Tue 2 Oct 2007, 14:39 GMT
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits three African
countries this week and will press South Africa's Thabo Mbeki to take a
tougher line with Zimbabwe, in the grip of an economic crisis critics blame
on the government.
Merkel will stop in Ethiopia and Liberia as well as South Africa on her
first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as chancellor.
"Zimbabwe will be an important subject. Developments there are still
massively problematic," a senior German government official told reporters
before the visit, starting on Thursday.
Critics accuse President Robert Mugabe of human rights abuses and of
presiding over the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy, which has the world's
highest inflation rate of about 6,000 percent and unemployment levels of
about 80 percent.
"The chancellor will talk about this with Mbeki and urge him to exercise his
influence on Zimbabwe to change the developments of the last few years," the
Some Western states have been frustrated by Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy"
towards his neighbour which they see as too soft.
The official said Merkel had no intention of following British Prime
Minister Gordon Brown's example and threatening to stay away from an
EU-African summit in Lisbon in December if Mugabe attends.
"The chancellor will take part in the summit," said the official. "EU-Africa
relations should not be held hostage to developments in Zimbabwe. It is in
our interests to go through with the summit."
Last month, Brown said it would be inappropriate for him to go, as Mugabe
would distract from the main agenda and urged other countries to raise
pressure on Zimbabwe. However, many African leaders want Mugabe there to
help tackle the continent's problems.
Mugabe, 83, is subject to an EU travel ban but it could be suspended to
allow him to attend the summit.
In power since independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe says the West has
sabotaged the economy as punishment for his seizure of white-owned farms and
their transfer to landless blacks.
Merkel put tackling poverty in Africa on the agenda of the Group of Eight
industrialised countries during her presidency of the grouping this year.
Merkel will meet Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and African Union
Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare on Thursday, and Mbeki and his
predecessor Nelson Mandela in South Africa on Friday and Saturday.
To round off her five-day trip, Merkel will be in Liberia on Sunday to meet
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and discuss the prospects of post-conflict
countries and good governance.
Tue 2 Oct 2007, 11:58 GMT
By Nelson Banya
HARARE, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's inflation could surge further on higher
state spending, deepening a crisis worsened by shortages of basic goods and
thwarting the central bank's efforts to revive the country's broken economy.
Analysts blame President Robert Mugabe's policies -- such as the seizures of
white-owned farms for blacks and, lately, plans to nationalise foreign-owned
firms -- for discouraging investment and worsening the economic meltdown.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, who is leading government
efforts to reverse the collapse, said in a monetary policy review on Monday
inflation would ease in the medium-term as businesses raise production on
He offered businesses special credit rates of 25 percent interest and to pay
farmers in foreign currency for their produce.
Gono also hiked the main lending rate to 800 percent and said a new currency
was imminent in a bid to douse black market trade in foreign currency, fuel
and goods. He gave no details of the new currency.
"It is an expansionary policy to solve a problem which should have been
avoided, but its assumption that cheap funds for producers will kick-start
supplies is too optimistic," said David Mupamhadzi, Chief Economist at the
Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group.
"There are major structural rigidities, such as the erratic electricity,
fuel and water supplies...it's anyone's guess what will happen to
inflation," he said during a meeting called by the Zimbabwe National Chamber
of Commerce to review Gono's policy statement.
Zimbabwe is grappling with the world's highest inflation rate at around
6,600 percent and unemployment officially put at around 80 percent, with
analysts predicting further job losses from company closures.
Business leaders said government policies should not be focused merely on
"Elections are coming and the reality is that a lot of funds will be pumped
into the rural areas, but we need policies that go beyond that," Laputa
Hwamiridza, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce vice president, said.
Zimbabwe holds joint parliamentary and presidential elections in 2008 and
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF is widely expected to win, partly due to its massive
Meanwhile, industrialists warned that an empowerment bill passed by the
lower house of parliament last week seeking to transfer majority control of
foreign-owned firms to black Zimbabweans would compound the country's
While Gono urged caution on implementing the proposed law, Mugabe told
supporters his government would press ahead with taking foreign businesses
and that those unwilling to partner locals should stay away.
Independent economic commentator Eric Bloch said of Gono' statement, "It's a
mixture of good and bad. Good in that the governor's given a timely warning
and provided a sober, forthright voice on the empowerment plans."
"But I do not agree with him on what he says is the impact of sanctions on
the economy," Block said. "The absence of offshore lines of credit is not
because of sanctions. No bank, except the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, of
course, will lend to people who are not creditworthy."
Mugabe has accused some foreign companies of stashing profits abroad and
hiking prices without justification, and on Monday reiterated threats to
seize defiant companies he says are part of a Western plot to unseat his
"At this point in time, we do not need an indigenisation bill because there
are not many companies left to indigenise," Hwamiridza said.
"What we need is to grow the cake, not to fight over the small cake that
remains ... our urgent challenge is to bring back food to the table in our
Mugabe, 83 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies
charges of mismanaging one of Africa's once model economies, saying Zimbabwe
is a victim of sabotage by Western powers opposed to the land seizures.
By ANGUS SHAW
October 2, 2007, 10:54AM ET
President Robert Mugabe renewed threats to seize foreign mining interests
and businesses accused of profiteering, state radio reported Tuesday. But
the head of the central bank warned against hasty and disruptive seizures in
a country in economic crisis.
Mugabe and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, until recently seen as a
rising political force, appeared at odds after Gono criticized new
legislation to force whites and foreign businesses, including international
banks, to hand over a 51 percent controlling stake to black Zimbabweans.
In a fiscal policy review statement Monday, Gono said "excitable, overnight
changes" in policies could lead to unintended production disruptions,
business closures and worsening shortages and could be exploited by favored
cliques and cronies.
As the banker spoke of the need to "return our dogs to the kennels" on
Monday, Mugabe returned home from a trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New
York to what the state media called "a thunderous hero's welcome" at the
The state media gave prominence to Mugabe's homecoming and unusually brief
coverage of Gono's quarterly fiscal review.
Mugabe told thousands of ruling party militants bused to the airport that
businesses that abused government price cuts enforced since June 26 would
not be tolerated.
"We will have to seize the companies," Mugabe said in a recording broadcast
by state radio Tuesday.
Since the June edict ordering all prices slashed by about half, cornmeal,
meat, bread and most staples have disappeared from the stores, fueling a
thriving black market in scarce goods. Gasoline shortages and the pegging of
commuter fares have crippled transport services.
Mugabe said some goods reappeared at exorbitant prices and businesses would
not be allowed to continue "fleecing consumers."
Under the new Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill that Mugabe has
still to sign into law, Zimbabweans will take over 51 percent of all mining
concerns. Mugabe said investors in mines who were unwilling to abide by the
law should "ship out," the official media reported.
"The minerals are ours. We are offering partners a share of 49 percent ...
If they won't take it, hard luck, we will give it to our people," he said.
Gono on Monday said: "We must avoid grab, take all and run ... foreign
investors must be given a reasonable degree of flexibility."
Plans to "muscle in" on successful mining companies and take over majority
control of international banks needed to be handled with extreme caution,
Gono said. Profitable mines were a key source of hard currency.
Gono said he advised the government not to "forcibly push the envelope of
indigenization in the area of finance and banking. In whatever we do, we
must guard against measures premised on emotion rather than sense. Capital
is a very timid commodity. It will jump ship."
The government's price cuts were meant to tame the world's highest official
inflation of nearly 7,000 percent. Independent estimates put real inflation
closer to 25,000 percent and the International Monetary Fund has forecast it
reaching 100,000 percent by the end of the year.
Gono called the blanket price cuts irrational and a threat to business
He cited the slashing of fares forced on the state airline, Air Zimbabwe, in
June that made it cheaper to fly 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) to
Johannesburg in neighboring South Africa than to buy scarce gasoline and
drive 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Harare to the central Zimbabwe town of
Gono said a taxi from Victoria Falls airport to the resort town cost more
than a flight there from Johannesburg.
"Such irrational measures cannot be sustained in our economic turnaround
efforts," he said.
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: October 2, 2007
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia: Every morning, Jacob Ncube Moyo leaves his home in
Zimbabwe, crosses the bridge past Victoria Falls and a line of nervous
bungee jumpers, and enters the Zambian town of Livingstone, where he sells
trinkets to tourists.
With many Western tourists wary of Zimbabwe's growing economic and political
turmoil, business is better on the Zambia side, the 32-year-old said after
leaving the Zambian customs post one morning.
Plus, Moyo can actually find groceries in Zambia. "Mealie meal, cooking oil,
sugar, rice, candles, bread - even some clothes," Moyo checked off a mental
list of the items he can no longer get in Zimbabwe, where food shortages are
now the norm and inflation is officially estimated at nearly 7,000 percent.
As economic woes have intensified, increasing numbers of Zimbabweans are
crossing the border into neighboring Zambia, South Africa, Botswana,
Mozambique and Namibia in search of business and basic commodities - or
whole new lives. The situation has sparked fears of an exodus and prompted
debate throughout the region over how to deal with Zimbabwean migrants.
Many have blamed Zimbabwe's agricultural decline on the government's
seizures of white-owned commercial farms, begun in 2000, for redistribution
to blacks. The collapse of the farm-based economy has meant severe shortages
of gasoline, food and other goods, and has been accompanied by a crackdown
on political dissent.
This weekend, stores throughout Zimbabwe - once considered the breadbasket
of Africa - were telling customers that bread would not be available until
further notice. Zimbabwe harvested only one-third of the wheat it needs this
year - a drastic shortfall the government blamed on constant power outages,
official media reported. Coal and equipment for power plants are among the
goods in short supply.
There are few reliable figures on the total number of Zimbabweans crossing
into bordering countries each day. Some trade or shop and then return
quickly; others remain abroad illegally.
Alarmed Zambian officials have seen perhaps the most dramatic rise. In early
August, Zimbabwean visitors crossing at Livingstone went from 60 to 1,000
per day, most shopping and then going home. Peter Mumba, permanent secretary
of the Zambian Ministry of Home Affairs, told The Associated Press last
month that number was still on the rise, and that the Zimbabweans were
stripping the shelves.
"We are seeing the number going up every day," Mumba said.
The South African government says that between March 1 and July 31, some
351,000 Zimbabweans arrived legally in the country through the main
Beitbridge border crossing and 292,000 Zimbabweans left through the same
While the numbers have been fairly steady into South Africa, senior
immigration officials in Botswana said the number of illegal immigrants from
Zimbabwe had doubled from 16,629 in the first half of 2006 to 33,958 in the
first half of 2007.
South Africa and Botswana remain the preferred destinations - in South
Africa, estimates consistently put the number of resident Zimbabweans at 3
million, among the largest expatriate Zimbabwean communities in the world.
But Livingstone is a shorter trip for many in northwestern Zimbabwe.
Moreover, Zambia's looser borders and trading environment, along with
reports of rampant anti-Zimbabwean sentiment in South Africa, have made
Zambia an increasingly attractive option.
Just a few years ago, it was Zambians entering more developed Zimbabwe to
buy bread, fuel and other necessities in short supply. These days, while the
majority of Zambia's population remains in poverty, modern grocery stores
are fully stocked, and the government is democratic and stable.
A slow and steady stream of Zimbabweans starts over the Livingstone bridge
into Zambia around midmorning. Many come with day passes, carrying crafts or
sacks of cheap Zimbabwean liquor and cigarettes on their heads that they
will sell in Zambian markets. They leave with bags full of food.
Some Zimbabweans use Western Union in Livingstone to send and receive money
from loved ones abroad, in order to avoid the foreign exchange hurdles
raised by Zimbabwean authorities, local officials say.
Livingstone's town clerk, George Kalenga, is concerned about an influx of
Zimbabwean commercial sex workers, as well as Zimbabwean bricklayers and
plasterers working illegally in Zambia.
It is uncertain how many Zimbabweans are entering and staying in Zambia
illegally. Some sneak over the bridge at night, walk through the surrounding
gorges, or use canoes or bush paths near the other Zambia-Zimbabwe border
posts in Chirundu and at the Kariba Dam.
Charges that Zimbabweans are causing crime and instability mirror complaints
in Botswana and South Africa. And some Zimbabwean cross-border traders say
authorities are now making it a bit harder to do their daily runs.
Oct 02 2007 02:56 PM
THE OPPOSITION MDC's agreement to a number of constitutional amendments
proposed by the ruling Zanu PF has provided the woolliest of hints that an
end to Zimbabwe's political and economic impasse is almost in sight.But much
gloom remains among sceptics. With attention from the international
community focused mainly on finding a political settlement to the country's
crisis, it is very hard to see any set of circumstances or intervention that
could drastically rescue the country's economy from its current battered
state. In fact, the future carries dark forebodings.After a disastrous land
redistribution exercise that has seen the country's agriculture industry
teeter on the brink of collapse, a Bill recently passed by its parliament
suggests that foreign-owned firms - including construction companies, mines
and banks - were next in line to face President Robert Mugabe's ruthless
seizure campaign.Whereas economies of the SADC region have consistently
maintained impressive GDP growth figures, Zimbabwe is holed up in a
recession.Yet again, there's been a loud silence from the SADC leadership
regarding the Zimbabwean government's imminent takeover of foreign owned
businesses.That its economy - barring any meaningful intervention - is
headed towards total paralysis is indisputable. Inflationary pressures
(inflation is now estimated at 6500%) and a crunch on hard currency have
taken a toll on the once economically vibrant southern African state. Basket
caseUnable to import machinery, telecoms, mining and parastatals - such as
energy utility ZESA - have borne the biggest crunch of the forex crisis.
These companies cannot expand on existing capacity.Unemployment at more than
70% is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Once a breadbasket of the
region, it is no secret that the country has been reduced to a basket case.
Yet the ruling elite maintain that the economic woes are simply wishful
imagination of the West. Just how the genius that's (Robert) Mugabe has
successfully managed to hoodwink even the most astute of politicians in the
SADC region into believing that the US' Bush and former British premier Tony
Blair were exaggerating the country's economic crisis baffles the mind.
Whether it's borne out of their conviction that the enfant terrible twins
had indeed contrived to drag Zimbabwe to its knees or for other reason, the
SADC leadership's unwavering support to Zimbabwe's ruling elite is
embarrassing - to say the least.After earlier likening Zimbabwe to a sinking
titanic, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa - ostensibly the SADC region's
chairperson - recently backtracked from his earlier pronouncements on
Zimbabwe. "Zimbabwe's economic crisis has largely been exaggerated,"
Mwanawasa was quoted as saying in the Post Newspaper, Zambia's most
influential daily. Land grabsWhatever transpired in the last three months to
prompt him into a re-think is hard to tell, but it's this sort of
camaraderie exhibited by the Zambian president that seems to have blinded
the regional leadership concerning the economic realities in Zimbabwe. And
Mwanawasa's latest outburst is that he will boycott next month's economic
gathering of European/African leaders in Portugal as a show of solidarity
with Mugabe if the Zimbabwean leader is excluded from the summit. Surely,
the Lisbon summit ranks bigger than both Mwanawasa and Mugabe? Politics are
different from economics so perspective is important here. The reality is
that Zimbabwe's economy has hit extremely tough times. Perhaps it's now time
that sober minds in the regional leadership are reigned in regarding the
country's economic haemorrhage. Mugabe should be reminded by the regional
leadership that his country's economic meltdown is a culmination of a
disastrous land resettlement program. Intended to benefit the poor, the
majority of beneficiaries have turned out to be his inner cabal with each
helping themselves to the most arable pieces of land. In any case how much
of the land grabbed is still economically productive?The British are
possibly partly to blame for failing to fast track an orderly land
redistribution exercise soon after the country attained independence in
1980, but should it have taken the ruling party almost 20 years to
kick-start the redistribution exercise? Worse to comeArguably, land holds
traditional value and has serious implications in the African context. It's
only in Africa where promises of portions of land and shelter can win you an
election albeit at the bottom of an economic slump.With none of it left for
electioneering purposes, stakes in majority foreign-owned companies -
including SA firms, Standard Bank, Old Mutual, Massmart, Edgars, Engen,
Metallon Gold, and Murray & Roberts - should prove alluring to the
Zimbabwean electorate in the forthcoming polls.All are set to become
political pawns in Mugabe's quest to hold on to power. Whichever way you
look at it, legislation empowering the Zimbabwean government to grab foreign
firms will drive its fragile economy into a much deeper crisis. As the
country heads towards elections, it is certain to get worse. I'd bet you
ain't seen nothing yet... - Fin24
By Chido Makunike
Last updated: 10/02/2007 21:25:19
ROBERT Mugabe's government puts tremendous energy into blaming what it
refers to as "illegal sanctions" by Western countries for the Zimbabwean
economy being down on its knees, causing untold hardship to the majority of
The claim is that international aid, credit and investment have largely
dried up on the orders of Western governments, unhappy with change which
took prime land away from white farmers.
When the representatives of the accused countries bother to respond to these
charges, it is usually to say that what have been imposed are merely limited
"targeted sanctions" against members of the ruling elite. They deny applying
any sort of general economic embargo, or seeking to cause "regime change" by
trying to instigate popular rebellion over the hardships. They also point to
how they continue to contribute humanitarian aid to relieve the suffering of
the most vulnerable Zimbabweans, despite the diplomatic impasse.
It is quite clear that economically, things have completely spiralled out of
the control of the government. There is little prospect of any change for
the better happening before next year's expected elections, and it is not at
all far fetched to imagine things might be much worse by then. Short of
improving the situation, therefore, the government finds it convenient and
necessary to latch onto sanctions as an explanation for its inability to
make living conditions bearable.
The hope is that the electorate will find that classic political explanation
("it is the fault of the Great Enemy") for their economic plight, and the
government's seeming helplessness in the face of it, convincing enough to
avoid a feared thrashing at the polls after almost 10 years of steep
decline. It is not likely to impress a significant number of the voters who
have been fed this line as they watched their lives deteriorate
There are several perspectives from which the Mugabe regime's idea to blame
sanctions for the economic state of Zimbabwe today is weak.
One major problem of arguing "your suffering is the fault of our enemies" is
to seem to absolve oneself of responsibility. Yet whether or not there are
Western sanctions against Zimbabwe in place, declared or undeclared; legal
or illegal, it is still the responsibility of a government to reduce or
prevent the deprivation of its people, and to put in place conditions for an
improvement in their standard of life. Sanctions would certainly make this
difficult, but they would just be one more out of many obstacles to success.
The quality of a government can to a large extent be measured by how well
and hard it works to work around these sort of obstacles.
A Zimbabwean voter cannot be expected to accept putting primary
responsibility for his economic fortunes on governments in Europe or North
America, over that of his own government. He or she would be quite justified
to say at election time, "if you find that the sanctions you allege are in
place are an insurmountable barrier to doing your job of running the
Zimbabwean economy better than this, then I am exercising my right to give
another group of people a try." This, of course, is exactly what Mugabe &
Co. fear many voters will choose to do.
But instead of working harder to have them lifted, or to more effectively
get around them, the government merely moans louder about the unfairness and
"illegality" of those alleged sanctions. This merely entrenches the
appearance of complete helplessness and inability to deal with the issue,
which is what the average Zimbabwean cares about at the end of the day,
regardless of why and how it came about.
Screaming "illegal" sanctions ever louder, as things get worse, suggests the
authorities have no coping strategies, and have given up. This is not the
kind of image a ruling party that has presided over almost a decade of very
dramatic decline can afford to go into an election with.
You cannot boast endlessly about your "sovereignty," and at the same time
whine about how your economy's fate is not within your hands, but in that of
your enemies. It must be one or the other. If we are as "sovereign" as
Mugabe never tires of reminding us we are, then our economic performance
should not depend on what any other countries do or don't do.
If, by crying "sanctions" every other minute, Mugabe and his regime are
admitting that we are a small country whose economic fate cannot be divorced
from the international diplomatic standing of its government, then we are
not quite as "sovereign" as we imagine. In the latter case, diplomatic
action beyond helpless whining is called for, and yet silly bravado is all
we see and hear.
A question that is not asked often enough: if our economic calamities are
because of sanctions imposed over land reform, why didn't the government
foresee and prepare for them? We are often reminded what tough
revolutionaries our rulers are. In preparation for the wholesale takeover of
farmland, did none of these revolutionaries think for a moment that it would
cause a ruckus, and therefore have short, medium and long term plans to
prepare for it? Why has the government seemed so surprised by the reaction
its actions have received in Western capitals?
The point here is not that they should only have done what the Western
countries approved of. It is, instead, that on having decided to go ahead
with measures they knew would be disapproved of by economically powerful
countries, they should have had a plan in place to deal with the effects of
how that disapproval was expressed. Or was the hoped for "plan" to talk
one's way out of the disapproval with fiery, populist speeches at the U.N.?
What naiveté for self proclaimed revolutionaries!
Then there is the issue of sanctions busting. Nothing would have earned the
Mugabe regime the respect of even its detractors more, than having shown
particular agility at the "sovereign" ability to get around the claimed
sanctions; to keep things working fairly normally despite them. Or to at
least show prospects of even slight recovery after an initial dip, which
could then have been explained as merely a transitional hiccup as "the
revolution" took hold.
This was especially important to show in the agriculture sector, whose
overnight wholesale changes were the genesis for all that has followed
since. If the government had been able to say, "yes, we know things are
hard, but look at all the successes we are beginning to score in the
agricultural sector, whose taking over caused the imposition of sanctions in
the first place," people's reactions to it would have been very different
from what they are today.
Comparing the American sanctions on Cuba with those said to be in place
against Zimbabwe is pathetic, and ill-advised for the Mugabe government.
Cuba has achieved notable successes in areas like agriculture and health
despite decades of declared, strictly enforced U.S. sanctions.
They have done this through quite innovative approaches we have not seen our
government show in any arena. Cuba's rulers at least give the appearance of
being real revolutionaries, living modestly and wanting to be seen to be
sharing any hardships with the people.
In Zimbabwe the rulership takes great pride in showing off just how removed
from the general populace they are, as if to goad them. So in Cuba one sees
some genuine "solidarity" between the governed and the rulers; whereas in
Zimbabwe the rulers delight in emphasising their lordship over the people,
"solidarity" being nothing more than a cheap slogan.
It is a pity our opposition parties are so distracted by so many peripheral
things. A more focused opposition could have made mincemeat out of the
Mugabe government for its attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for
the pathetic state of our country with the weak official excuse of
Chido Makunike is a Zimbabwean social and political commentator. He can be
contacted on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
By VOA News
02 October 2007
A media advocacy group says Zimbabwean police arrested two actors and a
journalist during the performance of a play that satirized the country's
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday that authorities stormed
the wings of Harare's Theater In the Park on Friday and led the actors,
Sylvanos Mudzvova and Anthony Tongani, away to a truck.
The group says independent journalist James Jemwa was also arrested when he
asked police to explain why the actors were being detained.
It says the three men are being held at Harare police headquarters, without
charges, and have not been allowed to contact a lawyer.
Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups have repeatedly denounced
Zimbabwe's government for repression of the opposition and the media.
The country has strict media and security laws that give authorities the
power to shut down the expression of anti-government viewpoints.
The play that was being performed, The Final Push, makes fun of the lack of
communication between Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition. The title
refers to protest marches by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
in 2003 that were violently dispersed by police.
Tue Oct 2, 7:54 AM ET
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's supermarkets have run out of bread after bakers
were forced to suspend their operations due to a critical shortage of wheat,
shop owners said Tuesday.
"I don't know when we will have bread although we have been expecting
deliveries since last week," said Kassim Ngorima, a manager in a supermarket
in Harare's Avenues area.
"Maybe we will get bread next week or in two weeks. I now don't know
An AFP correspondent witnessed workers arranging popcorn packets to fill
empty bread shelves.
"There is no bread and I can't even tell you when to check again," said
Taurai Kativhu, a manager in a supermarket in the capital.
"We are bringing our own food from home."
A supermarket in the Borrowdale suburb had closed its own bakery and moved
staff to other departments while one of the country's main bakers, Lobels,
sent 1,500 workers on forced leave after it scaled down operations.
Many Zimbabweans are turning to sweet potato, yam or the traditional thick
cornmeal porridge, while some are bringing flour from shopping trips abroad
and making their own bread.
Zimbabwe is facing critical shortages of wheat blamed by farmers on erratic
power supplies. Others say the grain deficit is a result of poor farming by
inexperienced beneficiaries of the government's controversial land reforms.
A state weekly reported Sunday that the country would harvest just over a
third of its wheat requirements blaming the deficit on power shortages.
In recent years Zimbabwe has resorted to importing the grain to augment the
local yield amid a decline in production in agriculture, the former mainstay
of the country's economy.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic crisis with the world's highest
rate of inflation and four out of five people jobless. Some 80 percent of
the population live below the poverty threshold.
At least 4.2 million people will be "food insecure" from the lean months of
December to March, according to the UN World Food Programme.
HARARE - Reports of politicization of food aid are intensifying in the run
up to next year's synchronized general elections amid reports of opposition
supporters' children being driven away from school supplementary feeding
schemes in rural areas
An aid worker, speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, said that in the
course of helping torture victims, she had been told that children of
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were being denied access to
school food queues in Mberengwa East, in the far south of the country.
In her office on Friday was Sam Mlilo, district chairperson of Mberengwa
East, who told The Zimbabwean he had seen children driven out of the queue
for the supplementary meal at the Chamakudo Primary School , near Mataga,
because of their parents' political beliefs.
"Children with parents sympathetic to the MDC are denied access to food. In
each village there are some MDC supporters and the villagers know MDC
supporters by name and drive their children away," Mlilo claimed.
He said people had tried in vain to complain. He added that Zanu (PF)
structures were being used to distribute food and that traditional leaders
were also distributing food along party lines.
Aid groups contacted by The Zimbabwean, however, said they were not aware of
children being denied access to the school feeding schemes.
A country director with a leading NGO said his field staff at school feeding
points regularly checked the schemes registers, which was an opportunity for
people to raise concerns.
"We would immediately raise it with authorities and work to resolve it," he
A top World Vision official based in Bulawayo for the southern region, said:
"People on the ground will have to get an understanding of the political
nature of food distribution," he said, adding that so far there had been
"nothing to scare us off".
An official with Christian Aid said many complaints stemmed from agencies
not being able to "blanket feed" all schools in an area.
"If a school three kilometres away is not fed, there are grumbles of
political favours either towards government or the opposition. We find that
when we get down to district level, people are down to earth, they are not
political like at provincial level," he said.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Kucaca Phulu said
his organization was concerned that schools were closing down because of
acute food shortages spawned by the price slash directive, denying children
access to the nutritional supplements they would have received there.
Further afield in Gokwe, another official said Zanu (PF) youths were trying
to control oil and maize prices in shops and the prices the items were sold
at could vary according to political affiliation.
The official said a report on the victimisation of the children would be
compiled with information from various regions, and would be presented to
the donor agencies.
Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said: "There's nothing
of the sort."
Meanwhile, the central bank governor Gideon Gono announced in a monetary
policy that Zimbabwe 's ailing economy received a boost of US$20 million for
unspecified sources to bankroll fuel imports.
Also on Saturday, pre-election talks facilitated by South Africa between the
MDC and Zanu (PF) progressed with a meeting in Kariba. The MDC, which
narrowly lost the last elections, is demanding a new people driven
consytitution, a cessation of political violence and the repeal of
repressive security laws used by Zanu (PF) to stifle opposition political
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
2 October 2007
Posted to the web 2 October 2007
Despite help from relatives abroad, Zimbabwe's elderly people are struggling
to cope with food shortages and high transport costs, brought on by an
inflation rate of more than 6,000 percent, and a lack of fuel and foreign
exchange that make it difficult for most to obtain even basic essentials,
prompting charities to lend a helping hand.
"Even if I have [money], where will I get the food I need?" asked Theresa
Malunga, 74, who survives on remittances from her son overseas. "I wish my
son knew what the situation here is like and would send me food parcels
Louise Campbell of Supporting Old Aged People (SOAP), a voluntary
organisation based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, commented, "It is no
exaggeration to say that there is virtually no food available at all."
Although vegetables are readily available in supermarkets, "anything else is
a case of 'making a plan', if you have money and transport," she said.
Empty shelves in the shops mean the elderly may often have no other option
than to seek help, Campbell said. "We are now finding that people outside
the country are ... [sending] food parcels for their elderly relatives here.
Although they have the money, they are unable to find food."
SOAP is part of a network of charity organisations that help pay pensioner's
rates, water, electricity and sewerage bills. "At the moment we are coping.
We don't know for how long, but people have been kind," said Campbell.
It also helps aged pensioners who cannot survive on their monthly pensions,
which keep dwindling in value: some get less than a US$1 a month. The
charity delivers groceries and other basic items like tea, coffee, cereals,
bath and laundry soap, as well as drugs purchased with donations from
well-wishers, to the homes of 170 elderly people in Bulawayo.
A number of pensioners living in homes for the elderly, but who do not
receive food in these institutions, also benefit. "We are coping with hope,"
said Campbell. Some relatives overseas also send parcels of drugs to bridge
the shortage gap for those who need constant medication.
Prices keep going up
According to a situation report by the United States Aid agency (USAID) this
week, Zimbabwe is increasingly unable to provide the fuel and maintain the
infrastructure necessary for agricultural production, water and sanitation
services, and power facilities.
Last month, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) reported that inflation had
slowed to around 6,500 percent in August, from a peak of about 7,300 percent
a few months before.
A few commodities are slowly finding their way back onto city shop shelves
after government ended price controls in August. Some shops stock imported
products like milk formulas, chocolates, detergents and tinned foods, all
from neighbouring South Africa and Botswana.
But the prices, denominated in the fickle parallel market exchange rate for
the South African rand, are way out of reach for most. According to a
USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report, most
staple foods can only be found in the informal market at prices beyond
levels the majority of the population can afford.
"As a result of the poor October 2006 to March 2007 agricultural season,
families in the most drought-affected areas of western and southern Zimbabwe
have depleted household food stocks, and have limited access to the markets
due to high staple food prices," report said.
In meantime, pensioners like Malunga rely on cross-border traders to bring
them basic commodities from Botswana or South Africa.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]
Tuesday, 02 Oct 2007 12:13
The government was under pressure today to strip Robert Mugabe of his
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said Mugabe and his "parasitic
cronies" must be under no doubt they are international pariahs, calling for
a raft of international sanctions and diplomatic condemnation.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference, Mr Hague said: "[Mugabe]
still enjoys an honorary knighthood from Britain.
"It is time it was stripped from him."
The Zimbabwean ruler was awarded the honour under John Major's government in
1994, despite international condemnation for his role in the massacre of
Today Mr Hague welcomed the prime minister's call to bar Mugabe from the
EU-African summit, but said the EU must go further to widen sanctions
against the Zimbabwe regime.
He also condemned African nations for not doing enough to condemn Mugabe's
rule. Although Zimbabwe's Commonwealth membership has been suspended, other
states oppose isolating the regime.
Mr Hague said today Zimbabwe had become a "monument to the truth that
although the power, even of a good government to do good is not infinite,
the power of a bad one to do harm knows no limits."
Downing Street has made clear the prime minister will not attend the African
summit if Mugabe is allowed a seat at the table. However, Gordon Brown
would, hypothetically, meet with other Zimbabwean representatives.
Mr Brown has shown willingness to toughen sanctions against Zimbabwe through
the EU and last month said the UK was preparing to table wider restrictions
on the regime's travel and financial arrangements.
James Kirchick - 10.2.2007 - 10:05AM
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set African leaders astir with his
ultimatum concerning an upcoming European Union/African Union conference in
Lisbon, Portugal. Brown has laid down a simple condition for his attendance
at the December conference: that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe not
attend. "We should not sit down at the same table as President Mugabe,"
Brown told the Labour Party conference last week. He elaborated
We will play our part also in helping all those people who want to work
together to make sure there is social and economic justice, and then
political justice, also for the Zimbabwean people. We are ready to play our
part in the reconstruction and in the building of a democracy.. There must
be democracy restored to Zimbabwe.
Many of Tony Blair's friends in America were unsure of his successor's
commitment to global freedom, but Brown's principled and uncompromising
stand on the Mugabe tyranny should assuage most, if not all, of those
African leaders, who have done nothing of substance to assist Mugabe's exit
from power (and have actually aided him whenever the democratic opposition
to his rule came close to weakening his regime) are angry at Mr. Brown's
provocation. It is expected that if the EU follows the British Prime
Minister's suggestion and retracts Mugabe's invitation, the entire summit
will collapse due to African states' boycotting the event. European
diplomats, unwilling to take any step that would cause offense or discomfort
to dictators, are already busying themselves condemning Mr. Brown to the
I have a compromise solution to this seemingly intractable quandary. Brown
should at once rescind his opposition to Mugabe's attendance at the Lisbon
summit, and instead express his giddy anticipation at greeting the
Zimbabwean president in Portugual come December. The EU should officially
waive the travel ban it placed on Mugabe in 2002 and ceremoniously grant him
a visa. When Mugabe steps off his plane (AirZimbabwe's only international
jet, which Mugabe regularly commandeers on a whim, throwing the national
carrier's schedule into chaos), he will be greeted by a Hague-appointed
prosecutor serving him an indictment for crimes against humanity. The
Portuguese police will then take him promptly into custody. I hope this is
an idea Brown is already contemplating.
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
2 October 2007
Posted to the web 2 October 2007
Dire shortages of such essentials as electricity and water are forcing
Zimbabweans living with HIV/AIDS to combat the country's hardships with new
and novel approaches.
According to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey, 18.1 percent of the
population of about 11.5 million are infected with HIV - the sixth highest
prevalence in the world.
Once one of the most prosperous countries in the sub-Saharan region,
Zimbabwe's economy is in freefall, with an inflation rate of more than 6,000
percent and international donor agencies predicting that by the end of the
year a third of the population will require emergency food aid.
A serious shortage of foreign currency to import chemicals for treating
water, and spare parts for maintaining plants and reticulation systems,
combined with inadequate rainfall, has brought basic services in many areas
to a halt.
In this environment, organisations like the AIDS Counselling Trust (ACT),
established in 1988 to complement and assist government and international
aid agencies initiatives to provide care, support and treatment for people
affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, have developed innovative methods to
counter the erratic supplies of water and electricity.
"Because of the high cost of electricity, erratic power supplies and the
high cost of firewood, a large number of our clients living positively with
HIV/AIDS were having problems accessing warm food, until recently," Peter
Kamusiya, ACT's programme officer for Nutrition and Home Based Care, told
The hay basket
The organisation, which works mainly with HIV-positive people living in the
high-density suburbs of Mabvuku, Tafara, Glen Norah, Mbare, Kuwadzana and
Highfields in the capital, Harare, stumbled across a solution at a local
HIV/AIDS exhibition: a low-tech basket, insulated with hay, that can be used
to cook and keep food warm for several hours.
"We borrowed the concept from the exhibition and we now reproduce the
baskets for the benefit of our clients located in Harare and surrounding
farms, and the hay basket has been received with ... [applause] by people
living with HIV/AIDS."
The basket is made from local river reeds and then stuffed with hay, which
is then further insulated with locally produced sacking. "It is very simple
to use. For example, when cooking beans, they are soaked in water overnight
and then cooked for one hour in a clay pot on a fireplace. The clay pot is
then transferred into the hay basket, which is then closed to allow further
cooking for another two hours before eating," he told IRIN.
Angeline Chiwetani, coordinator of the HIV/AIDS non-governmental
organisation, the Youth in Development Trust, said the hay basket was an
innovation to suit the times.
"In the face of regular power cuts and the resultant high costs of firewood,
I quite naturally welcome such an innovation. People living with HIV/AIDS
have to eat warm food in order to kill any bacteria which may find its way
into the food," she said.
The need for such an energy-saving device was identified last year after a
survey of ACT's clients, when it was found that people were no longer eating
dried beans because they took too long to cook. "This forced us to move with
speed, because beans is one of the highly nutritious foods which are cheap
and available locally," Kamusiya said.
"The other advantage with the hay basket, other than the fact that it is
made from locally available material, is that because the food is cooked in
a sealed basket, no nutrients are allowed to escape." The organisation's
clients are now supplied with the raw materials to make their own hay
Crippling water shortages, which have left some of Harare's suburbs without
water for months, and bans on the use of hosepipes to water gardens in
suburbs still supplied with water, have made it extremely difficult to grow
vegetable and herb gardens, depriving people living with HIV/AIDS of vital
nutrition and a source of alternative medicines to treat headaches and
diarrhoea, or stimulate appetites.
"We are training our clients in water management skills for their nutrition
gardens, such as mulching, in which they are urged to spread grass on their
vegetable beds to prevent evaporation of moisture," Kamusiya said.
We discourage the use of chemicals and pesticides in preference for natural
methods, and we encourage the use of compost and manure, while
inter-cropping ensures that insects cannot attack their plants
"Another technique is the use of the 'Grow Bag', where a sack is filled with
soil and compost, then perforated and vegetables grown on it. This ensures
that there will be very little water lost after the bag is watered, while
the high concentration of compost will ensure vegetables grow much faster,"
Clients are also encouraged to use water from washing and bathing for their
gardens, and inter-cropping techniques, in which vegetables and herbs are
"We discourage the use of chemicals and pesticides in preference for natural
methods, and we encourage the use of compost and manure, while
inter-cropping ensures that insects cannot attack their plants, as they can
only do so when there is one variety of crops planted on a vegetable bed,"
Should pests attack their gardens, clients are encouraged to use a
combination of ground garlic and chillies mixed with water, which is then
sprayed on the garden as a natural pesticide.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]
The Herald (Harare) Published by the government of Zimbabwe
2 October 2007
Posted to the web 2 October 2007
AIR Zimbabwe has increased airfares with immediate effect for various routes
with passengers travelling to London now parting with $439 million for a
return economy class ticket.
Before the increases, travellers were paying $154 million for the same
ticket. Airzim spokesperson Mr David Mwenga yesterday said the increases
were necessitated by skyrocketing operational costs, which had seen the
national airline failing to make meaningful profits.
"Yes we have increased airfares owing to ever increasing operational costs
but the increases are also meant to ensure viability of the national
airline," Mr Mwenga said. He said the costs of Jet A 1 fuel, insurance,
spare parts, catering, handling and over-flying charges were rising. Mr
Mwenga said 90 percent of the airline's costs were in foreign currency
compared to only 30 percent revenue in foreign currency and 70 percent in
local currency. Starting yesterday international routes such as the Harare
to Dubai were increased from $142 million to $285 million while those flying
to Singapore will have to folk out $423,8 million, up from $131,4 million.
An economy class ticket for the Harare-Johannesburg route now costs $87,6
million up from $34,5 million while a trip from Harare to Luanda is now $167
million up from $65 million. A return ticket from Harare to Kinshasa is now
$174,5 million up from $67 million.
Increases were also effected on the domestic routes with travellers now
having to pay $60 million for a return trip to Victoria Falls, $48 million
to Bulawayo and $33,2 million to Kariba. Before the increases, it cost $24
million to fly to Victoria Falls and $15,3 and $14,1 million to fly to
Bulawayo and Kariba.
Air Zimbabwe last increased fares in August after the Cabinet Taskforce on
Price Monitoring and Stabilisation gave it the go ahead to increase. The
airline incurs high costs in fuel, insurance, spare parts, catering,
handling and over-flying charges all of which are paid in foreign currency.
In October last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said Air Zimbabwe like
all other parastatals would no longer get State support and should charge
cost reflective fares for it to continue to operate viably.