WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (AFP)
The United States voiced concern Wednesday over the continued deadlock in
negotiations to form a unity government in Zimbabwe and put the blame
squarely on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States "regrets
that the six-week impasse over implementation of the September 15
power-sharing agreement for Zimbabwe was not resolved" at talks on Monday in
Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai met for 13 hours with leaders
of the Southern African Development Community, but left with only an
agreement to seek an urgent summit of 15 African nations in hopes of
reaching a deal.
A fight for control of the powerful home affairs ministry threatened to sink
the power-sharing deal.
"We condemn the Mugabe regime's refusal to implement a genuine and equitable
power-sharing agreement and its continued use of violence against peaceful
demonstrators," McCormack said in a statement.
"The United States shares the concern of United Nations Secretary General
Ban Ki-Moon about the negative effect the impasse is having on the people of
Zimbabwe, who continue to suffer terribly," McCormack added.
"The United States will continue to provide food aid and other humanitarian
assistance to assist the people of Zimbabwe," according to the statement.
"The United States calls upon these leaders to resolve the impasse between
the two parties now," he said.
"We urge African leaders to work with the Southern African Development
Community, the African Union, and the United Nations to address the urgent
needs of the Zimbabwean people," he said.
Thursday 30 October 2008
South African feminists, individuals and organisations are embarking on a
roll-out campaign of action in solidarity with Zimbabwean women.
This campaign came in the wake of the degeneration of the negotiations of
the Cabinet Formation process in Zimbabwe as set up by the Global Political
"We are alarmed that political egos are taking centre stage while there has
been a general collapse in provision of basic services like access to clean
water and sanitation.
"Reports of deaths due to hunger have become commonplace and the health
delivery system has all but shut down.
"It is time that political leaders are held accountable and put the needs of
the people first," said Jean Beukes a member of Building Women's Activism.
The campaign of action is also in support of the women of Zimbabwe who have
expressed their outrage at the current impasse, which has resulted in
suppression, harassment and violence.
Reports from Harare yesterday were that riot police descended on hundreds of
women who were peacefully protesting over the delayed conclusion of the
At least 47 women were arrested and over 100 were beaten in the city as they
were walking to the venue of the talks scheduled to begin in the afternoon.
"As South African feminists, we demand an environment where freedom of
expression as a basic human right is possible.
This should include an immediate end to all politically motivated violence,
harassment and imprisonment.
"We condemn the arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture of women activists.
Specifically, we call for the immediate release of Jenni Williams and
Magodonga Mahlangu as well as the women activists who have been unlawfully
arrested on the 27th October as they gather to pray for peace and say
'enough, a new Zimbabwe now'," said Lucille Kennedy one of the activists
involved in the campaign.
The solidarity campaign supports the call of Zimbabwean women that all
political leaders in SADC exert pressure on Robert Mugabe, Morgan
Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and their delegations, to set aside their
'personal/party' agendas and power games and put the needs of the Zimbabwean
That Zimbabwean leaders must move with haste to put in place mechanisms to
provide for the following urgent needs:
1.. availability of affordable and accessible food
2.. provision of accessible clean water and electricity
3.. provision of affordable and accessible health services including ARVs
4.. restoration of functional education system
5.. easy access to cash in the banks
"Freedom of expression must be respected NOW! Zimbabwe belongs to its
people, not rulers. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough. The
suffering must stop NOW," says Mary Magdalene Tal from Women Worldwide
Association. - ZimOnline
by Own Correspondent Thursday 30 October 2008
JOHANNESBURG - A group of South African feminists says it will lobby
President Kgalema Motlanthe and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki to intensify
pressure on Zimbabwe's political leaders to urgently form a government of
national unity to tackle that country's deepening economic and humanitarian
The group said in a press statement that it would also engage female members
of South Africa's Parliament to "urge them to add their voices in urging for
a resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe".
The South African feminists said they had decided to take action in
solidarity with their Zimbabwean sisters who are pushing for a quick
resolution of a deadlock between President Robert Mugabe and opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai over control of key ministries in a unity
Over 40 of Zimbabwean women activists were arrested on Monday as they
protested against the delays by Mugabe and Tsvangirai to form the unity
government outlined under a September 15 power-sharing agreement.
The Zimbabwean women accuse the country's political leaders of jostling for
power and cushy ministerial positions while food shortages worsen and the
country sinks deeper into economic misery.
"We are alarmed that political egos are taking centre stage while there has
been a general collapse in provision of basic services like access to clean
water and sanitation," Jean Beukes, a member of Building Women's Activism,
said in a statement echoing the views of her Zimbabwean colleagues.
Beukes added: "Reports of deaths due to hunger have become common-place and
the health delivery system has all but shut down. It is time that political
leaders are held accountable and put the needs of the people first."
Other activities planned by the South African feminists include marches and
other public actions aimed at raising awareness of Zimbabwe's deepening
crisis while its political leaders bicker over who should wield more power
in the unity government.
Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal retains Mugabe as president while making
Tsvangirai prime minister and another opposition leader Arthur Mutambara
deputy prime minister.
The bare bones agreement allots 15 Cabinet posts to Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF
party, 13 to the Tsvangirai-led MDC and three to a faction of the opposition
led by Mutambara.
However it is silent about who gets which specific posts and the rival
parties have since the signing of the agreement wrangled over who should
control the most powerful ministries such as defence, finance and home
affairs. - ZimOnline
By Patience Rusere
29 October 2008
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono told business leaders this
week that his institution is persevering with "concerted efforts" to to
revive the shattered economy even though the political power-sharing process
Gono told the annual congress of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries he
would not be deterred by the stalemate in the process that supposed to lead
to the formation of a national unity government under a power-sharing
agreement signed Sept. 15.
His remarks to the CZI congress were reported in the state-controlled Herald
"We should continue with the economic turnaround and let our political
leaders catch up with us when they have concluded their talks," Gono told
his business audience. "We cannot wait because what if they decide to take
another five or six years, should we then fold our hands and die?"
Meanwhile, however, hyperinflation, last measured at 231 million percent and
according to most economists caused by profligate money-printing by Gono's
institution, continues to ravage consumer pocketbooks while industrial
output has imploded.
The Zimbabwean dollar is back in free fall three months after its second
redenomination in two years, and was being quoted in street trade this week
at an exchange rate for physical bank notes of Z$90,000 to one U.S. dollar.
Economist-consultant Callisto Jokonya, a former CZI president, told reporter
Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that unless the political
deadlock is broken, the economy is destined to continue its downward spiral.
The East African (Nairobi)
26 October 2008
Posted to the web 29 October 2008
The World Food Programme recently issued an alarming statement on the food
crisis in Zimbabwe.
They appealed for an additional $140 million to cover the shortfall in basic
food aid for the next six months. What they did not say was that this still
leaves a shortfall in overall cereal and oilseed supplies of 800,000 tonnes
for the next six months.
It also failed to highlight that we are now weeks away from the start of the
rains and there is very little land preparation, virtually no seed and
It is too late to import supplies in any quantity and even if we did we
would have to distribute by air, as local transport capacity is almost
They also did not tell the world that the funds they had paid to the
non-governmental organisations doing food distribution had been taken by the
Reserve Bank and the organisations could not pay their transporters for
transport services or buy fuel.
The gold producers have sold gold to the Reserve Bank over the past nine
months and have not been paid -- they are now unable to operate and are
closing their mines down, allowing them to flood -- in some cases they will
not be able to reopen them.
It is not only the NGOs who have had their foreign currency accounts (FCAs)
looted -- virtually every business that I know has had their FCA cleaned out
and they have been unable to access them to pay suppliers.
These funds -- legally property of the account holders -- have been taken by
the Bank and then sold to Zanu-PF leaders at the "official" exchange rate --
this is technically legal but is clearly theft.
The official rate is a small fraction of one cent per US dollar. In fact it
is 0.000000003 local dollars per US dollar. This means that $10,000 would
cost a Zanu-PF heavy Z$0.003 -- not even one cent in the new local currency.
The physical evidence of this theft of resources is everywhere.
Reports abound of people arriving at homes for sale and paying cash in
foreign exchange -- without trying to negotiate the price.
New cars without number plates (we have run out of number plate materials)
are all over Harare.
The are reports of the Governor handing out expensive vehicles as if they
were his own -- one report said that the pastor who buried the governor's
younger brother was given a new twin-cab as a thank you for a few hours'
work and kind words.
I would hazard a guess that in the past few months, no less than $500
million has been pilfered from the state and private coffers in this way.
That is enough money to feed the entire population for six months. No wonder
they do not want to wrap up the power sharing agreement and swear in a new
government. They must be terrified of anyone getting into the vaults and
records at the Reserve Bank.
While they fiddle and prevaricate, the country burns. Lawlessness is
rampant; gangs of thugs are seizing private property on farms with no fear
of intervention by the police.
This seems to be even encouraged by rogue elements in Zanu-PF who want the
negotiated deal to fail and at the same time are lashing out at the
defenceless in an orgy of thuggery and theft.
Since our priority is to feed people, the needs of our animals are being put
on the back burner. I get reports of dairy cows dying of starvation.
The largest pig producer in the country is about to slaughter their entire
commercial breeding stock of 33,000 pigs. Poultry producers have cut back
their operations to the minimum. Once this is carried out, re-establishing
this production capacity will be a long process.
The president of the MDC and now the new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai,
held a press conference in Harare.
In that meeting he stated that no progress had been made in the 24 days
since the SADC-brokered agreement was signed in September. He went on to say
that he was suspending any further contact with Zanu-PF until the regional
mediation team was present to arbitrate those discussions.
In addition to this he made the extraordinary disclosure that the agreement
signed and subsequently published, did not include the full details that had
been negotiated and signed during the process. He requested that the
mediators remedy this by publishing a new version of the agreement in full.
He said that Zanu-PF -- in complete violation of the agreement -- was
refusing to review the appointment of 10 governors to the provinces and to
then reallocate these posts on the basis of the majority representation in
The governors play an important role in local politics and the
administration and Zanu-PF are insisting that the 10 people appointed -- in
clear violation of the SADC process -- should remain.
If the reallocation of governors based on the party majorities in each
province were carried out, MDC (T) would get five, Zanu-PF four, and MDC (M)
Clearly, the SADC process can only proceed if this impasse in the allocation
of powerful political posts is resolved. Zanu-PF is reluctant to let go
because of the consequences to themselves and the loss of privilege and
But that is of little concern to the region and should not be a factor. They
never sought or obtained an amnesty for what they have done in the past and
must face the consequences of their actions.
The delay in the consummation of this deal is now having very critical
consequences. Every day lost is a serious matter. Inflation at 14 trillion
per cent in September is destroying all forms of economic activity.
The collapse in the economy and in all social services is driving tens of
thousands of Zimbabweans, skilled and unskilled, out of the country. We are
now into new territory in this saga -- one from where it will be very tough
to claw back to normalcy.
The new President of South Africa, Kgalema Montlanthe, said that he would
back Thabo Mbeki's mediation with the resources and the influence that was
needed. If the SADC mediation team does not engage very shortly, they will
put the country and the region into jeopardy.
The writer is based in Bulawayo
By Jonga Kandemiiri
29 October 2008
Many Zimbabwean farmers have written off the 2008-2009 crop season due to
shortages of inputs such as seed and fertilizer which when available are
Agricultural sources said outlets selling maize seed and fertilizer insist
on payment in hard currency, shutting out farmers who only have Zimbabwe
dollars, massively depreciated amid hyperinflation last measured at 231
Ten kilograms of maize seed fetch some US$40, while a 50-kilo bag of
fertilizer is going for US$60. The government recently announced it would
allow individuals to import farm inputs. But farming organizations have
urged that the most vulnerable groups of farmers be given assistance because
they have no access to foreign exchange.
Agronomist Roger Mpande told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that the government is to blame because it has always been poorly
prepared for the farm season, adding that the coming crop season is likely
to be the worst ever.
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Date: 28 Oct 2008
By Tapuwa Mutseyekwa & Tsitsi Singizi
HARARE, Zimbabwe 28 October 2008 - Two-year-old Appreciate lies in a bed at
the at Harare Central Hospital. At just under 10 kg, he shows many signs of
severe malnutrition: a swollen stomach, dry scaly skin and hollow, sunken
Luckily, his mother, Revai Ndoro, was quick to see the pending danger and
took him to the hospital. He was immediately referred to their Therapeutic
Feeding Centre, where he was diagnosed as suffering from the syndrome known
as 'kwashiorkor' - characterized by skin and hair changes and oedema.
"He has not been growing at all," said his mother. "For the last three days,
he was bedridden, moaning in pain and breathing heavily."
Therapeutic Feeding Centres
Harare Central Hospital is one of approximately 70 Therapeutic Feeding
Centres being supported by UNICEF in Zimbabwe. Each day, about 15 children
are admitted to the hospital with severe malnutrition.
An estimated 50,000 children in Zimbabwe are severely underweight.
With UNICEF support, the centre has responded to the high influx of patients
coming in mainly with the symptoms of kwashiorkor or severe wasting known as
Treating severe malnutrition
At the centre, treatment of malnutrition begins with observation and
weighing. For severe cases, a therapeutic milk called 'F75' is given to the
child at three-hour intervals.
With the help of F75, malnourished children can gain approximately two kg in
three to four days, at which point they are often able to return home.
Other children go home with a two week supply of Plumpy'nut, a ready-to-use
The centre also offers daily lessons on proper nutrition, hygiene and other
forms of child care to parents and guardians to help ensure that the child
will continue to thrive.
Supporting improved treatment
Since 2002, UNICEF has supported improved treatment methodologies for
malnutrition in Zimbabwe's hospitals as a way of reducing child mortality.
"Malnutrition can be cured, with very simple and cost effective measures,"
said UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative Roeland Monasch. "Sadly, many children
die due to lack of proper treatment. Such loss of life is unacceptable. At
UNICEF, we are working to reverse this."
For Appreciate, the three days he spent in the Therapeutic Feeding Centre
were life-saving. Unfortunately, neither the mother or the father are
employed, so it will remain a challenge for the two parents to provide food
and ensure that Appreciate remains on the path to recovery.
Entering the 'lean season'
As Zimbabwe enters the height of the lean season, the danger of a
malnutrition crisis does not seem far away - a daunting proposition for the
children of a country already in a humanitarian crisis. With raging
inflation and a continued shortage of basic food commodities, cases of
malnutrition in children between six-months and 12-years-old are becoming
more apparent in Zimbabwe.
"Zimbabwean children cannot afford a looming malnutrition threat in addition
to the immense challenges they already face every day," said Mr. Monasch.
"It is a very serious and real concern as families grapple to feed their
This week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the United Nations'
willingness to support Zimbabwe throughout this delicate transition process
and to work with regional leaders and the international community to provide
immediate relief to the suffering of its people.
"Zimbabwe's children deserve better. They deserve to go to school, to drink
clean water, to access quality heath care and to go to bed without feeling
hungry," said Mr. Monasch. "Without humanitarian assistance, the fate of
these children will remain largely unchanged."
29th Oct 2008 21:25 GMT
By Rhoda Mashavave
AS Zimbabwe faces one of its worst hunger year, women have taken much of the
burden as they fight to feed their children.
Acute food shortages in the country's urban and rural villages have resulted
in people going for days on end without food while some villagers have
resorted to eating tree roots and wild fruits to survive.
Three quarters of Zimbabweans, about six million face starvation in this
inflation ridden country. Schools have virtually shut down because both the
teachers and pupils are hungry and cannot manage to walk to and from school.
Universities remain closed because they cannot afford to feed students.
Boarding schools for secondary and high education have sent children back
This year's examinations have been shelved owing to the disruption of
classes across the whole education system. With children not going to
school anymore, it is the women, as mothers who have to see that the family
And the government has not helped either. Over the last six months
non-governmental organizations which used to feed the hungry were barred
from operating after government accused them of campaigning for the
opposition political parties.
The non-governmental organizations have also been barred from helping those
with HIV/Aids, who need the food and the much needed HIV/Aids vaccines.
Across the country the number of starvation-related deaths continues to
mount. In big hospitals there is no food for the sick. Relatives of the sick
are asked to bring food and those who can't afford risk death. The health
sector itself is on its knees as doctors and nurses continuously refuse to
work in such environs.
Drinking water is one of the biggest problems for those living in urban
areas. Some areas can go for months without a single drop of water as local
authorities fail to raise enough forex to buy chemicals to treat water. And
when the water returns, it is so smelly and tasteless. A chorela disease
outbreak has been reported throughout the country because of the untreated
Inflation is in millions (251 million percent as of July) and prizes of food
continue to rise every minute. For the poor it is even worse as food can
only be easily accessed by those who have the US$. The government has
licensed shops to sell their goods in US$. While the shops for the US$ have
food in their selves, those selling in the local Zimbabwean currency are
For those using the local currency, it is a nightmare to get money from the
bank as the country faces a severe money shortage. The money one is allowed
to withdraw each day is not enough to buy a day's basic breakfast of bread,
milk and tea.
A number of women have now resorted to cross-border deals where they travel
to neighboring countries like South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique in
search of food. But not without any challenges. Some women while in these
neighboring countries have resorted to the oldest profession for survival.
They sell their bodies so they can raise enough cash to buy food which they
then bring back to Zimbabwe.
So dire is the situation that back home in Zimbabwe young girls have been
forced to turn to prostitution so as to help supplement their families' food
And the rainy season is just approaching now, but the government is not at
all prepared to provide the seed and fertilizers for farmers. There is no
Food shortages began in 2000 as government forcibly took over thousands of
productive farms which they shared among landless people. But without
infrastructural backing and clear policies to crop production, food
shortages have hit the country which used to be called "Africa's
Most of the productive farms have been shared among government cronies who
have no idea about farming. The land remains idle.
Corruption within government has also added to the chaos on the farms. Farm
inputs and equipment meant for the farming programme have found its way to
the black market.
At the moment all hopes have been pinned on a proposed new all inclusive
government between the ruling government and opposition political parties.
It is the hope of the nation that the proposed new government will urgently
address the food shortages, once everything the political parties are
fighting each other for have been resolved.
by Nqobizitha Khumalo Thursday 30 October 2008
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwean police have charged a South African businessman with
violating customs law after he donated an armoured vehicle to opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai for use during a June second round presidential
election, controversially won by President Robert Mugabe.
The businessman, Adriaan Espag, brought the vehicle - a bullet-proof BMW X5
registered in South Africa - into Zimbabwe and gave it to Tsvangirai who at
the time was running against Mugabe after wining the first round
presidential election but with too few votes to take over the presidency.
Police later impounded the vehicle from Tsvangirai's driver saying it was
illegal under the Customs and Excise Act for the opposition leader to use
the vehicle in the absence of owner Espag who at the time had already
returned to South Africa.
Bulawayo lawyer Job Sibanda, who is acting for Espag, told ZimOnline that
the police have since filed charges against the South African who they want
back in Zimbabwe to face trial.
Sibanda said: "The police have indicated that they have opened a case
against my client and I am still awaiting a trial date which has not been
set and once the date has been set my client will travel from South Africa
for the case."
According to the lawyer, customs authorities have refused to release the
vehicle pending the outcome of Espag's trial.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was not immediately available for comment
on the matter.
Zimbabwe's Customs and Excise Act prohibits foreign nationals to leave a
foreign-registered vehicle in the care of a Zimbabwean national without
obtaining proper clearance from the authorities.
Tsvangirai, who later withdrew from June 27 presidential run-off vote
because of political violence, started using the bullet-proof vehicle on his
return from his self-imposed exile in South Africa.
His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party claimed at the time that it
had uncovered a plot to assassinate Tsvangirai.
The party has never produced details of the plot while Mugabe has insisted
such a plot never existed. - ZimOnline
By Blessing Zulu
29 October 2008
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders Wednesday
to take "decisive" action to end the deadlock between President Robert
Mugabe and prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai over the allocation of
cabinet positions in the national unity government envisioned under a
Speaking to reporters at a U.N. forum on migration in Manila, the
Philippines, Ban said the power-sharing process "has been taking too long."
He added: "I sincerely hope that President Mugabe will no longer disappoint
the international community," Ban said. Mr. Mugabe "should meet"
His comments came after the Southern African Development Community's
committee or troika on politics, security and defense failed Monday despite
13 hours of talks to bring Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai together on the
allocation of key cabinets - in particular the Home Affairs Ministry which
controls the highly politicized national police force.
The SADC troika referred the matter to a full summit of the 14-nation
regional grouping, to take place within the next fortnight at a location as
yet not specified.
"Now that the SADC has decided to convene their full summit meeting, I hope
these leaders -- considering their responsibility to see peace and stability
maintained in their region -- should take very decisive measures to help
resolve this crisis," Ban said.
Meanwhile, Secretary General Tendai Biti of Tsvangirai's formation of the
Movement for Democratic Change said Tsvangirai might not show up at the
regional summit if by that time he has not been provided a passport by the
Tsvangirai submitted his passport to the office of the registrar general,
which also falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, to have more pages
added but the government has not returned the document to him. He failed to
travel to a scheduled SADC summit in Swaziland, saying the emergency travel
document issued to him was inadequate.
The government has said it lacks special passport paper due to Western
sanctions, but ordinary citizens can obtain passports in 24 hours for a
payment of US$250.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao said regional leaders won't get
involved in the passport dispute, adding that the summit is likely to be
held in South Africa, which now holds the revolving SADC chair, Swaziland, a
member of the troika, or Gaborone, Botswana, where the organization has its
Sources in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said its politburo met Wednesday and
urged the president not to give in to MDC demands, saying the offer to
Tsvangirai - control of the Finance Ministry along with the economic and
service ministries - is sufficient
Political analyst Charles Mangongera told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Ban's comments put Harare back under the
By Sylvia Manika, Carole Gombakomba & Brenda Moyo
Harare and Washington
29 October 2008
In another blow to Zimbabwe's tottering health care sector, the
opportunistic infections clinics at Parirenyatwa and Harare hospitals in the
capital and Chitungwiza Hospitals in the nearby satellite dormitory town
have been forced to close their doors after their doctors and nurses joined
a widening strike by health professionals.
Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from
Harare that the clinics provided critical services to those battling
HIV/AIDS, including distribution of antiretroviral drugs and treatment of
life-threatening AIDS-related illnesses.
Ironically, the shutdown of the units closely followed the news that the
technical review panel of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
Malaria had backed Zimbabwe's application for up to US$500 million in the
eighth round of funding.
Benjamin Mazhindu, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Network of People
Living with HIV/AIDS, said members of his organization were scheduled to
meet Health Minister David Parirenyatwa on Thursday to discuss the closures
of the units.
While increased resources from the Global Fund could revive the clinics,
Mazhindu told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
in the meantime, many of those struggling to resist AIDS could needlessly
HIV/AIDS activist Chitiga Mbanje told Brenda Moyo that Zimbabweans are
waiting for a resolution to the political crisis so the country can address
such critical issues.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:09
BY CHIEF REPORTER
HARARE - There is controversy over the legality of attempts made by
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to call six by-elections with some
legal experts claiming that this breaches Section 39 of the Electoral Act,
so is therefore illegal, and in direct contravention of clauses in the
power-sharing agreement. Other legal experts argue that the clause in the
agreement, imposing a one year moratorium on by-elections, was not yet an
Act of Parliament.
Protagonists say ZEC must follow the spirit of the agreement not
necessarily the law.
"It is true that the power-sharing agreement does not, and cannot
change the law on by-elections; only an Act of Parliament amending the
Constitution and the Electoral Act can do that. But, in fact, ZEC does not
call a by-election - Section 39 of the Electoral Act states that must be
done by the President, by a proclamation gazetted within 14 days of the
President having been notified of a vacancy," Val Ingham-Thorpe, a legal
expert with Veritas said.
She said it has been well over the 14 days and the failure to have
called by-elections suggests that there is tacit compliance with the
According to the power-sharing agreement, the reason for the one year
moratorium on by-elections was to prevent any further election-related
violence. Article 21 of the power-sharing agreement refers to "the divisive
and often times confrontational nature of elections and by-elections."
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said attempts by Zanu (PF) to
unilaterally call by-elections despite the agreement was one of the issues
under discussion at the talks and said the onus was on the SADC troika to
ensure that the parties abide by their pledges to avoid violence, harassment
and intimidation. The agreement further says vacancies in Parliament which
may arise during the one year period can only be filled by nominees seconded
by the party which held the seat previously.
"No country can be run on the basis of political agreements. The
agreement is not law. They should think the law not by agreement," Madhuku
The ZEC says it is preparing to hold by-elections to fill the six
current Parliamentary vacancies, three in the Senate and three in the House
There are also House of Assembly by-elections scheduled in Guruve
North and Gokwe-Gumunyu constituencies.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 10:00
JOHANNESBURG - The Zimbabwean dollar is slowly evaporating into thin
air as the locals have lost confidence with their currency, which continues
to fall dismally against all major regional and international currencies.
Zimbabweans have resorted to using foreign currency in day-to-day
transactions. American dollar is the most popular, then the South African
Rand and the Botswana Pula.
This is despite efforts by South African Reserve Bank Governor Tito
Mboweni to stop Zimbabwe from using the rand. He said Zimbabwe would not
qualify to be part of the Rand Common Monetary Area (RCMA), citing its
current hyperinflation and bad fiscal policies.
Zimbabweans in exile around the globe have increased foreign currency
inflows into the country as they try desperately to sustain their families
The central bank recently eased restrictions on foreign exchange
trading to help boost the availability of foreign currency. This development
also signaled the re-introduction of a willing buyer, willing seller
arrangement, which allows authorized dealers to match foreign currency
buyers and sellers. However, since its inception, the Central Bank has
failed to match the rates, blaming speculators. - CAJ News
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 10:45
The millennium development goal seeks to cut extreme poverty and
hunger in half, by 2015. This remains futile as the Zimbabwean government is
reengaging its duties andresponsibilities.
Acute mass starvation and poverty has gripped Masikana rural village
under Chief Svosve in Marondera. Villagers go for weeks without food and
have resorted to eating wild fruits and vegetables.
The pregnant or breast feeding women and young children are the
hardest hit, with stories
of them fainting from hunger far too common.
This situation is a direct result of a poor agricultural season with
erratic rainfall and a lack of seed packs and fertiliser
I visited ward 19 recently only to see children incapable of making
the journey to school due to hunger. Educational matters and politics are
secondary to the malnourishment and hunger that the villagers are suffering.
The people boast that if they had good rainfall and were properly
supported agriculturally, then they would be self-sustainable. For now, they
have united to ask the Almighty God to provide for them.
The elderly suffer the most. Most of them have lost their offspring to
Aids and have been left with their orphaned grandchildren to care for. They
have come to rely on the few remaining humanitarian carers in the community
Jennifer Macherera, aged 39, is HIV positive and lost her husband to
the disease five years ago. She has four children to care for but can no
longer take the necessary medication because she needs food for it to
dissolve effectively in her system.
Precious Wiseman, aged 17, is suffering from cancer but she cannot
afford the transport costs to take her to hospital or the treatment needed
for her illness.
These are only two of many heartbreaking stories from the residents in
Residents allege that Tracey Mutinhiri, the Zanu (PF) legislator for
Marondera West, discriminates them when distributing maize grain. They say
that she classified them as MDC supporters and would not allow them to
benefit from the government support scheme. - BY Grail Kupakuwana
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:01
It comes as no surprise that the talks have collapsed. This week even
the mighty SADC troika has failed to resolve the impasse - passing the buck
to a full meeting of the regional body.
From the word go, Zanu (PF) has been in self-preservation mode. They
are only interested in saving their own skins and their ill-gotten gains.
The people don't matter. They have never mattered.
You only have to look around at the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans,
those in the rural areas reduced to eating roots and wild fruit, while those
in the cities die of cholera and other preventable diseases.
Everywhere people have been forced to stand by helplessly, watching
their children suffer and die because of Zanu (PF)'s selfish policies and
heartless lust for power and riches.
The language coming out of Zanu (PF) is quite clear - they have no
intention of implementing the power-sharing agreement signed on September
15. They only signed that agreement so that Mugabe would once again be
recognised as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe, and be able to swan
around the world to meetings of heads of state. That is all that matters.
This logjam over the ministries was created deliberately by Mugabe and
his henchmen. They have never wanted the talks to succeed. The
widely-touted excuse that they are terrified of prosecution if the ministry
of home affairs goes to MDC is nothing but a red herring.
The minister of home affairs, on his own, does not have the power to
sack the partisan police commissioner and his henchmen - this is a
presidential appointment. And in any case the commissioner reports to the
president - not to the minister. So there is no way an MDC minister of home
affairs could order the police to arrest and prosecute senior members of
Zanu (PF) for their massive corruption and multiple crimes against humanity.
If they really wanted to break the logjam it would cost them nothing
to let MDC have the ministry of home affairs. But they don't want to. And of
course Thabo Mbeki is colluding with them on this.
The issue of Morgan Tsvangirai's passport, or lack of one, is another
case in point. We all know that a shortage of paper is not the issue here.
The issue is power. It always has been.
If any further proof was needed, a quick perusal of the
state-controlled newspapers says it all - in particular the nauseating
columns penned by Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba.
The MDC has compromised all it can. They need to stick to their guns
now. If the power-sharing deal is to collapse over this - so be it. The
blame lies firmly with Mugabe and Zanu (PF).
|Wednesday, 29 October 2008 11:54|
CHIREDZI – Twiza, a giraffe reared by hand on a ranch in the Chiredzi Lowvelt, was found hanged by a snare set by poachers 10 days ago, three days after her two and a half year old calf suffered the same fate. This is believed to be a deliberate attempt by settlers to drive the ranch owners from the area.
Gary and Teresa Warth bought their ranch in 1998 as part of the Chiredzi River conservancy; a collection of ranches that were set aside to help preserve wildlife and local flora. They lost most of their 2,000ha during the land invasions, except for 250ha game fence and 10ha that they use to produce vegetables for commercial purposes.
Twiza was bottle fed for two years before being released into a game paddock. She was very tame and a favourite with visitors to the ranch.
“Twiza was so friendly. Whenever we drove into the game paddock, she would
come galloping up to our vehicle at full tilt,” a family friend said.
Over the years Twiza gave birth to many calves who were killed by poachers in the area, most of them at a very early age.
“The worst poaching takes place over the full moon nights and days, the moon
is so bright, the poachers can hunt and set their snares 24 hours a day,” Teresa said.
Although Twiza managed to survive the volatile election period, half of the Warth family’s giraffes were killed, including Twiza’s six-month-old calf. The poachers set their snares among the new green leaves of the acacia trees so that the giraffes die a slow and painful death by hanging.
“They left both animals to rot without taking a single slice of meat - and that in a desperately hungry country,” a family friend said.
A local Chiredzi MP has set up camp on the perimeter of the Warth’s farm and it is believed that the animal’s deaths were a deliberate attempt to cause the family pain as everyone in the area knew how they had reared and cared for their wildlife.
“The wildlife in Zimbabwe is a silent, innocent victim. It has no voice to cry out for help. Please help it, before it is too late,” Teresa said. - BY BETHANY DAWSON
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:06
BY CHIEF REPORTER
HARARE - Zimbabwe's main MDC party has demanded the immediate release
of two firebrand female activists, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu,
further remanded in custody by a Bulawayo Magistrate's Court on October 27
for staging a street protest demanding the formation of a new all-inclusive
government as agreed by the main political parties two weeks ago.
Williams and Mahlangu, leaders of WOZA, have been languishing in
Mlondolozi Female Prison for two weeks under charges of "disturbing the
peace and security/order of the public" under the draconian Section 37 1(a)
of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
"The MDC demands an immediate end to the harassment and arrest of
civil society leaders and activists," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said. "We
demand that Zanu (PF) complies with the people's will, which is the
expedient formation of an inclusive government that will result in
unfettered democracy where the people of Zimbabwe will be free to express
Mahlangu was nursing injuries in custody sustained when she was beaten
by police when the protest was broken up.
"Obviously she hasn't been given access to medical treatment. She has
been in custody sleeping on concrete floors. She is in pain," WOZA
spokesperson, Sibanda, added.
Amnesty International says Williams and Mahlangu are "prisoners of
conscience" and that the Zimbabwean government should release them
"immediately and unconditionally as they have been detained solely for the
peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of association and assembly."
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:55
BY KETAYI MAKOSA
What has happened recently in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, and
Mauritania raises very profound questions about the African view of
humanity - unhu/ubuntu - in relation to the state.
20th June 2008: They came for Christopher Chimusoro Chigaga (52) in
the early evening because he was the MDC secretary in Ward 14 and had been
active since the Party was formed in 1999. There were about 15 of them,
angry Zanu (PF) youths. They ransacked his room, took his t-shirt and
bandanna, and demanded he name other MDC activists. He refused so they beat
We Africans have always been proud of our concept of human rights. A
man/woman is a person because of other persons - umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu or
munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu. This worldview placed the person at the centre
of the community and the community would defend their rights. Everybody
mattered, because the welfare of the entire community rested on the welfare
of the individual: the power of the calabash is in the seed.
21st June 2008: On hearing that five other activists (including the
Parliamentary Campaign Manager and Councillor-elect) had been abducted,
Chigaga decided to flee. Because of his injuries, he couldn't go on foot and
arranged to travel by car with another activist. They traveled barely 300
metres when their car stalled in front of a mob of Zanu (PF) thugs.
Man is an individual whose dignity is inviolable. He is God's
creation, fallible, capable of moral guilt and given the ability to shape
The mob took them to the local base at Ingezi Municipal Hall,
pummeling and pushing them all the while. They were now deathly afraid.
My African ancestors were hunter-gatherers and nomads, with no idea of
a country with borders; our borders are, ironically, a creation of the
colonisers at the Berlin Conference of 1885. An irony lost on Mugabe and his
Speaker Chakabanda, of 4310 Ingezi, father of Wadzanai, and two others
beat Chigaga up and made him chant Zanu (PF) slogans and dance. A white
Mitsubishi pickup, driven by Pambai of the Prison Service,arrived and the
two captives were thrown in.
The majority of African Presidents and Prime Ministers have trampled
on this sacred concept for their short-term political and material gain. In
other words, the rulers are more important than the individual.
Pambai dumped them at Rimuka police station at around 3:30am. The
Inspector in charge took one look at the men and ordered that they be driven
to Kadoma Central Police Station. The officers there gave them official
forms and told them to walk the 300m to the District Hospital. They limped
the whole way there.
To the African ruler, power is the only justifiable end in politics.
This means that any way of getting, consolidating, and expanding power is
good. It naturally follows, therefore, that the individual can be sacrificed
for the good of the political ruler. Mandela, by being a complete antithesis
of this, has become an international icon.
23 June 2008: SADC Observers were alerted. They went to the hospital
and spoke to Chigaga and four others. A ZRP officer came to take statements
from the victims. They had received no treatment because there were no
Recalcitrant persons are abducted, beaten, raped, denied food and
medicine, and brutally murdered if they pose a threat to the ruling clique
or ruler's stay in power. Africa bleeds, with her own rulers turning
violently on the very same people they are meant to protect.
7 July 2008: Christopher Chimusoro Chigaga died at the Kadoma General
Africa's post-colonial development has been hindered by her
leadership. Any social system that does not value man as an individual is
doomed to fail. Long-term, sustainable development cannot occur without open
and free public space where all issues can be debated. If there is to be an
African then African nations have to regain their sense of ubuntu
(humanity), rediscover the importance of the individual, and return him/her
to the core of societal development.
9 July 2008: We buried Chigaga at Rimuka Cemetery, Kadoma.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:52
HARARE - The collapse of Zimbabwe's education system, once heralded as
sub-Saharan Africa's finest, is being compared to a situation usually
experienced by countries at war.
"It is difficult to imagine the meltdown in the education sector
happening in a country that is at peace. You only see this kind of
degeneration in countries that are experiencing civil strife or a
full-fledged war," Raymond Majongwe, secretary-general of the Progressive
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), told IRIN.
"When Zimbabwe attained its independence 28 years ago, the new
government inherited an education infrastructure that had been ravaged by
war and it was almost like starting afresh, but children managed to attend
classes, teachers taught, and examinations were written. Virtually all that
has stopped," he said.
A highly regarded system
Soon after independence from Britain, President Robert Mugabe's
government adopted a variety of strategies to boost education, which
received one of the biggest allocations in the budget. The number of schools
increased, improving accessibility even in hard-to-reach areas; working
conditions for teachers were improved and specialist teachers were sent to
other countries for training.
Now the education system, once so highly regarded, has disintegrated,
with an estimated 45,000 teachers leaving the profession since 2004.
There was no learning that took place this year, which opened with
teachers embarking on industrial action because of poor salaries. The
situation was made worse by the fact that the majority of teachers did not
"There was no learning that took place this year, which opened with
teachers embarking on industrial action because of poor salaries. The
situation was made worse by the fact that the majority of teachers did not
turn up, having elected to look for greener pastures in other countries,"
The first term in 2008, which usually runs from January to April,
ended in March because general elections were held that month. Widespread
post-election violence prevented schools from opening, and the ruling
ZANU-PF party's youth militias targeted teachers; school buildings were
often used as bases for Mugabe supporters.
Children spent most of the second term without learning, Majongwe
said, because of politically motivated violence, a shortage of teachers and
strike action. No meaningful learning is currently taking place, as pupils
have to pay teachers to give them private lessons; those who cannot afford
to pay are left out.
"Normally, at this time of the year, schools would be busy with
examinations ... but it would be grossly unfair to conduct them, given that
there was hardly any learning. Examinations should just be cancelled this
year," Majongwe said.
He said a PTUZ survey found there were only 23 days of normal learning
this year, and projected a pass rate of about 3 percent if examinations were
held. "That would affect our rating internationally, because no country
takes seriously the products of a country with such a pass rate."
The absence of a substantive government has compounded the situation,
as the education ministry is being run by an acting minister, Flora Buka,
who recently said examinations should proceed in late October. Majongwe said
schools had yet to receive timetables, and "it would be a miracle if there
were any teachers to supervise those examinations."
A member of the state universities council, who declined to be named,
told IRIN that "All the seven state universities have almost ground to a
halt. They are failing to open for the new semester because they have not
been able to publish the results for last term on time, and employees are
refusing to go back to work, citing poor salaries.
Samson Chivanga, a secondary school teacher in the capital, Harare,
told IRIN it was impossible for him to carry out his duties on a "paltry"
monthly salary of Z$62,000 (US$1.10), which was enough for two days'
transport to and from work.
"We had agreed as a school that, given the unsustainable salaries,
pupils should make additional payments to us on a weekly basis, but ministry
authorities said that was illegal. Now most of the staff at my school would
rather engage in informal trade than report for work, and that has been the
case since the beginning of the year," Chivanga said.
He and his colleagues were giving private lessons off the school
premises so as to survive in the hyperinflationary environment, and barring
those students unable to pay the fees.
"The year 2008 should go down in history as a year in which the
Zimbabwe education system came to its knees. It should be recorded as a
no-show year. All the gains that the country accrued after independence are
being reversed, and that is sad," Chivanga said.
Jane Chirau, a teacher in rural Mudzi, in Mashonaland East Province,
said no teaching was taking place in her community. "Teachers are hungry and
don't have the energy to teach.
"They have now resorted to fencing gardens for other people to raise
money for food, spend three months without visiting the bank because the
salaries would only cover bus fare and, in some cases, are travelling to the
border with Zambia to work as porters," Chirau said.
Children have also stopped attending school because of hunger and the
absence of teachers, and where they do come to school "it is only to receive
food donated by non-governmental organisations," she said.
John Muranda, who lives in Harare, has enrolled his daughter at a
private school and she will write examinations marked by a UK examining
board. "I consider myself lucky that I could afford to register her with an
outside examinations board," he told IRIN. "But there are thousands of
parents out there who don't have the money to do the same." - IRIN
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:52
'There are many violations of democratic norms under the proposed new
BY CLYDE CHAKUPETA
On September 15 Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Mugabe signed a deal for the
formation of a government of national unity. The proposed government is
expected to pity the main rivals, Mugabe and Tsvangirai, in trying to solve
the problems of Zimbabwe, yet the main players seem not to trust one
It's a pact for necessity's sake, yet the majority of Zimbabweans have
rejected anything to do with the old system that sees Mugabe in any form of
government. There are many violations of democratic norms under the proposed
People voted in March and the people's wish was down played by muscled
political men. The essence of elections has been losing meaning in Africa,
with Zimbabwe and Kenya being the main culprits. Are elections still a
necessary tool for democracy in Africa?
Mugabe has trampled over human rights for his own political
perpetuation. He has crippled the economy, dwindled health and education
systems. He has paralyzed the agriculture sector to satisfy the greed of war
veterans. He has militarized the state, butchered civic and opposition
political leaders. He has empowered himself and driven the country to
Mugabe is a well that has run dry.
For a workable political, economic and social reform in Zimbabwe,
justice must be done. Many people have profited from the negation of the
rule of law and many have abused positions, while others have caused pain
and grief to innocent citizens. Admitting faults and seeking pardon is the
first step to reconciliation and healing.
I would suggest that Mugabe makes a public apology to Zimbabwe, even
though humiliating. He owes this to history. It is an unavoidable path and
that has to be done now. To wait for the equivalent of "Gachaca" in Rwanda
or the Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South is Africa, would be too
late for most of the lead violators are advanced in age.
At independence, Mugabe called for 'reconciliation' with the former
Rhodesian government. This was applauded the world over as a gesture of a
'new beginning.' Fifteen years later, Mugabe has pursued the 'whites' in
spite of the fact that they had and were contributing immensely to the
development of the country. White farmers were accused of bankrolling the
MDC and that was an unpardonable crime. Britain and America have been Mugabe's
scapegoats for the collapse of Zimbabwe. He fails to introspect and admit
failure and ask for pardon.
Gukurahundi victims grieve to this day, those who lost farms, property
and family during the farm invasions and during Operation Murambatsvina are
still wounded. Those who lost family and property during the successive
elections demand that justice be done.
The Old Testament calls for 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'.
This simply means that strict compensation for the injury is due. Justice
should precede reconciliation and forgiveness. The right to pardon rests
with the people of Zimbabwe. Biblically, there are many crimes where God's
anger is so great that financial compensation and/or political influence is
not enough to appease even the divine wrath.
However, it would be a gross exaggeration to say the proposed
government of national unity is not worth trying. I suppose it is necessary
as a bridge between times of suffering and the building of true democracy in
Zimbabwe. I urge Tsvangirai to tap on the old man's treasury of wisdom and
experience. Trust needs to be generated in the three main players, yet this
is what has stalled the appointment of the cabinet. There has been total
distrust and wanting to grab all for one's security.
With hope and determination, our nation can once more flourish, but
only if the spirit of rebuilding Zimbabwe is genuine, beginning with the
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 13:08
BY STAFF REPORTER
JOHANNESBURG - The Media Institution of Southern Africa (MISA) has
expressed optimism that a new political dispensation characterised by
tolerance, respect for human dignity, reconciliation, diversity of views,
peace and national harmony is on the horizon.
This comes after experiences have been narrated by journalists from
different media organizations from the last five years, in what
MISA-Zimbabwe dubbed "reporting in the line of fire."
MISA-Zimbabwe chairperson, Loughty Dube, described the country's media
landscape as "one of the most difficult terrains to navigate and penetrate
outside a war zone."
"Restrictive laws such as the Official Secrets Act and Miscellaneous
Offences Act play a dubious complementary role to the restrictions imposed
under AIPPA and POSA," he said.
Dube paid tribute to the late freelance cameraperson, Edward Chikomba,
who was found dead on the outskirts of Harare on March 31, 2007 after being
kidnapped by unidentified men.
Several journalists have survived harrowing experiences whilst doing
their job, these include: The Zimbabwean chief reporter, Gift Phiri, The
Standard's Godfrey Mutimba, freelance scribes, Sydney Saize, Herbert
Chikosi, Millie Phiri, Blessed Mhlanga, Fungai Machirori, Bright Chibvuri
and Memory Kadau.
Via Campesina Confronts The Global Agrofuel Industrial Complex
By: John E. Peck
On Oct. 19th 2008, at the opening ceremony of the Fifth International Via
Campesina Conference in Maputo, Mozambique, over 600 representatives from
50+ countries were gathered to hear a welcome address by the President of
the Republic of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza. While Pres. Guebuza had
some encouraging remarks about the future potential of peasant agriculture,
his suggestion that jatropha was a solution for Mozambique's energy crisis
was not well received by many in the audience. Jatropha is but one of a
whole host of crops (including maize, soya, canola (rapeseed), sugarcane,
cassava (manioc), plantain, sunflower, palm, coconut, and castor among
others) now being aggressively promoted as feedstock for the global agrofuel
industrial complex. Such crops, often genetically engineered, grown in
monoculture plantations, and destined for export markets, hardly deserve to
be called "biofuels" since they have no life affirming qualities and
undermine all the basic principles of food sovereignty.
As the leading umbrella organization for peasant farmers, fishers,
foresters, pastoralists, and indigenous peoples in the world, Via Campesina
has been a harsh critic of agrofuels since their inception. In its 2008
report titled "Small Scale Sustainable Farmers Are Cooling Down the Earth,"
Via Campesina identifies agrofuels as but one of several false solutions to
the climate change crisis. To quote the report: "Leaving aside the insanity
of producing food to feed cars while so many people are starving, industrial
agrofuel production will actually increase global warming instead of
reducing it. Agrofuel production will revive colonial plantation systems,
bring back slave work and seriously increase the use of agrochemicals, as
well as contribute to deforestation and biodiversity destruction."
Inspired by a similar statement from European counterparts, five U.S. based
groups: Rainforest Action Network, Global Justice Ecology Project, Food
First, Grassroots International, Family Farm Defenders, and the Student
Trade Justice Campaign issued a call in 2007 for an immediate moratorium on
further U.S. incentives for agrofuel development. Over 50 groups from around
the world signed onto this statement in solidarity, including Mozambique's
own National Farmers' Union (UNAC), host of the Fifth Via Campesina
Conference. Just prior to the Via Campesina conference from Oct. 13th - 14th
2008 in Kulima Mozambique, UNAC along with Justica Ambiental (JA!), African
Center for Biosafety (ACB), Trust for Community Outreach and Education
(TCOE) and the Center for Food Safety met to reaffirm their opposition to
any form of agrofuel development that undermines food production and food
Yet, the forces of corporate globalization have been hard at work and have
apparently already reached the ear of Mozambique's president. Chief among
these agrofuel peddlers is the Nairobi-based Alliance for a Green Revolution
in Africa (AGRA), bankrolled by the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations and
chaired by former U.N. secretary, Koffi Annan. At the global food crisis
conference convened in Rome from June. 5th - 7th. 2008, three major U.N.
institutions - the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the
International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Program
(WFP) - all signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Gates and
Rockefeller Foundations to advance AGRA's agenda. Over $150 million has
already been set aside to push this latest version of the Green Revolution
across Africa over the next five years.
While some leaders, such as former U.S. Pres George Bush Sr., have argued
that the lifestyle of the north is not negotiable, the current food versus
fuel debate dominating media headlines is hard to ignore. According to the
FAO, food prices skyrocketed 88% worldwide between March 2007 and March
2008, triggering riots in dozens of countries with some demonstrators even
being killed in Cameroon, Senegal, and Mozambique. The crisis has been
attributed to a vicious convergence of several factors - runaway speculation
in commodity markets, weather related crop failures induced by global
warming, and - as even the World Bank had to admit - the boom in agrofuels.
The creeping expansion of these green deserts that destroy biodiversity,
supplant subsistence production, and siphon off scarce public funds is more
a recipe for corporate profit than genuine energy security.
There is a fuel crisis in Africa, yet the continent's own petroleum
producers are not even allowed to meet the needs of their own people when
corporations based in the north still control the supply chain and find
global markets more lucrative. Many of these same oil giants with a horrific
track record of violence and corruption - British Petroleum, Chevron, Total,
Royal Dutch Shell - are now primary investors in the agrofuel sector, along
with other notorious grain, timber, biotech, and finance corporations: ADM,
Cargill, Bunge, Con Agra?, Dreyfus, Du Pont?, Monsanto, Syngenta, Marubenji,
Tate & Lyle, Weyerhauser, Tembec, Misui, Mitsubishi, JP Morgan Chase,
Societe Generale, and the Carlyle Group, to name but a few. Other agrofuel
industry cheerleaders with deep financial pockets and cozy political ties
include former Florida governor, Jeb Bush; Brazil's former minister of
agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues; and the current president of the
Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Moreno.
Contrary to their greenwashed image, today's agrofuel industry bears little
resemblance to the history behind Rudolf Diesel running his new fangled
engine on peanut oil at the 1898 World Exhibition in Paris or the modern
image of the do-it-yourself type, pouring recovered restaurant grease into a
modified vehicle. Instead, today's agrofuel industrial complex has been
constructed around the same destructive infrastructure and corporate
exploitation that dominates other globalized commodities. Today the industry
is dominated by ethanol derived from sugar cane and maize, and biodiesel
from soy, canola (rapeseed), and palm. Yet, this is just the tip of the
agrofuel iceberg. Biotech giants such as Sygenta and Monsanto are gearing up
to introduce new GE crops specifically tailored for the agrofuel industry,
such as maize with a built-in fermentation enzyme and other crops engineered
to have a lower lignin content. Other work is being done on cellulosic
ethanol using switchgrass, stover, and fast growing trees as the feedstock,
as well biodiesel derived from GE algae.
To illustrate the impact of largescale agrofuel development, one need look
no further than the the U.S. It currently takes up to six gallons of water
to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol, with another thirteen gallons
of waste water. If plans proceed to build more ethanol plants in the
Midwest, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates the endangered Oglalla
Aquifer could be drained of an additional 2.6 billion gallons per year
simple to irrigate and process these agrofuels. Nearby residents report
massive groundwater contamination and airborne pollution from these
facilities, including clouds of biotech crop dust that harm workers and
other non-target species. Even the distillers waste, a leftover from ethanol
production long touted in the U.S. as a feed supplement for livestock in
factory farms, is now being found to be unhealthy for animals. Many of the
farmers who invested their life savings to pioneer ethanol cooperatives in
the U.S. in the early 1990s have since gone bankrupt or been muscled out of
the market by agribusiness. There are about 130 ethanol plants operating in
the U.S., but whereas in 2003 over half were farmer controlled, today 90%
are in corporate hands.
This consolidation of the agrofuel industry has been encouraged by massive
taxpayer subsidies. In Canada where legislation recently passed requiring a
5% ethanol content in fuel by 2010, agrofuel boosters now expect to receive
$2.2 billion in subsidies. Over ten nations in the European Union also
provide various forms of agrofuel incentives and this translated into a
whopping 60% of the EU's entire canola crop going into biodiesel in 2006.
The U.S. alone is spending over $7 billion per year to promote agrofuels - a
subsidy of $1.38 per gallon for ethanol. During the recent U.S. Farm Bill
debate ADM and Cargill threatened to import Brazilian ethanol if the White
House did not provide sufficient "incentives" to keep domestic agrofuels
globally "competitive." The upshot was even more taxpayer subsidies for
development of cellulosic ethanol and for the use of sugar as another
potential agrofuel feedstock - conveniently coinciding with Monsanto's
introduction of GE sugar beet. If the U.S. were to actually meet its
proposed renewable energy mandate of 15 billion gallons of ethanol per year,
over half of the country's corn acreage would be devoted to energy rather
than food production.
Such unrealistic goals mean massive agrofuel imports from somewhere, and
these will also probably be subsidized through the perverse manipulation of
carbon credits. Under the Kyoto Protocol, 20% of global energy is to come
from renewable sources, including agrofuels, by 2020. But none of the
greenhouse gases linked to the production of agrofuels will be included in
the transport sector, despite the fact that biodiesel combustion alone
generates 50-70% more greenhouse gas emissions than the petroleum it would
replace. Instead, agrofuels will be counted as part of the agriculture,
industry, and/or energy sectors. This false accounting gets even worse.
Under Kyoto, a country in the north which imports agrofuels from the south
can use them to offset its own greenhouse gas inventory. The upshot is that
wealthy polluters are able to out-source green house gases and claim carbon
credits by encouraging corporate investment in monoculture agrofuel
plantations half way around the globe.
Where will these agrofuel carbon credits come from? Brazil already has 6
million hectares devoted to agrofuel production and plans to increase its
sugarcane acreage five fold to meet expected ethanol export demands. In Dec.
2007 - and without hardly any public comment on an earlier draft - the South
African government released its final Biofuels Industrial Strategy with a
goal of 2% agrofuel out of total liquid fuel demand - or 400 million liters
per year - by 2013. The South African-based Tongaat-Hulett investment group
has proposed a $200 million renovation of the Hippo Valley sugarcane
plantation and Triangle ethanol plant in the Limpopo Valley once the
political crisis in Zimbabwe is resolved. Colombia plans to increase its oil
palm from 188,000 ha to over 1 million ha., and communities who stand in the
way of these expansion plans have already fallen victim to the deadly impact
of death squads. Indonesia intends to establish the largest oil palm
plantation in the world - 1.8 million ha in Borneo. Dubbed "deforestation
diesel," this palm oil bonanza has cleared vast tracts of pristine
rainforest, jeopardizing biodiversity and indigenous peoples alike. Compared
to other agrofuel fuelstocks, though, palm oil is by far the most
productive, generating 6000 liters per ha - versus only 446 liters per ha
for soya and 172 liters per ha for corn.
And, then there is jatropha. India has already earmarked 14 million ha of
"wasteland" for jatropha plantations, while a German consortium is
negotiating to purchase 13,000 ha in Ethiopia, including portions of an
elephant sanctuary, for the same purpose. As a drought-resistant largely
inedible plant that requires little or no inputs, jatropha can be harvested
up to three times a year. There are already 200,000 ha of jatropha in Malawi
and 15,000 ha in Zambia, most under the control of the UK-based company D1
Oils. Jatropha planting is now underway in four Mozambican provinces:
Inhambane, Manica, Zambezia, and Nampula. While Mozambique currently has
only one refinery at Busi with a limited production capacity of 10 tons/day,
agrofuel boosters point out that since sugarcane processing accounts for
just 160 days each year, the rest of the facility's capacity could be
devoted to agrofuel.
The negative consequences of runaway jatropha development in Mozambique will
likely be similar to those already experiences elsewhere on the continent.
Food sovereignty advocate, Ousmane Samake of COPAGEN in Mali, has already
well documented how jatropha plantations encroach on traditional grazing
lands, drain groundwater supplies, and exascerbate resource conflicts in
that country. Even the FAO's own recent bioenergy report notes, "the growing
demand for liquid biofuels, combiend with increased land requirements, could
put pressure on so-called 'marginal' lands, which provide key subsistence
functions to the rural poor."
The world will not be able to escape the food versus fuel debate as long as
governments continue to subsidize agrofuels to the detriment of sustainable
agriculture as practiced by millions of peasant farmers. Similarly, the
world will not be able to achieve genuine food sovereignty as advocated by
Via Campsina without rejecting the agrofuel panacea offered by the likes of
the Gates Foundation, AGRA, and their corporate cheerleaders. The government
of Mozambique would do well to heed the call for an outright moratorium on
agrofuel incentives as endorsed by dozens of grassroots organizations around
the world including Mozambique's own National Farmers's Union (UNAC). It is
time to end corporate domination over the world's food supply and an
essential first step is to dismantle the global agrofuel industrial complex
that would rather feed a gas tank than a hungry child.