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Zimbabwe's empty gestures, empty stomachs

About the author
The Zimbabwean is a weekly newspaper, founded in 2004, publishing news from Zimbabwe as well as portraits of life in exile. It is available online here.

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Wilf Mbanga, London – War vets dig deep for Americans

With hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans left homeless and jobless by the government’s vicious orgy of destruction, Operation Murambatsvina (“clean out the rubbish”), the news that war veterans and Zanu-PF fat cats have launched a fund to assist victims of hurricane Katrina in the United States comes as a sick joke.

The ZimbabweanThe Zimbabwean

Joseph Chinotimba, vice-chair of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) reportedly told a press conference that he and his fellow war veterans had been:

“touched by the plight of poor Americans, mostly African-Americans who were abandoned by US President George Bush’s administration during and after the devastating hurricane”.

Chinotimba, a very wealthy municipal policeman, appears not to be touched by the plight of his fellow Zimbabweans. He was much feted in the press in 2003 when contesting the by-election for the Highfield parliamentary seat caused by the expulsion of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of parliament Munyaradzi Gwisai. Then, Chinotimba was dishing out bags of maize to voters in his would-be constituency. But he lost the seat and has not been seen comforting or assisting any victims of Operation Murambatsvina.

The Zimbabwe Herald reports Chinotimba as saying:

“As Zimbabweans, we share the grief with the affected lives and hence the need to give all we can afford to get in a bid to assist the storm victims from abject poverty and suffering. To show the seriousness we have, I have already donated $10 million (Zimbabwe dollars) / Z$) towards this fund.”

Z$10 million is worth less than £100 ($175) – and plummeting, at the current parallel market exchange rate.

The war-veteran leader, a very wealthy municipal policeman has already persuaded Zanu (PF) colleagues to dig deep for the Americans. The minister of women’s affairs, gender and community development, Oppah Muchinguri, also donated Z$10 million, while the deputy minister of youth development and employment creation, Saviour Kasukuwere, weighed in with Z$50 million. The fund’s goal is “$20 billion to $30 billion” and Chinotimba plans to deliver the donations personally to New Orleans at the beginning of November.

Responding to a question on why war veterans had seen the need to donate to the homeless in America instead of those at home, Chinotimba said hurricane Katrina and Operation Murambatsvina could not be compared as they differed both in scale and causes.

"Murambatsvina was self-inflicted, people built illegal structures. I had a house demolished at Ushewokunze Housing Cooperative, which I built without consulting even building inspectors," he said.

Apparently unaware of United States customs restrictions, Chinotimba appealed to “the people of Zimbabwe” to come forward with any form of assistance, “be it blankets, water, any form of food, clothes … anything you can think of that is cash and kind, even mawuyu (Baobab fruit) … or matohwe (wild chewing fruit)”.

Meanwhile, the churches and NGOs battle to feed and clothe thousands of cold and hungry Zimbabwean families still living in the open as the government’s Operation Garikayi (“good living”) fails to deliver the promised new shelters and the cost of basic foodstuffs soars beyond the reach of all but the upper classes.

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A Zimbabwean correspondent, Harare – Land of hunger

The new agricultural season has begun. And for the sixth consecutive year most Zimbabweans will go hungry.

Leaving aside the vagaries of the weather, most will not reap a harvest from this season. This is not a matter for Mother Nature.

As the season begins, not only are there desperately inadequate supplies of fertiliser, seeds and fuel, but also the few remaining commercial farmers are being violently attacked and driven off their land.

These articles were originally published in the weekly newspaper The Zimbabwean, which has regular news, analysis, features, discussion and up-to-the-minute reports on Zimbabwe; its online version is here

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Even those previously deemed acceptable to the Robert Mugabe regime, such as former vice-chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Graham Hill, are being evicted. This follows the seventeenth amendment to the constitution last month, effectively nationalising all white-owned land and preventing farmers from going to court to challenge the state’s seizure of around 22 million acres since 2000.

Armed militia, wielding hosepipes, last week thrashed Canadian-born coffee farmer David Wilding-Davies and his manager Allan Warner on Ashante Farm in Chipinge. Gideon Mostert, a coffee-grower and dairy farmer, was attacked hours earlier, apparently by the same group, but escaped to a local church.

According to neighbours, Wilding-Davies has been “kicked off” his farm several times by the local Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative Joseph Chiminya. “There will be no going back now,” said one. “This is the end of the road.”

"We were warned last week that Chipinge would soon be cleared of white farmers," said Trevor Gifford, chairman of the Coffee Growers' Association of Zimbabwe. "There are about eighty of us here, the largest group of white farmers left and we were informed eight more will be done before the weekend."

Approached for comment Flora Buka, the land and resettlement minister, said she was “in a meeting” and switched off her cell phone.

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