Globe and Mail, Canada Zimbabwe's innocent victims of
By STEPHANIE NOLEN
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Updated at 1:37 AM EST
Glendale, Zimbabwe - When you lay an arm
over Tambusai Chigwida's shoulders, you feel her bones like a wooden coat
hanger through tissue paper. She is so slight, perhaps 30 kilograms, that
turned sideways she is no more than a child's hand-span wide. But she beams
and bustles with pride when it comes time to show off her baby son. Ishanesu
is three months old, and he weighs 1.5 kg (up from 900 grams a few days
after his birth). Ms. Chigwida lifts him out of the incubator and joggles
him for a visitor, his indignant body small even in her skeletal
hand. She delivered him three months early, not uncommon for women with AIDS.
She didn't know she was HIV-positive in January, when she arrived in labour
at Howard Hospital, and nurses here had no opportunity to treat her tiny son
with a drug that would have lowered his risk of infection.
to know he's a fighter," said Paul Thistle, a Scarborough, Ont., doctor who
runs this Salvation Army hospital 100 kilometres north of Harare. In the
wards here, where three-quarters of the beds, and many pallets on the floor,
are filled with gaunt, gasping, listless people with AIDS, few people have
energy left to fight.
In the national and international uproar early this
month over Zimbabwe's parliamentary election and the future of the country
under the rule of President Robert Mugabe, a key fact has been overlooked:
AIDS is having a more devastating impact on the country than even Mr.
Mugabe's increasingly despotic habits.
About 2,800 people die of AIDS
in Zimbabwe every week. At least one in four adult Zimbabweans has HIV, but
there is no national treatment program to speak of, such as those under way
to provide life-saving anti-retroviral drugs to people with AIDS in almost
every country across sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe's economy is in collapse,
the government has no foreign exchange to buy drugs or expertise and the
health system is in chaos, with an estimated half of the adult work force
having fled the country for paying work. At the same time, key donors have
isolated this country, out of frustration with Mr. Mugabe; there is no
funding coming in. Any international aid agencies that might have stepped in
to help are holding back or leaving as the government threatens to implement
a law that would give it direct oversight of their budgets and
Zimbabwe is receiving only $4 (U.S.) in donor support for each
person infected by AIDS, compared with a regional average of $74.
Neighbouring Zambia, for example, received $187 for every infected person
last year; Cameroon, with a third as many infected people as Zimbabwe,
received $121, and Mozambique, which has half as many as Zimbabwe, got $92 a
Of the key donors, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
approved a $10-million grant to Zimbabwe in 2002. It has not released the
money because of concerns about governance, and it rejected a request for a
grant of $218-million last year.
The World Bank, which has a major
AIDS-treatment plan, is financing no projects here. Nor is the U.S.
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Yet Zimbabwe has the fourth
highest infection rate in the world. The three countries higher on the list
(Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland) are tiny nations with populations of fewer
than two million people; Zimbabwe's is 11.5 million.
looking at our government, not looking at the people," said Prisca
Nhakutombwa, a volunteer AIDS counsellor in Harare who has been living with
HIV since 1986. "We are suffering for our government."
co-ordinates teams of people to give palliative care in the slums around
Harare, and wonders every week where they will get the latex gloves and the
cotton swabs to do it. She says it is these people, incontinent in the last
weeks of their life and wrapped in newspaper, who pay the price for an
international desire to isolate Mr. Mugabe.
At the same time, she can
understand donor reluctance. "If donors give money to the government, [the
money] will disappear. We will never see it. If you say you will use the
money for ARVs [anti-retroviral drugs] and you use it for T-shirts for a
campaign, they're not going to give you the money next time."
horrible irony of the devastation that AIDS is wreaking in Zimbabwe is that
even with the political and economic crisis, and the exodus of health-care
workers for jobs in Britain and North America, the country is still in a
better position than any of its neighbours to do ARV treatment, if it had
the will and the money.
Until Mr. Mugabe undertook a highly politicized
land-reform campaign in 2000 in a bid to hold on to power, Zimbabwe was a
beacon of development in the region. Even today, the country's
once-unrivalled network of local health clinics is still functioning. In
2002, the government declared AIDS an emergency and overrode the patent
protection on ARVs so that the treatment recommended by the World Health
Organization is now made locally and is available for about $350 a
The government has successfully rolled out, with the help of the
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, a program to prevent pregnant
women with HIV from passing the virus to their babies. With drugs donated by
the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, the program is in
place at 865 sites across the country, from district hospitals to small
clinics staffed with only a nurse's aide.
Co-ordinator Agnes Mahomva
said that because mother-to-child prevention is relatively simple (Zimbabwe
uses a single dose of the drug Nevirapine to the mother and one to the
newborn, which lowers the risk of transmission of HIV at birth by at least a
third), the government was committed to doing it even with constraints such
as chronic staff shortages. "We wanted to go and do more training in [one
region] next week, but even all our trainers are gone," Dr. Mahomva
In large part because of those shortages, she estimated that last
year her program reached fewer than half of the HIV-positive pregnant women.
Those capacity problems continue to stand in the way of anything more than
trial efforts with ARVs, she said.
The mother-to-child program was
possible only because of support from the Glaser foundation and Unicef, she
said. "People are extremely disappointed that we're not getting support [for
ARVs] from the Global Fund and the others."
About 4,000 people are
receiving ARVs through government clinics (compared with 22,000 in Zambia, a
much less-developed country) in a nation where 360,000 are so sick with AIDS
that they need drugs today. A further 3,000 to 4,000 people can afford to
pay private clinics for treatment in Zimbabwe, although the supply of
foreign-made drugs is unreliable (and ARVs need to be taken every day to be
Non-government organizations such as Médecins sans frontières
(Doctors Without Borders) and research trials are treating perhaps 1,500
One small, local AIDS organization does the treatment illegally,
relying on drugs smuggled in from supporters in the United States. It has
500 people on ARVs. "It's totally illegal," a staff member said. "But the
government doesn't shut us down because the cabinet ministers and their
wives come here for their drugs."
Staff of donor agencies, who are
reluctant to speak on the record about the freeze on Zimbabwe, say privately
that while they recognize that poor people living with AIDS are paying the
price, they are forced to make hard decisions about where best to spend a
finite pool of resources, and they can be more confident in other countries
that assistance will be used effectively in AIDS projects.
addition, some cited fears that Mr. Mugabe would use ARVs the same way he
has food aid - as a blatant political tool, providing supplies to his
perceived political supporters and freezing out anyone thought to support
The President likes to boast about Zimbabwe's
national AIDS levy, which is unique in the region. Since 1999, every
formally employed citizen has paid 3 per cent of her or his income into a
kitty that is intended to fund AIDS prevention and treatment.
wanted that levy so that we could help each other, because most people who
die of HIV die like dogs and are buried like dogs," Ms. Nhakutombwa
Dr. Mahomva's mother-to-child program got $100,000 from the
levy fund last year, and she says that some community organizations also got
funds to take care of AIDS orphans, of whom there are an estimated 940,000
in the country.
But Ms. Nhakutombwa says her agency hasn't seen any of
it, nor has any other she knows. "That's more money for T-shirts," she
The government has not permitted a public audit of how much has
been collected or how it has been disbursed. The miracle in Zimbabwe
today is the handful of people like Ms. Nhakutombwa who find means -
desperate, surreptitious or entirely illegal - to try to get the drugs out
to patients as mounting inflation and isolation make it ever more
"As a technical person, I could go out and bang my head, or I
can say: 'What is it that I can do?' There is still a lot we can do with the
little we have," Dr. Mahomva said.
Last July, Dr. Thistle, the
Canadian who is one of two doctors at the rural hospital serving 250,000,
got a call saying his hospital had been tapped as one of five sites in the
country to do treatment. The hospital has 160 people on the drugs, and hopes
for 200 by the end of the year - that's out of a patient population of
5,000, all sick enough to start treatment immediately.
is one of them. A year ago, she was living in Harare with her husband and
their three daughters, but when she began to get sick, he sent her away, and
she came home here to her mother.
"I was always thin, but last year it
got worse," she said softly. "I knew I was sick." Her large eyes began to
leak slow tears. "But I didn't expect this."
After Dr. Thistle's
quiet urging, she had an HIV test a few weeks after the baby was born; she
also has tuberculosis, which gives her constant chest pain, and three more
children, whom she has left with her mother.
Three weeks ago, Dr. Thistle
enrolled Ms. Chigwida in his small treatment project. She is so thin and
short of breath, it is hard to imagine her, in the cold medical calculus
that is necessary here, as a good risk for the precious drugs.
Thistle, though, watches her and her tiny son, the fighter. And he has high
hopes for both of them.
Failures in generators at power stations
and a fault in a line connecting Zimbabwe with a power grid in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were responsible for two days of
nationwide electrical blackouts, officials told state radio on
The power cuts caused elevators in high-rise
buildings to stop working, traffic lights to go out, cafés and restaurants
to close and cinemas to send patrons away.
for the state electrical authority told state radio that the blackouts were
caused by generator failures at the Hwange coal-fired power station, west of
Harare, and at the Kariba hydro-electric power scheme on the Zambezi River.
He said there was also a fault in the connection to the grid in the
Many areas of the capital were without power for 12
hours on Friday, bringing work to a standstill in offices that depend on
The electric authority spokesperson
said further "load shedding" must be expected, as the country is going into
its coldest season.
"The region has run out of power to
export to countries such as Zimbabwe," the spokesperson told state
President Robert Mugabe 10 years ago vetoed Western
companies' competing plans for the massive upgrading of Hwange power station
in favour of his own scheme to give the project to a Malaysian consortium.
The scheme was never followed through. -- Sapa-AP
ZIMBABWE'S efforts to
import food from South Africa to avert a looming famine are in jeopardy with
revelations this week that government is unable to secure lines of credit
from foreign banks.
Zimbabwe has been unable to import commodities such
as fuel and has been forced to conduct business over the counter because of
poor credit rating. A number of prospective banks are hesitant to commit
their money because of Zimbabwe's long history of defaulting on loan
Sources say suppliers in South Africa are demanding cash
upfront before they deliver the maize to Zimbabwe. The country has so far
imported 100 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa but has since failed to
procure more because of foreign currency shortages and lack of credit
An Egyptian-based bank, the African Export-Import Bank, is
understood to have provided a loan but is dragging its heels on providing
more lines of credit. An official at the bank's Harare office refused to
comment, referring all questions to their headquarters in Cairo.
Zimbabwe Independent could not get a comment from Egypt because it was a
national holiday yesterday.
Contacted for a comment, Grain Marketing
Board acting chief executive Samuel Muvuti turned abusive, accusing the
paper of serving "its master's interests".
"Aiwa ka shamwari (No my
friend), we know what your paper stands for. We know the type of reports you
will write. You have never written anything factual about this country. You
are always demonising the president and the country as if you are not
Zimbabwean yourself," Muvuti fumed. "Tinozviziva zvamunomirira (We know what
you stand for). It's pointless for me to tell you anything because you are
going to twist it to suit your editor's needs, your handler's needs and your
paper's needs. I don't want to talk to your paper."
a fortnight after Zimbabwe's sixth parliamentary election, government has
allowed non-governmental organisations to resume humanitarian
Organisations such as Care International, World Vision,
Christian Care and other implementing partners are reportedly engaged in
preparatory meetings to resume general food distribution.
13 implementing partners working on humanitarian assistance until last year
when government stopped the programmes claiming the country was poised for a
bumper harvest of 2,4 million tonnes. The claim has however been proven
wrong by a parliamentary select committee.
Care International two weeks
ago convened meetings in Masvingo's Gutu district where it announced plans
to start general food distribution in the area. Village heads, councillors
and Care International officials based at Mpandawana growth point attended
Reports from Mashonaland East's Mutoko and Mudzi districts
indicate that World Vision has been convening similar meetings.
the general food distribution, local structures working together with
implementing partners in hunger-stricken areas compile lists of households
to ensure that all people have access to food. Beneficiaries over the years
have been getting beans, cooking oil, wheat and Uni-mix
Care International country director Philip Christensen could
not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the
Implementing partners umbrella body, World Food Programme
spokesperson Makena Walker would neither confirm or deny the new
"Implementing partners can carry out other projects outside
the WFP funding," Walker said. "Food distribution has always been carried
out in two ways: general food distribution, which was stopped last year and
the targeted feeding, which has been ongoing."
Walker however would
not comment on whether there was need for full-scale general food
distribution, referring all questions to the government.
An estimated 700
000 tonnes of maize will have to be imported before the next harvest to
avert mass starvation in both rural and urban areas.
CAPTAINS of industry meet in Harare today for a
conference to discuss ways of improving the availability and generation of
foreign currency in the country.
Organised by Human Resources
(Private) Limited, the conference comes at a time when the foreign currency
crisis has showed little signs of abating and there is urgent need to find a
lasting solution before the situation gets out of hand.
will include practical advice on how to get foreign currency, say the
"Our speakers have already identified '10 ways of acquiring
foreign currency' of which the most economically constructive is the
development of exports.
"However, opportunities also exist in barter
trade, contract manufacturing, international joint venture, encouragement of
foreign investment and local joint ventures between importers and
exporters," said the company.
The availability of foreign currency has
been a sore point for local companies over the past few years as inflows
continue to lag behind demand.
In many instances daily demand for foreign
currency on the auction floor has reached up to US$111 million, a far cry
from the average US$11 million on offer.
Several prominent figures in
the local business community are expected to present papers on critical
issues regarding foreign currency sourcing at today's
These will include Export Processing Zones Authority's Mr
Partridge Sibanda; economist consultants Mr Eric Bloch and Mr John
Robertson; as well and economists from the Reserve Bank.
country's biggest business organisations - the Zimbabwe National Chamber of
Commerce (ZNCC) and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) - will also
be represented at high level at the conference.
Discussions will centre
on how to develop export markets, barter trade, contract manufacturing,
international joint ventures, franchising, maximising success at auction
floors, obtaining foreign investment and accessing offshore lines of credit
One of the topics expected to spark intense debate and
interest among delegates was the foreign currency auction system on which a
specially prepared and computerised analysis has been carried out by
financial consultant Mr Peter Cawood.
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2005 4:21 PM Subject: Not even
Dear Family and Friends,
Things have deteriorating
noticeably in Zimbabwe in the three weeks since the ruling party declared
they had won the elections. Prices have shot up, basic foodstuffs are
becoming harder and harder to find and the fuel supply is sporadic. Water
from taps has become a luxury and the state owned television this week gave
us a long story to explain that as winter approaches electricity cuts are
going to be regular occurrences.
This week the MDC finally gave up their
prolonged diplomatic game and openly declared that the South Africans were
not honest brokers in mediating in the Zimbabwean crisis. They said that it
was now apparent that the South African stance of "Quiet Diplomacy" was in a
reality just a "package of lies and pretence." The statement of this sad
fact and an end to the nonsensical diplomatic pretence, comes as a relief to
Zimbabweans. We had watched with shock and disgust the line taken by the SABC
TV news presenter reporting from Zimbabwe during the election period and
few people believed they had remained impartial.
Zimbabweans feel so
utterly betrayed by our African neighbours and at least now the talk has
become straightforward and to the point. By all accounts there are probably
less than 20 or 30 000 white people left in Zimbabwe and it is matter of
continental shame that our regional neighbours cannot and will not see the
suffering of 11 million ordinary people but choose to keep on and on hiding
behind the now 25 year old "colonialist" scapegoat.
It is very hard to
be optimistic about anything at the moment but there is a joke doing the
rounds which is particularly appropriate as we hurtle backwards into the dark
ages. Using a stick, an old shoelace and a bent paper clip a hungry man
crafts a crude fishing rod and goes down to try his luck at the river.
Against all the odds he manages to catch a small fish and he hurries home to
his wife with the first meat they've seen for weeks. He asks his wife to
grill the fish immediately but she says she can't because they are having an
extended power cut. Then he suggests that she uses the paraffin stove instead
and poaches the fish but she can't do that either because there is no
paraffin in the country for the stove. The man goes off to collect firewood
and says now they can fry the fish but that is also impossible because there
is neither margarine nor cooking oil in the country. In despair, the hungry
man suggests they simply boil the fish but that too is impossible as there is
no water in the taps. Resigned to just smoking the fish on an open fire, the
hungry man bends to light the sticks but cannot even do that as the country
even ran out of matches this week. In disgust he gets up, grabs the fish and
takes it back to the river. The fish slides into the water and turns back to
wave a fin at the hungry man and says: "Well, you voted for
Until next week, with love, cathy. Copyright cathy buckle 23 April
Can anyone think of a good reason
for the Black Caps to go to Zimbabwe on tour this year? The only possible
answer is to help the growth of Zimbabwe cricket but that seems hopelessly
altruistic when lined up alongside the propaganda value to Robert Mugabe's
In our issue this week, former New Zealand cricket
internationals give their views on the to-go-or-not-to-go issue and most of
them mention the sportsman's dilemma of career vs morality. Some venture
into sport-used as-a-political-football territory but the plain fact is that
sport and politics have been inextricably linked since Julius Caesar offered
errant senators a guest spot at the Colosseum, starring alongside the lions.
Don't miss the start ...
The International Cricket Council have
instituted contracts and penalties that mean New Zealand Cricket could get a
bill for $2.7m if they pull out of the tour for reasons other than political
grounds and/or the safety and security of players.
Martin Snedden has already said the tour will not be cancelled on political
grounds by NZC. He reasons that it's up to the Government to decide on the
politics. Fair enough. Helen Clark says she wouldn't be seen dead in
Zimbabwe - but will not call the tour off as it is a decision for the sport.
Sports Minister Trevor Mallard says the government will not underwrite the
$2.7m fine if NZC call the tour off. Hmmm. Is anyone detecting a pattern
This buck is being passed faster than one of Brett Lee's
bouncers. It's all up to everyone else. And the biggest passer of the buck
may be the ICC, whose mandate is the growth of world cricket rather than a
small matter of human rights.
If anyone needs to see why we
shouldn't go to Zimbabwe to play cricket, they do not need to research back
over the past years of Mugabe's rule where he has rigged elections, driven
the economy into the ground, produced poverty, masked it with rhetoric and
pushed internal opposition underground by mental and physical
All they need to do is read the account of the two Sunday
Telegraph journalists who were recently jailed in Zimbabwe after they were
caught having a nosy at the elections on a tourist visa. Now this is a
familiar trick by Fleet Street. You go into an oppressive regime on a
tourist visa but you are really there to report.
You may recall
the Fleet Street woman who dressed as a Muslim and rode into Afghanistan on
a donkey and was caught and jailed, leaving her little daughter alone in
London. She then wrote a book about her terrible experiences (all of which
God help us, and thank God for the British
foreign service who seem particularly adept at helping nationals who get
into these self-aggrandising scrapes.
However, the two Sunday
Telegraph journalists painted an extraordinary picture of Zimbabwe. At the
election, they found Zanu PF (Mugabe's party) out in force, beating drums
and telling voters that the way they cast their votes would be discovered.
In jail, arrested for 'interfering with the election', they were processed
by an alarming man known to them as one of the veterans of Zimbabwe's war of
independence (30,000 lives lost). There were frightening tales of
mistreatment and interrogations.
The account is marked by a common
theme - a lack of regard for human rights and liberty that we take for
So what is a cricket tour of Zimbabwe to this? Mugabe is
also the patron of Zimbabwe cricket. However much the cricketers on such a
tour may protest and declare their non-support of the regime, their presence
serves to boost it.
So what do we do? Someone needs to take
responsibility. The ICC must wake up to the real world and take their $2.7m
and stick it where you can't fit a cricket ball. The Government - our
Government - needs to tell the NZC to call it off.
But in this
political game of buck-passing, none of those things are likely to happen.
It may end up back with Martin Snedden. He was a canny and brave cricketer.
He is also smart and no stranger to finding a solution to a vexing
I just hope someone has the cojones to call this thing
off. It doesn't even make sense from a sporting point of view as Zimbabwe
are pretty naff at cricket right now.
Even the argument that we
shouldn't leave them in Mugabe's clutches doesn't work. Isolation can have a
powerful effect on countries. Just ask South Africa.
Zim: Media may see 'tolerance' 23/04/2005 18:22 -
Harare - Zimbabwe's new information minister has indicated that
the government will take a more tolerant approach to domestic and foreign
media and consider protests at draconian controls imposed by his
predecessor, Professor Jonathan Moyo.
Tichaona Jokonya, appointed in
a cabinet reshuffle last week, had told editors "his ministry would work
toward inculcating a culture of trust between all media houses and the
government," the state controlled daily, The Herald, reported on
The Herald said Jokonya, a former ambassador to Ethiopia under
Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, "agreed there was need to exercise tolerance
in applying the law".
Moyo, who was expelled from the cabinet and
ruling party shortly before winning a parliamentary seat as an independent,
introduced the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which
imposes a two year prison term for practicing as a journalist or publishing
a newspaper without a government license. Three independent newspapers have
been banned since its 2002 passage and over 40 journalists arrested,
although none has been convicted.
deputy, Bright Matonga, was quoted by the Herald as telling editors: "The
ministry would not be restricting the foreign media from reporting on
Since 2002, six foreign correspondents have been expelled and
many news organizations refused permission to send
The Herald said that at a meeting with editors on
Friday, "although there was general consensus on some of the virtues of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the minister agreed to
consider some of the concerns the media had on the application of the
legislation, which regulates media operations in Zimbabwe."
at the meeting were the editors of three surviving privately owned weekly
newspapers as well as the large state-owned media outlet, which includes two
daily papers and the national radio and television broadcasting
A senior executive of one of the independent media houses,
speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jokonya's message had been that the
government would in future enforce the information act less ruthlessly and
would be more open to foreign reporters.
During May 31 voting for a
new parliament, two British journalists were detained near a polling station
about 40km west of the capital and held without bail for two weeks before
being deported. Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News,
On Thursday, the editor and a reporter for the privately
owned Sunday Standard were charged with "publishing a false statement
prejudicial to the government".
The Herald said Jokonya urged them
"not to vilify the land reform programme .... and tell the true Zimbabwean
"What we demand from you is loyalty to the State, not to me or any
other person, but the State," Jokonya said.
'He shouted against Mugabe' 23/04/2005 13:30 -
Harare - A Zimbabwean was arrested for shouting "abusive
words" against President Robert Mugabe, the Herald newspaper reported on
Thirty-two-year-old Clifford Ruhukwa was waiting at a bus stop
in Harare's satellite town of Chitungwiza on Monday, when he was allegedly
heard shouting words the newspaper said were "unprintable", referring to
Ruhukwa appeared in court on charges of denigrating the veteran
leader, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from British colonial
rule in 1980.
A magistrate ordered that he be remanded in custody to
May 10 when his trial is due to start.
"Prosecutor Tymon Tabana told
the court that while standing at a bus stop, Ruhukwa was heard shouting
unprintable abusive words against President Mugabe," the Herald
He was immediately arrested and taken to Chitungwiza police
station, the newspaper said.
Zimbabwe's strict Public Order and
Security Act makes it an offence to insult the head of state.
are regular reports of people being arrested for slandering Zimbabwe's
long-time president. Usually those found guilty receive light jail
sentences, fines or are ordered to do community service.