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Home | ZimCrisis -- From Fuel to Food Queues

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 18:08:46 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis -- From Fuel to Food Queues
Cc: "Australian government":;, "British government":;,
"Canadian government":
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Hi everyone,

As I predicted some weeks ago, we are seeing food shortages in Zimbabwe (beyond what is normal). How long until we see photographs reminiscent of Biafra from a once prosperous country?


In a little street market in Harare, Zimbabweans queue for fast-diminishing stores of corn and potatoes, as the crisis over land reform aggravates the country's already-weakened economy. The situation is like "a Titanic that would sink deeper and deeper," said one would-be buyer, Dumisani Sedeka. Passers-by nodded their agreement. Sedeka was going from seller to seller on the Rezende Street market looking for a sack of potatoes to feed his family. Time after time, he got the same response. "We don't have any this morning," he was told. It is not just potatoes that are in short supply here. Basic foodstuffs like tomatoes, corn and wheat are becoming harder to find, as landless government supporters occupying white-owned farms block the harvest.

Well over 1 000 farms have been occupied, sometimes violently, by landless blacks since February. Led by veterans of the liberation war against white rule in the 1970s, they say they are only reclaiming what is theirs - with the blessing of President Robert Mugabe, who faces critical general elections next month. Despite court rulings ordering squatters off the land, the farm occupations have continued. And while drunken and armed Mugabe supporters sit on the land and scare off the farm workers, the crops wither. Prices went up "40 percent in one day," Duminsani complained. He is employed in a local barber's salon and his meager wages are stretched to the limit. "I cannot make ends meet," he said simply. His story is far from unusual in Zimbabwe today, where the economy has been slipping further and further into the red over recent months in its worst crisis yet. Half the work force is now out of work. Twenty-five percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Street seller Godwin Chidume was hawking a few vegetables he had brought down from Banket, a town to the north of the city. He is unemployed, despite his secondary school diploma. "Many thanks to Mugabe and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," he said bitterly. "One has starved us with his corrupt clan, the other has finished us with rocketing rises in prices," he continued. Back in 1990 the IMF and the World Bank slapped a programme of price adjustments on Zimbabwe, notably affecting the costs of food staples.

Resulting price hikes in 1998 led to bloody riots, which the army stamped on hard and fast. At least nine people died. Those memories are fresh in many minds, as people queue to buy meagre provisions. "We know which side the American-led IMF is on and that is not that of the people," Kaya Mvale said bitterly. Mvale, a teacher in the capital, had queued for two hours to get petrol for her battered old car. Petrol queues have become a common sight in the capital over the past week. The government has promised that petrol will be arriving from the Mozambican port of Beira, but few here believe the "ghost ships" are really on their way. Meanwhile the employment situation is steadily worsening. Many agro-industrial companies have registered losses of between 40 and 50 percent, forcing some to close down and others to cut down the working week to four days.

Just opposite Rezende Street market is Equity House, where war veteran leader Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi has his headquarters. His followers are reported to be forcing people they suspect of supporting the opposition - the strongest yet faced by Mugabe in his 20 years in power - to attend pro-government rallies in the run-up to the June 24-25 elections. Hunzvi "even pretends he wants to give us land," sighed one old seller, Tewe Chemai. He has little confidence in the veteran leader, who avoided a jail sentence earlier this week for failing to order his followers to vacate the white farms. "He is not very convincing in Robin Hood's shoes," Chemai said. But then, "we have been promised so much for so long," he added. The June elections, for Chemai, hold out little hope. - Independent Online

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Brief list of helpful sites on the issue:
- Comprehensive news updates -- http://www.1freespace.com/beetee
- Offers of and requests for help for Zimbabweans -- http://pub9.ezboard.com/boffersofhelp
- Commercial Farmers' Union -- http://www.mweb.co.zw/cfu
- Movement for Democratic Change -- http://www.in2zw.com/mdc
- Zimbabwe Democracy Trust -- http://www.zimbabwedemocracytrust.org
- BSAP Pursuit of Zimbabwean Criminals -- http://www.bsaphq.f9.co.uk