Tuesday 02 October 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - Zimbabwe's central bank governor Gideon Gono yesterday criticised a
controversial economic empowerment law giving indigenous blacks control of
foreign firms, saying it threatened the stability of the country's fragile
In the first public criticism of the Zimbabwe Economic Empowerment and
Indigenisation Bill by a senior official of President Robert Mugabe's
government, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor said the proposed
legislation posed the greatest threat to current efforts to restore
confidence in the banking sector after a 2004 banking crisis that saw
several banks closing.
"Banking the world over is about confidence and we are worried about this
unguided interference . . . Of particular concern to us as monetary
authorities would be any attempts to forcibly push through the envelope of
indigenisation into the delicate area of banking and finance," Gono said in
a televised mid-year monetary policy review.
Once it is signed into law, the Bill would give a 51 percent shareholding in
foreign companies to "indigenous people."
The controversial Bill defines indigenous as "any person who before the 18th
of April 1980 [Zimbabwe's Independence Day] was disadvantaged by unfair
discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such
The Bill has drawn criticism from the opposition, economists and business
amid fears it would scare away foreign investors at a time Harare
desperately needed support from the international community.
Foreign controlled Stanbic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank, among the four
biggest in the country, have already warned that any takeover of their
shareholdings would lead to a decline in foreign investment and "come at
punitive cost to local investors earmarked to take over foreign companies."
Presenting papers on the Bill before a special parliamentary committee in
Harare two weeks ago, the banks warned the government that the threshold of
51 percent was unsustainable and should be reviewed down to between 30
percent and 49 percent.
"Given the difficulties being experienced in the Zimbabwean economy and in
the banking sector in particular, Zimbabwean banks require foreign support
in securing international lines of credit," Stanbic Bank said.
"Once all banks are made indigenous, the current support relationships
arising from foreign control of certain Zimbabwean banks would be severed.
Currently, for example, the only banks providing offshore funding for
tobacco are the international banks. A case in point being Stanbic Bank, who
with the support of Standard Bank of South Africa, provided US$75 million
for tobacco financing in 2007," said the bank.
The Bill now awaits scrutiny by the Senate before signature by President
Gono challenged the government to strike a balance between the objectives of
economic empowerment and the need to attract foreign investment.
"As Monetary Authorities we fully support the noble objective of empowering
the majority of Zimbabweans through the introduction of enabling statues
that expand wider involvement of the people in the mainstream economy.
"Noble as this objective is, however, our well-considered advice to
legislators and the government in general is that a fine balance should be
struck between the objectives of indigenisation and the need to attract
foreign investment," said Gono, who also warned the government to guarantee
that the empowerment drive "is not derailed by the few well-connected
Meanwhile, the central bank governor announced the introduction of a new
support facility for manufacturers aimed at increasing production of basic
commodities to ease current shortages in the country.
Gono said the Basic Commodities Supply Intervention Facility (BACOSSI) would
allow manufacturers to access RBZ working capital funding at concessional
lending rates of 25 percent per annum.
The facility is a nine-month window renewable through 90-day instruments
based on performance whose main goal is to restore capacity utilisation to
levels before June 18 when a government price crackdown started.
The new facility would help to bring back basic commodities that have
disappeared from shop shelves since Mugabe ordered producers and retailers
to slash prices by half in mid-June.
"We should see a return of Mazoe, bread and butter on the shelves at
affordable but economically viable prices in the next three to four weeks,"
said Gono, who conceded that the past three months have been the most
difficult period for Zimbabwe.
International Monetary Fund executive director Peter Gakunu last week
criticised the RBZ for getting involved in business, saying it was not the
bank's duty to do so.
The RBZ chief also warned that the central bank was close to introducing a
new currency to replace the current bearer cheques saying the bank was just
awaiting for final approval from their "principals."
The central bank last year slashed three zeroes from bearer cheques in a bid
to tame rampaging inflation and introduced a new set of bearer cheques under
monetary reforms dubbed Sunrise One.
"Sunrise 2 is coming very soon. We are awaiting final clearance from our
principals and this clearance is imminent. Our message to those who are
handling excess cash is that they should not blame this Governor. The
process could turn out to be a Hurricane," Gono said.
Gono also reviewed the daily minimum cash withdrawal thresholds for
individuals and companies to $20 million and $40 million respectively from
$10 million and $20 million. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 02 October 2007
By Patricia Mpofu
HARARE - Zimbabwe public schools ground to a halt on Monday after the
majority of teachers heeded calls by teachers' unions not to report for duty
until their demands for better pay and working conditions were addressed.
The country's largest teachers' union, the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA)
last week called on teachers to down tools, saying the government had failed
to respond to their demands for improved salaries.
The strike by ZIMTA, which is pro-government, comes hardly a week after the
militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) urged its members to
embark on an industrial action in protest over their poor salaries and
The teachers' strike comes as it emerged yesterday that the bulk of the
civil servants, who are among the least paid workers in Zimbabwe, were also
contemplating joining the teachers' strike demanding better pay.
The lowest paid government workers earns Z$500 000 a month, enough to buy
just about two loaves of bread.
A survey by ZimOnline yesterday showed that there was no learning taking
place at most schools in Harare with some pupils spending the better part of
the morning loitering in school grounds.
Similar reports were also recorded in the major cities and towns such as
Masvingo, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare.
ZIMTA president Tendai Chikowore refused to comment on the strike amid
reports that the teachers' union was under pressure from suspected state
security agents to call off the industrial action.
Sources within the ZIMTA and the PTUZ said they had received several calls
from suspected state agents urging them to halt the job action with several
teachers saying state agents had visited schools in Harare to check on
Raymond Majongwe, the secretary general of the PTUZ, said he had received a
death threat on his mobile phone warning him to call off the country-wide
strike that has paralysed operations at most schools.
"I received a death threat on my phone yesterday (Sunday) from unidentified
people who said I must call off the strike," said Majongwe.
There were also several reports of harassment of teachers in Mhondoro,
Ngezi, Zaka and Chinhoyi.
The teachers want the government to increase salaries from the current Z$2.9
million to Z$32 million a month, revised upwards from the initial demand of
Z$15 million a month.
Lecturers and non-academic staff at state-run universities are also said to
be mulling industrial action this week to press President Robert Mugabe's
government to hike salaries by between 300 and 1 000 percent.
Junior doctors have also issued threats to embark on industrial action. The
junior doctors, want their salaries hiked to Z$120 million a month, up from
the $6 million they are currently earning.
The new salary demands were tabled at a meeting held by the doctors and the
Health Services Board last week.
In a statement released yesterday, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition urged
the government to quickly resolve the strike by teachers and doctors.
"The Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to
address the demands by the teachers and doctors in order to stabilise the
education and health system in the country," read the statement. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 02 October 2007
By Regerai Marwezu
MASVINGO - The wife of Zimbabwe's finance minister Samuel Mumbengegwi faces
murder charges after being accused of leading a group of soldiers that
fatally assaulted a Masvingo villager accused of stealing from the minister's
Tecla Mumbengegwi was at the weekend questioned and released by Masvingo
police after recording a warned and caution statement from her.
She was arrested with about 10 soldiers based at 42 infantry battalion in
Gutu who were her accomplices in the assault that occurred sometime last
The soldiers were still in police custody last night and were expected to
appear in court soon, according to officer commanding Masvingo Assistant
Commissioner Charles Makono.
"We recorded a warned and caution statement from Mrs Mumbengegwi since she
is said to have been part of the group," Makono told ZimOnline.
Makono said the police were investigating the incident in which the deceased
villager and his relative were fatally assaulted by a group of soldiers
allegedly hired by the minister's wife.
The regional police chief refused to release the names of the deceased or
further details on the case, saying details were still sketchy.
But sources said the allegations are that Mumbengegwi, who had earlier
reported to the police that property from her farm near Mupandawana growth
point had been stolen, enlisted the soldiers' help after complaining of slow
progress in the police investigations.
Angered by the slow pace of the investigations, Mumbengegwi teamed up with
the soldiers and collected the suspect from his home before taking turns to
beat him and up.
The unnamed suspect died on the spot from injuries sustained during the
It is alleged that the hired soldiers later drove to the dead suspect's home
on the outskirts of Mupandwana rural service centre and ordered his family
to bury the deceased.
The deceased's family members refused to bury the body and the soldiers
turned on them, accusing them of conniving with the deceased to steal from
the minister's farm.
One of the relatives died at Gutu Mission Hospital on Saturday from the
The sources yesterday alleged that there was now political pressure not to
prosecute the minister's wife.
They said some senior police officers in Harare were trying to block
"We have been ordered to stop investigating Mrs Mumbengegwi by some of our
superiors in Harare because of her position but some other senior officers
are against the idea," said a police officer who refused to be named.
The minister could not be reached for comment yesterday but his wife said
she was the complainant in the case of theft and that it was not "fair for
me to be charged with murder".
"Police should finish their investigations before we point fingers at each
other," she said. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 02 October 2007
By Lizwe Sebatha
BULAWAYO - Hwange National Park faces a repeat of a 2005 disaster when
thousands of animals died of thirst as acute fuel shortages constrain the
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA)'s ability to move
water to the water points.
ZPWMA spokesman Edward Mbewe confirmed the looming crisis, which he blamed
on the unsustainable elephant population and drought.
"We are facing shortages of fuel among other challenges to refill the water
points," Mbewe said.
"The population of the elephants at the park has exploded out of proportion
and this has created a crisis as the elephants are exerting pressure on
water points while at the same time they are destroying water pumps."
Environmentalists say hundreds of elephants and other animals have died from
starvation, thirst and blackleg as water shortages hit the giant park.
Like other Zimbabwean organisations, ZPWMA has been affected by fuel
shortages and has struggled to move water from various sources to points
where the animals drink.
The parks authority needs over 25 000 litres of diesel every month to fuel
the pumps at the water points but environmental activists say the quasi-
government body does not have funds to buy the scarce commodity.
Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce chairman Johnny Rodrigues yesterday warned
of a "worse catastrophe" in the Hwange National Park compared to what
happened two years ago.
"Most water points have dried up and the wildlife authority does not have
the financial capacity to alleviate the crisis. About US$25 000 worth of
diesel is required, which the authority does not have," Rodrigues told
Hwange National Park was scarred by the dry season of 2005 when the wildlife
sanctuary broke an 82-year record for the lowest rainfall received in the
The average annual rainfall between October 2004 and March 2005 of 346.75
millimetres was drastically lower than the previously recorded minimum of
361.8 mm in the 1923/1924 season.
Rodrigues claimed that his organisation had raised billions of dollars to
mitigate the crisis but could not save the animals after being blacklisted
by the wildlife authority.
ZPWMA accuses Rodrigues of exaggerating the state of affairs in Zimbabwe's
wildlife industry after he accused senior government officials of being the
brains behind poaching activities.
The wildlife management authority has during the past few years built about
65 ponds to sustain wildlife in Hwange during dry spells.
The authority has come under attack on numerous occasions for failing to
keep the pumps running so that the watering holes are full all the time. -
Tuesday 02 October 2007
By Tafirei Shumba
HARARE - A Zimbabwean journalist and two theatre artists were arrested in
Harare at the weekend during the performance of a satirical play depicting
the eight-year political crisis in the country.
The journalist, James Jemwa and actors Slyvanos Mudzvova and Anthony
Tongani, were arrested during the performance of the play, The Final Push
and were still being detained at Harare Central police station last night.
The title of the play is taken from Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC)'s failed protest march organised in 2003 against
President Robert Mugabe's government.
The protest failed after Mugabe sent armed soldiers onto the streets to
crush the planned rebellion.
A police officer who refused to be named confirmed the arrest of the three
but refused to disclose the charges being preferred against the artists.
"Yes they are here and so what do you want?" said the police officer as he
slammed the phone when contacted by ZimOnline.
Daniel Maphosa, the play's technical director and producer, said the three
were arrested at Theatre-In-The-Park, a prime theatre venue in central
Maphosa said plain-clothes police officers who were seated in the audience
had watched the controversial play half-way through when they stormed the
backstage where they dragged Mudzvova and Tongani to a police truck.
Jemwa who was filming the play, was also arrested when he went backstage to
investigate what was going on, forcing scores of theatre lovers to storm out
of the venue during the commotion.
"Lawyers are being engaged to assist the three and we have also alerted the
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for assistance.
"The arrest is a travesty of justice and an affront to freedom of
expression. Our space for public debate and free expression is shrinking
daily," said Maphosa.
Maphosa said the play, which was cleared by the state's Censorship Board,
did not advocate the violent removal of Mugabe from power but urges dialogue
between the veteran 83-year old Zimbabwean leader and MDC leader Morgan
Zimbabwean police have over the past seven years arrested theatre artists
and stopped plays they said were targeting Mugabe.
Zimbabwean musicians such as Thomas Mapfumo and Leonard Zhakata have also
been banned from the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for
allegedly singing songs deemed critical of Mugabe. - ZimOnline
Mail and Guardian
01 October 2007 11:59
Going home . going home . am a-going home . The lovely words of
Aaron Neville's song ring in my head for a whole fortnight before my
three-week vacation in Zimbabwe. Each day I wake up and pump up the volume.
I am so excited, I can't wait. I haven't been home for more than five
months. This is long overdue.
August is vacation time for me and my son. It also is time to
renew insurances, annual medical check-ups and, of course, sweet potato
time. I love that stuff. I could live on sweet potatoes for the rest of my
life. And, believe me, they don't grow them that sweet anywhere else.
I have not been home for so long -- it's the first time I have
stayed away that long, partly out of fear of what I will find and partly
denial. I cannot face the dreadful realities that have become the story of
The constant text messages from home don't help; the place
sounds as if it will fall apart at any moment. The one thing that sustains
me as I work outside Zimbabwe is the belief that I will always go back home.
I still hold on to the illusion that my son will go to the same university I
went to, because I don't trust anybody else's education system. And yet the
bad news from across the Limpopo has been too much to bear.
"Will you be okay? Have you bought enough supplies? Can we help
with anything?", empathetic office colleagues ask in the weeks prior to my
departure. I am angry. Why am I being asked these questions? Where do they
think I am going? Darfur? Iraq?
I am reminded of how I reacted when I met women from Nigeria
during Abacha's time or women from Palestine. When I met Rana from
Palestine, with a lovely hair-do and manicured nails, I asked her if she
really lived "there". I had to be reminded that life goes on -- births,
deaths, weddings, falling in love, parties -- in the middle of all the
atrocities. Zimbabwe is no different.
Kissing the ground
As I step off the plane and into the arrivals galley I could
kiss the ground -- pity the formerly blue carpet is now a rather squalid
The immigration officials chat to me and laugh as I "manage my
passport", telling them where to stamp, so they do not fill the pages.
Getting a new passport is not easy, don't they know? "Ha sister," the
officer says, laughing. "Those of you coming from the diaspora can buy these
things. Only US$200 these days."
The customs officer waves us through. Too bored? Too tired to
search us as they normally do when they see large pieces of luggage? We get
out swiftly and in minutes my brother is driving us into the city.
Harare is not called the sunshine city for nothing. It is a
beautiful spring afternoon. The sun shines brightly in the blue sky. Not too
hot. A gentle breeze is blowing. I am overwhelmed. I feel intensely happy as
the sun sinks into my bones. I lower my window with no fear of a gun being
levelled at my head at the traffic lights. Even my son sticks his hand out
of the window to catch the breeze. We haven't done this in a long time. Not
The streets of Harare are clean. Too "clean", I notice, in that
there are few people about. The street vendors were "cleaned" out by
operation Murambatsvina a year ago. While some brave ones have ventured
back, it is a hazardous business.
I notice there are few cars on the road. The fuel crisis is
biting. But I am too happy now to worry about it. I just want to enjoy being
Schedule your life
I wake up on my first morning to another beautiful day. The
house is eerily quiet. No radio. No television. Not even the boys on their
PlayStation. I realise the electricity is off.
My friend Nozipho tells me it will be on again about 2pm. It is
Sunday. That's the schedule in her neighbourhood. I soon learn that in the
leafy suburbs there is a regular schedule for power cuts and occasionally
for water cuts too. So you can schedule your life -- when to do the laundry,
when to iron, what time to start cooking ...
By the end of the first week I have the schedules worked out. I
know whose house to go to for breakfast, whose for lunch and when to
recharge my cellphone.
Manoeuvres in the dark
But things are not so easy in the non-leafy, high-density
townships, where the power goes off at any time. Perhaps the thinking is
that poor people are too poor to need regular schedules. But there are some
things you can't schedule, like the ever-present funerals, mostly the result
of HIV and Aids. How do you conduct a wake by candlelight? How do you feed
the mourners in the dark?
We soon find out. My friend's dad passes away in Bulawayo. The
power goes off in the middle of his wake. Dozens of candles hardly make a
difference in the pitch darkness. The women -- always the women -- struggle
to heat water, cook and feed the large crowd. They manage.
At yet another funeral in a less well-heeled township, things
don't go so well. The candles run out after midnight. The firewood runs out
after one meal. No one has fuel to go on a quest for these essentials. The
mourners go hungry. Many leave. By the time the burial is over there are
barely 30 people left.
We drive into Mkoba township in Gweru on a dark evening when the
power is off. The entire place, 20 villages in total, is in darkness. Thick
smoke hangs in the air. I am worried about women's and girls' safety and
security. Several scurry hurriedly to get home from work, the market, shops,
church. I am scared to ask if the statistics for violence against women have
On day two I experience cut-off number two. Water. I am shown
the dozens of buckets, containers, pots, plastic bins -- anything that can
hold water. Every household I visit is the same. You keep storing the stuff,
just in case.
Unlike electricity the schedules for water cut-offs are less
regular in every area. But things are worse in the high-density areas. It is
much worse in Bulawayo, where cut-offs last anything from one to seven days.
No one has that many containers.
Once again I see crowds of women and girls around the few
boreholes or water points. There is an almost festive atmosphere as they
converge there. They laugh, talk, joke and wait. Sometimes the water comes
out quickly, but often it's a slow trickle. The lines move slowly. Nerves
get frayed. Pushing and shoving starts and pandemonium breaks out.
Local youths come to "restore order", abusing women in the
process. Meanwhile, back home the children wait, home-based care patients
fret and husbands get angry.
Women's and girls' lives have gone backwards in time. The
development that seemed within reach by 2015 is a distant, hollow hope. If
it's not a water queue, it's the search for firewood. Countless hours are
spent searching or collecting something.
In Glen View a group of young women says it takes them up to
three hours to walk to a farm to search for firewood, another three to
collect and cut it down and another three to walk back. Meanwhile, other
domestic and economic activities must wait. What time do they have to go to
school? Learn new skills? Earn an income? Or do anything else in this
hunter-gatherer context? We are back to the rural way of life, but without
the necessary tools and changes in other circumstances to make this
Food, glorious food
I have been home for a week and I haven't eaten beef. I am
beginning to have withdrawal symptoms.
There is lots of expensive chicken. As a visitor I have been fed
plenty. I can't face another drumstick. The government deregistered all
abbatoirs, so there's no beef anywhere. I call a friend in the president's
office. He is one of the new farmers. A very productive one. I ask if he has
beef. No beef, he says, just more chicken or he can do mutton. I opt for
mutton. Sadly, the president of Equatorial Guinea is coming to town, so I
never see the mutton.
On our way to Gweru we drive into Kadoma Ranch Motel, hoping to
buy a burger. I ask for a menu. "You want to see a menu, mother? What do you
want to see on a menu?" the waiter asks me, with his arms akimbo and a sneer
on his lips. I lose my temper. I want the menu. Isn't this a hotel?
The waitron thinks I am a Martian from Pluto. "Mother, here you
ask us what we are serving today. We don't do menus anymore. This is a new
Zimbabwe. Ask me what I am serving and I will tell you. Today we have two
things: chicken wings and pork chops." He rattles off the prices. I don't
listen. I just want pork chops.
I ask what drinks he has and he almost keels over laughing. "But
mother you are really not from here right? Drinks? We have the usual,
Mupfure River crush -- oh, sorry, that means water -- and Mazoe
[concentrated orange juice]." I settle for Mupfure crush on the rocks.
By the second week we have queuing down pat. My son, driver and
I become experts at spotting queues from miles off and joining them. It
doesn't matter what the queue is for, we simply join -- and ask as we move
along. Jokes abound about people like us. One is that someone joined a
funeral body-viewing line and found out only when he was face to face with
We are lucky our efforts are not in vain. It is always for
something that either we need or someone else can use: bread, cooking oil,
fresh milk and sugar. We feel so pleased with ourselves at every victory. Of
course we can do this only because I carry wads of cash in my big bag.
Sometimes we get desperate. Our supply of bread runs out. I bump
into a friend in a supermarket and jokingly ask if he knows the manager so
we can get bread. Sure, he says. He goes over to negotiate with a shop
attendant. We are told to wait in the sandy lane behind the supermarket. I
feel like a common criminal making a deal with the attendant in the little
lane. We get three loaves. What happens if you don't know someone who knows
someone who knows someone else?
The shelves are bare
I finally get confirmation of those images I have seen time and
again on TV. The rows of empty shelves in supermarkets. TM, the largest
supermarket chain in my hometown, Gweru, has two items filling up two rows:
plastic buckets and bran flakes. The first I can understand as people need
buckets for storing water. Bran flakes? Maybe nobody grabbed them when
prices were slashed and they just remain on the shelves.
I see a woman cleaning an empty fridge and my hopes rise. I ask
what will fill it. "Ah aunty, we just clean them [fridges], so that they
remain in good condition."
Back in the leafy suburbs in Harare one supermarket is filled
with imported foodstuffs; all kinds of pastas with names I do not know. I
see six kinds of fancy cheeses, pasteurised milk from South Africa, imported
washing powder, coffee and wine. Who buys this stuff?
My mother is a small retailer in Gweru. My friend Sophia's
father is a retailer in Harare. Both shops have empty shelves. I don't get
to see Sophia's dad. He is always queuing for soft drinks at the
distribution depot. My dad gets up at 4am to line up for soft drinks.
They do this to keep the shops open and running. There is
nothing else to sell.
We visit a widowed aunt in a township. This gives me a micro
picture of what the food shortages mean. Normally a visitor is given
something to eat and drink. It can be black tea with sweet potatoes or just
plain sadza -- pap -- with veggies.
My old aunty welcomes us with warm hugs. We talk and swap
stories for almost an hour. As the conversation winds down she begins to
shift uncomfortably in her seat, avoiding my eyes. Finally the penny drops.
There is no food to give us. "What shall I give you my dears? Things are so
bad. What can I give you?" I insist that we are not hungry and she need not
give us anything.
But this is not the way of our people. Visitors must be fed to
feel welcomed. In the end she gives us two dry maize cobs. "Take these and
roast them. Please take them." She thrusts them into my cavernous bag. My
heart sinks. I give her cash and she weeps with gratitude.
The meaning of independence
My visit home coincides with Heroes' Day. In days gone by this
commemoration of our independence struggle was an important day on our
calendars. For those of us who can remember the second Chimurenga, it is a
time to reminisce and to sing along to the uplifting struggle songs.
But, after two days of watching the same stuff on ZTV, my son
casually asks: "Mum isn't there something else to watch besides this
fiction?" I am stunned. Fiction? I ask him why he thinks it's fiction.
"Well, after all the bad things that this government is doing and making
people suffer, why are they trying to tell us that they are heroes?"
My heart breaks. I am in pain. If the story of our struggle is
dismissed like this by the next generation, what does it mean? If things
have got so bad that we can't convince even our children about our history,
where are we going? But I have decided that this is not my burden. If the
leaders of Zimbabwe cannot see for themselves that they have eaten their own
legacy and they end up sounding like liars to the next generation, it is
their burden, not mine.
South Africans often say Zimbabweans do not resist oppression
hard enough. But one area where resistance has been fierce is in the media
and communication. Almost every third household, even in the poorest
townships, has raised money to buy a Fortec gadget and a satellite dish.
Unlike DSTV, Fortec doesn't need a subscription. Once installed, all you
need to do is check the frequencies don't shift. Rather than being subjected
to ZTV, people watch foreign channels. Deep into the night people listen to
short wave radio, pirated from outside the country.
After a week in my parents' home, without Fortec or cable, I
realise I miss al-Jazeera and my favourite, Kaya FM. On Friday I stock up on
newspapers, the Zimbabwe Independent, Mail & Guardian and, on Sunday, the
South African Sunday Times and The Standard. I don't bother with state-owned
dailies. No need to get my blood pressure up.
All dressed up and no transport
Driving around the cities and on every major route, I see hordes
of people flagging down lifts. At first I think there is some kind of
protest or long queue for something. I soon realise that it's for transport.
In every direction, at every bus stop, there are at least 40 to
100 commuters. Sometimes more. Waiting. Boiling in the sun. We give lifts to
a few in our small car. Every passenger tells us a long story; he or she has
been waiting for two days, trying to get to a funeral, collecting a sick
mother from the village.
The fuel crisis has spawned a public transport crisis. Again it's
the poor who suffer. With no means to get from point A to point B, they are
subjected to the vagaries of a dysfunctional system. The evenings are
particularly heart-rending as poorly paid workers struggle to get home
before dark, before the power cuts or in time to look for firewood, bread
and maybe vegetables for supper.
Sex for fuel
I soon learn that as a member of the NGO community I am "a
person to know". Generally it is believed that NGO staff members have access
to fuel coupons and foreign currency.
I call an old "regular" of mine. He is enthusiastic to hear I am
in town. He would love to hook up. But he has no fuel. Do I have a coupon?
Just 25 litres? Then he will "come and deliver". I decide I am not that
desperate for sex. I will hold on to my hard-won fuel. Or maybe I should
hold an auction? Find the most handsome bidder?
And the epidemic goes on .
The story of Zimbabwe would not be complete without something on
HIV and Aids. I visit three families to give my condolences for those who
have died in the past five months, see two sick relatives and hear of a
couple of other deaths.
Antiretrovirals are easier to get in some towns than others. But
a monthly supply of drugs on the open market is unaffordable. I don't know
who can still buy them.
The government clinic in my hometown has stopped taking in new
patients. The CD4 count machine has broken down. Without it you can't be
assessed for treatment. The food crisis has compounded the problem. Several
relatives on treatment say they struggle to get adequate and timely
nutrition so they can adhere to their regime.
My visits to graveyards in Harare and Bulawayo confirm that more
young people are dying. Someone born in 1987 is in a grave already.
The rich get richer
As in any place in a crisis there is opportunity. Zimbabwe is no
different. A new breed of billionaires has arisen. Wheeler-dealers are
everywhere: smugglers, sellers of scarce commodities, fuel importers or just
Moving mostly in the leafy suburbs and among the middle classes
it is interesting to see the lifestyles and listen to the "woes" of this
group. At a hair salon the young come in their dozens to get fancy hair-dos.
I have never seen so many well manicured women as I do in Harare.
At a popular restaurant I eavesdrop on a conversation among
those I call corporate wives. One has taken up horse riding. Another is
persevering with her flying lessons. The third frets about the lack of seats
on flights to Dubai for her family for the school holidays. They'll have to
go to Victoria Falls -- how boring, they all commiserate.
And you can't believe the fancy cars this lot and their
offspring drive. An economist friend tells me that because the Zim dollar is
so worthless now, saving is pointless. You're better off chowing your money
in this manner. I worry about the long-term implications of all this.
I meet a group of young secretaries and hear fascinating stories
about what the "indigenous" or new farmers are buying their girlfriends.
Plasma-screen televisions, double-door fridge-freezers, leather lounge
suites, Japanese used vehicles, monthly fuel supplies, shopping trips to Jo'burg
or Dubai. Many of these young women have regular facials and massages -- all
paid for with the new money. For some, every cloud does have a silver
A new birth
As I dance at my friend Juliana's birthday party, I disagree
with Oliver Mtukudzi's new song, Gehena (hell), in which he says there is no
such thing as a slightly nice hell. Hell is hell, he sings. Oliver dear,
Zimbabwe is a slightly good hell.
I am angry at what I see. It makes me depressed. I am angry at
the unnecessary pain and grind that women and girls, in particular, have
become subjected to -- the constant search for food, fuel and water. I am
angry that younger women continue to die unnecessary deaths from Aids or are
subjected to sex work when they could be earning their own incomes in a
I am shocked at the denial by those in power that there is a
crisis in Zimbabwe and that poor black people are suffering. These people
are not related to Tony Blair -- or Gordon Brown now --and have done nothing
to deserve this "punishment". All they want is to live in the functional
Zimbabwe they once knew.
And I am even more angry that the solution being punted is
another meaningless and wasteful election -- an election that will not
resolve poor women's and girls' problems. Just as all the other useless
elections in the past few years did not.
Yet I come out refreshed and happy. After a visit to my
gynaecologist and my dentist -- both of whom treat me like a human being and
not a tropical disease in progress, as I am normally treated in South
Africa -- I have every right to be happy. I am greeted with a smile and a
chat at the bank. In Johannesburg I am "X-rayed 55 times", as I call it, and
my ID photocopied four times every time I visit my bank.
Having spent three weeks travelling under the most beautiful
African sun in three of the safest cities in the world, I am at peace. For
three weeks I do not obsess about locking doors and windows and clutching my
handbag. The laughter, community and sense of hope in everyone I see is
something I will live on for the next few months. Even in the most trying of
times, or in the longest bread queue, there is hope and faith.
I cannot help but be elated at the sight of new houses being
built: big, beautiful houses. No matter how much it costs, parents still
sacrifice to send their children to the best schools; buy them necessary
school uniforms and other supplies. University and college students study
diligently, hoping for a better life.
In Bulawayo's Centenary Park, although the flowers have not been
watered for months and the place looks desolate, I witness at least five
weddings on a beautiful Saturday morning. My eldest son has a new baby girl,
who looks so cute in pink; my younger brother has a baby boy with the most
beautiful long nails.
Life has become hell for many, but it is a slightly good hell.
There is hope. The struggle to reclaim our beautiful country must continue.
By Byron Dziva In Harare
Last Updated: 2:30am BST 02/10/2007
Zimbabwe has raised interest rates from 650 per cent to 800 per cent,
a stark illustration of the country falling further into economic crisis.
Even in the bizarre financial world created by President Robert
Mugabe's policies, Gideon Gono, the central bank governor, admitted that he
"never dreamt that we would get to these levels of inflation" but vowed to
"not be deterred".
"The outlook in the short term is that our number one enemy
[inflation] remains very angry and formidable," he added. The country has
6,600 per cent inflation.
The announcement came as Zimbabwe's teachers went on strike to demand
a 500 per cent pay increase.
But at free market exchange rates, this amounts to about £3.50 a week.
Teachers are currently paid £3 a month, and want their pay to rise to
£18 a month.
October 02, 2007, 06:15
By John Nyashanu
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has threatened another fresh wave of
clampdowns on businesses flouting price freezes. This as prices of most
commodities skyrocketed over the past week in the face of acute shortages.
Mugabe addressed thousands of party supporters at the Harare International
Airport yesterday after returning from the United Nations General Assembly
in New York. Two months ago the president made a similar threat at the
burial of a national hero. The following day law enforcement agents
descended on businesses, ordering price slashes of around 50%.
This culminated in acute shortages of basic commodities which have persisted
until now. Mugabe also took a swipe at foreign owned companies whom he
accused of milking the country and not ploughing back the proceeds.
He said in light of this exploitation, the government is moving ahead to
ensure that Zimbabweans have at least a 51% stake in all mining ventures in
October 02 2007 at 05:12AM
Zimbabwean civil society groups have harshly criticised President
Thabo Mbeki's mediation approach, saying that the future of Zimbabwe cannot
be negotiated in secret.
They said it should be done in a public process that would result in a
new democratic people-driven constitution.
The civic groups met in Bulawayo at the weekend to agree on a way
forward after the passage of an 18th constitutional amendment by parliament
The amendment, which among other things harmonises presidential and
parliamentary elections, creates 60 new MPs and does away with Mugabe's
power to appoint 30 MPs.
It was agreed on in talks by the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change.
The civic groups said they were not interested in "piecemeal
amendments" to the constitution, but remained in favour of a complete
overhaul of Zimbabwe's supreme law in a transparent public process.
Alternatively, the groups said Mbeki could give legitimacy to his
mediation by involving civic groups in the talks instead of continuing with
the process in private.
"We reiterate our demand for a new, democratic and people-driven
constitution as a foundation for resolving the crises in our country," the
groups said at the end of their meeting on Monday.
"We totally reject the piecemeal amendment to the present
constitution. Accordingly, we reject Constitutional Amendment Number 18 and
any further piecemeal amendments to the present constitution."
Zimbabwe's labour movement, students' groups, churches, media
organisations and others were all represented at the crucial indaba.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Mercury on
October 02, 2007
Mail and Guardian
02 October 2007 07:09
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said on Monday he would
travel to Zimbabwe this month to recommend multilateral mediation by African
heads of state to try to solve the crisis in the Southern African country.
Wade said he wanted to discuss with Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe how African leaders, including himself and South African President
Thabo Mbeki, could mediate between Mugabe and his opponents, both domestic
"I'm going to go there in two weeks' time ... to talk with him
[Mugabe] to see what Africa can do," the Senegalese president told a news
conference in Dakar.
Wade said the situation in Zimbabwe was deteriorating, with
inflation running at well over 6 000%, the highest rate in the world, and
basic goods running short.
Mugabe (83) who has been in power since independence from
Britain in 1980, rejects accusations that he has abused human rights and
wrecked Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy.
He accuses Western countries of sabotaging the economy as
punishment for his seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
Wade, who like Mugabe is in his 80s, complained that there was
no official African Union (AU) position on Zimbabwe and repeated his view
that mediation should not be left to Mbeki alone.
A grouping of Southern African nations has mandated Mbeki to
secure a deal on constitutional reform between Mugabe and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change ahead of March 2008 presidential and
But Wade, who from his small West African country has often
sparred with Mbeki over leadership on African issues, said Zimbabwe should
be dealt with on a wider basis.
"Mbeki is a man of goodwill ... [but] we should tackle the
problem at the level of several heads of state, including Thabo Mbeki," he
Wade said any mediation for Zimbabwe should also bring in former
colonial power Britain, which had been party to a 1979 accord on reforms to
end land ownership imbalances between blacks and whites.
Wade said the British government had stopped compensating white
farmers under the land redistribution reform accord, while Mugabe had
stepped up seizures of land without redress.
"I think that this method is not acceptable ... the whites
should have compensation," Wade said.
Diplomats said the compensation from Britain had been halted
because London felt Mugabe's government was no longer respecting its side of
the 1979 Lancaster House accord which paved the way for independence.
Wade said the need for mediation in Zimbabwe was urgent.
"There are elections next year. Who will mediate between the
government and opposition?" he added, speaking in English.
Wade said disagreements over how to deal with Zimbabwe were
threatening an upcoming European Union/African Union summit planned for
December in Lisbon, after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would
not go if Mugabe attended.
'"I leave you with a promise'
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's central bank said on Monday it would help
to restock empty store shelves by the end of the month.
Among the planned programmes were cheap loans to manufacturers
to restore productivity, and hard currency payments to farmers to keep them
"I leave you with a promise most basic goods should and will
return to the shelves in the next three weeks," Reserve Bank Governor Gideon
Gono said on state television.
Gono said the bank also planned to change the nation's currency,
striking more zeros off bank notes for the second time since August of last
In June, the government issued an edict to slash prices on all
goods and services by about half. This included a crackdown on overcharging
in which more than 7 000 corporate executives, business managers, traders
and bus drivers were arrested, jailed and fined for price violations.
The price cuts were meant to tame inflation. Instead, the effect
was to worsen already acute shortages of food and basic goods in the
Under a new central bank loan programme, producers and rural
stores hard hit by supply shortages would be able to borrow funds to restore
their businesses at the country's lowest interest rate of 25% over nine
To boost production of staple foods, the bank would help the
government pay the world parity price of around $200 a tonne for maize and
wheat, half in local currency and half in hard currency that could be used
by farmers to buy their own fuel, fertiliser and imported materials, Gono
He said the price crackdown had caused fear and mistrust between
the government and businesses and called for what he called for "a spirit of
reconciliation and healing" in the economy.
He said many of the nation's economic difficulties were
self-inflicted, including the price cuts and a programme to seize control of
white and foreign-owned businesses.
In August last year, the central bank slashed three zeros from
the currency and issued new denominations of notes after basic transactions
became unmanageable and calculators and accounting systems could no longer
cope with amounts traded.
Independent estimates put real inflation closer to 25 000% and
the International Monetary Fund has forecast it reaching 100 000% by the end
of the year. Bundles of bank notes are again common in basic purchases.
Gono said the zeros had now returned, again making transactions
unwieldy. He said a new currency would be issued possibly in the next two
weeks but gave no further details.
"It's a process that could turn into a hurricane for those who
keep cash outside the banking system," Gono said. In the rampant black
market, "cash barons and dealers are in the habit of creating mini central
banks in their homes".
Gono said the printing of extra money, now a routine practice,
contributed to inflation and was against "basic textbook economics".
"We are living in extraordinary times and extraordinary measures
are needed. Once we are out of the corner, we will have no problem
formulating policy playing by the book. But for now, the game is one of
survival," he said. - Reuters, Sapa-AP
ABC News, Australia
October 2, 2007
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says changing Zimbabwe's currency
will not make any difference to the dire state of the country's economy.
Zimbabwe is set to introduce a new currency by the end of the year in an
attempt to stem its extreme rate of inflation.
But Mr Downer says the Mugabe Government is the problem, not the currency.
"What I think President Mugabe should do is resign and allow a sensible
government to be set up with some experience and capacity to manage the
economy," he said.
"Changing the currency won't make any difference to the ravages that
President Mugabe has brought upon the Zimbabwean economy."