|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Saturday Star (SA), 6 July
3 nations flash cash as famine bites Africa
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says three countries have responded to its call for about R5-billion in aid to alleviate food shortages in six southern African countries. However, more contributions are needed to avert a catastrophe, according to the organisation. The donations by the United Kingdom (R281-million), Canada (R10-million) and the Netherlands (R5-million) were a direct response to a WFP appeal last week for urgent help in raising about R5-billion to reduce hunger among 13 million people facing starvation in southern Africa. "These are the first countries to formalise their donations to WFP's appeal for close to one million tons of food aid," the UN agency said on Friday night. "WFP's regional emergency operation is designed to help feed 10,2 million people until the next main harvest in March 2003. Major contributions from other donor countries are being finalised."
Britain's contribution to the WFP's regional appeal in Johannesburg was signed on Friday by Sam Sharpe, head of the UK's department for international development in southern Africa and Judith Lewis, WFP regional director for East and southern Africa. Lewis said the three donations were timely and crucial. "Seven million people in the region are very hungry and that number will only grow over the coming months." She said WFP would conduct rolling assessments to monitor the degree of deterioration in regional food security. The supply of affordable maize, volume of commercial food imports, effectiveness of government agricultural policies and the possibility of another El Nino phenomenon, among other factors, would all impact on the number of hungry people. She said the British, Canadian and Dutch contributions would be used to buy about 50 000 tons of food immediately. Cash donations were particularly valuable because they enabled the WFP to buy food in the region and begin distributing it within a month.
According to Lewis at least 12,8 million people would need food aid in the region over the next nine months. The WFP was appealing for 67 percent of the region's cereal food aid. She said the amount was the maximum WFP felt it could realistically mobilise and distribute. WFP would target the most vulnerable households, such as those affected by HIV/Aids and those headed by women, children and the elderly. The humanitarian crisis affecting Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland had been caused by a "perfect storm" of natural and man-made disasters and failed government policies. WFP is the UN's frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2001 it fed more than 77 million people in 82 countries.
Aloes and Bougainvillea
Those of you who know this part of the world will appreciate that at this time of the year the middle of our winter and just after frost, the winter veld consists of nearly white grassland with a covering of trees still in leaf, but in varying degrees of autumn colors. Before I traveled abroad for the first time, I was always struck by the opinion of visitors that Zimbabwe was so colorful all year round. I was in the low veld yesterday and I must say that the bush was looking magnificent, all the red and gold on the trees with the golden grassland and red earth.
It always strikes me at this time of the year that we have two plant species that come out in full color just when everything else is yellow, white and gold. Those are the aloes and our bougainvillea. The former is found in the most inhospitable places and how they flower when things are so dry and barren I never know. The bougainvillea is another matter an import that is planted all over our towns and often grows into huge towers of spiky tendrils and leaves. At this time of the year it comes out in full bloom and to be frank, this year I think the stuff has out done itself. The city is ablaze with piles of luminescent reds, purples, whites and pink. Its quite a sight.
In some ways this reflects the situation in Zimbabwe. We are in the middle of winter its dry and cold and everything is dead (or should be). Its a long way to go to an uncertain wet season and sometimes we think it will never come. All is dry and frosted. Nothing will grow. Then suddenly you find that the aloes in your back yard are in full flower. The sunbirds are having a field day and even the bees have started to become active again.
Talking to visitors who come to Zimbabwe for various reasons they often comment to me that this is such a resilient place. How do we keep going they ask? People from the World Bank and the IMF look at the numbers and say to us you guys should be dead in the water, what keeps you running? Well its like the aloes and bougainvillea we have no idea, but it happens and its wonderful to watch.
When the Rhodesian war was at its height and I feared that the stubbornness of our own politicians and the determination of the Nationalist leaders would lead to a scorched earth situation, I went to my Chairman (a wonderful man by the name of Willie Margolis) and said to him "surely there is something we can do to turn this situation around?" His advice dissapointed me at the time he said, "Eddie, go back to your office and do your job to the best of your ability and in that way you will help more than you know". Dissapointed I did just that and years later I realised what valuable advice that was.
When I was General Manager of the Dairy Board in Zimbabwe, I urged my management team to make sure that we rattled the milk bottles outside every home every day, every morning. It was our contribution to saying life goes on, even in days of crisis. One incident I remember from those days was when a group of reservists protecting one of the Save River Bridges came under attack the battle raged all night with the contact only broken off when daylight threatened. Tired and shell shocked, the men in the trenches at the bridge were astounded when a ice cream vendor from the Dairy Board came down the road at about 6.30 a.m. It was a "winter aloe" experience.
Here in Zimbabwe there are thousands who are helping us keep the country going in the middle of the present crisis, despite everything. I am thinking about Dave Lasker and his company, Archer Clothing, who are one of the premier manufacturers of clothing in Africa. Here they are in Bulawayo exporting 90 per cent of their production to the most sophisticated markets in the world, despite all the odds. David and his family could be doing this anywhere, but they chose to do their thing here. Last night, the Bulawayo Philamonic Orchestra put on a concert Mozart. The conductor was a history master from a boys school. The music was just wonderful. Aloe flowers for us in the middle of this long winter, no, rather a blaze of brilliant bougainvillea.
One third of our workers have lost their jobs in the past three years one third! In other countries a 3 per cent fall in employment would be a disaster. Here its met with certain stoicism. Some would say our people are too patient, too accepting. They should be out there beating up their oppressors and those responsible for all this suffering. How do they survive is the question? A son in South Africa working a mini bus route, a daughter in a hospital in the UK. Each of them sending half they earn home to keep the family alive. Risking the crocodile infested Limpopo River to find work when there is none at home. Living in a tiny room with no friends just to be able to save a bit of money and send it home. These are millions of African aloe flowers in the dark of the African winter.
A woman sitting in a street market from five in the morning until late every evening. Buying her vegetables from the farmers at local markets and then selling them to customers hurrying home. A single mother, raising 4 children on her own. Determined to send them all to school and to see them succeed. A market woman selling her goods in South Africa, sleeping rough and then returning to her home in Zimbabwe with a few things for sale. Bribing the customs at the border, learning to defend what is hers against thieves and the police. Using her natural intelligence to work out exchange rates and prices that would baffle a college professor. Breaking the law every day to survive and looking after a sick brother and his children, all of whom will be her responsibility when he dies.
A road worker underpaid and poorly supervised who does his job on the roads to the best of his ability. The unsung Director of National Roads in Zimbabwe who seems to do miracles with his tiny budget and meager resources. Whose staff are never seen idle and who keeps the roads in a condition that would make the rest of Africa proud and he never gets any recognition for his work. Aloe flowers in the African winter veld.
One day we are going to have to say thank you to all those unsung heroes in our country who helped us keep going when the summer rains seemed so far away. I well remember one such unsung hero, a simple market woman who ran a stall at the Mbare Msika (market). She raised 4 girls on her own all went to University and all became successful professionals. Let me tell you she is a real hero especially to her girls who eventually clubbed together and bought her a house and allowed her to retire gracefully when she could no longer work.
We in the MDC are committed to standing along side these unsung heroes and ensuring that they can succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Not through theft of other peoples property or corruption but just by giving them an enabling environment that will allow them to do what they know best. Vendors will not be harassed and their goods stolen by corrupt police. Cross border traders will be recognised as major traders in their own right. Money changers will be respected for their market skills and they will help us find and establish real values for what we do and have. Africa is rich in these entrepreneurial skills, rich in enterprise just where you least expect it. This is the secret of survival in an African winter season.
Just like the aloes in the African veld.
Bulawayo, 6th July 2002
By Basildon Peta and Reuters
Hard on the heels of the chaotic land seizures in rural areas and the banning of some whites from farming, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe now plans to take land in urban areas by force.
Mugabe's government plans to amend the country's controversial land acquisition laws to facilitate the seizure of land in urban areas without immediately compensating affected property owners.
The plans to seize urban land follow on Mugabe's threats to seize private firms he has accused of hoarding commodities. The plan would also complement last year's invasions of private companies by war veterans and their threat to seize white-owned suburban houses.
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