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Morgan Tsvangirai returns home to Zimbabwe for last ditch negotiations
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has returned home to his country for make or break talks with President Robert Mugabe after more than two months away.
Morgan Tsvangirai - Morgan Tsvangirai returns home to Zimbabwe for last ditch negotiations
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai arrives at Harare International Airport Photo: REUTERS

But he immediately declared that he would not be a pushover in negotiations with the 84-year-old president, who has refused to honour an agreement to form a power-sharing government with Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party after disputed elections last year.

"The MDC will not be bulldozed into an agreement that doesn't reflect the will of the people ," Mr Tsvangirai said before his security team drove him off at speed from Harare airport.

There appeared to be no police or security agents on duty to monitor his arrival nor along the route from the airport to his home on the west of the city.

This weekend he will hold a meeting with his bickering MDC national council of about 80 party representatives, which is divided between those who want Mr Tsvangirai to become prime minister in a power-sharing government with Mr Mugabe as president, and those who do not.

On Monday Mr Tsvangirai, whose immediate family now mostly lives in South Africa, will meet Mr Mugabe, the South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza in a mini regional summit over the deadlocked power sharing deal.

The MDC has only one parliamentary seat more than Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF and is the minority party in the senate, which can obstruct reformist legislation the MDC would want to deliver.

Four months ago Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai signed a deal for an inclusive government. While negotiations for allocations of ministries were deadlocked, Mr Mugabe abducted scores of MDC officials and supporters.

In the same rounds of late night negotiations, Mr Tsvangirai repeatedly changed his mind about which portfolios he believed would give him a fair share of power in a transitional government, which is supposed to write a new constitution before fresh elections.

The power sharing agreement is on the point of collapse and no one is sure whether the two visiting presidents can persuade Mr Mugabe to meet the demands made by Mr Tsvangirai. These include releasing abductees from detention, giving him full control of the home affairs ministry which controls the police, and agreeing the composition of a new security council.

One of Mr Tsvangirai's MP's from a constituency south of Harare, who asked not to be named, said: "If Tsvangirai doesn't go into this deal Mugabe is going to dissolve parliament, call elections, and we will lose, as our majority is too small and people will be too scared to vote again.

"This is our only chance to get in and try and begin to solve the problems, fix a new constitution and level the playing field for the next elections.

"People are getting fed up with Tsvangirai because since he signed the deal everything is now priced in US dollars and ordinary people don't have any. If Tsvangirai goes in (to an inclusive government) the West will come with support and prices will go down."

But others are adamant that Mr Tsvangirai should remain out of any inclusive government.

"We can't trust Mugabe, so we must stay out and we will just have to fight on somehow," said an MDC MP from central Zimbabwe.

Mr Mugabe's Central Intelligence Organisation began abducting human rights campaigners, a photo journalist and MDC officials in October, accusing them of plotting to topple the government by training insurgents in Botswana.

Mr Motlanthe, who has seen some of the state's evidence - a filmed "confession" from a tortured MDC official - has said he does not believe that the MDC is either training "bandits" or planning to overthrow Mr Mugabe.

Most of more than 20 abductees now charged by police or in court claimed they were assaulted, tortured or mistreated by the CIO after they were kidnapped from their homes or offices.

"Mugabe's mind is confused now," said a source who attended recent political discussions chaired by Mr Mugabe in State House. "He sleeps while he is talking and he forgets what he has said. This is a combination of his age and the pressure from within his own divided party and that is really showing now.

"If Morgan was really clever, he would just get in and outsmart Mugabe because the old man is not up to it any more."

Mr Tsvangirai used his new Zimbabwe passport for the first time yesterday after the South African government pressured Mr Mugabe to issue him one. He had been without a passport since his ran out of pages in June.

Zimbabwe has had no government since the first round of presidential elections last March, in which Mr Tsvangirai easily beat Mr Mugabe but without enough votes to clinch the result. Faced with a campaign of violence against his supporters, the MDC pulled out of the second round.

Schools cannot open because there are no examination results; and few teachers will return for the first term of the year next week as they say they do not earn enough money to pay their fares or other transport to work.

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UNICEF to the rescue

January 17, 2009

budiriro-patientAnn Veneman during a visit to Budirio Health Centre Clinic for Cholera in Harare .

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - The head of the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, has announced that the UN will make available US$5 million to assist with the remuneration of striking health workers.

Their industrial action has paralysed the health services sector.

The UNICEF executive director arrived on Thursday in Harare, where she has been meeting donors and government officials in the economically ravaged country.

Ann Veneman, who is the first head of a UN agency to visit the country in three years, said on Saturday the health sector in Zimbabwe was battling a devastating on-going cholera outbreak and the effects of collapsing social services that had exacted an enormous toll on children.

Veneman told a news conference at the UNICEF Centre in Harare on saturday that the US$5 million was not to pay salaries - which she said remained the prerogative of the government - but what she termed “incentives” for health workers to allow them to return to work and provide health care to the crisis-torn country. She said the money would not be disbursed directly to government. A trust will be set up instead to administer the funds to ensure accountability.

Veneman emphasised that the major concern of the UN children’s agency was on the health of children who were bearing the heaviest brunt of the country’s dramatic collapse of social services. She also expressed alarm at the appalling state of obstetric care.

Veneman said President Mugabe appreciated the gravity of the crisis. She attended a meeting Friday with Mugabe, Acting Foreign Affairs minister Francis Nhema, Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa and the UN resident representative in Zimbabwe, Agostinho Zacarias.

She had also held an earlier meeting with Acting President, Joice Mujuru. Mugabe was on a working annual holiday. Veneman said discussions underscored the humanitarian impact on women and children.

“We talked about a lot of issues that have been impacting on children, we talked about UNICEF’s help. He expressed appreciation for that. We had a frank discussion.”

Veneman said she expressed concern about the issue of the growing number of people failing to access health care.

“The cholera outbreak is the tip of the iceberg,” Veneman told reporters. “The economy in Zimbabwe is crumbling, with the highest inflation rate in the world at 231 million percent. Over the half the population is receiving food aid, health centres have closed and when the school term starts there is no guarantee that there will be enough teachers.”

Veneman said she had asked Mugabe how many teachers he expected to return to teach when schools open and he had said he did not know.

Veneman said UNICEF had targeted the latest funding to the health sector to alleviate the dire consequences of the collapse on people. There was also need to look at how incentives for teachers could also be mobilised, she said.

UNICEF has rolled out a 120-day emergency response to intensify relief efforts in the education and health sectors in Zimbabwe through the provision of health outreach services, nutritional supplements and boosting school attendances.

It has launched a consolidated appeal of US$17.5 million.

“I think everybody is trying very hard to fight cholera, but I do not think it is yet under control,” Veneman said.

During the visit, the UNICEF boss visited a cholera treatment centre and a program that helps support over 250,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

UNICEF and its implementing partners have been responding to the emergency, providing vital equipment to cholera treatment centres.

Over the next four months, UNICEF will support the drilling of 100 boreholes in areas in need of water. The UN children’s agency has also been providing 70 percent of the country’s essential medicines.

“More than ever before all stakeholders must put children at the forefront of their collective agenda,” Veneman said.

Poor families often skip meals in order to stretch their income to the next pay day while foodstuffs such as cooking oil, bread and the staple cornmeal are often in short supply in most shops. Supermarkets are now stocking imported goods, which are priced way beyond the reach of the majority of Zimbabweans.

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UNICEF meets Mugabe over cholera crisis

January 18, 2009 - 5:54AM
The UN children's agency chief said on Saturday Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe has finally recognised the nation's deadly cholera epidemic, which is
still not under control.

Mugabe last month had claimed in a nationally broadcast speech that there
was no cholera in Zimbabwe, but UNICEF boss Ann Veneman said the 84-year-old
leader now acknowledged the cholera situation which has already killed more
than 2,200 people.

"He is acknowledging there is a problem. He recognises that cholera is a
problem. He recognises there is a problem with the water and the sewer
systems," she said in Johannesburg shortly after returning from talks in

"The cholera situation, I think many were slow to recognise its coming, and
then it got out of control," she said, adding: "It's still not under

Veneman is the first head of a UN agency to visit Zimbabwe in three years,
and met for more than an hour with Mugabe on Friday.

She said that he blamed much of Zimbabwe's crisis on donors for failing to
provide financing to the country.

"What we did hear is that the donors are abandoning us, we don't have the
resources we need," she said of her talks with Mugabe.

"Most of the blame was being put on the fact that the resources have not
been there from international financial institutions and the donors to help
fix the problem," she said.

The UN's humanitarian arm OCHA released the latest death toll from the
disease on Friday and said that prevention efforts have not yet halted its
spread, especially in the countryside.

Veneman said much of the problem in urban areas was with the broken water
and sanitation system, which helped spread the disease through the city.

"The sewer pipes are breaking, and the water pipes that are basically in the
same area are also leaking, so you have seepage," she said.

Efforts to fight the disease are hampered by the collapse of the public
health system and with government health workers on strike for months
demanding better wages.

Veneman said UNICEF was providing $US5 million ($A7.51 million) for a new
trust fund that would give health workers US dollar stipends for them to use
for transportation to and from work.

The agency is also providing basic medicines to hospitals and clinics that
otherwise have none, in hopes of encouraging doctors and nurses to go to

"The economy in Zimbabwe is crumbling, with the highest inflation rate in
the world at 231 million per cent," she said.

"Over half the population is receiving food aid. Health centres have closed,
and when the school term starts there is no guarantee that there will be
enough teachers."

Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic has been aggravated by erratic water supplies,
shortages of water purification chemicals, burst water and sewer pipes and
uncollected refuse in most residential suburbs.

© 2009 AFP

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Daily cholera update and alerts, 16 Jan 2009

 Full_Report (pdf* format - 101.8 Kbytes)

A. Highlights of the day:

- 997 cases and 65 deaths added today (in comparison 689 cases and 24 deaths yesterday)

- 56.9 % of the areas affected have reported today (33 out of 58 affected districts)

- 87.1 % of districts reported to be affected (54 districts/62)

- All 10 of the country's provinces are affected

- Newly affected areas Mayoka (Kwekwe District)

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Major aid hinges on political deal

Photo: WHO/Paul Garwood
Cholera epidemic continues
HARARE, 17 January 2009 (IRIN) - Once Zimbabwe's political crisis is settled the county will need a major reconstruction programme to revive its collapsed social services, Ann Veneman, executive director of the UN children's agency, UNICEF, said on 17 January in the capital, Harare.

She is the first head of a UN agency to visit Zimbabwe in three years, and her trip comes at the time of a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people, food shortages affecting 5.5 million and a long-endured economic crisis that has paralysed the country.

During Veneman's three-day mission she met aid workers, NGOs and President Robert Mugabe to discuss the humanitarian situation.

In response to questions from IRIN, Veneman said: “There has to be a humanitarian prioritisation of immediate needs ... There should be planning in regard to rebuilding structures in health, education and sanitation. This is a country that has had one of the best education systems in Africa.”

The UN official said the collapse of services needed to be urgently tackled to create a better future for Zimbabwean children.

“There is an issue with water and sanitation systems which are old and will only spread diseases. As UNICEF, I don’t think we have the capacity to overhaul the water systems. However, we have a programme to drill 100 boreholes in areas in need of water.”

Zimbabwe was faced with many complicated and interlinked problems, she noted.

“The cholera outbreak is the tip of the iceberg. The economy in Zimbabwe is crumbling with the highest inflation rate in the world at 231 million percent. Over half the population is receiving food aid, health centres have closed and when the school term starts, there is no guarantee that there will be enough teachers.”

Veneman announced a US$5 million initiative involving UNICEF and humanitarian partners to provide striking public health workers with short-term financial "incentives" to encourage them to return to work. As the economy continues to disintegrate, women and children would have little or no access to health services, she said.

New talks

Hear Our Voices
 "Already we have sold the refrigerator" 
 "It's a wonder people haven't started destroying banks"
 "I am not a nurse anymore, I am a mortuary attendant"
But major international aid is contingent on a workable and genuine power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).

Tsvangirai, who flew into Harare on 17 January for talks with Mugabe, said he would not allow MDC-T "to be bulldozed into an agreement which does not meet the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe".

Tsvangirai, who has been based in neighbouring Botswana and South Africa for the past two months, said he hoped the 19 January meeting with Mugabe would "find a lasting solution to the crisis" - triggered by last year's elections, almost universally condemned for the violence unleashed on the opposition.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe is to mediate in the talks - aimed at clearing the hurdles to a unity government - joined by Thabo Mbeki, his predecessor, and Armando Emilio Guebuza, Mozambique's president.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Dirty gold is a family affair

Nyasha del Campo, the daughter of Zimbabwe’s acting president Joice Mujuru, is accused of trying to set up a deal involving illegal gold, Makusha Mugabe reports

Joice Mujuru, who is reportedly behind the dirty gold and blood diamonds deals that were exposed in the international press last week, has been appointed acting president of Zimbabwe, making it possible for her to use her executive office to push through the deals before police get on the case.

Her appointment coming after Mugabe cut short a visit to the Far East and aborted his planned visit to Russia, also shows increasing instability in the government, with talk of a planned coup that has been suppressed.

Zimbabwean ministers and generals have been implicated in the plunder of resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in UN reports, but so far nothing has been done about prosecuting them. This is the first time that evidence has been produced of senior Mugabe officials and their relatives’ involvement in dirty deals involving resources from the DRC.

SW Radio Africa station manager Gerry Jackson first exposed the deal and you can listen to her programme here

The website Change Zimbabwe also spoke to a spokesman for Firststar Europe [a company specialising in global distribution and trading of raw materials] who said both the FBI and Interpol had been informed about the dirty deals offered by Nyasha (Mujuru) del Campo (daughter of Joice Mujuru) and her husband, Pedro del Campo.

The deal involved shipping about US $35 million worth of gold nuggets per month to Switzerland for several months - gold that apparently belongs to several different owners but entrusted to Joice Mujuru and her husband for selling in Europe.

Vice president Mujuru herself was said to be prepared to finance the shipment of the 3.7 tonnes of gold, but when Firstar’s due diligence report showed that the gold belonged to ‘criminals elements’, they decided not to look into the deal and to expose the criminals as well as blacklist the del Campos’ companies and Mrs Mujuru.

A Firststar executive said Mrs Mujuru herself had threatened him with a ‘visit’ if he did not remove the company and her name from from the blacklist, but added that he told her that it might be a bit difficult for her to visit him in Europe since she was already prohibited from traveling to Europe.

‘We are doing our best to try to keep our trade clean. That is why we are exposing this. But ultimately it is the authorities to prosecute these criminals’, he said.

Zimbabwe is increasingly coming under the influence of criminals, with Robert Mugabe initially reported to have planned a trip to Russia, possibly to offer resources to the Russians in exchange for their continued protection at the UN.

But speculation is that he also came back to Zimbabwe fearing a coup was in progress, and this was confirmed by the immediate relieving of Joseph Msika as acting president and his replacement by Mrs Mujuru. Other speculation is that he has come back to hold the long-requested meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over the the MDC’s demand that they must share ministerial portfolios equally ; a demand which Mugabe had previously refused to entertain.

Firstar have said that the gold it was offered by Nyasha Mujuru through her husband del Campo, is on the embargo list and that the owners are ’criminals’. The criminal element was further exposed, says Firstar when Nyasha said she could easily change the origin of the gold from Congo to Kenya.

‘This is obviously very hot and the gold might be offered to other people soon, so we have decided to expose it, but we need help of the authorities to totally put a stop to this syndicate’, said the Firstar executive, who also added that he was dismayed that Zimbabwe’s people were dying of cholera, which could be treated for a few cents yet the vice-president was planning to stash away millions and millions of US dollars in Europe.

Makusha Mugabe is a Zimbabwe journalist who has worked for The Herald, and also was Editor for the Community Newspapers Group paper, The Chaminuka News. He is now based in England and currently the driving force behind Change Zimbabwe

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Begging for bribes

The police in Zimbabwe are not being paid well, if they are being paid at
all. A couple of weeks ago I was told by a colleague that the police hadn't
been paid since September 2008 - he'd heard this from two different
policemen. His comment to me was "Zimbabwean policeman have all become

It was put to me differently a couple of days ago when another friend said
she had been told by someone in the police that they had been told to "earn
their own money". What on earth does this mean? Are they being told to go
out and find second jobs, or are they being told to "do what you need to do
to survive"? Zimbabweans would probably assume that latter.

The reason why my colleague described the policeman as 'beggars' is because
of the behaviour of some at roadblocks. They'll ask you their routine
questions such as 'Where are you going and where have you come from?' along
with the other routine question that always makes me stifle laughter: 'Have
you got any weapons?' Some then ask if you have a 'gift for them', or if
they see you with loaves of bread on the backseat, if they can have (not pay
for) some of your bread. I guess this is begging but it looks like
corruption to me.

That's a Zimbabwean's experience; I think the South African experience in
our country must be so much worse. There is no other word for it other than
'corruption'. It pays to have Zim number plates when you're driving through
a roadblock here. Zim plates are usually waved through with a brief question
or two; the real income seems to come from the vehicles with the South
African white 'Gauteng Province' number plates. I have feeling that this may
be the dark side of telling the police to "earn your own money".

I've been taking note of which cars have been pulled over whenever I've gone
through a roadblock recently, and there was one block where I saw ten
different vehicles stopped - all with GP plates - and I watched the yellow
Zim plates being waved through after we went through. It was completely
brazen and unsubtle. These cars will be driven by South Africans, or by
Zimbabweans who have cars in South Africa and are travelling back, usually
laden with goods and stuff for their families. From what I've been told,
bribes are extorted from a lot of the 'runners' and 'border crossers', in
Rand. I can't figure out why else South African cars in particular would
need to be stopped by the police.

My favourite roadblocks were along the road to the Matopos. Until recently
there were two of them, set up ridiculously close to each other. (If it is
weapons they are looking for, then I'm not sure where they think vehicles
would find them in between too such close roadblocks on the way to the
Matopos!) As with all the other road blocks, the police manning these two
road blocks were also stopping cars with GP plates and allowing Zim cars
through. But what amused me, is the fact that the police seemed to pull down
the roadblocks at approximately 5pm.

I would have thought that if anyone was going to try and drive around with
weapons, then doing so under the cover of darkness might be a good time to
do so, so why close up at 5pm? The cynic in me thinks it probably has more
to do with the fact that most people don't like to drive around at night
because of the potholes and animals on the roads, and I assume that extends
to cars with GP plates as well. I'm guessing that the real business
(corruption) is slow at night, so the police go home to get a good night's
sleep ready to start another hard day's work the next day.

Such a shame they aren't busy catching crooks or investigating the illegal
abductions of human rights activists.

This entry was written by Hope on Saturday, January 17th, 2009 at 3:10 am

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A letter from the diaspora

January 16th 2009

Dear Friends.
Jestina Mukoko, that 'threat to society' as the new Attorney General branded
her, sobbed as she described in court the abuses that had been inflicted on
her whilst in custody. "I work for a non-profit organisation, and I am not
involved in any political activity.I repeatedly told the interrogators that
I'm not a member of the MDC.

I'm a human rights activist, currently employed by ZPP. The objectives of
ZPP do not talk about toppling the government"
A Supreme Court judge had meanwhile ordered that Jestina be allowed urgent
medical attention. As of Thursday 15.01.09 that had not happened. Jestina
Mukoko along with other female detainees, is being held in solitary
confinement in the Maximum Security section of Chikurubi, a place normally
reserved for hardcore male prisoners. Like the dozens of other activists
Jestina Mukoko is charged with attempting to overthrow the Mugabe
government. The newly appointed Attorney General Johannes Tomana, a Mugabe
loyalist if ever there was one, says he will oppose her release. "Any
attorney general in the world would do what I am doing given a case like the
one involving Mukoko. Evidence gathered proves that she is a threat to
society and should not be released now." Tomana does not say how that
so-called evidence was gathered but more than one testimony this week
reveals torture and abuse as the preferred method to gain 'evidence'.
One 'suspect' who was released this week was a two year old child. Having
been held in confinement for 76 days the small boy was taken away from his
mother (and father) who are still in custody and released into the hands of
strangers. One can only imagine the mother's anguish as her child was taken
from her.  The image of that tiny child's face must haunt the mind of every
decent human being. Along with pictures of the truly appalling suffering
being inflicted on innocent children in Gaza, this new year seems to herald
a new dark age of barbarism against the most vulnerable and innocent members
of society. While the government propaganda in Zimbabwe stridently condemns
the Israelis for the slaughter in Gaza, that same government has very
recently imported weapons from Israel to suppress the people. All week long
the streets of Harare have been patrolled by gun-toting police and military
determined at all costs to suppress any form of popular uprising. Now we
hear rumours that the Russians will be assisting Mugabe in his desperate
attempts to suppress the people. In exchange for shares in diamond mines and
other profitable mineral concessions no doubt we hear that the Russians will
send in 'technical advisors' to assist the military. It was not so long ago
that Mugabe described Tsvangirai as a 'political prostitute' because he was
going round Africa seeking support for democratic change in Zimbabwe. Rumour
has it that Mugabe will travel to Moscow on Saturday to finalise the deal
with the Russians. With the Chinese, the Russians  and possibly the Indians
too in on the act, Zimbabwe is up for sale to the highest paying clients.
Political prostitution indeed!
Amidst all the other horror stories from Zimbabwe this week the report from
the Physicians for Human Rights revealed the total collapse of the health
system. The cholera outbreak is the worst in Africa since 1999 when 2085
people died in a Nigerian cholera outbreak. Currently, the death toll in
Zimbabwe has exceeded 2000 but it is not only cholera that is killing our
people. With such severe levels of malnutrition all are vulnerable: people
with HIV unable to acess drugs, malaria sufferers, diabetics, TB patients;
women in childbirth in short anyone with a medical emergency faces a death
sentence under the collapsed heath care system in the country. The report
makes for very painful reading. That of course will not alter Mugabe's
stance for one moment, not even the conclusion that "These findings add to
the growing evidence that Robert Mugabe and his regime may well be guilty of
crimes against humanity." Evidence emerged this week of donated medical
supplies being sold on the black market by corrupt officials who will sink
to any depths to make a quick buck even to the extent of depriving the sick
of medication and mosquito nets which must be paid for in forex. More
evidence of the total collapse of Zim dollar, Gideon Gono announced just
yesterday that his Reserve Bank has introduced a new 'family' - how cosy
that sounds - of notes, this time in the trillions. 100 of these new
$trillion notes will buy you just six loaves of bread.
The PHR Report concludes that Zimbabwe's health system should be taken over
by the UN though why Mugabe's responsibility for the mismanagement should be
handed over to the international community is beyond me. It is precisely the
fact that Mugabe and his cohorts have refused to acknowledge their own
responsibility to feed and care for the needs of the people that has caused
the problem in the first place. By passing the problem on to the UN, Mugabe
once again gets away with the complete failure of governance that has
dominated every aspect of life in our country for the past ten years. Robert
Mugabe and Zanu PF have totally failed and it is time they were made to take
responsibility for their failure instead of blaming everyone else.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH

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Cholera spreading in SA

From The Weekender (SA), 17 January

Cases of the disease have been reported in all provinces, write Tamar Kahn,
Sarah Hudleston and Bheki Mpofu

SA IS deep in the throes of a home-grown cholera epidemic which is spreading
rapidly across the country. Cholera has now been identified in all nine
provinces, according to the health department's head of communicable
diseases, Frew Benson. The water-borne disease was initially imported from
Zimbabwe into Limpopo and Gauteng, but there is now evidence of local
transmission, with outbreaks in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and
"a sprinkling" of cases in the rest of the provinces, he says. Figures
released by provincial health departments earlier this week show more than
2070 people are ill with cholera in SA, and the disease has claimed 13
lives. On Friday the United Nations said Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak had
killed 2225 people, and left another 42675 infected. SA's cholera outbreak
has so far been confined to communities without access to clean water and
flush toilets, says Benson.

Officials suspect that rivers and streams in Limpopo have been contaminated
with the cholera-causing bacteria Vibrio cholerae, and are urging
communities in the vicinity to boil water before using it, and to wash their
hands with soap after using the toilet and before preparing food. "The big
thing is to prevent infection," Benson says. Water from the Tubatse river in
Limpopo has tested positive for Vibrio cholerae, says Benson, contradicting
a BuaNews report on Thursday that quoted a provincial water affairs official
saying the river was not contaminated. Leonardo Manus, drinking water
quality regulation manager at the water affairs and forestry department,
says officials are concerned about the spread of cholera in the country. "We
are certain it is because of people with travelling histories, especially
from Limpopo and Zimbabwe, and not because of failing sewerage systems,"
Manus says. "There is no way that contaminated water from the Limpopo
catchment area could have reached the Western Cape or KwaZulu-Natal, where
the disease has been noted."

Manus admits there is a problem with waste water systems in some
municipalities , and these could worsen the cholera problem. "But we are
more concerned about the possible secondary effects of the current outbreak,
which could result in our systems getting contaminated," he says. "In the
long term, we need to invest more into our water infrastructure, as our
systems are becoming overburdened." Mike Muller, visiting professor at the
Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management, says
that SA's cholera problem is not mainly about water supply or bad sewage
treatment systems. "It is happening because of a lack of proper sanitation
and hygiene in poor communities," he says. "If you look at the pattern of
infection, it is clear that cholera is currently moving along roads, not
rivers. It is being transmitted mainly by personal, hand to mouth contact
with people who may have been infected in Limpopo and Zimbabwe and other
affected areas," Muller says.

"While the origin of the cholera was probably in Zimbabwe, its current
spread is the result of poor hygiene and sanitation. "It is unfortunate that
our health officials and media are not putting out that message more
strongly. Instead of just talking about clean water, they should be warning
people to take care with hand washing and the preparation of food,
particularly for social events," he says. But Muller believes the spread of
cholera is in part a result of a decision of former president Thabo Mbeki's
government. "Instead of focusing on improving the sanitation of about
3-million poor households in rural areas, they spent a lot of money on the
programme to eradicate the bucket system in urban townships, which only
benefited about 200000 households," he says. "They ignored the technical
advice and concentrated too much money on a handful of people in urban
areas, ignoring the needs of millions of rural people. Mbeki went against
advice on this one. "But while the decision has caused the pollution of
rivers with untreated sewage, that pollution does not appear to be
contributing directly to the current spread of cholera."

Physicians for Human Rights said this week a delegation it sent to Zimbabwe
in December had witnessed "the utter collapse" of the country's health
system, once a model in southern Africa. They said the Zimbabwean government
had "abrogated the most basic state functions in protecting the health of
the population. "Instead of fulfilling its obligation to progressively
realise the right to health for the people of Zimbabwe, the government has
taken the country backwards, which has enabled the destruction of health,
water, and sanitation - all with fatal consequences. The 2008 cholera
epidemic that continues in 2009 is an outcome of the health system's
collapse, and of the failure of the state to maintain safe water and
sanitation. This disaster is man-made, was likely preventable, and has
become a regional issue since the spread of cholera to neighbour states."
The organisation says death rates from cholera are usually under 1%;
however, in Zimbabwe , the cumulative death rate is about 5%, and more than
40% of all districts have case fatality rates above 10%.

A senior Zimbabwean government official attributed the high fatality rate to
the fact that when the outbreak happened there were no hospital supplies
such as intravenous fluids; few hospital staff were sufficiently experienced
to respond to cholera; and patients could not afford transport to reach
care, or arrived at hospitals in a state of advanced dehydration and could
not be saved. Butjwana Seokoma, information co-ordinator at Sangonet, says
SA urgently needs more investment in water and sanitation projects in rural
communities. The absence of these services, he says, means that poor
communities will forever be exposed to life-threatening diseases. "When I
first heard about the reports of cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, I knew that
SA's poor communities would be next", Seokoma writes in Sangonet's
newsletter, Pulse. He says the outbreak has not only spread to SA from
Zimbabwe, but also to Angola and Mozambique - and the total number of deaths
in these countries combined is more than 1000 , with 32000 people affected.
Nongovernmental organisations such as the Red Cross are ensuring the
distribution of clean water and food throughout the region. It is also
providing public education about the disease.

"Southern African Development Community member states must act now to ensure
that poor communities have access to clean water and sanitation," Seokoma,
says. "The situation in SA is a case in point. In Limpopo where cholera
cases were first reported in Musina, poor people continue to fetch water
from contaminated rivers. They do so because they do not have access to
clean water and sanitation. I am not sure if the government's messages about
cholera are reaching the intended communities as high levels of illiteracy,
coupled with the fact that the majority of people do not speak English,
means that many people are simply not being reached," he says. "Cholera is a
disease of poverty and we must do everything in our power to end its

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Comment from a correspondent

it seems that everything in zimbabwe is completely dead,education sector,health sector,financial sector to mention just a that inflation is at  quintillion percent and dr genius gono things that failure in not an option and keep on thinking that he will reduce the inflation to a single digit,that is completely day dreaming imagine from 1 000 000 000 000 000 000% to 9%,wake up and smell  he cofee Mr many poli cies you have trierd and failed.mugabe seems to be enjoying his life in malaysia maybe it is the so called look east policy where the self imposed leader has has to go  for a holiday and his check up,your days are numbered mugabe,did you ever think that your soilders will turn their backs on you.who do you think you really are,the mighty mugabe.people of zimbabwe have suffered enough,when did schools started to postpone opening dates.right now people are dying of hunger and cholera and mugabe goes around the wold boosting himself,for what mr so called president,just wait and tsvangirai,the prime minister designate what have you been doing around the world,drumming support,from whom,one thing you have to bear in mind is that no one will ever help you around the world to defeat mugabe but only the people of zimbabwe so you need to work with thew mass not botswana or any other country,you have been away for 3 months whist people in zimbabwe are dying so even if you win the support of the au eu or whatever whom are you going to lead because all the people will be dead by then so wake up mr tsvangirai.why dont you quit the deal if you see you are not getting anywhere.


[Sorry, I don't have time to add punctuation! B.]

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