Zimbabwe News Online (13) - 1/12/98

Zimbabwe News Online (13) - 1/12/98


Edition #13 12 January 1998

Subscribe to Zimbabwe News Online
A twice monthly update of news from Zimbabwe!


Zimbabwe's health system in shambles
1. Bus accident claims 43 lives
2. Grain board fails to meet target
3. Commuter buses stoned
4. Air traffic controllers fired for going on strike
5. Cocaine seized at Harare Airport
6. Pastors and healers among rapists
7. Students urge Mugabe to pardon opposition leader
8. Britain has no obligation to support land reform - minister
9. New boss for intelligence organisation
10. Farmer cancels field day
11. Coach suspended for two years


Zimbabwe's health system in shambles

Zimbabwe's health delivery system is in an extremely unhealthy situation with the country's public health institutions among those worst affected by the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP).

Government's cost recovery programme and its reduction of spending on social services has had disastrous consequences for the health sector. Access to health is now the preserve of the rich who can afford to seek treatment at private hospitals.

Government hospitals are experiencing not only a serious shortage of essential drugs, but also along with this, essential medical equipment. Cases of people suffering from diseases such as malaria or pneumonia and being given only pain killers as treatment abound. Added to this, the hospitals are also understaffed.

At independence Zimbabwe inherited probably one of the best health delivery system on the African continent. The Ministry of Health was then among those ministries with the highest allocations from the country's annual budget. Working conditions for doctors and nurses were good, and so the patients were well cared for.

Since the introduction of ESAP about seven years ago, the health budget has been falling, but the country's population has been on the rise.Fewer nurses are employed than in the past placing a serious burden on nurses because of this negative nurse to patient ratio. This has led to frustration and consequently to the ill-handling of patients.

This frustration has resulted in many Zimbabwean doctors leaving the country for greener pastures in South Africa as soon as they complete their housemanship. Most of the doctors who have chosen to remain have opened private surgeries where they spend most of their time at the expense of government hospitals where they remain employed simply because they draw a salary and can refer their patients for operations and other medical processes which they cannot perform at their surgeries.

Complaints that doctors on call do not present themselves for duty when summoned for emergencies are many. A case which best illustrates how some doctors and nurses ignore their duties occurred last year in the small town of Gwanda, southern Zimbabwe.

A man was bitten by a highly poisenous snake, a Black Mamba,and quickly rushed to hospital by his relatives. A doctor on call was summoned from his house to the hospital but could not do so immediately because he allegedly wanted to first finish watching an international football match on television. The man died as a result of the snake bite.

As a result of the ill-treatment people are getting at government hospitals, many people now prefer to go to traditional healers for treatment or even to church for spiritual healing. Others prefer to die at home.

The situation has also been worsened by the AIDS pandemic, where coupled with this rampant lack of care for patients by medical staff, people are dying from the disease in large numbers.

Currently the mortuary of Harare Hospital, one of the country's largest hospitals, is holding more than 20 times the number of bodies it was designed for. According to a report published in The Sunday Mail last month, the mortuary which should hold a maximum of 60 bodies was during the Christmas period holding more than 1 200 bodies.

Relatives collecting their dead from the hospital expressed horror at the state of the mortuary where some bodies were actually decomposing and bodies were piled one on top of another, with some bodies on the floor because of a shortage of trays. Sources at the hospital said the refrigeration system at the mortuary was old and not powerful enough to cope with the high number of bodies it is holding. To make matters worse it sometimes broke down, worsening the already bad enough situation.

Political analysts have said a significant change in the health delivery system can only come with a change of government. They said the present government has been in power for too long (since 1980) and the leaders have gotten drunk with power and have become arrogant. As long as they and their families can visit private hospitals where they get good care, the public health system will remain in the doldrums.


1. Bus accident claims 43 lives

Forty three people were killed and more than 60 seriously injured on January 5 when the brakes of a bus they were travelling in failed and it plunged down a steep slope in eastern Zimbabwe's mountainous Nyanga district.

Thirty six died on the spot while the other seven died hours later at two hospitals to which they had been ferried. Four-month-old twins, whose mother was killed, miraculously survived the accident with minor bruises.

This is the second major bus accident in Nyanga district in seven years. In August 1991,84 pupils and five teachers from Regina Coeli Secondary School were killed in a bus accident on the same road as they were returning to their school from a sporting event.

Meanwhile, it has been discovered that the bus was using an expired certificate of fitness, prompting the minister of transport to suspend road permits for all buses of B&C Company which owns the fateful bus. In the accident that killed 89 people in 1991 the bus belonged to the same company.

2. Grain board fails to meet target

Zimbabwe's state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is failing to meet the required level of the Strategic Grain Reserve as farmers are reluctant to sell their maize to it because of the low price it offers.

Last year the GMB set the price of maize at Z$1 200 per tonne, a figure considered too low by farmers as they can fetch up to Z$2 300 per tonne from private millers. Maize is Zimbabwe's staple food.

In view of the drought expected to hit the country this year as a result of the El Nino weather phenomenon, the government is desperately trying to beef up its Strategic Grain Reserve from the current 500 000 tonnes to the full quota of 936 000 tonnes. However, this will remain a dream unless the government increases its purchase price to match what it is being offered by private millers.

3. Commuter buses stoned

Owners of Peugeot 404 and 504 emergency taxis which were ordered off the road by the government with effect from the beginning of this year, on Monday stoned commuter buses in Harare after accusing their owners of failing to stop operating in solidarity with the banned emergency taxis.

Thirteen commuter buses had their windows smashed and some of their drivers and passengers were injured. Police had to deploy the riot squad to contain the situation. In June last year government gave emergency taxi owners notice that they would not be allowed to continue using Peugeot 404s and 504s beyond December 31, and that those who intended to continue in the transport industry should buy minibuses.

The government said most emergency taxis were unroadworthy and uninsured. The government also said it was degrading to carry people in car boots 'like firewood'. Operators who tried to defy the ruling had their cars impounded by the police.

4. Air traffic controller strike

Sixty seven Zimbabwe air traffic controllers who went on strike last month demanding higher salaries and better working conditions have been fired and replaced by Zambians.

Flights to and from most of the country's airports had to be suspended or delayed as a result of the strike. Some politicians have condemned the dismissal of the controllers, saying it would cost the government even more to hire Zambians as they were going to have to be lodged in hotels for at least a month and would need to undergo further training.

5. Cocaine seized at Harare Airport

Customs officers at Harare Airport seized 1,5 kg of cocaine found stuffed in the heels of shoes shipped from South America to a local school teacher.

The consignment containing 42 pairs of shoes was intercepted following suspicions aroused by the size of the heels. When one heel was detached from the sole, a packet of cocaine was discovered. Except for three pairs at the top of the consignment, all the shoes were stuffed with cocaine.

A Harare school teacher to whom the consignment was addressed was arrested after signing for it. Detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department said they had established that the cocaine was from Brazil and destined for South Africa.

6. Pastors and traditional healers among rapists

Research carried out by an organisation known as Children and Law in Eastern and Southern Africa has shown that traditional healers and pastors are responsible for about 10 percent of rape cases on children.

The research, which was conducted between 1995 and last year, established that some pastors and traditional healers lured their victims to secluded places under the pretext that they were going to pray for them or administer treatment, and later raped them. Several pastors and traditional healers have appeared in the courts and some have been convicted and jailed.

The research also showed that some rape cases, particularly those involving pastors, went unreported. Such cases were settled within churches. Dr Alice Armstrong of the University of Zimbabwe who took part in the research said it appeared some church members valued the reputation of the church more than the interests and needs of the victims.

7. Students urge Mugabe to pardon opposition leader

University of Zimbabwe students have urged President Mugabe to pardon opposition leader Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole if his appeal against conviction for plotting to assassinate him fails in the Supreme Court.

Sithole (76) was last month sentenced to two years imprisonment for plotting to kill Mugabe by blowing up his motorcade.Student Representative Council president, Gabriel Shumba said Mugabe should pardon Sithole because he is a sick old man.

Meanwhile, some ex-combatants have also expressed the same sentiments, saying if Mugabe could reconcile with former Rhodesian leader, Ian Smith, who ordered the bombing of thousands of freedom fighters before independence, why should he lock up Sithole a founder member of the ruling party ZANU PF which waged the liberation struggle.

8. Britain: no obligation to help Zimbabwe on land issue

A visiting British minister has said Britain has no moral obligation to support ZimbabweÄs land reform programme, but offered to assist in resettlement, provided transparent schemes directly benefiting the poor are set up and idle state land utilised. He said the present approach of the Zimbabwe government does not conform with the British government's expectations.

Another condition set by Britain for Zimbabwe to be eligible for funding the land reform programme was a clear pronouncement by the Zimbabwe government of guaranteed protection of investors as specified in the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed with Britain. The agreement guards against arbitrary expropriation of investments.

The British Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tony Lloyd who was in Zimbabwe from January 6 to 8 told journalists that his government had made it very clear to President Mugabe that it had no moral obligation to assist with land reform in Zimbabwe. He said this was because no one from the present generation of the British had benefited from colonialism.

Lloyd said the differences between Zimbabwe and Britain over the land issue had created a dispute but relations between the two countries remained good.

9. New boss for intelligence organisation

President Mugabe has appointed a new boss for the much feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) with effect from January 2.

The new CIO boss Shadreck Chipanga fills the post left vacant by Dr Elleck Mashingaidze who resigned from the organisation in September last year after being blinded by a rare blood disease. Chipanga, who has been acting CIO boss since Mashingaidze's resignation, is a former political detainee.

10. Farmer cancels field day in protest against designation of his farm

Farmer Wayne Greaves who was crowned Rothmans Tobacco Grower of the Year 1997 has cancelled a field day which was to be held at his farm this month to honour him for his achievement.

The cancellation is in protest against the designation of his farm by the government late last year. Greaves said he was surprised that his farm was targeted for designation yet it was one of the most productive in the country as evidenced by his being crowned tobacco grower of the year. The government last year said it would target under utilised farms and those owned by absent landlords for designation.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's construction industry has begun to feel the effects of designation of commercial farms. In an interview, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Construction Industry Council, Richard Maasdorp, said many farmers have halted construction projects they had embarked on at their farms because of uncertainty over the land issue.

He said the construction of at least 10 farm dams in various parts of the country and that of a sugar mill in Bindura had stopped as a result of the land designation programme the government has embarked on.

Towards the end of last year, government released a list of 1480 farms which it said had been designated for the resettlement of landless peasants. The government has said it will not pay for the land, but only for buildings and other improvements made on the land, arguing that the land had not been bought from its indigenous owners but seized by colonialists.

11. Coach suspended for two years

For trying to attack a referee, temperamental former Zimbabwe soccer coach, Reinhard Fabisch of Germany has been suspended for two years by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) from all competitions held under its jurisdiction.

According to CAF News, the official publication of the Confederation of African Football, Fabisch tried to attack the referee during the African Cup of Nations qualifying match between Gabon and Kenya in Libreville last year. He threw a bottle of water at the referee.

While still coach of the Zimbabwe national soccer team in 1993, Fabisch was banned by FIFA for a year and fined Z$23 000 for gross indiscipline . He was given a red card by Gambian referee Alhagy Faye for arguing with match officials that a Zimbabwean striker who had been judged to be offside, was not.


From: (Africa_news Network) Date: Mon, 12 Jan 1998 07:36:41 +0100 Subject: ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE #13 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific