The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Mugabe-SADC confrontation looms

January 23, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Embattled President Robert Mugabe, buffeted by fresh problems after
staying the tabling of Constitution Amendment No. 19 Bill in Parliament in a
standoff with the MDC, is heading for further trouble at the SADC emergency
summit in South Africa Monday.

The meeting is likely to be a critical turning point in SADC leaders' ways
of tackling the Zimbabwe crisis, currently the focus of a watching world as
the September 15 power-sharing deal teeters on the verge of collapse.

SADC chairperson and South Africa President Kgalema Motlanthe said the
urgent meeting was called for because of the "deepening problems" in the

SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salamao said Motlanthe would table a report
on the consultations made in Harare on Monday.

SADC leaders are said to be geared to confront Mugabe over the power-sharing
deal this time after their persistent failure to do so in the past.

Zanu-PF sources said Mugabe will travel to Pretoria with a detailed
 "dossier" to seek the SADC mandate to form a new government without MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai who he claims is reluctant to join his government.

The source said the dossier contains Mugabe's appeal for fresh elections in
two years and the alleged prejudice the people are suffering as the MDC
allegedly withholds implementation of the power-sharing deal.

The dossier also contains a series of bound intelligence reports on alleged
banditry and terrorism acts by the MDC. The report seeks to buttress claims
that MDC was training bandits in neighbouring Botswana to destabilise the
country, a claim that has already been rubbished by the SADC chair.

Mugabe is tabling it regardless of this.

The dossier also claims that the United States ' State Department and other
Western governments, as well as donors, were involved in the alleged foiling
of the power-sharing deal to ensure Mugabe was removed as head of State.

To counter what the MDC describes as a web of deceit, Tsvangirai on Friday
launched a regional diplomatic offensive ahead of Monday's summit to ensure
that SADC leaders are not taken in by Harare's explanations.

At home Tsvangirai has called a report back rally in Chitungwiza on Sunday.

Tsvangirai was expected to meet with Motlanthe and probably with Zambia's
President Rupiah Banda. An authoritative source in the MDC said the entire
standing committee had been dispatched in the region to explain and mobilise
SADC leaders to persuade Mugabe to share power and allow a transition to
take place.

The MDC's diplomatic trips, where the party is expected to present its
position paper, are expected to give Mugabe a hard time in Pretoria.

Tsvangirai's position paper stratifies 10 most important ministries; he
suggests that his party takes control of half of the "key ministries," Home
Affairs, Finance, Information, Agriculture and Local Government ministries.

This has already been rejected by Mugabe, who says he is only prepared to
give the MDC the Finance ministry and share control of the Home Affairs
ministry as suggested by SADC at the last emergency summit on November 9.

The MDC position paper proposes that Mugabe, among the 10 key ministries
retain control of the Defence, National Security, Justice, Foreign Affairs
and Land ministries.

Tsvangirai has also asked for equitable sharing of the 10 provincial
governors. Mugabe wants to retain control of all the 10 gubernatorial posts.

Political detainees must also be released.

The MDC has categorically stated it will not back the Constitution Amendment
No. 19 Bill in Parliament, set to give legal and constitutional force to the
new government, if these issues are not resolved.

Outgoing justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, realising that the Bill would
hit a brick-wall if tabled when Parliament resumed sitting Tuesday, stayed
the tabling of the Bill in the House pending the determination of the SADC
emergency summit Monday.

The crucial bill was not even on Parliament's order paper or agenda on

Diplomatic sources said SADC leaders would be under pressure to resolve the
issues before the African Union summit in Addis Ababa this week.

African leaders meet in the Ethiopian capital from January 26 to February 3
for the organisation's 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government.

The AU has been robust in its handling of the Zimbabwe issue, and is
expected to handle the issue if SADC fails, much to the excitement of the
MDC, which believes it has many key allies in the continental bloc.

Southern African leaders have been heavily criticised over their traditional
reluctance to criticise Mugabe, seen as having presided over his country's
economic demise during his 29-year rule, which began with independence in
April 1980.

Tsvangirai said he hopes that if SADC leaders approach the problem with an
objective point of view, they should be able to resolve the matter.

"I am anxious that we resolve these issues and form the government,"
Tsvangirai told reporters after touring a cholera treatment centre in a
Harare suburb Thursday.

"I'm sure that everyone who is looking at this dispute may conclude that the
MDC is obstructionist. No, we're not."

"The issues that we keep on insisting on must be resolved, have to be
resolved. We have a compelling case for the resolution of the two remaining

There are calls from human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch
on the AU to suspend Zimbabwe from the continental bloc over continuing
rights abuses such as enforced disappearances, torture and the breakdown in
the rule of law.

SADC leaders will be under pressure to come out with a deal so as to have
something to present as progress at the AU summit.

Both sides have refused to budge, maintaining their entrenched positions.

It is said Mugabe is under pressure from hardliners around him, including
state security service chiefs, to hang on to power. The diehards want him to
fight on to block Tsvangirai from taking over but at the expense of an
imploding economy.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Mugabe, Tsvangirai in private meeting

Posted to the web: 23/01/2009 22:25:11
ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe met opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai in
a private meeting on Thursday, just four days after the two leaders failed
to agree on a power sharing government during a meeting with regional
leaders, New has learnt.

An extraordinary summit of the regional trade bloc SADC has been called for
South Africa on Monday during which regional leaders will make one more
attempt to push the two leaders to implement a September 15 power sharing
agreement which has stalled over disagreements on cabinet posts.

Sources say the two leaders met at the behest of Tsvangirai, the leader of
one of two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations. Arthur
Mutambara, who leads a smaller faction of the MDC, was not at the meeting.

Mugabe, sources say, initially refused to meet Tsvangirai citing their sharp
differences at Monday's meeting in which the two remained entrenched in
their demands leading Mutambara to say their positions are "untenable".

The meeting, sources said, only became possible after Mugabe was asked by
South African President Kgalema Montlanthe to relent.

It was not immediately clear what the outcome of the meeting was, although
major concessions will have to be made by Mugabe to reconcile his
differences with Tsvangirai.

"What is of note," a source told this website, "is the fact that in the past
when they have met for private meetings, they barely last 20 minutes owing
to their sharp differences. The exception was perhaps their first private
meeting soon after the signing of the power sharing agreement. On Thursday
they met for more than an hour which shows how much ground they must have
covered between themselves."

Tsvangirai said Wednesday that he was hopeful that Monday's summit will
broker an agreement, although political commentators say that appears
unlikely. They agree, however, that if the summit fails to get the parties
to share power, Mugabe may seek SADC approval to go ahead and form a

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Tough Talk, But Uncertainty, As Zimbabwe Parties Face Power-Sharing Summit

By Blessing Zulu
23 January 2009

The ruling ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the
formation of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai
were hardening their positions on Friday with an extraordinary summit of the
Southern African Development Community on tap Monday, but voiced uncertainty
as to what happens if the power-sharing process ends.

Political sources said it will be up to the SADC leaders gathering in
Pretoria, South Africa, to unblock the stalemate between Mr. Mugabe and
Tsvangirai over the terms on which they might form a government of national
unity to address the country's deep crisis.

Politicians on both sides of the divide said they did not know where the
country would go next if the two leaders cannot overcome their differences
with SADC's help.

The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that Mr. Mugabe has declared
that his main purpose in going to the summit is to ask Southern African
leaders to give him a green light to form a government without the
participation of Tsvangirai's MDC formation.

ZANU-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa told VOA that this was mere
speculation. But he reiterated that the longtime ruling party, which lost
control of parliament in March elections, would not meet the demands
Tsvangirai has insisted must be met in order for his MDC formation to join a
government - especially the equitable distribution of top posts.

The rival MDC formation of Arthur Mutambara has said it would not join
without Tsvangirai - but Mutambara has blasted both Tsvangirai and Mr.
Mugabe for what he characterized as their irresponsibility for failing to
form a government given the country's parlous state.

Around 5 million people depend on international food distributions to fend
off hunger, cholera has claimed more than 2,750 lives and continues to
spread, and hyperinflation is running at an annual percentage rate estimated
by some economists in the quintillions. The state health and school systems
have collapsed along with public water supplies.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai's MDC formation told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party remains
optimistic ahead of the summit - but warned that the unilateral formation of
a government would have grave consequences.

ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo said his party has adopted no
position on what it will do next if talks on the margins of Monday's SADC
summit should fail - but he added that the talks must be brought to a
conclusion without further delay.

Some analysts say the definitive collapse of the power-sharing process would
mean a new round of elections - but many in Zimbabwe dread such an outcome
given the trauma of the last round of balloting which ushered in months of
deadly political violence.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Civil service faces total collapse

January 23, 2009

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - Zimbabwe's ailing public service system now faces total collapse
following reports that government has refused to fully commit itself to
paying civil servants in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe's estimated 150 000-strong civil service has demanded foreign
currency based salaries in line with the near dollarization of the country's

It has emerged that the APEX Council, the negotiating arm of the entire
public service failed to secure concrete pledges on Friday from the country's
biggest employer that civil servants would start receiving their salaries in
foreign currency.

The APEX Council is made up of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA)
which represents teachers and Public Service Association (PSA), which
represents the rest of the civil service.

There are five affiliate groups which operate under the PSA namely the
Government Workers Association (GWA); Administrative and Executive Officers
Association (ADEX); Government Officers Association (GOA); Civil Service
Employees Association (CSEA); and the Professional and Technical Officers
Association (PROTEC).

In a statement, APEX Council national chairperson, Tendai Chikowore, said
her organization met government representatives Friday to receive feedback
on their demands that all civil servants be paid in hard currency with
effect from January I, 2009.

"We wish to advise our members that nothing concrete has been offered by the
employer, except the acceptance in principle of paying civil servants in
foreign currency," said Chikowore.

"Regrettably, the conditions that have incapacitated the workers from
delivering service as expected continue to affect our members. The workers
have neither the financial resources to travel to work or sustain

"It is against the above background that workers will continue to fail to
report for duty due to circumstances emanating from incapacitation."

It has however emerged that the Public Service Commission does not want to
commit itself fully to the demands before the presentation of the national
Budget on Thursday.

Speculation is rife that the Budget would be quoted in South African Rands.

Civil servants are demanding a minimum salary of US$604 for the least paid
worker while teachers affiliated to ZIMTA a minimum salary of US$2 200. The
amounts include transport and housing allowances.

Friday's meeting was a last ditch effort by teachers to know their salary
structures before schools open on Tuesday next week.

Zimbabwe's civil service is in near paralysis following the departure of
most of its experienced personnel for greener pastures elsewhere citing
unrealistic salaries and poor working conditions.

Those who have chosen to remain at work are now surviving on a combination
of petty businesses and open corruption to sustain themselves.

Chikowore refused to disclose what course of action they would pursue if
government does not meet their demands.

Cecilia Kowa Alexander, vice chairperson of APEX Council said the civil
service was no longer operational as most workers only went to work to
conduct their own personal business.

"Most of the civil servants are not coming to work and the employer knows
that," she said.

"Civil servants that you always see boarding buses are just coming into town
to do their own errands."

She said they had received reports from all over the country that the
majority of civil servants in Zimbabwe had since stopped going to work.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Railways - Strike paralyses service

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bulawayo Bureau.

THE strike by National Railways of Zimbabwe employees is still underway,
causing disruptions to passenger and freight train movement.

In an interview, a member of one of the unions representing workers at the
parastatal said workers were pressing on with their industrial action until
their demands are met.
NRZ public relations manager Mr Fanuel Masikati also confirmed that the
strike was still on, saying negotiations were in progress.
The workers' representative said they were demanding a cushion allowance of
US$200 per month, payable fortnightly and a US$40 transport allowance.
"We are aware that our salaries need parliamentary approval so we are
concentrating on the allowances for the time being.
"Our employer is charging in foreign currency, so we also want the forex
because you can hardly find anything being sold in local currency these
days," he said.
"To prove that most things are now sold in forex, we challenged our
management to accompany us into town so that we could shop together and see
what we could get in Zimbabwean dollars.
"We went with our acting Area Manager, Mr Ntini and we struggled to get
anything in local currency, which was proof that our demands were
He said since August last year, workers had been struggling to get their
money from banks resulting in their families going without basics.
"Of course, we appreciate that they have got buses to transport us to and
from work, but we feel that the free transport is meant to enslave us by
ensuring that we provide our labour for free."

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

ZSE - Govt loses out, dollarisation imminent

Friday, 23 January 2009 12:11

GOVERNMENT has lost revenue estimated at US$ 300 million owing to the
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE)'s failure to trade since November 21 2008.

The state collects revenue from the ZSE through stamp duty, Value Added Tax
and commissions. The three revenue heads constitute seven percent of the
trade on the ZSE.

Government has been unable to collect revenue from the exchange since
November 21 when the new rules meant to rein in on unscrupulous traders and
slowdown monstrous inflation that was being worsened by the paper wealth
created on the ZSE forced members to suspend trade.

Independent estimates which could not be verified immediately suggest that
government might have, in United States dollar terms, lost US$ 300 million
in revenue over the past nine weeks.

Various interest groups on the ZSE, particularly stockbrokers and investors
were this week pressing for the dollarisation of the stock market to pave
the way for the resumption of trade.

Dollarisation refers to the use of another country's currency as an
acceptable medium of exchange.

It emerged on Friday last week that ZSE stakeholders, including government,
had agreed in principle to dollarise the bourse subject to the resolution of
a wide range of issues.

Emmanuel Munyukwi, the ZSE chief executive, confirmed this understanding in
a memorandum to stockbrokers dated January 15 2009.

Munyukwi wrote: "Agreement has been reached in principle to dollarise trades
at the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. There are issues, which need to be addressed
before dollarisation and these include the following: Stockbrokers to lodge
United States dollar deposits with their bankers or the central bank;
valuation of the listed companies to ascertain floor prices; opening of
Foreign Currency Accounts and their administration; effectiveness of the
banking sector as settlement intermediaries; settlement procedures;
compliance with the Securities Act & Members Rules; exchange control issues;
accounting matters; systems upgrades for dollarisation; compilation of new
indices; review of commission and taxes and viability of members."

At Friday's meeting, stockbrokers haggled over which currency should be used
on the ZSE and the exchange rate that should apply to trades and valuation
of the listed companies.

Government has been digging its heels in over the use of the Old Mutual
Implied Rate (OMIR) as the basis for currency conversion. There is now a
strong push for the use of the United Nations rate which is lower than the
parallel market exchange rate to placate government fears over the use of
the OMIR, which is viewed as a strong driver of inflation.

A few stockbrokers still grappling with obligations in Zimbabwe dollars had
advocated for the dual trading of shares but their suggestion was shot down
by the majority of ZSE members who felt it would complicate matters on the

Stockbrokers told The Financial Gazette this week that the successful
dollarisation of the ZSE hinged on realigning exchange control, making the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) central to the process.

Cognizant of the fact that the country had little stock of foreign currency
in circulation to sustain trades on the ZSE, stockbrokers would want the RBZ
to relax exchange control in order to attract foreign investors on the local

While volumes were quite high in Zimbabwe dollar terms before the suspension
of trade on the ZSE last November, stockbrokers fear that the numbers could
come down crashing once the exchange is dollarised, causing serious
viability problems to members.

Analysts have however, warned that caution needed to be exercised in
tinkering with exchange control to avoid a situation where indigenous people
are pushed out of the ZSE by deep pocketed foreign investors.

Staff Reporter

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

UN: Cholera Treatment Centers Around Zimbabwe Short On Supplies, Staff

By Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye
23 January 2009

The cholera epidemic wracking Zimbabwe has not been brought under control,
said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
in a situation report issued Friday.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, said the total number of deaths
from cholera was 2,773 as of Thursday while the number of cases since August
topped 50,000.

The report from the U.N. Humanitarian Affairs Office noted that the fatality
rate continued to rise to 5.7% compared with the international norm of about

OCHA said many of the cholera treatment centers that have been established
around the country lack food, medicines and equipment, and are short on
staff. International agencies are finding it hard to deliver relief because
of logistical obstacles - among others fuel is in critically short supply in
Zimbabwe and communications are problematic.

The report said "concerns are mounting" over the risk of flooding due to
heavier than usual rains and forecasts of more to come, as flooding could
worsen the epidemic.

For a closer look at the situation on the ground one area hit by cholera,
reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke
with a recovering cholera patient in Kadoma, Mashonaland West, who voiced
concern about the hygienic conditions at a cholera treatment center in
Rimuka which was packed and its staff overwhelmed.

Bau Nkala said he witnessed patients vomiting and lying in their own waste
because there were not enough clinic staff to help them, and witnessed
people die around him.

Nkala recovered from his bout with the water-borne disease but said he is
worried about his mother who has also contracted cholera, for which he
blames the lack of safe drinking water in Kadoma exacerbated by leaks from
the deteriorating sewage system.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Dollarisation: Banks raise red flag

Friday, 23 January 2009 11:16 Richard Chimbiri

BANKS this month raised the red flag, pleading with the regulatory
authorities to dollarise the sector in line with the rest of the economy and
avoid the systemic collapse of the industry, The Financial Gazette heard
this week.
Executives in the banking sector said the financial intermediaries, through
the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), had taken their case to the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), highlighting the deteriorating state in the
banking sector.
They said the financial sector, which was one of the few remaining bright
spots in Zimbabwe's economy, had suffered a heavy knock as a result of the
octopus-like challenges gripping the country's economy.
Bank executives fear the going concern status for a number of banks might
come under serious threat if nothing is done to rescue the sector.
"The only way out of this situation is to dollarise the sector," said one
BAZ executive. "We have highlighted our concerns to the RBZ and I am sure
something is being done about it," he added.
BAZ president, John Mangudya, was not available for comment at the time of
going to print.
Bank workers have virtually been on go slow, demanding to be paid in foreign
currency to enable them cope with the rigors of Zimbabwe life where every
product and service is now being sold in foreign currency.
The owners of the buildings housing most of the banks are also demanding
rentals in foreign currency in contravention of Zimbabwe's laws.
These pressures come at a time when banks are struggling to source the
foreign currency needed to pay fees for their IT software. Industry players
are also under pressure to comply with the central bank's new capital
requirements that now require industry players to maintain their capital
levels in hard currency.
For example, the minimum capital levels for commercial banks is pegged at
US$12,5 million; US$10 million for merchant banks and building societies and
US$7,5 million for discount houses.
BAZ insiders said banks were caught between a rock and a hard place. While
their costs are now in United States dollars their revenues remain in the
Zimbabwean unit, which has been rendered worthless by hyperinflation.
Banks earn much of their income from charging reasonable interest on loans.
However, there is hardly any lending taking place now due to a combination
of factors chief among them being the fact that potential clients now find
it an exercise in futility to borrow Zimbabwe dollars when their working
capital or capital needs are now in United States dollars.
The sector has also been hemorrhaging due to the contagion from the collapse
of industry and commerce. The economic recession has also seen banks
struggling to eke a living out of advisory services, which was another
important source of income for banks.
To survive, most banks have been cutting costs, closing certain branches and
introducing a rotational system to cut labour costs.
"We have now reached a situation where we cannot continue to cut costs,"
said another BAZ source.

Staff Reporter

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Desperate Children Flee Zimbabwe, for Lives Just as Bleak
Joao Silva for The New York Times

Williad Fire, 16, crossed illegally into South Africa from Zimbabwe with eight friends after the deaths of his parents and an uncle.

Near midnight, these Zimbabwean children can be found sleeping outside almost anywhere in this border city. A 12-year-old girl named No Matter Hungwe, hunched beneath the reassuring exterior light of the post office, said it was hunger that had pushed her across the border alone.

Her father is dead, and she wanted to help her mother and younger brothers by earning what she could here in South Africa — within certain limits, anyway. “Some men — men with cars — want to sleep with me,” she said, considering the upside against the down. “They have offered me 100 rand,” about $10.

With their nation in a prolonged sequence of crises, more unaccompanied children and women than ever are joining the rush of desperate Zimbabweans illegally crossing the frontier at the Limpopo River, according to the police, local officials and aid workers.

What they are escaping is a broken country where half the people are going hungry, most schools and hospitals are closed or dysfunctional and a cholera epidemic has taken a toll in the thousands. Yet they are arriving in a place where they are unwelcome and are resented as rivals for jobs. Last year, Zimbabweans were part of the quarry in a spate of mob attacks against foreigners.

For those in the know, crossing the border can be a simple chore, a bribe paid on one side and a second bribe on the other. But for the uninitiated and the destitute, the journey is as uncertain as the undercurrents of the Limpopo and the appetites of the crocodiles.

Where is it best to enter the river? Where are the holes in the barbed fences beyond? Where do the soldiers patrol? Perhaps the greatest risk is the gumagumas — the swindlers, thieves and rapists who stalk the vulnerable as they wander in the bush.

Williad Fire, 16, who arrived here on Jan. 4, is one of nine boys who came from Murimuka, a town in a mining region of central Zimbabwe. His story is a fairly typical one of serial catastrophe. He was living with an uncle after his parents died, but then the uncle died, too, stricken in November with an illness that Williad described with a mystified shrug: “He was vomiting blood.”

The boy was hungry, and scrounging in South Africa seemed to hold more promise than scrounging at home. To get train fare south, he sold his most valuable possession, a secondhand pair of Puma sneakers two sizes too big. He and eight friends then did odd jobs in Beitbridge, on the Zimbabwean side of the border, until they had saved about $35.

From there, Williad’s story takes another dismal turn. When the boys neared the river, they were confronted by the gumagumas, who pretended to be helpful, then pounced. “They hit me in the forehead with a rock,” Williad said. “I was carrying everyone’s money, so I was the one to beat.”

But they continued across the river, and here in Musina, the boys from Murimuka slept in the streets for a while, as many other youngsters do. Then they staked claim to a patch of sandy soil under the punishing sun at the Showgrounds, an open athletic field that is the designated repository for refugees. The population hovers around 2,000. Each day new people arrive, and each day familiar faces depart.

The South African government issues temporary asylum papers to about 250 of these refugees a day, entitling them to six months without worry of deportation. Unaccompanied minors are ineligible for this status, though, leaving them in an odd limbo, with no specified place in the bureaucratic shuffle.

Williad and his friends share a single blanket. They cook spaghetti over a fire fed with twigs and cardboard. Cans and buckets fetched from the trash are used as pots. Plastic bottles sliced open along one side serve as bowls.

Honest Mapiriyawo, a 13-year-old orphan, is the boys’ best beggar. Children compete at the supermarkets to carry groceries for shoppers in exchange for tips. Honest is tiny and winsome. People are drawn to his proper diction. “May I assist you?” is the phrasing he prefers.

Another of the Murimuka boys is Diallo Butau, 15. He said his father is dead and his mother had tuberculosis. He bears the guilt of abandoning her. “If I could get some medicine, some pills, I would go back and cure her,” he said.

Georgina Matsaung runs a shelter for children at the Uniting Reformed Church. “You’ll sometimes find boys sleeping in ditches and under bridges, but you won’t find the girls,” she said with a regretful shake of her head. “The girls get quickly taken by men who turn them into women.”

The Musina area has a population of about 57,000, with an additional 15,000 foreigners, overwhelmingly Zimbabweans, at any given time, according to Abram Luruli, the municipal manager. “Many children are scattered in the street,” he admitted, though it is plain enough for anyone to see. At night, they can be found sleeping beneath sheets of plastic along the roadside, a few of them with their minds meandering from ethers inhaled from a bottle of glue.

While the stories of the refugee children are troubling — with penury in Zimbabwe being exchanged for penury here — many of the more horrifying stories in the city involve the rapes of helpless women.

Leticia Shindi, a 39-year-old widow from the village of Madamombe, said she left Zimbabwe on Jan. 4, hoping to get piecework so she could send money back to her two daughters. She had never waded across a river before, and as she eyed the muddy flow, she seized up with fear.

Two young men were preparing to lead others across, and she gratefully joined them. The guides used poles to judge the hidden depths while the rest cautiously held hands as they moved through the shoulder-deep water.

Once across, the two men robbed them all. Because Ms. Shindi had insufficient money, payment was exacted otherwise. “Take off your underpants,” she recalled one gumaguma saying. “Today I am going to be your husband.”

Chengetai Mapfuri, 29, left the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, just after Christmas, carrying her 20-month-old son, Willington. Two knife-wielding gumagumas who raped her took turns, she said, one holding the toddler while the other held her.

Aldah Mawuka, 17, is also from the Harare suburbs. She said the first gumagumas she encountered on Jan. 7 only robbed her; it was the second ones who demanded she pull down her jeans. The rapist was very direct and impatient, she recalled: “If you don’t do it, I’ll kill you.”

South Africa’s national police force is exasperated by the crimes. Capt. Sydney Ringane, seated in his office in Musina, said the surrounding wooded terrain made it too hard to catch the gumagumas. Anyway, most victims do not file complaints. After all, they are here illegally, unless remaining in the Showgrounds. “Last week, I had 1,500 ready for deportation,” he said.

The captain stood up, walking over to a computer screen. “We keep photos of the refugees killed near the border.”

He punched the keyboard and clicked with the mouse. “This woman was raped before she was killed,” he said. “She wasn’t wearing underpants. She was identified for us by some street kids.”

Mention of the children seemed to feed his exasperation. “Street kids, more all the time,” he said. “They come in as if they are playing in a game.”

He asked, “What do we do about these kids?”

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

The great betrayal of the masses

Friday, 23 January 2009 11:21

Richard Chimbiri

MONDAY, January 19 2009, was indeed a sad and tragic day for Zimbabwe. The
vast majority of despairing, suffering Zimbabweans had looked to this day
for salvation, but it was not to be.

The much ballyhooed power-sharing deal between ZANU-PF and the two Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) formations, that has virtually been in intensive
care since it was signed on September 15, finally suffered a stillbirth and
now awaits burial so it seems. Its final interment will probably be at the
proposed SADC emergency summit next week where the regional leaders will get
an opportunity to say their eulogies and deliver their condolences to
grieving Zimbabweans. Barring any miracles, this is what is likely to

In the meantime, a palpable feeling of profound disappointment has engulfed
the nation.

There is foreboding apprehension and anxiety, even anger and a feeling of
being cheated and betrayed by a small band of people, who because they are
not themselves directly affected by the worsening economic crisis in the
country, see no urgency is its resolution.

Indeed, there is disillusionment in the system and distrust for politicians
and their general disposition towards the aspirations of those they purport
to represent.

It is also extremely sad and something to be ashamed of that Zimbabwe,
independent from colonial rule for nearly 30 years, is now dependent on
relatively newer states like South Africa for guidance to resolve its
political squabbles. It is sad that President Robert Mugabe, who turns 85
next month, should really be the elder statesman setting examples for the
younger generation of leaders, is quite happy to endure the humiliation of
adjudication by younger peers.

It also stands to reason to assume that the patience of SADC and our
neighbour, South Africa, has been stretched to breaking point by all the
dithering and prevaricating of the Zimbabwean contenders to power. Is this
the depth to which we have sunk as a nation?

That we cannot strive for something much higher than our own personal and
subjective interests.

State propaganda has sought to blame MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai for the
collapse of the power-sharing deal. Those of this school of thought are
dismissive of Tsvangirai's demands for equitable sharing of cabinet
positions arguing that whatever concerns he has could be addressed once he
is part of the government. Many of these seem to be of the opinion that
Tsvangirai ought to show "gratitude" for President Mugabe's "gracious
magnanimity" in agreeing to a unity government with the MDC. Really?

All this is, of course presented within the context of the ZANU-PF
propaganda that seeks to portray Tsvangirai as an enemy of the state, a
puppet of the West who should be regarded with suspicion and whose
association with Western "imperialists" is responsible for the sanctions
causing the suffering of Zimbabweans.

Viewed from that perspective, it seems unlikely that a power-sharing
arrangement between such diametrically oppo-sed and mutually antagonistic
groups was ever going to work. With the benefit of hindsight, it was
patently naive of the MDC in both its formations, to believe that President
Mugabe was genuinely interested in endorsing an arrangement that would see
his absolute stranglehold on state power diluted by the MDC. It should now
be clear to all and sundry that President Mugabe, like the cunning old fox
that he is, only agreed to the power-sharing arrangement to gain legitimacy
after his widely disputed June 27 re-election

In his position paper presented to the SADC trio of South African President
Kgalema Motlanthe, Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza and official SADC
mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, in Harare early this
week to help break the impasse, Tsvangirai chronicled a series of violations
of the letter and spirit of the Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) which
formed the basis of the power-sharing agreement. Among the issues he raised
was the unilateral appointment of provincial governors, permanent
secretaries, ambassadors, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor and the Attorney

The MDC leader also complained about the continued arrests, abductions and
detention of his followers at a time when there should be political goodwill
on both sides of the divide. He, with some justification, demanded that all
persons who were not properly arrested by the police and acting Minister of
State Security in court be released immediately.

According to the MDC, to date, a total of 27 people have been abducted by
the state security agents, 16 of whom have appeared in court and have since
been remanded in custody. It is a moot point that the continued remand and
detention of these individuals whose initial arrests were unlawful is in
breach of their constitutional rights and the rule of law.

The MDC is also aggrieved that despite the fact that the political agreement
stipulates that steps must be taken to ensure that the so-called public
media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their
legitimate political activities, exactly the opposite is happening. While
the agreement further provides that both the public and private media must
refrain from using abusive language that may incite political intolerance,
these provisions continue to be breached by the sole electronic broadcaster
and the sole daily newspaper, both of which are controlled by ZANU-PF.

The state media has continued to provide partisan coverage of political
events that is full of hate, malice and untruths and completely biased in
favour of ZANU-PF. They carry many articles attacking and abusing the MDC.
They give almost no coverage to statements and comments made by the MDC.
Everything they publish and put on air is one-sided. In the event that
something is said about the MDC, it is invariable to put it in a negative
and bad light.

It is difficult to understand how, in the face of the intense hostility
shown towards MDC-T at every turn, and the egregious violations of the
letter and spirit of the power-sharing agreement, the MDC hoped to enter
into a functional working relationship under these inimical conditions. The
unpalatable reality that, as Zimbabweans we must contend with, is that a
power-sharing pact between ZANU-PF and the MDC was never going to work when
the ruling party demonstrated un-ambiguously time and time again that it was
never genuinely interested in sharing power with the MDC but nonetheless
needed the opposition's signature to gain legitimacy and recognition after
the June 27 charade.

So, while ZANU-PF leadership will be beating their chests obviously
celebrating having hoodwinked the MDC as they did PF-ZAPU before it, into
endorsing President Mugabe's controversial presidency against their better
judgement, it is worth noting that the sum total of this latest "victory",
is "power" for its own sake that has no effect on the parlous state of
Zimbabwe as a nation.

If anything, the economic situation will deteriorate further, and more
people will die for lack of food and medicines. The Zimbabwe dollar will
lose what little value it has left, and the exodus into neighbouring
countries and further afield will intensify.

The question can indeed be asked: What is it that President Mugabe and
ZANU-PF find so difficult with the MDC position of sorting out, debating and
passing in parliament the Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill first
before the formation of an inclusive government?

For me and indeed to most Zimbabweans this is undeniably the reasonable and
logical thing to do. After all, such a step would give legal effect to

I smell a rat here. By their keenness in wanting to swear in the prime
minister and deputy prime ministers before the legal processes are
completed, President Mugabe clearly wants Tsvangirai to be subordinated to
him. In a situation where power is equally shared, I would have thought that
the prime minister is sworn-in not by the President but by the Chief

It is disingenuous on the part of President Mugabe to say he had no
obligation to consult Tsvangirai on the recent appointments as the September
15 agreement and the proposed Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill only
made room for the Head of State to work with the prime minister. The fact
that Tsvangirai is not yet prime minister is neither here nor there. In any
event, why not wait for the bill to become law before making these

For me, this is the big question. ZANU chiwororo for sure!

One needs to be ahead of this party all the time. Otherwise you are doomed!

In reality therefore, President Mugabe is marking yet another "pyrrhic
victory" and incredibly seems oblivious to imperatives that forced him to
the negotiating table with the opposition in the first place. Rather than
face up to the truth of its total governance failure and allow the infusion
of fresh ideas and fresh approaches as provided for under the terms of the
power-sharing agreement, ZANU-PF has chosen the perilous scorched earth
route where it is either everything or nothing. Any negotiating process
premised on the notion that might is right is doomed to fail especially when
one side chooses to be uncooperative, intransigent or simply unreasonable
for purely selfish reasons.

President Mugabe has shown that he is prepared to let Zimbabwe "die",
because as far as he is concerned, his word constitutes the law of the land.
He is prepared to stake his reputation among other leaders and in the
African Union, SADC and internationally, by feeding them the tired Western
"regime change" conspiracy in the belief that this justifies his obstinate

President Mugabe appears convinced his sympathisers among his African peers
are more likely to buy into his anti-Western rhetoric than concern
themselves with Zimbabwe's internal problems.

But perhaps, the most unfortunate aspect of all this for Zimbabweans is the
real danger of exhausting the patience and tolerance of our erstwhile allies
and people of goodwill in the international community. With new conflicts
such as the war in Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Somalia, etc, Zimbabwe will soon disappear off the radar of global
concern, leaving us on our own.

Zimbabweans have every reason to be concerned by the prospect of this
happening. With its record of retributive attacks on opponents, it would not
be surprising to see a fresh wave of state repression. I hope to God that
this will not be the case.

But one thing for sure in this troubled country of ours, whether we like it
or not, Tsvangirai holds the key to the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis.
There is no other way out for ZANU-PF. And if no solution is found pretty
soon, things will come to a head in the not too distant future. How and
exactly when is anybody's guess. Nobody can fight time.

Bornwell Chakaodza


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe - Fighting Cholera on a Shoestring

Davison Makanga interviews FARID ABDULKADIR, Zimbabwe head of operations,
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent

HARARE, Jan 23 (IPS) - Nearly 50,000 cases of cholera have been reported in
Zimbabwe by the World Health Organisation; the death toll stood at 2,755 on
Jan. 21. International and regional humanitarian organisations are working
with Zimbabwean health care workers and volunteers to slow the spread of the
epidemic, but human and financial resources are stretched to the breaking

Farid Abdulkadir, head of operations in Zimbabwe for the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies told IPS that his
organisation's 9.2 million dollar Cholera Emergency Appeal, launched at the
end of December 2008 has raised only 40 percent of its target.

IPS: What are the latest casualty figures?

Farid Abdulkadir: At the moment we are talking of over 2,700 people who have
died of cholera in various parts of the country. There are also over 50,000
people affected by cholera. The pandemic is on the rise and the rains that
are being experienced in the country have also made the situation worse.

IPS: What is the Red Cross doing to contain the epidemic?

FA: So far we have mounted cholera operations composed of three main
activities. The first one is hygiene promotion targeting people in schools
and markets on how to prevent and avoid being contact with cholera. [We're
explaining] how to identify the signs of cholera and what to do when someone
shows them.

We have also mounted an operation in terms of supplying clean water through
purification. We have produced two million litres of water in various parts
of the country through the emergency unit which is purifying water with
chlorine and giving it to the community.

The final component is supporting the Ministry of Health with additional
drugs and increasing their bed capacity to be able to cope with the
increased numbers of patients in hospitals.

IPS: What is expected next as the epidemic develops: is it increasing
rapidly or is it being brought under control?

FA: The truth is that cholera cases are on the increase because of a health
system that has been overstretched, a water system that has not been
functioning appropriately and the rains that are coming.

As you know, Zimbabwe is facing a lot of economic problems and an inflation
rate that has several zeros. You are talking of several factors that are
promoting cholera, which is a preventable and curable disease that is
killing people more than it should.

IPS: Now, you mentioned you are working with the Ministry of Health, tell us
more about your working relationship with the government of Zimbabwe.

FA: I can tell you the Ministry of Health staff is working round the clock
under difficult circumstances to deal with the cholera situation.

There are weaknesses in the system due to the economic problems, but we are
working with them. We gave them allowances to keep them moving and going.
They feel energised; they feel that people are not leaving them alone in
this fight. There is massive upscale of operations through both colleagues
that have come to reinforce the system and the existing staff that are
working within the Ministry of Health.

IPS: And what about support from other players in the international donor
community. Are you receiving enough funding?

FA: The truth is our funding level is very low. We have money to last us for
another month but the problem is that the resources that are coming in are
very minimal which will definitely slow down the operation.

We have to maintain the three components of the operation at the same time.
We have one that looks at prevention, ensuring that the disease is cured at
the source and of course providing health services to the community because
they need and require it. Our biggest problem has been the funding level
that we are currently experiencing, and we urge all communities and people
all over to help Zimbabwe fight cholera.

IPS: Can you explain what kind of support is needed?

FA: The support required is in terms of drugs, water purification chemicals,
and hygiene promotion material. And in terms of upkeep for the ministries of
Health and Water Resources to maintain the tempo and energy in the fight
against cholera.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

How do Zimbabweans survive?

Friday, 23 January 2009 11:54

BULAWAYO - Francis Tambanowako is a pensioner, Elphina a legal secretary and
Arnold Munaki a businessman. But they all have one thing in common - they
have survived into 2009 but no one can explain how they are making ends meet
except to say it is by the "grace of God".
With inflation at over 231 million percent as of July last year and the
Zimbabwe dollar continuing to fall against the United States dollar and the
South African rand, now the major currencies Zimbabweans trade in, life has
become so tough that most people cannot explain how they are surviving
especially since they are still earning Zimbabwe dollars.
Tambanowako (67) says he last collected his pension in January last year.
The cheque was for $750 000. He never cashed the cheque and keeps it in his
"I have never gone back to NSSA (National Social Security Authority) to
collect my monthly cheques because it had become more expensive to go and
collect the cheque because I could not buy anything with that cheque.
"I keep it in my Bible as a reminder because every time I open my Bible I
see the cheque," he said.
Tambanowako says he is surviving on the money that he is given by his two
children who are working in the country and one who is abroad.
A marketing person by profession, things had become so tough that he sought
work as a freelance sales representative last year, but business was so low
that he gave up when he ended up spending more money on fuel than he was
"I am fortunate because I own my house so I do not have to pay rent. But
things are so tough that sometimes I cannot even afford to buy a box of
matches let alone the candle when lights go out," he said.
Elphina, a single mother, says she cannot explain how she survives though
she has a full-time job.
"I cannot say because I might upset or expose a lot of people. All I can say
is that I survive by the grace of God."
She says she cannot afford a maid so she has to leave her eight-year-old son
at home alone. She prepares enough food for him for the day and goes to
"My company gives me a transport allo-wance. It is adequate. At times I
think that all they are interested in is getting me to come to work because
they still pay me in Zimbabwe dollars. Today is my pay day and I have been
given $12 trillion. It is only worth R20 at today's rate. What do I buy with
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family of six needs US$288 a month
just for basics. In South Africa a family of the same size requires just
US$79 for the same commodities. The basket was measured last year and has
not been updated.
The same applies to annual inflation. The latest figure available, 231
million percent, is that for July last year yet the rate of inflation should
just be a month behind.
Elphina says she spends most of her time thinking about how to get food for
her family.
"As a woman I need things like perfume. I have to do my hair. But every time
I think about this, my stomach complains, 'how about me', so I end up buying
whatever food I can get.
"As a mother, I need to bring something home for my son, a banana or
something. But now even my son understands.
"When I ask him before I leave: 'What can I bring you?' He now says:
'Anything'. Schools are opening next week, but I do not have the fees."
Schools were supposed to open on January 13 but this was postponed to
January 27 ostensibly because Grade Seven results were not yet out.
The real reason seems to be that teachers were not willing to go back to
work. They want to be paid in foreign currency and are demanding more than
US$2 000 a month. There is widespread speculation that schools might not
open next week.
Elphina said she had been hopeful that the power-sharing talks that began in
Harare on Monday might come up with a solution but her hopes seem to have
been dashed.
"I was hoping that something would come out of the talks but it looks like
they are getting nowhere.
"So I wonder whether I should blame my employer for my present predicament
or someone else."
Paul Chimhosva, writing in a South African newspaper, said while there were
major points of disagreement between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic
Change, Zimbabwe's political leaders were having it too nice to care about
the suffering of the majority.
"There is a theory that says: President (Mugabe) is scared of jail and loss
of income hence his reluctance to relinquish power, and, on the other hand,
the opposition politicians are used to donor income in hard currency hence
their reluctance to join the government to protect their earnings.
"One hopes for the sake of Zimbabwe this is not true," he wrote.
For Arnold Munaki it is a different ball game. He has three shops in
Bulawayo as well as two buses.
The shops were doing quite well up to 2007 when the government launched its
price blitz that left shops empty.
"After the blitz, wholesalers had nothing to sell so we could not replenish
our stocks. That business died down.
"I got some salvation from the bus side because NOCZIM (Nat-ional Oil
Company of Zimbabwe) started supplying us with diesel so that we could carry
urban commuters."
Munaki diverted his buses from the rural areas to ply urban routes.
Business boomed until September last year when NOCZIM suddenly stopped
supplying them with diesel.
"We started sourcing our own diesel, but we had to buy it in foreign
"Police would not allow us to charge economic rates or in foreign currency.
"This is ridiculous because our passengers now buy everything in foreign
"They do not even have Zimbabwe dollars yet police insist we must charge in
Zim dollars," Munaki said.
He said business was also down because most people were spending more money
on food rather than transport.
Some long distance buses from Harare, for example, were having to park for
two or three days to make sure they had enough passengers to go back to
"We are now totally grounded," Munaki said.
But some people, especially those with access to foreign currency, are
making a killing.
When robbers pou-nced on a shop in Magwegwe they walked away with R108 000,
P16 000 and US$9.
A lot of people have left their jobs to trade in one commodity or another.

Charles Rukuni
Bureau Chief

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

When politicians lose the bigger picture

Posted By Joram Nyathi on 23 Jan,
2009 at 3:34 pm

THERE is one thing about America which President Barak Obama can do nothing
to change: the White House establishment. He will have to fit into the

Most despicable about the System for us is the agenda it has already set for
Obama - that America will not recognise a political settlement in Zimbabwe
in which Robert Mugabe remains President. This is not helped by locals who
repeat the fib about a decisive victory in the March 29 elections, as if
ignorant of the legal position. Thus whatever Obama's personal inclinations,
he will to a large extent depend on the information the System feeds him to
judge the nature of the war in Zimbabwe. The same System which led America
into Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet at another plane, systems do help resolve complex problems. In Zimbabwe
negotiations for a political settlement have stalled since September 15
because politicians refuse to see the bigger picture - national well-being.
The Global Political Agreement signed on that day envisaged the two MDC
formations and Zanu PF working together as or in a system in a brief
transitional period. There would be room for adjustments in response to
feedback while a holistic constitutional framework was being worked out.
Success or failure would depend on Zimbabweans taking full responsibility of
the process.

From the looks of things, there are people who pretend our problems can be
resolved by reducing government from a system into tiny components to be
allocated to rival political entities before it can function. So the nation
has been held to ransom over frivolous arguments about which political party
"owns" which ministries, ambassadors and provincial governors!

Government is the sum total of its components which should be neither Zanu
PF nor MDC. There is no point in trying to fashion the finest model
agreement on paper which will never have practical application in the human
world. It is one thing to reject outright an agreement which is flawed in
substance and call for fresh polls; it is dishonesty on the other hand for
politicians to filibuster to frustrate SADC and kill a deal to which they
pay public lip-service to escape the charge of spoiler.

I was impressed by Obama's inauguration. No foreign dignitaries invited.
Symbolically, this was a purely American thing. Even Obama's address was
crafted to appeal chiefly to American pride. He deftly used historical
references to reinforce this, from the war and victory against Britain to
the Civil War and the end of slavery.

One could also not miss the powerful symbolism in Obama's choice of American
hero in Abraham Lincoln, the man who risked the Civil War in the fight to
end slavery in the South. America was able to resolve this historical
contradiction and catapult a descendant of the slave race to the pinnacle of
political power.

America did not just win political freedom from Britain. It also gained
economic independence some 220 years ago. Zimbabwe is in the second phase of
that war. There is no need to apologise to anyone for seeking economic
emancipation by gaining total control of our God-given natural resources.
This is a war which should make historical sense to Obama if he understands
the resistance to the end of slavery, and the roots of and opposition to the
civil rights movement in America.

In Zimbabwe, incidental deaths and infractions of the law are being
overblown to overshadow and subvert the fundamental need for and long-term
implications of a successful land reform - Zimbabwe's economic independence.
This, in an inverted microcosmic way in which the MDC can conceive of an
inclusive government only in a fragmented form and not as a system, is the
meaning of its rejection of "responsibility without authority" while Zanu PF
tries to assert "total empowerment" from more powerful forces.

But the MDC's "responsibility" rests on a shaky premise - political leverage
based on promises of financial aid from the West to "jump-start" economic
recovery without a firm local foundation to attain the same long-term goal.
We want our economy and politics to be like America's by fiat - without the
pain and learning which America went through! Obama himself warns in his
speech about the pitfalls of "shortcuts", in business as in politics.

I also liked Obama's positive affirmation of the spirit and values which won
America its freedom, its fight for economic independence, scientific mastery
and ideological dominance. I envy the way African Americans have overcome
their inferiority complex which locally still manifests itself in extreme
cultural alienation.

Just before Christmas, I attended a leadership course in Tanzania sponsored
by the British Council. It included conflict resolution and the concept of
ubuntu. Looking at the sparring between Zanu PF and the MDC, it is evident
that you cannot conduct negotiations through public recriminations nor can
you reach agreement by accentuating areas of discord. This reduces serious
debate to showmanship.

Ubuntu is a fundamental concept of self-respect in Ndebele where we say
"umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu". I am because you are because we are. Mutual
respect is a key ingredient in negotiations. It calls for mutual and good
faith. Above all, you need to be honest with each other. Our politicians
have let us down big time and the nation is paying a heavy price.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Migrants face humanitarian crisis on South Africa's border with Zimbabwe

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Date: 22 Jan 2009

By Shantha Bloemen

MUSINA, South Africa, 22 January 2009 - A humanitarian crisis is unfolding
in the South African border town of Musina. Historically the transit point
for migrants seeking work in the country's larger cities, it has now become
the entry point for many desperate Zimbabweans fleeing the economic and
social collapse in their country.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman recently visited the area, touring the
town's 'showgrounds', the first stop for many who cross the border seeking
asylum. With 300 permits granted a day, the facility has become a makeshift
camp for thousands of waiting migrants.

"On our visit we have been looking at the issue of people coming in from
Zimbabwe, waiting for their papers," Ms. Veneman said after being briefed by
the local authorities and speaking with asylum seekers. "We've had a chance
to talk to many of the mothers who have children here about why they're
coming here, and it's looking for a better life."

With support from UNICEF, Save the Children has set up a safe space in
Musina for mothers with young children. It provides them with food, toys and
a place to wait while their papers are processed by the Ministry of Home

Dangers for women and children

Betty and her sister, both with young infants, saw no other option than to
cross the border. They risked wading through the Limpopo River before
climbing under the electric fence that demarcates the border.

"In Zimbabwe, there is hunger. We can't support ourselves, and that is why
we brought our babies here. There is no food, money is a problem, work is a
problem, we can't find jobs," explained Betty, clutching her six-month-old
daughter, Brandy. Betty plans to travel to Pretoria, South Africa's capital
city, and stay with a friend until she can find work.

More and more unaccompanied children are also crossing the border. Some have
been beaten, mugged or abused by the violent gangs that prey on those who
informally cross over. Many of the children are orphaned, hungry and
extremely vulnerable. Most of them survive on small amounts of money gained
through piecemeal jobs, begging and stealing.

"Unaccompanied Zimbabwean children are unable to get asylum permits because
they are coming in on their own," explained the Director of Programmes at
Save the Children UK, Lynette Mudekunye. "Our estimate is that there are
1,000 unaccompanied children in this small little town and many more in the
farming communities around."

Lack of basic services

As the northernmost town in South Africa, Ms. Mudekunye explained, Musina
"is far away from big urban centres, and it was in a homeland area during
apartheid, so services were generally very poor."

She continued: "When we started working in the district, there was one
social worker for the whole municipality. Although that has grown to five,
it is still very inadequate even for the South African children in the
community. There are villages where children are walking 30 km to get to
secondary school."

Ms. Mudekunye added that Musina, which is on a trucking route, is also in an
area that has been hit by HIV and AIDS.

No end of flight in sight

To cope with the numbers of migrants, church groups and NGOs have set up
drop-in centres and shelters around town.

During her visit, Ms. Veneman visited a shelter, housed in a former police
trailer on the outskirts of town, where 20 boys live together and get three
meals a day. She heard from many of the boys that they were eager to
continue learning and wanted to go back to school.

As humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe appear set to worsen, there is a
consensus that more and more people will seek refuge in South Africa. So it
will be critical to carry on and strengthen the work of protecting children,
and to ensure that opportunities for them to continue their education are in

UNICEF South Africa has appealed for $1.4 million to scale up its response -
especially in the areas of water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child
protection - for women and children in the border areas.

Back to the Top
Back to Index