatred
and intolerance and was I believe intended to do just that. The President
himself is a lifelong member of the Roman Catholic church and yet I cannot
recall a single example in recent years when he or any of his ministers have
echoed the Christian message of love and tolerance for all men and women of
whatever religious, political or ethnic background. All we ever hear from
the President and his men is the message of hate and division. That is not
the way to build a new Zimbabwe.

But the truth is that Mr Mugabe can attack the Catholic Bishops for being
political; he can rant and rave as much as he likes about the evils of
colonialism and its 'puppets' inside the country but while we see all around
us the reality of Zimbabweans deprived of their rights and liberties as free
African citizens in their own country, then Mugabe's words mean less than
nothing. Sadly, for Zimbabwe it is not yet Uhuru on this Africa Day, 2007.
Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH.


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From a political parody to real hope for the future?

The China Post

2007/5/25
By John J. Metzler UNITED NATIONS, Special to The China Post

There's more than a hint of morbid irony in seeing some recent antics at the
U.N. Despite the opposition of the United States, Europe and human rights
monitors, Zimbabwe was elected as head of the global Commission on
Sustainable Development. This tragic political parody certainly evoked the
U.N. of bygone times. Here we see a commission focused on helping the Third
World being headed by a Fourth Rate thugoracy, whose dubious attributes
include the misery of negative growth rates, spiraling 2,000 percent plus
inflation, deepening food shortages, and "exports" of millions of its own
people as refugees.
Even overlooking the deplorable human rights situation in that Southern
African country of Comrade President Robert Mugabe for a moment, let's
concede that Zimbabwe presents a classic case of how to turn an agricultural
bread basket into a hapless economic basket case. Sadly, the former British
colony of Rhodesia has emerged as a paragon of negative development. To ruin
what was once a serious and sustainable food producer and exporter took some
doing but Mugabe, whom I view as the Last King of Zimbabwe, accomplished it
with the flair and aplomb best appreciated from a good distance.

My feeling is that to be taken seriously, the formidable task and challenge
of economic development must be sustained by an accomplished mentor
(Singapore or South Korea come to mind), not by a rogue regime whose very
chairmanship shall serve as a lightning rod for caustic criticism. In other
words, when the story becomes about the Chairman rather than the cause and
the challenge, the poor countries tragically lose and the cause becomes
laughably cheapened. This nostrum is sadly lost on many member states.

Along these same lines, The Economist of London mirthfully opined, "Saudi
Arabia could take over the U.N. commission on the status of women. The
inter-government panel on climate change could be overseen by smoke-belching
China. Belarus, which ruthlessly sells weapons of all kinds to anyone with
cash, could be asked to take over the U.N. disarmament department." But
before any dictator gets inspiration from these lines, let me say that
happily, another low-key U.N. election happily avoided -- nearly -- this
outcome.

Balloting in the General Assembly for three-year tenures on the forty-seven
member Human Rights Council, brought other surprises, some of them pleasant.
Belarus, a retro-Soviet style regime was knocked out of the running after
two secret ballots. The Eastern Europe group elected Slovenia, a successful
and democratic alpine country which broke from the former Yugoslavia, then
later earned NATO and European Union membership.

Bosnia Herzegovina, a multi-ethnic state that emerged from the carnage of
former Yugoslavia, was also elected. Tempered by the hell of Serbian ethnic
cleansing and conflict in the 1990s, Bosnia can offer much experience to the
Council about ethnic reconciliation and political healing.

"I believe in full democracy, not ethnocracy," Bosnia's Co-President Haris
Silajdzic told correspondents, stressing the merits of plurality.

The Latin American group elections also saw both seats going unopposed to
Bolivia and Nicaragua. Here too, one recalls that Bolivia has become a
political "companero" of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. And Nicaragua, having
re-elected the Sandinistas after long years in the political wilderness,
could prove interesting too, as both lands could serve as sounding boards
for Chavez's mischief.

In Western Europe and Asia, the elections were less contentious. The
Netherlands and Italy gained seats and in Asia the seats went to India,
Indonesia, Philippines and Qatar. Nobody is really upset.

Africa produced some interesting results. Four uncontested seats in the
group saw Madagascar win a resounding ballot, followed by South Africa,
Angola and Egypt. One can debate the merits of both Angola and Egypt, but
for the most part, and given the context, things could have been worse.

Hopefully, South Africa will use its political clout to press for serious
reforms and defusing of the situation in neighboring Zimbabwe.

Given the central importance of both sustainable economic development and
promotion of human rights in the global community we should accept no less.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and
defense issues. Metzler can be reached at jjmcolumn@att.net


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'Provide Adequate Funding for Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle'



The Herald (Harare)† Published by the government of Zimbabwe

26 May 2007
Posted to the web 26 May 2007

Harare

GOVERNMENT should provide adequate funding for the Operation Garikai/Hlalani
Kuhle housing programme, the House of Assembly heard on Thursday.

Harare North MP Ms Trudy Stevenson (MDC) told the House that a number of
people who were affected by the clean-up campaign in 2005 were still to
benefit from the reconstruction programme.

"I call upon Government to provide adequate funds for completion of
Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle as a matter of urgency," she said. Ms
Stevenson was moving a motion calling on Government to move with speed on
the housing programme.

She said the State should in the meantime, accept assistance offered for
temporary shelter for the homeless.

Contributing to the debate, Government Chief Whip and Mberengwa West MP Cde
Joram Gumbo said there was no rationale in constructing temporary shelters
for the homeless as what was needed were permanent structures. He said
Government had tried its best since independence to offer decent
accommodation to the people.

"The United Nations has commended Zimbabwe as one of the leading countries
offering decent accommodation to its people," Cde Gumbo said.

Deputy Minister of Water Resources and Infrastructural Development Cde
Walter Mzembi scoffed off criticisms by some opposition lawmakers who had
said the Rhodesian regime had a better housing programme when compared to
that of the Government.

He said it was an insult to compare the Government with that of Ian Smith as
the former had achieved a lot since independence in terms of housing.

Cde Mzembi said it was important for the opposition to note that the illegal
sanctions were also affecting the housing issue as the multi-lateral
institutions such as the World Bank had stopped giving the grants they used
to advance before.


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Govt, private sector responsible for inflation

Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

By W.A Wijewardene
Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Inflation, a continuous and steady rise in the general price level,
is, by any standard, the public enemy number one. By the same token,
hyper-inflation, an increase in the general price level to a very high level
within a very short period of time, is a killer, akin to a mass destruction
weapon. Mr. Gideon Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, a country
with an inflation rate of more than 3700%, equated his country's inflation
to an economic HIV, a situation where people would die en masse. This
reference eloquently amplifies the gravity of the cost of inflation which a
country has to bear.

From the point of view of economics, there are usually two declared
public enemies: inflation and unemployment. Of the two, inflation ranks
higher. This is because bankers, businessmen, workers, consumers and so
forth. You cannot escape it unless you are smart enough to beat it by
raising your income faster than inflation. In contrast, unemployment which
is also a serious problem, disadvantages only the unemployed.

That category is only a segment of the society. Hence, inflation is a
bigger public enemy than the unemployment. When one compares it with other
public enemies like drug abuse or terrorism, one would still find that those
issues would also affect only a segment of the society at any given time.
Since inflation affects everyone and people have limited prospects of
escaping it, it is considered as the public enemy number one.

Amusing stories about inflation
In the recent history, there have been many countries which have been
hit by hyper inflation. Of them, the most prominent case has been the
hyper-inflation in Germany after the First World War, where inflation
accelerated to 1,000,000 % per annum. Other noteworthy examples are Bolivia
(25000 % p.a.); Russia (2000 %); Israel (1500 %); Turkey (again 1500 %) and
currently Zimbabwe (3700 % and still rising).

When prices rise at these high rates, the first casualty would be the
currency of the country. No one would like to accept the domestic currency,
because its value would fall by the minute. Instead, people would start to
accept other types of hard currenies like the US Dollar. If there is a
shortage of those hard currencies, people would invent their own currencies.
In Germany, with that hyper-inflation in which prices rose by 2 % every
minute, the German Mark ceased to function as money. Instead, people started
to use cigarettes, chocolate bars or empty bottles as the medium of
exchange.

Then, there is the story of those two brothers who inherited a
sizeable wealth from their father. One being a reputed investor used his
endowment to build a substantially large portfolio of investments. The other
was a drunkard and used the entire amount for drinking. Thus, he ended up
with a houseful of empty bottles. The story goes to say that Germany was hit
by hyper-inflation reducing the value of the entire investment of the son
who adopted prudential policies to zero. But, the drunkard became a
millionaire overnight, because his empty bottles now became money.

A similar amusing story relating to Bolivian inflation in mid 1980s
takes a different form. Since prices are rising at such a high rate, it
became necessary to negotiate and agree on a price before undertaking even a
very simple transaction. The story says that before a person takes a
haircut, he would agree a price with the barber. But, halfway through, the
barber would stop cutting the hair and renegotiate the price. That was
because by that time, hyper inflation has raised the prices to a still
higher level. As a result, the original contract price no longer becomes
valid.

Economic costs of inflation
The above stories, though invented to amuse people, teach us some very
valuable lessons. First, uncontrolled inflation erodes the confidence of
people in the domestic currency.

As a result, governments lose control over money and fail to use
monetary policy to curb inflation. Second, people move away from long term
contracts and would be concerned only about the passing moment. Salaries,
earlier paid monthly would become payable first fortnightly, then weekly and
daily and finally hourly. It would entail a tremendous cost on the employers
to meet the demand for paying salaries every hour. Similarly, all other
contracts would also be very short term contracts. People would not think of
the future, but only on the passing moments.

This type of short-term behaviour on the part of people would cause
the economy concerned to collapse on itself due to a lack of long term
commitments. Inflation normally brings in several other irreparable damages
to an economy.

In the first place, inflation discourages exports, encourages imports
and widens the gap between the imports and exports known as the trade gap
causing problems for the balance of payments and the exchange rate. If the
domestic prices are higher, there is no reason for exporters to sell a
product abroad. For instance, if inflation raises the price of a coconut to
Rs 100 in the domestic market and its given price in the international
market is Rs 50, an exporter would sell the product in the domestic market
to gain the price advantage. Similarly, imports are encouraged, because of
the lower price in the international markets than the domestic market. This
is equivalent to imposing a tax on exports and giving a subsidy to imports.

Second, inflation favours borrowers and discourages savers, if
interest rates are not adjusted to reflect the going inflation rate. This is
because when such adjustment is not made, though the amount of money
received by way of interest may be high, its actual real value is lesser and
lesser than before. It is tantamount to the awkward situation where savers
pay interest in real terms to borrowers. Thus, inflation contributes to
enrich borrowers at the expense of savers. The high borrowings so encouraged
would further fuel inflation. At the same time, the much needed savings flow
would dry up retarding the long term development.

Third, arising from the same unadjusted interest rates, inflation
discourages financial savings and encourages non-productive types of
investments in real estate, gold, bullion and other types of precious
metals. Bank deposits, stocks and shares are the main casualties, because
their real value falls every year due to inflation. But, on the other hand,
real estate and precious metals appreciate in value due to inflation. Hence,
as an insulating measure against inflation, people would transfer their
financial savings into such non-productive types of investments. But, for
sustainable long term growth, the necessity is for savings in the form of
financial savings and inflation would dry up that savings flow.

Fourth, inflation distorts the resource allocation function of an
economy. For the market system to allocate resources among competing uses, a
price expressed in terms of another price called the relative price, should
change. For instance, if the price of carrots increases relative to the
price of cabbages, carrots would become more profitable than cabbages.
Hence, the farmers would concentrate on producing more of carrots and less
of cabbages. But, when an economy is hit by inflation, all the prices would
rise simultaneously, so both carrots and cabbages seem to be equally
profitable. This would confuse the producers who would now be unable to make
any choice between the two products. Hence, the much desired relative price
change does not occur, when an economy has been hit by inflation. Instead,
the absolute prices start to change and such changes do not provide the
price signals for allocating resources.

Fifth, continued inflation distorts the balance sheets of companies,
especially the balance sheets of financial institutions. Companies may
record profits in nominal terms, but a large part of such profits are eroded
in real terms by inflation. When profits are adjusted for inflation,
companies would find that their performance has not been so spectacular as
has been depicted by the amount of rupees they have earned. In fact, their
real position has pushed them backward to a lower level.

Sixth, inflation very forcefully hits the vulnerable groups with a
weaker bargaining power. Such categories include housewives, students,
pensioners and workers whose salaries are not linked to inflation. It would
lead to continuous agitation by these groups creating social and political
dissension. The country, instead of using its resources for investing in
long term growth generating projects, would have to spend its energy and
resources for solving such social issues.
Thus, inflation is the unrivalled public enemy number one.

Who is responsible?
It is ironical that practically everyone in the society should take
blame for a continuously high inflation in an economy. This is because
everyone, even in a very little measure, would have contributed to
facilitate inflation to raise its ugly head. It happens when people of a
country believe that they can have a higher standard of living without
working harder or producing more.
Inflation in the long run is directly related to the amount of money
which people would have for buying goods and services.
When that quantity of money is in far excess of the quantity of goods
and services, the general price level has to move up in order to facilitate
the required volume of transactions. Hence, the magic solution for keeping
inflation in check has been the production of money exactly in line with the
production of goods and services in the economy. Any violation of this
golden rule, for whatever the justifiable reason, would pave the way for the
long run inflation to peep into the system. In this context, the Central
Bank has an inalienable responsibility to take all the measures necessary to
curb long term inflation.

Role of the Central Bank
The Central Bank takes monetary policy measures to keep the total
volume of money in line with the total production and the volume of
transactions in the economy. Money is being created by the banking system by
using some sort of seed money called reserve money and produced by the
Central Bank in its day to day operations. So all monetary policy measures
adopted by the Central Bank take two different forms: at first, curtailing
the production of its own reserve money and, then, checking the production
of total money by banks.

But, the monetary policy is expected to operate by forcing the entire
economy to cut down its excess demand for goods and services. This objective
would be attained by making money more scarce and raising its costs to a
higher level. Both these strategies would force the economy to make a very
painful adjustment, by sacrificing the currently enjoying pleasures.

This was eloquently described by a former President of US Federal
Reserve, William McChesney Martin Jr., as withdrawing the punch bowl when
the dancing gets going at its highest. Naturally, everyone on the dance
floor would be disappointed by this seemingly cruel act, but the Central
Bank does it for a good cause, just like a physician administering a bitter
medicine to a dying patient to cure him.

Role of banks, private sector
So, the monetary policy measures taken by the Central Bank are all
painful. It requires the economy to make a very painful adjustment, but that
adjustment should be made for the benefit of every one. Those who are
subject to this pain should have a good understanding of the virtues of this
painful adjustment and be prepared to take the bitter medicine for a
permanent cure of the ailment.
This casts a new responsibility on the banks, because monetary policy
is implemented by the Central Bank through banks. In terms of this new
responsibility, the banks should appreciate the intention of the Central
Bank with a positive note. If the Central Bank raises interest rates and
curtails credit levels, the banks should do much more than what the Central
Bank has directed. It has to extend, both by deed and word, its full
cooperation and commitment to attaining the monetary policy targets, because
at the end, they are the main beneficiaries of having an inflation free
world.

A similar responsibility is cast on the private sector as well. The
Central Bank, like a good physician, has to flush out all the causes of
inflation from the system. When doing so, it has to adopt painful and
unpopular measures. But such measures are taken for the interest and the
long term well-being of the economy.

If the economy is allowed to be hit by inflation continuously, it is
the private sector which would suffer most. It would be reduced from a long
term planner to an, at the moment event manager. It would be pestered with
numerous requests for wage increases by the employees. Its profits would
fall in real terms. Hence, it is the private sector which has to extend its
utmost cooperation to the Central Bank to implement the monetary policy
measures most effectively. This understanding at all levels of the private
sector is a must.

Government efforts to fight inflation
Governments are usually faulted for making the biggest contribution to
inflation. The blame here is usually directed to the running of a high
budget deficit by the government, this criticism against the government is
not at all perfectly accurate. What contributes to inflation is not the
existence of a budget deficit, but the financing of the deficit through
inflationary means, viz, borrowing from the banking sector. Like the
government's deficit, the private sector's deficits are equally contributory
towards the raising of money supply and consequently to inflation. Hence,
any blame should be squarely leveled against both sectors.

It is natural for any government to make use of the bank funding to
fill budget deficits, because it is very convenient and cost effective. But,
excessive use of bank funding leads to creation of additional money and
through it, to inflation. Hence, governments have to behave responsibly.
When inflation sets in as a result of its irresponsible fiscal policy, it is
the government which has to suffer the most. The government's desire for
bank financing has normally been equated to a child putting his fingers
frequently into an open cookie jar.

The duty of the Central Bank in such a situation has been to keep the
lid of the jar tightly so that the child is unable to take out cookies at
its own pleasure. This is not a popular measure, but Central Banks
throughout the world have been found to keep the cookie jar in tight control
for the benefit of the society. Given the above economic costs, inflation is
undoubtedly the public enemy number one.

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