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Misfire for minister of misinformation
overthetop By Brian Latham
THE misinformation minister in a troubled central African banana republic may have misfired, say women's organisations.
The staggering news comes after a rural woman accused him of fathering her child two decades ago, a suggestion the misinformation minister denies in the strongest possible terms."Just because I represent an illegitimate government, it doesn't follow that I fathered an illegitimate child," said the misinformation minister, adding, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work that one out." Still, in a move that proved his innocence beyond all doubt, the clearly bewildered police were encouraged to arrest the woman who made the allegation. Sources in the Zany government said the woman's arrest proved beyond all reasonable doubt that she was guilty. "Innocent people do not get arrested," said the source. "We like to ensure that only guilty people are arrested because this saves time in the courts." The Zany source went on to tell Over The Top that if the now severely troubled woman was right - and if her child did belong to the misinformation minister - well, that didn't necessarily mean she was innocent. "She could still be guilty of embarrassing the minister; a serious offence for which the punishment is a severe beating in police cells," he said. Meanwhile troubled human rights activists in the even more troubled central African basket case described the woman's arrest was a clear example of the country's descent into anarchy. Others said they were surprised by the misinformation minister's reaction to the allegation. They said, on balance, they thought he would have been pleased to be accused of fathering an illegitimate child. There were many troubled central Africans who thought he preferred the company of people who couldn't have children. While no comment was sought from the now grown up child of the arrested woman, it was said he was suffering severe trauma at learning who his father may or may not be. The idea that his father, who is clearly not a rocket scientist, might be the misinformation minister was a revelation that necessitated immediate psychiatric care and counselling. "He is very troubled by the thought that his father might be a prominent and outspoken member of the Zany Party," said a source close to the family who cannot be named because she does not want to join her relative in police cells. "The very idea that his father might not be a rocket scientist has left him deeply scarred." Relatives said the poor man's mental health was worsened by the knowledge that his father may (or may not) be the most unpopular man in the long-troubled western provinces of the troubled central African bloodbath. The misinformation minister, who hails from the long-troubled western provinces, has not been successful in gaining a foothold in his home area. This is partly due, says a former provincial colleague and senior Zany official, because people in that area would rather vote for a donkey than for anyone from the Zany Party. Still- it isn't every day that a minister, let alone a misinformation minister, gets embroiled in a paternity suit in the troubled central African banana republic. Analysts agree that the imbroglio has brought light relief and comic amusement to millions of troubled central Africans. In fact, other than the parties directly involved, say analysts, the comedy has the whole country laughing. Of course, the mother languishing in cells finds the situation about as unfunny as it could get, while her poor son is said to be deeply troubled. As for the minister, know one knows whether he is really angry or secretly pleased because the allegation could diminish certain other rumours.
MDC - a time for introspection
WHAT transpired in Zengeza in the wake of the recent by election provides the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) a golden opportunity for serious introspection.
We implore MDC to do this not in the context of the mindless propaganda war that is being waged against the party by Zanu PF through its monopoly of the State media but in the spirit of Oliver Cromwell who asked that his portrait reflect "all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it."Indeed, any opposition party particularly, the Movement for Democratic Change which has shaken Zanu PF to the core and for which nearly half the electorate voted in the last general election is far too powerful and important to require - or to profit from - flattery. Besides, it is wise to admit one's own mistakes and be self-critical as a measure of demonstrable transparency. There is no doubt that the MDC is currently under siege from Zanu PF. The ruling party, as now commonly known, is under the mistaken illusion that it is the only party anointed to rule Zimbabwe forever. Under this warped mindset, Zanu PF has sought to pulverise any opposition to its rule by fair or foul means. By silencing MDC, Zanu PF hopes opposition to its disastrous rule will disappear from the face of Zimbabwe. This is like a leper who covers his sores with a white cloth in order to pretend that they don't exist. It is, indeed, an exercise in futility on the part of Zanu PF to try to stifle MDC out of existence as they are trying to do in Harare and elsewhere in the country. It is a cruel irony that the Zanu PF leadership appears to have such a short memory. The party itself is a famous case in point. Ian Smith tried to hound it out of existence but failed dismally. Many of the present leaders in Zanu PF refused to be cowed into submission. Why does President Mugabe, Ignatius Chombo, Jonathan Moyo and the rest of them think that they will succeed where others failed before. The old guard in Zanu PF which effectively are in control of the party appears to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. They are functioning without memory and without a sense of the past. Had it not been for the tenacity and resilience of the leaders of the liberation movements - dead and living - our independence would not have come at a time that it did. It was the perseverance of our heroes that paid in the end. Smith's propaganda war on various fronts including detentions, restrictions, killings, harassment, bombings and banning of newspapers came to nothing. The African majority remained immune to all these things because they were living the difficult lives while the white minority was in denial. The crux of the matter is that as long as people are alive and not dead, they will always struggle against oppression and tyranny regardless of colour or shape of the noses of the perpetrators of those evils. With all the terrible experiences to learn from, why Zanu PF leaders are failing to appreciate this simple lesson is beyond comprehension. While drawing attention to the folly and shortsightedness of Zanu PF's behaviour, it is important to flash warning lights at the opposition MDC lest they fall into the Zanu PF way of doing things. Since the formation of MDC in 1999, it has become painfully obvious and evident to most of us that there are divisions between the founding clique comprising members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions into which category, Morgan Tsvangirai falls, and the so called mafikizolo - the youthful 'intellectuals' among whom expelled former Highfield MP, Munyaradzi Gwisai belonged. There is no doubt Zanu PF is exploiting to its advantage this division. The alleged 'imposition' by Tsvangirai of James Makore, a former official in ZCTU on the Zengeza electorate must be viewed in this context. Rightly or wrongly, the perception is that MDC lost the Zengeza seat to Zanu PF because of dissension within the party over the candidature of Makore. The glaring point that is a casualty to all this is the fact that the winner of the Zengeza seat in the 2000 elections, MDC's Tafadzwa Musekiwa won it with 14 814 votes against the same Zanu PF contestant, Christopher Chigumba's 5 330 votes. There is clearly a lesson to be learnt here. Perhaps as a movement, all manner of people jumped onto the bandwagon - the unemployed and unemployable, the illiterate and semi-literate, the rich and poverty-stricken, and even the corrupt may have seen an opportunity to try their luck in a fledgling new political party at a time when there was growing disenchantment with the ruling party. Nothing unusual about that and the world over, every political party will have its share of opportunists. What is important is that with the passage of time, the party itself adopts a policy of regeneration where those that lack commitment are replaced by those with demonstrable zeal to drive the organisation towards its desired goals But time is not on the side of MDC. Zanu PF is like a bulldozer going one way seeking to protect its interests and privileged positions by clinging to power at any cost. This is the nature of the beast that MDC is dealing with. And the last thing that MDC wants is divisions within its ranks which will have the effect of diluting its power base and support among the generality of Zimbabweans. The time-tested value of merit should be the only criteria guiding MDC's choice of leadership. It will be a sad day when MDC becomes Zanu PF revisited. MDC got off to a cracking start because Zanu PF had gone off the rails. The electorate in the parliamentary election of 2000 did not vote for individual candidates. They voted for the party. Anyone who stood on a MDC ticket - even a nonentity with no known political track record to speak of - could have won. This is the truth that MDC should never lose sight of. That is why there are so many illiterate buffoons in the opposition party. Its against this background that we feel there should be no room for sacred cows in the MDC. The concept of democracy implies accountability. MDC needs to change its mindset if it has any hope of remaining relevant and focused in our present predicament.
Liberators' body calls for 2005 poll boycott
By our own Staff
BULAWAYO - The Zimbabwe Liberators' Peace Initiative (ZLPI) says Zimbabweans should boycott next year's general election because of the uneven playing field. In an interview, ZLPI President, Max Mkandla said Zanu PF was increasingly becoming a threat not only to the opposition MDC but also to the entire African continent.
"I am appealing to all genuine freedom fighters including ex-Zimbabwe's People Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), war collaborators and Zimbabweans in general to join hands and block ZANU PF from stealing next year's elections," said Mkandla."The level of contest is not even because the opposition in this country is not allowed to campaign under the draconian law of POSA, so the best way of shaming the devil Zanu PF is to boycott the so-called elections," said the ZLPI leader. Mkandla said even the Election Supervisory Commission (ESC) headed by lawyer Sobuza Gula Ndebele was not transparent, making the whole electoral process "absolutely nonsense". "Surely, the must not be any form of election to take place come 2005. We urgently need a home-grown Constitution that gives everybody an equal platform in terms of campaigning," he said
Sugar turns sour for Hippo Valley
By our own Staff
HIPPO Valley Estates, Zimbabwe's largest sugar producer, says sugar production continues to shrink and went down by 17% in 2003.
Hippo Chairman Godfrey Gomwe said production at the Lowveld-based sugar producer last year declined by 47 993 tonnes.Hippo attributed the poor performance to production constraints such as cane haulage difficulties as a result of breakdowns to its plant and machinery because of an ageing fleet and the unavailability of spares. Operations at the sugar producer also were disrupted by bad weather during the later part of October, which resulted in un-seasonal rainfall. This culminated in the milling season extending into January causing a significant adverse impact on efficiencies. During the 2003 financial year, 1 963 189 tonnes of cane were milled compared with 2 320 200 tonnes in the previous season. In 2000, the government listed two of Hippo's sugarcane growing plantations - Hippo Valley and Mkwasine Estates - for compulsory acquisition at the height of the land grab instigated by ruling Zanu PF party supporters. Since then, Hippo has been entangled in a protracted wrangle with the government to secure the delisting of its estates but to no avail. Since the listing Hippo's fortunes have been ebbing. "Shareholders are advised that consultations are ongoing, with the relevant authorities to secure the delisting of Hippo Valley and Mkwasine Estates," stressed Gomwe. Hippo's revenue at $163,5 billion was 24% lower than the prior year's $214,1 billion due to delays in implementing appropriate local sugar price increases. Sugar prices have since November 2001 been controlled by the government under a Statutory Instrument. As a result Hippo recorded a loss of $4,6 billion. Gomwe said the erratic supply of rail wagons and locomotives by the National Railways of Zimbabwe also caused delays in ferrying sufficient quantities of sugar for export. "The infrastructural difficulties experienced in moving raw sugar to the refineries, coupled with the resultant delay of export proceeds in respect of preferential quota markets and the managed exchange rate, resulted in a significant decline in cashflow," said Gomwe. "Consequently, the company had to rely upon short term borrowings which resulted in a net interest charge of $12,4 billion for the period," he added.
Expose corrupt law firms
THIS is an open letter to the secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.
Someone once told me that if you throw a stone at random in Nigeria you are likely to hit a thief, but if you throw a stone at random in Zimbabwe you are likely to hit a lawyer. Any place you go in the world you get to find out that lawyers are amongst the worst thieves you can find.This is an appeal to the secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe. Some law firms in Zimbabwe are involved in corrupt dealings. Some of these firms are using the back door to operate their businesses and also to obtain audit certificates. Something has to be done to stop this kind of practice. Also some of these firms are abusing Trust Accounts (clients monies). I know this is happening because I used to work in a law firm. To the law society please try and put an end this conduct. Tapiwa Singini Harare
State propaganda has not debunked BBC report
AMONG the topical issues that have featured in the government propaganda's anti-imperialist debate, is Hilary Anderson's BBC Panorama documentary on the national service training camps.
A number of narrow minded Zanu PF political sympathisers were quick to dismiss Anderson's documentary as propaganda aimed at debasing Zimbabwe.Tazzen Mandizvidza of the Dead BC, was also at it again. He tried, though in vain, to be a Zanu PF public relations spin-doctor. What remains to be proven is whether the documentary was shown in its entirety as there was a constant repetition of some shots. Evidently, the people of Zimbabwe were again short changed and continue to be short changed. Relevant focus should be on whether the information in the documentary is true or false and not whether the documentary is genuine or not. The information in the documentary has been manifested in public. The notoriety of the Green Bombers as they are called, is now a public secret. During the queuing days, they were seen routinely brutalising people. In Kuwadzana, one of them was killed in "action". In Epworth they gang raped a woman. Above all, they fueled the black-market. Was this all a result of their so-called training in patriotism, discipline and entrepreneurship? National youth service training is a noble idea, which however has been hijacked by a predatory government. The whole process has been militarised, as has recently been done to our Cabinet. Issues pertaining to patriotism, sovereignty, entrepreneurship and discipline are relevant but not in a military context. Information contained in that documentary cannot be alienated from the truth on the ground. The recent revelations of a youth saying "I now know that when I am told to turn right, I turn right, when I am told to turn left, I turn left", are significant manifestations of how the national youth service training programme is designed to save a paranoid government that is rapidly and irreversibly losing credence and relevance. The atrocities perpetrated by the graduates from the these youth training camps come against a backdrop of the abuse of the national languages to preach violence. The ultimate result is a brainwashed youth devoid of any ethical or moral sensibility of reason, respect, discipline and genuine national service in his or her mind. Against such a background, the Hilary Anderson documentary was made, and the government's propagandists try to convince us that the information is fallacious. What trash ! It is interesting to note that the new Minister of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri is from a military background and what better person to put in charge of the militarisation of the youths. Militarisation can never be a correct substitute for patriotism. If anything, the way the programme has been implemented reflects the government's parsimonious determination to cling to power. Unless the programme is reconstituted to make it more relevant and pragmatic, the citizenry shall continue to view it with deep suspicion. The products of the programme shall continue to be seen as misfits in society. The citizens of this country would not need a Hilary Anderson or BBC to show them what has gone wrong in their midst. We know what has gone badly wrong. Edgar Dzehonye Hatfield Harare
Hotel industry doddering
By Kumbirai Mafunda
SEVERAL of Zimbabwe's hotels are filing for bankruptcy because of new ZESA requirements that they should pay for electricity in hard currency, it has been established.
The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) which represents private companies in the hospitality sector said many hotels and other companies were folding because of the exorbitant electricity tariffs ZESA is billing firms.A statutory requirement effected by the government last year compels exporters and those earning hard currency to settle 35% of electricity accounts in American dollars. However, owing to an abrupt and irrational hike in electricity tariffs from February, many companies and hotels in the once booming tourism industry say they are on the verge of collapse. ZESA hiked its tariffs by more than 400% in February in a bid to settle its ballooning debt to regional power suppliers. The hike in electricity charges has resulted in Zimbabwe becoming one of the most costly countries to operate it when it comes to paying for power, say official sources. In Kariba - one of the country's prime resort area - one company, Kariba Eastern Basin Lodges is no longer operating and has shut down because of the high electricity charges while sources say many lodges in Chiredzi and parts of the Lowveld have since closed shop. ZCT President Shingi Munyeza told StandardBusiness that the soaring electricity costs were now the greatest single threat to the survival of the tourism sector. "Electricity costs have been the single major killer in our business. Some hotels who are sitting on low occupancy rates have applied for closure," said Munyeza. "Our greatest concern is that there is now a real possibility of establishments ceasing operations because of the crippling electricity charges," he added. Apart from huge energy bills, hoteliers complain that they are also reeling under punitive tariffs and duties that are impacting on viability. The ZCT, Munyeza said, was calling for the rationalisation of the local tariff regime to bring it into line with those widely used in the SADC and Comesa countries. Munyeza, who is also Chief Executive Officer of the giant Zimsun Leisure Group, said some hotels were heavily exposed because they had pegged their costs to last year's soaring parallel market rates for foreign currency. The ZCT says its key aim is to see the elimination of the dual exchange rate system and the standardisation of exchange rate calculations according to the prevailing auction rate. The hotel and catering industry, said Munyeza, had already recommended to the Reserve Bank that the current rate of exchange - $824 to one US dollar - used for converting the mandatory 25% of hard currency earned, should be abolished. Hoteliers want the RBZ to replace it with the prevailing exchange rate at the auctions "and for credit card and cash transactions to be carried out at this rate", said Munyeza. Tourism has during the last six years lost most of its glitter with earnings shrinking from US$770 million in 1999 to US$77 million in 2002. Traditional tourists have stayed away from Zimbabwe because of perceived lawlessness brought about by the violent land seizures spearheaded by the governing Zanu PF party.
By our own Staff
STRUGGLING Wankie Colliery, Zimbabwe's main coal producer, is seeking government approval to bill some clients in foreign currency, it has been established.
Chairman Munacho Mutezo, in a statement accompanying the company's financial results for the year ended December 2003, said Wankie wants to charge local exporters in foreign currency.If approved, the measure could be the last straw that would break equally struggling companies that depend on coal for energy. Foundry companies - who consume loads of coal - are the most likely to be affected alongside refinery firms. Economic analysts said Wankie's move could spell economic doom for the few exporters left. "That is a very delicate situation that we find ourselves in. We are sitting on a precarious position," said David Mupamhadzi Trust Holdings' Group Economist. Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) President Luckson Zembe blasted Wankie's intended move saying industry can no longer take any more burden. "Where are you going to stop? Soon you will hear even the Harare City Council saying they want to charge rates in foreign currency," said Zembe.
Phone-call 'nails' Heath Streak
By Lloyd Mutungamiri
MANAGING director Vince Hogg has taken centre-stage in the ongoing feud between former captain Heath Streak and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union after revealing on Friday the all-rounder gave his ultimatum to resign in a telephone conversation the two held.
The question of whether Streak said he would quit or not holds sway in a crisis that threatens to bring local cricket to its knees.Hogg told reporters at a Press Conference Streak called him threatening he would resign if the ZCU did not accede to his demands, as the game's authorities put up their defence for the player's sacking, following denials by Streak he never said he would quit the national team. "I've got nothing against Heath Streak, but I know what he said in the conversation that we had when he called me. I stand by what I said to the board," said Hogg. Peter Chingoka, ZCU Chairman, insisted they were standing by their managing director as pressure mounted throughout the week over whether Streak had really gave the union an ultimatum, and how he conveyed the disputed message. Heath's father Dennis Streak insists his son never said he would resign but Chingoka said he would not respond to the claims, as the union "had no relationship with Dennis Streak, only Heath Streak". Chingoka also denied the union was being ruthless with their former skipper, revealing they had knuckled over demands from the player the previous week, adding when Streak followed them up with more demands the following week they decided they had been pushed enough. At the media briefing Chingoka also announced - following a meeting between himself, Hogg, two committee members, players' representatives and legal counsel for both parties - they had agreed on nine items out of 10 of a confidential agenda. "There was an impasse over the return of Streak to the Zimbabwe team, with the board saying it was willing to restore him as a player only as it has already made a decision on the issue of captaincy while the players say they want Streak back as captain. The players then said they have to go back to consult their colleagues over the issue. They will return to the board with their position on Tuesday April 13." The union's refusal to reinstate Streak could see more than 15 senior players carrying out threats to terminate their contracts with the ZCU if their inspirational skipper is not brought back to lead them. Some have already taken the first step towards this end after failing to turn up for a Logan Cup match between Mashonaland and Midlands on Friday. Meanwhile, the union has announced they will appoint a new panel of selectors in July, but Chingoka says they will not be following Streak's demands over the composition of the panel. He and the players who support him want each member of the panel to have experience playing Test or first-class cricket.
The year 2000 was a time of plague for the South African town of Ndumo, on the border of Mozambique. That March, while the world was focused on AIDS, more than 7,000 people came to the local health clinic with malaria. The South African Defense Force was called in, and soldiers set up tents outside the clinic to treat the sick. At the district hospital 30 miles away in Mosvold, the wards filled with patients suffering with the headache, weakness and fever of malaria -- 2,303 patients that month. ''I thought we were going to get buried in malaria,'' said Hervey Vaughan Williams, the hospital's medical manager. Today, malaria has all but vanished in Ndumo. In March 2003, the clinic treated nine malaria cases; Mosvold Hospital, only three. As malaria surges once again in Africa, victories are few. But South Africa is beating the disease with a simple remedy: spraying the inside walls of houses in affected regions once a year. Several insecticides can be used, but South Africa has chosen the most effective one. It lasts twice as long as the alternatives. It repels mosquitoes in addition to killing them, which delays the onset of pesticide-resistance. It costs a quarter as much as the next cheapest insecticide. It is DDT. KwaZulu-Natal, the province of South Africa where Ndumo and Mosvold are located, sprayed with DDT until 1996, then stopped, in part under pressure from other nations, and switched to another insecticide. But mosquitoes proved to be resistant to the new insecticide, and malaria cases soared. Since DDT was brought back in 2000, malaria is once again under control. To South Africans, DDT is their best defense against a killer disease. To Americans, DDT is simply a killer. Ask Americans over 40 to name the most dangerous chemical they know, and chances are that they will say DDT. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was banned in the United States in 1972. The chemical was once sprayed in huge quantities over cities and fields of cotton and other crops. Its persistence in the ecosystem, where it builds up to kill birds and fish, has become a symbol of the dangers of playing God with nature, an icon of human arrogance. Countries throughout the world have signed a treaty promising to phase out its use. Yet what really merits outrage about DDT today is not that South Africa still uses it, as do about five other countries for routine malaria control and about 10 more for emergencies. It is that dozens more do not. Malaria is a disease Westerners no longer have to think about. Independent malariologists believe it kills two million people a year, mainly children under 5 and 90 percent of them in Africa. Until it was overtaken by AIDS in 1999, it was Africa's leading killer. One in 20 African children dies of malaria, and many of those who survive are brain-damaged. Each year, 300 to 500 million people worldwide get malaria. During the rainy season in some parts of Africa, entire villages of people lie in bed, shivering with fever, too weak to stand or eat. Many spend a good part of the year incapacitated, which cripples African economies. A commission of the World Health Organization found that malaria alone shrinks the economy in countries where it is most endemic by 20 percent over 15 years. There is currently no vaccine. While travelers to malarial regions can take prophylactic medicines, these drugs are too toxic for long-term use for residents. Yet DDT, the very insecticide that eradicated malaria in developed nations, has been essentially deactivated as a malaria-control tool today. The paradox is that sprayed in tiny quantities inside houses -- the only way anyone proposes to use it today -- DDT is most likely not harmful to people or the environment. Certainly, the possible harm from DDT is vastly outweighed by its ability to save children's lives. No one concerned about the environmental damage of DDT set out to kill African children. But various factors, chiefly the persistence of DDT's toxic image in the West and the disproportionate weight that American decisions carry worldwide, have conspired to make it essentially unavailable to most malarial nations. With the exception of South Africa and a few others, African countries depend heavily on donors to pay for malaria control. But at the moment, there is only one country in the world getting donor money to finance the use of DDT: Eritrea, which gets money for its program from the World Bank with the understanding that it will look for alternatives. Major donors, including the United States Agency for International Development, or Usaid, have not financed any use of DDT, and global health institutions like W.H.O. and its malaria program, Roll Back Malaria, actively discourage countries from using it. Part of the reason for DDT's marginalization is that its delivery method, house spraying, doesn't work everywhere. Insecticide sprayed inside houses repels mosquitoes -- and kills those that do make it indoors and perch on walls -- for several months. Since most mosquitoes bite at night, when people are likely to be indoors, the spray reduces the number of times people are bitten. If around 80 percent of houses are covered, spraying protects everyone, as the bites that take place will be from mosquitoes less likely to have bitten an infected person. But house spraying is only effective against mosquitoes that bite indoors -- not all do. It also requires a government capable of organizing, training and equipping sprayers, which is beyond the reach of some countries. Even when spraying is possible, though, developed nations don't want to pay for it. Instead, the malaria establishment in developed nations promotes the use of insecticide-treated nets that people can buy to hang over their beds. Treated bed nets are indeed a useful tool for controlling malaria. But they have significant limitations, and one reason malaria has surged is that they have essentially become the only tool promoted by Western donors. ''I cannot envision the possibility of rolling back malaria without the power of DDT,'' said Renato Gusm-o, who headed antimalaria programs at the Pan American Health Organization, or P.A.H.O., the branch of W.H.O. that covers the Americas. ''Impregnated bed nets are an auxiliary. In tropical Africa, if you don't use DDT, forget it.'' The other reason DDT has fallen into disuse is wealthy countries' fear of a double standard. ''For us to be buying and using in another country something we don't allow in our own country raises the specter of preferential treatment,'' said E. Anne Peterson, the assistant administrator for global health at Usaid. ''We certainly have to think about 'What would the American people think and want?' and 'What would Africans think if we're going to do to them what we wouldn't do to our own people?''' Given the malignant history of American companies employing dangerous drugs and pesticides overseas that they would not or could not use at home, it is understandable why Washington officials say it would be hypocritical to finance DDT in poor nations. But children sick with malaria might perceive a more deadly hypocrisy in our failure to do so: America and Europe used DDT irresponsibly to wipe out malaria. Once we discovered it was harming the ecosystem, we made even its safe use impossible for far poorer and sicker nations. Today, westerners with no memory of malaria often assume it has always been only a tropical disease. But malaria was once found as far north as Boston and Montreal. Oliver Cromwell died of malaria, and Shakespeare alludes to it (as ''ague'') in eight plays. Malaria no longer afflicts the United States, Canada and Northern Europe in part because of changes in living habits -- the shift to cities, better sanitation, window screens. But another major reason was DDT, sprayed from airplanes over American cities and towns while children played outside. In Southern Europe, Latin America and Asia, DDT played an even more prominent role in controlling malaria. A malaria-eradication campaign with DDT began nearly worldwide in the 1950's. When it started, India was losing 800,000 people every year to malaria. By the late 1960's, deaths in India were approaching zero. In Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, 2.8 million cases of malaria per year fell to 17. In 1970, the National Academy of Sciences wrote in a report that ''to only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT'' and credited the insecticide, perhaps with some exaggeration, with saving half a billion lives. From the 1940's to the late 1960's, indoor house spraying with DDT was tested all over Africa. It was least effective in the lowland savannas of West Africa, but even partly successful programs provided considerable health improvements. And in other parts of Africa, DDT reduced the infant mortality rate by half and in some places wiped out malaria completely. Still, DDT was falling out of favor even before the 1962 publication of ''Silent Spring,'' Rachel Carson's book that described the dumping of DDT and other pesticides on American towns and farms and detailed the destruction they caused. DDT had not been sold as a way to control malaria but to eradicate it, so the world would never have to think about malaria again. But eradication failed -- it is now considered biologically impossible -- and because DDT had not lived up to its billing, disillusion set in. At the same time, DDT's indiscriminate use was provoking the development of resistance among mosquitoes, and many countries were shifting to decentralized health systems, which meant they were no longer able to organize nationwide house spraying. The move away from DDT in the 60's and 70's led to a resurgence of malaria in various countries -- Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Swaziland, South Africa and Belize, to cite a few; those countries that then returned to DDT saw their epidemics controlled. In Mexico in the 1980's, malaria cases rose and fell with the quantity of DDT sprayed. Donald Roberts, a professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., has argued that when Latin America stopped using DDT in the 1980's, malaria immediately rose, leading to more than a million extra cases a year. The one country that continued to beat malaria was Ecuador, the one country that kept using DDT. In the few countries where it is used today, DDT is no longer sprayed from airplanes, and no country admits to using it as an insecticide for crops -- although there are probably cases where it is diverted for agricultural use. Its only legitimate use is inside houses. Roberts said that the quantities used for house spraying are so small that Guyana, to take one example, could protect every single citizen of its malarious zones with the same amount of DDT once used to spray 1,000 acres of cotton. ''The negative environmental effects of DDT use that led to its banning were due to massive, widespread agricultural use,'' says a fact sheet published by Usaid (no fan of the chemical). ''Spraying limited amounts of DDT inside houses is considered unlikely to have major negative environmental impact.'' What about DDT's impact on the people inside the houses? The most serious evidence of DDT's harm to humans are a few studies showing that higher levels of DDE (the form DDT takes when it metabolizes) in a mother's blood is associated with premature birth and shorter duration of breast-feeding. But other studies have found no such associations. There was suspicion that DDT causes breast cancer, but study after study has found no connection. In general, DDT is feared for its effect on the environment, not on humans. It has been used on such a huge scale over the last 50 years that it is reasonable to think that if it had any serious effect on human health, we would know it by now. Rereading ''Silent Spring,'' I was again impressed by the book's many virtues. It was serialized in The New Yorker in June 1962 and published in book form that September -- a time when Americans were living in the golden glow of postwar progress and science was revered. ''Silent Spring'' for the first time caused Americans to question the scientists and officials who had been assuring them that no harm would result from the rain of pesticides falling on their farms, parks and backyards. Carson detailed how DDT travels up the food chain in greater and greater concentrations, how robins died when they ate earthworms exposed to DDT, how DDT doomed eagle young to an early death, how salmon died because DDT had killed the stream insects they ate, how fiddler crabs collapsed in convulsions in tidal marshes sprayed with DDT. ''Silent Spring'' changed the relationship many Americans had with their government and introduced the concept of ecology and the interconnectedness of systems into the national debate. Rachel Carson started the environmental movement. Few books have done more to change the world. But this time around, I was also struck by something that did not occur to me when I first read the book in the early 1980's. In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions. DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ''Silent Spring'' is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use. ''The significant issue is whether or not it can be used even in ways that are probably not causing environmental, animal or human damage when there is a general feeling by the public and environmental community that this is a nasty product,'' said David Brandling-Bennett, the former deputy director of P.A.H.O. Anne Peterson, the Usaid official, explained that part of the reason her agency doesn't finance DDT is that doing so would require a battle for public opinion. ''You'd have to explain to everybody why this is really O.K. and safe every time you do it,'' she said -- so you go with the alternative that everyone is comfortable with. ''Why it can't be dealt with rationally, as you'd deal with any other insecticide, I don't know,'' said Janet Hemingway, director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. ''People get upset about DDT and merrily go and recommend an insecticide that is much more toxic.'' Because the ban on DDT became the midwife to the environmental movement, the debate about it, even today, is bizarrely polarized. Most environmental groups don't object to DDT where it is used appropriately and is necessary to fight malaria. But liberals still tend to consider it a symbol of the Frankenstein effects of unbridled faith in technology. For conservatives, whose Web sites foam at the mouth about the hypocrisy of environmentalists, DDT continues to represent the victory of overzealous regulators and Luddites who misread and distort science. So far, conservatives have not been able to budge Usaid, even though they have managed to remake the agency's overseas AIDS programs to promote abstinence and discredit condom use. But malaria is not part of the public debate as AIDS is, and DDT does not have the same cultural urgency for the religious right that abstinence does. William Ruckelshaus, the head of the newly created Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT in 1972. It remains one of the most controversial decisions the E.P.A. has ever taken. Ruckelshaus was under a storm of pressure to ban DDT. But Judge Edmund Sweeney, who ran the E.P.A.'s hearings on DDT, concluded that DDT was not hazardous to humans and could be used in ways that did not harm wildlife. Ruckelshaus banned it anyway, for all but emergencies. Ruckelshaus made the right decision -- for the United States. At the time, DDT was mainly sprayed on crops, mostly cotton, a use far riskier than indoor house spraying. There was no malaria in the United States -- in part thanks to DDT -- so there were no public health benefits from its use. ''But if I were a decision maker in Sri Lanka, where the benefits from use outweigh the risks, I would decide differently,'' Ruckleshaus told me recently. ''It's not up to us to balance risks and benefits for other people. There's arrogance in the idea that everybody's going to do what we do. We're not making these decisions for the rest of the world, are we?'' In fact, we are -- the central reason that African nations who need DDT do not use it today. Washington is the major donor to W.H.O. and Roll Back Malaria, and most of the rest of the financing for those groups comes from Europe, where DDT is also banned. There is no law that says if America cannot use DDT then neither can Mozambique, but that's how it works. The ban in America and other wealthy countries has, first of all, turned poor nations' agricultural sectors against DDT for economic reasons. A shipment of Zimbabwean tobacco, for example, was blocked from entering the United States market because it contained traces of DDT, turning Zimbabwe's powerful tobacco farmers into an effective anti-DDT lobby. From a health point of view, of course, American outrage would have been more appropriate if traces of tobacco had been found in their DDT than the other way around. Then there are chemical companies. ''I get asked all the time -- are you being paid by chemical companies?'' said Thomas DeGregori, a professor of economics at the University of Houston and an advocate for DDT. The question is amusing, because the corporate interests in this issue are actually on the other side. DDT is no longer on patent, and it is known to be made only in India and China -- and the price has soared since the rich-country ban put manufacturers out of business, making it harder for poor countries to buy. Janet Hemingway of the Liverpool School, who advises African governments, said that she and the officials she works with are often lobbied by chemical companies selling more expensive insecticides, telling her about DDT's evils. ''Clearly, they'd like to see DDT banned -- it cuts into their markets,'' she said. But more important to DDT's demise has been pressure from the international malaria establishment. Sometimes it is direct. Mexico gave up DDT, for example, because the North American Free Trade Agreement obligated it to. Donald Roberts, who was working in Belize in the early 1990's, said that Usaid told the country to stop using DDT or it would lose foreign assistance. (Belize did, and malaria rates soared.) In May 2001, 91 countries and the European Community signed a treaty in Stockholm on 12 persistent organic pollutants, the ''dirty dozen.'' It banned nine outright. For DDT, the treaty allowed its use in indoor spraying for public health purposes, but called for its gradual phase-out. DDT's exemption, which had been opposed by environmental groups but supported by malariologists, did allow countries dependent on DDT to continue to use it for the present. But Stockholm's guiding principle -- phase it out -- is one more factor that discourages donors from financing DDT. Brian Sharp, who is leading South Africa's house-spraying program, said that some international research agencies will not finance studies in any way associated with DDT. Roll Back Malaria sees its mosquito-control strategy as promoting bed nets, period. Its 2003 Africa report hardly mentions house spraying. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- which uses guidelines set by W.H.O. -- currently finances no DDT. Vinand Nantulya, senior adviser to the fund's executive director, said that the fund might theoretically supply DDT to a country that requests it -- but none have. This is no surprise: these countries work closely with W.H.O. and advisers from Usaid to formulate their proposals to the Global Fund, and they are unlikely to ask for things that stand a low chance of approval. Many African scientists and health officials report being told by donors, ''You'll have trouble getting money for this'' or ''Donors believe this has unacceptable environmental effects.'' The balance of power is so tilted toward the donors in these relationships that poor countries will go quite far out of their way to not offend. DDT is controversial; better not to ask. In 1999, the Pan American Health Organization recommended that Ecuador use DDT to control malaria in the wake of El Nino. The World Bank said no. In a document explaining its decision, the bank said, ''Because of the controversial issues surrounding DDT, the World Bank's malaria team discourages the habitual use of DDT for malaria control.'' Renato Gusm-o of P.A.H.O. said that the bank's environmental group told him it was fighting for the elimination of DDT and could not allow the bank to finance DDT while advocating a ban. In many countries, decisions about DDT are made by environmental ministries, with little input from health officials. When Colombia banned DDT in the early 1990's, for example, ''people in public health found out when they read about it in the newspaper,'' Gusm-o said. Malaria cases more than doubled. The 1980's and 1990's also saw the rise of environmental units within the health institutions and donors like the World Bank. These watchdog units were much needed and in general have been a crucial tool to protect the environment. But they look at only the risks, not the benefits. Walter Vergara, the World Bank official who headed the unit that dismissed DDT in Ecuador, defended the decision to me: ''DDT has an awful impact on the biosystem and is being eliminated by the world community. There are alternatives. We're not the only species on the planet.'' Said David Brandling-Bennett, the former deputy director: ''My experience at P.A.H.O. was that the malaria community eventually gave in to heavy pressure from environmental groups, including within the organization. There was a fairly heavy debate in P.A.H.O. a few years back about whether we should use DDT where it is effective. But the overwhelming perception of DDT as the nastiest kid on the block just made it very difficult to argue for continuing. Really, the malaria community retreated.'' When Lee Jong-Wook became head of W.H.O. last year, he wrote an article for The Lancet, the British medical journal, setting out his vision. Lee wrote about AIDS, about SARS, about strengthening public health systems. He did not mention malaria. Probably the worst thing that ever happened to malaria in poor nations was its eradication in rich ones. That has made one of Africa's leading killers shockingly invisible. '''Silent Spring' had a clear message about things at home Americans could see and touch and feel,'' said Brooks B. Yeager, vice president of the Global Threats Program for the World Wildlife Fund. ''Americans who live on the Carolina coast know the brown pelicans have come back'' since DDT spraying was halted. ''Malaria is a long way away. You have to read about it or see in person its devastation, and not many Americans have the opportunity to do it.'' Lawrence Barat, the World Bank's adviser on malaria control, said, ''When I tell people I work on malaria, sometimes I get, 'Gee, I didn't know it still existed.''' One of the most depressing aspects of talking about malaria is that you get to hear the phrase ''the powerful AIDS lobby,'' a term no one but a malariologist would use. AIDS in the third world is still criminally underfinanced, but at least it gets some money and a lot of attention. Malaria gets AIDS's dregs. AIDS was a sudden plague, very visible in its choice of victims, and it has a vocal constituency in rich countries. Even in Africa, malaria gets nowhere near the attention of AIDS. It has always been around, and it kills not middle-class adults but rural 4-year-olds, who don't have much of a lobby. Malaria's status can be read in the aid figures. By the 1990's, it was almost completely ignored, and Africa's malaria-control programs disintegrated. In some countries, the entire federal antimalaria program employed only two or three people. When developed nations got together to begin Roll Back Malaria in 1998, they pledged money to meet its goal of cutting the death toll from malaria in half by 2010, but have then proceeded to donate peanuts. In 2000, according to Amir Attaran, a Massachusetts-based fellow of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, the 23 richest countries in the world plus the World Bank together provided $100 million to fight malaria -- less than a tenth of the annual sum necessary to meet Roll Back Malaria's goals. The AIDS epidemic has begun to excite a broader interest in third-world diseases, and malaria has benefited, especially from the establishment of the Global Fund, which has approved $499 million for malaria -- although it has only actually disbursed a tenth of that amount. Usaid, which in 1998 gave just $12 million to fight malaria, now gives $80 million a year, a notable advance. But money is still very short. One illustration of donor stinginess is the fact that the world today employs malaria cures that don't work. As resistant strains of malaria have evolved, chloroquine, the most popular remedy, fails up to 80 percent of the time, and a newer treatment, Fansidar, is not much better and is getting worse. They are still in use because they are cheap; chloroquine costs only pennies per dose, a cost most African families can handle themselves. New, effective drugs are available, but they cost a minimum of 40 cents for a child's treatment and $1.50 for an adult's, which means that African governments -- and therefore donors -- will have to pay. Only a handful of Africa's 42 malaria-endemic countries have switched; one is South Africa, where the new drugs have been partly responsible for the country's recent success. Those prices may not seem like much to cure malaria, especially when contrasted with the hundreds of dollars a year for life needed to treat AIDS. But 40 cents a child is apparently too much for donors to provide. The lack of political interest in malaria has been a very important factor in the decline of house spraying and rise of bed nets. Bed nets follow the fashion in development assistance today: bypass the government and work through private sector, nongovernmental groups and with the affected people themselves. People can buy nets in a store for $2 to $10, or their subsidized or even free distribution can be integrated into other health programs, like vaccination days. Bed nets are an exciting and important form of mosquito control. But they have major drawbacks. Even a few dollars is still too much money. People surveyed in rural Africa about what they would like to buy listed a bed net as only the sixth product on their wish list. The first three were a bicycle, a radio and, most heartbreakingly, a plastic bucket. The price is also kept artificially high because most countries, shamefully, still tax bed nets. And until nets with long-lasting insecticide can be widely distributed, bed nets need regular retreatment. It is insecticide that protects, not the net, and the insecticide wears off without people knowing it. Both bed nets and house spraying can be effective, and studies comparing costs differ on which is cheaper. For the world malaria establishment, however, one huge difference is that with house spraying, the central government -- and therefore donors -- bear the cost. Financing repeated rounds of spraying, donors argue, is not sustainable. ''But 'sustainable' is what you choose to sustain,'' Amir Attaran fumed. ''Nobody demands my garbage collection in Cambridge, Mass., be sustainable. The garbageman comes once a week, and it is accepted that society pays for that.'' Mozambique is now doing house spraying successfully and cheaply without a national army of sprayers and a fleet of S.U.V.'s. Mozambique hires a few people in each community and gives them two weeks of training and the materials they need. Those sprayers then walk from house to house, spraying each one twice a year. ''It helps save on transport costs, and the fact that sprayers come from the community makes it a lot more credible in terms of people accepting what is done in their households,'' said Jotham Mthembu, KwaZulu-Natal's malaria control program manager, who also advises the program in neighboring Mozambique. Mozambique, because it depends on Western donors, uses a more expensive insecticide. But if it used DDT, it could protect people for $1.70 per person per year. There are other ways to control mosquitoes. Parts of India, for example, are having success stocking mosquito-breeding ponds with guppies, who eat mosquito larvae. But India's ingenious strategy would not work in Africa, where mosquitoes breed in cattle hoofprints during the rainy season. Malaria must be more than simply a line item in the health budget. Malaria kills tourism and foreign investment. It greatly reduces human intelligence and productivity and lessens agricultural yields. Against these costs, a nation's business sectors and economic ministries should willingly join the fight -- and donors must begin to think of malaria control as an unusually cost-effective antipoverty program. South Africa's success is inspiring another look at DDT around the continent. Uganda, Kenya and other places are now examining whether it could work in their nations. If it could, donors should encourage it. DDT is a victim of its success, having so thoroughly eliminated malaria in wealthy nations that we forget why we once needed it. But malaria kills Africans today. Those worried about the arrogance of playing God should realize that we have forged an instrument of salvation, and we choose to hide it under our robes.