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Archive for October, 2007

ZBC’s penga poll: readers’ responses

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Friday, October 19th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

In our latest email newsletter we asked our subscribers to send in their thoughts on the ZBC poll and what was missing from their list of causes of the current shortages of basic commodities. Here are a few of their responses:

The government is responsible.

With interest I saw your poll on your website regarding who is to blame for shortages. May I suggest to add other possible culprits: the pricing control commission, the ministry of commerce and the cabinet.


I was interested to see that you are carrying a poll on your website re the shortages, but I do feel you are not providing the viewer with sufficient choices to make the poll meaningful as they are limited to manufacturers, retailers, black market, western sanctions. May I suggest that you add government to the list – this may provide you with a more credible result.


My strongest opinion is that shortages have been caused mainly by the ruling party chefs as they are the only ones with meaningful business properties in Zimbabwe. They own up everything. How many opposition members we know who are operators of all sots of businesses beside Zanu PF stalwarts. It is a wonder that Mugabe stands there pointing his finger at western sanctions when he cannot ask his politburo friends what they are doing within their businesses. They are all in agreement that goods are extremely expensive when they stand in their meetings but cannot wait to run straight back to their organizations to push upwards prices then claim later suppliers have cut back supplies because of price controls. They are not a clean lot. They are the greatest shortages causers.


The range of options is too narrow, and tends to show that the author of the survey has a superficial appreciation of how economies function. In fact the question should be: why are Zimbabwean producers not satisfying the demands of the market? In respect of the present, superficial question my response would be: NONE OF THE SUGGESTED ANSWERS -
Manufacturers – do not have the inputs required, as they cannot afford them
Retailers – do not manufacture anything, they are just intermediaries
The black market – is always created by bottlenecks in supply, and can disappear as quickly as it can appear if there are changes in those areas
Western sanctions – what sanctions? Preventing a megalomaniac dictator and his cohorts from gallivanting all over the world at will talking nonsense certainly does not equate to sanctions.

The real cause is the subordination of everything else in that country and economy to uncontrolled hunger for dominance of everything and everyone! All other ’causes’ are just symptoms and consequences. My two cents worth.


My views are retailers are to blame because when they have goods which are scarce they take advantage and sell these to their staff who later transfer this to the black market. Black market is at other times responsible, but their contribution to this can be cut straight right easily. If supply is increased. On the term of the Manufacturer it is difficult for them to fill the market even, if they are responsible for commodity shortages but they have corners to hide about this they blame low production, high running costs, lack of foreign currency and poor electricity supply.

So as my point of view before these 4 above have been resolved I think shortage will continue and builds up more opportunity for black market. For us to have a good point of view let’s think what are factors that builds black market.


ZBC should be on the list, broadcast the truth of the matter and you get off the list clean.

Our own racists

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by Natasha Msonza

One of these past few days I entered one of those high security buildings where they scan you with those metal detectors and things for security reasons. This is the process that follows immediately after signing your details in a visitors’ book and handing in your I.D, among other things. Whilst I was still at stage 1 (of filling in personal details), one white lady who had been behind me waltzed past the guards manning the inner entrance after enquiring which floor such and such an organization was. When it was my turn, the female guard quickly moved into place to start zapping me with the metal detector. Instinctively, I stepped back and demanded to know why she had not also zapped the white woman who had entered before me. With a puzzled (if not surprised) look, she just shrugged and without answering my question, told me she had to scan me for security reasons. I neatly refused although I had nothing to hide, and demanded free passage. What criteria did they use to decide who got subjected to that annoying and almost embarrassing ritual? I noticed I was slowly gathering a small crowd and felt I was also getting red in the face. But I was determined, and so were both guards. The male guard told me in my face I had a choice to either get searched or leave. I chose the latter, spun right round, demanded my I.D back and left a puzzled audience. My business there could wait.

My dad was telling me the other day that one afternoon at lunch, he and a fellow (white) workmate set out to hunt for sustenance around the shops. As they drove around town, the most they came across after almost half an hour of searching were a couple of Chelsea buns selling at $100 thousand each. Between them they needed at least ten, and that meant parting with 1 million bucks. They decided they’d rather forego lunch. As they drove back to work, my father spotted a hawker by the roadside and bought two packets of maputi from her; one for him and the other for his workmate. As the two stood outside the car and ate, they realized they had gathered around them a small crowd who were visibly shocked at the sight of a murungu (white man) eating maputi. Someone apparently shouted that: “Nzara yazotiyenzanisa manje baas.” Loosely translated to mean hunger has now made us equal. Apparently very fluent in Shona, my father’s workmate lashed out asking the man who had shouted what the kind of food anyone ate had to do with anything? Did the man think all Zimbabweans were only black? I thought those were good questions.

Then I was reading in the Independent about the few remaining white farmers who were recently served with eviction notices with a 90 day grace period to wrap up and vacate their properties. The farmers have appealed to the regional Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Tribunal in an effort to stop government from illegally expropriating their properties. According to Vice President Joseph Msika, these few remaining are “remnants of die-hard unrepentant racists. These farmers have done their best to prevent agricultural production in many parts of the country; and have made a significant contribution to the country’s economic collapse.”  I couldn’t help agreeing with Muckraker when he/she wrote: “…primitive racism is now the official creed of Zanu PF.” Now before anyone starts labeling me an unpatriotic born-free who doesn’t understand the sovereignty our ancestors died for; will the real racists please stand up?

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s penga poll

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by Bev Clark

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is currently running a poll on their website.

They are interested in finding out who is responsible for the current shortages and they give us four “culprits” to choose from: manufacturers, retailers, the black market and western sanctions. So far the ZBC poll indicates that Zimbabweans think that the black market is responsible. Next in line with 31.23% is western sanctions, followed by manufacturers and lastly, retailers. It seems like the ZBC needs a little bit of help in expanding their list . . . email your suggestions of other causes of the current shortages to news@newsnet.co.zw

First things first

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by Brenda Burrell

This morning I attended a seminar organised by a local business specialising in accounting software. The NGO oriented audience was hoping for tools that would make accounting in multiple currencies in a hyper-inflationary environment easier. The fact that the Zimbabwe dollar loses value every couple of hours means that we’re looking for specialised solutions!

Under normal circumstances it makes sense for software companies to offer variations of their software to cater for the differing needs of small, medium and large organisations. But as the presentation proceeded it became clear that everyone in the audience needed the flexible, “advanced” features normally packaged and priced for large organisations. The hefty price tag meant that for many of the smaller organisations it would be back to the office to their spreadsheets and individual ingenuity.

At the tea break I observed another telling reality. In the past we’ve normally queued to fetch a cup of tea or coffee then gone on to add a biscuit or slice of cake to our saucer. This morning most people headed straight for the food – then lined up patiently to wash it down with something hot later.

Half cracked (up)

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by Amanda Atwood

Most of the time when I leave my house I’m running, cycling or driving. But I’ve found myself needing to slow down a bit and reflect more lately, so I’ve taken to walking. It’s my favourite time of year here in Harare, summer in all its splendour, and the rains haven’t yet begun. The jacarandas have lost the air of surprise of their first flush, but they are still stunning. There’s a ridge I see when I turn a certain corner and the yellow acacia blossoms, purple jacaranda and green of leaves in between makes me catch my breath every time. The dusty earth is carpeted in yellow, purple and mauve blossoms, and the jacaranda buds pop underfoot.

Walking isn’t without its challenges, of course. Like the man who greeted me on my way home last night: “Hello girl.” I roll my eyes. He pauses. Looks twice. “Are you a girl or? . . .” and trails off laughing to himself. As I continue down the road I overhear him asking the next people he meets – do you think she’s a girl? Is that a girl? I’m not exactly flat-chested or slim-hipped. And I figured the stripey turquoise and cream vest would be a dead giveaway. But clearly not.

I left the office yesterday to go hunting and gathering for some sustenance for myself and a workmate. I bumped into a friend who told me she was working on a proposal to help children process their lives better and to help them develop coping mechanisms to deal with all the emotional and psychological trauma growing up in this place is inflicting on them. She says over half the youth in Zimbabwe are at risk of mental illness. An estimated 40% of the adult population are also suffering from poor mental health.

This doesn’t surprise me.

Take just one example: My best friend mentions she’d quite like to eat some lamb. So I send a text message to a friend of mine who (amazingly enough) is still managing to farm out in Mutare. In addition to some crops, she also runs some sheep. Two days later, I get her reply. She says she’ll sort out my friend’s meat, but it will take a while – they’re lambing now and of course the fluffy little guys have to grow up a bit before they can hit the chopping block. So I say no worries, I’ll tell my mate to be patient, and please can I come see the lambs, they sound too cute. She texts me back straight away:

30 lambs as of yesterday. Gorgeous! You welcome any time. Might have to move whole flock to your garden. Eviction notice yesterday for 4th December.

Of course she’s known this could come at any time. She’s been threatened and violated and harassed in the past, and found a way to reorganise the farm and keep going, at least for some time. She felt a duty to her workers, having seen how farm workers were mistreated on other places that have been taken over. But, like the reorganisation of Foreign Currency Accounts which gives government control over NGO’s and exporters FCA’s, it feels like command, control and subjugate not because you have some bigger plan that will benefit more people or improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, but just because you can.

The gardener where I stay came to me the other day to tell me his son had died – 19 months old, he lived some 250 kilometres away in rural Shurugwi with his grandmother. His father and mother both live and work in Harare. The baby got sick, and the only clinic close enough for them to take him to couldn’t do anything for him. Two days later he died. They postponed the funeral for six days while they waited for the boy’s parents to get transport to the village. When I expressed my shock and sympathies, he shrugged – ndiMwari anotonga, he told me – It’s God who’s in control.

It’s reminiscent of the sentiment I’ve often heard when I’ve asked people what they think will happen here. Zvichanaka they say, things will get better. How? God is in control. When? Some time. Meanwhile, zvakadhakawa. As Alex Magaisa put it, with the price controls and shortages, shifting goal posts and every changing government policies, “that everything appears to be in a state of inebriation aptly captures the uncertainty and lack of direction in desperately uncertain and economically turbulent times.”

Zvakadhakwa – Zvichanaka. Is it any wonder we’re all getting a bit frayed around the edges?

Zimbabwean poet says it like it is

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Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 by Bev Clark

One of my favourite web sites is http://www.poetryinternationalweb.org – check out the Zimbabwe section where you’ll find some really beautiful poetry. I note that their poem of the week, The Lord Is My Shepherd, is by Cosmas Mairosi, a budding Zimbabwean poet.


the lord is my shepherd
I shall not want any other leader besides him
(even from his own party)
I shall have no other political party besides his
I shall not suffer any domination by the British
or the Americans
and my country shall never be a colony again

the lord is my shepherd
even if I walk in the valley of freedom
I am forced to attend his rallies
I shall not say what
I want because the police and the military will descend
on me

even if I walk in the shadow of poverty
I shall continually shout his
name and sing his praises
“long live my leader”

the lord is my shepherd
I shall not associate with members of the opposition
I shall not walk with demonstrators
for should I be found out
I shall be beaten or tortured

I shall have no other TV stations besides his
I shall see what he wants me to see
I shall hear what he wants me to hear
I shall read what he wants me to read

the lord is indeed my shepherd
I shall not starve
for I shall certainly be given food handouts
to vote for him
and other people’s land for free

but now the lord is not my shepherd
I have suffered many setbacks
my business operations have been closed my bank accounts frozen
my house has been demolished
my land has been confiscated
and unto me a new law hath been given:
“thou shalt praise the lordship in all his follies”.