|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Election over, Zimbabwe is back to bad old
|By Michael Wines The New York
FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2005
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe In the weeks before parliamentary elections last March, the leaders of this threadbare nation threw open the national larder, wooing voters with stocks of normally scarce gasoline and maize and a flood of freshly printed money. It must have worked: The ruling ZANU-PF party was installed for another five years. But Zimbabwe's Potemkin prosperity has evaporated since the vote, swiftly replaced by penury and mounting signs of economic collapse. Here in Zimbabwe's second largest city, lines of cars stretch half a kilometer at fuel-parched service stations, and drivers spend the night in their back seats lest they lose their place. Milk, cooking oil and most of all maize, the nation's corn staple, are a distant memory. At one city-center grocery, much-prized Colgate toothpaste is kept in a locked case. Zimbabwe's currency, which traded on the black market at 120 to the dollar in April 2002, went for 6,200 to the dollar last December, 12,000 last April 1 and 17,000 in early May. By mid-May, a single American dollar brought as much as 25,000 Zimbabwean dollars - and the rate continues to climb. [Zimbabwe's government had steadfastly maintained an official exchange rate of about 6,100 Zimbabwe dollars per American dollar until Thursday, when the nation's reserve bank announced a 45 percent devaluation. But the new exchange rate - 9,000 per American dollar - remains nearly two-thirds less than the black market rate, and business managers here say it is unlikely to have more than a brief impact on the economy.] "It's running out of control," one Bulawayo manufacturer said. "When you're going down a path of destruction, you can keep putting patches on the tires - patch, patch, patch - but eventually, the tire is going to burst," he said. "We're going down that path." Of course, people regularly say that about Zimbabwe's economy, a chewing-gum and baling-wire affair long plagued by 70 percent unemployment, triple-digit inflation and a currency that no foreign creditor will accept. Prosperity has been receding since the late 1990s, when the government's attacks on international creditors and its seizure of commercial farms triggered a cascade of economic backlashes. Past economic plunges have provoked food riots, gasoline line protests and government crackdowns. This one is similar: The government has sent police to quell mobs outside groceries and gas stations, and begun a roundup of street merchants who were dealing too openly in black-market goods and selling currency at illicit rates. Yet, some say that the current crisis, perhaps the worst since the economy began foundering, may mark a turning point. Zimbabwe's main economic problems - capital flight, a dire shortage of foreign exchange with which to buy imports, and turbocharged inflation - are now so severe that they are eroding what remains of the industrial and agricultural base. Manufacturing has slowed to a trickle, hamstrung by shortages of fuel and imported components. Businesses have been driven into barter and the black market, fueling inflation. Appeals for government help are mostly fruitless: The government is all but broke. One persistent critic, a former government economist named John Robertson, said the government apparently exhausted its reserves on a feel-good campaign before the parliamentary elections, and is now paying the price. "The scarcities now are coming from manufacturers who can't deliver enough to retailers to fill their shelves," Robertson said in Harare, the capital. Initially, the problem was that manufacturers could not get enough supplies to make their products. But "now that there are more critical shortages in things like fuel," he said, "it's almost academic whether they can get the material, because they can't deliver the products anyway. The end result of the shortages is that prices are rising." In Harare this week, rumors that a shipment of sugar had arrived created a line of shoppers nearly a kilometer long outside one suburban supermarket. Yet the problem, said Robertson, was not a shortage of sugar but one of the imported polyethylene bags that hold it. Coca-Cola is being rationed because the gas that provides carbonation is in short supply, and the local bottler cannot find foreign currency to buy the imported syrup that makes a Coke a Coke. Virtually any product made of steel is in a parlous state because most rolled steel is imported from South Africa, and South African steel mills are demanding cash up front from their Zimbabwe customers. "It's what I call a chain-link economy," said a Bulawayo maker of a basic steel commodity. "Company A manufactures parts for Company B, and Company B manufactures a part for Company C, and so on until company F makes the finished product. "What's happening is that the links are falling apart. And when one link breaks, the whole chain doesn't work." Reduced to a television-screen crawl, this is Zimbabwe's major problem: It has run out of foreign currency. Over the last five years, Zimbabwe's parceling out of 5,000 commercial farms among squatters and peasants has decimated agricultural exports, an economic mainstay. When commercial farming collapsed, so did the businesses that supported it, from tractor sales - the nation needs 50,000, and has fewer than 400 working ones - to irrigation suppliers. That only deepened the farming woes and the export tailspin: Zimbabwe tobacco production is down two-thirds in five years, and the quality, once world-renowned, is so poor that buyers are scarce. Falling exports made foreign currency dear, causing exchange rates to rocket. But the government has generally refused to revalue its currency, choosing instead to print more money; Zimbabwe's money supply rose 226 percent in 2004. The result has been hyperinflation and a thriving black market in both money and goods. Hyperinflation and the artificial exchange rate, in turn, have crippled gold mining, Zimbabwe's other big exporter. Production fell 18 percent in the first quarter of 2005. Starved for foreign currency to import crucial supplies, the government now requires all businesses to sell it 25 percent of their foreign income at the official exchange rate of 9,000 Zimbabwe dollars per American dollar.
Trying to save Zimbabwe's healers
As more and more Africans adopt urban lifestyles, the interest and enthusiasm for traditional medicine seems to be declining, and many now prefer the pills of Western medicine.
I accompanied Ambuya Jessie Muzhange, an expert herbalist, to a bushy area on the outskirts of Harare.
Digging for roots and searching for different plants that have medicinal properties is an arduous task, requiring a great deal of skill.
Ambuya Muzhange, in her 70s, picked out leaves, branches and roots that most of us would not have even noticed were there.
Eight of her children are still alive, and only one of them has a reasonable level of knowledge of traditional medicine.
"I've helped people with so many different diseases - backaches, nosebleeds, fertility problems, STDs, cancer, and even men who can't perform well in bed," claims Ambuya Muzhange.
"Most of my children find traditional medicine confusing, because it can be very difficult to distinguish the plants and to know their different uses."
The biggest problem with traditional medicine is a lack of quality-control - it is hard to know who is a genuine herbalist who has studied the powers of local plants and who is a charlatan out to make a quick buck.
But many Zimbabweans do appreciate the benefits of traditional medicine, particularly as it is far cheaper than visiting the doctor.
Some western-trained medics appreciate that some herbs may have some benefit but evidence supporting traditional remedies is sparse and medical schools show no sign of incorporating the traditional approach to what they teach.
"The problem with traditional medicine is that there are no prescribed dosages," said Obey Mawire, a final year medical student in Harare.
"We don't know all of the side-effects, and it needs purification, but there could be new discoveries if we incorporate traditional with modern medicine."
But in the Western world, there is a growing interest in traditional medicine from Africa and the Far East.
As well as being a psychotherapist, Geraldine Kocroft is a fully-fledged traditional healer or n'anga.
She is currently working on a book documenting the benefits of traditional medicine and does not sure the doubts of many western medics.
"It's absolutely priceless, it really works, and God has given it to us, but unfortunately I feel it's a slowly dying art," she said.
"We're losing certain aspects of it, although we might gain some more."
Critics, of course, say that traditional medicine is dying out because there are so many conmen around and there is not enough scientific proof that the cures are effective.
Another reason for the decline is that it can be a secretive art, and knowledge is often not passed between herbalists and traditional healers.
"People tend not to want to share, sometimes they feel that they've been exploited."
A high level of skill is certainly needed to use the traditional medicines that the continent has been blessed with.
Who knows what remedies are yet to be discovered, if the dying art can be kept alive?
Coughs and colds
Take leaves from a guava tree and rub them by hand to bring out the juices.
Put in boiling water and add lemon peel for flavour.
Leave to stand for 30-40 minutes.
Drink half a glass of the warm mixture three to four times a day, 30 minutes before food.
Continue taking for one week, by which time the cough or cold should have gone.
Take dry elephant dung from the bush.
If a nosebleed begins or if you feel one is about to start, burn a teaspoon-sized piece of the dung.
Inhale the smoke, taking deep breaths.
Take three or four grains of fresh maize and pound them.
Put the crushed maize on a clean cloth or handkerchief, tie it, and squeeze hard until juice comes out.
Put two drops of the juice in the infected ear.
"Zimbabwe needs leadership of great moral stature. We need an opposition that will lead people to stand up against Mugabe's dictatorship, not an opposition that waits for people to go out on the streets and then will follow them," he told the Guardian.
"It is naive to think that this murderous regime will allow itself to be voted out of office by democratic elections. It is naive to think that people will rise up without leadership," said the prelate, who is the strongest critic of the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe.
Archbishop Ncube said Zimbabweans had failed to rise up against Mr Mugabe during the recent elections because most people were not prepared for sacrifice.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party claimed victory, but the MDC is challenging the result in 30 constituencies.
Despite the strong evidence of massive vote rigging the electoral court will not rule in the opposition's favour, the archbishop said.
He said: "The courts have still not ruled on the challenges lodged by the MDC after the 2000 elections. Why would it be any different in 2005?"
The Catholic prelate warned that any mass action against the Mugabe government faced a great risk of violence from government forces.
"It would be worse than Uzbekistan. Everyone knows the Mugabe government has police, army and youth militia who will inflict violence on the people. It is dangerous," he said.
The archbishop also said that there was growing hunger in Zimbabwe.
"There is no food in the shops in the cities. The shelves are bare. There is no petrol. I went to the rural areas last week and people are suffering. They say they will die without food," he said, adding that millions of Zimbabweans were at risk of starvation without food relief.
The government admitted the scale of its economic problems yesterday when it devalued the currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, and banned luxury imports in an effort to stem the haemorrhage of hard currency. The governor of the central bank, Gideon Gono, blamed foreign speculators for Zimbabwe's economic woes.
Economic convulsions have created food shortages, but Archbishop Ncube accused the Mugabe government of refusing food aid to areas that voted for the opposition.
"The government is taking revenge. They are going into villages and refusing to give food to hungry families, old women and families with young children, because they voted for the opposition. This is sinful," he said.
Mr Mugabe said he would welcome food aid from the UN as long as there were no political strings attached. This is a reversal from his previous stance that Zimbabwe had a bumper harvest and would "choke" on international food aid.
Archbishop Ncube said Mr Mugabe's land seizures and economic mismanagement had created the food shortages suffered by the country.
The archbishop was travelling to Scotland, where he is nominated for the Robert Burns humanitarian award, the winner of which will be announced tonight.
Economic Collapse in Zimbabwe
|Jan Lamprecht was born and raised in Zimbabwe, then
called Rhodesia, during the "Bush War", which resulted in Robert Mugabe coming
to power. He was educated in Harare, the capital of the country, before leaving
for South Africa, where he spent some time in the Navy. He wrote a book called
by Deception" about African politics related to Zimbabwe and the effects
Mugabe's policies may have on other countries.|
He publishes a popular, highly "politically-incorrect" web site AfricanCrisis.org
|Burns award honour for ‘the thorn in Mugabe’s flesh’|
|MARTYN McLAUGHLIN||May 20 2005|
|THE most outspoken critic of Robert
Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe will tonight be honoured with the Robert Burns
International Humanitarian Award.|
Archbishop Pius Ncube, 57, is due to arrive in Scotland today to collect the accolade at a gala concert and ceremony in Culzean Castle, Ayrshire.
The religious leader is renowned as "a thorn in the flesh" of Mr Mugabe, whose draconian legislation and hostility to white commercial farmers has brought his self-sufficient nation of 11.5 million people to the verge of bankruptcy.
It is understood a panel of judges – which included Lord Steel, Lesley Riddoch and Magnus Linklater – selected the archbishop for the honour.
Other contenders included the sisters of Robert McCartney, the murder victim; Tom Hunter, the tycoon turned philanthropist; John Miller, the Church of Scotland minister nominated for his community work for the poor in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow; and Romeo Dallaire, a former head of the UN's peacekeeping force in Rwanda.
Lord Steel, the Scottish Parliament's inaugural presiding officer, is to announce the winner tonight.
More than five million people face starvation this year and the cash-strapped government of Zimbabwe needs to import at least 1.5 million tonnes of corn from South Africa and three neighbouring states it used to help feed until recently – Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
After this year's general election – a landslide win for Mr Mugabe's ruling ZanuPF – Archbishop Ncube, the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, called for a Ukrainian-style peaceful uprising to rid the country of Mr Mugabe, who has ruled the country with an iron rod since its independence from Britain in 1980.
This week, Archbishop Ncube has been in South Africa, where there are almost two million Zimbabwean refugees. He has been calling on his countrymen to kick the president out of office.
He said recently: "People in Zimbabwe have been too soft on this government.
"So people should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away."
Mr Mugabe has dismissed Archbishop Ncube as "a puppet of Tony Blair and the West", but to millions in Zimbabwe he is a living saint who daily defies death threats made by members of Mr Mugabe's out-of-control youth wing, the Green Bombers.
Archbishop Ncube recently organised other bishops and church leaders in Zimbabwe to produce a report on pro-government youth militias which are responsible for torture, rape and murders.
The report, based on the church officials' observations in the field, estimates 30,000 to 50,000 young boys have been recruited to play a part in these militias.
Before his departure for the UK, Archbishop Ncube met the press in South Africa to show them a video taken by a group called the Solidarity Peace Trust during the 2005 elections. He is anxious to show Scottish journalists the video to bring home to them what he believes is the full horror of Mr Mugabe's 25-year rule – including how he plans to take hold of all incoming food supplies from Western aid agencies and charities and send them to the starving rural areas as a "gift" to the people of Zimbabwe from himself and ZanuPF.
The humanitarian award ceremony comes as the fourth annual Burns An' A' That! Festival begins in earnest tonight with a traditional gala concert.
Lou Reed, the American rock singer and songwriting legend, will head the line-up at Culzean Castle in a programme that has attracted international coverage.
Other artists who will perform at the 10-day event, sponsored by The Herald and Sunday Herald, include Pete Doherty, the former singer of The Libertines, who will perform his own poetry in tribute to the bard.
Zimbabwe ex-minister found guilty
The country does not recognise dual citizenship, but Mr Kuruneri - who is on trial for corruption - admitted travelling on a Canadian passport.
He is accused of illegally channelling funds abroad to buy a mansion in South Africa, which his lawyers dismiss as "mere speculation".
Mr Kuruneri was arrested last year at the height of an anti-corruption drive.
He has spent more than a year in custody and is the most senior official to have been prosecuted during the campaign, launched by President Robert Mugabe.
On Thursday, Zimbabwe devalued its currency by 45% in an attempt to raise foreign exchange for food imports.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of an economic crisis, suffering fuel, food and foreign exchange shortages.
His defence team argue the house in Cape Town was bought by a South African company, Choice Decisions, of which he was director.
"The house was purchased by Choice Decisions. Choice Decisions is not Zimbabwean... and therefore does not need the authority of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to enter into any transaction in South Africa," the defence said in its documents to the court.
Mr Mugabe launched an anti-corruption drive last January in an effort to tackle the crisis, which he also blames on sabotage by the opposition and foreign powers.
His critics say the anti-corruption drive was a cover for a witch-hunt against members of a faction of his Zanu-PF party which had fallen out of favour.
|Fri 20 May 2005|
THE United Nations envoy Joaquim Chissano arrived in Zimbabwe for talks with the president, Robert Mugabe, yesterday, as the country plunged deeper into economic crisis, with mass arrests of black-market traders, long lines for petrol and stampedes for scarce food like sugar.
Mr Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, was due to hold discussions with Mr Mugabe on proposed UN reforms, according to Zimbabwe state radio.
The meeting was also expected to touch on growing food shortages in Zimbabwe, which used to be the "bread basket" of southern Africa.
James Morris, head of the World Food Programme, is due to visit the country, which has an estimated five million people in urgent need of food aid, next week.
Before parliamentary elections in March, Mr Mugabe insisted that the country had a "bumper harvest" of maize and would be self-sufficient in food. But shortly after the poll - won by the ruling Zanu-PF party with a huge majority amid allegations of the use of food as a political weapon to secure votes - the government said it would have to import 1.2 million tonnes of maize.
Reports from the city of Bulawayo said two women with babies on their backs were injured on Wednesday when shoppers stampeded for sugar, not seen in stores for many weeks.
Long lines also formed for bread, wheat flour and maize meal, the staple diet of Zimbabwe's 11.6 million people.
At a filling station in Harare owned by a government minister, motorists who had waited two days for petrol became angry when stocks ran out after preference was given to a last-minute "VIP" line of limousines, off-road vehicles and soldiers in private cars. The resulting near-riot caused gridlock on a major road.
Come back home, fugitive bankers told
May 19 2005 at 12:33PM
Harare - President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has refused to sign a
controversial new law that would have barred foreign rights groups from
operating in the country, a newspaper said on Thursday.
The minister did not say what the issues were.
The proposed law, which drew widespread criticism from rights groups around the world, barred the registration of foreign non-governmental organisations if their work was purely for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Several human rights groups in Zimbabwe have since 2000 been chronicling alleged abuses by Mugabe's government.
Critics said the law would be used to shut down perceived opponents, just as a controversial press law passed in 2002 was used to shut down four independent newspapers critical of the government.
Parliament is set to resume next month, with Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front holding a majority of 78 seats to 41 for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. - Sapa-dpa