Sunday, December 30, 2007

Zim AIDS patients in a long line for drugs

From the LATimes:

"...Zimbabwe's financial crisis has seen the near collapse of its health system. Hit by foreign currency shortages and hyperinflation, the government stopped taking new AIDS patients in October 2006. Many people die of AIDS complications before they can get antiretroviral medicine.

In Zimbabwe, 321,000 people need antiretroviral medicines, or ARVs, according to the World Health Organization, and only 91,000 have access to them.

An April report by WHO and two other U.N. agencies says about 6% of children in need of treatment were getting it. The government says more than 2,200 Zimbabweans die every week of AIDS complications....
Zimbabwe's delivery of ARVs is below average for low- and middle-income countries, according to the agencies' report. In sub-Saharan Africa, an average 28% of those in need of the drugs get them. For Zimbabwe, the percentage is about 24%.

As access to government treatment has become impossible for most, the private market is out of reach too. A December report by International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, an international advocacy group, says the number of private HIV/AIDS patients dropped from 10,000 in July to 6,000 because government policies and inflation had caused the cost of treatment to soar.

Zimbabwe's delivery of ARVs is below average for low- and middle-income countries, according to the agencies' report. In sub-Saharan Africa, an average 28% of those in need of the drugs get them. For Zimbabwe, the percentage is about 24%.

As access to government treatment has become impossible for most, the private market is out of reach too. A December report by International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, an international advocacy group, says the number of private HIV/AIDS patients dropped from 10,000 in July to 6,000 because government policies and inflation had caused the cost of treatment to soar.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ten underreported humanitarian disasters

Doctors without borders released a paper on the ten least reported Humanitarian disasters.

Actually, Zimbabwe gets a lot of press in the UK but it is mainly ignored in the US, as are most of the other conflicts.

Here is the section on Zimbabwe:
Political and Economic Turmoil Sparks Health-Care Crisis in Zimbabwe

enlarge image

Zimbabwe 2007 © Dirk-Jan Visser

Women queue to collect water from a spring outside the capital city of Harare. Zimbabweans, especially those in high-density areas, are facing massive water shortages.

Rampant unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, food shortages, and political instability continued to wrack Zimbabwe in 2007. Up to 3 million people are believed to have fled to neighboring countries in recent years among a population of 12 million.

The national health-care system, once viewed as one of the strongest in southern Africa, now threatens to collapse under the weight of this political and economic turmoil with the most acute consequences potentially for the estimated 1.8 million Zimbabweans living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, less than one-fourth of the people in urgent need of life-extending antiretroviral (ARV) treatment receive it. This translates into an average of 3,000 deaths every week. And the prospects for a further scale up of the national AIDS program are dim.

Trained medical professionals are leaving the country, the government program for HIV/AIDS treatment is oversubscribed, and the lack of ARV supplies has stifled further expansion. Patients often face obstacles to reach hospitals or clinics because of high fuel and transport prices.

Through programs in Bulawayo, Tshlotsho, Gweru, Epworth, and various locations in Manicaland province, MSF provides free medical care to 33,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, 12,000 of whom are receiving ARV treatment—nearly one tenth of all people on treatment. However, MSF's ability to care for more people in need is hindered by the lack of trained health workers, restrictions on which staff can prescribe ARV drugs, and stricter administrative requirements for international staff to work in the country.

At the same time, Zimbabweans are feeling the health impact of degraded or nonexistent water-and-sanitation systems. During the year, outbreaks of diarrhea affected people living in the capital, Harare, and Bulawayo, the second largest city. Fleeing the country is also a dangerous enterprise as evidenced by the reports of refugees being beaten and raped along the South African border, and those who do make it across may be destined to live in the shadows with little or no access to health care.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Doris Lessing on the importance of books

A long speech that she gave after winning the Nobel Prize in literature...
The importance of books and storytellers, and how books are rare but cherished in Africa. excerpt:

There is a goat trying to find sustenance in some aged grass. The headmaster has embezzled the school funds and is suspended. My friend doesn't have any money because everyone, pupils and teachers, borrow from him when he is paid and will probably never pay it back. The pupils range from six to 26, because some who did not get schooling as children are here to make it up. Some pupils walk many miles every morning, rain or shine and across rivers. They cannot do homework because there is no electricity in the villages, and you can't study easily by the light of a burning log. The girls have to fetch water and cook before they set off for school and when they get back.

As I sit with my friend in his room, people shyly drop in, and everyone begs for books. "Please send us books when you get back to London," one man says. "They taught us to read but we have no books." Everybody I met, everyone, begged for books.

I was there some days. The dust blew. The pumps had broken and the women were having to fetch water from the river. Another idealistic teacher from England was rather ill after seeing what this "school" was like.

On the last day they slaughtered the goat. They cut it into bits and cooked it in a great tin. This was the much anticipated end-of-term feast: boiled goat and porridge. I drove away while it was still going on, back through the charred remains and stumps of the forest.

I do not think many of the pupils of this school will get prizes.

The next day I am to give a talk at a school in North London, a very good school. It is a school for boys, with beautiful buildings and gardens. The children here have a visit from some well-known person every week: these may be fathers, relatives, even mothers of the pupils; a visit from a celebrity is not unusual for them.

As I talk to them, the school in the blowing dust of north-west Zimbabwe is in my mind, and I look at the mildly expectant English faces in front of me and try to tell them about what I have seen in the last week. Classrooms without books, without textbooks, or an atlas, or even a map pinned to a wall. A school where the teachers beg to be sent books to tell them how to teach, they being only 18 or 19 themselves. I tell these English boys how everybody begs for books: "Please send us books." But there are no images in their minds to match what I am telling them: of a school standing in dust clouds, where water is short, and where the end-of-term treat is a just-killed goat cooked in a great pot.

Is it really so impossible for these privileged students to imagine such bare poverty?

I do my best. They are polite.

I'm sure that some of them will one day win prizes.

Then the talk is over. Afterwards I ask the teachers how the library is, and if the pupils read. In this privileged school, I hear what I always hear when I go to such schools and even universities. "You know how it is," one of the teachers says. "A lot of the boys have never read at all, and the library is only half used."

Yes, indeed we do know how it is. All of us.

We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers....

Not long ago, a friend in Zimbabwe told me about a village where the people had not eaten for three days, but they were still talking about books and how to get them, about education.

I belong to an organisation which started out with the intention of getting books into the villages. There was a group of people who in another connection had travelled Zimbabwe at its grassroots. They told me that the villages, unlike what is reported, are full of intelligent people, teachers retired, teachers on leave, children on holidays, old people. I myself paid for a little survey to discover what people in Zimbabwe wanted to read, and found the results were the same as those of a Swedish survey I had not known about. People want to read the same kind of books that people in Europe want to read - novels of all kinds, science fiction, poetry, detective stories, plays, and do-it-yourself books, like how to open a bank account. All of Shakespeare too. A problem with finding books for villagers is that they don't know what is available, so a set book, like The Mayor of Casterbridge, becomes popular simply because it just happens to be there. Animal Farm, for obvious reasons, is the most popular of all novels.

Our organisation was helped from the very start by Norway, and then by Sweden. Without this kind of support our supplies of books would have dried up. We got books from wherever we could. Remember, a good paperback from England costs a month's wages in Zimbabwe: that was before Mugabe's reign of terror. Now, with inflation, it would cost several years' wages. But having taken a box of books out to a village - and remember there is a terrible shortage of petrol - I can tell you that the box was greeted with tears. The library may be a plank on bricks under a tree. And within a week there will be literacy classes - people who can read teaching those who can't, citizenship classes - and in one remote village, since there were no novels written in the Tonga language, a couple of lads sat down to write novels in Tonga. There are six or so main languages in Zimbabwe and there are novels in all of them: violent, incestuous, full of crime and murder.

It is said that a people gets the government it deserves, but I do not think it is true of Zimbabwe. And we must remember that this respect and hunger for books comes, not from Mugabe's regime, but from the one before it, the whites. It is an astonishing phenomenon, this hunger for books, and it can be seen everywhere from Kenya down to the Cape of Good Hope.

This links up improbably with a fact: I was brought up in what was virtually a mud hut, thatched. This kind of house has been built always, everywhere where there are reeds or grass, suitable mud, poles for walls - Saxon England, for example. The one I was brought up in had four rooms, one beside another, and it was full of books. Not only did my parents take books from England to Africa, but my mother ordered books by post from England for her children. Books arrived in great brown paper parcels, and they were the joy of my young life. A mud hut, but full of books.

Even today I get letters from people living in a village that might not have electricity or running water, just like our family in our elongated mud hut. "I shall be a writer too," they say, "because I've the same kind of house you were in."....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why farmers refuse aid

From Zim Daily:

If they accept the aid, they have to give a certain amount back to the government. But sometimes the harvest isn't that big, so the gov't requirements would mean their families would starve.

"...The situation is being made worse by the fact that the soldiers who are also struggling to survive themselves are only giving seed maize in a transparent manner but when it comes to fertilizer they are selecting individuals who they know.

“How can we give away a hectare of our crops when some of the people are only getting seed maize and are not given fertilizer? They still expect us to give them the one hectare even if we don’t get the fertilizer so it’s better we use our own scarce resources to buy the fertilizer on the black market,” said another farmer.

The 2007/2008 agricultural season which has been touted as the “mother of all seasons” and has jingles on state radio and television played with nauseating frequency may not go as planned because of the slow rate at which farmers are accessing inputs.

Corruption in ZIM


Zim's biggest Corporate scandal

HARARE -- Police in Harare have launched a massive investigation into allegations that Premier Finance Group, chief executive officer Raymond Chigogwana has siphoned about Z$926 billion from the bank through alleged foreign currency deals using shelf companies of friends and family members.

The crime is alleged to have been committed in October and has sucked Zimbabwe's central bank, whose governor, Gideon Gono has summoned Chigogwana to explain the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of was could turn out to be Zimbabwe's biggest corporate fraud.

The amount (almost Z$1 trillion dollars) dwarfs the amount allegedly externalised by NMB Bank deputy chief James Mushore totalling Z$30 billion.

Zim to print new bank notes

From the BBC:

Zimbabwe is to issue new banknotes in an effort to tackle the serious cash shortages afflicting the country.

From Thursday, notes worth 250,000, 500,000 and 750,000 Zimbabwean dollars will enter circulation.

At the same time, the highest value note now in use - the 200,000 dollar bill - will be phased out, despite only being introduced in July.

Rampant inflation above 8,000%, mass unemployment and shortages of fuel and basic goods have blighted the economy.

Zimbabwe's central bank governor, Gideon Gono, blamed the economic crisis on the country's senior officials.

"Our economy has fallen prey to a high level of indiscipline and corruption prevalent in the economy as well as diminished economic patriotism on the part of most people holding positions of authority in our economy and society," he said.


The 200,000 dollar bill, which Mr Gono said was being widely used on the black market, is worth about $6.66.

From now on, government officials will monitor cash withdrawals at banks while individuals will be limited to 50m dollars in deposits.

Critics of President Mugabe accuse him of allowing the economy to go to ruin but he has remained defiant, banning all pay and price rises last month in an effort to stabilise the situation.

The problem with foreign aid to Africa

From the Seattle WA USA PI newspaper.

Summary: Aid projects that ignore local culture and situations, corrupt dictators that oppose building roads, steal aid money, or fail to keep them in repair, aid money spent for foreigners to be consultants or to buy supplies from foreign firms, etc.

Conclusion: not much. but they comment that in the future most money will go to democracies where gov't is more likely to make sure it gets to the voters, not their own pockets.

Zimbabwe and the Jacob Zuma factor


By Mutumwa D. Mawere
Last updated: 12/19/2007 19:55:54

AS SOUTH Africa and indeed President Thabo Mbeki digests and reflects on Jacob Zuma’s victory as the president of Africa’s oldest political party, the African National Congress (ANC), there is no doubt that the political actors in Zimbabwe are also challenged by the implications of a Zuma presidency underpinned by strong support by President Mugabe’s strongest and most vocal critics i.e. COSATU and the SACP.....

The appointment of President Mbeki as the mediator was not accidental. Since the dismissal of his Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, President Mbeki was facing a brewing political crisis of his own and his adversaries in the main i.e. COSATU and SACP, were also Mugabe’s nemesis. An objective analysis would have suggested that both President Mugabe and Mbeki were victims of counter-revolutionaries who were thin on liberation/revolutionary values and morality but strong on populism.

It is evident that prior to the SADC summit in Tanzania, President Mugabe may have doubted President Mbeki’s credentials as a revolutionary. What must have happened during the summit was that as President Mugabe briefed the heads of state; President Mbeki could not help but to accept that the same forces that wanted regime change in Zimbabwe appeared to have the same approach in respect of the ANC succession battle. Whereas President Mugabe’s adversaries were outside his own party, President Mbeki’s adversaries were in his party but not under his control.

For the first time, President Mugabe must have felt that he at last had gotten through to President Mbeki who hitherto had not fully appreciated the broader implications of the MDC onslaught....

How did Mugabe outfox his adversaries and Mbeki fall victim of his own? What is evident is that if Mbeki had won the ANC elections, President Mugabe would have been assisted greatly in burying the regime change agenda. The victory of Zuma presents a problem for President Mugabe in that if President Mbeki can get the boot from his comrades, he also can get a boot from his citizens. The approach to governance and use of state power between President Mbeki and Mugabe may not be different but the difference is that Mbeki’s adversaries were more organised and focused than Mugabe’s adversaries.

It is clear that Zuma has emerged as a great strategist and tactician than many have given him credit for. Without Zuma’s leadership and ability to confront tyranny, the forces against Mbeki would not have executed their mandate with such precision and clarity. At the end of the day, Mbeki’s real adversary was not any third party or shadowy figure but his own deputy. Zuma did not shy away from being counted unlike the so-called Zanu PF faction leaders...

What Zuma has shown is that through democratic means, people can endure vilification and intimidation and yet emerge as victors through effective mobilisation.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Zuma wins

AP Reports:

Jacob Zuma triumphed at the African National Congress on Tuesday, parlaying his charisma and widespread popularity to win the governing party's top job and put him in line to become the country's next president.\His overwhelming victory — 2,329 votes to President Thabo Mbeki's 1,505 — came despite rape and corruption scandals that had threatened his political career.,,,,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BBC on mugabe's attempt to stay in office


The challenge to Mr Mugabe's rule from factions within the ruling party has dissipated in recent months.

Jonathan Moyo, Mr Mugabe's former information minister and now an independent MP, says two Zanu-PF groupings - one led by Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru - have been publicly supporting Mr Mugabe's endorsement as presidential candidate.

'Rude Awakening'

Yet, only a few months ago, Mr Mnangagwa and Mr Mujuru had both been seen as possible successors should Mr Mugabe have been persuaded to leave office.

"Behind the scenes, there is widespread disgruntlement," says Mr Moyo.

"There is a rude awakening that Mugabe will not step down voluntarily, and there is nothing that can be done, using party procedures, to deal with his succession."

Mugabe's intention is to die in office, which is regrettable
Morgan Tsvangirai
Opposition leader

Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, says the rival factions within Zanu-PF have to regroup.

"They've been overwhelmed by the Mugabe wing, but they lacked the wherewithal to reverse what was a fait accompli [Mugabe's endorsement].

Monday, December 17, 2007

Atty General fired

From AlJazeerah

Zimbabwe has suspended the country's attorney-general while he is being investigated for corruption....
Police accuse him of promising James Mushore, a former director of National Merchant Bank (NMB), that he would not be arrested if he returned to Zimbabwe.
Mushore fled to Britain in 2004 at the height of a Zimbabwean banking crisis that saw several finance houses shut down by the country's central bank.
The former banker, who was arrested upon returning to Zimbabwe in October, has been on the police wanted list for siphoning foreign currency from the country to offshore accounts.
Media reports say the allegations against Gula–Ndebele are politically motivated and a direct result of his clashes with Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, over control of the attorney-general's department.
Mugabe's government has previously vowed to tackle misconduct, especially by senior officials, but analysts say an anti-corruption commission appointed in 2006 was ineffective and barely functional.


From IHT:

Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition have reached agreement on a political accord that should smooth the way for elections in March, state media reported Sunday.

The South Africa-mediated accord includes reforms to sweeping media and security laws that the opposition claims are hindering election campaigning, according to the Sunday Mail newspaper, a government mouthpiece.

A spokesman for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was not immediately available for comment Sunday.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are set to take place in March in Zimbabwe amid the country's worst economic crisis since President Robert Mugabe, 83, led the African nation to independence from Britain in 1980.

Official inflation was reported in September at nearly 8,000 — the highest rate in the world — but analysts say inflation is closer to 90,000 percent. The International Monetary Fund forecast inflation reaching 100,000 percent by the end of the year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mugabe's cronies plot his downfall

From theUK Telegraph

Ibbo Mandaza, a leading Zanu-PF member, has provided an unprecedented insight into the party's current infighting, revealing the extent of the discontent with Mr Mugabe, 83, who has ruled since 1980.

"Right now 99 per cent of the country wants Mugabe to retire peacefully and enable Zimbabwe to move into a new era," he told The Daily Telegraph during an interview in Harare. "That's a fact and that goes across the political spectrum.

"Zanu-PF has been reduced to the figurehead of one person and very far from what it stood for originally.

"I think those saying Mugabe should stay on are lying. If he was to retire tomorrow Zanu-PF would win a landslide," said Mr Mandaza, who is also executive director of the Sapes Trust think-tank.///

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Refugees/emigrants from Zimbabwe

Another excerpt from Strategypage about how people are fleeing Zimbabwe...

Many Zimbabweans are leaving the country, but just how many is another number that is very difficult to pin down. . The UNHCR estimates that three million Zimbabweans have left Zimbabwe since 2000, with the vast majority going to Botswana and South Africa....

The "few hundred" may be a conservative estimate. In July 2007, it was believed that the figure could be as high as 3000 a day. If two hundred Zimbabweans illegally enter South Africa every day that is 700,000 a year, so maybe the anecdotal "a few hundred" a day is a reasonable average. The Reception and Support Center of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that from January to the end of July 2007 it repatriated 117,737 Zimbabweans from South Africa to Zimbabwe. "Repatriated" means the refugees have been sent back to Zimbabwe. ..

At the moment Zimbabwe's immediate neighbors classify the Zimbabwean refugees as "economic migrants." This means they do not have the same international status as a "political refugee." If a refugee is classified as a political refugee subject to prosecution (or persecution) if he returns to the country from which he fled, then that individual can usually appeal for asylum (in the country to which he fled or in an another country willing to accept him). Not so if the refugee is declared an "economic migrant." It is often tough to determine who is an economic migrant and who is a political refugee.

Zimbabwe, the tragedy

AustinBay's Blog has an excerpt of this longer StrategyPage analysis of what's going on in Zimbabwe:

...A statistic that really does matter is unemployment. No one really knows what the unemployment rate is in Zimbabwe. Visit the Web and you will find estimates from fifty to eighty percent. As always, you have to ask not only who did the survey but what constitutes employment.

Zimbabwe’s once flourishing tourist industry has all but disappeared. In 1999, 1.4 million tourists visited Zimbabwe. Now there are no tourists. An estimated 200,000 Zimbabweans once worked in a tourism-related job (hotels, restaurants, etc.).

Almost everyone agrees, however, that commercial agriculture jobs are (or were) a key component in Zimbabwe’s economy. Since 2000, Zimbabwe has lost between 250,000 and 400,000 jobs in its once productive agricultural sector. In 2003 the UN reported approximately 100,000 farm workers were still employed on commercial farms. That was a decrease of 250,000 from an estimated 350,000 workers employed by commercial farms in 2000 prior to president Mugabe’s first “land redistribution” program, his “agrarian revolution” called the “Third Chimurenga,” or “liberation struggle.” The vast majority of those farms were owned by whites. The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union reported that there were approximately 4,500 white-owned commercial farms in Zimbabwe in 2000. The higher agricultural worker job loss figure is based a recent estimate, which means it is a very iffy statistic, like Zimbabwe’s actual inflation rate.

In 2000 the UN estimated that the 350,000 farm workers supported roughly two million people.

Using the same ratio (5.7 per worker) that means 2.28 million people who once had well-paying jobs (by Zimbabwean standards) now have little or no income. That is out of a 2005 population of around 13 million people….

Monday, December 10, 2007

African aid: coordinating with locals

From Wharton Business school blog: Stating the obvious...

Donors "pour money into countries that don't have the infrastructure to support everything the initiative plans to do," said Brian Anderson, who raises funds for a program in his native South Africa called MaAfrika Tikkun, which seeks to help children in AIDS-ravaged families. "What is critical is to create structure, to create systems, to create ecosystems."

The panel was moderated by Emma Osong, a Maryland-based former engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration who now works as a consultant and actively promotes African development. She said she believes partnerships involving new-style NGOs are critical to Africa's future. "Investment opportunities remain on the continent," she noted, "but many are still cautious about investing."

The tenor of the discussion matched themes sounded by many who attended the Forum -- that the long-troubled continent is now in a new period of economic revival with gross national product on the rise and the world's fastest growth in cellular telephones. At the same time, huge problems persist, from AIDS to abject poverty to corrupt governments that interfere with aid efforts.

It's this vast downside of the African story that has lured new players to the region, such as the Gates Foundation, which has spent a major part of its funds in Africa, or the Ibrahim Foundation, which seeks to support and reward good government. Increasingly, the panelists noted, this new breed is finding the gaps between inadequate government programs and slow-moving, poorly targeted, traditional aid programs.

Indeed, many of the African programs that the panelists are involved with have an economic development component, some directly and some more indirectly. An example of the latter would be the MaAfrika Tikkun program, established in the 1990s as the rate of AIDS infection in South Africa was soaring. MaAfrika Tikkun takes in hundreds of children whose parents have died or been rendered helpless by AIDS, and offers them schooling and nutrition while also seeking to empower the surrounding community. According to Anderson, the program helps economic development in several ways, both by training children from the poorest families for a future in the South African workforce, and by sometimes making it possible for an infected parent to work as well.

"We're focusing on children from infancy to age 20, when they can get jobs," Anderson said. "It's a very exciting opportunity because we are terrified that a whole generation is going to be lost. We have had moderate success." The MaAfrika Tikkun effort is backed personally by South African leader Nelson Mandela as well as the government.

Mugabe stokes diplomatic war

From Institute for war and peace reporting:

President Robert Mugabe this week upped the stakes in his diplomatic war with the United States and Britain after he declared in a televised national address that only “friendly and objective members of the international community” would be invited to observe the country’s harmonised presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March next year.....

Mugabe also appeared to have been angered by remarks attributed to the new US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, that the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act limiting the US’s dealings with the southern African nation mainly to humanitarian assistance would not be scrapped even if Mugabe won “free and fair elections”.

McGee said last week, “United States policy on Zimbabwe is not about free and fair elections alone. That is only one of the principles outlined in the law. There is a need to address all the principles before the law can be repealed, such as human rights and the restoration of the rule of law.”

In what analysts said was a rebuke of the US ambassador, Mugabe this week said as Zimbabwe heads towards harmonised elections in 2008 “let the message ring clearly to our detractors that as a sovereign nation we will not brook any interference in our domestic affairs. We will hold our elections guided by our constitution and laws as we have always done”.

He added, “As is our tradition, we will invite friendly nations and objective members of the international community to observe the elections. Those of our people who wish to go about campaigning should do so in atmosphere of peace and shun activities that may leave behind a bitter aftertaste. Government has at its disposal the means to deal firmly with anyone seeking to engage in acts of violence.”

A political analyst in Harare said it was difficult to trust Mugabe, given the electoral violence that characterised past elections. But he added that those calling for free and fair elections were opening themselves up to attacks of hypocrisy in raising issues that are not raised in other countries in the region where the electoral process is overtly flawed and violence is endemic, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo....

Corruption fuels hunger in Zim

From the LATimes

....As the government of President Robert Mugabe proclaims plans for the "Mother of All Harvests" this planting season, many rural Zimbabweans are teetering on the edge of starvation.

And a new hunger crisis threatens. Despite predictions of a good rain for planting after last year's severe drought and failed harvest, Zimbabwe's economic chaos has left the country with an acute shortage of seeds.

Just a few years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of southern Africa, exporting grain to its less blessed neighbors. But in 2000, Mugabe began seizing thousands of mainly white-owned commercial farms and dismantling the inequitable pattern of ownership established under the racist government of Ian Smith.

Cronyism suspected

Some analysts, however, argue that the real motive behind the land redistribution was to share the spoils of power with Mugabe's cronies and liberation war veterans in return for their continued loyalty. Government ministers, security officials and ruling party allies grabbed the land and ran the farms into the ground. The nation's richest export industry collapsed almost overnight.

The national harvest plummeted. Production of maize fell by 74% from 1999 to 2004, according to the Washington-based independent Center for Global Development, while in neighboring Zambia it increased.

Now, about a third of Zimbabwe's population depends on humanitarian food aid.

Just as the government plays favorites in awarding farms, it plays favorites when distributing food. For hungry village people, the threat of starvation is terrifying.

With the presidential election due next year, there are reports from rural areas that the state-run Grain Marketing Board, which has a monopoly on the distribution of maize, is selling only to ruling party supporters or siphoning it to party officials, police and bureaucrats who resell it on the black market at inflated prices.

But the biggest problem, according to human rights organizations monitoring hunger, is that the grain board is distributing very little maize at all in many rural areas.

"We have had a lot of stories about political abuse of food," said Shari Eppel, a human rights activist in the southern city of Bulawayo. "But I think one of the biggest problems around food at the moment is that there isn't any. Even if you have got money, there isn't any to buy, and yet this is a very hungry time of year."....

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Students arrested for wearing tee shirt

SWRadio Africa reports:

Police in Kwekwe on Sunday arrested and severely assaulted five student leaders for wearing T-shirts with a portrait of the late MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe.

Mehluli Dube, Laswet Savadye, Whitlow Mugwiji, Stephen Chisungo and Gordon Mukarakati were arrested at a police roadblock while travelling from a Zimbabwe National Students Unions (ZINASU) leadership-training workshop in Bulawayo. Police accused them of inciting public disorder by wearing Jongwe’s T-shirts and detained them overnight at Kwekwe Central Police Station. They were later released without charge on Monday morning.

Dube, who has pending treason charges against him, for allegedly calling for the overthrow of Robert Mugabe, sustained a fractured tooth. He said fellow student leaders Mukarati and Savadye, incurred bruises and lacerations all over their bodies from the beatings....

Comrad Fatso writes:

From Comrad Fatso's blog:

Empty shelves, 'millions' marching. It must be the festive season. But the only millions that march in Zimbabwe are the many zeroes that militarily parade from your pocket to the till on a daily basis. And the only thing that this season will be doing is festering.


Sometimes the word is the best weapon against silence and suffering. We have been word hustlers, makorokoza emashoko. Taking the word to the many corners of Southern Africa. Just over a month ago I was spitting poetic fire at the Poetry Africa Festival, Durban. From there we carried the word in a car as we stubbornly drove it one thousand kilometres from Gaborone to Harare. We presented our word to our our Batswana word warriors at the Infinite Word Festival where I spat words of murambatsvina-resilience-worm sellers-structural adjustment. And Josh, Zimbabwe's beautiful bass player, coated the word in a web of bass strings. Our spoken word-bass duet incited the crowd of 500. The word had been spat and understood. It was an unashamed kwerekwere word, barefoot and illegal. But it was truth.

We then rushed the word through borders and roadblocks so that it could be re-born in Harare's Book Cafe at the launch of MAGAMBA! our new network of spoken word activists and creative rebels. A movement of Zimbabwean artists that organises the most cutting-edge spoken word performances. Where the word is rebellious and free. MAGAMBA! 'Our Word Is Our Weapon'

The word rested. There was a power cut. And an attempt at a rain storm. It didn't work though as most of the prospective rain drops were in a ZINWA queue to pay their water bills after their water was disconnected.

The word woke up. To a breakfast of bread memories and long life milk that had lived long before and only left a good-looking box. Now we carry the word to South Africa where MAGAMBA! is organising MAKE SOME NOISE! A festival for freedom in Zimbabwe. Then the word boards a train for Cape Town and will let loose on Long Street. In a bar. Where it's noisy. And all you can hear is the word.

See for gig details

Writers criticize EU on Portugal summit

SWRadioAfrica reports:

Controversy surrounding the European Union/Africa summit that opens in Lisbon later this week has received more headlines, after a group of influential writers criticised European and African leaders for not including Zimbabwe and Darfur on the agenda. Calling it "political cowardice" writers including Wole Soyinka, Vaclav Havel and Nadine Gordimer issued an open letter saying they expected the crises in Zimbabwe and Sudan’s Darfur region to top the summit agenda....

The letter said in part: "What can we say of this political cowardice? We expect our leaders to lead, and lead with moral courage. When they fail to do so they leave all of us morally impoverished. The EU-Africa summit presents an opportunity to address the biggest issues affecting our people. However our leaders - by putting their own desire to avoid a confrontation ahead of the suffering of millions - are squandering this opportunity and doing us all a disservice”, the writers said.
Pascal Richard from Zimbabwe Watch, a collection of Dutch non- governmental organizations dealing with Zimbabwe, said the letter is being circulated to all Heads of State attending the summit and was published Tuesday in European and African newspapers. He explained that the writers were selected because they were not just creative minds, but people who also had moral weight./.....

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pass the fertilizer please

NYTimes notices Malawi's success in growing food.....

It's the fertilizer subsidies.

Malawi’s leaders have long favored fertilizer subsidies, but they reluctantly acceded to donor prescriptions, often shaped by foreign-aid fashions in Washington, that featured a faith in private markets and an antipathy to government intervention.

In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, the World Bank pushed Malawi to eliminate fertilizer subsidies entirely. Its theory both times was that Malawi’s farmers should shift to growing cash crops for export and use the foreign exchange earnings to import food, according to Jane Harrigan, an economist at the University of London....

Here in Malawi, deep fertilizer subsidies and lesser ones for seed, abetted by good rains, helped farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007, according to government crop estimates. Corn production leapt to 2.7 million metric tons in 2006 and 3.4 million in 2007 from 1.2 million in 2005, the government reported.

“The rest of the world is fed because of the use of good seed and inorganic fertilizer, full stop,” said Stephen Carr, who has lived in Malawi since 1989, when he retired as the World Bank’s principal agriculturalist in sub-Saharan Africa. “This technology has not been used in most of Africa. The only way you can help farmers gain access to it is to give it away free or subsidize it heavily.”

Torture is Mugabe's Election weapon

From the UKTelegraph:

Some of the worst alleged abuses by police have been carried out upon members of the civil protest group Woman of Zimbabwe Arise, most of whom are ordinary mothers. Of 397 members interviewed in a recent survey, 40 per cent said they had been tortured by police, and 26 per cent needed medical treatment for their injuries.

One activist, Angela Nkomo, revealed how she was taken to Fairbridge after taking part in a demonstration in Bulawayo early this year.

"We were forced to strip naked and lie on our stomachs before dozens of Black Boots beat us with baton sticks and leather belts," she said. "After that we were interviewed individually in a room full of male policemen while we were naked." Another member, Clarah Makoni, 19, broke down in tears as she recalled how she was forced to run through what she described as an obstacle course of electric wires. "The torture continued for hours," she said. "I was whipped while lying on my stomach. They then put me in a room full of ice."

According to the latest monthly report on political violence produced by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, during the first nine months of this year there were 776 cases of assault and 526 cases of torture - almost twice as many as over the same period last year.

Tendai Chabvuta, head of the forum's research unit, linked the increase in torture to the forthcoming congress of Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party next month. It is expected to ratify Mr Mugabe as its presidential candidate for elections due in March.

"It's quite clear that 2007 is the worst year for human rights in terms of politically motivated violence against opposition forces and human rights activists," said Mr Chabvuta....

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Horrors of Zimbabwe

From the UKTimes:

The horror of a stricken nation waiting to die

As the people of Zimbabwe are ground down by poverty and brutality, Robert Mugabe is offered a welcome at the international table

See Martin Fletcher revisiting a young Zimbabwean Aids victim

We knew Sarudzai Gumbo was still sick, but nothing prepared us for what we found. The seven-year-old was lying alone and neglected in a dirty sideroom in a Harare hospital.

Her head was a mass of septic wounds. Two large cancers were devouring the right side of her face. She had lost the sight of one eye and the other was gummed up. A filthy, blood-stained hat concealed untold horrors on her scalp – she screamed with pain when we tried to remove it. Flies hovered around her lesions. The stench of her putrefying flesh was overpowering. She weighed only 36lb (16.3kg).

The Times highlighted Sarudzai’s plight in March after discovering her in Mbare, a Harare slum. Her family was living on wasteland because its home had been destroyed by President Mugabe’s Operation Murambatsvina (“Clean Up Trash”). Her parents’ livelihoods had been ruined by the regime’s ban on street vendors. They both had Aids, as did Sarudzai, whose face was disfigured by open sores.

Readers sent in £7,500 to try to help her – funds forwarded to the Jesuit mission in Mbare – and Sarudzai was sent to an Aids clinic. But her mother died in April and her father took her away to the ancestral village and – fatally – interrupted her treatment. Sarudzai was transferred to Parirenyatwa Hospital just as Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was imploding.

As with every other hospital, the doctors and nurses who were there have left in droves for better-paid jobs abroad, their salaries at home rendered almost worthless by hyperinflation. There are no anaesthetics, drips, painkillers, antiretroviral drugs, blood for transfusions or even bandages. This is a shell of a hospital – a place where patients are left to die.

Sarudzai, whose father is also close to death, is a lovely, brave, affectionate girl. She never cries. She claps her hands when given something, waves when you leave. We brought two teddy bears that she instantly named Rudzai and Rudo – Shona for “Praise” and “Love”. Her condition was heartbreaking. We had her examined by a private doctor, who said it was the most shocking case he had seen. Within hours she was admitted to a private hospital. She has now been adopted by Kidzcan, a charity that helps Zimbabwean children with cancer, but her chances of survival are slim....

Read it and weep...

Senegal's pres things Mugabe is loved

From AFP:

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is solidly in power and the world is misled on the crisis prevailing in the country, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal has said after a two-day visit to Harare.

"We are misled on (the situation in) Zimbabwe," he said on state television Thursday night on his return from Zimbabwe....Zimbabwe was doing well and led by Mugabe with the support of the rural population, Waded was quoted as saying, even if the country was going through "difficulties, like us (in Senegal), perhaps more".

Zim's 2008 budget

from all Africa

by Tendai Biti

THE mediocre budget proposals for 2008 presented yesterday by Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi is an economic fiction that reflects the disconnection, denial and the sense of abstraction of the Zanu PF regime.

At all material times over the years, we have always argued that the regime is trapped in a matrix of denial and has no depth of the nature and extent of the Zimbabwean crisis.

The suggestion by the totally talentless Mumbengegwi that the Zimbabwean economy will grow by 4% in 2008 and that year-end inflation in the same year will be down to 1 978% underpins the psychiatric disconnect....

No wonder, in real terms, 70% of the budget is devoted to the army, the police, militias and patronage in the form of high allocation to the women and the youth.

Thus, under a vote item innocuously headed Special Services in the vote for the President and Cabinet, $87, 9 trillion has been allocated to the Central Intelligence Organisation.

The Ministry of Defence got a staggering $374,3 trillion while the ministry of Home Affairs got $339,6 trillion.

But the real slush fund is found hidden as an unallocated reserve under the Ministry of Finance's allocation in the form of a staggering $277,9 trillion.

Further, a large part of the patronage funds are found hidden in various vote allocations to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

The attempt to label this budget a "people's budget" is as hollow as it is unoriginal. For all practical purposes, this budget is arguably the most anti-people budget since independence. We say so for a number of reasons, both structural and normative....

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