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Zimbabwe this Week

It's a judgement call, but I think Mugabe has crossed the line in political terms. He did this by raising the price of liquid fuels by nearly 50 per cent on Friday morning - while he was on his way to a UN conference at which he was going to give a paper on land reform! He took with him a 767 and a large entourage with no consideration of the cost or the crisis at home.

We now pay a price per litre of about 75 US cents for diesel and petrol compared to about 34 US cents in South Africa. Paraffin - the basic fuel of the poor has gone from Z$1,7 per litre to Z$30 in less than 9 months and is now 3 times as expensive as South Africa. For the average resident in Chitungwiza - a satellite town for Harare containing nearly a million people, the cost of a trip to work each day absorbs about Z$2 500 per month - probably half of their gross income before tax. At this level they cannot afford even basic necessities.

The explanation given was trite - devaluation of the dollar and higher international oil prices. This does not explain why our prices are now double those of South Africa and well above those of Zambia and Botswana. The real reason lies elsewhere and in this lies a useful lesson in African economics.

Four years ago, Libya and Kuwait were persuaded to give the National Oil Company a six-month line of credit for fuel supplies. This enabled the company to buy its requirements of about 5 million litres per day on credit and sell for cash. This resulted in a huge build up of cash in the coffers of the company and this proved to be too tempting. Hundreds of millions were placed on deposit with new Banks opened by Zanu PF cronies; further hundreds of millions were siphoned off into dubious investments and private pockets. As with all corruption such activity is very expensive if you want to keep it secret and huge commissions and margins were taken. United Bank, owned by one Roger Boka was the main conduit and he secretly externalized over Z$1.2 billion using his connections. This was worth about US$62 million at the time. His Bank is in liquidation and Roger Boka is dead, the debts are irrecoverable.

While this was going on the seemingly endless source of Zimbabwe dollars was also used to support an arbitrary restriction on increased fuel prices. Zimbabwe motorists ran their vehicles on the cheapest fuel in the world and truckers from Johannesburg crossed the border to refuel in Zimbabwe where the fuels were a fraction of the cost in South Africa. Consumption rose and the losses began to mount. When the inevitable happened and our creditors asked for payment, we did not have the money. We defaulted on our credit lines and these were rescheduled and withdrawn. Suddenly we had to find the cash to do business. By this time, the shortage of foreign exchange began to build up and despite increasingly frantic search for foreign exchange, the National Oil Company could not meet its obligations.

We now face the situation where we must find a dollar for debt for every dollar we have to find for fuel. Since government is broke - they have turned to the consumer and placed this huge tax on fuel sales, thereby increasing the burden on ordinary Zimbabweans to unsustainable levels. The cities are quiet, but it's the quiet before a storm. Morgan Tsvangirai is pondering what to do and will no doubt decide on some kind of mass action shortly to re-enforce the message that the only way out is for the President to resign.

We met the IMF/World Bank on Friday - it was a sobering experience as we presented our view of the economic crisis and the way forward. They did not query our projections and did not challenge our position that we need an injection of US$1,5 billion to solve our immediate problems. They also did not question our bleak assessment of the impact on the poor and disadvantaged in our society of the crisis. In fact they said our projected recovery program was "ambitious" and the one presented by government a "mixed bag". We were told there is little chance of any assistance for the economy given the current economic and political environment.

Without international assistance we cannot restore stability or start the recovery program and this news will further compound Mugabe's difficulties. I see little real alternative to his resignation and the holding of fresh presidential elections before Christmas. His resignation would be enough to stop the violence and the illegal land occupations and aquisitions and get the agricultural sector back to work. It would probably restore some business confidence. However a start to the recovery process could only start once a new government was sworn in and adopted new economic policies and restored some international confidence. Speaking to business leaders today, I think they have also reached this conclusion. Watch this space, its only a matter of time - and may happen very quickly.

For the rest, we sit in long lines of motor vehicles for fuel, the roads are almost empty of traffic and you can find parking anywhere. The pall of pollution that hangs over Harare in the morning has disappeared and more people are walking to work or cycling. It's actually quite pleasant if you do not need to earn a living by actually producing something. Spring is here and the Msasa trees are coming out in their spring foliage. The Mountain Acacias are also out and in the granite kopies their rich colors splash across the veld. Our birds are all nesting, the weavers decimating the palms and the early mornings are crisp and fresh. It's a wonderful time of the year and if only we could see our farmers out there planting their crops and working their cattle, we could be surer that there would be a tomorrow.

I will always remember an incident in the late 70's. A Zanla unit with heavy arms - and a 60-mm mortar attacked a small unit of men protecting the Birchenough Bridge on the Save River. After a night of action the men were completely exhausted when suddenly from up the road came the sound of an ice cream vendor from the Dairy Marketing Board. It was a sign that a more normal world was working somewhere. I became General Manager of the Dairy Board and I remember telling my senior staff that it was their job to ensure that the milk bottles rattled every morning outside every home - a sign that life was going on despite the crisis and the war.

Eddie Cross

5th September 2000

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Subject: Bubbles in the blood
Date: 04 September 2000 10:34

Dear family and friends,
No, I haven't dropped off the planet - yet again no telephone. I don't
know how the country manages to stagger on from day to day with very sporadic
telephones, daily electricity cuts of 4-6 hours, and miniscule amounts of
both diesel and petrol. All of us that keep insisting things will come
right in Zimbabwe, have been saying that things would have to hit rock
bottom before anything started to improve. It certainly begins to feel as
if we are right at the bottom now and in the next few months the country
will either fall through the cracks or begin the long slow climb back up

On the farms the situation remains critical and with summer already here
and the main planting season less than three weeks away, something
drastic is going to have to happen very soon. Farms gazetted and published for
compulsory acquisition so far: 804, then 229, then 509, then 410 - so a
total now of 1949. A further 230 are still to be gazetted in this 'first
phase of land acquisition' but the Minister of Agriculture announced
early last week that strangely all the title deeds and survey maps from the
Deeds Registry Office had disappeared for these properties. In an expected but
un-understandable move, the gvt accused whites of having destroyed them
in 1979. If this is the case, why has it taken over 21 years to discover
that they are missing. A local Independent newspaper suggests rather that
these 230 farms were in fact leased and given to senior gvt officials in 1993
and that paper has sworn to get to the bottom of it. Let's hope they do so that the real truth can be told.
So with the 'first phase' almost over, no-one is saying either what or when
the second phase will begin - perhaps they'll wait till 2002 which is
when the Presidential Elections are to be held and land can again be used as a vote catcher.

Since my last letter three weeks ago, Burning Next Year's Food, I've been
flooded with responses from all over the world as the horror of the land
grab becomes reality. Among the responses was a 2 page letter from the
deputy director of the Commercial Farmer's Union who are very very angry
with me for daring to suggest that they are no longer looking after our
interests - and in fact have not been consulting us for months. OK
they're angry but so am I. Do they go home every night  from the job my dues pay
for, in the car my dues pay for, to eat dinner my dues pay for - do they
go home and wonder if this will still be their home tomorrow, or next week
or next month. Do they have to scramble for a newspaper to see if their name
is on a list? A list which tells them they've got 30 days to get off the
land they paid for, they house they paid for; a list which tells them
they are now unemployed, a list which tells them that all the people they
employ are to be thrown out on the street. A list which tells them that they've
got 30 days to leave a life which has taken decades to build and perfect,
and to leave it with almost nothing except a few dollars now and a
promise to pay the rest in 10 years time. Yes, I'm angry, very very angry with
our union leaders, and so are most of the farmers across our beautiful
However, after six months and five days of having to share my farm with
drunks and common criminals, I've no intention of shutting up now. The
pen is mightier than the sword.

Since I last wrote Mr T. Maingehama has erected his signboard outside our
gate. For  the last two Saturdays over a hundred people have gathered in
the fields below our house addressed by a large man in a blue Mercedes
(reg no 642 276A - he too is an invader in that he is trespassing and holding
public meetings on private property). Every day 50 - 60 head of communal
cattle are pushed onto our fields to graze. On Saturday night a group of
men got hold of one of our oxen in the paddock immediately in front of
our house. From the bubbles in the pools of blood on the grass, it would seem
the oxen was stabbed in the lungs. The animal was then walked down to our
little dam, slaughtered and cut up. The meat was then carried across the
fields to an open space where the squatters blue tent used to be. There,
from the signs in the dust, the carcass was loaded into a car or truck
and taken off. They left behind the head, guts and hooves. I phoned the
police at 8 am, they arrived in the dark at 6pm on Sunday night - no hope at all
of either tracking or catching the bastards who slaughtered a $15 000 dollar animal.

On the 31st August I called together my workers, paid them and told them
all that I was very sorry but I was forced to give them a month's notice.
They couldn't look at me and I could hardly bear to look at them - I feel
like such a traitor and can't bear to think what's going to happen to
them and their families.  Even more ashamed was I when I explained that
according to the gvt they are only entitled to a gratuity if they have
worked for me for eight or more years. So, Isaya who has been here for 9
years, is entitled to 11% of his current monthly wage multiplied by 9
years - i.e. $1449 dollars - that is the gratuity the government has set. I am
disgusted and ashamed and when all the livestock are sold, will give each
man whatever I can afford, to go by the government rulings is nothing
short of insulting and degrading.

In the hope that our telephone comes on today, tomorrow or soon, I'll
stop here. Thanks everyone for the hundreds of messages of support and concern.
The fight goes on.

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4 September 2000

An Englishman, a Frenchman and a World Bank economist are viewing a  painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.  "Look at their reserve,  their calm", muses the Englishman.  "They must be English."  "Nonsense", says the Frenchman.  "They're naked and beautiful.  They're French."  "No clothes,  no shelter," says the World Bank economist.  "They only have an apple to eat and they're being told this is Paradise.   Clearly, they're  Zimbabwean."

Invade the High Commission!
Zimbabwean Art Exhibition

The 2nd annual London exhibition of Zimbabwean artwork is to be held at the Zimbabwe High Commission in The Strand in London, from Thursday September 28th until Sunday October 1st.  You do not need a formal invitation to attend.  Last year's event proved to be a great get-together for Africa lovers.  You are more than welcome to bring family and friends.  There is an on-going updated preview of the work at:
In these troubling times the exhibitors hope to show the outside world an alternative, positive image of Zimbabwe. The show will feature many well-established painters, as well as a few promising newcomers.  In conjunction with Matombo Gallery, The Gallery Innerspace will also show a fine selection of the artform commonly known as Shona Sculpture.
In this issue :

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 3 September

Hitler's back in power

Harare - THE ousted leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans association has been reinstated as the leader of the group that occupied white-owned farms in the run-up to the country's June elections. Chenjerai "Hitler" Hundzvi was ousted from the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association last weekend after being accused of running the organization like it was his own fiefdom. But this weekend, following a executive meeting of the organization, Hundzvi - now a Zanu-PF MP - was reinstalled as the body's "supreme leader". The association's secretary-general, Andy Mhlanga, who engineered Hundzvi's ousting, was expelled.

From The Star (SA), 3 September

'Hitler' stands ground despite palace coup

Harare - Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, who was enlisted by President Robert Mugabe to direct a group of war veterans to unleash a reign of terror in the rural areas that left 36 people dead, is now fighting to save his own political life. This follows a palace revolution in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans' Association (ZNLWA), which toppled him from his controversial leadership of the association last week. Andy Mhlanga, the ZNLWA secretary-general, masterminded Hunzvi's demise and took over as interim leader of the association.

Mhlanga said Hunzvi had been ousted because he was "irrational and had dictatorial tendencies". But Hunzvi, defiant as ever, contemptuously dismissed the meeting that toppled him, despite the fact that it was attended by representatives of most of the association's provinces. "I am still the legitimate leader of the war veterans until our congress in 2002," Hunzvi said. "Anyone who wants my post will have to wait till then. This includes Mhlanga, who is evidently under sponsorship of white farmers to derail the agenda of land reform."

Hunzvi called his own meeting of war veterans on Saturday to oppose Mhlanga. He repeated his charge that Mhlanga's meeting had been unconstitutional, saying his own meeting had been the appropriate forum to discuss grievances in the association. At the time of going to press, the outcome of Hunzvi's meeting was still unclear, but analysts said that whatever it was, the association was now clearly divided. This would weaken Mugabe's strategy of illegal land invasions and occupations to garner political support, they said. "It's obvious to all fair-minded people that Mugabe still needs Hunzvi to cow voters ahead of the 2002 presidential elections, but his strategies may fail because of these divisions among the war veterans, his only key supporters," said a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although analysts said it was still too early to say what would happen to the war veterans now occupying farms if Hunzvi's ouster stood, they were unanimous that the rift in the association would throw the land invasions programme into more confusion. Although Hunzvi has appealed to Mugabe for his support, the Zimbabwean president, who is at present visiting Libya and the United States, has not yet made any public statements. Hunzvi also accused top officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party, who he said were uncomfortable with his closeness to Mugabe, of engineering his "illegal" successor.

From News24 (SA), 3 September

Opposition slams fuel price hike

Harare - Zimbabwe's opposition denounced a fresh increase in fuel prices on Saturday, and demanded more transparency in the operations of the nation's parastatal oil company. "The MDC is shocked by the decision to increase the price of liquid fuels by 45 percent to 101 percent," the party said in a statement. "The fact that there is no transparency in such matters despite their importance is also of grave concern. Such decisions cannot be made in secret," added the party, which voters made Zimbabwe's first significant opposition during June elections.

Harare's buses are the bane of motorists but a lifeline for thousands of commuters, who are struggling to cope with fares that have quadrupled over the last year due to repeated fuel price hikes. Sim Nyati is a fruit-seller who travels daily from the city's southern Mbare suburb to the University of Zimbabwe campus in the northern suburbs. In January, the trip cost him about 10 Zimbabwean dollars. On Friday, the price was 40 dollars, after drivers again hiked their fares to keep pace with a 54 percent jump in diesel prices. "It's very expensive," Nyati said. His 40 dollar fare amounts to about 80 US cents, but in a country where the lowest-paid workers earn only about 800 Zimbabwean dollars a month, the transportation costs are crippling. On days when Nyati can't reach the fruit stand, he said he's forced to scrounge for other work closer to home.

"You can go two or three days, or even a whole week without diesel," said Jeffrey Dangare, a commuter driver. Dangare tried to fill his tank at 11pm on Thursday, after spending the whole day trying to find a station in Harare that had diesel to sell. The station said it was going to shut down for a few hours, and when Dangare reached the pump at 9am on Friday, his tank of gas cost him 500 dollars more than it would have the night before. "They didn't want to sell it at the old price," said Dangare.

Zimbabwe has experienced erratic supplies of fuel since December last year. Petrol and diesel are both in short supply, but the diesel shortage poses particular problems because public transport, farms, mines and industries all rely on it to keep their vehicles running. With the price hike, businesses will have to pass their increased costs on to consumers, which means even more inflation in an economy where prices have risen 60 percent over the last 12 months. "Having these monthly increases is very bad for economic planning," economist Moses Tekere said. He described it as "a shift of money from you and me to government" that won't affect the supply situation.

Zimbabwe's only oil company, the parastatal Noczim, also raised petrol prices 41 percent and paraffin - used for cooking by the majority of the low-income population in urban areas - by 101 percent. Noczim had already raised prices twice this year, in February and late July, in an effort to cope with the shortages blamed on Zimbabwe's almost non-existent foreign reserves and on alleged corruption within the national oil company. The fuel price increases will lead to more inflation, said economist John Robertson, but even so "we are yet to get to a figure that covers the full cost of procurement". After the July price hikes, Noczim said it was selling fuel at 40 percent below cost. Zimbabwe imports all of its petroleum supplies, but the foreign currency crunch has left it unable to pay its bills.

Analysts blame the currency crisis on Zimbabwe's military intervention in the DRC's two-year-old civil war and on a massive pension scheme for liberation war veterans agreed to almost three years ago. The IMFlast year suspended credits for Zimbabwe in part because of how the government financed its DRC military campaign. Most other international lenders followed the IMF's lead in pulling out. A team from the IMF and the World Bank is here to assess the economic situation, but few analysts see much chance for aid to resume immediately.

From The Times (UK), 4 September

World leaders vie for top UN billing

NEW YORK - An all-star cast including Fidel Castro, Yassir Arafat, Robert Mugabe, Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair will brave terrorist threats, New York traffic and the mosquito-borne West Nile virus this week to attend the largest gathering of world leaders in history. More than 150 presidents, princes and prime ministers - and their spouses - will descend on Manhattan to discuss globalisation, peacekeeping and world poverty at the United Nations' Millennium Summit, which runs from Wednesday to Friday. The UN debate will, however, be overshadowed by the hundreds of private meetings between the leaders, particularly President Clinton's effort to clinch a Middle East peace deal with Mr Arafat and Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister.

The presence of so many colourful characters on the world stage offers an opportunity for one-upmanship not seen since the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations five years ago, which attracted about 140 leaders. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, criticised for seizing white-owned farms, will take his case to a black church in Harlem. President Chavez, the Venezuelan soldier-revolutionary, says that he will flout the UN rule restricting speakers to just five minutes each. President Khatami, the reformist Iranian leader, is hosting a special debate on the "dialogue of civilisations". President Putin of Russia will be paying his first trip to the United States since taking office while President Jiang Zemin of China will have to run the gauntlet of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters.

Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York, has promised to protect all the leaders present, even though he considers some of them "despicable, horrible human beings". He described Senor Castro, who once tried to camp in Central Park on a visit to New York, as a "murderer". The Secret Service will provide bodyguards for 245 people - 18 of them considered "high risk". Mr Blair's schedule is vacuum-packed with official functions that range from signing UN treaties on child soldiers and the sexual exploitation of minors to attending a closed-door roundtable discussion on the future of the UN. Mrs Blair gets to tag along with her husband at a "Third Way" dinner on Wednesday and President Clinton's reception for the other leaders at the Metropolitan Museum on Thursday, but the rest of the time she will be left to her own devices. The Blairs, like the other leaders, face one unexpected menace. Last week a dead bird infected with the West Nile virus was discovered on the steps of the UN. Mr Giuliani has ordered the whole area to be sprayed.

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September 3, 2000

I can't think when it was last I wrote to y'all.  Must have been sometime
after the elections.  Since then we have had to come to terms with the
limitations of being the opposition - able to protest and embarrass, but no
direct power to implement change - except for the odd stay-away.  In the
meantime we have been trying to get on with survival in the face of runaway
price rises and harassment from government bureaucracy.  You know those
survival web-sites in the case of nuclear war-fare?  Quite useful in times
like these.  Pete used one to find out how to grow potatoes in a barrel.
Our Irish friend is sceptical.  In the meantime petrol has gone up again,
this time by 40% - it is now nearly $38/litre.  The local hardware shop had
a sign outside which says, "No Cement, No surprise, No use complaining".  I
expect in a couple of months time I'll be phoning friends up to tell them
about jam for sale at a bargain price of only $1000 a bottle.  In the
meantime our farmers continue to fight for their land and their sanity
without the help of their union who still think it is politic to work with
the government of the day.   A bit like Neville Chamberlain thinking he
could negotiate with Hitler.

Dave Coltart recently gave us a report-back.  He said that Mugabe using
psychological war-fare to try and destroy the support base of MDC. Hence the
fast track land resettlement and directives from government that are issued
one day and refuted the next.   But he pointed out that just as much as it
hurts us, it is hurting him and his party more.  The whole DRC fiasco has
not worked out the way he wanted, the economic disaster means that he cannot
look after his sycophants, and the man himself is falling apart (all sorts
of rumours regarding his state of health).  In the meantime MDC are putting
constant pressure on Zanu PF through parliament -not too difficult seeing
that less than 20 Zanu PF MPs bother to show up for parliament as compared
to all 58 MDC.  In addition MDC continue to challenge the cheated
constituencies and there is constant international pressure for the return
of law and order i.e. no $$ until ........ Sekai Holland (what a feisty woman) is
going around Mberengwa with MDC youths making citizens' arrests of illegal
land invaders. Then they are shipped off to Zvishivane to be charged.  If
the police refuse Ms Holland goes to the magistrate and gets a court order
for their arrests, so if the police do nothing they risk contempt of court.
Hopefully this idea will catch on and the farmers will get some sense of
ownership back.

As you can see there is hope but it is difficult to keep morale up in the
face of all this, but we are trying. First of all we are planning a mass
demonstration against the detested Obert Mpofu who was imposed on
Matabeleland as governor after he lost his seat in the election.  Secondly
we have had and are having victory celebrations and rallies to keep people
involved and in the know.  Our constituency is having theirs next Sunday and
at the moment we are rushing around frantically sorting out last minute
crises - it's nearly as bad as a wedding.  It will be alright on the night.
Finally we will work on building the party structure and getting all the
committees going.  From there we will have a network through which we can
organise future events.

Despite being knocked around Zimbabweans are incredibly resilient and refuse
to be cowed. Sarah has just come back from a camp in Marondera, one of the
areas that was hard hit with violence during the elections.   The camp
leader was concerned that Sarah was wearing her MDC T-shirt but she pointed
out that school employees were boldly wearing theirs.  She said that when
she listened to them talking amongst themselves the  conversation went
"Shona, Shona, Shona, MDC. Shona, Shona, Shona, Tsvangerai"  How can one man
continue to cling onto power when 12 million people do not support him?

Anyway, enough for now.  Please do continue to pray for us


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