|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- I have been waiting for the last 48 hours in a "fuquel." Don't bother reaching for the dictionary -- the term "fuquel" only exists here, where the words "fuel" and "queue" are so closely interconnected that the words have fused into one word.
So what exactly is a "fuquel"? It's a queue at a gas station that has no gasoline. Like every other station across the country, this one has not received any fuel for two weeks or so.
Motorists like myself wait in line at such stations anyway in the desperate hope that we'll be in the right place when, and if, a fuel delivery finally does arrive.
Why is there no gasoline in Zimbabwe? It's because the state-owned National Oil Co. has no foreign currency to pay to import fuel.
And why is there no foreign currency? Because Zimbabwe's economy has basically collapsed.
It's actually turned into a vicious cycle. Farmers are unable to produce their crops for export because they lack the fuel to operate their equipment. And the government lacks the foreign currency to buy the fuel because the country no longer is able to produce lucrative agricultural exports, such as tobacco.
Even Air Zimbabwe flights are grounded because of fuel shortages. More than 100,000 bus drivers and crews have been laid off because there is no diesel for their vehicles. Education is collapsing because teachers either cannot get to school, or have joined the "fuquels."
The length of each "fuquel" ranges from a handful of cars to hundreds. Some are three miles long. Once a gas station runs out, most of the motorists will drive away in search of a better prospect.
But even then, a few will remain -- waiting with cars that actually have no engines. This bizarre concept is purely Zimbabwean.
In most "fuquels," at least 10 of the cars are mere shells, with only their gas tanks still intact. They often belong to black marketers who push these rolling gas cans along in the queues, eventually getting them filled. They then drain the tank into cans for resale later at an inflated price.
It's an extremely lucrative enterprise.
The pump price of one liter of petrol is 10,000 Zimbabwean dollars, but on the black market it will fetch up to 70,000. So for a 40-liter tank, the traders pay 400,000 Zimbabwean dollars but will earn as much as 2.8 million. (Before anyone gets too excited, it important to realize that 2.8 million Zimbabwean dollars is worth about $650.)
That will at least pay their rent and buy them a few groceries.
The "fuquel" brings rich and poor together. The flashy cars -- Mercedes, Mitsubishi SUVs, and those kinds of cars -- belong to men between 28 and 40. They dress in the latest fashions, and carry several mobile phones that ring continuously.
But these men don't spend the night standing in line. Instead, they hire street kids to sleep in the cars and to push the vehicles forward if the "fuquel" begins to move.
When the "fuquels" started about six months ago, people stood around in groups discussing politics.
"(Robert) Mugabe has failed this great country," the conversation would begin. People would hold forth on how President Mugabe had proved such a disappointment after leading the country to relative prosperity. Then they would discuss the prospects of opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change party.
But now those waiting in the "fuquel" are suffering from politics fatigue. Most conversations now are about sports, either the national soccer team or the country's cricket team.
The war in Iraq is a big topic of discussion, with most people supporting the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.
Why this sympathy? Mugabe has always hated the West, particularly the United States, and this has rubbed off on most Zimbabweans.
On the other hand, many waiting in line seem to admire America's technological prowess. The fortunes of the latest space-shuttle flight were followed very keenly, and the lines of petrol-starved motorists were alive with would-be astronauts.
One man in the queue tells of having read on the Internet of an incident in another town, where police bullied their way to the front of a "fuquel" after a petrol delivery. He said that riot cops with dogs were called in after our fellow-fuquellers threatened to beat up the police bullies.
Someone gets fed up and leaves his car to go off for a beer or two. We all laugh when he says he is not worried in the slightest about his car's safety. "I doubt that any car thief will manage to get enough petrol to fill it and steal it while I'm in the pub," he says.
Just then, a gasoline tanker arrives with a fresh supply and the "fuquel" is about to move and the drivers return to their vehicle, making sure that taxi and bus drivers who are highly adept at queue jumping don't gain their spot in line.
Benedict Unendoro is a journalist in Zimbabwe who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict.
HE'S used his music to battle racism, and to express
love. Having just lost two sisters to the disease which is rampant in much of
Africa, the popular Latino and cabaret performer is off to see his family later
this month, with plans to be back before Christmas.
Before he leaves, however, he will perform as one of the headlining acts at
the 2005 Adelaide Peace Festival.
Thami will join Sydney singer/songwriter Lior and a long list of local,
interstate and overseas artists at the free event which will be held at Light
Square on Sunday September 18.
"I was touched by racism early in life, so I sang about that. Then I was
touched by love," he smiles. "So I sang about that too.
"But I really want to now use my music to let people know how bad this issue
of AIDS really is and create better awareness of the problem. I hope this is
something I can achieve."
But when Zimbabwe-born singer Thami Soli Mlotshwa returns to Adelaide in December, he plans to try to raise awareness through music about another issue that has recently hit close to home for him - AIDS.
Having just lost two sisters to the disease which is rampant in much of Africa, the popular Latino and cabaret performer is off to see his family later this month, with plans to be back before Christmas.
Before he leaves, however, he will perform as one of the headlining acts at the 2005 Adelaide Peace Festival.
Thami will join Sydney singer/songwriter Lior and a long list of local, interstate and overseas artists at the free event which will be held at Light Square on Sunday September 18.
"I was touched by racism early in life, so I sang about that. Then I was touched by love," he smiles. "So I sang about that too.
"But I really want to now use my music to let people know how bad this issue of AIDS really is and create better awareness of the problem. I hope this is something I can achieve."
Zanu PF sources said elections for the Senate could be held sometime in November or early December but stressed that the dates had not yet been decided.
Most of Zanu PF's aspiring candidates will come from those that lost to the MDC during the 31 March parliamentary elections and senior politicians who had gone into semi-retirement.
While the MDC is yet to make a decision on the elections, The Standard understands Zanu PF is not taking any chances on the issue of the Senate and is making all necessary arrangements in preparation for the elections.
Last week Vice President Joice Mujuru and Elliot Manyika, the ruling party's political commissar, were in Matabeleland attending a convention of the Johanne Masowe Apostolic sect. When asked about their presence there Manyika said it was not a secret that they travelled to Nyamndhlovu, especially as it was a public meeting.
He said: "We also attended the Salvation Army meeting in Harare as part of mobilisation."
Already, the Minster of Finance, Herbert Murerwa has proposed allocating $30 billion for the holding of the Senate elections. The MDC has, however, vowed to challenge the proposed allocations.
Zanu PF national chairman John Nkomo said they were discouraging the issue of holding primaries in the selection of candidates.
"We would want to have a situation whereby a candidate is selected by consensus. We have assigned the commissariat to come up with criterion for possible candidates and that would be brought to the politburo," Nkomo said.
He would not say much about the criteria to be used by the ruling party, adding this was yet to be agreed on.
Sources from provinces around the country said that the majority of the Zanu PF aspiring candidates in the forefront of campaigns had lost their influence on national politics and were trying to "sneak back" through the back door.
Sources from Matabeleland last week said there was little political activity because the party was no longer popular.
"There is very little action on the ground but those who stand a great chance are Dumiso Dabengwa, Absalom Sikhosana and Sithembiso Nyoni," said a source.
Sikhosana told The Standard: "These things are determined by the people and if the people want me to stand I would not refuse." The other two politicians could not be reached for comment.
In Masvingo, the race was said to be tight with candidates reportedly campaigning for the seats along factional lines. Ousted Masvingo provincial governor, Josiah Hungwe is allegedly on a collision course in Chivi with Masvingo provincial chairman, Samuel Mumbengegwi, who was recently dropped from the cabinet.
Hungwe and Mumbengegwi who are trying to find their way back into mainstream of politics are said to be frequenting the constituency.
Hungwe, however, denied the allegations saying: "I am not aware of that. I haven't spoken to anyone in Chivi about the Senate and after all it's not yet time to do that."
Mumbwegegwi said, as the chairman of the province, he was not aware of anyone who had been selected.
In Mashonaland West Province politicians have already declared their interests and most of them are women.
The most prominent among women who have reportedly shown interest is Priscilla Mupfumira who is a member of the commission running the city of Harare.
"Mostly members of the Central Committee have expressed their intention in participating in the Senate elections and there is very little challenge from young politicians," said a source from Mashonaland West.
In Harare a few names were being thrown around last week including that of former MP for Mbare Tony Gara and losing Zanu PF candidate for the Zengeza Constituency Christopher Chigumba.
"I have always been a public figure and as a party cadre, I would not refuse an opportunity to get in the Senate," Gara said.
While there was speculation that Joseph Chinotimba also wanted a position in the Senate, the former war veterans' leader said he was tired of politics.
MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese said the opposition party was against the re-introduction of the Senate.
"We have taken a position against the introduction of that Senate and we are still deliberating on whether to participate in those elections whenever they are to be held," Gonese said.
The suspension outraged fellow war veterans who stormed the council chambers when a meeting was just about to start - 10 days ago - on Friday and assaulted the councillors. Some of them sustained serious injuries.
The council's chairman of the finance committee, Norman Madzima, confirmed the incident. "A number of councillors, including myself and the council chairman Chamusaona Mutisi sustained injuries after being beaten by the war veterans. Right now as we speak, I am in a queue to see the doctor as I suspect internal injuries," said Madzima last week.
The Standard understands that the war veterans accused the councillors of being supporters of the opposition, despite the fact that the entire council comprises Zanu PF members.
All the nine councillors were elected on a Zanu PF ticket.
The issue has also raised the ire of residents, who believe it is diverting council attention from critical developmental issues. Residents accused the war veterans of taking the law into their own hands and undermining the authority of the council they voted into power.
"This has never happened in Zimbabwe. It should not matter whether one is a war veteran or not. What we need as residents is transparency and accountability in the handling of issues that affect us. Chambers are there to solve problems, not infighting," said a resident, who identified himself as Jenny Masawe.
Residents want war veterans to be barred from interfering in the operations of the council.
Police officers in Karoi confirmed receiving a report on the incident last week but refused to discuss the issue, referring this reporter to Assistant Inspector Nyathi, the provincial spokesperson, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A few green tents, supplied by donor organisations, accommodate the lucky ones while the rest are housed in black plastic sheeting.
When a news crew visited the farm last week, they were told: "This is a security area. You are not allowed to take any pictures here without approval from the Ministry of Information and Publicity."
An official, said to be from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare appeared to be in charge of operations at the camp.
In what could point to sub-human conditions at the camp, government officials working there always keep their noses and mouths covered.
The Standard news crew learnt that people brought from Porta Farm and Hatcliffe were still awaiting their turn to be allocated stands.
The Standard was not allowed near the shacks and was turned away with one of the officials advising: "We can only talk to you if you come with a letter from the Ministry of Information."
Apart from that, some of the line ministries were "unfamiliar" with the procedures, unnecessarily delaying the process while getting an import licence was another odious task, the aid official said.
"If you really want to facilitate the provision of food assistance to people who are hungry, I don't think this is the system you would design because it is cumbersome," said the official.
The latest revelations come barely a month after the US Ambassador to the United Nations for Food and Agriculture, Tony Hall, who visited the country said about 10 000 tonnes of US non-governmental organisations (NGOs) aid was bottled up in Durban, South Africa awaiting import licences.
Another 15 000 tonnes are in the country but the government had not sanctioned its distribution despite the fact that hundreds of people are clamouring for food assistance. Government sources said Zimbabwe was carrying out thorough health inspection to exclude importation of genetically modified food (GM).
The western aid official said Zimbabwe showed no sense of urgency in processing licences to enable NGOs to import food.
This is in sharp contrast to the 2002/3 drought season when Zimbabwe declared a food crisis and suspended the lengthy importation requirements procedures, making it easier for donor agencies to import food aid.
But the government has since reverted to the old system.
"So we all got stuck up in the changed procedures since the government no longer views the situation as a food crisis. I don't think they feel the same urgency," said the official, who added that the government had sanctioned the wholesome distribution of food aid in the country starting on 1 October.
A US aid official, who also declined to be named, said part of the 10 000 tonnes locked up in the country was meant for the Market Assistance Programme, a project under which the urban poor buy food from aid agencies at a nominal price.
Although the programme had been well received in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials, stopped it from being rolled out to other urban centres, insisting that they must charge Value-Added Tax.
"They suggested that if we are selling food it has to be taxed. We are engaging them since its donor food. It must not be taxed. A lot of the 10 000 tonnes relates to that," said the aid official.
The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Nicholas Goche, refused to comment insisting that The Standard should make an appointment through his secretary.
"You need an appointment to talk to me. Phone my secretary," Goche said.
Goche's secretary said she would call back after securing the appropriate time but had not done so by late last night.
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that one million people are desperately in need of food aid and the number could swell to about 4.3 million people before the next harvest.
This would be further exacerbated by the fact that 700 000 people, who were rendered homeless by "Operation Murambatsvina", also need food aid.
During his visit last month Hall, who last visited Zimbabwe in 2002, announced a donation of US $51.8 million or 73 500 tonnes of food to six southern African countries.
The donation is set to benefit between five and six million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
However, much of the donation is expected to benefit Zimbabwe.
The US has since 2002 provided US$300 million in food assistance to Zimbabwe.
The sources said the war veterans who operate from an office at the old NRZ administration block seemed to be in charge of the NRZ's security department.
"There is a man who is only known as Siziba who is responsible for recruiting war veterans and youths from the Border Gezi camp. What is worrying is that these people do as they please and they do not report to anybody at the NRZ," said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An official from one of the NRZ's workers' unions said the move was meant to cow the railway unions. The NRZ is one of the largest employers in the country with a workforce of about 5 000 people.
"There are fears in government circles of the NRZ labour unions which have bred the likes of Gibson Sibanda and Thokozani Khuphe, the very same people who are in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leadership. Government wants the unions to be controlled by friendly forces," said the union leader.
However NRZ corporate affairs manager, Misheck Matanhire, professed ignorance of the presence of war veterans but added the organisation did not discriminate over who it employed.
"All Zimbabweans are eligible, in their personal capacities, to apply and be considered for various jobs, which may be offered by the National Railways of Zimbabwe from time to time," Matanhire said.
Matanhire dismissed claims that youth militias were on the payroll of the organisation and said only bona fide employees were on the NRZ's payroll.
"We are unable to account for any reports of war veterans harassing National Railways of Zimbabwe labour leaders, as no such incidents have been brought to our attention," Matanhire said.
The MDC spokesperson for Bulawayo Province, Victor Moyo, said the opposition was aware of the deployment of the war veterans to harass the party's supporters.
The judgement was handed down after the Bulawayo Club dragged the police to the courts following the seizure of their liquor amounting to $23 168 495 in March this year after they failed to produce a valid operating licence.
The police raided the club and later on forfeited the liquor to the State.
In his ruling, Justice Ndou said: "The applicant was not informed of the intended forfeiture and thus was denied opportunity to make representation before the forfeiture. It seems to me that the police have no common law right to search and seizure, save when expressly empowered by statute.
"Generally, where an offender as is the case here, pays a deposit fine, the article must be returned to the person from whom it was seized, if he may lawfully possess it, or if he may not lawfully possess it, to the person who may."
Justice Ndou also said magistrates have no right to authorise the forfeiture by the police without an inquiry.
"What magistrates cannot do, with respect, is to summarily authorise forfeiture and disposal without an inquiry merely on the say so of the police dealing with the matter.
"Magistrates have to bear in mind that any person who has interest is given up to three years within which to assert the right to said seized article," Justice Ndou added.
The High Court ruling gives relief to many who had their property forfeited to the State.
The Bill, which has been described as an assault on people's democracy, would, among other things, empower the government to withdraw passports from people deemed to be "unpatriotic", rendering them unable to travel abroad and therefore alert the international community to the growing crisis in Zimbabwe.
On top of the list, the sources said, is MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Sources said Zanu PF's department of information and publicity, headed by Nathan Shamuyarira, was charged with drawing up the list.
Other politicians on the list include MDC MPs such as Welshman Ncube, Job Sikhala, Trudy Stevenson, Gibson Sibanda and Sekai Holland.
"The list was there already but they are just updating it to include people like Jonathan Moyo, Pearson Mbalekwa and lawyers like (Arnold) Tsunga," said the source.
Tsunga heads the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, while Mbalekwa resigned from Zanu PF in a manner that rattled the ruling party.
Moyo, Mugabe's former right-hand man, was fired from the ruling party for indiscipline after he stood as an independent candidate for Tsholotsho in the 31 March polls.
He is championing the establishment of a Third Force.
Other names on the travel ban include that of the director of Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa (SAHRIT) Philliat Matsheza, and National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku.
Both NCA and SAHRIT are perceived as anti-Mugabe and were candidates for closure under the non-governmental organisation Bill.
MDC spokesperson Paul Themba-Nyathi said the Bill was a satanic assault on people's rights, not only targeting MDC members but all critics of Mugabe.
Just before the 31 March parliamentary elections, Zanu PF's department of information and publicity produced a booklet entitled Traitors Do Much Damage to National Goals that listed perceived enemies of the State.
The list comprises politicians, human rights activists, journalists and clergyman viewed as "traitors," dating back to the First Chimurenga.
Archbishop Pius Ncube is one of the people listed in the booklet.
Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, who is one of the architects of the Bill, said all people who called for sanctions or demonised the country would have their passports withdrawn in the interests of national security.
"There are people who gallivant across the globe calling for sanctions against the country. Those are the ones we are targeting. I don't want to mention names because they know themselves. If you are one of them, you are in for it," Chinamasa warned.