By Blessing Zulu
03 March 2006
Concerned about the possibility discontent among Zimbabweans could lead to
popular revolt, the government has backed off proposed steep hikes in the
cost of electricity to households and a freeze on salaries to teachers and
other public employees.
On a visit to Chegutu, in Mashonaland West province, President Robert Mugabe
said teacher salaries would be reviewed. Elsewhere, police have been told to
crack down on unauthorized price increases by shop-owners and public
Officials have described such unauthorized price rises as economic
A senior government source said a crisis committee including the chiefs of
the central bank, army, police and Central Intelligence Organization has
urged the president to curb rising prices which risk sparking mass action by
a struggling population. Other reports said Zimbabwe's state security
apparatus went on high alert this week.
Elsewhere, Britain's minister for Africa, in South Africa this past week,
warned that the further deterioration of conditions in Zimbabwe could lead
to an outbreak of conflict.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga declined to comment on
Zimbabwe has only two weeks of wheat supply left, while citizens are
faced with soaring bread prices, Zimbabwe's main milling organisation has
The cost of bread has risen by 30%, pushing Zimbabwe's inflation rate
to more than 600%.
Zimbabwe has been in economic decline since President Robert Mugabe
began seizing white-owned farms in 2000.
The government is reported to have put its security forces on alert in
the rising discontent leads to protests.
David Govere, deputy chairman of the Millers Association, told AFP
news agency the scarcity of wheat has meant a reduction in supplies to
"Due to depleted stocks, GMB [state-run food distributor Grain
Marketing Board] is now giving us 400 tons of wheat a week, down from 600
tons," he is quoted as saying.
Shortages of wheat could force bakers to import flour from South
Africa, which could lead to more price rises.
A loaf of bread in Zimbabwe currently costs $66,000 Zimbabwean (66 US
cents), having risen 30% in just one week.
President Mugabe denies that his land reform programme has contributed
to the crisis, blaming the effects of drought instead.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the
situation is becoming unbearable.
"It's terrible right now because of shortages," Arthur Mutambara,
leader of one of two factions of the MDC.
"Fuel is not available, commodities are unaffordable, unemployment
80%, inflation above 600%.
"It's a travesty of justice that the country has been so run down by
Robert Mugabe's regime."
Zimbabwe's leading millers - National Foods, Blue Ribbon and Victoria
Foods - have shut production at most of their mills because of the wheat
shortage, according to AFP.
International aid agencies say about 4.3m out of Zimbabwe's 13m people
will require food aid until the next harvest in May.
The country has suffered increasing food shortages, rising
unemployment and runaway inflation since the government began redistributing
seized white-owned farms six years ago.
Economists say the rate of inflation could reach 1,000% by April.
04/03/2006 15:44 - (SA)
Harare - A prominent Zimbabwe war veteran, who led invasions of white-owned
farms and firms in the country, has vowed "war" on bakers who refuse to
reverse bread price hikes.
In a statement published in Saturday's state-run Herald newspaper, Joseph
Chinotimba said bread price hikes "should be reversed with immediate
Chinotimba warned: "Without that there will be war."
Bread prices increased by 50% in many shops in Zimbabwe this week.
A loaf of bread in the country now costs 70 000 Zimbabwean dollars (about
R4), up from the government-controlled price of 44 000 Zimbabwean dollars
On Saturday, Chinotimba also threatened to "deal with" farmers who he said
were underpaying farm workers.
Chinotimba said: "To those employers who are paying their farm workers 500
000 dollars (R35), we don't mind whether you are a minister or you were once
a minister, whether you are black or white, we are coming."
According to Zimbabwe's state media, the set wage for farm workers is about
R70 - or one million Zim dollars.
Chinotimba re-iterated he was still president of the pro-government Zimbabwe
Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), denying press reports he had been ousted.
By a Correspondent
THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication
will decide the course of action to take against Zimpapers chief executive
officer, Justin Mutasa for alleged contempt of Parliament.
He is accused of barring the committee from visiting The Chronicle and
Sunday News offices in Bulawayo.
Leo Mugabe, chairman of the committee, said they would present a
report to the clerk of parliament, Austin Zvoma.
"We will be meeting as a committee next week and write a report on
what happened. However, the clerk of court would determine the next course
of action but as far as we are concerned he was in contempt of Parliament,"
Mugabe said. The committee was on a tour of Bulawayo, which took them to the
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) facilities, Spot FM studios in Montrose
and Joshua Nkomo International Airport.
Mutasa allegedly wrote a letter to management at the two papers
ordering them to bar the committee from conducting any business at The
Chronicle. He said the MPs did not have any business there.
Soon after they were blocked, Mugabe told reporters from Bulawayo:
"We are at The Chronicle at the moment, but we have been advised that we
cannot conduct our business. We have been shown a letter from Justin Mutasa
saying our committee had no business at the newspaper. He (Mutasa) is
obviously in contempt of parliament."
Zimpapers publishes its flagship The Herald, The Sunday Mail, The
Chronicle, The Sunday News, The Manica Post, Kwayedza, Umthunywa, New
Farmer, Trends and Zimbabwean Travel.Meanwhile, the committee has summoned
the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to appear before it and explain
why it has not issued a broadcasting license to anyone since the authority
was formed four years ago.
Sunday Times, Australia
By RYAN EMERY
DISPOSSESSED Zimbabwean farmer Vernon Nicolle is determined Robert Mugabe
will pay for taking over his property.
Now safely in WA after his farm and livelihood were torn from him by the
Zimbabwean ruler, the 62-year-old has joined other Zimbabwean farmers in
The farmers, who say they were beaten and seriously injured while trying to
keep their properties, will fight Mr Mugabe in the US courts later this
Their land was taken by Mr Mugabe and given to black Zimbabweans in a
controversial policy that many Western nations say has caused the financial
and food problems crippling the African nation.
Mr Nicolle, who said he was threatened at gunpoint several times to give up
his farm and machinery, said he would not stop pursuing Mr Mugabe.
"If Mugabe wants my farm, so be it. I'll cry, but to steal everything is
unacceptable and for that I'll fight for the rest of my life," he said from
his property near Margaret River.
Zimbabwe is starving as inexperienced land owners, army generals, police
chiefs and even high court judges leave crops to fail and the land to lie
Mr Nicolle, who has met Mr Mugabe several times, said he had produced about
24 per cent of the country's wheat crop and thought his productive farm
would be safe from the leader's scheme.
Mr Nicolle was in Australia in June 2003 when he learnt he had lost his farm
after fighting Mr Mugabe in the courts for several years.
"My son phoned me up and said, `Dad, it's all over, they've trashed the
house'," he said.
Mr Nicolle said he visited his farm once more when the police demanded he go
there to open a safe.
After he had finished, a police officer grabbed his hand to take the safe
"I said, `I'm afraid if this guy does not let me go, I promise that for the
first time in my life I'll kill someone and the police (chief) said, `Let
him go', and I walked away with the key and I still have that key," he said.
Mr Nicolle and his wife, Vanessa, left Zimbabwe for Australia the following
month while their son, Christopher, tried to hang on to his neighbouring
property but was kicked off in January 2004. He is now a contract harvester
Their daughter, Amanda, is still in Zimbabwe and the couple hope she will
migrate to Australia.
At Margaret River, the Nicolles live in a big shed and have invested in a
brick-making machine. They are confident the machine, the first of its type
in Australia, will help them start over again.
"It's a huge gamble. We've put everything we've got into it and we intend to
build our house with it," Mr Nicolle said.
By a Correspondent
Precisely at 3.00am, Emmanuel Matandamaviri (not his real name) a
former senior journalist with a weekly newspaper in Zimbabwe jumps out of
his blankets and heads towards a common bathroom in downtown Johannesburg.
After taking a five-minute bath he takes out a set of rumpled clothes
from a Shangaan bag and dresses for the day. Emmanuel has no breakfast.
Clutching newspaper clippings of his previously published stories and
certificates in a plastic bag, he set off to Sandton on foot to submit his
credentials to potential employers.
His journey takes him through Hillbrow, Parktown, Forest Town and
He could have faxed or e-mailed his material, but he did not have any
money to pay for Internet access.
"I have to walk to organizations and media houses looking for
freelancing chances. My skills have deteriorated but I can't give up my
profession easily. The problem in South Africa is that even odd jobs are
scarce. Each day I walk an average of 35km.
"Life has become unbearable and there is nowhere to go to look for
help. Journalists unlike other refugees do not have an organisation
representing them. At every organisation we go for assistance we are told
they don't deal with professionals," said Emmanuel.
He has only R1 to buy "magwinya" (deep fried buns) at the end of the
day. He passes the day pacifying his empty stomach with his saliva.
After Sandton, he hopes to proceed to Auckland Park. At some
organisations he is told to phone first for an appointment with the editor.
In other newsrooms he is told to come back the next day.
When night falls, he is still in Rosebank and he opts to join
vagrants. The next day an editor of a news agency asks him to do a story
about a demonstration in Pretoria against a doctor who is giving illegal
vitamin tablets to HIV/AIDS patients. He is requested to fax or e-mail the
story when he is done.
But Emmanuel does not have the money to go to Pretoria or to e-mail,
so yet another chance of a job slips through.
"It's always the case, its either you can't fulfil the tasks you are
given or there is nothing to be offered at the moment. How am I expected to
cover the Pretoria story when I don't even have anything to feed my
stomach?" said Emmanuel.
From the day one he ran away from Robert Mugabe's repressive media
laws, life has been rough and he has been reduced to a life of destitution.
Emmanuel says: "After victimisation by the militia youth brigade and
Central Intelligence Organization for my articles which were anti-Mugabe,
like many Zimbabwean I decided to flee the country to South Africa for my
own security and seek employment for survival with high hopes of getting a
decent job. But twelve months down the line all my hopes have been reduced
to misery". For Amphious Panda, a journalist who walked almost thousand
kilometres to SA from Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000 to
escape persecution, life is worse.
"Good" is the only English word he knew. A further disadvantage is
that he is unfamiliar with the computer equipment used in SA newsrooms: at
home, he wrote on old typewriters.
"Even now I have problem in writing in English and I need someone to
translate from French if I am to write a good story. The writing style is
quite different, you need time and training to adapt to the situation," said
Emmanuel's situation is typical for exiled journalist who are finding
it hard to break into the mainstream media in South Africa.
"South Africa is not sympathetic to journalists like any other
nationals, it doesn't matter how experienced you are as a journalist as long
as you are not connected you will never get the job, menial jobs yes. Exiled
journalists have been reduced to a life of destitution. Some fine
journalists end up discarding their thriving careers after getting
frustrated in a foreign land.
Although it is hard to establish exact figures, it seems that there
has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of exiled journalists in South
Africa in recent years.
Foreign journalists who take refuge in South Africa are usually
experienced professionals. They suffer from the usual problems refugees
face, but with the added difficulty of finding work in the mainstream media
that is already flooded with local journalists.
However, exiled journalists have now founded the Cross Border
Journalists' Association, which intends to address their problems.
* Magugu Nyathi is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg.
Monday 6 March 2006, 7:30 - 9.30pm, LONDON, UK.
This week the Zimbabwe London Forum is delighted to present a talk by Lois
Davies - the UK co-ordinator of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). Two weeks
ago on Valentine's Day the brave women of Zimbabwe again took to the streets
in a peaceful protest and gave out roses on their marches in Harare and
Bulawayo. For this several hundred women, some carrying children or babies
were arrested and thrown into prison in appalling conditions, with no
sanitation or food for 3 days, many were beaten, before being finally
released. Lois will show us a video of their most recent events in Zimbabwe
and talk about the work of the WOZA founder - Jenny Williams and others, who
recently received humanitarian awards.
Please come along and find out more about their work and show your support
for the WOZA women.
We also want to talk about and remind everyone of the appeal hearing in the
cases of AA and LK which are happening on Monday 6th March at 10 am.. A
demonstration is being organised outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in the
Strand, near the Aldwych on Monday morning. Please come and support this
demo, speakers will be there and some traditional singing and dancing to
support (hopefully) a positive outcome for Zimbabwean asylum seekers ie. no
change in the ruling that Zimbabwe is not safe for Zim asylum seekers to be
returned to. Venue:
Upstairs function room, Theodore Bullfrog,
28 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6HL
Underground: Charing Cross (1 minute), Embankment (3 minutes)
By Dumisani Muleya
Last updated: 03/04/2006 19:59:52
THE biggest sham in the calendar year for journalism - the National
Journalistic and Media Awards organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists
(ZUJ) - was held last Friday. As usual, mediocrity triumphed over
meritocracy in a dramatic fashion.
The ceremony turned out to be a spectacular charade. In football circles
they call it simulation. The competition had the chaotic incoherence of a
long-winded nightmare. This year it proceeded from the controversial to the
The judges of the competition were not known and the rules were either vague
or simply arbitrary. Some journalists submitted works that had not been
aired, in the case of the electronic media, while others claimed credit for
stories broken by other newspapers.
Others were rewarded for competing against themselves, in other words for
defeating the whole idea of competition and the awards!
Media houses known for sunshine journalism and whose credibility in the
court of public opinion is terribly damaged, were the winners. Their
competitors, whom readers give a clean bill of credibility, were the losers
in the final analysis.
Mediocrity, often dramatised by cut-and-paste journalism and lifting of
stories from the internet or other media, was awarded and rewarded ahead of
merit, sharp reporting and effort.
Although the judgement of what constitutes merit and effort is largely
subjective, there are benchmarks to be respected in professional journalism.
Does a lazy genius merit rewarding better than a hardworking dullard? These
are some of the legitimate issues that arise, but the dodgy ZUJ awards don't
provoke such dynamic debate because they are often blatantly fraudulent.
Why were the judges' identities hidden? How do sponsors end up choosing the
judges? Why does ZUJ allow its office holders to decampaign certain
journalists in their meetings? Why are the categories of the competition
designed along the lines of the arrangement of certain newspapers?
How possible is it to avoid undue political influence in a competition in
which government is part of the sponsors when it is common cause that it is
hostile to certain sections of the media and its reporters?
How come ZBC is part of the competition when it is known that there are no
competitors to it due to the current broadcasting monopoly? So who were ZBC
journalists competing against? Obviously, against themselves!
Why not organise an in-house competition instead of posturing as if they are
facing challenges from other electronic media houses?
It is difficult to generate competition in the Zimbabwean media landscape
where government monopoly holds sway. The media sector is dominated by the
state-run media and quasi-state owned newspapers and this clearly distorts
competition. There is evidence that in international competitions
journalists from countries with diverse and plural media ownership - for
instance those from South, Kenya and Nigeria -- perform better than those
from Stalinist and monopolistic media environments.
Without a doubt, there were worthy winners at the ZUJ competition, in
particular in less controversial categories and congratulations to them.
However, there were also sham winners. But they also deserve to be
congratulated because they did not choose themselves to be winners.
For the record, I came second in the News Reporter of the Year category. A
Herald reporter was the winner. I was not disappointed at all because I did
not expect anything. I had not entered the competition. I was told by the
organisers - at the eleventh hour -- that I had been nominated for the prize
without my knowledge.
But in the end I was alarmed, not just by the unprofessionalism of those
behind the event, but by the extent to which they went to organise the
monumental farce that the awards became.
When I asked ZUJ leaders what criteria they used to arrive at decisions, I
was told "there is politics". I asked what politics and I was informed the
sponsors were trying to be seen as politically correct and hence did not
want to stir controversy by rewarding "politically sensitive" reporters.
I do not know for certain what happened behind the scenes but what I do know
is that I did not enter my work for the competition. If I had the interest I
would find out what transpired, but I simply do not think it is worth my
trouble to do so except in so far as the need to point out the damaging
effect of such deceitful events to journalism arises.
I'm reliably informed that some ZUJ members were genuinely concerned about
the need to convince all practicising journalists to participate in the
competition, hence the introduction of a system of nomination to bring in
those who do not want to enter. There are a number of journalists who shun
ZUJ awards to avoid legitimising an event they think is tailor-made for a
particular section of the media and to reward government journalists.
But nomination for the sake of legitimising a flawed competition is not
helpful to journalism, just like rewarding mediocrity. This is why most of
our "winners" in Zimbabwe perform very badly or are just uncompetitive in
Two years ago ZBC management threatened to pull out their employees from the
ZUJ awards citing unfairness and biased decisions. The situation has not
changed. If anything, it is getting worse.
ZUJ risks further damaging its reputation - already compromised by these
clumsy events - if it allows this charade to pass for a serious media event.
Muleya is news editor of The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper and can be
contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
These are tough times for writers in Zimbabwe, says Martin Goodman
Saturday March 4, 2006
A bus trip from Harare to Bulawayo takes you through the drama of Zimbabwean
fiction. Harare has some of the plate-glass sheen of a metropolis. Bulawayo
is more laid back, with the wide avenues and porticoed walkways of a century
ago. Zimbabwe's books tell of transitions between old and new, village and
city, seamed with family ties and ancestral resonance. Writing in England
abandoned such themes when Thomas Hardy switched to poetry.
I was in Zimbabwe to run writing workshops for the British Council, marking
the end of the "Crossing Borders" project teaming British and African
writers. It's a tough time to be a writer in Zimbabwe. It's a tough time to
be anything. A line of people waits at a petrol station, but not for fuel.
No petrol stations have fuel. They are queuing for the ground maize that is
the staple diet. Dawn and dusk turn the road between Bulawayo and the
townships into a John Steinbeck novel, workers hiking miles for occasional
Shona is the majority language of Zimbabwe, and Ignatius Mabasa, a powerful
performing poet, novelist and storyteller, is acknowledged as its top new
voice. He explained to me the three generations theory of Zimbabwean
writing: the first generation were the teachers, educated in missionary
schools, writing with didactic zeal; the second generation wrote to praise
the second chimu-renga, the civil war for independence - and then dealt with
post-independence disappointments; the third are the "born-frees". They are
emerging from the chrysalis of the 20th century, blinking, self-consciously
modern, hoping the world will pay them some heed.
Bulawayo's writers enthused about Virginia Phiri's Desperate, a new set text
in teacher training colleges. About women sex workers, the book was selected
for its "good writing"- and because it was in English. In Ndebele (the local
language, a dialect of Zulu) it would have provoked a storm. Writers use
English to filter out a conservative society's expectations. I met Phiri in
Harare. An accountant and expert on orchids, she seems far removed from the
active "comrade", who would have been killed in the 1970s liberation war
without the protection of prostitutes. The book is her tribute to them.
"Most sex workers are the breadwinners. One said to me: 'I need to buy a
ticket for my niece to get to London.' I am not encouraging prostitution. I
am bringing out the way things are. I believe in speaking for those who
can't speak for themselves."
Publisher Irene Staunton of Weaver Press is passionate about fiction. Funds
from the Dutch humanist organisation Hivos help an impossible commercial
situation. Book prices are raised every three months, in line with a 250%
inflation rate. Most submissions are rejected - "pulpit writing from people
who never read but want to write". Staunton still mourns Yvonne Vera, who
died of Aids in 2005. "She was a brave writer, confronting infanticide,
abortion, incest and the brutalities of war. Her manuscripts were
Weaver author Shimmer Chinodya agrees that younger writers do not read. He
has a different hero though, Zimbabwe's enfant terrible Dambudzo Marechera,
an Aids casualty from 1987. "I love Marechera. I love his sense of the
moment and sense of words. His crystalline vision and his boldness. He tells
you what he thinks, unedited. The younger generation don't understand him,
they just ape his bohemian life. They don't have the sense of the word which
he intended, that erudite voice."
Chinodya's novel Chairman of Fools was a must-buy for Zimbabwe's literary
elite in 2005. "War is inevitable in most Zimbabwean writing," he began.
"It's so much a part of our psyche." Chairman fits closer to his other
theme. "I write about the psychology of being a writer - being a writer in
Zimbabwe." He "clipped" his prose style at university in Iowa. The new book
is a brave foray into the writer's condition, a journey through the hell of
"I'm a colonial victim. They forced me to speak in English. My writing is an
act of revenge - all that grammar they shoved down my throat, I'm going to
use it and create something totally hybrid. The voice must shock you. My use
of English must show the complexity of the African thought processes. I'm
trying to salvage the African mind from decades of abuse and misconception."
Where do you find the African mind? It's in family ritual and the near
tangible presence of ancestors. "Come to a wedding in the villages or in the
city, and I'll show you the African mind."
I attended a book launch at the Book Café. Every public event at this
enterprising venue needs police permission. Being private, this book launch
sidestepped that, but the first arrival was a policeman. Fay Chung, a former
education minister, was launching her wartime memoir Re-Living the Second
Chimurenga. A fellow comrade introduced her with a 20-minute diatribe,
picking out the book's faults. Speaker after speaker then rose with lengthy
statements in lieu of questions.
Zimbabwe's writers puzzle at colleagues who have chosen exile. Reading is
such a minority interest that writers pose no real threat. Chinodya wrote
Chairman on a residency in Italy. "But I must think my book out here and
talk to people. Things change so quickly in Zimbabwe you can't stay out too
· Martin Goodman's novel Slippery When Wet is published by Transita
Mail and Guardian
04 March 2006 12:04
Zimbabwe will amend its mining laws to allow the government to
demand a 51% share in some foreign-owned mines, an official announced on
"The government wants to be an active participant in the mining
business ... In effect I am saying the principles to the Amendments of the
Mines and Minerals Act have been presented and approved by Cabinet," Mining
Minister Amos Midzi told reporters in Harare.
The amendments will be tabled before Parliament for final
approval before July, Midzi added.
He said this would allow the government to hold a 51%
shareholding in each of the foreign-owned mines in the energy mining sector,
which includes minerals such as coal, uranium and methane gas.
The government would initially take up a 25% share which would
gradually be increased to 51% over a period of five years, Midzi said.
"The modalities of achieving the 51% shall be: 25%
non-contributory immediately after promulgation of the Act. The balance
shall be achieved within five years."
The same would apply to platinum, diamond and gold mines.
Zimbabwe's mining sector has seen the closure of at least 13
mines in the past six years, according to the Chamber of Mines, an
organisation representing mining firms.
The sector has been hard-hit by an acute shortage of spare parts
fuelled by a foreign exchange crunch, spiralling inflation, a free-falling
currency, erratic power supplies and higher production costs.
Zimbabwe has seen its mining sector stagnate after President
Robert Mugabe last year warned that the government would demand a 50% stake
in all mines.
The mining sector last year earned $626-million, representing
44% of Zimbabwe's total foreign currency revenues, according to Reserve Bank
figures. - Sapa-AFP
Business online, UK
By John Blundell
05 March 2006
Following John Blundell's Capitalist Manifesto Against UK Poverty last
week, he now puts his analysis of the cure for Third World Poverty
I USED to find that if I expressed misgivings about Third World Aid I
was regarded as hard hearted. How could I be so insensitive?. Let me be
blunt and not so much hard hearted as hard headed and clear eyed. The bulk
of overseas aid, official or voluntary, is positively harmful. This is
offensive both to common sense and to our charitable instincts. Surely, we
think, the word and the thing are the same. Aid sounds kindly and
benevolent. How can aid not help? Politicians jostle to show their
compassion with our money.
Hilary Benn MP now carries the flame previously carried by Clare
Short. He has an entire Department of State. I do not denigrate either him
or his colleagues personally. They have simply not understood the subtle
nature of the gross problems we lump together as Third World Poverty.
The late Professor Peter Bauer made a lifetime's study of aid and
concluded in all but a tiny proportion of cases it was always pernicious.
Yes, it damages those in the recipient nations. He came up with the
penetrating formula: "Aid is the process by which the poor in rich countries
subsidise the rich in poor countries." He means most of the aid billions
goes to the governments of the Third World or their agencies. Whole
societies that once traded become politicised and militarised as those in
power will do anything to stay in office and keep the gravy coming.
Aid, then, is mostly a lubricant for the planet's greater tyrants,
bullies and thieves. It may be argued that Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is too
easy a target but at least we can all agree by any measure the economy of
this well-endowed place has been destroyed by its leaders. It is not a few
hundred white farmers who have been degraded. Everyone, save a small cadre
around the presidency, is starving or fleeing. What is Mugabe's main source
of income? Tobacco, maize, or lignite? No it is aid, much of it not with the
faintly sanctimonious glow of UK official gifting but from Libya and China.
Zimbabwe's Torture State is only sustained by subsidies.
I am not arguing that the methods of appraising projects be beefed up
and the more vicious regimes abandoned. Tweaking aid programmes may make
some marginal differences but much of it will still end up in the Swiss bank
accounts of kleptocrats. We know from our own welfare state that making
people dependent on aid is not the best hand-up. Hand-outs are not hand-ups.
The misery territories - most of Latin America, almost all of Africa
and too much of Asia - lack the subtle but essential tools to nourish
prosperity. They lack what we regard as assumed. They do not have the rule
of law. In its absence, markets cannot evolve. We can resolve disputes.
Contracts are honoured. If they fail we have recourse. We may all groan at
the ability of lawyers to make disputes complex and expensive but basically
we trust our law givers.
In the lands we define as needing aid you will observe nobody has
recourse against the corrupt or thieving agencies of their governments. Do
you suppose the citizens of Equatorial Guinea, Haiti or Myanmar can be
assured of simple civil rights we take for granted? Every reader of The
Business owns property, either real estate or paper claims to pensions or
shares. The tissue of these relationships compose our prosperity. Third
Worlders have no such discernible property rights. Many even do not own
their own labour. They are effectively serfs - or slaves.
Hernando de Soto, the noted Peruvian economist, has blazed a trail
criticising the processes by which the poor remained dispossessed -
precisely because they are denied possession. Hundreds of millions farm on
land which they do not own. This means they cannot trade it or bequeath it.
They cannot borrow against it. It is not profitable to improve it. In Third
World urban landscapes only the minority enjoy ownership in the sense we can
own - the ability to consign or to use as security.
We all saw Robert Mugabe's cohorts bulldoze through the shanty towns
of Bulawayo and other towns. Those film clips struck me as a perfect cameo
of the truth of the Third World - the state can drive through and crush
humble homes for no good reason and the people have no recourse or redress.
Who funded the Zimbabwe bulldozers? Yes, they were aid gifts.
It is my impression that the Bauer or de Soto perceptions are no
longer marginalised. Everyone knows aid is too often now only a squalid and
corrupt collusion with evil. The beautiful cinematography of the film "The
Constant Gardener" is taken to illustrate the depravity of pharmaceutical
plcs. To me it showed the emblematic flaws of the Kenyan state.
There must have been a time when Britain was recognisably a Third
World place. The Roman accounts portray us as blue-dyed warriors practising
human sacrifice and worshipping trees and with minimal agriculture as we
preferred to hunt over land owned by nobody. It was a slow process by which
we accrued the blend of rights we now call the rule of law. Henry Sumner
Maine, the distinguished jurist, described this as an evolution "of rules of
status to rules of contract".
The tormented former French colony of Haiti strikes me as a perfect
laboratory of how not to run a society. So close to Miami, where human
beings flourish, Port au Prince rots. Its people starve despite ample
sunshine and rich soils. What does Haiti lack? It has not got the security
or peace of laws - rules of just conduct.
This is not to say the people of Dade County Florida are better - more
dextrous or more intelligent - than Haitians but that they can form much
more diverse and complex relationships: contracts which permit pricing and
markets to engage and to enrich everyone.
There is a huge well of sympathy or compassion that seems to me to be
deflected into cruel error by the Third World lobbies. I exempt disaster
relief. If a volcano explodes or a tsunami engulfs then air-freighting food,
fresh water and tents is appropriate. Gifting money to the minister of
finance in a remote capital is to do nothing to help. Rather it is to keep
the corrupt in power.
Here is the tragedy. In the past we knew nothing and saw nothing. Now
broadcasting can show us the horrors of Ethiopian starvation. Yet sustaining
the bandits in authority in Addis Ababa is no solution. They are the
problem. It is now 20 years since Michael Buerk's heart breaking BBC reports
of a human catastrophe of "Biblical proportions". Yet do Ethiopians now
enjoy clearer security to their land? Are their markets open and free? The
answer is no.
We have all seen the central government in Khartoum orchestrating its
ethnic cleansing programme across Sudan. What is the main source of the
Sudan regime's funds? Yes, you guessed correctly.
Some argue there is now a need to impose an enlightened version of the
"white man's burden" and resume control of these blighted places. I
understand the instinct but I believe in the power of ideas and here there
is hope because all the young talents of what we term the Third World are
being educated in the West. When I meet them at university audiences I find
they want to bring affluence to their homes and they know that this needs
sound laws and functioning courts. As Friedrich Hayek would say, it will be
their influence which will prevail and the politicians will follow.
Capitalism, the fruit of fair laws, is what the Third World needs. Aid
merely nurses cruelty.
John Blundell is director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs
Is China planning a breakaway from the Internet?
Analysis by Andy Sennitt
The announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry that China
has launched its own Top Level Internet Domains (TLDs), registered
separately from those in the rest of the world, is at first glance a very
worrying development. It signals the politicisation of the Internet, and
appears to be a reprisal for the Bush administration managing to retain de
facto US control of the Internet last year.
The European Union, along with several other countries, including China,
wanted a UN body to assume control of the worldwide network including its
name servers. But the Americans managed to head off this move, and the
US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) remains
in control - at least for now. The Peoples' Daily specifically stated that
Beijing's decision "means Internet users don't have to surf the Web via the
servers under the management of ICANN of the United States," suggesting a
Planning a breakaway?
Some observers are already speculating that this could be the first step to
a complete breakaway from the global Internet, meaning that China has total
control of what its citizens are able to view on their computer screens.
Bearing in mind the recent controversies over the apparent willingness of
major US software companies to agree to a "censored" version of the World
Wide Web in China, this belief has some credence.
And, since China is building strong links with a number of foreign
countries, including some in Africa, there is a real fear that these
countries could move away from the global Internet and join the heavily
controlled Chinese version. That would mean that countries such as Zimbabwe
would be able to eliminate access to anything it didn't want its citizens to
However a contributor to ICANNWatch.Org, which monitors and tracks the
action of ICANN and global domain name policy, has a less alarmist take on
the issue. Professor Milton L Mueller observes that "Many people see this as
a new development, but the three TLDs have been in existence for about two
years. Until now, however, the official Chinese line was that the names were
'experimental,' even though tens of thousands of names were being sold under
them. My take is that they have 'come out of the closet' in their use of new
TLDs. And the coming out throws out an explicit challenge to ICANN, telling
the world that Internet users [in China] will no longer have to use the
"This is being widely described as an 'alternate root.' Technically, this is
true: it functions the same way as an alternate root. But in reality it is
something more interesting (and dangerous?): it is a national root, a way of
keeping the Internet bounded to a political jurisdiction so that it can be
regulated more easily. China is not attempting to replace ICANN's root
globally. It is not interested in adding TLDs for markets and users outside
of China. It is interested in locking Chinese-speaking users within China
into a DNS root under its own control."
However, the technology that permits China to exercise such control can
easily be adapted for use in other countries. So, for example, if Zimbabwe -
which has already used Chinese help to install shortwave radio jammers -
asks for assistance in installing a "national root" system, it would
probably receive a favourable response from Beijing. In other words,
although China may be officially "not interested in adding TLDs for markets
and users outside of China", it might be persuaded to help other countries
to create their own national roots. That would be a very worrying
The People's Daily does say that the three new TLDs are "temporarily set",
which is why I suspect that this is as much about political posturing as it
is about doing anything more drastic. As China is hosting the Olympic Games
in Beijing in 2008, I can't believe there would be any advantage in breaking
away from the global Internet. And, of course, should it do so, ICANN could
retaliate and cut off China's English-language sites from the outside world.
I don't see that happening, and I suspect that pragmatism will win over
Press freedom concerns
However, the fact that China has the ability and desire to install its own
"national root" is, as Professor Mueller says, a worrying development that
does raise concerns about press freedom, especially if the idea spreads
beyond China itself. You can imagine countries such as Iran and Cuba wanting
to take advantage of a system that gives them ultimate control. Of course,
there could be ways round it, such as satellite-delivered Internet from
outside the country. But hopefully that scenario will not arise. It should
become clearer in the coming weeks and months exactly what effect Beijing's
decision is having on the Internet within China. Only then will we really
know for sure if there's a new serious problem or not.