Monday, December 29, 2008

Super Achievers! Sarah Liparulo & Samantha Parry

Sarah Liparulo & Samantha Parry wanted to make their senior project at Lakeland High School in Pennsylvania really count. When Sarah first sent and email to ASAP early in 2008 she was frustrated and discouraged. Her enthusiasm to contribute significantly to an organization that helps to empower impoverished women in Africa were repeatedly ignored until she contacted ASAP.

Since that day, Sarah and Sam have raised $1,245.04 for ASAP Africa! According to Sarah, "We could have picked a simple, easy project to do to help us graduate, but we chose to take on the world. It brings tears to our eyes when we realize how much money we have raised."It wasn't easy, and even through personal crises and bureaucratic delays that would have disillusioned many, Sarah and Samantha never gave up!

At ASAP we are elated that two seniors "on a mission"will contribute significantly to ASAP's work to improved the income and household security of women in Zimbabwe, where the collapsing economy and cholera epidemic are devastating an already impoverished nation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Newsletter Available

The 2008-2009 Winter Newsletter is up for viewing on the ASAP website. You can access the letter here or from our website, Read about all of our recent activity and plans for the future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Grant Funding Partner!

ASAP is pleased to announce the receipt of a EUR 20,000 grant in support of ASAP's Village Savings and Lending pilot project in Malawi from the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid. Cordaid serves all aspects of development cooperation: emergency aid, structural poverty alleviation and healh care, working closely together with local organizations. ASAP looks forward to working together with Cordaid to help those in rual Malawi improve their own lives through micro-finance and entreprneurship projects.

Friday, December 05, 2008

ASAP 2007/2008 Annual Report

All of us at ASAP Africa are pleased to share our 2007/8 annual report with you.

It is a time of desperate need in Zimbabwe today and we need your help more than ever. We hope you will add ASAP to your Christmas list this year as we work together to make poverty history.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Giving Thanks

The Thanksgiving holiday has said its goodbyes and we are now all gearing up, sweeping our chimneys so the old man in red does not develop respiratory issues as he slides down them to deliver our iPods, cell phones, and in my case, new hubcaps. I'm sure as we were all sitting around our tables with family or friends taking in an average of 3000 calories (according to, there was too much happiness to think about parts of our planet where people don't fret over burning the sweet potatoes, but whether they'll have enough water to make it through another day. One place on our mind at all times at ASAP is, of course, Zimbabwe. According to recent articles, the citizens of a country once known as the "breadbasket of Africa" are now resorting to finding bugs on sticks, even termites to aid their hunger. Mothers are desperately pleading for help to feed their malnourished children, but their cries are increasingly answered with silence. To exacerbate the food crisis, cholera and anthrax are making their way through the country threatening humans and livestock. Due to unbelievable hunger, some are still ingesting the infected meat, making the severity of the outcome largely unknown and dangerous.

One may ask themselves whether this is all due to politics, but at this point the situation is so hard to unravel the important thing is getting these people help. So while most Americans ate their fair share of yams and sipped on egg nog before going and spending a total over $40 billion in stores on "Black Friday" (which is well over the $2 billion GDP of Zimbabwe in its entirety, and that figure is likely exagerated), those in Zimbabwe were wondering why they do not have the abundance such hard working people deserve. All of us having access to read this blog, or to clean water and sanitation, should be so thankful and so happy for the many things we are given in life, and keep in mind over the holidays those that are unable to rush the entrance of department stores for sales on HD TVs and other electronics whose operational techniques are mysteries to most of us that own them.

The following were referneced in this post:
CIA World Factbook- Zimbabwe
The Independent- World News

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Office in Malawi

When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.
-Betty Bender

Our ASAP Malawi staff have created a new home for their work in the Chikwawa district. The small sea-foam green building with a satellite protruding from the roof (picture below) might not be similar to high-rise office buildings that carry suits from floor to floor in boxes rising and falling on ropes that are strong enough until they aren’t (picture not included), but this office indeed has heart, excitement, compassion, and running water. Why should we not rejoice? This office will be the point where many will begin their journey to independence, to better education and health, and to a world where progression is valued equally with cultural preservation. Our staff is thrilled to report the recent construction of their desks and that they will imminently enjoy the internet (the IT worker should arrive between tomorrow and the next business month).

However, the Chikwawa office is not only a place of business. It is an assembly point for the community where residents will acquire the skills necessary to grow and increase their productivity. The building is beautiful in its own right, and the staff in each ASAP location is more than ecstatic to have a solid foundation for our work, but the work they are completing in the structure has a value of much more than any building the world has to offer.

The Chikwawa office

Victor enjoying the new sink

Jeanette (top) and Owen use their desks to their full potential

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Elders Set to Visit Zimbabwe

The Elders, a group of twelve global peace activists, is sending three prominent members to Zimbabwe in hopes of fostering some sort of moderation in the increasingly precarious political and economic situation. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Graça Machel, an international activist for women’s and children’s rights and wife of Nelson Mandela, are set to arrive in the country on the 22nd of November and begin a purely humanitarian mission.

The Elders are hoping to raise awareness of the factors causing Zimbabwe’s decline as international attention has drifted elsewhere while Zimbabweans continue to suffer. The belief is that with more attention on the experiences of the people, the developed world will be more inclined to demand action. Some impart that even these experts are underestimating the state of Zimbabwe at the moment where disease such as cholera is rampant, and poverty coupled with powerful nation sanctions are distressing the common man more than the ruling parties. Although the group has emphasized that their trip is only to look at the humanitarian aspects, there is no feasible way the world-renowned figures can exit the nation without suggesting the political deadlock be resolved. It is their duty as resolution architects to insist on aiding the afflicted who have endured crisis after crisis. However, with leaders such as these tending to their aid in the nation, the situation gains a hope it did not possess before.

More information can be found in this SW Radio Africa article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Uncertain Future for Power Sharing

Zimbabwe power sharing talks seem to have taken a downturn in the past days. While external international influences have applauded the idea of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai to take the post of Prime Minister and let long time president Robert Mugabe keep his seat, the two parties could not agree on cabinet positions and the break down of power. Zimbabwean citizens needed these deals to succeed as they are making their way through inflation rates of over 200,000,000% and a labor market where only 20% of adults are formally employed. Private donors claim they will not send aid until the opposition MDC has a significant say in government doings. As it stands, Robert Mugabe may be able to form a new government within the week after election and political strife that has lasted since March of 2008. However, some are calling on the United Nations or other international bodies to oversee negotiations, as food rations as well as other aid forms are being cut and the Zimbabwean people are feeling the effects of a government whose limitless power has ruled for almost 30 years.

To read more about the situation in Zimbabwe visit the BBC article referenced in this post.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Good News When It's Lacking

Let’s briefly paraphrase recently covered news headlines

Global Economy Left for Dead, Can’t Afford to See a Doctor

Earthquakes Rattle from Pakistan to Texas

And for you tabloid enthusiasts:

Angelina Admits Love Affair, All of Celebrity Population Follows

It’s not outrageous to claim that “good news” is hard to find and that can be especially true in the international development field. Perhaps we are only exposed to the dismal news to elevate network news ratings, increase the price and sales of our beloved newspapers, or even to keep anti-depressant drug manufacturers in business. No matter what the reason, we can all agree that the unhappy stories are keeping us away from the truly important reports; the ones that we read and help us decide to keep on keepin’ on. At ASAP, one achievement will always outweigh 100,000 losses (although we occasionally thank our stars we have more achievements than losses), and this is why we report our news, free of charge. Donations always welcome.

Our work in cultivating self-reliance is not complimented by all, but when one hears a story like that of Queen’s, the disagreement felt by many quickly turns on its head.

Queen was not lazy, unintelligent, or any negative adjective to be filled in. She was young, widowed, trying to feed her daughter, and a victim of circumstance. When her husband died, she found herself out on the streets but had a clear vision of what she wanted for her and her little one, independence. She was only given $100 from a micro-financing program, an amount most of us consider practically unhelpful, but through selling simple products like popsicles to her local community, she harbored enough profit to move on to selling electronics and other supplies vastly unavailable in her home of Zimbabwe. Today Queen and her daughter happily call Canada home. She is obtaining a graduate degree focusing in Development Studies, and her daughter is now able to study at a university as well. All of these possibilities were made available to Queen because of a simple $100 loan from an organization not unlike ours. We heard from Queen through the glories of cyberspace, in an email she sent commending our work. We not only appreciate her encouraging words, we appreciate knowing that the work we do is life-changing.

Surely, our business isn’t perfect and we all come across pitfalls, but in a world where bad news sells, one can always find words of kindness.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ASAP Invited to Teach Africa

Saturday, November 8th, social studies and language arts educators from all over the state of Georgia are set to enhance their knowledge of global issues, and ASAP Africa has been invited to speak concerning their expertise. Elizabeth will be speaking on behalf of ASAP Africa and could not be more excited to do so. The Teach Africa conference will be presented in association with the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa and the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, with funding coming from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Educators will be enlightened in advanced techniques for teaching Africa in the classroom, a territory that is still largely untouched, even after elementary school.

ASAP will be among international delegates including Faida Mitifu, Ambassador from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Edith Ssempala, Acting Senior Vice President for External Affairs, the World Bank and former Ambassador of Uganda to the US, who are opening the conference. The day will be filled with cultural enrichment events in the areas of geography, history, government, health and more, which will enable these teachers to inform students of the opportunity and optimism seen in Africa today, rather than the desolate stereotype many believe as truth. The theme of the program is “Africa in Transition”, which is also a theme at the core of ASAP’s work. All of the ASAP staff is enthused by this invitation which shows that we have many allies in our fight to end poverty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008- Blog Against Poverty

October 15th has been dubbed blog action day by the internet community. The topic about which to blog varies by year, and ASAP decided to get involved when we found out we’d be writing against poverty in 2008.

It’s not that posting a paragraph defining poverty and pitying the developing world will change anything overnight; it’s the inspiration that will be presented in reaction to millions speaking out against social issues most of us cannot comprehend. It is the fact that we are using the technology many take for granted to inform or educate the masses and perhaps open minds to a world they’ve never seen.

Living on $2 or less a day is not the beginning or end to poverty. One must ask why so many people are indeed living this frivolously, and then decide how to change it. Looking at statistics, 3.8 billion people out of the 6.5 billion in the world are surviving in moderate to extreme poverty. This is a reality that many look at and decide is too large to overcome. In short, however, poverty cannot be characterized as the lack of funds, only as the lack of access to funds and necessities to life such as water, shelter, and health care. For the developed world to act and problem solve we need to first recognize that poverty can not be fixed by giving money to those in need. We must help others help themselves through education, inform those of simple business practices, teach them to protect themselves against disease, and make sure that the developed half of the world has not written off the half that is full of opportunity and untapped success. Once single mothers previously uninformed of how to even go about making and saving money are taught to use their intrinsic skills to start small businesses, one family is lifted out of poverty. Her children are now able to drink clean water, eat healthy meals, even attend schools to develop their own minds and never be forced to live on $2 a day again.

Simply stated, this blog did not solve poverty, but there are organizations working to educate men, women and children and assist in acquiring sustainability. Thanks to blog action day, the word is getting out and it will not be long until the figure of 3.8 billion has rapidly shrunk.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Malawi drops HIV cash hand-outs

According to an article in the BBC, Malawi civil servants with HIV, who used to receive an extra $35 a month to help them buy more food, are now to get a food handout instead. Malawi is one of the countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS, with 7% of the 13million population affected.

To read the article click here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Good Karma Coffee

ASAP is incredibly enthused to report updates of recent events. In conjunction with students at Olivette Nazarene University that are working with the SIFE program, ASAP is closer than ever to launching the Good Karma Coffee Project.

SIFE, Students in Free Enterprise, is an organization which holds competitions for university students eager to use their business and economic knowledge for the betterment of the world. Students work in teams and create and implement business models in areas with little industry to prove that their ideas are practical and effective, and can preserve cultural heritage while bringing societies into the 21st century.

ONU students are looking at the financial aspects of Good Karma Coffee and working vigorously to ensure the program’s functionality. Once the programs business aspects are finalized ASAP will begin working with small but optimistic coffee farms in Central and Southern Africa. The coffee will be grown naturally without fertilizers and sold at a fair price. The Good Karma Coffee project aims to teach men and women alike business practices and improve situations for the present and for generations to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Schools Working to Improve Lives in Rural Zimbabwe

ASAP Africa is thrilled to announce the receipt of two generous donations from schools with students looking to change lives. Students in the seventh grade at Einstein Middle School in Shoreline, Washington raised close to $500 for Zimbabwean school children through events including a community walk, bake sale, and car wash. We are very appreciative of the selflessness they showed and their willingness to aid in the sustainability process.
Our other recent donation came from the opposite side of the country, where two kindhearted seniors at Lakeland High School in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, are working toward a cause. Sam Parry and Sarah Liparulo have, so far, raised over $500 through coffee sales for ASAP and are not nearly finished fund raising. These two students decided to aid ASAP and work toward the goal of self-reliance in rural Zimbabwe as a senior project. We are so happy that these schools have chosen ASAP as their cause and hope this will inspire similar measures from others.

Sarah Liparulo and Samantha Parry working for ASAP in Jermyn, Pennsylvania

Monday, September 15, 2008

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangairai

After the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal was sealed last Thursday, Tsvangirai said there was need to immediately address the food shortages and attract foreign aid.

“The first priority is to unlock food accessibility,” Tsvangirai said amid loud guffaws. He said there was need to begin filling up the empty shop shelves, fill hospitals with doctors, teachers and ensure a rejuvenated public service. He said he envisaged a new Zimbabwe that was part of the family of nations.

Tsvangirai acknowledged that it was not the best deal and said he had made “painful concessions”.“I signed this deal because it represents the best opportunity to rebuild a prosperous place. I signed this deal because my belief in a new Zimbabwe runs deeper than the scars I bear from the struggle. I signed this deal because my hope for the future is stronger than the grief I feel for the past excesses.”Tsvangirai quoted Mugabe’s 1980 acceptance speech amid loud cheers. He said hatred belonged to the past and called for national healing.

Extracted from The Zimbabwe Times

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zimbabwe's political rivals reach power-sharing deal: Mbeki

President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have reached a power-sharing deal to end political crisis, South African mediator Thabo Mbeki announced Thursday."An agreement has been reached on all items on the agenda ... all of them endorsed the document tonight, signed it," the South African president, who chaired the negotiations between the political rivals, told a press conference.Details of the deal were not released and Mbeki said the agreement would only be made public after a formal signing ceremony scheduled for next Monday at 10 am.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How much was that?

On August 1st 2008 the currency in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD) was adjusted to keep up with skyrocketing inflation and 10 zeros were removed from the currency.

Coins that were taken out of circulation in 2001 are once again legal tender. On July 31st an item costing 10,000,000,000 could be purchased for only 1 ZWD. Here in the USA, the recently released 10 Billion ZWD note was selling for over 40 on EBay!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mugabe and Tsvangirai to meet face to face

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's president and his opposition rival agree to immediate talks about sharing power to resolve the country's political crisis.

President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader are signing an agreement saying they "have an obligation" to establish a framework of "working together in an inclusive government."

The deal — which comes nearly three months after Zimbabwe's disputed March presidential election — also calls for preventing "all forms of political violence." More than 120 people have been killed, thousands injured and tens of thousands forced from their homes since the campaign began, rights groups say.

The agreement calls for talks to conclude within two weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A poem for Africa

A new era is upon you.
One to replenish all of your sins
and it all started,
with your sponsored child sweet little grin.

She/he thanks you now.
For restoring her/his life.
You relieved her/him
from all her/his recent pain suffering, and strife.

Her/his expression will never change.
It will always be a smile no matter what is going on
and all her/his past memories
have faded out of her/his mind and are gone.

She/he looks up to you and
sees you as a hero.
Because you proved to him
that he can be more then just a zero.

She/he says no matter what he does or
how he does it, it will never be enough.
To repay you for showing him that he
can be more than enough.

Sean Wilson

Monday, July 14, 2008

Teaching Math in million percent inflation

Ever wondered what it is like to teach Math in a society that has million percent inflation???

Well... it makes it harder when the text books used to teach Math cannot keep up with the current situations. Consider this. When the ATM only gives out Z$100-billion at a time, enough only for two loaves of bread, students in grade school are learning about things like Z$1, and 20c and so forth. Many Zimbabwean children have never seen that type of money. These are the textbooks that were being used when I was in grade school 12 years ago!!!!! Year on Year inflation today is estimated to be around 12 million percent (no official figures from government). In textbooks, story problems portray a shopping basket to contain Milk for 25 cents, Bread for 50 cents and 2 cokes for 40 cents. I wonder what these children must think of "that" money. They have never seen it, and under these conditions they will probably never see it

ASAP has a program called Bridge the Gap which works in the rural areas to improve education standards. BTG is a program that is helping more and more students stay in school by learning to appreciate what they are learning. Too many students drop out of school after the primary level because they cannot afford to continue. ASAP Africa also equips teachers to educate effectively through holding teaching technique workshops and helping teachers to develop common exams for their area. Through these efforts at easing the transition in math education between primary and secondary school, ASAP Africa hopes to increase the percentage of students who make the jump with success.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A letter from Zimbabwe

Life is so stressful now here in Zim. Everyone thought normalcy would return soon after the elections but it is now apparent that things are getting worse. Only today, the price of a kingsize soft drink went up from Z$15 Billion in the morning to Z$65 Billion by sunset. There is no electricity often times and most people have to rely on candles for lighting that now cost $45 Billion each. For those who use (household) gas for cooking, the price is now Z$3,8 Trillion for a 20 Kg tank (contents only)!!! A quarter chicken and chips for the odd lunch now cost close to Z$450 Billion. When stressed, I find golfing a coping strategy. If I decide to play, I normally choose Wednesday afternoon from about lunch hour and spend two or so hours before returning to the office.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Support Zimbabwe

Support Zimbabwe is in the process of trying to convene conferences to bring together Zimbabweans from different parts of the world to play a constructive part in rebuilding the country. Currently, many of us have no collective plan on how we are going to either go back or be a part of the country's revival. The most important thing is to really revive the country and part of that solution requires a political change. But following that we need an economic and social plan. That will be the purpose of this conference.

Follow the link to their official website-

Monday, June 30, 2008

5 more years

On Sunday afternoon, President Robert Mugabe was inaugrated once again as President of Zimbabwe. He is the only President of Zimbabwe in my lifetime..

When I was born, Ronald Reagan was the US President. After him- George H.W Bush had one term, Clinton served two terms and George W Bush has also served 2 terms. All that time- Mugabe has been in power. And that is not even the start of Mugabe's reign- he had already been in power 8 years by the time I was born!! Hard to compare? I think so...

On Friday of last week, as Zimbabweans "went to the polls", inflation was reported to have reached 9 000 000%. I really dont know how to put this in comparison- maybe by comparing it to US inflation which is currently 4%. Nothing that we can compare it to will put it into perspective.

The USD is trading at around $1.99 to the pound at the start of this week. Compare this to the Zimbabwe figure of 85 Billion Zimbabwe dollars to one British Pound.. It is pretty accurate to say that the USD and pound will trade at around $2 this week- normally I just double any pound figure to get the USD figure. However, the Zimbabwe exchange rate will fluctuate greatly by the day- possibly by the hour.....

What is next for Zimbabwe????

Monday, June 23, 2008

Opposition to boycott June 27th elections

The opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday pulled out of this week's presidential election in Zimbabwe, saying he is not prepared to ask people to die by voting for him, and accusing Robert Mugabe of "waging a war against the people". The Movement for Democratic Change leadership met and decided to withdraw from what it called a "violent, illegitimate sham of an election" amid the murders by the ruling Zanu PF militia and security forces of 100 opposition activists, the torture and rape of thousands of MDC supporters, and a state-orchestrated campaign of terror across swathes of the country.

In his statement, Tsvangirai said he had little choice but to withdraw: "The militia, war veterans and even Mugabe himself have made it clear that anyone that votes for me in the forthcoming election faces the very real possibility of being killed. We in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote could cost them their lives. We believe a credible election, which reflects the will of the people, is impossible." Zimbabwe's justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said that if Tsvangirai writes to the electoral commission formally declaring he has pulled out, then the election will be called off and Mugabe declared president again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This upcoming Saturday, Liz Bara will be on the panel of a discussion on Microfinance: Empowering women worldwide. On the panel this weekend,

BryAnn Chen is the Executive Director of the Refugee Women's Network based here in Atlanta. Created in 1995, Refugee Women's Network, Inc. (RWN), is a national non profit organization created by women, for women, that focuses on enhancing refugee and immigrant women's strength, skills, and courage, through leadership training, education and advocacy to promote independence, self-sufficiency, and networking among its participants.

Elizabeth Bara is co-founder and Executive Director for ASAP Africa. Created in 1992, ASAP’s mission is to cultivate self reliance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Until 2001, ASAP’s program focused on improving education infrastructure in rural Zimbabwe and maintained a constantly growing orphan scholarship fund. This year over 29,000 women will participate in ASAP’s currently funded projects in rural Zimbabwe, which are completely managed and implemented by ASAP’s local Zimbabwean staff. ASAP is currently replicating their program into Malawi.

Genia Topple is the Executive Director of the Rockdale Foundation. The Rockdale Foundation is a private foundation, established in 1994 through the generosity and passion of philanthropist Bob Pattillo. In 2003, Genia joined the Foundation and served as the organization’s Program Officer for Microfinance for 4 years, developing their strategy for microfinance in the Arab region and building relationships with grantees.

Astrid Yolanda Pregel is the President of Feminomics Inc., a consulting company working at the intersections of gender, leadership, entrepreneurship and the economy. She also serves as an associate with the Institute of Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the School of Management at Georgia Tech. Astrid retired from Canada's Foreign Service in 2003, capping her 25 year career as Canada's first woman Consul General to the Southeastern USA. She also was the first woman appointed Minister Counselor at the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C., where she oversaw the entire scope of Canada's commercial interests with the U.S. -- the largest trading relationship in the world.

More deaths reported in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's opposition party says four more of its activists have been killed in a firebombing near the capital, Harare. Zimbabwe holds a presidential election runoff in just over a week. President Robert Mugabe has been accused of unleashing widespread violence to insure a victory at the polls over opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who won the first round. There's concern the runoff will be neither free nor fair. Thesecond round of voting is being held nationwide on June 27th

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Car theft

Zimbabwe's ruling party has been accused of car theft after an armoured BMW, confiscated by police last week from the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, was spotted being driven by its officials. A spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, Nqobizitha Mlilo, said the BMW X5 was impounded by police on 6 June when Mr Tsvangirai was detained for several hours at Esigodini police station in south-western Zimbabwe. "We do not know who is inside the vehicle but a group of Zanu PF officials have been using it to drive between election points in the Beitbridge and Lupane areas," he said yesterday. The BMW, which has South African number plates, had been impounded for alleged registration irregularities. The vehicle, which is armoured, was delivered to Mr Tsvangirai only last week after reports of an assassination plot against him. The disputed election run-off between Mr Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe has been set for 27 June. But the MDC is facing increasing hurdles in its campaign, including election violence, bans on rallies and snap arrests of its leaders. Mr Mlilo said the ruling Zanu PF party was "a law unto itself. They're insane." The bizarre car development came on top of the curious case of the disappearing letter. The office of South Africa's President and regional mediator, Thabo Mbeki, has denied the existence of a message of complaint sent to him on 13 May by Mr Tsvangirai. The letter, which was leaked to the South African media 10 days ago, called on Mr Mbeki to step aside as mediator, claiming he has failed to be impartial. But Frank Chikane, director-general of Mr Mbeki's office, told a press conference that the letter did not exist. The MDC says it has "re-delivered" it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

From The Ugandan Observer

The Ugandan government is watching the political stalemate is Zimbabwe "with keen interest," a government official has revealed.

Addressing reporters and diplomats in Kampala, a top government official, Prof. Apolon C. Bambi said that "the interface between Comrade Robert Mugabe and Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai is so lugubrious that we have decided to interlocute dynamically, with atomistic diligence." He added that the Ugandan government would consider "intercalating its cerebral assets" into the Zimbabwean situation if it did not ."

As we went to press, oppressed, starved and beaten Zimbabweans were still waiting for results of a general election held last month. Meanwhile, Mugabe's "Kalangala Action Plan" operatives have been dishing out more beatings to opposition supporters, according to video evidence that surfaced this week.

Prof. C. Bambi dismissed criticism that the Ugandan government was not doing anything about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Diplomats and journalists had complained that as Chairman of the Commonwealth, President Yoweri Museveni should be spearheading efforts to find a solution to the stalemate.

"Honestly, to propagate the propaganda that Uganda is asunder from the rupture politique in Zimbabwe is to pander to obscurantism. On the contrary, we are assiduously acclimatising to the situation with a view to propitiously and profusely interface," the professor explained.

The revelation that Uganda would "propitiously and profusely interface" came as a relief to concerned diplomats, journalists and political observers.

"I am happy that the Ugandan government is finally doing something. I didn't quite catch what exactly it is doing, but it sounded quite serious," a British diplomat, who studied English and Diplomacy at the University of Oxford, told The Analyst.

President Robert Mugabe welcomed the news of Uganda's possible "interfacing" as "an interesting proposal."

"With a facelift, the people of Zimbabwe would think they are getting a whole new president," he said. "Why didn't I think of that before?"

Monday, June 02, 2008

Rallies blocked, Opposition members in court

Zimbabwean opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, constrained in his campaigning options by police obstruction of rallies, staged a walkabout in the second city of Bulawayo on Monday as he did in Hwange and Victoria falls this weekend.

Officials in those two cities blocked rallies by the founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change by closing off access to the planned rally venues.

In Harare, meanwhile, rival MDC formation chief Arthur Mutambara was expected in court Tuesday for arraignment on charges arising from the publication in April by the Standard newspaper of an article he wrote blasting President Robert Mugabe.

Police arrested Mutambara on Sunday at his home in Marlborough, Harare. Sources said he was being held at the Matapi police station in Harare's Mbare section.

Also in custody on Monday was parliamentarian-elect Eric Matinenga of the Buhera West constituency in eastern Manicaland province, arrested Saturday for allegedly inciting violence. He was headed for Mutare magistrate’s courts today.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I wonder if they should even bother with a runoff election in Zimbabwe with Mugabe's wife saying things like in the story below!

SHAMVA, Zimbabwe (AFP) — President Robert Mugabe will never vacate his office for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai even if he loses a run-off election next month, the Zimbabwean leader's wife said Thursday.

Grace Mugabe told followers of her husband's ZANU-PF party that Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not be allowed to take power under any circumstances.

"Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House," she said after meeting victims of political violence that has rocked Zimbabwe since the first round of voting on March 29.

"He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from ZANU-PF."


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Xenophobic attacks rock Johannesburg

In the first major violence in South Africa since apartheid, there were attacks in Johannesburg against foreign immigrants this weekend. The attacks mainly targeted Zimbabwean immigrants. The violence which began last week has already left more than 20 people dead, and have driven 30,000 people out of their makeshift homes.

There are about 3-5 million immigrants to South Africa. Amid rising inflation and unemployment in South Africa, foreigners are being targeted because they are, it is said, taking South African jobs. Many Zimbabweans have left the country and fled to South Africa due to the instable political climate in Zimbabwe and are now facing attacks from South Africans themselves.

With attention at the moment being turned to the China olympics and the possible boycotts that may rock the olympics, it will be interesting to see whether attention will soon be turned to South Africa which is supposed to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Below is a video from SkyNews detailing the violence in South Africa

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Zimbabwe inflation now over 1 million percent

Mutare, 1993. My parents bought the house they live in today for Z$180 000.

Today, a small pack of locally produced coffee beans cost just short of 1 billion Zimbabwe dollars. Zimbabwe's inflation has soared to 1,063,572% according to independent financial analysts in Zimbabwe. A loaf of bread costs today, what 12 new cars cost a decade ago. The last official figure given by the government was 165,000% back in February. They have claimed that it is too expensive for them to calculate the inflation figures anymore. Companies have been complaining of high absenteeism rates due to the high costs of transport that employees must pay to get to work. In the March 29 election, many voters said that the economy was a top issue for them. It will be interesting to see how the results will turn out in the second round of voting which is set for June 27

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A New AIDS in Zimbabwe

According to the UN in Zimbabwe "More than 4,000,000 Zimbabweans are currently dependent on humanitarian services, directly or indirectly, including in the form of remittances for the diaspora to help address basic needs such as food, healthcare, etc. Keeping their sense of humor, Zimbabweans see themselves as victims of many AIDS, such as the Acquired Industrial Decline Syndrome or the most vicious Acquired Inflation Disease Syndrome."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Zimbabwe run off could face delay of up to one year

From combined sources- The Guardian (UK), LA Times

Zimbabwe's second round of voting could, the ruling party has stated, be held in one year. Election officials will meet in the coming weeks to decide a date for the run off election. The law requires the second round to be held within three weeks of the original election, but the commission has the power to extend the period between the elections.

In the first round, as shown in the post below, Mugabe won 43.2% of the vote compared to 47.9% of the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. A third candidate, Simba Makoni, won 8.3% of the vote. Makoni would subsequently drop out of the 2nd round of voting. The delay in the announcement has sparked the opposition to claim that the government manipulated the results of the first round as their figures showed Tsvangirai won 50.3% of the vote.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Zimbabwe Presidential Election Held March 29th

From The Times (UK), 1 May, 2008

Leaked poll results show that Mugabe lost – but will fight second round

Catherine Philp in Harare

Senior government officials in Zimbabwe leaked results yesterday for last month’s presidential elections, which apparently hand victory to the main opposition leader – but not by enough votes to win outright. The news sets the scene for a bruising election run-off. According to the officials, Morgan Tsvangirai won 47 per cent of the vote against President Mugabe’s 43 per cent. He needed more than 50 per cent to avoid a second round. Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), claimed to have won 50.3 per cent of the vote based on results published at polling stations, but a month later the official tally has still not been released, prompting accusations of vote rigging against the Government. The figures leaked yesterday – a day before the candidates’ agents were due to begin verifying results – suggest that the margin of Mr Tsvangirai’s victory was too large for the Government to overturn credibly.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Save lives by signing this petition

Please click this link to sign a petition calling to stop the Chinese weapons shipment to Zimbabwe. At this delicate time, the international community must rally to bring democracy and stability--not weapons--to Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unifier Of Opposites

Spring is a time of hope. Here in the US, as we enjoy the beautiful spring season, more than three weeks after elections in Zimbabwe the world continues to wait for the outcome.

Below are some inspiring thoughts offered by Madisyn Taylor via Marilee Giddings about the color green that seem relevant in the face of such uncertainty and despair. “Green balances our energy so that, in looking at it, we feel confident that growth is inevitable”.

The Color Green, the Unifier of Opposites

Green is a combination of the colors yellow and blue, each of which brings its own unique energy to the overall feeling of the color green. Blue exudes calm and peace, while yellow radiates liveliness and high levels of energy. As a marriage between these two very different colors, green is a unifier of opposites, offering both the excitement of yellow and the tranquility of blue. It energizes blue’s passivity and soothes yellow’s intensity, inspiring us to be both active and peaceful at the same time. It is a mainstay of the seasons of spring and summer, thus symbolizing birth and growth.

Green is one of the reasons that spring instigates so much excitement and activity. As a visual harbinger of the end of winter, green stems and leaves shoot up and out from the dark branches of trees and the muddy ground, letting us know that it’s safe for us to come out, too. In this way, green invites us to shed our layers and open ourselves to the outside world, not in a frantic way, but with an easygoing excitement that draws us outside just to sniff the spring air. Unlike almost any other color, green seems to have its own smell, an intoxicating combination of sun and sky—earthy, bright, and clean. In the best-case scenario, it stops us in our tracks and reminds us to appreciate the great experience of simply being alive.

Green balances our energy so that, in looking at it, we feel confident that growth is inevitable. It also gives us the energy to contribute to the process of growth, to nurture ourselves appropriately, without becoming overly attached to our part in the process. Green reminds us to let go and let nature do her work, while at the same time giving us the energy to do our own.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Southern Center for International Studies presents an evening on


Tuesday, April 22

This month’s briefing will take us to Zimbabwe, a country that just recently experienced a historic – yet still unresolved – election on March 29th. Robert Mugabe, the country’s 84-year-old liberation hero - turned - autocrat, and his ZANU-PF party is refusing to yield to the claims of the opposition that its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the presidential election. Besides the current political crisis, the country is also in the midst of a troubling economic, social and hunger crisis. Unemployment is reported to have risen to 80%, annual inflation to 100,000%, and food shortages are affecting four million people.

Our panel of speakers will include Elizabeth Bara, Tom Arsenault, Francis Musoni, and Boniface Hlabano. Elizabeth and Tom are co-founders of the nonprofit organization ASAP that works to promote community development in rural communities in Zimbabwe and other parts of Southern Africa. They will address their philosophy, approaches and problems with development work in the context of Zimbabwe from their hands-on perspective. Francis and Boniface will discuss the recent election, current stalemate, and the possible future scenarios for the country.

Elizabeth Bara grew up in Oregon, where she lived and worked until age 30 after earning a BS in Biology from Portland State University. In the Peace Corps (‘88-‘90) she taught science and math at Masiphula High School in Swaziland, and met and married Tom Arsenault, also a Peace Corps volunteer, who was teaching business, technical drawing and woodworking. In 1991, Elizabeth and Tom moved to Sacramento and co-founded the nonprofit organization A Self-help Assistance Program - ASAP. They returned to Africa, this time to Zimbabwe where they lived and worked for eleven years, from May 1994 until May 2005. Since returning to the U.S., Tom started a gourmet coffee roasting center called On Safari Coffee in Peachtree City, Georgia to help fund ASAP’s projects and Elizabeth continues to direct ASAP’s projects in Zimbabwe.

Francis Musoni is a PhD student in African History at Emory University. His research focuses on “Forced Displacements and the Politics of Belonging/Exclusion in Zimbabwe.” He holds a Masters Degree in History and a Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Zimbabwe. Before joining Emory University in 2006, Francis taught history to High School teachers in the Curriculum and Arts Education Department of the University of Zimbabwe. In 2005 he was a visiting scholar in the Five College African Scholars Program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. In January 2006 he participated in the Cape Town Democracy and Diversity Graduate Institute jointly organized by the Trans-regional Center for Democratic Studies at the New School for Social Research (New York), in partnership with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). In February 2007 he attended the Georgia International Leadership Conference in Eatonton, Georgia.

Boniface Hlabano is a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Emory University. He is studying HIV Prevention and Health Program Management in the Rollins School of Public Health. Back in Zimbabwe, Mr. Hlabano is the Executive Director of Matabeleland AIDS Council, one of very few local NGOs working in the HIV/AIDS field. He is a graduate of both The Zimbabwe Open University and the University of South Africa where he received his BA English and Communication Studies and Social Behavior Studies in HIV/AIDS, respectively. Mr. Hlabano has deep-rooted interests in Social Justice and Human Rights and is involved in several efforts to make Zimbabwe a highly democratic country.

Friday, March 28, 2008

ASAP & Plan International working together

Yesterday ASAP Africa and Plan International finalized a new 3 year partnership agreement that will improve the lives of over 2,000 families in rural Zimbabwe. To read more more about this project click here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Excitement is in the air!

As many of you know, Jeanette Batiste departs for Malawi on Monday March 3rd to replicate ASAP’s program. That would be enough excitement for most! But on Feb 28 she decided to get married! Her new husband, and close friend for five years, Harvey Mtete, was visiting Jeanette from Malawi when they decided to tie the knot just yesterday.

Jeanette will be responsible for setting up the new ASAP Malawi Program at Chikwawa in the far south of the country. That area is the poorest in the country and has seen the brunt of much of the recent flooding. Harvey heads up wildlife conservation projects for African Parks, which, fortunately, is nearby. We look forward to Jeanette’s regular blogs to keep everyone updated on her progress.

As they wing their way to Blantyre on Monday, all of us at ASAP wish them good luck and a wonderful life together.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Making connections

by: Lazarus Nyatsanga, ASAP : Field officer for the Kufusa Mari Urban Project

Over 600 entrepreneurs in Sakubva, an urban area near ASAP’s office in Zimbabwe, are actively involved in savings clubs today, thanks to a project call “Kufusa Mari” – save for the future – ongoing since 2006. About 80 miles away, in the remote rural farming area of Tombo, over one third of the families have been involved in savings clubs since 2004.

In an effort to create market linkages, this week 12 urban Kufusa Mari savings club members traveled to Tombo area to meet their rural colleagues - where they received a warm rural welcome.

The rural farmers shared the schedule of times when they are able to offer a variety of items, such as beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, wheat, sunflower seeds, maize, chicken and rural handicrafts. The urban savings club members offered to exchange grocery items such as cooking oil, salt and sugar, as well as farming inputs (seeds and fertilizers) and cash.
Having shared notes on demand and supply modalities, both parties went away pleased with the results with a business action plan for future business in the works.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.

Muhammad Yunus is author of a new book Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.

Recently interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, here is a notable quotation from one of our mentors.

"Human being is not a robot. It’s not a money-making machine. A human being is much bigger than making money. Money-making is an important part of a human being, but certainly it’s not the totality of human being. Human being is much bigger than that. It’s also caring being. It’s a sharing being, wants to make a difference in the world. That part is not included in the business world, in the economic world.

Click here to link to the entire interview

Friday, February 08, 2008

Life in Zimbabwe Today

This submission is from Junior Gwitirwa, who started working with ASAP Zimbabwe in January 2003 as a "tea girl". With ASAP's help, Junior has attended various computer courses and is now helping out with general office work and as receptionist at ASAP's office in Mutare. She shares this insight into daily life.

Life in Zimbabwe is now like a very tough journey,

Only the toughest will get going.

It is like climbing a very steep mountain,

And only those with tight, grip shoes will reach the climax.

But, most of the people are falling on the way.

We cannot find basic commodities in the shops but,

We can only find them on the streets, fetching very high prices,

This is not affordable to most of us,

Only those with tough pockets will afford.

Prices of basic commodities are going up every day, day and night

The value of our Zimbabwean dollar is deteriorating.

To worsen the matter, we cannot get cash in the banks

Cash withdrawals are now very limited, due to this,

The amount of corruption in Zimbabwe is now very high.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ASAP works with Ministry of Education and Other NGOs to Improve Education

On January 23 ASAP’s Zimbabwe Country Director, Regai Tsunga attended the Ministry of Education workshop on the Ministry's Key Result Areas, goals and objectives as well as to create some interaction between MOE and its’ education partners.

Here Regai is pictured with Dr .Stephen Mahere, the Permanent Secretary in the MOE – who attended all sessions. Being a Mathematician himself, Dr. Mahere was pleased to hear more about the positive results being achieved through ASAP’s Bridge The Gap (BTG) project - that aims to improve teaching and learning of mathematics – a very challenging subject worldwide. Below, Collins Mutsvairo, BTG Project Manager introduces himself and discusses the project.

With many NGOs in attendance, a decision was taken to develop a database of education projects and initiatives in order to reduce duplication of partner effort as well as to identify areas of need.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"I Have A Dream"

by Martin Luther King, Jr,

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

ASAP begins year 2008 with expansion

by Turai Mandiambira
The year 2008 started with a wave of happiness as the organization expands its programming. The Bridge the Gap is expanding to cover Mutasa North, including most of the Honde Valley area, with effect from January 2008 whilst prospects are that there will be capacity building of other organizations in the implementation of the project. The Mutasa District will also benefit from new funding for the Health and Nutrition Development Initiative, to strengthen rural families to care for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

On another note there is the birth of Income Generating Activities project in Nyanga North, a project funded by Concern World Wide, where ASAP will be working in joint venture with CWW, Family AIDS Care Trust and Mission Hospitals in Nyanga area.

Due to this expansion two new data capture clerks have been hired namely; Future Nyamupinga and Sarudzai Kurehwatira.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Zimbabwe experience by André Carrel

Comment from The Nelson Daily News (Canada), 21 December

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage - John Kenneth Galbraith

On our way to the Eastern Highlands in the morning after my arrival in Zimbabwe, we stopped at the general store in a small town south of Harare. My friend had delivered a few crates of produce from his garden on his way to the airport the day before, and he wanted to pick up the empties. A queue, mostly women, many with babies on their backs, had formed in front of the store. I did not pay much attention to the queue; I wanted to see the store’s empty shelves, empty coolers, and empty freezers. My inspection was interrupted by the sudden sound of yelling and screaming coming from outside. I went to see what the commotion was all about. The women in the queue were visibly upset about something. The yelling grew louder and the gesticulating more agitated when a man wielding a bull whip appeared. A few well-aimed lashes into the throng of protesting women restored order and silence in the queue. I had never seen anything like it! As the women were being bullwhipped, a uniformed police officer walked by clutching two loaves of bread under his arm. He walked past the scene as if the mini-riot and bullwhipping of women and their babies was of no concern to him. The scene was surreal. Shortly afterwards my friend returned with his empty crates. As we stashed them in the pickup, he pointed to two loaves of bread hidden in one of the crates. "That’s all I could get," he said, half apologetically.

As we drove away, I asked him what the commotion had been all about. The women had learned that there would be bread in the store, and they had been queuing since before 6:00 a.m. There was no bread on the shelves; the bread was "walking" out the back door. "It’s how the black market works," my friend explained. The commotion was triggered when one of the women discovered what was happening with the bread. Several days later, sitting at the breakfast table eating the last of the bread and not knowing if there would be bread tomorrow or where it would come from, I reflected on what I had witnessed. The bread I had been eating for the past few days should have been eaten by a child. The only reason that bread had ended up on my table was that I had connections and money. I have read reports about the disproportionate share of the world’s resources consumed by the developed world. I have heard arguments that one world is not enough to support 6.6 billion people in the style to which the wealthiest 2 billion are accustomed. There are not enough of all the things the developed world takes for granted to allow everybody on earth to consume resources at the pace and rate of the wealthiest 2 billion. As I sat in relative comfort in the midst of Zimbabwe’s misery, I understood the bullwhipping of the women and their babies that I had witnessed as the embodiment of the global reality of the disparity in resource consumption. I talked to my friend about this disparity and about my feelings of guilt for having eaten the bread. He tried to console me: "You have to be practical about such things."

Our First World lifestyle is sustained by millions and millions of people in Africa and Asia who work for peanuts, literally, and sometimes for much less than peanuts. I spent a month living in the home of people who work hard for long hours and are paid not just less than $1 per day, but much less than $1 per day. I am a bit over-weight, but I did not lose one pound during my month in Zimbabwe because I had money in my pocket, hard currency, and friends with connections to convert my hard currency into food, fuel, and other necessities to which I am accustomed. As a member of the First World, I am at the front of the queue; I get what I want; I consume what I want, and if "they" get unruly, somebody will whip them back into line. I don’t have to lift a finger; I can simply drive away. It is not my responsibility. My position in life allows me to be practical about such things. How do I live with the image of hungry women and babies being bullwhipped? Can I assuage my feelings of guilt by looking the other way? What is the humanitarian response? Selling everything I own and giving it to them would ease their plight for a moment, but it would not change the harshness of life under Mugabe-style regimes. If I want to make a change to the lives of people living under intolerable conditions, I have to start here - at home, in my town, in my province, and in my country - and work to change the focus of our political ethics from "me" to "us."