#CSW58- MDG 8: Developing Global Partnership for Development

Development, Governance, Zimbabwe

As the era of the MDGs draws to a close-(2000-2015) – one of the things that need paying attention to is; why did we fail to achieve the milestones? Why did Zimbabwe fall short on so many of the indicators? Central to these questions, is the issue of resources. This is because no policy, however brilliant, cannot be successfully implemented without the required financial and human resources. These resources can be attained where there is a clear fundraising strategy. Usually states fundraise through sustained economic growth in areas such as taxation, trade and consequently decreasing debt.

Zimbabwe has seen a steady growth of its GDP since 2009 recovering from the terrible 2007-2009 period of economic decline. However this growth has not translated into increased income in the home. External debt remains high, pegged at 113 % of the GDP. Overall availability of vital medicines has increased although there is low production of drugs, with CAPS-the leading pharmaceutical company- almost shutting down.  There is general improvement in access to cellular networks and internet with about 20% coverage. 65 in every 1000 people have access to a laptop. However the uptake of ICT’s remains largely centralised to the young and urban population. The lack of ICT legislation continues to hamper access.

What have we done well?

  • The Economic Recovery Programme implemented by former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, emphasised economic and governance reforms which brought stability and recovery to the economy
  • Overall availability of vital medicines has remained stable because of the local production of drugs, enough to actually export some of the drugs.
  • Our creation and use of technology continues to improve; both mobile penetration and internet usage have significantly increased.
  • We are linked to both the Seacom and the EASSy undersea fibre optic cables, developments that have significantly improved our country’s internet connectivity.

What have we not done well?

  • We have no industry to talk of. Our manufacturing sector is still underproductive because of the many challenges it faces such as electricity load shedding and the liquidity crunch.
  • Domestic policy such as indigenisation and land reform, whose implementation is unclear continue to pose a threat to investment resulting in low foreign direct investment
  • Our proud and arrogant stance in our engagement with the international community continues to alienate possible allies in spearheading economic recovery.
  • The health sector still relies heavily on foreign funding, with our main donors being the Unites States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom and Australia. Our own government has not dedicated enough money to fund our health system.
  • We have not taken full advantage of our membership to regional integration initiatives such as COMESA, SADC and EU-ACP; for instance, we have not utilised the fact that SADC is a Free Trade Area which represents a large market to our goods and produce.
  • Although we are producing and exporting vital medicines, they are still expensive for the average person on the ground; as there is a leaning towards protecting the interests of the pharmaceuticals above those of the patients who are just ordinary citizens
  • We do not have an ICT policy to regulate the ICT industry resulting in stunted growth in that area.

What more can we do?

  • We need to re-engage the international community understanding that we live in a global village where we need allies and partners. Re-engagement should not mean begging, we do not need donations- we need good trade relations in which we bargain for the true value of our goods, both processed and raw.
  • We need an ICT policy to cater to the needs of a constantly changing technology landscape
  • We must learn lessons from the region. Rwanda is a good example, especially where the health system is concerned. In just 19 years Rwanda;
    •  increased its life expectancy from 28 years to 56 years;
    • decreased the size of its population living below the poverty line from 77.8% to 44.9%;
    • decreased child deaths from 18% to 6%;
    • increased the size of the population with health insurance from almost 0% to 90.6%;
    • maternal mortality dropped by 60%;
    • HIV,TB and Malaria deaths decreased by close to 80%;
    • The poorest pay nothing to access health care.

We have so much potential as a nation. We do not need aid! We have enough resources. If we deal with corruption, work to redistribute our resources equitably ad ensure that everyone, and not just the big fat-fatty cats continue to benefit, the challenge of failing to implement the MDG’s will cease to exist and be another old archive in the history books.

#CSW58- MDG 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Development, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Zimbabwe

The environment is our most valued/priced natural asset because in it exist all the elements that make our lives what they are; air, water, sun, wind, rain, food among others. The conservation of the environment is hence a priority area as failure to conserve it could spell our demise or extinction. Yet, more often than not, the protection of the environment is relegated to the least of our priorities. Even at the global level, recognition that environmental protection is needed is there but the political will to do so is as good as non-existent. The big powers, whose greed and reckless quest to grow their economies is largely responsible for the rut we are in with climate change, refuse to take up responsibility in mitigating further damage and stopping further degradation by reducing their emissions and giving financial assistance to the countries affected by climate change already to adapt to the current climatic trends.

Yet in all this, the poor suffer more. How, one would ask; climate change affects the environment and in doing so poses the biggest human security threat to the poor and the vulnerable. The majority of our women in Zimbabwe live off the land, vana gogo vanorima (women farmers), vana tete vanochera mbambaira (sweet-potato harvesters), madzimai emusika anotengesa maveggie (vendors), makorokoza echidzimai (female gold panners) they all live off the land.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York)

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York)

Climate change could bring either droughts or floods. Droughts will mean that the farmers, who depend on consistent and sufficient rains, will be affected. The failure of the rains to come means their failure to produce food (crop failure); which means there will be food insecurity, which will bring hunger, which in turn causes malnutrition. Poor yield means increased poverty and with poverty come health risks. Droughts also mean less water available, the less clean water we have available, the more our chances of being exposed to contaminated water which will result in the contraction of terrible diseases like cholera and typhoid, something that Zimbabwe has already experienced.

Climate change could also mean floods. As the experience of Zimbabwe with the Tokwe-Mukosi disaster illustrated, floods bring many issues: displacement, homelessness, food insecurity, disease, poverty and a general drawback to the development agenda.
Our main energy source in the rural areas, firewood comes from the land and results in the cutting down of trees, the very same forests we need to mitigate against climate change. But what other alternative do they have; gas is expensive, electricity is scarce-and although solar is readily available and can be successfully converted for cooking, it is slow and is hardly a favoured option in many households.

What have we done well?
 Although in the SADC region, Botswana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Seychelles, Swaziland, Malawi and Lesotho are doing better than us, we are ranked number 100 in our carbon dioxide emissions. This makes us one of the lowest net emitters of greenhouse gases. One could argue that this is the case because we have no industry to talk about as most of our factories and plants have closed and are largely dysfunctional.
 However, should we begin boosting our exiting efforts at adopting green energy, this could prove useful in maintaining our emissions really low and preserving our environment.
 We are producing ethanol fuel which is home-grown and in the process creating jobs, developing our economy and preserving the environment.
 We are improving our solar technology to reduce the use of wood in rural areas.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

What have we not done well and how can we improve?
 There is increased deforestation. This is because of the increased reliance on firewood for energy both in the rural and urban areas. With increasing power cuts, populations have turned to firewood for cooking. Until we address our energy deficit by increasing and improving electricity supply as well as exploring alternative energy sources such as gas, our forests will continue to deplete.
 There is increased environmental degradation through veld-fires.
 The existence of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in itself is a positive development. However, this government body is underfunded and is hence plagued by corruption. Anyone can pollute as long as they can pay some in the EMA.
 There is increased poaching of wildlife in our national parks (especially in Hwange), and again this is being made possible by the rampant corruption in that sector. The lack of resources to patrol the parks makes poaching easier.
 There is increased desecration of valuable environmental sites such as vleis, sanctuaries and wetlands. This cannot just be a case of ignorance of the need for environmental protection as most of the desecration is sanctioned by government. It is clear the problem is corruption; those who stand to benefit from the building of malls on wetlands or the allocation of residential stands on wetlands are the real culprits that need to be weeded out. (And I am glad that the ugly-Chinese-mall-built-on-the-wetland-is-cracking-up-proving-it-was-built-on-a-wetland).
 Our water and sanitation situation is pathetic. The housing backlog and the overcrowding in urban areas does not help the situation either. And it must be pointed out that the housing problem is a man-made disaster, a consequence of the demolition of houses by government in Operation Murambatsvina in 2006 and the subsequent failure to replace those destroyed homes.
 Climate change has begun to show its presence with seasonal changes and drastic changes to our weather patterns. The impact that this has on our environment and our food security is something that has little talked about. We need to increase dialogue around the meaning, cause, consequences and impact of climate change to improve our adaptation strategies.
 We are destroying our conservancies (such as Save) all for the love of money. Are the diamonds not enough nhaimi?
 We need to have more public-private partnerships on sustaining the environment. Most environmental degradation affects the public but is caused by corporates accessing resources be it minerals, land or forestry.

Above all, this goal needs us to do three things; the first is to deal with Corruption, the second is to deal with corruption and the third to deal with corruption. That green eyed monster called corruption that’s being passed off by those who practise it and being substituted with the s (for sanctions)-word which I dare not pronounce, needs to be dealt with effectively. Until and unless we do that, we are a doomed nation.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

#CSW58- MDG 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases

Activism, Development, Gender, Human Rights, Women, Zimbabwe

I saw a headline in one of yesterday’s papers which said: “MDC official succumbs to Malaria.” Yes, Malaria, as a disease only becomes topical when it kills a prominent individual. Outside such circumstances, the media pays it very little, if not, no attention. Yet malaria remains one of the biggest health problems our country has to deal with. Did you know that 50% of our population is at risk of Malaria? And, did you also know that 1 in 12 children die before their 5th birthday of Malaria? Do you now see why we must pay malaria as much attention as HIV/AIDS?

Another disease, well known and feared but with hardly any statistics to tell us what it is and how much it has affected our people is cancer. All we know is that the number of death certificates, with the cause of death written down as cancer, are dramatically increasing. Women are being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer while the number of men with prostate cancer is also increasing. We have many cases of individuals seeking donations to have surgery done on growths in the stomach, jaws, throat abroad and a vast number are also succumbing to lung cancer. Costs of getting cancer treatment are steep, estimated at $500 per session and government no longer subsidises the patients because they says government has no funds.

Typhoid and Cholera are also killing many people. The annoying thing about the scourge of these diseases in Zimbabwe is that it was purely man-made. Yes, I said that! We brought cholera and typhoid unto ourselves through the failure of our government to provide us with clean water and ensure sanitation for its citizens. Meanwhile, the bosses at the municipal councils responsible for collecting our rubbish bins, repairing our sewer pipes and providing us with clean water were always whining that there was not enough money for it while they paid each other $35 000 salaries.

Tuberculosis is also killing many of our people. Fortunately, the drugs are available for free in our public hospitals so once diagnosed; an individual can be helped and healed. Although about 79% of the people treated of TB in 2011 also had HIV/AIDS, 21 % were just cases of TB-something that a lot of people have lost touch with; assuming that only HIV positive individuals can suffer from TB.

We have been doing well in our fight with HIV/AIDS. Infections reduced from 30% in 2000 to 15% in 2011. However it is worrying to note that HIV/AIDS affects more women than men as prevalence is 6% higher among women (18% prevalence) than men (12% prevalence). And so it is perplexing to understand why some people JUST don’t get what we mean when we speak of the feminisation of HIV/AIDS, or the need for addressing gender relations in ending HIV/AIDS. Can she negotiate for safe sex [with her HIV positive partner]? Can she say no to sex with her [HIV positive] husband? How many of the women will get HIV/AIDS from their [HIV positive] husband in that polygamous marriage? How many of the women will contract the disease from that serial rapist? And so the nature of the relationships [where women have less power] determines the risk [higher] of getting HIV/AIDS and reflects in the prevalence [higher among women].

What have we done well?

  • HIV/AIDS testing has significantly improved. It takes less time to get tested and the counselling services have improved.
  • The roll out of the Anti-Retro Viral Treatment (ART) has been largely successful, with free drugs being provided for patients in public hospitals.
  • The successful implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) has helped reduce new infections in children.
  • The availability of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) drugs for free in public hospitals has helped the fight against both diseases.

What have we not done?

  • We only have 2 public hospitals treating cancer – Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare.
  • These hospitals have very little in the form of radiation therapy equipment, drugs and manpower in the form of specialists.
  • We have not opened our eyes to the reality of the increase in cancer detections enough to take steps to prevent its outbreak.

What more can we do?

  • We need to allocate more funds to addressing all these diseases. Relying on external partners’ support is unreliable and risky and as proved by the withdrawal of funds by the Global Fund, the plug on such funds can be pulled off any minute. Government must adequately budget so that donor funds become surplus, not the core.
  • More focus needs to be paid to dealing with cancer as cancer deaths are on the increase. Further, awareness efforts on what causes cancer and how it can be cured need to be scaled up.
  • Above and beyond the policy and practice, we need to address our ethos as a people. The reality of the high HIV infections among women lies in unequal gender relations where women are unable to negotiate for safe sex. Without addressing these gender relations, women will remain vulnerable.
  • We must address corruption; Salary-gate is part of the reason why people died of cholera and typhoid. Those who sanctioned and those who took fat salaries home while some poor people drank infected and dirty water to their death bed have blood on their hands.

#CSW58-MDG 5: Promoting Maternal Health

Activism, Africa, Development, Emancipation, Gender, Human Rights, Women, Zimbabwe

When I reflect on the risk and sacrifices that women make in this world, it makes me wonder when, why and how it came to be that in many parts of the world, they are regarded as second class citizens. What am I saying?

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2011, at least 10 women die every day due to pregnancy-related complications. Did you hear that, 10 women die every day while giving birth to children, some of them sons, who will then turn on their mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces and cousins and treat them as second class citizens. Isn’t that ironic?

Millennium Development Goal 5 is definitely one of the goals that Zimbabwe will not be able to meet. With maternal deaths estimated to be above 960 deaths for every 100 000 live births, the target of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters can remain an aspiration for now. Given that the 960 deaths are official statistics, which God knows how accurate they are, with the way our government is out of touch with the issues on the ground on so many levels, the rate is possibly even higher.

Let us assume for a minute that these statistics in fact are right, I am still perplexed by the worrying trend that factors such as education, class, location and age are no longer critical in determining who is affected. Uneducated and educated, poor and rich, rural and urban, and older and younger women are all dying in child birth. Clearly there are hidden nuances to the problem and successfully dealing with maternal health will needs exploring these. For instance, cases of celebrities who passed on in child birth, grabbed the headlines, raising the need for a more concerted effort into addressing the issue of maternal mortality.

What are some of these nuances?

  • We simply do not have enough trained health professionals to deal with the delivery of our babies. Our nurses left and we are not doing much to motivate those who remained behind to remain in our service and to be motivated at work.
  • The private health-care system has not been effectively regulated. Just in the past year I have had 2 friends and a relative who have had nasty encounters with private health practitioners. The first friend went to a reputable women’s health centre where she was told she had a growth in her uterus and needed to have her uterus cleaned. Fortunately for her, she chose not to do that and sought a second opinion. Guess what-the supposed ‘growth’ in her uterus was a baby. And to think these people have advanced machines for scans and all that other fancy stuff!!

Another friend elected to deliver her baby through a Caesarean and informed her gynaecologist of her choice. However, he kept pushing the dates for the performance of the Caesarean forward, in what she feared was an attempt to create complications in her delivery, leading to her increased stay in hospital and increased bill=more money for the doctor.

My other relative had had two babies, delivered through normal births without any complications. However for her third baby, the doctor dramatically chose to ‘induce’ her labour prematurely. She could not understand why he did so when her labour was not delayed and her pregnancy was advancing normally. Eventually she found out why when the bill came with a breakdown of:

  1. Costs for inducing labour
  2. Costs for delivering the baby
  3. Costs for doing the ‘stitches’ on the mother
  4. Costs of medication to clean the wounds

She also complained that the same doctor had developed a reputation of forcing women whose babies he delivered to have more ‘stitches’  or proclaim non-existent complications requiring caesarean delivery because doing so meant he would charge more for sewing them back together and performing the surgery. It seems the love for money far exceeds the observance of medical ethics these days.

What have we done well?

  • Our implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme (PMTCT) has significantly reduced cases of HIV/AIDS infections in children at birth. HIV testing has improved and the responsibility lies with the mothers to choose life for their children.
  • The adoption of the National Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality (NCARMM) directly corresponding with the African Union (AU) Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa in itself is an important development as it affirms government’s recognition that maternal mortality is a serious problem that needs addressing.

What have we not done well?

Government admits that most maternal deaths are a result of time taken to seek healthcare because of ignorance or lack of funds to pay for hospital care; time needed to reach a healthcare because hospitals are too far and there is no easily accessible transport to and from the health facility or the cost to do so is high and unaffordable and time taken to access care at the health facility-where there is generally an air of neglect of women in health-care facilities by highly unmotivated nurses.

Generally health services are inaccessible particularly in rural areas where hospitals and clinics are not within easy reach and the transport networks to the major clinics and hospitals are not easily accessible. Increasingly, the service in hospitals, particularly public/government hospitals, has deteriorated and has become poor. Pregnant women suffer neglect in hospitals resulting in some avoidable losses and deaths. Socio-economic challenges, related with the current economic environment significantly impact women’s access to medical services as they cannot afford to pay the user fees. There has been reduced uptake of contraception for inexplicable reasons.

What more can we do?

  • We need to adequately fund all our health institutions. Although a government policy stating that women should not pay user fees exists, it is impractical. If clinics do not make women pay, then they will not have the gloves, medication and swabs to attend to the women at child birth. Until and unless government adequately funds these facilities then the assertions that user fees have been scrapped will remain what they are; mere rhetoric!!
  • We must address religious and traditional practices that deny women access to medical facilities or that delay until patients are in critical condition. Zvitsidzo (Apostolic sects’ version of maternal wards), located in bushes in the middle of nowhere, secretive and denying access to the public, are an example of how maternal care is being compromised. Because of the veil of secrecy that these sects throw over these spaces, it is not clear how many women actually die and whether there are any complications that women have to live with for the rest of their lives for failing to give birth in certified maternal health care facilities.
  • We must maintain our reliable supply of contraception BUT we must find out, through comprehensive research, why there is reduced uptake of contraceptives.
  • We must take measures to motivate our nurses to do their jobs effectively. Without the necessary incentives, women will continue to lose their lives in avoidable circumstances.

#CSW58 Zimbabwe’s progress- MDG 1: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Development, Human Rights, Women, Zimbabwe

Over the past 15 years, Zimbabwe has not made great strides in achieving the goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger due to the economic decline that has persisted since 2000. Although efforts have been focused on improving economic growth, with our GDP improving from 5.4% in 2009 to 9.3% in 2011, the process of growth has not been inclusive. A comprehensive approach to ending poverty and ensuring inclusive growth, to me, would mean
1. the creation of decent employment;
2. the promotion of entrepreneurship through development of ICTs and other infrastructure;
3. the enhancement of access to and quality of social services;
4. a reduction in inequality between men and women and between social classes;
5. the promotion and implementation of a strategy to address the effects of climate change and the environmental hazards it brings

We still have a lot of our people living on less than $1.25 per day which is the global index measure of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2012 we only managed to reduce hunger by less than 10% while other countries such as Ghana, Congo, Mauritania, Malawi and Angola reduced hunger by a margin of 50% or more.

There is limited availability of loans translating into poor access to loaning facilities. This means more corruption by those who hold the reins to the finance, but of course in Zimbabwe that has a different name-it s called sanctions. The conditions of accessing the loans are extremely stringent for women, who predominantly are outnumbered by their male counterparts in owning immovable property that is required as collateral. If anything the last 15 years have seen increasing levels of poverty as our country has lost its middle class to create two classes, the poor and the rich. I am one of the poor. The majority of women-66% are in the informal sector, providing domestic labour and farm labour. Only 34 % are in formal employment.

What have we done well?

  • There is a marked decline in the number of underweight children under the age of 5 from 11+% in 2009 to 10% in 2012. This means that our fight against malnutrition in young children has largely been successful. I reckon the feeding schemes in schools and hospitals are what has paid off. I am not sure how these will be sustained since most are funded by donors (read western stooges and detractors).

What have we not done?

  • Our agricultural sector has not been performing well and we are being mocked, left right and centre as the classic example of a nation that turned from a bread-basket to a basket case. Food insecurity has also increased as a consequence of increasing concentration in commercial cash crop farming rather than growing food crops.
  • We continue to marginalise the people who till the land-the women- in land allocation processes. Only 20% of the beneficiaries of the land reform are women.


  • We redistributed land to poor peasants but have not followed up their ability to utilise the land through the provision of capital.
  • We have no data on how well we are doing. Most of the available statistics are outdated to 2011 [Is this a reflection on the incompetence of ZIMSTAT or are they just underfunded?]
  • We do not have gender disaggregated data [again this is an indictment on ZIMSTAT to pull their socks up].
  • We have not and are not adequately funding women dominated sectors of the economy including small scale farming and other small to medium enterprises (SME’s).
  • We have no comprehensive social protection services [and how could we when our National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is busy investing the funds workers contribute  in shady deals]

What more can we do?

I have a proverb that I like which says “Give a woman a dollar and she will either create another dollar or feed her family with it. Give a man a dollar and he will buy a beer.” Yes, this may sound stereotypical of men but the reality on the ground indicates this is true. The majority of women place the needs of their families and children above their own in almost any given circumstance. This is why a wise government should know that ending poverty is possible when we invest in our women. This is what I propose we do;

  • Our commitment through the budget to fund women’s projects must increase and extend to ensuring equitable, non-partisan distribution of the funds. This business of giving farming inputs to certain political-party-card holders should stop.
  • We need to increase women’s participation in both small scale initiatives and large scale ones, be it in mining, agriculture, fisheries or any other area.
  • We must recognise the informal sector as the current backbone of our economy and give better protection to the women in the informal sector through enacting the relevant legislation. Current labour laws are focused on regulating the formal sector with very little attention paid to the informal.
  • We must negotiate the inter-Africa trading space with women in mind. Our cross-border traders, who are predominantly women, need a friendly and safe working space to enable them to continue to provide for their families. We must never forget that had it not been for cross-border traders, Zimbabwe would have collapsed in 2008-2009. They brought us bread, mealie-meal, soap, cooking oil, milk and even eggs from across the borders.
  • We must have a land audit to ensure optimal utilisation of the land by repossessing all the land not being fully utilised and redistributing it with a focus on women farmers. We cannot afford to have idle individuals with big-fat behinds to claim ownership of land that they do not know how to till, do not till and does not produce anything meaningful except spans of grass and thorns.
  • We must increase our investment in women farmers as a means of increasing production, reducing hunger and malnutrition and increasing food security.
  • Our reliance on the rains (which are erratic) to sustain our agricultural sector is unsustainable. We must invest in irrigation. However this will also mean improving our electricity supply, which at the moment is nightmarish for the average urban dweller and totally gothic for the rural dweller.
  • We need to resuscitate our manufacturing industry, which used to provide employment to the majority of urban dwellers and whose closure has resulted in increased unemployment and poverty among our urban population. This business of grabbing productive companies and industries and turning them into rat-breeding warehouses must stop. Let those capable of running industries do so. If we want to capitalise from their hard earned productivity then let us create a taxation regime that gives the fiscus significant gains. Alternatively we should create a labour system that allows the employees of these companies to have share schemes and benefit from the huge profits we are sniffing after. We do not have to own companies to benefit from their existence in our country when we can’t run them profitably; although owning them and making them truly productive would be ideal.

Part 2-One Good Road

Development, Governance, Human Rights, Zimbabwe

So as the BUS DROVE ON, we all gulped the dust, bore the bumpy road with gritted teeth and wished the driver could slow down just a little bit. He could not have cared less that the once-tarred-road was now more of a gravel road. He was out to make money and make it fast. It being a holiday, (Christmas and the New Year), business was good and he needed to drive as fast as possible, dump us at our destinations and go back for another load.

I thought to myself; all it will take is one good road. One good road that links the farmers to the market to sell their produce. One good road that allows the citizens to have access to a reliable transport network. One good road that allows businesses to transport their goods to the farming communities and limit the time farmers spend travelling to get basic goods. One good road that enables the citizens to have quick and easy access to hospitals. I recalled the stories told of the women dying of complications in childbirth, and the many other people who died on their way to the hospital.

The area I am concerned with today is among the highest cotton producing areas in Zimbabwe. The road is frequented by large haulage trucks transporting farming produce, linking the farmers to the market. That road is so terrible, however, that I had to park my car in Kadoma and use public transport. Many transport operators are unwilling to tour the route arguing that the road will damage their vehicles, causing them to incur more expenses in repairs hence making their businesses unprofitable. The value of a good road both for human development and economic development cannot be overstated and as the African Development Bank always emphasises, good roads facilitate the movement of goods and people from remote areas to the main economic and social structure of the country.  The availability of a good road network, increases traffic flows and hence decreases the economic costs of transporting goods to and from markets. The same roads facilitate access to health, education and information.

The road stretches for only 140 kilometres connecting Kadoma, Patchway, Chakari, Golden Valley, Sanyati, Copper-Queen and Gokwe.Five ( 5 ) different MPs represent the people who need this road to work; Kadoma Central MP -Fani Phanuel Phiri of ZANU (PF), Chakari MP-Aldrin Musiiwa of ZANU (PF), Sanyati MP-Blessed Runesu of ZANU (PF), Gokwe Nembudziya  MP-Mayor Wadyajena of ZANU (PF) and Gokwe Mapfungautsi MP-Mirriam Makweya of ZANU (PF).

Surely if these 4 men and 1 woman are true representatives of their constituencies, the issue of this road shall be a priority on their 5 year mandate as the issue of jackals/hyenas in Buhera is to Comrade Chinotimba. Yes, the rural district councils in some of these areas are tasked with the responsibility to construct and maintain the roads but central government, which the MPs have direct access to and are part of, is bound by national policy to provide resources through the national fiscus, to ensure that the local authorities perform their responsibilities as provided for in the Local Government Act.

I will certainly be watching them. After all, it’s only one good road.

Chronicles of a starving nation?

Development, Human Rights, Zimbabwe

So, in the period between November and the end of the holidays, I travelled across 5 provinces: Mashonaland West,  Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Masvingo and as usual I was observing.  In the areas where there were little rains, Masvingo and Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West such as Sanyati, there were wide expanses of field-nothingness- very little rains and very few crops. “It is going to be a drought year,” the whispers were going round. “Will this one be better than the 1992 one?” one man asked. “I have heard that when farmers struggle with low seed germination it means that there will be a bumper harvest,” some people commented. I thought, “the irony of it, that the rains are scarce where they are desperately needed and where the people like to grow maize, these people survive on farming and their farming depends on the rains and the rains are nowhere to be found.”

Meanwhile in Harare, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East where it was raining cats and dogs the people were investing in cash crops-hectares on hectares of tobacco.

These observations got me thinking around a lot of issues.
1. In areas where it is not raining so much and the seasons seem to have changed, is the problem climate change?
2. If it is climate change what is government doing to educate the masses?
3. Have we adapted our seed to create shorter season, early germination and maturing seed that adapts to the shorter seasons and lesser rainfall?
4. If so how much do the people in the farming communities know about this and what is being done to educate them around such issues?

Pondering on all these issues I was then confronted with an allegation that not only shocked but enraged me, if it is true. The farmers I met claimed that the seeds had a very poor germination ratio because those producing seed were mixing expired seed from previous seasons with current seed. The old seed was not germinating and the new seed was less in each pack. So on top of footing the expensive bill of purchasing seed & other inputs & putting in many hours of hard labour; farmers were also being defrauded. Dear Min of Agriculture, you would do well to investigate this possible fraudulent disservice to our farmers and our economy.

Above all, there is a dire need to invest in irrigation to offset drought vulnerability. In Sanyati it was sad to see the few young crops withering away, while Munyati river was overflowing from its tributaries in the Munyati area where it was raining.  There is also need to ensure timely supply of inputs, and a verification of the quality of those inputs. Zimbabwe needs food and as the World Food Programme estimated, almost 2.2 million people will need food aid. We should be producing more food and I sincerely hope something is done to address this need soon.

Beyond rights to necessities: Water Wars

Development, Zimbabwe

On the SWRadio Hotseat programme of 6 June 2013, Violet Gonda- the hostess-asked the Mayor of Harare, Mr Muchadeyi Masunda a very important question: When can the water woes ravaging Harare residents be expected to end. The mayor responded saying;

“Once all the stakeholders who owe money start paying their bills and prioritising payment of their bills in the same way as they do with their cell phones and DSTV, we’ll see a considerable improvement of the situation.”

The Mayor’s response upset me because it is wrong on so many levels;

  1. It implies that the reason why there is no water is because residents are not paying, and that residents have their priorities skewed paying off DSTV and cell-phones instead of water bills. Where does the Mayor place the poor who cannot afford to pay for water? Did he also take into consideration that most residents only stopped paying once they realised that the City Council expected payment for services not rendered.
  2. It transfers the responsibility of ensuring water availability to the residents’ financial capacity.  The reality is that the system we have in place demands that water be supplied by the city councils or government. It is their responsibility to fund-raise and be innovative at it, to ensure that water supply systems are adequately  financed. 
  3. It implies that the running of water supplies is wholly dependent on the payment of water bills by residents. Is it not the duty of government to have a budget for water? How would Mr Masunda explain the recent MDG report findings that 65% of rural water points are not functional? Should rural people also pay for the repair of boreholes in the same way that urban people supposedly pay for water treatment chemical and repair of pipes? If so, what then is the government’s role; just to collect our monies? To me the water issue is a clear indicator of government failure to prioritise basic necessities for the people they purport to represent.

Excuse my emotive approach but I thought we had a right to water!

Yes we do have the right to water under our Constitution. However with rights come obligations; right. The state assumes obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil these human rights. But unfortunately for us the right to water is a social economic right and even under international law states are permitted to ensure that this right is achieved “progressively” meaning that they can be excused for not making it an immediate reality for all citizens. “Subject to the availability of resources,” the Constitution says.

But is it really possible for any individual to live without water?

Somewhere in Mexico-just over a month ago, I had a sit down with Oscar Olivera. Now who is he, you will ask? I know him as a warm, reflective individual, whose quiet strength made me feel comfortable to ask him anything yet his humble demeanour commanded utmost respect. I also know Oscar as the man who, in 2000, in the Latin American state of Bolivia, led -together with others-a fight against a strong, powerful multinational engineering company called Betchel. Betchel had privatised all the water in Bolivia  including the rain water and unsurprisingly, the government of Bolivia had agreed to this idea under the “guidance” of the World Bank. Within a week of taking over the water management the tariffs were hiked by over 50% making unlimited access to water a privilege for the few who had the necessary funds. The laws demanded that citizens acquire a permit to collect rain water [Who knew that even rain water could be privatised, I mean who died and made these people God!!!] Chen Blanc at the School of Authentic Journalism interviewed Oscar and this interview sheds light into the man and his life struggle.

But what I got from the conversations I had with Oscar was that the ‘rights’ discourse is simply inadequate when describing the importance of water to humanity.  He said,

“To guarantee water is to guarantee the continuation of humanity itself. Water is the human being; in the same way a tree would die with no water is the same way human life would wither without water. Why then should it be acceptable, that access to such a core element to our existence, should be conditional or controlled by another human being or be the subject of profit by a private company?” [I would add or be made conditional upon the payment of rates to municipal authorities]

Fundamental to Oscar’s assertion is the fact that water is a core need and no human being should be denied water. Oscar underscored the importance of the recognition of the “right to water” but emphasised that this is not enough.

“In places like Equador and Bolivia they have introduced water as a right. That is good progress but it could also be problematic. The concept of a right implies a corresponding obligation. By who? By the state? What if the state fails-then what?”

Oscar’s words came back to me when I heard what the Mayor of Harare said.  I am a staunch human rights advocate, but those words made me realise that the right to water is meaningless when citizens actually do not have water.

What does the right to water mean when half the time no water runs through our taps, as municipal water is in short supply? What does it mean to the mother who has to run a household with no water for nine consecutive days? In the Eastern suburbs of Harare, residents are reporting that they are getting water once or twice a month-is that what the right to water entails? And in the northern suburbs most people do not receive municipal water from the City of Harare at all- do they also have a right to water?

Is it meaningful to say we have a right to water when we are buying water to drink because tap water is hazardous to our health? Can we say government is fulfilling its obligations when, were it not for UNICEF’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programme in some areas there would be no communal boreholes that are servicing stricken suburbs?

Yet religiously, the city councils send us exorbitant bills to pay. In most affluent suburbs, people have drilled their own boreholes and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has followed up to say “Ground water belongs to us so you must also pay for it.” And so in addition to receiving bills and paying monthly rates for the municipal water they NEVER have, residents also pay quarterly rates for domestic boreholes.

In some rural areas, citizens are clamouring for boreholes, river water is not safe to drink-if it is there at all, yet they supposedly have a ‘right’ to water. In other rural areas, citizens have boreholes but the ‘right’ to use the borehole is given to that one community; it does not translate into a right for other communities. Once rights are mentioned then there are power relations at play. There is also an internalisation of individual ownership of resources and privatisation of water either as individual beings or as individual communities. Boreholes belong to specific villages, dams belong to their communities. Anyone who tries to gain access without consulting with the local community is violating a communal right. Communities can block access to water from each other on the basis of ‘rights.’

I recall Oscar’s words;

“If we are going to talk of rights, so then let them be rights from an indigenous perspective where we grant ourselves rights, they are not given to us. We claim access to water as of necessity not as of right.”

There must be no pre-condition when it comes to accessing water.  As Oscar revealed to me, what they rejected in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the privatisation of their water was essentially the plunder and exploitation that national corporations believed could exert with no consequences. What we should also reject in Zimbabwe is a mismanagement of the resources available to us by those in power, limiting their ability to give us access to clean and safe water. What we should also reject is their frustration of individuals’ attempts at providing water for themselves by continuously putting stringent measures for digging wells or drilling boreholes.

Oscar’s favourite phrase about the communality of water rings true in my head and I hope it does in yours too “Water is not a commodity; it is a common good.”

Raggedy Old Mop

Democracy, Development, Governance, Zimbabwe

The right to be counted is a right of no small magnitude.  Zimbabwe recently had a Census in which enumerators were sent out to gather information that would determine how many people are in Zimbabwe. However it appears the exercise was not done satisfactorily as recent outcries by Zimbabweans who were not counted during the census days or during the follow up exercise to the count referred to as the “mop up count” indicate.

Despite efforts by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstats) population census director Washington Mapeta to have a mop up exercise to follow up on those who had not initially been counted as well as extending the counting exercise by another week, inviting members of the public who had not been counted to appear at Zimstat offices in their areas for counting these efforts came at an inopportune time as the initial exercise was fundamentally flawed. Adding to the problems is the report in the Zimbabwean of 6 September which reported that members of the Central Intelligence Organisation barred citizens in Bulawayo from entering the Zimstat offices to be counted.

And so we wonder, why do they not want to count us? Why don’t they want to know exactly how many we are? Why was the process done in such a rush? Do they not understand why the process is so important for citizens? Well, we do know why we must be counted.

We know that the census is the one occasion, once every ten years when each and every one of us gets the opportunity to make our mark by putting on record who we are, giving a comprehensive picture of our social, economic and living conditions. The Census will state where we are, what we do, what we have to offer and what our current situation is. It will inform government planning and decision making in the allocation of resources and development of social service programs for instance determining which communities, schools, hospitals and roads need funding and which ones should be prioritised based on the resident population size and age.

Hence if this census had been done properly public resources would have to be shared evenly across the country. The Census would also have determined the delimitation of constituencies, something that we all know certain sectors of the government do not want to be tampered with because then we would have less rural constituencies than we do now. We also know that if done properly the census would have helped to identify needs in local communities and provided local government with knowledge of local business needs to attract inward investment.

Surely, given that a census facilitates transparency in resource allocation, builds avenues for effective citizen participation and makes government accountable to every individual-it must be a good thing that our dearly beloved inclusive government would want to do right. Well, there we are wrong. They have shown that they do not want to do it right.

Many citizens are crying foul for being left out. As Zimbabweans we have a right to be counted and to express our dissatisfaction with the quality of work that Zimstat has produced at the end of the census. As it stands only a fraction of the population was counted and the enumerators did not do a satisfactory job. The mop up exercise is as futile as trying to reshape sweet potatoes. You will only break them, not fix them. This is a raggedy old mop Zimstat has used. The census must be redone and done right! It is too important to ignore.

Letter to the President: Rio+ 20

Development, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Zimbabwe

*This letter was written by Jocelyn Lake, a friend of mine and I felt it deserved space here*

Dear Mr President

Pray tell me exactly what it is you are contributing at the Earth Summit in Brazil when your own country, Zimbabwe is a serious offender on environmental issues. Let me name a few:

-An outdated water system, with rusted pipes which regularly spring leaks which are left unattended for days and sometimes weeks or months resulting in the loss of thousands of litres of precious treated drinking water.

-Drilling of numerous boreholes due to the shortage of municipal water which will lead to huge reductions in groundwater levels.

-Widespread pollution because of littering and burning of garbage, including plastics releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.

-Failure to educate the population on environmental matters resulting in the dumping of garbage in open spaces.

-Unreliability of the municipal garbage collection system resulting in mass litter dumps in residential areas and the clogging of road drainage systems in cities.

-Widespread land clearing resulting in the chopping down of precious trees by newly resettled farmers on commercial farming land.

-The chopping down of trees for firewoodas a consequence of regular power outages by your power authority

– The pollution of rivers with effluent because of the inadequate sewage systems in High Density suburbs

These are only a few of the smaller activities which result in the degradation of the environment.

Some of the larger ones include:

-Development and building of residential areas and hotels on precious wetlands.

-Attempts to develop hotels and prospecting for minerals in precious national parks such as Mana Pools which is a World Heritage Site.

As a result, Mr President I am driven to ask why you carried such  a huge delegation  of 92 to the Rio Earth Summit which cost the Zimbabweans US$7 million.  What will that delegation achieve besides increasing the country’s carbon footprint by a significant amount due to the fossil fuels you will burn in the planes transporting you and them? How much more so would you have improved our environment had you invested that money into cleaning up our filthy cities? How much more so would you have improved our environment had you put that money into policing industries that are dumping toxic waste into lakes and rivers? And how much more so would you have improved the state of our environment had you invested that same amount of money into developing environment friendly systems of transportation? Why have you allowed this delegation to come along with you for the ride? Is it because they are passionate about the environment is it just so they can sample the wonderful beaches in Rio de Janeiro!

I hope that by some unlikely chance you read this letter and think deeply on the issues raised herein.

Yours Sincerely,

Concerned Citizen