Sun Jan 6, 7:17 AM ET
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's electoral agency said it has concluded the
delimitation of constituency boundaries for the March elections and ruled
out postponment of the polls, state media reports said Sunday.
George Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, said the
commission said the agency would soon present a preliminary report on the
exercise to President Robert Mugabe, the Sunday Mail reported.
"What is left, however, is to polish up the preliminary report, which we
will soon present to the president," Chiweshe was quoted as saying.
He said the commission had created more than 2,000 boundaries for the local
government wards, adding that "the boundaries should make sense and should
be reasonable enough so as not to cause confusion."
The March joint presidential and parliamentary elections will result in an
increase in the membership of the House of Assembly from 150 members to 210,
and the Senate from 66 to 93.
About 5.6 million Zimbabweans have so far registered for the polls in which
Mugabe, 83, who has been in office since the nation's independence in 1980,
has been endorsed as the ruling ZANU-PF ruling party's sole presidential
Zimbabwe has a population of about 13 million people.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has previously charged
that the ruling party was trying to rig the election "through a biased and
opaque voter registration that sought to disenfranchise the young population
and urban voters where the opposition enjoys majority support."
The MDC has suggested the election be deferred but the chairman of the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission maintained that it would go ahead as planned.
"The focus is on the elections being held in March...There have been
suggestions that the commission should wait for the respective parties
(ZANU-PF and MDC) involved in the dialogue to conclude their dialogue,"
Regional bloc SADC last March mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki
to broker dialogue between the opposition and the government.
"But we do not work like that. We simply consider the law and we know that
harmonisation of the elections has been captured in the law accordingly. If
any changes are to be made, they should be reflected in law," Chiweshe said.
Under the constitution, an estimated three million exiled Zimbabweans will
not be allowed to vote.
Mail and Guardian
06 January 2008 01:41
President Robert Mugabe's government has awarded a hefty salary
hike to Zimbabwe's magistrates and prosecutors, who have been on strike
since October, official media reported on Sunday.
Zimbabwean workers have been hit hard by an economic crisis
critics blame on Mugabe's policies and has seen inflation jump to nearly 8
000%, the highest in the world.
Magistrates and prosecutors walked out of their jobs in October
in protest against low pay, paralysing the judicial system. Several court
cases had to be postponed.
The state-run Sunday Mail reported that the government had
raised salaries to between Z$460-million ($15 333 at the official exchange
rate but $230 on the widely used black market) and Z$1-billion. Previously,
the lowest paid magistrate earned Z$20-million per month.
Doctors and nurses joined the job boycott in December, while
teachers, the bulk of government employees, also threatened not to return to
work when schools open for the new term next week.
Many government employees are failing to turn up for work
because of rising transport costs.
"The employer has decided to pay all civil servants one half of
the total package mid-month and the remaining half towards the end of the
month to enable the officers and employees of government to continue coming
to work," the newspaper quoted senior Justice Ministry official David
Mangota as saying.
Government officials and union representatives were not
immediately available for comment.
Economic analysts have said Zimbabwe is likely to see more
strikes by dissatisfied workers grappling with an economic recession marked
by shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel, and rising unemployment. --
By ANGUS SHAW
Zimbabwe's government granted magistrates and state prosecutors, whose
strike since October has crippled the court system, pay increases of up to
600 percent, the official media reported Sunday.
The award came days after the state Prices Commission said it would allow
private schools to raise their fees by 600 percent at the beginning of the
new school term amid soaring prices of utilities, local taxes and all
Neither increase, however, would go anywhere near matching inflation, which
is officially 8,000 percent.
No official figures have been released since September, with the state
statistical office saying there were not enough goods in shortages-stricken
stores to update inflation calculations on the standard basket of
But central bank officials acknowledged their own informal estimates put
inflation in December at around 24,000 percent, up from 8,000 percent in
Independent evaluations by banks and financial institutions have listed real
inflation on foodstuffs alone closer to 150,000 percent. The International
Monetary Fund had forecast overall inflation reaching 100,000 percent by the
end of 2007.
From immediate effect, junior magistrates' and prosecutors' monthly earnings
were raised from about 20 million Zimbabwe dollars to about 316 million
Zimbabwe dollars, the state Sunday Mail newspaper reported.
It said the raises were included in package salary reviews for government
employees approved by the Public Service Commission, the government's
employment body. Accompanying hikes in general allowances brought the
increases to around the 600 percent mark for both junior and senior judicial
Some 30 judges and hundreds of magistrates run provincial and district
courts. Since the strike began in October, police prosecutors helped keep
some courts open to reschedule the growing backlog of cases.
The strikers were expected to be back at their posts Monday, the Sunday Mail
The first week of 2008 brought little respite to Zimbabweans battling
chronic shortages of cash, food, gasoline, medicines and most basic goods.
Flooded rivers in the heaviest rains since colonial era records began a
century ago have left at least 27 people dead and health authorities
reported treating more than 400 cases of severe diarrhea blamed on
collapsing sanitation worsened by torrential rain in Harare's impoverished
Water outages and lengthy power cuts occur daily. State television quoted
state power utility officials as saying Saturday there was no money to
replace aging equipment dating back more than 40 years.
Zimbabwe, which became independent from Britain in 1980, imports about 40
percent of its power from regional neighbors and is in arrears in payments
in scarce hard currency.
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 6 January
Kevin Johnson, the former journalist, wasn't the only Zimbabwean to die in
the past few months because of the cruel cash shortage created by the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. It should be said he didn't die only because his
access to his own money in his bank was impossible. He was quite seriously
ill with Crohn's disease and he had long had a messed-up liver, but he might
have survived had he been treated earlier and had there been some blood
available from the normally efficient Blood Transfusion Centre. He might
have been able to live long enough for his eldest son to write his "0"
levels late last year with serenity. Instead, the boy was distracted by
grief and the funeral. The problem with the blood was that power cuts, one
in Harare that lasted 17 days, saw most of the blood in storage go off and
replacements weren't back to normal when Johnson needed a transfusion. He
had been collected by ambulance from his home after suffering a fall, which
triggered internal bleeding. Medical aid covered the ambulance but the
private city clinic where his wife tried to get him admitted wanted Z$600
million up front. That was about R1 500 at that time. In local money, it was
six large bricks of cash which would have needed a large shopping bag to
carry around. His frantic wife, Memory, called her brother-in-law, a doctor,
who arranged for a bed without deposit at that saintly old hospital, St
Anne's in Harare's once upmarket Avondale suburb. Johnson had bled to death
He was about 22 at the time of independence, fresh from university in South
Africa, and he didn't want to trek back across the Limpopo like so many
lemming whites fearful of black majority rule. Johnson despised the
Rhodesian Front and its leaders and was delighted to be part of what he
hoped would be a democracy when he began his journalism career at The
Herald. But he didn't last long there; no professional could, and all of the
well-trained editorial staff, mostly recruited after independence, left as
soon as they possibly could when it became clear that The Herald was a Zanu
PF political mouthpiece. Memory said on Wednesday night that she would
remain in the UK for several months doing what so many former middle-class
Zimbabwean women do to keep kids at school and so on, "caring" - looking
after rich old Britons. Her two boys, still at school, are being looked
after by relatives in Harare. Memory is a black woman. Someone calling
himself Tichafa Nenzara has written an open letter to the governor of the
Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, and distributed it through one of many Zimbabwean
e-mail lists. He writes that his wife became ill suddenly in the early hours
of December 3. As the doors of the bank opened, his brother was there
queuing to do an electronic transfer to a private hospital after the state
hospital said it was unable to offer any medical assistance. There was an
enormous queue for electronic transfers, and he missed the midday cut-off
point. "I could feel tears welling in my eyes as I watched my deaf wife
writhing in pain, with my four-year-old son looking at her, confused at why
nobody was interested in assisting her," he writes.
Eventually, a doctor turned up at the state hospital, examined the woman, by
now seriously ill, and ordered diagnostic tests which couldn't be done at
the state hospital as all the equipment had broken down. "The following
day,we were at the bank by 3.30am but, already, there was a queue. When the
bank opened its doors five hours later, pandemonium ensued and the queue
became useless." His brother eventually succeeded in doing the direct
electronic transfer to a private clinic but it would not admit the ill woman
until the money cleared into their account, and that took more than 72
hours, by which time she had died without receiving any medical attention.
Nenzara signed off his letter to Gono, "in grief". This couple, like the
Johnsons, are middle-class people, one with medical aid, and both with
enough resources to be able to pay for medical treatment, but unable to
access their own money in time.
Gono blames the black market for cash shortages which, as grieving Nenzara
and every local economist knows, is just so much nonsense. Firstly, the
government is the largest player in the black market to pay foreign debts
such as Eskom and, secondly, it's a cash economy and nobody wants to hold on
to Zimbabwe cash as it devalues daily. John Robertson, an economist, sounded
exhausted only two days into 2008. "The incompetence of the Reserve Bank is
staggering. They have chosen to believe their own figures of inflation."
Robertson said that no official inflation figures have been released since
September. Privately, he says, the government admits to about 20 000 percent
inflation when every statistic collected by bankers, accountants and
economists shows that real inflation is about 100 000 percent. He and other
Zimbabwean economists have done their sums and know that Zambians, for
example, have the equivalent of US$30 (about R200) per person on them.
Zimbabweans have less than US$2. And yet Gono insists that Zimbabweans are
hiding Z$63 trillion worthless Zimbabwe dollars - he maintains, to play the
black market. So he cancelled the highest denomination note of Z$200 000. He
also made it impossible for ordinary people to do electronic transfers. Then
he changed his mind on New Year's eve and reversed both decisions. Instead
of printing new notes of five or 10 million, the highest note he has just
released on to the market is Z$750 000. It takes two of them to buy a loaf
of bread. Well, that was on December 31; it may have changed by now.
Robertson and many others, including some government commentators, wonder
why Gono has not resigned, as clearly he knows what needs to be done. "He is
unable or unwilling to limit his political chances by pointing out the harsh
realities to Mugabe," one economist who asked not to be named said this
week. Then, of course, Mugabe is answerable to the service chiefs of the
Joint Operational Command who run the country, many would say, into the
ground. It was the JOC together with Mugabe who cut retail prices in July,
which saw tens of thousands of large and small businesspeople arrested, and
put the final nail in the coffin of the ever-diminishing manufacturing
sector. In his annual new year message, Morgan Tsvangirai, founding
president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, pointed to the
dreadful festive season just ended and the new crisis around the corner, the
start of the school year. "The situation in Zimbabwe today requires a great
deal of courage, endurance and our usual resilience. We are stretched to the
limit. Daily, we are fighting despondency, hopelessness and state-sanctioned
despair. Our families have gone through the worst Christmas season ever
imagined: without food, without our own cash. With schools opening in the
next two weeks, the worst is still with us - making the current cash
shortages a serious humanitarian emergency ."
Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2008 6:01 PM
Subject: Zimbabwe Newsletter
We are going through almost unbelievable chaos. To give you one
illustration, my very unhappy wife came back from the local supermarkets to
report that, she could draw no money from the building society because their
computers were down and I any case they had no cash to give her. Her debit
card was inoperative in the shops because of power cuts and anyway there was
virtually no food to buy. We are living to some extent out of tins
To give you a glimmer of understanding of how this chaos came about I must
go first to the cause of our massive inflation, now admitted by the Reserve
Bank to have reached 24000% in 2007. The underlying cause is truly massive
government overspending, the result mainly of Mugabe;s puzzling obsession to
stay in power at all costs. For example we now have an expanded
parliament; a new senate and tribal chiefs placated with brand new luxury
4x4's. And the largess for the cronies goes on and on. Subsidies on
fuel, farm inputs (usually late and thus of not much use) etc. People of
influence (POI) have access to forex from the Reserve Bank at the ridiculous
official rate, the subsidized fuel and so on, all then re-sold into the
black market. We are now even building a new parliament! Meantime, social
services are collapsing. We haven't had water at home for at least a week.
OK for us but not those without boreholes etc.
The way many of our urban compatriots exist is from funds sent in by the
million in the diaspora. Probably totaling 3 million by now or at least
one third of the adult population. Thank you, South Africa and Mr. Mbeki!
To continue with the POI, most of whom have been given farms, equipment such
as tractors, harvesters and provided on fairy tale terms. How about 25%
interest per annum, loan repayable after one year, at which point the
capital sum would equate to a couple of beers? Unfortunately production
remains distressingly low.
Now in August, it was decided that rapidly rising prices (by unscrupulous
businessmen and other saboteurs, you understand) had to be curbed. So
backdated price freezes were introduced and to a large extent enforced by
threat of imprisonment. Along the supply chain, producers stopped or
severely curtailed production. Why sell your pig or chickens at well below
cost? Massive cross border smuggling ensued. Prices in Zambia and
Mozambique are US$ dominated so our sugar, beer and so on was for nothing.
I came across a man who was smuggling empty beer bottles into Zambia.
Sugar or beer hidden under a layer of coal. Of course a little bit in it
for the border officials if necessary.
Most formal producers diverted to exporting, for example processed meat
products, long life milk, cheeses and other foods. Others moved into toll
manufacturing for foreign companies, like Dunlop and many others,
discreetly. The retailers tried to close but were often threatened with
"nationalization". Many succumbed to this foolishness. Others were able
to close down their fridges because of power cuts. I have told you some of
Predictably perhaps with the wisdom of hindsight, retailing went underground
and the informal sector expanded to the extent of perhaps 80 percent of
those areas of commence. You can buy most things consumable on the
street, but at a price.
The knock on effect of the informal sector growth is that cash disappeared
from the banking system, which recently according to our unloved Reserve
Bank governor can now account for only about 15 percent of notes in
circulation. The informal sector ha e always had an aversion for paying
taxes or any form of regulation, such as tiresome price controls. It is
generally felt that a bank account could expose one to that sort of
So what to do? Our brilliant governor or perhaps his bosses decided to
force the issue. They have withdrawn the validity of the $200 000,00
dollar note, the highest and most widely used note and 15 of which are
needed for a beer in the local bar. To be replaced with new notes of
slightly higher denominations . Now these old notes can only be exchanged
at registered banks and then there are limits to stop huge deposits of the
old. Anything over the limits must be explained. Naturally this has
triggered a lot of very bad behaviour not least among the POI.
The result is that, mysteriously, the new notes have appeared across our
borders before local issue. Equally strange is that the banks simply do
not have enough of the new notes to issue to the unhappy Pamela or others
seeking to swap old for new. The result has been national frustration of
a level not seen before. But the Zimbabwean is not the same as the South
Africans and there has been no violence, in spite of huge queues at all
banks and other financial outlets. So why does it seem that the Reserve
Bank are severely rationing the banking sector with the new notes? Are
rumours of large scale hijacking or heists true? Have the POI grabbed very
large sums? We don't know. It may be that the bank are trying to force
banking of old notes. What is happening is that people are buying anything
they can get their hands on from formal retailers which is another way of
One of the consequences of inflation in understandably all pervasive theft,
bribery and corruption, with people struggling to make ends meet. Some of
it is not funny.
On Friday we came across yet another major fuel theft. This time with the
help of an honest driver, CCTV, cellphone with camera and recorder we have
been able to pin the perpetrators who will hopefully go inside. But we
won't recover the fuel cost and it is highly likely the docket will be
"lost" at the local police station or magistrates court. We are thinking
of issuing concrete boots to people we catch. Maybe the Russians got it
On the other hand some is mildly funny. Policemen, who are generally nice
people are hopelessly underpaid. So they embark on "income generating
schemes". The other day Steve was going to the airport to pick Rob up and
was caught speeding. After the usual pantomime he negotiated a Z$15
million "settlement". In typical Stephen fashion he handed over $20
million or 6 beers at the airport. On the way back he received friendly
waves from the speed trap crew. The price control inspectors are also
cooperative in this way. Other corruption is very serious. The Wankie
Colliery Sales Manager is accepting bribes to our extreme detriment to the
extent of causing us financial damage. It happens in Zimbabwe wherever
there are shortage of supply. I am waiting for the moment to pounce, and I
On a complete tangent, the rains have come late, in some cases too late, and
now we are being subject to deluges. This will give Mugabe the excuse of
too much rain instead as the usual too little. Lets hope it doesn't tail
off too soon for the crops.
Another topical subject is Mugabe's threat of the indigenisation of all
businesses and mines. I have told you of the appalling lack of any
economic knowledge of the officials involved. Anyway interestingly perhaps
as a result of some serious threats from outside Mugabe has not signed the
legislations to law and general opinion here it is was a ill thought out
election ploy and probably an example of the expensive way our compatriots
have of throwing something controversial into the ring and see what happens.
Finally will you stupid South Africans keep your cold weather to yourselves?
Hasn't anyone told you it is summer now?
Audi Alteram Partem :
I have found that people are usually much more moved by economics than by
morals. — Norah Phillips
I visited Zimbabwe a dozen times from 1992 to 2002 while working on a CIDA
funded program to help develop rural local government. Once hailed as
southern Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe has fallen on hard times, and I
decided to make a return visit to spend some time with my friends. I spent
one month in Zimbabwe listening to their stories and observing. This is the
first in a series of five columns on what I found.
Fuel shortages were already a problem in Zimbabwe during my last visit five
years ago. Many gas stations then displayed crude “Sorry, No Petrol” signs.
Those that still had petrol were easily recognized by queues of waiting
vehicles, their drivers hoping to get to the pumps before the station’s
tanks ran dry again.
This time, from the airport in Harare to my destination in the Eastern
Highlands (a distance of 350 km), not a single gas station had fuel for
sale. Not one. Some stations were abandoned; others were still open,
attempting to generate meager revenues from the sale of tea leaves and
matches. Traffic was down to a trickle, a minuscule fraction of what it used
to be. Where do the few vehicles still on the road get their fuel?
Fuel for the military and police is rationed, but the government provides
fuel to high-ranking officials and to the upper echelon of ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe’s
ruling party) at highly subsidized prices. The few businesses still able to
export product earn limited foreign currency with which they import fuel for
their own use. NGOs operating in Zimbabwe receive the fuel they need
directly from their sources abroad. But how do ordinary people, those
without a possibility of earning foreign currency, get fuel when none is
available from gas stations? The answer, of course, is the black market.
There is big money to be made by smuggling commodities such as sugar across
the rugged, mountainous border to Mozambique and trading it there for
canisters of gasoline and diesel to be brought back into Zimbabwe. The same
trails used 30 years ago to smuggle guerrillas and their weapons from
Mozambique into Zimbabwe to fight the liberation war against the white
regime of Ian Smith are now used to smuggle fuel into the country ravaged by
Robert Mugabe and his klepto-cronies.
The hallmarks of black market transactions are trust and deceit. A friend’s
experience was characterized by deceit. In desperate need of fuel, my friend
found a dealer (unknown to him) who offered him a 20-litre container of
diesel. The dealer pocketed the money, dropped the fuel container, and
quickly disappeared. My friend had barely picked up the canister when he was
stopped by a uniformed Zimbabwe Republican Police (ZRP) officer who had
appeared out of thin air to demand proof that the fuel had been legally
purchased. My friend was unable to provide such proof. The ZRP officer
confiscated the fuel and warned my friend that, this time only, he would not
be charged. The officer walked off with the fuel and, without attempting to
conceal the transaction, handed the canister back to the dealer. The dealer
then went about to find a new customer. Public-private partnership —
My black market fuel purchase, fortunately, was characterized by
trustworthiness. I met a Zimbabwean expatriate friend in a London
restaurant. The price of fuel in England at the time was just under ₤1.00
(Can$2.00) per litre. She offered to arrange a supply of fuel at half that
price for me in Zimbabwe. I gave her ₤400.00 and asked her to make
arrangements for two fuel deliveries: one delivery to be made immediately
and one at a future date. I then boarded my flight to Johannesburg where I
transferred to a flight to Harare. The person who met me at the airport in
Harare already had two 45-gallon drums full of fuel loaded on his pickup
when I cleared customs! This was the first lot of the fuel I had purchased
less than 24 hours earlier in London!
My London friend paid half the money I had given her to a dealer in London
and advised him of the identity of the person who would pick up the fuel in
Harare. She then called her contact in Zimbabwe, who, in turn, called my
friend who was to pick me up and gave him the fuel delivery instructions. My
friend reported to the designated location in Harare where he identified
himself and provided details of the London transaction (amount, date, and
time of payment). The information was verified in a matter of minutes; he
was handed a voucher and given directions to the fuel depot where his two
drums were filled without question or delay.
I was astonished by the sophistication of the global black market in fuel!
It gave me a hint about the ease of buying and selling weapons, ammunitions,
illicit drugs, and even human beings. The next column will be about dealing
with money when inflation exceeds 8,000 percent.
October 19, 2007
Audi Alteram Partem :
The good Lord gave me my money. — John D. Rockefeller
When CBC Radio reported that Canada’s annual rate of inflation
had climbed from 1.7 percent to 2.5 percent in September, the increase was
described as a leap. Zimbabwe experiences such leaps on an hourly basis!
Inflation is not talked about much anymore in Zimbabwe: There are more
pressing issues to debate in that beautiful but wretched country. When the
annual rate of inflation is somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 percent, the
exact number does not matter anymore.
We rarely are conscious of the fact that money, the paper in our
wallets and the numbers on our bank statements, does not have value; it only
represents value. When we sell an apple for a dollar, the value of that
dollar is not in the paper we stick into our wallets; the paper only
represents the value of the apple we sold. When later we use that dollar to
purchase a loaf of bread, we are not trading the paper we pull from our
wallets for a loaf of bread; we are exchanging the value of the apple we had
for the bread we now want. The purpose of money is to enable us to
temporarily store the value of goods and services we produce so that we may
later exchange it for goods and services produced by others. Paper money
works only when the amount of money being printed by a government’s central
bank does not exceed the value of all goods and services produced in the
nation. Inflation as we see it today in Zimbabwe robs money of this singular
How did it come to this? By the late 1990s Mugabe’s years of
autocratic rule began to stir unrest in the country. His solution was to
print money to buy friends, to buy his way out of his troubles. When
governments do this, they are said to be pursuing a reckless monetary
policy. When private people do it, we call it forgery. When money is printed
in excess of the value of goods and services produced, it does not matter
who does the printing, be it a crook in his basement or the government in
its central bank; the impact on the economy is the same.
Mugabe’s solution to the inflation he himself had created was to
impose price and wage controls. A law was passed to freeze retail prices of
basic groceries and to forbid the increase of employee wages by employers.
Prices had been changing with such frequency that they were no longer
printed on packages; they were written on strips of paper and pinned to
shelves. When the law forcing businesses to roll back their prices was
passed, police officers walked into stores and paraded up and down the
aisles dictating new prices for wares to owners. At the whim of a police
officer an owner could be ordered to reduce the price of an item from
ZWD$500,000 to ZWD$200,000. The item’s replacement cost and the store’s
operating expenses were of no concern to police.
Hungry crowds gathered outside whenever police entered a store
to enforce price controls. As soon as the police left, the crowd would rush
in and clean out the store. This left businesses with neither the cash nor
the inclination to restock their shelves. The situation created an instant
black market for everything from soup to nuts.
Effective enforcement of price control laws is impossible. Items
appear and disappear from store shelves without notice or warning. I saw
tomatoes priced at ZWD$160,000 per kilogram in one store and at ZWD$260,000
on the same day in another store only a short distance away. One store I
visited had a few eggs for sale at ZWD$30,000 per egg. These eggs were soon
gone. A few days later more eggs appeared in that same store at the new
price of ZWD$75,000 per egg.
One has to be lucky, very lucky, to find a loaf of bread in a
store in Zimbabwe today. At whatever price, the purchase of a loaf of bread
is a good investment because a loaf of bread bought today can be sold for a
lot more money in a few days. Perishable is a relative concept. When the
percentage measurement of inflation is in multiple thousands, money becomes
a perishable good while bread, eggs, butter, milk, and tomatoes become
Mugabe continues to pass more laws in his vain attempts to
battle the inflation he unleashed, but when everybody, including police
officers, is forced to participate in the black market just to eat, laws
become irrelevant. Breaking the law becomes a necessity or, as my friends
explained, a matter of having to be practical. Being practical includes
being willing to pay a bribe to avoid being hauled away to jail. A few
Zimbabweans, those with connections and access to hard currency, cope
reasonably well under these difficult conditions. The unfortunate many,
however, go hungry. The next column in this series will be on the subject of
November 2, 2007
Audi Alteram Partem :
A hero is a man who does what he can. — Romain Rolland
A high HIV/AIDS infection rate is just one of many infamous records claimed
by Zimbabwe. The country can also lay claim to the world’s highest rate of
inflation, the world’s lowest life expectancy, and many more equally
depressing records. Every sniffle and every toothache has the potential to
become a serious health problem in Zimbabwe. The country’s entire civic
infrastructure is disintegrating, and this has a devastating effect on
health services. This is the story of how services in one hospital in
Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands are affected by hyperinflation, food shortages,
constant and ever lengthening power and water service interruptions, and
many other woes.
There are no adjectives to describe the nightmare of running a hospital when
inflation is at 8,000 percent. Annual budgets and government funding
formulas are pitiful jokes; credit from suppliers is out of the question,
and user fees are a desperate source of revenue. Zimbabwean hospitals charge
fees for everything, starting with admission fees for in-patients and
out-patients. The hospital requires patients to bring a candle and a pair of
surgical gloves on admission. The candles are for bedside lighting during
the frequent power failures, and the surgical gloves are for the protection
of the medical staff. Every item used in the care of a patient is recorded,
not just medication (such as may be available) but every piece of gauze,
every centimeter of tape. Everything is measured and recorded and added to
the patient’s account. If a test is required, such as a blood test or urine
test, payment is required in advance. No money — no test. The hospital does
not allow a patient to leave until the account is paid in full. This means
that, if necessary, a patient’s family (immediate or extended) must sell
assets, be that a cow, a piece of furniture, food reserves, or anything else
the family may own. The family cannot afford to wait; there is no time to
argue because the debt continues to grow with every day the patient remains
in the hospital.
The hospital will dispatch the only ambulance in an emergency. However, if
the hospital is short on fuel or if patients cannot pay for or replace the
fuel, people are left to make their own transportation arrangements. I have
seen people hauled to the hospital in wheelbarrows.
The hospital has an emergency generator, but the generator does not supply
enough power to run the autoclave in the hospital’s operating theatre. Staff
use and reuse surgical instruments meant to be disposable. Power and water
services are intermittent, and soap is in short supply. Nurses clean and
disinfect surgical instruments as best they can under these conditions.
The hospital must purchase food at the local supermarket and pay cash at the
checkout. The supermarket does not deliver (no fuel) so the hospital uses
the sole ambulance to pick up grocery orders. Hospital food consists of tea
for breakfast (no sugar, no milk, no bread, no porridge), sadza for lunch
(polenta made from white maize flour), and sadza again for dinner, perhaps
with boiled covo (a cabbage-like vegetable), carrots, or some other
locally-grown vegetable. No meat, no pasta. Nurses report the number of
patients in their wards, and the hospital’s kitchen prepares just enough
food to fill the prescribed rations.
A nurse’s monthly salary is ZWD$3 million — I paid ZWD$1,928,000 for one
500g box of bran flakes at the local supermarket. Some nurses, struggling to
keep food on the table for their children, have little if any food for
themselves. Some nurses are hungry when they report to work. When meals —
such as they are — are delivered from the hospital’s kitchen to the wards,
hungry nurses intercept them. After taking care of their own needs, they
distribute what food is left to their patients. Lucky patients are those
with relatives or friends who can occasionally spare some food to augment
the patients’ shortened hospital rations.
Many nurses have left Zimbabwe for South Africa, Britain, or Australia. Many
more talk about leaving but find it impossible to abandon their communities.
How useful is a starving nurse to patients? The more important question,
however, is what do starvation and the state of health services do to the
self-esteem, the self-respect, and the sense of duty of registered nurses,
nurses who know what patients need but do not have the equipment, the
supplies, or the resources to meet patients’ needs and, to top it off, are
so driven by hunger that they steal food from patients under their care? Is
such a nurse a thief? Is this nurse unethical? The answer, repeated again
and again by my friends and hosts, is that to survive in Zimbabwe today one
has to be practical.
The next column in this series will be on the subject of government secrecy.
November 16, 2007
Audi Alteram Partem :
All personal secrets have the effect of sin or guilt. — Carl Jung
Why do they put up with it? Why are Zimbabweans not protesting in the
streets by the thousand? Why is there no sign of a popular revolt against
Mugabe? I was hoping to find answers to these questions during my visit.
Zimbabwe has elections, but it is not a democracy; it is a dictatorship.
Mugabe has banned all independent media, and he has enacted laws allowing
his henchmen to open any letter and to monitor all telephone conversations
and email communications. When I asked my friends about the current
conditions in Zimbabwe, they responded in whispers, looking over their
shoulders before speaking. Certain words were never spoken: Even in private
conversations Mugabe’s name never crossed their lips; they referred only to
“him.” They talked in riddles: We are the Israelites; we don’t want to be
lead by Moses anymore; we want Joseph.
I knew little about Zimbabwe when I first visited the country in 1992. I
assumed that Mugabe had the respect of his people because of his leadership
in the liberation war. During this last visit I was given a copy of a banned
report, published in 1999 by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
in Zimbabwe and the Legal Resources Foundation. This report, titled Breaking
the Silence, Building True Peace, is a summary of a much larger report
documenting the terror Mugabe unleashed on his country in the 1980s.
The report recounts how, a few months after his first election, Mugabe made
a deal with North Korea’s Kim Il Sung to train a special security force. The
report describes the physical torture, deprivation, psychological torture,
and disappearances Mugabe’s special force inflicted on civilians in the
provinces of Matabeleland and Midlands. The Fifth Brigade, as this internal
security force was known, operated independently of the army, police, and
the Central Intelligence Organization. The Fifth Brigade was not accountable
to parliament. It took its orders directly from Mugabe, and the atrocities
it committed are of the kind associated with the regimes of Hitler and
Stalin. The difference is merely one of scale. Mugabe’s torture victims
number in the tens of thousands, not in the millions. When Mugabe disbanded
the Fifth Brigade, he integrated its members into the regular security
forces. Nobody has ever been held accountable. To this day Zimbabweans are
afraid to talk about the activities of the Fifth Brigade. A disillusioned
former guerilla fighter, who bitterly claimed that what is happening in
Zimbabwe today is not what he fought for, told me that he believes that
Mugabe clings to power because of the legacy of the Fifth Brigade: Mugabe
fears losing his immunity as head of state.
The banned report is on the Internet
(http://www.sokwanele.com/pdfs/BTS.pdf), but few people in the communal
lands in rural Zimbabwe have access to the Internet. They learned about what
happened in the province of Matabeleland in the 1980s by word of mouth.
People in every community of every province now know about Mugabe’s capacity
for terror and brutality from first-hand experience.
What is happening in Zimbabwe today is not new; it is consistent with Mugabe’s
rule since his first election in 1980. For a quarter century Mugabe’s
obsession with secrecy in the name of state security has served as a cover
for his corruption and his state-sponsored lawlessness, thuggery, torture,
beatings and killing, and the indoctrination of youth gangs to act as agents
of terror. Foreign embassies and their intelligence services must have known
what was going on in the 1980s. Yet many developed countries, Canada
included, praised Mugabe’s government while they poured millions of dollars
into the country. I was one of many ignorant Canadian volunteers (all
expenses paid by the federal government) holding to the naive belief that
Mugabe’s government welcomed our efforts to help develop open and
accountable local government in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans do not believe that the world will come to their assistance if
they rise up against Mugabe. Having read the banned report, I understand
their mistrust of the outside world. How could I have explained to my
friends the decision by Queen Elizabeth II, our Queen, to bestow on Mugabe
an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, a British order of
chivalry, after all the atrocities of the 1980s? How could I have explained
to them the equally despicable decisions by several prestigious European and
North American universities to reward Mugabe with honorary doctorates?
The combination of government secrecy and willful blindness is fatal to
democracy. We betray democracy with our silence. When we accept anything
short of full public accountability and disclosure from any level of
government in cases such as Maher Arar, the tasering of Robert Dziekanski at
the Vancouver airport, and the arrest of war resisters in our communities,
we betray democracy, and we do so at our own peril.
December 7, 2007
The events in Kenya cast a shadow over the Vigil. There are so many
resonances . . . . . a stolen election, power-obsessed President ,
corruption . . . . It was alarming to see how patience could snap leading to
a bloodbath. We pray Kenya will be a warning in time for Zimbabwe.
Over 200 people attended our first Vigil of 2008. After piercing cold during
the week, we feared the worst but escaped with comparatively mild weather
and none of the threatened rain.
People discussed the story in the media this week about Britain importing
fish from Zimbabwe. In case you have not heard, the London Daily Mail
newspaper discovered that the Waitrose supermarket chain was importing
fillets of tilapia fish from Kariba. The paper asked us what we thought
about this and we said how distasteful it was to take food from hungry
Zimbabwean mouths. The Mayor of Kariba, John Houghton, has now insisted
that the business is above board, benefiting local people. The Vigil is
glad to hear this. There are no British sanctions against Zimbabwe so it is
quite legal for British companies to import Zimbabwean products. Our
concern is that such trade should not be a cover for Zanu-PF corruption.
Vigil supporters agreed that we should not target Waitrose on this matter
unless evidence showed this.
Our English schoolgirl supporter, Francesca, who is tireless in campaigning
for Zimbabwe, received a letter this week from the Archbishop of York, John
Sentamu, in which he says "Please be assured of my continuing prayers for
the people of Zimbabwe and for all those who pray, march and protest to help
resolve this desperate situation." Dr Sentamu, from Kampala, recently cut
up his dog collar in protest at Mugabe's human rights abuses. We are
planning to ask the Archbishop to accept our petition to pass on to the UN
Secretary-General. The petition reads "We are deeply disturbed at the
deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. It seems as if the international
community does not care that a rogue government can hold its people hostage.
In the past six years up to a quarter of the population have fled the
country. Half of those remaining face starvation. Any dissent is stamped
on. The UN's special envoys have seen this for themselves and condemned the
regime. We urge the UN Security Council to take measures to help free the
suffering people of Zimbabwe."
Kenya, Kariba, Kampala . . . . but closer to home for us was the birth of a
baby boy, Mandla, to Julius Mutyambizi and Addley Nyamutaka last Saturday.
We were all so surprised as we had been kept in the dark about the
pregnancy, understandably given the tragic still-birth of their first son a
year ago. We rejoice with them.
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/.
FOR THE RECORD: 202 signed the register. Supporters from Ashford,
Basildon, Bedford, Belvedere, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Braintree,
Brighton, Byfleet, Cambridge. Chelmsford, Coventry, Dagenham, Guildford,
Harlow, Haroldwood, Hatfield, Hertford, Huntingdon. Ilford, Kettering,
Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Loughborough, Luton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle,
Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Redditch, Romford,
Sittingbourne, Slough, Southampton, Southend, Stevenage, Tunbridge Wells,
Walsall, Woking, Wolverhampton, Worthing and many from London and environs.
Please note there will be no Forum this week. The next Forum will be on
Monday, 14th January 2008.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
January 6, 2008
As widely predicted, Zimbabwe Cricket has announced that the tour to
Pakistan later this month will go ahead despite fears over the security
situation. Zimbabwe are scheduled to play five ODIs from January 26, but
concerns have been raised following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
"We are definitely going ahead with the tour," Peter Chingoka, the ZC
chairman, told reporters in Cape Town. "ZC has an obligation to fulfil its
obligations under the Future Tours programme."
Zimbabwe will leave on January 11 and play two four-day matches before the