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Leading article: We can give Zimbabwe hope

Sunday, 30 November 2008

The last that most people in this country knew of Zimbabwe was that a power-sharing deal had been done between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader. Some of us might have been aware that the implementation of the deal had become a bit sticky, and we might have wondered what had become of Mr Tsvangirai in recent weeks.

The truth is that Mr Tsvangirai has been spending a lot of time in South Africa, engaged in tortuous negotiations over the allocation of ministerial posts. Progress was made last week, for example, in agreeing amendments to the constitution to put the deal into effect. But the allocation of cabinet posts has not yet been settled, with Mr Mugabe trying to hold on to all those responsible for security. The campaign of obstruction waged by the old despot ensures that the agreement will take a long time to yield practical benefits. And there is hope in the long view, because Jacob Zuma, the leader-presumptive of South Africa, promises a more active engagement by the regional power – and not least because of the inauguration of an American President of part-Kenyan descent in seven weeks' time.

While all this is going on, the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe continues to worsen. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country, most of them to South Africa, a few to Britain, where, to our shame, the Home Office is trying to send them back. The economy of Zimbabwe, including the rural economy, is so tattered that, of the population that remains, half will need food aid in the coming month. One of the best-known numbers in the world must be the average life expectancy in the country, reduced from 60 just two decades ago to 34 now.

As our special correspondent in Zimbabwe reports today from Zimbabwe, the cash economy has ceased to function, with the speed of inflation testing the limits of theoretical mathematics at a rate of 2.8 quintillion per cent a year. "Doctors and teachers whose monthly wage does not buy one square meal are leaving their jobs to forage for food like everyone else," he reports. "The first sight that greets visitors who fly into Harare is that of people tilling public land beside the airport."

Now cholera has taken hold and is spreading.

That is why The Independent on Sunday has chosen Save the Children in Zimbabwe for its Christmas appeal this year. The situation in that country is one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world today. More than that, it has two features that make it particularly deserving of our attention.

One is that something can be done. Even the most hard-faced sceptic about the efficacy of development charities would have to accept the case for help here. Zimbabwe is capable of feeding its people, but the collapse of the state and society makes it temporarily impossible. Nor does it take much to keep children alive. Nor does it require a huge additional logistical effort. Save the Children has worked in the country for 25 years. It is one of the functioning institutions still in good shape after the ravages of Mugabe over that time. It can deliver food directly to children who need it at very little cost.

The other feature of the Zimbabwe crisis is that we in Britain retain a vestigial responsibility to the people there. It is 28 years since the Thatcher government signed the Lancaster House Agreement, granting independence to Rhodesia under its African name. Of course, Mr Mugabe, then admired as a democrat and national liberator, bears the prime responsibility for the wrecking of one of the most prosperous and fortunate of African nations. And he has exploited our colonial history ruthlessly to portray Britain as the external enemy, in such a way as to make it impossible for Britain to play much part in putting international pressure on his regime. But, people-to-people rather than government-to-government, there is still much that we can, and should, do.

That is why we are asking our readers to respond generously to help make a difference. Please, use the coupon with this article and use the Gift Aid tax concession to reclaim and donate any tax that you have already paid.

We urge you to read our report from Matabeleland North in our news pages. Although the long-term prospect for Zimbabwe is hopeful, the political deal made in September and ratcheted another notch forward in South Africa last week will bring its desperate people no succour in the short term. As our correspondent concludes in his personal despatch: "If they are to be given any hope this Christmas, it will have to come from us."

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THANK-YOU!!!!

Posted by Rhonda Davis | 01.12.08, 15:17 GMT

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"As everything great in this country was already here, before the arrival of the white person, as the Chinese were already trading Gold and agricultural produce from Zimbabwe. Those are the afcts which need to be remmeber. We are getting tired of belittle black Zimbabweans as if we are not compable to feed ourselves"

Posted by Thuthukani Mhize

WHAT A COMPLETE MORON! your agriculturalists are doing so well half at least 6 million people will be dead by next year!!!

Posted by Gary | 01.12.08, 12:56 GMT

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Insteady of talking about history and blaming why don;t we just donate what we can afford. Zimbabwean histry is so complicated that its better to reserve comments and help.

Posted by tembo | 30.11.08, 23:35 GMT

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Zimbabweans in the diaspora, let us arise and fight poverty, hunger and ignorance among our people back home.
Zimbabwe now needs leaders and not just politicians. Leaders who will organise us to seek ways to feed and send treatment to our suffering people with integrity and fairness.

Come on Zimbabwe, let us support - Save the Children. Faith without works is very dead. Our Prayer for Zimbabwe effort should be supported with action/ works.

I am willing, how about you?

Yes we can!!!

Posted by shumirai | 30.11.08, 10:37 GMT

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and please tell me what % of aid monies will actually get to these people

Posted by elie | 30.11.08, 09:51 GMT

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I am in daily contact with people in Zimbabwe and have been there twice this year and seen at first hand the suffering. I run a small registered charity (SCO39203) which is able to get aid to the people who need it and ensure that any donations are used for the purpose intended. There are no administration charges levied on the charity as all expenses incurred are paid for personally. Please take a moment to look at the website www.atoztrust.org and help in whatever way you can.

Posted by Elsie Oliver | 30.11.08, 09:06 GMT

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Im a Colored Zimbabwean from Arcadia and why do you people allways go back to "white" and "black" we are all humman and unfortunately Mugabe has wrecked the country thats why we moved to Australia. He was snitch from the very beginning. We should be helping each other rather then referring back to the color of our skin.

Posted by Daniel V | 30.11.08, 08:43 GMT

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Our agricultural skills were not brought into the country by whites, please get that right. As everything great in this country was already here, before the arrival of the white person, as the Chinese were already trading Gold and agricultural produce from Zimbabwe. Those are the afcts which need to be remmeber. We are getting tired of belittle black Zimbabweans as if we are not compable to feed ourselves, neither were the white farmers wotrking the gorund growing edible food but were growing tobacco, paprika and cotton. The economic sanctions whether you like it or not have ruined this country, God will deliver us out of it, dont worry about us..

Posted by Thuthukani Mhize | 30.11.08, 01:59 GMT

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The truth is that Zimbabwe will comew out, whether Tsvangirai and the West and Mugabe like it or not.For we wont fight for what is righ, but God will see us through as this country shall remain with or without Tsvangirai or Mugabe.Zimbabwe belongs to the people not the just the MDC or Zanu-PF. The West can keep their Aid because we wont survive on Aid, but on hard work, with or without the sanctions, all we need is sufficient rains, and that is enough.No foreign currency is needed for that, thank God for that, so at least, we ourselves dont need an expert seated somewhere in the west to tell us how to grow crops.Forget the excuses, that Zimbabwe used to export food before land allocation, please do your history, Zimbabwe has always exported food, even before year 1000.

Posted by Thuthukani Mhize | 30.11.08, 01:59 GMT

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