International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: May 1, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: The government announced a 680 percent increase in the
price of corn, the staple food, as the nation marked May Day amid rapidly
worsening economic woes.
Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo said the new price Zimbabweans will have
to pay in the shops was to back a 570 percent increase in the producer price
of maize awarded to farmers to encourage food production, state radio
In the current harvesting season, farmers will receive 3 million Zimbabwe
dollars (US$200; ?150) a metric ton. With immediate effect, a regular 5
kilogram (11 pound) bag of corn meal will sell for 21,874 Zimbabwe dollars
(US$1.45; ?1.10), up from 3,200 Zimbabwe dollars (21 U.S. cents; 15 euro
Corn meal, milled from maize, is the mainstay of the Zimbabwe diet. A
regular 5 kilogram (11 pound) bag of corn meal will feed a family of six - a
typical family size in Zimbabwe - eating just one meal a day about four to
The old price was held artificially low by the government.
Overall, official inflation surged last month to 2,200 percent, the highest
in the world. Last week the central bank announced an exchange rate of
15,000 Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar for most transactions in hard
currency and retained a long-standing 250-1 rate for other deals.
The food hike cast a pall over countrywide activities for labor day already
focusing on deepening poverty and continuing political turmoil.
Boiled corn meal, known as sadza, is the principal bulk of a meal,
accompanied by savory vegetable or meat stew. It is also eaten as a
United Nation officials say ordinary Zimbabweans reeling under the worst
economic crisis since independence eat one meal a day or less.
"Sadza is part of our way of life. Things are terrible all around, but it
(the price increase) makes it worse on this of all days," said Bridget
Mhkizwe, a Harare mother.
She said her husband, a delivery driver and a labor union member, earns
about half the official poverty line of 1.4 million Zimbabwe dollars (US$92;
?70) a month for a family of five.
"I don't know how we'll manage. That is all I can say," Mhkizwe said.
Police banned union-organized May Day celebrations in three main provincial
towns, Zimbabwe's main labor federation said. It also accused the state of
intimidating labor day organizers in some districts.
The police ban applied to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, aligned to
the opposition, and did not affect smaller government-backed labor groups
celebrating May Day Tuesday.
Under security laws, political gatherings require police clearance.
Police were not immediately available for comment.
Labor activists have been targeted since the labor federation broke away
from an alliance with President Robert Mugabe's ruling party in 1992 and
backed the formation of the main opposition party in 1999.
Last month, the federation called a two-day national strike to protest
economic mismanagement, acute shortages of food and most basic goods and
spiraling unemployment. The strike was poorly observed, with most workers
saying they couldn't afford to stop work. Unemployment in formal jobs is
running at a record 80 percent.
Tue 1 May 2007, 12:47 GMT
HARARE, May 1 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main labour movement on Tuesday renewed
demands for better working conditions and access to anti-retroviral drugs,
and threatened to stage fresh strikes in the next three months if their
concerns were not addressed.
"As the economy continues to slide so are disposable incomes ... thereby
creating a sense of despondence, helplessness and hopelessness," said
Lovemore Matombo, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leader, to cheers
from the crowd.
"Failure to do this will see workers starting strikes in the next three
months," Matombo said, speaking in Zimbabwe's Shona language, when
addressing hundreds of people to mark Workers' Day at a stadium in Harare.
A dozen police officers kept watch on proceedings.
A planned strike last month by the ZCTU over their demands largely failed as
President Robert Mugabe's government deployed police and promised a tough
response to any protesters.
But on Tuesday ZCTU leaders renewed those demands.
The unions want the government to sign up to an accord agreed in 2001 to
improve governance and respect human rights and increase the minimum wage to
the poverty datum line level, currently at Z$1,5 million ($6,000 using the
official exchange rate but $60 on the black market).
Matombo said workers were on average earning Z$200,000 and had no access to
AIDS drugs, accusing authorities of favouring politically connected
Zimbabweans are grappling with a deep economic crisis, marked by the world's
highest inflation rate above 2,200 percent and unemployment above 80
percent. Most workers struggle to pay their bills and feed their families.
The government has since March imposed bans on protests and rallies across
much of Harare after police clashed with opposition supporters.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980,
denies charges of mismanaging the economy and accuses the ZCTU of fronting
the main opposition to remove him from power.
May 1, 2007
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has defended the government
of China against accusations of human rights abuses.
"There is not systematic persecution of Christians, apart from certain
sects, " he said. But he said there was " uncertainty " about what
Christians might experience from the government.
Speaking this afternoon at the foreign policy think-tank Chatham House, Dr
Williams, who visited China for the first time last October, said it was
possible for the administration in China to make life extremely difficult
for Roman Catholic priests and that abuse could be arbitrary .
But he insisted the abuse was not systematic.
The Archbishop also defended the Anglican stance towards the ruling Zanu PF
party in Zimbabwe against accusations that the Church has not been
forthright enough in its condemnation of the regime. Dr Williams said that
when he met the pro-Mugabe Bishop of Harare, Right Rev Nolbert Kunonga, five
weeks ago he asked him "to contemplate restoring his soul in relation to
Mugabe". The Archbishop said he had asked Bishop Kunonga to back a deal that
would provide food aid to the famine stricken country given by the World
Food Programme and administered by the Anglican Church: "The answer was no",
said Dr. Williams.
The speech, 'The Reinvention of China', was delivered at a session chaired
by former Foreign Secretary, Lord Douglas Hurd. The Archbishop also
discussed the future of religious institutions in China and what he called
"the steady but perceivable shift" in the Chinese government's attitudes
towards religious groups. But he said that the sometimes arbitrary treatment
of unregistered religious bodies in the communist country could not be
solved "simply by counter rhetoric, but by looking at how China could become
a more pluralistic country."
Wednesday 02 May 2007
By Edith Kaseke
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government has reached a stage where
policies cannot rescue an imploding economy and will unlikely attract
meaningful foreign investment after an International Monetary Fund (IMF)
report showed the central bank, tasked with halting the meltdown, was
technically broke, analysts said on Tuesday.
In a Working Paper released on 25 April, the IMF said the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) was unsound to manage the levers of Zimbabwe's financial
industry and would need to be recapitalised to regain the confidence of the
RBZ chief Gideon Gono has been particularly blamed by even members in Mugabe's
government of assuming wide-ranging powers, such as bailing out struggling
parastatals and government departments with quasi-fiscal funds.
"I think the IMF has hammered a point home we have always been saying that
it is unsustainable to give away money in that fashion without a productive
basis," consultant economist John Robertson said.
"The fact that the IMF has raised that issue further brings the central bank's
credibility into disrepute and I do not think any serious investor will want
to do business with Zimbabwe and that is bad for the economy," he added.
International donors have shunned Zimbabwe since 1999 in protest against the
government's policies, including the seizing of white-owned commercial farms
to resettle blacks although critics say this has largely decimated
Lack of foreign investment and donor funding has worsened an economic crisis
seen in an inflation rate above 2 000 percent and the highest in the world,
unemployment of more than 80 percent and shortages of fuel and food.
Yesterday Malawi, which Zimbabwe used to feed in the past, said it was going
to ship 400 000 tonnes of maize to its southern African neighbour which has
been hit by successive maize shortages since 2001. Mugabe blames drought for
The IMF said while central bank losses in most countries were restricted to
within 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Zimbabwe's flow of
central bank quasi-fiscal losses were estimated at a massive 75 percent of
GDP in 2006.
The losses have arisen from a range of activities, including monetary
operations to mop up liquidity; subsidised credit; foreign exchange losses
through subsidised exchange rates for selected government purchases and
multiple currency practices; and financial sector restructuring.
Analysts said there was need to rethink Zimbabwe's policies, which have
failed to bring relief to the struggling masses, and urged the government to
come up with a "an all encompassing formula" to end the crisis.
The analysts urged Zimbabwe to co-operate with international partners, which
it would still need in future to turn around the economy.
"This is basically confirmation that no amount of policies will revive the
economy if there are no structural changes. It paints a sad picture of a
failed state," James Jowa, a Harare based economist said.
Since becoming the country's chief banker in December 2003, RBZ governor
Gideon Gono has implemented a dual exchange rate policy, characterised by
one rate for official government and other essential transactions and
another for ordinary purchases.
This has created opportunities for arbitrage and fed into a thriving black
market where even the central bank has had to go to scrounge for scarce
foreign currency for onward selling to parastatals and other "key sectors"
but at a loss.
The key sectors have included senior politicians and government ministers as
well as newly resettled farmers.
"These developments have resulted in an unstable macroeconomic environment
that risks hyperinflation, reinforcing the argument in favour of
far-reaching and simultaneous reforms in the areas of fiscal, monetary, and
exchange rate to restore policy credibility and impose macroeconomic
discipline," said the IMF.
"Zimbabwe can not continue to go it alone, it is time to embrace the advise
of countries that have gone through this type of crisis and that together
with our own practical initiatives will see the economy rebounding," said
Mugabe denies that his policies are responsible for the economic crisis and
instead charges that the West has ganged up against his government to punish
him for seizing the farms from whites. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 02 May 2007
JOHANNESBURG - Malawi's finance minister Goodall Gondwe has rejected media
reports suggesting that his country had struck a deal in which they would
supply maize to Zimbabwe in return for sugar.
Zimbabwean media last week reported that Harare and Malawi had struck the
barter arrangement to help boost grain supplies in Zimbabwe in the wake of a
poor harvest last farming season.
But the Malawian finance minister said the reports of barter arrangement
with Zimbabwe were false insisting that Harare will pay cash for the 400 000
metric tones of maize they will send to Zimbabwe.
"There is no barter arrangement. They were wrong reports . . . We've a lot
of sugar ourselves," Gondwe said.
He said although Zimbabwe was facing severe foreign currency shortages, he
expected Harare to pay up for the maize as they had already signed an
agreement for the maize supplies.
"We are aware about that (shortage of foreign currency). But we've had
negotiations and we've reached an agreement and we are sure that they will
"The 400 000 tonnes will take six months since March to export to Zimbabwe .
. . Within that period, we expect payment to be made. In fact, we are
expecting payment to be made anytime now," Gondwe said.
Zimbabwe, once regarded as the breadbasket of southern Africa, has faced
severe food shortages over the past seven years following chaotic land
reforms by President Robert Mugabe's government.
The land reforms saw food production fall by 60 percent resulting in most
Zimbabweans requiring food handouts from international food relief agencies
This year, Zimbabwe only harvested about 600 000 tonnes of grain against a
national requirement of 2.4 million tones. The southern African country is
importing food from Malawi and South Africa to meet national needs. -
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye
01 May 2007
An International Monetary Fund working paper just released says the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe contributed significantly to soaring inflation in 2006 by
pumping huge sums into the economy to fund the operations of the government
and state-owned firms.
The paper on "Central Bank Quasi-fiscal Losses and High Inflation in
Zimbabwe" said the RBZ's losses on such commitments equaled a 75% of GDP in
2006, unheard of among central bankers who would consider 10% of GDP a
Many of the losses arose from providing parastatal enterprises with foreign
exchange at below-market prices, said the working paper by Sonia Munoz.
It concluded that "Zimbabwe's failure to address continuing central bank
quasi-fiscal losses has interfered with both monetary management and the
independence and credibility" of the central bank. Such operations blew out
the money supply, obliging the RBZ to soak up liquidity by issuing notes,
incurring high interest costs.
The paper said that the Reserve Bank should probably be recapitalized at
some point in the future - though not until macroeconomic stability has been
Economist Eric Bloch told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7
for Zimbabwe that the IMF working paper's findings are correct up to a
point - but that the central bank was forced to conduct the operations and
has since mended its ways.
May 01 2007 at 06:37AM
Harare - Zimbabwe's militant war veterans, staunch supporters of
President Robert Mugabe, have been formally integrated into Zimbabwe's army
as the ruling Zanu-PF party prepares for elections in 2008.
The war veterans have helped Mugabe win the past three general
elections through a sustained campaign of violence against the opposition,
leading to Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth in 2003.
Their constitution into a formal reserve force has sent shivers down
the spines of members of the opposition, as the war veterans will now get
official state funding. In the past, such funding by the government was
The reorganisation of the war veterans has been published in the
Government Gazette under the Defence (War Veterans' Reserve) Regulations 2007.
"There is hereby established a reserve force of the army to be known
as the war veterans' reserve," said the gazette. "The war veterans' reserve
shall consist of members of the war veterans from a register of the war
veterans compiled in terms of the War Veterans Regulations of 1997... who
volunteer to serve in the war veterans' reserve and are accepted into the
reserve by the commander," it added.
There would be two classes of war veterans, the first consisting of
members below 50 years old who could be deployed into active military duty
and could undergo training if the commander of the army decided so. Those
older than 50 years "can be deployed for such duties not requiring physical
military training as the commander may determine", according to the gazette.
It said members of the reserve force could be issued with "such arms,
clothing and equipment as his or her duties require". They will also benefit
from travel and medical expenses.
Opposition spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said it was no coincidence that
the government had taken this move as the country's political players began
to gear up for general elections next year. He said it was clear that Mugabe
was "oiling all the institutions of violence" that he "badly needed" to
disadvantage the opposition.
When the police went on the rampage in April, severely beating up
opposition leaders and leaving them injured in full view of the world,
Mugabe publicly defended their actions and warned the opposition that more
was coming. The war veterans first gained notoriety in 1997 when they
demanded to be paid large sums of money as compensation for their
participation in the 1970s independence war.
The unbudgeted payments of more than R1-billion to the 50 000-plus
veterans sparked the long slide of the Zimbabwe dollar and eventually
Zimbabwe's economic collapse.
The veterans have vowed to return to war if the opposition ever wins
elections in Zimbabwe. They have also vowed never to salute anyone who did
not fight in the liberation war, a reference to MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, who did not participate in the liberation struggle.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on May
LILONGWE, May 1 (Reuters) - Malawi has begun exporting 400,000 tonnes of
maize to Zimbabwe which faces a 1.5 million tonnes maize deficit, Finance
Minister Goodall Gondwe said on Tuesday.
Gondwe told Reuters that some 5,000 tonnes had been shipped to Zimbabwe
"The 400,000 tonnes will take six months to be exported to Zimbabwe and we
have agreed that within this period the (Zimbabwe) authorities (will) pay
for the maize," Gondwe said.
Malawi expects to produce 3.1 million tonnes of maize this crop year, its
biggest harvest in 10 years which saw the government lifting an export ban.
The record harvest is due to good rains and a successful fertiliser and seed
The World Bank-approved fertiliser subsidy scheme also boosted yields after
Malawi's 2005 harvest, its worst since 1992. The country produced just 1.25
million tonnes, or 37 percent of maize usually needed by the country's 12
Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is facing an estimated
1.5 million tonnes deficit of the staple maize due to low production on
commercial farms seized from whites for black resettlement.
The southern African country is crippled by foreign currency and fuel
shortages, unemployment of over 80 percent and the highest rate of inflation
in the world which critics have blamed on the policies of President Robert
Gondwe dismissed fears that Zimbabwe will not be able to pay in foreign
"We are aware about the forex situation in Zimbabwe but we have negotiated
and agreed and we expect them to finish paying by September this year,"
Gondwe said. ((Reporting by Mabvuto Banda, editing by Tony Austin; Reuters
Messaging: rm://firstname.lastname@example.org: Email:
email@example.com; Telephone: +27 11 775 3160))
HARARE - Zimbabwe's military has warned it is standing ready to deal with
alleged terrorist activities by the opposition and will deal forcefully with
violence linked to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s alleged plan
to breach the peace and order in Zimbabwe.
Minister of Defence Sydney Sekeramayi told a contingent of 451 police
officers at pass-out parade at Morris Depot weekend that the Zimbabwe
National Army was standing ready to quell "terrorist activities by the MDC."
"May I take this opportunity to warn those indulging in terrorist acts that
the Zimbabwe Republic Police and other security agents have the
constitutional mandate and capability to maintain peace and order in the
country," Sekeramayi said. "The ministry of Defence is always ready to
render assistance to the ZRP whenever they are called to do so. The security
forces cannot fold their arms while forces of negation are eroding the gains
of our independence and threatening our sovereignty through complicity with
The statement from the minister, in charge of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces -
incorporating the army, airforce and police - which traditionally supports
Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party, marked the military's first direct warning
to the opposition ahead of the country's 2008 presidential and general
The police have usually issued similar warnings.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has scoffed at allegations that his
party was masterminding the spate of petrol bombings of police stations and
the terror campaign.
Security forces have invoked tough new security measures that outlaw public
gatherings or rallies without police clearance, and at the weekend the MDC
said police denied to clear three opposition rallies around the Kariba area.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is
expected to be officially announced as the ruling party candidate at a
special congress that is to come after the extra-ordinary Central Committee
meeting set to be held in Harare tomorrow (Friday) amid a deepening
political and economic crisis many blame him for.
However, he has vowed the MDC, which he calls a puppet of the West, would
only rule Zimbabwe "over our dead bodies".
The MDC has clashed with security agencies following a prayer meeting that
culminated in the death of an opposition activist in March. Since then, the
crackdown on the opposition has intensified with opposition officials
getting abducted from their homes and severely tortured.
At the time of going to print, the whereabouts of MDC Manicaland spokesman
Pishai Muchauraya was still unknown after he was abducted from his Mutare
home. He was allegedly implicated in the petrol bombings of police stations;
a charge the MDC says is "trumped up."
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 May 2007
There are reports South African authorities are being overwhelmed by the
mass new arrivals of Zimbabwean refugees fleeing the current crackdown by
Robert Mugabe's security forces.
According to Solomon Chikohwero, vice chairman of Zimbabwe's civic society
organisations in Johannesburg, the latest victims of the turbulent situation
back home have stretched the resources offered by the South African
'In the last two month alone, over 50 000 people are reported to have
crossed over from Zimbabwe to South Africa. The system of dealing with
refugees here was not meant for such high numbers. Just last year, Home
Affairs officials used to deal with about 20 to 30 cases of new arrivals
each week but now they are dealing with over 2000 people every week,'
Most of those who fled the country in the last six weeks have urgently been
seeking medical treatment after being refused care in Zimbabwe following
violent attacks on opposition activists.
Chikohwero added; 'on a daily basis we take a number of new arrivals to
hospitals. With or without documentation, we help every Zimbabwean who comes
our way. We have also been overwhelmed but there is nothing we can do, we
just can't ignore them.'
The growing tide of refugees' raises uncomfortable questions for a South
African government that came to power in the name of human rights but that
has refused to criticise Mugabe. Chikohwero said only the South African
government can put a stop to what is happening with Zimbabwe and the
'I think President Thabo Mbeki recognises that the flood of refugees along
their quite open border will worsen, unless there is a political solution
inside Zimbabwe. So Mbeki has to act fast to avert a potentially disastrous
episode in his country,' he said.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Violet Gonda
1 May 2007
A human rights lawyer has expressed concern for the well-being of detained
opposition official Pishai Muchauraya, who has allegedly been tortured. Alex
Muchadehama said police officers confirmed the Tsvangirai-MDC provincial
spokesperson had been detained, but he was denied access to his client on
Tuesday by the CID Law and Order Division at Harare Central police station.
Muchadehama said: "We also received information from many people that he had
been beaten up and we suspect that we are being denied the right to see him
because the police suspect we would see how he was injured and we also
suspect that they don't want us to see him because they are in the process
of assaulting him." The lawyer was told to return on Wednesday to see the
Pishai Muchauraya was arrested in Mutare on Monday and transferred into the
custody of Harare Central police on the same day. On his way to Harare the
opposition official managed to send text messages alerting some journalists
and human rights lawyers that he had been beaten and arrested in connection
with petrol bombing accusations.
Muchauraya's arrest is the latest in a series of attacks and harassment of
opposition officials by the Mugabe regime. Scores of MDC supporters, civic
society activists, students and church leaders have been arrested and beaten
since early March. The opposition says the bombing allegations are trumped
up charges aimed at crippling them.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament issued a resolution in solidarity with
the people of Zimbabwe last Thursday. Member of the EU Parliament Geoffery
Van Orden said the resolution reflected their continuing concern about the
situation in Zimbabwe, particularly in light of the events of March, 11th.
He said the parliament really was recognizing that there has been some
progress in SADC.
Van Orden said: "We are calling all members of the international community
to strongly enforce the sanctions against the Mugabe regime and emphasizing
the point that the sanctions are not against the Zimbabwean people. They are
targets specifically against Mugabe and his cronies."
The MEP said the sanctions have to be rigorously enforced, tightened and
include even more people. The European parliamentarian also recognized there
was a need to put plans in position now for a massive programme of
international assistance to Zimbabweans once 'freedom is restored in the
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 05/01/2007 23:46:03
NATIONAL Constitutional Assembly chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku has dismissed
South African President Thabo Mbeki involvement in Zimbabwe's dialogue
process as a ploy to buy more time for embattled President Robert Mugabe.
Madhuku said Zimbabweans must ratchet up pressure on the 83-year-old
Zimbabwean leader and his government by staging massive demonstrations in
the coming months.
Addressing workers on May Day at Gwanzura Stadium, Highfield, the NCA leader
said solutions to the Zimbabwe crisis lay with Zimbabweans, adding putting
faith in Mbeki was "a waste of time".
Said Madhuku:"We have solutions to our problems and these solutions come
from Zimbabweans. We must never be fooled by Mbeki. Mbeki is buying time for
Mugabe and his government by promising us that he can help mediate on the
"All Mbeki wants is time for his friend. Mbeki does not want us to have
demonstrations or put pressure on Mugabe. We have seen Mbeki before. What
has he done for us? As Zimbabweans we must realise the power and means of
escaping poverty and hunger lie within us."
Mbeki was tasked with defusing Zimbabwe's political tensions by the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) heads of state in Tanzania in March.
The summit came amid Western calls for a tougher line on Mugabe following a
widely-condemned crackdown on human rights activists and opposition members
that included Madhuku and the two leaders of the fractitious opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) -- Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur
The political leaders were tortured while in police custody following their
arrests in Highfield on March 11.
African leaders have refused to publicly rebuke Mugabe and have urged
dialogue. Mbeki has so far asked Zimbabwe's opposition groups and Zanu PF to
make submissions on any ground rules for the scheduled talks.
"We were here in Highfield on March 11 and seriously beaten by security
agents. Mugabe failed to kill us and he won't kill us. He wanted to kill but
failed. Let us unite and fight poverty and misrule. I promise you, we are
going to return to Highfield in the coming months. We won't be afraid of
taking on the security agents including the police officers here.
"Mugabe knows Highfield is in the history books as the hotbed of national
protest. We will return to Highfield and nothing will stop us."
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Wellington
Chibebe told the same gathering that Mugabe was prepared to destroy the
He said police had stopped the ZCTU from marking May Day commemorations in
five towns including Marondera, Bindura, Rusape and Norton.
"We remain resolute in our drive to have the rights of workers restored.
Today police mounted roadblocks in and out of Highfield in a bid to stop us.
They have failed.
"The roots of the ZCTU lie with the ordinary workers not with me or the
council. Mugabe won't kill the ZCTU. Even if he bellows, hits the podium and
says 'never ever', we the ZCTU say ever and ever," Chibebe said.
He urged the workers to remain united and show cause in their demands for
better salaries and living conditions. "We don't subscribe to wage freezes.
Gideon Gono wants that, but we say no.
"When Gono took office, he was touted as the messiah. His slogan was failure
is not an option, but you all know that he has not used that (slogan) in his
two recent monetary policy staments.
"Gono is now dancing with failure."
The Voice (Francistown)
May 1, 2007
Posted to the web May 1, 2007
Zimbabwe became independent on April 18,1980 after a long guerilla war
against British colonial rule. The birth of the new country was greeted with
much hope and high expectations, and in the early years Independence Day was
a time of celebration. But, times have changed. The Voice caught up with a
few Zimbabweans living in Botswana, to check if they joined in the 27th
birthday celebrations last week Wednesday.
The economy is beset with an inflation rate of more than 1,700 percent and
more than 80 percent of the workforce is now unemployed. An estimated three
million Zimbabweans (out of a population of 12 million) have left the
country in search of a better life. As a result, many exiles say
Independence Day is now a time of reflection.
Clifford Makoni, 30 years of age, has been living in Botswana for the past
three years. He came at the invitation of his sister who due to the
deplorable conditions in her country came to Botswana four years ago to seek
for a better life.
Back home, Makoni worked as a butchery attendant manager and due to the
meager pay he was getting, life became too hard to comprehend both for him
and his family. Last week, Makoni says he just commemorated the day but did
not celebrate as there was really nothing to write home about the day.
He blames "misrule" by President Robert Mugabe's government. Cutting a sad
face with a rather elegant figure and clad in stylish clothes, Makoni said
he is one of the few Zimbabwean nationals in Botswana who live by the law.
Here, he is employed by a local company as a landscaper, and since clinching
the job, life has somewhat become totally different and much better.
But not all is well. Makoni says due to the differences the locals have with
his countrymen, life continues to be a major struggle for him. Staring deep
into the blue sky, Makoni wets his cracked lips and states; "Being labeled a
foreigner is something we continue to face." Worse is the fact that even
some of the few law-abiding Zimbabweans continue to be painted with the same
brush and are accused of the increasing cases of rape, murder, torture and
robbery prevailing in Botswana.
His phone rings and Makoni moves a little bit away from our conversation and
attends to the call. Within a few seconds, he is back and despite the busy
activities taking place within the Gaborone Bus Rank, Makoni finds pleasure
in speaking his mind making sure each word is given proper enunciation and
inflection to drive the point home. Tucking his left hand into his right
pocket he adds, "you know I live by one saying that, 'all mankind have got
one common origin, problems and ultimate fate and that the problems that we
share are greater than the problems that divide us'."
He says the problems facing Zimbabwe can face any southern African country
just like the saying goes, 'don't laugh at the one who falls first because
you don't know whats ahead of.'
Makoni is saddened by the state of affairs. "I feel very sad in my heart
that we have lost the ideals that we actually went to war for, we were
supposed to be a prosperous democracy with human rights enshrined in our
constitution, with civil liberties. All that has been eroded in the past 27
He added that another reason he and his compatriots in Botswana would never
celebrate Zimbabwean Day is because the day has been turned into a day to
glorify Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party led by the country's leader since
independence, President Robert Mugabe.
"Independence ideally should have nothing to do with Mugabe and company
because we own independence collectively as Zimbabweans. Unfortunately he
has hi-jacked it," Makoni says.
Makoni, however, is hopeful that things will one day go back to normal and
he looks forward to going back home then. Since he is not a border-jumper,
he is very proud to have come into the country through a gazetted point of
entry and despite the everyday struggles that he continues to face he is
thankful to his employers for giving him a salary to survive on despite it
being a hand to mouth kind of money.
"Despite me having a job, I still find it hard to make ends meet." Said
Makoni who added that out of his salary he pays a P400 rent, buys food for
P300, sends to his family in Zimbabwe around P400 and remains with plus or
A qualified landscaper, Makoni noted that another problem they face is their
numerous encounters with the police whom he accused of harassing and
torturing his compatriots for no apparent reason.
He noted that the situation also gets worse when one is riding in a combi
and "you'd regret being a Zimbabwean due to the nasty things they tend to
say about us." Queried as to what would make him return to Zimbabwe, he said
only when the heat back home cools off he'd be able to raise about P10000 to
go and invest back home as this would fetch him about Z$1 600 000 in the
black market. "Just like Mugabe says, everybody in Zimbabwe is a
millionaire," he chirps in his joke making a few of his gathered compatriots
who are spying in on our conversation crack a few ribs. I even afford to
draw a smile before spotting another Zimbabwean by the name of Maria who did
not want her real name used.
She has memories of attending national events on Independence Day and also
serious partying during the few years following freedom from British rule,
but the jubilation continues to be a distant memory.
"It's been overtaken by other feelings," Maria says. "People are just
desperate and when you are desperate, your concerns are all about tomorrow
and the next meal and what your children are going to wear, you don't have
time or the inclination to stop and think about celebrating something like
independence it's just a day off, maybe."
However Maria, who had planned a small celebration with her family on the
day, feels independence still means a lot to Zimbabweans despite the hard
times they are going through.
"Definitely a certain a group of people have benefited a great deal more and
some people have become very poor in the process. But I think the actual
concept of independence is still very much alive in people's hearts, if not
in their consciousness and people value that," Maria says.
The 44-year-old mother of three noted that she has been coming in and out of
Botswana at least twice a month to come and sell her wares which range from
sweet potatoes, groundnuts and round-nuts. Her disappointment lies with the
Gaborone City Council's Bye-Law Department and the Police whom she accused
of harassing her and her compatriots. "We spend sleepless nights in the bus
rank waiting to sell all these stuff you see here today and at times we go
for nights without a single drop of water in our sun-tanned skins. These
people tell us we cannot use toilets or bathing facilities in the bus rank's
What disturbs Maria most is a number of corrupt police officers who from
time to time ask for bribery from her and her compatriots. Cutting a rather
desolate figure and her eyes still showing signs of lack of sleep, Maria
says most of the police officers on duty would order them to contribute P2
each to buy their freedom or risk being locked up even though they possess
genuine traveling and temporary residence permits. She noted that even sad
is the fact that some of the police officers would order them to offer them
what they sell for free still in exchange for their freedom.
Stressing that she is also not a border jumper, Maria said she will keep on
coming in and out of the country until the situation back home gets better.
She is one of those that believe for every action there's a cause. Simply
put, Marea says "everything happens for a reason."
She added that her aim is not to spend much time in Botswana but rather to
sell all her wares and return hopefully on the same day. "All we are doing
is trying to survive. We are not robbers.
If you look at that woman she is a Motswana businesswoman who buys some of
our goods at wholesale prize and goes and sells them somewhere else. Simply
put she survives on us and what would happen if we were all chased out of
here. Her family will starve." She says pointing to a woman carrying a large
bowl full of sweet potatoes heading towards the overhead bridge. Her parting
statement is, "allow us to enter the country, don't harass us, allow us to
sell then we all shall eat and survive."
Before bidding them farewell, I come across a 55-year-old Nhamo Phiri who
also sells groundnuts and sweet potatoes at the ever-busy Gaborone bus rank.
His plight is that she feeds six of his children and six grandchildren. He
says he only started coming to Botswana this year. His only discontentment
is the brutal police harassment that chases them out of their selling space
almost on a daily basis. He noted that just recently they were collectively
forced to bribe the troublesome police officers with P200 just so they could
sell their wares in peace and return back home with something in their holed
"It is tough to be a Zimbabwean in Botswana and you can imagine it's not
easy for me feeding all these children. However things here are far much
better compared to back home and I'd continue coming here despite the
non-cooperative police officers and some Batswana who continue to label us."
Queried whether he celebrated Independence last week, Mhano put on a serious
face and asked "How do you celebrate on an empty stomach? Almost 80 percent
of the population is not really gainfully employed in terms of formal
employment, they are employed in their own activities the kind done every
day. They cannot have the luxury of not going to sell at the market because
it's a national day. They still have to make living on the national day."
Despite their unhappiness with the current situation, the three agree that
when and if things were to return to normal, they'd all return home and that
Independence Day will once again regain its position as one of the country's
pre-eminent holidays. For the time being, they say, it's all about survival.
Commonweal Magazine: A Review of Religion, Politics and Culture
Robert Mugabe is not a typical dictator. Unlike, say, Idi Amin or the former
Liberian president Charles Taylor, Mugabe does not play the part of a thug.
He wears natty suits, watches cricket, and reads the British press. He gets
up early to practice yoga, drinks lots of tea but no alcohol, and switches
artfully between a very proper English and Shona, the language of Zimbabwe's
In fact, despite his fierce opposition to British involvement in his
country, Mugabe is in many ways a textbook Anglophile. His rhetoric may be
ferociously anticolonial, but he still wants his children to learn the
manners of British royalty.
But Mugabe is a dictator - and a particularly dangerous one. First elected
as prime minister in 1980, the 83-year-old former school teacher has slowly
destroyed his country's economy.
Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of southern Africa but now depends on aid
from the World Food Program, which estimates that 38 percent of the country's
population is malnourished. This hunger is not mainly the result of natural
famine but of greed and maladministration. In 2000, President Mugabe's
government confiscated the land of the country's remaining white farmers
and, in the name of justice and decolonization, gave it to his friends and
political supporters, most of whom knew little about agriculture. The farms
were neglected or destroyed, while the urban poor went hungry, many of them
fleeing to South Africa. As James Kirchick recently reported for the New
Republic, Zimbabwean state-run television now warns people not to set
brushfires, which are being used to trap mice for food.
Mugabe and his cronies in the Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF) have often used hunger as a political weapon, directing aid
to his party's rank and file, withholding it from those who support the
country's beleaguered opposition party. Having made them hungry, he has also
tried to make them invisible. In 2005 he began to "re-ruralize" a million
Zimbabweans who lived in poor urban areas of Harare that voted against
ZANU-PF candidates in that year's parliamentary elections. The campaign was
called Operation Murambatsvina, which in Shona means "drive out filth."
Zimbabwe's catalogue of miseries is impressive, even by African standards.
The rate of inflation is now well above 1,000 percent, the highest in the
world; it is expected to reach 4,000 percent by the end of the year. This -
and the 80 percent unemployment - make it hard, if not impossible, for the
average Zimbabwean to buy even the most basic provisions. In 1990, the
average life expectancy of Zimbabwean men was 62. Today, it's 37, the lowest
in the world, though three years above the life expectancy of women.
Opposition to Mugabe's regime from within the country has been savagely
punished, while criticism from outside has been scorned or ignored. Morgan
Tsvangirai, a former union leader who now heads the Movement for Democratic
Change, was beaten by Mugabe's police at a prayer meeting in early March.
Forty-five other activists had to be hospitalized. Two were killed. Asked
about Tsvangirai's beating, Mugabe replied, "Of course he was bashed. He
deserved it. ... I told the police: 'Beat him a lot.'"
Until recently most of Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops were silent about Mugabe's
misrule, but on April 1 they released a pastoral letter describing the
government as "racist, corrupt, and lawless."
Sharp criticism from the United States and other Western countries has often
seemed to help Mugabe, since it plays into his public image as a native hero
beset by hostile colonial powers.
South Africa's leaders have discouraged what they describe as the "megaphone
diplomacy" of the United States and Great Britain in favor of their own
"quiet diplomacy." But, so far at least, these leaders have been better at
the quiet than at the diplomacy. Although they privately acknowledge the
urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe, they are still too reluctant to
criticize Mugabe publicly, seeming to treat him as he wants to be treated -
as a kind of Zimbabwean Nelson Mandela.
Perhaps the United States cannot do much, but it can do more: it can use
every diplomatic and economic pressure available to let South Africa's
leaders know that they must no longer enable and protect Mugabe.
If they refuse to listen to the United States and Europe, they should listen
to Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town. Tutu laments
that there is "hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation" about what
is happening in Zimbabwe. "We Africans should hang our heads in shame. Do we
really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood,
fellow Africans, are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were
ever treated by rabid racists?"
April 29th, 2007:
In order to pay household bills and buy groceries, it often means using cash
as the system of processing cheques cannot keep up with the pace on
However, each individual is limited to drawing $500 000 a day and this has
been in place since last year. Companies, no matter whether they employ 2
people of 2 000 are limited to double that amount. Since this regulation was
introduced inflation has divided the real value of this money by about 9
times and therefore it makes life very difficult for ordinary people.
Because cash is so short now, it has had the effect of even reducing the
cost of foreign currency in the black market where we all invest our
Zimbabwe dollars in forex rather than keep it in the bank where it loses its
real value at about 1.5% per day.
Therefore, you will now hear that we are expected to pay a fee for cash and
those that can get their hands on such money "on sell" it as a commodity for
a percentage fee. I learnt the other day that large volumes of cash are
available but one has to pay what effectively is a bribe of 6% at the local
bank and there is another 10% for someone in the Reserve Bank. Because of
this desperate shortage, ironically, if you pay your bills in cash you
obtain your service or product at one price or you now pay extra if you use
a cheque or electronic Banking. This is even stated on quotations.
Inflation this month is 8600% annualized (it will, be more now) and we must
assume that the amount of money in circulation has to grow at this rate to
keep up with demand. The government is throttling the system and it is
Zimbabwe`s central bank said it will honour foreign-currency commitments to
domestic gold-mining companies "in the near future" after late payments
almost brought the industry to a standstill.
Applications for imports needed by gold companies are also being processed
"with urgency" Zimbabwe Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said in a
statement from Harare.
Zimbabwe devalued its currency for exporters by 98% on April 26 to ease
foreign-exchange shortages and revive an economy crippled by inflation of
more than 2,000%.
The central bank said it will pay gold exporters 350,000 Zimbabwe dollars
Gold production dropped 19% in the first quarter from the same period last
year, Gono said.
(May 1 Bloomberg)
From Mmegi (Botswana), 27 April
Tears flowed as I sat in a chair, their eyes like the cameras of the Big
Brother Africa house all on me. "Tell us who your boss is? Are you a BBC
World or CNN agent?," one of them, a woman in a royal blue Zimbabwean
Republic Police uniform asks, holding my passport and perusing through its
pages. Partly cloudy and hot as it was, I could feel a chill running through
my body as goose pimples roughened my skin like that of a gecko. Saliva
dried as I fumbled for words and mumbled a 'no' amid prayers that this could
just be one of those dreams where you wake up, pinch yourself and find that
everything is not real. But that was just the beginning of my ordeal at the
hands of my Zimbabwean brothers and sisters at the border gate. Another
policeman, one of the four men in plain clothes, came forward, bent over and
ridiculed me for "wasting" my tears. He whispered that I was going to be
kept in a cell until I appeared in court on Wednesday. No sooner had he
finished speaking than another burst out laughing, stating that had the CNN
cameraman been present I would have made a wonderful picture.
I wondered where Botho, one of the aspects that once uplifted Zimbabwe to
the status of being jewel of Africa had gone to. This is the country in
which I proudly acquired my education years back. After 15-years of
schooling there it prepared me for a career in journalism. But today I have
become an enemy of the country, a suspect and a spy and I learnt - with
shock - from the border sentries that every foreign journalist entering
Zimbabwe is supposed to apply in advance. It is Sunday morning and we are
exiting through the Plumtree border gate on our way back to Botswana.
Instead of demanding to see our boarding passes, a woman security guard
instructs us to file out of the combi, passports and bags in hand. A search
is performed and the queue snakes forward until it is my turn. I am told to
stand aside. Heart beating and knees turning to jelly I left the queue as
inquisitive eyes followed me. Little did I know that the camouflage pants
that I wore were prohibited in Zimbabwe. Search over, I am asked if there is
anything that I have left inside the combi. I'm also informed that I am
"Madam, wearing a camouflage, or any material similar in colour to that of
the army uniform, is a serious offence. Its penalty is similar to that of
manslaughter. We are going to keep you here until you are taken to the
police." Silently I lifted my eyes and looked in the direction of Botswana,
which is less than a kilometre from where I stood. I thought of the
democracy that prevails here. I thought of the kgotla system where
communities, unlike in any other state in Southern Africa, present their
problems before their head of state and consult with the president without
hindrance. There is still freedom of speech here, gape mmualebe o bua la
gagwe. I visualised my brothers and sisters whose love and marvel for the
army has seen them in shops buying camouflages and parading in streets
without anyone pointing a finger at them. Had it been Zimbabwe would
journalists have been allowed the opportunity to mingle with the army during
activities like the Matsubutsubu and the Airborne Africa?
"Woman, I'm speaking to you," a police officer in civilian clothes shouts as
I jump from my wonderland and pay attention. The female police officer, who
is busy searching my handbag, has apparently handed him my passport and told
others that I am a journalist; so I'm being asked whether I had applied for
permission to practise in Zimbabwe. She has also discovered that I have a
digital camera and she is scrolling through the pictures that I took.
Amongst the pictures, there is that of a Dzoroga man who died on the spot
after a car accident that happened on Saturday near the Nata Sanctuary. His
son was also depicted in the picture with blood gushing out of his mouth and
nostrils. My narration of the story could not be believed because the car
that they had been travelling in was not in the picture. "Isn't it one of
our journalistic code of ethics that when we come across accidents we should
assist the victims first before taking pictures? We had removed the victims
from the car and laid them far away from the vehicle as we waited for the
police to arrive.
But now the police suspect that I may have entered Zimbabwe and joined
forces with opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's people to kill and
maim. I could be an agent of the foreign media and that I took the picture
so that I could write a negative story about Zimbabwe and sell it to them.
Tears still flowing, I beg for forgiveness and tell them that I am not aware
of the laws of the country since I am only a visitor. I'm told that
"ignorance (of the law) is no defence". After hours of being confined at the
border post I am taken to Plumtree Police Station where further
interrogation takes place. I have nothing to say because I entered Zimbabwe
not as a commissioned spy but to pay school fees for an adopted son that
attends school there. Another suspicion arises from the money found in my
handbag. I have P5,700. According to the charge, I got the money from my
"secret bosses" so that I could easily perform my duties. Faces crossed,
they tell me that time for jokes is over. I'm ordered to sit on a chair and
put my fingers on electric wires that are plugged into a socket. They switch
on the machine and the current chokes, sending me thundering to the floor on
my back. The torture is repeated. "Tell us who your bosses are," I hear them
say amid pain and numbness that flows from my hand down to the left side of
my body. I feel as if I'm paralysed. At round 20 00hrs, they lock me up in
the room as they take a break.
They have told me that they were giving me time to decide whether I should
tell them the truth or not. I rise from the floor and head for the door
where I stick my ears to it listening to their movement until I'm convinced
they are far. Then I duck my hand into my pants where I remove my mobile
phone, which is neatly tucked inside the tights that I'm wearing underneath
the short trouser. I leap with joy as I discover that the area of Plumtree
that I'm at has Botswana cellular phone network coverage. On silent as it is
I send messages to family, friends and colleagues. I believe that word
spread like bush fire because as I am sitting in the cell with others the
next day, a Zimbabwean lawyer comes in and tells me that someone in Botswana
has instructed him to secure my release. He demands P500, explaining that
P200 is for his service and the "remaining amount goes to the cops". As I
march out of the confinement room I am not given a receipt or told that I
still have to appear in court on Wednesday as previously warned. Has he
(lawyer) paid them a bribe? I ask my self. But after a whole night of
listening to hair-raising stories from cell mates and watching what happens
to people suspected to be a risk to national security in Zimbabwe on
television, to me regaining my freedom is more important than anything else.
May 01, 2007, 16:45
Jeremy Cronin, the South African Communist Party (SACP) deputy
secretary-general, says he hopes that President Thabo Mbeki will approach
the latest talks with the government of Zimbabwe with more determination and
Cronin was speaking at Workers' Day celebrations at the Company Gardens in
Cape Town today. Mbeki has previously been criticised for his so-called
"quiet diplomacy" approach to Robert Mugabe, his Zimbabwe counterpart.
Cronin stopped short of lambasting Mbeki as he described Zimbabwe as an
undemocratic country with no respect for human rights. He said the
reactionary and authoritarian regime under Mugabe brutalised workers, while
food prices changed three times a day.
He insisted that if our government continued to legitimise the fraudulent
elections of that country, it sent the message that Zimbabwe could do as it
pleased. Cronin also pointed out that Mbeki needed to ensure that the
Southern African Development Community guidelines on democracy were
implemented in that country.