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Zimbabwe denies barring Elders group

Africa News
Nov 22, 2008, 18:12 GMT

Harare - The government of Zimbabwe late Saturday said it had not barred the
former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan from entering the country
but instead asked him and his team to postpone the visit.

Addressing journalists in Harare, Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
said Annan had 'misrepresented' facts by saying he together with the former
US president Jimmy Carter and former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel had
been barred from Zimbabwe.

The trio was scheduled to make an analysis of the humanitarian crisis in
Zimbabwe on a November 22-23 visit. But they cancelled the trip after Harare
denied them visas.

'The postponement was necessary because Mr Annan had made no prior
consultations with government of Zimbabwe regarding both the timing and
programme of his proposed visit as is normal practice,' said Mumbengegwi.

'It is quite clear that no meaningful assessment of the humanitarian
situation could be undertaken in the few hours the delegation intended to be
in Zimbabwe.

'It was on that basis that Mr Annan was advised, in good time, to postpone
the visit to allow for responses to be made to the consolidated appeal based
on the joint assessment of the humanitarian situation by the government of
Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme and the UN Zimbabwe team,' Mumbengegwi

Zimbabwe is facing a serious humanitarian crisis with more than half the
population facing starvation. A cholera outbreak in September has since
claimed about 300 lives, according to the World Health Organisation.

Mumbengegwi said President Robert Mugabes government was fully aware of the
humanitarian challenges facing the country and that Harare was determined to
address these challenges.

'The government is willing to engage with all those of good will in an
effort (to fight the humanitarian crisis.) The government takes strong
exception to any exceptions to any suggestions that there are those that
care more about the welfare of our people than we do,' he said.

Asked if he would allow Annan and his team to come to Zimbabwe in future,
Mumbengegwi said: 'If we come up with a mutually agreed to date. We told
them that and that is not a secret.'

Earlier in Johannesburg the trio had announced their visit was being called
off because Mugabe had refused them entry.

At a press conference, the three, who were due to travel to Zimbabwe on
behalf of The Elders grouping of leading statesmen and women, said they were
disappointed that they had been denied an opportunity to shine a light on
the humanitarian crisis in the country.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and ex-president Thabo Mbeki, who
is mediating in Zimbabwe's power-sharing talks, had intervened on their
behalf with Mugabe, but to no avail, they said.

'It seems obvious to me that the leaders of the (Mugabe) government are very
immune to reaching out for help for their people,' Carter said.

Machel, a well-known social rights campaigner and wife of The Elders
convener, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, also said she was 'extremely

This is the first time The Elders - which was founded in 2007 to tackle
conflicts around the world and also includes South African Archbishop
Emeritus Desmond Tutu, an outspoken critic of Mugabe - has been refused
entry to a country.

The Elders had been due to meet with aid organizations and health workers to
discuss a worsening food crisis and a spiralling cholera outbreak that has
claimed nearly 300 lives and infected thousands of others, according to
several diplomatic and medical sources.

State media said seven members of a local Christian sect were among the
victims of the water-borne disease in the Harare township of Budiriro this
week. They had refused treatment on the grounds their religion bans them
from all medication other than 'holy water.'

While stressing their focus was on humanitarian needs, including the food
shortages suffered by over 3 million people, Annan, Machel and Carter had
also sought meetings with Mugabe and the opposition.

They had been scheduled to meet with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South
Africa on Friday. It was not clear whether the meeting took place.

The MDC is coming under pressure from Zimbabwe's neighbours to help stem the
crisis by accepting Mugabe's terms for joining a unity government, in which
Mugabe remains president and Tsvangirai becomes prime minister.

The MDC, which won the last parliamentary elections, accuses Mugabe's
Zanu-PF of keeping all the important cabinet portfolios, bar finance, for

The parties are reportedly scheduled to meet again next week under Mbeki's
mediation to discuss a draft constitutional amendment that will set out
Tsvangirai's powers as prime minister relative to Mugabe's.

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Elders forced to cancel Zimbabwe visit


A delegation of prominent figures and former statesmen, known as the Elders,
cancelled its trip to Zimbabwe this weekend after it was refused entry into
the country for a humanitarian mission, it announced on Saturday.

The Elders' delegation included three members -- former United Nations
secretary general Kofi Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter
and international advocate for women's and children's rights Graca Machel.

"We had to cancel our visit because the government made it very clear that
it will not cooperate," Annan told a press conference in Johannesburg.

Carter said they had applied for visas "several weeks ago" but that
Zimbabwe's ambassador to Washington informed them that they would not be
delivered "on time".

The government of President Robert Mugabe "will not permit us to come in and
will not cooperate," Carter said.

"We need no red-carpet treatment from the government of Zimbabwe," said
Annan. "We seek no permission other than permission to help the poor and the

"However, the refusal of the Zimbabwean government to facilitate our visit
in any way has made it impossible for us to travel at this time."

Annan said millions of people are in need of help in Zimbabwe.

"We want to use our influence to increase the flow of assistance,
immediately and in the longer term, to stop the terrible suffering. We are
here to show solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and to assure them that
they are not alone," he said.

Machel said she was "extremely" disappointed that they were unable to visit
the country.

"We want to talk to the people and hear their stories directly. We want
people to know that we care, and that we will do all we can to help them.
People are dying from hunger every day in Zimbabwe and hospitals are unable
to treat the sick."

"With schools struggling to stay open, children are missing out on an
education. One in four children has lost one or both parents.

"The government's attitude to our visit is deeply regrettable," she said.

Carter, who actively supported Zimbabwe's liberation struggle while in
office, said: "I am partisan. I make no apology for that.

"I supported Zimbabwe's liberation struggle and I oppose suffering and
misery. But I am very sorry that we are unable to visit Zimbabwe."

"We will continue with our plans to learn as much as we can while we are
here in the region, where millions of Zimbabweans inside and outside the
country face a daily struggle for survival."

The Elders will remain in South Africa to brief themselves as fully as
possible about the situation in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries.

They will speak to humanitarian agency representatives, civil society
organisers, business people and officials from Zimbabwe, South Africa and
the region.

Cholera crisis
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is struggling to contain "unprecedented" cholera
outbreaks that have spread to nine of the country's 10 provinces, state
media reported on Friday.

"The ministry is battling to control unprecedented cholera outbreaks
affecting the country," Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr David
Parirenyatwa told the Herald.

The majority of outbreaks had been traced to the capital, Harare, he said.

Nearly 300 people had died as of November 18, the United Nations chief
humanitarian agency said on Friday.

"The cholera outbreak has taken a national dimension. Newer outbreaks are
reported from all provinces. The total number of suspected cholera cases in
the country stands at 6 072 cases and 294 deaths," the UN's Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

The latest outbreaks were reported from Beitbridge in the Matabele South
province, with 700 cases and 20 deaths. Health facilities in the area are
reporting an admission rate of 200 patients per day, OCHA said.

"The spatial distribution of outbreaks will most likely continue to expand
as well as the number of people infected" given the worsening water and
sanitation situation in densely populated areas, it warned. -- Sapa, AFP

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Tsvangirai meets Elders in Joburg

November 22 2008 at 03:40PM

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai met the
Elders' delegation in Johannesburg on Saturday, said the delegation's

"He met them [delegation] earlier today [Saturday], unfortunately I'm not in
a position to disclose what was discussed," said Katy Cronin.

The Elders' delegation has three members, former United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter
and international advocate for women's and children's rights Graça Machel.

They announced on Saturday that they had to cancel their trip to Zimbabwe
for humanitarian mission this weekend, after they were refused entry into
the country.

Tsvangirai was due to address the Harold Harold Wolpe Lecture at the
University of KwaZulu-Natal on Saturdayafternoon, when organisers announced
that he was meeting with the Elders. - Sapa

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Bush blasts 'illegitimate' Mugabe

Sat Nov 22, 9:17 am ET

LIMA (AFP) - US President George W. Bush on Saturday denounced Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe's "illegitimate regime" and called for a new
government that would represent the will of the country's people.

"We call for an end to the Mugabe regime's brutal repression of basic
freedoms and for the formation of a legitimate government that represents
the will of the people as expressed in the March 2008 elections," Bush said
in a statement released as he attended an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change
won the most votes in March's presidential election but fell short of an
outright majority.

He pulled out of a run-off against Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe non-stop
since independence from Britain in 1980, accusing the 84-year-old of
orchestrating attacks against his opposition supporters.

"Nearly eight months have passed since the Zimbabwean people voted for a new
president, yet they still are governed by an illegitimate regime that
continues to suppress democratic voices and basic human rights," said Bush.

"In addition to its disastrous economic policies which have forced half the
population to rely on food assistance, the Mugabe regime is now assaulting
doctors and nurses, denying citizens access to basic medical services, and
stealing donor funds intended for HIV/AIDS patients," he charged.

Bush said that, in October alone, independent organizations had documented
about 1,300 incidents of politically motivated violence and harassment by
the regime.

Washington will honor its pledges of emergency humanitarian aid, which
totaled 186 million dollars in 2008, and "stands ready to provide other
forms of assistance pending the formation of a legitimate government that
represents the will of the Zimbabwean people," he vowed.

Power-sharing talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai have yet to yield a unity
government, despite several failed attempts by regional leaders to force the
implementation of a September 15 accord.

Zimbabwe's economy has been in free-fall for years, leaving 80 percent of
the population in poverty and nearly half the country in need of emergency
food aid by January, according to the United Nations.

The country suffers the world's highest inflation rate, last estimated at
231 million percent in July, causing a breakdown in water and sanitation
that has sparked an outbreak of cholera that has killed 294 people in recent
weeks, according to the US ambassador.

Western nations have said they are ready to release hundreds of millions of
dollars in aid, but not while Mugabe retains his sole grip on power.

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Statement by the President on Zimbabwe

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 22, 2008

Nearly eight months have passed since the Zimbabwean people voted for a new
president, yet they still are governed by an illegitimate regime that
continues to suppress democratic voices and basic human rights. In addition
to its disastrous economic policies which have forced half the population to
rely on food assistance, the Mugabe regime is now assaulting doctors and
nurses, denying citizens access to basic medical services, and stealing
donor funds intended for HIV/AIDS patients.

In October alone, independent organizations documented some 1,300 incidents
of politically-motivated violence and harassment by the regime. We call for
an end to the Mugabe regime's brutal repression of basic freedoms and for
the formation of a legitimate government that represents the will of the
people as expressed in the March 2008 elections.

In spite of the regime's aggressive actions against its own people, the
United States will continue to honor its commitment to provide emergency
humanitarian assistance, already totaling $186 million in 2008, and stands
ready to provide other forms of assistance pending the formation of a
legitimate government that represents the will of the Zimbabwean people.

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Tsvangirai probed

From The Financial Gazette, 20 November

Njabulo Ncube, Political Editor

The government is investigating whether Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, violated Zimbabwean immigration laws when he
travelled to France using an Emergency Travel Document (ETD). Government
sources said yesterday immigration officials at Plumtree border post in
Matabeleland South were likely to take the flak, for allegedly allowing
Tsvangirai to cross into Botswana despite the fact that his ETD limited
travel to South Africa and Swaziland. While in Botswana, Tsvangirai attended
President Ian Khama's parliamentary address in which he called for fresh
presidential elections in Zimbabwe to be managed and supervised by the
international community. From Botswana, Tsvangirai launched a diplomatic
offensive that took him to Zambia and Tanzania. Both countries are not
included on the ETD. Government sources said yesterday that the Attorney
General's Office was perusing relevant statutes to see if Tsvangirai flouted
the country's laws especially with regard to his visit to France, the
current chair of the European Union (EU). The sources said government
officials at Munhumutapa Building in Harare as well as at the Registrar
General's Office were incensed that Tsvangirai was able to travel to Europe
without a valid passport. Some sources speculated that the issue could spark
a diplomatic row between Harare and Pretoria, which allowed him to fly out
to Europe. "The South Africans should not have allowed Tsvangirai to fly out
to a European destination as the ETD is specific that he is only allowed to
travel to South Africa and Swaziland. There is consensus that the South
Africans are complicit on the issue," said a government official, speaking
only after insisting he was not named.

He said if immigration officials established that Tsvangirai violated
Zimbabwean laws; he would be arrested the moment he touched down at the
Harare International Airport or at any point of entry. However, an
immigration official, also speaking anonymously, said colleagues at the
Plumtree border post would be blamed for allowing the MDC leader through
into Botswana. He said Tsvangirai should have been barred from entering
Botswana via Plumtree and should instead have been advised to proceed on his
way through Beitbridge. The government has accused Khama of helping to train
MDC bandits to destabilise Zimbabwe, a charge denied by Tsvangirai and his
party. Khama last week invited the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) and the Zimbabwean government to visit Botswana to establish whether
any training camps existed. "But the issue has to be handled with caution
considering that all eyes are on Harare due to the stalled power-sharing
arrangement," said another source.

Tendai Biti, the secretary general of the MDC-T and Tsvangirai's second in
command, told The Financial Gazette that the MDC leader had not violated any
law, saying he held proper travel documents. "One thing people are
forgetting is that President Tsvangirai has a valid passport but it has
run-out of pages," said Biti. "If the French decide to stamp on tissue paper
and have no problem with that, I don't think it is Tsvangirai's problem,"
said Biti, who on Tuesday had two charges against him dropped by the state
due to lack of evidence. "The Registrar should issue him with a passport as
he submitted an application about five months ago. There is no issue here,
really," Biti said. The chief MDC negotiator in the stalled power-sharing
arrangement reiterated that the question of the passport was one of the
contentious issues during the recent SADC talks but regional leaders
allegedly chose not to address it. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Minister of
Information and Publicity, said it was a mystery how Tsvangirai had traveled
to Europe on an ETD and the government was entitled to probe the matter.
"The government has a right to know how he travelled with an ETD and what he
was doing instead of finalizing the formation of a new inclusive
government," said Ndlovu. "We are busy trying to finalise the issue of Draft
Amendment 19 but he is gallivanting in Europe."

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No Welcome mat

22nd November 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
Within half a kilometre of a main army barracks and in view of a steady
stream of traffic and hundreds of people, a man lay next to a main road
leading to the Harare airport this week. Barefoot, painfully thin and with
thick, unkempt hair the man lay unmoving on the verge, his feet protruding
into the busy road. Standing on the opposite side of the road four men in
army camouflage stood hitch- hiking, choosing not to see the man lying a few
steps away from them. Is this what Zimbabwean authorities did not want the
former UN Secretary General and former US President to see on a planned 2
day humanitarian assessment visit? Is this why these two respected Elders
were denied visas to enter Zimbabwe?

Outside banks, building societies and post offices the crowds of people
trying to withdraw their own money have grown to multiple thousands. Many
people have resorted to sleeping outside the banks in order to be near the
front of the queues where they can only withdraw five hundred thousand
dollars a day - enough to buy one mouthful of a single cornish pasty being
sold at a local bakery this week. Two and a half million dollars was the
price tag for this simple take away snack - five days of queuing at the bank
to buy one meal for one person. Is this what the authorities in Zimbabwe did
not want Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter to see? Is this why they were denied
visas to enter Zimbabwe?

On a seventy kilometre stretch of road through what used to be prime
agricultural land on the way to the capital city, there is silence and
desolation as roadside farms lie unploughed and unplanted while the country
remains barren of seed and fertilizer. Even as the rains fall on the land
and the ground turns springy underfoot, the weeds are sprouting but not the
food. The lushest crop I saw in 70 kilometres was grass being carefully
manicured on a golf course. Is this what the authorities did not want Mr
Annan and Mr Carter to see and why they were denied visas?

In supermarkets, the majority of which are not allowed to trade in US
dollars, the shelves are empty. There are no staple goods, no dairy
products, no confectionary, no fast foods, no tinned or bottled products,
nothing to eat at all. From all over the country there are first hand
reports of people barely surviving by eating roots, wild berries, beetles
and insects. Is this what the world's respected Elders were not supposed to
see and why they were denied visas to come into Zimbabwe?

Hospitals without disposable gloves, medicines, drips, bandages or
disinfectant. Nurses who cannot afford to come to work. Toilets and taps
without water. A growing cholera outbreak in all areas of the country with
300 people already dead. Raw sewage flowing in the streets of high density
areas. Dustbins which have not been collected in urban residential suburbs
since July in my home town. Men, women and children collecting water in
bowls and buckets from swampy streams and murky pools. No soap to buy in the
shops so no chance of preventing the spread of cholera by washing your hands
with soap and water. Is this what Mr Annan, Mr Carter and Mrs Machel might
have seen had they been granted visas to see for themselves the humanitarian
catastrophe now engulfing Zimbabwe?

We hope that the Elders will not give up on Zimbabwe, even though there is
no welcome mat at our doorstep.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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Zimbabwe Runs Out Of ARVs

MASVINGO - The country has run out of Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs),
dealing a major blow to the HIV and AIDS patients, a highly placed source in
the health sector has revealed.

The source added that only patients who take Cotrimoxazole ARVs (on
level one or first line therapy) might be lucky as there are limited
quantities still available owing to a government embargo on the drugs early
this year.
"Hospitals are only giving drugs to first line therapy patients who
are taking Cotrimoxazole drugs. All other drugs are out of supply," said the
source in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
He added that those HIV positive patients with the A-B strain of the
disease might die soon as it is difficult to manage.
Zimbabwe has more than six million HIV positive people and their fate
could be sealed owing to the unavailability of the drugs, which are very
expensive in private pharmacies and beyond the reach of many.
The source added that even if the drugs were available, most of them
never found their way on the deserving patients as oficials looted some for
the ill relatives, while diverting others on the parallel market.
"Most of the drugs were finished by top officials who looted the drugs
for sale on the black market. Others also looted some for the HIV positive
relatives," added the source.
In Masvingo, only four HIV patients could be lucky to get the
Cotrimoxazole as they have the local strain of the disease, according to
statistics leaked from the National AIDS Council (NAC), as well as other HIV
support centers.
Minister of Health, Dr David Parirenyatwa, could not be reached for a
comment as he was said to be out of office attending the Cholera outbreak.
His mobile went unanswered.

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Reserve Bank Governor Says He Won't Resign

HARARE - RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor, Dr Gideon Gono has
said he will not leave office despite numerous calls by the public to do so.

 He said he did not care about people passing around posters and
pieces of paper, especially in Harare asking him to leave office because he
will not.

Zimbabwe currency is currently worthless with the highest inflation in
the world at more than 230 million percent.

Gono warned banks without enough capital, that they would be closed

He said commercial banks were no longer allowed to borrow any money
from the RBZ. He also  accused bank managers and their friends of causing
the bull run on the lucrative Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) by buying and
selling money on the streets.
Gono said he did not care if he was now unpopular.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe's major commercial banks have teamed up to allow
locals to receive their money from the Moneygramme facility.

This comes after international banking facility - the US-based VISA
Credit Card recently pulled out of Zimbabwe saying business was poor.
The banks that have teamed up are CFX Bank Limited, Interfin Merchant
bank of Zimbabwe Limited (Interfin), Kingdom Bank Limited (Kingdom), and
South African-based Stanbic Bank of Zimbabwe Limited.
A spokesman said the facility would allow locals to receive cash
safely and quickly across borders.

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Zim and SA to meet on cholera crisis

Sapa Published:Nov 22, 2008

South African health officials and their Zimbabwe counterparts are expected
to meet shortly to discuss the cross-border cholera crisis, the Limpopo
Health Department said today.

"We are meeting our counterparts [soon]," said departmental spokesman Phuti
Seloba when asked if SA was considering intervening in the situation in

He said the meeting would discuss the [cholera] problem: "What to do. We
have been addressing the problem and not dealing with the source".

He said any possible action SA would take would depend on the outcome of the
meeting: "We first need to identify the source before we deliberate on how
to deal with it."

Seloba said there had now been 116 reported with Cholera in Musina since
last Saturday.

Three of these were South Africans and one Zambian. He said all these people
had some connection to or history of being in Zimbabwe.

Addressing whether there was cholera risk to the general South African
population, "I want to assure South Africans, they are still very safe,"
said Seloba.

He said there were 17 people in hospital and all were in a stable condition.

Seloba said the rehydration centre at the hospital in Musina was up and
running and one at the SA border gate was in the final stages of being set

He said the department was still in the process of getting another
rehydration centre set up between the Zimbabwe and SA border gates.

There have been three fatalities in Musina from cholera.

Yesterday, the Kwazulu-Natal health department said a truck driver, who
arrived from Zimbabwe and was confirmed to have cholera, was recovering in
an isolation ward in Durban's Addington Hospital.

SABC news reported that national health minister Barbara Hogan had said that
cabinet had approached the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address the
cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe as soon as possible.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the World Health Organisation
had indicated that 294 people have died in Zimbabwe from a cholera outbreak.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib was reported by the news agency as saying that
a total 6,072 cases had been reported between the start of August and
November 18, with an upsurge in cases in the past two weeks.

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S Africa copes with cholera patients

November 22, 2008

By Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG - More than 20 Zimbabwean are crossing into South Africa on a
daily basis, some of them illegally, in a desperate bid to seek treatment
for the killer cholera disease.

South African health officials said that since the first admissions last
Saturday, the number of affected Zimbabweans arriving in the country was
growing by the day. As a result that country's health department is now
setting up re-hydration centres at the border with Zimbabwe.

Limpopo Health Department spokesperson, Phuthi Seloba, told The Zimbabwe
Times that the department had treated more than 20 new Cholera patients from
Zimbabwe on Saturday morning alone. This brought the total number of cholera
patients who had undergone treatment in South Africa to more than 200.

"Most of them do not have travel documents and have had to walk for days,
scrambling under electric fences and barbed wire as well as avoiding army
patrols and criminals, to come and get treatment here due to the collapsed
health system in their own country," said Seloba.

He said 18 had been hospitalised, as their condition was serious.

On reports that some Limpopo residents had reacted with anger at the
possibility of the Zimbabwean immigrants spreading the disease in South
Africa, Seloba said his department would take all precautionary measures to
prevent the spread but without discriminating against the Zimbabweans.

"They are human beings and fellow Africans and we are supposed to help
 them," he said. "We cannot prevent them coming here because they did not
choose to be in the midst of what is happening in their country."

Most of the patients are being attended to at Musina Hospital, where the
South African authorities have set up a re-hydration centre specifically to
treat the Zimbabweans.

Seloba said that it was not the first time that Zimbabweans had come into
South Africa specifically to seek treatment, as they contributed the biggest
percentage in the total number of 25 000 foreign nationals that had been
treated in Limpopo since the beginning of the year.

Seloba also revealed that the country's health department would set up two
additional dehydration centres at the border to treat the Zimbabweans and
save them from walking long distances to seek treatment inside South Africa.

This was in addition to the existing one.

A deadly cholera outbreak hit the Zimbabwean capital city, Harare last
month. Independent medical reports have issued suggested that between 250
and 400 people have died of the disease nationwide.

Government says that the number of deaths is less than 200, and claims that
the disease, which has reportedly spread to the second biggest city of
Bulawayo and to Chitungwiza, has been contained.

Cash-strapped Zimbabwean cities are failing to purchase water purification
chemicals, due to both the country's ever-worsening hyper-inflationary
environment and critical shortages of hard currency needed to import the
chemicals, which are not produced locally.

The local authorities do not have the capacity to collect refuse and
maintain their water and sewage reticulation systems, now being handled by
the government-run Zimbabwe Water National Water Authority (ZINWA), and as a
result, burst pipes and the free flow of raw sewage have become constant
features in all major cities.

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Foreigners (still) beware

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Blue Waters settlement camp
CAPE TOWN, 21 November 2008 (IRIN) - As Aunesi Omari and her children
cowered in her room in Philippi, a low-income section of the South African
city of Cape Town, in Western Cape Province, she heard the armed men outside
shout: "We're going to kill you because you don't want to listen."

Omari's crime was that she had returned to her home after being run
out of the community in May, along with thousands of other foreigners. The
men outside made their point by firing two shots into the house she had
lived in for five years.

The xenophobic attacks in May killed over 60 foreign nationals across
the country and displaced some 20,000 in Western Cape. A week after the
violence, the government established "safety camps" around the country,
offering safe haven to foreigners.

From the outset it was made clear the camps would be temporary, and
the displaced would need to choose between reintegration into their local
communities, or repatriation to their country of origin.

By late June, provincial officials claimed that some 12,000 of the
22,000 displaced had voluntarily returned to their neighbourhoods. Many
foreigners said they had faced dire conditions in the camps - lack of food,
poor sanitation and, in wintry Cape Town, insufficient protection from the

Still not safe

An unknown number have continued to be victimised after returning to
their communities, typically without an official programme of protection or
monitoring by the government or police.

"I know at least 20 people who went to be reintegrated and were raped
or killed or attacked," Asad Abdullahi, a Somali leader in Cape Town's Blue
Waters Security Site, told IRIN. "I've attended their funerals, and still
have their documentation for asylum seeking."

Now they're talking about evicting us from the camp. I don't know
which place I'm going to go. I'm looking everywhere for where I'm going to
be safe
Like the other 650 people still in Blue Waters Site C, Abdullahi has
refused to leave despite the camp's official closure over a week ago,
because he fears for his life.

Omari, a Tutsi who fled ethnic violence in the eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo, said she decided to return to her community in July,
after a month in the camp, so that her five children could go back to

The first night back the shots were fired, and she and her husband
filed a police report the next day. "I told my husband, 'Let's go the police
station, because this bullet is proof, and maybe they'll come to make an

They reported the incident. Omari, who speaks Xhosa, one of South
Africa's main languages, said the officer called a colleague on the police
radio, but she heard him decline to investigate the case.

"The police asked which kind of people it was for, and said, 'Oh, it's
makwerikweri [derogatory term for a foreigner], I don't want to come. They
want to prove why they don't want to go back to community. If I make an
investigation for them, maybe that paper [document opening a case] will be
that proof [evidence of the incident]'," Omari alleged.

She and her husband subsequently returned to Blue Waters Camp, where
they have stayed despite the likelihood of imminent eviction. Her story was
mirrored by many others who said they had attempted to return to their
communities but were threatened or assaulted within a day or two, and had
fled back to the camps.

Xenophobia or crime?

"When these killings take place, the police say it's crime, not
xenophobia. But to us, we see another tactic, which is that the people who
created the xenophobic attacks are now trying to scare us away, one by one,
so we'll get scared and run away. It's another form of xenophobia, but not
like the one in May," Mohammed Osman Jamma, leader of the Somali Community
Board, a self-help association, told IRIN.

Photo: Tebogo Letsie/IRIN
Residents of Ramaphosa informal settlement, Johannesburg, hunting for
Responding by email to allegations that over 10 people had been killed
in xenophobic attacks around Cape Town over the last month, the South
African Police Service wrote: "We do not have any record of the existence of
xenophobia in the Western Cape for that period. Be advised that several
cases of crime however were reported."

The question is: where is the line drawn between "common" crime and
xenophobia? "I'm not sure anyone has a clear answer to that," said Hildegard
Fast, head of the province's disaster management authority. "We have to note
that there is a problem with crime generally, and sometimes those victims
will be foreigners.

"Sometimes there may be elements of xenophobia in a criminal incident,
and in other cases it may be the motivation for the incident. But rather
than having a strict methodology to define that this is or is not
xenophobia, we have to recognise that our number one goal, as a society, is
to create safer communities for everyone, and creating safer communities for
foreigners is part of that goal."

Fast also pointed out that foreigners, who are often unable to open
bank accounts because of documentation problems, are targeted because of
their vulnerability.

According to the police, "Circumstances will dictate whether it will
be classified as a xenophobic attack or as an act of crime. Usually an
attack on an individual is regarded as crime, while several attacks against
foreign persons by locals will be regarded as xenophobia, if evidence of
this nature exists."

Some foreigners question police willingness to look for evidence. A
Congolese man at Blue Waters, who wanted to be identified as Matagera, said
a police officer had urinated on the tap where residents bathe.

When confronted, the officer allegedly said that he was in his country
and could do whatever he liked. "If the police, who are supposed to protect
you, say things like that, and you're still pressing me to go reintegrate, I
ask you, who is going to protect me there?"

Norbert Ndagijimana, a Rwandan, said he and his wife had returned to
their community. A few days later his wife, Agathe, was on her way home from
church when she was told: "They're coming."

That night a small mob pushed Ndagijimana's car away from their house
and smashed all its windows. When the police came they told him he was lucky
that he still had his car. When he asked them to take fingerprints, they
allegedly declined to do so.

Whether these incidents constitute hate crime or not, it is clear that
foreigners are vulnerable. "For me, there's no chance to stay here," said
Abdallah Aman Afrah. He was shot in the arm and witnessed his brother being
killed by armed robbers in their shop on 9 November.

"Now my other brothers and I are preparing to go back to our country.
There's a war there, but that war is better than this one, because that is
my country. I'll leave as soon as I have money to go home."

The Somali Community Board is encouraging people to stay. "The
situation in Somalia at the moment is appalling. Some of our community want
to return, but it's not a good idea. But I understand their desire, because
a lot of Somalis have lost everything here. It's out of frustration that
they ask for repatriation."

Others like Aunesi Omari - who, in her five years in South Africa has
seen her brother killed, her daughter raped, and her home taken away from
her - seem to have fallen into passive desperation.

"Now they're talking about evicting us from the camp. I don't know
which place I'm going to go. I'm looking everywhere for where I'm going to
be safe. In South Africa I'm not safe, and in my country I'm not safe. Where
can I go with five children? I really don't know what I'm going to do."

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