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Humanitarian aid slowly penetrates Zimbabwe’s inaccessible areas

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A week since Cyclone Idai made landfall in eastern Zimbabwe, authorities and aid groups are stepping up relief efforts on the ground as the hardest-hit areas are slowly becoming more accessible.

The government and humanitarian agencies have dispatched food supplies and emergency response units in the region to assist thousands of people struggling to survive following the destructive storm.

As relief aid and medical and sanitation kits arrived in Chimanimani, a remote mountainous town that was unreachable by road until recently, hundreds of displaced residents took up refuge in a primary school, while others moved to the churches on higher ground for safety.

Jennifer Mahembe, one of those sheltering in one of the classrooms at Ngangu Primary School, said that since last Friday’s storm, she had been unable to go back to her destroyed home.

“My house is full of mud, everything sank in there and some of my property was taken by the rain,” the 48-year-old told Al Jazeera.

“I can’t walk to my house, I want to go, but I can’t. I stood in the water for too long so my legs hurt,” she said.

“Everything was buried in the mud. Even the clothes I’m wearing are borrowed from other people and the blankets I use to sleep aren’t mine, I have nothing. We are not getting enough here, we have something but we need more,” added Mahembe, expressing hope the inflow of aid would greatly improve the limited food rations.

Along with Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai has also affected Mozambique and Malawi, with the collective death toll extending into the hundreds. Numbers are expected to rise in all three southeastern African countries as flood waters recede and community efforts to recover bodies that may have been swept downstream intensify.

On Friday, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who visited the Chimanimani area on Wednesday, declared Saturday and Sunday as national days of mourning.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has meanwhile warned that there is “heightened potential for a communicable disease outbreak” such as cholera or malaria in Zimbabwe’s cyclone-affected region, particularly in the Chimanimani area where the water supply system and power lines have been seriously damaged.

The UN is in the process of establishing temporary reception centres equipped with emergency medical supplies as well as primary healthcare kits in various areas of displaced groups.

Rosa Mukamba, 72, said three of her relatives had been swept away by landslides, while she had been forced to seek refuge at a temporary centre at Skyline, a low-range mountain summit 20km from Chimanimani, because her belongings and medication were swept away by the muddy rains.

“My children were taken by the water; their homes aren’t there more. Me I don’t have anything so I’m here,” she said.

“We have no fields left any more; our home, our pots, my pills, everything was taken.”

Further away, at Chimanimani Rural District Hospital, volunteer doctor Lindo Sithole said water purification tablets and chronic medicines were in short supply.

“Currently, we don’t have drugs to treat people with chronic illnesses, but there are people with diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension whose medicine got lost when their houses got flooded,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We don’t have enough drugs to assist them.”
AL Jazeera

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

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Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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