Jon Swain in Harare
It may not be surprising that, as befits any mad dictator, President Mugabe is now the proud owner of a palatial £4.5 million mansion in Harare and a similarly lavish country hideaway, each fitted with the latest electronic security systems, including anti-aircraft missiles.
But why should all this have been provided for him by the People's Republic of China?
The explanation lies in a deal struck in 2005 whereby Mr Mugabe handed over to China his country's mineral rights, including the world's second largest reserves of platinum, worth £250 billion.
In return for allowing the Chinese to cart away more than half a billion pounds' worth of minerals a year, Mr Mugabe not only makes a vast personal fortune for himself and his henchmen, but is given all the arms he needs to keep his criminal regime in power, including guns, jet fighters and military vehicles. (For further details, see my colleague Richard North's EU Referendum website.)
Contrast this with our own Government's response to Mugabe's tyranny. Since Zimbabwe is included in the 28 areas of "common foreign policy" we have ceded to the EU, we can do nothing except in conjunction with our EU colleagues.
On Monday we saw the humiliating spectacle of Gordon Brown pleading with the EU's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to add 36 more names to the list of Zimbabweans on whom the EU has imposed pathetically ineffectual "personal sanctions".
Otherwise, the EU's only contribution is to give Zimbabwe €25 million a year in aid, which Mr Mugabe welcomes as a way to give food to his supporters while the rest of his people starve.
All this provides a remarkable parallel to what is happening elsewhere in Africa.
In Sudan the tyrannical government is given full support by China in return for a monopoly on its large reserves of oil. Meanwhile, EU politicians wring their hands over the tragedy unfolding in Darfur, while a pitiful EU military force in Chad notably fails to protect a million helpless refugees from the genocide waged on them by China's friends in Khartoum.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as we learned from an excellent report in The Daily Telegraph last week, China last January signed a "minerals for infrastructure" deal, worth £2.25 billion, under which it bought the rights to some of the world's richest copper and cobalt reserves, in return for building roads, railways, hospitals, dams and airports.
This is the country where, five years ago, the EU proudly sent its first military force bearing the ring of stars insignia - to achieve precisely nothing.
We now learn that the Congolese government had first proposed such a minerals deal to the EU but, according to the country's deputy minister for mines, the EU replied that it "did not have the muscle that was needed".
All over Africa we see a similar story. The ruthless but canny Chinese dictatorship props up equally ruthless and corrupt governments, as in Angola, in return for that continent's fabulous mineral reserves. Britain, which once ruled much of Africa, has handed over its policy-making to the EU, which does little but make sanctimonious and irrelevant gestures.
Yet this is the continent which, in 2005, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown proclaimed was "at the top" of their international agenda. It was in the same year that, as the EU's acting president, Tony Blair flew to Beijing to sign an agreement making the EU and China "strategic partners". It is only too obvious which "partner's" strategy is proving the more successful.
A mad vision of a 'green Gulf' in the North Sea
Anyone wanting final proof that Gordon Brown lives on another planet should consider his boast to last week's EU "Mediterranean summit" that "Britain's North Sea could be the Gulf of the future for offshore wind".
To help Britain meet its EU target of generating 32 per cent of our electricity from "renewables" by 2020, Mr Brown says he wants to see 3,000 giant wind turbines built round our coasts.
The "optimum" capacity of an offshore turbine is 3 megawatts (MW), so the nominal capacity of Mr Brown's turbines would be 9,000MW. But due to the vagaries of the wind, they would produce on average only a third of this, say 3,000MW.
The Drax coal-fired power station in Yorkshire has a capacity of 3,800MW. Thus the entire output of Mr Brown's "Gulf of the future" would be less than that of a single conventional power station.
The cost of building his turbines, estimated at £2.3 million per MW, would be at least £20 billion (the £10 million cost of the solitary 3.5MW turbine recently built in Cromarty, Firth, ran out at £2.8 million per MW).
In addition, someone (who?) would have to build up to a dozen gas-fired power stations just to provide backup for when the wind is not blowing. We could get considerably more electricity from two new nuclear power stations at a fraction of the cost.
Fortunately, there is no possibility that Mr Brown's 3,000 turbines, each the size of Blackpool Tower, will get built. It is impossible that they could be erected at a rate of one every working day for 11 years, not least because the world has only one ship of the size needed to install them.
Such fantasies are only made possible by the fact that we are all forced, through our electricity bills, to pay a hidden subsidy to the turbine developers, which is 50 per cent higher even than the near-100 per cent subsidy we pay towards onshore wind energy.
But if Mr Brown is living on the Planet Krypton, he has, alas, been joined by David Cameron and our entire political class. Not one MP, it seems, dares question a policy the total insanity of which they could work out for themselves just by spending 20 minutes on the internet.
'Europe' brings down the bird that set it free
A longtime reader, Peter Howell, sends me a handsome painting of a Douglas DC-3 to mark the fact that he had just taken one of the last commercial flights allowed in these historic aircraft before they were grounded for ever last week by an EU directive.
The DC-3, or Dakota as the RAF called it, was the ultimate workhorse of the Second World War, playing a key role in the liberation of Europe and Asia. (Mr Howell's father survived being shot down in one in Burma.)
As I reported in February, a 175-page document, known as EC Regulation 1899/2006, imposes new technical requirements on all passenger-carrying aircraft operating in the EU, making no distinction between giant airliners and small vintage aircraft such as the Dakota, long a popular draw at airshows. T
o fit these old planes with escape chutes and all the other safety paraphernalia mandatory in a jumbo jet was prohibitively costly. Thus did "Europe" finally ground the aircraft which 60 years ago helped liberate it.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 22:54 UK
Zimbabwe is to introduce a bank-note worth Z$100bn in response to
rampant inflation - but the note will barely cover the cost of two loaves of
Some Zimbabweans are already calling for higher denominations in a
country where the official annual inflation rate has exceeded 2,200,000%.
Independent economists believe the real rate is many times higher.
Zimbabwe's meltdown has left at least 80% of the population in
poverty, facing mass shortages of basic goods.
The country's central bank has introduced several new notes already
this year in response to the hyperinflation.
In January, a Z$10 million note was issued, followed by a Z$50
million. By June the denominations had reached tens of billions.
In a notice in the state-controlled Herald newspaper, central bank
governor Gideon Gono said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would introduce the
new notes - known as special agro-cheques - to help consumers.
"This new $100 billion special agro-cheque will go into circulation on
Monday," the notice said.
But Zimbabwe residents say the latest note is already worthless, and
does not even cover their daily lunch.
"Nowadays, for my expenses a day, I need about Z$500 billion," one
"So Z$100 billion can't do anything because for me to go home I need
Z$250 billion, so this [note] is worthless."
Zimbabwe was once one of the richest countries in Africa.
But it has descended into economic chaos in recent years, with many
international observers blaming the policies of President Robert Mugabe.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 18:00
SOLDIERS, partly blamed for the brutal wave of violence that gripped
the country before the 27 June presidential election run-off, have been
awarded hefty salary increases ranging between $3 trillion and $10 trillion.
Several Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) officers confirmed the
developments to The Standard amid reports that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) had sanctioned a daily withdrawal limit of $1 trillion for the
The RBZ is now responsible for procuring army supplies and salaries
for the security forces.
However, while the soldiers were excited about their windfall, it was
not the same story among other arms of the security forces such as the
"As police officers, we are not aware that we will get hefty salary
increments," said an officer speaking on condition of anonymity. "The
government is afraid of soldiers and we are not surprised that they have
awarded them a lot of money."
Corporals saw their salaries ballooning from $150 billion to $2,5
trillion while sergeants are now earning $4,7 trillion, up from $180
This means while the rest of the Zimbabwean population is only able to
withdraw a paltry $100 billion at a time - only enough to get them to and
from work - soldiers are the only ones whistling merrily all the way to the
Building societies and a foreign-owned commercial bank confirmed that
they were providing preferential treatment to officers from the army by
allowing them daily withdrawals of between $1 trillion and $2,5 trillion.
Banks, however reportedly maintained the $100 billion daily limit for
members of the public - an amount hardly enough to buy a loaf of bread, now
selling at $120 billion.
Efforts to get a comment from RBZ were fruitless.
But angry members of the public who spoke to The Standard said they
were seriously disturbed by this preferential treatment being given to
soldiers. They criticised the RBZ for failing to sympathise with the
Samuel Mwedzi of Kambuzuma told The Standard that he was upset that
for the past week he had failed to withdraw money to buy basic commodities
that have run out at home.
"It is unfair that I should wake up every single day to join a long
queue just to get $100 billion, which is not enough for anything at all
while the military are being allowed withdrawals of $1 trillion or more,"
Many of the callers saw the preferential treatment of soldiers as an
act of gratitude for their part in the ruling party's campaign in an effort
to win the presidential election run-off at all costs.
Other observers said it was important for the government to keep the
military happy during a time of increasing economic instability.
ZNA spokesperson Colonel Ben Ncube could not be reached for comment
yesterday as his phone was continuously unavailable.
By Foster Dongozi/Bertha Shoko
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:57
NEARLY 20 suspected Zanu PF youths and war veterans allegedly raped a
Buhera woman in the four days she was detained at their base in Nhamo
village, Buhera Central, in Manicaland after the youths failed to find her
husband, the MDC has said.
The woman, who is 32 and cannot be identified, is being treated at a
private clinic in the eastern border town of Mutare.
Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC Manicaland provincial spokesperson, said
the woman was taken to Baravara base in Nhamo village after they failed to
locate her husband, who was an MDC election agent during the March 29
Her husband is in hiding.
"They raided the homestead on the 19th of June looking for the husband
and when they were told that he was not there, they force-marched the wife
to the base," Muchauraya said. "She told me she was raped by over 18 men in
the four days she was kept at the base."
Authorities at the private clinic confirmed to The Standard last week
that they were treating a woman, who was raped in Buhera.
"I can confirm that she is here and still going through assessments,"
said an official.
The youth militia and war veterans, said Muchauraya, released the
woman after noticing that she was bleeding excessively.
"On learning that she had been set free we sent our car to pick her
up. This is when we realised that her condition was serious. We took her to
a private clinic here in Mutare," said Muchauraya, who is MDC MP-elect for
Makoni South. "I hear she is getting worse even though a doctor (name
supplied) drained semen from her."
The medical doctor was reported to be in the operating theatre when
The Standard called for comment.
Muchauraya said they did not report the matter to the police because
"when an MDC supporter goes to report an incident he or she is the one who
gets arrested, accused of inciting violence. In most police stations they
actually refuse to attend to our supporters."
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said he had not received a
report, but dismissed MDC claims that the police were arresting opposition
supporters who went to report cases of violence at their stations.
"I have said this time and again that, we as the police are impartial
and we arrest anybody who commits a crime," Bvudzijena said. "Their
statement is misleading and it's not true."
There have been several reports of women who were reportedly raped by
Zanu PF militia and war veterans in bases that were established countrywide
to drum up support for President Robert Mugabe in the 27 June election
run-off, in which he was the sole candidate.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the race a few days before
the poll, citing violence against his supporters.
By Caiphas Chimhete
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:56
A top United States envoy last week said the current situation in
Zimbabwe was discouraging many students from applying their education to the
development of the country.
Speaking on Thursday last week at an orientation of a group of
students awarded undergraduate scholarships to study at various American
universities, the Deputy US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Katherine Dhanani, said
many students "see no future" in Zimbabwe. The students will be leaving the
country next month.
"Today, too may of Zimbabwe's brightest students, after they complete
their studies, see no future for themselves applying their learning back
home in Zimbabwe," Dhanani told the students.
Most of the students were assisted in their applications by the United
States Achievers Programme (USAP).
"I am quite sure that one element of Zimbabweans' aspirations for
their future is for the nation to once again become a country to which
students hurry back after graduation. A country in which their education is
a major force for development, and a country in which returning students
feel their contribution is valued and rewarded."
Dhanani commended the students for achieving so much under difficult
conditions. A number of students were affected by the government's Operation
Murambatsvina in 2005. Their plight was worsened by the mass exodus of
teachers from schools and the economic challenges facing most ordinary
"It's quite an achievement that you have reached this point. I would
like to congratulate you for your excellent results which earned you
acceptance," she said. "Your achievement is all the more impressive given
the difficulties of the last years and especially of recent months."
Saturday, 19 July 2008 18:42
INTERNALLY displaced MDC supporters, who are returning to their homes
following a drop in politically-motivated violence, are being hauled before
village kangaroo courts chaired by war veterans to answer charges of
"selling out" and "seeking refuge" in other parts of the country, the
opposition party has said.
The proceedings are conducted at torture bases headed by war veterans
and Zanu PF militia, who masterminded President Robert Mugabe's violent
election campaign in the 27 June poll run-off.
Those found "guilty" are made to pay fines in the form of money,
livestock or they perform community service in their respective areas.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected talks with Mugabe, demanding
an end to violence and release of political prisoners.
The MDC has said that at least 120 of its activists and supporters
have been killed since the 29 March election, over 10 000 injured while more
than 200 000 were internally displaced because of the government-sponsored
More than 1 000 MDC activists are languishing in the country's filthy
jails facing politically-related charges.
The militia-sponsored retribution project is most pronounced in
Manicaland, Masvingo, the Midlands, and Mashonaland provinces.
MDC officials last week said the retribution campaign was rampant
despite overtures by Mugabe's administration for a negotiated political
settlement between Zanu PF and the MDC.
MDC provincial spokesperson for Manicaland Pishai Muchauraya said
party supporters, who had gone back to their homes, were being charged with
"selling out" by war veterans and militia.
"Those found guilty are forced to pay a returnee's fee, which can be
in the form of money, a goat or chickens. The poor ones without anything to
their names are forced to perform community service," said Muchauraya, who
is also the MDC MP-elect for Makoni South.
MDC activist Kenneth Katsere from Ward 4 in Mutambara in Chimanimani
was initially sentenced to perform three weeks of community service but the
sentence was reduced to three hours due to extenuating circumstances.
The circumstances: his homestead was burnt down before the elections
and he had also surrendered a goat.
The goat was slaughtered and fed to the raucous youth militia at a
base in Gonzoni Village in the same district.
John Neshiri and Thelma Mureyani, party district treasurer and
chairperson respectively, were sentenced in absentia after they fled their
homes on learning that they were wanted at the base.
"They were found guilty of seeking 'asylum'. John's sentence was to
water fields belonging to war veterans for three days at an irrigation
scheme in the area," Muchauraya said.
The militia told the MDC activists that they had disgraced the country's
name by fleeing their homes and seeking sanctuary at embassies of foreign
They had sought sanctuary at the US and South African embassies.
Tsvangirai sought refugee at the Dutch embassy after learning that his
life was in danger.
MDC co-ordinator for Zaka district, Peter Imbayarwo, said it was not
safe for members of the opposition party to return to their homes as torture
bases were still operating.
He said headmen and village heads, affiliated to Zanu PF, were telling
the returnees to join former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London or
pay a beast so they can be "accepted back" into the community.
"Some are paying goats, chickens or money to the village heads but it's
not a guarantee for one's safety because they (militia) might come for you
during the night. They (village heads) are making quick money out of a
crisis," said Imbayarwo, who is MDC chairman for ward 19 in Zaka.
Imbayarwo, who was head of the MDC Zaka office when two activists were
killed after they were doused with petrol and burnt by suspected Zanu PF
militia in April, said opposition supporters continue to be tortured at
Serry torture base in the district.
Mildred Kamunhu, whose husband Chamunorwa Chidarikire was an active
MDC member during the run up to the 2005 election, has fled Chinhoyi in
Mashonaland West after marauding Zanu PF militias threatened her with death.
"It's no longer safe for me to stay in Chinhoyi because they have
labelled me an MDC supporter because my husband was an active member of the
MDC," said Kamunhu, who is now staying in Harare.
An MDC activist, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation,
said war veterans and militia camped at Chisheche centre near Gutu Growth
Point in Masvingo province, were forcibly taking away food and livestock
from homes of opposition supporters.
"If they arrive at your home and they don't get you, they just take a
goat or chicken for slaughter at the base. No one will dare follow them
because they will torture you. Actually, they have established a pen at the
base," said the woman from Chisheche village, who has since fled to Harare.
The militias are opposed to the dismantling of bases because they are
benefiting from the crisis. "They have no food at their homes so they are
determined to remain at the bases because they (bases) have become their
sources of livelihood."
An elderly poor woman from Gutu surrendered a bucket of a wild small
grain fruit called Nyii to the base commander so she could be accepted back
into the community.
She had nothing to her name.
Zanu PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira could not be reached for
Police chief spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said they have not received
any reports of people being forced to surrender goats or perform community
service so that they are accepted back into their communities.
He said the torture bases, which he referred to as "information
centres", were all dismantled soon after elections.
"We urge people to report such people to the police because there are
some people who are taking advantage of the situation," said Bvudzijena. "If
it is happening, it is criminal and they should be arrested."
By Caiphas Chimhete
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:53
BULAWAYO - A war veteran who was part of a group of Zanu PF officials
from Plumtree who slaughtered a stray beast to feed militias at a terror
base was last week jailed for nine years for his role in the
Paul Tshuma (61)'s conviction marked the start of a surprise clamp
down on ruling party supporters who terrorised villagers with impunity in
the name of ensuring victory for President Robert Mugabe in last month's
one-candidate presidential election run-off.
Plumtree magistrate, Mark Dzira handed down the sentence on Monday
after Tshuma pleaded guilty to the charges saying they were desperate for
food at the campaign base.
He was ordered to pay the state $3 trillion for the beast or spend
another six months in prison.
In their initial court appearance, Tshuma's accomplices, Gabriel
Ndlovu (56), Ophias Msimanga (36) and Ncedanini Khumalo (22) pleaded not
guilty and were remanded in custody to 21 July for trial.
The prosecutor, Philani Mpofu said the four slaughtered the beast on
22 June and fed it to war veterans at a Zanu PF campaign base in the
He said they collected the stray cow from Elizabeth Ncube's homestead.
This was after they told her that they were collecting all stray
animals on behalf of the government.
On arrival at the base they slaughtered the beast valued at $3
trillion. Ncube reported the case to the police.
They were charged with contravening Section 114 (2) (a) (i) of the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 (stock theft).
A number of villagers in Plumtree reportedly lost their cattle to the
Zanu PF officials who set up torture bases at almost every business centre.
They allegedly extorted food and money from hungry villagers and
forced young girls to cook for them in scenes reminiscent of the operations
of the North Korean-trained 5 Brigade in Matabeleland and the Midlands in
Sources said Zanu PF officials were now frantically trying to cover up
the crimes following the arrest of the war veterans.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:51
BULAWAYO - A Gwanda magistrate last week released 10 Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporters facing charges of political violence
ahead of the 27 June presidential run-off election after the state failed to
bring witnesses to back its claims.
The MDC activists from Umzingwane district were arrested for allegedly
beating up Zanu PF supporters who were campaigning for President Robert
Among those arrested were Thulani Moyo and Mthandazo Moyo, the
provincial organising secretary and vice-chairman respectively for the
Arthur Mutambara-led MDC.
Matabeleland South regional magistrate, Takudzwa Gwazemba ordered
their release on Thursday, almost a month after their arrest saying the
prosecution had failed to prove its case.
"The magistrate released the MDC supporters because of lack of
evidence," said MDC provincial spokesman, Thandeko Zinti Mnkandla. "The
state failed to bring witnesses."
Thomson Mabhikwa of Mabhikwa Legal Practitioners represented the MDC
By Nqobani Ndlovu
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:48
BULAWAYO - Starving villagers in Matabeleland are reportedly being
forced to donate scarce grain and livestock towards President Robert Mugabe's
victory celebrations, following the 27 June one-candidate presidential
The celebrations started at Eland Police Farm in Bubi District,
Matabeleland North, where soldiers and police officers feasted on food
collected from villagers by the former liberation war fighters.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials in Matabeleland South
said villagers were being forced to donate food and funds for the
"ward-based" victory celebrations.
Sources said the practice was prevalent in areas like Lushongwe,
Matshetsheni, Wenlock and Nyandeni, which bore the brunt of a Zanu PF terror
campaign ahead of the widely condemned poll run-off.
Each household was ordered to deliver about 5kg of samp and $200
billion in cash to war veterans stationed at Zanu PF campaign bases.
Teachers in the surrounding schools were also forced to donate $200
billion each despite earning less than $180 billion amonth.
Petros Mukwena, the secretary for the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC said:
"It's so sad that after terrorising villagers to vote for Mugabe, Zanu PF is
now coercing hungry villagers to donate food for the so-called victory
The drought-prone Matabeleland provinces are the hardest hit by the
food shortages facing the country as a result of consecutive poor harvests.
The food crisis has been worsened by the banning of non-governmental
organisations from carrying out humanitarian work.
Zanu PF Matabeleland South provincial chairman, Rido Mpofu claimed
that the donations were voluntary. His Matabeleland North counterpart,
Headman Moyo could not be reached for comment.
Mugabe won the election run-off with a 'landslide" after MDC leader,
Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out, citing a campaign of intimidation and violence
against his supporters that killed a score and injured thousands others.
But Western leaders have refused to recognise Mugabe and are instead
pushing for more punitive sanctions targeting his inner circle for allegedly
stifling democracy in the country.
By Nqobani Ndlovu
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:46
LAST month's government election promises are already beginning to
sound hollow: For many Zimbabweans, daily survival has become an unending
nightmare, The Standard can report.
Taavinga Madhende believed in the 100% empowerment he was promised
during Zanu PF's election campaign. But the reality is that his June salary
was only slightly more than $100 billion. That is enough for a loaf of bread
or a day's fare on a commuter bus to and from Chitungwiza.
Mollyn Munda, with a baby strapped to her back, embodies the hardships
Zimbabweans have to deal with on a daily basis. She has become a permanent
visitor to Western Union along bustling Samora Machel Avenue for the past
week waiting to collect money sent by her brother in the United Kingdom.
"They (Western Union) keep telling us that the money has run out and
that we have to come back tomorrow," Munda says.
"Many people who have not been lucky enough to get their money sleep
out in the cold in order to be served first, but I can't do that with the
Munda is in a state of panic because her rent is overdue.
"The landlord has said that I have to pay in two days or leave," Munda
says, trying to calm her hungry baby. "He has told me that I have to pay an
additional R20 fine for the delay or else she will evict us. Accommodation
is hard to find these days, where will I go with the children?"
In another part of the city, John Chengeta, a father of four from
Budiriro, had his own problems. Chengeta has been going around for three
days now with $150 billion he borrowed from work to buy maize-meal but
cannot find it. Chengeta says he was shocked when he finally found a 10kg
bag of maize-meal selling for US$4 (about $200 billion). In shock after
hearing this news, Chengeta headed for The Standard newspaper offices.
"I was very angry about this and for a moment I was tempted to report
them to the police but I decided to save my energy and look for maize-meal
for my family," he said.
At least four million Zimbabweans have left the country and are
resident in neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana and as
far afield as the UK and US. Every month, they remit money to sustain
families back home.
But not all Zimbabweans are fortunate enough to have relatives in the
Mercy Taonezvi is one such unfortunate person. Taonezvi's son needs
US$500 ($25 trillion as of Friday last week) for a tonsillectomy.
To escape the unprecedented levels of inflation in the country,
specialists are charging consultation fees and medical procedures in foreign
currency. Taonezvi said she was told that if she did not have foreign
currency, she could pay the equivalent of US$500 in local currency at the
black market rate.
"My son needs the operation but where can I get such a huge amount?"
said Taonezvi during a recent visit to The Standard where she had come to
appeal for assistance. "My medical aid cannot even cover an eighth of the
amount the doctors want. I am at a loss."
Madhende, Chengeta, Munda and Taonezvi embody the hardships
Zimbabweans are facing daily. While problems have been prevalent since the
late 1990s, the pricing of goods in foreign currency has rattled many
The majority of the workers have their salaries and earnings in local
currency which are barely enough for a decent living. An average worker
earns $100 billion monthly and yet for many their monthly expenditure runs
into trillions of dollars.
With the exception of a few professionals working in the
non-governmental organisations who are paid in foreign currency, most
ordinary Zimbabweans are finding daily survival an unending nightmare.
And with each struggling day, Zimbabweans are growing impatient for a
political settlement that can bring an end to their suffering. For more than
10 years, the economy has been grappling with runway inflation and food
shortages, a state of affairs largely blamed on bad policies of President
Robert Mugabe's government.
Hyper-inflation which has passed the nine million percent mark has
meant that the Zimbabwe dollar is losing value on a daily basis.
The state-sanctioned land grab after the February 2000 referendum and
the catalogue of human rights abuses that ensued saw the economy plunging to
unprecedented depths. As the political impasse in the country continues to
deteriorate, the economy is worsening and correspondingly, the plight of
"MDC and Zanu PF should just get on with the talks," says Chengeta.
"We are really tired of suffering. We have been very patient. Clearly Zanu
PF has failed and whatever agreements they pursue, the MDC holds the key to
the country's problems."
But many analysts say the talks are unlikely to yield much because of
the gulf between the two parties.
Others believe the current dialogue between the two feuding parties
can yield something for the economy, provided it results in a settlement.
Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions,
said the labour movement was banking on the current talks to succeed.
"We pray that the talks are successful," Matombo said. "Success
depends on politicians themselves."
Economist Eric Bloch concurs: "It depends on what the talks bring
"If it is a right settlement which brings about a government that is
prepared to take corrective measures, a government which has international
recognition, we will have a definite economic recovery."
Bloch said there was no way out unless the country resolved the
"It will get worse for everyone including Zanu PF," he said.
Independent economist Dr Daniel Ndlela said there was a way out of the
crisis if the government realised that there was a crisis.
"There is a way out of the crisis. But as long as people are in
denial, Zimbabwe is going nowhere," he told The Standard.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:29
SOUTH African Airways (SAA) is mulling routing its
Johannesburg-Victoria Falls flights to Livingstone in Zambia in a major blow
to Zimbabwe's ailing tourism industry, authoritative sources said last week.
Standardbusiness heard that officials at SAA recently held a meeting
with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) where they announced
the airline would no longer fly into Victoria Falls.
Stung by the SAA decision, there have been frantic efforts to persuade
the airline to stay put on the route, said sources familiar with the
To this end, officials at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority are keen to
persuade SAA to rescind its decision in a last bid to bolster confidence in
the ailing tourism sector.
But SAA Country Manager, Winnie Mudariki poured cold water on the
pending pull out insisting the airline was staying put on the Victoria Falls
"There is no way we can pull out of the Victoria Falls route," she
The pull out from Victoria Falls route means that tourists intending
to visit one of the Seven Wonder of the World will have to come via Harare
before connecting to the resort town. With the unreliability of the national
airline, Air Zimbabwe, industry players said the country would lose out on
arrivals from South Africa.
Players in the industry told Standardbusiness that the pull-out, if
effected would be a blow to the industry.
"It's like a vote of no confidence to a destination," an executive
said. "SAA is a respected airline."
Besides killing the perception about a destination, the routing of the
flights to Livingstone will hit hard on the pocket, insiders said.
SAA flies twice daily into Victoria Falls and players in the industry
said on average each flight has 120 high-spending tourists from the major
source markets - Germany, UK, Japan and US.
The tourists spend an average of two bed nights and the tourism
industry will lose over 400 bed nights, a blow at a time the sector said
arrivals were peaking up.
CAAZ will lose on departure fees. At an average of 120 passengers per
flight and with departure fees of US$30 a passenger, CAAZ would lose US$7
200 a day.
Standardbusiness also heard that CAAZ will lose US$1 000 a day in
For the past eight years, the country has witnessed the withdrawal of
reputable airlines citing viability problems.
Airlines to desert Zimbabwe include British Airways, Swiss Air,
Lufthansa, KLM, Air France and Zambian Airways.
Ethiopian Airlines almost pulled out in November but had "an eleventh
hour" change of heart.
By Ndamu Sandu
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:26
MEMBERS of Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and the European
Commission met last month to iron out "contentious issues" as the two
trading blocs inch closer to the conclusion of a comprehensive trade deal.
The European Union (EU) and the African Caribbean and Pacific
Countries are negotiating for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), in
line with World Trade Organisation's reciprocity rule.
ESA and the EC met in Brussels, Belgium last month where they
discussed the contentious issues such as Most Favoured Nation clause,
safeguards or export taxes.
Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate
between their trading partners. Granting a member special favour (such as a
lower customs duty rate for one of their products) has to be applied for all
other WTO members. Both parties reiterated their concerns and ESA is working
on their common position on these issues.
The 24-25 June meeting was a follow up to a technical one held in May
in Lusaka, Zambia, where ESA presented the various trade provisions it would
like to discuss in the framework of the full EPA.
The Brussels technical meeting witnessed discussions in trade related
issues - Intellectual Property Rights, Competition, Sustainable Development,
Investments and Government Procurement.
EC will come back with a joint text on investments and Intellectual
Property Rights detailing both parties' interests. Standardbusiness
understands that ESA is finalising a position on competition which should
serve as a basis for further talks.
On sustainable development, discussions will continue on the basis of
the EC proposal.
The meeting agreed that more consultations and discussions were needed
on government procurement but ESA gave a state of play of the situation in
A separate working group on services was formed. It will analyse the
proposals of the two trading blocs.
The EC and ESA agreed on joint texts on Sanitary and Phytosanitary
services; Technical Barriers to Trade; and Trade Facilitation.
The next meeting will take place in September.
ACP countries used to enjoy unilateral trade preferences with the EU
for almost three decades under the Lomé Conventions.
The Fourth Lomé Convention was replaced by the Cotonou Partnership
Agreement in 2000, which extended these unilateral trade preferences up to
the end of 2007.
But because most African countries were unable to conclude
comprehensive EPAs they opted for interim agreements in order to avoid trade
disruption that could result from failure to conclude WTO compatible
arrangements by the deadline of 31 December, 2007.
To date the EU has concluded EPA talks with the Caribbean bloc while
in Africa it has concluded interim EPAs with regional blocs and individual
Negotiations are being conducted in regional blocs. Zimbabwe is
negotiating under the ESA bloc.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 17:23
GWERU - Faced with an ever-weakening local currency, buffeted by
unrelenting stratospheric inflation, the question that is being asked
increasingly is how ordinary Zimbabweans are coping daily, The Standard
From hawking all sorts of goods, to charging rent in foreign currency
or in kind, and finding ways to withdraw more money from the bank than the
stipulated maximum, most ordinary Zimbabweans have become unwilling crooks,
adept at employing tricks to circumvent the system in order to survive.
Most people interviewed agreed that the salaries that they earn are
not in line with cost of basic commodities and services. Lyson Mlambo an
immediate past trustee of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) told
The Standard that no worker in Zimbabwe was getting paid enough to afford
the basic needs.
"What we are getting as workers cannot even meet our transport costs,"
"This simply means that we are doing something in order to survive.
This manifests itself in the fact that while our salaries are not even
enough to cover transport costs only, we still go to work on a daily basis,
and can still manage to put food on the table."
The daily increase in the cost of goods and services has rendered
wages and salaries irrelevant that the majority of those in the formal
sector moonlight in order to make ends meet.
With a critical shortage of the staple maize, some urban house
owners - most of who have long taken to charging rent in foreign currency
are demanding that tenants provide them with a minimum 20kg bag of
maize-meal as payment for rent every month. The practice has become rampant.
Workers in the ever-shrinking industrial sector earn an average of
$200 billion a month - not enough to buy a 20kg bag of maize meal or a
two-litre bottle of cooking oil, but investigations by The Standard have
revealed that most workers can still afford to buy these commodities
although they cost much more than their average earnings.
Civil servants are no better off. Lecturers at tertiary institutions
in the Midlands' capital, Gweru receive an average salary of $200 billion,
according to their June 2008 salary advisories.
A workers' representative at one of the leading companies in Gweru,
who spoke to this reporter said in view of the situation on the ground it
was "a miracle" that people were still able to go to work. He said workers
had become impoverished and could no longer afford the basics, and urged the
authorities to act urgently before the economy implodes.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Gideon Gono has set maximum
withdrawal amounts of money that individuals and companies can withdraw from
their bank accounts in a largely failed bid to control inflation. The
amounts are constantly revised as inflation continues to spiral. The maximum
amount that individuals can withdraw currently stands at a hundred-billion
dollars - only enough to buy a loaf of bread.
Requiring large amounts of cash for various needs, individuals have
devised ways of withdrawing far more than the regulated amounts, meaning
circumventing the laws of the land in order to get by.
The Standard has heard of creative individuals able to withdraw large
amounts of money from banks after producing papers from the
Registrar-General's office indicating they have funerals to conduct. At the
height of the state-meddling in the fuel crisis, enterprising individuals
would drive into a service station, a hearse in tow and draw more than the
At one bank, individuals are able to withdraw as much as $20-trillion
Zimbabwean dollars. It is thought this is after conniving with the bank's
staff. The concerned individuals are quick to state that although they are
aware that such transactions are illegal, "beating the system" has become
the only way of surviving in Zimbabwe.
NANGO regional chairperson for the Midlands Province, Peter Muchengeti
said the restrictions had criminalised Zimbabweans. "The system has made
Zimbabweans criminals. The culture of corruption has become endemic and even
if the system changes; it will take time to redress."
Muchengeti said criminal activities included changing foreign currency
on the parallel market, buying commodities and selling them at a higher
price which he said meant "everyone" in Zimbabwe has become corrupt.
But observers note that if the myriad crises Zimbabweans are enduring
were occurring in other countries, there would have been civil strife. But
rather than take up arms against an administration that is seen as largely
responsible for most of their suffering, Zimbabweans have devised ways of
beating the system in order to survive. Rather than endure the suffering, a
number have even risked life and limb by illegally crossing the
crocodile-infested Limpopo River to escape to South Africa, in search of a
By Rutendo Mawere
Saturday, 19 July 2008 16:49
LET me tell you a story. All its characters are fictional and any
similarity to anyone, alive, dead or somewhere in between, is probably
fairly coincidental and mostly unintended.
Once upon a time there was a country called Nonesuch. It was called
this because no such land could ever conceivably exist. Its inhabitants were
called Agogans because they were considered to be a little on the gullible
side. According to the Ministry of Keeping People Properly Informed with the
Truth and Nothing But the Truth, Agogans were a happy, contented and unified
lot, who were a hundred percent independent. Everyone was so harmonious that
nobody ever disagreed with anyone else. Elections were totally unnecessary
as everyone would always vote for the right leader. The Properly Informing
Ministry constantly pointed out that Agogans had good reason to be grateful.
From time immemorial their enlightened and visionary leader had created
idyllic conditions and happiness, peace and prosperity abounded. No legal
system or police force was needed because there were no malcontents and
deviants, but if they ever established a legal system, it would have worked
impeccably and there would never be any acquittals.
That was, complained the Information Ministry, until the Interferons
decided to wreak such havoc by sticking their prying noses into the internal
affairs of Nonesuch. The armies of the Interferons consisted of a motley
array of brutal forces drawn from a number of warlike nations. There were,
for instance, Americons, who wanted to yank the chains, and Britons who
wanted to pinch back the very land originally stolen by the Britons' robber
baron par excellence, Rhodes. These marauding barbarians sowed the seeds of
dissention over the entire land and let loose a lethal germ warfare virus
called Hyperinflation. They destroyed the crops. They bribed Agogans to
attack fellow Agogans. They encouraged Agogans to demand subversive things
such as democracy and free and fair elections. They enlisted the walls to
write on themselves rude comments about people in high places.
But Agogans are a robust lot. All were united in their determination
to drive the Interferons from their land for ever. They even took their
struggle to the United Nations Security Council, demanding that a resolution
be passed requiring the Interferons to immediately cease their terrible
meddling in the internal affairs of Nonesuch. The Rushans and Chinans
vigorously supported this resolution. The resolution was passed nem con by
In real life too the titanic struggle between good and evil has been
furiously waging down the ages. Often evil seems to have the upper hand, but
then good just manages to overcome its indefatigable opponent. Not many know
that the song, Amazing Grace, was penned by a person who had been involved
in that most wicked affront to humanity, the slave trade. John Newton had
captained a ship plying the slave trade. While attempting to steer the ship
through a violent storm, he experienced a "great deliverance." When all
seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy
upon us." Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to
believe that God had saved him from the storm and that grace had begun to
work for him. However, he continued for some time to work in the slave
trade, later explaining that his full conversion took time.
Eventually he became a church minister. When preaching in a London
parish in later years, he drew large congregations and influenced many,
among them William Wilberforce, who became a tireless campaigner for the
abolition of slavery. His hymn, Amazing Grace, speaks of his religious
conversion which saved "a wretch" like him. He was lost but now was found,
was blind but now could see. Grace taught his heart to fear and grace
relieved his fears. Grace allowed him to come through many dangers and
snares, and grace would lead him to home.
Newton continued preaching until the last year of life, although he
was blind by that time. The film, Amazing Grace, tells the story of the
prolonged struggle of William Wilberforce to bring about the abolition of
the slave trade in England. In the film Newton has already become a
clergyman, but is wracked with guilt and is depicted as a penitent who is
haunted by the ghosts of 20 000 slaves. When he goes blind, he says that God
had already allowed him to see too much.
As well as composing hymns, Newton kept extensive journals and wrote
many letters. Historians accredit his journals and letters for much of what
is known today about the eighteenth century slave trade.
And then there is Alfred Nobel whose endowment established the Nobel
Peace prize. Nobel had invented dynamite and had made his fortune from
selling this product. Nobel naively believed his dynamite would "sooner lead
to peace than a thousand world conventions" because as soon as men whole
armies could be utterly destroyed in one instant, "they surely will abide by
golden peace." Little did he know.
Unlike demigods called leaders who believe that they're always right
and can do wrong, most of us lesser mortals do bad things and have to
grapple with our consciences when we do those things. The dividing line
between good and evil is frequently so indistinct that we are not sure
whether we're doing good or evil.
Saturday, 19 July 2008 16:45
THERE is a story which, to this day, villagers in my local area still
In years gone by, men would often go on short hunting expeditions,
relying on hounds, to chase and capture prey. The loyal hounds would often
return with prey after capture and would be duly rewarded.
But during a particularly hard season, the hounds' behaviour changed.
They decided to satisfy their own interest first, which meant often, the
hunters returned to the village empty-handed.
Until, that is, a certain fellow decided to take the hounds at their
own game. This fellow, affectionately known as Mutsvuku, on account of his
light hue, decided that, since the hounds could not be trusted when left to
their own devices, he had to do something about it. He decided that it was
best to run alongside them. Mutsvuku was so fast, sometimes, he even
outpaced the hounds. That ensured that he would always be on hand to
retrieve the prey upon capture.
Sometimes, I can't help thinking that Zimbabweans have placed too much
reliance on hounds to do the chasing of freedom and democracy on our behalf.
You have to look at the character of the hounds upon whom we have
entrusted our future to see the problem that we currently face. I thought we
could sample some of the hounds chasing freedom on our behalf via the
African Union. Here is a sample:
Paul Biya - Cameroon
The man is 76 years old and he has been in charge of Cameroon since
1982 -two years after Mugabe began his reign in Zimbabwe. In 1996, a new
Constitution was adopted, providing for two presidential terms. His terms
would have ended in 2011. But in April 2008, he announced plans to amend the
Constitution to allow him to stay on beyond 2011, by providing for
indefinite terms, jettisoning the two-term limit. The new Constitution was
adopted by Parliament under the watchful eye of the military. The effect of
these changes is to hand the life-presidency to Biya. Can we, surely, trust
him to deliver freedom?
Jose Eduardo Dos Santos - Angola
Dos Santos has been in charge of Angola since 1979. From 1975 to 2002
the country was ravaged by a civil war pitting Dos Santos' Popular Movement
for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and Jonas Savimbi's Union for the Total
Liberation of Angola (UNITA). The war ended when Savimbi was killed by
government troops in 2002 and the parties cobbled up a Government of
National Unity. Sounds familiar? The first and only multi-party elections
were held in 1992, the results of which were rejected by Savimbi, leading to
a resumption of the civil war.
There have been no elections since 1992. The next elections are
scheduled for 2008 (Parliamentary) and 2009 (Presidential). If Dos Santos
goes through, he will be staying upwards of 30 years in power. But he is
likely to face the same storm as his colleague in Zimbabwe. Can we rely on
him to deliver democracy?
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni - Uganda
When Museveni seized power in 1986 through the National Resistance
Army, he reasoned that Western-style multi-party democracy was not
appropriate and introduced the no-party democracy system. Political parties
were effectively stultified leaving the National Resistance Movement to
virtually dominate Ugandan politics. The 1995 Constitution set a two-term
limit on the presidency and the first direct presidential elections were
held in 1996, which aided by state resources, Museveni won with 75% of the
vote. The second election in 2001 was blighted by allegations of cheating,
although his challenger and former ally and personal physician Kizza Besigye
lost his legal appeal.
Besigye was subjected to various forms of harassment, including
charges of treason and rape. This caused local and international
condemnation and cutbacks in foreign aid. The former blue-eyed boy of
African politics had morphed into the usual character of the Big Men of
African politics. Is Museveni to be trusted with democracy?
Omar Bongo - Gabon
The Gabonese President is, probably, the longest serving political
ruler in the world, a title he earned when former Cuban leader Fidel Castro
stepped down earlier this year. He became president in 1967, aged just 31.
He is a wealthy man but has been accused of siphoning state resources of the
small but oil-rich country. Some of his children have been part of his
government. Multiparty elections were held in 1993, ending what was,
effectively, one-party rule. The Constitution was amended in 2003 to remove
the restrictions on presidential term limits, effectively opening a way for
him to rule for life. He allegedly rules with an iron fist. Is he to be
trusted with democracy?
Yahya Jammeh - The Gambia
Jammeh, who claimed to have a cure for AIDS, took power by Coup in
1994 and was subsequently elected in 1996. He was re-elected in 2001 and
2006 amid concerns about the lack of fairness of the election. Press freedom
is restricted and he shares Mugabe's intense hatred for gays, whose heads he
has threatened to chop off. Opposition parties are allowed but their chances
of gaining any power are severely limited. Along with Omar Bongo, he has
publicly endorsed Mugabe's recent election in Zimbabwe. A trusted hound?
Muammar Gaddafi - Libya
The long-serving Libyan leader has been in power since 1969, when he
seized power through a Coup. He has been one of the staunchest supporters of
President Mugabe, a relationship which dates back to the liberation war
days. His previously frosty relationship with the West has thawed in the
last eight years and is widely seen as a pro-active Pan-Africanist. But
elections are not on his favoured list of priorities and is reported to have
said before the 29 March elections in Zimbabwe that leaders like President
Mugabe and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, "should stay in power until they have
solved all the problems in their countries or die while still in power",
effectively advocating life-presidency. Can this hound be relied on?
General Omar Hassan al Bashir - The Sudan
Omar al Bashir seized power in war-torn Sudan through a military coup
in 1989. He has little favour for multi-party politics. When he seized power
he said it was to save the country from "rotten political parties". In 1993
Al Bashir was appointed the president and won the 1996 non-party elections.
When the parliament sought to reduce the President's powers in 1999, Bashir
dissolved it and declared a state of emergency. In 2000, he was re-elected.
Since 2003, Sudan has been at the centre of world attention in view of the
atrocities in the Western Darfur region.
In 2004, Bashir is reported to have stated that he would remain firm
and not bow to anyone except God, something that Zimbabweans may have heard
recently from their own leader. Bashir shares Mugabe's frosty relationship
with the West, whilst building a cosy alliance with China, which, in turn is
enamoured by Sudan's oil reserves. The two men have the fortune of being
favoured by China and Russia, both acting as bulwarks against UN sanctions
or tougher measures. They also share the fortune of support from Africa's
most powerful country - South Africa. More recently, Bashir has been the
subject of an unprecedented move by the chief prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court, who has sought to bring charges genocide and
crimes against humanity.
These are some of the leaders in the African Union. They are the
hounds that Zimbabweans have set forth in the hunt for freedom. Some hounds,
lately, have become more sympathetic and would be prepared to help in the
pursuit of freedom. But the howls of these kinder ones, from Botswana,
Zambia, Liberia and a few others are easily drowned out. There is no doubt
that Zimbabwe needs African support to resolve its crisis, but the
pro-democracy movement has to be careful not to put all its eggs in one
basket or, for that matter, to trust that these counterparts will deliver
freedom and democracy.
Alex Magaisa is based at The University of Kent Law School and can be
contacted on a.t.magaisa.ac.uk
Saturday, 19 July 2008 16:26
THE government last week rolled out its Basic Commodities
Accessibility Programme - a populist scheme that sacrifices scarce hard
currency supporting foreign jobs, companies and products at the expense of
local firms and their workers.
The basic commodities will be available through so-called People's
Shops - a euphemism for shops that will only be accessed by people with Zanu
PF membership cards. The government is intent on the politicisation of basic
commodities and creating jobs for Zanu PF members. Its record is clear on
It is a myth that people's shops will make basic food available at
cheap prices. They will become a conduit for channelling goods to the
parallel market. Government fuel obtainable from Noczim ends up on the
parallel market. This latest scheme will be no different.
Perhaps the government never learns because those who are supposed to
ensure that the ordinary people benefit are the drivers of the lootocracy,
driving this country over the precipice.
It is perplexing that we can have a whole government sitting down to
agree to purchase soap, salt, cooking oil, maize-meal and other basics when
local companies are crying out for foreign currency to enable them to
produce the same goods being imported. In effect, the government sees
nothing wrong in subverting local manufacturers and throwing thousands of
workers out of jobs! What kind of empowerment is that?
The reason why local companies are hampered in continuous
production/manufacturing is because of intermittent power cuts, coupled with
erratic water supplies. Why is it so difficult to address these impediments
so that industry can begin to meet local demand with local products?
During the March harmonised elections, Zanu PF campaigned on a ticket
of ensuring availability of maize meal, nation-wide. Shops are still without
maize meal - and this for a nation that used to be the breadbasket of the
region! There is no will to tackle the crisis many Zimbabweans are facing
beyond photo opportunities such as the one provided by Wednesday's launch of
the Basic Commodities Accessibility Programme.
If there are foreign investors, as claimed at Wednesday's launch, let
these be directed towards enhancing the capacity of local companies to
produce and meet local demand and if there is a surplus, channel this to
There is a problem when the government, whose role should solely be to
enable and facilitate business, transforms itself into a player. Its
penchant for involving itself in matters outside its normal role has
produced disastrous results. Noczim, the Cold Storage Company and Woolworth's
are examples that immediately come to mind. Clearly there is conflict when
these so-called people's shops supplant existing retail outlets, rendering
investment and jobs redundant.
The government is quick to accuse the business sector of working
against it, but this is typical of government's approach whenever it is
confronted with something it does not comprehend. The best way of dealing
with shortages is to ensure that those who produce are well supported and
resourced. There will be no incentive for the parallel market if the formal
market is awash with basic goods.
The Basic Commodities Accessibility Programme is nothing but a
feel-good pseudo-panacea project that in reality does nothing to solve the
current problems. In fact it will further distort the economy by stoking
inflation and disempowering local manufacturers. South African businesses
are delighted with the windfall.
It is an indictment of the people supposedly in leadership positions.
Is that what they won the election to achieve?
Saturday, 19 July 2008 16:20
THE last time I was in Lusaka - a few months ago during a Sadc
summit - what hit me with the force of a pile-driver was the optimism of the
people, just ordinary people going about their normal business.
This was during the last term of the presidency of Levy Mwanawasa, a
man once pilloried as "a cabbage", after a horrific accident during which
some people thought he had lost his marbles.
My last visit had been in the early 1990s, a few years after the
ouster of President Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president, ruler of Zambia
since independence in 1964 until 1991.
Frederick Chiluba was president then and there was despair in the air,
specifically at the airport, where I stopped to catch another flight to
Europe. A girl waiting at the airport turned out to be an old friend. She
said she was waiting for anyone going overseas who could take her with him.
What for? I asked. She said something to the effect that anywhere else would
be better than her own country.
A few years later, she was dead.
Mwanawasa's presidency has been spectacular, politically and
economically. What has endeared him to many Zimbabweans must be his stance
on the imbroglio we have faced since 2000. His denunciation of President
Robert Mugabe's impunity vis-a-vis democracy in our country has been
succinct and robust.
So, when a few weeks ago, during the African Union summit in Egypt, it
was announced he had died in Paris after being rushed to a hospital there,
an understandable air of despair must have enveloped both Zambia and
Fortunately, after an awkward period of silence, the government in
Lusaka announced he had survived. In his absence, the declaration from the
AU on Zimbabwe was nothing dramatic, except for Raila Odinga's public
assertion that Mugabe should be temporarily barred from the AU until he
holds free and fair elections.
Mwanawasa had previously and publicly declared that Zimbabwe, under
President Robert Mugabe's stewardship was a "sinking Titanic". None of the
other leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) had come
anywhere near to condemning the situation in our country in such graphic
South Africa's Thabo Mbeki had made the astonishing statement that
there was "no crisis" at all. Would he and the other Sadc leaders take up
Mwanawasa's forthright language to raise the stakes in the group's campaign
to get Mugabe to do the "right thing"?
Unlike Mbeki, Mwanawasa has no "liberation war credentials". But he
has earned the respect of his colleagues in Sadc through the steady and
efficient administration of his country. Zambia's economy has developed fast
since he came to power. Certainly, there are some who believe he is "the
best thing" that has happened to their country since 1964. He is serving his
second and last term and it must be the hope of many Zambians and even
Zimbabweans that whoever replaces him is not another KK or Chiluba.
If the three countries which formed the ill-fated federation of
Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Zimbabwe has fared the worst. Ironically, at the
height of that British-inspired union, Southern Rhodesia was the most
prosperous, but also the most politically explosive. Its government's racist
policies had all the elements of a burgeoning apartheid-style regime.
Today, Zimbabwe's economy is the worst of the three former states of
the federation. Even its political upheavals are more spectacular than
anything that has occurred in the other two countries.
Its leader, moreover, became the head of government when the founding
presidents of the other two were in power: Kaunda in Zambia is still alive
but long out of power, but Kamuzu Banda in Malawi has long passed on, after
he had lost power in an election.
All these statistics must rankle with Mugabe in his most private
moments of reflection. Why would he believe his tenure must continue
indefinitely when the country is in such a mess and the likelihood of it
getting out of it seems decidedly remote, as long as he is in the saddle?
What appears to have been accepted by many is that Zimbabwe's road to
perdition has been preordained and that Zanu PF will play a key role in the
manner in which the country will resolve its crisis.
That Sadc, the AU, the United Nations and even the European Union have
all failed to bring the men and women at the top in Harare to book can no
longer be disputed. Only the people themselves can wield the final weapon to
undo the destruction wreaked on the country in eight years of political and
Mwanawasa may be remembered for having tried to infuse a sense of
urgency in trying to deal with Mugabe, but we must all be sorry that
although his spirit was robust and willing, the flesh was probably not equal
to the task.