Published: 18 July 2007
The news that a mass exodus from Zimbabwe is under wayshould surprise no
one. The political and economic crises in the country, which was once the
bread-basket of southern Africa, are worsening at an alarming rate. More
than four million people need food. Inflation is officially 4,500 per cent,
but unofficially, it is double that. Some 85 per cent of the population are
unemployed and 90 per cent are below the UN's official poverty line. Foreign
reserves are almost exhausted. Life expectancy, which was the age of 60 in
1990, has plummeted to 37, the lowest in the world.
All this was made worse last month when the government, in an attempt to
curb the rampant inflation, ordered price cuts of at least 50 per cent -
backed by the police, who forced thousands of businesses to sell bread, milk
and other goods at mid-June prices. The result was more food and fuel
shortages and near riots. Orders to slash the price of petrol to half the
import cost saw buses taken out of service. Shelves in stores are bare of
cornmeal, bread, meat and other staples. The country has spiralled into its
worst humanitarian crisis since independence.
There are various reasons for this, including drought and an HIV/Aids
epidemic which has infected one third of people aged between 15 and 49. But
the chief problem is economic mismanagement. President Robert Mugabe's
decision to evict more than 4,000 white farmers in his controversial land
redistribution seven years ago has undermined Zimbabwe's ability to feed
Much of the land was redistributed to incompetent Mugabe cronies, producing
a sharp decline in agricultural exports, previously the country's leading
source of income. Zimbabwe's ill-conceived four-year war in the Congo
drained hundreds of millions of dollars. Mugabe's decision to print
$230m-worth of currency to pay international debts made matters worse.
The political repercussions have been significant. Opposition politicians
and activists have been ruthlessly suppressed by armed force and beatings.
The homes of their supporters have been bulldozed. The courts and the media
are tamed. The police are Mugabe stooges. Elections have been a sham.
Well-documented human rights abuses led, five years ago, to Zimbabwe's
suspension from the Commonwealth.
President Mugabe has an answer for all this. Zimbabwe has been "sabotaged"
by foreign governments and the sanctions imposed on the country by the EU
and the USA. Britain, the former colonial power, is behind it all, he
maintains. By playing this card - and exploiting the respect automatically
due to him by other African leaders as a former hero of the independence
struggle - Mugabe has managed to fool a lot of the people for a lot of the
time. But it looks as though his days in office may be numbered.
Ordinary Zimbabweans may not have realised that the sanctions he condemns
are aimed primarily at the government elite and not the general economy.
They may learn differently when, in coming weeks, Washington carries out its
threat to deport all the children of senior figures in Mugabe's regime who
are living in the United States. A tougher line elsewhere in the
international community is also in prospect. Gordon Brown, far from easing
Tony Blair's backroom pressure on other African leaders over the Mugabe
regime, has taken an even tougher line, saying he will not attend a
European-African summit in December if President Mugabe is there.
But, in the end, it must be the people of Zimbabwe who decide. As its
population pours across the border into the townships of South Africa, the
snapping point seems ever closer.
By Carole Gombakomba
17 July 2007
A lawyer for Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who
has been accused engaging in an adulterous relationship with a parish
secretary, says he has filed papers in high court disputing the accusations
against his eminent client.
Ncube, one of President Robert Mugabe's bitterest critics - Ncube once said
he was praying for Mr. Mugabe to die - is being sued for Z$20 billion
dollars (US$125,000) by Onesimus Sibanda of Bulawayo, the husband of
Rosemary Sibanda, the woman with whom Ncube is alleged to have been sexually
involved since January 2006.
The suit was announced Monday at a news conference called by the plaintiff's
lawyer, Munyaradzi Nzarayapenga. State television broadcast an interview
with Mrs. Sibanda in which she said she had been involved with Ncube for the
past two years.
Ncube's response to the allegations in another interview with the Zimbabwe
Broadcast Corporation, to many seemed ambiguous as he acknowledged being a
But Ncube's lawyer, Nicholas Matonsi, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the truth will be determined by the court.
Ncube could not be reached immediately for comment, and Matonsi said he had
instructed his client not to make further statements.
Zimbabwe's government-controlled media gave maximum publicity to the
case.The state-run ZBC, the Bulawayo Chronicle and the Harare-based Herald
newspapers ran pictures they said show the archbishop in intimate situations
with various women.
Last week, President Mugabe accused unnamed church leaders of breaching
their vows of celibacy by engaging in sexual activity. Secretary General
Frederick Chiromba of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference said the
organization would only comment after considering developments.
Harare lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional
Assembly, said the allegations against Ncube were very unfortunate, and
noted that in light of the prelate's adversarial relationship with the
ZANU-PF government and President Mugabe, the case was sure to be highly
By Peter Clottey
18 July 2007
Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it is
planning a conference for an economic revival for a post-Robert Mugabe
presidential era. This comes after the MDC described a chance to rescue the
country from what it calls the unfortunate economic downturn attributed to
government mismanagement and the political impasse engulfing the country.
The MDC says it is time for a serious discourse on how the country's economy
should be revived to alleviate suffering of the people and raise the hopes
and aspirations of the poor in the society.
From the capital, MDC general secretary Tendai Biti tells VOA English to
Africa Service reporter Peter Clottey that Zimbabwe's economy requires a
significant reconstruction to regain its former level of success.
"We are preparing for the first post ZANU-PF, post new Zimbabwe, and we
realize fundamentally that this economy will require a major reconstruction,
and that the kind of work that has to be done is probably and arguably
comparable to Europe after the destruction of the Second World War. So it's
not the issue of stabilization, but it's an issue of downright economic
reconstruction," Biti noted.
He said a massive effort is needed if the country's economy, in his words,
is to rise from its ashes.
"It's going to require a lot of ingenuity, and we need to engage in this
debate to avoid the situation where, the World Bank, the IMF, and others
would come and impose a new liberal agenda so we need to craft a
reconstruction agenda that is based on human centeredness," he said.
Biti said there is the need for all Zimbabweans to be part of charting a new
"We are also concerned that for a long time, Africa has pursued a
development path that is based on raw materials, agricultural and export
production, and in our view, that is a false development paradigm. And we
need to sculpt for a new Zimbabwe, a new development paradigm that is not
arrested by failed models in Africa's past," Biti pointed out.
He said the current peace talks in South Africa would not be hampered by the
party's plan for an economic revival.
"The peace talks are about a political agenda, not an economic agenda. The
peace talks are about ways and means of ensuring that there is economic
stability in Zimbabwe. It doesn't matter if it is a ZANU-PF government or
an MDC government. You have to deal with issues of economic reconstruction,"
Biti said the economic forum would be an all-inclusive discourse.
"It's not an MDC conference. The MDC might be sponsoring it and initiating
the idea, but it's a Zimbabwean conference. So we hope to have experts from
the Diaspora and experts from people who have been in such situations, and
so forth. And of course you need to have an international experience. So
this is a conference about Zimbabwe, by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans, with
international partners. So it's not an MDC conference," Biti noted.
He says the MDC intends to invite members of the ruling ZANU-PF party to be
part of the conference.
"We would like to see ZANU-PF at the conference. Certainly, an invitation
would be sent to them," he said.
Wednesday 18 July 2007
By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri
GENEVA - The United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) has
appealed for urgent aid for children in troubled Zimbabwe and Gaza Strip it
said were facing worsening hunger and hardship as conditions rapidly
deteriorate in their countries.
In a statement released on Monday in Geneva, where the UN's Economic
and Social Council is meeting, UNICEF emergency programmes director Dan
Toole said the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe had reached "unprecedented
phases of hardship" following a controversial campaign by President Robert
Mugabe to force businesses to lower prices of all commodities.
He said: "Price controls, in addition, have resulted in shortages of
basic goods across the country, the most basic commodities: sugar, salt,
meat, flour, etc."
Mugabe three weeks ago ordered prices to be rolled back to mid-June
levels in a move targeted at reining in runaway inflation, which at more
than 4 500 percent is the highest in the world.
Manufacturers have responded to the price rollback order by stopping
production, resulting in shortages of basic goods.
Toole said a shortage of donor cash was having a dramatic effect in
Zimbabwe and Gaza, which both face international disapproval because of
their leaders' policies.
"Isolation, both externally and internally imposed, combined with
under funding for humanitarian aid, is denying children the basic goods and
services that would normally be taken for granted," he said.
Funding was desperately needed to provide basic requirements such as
food, clean water and schooling for the children of Gaza and Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, a burgeoning HIV\AIDS pandemic had worsened the plight of
children with little funding available for UNICEF to implement aid
programmes, according to Toole.
He said: "HIV continues to just decimate families; only six percent of
children have access to antiretroviral drugs and UNICEF has almost no
funding for its HIV programmes. It means that the most desperate of
Zimbabweans - those 1.6 million orphans from HIV - are unlikely to survive
and are suffering more than before."
A severe brain drain that has seen 50 percent of health care positions
fall vacant as doctors and nurses flee the country for better opportunities
abroad and an acute drugs shortage have left the public health sector that
is also severely under funded on the verge of total collapse.
"You can imagine in your own situation if you were to go to the clinic
and there were no doctors, there were no nurses, there were no medicines.
That's the situation today for many, many Zimbabweans," Toole said.
He said persistent perennial droughts and the deteriorating economy
had put pressure on the welfare of Zimbabweans especially the children.
"What we know in Zimbabwe is that malnutrition is growing rather
radically; twenty percent of the population currently needs food assistance
and that food assistance is quite hard to get in," he said.
Zimbabwe Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche was not immediately
available for comment on the matter.
Zimbabwe is suffering a debilitating economic crisis that is
highlighted by the world's highest inflation rate, a rapidly contracting
GDP, the fastest for a country not at war according to the World Bank and
shortages of foreign currency and fuel. Critics blame Zimbabwe's crisis on
repression and wrong policies by Mugabe who has ruled the country since its
1980 independence from Britain. He denies the charge.
The Gaza Strip, which Toole compared with Zimbabwe, was taken over by
the Hamas Islamist group last month after bloody clashes with the Fatah
movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The vast majority of all Gazans rely on humanitarian aid, but relief
efforts have been largely thwarted by the region's isolation, despite a
welcome move by Israel to ease barriers to the delivery of goods. -
Wednesday 18 July 2007
By Regerai Marwezu
MASVINGO - Three people died this week in Zimbabwe's southern Masvingo
province after eating poisonous roots, in a vivid illustration of extreme
desperation as the southern African country grapples with worsening hunger
and an acute economic crisis.
A food crisis that United Nations relief agencies earlier this year blamed
on crop failure and fast deteriorating economic conditions in the country
has forced several villagers in parts of arid southern Zimbabwe to resort to
edible wild roots and leaves for survival - sometimes with fatal
According to the police in Masvingo, the three villagers died after eating
poisonous wild roots in a bid to beat off hunger. They had mistaken the
roots for cassava, which is edible.
The police said Ronald and Rutendo Gumbo of Runyanga village, in Gutu
district and whose ages were not given, died earlier this week after eating
the poisonous roots.
Seven-year old Chiedza Pedzisayi of Munangate village under Chief Gororo in
Chivi also died this week after eating poisonous roots. Her sister is still
battling for her life in hospital after eating the same "meal".
Masvingo acting police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Tinaye Matake told
ZimOnline yesterday that the mother of the deceased child, Sheila Pedzisayi,
prepared the "cassava meal" not knowing that the roots were poisonous.
"One child died instantly while the other one is in hospital. We are urging
members of the public not to eat food which they are not sure of since this
might result in unnecessary loss of life," said Assistant Inspector Matake.
Villagers who spoke to ZimOnline in the two districts said they are in dire
need of food aid or they will starve adding that the three deaths seen this
week could have been avoided had the government been providing food to
starving people in the area.
"These deaths have been caused by food shortages. We have always appealed to
the government for help but our pleas are not being addressed," said
traditional Chief Luckson Chimombe.
Masvingo provincial governor Willard Chiwewe on Monday conceded that the
food situation had reached critical levels adding that the province needed
at least 10 000 tonnes of maize per month to feed starving people.
"We are urgently calling on the government to speedily provide food to the
starving people in the province. The province needs about 10 000 tonnes of
maize a month and the situation is now critical," said Chiwewe.
Zimbabwe has battled severe food shortages over the past seven years after
President Robert Mugabe sanctioned the violent seizure of white farms for
redistribution to landless blacks.
The farm disturbances slashed food production by about 60 percent resulting
in most Zimbabweans depending on food handouts from relief agencies for
Industry captains say most factories have either closed down completely or
have scaled operations to less than 30 percent of capacity since the farm
seizure programme launched by the government in 2000, while conservative
estimates put unemployment at 80 percent.
Mugabe - now 83 and seeking another five-year term in 2008, which will take
his reign in the southern African country to more than three decades -
denies that his land reforms derailed the economy and instead says he is
being sabotaged by the West as punishment for taking white land. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 18 July 2007
By Ntando Ncube
JOHANNESBURG - The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) civic group on
Tuesday urged President Thabo Mbeki to pressure President Robert Mugabe to
allow millions of Zimbabweans living outside the country to vote in next
Speaking at a meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Johannesburg Support Network
(ZJSN), NCA South Africa co-ordinator Tapera Kapuya said all Zimbabweans
living outside the country must be allowed to vote in the presidential and
The ZJSN is coalition of Zimbabwean civic groups operating in South Africa,
"It is the right of every Zimbabwean to vote in any elections. As South
Africa is mandated by SADC (Southern African Development Community) to
facilitate talks between Zimbabwean parties, I think that it is our duty as
civic organisations to engage this government to pressure the ZANU PF
government to allow Zimbabweans who are living here to vote," said Kapuya.
Kapuya said denying the millions of Zimbabweans living in the diaspora the
right to vote was "tantamount to rigging" of the election by President
Robert Mugabe's government.
Mbeki was last March tasked by SADC to mediate between Zimbabwe's ruling
ZANU PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
"This is the right moment for civic organisations and opposition parties in
Zimbabwe to take advantage of President Mbeki's mediation to engage other
African cleaders to pressure Mugabe to allow Zimbabweans in their countries
to vote in the next elections", said Victor Kasaga, the ZJSN chairperson.
Meanwhile, a South Africa opposition party has called for urgent measures to
stop further deterioration in Zimbabwe saying the situation in that country
had reached a "state of decay".
"Zimbabwe must be prevented from becoming a failing state, which would
affect the entire region adversely," Ben Skosana, the foreign affairs
spokesperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), said on Monday.
The IFP commended the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders
for tasking President Thabo Mbeki to lead efforts to break Zimbabwe's
political impasse but said the South African leader needed help from
regional governments to successfully broker dialogue in Zimbabwe.
"The IFP applauds the SADC decision to appoint President Mbeki as the
mediator to the Zimbabwean crisis, but recent events show that South Africa
should not have been left alone, but that there should have been a joint
SADC strategic intervention, involving all members of SADC", said Skosana.
Another South African opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called
for refuge camps to be set up along the border with Zimbabwe to receive
shelter and feed thousands expected to flee that country as hunger and
political strife worsen. - ZimOnline
Threats of thunderstorms today but we were miraculously spared. Some
passers-by were reduced to tears when they heard Patson from Leicester
leading the singing of the hymn "Hakuna wakaita sa Jesu. Ndamhanya kwese
kwese." (There is none like Jesus. I have run round everywhere.) Most of us
knew the hymn as we sang it at a torture day service recently. Great to see
Patson's sons, Wilfred and David, among the many children at the Vigil. They
arrived in this country a year ago and it's striking how integrated they are
into the English school system.
It was a pretty massive Vigil. Well over 100 people attended. We report
every week on how many people sign the register. But there are many who don't.
We were pleased to be visited by a couple from Brisbane in Australia who
want to set up a Zimbabwe Vigil in Australia. We suggested they contact the
invaluable www.zimbabwesituation.com managed from Australia which over the
years has provided such comprehensive news coverage of Zimbabwe. Another
couple who dropped by said they had recently visited the Victoria Falls and
said how eerie it was to stay in an empty hotel. The mother of one of our
supporters, just over from Bulawayo, broke down when she described how
things were there. There has been a lot of coverage in the media here of the
deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe but it was good to briefed by a former
reporter from the banned Daily News. A Zimbabwean pastor, Shepherd, now
living in Southampton, led us in prayers for Zimbabwe.
When not singing and dancing people at the Vigil were busy signing a letter
to the Portuguese Ambassador in London over the possibility that Mugabe
might be invited to an EU/AU summit in Lisbon in December. There was strong
criticism of the South Africans for threatening a boycott if Mugabe was not
invited. There was some talk of cutting off the nose to spite the face
because, as far as we are aware, the European Union do not plan to use the
summit to beg for aid and investment from Africa. (For text of letter see
below - readers are welcome to adapt this letter if they wish to write to
the Portuguese on this matter).
"HE Mr Antonio Nunes de Carvalho Santana Carlos
Head of Mission, Portuguese Embassy
11 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PP
RE: INVITATION OF PRESIDENT MUGABE TO THE AU/EU SUMMIT IN PORTUGAL IN
We, the Zimbabwe Forum and the Zimbabwe Vigil, wish to express our concern
at the possibility that your government may invite Mugabe to Portugal for
the sake of appeasing African governments. While we agree that the EU should
not in principle be seen to determine the composition of the African
delegation, we find it imperative that you continue to voice your
disapproval of electoral fraud and disrespect of human rights which prompted
the targeted sanctions against Mugabe - Decision 2002/148/EC.
Any failure to apply the targeted sanctions will legitimise Mugabe's
government, betray the suffering masses of Zimbabwe and make you accomplices
to the human rights abuses In Zimbabwe. We therefore call upon the EU to beg
South Africa and the SADC region to take concrete steps to ensure that
Zimbabwe reforms itself and adheres to internationally acceptable standards
as a condition for its inclusion at the EU/AU Summit.
Yours sincerely - Zimbabwe Vigil Activist."
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 95 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 16th July 2007, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe
Forum will discuss action ahead of the SADC Summit to be held in Lusaka in
August and possible demonstrations to demand a diaspora vote for
Zimbabweans. NB: OUR USUAL VENUE IS NOT AVAILABLE - meet at first floor,
main bar, Strand Continental Hotel, 143 The Strand WC2R 15A. From the Vigil,
a 10 minute walk along the Strand away from Trafalgar Square after Waterloo
Bridge but before Somerset House. Nearest underground: Temple (District and
Circle lines) and Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines). For archive diary
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
Wednesday 18 July 2007
By Cathy Buckle
MARONDERA - Shoe polish, dishwashing liquid and light bulbs were the three
most plentiful products in a major supermarket in my home town by this
This isn't a little family shop on the corner, its a branch of a national
supermarket chain with outlets in most towns and cities around the country.
Almost none of the basics of daily life are available a fortnight after
enforced price cuts.
Imagine trying to run a home, school or institution with no rice, flour,
maize-meal, margarine, meat, milk or eggs. No salt, sugar, biscuits,
porridge, dried fish, dried beans or powdered milk.
No soap, candles or matches - and this at a time when electricity cuts are
occurring daily and last for 15 hours at a time.
Behind the great mountains of shoe polish there are other products too but
mostly not items in regular use and even their stocks are dwindling fast.
These goods stand in long and plaintive lines, side by side along the front
of the shelf, remove one and you can see the back wall - a visible echo
shouts at you!
Mid week it was announced that the licences of all private abattoirs had
been cancelled and that all slaughtering and meat supplies had been taken
over by the virtually defunct government owned Cold Storage Commission.
In Marondera, the CSC had been completely closed for at least the last five
years but on Thursday hundreds of people jostled outside their premises.
It was mayhem: the first meat in the town for a fortnight. No one questioned
what conditions were like inside the buildings which have stood deserted all
No one asked if fixtures and fittings had been replaced, if the buildings
had been fumigated, if corroded pipes had been changed.
No one even asked to see the paperwork proving that the premises had been
checked by Health Inspectors or if the buildings had been declared hygienic
and fit to handle meat for human consumption.
It was utter chaos and the local department of health said nothing and did
Towards the end of the week almost 2 000 businessmen around the country had
been arrested for not cutting their prices.
Most buses and public transport vehicles had stopped operating as fuel
supplies ran out and transporters were ordered to charge prices way below
The government price cutting task force have now announced that medicines
are next in line to have prices cut and a cold panic is spreading amongst
people on life preserving medicines - as supplies of drugs run down and are
not replaced, how will they survive?
Zimbabwe is on a knife edge and everywhere you look there is a potential
crisis unfolding. Queues containing many hundreds of people form rapidly as
a rumour circulates.
Perhaps there is sugar, salt or flour and suddenly people are running to
line up at the back of supermarkets, outside locked butchery doors, in
alleyways, along pavements.
The lines this week have contained more people than most of us have ever
seen before. Four people standing abreast and then four behind them and so
on and the mass goes around the corner, around the block and back on itself
This is what 80 percent unemployment looks like, and also the face of the
collapse of a country which just seven years ago was a major regional food
* Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer based in Marondera town
July 18, 2007 Edition 2
HARARE: Zimbabwe is set to intensify its pricing blitz after leaders of the
ruling party declared the crackdown had so far yielded impressive results,
state media reported yesterday.
Nathan Shamuyarira, Zanu-PF's secretary for information and publicity, said
it had been decided at a meeting of the party's politburo on Monday, chaired
by President Robert Mugabe, to extend the three-week-old Operation Dzikiza
(Operation Reduced Prices), as it had already been shown to have brought
Retailers and manufacturers, grappling to cope with an inflation rate now
believed to be well over 5 000%, had been raising their prices several times
a day until the government ordered prices to be cut in half on June 26.
About 3 000 retailers and manufacturers have been arrested for violating the
edict. Most have been fined.
Manufacturers have said the government-imposed prices mean they are unable
to cover their costs, and shops are fast running out of supplies. - Sapa-AFP
July 18, 2007, 06:45
The White House and the US Congress have expressed concerns over the
deteriorating socio-political situation in Zimbabwe. In the first official
response to the arrest of business people, the White House said it deplores
what it called the regime's further erosion of human and economic liberty in
The White House released the statement at the same time as Congress was
holding hearings on the progress of democracy in the Sub Saharan Africa and
human rights violation in Zimbabwe was the main issue. Leading Egos called
for immediate intervention by the US to bolster the South African led SADC
Akwe Omosu of the Open Society Institute, which has branches in Harare and
Bulawayo, say the situation in Zimbabwe is almost out of control.
"The speed of deterioration is so great that even cautious observers are
speculating that the regime is unlikely to last another year, and some would
even say, as soon as Christmas," she said.
Incentive for Mugabe
Her views were backed by Prinsoton Layman, the former US ambassador to South
Africa, who warned that unless an incentive for Robert Mugabe, the
Zimbabwean president, is offered, he is likely to go down with the whole
Layman said: "I think to be honest we are not going to get a change in
relation to Zimbabwe as long as Mugabe is the president. He is not going to
turn around and become an emperor tomorrow, even to share power. The
question here is at what point will his supporters at ZANU PF, who are
really power brokers, find a way to tell him to step down and leave".
July 18, 2007
By Fiona Forde
Victoria Falls - Despite the economic mayhem unfolding in most quarters of
Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is every bit the magnet it has always been, with
visitors appearing not to think twice about their choice of destination.
Reliable data are hard come by, with the Zimbabwean Tourism Authority
boasting a record number of travellers to the country last year - 2.2
million, up from 1.5 million in 2005 - while Standard Bank records a 31
percent drop in tourism receipts for the first quarter of the same year. But
those who carve out a good living from the industry say this is far from a
"To be honest, I feel safer here than I did in Cape Town," was the view of
one British tourist who stopped off this week to witness the world's wonder
en route to Namibia on an overland tour.
"We just figured that Victoria Falls is not really part of Zimbabwe any
more," commented an American visitor, idling away his three-day stay at the
world-renowned Victoria Falls Hotel.
They are but two of the tens of thousands of tourists who are choosing to
include this corner of Zimbabwe in their African itineraries, despite the
global media focus on President Robert Mugabe's despotic style of rule.
For the most part, those flocking to establishments at the top end of the
market hail from the US, Britain and Japan, while the lower end is
attracting guests mainly from South Africa, Britain and Germany, according
to last weekend's bookings.
With wads of foreign cash, the travellers do not have to suffer the
shortages that are becoming commonplace now all over the country, brought on
by the government-enforced price cuts initiated last month.
They do not have to endure hours-long power and water shortages. Nor do they
fear a lack of fuel, with a guaranteed supply for top-end guests, albeit at
US$5 (R35) a litre.
Indeed, there's little the greenback cannot buy in Victoria Falls, where the
Zimbabwean dollar is all but non-existent, so much so that visitors at the
top end of the market do not exchange their money at all.
For the shoestring traveller, of whom there are still many, US$1 is fetching
Z$130 000 on the black market, up from just Z$15 000 12 weeks ago.
Be they high-end US dollar paying tourists or low-end backpackers,
foreigners' views remains the same: the 800-plus kilometres separating the
haven from Harare are enough to put their minds at rest.
All three of the town's five-star hotels - The Victoria Falls Hotel, The
Kingdom and The Elephant Hills - are boasting occupancy upwards of 60
percent, with no rooms at all to be had in the two four-star lodges, the
Ilala and the Safari Lodge.
The five venues have more than 850 rooms in total, each charging, on
average, US$275 a person. Even with only half occupancy, the earnings
potential is not to be scoffed at.
Add to that the money spent each day on lunch and dinner, the helicopter
rides over the so-called smoking thunder, the rapid rides down the Zambezi,
and it is easy to see why the "old man" has decided to leave well enough
alone in the US dollar zone.
"They may as well put up a border post here," suggested one tourist guide,
who asked not to be named. "Because life in Victoria Falls is just not as it
Sadly, this view could not be further from the truth for the 20 000-plus
locals who live here. The only adventure in their lives is making tomorrow's
July 18, 2007 Edition 2
HARARE: Desperate not to lose her place in a queue for bargains ordered
under President Robert Mugabe's price blitz, a woman went into labour and
gave birth at a store in Bulawayo, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported
The woman went into labour while she was queueing outside Jaggers
Wholesalers, a popular household and grocery store, witnesses told the
newspaper. Crowds had gathered in the hope of bargains from the store after
the government ordered massive price cuts.
The woman, who was apparently unwilling to lose her place in the queue,
started panting and sweating profusely but no one assisted her, one witness
Security guards eventually took the woman inside the store where she gave
birth, the Herald said. The sex of the newborn was not given.
There had been scenes of pandemonium after price inspectors and police
officers ordered massive price cuts, sometimes way beyond the 50% originally
announced by Mugabe's government. - Sapa-dpa