Thursday, August 31, 2006

Zim's homelessChurch leaders say that almost nothing has been done to house 700,000 people in Zimbabwe who lost their homes and livelihoods in demolit

Church leaders say that almost nothing has been done to house 700,000 people in Zimbabwe who lost their homes and livelihoods in demolitions last year.

Operation Murambatsvina, which the government said was a campaign to clean up cities, was condemned by the UN.

The Solidarity Peace Trust, a church- based group, says the whole exercise has further impoverished many Zimbabweans.

A report says the situation remains dire 15 months later.
In some houses, people now co-exist in around one square metre per person of floor space
Solidarity Peace Trust

Living in fear after eviction
Hard times for new homeless

Out of more than 100,000 displaced people in the west of the country, not one person has been officially housed by the government, according to the Solidarity Peace Trust, which is co-chaired by the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.

International donor organisations have fared little better in providing shelter, the report says. Only 800 temporary dwellings have been built nationwide, and all of these are around the capital, Harare.

The evictions left hundreds of thousands of people homelessOne victim quoted by the report accuses the authorities of leaving people to live like animals in the open air: "If government had done this and then said 'go stay over there', it would have been better, instead of destroying everything and leaving us like animals."

"It's like when you pull down a cattle kraal (pen), first you build another one. You put the cattle in the new kraal and then you destroy the old one."

Archbishop Ncube told the BBC that the government had failed to live up to its promises:
"They themselves said that they would construct 300,000 houses. They've constructed a few hundred houses and none of them have been occupied." .....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Zim: Hospitals in crisis

Zimbabwe's government-run hospitals are broke, and reported to be turning away patients because they are unable to provide basic medication.

The government has been condemned for its carefree attitude and high propensity to spend on luxury goods, such as the recent purchase of vehicles for use by militia personnel, and aircraft from China.

Ambulances at most hospitals are grounded due to fuel shortages and lack of vehicle spares.

Despite the soaring levels of sexually transmitted diseases in the country, most cases go untreated as hospitals do not have the medication.

People are dying from minor illnesses that could have been easily treated but hospitals have run short of resources. The majority of rural folk, once regarded as Mugabe's loyalists, have jumped ship to join the opposition as they accuse the incumbent government of persecuting the poor...

African art

The Keiskamma Altarpiece, 2005
The Keiskamma Art Project Artists
Keiskamma, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Embroidery, beadwork, wirework,
photographs, wood frame
13' x 22'
Collection of the Keiskamma Trust

Created by the women of the coastal town of Hamburg, in South Africa’s largely rural, poverty-stricken Eastern Cape Province, the Keiskamma Altarpiece is a message of hope for people who are contending with the devastation that AIDS has wrought in their lives in the midst of poverty and other hardships. Making its first voyage out of its homeland, the Keiskamma Altarpiece will have a three-venue journey to North America this summer with stops in Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

After its appearance at the Sixteenth International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the Altarpiece has traveled to Chicago for a month-long stay at St. James Episcopal Cathedral. From Chicago the Altarpiece will go to the University of California at Los Angeles for several months’ installation hosted by the UCLA AIDS Institute and UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Art.

The Keiskamma Altarpiece is the second monumental artwork made by the women of the coastal town of Hamburg, located in South Africa’s largely rural Eastern Cape Province. The first such piece, the 43 meter (138 ft) “Democracy Tapestry”, inspired by the famed Bayeux Tapestry, presents the history of South Africa’s first ten years of democracy.

The Keiskamma Altarpiece was made using embroidery, beadwork, wire sculpture, and photographs. Its shape and dimensions (6.5 meters wide when fully open and 4.2 meters high) exactly replicates those the multi-panel format of the famed Isenheim Altarpiece, now in Colmar, France. Moreover, the synchronicity between the two is not limited to size and shape. The Keiskamma Altarpiece reflects a kindred spirit the Isenheim, both of them created in the face of a devastating plague wreaking havoc on their communities....

Malaria the unnecessary scourge

Few Americans can begin to comprehend the horror and scope of this disaster. Malaria infects 300,000,000 people a year -- and kills 2,000,000. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half are children. Malaria control costs Africa, India, Latin America and other affected areas billions of dollars annually, depleting other health and environmental programs.....

A major reason for this epidemic and its devastating consequences is a near-global restriction on the production, export and use of DDT. The restrictions result from intense pressure by ideological environmentalists and threats by the United Nations, European Union, foundations and aid agencies to cut foreign aid or curtail trade with any nation that uses the insecticide.

Of course, none of these activists, bureaucrats or politicians have to worry about malaria killing them or their families. They can afford their viewpoints about malaria and pesticides. Their nations eliminated malaria decades ago, using the same pesticides (including DDT) that they now deny to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Nothing currently works better for fighting malaria than DDT. It's affordable (other pesticides cost 4 to 6 times more), and that's important for impoverished nations. It's long lasting. A single spraying retains its potency for at least six months, meaning more dangerous pesticides do not have to be applied more often. And mosquitoes are far less likely to build resistance to DDT than to other pesticides, which are still used heavily in agriculture.

Sprayed in tiny amounts on walls of traditional African homes, it repels mosquitoes for six months or more. It kills any that land on the walls, and disorients those it does not kill or repel. Where DDT is used, malaria cases and deaths plummet. Where it is not used, they skyrocket.

South Africa saw that first-hand not long ago, report Richard Tren and Roger Bate of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria. The country stopped using DDT in 1996, after malaria rates had fallen below 8,000 a year. Within two years, the rates had shot up to 65,000 cases. But within 18 months after Pretoria reintroduced this miracle pesticide, the disease and death rate had plunged by nearly 80 percent.

Despite rampant, far-fetched claims straight out of a Stephen King novel, DDT is not carcinogenic or harmful to humans. Used properly, it is safe for the environment, and minor ecological risks that might exist pale in comparison to human health benefits.

DDT History

During World War II, DDT was sprayed on Allied troops, protecting them from malaria and typhus, and saving tens of thousands of lives. After the war, concentration camp survivors and Italian and German citizens were also sprayed with the pesticide. In the 1950s, DDT helped eradicate malaria and typhus in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and other countries. No ill effects were ever demonstrated, but no one talks any longer about spraying people.

Rachel Carson helped launch modern environmentalism and the anti-pesticide crusade with her book, Silent Spring. At the time, DDT was used in near-massive quantities to control agricultural pests and exterminate disease-carrying flies and mosquitoes. Ms. Carson postulated that these chemicals would kill off America's raptors and songbirds, leaving us with only a silent spring. However, even as her book was being published, robin and other songbird populations were actually increasing, and subsequent studies failed to substantiate her alarmist predictions.

Nevertheless, the Natural Resources Defense Council (which also sponsored the infamous Alar scare), Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other pressure groups still insist that pesticides in general, and DDT in particular, are terribly toxic to wildlife. Along with the United Nations Environmental Program, they do all they can to prevent the use of DDT and other pesticides.

Hollywood elites and big donors like the Ford, Pew, MacArthur and Schumann foundations support these groups with tens of millions of dollars a year. The World Health Organization refuses to prescribe, recommend or fund the use of any pesticide, and is particularly opposed to DDT.

Instead, they all promote drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets. These methods do help reduce malaria rates. However, they are expensive, hard to get and only partially effective. In fact, for some 20 years or more, the malaria parasite has been so immune to two of the cheapest and most-prescribed anti-malarial drugs, chloroquine and SP, as to render them virtually worthless. As to bed nets, while they certainly do help at night, if maintained and used properly, they are of no value during prime mosquito hours for people who are still working or moving about their homes and villages.

And still the WHO, supposedly the developing world's primary healthcare provider, refuses to alter its stance -- and the US Agency for International Development claims it can't support or fund DDT use, because the WHO opposes it, and the United States no longer permits its use.....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Zim recruiting for the army

Harare - The Zimbabwean Army plans to go on a massive recruitment drive next year because veterans of the 1970s war of independence are due to retire from active service, reports said this week....
"It is with this in mind that the Zimbabwe National Army intends to embark on a massive recruitment exercise next year to beef up the lower ranks of the army and prepare those in the middle ranks for the hand-over, take-over of the leadership of the army," Rugeje was reported as saying.
In a bid to make military service more attractive, the authorities are also promising to raise soldiers salaries to keep them in line with the ever-rising cost of living and give them new uniforms, the report said.

Soldiers last had their salaries upped at the end of April to around 27 million Zimbabwe dollars a month (now worth only 108 US at the official exchange rate, much less at the parallel market rate).

The cash-strapped Zimbabwe Government appears to be splashing out on the defence forces.

Despite biting shortages of foreign currency that often make it difficult for Zimbabwe to import fuel and medicine, the authorities have already paid out $1,2-million to buy more than 100 vehicles for top army officials, according to the official Herald newspaper on Friday.

The 127 Mazda vehicles were paid for with funds secured from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the newspaper said.

And earlier this week, the authorities were reported to have bought another six jet fighters from China worth an estimated 20 million US each. -

(On the other hand, the Zim government can hire them out as "peacekeepers" to make money...)

Zim farmers left with sacks of worthless cash

Hundreds of peasant farmers in southeastern Zimbabwe have been left with sacks full of worthless money after they failed to meet a currency swap deadline, it was reported Friday.

Angry cotton farmers from Chipinge district have been left holding billions of old Zimbabwe dollars (thousands of US), the official Manica Post newspaper said.

They say they did not have time to travel the long distances to commercial banks to exchange their old money before Monday's deadline.

People in my constituency are cotton farmers and they sold their cotton recently on cash basis. They have huge sums of money that they are failing to exchange, said the MP for the area, Enock Porusingazi.

Friday, August 25, 2006

World food program steps up aid to Zim

The World Food Programme has estimated that some 1.8 million Zimbabweans may need food assistance between now and April of next year, when the next harvest will replenish larders, and said it will increase its provision of food aid to the country.

The Zimbabwean government is reported to have acknowledged that about 1.4 million people in rural areas will need food assistance. News site ZimOnline said the country's Vulnerability Assessment Committee sees a shortfall of 91,000 tonnes of cereals.

Economic Development Minister Rugare Gumbo told parliament recently that Harare has been trying to raise Z$34 million from alternative sources such as pension funds for the purchase of maize and soya beans to fill the food-output gap.

The impending food crisis could be exacerbated by the devastation of winter wheat crops in some areas by quelea birds. Some 150 million birds have been sighted in the Lower Veld of Manicaland and in Matebeleland South with harvest approaching.///

Zim orders Chinese fighter jets

President Robert Mugabe's government announced it had ordered six more K-8 Chinese fighter jets worth $141-million (R987-million) to equip the army.

The order comes at a time when the country is experiencing a severe economic difficulties.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Many Zim shops run out of money

Old notes became obsolete at the close of trading Monday, and a new range of bills _ with three zeros struck off the old denominations _ replaced them. The government said the changeover was meant to curb inflation and rein in burgeoning money laundering and illegal black marketeering.

An unidentifed Zimbabwean walks past a blind beggar with a plate full of old money in Harare, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006. Banks and stores did brisk business Monday, Aug. 21, 2006, on the last day the nation's old bank notes were being accepted as legal currency. The old notes become obsolete at the close of trading Monday, when a new range of bills, with three zeros struck off the old denominations, replaces them in the hyperinflationary economy. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
An unidentifed Zimbabwean walks past a blind beggar with a plate full of old money in Harare, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006. Banks and stores did brisk business Monday, Aug. 21, 2006, on the last day the nation's old bank notes were being accepted as legal currency. The old notes become obsolete at the close of trading Monday, when a new range of bills, with three zeros struck off the old denominations, replaces them in the hyperinflationary economy.

Some stores asked customers to make up their change with additional purchases of chocolate and candy displayed at checkout cash registers or accept IOU slips that were rubber stamped and signed by store managers for authenticity

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Zim: How NOT to run an economy

From today, old notes will no longer be legal tender, so Zimbabweans are rushing to spend their cash or deposit it in a bank.

But in typically iron-fisted fashion, President Robert Mugabe's regime is treating people carrying cash as criminals. Police at roadblocks, border posts and airports are searching the bags to see that no one is carrying more than Z$100 million.

Huge stashes of cash are being seized, particularly from rural peasants bringing their money to the cities to deposit in banks. More than 3,200 Zimbabweans have been arrested at roadblocks and Z$700 billion has been confiscated, according to the state media. Hundreds of businesses are also under investigation.

In a macabre twist, mourners transporting their dead to funerals are forced to open the coffins to prove that they are not smuggling illegal sums of cash along with the remains of their loved ones.

At Harare airport last week police seized several large containers that were filled with more than Z$1 trillion. The money was being smuggled back into the country by three large financial institutions, according to the state-owned Herald, to be exchanged for new currency.

Rampant inflation has rendered the once proud Zimbabwe dollar nearly worthless. Supermarket shoppers must push a trolley-full of currency to buy a trolley-full of basic groceries. Calculators, cash registers and checkbooks fail to cope with the number of noughts needed as prices for daily goods run into millions, houses and cars cost billions and company budgets are in the trillions. Taking off three zeroes will make the Zimbabwean currency easier to deal with until inflation adds the zeroes back on.

At the official rate of exchange Z$250,000 is worth US$1. But realistically the Zim dollar is worth much less because no dollars are available at the official rate. On the illegal but thriving parallel market it takes Z$600,000 to buy US$1.

"Our Zim dollar is useless," said Iddah Mandaza, a Harare factory worker. "It costs Z$600,000 to take a bus to work. We pay millions to buy a bit to eat. This striking off the zeroes is not going to change anything. We all know that. It will be easier to carry money around but it is not going to stop inflation and it is not going to make shortages of food and fuel disappear."...

The urban rich and the cross-border traders are busy finding ways to avoid being caught out by the remuneration. Many fear it is the rural poor who will be left holding the bag of unusable Zim dollars on the deadline today.

"The poor and the poorly educated will be hurt most," said John Makumbe, a Zimbabwean political science lecturer. "They are being treated like economic saboteurs. Their money is being seized if they travel with more than Z$100 million, yet they often have school fees to pay of Z$300 million. These are supposed to be Mugabe's strongest supporters, yet they will bitterly remember the day that the government confiscated their cash."

"There are growing fears that there will be riots over the currency change. Mugabe's fiercest opposition is the economy. He can rig elections, he can control the press, but he cannot rig the economy. The economy refuses to obey his orders," Makumbe said.

HIV in Africa

....Today, the change for the better is astonishing: Idoko now treats nearly 6,000 HIV-positive patients. He has expanded his clinic three times in five years, and his waiting room once again is too crowded. ``Now, we are eyeing an abandoned building nearby," he said last week, chuckling.

The major reason for Idoko's success is the Bush administration's AIDS program, which in the last three years has sent billions of dollars to Africa and helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. When I moved to Africa three years ago, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was just getting off the ground. As I return to Washington this month, the $15 billion program is just hitting its stride, and many Africans believe it has become the single most effective initiative in fighting the deadly scourge.

``The greatest impact in HIV prevention and treatment in Africa is PEPFAR-there's nothing that compares," Idoko said.

Only you wouldn't know it in America-or Canada, or Europe, for that matter-given the tenor of the AIDS debate in Washington and the nature of the international media coverage.

That debate was on full view last week at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, which ended Thursday. While the AIDS epidemic in Africa is as urgent a crisis as it ever was-an estimated 24 million are infected on the continent and as many as 2 million died last year from AIDS-related illnesses-there are now at least some hopeful signs, though few activists in Toronto wanted to give the United States any of the credit. Indeed, the politically polarized bickering, according to those in Washington AIDS policy circles, could have effects far beyond the Beltway, threatening to impede national and international funding for AIDS programs.

. . .

One telling moment in Toronto came last Sunday when Bill Gates, whose foundation has spent billions on global health in recent years, praised PEPFAR, prompting a chorus of boos from the audience.....

The reason? Because it insists on trainng in abstinance and working with churches, both which are acceptable in African culture but unaccepatable in the US and European circles, where hatred of religion and anger at anyone hinting their promiscuity spread HIV is the dirty little secret no one wants to discuss.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Child soldiers in Zim

Caution: link is PDF FILE

From January 2003 school leavers were
sent to camps for compulsory youth service
training. Several thousand children and
young persons had received training by
March 2004, some of them as young as 11.
Training focused on paramilitary skills and
political education, and allegedly included
torture and killing techniques. Girls were
said to have been repeatedly raped by
other trainees and staff. Operating as
militia, trainees were allegedly used to
intimidate opposition supporters and were
accused of murder and torture....

National youth service training

In July 2002 the government announced that
a national youth training service program,
also known as youth militia training, would
be compulsory for all school leavers from
January 2003.5 The minimum age for national
youth service training was believed to be
16, with parental consent, but this could
not be confirmed. Access to the civil service
– in particular entrance to teacher training and
nursing colleges – is now dependent on having
graduated from the youth training service
program.6 According to initial government policy
documents, training camps responded to a need
to provide the nation’s youth, referred to as those
aged between 10 and 30 years of age, with “a
sense of national pride and history, as well as
skills suitable for employment”.7 In July 2003
the Minister of Defence was reported as saying
that weaponry training would be included in the
program, that the youth militia would “create
a reserve security force” and be a “lucrative
recruitment ground for the Zimbabwe National
Army”, and that 1,000 youth militia members had
already been recruited by the army.8

The first national youth training camp, Border
Gezi training camp in Mount Darwin, was set up
in 2001, with four more subsequently created.
Each centre provided militia training in a 120-day
program for 1,000 youths at a time.9 Government
budget statements in 2002 and 2003 indicated
plans to train 20,000 young people every year.
By the end of 2002, it appeared that as many as
9,000 children and young people had received
formal militia training, and at least as many again
had been trained in less formal programs at
district level.10 Circumstantial evidence collected
by a researcher suggested that a sizeable
proportion of the trainees were under 18: in one
camp, the register of participants indicated that
approximately one third were under 18, many
in the 15 to 16-year-old age range, with the
youngest a girl of 11.11

Serious human rights violations against
women and girls were reported by former
trainees.12 Girls were allegedly raped at the
training centres, including by officials.13 Girls
as young as 11 or 12 were said to have been
repeatedly raped.14 By early 2002 an estimated
one thousand women were held in militia camps
for sexual purposes.15

Allegations of murder, torture, rape and
the destruction of property by youth militias
emerged from January 2002 onwards.16 Youth
militias were reportedly used to occupy farms,
set up illegal roadblocks, force people from
their homes, steal identity cards, control food
distribution, and restrict access to health centres
and polling stations.17 One national youth service
camp commander reported that youths in his
camp had been sent to kill two government
opponents on the orders of his superiors.

former trainee reported being plied with alcohol
and drugs, and taught how to electrocute people
to extract information from them.18 Routine use
of alcohol and marijuana was reported during the
training and deployment of youth militia.19 The
government was alleged to have used the youth
militias to intimidate political opposition groups
in the run-up to the presidential elections in
200220 and to by-elections in 2004, in particular
in Zengeza in March 2004.21

In March 2004, the Minister for Youth
Development, Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri,
denied that military training was compulsory
or was included in the national youth service
program. He said that the government “believes
firmly in the protection of children, especially the
girl child”.


Not about Zimbabwe as such, but a link to an organization that publicizes and helps children drafted as soldiers.

In the past, the freedomfighters included child soldiers, but Mugabe did try to integrate them back in society when he took over the new government...

Animal park in Mozambique, Zim and SA created

PRETORIA, South Africa, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa have opened the borders between parks in all three countries to create the largest transnational game park in Africa.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which is expected to eventually grow to cover 16,000 square miles, combines South Africa's Kruger National Park, Mozambique's Limpopo National Park and Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park, The Times of London reported Thursday.

The presidents of all three countries gathered to witness the opening of the Giriyondo border between the Kruger and Limpopo parks.

"The Giriyondo access facility ... is just the beginning of a new era when we will bring down the colonial fences which divided our nations over several centuries," said South African President Thabo Mbeki. "Today, we take yet another step to free ourselves from the chains of our past and open up to our peoples and wild animals the spaces of freedom as nature has intended." ...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

zim runs out of Maize meal

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe has run out of maize-meal, its main staple food, in yet another sign of a deepening crisis in the southern African country.

In a stark reminder of how the gains of independence from Britain 26 years ago were fast eroding away, Zimbabweans woke up on Monday to celebrate Heroes Day holiday held in commemoration of fallen heroes of the liberation struggle, but with shops empty of maize-meal.

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Grain Millers Association (ZGMA) that groups private milling firms, Thembinkosi Ndlovu, said the countrywide shortage of maize-meal was because the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had not supplied maize to millers because it did not have any in stock.

The corruption-riddled GMB is the only one permitted by law to trade in maize which is ground into maize-meal, the daily food of more than 90 percent of the 12 million Zimbabweans.

Ndlovu said: "There is a crisis, I can confirm that there is no mealie-meal around the country and millers are currently not getting any (maize) supplies."

Former army colonel Samuel Muvuti, put in charge of the GMB by President Robert Mugabe, could not be reached for comment on the maize shortage.

Both Muvuti and Mugabe have since the beginning of the year claimed that the GMB would collect enough maize from farmers after a bumper harvest from the 2005/06 farming season. They estimated that Zimbabwe would harvest 1.8 million tonnes, enough for national annual consumption.

But local farming experts and international food relief agencies have disputed the government's figures saying Zimbabwe was likely to harvest around 800 000 tonnes of maize after a shortage seed and fertilizer crippled planting operations despite the country having received good rains.

Children with Aids slip thru cracks of HIV treatment

Monday, August 14, 2006

Braving crocs to smuggle currancy

Billions of old Zimbabwean dollars that were smuggled out of the country and into SA, are now being smuggled back over makeshift bridges in a bid to beat next week’s deadline when the old currency becomes worthless.

The state-controlled Sunday Mail reports that, days before the old Zimbabwean dollars cease to be legal tender in the country, the race is on to return billions of dollars of the currency across the Limpopo River.

Desperate cash barons are creating small dams at some of the illegal crossing points using sand and sticks to reduce the flow of the river.

This enabled the smugglers trying to cross the river with large amounts of cash to spot crocodiles, the newspaper said, citing sources at Beitbridge border post...

Zim: an upside down economy

HARARE, 11 August (IRIN) - Nearly 90 percent of Zimbabwe's currency is kept outside of the banking system, which, analysts say, illustrates that the parallel market is the driving force in the economy, while the formal sector withers. ...

"The parallel economy now underpins Zimbabwe's survival. The black market in particular has been flourishing over the years, and this has been made possible by the ever-shrinking formal market, due to reduced productivity in industry and in agriculture, shortages of foreign currency and a steep decline in investment," Kwesu said."Informal trade and the black market have been growing, owing to the economic problems the country has been facing for a number of years now. It has been easy for the two to take root, because they normally do not require a lot of money to start and they can easily be managed," he said....

Analysts say the rapid growth of the informal economy has been counter-productive, because the money generated is used mainly for consumption rather than development. "The parallel economy is not concerned about the building of schools, hospitals or the setting up of infrastructure that the majority of the people can benefit from. Instead, it creates a dangerous situation, because those who are involved in it do so for self-enrichment," said Zembe."Policy planning becomes difficult because the activities in the informal and black markets are not recorded, while people speculate and push inflation up, in addition to the creation of artificial shortages of foreign currency, basic commodities and industrial inputs," he commented....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Uganda: reintegrating child soldiers

",,,,,,DISPATCHES FROM NORTHERN UGANDA - A MEETING WITH KONY: Just received an email from a close friend, Erin Baines, who works in Northern Uganda on traditional justice as it relates to the re-integration of Lords Resistance Army combatants. Remarkable work in a conflict that Jan Egeland has called the "biggest, forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today." There are several aspects of the conflict that have received some international attention. First, the pernicious use of kidnapped child soldiers and sex slaves, which result in 'night commuters', children who walk for hours each night to sleep on city streets in order to escape raids in their villages. Second, the mystical personality of the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, who few westerners have ever met and about which we know very little. And third, the fact that the International Criminal Court has indicted 5 of the LRA leaders, in some respects, making them the most wanted men in the world...."

follow up post HERE

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Zim inflation rate falls

Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate for July has dropped by 191 percentage points to 993.6 percent from the June rate of 1,184.6 percent, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) announced on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More problems in Zim

33 dead in a bus accident...

Veldt fires cause problems for the environment (note: many are set to remove stubble in order to plant--something that is also done here in the Philippines---but in dry climates, the fires get out of control and can destroy huge areas..

And is Satan causing Zim's problems? The gov't is now targeting churchmen in the opposition...

Fuel prices increase

Fuel prices in Zimbabwe have gone up by as much as 150% in the wake of the central bank's 60% devaluation and redenomination of the currency last week and the start of issuance of new banknotes which has created widespread confusion and doubt.
Most stations in Harare and Bulawayo had no fuel. But those with gasoline or diesel to sell were demanding $Z650 a liter – about US$2.60 - compared with $Z400 dollars in the days before the currency overhaul was launched. But given the shortages, some dealers in the parallel market were demanding Z$1,000 (US$4) per liter of gasoline.
Industry and Trade Minister Obert Mpofu said price gougers would be prosecuted. But commuters complained that police turned a blind eye to operators hiking fares. Long queues are also emerging in the capital as a result of the fuel shortages.
Economists say the devaluation and higher taxes on fuel announced by the Ministry of Finance in its recent supplementary budget made such price increases inevitable.
Omnibus operators have raised fares by more than 60%, defying a government freeze of prices through August 21, the central bank's deadline for currency conversion.

Monday, August 07, 2006

ZImbabwe's disasterous rule

Zimbabwe should have been a model of multiethnic democracy and economic growth. Mugabe didn't have to be as wise as Nelson Mandela to make his nation work; he just had to avoid being a madman. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he turned out to be. And the world stood by and did nothing while he ruined a country.

Black Americans have flocked to start businesses in South Africa; a few have sought citizenship in Ghana, which is offering the gimmick to draw entrepreneurial black Americans to live there. But none of that attention was ever turned toward Zimbabwe, which might have turned out differently had international pressure been brought to bear on Mugabe.

Instead, other African leaders turned a blind eye, afraid their own human rights records might be examined if they turned up the heat on the Zimbabwean dictator. Inexplicably, political leaders such as former

United Nations
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News | News Photos | Images | Web

" type="hidden"> United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young have defended Mugabe.

"Our black leadership has been utterly ineffective in dealing with the autocrats and dictators in Africa who are not white," said Richard Joseph, political science professor at Northwestern University and director of its Program of African Studies. "Our collective black leadership -- organizations, church groups, civil rights organizations, civil rights leaders -- have not provided that leadership, and the African people have paid the price. It's shameful."

When I visited Zimbabwe in 1983, its black intelligentsia was high on hope, convinced they could provide a model for black rule. After a decades-long guerrilla war against the whites-only government of then-Rhodesia, black nationalists had finally brokered a peace accord, which led to elections that put Mugabe in power in 1980....

Zimbabwe offered the chance for a fresh start -- and, for a brief shining moment, it looked as if Mugabe would get it right.... He left in place an independent judiciary; he embarked on a literacy campaign for the country's uneducated black citizens; he called for racial reconciliation, urging Zimbabwe's 200,000 whites -- including its nearly 50,000 white farmers -- to stay and keep Zimbabwe free and prosperous.

But when poor blacks became impatient with the pace of change, Mugabe responded by allowing thugs to seize the farms of white landowners and turn the land over to his supporters. The agricultural sector quickly collapsed. Mugabe also began a brutal campaign against political opponents, shutting down opposition newspapers and taking over the courts. The country is a shell of its former self.....

Zim government orders 21 day price freeze

Well, that's one way to make things scarce...

"No trader, manufacturer, wholesaler, dealer or retailer of any commodity shall as a result of the conversion of any price of that commodity on August 1 2006 from the old currency system to the new currency system ... increase the price of that commodity by any amount," Obert Mpofu, Minister of Industry and International Trade told the Sunday Mail newspaper.

"This direction shall have effect from August 1 2006 to August 21 2006," he added.

Mpofu was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.

President Robert Mugabe's government keeps price controls on some basic commodities like maize-meal, bread and milk but can also revoke price increases in several other products.

Companies justify regular price increases to rising production costs due to inflation, which at 1,184.6 percent is the highest in the world, and argue that they source foreign currency for inputs at the black market where prices are more than twice the official rate.

Urban Zimbabweans are the worst hit by the country's economic crisis, dramatised by shortages of foreign currency, fuel, food and electricity while contending with water cuts, crumbling roads and burst sewers.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Justice comes for Charles Taylor Liberia’s most powerful warlord in the early and mid-1990s, he commanded an army of drug-addled child soldiers, the Small Boys Units, who engaged in a savage campaign of rape, looting, and killing. How, during his 1997 presidential campaign, terrified Liberians took to the streets chanting, “He killed my ma, he killed my pa. I’ll vote for him!” How, before fleeing into exile in Calabar in August 2003, Taylor provided weapons to Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF), limb-chopping teenage rebels who maimed and murdered tens of thousands during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war...

Monetary enforcement under fire

Police and Reserve Bank officials came under fire Thursday for what critics said were indiscriminate searches of citizens and seizures of large amounts of currency deemed excessive in the three-week runup to a late-August deadline for the exchange of old banknotes for new bills intended to simplify life amidst 1,200% inflation.

Consumers reported losing large amounts of cash at police roadblocks nationwide as they tried to reach banks to deposit expiring banknotes or swap them for the new bills that the central bank started issuing Tuesday. Central bank officials were present at some but not all roadblocks, local police spontaneously threw up many others.

Human rights defenders and other legal experts criticized the indiscriminate search of travelers on the borders and inside the country in search of black market gains. The central bank and government launched the campaign in an attempt to confiscate much of the trillions of dollars circulating in domestic and foreign parallel markets.

Within the financial system, bank automatic tellers remained out of service as financial players struggled to overhaul systems to cope with new denominations - for instance, the old Z$100,000 note is being replaced by a new Z$100 note which at the post-devaluation exchange rate of Z$250 to the U.S. dollar is worth 40 U.S. cents.

The central bank lopped three zeroes from the old currency one day before releasing a new set of banknotes aimed at offsetting some of the effects of 1,200% inflation, in particular the need to carry around wads of currency for routine transactions.

Police and ruling party youth militia members searched travelers and seized currency in excess Z$100 million (old notes) for individuals, $400 at the new exchange rate.

Reliable sources said there were 10 roadblocks on the highway between the Zambian border to the north and Karoi, 150 kilometers towards the capital, Harare.

Legal experts questioned the way financial authorities sought to enforce recently-set limits on the amount of cash individuals or businesses can legally hold.

Low tariff cripples Zim power utilities

A former Zimbabwe power industry executive said the government should remove tariff constraints on the state power utility to allow it to raise sufficient money to boost flagging domestic generation.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has struggled to produce electricity at its two main thermal and hydro plants due to a critical shortage of cash to repair damaged equipment, which has led to frequent power cuts for consumers and industry.

The wholly government-owned company, the sole provider of electricity in Zimbabwe, has said it is required to charge what it says are uneconomic tariffs as the government seeks to keep a lid on spiralling inflation.

On Thursday power expert Simbarashe Mangwengwende, a former ZESA chief executive, said that "inappropriate regulation", including the low consumer charges, had kept investors away from ZESA, leaving the cash-strapped government with the sole burden of keeping the utility running.

Erratic power supplies have piled pressure on local industries struggling to stay in business in the face of an eight-year economic recession critics blame on President Robert Mugabe's government.

"There is a myth that energy supply costs are high and are a major source of inflation. That is why we then end up with inappropriate regulations that prevent investments," Mangwengwende told an annual congress of Zimbabwe's main industry body.

"The result is that we have over-dependence on an investor with limited resources for investments," he told the meeting in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo....
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