|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|February 2, 2004 | Vol. 163, No. 5
Notebook | ZimbabweAgainst the Grain
Hopes of change in Zimbabwe are short-lived
In a country where good news has been a rare commodity in recent years, Zimbabweans could scarcely believe their luck last week when the police and courts allowed the Daily News, the country's only independent daily newspaper, to publish for the first time in four months. It was the same day South African President Thabo Mbeki told visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government would resume talks with the embattled opposition. "I am quite certain they will negotiate and will find an agreement. We will work with them," Mbeki said.
But it was too good to be true. Harare quickly asked the courts to silence the Daily News again, and Zimbabwean politicians from both camps said Mbeki was being too optimistic. There was more bad news when Mugabe's government was accused of hoarding vital stocks of grain. The ruling party has in the past been accused of channeling food aid toward its supporters, a practice the World Food Program says it has made all but impossible. But now the government seems to be messing with the commercial food supply. The Grain Marketing Board, which has a monopoly on trade in maize and wheat, says it has collected 240,000 tons of maize this season. The WFP, which will feed up to 4.5 million people in the coming months, last week asked the government to start selling the maize. "Release of this food would have a very positive impact on affordability," says WFP's Zimbabwe country director Kevin Farrell. "Last year the inflation rate was 600% and food prices were higher than that. There just hasn't been enough food in the market."
But the buzz in Harare is that the government will hold onto the maize until the next parliamentary elections, due in 2005. "Then they will have food to hand out to make themselves look good," says a Zimbabwean analyst.
A rare glimpse behind the scenes in hospitals reveals a
deepening crisis in
a country where life expectancy has dropped to just 36. Anne Wayne reports
Save for a couple of lounging Green
Bombers - soldiers loyal to Robert
Mugabe and notorious for their brutality - the long corridors of the
Parirenyatwa hospital are eerily deserted. Most of the beds lie empty.
One man squeaks past in a wheelchair, his foot in bandages. "I came to the
hospital on December 22 after I shot myself," he explains in Shona, the main
African language of Zimbabwe. "But there was no one here to treat me so I
lay in bed for two weeks. Finally, a nurse came and gave me some medicine."
This patient was one of the lucky ones - lucky to have received any
treatment in the ruins of the country's health system, once considered a
model for the rest of Africa but now, like farming and the rest of
Zimbabwe's economy, brought to the brink of collapse by the corrupt and
murderous Mugabe regime.
According to the World Health Organisation, life expectancy in Zimbabwe has
fallen from 55 in 1980 to just 36 in 2003. Few patients can afford hospital
treatment. Even at state hospitals such as the "Pari", one of the biggest in
Harare, the capital, patients have to pay for all necessary equipment and
medicine before they are admitted.
Yet with inflation at 650 per cent and a shortage of foreign currency, the
price of even basic supplies has soared so steeply that most people cannot
afford them. Ambulance crews demand money before they will answer a call.
Doctors are forced to turn curtains into bandages and there are no gloves to
be worn when treating Aids patients. A syringe, and one without a needle at
that, costs 8,000 Zimbabwean dollars - more than twice the monthly wage of a
One woman recently died in the Pari's casualty unit for want of a bag of
saline, which costs about 17,000 Zimbabwean dollars. "We had no saline to
treat her with," says Dr Phibion Manyanga, president of the Hospital
Doctors' Association. "She was diabetic and needed rehydrating but her
relatives could not afford to buy any more. She died the next morning.
"Doctors are having to work without the most basic supplies, in conditions
that endanger both themselves and their patients."
A spokesman for the Community Working Group on Health, an alliance of health
and civic groups, said: "Harare has advanced labs, pharmacies and CAT
scanners, but no money to work them. They are trying to practise First World
medicine under Fourth World conditions."
In the regional hospital of Mutare, Anadin is the only drug left on the
shelves. In the private sector, drugs and doctors are in better supply but
patients are charged two million Zimbabwean dollars (£200) for an overnight
stay in hospital.
Thousands of Zimbabweans who paid premiums to the Premier Service Medical
Aid Society, one of the country's leading medical insurers, have discovered
that their money has been wasted. The company allegedly settled bills
several months late, and its bookings are no longer accepted.
At the private clinic in Chitungwiza, a township far from the centre of
Harare, sick people huddle on the doorstep, as if hoping that the proximity
to medicine will heal them.
Inside, rows of empty beds are made up with fresh linen and nurses slump on
stools, waiting in vain for a patient who can afford treatment. "I feel so
helpless," said one nurse. "You cannot treat people without tools and
The situation is even worse in rural areas. The CWGH reports that rural
clinics often lack electricity, food, bedclothes and even paper on which to
record a patient's medical history.
In an attempt to force the government's hand, nurses and doctors went on
strike last September, citing poor wages - about £27 for doctors - and long
hours: stories of 115-hour working weeks are commonplace.
The government responded with promises of a 250 per cent pay rise - which
compares unfavourably with the inflation rate - and threats.
In December, Constantine Chiwenga, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander,
told the doctors: "If you refuse to co-operate, we can take you to the army
barracks and detain you, and you will see what will happen."
Eight doctors were arrested and charged with taking part in an illegal
strike, but a judge ordered their release two weeks ago. Some medical staff
have since returned to work, but many others are holding out for
According to Zimbabwe's ministry of health and child welfare, a quarter of
Zimbabweans are infected with HIV. Up to 3,000 people die of Aids each week,
the CWGH says.
There are few nurses left to treat them. Although the government refuses to
release statistics, CWGH estimates that 2,000 nurses a month deserted
Zimbabwe last year. Some ended up in Britain, although most head for South
Africa and Namibia.
Medical staff left behind struggle to make up the shortfall. At Harare
Central, the city's main teaching hospital, only two of the six wards are
open. Instead of 32 instructors to train nurses, two remain.
Out in the townships, acrid black smoke hangs in the air. People are burning
rubbish that has not been collected for weeks. It festers by the food stalls
and water supplies. Levels of tuberculosis, dysentery and malnutrition are
growing. The doctors can do little but sit in their empty hospitals and
stare at their empty shelves.
Alert as sick Mugabe flies to South Africa
By Jane Flanagan in Johannesburg
Robert Mugabe was
airlifted to South Africa for emergency medical treatment
yesterday after collapsing at his state residence in Harare, a member of his
security staff said last night.
The 79-year-old dictator was flown by military aircraft to Johannesburg
after a violent vomiting fit. He was accompanied on the flight by his wife
Grace, personal doctors and a string of aides.
His collapse followed a similar bout of illness three
months ago, for which
he was also treated in South Africa. Last night, road blocks were set up
around Harare, manned by riot police and soldiers to dispel any mass
protests. Reinforcements from police, army and militia outside the capital
were drafted into Harare to shore up the regime.
"We were ordered not to give any details of the president's illness in case
it brought people out on to the streets," a senior member of the 'Green
Bombers', the notorious youth brigade created by Mr Mugabe, told The
Telegraph. Mr Mugabe is understood to have vomited repeatedly during Friday
night then collapsed as he attempted to get out of bed yesterday.
On arrival in Johannesburg, he was driven away in an entourage of cars
accompanied by bodyguards, according to a witness who saw him at the
airport. He is understood to have been driven to a clinic for treatment. He
was previously treated at a private hospital near Pretoria.
Mr Mugabe is taken outside Zimbabwe for treatment to reduce the threat of
news of his illness leaking out and prompting popular unrest. Reports of a
similar collapse late in October, when he was said to have suffered
uncontrollable vomiting, prompted uproar.
At the time, spokesmen for his regime denied that he was ill or had left the
country, insisting it was "business as usual". However, television pictures
purporting to show the president at an international cultural conference are
said by broadcasters to have been old footage.
A member of staff at Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation later revealed that
they were asked to find recent footage of Mr Mugabe and play it during the
national news bulletin to "calm public opinion".
In fact, the pictures used dated from his ruling Zanu-PF's annual party
congress meeting, at Victoria Falls, last August. Supporters of the regime
have sought to play down Mr Mugabe's medical problems, but rumours of
ill-health and strokes have dogged him in recent years. Mr Mugabe's latest
collapse and emergency hospitalisation will intensify jockeying within
Zanu-PF over his succession.
After 23 years in power, the president has appeared increasingly frail in
recent months while at the same time showing remarkable stamina. Last night,
a spokesman for the South African government said: "I have no information on
whether President Mugabe is in the country or not."
Mugabe to make talks pledge
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is expected to formally announce the resumption of
talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change when he returns to
work early next month, it had been learnt.
This is according to highly placed sources within both the MDC and Mugabe's
The talks collapsed in May 2002 but on Thursday South African President
Thabo Mbeki revealed that Mugabe had finally agreed to formal dialogue with
"Our understanding is that Mugabe will announce the resumption of talks when
he returns to work early in February," an unnamed MDC official told South
Africa's Sunday Times newspaper.
"This has been the position since Mbeki visited Zimbabwe last month for
meetings with Mugabe and Tsvangirai."
A high-ranking Zanu-PF official said: "The President is coming back to work
early next month and that is when we expect him to first tell the party and
then announce when talks with the MDC will resume."
It is also understood Mugabe could reshuffle his Cabinet when he returns to
work - a move that has been mooted for some months.
Mbeki told a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor Gerhard
Schröder: "I'm happy to say that they have agreed now that they will go into
He added that the South African government had been "engaging both sides for
a very long time".
Schröder remarked that South Africa had "not been as outspoken and as hard
as one might have expected" on Zimbabwe.
"I made myself very clear as far as the unacceptability of that regime is
concerned, especially the political practices of that regime," Schröder said
after a two-hour meeting with Mbeki in Pretoria. To which Mbeki replied:
"Strong statements cannot be an aim in itself."
He added: "Our task is to see what we can contribute to make sure that the
situation is changed as quickly as possible for the better."
However, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said as far as his party was
concerned, there was nothing new in Mbeki's remarks. It was the same message
which Mbeki gave the MDC during his visit to Harare last month.
"There was nothing new in what Mbeki said," commented Tsvangirai, who was
back in court this week to defend himself against a charge that he plotted
to have Mugabe assassinated. "No dates nor the structure of the talks have
been given. We were aware of the commitment which Mugabe gave to Mbeki last
month, but what we want now is not just a commitment but the actual talks."
MDC officials also received Mbeki's comments with a measure of scepticism.
"To date Mugabe and Zanu-PF have taken no steps that would indicate a
serious commitment to entering into a process of formal dialogue to end the
country's multifaceted crisis," MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said.
"If Mugabe has given President Mbeki renewed undertakings that he is
prepared to begin negotiations, then Mugabe must himself announce the date
of the talks. The MDC is ready for dialogue any time and anywhere as we
[have] always unequivocally stated."
The talks are aimed at finding a negotiated settlement to the political and
economic crisis afflicting Zimbabwe. Mbeki has predicted a solution in
Zimbabwe by June.
It is expected that the talks will lead to fresh elections under a new
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Friday that Mugabe and his
political opponents had agreed to "formal talks" aimed at ending the
"I believe that when they get to talking together formally it should not be
too difficult for them to arrive at some agreement," Obasanjo told a London
news conference, echoing similar remarks by Mbeki.
Obasanjo, current chairman of the Commonwealth, said the two sides "have
agreed to make those informal, exploratory talks . . . into formal talks".
He urged both sides to turn "conjecture and promises" about the talks into
"action and reality".
Don McKinnon, secretary-general of the Commonwealth - which Zimbabwe has
pulled out of - said the organisation required "substantive talks" between
the MDC and Mugabe's party as a prerequisite for re-entry to the
"If this is beginning to happen now, then it is a very, very good sign,"
McKinnon told the London news conference. "Obviously you want to see
evidence of what emerges from those talks."
Van Hoogstraten seeks land deal with Mugabe
By RW Johnson
THE controversial property magnate Nicholas van Hoogstraten was operating
last week from an office in the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, as
he strove to do a deal with the regime of President Robert Mugabe to keep
his business and land ventures afloat in the pariah nation.
The tycoon, 58, who was released from prison last month after a manslaughter
conviction was quashed, is Zimbabwe’s largest private landowner and a vocal
supporter and financial backer of Mugabe.
Friends say Hoogstraten hopes to meet Mugabe and other senior officials
during a trip that may last several weeks.
Despite his closeness to the regime, much of Hoogstraten’s 600,000 acres of
land in Zimbabwe has been damaged by squatters trying to take advantage of
Mugabe’s land confiscation policy, which is widely believed to have plunged
the country into economic disaster.
Many of Hoogstraten’s employees in Zimbabwe are said to be “scared stiff”
about how he will react when he sees the state of his property, given his
Hoogstraten was released from Belmarsh prison in London last month after
serving 13 months of a 10-year sentence for the manslaughter of a business
rival, Mohammed Raja. His conviction was overturned on appeal.
The tycoon, who is based in Sussex, built up his property in Africa in a
buying spree in the 1990s. During his trial and imprisonment, much of his
network of farms and businesses in Zimbabwe fell into ruin, accelerated by
the country’s slide into chaos.
His property includes ostrich farms and mines, and he has 30,000 cattle.
However, a rag-tag army of more than 5,000 “war veterans” now lives on
Central Estates, one of Hoogstraten’s main ranches, and large stretches are
no longer under his managers’ control.
Many of his cattle have been slaughtered or stolen, while the collapse of
Zimbabwe’s railway system means he is unable to market coal from Wankie
colliery, a mine in which he is the largest shareholder. Copro, Hoogstraten’
s ostrich abattoir — capable of dispatching 15,000 birds a year — is running
at only 50% capacity.
A sign outside his new base, a house on Golden Stairs Road, Harare,
advertises a company called Savannah Wildlife. Employees contacted inside
were reluctant to discuss Hoogstraten’s movements and telephone calls put
through to him were met by silence.
One of his employees in Zimbabwe was critical of the “royal” treatment
Hoogstraten received from Britain’s penal system. He said: “That’s quite a
Rolls-Royce justice system you’ve got over there for the likes of Nick. All
the time he was in jail, there was a steady flow of faxes and e-mails,
giving instructions, sending money.”
The employee said that while Mugabe was desperate for the hard currency
Hoogstraten could bring into the country, the dictator could find it
difficult to help his old friend.
“The problem is that politicians can say this or that but the peasants who
have grabbed Nick’s lands won’t listen to them. The only way he’s going to
get his lands back is if they are willing to use the army to clear the
peasants by force. It’s hard to imagine Mugabe doing that for a white
man.” - Sunday Times
Additional reporting: Tom Walker
Government Pressure 'Amounts to Instruction Not to Tour Zimbabwe'
By Andrew Woodcock, Political Correspondent, PA News
Government pressure on the England and Wales Cricket Board to
proposed tour of Zimbabwe is so intense that it effectively amounts to an
instruction not to go, ECB chief executive Tim Lamb claimed today.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw yesterday wrote to the ECB asking it to
consider whether a visit would be consistent with the approach taken by the
Government, Commonwealth, European Union and US in isolating the regime of
Mr Straw stopped short of demanding the cancellation of the tour, which he
said was a matter for the ECB.
But if the ECB can persuade the International Cricket Council that his
comments amount to an instruction, the England team may be relieved of its
obligation to go ahead with the visit.
Mr Lamb told BBC1’s Breakfast with Frost: “The political temperature has
increased. The Government have now come off the fence and made it quite
clear that they are against us going to Zimbabwe.
“It may be couched in the coded political language of Whitehall, but for
them to say that we ought to consider carefully whether a high-profile
England tour at this time is consistent with the approach the British
Government are taking is probably as close as you will get to an instruction
not to tour.
“We will have to argue that in a Western representative democracy, that is
tantamount to an instruction not to go.”
Under the terms of the ICC’s Future Tours Programme, to which the ECB is a
signatory, England are obliged to visit all test-playing countries,
explained Mr Lamb.
“There are two reasons why we can be excused touring,” he said. “One is if
there are legitimate safety and security concerns. The other is if you get
an explicit instruction not to go from your government.”
Mr Lamb will speak to England captain Michael Vaughan later today to gauge
players’ views on the issue.
The board of the ECB will meet at Lords on Thursday to decide whether to
adopt a new decision-making framework on tours to troubled regions, which
would allow visits to be cancelled for “moral” as well as safety reasons.
But a final decision on whether or not to postpone the tour is not expected
until a special meeting at the end of February.
Mr Lamb said: “The ECB is determined that we will examine all the issues,
that we will not allow ourselves to be put under undue pressure and will
make the right decision at the right time with the right people making it.”
If England chose not to tour, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union could appeal to the
ICC for compensation, said Mr Lamb.
And he warned that England may find itself isolated in the global cricket
“What goes down well with the domestic audience and the British Government
isn’t necessarily seen in the same light by the international community who
are very keen to keep the family of ICC together and also to preserve the
integrity of the Future Tours Programme, which is key to the businesses of
all the test-playing countries,” he said.
“We just hope the international community will understand the unique
situation we are in because of the historical situation between England and
southern Rhodesia and the huge weight of pressure that is on us from the
Government downwards that we should think carefully before we tour.”
In yesterday’s letter, Mr Straw outlined the “bleak and deteriorating” human
rights situation in Zimbabwe.
And he wrote: “The decision whether or not to tour must be one for you and
your colleagues in the England and Wales Cricket Board to make.
“But ... I draw your attention to the appalling human rights situation in
Zimbabwe and the resulting isolation of that country’s government by the
“You may wish to consider whether a high profile England cricket tour at
this time is consistent with that approach.”
Zim faces big strike
25/01/2004 19:49 - (SA)
- Zimbabwe's largest union on Sunday threatened a nationwide strike
if one of their sacked leaders was not reinstated to his government job, a
firing he called unjustified.
Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
which gave birth to the country's main opposition party, the MDC, said he
was sacked on Friday on "spurious grounds".
"I was dismissed on Friday on allegations that I went to attend the
Organisation of African Trade Union Unity congress in Khartoum (Sudan) from
the 5th to 12th (December) without permission," he said.
In a statement on Sunday, ZCTU hinted that Matombo's dismissal from Zimpost,
was politically motivated.
"This decision to dismiss the president shows that there was a lot of
"The ZCTU does not rule out political influence in the handling of the
matter," the country's largest umbrella trade union grouping said.
The union warned that if Zimpost does not "rescind its decision" in seven
days, it would call a national strike to "protest the particular case... and
the genral victimisation and violation of human and trade union rights."
ZCTU has in recent years organised national strikes against government
policies such as hikes in the price of fuel, taxation and last year over the
Late last year Matombo and several other top union leaders were arrested for
holding an illegal march when they tried to take to the streets over the
deepening economic problems and what they said was abuse of workers' rights.
The country's leading opposition, MDC was born in 1999 out of the labour
movement. Its leader Morgan Tsvangirai was secretary general of the ZCTU for
years before he turned to politics.
Zim to launch special fraud courts - paper
January 25 2004 at 03:06PM
Harare - Zimbabwe plans to set up
special courts to handle cases of fraud
and other economic crimes as the country battles its worst economic crisis
in two decades, the state-run Sunday Mail said.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Secretary David Mangota told the
paper 15 senior prosecutors, magistrates and members of the police force had
been trained to handle financial and economic crimes for the special courts.
Zimbabwe's courts have often been accused of failing to prosecute
successfully cases involving economic crime because prosecutors are not
adequately trained to handle them due to inadequate government financial
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on Sunday.
Two special courts would be set up in the capital, Harare, and one in the
country's second-largest city, Bulawayo, but Mangota did not say when these
would start to operate or whether there were plans to increase the number.
The government has laid fraud charges on two directors of asset management
company ENG while four directors of another asset management firm, First
Mutual, have appeared in court over the same fraud case that has shaken
President Robert Mugabe, whom critics blame for the country's economic
crisis, has said the financial sector crackdown is the start of a campaign
to rid the country of corruption and unethical business practices.
Banks are the target of a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe crackdown on speculative
currency trade, which the government argues has added to the country's
The central bank's director for banking transactions told the same paper
that four commercial banks and micro-finance firms were being investigated
for illegal foreign currency dealings after a tip-off from whistle blowers.
New central bank Governor Gideon Gono said in December a whistle-blowers
fund would be set up from which it would pay out US-dollar rewards to people
who reported black market traders to the authorities.
Critics say Mugabe has started the crackdown on corruption to woo urban
voters and enhance his party's chances of winning next year's legislative
Mugabe denies his government has brought a once-thriving economy to its
knees through 23 years of post-independence mismanagement, and argues it has
been sabotaged by local and Western opponents of his seizure of white-owned
farms for redistribution among landless blacks.