Thriving city becomes the capital of chaos and misrule


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Harare's citizens at the mercy of food and fuel shortages and brutal police

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Thursday May 8, 2003
The Guardian

In Harare these days you never know where you are going to end up when you take a taxi. A dozen passengers crammed into a taxi van recently complained angrily among themselves about Zimbabwe's high inflation, critical fuel shortages and the police who shoved them when they were stopped at roadblocks.
When one man tried to defend the police, a woman retorted: "The police are just Mugabe's dogs." The rest of the passengers cheered. When the taxi stopped, the man jumped out and ran to some nearby police officers. He identified himself as an off-duty policeman and ordered them to arrest the passengers. They were jailed overnight and charged for insulting police, a crime under the Public Order and Security Act.
For many months horror stories have been emerging from Zimbabwe about the suffering inflicted by President Robert Mugabe. Newspapers have been filled with accounts of political corruption, rapes and beatings. But behind these stories lie the daily hardships felt by the capital's 1.7 million people.
What was once a thriving city has descended into a place of empty supermarkets, petrol queues and blackouts.
In the past week the longstanding fuel shortages have taken a turn for the worse. Hundreds of vehicles spend entire days and nights in fuel queues in Harare. "We used to laugh at Zambians because of all the shortages they had. Now they are laughing at us because it is much worse here," said a salesman. "We never thought it would get this bad."
A few months ago Mr Mugabe's motorcade of more than 20 vehicles, including two trucks full of armed soldiers, passed a fuel queue on Samora Machel Avenue in downtown Harare. The president was met by jeers and hoots of derision. Some people threw empty cans. The soldiers later returned and beat up many of those in the queue. A law has also been passed declaring it illegal to make derogatory comments or gestures to the presidential motorcade.
Harare's new mayor, Elias Mudzuri, tried to improve city services; garbage collections were organised and crews sent out to fill potholes. But Mr Mudzuri, elected by nearly 80% of Harare's voters, belongs to the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Last week the Mugabe government sacked him, accusing him of incompetence and corruption. Mr Mudzuri has been barred from his office and has gone into hiding after receiving threats.
At first glance, the supermarket in central Harare appears well-stocked and busy. But on closer inspection, rows and rows of toilet paper are displayed. "That is where there should be salt and that is where there should be sugar, but those items are out of stock so they put up toilet paper," said Idah Mandaza.
"And mealie meal [maize meal, Zimbabwe's staple food] and cooking oil and soap, they have all been replaced with toilet paper. But we can't eat loo paper. Either basic things are not available or I can't afford them. I never thought it would come to this."
For Mrs Mandaza, Zimbabwe's inflation of 228% and 12% decline in GDP are not dry economic statistics. They are the harsh facts of life that she, her family and everyone in Zimbabwe grapple with daily.
Mrs Mandaza, 53, is proud of her job as the assistant production manager in a Harare factory. But by the time she pays for travel to and from work and her rent for a small two-roomed house, more than half of her salary is gone. "I'm lucky, I have two sons and they both have jobs. But I still must be very careful when I shop. I support my mother and my sister, plus I help my brothers in the rural areas. There is just not enough money," she said.
Zimbabwe's once thriving middle-class is struggling to get by, but the poor are desperate. Growing numbers are begging and rummaging through rubbish bins. The disparity in wealth has widened after two years of economic crisis.
"In 40 years working as a doctor, I have never seen so many cases of malnutrition, particularly among children," said a general practitioner. "It used to be that I would only see signs of kwashiorkor [a form of malnutrition caused by inadequate protein intake] in children from the rural areas. Now I see it in city children."
The United Nations estimates that nearly 1 million urban Zimbabweans do not have enough food. In total, more than 7 million of the country's 12 million people are threatened with starvation, according to the government. Just a few years ago Zimbabwe was extolled as the breadbasket of Africa.
An unruly commotion erupts in the supermarket as people rush to the bakery section where bread is put on the shelves. After a few minutes of shoving and grabbing, the bread is gone. One woman was knocked down in the scuffle.
There used to be a similar rush when milk and other fresh dairy products were delivered. But for two weeks there have not been any milk deliveries. A dairy farm that supplied 40% of Harare's milk has been overrun by Mr Mugabe's supporters, according to local newspaper reports.
The supermarket no longer puts its rare deliveries of maize meal or other scarce items on sale in the store. After some mini-riots in which shelves were knocked down, the scarce goods are sold at the back of the store where deliveries are made. People queue there for hours.
Zimbabwe's once respected police are now widely feared for arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture. In the past two months 10 high-profile Zimbabweans, including three members of parliament and one lawyer, have accused police of torturing them with electric shocks. Medical examinations have confirmed injuries consistent with their harrowing accounts. Most were released without charges.
Last month more than 250 opposition supporters were forced to go into hospital after men dressed in army uniforms raided their homes and beat them.
But not everyone is gloomy and depressed. "The worse things get, the sooner we will have a change," said one motorist queuing for fuel. "The more angry people get, the sooner they will press Mugabe to go."
He pointed to the visit to Harare on Monday of South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian equivalent Olusegun Obasanjo. "Do you think they came to congratulate Mugabe on doing such a good job? No, they came to tell Mugabe he must go. The pressure is mounting and change is in the air. I can feel it."

To bar – odmawiać wstępu
Commotion - zamieszanie
Crammed – wypchany, full of things
Derision - szyderstwo
Disparity - inequality, nierówność
To Extol - wychwalać
To Grapple (with) – mocować się z czymś
Harrowing - wstrząsający
To Inflict – zadać, spowodować
To Jeer – wyszydzać, wyśmiewać się
Loo – toilet
Malnutrition - niedożywienie
Motorcade – kolumna samochodów
Off-duty – poza służbą
Pothole – dziura na drodze
Queue - kolejka
Retort - riposta
To Rummage - przetrząsać
To Shove - popychać
Staple - basic, podstawowy
Scuffle - starcie
Thriving – dobrze prosperujący


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