"You can't work if you don't go and do their training, join their forces --
but the only job you get from that is beating people or
being one of 10 guys to rape a girl...


Suspicion of sympathy for the opposition is enough to have you killed.
It's also enough to keep you from being fed.

4 milllion people flee Zimbabwe's regime looking for work in South Africa
Stephanie Nolen, Globe & Mail, Nov 6, 2004

ATTERIDGEVILLE SQUATTER CAMP, SOUTH AFRICA -- Climb the hill through the shacks and past the water pump. Take a right at the Luv is in Da Hair beauty salon, built in half a shipping container painted turquoise. Here, 20 minutes outside Pretoria on a dirt road crammed between houses constructed of scrounged metal scrap, is the workshop: Behind thick green tarp to block prying eyes, 30 men labour, sawing old shipping pallets and turning them into crude furniture. It's hot, and the curls of sawdust stick to sweat-streaked skin. The men work seven days a week, from early morning until long past dark. They risked drowning, crocodiles, electrocution and worse to get here. But they can earn the equivalent of $40 a week, a fortune for their families back home. All of these men are Zimbabwean, and with one exception are 17 to 25 years old, the prime age for forced recruitment into the Green Bombers, Zimbabwe's notorious youth militia.

They fled their home country, where the fields are empty, the stores are empty, inflation runs at about 400 per cent and any suspicion of sympathy for the opposition to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his regime is enough to have the police pounding at the door in the dark of night. "We live," July Bistongo said, "between danger zones." There are an estimated four million Zimbabweans, or a quarter of the population, in exile. Some are political exiles -- judges, journalists, lawyers driven out of the country for supporting the opposition or simply attempting to operate independent news media. Others are the so-called "economic refugees," like this group, although their exile, too, has its roots in politics.

A decade ago, Zimbabwe was an African success story, with one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, a thriving economy and an agricultural sector so healthy the country fed many of its neighbours. Then Zimbabwe was hit hard by structural-adjustment programs put forward by international institutions such as the World Bank, which badly undercut spending on health and education. The country really went off the rails in the late 1990s, when the Movement for Democratic Change emerged as the first serious opposition to Mr. Mugabe's Zanu-PF Party. Mr. Mugabe had embarked on a heavily politicized "fast-track land-reform" program that was supposed to see the large, mostly white-owned commercial farms that dominated the agricultural sector handed over to landless black Zimbabweans.

In reality, however, most of the farms were transferred to the wealthy colleagues of Mr. Mugabe. Many white farmers and their considerable expertise were driven from the country. The black farm workers who once worked for the white farmers are jobless. The large farms lie idle and the great majority of blacks are subsistence farming on small plots. The region is experiencing a drought this year, as it has for the past several years, and that exacerbates the problem. Zimbabwe, once so productive, will have a serious food shortage this year, though the government continues to insist there is no problem.

About 4.8 million people will be critically short of food, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warned. The FAO estimates the harvest this year at 950,000 tonnes (as opposed to the government figure of 2.4 million tonnes) and said that an estimated 30 per cent to 40 per cent of farmers are running out of food (the next harvest will be in April). Meanwhile, the average labourer earns enough only to feed a typical family for two days a week, and the price of corn has doubled since April.

And there is only one sort of job to be had these days in rural Zimbabwe. "You can't work if you don't go and do their training, join their forces -- but the only job you get from that is beating people or being one of 10 guys to rape a girl, and you get AIDS," said Timothy Mhlang, 25, one of the workers in the bustling little furniture co-operative, part of the secretive network of ways in which Zimbabweans refugees try to assist each other.

Human-rights groups such as Amnesty International has documented numerous incidents of forced conscription into the national youth militia that is ostensibly a skills-training program for young people, and of assaults and gang rape by militia members.

Suspicion of sympathy for the opposition is enough to have you killed. It's also enough to keep you from being fed.

"Everybody needs food at home now," said Mr. Bistongo, 23, who left home in Chipenga two months ago. "But if you don't show a membership card [in the Zanu-PF] or if they think you are opposition, you can't get it. Sometimes there are soldiers with lists [of Zanu members, at distribution points for heavily subsidized food by the National Grain Marketing Board] and sometimes they just have their spies there to say who should be allowed to get food." Such allegations are confirmed in a new Amnesty International report called Zimbabwe: Power and Hunger, Violations of the Right to Food.

Rocky Rakings, 19, in charge of varnishing table tops, left home in Checheche, Zimbabwe, last month. His family could no longer survive on the 40,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about $8) he was earning each month doing agricultural labour. He has saved $40 from the furniture shop to take home to his parents, four brothers, wife and baby son, none of whom can find work. But the journey from Checheche was perilous, and he dreads the thought of returning to deliver the money.

"To come here, you must travel through the bush, and then you have to cross the [Limpopo] River -- there can be crocodiles and hippopotamus. Sometimes you must swim. When you get across, there are the fences." Here, Mr. Mhlang took up the narrative. They cross at night, to avoid patrolling South African helicopters. The first fence is not so bad, about 1.5 metres, he said, and they climb over or dig under that one. The next fence, though, is much higher and electrified. He used a couple of tools from the workshop to mime the pole-vaulting technique they use to clear it. "The third fence is better, but it has razor wire at the top." Once over, often bleeding, they head for the bush again, to avoid patrolling jeeps. Travelling at night, they finally reach the highway, and flag down a truck headed for Johannesburg, Durban or Pretoria, somewhere they can get lost in a squatter camp like this one.

"You have to say everything you need to say to your family when you go," Mr. Bistongo said, his voice cracking a little. "Because you don't know when you're coming back." The men said they were glad to have the work in South Africa, but life is hard here, too. They pay about $20 a month to rent living space in shacks, and they are in constant fear of raids.

South Africa, with 40 per cent unemployment, does not want the immigrants. And the government takes a weak stand on Zimbabwe because much of the prime land in South Africa is still in white hands and because Mr. Mugabe is still revered here for his role in the liberation of Zimbabwe. So South Africa will not acknowledge the political crisis in Zimbabwe, and thus few refugees can claim asylum; they must live as "illegals." "It's worst at the end of the month, when the police are short of money. They come and pick you up and they want 100 rand or 80 rand [about $20] to let you go," Mr. Mhlang said.

None of these men was an active or formal member of the opposition. "You must keep your political affairs only in your heart," Mr. Rakings said. There will be an election in Zimbabwe in March, but the men do not think it will change things. "You know who will win," one said. "So we will stay here, earning money to give our families."

9.Keeping Masses Down


Farms of fear in South Africa (2,000 white farmers & Afrikaans murdered by racism & envy since 1994 apartheid). Sunday Times, Apr 2, 2006

Zimbabwe mothers throwing away babies (Mugabe using starvation as weapon to sustain himself in power). Sunday Times, Apr 2, 2006

"Mugabe hates his own people" ("crawling mass of maggots" say police; priests told "don't aid filth"). Times, Jun 19, 2005

Zimbabwe police arrest 9,000 traders (violently removing Zimbabweans to make way for the Chinese). Guardian, May 26, 2005 & Zimbabwe's new colonialists (Mugage has "yellow fever"). Weekly Standard, May 26, 2005

4 million people flee Zimbabwe's regime looking for work in South Africa. Globe & Mail, Nov 6, 2004

'Zimbabwe never had food shortages before' ('Mugabe has caused this famine'). Telegraph, Apr 18, 2004

Canada harbours intn'l criminal (Jewish arms dealer-Israeli agent-heroin trader-corrupt food broker-commits atrocities with children caught framing opponent of Mugabe). Globe & Mail, Jun 14, 2003. Go to 35.The Brotherhood

Zimbabwe torturers on the run (Youth Service camps train teens to beat, rape & kill for gov't). BBC, Apr 17, 2003

Starvation to those defying Mugabe (agricultural production has collapsed). London Times, Nov 24, 2002

Blacks starve on looted land (need white farmers to grow food). Zim Today News, Aug 13, 2002

African dictators destroying breadbasket (Marxism in action). WorldNetDaily, Jul 28, 2002

"State of Disaster": Zimbabwe (African version of Stalin's policies). National Review, May 27, 2002

Mugabe has got away with murder too long. Daily Telegraph, Jan 29, 2002

4,000 Zimbabwe farmers to be evicted (22 million acres will fall out of production). London Times, Nov 13, 2001

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com