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Passport fiasco shows ZANU PF wants pact to flop: Analysts

by Cuthbert Nzou Tuesday 21 October 2008

HARARE - Refusal to grant travel documents to opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai to attend a regional summit on Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal was
the clearest sign yet that hardliners in President Robert Mugabe's
government were determined to wreck the pact, analysts said on Monday.

Tsvangirai's MDC party said he stayed at home because the government did not
give him documents to travel to the summit that was to be held in Swaziland
to try to break a deadlock between Zimbabwe's rival political leaders over
sharing of key ministries in a unity government outlined under the
power-sharing pact.

The MDC leader later refused an offer from Swaziland's King Mswati to fly
him to the meeting which had to be postponed because it would have been
futile without the opposition leader's participation. The summit of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC)'s security Troika will now
take place in Harare on October 27.

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political analyst John Makumbe said the refusal
to issue a new passport to Tsvangirai - designated prime minister in the
unity government - was the clearest sign yet that either Mugabe himself or
hardliners in his administration did not want the fragile power-sharing pact
to work.

"Mugabe is using dirty tricks against the opposition . . . the talks are in
real danger (of collapsing) because of Mugabe," said Makumbe, an arch-critic
of the 84-year leader's government.

Refusing to give Tsvangirai a new passport and then delaying granting him
emergency travel documents could even have been a ploy to block the
opposition leader from attending the SADC summit and in the process derail
efforts by the regional body to save the power-sharing deal, added Makumbe.

Tsvangirai has not been granted a normal passport for months, and requires
emergency travel documents every time he leaves the country, in what the
opposition leader says is an attempt to curtail his efforts to mobilise
international pressure against the government.

But government deputy spokesman Bright Matonga rejected the charges that the
administration was denying Tsvangirai a passport or that it had delayed
issuing him with travel documents.

"As far as the government is concerned Tsvangirai was given an emergency
travelling document to go to Swaziland," said Matonga, who is deputy
information minister.

Matonga, among the hawks in Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, accused
Tsvangirai of refusing to travel to Swaziland in a bid to earn "cheap
publicity" as well as mislead the world into thinking that the ruling party
did not want the power-sharing deal to work.

He said: "His decision not to travel has nothing to do with the government
or ZANU PF. Tsvangirai wants to earn cheap publicity. He wants SADC and the
rest of the world to think that ZANU PF and government do not want the deal
to work."

According to Matonga, Tsvangirai has in the past used emergency travel
documents and there was no reason for him not to go to Swaziland.

However, political scientist Eldred Masnungure said the mere fact that
Tsvangirai was battling to get a passport months after applying for a new
one cast doubt on ZANU PF's sincerity and commitment to the September 15
power-sharing agreement.

Masunungure, a senior political science lecturer at the UZ, said: "Looking
at how things have been going since September 15, one won't be wrong to say
there are people fighting for the collapse of the deal. ZANU PF is not being
sincere. They should have issued Tsvangirai with the passport."

Makumbe and Masunungure said the logjam over ministerial posts could still
be unlocked and the power-sharing deal made to work - provided SADC and
African Union pressured Mugabe to rein in hardliners in his party while also
pushing him to agree to share the most powerful ministries with the

The power-sharing deal, brokered by former South African President Thabo
Mbeki on behalf of SADC, retains Mugabe as president while Tsvangirai will
become prime minister and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a breakaway faction of
the MDC, deputy prime minister.

The pact allots 15 Cabinet posts to ZANU PF, 13 to the Tsvangirai's MDC and
three to a smaller faction of the opposition. However it is silent about who
gets which specific posts and the rival parties have since the signing of
the agreement wrangled over who should control the most powerful ministries
such as defence, finance and home affairs.

Mugabe two weeks ago unilaterally allocated all powerful ministries to ZANU
PF and Tsvangirai - who insists the MDC will not accept a junior role in the
unity government - has said he will quit the deal if the veteran President
does not reverse his decision on ministries.

A new government in Zimbabwe will have to move with speed to end an
unprecedented economic crisis that is highlighted by the world's highest
inflation of 231 million percent, acute shortages of food, fuel,
electricity, hard cash and every basic survival commodity. - ZimOnline

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I'm fully behind Tsvangirai on ministries: Mutambara

by Basildon Peta Tuesday 21 October 2008

JOHANNESBURG - Arthur Mutambara says he fully supports Zimbabwe opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai's quest to control the finance and home affairs
portfolios and has vowed never to join any government in which his rival is

The robotics professor, who heads a formation of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party, which, with its 10 seats, holds the balance
of power in Zimbabwe's hung Parliament, furiously rejected accusations that
he had often sided with Mugabe in power-sharing negotiations to the
detriment of the opposition's cause.

Mutambara said in an interview yesterday that he was driven by nothing else
but the national interest only.

He dispelled ever-swelling rumours that if the negotiations to give effect
to a unity government pact signed on September 15 failed, he would join
Mugabe in a government without Tsvangirai.

Mutambara was designated one of two deputy prime ministers in the September
15 deal. He vowed never to be part of any deal in which Tsvangirai was
excluded even though he has differed with him on issues.

"If Mugabe has any illusion that he can set up a government unilaterally,
then we have news for him. We won't be part of that government and we will
call for its total condemnation and complete isolation of any such criminal
government," charged the firebrand opposition leader.

Mutambara said he would only participate in a tripartite "three way
understanding" that also included Tsvangirai.

Mutambara said he had been fighting with Tsvangirai in the negotiations,
contrary to perceptions that he wasn't.

"I am fighting in Morgan's corner. I am asking for finance and home affairs
to go to Morgan," said Mutambara, refuting claims that he was in fact
supporting Mugabe's claims to those ministries.

But he also warned that he would not allow Tsvangirai to hold Zimbabwe to
ransom and would attack him if he became unreasonable.

"Tsvangirai must put national interests before partisan interests. I am not
his poodle. If he makes un-strategic decisions, I will attack him but I have
been in his corner in these negotiations," said Mutambara.

Mutambara said he had indeed proposed a compromise in which home affairs
would rotate with Tsvangirai's nominee taking the position for the first six
months after disputes over that ministry had stalled negotiations last week.

At first Tsvangirai was happy to take that route as long as he was given the
option of taking the first six months. But Mutambara said Tsvangirai had
later changed his position.

Mutambara said he had gone ballistic against Mugabe when the latter sought
exclusive control of the same home affairs ministry, adding that he fully
supported Tsvangirai's claims to those two critical ministries but thought
it would help if Tsvangirai remained consistent with his positions in the
talks as flip flopping does not help anyone's cause.

He also came out in strong defence of Tsvangirai after he was refused a
passport to travel to Swaziland yesterday.

Mutambara said he had appeared before the leaders of Swaziland, Angola,
Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa and
declared that any meeting on Zimbabwe was null and void without Tsvangirai.
Mugabe was also in the meeting.

He dismissed as "childish" and "trivial" the decision to withhold Tsvangirai's

"I have told Mugabe not to allow trivial matters to come in the way of this
dialogue . . . You cannot deny the Prime Minister of a country a passport
and restrict him to ETDs. That is a huge insult," said Mutambara, adding
that SADC should rise to the occasion and stand up to Mugabe.

"Morgan must travel on a full passport, and not an ETD (emergency travel

After declaring that there would be no troika without Tsvangirai, Mutambara
said he had been told by King Mswati of Swaziland that a jet had been sent
to collect Tsvangirai from Zimbabwe and that plans were underway to issue
him with a passport.

He said he would wait in Swaziland for Tsvangirai's arrival to begin any
meetings. The SADC troika was nevertheless postponed to a later date last
night after Tsvangirai declined to attend.

Mutambara's remarks effectively close any speculation that he might end up
going into bed with Mugabe if the talks collapse. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe By-Elections Mooted, Raising Fears Of More Political Violence


By Carole Gombakomba
20 October 2008

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, widely criticized for its handling of the
country's March general election and June presidential run-off ballot, has
come under fire after announcing plans to organize by-elections to fill six
empty parliamentary seats.

Critics argue that this is contrary to the spirit of the Sept. 15
power-sharing pact between the long-ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert
Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change of prime minister-designate
Morgan Tsvangirai.

One provision of that agreement stipulated that if any parliamentary seat
were to become vacant, only the party holding it at that time would field a

Three of the six empty seats fit the circumstances spelled out in the
so-called "Global Agreement...on Resolving the Challenges Facing Zimbabwe."
In one case a parliamentarian died after being elected, and in two other
cases the individuals holding house and senate seats were elevated to
speaker of the house and president of the senate, opening up the seats.

Three house seats were never filled because a candidate died before the
election, thus do not strictly speaking fall into the case spelled out in
the agreement, which cited "the need to allow this agreement to take root
amongst the parties and the people of Zimbabwe" and "the need to give our
people some breathing space and a healing period."

Electoral Commission officials say they are merely following the law. But
observers express concern that holding by-elections at this stage in the
tenuous power-sharing process could lead to violence in the six
constituencies where seats would be filled.

The commission said house by-elections will be held in Guruve North, Gokwe
North, Gokwe South, Matobo North and Chegutu, and a senate election in

Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe told reporter Carole
Gombakomba that although his panel has not yet set dates for the proposed
by-elections, it is moving ahead to organize them as specified by the
country's electoral law.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network says by-elections should not be held
because the nation is still in shock from the widespread and often deadly
violence which marred the period between the March elections and the June
presidential run-off ballot.

ZESN National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said it is bad timing to call
the by-elections when power-sharing has not even been implemented.

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Region must find new mediator to sort out Zimbabwe

The Editor, The Times Newspaper Published:Oct 21, 2008

Mbeki no longer has the political clout to deal with the cantankerous Mugabe

EDITORIAL: FORMER president Thabo Mbeki is back through the looking glass
after trying to get the Mad Hatter from north of the Limpopo, Robert Mugabe,
to stick to his side of their deal.

Yesterday's meeting of the Southern African Development Community, in
Swaziland, was meant to be a watershed in efforts to get Mugabe to honour
his power-sharing agreement with his rivals, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur

Alas, Tsvangirai was unable to attend because he still does not have a
passport and Mugabe's minions would not give the prime minister designate
emergency travel documents until late on Sunday.

Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said: "Zimbabwe is running out of paper
for passports . because of sanctions."

Tsvangirai's spokesman said yesterday that the Movement for Democratic
Change leader has had enough - he's been without a passport for a year and
won't attend SADC meetings until he has one.

So desperate were the SADC's leaders to get Tsvangirai to Swaziland that his
Absolute Highness King Mswati III sent his private jet to fetch the
opposition leader. But no dice, Tsvangirai would not be moved.

Mbeki's failure to get Mugabe to let go of the key ministries he
unilaterally handed to his cronies, and Mbeki's failure to kick-start the
stalled talks, are among the clearest signs yet that Mbeki's axing as
president of South Africa has undermined his authority as mediator in

As president of South Africa, Mbeki had some leverage over Mugabe . But now
lacking any real political power, it is clear that he is not strong enough
to deal with cantankerous Bob.

It is probably time that the SADC replaced Mbeki as mediator. Suggestions?

To quote Bob: "Botswana, Botswana, Botswana! Ooooooh!"

President Ian Khama is a good bet.

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ZLVF Statement On The Political Settlement

Monday, 20 October 2008 11:06
WE the leadership of the Zimbabwe Liberation Veterans Forum (ZLVF) --
senior war veterans, former senior commanders of the national liberation war
and members of  Zipa  High Command (Zimbabwe Peoples Army) -- wish to
applaud and support the political settlement of  September 15 2008 as a
welcome relief to the long suffering people of Zimbabwe.
  We call on all the signatories to the agreement and their respective
political formations to abide by the letter and spirit of the provisions of
the accord.
To this end, we wish to acknowledge and compliment the intervention of
the African Union in particular for providing the necessary leadership that
made the settlement possible.
We also wish to extend our gratitude to the Sadc heads of state in
particular, the late president of Zambia Levy Mwanawasa and the President of
Botswana  Ian Khama for their principled and uncompromising stand in defence
of the values, norms and ideals that Sadc stands for.
By so doing, the two leaders stood by the people of Zimbabwe in their
darkest hour. They filled the vacuum of moral and principled leadership in
the region that can only earn international respect for the region.
We would also like to commend the people of Zimbabwe for remaining
calm and steadfast during these most trying moments.
Zimbabwe's sovereignty ultimately resides with them and not the
leaders of political parties or government. They sacrificed for freedom and
democracy that ended white minority rule and cannot now allow any room for
black tyranny that deprives them of their hard won freedom and democracy.
 We would like to take this opportunity to call on all the service
chiefs to swallow their pride and respect the provisions of the political
settlement and refrain from pandering to narrow selfish and partisan
interests.  It was not only they who took up arms to liberate our country
from racist white minority rule. They should therefore not monopolise the
legacy of the struggle.
We make a call to all genuine and self respecting war veterans to
seize the moment and ensure that the ideals we together took up arms for
come to fruition. Freedom, democracy and respect for the people and human
dignity were central in our struggle.
 It is our fervent hope that this transitional accord will usher in a
new era of freedom and prosperity anchored in the respect for the rule of
law and founded on a new people driven democratic constitution.
It should, above all, put Zimbabwe on a solid and sustainable
democratic foundation that respects the sovereign will of the people as
expressed through free, transparent and fair elections. Never again should
Zimbabwe experience violent and bloody election campaigns and be mired in
electoral controversy.

Zimbabwe Liberation Veterans Forum

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WFP opens warehouse to boost Zim relief effort

      by Tendai Hungwe Tuesday 21 October 2008

JOHANNESBURG - The World Food Programme (WFP) has opened a warehouse in the
South African border town of Musina to boost its food aid distribution
efforts in disaster-struck Zimbabwe, an official of the international food
relief agency told ZimOnline on Monday.

The warehouse has a capacity to store 50 000 tonnes of food over the next
six months.

"To boost its already-substantial logistics operation, WFP has opened a new
trans-shipment point in the central town of Gweru (Zimbabwe) and a new
warehouse in the South African border town of Musina, which has the capacity
to bag 50 000 tonnes of food over the next six months," said Mustapha
Darboe, WFP regional director for East, Central and Southern Africa.

Darboe however cautioned that plans to boost food aid to crisis-ridden
Zimbabwe were subject to sufficient donations arriving in time.

The WFP, which has played a leading role in fighting hunger in Zimbabwe,
said it was facing a shortfall of over 145 000 metric tonnes of food,
including 110 000 tonnes of cereals, adding that without extra donations
supplies could run out by January - just when needs traditionally peak.

"Our donors have been extraordinarily generous over the past six years, but
the food crisis is far from over. We are urging them to dig deep once
again," said Darboe, adding that cash donations would allow the relief
agency to purchase crucial commodities regionally.

Critics say President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since
independence in 1980 and was re-elected in a one-man race in June after a
terror campaign against the opposition, has run down the former breadbasket
of Africa with ruinous policies such as his expulsion of experienced white
farmers and replacing them with either incompetent or inadequately funded
black farmers.

Food production has plunged since Mugabe's controversial land reforms that
began in 2000 and Zimbabwe has avoided starvation only because international
relief agencies have been quick to chip in with food handouts.

Mugabe denies ruining Zimbabwe and blames hunger in the country on erratic
rains and Western sanctions he says have hampered importation of
fertilizers, seed, and other farming inputs.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation/WFP Crop and Food Supply
Assessment Mission, more than two million Zimbabweans are already in need of
food assistance.

This figure will rise to 5.1 million, 45 percent of the population, in early
2009. WFP is planning to assist around 4 million of those affected by food

WFP early this month appealed for US$140 million to provide vital relief
rations to the southern African nation over the next six months.

In addition to food shortages, Zimbabwe is also grappling with its worst
ever economic crisis that is shown in the world's highest inflation of more
than 231 million percent, deepening poverty and shortages of every basic
survival commodity. - ZimOnline

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Botswana's Former President Wins Prize for Good Governance

Published: October 20, 2008
JOHANNESBURG - A foundation dedicated to celebrating and encouraging good
government in Africa awarded its annual prize to Botswana's former
president, Festus G. Mogae, on Monday. He was honored for consolidating his
nation's democracy, ensuring its diamond wealth enriched its people and
providing bold leadership amid the AIDS pandemic.

Mr. Mogae, 69, a man with a modest style, will receive $5 million over the
next ten years and $200,000 a year thereafter for the rest of his life. Over
the coming decade, the foundation may also grant another $200,000 a year to
causes of Mr. Mogae's choice.

The award, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, is
bestowed by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, named after its founder, the Sudanese
billionaire. Mr. Mogae was selected by a six-person panel led by Kofi Annan,
the former secretary-general of the United Nations. The panel also included
this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Martti Ahtisaari.

Mr. Ibrahim said in a telephone interview that he hopes the prize will stir
debate about the importance of leadership in Africa and turn the spotlight
on men and women who contribute most but get far less attention than
problematic leaders like Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, who is still
hanging onto power after 28 years in office.

"Botswana has a wonderful story," Mr. Ibrahim said. "Every man, woman and
child knows about Mugabe, but people say, 'Mogae, who is that?' It's great
we honor people who honestly and cleanly served, and served well, and left
when their time was up."

Mr. Mogae studied economics in Britain, first at the University of Sussex
and then at Oxford. He was twice elected president of Botswana, one of
Africa's most reliable democracies, stepping down in April. He took over
what the prize committee described as a country that was "already one of the
continent's success stories."

"President Mogae's outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana's continued
stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic which
threatened the future of his country and his people," the committee said.

In years when Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, the region's most
powerful country, was in a kind of denial about AIDS and its causes and
resisted large-scale drug treatment of his people, Botswana under Mr. Mogae's
leadership started an ambitious effort to provide universal treatment.

He publicly got tested himself for the virus. And when he realized that the
stigma was so great that people were avoiding testing, he changed the
national policy so that testing became a routine part of medical care.

"That was a gutsy policy move," said Richard Marlink, a professor at the
Harvard School of Public Health, who worked with Botswana to help build its
AIDS treatment program.

Since he stepped down in April after the two terms allowed under Botswana's
constitution, Mr. Mogae has continued his work the prevent the spread of
HIV/AIDS through Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, a group of former
African presidents and others sharing the same goal.

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What is the state of education in Zimbabwe today?

20 October 2008

Emily Wellman

From the middle of the 1980's Zimbabwe had one of the best education systems
that has been built with generous support from donors, churches and the
Nordic countries. The target set out by government was to have 100% literacy
by the year 2000 which resulted in the building of schools and recreation
centres nationwide. The Cambridge model of examinations was practiced which
gave Zimbabwean students easy access to local and international learning
institutions. With A level pass rates of 1992 at 72%, how is it possible
that 14 years later, less than 11% are expected to pass this year?

The political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe has been eroding the quality
of education for the past 8 years, as a result current students having
learnt nothing this year. Raymond Majongwe from the Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe has called for the 2008 academic year to be cancelled.

Prior to a child stepping into a classroom, there are some basic
requirements that need to be fulfilled, either by the state or the primary

Firstly, a calorie sufficient diet is required, especially for children
under the age of 5. Without this, infants may have permanent physical and
mental abnormalities. These range from poor immune systems, stunted growth
and lower IQ's to lessened social and behavioral skills. Certainly,
concentration during a lesson will be difficult, as will the ability to
recall information. In Zimbabwe today, it is estimated that up to 28% of
children under the age of 5 are malnourished and 37% of all children have
stunted growth due to the food shortages.

Secondly, a teacher is required. Zimbabwe has lost vast numbers of teachers
who have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries in search of work
that pays enough to support their families. The critical shortage of
teachers is nationwide. There are some graduates from training colleges but
the quality of their training is questionable. All students from the past
few years have had to participate in the Border Gezi youth training camp, a
militia compound run by Zanu PF. Added to that, Zimbabwe now follows a
Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council curriculum as the Cambridge system was
abandoned when discourse around the impact of British colonialism and its
interference in independent Zimbabwe started to be used by the government as
a political rallying tool.

Also, with the devaluation of the economy, teacher's salaries make it
virtually impossible to get to work unless it is within walking distance.
The latest figures pegged high school teachers' salaries at US$0.60 per
month, if paid in cash. If the salary is paid into a bank account, it is
worthless. Teachers who still endeavor to fulfill their work duties in the
current circumstances deserve to be credited with a sense of honor and
belief in their vocation.

Thirdly, where teachers are available a school or crèche is needed. More
often than not in Zimbabwe due to the impressive education drive of the 80's
and 90's the buildings exist. However, in the last eight years the assets of
the schools (equipment, textbooks, supplies and teaching aids) have either
been broken, are out of date or have not been replaced. This leaves the
teachers with limited resources to effectively pass on concepts, lessons and
information. The schools can no longer offer any form of food to the
learners, they have at best erratic water supplies and unacceptable
sanitation. Learning at home in the evenings has also become a difficult
activity with the frequent and ever longer electricity cuts.

Lastly, a stable home life with parents that actively engage with their
child's education is best. In Zimbabwe, this is not generally possible for
various reasons. The political situation has left many families divided as a
key members move to countries like South Africa for work and security or
fall prey to disease or death. Further Operation Murambatsvina (when
thousands of homes were destroyed) and displacement due to political
pressure or threat means that many children endure an abnormal living
environment. The upset that this creates can greatly hamper a child's
ability to learn.

Even if all of these requirements were met, there is still one astonishing
fact: Zimbabwe has more orphans per capita than any other nation. This is
due mainly to parents dying as a result of HIV / AIDS. These children have
to fend for themselves and their siblings in the most difficult of
circumstances. The nurturing of children that would normally come from a
parent in terms of learning behavioral norms, understanding emotions like
anger and loss and appropriate interaction with others is absent.

The economic situation of most Zimbabwean families makes them unable to
provide the ideal tools for learning like stationary, text books and
uniforms when they cannot afford food. The cost of education which was once
free to all primary school learners is now out of reach. Couple all of this
together and it is safe to assume that current learners will not be as
knowledgeable as once was possible. Students who are due to write their A
level examinations at the end of 2008 are part of a lost generation. They
would have entered Grade 5 in 2000 and their education has been marred by
political upheaval and a collapsing economy.

If a young adult wanted to obtain tertiary education within Zimbabwe, this
is the reality - The University of Zimbabwe in Harare remains closed for
several reasons. There has been an exodus of staff as salaries were
insufficient to cover transport and basic living expenses, the residences
are not fit for human habitation, there is no residential accommodation and
out of Harare accommodation is not possible as there is no transport or
fuel. The facilities are non existent says a former lecturer.

The eventual political settlement will, one hopes, begin to rebuild what
once was. But we will only know in years to come what the devastating effect
of malnutrition, stress and lack of resources will have had on current
learners - our future.

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HIV and nutrition in Zimbabwe

20 October 2008

Emily Wellman

The media in South Africa has had extensive coverage of the unfolding
political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. One story that is not being
given enough exposure is the impact of the crisis on people living with HIV
/ AIDS. As one of the first southern African countries to openly grapple
with this virus, and to have one of the worlds only declining infection
rates, it is difficult to understand how and why it is estimated that
nearly 2500 people currently die each week from AIDS related illnesses.

One HIV positive woman living in Harare explained the difficulties she faces
living with the illness. She described the hardship of trying to access
regular food, clean water, medication and medical assistance when she became
ill. The collapse of basic service delivery makes her struggle almost
unbearable. With a CD4 count of 27 and with the assistance of a friend who
earns in foreign currency she now has access to the appropriate medication.
This has resulted in a dramatic improvement of her CD4 count now at 600.
Most Zimbabweans are not so fortunate.

The humanitarian crisis which is inextricably linked to the political
situation has after eight years finally been labelled a "crisis" by several
regional and international bodies working in this field. The World Health
Organisation statistics show that life expectancy in Zimbabwe, which was 62
in 1990, had by 2004 plummeted to 37 for men and 34 for women. These numbers
are not helped by the now critical shortage of food.

People living with HIV need a regular diet that contains fresh fruits,
proteins and vegetables to maximize the body's ability to delay the onset of
full blown AIDS. This is virtually impossible in most of the country. Maize,
the staple starch is unavailable due to a poor agricultural season and where
it is available; it requires payment in foreign currency. Increased food
insecurity, coupled with a soaring inflation rate, estimated at 231 million
per cent, renders food unaffordable for the majority of the nation.

Food has for several years been used as a political stick for the ruling
party. Card carrying members of Zanu PF were given priority for food
distribution in the worsening food crisis that has plagued Zimbabwe, in part
because of the collapsing agrarian sector. Opposition supporters have been
deliberately excluded from receiving food aid, and certain known opposition
areas have not received stock.

This practice came to a head with the cessation of food distribution. The
government stated that this was to prevent NGO's from using food as a
political tool to assist the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC). Zanu PF had for the first time since 1980 lost its majority in
parliament to the MDC in the March 29 election and they needed to ensure a
victory in the June 27 run-off election by 'buying' support.

The government of Zimbabwe has made the work of non-governmental
organisations (NGO's) distributing food to millions of food insecure
Zimbabweans difficult for years. Never more so was this the case than when
the NGO Act was passed through parliament on the 9th of December 2004,
making NGO's illegal. Only the missing signature of the President stopped it
from becoming an actual law, but the desired effect was seen in the
dismantling of the majority of NGO's in Zimbabwe regardless.  That Act has
since been lifted but ahead of the June 27 2008 run-off election the banning
again of aid organizations were again banned from distributing food. On the
4th of August the ban was partially lifted to accommodate those affected
with the HIV virus as the steep decline of infected patients was alarming.
The nationwide lifting of the ban only happened on the 29th of August, but
the damage had already been done.

A lack of access to fresh clean water and adequate sanitation are two major
contributing factors to the early demise of patients in most of Zimbabwe. In
urban areas especially, the collapse of sewer and drainage systems has left
many high density areas with excrement freely flowing in streets and drains.
Several municipalities have declared themselves insolvent and stopped
maintaining these vital services. Not only does this pose a health risk in
terms of infection and diseases like cholera, but the psychological impact
this has on people already vulnerable to infection is cause for concern.
There is no steady supply of clean and safe water and the current economic
crisis has made it impossible to purchase water purification chemicals.
Provision of clean and safe drinking water is a basic human right. Without
clean water, sanitation, treatment and a properly balanced diet, an infected
person can deteriorate very swiftly.

The collapsing economy has also had a devastating effect on the health care
sector. With budget cuts and the migration of doctors and nurses to
neighbouring countries, treatment for HIV/AIDS patients is minimal. It is
important to mention the devastating effect that the interruption of ARV's
can have on the patient. The HIV virus may respond well to the medication
initially but the cessation or irregular administering of ARV's gives the
virus time to mutate into a more resistant strain. This can render the
treatment ineffective and thereby quicken the onset of full blown AIDS.

If an individual suspects that he or she has contracted HIV, the journey
from acknowledgement that one has the illness to seeking appropriate
treatment or psychological support is a painful one. Further down the line
when a person's CD4 count drops to below 150 and full blown AIDS is now a
real likelihood, the administration of anti-retroviral drugs (ARV's) is
critical to sustain life. However, the specialized testing of CD4 counts is
not widely available in Zimbabwe, and the accessibility of ARV's is
exceedingly limited. If somehow treatment is sought successfully ARV's must
be administered with food. It is unlikely that more than a few well
connected individuals will have both - a choice will have to be made.

In a failing economy, one industry is making a profit out of this crisis:
dealing with the deceased in Zimbabwe. Apart from paying for the coffin,
payment in foreign currency is paid to the mortuary to release the body and
in addition a fee is required by the cemetery to bury the body (sometimes as
high as US$100). In most instances, families are unable to make all these
payments, so the body remains in the morgue for weeks or months until the
funds can be attained. Several cases of bodies being buried in wardrobes or
cupboards have been reported as relatives cannot meet the costs.

The World Food Programme (WFP) aims to feed 2.5 million people by January
2009. People living with HIV are given, where possible, a full relief ration
including maize, peas, beans and vegetable oil. Where possible a corn/soya
blend is also administered which is infused with vitamins and minerals. This
monthly handout provides for 1200kcal per day only, but without it, death
would be imminent.

Once the power-sharing agreement between the 2 MDC's and Zanu PF is
implemented and the Department of Health is allocated to a political party,
hopefully the struggle faced by people living with HIV/AIDS will be a high
priority. If the interim government focuses on meeting the needs of those
affected, lives that are being needlessly lost, could be saved.

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ICC to ignore political situation in Zimbabwe

     Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MOHALI, India: The International Cricket Council (ICC) will turn a blind eye
to the political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe when its task force
visits the African nation to review the situation of the game there.

According to agency reports, the ICC's task force - comprising of ICC chief
executive Haroon Lorgat, Arjuna Ranatunga and headed by Dr Julian Hunte of
the West Indies Cricket Board, will visit the African nation to examine the
state of cricket there.

However, going by a statement made by Lorgat on Sunday, when he said, "It's
the ICC's policy not to interfere with the political situation in the
country, we want to focus on the game of cricket, and at this stage we have
no evidence of what you suggest, none of that's been reported, and we have
to deal with the game of cricket."

It becomes amply clear that the ICC is all set to turn a blind eye to the
ground realities. "Task force's only focus during the tour of Zimbabwe would
be the status of cricket," Lorgat further added.

"The task team will go down to Zimbabwe to look at exactly what's on the
playing field. I would like my focus to be not on the boardroom, but on
exactly what's going on the playing field of cricket," he said.

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SA turning away Zimbabwe refugees as crisis rages on

By KITSEPILE NYATHI NATION Correspondent Posted Monday, October 20 2008 at
South Africa is turning away Zimbabwe political refugees despite signs that
the fragile power sharing agreement between the country's rival political
parties is in danger of failing.

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika is meeting on Monday
to try and resolve a political stalemate that has shattered the dreams of
ordinary Zimbabweans who were beginning to believe that a solution had
finally been found for the country's decade old political problems.

The likely failure of the SADC mediation spells disaster for millions of
Zimbabweans scattered all over the region as their hosts are also
increasingly becoming impatient.

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), in a report released ahead of the meeting
in Swaziland, warned the leaders that conditions for Zimbabwean exiles,
especially in South Africa, had worsened since the signing of the September
15 agreement.

They are now demanding a more robust approach from regional leaders to
address the crisis in Zimbabwe.

"The conditions for asylum seekers on the ground have deteriorated from
horrendous to nightmarish," said Mr Gabriel Shumba, ZEF director.

"The home affairs department (South Africa) is turning away all those from
Zimbabwe on the spurious grounds that a deal has been signed back home and
that therefore this indicates that the situation has improved."

Mr Shumba claimed that some had their travel documents torn and thrown into
prison pending deportation back to Zimbabwe.

"This is very scary because the behaviour may fuel xenophobia against
Zimbabweans," he said.

There no reliable statistics on Zimbabweans exiled in South Africa, but
various estimates have put them at more than three million.

Close to 500,000 are deported every year but the majority find their way
back through ungazetted entry points.

Only Botswana started according Zimbabweans refugee status in the run-up to
the bloody presidential run-off election where President Robert Mugabe ran

The major contender and MDC leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to
withdraw due to political violence.

The signing of the agreement that will see Mr Mugabe remaining president
with Mr Tsvangirai becoming prime minister in a coalition government had
raised a lot of hope of a quick turnaround in the economic and political
situation in the country.

The ZEF said some Zimbabweans had even started trooping back home but most
of them were now making their way back to regional counties.

"Those who were not careful went home the following day, and some of them
have since returned to South African having realised that they had done that
prematurely when violence is still rife in the ground," Mr Shumba said.

The parties have failed to agree on the allocation of the key ministries of
Finance and Home Affairs.

Once one of Africa's most prosperous nations, Zimbabwe's dramatic economic
collapse has caused critical food shortages, with nearly half its people
needing UN aid and 80 per cent of the population living in poverty.

Two million people currently need food assistance and the number could rise
to 5 million - more than half of Zimbabwe's population - by January 2009.

At home, Zimbabweans are angry that the negotiations have dragged on for too

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