The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Zimbabwe Seeks US$1 Billion From African Development Bank for Agriculture

By Blessing Zulu
01 July 2009

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, which has become a major recipient of
food aid over the past decade, was to deliver remarks on agriculture to his
fellow heads of state at the African Union summit that opened Wednesday in
the coastal city of Sirte, Libya.

The AU summit theme is "Investment in Agriculture for Economic Growth and
Food Security."

Some observers found it ironic that President Mugabe would talk about food
security as he is widely blamed for destroying Zimbabwe's once prosperous
agriculture economy by eliminating most white commercial farmers with a land
reform program beginning in 2000.

The summit will also be taking up security issues including the civil war in
Somalia, the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, and also the situation in
Zimbabwe, informed sources said.

Elsewhere, Mr. Mugabe dispatched Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma to
seek aid for agriculture and other sectors from the African Development

Mangoma told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he
met Tuesday with AfDB President Donald Kaberuka at the institution's
headquarters in Tunis to discuss a US$1 billion credit facility to help
farming among other purposes.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Kimberley Process Team Probes Alleged Abuses In Zimbabwe Diamond Field

By Jonga Kandemiiri
01 July 2009

A Kimberley Process review team in Zimbabwe to probe alleged mass killings
by the military in an eastern diamond field was in the zone Wednesday
seeking testimony from local residents who might have witnessed the abuses
charged by Human Rights Watch last week.

But Manicaland province spokesman Pishai Muchauraya of the Movement for
Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told
reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Kimberly
Process team was unable to make an independent assessment as it was closely
monitored by government officials.

VOA was unable to reach the Kimberly Process team directly for comment.

Human Rights Watch issued a report last week saying more than 200 people
were killed by members of the Zimbabwean armed forces after it took over the
diamond rich Chiadzwa area of Marange district, Manicaland province, and
compelled others to mine for diamonds.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation meanwhile distanced itself from remarks made by
Deputy Mines Minister Murisi Zwizwai, a member of the party, who said last
week at a mining conference in Namibia that one had been killed by security
forces in the Marange diamond fields.

Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the party considered that the minister's
remarks were premature and inaccurate pending the completion of

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Knives drawn for Makoni after launch

July 1, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Knives are out for Simba Makoni following the launch of his
Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn (MKD) party in Harare on Wednesday. Makoni's colleagues
in the original MKD movement formed in February 2008 immediately accused the
former Finance Minister and Zanu-PF politburo member of trying to runaway
with the party.

The original MKD movement was led by Makoni, Kudzai Mbudzi, Ibbo Mandaza,
Kindness Paradza and Godfrey Chanetsa. Makoni lost the favour of his
colleagues earlier this year after they accused him of swindling the
organisation of money and cars meant for the operations of the party.

Responding to Makoni's move to launch the party yesterday members of the MKD
told The Zimbabwe Times through their lawyer Selby Hwacha that the launch as
null and void.

"My client the MKD is surprised that Dr Makoni has purportedly launched the
MKD which already exists and contested the March 2008 election,'' said

"Dr Makoni is on suspension for failure to account to the members of the MKD
for the considerable resources which the movement received for the 2008
elections. This purported launch is void ab initio (It's a still birth)."

A member of the original Mavambo also told this paper that Makoni is
attempting to jump the gun by prematurely launching MKD as a party.

"We were supposed to have a meeting on July 4 to map the roadmap for the
party and what Makoni has done is to simply try and bypass this process and
pre-empt this process, "said an MKD member who asked for anonymity.

"We had problems with issues of accountability within the movement and
decided to call back Makoni to be an ordinary member of the party and formed
a committee to run the affairs of the movement. What he has done is to
simply create problems for himself because this case is before the courts."

Others members of the original Mavambo movement have since opted out of the

Kindness Paradza, the former Zanu-PF, legislator for Makonde is said to have
opted out of the movement because of the infighting that has gripped the

Some sources in the MKD movement said Makoni' wife Chipo is also a point of
disagreement. It is believed that she has taken a very active role within
the movement including the handling of finances.

The MKD movement was originally formed as an alternative idea of forming a
breakaway Zanu-PF party to challenge Mugabe's 30-year-old hold on power.

The party was initially said to be linked to senior Zanu-PF officials who
never came out in the public save for Dumiso Dabengwa who appeared publicly
with Makoni during his campaign for presidency. Dabengwa has however since
opted out of the movement to form his own ZAPU party.

Despite the protestations, Makoni has established a permanent office for his
party at number 72 George Silundika Avenue in Harare. He also seems to have
gained considerable support from western donors, some of whom attended his
launch in Mbare.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Shamu, Charamba in u-turn over MIC

1 July 2009

By MISA Zimbabwe

HARARE - The Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster Shamu, and
his permanent secretary George Charamba are reportedly challenging a High
Court interim judgment which declared the state-controlled Media and
Information Commission (MIC) defunct and allowed four freelance journalists
to cover the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa summit held in
May 2009 without MIC accreditation cards. (Pictured: George Charamba)

Ironically this comes hardly a day after the same Ministry issued a
statement saying it would unconditionally and unreservedly abide by Justice
Bharat Patel's ruling on 5 May 2009 in favour of freelancers Stanley Gama,
Valentine Maponga, Stanly Kwenda and Jealousy Mawarire.

"In compliance with the said court order, we unreservedly and
unconditionally retract and withdraw the contents of the said statement,"
reads part of the statement issued by the responsible Minister Webster Shamu
and his permanent secretary George Charamba. "We also wish to apologise for
the delay in issuing this statement, which was in itself caused by a delay
in receiving appropriate legal advice," said the statement.

However, in a dramatic volte-face, the minister and his permanent secretary
filed papers with the High Court arguing that the January 2008 amendments to
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) did not
alter the MIC's powers but merely changed the name of the regulatory body to
the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).

Selby Hwacha who represented the journalists, this week told MISA-Zimbabwe
that he was not aware of this development as his office had not been served
with the papers in question. Hwacha stressed that nothing had changed
regarding the legal status of the MIC saying that the legal instruments were
clear and that they should always guide one's interpretation on the position
of the law.

He also expressed reservations as to whether the appeal would have any real
substance saying that in his view the appeal was merely "an attempt to save
face" by the ministry.

In the present challenge the minister now argues that the ZMC, which is a
creature of Constitutional Amendment 19, was different from the statutorily
constituted MIC and that the Act which will determine the extent to which
the present Commission's (ZMC) functions and powers is still to be enacted.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

'AU must ensure Harare sticks to power-sharing pact'

by Nokuthula Sibanda Thursday 02 July 2009

HARARE - African leaders must ensure Zimbabwe's political leaders stick to a
power-sharing agreement that led to formation of a unity government last
February in order to ensure stability in the country, an international
non-governmental organisation said Wednesday.

The director of Oxfam in Zimbabwe Peter Mutoredzanwa said while the unity
government has made progress on the ground such as constitutional reforms
that are under way and formulation of an economic recovery plan and
initiation of a national healing and reconciliation process.

But there were still challenges threatening socio-economic and political
stability of the country, said Mutoredzanwa in an appeal to African Union
(AU) leaders who are holding a summit in Libya.

He said: "We appeal to the AU (African Union) together with SADC (South
African Development Community) as guarantors of the GPA (global political
agreement or power-sharing agreement) to ensure that the principals to the
agreement remain committed to its the implementation for peace and security
in the country and the region."

The Oxfam official urged donors, who have refused to pump aid directly or
through the Harare unity government, to find ways to keep aid flowing to
Zimbabwe where millions face hunger and economic hardship.

"While we acknowledge donor reluctance to directly fund the inclusive
government, we urge them to find creative ways of giving it support and
build its capacity," said Mutoredzanwa.

He said although the latest government crop assessment report indicates an
improved cereal harvest this year of 1 512 119 tonnes as compared to 564 000
tonnes the previous year, Zimbabwe will still not be able to meet its food
needs as the country requires 2 200 000 tonnes of cereals per year.

"We call upon African leaders to lobby donors to continue providing food
assistance programmes together with timely and extensive agricultural inputs
support to smallholder farmers to ensure food security in the coming year,"
he said.

Mutoredzanwa said the decision by the Harare government to allow the use of
foreign currency had led to significant improvement of commodity
availability on the market, however with an unemployment rate of 94 percent,
the majority of poor people have limited access to foreign currency.

He said that support from the international community must be balanced
against definitive steps by the "inclusive government to improve respect of
civil rights and dignity, return to the rule of law, and increase the
operating space for civil society and the media." - ZimOnline

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Villagers die - no money for healthcare

30 June 2009

By Paul Ndlovu

GWERU - Villagers in the rural areas of Silobela are dying due to lack of
medical attention, according to their chief, Chief Malisa of Silobela said
the death rate in the rural areas was increasing because villagers could not
raise the little money required for hospital fees. (People continue to die
as economic improvement fails to reach rural areas)

"Before the recent harvest we assumed people were dying of hunger. But in
the last few months they have had food in abundance - and they are still
dying. I have realized that they cannot raise money to seek medical
attention. "While there may have been an improvement in the economy lately,
the situation is pathetic in the rural areas," said the traditional leader.
He said the situation was worsened by the pricing regime in rural areas.
"There is no money in rural areas - yet this is where commodities are very
expensive. Shops are charging as much as double the prices in towns. As a
result the people living here have been reduced to destitution. They come to
my homestead in their numbers to ask for money to go to hospital. At the
hospitals everyone is made to pay whether they are TB patients or HIV/AIDS
patients," added the chief.

He appealed to the government to devise ways of reducing medical fees in the
rural areas and for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to monitor the
happenings at rural health centres. He noted with concern that children
under the age of five and people over 60 were not given the free treatment
as government policy dictated they should.
Last week Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera said measures
were being put in place to make sure that patients who are not supposed to
pay were not made to pay in government hospitals.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Biti set to present mid-term policy statement this month

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Business Reporter

FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti will present his mid-term policy
statement on July 16.

Speaking on the sidelines of a function to receive 4 000 tonnes of
soya beans from the Chinese government on Tuesday, the minister said that he
would be making serious policy pronouncements aimed at boosting the country's

"This will be a report card basically evaluating how we have done so
far," he said.

When pressed to at least hint on what the nation could expect in the
policy statement the minister said that one of the areas that he would be
reviewing related to taxes.

The country's economy has been on a recovery path since the inception
of the inclusive Government and the liberalisation of the economy including
the adoption of a multiple currency system.

However, the growth has been slow due to a number of outstanding
issues that Government has been trying to source funds for.

Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube who attended
Tuesday's function said a study that they had conducted as a ministry
revealed that capacity utilisation was almost at 30 percent up from around
10 percent.

While the Government has done a lot to liberalise the economy more
still needs to be done.

One of the areas that business has singled as needing review includes
the issuance of export permits where there are allegation of serious red
tape, which is working against export growth.

It was business' view that Government should relax the bureaucracy
surrounding the time it took to process the permits.

Another issue revolves around the need to revise the timeframe for
value-added tax remittances from mid-month to end of month.

This would allow businesses to offer each other lines of credit, which
in turn would help boost businesses.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Teachers want maize, sweet potatoes as fees

Thursday, July 02, 2009

From George Maponga in Masvingo

Some Masvingo teachers are allegedly demanding buckets of maize and
sweet potatoes from students who fail to raise school fees, a practice
condemned by parents as a "raw deal" for them.

If true, this will set schools on a collision course with the
Government, which has barred any educational institutions from demanding the
payment of fees in kind.

Government has also outlawed teachers from demanding any incentives
from students.

In interviews with The Herald after a visit to Mapanzure communal
lands at the weekend, parents with children at Muchenurwa and Shumbayaonda
primary schools said teachers were demanding maize and sweet potatoes from

One parent, Mr John Hakurabwi from Mapanzure irrigation scheme, said:
"They are ripping us off, these teachers. They now demand maize and sweet
potatoes from parents, if we fail to pay fees and incentives, which they
also expect us to pay for them to come to work, yet they are being paid by
the Government."

A Grade Six pupil at Muchenurwa said they were asked by their school
authorities to pay with buckets of maize and sweet potatoes if they failed
to raise cash.

Masvingo provincial education director Ms Clara Dube yesterday
professed ignorance over the matter but said they would investigate the
reports. Ms Dube said it was illegal for teachers to demand incentives or
fees from students in kind.

"But I must point out that the Government does not allow the payment
in kind of incentives or fees from students. We even encourage boarding
schools not to get things in kind from pupils, to avoid cases of food
poisoning," said Ms Dube.

She said depending on the agreement sealed between the school
development committees and parents, teachers could receive incentives from -
at most - ten percent of the money paid as levies.

Students should not pay incentives directly to teachers.

Government recently waived the payment of second-term fees at
government schools, directing that pupils only pay US$5 and US$10 for
primary and secondary students respectively as admission fees.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zim targets farmer's wife

Thu, 02 Jul 2009 07:36
A farmer's wife is facing prosecution in Zimbabwe for staying on her own

Charles Locker was cleared of the same charges so the attention has shifted
to his wife.

It is not often that white farmer's wives make the news in Zimbabwe but
reports said the Attorney General's office wants to charge Ellen Lock for
staying on her husband's farm.

Her husband said he had court orders allowing him to stay on Karori Farm, in
eastern Zimbabwe.

He also has letters backing him up from the country's two vice presidents
but an army brigadier insists the farm is his and he too appears to have
support in high places.

Farming officials said the accusations were unbelievable.

They said even in a murder case you could not just charge the wife of a
suspect with the crime if you could not make the charges stick against her

Eyewitness News

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Sports revival for a better image - Coltart

1 July 2009


It is important to re-brand Zimbabwe through sport, David Coltart said last
week when honouring long distance runner, Stephen Muzhingi. Muzhingi won the
comrades Marathon in South Africa, last month. (Pictured: Stephen Muzhingi
during the comrades Marathon in South Africa)

"We are delighted with what you have achieved for the country and we are
certainly proud of the achievement," said Coltart. "I'm going to be watching
next year's race and hope you will break the record."

The minister hopes to see Zimbabwean sports being revived through education
to help rebuild the country's buttered image on the international arena.

"It is important that we as the Government identify sporting icons as they
can achieve a lot in building Zimbabwe's image," he said. "It also important
to identify and nurture talent at an early stage -- that's why education is
linked to sport. However, as the education system was deteriorating, it also
affected sports and we will try and improve sport in schools."

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Consumers blast banks

30 June 2009

By Steven Nyathi

BULAWAYO - Bank service charges do not reflect the value of the currency in
use and service delivery by banks. According to a recent survey, banks were
charging between US$3 and US$8 for a basic savings account.

"As a civil servant I was asked to pay US$5 of service charges before I
could get my salary," said Babongile Moyo, a teacher. He accused banks of
ripping off their clients as they knew most employers insisted that salaries
be deposited into accounts.

Moyo said apart from service charges, they were affected by differing
conversion rates. Another consumer, Miriam Ndlovu, said that in South Africa
bank charges were minimal and at times were lower than the interest received
for keeping the required minimum balance.

"In South Africa, I had a savings account with Post Bank and the minimum
balance was R35. I remember that the maximum that was deducted from my
account was R5," said Ndlovu.

Some consumers said the bank charges were too high and discouraged them from
using the formal banking system.

Lovejoy Lunga accused banks of being ignorant. "This is a time of
confidence-building, especially from a sector that has been bedevilled by
problems since 2004.We are sceptical that the banks will report a profit and
yet they insist on ripping us off.
This will definitely scare potential customers away," said Lunga.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

7 teachers killed in political violence: Report

      by Andrew Moyo Thursday 02 July 2009

HARARE - Seven Zimbabwean schoolteachers were killed last year while 60
others were harassed and tortured by state security forces, according to a
new report released Wednesday.

The reported authored by the Student Solidarity Trust (SST) said 85 student
activists were also last year abducted, arrested or assaulted by state
security agents.

The SST report, which chronicles gross violation of students and teachers'
rights during political violence last year, indicates that information on
the teachers' deaths was sourced from the Progressive Teachers' Union

"The PTUZ recorded the death of seven of its members and the harassment,
intimidation and even torture of more than 60 others during the time," the
SST said in the report entitled "State of the education sector in Zimbabwe

Education Minister David Coltart was not immediately available for comment
on the SST report while it was not possible to get immediate confirmation
from the PTUZ on the information attributed to the union.

But the PTUZ, one of two unions that represent teachers in the country, has
in the past said several of its members were either brutally assaulted,
tortured or killed in political violence, with hundreds of others forced to
flee forced schools in rural areas where violence was worst.

Detailing some of the cases of victimisation of students the SST said that
on April 17, 2008 students from the National Universality of Science and
Technology and Great Zimbabwe University were arrested for protesting over
the delayed release of presidential results."

"Political persecution of teachers and headmasters during the harmonised
election period led to the closure of most learning institutions. Between
March and June elections 2008, teachers were targeted in a wave of
state-sponsored torture and ill treatment directed at perceived supporters
of the (then opposition) MDC or because of their affiliation to the PTUZ.

"Teachers in rural areas were affected more with some being abducted,
killed, beaten up or having their homes and property destroyed. This led to
a great number of teachers fleeing their teaching posts for fear of
persecution," added the 44-page report.

The SST said students' right were also violated with "partisan" police
routinely and arbitrarily arresting and detaining students activists, adding
that in many cases activists were held in police custody without trial for
more than the 48 hours permitted by law.

Zimbabwe witnessed some of its worst ever political violence during the run
up to the June vote that was being held after President Robert Mugabe was
defeated by then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in an earlier vote the
previous March. But the opposition leader failed to achieve the margin
required to take power and avoid a second round run-off vote.

Tsvangirai pulled out of the June ballot citing state-sponsored attacks
against his supporters and in the process, leaving Mugabe to win as sole

But the election was universally condemned, with African countries that had
refrained from criticising Mugabe in the past also denouncing the
violence-marred election - a situation that forced Zimbabwean leader to open
negotiations to share power with Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads
a smaller opposition party. - ZimOnline

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

No, no, no to Kariba Draft

1 July 2009

By The Editor

President Robert Mugabe is insisting that a document negotiated in secret on
a houseboat on Lake Kariba two years ago be used as a basis for our future
constitution. The people of Zimbabwe must reject this now or, if it is
foisted on us, reject it at the next referendum.
It is our considered view that the Kariba Draft is worse than the proposed
constitution that was rejected in the referendum in 2000 - worse because it
gives the president unbridled powers.

Among the sweeping Presidential powers contained in the Kariba Draft, which
are highlighted on page 2 of this issue so that there can be no confusion,
is a clause permitting Mugabe to serve another two five-year terms. Heaven

In addition, there are no limits to the number of government ministers
appointed by the president, no limit to presidential patronage and no
devolution of power to the provinces.

The draft makes no provision for the post of Prime Minister. How the MDC
could have ever signed up to this in the first place is beyond our
comprehension. We can only presume that the delegates to the Kariba talks
were heavily strong-armed by former mediator Thabo Mbeki.

The Kariba Draft also gives the president powers to declare war without
consulting anyone. He would have the right to appoint judges and fire them
at will.

We say no, no, no to the Kariba Draft - and indeed to any draft that does
not severely curtail the powers invested in one man.

The case of Shuah Mudiwa is just one example of what follows when there are
no checks and balances. This MDC legislator has been imprisoned for seven
years for a crime he did not commit to cover up the Mugabe regime's atrocity
at Chiadzwa diamond mine. By the way, his imprisonment also removes the MDC's
parliamentary majority.

The zealousness on the part of the police in pursuing this and other
frivolous cases against MDC MPs, while thousands of Zanu (PF) murderers and
rapists walk free, is another case in point. We could fill this newspaper
and more with other examples.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

The systematic pillaging of the Zimbabwe economy

30 June 2009


'The RBZ skimmed off some US$500 million a year for several years - feeding
the proceeds into luxury cars, agricultural equipment and inputs that were
then handed out like candy to a privileged elite'

When Zimbabwe became independent under a Zanu-led government in 1980, there
were few indications of real corruption in government.

A small but strong civil service ran the affairs of state with exemplary
commitment.  Previous leaders had not generally retired with evidence of
having benefited from their positions. Up to 1990, this situation changed
gradually but was hardly noticeable. After 1990 the situation deteriorated
rapidly and since 2000 corruption has become endemic in all spheres of life.
Every Zimbabwean experiences corruption, every day. Police at road blocks,
officials in state offices, customs people at border posts - the list is

But these forms of corruption are petty in nature. Much more serious are the
various schemes and scams that now characterise most elements of everyday

The list of such activities is long and controversial.  The national oil
importing agency, charged with oil procurement and distribution - moving
anything up to five million litres of fuel a day - has been a major source
of corruption. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been siphoned
off their accounts over the past 20 years.

Virtually every parastatal has suffered the same fate. NSSA, the railways,
Air Zimbabwe, the National Road Fund, the Manpower Development Fund, the
Reserve Bank have all been looted and exploited in order to feed resources
to the elite. These fatcats are drawn mainly from the ruling party, but
include senior armed forces personnel and civil servants.

'No country, no matter how hard working and resourceful, can survive when
the state steals a third of all they produce on top of 30 per cent taxation'

In recent years the Reserve Bank has become, as it has in many other African
States, the major source of patronage and theft. In this case, the Bank
simply printed money whenever it was required and at the same time skimmed
off from export earnings anything up to 40 per cent in hard currency.

Exporters treated this as a form of taxation as they were then paid out in
local currency which was virtually worthless. Or, in recent times, in fuel
coupons at half their value. In this way the RBZ skimmed off some US$500
million a year for several years - feeding the proceeds into luxury cars,
agricultural equipment and inputs that were then handed out like candy to a
privileged elite.

Large quantities of gold and other reserves have simply disappeared. Rumours
abound of flights to Malaysia taking tonnes of gold and diamonds. Gideon
Gono, governor of the bank, is strenuously resisting any suggestion of an
audit. When this subject was raised in Cabinet it caused a uproar amongst
Zanu (PF) ministers.

How much has been stolen from the nation in this way? Estimates vary, but it
is not less than US$1,5 billion in 2008 and this represented a third of the
national official GDP. It is no wonder that Zimbabweans have become poorer
in the past decade. No country, no matter how hard working and resourceful,
can survive when the state steals a third of all they produce on top of 30
per cent taxation.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

A slow-burning crisis -Donald Steinberg

Thursday, July 02, 2009

 As Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and
other crises are filling the in-boxes of Western policy-makers, Zimbabwe
falls to the back of line, not just alphabetically

After a few moments of international attention when Morgan Tsvangirai and
his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formed a unity government with
their long-time oppressors, Zimbabwe has now been eclipsed by more dramatic
headlines from elsewhere. The challenges of rebuilding the country's ruined
political and economic systems are daunting, and the global recession has
seriously hurt trade and investment opportunities, as well as remittances
from diaspora workers that provide eight percent of the country's GDP.
Meanwhile, foreign donors are understandably repulsed by the prospect of
having to support a government still associated with Robert Mugabe and his
ZANU-PF hardliners. Yet strong arguments exist for the world to swallow hard
and come to the country's aid.

After years of self-inflicted economic degradation, abusive government,
massive displacement and the collapse of its social infrastructure, Zimbabwe
is showing tentative signs of recovery. Hope has surfaced as prices
stabilise; the government begins to function after a fashion; civil servants
receive small stipends; cross-party cooperation emerges in parliament;
schools and hospitals re-open; and humanitarian assistance picks up. Even in
the face of non-cooperation - some would say, "subversion" - by government
hold-overs like the reserve bank governor, the attorney general, and the
security establishment, Zimbabwe seems poised to defy the sceptics.

But Zimbabwe's timing is awful. It is seeking massive foreign assistance -
the government's recovery plan calls for about $8.5 billion over the next
two-to-three years - and private investment just when donors and
international development agencies alike are cutting aid budgets and foreign
investors are seeking safe havens in the stormy global economy. Tellingly,
no one has called for a "Marshall Plan for Zimbabwe".

Further, most factors that often generate Western political will for
engagement are absent. Neither the MDC nor ZANU-PF consorts with global
terrorists, and a collapse of the unity government will not lead to jihadi
training camps in rural areas. Zimbabwe is neither a supplier nor a major
trafficker in illegal drugs, arms or persons. Zimbabwean refugees are not
flooding into Western Europe or the United States. While rich in natural
resources, Zimbabwe seems to have the wrong commodities at the wrong time:
it has no oil, and most of its minerals face free-falling global demand.
There are no exotic diseases that threaten pandemic: just run-of-the-mill
cholera, malaria and HIV/AIDS. The country straddles no sea lanes and has no

So as Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan,
and other crises are filling the in-boxes of Western policy-makers, Zimbabwe
falls to the back of line, not just alphabetically. Even international
crises themselves are slipping down the agenda in a world increasingly
focused on domestic implications of global recession.

In this context, there is no easy motivation to compel international
engagement. While the scale of suffering in Zimbabwe matches or even dwarves
that of other humanitarian crises - with six million people with limited or
no access to safe water and sanitation, 1.5 million children in need of
assistance to attend school, and millions in need of direct food aid - this
rationale only takes us so far in a world facing seemingly infinite
humanitarian needs.

The argument for engagement has to be built on circumstantial evidence, but
it is a strong case nonetheless.

Start with Zimbabwe's regional importance. If Zimbabwe is a smallish country
of 12 million people, the southern African region - with a market of 200
million, growing oil production, armed forces providing peacekeepers
throughout Africa, and a location along key shipping lanes - is by contrast
of great strategic, commercial and political importance. A prosperous
Zimbabwe could be an engine of growth for the region, providing key links to
regional communications, transport and electricity grids. Zimbabwe has long
been considered a potential breadbasket for the region, based on what used
to be efficient agriculture, albeit in need of serious land reform. Combine
this with abundant mineral resources, hydro-electrical power to complement
coal-fired power further south, and an educated and productive labour force,
and the case for integration becomes even stronger.

By contrast, instability in Zimbabwe is profoundly destabilising to its
neighbours. An estimated four million Zimbabweans fleeing economic hardship
and political abuses have flooded across borders, overwhelming the social
services and the good will of South Africa, Botswana, and other neighbours.
The fierce xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa's townships are
just one sign of growing restiveness. Botswana, Africa's shining star of
stability and human rights, has built an electrified fence and resorted to
detention and expulsions to keep desperate Zimbabweans out.

A second argument for Western engagement is based on the world's need for
success stories in national reconciliation based on dialogue and rule of
law. This is exactly what Zimbabwe is offering. The General Political Accord
guiding the unity government is a textbook example of how to rebuild a
post-conflict political and economic system: rebalance power between
judicial, legislative and executive powers; adopt an inclusive constitution
prepared through broad public consultations; defang and reform a menacing
security force; eliminate oppressive security legislation; insist on
accountability for past abuses; and reinforce civil society enfeebled by
Mugabe's divide-and-rule tactics. Success in Zimbabwe could provide lessons
and ripple effects, just as South Africa's own transition did 15 years ago.

Third, we cannot assume, just because the global effects of Zimbabwe's
implosion have been modest, that "it cannot happen here." A world focused on
only the visible threats of the last crisis is no longer creatively
addressing the unpredictable effects of the next crisis. Transnational
threats incubate in unexpected ways in the hothouse of instability and weak

What if the H1N1 virus had emerged in Harare and swept through a country
where the health infrastructure had been ravaged? Similarly, who would have
anticipated that failing states in West Africa would be the new transit
point for South American drugs going to Western Europe or that dirt-poor
North Korea would develop the technology to launch missiles over Japan and
verbally threaten the world with nuclear attack?

Finally, the most nuanced argument for engagement may be the most powerful.
For Western countries and particularly the United States, the capacity to
exercise so-called "soft power" depends in large part on a global perception
that this power is intended for the global good. For most of the past
decade, this has been absent. It has been a long time since Jean-Marie
Colombani summed up the global mood on September 13, 2001, with the Le Monde
headline, "Nous Sommes Tous Américains."

The world's reaction to the election of Barack Obama suggests that America
is being given a second chance.

Immediately following 9/11, I said in a speech: "We ignore suffering and
instability abroad at our peril. We must dedicate ourselves and our
resources to fight poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger, and repression -
conditions that give rise to desperation that translates itself into
terrorist acts. We must not squander the reservoir of resolve abroad ready
to work with us in pursuit of a more secure, more democratic, and more
prosperous world."

Squander is exactly what America did with international goodwill since 2001.
By contrast, in part because there are so few compelling national interests
in rebuilding Zimbabwe, the impact of a substantial commitment to meet that
challenge would be all the more empowering. - YaleGlobal

Donald Steinberg, Deputy President for Policy at International Crisis Group,
served as President Clinton's Special Assistant for Africa and as Director
of the State Department's Joint Policy Council under Secretary Powell

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Book review: The English Teacher

July 2, 2009

The English Teacher

Author: John Eppel

Publisher: Weaver Press

Reviewer: Janine Magree

Something that struck me about a visit to Zimbabwe some years ago was not
just the largely unspoilt natural beauty of the place, but also the
unconcealed fact that it was a desperately needy Zanu-PF police state with
road blocks galore and photographs of Robert Mugabe calling attention to his
omnipotence from the walls of virtually any public building you cared to

With the ANC Youth League calling for our own president's photograph to
grace the walls of our schools, one might say this is a brilliantly timed
piece of satire that pokes fun at the ruling elite and their mistresses.

The perspective is that of a world-weary English teacher who has undergone
one too many rounds with Moyo, McKaufmann, City Lights and the other pupils
in his Form 3 Remove class.

When George J George loses his teaching position at a private school owing
to drunkenness and an act of sedition he did not commit, he undergoes a
complete transformation to play the role of "houseboy", resplendent in
khakis and tasselled red fez, to the cellphone-toting, tea-swilling
Mercedes-driving Beauticious and her family. George examines texts from
Macbeth to A Grain of Wheat, Waiting for Godot and Lord of the Flies to draw
comparisons between the text and the Zimbabwean social scene which he
parodies so cleverly.

Accurately setting the Zimbabwean scene are the beautiful surroundings of
Bulawayo's Matopos Hills, the empty shops, chronic shortage of skills and
spares, power outages, and meals of sadza.

Eppel poignantly captures the Zimbabwe I remember and delivers a skilfully
crafted African novel which leaves one with a lot to think about.

Back to the Top
Back to Index