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Zimbabweans Still Suffering

Collen Makumbirofa, November 2, 2010

Notes issued by Zimbabwe's central bank demonstrate the absurdity of the currency as well as the desperation of the nation's economy.

Contrary to testimonies of people who have visited the country and mass media reports that Zimbabwe is righting itself, people continue to suffer greatly. Between 2002 and 2009, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have lost their lives due to political murders, starvation and AIDS.

Right now in Zimbabwe there is severe poverty. The country is operating without currency. People in Zimbabwe use U.S. dollars and South African rand, which are scarce notes. Buying goods and groceries in shops is made difficult by lack of change or coins.

Many towns are sustaining without tap water. Both urban and rural residents rely on borehole water, unprotected wells and rivers. The risks of cholera and other diseases are ever-present. Some boreholes and wells are in danger of running out of water in the midst of summer or shortly before the beginning of the rain season.

Streets are dirty since municipality services are crumbling. The government is bankrupt and local councils have no funding to provide basic cleaning services. Hospitals have no medicine and insufficient doctors and nurses. People die of illnesses that could be treated if conditions were normal.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is more than 80 percent, and banks are retrenching workers. Some of the few remaining firms are closing down. Hundreds of thousands have lost hope of finding employment. The government has done a lot of damage to the economy by destroying commercial farms and by eroding the rule of law. Commercial farms employed hundreds of thousands of farm workers, workers who now are unemployed and suffering serious want. Many have already died of diseases and starvation.

Many Zimbabweans are surviving on informal selling, gold panning, and traveling to neighboring countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zambia to look for employment or try to sell clothes, cereals, artworks. Usually those who work in foreign lands such as South Africa have become victims of exploitation. In most farms around Messina, South Africa, close to the Zimbabwean-Beitbridge border, Zimbabweans work for R200 a month, an equivalent of $28.

In some parts of the country there is silence, and that silence does not signify peace. People are angry at the current ZANU PF regime. Many people are living in fear of the security agencies, police, soldiers and CIO (secret police). They have witnessed people being murdered, tortured, raped, mutilated, harassed and arrested for political victimization. They are afraid of the consequences of speaking out against corruption and illegitimacy in the government.

Police and other civil servants in government offices are living on corruption. Their jobs don't pay enough for them to survive, so they help themselves by getting bribes from their clients. The majority of police earn their living getting bribes from traffic offenders, criminals and other people on the wrong side of the law.

The unity government between the ruling ZANU PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has failed to work. The ZANU PF government of President Robert Mugabe has failed to honor the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The GPA forms the basis of the unity government between the ZANU PF regime and two factions of the MDC. Moreover, ZANU PF continues to harass political enemies, arrest reporters and commit serious human rights abuses.

Many MDC members of the House of Assembly have been convicted of different offences. Some have lost their posts in the House of Assembly; the law states that if a member of the House of Assembly is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than six months in prison, the member loses the position. So MDC public office holders are being targeted and convicted on trumped-up charges.

MDC now has equal voting strength with ZANU PF in Parliament. There is some hope among some Zimbabweans that the MDC is going to take up control of the country, although that would be difficult. ZANU PF has enjoyed support of SADC and has never been reprimanded for crimes against humanity, rigging elections and flouting the GPA. This cast doubts on whether ZANU PF will hand over power to a new government that won presidential elections in 2008, or whether it will at least allow free and fair elections to take place in 2011.

For the moment, the struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe and human rights is lost to ZANU PF. This is the worst nightmare for peace-loving Zimbabweans.

Mr. Collen Makumbirofa is the director of the Foundation of Reason & Justice in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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