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'Mother of all poor seasons' forecast

Zim Standard


ZIMBABWE’S much-ballyhooed "Mother of all seasons" looks set to become
the "Mother of all poor harvests", agricultural experts warned last week.

They warned, contrary to official predictions of a bumper harvest, of
a "serious food crisis".

Their projection: the harvest may only amount to 30 percent of the
total national maize requirements.

The experts blame the crisis on poor agricultural planning by the
government and the excessive rains which have been falling since last

Most farmers failed to plant on time because they could not access
seed, fertilizer and fuel, among other vital inputs.

They were repeatedly promised the inputs by the government, but in the
end only a few managed to get them.

The situation was exacerbated by the heavy rains which resulted in
water-logging, a condition detrimental to crop growth.

The continuous rains made even weeding virtually impossible, resulting
in maize competing with weeds for sunlight and nutrients.

The experts estimate that Zimbabwe would produce between 500 000 and
600 000 tonnes of maize against a national requirement of two million

In the end, about 1, 5 million tonnes will have to be imported to feed
the population.

Already about 3. 5 million people are surviving on food aid, according
to United Nations estimates.

An agricultural expert, who asked not to be named, warned Zimbabwe
could face a food crisis of the magnitude of the 1991/2 season , during
which millions survived on food handouts. That crisis, ironically, was
caused by drought.

The expert said although the excessive rains were partly to blame for
the crisis, poor planning by government was the major factor.

"It might be too early to give an estimate but to be honest it is
doubtful that we are going to get anything above 500 000 tonnes of maize
this year," he said.

His estimate was corroborated by the MDC’s shadow minister of
agriculture, Renson Gasela, himself an agricultural expert.

But Gasela’s estimate for the maize harvest was 600 000 tonnes.

"We are going to have a disastrous year because of the government’s
failure to plan," he said. "Farmers failed to access seed, fertilizer or
fuel in time. We would be lucky if we managed to get 600 000 tonnes of

Among the areas seriously affected by water logging are Muzambani,
Middle Sabi in Chipinge and parts of Masvingo province.

Floods washed away crops near river banks in some areas.

Gasela, the former Grain Marketing Board (GMB) boss, said the seed and
fertilizer industries failed to supply the commodities because of the
unviable prices gazetted by the government, shortage of foreign currency,
power outages and erratic supply of coal.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard said they obtained fertilizer when
the crop was already reaching maturity stage. Most of them said they failed
to access loans under the Agriculture Sector Productive Enhancement Facility
(ASPEF) in time to be of any use.

"The whole thing was a hotchpotch," said Amos Mutingwende, a farmer
from Uzumba in Murewa. "There was no seed, no fertilizer and no loans for
farmers, except for the beneficiaries of the political patronage."

In some areas, the tractors distributed to farmers by Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe were turned into "minibuses" to ferry people in the rural areas or
hired to transport Chibuku (opaque beer) to bottle stores. ."

Subsidised diesel obtained by the farmers for what some called "a
song" was being sold on the black market instead.

Agriculture minister Rugare Gumbo and his deputy David Chapfika could
not be reached for comment last week.

But two weeks ago, Gumbo was upbeat about the prospect of a bumper
harvest, despite indications to the contrary.

The government even dubbed this the "Mother of All Season."

Gumbo encouraged farmers to plant maize although the season is edging
towards the end and the RBZ is still distributing ploughs in the rural areas
under the agricultural mechanization programme.

Some of the ploughs have been used to buy votes.

But a Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) official said planting
maize now "is a waste of resources and effort" as the crop would not mature.

"Maize requires heat unit (enough sunlight and warm soil) which we don’t
have now. The maize will grow but will not produce a quality crop," he said.

The expert said he was concerned that farm acquisitions were
continuing although President Robert Mugabe last year called for an end to
the takeovers.

Last week the government gazetted over 30 commercial farms for
acquisition, sending a chill down the spines of the remaining white
commercial farmers.

Food shortages have plagued Zimbabwe for the past seven years,
following the invasions of white-owned commercial farmers in 2000.

The invasions, spearheaded by war veterans, nearly decimated the
agriculture sector, which once earned the country the accolade of the
breadbasket of southern Africa.

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Even with a Commission, graft breeds in Zimbabwe

Zim Standard


ON Monday last week, two senior government employees — Attorney
General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele and Grain Marketing Board (GMB) operations
director, Samuel Muvuti— appeared in court on corruption charges.

That same day, a close ally of President Robert Mugabe, Nicholas van
Hoogstraten, was charged with illegally dealing in foreign currency.

Could this be the beginning of the end of the honeymoon for corrupt
government officials and businesspeople? Is the Anti-Corruption Commission
(ACC) beginning to get tough?

Could Muvuti become the first top official to be prosecuted by the
commission — more than two years after its establishment?

Two weeks ago, Vice President Joice Mujuru said the nation was
suffering because of high level corruption.

"When we appoint some of these people," said Mujuru at a function at
Hupenyuhutsva Children’s Home. "we assume they are capable, but I think to
some extent we have misjudged some people who hold important positions.

"They are full of the individualistic feeling and practice. We know
what happened during Operation Restore Order. This is what we call
corruption; it is not good. Our society is no longer clean. It’s like we are
developing crooks."

A month earlier, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Gideon Gono,
said he knew many top officials were engaged in corrupt activities.

Gono said corrupt officials were responsible for the three-months-
long cash crunch, which forced him to introduce six sets of high
denomination notes.

On two occasions, Gono said he was prepared to name and shame the
officials. But he seemed to develop cold feet, when he failed to turn up for
a meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance.

Over the past few weeks, The Standard has gathered information the RBZ
has taken part in corrupt activities.

Even President Robert Mugabe has on many occasions hinted that he is
aware most officials in his government are corrupt. In one memorable speech
a few years ago, he spoke of top people taking "ten percent" of the total
value of each government contract.

But despite this acknowledgment of corruption, there appears to be
little progress in stamping it out.

In its Integrity Systems Report on Zimbabwe in 2007, international
corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI) said: "Corruption in
Zimbabwe is fast becoming a way of life.

"The vice has become so deep-rooted and institutionalized that some
people now accept it as their sole means of survival due to a total collapse
of systems that offer checks and balances," said TI.

Zimbabwe is among the 12 countries ranked 150 in the Corruption
Perceptions Index (CPI). This, said the TI, is despite the fact that
Zimbabwe has a Ministry of Anti-Corruption, and the ACC.

The ACC was established in 2005, but up to now, its "effectiveness is
yet to be fully realized". There is growing belief the ACC could actually
turn out to be another white elephant, like The Ombudsman.

John Makumbe, a respected political analyst, believes corruption is an
indication of the rot in the entire governance system of the country.
Makumbe said there was no way efforts to fight corruption could yield
anything when the "very people who are supposed to fight it are leading the
corruption vicious circle".

"When systems of government collapse," said Makumbe, "people resort to
corrupt means of survival. At the moment, there is no commitment whatsoever
to fight corruption. It is almost like there is no one running the country."

Makumbe said during an election campaign, like this year, the
situation was most likely to get worse.

"There is no political will to fight corruption, especially in an
election time like this. The cost of fighting corruption is very high for
the government. So they would rather leave things as they are. Look at what
we have just witnessed: we have Gono being stopped from exposing cash
barons. This was to avoid the possible political damage that would result."

The Commission’s deputy chairperson, Rutendo Faith Wutawunashe, said
it was not only senior figures who were corrupt, "even small ones are so

"Some of them are so small, but they are the most serious," said
Wutawunashe. "They move trillions of dollars. Some of these small ones are
fronts for the big fish."

But Wutawunashe would not reveal the names of the big fish fuelling

She referred this reporter to Bessie Fadzai Nhandara, who in turn
asked questions to be sent to her.

Nhandara later claimed she had not seen the questions, and then said
she was in a meeting.

Makumbe said the corruption commissioners were dodging questions,
possibly because some of them could be corrupt.

"What has the commission been doing, if they cannot give us even one
major case of corruption?" he asked. "Why has there not been an imprisonment
for a case handled by the commission? They are part of the rot. If we are to
fight corruption, we have to get rid of the commission and the regime that
put it in place?."

In 2006, the ACC received 147 cases but only four were completed
because of "a number of challenges ranging from legal, operational,
financial, technical and administrative".

Transparency International says there "is more symbolic than
substantive political commitment to curtail corruption and strengthen the
integrity system".

Attempts to contact the Minister of Anti- Corruption and
Anti-Monopolies, Samuel Undenge were futile.

An official at his office said Undenge was "running around" preparing
for the forthcoming elections.

Government spokesperson, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said it was "unfounded" to
say the government was not committed to fighting corruption.

"Whoever has factual information about corrupt government officials
should just bring factual information and see if they will not be
prosecuted," said Ndlovu.

"When we have the facts, we can prosecute anyone whether he or she is
in government or not. That is why one of them even fled to the UK because he
knew no one is above the law. The people who say government is shielding
corrupt officials have double standards."

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MDC factions deadlocked

Zim Standard


FACTIONS of the MDC failed to announce a united front yesterday after
a stalemate over the selection of candidates , sources revealed last night.

By 9;00 PM, the top leadership of the two factions were holed up at a
house in Milton Park, trying to find a way out of their problem.

Journalists gathered at a Harare hotel where the MDC had booked a big
hall for the announcement were told to leave as there would be no press

They had been waiting since 3;30 PM when the announcement was due to
be made in front of diplomats.

Although details remained sketchy last night, The Standard was
informed there was deadlock over the selection of candidates.

The disagreement centred on new parliamentary seats in Harare and
Matabeleland that are considered safe by both formations. Under a
reunification agreement signed by the parties, each formation should at
least have 30 percent of the seats in the province.

But this agreement was a major sticking point yesterday amid
indications the Tsvangirai faction was reneging on it.

For example, The Standard was told that in the case of Harare, which
is a stronghold of the MDC, the Tsvangirai faction wanted its candidates to
take all the new constituencies while the Mutambara faction had insisted
that one of these seats be reserved for the Professor.

Insiders in the Tsvangirai camp said this caused concern in their
camp. They said they were worried that Mutambara was positioning himself to
be the leader of the opposition after the elections.

In the event that Tsvangirai was defeated in the Presidential
elections, Mutambara who was set to become the leader of the opposition in
Parliament could "eclipse" Tsvangirai. The Standard was told.

In the case of Bulawayo where six safe seats have arisen, the
Mutambara faction was keen to have them reserved for their own candidates.
On the other hand the Tsvangirai faction wanted the seats.

There were indications that the meeting would continue late into the

Sources say, both camps held separate national council meetings

They said the national executive of the Arthur Mutambara led faction
gave its leadership the mandate to forge ahead with the united front.

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Another blackout hits Zimbabwe

Zim Standard


FOR the third time inside a month, most parts of Zimbabwe were
yesterday plunged into darkness after an electricity blackout.

There was chaos in Harare and Mutare when traffic lights, elevators
and industry ground to a halt because of the blackout. But some areas of
Bulawayo had electricity.

The cause of yesterday’s blackout was not immediately clear.

Fullard Gwasira, Zimbabwe Electricty Supply Authority (Zesa)
spokesperson said: "I am not aware of the extent of the power problem
although it is evident that a number of areas are affected.

"However, ZESA is doing everything in its position to ensure that
power is restored to affected area."

The blackout came barely two weeks after a reaction task force was
created to identify critical areas requiring power feeds in the event of a
power crisis.

Power cuts have increased since last month after South Africa switched
off the country because it also wanted to meet its local demand. Apart from
that, Zimbabwe has not been able to import enough electricity because of the
critical shortage of foreign currency to settle arrears.

The country has been importing most of its power from Mozambique and
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) while South Africa’s Eskom switched
off Zimbabwe to meet growing local demands.

Ironically ZESA is exporting 40MW to Namibia under an arrangement in
which the Namibian power utility, NAMPOWER, provided US$40 million for the
refurbishment of units at Hwange power station.

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Zanu PF shuts out aspiring candidates

Zim Standard


BULAWAYO — Zanu PF officials in Matabeleland North allegedly tried to
shut out aspiring candidates from rival factions from the ongoing primary
elections by hiding their curriculum vitaes, (CV).

A candidate alleged to have benefited from this was the Minister of
Industry and International Trade, Obert Mpofu of Umguza constituency.

A fortnight ago, Mpofu was declared the unopposed Zanu PF candidate
for his old constituency.

But it has emerged that Mark Mzula Mbayiwa, a retired army major and
Zipra ex-combatant has challenged that decision, accusing Mpofu of
"masterminding the disappearance" of his application.

He has appealed to the commissariat to review the case, described by
party insiders as "the culmination of factional fighting".

Mbayiwa is reportedly being supported by the former PF Zapu old guard
as part of their turf war with Mpofu, allegedly a member of a faction linked
to Solomon Mujuru, husband of Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

In a letter addressed to Zanu PF national commissar, Elliot Manyika,
Mbayiwa claims he submitted his curriculum vitae to the party’s Umguza
district coordinating committee chairman on 7 January.

But he said he was "shocked to learn a week later" that Mpofu had been
chosen unopposed as the Umguza constituency candidate.

"I hereby launch a complaint that I submitted my CV to the DCC
chairperson for Umguza who is housed at York House, which is owned by the
current MP (Mpofu) on 7 January 2006," Mbayiwa said. "But when I went to
Lupane for a meeting, I was told that my CV was not submitted. The only CV
there was for the current MP."

He said "the grapevine has it that the DCC chairperson went around the
constituency saying he would not send the CV to Lupane" because of his
connection with Mpofu.

Dumisani Mpofu, the chief Agritex officer in Matabeleland North was
also told that his CV was never considered for the Bubi parliamentary
constituency because it had gone missing.

It is understood the CV has now been found but his case is yet to be
determined by the provincial executive.

Mpofu was not available for comment yesterday as he was attending the
African Union summit in Ethiopia.

Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairman, Headman Moyo could not comment on
the matter as he was said to be attending a meeting to address problems that
arose during the primaries.

But the Zanu Umguza DCC chairman, Zwelitsha Masuku denied they had
thrown out Mbayiwa’s CV, saying "it was not submitted according to party
rules and procedures".

"He even admitted that he did not hand over the CV to me," Masuku
said. "Instead he says he sent his wife who gave it to a certain woman at
Pioneer House, but we have failed to identify that woman."

But a Zanu PF provincial member insisted "that there is a lot of
corruption in this process" because of factionalism.

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Zinwa shelves Bulawayo takeover

Zim Standard


BULAWAYO — The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has
temporarily suspended plans to take over the city’s water and sewer system —
at least, until after the elections.

Sources said Zanu PF feared a backlash against the party from voters
over the unpopular takeover, which has rallied the residents behind the
council, which opposes the move.

Last year, ZINWA began taking over water and sewer systems in all
urban centres and growth points, after a controversial Cabinet directive.

But the city council has resisted the change, citing the parastatal’s
poor track record and the fact that the council’s water account constituted
more than 40 percent of its annual budget.

The takeover was resisted by residents and political parties,
including the Zanu PF provincial executive, which rallied behind the
MDC-dominated council.

Council sources said the committees to prepare for the takeover have
not met this year, apparently on the advice of the Ministry of Local
Government, Public Works and Urban Development not to "hurry" the process.

The committees include representatives from government departments and
the council.

The council has budgeted for the water and sewer components in its
$26,7 trillion budget for this year, which includes a new water levy.

Officials said this was a major policy decision to "show that Zinwa is
not taking over soon".

Under the new levy domestic consumers will, with immediate effect, pay
$1,6 million a month and non-domestic consumers forking out $24,9 million.

The levy would be adjusted from time to time, using the official
month-on-month inflation figures.

"It will be suicidal if we start talking about the takeover now," said
a Zanu PF provincial executive member. "We have been assured there won’t be
any discussion about the ZINWA takeover until after the elections."

Zanu PF has not won any major election in Bulawayo since the MDC
entered the electoral scene in 2000.

The council’s spokesman, Pathisa Nyathi said Zinwa had not contacted
the council this year on the takeover.

He suggested the cash-strapped parastatal could have been forced to
shelve its plans by the skyrocketing cost of chemicals for water

Announcing the introduction of the levy the council said: "Whilst the
onset of the rainy season has brought relief to residents of the city, the
cost of water treatment chemicals has, due to inflationary trends, reached
levels that are not sustainable.

"Council can no longer rely on billing income, hence the need to levy
consumers for the costs of treating water."

Water and Infrastructure Development minister, Munacho Mutezo was not
available for comment as he was said to be out of town.

Zanu PF heavyweights in Matabeleland, including Vice-President Joseph
Msika and politburo member, Dumiso Dabengwa have publicly criticized the
ZINWA takeover.

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Motorists say potholes now 'deathtraps'

Zim Standard


"PLEASE expose this so-called commission running the affairs of
Harare. I am lucky to be alive after I drove my car drove into a pothole
last week.

"At the end I lost three of my tyres, and the suspension of my car was
heavily damaged," fumed a Harare motorist last week.

The motorist, Romeo Rusere, is now demanding the commission replace
his rims and three tyres damaged when he drove into the pothole.

In addition, he also wants the commission to pay the full cost of
repairs to the suspension and other body parts damaged in the crunching
encounter with the pothole.

Who is going to listen to Rusere’s demands, as if he is the only one
affected by the pothole nightmare?

Potholes have assumed the character of a national disaster, as they
continue to widen, turning roads into death traps.

Inevitably, one wag coined this adage: "If you saw Zimbabwean
motoristdriving in a zigzag manner, they are not drunk they are merely
dodging potholes in the roads."

A drive around the city centre and other residential areas illustrates
the sorry state of the dilapidated roads.

The problem has been excabertated by the end of the lifespan of many
tarred roads, especially in the high-density areas, most of them built by
the colonialists, cheaply and overcrowded.

They need urgent repair.

"I don’t have a car but I can just imagine the difficulties of driving
in our roads. The potholes have become more like wells or fish ponds," said
Marjory Tafireyi of Glen-view.

The effects of hitting a large pothole can be very serious. The car
would sustain bent rims, tyres damaged and the suspension ruined.

Innocent Bvunzawabaya, the marketing and public relations assistant
manager at Mazda Motors said there had been an increase in the number of
cars being brought for repairs to the company.

"There has been a dramatic increase of cars, especially with damaged
wheels, and wheel balancing and alignment. One in three of every four cars
coming here for repairs are a result of the potholes," he said.

Replacing a new tyre costs an average $800million, depending on the

Repairing a bent rim at the garages ranges from $7 million upwards.

Many motorists complained this was far beyond their reach.

Potholes are not only affecting vehicles, but even pedestrians are at

In high-density suburbs where children are constantly playing in
roads, the potholes have become small dams, a dangerous hazard to the kids.

One Kombi driver said if the potholes issue was not addressed
immediately, the roads were continuing to deteriorate.

"I think the only decent road left in this city is the one to the
State House. Otherwise the whole city is affected," he said.

Lovemore Madhuku, National Constitutional Assembly chairman, said it
was legal for motorists to take the city council to court if their cars were
damaged by potholes.

"I have heard people talking of taking the city council to court
because of the potholes, and I think this is constitutionally legal," he

Harare police provincial spokesperson Inspector James Sabau, said so
far he had received no reports of accidents caused by potholes.

"I don’t have statistics of accidents caused as a result of potholes,"
he said.

Drivers of heavy duty trucks are also not spared.

Crispen Tambare, a long- distance truck driver, said though their
vehicles were designed operate in any awkward environment, they still
sustained damage from potholes.

"The potholes are damaging our tyres and to buy new tyres again and
again is expensive," he said.

The government has been blaming the incessant rains as the cause of
potholes. But motorists believe this is a result of the failure of the
government and the city council to maintain the roads.

What were small holes in the road surface before have developed into
large potholes.

"Where were they before the rains started? They should have repaired
the roads a long time ago," said Patricia Makombe of Kuwadzana.

In some high density suburbs, unemployed youths have begun filling
potholes in their roads for a fee — from motorists.

"We charge at least $500 000 a car because we are working so hard to
help these motorists to save their tyres," said Peter Nkomo of Budiriro

Meanwhile, Bulawayo city council issued the following statement on
potholes in the Second City:

"Following incessant and much welcomed rains in recent weeks,
unprecedented potholes have developed on many of the city’s roads, making
them impassable and dangerous.

"Unfortunately, repair of potholes cannot be satisfactorily attended
to due to many constraints, mainly finances that are badly eroded by

"In the meantime, stopgap remedial measures can be undertaken. On this
note the City Of Bulawayo is appealing to all stakeholders and residents to
assist in filling potholes on their streets… Materials such as broken
bricks, rubble from building operations or coal ash can be used…"

The executive mayor of Bindura, Advocate Martin Dinha last month told
the city’s residents their council would introduce a monthly road levy fee
for the repair the town’s infrastructure.

Tendai Mahachi the chairperson of the commission running Harare said
they were working tirelessly to fill the potholes and invited The Standard
next week to see the work they were doing.

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Zanu PF plot to impose Nhema backfires

Zim Standard

  By Nqobani Ndlovu

BULAWAYO: Zanu PF’s attempts to "impose" Environment and Tourism
Minister, Francis Nhema as its candidate for the Shurugwi North House of
Assembly seat backfired last week when his rival won a High Court appeal.

The Zanu PF Midlands provincial executive had approved Nhema’s
candidature after discarding Fenet Mbengo’s application to stand in the
party’s primary elections.

But Bulawayo High Court Judge, Nicholas Ndou nullified the
declaration, giving Mbengo, suspended from Zanu PF, the right to run in the

This was after the respondents in his urgent court application failed
to appear before the court by 2 PM on Monday, having been served with the
summons on Saturday.

The party’s provincial executive committee, its disciplinary committee
and the presiding officer of the Zanu-PF Shurugwi district election
directorate were cited as first, second and third respondents respectively.

Mbengo applied through his lawyer, Tinovonga Mapetsenyika of
Mapetsenyika and Associates in Gweru.

Ndou directed "the respondents to allow Dr Mbengu to campaign freely
during the primary election period".

Mbengo, a councillor in Shurugwi’s ward 10, challenged the provincial
executive’s decision to bar him from contesting because he was suspended
from the party.

He is a member of the Zanu-PF national consultative assembly but was
suspended on January 5 on allegations of misconduct.

According to the letter of suspension, signed by Jaison Machaya, the
provincial chairman, Mbengo was suspended for "insubordination, calling and
presiding over an illegal meeting on 4 November last year at Chacha".

Mbengo dismissed his suspension as "illegal and unprocedural".

Nhema has been the MP for Shurugwi since 2000.

The constituency has since been divided into two.

Zanu-PF is currently holding primary elections to choose its
candidates for the harmonised elections on 29 March.

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What will save the children? Not politics

Zim Standard


THE temptation is irresistible to be melodramatic when analysing the state
of our health delivery system. One reason is this invariably concerns life
and death.

For a government to be found culpable in the negligence of its citizens’
lives is an indictment of its entire claim to being in power at all.

People facing illness are not the victims of a natural disaster such as a
storm, floods or a raging inferno in a forest. They are sick. With the
proper care and medication they can recover.

If a government cannot guarantee its citizens’ health, what good is it? Our
health delivery system has been in decline for a number of years, chiefly
through a shortage of essential drugs and a shortage of key personnel.

Recent details of the state of affairs at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals
provide disturbing levels of irresponsible conduct by the government. In a
number of democracies, there would have been calls for the minister to

Others would take the extreme view that the government must resign. In a
quasi-one party dictatorship such as Zimbabwe, that would be tantamount to
whistling in the wind.

But if newly-born babies’ chances of survival are reduced to near-zero, as
they are at Harare hospital’s neonatal unit, how can a government claim it
is performing its bounden duty to protect its citizens, among them helpless,
newly-born babies?

And if surgeons at Parirenyatwa hospital threaten not to perform surgery,
unless the facilities are improved, there can be no sensible reaction other
than to call for those responsible to resign or be fired.

Nobody doubts that, notwithstanding the positive noises from certain
quarters, the state of our economy is extremely parlous. It can’t be
anything else, what with wild inflation and an anaemic currency tottering
towards an abyss of worthlessness?

The damage to our health delivery system is a result of a topsy-turvy choice
of priorities: defence gets a lion’s share while health receives almost a

Politics plays a huge role in these choices, probably because Zanu PF is so
obsessed with clinging to power it would do anything to please its
constituency, even if in doing so it endangers the health of the people.

In fact, it would not be far-fetched to surmise that most of our economic
woes can be traced to a preoccupation with politics.

The exodus of doctors, nurses and specialists to other countries results
from low pay and primitive working conditions. Then there is the pathetic
state of the medical institutions, from the rural health centres to the big,
metropolitan hospitals.

Again, it is the government’s bull-headed political choices which have led
us into this cul-de-sac of helplessness, not only in the health delivery
system but in other fields as well. It would be inaccurate to say we have
become friendless, but the number of countries ready to come to our aid is
no longer as varied as before 2000.

The policy of "going it alone" has lost us many former allies. The
likelihood of the number of those disenchanted with Zanu PF’s politics
rising is very real, if the harmonised elections next month are conducted
with the same questionable integrity as others before them.

There are many countries out there waiting to come to the aid of a country
once seen as having the potential to be one of the gems of Africa.

Now, with children "dying like flies" in a government hospital, it has been
reduced to a basket case – and all because of mule-headed political choices.

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The Charles Taylor syndrome

Zim Standard

  Sunday Opinion by Bill Saidi

IN its modern political history — after Hannibal The Great, Cypio
Africanus, Sundiata of Mali, Tshaka Zulu and the Munhumutapa empire — Africa
has thrown up a rogues' gallery of rulers.

From 1957, leaders emerged who seemed obsessed with either subduing
their people with brute force, or consigning them into early graves, if they

Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko, responsible for many atrocities, must
have had the victims' relatives' hearts broken at not being able to witness
the Final Judgment of the dictators..

Both men died in miserable, inglorious exile. In each case, it was
observed, cynically, they died in relative peace and dignity, which they had
denied their victims.

Dwelling on these atrocities has been criticised by some African
intellectuals. Their quaint reasoning: it’s a display of self-hate, joining
the West in an attack on the race.

There was a display of this in the final hours of Charles Taylor's
freedom before he was hauled off to answer for his sins during the Sierra
Leone bloodshed, led by Foday Sankoh, Taylor’s comrade-in-diamonds.

Olusegun Obasanjo was finally persuaded to let the man face the music
of his deadly masterpiece of atrocities.

The Nigerian made noises of this being an "African" thing, to be dealt
with by Africans.

Wiser counsel prevailed and the Liberian delinquent was put on trial.

The impunity with which he aided Sankoh was typical of men of his ilk,
who have given Africa the reputation of a bloodthirsty leadership.

Africans are not peculiar in this regard. Every continent has been
contaminated by similar savages.

It's a ghoulish absurdity for us to accept as a consolation that we
are no different from other races. That excuse can be an impediment to

Recently, a human rights organisation warned, gently, the two
combatants in the Kenyan imbroglio: they might do well to consider how they
might have to answer to a court of human rights.

How did they allow their citizens to butcher each other after the 27
December election which, it now seems clear, Mwai Kibaki stole from Raila

Kofi Annan's talents as a diplomat were applied diligently immediately
he set foot in Nairobi last month. The two men shook hands and spoke to each
other – apparently for the first time in months.

Soon, it seemed they would pronounce a cessation of hostilities.

At the time of writing, it was unclear whether Annan had succeeded
where another Ghanaian, John Kufuor had failed. Annan predicted it would be
weeks before the senseless blood-letting ceased.

Meanwhile, in Addis Ababa, the African Union heads of state met in
their summit.

One factor of the Kenyan conflict was crystallized by a non-Kikuyu man
interviewed on an international radio station: "We are not going to be
dominated by the Kikuyu again."

The Luo were joined by the smaller Kalenjin in what they see as a
campaign against Kikuyu domination. Daniel arap Moi, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's
anointed successor, is a Kalenjin and ran the country for decades, as a
virtual one-party state dictatorship.

The Kikuyu dominated that government, which, according to all the
evidence, spawned another Kikuyu political hegemony. The corruption among
the powerful snowballed until Kibaki was forced to probe it officially.

What was exposed was so damning it threatened to tear the government
apart. There appeared to be so much anger against the man who led the probe,
there were reports his life was in danger.

So, he fled the country.

How Kibaki and Odinga will eventually come to terms with what they
have done to their once-beautiful country might depend on how much both are
willing to give up. It's the old question of two bulls in a herd: one of
them has to give up.

What must concern many Africans who believe we have outgrown the
antiquated method of settling arguments with spears, machetes and
knobkerries is the lightning speed with which blood was spilled in the
aftermath of the election.

Certainly, it must be time for all Africans to demand an unequivocal
accounting from their leaders. Charles Taylor could have got away,
literally, with murder, if his fate had been left to people like Obasanjo.

On Taylor's fate might hinge the future of the quality of African
governance. No leader, freedom fighter or not, should be allowed to trample
on the people's rights with Charles Taylor's and Fode Sankoh's impunity.

There has been breath-taking impunity in Zimbabwe too, for which the
people know someone has to answer, however long it takes.

The soft-hearted among us tend to hesitate, believing there is virtue
in forgiveness. But there is danger is setting precedents. People who commit
crimes against humanity must be ready to do the time – and pay the ultimate
price for their impunity.


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Why the security still decides Zimbabwe's elections

Zim Standard

  reflections with Dr
Alex T Magaisa

If holding elections were the single most important indicator of
democracy, then Zimbabwe would probably claim a spot at the top of the
league tables.

Since the February 2000 Constitutional Referendum, Zimbabweans have
participated in national elections at least five times: add municipal and
by-elections, and you hit double figures.

Next month, they queue to vote for the sixth time in eight years.
Still, nothing is likely to change. Many will wait for their turn with an
exasperating sense of déjà vu.

It won’t be because Zanu PF and its president have done great things.
On the contrary, they are a people the 21st century seems to have forgotten.
Their vote is unlikely to change anything: real power resides in a structure
over which they have no control: the Security Structure. The opposition is
yet to crack that final source of power from which Zanu PF now draws most of
its strength. Ordinary Zimbabweans have a way of putting it — Zanu PF always
wins by ginya or zvemhasuru — brute strength.

Zanu PF has traditionally drawn its power from, at least, five
sources — security, production, finance, knowledge and welfare.

The control arising from these structures has been a crucial factor in
its 28 year reign. But two of these structures — production and finance —
have become less relevant. If anything, they collectively represent Zanu PF’s
Achilles Heel because of the breakdown of the economy.

The decline in agriculture and manufacturing means there is very
little production of relevance. The residual power rests on the threats
against the remaining industrialists, productive farmers and cherry-picked
but insecure landowners.

A similar fate has befallen the finance structure. Although it tries
regularly, through the medium of the hapless Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
and its myriad of "operations" and "sunrises", to create credit facilities
and haunt perceived enemies allegedly derailing a phantom turnaround, this
is no longer a strong source of power for Zanu PF.

In fact, those in the finance structure have even abandoned its
control mechanisms, relying instead on the security structure by threatening
to withdraw and in some cases, actually withdrawing the security of targeted

The banking crisis, long deceptively clothed in the apparel of a mere
"cash crisis" is the biggest indication the finance structure faces imminent

The feeble threats to close down or take over banks are an indication
of the party’s growing insecurity from the breakdown of the finance

The fear is the banking crisis is being engineered to enable opponents
to draw power which is being used against Zanu PF. The reality, of course,
is the banking crisis is a monster created by its ineptitude, returning to
bite it.

When it is said the economy is Zanu PF’s No. 1 enemy, it is because it
has reduced severely Zanu PF’s power from the production and finance

This leaves three structures. The knowledge structure basically
encompasses Zanu PF’s control over information, through the media – the type
of information disseminated, how it is disseminated, who disseminates it and
when it is disseminated.

Control over information provides control over beliefs, especially
where there are no alternative voices. This is particularly relevant in the
rural communities where sources of information are limited to government

The media laws, including AIPPA were designed to strengthen control
over the knowledge structure. While the legal changes that have been
introduced via the SADC-brokered inter-party talks are useful, they are only
of nominal value for the forthcoming election as there is little time to set
up an effective structure to neutralise or counter the dominant Zanu
PF-controlled machine. So the legal changes will do little to alter the
election outcome.

Now that there is very minimal power to be drawn from the key
production and finance structures, Zanu PF has turned more towards the
security structure. achieving this by a simple, almost primitive, system of

It is characterised first, by instilling loyalty to the party over the
state among the top echelons of the security apparatus and second, by
packing the civil service and key state institutions with personnel from the
security structure.

The leadership structure of virtually every state or quasi-state
institution includes a retired so-and-so from the security apparatus. Much
of this has created a mentality within the key centres of state power that
the party is supreme to the state. There is thus the great challenge for any
opposition that winning an election may not be enough. There is a tough
institutional barrier that cannot be overcome through an election.

The dependence on the security structure as a source of power is
heavily pronounced whenever there is a public show of disaffection. The
security laws, such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) were created
as part of the security structure, to provide legitimacy to this use of the
security apparatus.

For the opposition, half the job of beating Zanu PF has been done by
the declining economy: the party’s power in production and finance has been

But even this pales into insignificance in the face of Zanu PF’s power
from the security structure. This is why there has always been an argument
for the opposition to find ways of drawing some power from the security
structure through strategic alliances and coalitions with those who have
influence within the security apparatus.

To be fair, they have probably tried, but perhaps because the methods
were amateurish and ill-considered, they have backfired spectacularly: the
reported attempt to woo Perence Shiri, the head of the Airforce of Zimbabwe,
is an example.

Surely, it should have been clear that Tafadzwa Musekiwa and Job
Sikhala, honourable young men though they may have been, did not carry the
clout to impress Shiri.

A key point is that those in the security apparatus also harbour their
own fears of withdrawal of security in a post-Mugabe regime.

The opposition’s challenge is to be able to show seriously that
security will not be withdrawn and to demonstrate that self-preservation is
best guaranteed outside of a sinking ship.

Building relationships and confidence is part of the strategy to
achieve the larger purpose.

What is clear is that Zanu PF knows that elections do not decide the
question of power. That has already been done by the system of patronage
ensuring that it will always have its way, by ginya if necessary. It is
sobering to note that the head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, retired
from the army with the rank of Brigadier General in 2001. An honourable,
learned man he may be, but it won’t escape notice that he hails from the
security structure – Zanu PF’s key source of power.

* Dr Magaisa is based at Kent Law School and can be contacted at or

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Why the cards are stacked against MDC in 29 March poll

Zim Standard

  Sunday View By
Freeman Chari

NOW that President Robert Mugabe is adamant that elections be held on
29 March and that MDC is contemplating not participating, what is the way
forward for Zimbabwe? Should people force Mugabe to postpone the poll to a
later date or should people simply boycott the exercise? Or should people
participate reasoning that maybe democracy has sometimes to be sustained by
non-democratic means.

The institutions of power — the army, police and intelligence are in
the hands of Zanu PF. The democratic facets of power — parliament, senate,
cabinet, judiciary and even the Electoral Supervisory Commission are in the
hands of Zanu PF.

The basics of human livelihood — water, food and money are in the
hands of Zanu PF; so are the defined personal freedoms like speech,
expression, movement and association. What then does it entail to an
ordinary citizen of the country? Are we all just slaves of Zanu PF?

Now, if one is a slave he or she is expected to toil, sweat and die
for his master. Is this basically what we are expected to do? There is no
place in the world where a slave just walked up to his master and begged him
to set him free and he (the master) let him free just like that. A slave
must stand up and dismantle all the chains that tie him to his master. If
this fails the slave should exert a force that makes it uncomfortable for
his master to continue holding on to the leashes.

Elections are not a form of transformation, they are just a simple way
of passing reigns from one kinsman to another with the world ululating. They
only become revolutionary if the change is necessitated by an imminent force
which is so blatant that the world cannot ignore. That is what happened in
1980 in Zimbabwe, it happened in Kenya in 2002, in Zambia and in Madagascar.

So instead, MDC should know that as long as it has not created a
strength other than that which comes with numbers there can never be change
in Zimbabwe.

Does Morgan honestly think that he can one day just wake up the
president and walk royally into the corridors of Munhumutapa building to
inspect Mugabe packing the boxes of his 28 year legacy simply because the
majority of the people voted for him? That is a dream.

In USA, approximately half of the people in the army, police and
intelligence are Democrats whilst Republicans make up the other half. Power
vacillates between these two because they have nearly the same control of
the important machinery of the state. Check the Labour and Conservatives in
United Kingdom. Yet we call these democracies!

Morgan Tsvangirai should never in his life play a game in which he has
supporters on the terraces only. Rather he should have the referee, if he
fails then he should at least rope in the two linesmen or if he fails again
then he should be the one who sponsors the game. If he decides to play the
game anyway, then definitely he would end up like Raila Odinga who won the
elections but lost the race to the state house! Do I hear someone say it
happened in 2002? Who was the referee — Tobaiwa Mudede? Who was the
sponsor — ZanuPF? Who won — Morgan? Who is president — Mugabe?

The constitution which many are crying for is just a piece of paper in
the face of Zanu PF. When you control the army and police there is no reason
why that piece of paper cannot be pierced. Zanu PF has been doing so. It has
a long history of not only violating the constitution but also disregarding
other binding international protocols. So why cry for a new constitution now
in country like this. Instead there shouldn’t be elections as long as the
current government is still in power.

All pro-democratic forces should unite in pressuring the current
government out of office. It is the civil responsibility of every Zimbabwean
to arise in times like these but it remains the utmost duty of
pro-democratic political leaders to recruit, enlist and coalesce with other
forces to strengthen their cause.

Noting the above, people like Morgan Tsvangirai should realize that at
one point in time everyone of us was once Zanu PF or at least subservient to
its ideas. We all should then take responsibility of what we let upon
ourselves and sincerely seek to correct our sins. Thus; no progressive
solution will ever be found unless the opposition starts to appreciate the
importance of those level-headed people still within Zanu PF.

These are the people who bring with them not only political clout but
also military and tactical strength. That is why Zanu PF welcomed with a
warm hand General Rex Nhongo when he defected from ZAPU in 1972. What is
needed now is to create a sense of security within the state machinery. To
remove the fears of retribution or redundancy come the moment of change.

So what the opposition should be doing now is to enter into coercive
engagement with level-headed or disgruntled people within ZANU PF. Alliances
are made for specific purposes within the course of any revolution that is
why ANC chose to align with SACP when even Mandela was skeptical of
communism and guess what, it was not Thabo Mbeki or Nelson Mandela or Jacob
Zuma who led the struggle; it was Joe Slovo and Chris Hani who were both
communists. Had ANC not embraced the SACP right now South Africa could still
be under apartheid rule.

If the opposition manages to gain enough political and martial support
then that’s when the can start to engage Zanu PF as equals. It would have
the right voice to call for an interim government which would then draw a
new constitution and be mandated to run free and fair elections. So YES,
Tsvangirai should boycott elections but he should with immediate effect
swallow his pride and engage other political players with an idea of
creating a bigger, gallant and well-oiled force.

Our responsibility as common Zimbabweans and not political leaders is
to put pressure on the current government, to mobilize against it and ensure
that a favourable candidate wins come elections. The diaspora should not
only hold demonstrations at embassies but should seek to make its economic
power be felt by Zanu PF by withholding foreign currency. Those still within
the country should work to educate and reassure fellow Zimbabweans that
their children in the diaspora have not forgotten them but that the action
is for a purpose.

I for one will be the first to jump if at all a serious call comes. So
I urge Morgan not to be like Mugabe — initiate dialogue, initiate action,
initiate sense.

Freeman Forward Chari

Secretary General

Zimbabwe Youth Movement

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Zim Standard Letters

Hell no, not that Jonathan Moyo! I consider myself a progressive human
being and a good citizen. I grew up going to church. Although I may not
necessarily be labelled a "good Christian", I do believe in the value of
some moral and Christian standards.

In that way, I believe in forgiveness; we all do wrong and need to be
forgiven at some point, but we should never lose the lesson in the process.

This concerns one Zimbabwean citizen, Jonathan Moyo, a distinguished
professor of political science recently turned politician.

I see the opposition is trying to bring together all anti-Mugabe
people under a united front for election purposes.

Please do, because it is all very necessary, but I write to cry that
please don’t include Jonathan Moyo. Hell, No!

I have nothing personal against him as a person, but I can’t forget
what he did to us. Who could have known that in Zimbabwe, state media could
become so polarised, so filled with so much propaganda it rivals the former
Soviet Union’s Pravda?

It’s such a laughing stock that our grade school kids know that the
government papers lie.

Who could have thought that ZTV could be so anti-people, so pro-ruling
party and so predictably monotonous?

Zanu PF is not a democratic party, never was. But they had some
elementary pretence at democracy to the extent that they even let state
papers expose government scandals — until Jonathan Moyo came onto the scene.
Here is a man who showed Mugabe how to control what citizens hear, think or
see. A man who hated democracy to the extent of hating a newspaper so much
that he had The Daily News banned.

Then he tried to close all independent papers, introduced Aippa and
brought Mahoso and company into a phony organisation called MIC.

Now he wants to join hands with everyone to see Zanu PF out of power?
Excuse me!

Jonathan Moyo does not disagree with Zanu PF in any way. He just
failed to get what he wanted from it. For him to be given another chance
through the opposition is like forgiving a bank robber, then employing him
as a teller in the same bank, because he knows "financial issues", no matter
from what different angle.

He tried to decimate the opposition when he was in power, now he wants
not only forgiveness, but a platform from which to resuscitate his political

He was the brains behind Mugabe’s 2002 controversial win, so let him
go back there. If he is not wanted there, it is not the MDC’s responsibility
to bail him out.

We may have forgiven him, but we will never forget. The guy is not as
bad as you think — he is far worse. The opposition should be careful who it
invites to this coalition, because they may lose a lot of public confidence.

Do they want to challenge Mugabe on principle, or are they just
another power- hungry gang who want to use any avenue available to get into

It becomes difficult to trust such people. Look at what Kibaki has
just done.

Davy Tariro Saruchera,


 Executive mayors' exit, a political strategy
THE chief secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr
Misheck Sibanda on recently announced in the Government Gazette that
President Mugabe had signed into law the Local Government Laws Amendment Act
which sailed through Parliament this month.

The amendments effectively reduces the post of executive mayor to a
ceremonial one.

The post was created in 1995 following a repeal of the Act that
established the Urban Council Act 29:15.

The Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) deplores the move by
the government. CHRA views it as baseless political strategy targeted at
entrenching the power of the regime in local authorities.

The opposition has over the years been controlling or winning mayoral
seats in most urban areas. They have failed to perform largely due to
continued interference from the Local Government ministry. The Minister of
Local government, Public works and urban development, Dr Ignatious Chombo
has even fired some of these Mayors on alleged charges of incompetence.

The continued interference from the central government has made it
difficult for local authorities to operate independently. They did not have
the liberty of borrowing powers and were not positively supported by the
Local government ministry.

The removal of the post of Executive Mayor will not improve the
collapsed social services delivery. CHRA makes the following

* Reform of the Urban Councils Act, as opposed to piecemeal amendments
which do not improve local governance systems in Zimbabwe. The act in its
current form is subject to manipulation for party political interests

* Free and fair local governance elections that will usher in a
leadership chosen by the people, accountable to the people and sensitive to
their needs.

* Government must provide direct and indirect funding to local
authorities to help them provide quality municipal services. In South Africa
local authorities receive grants from the national budget.

* CHRA also urges the constitutionalisation of local governance.

CHRA has been training and capacitating residents to demand their
rights. CHRA also distributes information on the goings-on in local
governance issues.

Farai Barnabas Mangodza 2

Chief Executive Officer



THIS is a little lesson for the MDC — Mobilizing For Mass Action.

Firstly, a number of people are appointed for each high density suburb. This
number should be between 500 and 1000 — the higher the number the better.

These people in each suburb are alerted that mass action is to take place.
They then start at one side of the suburb, between 12.00am and 1.00am. They
go to each house and wake up all the adult occupants, except for one (one
adult is left at each house to look after the children).

The adults are instructed to bring a piece of cloth to cover their faces for
identification reasons, as well as to help filter tear gas.

The people tasked to wake up others should operate in pairs and must not
leave each house until the occupants have dressed and have left.

As the people move through the suburb, they will gather more and more
people. All these people will then make their way into town, to a given
meeting point. i.e. Africa Unity Square.

The idea of this exercise is to get as many people as possible into town. If
they start making their way into town in the early hours of the morning,
most of the journey will be undertaken in darkness.

This will help them to evade roadblocks and will make it very difficult for
the police and soldiers to stop hundreds of thousands of people coming from
all directions into the city.

A target of at least 500 000 people should be the aim for the first
operation. This will give people confidence and will help to pave the way
for other protests.

People will understand that they are less vulnerable in very large groups.
The first protest should only last until about 10 AM. and should not go on
for too long.

Zulu 2,


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SAS coup plotter Simon Mann faces show trial

The Sunday Times
February 3, 2008

Dean Nelson
FRIENDS of Simon Mann, the Old Etonian former SAS officer who was jailed for
his part in a failed African coup, last night urged him to betray the
financiers behind the plot after he was deported to Equatorial Guinea.

Mann is believed to be in the notorious Black Beach jail in Equatorial
Guinea’s capital, Malabo, where he is expected to face a show trial for
plotting a coup against Teodoro Obiang Nguema, dictator of the oil-rich

Mann was deported after completing a four-year sentence at Chikurubi jail in
Zimbabwe, where the coup plot was discovered. He was arrested along with 67
mainly South African mercenaries in a Boeing as they waited to collect
weapons for their mission.

One close friend and former business partner said the Equatorial Guinea
government had indicated that it was prepared to do a deal to free Mann if
he confessed to his role and gave a detailed account of what had been
planned and who had supported it.

He said Mann no longer owed his backers any allegiance and he hoped he would
now give the Equatorial Guineans what they wanted. “I don’t understand why
he’s been holding out,” he said. “If it can buy him his freedom, why not? It’s
not as if they’ve stood by him. He has a child he has never seen. He has a
son he last saw when he was four and who misses him terribly.”

If convicted in Equatorial Guinea he faces a minimum 30-year jail term.

Last night the Equatorial Guinea government’s lawyer in the case,
Paris-based Henry Page, said: “If he cooperates he could expect to be
treated better than if he does not.”

The affair became known as “the wonga coup” after Mann smuggled a note to
friends urging them to contact the plot’s backers and persuade them to pay a
large “splodge of wonga” to get him out of jail. They included Lady Thatcher’s
son Mark, who later pleaded guilty in South Africa to helping to finance the

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Battling on despite the hardships


In the first part of our investigation into cricket inside Zimbabwe, a look at what's happening in the schools

Steven Price

February 3, 2008

Yuvraj Singh jogs with a local child during India's tour of Zimbabwe in 2005 © Getty Images

Finding out what is happening in any walk of life inside Zimbabwe is getting harder by the day, and cricket is no exception. Foreign journalists are rarely permitted to enter the country, and few local reporters are still working - those that remain write for outlets vigorously policed by the state.

The only exposure cricket gets is when the national side plays. Outside that, the government-controlled Herald newspaper covers some local matches, but more often than not its reports are provided by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).

In the aftermath of the World Cup, it was well publicised that Zimbabwe received approximately US$ 11 million from the ICC, and questions were inevitably raised as to how that sum was being spent, given the relatively few matches played by the team - they remain in self-imposed suspension from Test cricket - and the small number of players inside the country.

The board, and Peter Chingoka, its chairman, countered the queries with bullish rhetoric about the state of school and club cricket and the investment being made in those areas. But for all the confident talk there remained rumours all was not well, and so I decided to find out for myself.

I started at the bottom, schools cricket. Historically, private schools have provided the core of Zimbabwe's provincial and national players - Chingoka himself was educated at the prestigious St George's College - and given the money they have been able to spend on basics such as grounds and equipment, that was not surprising.

The story in many of the schools was surprisingly good. "All the traditional junior and high schools are still playing cricket and the structures still seem to be there," one administrator told me. "All the age groups are still running." There was also good news among the government schools in high-density areas, where some were lucky enough to have ZC-funded coaches and many were still playing competitive cricket.

But there were claims that the distribution was not necessarily even. "Many school grounds are not being used due to the high cost of maintaining the facilities," one local player/coach admitted. "Only a few selected schools who are prepared to toe the line get funding from ZC for tractors and mowers to cut the outfields."

The increasing lack of good coaches is a growing problem, and one that is affecting even the private schools. "The current teachers require a second income to survive and can't afford the time to coach in the afternoons," said one former Test cricketer who helps out when he can. "It's been a pleasure coaching a young side that is so keen, but without an experienced coach who has played the game at some level, how is any sport going to grow in this country?"

The other big difference between government and private schools is equipment, which has always been scarce but now, as the economic crisis worsens, has become almost impossible to get hold of without foreign currency. Kit is shared between players - sides often have only one or two bats between them - and there are also growing issues with maintaining anything approaching reasonable surfaces for them to play on.

Parents desire to have their children involved in the game, but then with the spiralling cost of basics such as food, transport, and school fees, cricket isn't one of the priorities

To its credit, ZC has a scholarship programme that enables talented players at junior schools to be sent to traditional cricket-playing private schools, such as Prince Edward School, Churchill Boys High School, and Milton High School. Exact numbers are hard to obtain but one master reckoned that at any one time there were around 25 boys on the scheme. Several of the current national side - for example, Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura and Vusi Sibanda - have benefited from this programme.

The downside is that the Zimbabwe Academy, which Chingoka recently claimed was operational and which takes in "youngsters between the ages of 17 and 23", does not appear to have had an intake for at least two years. The buildings were burned down in late 2006, though the practice facilities remain.

Outside Harare the picture is gloomier, and the lack of players means that many schoolboys are fast-tracked into senior sides, purely to keep the clubs functioning. In Manicaland it is estimated that as many as three quarters of those playing for clubs are still at school.

"There's just a little bit going on as there are only two schools that had a cricket culture on the school curriculum," a local player said. Although he said there were attempts to spread the game, it was failing through a lack of investment. "Equipment for those taking up the game should be made available free, which isn't happening," he said. "The parents desire to have their children involved in the game, but then with the spiralling cost of basics such as food, transport, and school fees, cricket isn't one of the priorities."

Harare schoolchildren play an impromptu game © Getty Images

In Matabeleland, the private schools, such as Falcon College outside Bulawayo, still function. "The standard of play at school level is good ... it's really competitive," one local said. "I know at High School they play two-day cricket, which is good in preparing the boys for the longer version of the game." But outside the elite institutions things are not as rosy, and the coaching is a problem. "The board has got coaches at some of the schools in Bulawayo ... but not all of them because many of them have left for South Africa. The private schools do have their own full-time coaches who are qualified enough."

What is of concern, and an observation that kept cropping up, is the perception that standards have fallen markedly in the last five years, a natural knock-on of deteriorating facilities, and as one headmaster told me, of the fact that for an increasing number of Zimbabweans survival is the priority and not sport. And only this week the United Nations reported that an increasing number of teachers are deserting their schools as they have not been paid.

"Once they leave school they are on their own to fend for themselves. After school one has to get a job immediately to cope with inflation," a coach said. "Half of them end up working and can't afford the time to play cricket."

The falling standards in the schools and the drop in the numbers of those who continue to play the game is having an impact. One source close to the Under-19 side warned that man for man, the current side is weaker than the one that did so well at the 2006 U-19 World Cup, and that is also reflected across the age groups. Given that many of the current full side have come from the U-19s in the last two or three years, that more than anything should concern the administrators.

Clearly, there is little ZC can do about the general malaise, but it does seem to be offering support where it can. There is a suspicion that Harare is much better catered for than some of the other centres; ZC would counter that the bulk of cricket is played there. It's a chicken-and-egg situation.

What is heartening is that despite all the hardships, cricket in schools is surviving, and that offers some hope for the future. The worry is that maintaining the structures gets harder with every passing day.

Next week: Club cricket in Zimbabwe

Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare


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