Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HARARE, 25 May 2010 (IRIN) - The death of Zimbabwe's secretary for agriculture, Renson Gasela, and two other senior officials from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a car accident recently has highlighted the country's inability to respond to accidents, emergencies or disasters.

It took more than eight hours for the men to receive assistance after the accident because police in the nearby southeastern mining town of Zvishavane had no transport, and fire brigade units had no fuel to make the 25km journey. Emergency services only arrived after the MDC secretary general, Welshman Ncube, provided fuel.

"That incident alone is a small representation of how the coalition government has dismally failed the people of Zimbabwe," political analyst John Makumbe told IRIN, because the response time probably would have been quicker if senior officials from ZANU-PF - the other party in Zimbabwe's unity government - had been involved in an accident.

"The truth of the matter is that the inclusive government is failing to deliver, or to improve the lives of Zimbabweans. When schools opened recently, a majority of students were turned away because their parents or guardians could not afford to pay school fees; supermarket shelves are full of goods and food, but a visit to many households will reveal that people are starving in their homes."

The unity government - a fragile coalition between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, and an MDC breakaway faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - has failed to inspire since its formation in February 2009.

Collapsing services

National Railways of Zimbabwe, the country's train service, is on the verge of collapse, as is the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company, the public bus service; domestic refuse has begun piling up in urban areas as municipalities fail to collect it; Health and Child Welfare minister Henry Madzorera revealed that 78 percent of midwife positions are vacant.

Over the last few months it has dawned on me that we are certainly going nowhere in terms of the improvement of our lives - life has become even more expensive. The present and the future are bleak

The intermittent supply of electricity is expected to get worse because Zimbabwe will be exporting 300 megawatts of electricity to South Africa during the FIFA World Cup competition beginning in June.

Barbra Mawara, a junior manager at a manufacturing company in the capital, Harare, told IRIN that she had decided against leaving the country after the formation of the unity government, but was once again toying with the idea.

"Over the last few months it has dawned on me that we are certainly going nowhere in terms of the improvement of our lives - life has become even more expensive. The present and the future are bleak; there is fatigue and lack of will among Zimbabweans. The politicians have certainly let Zimbabweans down while fighting over jobs among themselves," she said.

The exasperation over any real progress is also affecting politicians. "The MDC has been taken over by greedy people with self-serving interests. We have started campaigning among the people in preparation for elections [expected to take place in 2011 or 2012]," said Job Sikhala, a former senior official in Mutambara's party who has broken away to form the MDC 99 party. [The MDC was formed in 1999].

He said the coalition government had made little progress in improving people's lives, as Mugabe continued to control the national agenda. "In the inclusive government Mugabe remains the driver of the bus, with Tsvangirai as the bus conductor, while Mutambara is the baggage loader, and that will not result in any meaningful changes."

The latest example of Mugabe's apparent disregard for his coalition partners and the Global Political Agreement, which paved the way for the unity government, has been the appointment of George Chiweshe to head the High Court.

Chiweshe was head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in 2008, which the MDC claim saw large-scale rigging to ensure that Tsvangirai did not win an outright victory in the presidential poll and the election result was delayed for month.

A band aid

"The inclusive government only managed to stop the bleeding but did not cure the wound. Some stability was attained, but there has been no progress," political commentator Luke Tamborinyoka told IRIN.

"There is no progress on the land audit, the constitution-making process, and the opening of media space; there is high unemployment and poverty, and although supermarket shelves are full, few can afford the commodities," he said.

Human rights activist and political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya told IRIN: "Politicians argue that because of the inclusive government there is little political violence and that supermarket shelves have goods, but that can hardly be an acceptable excuse because violence and the poor economic environment was brought by politicians."

Ngwenya commented: "In any case, violence is on the increase while many people can not afford to buy the food, which is expensive. Because of failure to secure credit lines to improve the performance of the inclusive government, the coalition has weakened over the months since its formation."

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