News - December 2005





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A new year message

Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror


Human Rights Group under attack

Another farmer attacked

Zim Independant
The Standard
Human Rights Forum
ZW News
Eddie Cross letters The Zimbabwe Situation


Chinhoyi Arrests

Moral negligence

Who will be answerable for hungry people?

Under cover of darkness

A night of terror

Daily News
Zim Independant
The Standard
Financial Gazette
Human Rights Forum
ZW News


Christmas is cancelled

Saturday 17th December 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
I think if you could ask any Zimbabwean what three things they most wanted for Christmas in 2005, the answers would be the same in almost all households. Firstly we want food security in all areas: we want food growing on our farms, food stacked in silos and warehouses and food in our pantries and on our tables. After seventy months of turmoil, food security would be a blessed gift for every Zimbabwean.

Secondly this Christmas we want our families. I don't think I know a single family which does not have some or most of its members living outside of the country. Siblings, parents, children and grandparents are separated - we are a nation whose families and extended families have been torn apart. Over three million Zimbabweans (almost a quarter of our population) have left home in the last seventy months and they are sorely missed.

Thirdly this Christmas we want fuel. Shops, businesses, transporters, schools, institutions and ordinary families - we want to be able to go to a filling station and buy fuel. Ever since the elections in March, the vast majority of Zimbabweans have been unable to buy fuel anywhere except on the black market. The nine month unavailability of fuel affects every single Zimbabwean as black market fuel prices are now tagged onto everything from bread to bus fares, shoes to sugar and everything in between. We long to travel in our own country again, to see our friends in other towns and to go to Zimbabwe's beautiful places again, what a gift that would be this Christmas.

Seventy months - it is hard to believe that this has been going on for so long and that we have endured so much The gap between the very rich and the desperately poor continues to widen. The latest Standard newspaper told of the extravagances of the Zanu PF annual Congress last weekend. Three thousand delegates for four days were fed with: 50 cattle, 48 goats, 11 kudu, 5 reed buck, 17 impala, 5 buffaloes and 60 chickens. This was accompanied by 1.19 tonnes of rice, 50 kg of wheat and 11 tonnes of maize. Also on hand were 250 bags of oranges, a tonne of tomatoes, 400 cabbages and 60 litres of ice cream. And, all this in a country in which THREE MILLION Zimbabweans are eating world food aid.

And freedom, that flimsy concept taken for granted by so many, seems as elusive as ever for Zimbabweans this Christmas. Darker days are already upon us as 2006 approaches. This week passports of outspoken government critics were seized and the Minister of Information said that journalists were "weapons of mass destruction."

The excesses and traditions of Christmas are cancelled for most Zimbabweans this year and we are left hoping and praying for an end to the hardships, turmoil and struggle of living like this. I will not write another letter until 2006 and wish all my family and friends, wherever you are in the world, a blessed Christmas.
Love cathy.

Humpty Dumpty

Saturday 10th december 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party have been holding their annual congress this week and watching some of the coverage on television made for staggering viewing. By any standards Zimbabwe is a country in dire trouble. Inflation, which began the year at 134% is again completely out of control and presently at over 400%. Life expectancy continues to plummet and is now just over 30 years. Unemployment is well over 70%, almost a quarter of our population are eating food provided by international donors and the number of people in need grows by the week. With these dreadful facts and figures you would think that our ruling party would have more than enough to worry and talk about at their annual congress. The posters adorning the walls of the now well known enormous white tent were damning. The slogans were not about the economy, early death, hunger or inflation. They were the same old deflectory attacks, just as they have been since Zanu PF first realised they had lost popular support when they were defeated in the constitutional referendum in 2000.
"Mr Bush, how about New Orleans!"
"MDC beating about the Bush."
"Mr Blair, how about Brixton?"
"Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and Blairs horses couldn't put the MDC together again."

So while the party which has governed Zimbabwe for 25 years finds it fitting to focus its energies on attacking the world, ordinary Zimbabweans have been looking to more pressing issues.This week the United Nations Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Jan Egeland concluded a five day visit to Zimbabwe and saw first hand the dramatically deteriorating situation in the country. His observations and comments were not about nursery rhymes or Humpty Dumpty and will hopefully again cause the world to look to the dreadful conditions of so many people in Zimbabwe.
Mr Egeland said : "The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is very serious. The need for international aid is big and growing." He said that: "When life expectancy goes from more than 60 years to just over 30 years in a 15-year span, it's not just a crisis, it's a meltdown." Mr Egeland said that "The food security is now an exploding issue" in Zimbabwe and said that the need for international aid was "big, and growing". He said the UN was already feeding two million people in Zimbabwe and that this would increase to 2.5 million by December and 3.3 million by January 2006.

In the course of his visit Mr Egeland offered Mr Mugabe tents from the UN for the estimated 700 000 people whose homes were destroyed by the bulldozers of the Zimbabwean government's Operation Murtambatsvina in mid winter. The offer was declined. According to the Herald newspaper, President Mugabe told the UN envoy that: "We are not a tent's people... We believe in houses." Mr Egeland criticized the governments rejection of tents saying: "If they are good enough for people in Europe and the United States who have lost their houses, why are they not good enough for Zimbabwe?"

The situation in Zimbabwe is neither nursery rhyme nor fairy story but the grim picture of real people struggling endlessly from one day the next just to survive.
Until next week, love cathy

Words don't fill tummies

Saturday 3rd December 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Having just come to terms with writing cheques using millions of dollars, working out how many zeroes to add and being very careful about counting digits on the ends of prices before I purchase things, this week all that carefully accumulated knowledge became rather pointless. I spent one afternoon this week listening to the Minister of Finance presenting Zimbabwe's 2006 budget. Millions were gone completely and all the figures were billions and trillions. I sort of lost the thread right near the beginning of the budget presentation when I heard the announcement that the national football team had been allocated 10 billion dollars. I already have to consult my dictionary to work out how many millions make a billion but when I tried to tap in ten billion dollars to see how much each player may get, it didn't work. My calculator has only got enough digit spaces for nine billion and after that it reverts to gobbledy gook and so I just sat in stunned open mouthed silence listening to next years budget.

It looks like the way things are going in Zimbabwe, and the speed at which they are getting there, I might not have to worry about how many zeroes to add to get billions after all. A lot of the numbers being used in the budget this week were in trillions and unless some clever cookie invents a bigger calculator, hey, I'm out! My dictionary tells me that a trillion is a million million but that until quite recently it used to be a million, million, million - either way there are just too many zeroes and my head spins in dizzy circles trying to understand it all.

It wasn't just numbers getting my head spinning this week but also quite a large number of words. The Minister of Finance announced that agriculture had declined by 12.8% in 2005 but that this would change dramatically and agriculture would increase by 14% in 2006. He said: "Government is committed to enforce utmost discipline in the agricultural sector. Any disruption of farming activities is not in the national interest and will not be tolerated." This statement was met with jeers, scornful laughter and derisive comments by MP's in the House. It comes at a time when commercial farming continues to be the most dangerous and uncertain occupation in a country where millions of people go to bed hungry every day. In the last three months over 60 commercial farmers have been thrown off their properties; last week a commercial farmer in Harare West was murdered and a dairy farm in Beatrice which produces nine thousand litres of milk a day was besieged by none other than a High Court Judge who demanded the owners leave as this was now his farm. Nine thousand litres of milk, by the way, at last week's price, was worth 270 million dollars a day - no wonder his Honour wanted the farm! So, the Minister's stern words are painfully hollow because without political backing, enforcement at all levels from the bottom right up to the top and plain and clear instructions to Zimbabwe's police - and judges - they are mere words. What a shame words don't fill tummies.

Zimbabwe's budget in 2007 will, by all accounts have to be in Zillions and I shudder at the thought because my dictionary doesn't define a zillion it just says it is an "indefinite large number." Oops.
Until next week, love cathy.

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