The Sunday Times
June 17, 2007
ZIMBABWE'S ruling party and opposition were meeting for the first time this
weekend in talks engineered by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, on
its escalating political and economic crisis.
Despite the combined pressure of 4,000% inflation, international agencies'
predictions of "total breakdown" and fears of a military rebellion - a group
of officers have been charged with attempting a coup - there seemed to be
little hope of a breakthrough.
The opposition went into the talks in Pretoria claiming that President
Robert Mugabe, 83, was undermining the process before it had even begun. Not
only is the Zanu-PF regime continuing to round up and torture opposition
activists every day, but it also passed a law last week allowing it to
intercept e-mails and has introduced other legislation designed to
gerrymander elections next year.
"The message that Zanu-PF is sending out is loud and clear," said Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "It is
simply not ready for genuine dialogue."
On the eve of the talks, Mugabe's secret police seized the passport of
Arthur Mutambara, another opposition leader, as one of his aides was
collecting it from the British embassy in Harare for a trip to London.
"It's a travesty," said Mutambara, who is now stranded in South Africa.
"While talks are supposed to be taking place they are seizing the passport
of the president of one of the main parties."
The talks are the result of intense international pressure on Mbeki, whose
policy of "quiet diplomacy" has got nowhere. He heeded fellow African
leaders' calls for mediation after worldwide outrage at the brutal beating
of Tsvangirai at a prayer meeting in March.
Sydney Mufamadi, South Africa's local government minister. is chairing the
talks. Mugabe is represented by Patrick Chinamasa, his justice minister, and
Nicholas Goche, the labour minister. The Tsvangirai faction of the
opposition MDC sent Tendai Biti, its secretary-general, while the Mutambara
camp is led by Welshman Ncube.
The opposition factions have agreed to call for free and fair elections
based on a new constitution and to demand that the Zimbabwean diaspora -
thought to be as many as 5m people - be allowed to vote.
Zanu-PF is expected to reject this out of hand. A constitutional amendment
proposed by the regime last week creates 60 new constituencies aimed at
dividing up opposition strongholds, as well as joint presidential and
parliamentary polls. It would mean that if a president steps down his
successor is chosen by parliament, allowing Mugabe to ensure that it is
someone of his choosing.
Mbeki is known to distrust Tsvangirai and to fear that the Zimbabwean
military might rebel against an opposition government, creating further
chaos. All indications are that he will push for a reformed Zanu-PF, at best
promoting the inclusion of some MDC members to create a government of
"We're under no illusion about these talks because of Mbeki's role over the
past seven years," said Roy Bennett, a leading MDC member who sought asylum
in South Africa last year after spending 10 months in jail. "Mbeki is
telling everyone if there's change in Zimbabwe there will be massive fallout
and catastrophe and the military will rebel."
Sat Jun 16, 11:37 AM ET
HARARE (AFP) - Six men, including a former Zimbabwe army officer, will go on
trial next Friday for allegedly plotting a coup against President Robert
Mugabe, their lawyer said.
The six -- Albert Mugove Mutapo, 40, a retired soldier, Nyasha Zivuka, 32,
Oncemore Mudzuradhona, 41, Emmanuel Marara, 40, Patson Mupfure, 46, and
Shingirai Matemachani, 20, -- face treason charges, which carries the death
penalty on conviction.
The High Court, which is due to hear the case, late Friday refused to grant
the six suspects bail at the request of state prosecutors, their lawyer
Jonathan Samkange told AFP on Saturday.
Each suspect had offered 25 million Zimbabwe dollars (100,000 US dollars/
80,000 euros) as bail.
"It would not be in the interest of justice to grant the accused persons
bail because if granted bail the accused would be tempted to abscond," the
prosecution's lawyer said, according to a court document, obtained by AFP.
"The crime of treason is a very serious one which upon conviction attracts a
death sentence and that is good enough reason for any person to want to put
as much distance between the country and themselves," it added.
"The first accused, Albert Mutapo, is very well connected outside the
country, more specifically in the United Kingdom where he once lived for
some time," it added.
The suspects, arrested between last May 29 and 30, pleaded not guilty when
they were charged in a Harare magistrates' court last week, he said.
The state prosecution claims that between June last year and May 2007, the
six conspired to overthrow Mugabe's government.
The defendants allegedly wanted to replace Mugabe, who has been in power
since 1980, with Rural Housing and Amenities Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa,
according to court papers read to AFP by Samkange.
Mutapo is alleged to have conspired with the co-accused and recruited
members of the security forces from the army, air force and police in
preparation for the coup, the lawyer said.
The prosecution also said that Mutapo wanted the soldiers to take over
control of Zimbabwe, after which he planned to invite Mnangagwa and others
to form a government.
It alleged that the government would be headed by Mnangagwa with Mutapo as
prime minister, the lawyer added.
Samkange said that his clients were not planning a coup, as alleged, but
were meeting to form a political party.
"Their discussions with prospective members were not for criminal purposes,
but for recruiting potential supporters," he said.
"The accused (Mutapo) was going to be the party's president," he added.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu declined comment on the matter on the
grounds that it was before a court.
"If I comment on the issue I might be viewed as influencing the decision of
the court," he told AFP.
By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer Sat Jun 16, 7:03 AM ET
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Six suspects including a former army officer being held
on allegations of plotting a coup to oust President Robert Mugabe have
denied charges of treason, official media reported Saturday.
Lawyers for the suspects said they were only recruiting for a new opposition
political party and asked that they be freed on bail, according to the
state's official Herald newspaper.
The bail hearing was postponed to an unspecified date to await submissions
from state prosecutors, the paper reported.
Prosecutors allege that the men, led by retired soldier Albert Mugove
Mutapo, 40, conspired between June 2006 until their arrests last month to
overthrow Mugabe, 83.
Mutapo supposedly planned with the others to recruit soldiers, members of
the air force and police to topple Mugabe and replace him with Housing
Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, according to the Herald. Meetings were
allegedly held with some serving military personnel.
Mutapo wanted to use servicemen to take over all military camps and remove
Mugabe, the state alleged.
Mutapo would then announce he was in control of the nation and invite
Mnangagwa and service chiefs to form a government, the paper reported.
Mutapo himself would be given a new government post of prime minister, it
The Herald said the suspects were arrested last month when they were holding
a meeting on the plot in offices at a Harare apartment building.
Defense attorney Jonathan Samkange, according to the paper, said the men
denied treason charges, and that they were arrested while forming a new
political party to be called the United Democratic Front.
"Their discussions with prospective members were not for criminal purposes
but for recruiting potential supporters," Samkange said.
Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980,
with acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline, medicines and most
other basic goods. Official inflation is more than 3,700 percent annually,
the highest in the world.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in
1980, has been widely criticized for mismanaging the economy.
By Peta Thornycroft
16 June 2007
Hours before the first South African-mediated talks between Zimbabwe's
ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were
due to begin in Pretoria, police in Harare seized the passport of Arthur
Mutambara, one of two MDC presidents. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports
that Mutambara and founding MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai were due to fly
to London later on Saturday for their first joint mission to brief European
leaders on the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Arthur Mutambara has been attending the World Economic Forum gathering this
week in Cape Town.
At the forum, during a debate on Zimbabwe, he told delegates that the future
of Zimbabwe could not remain in the hands of the ruling ZANU-PF as the party
was responsible for creating the humanitarian and economic crisis in
Among the leaders and delegates at the forum was a former ZANU-PF finance
minister, Simba Makoni, sometimes tipped as a successor to President Robert
While Mutambara was at the forum in Cape Town, MDC officials in Harare were
working to secure visas for him to travel to Europe for the talks with EU
However, Gabriel Chaibva, Mutambara's spokesman in Harare, said after the
MDC officials had obtained the necessary travel papers from the British
Embassy, they were arrested by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and
Mutambara's passport was confiscated.
The MDC leader was due to fly out of Johannesburg late Saturday to join
Morgan Tsvangirai to brief leaders in London and elsewhere in the European
The MDC split into two factions in late 2005, but the factions are making
efforts to forge a cooperation agreement to fight the next national
elections in March 2008.
Harare lawyer Harrison Nkomo is looking for a judge of the High Court to
hear an urgent application for the return of Mutambara's passport and the
release of the four officials who were arrested.
Mutambara, now stuck in South Africa without travel documents, said Saturday
that ZANU-PF knew it could never win a fully free and fair election and was
determined to try and prevent the two factions of the MDC from uniting to
fight the polls.
Meanwhile in Pretoria, Zimbabwe's justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, and
labor minister, Nicholas Goche, are scheduled to begin talks Saturday with
the two secretaries general of the MDC, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube.
The talks are hosted by South African president Thabo Mbeki who is appointed
by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate an end to
the ever-worsening political and economic crisis.
From SW Radio Africa, 15 June
By Tererai Karimakwenda
The National Constitutional Assembly reports that at least 50 of their
activists have not been accounted for and six are in police custody a day
after plain-clothes and uniformed police officers blocked a planned
demonstration in Harare. Tapera Kapuya, a spokesperson for the group, said
police have not allowed the detained activists access to lawyers. No charges
have been brought against them either. Kapuya said they suspect the 50
missing activists were taken from their homes by government agents after the
banned demo Thursday. No information has been released by the police about
any of them. The six detained were taken from the Central Business District
in Harare as police violently dispersed activists who were gathering for the
demonstration. Kapuya explained that they used excessive force and several
injuries were reported. He said: "Police were quite vicious in their
treatment of those who were participating in the protest. And several
innocent ordinary people going about their business were caught in the
chaos." The NCA spokesperson expressed concern for the welfare of the
missing activists, saying there has been a brutal ongoing campaign by the
government against the NCA. He added: "It seems very organised, because they
have been identifying our people, abducting, torturing then dumping them in
remote areas." The opposition parties have reported that their officials and
supporters are also being kidnapped by government agents who torture and
then dump them miles away from home.
16 June 2007
HARARE - A rare olive branch proffered to Zimbabwe's opposition by President
Robert Mugabe was designed to sow divisions and hoodwink mediators rather
than a genuine move towards reconciliation, according to analysts.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is leading efforts to bring the
government and Movement for Democratic Change together ahead of next year's
elections, on Tuesday seized on a speech by Mugabe as a sign of a 'positive
attitude evinced by the protagonists.'
Mugabe's declaration to senior opposition members on Monday that political
differences should not 'make us aliens' nor stop them breaking bread
together, which was made at a ceremony in Harare, marked a sharp change in
tone from a man who has usually portrayed the MDC as puppets of his Western
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa then told state television the opposition
should 'accept the olive branch' from Mugabe, saying the only differences
the government had with the MDC was over its 'hobnobbing with the West'.
But University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said
Mugabe's statement was designed to hoodwink Mbeki who was charged by the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) with brokering talks to
diffuse long-simmering tensions between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC.
'The president may be sending a message to Mbeki to say we are working
together, at least in the agricultural reforms,' Masunungure said.
But in reality, Mugabe appeared more intent on sowing divisions within
opposition ranks as evidenced by the publishing of a list of opposition
figures who have been given land under from his controversial land reform
'The government is trying to undermine (the opposition) in the eyes of the
their supporters, by saying, 'look your leaders are benefiting from the land
reform programme, yet they critise it',' Masungure said.
The MDC has strongly insisted that none of its members have benefitted from
the seizure of formerly white-owned farms and hand-outs of equipment.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa dismissed Mugabe's gesture as a gimmick, saying
reconciliation was impossible with opposition activists and a lawmaker
languishing on remand in prison.
'It's a political gimmick meant to mislead the world, particulary SADC, to
say we and the government are talking yet nothing is happening,' Chamisa
'We still have political prisoners, so it is a contradiction to say they are
Political commentator Bill Saidi said the opposition needed to be wary and
detected little sign of Mugabe loosening his grip.
'The whole idea for Mugabe's type of unity is to have a one-party system
which he himself manages,' Saidi warned.
'The crisis in which we find ourselves is a result of Mugabe not wanting to
listen to other people.'
In March, Mugabe received withering criticism from the United States and the
European Union over the arrest and assault on senior members of the
opposition, including MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The southern African country is in the seventh year of economic recession
characterised by a hyperinflationary environment, massive unemployment and
chronic shortages of foreign currency and basic goods like fuel and the
The crisis is largely blamed on Mugabe, but the veteran leader has blamed
the woes on the imposition of targeted sanctions on himself and members of
his inner circle.
Takura Zhangazha, a Harare-based political commentator, said Mugabe's
gesture lacked sincerity and the only real proof of a change of heart would
come when he agrees to talk directly to the MDC and creates a level-playing
field by amending the constitution.
'Sincerity starts with dialogue ... Real dialogue starts with constitutional
amendments that must be all-encompassing,' Zhangazha told AFP.
Monsters and Critics
Jun 16, 2007, 13:43 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's embattled main opposition party on Saturday
said the youth of the country were inspired by events in South Africa on
June 16 1976, when black school children stood up to oppression under
Youth in Zimbabwe, where deteriorating political and economic conditions
prevail, faced with 'hell on earth,' a situation made worse by repressive
laws under President Robert Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party national youth secretary Brighton Chiwola said in a statement.
'We cannot find jobs in our own country, education has become highly
unaffordable, meaningless wages are rewards for the few still employed in
the formal sector, day to day battles with police as most youths have
resorted to vending and touting at bus ranks,' he explained.
'HIV/Aids is tearing us apart as young girls and boys resort to prostitution
and homosexuality as a means of surviving, ill treatment from foreign
authorities as most youths resort to illegal immigration,' Chiwola added.
South Africa on Saturday marked the 31st anniversary of the June 16 student
uprising that marked a turning point in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Thousands of school-going children took to the streets of Soweto township
south of Johannesburg that day to highlight their grievances. Police opened
fire, killing more than a dozen children and injuring hundreds more.
Saturday was also United Nations International Day of the African Child,
which has been marked since 1991 in memory of Soweto youth.
© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Saturday 16th June 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
I stood for over forty minutes in a line at the bank to withdraw my own
money this week - its not unusual to have to queue for even longer than
this. There was no electricity - again - so the ATM machines were not
working - again. Even if the ATM's were working, those queues often need an
hour and a half to get to the front. Because of the oppressive, iron-fist
regulations from Harare, individuals are only allowed to withdraw one and a
half million dollars at a time from the bank - even if they have just
deposited a hundred times that amount the same day. The bank charges a
'handling fee' for the withdrawal of amounts of one and a half million
dollars or less but you can cannot withdraw more without applying for
permission from the Reserve Bank in Harare. To put all these figures in
perspective, let me explain! You have to stand in a queue in the bank for
four days in a row - each day drawing out the maximum amount, each day
paying the 'handling fee," in order to purchase one tank of fuel for your
car . Three days of maximum withdrawals will give you enough for one filling
at the dentist. By the time you've got enough money together, the prices
will have gone up again but for most of us all these things are just dreams
anyway because now even a visit to the dentist has become an unaffordable
luxury. Who would ever have imagined that a dental visit would be thought of
as a luxury!
A combination of iron fist regulations, prices going up by an estimated 10
per cent every day, and a government which appears completely clueless about
what to do next, I think it would be accurate to say we have reached rock
bottom. This week the legislation enabling the government to read our
emails, listen to our phone calls and intercept our letters sailed through
parliament and it produced barely a ripple. Everyone is now only looking at
the day to day human suffering and major national and international
groupings have begun issuing the most frightening warnings.
The Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights said recently :"It can no longer be
said that the health service is -near collapse, It has collapsed."
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that our health delivery
system has collapsed to such levels as to be comparable to "a war
A Heads of Agencies Contact Group which includes 34 major organisations such
as the U N and Oxfam said: "economic collapse is expected before the end of
2007." They warn that by that time our currency will have become unusable
and shops and services will have stopped operating. The Contact Group said:
"it is inevitable, not just a possibility."
And so how do we survive this last stretch? Frankly most of us don't know.
This week I heard the grim news from a friend whose wife is eight months
pregnant. She lives in a rural area and has been told at the nearest health
clinic that in addition to the financial charge, she must also bring a
twenty litre container of water with her when she comes to give birth or
they will have no choice but to turn her away. This is the reality of what
we all hope is finally rock bottom.
Thanks for reading, until next week, love cathy.
Africa News, Netherlands
16 June 2007, PANA - Libya and Zimbabwe have es tablished a joint
cooperation commission in accordance with the African Union objectives as
well as friendly and solidarity relations between the two countries, it was
revealed in the Libyan capital Thursday night.
PANA learned that the agreement for the Libya-Zimbabwe joint cooperation
commission was signed on the sidelines of Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe's three-day working visit to Libya.
The secretary of the Libyan People's General Committee for AU affairs at the
Libyan People's General Committee for foreign relations and international
cooperation, Dr Ali Triki, and Zimbabwean foreign minister Simbarashe
Mumbengegwi, signed the agreement providing for the establishment of a joint
cooperation commission in economic, cultural and technical cooperation.
According to the document, the commission is in charge of studying the means
to attain cooperation objectives in the above-mentioned areas, while
emphasising economic development in agriculture, mining, industry, trade
promotion, development of financial relations. It also calls for the
improvement of transport means and basic communication infrastructure.
The agreement also seeks the promotion of energy sources and exchange of
technical and professional expertise in social and cultural areas, media,
information, youth, sport, public health and tourism.
Under the document, the agreement is valid for five years and is renewed
automatically for a similar period. The commission meets yearly on a
rotational basis, with the establishment of sector committees if need be.
President Mugabe left Tripoli Friday at the end of his working visit that
was marked by a series of meetings with Col. Moammar Kadhafi. Their meetings
assessed preparations of the upcoming AU summit in Accra that will
exclusively focus the AU government project.
They also discussed strategies to consolidate cooperation relations between
Libya and Zimbabwe in the areas of energy, agriculture, mining, industry and
promotion of Libyan investments in Zimbabwe.
Saturday, 16 June 2007
The West Indies Players' Association (Wipa) says its players will not go on
the A team tour to Zimbabwe in July.
Wipa says it has concerns over safety and the continuing unstable political
situation in the country.
A meeting with the West Indies board is likely in the next few days to try
to resolve the situation.
The Australian government banned their side from touring Zimbabwe, while the
ICC meets soon to consider the restoration of Zimbabwe's Test status.
Comment from cricinfo, 15 June
Steven Price in London
The news that West Indies' A team players have decided they do not want to
tour Zimbabwe, citing safety and political reasons, is, on the face of it,
simply the latest in a long line of problems which have overshadowed cricket
in Zimbabwe in recent years. But it is far more than that. Until now the
Zimbabwe government, and by association the politicised executive of
Zimbabwe Cricket, has dismissed aborted visits by England and Australia and
a cancelled trip to New Zealand as being racially motivated. When
Australia's prime minister blocked his side from honouring their proposed
tour later this year, Zimbabwe's information minister countered by saying
that it was "a racist ploy to kill our local cricket since our cricket team
is now dominated by black players". That argument has been blown out of the
water by today's news. Hard though some officials inside Zimbabwe might try,
they will struggle to label the Caribbean's players, administrators and even
politicians as racists.
The timing is also appalling as far as Zimbabwe's executive is concerned. In
less than a fortnight they will be in London trying to persuade the ICC that
they are ready to be readmitted to the Test fold. Few believe that they are
remotely good enough in terms of playing strength, the exodus of players
continues - with more rumoured to be preparing to jump ship - allegations of
financial mismanagement won't go away, and all the time the political mess
in the country worsens. Despite all that, the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil
executive board of the ICC might still have let Zimbabwe get away with it.
But if players from outside the white nations are saying enough is enough,
then things can no longer be swept under the carpet in return for support in
key votes. What is more, the West Indies board is now facing a major
problem. While there will be no financial penalty for the A team not
touring, the senior side is due in Zimbabwe in November.
If the WICB is forced to pull out of that, then it will have to pay millions
of dollars to Zimbabwe, money it simply does not have. The alternative is a
shabby ring-around until 15 willing cricketers can be found. It would almost
be a reverse of the infamous rebel tours to South Africa in the 1980s. The
only get-out, according to the ICC's own oft-quoted regulations, is if the
government bans players from travelling. The problem is that there are eight
or nine governments involved in the Caribbean, and the chances of them all
acting in unison are remote. In short, the ICC has no choice but to head
this shambles-in-waiting off at the pass and refuse to readmit Zimbabwe to
Test cricket. That way, the West Indies tour problem goes away. The net
result will be that the right decision is taken, even if it is for all the
wrong reasons. For that, cricket owes the West Indies' players a thank you.
And spare a thought for the ordinary players in Zimbabwe who are the real
victims of their own board's antics.
Posted : Sat, 16 Jun 2007 16:36:01GMT
Author : DPA
Harare/Johannesburg - Disruptions to livelihoods caused by President
Robert Mugabe's controversial land reform program hastened the deaths of
thousands of Zimbabweans and led to the loss of billions of dollars worth of
property, a new report said Saturday. The report by the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum said charges of crimes against humanity could be brought
against the perpetrators.
The dramatic claims are contained in a 41-page report on human rights
violations inflicted during the land reform programme, which was launched by
Mugabe in 2000.
The righs forum, a coalition of rights groups carried out its survey
on 187 white-owned farms during a 6-month period from 2006- 2007.
Of the number of farms surveyed, 94 percent have now been taken over.
The losses of both lives and property on the surveyed farms are
probably representative of those incurred by white farmers and their workers
since the launch of the land reform program, the group said.
Of the 1.3 million farm workers and their families living on around
4,000 white-owned farms before 2000, around 70 percent are estimated to have
lost their livelihoods.
Due to the farm seizures the farm workers have lost their homes,
access to medical clinics and other benefits.
The survey found that about 1 percent of displaced farm workers and
their family members have died since losing their jobs, it said.
Extrapolated to the entire population of 1 million farmer workers and
their families, 10,000 people could have died after displacement from the
Zimbabwe has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS, with an
estimated one in five people infected. The report claimed that 66 percent of
surveyed farmworkers used to have access to HIV/AIDS programmes before the
farms they worked on were taken over.
White farmers losses on the surveyed farms, including their earnings,
property and livestock amounted to 368 million US dollars, said the forum.
If this is then crudely extrapolated to the commercial farm sector as
a whole the figures become astronomical, said the group.
It gave a total estimated loss to the white-run commercial farming
sector of more than 8 billion dollars.
The group said many of the land grabs were carried out by senior
government officials. Farmers and their workers were not afforded the
protection of the law, it said.
There can be no impunity for gross human rights violations ever and
hence there must be some process of accountability for the violations that
occurred during the land reform exercise.
Zimbabwe used to produce bumper grain crops and prime export
commodities such as tobacco, beef and flowers.
But production has plummeted in the last seven years, contributing to
a humanitarian crisis.
This year the cash-strapped government will import hundreds of
thousands of tonnes of maize from neighbouring countries. Around a third of
the population will require food aid by early 2008, according to United
While Mugabe's government blames the food crisis on drought, experts
point to the devastating effect of the land reform programme.
But the 83-year-old president this week reiterated that his government
was morally right in taking over the farms.
The Herald (Harare) Published by the government of Zimbabwe
16 June 2007
Posted to the web 16 June 2007
MOTORISTS who drive into Harare's Fifth Street, stretching from Roadport
International Bus Terminus to the Holiday Inn, are routinelygreeted by
scores of whistling and gesturing men and women lining up the street, wooing
prospective clients wanting to buy or sell foreign currency. This stretch of
the street easily ranks as one of Harare's busiest and most crowded areas,
teeming with all kinds of vehicle models with local and foreign registration
It has been the capital city's hub of black market foreign currency trading
where different men and women descend everyday from sunrise to sunset. Huge
amounts of United States dollars, British pounds, South African rands and
Botswana pulas change hands along the street's pavements and in vehicles.
Finding little space to operate from, some of the foreign currency traders
have moved to open new bases along Fourth Street, Third Street and lately in
Sam Nujoma Street.
This week, I decided to spend the day with foreign currency traders along
Fifth Street to get first hand experience of what really transpires. My
colleagues advised me to first inform the police and get covered so that in
the event of a raid on the illegal moneychangers, I would be spared. But I
decided to throw caution to the wind, as I really wanted to get the bottom
of it without the thought of getting any protection. Just after 7am on
Tuesday I drove into Fifth Street, off Robert Mugabe Road, and immediately
came face to face with the money changers at Roadport, which is as busy as
ever with people going in and coming out.
It all begins at the main entrance to the bus terminus. As I drove past,
three young men whistled and gestured at me, rubbing their thumbs against
their middle fingers -- body language for money.
On slowing down, they all came running towards me. It is a question of who
is first to arrive and talk to the customer.
"Mudhara wangu! Tokuitirai chii nhasi? (My old man, what can we do for you
today)?" asked one of them who had managed to outpace the other two.
"Sudurakai kani vakomana, mudhara wangu uyu. (Guys you better give me a
chance, this is my old man)," he told his colleagues, who quickly lost
interest and drifted away.
Speaking as if we were long acquaintances while leaning on my window he
said: "Saka mune chii nhasi mudhara, US dollar, pound or rand (So which
currency do you have my old man)?"
I was neither buying nor selling. But, I told him I wanted to buy and asked
him how much he was offering for the US dollar, the pound and the rand. At
that point, two women approached me from the other side of the car and
tapped on the window. When I shifted my attention to them, they said:
"Imbonzwaiwoka marates edu baba. (Can you please get to know our rates)?"
The young men became somewhat annoyed and told the women his piece of mind
before they quickly retreated. He continued: "Mudhara let's do serious
business. Ignore these women, they are crooks."
He then turned to the exchange rates. "Today, the US dollar is . . . pound .
. . and rand . . ." The official exchange rate at commercial banks is US$1
I promised to come back later in the day after I had raised the money but
not before asking for my mobile phone number, which I gladly gave him.
On driving up the street, there was more whistling, hissing and gesturing by
scores of young men and women on both sides of the street. I stopped after
crossing Nelson Mandela Avenue and decided to spend some time observing.
But a group of young men came running and immediately surrounded my car,
trying to outbid one another to win my attention. I told them I was only
there to meet someone.
There were more illegal foreign currency traders coming on the streets with
a good number arriving in cars, which they simply park on the side of the
In the majority of instances, business is conducted through the phone. By
mid-morning, business gets more brisk as more vehicles arrive, dropping off
bundles of Zimbabwean currency. Soon a 4x4 vehicle belonging to a
non-governmental organisation arrives and stops right in the middle of the
A group of young men sitting at the back of a pick-up truck called out one
of their colleagues: "Givy, murungu auya. (Givy, the boss has come)."
And the young man came out of another car, jumped into the NGO vehicle,
before it drove off. Some minutes later, the vehicle re-appeared and dropped
off the young man. The deal had been done.
This trend continues and at lunch hour, business reaches its peak. More
vehicles arrive, picking men and women and then returning to drop them.
A police patrol team of three on bicycles, slowly cycled past and the
foreign currency traders suddenly become alert. One of them greeted the
cops: "Ah, maofficer!"
The cops just waved back at him.
I had a lot of questions to ask and I beckoned at one of the young men to
join me in my car. He jumped at the opportunity, obviously in the mistaken
belief that I was a prospective customer.
I introduced myself and indicated to him that I wanted to ask him some
questions. At first, he was reluctant suspecting that I was an undercover
"Baba, pano panombouya ngonjo, saka pamwe muri mumwe wacho. (Sometimes we
get policemen coming here, maybe you are one of them)." After some
persuasion, he agreed to talk but one could see the uneasiness on his face.
"Just call me Nigel. Most of the guys and women you see here are errand boys
who do the running around on behalf of big people, the owners of the money.
"Our office is this street and we mostly use two tools in this trade -- a
mobile phone and a calculator," he said.
I asked him who these big people were
He replied: "The owners of the money mudhara. They hardly come to the
streets. We are talking of politicians and business people. These are the
people who appear on TV all the time describing the foreign currency black
market as an evil.
"They send some people to drop off Zimbabwe currency and foreign currency to
us. We are in direct contact with customers. And these days it's not just
ordinary individuals coming to buy but there are also big people and big
companies that come to buy the foreign currency."
When pressed further to name some of the buyers, he said:
"Ah baba, ko inga maminister chaiwo anouya achipaka maziBenz nemazivhongoma
avo pano vachidawo forex. (Even ministers come here with their
Mercedes-Benzes and other posh cars looking for foreign currency)."
He said any amount could be changed into foreign or local currency.
Nigel's colleague who had struck a deal and wanted $10 million interrupted
"Pano baba ndepekudyidzana. (We borrow and lend to each other here)," he
said handing over the money to his colleague.
Asked who then determines the exchange rate on the black market, which
changes everyday, he believed that it was a cartel of foreign currency
"When we come in the morning, the first thing is to ask about the rates from
colleagues. They usually tell you that nhasi varungu varikuda rate yakaita
At that point my phone rang interrupting the conversation again. It was that
foreign currency trader I had met earlier in the morning and had insisted on
taking my mobile number.
"How far mudhara, muchiri kuuya here? (Are you still coming?"), he asked.
I found a polite way of dismissing him when I told him that I was still
looking for the money to buy the foreign currency. He immediately cut off
Policemen sometimes raid the streets, spending the whole day chasing
moneychangers, trying to prevent them from conducting their illegal
business. But they remain defiant and return later to continue the business.
Asked if they were not afraid of getting arrested by the police, Nigel said:
"Yes, sometimes the police are a nuisance. It's difficult when it is the
riot policemen. With those ones there are no negotiations.
"But when detectives in plain clothes catch you, it is easy to buy your
freedom. They come here almost everyday but vanenge vaine nzarawoka (they
will also be hungry.)"
Nigel spoke about incidents where unsuspecting clients have been fleeced by
conmen posing as foreign currency traders or detectives.
"Some unfortunate people have been left with bundles of papers. It is better
to do the deal in a car. Make sure you count all your money before you leave
once you have verified that it all adds up make sure you put it away from
"People must also be aware of anyone coming up to you in the street and
giving you an attractive exchange rate. Usually they will fleece you; they
are experts at it. They will even count the money out to you. However,
through slight of hand you will be ripped off," he said.
There have been cases where some foreign currency traders have been known to
reject US dollars claiming they are fake, after surreptitiously having
switched bills and returned counterfeit currency to unsuspecting clients.
Changing money on the black market has always been a dicey exercise for both
the trader and the customer. Some have been killed after being led to
secluded places purportedly to conclude transactions.
"These leeches are a constant scourge and tarnish the good reputation of
many of us here. The danger comes when prospective customers are led to a
closet for a transaction to proceed," said Nigel.
After talking for more than 30 minutes, Nigel excused himself, claiming he
had lost some ground and now needed to go back to the "office".
Meanwhile, roaring illegal foreign currency trading continued the whole
afternoon up to about sunset after which the money changers started to
retreat to their homes.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr Gideon Gono, said last year that
of about Z$40 trillion of the old currency in circulation, only about Z$5
trillion, or about 12,5 percent, was passing through the banking system. The
remainder was in the parallel market.
The central bank introduced new bearer cheques to replace the old
denominations, forcing people to return cash hoarded at homes, offices and
outside the country to the formal banking system.
Bearer cheques have been used as cash for the past four years and are found
in large quantities in neighbourig countries such as Mozambique, South
Africa and Zambia.
Thanks to its neighbor's economic disaster, South Africa grapples with one
of the largest -- and most brutal -- illegal migrations in the world
By Paul Salopek
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published June 12, 2007
MUSINA, South Africa -- The greasy brown river sliding past this African
border town might seem eerily familiar to Americans.
First, there are the concrete international bridges that span its waters,
linking a relatively affluent community on one side -- tidy, well-paved,
replete with American franchises such as Kentucky Fried Chicken -- with a
dustier, much poorer town on the other.
Then there are the illegal immigrants. They hunker by the hundreds in the
riverside brush, waiting for nightfall to crawl under a porous border fence.
Grim-faced law-enforcement agents hunt them down in trucks equipped with
flashing police lights. So do posses of angry civilians, most of them white,
many of them armed, and all of them outraged by what they see as a dangerous
lapse in border controls.
Squint, and the scene could pass for the banks of the Rio Grande between the
United States and Mexico -- except, that is, for the jaded baboons ambling
among the human pedestrians on the bridges and a sign identifying this muddy
waterway as the Limpopo River, the troubled frontier between Zimbabwe and
South Africa, and the finish line for one of the largest illicit migrations
in the world.
"They get robbed and raped by criminals, extorted by our cops, and eaten by
crocodiles," Jacob Matakanye, a South African human-rights advocate, said of
the tens of thousands of undocumented Zimbabweans who have stampeded past
this remote port of entry. "That doesn't stop them. Nothing does."
Illegal immigration revealed its awesome power to divide American society
once more Thursday when the U.S. Senate, bitterly divided, shelved the most
ambitious immigration reform bill in a generation.
But as Americans continue to recriminate, argue and agonize over the issue,
they might spare a kind thought for Africa's youngest democracy, where the
same vexing problems -- flimsy borders, xenophobia and questions of national
identity -- are roiling the public mood just 13 years after the end of white
On the surface, the two countries couldn't be more different in their public
stance on illegal immigration. In the United States, even liberals who
support granting citizenship rights to undocumented immigrants -- and
President Bush finds himself awkwardly in their camp -- must frame their
arguments in terms of national security and promise future border
crackdowns. By contrast, in South Africa, which prides itself as a beacon of
ethnic tolerance in the world, a grudging acceptance of illegal immigration
is the unofficial rule.
Not that it has much choice.
Some immigration experts here say that 10 percent or more of South Africa's
43 million people may be in the country illegally, the majority of them
impoverished Africans seeking a better life in the continent's economic
powerhouse. With South Africa unable to afford more patrols along its 2,500
miles of land border, and realizing that illegal immigration keeps feeble
neighbor Zimbabwe from total collapse, South African President Thabo Mbeki
conceded last month that the enormous human influx "is something we have to
A gantlet of dangers
Yet coexistence hardly describes life on the Limpopo River. A level of
misery and desperation hangs over this border that south Texas can never
Hundreds of people -- some walking 3,000 miles from Somalia with only the
clothes on their backs -- filter every day through the backcountry around
Musina on well-beaten trails. At the approach of vehicles, they melt into
bushes where the amagumaguma -- local slang for the gangs of smugglers,
thieves and rapists who prey on the migrants -- also skulk.
"If you don't have money, they will beat you and strip your clothes," said
Bernard Sibamda, 25, a Zimbabwean toiling on a border farm. "People walk
naked into town."
Sibamda carried a slingshot to defend himself. He smiled bleakly at the
impotent toy. Nearby, a Somali almost lost his hands recently when border
thugs tried to hack them off, according to the International Organization
for Migration, a United Nations agency that helps deported migrants return
home. And such brutality isn't limited to criminals. In 2004 a South African
army captain and four soldiers were convicted of systematically raping and
robbing Zimbabwean "border jumpers" -- one of many instances of violent
abuse by South African authorities on the border, human-rights groups claim.
Last month a soldier on patrol shot and killed an unarmed Zimbabwean man.
Illegal immigrants interviewed in Musina also accused the South African
police of constant shakedowns. The price of freedom after being arrested: as
little as 100 rand, or about $14. The South African government has
acknowledged problems with petty corruption. The agency responsible for
immigration, the Ministry of Home Affairs, is being overhauled.
Finally, as if the human gantlet weren't enough, there is the random cruelty
The crocodile-gnawed bodies of immigrants wash up occasionally on the banks
of the Limpopo, said activist Matakanye, who helps Zimbabwean farm workers
at the Musina Legal Advice Center.
And every year during the rainy season, the river itself kills scores of men
and women seeking low-paying jobs in South Africa's bustling farms and
In February, 45 Zimbabweans drowned as they held hands trying to cross the
river, the police reported. Another group of 60 swimmers died the same way
last year. Such tragedies are routine enough that they barely register in
the South African media.
"If you stay in Zimbabwe, you starve," said Kenneth Marara, 28, an
unemployed factory hand from Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, who was sleeping
with a crowd of other undocumented migrants at a bus stop in Musina. "It is
better to die here."
Zimbabwe in tatters
Once an African breadbasket, Zimbabwe has been hollowed out by years of
drought and the ruinous economic policies of strongman Robert Mugabe. Its
inflation rate was calculated in May at 3,700 percent -- the highest in the
world. In Musina, immigrants said the Zimbabwean government couldn't even
afford the paper to print its passports anymore, so almost nobody carried
one. The UN World Food Program estimated Wednesday that more than a third of
Zimbabwe's 11.8 million people will face food shortages this year.
Nobody knows how many Zimbabweans have ducked into South Africa. Immigration
analysts say 2.5 million to 3.5 million -- roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe's
population. Even the lower figure equals the number of refugees displaced by
the war in Darfur.
"There is a real backlash taking place against Zimbabweans now," said Sally
Peberdy, a researcher at the Southern African Migration Project, an
immigration think tank in Johannesburg. "Xenophobia is definitely on the
In fact, anti-foreigner sentiment has been smoldering -- and sometimes
exploding -- in South Africa for years.
Despite the country's reputation for cultural tolerance, decades of
isolation under apartheid have predisposed many South Africans -- black and
white -- to distrust immigrants, Peberdy said. One survey conducted in 1997
revealed a degree of paranoia about strangers that was exceeded only in
Russia. Resentful South Africans are torching Somali shops and beating up
Zimbabweans, human-rights groups say. Increasingly, Zimbabweans are also
blamed in the media for South Africa's notoriously high crime rate.
The government is responding by quietly ramping up deportations. Buses,
police vans and dusty trains ease through Musina, disgorging thousands of
bedraggled Zimbabweans at the border bridges.
The number of Zimbabweans expelled from South Africa has rocketed tenfold
since 1994, to more than 127,000 last year. South Africa is also sending its
law-enforcement agents to the U.S. for border security training. Others are
getting U.S. Border Patrol training at an American-run law-enforcement
academy in neighboring Botswana, officials said.
For some South Africans, though, that still isn't enough.
"I can't even jog on my own property anymore because of the numbers of
Zimbabweans coming through -- it's a safety risk," said Gideon Meiring, a
game rancher whose land sprawls over one of the main immigrant routes south
of the Limpopo River. "There have been terrible murders of farmers up here,
and it's 99 percent certain that it was Zim people who did it."
Meiring heads a watchdog group of white farmers who help patrol South
Africa's border region. Like the controversial Minutemen sentries in the
United States, they are making a largely political point: Illegal
immigration threatens South Africa's prosperity and stability. But their
robust methods would raise eyebrows even among anti-immigrant groups across
Last month Meiring and 14 other farmers mobilized to intercept a truckload
of undocumented Zimbabweans speeding down a local highway. With removable
police lights flashing atop their cars, they ran the driver off the road and
detained 11 migrants. Others scattered into the fields.
"These people use our hospitals, our schools, our government housing,"
Meiring said, echoing familiar sentiments from the immigration debate in the
United States. "We've somehow got to make it more difficult for them to
Loveness Khumbula, a 25-year-old Zimbabwean mother, has reached her private
threshold of difficulty.
On May 28 the petite illegal immigrant was charged by a wild buffalo while
trudging through the bush east of Musina. The beast chased her off a small
cliff. She sprained her leg, and the 9-month-old daughter strapped to her
back suffered a severe concussion. About the only thing extraordinary about
her story on the raw Limpopo frontier was that she wanted to go home.
"My mission here is finished," Khumbula said softly in the local South
African hospital where she and her baby were recovering. "I will not stay in
The Herald (Harare) Published by the government of Zimbabwe
16 June 2007
Posted to the web 16 June 2007
PARLIAMENT has approved a new standard scale of fines, setting $20 000 as
the minimum fine and a maximum fine of $50 million being paid for such
offences as conditional selling of monitored or controlled goods.
Traffic offenders will now have to fork out up to $3 million depending on
the type of offence.
Currently, motorists are paying between $250 and $50 000 for various traffic
Public fighting and beer drinking now attract a fine of $40 000, up from $2
The Criminal Law Code (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice (No. 2) 2007 was
approved by both the House of Assembly and the Senate on Wednesday.
The fines range from level one, that is $20 000, to level 14 in which
offenders pay $50 million.
The level of the fines depends of the nature of the offence.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick
Chinamasa, told the House of Assembly that the current fines had been eroded
by inflation hence the need for a review.
"It is apparent that the fines are no longer a deterrent in view of the
rising inflation. The fines that had been proposed have a more deterrent
effect than the present fines," he said.
The fines were last reviewed in February this year. However, legislators
felt that the proposed fines were still low and would not act as deterrents
in view of the skyrocketing inflation.
Bulawayo South legislator Mr David Coltart (MDC) said the proposed fines
were low when compared to the cost of the administration of justice.
"My point is we welcome this review as it was long overdue but my question
is whether this is going to be a deterrent if one considers the cost of the
administration of justice," he said.
Binga legislator Mr Gabuza Joel Gabbuza (MDC), who said there was need to
constantly review the fines in view of the hyperinflationary environment,
echoed Mr Coltart's sentiments.
In response, Cde Chinamasa said he had taken note of the concerns raised by
the lawmakers and would address them in due course.
There have been concerns by various stakeholders on the need to review fines
paid for various offences.
The Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council has attributed the high rate of road
accidents to the prevailing low fines, which it described as too lenient.
The Sunday Times
June 17, 2007
So, Edinburgh University has finally stripped Robert Mugabe of the honorary
degree it awarded him in 1984. It is the first time in the university's
425-year history that it has revoked an honorary degree - and Mugabe will be
afforded a right of appeal.
The university's sanction came about after a sustained anti-Mugabe campaign
by its student body and alumni, local newspapers and MPs. In order to carry
it out, the university's senate first had to alter its rules and then
empanelled three professors to examine whether there were grounds to
On June 6, the senate duly announced that there were such grounds. Not a
difficult decision to arrive at, I'm sure, if 23 years late. More troubling
than the time lag is that the university has been less than honest about the
circumstances under which it conferred the honour.
Edinburgh's recent official announcement read: "After examining evidence
relating to the situation in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s - evidence that was
not available to the university at the time the degree was conferred [my
bold] - the group recommended that the degree should be withdrawn."
One of the "three wise men" on the investigating panel, Professor Sir Neil
MacCormick, emphasised that the university's offer of the honorary degree
had been made "in good faith" and that evidence of Mugabe's human rights
abuses - namely, the massacres in Matabeleland, in which as many as 20,000
civilians are believed to have been murdered - only came to light later, and
"was not known to the senate when in 1984 it confirmed its decision to
proceed and award the degree".
Indeed? Let's look at the timeline: Edinburgh University conferred the
degree (at the initial suggestion of Lord Carrington, the former foreign
secretary) upon Mugabe on July 20, 1984. But more than three months
previously, on April 8, I had started reporting the massacre. The Sunday
Times ran my first piece (to which we appended two other bylines to protect
me) under the headline, "Mass murder in Matabeleland: the evidence".
The first line read: "Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe has launched a
new campaign of extraordinary brutality in Matabeleland, in the south of the
country." I reported from inside the curfew area (from which journalists
were banned) using my own testimony and other eyewitness accounts of the
Balaghwe "death camp", run by the fearsome 5th Brigade, a North
Korean-trained army unit fiercely loyal to Mugabe.
These reports were backed up by local priests - at least one of whom was
already openly calling the killings "genocide" - and by the Catholic Justice
and Peace Commission.
On April 15, I followed this with a report on the front page, headlined
"Zimbabwe massacre bodies found in mine". I interviewed dozens of
eyewitnesses and went to the abandoned Antelope mineshaft, where victims
from Balaghwe were being dumped. My reporting (and that of others) continued
into mid-May, when the Catholic church had already submitted to Mugabe a
list of 629 names of those killed by the army in Matabeleland.
At that point I was forced to leave Zimbabwe, having been warned that my
life was in danger. The police surrounded my family home looking for me and
I was denounced as an enemy of the state.
For Edinburgh University to say that information on the killings was
unavailable in July 1984 is a travesty. Just such information was paraded
under banner headlines in a national broadsheet Sunday paper with a large
circulation. Yet academics proceeded to dignify the architect of genocidal
massacre, giving him, in the words of a Foreign Office cable, "a flattering
I find it almost impossible to believe they could genuinely have been
unaware of these reports. In which case, what we have here is a breathtaking
disregard for the truth back in July 1984, followed by a shameful cover-up
now, in claiming these facts "were not available at the time".
Subsequently, more and more information came out. More than a decade ago,
the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission published its detailed report on
the Matabeleland massacres. Yet still, nothing was done to strip Mugabe of
To make matters worse, in 1994 the Queen, acting on the advice of the
Foreign Office and the then prime minister, John Major, conferred an
honorary knighthood on Mugabe for his "important contribution to relations
between Zimbabwe and Britain". When questioned about it in parliament in
2003, Tony Blair agreed to consider stripping Mugabe of the knighthood. He
still hasn't got round to doing so.
Such action would not be unprecedented; a bunch of foreign royals, including
the Emperor Franz Joseph I, had their honorary knighthoods rescinded in
1915. Mussolini had his taken back in 1940, Emperor Hirohito had his
rescinded in 1941 and restored 30 years later, and Ceausescu had his
withdrawn in 1989, in the nick of time - a week before his people rose up
and executed him.
The government has no business allowing Mugabe to retain his honorary
knighthood and the dons of Edinburgh, before basking in our approval for
withdrawing Mugabe's honorary degree, need to come clean about the
circumstances in which they conferred it.
- Peter Godwin's memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, is published by
The Sunday Times
June 17, 2007
Kelvin Parker's holiday at Victoria Falls turned into a nightmare because of
a guide's lapse of judgment. He tells of the minute his world fell apart
Today, as he does every day, Kelvin Parker will walk for five or six hours.
In March this year his beloved wife Veronica and daughter Charlotte were
savaged to death by an elephant in a Zimbabwean game park. He, too, was
chased but escaped. Such is his grief that trudging the streets has become
the only way he can keep his mind from returning to that sunny morning in
the African bush.
"I still feel as though I'm being chased by the elephant," he says. "Walking
is the only time when I don't feel bad and I don't weep. If I'm not walking
or somehow keeping busy I am hit by this terrible weight of grief and
Kelvin, 53, is a likable, slightly chaotic man who weeps frequently as he
describes how Veronica and Charlotte were wiped out in less than a minute on
what should have been a glorious holiday. For the previous four years, the
Parkers had been living in a remote part of South Africa, but with
10-year-old Charlotte's secondary education looming, the British-born couple
had decided to settle in France, where they'd once lived.
Throughout their somewhat unusual and peripatetic 18-year marriage - they'd
also lived in Japan, Hong Kong and Portugal - the Parkers financed
themselves by renovating houses. "We were hedonists, lotus-eaters,
travellers," says Kelvin. "Making money and careers didn't matter to us.
Life was what mattered."
When they met they were both working for an advertising agency in Hong Kong
and proved the perfect match: "I was good at the big things; Veronica was
good on detail. She was charming and calm; I was emotional and explosive."
Their daughter, whom they called Charlie, after Charlie Parker, was
"exceptional - brilliant at school, an outstanding athlete", according to
Kelvin. "I know everyone says this about their children, but with Charlie it
In recent years they had spent most of their waking lives together: "I might
be plumbing; Veronica might be cooking or even holding the other end of a
pipe for me. Even our work had a terrific intimacy."
Every evening at 6.30, the Parkers sat down to talk about their day over
drinks and snacks. "Veronica and I would have two glasses of dry white wine
while Charlie had Appletiser. In the school holidays she'd have tea and
bickies in bed with us, first thing. The three of us were completely
entwined." Kelvin pauses to blink back tears: "At least I know that when
they died we'd done everything we could to know and love each other."
Before they left South Africa they decided to make a trip to Victoria Falls,
which Veronica had always wanted to see. Kelvin found a four-day package
deal that included two days of safari in the nearby Hwange national park.
"Quite honestly we weren't terribly interested in the safari," Kelvin says.
"We'd seen lots of animals. But the package made sense financially."
The family loved Victoria Falls and were delighted with the safari lodge. On
their first evening they watched wildebeest, giraffes and elephants at a
nearby watering hole. Charlie enthused: "This is the prettiest place I've
At dinner an English couple raved about the lodge's safari guide, Andy
Privella. "He's fantastic," they said. "He took us right up to an elephant
and we stroked it."
Early next morning, on their first safari walk, the much-praised guide told
the Parkers what they must do: "You walk when I say walk. You stop when I
say stop. If something happens I will take care of you."
"He explained he had a rifle, and I noticed he put one bullet in the
chamber, leaving the rest in his belt," says Kelvin.
They set off, in single file, following the guide, who pointed out
footprints, animal droppings and food. They saw giraffes and zebra but no
elephants. After returning to the lodge for breakfast the guide took them
for a drive.
"Maybe what we said on the drive helps to explain what happened," says
"The guide had been a hunter. We said we didn't like hunting because it
seemed to be about people's egos. On the other hand, we said, you have to
cull elephants where there are too many, like in part of South Africa. We
also talked about male elephants 'in musth', in a state of sexual arousal,
and how you have to be very careful around them. The guide said he thought
that might be exaggerated."
They drove near some woodland where elephants usually gathered but there
wasn't one in sight. The Parkers didn't care but the guide seemed bothered.
"That sucks," he said. At 10.30am, when they stopped by a waterhole to enjoy
a beer, an elephant lumbered into view, about 600 yards away.
The guide suggested he take them to see it up close. The Parkers felt they
couldn't refuse. "We felt the guide would be disappointed if he didn't
deliver for us," says Kelvin. "Maybe this is the kind of people we are.
Bloody stupid, when I think about it now. We did that walk for him!"
The plan was to observe the elephant from an ant hill about l00 yards away.
As they walked Kelvin saw the guide look at the elephant with his
binoculars. "He must have seen large wet patches around its ears which meant
the elephant was in musth and potentially aggressive." But the elephant,
too, was ambling towards the ant hill so that soon they were only 30 yards
apart. At the ant hill the guide urged Kelvin to take photographs. Just as
the Parkers began to walk back from the ant hill, Kelvin turned to see their
guide peering out - "and the elephant saw him", he says.
Only that morning the Parkers had been told how elephants when they're angry
put their heads back, flap their ears and their trunks shoot up. And that is
exactly what this elephant did next.
The guide shouted: "Stop!" The Parkers stopped, whereupon the guide waved
his hands in the air and yelled loudly.
"I'll never understand why he did that as long as I live," says Kelvin,
"because of course it really pissed off the elephant." Then the guide raised
his rifle and fired above the elephant's head - "So he'd used the only
bullet he had."
The elephant charged. "Because I'm at the back the elephant goes for me,"
says Kelvin. "I run, thinking, 'I'm dead'; the elephant is so big and so
close and so fast." In a desperate attempt to outwit the elephant Kelvin
zigzagged. Confused, the elephant stopped, turned and ambled back to the
At this moment, Kelvin turned to see the guide by the ant hill blubbering:
"I'm sorry; I'm sorry." And near him lay Charlie's white T-shirt. Kelvin ran
over to find his daughter "completely, utterly dead. Poor little thing; her
eyes were open but rolled back. I picked her up and her little head just
fell back. Her life spirit had gone".
Imagining his wife was hiding, he began to search for her. He found her, or
rather her brain, with bits of the top of her skull lying not far from
Charlie. "So I knew I couldn't find her in one piece," Kelvin says, tears
streaming down his cheeks.
Kelvin carried his wife and daughter to the ant hill, sent the guide to get
help, and sat for 45 minutes cradling them in the blistering sun. He says he
talked to them both, telling them, "I'd look after them and get them safely
home. I certainly wasn't scared. In a way I wanted to be dead too. But I
realised if I were alive then in some sense they were too".
When he was rescued and taken back to the lodge he couldn't face seeing the
guide but he felt no anger towards him. "He'll have to live with this for
the rest of his life." And so will Kelvin: "The worst time is when I wake
up. So I have to keep busy or walk."
This time last year Kelvin was in Britain for Father's Day, so Charlie wrote
him a card at her school in South Africa. Addressed to "a really cool dad",
and written in green and turquoise with lots of red hearts, Charlie's card
reads: "Dads are cool. Dads really rule! . . . I thank God for a dad like
Today Charlie's "cool" dad has found some solace in setting up a charity
called CharChar, commemorating her and her mother, to fund the teaching of
African children to read - reading was one of Charlie's greatest pleasures.
"The charity seems to make more sense than anything else," says Kelvin.
"When I look back I wouldn't change anything about our lives together -
except for that final minute." And with that he goes off to walk some more,
to try to obliterate the pain of his loss.
For more information about CharChar: email@example.com