The horrors of existence in Zimbabwe



Over nine days spent travelling clandestinely around this beautiful, once-bountiful country, The Times found a nation where millions now struggle to survive on barely a bowl of sadza (a mealie-meal porridge) a day, the most basic services have all but collapsed and thousands die every week in a perfect storm of poverty, hunger and disease. Aids, like corruption, is rampant.

We found paupers’ burials, starving children with stunted bodies, orphans left to fend for themselves in the most brutal environments. It is a country regressing from commercial farms to vegetable patches, from the light bulb to the oil lamp, from the tap to the well. Feet – often bare – are replacing the wheel as the most common form of transport. Once Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe can no longer provide its citizens with bread and water.

“This is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, worse even than Darfur,” said David Coltart, an opposition MP. “We lose more people a week to preventable illnesses than are lost in Iraq, but because there’s no blood on the streets, little attention is paid to what’s going on here.”

Zimbabwe, like Sarudzai, has deteriorated dramatically since March. It is closer than ever to complete collapse, according to the International Crisis Group. Inflation has soared from 1,700 to 15,000 per cent. Draconian price controls have emptied the shops because producers cannot cover their costs. Though millions are starving, farmers are slaughtering dairy herds because they cannot sell milk at a viable price. But those who still have money can buy almost anything on the flourishing black market.

Petrol is virtually unattainable without foreign currency. Power cuts are frequent because Zimbabwe no longer has the foreign exchange to repair its decrepit generating stations or buy electricity from its neighbours. Taps run dry for days on end, and when the water does flow – even in the capital – it is contaminated by sewage.

In Mabvuku, a township east of Harare that has had no proper water supply all year, we found hundreds of women gathered on a patch of wasteland, waiting with their buckets for tiny, muddy pools to form in the bottom of half a dozen 15ft holes. “Some of us get up at 4am because there is more water then and it is cleaner. Some of us wait the whole day,” Joyce Dando, 46, said.


In one rural clinic, a 20-month-old boy lay dying of marasmus, another disease caused by malnutrition. He weighed 11lb. There was no hope, said the doctor in charge. The clinic treats hundreds of villagers who come from far and wide each day on buses, donkey carts or foot. More than 80 per cent are HIV-positive. Half are medically malnourished. That lethal combination has destroyed their immune systems and caused an explosion of other diseases such as TB, malaria, meningitis and pneumonia.


There is much more including a video that you can play at the link. That 20 month old boy weighs about the same as my one month old grandson. When you read this tragic report you have to wonder why Mugabe has not been hauled before the International Criminal Court. Incredibly he still has the backing of other African leaders which tells you something about their morals too. Was the intent of the treaty of Westphalia to permit a ruler like Mugabe to abuse his country so much? Zimbabwe is a stark example of the failure not only of institutions in that country, but multilateral institutions also.


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