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Archive for November, 2008

Move Zimbabwe

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

Zimbabwe is still stationary.
Where is the driver?

Move Zimbabwe
Still waiting for the driver to engage the gears.
Kenya had their elections, and they found their driver to lead them.

Move Zimbabwe
South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki’s resignation was accepted
and another leader took over the driving seat.
In Zambia after the death of the beloved Levy Mwanawasa,
elections were held and today they are enjoying the
engagement of gears by their new leader.

Move Zimbabwe

Last but not least, this week, the whole world is celebrating
yet another heavily contested election by the Americans.
Celebrating the historic event of a first time black
President – Barack Obama taking over.

All these elections in 2008.

So why is Zimbabwe not moving forward?

Life in the time of cholera

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Friday, November 7th, 2008 by Natasha Msonza

For the second time all my pet fish (that’s all I can keep in a 7th floor apartment) have inexplicably died and this time I was determined to find out what’s happening to them. It’s the water. The fish just can’t handle the quality of water. What more human beings?

The cholera epidemic is spreading fast. Our toilets do not flush and there is just no way of knowing which hands we greet daily carry the deadly bacterium with the fancy name vibrio cholerae. The disease has historically wiped out whole communities with people dying in a matter of minutes at a time. In this age when cholera has become one of the easiest diseases to cure it is an embarrassing realization that this Zimbabwe has been reduced to the ancient times when basic medical treatment was non-existent and people died needlessly from minor ailments. Some people, with their high tables and mineral water have no idea what it feels like to live in constant fear for your life. They can afford to trot from one hotel to the next, postponing the ‘talks’ over and over, while the rest of the country spirals out of control for lack of leadership.

When cholera appears in a community, it becomes essential to ensure three things: hygienic disposal of human feces, an adequate supply of safe drinking water, and good food hygiene. Dr Anderson Bonapart advises that effective food hygiene measures should include cooking food thoroughly and eating it while still hot, preventing cooked foods from being contaminated by raw foods, water, ice, contaminated surfaces and/or flies, and avoiding raw fruits and vegetables unless they are first peeled. Washing hands after defecation and particularly before contact with food or drinking water is equally important. How the hell do you ensure you always have hot food when ZESA is gone 22 hours of the day? How do you make sure your veggies are clean if you’re gonna douse them with the pungent effluent Zinwa is churning out as water? How do you make sure your hands and your neighbor’s are clean after using the toilet, when you do not have the water to flush the toilet in the first place? It is scaring the hell out of me to handle public doors and people’s hands.

Even the Herald newspaper is now admitting that the cholera outbreak is threatening to become endemic. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is reported to have ‘joined the cholera war’. Gono, predictably, has injected quadrillions, vehicles and fuel into the dysfunctional Zinwa in order to normalize water supplies and keep the cholera outbreak in check. Money and vehicles . . . that’s how he attempts to make all his problems go away. Why doesn’t somebody tell him it’s the engineers that left, not the equipment. They also required the protective clothing he conveniently overlooked. The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) has also jumped into the ruination, tasked to provide clean water mostly to the affected areas. Finally something has caught the attention of the so-called authorities. It must be that bad. But this is no smiling matter.

It’s disappointing to have to say that all these efforts are not enough. As usual, our trusted city fathers are choosing to deal with the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. So the CPU will supply Budiriro and Chitungwiza with water, but what about the rest of the country? They plan to deal with each breakout as and when it happens after lives have been needlessly lost. The RBZ will furnish Zinwa with vehicles and fuel, but who will drive them to the burst pipes and fix them? The majority of the engineers with the requisite technical know-how left eons ago because they were overworked and underpaid. The remaining ‘top’ guys will just distribute the vehicles amongst themselves to drive to and from their posh offices where none of the real work needs to be done.

The CPU has recently banned street vending as one of the measures to curb the outbreak. A widow and my favorite fruit and veg seller was raided recently. I no longer see her outside my window. I wonder what she and her two small children will do for money and sustenance, especially now that most shops demand lots of cash or forex for basic commodities…

My best friend woke up with a running stomach today. Like a lot of people he thinks its nothing and it will go away soon enough. Probably something he ate. It is infuriating and at the same time disheartening to realize you cannot convince somebody who has low personal risk perception that they may be in danger. A lot of people have already died needlessly out of ignorance. How is one expected to stay sane somebody tell me?

As the state continues to be largely negligent and indifferent, the death toll is rising while there has hardly been any proactive intensification of educational campaigns around cholera. It is an outrage. They will continue to drink mineral water and they need never shake hands with rustics from the ghetto so they are safe. Yesterday I received an SMS from the UNICEF warning people to boil drinking water. It is doubtful though that most people exposed to the illness in the crowded high-density areas own cell phones.

Meanwhile our offices are being inundated by residents from the nearby police camp. Every morning long queues snail from the lone tap located in our car park. Spouses and children of our revered uniformed forces are seen armed with buckets and jerry cans hoping to get a load of the precious liquid. None of them concerned or aware of the fact that this reduces the water pressure to the point that our toilets no longer flush. Or that there will be an enormous water bill to be paid by us the tenants of the building. Much as water is a human right and our humanity and sense of morality will not allow us to deny these residents some water, practicality also sets in to question whether we are prepared to pay the extra quadrillion for somebody else. How far are we willing to bend over backwards, watching our toilets getting clogged and smelly while all the water is eternally filling jerry cans downstairs? What of the inherent health hazards to us?

In our office we discussed what would happen if one day we just locked up our gate and tap. Well, the Zimbabweans I know would just close that chapter and embark on a new one. Probably walk some long distance to another vulnerable building, or simply find other sources of (dirty) water as long as life goes on.

One of my colleagues highlighted the very true fact that as Zimbabweans we have harbored for too long the tendency to appeal to the wrong people whenever we have problems. When our taps do not release any water, we inundate our vulnerable neighbor who either has a borehole or is simply lucky to have Zinwa supply. When the city council does not collect our garbage we simply take it to the nearest clearing in the bushy areas famously known as ‘marabu’ and dump it there in the thick of night. She asked why don’t people just go and dump it at council offices or some such government establishment? Surely with the stink right in their faces some action would be bound to take place? Why are we always so scared and how come we never think of forceful means that will get the government to act, like dumping our garbage in their yards and queuing for water there as well?

As long as rubbish is not collected, waste management and water supply is not improved and sewer lines are not de-clogged, we are on the highway to nowhere.

We can too!

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Albert Gumbo

Studs Terkel a left leaning American journalist, author and actor died on 31 October 2008, aged 95, before he could see Barack Obama elected. The BBC, in tribute to him, had a rerun of his Hard Talk interview which I watched from my hotel room in Windhoek on the morning of November 4; the day the Americans were creating history with their biggest voter turnout on election day. 95% of African Americans, 63% of Latinos and 43% of white Americans voted for Barack Obama to make him the first African American President in American history. If you have been to the US and spoken to African Americans you will understand the significance of this election result. Let’s come back to that later.

First,  Studs Terkel. In his interview, one thing he said struck me the most out of all the gems that were gushing out of his mouth: “You must have a lover’s quarrel with the country you love. Not for what it is, but for what it can be.” Throughout his adult life, Terkel had a lover’s quarrel with his country as did Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and many others. One other person has just concluded such an argument: Barack Obama. I have not read his book, The Audacity of Hope, yet but what audacity for a first term African American senator to run for President, beating a big name Clinton along the way in the primaries and producing a result celebrated the world over. Every now and then, humanity reminds us that the biggest obstacles can be surmounted: Lewis Hamilton’s father took two jobs to support his son’s karting lessons because he had the audacity to believe his son could one day be formula one champion, so did Maria Sharapova’s father. The stories of Jesse Owens, Nelson Mandela and countless other inspirational people have repeated this truth over and over again: Nothing is impossible; the impossible only takes a little bit longer. From now on when we say, “do an Obama” we know that hope triumphs over pessimism.

I was in New York, Washington and Philadelphia in October last year and the word that I heard on most lips of African Americans, especially in Philadelphia, was “impossible” with reference to their social condition.  Escaping poverty was impossible, staying out of jail was impossible and getting a job was impossible and they all blamed it on the system. Well Barack took on the system and showed that it worked as you long you harnessed the audacity of hope and his first words in his acceptance speech reflected that very statement. He gave that moment on November 5, when he took to the stage, as proof that America works. The system is not the problem!

Mandela had a lovers’ quarrel with apartheid South Africa, Odinga with Kenya and Ian Khama is having one with SADC. Africa does not have enough lovers’ quarrels, it has too many wars inflicted on defenceless civilians. There is no romance in it, no fruit that follows the wars that have ravaged the continent and still continue to do periodically in various regions displacing millions of Africans and leaving wallowing in a perpetual cycle of violence and poverty. Enough already!

Wherefore art Africa’s lovers that we may quarrel as Barack Obama has done? Where is the vision fulfilled of Mandela, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Kaunda and Khama? Who are the quarrelsome lovers who will stand and put us back on the track to development and an honoured place among the peoples of the world? Are they all in prison or under surveillance? Have we become comfortable with amassing wealth at the expense of our brothers and sisters? Who will create wealth for the commonwealth of Africans? How did Singapore do it? Where is the leadership with the audacity of hope? Barack Obama lit “a candle instead of cursing the darkness.” It is time for Africa to do the same.  There can, no longer, be the excuse of slavery, colonialism, the north vs the south or even the illuminati. There can only be hope and that hope can only come from the lovers in us who love Africa enough to want to quarrel with her. We have said many a time, Africa’s time has come. It’s time we made it happen. Barack will be a President for America, as he rightly should. Africa must grow its own visionary leaders. Somebody once said: “the first time something bad happens to you, you are a victim. The third, fourth time it happens, you are a volunteer.”

Shall we have a lovers’ quarrel?

Denial of water is denial of life

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

Zimbabwe’s urban areas have for the past years been operating without adequate water supplies among other basic necessities such as food and electricity. Most cities have been transformed into rural areas as hordes of men and women carrying buckets of water for use at home are now a common sight. The only available sources of water are unsafe dug up wells and burst water pipes. Water taps have become relics of urban yesteryear life. To see water coming out of taps is now seen as a privilege and favour not a basic human right. Seeing water coming out of the taps now induces an element of fear, anxiety and uncertainty as people wonder when this privilege will end, somewhat bestowed on them by some mysterious water god.

If the water comes in the middle of the night, one is jolted out of deep sleep by the purring sound of pressure that spurs one into filling up containers before the life saving liquid disappears into the night. Zimbabweans have been stripped bare of their rights by an insensitive government concerned only about its survival. People move around with buckets in their hands and cars while some go to work carrying towels and soap with the hope of finding somewhere to fetch water or bath. Despite poor delivery of such basic social services Zimbabweans have continued to endure the suffering without any signs of spontaneous protests.

The situation however, seems to get worse by the day. Budiriro, Glenview and surrounding residential areas in Harare have been hit by a cholera outbreak which the government seems to play down. One of my friends recently lost a brother in Budiriro because of cholera and in that neighbourhood about five people have died during the month of October 2008. These deaths are a result of negligence and disrespect for human life by the responsible authorities. Budiriro has been without water for more than six months and the deaths I have mentioned are only those I am aware of. I believe there are many people who have died without being mentioned under the pretense of not wanting to cause alarm and despondency in the City of Harare.

Harare residents have been left to their own means and devices and they await the day cholera will strike them. Their life is at the mercy of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the government who does not seem to be moved at all by this calamity.

ZINWA’s motto:-”Water is Life” is emblazoned on ZINWA vehicles and office walls. The irony is amazing.  An institution mandated to facilitate accessibility of water is now infamous for denying people their right to life. People continue to die because they are being denied water, a basic human necessity.

How many people will have to die for ZINWA to act and provide people with safe water?

Zimbabwe 2008

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

The year 2008 in Zimbabwe has been just like a weekend packed with events and a lot of activities that one can quickly forget. Like watching soccer: more injuries, more scores, more yellow and red cards, tricks, penalties – all in 90 minutes!

However, we are now in November, only about seven weeks left to call it off. We have traveled a long way with no foot steps to show where we were coming from. So Zimbabweans will be celebrating Christmas 2008 with no government in place, no drugs in hospitals, no withdrawal and deposit slips as some of these banks are requesting customers to bring their own.

No water from suburbs around town, no electricity, no education for our children, no official school holidays as children are already on holiday, no teachers, no money, no food, no jobs, no industries operating, no doctors and nurses as they are striking, no fertilizers for the new farmers.

But we have plenty of mosquitoes, uncollected garbage, sewage canals, political parties, empty promises, queues, unprotected boreholes/wells, illegal structures as people can no longer afford to pay rentals being charged in foreign currency, dumping sites known as (kumarabu) and deforestation. Just take a look at the area between Jaggers Msasa and the Mabvuku turn-off.

A blessing in disguise

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Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Dennis Nyandoro

People in Zimbabwe’s high density suburbs (townships) around town are now geared for the rainy season and land preparation. These preparations are being done to small pieces of open land that they have allocated to themselves.

But because of scarcity, unavailability and high prices pegged in US dollars few people have any fertilizer. However, there was the introduction of organic/urea fertilizer sometime last year from China to Zimbabwe. Though this was not taken seriously by most farmers in the country, maybe because of the source it was coming from, or because it was their first time and they were afraid of destroying their crops from the specifications which were complicated.

But Zimbabweans are so creative to quickly adjust to the situation. There is raw sewage coming out of the burst drainage pipes and people are making some canals to divert waste to these small pieces of land (A3s). I have seen people with sacks full of dried sewer matter wheeling it in push carts to their fields to act as manure or organic fertilizer.

The City Council used to clear the roadside drains in preparation for the rainy season but due to shortages of trucks and fuel they can no longer do that. People have taken over the duty of not only clearing but collecting manure for the benefit of their small pieces of land. But think of the stench smell when it rains and they want to weed the fields dressed with this unprocessed organic fertilizer.

The government should have taken this food security seriously and made agricultural inputs like fertilizers and seeds much cheaper so that they can be affordable by everyone and boost the food production in the country.