Wed 2 November 2005
HARARE - Former top presidential guard Winston Changara has told an
internal police investigation team that President Robert Mugabe's wife,
Grace, lied against him so he could be fired and blocked from exposing her
alleged extra-marital affairs, authoritative sources said.
Changara, until about five weeks ago the head of the police Close
Protection Unit and Mugabe's number one bodyguard was demoted allegedly
after Grace complained to her husband that the trusted police guard had made
advances on her and that he had also indecently assaulted her.
The top policeman was demoted from his rank of assistant commissioner
and banished to the police commissioner's pool, an internal facility to
punish and frustrate errant senior officers.
But sources at police headquarters in Harare told ZimOnline that
Changara two weeks ago told a committee of senior police officers that Grace
had lied against him because she wanted him removed from near Mugabe after
he had threatened to let the President know of her alleged extra-marital
affairs with an exiled Zimbabwean businessman and a serving government
The internal police committee headed by deputy police commissioner
responsible for human resources, Barbra Mandizha, was appointed by Police
Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to interrogate Changara before a formal board
of inquiry could be set up to carry out a more detailed probe into the
allegations against the former presidential guard.
A source, privy to the deliberations of Mandizha's committee, said:
"He plainly told them that he was being fixed by the First Lady because he
had threatened to spill the beans and let the President know of her affairs.
"Changara said Grace wanted him removed from near Mugabe because this
was the only way to make sure he would never be close enough to her husband
to tell him that she was seeing other men."
Both Mandizha and police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena were not available
to take questions on the matter while a woman in Grace's office, Mavis
Gumbo, referred all questions to the First Lady's spokesman Lawrence Kamwi
who could not be reached when ZimOnline called his office.
Changara, who has refused to speak about his demotion before, again
refused to do so when contacted by ZimOnline. He said: "I have told you many
times before that I do not want to discuss that issue. Only my seniors can
do that, why don't you phone them?"
According to sources, Changara told the police committee that he had
only threatened to expose Grace because he feared Mugabe's wrath were the
President to find out his wife's alleged affairs on his own and the fact
that his long-serving bodyguard knew about such affairs but kept quiet.
Mandizha's committee is said to have been overwhelmed by Changara's
claim that the committee is now planning another meeting with the former
guard at which Chihuri will be present "to hear for himself what Changara
has to say," according to sources.
Changara was demoted as Mugabe's top bodyguard after Grace allegedly
told her husband before the couple were to leave for China last July that
she was not going to board the same plane with the police guard because he
had made advances on her and also indecently assaulted her.
A replacement guard, Arthur Makanda, who was commander of police in
Harare district, had to be called to take over Changara's duties after Grace
allegedly insisted that she would not be part of the entourage to Beijing if
Changara was not removed.
After his demotion Changara was immediately placed in the
commissioner's pool where he has remained after reportedly turning down
advice by fellow senior officers to simply accept his fate and quietly
retire from the police force.
Senior officers placed in the commissioner's pool are immediately
stripped of benefits such as the privilege to have a police vehicle for
personal use, telephones or even an office. The disgraced senior officers
are also made to perform menial tasks such as cleaning toilets and often
under the supervision of junior officers.
Chihuri is now said to be planning to save him from further punishment
by reassigning him to a provincial command post, away from the Mugabes,
according to sources. - ZimOnline
Wed 2 November 2005
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's long cherished dream of one party
rule in Zimbabwe may well become a reality if the country's bickering main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party breaks up, analysts
told ZimOnline on Tuesday.
They said political gains made in the past six years since the MDC's
formation would vanish in the aftermath of a splitting of the opposition
party that appeared imminent on Monday this week after last ditch talks of
its top six leaders to end sharp differences over whether to contest next
month's election flopped.
Chairman of the University of Zimbabwe's (UZ) political studies
department, Eldred Masunungure, said a splintering of the MDC would be a
"great leap backwards" sure to see Zimbabweans losing many of their already
whittled down civil and political liberties.
"The ZANU PF dream of a one party state may well become a reality but
it will be a dark day (when the MDC splits) for Zimbabwean politics and a
great leap backwards in terms of all dimensions of development," said the
Masunungure said despite its obvious structural and ideological
weaknesses, the MDC had since its emergence onto the political scene in 1999
shaken Mugabe's government forcing a redrawing of Zimbabwe's political
The MDC was forged out of labour and a variety of civic groups many of
them inspired to join the party only by one simple goal: to unseat Mugabe
and ZANU PF, in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980.
The opposition party came closest to unseating ZANU PF and Mugabe from
power after narrowly losing a parliamentary election in 2000 and a
presidential poll two years later. Both polls were however widely dismissed
by the MDC, Western governments, local and international non-governmental
organisations as having been heavily rigged by Mugabe.
Observers say despite the high levels of political violence witnessed
in Zimbabwe since the MDC's emergence, the country had far more gained from
a strong opposition that for five years kept Mugabe's government at bay and
preventing it from fiddling with the constitution.
Although the government eventually bulldozed some controversial pieces
of legislation in Parliament this year, the MDC is credited with ushering in
a new culture of vigorous debate last seen in the 1980s.
Breaking up the MDC now into weaker and rival political formations
would be a "retrogressive step" that would not add value to society or even
to ZANU PF, said UZ maths lecturer and political commentator, Heneri
"If the MDC collapses, it will leave a fragmented grouping that will
be too weak to confront ZANU PF and obviously the ruling party will slacken,
which is how we got into the mess we had in the 1990s," Dzinotyiwei said.
"The weakening of the MDC will not add value to society and ZANU PF."
But Masunungure said after the flopped Monday meeting it appeared less
likely that the opposition party would be able to patch up widening cracks
at yet another meeting of its national council scheduled for this Saturday.
"It's highly likely that the two sides are so deeply polarised that
the possibility of bridging the divide seems rather remote," said
Differences over the senate vote degenerated into public wrangling and
name-calling after Tsvangirai overruled a narrow vote of the MDC's national
council to participate in the November 26 election.
Shooting down the 33:31 in favour of participation vote, Tsvangirai
said there was no point in the MDC contesting an election certain to be
rigged by Mugabe. The opposition leader also said the whole senate project
was a waste of resources by a country that should better be directing all
its energies on fighting hunger threatening a quarter of its 12 million
But secretary general Welshman Ncube and the party's other four most
senior leaders disagreed with Tsvangirai saying that first he had no right
to overrule a decision of the national council. They also argued that it was
not wise for the MDC to surrender political space to Mugabe and ZANU PF by
boycotting the election.
The wrangle in the opposition has also assumed an ethnic dimension,
with Tsvangirai, a Shona, backed by mainly Shona-speaking provinces and
Ncube, an Ndebele, getting more solid support from the southern region home
of the Ndebele people. - ZimOnline
Wed 2 November 2005
HARARE - The Zimbabwe government on Tuesday rejected criticism by
United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan accusing the UN chief of playing
politics when he publicly censured Harare for refusing an aid offer from the
Powerful State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who also oversees
food aid distribution, said Annan should not seek to "take a small issue (of
aid to Zimbabwe) into the international arena". The Secretary General should
simply visit Zimbabwe to see for himself that the crisis-hit southern
African country did not need his help, Mutasa said.
"Annan is the one saying that (Zimbabweans need food aid) not because
he wants to assist but for political reasons," Mutasa told ZimOnline.
He added: "We take very strong exception to such behaviour. He (Annan)
was invited here but why didn't he come? If he intends to help why does he
have to shout from New York? The invitation still stands and he should not
be shouting from the top of his voice from that distance."
Annan was in July invited by President Robert Mugabe to visit Zimbabwe
to see for himself that a controversial slum clearing operation by the
Harare government had not left hundreds of thousands of people homeless as
stated in a report prepared by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka.
The UN chief has indicated he might visit Zimbabwe but has not said
when exactly that might be.
Mugabe's government, which has sought to portray its slum demolition
exercise that took place amid severe food and fuel shortages as an urban
renewal campaign, says it is building new housing for those displaced in the
operation that ended in late July.
Tibaijuka's report, also rejected by Harare, says the home demolition
campaign left 700 000 people without shelter or means of livelihood and that
a further 2.4 million people were also affected in varying degrees.
Annan in a statement released by his Press office on Monday said he
was concerned by the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and voiced concern
that Harare had turned down a UN offer for aid for victims of its slum
"The United Nations continues to receive reports that tens of
thousands of people are still homeless and in need of assistance, months
after the eviction campaign began in May 2005," Annan's statement read in
The UN boss said he was particularly "dismayed" to learn that
Zimbabwean authorities had rejected offers of assistance claiming that
government interventions had addressed the most urgent shelter needs.
He noted that Harare's decision to decline UN help came despite
extensive consultations on relief efforts in the past months between the
world body and the government.
"Meanwhile, the impending rainy season threatens to worsen the living
conditions of the affected population," said Annan, who also appealed to
Harare to "ensure that those who are out in the open, without shelter and
without means of sustaining their livelihoods, are provided with
In addition to the tens of thousands left without homes or food by the
home demolition campaign, Zimbabwe was already struggling to find food for
an estimated quarter of its 12 million people after a poor harvest last
season. - ZimOnline
Wed 2 November 2005
HARARE - Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) yesterday said 16
white farmers were since last month forcibly evicted from the farms as a
fresh wave of farm invasions spreads across the country.
Only a handful of the more than 4 000 large-scale producing white
farmers are still on the land in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe
expelled many of them and parceled out their land to landless black
"Sixteen commercial farmers have left their properties since September
and the situation is worrying," the CFU said and added that several other
farmers were also in the process of winding up operations before leaving
their properties targeted for acquisition by mostly senior government
The farmers' body said farm seizures had been concentrated in parts of
the prime farming province of Manicaland where State Security Minister
Didymus Mutasa, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and Justice Minister
Patrick Chinamasa are said to have toured the province advising white
farmers to leave.
The three ministers could not be reached for comment on the matter
yesterday. But Mutasa, who oversees land redistribution, has in the past
said he wanted to seize more white farms to ensure every black Zimbabwean
had land ahead of the rainy season set to start in less than two weeks time.
The latest spate of farm seizures flies in the face of calls by
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono to stop the seizures to allow
the key agricultural sector to recover after five years of continuous
Revival of the agricultural sector, the economy's biggest hard cash
earner, is key to efforts to resuscitate Zimbabwe's ailing economy as well
as ending food shortages that have become routine in the country since the
farm invasions began in 2000. - ZimOnline
Wed 2 November 2005
NEW YORK - The United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan remains
deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.
Annan said in a statement by his spokesperson, that the United Nations
continues to receive reports that tens of thousands of people are still
homeless and in need of assistance, months after the eviction campaign began
in May 2005.
"He is particularly dismayed to learn that the Government of
Zimbabwe's Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee has rejected offers of
UN assistance," Anna's spokesperson said.
"In an official communication, the Minister of Local Government,
Public Works and Urban Development stated that there is no longer a
compelling need to provide temporary shelter as there is no humanitarian
crisis. The Minister, in the same communication, also claims that Government
interventions have addressed the most urgent shelter needs," the
The Local government minister Ignatious Chombo's statements directly
contradict the report by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Human
Settlements Issues in Zimbabwe, Anna Tibaijuka, as well as most recent
reports from the United Nations and the humanitarian community.
A large number of vulnerable groups, including the recent evictees as
well as other vulnerable populations, remain in need of immediate
humanitarian assistance, including shelter. Furthermore there is no clear
evidence that subsequent Government efforts have significantly benefited
these groups, said the spokesperson.
'The Secretary-General notes the government's decision to decline
assistance comes despite extensive consultations on relief efforts that
ensued in the past months between the United Nations and the Government.
Meanwhile the impending rainy season threatens to worsen the living
conditions of the affected population," the spokesperson said.
The Secretary-General is disturbed by the continued suffering and
makes a strong appeal to the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that those who
are out in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their
livelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with
the United Nations and the humanitarian community in order to avert a
further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
02/11/2005 07:13 - (SA)
United Nations - Britain's Prince Charles appealed to the United Nations on
Tuesday to help Zimbabwe, which he said was undergoing "a traumatic
It was a rare political statement from the heir to the British throne, who
is obviously concerned about Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis since
independence from Britain in 1980 and its impact on millions of people.
The seizure of white-owned farms five years ago by the government of
increasingly autocratic President Robert Mugabe led to the collapse of
agriculture, once the mainstay of one of the strongest economies in the
region. UN experts say four million people urgently need relief food to
survive until the next harvest in Zimbabwe though Mugabe disputes the
Charles mentioned Zimbabwe during a visit to UN headquarters to attend a
round-table on youth employment. He began his speech saying he was delighted
to help mark the United Nations' 60th anniversary and stressed how the world
body's role had changed since it was founded on the ashes of World War 2.
"The challenges confronting the United Nations today are, of course, very
different than to those faced in the aftermath of World War 2 and during the
Cold War - problems such as the proliferation of extremism and civil
conflicts, the rapid spread of disease, climate change and the unsustainable
use of the planet's finite resources," Charles told about 200 business
"All these things clearly have to be addressed if our children and
grandchildren are to enjoy this world in the way that we have been able to
do, and I believe the United Nations has a very crucial role to play in all
this," he said.
"And while saying that, I wonder, too, what extra role the United Nations
might be able to play with regard to a country, for instance, like Zimbabwe
whose independence celebrations I officiated at on behalf of the queen over
20 years ago and which is now undergoing such a traumatic experience,"
For several months, the United Nations has been trying to agree with
Mugabe's government on an appeal for funds to help hundreds of thousands of
people evicted in a massive slum clearance earlier this year.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who sat beside Charles at the round-table, has
indicated a willingness to visit Zimbabwe to focus on implementation of
recommendations by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka in July.
She visited Zimbabwe and reported that about 700 000 people lost their homes
or jobs, and a further 2.4 million people were affected by the slum
Zimbabwean officials have said her numbers are exaggerated.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) have accepted the bid of the
Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) to host the 2010 African Cup of Nations
Zifa chairman Rafik Khan said on Monday that the fact that CAF have
accepted their bid document and all its contents was an indication that
Zimbabwe could be given the right to host the continent's football showcase.
"The race is now on. I am confident the tournament will come to
Zimbabwe. CAF will now be watching us closely as we prepare to host this
tournament. As we play international friendly matches as preparations for
the African Cup of Nations finals in Egypt next year we would be aware that
CAF are monitoring our every step," said a delighted Khan.
Other countries which have submitted their bids to host the tournament
include Namibia, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria, Libya, and Mozambique. Gabon and
the Equatorial Guinea weighed in with a joint bid.
The tournament which has been rotated among the west and north African
countries look set to be hosted by a southern African country this time
The last time southern Africa hosted the continental football showcase
was in 1996 in South Africa.
But among the southern African countries bidding to host the
sixteen-team competition, Zimbabwe look favorites as they are likely to get
sympathy from CAF after they were stripped of the right at the last minute
in 2000 with the football mother body citing lack of preparedness and a
If Zimbabwe wins the bid, Khan and his fellow board members at Zifa
will have achieved what their predecessors failed since independence.
The same leadership etched its name into the history books by becoming
the first to lead Zimbabwe to their first ever Nations Cup finals appearance
An evaluation committee from CAF will visit all the bidding countries
in 2006 to assess the facilities presented in their bids and then report
back to the CAF executive committee.
The 13-member executive committee will choose the host country or
countries in May next year.
By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 11/02/2005 10:47:43
JUST a week after having his farm seized by the government, President Robert
Mugabe's nephew and Makonde legislator, Leo Mugabe, has invaded another farm
in Mashonaland West province.
Mugabe's 3 000-hectare Journey End farm was confiscated by the government
last week after government inspectors failed to detect farming activity on
But with hardly a week gone by, Mugabe invaded the Nangadza Farm, displacing
a white farmer, according to government sources.
"He is currently staying on the farm," a source said.
"Last week he tried to run over the owner with a tractor. The farmer was
injured and the matter reported to Mhangura police."
Mugabe confirmed Tuesday that he was staying at the farm but asked to be
called at a later time. Calls to his mobile phone had not been returned last
Mugabe, also chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport
and Communication, is a former chairman of the Zimbabwe Football
Association. His mother, Sabina, is President Mugabe's sister.
Mugabe is currently on bail on charges of contravening the Grain Marketing
Board (GMB) Act as well as the Customs and Excise Duty for allegedly
exporting wheat to Mozambique.
Mugabe, a quiet but highly influential figure, is regarded as one of the
wealthiest people in Zimbabwe. The multiple farm owner has previously been
accused of high-level corruption and violating the law with impunity.
By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 11/02/2005 10:38:09
MARAUDING Zanu PF supporters have for the second day running barred
Chitungwiza Mayor Misheck Shoko, council officials and workers from entering
their offices demanding the mayor's immediate resignation.
The ruling party supporters allege that Shoko, who was elected into office
2002, has failed to address the problem of the town's erratic water
non collection of refuse and blocked sewer pipes.
On Tuesday, armed riot police had to be summoned to break up the
The police also forcibly opened council gates to facilitate a visit to the
offices by two ministers, Ignatius Chombo and Kembo Mohadi heading the Local
Government and Home Affairs portfolios.
The two later met acting Town Clerk Amos Matanhike, and at their meeting
they resolved that Shoko and all council employees must be allowed back.
It was not clear yet if the Zanu PF supporters would allow them back
Matanhike described the demonstrators, some of them carrying placards with
the message "Shoko 100 percent sewerage", as vicious.
"The demonstrators were very vicious. They could not allow anyone to enter
the premises for two days. It is unfortunate that we are being caught up in
a political wave. The problems we are facing are beyond our control," he
told New Zimbabwe.com.
"For example we do not have fuel to carry refuse, and that's not a
Chitungwiza issue but a national problem."
He added that foreign currency was needed to buy sewer pipes.
One resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was surprising that
when dispersing the demonstrators the police had used kids gloves when
compared to their brutality when dealing with National Constitutional
Assembly or MDC protests.
Two weeks ago, MDC supporters repelled the demonstrators when they staged a
similar protest. The two sides were involved in running battles that saw one
MDC supporter being arrested.
Traditionally, demonstrations against mayors elected on MDC tickets have
been used as excuses by Chombo to either suspend or fire them. Currently,
Mutare mayor Misheck Kagurabadza is on suspension after Zanu PF supporters
demonstrated him on countless occasions.
Mudzuri was also suspended and subsequently fired after going through the
Last year, the supporters went to the extent of locking Kagurabadza in his
offices for hours without food or water. The demonstrators have often done
so without seeking police clearance, as is the case with others.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) has embarked on an estimated
Z$1 trillion airport development and rehabilitation programme aimed at
upgrading local airports.
CAAZ acting chief executive Mr David Chawota said the current harsh economic
environment and resource limitations were, however, affecting progress,
causing delays in the completion of some of the projects.
In a bid to meet international standards and ever continuing changes in the
industry, about $120 billion had been set aside for the Harare International
Airport rehabilitation programme and about $3 billion for the Harare
Mr Chawota said they expected to complete the international airport by
November next year, with 60 percent of the project having been completed so
In Bulawayo, the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport, previously scheduled
for completion this year, would be finished by mid next year.
A total of $150 billion would be spent on the Buffalo Range Airport in
Chiredzi, with works on the site having begun earlier this year, Mr Chawota
The airport is envisaged to serve international traffic coming to the Great
Limpopo Tranfrontier Park (GTLP).
The development of the airport, which can accommodate the MA60 and a Boeing
737, is scheduled for completion in 2007.
Kariba Airport has also had a facelift under the programme, Mr Chawota said.
While he could not avail any figures, he said plans to construct a new
terminal at the Grand Reef Airport in Mutare were at an advanced stage.
"CAAZ will continue to play its role in destination marketing in conjunction
with other stakeholders," he said.
"Macroeconomic factors are affecting the development and progress but the
major limitation is the lack of resources." - New Ziana.
By Zvamaida Murwira
Government yesterday dissolved the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) board
with immediate effect citing non-performance and failure to steer the
turnaround of the parastatal.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare, the Minister of Transport and
Communications, Mr Christopher Mushohwe - who did not mince his words - said
Government was not satisfied with the way the board has been running the
Mr Samuel Geza chaired the dismissed board while Mr James Maphosa was the
The other board members included Dr Ruth Labode, Mrs Martha Rukuni and Mr
A new board will be announced soon. Until then, the ministry's permanent
secretary, Engineer George Mlilo, would oversee the affairs of the
The Deputy Director of Procurement in the Ministry of Defence, Air Commodore
Mike Tichafa Karakadzai, has been appointed substantive general manager with
He replaces Mr Munesu Munodawafa who left in June this year to take up the
post of Principal Director in Vice President Joice Mujuru's office.
"In terms of the National Railways of Zimbabwe Act a minister may require
the board members to vacate office if he is not satisfied with it and the
NRZ board is dissolved with immediate effect and a new board will be in
place soon," said Mr Mushohwe.
The minister said the board had failed to implement the turnaround strategy
approved by Cabinet early this year, which would have transformed the
fortunes of the parastatal.
"To be honest, I have not been happy with the way the NRZ has been run. It
was my expectation and that of Government, too, that the adoption of the
document would see tangible results in turning around NRZ," said Mr
"The speed at which the board was implementing the turnaround strategies was
not up to expectations."
The minister said apart from its core business as a railway transporter, the
NRZ owned several properties including houses and farms. However, the board
not only charged unrealistic rentals, but failed to collect rents in some
In addition, debts owed to NRZ by railway companies in neighbouring
countries were not followed up, further worsening the parastatal's cashflow
position, the minister charged.
All this was happening at a time when NRZ was failing to procure spare parts
and fuel, Mr Mushohwe noted.
The parastatal, said the minister, needed people of vision to ensure the
turnaround of NRZ and the economy as a whole.
"I want to see a transparent board that respects good corporate governance
and does not bicker over little and trivial issues at the expense of the NRZ
and the people of Zimbabwe," he said.
"We are busy importing grain and fuel and NRZ must deliver these commodities
where they are required expeditiously," he said.
"We believe that the new team, especially the new general manager . . . will
be (able) to restructure the parastatal into a viable commercial entity
responsive to the needs and expectations of the people of Zimbabwe. The
turnaround cannot be implemented without recapitalising the NRZ as the
wagons and locomotives have outlived their lifespan."
However, the minister acknowledged that the board was not entirely to blame
for some of the problems dogging the parastatal.
For example, of the NRZ's 6 000 wagons, only 3 000 were in good working
condition, while the rest were grounded, the minister said.
The parastatal was expected to receive 10 locomotives from China following a
deal signed with a Chinese company recently.
The minister also expressed confidence in Air Commodore Karakadzai, who
holds two master's degrees - one of them in strategic management - and
several diplomas and certificates in accounting.
"He is an ex-combatant and has the right political ideology that serves no
self but the people of Zimbabwe," he said.
The NRZ board was initially set up as a commission to look into the Dete
train disaster that claimed several lives before it was constituted into a
board in January last year following the expiry of the term of office of the
then incumbent board.
The parastatal has been plagued by numerous problems in recent years
including lax timetables, a spate of fatal accidents, obsolete equipment,
acrimonious labour disputes and delays in remitting pension contributions,
among other challenges.
New York Times
By MICHAEL WINES
Published: November 2, 2005
CHIKWAWA, Malawi - It has barely rained for a year, the scant corn harvest
of six months ago is long exhausted and the regional hospital here is again
filling with near-starving children - 18 admissions in August, 30 in
September, 23 by mid-October.
Dola Sandram has come to a feeding center in Chikwawa, Malawi, to register
her 2-year-old, Fredson, left. Such centers report a sharp increase in the
number of children being brought in on the edge of malnutrition.
And what people here routinely call the hunger season - the season with no
corn - has barely begun.
"We used to have six, seven children in the unit," said Emily Sarina, the
district nursing officer. "We expect the number to increase by December,
because that's when the hunger is critical."
Malawi is the epicenter of Africa's second hunger crisis in five months, and
the second in which the developed world has responded with painful slowness.
Drought is only the surface explanation for why millions of Malawians and
other southern Africans are hungry. The real reason is poverty, aggravated
by regional shortages and even Hurricane Katrina, which have helped drive up
the price of corn, the regional staple, to more than double last year's.
As a result, more than 4.6 million of Malawi's 12 million citizens need
donated food to fend off malnutrition until the next harvest begins in
April. In Zimbabwe, at least four million more need emergency food aid.
Zambia's government has issued an urgent appeal for food, saying 1.7 million
are hungry; 850,000 need food in Mozambique, 500,000 in Lesotho and at least
300,000 in Swaziland.
The World Food Program, which will feed most of the needy, has asked the
developed world for $400 million toward that goal. It remains $165 million
The United States' contribution, $48 million worth of corn bought from
American farmers, comes by ship and will not arrive until late this year at
Much like July's crisis on southern Niger's narrow band of grasslands, the
food shortage in southern Africa is taking its toll. Growing malnutrition
has led to scattered reports of disease-related deaths among young children
weakened by hunger.
That said, problems here are not yet as acute as they are in Niger, where
thousands of malnourished children still flock to treatment centers, months
after international aid began arriving.
This region's emergency, however, is far larger - more than 12 million
hungry people, versus 2.5 million in Niger. And if the death toll is likely
not to be as high, the suffering here is no less real.
"I went to a village today in rural Zambia where there was a lady eating
some kind of bark, in boiled water," Michael Huggins, the World Food
Program's regional spokesman, said in a telephone interview. "In three years
in southern Africa, I've heard a lot about that sort of thing. But I'd never
seen it until today."
In Chikwawa, a district of about 400,000 in southern Malawi, half the
population was already hungry in May, when the last harvest netted only
about two-fifths of the nation's corn requirement. The British charity Oxfam
estimated then that the district's needy were getting about 30 percent of
their food requirements.
Six months later, many are calling this Malawi's worst hunger crisis since
1993, when drought destroyed nearly half of the corn crop. "At this point,
most of the households in Malawi have run out of food, particularly in the
south," Schuyler Thorup, the Malawi representative for Catholic Relief
Services, said in a telephone interview. "They're having to rely exclusively
on the market" for corn and other staple foods.
But few can afford to pay market prices. Just 500 miles south of Malawi,
South Africa is sitting atop a surplus of five million metric tons of corn
from this year's bumper harvest. But it is mostly out of reach for both
Malawi's government and its people, 60 percent of whom survive on a dollar a
day or less.
The same is true of most of Malawi's needy neighbors. War wrecked
Mozambique's economy; socialism and plunging copper prices reduced Zambia to
penury; Zimbabwe's economy collapsed after the government seized its richest
farms, which were owned by whites.
In Malawi, 20 years of shifting political rule and economic policies have
turned an already poor nation into a basket case. The AIDS pandemic - the
rate of infection is about 15 percent among all adults, but perhaps 25
percent in Chikwawa - has cut down family breadwinners and left 900,000
children without one or both parents.
Most Malawians survive on plots of a couple of acres, often lacking even
oxen for plowing. Irrigation is unheard of, leaving them dependent on good
rains for survival.
Lately, rains have been spotty. There were severe hunger crises in 2002 and
2003, and this year's disaster was brought on when good rains in late 2004
dried up in 2005, just as the corn crop was ripening.
But even in good years, Malawians are incapable of feeding themselves. A
recent report by the United States Agency for International Development said
the nation "is now in a near constant state of food shortage, with
persistently high levels of nutritional deprivation." Most Malawians cannot
finance even a minimally adequate diet. Half of all children are stunted -
and 40 percent of those are severely stunted, the marker of deep, prolonged
Corn prices are at the root of this year's crisis. In the past, after most
poor harvests, Malawians have bought cheap corn from traders in Mozambique,
Zambia or Zimbabwe. This year's spotty rains caused a regional shortage,
driving up prices in Malawi's markets. In mid-October last year, a kilogram
of maize in Chikwawa, 2.2 pounds, cost about 13 cents. This year, it cost
nearly 32 cents.
Even Hurricane Katrina has worsened matters. When the storm closed New
Orleans to shipping, depriving Japan of its normal source of corn, the
Japanese turned to South Africa, and in weeks the price of South African
corn in Malawi jumped nearly 20 percent.
For months, the charities and international donor groups that effectively
keep Malawi afloat operated on "Scenario 1," projecting that corn prices
would remain affordable for most, and that the destitute would need only
272,000 metric tons of donated corn.
Donors have pledged almost that much. But now, with prices skyrocketing, the
number of Malawians who cannot afford food is rising as well.
"Scenario 2" calls for finding 413,000 metric tons of donated food, at
considerably higher prices.
Especially in the south, where harvests were the worst, high prices have
brought growing malnutrition and sometimes unrest at sites where donors try
to distribute too little food to too many desperate people.
A recent visit to the rehabilitation center at the regional hospital in
Chikwawa City, a hub of about 10,000 people, made it clear why.
Camped on the sidewalk in the unit's square courtyard, 29-year-old Samson
Hanock watched his 2-year-old son, Ben, while his wife, Ester, 20, cradled
their newborn son, born at the unit in September. Ben was brought there from
Mtobwe village, about two hours distant, with malnutrition and severe
Mr. Hanock is a gardener. Working six days a week, four weeks a month,
brings a salary of $6.65, from which his employer deducts $5.85 to buy the
Hanocks a 110-pound bag of corn meal.
Mr. Hanock spends the remaining 80 cents on sugar. "I bake some sweets that
I ask my wife to sell," he said. "And with that, we get some money to buy
soap and other things."
Across the courtyard, Severia Karunga looked after Precia Yaka, a somber
9-year-old orphan from Badueza, 90 minutes away by car, who had come to the
unit in July with malnutrition, malaria, edema and, it turned out,
Precia's father died four years ago. Her mother died at 21, a month after
Precia arrived here. Ms. Karunga, Precia's aunt, now cares for Precia, her
brother and her own seven children. She lives with her mother, who cares for
two other orphaned children.
"My husband is divorcing me because he isn't happy that I am caring for this
child," she said, gesturing toward Precia. "He left last month."
Mother, daughter and 11 children, ages 6 to 18, get by on less than $50 a
month. Most comes from the $9 weekly salary the mother draws from a
charity's self-help program. The family has an eight-acre garden, "but this
year," Ms. Karunga said, "I don't think I will be able to cultivate it,
because I am spending all my time at this hospital."
Nationally, admissions of malnourished children to Malawi's 95 nutritional
rehabilitation centers were up 15 percent in September from last year.
Continuing increases are all but certain. Most children will spend a few
weeks in rehabilitation, said Ms. Sarina, the district nursing officer.
Then, healthy once more, they will be sent home.
And the cycle will begin anew.
"The problem," Ms. Sarina said, "is that when they go back, there's nothing
to depend on."