The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Mbeki set to meet Tsvangirai in SA

      by Cuthbert Nzou Thursday 21 August 2008

HARARE - President Thabo Mbeki is now expected to meet Zimbabwean main
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South Africa to find out if he was
ready to sign a power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe, diplomatic
sources told ZimOnline.

Mbeki had been expected to travel to Harare this week to try one more time
to push Mugabe, Tsvangirai and another opposition leader Arthur Mutambara to
agree a power-sharing pact after a summit of southern African leaders last
weekend failed to make the Zimbabwean rivals agree to form a government of
national unity.

"Tsvangirai is already in South Africa, ready to meet Mbeki," a diplomat
said. "They will meet most probably on Thursday. It is up to Tsvangirai to
inform Mbeki that his party has a new position and wants power-sharing talks
to continue."

Acting spokesman for Tsvangirai's MDC party, Tapiwa Mashakada confirmed that
his leader, who has been touring southern African countries, arrived in
South Africa on Wednesday.

"President Tsvangirai is now in South Africa on his diplomatic offensive,"
Mashakada said, but refused to be disclose more details on the MDC leader's

According to our sources, Mbeki was likely to come to Harare only if
Tsvangirai indicates that he was prepared to reconsider his opposition to
the proposed power-sharing deal on the table.

Tsvangirai has in the past two weeks refused to sign a unity government
agreement with Mugabe and Mutambara, insisting that he needed full executive
powers if he were to become prime minister. The MDC leader wants Mugabe to
be a ceremonial president.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Johannesburg
last weekend failed to convince Tsvangirai to agree to a power-sharing deal
without the full executive powers.

The summit however endorsed the Mbeki-brokered deal under which Mugabe would
remain executive president while Tsvangirai would be prime minister but
without power to hire or fire government ministers or to chair the Cabinet.

However the opposition leader, who defeated Mugabe in the March 29
presidential election but failed to secure the margin required to takeover
the presidency, would be deputy chair of the Cabinet under the proposed

Tsvangirai has since the SADC summit been visiting regional countries asking
leaders to lean on Mugabe to cede all executive powers to him.

His MDC party said on Wednesday that plans by Mugabe to open Parliament next
Tuesday could derail altogether the stalled power-sharing talks.

Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma told reporters the new parliament would
convene on Monday and Mugabe would officially open the House the following

"Any decision to convene parliament will be a clear repudiation of the
Memorandum of Understanding, and an indication beyond reasonable doubt of
ZANU PF's unwillingness to continue to be part of the talks. In short
convening Parliament decapitates the dialogue," MDC secretary general Tendai
Biti said in a statement.

A government of national unity is seen as the best way to end Zimbabwe's
crisis that is marked by the world's highest inflation of more than 11
million percent, severe shortages of food, jobs, foreign currency and
deepening poverty.

Western nations, whose financial aid is vital to any effort to revive
Zimbabwe's economy, have said they will support such a unity government only
if its executive head is Tsvangirai. - ZimOnline

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe: Counting cost of courage
by Women of Zimbabwe Arise Thursday 21 August 2008

REPORT: Counting the Cost of Courage: Trauma experiences of women human rights defenders in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a nation in crisis, a crisis that has been on going since at least the year 2000, but probably dating from 1997, with the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar, and the exacerbation of the socio-economic crisis.

The crisis began in the political sphere and has spread to the economy and all aspects of social interaction, as ill-conceived government policies have turned peoples’ lives upside down. The ability to earn a living is drastically curtailed, basic shelter is compromised by overcrowding or deliberate destruction of housing units by government, and schooling is no longer available to many children. Bare physical survival is at risk through lack of food supplies coupled with the collapse of services, including water, sanitation and health services.

Families are divided through the migration of breadwinners, and the whole of life has become a constant, debilitating struggle for the vast majority of Zimbabweans.

Any attempt by political or civic groups to press for alternative policies has been met with repression, effectively cutting off the possibility of working towards improvements in peoples’ lives. The ruling party has subverted all electoral processes since 2000, the legislative process, the law enforcement, and judicial processes in favour of its own perpetual rule, with any resistance met by force, both overt and clandestine, actual and threatened.

Despite electoral reform brokered as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediation process, before the peaceful March 2008 election, a wave of violence and retribution was unleashed on citizens even before the results were announced and continued up to, and beyond, the one-candidate run-off on June 27.

In the context of the desperate situation since 2000, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) has emerged as a leading rights group calling for change. It is a social justice movement engaged in nonviolent civic action to promote renewal in a politically repressive environment. They claim that their right to freedom of expression has been stifled by unconstitutional legislation, but they aim nevertheless to keep the voice of protest alive. The members demonstrate in the streets and distribute fliers and newsletters calling for government policies which honour the civil and political rights protected in the national constitution, and the economic and social rights guaranteed under international law. They have embraced a programme of peaceful civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. As is the fate of any other group mounting protests, the women have encountered harassment, brutality and imprisonment at the hands of state agents, who act in breach of their professional and legal obligations.  

A recent example of such treatment occurred on 28 May 2008 when 14 members were arrested in Harare during a peaceful procession. After 48 hours in police custody they were taken to court where the magistrate granted bail. 

The state appealed against that decision to the High Court and the group was remanded in custody for the appeal period. On 10 June, Judge Hlatshwayo allowed 12 of the accused to be released, but refused bail for two leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, saying it would be ‘childish’ to grant them bail prior to the presidential run-off. The state argued that these nonviolent human rights defenders would mobilise a Kenyan-style revolt before the 27 June election. They were eventually granted bail after 37 days in custody. This development shows a clear increase in repression of peace activists, which is a patent echo of the brutality that has been meted out to members of the political opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since March 2008.

Research on Rights Violations experienced by WOZA

In 2007 research was carried out to determine the nature and extent of violations perpetrated on WOZA members by state actors. It used a questionnaire administered verbally to more than 2,000 WOZA members by interviewers from among the WOZA membership. The major results have been detailed in a report released recently. They showed a high level of arrests, assaults, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, primarily by members of various sections of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

One section of the questionnaire sought to document traumatic experiences of WOZA women in order to understand the basis of possible psychological and emotional disorders arising from their civic activism – ‘counting the cost of their courage’. The results of this part of the research were not included in the main report, and are rather being presented separately here.

It should be noted that this research was carried out and completed before the wave of political violence following the 29 March 2008 election. The atrocities committed since April have drastically increased the levels of trauma experience by both activists and ordinary citizens. 

Trauma experiences

Two broad categories of trauma were explored in the research into violence against WOZA women. The first will be described as “displacement” experiences. This concept was developed first in relation to the psychological and emotional plight of refugees fleeing war zones. It details events such as loss of home, failing to access food and medical care, being lost, being caught up in fighting and similar experiences. While the subjects of this research in Zimbabwe are not refugees in the conventional sense and have not recently experienced war, most have suffered serious dislocation in their lives, both materially and socially, hence it is felt that the concept of displacement can be validly applied to them. There is, however, a sense in which Zimbabwe is like a war, a “complex emergency” which is how experts now term situations in which there is significant violence, severe economic decline, and the destruction of social capital. Recent events have only intensified displacement producing both internal and external refugees accompanied by a full-scale humanitarian crisis. 

The second source of trauma considered here is constituted by the abuses WOZA women have suffered at the hands of state agents, primarily the police, but historically also the army. These can be categorised under the rubric, “organised violence and torture” (OVT). They include events of torture per se as well as assaults, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, and verbal threats, insults and taunts.

While a large proportion of Zimbabweans are victims of the displacement type of trauma events, WOZA women who are the subject of this research have experienced OVT events as well. The section on trauma in the questionnaire sought to quantify all those experiences. The detailed descriptions of the kinds of trauma events reported are given in Appendices 3 and 4. 

From the questionnaire it is not possible to determine the degree of behavioural or emotional symptoms resulting from the accumulated traumas, but the frequency of trauma reported in this study suggests that there could well be psychological effects. There is abundant evidence from studies of the effect of traumatic events on populations caught up in war or civil conflict that both displacement and OVT types of trauma-inducing experiences can lead to mental health problems, sometimes amounting to severe psychological disorders.  

Zimbabwe’s History of Mass Trauma – 1960s to 2000s

Zimbabwe’s colonial history (1890-1980) saw conquest, forced labour recruitment, and forced evictions from ancestral lands, all of which constituted collective mass trauma experiences. But here the concentration is on the past 50 years, events within the collective memory of WOZA members.

The history of Zimbabwe over the past half-century reveals several periods in which mass trauma has occurred:

· The Liberation War of the 1970s;

· The ‘Gukurahundi’ period of the 1980s;

· The ‘Food Riots’ of 1998;

· The violence since 2000, mainly, but not exclusively, associated with elections in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2008;

· Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.8

In each case there were both displacement and OVT sources of trauma, in varying proportions. During the 1970s Liberation War and the Gukurahundi period, there are at least some of the features of war. They were definitely present in the 1970s, where there are at least two opposing armies and a civilian population caught in the middle.

It is to some extent the same for the Gukurahundi period, although the violence was not national and it involved very small numbers of opponents on the one side. Torture was a key component of violence experienced by civilians in both the 1970s and during Gukurahundi, as they were caught in the middle ground between opposing forces and became victims of violence from both sides.

From 1987 onwards it is abundantly clear that no party or group has offered a military threat to ZANU PF, or even a threat of violence. Thus, in contrast to previous periods, the data show a wholly one-sided pattern of violence, with state agents, government supporters, and even militia being the major perpetrators. Their aim has been not to fight an armed insurrection, but to quell non-violent political and civic activity. Nevertheless, torture has remained a major component of this violence.

Both displacement events and organised violence and torture have been frequently experienced by Zimbabweans in all the past four decades, although less so in the 1990s. The current period, from 2000 onwards, is clearly a phase of epidemic torture and organised violence in a variety of forms, as well as a period of experiences similar to the displacement of refugees in a war situation.

The WOZA research 

The 2007 survey of WOZA members included a section on trauma experienced pre-Independence (before 1980), post-Independence (1980-1999), and since 2000. While the younger women were either born post-Independence or were too young to have memories of the pre-Independence period, women over 35 (58.8% of the respondents) could be expected to have some recollections of each period. 

The data relating to trauma was based on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire [HTQ]. It was altered slightly from previous uses in Zimbabwe in order to include an historical element, so that there might be a long-range understanding of the women’s experience of trauma throughout their adult lives.

Interviewees were asked to indicate trauma events in two forms: those they have experienced themselves, and those they witnessed being experienced by others. They were asked to record these events for three periods: pre-Independence, 1980-1999, and for each year since 1999. 

A number of different measures were taken from the data as follows:

· Total Harvard Trauma Questionnaire score: this records the total number of all Experienced and Witnessed items, for all years [HTQ Total];

· Total Harvard Trauma Questionnaire [Experienced] score: the total of all Experienced items, for all years 2000 - 2007 [HTQ Experienced];

· Total Harvard Trauma Questionnaire [Witnessed] score: the total of all Witnessed items, all years 2000 - 2007 [HTQ Witnessed].

The items in the questionnaire were then separated into those representing displacement and those representing organised violence and torture, and two more measures were isolated:

· Score for Organised Violence and Torture [OVT] items, by year [HTQ OVT];

· Score for Displacement items, by year [HTQ Displaced].

The same measures were then taken for two historical periods, pre-Independence and 1980-1999.


The results are reported here in two sections. The first deals with historical trauma, which covers the pre-Independence era before 1980, and the post-Independence era from 1980 to 1999. The second section deals with the current trauma, from 2000 to 2007.

Historical trauma

Of the 1,983 women interviewed, 1,505 filled in the historical section of the trauma questionnaire. Those who did not would have been either too young to remember or not yet born in the early years. As indicated above, this covered both the pre-Independence period and the Gukurahundi era. Figures from Matabeleland were looked at separately to ascertain the levels of trauma during Gukurahundi.

The two time periods [pre-1980 and 1980-1999] were negatively correlated [p=-0.09], meaning that the probability of a violation in one period is not related to the probability in the next, but there was a marked and statistically significant increase in the number of trauma types reported in the 1980-1999 period compared to the pre-Independence period. This shows that, for the WOZA women, post-Independence carried greater risks than the pre-Independence era. While the average number of trauma events experienced and witnessed by each respondent before 1980 was 2.9, the average for the first two decades of independence was 5.8.

Table 1: Trauma totals: pre-1980 & 1980-1999 1979 1980-1999

Mean 2.9 5.8

Standard Deviation 5.3 5.6

The difference between the two periods applied for every measure taken of the trauma, as can be seen from the table below, and the differences were strongly statistically significant. Considering that the 1970s were a decade of open armed liberation struggle, this seems improbable until one remembers that WOZA began in Bulawayo, that many of its members come from the Matabeleland provinces, and many were affected by the Gukurahundi violations.

Table 2: Comparison of trauma types: pre-Independence [1980] & post-Independence [1980-1999]











Pre-Independence 2.9 1.5 1.5 0.3 0.5

Post-Independence 5.8* 2.6* 3.3* 0.4* 1.4*


When the breakdown of the types of trauma is examined, virtually every type of trauma, deriving from both displacement and from OVT, was reported more frequently in the post-Independence era. The increases were very dramatic in the case of some types of trauma, especially food deprivation and beatings. 

As can be seen from Table 3, and in line with the comments above, the Matabeleland sample reported significantly more trauma than the Mashonaland sample for both the pre-Independence and Gukurahundi eras. This might have been an artefact of the age structure of the two groups, since the Matabeleland sample was slightly older than the Mashonaland sample. However, it is essential to note that the Matabeleland sample includes a large group of rural women who were subject to a multitude of trauma-inducing events during the Gukurahundi violence. Even the urban women of Matabeleland have rural origins, some of them having moved permanently to Bulawayo during Gukurahundi, hence the abuses of that period will also be reflected in the Bulawayo data.

Table 3: Comparison of trauma between provinces: pre-1980 & 1980-1999

Mashonaland Matabeleland

Pre-1980 [Experienced] 1.11 1.59*

Pre-1980 [Witnessed] 1.11 1.59*

Pre-1980 [OVT] 0.22 0.33*

Pre-1980 [Displaced] 0.43 0.53

1980-1999 [Experienced] 2.26 2.7*

1980-1999 [Witnessed] 2.45 3.55*

1980-1999 [OVT] 0.3 0.46*

1980-1999 [Displaced] 1.36 1.37


Given the possibility that the differences might result from a large number of older women forming the Matabeleland sample, the effects of age were examined for the women throughout the country, by comparing trauma witnessed and experienced pre-1980 and 1980-1999 in those under-35 and those over-35 years.

Unsurprisingly, the older women everywhere reported more trauma compared to the younger women, so it seems unlikely that the differences seen between the two groups were due to age alone. 

When the age difference was examined for Matabeleland only, which was done mainly to get an idea of the trauma experienced during the Gukurahundi years, the trends seen above remained the same, with older women reporting more trauma generally [see Table 4 below]. It is again also evident that the frequency of trauma increased during the two post-Independence decades, and this was due to the increase in trauma events that would be associated with the Gukurahundi, such as deprivation of food, imprisonment, rape, severe beatings, and torture [see Appendix 2].13 

Table 4: Comparison of trauma [Matabeleland only]: under 35 & over 35 years

Under 35 yrs Over 35 yrs

Pre-1980 [Experienced] 0.51 1.95*

Pre-1980 [Witnessed] 0.53 1.95*

Pre-1980 [OVT] 0.12 0.41*

Pre-1980 [Displaced] 0.17 0.66*

1980-1999 [Experienced] 2.19 2.87*

1980-1999 [Witnessed] 3.02 3.73**

1980-1999 [OVT] 0.22 0.55*

1980-1999 [Displaced] 1.41 1.36

*p=0.0001; **p=0.01

The major conclusion to be drawn from the historical data is that experience of trauma existed in terms of both displacement and organised violence and torture. The post-Independence years were more traumatic than the pre-Independence decades, with older women reporting more experience of trauma countrywide, and women in Matabeleland reporting significantly higher levels of trauma than those elsewhere.

Trauma (2000-2007)

The sample here was larger, with a total of 1,972; 11 people either did not experience any trauma or the interviewer omitted to fill in the relevant section. 

Overall, a high number of trauma events were reported on average, with enormous variation over the sample, and some persons reporting as many as 30 trauma items over the past eight years. The number of events experienced, both of a displacement nature and of OVT, was calculated for each respondent, and an average of the totals worked out. This produced the results in the table below, with an average of 8.8 trauma events experienced, and 7.9 witnessed. And it must be remembered that this can only indicate the types of events for each year, not the number of similar events. For example, if a person recorded beating in the year 2002, but was beaten three times that year, this has not been captured, and it will only show up as a single trauma event. 

Table 5: Trauma Questionnaire scores [means & standard deviation]

There is also a steady increase in the number of trauma items reported over the years, as can be seen from the figure below. 

Figure 1

Comparison of trauma scores: 2000 to 2007











2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Year Mean score






Trauma scale Number [n=1972]

No. of trauma events Experienced 8.8 [6.4]

No. of trauma events Witnessed 7.9 [10.4]

Total no. of trauma events 16.7 [13.9]

There are number of observations to be made here.

Firstly, there are clear increases for the election years 2000 and 2002, and dips prior and subsequent to these years. However, there is a very steady and marked increase in the number of trauma events reported from 2005 onwards. This corresponds more or less exactly to the data reported by Zimbabwean human rights groups, such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. All reports from Zimbabwe human rights groups show the same trends: human rights violations (and hence trauma) increase during elections, and all violations have been increasing since 2005, which saw the beginning of Murambatsvina, the effects of which continue to be felt. In common with the Human Rights Forum, the WOZA sample reports 2007 as the worst year since 2000. However, since this data was collected, it is evident from the reports of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum that the violence has worsened significantly in 2008, and, in particular, the violence since the March 2008 election has been extreme.

Table 6: Trauma scores by year 2000-2007

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

HTQ [Total] 1.1 0.7 2.1 1.4 1.4 2.7 3.3 4.01

HTQ [Experienced] 0.6 0.4 1.1 0.8 0.8 1.4 1.8 2.1

HTQ [Witnessed] 0.5 0.4 1 0.6 0.64 1.3 1.4 1.96

HTQ [OVT] 0.1 0.03 0.11 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.5 0.4

HTQ [Displace] 0.4 0.3 0.7 0.5 0.54 0.97 1.04 1.3

Secondly, looking at the table above, it can be seen that the average frequency for Experienced items exceeds that for Witnessed items. Although this is not statistically significant, interestingly this is the case for every single year since 2000. This seems counter-intuitive – that people should experience more trauma than they witness – but it must be remembered that the WOZA women are activists, and have been engaged in protesting the terrible conditions that they and their families have been experiencing since 2003. Given the repressive attitudes of the state and state agents to dissent and disagreement, it is predictable that the actions of the WOZA women would lead to them directly facing possible trauma, and the data bears this out.

Thirdly, Displacement items are more frequent than OVT items for all years. The comment here is that the Displacement score does not only reflect actual displacement but also the increasing economic hardship faced by these women. Lack of food, lack of shelter – especially after Operation Murambatsvina – and lack of access to medical care have become common features of Zimbabwean life in the last few years, and particularly for working and sub-working class families, which are the social groups from which WOZA draws the major portion of its membership.

There was also a significant correlation between the total number of human rights violations reported and the number of trauma events Experienced [0.37; p=0.005]. The actual violations reported by the sample correlated strongly with the measure of OVT from the HTQ [imprisonment, rape, kidnapping, severe beatings, torture, and sexual abuse] but not at all with the measure of Displacement. This is perhaps unremarkable and to be expected, but it does give considerable confidence in the data that different measures of the same events correlate strongly.

Average number of trauma events reported between 2000 & 2007: comparison between Mashonaland & Matabeleland

It was observed under the section on historical trauma that the sample from Matabeleland consistently reported greater numbers of trauma events both pre- and post-Independence, and, to some extent, this observation still applies for the period since 2000. However, as can be seen from the figure above, this pattern only holds until 2007, when the Mashonaland sample reports markedly more trauma events than the Matabeleland sample. This finding accords with the reports of human rights groups that 2007 has been the worst year since 2000 for human rights violations, the majority of which have been reported in the northern half of the country. It is also evident that the general trend for violations to increase during election years is seen for both groups.

One of the reasons for studying trauma experiences is to be in a position to determine the psychological effects and devise appropriate treatment if it is required. This research did not directly measure psychological disorder, but used an indirect measure, the overall score on the HTQ of the last year, 2007.  Research carried out in Zimbabwe, by ActionAid, in the aftermath of Murambatsvina indicated that psychological disorder among a random sample of victims, as measured by a psychological screening instrument, the SRQ-8,19 correlated with scores on the HTQ of 3 or more. Using this as a measure on the HTQ in the present study, it was found that 1,051 [53%] women in the sample had scores on the HTQ of 3 or more, and hence indicative of psychological disorder. This is not as high as that found in the ActionAid survey, where 69% of the sample drawn from Bulawayo, Harare, and Mutare were suffering from psychological disorder, but is nonetheless much higher than estimates from the general population.

Effects of Trauma

Research into the effects of trauma experiences in many other countries has shown that they frequently result in psychological disturbance and disorder. Many studies demonstrate high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and other disorders as a consequence of OVT. For example, a multi-country study of the relationship between life events, such as torture, and PTSD showed very high rates of PTSD in all four countries surveyed: the prevalence rate of assessed PTSD was 37% in Algeria, 28% in Cambodia, 16% in Ethiopia, and 18% in Gaza. Conflict-related trauma after age 12 years was the only risk factor for PTSD that was present in all four samples, whilst torture was a risk factor in all samples except Cambodia. A longitudinal study of Bosnian refugees showed similar high rates of disorder. 

As noted previously, this survey did not directly measure the degree or nature of psychological disturbance resulting from trauma among the WOZA women. This awaits further research. Nevertheless, considering the level of trauma recorded and the psychological effects observed in victims in other situations, it could be expected that such effects would be discovered if an attempt to document them was made. Furthermore, trauma research suggests that repeated exposure to trauma has a cumulative effect, making the victim more likely to suffer from a psychological disorder. Zimbabwean women, with their history of repeated trauma through recent history are then candidates for clinical psychological symptoms resulting from repeated trauma of various types.

WOZA women have received very little counselling to help them deal with their trauma. Some group healing sessions with professional counsellors were organised, but remarkably, the women seemed more concerned to discuss their ‘displacement’ issues than their experiences of OVT, which they said they expected in any case and they had recovered from. Of course, this does not mean that they do not have any trauma-related disorders, but they themselves do not perceive them, and their observed behaviour does not indicate them either. It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for this, in the absence of any scientific data.  

Possibly the torture episodes were not as serious as those inflicted on some other activists. WOZA women have been threatened with dire consequences of their actions, but none have been subjected to prolonged physical or even mental torture such as electric shocks or lengthy detention. Most have been released from police custody within a few days of arrest. However, the threat and possibility of such harsh treatment is always present, and many women struggle to overcome fear in order to participate in actions.

Another possible explanation for the lack of trauma symptoms could be the preparedness of the women for mistreatment. There is some indication from other studies that an individual’s or a community’s response to trauma, and the psychological damage it produces, is strongly influenced by the person’s mental preparedness. 

One study from Zimbabwe is Richard Werbner’s Tears of the Dead. Werbner is an anthropologist, not a psychologist, but his study of a community in rural Matabeleland showed a marked difference between the way people responded to organized violence and torture during the liberation war and during Gukurahundi. During the war they knew what they were fighting for, and there appeared to be a meaning for sacrifices and suffering; but during Gukurahundi, the violence seemed to target virtually everyone and the reason for it was not at all clear.

The trauma experienced in the 1980s was much more damaging to individuals and to the community than that experienced during the 70s. Studies from other parts of the world seem to draw similar conclusions.

It is also a fact that WOZA women are specifically prepared to expect violence, and are trained on how to respond. 

Thus, they know that when they demonstrate in the streets they are likely to be arrested and may well be beaten and tortured. They never know exactly what to expect, but they go into action in a state of mental preparedness.

They understand why they are carrying out their actions and are committed to the ideals for which they take a stand. If there are arrests and/or injuries, there is always a back-up team that goes into action to bring lawyers, food, medicines, to arrange for medical examination and treatment, and to give the emotional support that might be needed at the time. In police custody the women support each other. If it appears that only one is being arrested, others will hand themselves in as a solidarity gesture. Thus a network of caring and support sustains and builds the strength of the women as a group.  Furthermore, after each action, de-briefings are held. Those in the action meet to review what happened, success and failures, including their feelings about their action. Were they proud of themselves, were they very afraid, how did they get through it? What could be done differently next time? Mistakes are analysed. These processes may well have an “immunising” effect for the WOZA women.

Evidence from studies in Bosnia suggests that experience of torture may produce feelings of hatred and desire for revenge, all of which can retard healing. WOZA women learn to treat the police officers that mistreat them as human beings who also have feelings. They take it as a challenge to try to win respect from the police officers, and to help them to also understand the reasons for their protests. For example, on one Valentine’s Day, a police officer in charge of detaining over a hundred women was happy to receive a WOZA red rose to give to his wife. 

Others, especially female officers, whisper support for the women and encourage them to continue to be brave. 

All of this, which creates an understanding and a belief that the suffering is worthwhile, has made WOZA women strong and prepared and thus probably less likely to suffer the normal consequences of torture and mistreatment.

No one could claim that no WOZA women have feelings of hatred for and desire to revenge against their tormentors, but the group ethos and solidarity helps to reduce this. It is probable that the network of understanding, support and preparedness created by WOZA among its membership enables them to cope more effectively psychologically with the kinds of treatment that they have experienced. 


Collective trauma usually occurs among civilian populations caught up in war and civil disturbance. Currently these conditions are referred to as complex emergencies. Zimbabwe has clearly experienced a number of complex emergencies over the past few decades, and certainly both the Liberation War of the 1970s and the Gukurahundi of the 1980s would conform to the definition of a complex emergency. It can be debated whether the period since 2000 would be classified as a complex emergency, as there were no obvious signs of war, but it is indisputable that there has been severe economic disruption, destruction of social capital, and widespread human rights violations, with significant violence, although not large numbers of deaths. However the escalation of levels of violence, torture, deliberate maiming and physical elimination of political opponents since March 2008 has brought Zimbabwe to a state of virtual undeclared war and a political and humanitarian emergency of complex proportions.

As is the case in most complex emergencies, women and their families are generally the most common victims, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Many women of all ages have been brutalised, raped, tortured, and even killed for their political activities and of those of their male family members. As children are normally in the presence of their mothers, they been equally victimised. Most often such victims demonstrate psychological effects of their experience and witnessing of traumatic events. 

The women of WOZA, like most Zimbabweans, are victims of displacement types of trauma events. These were experienced as far back as the 1970s by some WOZA members, but have accelerated over the post-Independence years. Some of the women also experienced OVT trauma-inducing events after 2000 before WOZA was formed in 2003. Since then, they have for five years attempted to bring the attention of the state and the international community to the parlous position in which Zimbabwean women have found themselves. Their protests have not met with the concern of the state, but have rather been met with repression and gross human rights violations.

These are additional events of the sort that would normally induce further trauma. It is for this reason that WOZA has sought to systematically document their treatment.

From the analysis of the responses to the research questionnaire, the following conclusions have been able to be drawn:

· The members of WOZA have experienced trauma over all the past three decades, as well as before Independence in 1980.

· The kinds of trauma are not confined to those most documented by human rights groups, and include a whole range of events that reflect the destruction of the social fabric of society. These have been classified as displacement type events and organised violence and torture (OVT).

· The frequency of trauma of all kinds has been steadily increasing. An average of 2.9 events per respondent for the pre-Independence period doubled to 5.8 in the two post-Independence decades, and then tripled to 16.7 in the period 2000 to 2007.   

· A number of differences between different time periods and places emerged. Women from Matabeleland reported higher rates of trauma in all three decades and it was evident that Gukurahundi had significant effects during the 1980s.

· While specific measures of the consequences of the trauma for these women could not be made, it was estimated that over 50% of the sample are at risk of developing significant psychological disorders. The effects may not be experienced immediately – there is little time for the women to focus on their inner worlds with all the many problems they solve daily – but it is probable that the sequential trauma they have suffered will in the future affect them more directly.  

· It is also probable that the psychological effects of their trauma may well be lessened due to their understanding of the reason for their suffering and their preparedness to make a sacrifice for the future of their families and their nation. Their commitment and dedication to a cause that they believe in makes them stronger than the person who becomes a victim of random violence without any understanding. Scientific evidence of this assumption relating to WOZA women awaits further systematic research.

The level of deliberate displacement and OVT in Zimbabwe suggests a large number of perpetrators of these abuses. But very little attention has been given to the effect of OVT in particular on these perpetrators of violence. This is not surprising for a variety of reasons, but experience world-wide shows that the perpetrators themselves frequently develop psychological disturbances as a result of the guilt and shame that they feel.

Anecdotal information describes soldiers who perpetrated massacres and torture during Gukurahundi seeking out their victims’ families in order, in the traditional parlance to “cleanse” themselves, thus curing distressing symptoms of psychological disorders. When considering the need to deal with Zimbabweans’ traumatic experiences of the past 40 years, it will be necessary not to forget the need for healing of the perpetrators as well as the victims.

It would appear that this trend has not continued through 2008 in view of election violence in rural areas across the country.

The state has a responsibility to protect, as was pointed out by the UN Special Envoy in 2005,33 and the Zimbabwean state has not only failed to protect but also rather inflicted harm on citizens exercising their constitutional rights. It has turned young men and women into torturers who themselves may become tormented. At what point will a Zimbabwean government confront the legacy of trauma and look to begin a healing process? This must be an important consideration in determining what form of authority emerges from

the current SADC mediation process.


Trauma resulting from displacement can only be rectified over the medium to long term by a government that cares for its citizen’s socio-economic needs. In regard to organized violence and torture, we feel that there are specific recommendations that need to be made to deal with the consequences and ensure that it stops and does not start again.

The ZANU PF government, in common with some other African governments, has seemed oblivious to the destructive impact of widespread use of violence as a political tool of control and repression. While it may have achieved its immediate goal of stifling dissent for some years, it has surely had seriously deleterious long-term effects on both the victims and the perpetrators. However this research on WOZA women was not intended to show long-term effects of traumatic experiences because the time lapse was too short.  

In order to deal with the problem of the prevalence of OVT as a common feature of our society, we recommend the following:

· Stop the political violence; disband militia camps in all areas of the country. Any political violence must be reported, investigated and prosecuted through the courts without any form of favour or political influence.

· Intensive research should be undertaken into the effects of OVT on Zimbabweans, both as victims and as perpetrators.

· A centre be established within Zimbabwe to carry out research, training and treatment related to victims and perpetrators of violence.

· A needs assessment be conducted regarding what treatment is needed to heal both victims and perpetrators.

· Research should be conducted and disseminated on the most effective ways for non-violent protestors to prepare themselves to lessen the traumatic effects of torture and other forms of violence.

· All government law enforcement agents be trained specifically on their international responsibilities regarding OVT and be required to make specific commitments not to follow orders which require them to contravene this commitment; an international rescue programme could be established to assist any who lose employment as a result of adhering to this commitment.

· All members of the government, defence forces and party institutions who are identified as perpetrators be required to appear before a forum where they admit their crimes; the more senior officers identified as giving orders should be prosecuted.

· Joint sessions of victims and perpetrators should be held to aid the healing process on both sides.

· Government should immediately lift the current ban on organisations providing humanitarian assistance and also allow a United Nations team to address the humanitarian crisis and widespread hunger without political interference.

· A transitional authority should form a body to consult and develop a transitional justice plan of action designed to bring healing and reconciliation and then deal with justice and restitution for victims in the new Zimbabwe.

The type of evil that has become an integral part of government behaviour in Zimbabwe must be eradicated and the mindset of power hunger and disrespect for other human beings overcome. It can only happen through the actions of a government with a strong will to correct wrongs and ensure that the rights of all Zimbabweans be respected. We therefore believe that the most appropriate government to replace the current illegitimate incumbent would be a non-political transitional authority whose members have as a priority transitional process of healing, transforming and rebuilding.  Such an authority will have the capacity and neutrality necessary to dismantle the structures of violence and oppression. 

Nonetheless, whatever format the new political dispensation in Zimbabwe takes, it will need to embark on an official programme of acknowledgement of injustices. Economic recovery and democratic reform, whilst imperative, can only go so far in restoring the dignity of people. We believe that for dignity to be fully restored a new administration needs to assist individual survivors to rebuild their broken lives whilst ensuring that ‘liveable peace’ is achieved. It is the only way Zimbabweans can bury the ghosts of their past and move forward into a more secure future.

Appendix 1:

Comparison of Experienced and Witnessed Trauma: pre-1980 & 1980-1999.

 1979 1979 1980-1999 1980-1999

 Experienced Witnessed Experienced Witnessed

Food (lack of) 14% 4% 66% 21%

Medical (inaccessible) 9% 6% 24% 17%

Shelter (lack of) 6% 5% 12% 16%

Prison 3% 6% 5% 12%

Injury 6% 11% 7% 24%

Combat 9% 6% 11% 13%

Rape 2% 7% 2% 2%

Isolated 1% 3% 2% 5%

Close to death 9% 6% 12% 17%

Separation 6% 5% 5% 10%

Kidnapped 3% 7% 3% 15%

Beating 10% 13% 13% 28%

Torture 11% 9% 15% 19%

Scary situation 17% 7% 26% 16%

Property destruction 11% 7% 11% 16%

Sexual abuse 2% 5% 3% 7%

Dependency 11% 5% 25% 11%

Appendix 2:

Comparison of pre-Independence and post-Independence trauma for Matabeleland sample only.

1979 1979 1980-1999 1980-1999

Experienced Witnessed Experienced Witnessed

Food (lack of) 17% 6% 64% 24%

Medical (inaccessible) 10% 7% 23% 20%

Shelter (lack of) 6% 6% 13% 17%

Prison 2% 6% 4% 12%

Injury 7% 15% 8% 26%

Combat 9% 6% 9% 13%

Rape 3% 10% 3% 12%

Isolated 1% 3% 2% 5%

Close to death 11% 7% 16% 19%

Separation 8% 6% 6% 11%

Kidnapped 3% 10% 4% 20%

Beating 14% 17% 17% 33%

Torture 13% 11% 17% 22%

Scary situation 22% 8% 31% 19%

Property destruction 15% 9% 14% 18%

Sexual abuse 3% 6% 5% 8%

Dependency 12% 7% 23% 11%

Appendix 3:

Experienced items by year [2000 to 2007]: percentage reporting each item.

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Food 23.5 17.2 50.4 30.5 30.4 48.1 46.6 59.5

Medical 6.5 6.3 8.9 10.1 12.6 17.5 27.3 26.7

Shelter 2.5 1.9 3.1 2.6 4.4 12.4 7.9 7.9

Prison 1.1 1.02 2.5 3.5 3.9 10.1 24.2 14.6

Injury 0.9 0.4 2.3 1.6 1.3 2.4 4.2 3.6

Combat 3.5 1.4 7.01 4.5 3.4 5.9 9.8 11.3

Rape 0 0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.3

Isolated 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.9 0.44 0.7 1.9 1.7

Close to death 1.1 0.5 3.1 1.7 0.7 1.9 3.3 3.4

Separation 0.3 0.1 0.5 0.22 0.5 0.4 0.5 1.6

Kidnapped 0.5 0.2 0.8 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.7 1.3

Beating 1.3 0.2 2.6 1.5 1.4 4.01 7.7 5.6

Torture 3.6 1.2 5.1 3.9 2.9 5.9 13.4 14.1

Scary situation 3.9 2.1 10.1 4.2 3.8 7.4 9.8 16.4

Property destruction 1.2 0.4 2.1 1.3 1.2 5.9 2.2 1.5

Sexual abuse 0.22 0.5 0 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.5

Dependency 2.9 1.9 6.7 6.1 5.7 13.2 19.9 30.6

Appendix 4:

Witnessed items by year [2000 to 2007]: percentage reporting each item.

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

Food 9.6 7.9 18.5 10.3 10.9 18.8 15.03 19.2

Medical 4.7 5.2 6.5 7.7 9.9 15.1 19.4 18.4

Shelter 4.6 3.2 5.03 5.2 8.8 26.9 15.1 15.9

Prison 1.7 1.6 4.1 3.5 3.4 7.7 12.6 14.6

Injury 3.4 2.1 6.8 3.9 3.2 6.3 10.7 13.5

Combat 2.5 1.2 5.1 2.1 2.1 4.4 6.8 10

Rape 1.1 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.7 1.02 1.4 1.1

Isolated 0.6 0.5 1.2 1.2 1.3 2.2 3.7 7.1

Close to death 1.8 1.3 5.5 2.1 1.6 2.8 6.6 8.2

Separation 1.9 1.6 5.1 2.1 2.8 2.7 3.8 6.9

Kidnapped 1.4 0.6 2.8 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.9 5.3

Beating 4.3 3.1 9.8 4.7 3.1 6.9 11.3 15.7

Torture 4.01 2.3 7.4 4.2 3.3 5.8 7.9 11.1

Scary situation 2.7 1.4 4.3 2.2 1.7 3.9 4.7 8.9

Property destruction 1.5 0.8 2.03 1.4 1.7 10.8 4.3 4.8

Dependency 1.4 1.2 2.8 2.6 2.4 5.7 7.3 10.3 – ZimOnline

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Farewell my beautiful Zimbabwe: how paradise turned to poverty

Last year, Justine Shaw was forced to flee her beloved Zimbabwe. Like millions of others, she had suffered years of threats, poverty and intimidation at the hands of Robert Mugabe's men. Here, she recounts how paradise turned to poverty – and her fears for the elderly parents she left behind

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Black Power Farm is now used as a headquarters for the war veterans in the area

AFP/Getty Images

Black Power Farm is now used as a headquarters for the war veterans in the area

The cursor hovers over the "send and receive" icon and I hesitate before pressing enter. I haven't heard from my parents for a week. Although I know the telephone line had been faulty, I desperately hope that it has been fixed – however temporarily – simply so they can reassure me they're OK.

I have three new emails. The first informs that I have enough FlyBuys points to purchase free electronic products online. It has been 19 months since my husband, two children and I settled in Australia, and yet, I'm still amazed by the giveaways, promotions, sales and bonus offers.

The second email is deleted immediately. It's advising me to resend it to seven friends within 10 minutes or be cursed with years of hardship. It's already disappeared, but suddenly I feel superstitious. I'm a Zimbabwean. For years I've binned emails like this. Perhaps all my fellow countrymen did the same? It certainly seems that nothing but misfortune and bad luck have shrouded our beautiful country for more than a decade.

The third message is the one I've been waiting for. I'm relieved and happy, eager to hear my parents' news. I still retain a desperate longing to keep up to date with the dismal state of affairs unfolding at home. The recent flawed election process has once again propelled Zimbabwe into the news and my appetite for information about the situation is insatiable.

My parents, left in the capital, Harare, form part of a population subjected to unabated, deplorable actions sanctioned by their government. In five months' time, I can initiate an application for a visa that will hopefully give them the opportunity to begin a new life with us here in Australia. Whenever I hear from them, left behind there, I feel a terrible sense of guilt, and find myself wondering.... Could I have made a difference had I stayed?

I can't help but feel I have let them – and Zimbabwe – down, choosing to slip through the gap in the fence and run away from the chaos.

When I look at my children, Karly-Emma and Kieran, now seven and six respectively, I see how they have grown in just 19 months. How different they are from the shy, apprehensive, withdrawn immigrants that arrived in Australia. They have become outgoing, confident characters, focused on the business of growing up without being ground down by the transference of our worries, fears, insecurities and stresses. We took them away because we were fortunate enough to be able to move. We took them away because we wanted them to have a normal life, one where their father didn't carry a gun and they weren't afraid of walking out of the front gate.

We have started life again. However, I cannot let go. I am constantly revisiting the place, a cauldron of 33 years' worth of memories – delightful, happy, exhilarating times and ones that still seem so unbelievably tragic that it often seems surreal that I was once a part of them. A piece of me remains in Zimbabwe with my parents. A piece is still trying to comprehend how they lost their farm four years ago and how we lived through and recovered from an armed robbery five years ago.

I regularly ponder how it became possible for one man and his handful of ruthless, greedy colleagues to so carefully orchestrate such devastation and reduce a once thriving country to a desperate, starving nation crying out for salvation.

Of course, we are the fortunate ones to have the choice of starting again. So many thousands have no option but to remain in the country and I can only admire their resilience, their determination and their will to survive this continuing holocaust of suppression, food deprivation and brutality.

I turn back to the email, typed by my unshaven, unwashed father and my mother who is "hanging on with very shredded fingernails".

When they left the farm in 2004 – a household run on borehole water, with ageing power cables and serviced by an erratic party telephone line, 40 kilometres away from the nearest town, they should have been leaving erratic services behind. Their suburban rental in Harare should, by all accounts, have had more efficient services; council water, reliable electricity and a telephone line not shared by neighbouring farms. I continue to read their news.

They have only had municipal water once in two months, and that was only for 12 hours. During this time, they managed to top up the swimming pool – water from which they use for filling up the toilets and doing the laundry. Buckets of cold water are carried from the pool into the shower to wash. It is like a black comedy and I manage a small smile as my mother describes herself "bottoms up and bent over a bucket" in the shower, dousing herself with cold, chlorinated water in an effort to keep herself clean.

They have a quarter of a loaf of frozen bread which they've preserved in the freezer by running the generator for an hour each day. My mother is an artist, but she's now been forced to supplement their income (to cover rent and the spiralling cost of living) by teaching. After work, she begins her search – scouting from shop to shop looking for grossly expensive commodities to ensure they have food for the week. Supermarket shelves are generally empty and street vendors haunt the pavements, selling anything from eggs to cooking oil at extortionate prices that increase daily. Most of their groceries are sourced from various "contacts" that have various "contacts".

The power cuts are frequent, haphazard and unannounced, so they are unable to plan activities around them. They cannot run the generator for too long as there is still the ever present prospect of fuel shortages. Their rent has just gone up 6,250 per cent.

They spend days queuing at banks and building societies with scores of other Zimbabweans, resigned to hours of idleness as they wait to withdraw vast sums of money that will only enable them to buy a loaf of bread or a tin of baked beans. There is an automatic 50 per cent price increase if you pay by cheque, simply because this is the amount the currency will have devalued by the time the cheque is cleared.

My mother has just become used to performing mathematics in the trillions and will now have to reprogram her arithmetic. To date, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has dropped 13 zeroes off the currency, although this does little to lift my parents' spirits. They sign off the email with assurances that they are coping, that they are safe and send much love to their grandchildren.

I stare at the screen and glance across the words, trying to convince myself that the most important thing is that they are fine and that as long as they can battle on until the end of the year, when they will qualify for a migrating parent visa, they have more than many other Zimbabweans can hope for. However, I find myself banging my fists on the computer table with tears in my eyes, screaming, "It isn't fair."

My parents have lost almost everything and instead of arriving at a point where their lifetime of hard work rewards them with adequate pensions, a home of their own and long afternoons of reflection, they are confronted with the overwhelming necessity of starting again.

They are not alone.

The commercial farm invasions continue, intensifying during the election period, in spite of the increasing need for productive agricultural areas to feed a starving nation. While the President, Robert Mugabe, cradles his well-fed belly, he offers little comfort to the nation, reminding us in speeches and interviews that like most of the problems faced by Zimbabwe, hunger is a result of actions sanctioned by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and George Bush.

Zanu-PF and the ruling elite set the stage for a guaranteed victory when they held the elections earlier this year. Re-education camps were set up to brainwash, beat and coerce people to remain loyal to the dictatorship. Food aid organisations were banned from operating, accused of gathering support for the opposition. Suspected opposition supporters paid the price in life and limb simply for exercising their democratic right to vote. The voices that cried out for change were heard, but only for an instant and then quickly silenced. The results of the elections were ignored and Zanu-PF remains in power, as though there had never been a vote. Terrified Zimbabwean refugees fled across the borders and, in South Africa, found themselves in another hostile environment where they were subjected to horrific xenophobic attacks and blamed for rising unemployment and escalating crime.

Four months later, the talks on power-sharing between Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC have failed to produce a deal. Mugabe has snubbed the world and lords over a crippled nation. The democratic right of the people has been ignored. However, as the impasse drags on, nothing improves for ordinary Zimbabweans and they continue enduring a miserable existence where scavenging for food is the hot topic each and every day. And I can't help but feel guilty.

Perhaps my guilt comes from the fact that we could escape while so many others are sentenced to see things through until the end, and I am powerless to help them. I didn't run away or pack it all in for an extraordinary adventure in a new country. We did what had to be done for our children and I will always cherish the memories and the amazing, unpredictable place I used to call home.

For a while, I had it all. My earliest childhood recollections are a fusion of vague recollections. I was born in colonial Rhodesia and had the geographical privilege of growing up as the country made the transition to independence – as the African nation of Zimbabwe.

My parents played a large part in preparing us for a multiracial inevitability and ensured that we held no biases with regards to race or colour.

We confidently became Zimbabweans and, in spite of the sudden exodus of many white countrymen who predicted doom and degradation of the black ruling party, chose to remain.

My parents purchased a farm, and were committed to a future in a racially tolerant community. After independence, laws stipulated that when farms were made available for sale, they first had to be offered to the government for resettlement or redistribution to the indigenous people. My parents received the required "certificate of no current interest" from the government and embarked on a three-year project of constructing their home, a place in which they imagined they would grow old.

My childhood was an exhilarating period of adventure, experience, lessons and an eager anticipation for a future unknown. I was given the opportunity to dive into whichever activity I deemed imperative to my advancement and drifted through the years, driven by the common aspirations of becoming a princess, an actress or a prima ballerina. I was blessed with storybook parents who made me believe that anything was possible and loved me unconditionally.

My only sibling and younger brother was a friend, accomplice and constant playmate. Together, we tackled life growing up on a farm, playing cowboys on real horses, rearing orphaned calves and climbing lichen-encrusted kopjes. We swam in dams, took annual bilharzia medication and spent our childhood with freckles dancing across our cheeks like small flecks of sunlight.

School inspired, challenged and facilitated the cementing of lasting friendships. It was where I met my future husband, Ross. I was impatient to grow up and become independent, imagining a future of motherhood and homemaking.

However, after a less than a decade of silencing the sceptics, Mugabe and Zanu-PF could no longer disguise the evidence of corruption, embezzling of the country's wealth and constant bleeding of taxpayers' money to feed rapidly swelling personal coffers. Instead of reviewing their mistakes and making proactive decisions in response to the trade unions' riots against rising costs, unemployment and inflation, they diverted the nation's attention by resurrecting promises of returning land to the peasants and embarked upon a destructive course of governance, authorising war veterans to invade white-owned farms and claim them as their own. Soon, Zimbabwe's land seizures made headline news.

I married Ross, and, at the age of 30, I was the mother of two young children. With the responsibility of parenthood came the realisation that Zimbabwe was no longer the country I'd grown up in and that my children would never have the same carefree childhood that I had been so privileged to enjoy. Daily chores had become insurmountable challenges.

My parents relocated into the city, worn down by uncompromising vagrants, threats, blackmail and the sad evacuation of so many neighbours. But in spite of everything, we all clung to the belief that things would be resolved and that the atrocities would have to cease. However, the carnage of the land invasions spilled over into the city. Unemployment spiralled, accelerating residential armed robberies, hijackings and muggings.

In January 2003, armed robbers attacked my family, threatened my children's lives and violated our home and our sanctuary. Suddenly, I could no longer focus on better times to come. I was constantly afraid and found my ability to perform as a mother, wife and Zimbabwean were compromised horribly by fear and loss of hope. I became numb. We were content to go to bed each day knowing that our finances were still adequate, our children were safe and our large wall, alarm system and electrified fence would protect us from any intruders. We ploughed through each day, resigned to the uncontrolled political anarchy, trying to ignore the racism, the inflation, and escalating crime. We received our regular bills for irregular water and electricity.

And we watched as the nightmare "Operation Murambatsvina" (Drive Out Filth) was skillfully executed by the government and military. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans were left homeless as their humble dwellings were burnt or bulldozed to the ground.

With every new tragedy and every new incomprehensible act of dictatorship we became more and more grateful that we had food on our table, a roof over our heads and a routine to follow each day. I no longer expected anything or hoped for more. Once I refused to entertain bribery. Now we were forced to establish various "contacts" to ensure that passports and vehicle licences were issued.

Finally, we were forced to sit down and take a long, hard, critical look at our lives. The preceding four years had been a vacuum, a regimented sequence of parenting, feeding and protecting an existence that became more desperate with each passing month.

My father always says the hardest part is to make the decision and we made the decision. It made me smile, laugh and explode with uncontrollable tears. I was inspired and devastated. Inspired to begin again and devastated to be leaving my home, my country and my parents.

Life is a constant process of moving forward and leaving behind. Most of the time, this progression goes largely unnoticed among routines and daily commitments. Occasionally, we find we have to take a giant stride in order to move forward. We took our great leap in January 2007 when we packed up our lives and emigrated to Australia.

Now I sit here with a cupboard full of groceries, a deep freeze stocked with meat and a fridge packed with yoghurt and eggs. I am only just starting to regard them as "groceries" and not luxury items. I am only mildly concerned about the world fuel price increases, secretly grateful that I can fill up my vehicle without having to purchase fuel on the black market. I and my family are becoming part of a society that functions, where there are prospects for the hard-working as opposed to the corrupt and connected. I have learnt not to be astounded by the things thrown away during bulk refuse collection days and no longer want to stop and pick up every abandoned television. I am slowly becoming an Australian, but I am humbled by where we have come from and will never take for granted the opportunities that lie ahead.

The Zimbabwean exodus continues and we are a halfway house for family and friends who all hope to have their immigration applications approved. We watch as they walk down the same paths, come to the same conclusions and make the same decisions that we made 19 months ago. Mugabe has crippled Zimbabwe, reducing most of its people to beggars or barterers and black marketeers. The ultimate irony is that, whether by accident or design, it has taken 28 years for them to prove the racist detractors correct when they prophesied that the incoming Zanu-PF government would be incapable of governing the country.

If you would like to find out more about Justine's story, please contact

From breadbasket to bare shelves

1931: The Land Apportionment Act gives one million blacks 29 million acres; 48,000 whites are are given 48 million acres in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.

April 1980: Southern Rhodesia becomes independent Zimbabwe and the green colour in its new flag symbolises agriculture. White farmers produce three quarters of agricultural output including maize, cotton, tobacco, wheat, coffee, tea and sugar.

1990: President Robert Mugabe implements a plan to confiscate land from white farmers, and denies the right to appeal for compensation. "It makes absolute nonsense... that most of our arable land is still in the hands of our erstwhile colonisers," he declares.

1997: The government publishes a list of 1,503 farms – 12 million acres, representing 45 per cent of land held by commercial farmers – to be expropriated.

1998: In need of loans from the World Bank, agriculture minister Kumbirai Kangai declares that no land will be seized. In November, Kangai announced the seizure of 841 white-owned farms.

2000: The government and war veterans launch a land redistribution programme which included the forced expulsion of white farmers.

2001: Mugabe orders the expropriation of virtually all white-owned farms without compensation.

2002: In May, 3,000 white farmers are given 45 days to stop all production and a further 45 days to vacate their properties. Harvests plummet and Zimbabwe has to rely on food imports and aid supplies. Seven million people are at risk of starvation.

2005: Mugabe implements Operation Murambatsvina. Its literal translation is "getting rid of the filth" although the government claims it meant "Operation Clean-up". Its stated aim is to clear slums across the country, stop disease and illegal housing, 300,000 people are displaced.

2008: In March, elections are dogged with accusations of rigging and violence, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai later withdrawing from the second round citing violence against his supporters. This week Zimbabwe's inflation hits 11m per cent, a new world record.

Laura Scarrott

Sources:; Mugabe by Martin Meredith (Publicaffairs)

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Manicaland still reeling in violence

August 21, 2008

By a Correspondent

MUTARE - Violence and intimidation against MDC supporters continues unabated
in Manicaland Province as efforts to find a power-sharing arrangement
between President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition parties
continue on both sides of the Limpopo River which divides Zimbabwe and South

MDC officials in the Manicaland province have reported yet another
abduction,following the kidnapping and assault of the wife of an activist of
the party in in Buhera South. Juliet Dakacha, wife of activist Killian
Chirau, was abducted on Thursday and released the same day after she was
severely beaten and tortured.

Chirau's younger brother, Moses was kidnapped by suspected war veterans and
Zanu-PF militia over the weekend and is believed to be held at the notorious
Mutiusinazita torture base.

The MDC spokesman for the Manicaland Province, Pishai Muchauraya, said on
Tuesday that Dakacha has been unable to receive medical treatment and had
not even been transported to hospital because most of MDC vehicles were in
the hands of the police who confiscated them during the turbulent period
following the March 29 elections.

Muchauraya said war veterans were still waging a violent campaign against
MDC supporters in the Manicaland province. He said a large number of MDC
supporters in Manicaland were yet to receive medical care for
election-period injuries, due to lack of transport and other problems.

Muchauraya said Buhera South was the worst affected area as groups under the
leadership of the notorious Joseph Chinotimba were "terrorising the area and
brutalising our supporters". MDC MP-elect for Buhera South, Naison
Nemadziva, remains in hiding in Mutare, after serious threats against his
life by Zanu-PF militia. Muchauraya said they had threatened to kill
Nemadziva, saying the seat that he won belongs to Zanu-PF.

Muchauraya said while Zanu-PF militants continued with their reign of
terror, people were beginning to starve to death because of a serious
shortage of food. He said in Makoni South alone, five people had already
died of starvation. He said that without humanitarian aid thousands more
could die.

He said that Zanu-PF "manipulation" was forcing people to give up their
livestock for meagre amounts of maize meal. Members of the Zanu-PF militia
were now controlling people's lives and stealing their limited food
supplies. Muchauraya said that the severe shortage of food in the province
was "not sparing anyone and even those with money are starving".

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Situation desperate as Mugabe reneges on pledge to lift NGO ban

Tuesday, 19 August 2008 12:45
Rural families eat wild fruits; some sell daughters to old men
JOHANNESBURG - By the end of the year nearly half of Zimbabwe's
population will be at risk of starvation, and right now hungry people are
resorting to desperate measures, including marrying off underage daughters
to old men in return for food and general support, a new report says.
The reason for this huge increase in suffering is as simple as it is
brutal: Robert Mugabe has reneged on the pledge he made when he signed the
21 July Memorandum of Understanding with Morgan Tsvangarai to lift
immediately and unconditionally his regime's ban on NGOs distributing food
The report, compiled by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Solidarity
Peace Trust and Amandla Publishers, is based partly on interviews with
Zimbabweans at Musina, who are among the upsurge in those fleeing to South
Africa, refugees in Johannesburg, and people  in Harare. The interviews were
done between July 27 and August 13.
Mugabe, in characteristic fashion, has ignored first private and then
public appeals from Japan, Western countries, which are the major aid
donors, and the European Commission, as well as from Tsvangarai himself to
lift the ban. It was imposed by the regime June 4 on the spurious ground
that NGOs were campaigning for the MDC.
At the beginning of August, the regime announced a partial lifting of
the ban, permitting the resumption of feeding programmes for HIV/AIDs
patients. But the wider ban remains in effect.
"The suspension of humanitarian operations is estimated to have put
the lives of more than 1.5 million marginalised Zimbabweans at risk
already," said the report. "Without the immediate resumption of food aid
across the country, widespread hunger and worsening malnutrition are
It noted that the two main international food agencies, the World Food
Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, estimate that 2.04
million Zimbabweans in rural and urban areas do not have enough food now. By
January, the organisations say that 5.1 million will be at risk of
starvation - about 45% of the population.
"The government has always maintained a stranglehold on food
distribution with a view to ensuring that those receiving the food associate
this generosity with the government, rather than the donors," the report
It quoted Mbare residents as saying they registered for but have never
received the  recently announced state-funded hampers, and independent media
reports say these are reserved for supporters of  Mugabe's Zanu (PF).
Opposition supporters have to resort to measures like buying maize meal for
hard currency from those "connected," such as policemen.
Many families eat only once a day, and rural people are selling off
livestock for cash to buy food, and eating wild fruits.
"Reports of the revival of the tradition of child brides under which
desperate families marry off their underage girls to elderly well-off men in
return for food and general support are now commonplace in rural areas in
the southern provinces," the report added.
As well as food, the continuing ban on NGO operations affects water
and sanitation services as some aid agencies provide these, and has led to
staff being laid off, adding to the legions of unemployed.
The report cited the case of a young woman working for the field
office of an  international organisation in Zvishavane who was laid off July
7. With the prospect of returning to work diminishing, she sold off her
mobile phone line and handset for Rands, gave some to her sister to continue
paying her one-room lodgings, and made her way to South Africa in the hope
of finding work.
"It is critical that the Zimbabwe government immediately lift the
suspension of field operations by aid agencies," the report said. "Given the
lead time required to bring in imported maize for distribution and
agricultural inputs for the new planting season, the government needs to act
swiftly to avert a very serious humanitarian catastrophe from worsening next
year," the report said.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwean NGOs Take Southern African Regional Group To Task


By Patience Rusere
20 August 2008

Zimbabwe's National Association of Non-Governmental organizations on
Wednesday criticized the Southern African Development Community for failing
to produce a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe during the SADC summit which
ended Sunday in Johannesburg.

NANGO said it "regrets the continued failure by the Southern African
Development Community to oversee the much needed conclusion to its mediation
process on Zimbabwe."

The NANGO statement expressed "regret" that SADC had in effect endorsed
President Robert Mugabe by inviting him to participate while ignoring a call
by Zimbabwean civil society for a transitional authority transcending ruling
party-opposition antagonism.

It said the SADC's " uphold and enforce compliance with its
stated commitments to democracy, rule of law and human rights has
contributed to the rapid deterioration of humanitarian and human rights
conditions in Zimbabwe."

NANGO spokesman Fambai Ngirande told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that SADC must be tougher on leaders who gain power
through unconstitutional means to prove Southern Africa is genuinely
committed to democratic ideals.

Meanwhile, Secretary General Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions warned that unless civil society is brought into the talks
between the ruling and opposition parties, power-sharing negotiations will
never succeed, as Ntungamili Nkomo reported.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

For Zimbabwe, talking is no cure

Some see power-sharing as the solution to the country's problems. Sadly, these deals rarely work
Stephen Brown, Chandra Lekha Sriram and Marie-Joëlle Zahar,
Wednesday August 20 2008 21:00 BST

The power-sharing talks between the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been presented as the best hope of bringing peace to the embattled country. However, power-sharing agreements are in fact a poor strategy for resolving conflicts. They are extremely difficult to reach and possibly even more difficult to implement and sustain. Power sharing is not a credible or viable solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe, either in the immediate or longer term. It is unlikely to bring a durable peace, is inherently undemocratic and rewards ruthless behaviour.

Power-sharing deals are difficult to negotiate under the best of circumstances. Reaching an agreement in Zimbabwe will be particularly problematic, for at least three reasons. First, the ruling party's interest in sharing power is highly questionable. Negotiators from Zanu-PF are reportedly refusing to consider ceding any executive powers to an opposition prime minister – the main bone of contention in the power-sharing agreement that ended a standoff following Kenya's December 2007 elections. Zanu-PF is only sitting at the bargaining table because of international pressure, notably from South Africa and other neighbours, and will be loth to compromise. While the opposition is more likely to be negotiating in good faith than the government, the failure of talks may help the MDC's case that Zanu-PF is intransigent and that sterner international pressure will be required.

Another major impediment to agreement is the lack of trust between actors. Not only has the ruling party brutalised MDC officials and supporters in myriad ways since 2000, its previous power-sharing agreement serves as a stern warning to the MDC. In 1987, a deal was signed between Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the then main opposition party. Nkomo was brought in as a figurehead vice-president and the deal resulted in his party's absorption and disbandment, serving to consolidate Mugabe's power.

A third challenge is internal fragmentation. Though not as significant as the multiplication of actors that have plagued negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Darfur, both Zanu-PF and the MDC are factionalised. Not all perspectives are represented at the bargaining table and further splits may be forthcoming if any eventual agreement displeases significant wings on one or both sides. For instance, even if Arthur Mutambara's MDC faction signs a separate agreement with Mugabe, his 10 MPs might defect to the main MDC wing, leaving Zanu-PF no closer to achieving a parliamentary majority. In addition, high-ranking military officials in Zanu-PF, who have consolidated political and economic power in recent years, may prevent Mugabe from reaching an agreement detrimental to their interests.

Even if a deal is reached, three principal challenges threaten its viability. First, governing elites might lack the commitment to applying the terms of the agreement. They might actually only be seeking to co-opt the opposition and could renege on the agreement if they fail. Alternatively, there may be institutional resistance to sharing power. For instance, where the bureaucracy of the state and a party apparatus have been one and the same for a long time, a political agreement at the top does not guarantee compliance at the middle and lower echelons of government, and indeed resistance may be orchestrated from the top. In Sudan, members of the National Congress party continue to dominate state institutions, in spite of the power-sharing provisions of the 2003 comprehensive peace agreement that ended the north-south conflict.

Second, government and opposition elites might lack the ability to deliver their commitments, particularly where key parts of their constituency are resistant to a political deal. Veterans, one of Mugabe's most powerful constituencies, may attempt to spoil a transfer of executive powers if they fear losing influence. This is not unique to Zimbabwe. Veterans have obstructed progress in other locales such as the Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Third, the MDC's shortcomings might impede power sharing. Where incumbents have been in power for a very long time, the opposition's capacity to govern is likely to be limited. That was the case in Sudan, where the Sudan People's Liberation Movement found itself propelled to a governing position overnight. Permitting ill-equipped opposition leaders to assume positions of responsibility is also a way of ensuring they will stumble and fall, especially when assigned near-impossible tasks. For this reason, one could expect Mugabe to give Tsvangirai responsibility for redressing Zimbabwe's economic woes.

Even if a power-sharing arrangement was a viable option and could prevent more violence in the shorter or longer term, it is not necessarily a strategy worth pursuing. Allowing a small number of elites to determine outcomes is inherently undemocratic, and manifestly ignores voters' choices. It would make more sense to hold new elections as soon as possible, preferably under a caretaker government. Otherwise, a terrible precedent is set, encouraging politicians who are not committed to democracy to attempt to steal elections and then, through power-sharing agreements, secure a much stronger position than they otherwise would have held. The Zimbabwean opposition and international actors would be well advised to consider this before supporting further negotiations.

Chandra Lekha Sriram is director of the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict at the University of East London School of Law and author of Peace as governance: Armed groups, power-sharing, and contemporary peace negotiations.
Marie-Joëlle Zahar is associate professor of political science at the University of Montreal specialising in the politics of power-sharing and conflict resolution



Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe Ruling Party Officials Accused of Exploiting Rural Hunger


20 August 2008

Zimbabwean opposition officials in Manicaland province have accused ruling
party officials in Buhera district of using political influence to buy maize
from the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board, then selling it to starving
villagers at exorbitant prices.

The Movement for Democratic Change said ZANU-PF officials have forced
villagers to part with their livestock in exchange for small quantities of

The state-run Herald newspaper Wednesday reported that Buhera villagers are
appealing for urgent food aid following a prolonged dry spell. It quoted a
local chief as urging the government to monitor maize distribution so all
residents will benefit.

VOA was unable to obtain comment from local ZANU-PF officials on the

MDC Manicaland spokesman Pishai Muchauraya told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that five people died of starvation in the
Makoni South constituency, adding that the government must rescind a June
ban on non-governmental organization distribution of food assistance to
prevent further deaths from malnutrition.

Meanwhile, a source in Binga, Matabeleland North, said some residents of the
Nsenga area are close to death due to the lack of food. That source said
local residents are waiting in line for days to buy maize meal, but the
supplies are insufficient to meet the needs of all.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Resident Physicians In Zimbabwe State Hospitals Back On Strike


By Carole Gombakomba
20 August 2008

Resident doctors and some nurses at Zimbabwe's four major state hospitals
have gone on strike again, citing low salaries and chronic shortages of

Dr. Kudzanai Chimedza, incoming president of the Hospital Doctors'
Association, said doctors are earning some Z$680 a month (in redenominated
Zimbabwean dollars), not enough to cover transportation or other costs amid
inflation over 11 million percent.

Chimedza said residents and interns are obliged to pursue commercial
activities - selling beer or engaging in cross-border trading - simply to
make ends meet.

Doctors and nurses say that despite promises from the government that it
will look into their grievances, there is no sign any of their problems will
be resolved soon.

Doctors and other staff at the main state hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo,
the country's second-largest city, have gone on strike repeatedly in the
past few years.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi told reporter Carole Gombakomba that doctors
at Parirenyatwa Hospital, Harare, say they are struggling for economic

VOA was unable to obtain comment from Health Minister David Parirenyatwa.
Health Secretary Henry Madzorere of the opposition formation led by Morgan
Tsvangirai said recurring strikes indicate Harare has failed to resolve
mounting health sector woes.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

What Zimbabwe Can Learn From Its Neighbors

August 20, 2008,  4:03 pm

By Josh Ruxin

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent
the last few years living in Rwanda. He's an unusual mix of academic expert
and mud-between-the-toes aid worker.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe made financial news for the second time in a
year. The first time was for an economic feat that made hundred-millionaires
of virtually all Zimbabweans against a backdrop of hyperinflation that had
reached 9,030,000%, a figure that would make any macroeconomist's head spin
(and it's climbed since then!). The second instance, related to the first,
was that in an effort to shore up its crashing currency, Zimbabwe knocked
ten zeroes off all its bills. There's no clearer manifestation of Zimbabwean
corruption than this currency catastrophe. Inflation is being driven by
world-class economic instability and no brakes on the corrupt government's
ability to print worthless currency to pay its way out of trouble.

On Friday, August 1st, its virtually worthless $100 billion bank notes were
revalued and are now worth $10 Z, about $1 in U.S. currency. The irony is
that the bills themselves are hot items among collectors today, some selling
for as much as $200 on eBay as curiosities. However drastic the action, it
will likely have no stabilizing effect on the plummeting Zimbabwean dollar.

After President Robert Mugabe's unopposed victory in what has been broadly
viewed as a sham election, international pressure dictated that talks begin
on a power-sharing deal with the opposition. Hopes are high among observers
and Zimbabweans that these negotiations between opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and Mugabe's party will end the political crisis. However, much
remains to be resolved, rebuilt, and resurrected, and these talks should be
seen as a first step to the problems Zimbabwe faces, which include wholesale
corruption, violence, a dying business climate, and breakdown in both
services and infrastructure.

For a brief time earlier in the year, it appeared that corruption and
failure to abide by electoral principles had virulently invaded Kenya as
well. Anger over the results of what was widely viewed as a rigged
presidential election unleashed ethnic tensions in Kenya and prompted
violence that ultimately led to countless injuries and hundreds of deaths.
Kenya has long been a global destination; its wildlife parks, urban
entrepreneurship, and pristine beaches serve as a magnet for tourists and
business alike. However, the effects of its corrupt election shuttered its
businesses and forced the nation to look civil war in the face before coming
to its senses.

While visiting Kenya last week, my friends working in the tourism industry
assured me that arrivals are on the upswing and the need to offer discounts
and inducements to intrepid travelers, evident in the first half of the
year, is fading away. It may be no coincidence that this improvement
accompanies a tidbit of good news: the great Kenyan corruption fighter, John
Githongo, is back in town for a conference and has Transparency
International and other activists cheering for the changing tide. It's hard
to imagine similar cheers heard in Zimbabwe these days.

Although Zimbabwe's government has grown and operated along different lines
from Kenya's, corruption anywhere has the same effect. Victoria Falls
provides an example. The government refers to the Falls as the "Cradle of
Tourism," but in recent years, what had been a thriving destination that
provided the country with the growing business and fees from nearly a
million tourists a year has languished. The flow of tourist dollars has
slowed to a trickle as vacationers seek out attractions in areas where they
don't have to deal with the political instability, enormous inflation, and
almost complete lack of services, in part because of poor conditions and in
part because many workers have fled the country.

It is no surprise then that the least corrupt nations in Africa are the ones
that are becoming the most successful. As I've stated in these pages before,
Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania provide examples of countries where there
appears to be enough common sense to forge a consensus that a culture of
corruption kills business, increases poverty, and leads to decay. None of
the three ranks low on corruption-perception ratings but each is improving.
In turn, these are among the few nations in Africa that are experiencing
steady growth.

Three weeks ago, we hosted a delegation here from the bipartisan
organization ONE Vote '08 led by the organization's co-chairs, former U.S.
Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, and including Mike
Huckabee, Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta and Cindy McCain.
The delegation was able to see firsthand what US-sponsored aid programs have
done for Rwandans in health care and infrastructure improvement. What most
impressed the delegation was that Rwandans including farmers, officials,
business owners and others, are not nearly as interested in American aid
packages as they are in investment and trade. The ONE delegation listened
and in a letter to millions of ONE members, Senator Frist noted that
"strategic support from the United States is driving robust economic growth
that is lifting people out of poverty." He further asked ONE members to sign
on to a petition to demand that the next president make poverty and disease
reduction priorities. Perhaps it's time to add corruption to the list of
priorities since poverty and disease reduction interventions appear to be
operating best in the less corrupt nations.

If Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on these global issues,
is it too much to ask that Africans should find common ground in
condemnation of Mugabe's malfeasance? Certainly in Rwanda, Uganda and
Tanzania, with corruption relatively low and investment expanding, these
nations are finally forging a path out of poverty and toward prosperity.
Zimbabwe would do well to learn from their experience.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Shops Re-open as Calm Sets In

GUTU, August 20 2008 - Business owners whose shops had been forced to
close at the height of political violence in Masvingo, perpetrated mostly by
Zanu PF militia, have resumed work.

Zanu PF militia and state security agents had forced the closure of
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) district party tresurer
Bheria Musimudziwa's three supermarkets at Mupandawana growth point, Bhasera
and Rasa townships following an orgy of violence that saw Bheria's house and
car being torched in the dead of the night.

Another MDC activist in the growth point, Enias Musoni, who runs a
fast food outlet, had the windows of his shop smashed in the wave of
violence, forcing him to close shop at the height of the violence.

Bheria-who was assaulted together with his employees - fled the area.

Bheria re-opened his shop last week but said he was a bit cautious
after receiving repeated death threats from the Zanu PF terror gang.

"I just re-opened my shop last week after about a month without
operating. I am a bit cautious and have to close early than the stipulated
time as I have continued to receive death threats," he said.

He employs about 100 people. These had been left without any source of
income during the time of the disturbances.

"I have close to 100 employees and their future was hanging in the
balance if I had not re-opened," he said.

Official statistics reveal that the unemployment rate is pegged at 80
percent, but independent economic analysts say the figure is higher than

However in Zaka, prominent wholesaler, N Richards group of companies,
has closed some of its shops dotted across the province, leaving dozens of
workers' future in limbo.

N Richards group chairman, Edward Richards showed that he meant his
words after he threatened to close all his shops in the province in the
event of a ZANU PF victory in the second round of elections.

Richards had once been quoted as saying: "I might close shop in the
event of a ZANU PF victory. Business is no longer viable in this
hyperinflationary environment."

True to his words, Richards has closed one of his hardware shops in
Zaka and another wholesale shop in Bikita district recently, amid fears that
he might also retrench more than 5 000 other workers in his shops.

Richards confirmed suspending most of his business operations, saying
he might go to South Africa if the current harsh economic environment

"There is no business in Zimbabwe at the moment. I might diversify, or
migrate to neighbouring South Africa where business conditions are
favourable," said Richards.

One of his workers in Masvingo said their future was now uncertain.

"We have spent close to a month without stocks. Some of the workers
have been retrenched owing to little work-load. Now that two branches have
been closed, we fear the same will befall us," said the worker, who declined
to be named for fear of losing his job.

The worker said most had stayed with the company for more than 20

"Many have nowhere to go, they do not have proper educational
qualities. They were just employed at the mercy of Richards," said the

N Richards, arguably the most popular wholesaler in the province,
boast of many shops in even the most remote districts. The wholesaler is
among one of the biggest employers in Masvingo.

Meanwhile most Zanu PF militia who terrorised villagers during the run
up to the second round of elections are still walking scot free, despite
being nabbed ealier by the police in a crackdown named 'Operation Waitumwa

The youths were assaulting villagers and forcing them to strip naked,
drinking water from the sewage, among others, as punishment for not voting
for President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 harmonized elections.

The MDC claims more than 120 party supporters were killed in the
period, while 30 000 others were internally displaced and dozens others
sustaining permanent life threatening injuries.

Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, has requested all dockets
involving cases of political violence, a senior magistrate revealed this

"We received piles and piles of cases of Zanu PF youths arrested for
political violence, some of the cases being murder. But Chihuri took away
all the dockets before the cases had appeared in court," said the

He said Chihuri's action was a ploy to delay justice as he could
destroy the dockets, showing that president Mugabe, who is involved in talks
with Tsvangirai to try to bring an end to the country's decade long
political and economic crisis, is not committed to dealing with the violence
claims that suck in the people who violently campaigned for him.

The magistrate said the police blitz was just some diguise by Mugabe
to make the situation appear as if the rule of law had been restored
following the political impasse that arose after March 29.

Chihuri refused to comment on the matter.

"I do not think that the police were really serious in their blitz. If
they were serious, why don't they appear in court," quizzed the magistrate.

This failure by the government to mete justice has angered some of the
political violence victims who have vowed to vent their vengence on the
people who were beating them up.

Only last week, some angered villagers in Gutu East's Chin'ayi area
torched Zanu PF militia commander's house in frustration over the non
prosecution of the self styled commander.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," said the magistrate.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Influx of Zimbabwe Shoppers to Continue

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

20 August 2008
Posted to the web 20 August 2008

Fraser Mpofu

The influx of Zimbabwean shoppers into Botswana is set to continue after the
government there extended the waiver on import duty for basic commodities
from August 10 to December 31.

Originally, the Zimbabwe government suspended duty on food and other
critical goods in May this year but the suspension expired on August 12.

During the 90 day suspension, Botswana experienced an increase in the number
of Zimbabweans visiting Botswana, especially Francistown and Gaborone, to
buy basic commodities which are in short supply at home.

More did their shopping in other neighbouring countries - South Africa,
Mozambique and Zambia - as Zimbabweans took advantage of the relaxation on

In a statutory instrument published in an extraordinary government gazette
last week, the Minister of Finance, Samuel Mumbengegwi extended the
suspension for an additional five months.

Products listed in the notice include cooking oil, margarine, rice, flour,
salt, bath and laundry soap, washing powder, toothpaste and petroleum jelly.

In terms of the suspension, people importing the products for household
consumption do not pay duty. However, commercial importers still pay import

"With effect from August 2008 to the December 31, 2008, duty is wholly
suspended on goods of the following tariff codes," say the regulations,
listing the items.Other products are rice in husky, maize flour, wheat
flour, Soya-bean cooking oil, groundnut cooking oil, palm cooking oil,
sunflower cooking oil, and beauty or make up preparations for the skin and
other medicaments including sunscreen or sun tan preparations.

The Zimbabwean economy has been on a decline since 2000. Food, fuel and
foreign currency shortages are widespread.

Weighed down by high inflation, lack of fuel and foreign currency,
industrial capacity utilisation is averaging 20 percent, according to the
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.

A spokesman for the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), Comfort Muchekeza,
said the extension of the waiver would alleviate the challenges consumers
are facing because of the prevailing shortage of basic commodities and high

He accused local manufacturers of over pricing their products but also said
the government, through the National Incomes and Pricing Commission, must
come up with fair prices.

He said: "This will help consumers because we are facing shortages at home
and the only viable option now is to allow them to import without paying
duty. Another point is that locally manufactured products are too expensive.
The prices of some products here are as much as five times more expensive
than in Botswana".

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Protest singer to release scorching ‘Zimbabwe circus’ album

Back to the Top
Back to Index