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
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
Aid agencies say that about four million people - around a third of
the population - will need food aid this year after the dire
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
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.
months western countries have tried to persuade his government to sign an
agreement to allow donors to launch an international appeal.
Mugabe said that donors should divert funds to other countries, as
Zimbabweans would "choke" if any more food aid was delivered.
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
"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."
grain marketing board, which is the only grain trader sanctioned by the
government, is run by members of the Zimbabwe National Army.
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 soon.
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
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
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 litre.
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
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
Increasing prices are unfathomable and the only certainty is
that prices of tomatoes, beans, and bananas if there are any, will go up
Most Zimbabweans no longer eat meat or other proteins. Mr
Mugabe has seen to that.
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
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."
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.
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.
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 named.
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 us."
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
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
"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
The announcement contradicts the
government's earlier claims of a bumper harvest.
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
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
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.
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
"It is obviously very serious. I don't see any easy
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.
say the unrealistic exchange rate hurts exporters such as gold mines and
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
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 http://africantears.netfirms.com My
books on the Zimbabwean crisis, "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears"
are available from: firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.africabookcentre.com ; www.amazon.co.uk ; in Australia and New
Zealand: email@example.com ;
Report: Zimbabwean arrested for illegally
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 Saturday.
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
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 all."
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
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."'
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
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
In March 2000 Mugabe launched "fast track"
redistribution of 5,000 white owned farms to black Zimbabweans, ahead of
parliamentary and presidential elections.
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.
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.