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Homeless but not hopeless in Africa

††††† The Times (London)
††††† December 23, 2006
††††† by Pius Ncube

††††† Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, when we relive the mystery of
God come among us as Man gives us as much cause to reflect on the nature of
humanity as on the nature of the Godhead.

††††† Paramount to the story of the Nativity is that God took on our human
nature; that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and
truth. This truth brings back to us with great force the dignity of human
beings. A dignity that cries out to us from the depths of suffering,
oppression and pain. When God became Man in Palestine He made Himself the
hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one.

††††† The Christmas story is not a comfortable one. In Bulawayo and the
surrounding region of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe the lives of the children,
the women and the men I am called to serve are not comfortable either. So
often people spend two days before their next meal. For many this Christmas
will not only be one without presents, but one without food as well.

††††† For them the story of Our Lord's birth, life and death has too many
resonances and echoes. Hearing of their Saviour born in Bethlehem in a
stable because there was no room at the inn, many of them will remember the
homelessness they and their little ones suffered when the cruel Mugabe
regime that oppresses our people tore down their homes last year.

††††† Through Operation Murambatsvina or "Clear Out Rubbish", hundreds of
thousands were made homeless by a government that cares more about
preserving its own power than looking after its people; it was a callous
affront to human dignity.

††††† The Lord Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a simple manger; He
was not born among the rich or the powerful. I long for our political
leaders in their mansions and Mercedes-Benz to hear the call to serve their
people, for them to hold out their hands across boundaries to protect the
weak, the lowly and the oppressed.

††††† Our Government, like King Herod, hunts down those who present a threat
to its lust for power and privilege. Just as the Holy Innocents, all the
baby boys in Judaea, were slaughtered to protect Herod's place on the
throne, so in Zimbabwe food supplies are manipulated and whole districts
deprived of food for not showing political loyalty to a dictatorial regime.

††††† The Holy Family was forced to flee into exile and find safety in
Egypt, and millions of Zimbabweans have fled the terror, hunger and
desperation of our land to live in exile. We ask for kindness and patience
in those countries where Zimbabweans seek refuge and try to lead normal

††††† As we celebrate the birth of Jesus we know that the story moves
forward to His death at the age of 33. For most of the world that is
regarded as young and Our Lord's life as a short one. Not in Zimbabwe any
more; in the past couple of decades our average life expectancy has been
halved to stand only in the mid-30s. An average of 500 people die of Aids
every day. We have 1.3 million orphans and many child-headed families. Often
a girl of 15, who has lost both parents, has to look after three or four
younger siblings. Disease, malnutrition and economic mismanagement leading
to lack of medicines and clinic facilities are cutting swaths through our

††††† Yet still for mile after mile along the dusty roads of Zimbabwe you
will see the families of the faithful, walking through the night to be at
church on Christmas Day ready to celebrate the birth of their Saviour.

††††† Poor, sick, orphaned, ill-dressed and unshod these, the very humblest
in human terms, are the treasures of the Church. As they walk beneath the
clear starlit African night joining with Christians around the world to hear
again the Christmas story they will be reminded of the message of the angels
in the skies above Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

††††† For such expressions we give thanks. We thank also all those who have
supported us in different ways in countries across the world. When we sing
of a midnight clear and glorious, a song of old, let us give thanks and
reflect, making a special prayer for all those who suffer oppression, not
only in Zimbabwe but for the many troubled spots across the world: Iraq, the
Middle East, the Darfur region and the tsunami victims, to name a few.

††††† May we listen to the message of the angels: "Peace on the Earth, good
will to men, from Heaven's all gracious King." Oh hush the noise, ye men of
strife, and hear the angels sing!

††††† Pius Ncube is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

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Little Christmas cheer in impoverished, troubled Zimbabwe

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: December 24, 2006

HARARE, Zimbabwe: A street entertainer put the shell of a broken television
over his head, mimicked a TV performer and invited passers-by to do the same
to make their children laugh - for a small donation.

"Hey, and you don't need electricity for this television," he quipped about
the daily power outages, then collected small denomination bank notes -
there are no coins in hyperinflationary Zimbabwe.

His performance gave some cheer in an otherwise gloomy Harare shopping mall,
where luxuries and basic foodstuffs are out of the reach of most Zimbabweans
preparing Sunday for a bleak Christmas.

A block away, thousands joined chaotic lines waiting for buses to their
rural homes, where urban Zimbabweans traditionally spend the holidays with
their families.

Fewer buses are running this year and conductors, known as touts, deepened
the misery by taking bribes to let passengers onto their overcrowded

"This is horrible. I don't have any more money," said John Midzi, a casual
laborer who slept the night at the bus park and was abandoning his journey
to Mutoko, 140 kilometers (88 miles) northeast of the capital.
Fares went up overnight too, he said.

There were safety concerns over overcrowding and poor maintenance on buses
and from drivers suffering from fatigue after working long hours to increase
turnaround times, the Transport and Allied Workers union said Sunday.

"In their mad rush to make money, virtually all bus operators knowingly
break these health and safety precautions," said union spokesman Charles

The worst economic crisis since independence in 1980 has led to acute
shortages of gasoline, spare parts and tires for aging buses. Routine water
and power outages across the nation have affected homes, repair shops,
businesses and factories, few of whom have been able to pay seasonal bonuses
to their workers.

With record unemployment, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries estimates
most key factories are operating at below 30 percent of capacity.

Caretakers and ground staff at one residential complex in Harare had
received no pay by Sunday for December after the real estate firm managing
the complex said occupiers failed to pay their regular contributions to the
wage bill.

Zimbabwe is suffering official inflation of 1,090 percent, the highest in
the world.

The price of scarce flour and bread, traditional fare for the poor at
Christmas, doubled on Friday to 700 Zimbabwe dollars (US$2.80 ?2.15 at the
official exchange rate). Scarce gasoline sells on the black market for seven
times the official price.

The U.S. dollar fetched at least 2,600 Zimbabwe dollars on the black market
this week. The official exchange rate set by the central bank is 250
Zimbabwe dollars to US$1.

In the bizarre economy of this troubled southern African nation the cheapest
"economy beef" cost US$34 (?26.2) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) at the official
rate or US$3.20 (?2.50) at the unofficial rate.

But only Zimbabwe's elite and families of 3.5 million Zimbabweans who have
fled abroad and send money home have access to hard currency for illegal
black market deals.

According to United Nations estimates, most impoverished Zimbabweans live on
one meal or less a day. Nearly two million are currently receiving food aid.

Charities have reported rural poor eating field mice and offal from
abattoirs that would otherwise be mashed into pet food.

In well-to-do suburbs of the cities, supermarkets reported the lowest
December turnover since independence.

Power outages this month have frequently extinguished Christmas lights - far
fewer this year than in the past. A tattered wooden display pyramid
appealing for donations to the Harare Mayor's Christmas Cheer Fund looked in
need of some charity itself as it had not received a lick of paint since
last year.

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Hundreds Stranded At Mbare

The Herald (Harare)

December 23, 2006
Posted to the web December 23, 2006


HUNDREDS of travellers were yesterday stranded at Mbare Musika after failing
to get transport to their various destinations for the Christmas holiday.

Some had to put up at the bus terminus last night after failing to get
transport to their rural homes.

The worst affected routes were Nyanga, Chiredzi, Wedza, Mutare and Murehwa.

Travellers said they had spent the day at the terminus jostling to board the
few buses available and others had resolved to sleep over at the rank to try
their luck today.

Travellers, drivers and conductors interviewed said there were few buses
plying long distance routes.

The shortage was tempting some bus operators to increase fares.

"I was here by 6am today but there are only two buses plying the
Harare-Nyanga route and only those bribing the conductors managed to board
the buses," said Mr Albert Zambezi, who wanted to travel to Nyanga.

He said the two buses were charging $10 000 instead of the gazetted $7 000
and to get a seat on one of the two buses, one had to fork out at least $5
000 to the conductors and drivers, in addition to the increased fare.

Geshen Muchabayiwa, who wanted to travel to Chiredzi, said he had failed to
get transport to his rural home since Wednesday.

"I came here yesterday (Wednesday) in the afternoon and although there are
quite a number of buses travelling to Chiredzi, there is also a large number
of people travelling to our area," he said.

He said he had been forced to send his family back home on realising that
the buses were charging $16 000 instead of the gazetted $8 500.

Some bus drivers and conductors attributed the shortage of buses to the
unavailability of spare parts.

"The unavailability of foreign currency to procure spare parts has forced
some bus owners to withdraw their buses from plying long distance journeys
and most of them are now resorting to commuting in urban areas.

"As a result, there is an acute shortage of buses and I think travellers
will be stranded here until next week. I am sure the operators will continue
to increase their fares as the demand for buses is fast increasing as we are
approaching Christmas Day," said Mr Tonderai Samuriwo, a driver with
Musasiwa Bus Service.

He said they were increasing fares to maximise profits.

"People are no longer travelling as often as they used to and we have to
capitalise on this holiday to keep ourselves in business."

More travellers were last night jostling to board trains to Bulawayo and
Mutare at the National Railways of Zimbabwe Station in Harare.

People are resorting to using trains because they are cheaper than buses.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe United Passenger Company chief executive officer Mr
Gwinyai Chikowore also cited the shortage of foreign currency as the main
factor causing transport problems.

He said his company had managed to refurbish only one bus this year out of a
target of 15.

The Government has instructed Zupco to increase its fleet of buses to 1 500
from the present 300 so that it increases its presence around the country.

Zupco is rebuilding old buses and plans were underway to increase the fleet
to cover all 59 rural districts in Zimbabwe.

NRZ has suspended the commuter train service and introduced additional
inter-city passenger trains to cater for holiday travellers.

The firm's public relations manager, Mr Fanuel Masikati, said extra coaches
had been added to all inter-city passenger trains.

Normal commuter train services in Harare and Bulawayo will resume on January
2 next year.

He said the holiday special train service was a demonstration of the
parastatal's commitment to providing affordable and alternative mode of
transport to the public.

"The NRZ would like to advise the travelling public that special passenger
train service arrangements have been put in place to ferry people to their
various destinations during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

"The NRZ is geared to ferry passengers during the festive season and would
like to appeal to the travelling public to book and buy tickets before the
day of travel in order to avoid inconveniences," he said in a statement.

Mr Masikati said there would be day passenger trains between Harare and
Mutare travelling in both directions until tomorrow.

The trains leave Harare and Mutare at 9am and arrive at their respective
destinations at 5pm.

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No Rice and Chicken This Christmas


††††† December 24, 2006,

††††† By Makusha Mugabe

††††† Children in Harare's Barbour's Department Store clutch Barbie Dolls
worth three times the average monthly salary of a Zimbabwean worker and
middle-ranking army officers buy houses in Borrowdale Brook which would have
cost five life-times savings for them to buy. Meanwhile the rest of the 80%
of Zimbabweans cannot afford the traditional chicken and rice Christmas
Dinner. Our correspondent Chipo Shoko tried and make heads and tails of the
situation and files this report.

††††† Gilded smiling half-moons on red crÍpe paper in the window of Barbours
Department store in First Street put customers in the festive spirit. On
extended shopping hours Christmas shoppers crush around the third-floor
children's department till. Harassed mothers in the latest fitted-denim
skirts from South Africa watch toddlers eyeing an American punch ball set, a
selection of Barbie dolls and accessories and some Fisher Price-imitation
lorries. One little girl with tight braids clutches a giant pink teddy bear.
Price: ZWD$101,000 dollars, three times the average monthly wage! Welcome to
President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, land of famine, food shortages and
contrasts. Things have changed little at the venerable Barbours since the
1950s except that now there is barely a white customer in sight, strange
kind of Cloud Cuckooland, especially when one knows that there is the
poverty and desperation with millions in Zimbabwe going hungry. The World
Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to cut rations for 3.3 million people
after donors failed to contribute sufficient funds - tragic as the cuts have
come at a time when people are normally celebrating the festive season. "If
we are not given food or cash by donors, then we are simply unable to meet
their food needs," said Mike Sackett, the WFP regional director for southern
Africa. Inflation is admitted by the government to have reached 1090%:per
year but is much higher according to independent analysts. Unemployment is
more than 80 per cent and a recent report of a homeless woman in Harare
selling a four-month-old baby for $100,000 has just added a face to the
statistics. Meanwhile Beverly Hills-style mansions are going up along
Crowhill Road in the exclusive Borrowdale Brooke suburb. Shiny new Pajeros
4x4s trundle nose-to-nose out of town on Friday nights, despite official
fuel shortages. The acting mayor, Sekesai Makwavarara, has just ordered
herself a new vehicle worth Z$200billion although thousands of Harare
residents lack safe drinking water, which explains why she ditched her
party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), if she was eer really a
member and not a Mugabe mole. Moneyed shoppers, black and white, patronise
Borrowdale Brooke's new marble-floored Spar superstore offering Albany
Christmas mince pies, giant focaccia bread and fresh oysters - diplomats and
foreign aid workers the main buyers, their hard currency fetching up to 10
times its official value when traded on the parallel market. That makes high
life very cheap for them. But as they buy they mingle with those using
stolen money. John Robertson, a local economist, says speculation, black
market trading and shady deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "There
have been a lot of activities that would not be allowed to continue if
everyone was working to acceptable standards of honesty." Some of those
living in Borrowdale Brooke suburb are colonels and army officers who would
never be able to afford that kind of standard of living on their official
salaries alone. "I think a great many people would have a hard time
explaining to a decent tax collector how they bought something that would
have taken five lifetimes to pay for." Robertson says those with government
connections may get scarce US dollars at an old fixed exchange rate of $250
to US$1, which they can then trade on at $3,000 to US$1. Senior government
cronies also get tax-free imports. Luxury goods can be imported cheaply and
sold on at enormous profit. Zimbabwe is believed to have the biggest market
for luxury vehicles on the continent, after SouthAfrica. Four miles away,
Glen Lorne's Town and Country store is busy, but few shoppers bother with
baskets. Most clutch just one or two items: a packet of Lacto (sour milk),
two bread rolls or a bag of carrots. Few will be eating chicken and rice
this year, the traditional Shona Christmas fare.

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A defiant voice

Worcester Telegram, Massachusetts

††††† Sunday, December 24, 2006

African journalist delivers news from afar

††††† By Winston W. Wiley TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

WORCESTER- From his Vernon Hill apartment - half a world away from his
native Zimbabwe - Geoffrey Nyarota keeps close tabs on what's happening in
his homeland.

But these days, the exiled former editor-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Daily News
uses a different medium to share his discoveries with his countrymen, who he
is convinced are unlikely to find the information anywhere else. Most
Zimbabweans rely on government-owned sources of news for their information
and most of that news tends to be censored, he said.

"It's what the government wants the people to hear, rather than what is
actually happening on the ground," he said during an interview in his
second-floor apartment, where he lives with his wife, Ursula, and daughter,

Recent editions of Mr. Nyarota's news Web site carried stories on the
country's reserve bank chief defending against critics who accuse him of
making illegal payments to struggling government companies, the government's
Central Intelligence Organization and the army being deemed major human
rights violators and an international human rights group expressing shock
over alleged rights abuses by state agents. These kinds of stories are
standard fare that in years past might have earned Mr. Nyarota a late-night
visit from security forces and an overnight stay in a jail cell.

"The Internet, that's the loophole in their media-control setup," he said.

Publishing online from outside the country removes the worry of being
harassed, arrested or killed or of having his equipment destroyed by
saboteurs. "And they can't steal your copies on the street, which they used
to do," he said. But, he concedes, the Internet may not be the most
effective news delivery system for a nation with an 80 percent poverty rate.
Most Zimbabweans with access to computers live outside the country, he said.

Even though the online publication is only three months old, Mr. Nyarota,
55, has been a thorn in the side of his government for almost three decades,
first working for government-owned publications, including two of the
country's largest newspapers in Bulawayo and the capital city of Harare,
then launching his own newspaper.

The news Web site,, is his latest media venture aimed
at informing the south central African nation's more than 12.7 million
people, whom Mr. Nyarota says are "starved of meaningful information." The
country has a 90.7 percent literacy rate, the highest in Africa.

As managing editor of the Web site, Mr. Nyarota receives contributions from
journalists in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Great Britain and the United States.
Edited from his apartment, the endeavor seemingly picks up where he left off
when he fled Zimbabwe in 2003 with the realization that "I had somewhat
exhausted my nine cat lives," he said.

Government harassment, lawsuits, jail and a hired assassin all failed to
silence the voice Mr. Nyarota's Daily News raised to spotlight government
fraud, corruption and oppression and to level the political playing field
for opposition party candidates.

Even a 2001 bomb attack that destroyed the publication's press and the
facility that housed it couldn't quiet the paper. With the help of private
commercial printers, the paper never missed a beat during the more than a
year it took to raise money, rebuild and get a new press, Mr. Nyarota said.

No one was ever prosecuted in the attack, whose perpetrators were likely
stunned to see it reported in the Daily News on Jan. 29, 2001, the day after
the explosion authorities said was caused by four highly-charged devices. It
came days after Jonathan Moyo, then-minister of state for information and
publicity, threatened to silence the newspaper, alleging it was a security
risk to the nation, the Daily News reported.

Mr. Nyarota said the Daily News, which was finally banned by the government
in 2003 when police raided the office, seized equipment and ordered staff
off the premises, represented a threat not only to the power structure of
the Zimbabwean government, but also an economic one.

When Mr. Nyarota started at the paper in April 1999, the paper quickly
challenged the supremacy of the Herald, the nation's largest,
government-owned daily newspaper. The Herald had a nationwide circulation of
165,000 when the Daily News began publishing, he said. Within a year, the
Herald had plummeted to 50,000 while demand for the Daily News had topped
129,500 copies, Mr. Nyarota said.

"So there was enough ground there for confrontation," he said.

Ironically, it was the Herald that gave the then-27-year-old secondary
school teacher the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a
journalist when it picked Mr. Nyarota among 12 other African black men for
its new training program in 1978. The recruitment effort coincided with an
accord that year for Prime Minister Ian Smith to cede control from the
conservative white minority government of what was then Rhodesia to the
black majority by Dec. 31.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who had been a leader in the black
nationalist movement, won a landslide victory in the country's first
multiracial elections in 1980. He established and governed under a one-party
socialist state until 1990, when he instituted multiparty elections. But,
according to Mr. Nyarota, President Mugabe's government, largely through its
tight rein on the media, kept opposition party leaders from getting out
their message.

"We started giving voice to the opposition, voice to the voiceless, and it
became very popular," Mr. Nyarota said. "The Daily News became the most
popular newspaper in the country, the most sought-after newspaper in the
country, after only a year."

President Mugabe, however, has called the paper a mouthpiece of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which challenged him in a close
election in 2000. Mr. Nyarota has denied the charge. In a 2001
story, he maintained that the paper was politically independent and had been
frequently critical of the MDC, as well.

His whole career, Mr. Nyarota says, he faced hostility from the government
because of the investigative reporting for which he and the paper developed
a reputation.

In 1988, as editor of the country's second largest newspaper, The Chronicle,
Mr. Nyarota exposed irregular deals by some members of President Mugabe's
Cabinet and other senior government officials. The officials were using
their positions and influence to buy vehicles from the state-owned
Willowvale Mazda car assembly plant for a discounted price and reselling
them at "highly inflated" prices.

The scandal, which became known as Willowgate, lead to the resignations of
four top officials and the suicide of a fifth. Shortly after the stories
broke, Mr. Nyarota was dismissed as editor by the paper's management for his
"own safety," he said.

"Although Mugabe had personally sanctioned the investigation, he went back
on his word when he informed the nation that I had been fired from the
government-owned newspaper because I was overzealous," Mr. Nyarota wrote in
his book, "Against the Grain, Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman" published
earlier this year by Zebra Press in South Africa.

Fearful for his life, he went into exile for several years after that,
teaching journalism in South Africa, and returning to Zimbabwe in 1997. This
time, he would work to establish his own, independent newspaper in response
to "a public calling" for an alternative to "the government sanitized
version of news," he said.

His task would not be easy. In just over 3-1/2 years at the Daily News, Mr.
Nyarota was arrested six times, the paper was bombed twice and he received
several death threats.

While casing the newspaper offices in downtown Harare, a would-be assassin
hired by Innocent Mugabe, son of Robert Mugabe's sister and a high-ranking
officer in the Central Intelligence Organization, rode an elevator with Mr.
Nyarota. The two men struck up a conversation. The hit man, Bernard Masara,
was so taken by Mr. Nyarota that he scrapped the plan to kill him, Mr.
Nyarota said. Two days later, Mr. Masara returned to the paper, revealed the
entire plot and handed Mr. Nyarota the evidence to prove it, he said.

With Mr. Nyarota and other senior editors listening on a speaker phone, the
hit man pretended to negotiate with his handler for more money and openly
discussed the scheme, Mr. Nyarota said. The Daily News investigated for
several more days and then published details of the plot, including the
names of officials involved. The practice that had marked Mr. Nyarota for
death in the first place - publicly exposing government schemes and shady
dealings - was now keeping him alive.

"Going public, that became my protection," he said.

He lost that source of protection on Dec. 30, 2002, when he resigned,
pre-empting a dismissal by the paper's new executive chairman, he said. He
then realized it was time to get out of town. When police came knocking at
midnight at his home, he had already packed his bags and gone into hiding
outside the city. His wife bought him a plane ticket, and he returned to
Harare to pick it up and flew south to Johannesburg, South Africa. By the
end of the month, his wife and children had joined him and the family was
soon on its way to the United States.

Eight months later, the Daily News was shut down by the government after the
news staff refused to comply with a new law requiring them to register with,
and be accredited by, a newly established government commission, Mr. Nyarota
says in his book.

Although the paper's staff eventually relented and agreed to register, their
overture was rejected and the paper was banned.

In May 2002, eight months before Mr. Nyarota fled the country, the Committee
to Protect Journalists had named Zimbabwe among the 10 worst countries to
work as a journalist.

The New York-based nonprofit said President Mugabe's government had detained
more than 50 journalists, tortured at least two and filed more than three
dozen lawsuits against reporters and their news outlets during the two prior

The Committee to Protect Journalists alerted the Nieman Foundation for
Journalism, at Harvard University, to Mr. Nyarota's predicament. The
foundation provides fellowships to journalists who are persecuted in their
own countries and Mr. Nyarota was granted one. He later was awarded a second
fellowship from Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. His search
for more affordable housing landed him in Worcester.

"He was already on our radar as someone who was a target of the Mugabe
administration," said Elisabeth Witchel, journalist assistance program
coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

She has documented the cases of more than 90 Zimbabwean journalists living
in exile, some for economic reasons, but many for political reasons. She
credited Mr. Nyarota with raising international awareness of a growing
repression of the press in Zimbabwe.

"Geoff is a good example of someone who has shown a lot of courage in this
field and taken a lot of risks and certainly he has paid a lot of
consequences for it," she said.

While not embraced by his government, his work has earned him nine
international journalism awards and recognitions, including some from the
United Nations.

Now a visiting professor of political studies at Bard College in upstate New
York, he struggles with the challenges of maintaining a household in a
foreign land while continuing to try to make a difference back home.

"When you start a newspaper in a situation of tyranny, your paper becomes a
symbol of hope for an otherwise hopeless, frustrated nation," he said in
explaining sacrifices he has made to expose problems in his country.

"Once you are viewed for creating such a paper, you can't abandon it at the
first sign of trouble. You are betraying people who have trusted their faith
in you."

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Zim's woes swell flood of illegals


††††† Jeremy Gordin
††††††††† December 24 2006 at 09:27AM

††††† The number of Zimbabweans trying to escape their country's economic
meltdown by making an illegal exodus to South Africa grows every night.

††††† And the hunger of Zimbabweans and Mozambicans who live close to the
Kruger National Park (KNP) has pushed up the number of poachers invading the
park in search of food.

††††† According to figures published by Human Rights Watch - but unconfirmed
by the South African government - South Africa last year deported 200 000
illegal immigrants at a cost of R218-million. Most of them were deported to
Zimbabwe but many were sent back to Botswana or Mozambique.

††††† Human Rights Watch estimated that between 1,2 million and 3 million
Zimbabweans live illegally in South Africa. Last year, according to
statistics compiled by the department of home affairs, of 16 000
applications for refugee status only 114 were granted.

††††† A licensed ranger and former member of the KNP's anti-poaching unit,
who asked not to be named, said that one night last week he saw the police
"pick up" a group of about 650 Zimbabweans close to the military corridor on
the Zimbabwe-South Africa border at the north-western edge of the park.

††††† "It's a common sight, nothing unusual," the 25-year-old ranger said.

††††† "Zimbabweans are hungry. They walk across the Limpopo river into South
Africa at night. They get onto the game paths and they trudge. They don't
seem to worry, or can't afford to worry, about the dangerous animals here:
the crocodiles, the lions, the elephants."

††††† Mantshele Tau, a senior official in the department of home affairs,
said on Saturday that South Africa was deporting "approximately" 2 000
Zimbabweans a month and that this number seemed to be constant.

††††† Tau said that his figure was for people apprehended, held in police
cells in Musina and trucked back across the border.

††††† He conceded that "obviously" there were thousands of people who came
into the country every month but were not caught.

††††† "It's no good pretending that this is not happening," said Tau. "It
is. And there's no point in saying that we have a good handle on the number
of Zimbabweans in South Africa because we don't know where most of them are.
We only know about deportations.

††††† "Internationally, deportations are on the increase," said Tau.

††††† "If your country is the big economy in the region, people from
neighbouring countries are going to head there. Look at the US and Mexico."

††††† The ranger said that the economic plight of the Zimbabweans,
Mozambicans and South Africans living close to the KNP had increased

††††† The number of poachers, especially so-called subsistence poachers, who
kill only to feed their families, is steadily increasing.

††††† This was confirmed by Raymond Travis, a spokesperson for the KNP.

††††† "Anyone involved in trying to stop poachers will tell you that it's
not a battle that can be won," said Travis. "You can't end poaching - all
you can try to do is manage it."

††††† The ranger said it was worrying that some of the Zimbabwean poachers
were well-armed, often with guns left over from the Rhodesian war of more
than two decades ago.

††††† "When you have to face poachers armed with automatic weapons, things
get a bit hairy," he said.

††††† "Recently we received reports of a group, either local or from
Zimbabwe, who came into the park with dogs. They were obviously after
leopards. I went out to track them but didn't find them."

††††† Travis said that two KNP rangers had recently come across a group who
had crossed the Mozambican border. One of the gang was carrying an AK-47
rifle and the rangers exchanged fire with him.

††††† Travis said poachers in it for the money tended to be well-armed and
organised, and were after rhino horn and ivory, and leopards and wild dogs.

††††† Then there were the "food poachers", some of whom were involved in the
lucrative bush-meat trade, whereas others want only to fill their stomachs
and those of their families.

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Chaos at Gatwick as Air Zimbabwe fails passengers - AGAIN

From SW Radio Africa, 23 December

By Violet Gonda

Air Zimbabwe passengers who were scheduled to fly from London to Harare on
Thursday were still stuck at Gatwick airport by late Saturday afternoon.
Some of the passengers who spoke to SW Radio Africa said at first the
airliner tried to hide behind the weather problems, which have resulted in
the cancellations of other airlines, but were later told the plane was not
ready because of a technical fault. This has inconvenienced scores of
passengers desperate to spend Christmas holidays back home. Some passengers
tried in vain to get refunds on Thursday so they could make alternative
arrangements. One of them was travelling for his mother's burial scheduled
for Saturday. A passenger speaking on condition of anonymity said; "We
arrived on time on Thursday afternoon to check in but by 5pm nothing
happened. And today we were supposed to check in at 9am but the Air Zim reps
just disappeared like they did on Thursday. Vanished, which is frightening!"

Another irate passenger who refused to be identified said she spoke with an
Air Zim station manager - a man she named as Ezekiel Ngoni, who told her
that engineers only arrived from Harare on Saturday morning. She said; "Even
though we have checked in I am told the engineers are working right now and
the blades have been taken off the plane. Nobody knows whether the plane is
going to go today or tomorrow." The chaos has also resulted in a backlog of
people who were supposed to fly on Thursday and those who were supposed to
fly Saturday, all turning up at the airport. Some of the passengers were by
Saturday afternoon being given £7 vouchers to buy food. This is not the
first time that the national airliner has left passengers stranded due to
fuel problems, lack of foreign currency to pay airport service charges to
some of the vendors at different international airport and failure to meet
the high maintenance cost of their ageing fleet. It's reported that some
aviation representatives at Gatwick are fed up with the chaos that the
troubled airliner continues to cause at the airport. They are not the alone.
A passenger said; "While Zimbabweans want to continue to support their
national airline, the national airline is making it difficult for people to
stay loyal to them."

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Illegal cross border traders deported

From The Sunday Mirror, 24 December

Own Correspondent

Hundreds of illegal cross border traders from Zimbabwe have for the past
three weeks been deported from Mozambique for flouting that country's
immigration regulations. But some of the deportees especially females
complained that they were being harassed and beaten by Mozambican security
agents before being deported. Mozambican police in the towns of Chimoio and
Gondola were last week rounding up illegal Zimbabwean traders who cross into
that country to sell various wares and buy goods for re-sell back home. At
Mango, a settlement 4 km from Machipanda Border Post, some border jumpers
said Mozambican police were carrying out raids twice a week on suspected
hideouts for illegal traders. Last week, 150 women and five men were picked
up in Gondola and Chimoio and deported to Zimbabwe. Thabetha Sibindi (24)
from Mutare told The Sunday Mirror that before her deportation after being
arrested in Chimoio, she was beaten up by the police. "The police here are
very mean, they subjected me to all sorts of harassment,," Sibindi said. But
when asked if she had proper traveling documents, Sibindi said she had
entered Mozambique through an illegal crossing point as she did not have a
valid passport.

Monica Kandawi from Rusape said besides the beatings, they were forced to
surrender money and goods when arrested. "After the beatings they take
everything from you and force you to pay fines," Kandawi said. During a raid
last Thursday evening at Mango, Mozambican police armed with pistols and
sjamboks rounded up more than 50 people and handed them to the immigration
department. Mozambican police said the raids were carried out to rid the
country of illegal immigrants. Manica Police spokesperson Justinho Matoekas
said the raids were routine and a "normal procedure" to maintain peace and
order. "The police carry out raids on foreigners and locals they feel are
being involved in shade deals. These raids are not specifically targeted on
Zimbabweans but all illegal immigrants without proper documentation," said
Matoekas. In January this year, more than 3 000 Zimbabweans were deported
from South Africa for flouting that country's immigration regulations. Some
Zimbabweans are reportedly illegally crossing into neighboring countries
where they sell and buy goods for re-sell back home. Around two million
Zimbabweans are estimated to be living in South Africa, many of them
illegally. Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Immigration Department
were fruitless.

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Robert Mugabe to CEO of Cryogenics Inc

From The Financial Mail (SA), 22 December

Dear Sir,

May the blessings of the festive season rain vigorously down upon your head,
always presuming of course that you are neither a homosexual nor a lackey of
the capitalist running dog Blair. Now on to business. The people of
Zimbabwe, long may they be blessed with immaculate political vision, have
decreed that they are almost unanimously in favour of my becoming President
for Life of our happy and prosperous little country. This, of course, I will
do for them. But I have been thinking of late that having purged the
political structures of Zanu PF so effectively that there is nobody in
proximity to power who could arrange a bunch of flowers, let alone run a
country, I must do more. I cannot leave my beloved people leaderless,
rudderless in the maelstrom of continued attempts by the former colonial
powers to upset the ship of state with their continual racist harping on
trifles of democracy, agricultural output and the maintenance of a
functioning economy.

Perhaps we could arrange that upon my death, not that I would ever suggest
that such a disappointing eventuality is inevitable, my mortal remains be
frozen, to be brought back to life when technology advances sufficiently for
a second coming, but that my brain be kept active so that I can continue in
the interim to drive Zimbabwe into a defiantly postcolonial future. Your
immediate reply would be appreciated greatly, since we have reached such a
state of anxiety about the future that even my old friend Mohammed Al Fayed
is refusing to extend the credit limit on my dear wife's Harrods card into
eight figures (sterling, let me assure you, not Zim dollars or I'd really be

Yrs eyeing up the deep freeze,

Happy Christmas,

His Excellency, the President for Life, Robert Gabriel Mugabe

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