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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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'We'll Never Know Whether Those Who Seized Farms Gave Them Back Or Not'

Sunday Times (Johannesburg)

August 3, 2003
Posted to the web August 3, 2003


ZIMBABWE'S President Robert Mugabe has finally conceded that his
controversial land reform policy has been abused by greedy party officials.

His decree this week, that members of the ruling elite may each only keep
one farm seized from white farmers and hand over the rest, is seen as a
damning indictment that the farm invasions have not benefited the country's
landless peasantry.

About 85% of Zimbabwe's formerly productive farmland, or almost 7.6 million
hectares of the 8.8 million hectares seized since land grabs began in 2000,
are lying uncultivated, according to the Zimbabwean Commercial Farmers'

Almost six million Zimbabweans - about half the population - are threatened
with food shortages or famine.

A ccording to a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council, about 500 000
Zimbabweans have been displaced by Mugabe's programme since 2000 while more
than 240 000 farm workers have lost their jobs.

Wednesday's two-week ultimatum has a bitterly ironic twist: ministers,
senior party officials and others who try to hold on to farms are at risk of
having them seized by the government.

Among those who have to hand back property is the land programme's most
vocal supporter, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe's chief spin
doctor. His property details were listed in a land audit ordered by Mugabe
in December last year.

The audit also revealed that many high-ranking Zanu-PF officials had
violently removed peasants the government had settled on land taken from
white farmers. Among those who allegedly have more than one farm are:

MP Sabina Mugabe, the president's sister, who reportedly has at least four

First Lady Grace Mugabe, who has interests in at least two properties in the
Mazowe Valley, north of Harare;

MP and oil tycoon Saviour Kasukuwere, who has five farms;

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Zimbabwean defence force chief
General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who each have two farms; and

Provincial governors Elliott Manyika, Obert Mpofu, Peter Chanetsa and Josia
Hungwe , who each reportedly have more than one farm.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Zanu-PF information secretary Nathan
Shamuyarira would not comment on allegations that Mugabe's family members
and senior officials had more than one farm each. "You ask them what they're
going to do," he said.

In another display of belligerence, government spokesman George Charimba
told the newspaper that Mugabe "will ask [you], armed with an AK47, to shoot
the whole lot of them".

But according to the Sunday Times correspondent in Harare, Mugabe is under
immense political pressure from his supporters and donors to address the
consequences of the seizures.

War veterans and ordinary Zanu-PF members have openly complained that senior
government and ruling party officials have displaced peasants and taken over
their land.

Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe director Godfrey Magaramombe said land
displacements had created a serious humanitarian crisis. "We are feeding
about 100 000 ex-farm workers and about 160 000 children," he said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change's secretary for agriculture,
Renson Gasela, said Mugabe's ultimatum was an admission that his land reform
programme had been disastrous.

He said Mugabe was trying to the pull wool over the eyes of the
international community, from whom he wanted money.

"A lot of his cronies took farms out of sheer greed," Gasela said. "They
just wanted the beautiful farm houses, their green surroundings and gardens
and the scenic environments. We will never get to know whether those who
seized the farms have surrendered them back or not. We're going to be told
that the irregularities have been addressed when nothing had been done."

Meanwhile, South Africa will campaign for Zimbabwe's re-integration into the
international community once formal dialogue between the government and
opposition resumes.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad said this week that there should
be "no debate" about Zimbabwe's re-admission into the Commonwealth once
talks are under way.

Zimbabwe's one-year suspension from the Commonwealth was extended to
December following a dispute between member states. Many African nations,
led by South Africa and Nigeria, opposed the extension of penal measures,
while countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Britain have pushed for
harsher action.

The decision to extend the suspension was taken after Commonwealth
Secretary-General Don McKinnon canvassed the views of member states and
found that this was a "broadly held view". South Africa sharply criticised
the move. Commonwealth heads of state will now decide on the issue when the
group meets in December for its biennial summit.

"We are hoping for real movement in Zimbabwe long before the Commonwealth
meets," Pahad said.
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The Scotsman

The persecuted Scots who are transforming an African nation



FARMER Peter MacSporran has proved more resilient even than the crops he has
managed to grow under the blazing African sun.

But the tenacious Scot’s continued role in one of the blighted continent’s
rare success stories is now being threatened by Zimbabwe’s despotic leader
Robert Mugabe.

MacSporran was forced to flee Zimbabwe last year after armed gangs of
so-called War Veterans seized white-owned farms on Mugabe’s orders. Together
with dozens of other white farmers, MacSporran, the former president of
Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), crossed the border to
neighbouring Zambia. There, the farmers have helped transform the country
into a self-sufficient food producer, to the extent that Zambia will this
year export maize for the first time in decades.

But amid the hate-filled politics of post-colonial Africa success is often
short-lived. MacSporran is facing the threat of expulsion from Zambia as
friends of Mugabe, embarrassed by his success on their doorstep, seek to
discredit him and his colleagues.

Zambia has become an agricultural success almost overnight. Its farmers have
produced a record maize crop of well over 1.2 million tonnes this year.
About 50,000 tonnes was grown as a first time effort by the white victims of
Mugabe’s "land reform" programme. Elizabeth Phiri, permanent secretary in
the Ministry of Agriculture, said: "That’s double the quantity Zambia
produced the previous year."

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, farm productivity has declined rapidly in the wake
of the eviction of 4,500 white farmers from their land. Aid agencies blame
the policy on the food shortages which have left millions of Zimbabweans on
the brink of starvation.

Last week MacSporran and the 150 white farming families in Zambia - at least
half of whom have Scottish backgrounds - were once again the focus of Mugabe
’s sinister attention.

Reports in Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-friendly newspapers accused the white farmers
of trying to re-colonise Zambia. One of the president’s leading spin
doctors, Nathan Shamuyarira, has even accused them of trying to re-colonise
Africa and has urged the Zambian government to expel them.

"This is all rubbish and jealousy on the part of President Mugabe," said
MacSporran, who is rapidly gaining local hero status among white and black
farmers in the area around the Zambian capital Lusaka. He added: "The
Zambian government has given us a fantastic welcome. They say that if we
obey their laws, we can stay as long as we like."

Nevertheless, informed sources in both Harare and Lusaka say that Mugabe
still has the power to influence some African leaders.

A source close to the former Zambian president Dr Kenneth Kaunda said: "Some
of Zambia’s leaders might be influenced by what he says."

MacSporran, who was born in Irvine and brought up on the Isle of Mull, left
Scotland in 1972 to attend a friend’s wedding in what was then Rhodesia and
decided to stay. He soon became the country’s best known farmer and was
elevated to the presidency of the country’s farmers union in 1994, a post he
held for two years. He was shocked by Mugabe’s land-grabbing policy which
devastated the industry he and his fellow white farmers had built. "I never
ever dreamed it was possible that President Mugabe would embark on such a
lunatic and chaotic course of action," says the 54-year-old father-of-three.

Two years ago, MacSporran’s farms were surrounded by Mugabe’s war veterans
and he was forced to flee to Harare.

"Today my farms are occupied by Mugabe’s nephews. Everything has been ripped
down and stolen," he said.

"My whole life’s work was in ruins. After sitting around and hoping for a
miracle, a few of us got together and decided we couldn’t wait any longer
for a regime change. Some went to Mozambique. But I decided on a new life in

"Zambia was once seen as Zimbabwe’s poor relation. Today, under Robert
Mugabe, it’s Zimbabwe that’s the poor cousin."

The exodus of white farmers from Zimbabwe to other countries in southern
Africa has been dubbed the Second Great Trek. The first, beginning in 1835,
involved more than 10,000 Boers who left the Cape Colony and travelled
north. The 19th century migration was the result of economic problems and
the fear that they would be slaughtered by tribesmen who wanted their farms.

"One day I just packed my bags and drove to the border between Zimbabwe and
Zambia," recalled MacSporran.

"I drove to Lusaka and took up an offer to start again. Soon I joined forces
with other Zimbabwean farmers and we formed a company that helps others from
Zimbabwe to set up farms here.

"Now, there are hundreds of Zimbabwean farmers working in Zambia and in
years to come, there could be thousands."

MacSporran’s company, Agriculture Advisers International, works closely with
the Zambian government and is given financial support from, among others,
the European Investment Bank and Barclays Bank International. "A Zimbabwean
looking for land and work in Zambia has no collateral but most have
excellent financial track records," he said. "I know these guys are some of
the greatest farmers in the world.

"About 50% of the CFU members in the mid-1990s were of Scottish origin. It’s
in our blood to kickstart things, to move on when the going gets tough, not
to give in. This is the Second Great Trek, if you like. I’m proud to say it’
s led by Scottish Africans."

Two black commercial farmers have also found their way to Zambia from
Zimbabwe and MacSporran expects more to follow as the economic situation
across the border worsens.

MacSporran, who grows crops on the 1,000 hectares of land he leases outside
Lusaka, added: "At long last the Zambians have decided to make farming the
driving force in the economy. We’ve been told that we are more than welcome.
We did not create the Zambian success story but we are proud to be part of
it. Even though many of us are living very humbly in Zambia, we have hope in
our hearts once again."

Chris Thorne, 55, one of MacSporran’s neighbours, said: "Zambia has been
through all the hoops. At independence in 1964 Zambia relied almost totally
on copper. Now, the government is telling people to work hard and turn the
country into an agricultural showpiece. We want to be part of a new African
success story."

Meanwhile, agriculture in Zimbabwe is going to ruin. Between 2000 and this
month, over 10 million hectares of highly productive farmlands have been
taken over by the government.

Only 6% of the normal hectarage of land has been planted this year and
Zimbabwe expects a wheat crop next year of only 22,500 tonnes. Before the
takeover of white farms, commercial farmers produced, on average, between
280,000 and 300,000 tonnes of wheat a year. Only yesterday, a spokesman for
the Commercial Farmers Union, said: "As poverty and unemployment increase,
theft of assets increases, making it difficult for farmers to continue their

Zambia and Zimbabwe have always had troubled relations.

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland - comprising Northern Rhodesia
(now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) -
collapsed in 1963, most of its military equipment, its locomotives and
finances were taken by Southern Rhodesia’s prime minister Ian Smith, leaving
Zambia, under its new leader Dr Kenneth Kaunda, handicapped.

When copper lost much of its value at the end of the Vietnam War, Kaunda
told Zambians to go back to the land. Few responded and food production
declined dramatically. Now, however, thanks in large part to the former
Zimbabwean farmers, the sector is booming.

Although he still has a love for Scotland and recognises the threat posed by
Zimbabwe’s tyrannical president, MacSporran has put down roots in Zambia and
is determined to stay. "When things were really grim in Zimbabwe, after my
farms were taken over, I contemplated returning to Scotland,. But no longer.
I’m a Scottish African."
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Apartheid-era agents still langiushing in Zimbabwe jail
August 03, 2003, 18:15

Kevin Woods is said to be in need of urgent medical care

The families of the three South African agents that are serving life sentences for an apartheid-era attack on ANC offices in Zimbabwe are still battling to bring them back. One of the men, Kevin Woods, has a heart condition and is in need of urgent medical care.

Woods, Phillip Conjwayo and Mike Smith are being held at Zimbabwe's Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. They were jailed for the 1988 car bomb in Bulawayo, which killed a Zambian. Clinton, Wood's son, is 25 and can hardly remember what his father looks like. "The last time I saw my father was 16 years ago...It (his release) is long overdue," he says.

The task to get the three released is a difficult one. So far Nelson Mandela, the former president, and President Thabo Mbeki have both failed. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Western Cape Premier, who visited Woods on Friday, says: "Everybody else's case had been dealt with...people have been granted amnesty...they are not free our government agrees that we must close this chapter of the past."

It is nevertheless up to President Robert Mugabe to release the three. He has been under pressure to do so for years, but there are few signs that he will bow down to it.
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Zim Standard

      Hands off, Chinamasa tells church leaders
      By our own Staff

      JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa
has told church leaders trying to solve the Zimbabwean crisis to lay off.

      In an interview with The Standard, Chinamasa, who is supposed to lead
the governing party's delegation to the "talks about talks", said the time
is not yet ripe for Zanu PF and the opposition MDC to resume dialogue.

      He said the church leaders seeking to find common ground for Zanu PF
and MDC to resume negotiations should stop their activities and leave the
two parties to solve their own problems.

      "We know that Bakare and Manhanga are MDC activists. You can't just
wake up one morning and pretend to be an honest broker," said Chinamasa.

      He was referring to Bishop Sebastian Bakare, president of the Zimbabwe
Council of Churches, and Rev Trevor Manhanga of the Evangelical Fellowship
of Zimbabwe who are spearheading a church initiative to end the impasse
between Zanu PF and the MDC.

      "We would rather have the MDC leadership talking to us directly. But I
should stress that time is not ripe for that move although we are
gravitating towards that," he added.

      The Minister who, analysts say is part of a camp of Zanu PF hawks
opposed to the church initiative, refused to say whether or not he would
have a political future if the two parties struck an agreement.

      "All I can say is that the church leaders represent foreign interests.
Look, they have already made it clear that they want to go outside the
country to report to their masters," he said.

      Analysts say the hawks, who include junior Information Minister
Jonathan Moyo, are desperately trying to scuttle the initiative to get Zanu
PF and MDC talking.

      There is however, another camp in the party including chairman John
Nkomo and secretary for information Nathan Shamuyarira who are keen for the
talks, said analysts.

      Meanwhile, the MDC on Friday presented its submissions to the church
mediators seeking to bring the two political foes to the negotiating table.
High on the opposition party's demands is the restoration of political

      In a five page document to Zimbabwe Council of Churches' President
Bishop Sebastian Bakare and his team, the party said freedoms of association
and assembly must be reinstated.

      "The right to hold meetings by civil organisations, political parties
and individuals must once again be guaranteed and move away from a situation
where government supporters only are allowed to hold meetings. Any dialogue
must include the mechanism for that right," says the MDC in its demands.

      The party also called on security agents to be professional and stop
being partisan.

      "There is need to apply the law impartially. The military must return
to the barracks rather than unleash them on innocent Zimbabweans," says the

      On constitutional reform, the party said: "Unless we come up with a
constitution which binds us together, the condition for political stability
will not be there."

      On land, the MDC said: "We believe we need to put land and agrarian
reform on the agenda. If we continue without a fair and equitable land
reform exercise, then we will be begging for food for the next 10 years."
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Zim Standard

      Chefs hijack tractor scheme for new farmers
      By Henry Makiwa

      AN ambitious programme set up by President Robert Mugabe to empower
newly resettled tobacco growers by providing them with cheap tractors has
been looted on a massive scale by senior government officials, Tobacco
Growers' Trust (TGT) employees and their cronies, it emerged yesterday.

      The programme, launched by Mugabe in April this year under the TGT's
mechanisation programme, was meant to help small-scale tobacco farmers
acquire crucial equipment needed to produce next year's tobacco crop,
Zimbabwe's major foreign currency earner.

      Sources in Harare's Graniteside industrial area where a firm at which
the tractors were being assembled is located, said one senior judge was last
week seen test driving a tractor while some Cabinet ministers had also
toured the premises to view the equipment. At least one TGT official is
accused of having taken 35 tractors for himself.

      Under the programme, TGT was allowed to retain 20% of tobacco export
earnings to buy, among others, tractors for members, most of whom only have
basic subsistence agricultural equipment such as oxen, axes and hoes.

      Investigations by The Standard have however revealed that the
programme was hijacked by government ministers, judges and TGT officials and
their friends, who got commercial land through the fast track land reform

      Disgruntled tobacco growers yesterday said some top TGT board members
had also "corruptly appropriated" the tractors for themselves.

      Sources at the trust said there was a scramble for the first batch of
224 tractors that have arrived in Zimbabwe from overseas since April. Most
of these tractors had been taken by leading Zanu PF officials.

      TGT chairman Wilfanos Mashingaidze dismissed allegations that he had
taken over a fleet of 35 tractors for himself, a charge made by Duncan
Miller of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA).

      Mashingaidze yesterday dismissed the allegations of looting as
"baseless and sour grapes" from members of the ZTA whom he said should not
expect many tractors because "their mainly white members have since left the

      "This time around black farmers will benefit more," said Mashingaidze.

      White commercial growers from the ZTA and the Air Cured Tobacco
Association (ACTA) say they have been allocated only 16 tractors each.
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Zim Standard

      Matabeleland chefs in boreholes scam
      By our own Staff

      ABEDNICO Ncube, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, is among those
who allegedly diverted boreholes intended for poor drought stricken areas of
Matabeleland South to their own properties, The Standard has learnt.

      According to detailed District Development Fund (DDF) documents
acquired by this newspaper, Ncube and Zanu PF Matabeleland South chairman
Lloyd Siyoka, Gwanda deputy mayor Japhet Dube, former deputy mayor Nephat
Mangena and one Nthapeliseng Nare nee Mnkandla - reportedly a close friend
of Ncube - are among those who took boreholes meant for poor viallagers to
their own homes.

      By diverting the boreholes, drought-stricken villagers in Gwanda South
have been denied vital water sources for the second year running, said
sources in the area.

      The documents reveal that DDF drilled and rigged up four boreholes in
the name of Abednico Ncube in the months of April and May.

      The exercise began with the drilling and setting up of a 50-metre deep
borehole, whose serial number is 305 99 063, which was set up at Ncube's
homestead at Tshabezi Farm on April 11. The borehole on an area identified
as "situated on grid reference number 478 053QG of map number 2129B3".

      Although the documents say drilling and the supply of equipment was
privately funded, sources said the whole drilling operation was done by the
DDF's "fast track" priority list as the funding agency. The whole operation
cost the State $2 252 700.

      On April 14, DDF erected a 58-metre deep borehole (serial number 305
99 062) at Ncube's second homestead in an area defined as "resettlement",
which is located at grid reference 482652 of map number 2129B3, at a cost of
a whooping $6 786 950.

      Another invoice (number 603) proves that yet another borehole (serial
number 305 99 061) was drilled for Ncube. The third borehole cost the
taxpayer $5 320 500. This is a borehole that was sunk 46 metres and is at a
farm identified as a portion of Tshabezi Farm.

      The fourth borehole listed under Ncube's name, and also on Tshabezi
Farm, was allocated to Nthapeliseng Mnkandla, a close acquaintance of Ncube
who works at Gwanda Hospital, The Standard established. It is 46 met 4res
deep and cost $521 715 and was rigged up on May 15 this year.

      Sources in DDF say two of the boreholes drilled at Ncube's properties
were earmarked for Gwanda South but the Deputy Minister diverted the
programme after only one borehole had been drilled at Ntepe.

      Fuel sourced for the drought mitigation programme and the Presidential
Land Audit teams was also reportedly used by the DDF in the operations at
Ncube's farms. Zanu PF's Matabeleland South chairman, Lloyd Siyoka, had a
borehole erected at his homestead at Jophembe Resettlement in Beitbridge

      Other boreholes meant for the poor were diverted to Mangena, a former
Gwanda deputy mayor, and Dube, the current deputy mayor, among others.

      All the boreholes were drilled using funds from the $40 million,
released for drought relief in March by the government.

      Each of the seven districts was supposed to get four boreholes at a
cost of $1 million per borehole, which would have given the province 40
boreholes if the project was implemented according to plan.

      To date, more than 85 000 cattle are estimated to have died in the
province since the drought worsened in October last year.

      Thousands of villagers also face an uncertain future in a province
where water sources, including rivers and boreholes, have dried up at a time
of widespread hunger and starvation.

      Zanu PF sources who exposed the borehole scam, told The Standard that
the DDF has not drilled a single borehole in Plumtree, Umzingwane and
Filabusi (Insiza).

      Gwanda has had only one borehole drilled at Ntepe, which was done
before the senior Zanu PF officials hijacked the programme, said the source.

      In Beitbridge, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi is understood to
have so far drilled one out two intended boreholes at his homestead on River
Ranch estate.

      "Government officials and their associates are using State resources
in personal programmes," said an official source.

      "As we speak, there is a DDF bulldozer engaged in clearance work at
Ncube's portion of Phephuluza Ranch. A second one was sent there on
Wednesday because the one on site is constantly breaking down," said the
source, a member of the Matabeleland South provincial development committee.
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Zim Standard

      TGT sued for breach of contract
      By Kumbirai Mafunda

      THE Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) is suing the Tobacco Growers'
Trust (TGT) for a breach of contract on chemicals the company supplied to
tobacco growers two years ago, StandardBusiness has gathered.

      Well-placed sources in the agricultural industry said the tobacco
board, set up to administer a 20% foreign currency pool for tobacco farmers,
had not paid billions of dollars it owed the fertiliser and chemical company
for inputs supplied since the 2001 farming season.

      They said the default by the TGT had weighed heavily on ZFC, which had
sourced hard currency in advance to pay foreign suppliers in trust that the
TGT would later repay them. However, this had not transpired resulting in
the agricultural concern seeking payment through the courts.

      It is also alleged that despite sealing the contract with ZFC, TGT had
proceeded to secure other suppliers without settling its dispute with the
fertiliser company.

      ZFC acting general manager, Fidelis Dembetembe, confirmed the case but
could not furnish StandardBusiness with more details.

      "We can confirm that we are suing Tobacco Growers Trust for breach of
contract for an agreement we went into with them in August 2001. However the
case is still pending in the courts and we do not feel that we should
discuss it in the media for the time being. However, once the case has been
resolved we will provide you with details," said Dembetembe.

      Other sources said TGT owed four other major agricultural input
suppliers in the country billions of dollars.

      TGT vice-chairman, Thomas Nherera, expressed ignorance on the matter,
saying: "Nobody is owed by TGT in anyway. We gave them their money, some of
which we paid in Zim dollar equivalent," Nherera said.

      TGT was set up in July 2001 to manage the 20% of foreign currency
earned from tobacco sales to benefit tobacco farmers procure imported inputs
using the pool funds.

      Strong allegations of maladministration, corruption and alleged
nepotism have rocked the tobacco body.

      Small-scale and large scale tobacco growers are protesting that funds
are only benefiting those in the high echelons of TGT. They allege
favouritism in the allocation of inputs and the diversion of inputs and
equipment into areas outside tobacco.
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Zim Standard

      Fire guts Zesa central stores
      By our own staff

      THICK smoke engulfed parts of Harare yesterday afternoon after fire
broke out at a Zesa plant in Ardbennie.

      Equipment worth billions of dollars was destroyed at the Zesa central
stores in the Ardbennie industrial area gutted by the fire.

      A member of the Harare Fire Brigade was also burnt trying to drive
away a fire engine that had caught fire. The Standard could not establish
the extent of his injuries but the fire engine was reduced to a shell.

      Among the equipment destroyed were imported electricity cables, poles
and tanks of oil. Most of the equipment was meant for the government's rural
electrification programme.

      The cause of the fire was not known but a security guard said it
started from outside and later spread into the premises through a disused
trench, which Zesa used as a waste drain.

      A Harare Fire Brigade team was still battling to put the fire down,
about fire hours after it had started.

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Zim Standard

      Cash strapped Zimsec in quandary over exams
      By Henry Makiwa

      THE was no end in sight to the crisis at the Zimbabwe Schools
Examination Council (Zimsec) last week amid revelations that the beleaguered
parastatal, facing serious cash flow problems, had proposed to decentralise
the marking of examinations, The Standard has been told.

      Highly-placed Zimsec sources disclosed the examinations board, which
has failed to mark the June 'O' and 'A' level examinations for the past
month, is contemplating having the marking exercise done at district levels
during the August holidays to cut down on expenditure.

      Traditionally, examiners gather at one venue where they mark all the

      Said a source: "Zimsec is now mulling the idea of having the
examinations marked at different schools across the country because it
cannot afford to pay for the upkeep of the examiners at the traditional
marking stations.

      "We are likely to see a scenario where examiners will be marking the
student's papers coming from their homes to undertake the exercise at school
centres. The marked papers will then be transported by freight vehicles from
the centres to Harare. This may however, complicate fears of communication
breakdowns between the examiners who will be dotted around the country and
their chief examiners and subject managers."

      Senior examiners who spoke to The Standard last week, criticised
Zimsec's proposals to have the examinations marked in schools.

      They said for the examination process to be carried out consummately,
examiners needed to be in tranquil and placid environs where they can focus
and concentrate on their work.

      "Everywhere across the world, school examinations are not marked by
people who come from home because they tend to shift their attention on
their regular work," said one Mutare-based examiner.

      "Who knows what may happen to the examinations if one comes for
marking from an all-night drinking spree. This may cause inefficiencies."

      Another examiner who refused to be named for fear of victimisation,
said: "The whole process smacks of the rot that is now the country's
education system and is an admission of failure on Zimsec's part."

      But Zimsec director, Happy Ndanga, denied that the institution was in
the red resulting in the late marking of the examinations.

      "What I can tell you is that we are a government parastatal and we do
not generate money ourselves so we have devised strategies to see through
the marking exercise without compromising the education standards," he said.

      "It is difficult for us to sustain our operations. The government
merely chips in with a small grant while 'O' level students pay as little as
$100 as examination fees for each subject and 'A' level students pay $1 000,
yet the cost of developing just a question paper runs up to about $15 000,"
said Ndanga.

      "If the examiners complain about low pay, they have a good case but we
can only work within the resources that we are permitted by the government,"
Ndanga said.

      Neither the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Aeneas
Chigwedere nor his permanent secretary Thompson Tsodzo, who threatened to
fire Ndanga recently, could be reached to comment.

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Zim Standard

      State pays lip service to Aids fight
      By Henry Makiwa

      WHILE almost every Zimbabwean leader, from President Robert Mugabe,
church leaders, trade unionists down to the grassroots level, admit the Aids
pandemic is the "greatest challenge" facing the country, the government has
yet to come up with a clear policy on anti-retrovirals, the drugs that can
prolong life among HIV-positive people.

      Although the government has announced that Nevaripine, a drug that has
been found to be effective with HIV mother-to-child transmissions, is now
available at some clinics, an all out anti-retroviral roll out plan is yet
to be implemented.

      Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV infections in the world. Recent
statistics indicate that Aids is killing more than 3 800 people every week.

      Some local non-governmental organisations involved in the campaign
against the disease and people living with Aids groups say the government's
failure to move expeditiously to ensure the anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs are
made available locally was disappointing.

      "The government in particular has been extremely disappointing to
people of my condition. I blame them more than any other independent donors
because I believe as a citizen, the State has a responsibility of taking
care of my welfare," says Thandaso Nxumalo, a 35-year-old Harare
entrepreneur who says she is HIV-positive.

      She said she had lost more than 35 kgs in body weight in the past
eight years since she learnt that she was infected with HIV, the virus that
causes Aids.

      Over the years, a series of other opportunistic physical ailments
ranging from chest pains, acne infections and visual impairments have taken
their toll on her, leaving her visibly gaunt and emaciated.

      "The only reason why I have lived with HIV for so long is simply
because I am more financially blessed than millions of other Zimbabweans
suffering from Aids out there," Nxumalo said.

      "I can afford to buy some of anti-retroviral drugs to keep me going
but they don't always come in proper combinations as they should, because
our government does not do enough to make the treatments available."

      Nxumalo said anti-retroviral drugs were generally scarce and largely
unavailable in most Zimbabwean chemists and pharmacies around the country.

      Though the inaccessibility of anti-retroviral treatment has been felt
mostly in the government-run public institutions, the scenario is not much
different in private hospitals and clinics.

      To date only two major medical aid societies are known to provide
members with ARV drugs imported from their Indian and Thai manufacturers.

      Studies have confirmed that people infected with HIV can live with the
virus indefinitely, provided they can afford the many anti-retroviral drugs
now available on most markets world-wide, but not in most of Africa and
Zimbabwe, in particular.

      The ARVs are known to treat most of the opportunistic infections, such
as constant diarrhoea, that inflict those suffering from Aids.

      Nxumalo said: "The young, energetic and economically productive are
succumbing to Aids and at least 3 800 are dying each week but government and
civic efforts are far from convincing.

      "The government and politicians are instead falling over each other to
cough up money for the soccer teams and other ventures that will ensure
their political survival."

      The Zimbabwe Activists-HIV and Aids (ZAHA), an organisation formed in
May this year to advocate for the provision of treatment for Aids patients,
demanded that government translate its incessant "rhetoric into action".

      ZAHA spokesman, lawyer Tapiwa Kujinga, slammed Health Minister David
Parirenyatwa's recent announcement that the government had increased the
number of centres providing prevention of mother-to-child-transmission

      Kujinga said the treatment Parirenyatwa was referring to was only in
the form of the donated Navaripine - a drug that is known to reduce the
transmission of HIV from a mother to baby during birth or breast-feeding.

      "Everyone knows that Navaripine is donated. The government does not
pay for a single capsule of the drug and yet they make loud noises about it.
What we need is for the government to make more anti-retroviral treatment
accessible and affordable for all," Kujinga said.

      "The government is the only institution that has the resources to
procure the treatment and they are also responsible as enshrined in the
constitution, to ensure for the livelihood of each Zimbabwean."

      Efforts to engage Parirenyatwa in the discussion proved futile as he
was repeatedly said to be in lengthy meetings.

      Experts say a combination of anti-retroviral drugs, which can be in
double or triple therapies, currently costs at least $60 000 a month, an
amount which is beyond the reach of many ordinary Zimbabweans.

      Benjamin Mazhindu, an HIV/Aids activist, questioned the government's
preference of providing Nevaripine above all other drugs for Aids. "The
government insists on providing Navaripine which caters for a baby in the
womb, but how about the mother?" asked Mazhindu.

      For years now, the battle has raged between developing countries and
major pharmaceutical companies over the cheap and affordable availability of
the life saving drugs.

      Many Western pharmaceutical companies have argued that cheap ARVs, or
their heavily subsided generics, would end up in Europe and the US because
smugglers could take advantage of their low prices in Africa to buy and sell
them in the developed countries.

      Fear of infringing international patent laws has also hampered some
developing countries from manufacturing generic forms of the most effective
ARVs at home.

      Zimbabwe has however said it would announce, before the end of the
year, how its eagerly awaited roll-out plan for cheap or free
anti-retrovirals for Aids sufferers would be effected.

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Zim Standard

      No logic in MDC's change of tactics
      Sundaytalk with Pius Wakatama

      There is so much excitement in Zanu PF circles these days over the
attendance at President Robert Mugabe's opening of Parliament by the MDC
parliamentarians and their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

      This was their first time to attend the opening and listen to Mugabe's
address since Mugabe's disputed re-election in 2002. The reasons given for
the MDC's action by Zanu PF supporters are varied. Most of them are figments
of wild imagination and others are wishful thinking by party activists and
government propagandists.

      Some are saying that this is a sign that the MDC has now "matured
politically". Their attendance is taken to signify that they had given up
politics of confrontation with the government and are now ready for serious
dialogue in order to solve the country's problems.

      They conveniently forget that it was Zanu PF which displayed
immaturity by breaking off the talks brokered by Presidents Thabo Mbeki of
South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. They broke off the talks
because Morgan Tsvangirai had exercised his right to legal recourse since he
felt that Zanu PF had cheated in the 2002 presidential elections.

      Thug elements in Zanu PF are ecstatic. They believe that they
succeeded in bludgeoning the MDC into submission.

      One was heard to say: "MDC zvino yabata sure kuti Zanu ndeye ropa.
Tsvangirai aka kauriswa nejeri saka ave kuda kukumbira ruregerero kuna va
Mugabe. Ma British ake haana kuzo mumirira" (The MDC now realises that Zanu
PF is a product of bloodletting. Tsvangirai learnt his lesson from being
jailed. His British backers did not come to rescue him).

      One old man said on television recently: "Now that the MDC have seen
the error of their ways, they should instruct their overseas sponsors to
lift the sanctions they imposed on this country so that things can become
normal again."

      He represents those mostly in the rural areas who were brainwashed by
Zanu PF into believing that all woes besetting Zimbabwe are a result of
sanctions which were imposed at the behest of the MDC.

      They are oblivious of the fact that there were no sanctions imposed on
Zimbabwe as a country. Sanctions were imposed on certain Zanu PF leaders
whose actions were deemed to be abhorrent by the international community.

      Some donor countries and international aid agencies are not willing to
help Zimbabwe because they feel that her suffering is self-inflicted and
when they try to help, they are vilified and insulted. This was the case
with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Our President told
them to "go to hell" in no uncertain terms.

      Most ordinary Zimbabweans I have talked to are praising the MDC's
latest move as being both magnanimous and pragmatic. They believe that by
making overtures to Zanu PF, the MDC is creating an environment where
dialogue between the two political parties can take place. This will then
lead to a solution which will give President Mugabe (Mudhara wedu) a way to
make a dignified exit from power thus paving the way for fresh general
elections. The MDC will win the elections and there will be peace and
prosperity for ever and ever, Amen!

      Zimbabwean church leaders seem to also think that the solution to
Zimbabwe's problems lies in the MDC and Zanu PF sitting around a table and
talking. After publicly apologising for their silence for so long, while
Zimbabweans suffered, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches President Sebastian
Bakare, along with the head of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe,
Trevor Manhanga and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop's Conference's Patrick Mutume,
decided to be actively involved in finding a lasting solution to the
deepening Zimbabwe crisis. They, therefore, met separately with President
Mugabe and the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

      After the meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai, Bishop Bakare said: "It was
a debriefing meeting and we wanted to find out the MDC's response to the
resumption of dialogue and to the issues raised at our previous meeting with
President Mugabe."

      While questioning the church leaders' perceived solution to the
Zimbabwe crisis, I nevertheless, applaud them for their humble apology and
willingness to be actively involved. The Bible says: "Blessed are the peace
makers, for they shall be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9.

      The MDC itself seems to think that it's way to power lies in following
the "dialogue" road-map drawn by South Africa. The Daily News on Sunday of
July 27 reported that informal contacts between the MDC and the South
African president's emissaries were partly behind the thawing of hostilities
between the opposition MDC and the ruling Zanu PF. A road map to democracy
had been worked out and the first step was for Zanu PF and the MDC to resume

      The paper quotes an MDC source as saying: "The road map to democracy
begins with a round table conference on how the political impasse can be
solved for the good of the country. In this regard the MDC has already
appointed it's negotiating team for the talks, where we have dropped one and
added a new person. A technical support group, to work closely with the
negotiating team, has been appointed."

      I am not by any means a hawk who believes in confrontation and

      I hate violence and strongly believe that human beings should solve
all their problems through communication and dialogue. Where there is
violent confrontation, people of goodwill should quickly step in, as peace
makers, to pull the two sides apart and to initiate meaningful dialogue.

      Where a giant of a bully is victimising and mercilessly pummelling a
lesser endowed countryman, the mediator should take the bully aside and
sternly warn him about the error of his ways. When the bully has stopped
beating up his compatriot and apologised, the two can then shake hands and
start to dialogue. They can then walk together as friends who agree to
disagree on certain issues without resorting to violence.

      This is not so in our case.

      While the MDC leadership is excitedly preparing a delegation for talks
with Zanu PF, it's followers are being arrested, beaten up and with some
having their necks and limbs broken by the same Zanu PF. It's candidates for
the local government elections are also being physically barred from
registering as candidates by the same Zanu PF. I just don't understand the
logic of it. Do you?

      The decision by the MDC to enter into talks, without preconditions,
may be motivated by the best intentions but it is sure to send the wrong
message to MDC followers. They are bound to feel abandoned by their leaders.

      They will believe that, as happened to Zapu, they are offered
positions in government to capitulate. They will feel justified in saying,
"Politicians are all the same. They use you and then ditch you when you most
need them. Zanu PF is torturing us while our leaders are drinking tea and
sharing jokes with our tormentors".

      I fail to see the logic in the MDC's change of tactics.

      Do they really believe that the leopard (Zanu PF) has suddenly shed
its spots and is now snow white?

      First, as I have said before, Thabo Mbeki has proved beyond any
reasonable doubt, that he is not an honest broker. He is a friend of Robert
Mugabe and Zanu PF and despises the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai.

      Secondly, it is suicidal to trust Zanu PF and its leadership. They
don't know what it is to negotiate in good faith. They have proved over and
over again that they are masters of deceit.

      Thirdly, it is not fair to the MDC followers to enter into
negotiations while nefarious Zanu PF sponsored legislation like POSA and
AIPPA are still on the statute books and violence is still being perpetrated
upon MDC followers.

      The MDC should have refused to enter into negotiations until such
fundamental issues were dealt with. After all they have nothing left to lose
unless they are in a hurry to also taste the fruits of political power,
African style.

      The MDC should not be in a hurry to rescue Zanu PF from the mess it
has created. They have enough representation in Parliament to say what ever
it is they want to say to Zanu PF. They are covered by parliamentary
privilege if they are afraid of being prosecuted for telling it as it is.
The independent media is also brave enough to publish their statements no
matter how unpalatable they may be to Zanu PF.

      The MDC should let Zanu PF stew in the hot soup they have boiled
themselves. Let them sort out their own mess without getting to close and
being contaminated by it.

      Let them face the wrath of the people whose patience has now worn thin
since they can't even withdraw their own hard-earned money from the banks.
They are watching their children starve with rising indignation and anger.
The MDC should stay clear, even if it means waiting until the next elections
in 2005. Then they can form a government which is without blemish.

      He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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Zim Standard


      Hear thee: Measure Twice, Cut Once

      THERE has been an opportunistic tendency on the part of the Church
leaders currently involved in facilitating dialogue between Zanu PF and MDC
to rush to the media and reveal details of their discussions on both sides
at every turn. To put it bluntly: They are playing a dangerous game.

      Now is not the time to negotiate in public. Much more can be achieved
quietly and away from the attendant glare of the media. In such delicate and
sensitive matters, silence can be golden - at least for some time. A time
will indeed come when the media will have to push the momentum forward but
certainly not when the whole process has just got underway, as it is at the

      It is unfortunate that both Bishop Sebastian Bakare of the Zimbabwe
Council of Churches and Rev Trevor Manhanga of the Evangelical Fellowship of
Zimbabwe have been expressing a great deal of optimism and enthusiasm about
the possibility of these talks even before they start. Their optimism could
be misplaced. Not that we should be pessimistic. God forbid!

      Pessimism does not have a positive value. But what we are saying to
the Bishops is: Measure twice; cut once. That is what is important at this
stage of the game.

      Politicians are a terrible breed of people. They are invariably
self-serving. They lie. They mislead. They confuse. They deceive.

      As Church leaders, you are men of cloth driven by faith and trust in
what you stand for. Your language is very different from that of

      What is so striking about political language is that it is not any one
person's language. Politicians everywhere talk the language of government
when they are in government because they want to remain in power. They talk
the language of their party among the faithful. They talk the language of
opposition when they are in opposition because they want to get into power.
All politicians rarely speak their own political language.

      Essentially, these are the kinds of beasts that the well-meaning
church leaders are dealing with. For politicians especially of the Zanu PF
variety, it is a question of anything but the truth. The church leaders must
not therefore fall into the trap of responding publicly at every turn to
what politicians say on a daily basis. In the final analysis, men of the
cloth must come out clean of all spurious support and criticism.

      It is important for these bishops to appreciate that for them to
become what they are, they studied theology and the word of God. For
lawyers, physicians and journalists to become what they are, they studied
law, medicine and journalism respectively. But to be a politician, you need
only to study your own interests. Therein lies the challenge for the church
leaders in their noble attempt to bring the ruling Zanu PF and the
opposition MDC to the negotiating table.

      The most important thing for the Christian leaders is to stay calm,
cool and collected in the face of attacks by those who think they have a lot
to lose in this whole process. It is not the media which can derail the
talks or make things go wrong but the leaders (both Church and earthly
political leaders) by their reckless statements, but by reporting those
injudicious statements which the media is bound to, the media can
effectively scuttle what potentially could be a successful outcome.

      Everything must be done, therefore, not to provide further fuel to the
political mongrels particularly in Zanu PF who could derail things through
inflammatory language.

      It is our hope and prayer that the church leaders have enough sense to
know that. They must leave the ugly rough and tumble of everyday politics to
these political mongrels whom we know are trying everything, by hook and by
crook, to scupper any chances of the talks succeeding.

      Statements by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary
Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa are a case in point. Elsewhere in this newspaper,
we quote Chinamasa rejecting the intervention of the church leaders on the
grounds that he suspects them to be MDC supporters. While, clearly, the
issue here is not which political party the church leaders belong, although
it is well within their constitutional right to belong to any party they
choose, we must wonder whether Chinamasa's reaction would be the same if
they belonged to his party.

      But that aside, it is during difficult times such as the present that
the church should stay out of the political differences that exist. What the
church has done and will continue to do is to signal a new mood, a new
engagement on pertinent issues with the ruling and opposition parties - all
in a quiet, neutral and detached manner.

      The church leaders must also realise that their role in trying to
drive some sense in President Robert Mugabe will be no easy task. It is one
thing negotiating with someone who owns up to their faults and is prepared
to repent, but quite another trying to prevail on an intransigent and and
arrogant old man who is so convinced of his infallibility that he believes
anyone who criticises him is an enemy. Indeed, it is with the President that
the men of cloth have their most daunting challenge not with the MDC. All
our problems are stemming from Zanu PF's misgovernance and it will be
foolish and naive for anyone to think that Zanu PF will voluntarily give up

      And so, while these talks about talks are going on, civil society must
never be persuaded to abandon discussion or suspend pressure for democracy,
justice and the rule of law in response to appeals for uniformity and
unquestioning support in the guise of wanting to see these negotiations

      Having said what we have said about the church leaders' desire to
break the political impasse, it is important to restate that they must keep
going and breathing new life into the whole process.

      We believe that the day will come when eventually we will look back on
this period and there will be a word of gratitude to these church leaders,
including Archbishop Pius Ncube, who were deeply aware of the need to make
themselves available as a channel of information, of correct interpretation
of the Zimbabwean crisis, and of the challenge of their churches to further
the whole process and the struggle for justice and reconciliation in our

      May the mind of Christ our Saviour continue to live in them.

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Zim Standard

      Comic economics strike again
      overthetop By Brian Latham

      A troubled central African nation has been hit hard by what some have
dubbed "comic economics." Making world history, the troubled and bankrupt
central African banana republic managed to run out of money, a feat
economists said is a world first.

      Still, not content with running out of money, the nation's bewildered
finance minister announced he was going to withdraw what little money was
left and replace it with new money.

      Economists interviewed by Over The Top said they had no idea how this
would help.

      Instead they compared the troubled central African basket case with
other nations. "If you compare our highest denomination note with say South
Africa, our 500 is worth approximately R1.50," said one economist. "If you
compare it with the United States, it's worth less than 20 cents."

      The economist told OTT that if the highest denomination note available
in the US was a 20 cent piece, that mighty nation would also run out of

      Still, officials in the troubled central African charity case said
these were all lies. "Our currency is strong and getting stronger because
it's value is 55 to the US dollar," claimed a ministry of debt official.

      Meanwhile, economists pointed out that the only people who could buy
US dollars at 55 to one were members of the Zany party. "And all they do
with them is sell them at 2,700 to the dollar," said one angry former

      It is estimated that former businessmen outnumber businessmen in the
troubled central African country by as much as 20 to one.

      The crisis has grown to such proportions that some businesses have
considered paying their workers in food. Or they did - until someone pointed
out that food is also in perilously short supply.

      Clearly flummoxed officials then assured a sceptical nation that the
problem would soon be solved because a 1,000 denomination note would be put
into circulation. "That's great," said a frustrated economist. "It'll make
our highest denomination worth 37 cents."

      Government critics pointed out that a new note worth at least 20,000
was needed to solve the problem.

      "And if they think that by withdrawing the 500s and reissuing new ones
will stop hoarding, then they're clearly deluded," said a banker. "All
they'll do is hand in the old ones and put the new ones back under the

      Still, OTT can dispel at least one rumour. The new currency will
retain its old name and not adopt the commonly used kwacha so popular in
other bankrupt central African nations. It was thought kwacha would be a
good name because that's the noise it makes as its value plummets to the

      And if worried citizens ever doubted that the troubled government of
the troubled central African skid row were as clueless as everyone else,
those doubts were dispelled last week when the finance minister arrived
hours late for a press conference to announce new half measures to solve the

      The minister of bankruptcy did not, though, address the fundamental
problems affecting the troubled central African doss house. For a start, he
made no mention of stopping the idiotic practice of forcing the central bank
to buy US dollars at 2,700 to one and sell the same U.S dollars to
government and members of the Zany party at 55 to one.

      Economists point out that the staggering loss on these funny money
contracts alone is enough to send the troubled central African nation's
economy into a tail spin.

      Of course, it also allows Zany party members to indulge in profligate
shopping sprees in the world capitals - or at least, those world capitals
controlled by governments unethical and corrupt enough to allow Zany party
members through their borders.
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Comment from The Sunday Times (SA), 3 August

From one crisis to another - that's life in Zimbabwe

Despite government denial, life has become absurd when not tragic, writes
Dumisane Muleya

For Zimbabweans, tackling everyday problems has become like playing a game
of solitaire with a deck of 51 cards. No matter what you do, you never win.
Think about it: 70% of the population lives on less than US$1 a day in a
country where inflation is 364.5% and unemployment is around 80%. Thousands
of companies have closed down or reduced operations. The economy is
shrinking at an average of 10% annually. Zimbabweans have to cope daily with
shortages of food, fuel, electricity and money. Shops have empty shelves. Go
to a service station and you invariably come across the "No Fuel" sign.
Enter a bank and you will be told there is no money. If you are lucky you
can withdraw Z$10 000. This can buy only 10 loaves of bread or less than 10l
of petrol - if you can find these commodities. It's not enough to buy 5l of
cooking oil or 10kg of the staple mealie meal. The cash crisis is worsening.
Banks have run out of money because of government's failure to print enough
bank notes. The government has no foreign currency to buy the special paper
needed to produce bank notes and its printing facilities lack capacity to
generate adequate paper money. Countries such as Germany which used to print
money for Zimbabwe have withdrawn their services due to non-payment. Since
last week clients have been besieging banks, demanding their money to buy
foodstuffs and pay essential bills. Long queues for cash are now manned by
armed riot police. Last weekend police had to use teargas and baton sticks
to control angry crowds in Harare and Mutare who had broken into banks,
threatening to seize their deposits back. "This crisis is threatening the
whole financial system and the banking sector and it might precipitate an
economic collapse," a senior bank manager said. "I have never seen anything
like this. Can you imagine a government which can't even print money?"

In a bid to alleviate the cash crisis, government recently introduced
Z$24-billion, but it proved to be a drop in the ocean. Now the government is
threatening to withdraw or change the colour of the highest currency
denomination - the Z$500 note - to encourage people to return money to
banks. Most people, especially black- market dealers, are holding onto
billions that they sell at a commission to banks. Many people say it's now
better to keep cash under the bed than in a bank. "Zimbabwe is the only
country in the world where its highest bank note can't buy a pint of beer or
a loaf of bread," says Martin Kaseke, a Harare resident. "It has become
worthless. Malawi's kwacha is now stronger than our currency, which is
getting as weak as the Zambian kwacha." Inflation is one of the major
problems in Zimbabwe. "In the early 1980s bread cost 10c. I never dreamt I
would live to see bread selling for Z$1 000 in Zimbabwe," Kaseke said. Many
families now are forced to forgo some meals and Zimbabwe's breadline workers
are increasingly getting agitated about the hardships they have to suffer.
Trade unions are negotiating for quarterly wage increases instead of the
traditional annual pay reviews. They also are demanding frequent
cost-of-living adjustments to try to get to grips with the situation. After
work people who don't have cars now resort to standing in the middle of
roads to try to get lifts home. Desperate hitch-hikers sometimes try to
physically stop cars to get lifts. Some people cycle, others walk 10km to
and from work every day. Due to worsening poverty and suffering, people are
now resorting to bizarre strategies to survive. Some sell local money. If
you want Z$50 000, for instance, you can buy the money with a Z$70 000
cheque - upon producing evidence that your account has got money in it.

Black-market entrepreneurs use dead bodies to jump the fuel queues, as
funeral parlours are given preference. Recently a Chitungwiza Hospital
mortician and his assistant were arrested for issuing fake burial orders and
releasing bodies awaiting paupers' burials to buy fuel and sell it on the
black market. Other public transport operators now make a living by queueing
for fuel, then emptying their tanks and selling the fuel on the black
market. They say this is more profitable than their normal business. In
another incident that illustrates the depth of the economic crisis, a man
recently lost his lip after being bitten by a woman during a fight over a
loaf of bread. These occurrences bear graphic testimony of just how bad
things are in the country. Social service institutions, like hospitals and
schools and the former illustrious University of Zimbabwe, are increasingly
becoming dilapidated. Hospitals have no drugs or equipment. It is now more
expensive to stay at a hospital than at a five-star hotel. Schools do not
have sufficient learning materials and teachers are running away, as are
other professionals such as nurses and engineers, to other countries as part
of the Great Trek abroad. The brain drain is severe and has left Zimbabwe
having to hire nurses and doctors from countries such as Cuba and the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Roads - most of which were built during
colonial times - are poorly maintained or simply neglected. Land seized from
white commercial farmers and parcelled to government cronies and peasants
without resources to utilise them lies uncultivated.

While the people suffer, the government continues to remain locked in denial
and continues its habit of blaming others for the country's woes. The
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, unpredictable weather patterns,
including cyclone and drought conditions, global economic trends and
imperialists - especially the British and Americans - are blamed for
everything, even erratic rainfall. Information Minister Jonathan Moyo's
propaganda saturates the airwaves. At any given time if you switch on the
television or any one of the four radio stations - which are all
state-controlled - you are likely to hear propaganda jingles urging the
people to remain resilient. Through television and radio stations 24 hours a
day, Zimbabweans are always urged: "Rambai makashinga (continue to endure),
our land is our prosperity." Politicians also sing the same refrain at
meetings and rallies. There is an attempt to use popular pastimes, such as
football, beauty contests and music, to mobilise people behind President
Robert Mugabe, whose support is rapidly evaporating.

However, all is not gloom and doom in Zimbabwe. In the middle of the crisis
people still revel at night clubs, parties and at other festive occasions.
In Harare a popular place where different people - ranging from businessmen
to journalists - drown their sorrows is the Cresta Oasis Hotel. A veteran
Oasis patron is prominent businessman and telecommunications expert Chemist
Siziba, who drinks beer there with his friends almost every day. Siziba
likes to stir controversy and sometimes asks - often to the utter disbelief
of colleagues: "How can you say there is a crisis when most of you here can
still afford to buy a round? Zimbabweans are the most sophisticated Africans
and that's why we are still surviving now. Our economy is the most advanced
in Africa." In a country in such turmoil, Oasis is never short of dramas.
Debates, especially on politics, often get heated and people at times come
near to physical blows. But the Oasis remains a good hide-out. Some jokingly
call it "the Matabeleland embassy in Harare" because most people from
Matabeleland provinces drink there. Mugabe's secret agents also are
something of a feature at the hotel. Inevitably, there have been dramas
involving his spooks and some of the drinkers. One day an amateurish secret
agent brought a tape recorder and tried to capture a conversion involving
journalists, diplomats and other patrons. But a businessman spotted him and
seized his equipment before ripping it apart. And why not? In a country
where dead people queue for petrol and the freedom of expression is brutally
suppressed, our voices must remain, at least, our own. It is all we have,
after all.
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