APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change said Sunday
it had solicited the help of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), African Union (AU) and United Nations to locate 11 of its supporters
abducted by state security agents last year.
The 11 were part of over 40 MDC activists, including a two-year-old child,
who were abducted by armed gunmen across the country since October 29 2008.
The party said the 11 have been unaccounted for, nearly two months after
their abduction by armed men believed to be from the police and intelligence
Other activists abducted at the same time with the 11 have since been
brought to court on charges of training in banditry and bombing state
The MDC said efforts by relatives and the party's lawyers to locate the
missing activists have been fruitless as the police are claiming that they
are not in police custody.
The MDC is deeply concerned by the abductions of its members and civic
society activists, which flies in the face of the Global Political Agreement
(GPA) signed by the three major political parties on 15 September 2008.
"The MDC has since put in place a team of experienced legal attorneys and at
a political level the party has sought the support and guidance of the SADC,
AU and United Nations, so that the rights and freedoms of the abducted
people are protected," said an MDC spokesperson.
Several MDC and human rights activists are facing charges of plotting to
overthrow President Robert Mugabe and bombing police stations in the capital
They deny the charges and have told the courts that they were severely
tortured while in police custody in order to force them to confess to these
From The Cape Argus (SA), 11 January
Maureen Isaacson and Special Correspondent
Zimbabwean opposition politicians and human rights activists abducted by
state security agents on terrorism charges now face the death penalty. They
claim they were tortured into making confessions. As they continue to be
detained, a film is being distributed to the presidents of South Africa, the
SADC, the AU and the ANC calling for urgent action on Zimbabwe. The film,
Time 2 Act, made by Civicus, an alliance of international civil society
organisations, contains interviews with a wide range of ordinary Zimbabwean
people, including church leaders, trade unionists and children. The film's
key message is that the situation in Zimbabwe is far worse than is believed
inside and outside Africa. The desperation it describes is attributed to the
escalating health crisis, to the crackdown on basic freedoms and the
breakdown of governance. This is exemplified in the abductions and
intimidation of activists such as Jestina Mukoko and her colleagues from the
Zimbabwe Peace Project.
Mukoko, who was abducted from her home in Norton on December 3, has become
the focus of the campaign against the widespread abductions that have taken
place since last year's elections. She has been accused of recruiting
Zimbabweans for training in Botswana to become insurgents against the Mugabe
regime. So far, she has withstood the torture and has not made any false
confessions. Now Amnesty International - which considers Mukoko and her
colleague Broderick Takawira prisoners of conscience - is calling for their
immediate and unconditional release as well as for the 30 or so other
activists abducted between October and December last year to be either
charged or immediately and unconditionally released. A Zimbabwe police
charge sheet in the possession of the Weekend Argus reveals that MDC
officials Gandhi Mudzingwa, Kisimusi Emmanuel Dhlamini, Care international
employee, Zacharia Nkomo, freelance journalist Andrison Manyere, and MDC
supporter Chinoto Zulu are jointly charged.
According to the state, the five were involved in a series of bombings of
strategic places. The charge sheet reveals that Dhlamini, who is the MDC's
head of security, was the first to be arrested and that he implicated the
others. However, in Dhlamini's affidavit, he claims he was severely tortured
and he ended up calling out names to stop the beatings. The state claims
searches led to the recovery of cordtex, safety fuses, tear smoke grenades
and 48 rounds of ammunition. In their affidavits, all of them, except the
journalist, say they were tortured to confess what they did not do. Some of
them said they only met for the first time while in custody. Manyere said he
was not tortured but denied ever working with the others to bomb the police
station. Political commentator and former Zanu PF official Ibbo Mandaza said
the party was so desperate to destroy the MDC it had resorted to dirty
tactics of kidnapping people and forcing them into confessions. "The aim is
clearly to break down the MDC. They just want to cause terror and I'm sorry
to say they are succeeding in a way because even their president Morgan
Tsvangirai is scared of coming back home."
** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths
occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may
occasionally result 1- Highlights of the day: - 541 cases and 25 deaths added today (in comparison 300 cases and 12 deaths
yesterday) - 27.3% of the districts affected have reported today (15 out of 55 affected
districts) - 88.7 % of districts reported to be affected (55 districts/62) - Newly affected areas: Shambwe RHC (Beitbridge)
Full_Report (pdf* format - 104.6 Kbytes)
* Please note that daily information collection is a challenge due to communication and staff constraints. On-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Any change will then be explained.
** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may occasionally result
1- Highlights of the day:
- 541 cases and 25 deaths added today (in comparison 300 cases and 12 deaths yesterday)
- 27.3% of the districts affected have reported today (15 out of 55 affected districts)
- 88.7 % of districts reported to be affected (55 districts/62)
- Newly affected areas: Shambwe RHC (Beitbridge)
January 11, 2009
By Our Correspondent
HARARE - Zimbabwe's mainstream Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) resolved
Friday that it will not participate in a unity government with President
Robert Mugabe until all outstanding differences over power-sharing are
The decision was passed by the party's top decision-making body, the
Standing Committee, which had been meeting in South Africa since Wednesday.
The Standing Committee, comprising MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, his deputy
Thoko Khupe, secretary general Tendai Biti, spokesman Nelson Chamisa,
organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, exiled treasurer Roy Bennett, Women's
Assembly chairperson Theresa Makone and Youth chairperson Thamsanqa
Mahlangu, resolved that the MDC would only join a unity government once four
major outstanding issues had been resolved.
The MDC National Executive is now scheduled to review that decision in
Harare on January 18, two days ahead of the official opening of Parliament.
Tsvangirai is expected to chair that meeting, suggesting he is returning
home for the first time since his departure on November 10. The MDC has
rejected allegations that he was in self-imposed exile in Botswana insisting
that he was on a diplomatic offensive to break the logjam over
The MDC says it has requested a meeting between Tsvangirai and President
Mugabe to resolve the outstanding issues but no response has been received.
Tsvangirai has also been snubbed by SADC chairman Kgalema Motlanthe, whom he
had asked to arrange a confidential meeting between himself and President
Mugabe to resolve all points of disagreement.
Tsvangirai says he has lost confidence in SADC appointed broker Thabo Mbeki,
whom he accuses of siding with Mugabe.
Motlanthe refused to mediate over fresh talks between the two political
protagonists on the basis that there was a binding SADC resolution made at
the October 27 extra-ordinary SADC summit backed by all the 14 member states
in the regional bloc instructing the MDC and Zanu-PF to share control of the
Home Affairs ministry.
The MDC has rejected that resolution, describing it as a nullity.
Motlanthe says he cannot overturn the decision by arranging a meeting to
discuss issues which were ironed out by member states.
Tsvangirai asked Motlanthe to take over the mediation after rejecting an
invitation from Mugabe to return home and be sworn in. Tsvangirai told
Motlanthe that Mugabe was contemptuously breaching the global political
He singled out the continuing abductions and torture of his supporters and
allies in civil society on "fabricated allegations of banditry training" and
also noted that issues to do with equitable and fair sharing of ministerial
portfolios remained deadlocked after Mugabe unilaterally allocated meaty
portfolios to his own Zanu-PF party.
He also questioned Mugabe's attempts to retain all the 10 provincial
governors' appointments in the hands of his party. Tsvangirai also took
great exception to Mugabe's unilateral appointment of a new Attorney
General, Johannes Tomana and the renewal of the mandate of the central bank
chief Gideon Gono without consultation with the MDC as the agreement
The Mugabe regime says Tsvangirai's protests were misplaced because the deal
has not been given legal and constitutional force, so there was no need to
The Zimbabwe Times heard that the MDC Standing Committee has resolved that
legislation defining the constitutive composition of the National Security
Council - set to replace the Joint Operations - a think-tank of top army
generals, be ironed out before the MDC can jump into bed with Zanu-PF.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai are set to sit in NSC meetings of the top generals
under the terms of the agreement.
It has also emerged that Tsvangirai wrote to Mugabe about this in his
December 29 letter.
Tsvangirai wrote: "Legislation regarding the operations, control and funding
of the security services by the National Security Council has to be enacted
prior to the formation of the inclusive government."
Tsvangirai said in other countries that have undergone transition, security
organs were the first to appreciate the need for change of direction.
"This has not been the case in Zimbabwe," Tsvangirai wrote to Mugabe. "Given
the fact that our national institutions (police, CIO, army) have been
selectively used to target MDC and other activists it is only imperative
that these security apparatus be placed under the effective control of
parties to the agreement. In effect, the CIO as well as elements of the
army, such as military intelligence, have become actively involved in
undermining this agreement."
The letter continued: "In view of past and recent events where our members
have been subjected to abductions and torture by the state security organs
it is imperative that these institutions be controlled by all parties to the
agreement. Of particular concern is the role of the security apparatus in
actively undermining the agreement. We have therefore lost the little
confidence and trust in you being solely in charge of any security
The MDC Standing Committee also resolved that Tsvangirai cannot be sworn in
until all the outstanding issues have been resolved. And this position has
been communicated to Motlanthe.
"Cde President, I believe you have previously correctly stated that: 'Both
President-designate Mugabe and Prime Minister-designate Tsvangirai need to
be sworn in to give effect to their positions, otherwise no one derives any
legitimacy without it'," Tsvangirai wrote to Motlanthe in his letter
requesting a confidential meeting with Mugabe. "I therefore find the letter
by Mr Mugabe in reference to my appointment to be both unprocedural and
prejudicial to the relationship between the President and Prime Minister."
Last week, Mugabe's press secretary George Charamba told the official press
here that the 84-year-old President would move to install a new Cabinet in
February, whether the MDC leader likes it or not.
Mugabe has also fired nine ministers and three deputy ministers who lost
their parliamentary seats in the March polls and named acting ministers,
firing a warning salvo to the MDC that he was serious about installing a new
MUSINA, South Africa, Jan 11 (AFP)
Prince Jelom has sold eggs, carried bags and pushed trolleys to survive life
as a 13-year-old on the run from Zimbabwe's spectacular collapse.
He knows the best spots to sleep in a bus shelter, how to work an 11-hour
day, and the tricks of bluffing his way back across a border after being
But beyond his streetwise know-how, Jelom is just a penniless small boy who
misses and worries about the grandmother he left behind in rural
"I ran away on Wednesday, October 15, because I wanted to buy some books,
clothes and a bicycle," he told AFP in South Africa's border town Musina,
after travelling solo through Zimbabwe.
Citing chilling accounts of poverty, drought and violence by President
Robert Mugabe's supporters in his home village, the well spoken boy has not
been to school since 2007 but still dreams of being a pilot.
"Many people told me that if you are not learned, you are nothing," he said.
"I want to be a pilot because a pilot is what my father wanted to do."
Jelom is one of 100 Zimbabwean children sleeping in a crowded tin-roofed
garage at a Musina church, set up as a shelter for scores of young
Zimbabwean boys found wandering the streets.
Living rough, often eating from rubbish bins, the street children are
casualties of the worsening crisis at home where deadly cholera has come on
the back of chronic food shortages, mind-boggling inflation and the collapse
of hospitals and schools.
"These children come from different parts of Zimbabwe, rural and urban, with
different stories which are very shocking," said Lesiba Matsaung of the
United Reform Church which started the shelter last year.
"Some arrived in May and they are still here. It's very hard for us to say
'Go.' As a result, they increase and increase."
Most of the boys came to Musina with goals but few plans. They want to track
down family members, amid dreams of becoming dentists and flying airplanes,
and escaping the poverty and upheaval at home.
Such was a skinny boy from central Matabeleland, who was found on a border
farm, and brought to the church in a torn jacket, dusty khaki shorts and
shirt, and flip-flops that had giant holes worn through the heels.
Hours after fleeing Zimbabwe, the 13-year-old told church officials his aim:
finding his brother in the hustle-bustle of Johannesburg, South Africa's
flashiest, fastest and meanest city some 500-odd kilometres (300 miles)
In a small bag, he carried two oranges and a pair of long shorts, saying he
had not eaten a proper meal for a week.
But with no address or phone number, the boy was soon introduced to the
other boys milling about and given a care pack of toiletries. An hour later,
he was crying by himself in a corner of the yard.
Jelom, who lost both parents to AIDS and told AFP that he wants to be
tested, also tears up when he speaks about his grandmother, knowing that she
"I want to see my grandmother...because she loves me," he told AFP, still
wearing the threadbare clothes that children in his village used to mock him
More than one million Zimbabweans are believed to be living in South Africa,
and thousands more apply for asylum every month to escape the grim realities
Outside economists estimate inflation in the trillions, while nearly half
the population needs emergency food aid and a cholera epidemic has left more
than 1,800 dead since August.
With no sign of bettering conditions in Zimbabwe, experts say the exodus is
likely to continue. The church is already building a new donor-supported
home for the boys.
"The numbers have gone up quite dramatically over the past year," said
Lynette Mudekunye of Save the Children which supports four soup kitchens in
"Last year in June, those centres were feeding 100 children. By November it
was 1,000," Mudekunye told AFP.
"We're really concerned about the potential for trafficking that is perhaps
happening under the radar that we are not aware of at all. Nobody has a
proper record of who they are and where they came in - anything can happen
Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:07am GMT
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 11 (Reuters) - South Africa's government will review its
immigration policy to help the growing number of economic migrants from
Zimbabwe coming in across the border, the Sunday Independent reported on
The present laws make it difficult for migrants who are not facing political
persecution to remain in South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs told
the newspaper, and human rights groups have criticised the country for
Eighty percent of Zimbabweans crossing the border are not eligible for
refugee status under the Refugee Act, the department said.
The influx from Zimbabwe was also hampering the government's ability to
process applications from other asylum seekers, some of whom might qualify
for refugee protection, the department's spokeswoman Siobhan McCarthy told
"We are looking at reviewing this to accommodate economic migrants from the
region," McCarthy said.
The paper said that according to the department statistics, more than 70,000
Zimbabweans applied for asylum in South Africa in the first nine months of
last year, compared to 10,000 over the same period in 2007.
Zimbabweans have flooded into South Africa as the humanitarian crisis in
their country has worsened amid hyperinflation, severe food, fuel and
foreign currency shortages and a cholera outbreak which has killed more than
1,800 people. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Louise Ireland)
Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:06am GMT
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 11 (Reuters) - South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond
Tutu has called on all South Africans to join his weekly fasting in protest
at the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe, the 702 radio station
reported on Sunday.
The 78-year-old Anglican archbishop said he had been fasting once a week in
solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans facing food
shortages and a cholera outbreak.
"If we would have more people saying 'I will fast' maybe one day a week,
just to identify myself with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," the radio
station quoted him as saying.
Zimbabweans are suffering from hyper-inflation and severe food, fuel and
foreign currency shortages. Cholera has killed more than 1,800 people.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Charles Dick)
Sunday, 11 January 2009 02:57 Ashley D. Mwanza
The Zimbabwe government is now considering the possibilities of allowing
business entities to charge for goods and services in foreign currency.
According to Industry and International Trade Minister Cde Obert Mpofu
consultations are in progress.
Mpofu said the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and other economic
troupes that include employers and employees have approached government
requesting that salaries, and other business transactions be conducted in
foreign currency. However, he did not mention schools.
He went on to say government needs to put in place strict monitoring
mechanisms to ensure that the money is banked and that the necessary taxes
are paid to generate revenue from the system hence the consultations that
are currently taking place among the various stakeholders to tighten
Minister added that the use of foreign currency, which is not necessarily
the us dollar is not unique to Zimbabwe as other countries have successfully
allowed other foreign currencies to operate alongside national currencies.
This he said in relation to Namibia and Swaziland that have allowed their
national currencies to operate alongside the South African rand.Again on
behalf on the government he has not acknowledged the fact that the local
currency is all but history and to admit that the economy is dollarized
The Minister said government will consult other regional groupings such as
the SADC and Comesa, which are already working towards regional economic
integration by way of establishing a common market and monetary unions. Well
they would be out of their minds to take Zimbabwe on board in its current
11/01/2009 11:00 - (SA)
Johannesburg - The World Diamond Council (WDC) is demanding an urgent
inquiry into the Zimbabwean diamond industry. This is amid the violence on
that country's diamond fields, alleged diamond smuggling to countries like
South Africa and the use of diamond dollars to prop up President Robert
Zimbabwe could now be in danger of losing its status as a legal diamond
dealer in terms of the United Nations (UN) Kimberley Process, which strongly
campaigns against trade in conflict diamonds.
Zimbabwe's formal diamond industry is currently on its knees. The country
produces less than 0.4% of the world's diamonds, but illegal exploitation of
alluvial diamonds increased sharply in 2008.
This is fanning fears that Zimbabwe can no longer exercise effective control
over its diamond production - a Kimberley requirement.
In an attempt to combat illegal trade, Zimbabwean security forces by the end
of last year had driven 35&NBSP;000 illegal diggers and dealers from the
Chiadzwa diamond field near Mutare, the Zimbabwean police reported in
Human rights groups claimed that air force helicopters had opened fire on
diggers, and the diamond newsletter Rapaport announced that about 200 people
had died in the fray.
In response to questions from Sake24, Eli Izhakoff, chairperson of the WDC,
declared in New York that the industry was "deeply concerned" about reports
that diamond trade in Zimbabwe was no longer complying with the terms of the
According to Izhakoff, a Kimberley Process team is drawing up a report on
Zimbabwe to determine whether "serious non-compliance with the mandates of
the Kimberley process" exists.
The WDC itself declared in January 2008 that it had received reports that
illegal Zimbabwean diamonds were being smuggled to South Africa, and were
being classified as legitimate and then exported.
"We request an urgent and immediate review of the (Zimbabwean) diamond
office and its procedures."
Analysts say that even if Zimbabwean diamonds remain legitimate, prospective
buyers should have sufficient information to be able to reject Zimbabwean
Standards (in the Kimberley Process) must evolve so that people can inform
themselves that diamond proceeds do not go to a regime committing massive
human-rights atrocities, says Nicole Fritz of the Southern African
Prof Brian Raftopoulos, a Zimbabwean political analyst, reckons steps to
curtail Zimbabwe's diamond trade should be seen as "another means of placing
pressure on the political mediation process".
"Diamonds are clearly one of the last remaining sources of funds for a state
that increasingly depends on its security forces for survival," he adds.
Jan 11, 2009, 13:30 GMT
Harare - Journalists in Zimbabwe on Sunday criticized recent 'astronomical'
accreditation fees by President Robert Mugabe's government.
Petitioning the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) and
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to intervene, the Media Institute
of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (MISA) called in a letter released Sunday for 'a
reversal of such astronomical fees.'
Last week, a government-run media commission imposed a fee of 4,000 US
dollars on local journalists working for the foreign media in Zimbabwe in
Foreign media houses pay 10,000 dollars for the application and 20,000 for
accreditation, payable only in foreign currency, with an administration fee
of 2,000 dollars.
Foreign journalists intending to work temporarily in Zimbabwe are required
to pay 500 dollars for an application and 1,000 dollars for accreditation.
Under Zimbabwe's harsh media legislation, journalists can be arrested for
practising without accreditation.
'The increase is indicative of the contempt the government feels towards the
press in general, and the international media in particular, and its desire
to engineer a news blackout about political, economic and public health
developments in Zimbabwe,' said a statement from press freedom advocacy
group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Sunday, January 11, 2009 ::
The Voice of America's (VOA) Studio 7 launched LiveTalk, a 30-minute weekly
call-in radio show for Zimbabwe, offering people a forum to discuss the
political, economic and social challenges facing the nation.
Washington, D.C. - infoZine - VOA News - "With LiveTalk, Zimbabweans have a
chance to say what is on their mind and express themselves openly and
freely," said Gwen Dillard, director of VOA's Africa Division.
Brenda Moyo and Blessing Zulu, co-hosts, discussed the stalled power-sharing
process between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's economic collapse, food shortages, the on-going
cholera epidemic and other issues during the inaugural show.
Among the callers were Vijana from South Africa, who said, "People are
disappointed with the current leadership, including the regional
Callers to LiveTalk, which airs Friday at 8:00 p.m. Zimbabwe time, are able
to speak English, Shona or Ndebele, the three languages in which Studio 7
Started in 2003, Studio 7 broadcasts 90 minutes Monday-Thursday, and one
hour on Saturday and Sunday, on shortwave, medium-wave and on the Internet
at VOANews.com/english/Africa/Zimbabwe/programs.cfm. The program provides
news and information about the latest developments in Zimbabwe, including
details of the humanitarian crisis under way in the country. The World Food
Program, for example, is providing assistance to 4.5 million Zimbabweans.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia
international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the
Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of
news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an
estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are
produced in 45 languages.
Tony Leon and Marian Tupy
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The cholera outbreak that has killed some 1,600 people and infected
thousands of others has renewed the world's attention on Zimbabwe and its
tyrannous ruler Robert Mugabe.
Mr. Mugabe's economic policies and repression are responsible for widespread
poverty, sickness and violence that have gripped Zimbabwe, and while his
rule appears to be coming to an end, Zimbabwe's story provides a somber
lesson for the rest of the world. For too long, world leaders and
international institutions have temporized with African dictators and
accepted flawed elections as sources of incumbents' legitimacy.
In the March 2008 poll, despite what was widely seen as a flawed electoral
process, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change gained a majority of
the parliamentary seats in Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe refused to relinquish power,
The African Union and the Southern African Development Community did not
call for him to go. Instead, they pushed for a power-sharing compromise
between Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the MDC. Mr. Mugabe was to stay on as
president and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was to become the new prime
minister. The Cabinet seats were to be shared on an equitable basis.
However, even those generous terms were not enough for Mr. Mugabe, who
demanded that the MDC relinquish its claim for sole control of the powerful
Home Affairs Ministry, which supervises Zimbabwe's police force and
electoral machinery. Mr. Tsvangirai has rightly rejected this new demand.
Over the years, the highly politicized police force has emerged as Mr.
Mugabe's favorite tool against opponents, while Mr. Mugabe's control over
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has enabled him to rig successive
Unfortunately, Africa's democratic awakening, which has seen the demise of
many one-party dictatorships and military regimes since 1990, is, in many
ways, only skin deep. In many countries, elections are either rigged in
favor of the incumbents or ignored if their outcomes are unfavorable to the
Take Kenya's presidential elections in December 2007. Prior to the vote, the
opposition candidate Raila Odinga led the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, in all
opinion polls. Some had him 15 to 19 percentage points ahead. With half of
the 210 constituencies reporting, Mr. Odinga had a commanding lead. The
Electoral Commission of Kenya abruptly stopped the count. When the counting
resumed, Mr. Kibaki surged past Mr.Odinga. An hour later he was sworn in to
his second term at a hastily arranged State House ceremony.
According to the chief European Union monitor Alexander Lambsdorff, the
tallying process "lacked credibility." In the ensuing violence, as enraged
Kenyans took to the streets 1,000 people died and 600,000 were displaced.
In a compromise through a combined diplomatic effort of Kofi Annan,
Condoleezza Rice and others, a new position of the prime minister was
created for Mr. Odinga, leaving Mr. Kibaki as president. Mr. Kibaki and his
henchmen subverted democracy, but Western countries, grateful for an end to
violence, quickly resumed their aid payments to Kenya.
Umaru Yar'Adua, the chosen successor of Olusegun Obasanjo, won the Nigerian
presidency in an election marred by fraud. Mr. Obasanjo himself came to
power in a poll where, according to the EU observers, the "minimum standards
for democratic elections [had] not been met." After losing the 2005
election, Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia, ordered his troops
to shoot anti-government protesters in Addis Ababa, killing 200. Yet, the
West rewarded Nigeria with debt forgiveness and Ethiopia with large amounts
of foreign aid.
Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has so far benefited from an analogous situation.
He unleashed a wave of violence after losing the first round of presidential
elections in March 2008 to Mr. Tsvangirai. Amnesty International estimates
180 people were killed and 9,000 injured, forcing Mr. Tsvangirai out of the
subsequent runoff, and ensuring that Mr. Mugabe was installed in his sixth
term as president of Zimbabwe.
It is perhaps understandable that many of Mr. Mugabe's fellow African
leaders who came to power in similarly nefarious ways refrained from
criticizing him and called for a power-sharing compromise instead.
Unfortunately that does not explain why the South African government, which
has the democratic credentials to speak out and act, has cosseted Mr. Mugabe
behind the veil of so-called "quiet diplomacy."
True democracy is about more than periodic elections. It is about freedom to
hold and promote different opinions unmolested by the agents of the state.
It is about vibrant civil society, free media and independent courts. It is
about having every vote counted in a transparent and credible way. It is
about a government resigning when the voters say so. Unfortunately, in many
parts of Africa, we seem to be witnessing not a triumph of true democracy,
but the triumph of incumbentocracy.
Tony Leon, a member of the South African Parliament, was leader of the
opposition from 1999 to 2007. He is a visiting fellow at the Cato
Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Marian Tupy is a
policy analyst at the same Center.
freezing Vigil – one of the coldest we can recall in the six years or so we have
been protesting outside the Embassy. It
was one of those days when it seemed too cold for snow, though there were fine
flakes. Some passers-by came and joined
in the dancing to keep warm. We were
also joined for a while by a Zimbabwean farmer who was beaten up and driven off
his land six years ago. He still lives in
were interested to learn from
Vigil has supported the campaign to allow failed asylum seekers in the
A few points from today:
· With the cold weather, some people at the Vigil were not very well but nevertheless spent the whole time with us. We salute them.
Reverend Bill Crews from
· A Zimbabwean couple came past who were marking their golden wedding anniversary. They were staying at a local hotel where they had spent their honeymoon.
· We were delighted to hear that Vigil team member Arnold Kuwewa’s papers have finally come through.
from the front table: we actually had a South African who was prepared to sign
our petition calling on FIFA to move the World Cup from
mentioned last week we are publishing information about the activities last year
of Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe.
ROHR was founded in 2007 out of the Vigil’s need for a presence on the
25th January – 200 ROHR activists led by one of ROHR’s founders, Stendrick Zvorwardza, demonstrated in Harare carrying banners demanding peace, justice and freedom. They were beaten up by police and Sten and others, including ROHR Chairman Tichanzii Gandanga, were arrested. (23 were seriously injured including 2 ladies with broken arms. Sten was released on Monday, 28/01.)
10th February – Sten detained again. Text message from him to the Vigil “I have been brutalized by soldiers and arrested for saying Zanu PF is causing the suffering of Zimbabweans. I am in police custody and am in pain. Have been denied treatment. Despite all this, my spirit for fighting for our rights is getting stronger by the day.” (Sten was released a few days later but was being closely watched.)
Tapa, President of ROHR, reported that ROHR official Tichanzii Gandanga had been
on Tuesday (22/04) and found in the bush 80 miles east of
May – ROHR activists were at the Vigil in
force to express their abhorrence at the violence being inflicted on opposition
supporters. Stendrick briefed the Vigil
on ROHR’s plans for actions in
18th May – ROHR activists Godfrey Kauzani and Cain Nyeve, who were abducted last week by state security agents, have been found dead in Goromonzi. Cain Nyeve's eyes were missing, suggesting that he was tortured.
21st May – ROHR has learnt with shock of the murder of Tonderai Ndira (33), one of its members, who was abducted from his Mabvuku home on Wednesday 14th May by 9 heavily armed police. Ndira was also the Provincial Secretary for Security in MDC-T.
21st May – At the burial of Cain Nyeve and Godfrey Kauzani a mob of more than 100 Zanu PF thugs drove away mourners with stones and sticks leaving behind the two coffins in uncovered graves.
22nd June – Over 300 people gathered at the Grace Ablaze Ministries International church to join ROHR in commemorating the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. ROHR pledged 30 blankets and groceries for the victims of violence who were present at the event.
Tapa, President, and Paradzai Mapfumo, UK Co-ordinator, have worked hard to
held a protest outside the Catholic Cathedral in
Tapa, ROHR President and Vigil founder member, visited
– ROHR Zimbabwe SA Chapter was joined by comrades from the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) to mark World Human Rights Day. They protested against the rising
spate of abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests and abuse of civic
members of the opposition and ordinary Zimbabweans. They also protested against
the SADC resolution on both
For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 190 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
Sanctuary Campaign for Zimbabweans to be allowed to work.
On Tuesday 13th January they will be
handing over Zimbabwean CVs to
Newcastle General Meeting.
Saturday 24 January at 61 Bishops Benwell NE15 6RY
Saturday 24th January at
King’s College London’s student-led
Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre.
Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The
Fire Station Community and ICT Centre,
Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429
Sunday 11th January 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
The simple every day routine of children going to school has kept most
families sane in this last traumatic decade in Zimbabwe. When war veterans
and mobs were swarming onto farms and evicting everyone, as long as the
children were able to keep going to school, parents found a way to cope.
I remember one occasion during that terrible time when one of my son's
junior school teachers told me what a difficult time they were having in the
classroom. The child of a farmer who had been violently evicted from his
home was in the same classroom as the child of the war veteran who had done
the evicting. Both children were traumatized, bullying and insults were
being traded in the playground and both children needed counselling. On
another occasion when the school was forcibly closed and taken over by
security personnel, children were traumatized when they returned and found a
bullet on the cloakroom floor.
Zimbabwe's teachers, despite having to work under unbearable conditions and
often under attack themselves, have quietly steered our children through
these most traumatic years.
Chased away from their jobs by militant government youths, the teachers
waited until things calmed down and then came back to work. Accused of being
opposition supporters they were intimidated and harassed and yet still they
came back to the classrooms. The head of the teachers union has been
arrested repeatedly, been beaten in custody and yet still he speaks out.
School administrators and head teachers have been arrested and held in
police cells for raising school fees but when they were released they just
went back to work and carried on.
When we parents were crying, bleeding and homeless we would arrive at the
school gates and hand our children over to compassionate, gentle, caring,
professional staff who somehow managed to make everything alright.
There are hundreds of stories about what's been happening in Zimbabwe's
schools these last nine years - to describe it is an education system under
attack is a gross understatement. Teachers earning enough in a whole month
to buy just one banana. Six children sharing one text book. Parents having
to provide food for both their own children and the teachers. Schools which
have no stationery, no chalk, no equipment, no water, no food.
According to the UN Children's Fund, school attendance in Zimbabwe dropped
from 85% in 2007 to just 20% by the end of 2008. Now, at the worst possible
time and with the country at its lowest ebb, the government have announced
that schools will not open on the 12th of January as they should, but two
weeks later - culling yet more precious days from our children's education.
All these apparently little things are having a dramatic impact on our lives
in Zimbabwe. Our children and our country will pay a heavy price in the
years to come.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.
I am sure we all recall that press conference in Iraq when the Minister of
Information for the Iraqi government was holding forth on the status of the
war against them launched a few days earlier
by the Americans. He boldly declared that the American forces would never
reach the city of Baghdad. Behind him and clearly visible on camera, were
American tanks crossing the bridge into the suburb where the press
conference was being held.
The shrill protests and hysterical claims of the regime in Harare take on a
similar character. I include in that the statement by Mugabe at the Bindura
conference of Zanu PF that he would ³never, never, never give up Zimbabwe
is mine². I found it curious that my last letter headed ³Let it Crash and
Burn² has evoked a storm of debate in the State controlled media here. I
have also been attacked by the War Veterans and called all sorts of names.
They seemed frightened of the prospect of being left to their own devices in
the chaotic situation we are living in here at present. A bit like the
horror of a killer who finds himself locked into the room containing the
body of his victim and forced to sit there while it stinks and rots and the
killer himself faces the prospect of dying from thirst and hunger.
The reality is that Zanu PF finds itself hooked on a line that leads back to
a transitional government that will in fact be controlled and managed by MDC
with the obligation only to consult and gain consensus with the Zanu PF
minority in its ranks. This fish is fighting the line, but losing the
battle. This coming week they must decide whether to tear the hook out of
its mouth and dive into deep water, or to allow it to be landed on the
The situation is quite clear, Zanu and MDC have signed an agreement, that
agreement is backed and guaranteed by regional and continental bodies and
leaders. It provides for the formation of a transitional government that
will last about 27 months before a free and fair election under a new
constitution and observed by the international community. In that
transitional authority, Zanu is in the minority in every organ of the
State. All it has is consultation rights and the need to agree with the MDC
on what has to be done to fix the economy and our shattered society.
³Zimbabwe is mine² Mugabe is stripped of much of his power, has to deal with
Tsvangirai on all policy issues and before any senior appointments are made.
The JOC is replaced with a new National Security Council that is dominated
by the MDC and is democratic in character. The Zanu PF Politburo saw the
implications immediately after the SADC signing ceremony and has been
furiously fighting a rear guard action ever since. But the pressure from the
region on the regime has been relentless.
This coming week is the Rubicon for the regime. They must decide to either
go with the deal, conclude the steps necessary to complete its
implementation or to refute the deal and go ahead with the formation of an
illegitimate government without the MDC or the approval of the region. This
decision must be made before Parliament is convened on the 20th of January.
If they decide to go into the transitional government then they must accept
what the MDC is proposing a draft of new legislation to set up the
National Security Council, the equitable allocation of ministerial portfolio
¹s and they must accept that all the senior appointments made since June
2008, in violation of the MOU and the GPA be rescinded and new appointees
agreed with the MDC and substituted.
Once this happens then everyone can expect that events will move quite
rapidly; Parliament will debate and adopt the new legislation followed by
the appointment of both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to their respective posts,
followed by the nomination and swearing in of all Ministers. This could all
be over by the 31st January and a new government could start work on the 2nd
If however they decide not to go this route, they will walk away from the
deal and in the process walk into the wilderness. Their problems will
multiply exponentially; they have no idea how they are going to finance
salaries this month, whatever they pay civil servants and the army and
police, and it will be worthless. They will plunge the region as a whole
into a real crisis they could jeopardize the prospects for the World Cup
next year, (over 400 000 people crossed the Beitbridge border post in
December), South Africa would be swamped with economic refugees.
The Zimbabwe regime would be even more isolated and regional leaders would
have no choice but to repudiate the new government. Internationally,
sanctions would be tightened and broadened to include financial restrictions
on all deals with Zimbabwe. China and Russia would not be able to maintain
their neutrality and political pressure would grow for fresh,
internationally supervised elections. Elections that Zanu PF would lose
What the criminals in the Mugabe regime have also got to understand is that
this is their last chance to avoid their very worst fears becoming a
reality. Inside the new transitional government, working with and not
against the MDC, the leadership of Zanu PF would be able to avoid
prosecution and probable imprisonment for various crimes for at least the
period during which they would be in the transitional government. It is
unlikely that the government, operating on a consensual basis, would agree
to going over all the violations of the past 30 years and bringing the
perpetrators to book.
In fact, for the Ministers and other senior officials in the present regime,
it would take the form of a type of enforced community service. They would
have to accept the failure of their policies in the past and their
shortcomings in many areas. They would be confronted by the very people they
beat and tortured yesterday and be required to work with them in repairing
the damage and helping to build a new Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans are a unique people in many respects, if these erstwhile masters
accepted their fate and willingly gave themselves to the task of
reconstruction, many would find forgiveness and reconciliation. I think the
decision facing Zanu PF this week is quite simple and straight forward, but
then we have been there before.
Bulawayo, 11th January 2009
By Karin Brulliard, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
Published: January 10, 2009, 23:36
Harare, Zimbabwe: At 72, Fidelis Chiramba had spent a decade as a rural
opposition party organiser, and late 2008 seemed to bring the truest promise
yet for the democracy he wanted. In September, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's
autocratic president for nearly three decades, shook hands with his rivals
and agreed to share power.
But one dark October morning, Chiramba was seized by several men in four
cars, his wife said. Soon, dozens of civil rights and opposition activists
had vanished, according to human rights organisations and lawyers.
They remained missing until late December, when authorities marched Chiramba
and 17 others into court on accusations of plotting to overthrow Mugabe.
The allegation is widely viewed as an invention. But the activists remain
behind bars, and Chiramba's wife has come to think his hope was an illusion.
"Only God's will can change this country, because this government is
adamant, " Sophia Chiramba, 69, said in an interview in Harare, the capital.
"It is not willing to change. We human beings have tried. But I believe
there's a limit."
As defence lawyers have futilely petitioned courts for their release, the
jailed activists have become the latest symbols of the demise of what seemed
to be a breakthrough power-sharing deal and, critics say, of Mugabe's
resolve to keep control of the crumbling nation using the repressive tactics
that characterise his government.
"It feels like we are under siege," said Fambai Ngirande, advocacy and
public policy director for a umbrella group of non-governmental
"That's how repression works. You cow people into submission. You crack down
heavily on any form of dissent. And meanwhile, you're pumping out
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to quit power-sharing
talks because of the disappearances and detentions.
Tsvangirai, who outpolled Mugabe in presidential elections last year,
withdrew from a widely condemned runoff months later, citing political
violence. The talks have been stalled for months over the allocation of key
The relationship between the parties is "totally artificial," said Nelson
Chamisa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai's
State news media has reported that Mugabe plans to form a new government
next month, but it was unclear whether he would do so alone.
A constitutional amendment that would permit the creation of a unity
government is set to go to the opposition-led parliament this month, which
could facilitate an agreement. If negotiations die, it is likely new
elections would be called - an unattractive prospect to the opposition,
dozens of whose supporters were beaten and killed by security forces after
last year's polls.
Saturday, 10 January 2009 16:21
THE presence of the Zimbabwe National Army's Presidential Guard at the
Miss Tourism finals last month was a clear sign the country is now a
military state, prominent artists said last week.
The Presidential Guard - notorious for brutalising motorists who fail
to pull off the roads for President Robert Mugabe's motorcade - made their
presence felt at the pageant's finals on December 31.
But ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke defended their presence saying
they were only responding to calls to give the pageant a national outlook.
"In 2006 The Standard asked what there was to the pageant to suggest
it was a national event. We took up the challenge and started looking at how
other countries were conducting similar pageants," he said. "We studied
Kenya and Nigeria.
"We brought video evidence of how they conduct their pageants. So what
we did was a response to these concerns. We wanted the Miss Tourism to be
national in character and outlook. The Presidential Guard was acting as a
guard of honour and gave stature to the pageant."
In full military regalia, they brandished their long silver swords,
forcing the faint hearted to quake in their boots. The event was beamed live
When it was time for the winners to be announced they burst on to the
stage holding the chair for the winner Miss Tourism.
Posing as models, soldiers then escorted the winners on the stage
where they stood in two files with raised swords.
The soldiers saluted the winners, the same way they do to President
Robert Mugabe. What they only didn't do was a gun salute.
The Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi and ZNA commander,
Lieutenant General Phillip Valerio Sibanda witnessed the soldiers saluting
the eventual winner, Vanessa Sibanda from Harare.
The other winners were Sharon Razzle, who was voted the first princess
while Happiness Tshuma was the second princess and Cleopatra Ncube was
crowned Miss Personality.
Award-winning playwright and fierce critic of Zanu PF policies, Cont
Mhlanga said he was elated that the army was part of the pageant as it
showed the world that Zimbabwe was now under military rule.
"Arts mirrors society," Mhlanga said. "That is why I am so proud of
what the organisers of Miss Tourism did as it showcased to those who had an
ounce of doubt that we are in a dictatorship and that we are under the
"Maybe the organisers of the event were not alive to this fact but
they told a media-conscious world what it suspected all along."
Mhlanga, an independent councillor in the Kusile Rural District
Council in Matabeleland North said if he was a government minister he would
have fired the organisers for trying to promote tourism using the military.
"How ironic if not outright tactless that you tell tourists that you
should visit our country through the army," he said. "Are they saying 'look
we have the military might and if you come and misbehave we will have them
deal with you?'"
Theatre producer-cum-actor, Silvanos Mudzvova agreed with Mhlanga
saying the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) was politicising the beauty
"It was obvious from the start when ZTA took over from the then Miss
Zimbabwe pageant that they were going to politicise everything," he said.
"I did not see the interest of the military at a beauty contest, why
the presence of the junta, Sekeramayi and Lt-Gen Sibanda."
However ZTA spokesperson Sugar Chagonda dismissed suggestions the
outfit was politicising the event by involving the military.
"We are not politicizing the pageant, in our view the military is not
made up of politicians but it is a professional organisation that has the
interest of the nation at heart," he said.
"We are not the first ones to invite the military; it's something
which is being practised in West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana."
However, Kent Mensah a Ghanaian senior reporter with web portal
Africanews.com said it was not true that the military in his country was an
integral part of beauty pageants.
"I can tell you with certainty that your information is wrong," he
"The army here does not give a hoot about beauty pageants. It's only
politicians like the ministers of Information and Tourism who attend such
occasions at times."
In the past the government has been accused of trying to use beauty
pageants to shore up its battered image, as part of its "perception
There was uproar in 2005 after the government paid US$2 million to
bring the Miss Tourism World finals to Zimbabwe, amid worsening food
shortages and economic decline.
BY JOHN MOKWETSI AND SANDRA MANDIZVIDZA
As More Perish and Poverty Deepens, Kin Abandon Traditions
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 11, 2009; Page A01
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Noel Nefitali died of cholera on Dec. 28 at age 35,
though no one passing by his grave site would know that.
The cheapest chipboard coffin and funeral parlor fees alone had sent his
family far into debt, making a $10 painted grave marker seem a luxury item.
With regret, they flagged the dirt mound with a jagged chunk of concrete
scavenged from the street.
"I don't think he is happy," Nefitali's 21-year-old son, Gilbert, said in
the back yard of the township house where he and 10 other jobless relatives
survived on his late father's income from hawking candy at a market.
"Because he was buried like a bandit."
The family's story is another example of the twisted arithmetic of crumbling
Zimbabwe. In a nation where life expectancy is in the mid-30s, graveyards
fill more quickly than ever, spurred by a collapsed health-care system,
hunger, AIDS and a raging cholera outbreak. But massive unemployment and the
world's highest inflation rate are pushing burial costs out of reach and
causing proud funeral traditions to wither.
Some Zimbabweans turn to overseas relatives or elected officials for help,
but for many, the things that once seemed crucial for a dignified farewell
are gone. No more flowers or fancy coffins. No more engraved granite
tombstones, which cost hundreds of dollars and are often stolen anyway. No
more mourning for a week over meals of warm cabbage, soft cornmeal and
freshly slaughtered beef.
For the Nefitali family, it meant no white gown for Noel's body or blankets
to lay over it and under the coffin, according to tradition. Not even tea
His death was a brutal and swift blow, emotionally and financially. However
meager his earnings, Noel was the family's breadwinner.
On Christmas Day, he went to a party. The next day, the vomiting and
diarrhea started. On the 28th, severely dehydrated, he died. Though cholera
has been coursing through their suburb, Mabvuku, where sewage collects in
street-side pools, the family did not consider that it had infected strong
Noel, his son said.
On a recent hot afternoon, Noel's father reached into his thick cardigan and
pulled out the crinkled blue receipt from Angel Light Funeral Services: Body
removal, $60. Administrative fee, $40. Mortuary charge, $120. Undertaker's
fee, $50. Total: $270.
Then, a note at the bottom: Paid $50 and "left phone Samsung Slide." The
family had one week to pay the balance or they would lose one of their
prized possessions, the cellphone. To the coffin shop, they owed an
additional $40, Gilbert Nefitali said.
It is difficult to compare how much it would have cost in the past, before
everyone, including the funeral homes, demanded U.S. dollars. But Gilbert
Nefitali said he is sure he could have managed.
"Five years ago, it was possible. You could at least give your relative a
decent burial," he said. "We could feed the mourners. They were taking Zim
dollars then, and people had little, but enough to spare."
Much used to be different. Two decades ago, before Zimbabwe's enviable
infrastructure and robust economy broke down under the leadership of
President Robert Mugabe, the average life span was 60 years. Now, according
to the United Nations, about 20 percent of adults are HIV-positive. In five
months, cholera -- a disease easily preventable with clean water and good
sanitation -- has killed nearly 1,800 people. Public hospitals have shut,
and private health care is an impossibility for the 80 percent of people
estimated to be jobless.
Cemeteries tell part of the story. Noel Nefitali was buried in a row of
fresh mounds in a weedy field of graves over which grass has not had time to
grow. One grave in the section is flagged only with a yellow Zimbabwean
license plate that emerges horizontally from the earth. Nearby, according to
metal markers painted with block letters, lie Pinos Muchakazi, dead Dec. 29
at age 17; Sheila Jayiro, dead Aug. 2 at age 44; and Virginia Njeku, dead
Nov. 16 at age 19.
"You can go to any of our cemeteries at any time of day, on any day of the
week, and you will see two, three, sometimes four or five funerals taking
place," said David Coltart, an opposition party senator. "Our hospitals
should be full to overflowing, and yet they're empty. People are at home,
In the economy of teeming Chitungwiza, a suburb south of Harare, the
capital, death is a clear player. Funeral parlor signs, roadside headstone
carvers and coffin workshops are common sights. But they are not necessarily
One longtime carpenter, Mazakwatira Kafera, got into the coffinmaking
business last year. He said many customers must barter for the plain, $100
pine coffins that take him 30 minutes to assemble. A young tombstone carver
said business has dropped since granite prices forced him to quintuple the
cost of his simplest model, to $200.
KC Funerals prepares few lavish ceremonies now, making most of its revenue
from its mortuary, which handles overflow from packed hospital morgues.
"The funeral industry seems to be the only viable industry at the moment. .
. . The death rate is high," manager Tapiwa Chitekeshe said from behind his
front counter, above which hung a framed poster of Mugabe. But, he added,
"situations are very, very hard. People will break down their wardrobe to
make a coffin."
The burial indignities extend to the public sector. One health official who
works in the lone cholera treatment center in Chitungwiza, where the illness
had killed 148 people as of Jan. 5, said the government long ago ran out of
body bags. Now cholera victims, whose bodies and graves must be sprayed with
disinfectant, are interred in three plastic trash bags -- one each for the
head, torso and feet.
The official said many families cannot afford the coffins required in
Zimbabwe, where regulations still thrive amid the chaos. So corpses stay in
the morgue, sometimes rotting because of power outages, he said.
"Some of my colleagues, witnessing people in dire poverty, they just bury
them in plastic," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity
because he feared government retribution. "It's not allowed. But the
situation is what it is."
To cope with funeral costs, many poorer Zimbabweans used to join burial
societies, clubs whose members gathered in smart uniforms and paid dues to
foot the bill when a member died. But Phillip Makawa, a leader of the
Zimbabwe Burial Society in Chitungwiza, said the economic collapse has
changed even that. His society, founded in 1982, has lost two-thirds of its
membership since last year, he said, because monthly dues of a few dollars
are too much.
The remaining members still meet in their white shirts and black pants each
month, now to discuss what they will do when the inevitable happens: two
burials in one week and not enough money to pay for them.
"We are looking for members," said Makawa, 46, who said he tries to impress
on people the need for funeral preparations. "How can I express it? Nowadays
death is a thing. Death can come at any time, to anyone. Young, old, middle
It could soon befall the Nefitali family again. Of the 11 remaining
household members, four were ill from cholera on a recent afternoon. Three
were in the hospital, but the family knew nothing of their conditions,
because they could not afford the bus ride to visit, and the cellphone that
sometimes rang with updates was now at the funeral parlor. Inside the dark
house, Gilbert Nefitali's grandmother lay ill under a heap of blankets, but
there was no money to take her to the hospital.
Clean water would help, he knew. But tap water had run only once in two
months, he and neighbors said, and the electricity or firewood needed to
boil it was rarely available.
Sewage seeped into the borehole water the family purchased from neighbors,
Gilbert Nefitali said, but what were the alternatives?
"We wouldn't know where to start," he said, imagining another funeral. "For
sure, the situation is critical."
Published:Jan 10, 2009
The gem industry finds itself wedged between a rock and a hard place, writes
Among the first things to be put on the back burner in a recession are
feel-good operations designed to portray industries' ethical or socially
conscious faces. Nowhere, perhaps, was this clearer than in the diamond
industry as 2008 gave way to 2009.
Diamond mining is in a bad state with prices of unpolished gems anything
from 40% to 50% lower on the year in established markets such as that of
Antwerp - price falls that have left all but one or two of the rich mines
run by De Beers in South Africa and Botswana operating at a loss.
Nobody needs gem diamonds, no matter what the advertising guff might say
about their symbolising eternal love. And when the credit crunch that has
hammered consumers' discretionary spending is also murdering the ability of
diamond traders and cutters to buy and warehouse rough stones, then it's
small wonder that sales volumes and prices have collapsed.
In southern Africa the response by De Beers and its associates has been
conventional - mine closures with employees sent on enforced extended
holidays. In Namibia the dredgers that churn up the ocean bed in search of
gems have returned to port. In South Africa even the still-profitable
Venetia mine has sent its employees on extended holidays from December 15 to
In Botswana the profitable Jwaneng mine, too, has gone for an extended
closure for most of January. And these developments do not take into account
the cost of the group's ill-starred foray into Canada.
The official De Beers line is that retrenchments are not being planned -
yet. But as soon as the year-end sales figures are available, the company
says, decisions will have to be made.
The outlook is hardly enticing for a country such as Botswana, which derives
four- fifths of its foreign earnings from diamonds. How it will fund
ambitious social and developmental projects is an open question.
But let's return to the original proposition that feel-good programmes are
among the first to be put on the back burner when trading conditions become
tough. It certainly appears to be happening with the Kimberley Process, set
up under UN auspices and including governments of diamond-producing
countries, diamond producers themselves and NGOs. Its remit was to help
ensure that conflict or blood diamonds did not enter the market, with
signatory governments verifying that gems crossing their borders were not
produced to finance civil wars or attempts to overthrow governments.
Official certification was the name of the game.
Which is all fine and dandy, but the whole thing falls apart when diamonds
are used to fund a government's war on its own people.
This is precisely what is happening in the failed state north of the
Limpopo. Robert Mugabe and his cohorts have turned the military loose on the
artisanal diamond miners - let's ignore the question of whether the miners
are illegal or not - to loot what is available in the east of the country.
It is an old game for governments of failed states.
With precious few assets left to pillage in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime
cannot afford to pay the army on which it relies to hang onto power. Some
years ago, Mugabe sent his troops into the Congo - ostensibly to help quell
an uprising, but in reality to loot diamond and precious metals resources to
cover army wages and to line the pockets of politicians back home in Harare.
Now it is doing the same, telling the army to find its own wages near the
eastern town of Mutare.
Countless people have been killed or robbed in government-sponsored military
activity. And the diamonds now being extracted by soldiers are leaving the
country through Mozambique and South Africa without any Kimberley Process
certification, just as when the "illegals" were scratching the diamonds out
of the ground.
Now, NGOs such as Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada - two
participants in the Kimberley Process - are calling for Zimbabwe's
participation in the Process to be ended.
The response from parts of the industry has been that such a move would hurt
a legitimate operator, Rio Tinto, whose 78%- owned Murowa mine is remote
from the zone of government-sponsored violence and whose sales can
legitimately be certified as conflict-free. Some 1500 jobs could be lost and
it could mean the end to local social spending by Rio Tinto if Murowa had to
be closed because of a blanket ban on certification of Zimbabwean diamonds.
Nobody seems to have asked Rio Tinto whether it might like to close the mine
in the face of falling gem prices, government peculation and the near
impossibility of running mines in Zimbabwe.
The Kimberley Process is barely six years old and, since its inauguration in
2003, it has been able to claim, reasonably, that 99% of internationally
traded rough diamonds are conflict-free. Calls for Zimbabwe to be removed
from the Kimberley Process are a major test. How participant companies,
countries and NGOs respond will, to a considerable extent, help further
define the Process's reputation.
But with the world's diamond industry distracted by having to cope with the
recession, will much attention be paid to yet another African trouble spot?