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

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The Telegraph

Zimbabwe famine red alert as harvest fails
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 30/04/2005)

A famine watch group issued a red alert for Zimbabwe yesterday, saying that
most people were no longer able to buy enough food.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network said the harvest was "insufficient
to satisfy consumption needs" for the next year.

It issued its warning the day after the head of the country's grain
marketing board admitted to a state-run newspaper that it was planning to
import 1.2 million tons of maize, a staple food which is now mostly
available only on the black market.

It is estimated that only a third of the 1.8 million tons consumed annually
have been grown this year.

Aid agencies say that about four million people - around a third of the
population - will need food aid this year after the dire harvest.

The famine network is a long-established regional food monitor run by the
United States Agency for International Development. Its cautiously-worded
statement is confirmation of what farmers and Zimbabweans already knew.

The harvest was the worst in memory. Economists say that that was an
inevitable consequence of President Robert Mugabe's confiscation of 90 per
cent of large, productive white-owned farms over the past five years. His
land grab has wrecked the economy.

Mr Mugabe pledged during his successful re-election campaign last month that
no one in Zimbabwe, which was once a major food exporter, would starve.

For several months western countries have tried to persuade his government
to sign an agreement to allow donors to launch an international appeal.

But Mr Mugabe said that donors should divert funds to other countries, as
Zimbabweans would "choke" if any more food aid was delivered.

Renson Gasela, the agriculture secretary for the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, said this week: "Donors have not been approached; nor has
a signal been given that the government would welcome assistance, even
without a direct approach.

"We have fuel shortages and no sugar. There is no cooking oil and there is
no milk.

"Many people who used to produce their own chickens have found to their
horror that there are no day-old chicks or food for them and eggs are short.

"Maize is now treated like a security item that the country must be kept in
ignorance about."

The grain marketing board, which is the only grain trader sanctioned by the
government, is run by members of the Zimbabwe National Army.

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The Telegraph

The jokes run out in Zimbabwe fuel queues
By Peta Thornycroft
(Filed: 30/04/2005)

They are called "hope queues", but mostly they bring nothing but bitter
frustration. They consist of drivers with empty tanks who converge on
garages where a rumour has gone around that a petrol tanker may be coming

Sometimes queues build up merely on the off-chance that fuel may arrive. The
motorists often wait for hours for nothing.

The petrol shortage in the Zimbabwean capital reached even more dire levels
than normal this week. No tankers came and even diesel, usually more
plentiful, dried up.

In the last big fuel crisis three years ago, and there have been many short
ones in between, a petrol queue had its moments, witty jokes about the
government, anecdotes about the last queue and reunions among queuers in the
stop-start lurches towards the pumps.

This time around, a fuel crisis so shortly after a general election in a
city where most people voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change has come too soon. No one is talking, let alone joking about the "old
man", President Robert Mugabe.

The reserves of everything that kept Zimbabwe limping downhill for the past
five years of self-destruction have dried up. Even the last summer rain this
week before the long dry winter sets in did not lift anyone's spirits.

The wealth of resources on the former white-owned commercial farms that
produced foreign currency has run out and the "new" farmers, largely Mr
Mugabe's clique, have no idea how to grow tobacco or other crops for export.
It doesn't matter if there isn't a yard of electric cable to be had as the
factory that makes it cannot get foreign currency to import copper wire. It
doesn't matter if there isn't any cooking oil, and we cope without
electricity for a few hours daily. We are used to water cuts and have learnt
to keep a few filled buckets at strategic places. All that is bearable. But
no petrol is unbearable.

Those without a car - about 95 per cent of the population of about 12
million - have to walk everywhere as the nation's fleet of run-down
mini-buses is grounded. So the 10 to 25 per cent who have jobs arrive late
for work, exhausted after several hours' walk from their crumbling ghettos
where sewage seeps past many front doors.

Zimbabwe has the cheapest fuel in the world, about Z$4,000 or 33p a litre at
the official exchange rate. On the black market, which this week hit
Z$30,000 for 1 outside a five-star hotel in central Harare, it's 13p a

The government subsidised the price of fuel ahead of the elections last
month. Mr Mugabe's minions say increasing the price of fuel will wreak havoc
with plans to stabilise inflation at what it claims is about 123 per cent
per annum.

Inflation is one of the few enduring jokes as everyone knows, especially
mothers looking for maize meal for their children, that Zimbabwe's inflation
is beyond comprehension.

It's probably about 400 per cent and rising according to economists, but
what do economists or bank managers know about trying to afford a pint of
milk if it is available?

Increasing prices are unfathomable and the only certainty is that prices of
tomatoes, beans, and bananas if there are any, will go up tomorrow.

Most Zimbabweans no longer eat meat or other proteins. Mr Mugabe has seen to

Zimbabwe's urban shoppers, if they have fuel, have to be energetic. It might
take hours from supermarket to corner shop, to women selling on the pavement
and to contacts who know, but eventually those with enough money and time
will find what they need.

They are the minority, mostly foreigners, with access to legal foreign
currency, who shop at supermarkets where most consumables are available,
including imported wine and fish.

The rest are like Constance Goredema, 36, with a nine-month-old baby on her
back, trudging to a queue she hopes will yield maize meal in the afternoon,
who lamented: "We won't live. We won't see next year. We are going to die."
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Mail and Guardian

Can Zimbabwe get any worse?


30 April 2005 08:58

Petrol queues stretched more than two miles through Harare
yesterday as President Robert Mugabe's government effectively admitted that
Zimbabwe faced shortages of vital supplies including its staple food, maize.

Frustrated motorists lined up for dwindling fuel supplies after
weeks in which hundreds of thousands of households have been without running
water and neighbourhoods have been blacked out by power cuts.

Yesterday it was announced that 1,2-million tonnes of maize was
being bought from abroad to bolster supplies.

But it was not clear how the government would pay for this as
Zimbabwe has a dire shortage of the foreign currency needed to import goods.

The government is also short of the money to buy the imported
chemicals needed to treat water, as well as numerous other necessities.

"So many things are going wrong at the same time that people are
getting into a panic," said a Harare factory worker, who did not want to be

"No fuel, no food to eat. Next we won't have enough air to
breathe," she said. "We all know the Mugabe government held things together
until the elections and now they are just letting things collapse."

Mike Davies, the chairperson of the Harare Ratepayers'
Association, agreed. "The city is crumbling," he said. "Water and power cuts
are widespread. The people who have run the city for 25 years have failed

The food and fuel shortages are even worse in the southern city
of Bulawayo, according to residents.

Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy used to produce enough food
to feed the population. Plenty of high-grade tobacco once earned enough
foreign exchange for the country's import needs.

But Mugabe has now acknowledged that the chaos stemming from his
seizures of white-owned farms has left less than half the country's farmland
under cultivation.

A season of marginal rains has brought a devastating crop
failure. Aid agencies say about 4 million people -- a third of the
population -- will need food aid this year.

"We have put in place a package where we are going to have over
1,2-million tonnes coming into the country over the next few months," said
Samuel Muvuti, the chief executive of the state grain marketing board.

The announcement contradicts the government's earlier claims of
a bumper harvest.

The tobacco crop is 70% smaller than it was in 2000 when the
government's "fast-track" seizures of 5 000 farms began. The quality of the
tobacco is reported to have declined, and international buyers are offering
lower prices.

The critical shortage of hard cash was evident at the state's
weekly auction of foreign currency, where only US$11-million was
available -- when fuel importers alone needed $230-million.

Anthony Hawkins, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe
business school, told the Guardian he was surprised by the speed at which
things had fallen apart after last month's parliamentary elections, in which
Mugabe's Zanu-PF party retained power.

"The shortages are a result of the government's lack of foreign
exchange," he said. "It's amazing how quickly this collapse occurred. They
managed to patch things up until the elections, but the day after voting the
shortages appeared.

"It is obviously very serious. I don't see any easy way out."

International economists say the Mugabe government has
exacerbated its economic problems by keeping the Zimbabwean dollar
artificially high. Yesterday the exchange rate put the Zimbabwean currency
at 6 114 to one US dollar. But on the thriving black market the rate was
nearly three times higher, at 17 000 to one.

Economists say the unrealistic exchange rate hurts exporters
such as gold mines and manufacturing.

But despite the dire shortage of foreign exchange, the
government struck a deal this month to buy Chinese jet fighters. - Guardian
Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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From: "Cathy Buckle"
Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2005 2:23 PM
Subject: Mumbled excuses

Dear Family and Friends,
There has not been a single day in the last week when we have had
uninterrupted supplies of both water and electricity in Marondera town.
The water cuts are unexpected and unexplained and trying to find anyone in
authority prepared to talk about the problem, the reason or the expected
duration, is a complete waste of time.

In other parts of the country the water situation has reached crisis
proportions. According to even the state owned television news, there are
now densely populated areas of Harare which have had no water for two
weeks. On Thursday night ZBC TV news showed shocking film footage of
scores of desperate urban people crowding around a shallow and unprotected
well waiting their turn to fill containers from a clouded pool of water.
It is an untenable situation and there are reports that some schools are
now having to close less than a fortnight into the winter term as there is
simply no water.

The electricity cuts are now regular occurrences and invariably at times
when demand is at its highest. A casual telephone enquiry about the power
cuts to the local electricity offices this week resulted in a flustered
employee who was clearly taken by surprise when actually asked to explain
why there was no power. Some stuttered and mumbled excuses about
insufficient maintenance, no money for spares and no foreign currency were
eventually proffered but it wasn't convincing. "What about the hydro
electricity we produce at Kariba?" I asked, "the generators powered by the
coal we mine at Hwange?" I questioned, but there were no answers and you
could almost hear the man squirming on the phone. Everyone in positions of
authority in this country, no matter at what level, now seems to take it
for granted that they will not be held answerable or accountable and so
they stutter and mumble and use the standard Zimbabwean excuse saying "I
am not the one".

Marondera, like every other town and city across the country has
completely run out of fuel this week and there is a feeling of both panic
and anger at this disgraceful state of affairs. Shortages of basic food
products such as sugar, salt, cooking oil, roller meal and margarine will
now be exacerbated as deliveries dry up altogether with no fuel for
trucks. Trying to find basic food in one huge wholesaler in Marondera this
week, I started counting empty shelves but gave up when I got to 72. I was
simply looking for foods we produce in Zimbabwe like sugar, pasta and
cooking oil but my search and counting of empty shelves was just too
absurd and I left. And, all this in the same week as Zimbabwe took
delivery of two new Chinese passenger planes and was chosen to sit on the
UN Human Rights Commission for the next three years. The hypocrisy and
absurdity of it all, is overwhelming. Until next week, love cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 30 April 2005
My books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are
available from: ; ; ; in Australia and New Zealand:
; Africa:
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Report: Zimbabwean arrested for illegally entering country

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - A Zimbabwean man who was granted asylum
in Britain after he claimed persecution as a homosexual has been jailed
pending trial for re-entering his country illegally, state radio reported

A broadcast said Samson Chifamba, 27, who had been travelling on
a British passport, had appeared in court in the town of Karoi 320
kilometres northwest of the capital, Harare, and been remanded in custody
until May 10.

It alleged Chifamba, a Zimbabwean by birth, had received asylum
status in Britain on March 18, 2003, with a false claim that his "human
rights were threatened in Zimbabwe by being denied his right to practice as
a gay."

In 1996 President Robert Mugabe ordered the arrest of
homosexuals saying they were "lower than pigs or dogs" and "had no rights at

However, state radio said Chifamba had admitted he only wanted
to gain employment in Britain and had a wife and child there. He had wished
to return to Zimbabwe to visit family and inspect investments he had made
while abroad, the radio said.

The news bulletin did not disclose where or when Chifamba was
arrested but said his British passport was "clearly marked 'valid for all
countries except Zimbabwe."'

Gillian Dare, spokeswoman for Harare's British Embassy, said
consular officials were investigating the report.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change believes up to
400,000 Zimbabweans are living in Britain, many of them illegally after
going there in the guise of tourists.

The last census revealed over 3.6 million of Zimbabwe's 15
million people have gone abroad as economic refugees since the late 1990s
when hyperinflation and unemployment soared. The International Monetary Fund
and World Bank withdrew budget support in protest at Mugabe's dispatch of
troops to the Congo civil war and payment of gratuities to ex-guerillas.

In March 2000 Mugabe launched "fast track" redistribution of
5,000 white owned farms to black Zimbabweans, ahead of parliamentary and
presidential elections.

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From SW Radio Africa, 29 April

School kids denied

In a revealing development, it is alleged that two named Zanu PF district
officials went to Chipashu Primary School in Mhondoro on Monday and blocked
children whose parents are suspected to be MDC supporters, from receiving
donated books. The books, which were donated by the Zanu PF MP Sylvester
Nguni, were supposed to benefit all pupils from grade 3 to grade 7. An angry
parent, Francis Kapfumo, who has two children at this school, told Newsreel
that the children were lined up and divided into two groups. One supposedly
representing those who came from families that supports Zanu PF and the
other, the MDC. He says this traumatised some of the children who were told
that they would not get the much needed books because their parents
supported the wrong party.
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From SW Radio Africa, 29 April

MDC supporter killed

Violence has broken out in Hurungwe East and it is reported that an MDC ward
chairman has been murdered in Kasimhure village, a resettlement area 40km
from Karoi. The MDC candidate for Hurungwe East in the just ended
parliamentary elections, Biggy Haurobi reports that Moffat Ebrahim, died
this morning from injuries sustained as a result of assaults by suspected
Zanu PF supporters. Moffat is said to have left home yesterday for Kariba
where he was going to attend a family gathering. Haurobi told Newsreel that
the murdered official was found dead allegedly at the home of a Zanu PF war
veteran only known as Gora. Tragically, Moffat had written a letter only
three days ago saying his life was in danger. He had also received a letter
summoning him to appear before the village head's Kasimhure community court
to answer allegations relating to a petition signed by some Zanu PF
supporters in the area who wanted him expelled because of his association
with the MDC. Haurobi told us that an Inspector Khumalo of Karoi police
station confirmed the death and had said a vehicle had been sent to collect
the body. No arrests have been made.
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