|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
This message is going out to a broad cross section of people (and it may
get forwarded to many more), some of who are very familiar with the
situation in Zimbabwe, and some of who probably only really get to hear
about Zimbabwe when I talk about it. This may interest you or it may not;
if it doesn't, you won't hurt my feelings if you delete it unread. If you
do read it and you are not intimately familiar with African history, be
prepared to see race discussed in a manner that may not be familiar to you
as a non-African. Be assured that race is a very real issue in Africa, for
both whites and blacks, and Africans (both black and white) are not shy (as
Westerners are) about discussing racial issues and dealing with it in their
everyday lives. If you are already familiar with Zimbabwe, I apologise for
explaining some things that you probably already know. This account is also
long and detailed (so I have divided it into sections for easy reading),
and probably way too philosophical. Oh well.
I thought that writing about my ten days in Zimbabwe would be fairly easy.
I thought that I'd see all sorts of things to confirm the media reports
that we occasionally see in the Western media: queues for petrol (and signs
at petrol stations saying they had no petrol); dispossessed and homeless
farmers; lawlessness on the part of the police and army; riot police
beating peaceful demonstrators, including members of the clergy; farm land
lying fallow; "war veterans" standing menacingly at the gates to farms;
etc. All of this has happened and does happen, but I didn't see any of it.
First of all, let me describe the grand extent of my visit to Zimbabwe and
give you some personal background. I was born in Rhodesia (as it was then)
and still have family in Zimbabwe (as it is now). My immediate family and I
left Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (as it was briefly) in 1979 when I was 12. On this
trip (not my first since I left) I arrived in late November 2003 and left
in early December 2003, and spent my time in Harare (the capital city) and
Nyanga (near the eastern border of the country in the province of
Manicaland) and on the road between Harare and Nyanga. For my trip I took
the precaution of registering with the high commission of the country in
which I live -- an unnecessary precaution, as it turns out, but a
precaution nonetheless. I also didn't take my notebook computer with me, my
constant companion because of my business, because I didn't want it to be
the catalyst for any trouble. In particular I didn't want to be mistaken
for a journalist, although my camera and lenses would probably have been a
bigger indicator. I didn't have occasion to go into any grocery shops, but
my host did come out of a shop on one occasion without the sugar he went in
for because they had none. I spent little time in the central business
district (CBD) of Harare. I didn't talk politics with many people because
that would have been dangerous, for them and/or for me -- I was warned that
there are ZANU-PF plants in bars, and that talking politics in such public
places was simply not a good idea, as you could be talking to a plant or be
overheard by a plant. (ZANU-PF [often shortened to just ZANU or Zanu]
stands for Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front, and is the
name of the ruling party in Zimbabwe.) I did not go looking for a "story"
and I did not venture off the main road between Harare and Nyanga, although
we did do a fair bit of driving around Nyanga.
To sum up my conflicting emotions (before I've even written about them), I
would say that the good in Zimbabwe is very good, and the bad is very bad.
The climate and the geography remain the same; even mugabe (aka Comrade
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the president and dictator of Zimbabwe and former
leader of the Chinese and North Korean supported guerilla terrorist group
ZANLA, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army) can't change those, short of
dropping nuclear bombs. The lifestyle (for the white population), as far as
I could see, is still hard to beat. The white population is still the same
in many respects: friendly, outgoing and pleasant... if you don't count the
apparent abundance (and tolerance) of wife/girlfriend beaters and
philanderers. (That said, in a country without law and order, to whom would
a beaten wife or girlfriend, especially a white one, turn?) On the other
hand, hanging over all of the good is the threat that at any moment you
could lose it all to state-sponsored terrorism, including the possibility
of losing your life. In the blink of an eye and at the whim of a black,
ZANU-supporting bureaucrat or even peasant you could lose your home, your
business and/or farm, your life savings, your family, your right to live in
the country of your birth, and, as I said before, even your life. This
applies to blacks and whites -- the difference is that the blacks, as the
vast majority in the country, have the political power to effect change or
even to rise up against the dictatorship running the country. On the other
hand, the whites are just along for the ride, whatever happens, good or bad.
PREPARATIONS FOR TRIP -- CURRENCY
My trip to Zimbabwe starts, obviously, long before I arrived there. I
communicated with my family and friends there to tell them that I was
planning a visit and to co-ordinate dates. My communication with these
people had to be circumspect, as it is believed that the government
monitors telecommunications, including e-mail. Do they really? If yes, do
they monitor all of it? Who really knows the answers to those questions,
but the anecdotal evidence is there and the price is too high to take
chances. One network administrator I spoke to there is convinced that the
Zimbabwean government hires American firms to monitor SMTP streams into
Zimbabwe. (In layman's terms, that means eavesdropping on your e-mail as it
is being transferred to or from computers in Zimbabwe, even if that
computer is your personal computer and not a server.) I have my doubts
about this, not because I believe that there are American companies out
there with integrity, but because I am not sure it's feasible or even
possible. Then again, I don't know enough to refute it with any certainty.
Because I didn't know for sure that my communication with my family and
friends could not be monitored, there were questions that remained unasked
until I arrived in Zimbabwe and was able to talk to people face-to-face.
Possibly some of the biggest questions surrounded currency, foreign and
Zimbabwean: How much foreign currency should I bring? How much foreign
currency am I allowed to bring? Can I bring Zimbabwe dollars into the
country? If yes, what is the maximum I can bring in? Where can I change
money in Zimbabwe? What rate will I get if I change money in Zimbabwe --
the official rate, or the black-market rate (which are significantly
different)? If I have foreign currency left when I leave, can I take it out
with me? If I have Zimbabwe dollars left when I leave, can I take them out
with me? If not, can I change them into foreign currency and at what rate?
I didn't have the answers to any of these questions, some of which may seem
absurd to some of you, especially if you have never been to Africa. I could
have asked a Zimbabwean high commission or embassy somewhere, but the rules
in African countries can change overnight or, especially in a country like
Zimbabwe where there is almost no rule of law, be arbitrarily made up
depending on the official you are dealing with at the moment and the colour
of your skin. I didn't ask my family and friends in Zimbabwe because I
didn't want to take the chance that the communication might be intercepted
and they might be implicated in something, such as conspiring to trade
foreign currency on the black market (or "parallel" market, as it is called
A couple of days before I was scheduled to fly from Lusaka to Harare, we
heard stories of people being stopped at roadblocks in Zimbabwe and having
*all* of their foreign currency confiscated. We (my friend in Lusaka and I)
tried to confirm these stories with others who had recently travelled to
Zimbabwe, but nobody we talked to had experienced such a thing. The day I
was scheduled to leave a friend sent me (by e-mail) a copy of a November
17th, 2003, article from "The Guardian" by Andrew Meldrum which made the
allegation about these roadblocks. While I never for a moment considered
cancelling my trip to Zimbabwe, I had to decide what the hell I was going
to do about paying my way while I was there. The very fact that I faced
this conundrum is testimony to the fluidity of the law in Zimbabwe and the
lack of predictability. Here I was, a "tourist" who was determined to get
to Zimbabwe for personal reasons, having to decide how to try and outwit
the government so that I could stay in their country and spend my money
there. If I didn't have family and friends in Zimbabwe that I wanted to see
and was in fact just a regular tourist, I wouldn't have considered Zimbabwe
a feasible destination at all, and would have instead gone to Zambia or
South Africa. Little wonder then that there seem to be hardly any tourists
So what did I end up doing? In Zambia I bought Z$930 000 (at the
black-market rate, of course), about US$150 worth of Zimbabwe currency at
about Z$6000 to US$1. (The official rate [mandated by the Zimbabwean
government] is a little over Z$800 [eight hundred] to US$1.) I bought it
from three different money changers standing on the side of the road
between Lusaka (the capital of Zambia) and Chirundu (a border crossing
between Zambia and Zimbabwe). I had planned to buy Z$1 000 000, but I
cleaned out the three money changers and didn't have time to drive further
looking for another. Again, we had heard that you were only allowed to
bring into Zimbabwe some ridiculous amount like Z$2000, but that won't even
buy a loaf of bread, so the question became, "How much will I declare on
entering Zimbabwe?" I also decided that I needed to take some foreign
currency with me. In the end I took Z$930 000, K500 000 (kwacha, the
Zambian currency, about US$100), US$70 in cash (US$20 hidden so that I
would still be able to pay my departure fee should the other US$50 be
confiscated) and a single US$50 travellers' cheque. (The rest of my foreign
currency I left with a trusted friend in Lusaka. What I took was, I
decided, as much as I was willing to lose.) In case I was forced to sign
over the travellers' cheque, I recorded the number and would have
immediately reported it stolen to American Express.
The Z$930 000 was an impressive sight, as about Z$700 000 of it was made up
of Z$500 notes -- that's 1400 bank notes. I looked like a drug dealer
sitting with my loot. The balance was in bearer cheques each of which
carried an expiry date (some in January and some in June 2004), recently
printed in Zimbabwe in Z$5000, Z$10 000 and Z$20 000 denominations to deal
with the shortage of actual cash in Zimbabwe. I decided to declare Z$200
000 -- the rest I simply tied into bundles and put in my suitcase (my
checked luggage) without trying too hard to conceal it. Had it been
discovered, I would have pleaded ignorance of its existence. Stupid, maybe,
but what were my options? I also declared K200 000, as well as US$50 cash
and US$50 in travellers' cheques -- the balance of my foreign currency
(K300 000 and US$20) I hid. To cover any eventualities, I told my friend in
Lusaka that if he hadn't heard from me by noon the day after I arrived,
then somebody had obviously taken a dislike to me and the undeclared cash
in my possession, and that he should make the necessary phone calls.
Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Leaving Lusaka airport was amusing. I decided to remove the large flash
from my camera bag and in its place I put the Z$200 000 that I would
declare on entry to Zimbabwe. This was a bundle of 400 notes, standing on
end in the compartment where the flash normally sits. It was too big to put
in my pocket or my bum bag, which is why it was in my camera bag. As had
happened previously when I left Lusaka to go to South Africa (and as also
happened after my trip to Zimbabwe when I left Lusaka for London), the
brain trust operating the X-ray machine opened my bag to look inside. The
guy flipped open the compartment containing the wad of cash, didn't bat an
eyelid, closed it, continued with his search, and then sent me on my way
without a word. There was no way to tell, looking at that wad of cash
standing on end, what currency it was. It could have been a wad of US$100
notes (US$40 000) for all he knew. Was he actually thinking (or conscious!)
while he was looking through my bag? If so, what was he looking for? Who
ARRIVAL IN ZIMBABWE
I arrived at Harare International Airport, having spent the flight over
reminding myself what currency I was declaring. On arrival I was impressed
at the sight of the new terminal, both inside and out. However, what
impressed me even more was that it was empty except for two or three
Customs officers and the eight or so passengers from the aeroplane on which
I had just arrived. (The arrivals hall was similarly devoid of humanity,
with only one or two parties there to meet people in addition to the party
who met me.) I filled in the entry form and said that I would be staying in
Zimbabwe for eleven days. Normally I tend to overestimate the number of
days I will be staying in order to maintain a safety margin, but I decided
to declare the exact number of days this time in order not to give anyone
an excuse to accuse me of lying. (Although I stayed only ten days, I was
originally supposed to stay eleven days, but decided to leave a day earlier
than planned to give myself more time in Lusaka before my departure on
December 4th for London.) What I didn't notice until I was well away from
the airport was that, although I had arrived on November 23rd, the entry
stamp in my passport said November 21st. So, despite having been given a
day more than I needed, I was still a day short because the stamp claimed I
had arrived two days earlier than I really had. African incompetence or
African deceit? Who knows. However, having read a story in a "Getaway"
magazine (a southern-African travel magazine) about one of their
journalists who had encountered a similar scenario in Zimbabwe with ugly
consequences, I wouldn't have been surprised if it was the latter. I was
tempted to change the date myself with a pen and scribble some fake
initials under it. However, I was persuaded to go to the Immigration office
in downtown Harare to explain my predicament a day or two later. Those
familiar with African bureaucracy will know what happened next -- the
official behind the desk did exactly what I was planning to do. I asked
him, incredulously, if he would put some sort of official stamp on it so
that it didn't look like I had done it myself, but none was forthcoming.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN ZIMBABWE
My father had asked me to take some photographs of a number of places with
which he had been involved during their construction. My host was actually
quite nervous about my camera, especially when in the CBD of Harare, and so
I think I took only one picture there other than the few I took quickly and
surreptitiously of one of the places my father wanted me to photograph. I
intended to ask permission to take pictures of this particular building,
but I wanted a few in advance in case I was denied permission. As it was,
the administrator was quite happy to give me permission, and I roamed the
grounds by myself taking all the pictures I wanted, both inside and
outside. This particular building still looked quite good and was in a good
state of repair after more than 40 years.
I did not receive such a friendly welcome at my second stop. This time I
didn't take any pictures in advance, and ended up talking to the chief of
public and press relations for this particular place. He listened to my
request, told me to put it in writing, and then went back into his office
and closed the door. (We're not talking about a top secret military base
here!) I looked at his secretary, pulled out my pen, and asked for a piece
of paper. However, I decided not to bother as I didn't know my host's
address or telephone number off by heart and I figured that, even if I did
get a positive written response (or any response at all), there was no way
it would arrive before I left Zimbabwe. So, I put my pen back and promised
to send them a letter. Then I went and took the pictures anyway. In this
case, a world-class structure at a public institution that is barely more
than 20 years old, had fallen into a shocking state of disrepair and
neglect. Very sad.
I happened to arrive when the West Indies were in town to play cricket
against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club. I attended the match on Wednesday,
November 26th (a day I will long remember for personal reasons) and
thoroughly enjoyed the day. Zimbabwe actually beat the West Indies that
day, which was quite an accomplishment. We sat in the sparsely-populated
stands for some of the game, and then spent the rest of the match in the
corporate boxes. In there and in the bar afterwards, you wouldn't have
known that Zimbabwe is a country that has been on the brink (of something)
for several years now. Apparently there is still a lot of money ("obscene"
amounts in some cases, to quote one person) in Harare, much of it fuelled
by dealings in foreign currency. Something that surprised me is that quite
a number of people making their living through foreign currency dealings
are former farmers. Ensure you interpret what I said correctly and realise
that it is based on hearsay -- a significant number of people making their
living through foreign currency deals are former farmers, but in fact it is
only a very few former farmers. Apparently usury is quite rife too.
EXPERIENCE OF A FORMER FARMER
A friend of my host is a former farmer. What I heard about his situation
was very interesting. Apparently, in dealing with ZANU officials on matters
related to his seized farm, he has made "friends" with some of them. This
startled me, quite frankly. How does one become "friends" with people who
are stealing your life and everything you have worked for out from under
you? Good question, so I asked it. These officials claim that they are just
as unhappy with what mugabe is doing to the country as the brutalised white
farmers (and their black employees) are. They claim that, when mugabe is
gone, they will give back (either in whole or in part) the farms that have
been seized and which now lie (for the most part) untended or barely tended
at all. Can these people be believed, or is this pure nonsense and fantasy
on the part of the former farmers? I have an opinion, the former farmer has
an opinion, and only time will tell which of us is right.
DEFORESTATION IN NYANGA AND "WAR
My only full weekend in Zimbabwe was spent in Nyanga. The journey up there
from Harare was uneventful and we were stopped at only a couple of police
road blocks on the way -- fewer than we would have seen on a journey of the
same length in Zambia, but loaded with far more potential for nastiness.
(Zambian road blocks are a joke in comparison, and almost amusing in fact.)
There was nothing remarkable (to me) about what I saw (or didn't see) on
the way up, but we had my host's black gardener with us as he was returning
to that area for a few days to see his children. He has lived in that area
for most of his life, since he was a child, and kept commenting as we drove
along that the area had changed so much for the worse in recent years,
particularly in the last couple of years. I couldn't fully understand
exactly what he was talking about, but he seemed to be referring to
indiscriminate deforestation, presumably undertaken by those (usually
describing themselves as "war veterans") who feel that they have a right to
do to the land whatever they want because it is "theirs". We spent a couple
of nights at a cottage, and the friend of my host with whom we had gone
there commented that the "war veterans" had chopped down quite a few trees
on the property since he was last there. In fact, several trees were cut
down while we were there. Whether or not these people have a legal right to
fall these trees in a country where there is no rule of law is not even
(The term "war veteran" [or "war vet", often pronounced as the single word
"wovet"] deserves some explanation here for those not familiar with
Zimbabwean history. The war referred to is the civil war that took place
starting [depending on how you define the start of an undeclared guerilla
war] sometime during the 1960s or early 1970s and which officially ended in
1980. For those who had trouble with maths in school, the war ended almost
24 years ago now. Many of these people claiming to be "war veterans" are
teenagers -- gangs of thugs organised by ZANU and its youth wing. Even
those in their 20s could not have been older than five years when the war
PRESERVATION OF HISTORY
We visited the Troutbeck Inn for drinks one day -- it was quiet, although
not as dead as the airport was on the day of my arrival. We also visited
the Rhodes Nyanga Hotel, where there is also a small museum. Again, the
hotel didn't seem very busy, although the person we spoke to assured us
that they were quite busy. He gave us a tour of a few rooms (presumably
unoccupied), including the rooms where Cecil John Rhodes (after whom
Rhodesia was named) slept and dined. In fact, the room where he slept still
contains his original furniture. We also had the museum opened so we could
have a look. I have heard stories that the Zimbabwe government has, at
best, ignored the destruction of some of Zimbabwe's historical documents
and artifacts (including Rhodes' grave) and, at worst, encouraged and
participated in it. (History is history and, no matter how odious it might
be to someone, it should be preserved for future generations so that they
may learn from it.) So, it was encouraging to see that the black owners of
this hotel have kept both the name and the museum intact.
FARMERS AND FOREIGN-EXCHANGE RATES
Another place we visited was a farm in the area. We visited the dairy and
drank milkshakes and ate baked goods. This farm was also growing flowers
for export to earn much-needed foreign currency for the country. However,
the problem with such exports is that the goods are sold to the
international market at the official exchange rate, while the farmer has to
pay the black-market rate to buy his inputs. For example (numbers are
purely hypothetical), if a dozen roses sells for US$20, the farmer earns
(at the official rate of Z$800 to US$1) Z$16 000. However, if it costs the
farmer US$10 to grow those roses he has to buy that US$10 at the
black-market rate, meaning it cost him (at the black-market rate of Z$6000
to US$1) Z$60 000 to grow those dozen roses! Look at it another way. Let's
say it costs the farmer US$10 (Z$60 000 at the black-market rate) to grow a
dozen roses. In order to break even, he needs to sell those roses for US$75
(Z$60 000 at the official rate). That's a 650% mark-up! How many businesses
do you know of that can be competitive if they need that big a mark-up just
to break even? Of course, not all inputs are paid for in foreign currency,
particularly labour. However, even though the figures are not precise, they
illustrate a huge problem.
Adjacent to the dairy farm we saw another farm that was apparently being
worked by "war veterans". The only activity we saw there was some workers
trying to fix a tractor that was loaded with seed potatoes.
AN UGLY ROAD
Our journey back to Harare, along the same route, was much the same as the
journey up with one notable exception. I had let my guard down and had not
kept my foreign currency hidden. Not that it was lying exposed on a seat in
the car, but I had made no effort to hide it in places in my luggage which
would stand up to a cursory search. At the road block on the Harare side of
Marondera the police officer told us, without any preliminary discussion,
to pull over to the side of the road. After we had sat there for a couple
of minutes he came over and informed us that he was going to search the
entire vehicle for "money". This was not good news, and could not turn out
well. Besides the stories I had heard about *all* foreign currency being
confiscated in such searches, the police have also, in the recent past,
confiscated "excessive" amounts of Zimbabwean cash because it is illegal to
hoard the cash which is so scarce in the country. Although my approximately
US$150 worth of Zimbabwean currency was not an excessive amount by any
reasonable stretch of the imagination, it could easily be considered
excessive in terms of what one would normally need for one day. However,
any move by me towards my luggage would not have elicited a positive
reaction, so I just sat tight. My host's friend, who was driving (there
were five of us in the car, including two children), got out of the car and
opened the boot (trunk to you North Americans), all the while keeping up a
stream of conversation. He was explaining to the cop that we had just been
in Nyanga for the weekend, had not left the country (e.g., to go to
Moçambique or South Africa) and so we had no foreign currency with us. For
whatever reason, after pawing through a few items in the boot, he decided
not to bother searching the car and everything in it. That was a huge
relief, and we wasted no time in departing.
Something else the cop would have been interested in that was in the boot
was a jerry can full of petrol. Apparently these are routinely confiscated.
Along the roads you will also see "petrol stations" (gas stations for the
North Americans) set up. These are not your shiny Shell or Total stations
with neon lights and canopies -- these are oil drums set up in the bundu
(bush) with a piece of hose pipe for siphoning the petrol into your tank.
Guess where these people get the petrol that they sell to you. There are no
prizes for guessing right the first time.
PENSIONERS IN ZIMBABWE
We returned from Nyanga on Monday and I spent that afternoon with some
family friends. These people are a retired couple -- retired numerous times
(by their own admission) from various jobs and businesses. He retired after
more than two decades of high-ranking service to both the Rhodesian and
Zimbabwean governments, mostly with the Zimbabwean government, and most of
his service with the Rhodesian government was in a role that brought him
into contact with the black population in ways that were meant to foster
development and a smooth transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. (I apologise
for being so vague, but it is for a reason. I'm trying to say that this is
a person who, if any white man is going to be the recipient of some sort of
favouritism from the black government, it would be him.) His monthly
government pension won't even buy enough dog food for one of their dogs for
one month. Admittedly these are not people who are content to sit around
doing nothing, so it's probable that they would have the business they now
run even if their pensions did support them. However, if this business
fails or is somehow usurped, they will be destitute. OK, so they get rid of
their dogs and don't have to buy dog food -- now try and survive on less
money than it takes to feed your dog every month. Think about it. These
people are the "lucky" ones. There are pensioners in Zimbabwe dying of
starvation because they have nobody to support them and no way to support
ZIMBABWE -- CURRENCY CONUNDRUM
I left Zimbabwe the following morning. On the way to the airport I pondered
what to do with my remaining Zimbabwe dollars. I knew (actually I assumed)
that I couldn't take them out of the country, but it was my money dammit! I
decided to put the bearer cheques (in their larger denominations) in the
"secret" pocket in my shorts. There they were unobtrusive and I was willing
to take the chance that I could get them out. However, I still had about
Z$200 000 left in Z$500 notes. (I didn't bother counting it -- I just
eyeballed it.) Not a hell of a lot of money; only about US$33. Did I want
to throw it in my luggage and chance it ending the day in the pocket of
some official at the airport (and perhaps worse for me), or should I just
give it to my host? I decided to give it to my host, but then decided to
keep a few dollars (I peeled off about Z$10 000) for an experiment. As it
happens, my luggage was not searched and I could have taken it out of the
country with no problem.
At the still-empty airport I found out that the departure fee was US$30,
not US$20 as I had been told. (I believe that Zimbabwean citizens can pay
this in Zimbabwe dollars [although I am not sure at what rate], but
foreigners must pay in US dollars or pounds sterling. I presume other
reasonably strong foreign currencies would be accepted, but I didn't ask
and you certainly wouldn't want to count on it or change if you didn't have
the exact amount.) It's a good thing the cop in Marondera didn't discover
my foreign currency. After checking in and saying goodbye to my host, I
stopped at the first hurdle between me and the aeroplane. (The scene
literally looks like a steeplechase.) He just wanted to see my boarding
card, which I showed him. My next stop, at the desk behind him, was exit
control. This seems to be a feature unique to Third-World countries (and
probably Second-World countries, when they existed), although I encountered
it for the first time in a First-World country in the Netherlands shortly
after I was in Zimbabwe. This person looked at my passport and stamped it,
showing that I had exited Zimbabwe. Interestingly enough, she made no
comment about the manual change to the entry stamp in my passport. That was
Next stop was currency control, and this is where it got interesting. The
person at the desk asked me if I had any Zimbabwean currency on me. Time
for my experiment. I said, "Yes, maybe about $10 000." (When I counted it
later it was actually $13 000, plus the bearer cheques I had hidden away.)
She said that I could not take it out of the country with me. I said, "Oh,
what should I do with it then?" expecting her to tell me to give it to her.
She said that I could go back out to the terminal and spend it in the shops
there. Remember, this is after I have "officially" exited Zimbabwe. I told
her that I had looked in the shops and didn't see anything there that I
wanted. Then I looked past her at the duty-free shops in the departure area
and asked her if I could spend it there. She said, "You can try," and off I
went. She let me past with the now-illegal Zimbabwean cash I was carrying
to "try" and spend it in the duty-free shops! We're talking about the
equivalent of little more than US$1.50 here! Of course, I went straight to
the gate and I ended up selling it and the bearer cheques in Zambia.
That's the blow-by-blow account of my trip to Zimbabwe. What about this
economy that is supposedly on the brink of collapse, and has been for at
least four years now since the referendum that precipitated all this chaos?
I am not an economist, but my understanding of the way the world's
economies is supposed to work is that £10 in the United Kingdom should buy
roughly the same "basket of goods" in Zimbabwe -- not exactly the same, but
roughly speaking and as a general rule. However, £10 probably buys almost
£20 worth of goods in Zimbabwe. I haven't figured it out exactly because I
didn't do much shopping in Zimbabwe, but my impression from talking to
people and seeing the prices of a lot of things is that they are
ridiculously cheap to someone from outside the country. (For example, I
bought a very nice, button-up, collared, short-sleeve shirt for US$16.
You'll pay that for a T-shirt of questionable quality in other countries.)
However, incomes are also much lower in Zimbabwe (I'm talking about for
educated people in managerial- and executive-level positions), so to
Zimbabweans everything seems "normal" as long as they don't have to buy
anything from outside the country with foreign currency (e.g., airline
tickets or Internet hosting). The lucky few (executive-level) who are paid
some of their salary in foreign currency (outside the country, I believe)
leave that money outside the country for a rainy day, to buy things that
must be bought in foreign currency, or bring it into the country and buy
Zimbabwe dollars on the black market, making their salary go a hell of a
lot further than if they are paid purely in Zimbabwe dollars inside the
country. The *annual* salary for the network administrator I spoke to
compares favourably only to the *monthly* salary of a network administrator
in a place like Canada. It's no wonder he has applied to emigrate there.
Speaking of Zimbabweans going abroad, their reactions once out of the
country are instructive. With access to satellite television common in
Zimbabwe these days, there's no excuse (which wasn't always the case) for
being ignorant of what happens in the country, despite the propaganda in
the government-run media and the constant harassment and closing down of
the locally-based independent media, including the reporters of
international media outlets trying to do their jobs in Zimbabwe. So how do
Zimbabweans recently arrived, whether on holiday or immigrating, in other
countries react? Think about it. Do they defend what is going on in
Zimbabwe? (Well, actually, I have heard of one fairly recent ex-Zimbabwean
who referred to a "hard-won independence", as she side-stepped the question
of mugabe's policies. One wonders why she left, but I digress.) Do they
pine for the razor wire and the personal security guard? They may pine for
the good weather and the domestic help, but the short answer is no, they do
not pine for the razor wire. They tend to become instant converts to "the
cause", if there is such a cause. They marvel at the fact that they don't
have to live behind walls topped with razor wire or broken glass; they are
amazed that they can get sugar at the grocery store every time they go;
they're happy that their children don't grow up in a culture of fear;
there's no iron gate to lock at night; they don't have to watch what they
say and who they say it to; and so on. For the first time in years, or
perhaps even their lives, they can relax a bit.
I wrote earlier of anecdotal evidence of the monitoring of e-mail in
Zimbabwe. Here is some of that anecdotal evidence. A friend of my host in
Zimbabwe received, unsolicited, an e-mail message with news of a planned
stay-away, or general strike. She deleted the message, but the CIO (Central
Intelligence Organisation, roughly the Zimbabwean equivalent of the
American CIA) raided the offices where she worked, "discovered" the
offending e-mail (received, I stress again, unsolicited), arrested her and
threw her in prison for four days where she was beaten. She was then
released without charge. That's just for receiving the message, not for
sending it. She quickly decided she no longer wanted to live in Zimbabwe,
RECENT VIOLENCE IN
What else? Shortly after leaving Zimbabwe I heard from a friend that
friends of hers (husband, wife and two children) were severely beaten for
three hours on their farm. Nothing new -- it just makes it more real when
it is friends. Also in the news is that, in November, the governor of
Manicaland province (where Nyanga is located) was been fired by mugabe
because she was considered too friendly to the few remaining white farmers
in the province. She has been replaced by a retired lieutenant-general of
the Zimbabwean army who was in charge of the troops protecting mugabe's
diamond mines in the "Democratic" Republic of the Congo (formerly Zäire).
It doesn't take much to speculate on his agenda. Since then, to quote
ZWNews.com, "The chief accountant for a British-owned tea estates in
Zimbabwe's eastern mountains [where I was] died ... after he was abducted
and forced to drink acid. Phillip Laing, who was married with two young
children, was found chained to a tree in the bush yesterday and it is not
known whether he died during the night or instantly."
Much of the international outcry over Zimbabwe is driven by people in
countries outside of Africa; Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the
United States, etc. What do people in sub-Saharan Africa in general and
southern Africa in particular think of Zimbabwe? (For those not familiar
with southern Africa, it is not a country -- it is a region comprised of a
number of different countries, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana,
Zambia, Zimbabwe, Moçambique and Angola. People refer to "sub-Saharan
Africa" because that is "black Africa", as opposed to north Africa [again a
region, not a country] which is Arab.) First let's separate the so-called
leaders of these countries from the people in these countries -- the
leaders of these countries do not necessarily represent popular opinion.
The obvious leader to examine first is Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Being
the leader of the (as yet) largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Mbeki's
action (or, more appropriately, inaction) on the Zimbabwe issue is not of
little consequence. Mbeki prefers a policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards
Zimbabwe. What this means, in another well-worn phrase, is "trust me".
Sorry, but I don't, because I prefer another cliché: "Actions speak louder
than words." I don't believe that, behind the privacy of closed doors
during lavish state dinners while the people in your respective countries
are dying of starvation or at the hands of the police, army or thugs, you
are applying the thumbscrews to mugabe. If anything you're probably asking
him for pointers so that you can do the same thing in your country, when
the time is right. Then there's Sam Nujoma of Namibia (formerly South West
Africa) who openly admires mugabe's policies with respect to land
distribution and is trying to implement them in his country. There are
other leaders who are either strangely silent on the issue or openly
supportive. What little opposition there is among southern African leaders
to mugabe is driven by selfish concern for the damage he is doing to the
economies of southern Africa.
What of the ordinary people of southern Africa? Hell, I'm not really sure.
The subject of Zimbabwe seems to elicit a clucking of the tongue and a
shake of the head. I've heard some say, "Ag, it's just Africa." Well, maybe
it is just Africa, but that shouldn't be an excuse. It's one thing to say,
"Ag, it's just Africa" when the power goes out for the third time in two
days, or you can't buy sugar, or you can't talk to anyone at the phone
company... wait, that's "just Canada", a "civilised" country; it's another
to say, "Ag, it's just Africa" when a country that was formerly the bread
basket of southern Africa has to rely on international food aid, and some
of their population still dies of starvation... those that are not dying at
the hands of state-sponsored terrorism.
At the risk of sounding corny and naïve, why can't we all just get along?
Think about it; this isn't a racial issue, it's a power issue. Dictators
like mugabe have turned their countries into their own personal fiefdoms,
the basic rights of those under their rule (black and white) completely
ignored. The people in countries like Zambia seem to be able to get along,
so why can't they in Zimbabwe? Well, I actually answer that question and
make comparisons further along. It's because mugabe is the last of the
leaders of the "struggle" against European colonialism -- he is a relic of
the past, a racist with a vitriolic hatred for whites (and other
identifiable groups like homosexuals) that rivals Adolf Hitler's hatred for
Jews, blacks, homosexuals, and anyone else that didn't fit his narrow
stereotype of a good Aryan. (Again, we're supposed to learn from history.)
For mugabe, it's payback time. Never mind the fact that European
colonialists never inflicted on black Africans the genocide they carried
out in North America; mugabe would like to see Zimbabwe "cleansed" of
whites once and for all. He fails to realise that whites are no longer
aliens in Africa -- they have migrated there over time and have been born
and died in Africa just as black Africans have migrated all over Africa and
have now migrated to Europe. How does putting a young child, too young to
have learned any history yet, through a three-hour ordeal of pain and
terror and killing his parents build a nation?
GOING BACK TO
ZIMBABWE TO LIVE
A question I am often asked, especially since this trip, is, "Would you go
back and live in Zimbabwe?" (Of course, such a question assumes I have the
right to do such a thing. Despite the fact that I was born there, I do
not.) The answer to that seems obvious, especially when I know of no white
person who has gone back to Zimbabwe in recent years (which isn't to say
there are none), but know of many who have left or who would like to leave.
As I told a friend, there is an atmosphere in Zimbabwe that is familiar to
me; I could see myself living there again. The only thing is that it
certainly would not be under present circumstances. As I said earlier, one
has to learn from history, and forty or so years of post-independence
African history is very instructive. If there was a transition to a
democracy there tomorrow and I felt it stable enough to live there perhaps
a year from now, I might. However, I would never burn any bridges
(financial and citizenship-wise) and in fact would actively maintain them.
What has happened in Zimbabwe and Rhodesia before it over the last 40 years
(but especially in the last ten) has done so much to undermine the basic
fabric of society. For example, how do you turn a police force bent on
murdering the populace and destroying its property into one committed to
protecting the populace and its property (while busy issuing speeding
tickets)? And how do you turn a populace afraid of the police into a
populace that respects the police? For your answer, look at the situation
in the Balkans fuelled by hatred nurtured since the Second World War and
earlier; look at the situation in the American south, fuelled by slavery
that ended two centuries ago. The answer is that, if it will happen, it
certainly won't happen in my lifetime, and most likely not for many
BUT I CAN BE MURDERED ANYWHERE IN THE
A common response to the assertion from someone like me that the situation
in Zimbabwe is not "safe" is that one can be murdered anywhere in the
world. (This is a slightly more important issue than whether or not you can
get sugar at the grocery store on any given day.) That's absolutely true;
no argument from me there. However, the chances of you being murdered by
the police or the army or by thugs under the command of the president in
any country not at war (and Zimbabwe is supposedly not at war) are slim,
which is not the case in Zimbabwe. In any country where there is reasonable
faith in the police and justice system you don't need to surround your
property with walls topped with razor wire, have a lockable iron gate
*inside* your house (I've heard them called "rape cages") to seal off the
bedrooms while you sleep (which makes one wonder about escape routes in the
event of a fire), have dogs whose primary purpose is to guard the property
not to be a pet, and have a security guard from dusk to dawn. And if you
are abused or murdered by the police in a country where the rule of law
prevails, at least there is a reasonable chance that you or your survivors
will have recourse to justice and that the cops, soldiers or thugs will go
to jail for their crimes -- the chances of that happening in Zimbabwe are
laughable. Am I saying that the First-World, "civilised" (I put that term
in quotation marks on purpose) country where I now live is paradise and
Zimbabwe is hell? Far from it. However, there are certainly advantages to
both the individual and society as a whole if one doesn't have to devote so
much of one's mental energy on a daily basis to worrying about one's
A SICK SOCIETY?
This leads me to roll a few of my observations into one point. I am neither
a psychologist nor an anthropologist, but I can't help feeling that an
abundance of stressors on individuals and a society as a whole leads to
undesirable consequences. Apparently the divorce rate among former farmers
is higher than it is for the rest of the population. Do you think that
might be related to what is happening to farmers? Do men who are generally
happy with their lives beat their wives or girlfriends, threaten them with
a loaded gun, or go looking for love in the arms of another woman? I think
not. Do women who live in happy, stable relationships drink to excess on a
regular basis? I'm guessing not again. Can it ever be normal in a society
where anarchy does not, supposedly, prevail to live in a fortress? How do
you talk to your neighbour over a two-metre-high wall topped with razor
wire? So, although Zimbabweans have accepted their current lot as "normal"
for them (or at least no big deal), I can't help feeling that it isn't.
Then again, where else in the world do you judge who your real friends are
by who will help you in the middle of the night to find a few litres of
petrol (through personal and business contacts vital to everyday survival)
to get you back home? I suppose that the good goes with the bad -- nothing
is ever cut and dried.
DEALING WITH EVER-PRESENT DANGER
So how does your average white person in Zimbabwe manage to live with the
threat that they could lose everything instantly? I have asked this
question, in one way or another. Zimbabweans are famous for "making a
plan"; right now the country seems full of opportunists, willing to make a
buck on the back of someone else in the country. As I mentioned, usury is
apparently common and people dealing in foreign currency are making a mint
while pensioners starve to death. On the one hand you can look askance at
this and question the morals of people willing to live the high life while
their fellow citizens are starving and being beaten and killed. On the
other hand, the whites are a tiny minority in the country and have almost
no political power, so it's not as if they can have any effect by being
altruistic, banding together, and agitating for change, democracy and good
government. (Such actions would be branded "neo-colonialism" by mugabe,
considered seditious actions by "Rhodesians", and dealt with accordingly,
further reducing the white population in Zimbabwe.) So, it seems, white
Zimbabweans live for the moment with one ear to the ground. Personal and
business contacts are vital, especially if you have black contacts who may
even have contacts within ZANU; if something "serious" was to be in the
pipeline, you might hear of it and be able to act proactively. Apparently
some companies have made commitments to employees to evacuate them if
things ever get hot in Zimbabwe, and I have heard of an example where this
happened during the 2000 parliamentary elections.
CONCLUSION: THE PROVERBIAL FROG
But, in a country where people are so used to living in fear, how do you
define "serious"? I am reminded of the story of the frog in the pot of
water, and I'm sure I'm not the first to draw the analogy in this
situation. Apparently, if you put a frog in a pot of room-temperature water
on the stove and slowly raise the temperature of the water, the frog will
adjust to the temperature of the water. Eventually the frog will be cooked
alive because it never realises when the situation becomes "serious", and
so never jumps out of the water. Are white Zimbabweans frogs in a pot of
very hot (on the brink of boiling) water? We, outside the country, keep
yelling, "Jump!" Are we right? If we are, we may not know until it's too
granted by the author to circulate and publish this essay 2004 crystal ball
Tourists in Zimbabwe fleeced by Mugabe's Henchmen
I am circulating this to the MDC Members of Parliament as well as my key
Zimbabwe contacts to bring this issue to the fore. I would be grateful if
you could see to it that this situation is brought to the attention of the
appropriate authorities and some action taken. I travel a lot on Zimbabwe
roads and I can confirm the regular harrassment of SA visitors at all Police
road blocks. This past week there were 4 road blocks between Beitbridge and
Bulawayo - the last was actually in Bulawayo on Pariyenyatwa street. I was
not stopped once, but every SA vehicle, without exception, was stopped at
every road block. We often see money changing hands.
27th December 2003
Saturday Star, Johannesburg
20th December, 2003.
Foreigner ? Considering a trip to Zimbabwe? Beware! Two South Africans
recount their tale.
While on our way to the Zambezi for a fishing holiday on November 26, we
were stopped by one of the many roadblocks on the outskirts of Chivu,
approximately 200km from Harare. The officer asked for the driver's
licence, passports and travel documents. His main interest was in the
foreign currency. He demanded to see our money, which we produced for his
The travel declaration showed that US$1 000 and R3 000 was declared together
with Z$300 000. Next he demanded to see the driver's wallet, which was
immediately produced. On examination he found US$365 and R850 that was not
on the tally.
The driver, Nic Holzhauzen, explained that we had travelled through the
night and had not bothered to count the money. He was then accused of
smuggling foreign currency, which he immediately denied.
It is not an offence for South African citizens to carry foreign currency,
neither is it an offence to have US$365 in our own country. Since the
amount of currency was minimal, it could not be taken as smuggling.
We were then told to accompany the officer to the police station. There, a
charge was laid against Holzhauzen for smuggling forex. The charge was
typed on an archaic typewriter with the letters jamming before the ribbon
fell off. The total time wasted during this process was three hours.
We were given a summons to appear in court the next morning at 8am. It
took the official 30 minutes to type out the summons. The forex was
confiscated and we were told the fine would be about Z$500 000. When I
objected, saying this was no way to treat travellers to their country as we
spent a lot of much needed money here, we would reconsider future trips to
Zimbabwe. They thought it was a joke and laughed uproariously.
Precious fuel was then used to travel to Harare and back the next day for
the Court appearance (400km) with no fuel available, the cost would have
been Z$3 200 per litre.
The next morning in Court we were reprimanded for not wearing suits and ties
(we were on holiday and thus had no suits or ties). The case was cut and
dried. We were fined Z$500 000 and our money confiscated.
No amount of explanation mattered as the outcome was for the State to get
The rest of the trip included about 20 more road blocks demanding to know
what we were carrying. It was noticeable that South African drivers were
When we left Zimbabwe we had to pay toll for the bridge in rands or US
dollars. The Zimbabweans will not accept their own currency but change is
given in Zim Dollars. Then a notice is posted at the desk that no Zim
currency was allowed to leave the country.
The last check point in Zimbabwe demanded to inspect the vehicle and wanted
to know what we had bought. We explained it was small gifts from the
roadside vendors. The customs said duty had to be paid. When we
repudiated this, his answer was that he was in a good mood and we could go -
but what was in it for him?
Comment : Miserable experience for the two South Africans. As bad as
their experience may have been, thousands of black and white Zimbabweans
tell stories of far, far worse ordeals - beatings, strip naked and
physically searched - all forex being confiscated or exchanged at rates set
by officials as they deem appropriate. We all so wish that President Mbeki
of South Africa would come to terms with reality and take a stronger
approach towards Mugabe.
I am going to stick my neck out and make some predictions about some of the developments that are likely to take place in Zimbabwe in 2004 that will have a bearing on the lives of all of us in the near and distant future.
Inflation will continue to shoot up throughout the year, not peaking early in the year and beginning to decline slowly thereafter. There was nothing in the long awaited budget speech of finance minister Herbert Murerwa nor the much vaunted inaugural monetary policy of new reserve bank governor Gideon Gono to give me any hope that inflation is about to be slowed like they intimated.
Gono will try to make good his promise to re-engage international lenders like the IMF but will make little headway in this regard. There are large debts in arrears owed to them that the country is simply not in a position to repay, apart from the lack of political will to do so. Gono will find that his banking reputation and charm will be insufficient to overcome the deep suspicion these international institutions now have about the Zimbabwean government. They will be far more fearful of the maverick populist posturing of President Mugabe than they will be willing to believe that Gono has been given the political commitment to manage the country's finances in a way they would be comfortable with.
Whatever assurances of autonomy Gono has been given, like other "whiz kid" appointees before him, he is likely to be frustrated by Mugabe's need to buy off various sectors of his narrow support base by making concessions to them that do not recognise the reality of the economy's sorry state.
The MDC began 2003 with a bang by keeping Mugabe's government fully on its toes. The promised massive demonstrations may not have materialised, but a several days work stoppage was devastatingly effective and clearly had the government worried. The opposition party then lost the momentum of its earlier actions. It was disorientated by massive shows of force by the government, the arrests and harassment of many of its leaders, the divide and rule/ carrot and stick tactics used against the MDC Harare municipal leadership, and the ongoing, dragged out farce of a trial on treason charges of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The party is still reeling from this multi-pronged onslaught against it, and is likely to suffer damaging loss of public support in 2004 if it does not strategise its way out of its current rut.
Some have noted that the MDC uses gentlemanly tactics of pleading for talks, polite press statements and adverts; and legal appeals against the wide range of repressive measures employed against it, when its foes are hardly gentlemen! Yet more civil disobedience and other more pro-active actions give the brutal regime of Mugabe the excuse to unleash its various militia in ways few can doubt it would happy, even eager to do. Civil disobedience works best against authorities capable of feeling shame, amenable to moral appeal, respectful of the right of citizens to demonstrate against them freely and anxious to minimise the casualties in any skirmishes. The regime of Mugabe has demonstrated itself particularly, even proudly resistant to moral suasion. This presents the MDC with some very hard choices about how best to challenge Mugabe; choices the MDC appears to be aware of but very reluctant to make.
Ignatius Chombo has been minister in charge of local government affairs for several years and has been thoroughly mediocre in that post. Yet he made himself particularly useful to Mugabe in 2003 by effectively throwing spanners into the workings of the MDC-dominated Harare city council. he suspended the popularly elected MDC mayor as well as several councilors, he drove a wedge between the remaining ones by making them suspicious of each other and estranged from their party leadership. In a time of severe economic hardships, it has not been difficult for Chombo to entice MDC city councilors to defy their party leadership by the dangling of perks.
Many MDC elected officials rode in to power on the coat-tails of discontent with Mugabe and ZANU-PF, rather than because they had anything to offer the electorate or because they were principled politicians with an alternative vision for the running of the country's affairs. That is all becoming apparent now as they become as self seeking as their ruling party counterparts. The increasing similarity between ZANU-PF and MDC politicians will re-enforce growing public disillusionment with politicians in general, and may open the political space for innovative players who are able to exploit this disenchantment with traditional politics.
Jockeying in the ruling party for vantage points from which to be well positioned in the event of Mugabe's exit will continue unabated, though underground. Both because of his advanced age and the spiraling out of control of the economy and its many offshoots, it is apparent to everyone that the present ruinous course the country is on must be arrested.
Whether or not Mugabe tries to suppress talk of succession in his party, there is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube.
Mugabe will find himself fully occupied with not only keeping the MDC on the defensive with increased repression, he will spend more time than ever before trying to watch over, discourage or shepherd talk about his successor. His usual tactic of labeling all foes as having motives other than the best interests of the country will be trotted out often, but despite being firmly entrenched in power for the short term, it is also apparent to friend and foe alike that in many ways he is weaker than he has ever been.
Regardless of what cheers he is able to raise at various fora, he is weakened by the reality of not having an example of a successful country to bolster his rhetoric. No amount of speechifying and propaganda would be as effective as simply being able to say "look at how my land reforms have boosted agricultural production" for instance. Instead, the reality of his country being fed by the white countries of the West he claims are out to get him for empowering blacks stands as a constant, embarrassing indict?ent of his failures.
I think the speculation of a possible vice presidential appointment for recently retired army commander Vitalis Zvinavashe is valid. Mugabe will increasingly have to depend on military loyalists as his popularity and authority wane. The statement that such an appointment would be designed to send would not be missed by the general population. But there has never been any doubt that if the regime felt forced to unleash military violence against the population it would do so.
The strengthening of this position by such an appointment, following the appointment of many other retired military men to sensitive positions over the years, will therefore not likely make any material difference to Mugabe's already strong arm tactics of ruling. It could however have far-reaching repercussion on the issue of succession: who succeeds him, how it is done, what Mugabe's fate would be;guarantees of his safety from persecution for his dirty deeds and so on. Even if Zvinavashe is not made vice president, he is likely to be given some other position of power very close to Mugabe.
A wild card element in the succession stakes is the issue of AIDS. Many senior ruling party officials, possibly including some in line to succeed Mugabe, or in positions of influence to help steer the process towards one candidate or another, have been getting by on anti-retrovirals for several years. There are now signs of the virus overtaking the drugs in a number of top politicians. Increased incidences of illness and deaths due to AIDS, as well as other causes will complicate the succession issue in ways that are difficult to pin down for now. There will certainly be a lot more official "heroes" burials in 2004 than there have been in 2003!
Emmerson Mnangagwa, long time right hand man to Mugabe and said to be in a leading position to succeed him, will continue to battle to clear his name of allegations of sleaze. In recent years he has been trying to clean up his reputation of being a hard line ZANU-PF and Mugabe zealot allegedly with a lot to answer for during the time he was Mugabe's intelligence boss in the 1980s. Subsequent to that he has been dogged by rumours of ruthlessness with perceived opponents, and then of befriending some of the world's more shady characters involved in murky arms, precious stones and other deals.
Appointed speaker of parliament by Mugabe after he lost his parliamentary seat to an MDC upstart, Mnangagwa has been surprisingly fair and moderate towards the MDC in that role, behaving far more like a statesman than even Mugabe and some of his other appointees, although parliament's role even a s a mere debating forum has never been as diminished as it currently is under Mnagangwa. He has consistently denied all the allegations of nefarious activities levelled against him over the years, but there have been so many of them and of such seriousness it remains to be seen whether a lot of the mud thrown at him over that time has not stuck to him permanently. Certainly as party or national president he would find it hard to marshal the prestige and stature Mugabe had in his early days.
Like the MDC, the Daily News has put a lot of stock to legal challenges to unconstitutional laws passed in the last few years in its efforts to be allowed to publish again after falling afoul of the Jonathan Moyo-penned AIPPA that was designed to clamp down on such "troublemakers" as the country's most popular newspaper. Unfortunately for the Daily News, the government is not likely to be swayed to allow it to publish again by something as petty as a court judgement in its favour. When t?e government can get its way by favourable judgements, it will be happy to do so to maintain the veneer of legality that seems so important to it.
But when that fails, the regime will continue to ignore unfavourable court judgements. The Daily News' wide reach and influence and its unrelenting exposure of the greed, hypocrisy and repression of the Mugabe government gave it genuine cause to worry. In addition, the government has a vendetta against majority shareholder Strive Masiyiwa who won a court judgment against it several years ago to be given a license to begin his now international telecommunications company.
The Mugabe government is therefore not likely to leave any stone unturned, judicial or extra judicial, to make sure Masiyiwa does not "win" against them again. He once broke the cardinal Zimbawean rule that no young businessman can be allowed to succeed outside the clutches of the corrupt ruling party bosses. This time, particularly in regards to a business enterprise which the government feels politically threatened by, it is likely that the Mugabe regime will do what ever is required to keep the paper off the streets, appearances be damned.
It will be interesting to see how close or wide off the mark I am in my predictions. One thing is for sure: Zimbabwe in 2004 will be closer to the end of the ruinous reign of Mugabe than it was in 2003. Let us not get so bogged down in the problems of the present that we lose sight of the promise of tomorrow - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloomier Times Ahead
Chris Anold Msipa
2004 crystal ball
Dec 29 (IPS) - The future has never been as uncertain for Zimbabwe
as it is now. Ever rising food prices, shortages of basic needs, strikes in
vital public services and hate speeches have now become the way of life.
”Just like the war days,” remarked Mbuya Rukai Zikonyauswa from the western
district of Hurungwe, after President Robert Mugabe's 2003 address to his
ruling ZANU-PF party. Zikonyauswa, whose generation had been subjected to
similar hate speeches and political slogans during Zimbabwe's liberation war
of the 1970s, watched the proceedings on television.
ZANU-PF delegates had met early December for their annual conference in the
southeastern town of Masvingo. The meeting was preceded by speculation that
Mugabe, in office since independence from Britain in 1980, would announce
his retirement from active politics.
Instead the 79-year-old former guerrilla leader dropped a bombshell when he
addressed the gathering: ”Thank you for affirming the leadership and sending
a message to those amongst us who might think that time has come for change.
”Until the people say so, I know I have a duty, a mandate from the people.
And I must make good that mandate.”
Political commentators say the government's use of the hate speeches and
slogans would thwart hopes for talks with the opposition.
Welshman Ncube, Secretary General of the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), said Mugabe was acting like any other dictator. ”No
tyrant has ever accepted that he is going down or is finished. They all say
they are in full control, even when they are on the run or about to go into
exile,” he said.
Ncube described 2003 as the worst year in Zimbabwe's history. He said it was
the year characterised by the suffering of the masses, the systematic
expulsion of foreign journalists, the closure of the country's only
independent daily newspaper, the 'Daily News' in September, the arrests and
torture of opposition, trade unionists, and rights campaigners.
He said Zimbabwe's economy also suffered as inflation skyrocketed over 400
percent, one of the highest in the world. Factories closed down and many
workers lost their jobs, he added.
Even so, Ncube said, the future holds hope because human rights activists
and the opposition, though crippled, are still vibrant. The Commonwealth,
the European Union and Southern African countries like Botswana and
Mauritius have also made it clear they do not accept dictatorship.
Early this month the Commonwealth, an organisation of 54 independent states
which were formerly parts of the British Empire - established to encourage
trade and friendly relations among its members - suspended Zimbabwe
indefinitely. Zimbabwe reacted by withdrawing its membership from the
Nonetheless, Ncube said ZANU-PF and Mugabe have acknowledged, for the first
time, publicly that there was need for political dialogue, a development,
which he said, shows there was light at the end of the tunnel. ”The darkest
hour is nearest to dawn,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe Lecturer David Mungoshi said the times ahead would be
tough, and would require the cooperation of every citizen if Zimbabwe was to
overcome its problems.
He said consumer boycotts - like the one witnessed in the cost of bread
towards the end of 2003, when bakers were forced to reduce the retail prices
of their commodities - would determine market prices.
Another problem facing the government is strike. Nurses and doctors have for
the past three months been on strike demanding better salaries and working
conditions. Other ministries also face similar problems as employees
complain of poor pay in the face of worsening cost of living.
President Mugabe has pledged to apply tough measures to ease their problems.
He said once the rains fall, the agricultural sector would boost the economy
and everyone would be happy.
Critics said Mugabe's decision to withdraw the country's membership from the
Commonwealth and his chaotic land reform programme, which war veterans
forced him to embark on three years ago, would block any possible
improvements in the economy.
They said no donors or investors would come as long as Mugabe maintained his
negative stance, and that agriculture would take a long time to pick, as the
newly resettled farmers lack experience and inputs.
The World Food Programme (WFP) recently cut by 50 percent its food aid to
six southern African countries, including Zimbabwe.
The WFP had appealed for up to 311 million dollars to feed 15 million people
in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which was to
get at least two-thirds of the money. The WFP is said to have received only
about 150 million dollars from donors.
Deputy Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri said the number of Zimbabweans in
need of food aid has risen from six million to eight million.
There are widespread fears that thousands of children will drop out of
school this year as a result of high fees being charged by school
Hope to end Zimbabwe's woes had until December been based on Mugabe's
retirement and talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC. But Mugabe is not about to
leave office, while the political dialogue remains a behind-the-scene
South African President Thabo Mbeki remains the only African leader
frantically trying to help break the impasse between Harare and the
opposition. Political commentators say Mbeki's efforts are unlikely to bear
any fruit as long as Mugabe remains in office.
Zimbabwe plunged into its current crises after the government in 2000
encouraged the violent seizure of land from 4,500 white farmers for
resettlement of landless black peasants. However, the land issue is now
facing a new twist amid reports of multiple ownership of properties by
senior politicians and government officials. (END/2003)
Analysis: Africa, the forgotten continent
By Claude Salhani and Ed Susman
United Press International
Published 12/29/2003 9:57 AM
View printer-friendly version
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The old adage
that no news is good news, alas,
does not apply to Africa. The only news emanating from Africa this past year
has been of fratricidal wars or devastating epidemics that continue to claim
lives by the tens of thousands. Yet little news from Africa, if any, gets
reported in the international media, and even less in the United States.
The continent, however, remains rife with disasters -- both created by man
and as a result of poor or non-existing healthcare, illiteracy, poverty,
malnutrition and sub-standard norms of living.
Civil wars have been raging in the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra
Leone, Somalia and Zimbabwe and refugee crisis of Biblical proportions
abound in Angola, the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, to mention only some of the
countries. Tens of millions of people remain displaced as a result of
decades of continued warfare, with numbers mounting daily.
Africa remains the worst continent, where in some countries such as the
Sudan and Niger, slavery continues to be practiced. Famine is always around
the corner in other parts of the continent where life expectancy is the
lowest in the world.
A report released Dec. 18 by the World Health Organization estimated at 34
years the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone -- the lowest in the
world -- compared to Japan on the other hand -- the highest in the world --
where the average person is expected to live 81.9 years.
The AIDS pandemic in Africa kills 5,000 adults and 1,000 children daily.
The horror and extent of the disease has brought promises of assistance from
high-ranking politicians, such as President George W. Bush, but a
combination of poverty, government inaction and corruption, myth and stigma
continue to drive the epidemic to levels that are difficult for Westerners
In the world today, of the 43-million people living with HIV, which causes
AIDS, 29.4 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 5 million people
worldwide who will be infected with HIV this year, 3.5 million are in
Africa, where 58 percent of those who are HIV-positive are women and the
disease is spread mainly due to sexual relations between men and women.
Africa's situation differs tremendously from the United States and Western
Europe, where governments and pharmaceutical companies are developing
policies and products to treat a disease that affects under 0.5 percent of
the population. In Africa, 16 nations have disease prevalence rates
exceeding 10 percent -- 20 times that of Western nations -- many governments
ignore the epidemic that fills hospital wards and results in millions of
The continent's epicenter for AIDS is in South Africa, where nearly 5
million people -- 15 percent of the population -- are infected with HIV, and
the government for more than three years has blocked efforts to dispense
drugs to pregnant women -- drugs that repeatedly have been shown to prevent
transmission of HIV to their babies. In South Africa, about 8,000 babies are
born to HIV-infected mothers each month. Of those born with the infection,
few live beyond age 4.
AIDS has claimed so many lives in South Africa that often, people are buried
vertically into the ground for lack of space in cemeteries.
In 2003, South African officials have sought to de-license nevirapine -- the
only approved anti-AIDS drug in the country and a medication shown to reduce
mother-to-child transmission of the disease. In response, and under pressure
from AIDS activists, other government agencies have demanded health
officials draw up a plan to provide anti-retroviral drugs to people with
AIDS (the organism that causes the disease actually is a retrovirus).
In 2000, at the World AIDS Conference in Durban, nevirapine was offered free
to pregnant women in South Africa. Three years later, the drugs remain
As a result, an estimated 600 South Africans die from AIDS every day, and
thousands more die in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi -- and all across
In sub-Saharan Africa, there is hardly an adequate word to describe the
catastrophic situation where 17 million deaths are due to the disease since
"One has to consider Africa's main agricultural society," Dr. Thomas Quinn,
professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said at a
meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. "Seven
million farmers have died due to AIDS. One has to ask who is farming the
Farming is not the only area affected. "One also has to look at the
educational process as well as the working process," Quinn said, explaining
that 85 percent of teacher deaths in South Africa over the last 20 years
have been due to AIDS.
"From the global perspective, the HIV epidemic has reversed many of the
developmental gains that have been achieved in many areas of the world,
particularly reversed those gains made over the last three decades," Quinn
said. "There has been an economic decline, particularly on the continent of
Africa with estimates of that decline ranging from 10 to 40 percent -- a
staggering figure in an area that is already economically fragile.
"It has resulted in health system chaos where in some places 50 to 70 to 80
percent of hospital beds may be occupied by HIV-infected people with
increasing opportunistic infections many of which go untreated. All of this
results in a spiraling factor of political instability."
At an International AIDS Society Conference in Paris, Jean-Paul Moatti,
professor of economics at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseilles,
cited new figures from the World Bank. He said if the epidemic continues at
its present pace, within four generations the economy of South Africa will
be halved by AIDS.
Young girls -- even children under age 5 -- often are raped by older men,
purportedly due to a widespread myth that sex with a virgin can cure or
prevent AIDS. Karl Peltzer, a research specialist at the Human Sciences
Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa, said the myth -- as well as
aberrant sexual behavior -- and the common pursuit of young women by older
men, "has led to a disproportionate number of young girls becoming infected
The culture of some African communities exacerbates the problem. In some
societies if the husband dies, the husband's relatives take all the family
possessions -- including the home and savings, leaving the widow and her
children destitute and homeless. The only alternative for many women and
many children is commercial sex work, which fuels the spread of the
As Quinn noted: "Africa is where AIDS has entrenched itself in the last two
to three decades, and is still spiraling out of control. The spread of HIV
continues relentlessly across the continent."
Africa may well be dying as the rest of the world watches and dribbles out
drugs and money to fight the disease.
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
Zimbabwe's Largest Cell Phone Company May Lose License
29 Dec 2003, 15:59 UTC
controlled media says the government is planning to
withdraw the operating license of the largest cellular telephone operator,
accusing the company of subversive activities." The majority shareholder of
the Econet cellular network is also the chairman of the company which owns
Zimbabwe's Daily News, the only independent daily newspaper in Zimbabwe.
The government-controlled Herald newspaper, quoting unnamed sources,
reported on Christmas that Econet has broken the law by failing to remit
foreign currency earnings from incoming international telephone calls.
It said Econet's profits were being used to finance subversive activities to
undermine the Zimbabwe government. One of the so-called subversive
activities identified by The Herald was the publication of one edition of
The Daily News in Nigeria, during the summit of Commonwealth countries, from
which Zimbabwe is suspended.
The newspaper was printed by a prominent Nigerian daily newspaper, This Day,
and carried reports critical of President Robert Mugabe's rule.
Econet was founded in 1998, after its chief executive officer, Strive
Masiyiwa, won a four-year court battle to win a license. Since then Mr.
Masiyiwa has expanded his investment in cellular networks in several other
countries, including Nigeria.
When the Daily News ran into financial trouble last year, Mr. Masiyiwa baled
it out, and became its largest shareholder. The Daily News has been a
frequent critic of President Robert Mugabe's government, exposing its many
human rights abuses.
It also published articles exposing serious irregularities in the
presidential elections in March 2003, which gave Mr. Mugabe a further six
years in power.
The Daily News was closed down for operating without a license, but
appealed, and shortly before Christmas, the courts gave it permission to
resume publication. But police have prevented workers from producing the
Mr. Masiyiwa, who now lives in South Africa said Monday he did not believe
there was a government probe into the Econet network. He said his company
operated fully within the law.
S.Africa to Test Samples from Zimbabwe for Ebola
Mon December 29, 2003 09:56 AM ET
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa said on Monday its scientists would
test samples from Zimbabwe for the Ebola virus after a man showing symptoms
similar to those of the deadly disease died in the Zimbabwean resort of
"The samples have not arrived yet but we expect them soon," a spokeswoman
for South Africa's Ministry of Health told Reuters. She said they would be
sent to South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Zimbabwean officials said an Angolan trader died on Christmas Day after
being admitted to hospital in Victoria Falls with symptoms consistent with
the highly infectious virus.
"It could be malaria or another infection. Ebola is low on our list of
possibilities as it has not been seen so far south but we have to exclude
it," Dr Lucille Blumberg of the institute told the South African Press
"There is no need to panic or cancel trips. The chances are low," she said,
adding that initial results should be known within 48 hours of the first
If confirmed as Ebola, it would be Zimbabwe's first case of the deadly
virus, which kills up to 90 percent of infected people and for which there
is no known cure.
A confirmed case could be disastrous for Zimbabwe's beleaguered tourist
industry and its tottering health sector, both of which have been hit hard
by a political and economic crisis gripping the country.
Pahad's postulations can't erase Mugabe's crimes
December 29, 2003
Judging by the retort of "His Master's Voice", Aziz Pahad, on the
question of what is best for Zimbabwe, Allister Sparks (himself in many ways
an ANC apologist) must have hit a raw nerve.
Whatever postulating Pahad may offer, the fact remains that Robert
Mugabe acts like - and is - a dictator.
In the last few years the despot, with his Zanu-PF crew, has driven
Zimbabwe into economic stagnation and ruin.
Inflation is exceeding 600% per annum, the economy is shrinking (minus
12% per annum) and unemployment runs at about 70%.
In a normal democracy such figures would topple any government, but
then Zimbabwe is not a normal democracy.
The sad truth is that, in the present circumstance, a Mugabe-led
Zimbabwe is beyond economic redemption. "Economic redemption" and "Mugabe"
are, in fact, incompatible with each other.
Mugabe has no intention of stepping down or of altering his course.
Does anyone think a handshake
between Mugabe and Tsvangirai will
miraculously turn the economy round? If so, then why was it not done two or
three years ago?
The Commonwealth had to show disapproval of Mugabe's high-handed and
possibly illegal activities, with the contempt for law and order shown by
Zanu-PF in land seizures, electoral activities, human rights abuses and so
To fail to do so would only send a message that all this is "no big
deal", and anything goes.
Therefore, to suggest that Mugabe be unconditionally readmitted on a
"no questions asked" basis is no answer at all.
There are other avenues open for "quiet diplomacy", not just the
Commonwealth. Didn't Mbeki see Mugabe last week?
But then, is it ever likely that any "useful idiots" can be found to
pick up Zimbabwe's spiralling bill - but at the same time keep Mugabe in
We may yet regret how we treated our neighbour
December 29, 2003
"There'll be no 'loud diplomacy" by Aziz Pahad (The Star, December 23)
Written, as Pahad always does write, in beautiful English, the article
fails to explain what our government plans to do to correct a situation that
is dangerous for us and which, regardless of denials, must be an
embarrassment to our president's efforts on behalf of Africa.
The comment merely criticises Allister Sparks for having an opinion -
this in the absence of any meaningful comment from our government. It must
be self-evident that the solution lies with the people of Zimbabwe, and that
all that can be done to assist them should be done.
Pahad elevates Mugabe by referring to his position being that of the
government while the opposition is referred to as the MDC. This, too, is a
form of spin.
The legitimacy of Zanu-PF as the
government is at the crux of the
entire problem. Where is the terminology of freedom struggles and calling
Zanu-PF "the regime"? Or even stating that the positions are those of
Zanu-PF and the MDC?
Undoubtedly, Mugabe must be part of the solution but is our president
not being part of the problem by not condemning the state-sponsored terror
in Zimbabwe while emphasising that the state must be part of negotiations?
What are the statistics for our government's meetings with
the MDC as compared to Zanu-PF? We may yet regret the near contempt
with which we have treated a future government of a nation that could again
become our most important neighbour.
Nepad has been killed by Mbeki's ignorance
December 29, 2003
I refer to Aziz Pahad's article "There'll be no loud diplomacy"
(Opinion and Analysis, December 23 2003).
There are two other issues I would like to pursue with the deputy
He complains that those who criticise President Mbeki's, the
government's and ANC's position on Zimbabwe, are "ill-
I have, on several occasions, faxed and e-mailed the deputy minister
on why he, the government and the ANC, find the report of the UN Panel of
Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of the natural resources of the DRC
"problematic". I have yet to receive a reply. If I am "ill-informed", it is
because Pahad refuses to inform me.
The other issue is Mbeki's position on HIV/Aids, and his contribution
to the cabinet's deliberations on this matter.
Was it a case of "Yes, go for this", in which case why was there no
presidential involvement in the recent Aids concert? Lacking a personal
appearance (God forbid that he should actually meet someone who is
HIV-positive) could there not at least have been a video insert? Or a
presidential congratulation to the Treatment Action Campaign and Zachie
Achmat on a Nobel Prize nomination?
that Mbeki "participated fully" in cabinet's
deliberations. Would he be prepared to share with us what those
participations were (courtesy of his big brother Essop)?
Was it: "Yes, I enthusiastically endorse and support these
initiatives" - in which case the government's communications resources are
singularly failing, since this message has not come across. Or was it: "Well
if we must, to win the next election".
But to get back to the main issue, Zimbabwe. Will the deputy minister
explain why Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, identified by the UN panel as one
of those who condemned one out of four Congolese infants to death before the
age of five, was accorded such a rapturous reception at the most recent ANC
conference, rather than treated as a pariah?
Mbeki has obviously decided that the human rights issues addressed by
those such as Desmond Tutu and Trevor Ngcube do not apply to African states.
Nepad is probably dead, and Mbeki is to blame.
Moving stories: Strive Masiyiwa
Service's The World Today programme is asking migrants who have been successful
in their adopted countries how they got to the top of their field.
Strive Masiyiwa is publisher of Zimbabwe's Daily News, a paper critical of President Robert Mugabe, and the CEO of telecommunications group Econet Wireless International. He is a Zimbabwean national who lives in South Africa.
I trained in the United Kingdom - I obtained a degree there in electronics and power engineering.
But I left almost four years ago.
I am also the publisher of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper.
The government recently shut down the paper.
So that might give you an idea of the nature of our relationship with the government in Zimbabwe. They don't appreciate that you don't shoot the messenger.
We reflect what is happening in society. To shut down the newspaper does not take away the problems which we've been reflecting.
We're constantly having running battles with the government. I decided that I was better off moving to South Africa.
I also felt that if I was there, it would be easier for me to develop the vision that I had for providing telecommunications in Africa.
I still have hope for Zimbabwe, although I still cannot go back, which leaves me with a deep sense of sadness.
It's an increasingly sad situation, and my prayer is that sooner rather than later we will begin to see some changes which will improve the lives of the people.
I keep a very close tab on what's going on in Zimbabwe. Some of my closest family and friends are there.
I'm sure anyone in my position would rather have achieved what they've achieved at home.
But in the era that I was born and raised, that was not possible.
So I just have to accept that reality, that my
circumstances as an individual would probably not be quite what they are if I
had stayed in Zimbabwe.
December 29, 2003
Posted to the web December 29, 2003
AS the rains are now with us, there is need for the country to co-ordinate
efforts in the management of disasters to ensure quick and efficient
In the last few years, Zimbabwe's disaster preparedness has come under
scrutiny following the country's failure to handle a series of disasters
that rocked the country on several occasions.
Examples of such disasters include the 2000 Cyclone Eline floods, which
ripped through the southern and eastern parts of the country, killing people
and destroying property worth millions of dollars. Up to now we are still
feeling the effects of the disaster.
The following year, Zimbabwe was again hit by floods, which affected
low-lying areas such as Muzarabani, Guruve, parts of Manicaland and
When Cyclone Japhet hit the country at the beginning of this year, several
people were killed, houses, dams and other important infrastructure suffered
extensive structural damage, whilst families also lost livestock and crops.
Other calamities that have befallen the nation include fatal bus disasters,
drowning of people on fishing escapades or of those attempting to cross
flooded rivers and these are increasingly becoming common features.
Apart from these major disasters, the country has been hit by several
disease outbreaks such as cholera, where people's lives are lost as was the
case last year in Bikita.
However, in all the disasters that have befallen the nation, the country has
been blamed for lack of preparedness to cope with these sad events.
While lack of necessary resources have compromised rescue operations in some
of these disasters, lack of elaborate timely disaster preparedness plans
have seriously hampered operations of the Civil Protection Department.
Because of this inefficiency, the country has had to look to neighbouring
countries for help.
Perhaps to begin with, there is need to strengthen the early warning weather
system through better use of information that is readily available from the
It has been observed that lack of an early warning system and a proper
preparedness plan has drastically hampered the efforts to reduce the impact
of such disasters.
For example, it is clear that meteorological factors that affect Mozambique
have more or less an impact on Zimbabwe.
When the Meteorological Department announced that Cyclone Japhet was going
to hit Mozambique, there was an assumption that it would end in that country
and little was done to mitigate or raise awareness in the areas that were
potentially vulnerable to cyclones.
After a few days, Muzarabani, Masvingo, Eastern Highlands and southern parts
of the country were hit by the Cyclone Japhet induced-floods. Today some of
the affected communities have not yet recovered from the effects of this
With the onset of the rain season, the major disaster that is likely to face
the nation is that of flooding and heavy storms that are likely to wash away
bridges and homesteads.
Already the Meteorological Department has predicted that the country will
receive an above normal rainfall for the 2003/2004 farming season.
Though this prediction is good news for the country's agricultural sector,
which badly needs revival following the effects of drought in last two
years, the prediction however could mean that some areas are likely to
experience flooding particularly in low-lying areas.
The deputy director for the Department of the Meteorology Dr Leonard
Unganayi dispelled the notion that good rains are usually associated with
floods, saying flooding could take place even when a country receive less
He however said it was difficult at this point in time to dismiss the
possibility of flooding because his department cannot make long term
predictions to cover the whole rainy season.
"What we know for certain is that the southern region is definitely going to
be hit by tropical cyclone and it is difficult to tell whether the
phenomenon will hit Zimbabwe," he said
Tropical cyclone is a weather phenomenon characterised by strong winds and
plenty of rainfall.
Dr Unganayi however cautioned people in the low-lying areas such as
Muzarabani to be on the look-out for flooding.
From a cost benefit perspective, there is every reason for the Government
and other stakeholders to invest in early warning systems and disaster
preparedness plans rather than wait to respond to disasters only when they
As a starting point, the Civil Protection Unit should take lessons from past
experiences such as Cyclone Eline by monitoring settlement patterns of
people in areas that have been affected by droughts before.
The assumption that Zimbabwe is not a disaster-prone country needs to be
discarded and the nation should start seeking corrective measures and how
best people can be prepared to effectively deal with such phenomena as
floods should they occur.
On several occasions, organisations such as the Civil Protection Unit, Save
the Children (UK) and The Red Cross to mention a few, have responded to
disasters that have been predicted before they happen.
They have done this through carrying out awareness campaigns in flood-prone
areas and sourcing for relief material from the donor community.
The Civil Protection Unit has already started awareness campaigns on the
dangers of natural disasters and these are expected to coincide with the
This is being done in conjunction with Save the Children (UK) a humanitarian
organisation, which is providing the funding and some technical advice for
A three-week community-based training on early warning and risk reduction
awareness on the dangers of the rainy season was launched in October.
It started in Chikwarakwara, which is between the Limpopo and Bubi Rivers
and later proceeded to Beitbridge.
The Chikwarara community experienced flash floods in the year 2000 when the
water in Bubi River failed to flow into Limpopo due to down-stream
The campaigns were also carried out in Malipati in Chiredzi and finally in
Chibuwe in Chipinge.
This was meant to equip local officials and communities with skills in basic
disaster management to reduce loss of lives and property due to hazards
associated with flooding.
Communities in these remote parts of the country regularly experience
problems during the rainy seasons from excessive rainfall concentrated over
a short period of time.
"We believe a community-based early warning system can alleviate suffering
of these vulnerable communities as it enhances their capacity to cope," said
Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira, the Civil Protection Unit director.
The involvement of other important sectors such as The Red Cross, Ministry
of Education, ZRP Sub-Aqua unit, Meteorological Services and Save the
Children (UK) made the whole exercise very meaningful to the communities.
It is this partnership approach that has been lacking.
"Save the Children (UK) is concerned about the impact of disasters,
including those that happen during the rainy season.
"Previous experience has shown that children are the most affected when such
disasters happen. Therefore equipping the communities with knowledge on how
to deal with floods and disease outbreaks is vital," said Mr Chris McIvor,
Save the Children (UK) country programme director.
He said that his organisation would continue to conduct these awareness
programmes to equip communities with necessary skills that they would use
when faced with a disaster.
The organisation also promised to make available more financial resources
toward this programme to avert the suffering of children as a result of such
In addition to its awareness campaigns, Save the Children (UK) will
distribute a brochure on the dangers of the rainy season to remote areas of
the country as a way of raising awareness in communities that do not have
access to the local media.
The recent campaign was a good starting point, but there is need to spread
the message to other places like Chimanimani, Nyanga, Masvingo and
Muzarabani that are vulnerable to heavy rains.
The responsibility should not be left in the hands of the Civil Protection
Department alone but all the stakeholders should put their heads together to
map the way forward.
It should be noted that most of these vulnerable areas do not have access to
local media. Therefore, the use of radio or newspapers to communicate early
warning information might not be helpful to these communities. This is why
it is important to promote other ways of information dissemination to such
communities and enlighten them on the dangers of the rainy season so that
they better equipped.
Implementation of Auction System Moved Forward
December 29, 2003
Posted to the web December 29, 2003
THE implementation of the new foreign currency auction system, which will be
designed on the Zambian model, has been moved forward to January 12 from
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr Gideon Gono, said the dates were
brought forward after assurances by central bank officials who returned from
a study tour in Zambia recently that the structures necessary for the
implementation of the system would be in place by the new date.
"We will be tapping into the CZI's expertise of the system during the
implementation process," Dr Gono said.
The January 17 date had been decided upon after the realisation that some of
the key officials would be away on a strategic planning workshop.
The new system was expected to replace the fixed exchange rate system that
had been in existence during the past six years.
The system was chosen ahead of three other systems which included, the free
float, managed crawl and tradable certificate of deposit systems.
The controlled option approach, which was adopted in consultation with the
Government and business, is a system where foreign currency would be
auctioned through a currency exchange, an independent body that would
operate under the supervision of the central bank.
Under the system, foreign currency would be offered to bidders at their own
bid rate starting from the highest bid rate to the lowest rate until all the
available foreign currency is exhausted.
The foreign currency would be allocated on a pro-rata basis for those whose
bid rate is equal to the minimum auction market-clearing rate.
Different players in the economy would be expected to remit their earnings
using different variation with exporters expected to discharge CD1 forms on
the basis of the gross export proceeds and 50 percent of their foreign
exchange earnings being retained in foreign currency accounts. Of the
remaining 50 percent, 25 percent would immediately be sold to the auction
market at the ruling auction rate.
The remaining 25 percent would be surrendered to the Reserve Bank, at the
current exchange rate of $800 per US dollar for critical imports and other
External loan repayments would, thus, be met from the exporter's 50 percent
share and other purchases from the auction.
Gold producers, on the other hand, would continue to receive 50 percent of
their foreign currency earnings while the other 50 percent of their earnings
would be surrendered to the central bank. Of the 50 percent surrendered to
the Reserve Bank, 25 percent would be bought at the auction rate while the
balance would be bought at the rate of $800 per US dollar.
In respect of tobacco, the central bank was expected to buy 75 percent of
all the foreign exchange from tobacco sold on the auction floors at the
ruling exchange auction rate.
The amount would then be sold at the market for exchange with the remaining
25 percent being bought at an exchange rate of $800 per US dollar for
critical imports and other Government requirements.
The arrangement was expected to result in a blend exchange rate, which
ensures that tobacco growers are viable.
The supply of foreign currency to the currency exchange was expected to come
from exporters' liquidation of FCAs, whose liquidation period would be
reduced from the current 60-day period to 21 days with effect from January
Other sources include receipts from tourists, sales by non-governmental
organisations, embassies and individuals.
Supplies are also expected to come from remittances from non-resident
Zimbabweans and other foreign exchange receipts from trade finance
facilities and other capital inflows, which would also be sold to the
Reserve Bank at the prevailing auction rate.
However, the non-liquidation of FCAs in the early stages of the auction
system was expected to result in a premium on foreign exchange, which would
be reflected in a higher auction rate.
This would represent an extra cost, which the country would need to pay in
order to instill confidence in the foreign exchange market.
Participants of the auction system would be bidders or users of foreign
exchange, who include importers, authorised dealers and the Reserve Bank.
Authorised dealers would act on the currency exchange as brokers and would
also ensure that bids are made for approved exchange control transactions as
well as ensuring that the bidders have adequate domestic currency equivalent
to the bid.
Bidders would be expected to tender their bids through authorised dealers
stating the amount of foreign currency required and the rate they are
willing to pay as well as the purpose of the request.
Under the system, small bids of below US$5 000 would be aggregated and
presented to the currency exchange by authorised dealers.
At the end of each auction, the auction exchange rate, the total number of
bids received and the number of successful bids would be announced and the
auction rate weighted exchange rate applies until the next auction date to
all foreign exchange transactions, including customs and interaction
purchases by the Reserve Bank.
Cross rates with other international currencies would also be derived and
published after each auction.
The interval of the auction was expected to range from daily, twice weekly
or weekly, depending on the circumstances.
Speed Up Dam Construction, Government Urged
December 29, 2003
Posted to the web December 29, 2003
HARARE residents yesterday urged the Government to speed up construction of
the Kunzvi Dam to ease the city's perennial water woes.
The Kunzvi Dam project has been on the cards for a long time and the
Government recently re-tendered the project after a poor response by
contractors to an initial tender in March.
Residents of Harare and its satellite towns of Ruwa, Chitungwiza and Norton
view it as a lasting solution to their growing water problems and they felt
its construction should be a Government rather than a council matter.
The dam, to be built at the confluence of Nyagui and Nora Rivers in
Goromonzi district falls in a different catchment area from Chivero,
Manyame, Seke and Harava dams that derive their water from Manyame River.
Once completed, the dam is also expected to ease critical water problems
faced by the residents of Harare, Chitungwiza, Ruwa and Norton.
The development of Kunzvi Dam would also mean that the capital city and its
satellite towns would get fresh water, free from industrial effluent,
instead of recycled water the city is currently using.
Sources said the construction of Kunzvi Dam would provide an answer to
Harare's compounding water woes as the capital grapples with water demand
that has outstripped supply capacity.
While the construction appeared to be expensive initially, in the end it
would be a cost-cutting exploration considering the amount of money Harare
City incurred in water purification chemicals.
Lake Chivero from where Harare draws its water is downstream of the city
resulting in all the waste water finding its way back into the dam and into
"Using chemicals alone is not an issue, there is need for a grand plan.
"Kunzvi Dam could be the permanent solution for water reticulation," said a
source at the Harare City Council.
Some Harare residents yesterday said the city council this year failed
dismally to provide quality service in almost all the areas.
"We were kept guessing on water, today they have chemicals tomorrow they do
not have and numerous other problems piled up," said Mr Charles Mutero.
Some residents of the city's eastern suburbs of Mabvuku, Tafara, parts of
Greendale, Ruwa and ZimRe Park spent Christmas without water.
Many people in Mabvuku resorted to fetching water from unprotected sources
In Epworth, water was now being sold because taps have run dry for several
weeks without any explanation from the local authorities.
Mrs Chipo Muzheri of Highfield where raw sewerage has been flowing in front
of her house for close to three weeks hit out at council for failing to
provide a decent service to residents.
She said the ever-flowing sewerage poses a health hazard to residents
particularly children who sometimes pick up objects to play with from the
"This has gone on for a long time and the Harare City Council seems to be
pre-occupied with squabbling instead of attending to things like burst sewer
pipes and providing ratepayers with clean water," said Mrs Muzheri.
In Mbare, raw sewerage flowing in front of yards has become the norm as
underground pipes burst occasionally owing to old age.
Throughout the city the council failed to maintain traffic lights and
created death spots on all intersections.
The local authority did not even have the courtesy to apologise to
ratepayers whose lives were prone to accidents at the uncontrolled
Roads in most suburbs continued to deteriorate while the council also failed
to service new stands.
Council recreational facilities like parks continued to deteriorate while
the central business district of Harare was littered with vendors and papers
strewn all over the city.
Some women attacked council for failing to come up with policies on street
kids that had become a menace.
"Street kids have an impact on investment and in some towns municipal police
also known as metro police focus on them rather than innocent vendors," said
Ms Virginia Mutora.
The council was also attacked for failing to keep the streets lit in most
areas of the town where darkness had created a good climate for thieves.
"Their provision of services was the worst in years and this can only be
attributed to inexperience, greed and cheap politics. We read that officials
are involved in many deals but they should have residents first," said Ms
In all areas refuse collection has been erratic and Harare once nicknamed
the "Sunshine City" had been reduced to a dirty settlement similar to most
West African towns.
Rains Bring Relief to New Farmers
December 29, 2003
Posted to the web December 29, 2003
NEWLY-resettled farmers said if the country continued to receive more rains
like what was happening in the last few days there was likely to be a bumper
harvest next year.
There was a hive of activity at most farms visited by The Herald yesterday
with some starting to plant.
Some farmers in Mazowe who had already planted said if all parts of the
country continued to receive more rains the country would have a bumper
"We have confidence that the country will have a bumper harvest if the rains
continue for the next few weeks until our harvest," said Mr Steven Mpondi of
Beira Farm in Mazowe.
However, some farmers in the area had not yet started planting owing to the
"We had not yet planted because we were not sure if the rains were coming.
We have now decided to plant and we are optimistic the rains will not let us
down," said a farmer in the Mazowe area.
Mr Mupondi who was allocated his portion of land early this year said he was
planting maize, millet and paprika on about 30 hectares. There was a dry
spell throughout the country in the past few weeks raising alarm in most
farming areas but Cyclone Cela brought relief to many farmers.
The Department of Meteorological Services reported that the rains falling in
most parts of the country were expected to persist throughout this week.
The department said the rains were as a result of the abating ex-tropical
Cyclone Cela, which developed in the Mozambican channels and drew moisture
into the northern parts of the country, resulting in widespread rain
throughout the country over the past few days.
The department said the dry spell experienced in some parts of the country
did not mean that the country would not receive normal rain this season. It
added that cloud seeding exercise being undertaken by the department was a
yearly routine and would also help.
Cloud seeding started in the country after the devastating drought in
1967-1968 season and has been carried out almost every year.