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Mugabe's housing programme grinds to a halt

Zim Online

Sat 3 December 2005

      HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's project to build houses for
thousands of families whose homes he ordered demolished in a controversial
urban renewal campaign five months ago has ground to a halt because there is
no money.

      At least 700 000 people were cast onto the streets without shelter or
means of livelihood after their homes were demolished by the government,
according to the United Nations (UN) which also said Mugabe's urban renewal
campaign violated human rights and may have breached international law.

      Another 2.4 million poor Zimbabweans were also affected by the home
demolition campaign, the UN said.

      But Mugabe defended the urban clean-up exercise saying it was intended
to better the lives of Zimbabweans because the cash-strapped Harare
government would build modern houses for people whose mostly slum
accommodation had been demolished. However, a ZimOnline news team that
visited construction sites at Whitecliff and Hatcliff extension just outside
Harare, where construction of some of the houses began four months ago,
found the sites virtually deserted with no building taking place.

      There were several structures at various stages of incompletion with
some of the contractors who spoke on condition they were not named saying
building work stopped last month after the government ran out of money.

      "Even us, the workers, have not received our salaries since October,"
said one construction worker at Hatcliff Extension. "In early October, the
government said we would receive some food because our salaries would be
delayed. But we only received the food a few times and that was it."

      Although several hundred houses were recently completed in the second
largest city of Bulawayo, the government has not been able to finish
building houses in the other cities before the onset of the rainy season as
it had promised to do. The rains started a few weeks ago.

      Local Government and Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo, in charge of
the reconstruction programme, confirmed the work stoppages. But he said that
this was because of a shortage of building materials rather than because the
government does not have money.

      He said: "People tend to exaggerate things. Of course we are having
problems of suppliers not meeting our demands for building materials. We
have money for the projects."

      Delays in completion of the house building project appears to back
economic analysts who had expressed doubt that the Harare administration
would be able to find the huge financial resources required to sponsor such
a programme.

      In addition to building houses, Mugabe's government must also find
more money to buy fuel, food, essential medical drugs and other basic
survival commodities in critical short supply as Zimbabwe grapples its worst
ever economic crisis. - ZimOnline.

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Pro-senate MDC candidate challenges election loss

Zim Online

Sat 3 December 2005

      BULAWAYO - A losing opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
candidate in last week's controversial senate election on Friday filed a
petition with the Electoral Court seeking the nullification of the result
citing massive electoral irregularities.

      Jabulani Ndlovu, who represented the MDC in the Hwange East
constituency, lost to ruling ZANU PF's Grace Dube in the election boycotted
by a faction of the opposition party led by leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

      Ndlovu wants the court to overturn the result because of massive
electoral irregularities during polling.

      Ndlovu said a few days before voting, Dube collected national identity
cards from people in the constituency after promising to bring them maize
the following day.

      However, she never returned resulting in many people failing to vote,
according to the petitioner.

      Ndlovu said: "Our understanding is that hundreds of ZANU PF supporters
were bussed in from different areas and were given those IDs to vote in my
constituency. This is a serious irregularity because the respondent wilfully
disenfranchised hundreds of the electorate."

      Contacted for comment yesterday, Dube rejected charges of election
fraud describing the allegation as "malicious propaganda that will not help
the MDC".

      Meanwhile, an official of the faction aligned to secretary general
Welshman Ncube said yesterday's petition was the first among several such
petitions planned by the party. He said the party was still in the process
of identifying more constituencies where it says ZANU PF won through fraud.

      The pro-senate faction put up a dismal show in the senate polls
boycotted by the majority of Zimbabweans who heeded Tsvangirai's call to
ignore the poll. The MDC faction won a paltry seven seats out of the 50
which were up for grabs.

      But observers say the move to take the petition to the Electoral
Court, set up by President Robert Mugabe earlier this year to deal with
electoral disputes, will not achieve much since the court has routinely
dismissed virtually all petitions filed by the opposition party in the
past. - ZimOnline

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Where did it all go wrong in Zimbabwe?


          December 02 2005 at 02:59AM

      By Peta Thornycroft

      Ahead of the March general election, a long-serving human rights
activist commented in casual conversation to journalists that Morgan
Tsvangirai would never lead Zimbabwe.

      She said: "He does not have what it takes to be the one."

      She didn't believe he had the qualities for the job, but couldn't
define what those qualities were.

            'He does not have what it takes to be the one'
      The Movement for Democratic Change was the fastest growing political
party in Africa's history when, as a nine-month-old organisation, it came
within a whisker of beating Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF in the 2000 general
election despite appalling state-sponsored violence.

      Now the party is in shreds, irreconcilably divided between loyalists
of party president Tsvangirai and the other faction unofficially led by
secretary-general Welshman Ncube, an acerbic lawyer.

      Deep divisions of style and content within the MDC coalesced over
participation in last Saturday's senate elections, with Tsvangirai calling
for a boycott, and Ncube saying the party had a constitutional obligation to
obey a narrow decision by its national council to take part and defend its
political space.

      Tsvangirai successfully led a boycott, which also "decampaigned" 26
MDC candidates who lost all but seven senate seats in its strongholds.

      The split is getting uglier by the day with youths guarding the
entrance to the MDC's scruffy city centre headquarters to ensure Ncube
doesn't enter.

      John Makumbe, a veteran political scientist who is largely supportive
of Tsvangirai, says: "He is a trade unionist who didn't know what a
political consultant was before 2000.

      "He is naive, even now, but he is the most courageous leader Zimbabwe
has ever had, politically gullible and, to use a phrase from someone who was
talking about him this week, he doesn't have the 'anointing' to lead."

      Another political observer, who remains neutral in the fatal split,
says Tsvangirai "is brave, compassionate, hard- working, naive, headstrong,
and latterly, self-important.

      "He lost self-confidence when he was charged with treason weeks before
the presidential election of 2002, which was Mugabe's master stroke.

      "Morgan does not abide by the collective decisions of his elected
officials. Had he consulted them, he would never have fallen into that trap.

      "The treason trial diverted his attention from the election,
completely drained the party's financial resources and consumed the MDC so
fundamentally it never recovered."

      Tsvangirai was trapped by an intelligence sting in Canada, believing
he was hiring a political lobbyist and fund-raiser, who had actually been
hired by Zimbabwean Security Minister Nicholas Goche to implicate Tsvangirai
in a non-existent plot to assassinate Mugabe.

      He was acquitted two years later.

      "Morgan trusts people who are patently incompetent and he has ignored
or demoted some of the most talented members because he saw them as a
threat," the observer says.

      That is also a widely held view by several of Tsvangirai's
confidantes, providing of course that they are not identified.

      "Organisation for the mass protest in 2003 was in the hands of an
entirely incompetent official whom Morgan trusted, and still does. It was

      That was the last MDC demonstration.

      "If he had not been so impulsive he would not have alienated Thabo
Mbeki as he did in 2003 when he called him a liar. What he said was correct,
there were no negotiations between the MDC and Zanu-PF as Mbeki claimed, but
Morgan should have been diplomatic."

      Makumbe believes that even if Tsvangirai had the most sophisticated
political skills and all the resources in the world, it would be impossible
to defeat Mugabe democratically and persuade stodgy old Africa that he was
not a "British puppet".

      Former MDC MP Roy Bennett, one of Tsvangirai's most loyal supporters
who lost his parliamentary seat when he was sent to prison last year, says:

      "I am not sure any outsider, including you journalists, has any real
idea of how badly the people were punished by Mugabe for supporting the MDC.
I have seen things which have never been reported, the most terrible,
terrible things.

      "I am furious at the leadership, all of them. They let the people

      The management committee, which used to run the MDC's daily affairs,
admits it failed to restrain Tsvangirai's "indiscretions" or effectively
censure his mistakes so he wouldn't repeat them.

      "It is true, we tried to keep the party together at all costs to
overcome Mugabe," says one of them.

      There is no obvious replacement for Tsvangirai, certainly not Ncube
who has known all his life that no Ndebele could lead Zimbabwe for the
foreseeable future, despite the MDC's efforts to obliterate Mugabe's legacy
of tribal and clan politics.

      At present the rumours are flying to explain the collapse of the MDC.

      The most persistent from Tsvangirai's camp is that Ncube had secret
visits with Mbeki.

      He has had a secret visit with Solomon Mujuru, a retired general whose
wife Joice is vice president and who is manipulating Zanu-PF's succession

      He has, so the rumour goes, agreed with Mbeki that Tsvangirai must be
ousted to allow Ncube to lead a government of national unity. Taking part in
the senate elections was part of that plot, says this faction of the MDC.

      The other side is convinced, but has no hard evidence, that Tsvangirai
has surrounded himself with advisers in the pay of the Central Intelligence
Organisation, whose job was to destroy the MDC through internal fighting.

      If that's true, they seem to have accomplished their mission.

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UN Emergency Relief Coordinator expected to meet Mugabe next week

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 2 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan
Egeland, who arrives in Zimbabwe on a five-day fact-finding trip on
Saturday, is expected to meet with President Robert Mugabe on Monday.

Hiro Ueki, UN spokesman in Harare, told IRIN that Egeland would also make
field trips to sites in the capital to assess the situation of people
affected by the government's clean-up campaign, Operation Murambatsvina. A
trip to Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, and meetings with Zimbabwean
ministers and members of civil society are also on the cards.

A UN report estimated that Murambatsvina - which the government said was
aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals - had left more than
700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood after kicking off in

Egeland's visit follows an agreement between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
and Mugabe at the World Summit in September.

Zimbabwe had rejected UN offers of assistance to house tens of thousands of
people still homeless as a result of Operation Murambatsvina. Last month,
Annan made an appeal to the Zimbabwean government "to ensure that those who
are out in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their
livelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with
the United Nations" and other aid agencies.

In November the government made an about-turn and accepted the UN's offer,
and the construction of 10 pilot houses for government approval is currently

This week the UN launched an appeal for US $276 million in aid for Zimbabwe,
saying at least three million people would require food aid, as only an
estimated 600,000 mt of maize had been harvested, compared to a national
requirement of 1.8 million mt.

"Mr Egeland's visit will be aimed at talks around humanitarian issues, such
as food security, health, water and sanitation," said Ueki.

It is also anticipated that Egeland will meet with representatives of the
South African government in Pretoria during his trip, to discuss closer
collaboration in humanitarian assistance, including raising resources for
the proposed global Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

The new CERF will probably be larger than the existing fund, established in
1992, which UN agencies can draw upon when responding to emergencies,
provided they can identify how the money will be replenished.

Meanwhile, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has made a
cash donation of about $17 million to help the UN's World Food Programme
(WFP) buy up to 40,000 mt of food - enough to feed more than three million
Zimbabweans for a month.

"This support comes at a critical time for WFP's programmes in Zimbabwe,
when we are scaling up our programmes to reach over three million vulnerable
people," said Kevin Farrell, WFP Country Director in Zimbabwe. "Combined
with support from a range of donors, DFID's generous contribution helps WFP
to buy food regionally for distribution in Zimbabwe at the height of the
hungry season."

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Garbage collection collapses in Harare


          December 02 2005 at 05:58AM

      By Angus Shaw

      Mbare - The smell of sewage and rotting garbage wafts into homes.
Acrid smoke hangs in the air where families have tried to burn household

      Garbage collection is the latest casualty as Zimbabwe's economy

      With the start of seasonal rains, the effects are becoming unbearable
in this poor south-western Harare township. Trash is piled waist-high in the
narrow streets, and reeking water stagnates in potholes, blocked sewers and

      "It is symptomatic of general decline and the national crisis as a
whole," said Mike Davies, an official of the Combined Harare Ratepayers

      Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence
from Britain in 1980, blamed largely on the often-violent seizure of
thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.

      Four years of erratic rainfall have also disrupted the
agriculture-based economy, leaving up to four million people in need of food
aid in what was once a regional breadbasket.

      Three waste management firms have withdrawn collection services across
half the capital, citing acute shortages of gasoline, spare parts and
equipment, and saying they get too little in fees from the city.

      Most of the city's own garbage trucks have broken down. The few left
service hospitals, shopping centres and areas close to the centre, city
authorities said in a report on Wednesday.

      Already, there is concern about disease spreading in the city of two
million people. Last month, health authorities reported outbreaks of
dysentery and food poisoning blamed on frequent water and power outages that
cause toilet and sewage blockages.

      In Mabvuku township, in eastern Harare, residents scooped water from
open drains during a seven-day outage earlier this month.

      Hundreds of diarrhoea cases have been reported in recent weeks,
including at least 12 children who died of dehydration, said a Harare
physician, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution in the
increasingly autocratic state.

      Executives at a Harare food processing factory told staff to filter
and boil the water used after tests showed an increase in harmful bacteria.
City authorities are believed to be using insufficient purifying chemicals
in the drinking water due to shortages of hard currency needed to buy the

      Plumbing firms say blockages in the ailing water system have worsened
due to the use of sand and soil as household scourers. The price of cleaning
materials have increased about six-fold this year.

      Last December, the government fired the opposition-dominated Harare
city council for alleged mismanagement and appointed a state commission to
run municipal services. - Sapa-AP

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MDC suspends six after elections row


          December 02 2005 at 03:31AM

      Harare - Six senior Zimbabwean opposition members have been suspended
from the party executive for refusing to heed a call from leader Morgan
Tsvangirai to boycott recent senate elections, a party spokesperson said on

      The national council of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) made
the decision at meeting on Thursday, sacking secretary general Welshman
Ncube and vice president Gibson Sibanda among others, said newly-appointed
spokesperson Nelson Chamisa.

      "These people have not been performing their official duties in the
past two months as mandated by the party constitution and brought the name
of the party into disrepute," Chamisa told AFP.

      "The national council met yesterday and expressed no confidence in
them. They are effectively suspended until they come back and start doing
the work they were elected to do."

      The other four who were expelled from the leadership were deputy
secretary general Gift Chimanikire, treasurer Fletcher Dulini-Ncube,
information and publicity secretary Paul Themba Nyathi and secretary for
policy and research Trudy Stevenson.

      The six backed party members who rejected a call by Tsvangirai to
boycott elections to a new senate that were held on November 26.

      Tsvangirai maintained that the elections were a waste of money at a
time when the country was facing a severe food shortage.

      President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front (Zanu-PF) won 43 of the 50 contested seats, while the MDC picked up
seven seats in the elections that were marred by poor turnout.

      But the split has dealt a severe blow to the MDC, which had in recent
years been widely regarded as the most credible challenge to Mugabe's 25
years uninterrupted rule.

      The national council meeting came a week after a party committee had
suspended Tsvangirai from his position as president of the MDC that was
founded six years ago.

      But Tsvangirai scoffed at the suspension and continued to perform his
official duties and visiting the party offices.

      Infighting in the MDC came to a boil after Tsvangirai overruled a
decision of the national council and declared that the opposition would not
participate in the polls. - Sapa-AFP

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Zimbabwe police detain activists on World Aids Day march
[1.30pm Fri 2 Dec]

by Briggs Bomba, International Socialist Organisation Zimbabwe

In an act of barbarism, police descended on the Harare World Aids Day march
on Thursday 1 December, and ordered the marchers to disperse. Five of the
protest's organisers were arrested and have not yet been released. These are
Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organisation, Mao
Nyikadzino of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Sostain Moyo of
Zimbabwe Activists Against Aids and Anna and Gladys from the Women Aids
Support Network (WASN).

The sad irony is that the police had given clearance for the march and a
gathering in the Africa Unity Square. On the day they turned around and said
that the proceedings could not go ahead and worse still arrested people. It
now seems clear that they set a trap to waylay people.

The success of this Thursday's action is very inspiring. Hundreds of us
marched on the streets of Harare singing and raised our banners for over 30
minutes. Banners demanded access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and carried
the demands of Action Against Poverty. These included a living wage for
workers, fuel, affordable sanitary pads and baby milk and a reduction in

People also called for transparency on the Aids levy. This is made up of
painful contributions from workers, but has been looted by some heartless
regime bureaucrats. There was a significant presence of NCA activists
calling for a new people-centred constitution.

Lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights are busy trying to get
the arrested comrades released. We are asking supporters to bombard the
police station with calls and faxes demanding the release of those in police

Phone Harare Central Police Station 00 263 733033, 00 263 721212, 00 263
721231 and 00 263 725803

Phone the Minister of Home Affairs 00 263 723635, 00 263 703642 and 00 263

© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if
you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

[3.50pm Fri 2 Dec]
This article should be read after: » Zimbabwe police detain activists on
World Aids Day march

Zimbabwe activists released
The five Zimbabwean activists held after Thursday's World Aids day march in
Harare have now been released by the police.

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Plight of Zimbabwe Jews reaches a new low


      By Charlotte Hall

      Some receive a monthly pension that is less than the price of a loaf
of bread, others rarely attend events because they cannot obtain the
gasoline needed to get there and there was barely a minyan of ten men for
prayer services on the second day of Rosh Hashanah this year.

      The picture that Peter Sternberg paints of the Jewish community that
he heads, as president of the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies, is more
than a little bleak.

      "When you look in the cold light of day at what we're putting up with,
it is unbearable," Sternberg told Anglo File this week during a visit to

      Zimbabwe's Jews, a thriving community of 75,000 at its peak in the
mid-1960s, now number less than 300. Like the rest of the country's
population, they are struggling to get by in a devastated economy. Inflation
is nearly 400 percent, there is an acute fuel shortage and supermarkets
often lack even staples.

      In the last few years there has been a steep rise in the number of
Jews and other Zimbabweans who have left the former British colony.
President Robert Mugabe has come under harsh criticism for his human rights
record and his policies are blamed for bringing the country to the brink of
economic and social collapse.

      The remaining members of the Jewish community, many of whom still
reside in large homes that reflect their former economic status, have been
reduced to a standard of living that few could have imagined even a decade

      Sternberg reports on the difficulties of burying an elderly member of
the community recently because there was no petrol for the hearse to
transport the coffin to the cemetery.

      Those who had hoped to retire on their pensions "haven't got a hope of
surviving with the increase in prices because a monthly pension won't buy a
loaf of bread," Sternberg says, quoting this week's exchange rate of one US
dollar to 66,000 Zimbabwe dollars (black market rates are of course higher).

      "It's amazing how people do manage to survive though, cobbling
together money from here and there," Sternberg adds. `Here and there,' he
explains, usually means investments, relatives abroad and part-time work -
some members of the community continue to work well into their seventies.
Only a handful receive welfare funds, whether from the local community or
Jewish organizations abroad.

      The institutions of the community, which are now concentrated in the
capital city, Harare, and the second-largest city of Bulawayo, continue to
limp along with heavily depleted numbers, says Sternberg. The two synagogues
in the capital, the Harare Hebrew congregation and the Sephardi Hebrew
congregation, began joining together two years ago for Shabbat services led
by laymen.

      The only rabbi who lives in Zimbabwe is an Israeli who leads the only
other congregation the country, in Bulawayo. It holds its weekday services
in the country's only Jewish old-age home, Savyon Lodge, which is currently
at full capacity with 32 residents. Sternberg reports that a kosher butcher
comes up from Johannesburg a few times a year to bring meat to the home and
to the handful of households in the country that keep kosher.

      Harare's Jewish primary school, he says, caters for some 200 children,
including the offspring of some of the country's elite, but only about six
Jewish pupils attend. "They keep it going for the sake of that half dozen,"
says Sternberg, adding that although there is only one Jewish teacher (an
Israeli who teaches Hebrew), Jewish studies are taught. At the nearby Jewish
nursery, just one Jewish child joined this year's intake; next year there
will be none. The community's once thriving Zionist youth movements of
Habonim and Bnei Akiva are now defunct.

      The country's two Jewish women's organizations, WIZO and the Union of
Jewish Women - of which Sternberg's wife Hermoine is national president -
still function, but with heavily depleted numbers.

      "Because of the number of people leaving, people are asked to take on
more and more positions all the time," says Sternberg, noting that a couple
of years ago he returned from vacation to find he had been made national
treasurer of the community's umbrella organization, the Jewish Board of
Deputies. Subsequently, when the national president left the country,
Sternberg took on that position too.

      Sternberg describes the profile of the Jewish community as mainly
ex-businessmen, and to a large extent retired. For the last 25 years, the
community's youth have travelled abroad for university studies -
traditionally in South Africa, Britain or the United States - and have not

      "Offhand, I can't think of a single one who has come back, except for
a brief period," says Sternberg, who has two children in the U.K. and one in
the U.S. He adds that the community does have a few younger members who work
in business and are earning enough to make it viable for them to stay.

      He stresses that the problems facing the community are not exacerbated
by anti-Semitism, but rather reflect the situation faced by the rest of
Zimbabwe's population. "What hits them, hits us," he says.

      Sternberg grew up in Gatooma (now know as Kadoma) in the Zimbabwean
midlands, a town which once had a Jewish community of 70 people and where
his father held the position of mayor. Sternberg and his wife relocated to
Harare seven years ago, when the town's white population became negligible,
a fate which is on its way to being repeated in the capital. As for the
future of Zimbabwe's Jewish community, Sternberg cannot muster any optimism:
So, is he thinking of leaving?

      "Everyone has something like that in mind and most people will admit
to giving it a thought," is all he will say. "Most of our friends have left
over the last two or three years. It's a very frustrating place to be.
Virtually everyone suffers from extreme stress. Nobody knows what tomorrow
will bring, but not everyone [in the Jewish community] can leave. There is
not always somewhere to go to. When you leave the country, you can't take
anything with you because Zim currency is not cashable anywhere and it's
been like that for 25 years. So you leave with no money - legally at least -
which means you start off wherever you are with nothing. Not wanting to be a
burden on your children has kept a lot of people in the county. Sure, there
are plenty who regret not leaving earlier, but a lot of people felt there
was a future in the country. It's not only the Jewish community, but
everybody feels is this ever going to come to an end and when? It's a bleak
future. That is definitely the case. There is no light at the end of the

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HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe: whose side is the government on?

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Sokwanele Comment : 2 December 2005

* This article appeared on our blog yesterday to commemorate World Aids Day (1st December). Links to all the sources mentioned are available on our blog.
Link to blog :

It’s World AIDS day today, and Zimbabweans can enjoy a rare piece of encouraging news. This year’s AIDS epidemic update report, released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), claims that there is evidence for the first time that prevention programmes initiated are finally helping to bring down HIV prevalence in some countries, and Zimbabwe is one of the countries mentioned. Specifically, the report says this of Zimbabwe:

Recent data from the national surveillance system show a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 21% in 2004. Other data indicate that the decline had already started in 2000 (Ministry for Health and Child Welfare Zimbabwe, 2004 and 2005, forthcoming). Findings from local studies reinforce the national evidence. In Harare, HIV prevalence in women attending antenatal or postnatal clinics fell from 35% in 1999 to 21% in 2004. In rural eastern Zimbabwe, declines in HIV prevalence in pregnant women were also reflected in declines among both men and women in the general population (Mundandi et al., 2004). A significant decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant young women (15–24 years)—which fell from 29% to 20% in 2000-2004—suggests that the rate of new HIV infections (incidence) could be slowing, too (p.20).

A decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 21% in 2004 is good news, but the figures have been received with some scepticism. A reporter writing for the Mail and Guardian wondered how South Africa, the economic powerhouse of Southern Africa could continue to see “an escalating HIV epidemic, while economically crippled Zimbabwe has apparently brought down levels of HIV infection among its people”. The article goes on to grimly say:

Prevalence, which measures the ongoing level of HIV infection, is not particularly informative without knowing the incidence, or the rate at which new infections are occurring. A falling prevalence rate may reflect that the number of people dying because of the virus is outnumbering those newly infected with it.

Given the economic and food security difficulties in Zimbabwe, high numbers of deaths could be behind the apparent decline in HIV infections. (Mail & Guardian, 29 Nov 2005)

The Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN) is one Zimbabwean NGO that has taken a gender based approach to their fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic (57 percent of infections and deaths in Zimbabwe are women). Their efforts have included a campaign to get Nevirapine, an antiretroviral drug that helps to reduce parent-to-child-transmission of HIV by about 50 percent, into every health center in Zimbabwe. Their website explains that “out of 600 000 Zimbabwean women who give birth annually, 200 000 are HIV positive and 30 percent of them transmit the virus to their babies. This means that about 60 000 babies are infected at birth”. A fifty percent reduction in transmission would save 30 000 infant lives each year.

But only a couple of weeks ago, the director of WASN and other activists and advocacy specialists were criticising the government for its apparent failure to take the distribution of life-saving antiretroviral drugs seriously. A report in The Standard pointed out that the Global Fund scheme should by now have ensured that 270 000 Zimbabweans were accessing antiretrovirals. The government’s own figures claim that up to 700 000 people are in urgent need of antiretrovirals. However, to date, only 12 000 Zimbabweans are receiving the drugs.

The deputy minister of health’s response again raises the question of how an economically crippled Zimbabwe could apparently bring down levels of HIV infection among its people. He blamed the government’s failure to meet drug targets on a “lack of foreign currency”:

“Our economy is not operating at 100 percent capacity and that means some areas will be affected like fuel supply and the provision of drugs. There is no doubt that there is need to increase the number of people on ARVs but with insufficient funding, that will always present challenges. “ (The Standard, 13 Nov 2005)

Local companies manufacturing generic antiretrovirals face the same challenges that other Zimbabwean businesses do and are struggling to meet the demand due to critical shortages in foreign exchange. A recent report pointed out that the cost of locally manufactured (generic) life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) had shot up by more than 100 percent with manufacturers saying the increase was necessitated by the shortage of foreign currency to import raw materials.

The shortages of antiretrovirals is so severe that the Network for HIV-positive Women in Zimbabwe is advising people “not to start taking ARVs because there is a risk of drug resistance if they take the drugs and later stop because the drugs are no longer available” (AFP, 28 Nov 2005). The spokesperson for the organisation, Angeline Chiwatani, said that “ARV treatment is supposed to be uninterrupted for life”. Health Minister David Parirenyatwa solution to the problem appears to be to look outside the country. Yesterday he said, “I am hoping that come next year, with the global fund money coming through, we should have more people on treatment” (Reuters, 30 Nov 2005).

It is a simple fact that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe is a national disaster that affects all of us without exception. Today we cautiously celebrate the apparent gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and full credit goes to the hardworking Zimbabweans whose efforts have achieved this. Their achievement is especially noteworthy given the Zimbabwean context today. But in the face of Zimbabwe’s overwhelming economic, social and political challenges that show no sign of abating, can we hope to still be celebrating this time next year?

Some of our government’s policies do very little to support those in the frontline in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and there seems to be little political will to face hard truths and to take a more responsible role in the fight against the disease. For example, we know that nutrition is key to building immunity and helping people to fight off infections. The HIV virus targets immune systems, and yet access to simple nutritious affordable food continues to be a major crisis in our country. Incredibly, the zanu-pf government even decided to withhold the distribution of food aid to struggling communities until after the senate elections had taken place. Robert Mugabe went even further by using food, again, as a campaign gimmick in worst affected areas.

It is also true that poverty and HIV/AIDS have a grim co-dependent relationship. There is no question that economic mismanagement and failed government policies have contributed to immense hardship for ordinary Zimbabweans. But, in actions that can only be described as criminal, the government also compounded the error of their ways by deliberately depriving people of their homes and means to survive - Operation Murambatsvina.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe exceeds 70% leaving the majority of people to scratch out a meagre income through informal means. These people were the target of the government’s crackdown on ‘illegal traders’ during Operation Murambatsvina, people that Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri described as a “crawling mass of maggots bent on destroying the economy“. In actual fact, the ‘mass of maggots’ included people like 23 year old Shamiso Makamba, the mother of three children under the age of 5, who lost both her home and her livelihood under the government’s onslaught:

“Our lives have been destroyed. I was living in the Joburg Lines [in Mbare] with my younger brothers and sister while I made a living selling vegetables at the bus terminus. Now that they have destroyed our houses and prohibited us from selling our wares from Mbare Musika, we do not know what to do next” she said (Genocide Watch, 3 July 2005).

And what does a 23 year old mother of three small hungry children do to survive in a country dogged by unemployment and hyperinflation? The truth is, her options are limited. Madeleine Bunting, writing for The Guardian, commented:

In a country with high levels of poverty […] the deal offered by a truck driver or street vendor with some Mozambican meticals in his pocket can represent the best survival strategy for a woman. This is a disease that is feeding off desperate poverty. If you’re worried about where your child’s next meal is coming from, or how you are going to avoid being thrown out of your shack for not paying rent, longer-term risks such as dying of Aids carry little weight (The Guardian, 28 Nov 2005).

And there are regular reports coming out of Zimbabwe on how women are turning to prostitution to survive. Like this one, for example, which comments that in Beitbridge, business and sex go hand in hand: “As the shortage of basic commodities worsens, women are forced to engage in sex for preferential treatment in the purchase of restricted goods” (, 23 Sept 2004). Or this one, which describes how Tracy Bunjwali, a university student, is forced into part-time prostitution in an effort to support herself and her brothers and sisters: “She has little choice, she says. Orphaned during the last term of high school two years ago, the 23-year-old has to support a brother and sister still at school after her parent died of AIDS-related illnesses.” (IRIN, 15 Nov 2005). And yet another article tells how Operation Murambatsvina has forced as many as ten families to share one house in Harare, and “Even though HIV and Aids pandemic continues to be a major problem in Zimbabwe, several women at the house are reported to have resorted to prostitution for survival” (The Standard, 20 Nov 2005). And still another from last year tells of how poverty is so severe that there are a growing number of young women forced to turn to prostitution to make ends meet - competition is fierce:

‘Samantha Hazvinei, 24, said girls as young as 15 and middle-aged married women were turning up. ‘We are too many ladies looking for too few men. I need to come earlier and earlier and stay longer to get business.’ (The Guardian, 17 Oct 2004)

Increasing risky sexual behaviour combined with extremely high HIV/AIDS statistics paints a stark picture for the future, and the government has to be forced to take some responsibility for ratcheting up the poverty that brings the two together.

There are other areas too where the government could play a role in the fight against AIDS, and yet it seems unwilling to do so. We all know that education is key to survival, and that access to information plays a critical role in the fight against AIDS. A report released by the Panos Institute in August this year noted that the Southern African media has played a vital role in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, but it goes on to say that “in light of the immensity and complexity of the epidemic, there is a great need for the media sector to not only do much more, but to make a more comprehensive and positive contribution.”

Zimbabwe, however, operates under extremely oppressive press laws; ours is the only country in the Southern African Development Community that requires newspapers and journalists to register with a government-appointed commission as a precondition for operation. The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) noted that, “with newspapers being forced – by law and economy – to shut operations, the public is left to the mercy of government media which, in most cases, seem to have little regard for the principle of public interest” (p.57 in the Panos report). The notorious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) has also created conditions which make it very difficult for journalists to play a critical role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. For example, accessing information about HIV/AIDS from government sources is difficult, costly, and slow, as the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) points out:

The time limit for providing a document is 30 days – which is not very quick – and that may be extended. If a member of the public makes a request to the wrong body, then the request will be passed on to the correct one and the time period will start all over again.

The authorities will be able to charge a fee for the information that they provide, including the services they provide, with no upper limit set in the law.

Requests for information must be made in writing, with detailed information about the person or group requesting.

The MMPZ also points out that AIPPA “creates a series of wide and vague offences that can be committed by journalists, such as intentionally falsifying or fabricating information and publishing a false statement. These offences can attract severe penalties”.

Laws like these make it difficult, and risky, for journalists to pursue stories that may expose failure in government polices or expose corruption in the administration of funds, for example. But when dealing with a disease like AIDS, stories like these could be the difference between life and death for many people. The MMPZ says that the effect of laws like these “can only be to discourage journalists from exposing information that might be uncomfortable for the authorities; for fear that they will lose their accreditation (and thus their livelihood).

One NGO worker summed up the position with the media as follows:

Externally, there is a weak interface between the local media and AIDS service organisations. This has resulted in limited information and knowledge among journalists on HIV/AIDS. Lack of ethics attached to HIV/AIDS is also a major challenge. The media does not recognise HIV/AIDS as a human rights issue and, as such, the media in its coverage does not conform to ethics attached to covering human rights issues. Another external challenge is the existence of restrictive policies and legislation such as the Access to Information Protection and Privacy Act. Internal challenges include lack of resources, general lack of capacity and their personal attitudes which might lead to stigma and discrimination of peers and their source of information (Panos Report).

Even more challenges - again, ones created by the government - potentially face the 260 NGO’s working in the HIV/AIDS sector. The NGO Bill gazetted in August last year (now only waiting for Mugabe’s signature before it becomes law) threatens to severely restrict their ability to do their work. Sokwanele highlights some of the areas of concern:

Initial drafts of the NGO Bill caused concern among NGOs because the proposed Council to register NGOs would be entirely controlled by government, with a majority of government members, and a minority of NGO members. The NGO umbrella organisation NANGO proposed a Council controlled by NANGO. But all lobbying attempts were ignored. Government knew what it wanted, and was not going to be deterred.

The real sting in the new Bill when it was finally gazetted was the attack on the organisations concerned with human rights and governance. The definition of an NGO is expanded by the addition of institutions whose objects include “the promotion and protection of human rights and good governance” and “the promotion and protection of environmental rights and interests and sustainable development”. And, critically, it no longer exempts Trusts registered with the High Court. Furthermore, a new section prohibits any local NGO from receiving “foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance” (13 December 2004).

NGOs have argued strongly against the bill:

“All the work that NGOs do is human rights work whether its access to water, land, information, education, treatment or promoting the rights of people with disabilities or living with HIV and AIDS,” […] “Some of our members have already lost some of their funding as a result of the Bill. This will result in the reduction in foreign aid and foreign currency in-flows into the country.

“It is our conviction, as NGOs that given the current socio-economic situation in the country, where 70-80 percent of the population is surviving below the poverty datum line and unemployment hovering between 60-80 percent, where over one million children are orphans and where 25 percent of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS, the NGO sector is a safety net” (The Standard, 3 April 2004).

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 69 when Mugabe came to power in 1980, but official figures in Zimbabwe show the Aids pandemic has lowered average life expectancy to 38 (News24, 21 Nov 2005). In the meanwhile, the government’s struggle to control dissenting voices and political opposition has resulted in a series of actions and laws that cultivate an environment where HIV/AIDS thrives. Given the scale of the pandemic and the catastrophic effect it has on people’s lives, these sort of decisions taken by people in a position of authority should be considered a crime against humanity.

And while we are delighted to hear that there has been a decline in some of the statistics in our country, we would be foolish to assume that these figures would continue to fall - if they already have? There is no sign that the economy will improve, little evidence that poverty will improve or that conditions in our country will improve to such an extent that NGOs in the fight against AIDS can work with the full support of the government and unhindered by senseless laws.

The zanu-pf government clearly intends to hang onto power at all costs, but have they realised, or do they care, that that price might be an entire nation? And given that stark fact, at what point will the world’s leaders - and especially regional powers - start holding the government accountable for the decisions it takes, decisions which knowingly hinder and restrict efforts to fight HIV/AIDS? At what point do we stop talking about this as a disease, and start using the term genocide instead?

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Four letters to a young African who wants to be a journalist

Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders today published four "Letters to a young African who wants to be a journalist" to coincide with a two-day Africa-France summit dedicated to young people that starts tomorrow in the Malian capital of Bamako. The letters were written by veteran journalists from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

"These four personal accounts are instructive, showing us how African journalists do honour to a dangerous profession despite oppression, poverty and indifference," the press freedom organisation said. "Independent journalists are vital for people and nations. If France really wants to help Africa, it should defend its freedom. And if Africa's leaders want to defend the interests of their peoples, they should be proud that a vigorous and responsible press is free to criticise them without risking prison or death."

African teenagers dream of being journalists, the authors of the four letters say. "Just for fun, I used to play at being a reporter during the school championships," writes Donat M'Baya Tshimanga of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who heads an Congolese organisation called Journalist in Danger (JED).

Journalists often serve as models, like star soccer players or film actors. Guthrie Munyuki of Zimbabwe's Daily News says he could not decide whether to be a lawyer, journalist or soccer player. "I saw myself as the next Mike Munyati, the late journalist for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and Michel Platini, the former mercurial French footballer."

All four say they were fascinated by the "powerful role" the media can play. "You want to be a journalist and nothing else," says Cameroonian Jules Koum Koum, the managing editor of Jeune Observateur, addressing an imaginary young brother. "I have to congratulate you for this choice which was also mine 18 years ago."

"Little did I know that the media world is not a teacup affair," points out Nigerian Ayodele Ale, a journalist with the Saturday Punch. "Indeed, it tasks the diligent. And news is not what is picked on a platter of gold. News, serious news, is not easy to come by." Poverty is also often an obstacle. How many African children do not get the chance to go to university, not to speak of primary school? And even with a degree, things are not simple for young journalists.

Munyuki recounts that "all the doors were closed" when he started out, but he did not give up. One day he was rewarded with the publication of his first article. It was the same for Tshimanga. "I felt an immense joy to know that I was being read by lots of people who furthermore did not know me." Ale agrees: "At times, great joys swell inside me when I see my stories being discussed by those who could not identify me, even though I was present in the environment."

It is hard to wake up from such thrilling dreams. "Limbs have been broken, lives lost, people harassed, tortured and myself and colleagues heavily assaulted because of the desire of wanting to let the world know of our situation," says Munyuki, whose newspaper, once the most widely read in Zimbabwe, was forced to close.

Tshimanga began his career when his country was still called Zaire. "Criticism and questioning were the best way to end up in prison, in the cemetery or at the bottom of the majestic River Zaire," he writes. Koum is bitter about spending a month in prison in early 2005 after writing about corruption within a government ministry. "I though I had done my duty to society well, but I was thrown in the notorious New Bell prison."

Ale was involved in "guerrilla journalism" and led a dangerous life in the late 1990s, when the military were in power in Nigeria. "Places like church, mosques, markets halls, abandoned buildings, schools or coaching centres, street corners and so on became our meeting points," he recalls.

And when it is not the police you fear, it is being broke. "How do you resist a discreet request for a puff piece when your son is ill and you cannot afford the treatment he needs," asks Tshimanga, who is sorry for those who "trade their independence for under-the-table cash payments."

But it gets dangerous for African journalists who refuse to take bribes, who refuse to become sycophants. Death threats, beatings, imprisonment and constant fear are the price all of them have paid at one time or another. "Despite staying up night after night, the guard dog's only reward is beatings," says Koum. All over Africa, journalists are still being killed in cold blood. "For our landscape, there is neither permanent friend nor foe," says Ale. "The profession is not for the faint-hearted," agrees Munyuki, and Ale adds that in Nigeria, "the military institution fell and the commendation went to the valiant pen."

Koum ends his inventory of all the trials and tribulations a journalist must endure with this comment: "After all I have just revealed to you, brother, if you still feel drawn by this profession, that means you have a destiny. In which case, go for it!" Munyuki is uncowed by his experience of working in one of Africa's most repressive countries: "I say journalism has steeled me, built me and modelled me."

The full text of the letters by Jules Koum Koum (Cameroon), Ayodele Ale (Nigeria), Donat M'Baya Tshimanga (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Guthrie Munyuki (Zimbabwe) are available on the Reporters Without Borders website (

Bureau Afrique / Africa desk
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie
75009 Paris, France
Tel : (33) 1 44 83 84 84
Fax : (33) 1 45 23 11 51
Email : /
Web :

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Zimbabwe boss denies 'flee' claim


      Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Ozias Bvute has dismissed as
"totally untrue" claims that he and chairman Peter Chingoka have been in
      Former Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu, who resigned last week, said on
Test Match Special he had been told the duo had "run away" to escape a
police raid.

      "There is no truth to that," Bvute told the BBC's World Service.

      Bvute said factions opposed to Chingoka had "found it convenient to
tell these malicious stories to discredit us."

      He added: "I was fast asleep at 4am and left my house at eight this
morning to go to work. I have not been raided and I don't believe anyone has
raided Mr Chingoka's house either."

      Taibu called for the removal of the pair when he quit his position
last week in protest at the state of the game in Zimbabwe.

      Chingoka and Ozias Bvute were interviewed by Reserve Bank officials on

      That prompted Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, a member of the ZC board of
directors, to call an emergency meeting of all senior personnel for next

      Bvute added: "It is true we are in discussions with the Reserve Bank,
but not the fraud squad. We are in discussions pertaining to exchanging
control compliance.

      "Our exchange control compliance is very different to many parts of
the world and we will be disussing whether there have been any infringements
or not."

           Taibu to play in Bangladesh

      Taibu, 22, says he has received death threats since his decision to
stand down, and is heading to Bangladesh to resume his cricket career.

      "They [Chingoka and Bvute] started lying to the country that is was a
racial issue, but it was very important for me as a black player to make
sure people knew it was not a racial issue," Taibu told TMS.

      "When I did that I started getting some threats and I asked myself,
'What is more important, my family or cricket?' That is what led me to

      Taibu, Test cricket's youngest ever skipper, has said he would return
to Zimbabwe if Bvute and Chingoka leave their positions.

      The International Cricket Council has maintained it cannot interfere
in the internal affairs of a member country.

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Fraud cloud hovers over Zim duo


02/12/2005 19:46  - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe Cricket chairperson Peter Chingoka and managing director
Osias Bvute were interviewed by Reserve Bank fraud investigators on Friday.

The latest development in the crisis engulfing the sport in Zimbabwe
prompted Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, a member of the country's cricket board of
directors, to call an emergency meeting of all senior personnel for next

"I am calling together all the provincial chairpeople, all stakeholders and
all legitimate members of the board," Ebrahim told The Associated Press. "It
is very important that we act quickly. The staff will also need assurances."

Chingoka and Bvute went missing on Friday after fraud investigators from the
country's Reserve Bank unit raided their homes.

Denies raid allegations

However, Bvute told the Cricinfo Website that his house was not raided and
he had gone to work as usual. He also denied that Chingoka's house was

The pair later reported to the bank by an arrangement made through their
lawyers, who accompanied them. It is not yet known whether they have been
formally arrested or are free on bail.

Ebrahim said he wanted former captain Tatenda Taibu, other senior players
and player spokesperson Blessing Mahwire to also attend Monday's meeting.

Ebrahim said he would ask Taibu whether he would consider reversing his
decision to quit the captaincy.

Taibu did not rule out returning to his former post.

"If this all means the departure of Chingoka and Bvute, I will be very happy
to reverse my decision to quit the captaincy," Taibu said. "But if Chingoka
and Bvute somehow remain, I will still be leaving."

It was Taibu who told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Chingoka and Bvute
had fled ahead of their removal from office by Zimbabwe president Robert

The pair are at the centre of a row in Zimbabwe cricket which led to Taibu's
resignation, senior players' refusal to play until after a state-run inquiry
into the administration, and the country's provincial chairpeople demanding
Chingoka and Bvute resign.

Simmons still the coach

Among others due to attend the meeting are fired coach Phil Simmons, whom
Ebrahim referred to as "the national coach."

Asked about the status of Kevin Curran, who was appointed as Simmons'
replacement in September, Ebrahim said: "That is to be sorted out."

The International Cricket Council has maintained it cannot interfere in the
internal affairs of a member country - even though there is evidence that
its financial assistance is not reaching those for whom it is intended.

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