Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zimbabwe now censoring cellphones

Yesterday I wrote about how certain progressive organizations used purple prose to exaggerate what happened in Haiti, and commented that they were making things worse by painting thugs using politics as an excuse for their gangsterism as human rights martyrs.

The "flip" side of the picture can be seen in Zimbabwe, where outside reporters are often not allowed inside to investigate that country, outside NGO's are limited in access even when delivering needed humanitarian supplies, and locals are afraid to write about the problems they face because the mail and the Internet is censored.

Zimbabwe is trying to stop NGO's, churches, reporters and others from doing reporting of the deteriorating economic situation in that country, where the UN estimates half of the 12 million population are facing a food shortage and a shortage of basic supplies due to a lack of currency to pay their bills.

Yet Zimbabwe has enough money to purchase an Internet monitoring system from China to censor the fledgling Internet in that country. The next step:Cellphones

The latest effort to plug holes in reporting the situation is the attempt of the government to
intercept cellphone calls , which the Zim army calls a national security risk.

"
"We want to listen, to make sure the nation is safe. If we liberalize the gateways then it means there would be a group of people who would communicate without our knowledge," Chineka was quoted as saying by the government-controlled daily Mirror..."

But unlike net censorship or US/EU snooping into groups whose open aim is violent terror against civilians, the censorship in Zimbabwe is aimed at preventing the bad news from getting out.

And the news that comes out is increasingly bad in a country that is going from bad to worse to even more destitute not due to war or natural disaster, but from deliberate government mismanagement and neglect, according to Archbishop Ncube of Bulawayo, who is in London raising money for HIV treatment.

And, indeed, to those of us following the news , the situation is indeed grim. The best workers have already left the country legally or illegally, many going to South Africa. The poor harvests continue, partly due to drought, lack of fertilizer and irrigation and the emigration of the loss of skilled farmers (both black and white), but mostly due to the fact that under the guise of "land reform", the government has confiscated the large white farms that produced much of the food consumed by urban dwellers, and instead of giving the farms to the workers and compensating the farmers, as was done here in the Philippines, the workers were often chased off and the farms awarded to the cronies of the president...men who knew little and cared less on how to properly run a large farming operation.
As a result, Zimbabwe, which for years had exported grain and other agricultural commodities, is now forced to import food, much of it from international donors, since the economy is in collapse and the government has trouble paying their debts.

The situation is deteriorating; the VOA reports United Nations Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brownis worried about the deteriorating situation in that country, and implied he would like the international community to intervene to help prevent the humanitarian crisis and lack of food and essential supplies, and also notes the deteriorating human rights situation.

Walter Mzembi, a ZANU-PF parliamentarian at the meeting, said Brown was misled by biased reporting.

You see, as long as the government can deny the famine and economic problems, they can pretend everything is fine. Hence the increased attempt to stop negative news reports from filtering out of that country.

Sokwanele , a local human rights group, reports not only is the local Zimbabwean press censored, but the South African press has apparently blacklisted certain Zimbabwean reporters and commentators who oppose the government, including Archbishop Ncube.
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cross posted to Blogger news network

Zim army says cellphones are a danger to security

Zimbabwe early this year unveiled a proposed law that would give it authority to monitor phones and mail -- both conventional and Internet -- to protect national security and fight crime.

Rights groups say the "Interception of Communication Bill" is part of a crackdown which has included tough policing and political intimidation to stifle criticism of an economic crisis many blame on President Robert Mugabe's policies.

Chineka, who was giving evidence on the bill, said security forces would give their input before the proposed law is passed by parliament, adding that mobile operators should be given at least a month to be connected to TelOne's gateway.

"We want to listen, to make sure the nation is safe. If we liberalize the gateways then it means there would be a group of people who would communicate without our knowledge," Chineka was quoted as saying by the government-controlled daily Mirror.

Econet has the largest subscriber base in Zimbabwe and is in the process of adding a further 300,000 customers before the end of the year to take its client numbers to 800,000.

The company, listed on the Zimbabwe stock exchange, has said that if incoming traffic for customers on mobile networks is diverted to TelOne, private mobile companies would be unable to raise foreign currency to settle bills with operators overseas.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Anarchy: worse than Mugabe?

Two articles on BNN about anarchy.

THIS ONE is about the large private militias in the Congo region.
the United Nations gambled on the penultimate solution of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, the DRC remains at risk because of a failure to provide equal importance to disarming over 80,000 former soldiers and militia....the immediate threat is blunted by the overwhelming military superiority of 17,000 soldiers of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC), 1200 European Union troops (EUFOR), and the presence of Kabila’s Republican Guard (GSSP), which is estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers..The DRC National Commission for Demobilization and Reintegration (CONADER) announced on 8 September that even though more than 76,614 ex-combatants had been demobilized some 85,000 ex-combatants still needed to be demobilized. CONADER, which had exhausted its budget of $200 million, has been expecting additional funds in November but none have arrived.
This is an example of the poor coordination of the CONADER with the elections. Surprisingly, even those who were demobilized did not receive the required funds to reintegrate in civilian life as promised..

Another peacekeeping mission under fire is here:
LINK is about UN peacekeepers being hurt by mobs and vilified by progressive news organizations.

Green groups praise Africa for rejecting food aide

No genetically modified food for Africans.

Better that they starve than eat non politically correct food:


Just as the US Department of Agiculture has ruled that a biotech variety of rice is as safe to eat as conventional rice, the so-called Friends of the Earth (FOE) are trying to frighten African governments into refusing shipments of rice from the United States. FOE periodically launches anti-biotech disinformation campaigns in poor developing countries. FOE rolled out its latest low-down lying deceitful campaign in Africa. In this case, local FOE activists are demanding that Ghana and Sierra Leone recall rice imports from the US because they are "contaminated" with a harmless herbicide resistance gene.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Russians may build power stations in Zim

Harare - A Russian company will soon begin building small hydro-electric power stations in energy-starved Zimbabwe as part of a $150-million deal due to be signed next month, reports said on Sunday.

Construction of the power stations, to be built at small dams around the country by Russia's Turbo Engineering, is due to begin in January, said the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper.

South African politician likes what Mugabe has done

"...Looking relaxed and flashing his trademark smile, Mr Zuma demonstrated the warmth and charm that have helped this unschooled cowherd from a rural backwater in KwaZulu Natal rise to be one of the dominant — and, some say, sinister — forces in South African politics. A key figure in the struggle against apartheid, he was imprisoned for 10 years with Nelson Mandela.

Yet his political career has been more controversial. Sacked last year as deputy president over allegations that he accepted bribes from a French arms company, Mr Zuma has refused to lie down and instead mounted a campaign to portray himself as a victim of a conspiracy to prevent his becoming president of the ANC in party elections next year. Whoever wins that contest is almost certain to become president when Mr Mbeki steps down in 2009.

He denied suggestions that the party was split on tribal lines, with his own backers drawn from the Zulu tribe and those of Mr Mbeki from his Xhosa tribe. The passionate support of his followers sprang from a natural sense of justice, not tribal or political rivalry. "What people are protesting about is the apparent victimisation of a comrade — me — by the organs of state," he said.

Even the admission that he had unprotected sex with a 31-year-old HIV positive woman who accused him of rape — a charge of which he was cleared this year — has failed to dent his appeal. When the corruption charges were also struck from the roll in September, it appeared Mr Zuma was unstoppable. "I support Mr Zuma because he fought hard for the liberation of our country and he would do more for ordinary people than the current government," said Bonginkosi Mbhele, 50, as he waited for Mr Zuma's arrival.

But the business establishment is deeply suspicious of him. Azar Jammine, the head economist of the analysts Econometrix, said he knew of many white business people who said they would pull out of South Africa if Mr Zuma were elected. They fear his economic policy would be dictated by his trade union and Communist Party supporters.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has suggested that Mr Zuma should pull out of the presidential race, citing his sexual irresponsibility and the mob antics of his supporters. Mr Zuma said only: "I respect him and I don't think I want to politic with him on this."

As to allegations raised during the trial of his former financial adviser Scahbir Shaik — jailed this month for fraud and corruption — that he had been bailed out by Shaik because his own finances were in a terrible mess and was therefore unfit to be president, Mr Zuma said "no president, no leader in the world" had been subject to this kind of examination.

"I've been in the ANC for decades," he said. "I've had many responsibilities at different levels, including responsibility to handle money and nowhere could you find a record that I was unable to handle money.

"In any case, if one day the ANC says this man will be president, people are not judged by how they manage their personal finances. It is on their understanding of the policies and their responsibilities towards the country."

Mr Zuma's supporters are reported to be targeting weak ANC branches with propaganda material in an effort to build up greater support for his coming campaign...."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Anger mounts in Matabeleland

Mpofu said it is the young people, more militant and vocal than their elders, who seem certain to resist another election won by Mugabe - who has been in power for more than 26 years - and his party.

Tired of their region being neglected and lagging behind in development, several organisations representing the interests of the minority Ndebele people, who have never felt they fully belong to independent Zimbabwe, have mushroomed. The Ndebele, offshoots of the Zulu people of South Africa, constitute about 16 per cent of the 11.5 million population of Zimbabwe: the Shona, concentrated in the north and east, account for about 70 per cent of the population.

Some of the organisations are calling for regime change and will back any party that has a strategy to remove Mugabe from power. Others want Matabeleland to be an independent state. Apart from what they see as the Mugabe's government's deliberate negligence of the region, they accuse the head of state of having attempted to exterminate its people during widespread massacres in the 1980s by his personal military hit squad, the notorious North Korean-trained 5th Brigade.

The 3500-strong 5th Brigade, made up entirely of men from Mugabe's own Shona ethnic group, massacred some 20,000 villagers and tortured and assaulted countless others in a ruthless crackdown on the Ndebeles beginning in January 1983. Mugabe said Operation Gukurahundi (a Shona word meaning, "The early strong rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rains.") had been necessary to weed out Ndebele dissidents who wanted to topple him.

Political scientist Dr John Makumbe, a Shona and a representative in Zimbabwe of the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, said, "They (the Ndebele) are now more militant and vocal than ever before because of the hardships they have been experiencing. The whole country is in trouble, but they feel that they are worse off. They want to kick out the government and Mugabe."

Makumbe, based in Harare, added, "People in Matabeleland are more united and can mobilise each other more effectively than in any other parts of the country. There is a strong sense of coordination and mobilisation in Bulawayo."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

orphanages, adoption, HIV and Africa part two

This is part two about third world orphanges.

It's been 20 plus years since I worked in Africa, so my information is probably out of date. I'm sure things are now much better, despite the economic declines and HIV epidemic that in 2005 in Zimbabwe alone will take the parent of 160 000 children.

However, when I was in Africa, we did not have orphanages for older children. In the past, there were such places, but the nuns found that the children had so many severe emotional problems that they closed the institutions, although they did arrange school fees for some older orphans to attend boarding schools.

Most of the babies were placed because mom died, either in childbirth or before the child was weaned. Without breast milk, formula was not an option: Very expensive, and mixed with water that often contained the germs that cause diarrhea, which kills infants.

The orphanage that was left was a dull place. The one at a nearby mission had 20 cribs, two wet nurses (who nursed the smallest children) and several nurses aides and nursing assistants to care for the children. But it was a terribly poor place, despite the love and physical care given to the children.

But as soon as the children were weaned--in Africa, because of price of protein rich foods, this is usually aged three or four--the nuns would start searching for families to take them home, and usually one day someone would show up and take the child home.

Few kids had regular visitors, due to the price of bus tickets. But families still kept in touch.

What is happening now is that there are large numbers of children who have lost one or both parents to HIV.

(HIV in Africa is a sexually transmitted disease, but also spread through unsterilized knives and needles used by traditional healers, and, alas, though breast feeding.)

So what happens to these children? Most are taken in by the extended family. But some cannot afford to feed the kids, some come from urban areas where family is unknown, and others are mistreated and abused.

Now, those of us who adopt know that older children have often abused sexually; not just girls, but boys.

Alas, there are now reports of this becoming more common in Zimbabwe.

THIS VOA report discusses a UN report "

Child abuse and particularly sexual predation is on the rise in Zimbabwe, driven by the country's large and growing population of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic, according to the United Nations Childrens Fund and local child advocacy groups.

UNICEF and a number of child-protection organizations highlighted the extent of child abuse in the country on Sunday, designated the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and seized the opportunity to raise national awareness of the problem."

What is different here is that, alas, one "traditional treatment" for HIV involves the raping of a virgin. An orphan, without parents or kin to protect them, are the ones most easily abused in this manner.


Local NGO's are working with the government to educate both traditional healers and locals about this myth. They are staging plays that tell the stories from the girl's point of view, and emphasizing that there is no "cure" for HIV, but that there is treatment available.

But not everything is a horror story. The BBC has this story of one orphan raised by a stranger and who was later place in a foster home.

So how does one confront the horror stories one reads about?

When Mother Teresa first went out to work among the refugees and homeless after the partition of India, she saw a man, and she helped him. You cannot save the world, but you can help one child.

Most churches and mosques have charities that send money to locals who are helping orphans. Oxfam and CARE and UNICEF are other good places to start. And many of the tear jerking "adopt a foster child" types help keep children with intact families by paying school fees and other expenses.

If you want information about adoption and the various information about adoption, Adoptive Families website is a good place to start.

So was I wrong with criticizing Madonna's glitzy adoption quest? Yes and no.

The "best" solution is a local home. But when the numbers are huge, and the problem overwhelming, one should admit that adoption by a narcissitic rock star might be the better alternative.
-----------------------
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician who lives in the Philippines with her husband, seven dogs, three cats, and a huge extended family.
Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. She sometimes posts about Africa on her MugabeMakaipa Blog.

Orphanages and adoption Part one

A few days ago, I blasted Madonna's desire to adopt a matched set of Black orphans for her home.

My criticism was that adoption is not a social statement.

But today I want to talk about adoption from overseas and orphanages.

Now, my sons were adopted from an orphanage. Their parents had died, and so the children were parceled out to friends and relatives. The oldest boy went to work (he was 10) and one of his younger brothers was taken in by his grandmother. Alas, the grandmother died after a year, so he was sent to an uncle, who beat him. The family first got my oldest son to quit work and take him back to the village, but when that plan didn't work, the aunt conspired with a friend to drop them off at the local Catholic orphanage with a story that their parents were dead and the kids were left on the streets. The orphanage did search for relatives, but the uncle either did not worry where the kid disappeared or was too drunk to care, so after six months they were legally free for adoption. I got them because the boys refused to be separated, and I was willing to adopt two older boys.

That orphanage was founded by a Spanish missionary priest and funded from Spain. The sisters who ran it were the usual nuns: the mother in charge the drill sergeant type, but the younger nuns were wonderful and loving. The dormitories were clean. Yet even then, the boys later told stories of being beaten and undressed by the nuns. I'm sure these stories are of normal discipline and hygiene, that got more and more exaggerated with each telling to their eager audiences. But nevertheless, the fact is that they felt inferior and neglected, and a lot of that anger was directed not at God for taking their parents or at their uncle for mistreating and neglecting them, but at the nuns and at me.

Another thing about the orphanage was that most of the children were not up for adoption because they had families. Sometimes their mother was dead, and the father could not care for them. Other times, mother had remarried, and the new husband resented the boys, so they were on the orphanage rather than on the street. Others were true orphans, but like my son had relatives. These children often spent holidays with their families.

A third thing was that this orphanage was for older boys. In Colombia, babies and toddlers are usually adopted. Most babies are taken in by relatives, or adopted by local families, and those that can't be placed are often placed overseas. But for infants, the country had strict rules: Married couples in a stable marriage, under age 50, good health, police background check okay.

How did I get two kids as a single mom? Well, who wants two older boys? They make exceptions for hard to place children, who are usually older boys.

You see, girls are usually easy to place in South America. They are often kept by relatives, or placed in foster homes if they cannot be adopted. You see, a girl isn't much trouble, and there is always work in the house for them to do. (This is not true of Asia, where girls may be more easy to adopt since boys are kept by birth families but girls might be abandoned).

The dirty little fact, however, is that there are a lot of boys end up as street kids in Colombia. The family is so bad that the boys prefer the freedom of the streets. My boys were saved because they were quiet and obedient, but many end up in reform school for stealing or drug use. Many more simply grow up in gangs. And even boys with good families may end up unemployed and getting into mischief after they leave school at age 14 or 16.

Now, all this is about Colombia, where there has been an ongoing guerrilla war for 40 plus years, but where most people go to school, find jobs, have a trained midwife to deliver them, and live to be aged 70.

There is poor, and then there is destitute. Next to Malawi, my sons were fortunate. But that is a story for another column.

---------------
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines with seven dogs, three cats and a large extended family. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. She sometimes blogs about Africa at Mugabe Makaipa Blog.

Zim food aid running dry

"...The United Nations agency has been asking donors to provide US $60 million for the Southern African region, but with little result. Zimbabwe needs US$17 million dollars for the "lean season" between this December and March of next year.

In a statement, senior Australian foreign affairs official Tony Parkinson said the aid just pledged comes on top of Australia’s contribution of US$3 million to international humanitarian aid relief efforts for Zimbabwe during 2005 and 2006....

Humanitarian groups said donors are currently riveted by the humanitarian situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, where Sudanese-backed militias have murdered hundreds of thousands of villagers and driven hundreds of thousands more into camps.

But Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube remarked this week that more people are dying in Zimbabwe each week than in Darfur. He said some 3,500 people die each week from what he called a “unique convergence of malnutrition, poverty and aids.”

The WFP said in May that about 1.4 million Zimbabweans would be in critical need of food aid this year. But it was obliged to scale back operations in October to half of the 900,000 people it had been targeting, said WFP spokesman Mike Huggins. ...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mugabe arrives in Iran for talks

At the end of the visit, the two countries signed agreements to co-operate in transport, power, telecommunications, agricultural equipment manufacturing.

Under the agreements, the two countries were to jointly construct the Chitungwiza-Harare railway line, the extension of Kariba Power Station and establishing a tractor manufacturing plant.

The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Iran-Africa Co-operation Council also signed an agreement for co-operation between the private sectors of the two countries.

The visit also comes at a time when both countries are under siege from the West --- Iran for its uranium enrichment programme and Zimbabwe for its land reform programme.

The United States and its western allies believe Iran's uranium enrichment programme is ultimately aimed at producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

But Iran insists it will use the enriched uranium only to fuel nuclear power stations, something it is permitted to do as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Harare undertook agrarian reforms to empower the majority of its people and this courted the ire of Britain, the US and their western allies.

But Cde Mugabe and President Ahmadinejad have stood their grounds in defence of their governments' programmes and resisting foreign interference in the internal affairs of their countries.

Axis of evil indeed...

Monday, November 20, 2006

PReaching a free market to a skeptical Africa

Mr. Shikwati was a young teacher in western Kenya when he came across an article by Mr. Reed on the genius of capitalism. In this isolated village where Mr. Shikwati was raised, life revolved around mud huts and maize, not smokestacks. Still he dashed off a note to Midland, Mich., where Mr. Reed runs a think tank that promotes conservative economics and offers a program teaching others to do the same.

“Do you assist individuals who would like to know more about the free market and individual liberty?” Mr. Shikwati wrote.

Over the next four years, Mr. Reed sent books, reports, magazines, tracts — even occasional sums of money — as Mr. Shikwati embraced capitalist theory with a passion. Then he started a one-man think tank of his own.

On a continent where socialists have often held sway, Mr. Shikwati is now a conservative phenomenon. He has published scores of articles hailing business as Africa’s salvation; offered free-market lectures on five continents; and, defying the zeitgeist of the Bono age, issued scathing attacks on foreign assistance, which he blames for Africa’s poverty. When Western countries pledged to double African aid last year, an interview with an angry Mr. Shikwati filled two pages of Der Spiegel, the German magazine.

“For God’s sake, please stop the aid!” he told the magazine.

So modest was Mr. Shikwati’s start in the policy world, he walked nine miles on muddy roads just to get Mr. Reed’s e-mail messages. Yet nine months after he started his group, Western supporters flew him to the United States, where he joined a dinner of the conservative Heritage Foundation and toasted an A-list crowd that included Edwin Meese III, the former attorney general.

The unusual collaboration between a Midwestern mentor and his African protégé can be read in contrasting lights — as a crafty effort to export Western dominance or an idealistic joining of minds in the cause of freedom. While Mr. Reed salutes his protégé as a “passionate advocate for liberty in an unlikely place,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor who is a leading aid advocate, calls Mr. Shikwati’s criticisms of foreign assistance “shockingly misguided” and “amazingly wrong.”

“This happens to be a matter of life and death for millions of people, so getting it wrong has huge consequences,” Mr. Sachs said.

Mr. Shikwati’s group, the Inter Region Economic Network, or IREN, is part of a global span of policy groups that Western conservatives have helped build over the past quarter-century. Operating in as many as 70 countries, with varying degrees of outside support, these institutes push a wide array of free-market prescriptions, including lower taxes, less regulation and freer trade.


Since it's LA Times I hesitate to post more...they have been knwon t sue


PReaching a free market to a skeptical Africa

Mr. Shikwati was a young teacher in western Kenya when he came across an article by Mr. Reed on the genius of capitalism. In this isolated village where Mr. Shikwati was raised, life revolved around mud huts and maize, not smokestacks. Still he dashed off a note to Midland, Mich., where Mr. Reed runs a think tank that promotes conservative economics and offers a program teaching others to do the same.

“Do you assist individuals who would like to know more about the free market and individual liberty?” Mr. Shikwati wrote.

Over the next four years, Mr. Reed sent books, reports, magazines, tracts — even occasional sums of money — as Mr. Shikwati embraced capitalist theory with a passion. Then he started a one-man think tank of his own.

On a continent where socialists have often held sway, Mr. Shikwati is now a conservative phenomenon. He has published scores of articles hailing business as Africa’s salvation; offered free-market lectures on five continents; and, defying the zeitgeist of the Bono age, issued scathing attacks on foreign assistance, which he blames for Africa’s poverty. When Western countries pledged to double African aid last year, an interview with an angry Mr. Shikwati filled two pages of Der Spiegel, the German magazine.

“For God’s sake, please stop the aid!” he told the magazine.

So modest was Mr. Shikwati’s start in the policy world, he walked nine miles on muddy roads just to get Mr. Reed’s e-mail messages. Yet nine months after he started his group, Western supporters flew him to the United States, where he joined a dinner of the conservative Heritage Foundation and toasted an A-list crowd that included Edwin Meese III, the former attorney general.

The unusual collaboration between a Midwestern mentor and his African protégé can be read in contrasting lights — as a crafty effort to export Western dominance or an idealistic joining of minds in the cause of freedom. While Mr. Reed salutes his protégé as a “passionate advocate for liberty in an unlikely place,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor who is a leading aid advocate, calls Mr. Shikwati’s criticisms of foreign assistance “shockingly misguided” and “amazingly wrong.”

“This happens to be a matter of life and death for millions of people, so getting it wrong has huge consequences,” Mr. Sachs said.

Mr. Shikwati’s group, the Inter Region Economic Network, or IREN, is part of a global span of policy groups that Western conservatives have helped build over the past quarter-century. Operating in as many as 70 countries, with varying degrees of outside support, these institutes push a wide array of free-market prescriptions, including lower taxes, less regulation and freer trade.


Since it's LA Times I hesitate to post more...they have been knwon t sue


Old Africa

This post is actually a letter from Zambia, but many of the facts are similar to when I worked in Zimbabwe 20 years ago...I post a short excerpt..

An hour after leaving Malone camp, not another person or hut to be seen, we drew up to the maize grinding mill which my sons had repaired two months ago, deposited diesel for the engine, and cement for the laying of a concrete slab, being watched by the friendly villagers from a village unchanged from that of their forefathers. And when one of my men emptied a sack of empty tins and bottles I had rescued from our Malone camp garbage hole, they rushed forward to claim them. Such are the treasures of a people forgotten by the world.

We then drove the short distance up to M’Shalira Basic school: and basic it is. Close to the road, I found the headmaster, Mr Daka, resting in his grass and pole Chitenje, the crumbling and cracked staff quarters standing close-by. We drove up to the school: six classrooms of mud brick and mud floors - one new classroom built of grass walls had been added on, and signs of flooding all around. Children beavered away inside at arithmetic, unsupervised, but as quiet as the surrounding bush.
“My only teacher is away in Petauke to get his pay. We have to go every month to collect it and it takes a week. As you see I am the only one here now, ” said Daka.
“When last were you visited by someone from the Department of Education?”
“Oh, they never come here. They can’t drive. You can see.”
“And the elephant, they give us a hard life here”, he said, waving towards some mangled pawpaw trees nearby.”
I thought of how an elephant can eat 4% of his body weight in a night of garden raiding.
Later I interviewed three volunteer teachers, one a member of the CRB whom I knew, the other the Village Area Group Chairman, part of the group of six with whom I was developing a landuse plan for the 1 million acre area. We settled on K250 000 each per month, the same sum I paid to keep the village scouts employed, unpaid by Government for seven months: $50 each a month; it did not sound much but it would feed them and their families; the villagers after all earned about $.30 cents a day – if that.

Daka showed me the book store-room, which seemed well stocked. Picking up a few work books, mud fell from between the pages. The termites were at work. Looking up at the dividing wall I could see that the bricks would soon fall onto the books....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Late rains dampen hope for winter wheat harvest

Some farmers and agricultural officials may be pleased to see the heavy rains now falling across Zimbabwe, but others are concerned that the downpour could mean an even bigger shortfall than feared in the lagging winter wheat crop.

Authorities had projected a harvest of 220,000 tonnes, but the Grain Marketing Board, a state monopoly, said it has taken delivery from farmers of only 60,000 tonnes.

A GMB official said the rains will not do much damage to the standing wheat crops, as farmers can still harvest when they stop and the wheat dries out.

Many farmers have failed to harvest all their wheat due to fuel shortages and the cost of hiring combine harvesters. One farmer said the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, or ARDA, charges $55,000 (US$220) a hectare to harvest while commercial harvesters charge $95,000 ($380) per hectare for the same service.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Zimbabwe: The Language of violence

"...“Mugabe uses the rhetoric of revolution to excuse repression,” a prominent liberation war veteran, Wilfred Mhanda, observed recently of the harsh and offensive language that Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's head of state, frequently uses.
...
As a cabinet minister, Nkomo asked the premier whether reports about the secret training of a private army were true, although they had not been discussed in cabinet. Mugabe retorted with an arrogance and vehemence that has become characteristic, “Who are you? Why should you be consulted?”

Nevertheless, Nkomo soon got his answer in the most horrific of ways. What was to become the Fifth Brigade, a crack army unit answerable directly to Mugabe, was being trained clandestinely in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands by more than a hundred military instructors sent from North Korea by the dictator Kim Il Sung in preparation for a ruthless crackdown on the Ndebele people of Nkomo's home provinces in Matabeleland.

The assault by the 3500-strong 5th Brigade on the Ndebeles, in the west and south of the country, began in January 1983. By the time some 20,000 Ndebele villagers had been massacred and countless others tortured and terribly beaten, Mugabe said the operation - launched by Colonel Perence Shiri, one of Mugabe's former guerrilla chiefs - had been necessary to weed out Ndebele dissidents who wanted to topple him.

But many analysts believe the assault was directed at the Ndebele as a whole, not just the radicals in their midst. "Throughout Matabeleland as a whole [dissident] numbers never exceeded more than 400 at the peak of [their] activity," said Zimbabwe historian Martin Meredith of the Ndebele "revolt" in his book "Robert Mugabe: Power, Plunder and Tyranny in Zimbabwe"...


The real motive behind the Fifth Brigade's storm of terror was to cow the Ndebele, destroy PF-ZAPU and establish a one-party state with Mugabe at its head, which he achieved in 1987.

When Catholic peace and justice activists accused Mugabe and Shiri of conducting a reign of terror in Matabeleland that included "wanton killings, woundings, beatings, burnings and rapes [that had] brought about the maiming and death of hundreds of people who are neither dissidents nor collaborators", Mugabe responded by warning a gathering in rural Matabeleland, "We have to deal with this problem quite ruthlessly. Don't cry if your relatives get killed in the process ... Where men and women provide food for the dissidents, when we get there we eradicate them."

Over the years, Mugabe's language has become ever more coarse and callous....

When he launched the brutal confiscation of white commercial farmland in 2000, which plunged the country into anarchy and a spiral of economic decline, he warned farmers who resisted, “We have degrees in violence ...I will be a Black Hitler ten-fold!”

There followed a period when the laws of the land were virtually suspended as Mugabe launched his so-called "fast-track" land reform programme, ostensibly to resettle poor blacks but in reality to destroy what he perceived as the power base of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC - the white commercial farmers and their mainly black workers.

After narrowly winning the parliamentary election of July 2000, which was marked by unprecedented countrywide violence, Mugabe told his ruling ZANU PF congress in the following December, “We must continue to strike fear into the heart of the white man. The white man must tremble.” White farmers were assaulted, tortured or killed on their farms after Mugabe intensified his verbal attack, describing them as "enemies of Zimbabwe who will die" if they resisted the invasions of their homes and properties.

But MDC supporters and farm workers bore the brunt of Mugabe’s fury that an opposition party had dared try to remove him from power. It is estimated that at least 200 people were killed and thousands of others injured in the lead up to the subsequent presidential election in 2002, widely criticised as fraudulent but which maintained Mugabe in power...

n January last year, when three to four million people were desperately hungry as a result of crop failures and the farm invasions, Mugabe refused international food aid for the starving, saying foreigners were "foisting" food upon unwilling Zimbabweans, before adding, "We are not hungry. We don't want to choke on your food."

Targets of Mugabe's hatred are numerous. But while attacking foreigners, white farmers, Ndebeles, political opponents and others, he retains some of his most vindictive rhetoric for homosexuals. He has branded gays "un-Christian" and "un-African" and as "lower than pigs and dogs"....

Monday, November 13, 2006

US elections a lesson for Mugabe

"....To love power is natural, but because of the love of the nation more than individuals, there is harmony in defeat and progress in succession of another political party into government.

I watched with amazement the Canadian government change from Liberals to Conservatives overnight, so to speak, in 2005.

Coming from a country and continent where life is lost because of winning elections over a pre-colonial political party in power, it’s almost taboo to see responsive political behaviour so peaceful and mature.

When a national House of Assembly begin to voice discontent with a government, in western democracies or mature democracies rather, the days of a seating government are numbered unless they perform extra ordinarily well. The term performing extra ordinarily well, would imply to an extent where the electorate would be the judges in a situation....

In congratulating the Americans for running their system with utter most care and achieving results, we must as Africans remind ourselves that political plurality is no more an alien concept but a reality we can scarcely dispense with. It is as natural as building a house without a roof and debating of whether the roof need be asbestos or grass thatched, which is the logistics of wealth and poverty, without however changing the need for a roof.



Free, fair, election is a requisite for Zimbabwe government change

Challenges facing African Entreupeneurs

"....Despite all the obstacles, growth rates across much of Africa are rising and there are successful ventures to be found everywhere from Mogadishu to Dakar.

It is one of those seldom told stories - the success now being notched up by men and women doing business across Africa.

The results are not hard to see.

Economic growth has been running at a very respectable 4% in at least 15 African countries for the last decade. ....

From telecommunications and banking to the export of fruit and flowers, Africa is now finding and cultivating niche markets around the world.

Behind these statistics are stories of initiative and drive to overcome the familiar problems of endemic corruption and mountains of red tape.

Business of politics

Mobile phone voucher salesman in Kigoma, Tanzania
Many entrepreneurs are cashing in on the mobile telecoms boom

The absence of a strong business class at independence for many countries in the 1960s was a major inhibition to growth, argues Teddy Brett, of the London School of Economics.

It meant that fighting to control the levers of politics became a key way of winning economic advantage.

And the results are plain to see.

Doing business in Africa is still hard work, as a recent World Bank study indicated.

It showed that out of the 35 least business-friendly countries in the world, 27 were in sub-Saharan Africa. ...

As if that isn't bad enough, roads are bad, electricity unreliable and skilled labour in short supply.

But if you succeed, the profits can be large.

South African mobile phone company MTN took a risk and invested in a country as notoriously difficult as Nigeria, but has made a tidy profit.

And the business climate across the continent is improving.

Fresh funding

Woman walks across oil pipelines in Nigeria
Critics say too few are benefiting from Africa's oil wealth

Promises made by world leaders at last year's G8 summit in Gleneagles are beginning to come through.

In August, Malawi became the twentieth African country to have its debts cancelled.

And fresh funding is beginning to come through, to meet the promise of doubling aid to Africa by 2010.

This means more money for improving the energy supplies and renovating everything from airports to shipping terminals.

This has provided an environment in which business can begin to grow, and it is a challenge that men and women across the continent are starting to take up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Zim opposition moves to open unity discussions

The two rival factions of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change are expected to open reunification talks next week, MDC sources said. Executive councils of the two factions met separately on Saturday and approved reconciliation efforts.

But opposition sources said discussions inside both factions were heated with some officials arguing that it would not be possible to patch up intra-party differences after a year spent staking out political turf, poaching members and exchanging barbs.

Nonetheless, the two factions have designated negotiators to pursue the talks.

Representing the faction of MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai are Samuel Sipepa Nkomo - a top official for both Matabeleland provinces - policy chief Eddie Cross, women’s chair Lucia Matibenga and legal secretary Innocent Gonese.

Zim court frees 180 women

A judge in Zimbabwe has dropped charges against 180 women charged with taking part in anti-government protests. Members of two groups, Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise, had been arrested during a peaceful demonstration in August.

Once again members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise have been released by the state without charge following their anti government protest march three months ago.

This is the eighth time since WOZA - as the group is known - was formed in 2003 that state prosecutors have been unable to make the charge stick.

This time the state said they held a demonstration in a public place with the intent to cause public disorder or a breach of the peace.

The women were arrested in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, after they demanded that the government stop changing the currency. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe struck three zeros off the currency in August and issued new notes. It also launched a three-week campaign of arresting anyone found with more than about $30.

Monday, November 06, 2006

China has 1.9 million dollar trade deal with Zim

"...
The summit was seen as strengthening China's ties with Africa and resulted in $1,9-billion in trade deals, plus Chinese promises of aid, debt relief, and increased bilateral trade in the years ahead....


"Despite Beijing's growing concerns about Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's repressive tactics - most noticeably his willingness to literally starve his opposition and destroy the Zimbabwean economy - China has continued to sell the Zimbabwean government technology that enables it to monitor electronic communications," the report said.

Hu met on Friday with President Omar al-Beshir of Sudan, another regime under intense international criticism for widespread killings, rapes and abductions by government-armed forces in the country's western Darfur region.

China has rejected pressure from other countries over its own human rights record as outside interference and refused to apply similar pressure on its African allies. - Sapa-AFP

Zim students in the USA

Zim is the fourth country on the list of who sends students to the USA

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Zim: Guilty of the same sins we condemn in Mugabe

t the risk of going beyond their mandate, they pointed out most of the egregious laws that all opposition parties and civil society groups say need to be repealed or amended. Why should people want the churches to adopt a confrontational position with Mugabe when what is needed is national dialogue? What have all the pseudo-radical formations and political parties that have declared Mugabe "illegitimate" achieved in the six years since the 2000 elections?But there was something even more significant in the prelates' paper. By calling for national dialogue the church has shown that it is looking beyond Mugabe.

Actually, the article is unclear about what it means...and the headline doesn't make sense. The end of the article suggests people read the document...ok...link please?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Money from outside country dries up

Reserve Bank Governor Gono has banned money transfers from outside the country...
money that many Zim people rely on for basic food, often sent by relatives working abroad.

"....Gono last week banned sixteen Money Transfer Agencies (MTAs) accusing them of channeling funds received from the diaspora to the parallel market where rates are better than those offered by the government.

The MTAs were established in 2004 to enable non-resident Zimbabweans to remit cash back home through official channels.

The RBZ chief, tasked by President Robert Mugabe to turn around the fortunes of the country’s anaemic economy, said the cancellation of the transfer licences was meant to shore up the economy in its seventh straight year of recession. ...

The cancellation of the licences, described by analysts as Gono’s “ambush economics”, caught most agencies by surprise fuelling fears that some agencies will go underground and continue feeding the parallel market. ..

... until she finds a way of “beating” the system, Hungwe and thousands of other Zimbabweans are in mourning over the drying of this vital pipeline. - ZimOnline

Human rights campaigner still detained

"...
HARARE – Zimbabwe police were by late Thursday still holding prominent human rights campaigner Lovemore Madhuku and two others who they arrested earlier this week for demanding a new and democratic constitution for the country.
Harare lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who is representing the jailed activists, said he will apply to the High Court if the police fail to release them by end of day today.
“We might have no option but to resort to the High Court,” said Muchadehama.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvunzijena was not immediately available to shed light on when the law enforcement agency planned to release the activists or take them to court.
Madhuku, who is chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) that campaigns for a new constitution, was part of a group of about 150 members of the civic alliance who were marching in Harare demanding a new constitution when armed police pounced on them.
The police severely assaulted the demonstrators who they also arrested. They later released the rest of the demonstrators except Madhuku and two other activists whom the police allege stoned one of their vehicles. -ZimOnline"
 
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