We knew Sarudzai Gumbo was still sick, but nothing prepared us for what we found. The seven-year-old was lying alone and neglected in a dirty sideroom in a Harare hospital.
Her head was a mass of septic wounds. Two large cancers were devouring the right side of her face. She had lost the sight of one eye and the other was gummed up. A filthy, blood-stained hat concealed untold horrors on her scalp – she screamed with pain when we tried to remove it. Flies hovered around her lesions. The stench of her putrefying flesh was overpowering. She weighed only 36lb (16.3kg).
The Times highlighted Sarudzai’s plight in March after discovering her in Mbare, a Harare slum. Her family was living on wasteland because its home had been destroyed by President Mugabe’s Operation Murambatsvina (“Clean Up Trash”). Her parents’ livelihoods had been ruined by the regime’s ban on street vendors. They both had Aids, as did Sarudzai, whose face was disfigured by open sores.
Readers sent in £7,500 to try to help her – funds forwarded to the Jesuit mission in Mbare – and Sarudzai was sent to an Aids clinic. But her mother died in April and her father took her away to the ancestral village and – fatally – interrupted her treatment. Sarudzai was transferred to Parirenyatwa Hospital just as Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was imploding.
As with every other hospital, the doctors and nurses who were there have left in droves for better-paid jobs abroad, their salaries at home rendered almost worthless by hyperinflation. There are no anaesthetics, drips, painkillers, antiretroviral drugs, blood for transfusions or even bandages. This is a shell of a hospital – a place where patients are left to die.
Sarudzai, whose father is also close to death, is a lovely, brave, affectionate girl. She never cries. She claps her hands when given something, waves when you leave. We brought two teddy bears that she instantly named Rudzai and Rudo – Shona for “Praise” and “Love”. Her condition was heartbreaking. We had her examined by a private doctor, who said it was the most shocking case he had seen. Within hours she was admitted to a private hospital. She has now been adopted by Kidzcan, a charity that helps Zimbabwean children with cancer, but her chances of survival are slim.
Sarudzai’s is just one of the legion of horror stories that Mr Mugabe seeks to conceal from the world by banning foreign journalists from Zimbabwe. She is one of millions of victims of his pernicious regime who will be largely overlooked when the octogenarian autocrat enjoys the propaganda triumph of being greeted as a legitimate national leader at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon next week.
Over nine days spent travelling clandestinely around this beautiful, once-bountiful country, The Times found a nation where millions now struggle to survive on barely a bowl of sadza (a mealie-meal porridge) a day, the most basic services have all but collapsed and thousands die every week in a perfect storm of poverty, hunger and disease. Aids, like corruption, is rampant.
We found paupers’ burials, starving children with stunted bodies, orphans left to fend for themselves in the most brutal environments. It is a country regressing from commercial farms to vegetable patches, from the light bulb to the oil lamp, from the tap to the well. Feet – often bare – are replacing the wheel as the most common form of transport. Once Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe can no longer provide its citizens with bread and water.
“This is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur,” said David Coltart, an opposition MP. “We lose more people a week to preventable illnesses than are lost in Iraq, but because there’s no blood on the streets, little attention is paid to what’s going on here.”
Zimbabwe, like Sarudzai, has deteriorated dramatically since March. It is closer than ever to complete collapse, according to the International Crisis Group. Inflation has soared from 1,700 to 15,000 per cent. Draconian price controls have emptied the shops because producers cannot cover their costs. Though millions are starving, farmers are slaughtering dairy herds because they cannot sell milk at a viable price. But those who still have money can buy almost anything on the flourishing black market.
Petrol is virtually unattainable without foreign currency. Power cuts are frequent because Zimbabwe no longer has the foreign exchange to repair its decrepit generating stations or buy electricity from its neighbours. Taps run dry for days on end, and when the water does flow – even in the capital – it is contaminated by sewage.
In Mabvuku, a township east of Harare that has had no proper water supply all year, we found hundreds of women gathered on a patch of wasteland, waiting with their buckets for tiny, muddy pools to form in the bottom of half a dozen 15ft holes. “Some of us get up at 4am because there is more water then and it is cleaner. Some of us wait the whole day,” Joyce Dando, 46, said.
Four of the five reservoirs serving Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, have dried up. Some districts have gone weeks without water. Sewers explode for lack of running water to wash away blockages. Mr Coltart, the local MP, accuses the regime of deliberately blocking new water projects for a city that is an opposition stronghold. Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, the Mayor, agrees. He envisages Bulawayo being abandoned “on the lines of New Orleans”, and accuses the Government of urbicide.
Agriculture, the backbone of economy, was destroyed by land seizures (which continue, with 160 of the 500 remaining white farmers having recently received eviction notices). What remains of industry is being destroyed by inane economic policies. GDP has fallen to the level of 1953, coal production to the level of 1946, and gold production to that of 1907.
Like its health system, Zimbabwe’s once-proud education system has been crippled by a mass exodus of teachers unable to survive on a monthly salary of barely Z$11. An estimated 30,000 have gone abroad since January, many quitting in mid-term. The University of Zimbabwe has lost at least half its 1,200 lecturers.
The mobile phone networks are collapsing; only a skeletal train service survives; bus fares exceed most people’s wages. Even cash is running out because the Government cannot print money fast enough, pay to repair its German presses or buy enough chemicals and ink from abroad. John Robertson, an economist, estimates that it printed Z$372 billion in March, Z$5,648 billion in August.
The human consequences are desperate. A senior NGO official said that nearly half the population now needed food aid. In both rural and urban areas The Times found children with the distended bellies and swollen joints of kwashiorkor – a disease caused by severe malnutrition .
In one rural clinic, a 20-month-old boy lay dying of marasmus, another disease caused by malnutrition. He weighed 11lb. There was no hope, said the doctor in charge. The clinic treats hundreds of villagers who come from far and wide each day on buses, donkey carts or foot. More than 80 per cent are HIV-positive. Half are medically malnourished. That lethal combination has destroyed their immune systems and caused an explosion of other diseases such as TB, malaria, meningitis and pneumonia.
In a Harare cemetery The Times found five funerals taking place simultaneously. An official said the city buried 5,690 adults last year and expected to bury 8,000 this. Those figures exclude paupers’ burials: that morning alone 38 people had been dumped in an unmarked mass grave with no religious service.
A Bulawayo cleric took us to Kilarney, a desperate collection of shacks in the parched bush outside the city that house 500 families displaced by Operation Murambatsvina. There is no school, no clinic. The inhabitants have no jobs, no money, just a few cooking pots. They draw water from the shaft of an abandoned goldmine with a sign reading: “Danger – Cyanide Mining”. They survive on mealie meal provided by the church. Every few months the cleric gets soap which he divides into tiny pieces, one per family.
Nokhuthula, 24, a stick-thin mother of two tiny children, stood outside a shelter of corrugated iron and plastic sheeting held down by stones. A few rags were drying on a thorn bush. Her husband was a carpenter, but his tools were destroyed by Mr Mugabe’s thugs. She used to supplement his income by sewing, but could no longer afford needles and thread. The last time she ate anything but sadza was last Christmas when she had a bowl of rice.
“There’s no hope here. This is a place where people are lucky to reach the age of 40,” the cleric said. He then drove us farther into the bush and showed us rows of mounds in the red earth, each covered with thorny branches to keep animals away. This was where he buried his parishioners, their bodies wrapped in blankets, because their families could not afford proper funerals.
In Mbare, a southern Harare slum, church workers rounded up half a dozen destitute women for The Times to talk to – women like Chipo Holaza, 32, who lost her husband to Aids two years ago. She lives with her four children under plastic sheeting, and sells herself for as little as 20p a time. She is now disfigured by Aids herself. “I’m desperate. The children will have no one to look after them if I pass away. They’ll be street kids,” she said. One headmaster near Bulawayo said that almost all of his 300 female students, aged 14 to 16, were selling their bodies for food. A dental student at the University of Zimbabwe said several classmates were doing the same.
No country on Earth has such a rapidly contracting economy or plummeting life expectancy, but diplomats still believe Mr Mugabe will retain the presidency in elections due next March.
Boosted by Lisbon, he is certain to secure the Zanu (PF) nomination at a special congress on December 14. With the opposition Movement for Democratic Change demoralised, depleted by emigration and split into rival factions, with four million of Zimbabwe’s ablest citizens having fled the country and those that remain debilitated by suffering, Zanu (PF)’s superior political machine should ensure a Mugabe victory.
He is taking no chances though. In remote areas, far from the public eye, his thugs are at work. An activist from Binga in the far northwest said that 200 former members of Zanu (PF)’s youth militia arrived last June. Since then, pumped high on drugs and alcohol, they had systematically terrorised the poorest areas, burning homes, stealing goats and gang-raping as many as 300 women aged between 16 and 51. The activist described Zanu (PF)’s strategy: “If you’re not for us you are against us, and if you’re against us, you’re going to be broken.”
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: November 30, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: The government commandeered buses and state railroad cars
to carry President Robert Mugabe's supporters from across the country for a
march and rally near Harare Friday.
The rally was a show of strength for Mugabe before a party meeting next
month at which his continued leadership was likely to be debated, and before
presidential elections next year in which he was expected to run.
"The people will speak. Outsiders must keep their hands off," Mugabe said to
cheers from supporters.
He also ridiculed Britain, the former colonial power, for "discussing us
every week in their stupid parliament."
An estimated 40,000 supporters marched from downtown Harare to a one-time
sports field in the nearby township of Highfield, where they were joined by
thousands more rural supporters carrying umbrellas against seasonal rains.
Ruling party militants had billed the event as "the march of a million"
supporters to pledge support for Mugabe as the ruling party's sole candidate
for presidential elections in March.
No official count of those present was available, but it was the biggest
political rally seen for several years.
Mugabe has been accused within his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union
Patriotic Front party of being responsible for chronic shortages of food and
basic goods in the worst economic crisis since he led the nation to
independence in 1980. He has led Zimbabwe since independence.
Two main factions in the ruling party have called for him to step down to
make way for reformist leaders but they were seen as unlikely to be able to
garner significant public displays of support while the police and military
remained largely loyal to Mugabe.
Militant supporters of Mugabe last month said they were organizing a
solidarity campaign of marches and rallies across the country that would
culminate in a mass demonstration in support of Mugabe in Harare ahead of
the Dec. 11 party convention.
Mugabe has presided over an economic meltdown that, according to United
Nations estimates, will leave nearly one-fourth of the population in need of
emergency food handouts in the coming year.
The nation is suffering official inflation of 8,000 percent, the highest in
Mugabe blames Western economic sanctions, successive years of drought and
speculators in the economy for driving up inflation by creating shortages
that fueled black market trading at prices of up to 10 times the
government's fixed prices.
The often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for
handing over to blacks since 2000 disrupted the agriculture-based economy
and saw farm production plummet in the former regional breadbasket.
December 1, 2007
It was the Million Man and Woman March, meant to show the support that
President Mugabe commands, replicating the vast throng that welcomed him in
1980 when he returned to an independent Zimbabwe at the end of a civil war.
This time, instead of the crowds that spontaneously spilled on to the
streets, the Government commandeered the railway service, seized vehicles
and rounded up supporters of the Zanu (PF) party to pack the streets and
football stadium of Harare yesterday in support of Mr Mugabe’s candidature
for the presidential election. By the time that Mr Mugabe, in an African
print shirt bearing his own face, arrived at the rally that was intended as
a stern message to members of his own party who had planned to replace him
in a congress next week, only 20,000 had been assembled.
It was a small fraction of the sea of faces that greeted his return in 1980
and fewer than Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, assembles on the
rare occasion that he is allowed to hold a rally. “I think there are many
more people queuing at the banks in town for cash,” Willard Dhlalo, a
Fri 30 Nov 2007, 17:36 GMT
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE, Nov 30 (Reuters) - A fired-up President Robert Mugabe launched
another blistering attack on Britain on Friday, describing its leaders as
"kids" who had lost their reason because of their preoccupation with
Mugabe told thousands of liberation war veterans and supporters of his
ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare that Britain behaved as though Zimbabwe was
still its colony.
"... Britain has no right to be sitting and discussing us almost every week
in their stupid parliament. Have they no shame, have the British ceased to
have any rationality, that every week they debate Zimbabwe?" he said to
"Once upon a time I believed that (was) because those who went to Number 10
Downing Street were no better than street kids ... but when we now hear that
in parliament itself ... there are continuous debates on Zimbabwe, you begin
to wonder whether the British people have sanity at all."
Brown is boycotting an EU-Africa summit in Lisbon next month in protest at
Mugabe's presence. Brown says nothing will be gained from dialogue with
Mugabe, and that he must "take full responsibility" for the collapse of
Mugabe, 83 and in power since independence in 1980, is seeking re-election
next March, having defeated attempts within ZANU-PF to stop him from
Mugabe looks fit for his age and remains combative in the face of a
crumbling economy and growing discontent. He has now mobilised his
independence war veterans, his political shock troops, to assert his
Thousands of his supporters -- ferried into Harare by bus and train --
converged at various points in the city on Friday, singing revolutionary
songs and pledging support.
Mugabe thanked them for endorsing his candidacy, vowing that he would not
let them down and would continue to defend Zimbabwe's independence:
"Where it comes to Zimbabwe, I will never ever give in. I will not let you
down and you will not let me down also."
Although Mugabe has ridden out numerous challenges in the last seven years,
analysts say he faces a potent threat from the economy, rated by the World
Bank as the fastest shrinking economy outside a war zone, because it may
spark social unrest.
Zimbabwe has the world's highest inflation rate, rocketing unemployment and
shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency. Its city dwellers frequently
have to contend with power and water cuts and burst sewers. (Editing by
By Henry Makiwa
29 November 2007
There was a “million-man” march to show support for Robert Mugabe as the
ruling party’s presidential candidate in Harare on Friday.
But there were scenes of violence in Highfield, Glen View, Budiriro,
Mufakose and Glen Norah townships, where workers who had queued for
transport into the city were forced onto trucks by Zanu PF thugs, to attend
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe Grounds rally.
Witnesses said thousands of Harare residents were also disrupted from doing
their normal daily business, after Mugabe’s largely bused-in thugs went on a
rampage Friday morning. Residents of Highfield Township, where Mugabe was
holding a rally on Friday afternoon, said spates of violence began on
Wednesday when Zanu PF youths began beating up any person wearing red. Red
has a historical and symbolic representation of the opposition MDC.
Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said police and soldiers simply watched or
assisted the ruling party’s militia as it terrorized the people.
He said: “Many people, including members of the independent media, have been
arrested and beaten up and lost possessions, for no apparent reason today.
Hundreds have been forced to leave their homes and work to take part in an
exercise they do not believe in. Politicians and analysts are questioning
the sincerity of Mugabe in the current mediation talks with the opposition
when he keeps bludgeoning the opposition,” Muchemwa reported.
The developments reinforced the lack of neutrality of the law enforcement
Men and women jogged for miles to Zimbabwe Grounds - a sports arena in
Highfield township - where Mugabe addressed them. Mugabe is said to have
approved the march to re-create scenes of his 1980 moment of glory at the
same venue, when he returned to Zimbabwe from exile soon after the end of
the liberation war.
State run television said the “million-man march,” was the “apex of other
provincial solidarity marches previously held as the support for President
Mugabe gathers momentum.”
The march comes at a time when the country is facing a myriad of economic
problems created by poor governance – issues the government should address
before pouring scarce resources into Mugabe’s campaign exercise.
Observers condemned the partisan march for emptying the already dry national
coffers, at the expense of the taxpayer. A report by the weekly Zimbabwe
Independent claimed that the National Railways of Zimbabwe, on Thursday
suspended the movement of goods trains, which ferry coal from Hwange to
various centres, as well as grain to the southern parts of the country.
According to the report this was to create free passage for trains expected
to move Mugabe’s supporters to Harare. It is also understood that
locomotives for goods trains have been diverted to haul passenger train
Over 150 buses from the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company were also taken
over for the use of Zanu PF supporters, a development that created a major
shortage of public transport
Mugabe,who is fighting growing internal opposition to his rule, organised
the march with the help of war veterans Jabulani Sibanda and Joseph
Chinotimba, to beat off critics ahead of an extra-ordinary Zanu PF congress
in early December.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Chris Gande
30 November 2007
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has reported a surge in political
violence in October targeting the opposition Movement For Democratic Change
and civic groups including Women of Zimbabwe Arise and the National
The consortium also reported that intimidation and harassment of student
activists has continued unabated. Elsewhere, the report cited an incident in
which police razed to the ground the shacks of Harare residents who lost
their homes in 2005 in Operation Murambatsvina, the government's forced
eviction and demolition drive.
The United Nations estimated that 700,000 Zimbabweans lost their homes or
their livelihoods in Operation Murambatsvina (Shona for "Drive Out
The report closely followed a threat by one faction of the political
opposition to pull out of South African-mediated crisis talks over continued
Home Affairs Secretary Sam Sipepa Nkomo of the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of
the Movement for Democratic Change commented on the NGO Forum findings,
saying his MDC formation is receiving "lots of reports from right across the
country of intimidation, harassment, beating from our members."
by Regerai Marwezu Saturday 01 December 2007
MASVINGO - At least 14 people died and 60 others were seriously injured on
Thursday night when a bus collided with a lorry along the
Masvingo-Zvishavane highway in southern Zimbabwe.
The bus, which belonged to Mhunga Bus Company and was traveling from
Bulawayo to Zvishavane, hit a trailer on a Delta Beverages lorry that was
traveling in the opposite direction, according to witnesses.
The bus rolled several times, uprooting trees before it landed on its roof.
"The (bus) driver appeared to have misjudged the length of the lorry
resulting in the bus hitting the trailer. He then lost control of the bus
which then veered off the road," said one of the survivors who only
identified himself as Gumbo.
A police spokesman in Zvishavane, Inspector Casper Ndlovu, confirmed the
accident to ZimOnline yesterday adding that 14 passengers had died on the
spot following the accident.
"Fourteen people died on the spot while 60 others were seriously injured.
Further investigations on the accident are still in progress," said Ndlovu.
Hundreds of Zimbabweans die every year on the country's roads due to
accidents blamed on human error, bad road network and an ageing public
transport fleet. - ZimOnline
by Lizwe Sebatha Saturday 01 December 2007
BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile phone operator, Econet Wireless, says
it has hiked tariffs by over 450 percent in an attempt to shield itself from
rampant inflation estimated at around 14 000 percent.
In an interview with ZimOnline earlier this week, Econet Wireless chief
executive officer, Douglas Mboweni, said they had raised rates from Z$7 500
to $43 000 a minute for local calls and from $15 000 to $89 000 for
Mboweni said sub-economic rates charged by the company had led to a
deterioration of communication services offered by the mobile firm and
stifled the company’s expansion projects.
“We are failing to manage infrastructure because revenue has become too low
due to low tariffs against high inflation and other operational costs.
“Construction of sites and base stations to increase subscriber base was
affected by the low tariffs and where construction was taking place, it was
at a slower pace due to reduced revenue,” said Mboweni.
Mboweni said with the new rates, Econet will go ahead with work that began
earlier this year to add capacity to its network and increase its subscriber
base from the current 800 000 to 1.2 million by February 2008.
A severe electricity shortage in Zimbabwe has hit hard mobile phone
operations in the country with calls failing to go through between networks.
The state-controlled Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has over
the past few months been switching off large sections of the country at any
given times in a bid to save the little power that is available in the
country. - ZimOnline
By Tichaona Sibanda
30 November 2007
Popular MDC treasurer Roy Bennett is reportedly pondering returning home
from exile to contest his old seat in Chimanimani, in next year’s
parliamentary and presidential elections.
MDC structures in Chimanimani district have already made representations to
the party’s decision-making organ, the national executive council, to say
they wanted their former MP to represent them again, if it was feasible.
Prosper Mutseyami, the MDC’s provincial director of elections in Manicaland,
said a delegation has already been to Johannesburg to seek Bennett’s views
on the request. Mutseyami told Newsreel on Friday the issue was very
‘delicate’ but they were hopeful it would work out fine in the end.
‘Roy remains immensely popular in Manicaland and it was by popular demand
that people in his constituency wanted him back. A delegation has been to
South Africa to talk to him and he was very humbled by the gesture,’
Asked to comment Bennett confirmed it was true that he was planning to go
back home, but it all hinged on the mediation talks currently taking place
in South Africa.
Bennett, popularly known as Pachedu in Manicaland, lost his parliamentary
seat in 2005 when he failed to defend it while serving a year-long jail term
imposed by a Zanu-PF majority in parliament in October 2004, for pushing
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa. Bennett shoved Chinamasa who fell to the
floor, after the minister said his ancestors were thieves and murderers.
Recently the regime in the country appointed a top army officer to head the
Zimbabwe Election Commission in Manicaland, a move viewed with deep
suspicion by the MDC in the province.
Pishai Muchauraya, MDC spokesman in Manicaland, told us Zanu-PF negotiators
at the talks could possibly have leaked information to the ZEC that Bennett
was preparing to return home to contest elections next year.
‘Who is better equipped to frustrate Bennett’s aspirations to contest the
elections next year than Colonel Moffat Masabeya, a man who took over his
Charleswood Estate. He will make it impossible for him take part and these
recent appointments to the ZEC should be viewed with suspicion,’ Muchauraya
Newsreel understands that apart from the Bennett issue, discussions at the
mediation talks have also centred on the issue of the other millions of
people in exile.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Fri 30 Nov 2007, 11:45 GMT
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's 2008 budget seems bereft of concrete
measures to curb hyperinflation and ill suited to provide the economic
rebound it promises a population faced with growing hardship.
The southern African country, facing the uncertainties of presidential and
parliamentary elections next year, is in the grip of a punishing recession.
It endures the world's highest inflation rate at nearly 8,000 percent,
rising unemployment and shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food.
Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi said on Thursday the worst was over and
the economy was set to rebound, with growth of 4 percent in 2008 after
nearly a decade in decline. Inflation would average below 2,000 percent as
farming output improves.
But critics said there were no concrete plans given to support economic
growth, while Mumbengegwi's failure to devalue the Zimbabwe dollar would
affect export earnings.
In what he called the "people's budget", Mumbengegwi offered tax relief to
workers and allocated 7,840 trillion Zimbabwe dollars ($261 billion at the
official exchange rate but $5.2 billion on the parallel black market) in
The figure is nearly 200 times total spending and borrowings for 2007, which
analysts say showed the inflation outlook had worsened.
Shunned by the West over policy differences such as President Robert
Mugabe's seizure of white-owned commercial farms for blacks and the threat
to nationalise foreign-owned firms, Harare has relied on borrowing locally
and printing cash to fund its budget deficit.
"This government will certainly print and borrow more money," Tendai Biti,
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general,
"This will trigger off more inflationary pressures (and) more inflation
means further theft on the people's savings and incomes," said Biti.
Conditions are harsh. Urban workers have had to contend with burst sewers,
frequent water and electricity cuts and crumbling infrastructure while
prices have started rising again.
The World Bank says Zimbabwe's economy is the fastest shrinking outside a
war zone and has contracted by about 40 percent in real terms in the past
Industry plunged into deeper crisis in June when Mugabe imposed a tough
price freeze to halt sharp increases.
This forced manufacturers to stop producing, fearing heavy losses, while
shops were emptied of basic goods.
The government has poured funds into the agriculture sector. Although it has
dubbed the 2008 farming season "mother of all agriculture seasons", analysts
said shortages of goods like fertiliser, fuel and seed could still hit
Mining, now a top foreign currency earner following the collapse of
agriculture, faces shortages of foreign exchange, uncertainty over
ownership, power cuts and flight of skills.
"The major constraint is on production on the real sectors which are faced
with many challenges and by and large the minister did not address that and
his projections will not be met," said ZABG Bank chief economist David
Workers who have embarked on wild-cat strikes this year are seen staging
more boycotts as the economic crisis worsens, ratcheting up tensions and
pressure on Mugabe, who however faces a weak and divided opposition at the
Mumbengegwi offered some tax relief to workers but critics said it was too
little and would be quickly eroded by inflation.
Mugabe, 83 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies
charges of mismanaging the economy and dismisses critics suggestions that
his prolonged stay in power would hurt Zimbabwe's chances of turning around
"I don't see any change for me, maybe things will be worse because prices
are increasing at a faster rate now," said Simon Bakare, a salesman at a
Harare clothing shop. (Editing by Ralph Boulton)
Nov 30 2007 10:21 AM
Harare - Cash-starved Zimbabweans have finally found a way around the
country's cash problems - they are now buying money. Yes,
money.Investigations by Fin24 have revealed that since the cash shortages
started, a number of individuals have been buying cash after banks imposed
limits. This is how it works. Say one needs Z$100m (R500) in cash. The
person would have to transfer Z$120m or more electronically - a 20% premium
on cash received. The practice has been prevalent for some time, Fin24 has
found.After the central bank imposed limits on cash withdrawals last year,
individuals and firms have been courting cash-rich individuals and firms for
instant cash at a premium.The central bank says it is clamping down on
illegal foreign currency dealers, who depend on cash transactions, by
limiting withdrawals.Now, even foreign currency dealers have also found a
way around the cash problem - they pay a better rate electronically and make
out an invoice to avoid trouble with the bank.Mostly fast foods operators
and mobile air time dealers are the "cash barons" smiling all the way to the
banks. State-owned daily, The Herald, also blew the lid on underhand cash
deals.The paper says firms are now doubling the price a customer pays for
goods if the person is doing so with a cheque or electronically. "Due to the
current cash shortages, very few customers can afford to pay cash for goods
or services. Instead, it is much easier for them to make payment through
bank transfers.However, dealers are enriching themselves by simply doubling
the prices of their products," reported the paper."The cash withdrawal limit
is $40m for companies. Suppose a customer makes a payment, say, for
$200m."What I would do then is to split the money among my various accounts.
I have four shelf companies. This will make it easier for me to withdraw the
money quickly and invest it on something else," a company director was
quoted as saying.Others are keeping their funds in foreign currency until
the cash situation is resolved. Foreign currency appreciates on a daily
basis and is normally a cash based transaction.The central bank is planning
to change the country's currency once again and probably slash three
zeroes.Foreign currency dealers have also taken positions - they have two
rates - one for cash and the other for bank transfers.The US dollar is being
quoted at $1.8m while an RTGS is being quoted at $2.5m.According to the
paper other foreign currency delears claim to have connections at the banks
but bank officials have since denied links with black market dealers."Those
limits apply only to (Gideon) Gono (the RBZ governor). My friend, we can get
up to $2bn a day or more depending on how much you want," a foreign currency
dealer said. - Fin24
SW Radio Africa (London)
30 November 2007
Posted to the web 30 November 2007
The strike by magistrates and prosecutors, demanding better pay and working
conditions, has now entered a second month with no sign of the dispute being
resolved. Thousands of detainees in the country's remand prisons have been
left stranded as senior prosecutors and regional magistrates battle to clear
a massive backlog, worsened by the juniors who went on strike at the end of
October. Even before the strike, the judicial system was sitting on a
backlog of 350 000 cases.
Magistrates earn Z$16 million a month whereas the poverty datum line for an
average family is over Z$23 million. This has forced them to demand a 900
percent wage hike. Justice Ministry officials are arguing the ministry has
already exhausted it's budget for the year and a review can only be made in
the next budget allocation. This however is in stark contrast to unplanned
budget allocations, which have been poured into defence and security
departments in the past by the same government.
In early November the government threatened to sack all striking magistrates
if they ignored orders to go back to work. The Permanent Secretary in the
Justice Ministry, David Mangota, said the magistrates had to go back to work
before their grievances were addressed. Those on strike ignored the threats.
The failure by government to address the concerns of the magistrates has
seen many of them leaving the country for greener pastures in neighbouring
Meanwhile detainees who, under the constitution, should only be held for 48
hours are now spending much longer in detention. As the country teeters on
the edge of a complete economic meltdown, crime levels are rising and this
has meant an increase in the number of people locked up in holding cells.
Adding to an already complex scenario are political detainees from the
opposition, who are being assaulted, tortured and then locked up. These
activists are now spending even more time in custody as the regime hides
behind the strike.
Lawyer Alec Muchadehama says the Justice Ministry is to blame for the
crisis. They awarded regional magistrates salaries of Z$190-200 million a
month and promised them luxury Mazda Eagle vehicles after they threatened to
resign. This created a huge discrepancy with junior magistrates, prosecutors
and other court staff who are still earning paltry salaries. Muchadehama
says bridging the gap will prove impossible given the fact that government
is broke. He says as lawyers they are spending the whole day milling around
the courts with nothing to do. Meanwhile those on strike say they will
report for work in January, the time frame government says it can review
By Carole Gombakomba
30 November 2007
Despite expectations that crisis resolution talks between Zimbabwe's ruling
party and opposition should culminate soon in a substantial agreement, the
talks seem at risk of stalling amid complaints by the Movement for
Democratic Change that ZANU-PF negotiators are failing to commit to real
reform or implement accords.
Officials of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai threatened this week
to pull out of the talks entirely, though the rival faction headed by Arthur
Mutambara, in theory a negotiating partner with the Tsvangirai faction, says
it would be premature to exit.
Both factions agree the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe, up for
re-election in 2008, has failed to take substantive steps to level the
electoral playing field.
Harare is pressing ahead with preparations for presidential and general
elections next March, though the MDC argues that a whole range of issues
such as the delimitation of new constituencies and the composition of the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, remain to be resolved in the discussions in
Pretoria and, more recently, Harare.
With a European Union-African Union summit coming up next week, the pressure
is on in Pretoria and Harare for the ruling party and opposition to wrap up
the talks.The recent short visit by South African President Thabo Mbeki to
Harare to discuss progress of the talks was seen by some as a sign the talks
are in trouble.
For perspective on developments, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio
7 for Zimbabwe turned to Dakar-based political commentator and blogger Chido
Makunike and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Senior Program Manager Pedzisai
SW Radio Africa (London)
30 November 2007
Posted to the web 30 November 2007
Victoria Falls residents have successfully resisted plans by the government
and the town council to build a football stadium in a game reserve.
The Victoria Falls town council last week faced severe opposition from
environmentalists and residents, after it proposed to build a 50 000-seater
stadium in Victoria Falls National Park. The council has now been forced to
abandon the project after protests by members of the public.
Plans were already advanced for the construction of the stadium at Mkhosana
site in the game park, when environmentalists and residents rang alarm
bells. The site falls in a game corridor, which animals use to access the
Zambezi River for water.
Environmentalists, led by the Environmental Management Authority, vigorously
opposed the proposal, raising concern that building the stadium at Mkhosana
would disrupt the ecosystem of the country's top tourist attraction. The
environmentalists also warned that the United Nations Educational Scientific
and Cultural Organisation could come down heavily on the country by
withdrawing the 'World Heritage Site' status on Victoria Falls. The Falls
are considered one of the seven wonders of the world.
Observers said the campaign by residents and environmentalists demonstrated
the power citizens can have to effect changes of policy.
Victoria Falls resident Ozias Moyo said: "The government and this troop of
spineless town councillors can have their way in some places, sometimes, but
we stood against the erection of a stadium where it will kill our animals.
We cannot be held ransom to the whims of the government just because they
want to make a buck out of the World Cup, even at the expense of animals."
It is now understood that the Victoria Falls town council committee on the
stadium project will now either renovate Chinotimba Stadium or the Victoria
Falls Sports Club.
By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 12/01/2007 05:41:29
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has expressed pain and disappointment at Zimbabweans
who have left the country, forced out by political repression and the
country’s economic collapse.
At a huge rally before an estimated half a million people at the Zimbabwe
Grounds in Highfield, Mugabe said he had played a part in the liberation
struggle to bring quality life and values to Zimbabweans.
"My own children, the children that I fought for and spent 11 years in
prison now runaway from their own country going to Britain. They say they
are running from me. This is our country. Let's all fight to protect our
independence and sovereignty,” Mugabe told cheering supporters.
Millions of Zimbabweans are thought to have left the country since the
country's economic collapse in 1999 and a government-led crackdown on
Many have fled to neighbouring South Africa and former colonial power,
The ‘million man march’ – modelled on the Black march convened by Nation of
Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Washington DC, October 1995 – was a show of
support for Mugabe whose decision to contest presidential elections next
March had caused fissures within his own party.
In a rambling speech, delivered in his Shona language and English, Mugabe
fingered western countries as the cause of the country’s economic crisis,
rallying Zimbabweans to identify and defeat their “common enemy”.
"Today is the day of understanding each other. Zimbabwe will never be a
colony again. If you fail to get sugar for a day, you blame it on Mugabe's
government. How much sugar have I given you all these years?
"Should we therefore run away, forsake and abandon our country? We must
fight, fight and defeat the common enemy. We should not forsake our
He said Zimbabweans, regardless of tribe, were a one united family and had
to show the unity in face of adversity.
The veteran leader railed at Britain and warned that he would no tolerate
outside interference in the affairs of the country, especially during the
2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.
He charged: "Outsiders must keep their hands off Zimbabwe. We will manage
our own affairs. The MDC and Zanu PF walk on the same path, the path for
preserving our independence.
"Those who try to challenge our sovereignty provoke me. This is where you se
my true colours.
"Zimbabwe is an African country. Its sovereignty is reposed with the people
of Zimbabwe. Let Britain therefore listen to this simple assertion that
Zimbabwe is no longer a British colony."
War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, who organised the massive rally, said
Friday's attendance was historic, pointing out that it was at the Zimbabwe
Grounds that almost a similar number of people gathered to welcome Mugabe
just before the 1980 elections.
Said Sibanda: "Comrade Mugabe is ready for the elections. His supporters
have sent a bold message that they will stand by their leader even in times
"We are a united force and united we shall remain in this march towards the
2008 elections. Zanu PF has shown maturity and deserves the backing of these
Sibanda might have been referring to a sudden approval of his marches by
some senior Zanu PF members who were initially opposed to countrywide
marches by the war veterans in support of Mugabe’s candidature in next year’s
A faction led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru and his wife, Vice
President Joice Mujuru, was opposed to Mugabe standing for election next
But Mujuru was forced to back down when the war veterans turned the screws.
"If there is a person who wants to contest against President Mugabe, it's
not me," Mujuru said three weeks ago.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is seeking a sixth
term next year despite presiding over the world's highest rate of inflation
and a jobless rate of around 70 percent.
Opposition groups say Mugabe's mismanagement of the country's economy and
use of violence against opponents is the cause of the crisis. But the
veteran leader blames sanctions and interference in then running of the
country's affairs by western countries, notably Britain and the United
SW Radio Africa (London)
30 November 2007
Posted to the web 30 November 2007
Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi presented his budget for 2008 to
parliament on Thursday, and in a sign of extraordinary optimism predicted a
4% growth in the economy for the coming year. As if to mock the occasion,
there were reports that the building had no power or running water. The
reaction from experts and the opposition has been that the budget is a joke
and clearly shows that the Zimbabwean dollar has lost all it's value as
money is now allocated in trillions and quadrillions.
Economist John Robertson believes the government is in denial that it's own
policies are causing the difficulties that the minister identified.
Robertson said: "They would prefer to believe that all of the problems
result from international sanctions and conspiracies from abroad about
regime change." The reality is that inflation is estimated to be over
20,000%, companies are shutting down, shelves in the shops are empty and
there are serious shortages of local currency.
"We must remember that we took off 3 zeros from the value of our currency
already. And if they were to be put back, it would take two billion Zim
dollars to buy one US dollar.
Calling it the "People's Budget", Mumbengegwi unveiled a Z$7,800 trillion
budget that he said will be driven by agriculture. He dubbed 2007 to 2008
the "Mother of All Agricultural Seasons" and allocated Z$97 trillion for
crop inputs and $6,4 trillion for livestock production. Funds were also
allocated for the completion of dams and irrigation schemes.
Robertson dismissed this as well. He said the destruction of agriculture is
the cause of the current crisis and the people now on the farms have no
money or inputs to produce enough for the nation. He added: "If we started
now to gather inputs for a season that is 5 to 6 months from now, we might
just about do it. But unfortunately the season starts now. The rains have
just started and we should be out plowing the fields and planting seeds. But
inputs are not available."
The finance minister increased the tax-free threshold. All those earning up
to Z$30 million do not have to pay tax. Salaries up to Z$500 million will be
taxed at 47.5%. He also allocated Z$900 trillion to the departments of
Education, Health and Social Welfare.
Responding to Mumbengegwi's budget, the secretary general of the Tsvangirai
MDC Tendai Biti, said: "On one hand there is an overzealous RBZ governor who
at least is loyal to a vague notion of economic stability and on the other,
there is a coterie of gangsters who impose indiscriminate price controls and
fight inflation by imprisoning captains of industry and business leaders."
Robertson believes problems of this nature cannot be solved by throwing lots
of money at them. He said to overcome inflation we have to overcome the
scarcities by stepping up production. But the government's own price
controls are ruining that prospect because businesses are operating at a
By Patrick Nathanson and AFP
Last Updated: 4:35pm GMT 30/11/2007
First one-day international: Zimbabwe beat West Indies by 31 runs
Zimbabwe celebrated their first victory against a major Test-playing nation
in four years with a narrow win over the West Indies.
The hosts restricted West Indies to 244 with some disciplined bowling to win
the first one-day international of the five-match series by 31 runs at the
Harare Sports Club.
West Indies captain Chris Gayle had won the toss and put Zimbabwe in to bat.
Half centuries from Chamu Chibhabha and Stuart Matsikenyeri powered the
hosts to 274-8.
Elton Chigumbura then took two early wickets to stun the Caribbean team in
the opening overs.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul responded with an unbeaten 127 but it was not enough
for the tourists as the home crowd revelled in a rare win.
Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to
firstname.lastname@example.org with â^À^ÜFor Open Letter Forumâ^À^Ý in the subject line.
Lowveld News 28th November
On the afternoon of the 28th Nov, 11 people consisting of police, army and
CIO came to my house with a search warrant that I was unable to read. It,
they say, was signed by a magistrate in Chiredzi. All the judiciary is on a
strike and when I questioned them again on who signed the warrant they
indicated that the officer in charge was allowed to sign these warrants.
This is not correct of course. My wife and I had our home searched by all of
them for about 4 hours and then they made me lead them to my place of
business and they then searched it including my computers.
From my house they removed all my registered hunting rifles and all my bows
and arrows saying that I must come in at 8.00AM with the permits (Bows and
Arrows do not require permits)
I believe that the government is harassing me and is trying to take me out
of the picture because I have led all the previous election watches in the
Lowveld uncovering many discrepancies and human rights abuses.
There is no telling what will happen tomorrow at the police station.
There is no meal or any other food in the Lowveld, the situation is worse
now than ever. Workers cannot get enough cash out of the Banks to travel to
other towns to look for food.
When I saw people running down the pavement I knew that some precious basic
commodity must have arrived and that this rush was the start of the queue. I
stepped out of the way so as not to get knocked down and carried on walking.
I was amazed to see people pushing and jostling to get a place in line to
buy the State controlled daily newspaper. This sudden enthusiasm for a dose
of the latest propaganda has apparently got nothing to do with the
government pronouncements but is related to the chronic national shortage of
toilet paper. Not only does the newspaper double as toilet paper, it is also
cheaper with one day's edition of propaganda costing less than a roll of loo
I count myself very lucky that a neighbour hands me down two second hand
independent newspapers every week - not because I want toilet paper but
because these newspapers are now almost impossible to obtain - even more so
than the State controlled ones. When the independent papers arrive in the
town on a Friday morning you've got about half an hour to get to the
roadside vendors before all their copies are sold out and then itâ^À^Ùs
another long week to wait for the next taste of the truth. To exacerbate
this crazy situation, the government's price controllers recently ordered
the Zimbabwe Independent to cut their price from 600 to 150 thousand
dollars. This undoubtedly pushes the paper rapidly to the edge of
bankruptcy, even less copies are printed and this means that the 10 or more
people reading one carefully handed down newspaper are without information -
and the last one without toilet paper!
All is not lost however because we still have Short Wave Radio Africa and
night after night more and more Zimbabweans are sitting in the dark of the
power cuts, using wind up radios and juggling between the two SW Radio
Africa channels - depending on which is being jammed that night. Here at
least people speak freely, not subject to State controls or even the self
censorship we have all made a part of our existence in order to survive.
Itâ^À^Ùs ridiculous to think that we have to listen to a radio station
broadcasting from London to hear news of events in our country but we do.
The reports might be grim, the news depressing and the stories heartbreaking
but at least they are an accurate reflection of everyday life in Zimbabwe.
It doesn't matter what kind of a spin the Zimbabwean authorities put on
their TV and newspaper reports, they are so far from the glaringly obvious
situation on the ground that no one at all believes them anymore. One
outstanding example this week came when the President was shown on TV news
addressing a gathering near Victoria Falls. He told the audience that he
knew people were not getting enough bread but that they should be patient,
not lose faith and trust the Government.
What shortage of bread? Surely that should be "what bread?" It might be
selling on the black market for 700 thousand dollars a loaf but most
everyone I know hasn't been able to buy bread for over three months.
Zimbabwe's government has mastered the art of own goals and forcing us to
look outside for real news of events inside is surely a classic.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
Are we making progress?
I am constantly amazed at the number of people I speak to who say they are
determined to stick things out â^À^Ó but ask, are we making any progress
towards finding a resolution to the current economic and political crisis?
Amazed at the numbers because I really expect most people with options to
throw in the towel and decide to move to greener pastures.
The facts are that we are making progress. Looking back, much more progress
than I think any of us expected 18 months ago. In March 2006 the newly
divided MDC had just held two Congressâ^À^Ùs â^À^Ó one in Bulawayo for the
Mutambara led group and another in Harare for the group led by Tsvangirai.
Zanu PF had just settled yet another challenge to the succession issue and
Thabo Mbeki had thrown in the towel â^À^Ó fed up with the infighting in the
main political parties and in the lack of progress and consensus.
The international community had likewise decided to sit on their hands for a
while â^À^Ó they were deeply disappointed in the split in the MDC ranks, the
apparent bickering and also in the seemingly intransient nature of the
Zimbabwe situation. Nothing much happened for the next nine months except
that the economic crisis deepened and our gradual slide into some form of a
failed State accelerated.
Then came the fateful decision in December 2006 by Zanu PF to try to
postpone the election to the same time as the Soccer World Cup â^À^Ó June
Mbeki was galvanized into action and moved to try and establish a new
strategy for resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. He swiftly moved to secure the
basics of the new strategy â^À^Ó get the elections moved back to March 2008
and try to get Mugabe to hold then under free and fair conditions. The
preliminary steps seemed too easy to be true â^À^Ó Mbeki spoke with Mugabe
in Ghana on the 7th March and Mugabe said yes to both issues.
Mr. Mugabe then made a serious error of judgment â^À^Ó he ordered his
security Chiefs to â^À^Ücrush the MDCâ^À^Ý so that they would not be capable
of fighting an election in March 2008. Four days after he accepted President
Mbekiâ^À^Ùs suggestions to resolve the crisis, the leadership of the MDC was
arrested and beaten in custody. Television footage of the incident was
somehow captured and released and a media blitz ensued which in turn
galvanized the leadership of the SADC region to sit up and eventually demand
action to settle this dispute once and for all. Mbeki got his multilateral
approach to the crisis and Mugabe lost a critical regional support base.
On the 29th March 2007, the SADC leadership met in an emergency session and
resolved to work with President Mbeki in seeking a resolution to the crisis.
Ten days later the details were thrashed out in Harare and formal talks
between the MDC (this hated â^À^Üpuppet of the Westâ^À^Ý) and Zanu PF
eventually got underway and have been going on for the past 8 months.
That they have taken place at all is a remarkable victory for the MDC and
its allies. That the region has supported the process and insisted that the
MDC was a key player is equally astonishing. 18 months ago no one in Zanu PF
would have said that this would happen â^À^Ó not in a â^À^Üthousand
yearsâ^À^Ý to recall the words of another tyrant in another era!
Then came the key decision by the MDC to walk out of the process if certain
fundamental principles were not recognised and worked into the final
agreement. These were principally centred around the issues related to the
electoral system and its management, together with the fact that despite the
commitment to the talks and to trying to resolve the crisis in leadership
democratically, the Zanu PF regime and its thugs had continued to rain down
on the MDC and its structures political violence on a scale that threatened
the whole process.
The MDC action stirred the South African leadership back into action and
last week President Mbeki made a short stop over in Harare to see the main
leaders and to resolve the logjam in the talks. The talks resumed
immediately after his visit and a revised deadline for the final outcome was
set as the 15th of December.
I remain convinced that no one can walk away from this process. The
continual praise that Mr. Mugabe heaps on the SADC leadership and South
Africa for its role in the process is a smoke screen for what is a very
difficult situation for Zanu PF. They simply cannot afford to alienate the
SADC and are being forced to accept reforms that endanger their grip on
power and their ability to dictate the outcome of the next election. To
their fury, the MDC has been given a veto over those issues and we have now
used this to force through changes that suddenly make the near impossible
We are going to have an election and I still think it will be in March 2008.
We will not have anything like normal conditions for the campaign leading to
the elections but at least we will be able to say to the people of this
country â^À^Ó you can all vote, vote in secret and the recording and
reporting of your vote will not be tampered with this time. Perhaps, just
perhaps, we will have a chance to change our government democratically.
In March 2006 there was no way we could have envisaged this situation. It is
a real victory for the democratic forces here and for the friends we have
across the globe. It is also a victory for African leadership and if we can
pull it off, it will help put Africaâ^À^Ùs image back on track as a
continent of democratic change and hope. But for this to happen we still
have a lot to do and a way to go. On our part we will stick to our position
without compromise, prepare for the elections by selecting candidates (over
2000 of them) and putting our policies in place and in front of the
Then itâ^À^Ùs up to you out there â^À^Ó vote and vote wisely. Do not waste
your vote on anyone who cannot deliver change and whose policies and stand
is not absolutely clear. We have struggled to get us all this chance to
resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe â^À^Ó without violence, legally and within a
recognised political framework. The rest is up to us â^À^Ó all of us who
live here and hold citizenship.
Bulawayo, 27th November 2007