The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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”The Situation is Very Grim”

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG (IPS) - "We are the only country in the world not at war whose economy is shrinking at an alarming rate. Inflation is running at 620 percent. Eighty percent of our people live in poverty," says Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Gibson Sibanda, Deputy President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) adds that 70 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed. "The manufacturing sector has shrunk by 40 percent...The situation is very grim," he told IPS.

Sibanda, along with his colleagues, is in South Africa to draw attention to the plight of Zimbabwe. They are, yet again, calling for pressure to be brought on the government of President Robert Mugabe, which has presided over a political and economic crisis in the country. Since the start of 2000, the country has witnessed two elections that were dogged by violence and allegations of vote rigging.

"Pressure must be brought to bear on Mr Mugabe's regime to release the population from the reign of terror and economic meltdown," said Paul Themba Nyathi, MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity.

For several months, South African President Thabo Mbeki has insisted that diplomatic levers are being pulled behind the scenes to persuade Mugabe into negotiating a settlement to the "meltdown". On certain occasions, it was even announced that talks were imminent, or already underway.

But earlier this week, Mugabe again took a hard line on negotiations. He accused the MDC of being a front for western countries which were allegedly seeking to topple his government.

"As long as they are dictated upon from abroad we will find it difficult to talk with them," he said Monday (Feb. 23) said in an interview broadcast on state television. For talks to taken place, Mugabe added, the MDC would have to cut its alleged ties with western states.

"President Mbeki is overly anxious to see progress made in Zimbabwe. But his anxiety is not shared by his colleague, Mr Mugabe," said Nyathi.

"Right now, there is no talk going on in Zimbabwe."

The 80-year old Mugabe and senior officials from the ruling ZANU-PF party have been barred from travelling to the United States and European Union (EU) since 2000, because of concern about the government's failure to uphold the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Human rights groups claim that at least 300 people, most of them opposition supporters, have died in Zimbabwe since the start of politically-motivated violence in 2000. Thousands of people are also said to have been tortured, and a number of women have alleged rape on the part of security forces and pro-government militias.

Harare denies claims of human rights abuse.

The start of 2000 also saw Zimbabwe's controversial land-reform programme get underway. Under this programme, the government seized land from thousands of mainly white commercial farmers - apparently for redistribution to landless blacks.

While some peasant farmers have been resettled on confiscated land, a number of farms have also made their way into the hands of government officials and their associates.

In addition the land programme, combined with drought, has led to severe food shortages in Zimbabwe: the United Nations World Food Programme says seven million people - more than half the country's population - are now in need of food aid.

While in South Africa, the MDC officials also launched the "Zimbabwe Institute", a think tank which will be based in Cape Town, South Africa for the immediate future. The unfavourable political climate in Zimbabwe prevents the institute from operating there, according to its chairman, Brian Raftopoulos.

"The launch of the Zimbabwe Institute adds a new dimension to the struggle for social liberation in Zimbabwe and the collective pursuit of social justice," he said.

"This is a struggle which is taking place within a political environment characterised by unrelenting state repression and a virtual closure of the democratic space." (END/2004)
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Newspaper says these 13 were on plane

March 14, 2004, 11:09

A Johannesburg Sunday newspaper has published the names of 13 men it says are the South Africans being held in Harare on charges of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea. Rapport says it obtained the names from diplomatic and intelligence sources.

It named the sole British subject being held as Simon Mann and the only Zimbabwean as Malani Moyo.

Zimbabwe detained 70 suspects, the majority of them being South Africans, Namibians and Angolans.

The 13 names are: Johannes Muyongo, Avelino Dala, Errol Harris, Never Matias, Raymond Archer, Maitre Raukuluka, Louis du Preez, Harmanus Carlse, Simon Witherspoon, Kenneth Pain, pilot Neil Steyl, Hendrik Hamman and Lawrence Horn.

Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Friday the charges on which the accused were being held were "quite clear, they were bent on actually destabilising an independent country, a sovereign country and we are bound by the AU (African Union) charter and the UN charter to protect other states from any aggression." - Sapa

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Foreign affairs denies naming mercenaries

March 14, 2004, 09:04

The department of foreign affairs has denied that it released the names of the alleged South African mercenaries who were arrested in Zimbabwe last week. Ronnie Mamoepa, the spokesperson for foreign affairs, says they are still awaiting permission from the suspects and denied reports by a newspaper which says that such a list exists.

The suspects are apparently being held at a number of locations around the Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. The newspaper reports that 13 of the 70 people being held are South Africans.

Mamoepa says Jerry Ndou, South Africa's ambassador to Harare, will visit the suspects and acquire their consent to make their identities known to the public.

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Sunday Independent
Extradition unlikely for Zim coup accused

March 14 2004 at 09:10AM

By Christelle Terreblanche and Peter Fabricius

The alleged South African mercenaries detained in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe this week for plotting to overthrow the government of President Obiang Nguema are highly unlikely to be extradited and will probably be tried in those countries.

Chris Maroleng, a researcher from the Institute for Security Studies, said evidence was mounting that the arrest of the men was a "joint African sting" involving the intelligence, security and military agencies of South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.

South Africa, however, did not have the necessary treaties with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea to effect extradition.
"I don't see any real political will from the South African side to try to get them extradited," Maroleng said.

South African diplomatic sources have indicated that any attempt to have them brought home would only come after their trials.

Several theories exist as to how the alleged plotters were arrested.

While Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Nguema thanked President Thabo Mbeki for tipping him off, Mbeki's spokesperson, Bheki Khumalo, said it was not Mbeki personally, but South Africa law enforcement agencies who had tipped off their Equatorial Guinea counterparts.

Did they also tip off the Zimbabweans or did they not know about the Zimbabwean stopover? If they did know, why did they let the Boeing take off from Polokwane to Harare? Was this part of a trap to catch them in the act of buying weapons? Perhaps.

Its members were subjected to extensive searches before they left from the Polokwane Airport
Another theory is that the South Africans did not know about the Boeing flight. Some sources said Nick du Toit and the other alleged coup plotters were rounded up in Malabo after the tip-off from South Africa and that Du Toit spilled the beans. This alerted the Zimbabwe authorities to the Boeing flight.

According to this theory, Colonel Tshinga Dube, the head of Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), was not part of a sting operation, but was just doing business as usual and himself got caught by the Central Intelligence Office. This account would be consistent with the shady dealings of ZDI in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example.

The ZDI is apparently something of a private fiefdom of Emmerson Mnangagwa - formerly Zimbabwe's justice minister and now speaker of parliament, and Mugabe's preferred successor - and the former Zimbabwean defence chief, Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Apparently Du Toit was head of the Equatorial Guinea advance party that was to capture President Obiang and send him into exile in Spain. The Zimbabwe contingent was to arrive by plane at Malabo to complete the overthrow of the government.

Plan B was for the plane to land in Cameroon, the nearest mainland landfall if Malabo airport was closed. They would then attack by boat.

Du Toit had apparently settled in Equatorial Guinea some months ago, bought two fishing trawlers and got himself a fishing concession.

Others arrested in Equatorial Guinea include "Bones" Boonzaaier, a former special forces sergeant-major; George Ellerson; Carlos Cardoso; and Neves, also a former special forces operator. They are being kept under house arrest - not in jail - and are in contact with their families.

Although the Zimbabwean government announced that, of the group held in Harare, only 20 were South Africans, sources say all were travelling on South African passports, although they came originally from Angola, Namibia and the DRC.

Most of them worked for the notorious 32 Battalion and Koevoet, a special unit of the former South African Defence Force. In 1994, most of the men were integrated into the South African National Defence Force and given South African citizenship.

Simon Mann, the overall ringleader, though British-born and perhaps still carrying a British passport, also has a South African ID book by virtue of his father having been born in the country. He lives in Constantia, Cape Town. Mann, formerly of Britain's special forces, is said to have paid $180 000 (about R12-million) for a consignment of weapons, believed to be mainly AK47 assault rifles.

Sources told The Sunday Independent that in addition to arms purchased in Zimbabwe, the group had planned to collect additional ammunition in the DRC.

There have been several coup attempts in Equatorial Guinea recently, most recently one in October last year.

The underlying cause of the political instability is turmoil within the ruling family that has run the country since independence in 1968. The first president, Macias Nguema, was toppled in 1979 by Obiang, the present president and his nephew. Nguema was executed. Obiang has been grooming his eldest son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, who holds the lucrative forestry and infrastructure portfolios, to succeed him, and this has upset other family members.

Sources think the money for the coup attempt came from rival members of the ruling family, money that is stashed in the Canary Islands. Logo Logistics, the company that owns the aircraft on which Mann and his associates were arrested, has been linked by Africa Confidential to a Lebanese businessman, Eli Cahlil, who is also close to the United States oil company, Halliburton. Halliburton has an oil concession in Equatorial Guinea.

The alleged plan to overthrow the government was said to have been hatched on a farm in Walkerville, about 40km south of Johannesburg. The farm, sources have told The Sunday Independent, is owned by a farmer who is well known in right-wing circles. Although the South African authorities are keen to ask the farmer some questions, their actions largely depend on the developments in Harare and Equatorial Guinea.

The Sunday Independent has been further able to ascertain that the South African authorities were so concerned about the group that its members were subjected to extensive searches before they left from the Polokwane Airport. Their passports and other documents in their possession were photocopied.

Although the border authorities were suspicious of the mission, they allowed the group to depart because, among other things, they said that they were going to erect fences in the DRC and Bujumbura, Burundi. Among the equipment they carried were wire cutters. 

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Sunday Independent
Koevoet, 32 battalion and the coup plot...

March 14 2004 at 09:10AM
Sunday Independent

By Christelle Terblanche and Peter Fabricus

The alleged plan to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea was hatched on farm in Walkerville, about 40km south of Johannesburg.

The farm, sources have told The Sunday Independent, is owned by a farmer well-known in right-wing circles. Although the South African authorities are keen to ask the farmer some questions, their actions largely depend on the developments in Harare and Equatorial Guinea, where 70 men have been held for plotting to overthrow the government of President Obiang Nguema.

The majority of those held in Harare held South African citizenship but were not born in this country. Most of them worked for the notorious 32 battalion and Koevoet, a special force which operated under the South African Defence Force. In 1994, most of the men, originally from Namibia and Angola, were integrated into the South African National Defence Force and given South African citizenship.

Most of them worked for the notorious 32 battalion and Koevoet
We have been further been able to ascertain that the South African authorities were so concerned about the group that when it left from the Polokwane Airport, they were subjected to extensive searches. Their passports and other documents in their possession were photocopied. Although the border authorities were suspicious of the mission, they allowed the group to depart because, among other things, they said that they were going to erect fences in Democratic Republic of Congo and Bujumbura, Burundi. Amongst the equipment they carried were wire cutters.

Sources also told The Sunday Independent that in addition to arm purchased in Zimbabwe, the group had planned to collect additional ammunition in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Simon Mann, a former British Special Force soldier who now holds South African citizenship, is said to have paid $180 000 (about R1,4-million) for a consignment of weapons, believed to be mainly AK-47 assault rifles.

Equatorial Guinea this week sent a top level delegation to thank the South African government for alerting them about the planned coup.

In the next few days, top investigators from the National Intelligence Agency, Military Intelligence and the SAPS' Crime Intelligence are expected to arrive in Equatorial Guinea to assist with investigations into the coup plot.

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Scotland on Sunday
African scramble for oil fuels dogs of war fiasco


IT HAS been compared to a Frederick Forsyth thriller, but the story of bungling mercenaries caught red-handed allegedly plotting a military coup in an oil-rich African state has more plot twists than even a master novelist could muster.

A group of 67 men led by former SAS soldier Simon Mann were arrested after their plane landed in Zimbabwe last Sunday. They face the death penalty if found guilty at a trial due to start this week.

But the mystery has now turned to the identity of those behind the coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, and in particular a Byzantine web of intrigue at the heart of the despotic government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Documents obtained by Scotland on Sunday suggest that Obiang’s own brother is linked with the South African mercenary who has admitted his part in the putative coup plot.

Obiang, who came to power in a military coup by overthrowing his uncle, has ruled with an iron fist for 25 years by stuffing the government with his relatives and blatantly rigging elections.

But in recent months tensions have risen within his family over an apparent desire to hand power to his son Teodorin, a rap music entrepreneur and international playboy.

The 30-something has been seen at parties in Hollywood, Rio de Janerio and Paris, where he stays at five-star hotels and travels in Bentley and Lamborghini cars. He has his own rap label, TNO Productions, and has reportedly had a relationship with a female American gangster rapper.

Now company documents link Nick du Toit, the 48-year-old South African arrested as leader of an alleged "advance team" of mercenaries, with Armengol Ondo Nguema, the national security chief and brother of Obiang.

Both men are shareholders in Triple Options, a joint venture company established last October to provide "security services" to Obiang, but which the government now says is implicated in the plot to topple him.

The Zimbabwe mercenary team led by Mann have said that they were on their way to Eastern Congo to protect an unnamed mine as part of a legitimate contract.

"It is all a dreadful misunderstanding," said Charles Burrow, an executive with the Channel Islands-registered company that owns the mercenaries’ impounded Boeing 727 plane.

But respected sources say that in fact the mercenaries stopped in Harare to pick up weapons. They had already paid $180,000 to Zimbabwean army officers for a consignment of AK-47 guns, mortars and 30,000 rounds of ammunition. But when they landed there were no guns and no army officers, just the Zimbabwean authorities, who duly arrested them.

The mercenaries are accused of acting like characters from the Forsyth novel, The Dogs of War, a thriller about a mining executive who hires a group of mercenaries to overthrow an African government and install a puppet dictator so he can mine platinum.

Nevertheless, the wide range of possible culprits highlights the universal unpopularity of Obiang’s regime.

"The list of people who want to see him overthrown is very long," said Antony Goldman of Clearwater Research Services, a London-based political risk constancy.

The stakes in Equatorial Guinea are also high for Western countries, and in particular the US.

Massive oil strikes in the late 1990s have shot the small, poor nation from obscurity to being Africa’s third largest oil producer, second only to Nigeria and Angola.

US oil giants, led by ExxonMobil, have invested over $6bn in operations that pump 350,000 barrels of oil per day and made Equatorial Guinea Africa’s fastest growing economy.

"The oil has been for us like the manna that the Jews ate in the desert," Obiang told CBS news last year.

But as in other oil-rich African nations, the vast revenues have only been salted into the foreign accounts of a rich elite and have served to entrench the ruling dictatorship.

Last year ExxonMobil threw a party in Washington in honour of Obiang - one year after he held presidential elections in which he won 97% of the vote.
The result appeared to reflect a slight decrease in popularity over the previous poll, in which Obiang won 99.2% of the vote.

Visa requirements have been waived for US citizens, and more than 3,000 US oil workers live on premises provided by the Obiang government. There are direct flights from Houston to the capital, Malabo. Most controversially, US firms have been depositing oil royalties into a Washington account with the Riggs Bank - which only Obiang controls.

According reports, his current balance is $600m, prompting the FBI to launch an investigation.

American interest in censuring human rights abuses has waned in tandem with the flood of investment. The US re-opened its embassy on the island capital Malabo last October after an eight-year closure in protest at torture and other abuses.

Two years ago, for instance, more than 150 political opponents were arrested for another allegedly coup plot. Some were hung in positions designed to break their bones, and at least two died.

Since then, those who have not fled into exile in Spain have been detained at the notorious Black Beach prison, where opponents say they have been tortured by Obiang family members.

"If you’ve ever seen a person limp on both legs, you know you’re in Equatorial Guinea," said former US ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, John Bennett.

The US is looking to West Africa as a safe source of oil far from the Muslim world and the price controls of Opec producing states. The region already supplies 15% of US imports, which the Bush administration hopes will rise to 25% in the coming decade.

Western business is also flooding into a country that just 15 years ago was a poverty-stricken, little-known backwater, even by African standards.

There was only one hotel with no electricity, food or running water. Two cars in the street was a traffic jam, and the phone directory had just two pages, which listed subscribers by their first name. The airport terminal was a tin-roofed shack that received just one international flight.

Today, however, the French have built a mobile phone network, sports utility vehicles whizz through the streets, and several international carriers service the smart new airport terminal. Prostitutes clamour around the gates of several new hotels.

And following the US lead, foreign diplomatic missions no longer insist on democratisation in their dealings with Obiang. The former colonial power, Spain, sent its foreign minister on a visit last November, and the South African president Thabo Mbeki has also strengthened relations.

Equitorial Guinea strikes it rich

UNTIL major oil discoveries in 1995 and 1999, Equatorial Guinea was one of Africa’s smallest, poorest and least known countries.

Tucked into a quiet corner of the West African coast between Gabon and Cameroon, the former Spanish colony, called Spanish Guinea, relied on cocoa exports as its principal source of income.

The country is split into two sections - a mainland area and the island of Bioko, where the capital Malobo is situated. The major languages are Spanish and French.

The first president, Francisco Nguema, brought brief notoriety in the 1970s when widespread human rights abuses caused one third of the population to flee.

President Nguema was overthrown in 1979 by his nephew, Obiang Nguema (right), who had him arrested and shot.

The first ever multiparty elections in 1996 were marred by widespread irregularities, returning President Obiang with 99% of the vote.

Since the discovery of Africa’s third largest oil reserves, Equatorial Guinea has become its fastest growing economy. However, the wealth has failed to trickle down to its 500,000 people, most of whom survive on $2 a day.
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Zim Std

Damning US report chronicles Zimbabwe human rights abuses
By our own Staff

ZIMBABWE's security forces last year committed extra judicial killings, tortured, raped, effected arbitrary arrests on opposition party supporters as the country's human rights record continued to worsen, according to a damning report recently released by the United States Department of State.

The 26-page report made available to The Standard recently, said the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and some police units either participated or provided transport as well as other logistical support to the perpetrators of political violence.

"Security forces committed extra judicial killings. Security forces and government youth militias tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused people and some persons died from their injuries," said the report titled Country (Zimbabwe) Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003 and released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

The report is pregnant with details of human rights offences that were committed, not only by the State security forces, but by supporters of the ruling party and the youth militia with the blessing of the Zimbabwean government last year

It ranks the Zimbabwe government's human rights record as one of the worst in the region.

Quoting the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the US report said at least nine people were last year killed in political violence perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters, war veterans and youth militia supported by the country's security apparatus, which has become President Robert Mugabe's handy repressive tool.

Among those mentioned as victims of Mugabe's repressive regime were supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) such as Steven Tonera of Chimanimani, Richard Tonderayi Machiridza of Chitungwiza, Tichaona Kaguru of Harare and Samson Shawano Kombo of Makoni East in Manicaland.

The majority died from wounds inflicted on them by suspected government security agents and Zanu PF supporters and war veterans.

"Security forces were involved in incidents of political violence, including instances of soldiers and persons in military uniforms beating civilians, particularly in areas where persons voted for the opposition," noted the report.

It also accused Mugabe's government of restricting freedom of the Press by closing down the country's sole daily, The Daily News and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday, academic freedom, right of association for political organisations and viola-ting worker rights.

During the course of the year, a number of journalists, mostly from the privately-owned media and foreign correspondents, have been harassed and arrested for publishing articles perceived to be anti-government.

"The government continued to restrict freedom of speech and the Press; closing down the only independent daily newspaper, beat, intimidated, arrested and prosecuted journalists who published anti-government articles," said the US Department of State report.

The report said the judiciary was not spared as judges and magistrates have been attacked for handing down judgments against the ruling party while detained persons were not allowed prompt or regular access to their lawyers.

"Several attorneys were denied access to their clients during the course of the year ... They complained that police officers were obstructive and verbally and physically abusive," it says.

The report notes that during the year, Zanu PF supporters and war veterans, with material support from the government, expanded the occupation of commercial farms, "and in some cases killed, abducted, tortured, beat-up, abused, raped and threatened the farm owners, including anyone believed to be sympathetic to the opposition".

The farm invasions by war veterans and Mugabe's supporters are largely blamed for the current food crisis facing the country, once the breadbasket of Southern Africa.
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Zim Std

Abject poverty haunts Gokwe rural folk
By Valentine Maponga

GOKWE - THE scattered pole and dagga huts of Muchembu Village near Gokwe Centre are a stark reflection of how the people in this remote part of rural Zimbabwe live.

Waking up every morning to the mundane routine of rural life, the people of Gokwe have little to show off to visitors.

Clad in a dirty, tattered once navy blue overall - the type of dressing popular with the men of this rural area - Timothy Mhasvi is eager to talk about the plight of this small community tucked away and apparently forgotten in the mordenisation taking place elsewhere in the country.

A casual look at Masvi's fields shows a maize crop that has wilted and turned yellow because of poor soils and little rain. The soils, he says, "are really very bad. They are sandy and and not much good for any crops."

It is clear that early planted crops have suffered acutely from the lack of adequate nutrients, despite the recent wet spell. "Even though we did manage to plant some crops, our soils are very bad as you can see. We do not have money to buy fertilisers Š that is why our crops have turned yellow," says Mhasvi waving dejectedly at his dying crop.

"At the moment we are better off because we are in the middle of the rain season. If it wasn't for that the whole Gokwe area would be experiencing serious water shortages.

"For my family, the only nearest water source which does not dry up in summer, is about 10 km away. We used to have a borehole over there but it broke down some time ago," said Mhasvi, who although in his early 50s, looks much older.

The whole Gokwe area is prone to droughts. In the rare event that the Gods smile at this part of the country and it rains heavily, villagers have to contend with another problem as the area is also prone to floods.

"You can never win if you stay here," says another villager shaking his head.

There are also wild animals from the nearby animal sanctuary, Chirisa Game Park, which come out and feed on the poor crops almost daily leaving the people with virtually nothing to harvest.

This, as a visit by The Standard established last week, has worsened food situation in an area which - like many other parts of rural Zimbabwe - has been ravaged by the HIV/Aids pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the economically active age groups.

The situation is so bad that many non-governmental organisations say they have been moved by the plight of people in Gokwe and have set up programmes to help the villagers.

One such organisation is the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources, SAFIRE, which assists rural communities in economic development through improved management of their natural resources.

Peter Gondo, the deputy director of Safire, said they decided on Gokwe after realising that people in the area were experiencing immense problems to survive.

"The people here are living in absolute poverty and the situation is worsened by the fact that there are no permanent water sources in all the districts. We are currently holding a livelihood survey to determine how people are surviving in such an environment," said Gondo.

"We think by end of April we will be through with our survey and the information we gather will be used to create projects to help the community. At the moment we have discovered that out of every 100 homesteads only six have toilets," Gondo said.

Canadian Amba-ssador John Schram, who also visited Gokwe last week, donated $173 million towards research which is aimed at improving the livelihoods of people in the poor rural communities.

During the same gathering, Schram also donated $88 million for an erosion and gully reclamation project, which is being spearheaded by Environment Research and Auditing Consultants (ERAC).

"The community (Gokwe) has been marginalised from donor and NGO assistance and we hope that from the results of this study, we can understand their situation better and work together in improving their daily lives and their environment," said Schram.

According to the United Nations' Declaration on Human Rights, clean water and sanitation are not only universal needs, but basic human rights.

However, Gokwe people are used to walking long distances of up to 10 to 15 km to the nearest clinic, schools or water point.

Shuvai Nyaningwe, a nurse at Gokwe Hospital, said the general lack of hygiene in the area was another major problem.

"When HIV/AIDS is factored into the equation the issue becomes even more desperate. Patients need sanitary environments and chronic bouts of diarrhoea, often associated with the disease, require plenty of water," she said.
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