June 2005
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30    

Recent Entries

free hit counter

RSS Feeds

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0

January 31, 2005

Another Fiendish American Plot

Americans have been discovered trying to feed the hungry--an obvious ploy by the arrogant superpower to destabilize a local government by keeping its citizens alive.

Or something like that.

The Zimbabwe government has angrily denied reports that half the population will need food aid this year.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said the report was part of western plans to destabilise Zimbabwe ahead of elections due in March, state media reported.

A US-funded food monitoring body said last week that almost six million Zimbabweans would need food aid before the next harvest.

Bad, America! Bad! Bad!

July 13, 2004


Firstly, my apologies for leaving this site alone for the last month or so. It's been tremendously busy in my personal and professional life. I intend to get back to a two to three updates per week on the site--and more if I have any help in the form of either submissions or suggestions.

For today, though, it's oddly uncomfortable to realize that some things in the world just don't seem to change much no longer how long you spend away from them. Zimbabwe's slow slide into self-destruction, for example.

Most of a Beeb article on the introduction of state-sponsored ox-drawn ambulances in the more rural regions of the country is just sort of funny. The note at the end of the article on infant mortality somehow ruins the mood.

Maternal mortality has increased from 283 per 100,000 live births in 1994 to 695 per 100,000 births in 1999.

"The gains made over the last 20 years to address maternal mortality, especially to provide emergency obstetric care services, are at risk of being lost," said Dr Juan Ortiz, Chief of the Health, Nutrition and Environment Section at Unicef.

"We know that most of the complications related to childbirth are preventable if obstetric services are available, especially in remote areas," he said.

Zimbabwe may not quickly be returning to the "stone age," as some opposition leaders suggest, but it is certainly grinding its remaining vestiges of a developing nation down to near-nothing.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2004

Regarding Mugabe

Brian, at Black Star Journal, has much more to say about the man. Anyone who been watching the car wreck that is Mugabe's recent politcal and diplomatic moves will find themselves nodding in agreement.

Posted by zombyboy at 03:39 PM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2004

Is Mugabe Growing Senile?

I'm not asking that question in a completely rhetorical manner? Mugabe, who started his political career as the embodiment of the international community's hope for a new model of African leader--a man who would help lead his nation away from its racist roots and to a prosperous reconciliation where blacks were an equal and respected part of the political systems. He was the moderate who was polite and kind and willing to listen.

Frankly, I never liked him. He's an unrepentant socialist, and, from the beginning, it was clear that he would end up practicing the nasty forms of racism typical to the region--both tribalism and targeted anti-white discrimination that would cost the nation dearly.

But, for so long, his worst behavior was always tempered by his PR acumen. Over the last few years, his PR skills have been nowhere near enough to compensate for his increasingly heavy hand. I had credited that to his true colors simply seeping out for all to see; not that he was so much getting worse, but that his transgressions had become so common that they were harder to hide.

What he said about Desmond Tutu, though, makes me wonder if Mugabe is slipping a few cogs here and there.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, clearly chafing at criticism over his regime's human rights and democratic abuses, has hit out at South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In an interview broadcast on Monday, Mugabe dismissed the Nobel peace laureate, saying: "He is an angry, evil and embittered little bishop".

Between insulting one of South Africa's most respected figures and his insistence that his country won't need food aid, I began to wonder just what world Mugabe is living in, because it bears little resemblance to the real world.

He continues to hint, as the article notes, that he will retire after his current term in office. Is he now working hard to do the most possible damage before he leaves the public eye? Is he working to make sure that he leaves behind a legacy of racial hatred, starving families, and a ruined economy?

The man who was once Zimbabwe's hope became her tormentor. Now he seems focused on tearing away the last shreds of Zimbabwe's future.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:01 PM | Comments (2)

May 13, 2004

Hunger as a Weapon

Mugabe is looking to refuse international food aid, saying that his country's crops will be more than enough to feed his nation through the coming year. This is one Bishop's response:

Archbishop Pius Ncube told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "There's so much land lying fallow, some of the best farms are not even cultivated."

He said the government had failed to distribute seed and fertiliser, and that the rains had come two months late in some parts.

"So I fear - for instance in western Zimbabwe - many people will have enough food for three or four months, after which they will need food aid."

Pinching off food distribution is a wonderful way to control the citizens of a hungry nation, and an even better way to strip power from any opposition political powers.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:20 PM | Comments (2)

May 07, 2004

Knuckling Under (Updated)

The Zimbabwe school "crisis" ended when the schools were bullied into allowing the government to, essentially, set their fees. I don't blame the schools for knuckling under--what other course of action was open to them after the government started arresting teachers?

It really just plays as another act in the tragicomedy that is Zimbabwe.

The schools have "seen the wisdom of seeking an accommodation with the government in order to allow them to re-open," the minister said.

Private schools must seek permission to increase fees by more than 10%. Annual inflation is currently more than 580%.

Mr Chigwedere had accused the schools of massively increasing fees to keep out black pupils.

"We are dealing with racist schools. They are all former white schools, all racist."

Schools have seen the wisdom of seeking an accommodation with the government in order to allow them to re-open

The South African Press Agency reports that most of those who attend the private schools are now black.

Well, there is some bit of equity in this. I mean, if the government can destroy the public schools, why shouldn't they be able to destroy the private ones as well?

Read the story.

Update: I came across the Beeb article that addresses the decline of schooling in Zimbabwe.

By the 1990s, Zimbabwe had the highest literacy rates in Africa and it remains high at 89% of the adult population.

But the economic crisis, compounded by the HIV/Aids pandemic, means that school enrolment has fallen to 59%.

Education is one of those things that ripples throughout an entire society. AIDs and HIV rates fall in those countries with better eduction, economic outlook usually improves for countries with higher literacy rates (literacy being a good indicator of a broader look at education). A low school enrollment rate--especially in a country that was, just fifteen years ago, used to a much higher enrolment rate--combined with no plan for rectifying the situation is simply a plan for failure.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Scary Headmasters

In a follow up to my last Zim post, the schools are no longer just being closed, but some of the teachers are being arrested.

Police in Zimbabwe have detained several head teachers after the recent closure of 45 private schools.

The teachers were arrested during overnight raids across the country, including in the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo.

Police were deployed to the schools on Tuesday to prevent them re-opening for the new term in a row over fee hikes.

Predictably, Mugabe's government is blaming the arrests, the closures, and the demands for lowered fees on racism. And, again, instead of solving the problems in the public schools and the economy, Mugabe is simply finding the most convenient scapegoat possible.

It's far easier to continue to work at fragmenting the country than it is to actually fix any of its problems.

Read the rest.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:13 PM | Comments (1)

May 04, 2004

More Mugabe

Robert Mugabe continues to work to consolidate the government's position as the head of all legal activity in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government on Tuesday closed most private schools after ordering them to slash their fees, in a move that stopped about 30 000 children attending school on the first day of the new term.

Outside the Christian Gateway junior school, parents stared on Tuesday at a sign reading: "School closed until further notice."

A police officer was on guard and the nearby high school refused teachers and staff entry until the headmaster produced a letter from a senior police officer authorising their entry.

It's classist politics designed to divert attention from the real problems: Zimbabwe's schools and economy. Once again, I find a story that would probably be funny if it weren't so tragically typical.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

The Paranoid Dictator

Dictators tend toward the paranoid (which is both understandable and a bit of an understatement), and Robert Mugabe is no exception. His growing fear of opposition media within Zimbabwe and his long-standing animosity toward media outside the country are well documented.

Because, you know, cricket is a highly guarded state secret.

President Robert Mugabe's government said a British television crew ignored media law requirements and illegally entered Zimbabwe this week to cover cricket matches.

A statement quoted by state media Friday said a Sky television news crew had flown into Zimbabwe without following accreditation procedures.

Robert Mugabe: Keeping third world dictatorships fun for the whole family.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:31 AM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2004

Finding Blame for Mugabe

A while back, there was a comment left here that had kind words for Robert Mugabe and his land redistribution efforts. The truth about Robert Mugabe, though, is that he is a typical tyrant who uses land redistribution for political gain and hunger as a tool of oppression.

The two sisters, aged 32 and 34, should have been the first generation of black Zimbabweans to benefit from Robert Mugabe's rule as the first democratically elected leader of the nation. When the liberation hero turned dictator and engineered a famine, however, Agnes and thousands of others joined a long list of the regime's victims. Sipho is one of thousands more who hover on the brink.

Food shortages have pushed Zimbabwean prices to unaffordable levels. A loaf of bread in Bulawayo costs 2,500 Zimbabwe dollars, the equivalent of 30p, but also the same as the average monthly pension. As a result, an estimated 5.5 million Zimbabweans depend on food aid.

Even for a person who agrees completely with the land redistribution efforts has to admit to the complete and utter corruption and mismanagement in Mugabe's government. The effect that his policies have had on the nation are to totally ruin an economy and create a nation of starving paupers.


Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 07:40 PM | Comments (4)

March 31, 2004

How Low Can it Go?

I saw the headline--"Zimbabe's economy hits new lows"--and wondered just how much lower its economy could possibly go.

Zimbabwe's economic output has fallen by a third in the past five years, the International Monetary Fund has found.

An IMF expert panel has also found that poverty doubled during the period and school enrolment fell to 65%.

The panel also found that inflation has doubled during each of the last three years to reach 600%, while unemployment stands at about 70%.

And we all know that it hasn't truly reached rock bottom yet.


Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

Spreading the Disease

I've been asked why I believe that Zimbabwe's problems are also the problems of her neighbors--or, specifically, why should the neighbors try to help solve the problems when they already have problems of their own.

I think this answers that question.

Zimbabwe's crisis is affecting all of southern Africa, and neighbouring Botswana is on the frontline.

Botswana has a small population- less than 2 million - and it is a tightly-knit, conservative society.

Now it is feeling overwhelmed by the influx of Zimbabweans.

"There are now more Zimbabweans in Botswana than there are Botswanans", one government official told me.

She is wrong, of course, but the sentiment that Botswana is being swamped is a common one.

The problem will only grow as the government in Zimbabwe edges closer to economic and political collapse. The flood of people looking for food, work, and shelter will be overwhelming to the countries around Zimbabwe. If the situation does grow into an open civil war (not, by any means, an impossibility), then the fighting will accelerate the exodus, and the war will likely spill over borders.

Zimbabwe's collapse won't happen in isolation. It will have an effect on all of Southern Africa.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Seized American Plane

The unfolding news story of Zimbabwe's seizure of an American cargo plane is sweeping through all the news feeds. Unfortunately, details are severely lacking.

A US-registered cargo plane with 64 suspected mercenaries on board has been impounded in Harare, Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi has said.

The Boeing 727-100 was held on Sunday after it had "made a false declaration of its cargo and crew," Mr Mohadi said.

He said the plane was carrying mercenaries of differing nationalities and "military materiel".

I'll update when more facts are available.

Read the story on BBC.

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the US State Department is denying any knowledge of the plane and cannot answer whether any Americans are being held. The Pentagon is similarly denying any knowledge or connection.

The company that the plane is registered to, Dodson Aviation, claims that the plane was sold "about a week ago to an African company called Logo Ltd."

If the plane did actually contain mercenaries and military equipment, then the question as to who was backing them is still completely open. The likelihood that the US government would back 64 mercenaries in overthrowing Mugabe is tremendously slim, though.

President Bush has spent a lot of time building a rapport with South African President Thabo Mbeki, and in supporting Mbeki's "soft diplomacy" strategy for dealing with Mugabe. As wrong-headed as I think this approach is, it would be unlikely for Bush to make a move like this that would damage his relations with Mbeki.

Another consideration is that it was Rhodesian nationals looking to capitalize on all of the current problems in Zimbabwe and regain political control. I doubt this is the case, but it makes far more sense than a US backed attempt.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:50 AM | Comments (4)

February 27, 2004

It Passes as Humor

On the same day that I read this:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under fire at home and abroad for his intimidation of domestic opponents, was feted as a "warrior of freedom" on Thursday by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

The 80-year-old African leader, who is barred from traveling to the European Union by EU sanctions, was warmly received by left-winger Chavez after he arrived in Caracas to attend a two-day summit of developing nations.

I also read this:

”We are the only country in the world not at war whose economy is shrinking at an alarming rate. Inflation is running at 620 percent. Eighty percent of our people live in poverty,” says Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Gibson Sibanda, Deputy President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) adds that 70 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed. ”The manufacturing sector has shrunk by 40 percent...The situation is very grim,” he told IPS.

Sibanda, along with his colleagues, is in South Africa to draw attention to the plight of Zimbabwe. They are, yet again, calling for pressure to be brought on the government of President Robert Mugabe, which has presided over a political and economic crisis in the country. Since the start of 2000, the country has witnessed two elections that were dogged by violence and allegations of vote rigging.

Of course, Chavez's statement that Mugabe "always will be a true warrior of freedom" was interpreted incorrectly. What he really said was that Mugabe "always will be a hero of despots and tyrants everywhere, a beacon to those who would hold onto their power through ruthless exploitation of their people, their lands, and the continuation of racist tribal policies designed to shatter unity in the nation for the betterment of the dictator."

Of course, I'm not a very good interpreter. Your milage may vary.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:44 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2004

All Things Zimbabwe

I was just sent a link to a site that carries Zimbabwe-related stories. I'll be adding it to the blog roll, but I wanted to point it out to everyone.

Check it out.

(Thanks to Babak Fakhamzadeh.)

Posted by zombyboy at 12:54 PM | Comments (3)

January 20, 2004

Drop in Inflation?

Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office is reporting a 21% drop in the annual rate of inflation.

Of course, this likely proves that one of the accountants from Enron has found new employment.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004

Financial Scandals

As Zimbabwe's financial problems grow, those entrusted with its financial institutions have turned to using deposited funds for their own needs.

Late last year, the First National Building Society was closed after its chief executive, Samson Ruturi, allegedly used ZIM$1-billion in depositors funds to settle his private debts.

Police Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Mutamba has confirmed the arrest of ENG [Asset Management Company--a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe] directors Nyasha Watyoka, 28, and Gilbert Muponda, 30, at their offices at the weekend after their failure to account for the disappearance of more than Z$80-billion of depositors funds.

He told journalists in Harare that police were still hunting other company directors.

The ENG directors had established a reputation for living the high life in Zimbabwe despite its debilitating economic crisis.

And this, while a good portion of the country isn't able to feed itself.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2004

A Closer View of Zimbabwe

I just discovered Mukiwa's site (as he left a comment here yesterday) and will be reading it regularly. In reference to my comment about the rate of inflation in Zimbabwe, he noted that the real rate is something more like 1100%--and on his site, he writes this:

In 1980 when Mugabe took power, the Zimbabwe dollar was trading at 60 cents to the pound, the equivalent relationship shared with the US$ and £ today and ten years later marginally less than Z$5 would secure the same. In 1997, prior to the
commencement of my degree in the UK, Z$18 would buy a pound. Today, Z$10,850 will purchase one pound on the black market and the government defiantly refuses to devalue the dollar which is pegged at Z$1300 to the British currency. The net effect of the worthlessness of the money is a shortage of bank notes. The highest denomination note used to be the Z$100 bill which has now been followed by the Z$500 and Z$1000 in quick succession. Inflation has fast surpassed their value and availability which in turn have given rise to bearer cheques in values up to Z$20,000 – a tangible admission that the government’s monetary policy has failed spectacularly. I recall my early days of high school
when a bottle of Coca Cola would cost Z$1 and you’d receive a 50c deposit on the bottle. The same bottle of Coke now costs in the region of Z$2000, a typical scenario played out across all tiers of the economy.

The rest of the post is just as informative, and, in many ways, just as bleak.

Definitely worth a visit and a place on the blogroll.

Read the rest of the post.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2003

Zimbabwe Crisis Continues to Grow

The cattle of Zimbabwe used to provide food not only for the nation, but for the entire region. Now, with was is, essentially, the complete collapse of the economy and the dire need for food aid, the cattle are dwindling.

Zimbabwe's commercial beef cattle herd, which until three-and-a-half years ago earned more than R14-billion annually from exports, is on the verge of extinction as a result of the country's political upheavals.

The national herd, bred over a period of 110 years for survival in Zimbabwe's harsh conditions, stood at 1,4 million animals in 2000 when President Robert Mugabe launched his farm invasion strategy.
The looming disappearance of one of Zimbabwe's most valuable assets is the most dramatic illustration yet of the meltdown that is occurring in a country with the world's highest inflation rate (620 percent) and the fastest-declining economy.

That estimate of 620% inflation is suspect as it is Zimbabwe's government's internal estimation. The real rate, according to observers, is already likely over 700%. While the economic issues have become frighteningly large over the last few years, the fact is that this is an economic implosion that is the result of decades of poor policy, cronyism, and mismanagement. That the complete collapse of the nation has accelerated over these last few years, though, is terrifying.

It isn't too hard to imagine Mugabe facing armed resistance by the end of next year. His opponents will be both Ndebele activists (who have grown tired of seeing all of Zimbabwe's real power in Shona hands) and those who, regardless of tribal affiliation, have grown weary of sham elections, corruption, and a defiant leader who continues hoard power and the nation's dwindling wealth.

Whatever level of (or lack of) assistance or intervention you believe should be coming from international sources, there should be no surprise when Zimbabwe completely fails in the near future.

Frankly, this could be very similar to watching a car wreck: we see the reasons, we see the direction, and we even have a fairly clear idea of what might result from the crash. We also may have already passed any point where stopping that wreck is even possible. I still believe, as I have explained elsewhere, that the US, the UN, and South Africa should be taking action to avert the coming disaster. I also believe that we are very near that point where no assistance can stop Zimbabwe's collapse; soon, all that will be left to do is watch, try to minimize the damage, and wait for an opportunity to help begin the rebuilding process.

Read about the dwindling Zimbabwe cattle.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:28 AM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2003

Zimbabwe Quits Commonwealth (Updated)

Mugabe seems to be moving Zimbabwe further toward isolation from the international community. While the IMF is moving to expel Zimbabwe from the organization, Mugabe has refused to take steps to fix the economic issues that are quickly pulling the country to a complete collapse. Likewise, with the Commonwealth extending a suspension on Zimbabwe, as a Reuters report notes, "on grounds that President Robert Mugabe rigged his re-election and persecuted his opponents," Mugabe is refusing to take steps to liberalize and legitimize his rule. Instead, he's claiming racism within the Commonwealth and withdrawing Zimbabwe from the ranks of the organization.

Amid sharp divisions at a four-day Commonwealth summit, the organisation decided to extend Zimbabwe's suspension but opened the way for a possible return if Harare engaged in reconciliation with the political opposition.

This continued move from Mugabe to isolate Zimbabwe not only damages his reputation, but means a loss of aid that might have saved lives and helped rebuild the country's economy. Instead, Mugabe seems to be taking steps that almost guaranty a complete economic collapse and make a civil war even more likely.

From my childhood, I remember Rhodesia as a shining, beautiful country. I remember how beautiful and ideal it seemed. Of course, that memory is filtered by the years and by a child's understanding; even then there was political turmoil and racial inequity that I wasn't equipped to understand. Still, after independence, Zimbabwe could have been something special.

It was always my dream to be able to go back one day and find a place in that country. Watching the nation slipping into a self-destruction that likely cannot be healed within my lifetime is like watching a dream die.


Read about Zimbabwe's exit from the Commonwealth.
Read about Zimbabwe's potential expulsion from the IMF.

Updated: Mostly Africa has a nice roundup of thoughts on the subject well worth reading.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:56 AM | Comments (2)

December 03, 2003

Infecting Her Neighbors

African nations ignore the plight of their neighbors at their own peril. This is precisely why the health of Zimbabwe matters not only to her own citizens.

Botswana's police chief has broken ranks with the government by blaming hordes of illegal border-crossers from Zimbabwe for a sharp increase in crime, a daily reported today.

"The influx of illegal immigrants into Botswana, most especially the Zimbabweans, is a serious problem impacting negatively on the crime scene and undermines crime prevention efforts," police commissioner Norman Moleboge told the Botswana Gazette.

"Zimbabweans have now become a formidable burden to the police service," he said.

If a civil war breaks out, neighboring nations can count on two things: more citizens fleeing Zimbabwe and rebel forces launching attacks from camps beyond Zimbabwe's borders.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

Why Zimbabwe?

I've been saying for a while that armed rebellion is just around the corner for Zimbabwe--and it could be as bloody a civil war as the region has seen. It seems that the ruling Zanu-PF party is starting to hear the grumbling, too. The harder Mugabe pushes the people, the more likely is rebellion; the more South Africa and the West ignore the problem, the more likely is rebellion.

"If Mugabe refuses to go, the ZFM [Zimbabwe Freedom Movement] will remove him and his cronies by force," reads a statement signed by national commander Charles Black Mamba and deputy national commanders Ntuthuko Fezela and Daniel Ingwe.

Mr Tatchell said the ZFM was being formed because "all opportunities and possibilities for peaceful democratic change have been closed down".

There is likely still a window of opportunity for Mugabe to enact reforms, and there is certainly a window for South African leadership and the UN to pressure Mugabe to do so. A civil war will most certainly lay waste to a nation that has already been devastated by disastrous economic policy, drought, and its own suicidal farm policies.

Of course, a civil war might also lead to freedom from the regime that brought on all those bad policies and rules through increasingly illegitimate means.

There is a reasonable question to be asked about focusing on Zimbabwe while other countries are so desperately in need. My answer to that is that, given attention and effort now, Zimbabwe may not need to turn into another Congo. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" may simply be a cliche, but there is quite a bit of truth to the words.

The cost of allowing Zimbabwe to slip into a civil war are the money that will be spent by humanitarian aid groups who will shoulder the majority of the cost of feeding and caring for the citizens of the nation. The cost will be in lives and blood. The cost could be the creation of another haven for international terrorism in a destitute country.

These are high costs on both pragmatic and moral levels.

Read the rest of the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:44 AM | Comments (11)

November 05, 2003

Do You Enjoy Your Freedom?

During a small protest in Pretoria, the question a protester asked of South African President Mbeki was quite simple, according to the independent news outlet, IOL.

"Mr Mbeki, Sir, do you enjoy your freedom? If so, please help us to get ours too."

The protest was aimed at applying pressure to the South African government to do more to help oust Robert Mugabe from power in neighboring Zimbabwe. Despite Mbeki's assurances to President Bush, the soft diplomatic approach championed by South Africa hasn't resulted in anything resembling reforms or real talks about reform in Zimbabwe.

Instead, the situation grows steadily towards a government collapse and possible civil war as more than 2 million people will need to be fed by international aid this year.

Yes, Mr. Mbeki, what will you do to help the people of Zimbabwe find freedom from Robert Mugabe?

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

Dissent: Starve

There's more evidence that Robert Mugabe is using food as a weapon in Zimbabwe. Where as earlier articles discussed food for political support (see this post), this article points to the more frightening potential of forced starvation for dissidents, opponents, and those for whom food aid would be seen as politically dangerous:

The New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, has accused the Zimbabwean government of denying its opponents access to food supplies.

In a report entitled "The Politicisation of Food in Zimbabwe," the group says farmers recently resettled as part of President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution policy are among those affected.

Human Rights Watch says the Zimbabwean Government does not want to acknowledge that its highly controversial programme is a failure, and international relief agencies are complicit in preventing food from reaching the resettled farms.

The World Food Programme has denied the charge, saying it is still assessing the need in the resettled areas.

The repeated accusations of political bias in food distribution in Zimbabwe have hampered the UN's fund-raising efforts to tackle food shortages throughout southern Africa.

There's nothing particularly novel about a dictator using food as a weapon, and this development was predictable. The fact that we could see it coming, though, does nothing to make coming deaths any more palatable.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2003

Amazingly, it Gets Worse

Just when you thought Zimbabwe couldn't sink further without the outbreak of a bloody civil war, things get a little bit worse. Zimbabwe's state-controlled oil company doesn't have fuel to distribute to critical service providers (police, military, health care) much less to distribute to individuals.

Relatives of some sick Zimbabweans had been asked to provide their own fuel for the journey to hospital, according to The Herald.

"A medical officer at the Beitbridge Rural District Hospital confirmed having asked some relatives of sick people to refuel ambulances for their sick to be ferried to referral centres in Gwanda or Bulawayo," the paper said.

The country's fuel shortage has worsened since a trade deal with its main supplier, Libya, collapsed in November 2002.

With currency worth near nothing, inflation wildly out of control, almost no remaining industry, a farm system that has left Zimbabwe as a perpetual welfare state, and political dissent being quashed more on an almost daily basis, this should have come as no surprise. It should also come as no surprise when the open rebelion comes, led by regional leaders who may be able to provide some level of social structure to replace the structures that will surely collapse in the coming months.

Of course, we in America have taken a rather apathetic stand on the subject; the papers barely discuss the nation, we aren't discussing Zimbabwe publicly, and the administration has deferred to South African leadership on the subject. Unfortunately, South Africa's soft-touch diplomacy is completely inadequate.

Count on the worst, and weep for what was once the most beautiful nation in southern Africa.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2003

Another Blow for Dissent in Zimbabwe

Offered without commentary:

The government stepped up its crackdown on dissent Monday, charging a senior opposition official with trying to overthrow President Robert Mugabe by encouraging a general strike.

Paul Themba-Nyathi, the spokesman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, could face 20 years in prison if convicted of violating the draconian Public Order and Security Act, which was passed last year despite international condemnation that it violated human rights.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2003

The Continuing Fall of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe continues to move aggressively against his opponents, trying to consolidate his position while the country falls further into economic and social disorder. The worrisome thought is that, if the opposition grows more bold, Zimbabwe could find itself quickly in the middle of another civil war. The more Mugabe pushes, the more likely it is that we will see a bloody war within the next few years.

Some 40 Zimbabwean union leaders and workers have been arrested, ahead of a planned protest march organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

The ZCTU said they wanted to demonstrate against the high level of inflation, increasing cost of living and of transport costs in the country, which is going through an economic crisis.

To say that the country is going through an economic crisis is more than a bit of an understatement. It is going through the kind of economic crash that usually presages the downfall of a government--it has no way to dig itself out and has become a nation living, essentially, on international welfare.

The unions were due to hold their national protest against high taxation, the rapidly increasing cost of living, and the price and shortage of fuel, amid a deep economic crisis in Zimbabwe, where inflation is officially around 425%.

Zimbabwe is ready to explode--and international aid that is funneled to Mugabe's cronies or used to control opposition ethnic parties is only making the potential fall more deadly in potential. The UN, in a complete opposition to its normal do-nothing attitude, needs to seriously consider stepping in.

The sovereignty of a nation is in question when it is ruled by a dictator who holds sham elections, especially when that nation threatens to destabilize its neighbors with conflict. Dictatorships are not legitimate governments, do not represent their citizenry, and are part of the cycle that continues to destroy the nations of Africa.

Typically, the UN acts only after a war has broken out, or a tragedy has unfolded. For the good of the people of Zimbabwe, for the good of the region, and in order to keep the country from becoming embroiled in a civil war, the UN needs to act now.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:56 AM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2003

Good News, But...

The Daily News, which is critical of President Robert Mugabe, was closed by the government last week for breaking a new, stringent press law.

The paper said the law was designed to stifle the press and initially refused to apply for accreditation.

However the owners later decided to register with the media commission and asked the High Court to allow the paper to continue publishing while its application was being considered.

In its ruling on Thursday, the High Court said police had no right "to prevent the applicant and its employees from gaining access to the premises of the applicant and carrying on its business".

The Zimbabwe High Court's ruling that backs the newspaper that had been closed will be seen as a good thing, but temper that warm feeling and wait to see what happens. Mugabe has ignored the court before (in specific when dealing with the farm re-distribution) and may do so again.

There is more political pressure right now on Mugabe than ever before; between his flailing economy, failed farms, a new Western attention, and a continuing food crisis, many are predicting that the current government will not survive. Mugabe's closing of the opposition newspaper was a typical move to consolidate power in a third world country.

Until the paper starts publishing again and does so consistently for months without harassment, the ruling is nothing but further ammunition against a corrupt regime. In itself, meaningless, but in a larger sense, it gives legitimacy to those who oppose Mugabe and the continued slide of Zimbabwe into chaos.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:17 AM | Comments (2)

September 15, 2003

Update on the Zimbabwe Newspaper Closure

The Daily News is filing to register and reopen.

However, getting the newspaper's offices reopened may not be straightforward, with the main state-run daily newspaper, the Herald, predicting possible problems ahead with the MIC.

"It's difficult to see how an outlaw that has been operating illegally can be registered," an unnamed lawyer was quoted as saying.

Daily News chief executive Sam Nkomo has been summoned to appear in court early this week and is expected to be charged.

Next time you hear someone who cries "censorship" whenever Wal Mart refuses to carry a CD or when a radio station decides to stop playing the Dixie Chicks, refer them to this as a true example (and a frightening example) of censorship.

One of the best tools in the arsenal of liberalization is to ensure that news gets through to the citizens of developing nations. News from Western sources can act as a powerful antidote to the news gathered from state run organizations.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 03:12 PM | Comments (2)

August 25, 2003

Food as a Weapon

According to the Mail & Guardian Online, Robert Mugabe may be beginning a campaign to use international food aid as a political tool.

The Zimbabwean government this week said that it would take control of the distribution of food aid, provoking suspicion that it will be channeled to supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF, to help secure their votes in the forthcoming local elections.

This isn't exactly a surprise, but it is an unfortunate development after Mugabe had been making very public overtures to opposition parties concerning power sharing and the future of his own presidency. What it shows is that Mugabe was not serious about those changes; that he was playing a PR game for the benefit of the West.

It has flatly denied using food aid as a political weapon, but the first-hand accounts of manipulation and intimidation are so numerous that no international agency, or the Zimbabwean public, believes that the government’s distribution is even-handed.

Earlier this month the government admitted that it would need food relief to continue, asking for 450 000 tonnes of grain between September 2003 and June 2004. The fact that Zimbabwe, formerly called “the bread basket of Southern Africa”, needs another year of aid is cited by many agricultural experts as proof that Mugabe’s land seizures have failed dismally and have left rural black Zimbabweans worse off.

In private, aid workers and diplomats reacted angrily to the government’s new rule, saying the restrictions would make them “accomplices” in starving the opposition.

If the UN and other Western sources allow this change in distribution (after such obvious manipulation last year when the government wasn't in charge of the food), then they will be complicit in the deaths that occur.

Food issues aside, what this further underscores is that the UN and the US need to be urging African leaders to take a more aggressive approach in forcing Mugabe into resignation or reform. The US in particular has taken a very soft approach in relation to Zimbabwe, allowing the South African President Thabo Mbeki's slow, diplomatic approach. The eyes of the world have turned to Zimbabwe, and the sense of success in Liberia creates an opportunity to adopt a much more interventionist philosophy if that intervention can garner material support from neighboring nations.

Now is not the time to be timid. Now is the time for a bold act of reconstruction that could serve as a template for other African intervention.

Read the story (free registration required).

Posted by zombyboy at 05:56 AM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2003

Zimbabwe: Signs of Desperation

President Robert Mugabe is making more moves that might be designed to do one of two things: win over international support in an attempt to jump-start foreign aid without making real changes to the system, or reach out to opposition parties in a real attempt to start changes that could salvage the country.

For the economy or for the nation's well-being, one of the worst things that Mugabe did was to destroy what had been a tremendously fruitful farm system. Between the seizure of most of the white owned farms and granting them to cronies who had no understanding of farming, and the long drought that made active farms far less efficient, Zimbabwe was pushed into a lasting famine in which its citizens are fed only by international charity.

Now that the economic system is on the edge of implosion, Mugabe is ordering political allies who grabbed up more than one farm during the seizures to rid themselves of all but one of their holdings. He's also promising to compensate white land owners whose farms were seized.

These are intriguing maneuvers, but deciphering the purpose behind the moves is difficult. Whether it is a real attempt to make changes or a cynical attempt to again put off international criticism of his poor policies is tough to say--and whether he'll actually follow through with his promises is an even more difficult question.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 03:44 AM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2003

A New Opportunity in Zimbabwe?

Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe attended President Mugabe's address to parliament yesterday, and the reaction couldn't be more mixed. Predictably, many are saying that the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) essentially gave in to Mugabe by ending their boycotts of the addresses--giving Mugabe another dose of legitimacy when they could be applying more pressure to what could be a crumbling regime. Others insist that the move is designed to bring the MDC closer to real talks with Mugabe concerning the economic climate of the country.

Count me among the latter.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of a crippling economic crisis. Not only has this year's inflation rate of 364% (predicted by some to go as high as 700% by the beginning of next year) destroyed bank savings and investment, but the continuation of disastrous farm policies continues to make feeding the citizens of the country a matter of international charitable donations.

Growing dissent has led to even more strong-arm tactics from Mugabe's government led the Lawyers Committed for Human Rights to release a statement that contained this little nugget:

The Lawyers Committee is concerned that the SADC communiqué fails to fully acknowledge the severity of the human rights crisis in Zimbabwe, and the obstacle that these systematic violations place in the way of any resolution of the political, humanitarian and economic crises that increasingly threaten the country and the surrounding region.

Looking at the situation, what's most amazing is that Mugabe has survived these decades without being overthrown. But keep in mind that Liberia lasted for some 133 years under the same essential governmental system before their first coup--and from there the situation deteriorated to what we see today.

As much as everyone would like to see Mugabe gone, a revolution right now that toppled the government would lead to another unstable government in Africa. It would lead to a government incapable of meeting its people's needs and ripe for the same sort of thugocracy that Mugabe already has in place. In other words, it could quite possibly lead to a Zimbabwe that saw coup after coup replacing one bad government with another, one "President for Life" with another, and further impoverishing the citizens.

What is far more desirable is a move towards liberalization of the government that leads to real elections (not the kind overseen by dictator-apologist Jimmy Carter) and a stronger rule of law. If South Africa and Western countries tie food and economic aid to certain governmental behaviors, both short term and long term, it may still be possible to save not only the political structure, but the country's economy.

It's a slender hope, but the MDC's move might signal that Mugabe has opened up to reforms. He's not fool--and for a time, he was the hope for post-colonial Africa. He appeared, at first, to be a moderate who would work to unite the country regardless of racial or tribal make-up. He may realize that his only opportunity to save both himself and his country is in compromise and reform.

As I said, it's a slender hope, and he's mislead his opponents before, but the alternative right now is to see Zimbabwe dissolve into the kind of mess that we see in Liberia.

Read about the MDC attending Mugabe's address.
Read about Zimbabwe's economic crisis.
Read the LCHR news release.

Posted by zombyboy at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)
Contributors to
Deb Yoder
IB Bill
About AfricaBlog
Submissions Guidelines

Contact Us At