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Lawyers probe rights abuses at diamond fields

by Patricia Mpofu Saturday 22 November 2008

MUTARE - The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says it is
investigating possible human rights violations by the police in Mutare where
the law enforcement agency is on a drive to smash an illegal - but
flourishing - black market for diamonds.

The ZHLR said it understood that police had rounded up and detained more
than 200 people from Mutare and the nearby Chiadzwa diamond fields on
suspicion of involvement in the illegal mining of, or trading in the
precious stones.

"We understand there are more than 200 people in custody and there are
allegations of human rights abuses which we are investigating," the ZHLR's
Trust Maanda told ZimOnline.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena denied the police had violated people's
rights saying the crackdown in Mutare and at Chiadzwa was only targeting
illegal activities in the city and at the diamond field. He also dismissed
as untrue reports that some people had died during skirmishes with the

"I am not aware of anybody who has been killed in Chiadzwa except that
police are out to restore order, stop illegal activities such as illegal
mining, prostitution and other criminal activities," he said.

Armed police and sometimes backed by soldiers have over this week deployed
in large numbers in Mutare and at Chiadzwa where they have arrested
suspected diamond traders, including some prominent business people accused
of involvement in the illegal trade.

Some Mutare residents said police went around the city central business
district on Wednesday brandishing a long list of names of known diamond
dealers they said they were looking for.

The police have also set up roadblocks along the main ways to Chiadzwa to
monitor people travelling into the diamond fields. - ZimOnline

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Bodies unclaimed after police raid Chiadzwa

November 21, 2008

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - The police on Friday disclosed that a joint police and army
crackdown on illegal diamond mining in Manicaland and natural causes had
claimed the lives of 20 people.

Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Brian Makomeke told The Manica
Post, a regional state-run newspaper Friday, that several bodies of
unidentified illegal diamond miners had been recovered.

The illegal miners were shot during clashes with the state security forces
or died due to various ailments in Manicaland's perennially troubled
Chiadzwa diamond fields.

The bodies had been dumped at Mutare Provincial Hospital mortuary.

Some of the bodies were reported to be in an advanced state of decomposition
since the mortuary facilities at the province's major referral hospital are
not fully functioning.

"We have 19 bodies at Mutare Provincial Hospital, all of them unidentified
as being from the Chiadzwa area and another body from the same area at Old
Mutare Hospital ," Makomeke said.

"We are appealing to people whose relatives have been missing from Chiadzwa
area to go and check with the hospital authorities. We have a total of 20
unidentified bodies. The hospital authorities have said their mortuary
facilities are not working well and the piling up of the bodies is straining

"Some of the panners were shot during clashes with the police at Chiadzwa
while others died of various ailments."

Zimbabwean police and soldiers recently launched a joint crackdown ominously
dubbed 'Operation Hakudzokwi' to drive out the illegal diamond miners.

Police and military roadblocks have been set up on the roads passing through
Chiadzwa, where passengers are subjected to body searches.

The soldiers and the police are reportedly cracking down on diamond buyers
in Mutare asking them to account for fleets of vehicles and properties. Some
prominent and well-known Mutare businessmen have reportedly fled the city to
evade the crackdown.

The government has since the discovery of the diamonds failed to ensure a
just system of obtaining the valuable diamond resources for the benefit of
the nation and the Chiadzwa community.

Critics say the failure to organize legal exploration of diamonds from
Chiadzwa for the benefit of the starving nation was symptomatic of the
chaotic political and economic environment throughout the country.

They said the system promoted looting of resources of the 'weak' by the
powerful, thereby institutionalising socio-economic disadvantages for the
benefit of an unaccountable elite.

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Talk Of Meeting Between Tsvangirai And Elders Delegation Riles Harare

By Blessing Zulu
21 November 2008

The government of Zimbabwe bristled Friday at reports that prime
minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai might meet in Johannesburg on the eve
of a visit to Zimbabwe by three members of the international group of
eminent persons known as the Elders.

But Tsvangirai told reporters in Germany on Thursday that he expected to
meet with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter and human rights activist Graça Machel, wife of
former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The three were scheduled to travel to Zimbabwe on Saturday for a two-day
visit to assess humanitarian conditions in the country.

But a U.S.-based spokeswoman for the Elders and officials of Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic Change refused to confirm or otherwise comment on
the meeting.

The trip to Zimbabwe by the three elders was also uncertain.

Zimbabwean state media said this week that Harare was urging the three to
put off the trip. The Herald newspaper said the Elders group was hostile to
Zimbabwe and accused Annan of being "openly critical" of President Robert
Mugabe and his administration in the past.

Annan responded that the group intended to follow through on its planned
visit, and said that the elders were primarily focused on the humanitarian
crisis. Millions of Zimbabweans are dependent on food distributions for
their survival, and cholera is claiming many lives.

Tsvangirai warned in Germany that if the impasse in power sharing is not
overcome and no national unity government is put in place, the country faces
disaster two months from now when five million Zimbabweans are projected to
need assistance to fend off starvation.

A senior official in the Mugabe administration told VOA that the government
would consider it an "extreme provocation" if the three Elders met with
Tsvangirai before President Mugabe - though no visit with the president had
been publicly mooted.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Joy Mabhenge told reporter Blessing
Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that meeting Tsvangirai in his capacity
as prime minister designate would surely not constitute a breach of

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Annan expected to jet into Harare today

by Nokuthula Sibanda Saturday 22 November 2008

HARARE - Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to arrive in
Harare today to assess Zimbabwe's escalating humanitarian crisis but it was
unclear last night whether he will be able to meet officials of President
Robert Mugabe's government.

State media had made it clear during the week that Annan and his delegation
that includes former US President Jimmy Carter and rights activist Graca
Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, was unwelcome
in Harare.

The government mouthpiece Herald newspaper on Thursday claimed the visit by
the three, who belong to a group of senior international statesman known as
the Elders Group, was meant to boost the opposition MDC in power-sharing
talks with Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.

The paper quoted an unnamed government source as saying Annan's visit was a
"partisan mission" and that it should be postponed.

Information Minister and government spokesman Sikhanyiso Ndlovu refused to
take questions on the matter, referring ZimOnline to Foreign Affairs
Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who was not reachable.

Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to discuss the matter.

Diplomatic sources in Harare said on Friday that the three Elders were
proceeding with their mission despite the possibility that they may not be
well received or even denied audience by the government.

"Even if they (government) say they will not meet them, the Elders will meet
other people in Harare (involved in humanitarian operations)," said a
source, who spoke on condition he was not named.

Earlier on Thursday Annan's spokeswoman Katy Cronin told the media that the
mission to Zimbabwe was as planned. She said," the original plan is that the
Elders will visit Zimbabwe on November 22 and 23. That plan has not changed.
They will still go to Harare."

Annan has said he is visiting Zimbabwe in order to make a first-hand
assessment of how the international community could more effectively respond
to the southern African country's humanitarian crisis and prevent its
spillover effects on neighbouring countries.

The former UN chief has emphasised that his mission was purely humanitarian
and would not be involved in current efforts to set up a government of
national unity in Zimbabwe between Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan

But Annan had also hoped his group would be able to meet all stakeholders in
Zimbabwe including government, the opposition and aid groups during its
two-day stay in the country.

The Elders delegation was expected to meet Tsvangirai in South Africa before
flying to Harare.

The Elders are a group of globally respected leaders committed to offering
their collective experience and independent voices to support the resolution
of conflict, to seek new approaches to easing human suffering across the

Other members of the Elders Group include: Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro
Harlem Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu
and Muhammad Yunus while Aung San Suu Kyi is an honorary Elder.

Zimbabweans had hoped that a power-sharing government would help ease the
political situation and allow the country to focus on tackling an economic
crisis marked by the world's highest inflation rate of 231 million percent,
severe shortages of food and basic commodities.

But a September 15 power-sharing accord between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and
another opposition leader, Arthur Mutambara, has since hit a snag over a
variety of reasons including the question of who should control the most
powerful ministerial posts in a unity government. - ZimOnline

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Cholera Epidemic And Health System Disarray Deepen In Zimbabwe

By Sylvia Manika & Patience Rusere
Harare, Washington
21 November 2008

International and non-governmental organizations were working nonstop in the
Glen View and Budiriro suburbs of Harare treating victims of an expanding
cholera epidemic, but the death toll continued to mount due to the numbers
of patients presenting themselves.

Nurses working without doctors labored to save hundreds at the Budiriro

Medical workers and families said treatment was coming too late in many
cases, as reporter Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported
from Budiriro.

Elsewhere in Zimbabwe's troubled health sector, striking medical workers
rejected an offer from the Ministry of Health proposing to provide them with
hampers of food, free transport to work and a review of salaries if they
would return to their jobs in state hospitals.

The medical workers instead demanded to be paid in U.S. dollars or other
hard currencies.

Zimbabwe's state hospital system has virtually shut down after walkouts by
doctors, nurses and support staff over wages, working conditions, and a lack
of essential supplies.

The State-controlled Herald newspaper said Health Minister David
Parirenyatwa had offered the food hampers, buses to take health care workers
to their jobs and a pay review. It said he urged medical staff to get back
to work until more "lasting solutions" could be found

Parirenyatwa told the newspaper that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had
committed US$1.5 million for the purchase of drugs and other medical

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached
Secretary-General Simba Ndoda of the Hospital Doctors Association, who said
hundreds of workers meeting at Harare Hospital on Friday resolved that the
government must admit its failure to manage the national health system and
seek assistance from the international community.

In Washington Thursday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African
Affairs Jendayi Frazer reproached the Harare government for failing to
maintain the health infrastructure

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Cholera disaster engulfs city… as Government Dithers




20 November 2008


The Harare residents remain in an outright disaster of the cholera scourge which threaten to engulf the whole city and beyond. The CHRA members who thronged the streets of Budiriro on the 16th of November 2008 in protest of the epidemic maintain that the defacto government is responsible for the current cholera outbreaks, deaths and general suffering of the residents. The Residents maintain their demand that the management of the Harare city water supply be returned to the city council while ZINWA concentrate on bulk water production. The residents of Harare have vowed to continue with their protests in their various wards. Residents have vowed that; as long as there is still raw sewage flowing in the streets of Budiriro, Glenview, Highfields, Dzivarasekwa and other Harare suburbs, as long as there are no adequate supplies of clean water; residents will continue to conduct mass protests in every affected suburb of Harare.


The root cause of the cholera scourge is the failure of ZINWA to effectively manage the sewerage systems in the City of Harare as well as its failure to provide adequate and clean water to residents. The acute water shortages that have rocked Harare’s suburbs have made it almost impossible for residents to maintain hygienic living environs; a situation that has left residents exposed to cholera infections. ZINWA was already struggling with a tight budget and with a history of periodic failures to remunerate its own staff when it took over the administration of water and sewer services from the City of Harare. The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and residents in general warned of an impending disaster with water and sewer management under the beleaguered water utility. Other institutions and people who advised the Governement to reverse the ZINWA takeover decision include the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). However the Cabinet remained arrogant and adamant that this decision would not be reversed despite the clear indications that sooner rather than later, the residents would be suffering from cholera.


CHRA made a micro survey of the frequency of water supplies in the suburbs of Harare. Below is a table (Figure 1) which shows some of Harare’s residential areas and their water supply patterns:


Figure 1


Water supply frequency

Mabvuku Tafara

Most parts of the suburbs have had no tap water since 2006


Receives water once (4 to 5 hours on a single day) per month. The water is usually available during the late night hours.

Glen Lorne

Most parts have been without water for the past 8 months, others receive it for less than a day in a month.

Masasa Park

Receives water once (4 to 5 hours ) per month


Without water for the past 4 months, some parts now receiving water for less than 5 hours per week.


Receiving visibly unclean water for less than 10 hours per week.


Usually no supplies during weekends but the water is not clean and has dirt particles that can be seen by the naked eye.


Two to three days in every week


Jan-April 2008 (6 hrs a month), May- Sept 2008 (No supplies), Oct to date (an average of 4 hrs a month).


Supplies are available for an average of three days per week

Glen View

Visibly unclean water for less than 10 hours per week. Glen view went for more than three consecutive weeks without supplies in October.

Glen Norah

Two times a week (supplies are usually five hours long)

Warren Park

Receives water for an average of 2 days per week; between 0100 and 0300hrs) This has been going on for the past Two months. The little water that is available is visibly unclean.  

Avenues and the city center



ZINWA has continued to glide in the highway of chronic failure despite the money, fuel and vehicles channeled to the parastatal by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and this has put out the light at the end of the tunnel for residents. The affected areas remain without tap (clean) water amid the cholera pandemic engulfing the whole city and country. Meanwhile, cholera cases have also been reported in Gweru, Beitbridge (where the affected Zimbabweans cross the boarder to seek medical attention in Messina, South Africa) and other areas throughout the country. The “government” has refused to declare the cholera pandemic a national disaster when it is clear that the country has very little or no capacity to deal with the pandemic. Instead, the defacto government, through the state media, has been misleading the nation and the world with censored statistics on cholera. CHRA warns the “Governement” that the cholera incidence is not a matter for propaganda but an outright national disaster that needs urgent and diligent attention!


CHRA stands by the cholera victims and will unremittingly push for the return of water and sewer management to the City of Harare.  CHRA will continue to monitor the cholera and water situation. The Association is currently mobilising and distributing water treatment tablets, protective clothing and other things that could be of assistance to the victims of this crisis. 


Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

145 Robert Mugabe Way

Exploration House, Third Floor


 Landline: 00263- 4- 705114

Contacts: Mobile: 0912 653 074, 0913 042 981, 011862012 or email, and





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Police ban MDC rallies because of cholera

November 21, 2008

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - Police in Harare have barred the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) from holding two rallies that were scheduled for this weekend.
They cited the outbreak of the deadly cholera disease in the capital city
and an alleged failure by the MDC to provide the police with stationery.

The MDC had called for two rallies for Saturday and Sunday in the high
density suburbs of Kuwadzana and Glen View in Harare, its stronghold. The
MDC says the rallies were intended to update Zimbabweans on the progress
being made in the on-going power-sharing negotiations with Zanu PF.

Party vice president Thokozani Khupe was set to address one of the rallies
together with several MDC officials.

Police have cited the deadly pandemic, which government says has spread to
nine provinces in the country, as the reason to ban the rallies.

This is despite multitudes of ordinary Zimbabweans being allowed to scramble
for scarce cash everyday in banking halls all over Harare. Police cited a
second reason for their failure to approve the rallies.

They say they could not formally respond to the MDC's as the party had
failed to supply them with scarce bond paper on which to print their

Zimbabwe's stringent security laws require political parties and like
organizations to first seek clearance with the police before proceeding with
any gatherings.

The security laws do not compel political parties to provide any material,
let alone paper, to enable them to perform their routine duties. For years
now the police have demanded that members of the republic making reports to
the police should provide transport to enable them to the cases.

Meanwhile, the move to ban the rallies has elicited angry reactions from the
MDC which claims the police are acting on instructions from government to
punish it for refusing to partake in a unity government under a patently
skewed power sharing arrangement.

"While the MDC appreciates the magnitude of the cholera outbreak," the MDC
said in a press statement distributed by its information and publicity
department Friday, "We believe that the police are playing games and the ban
is part of a cocktail of political measures to punish the MDC for not
'playing ball' in the dialogue process."

The MDC says rallies have become the only possible means available to it to
communicate with its supporters in the absence of media to carry its
messages to the ordinary people.

Said the MDC, "Rallies are the only platform through which the MDC can
communicate with its members and any attempt to ban rallies is tantamount to
political suffocation."

The MDC continues to draw huge crowds to most of its rallies countrywide.

Zanu PF and MDC signed a power sharing agreement on September 15 which was
brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of SADC.
The MDC has accused Zanu-PF of working against the spirit of the agreement.

Article 10 of the power-sharing agreement signed by the rival parties allows
free political activity by all political parties in Zimbabwe.

It reads, ". the parties have agreed that there should be free political
activity throughout Zimbabwe within the ambit of the law in which all
political parties are able to propagate their views and canvass for support,
free of harassment and intimidation."

The implementation of the agreement has been delayed by a fierce jostling
over key ministerial posts and government appointments despite the
intervention of SADC early this month.

President Robert Mugabe's government is increasingly becoming agitated by
the MDC's continued refusal to participate in the new government.

The MDC is campaigning for sole control of the Home Affairs ministry which
is in charge of the police and the Registrar General's office which handles

The MDC accuses Zanu-PF of using the police to bar its political activities
at the same time using the same ministry to rig elections.

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Twenty starve to death in Masvingo

November 21, 2008

By Owen Chikari

MASVINGO - The number of people who have starved to death in Masvingo has
risen to 20 following the death of 12 more people in Gutu South.

The governor of Masvingo Province has however dismissed widespread reports
of people in his province starving to death as unfounded.

Gutu Central Member of Parliamanet, Oliver Chirume, described the situation
in his constituency as critical adding that more lives could be lost if food
was not urgently delivered to the people.

"We are getting reports of people dying of hunger every day," said Chirume.
"Six people have died during the past week in my constituency and these are
the only cases that we know as other cases go unreported.

"The most affected are the elderly and young children who cannot go out in
the bush to look for wild fruits which have become the only source of food."

In Gutu South, three people are reported to have died while three others
also lost their lives through hunger in Gutu North.

Gutu North legislator Edmore Maramwidze yesterday confirmed the deaths which
he said were caused by serious food shortages.

"We are appealing for help from anyone because people are dying on a daily
basis in the rural areas because of hunger," said Maramwidze.

"As legislators, we try our level best to help but we cannot cope with the
number of people needing food assistance.

Among those who starved to death are  Mapara Zigozho of Ward 40 in Gutu
Central and Clemence Chiwara of Mapanga Village in Gutu South.

However, government officials here described as false reports that people
mostly in the rural parts of the country were dying of hunger.

Masvingo governor Titus Maluluke said although there were serious food
shortages in the country, no one had died of hunger.

"I met local chiefs yesterday and they did not tell me of any deaths," said
Maluleke. "I know people are facing hard times because of hunger but I
believe no one has died.

Zimbabwe is facing a serious food shortage which has seen human beings
competing with wild animals for food in the bush.

The government is currently making frantic efforts to block a group of
Elders from visiting the country to assess the humanitarian crisis.

The group of prominent international personalities who have been barred by
government from entering Zimbabwe comprises former United Nations Secretary
general Kofi Annan, former United States of America president Jimmy Carter,
and Graca Machel, the spouse of former South African President Nelson
Mandela and widow of former Mozambican president Samora Machel.

Zimbabwean officials say the group should reschedule its visit because the
government is currently busy with the crafting of constitutional Amendment
No 19.

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Mugabe's gov't gives excuses for barring Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan from Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government has barred a group of prominent world leaders,
including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, from visiting
the country to see first hand the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the

Saturday 22 November 2008

The group, including former US President Jimmy Carter, and Graca Machel, the
wife of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, had wanted to visit the
country to see what it described as the 'escalating humanitarian crisis' in

The southern African country is mirred in a political and economic crisis
which has led to near-starvation by an estimated four million people, the
collapse of the health and education sectors and the flight of more than
three million people to neighbouring countries in search of greener


But the government told the prominent world leaders, also known as the
Elders, it was busy concluding a power-sharing agreement with the opposition
and making farming preparations, to receive them.

It said it was also opposed to the trip because it was unclear who the group
represented, or intended to report to, after the visit to Zimbabwe.

"The Elders wrote to government on the intended visit but they have been
advised that while it (government) appreciates the humanitarian concern by
the group, it was important for them to plan their visit on a date that is
convenient and agreed by both sides," a top government official was quoted
as saying by the state-owned Herald newspaper.

"Government would want to know whose mission they are representing and who
they report to. This stems from documented and well-known attitudes by some
of the group's members towards Zimbabwe," the official said.

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Zimbabwe: Queues of Despair

      Every time I think of a bank queue, I feel pain

      Masimba Biriwasha

     Published 2008-11-22 11:20 (KST)

If a Martian landed in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital today, he would
certainly be taken aback by the length and number of human queues.

Like garden worms, the human queues twist and turn throughout the
city, blocking traffic as people wait to get a chance to get money from
their bank accounts.

The queues start early in the morning and last well into the night. As
long as people think there is a faint chance to get a hold of their cash,
they remain huddled in the queue.

If anything, human queues have become an additional indicator of the
collapse of the Zimbabwean nation state, in particular, the financial

Due to a multi-billion percent inflation, the Zimbabwean government is
no longer able to meet the paper money needs of its citizenry.

Consequently, the government resorted to limiting the amount of daily
cash withdrawals that individuals can make to a paltry ZWD 500,000, less
than US$1.

What this means is that ordinary people are forced to go to the bank
on a daily basis to make the paltry withdrawal which is barely enough for a
loaf of bread.

In a word, queuing has become a way of life in the country. Some
people have taken to sleeping outside banking halls so that they are able to
access their hard-earned cash.

Even professionals have not been spared from the cash crunch, and many
spend days on end standing in queues to withdraw their money bit by bit.

"Every time I think of a bank queue, I feel pain in the pit of my
stomach. I have been going to the bank every day, it's almost as if I work
for my bank," said Kudakwashe Gwesere, an accountant with a local firm.

On many occasions, the queues turn violent as people jostle to be the
first to get to the Automated Teller Machines (ATM).

"The elite, I believe, have already found the Zimbabwe dollar
inadequate and have already moved to foreign currency. So the government
gives the privilege to the senior people in the form of foreign currency,
but they are not admitting it, because they are not the ones standing in
bank queues. They have found another means around the problem," said
Harare-based economist John Robertson to Voice of America last week.

Surprisingly, day by day, ordinary Zimbabweans huddle in the queues as
if they are in a crooked military parade, waiting and hoping.

Certainly, the Martian would be surprised at the resilience of
Zimbabwean folk.

To make matters worse, Zimbabwe currently does not have a government
in operation. Though President Robert Mugabe and opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal
more than two months ago, they have failed to form a unity government to end
political turmoil after controversial presidential elections held in June.

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Tel One runs out of diesel to power the phones

November 21, 2008

By Sibangani Sibanda

SOMETIMES it is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at the situation
in Zimbabwe.

Just when we think that we have seen it all, Zimbabwe has a way of showing
us something new. The government's apparent indifference to the plight of
the many who have to go for days at a time without food, or the pupils who
have had no teachers for months, or even the deaths that have occurred as a
result of a preventable cholera epidemic are well documented indications of
a government that has lost all authority and has no interest in serving the
people it claims to represent.

Yet even in this gloom, we sometimes get some unintended comic relief.

Our telephone system, chronically unreliable at the best of times, has got
worse! Telephones inexplicably stop working, and just as inexplicably, start
working again. In the last two weeks or so, my office has had no telephone
service in the mornings at all, but has sometimes had service in the
afternoons, which makes getting any work done at all, something of a

The situation, it turns out, covers the whole country and many Zimbabweans
have simply assumed that as we have had "load shedding" for electric power
for some time, we now have load shedding for telephones!

In desperation, I visited the offices of Tel One, the sole fixed line
telephone service provider in the country. No, they told me, it is not load
shedding, but it may as well be.

Telephone exchanges, they explained, work on electricity - I must admit that
this had never occurred to me! As such, every time we get power outages at
the exchange as a result of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA)'s
load shedding, telephones also go off. Like any good service provider would
do (although I use the term "good" advisedly in the case of Tel One), Tel
One bought themselves diesel-run generators to ensure that their beleaguered
customers did not lose telephones every time there was a power cut.

On their part, government, through the multi-faceted, multi-talented Reserve
Bank governor, Gideon Gono, undertook to supply Tel One with cheap, very
cheap diesel. Anybody who has been following the fortunes (or rather
misfortunes) of Zimbabwe will know that there is an innovative accounting
system in government where goods are sold to the end user at less than the
cost of producing or procuring those goods. These goods thus remain on the
market until such time as they can no longer be replaced because money has
this bad habit of running out when more of it is going out than coming in.

Come to think of it, most commodities have this bad habit.

Anyway, the cheap diesel is no longer available, or rather, as the Tel One
officials put it, there have been no deliveries for nearly two months, which
is as good an indication as any, that it is no longer available. So now when
ZESA sheds its load, telephones go off, and when ZESA "comes back", the
telephones also "come back"! There is, of course, other diesel available on
the market at market prices, but I forgot to ask the officials why Tel One
does not buy this to keep their customers happy. It may have something to do
with the expectation of government that Tel One sells its services using the
aforementioned innovative accounting system of government!

It may be that I live in a society where humor is at something of a premium,
but I found this whole episode amusing - in an irritating sort of way. Like
how I found laughter in trying to withdraw money from the bank to go and
bury my late aunt last week.

Our Mr. Gono has decided that we can only withdraw Z$ 500 000.00 per day,
which is not enough to buy a loaf of bread. However, being a passive,
law-abiding citizenry, we dutifully go to the bank and withdraw our daily
(less-than-a-loaf-of) bread. Should we require money for such emergencies as
funerals, we make applications to the Reserve Bank, with all necessary
proofs of our bereavement attached. The Reserve Bank may take a few days (or
a few weeks) to respond - which may mean a lengthy funeral wake.

When they finally respond, having been convinced that the person you say is
dead is, indeed, dead, the costs of burial will have gone up substantially.
This may mean a re-application. In any case, the bank may not have the
physical cash to give you, and as you have 48 hours within which to withdraw
the money, they may ask you to re-apply after the expiry of your withdrawal

Despite my bereavement, I left the bank laughing uncontrollably.

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A letter from the diaspora

Friday, 21 November 2008

Dear Friends.
How bad do things have to get in a country before the world takes notice?
Only when the situation reaches crisis point and Zimbabwe does not yet
constitute enough of a crisis apparently.

All week long there have been truly dreadful images of the unfolding tragedy
in the DRC. Heart-breaking stories of children separated from parents, women
gang raped either by rebel or government soldiers and thousands of people on
the roads fleeing from one or other of the armies. An appeal has been
launched to raise millions of dollars to help with humanitarian crisis in
the DRC but still the media says hardly a word about the tragedy that is
unfolding daily in Zimbabwe. It is just not bad enough. The world will wait
until there is outright war and hundreds of dead bodies lie rotting on the
streets before they take any notice. What was is it the UN said after the
genocide in Ruanda, that this must never be allowed to happen again; now ten
years later the DRC descends yet again into total lawlessness and millions
of people are made homeless. But the DRC is not a new crisis; like Zimbabwe,
it has been going on for years and no amount of humanitarian aid will solve
the problem. What is needed is a lasting political solution. Increasing the
size of the peace-keeping forces in the country might give the people
protection in the short term but it will not ensure a peaceful future. The
DRC is blessed with abundant natural resources and vast mineral wealth but
its people are among the poorest in the world while greedy men fight for
control of the diamond mines.
And that is where Zimbabwe comes into the picture - again. Reports of
Zimbabwean soldiers fighting in the DRC surfaced this week; whether they are
the remnants of Mugabe's last Congo adventure or whether it is a fresh
incursion we have no way of knowing with certainty. The Bright One declared,
'We have nothing to do with the DRC. We have enough problems of our own.'
Was that an acknowledgement that the authorities in Zimbabwe are aware of
the suffering of their own people?  If that is the case, then why can they
not reveal the true extent of the cholera epidemic that is sweeping the
country, an epidemic caused entirely by this government's total failure to
maintain clean water supplies to the country's towns and cities. The main
hospitals in Harare and other cities have closed down and as a consequence
the only Medical School in the country is also forced to close. There will
be no more doctors trained to treat future generations of Zimbabweans.
Physicians for Human Rights tell us there are no anti-biotics, no water, no
food, no ARV's for Aids patients and all but the dying are turned out on the
streets.  With hospitals closed, maternity units cease to exist and pregnant
women needing ceasarian sections will die in childbirth or give birth to
permanently brain damaged children.  If that is the situation in town, one
can only imagine what it's like in the rural areas where for a long time now
there have been no drugs, no rubber gloves, no syringes and even if the
clinics and hospitals are still open the fees are astronomical and way
beyond the means of rural people who have grown no crops to sell and have
long since sold their cattle to pay school fees or other expenses. People
are utterly desperate for food; children are seen poking around for mealie
pips in cow pats, collecting seed from bird droppings or from the side of
the road where laden grain lorries belonging to fat cat politicians have
spilt their precious cargoes. Everywhere in the rural areas there are
stories of people dropping dead where they stand from starvation
How many have died from hunger, from cholera, from Aids? There are no
statistics; Zimbabwe is a country where everything has broken down.
Government offices are not functioning, there is no one to collect figures,
no one to register births and deaths because the system has collapsed. No
wonder Mugabe wants to stop the Elders coming into the country to see the
humanitarian disaster for themselves. So much for Mugabe's Africanist
credentials when he shows so little respect for African culture that he can
tell even these worthy Elders to 'Get lost' as the Herald so graphically
described Zanu PF's reaction to the intended visit. Mugabe's arrogance knows
no bounds; we shall see whether the Elders are frightened off by his
bullying tactics. Will they even be allowed to get past the goons at Harare
Airport I wonder? If they do get in they will see a country dying on its
feet, not yet another DRC perhaps but getting perilously close to total
collapse. Can we be surprised at the West's apparent indifference when
Africa itself allows Zimbabwe to die rather than stand up to the man they
still regard as a Liberation Hero? Zimbabweans may rightly ask what
liberation is that? Liberation to die of  preventable diseases; liberation
to die in childbirth, liberation to die of hunger in a country that was once
a land of plenty; liberation to die at the hands of Mugabe's Youth Militia
or police; is that the liberation they mean, these cowardly African leaders?
Does nothing disturb their consciences? I know that for me the most shocking
sight of the week was doctors and nurses and ordinary hospital workers being
beaten by baton-wielding policemen just for daring to attempt a peaceful
protest march. Is that the liberation Zimbabweans fought for?
Yours in the (continuing) struggle. PH aka Pauline Henson author of
Countdown a political detective story set in Zimbabwe and available at

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