|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 24 June
"World Bank" on Bulawayo streets
Bulawayo - While the government struggles to cope with serious foreign currency shortages, thousands of American dollars and British pounds change hands everyday on the streets and pavements of the country’s second largest city. The street dealers doing brisk business are the white-clad female members of the controversial religious sect known as Vapostori - from the Johane we Masowe Church - which has its headquarters here.
Everyday, from sunrise to sunset, scores of Vapostori women descend on the streets of the City of Kings. Their task is to buy and sell foreign currency to locals and foreigners. These days, not just individuals, but big companies also buy forex from them. Whilst some of these women are not well educated, they are very knowledgeable as far as official and unofficial foreign currency rates are concerned. Huge sums of foreign currency can be changed at one flea market along Herbert Chitepo Avenue. The flea market was dubbed the "World Bank" by the minister of finance, Simba Makoni, when he presented his budget last year. Makoni jokingly said that those who wanted foreign currency should go to the streets of Bulawayo.
According to Vapostori currency dealers, any amount can be changed into foreign or local currency. "Do you want to change some money? How much have you got for us?" one of the dealers shouted as this reporter entered the flea market. Their exchange rates are too attractive for any normal person to ignore. For example, Z$90 buys US$1. The official exchange rate at commercial banks is US$1 to Z$55 and on the black market, anything between Z$120 and Z$200 now buys the greenback. However, the big question being asked by many people here is: Where do the Vapostori women get such huge sums of foreign currency everyday, when everyone else can’t get the money?
According to police sources, the Vapostori women are selling forex on behalf of some wealthy business tycoons of Asian origin, affectionately known here as amakula. Two black business tycoons, one of them a popular soccer administrator, are also linked to this street foreign currency trade. "All these Vapostori women you see on the streets are working for a wealthy Indian business tycoon. They are paid on commission," said a local businessman who says he is struggling to get forex for his company. He accused the police of receiving kick backs from the businessmen involved in the forex trade.
Such is the women’s monopoly on forex trade that some bureaux de change have been forced to close down. Two managers from foreign airlines were recently reported to have flown to Bulawayo to buy forex from the women. The traders have, however, vehemently denied that their forex trade was responsible for the serious shortage of foreign currency in the country. "We cannot be accused of causing the forex crisis. This is (President) Mugabe’s problems, not ours," one of the women said as she waited for customers along Main Street. State and municipal police officers sometimes spend hours on end chasing the enterprising women from the streets to prevent them from conducting their business. But scores of them simply return later to continue with their brisk business. The police last week even moved in to try to advise foreign tourists who descended on Zimbabwe for the solar eclipse, to change their money at commercial banks and hotels and not deal with the women. But their attempts were in vain.
From The Guardian (UK), 25 June
Zimbabwe's eager pupils are too poor to practise what they learn
Nkashe - There are 350 pupils in the remote Zimbabwe secondary school in which I have been teaching for the last six months. School surveys show the vast majority of older pupils are having sexual relations. None has access to condoms, even though Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in the world. The nearest clinic is 15 miles away. It provides free condoms but the pupils cannot afford the bus fare - and would not want to be seen going to an adult clinic. There is a secret store of condoms right on the school doorstep – 200 of them for the HIV/Aids prevention classes which we have been conducting. Using a broom handle, we show the children how condoms should be put on. I asked whether I could distribute my supply, but was told the community would be outraged. It would be seen to be too permissive in a culture which still frowns on sex before marriage.
I am one of 12 British volunteers working with an SPW (Students Partnership Worldwide) teaching project in Matabeleland. We are each paired with a Zimbabwean student. My partner, Benhildah Mlamba, and I teach 21 lessons a week in our secondary school and four in a local primary school under a guidance and counselling rubric, but the main focus is on Aids awareness. The need is all too obvious. The funerals are grim and frequent: every week and sometimes twice a week in a relatively small community. In another school in the project, the headteacher and his wife have died from Aids - and their orphaned baby is seriously ill. The deputy head has died from the disease too.
Yet HIV/Aids is still barely acknowledged. The community refers to people having been "sick for a long time". None of the village deaths since I arrived have been attributed to Aids. The pupils are different. They want to know. Benhildah and I deliberately did not begin our lessons by talking about Aids awareness. The children were not used to discussing issues. We realised we had to win their trust first. Once we had, we were inundated with questions about the disease.
Organising sports, setting up lunchtime Frisbee clubs and holding an Easter holiday residential camp at the school all helped to break down barriers. Six months on we are getting there. The school library now has an HIV/Aids resource centre - posters, pamphlets and cleverly written school books supplied by Unicef and the Matabeleland Aids Council. We've started a lunchtime Aids action club where we use drama, role play, songs, poetry and dance to get the messages across. We've selected and trained eight really bright and intelligent peer leaders who are eager to keep things going when we move on. We've just had two successive residential training weekends with them. And we have got real discussions going in our timetabled lessons.
We've helped to dispel a lot of myths. Our pupils now know everyone can catch Aids, even rich white people and politicians, but that with care they can avoid the infection. But to achieve that they are going to need access to condoms. The good news is that there is a family planning nurse in the vicinity. The head teacher has agreed to go and talk to her with the aim of holding a regular school clinic. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 22 June
Agritex Refutes Made's Claims On Country's Food Security
Harare - Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex), the country's sole provider of crop forecasting figures, has dismissed Lands and Agriculture minister Joseph Made's claims that the country has enough food stocks. Agritex has defended its forecasts as accurate and says they should be relied on if Zimbabwe is to survive the looming food shortages. Agritex said estimates were that Zimbabwe would have a maize deficit of 154 570 tonnes by March 2002 and needed to import 654 570 tonnes, 500 000 of which should constitute the strategic reserves.
An expert in the department said Agritex used six methods of crop forecasting and the resultant figures presented to the government were a consensus of a number of expert inputs. "We have come up with these figure after using crop sample surveys, simple eye estimates, Central Statistical Office crop estimates, Commercial Farmers Union surveys, the Sadc Early Warning Unit's remote sensing, and the Scientific & Industrial Research & Development Centre (SIRDC) model. So our figures should be considerably accurate," he said.
Made has been reported as saying Zimbabwe will not import maize this season as farmers have produced enough to meet the nation's requirements. "There is no need for the government to import any maize. It is absolutely untrue that we will import maize. I have flown around the country and seen that there is plenty of maize in the communal and resettlement areas. I am confident no one will starve since maize is there," the minister said, dispelling fears that the country may need to import 800 000 tonnes of maize to avert starvation.
The crop forecasting official said in the past Agritex used a combination of crop sample surveys where 10 farmers were selected per ward for sampling and "simple eye estimates" where the experienced extension officer would estimate the production for each communal area as the main source of forecasting figures. But a combination of the methods produced subjective harvest estimates. "Last season, the department trained staff on a revised sampling method, which included stratified random sampling of each extension area or ward."
Agritex had also asked other stakeholders to come up with their own figures. "The Central Statistical Office carried out their estimates in the large and small scale commercial as well as resettlement and communal areas," he said. He said the CFU through the Grain Producers Association used 1 500 maize producing commercial farmers for the survey and the farmers gave information on the hectarage they had under crop in a current year. He said SIRDC provided its figures through its Crop Area Estimation Study which was launched in 1998. In its final report for the 2000/2001 farming season Agritex said the past season saw farmers reducing areas planted by between 15% and 50% in all crops, mainly due to bad weather, shortages of fuel, GMB delays in paying farmers and the political environment. The report said most disturbing was the reduction of area planted to grain in major grain producing areas such as Gokwe, Hurungwe and Mazowe.
From the Star (SA), 24 June
Zim prints new money as currency crisis looms
Harare - Zimbabwe's central bank is soon to issue a Z$500 note and a Z$5 coin, officials said on Sunday. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe spokesperson Ignatius Mabasa said the new denominations were "for the convenience of the public". The date for the launch of the note had yet to be decided. There have been calls for several months for new denominations to be introduced as rampant inflation forces people to carry large and cumbersome bundles of Z$100 notes - the current highest denomination - for routine shopping trips.
The 70 percent hike in the price of fuel two weeks ago has taken the cost of a full 50 litre tank of petrol to nearly Z$4000, making cash payment on the forecourt a long-winded process. The price of fuel is 17 times what it was in 1997 and the same volume of fuel would have required only two Z$100 bills and a couple of lesser notes. Inflation is currently running at nearly 60 percent, and economists forecast that it will exceed 100 percent by the end of the year. For the second year running, economic growth is expected to be minus five percent.
|Villages deserted as people flee violence|
6/25/01 9:53:05 AM (GMT +2)
John Gambanga, News Editor
Makundwei Motsi Muzavazi, 26, of Imbwanhema village in Musana communal lands, is recuperating in a Harare hospital after being assaulted by a group of Zanu PF youths from Bindura last week.
Several families from the
area have since fled their villages.
Muzavazi’s attackers accused him of being a member of the MDC.
Musana falls under the Bindura parliamentary constituency where a by-election is to be held on 28 and 29 July, following the vacancy left by the death of Border Gezi, the MP, in a car accident in April.
Zanu PF’s Elliot Manyika and Elliot Pfebve of the MDC, who are battling for the seat, have launched vigorous campaigns to win the by-election.
Several families in Imbwanhema village fled their homes after the youths descended on them last Thursday. The youths were being driven in a brown government Land-Rover Defender vehicle.
An eyewitness, who preferred anonymity, said the youths moved from house to house, looking for specific people whom they claimed supported the MDC.
When they arrived in Imbwanhema village they asked for Muzavazi. Sensing danger, Muzavazi ran away. However, the youths caught up with him and attacked him with chains and sticks, leaving him for dead.
The youths went to his house and looted his property, setting some of it on fire.
Muzavazi’s brother, Takaedza, said his brother was taken to Makumbe Hospital but was later transferred to Parirenyatwa in Harare.
The youths moved to the Mukwesha homestead next, but their intended victims, Wadzanai and his brother, Francis, had already fled.
The marauding youths then set fire to the Mukwesha family’s household goods, including maize meal.
The homestead was deserted when a Daily News team visited the village yesterday. There were heaps of ashes of burnt property and mealie-meal which was scattered on the ground.
The headman, Timothy Kunaka, said many villagers were living in fear after the attacks.
Pfebve, who held an election campaign rally at Trojan Mine in Bindura yesterday, accused his rival, Manyika, of organising the violence in order to instil fear in the people in the run-up to the by-election.
“The cases of violence are not isolated but systematic within the entire constituency,” said Pfebve.
In a related development, several MDC supporters who were attending a rally at Trojan Mine were beaten up by Zanu PF youths who arrived at the mine in a lorry. An MDC member who attended the rally said Manyika arrived at the mine ahead of the youths in a Defender vehicle, registration number 750 009B.
Manyika allegedly ordered the youth to disembark before they attacked the MDC supporters.