Category Archives: Zimbabwe

Nando’s "Last Dictator Standing" Pokes Fun at Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

About time, too! A cute reminder to a dictator who has been in power since February 1980.

Via: http://bouffant.tv/welcome/
“The brand new entertaining spot directed by Dean Blumberg hits a funny nerve by tapping into the spirit of our times. Dean delivers a spot that surprises the viewer with unexpected twists by cleverly capturing the world’s most notorious dictators and making the viewer want to watch the ad again and again to see if they have actually seen and heard right.”

The ad opens with a Robert Mugabe lookalike picking up a Muammar Gaddafi place card from an empty dinner table. In a dream sequence the Mugabe actor is seen sitting mournfully in a garden when the deceased Libyan dictator covered his eyes with white-gloved hands, then starts a waterfight with a golden AK-47. Next, he sings karaoke with the late Mao Tse-Tung of China, makes sand angels with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, pushes the swing with South African apartheid leader, Pieter Willem Botha, and in a scene parodying Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio from the Titanic film, he is seen riding on a tank with Uganda’s Idi Amin, also deceased. Then the tagline — “no one should ever have to eat alone so get a Nando 6-pack meal….”  The song in the video is “Those Were The Days” sung by Mary Hopkins.

As you can imagine, this was not received well in Zimbabwe.  BBC reports that Nando’s South Africa has pulled the ad due to threats to its staff. Excerpts:

“We’ve noted with concern the political reaction emanating out of Zimbabwe, including perceived threats against Nando’s Zimbabwe’s management, staff and customers,” Nando’s South Africa said in a statement.

“We feel strongly that this is the prudent step to take in a volatile climate and believe that no TV commercial is worth risking the safety of Nando’s staff and customers.”

Nando’s South Africa decided to axe its commercial after Mugabe loyalists from the Chipangano group had called for a boycott and other unspecified punitive action against the company.

“We condemn such adverts because it reduces our president to be someone without values,” Chipangano leader Jimmy Kunaka told the BBC’s Brian Hungwe earlier this week.

I learn something new everyday. Robert Mugabe has values. LOL!

Related posts:

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Funnies, Spectacular, Video of the Week, Zimbabwe

FCO’s Grace Mutandwa Blogs Farewell

Reverse side of the defunct ten cent coin feat...Image via Wikipedia

We are sorry to see one of our favorite FCO bloggers say goodbye last week. We hope she will blog again about life in Zimbabwe in the coming months. Hers is a voice of hope and reason in a country that has been choked for far too long under the eyeballs of an aging dictator.  Excerpt from her farewell post:

At the end of March I leave the employ of the embassy to re-focus my energies on other things. It has been a journey of self-discovery, a riveting trip down the international relations road but more importantly it brought me together with an amazing array of people. It also paved the way for me to create new friends at British Council and the Department for International Development.

When I started work at the embassy, the offices where in the city centre. I leave when the embassy has moved to its new home in the low-density suburb of  Mount Pleasant. Landscaping is taking shape and somewhere in the long grass around the property, a leopard and its cub have established a home. A duiker and some guinea fowl have also graced us with their presence. A month or so ago a huge snake was sighted on the property.

The presence of all this wildlife has become a subject of intense discussion between embassy staff and our neighbours in the European Union building. We are considering co-ownership rights.

When I have not been distracted by wildlife issues I have found time to blog about life in Zimbabwe. Some readers of my blog have asked me why I am still in Zimbabwe and if it is safe for them to visit.

I am still here because this is HOME and because I am a believer. I believe that my country will rise once again and take its place in the company of fellow great nations. I believe more than ever that the dark cloud we were under is passing and the sun will shine again. We will laugh again. In God’s time we will dance again.
[…]
The economy needs to get back on track. The politics of the country is still befuddled but one day we will get it right. That, is what keeps me here and that, is what makes me determined to help rebuild my country.

And when, South African President Jacob Zuma says it is up to Zimbabweans to make things right, he is right. It is our responsibility. We owe it to our children and future generations to find it in our hearts to do what is right for our country. We need more reflection and less fighting. We need more positive action and less bickering.

Beautiful! Read her entire post here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Digital Diplomacy, FCO, Zimbabwe

Philip Barclay Says a Familiar Goodbye

Philip Barclay, the Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Zimbabwe who blogs at the FCO’s Global Conversations says goodbye to Zimbabwe … his final blog post has a familiar feeling for those who move every 3-4 years in this business. I’ve come to think of these arrivals and leavetakings as a large part of the wear and tear of this lifestyle. The getting to know phase in every place is familiar and different in the same breath. It takes about 6-8 months. The goodbyes are often sticky and hard as glue. It takes months, years. You may still be talking about your previous post in the middle of your current tour, hankering about the food, the weather, your old life, etc., etc. You meet find friends and leave friends. And every place that you have called home is lodged in the forever country of memory, the only place where you grow roots … here is Philip:

“The Foreign Office is cruel. I was posted to Zimbabwe despite its awful reputation. I stepped off the plane anxiously, expecting to be butchered at once and fed to lions. That didn’t happen, but I have suffered a greater pain – falling in love with this beautiful, cursed nation and now, after more than three years, having to leave.
[…]
Until today, I had not realised how much I am feeling about leaving Zimbabwe. But now, Easter Monday, the day before I leave for good, I find myself crying tears for the sweet friends and the soul-expanding life I have to leave behind. I know I signed up for a job that makes me move country every three or four years, but I didn’t know it would be as hard as this.”

Read his final post here. Check out the Harare bloggers home here for Grace’s posts.

Leave a comment

Filed under FCO, Foreign Service, People, Realities of the FS, Zimbabwe

Philip Barclay Says a Familiar Goodbye

Philip Barclay, the Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Zimbabwe who blogs at the FCO’s Global Conversations says goodbye to Zimbabwe … his final blog post has a familiar feeling for those who move every 3-4 years in this business. I’ve come to think of these arrivals and leavetakings as a large part of the wear and tear of this lifestyle. The getting to know phase in every place is familiar and different in the same breath. It takes about 6-8 months. The goodbyes are often sticky and hard as glue. It takes months, years. You may still be talking about your previous post in the middle of your current tour, hankering about the food, the weather, your old life, etc., etc. You meet find friends and leave friends. And every place that you have called home is lodged in the forever country of memory, the only place where you grow roots … here is Philip:

“The Foreign Office is cruel. I was posted to Zimbabwe despite its awful reputation. I stepped off the plane anxiously, expecting to be butchered at once and fed to lions. That didn’t happen, but I have suffered a greater pain – falling in love with this beautiful, cursed nation and now, after more than three years, having to leave.
[…]
Until today, I had not realised how much I am feeling about leaving Zimbabwe. But now, Easter Monday, the day before I leave for good, I find myself crying tears for the sweet friends and the soul-expanding life I have to leave behind. I know I signed up for a job that makes me move country every three or four years, but I didn’t know it would be as hard as this.”

Read his final post here. Check out the Harare bloggers home here for Grace’s posts.

Leave a comment

Filed under FCO, Foreign Service, People, Realities of the FS, Zimbabwe

USAID Local Employees Arrested in Zimbabwe

Air Force Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri (middle)
Photo from newzimbabwe.com

As best as I could trace this ridiculous story, it started in mid December when newzimbabwe.com reported that Zimbabwe’s Air Force Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri survived an attempt on his life. This is the same Perence Shiri who according to reports was the commander of the North Koeran-trained 5 Brigade army unit which was deployed in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in 1982 to hunt down alleged dissidents. At the end of its activities, in 1986, human rights groups say 20 000 civilians were dead, thousands more missing and others displaced.

Shiri was reportedly hospitalised after suffering a gunshot wound to his arm, a senior official from Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party told the website. Shiri, driving alone in his official car, is said to have been leaving his farm in Mashonaland West Province on Saturday night when he was ambushed. “He came under fire from a sizeable number of professional hitmen. He survived the attack, although he was shot on the arm,” the official said, speaking on condition he is not named.

Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said the attack on Shiri, who was alone at the time, appeared to be “a build-up of terror attacks targeting high-profile persons, government officials, government establishments and public transport systems”. Mohadi also said the attack on Shiri, 53, “showed the assailants were well trained and there was a clear attempt to destabilise the country through acts of terrorism”.

Mohaid’s pronouncements is kind of like the equivalent of the red/severe level in DHS’s homeland security threat advisory, only more cranky. One for the Huh? News, you think?

Let’s see — a top military official was driving alone (It’s Africa people, what happened to military escorts and aides?), he came under attack by “professional hitmen,” (I wonder if they’re the Fargo kind) and he was hit on the arm (or the palm of his hand in some other reports; apparently they’re “well trained”).

Borat could do a better job with this material if only Zim has not gone bat crazy.

On January 22, Frank Muchirahondo, a driver for USAID was arrested accused of shooting Air Force Commander Perence Shiri; Muchirahondo is facing attempted murder charges. Another USAID employee Daniel Mlenga, has apparently also been arrested.

Muchirahondo’s lawyer Chris Mhike of Atherstone and Cook said bail was denied and his client’s application could not be heard and that the matter was postponed until February 24.

The US embassy has reportedly issued a statement condemning Muchirahondo’s arrest and dismissing all allegations against the employee saying he was among other employees doing humanitarian work for the organisation at the time of the shooting. I could not locate any statement in state.gov or Embassy Harare’s website. If you have a link to the official statement, please let me know.

In the meantime, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) has released a statement: The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO is deeply concerned and condemns the failure by the political parties to ensure the release of Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Frank Muchirahondo and Daniel Mlenga, both USAID employees, and many other prisoners of conscience from Chikurubi Prison and other places of detention. We strongly believe that they are being held on frivolous, trumped-up political charges, which have no substance at law. Further, it is becoming increasingly evident that political prisoners were used as mere pawns by the political protagonists for political leverage.

Robert “Zimbabwe is mine” Mugabe must be getting his state of play from the Marcos playbook. When Ferdinand Marcos was in power, General Fabian Ver, his cousin, was the Philippines AFP Chief of Staff and his most trusted general (later implicated in the assassination of Benigno Aquino). Gen. Perence Shiri is as well, a cousin of Robert Mugabe and has been named the prime mover over the military’s ugly fight over the diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

Power, money and perpetual rule – they can eat raw at a man’s soul and before long, nothing exist but an abject cast of a man lost for all eternity.

Lost, er unless, they put you in a refrigerated crypt like this one, or in trading cards like this one.


Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Huh? News, Locally Employed Staff, USAID, Zimbabwe

USAID Local Employees Arrested in Zimbabwe

Air Force Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri (middle)
Photo from newzimbabwe.com

As best as I could trace this ridiculous story, it started in mid December when newzimbabwe.com reported that Zimbabwe’s Air Force Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri survived an attempt on his life. This is the same Perence Shiri who according to reports was the commander of the North Koeran-trained 5 Brigade army unit which was deployed in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in 1982 to hunt down alleged dissidents. At the end of its activities, in 1986, human rights groups say 20 000 civilians were dead, thousands more missing and others displaced.

Shiri was reportedly hospitalised after suffering a gunshot wound to his arm, a senior official from Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party told the website. Shiri, driving alone in his official car, is said to have been leaving his farm in Mashonaland West Province on Saturday night when he was ambushed. “He came under fire from a sizeable number of professional hitmen. He survived the attack, although he was shot on the arm,” the official said, speaking on condition he is not named.

Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said the attack on Shiri, who was alone at the time, appeared to be “a build-up of terror attacks targeting high-profile persons, government officials, government establishments and public transport systems”. Mohadi also said the attack on Shiri, 53, “showed the assailants were well trained and there was a clear attempt to destabilise the country through acts of terrorism”.

Mohaid’s pronouncements is kind of like the equivalent of the red/severe level in DHS’s homeland security threat advisory, only more cranky. One for the Huh? News, you think?

Let’s see — a top military official was driving alone (It’s Africa people, what happened to military escorts and aides?), he came under attack by “professional hitmen,” (I wonder if they’re the Fargo kind) and he was hit on the arm (or the palm of his hand in some other reports; apparently they’re “well trained”).

Borat could do a better job with this material if only Zim has not gone bat crazy.

On January 22, Frank Muchirahondo, a driver for USAID was arrested accused of shooting Air Force Commander Perence Shiri; Muchirahondo is facing attempted murder charges. Another USAID employee Daniel Mlenga, has apparently also been arrested.

Muchirahondo’s lawyer Chris Mhike of Atherstone and Cook said bail was denied and his client’s application could not be heard and that the matter was postponed until February 24.

The US embassy has reportedly issued a statement condemning Muchirahondo’s arrest and dismissing all allegations against the employee saying he was among other employees doing humanitarian work for the organisation at the time of the shooting. I could not locate any statement in state.gov or Embassy Harare’s website. If you have a link to the official statement, please let me know.

In the meantime, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) has released a statement: The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO is deeply concerned and condemns the failure by the political parties to ensure the release of Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Frank Muchirahondo and Daniel Mlenga, both USAID employees, and many other prisoners of conscience from Chikurubi Prison and other places of detention. We strongly believe that they are being held on frivolous, trumped-up political charges, which have no substance at law. Further, it is becoming increasingly evident that political prisoners were used as mere pawns by the political protagonists for political leverage.

Robert “Zimbabwe is mine” Mugabe must be getting his state of play from the Marcos playbook. When Ferdinand Marcos was in power, General Fabian Ver, his cousin, was the Philippines AFP Chief of Staff and his most trusted general (later implicated in the assassination of Benigno Aquino). Gen. Perence Shiri is as well, a cousin of Robert Mugabe and has been named the prime mover over the military’s ugly fight over the diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

Power, money and perpetual rule – they can eat raw at a man’s soul and before long, nothing exist but an abject cast of a man lost for all eternity.

Lost, er unless, they put you in a refrigerated crypt like this one, or in trading cards like this one.


Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Huh? News, Locally Employed Staff, USAID, Zimbabwe

Shock and Awe: The Zimbabwe Edition

The Telegraph headline screams “Zimbabwe dollar dead, says top economist.” “Zimbabwe Implosion,” says another headline from The Zimbabwean which also reports that the news from Zimbabwe is increasingly grim. “Collapsing infrastructure, hyperinflation, cholera, the world’s highest HIV/Aids rate, a diaspora of refugees, and high unemployment are all signs of a country in ruins.”

FCO blogger in Harare Grace Mutandwa writes:

A few days ago in a monetary policy statement, Gono revalued the Zimbabwean dollar by removing 12 zeroes. A Z$100 trillion note, which was the highest note in circulation, is now Z$100. We have also now been told that Z$20 trillion (now Z$20) is now equivalent to US$1 and Z$2 trillion (Z$2) is now the same value as one South African Rand […] Everything is now sold in foreign currency. People who only six months ago lived very well of US$100 sent by relatives in the diaspora, now struggle to make ends meet. Zimbabweans have managed to devalue the American and British pound so much that now a US$100 does not go very far. Food is over-priced so are rentals and school fees.

Amidst all this is — some shock and awe, the Zimbabwe edition. Martin Fletcher writing for the Times Online reports on an upcoming lavish one-day celebration for Fruitcake Bob’s 85th birthday. “[…] the zealots of his Zanu (PF) party are determined that it should be an occasion that their great leader will never forget.”

“It’s an important day for Zimbabweans to celebrate the life of our great leader and Africa’s hero,” he said. “Zanu (PF) continues to receive massive donations from the corporate world, ordinary Zimbabweans and from people from all walks of life and we are confident that this year’s celebrations will be the best.”

Wow! Great idea – arm twisting and aggressive shake downs are acceptable especially if you simply give them quaint names like “donations,” or “contributions.” How about “alms” to aid the “poor?”

And so while Zimbabwe falls apart, here is the Birthday list to die for:

  • 2,000 bottles of champagne — Moët & Chandon and ’61 Bollinger
  • 500 bottles of whisky — Johnny Walker Blue Label, 22-year-old Chivas
  • 8,000 lobsters
  • 100kg king prawns
  • 3,000 ducks
  • 4,000 portions of caviar
  • 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher
  • 16,000 eggs
  • 3,000 cakes — chocolate and vanilla
  • 4,000 packs of pork sausages
  • 500kg cheese
  • 4,000 packets of crackers


My. Oh. My! Would I go to hell if I wish for one live lobster to bite Bob’s nose? Never mind that – yes, I do wish!

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label (“the most acclaimed and exclusive Scotch Whisky in the world”) alone costs about $250 a bottle. And please tell these guys – Chivas Regal does not have a 22 but there is a 21 at $150 a pop. But hey — why skimp? The better alternative is the Chivas 25 at only $270 a bottle – that’ll be quite a bargain, really — especially if you buy a couple hundred bottles.

Let’s see — for the Moët & Chandon champagne, you can get the Dom Perignon @ $170-$300+ (depending on the vintage). The 1961 Bollinger might be a problem though since it appears to be a rare vintage (some James Bond wanne-bes there, eh?). But I’m sure folks with money have a way around that; it’s not like they’re eating a slice of bread and water once a day, right?

These folks my friends, are aliens from Jupiter!

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Current Stuff, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe

Shock and Awe: The Zimbabwe Edition

The Telegraph headline screams “Zimbabwe dollar dead, says top economist.” “Zimbabwe Implosion,” says another headline from The Zimbabwean which also reports that the news from Zimbabwe is increasingly grim. “Collapsing infrastructure, hyperinflation, cholera, the world’s highest HIV/Aids rate, a diaspora of refugees, and high unemployment are all signs of a country in ruins.”

FCO blogger in Harare Grace Mutandwa writes:

A few days ago in a monetary policy statement, Gono revalued the Zimbabwean dollar by removing 12 zeroes. A Z$100 trillion note, which was the highest note in circulation, is now Z$100. We have also now been told that Z$20 trillion (now Z$20) is now equivalent to US$1 and Z$2 trillion (Z$2) is now the same value as one South African Rand […] Everything is now sold in foreign currency. People who only six months ago lived very well of US$100 sent by relatives in the diaspora, now struggle to make ends meet. Zimbabweans have managed to devalue the American and British pound so much that now a US$100 does not go very far. Food is over-priced so are rentals and school fees.

Amidst all this is — some shock and awe, the Zimbabwe edition. Martin Fletcher writing for the Times Online reports on an upcoming lavish one-day celebration for Fruitcake Bob’s 85th birthday. “[…] the zealots of his Zanu (PF) party are determined that it should be an occasion that their great leader will never forget.”

“It’s an important day for Zimbabweans to celebrate the life of our great leader and Africa’s hero,” he said. “Zanu (PF) continues to receive massive donations from the corporate world, ordinary Zimbabweans and from people from all walks of life and we are confident that this year’s celebrations will be the best.”

Wow! Great idea – arm twisting and aggressive shake downs are acceptable especially if you simply give them quaint names like “donations,” or “contributions.” How about “alms” to aid the “poor?”

And so while Zimbabwe falls apart, here is the Birthday list to die for:

  • 2,000 bottles of champagne — Moët & Chandon and ’61 Bollinger
  • 500 bottles of whisky — Johnny Walker Blue Label, 22-year-old Chivas
  • 8,000 lobsters
  • 100kg king prawns
  • 3,000 ducks
  • 4,000 portions of caviar
  • 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher
  • 16,000 eggs
  • 3,000 cakes — chocolate and vanilla
  • 4,000 packs of pork sausages
  • 500kg cheese
  • 4,000 packets of crackers


My. Oh. My! Would I go to hell if I wish for one live lobster to bite Bob’s nose? Never mind that – yes, I do wish!

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label (“the most acclaimed and exclusive Scotch Whisky in the world”) alone costs about $250 a bottle. And please tell these guys – Chivas Regal does not have a 22 but there is a 21 at $150 a pop. But hey — why skimp? The better alternative is the Chivas 25 at only $270 a bottle – that’ll be quite a bargain, really — especially if you buy a couple hundred bottles.

Let’s see — for the Moët & Chandon champagne, you can get the Dom Perignon @ $170-$300+ (depending on the vintage). The 1961 Bollinger might be a problem though since it appears to be a rare vintage (some James Bond wanne-bes there, eh?). But I’m sure folks with money have a way around that; it’s not like they’re eating a slice of bread and water once a day, right?

These folks my friends, are aliens from Jupiter!

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Current Stuff, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, Darkly

Less than 24 hours ago, AFP says that the number of people reported to be infected by cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to almost 65,000, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. “Some 64,701 people have caught the disease during the outbreak, which started in August, and 3,295 among them have died, the WHO said.” And yet – amidst all this and in the face of world-record hyperinflation, politicians are still wrangling about “power-sharing.”

With so many things wrong in the world – in Sudan, in Sri Lanka, in Gaza, and elsewhere, and with businesses shedding jobs every day – how shocking are these numbers? 65,000 people with cholera. 52 dead and 80 wounded in Sri Lanka. How numb have we become to these news of suffering?

The Embassy and USAID in Harare as well as Ambassador McGee are doing what they can. But for stories of what Zimbabwe’s like for diplomatic personnel, I visit the Harare blog of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I doubt if you can find any such stark account elsewhere.


Philip Barclay
is a Second Secretary (Political/Projects/Consular) at the British Embassy in Zimbabwe. He joined the FCO in 1999 and was previously posted in London and Poland. He is one of the two FCO bloggers in Harare. What is striking about these posts to me is how real and natural they are; no attempt at glossing over and how they prick at your heart with their utter lack of adornment in explaining the state of things.

On the water shortage, Philip writes:

Monday morning. It’s been a weekend of doughnuts and I’m drinking too much again. A can of Namibian beer seems easier and tastier than water flavoured with the sulphuric tang of purification tablets. In Zimbabwe, alcoholism is a prophylactic for cholera. Not surprisingly after my excess, a certain tightness of my bowel suggests that I’d better visit the loo. But that’s not a pleasant prospect.

For some reason Harare’s powers that be cut off the British Embassy’s water supply in December. It’s not clear if this was another sign of Zim’s water system failure or a protest at our policy of saying that Mr Mugabe’s government is not altogether the best thing since sliced bread. Now Harare’s water ain’t great for drinking, fortified as it is by large amounts of the charmingly named but deadly Vibrio cholera bacterium. But I do still find it helpful for flushing toilets and miss it now it’s gone. So my toiletry routine has taken on a semi-African form. I fill a bucket from a butt and carry it down the corridor, spilling a little to present a banana-skin-type walkway to my colleagues. (Continue reading Two Philips Groaning).

Philip traveled to London for training and upon his homecoming to Harare was confronted once more with the lack of water:

I am running out of the little water I had stashed in containers. In the past I could count on my partner for water but now his taps have dried up too. The only friend I know who has a borehole can not help because she has not had power for two weeks now. I feel terribly despondent.

The whole city of Harare has no water. Our offices have no water and outside the cholera statistics are growing. Only a week ago we had someone from Population Services International (PSI) come in to tell us about prevention of cholera.

I remember vividly how she emphasised that we should wash our hands, keep ourselves and surroundings clean. she advised us not to shake hands. She spoke with passion. She made a lot of sense but today as I write this I am asking myself many questions.

Even Zimbabwe’s health minister, David Parirenyatwa and president Robert Mugabe have taken turns to tell people about the importance of washing hands and general hygiene. But the question on everyone’s lips is; “Where is the water?”

You can wash hands and keep your home and yourself clean if you have running water. We have had no water for several days and some of my colleagues have not had running water for months.

We have become innovative bathers but I do not know for how long we are going to be able to come to work without stinking the whole office out. There is a limit to how much perfumes and deodorants can mask body odours.

It will be very easy for cholera to wipe out whole offices. People are coming from waterless homes to waterless offices. Anyone who thinks cholera is under control is having one very big sad joke. The Zimbabwean government does not believe it should be declared a national disaster. (Continue reading One big rubbish dump)


Grace Mutandwa is the other FCO Harare blogger. She
joined the British Embassy in Harare in 2002 as the locally-employed Press & Public Affairs Officer. Prior to that, she worked as an Arts Editor and a political journalist for more than 18 years for various local and international media organizations. In Life Goes On, she writes a powerful piece about the distance we keep even when things fall apart.

Someone dies, someone disappears and later reappears in court or their body is discovered decomposing somewhere. More than 50,000 people are struck by cholera and 3,028 of them die.

We all worry about these developments, do what we can to help ease the pain but at the end of the day, life for those still free to move around goes on. We go out, we invite friends to dinner, get invited to share a curry or a drink and slowly we continue with our lives.

This is the reality of life. Even in war torn countries life of sorts still goes on. A toddler spends several weeks with an abducted parent and later becomes a guest of the state in one of the country’s worst prisons. Still we talk about it for a while and soon enough we move on.

Several are starving but those with the means feast -their lives go on. Survival itself has become a major feat and those who still can drag themselves around do so with dwindling empathy and patience for the less fortunate.

Two 13-year-old girls incessantly ring my gate bell and when I answer, they tell me they are looking for jobs and that they have not eaten in days. They will work for food because being paid in local currency is useless. They have walked all the way from the high density suburb of Dzivaresekwa, west of the Harare.

I already have domestic help so I give them water and two slices each of bread. The food and water soon disappear. The two skinny-looking girls thank me profusely and ask me for old clothes.

My youngest and only daughter is an 18-year-old who is built bigger than the two. She is away studying but before she left home she cleaned out her wardrobe and gave various cousins some of her clothes – so there is nothing to give.

My heart bleeds. No child should ever have to go through what those two are going through.

All this gets me thinking about how really jaded we have become with political, economic and social situation in the country. Even as I spoke to the two girls it struck me how distant I managed to remain even as I gave them the bread and water.

There is something dead in us as a people. Several stories were written and appeals launched on behalf of journalist, turned activist Jestina Mukoko. She is a prominent person, so journalists tend to focus on her. The toddler who went missing with its parents got a mention every now and then if it was lucky.

Even when the toddler turned up at a police station with its parents being accused of banditry, we as a nation failed that child. We behaved as if it was the most normal thing for a baby to be incacerated. News that the baby too was beaten to force the mother to confess, just makes the whole story very sordid, and still no one raised a voice.

The Child Protection Society suddenly died – not a single word from them. The other so called children’s rights organisations just disappeared off the earth. We have become damaged goods.

We are facing a bleak year. Politicians want power but they do not seem to realise that with power comes responsibility. When I sit through 16-hour powercuts it does not make me feel better to find out that the same is happening in Nepal. Citizens deserve the best from their government.

When people hanker after power they must realise and accept the fact that they must be accountable and that citizens expect improved standards of living and not to be taken back to the dark ages.

Zimbabwe used to be Southern Africa’s breadbasket. It is shameful that today we produce nothing. Today we import turkeys from Peru and chickens from Uruguay. There is something very wrong and we cannot even ask God anymore to put it right because God left Africa ages ago – in fact when he did he never even passed through Zimbabwe. So in a way life goes on.

Can you imagine a Second Secretary in our Foreign Service or one of our locally engaged staff writing these posts in DipNote? Frankly, I can’t. And yet, such details and sense of “real life happening” is probably what is needed in our diplomats’ discourse with the American public.

Leave a comment

Filed under DipNote, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, Darkly

Less than 24 hours ago, AFP says that the number of people reported to be infected by cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to almost 65,000, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. “Some 64,701 people have caught the disease during the outbreak, which started in August, and 3,295 among them have died, the WHO said.” And yet – amidst all this and in the face of world-record hyperinflation, politicians are still wrangling about “power-sharing.”

With so many things wrong in the world – in Sudan, in Sri Lanka, in Gaza, and elsewhere, and with businesses shedding jobs every day – how shocking are these numbers? 65,000 people with cholera. 52 dead and 80 wounded in Sri Lanka. How numb have we become to these news of suffering?

The Embassy and USAID in Harare as well as Ambassador McGee are doing what they can. But for stories of what Zimbabwe’s like for diplomatic personnel, I visit the Harare blog of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I doubt if you can find any such stark account elsewhere.


Philip Barclay
is a Second Secretary (Political/Projects/Consular) at the British Embassy in Zimbabwe. He joined the FCO in 1999 and was previously posted in London and Poland. He is one of the two FCO bloggers in Harare. What is striking about these posts to me is how real and natural they are; no attempt at glossing over and how they prick at your heart with their utter lack of adornment in explaining the state of things.

On the water shortage, Philip writes:

Monday morning. It’s been a weekend of doughnuts and I’m drinking too much again. A can of Namibian beer seems easier and tastier than water flavoured with the sulphuric tang of purification tablets. In Zimbabwe, alcoholism is a prophylactic for cholera. Not surprisingly after my excess, a certain tightness of my bowel suggests that I’d better visit the loo. But that’s not a pleasant prospect.

For some reason Harare’s powers that be cut off the British Embassy’s water supply in December. It’s not clear if this was another sign of Zim’s water system failure or a protest at our policy of saying that Mr Mugabe’s government is not altogether the best thing since sliced bread. Now Harare’s water ain’t great for drinking, fortified as it is by large amounts of the charmingly named but deadly Vibrio cholera bacterium. But I do still find it helpful for flushing toilets and miss it now it’s gone. So my toiletry routine has taken on a semi-African form. I fill a bucket from a butt and carry it down the corridor, spilling a little to present a banana-skin-type walkway to my colleagues. (Continue reading Two Philips Groaning).

Philip traveled to London for training and upon his homecoming to Harare was confronted once more with the lack of water:

I am running out of the little water I had stashed in containers. In the past I could count on my partner for water but now his taps have dried up too. The only friend I know who has a borehole can not help because she has not had power for two weeks now. I feel terribly despondent.

The whole city of Harare has no water. Our offices have no water and outside the cholera statistics are growing. Only a week ago we had someone from Population Services International (PSI) come in to tell us about prevention of cholera.

I remember vividly how she emphasised that we should wash our hands, keep ourselves and surroundings clean. she advised us not to shake hands. She spoke with passion. She made a lot of sense but today as I write this I am asking myself many questions.

Even Zimbabwe’s health minister, David Parirenyatwa and president Robert Mugabe have taken turns to tell people about the importance of washing hands and general hygiene. But the question on everyone’s lips is; “Where is the water?”

You can wash hands and keep your home and yourself clean if you have running water. We have had no water for several days and some of my colleagues have not had running water for months.

We have become innovative bathers but I do not know for how long we are going to be able to come to work without stinking the whole office out. There is a limit to how much perfumes and deodorants can mask body odours.

It will be very easy for cholera to wipe out whole offices. People are coming from waterless homes to waterless offices. Anyone who thinks cholera is under control is having one very big sad joke. The Zimbabwean government does not believe it should be declared a national disaster. (Continue reading One big rubbish dump)


Grace Mutandwa is the other FCO Harare blogger. She
joined the British Embassy in Harare in 2002 as the locally-employed Press & Public Affairs Officer. Prior to that, she worked as an Arts Editor and a political journalist for more than 18 years for various local and international media organizations. In Life Goes On, she writes a powerful piece about the distance we keep even when things fall apart.

Someone dies, someone disappears and later reappears in court or their body is discovered decomposing somewhere. More than 50,000 people are struck by cholera and 3,028 of them die.

We all worry about these developments, do what we can to help ease the pain but at the end of the day, life for those still free to move around goes on. We go out, we invite friends to dinner, get invited to share a curry or a drink and slowly we continue with our lives.

This is the reality of life. Even in war torn countries life of sorts still goes on. A toddler spends several weeks with an abducted parent and later becomes a guest of the state in one of the country’s worst prisons. Still we talk about it for a while and soon enough we move on.

Several are starving but those with the means feast -their lives go on. Survival itself has become a major feat and those who still can drag themselves around do so with dwindling empathy and patience for the less fortunate.

Two 13-year-old girls incessantly ring my gate bell and when I answer, they tell me they are looking for jobs and that they have not eaten in days. They will work for food because being paid in local currency is useless. They have walked all the way from the high density suburb of Dzivaresekwa, west of the Harare.

I already have domestic help so I give them water and two slices each of bread. The food and water soon disappear. The two skinny-looking girls thank me profusely and ask me for old clothes.

My youngest and only daughter is an 18-year-old who is built bigger than the two. She is away studying but before she left home she cleaned out her wardrobe and gave various cousins some of her clothes – so there is nothing to give.

My heart bleeds. No child should ever have to go through what those two are going through.

All this gets me thinking about how really jaded we have become with political, economic and social situation in the country. Even as I spoke to the two girls it struck me how distant I managed to remain even as I gave them the bread and water.

There is something dead in us as a people. Several stories were written and appeals launched on behalf of journalist, turned activist Jestina Mukoko. She is a prominent person, so journalists tend to focus on her. The toddler who went missing with its parents got a mention every now and then if it was lucky.

Even when the toddler turned up at a police station with its parents being accused of banditry, we as a nation failed that child. We behaved as if it was the most normal thing for a baby to be incacerated. News that the baby too was beaten to force the mother to confess, just makes the whole story very sordid, and still no one raised a voice.

The Child Protection Society suddenly died – not a single word from them. The other so called children’s rights organisations just disappeared off the earth. We have become damaged goods.

We are facing a bleak year. Politicians want power but they do not seem to realise that with power comes responsibility. When I sit through 16-hour powercuts it does not make me feel better to find out that the same is happening in Nepal. Citizens deserve the best from their government.

When people hanker after power they must realise and accept the fact that they must be accountable and that citizens expect improved standards of living and not to be taken back to the dark ages.

Zimbabwe used to be Southern Africa’s breadbasket. It is shameful that today we produce nothing. Today we import turkeys from Peru and chickens from Uruguay. There is something very wrong and we cannot even ask God anymore to put it right because God left Africa ages ago – in fact when he did he never even passed through Zimbabwe. So in a way life goes on.

Can you imagine a Second Secretary in our Foreign Service or one of our locally engaged staff writing these posts in DipNote? Frankly, I can’t. And yet, such details and sense of “real life happening” is probably what is needed in our diplomats’ discourse with the American public.

Leave a comment

Filed under DipNote, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwe