Migration Resources:
Brain Drain Resources


| Home | Brain Drain Resources |

The brain drain of skilled professionals from Zimbabwe has become particularly voluminous and damaging over the last decade. In order to better understand the causes and consequences of this phenomenon, SAMP has collected the following resources:



SAMP has monitored media coverage of the exodus of skilled professionals for the period 2000-present. These press articles are reproduced in chronological order below. Please note that although the source and date are correct, the original titles of some articles have been modified to more accurately reflect the substance of an article. SAMP assumes no responsibility for the contents or opinions expressed in these articles nor do they represent the views of the project or its funders.

2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004


October 2000

Exodus of Zimbabwean doctors called "brain haemorrhage" (The Daily News 20/10) - It now costs $2 million to train one Zimbabwean doctor, compared with $250 000 in the 1980s, a lecturer in the paediatric health department at the University of Zimbabwe, Dr Robert-Gray Choto, said on Tuesday. Choto told participants at a workshop on HIV/Aids in Gweru that most locally-trained doctors were so well-equipped they were leaving for greener pastures in South Africa, Namibia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. “What we are witnessing in Zimbabwe in the health sector is not only the brain drain, but the brain haemorrhage,” he said. There are less than 1200 doctors in the public sector, while a few were employed in the private sector.

December 2000

Brain drain to UK (Independent Online, 16/12) - Zimbabwe is losing thousands of talented professionals crucial to its future. President Robert Mugabe's reckless policies are sending thousands of "born-frees'' - the black elite educated after the beginning of majority rule in 1980 - into exile, principally in Britain. The black brain drain - drawing professionals in their twenties to Britain, the United States, South Africa and Australia - is far more serious for Zimbabwe than the widely reported exodus of white farmers, say economists. Those leaving, at an estimated rate of five a day, include doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers and journalists. Given that Mugabe, a former teacher, gave Zimbabwe's 12.7 million population some of the best education in Africa in his first 10 years in power, the exodus is a disaster for the country. Record Aids rates mean it needs its 14 000 nurses more than ever, but they are clamouring to leave. The prospect of a job in Britain - any job - is tantalising in a country where trained nurses with families can no longer make ends meet on their monthly salaries of up to Z$10 000 (about R1 362). At Beverlino's pizzeria in Harare, Brian, Ruben, Remi and Flossie - all black professionals in their twenties - spend another evening swapping stories about friends who have left. "The new way to do it is via Egypt," says Brian, an accountant. "It is easier to fly through a transit point than to arrive in London on the direct flight.'' He tells of a friend who got to Montreal before immigration authorities turned her back for not having enough funds for the six-month holiday she claimed she was planning. "As soon as you have a 'deported' stamp in your passport, you've blown it,'' Remi says, "because there is a three-year waiting list for passports here.'' On the other hand, adds Flossie, it takes a good three years to save up the air fare. Ruben, who works at the reserve bank, said he would leave as soon as he had raised the money. "One friend, who is in London now, sold everything - television, table, chairs - leaving only a mattress on the floor for his wife to sleep on. We really have nothing to lose. "The idea is not to leave for ever. You go as a tourist, disappear into the woodwork, work for two or three years and send money home, then come back and buy a house.'' In last week's Sunday Mail, a pro-government newspaper, columnist Garikai Mazara wrote of a trip from north London to Victoria station: "We were talking in Shona and forgot to check the name of the station as we approached it. "Assuming the black woman next to us was English-speaking, we asked her in English for help and, to our surprise and joy, she answered in Shona. London can aptly be described as Little Harare. The presence of Zimbabweans becomes more pronounced in Brixton, the Mbare of London.'' Mbare is a poor township on the outskirts of Harare which provided much of the capital's labour before unemployment hit 40 percent and inflation 56 percent. Though the emigration trend is clear and all urban professionals know someone who has decided to leave since the Movement for Democratic Change failed to unseat the ruling Zanu-PF party in the recent elections, the extent of the exodus is only now being revealed. Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office shows registered emigrants doubled in the first six months of this year to 3 299, compared with the similar period in 1999. But most people who leave, white or black, do not register their departure: they need to escape currency controls and leave their options open. Thousands are leaving, and the Daily Telegraph last week said MDC supporters in Britain are being harassed and followed by agents of Zanu-PF. Strive Masiyiwa - the 39-year-old millionaire who brought an independent mobile-phone service, Econet, to Zimbabwe - has moved to South Africa because he fears for his safety and considers his home country's business climate too uncertain. And the celebrated singer Thomas Mapfumo moved to the US after his songs were banned and "guys in dark glasses'' began lining the back row at his concerts.

4,000 doctors and nurses leave Zimbabwe (Sunday Times, 17/12) - Zimbabwe's ailing health sector has been hit by a massive exodus of doctors and nurses over the past four years, writes Dingilizwe Ntuli in Harare. More than 4 000 doctors and nurses have left the country over the past 16 months. Health Minister Dr Timothy Stamps said Zimbabwe had been losing an average of 20% of its health care professionals every year to other countries. Zimbabwe has about 6 000 nurses and 2 500 doctors, with about 80 doctors and 300 nurses graduating every year. He said each of the country's five major hospitals loses about 24 senior nurses and three doctors every month, leaving them in a desperate situation. Each of these hospitals has about 250 nurses and 70 doctors. Most emigrating health workers go to Britain, followed by South Africa and Botswana. Britain, Dr Stamps said, used its stronger currency to lure poorly paid Zimbabwean health professionals, leaving the country's major hospitals manned by a skeleton staff, who are failing to cope with the influx of patients - most of whom are HIV/AIDS sufferers. His government, he said, had been trying to persuade Britain to stop recruiting Zimbabwean health workers but their pleas had been in vain. "We look set to continue losing our workers and that might lead to the collapse of the entire health sector." British Foreign Office spokesman Richard Woods told the Sunday Times from London that Britain was not actively recruiting health workers from Zimbabwe. "They apply for jobs in Britain, and if they are recruited and satisfy immigration laws, we will not deny them entry into the country," said Woods.

Brain drain escalates (Financial Gazette, 21/12) - A Sign of the times in Zimbabwe these days proclaims: "Household Contents For Sale: Family Leaving". Most of those putting their possessions under the hammer are white Zimbabweans and their exodus has been well publicised in the past 12 months. But even more worrying and less remarked upon, economic commentators agree, is the "black brain drain", the loss of thousands of young black professionals who increasingly feel that Zimbabwe has little to offer them. It is estimated that 500 Zimbabweans emigrate each month and, according to the Central Statistical Office, about 3 299 people emigrated in the first six months of this year. This is double the number of people who left the country in the same period in 1999. It was not possible to ascertain this week how many of those leaving the country were black Zimbabweans, but experts said they were likely to make up a significant percentage of emigrants. In addition, official statistics do not reflect the large number of blacks leaving Zimbabwe on the pretext of going abroad for study or being on holiday and subsequently looking for work. "Basically, there are a lot of blacks leaving the country," Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe president Joshua Nyoka told the Financial Gazette this week. "But we don't have accurate figures that show how many there are. "It's difficult to say because when some people leave a company, they don't necessarily say they are going out of the country." Sectors that have been affected by the black brain drain include medicine, where a large number of doctors and nurses are leaving Zimbabwe every month. Qualified nurses, who earn about $15 000 a month after being certified to practice, are leaving mostly for the United Kingdom (UK), although an increasing number are also emigrating to countries such as New Zealand and Australia. "Over the last 10 years, we have trained 1 200 doctors and out of that number, we have got only 360 practising in the country," Nyoka said. "Medicine has been severely affected, especially with highly qualified nurses leaving the country." Other black professionals voting with their feet are engineers, lawyers, accountants, academics and those working in the banking sector, especially corporate bankers. Most are heading for South Africa or the UK - statistics show that Zimbabweans top the list of deportees from the UK, with 47 being sent home from London every month. Countries such as the US, Ireland, Canada and Australia are also being targeted by Zimbabweans, many fearing the return of political violence in the run-up to presidential elections in 2002. The commentators said the main reason for the exodus of black professionals was the economic crisis and the perception that as long as ZANU PF remains in power, the future for most workers is bleak. "Quite a diverse group of skilled and professional people are leaving and the major reason they are leaving is the economic crisis," Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce research economist James Jowa acknowledged. Most workers' salaries have been sharply eroded by stubbornly high inflation, which has dramatically forced up the cost of accommodation, basic foodstuffs, transport, school fees and other essentials. But as living costs soar, the workers' salaries have remained virtually stagnant because most companies, themselves battling to survive Zimbabwe's economic crisis, cannot afford to keep raising them. With Zimbabweans earning a minimum $2 500 and most less than $20 000 a month, their foreign counter-parts begin to look much better off and emigrating the wisest option, the analysts said. In Britain, for instance, doing a menial job can earn a worker a minimum 3,60 pounds ($288) an hour or 576 pounds ($46 080) a month. With the local currency continuing to fall because of the huge inflation differential between Zimbabwe and its main trading partners such as the UK, this may seem like a fortune to others who forget that they have to spend most of that money where they live, in this case the UK. "Way back in 1993, a school leaver in Belgium would earn about 24 000 Belgian francs a month for doing an ordinary job and now they must be earning 30 000 to 40 000 Belgian francs," said Collen Gwiyo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Banking and Allied Workers' Union. "When you convert that into Zimbabwe do-llars, it's a lot of money." Nyoka said: "With inflation and other problems, an executive can't afford to buy a car or a house of his own but if he goes to South Africa at a middle-level salary, he can buy both. "A lot of people have children at school or university and they can't afford to pay their fees. That's another reason people are leaving in order to secure supposedly better education outside the country." The result, the analysts said, is a skills shortage that is beginning to be felt in several sectors and is likely to worsen as more Zimbabweans quit the country. As more young people get the opportunity to study outside the country after high school, there is the risk that many will not return to Zimbabwe because of fear that they will either be unable to find work or make ends meet. "We have children who are going to the US, UK and Canada to study but they are not coming back because they feel there are no opportunities," Nyoka said. "We are basically training people for other countries." Jowa said: "We find that most blacks leaving the country are professionals or skilled workers. When they leave, this is a big loss of productivity to the country." With most companies expected to record losses in the next few months and many on the verge of collapse, forcing them to rationalise operations and retrench workers, there is not much the business community can do to retain the skilled workers. Political chaos The analysts said professionals were often not emigrating because of adverse working conditions, but because of Zimbabwe's economic and political chaos which companies could do nothing about. "There is very little the companies can do given the fact that some of the problems that workers are running away from are not necessarily caused by industry," Gwiyo said. Jowa added: "The only thing that companies can do is improve working conditions but under the current circumstances, they can't do that. "They have to be able to offer packages that make up for the uncertainty in the country and not many can do that. The situation will continue to worsen as more and more people leave, which is unfortunate because Zimbabwe is known for its highly-educated labour-force." The analysts said Zimbabwe was in a Catch-22 because it needed skilled professionals to help turn the country's economy around but most professionals would only return to the country if the economy improved. This is expected to slow down the economy's recovery from the worst crisis it has faced since independence 20 years ago, driving even more professionals, black and white, out. "We need these people for the recovery to take place but at the same time these people will not come back until the economy improves and this is going to slow down the recovery," said Kingdom Financial Holdings' economist Howard Sithole. Nyoka said: "The danger is that if we don't retain these people, there might not be anyone left to care when the economy recovers."

| Back to top |


January 2001

Zimbabwe loses 20,000 nurses to emigration in 2000 (Zimbabwe Independent, 05/01) - The health delivery system is likely to suffer a heavy blow as a result of a massive brain drain of nursing staff which has seen the country lose close to 20 000 specialised nurses to Britain and other Commonwealth countries last year, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt. Information released by Minister of Health and Child Welfare Timothy Stamps indicates that 18 000 nurses had left for the UK in the last 12 months. Sources in the Ministry of Health said the figures were much higher, as those quoted were mainly for nurses leaving for Britain and discounted emigration to other countries like South Africa, Australia and Canada. Zimbabwean nurses were leaving the country in droves citing poor remuneration and working conditions. Government this week announced - too late for many - that it had reviewed the salary scales and grades for health professionals in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in a bid to stem the tide. Britain last year announced plans to recruit more than 21 000 nurses from other countries. Britain has a high number of elderly infirm who require specialised nursing services. A source said Zimbabwe was likely to face an acute shortage of intensive care and midwifery staff as a result of the exodus. “Unless the government introduces laws to stem this exodus then the country has a disaster in the making,” said the source. Zimbabwe’s 30 000 nurses in both the private and public sector had fallen prey to lucrative offers made by British nursing agencies. Stamps confirmed that the country was facing a serious brain drain but was quick to say that his ministry was putting in place measures that would ensure retention of staff.
Emigration accelerates as 500 skilled Zimbabwean leave per month (Pana, 11/01) - A newspaper advertisement in one of Zimbabwe’s daily newspapers read: “Mazda 626 executive, 1996 model. Priced to sell. Owner leaving.” The announcement is only one of hundreds placed everyday by Zimbabweans preparing to join a growing exodus to neighbouring countries and abroad, for what is considered an easier and better life compared to one at home. Most of the trekkers would be selling anything from cars to houses and household goods they would not carry on their journeys into the unknown. Political instability at home and eroded incomes, as a result of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, is driving tens of thousands of its nationals into leaving the country, once a popular destination itself for Africa’s Diaspora. The country has been living on a political and economic knife-edge since 2000 when international donors, angered by the government’s alleged electoral violence and pursuance of a lawless land reform programme, withdrew aid, sending the economy to the woods. More than 30 people died, scores others injured and millions of dollars worth of property damaged in politically- motivated violence which accompanied parliamentary elections in June 2000, which most international observers said was stirred by President Robed Mugabe’s governing party. Political analysts say they expected an even brutal election campaign for the 2002 presidential race, in which the veteran Zimbabwean leader is standing. But what prompted most donors to withdraw aid was the government’s controversial land reform programme which Harare has refused to abandon even in the face of the violence it has stirred country-wide. Cut-off from crucial international aid, Zimbabwe’s economy has been skidding, contracting by minus 4.2 percent in 2000.

Emigration dampens urban property market (Financial Gazette, 11/01) - An exodus of Zimbabweans in search of greener pastures abroad has begun to affect Zimbabwe’s residential rental market, a Harare-based estate agent said this week. John Spicer, a managing director of a leading player in Zimbabwe’s residential market, said many upmarket residential properties remained unoccupied for months after being placed on the rental market because of the shortage of affluent tenants who are leaving the country. “Furthermore, due to rampant inflation and the ongoing devaluation of the dollar, some landlords, particularly those residing overseas who do not fully appreciate the currency crisis, are not prepared to reduce rents and in some cases insist that the rents be linked to the US dollar to cushion them from the effects of devaluation,” Spicer said. “This has resulted in many houses being unoccupied for months, which in turn leads to the deterioration of the properties.” He told the Financial Gazette that the supply of rental properties now far outstripped demand as a result of large numbers of property owners putting their houses on the market as they leave Zimbabwe either for economic or security reasons. “The market is becoming increasingly depressed, with a flood of properties on the market from economic exiles, while the number of tenants is decreasing,” he said. “Many expatriate non-governmental organisations which previously constituted a large portion of tenants are also leaving, as are young educated mobile Zimbabweans who also used to rent before they bought their first homes. As a result, tenants on the market had greater choice and were in a much stronger position to negotiate rentals downwards, Spioer said. Young Zimbabweans concerned about their future are quitting the country in droves to seek respite from a worsening political and economic crisis that has crippled a once vibrant economy. Hundreds among the country’s small but economically dominant whites have also been unnerved by politically motivated seizures of commercial farms by independence war veterans with the support of the ruling ZANU PF party. Spicer said another reason why residential properties being thrown on the market were hardly getting any takers was that local salaries were not keeping up with inflation and most locals could thus not afford rents pegged against the greenback. Spicer said the huge departure of locals had not had much impact on the sale of affluent residential properties. “Despite the problem of the huge emigration of skilled personnel from Zimbabwe, the effect has been less on the actual sales of residential properties. Even those with little intention of ever returning are aware that selling property at present in not a good idea,” he said.

February 2001

Thousands enter South Africa ahead of Zimbabwe election (Agence France Presse, 08/02) - Thousands of Zimbabweans are crossing the Limpopo River into South Africa ahead of the country’s presidential elections, set down for March 9 and 10. South African troops catch about 2,500 people a month after they have slipped across the wide, semi-dry river bed to look for jobs and food and, some say, to escape political violence in Zimbabwe. About a week ago under the cover of darkness, Tsepo Nyathi, a 20-year-old musician from Gwanda in southern Matabeleland, decided to take his chances with the “guma-guma”, as locals call extortionist guides who convey “illegals” across the river. “They came up to me and asked if I wanted to cross the river. It would cost me 100 (South African) rands (nine dollars). They helped me across a dry part of the river and when they finished, they took all my other money as well,” Nyathi told AFP. Asked why he was trying to get into South Africa, he said: “To try and find a job. And to get away from the political situation in the country.” A few hours later, under a blistering sun, South African soldiers spotted him hitch-hiking along the Ni highway. They questioned him next to the single-lane tar strip that snakes south to the industrial heartland. When Nyathi could show them no papers, he was arrested. Soldiers took him to the Messina police station, where he was detained with about 60 other illegal aliens who had been rounded up overnight. But Nyathi was undeterred. He vowed to make another attempt as soon as he could. “Definitely, I’ll do that,” Nyathi told AFP before he was loaded into the back of a police truck to be deported back to Zimbabwe. Sibongile Moyo, 22, another illegal caught by the army, says she was also looking for a job. “There is not enough food to eat and we don’t have money to buy any,” she told AFP. Food shortages, unemployment and political violence in Zimbabwe, where some 16 people were killed in January, according to the independent Human Rights Forum, are given as the main reasons why many people believe they can find a better life in South Africa. “It’s a game of cat and mouse along this fence,” said Colonel ToI Snyman, commander of the South African army’s Soutpansberg Military Area. Patrolling a border stretching some 250 kilometres (150 miles), troops catch around 2,500 “undocumented migrants” each month, he added. “We have no idea how many get through,” Snyman said. Some estimates put the figure as high as 500 a day. The army has about 250 soldiers deployed to patrol the banks of the Limpopo River, a stretch of thick scrubland fenced off with three rows of razor wire. Since last October, Snyman said, there has been an increase in the number of border jumpers to South Africa, mainly because of food shortages. They are also getting younger, from between 18 and 24 in July last year to between 16 and 18 in January. Many are being caught over and over again, each time paying 100 rand to the guides. “We take them to the nearest crossing (at Beit Bridge) and two days later we arrest the same guys, Snyman said. “They tell our soldiers: ‘There is nothing you can do, we have to live’. South Africa is in the process of putting together contingency plans should the stream of illegals became a deluge of refugees in case of a “meltdown” in Zimbabwe. The Pretoria government is already converting Arltonvilla, a disused military base some 10 kilometres (six miles) northeast of Messina, into a camp that can hold up to 1,000 people if necessary. For the moment, however, soldiers patrol the river fence, which ends 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Beit Bridge. “I catch between five to six of these guys every day,” said Private Godfrey Mathabatha, who patrols sector 135, west of the border post. He said most people tell the soldiers they are tired and thirsty, with some not having eaten for a week. Border jumpers wrap themselves in a blanket before squirming through the razor-sharp wire fence. “Every day we go on patrol and we just find a lot of blankets,” Mathabatha said.

April 2001

Health sector records massive brain drain (Irin, 10/04) - More than 100 doctors and about 18,000 nurses have left Zimbabwe for greener pastures since 1998, leaving the country's health delivery system on the brink of collapse, the 'Daily News' reported on Tuesday. Timothy Stamps, the minister of health and child welfare, confirmed the brain drain of medical professionals to Britain, Australia and other English-speaking countries. "It's not just doctors leaving, we are also losing pharmacists, physiotherapists, medical laboratory technologists and paediatricians to mention only a few," said Stamps. "The whole of the health sector is being preyed upon by agencies from the English-speaking part of the world. There is generally a strong attraction to go for jobs which pay well," Stamps added. According to a government report for 1998, there were 569 established posts for general doctors, but only 462 of them were taken up, leaving 107 posts vacant. Zimbabwean health professionals are reportedly leaving the country in droves because of poor remuneration, working conditions and lack of medical equipment. Sibert Mandega, the president of the Hospital Doctors' Association (HDA), said: "There is a great outflux of doctors because they are frustrated. We are working so hard, but paid peanuts." Last month, junior doctors across the country went on strike pressing for on-call allowances, clarification of the employment status and better communication with their employer, the Public Service Commission. Last year, Britain announced plans to recruit more than 21,000 nurses from other countries.

June 2001

150 more pharmacists to leave Zimbabwe for UK (The Zimbabwe Mirror, 01/06) - ZIMBABWE’S ailing health delivery system is to suffer yet another blow as an estimated 150 senior pharmacists will leave the country for the United Kingdom this August. This comes barely six months after the initial batch of 200 pharmacists left in February, for the same destination. Three weeks ago, The Zimbabwe Mirror published a story on a well-oiled recruitment syndicate that is attracting hordes of pharmacists to the UK and Canada. This week, sources in the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe told this paper that the same South African-based recruitment syndicate, working on behalf of UK pharmaceutical chain stores, has successfully interviewed and offered jobs to over 150 pharmacists, who are scheduled to leave the country in August. The pharmacists are attracted by lucrative perks of between £1 700 to £2 000 per month. Two major British pharmaceutical chain stores, Lloyds the Chemist and Boots and Moss, have been identified as the biggest employers for most of the Zimbabwean pharmacists. In Zimbabwe, pharmacists working for private institutions earn an average of between $350 and $500 per hour, while in the UK, and Canada, the offers range from between £30 ($2 520) and £50 ($4 200) an hour. Junior pharmacists working for government institutions earn a monthly gross salary of $28 400, way below what they can earn in the UK within three working days. This week, both the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe, Douglas Bramsen, and the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Timothy Stamps, expressed concern at the alarming rate of the exodus. The country’s leading pharmacies also confirmed they were losing many of their senior staff. Stamps said there was nothing the government could do to protect its human resources because the British government claimed that it had no powers to interfere with the operations of the private companies. “I even presented a motion in parliament, trying to address the issue this year, but the MDC parliamentarians accused me of unnecessarily blaming the British government,” said Stamps. “The British High Commission also told me that the Zimbabwean government should give the pharmacists and nurses competitive salaries to counter those they are offered by British medical institutions. “I find that ridiculous because these salaries, when converted to our currency, are more than 13 times the salary of our Vice- President.” Stamps said the decision to recruit some pharmacists from English-speaking African countries came last year when the British Pharmaceutical Control Council decided to increase the period of training pharmacists from three to fours years. This resulted in Britain’s training institutions failing to produce some pharmacy graduates for a year. In light of this, the major pharmaceutical firms then turned to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana for experienced pharmacists. Stamps said that last week the Council of Nurses in the UK had even complained to the British medical authorities that it was registering more foreign nurses and pharmacists at the expense of locals. “In the past, the Western countries were coming to Africa, searching for slaves,” said Stamps, “but this time, they are after our pharmacists, nurses and midwives.” Bramsen said mass exodus of pharmacists to United Kingdom is now a routine episode as hundreds of them are successfully interviewed in South Africa and offered some jobs abroad. “Some of these pharmacists are being given between £1 700 and £2 000 a month. I raised this issue last month during our general meeting in Victoria Falls, but as a pressure group, there is nothing we can do to stop them from leaving. “I can confirm that about 70 pharmacists are supposed to leave for the United Kingdom soon,” said Bramsen. He said it was very difficult to maintain records of pharmacists leaving the country because most of them did not want to de-register with the Health Professions Council, making it difficult to ascertain the number of pharmacists who have left and those who are still in the country. Bransen said that pharmacists who leave Zimbabwe to other countries write about three conversion examinations within a period of six months. They will then get some three or four-year contracts. Zimbabwe’s situation may be worsened by the fact that there is only one public institution that trains pharmacists, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). The institution churns out an average of about 30 pharmacists a year. According to the UZ authorities, the average expenditure incurred by a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons) student, based on the institution’s Year 2000 accounts is $389 000 per academic year. This brings the total expenditure per student for a three-year long degree programme to a total of $ 1 167 000.

July 2001

Zimbabwe fast losing its young professionals (Saturday Star, 21/07) - The Zimbabwean dollar - which is now virtually worthless - and massive unemployment are the two major causes contributing to the exodus of Zimbabweans in search of greener pastures in South Africa and Britain. Other factors include the political violence ravaging the country, which has unsettled many young people; general expectations of high living standards abroad; and, to some extent, illusions about making a quick buck and buying fast cars and other luxuries. A soon-to-be-published survey by the Harare-based Mass Public Opinion Institute has concluded that, given a choice, 74% of all Zimbabwean youths would like to leave Zimbabwe and workabroad. The average Zimbabwean family of six, which could buy three loaves of bread and two pints of milk with one Zimbabwean dollar in 1980, now requires at least Z$165 to buy the same items. While the same family of six could rely on a modest monthly income of Z$20 in 1980 to buy most basic foods, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates that such a family now requires at least Z$19 000 to buy basic goods to see it through the whole month. The ZCTU says a minimum wage of at least Z$15 000 is now required by an average Zimbabwean family. But most employers, battered by Zimbabwe's economic hardships, are paying far less than the Z$4 000 stipulated minimum wage. Most people employed in the civil service, such as teachers, nurses and ministerial clerks, don’t earn Z$10 000 as net pay monthly. At such a level of pay, these fairly educated people can never dream of owning a car not to mention a decent house. Some even struggle to buy what is considered basic household furniture in many other developing countries, such as colour televisions, hi-fis, refrigerators and decent chairs. Solomon [last name obscured], a schoolteacher, says all he can afford from his net pay are food and his transport to and from work. “I can’t even buy decent clothes and I have stopped dreaming of owning even a two-roomed cottage of my own,” Muchaiwa says. It is against this background that Health Minister Timothy Stamps revealed that nearly 20 000 nursing staff had left Zimbabwe’s civil service in the past two years to seek greener pastures in South Africa and the UK. In these countries, most of them end up doing odd jobs as private security guards or other forms of manual work. Writing in Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette recently, a Zimbabwean lecturer at Unisa, Daniel Makina, said the tragedy of this brain drain was that most of the young professionals leaving the country would probably of not be lured back to Zimbabwe even if conditions improved. Meanwhile the rand is selling as high as R1 to Z$20 on the black market, compared with R1 to Z$8 on the official market. The border town of Beitbridge is now nicknamed the “forex town" because of the illegal immigrants who cross the border into South Africa. Apart from Zimbabwe's almost worthless currency, the country’s massive joblessness is key contributory factor to the influx of illegal immigrants into South Africa. Economist John Robertson says Zimbabwe’s high unemployment rate of nearly 60% is unprecedented since independence in 1980. Economists fear that this record joblessness will surpass the 70% mark before the end the year because most companies are succumbing to Zimbabwe’s economic hardships. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries says that in the past 12 months, up to 400 companies in the manufacturing sector have closed down, with the resultant loss of 10 000 jobs. Other sectors that have experienced massive job losses in the past year including the mining sector, which witnessed the closure of 16 big mines, the textiles sector, tourism and the farming sector. The Commercial Farmers Union estimates that about 340 000 jobs could be lost in the agricultural sector if the government grabs the 5000-plus white-owned farms advertised for compulsory seizure by the end of the year. Jobs in this sector can be saved only if the government equips the newly resettled farmers with adequate resources to maintain maximum production levels, but the government's haphazard fast-track land resettlement exercise isn’t backed by adequate resources.

September 2001

Exodus of skilled people accelerated (Zimbabwe Standard, 23/09) - As hordes of people continue to inundate Harare International Airport heading for overseas destinations, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, the destruction of the country's social fabric gathers momentum. Bank teller, John Magama, left for the UK in 2000 and was among the first hordes to flee the suicidal policies that President Mugabe has embarked on in his bid to cling to power. He went with the intention of finding any type of job that would earn him a decent living. Magama is now working at an old people's home as an aide and he supplements his income by doing many other part-time jobs. Although he promised to return "soon", news reaching his wife in Harare's high density suburb of Mufakose is that Magama is now staying with a Zimbabwean woman, Stella, the daughter of a Mrs Rufaro. Their baby is said to be due anytime now. Magama's wife said she has resorted to her "own means" of survival. "Although he occasionally sends money, the fact that he is now staying with another woman means that he no longer loves me and the family. Waiting for him would be a waste of time. As a result, I have resorted to my own means of survival." She however, declined to reveal what those "means" were but did disclose that she had plans of her own to "fly" to the USA. "A (male) friend of mine will be sending me a ticket and I will be off to the USA. I will leave the children with my mother." An uncertain future now awaits Magama's three children. Magama's case is just one of many which have seen Zimbawean families break up as spouses join the great trek to the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and neighbouring countries. Some couples which left together have broken up once overseas. "People have no choice but to flee the economic terror Mugabe has unleashed on this country," said an emotional Solomon Hungwe of Highfield, who added that he was making his own plans to flee to the UK. The great trek is not confined to one class. The wife of Gerald Ndura, a company executive, left for the UK so that they could have money to build their dream house. "My wife is a senior nurse who left for the UK last year. It was a welcome move because we desperately need to complete the construction of our house at Zimre Park. But I am now worried about the children as they miss their mother's care. I am finding it extremely difficult to care for them on my own," he said. Sports administrator, Wilfred Pawadyira, who is the former director general of the sports and recreation commission, went to the UK for the Manchester Commonwealth Games and never returned home. His family don't not even know where he is at the moment. Life overseas is not all roses, however. Reports reaching the country are that some of its sons and daughters, out of desperation, are engaging in activities such as pornography and prostitution in pursuit of the pound. Gloom and doom continue to hang over the country as things fall apart as some families come under severe strain and others collapse.

November 2001

Zimbabweans enroll in foreign universities in record numbers (The Insider, 26/11) - The Great Trek continues. Some 1 703 students from Zimbabwe have enrolled at universities in the United States of America in 2000/2001 according to the American Universities Admission Programme. It says this is a 43.8 percent increase. In 1992 only 620 Zimbabwean students were admitted at US universities. But of course it is not only Zimbabweans flocking to the United States. AUAP says a new record 547 684 foreign students were admitted to US universities in 2000/2001, an increase of 6.4 percent over the previous year. The majority of the foreign students came from China. The number increased by 10 percent to 59 939. India was second with 54 664 students but this was a 29.1 percent increase over the previous year. The number of foreign students from Japan declined by nearly one percent to 46 497. There was no African country in the top 10. The bulk of the students were from Asia constituting 55 percent. Those from Europe represented only 15 percent; Latin America, the US's neighbour, 12 percent; the Middle East 7 percent; and Africa only 6 percent. Foreign students pour some US$11 billion into the US economy in tuition fees, living expenses and related costs, according to AUAP. Students from Africa are therefore on average spending some US$660 million, enough to wipe off Zimbabwe's external arrears. AUAP says the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in September had done very little to stop foreign students from applying to study in the US. It says while there was a drop for 10 days soon after the bombings, the surge in applications in October more than compensated for the drop after the attack. While there are no figures for other countries, most Zimbabweans prefer to go to the United Kingdom and South Africa. South Africa has been trying to deport more than 15 000 Zimbabwean farm workers. According to Finance Minister Simba Makoni, Zimbabwe lost 41 doctors and 341 nurses this year alone.

December 2001

Zimbabweans seeking refuge in Canada on increase (Sapa/AFP, 6/12) - The number of Zimbabweans seeking refuge in Canada has increased, prompting the Canadian government to make visas mandatory for visitors from the southern African country, an embassy statement said Thursday. "The requirement for a visa is in response to the fast increasing number of refugee claimants from Zimbabwe," said a statement from the Canadian embassy, published in the local press. Previously there were no visa requirements for Zimbabweans visiting Canada, due to a shared Commonwealth status. Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from white minority rule in 1980. Around three-quarters of the country's 12 million people live below the poverty line. Human rights groups here have pointed to widespread political violence and intimidation in the country ahead of a crucial presidential election early next year. "Over the past year Zimbabwe has become the fourth largest source of in-Canada refugee claimants," read Thursday's statement. State-run ZIANA news agency Thursday quoted the Canadian embassy's first secretary, Steve Hawley as saying 2,295 illegal aliens from Zimbabwe are currently living as refugees in Canada.

Zimbabwean visitors flock to Canada (Zimbabwe Independent 7/12) - The rate of Zimbabweans flocking to Canada over the past nine months increased by 1 000% because of irregularities in immigration procedures, it was established this week. This has forced the Canadian High Commission to put in place new regulations to screen visitors to Canada. The new procedures entail the establishment of a system to ensure that only people with genuine reasons were allowed entry. The system will also include visitors from Hungary, Dominica, Grenada and minor Pacific nations like Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Canadian High Commission premier secretary in Zimbabwe Steve Hawley confirmed this week that the new regulations, which came into effect on Wednesday, were aimed at tightening entrance procedures for Zimbabweans who had continued flouting the immigration system. "The rate of Zimbabwean nationals flouting stipulated regulations has continued to increase," Hawley said. "Last year Zimbabwean nationals who visited Canada amounted to 222. However, the figure to date has increased to 2 295, a 1 000% increase. "It is against this background that we have found it necessary to adopt the visa-to-visa system to ensure that only those people with genuine reasons are allowed entry into Canada," he said.

Citizens abroad are a source of wealth (The Insider, 31/12) - The exodus of Zimbabweans to seek greener pastures, which one local newspaper says is not a brain drain but a devaluation of the mind, is creating a pool of wealth, which if tapped, could considerably improve the fortunes of the country, one of the country's leading conglomerates, Delta, says in its report for the half year to September. It says the earnings of Zimbabweans abroad are now probably more than those of people inside the country. "This is a pool of wealth which, if tapped, could considerably improve the fortune of the economy. It will have to be attracted by incentives and correct economic fundamentals: controls and threats will not work," Delta says. The company, which had a turnover of $19.8 billion in the six months, up from $11.2 billion the previous year, says its performance reflected the impact of inflation and a surge in consumer spending. It says there was strong growth in volumes of beer and carbonated drinks while there was a drop in traditional beer volumes. Its success was largely due to aggressive cost control and the right sizing of its business structures. Delta, once the key player on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, is being pruned with the retail division, OK, being demerged and separately listed in October. Plans are under way to demerge the hotel division under Zimbabwe Sun Hotels as well as furniture and other retail interests.

The company had net profit of $1.4 billion more than three times the $404 million it made last year. It made a net profit of $1.7 billion during the year ending March. But despite its success, it paints a gloomy picture for the country. It says the economy is expected to decline by more than 8 percent this year and a return to good economic governance is not expected within the remainder of its financial year which ends in March. Fundamental economic problems will not be addressed. Instead, there will be increased imposition of controls to provide short term relief against the symptoms of these problems. "Continued delays in dealing with the underlying problems will result in a longer and more difficult period of recovery. The bubble of consumer spending is likely to burst as the savings levels on which it largely survives continue to diminish. There will, however, be continued support for consumptive spending from the inflow of funds from Zimbabweans working abroad and the availability of cheap borrowings in the short term," Delta says. It says the rate of inflation which was 86.3 percent in September is expected to rise steadily because of the effects of the high government deficit and economic distortions such as the fixed exchange rate and low interests rates. Price controls, it says , are not likely to have a significant dampening effect on inflation unless they are part of a package to deal with fundamental economic problems as opposed to their symptoms. Some of the bold measures announced in the 2002 budget, however, are likely to stimulate exports and improve foreign currency inflows if they are quickly effected and administered to ensure speedy delivery of the incentives. Foreign currency will, however, remain seriously short until the country becomes an attractive destination of investment, tourism and aid, it says.

| Back to top |


July 2002

Doctors vow to stay away until they get increase (Business Day, 31/07) - Zimbabwean junior doctors went into the fifth day of a strike yesterday and vowed to stay away until the government gave them a pay rise of at least 50%. Hospital officials and witnesses said patients were being turned away at the two largest hospitals in Harare as the few available doctors dealt only with emergency cases. "What we've said is, taking into account the current- economic problems in Zimbabwe, we want an increase of at least 50% and then we could negotiate for more while we are back at work" Howard Mutsando, president of the Hospital Doctors Association said. He said most of the group's 750 members had joined the strike last Friday to protest against salaries averaging Z$53 000 a month. Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate has been more than 100% every month since November 2001. The Zimbabwe dollar is at 55 to the dollar but is trading at around 600 on the black market. Zimbabwean doctors have to work for at least two years in state hospitals after training before they can go into private practice. But over the past decade, hundreds have abandoned their hospital stint midway and trekked to neighbouring SA and Botswana or to Britain in search of better pay. Zimbabwe's health sector has already been hit by a shortage of drugs and equipment as the country struggles with an economic crisis. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's main opposition has rejected as fraudulent the victory by President Robert Mugabe's ruling party in a mayoral election held at the weekend. In results announced on Monday for the ballot in the central town of Kadoma, Fanie Phiri of Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party polled 6 886 votes against 6 214 for the Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC's) Editor Matamisa. The narrow win came after the ruling party lost five similar polls in the capital Harare and other major cities to the MDC over the past year. MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said: "In the same manner that Zanu (PF) has repeatedly stolen the people's victory in the past, the Zanu (PF) machinery was involved in constructing a warped victory against a genuine expression by the people of Kadoma.

August 2002

Hungwe threatens doctors (Zimbabwe Standard, 25/08) - Masvingo provincial governor, Josaya Hungwe, has threatened junior doctors with dismissal and other unspecified measures should they ever again engage in industrial action. Addressing Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZMA) doctors at their Annual General Meeting in Masvingo last week, Hungwe said junior doctors should show appreciation for life instead of greed for money. A few weeks ago, the doctors who were earning an average of $55 000 a month, went on an indefinite strike that forced the government to review their working conditions. "The government will fire doctors who dare strike in future and replace them with professionals from Cuba. We will not even hesitate to take any other drastic measures against them that we see fit ," said Hungwe. The governor added that medical doctors were not a special lot but could learn something from traditional healers who did not embark on strikes. "Traditional healers don't go on strike. They are always there, patiently waiting for their patients whether they have consultation fees or not," Hungwe charged. His speech did not, however, go down well with medical practitioners who attended the meeting. Dr Phineas Makurira, the President of ZMA, said while it was imperative for medical practitioners to value life, their working conditions needed to be addressed. "While the health fraternity aspires to maintain the highest ethics and morals in ensuring the provision of a sound health care delivery system, their remunerations are not pleasing," said Dr Makurira. Several doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity said threats from the government would not help the situation. "We are professional doctors, not traditional ones, that's the difference between us. "We use proven treatment and medical practices unlike traditional doctors," said one doctor. Another medical practitioner said: "In the execution of our duties, we meet a lot of patients with different diseases, some of them very dangerous to our lives, but surprisingly, we are given peanuts. We deal with life and we have to be listened to when we have genuine grievances."

September 2002

Exodus of skilled people accelerated (Zimbabwe Standard, 23/09) - As hordes of people continue to inundate Harare International Airport heading for overseas destinations, especially the United Kingdom and the United States, the destruction of the country's social fabric gathers momentum. Bank teller, John Magama, left for the UK in 2000 and was among the first hordes to flee the suicidal policies that President Mugabe has embarked on in his bid to cling to power. He went with the intention of finding any type of job that would earn him a decent living. Magama is now working at an old people's home as an aide and he supplements his income by doing many other part-time jobs. Although he promised to return "soon", news reaching his wife in Harare's high density suburb of Mufakose is that Magama is now staying with a Zimbabwean woman, Stella, the daughter of a Mrs Rufaro. Their baby is said to be due anytime now. Magama's wife said she has resorted to her "own means" of survival. "Although he occasionally sends money, the fact that he is now staying with another woman means that he no longer loves me and the family. Waiting for him would be a waste of time. As a result, I have resorted to my own means of survival." She however, declined to reveal what those "means" were but did disclose that she had plans of her own to "fly" to the USA. "A (male) friend of mine will be sending me a ticket and I will be off to the USA. I will leave the children with my mother." An uncertain future now awaits Magama's three children. Magama's case is just one of many which have seen Zimbawean families break up as spouses join the great trek to the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and neighbouring countries. Some couples which left together have broken up once overseas. "People have no choice but to flee the economic terror Mugabe has unleashed on this country," said an emotional Solomon Hungwe of Highfield, who added that he was making his own plans to flee to the UK. The great trek is not confined to one class. The wife of Gerald Ndura, a company executive, left for the UK so that they could have money to build their dream house. "My wife is a senior nurse who left for the UK last year. It was a welcome move because we desperately need to complete the construction of our house at Zimre Park. But I am now worried about the children as they miss their mother's care. I am finding it extremely difficult to care for them on my own," he said. Sports administrator, Wilfred Pawadyira, who is the former director general of the sports and recreation commission, went to the UK for the Manchester Commonwealth Games and never returned home. His family don't not even know where he is at the moment. Life overseas is not all roses, however. Reports reaching the country are that some of its sons and daughters, out of desperation, are engaging in activities such as pornography and prostitution in pursuit of the pound. Gloom and doom continue to hang over the country as things fall apart as some families come under severe strain and others collapse.

October 2002

Zimbabweans join British army and royal airforce (The Sunday Mirror, 07/10) - Zimbabwean nationals are joining the British army and the Royal Air Force in increasing numbers, triggering fears that the country’s national security might be compromised, The Sunday Mirror has established. British officials have however played down the recruitment of the Zimbabweans, saying it is normal for the British uniformed forces to engage qualified personnel from the rest of the world. Zimbabweans reportedly represent the largest number of recruits in the British army and Airforce from any foreign country, after Fiji and South Africa, according to figures published by the Sunday Mirror of London in its edition of July 14. The Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi, confirmed that officers from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the Airforce of Zimbabwe were joining the ranks of the British army. “I know for sure that there are defence personnel being recruited by the British army,” said Sekeramayi. Some army officers are reportedly going to Britain ostensibly on holiday but never return. Some of them are allegedly tendering their resignations from abroad, a move that an army official said was unprocedural and punishable. The officers, alongside Airforce of Zimbabwe staff, are reported to be lured by the strong pound at a time when the Zimbabwean dollar is at its weakest since independence in 1980. Zimbabweans in general are leaving the economically troubled Southern African country in droves, mostly to do menial jobs in Britain. They send money to their families and a significant number has turned into overnight millionaires since the Zimbabwean dollar is trading at more than Z$1 000 for a single British pound on the black market. According to a document in the possession of the Sunday Mirror, all soldiers from foreign countries are paid the same as British recruits. Privates receive a basic UK12 500 pounds per annum. This is a huge amount as it translates to about Z$18 million on the black market. Sekeramayi admitted that the recruitment of the Zimbabweans posed a danger to the country’s national security but warned that his ministry was prepared for any eventuality. “Definitely, such a trend causes one to worry about our security. However, as the Ministry of Defence, we will take the most appropriate action to defuse any threatening action,” said Sekeramayi. There are fears that some of the officers, who held high positions in the ZNA and Airforce of Zimbabwe, might pass on sensitive military secrets to the British, information which could easily be used for counter-intelligence purposes. Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain are at their worst, following charges by Britain that the Government of President Robert Mugabe has shown massive disrespect for human and property rights, with particular reference to the land reform programme. Britain sees Zimbabwe’s land reform programme as a vindictive way of grabbing farms from white farmers. Mugabe has hit back, saying the Tony Blair-led British Government is trying to meddle in the affairs of a sovereign country. In August, the British Daily Telegraph reported that Britain had positioned a 300-men crack team of its world-famous Parachute Regiment along South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe with the intention of launching an invasion of the country for the purpose of evacuating white farmers. The paper quoted British defence officials as saying the paratroopers would definitely move in “if the war veterans start to evict farmers and there is slaughter of UK nationals”. The reported intended invasion, however, did not take place. Under normal circumstances, foreigners from the Commonwealth can join the British army only when Britain has been invited to recruit by Club members. The British Ministry of Defence (MOD) recruitment head, Colonel Alisdair Loudon, acknowledged this. “We do not recruit in a Commonwealth country unless invited to do so, but we are increasingly finding large numbers of high-quality people wishing to join us,” said Loudon. However, the Zimbabwean Government denied ever inviting Britain to recruit from the country. Sekeramayi said he was not aware of any application that Zimbabwe had made to have its citizens absorbed into the British military ranks. A highly placed source said it was not a secret that Zimbabwean citizens were joining the British army to fill a quota that had been allocated the Southern African country. “Zimbabwe has the biggest number of people currently joining the British army in a genuine quest for jobs that are proving very hard to find at home. They are taking advantage of a quota system created by the British Government,” said the source.

Britain is said to prefer Zimbabweans for numerous reasons, which point to the high compatibility of Zimbabwean soldiers relative to the British military structure . Up to 1965 the Rhodesian army was only an extension of the British Royal Army. From 1939, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force was set up and the establishment was used for training purposes by the British Royal Airforce. Officers were therefore interchangeable. In addition, as one military expert pointed out, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces miltary customs and etiquette are the same as those of the British military. Also, he said, the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT), which was in the country since 1980, retrained returning guerillas and Zimbabwean soldiers in post-independence Zimbabwe, a process that naturally turned Zimbabwean soldiers into replicas of British servicemen. BMATT personnel headed the Zimbabwe Staff College up to 2000 when they moved away following increasingly strained relations between London and Harare. But, by then, nearly all Zimbabwean generals had studied at Sandhurst, Britain’s famous military training college. The British High Commission in Zimbabwe quashed the claim that British Army and Airforce were targeting Zimbabwe. The embassy spokesperson, Sophie Honey said: “It is completely untrue that British Army and Airforce are targeting Zimbabweans for recruitment. This is simply nonsense.” She said the claims were being “circulated to try and give substance to the empty claim that the British Government is planning some sort of invasion of Zimbabwe.” Honey said Britain was not engaged in an active programme to absorb Zimbabwean nationals. “There is no question of Zimbabweans being given preference over anyone else. Nor is the British Government actively recruiting Zimbabweans,” said Honey. The number of Zimbabweans in the British army jumped from a paltry 26 in 1995 to 190 in July this year. The latest figure is however said to be an understatement of the actual number of Zimbabweans serving in the British military. Reportedly, there are hundreds of ex-Rhodesian white soldiers and airmen who fled the country in the 1980s and settled in Britain where they assumed British citizenship. These former Rhodesian Airforce and SAS officers, a significant part of which is said to be still serving, are not included on the list of foreign servicemen because they are now being regarded as British nationals. There are 55 Zimbabwean whites, ironically referred to as “Rhodesians”, who are employed by the British MOD. “There are hundreds of Rhodies in the British army who are dying to come back and fight against the Government of (President) Mugabe. They boast that they are familiar with the terrain in Zimbabwe and are better trained,” said a ZNA officer. In addition to Zimbabwe other countries with significant numbers of nationals serving in the British army are South Africa, Fiji, Australia, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Republic of Ireland. A total of 66 countries have their citizens serving under the MOD, 9 of which are from Africa. With time, these may eventually comprise the bulk of future British ground and combat air force personnel in high risk scenarios such as Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks like Africans are again set to be exploited as mercenaries in European wars.

Specialist doctors expected in Zimbabwe (The Herald, 08/10) - At least 30 African-American specialist doctors are expected in the country before the end of the year on a fact finding mission, which will pave way for the secondment of more practitioners to alleviate the critical shortage in public health institutions. A visiting African-American delegation which yesterday met the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, and some of his senior officials pledged to fund-raise for the health sector and the National Aids Council and to source for the much needed essential drugs and other medical consumables. Head of delegation, Mr A Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of the Nation of Islam Africa Mission, also presented a sample of the more than $5 million worth of drugs and syringes to Dr Parirenyatwa. Dr Earlene Green, a representative of an organisation known as Helping Americans Obtain Medication founded by Jewell Williams, the state representative of Pennsylvania, also presented a proposal to implement the same programme in Zimbabwe. The programme links patients with drug manufacturers. In an interview after the meeting with the minister, Mr Muhammad said the visit had been an eye opener for him and his delegation, which consisted of mainly journalists, medical doctors, a nurse and farmers, on the problems besieging the health sector. He said as soon as the team returned to the US, it would start mobilising resources to assist the health sector, which he said, was in a "crisis". Recruitment of doctors would be a priority as the ongoing brain drain was causing a lot of suffering to ordinary Zimbabweans. Mr Muhammad said the team would negotiate with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to have the doctors come and work in government hospitals as early as December. "I am targeting 30 doctors and this is going to be a Christmas gift for Zimbabweans. The doctors will be diagnosing patients and making recommendations. "They will also bring with them medicines. More will follow after this and probably stay for longer periods," he said. There are over 30 000 black doctors in the US the majority of whom are out of practice because of the discriminatory system in that country. Very few white Americans can stand being attended to by a black doctor while the managed health care system had made the situation even worse. Under the system, patients are referred to particular practitioners by their medical insurance and the majority of those benefiting were white doctors. Most of the African-American doctors could also not afford the exorbitant insurance levied on doctors by the American government. There were also many retired African-American doctors who would be willing to spend sometime in Zimbabwe. Mr Muhammad took a swipe at European and American companies for taking advantage of the current economic situation in the country by recruiting local health professionals. "This is not fair. There seems to be concerted effort by these companies to pull professionals away from Zimbabwe. If the companies were sincere they would stop advertising these jobs leaving people here to suffer. This is not normal, but a crisis," he said. He said he hoped the group of journalists in his delegation would reach out to the African-American community and highlight to them the real situation on the ground. "Some African-Americans do not know what is happening here because the Western media has demonised President Mugabe. This issue is about people and goes beyond politics," Mr Muhammad said in reference to the ongoing land redistribution. The group also later toured Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Harare Central Hospitals where they got a feel of the situation on the ground. They were briefed on the problems being faced by the institutions and also visited various departments.

Commentary on economic crisis in Zimbabwe (The Financial Gazette, 17/10) - Zimbabwe is heading for a summer of discontent as the impact of the government's economic mismanagement begins to manifest itself in industrial unrest that will further damage a sinking economy already in a third year of recession. Economic analysts this week warned that industrial strikes that rocked Zimbabwe's public sector in the second half of this year were only the beginning of a wave of labour unrest likely to sweep through the country in the next few months. A bleak Christmas and New Year period beckons, they said. Since July - when most workers are awarded cost-of-living pay increases - doctors, city council workers, paramedical staff as well as engineers from the country's national airline Air Zimbabwe have downed tools demanding sharply higher salaries to compensate for galloping inflation. Last week, school teachers nationwide and lecturers of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) also went on strike to press for better wages and working conditions. Although government officials have dismissed some of the industrial action as the work of the opposition, analysts say the truth is that the government is only reaping the bitter harvest of its own economic bungling. "All what is going on is a symptom of the inability of the government to govern effectively," UZ political science lecturer Elphas Mukonoweshuro told the Financial Gazette. "It's up to the government to govern effectively or announce to the nation that it has failed to govern. If it doesn't, the situation will go from bad to worse. "There will be a lot of unrest as people fail to meet their individual commitments and this will only result in instability from which no one can benefit." Zimbabwe's powerful labour watchdog, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, has already warned of "spontaneous reaction" by workers to the harsh economic climate. Analysts this week said further labour turmoil was inevitable as the distortions and hardships caused by the government's mismanagement of the economy became unsustainable. The major impetus for the strikes is soaring inflation, which has eroded wages, making it impossible for many workers to make ends meet. "As long as inflation remains high, then this problem (of unrest) will persist," First Mutual Life fund manager Nyasha Chasakara said. "Invariably when wages are not catching up with inflation, people won't be able to make ends meet." A commercial bank analyst said: "This is really just the beginning. We haven't really seen workers in the private sector coming on board but it's only a matter of time.

"There's no way we can avoid it given the way things are shaping up. On the one hand, you have price controls and food shortages forcing people to queue to buy the most basic essentials, which more often than not are unavailable. When they are, they are being sold at exorbitant prices. "Then you have people outside the country just buying up everything in sight because of the distortions in the economy, and pushing up prices. It's all fuelling inflation, which is raising the cost of living. "People can't cope, they want more money and if they can't get it, they will go on strike. What it is really is the chickens coming home to roost for the government because all this can be laid at its door." According to official statistics, Zimbabwe's year-on-year inflation rose to a record high of 135.1 percent in August. But analysts fear that this is not a true reflection of conditions on the ground, where price controls and food shortages are pushing up the cost of basic commodities. State-imposed price controls and food shortages caused by drought and the government's controversial land reforms have spawned a thriving black market in basic foodstuffs, lifting the prices of these by more than threefold in the past year alone. Prices are expected to rise further in the next few weeks following a 25 percent devaluation of exchange rates on the parallel market for foreign currency. Most of Zimbabwe's forex transactions are conducted on the black market because of a severe hard cash crisis and because the government refuses to devalue the Zimbabwe dollar from $55 against the United States dollar, even though it has allowed nine other devaluations of the dollar to meet the interests of specific sectors. Opposition Movement for Democratic Change economic committee member Eddie Cross said: "The US dollar is now up to $900, the rand is over $80 and the pound is about $1 200 (following last week's depreciation)." Cross, a Bulawayo-based industrialist, added: "It has been like that for about 10 days now and the business community here is starting to adjust its prices accordingly. That will have serious implications and knock-on effects on inflation." Foreign currency dealers said rates on the parallel market were likely to devalue further because of increased capital flight and because more speculators are likely to invest in the foreign currency market, further putting upward pressure on the cost of living. They said an increasing number of Zimbabweans were leaving the country, selling their assets and converting them into forex, while some companies uncertain about their future in Zimbabwe were also doing the same. A rising number of workers were also using their earnings and other assets to invest in forex. Economic consultant John Robertson said: "What has become common now is that people want to cash in their assets and use their Zimbabwe dollars to go shopping for foreign currency. I'm sure people have little shoe boxes full of US dollars stashed away." This is increasing demand for hard currency and depreciating the Zimbabwe dollar, forcing up commodity prices and inflation. The crisis has been compounded by economic refugees, said to be sending at least 20 million pounds into Zimbabwe every month, which is driving up asset prices. "If you look at the (high) prices being asked for houses now, they are the kind of prices that were being asked for commercial buildings at the beginning of the year," Chasakara said.

"This is making life difficult for people who are earning Zimbabwe dollars and it pushes up costs for companies as people ask for higher wages." The analysts said with most Zimbabwean firms already struggling to remain in business because of the economic crisis, many workers would be forced to resort to industrial action to press for higher wages that companies could not afford. This would hit the economy through lost production. Increased production costs would force more firms to downsize and even shut down. "A lot of companies which export and can trade in foreign currency will be able to afford these wage increases and workers in these companies will probably be egging on others to strike," Robertson said. "But those companies that have no exports and depend on importing raw materials for production will be in trouble. We are working ourselves into a corner where there won't be an easy escape without a lot of pain to everyone. We need to desperately change our policies so that we don't get in any deeper than we already are." Mukonoweshuro added: "What is happening in this country requires a joint national effort. The government must make an appeal to various sectors of society to bring about a broad national solution to issues that are confronting the nation. "The hardheadedness that the government is demonstrating is not good for the people of Zimbabwe and that kind of approach to problem-solving is not likely to help anyone. It's time the government shows some maturity."

November 2002

State plans to tax expatriate Zimbabweans (The Daily News, 04/11) - The government is planning to tax all Zimbabweans working outside the country in an ambitious move that has already caused a stir among some of the estimated three million citizens who have left the country in the wake of a serious economic and political crisis in the country. A South African newspaper, The Star, reported last week that the cash-strapped government is planning to levy taxes on an estimated three million Zimbabweans working abroad in a desperate bid to raise cash for fuel and electricity imports. The newspaper quoted Deputy Minister Finance and Economic Development, Dr Chris Kuruneri, as saying the government was planning to levy income tax on Zimbabweans working abroad "in a bid to benefit from the brain drain and strengthen the country's revenue base". The planned move was reportedly met with resistance from some citizens working abroad, who said the government could not levy them when it had disallowed them from exercising their right to vote in the presidential election in March. The Star reported that the unofficial response was that there would be "no taxation without representation". Jeremy Dube, a Zimbabwean working in Johannesburg, is quoted as saying: "I am not prepared to subsidise Mugabe's regime when I was denied my inalienable right to vote." The government's rationale is that the State invested in their education, and so is entitled to a return in the form of taxes. It was unclear how the government intends to enforce the new expatriate tax, which it hopes to implement early in 2003. In a letter published by The Standard newspaper yesterday, two Zimbabweans working in the United Kingdom said: "It is an insult to Zimbabweans living abroad who have been labelled stooges of the imperialists to be expected to pay tax both to the imperialist and to the Gaddafi-led Zimbabwean government." Most Zimbabweans working abroad were driven out by the harsh economic climate, political violence, including inflation now standing at 140 percent, unemployment and shortages of basic foodstuffs. Yesterday, Eric Bloch, an economic commentator based in Bulawayo, said the government's plan was unrealistic and far-fetched. "It is unrealistic in that Zimbabwe has double tax agreements with over 19 countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa, and those agreements provide that an individual can only be taxed in the country where they are earning their money," he said. "I do not think the government has the capacity to do that and this is a desperate move to raise money. It is a far-fetched attempt to raise revenue."

UK tries to stop entry of Zimbabweans (The Daily News, 08/11) - In a move certain to dash the hopes of thousands of Zimbabweans seeking economic refuge in the United Kingdom, the British High Commission in Harare yesterday announced that Zimbabwean nationals visiting the UK will now require a visa. Previously, Zimbabweans did not need such an endorsement on their passports. An estimated 300 Zimbabweans, fleeing an economic meltdown in their motherland and government-sanctioned political violence, seek asylum in Britain every two weeks. In June, British Press reports cited Zimbabwe as among the countries with the highest number of refugees seeking asylum in the UK during the first three months of this year. Zimbabwe became the third largest source of people seeking refuge in the UK - behind Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the new arrangement, which comes into effect tomorrow, Zimbabweans will have to fork out $72 000 for a visa, apart from the prohibitive airfare of more than $500 000 to London. Zimbabweans wishing to transit through the UK to and from a third country will also require a visa. "The current fee for a standard visitor's visa, allowing entry into the UK for up to six months, is $72 000. A direct transit visa currently costs $54 000," the High Commission announced. The visa applications will be handled by a special operator, FedEx, which has offices in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Victoria Falls. Last night, the British envoy to Zimbabwe, Brian Donnelly, denied the new measures were part of the stand-off between his country and Zimbabwe. He said the new visa requirements were intended to reduce the rising number of Zimbabweans seeking asylum in the UK. Donnelly said in 2001 only 115 were granted political asylum out of 2 115 applicants. He disclosed that 2 800 Zimbabweans had sought asylum in the first six months of this year. The British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was quoted as saying the new measures are in line with a new policy to overhaul the British immigration and asylum system. "I have decided to bring in a visa programme for Zimbabwe to deal with what is a very significant abuse of our immigration control by Zimbabwean nationals. Large numbers are refused entry into the UK and returned, others are granted short-term entry, many as visitors, but fail to return home," he said. "In addition, the UK has experienced increasingly large numbers of unfounded asylum claims from Zimbabwean nationals. "We have put in place special arrangements to help those who already have a confirmed ticket to travel to or via the UK, and can show that it was purchased on or before 7 November 2002." Exempted from visas are those who are due to arrive in the UK on a direct flight or a direct transfer flight via Johannesburg before midnight on Friday next week. Those who are due to transit the UK before midnight on Friday are also exempted. Also exempted from visas are Zimbabwean passport-holders who are legally settled in the UK, those with certificates of entitlement to the right of abode and those who have previously been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK for a period of more than six months but are returning before that period has expired. The High Commission said straightforward applications would be dealt with within seven working days and that all those with queries would be invited for interviews at their offices in Harare. "FedEx will deliver your passport, with a visa if your application has been successful, to your home address," the High Commission said. n In an apparent retaliatory move, ZBC announced last night that the Zimbabwean government had imposed a travel ban on 119 people, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Zimbabweans working for SW Radio Africa, which broadcasts from London. ZBC added that Britain had been downgraded, in terms of visa requirements, from category A to B. This means British passport holders will now be required to apply for visas to enter Zimbabwe.

Steep visas, high air fares to stem exodus to UK (The Daily News, 14/11) - The United Kingdom is still the favourite relocation destination for Zimbabweans seeking respite from the economic hardships at home, despite the introduction of stringent visa restrictions and a steep rise in air fares. Hundreds of people, desperate to flee economic hardships and government-sanctioned political violence at home, yesterday jostled for positions in a long-winding queue at the British High Commission offices in Harare to secure the much-sought-after visa. The British High Commission last Thursday announced new UK visa requirements and fees costing $72 000 for a six-months visa in that country. The visa requirement coincided with the increase of Air Zimbabwe fares to London. Harare-to-London Air Zimbabwe fares last Thursday rose from $500 000 to $1,2 million. Sophie Honey, the British High Commission spokesperson, yesterday said it was still too early to comment on the impact of the stringent visa requirements. Honey said: "It is a bit too early to make an exact overview of how the announcement of visa requirements has affected immigration trends. "However, we have noted long queues of people seeking the immigration documents outside our offices." The British government last week introduced visa endorsements for Zimbabweans visiting the UK in an effort to stem the flood of economic refugees and asylum seekers to the UK. The move was also expected to bring respite to the Registrar-General's Office, which was failing to cope with the long queues of Zimbabweans applying for passports so they could leave the country and seek economic refuge elsewhere. According to reports in the British Press, an estimated 150 Zimbabweans leave the country every week to settle or seek employment in the UK. Most of the people gathered outside the British High Commission offices yesterday said they were not deterred by the restrictive visa requirements and steep air fares because they were prepared to pay through the nose just to get away from the depressing economic environment in Zimbabwe. Nomathemba Sibanda said she was being forced to leave the country because of unemployment. She said: "I am a university graduate who can't seem to get a job anywhere besides possessing adequate qualifications for my chosen profession. "I will pay anything possible as long as I get to leave the country and settle in a better environment. "It is such a sad scenario, but there is no choice for most of us but to seek greener pastures elsewhere and in my case, the United Kingdom is my chosen destination." Zimbabwe's unemployment level is pegged at 70 percent.Alfred Mapedzauswa, who was also queueing for a visa, said the introduction of the high fees were not a deterrent at all. Mapedzauswa said: "Though the visas are expensive, they will also save Zimbabweans from being harassed by British immigration officials."

'Great Trek' deprives Zimbabwe of skills (Financial Gazette, 14/11) - Zimbabwe's skills base is shrinking fast in the face of an exodus of hundreds of its nationals who leave the country every week to look for better working conditions. Business analysts now fear that the Great Trek will hamper future economic recovery. The exodus, mostly to the West and to South Africa and Botswana, has dealt a blow to efforts by both the government and the private sector which sunk in billions of dollars in new skills training for most of the departing Zimbabweans. Figures obtained this week from the Central Statistical Office (CSO), a government agency, show that 2 559 skilled people officially left Zimbabwe between January and June this year compared to 6 739 during the whole of last year. But employers and business analysts dispute the official figures, saying they are not a true reflection of the real situation on the ground. They note that thousands of Zimbabweans have streamed out of the country unofficially, especially into southern Africa, while others have left on the pretext of going on holiday but never return. According to the CSO, 539 075 locals went abroad last year compared to 374 994 in 2000 and analysts say a sizeable number of these people did not return home. Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) executive director John Mufukare said the country's deepening economic and political crisis was the major force fuelling the brain drain, a view shared by independent economist John Robertson. Mufukare said although it was difficult to quantify the brain drain in terms of loses to the economy, Zimbabwe's human resource base was shrinking at an alarming rate. He pointed out that there was high demand both regionally and internationally for Zimbabwe's skilled human resources. He said employers could do little to keep skilled personnel when the salaries of workers was behind inflation, which surged to a record 139.9 percent high in September and is forecast by the World Bank to hit the 500 percent mark next year. "The figures (of the departing Zimbabweans) are a barometer of the performance of the economy," Mufukare noted. "But you should know that these are official figures and the unofficial ones are much higher." Economist Witness Chinyama said Zimbabwe was now a training ground for staff who were internationally marketable. The CSO figures show that up to June this year, 955 Zimbabweans emigrated to Botswana, 532 to the United Kingdom, 324 to South Africa and 114 to New Zealand. Last year 2 953 locals officially emigrated to Botswana, 664 to South Africa, 315 to the United States, 1 221 to the United Kingdom and 150 to Australia. Only 752 people immigrated to Zimbabwe in 2001.

Zimbabweans who emigrated were employed in the technical, professional, administrative and production-related jobs. While the health sector has been the hardest hit by brain drain, the private sector has not been spared. Chinyama said billions of dollars invested in human resources training were going to waste, adding that Zimbabwe's economic reconstruction would be difficult with many of its skilled people leaving the country. "What Zimbabwe is losing is human capital because those who have left are professionals and skilled people," he said. "Labour is an important factor of production, and with all this brain drain things are not looking good for the economy." Emcoz's Mufukare said until the government reined in runaway inflation, there was little the country could do to stop the brain drain. He said inflation, a result of shortages of hard cash on the official market and the printing of money by the country's central bank, was a monster that had to be contained before any meaningful economic recovery plan could be implemented. An official at international courier service Federal Express, now handling visa applications of all prospective travellers to Britain, said the company had been inundated by thousands of applications since the operation started last Saturday. It is believed that more than 3 000 Zimbabweans who entered Britain last year alone did not return to Zimbabwe, with most of them claiming to be attending schools there. Robertson said with the local currency in a tail spin, working abroad had become more attractive because exiled Zimbabweans repatriated their hard cash to trade it on the thriving parallel market. Zimbabwe has been in political turmoil since February 2000 when the country's opposition parties and civic groups ganged up to reject a state-sponsored constitution, a development that was quickly followed by the invasion of commercial farms. Hundreds of farmers have also emigrated to Australia, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola, fleeing violence on their farms by militant supporters of the ruling ZANU PF party who took over the properties in the name of land hunger. "People are no longer certain of their future," Robertson said. "If they get jobs outside Zimbabwe, they will jump on to such opportunities. Each day that passes, we are losing skilled manpower."

Zimbabweans flee food shortages into neighbouring countries (Refugees International, 26/11) - South Africa is home to countless asylum seekers from neighboring countries. Many others migrate to South Africa from Zimbabwe to find work. "Thousands come over every day," South Africa's chief director of disaster management told Refugees International (RI). In Messina, a town that borders Zimbabwe near the Limpopo River, RI was able to learn about the lives of those leaving the hunger of Zimbabwe and crossing to what they believe will be a better life. Zimbabwe, once a food surplus producing country, has now had the heart of its economy ripped out. Erratic rainfall, a series of dry spells, political mismanagement of production, and land reform policies have created a major shortage of food in Zimbabwe (see Zimbabwe: Survival Strategies in the Face of Starvation) and the RI Bulletin: Zimbabwe from Bread Basket to Basket Case). The cycle of migration, from Zimbabwe into South Africa and back, has been happening for years. Normally people cross into South Africa and purchase food and send it back or find work on farms and return to Zimbabwe a few months, or sometimes even years, later. The South African army apprehends, in its estimation, 2,000 people per month. However, a researcher at the University of Witwatersrand, who recently conducted a small study of migration in Messina, found that the movement of people has slightly increased because of hunger in Zimbabwe. RI spoke with individuals at a detention center in Messina who have crossed from Zimbabwe to South Africa and had been caught and detained. "I am suffering. When I get money I can go back to my home. It has been hard finding work here. If I keep crossing over I'm afraid something bad will happen to me," David, an 18 years old detainee told RI. In this detention center, which is actually a police station and prison, detainees are fed one meal a day and sleep outside on the ground. Men, women, and children who are found crossing into South Africa from Zimbabwe are taken to the detention center. Women and children are deported immediately to avoid spending the night in prison. The journey to South Africa to Zimbabwe can be very dangerous and expensive. Edward, a 23-year-old man with whom RI spoke told of the expense in trying to migrate to South Africa. "You must pay someone to get the right route to get in safely." He explained that it usually costs 300 South African Rand or $500 Zimbabwe dollars (roughly 31 US dollars) and "if you don't pay they turn you in". Once Edward arrived in Messina he was going to find work and send money back to his younger siblings and grandmother so they could eat and attend school (he's the oldest sibling in the family and his parents are dead). But while he was walking along the road looking for work a white man gave him a lift and said he would take him to the nearest farm. Instead he took Edward straight to the police station; he was going to be deported back to Zimbabwe the next day.

One barefoot young man that RI spoke with explained the perilous journey to get to South Africa as well as the difficulties he faces as a Zimbabwean in South Africa. When he arrived in Messina from Zimbabwe his identity papers and shoes were stolen. He talked about the many people who cross the river and get killed by crocodiles. But he said, "We [Zimbabweans] have to get money and food somehow." Those individuals who do not get caught, detained, and deported by the police have different experiences. RI spoke with three young men on the side of the road who had walked all day to get to Messina from Zimbabwe and had not yet eaten. They were all trying to secure employment on the farms in South Africa near the border. "We need a job. We need food," the three young men told RI. When asked if they were to be deported would they come back to South Africa, they, in unison, said yes and emphasized that they have no other choice. Even if they do find work on a South African farm they are sometimes treated poorly and not paid. According to the director of Legal Services in Messina, many illegal immigrants work for six months on the farms without pay. Then, despite verbal agreements that they will be paid on their last day of work, the farm owner calls the police prior to providing their wages and has them deported. This type of migration demonstrates how determined individuals are to survive, making the movement inevitable. RI met three boys aged 20, 18, and 16 who were brothers. The three of them came through the river to South Africa a few days before. Their parents had died and they wanted to build their lives in South Africa because they are unable to make a living in Zimbabwe. They want to try to find work on a farm. They sleep in the bush at night because they have nowhere to stay and can't afford to pay for a hotel room. "If we get caught by the police and get deported we will come back to South Africa again," they said. Given the current levels of political instability, economic turmoil and hunger prevalent in their country, Zimbabweans will continue to make the dangerous and perilous journey. Each Zimbabwean will determine for himself or herself if the risk is worth it. Reports continue to stream in about the government's lack of political will to feed starving Zimbabweans and that the government is deliberately withholding food from certain populations. The Refugee Research Programme of the University of the Witwatersrand has just released a report entitled "Emergency Preparedness in South Africa: Twenty-Four Lessons from the Zimbabwean Elections," commissioned by the National Consortium of Refugee Affairs with support from the Foundation for Human Rights. The report tries to address the level of preparedness of South Africa for a sudden influx of refugees. The situation in Messina, and the stories of the Zimbabweans there, demonstrates the fine line between economic migration and refugee flows. The migrants are on a desperate search for employment so that they and their families can survive. Yet the conditions that they are fleeing in Zimbabwe include political persecution, systems of economic management, and internal food distribution systems that are biased against certain political and ethnic groups. Refugees International continues to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe and to advocate for increased food assistance and unbiased food distribution. In addition, RI continues to hold discussions with South African officials on the level of emergency preparedness in the event of a large influx of Zimbabweans to their country.

December 2002

Zimbabwe's brain drain (The Sunday Mirror, 01/12) - So serious has the brain drain become in Zimbabwe that the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) had to commission recently a study on the problem. The study does transcend the many speculative and politically-motivated accounts on the brain drain that has seen the Zimbabwe Diaspora grow by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Sadly, however, the study like many of those subjective conclusions that one finds in sections of our media, establishes no causal relationship between Zimbabwe’s successful human resource development strategy of the first decade of independence on the one hand, and the lack of such comprehensive policy frameworks in the neighbouring countries of Southern Africa, on the other. Also, missing in these analyses of the current brain drain problem in Zimbabwe is an account of the disparity between a progressive social development policy that was a central feature of the post-independence government, on the one hand, and an enclave economy that remained narrow-based for most of these two decades, increasingly incapable of absorbing the growing number of school leavers and tertiary education graduates. It was the National Manpower Survey (NMS) of 1981/2 which established the human resources development policy for post-independent Zimbabwe. The NMS was essentially an economic and technical exercise; but it was also a large political statement, about both the colonial legacy in general and The specific steps to be undertaken if the country was to indigenise the economy, expand it and thereby ensure sustainable development in the years and decades ahead. Even before the National Liberation Movement returned home in 1980, the two or three years leading to independence had been devoted to a serious consideration of the political and technical capacity that would be required for the new state. A major influence in all this planning was the fear that there would be a major exodus of whites on Independence Day and that, given the monopoly which white settler colonialism had enjoyed in all aspects of the economy, everything had to be done to pre-empt collapse and the attendant chaos and crises that would no doubt ensue in such circumstances. The Zanu leadership in particular had witnessed the Mozambican transition following that country’s independence in 1975. By early 1976, all the white skills – who were the only skills available – had left the Mozambique Railways; in other words, some 26 000 white workers had simply packed their bags, including the coffins that previously lay in the elaborate mausoleums in the Maputo cemetery, and left for Portugal. This brought the Mozambique Railways to a virtual standstill in a matter of days, a situation which, even up to this day, has hardly improved. But this became a pattern throughout an economy in which the colonial authorities had for decades ensured that even the most menial of skilled work had to be confined to Portuguese settlers. Indeed, by the eve of Zimbabwean independence in 1980, there was no economy to talk about in Mozambique and, as is now well-known, it would be another decade of strife and conflict before the country achieved the foundations of peace and development at the turn of the 1990’s.

In short, the fear of a white exodus became one of the central concerns of the government – in – waiting of Zimbabwe. And, in as far as that eventuality was viewed as largely inevitable, so, too, did the leadership of the liberation movement – both Zanu and Zapu – begin preparing for the National Manpower Survey (NMS) some 2 or 3 years before the formal launch of the latter in 1981 under the Ministry of Manpower, Planning and Development. By 1979, we had a fairly reliable indication of the number of skilled Zimbabweans who were outside the country, including those under training in the various parts of the world. We had even identified the persons who would occupy the key posts in the various sections of the state apparatus; and, from the very outset, the guerilla army became the Zimbabwe National Army. By the end of 1980, some 20 000 skilled and professional Zimbabweans had returned home, less by invitation than in response to the spirit of patriotism that was so contagious in those exciting and hopeful days. Also, using the concept of the “towering heights of the economy”, we had by 1979 identified the “most sensitive skill requirements areas” and obtained the grids for the water, electricity and sewage systems for the entire country, especially for the urban centres of Salisbury, Bulawayo, Gwelo and Umtali. All this soon paid off in the early months of post-independence when, for example, the all-white artisan group at Air Zimbabwe downed tools in early October, 1980. I was called to the Prime Minister’s office and asked to explain how we could deal with this crisis in one of the “most sensitive” sectors. Confidently, I explained that we had some 120 trainee aircraft personnel in Ethiopia, most of whom were about to complete their 3 year courses in that country. I was instructed to fly to Addis Ababa and returned with 110 aircraft engineers and pilots. The Air Zimbabwe strike ended thereby. We had learnt our lesson by this and other happenings. In fact, artisan training in most trades was virtually 90 per cent white; in such fields as aircraft engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering, virtually a white monopoly. By 1981, the practice had already been established whereby white youths would leave for South Africa, UK, Australia or New Zealand, as soon as they had qualified as artisans. Likewise, in such “sensitive areas” as medicine where the University’s Medical School was more than 80 per cent white in enrolment. So, by introducing the “bonding” of apprentices and other trainees in scarce skills areas, the Ministry of Manpower, Planning and Development had by 1982 turned the training statistics upside down, yielding the ratio of 98 per cent blacks in most sectors of vocational training. By 1983, and on the strength of the NMS and its twin schemes of “bonding” and upgrading the thousands of blacks who, although skilled and proficient in the various fields of industry, had been condemned to the permanent status of “semi-skilled” by the colonial regime, Zimbabwe had become self-sufficient in industrial skills. Likewise, the entire public service sector had virtually become indigenous within three years of the attainment of independence in 1980. And on the basis of the recommendations and conclusions of the NMS in 1983, the Zimbabwe Human ResourceDevelopment Plan was established firmly, citing agriculture, medicine, engineering and financial management as the priority areas for scholarships and training. Through the twin instruments of the Scholarship Committee and the Committee on Foreign Recruitment, the Ministry of Manpower, Planning and Development ensured a viable human resource development policy that would in its effects and positive results render Zimbabwe second to none, and accounts today for the comparative advantage that the country now enjoys, not only vis-à-vis the Southern African region but the world over.

As I have already intimated, this success story is also the cause of our current tribulations, in the form of the brain drain and the imminent threat, unless something is done urgently, to our human resource development base in particular and the economy in general. There is hope that the current land reform and resettlement programme, and indeed the enormous spin-offs as the economy expands and requirements for skills and personnel grows correspondingly, will help to absorb the unemployed and attract home many of those in the Zimbabwean Diaspora. For the Zimbabwean Diaspora is very unique in that most of those 479,348 skilled and professional citizens out there have an organic link to home. For example, the NECF – commissioned study found that more than half (or almost 70 per cent) of the respondents expressed a desire to return home. This does conform to the related pattern whereby most of those in the Diaspora, particularly those in the professional and skilled category, have been sending money home, for the purchase or building of houses and/or investment. However, the Zimbabwean brain drain will continue unabated until the government in particular addresses the problems in the education and health sectors. This is the foundation of the human resources development strategy and yet these are the sectors most hit by the brain drain. But, as the NECF – commissioned study itself acknowledges, there is need for Zimbabwe, “together with the Diaspora countries to reach a mutual agreement on how to reduce ‘the pull and push factors’ triggering the desire by our people to leave for Europe, North America and the region.” In my view, such consultations at the sub-regional level should include an analysis of the human resources development policies of Zimbabwe’s neighbours. For, prima facie evidence would suggest that the lack of comprehensive human resources development policies in such countries as South Africa and Botswana has created the kind of shortfalls into which the Zimbabwean brain drain is being attracted. Botswana and Namibia might be victims of the “demographic trap” in that their small populations – 1.5m and 2m respectively, with 65 per cent or more being under 15 years of age – determines that they could not for the foreseeable future be self-sufficient in skills. But South Africa, on the other hand, might need to institute the kind of policy regime that Zimbabwe introduced at independence, if it is to overcome the problems of an enclave economy and thereby help to stem the Zimbabwean brain drain.

Tough time for Zimbabwean asylum seekers in UK (The Independent, 06/12) - Thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing President Mugabe's misrule and harsh economic conditions at home are set to find their way to the United Kingdom blocked after the British government last week moved to reduce the chances of asylum seekers making successful claims in that country. The British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, last Friday scrapped the "exceptional leave to remain" (ELR) arrangement that allowed unsuccessful asylum applicants to stay in Britain until their cases were heard. The decision means that thousands of migrants, among them Zimbabweans, Iraqis and Somalis, who were given the right to live temporarily in Britain because of compelling grounds, could now be sent back home. The British government announced that it would replace ELR with a new status called "humanitarian protection" which the government said would be much tighter and only apply to claimants who proved they could not safely return home. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Foreign Affairs spokesman, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, said the MDC was concerned by the latest developments. "The MDC is gravely concerned with developments in Britain over the cancellation of ELR for asylum seekers and we will see victimised people having nowhere to seek refuge," Ndlovu said. "We hope the British will reverse this decision and allow victims of political violence to stay, especially Zimbabweans." The British Home Office said the move to annul ELR was prompted by sharp increases in the number of people applying for asylum in the last three months. The number of asylum applications made in the period from July to September this year was 29 100. In the first nine months of the year 62 480 asylum claims were made compared to 53 660 for last year and the statistics suggest the total for 2002 will be the highest on record. The British Immigration minister, Beverly Hughes, said ELR was being abused. "I believe that our use of ELR has encouraged abuse and acted as a pull factor, encouraging economic migrants to apply for asylum in the UK in the belief that they will be given ELR when their asylum claim is rejected," said Hughes. Thousands of Zimbabweans who have left the country on political grounds are among those on the list of people on ELR. The British Home Office said there has been a surge in asylum applications from Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the decision by the British government was "shocking". Others agreed. Leigh Daynes of Refugee Action said: "The abolition of ELR is deeply disturbing. As global political events and human rights abuses continue to uproot innocent people, the government must extend protection to those who need it."

DRC medical specialists to work in Zimbabwe (The Herald, 12/12) - The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare will next month recruit medical specialists from the Demo-cratic Republic of Congo to replace those leaving the country. This followed an agreement reached between the health ministries of Zimbabwe and DRC at the two countries' third joint commission meeting which ended yesterday. The Secretary for Health and Child Welfare, Dr Elizabeth Xaba, said a team of Zimbabwean medical experts would visit the DRC next month to interview doctors wishing to work in Zimbabwe. "Unlike other countries which want their people to be paid in United States dollars, the DRC government has agreed that we pay their personnel in our local currency," said Dr Xaba. Her ministry would put in place mechanisms to ensure that all the specialists that are to be recruited are highly qualified. "We don't think we will have many problems in the recruitment because some of the specialists we have in Zimbabwe are from the DRC," Dr Xaba said. The specialists are expected to start work in Zimbabwe in the first quarter of next year. The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, who co-chaired the joint ministerial plenary session, said nurses were not covered in the recruitment because of the language barrier. Nurses administer primary health care and should be conversant with local languages, not just English. Zimbabwe is facing a critical shortage of medical professionals who are leaving the country. The agreement to hire DRC specialist was reached at the DRC/Zimbabwe joint commission in Nyanga in August where the two countries agreed to co-operate in health . The Zimbabwean delegation yesterday visited clinics and hospitals in Lubumbashi, the DRC's second biggest city, to get first hand experience of the country's health delivery system.

| Back to top |


January 2003

Starving Zimbabweans cross borders in desperation (Dispatch Online, 14/01) - Zimbabweans are desperate enough to risk their lives crossing a crocodile-infested river, three barbed wire fences and an electric fence in attempts to escape the border police -- and their country's woes. "The people that we catch are in the worst condition ever," a military source told AFP at the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe. "They come from further north, so they walk much further, and where previously they would carry some of their personal belongings with them, they now have just the clothes on their bodies." Zimbabwe is in the throes of crippling food shortages which threaten more than two-thirds of the population of 11,6 million. Food riots broke out in two towns last week, causing four injuries and 34 arrests. The shortages are mainly attributed to a drought which has ravaged southern Africa. But critics also blame President Robert Mugabe's land reforms, in which white-owned commercial farms were seized for redistribution, worsening the food crisis. Some 2500 "border jumpers" are arrested and deported every month -- close to 100 a day -- as they try to avoid the security forces on the frontier between South Africa and Zimbabwe. "Some just come over because they buy food in the border town of Messina and then get themselves caught for the free ride home," the military source said. An old copper plaque at the border post, faded by the heat of the sun, explains that Beitbridge was erected "for development of communications in Africa and for the furtherance of public and educational objects". Named after German-born mine magnate Alfred Beit, the 500-metre-long bridge -- built in 1924 -- retained its colonial name after democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. These days it has become more of an umbilical cord between the two southern African nations as more Zimbabweans legally stream across the border to buy basic foodstuffs such as maize and fruit, supplies that are no longer freely available in their own country. Some use pick-up trucks and cars, but many are unable to afford taxi fares and have to walk long distances. South African border officials said close to 9 000 travellers passed through Beitbridge between Christmas Eve and New Year 2003. "The people of Zimbabwe are really suffering," remarked a South African National Defence Force soldier posted at the bridge which carries traffic between South Africa and Zimbabwe. He was checking the passport of an ageing woman, carrying fruit and a small bag of maize on her head. A year ago she might have been carrying a 50kg bag of maize, but with the Zimbabwean dollar losing value daily, many can now only afford to buy 10kg packs.

But not only locals are affected by the depreciating currency. Zambian businessman Ignatius Mooya used to trade in Harare, but is now travelling to South Africa with his truck driver, hoping to make new business contacts. "We used to trade in Harare, but we use American dollars to trade and while Mugabe has fixed the rate at 150 Zim dollar to one American dollar the real rate on the street is over Z$2000 for US$1. "We have to do things above board so it means we lose money," Mooya explains. Malawian resident Mark Visser, who was on holiday in South Africa, said he would avoid Harare on his way back home. "When we came down some of our friends were robbed by people next to the road. They threw something in the road to make a puncture in the wheels, and then when my friend pulled over they came under the pretence that they wanted to help him. But they took their money and extra petrol," Visser said. "It seems to happen mostly around Harare and it seems people are looking for fuel, so we will just avoid it." South African holidaymaker Jan Faber, returning from Mozambique via Zimbabwe, said finding food or petrol in Zimbabwe was not an easy task. "The biggest problem is the food; there is nothing in the stores. You also find many petrol stations with no fuel signs and long lines at those which have fuel," Faber said.

Zimbabwean immigrants swamp Botswana (The Sunday Mirror, 26/01) - The Chief Immigration Officer, Roy Sekgororwane Wednesday expressed worry that Zimbabwean illegal immigrants fleeing from their collapsing economy are swamping the country. “We are seriously losing out on our battle to deal with this (Zimbabwean) problem. Immigration and government cannot afford to deal with this problem alone. We need some support to deal with the situation,” Sekgororwane said. His comments come at a when the country is faced with the worst immigrant problem in history as thousands of Zimbabweans flee from their country. According to the immigration department, 125,000 Zimbabweans cross into Botswana per month - mostly at Ramokgwebana border-post — but a great number of them chose no to go back home. There has also been a surge in the number of illegal immigrants who cross into the country through ungazetted points. “We really need support to deal with this because the strategies that we have used in the past seems to be not working. We are now repatriating two truckloads of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe every day, and this cost government a lot of money,” Sekgororwane said. The immigration department has stepped-up its “mopping exercise” which is aimed at rooting out illegal immigrants in the country. But he said the system seems not to be working. “We are now thinking of some other approaches which will involve the department, prosecutors and magistrates to come together and brain-storm over this issue, given the fact that the swift repatriation system we adopted does not work. “The courts would not work either and, it is practically impossible to implement charge them because we might have 10,000 of them in one month and the country does not have the capacity to try so many cases within a short space of time,” he added. “It is not that we are targeting the Zimbabweans. The Zimbabwean illegal immigrants is a nagging issue because they are high in numbers compared to people from other countries. The labour movement is expected to take a strong stance regarding the Zimbabwean crisis in the week ahead of the budget speech due on February 3.

Both Botswana Federation of Trade Union and manual workers union will urge government to take a position regarding the Harare administration which they believe is responsible for the chaotic economic conditions. “It is disheartening to see people fleeing their country in such great numbers. However, we have to stand together as citizens of this country to make sure that we do not get swamped by Zimbabweans,” national organising secretary of manual workers union, Johnson Motshwarakgole said. “We understand the problem of the ordinary Zimbabwean but they have to understand that we as Batswana have to be patriotic as well. As far as we are concerned SADC) leaders have failed the Zimbabweans by not attacking the Harare administration for its policies which have landed the majority of innocent people in this situation,” he added. Ronald Baipidi, spokesperson for Botswana Trade Unions said if the Zimbabwean crisis is left unchecked it will scuttle attempts by government to try to alleviate poverty in the country. “We have to come out very clear on this issue because Zimbabwean are flooding the job market at the expense of the citizens of the country. The situation is out of order, we have Zimbabwean maids, herd-boys and farm workers and I think the budget should factor this in and address the problems faced by the Batswana who can not get employment because of Zimbabweans,” Baipidi added. “We are going to have an executive committee meeting over the weekend and one of the issues on the agenda will be the Zimbabwean issue which negatively impact on Botswana’s economy,” Motshwaraakgole said. He added that, “our problem is that cheap labour from that country contradicts what we have been fighting for. They are taking jobs form our people and they do not observe the minimum wage which we even strongly feel that it is too low,” he said.

February 2003

Brain drain from health sector continues (The Herald, 10/02) - AT least 32 doctors and scores of other health professional workers have resigned at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals over the past four months compounding the shortage of staff at the two referral hospitals. Scores of nurses have also reportedly left to work in the United Kingdom and neighbouring countries as the brain drain in the heath sector continues. Some health workers disclosed that most doctors who have left the country were within a group that had just qualified from the school of medicine. They also said that the number of Zimbabwean health professionals working in other countries continued to increase. Some doctors at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals said they were coping despite the staff shortages but were being overworked. According to the Hospital Doctors Association, a referral hospital needs about 55 registrar doctors, 35 junior resident doctors, 30 senior resident doctors and about 22 senior consultants. At least 24 senior resident doctors at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals have resigned since September last year while two junior resident doctors also left. Four doctors undertaking specialist studies also left together with two general practitioners. The Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr David Parirenyatwa said he was not aware that so many doctors had left the country while others have gone into private practice. "Loss of health practitioners is, however, a continuing problem. We are currently bonding nurses so that they can plough back to the nation," Dr Parirenyatwa said. He said his ministry wanted all health workers to stay and work in the country. To this end Government was making concerted efforts to ensure their working conditions were improved. "It, however, remains a fact that in the near future we will not be able to match with salaries in Europe. We are two worlds apart." Dr Parirenyatwa said despite Government’s inability to match the salaries in Europe, it remained health workers’ obligation to pay back for the training they received with State support. He said Government was expanding training programmes to ensure the country had adequate health staff. "We will put appropriate measures to ensure that we keep our trained staff but this does not mean that we will use draconian mechanisms," he said. When The Herald visited the two hospitals patients were having to endure long queues.

The chief executive officer of Parirenyatwa Hospital Mr Thomas Zigora said the institution was doing its best to cope under the circumstances. He, however, could not disclose the number of doctors and other personnel who had resigned from the hospital. "Resignations are not extraordinary but as usual we are doing our best to cope with the work load," Mr Zigora said. The refusal by health professional workers to work overtime has further worsened the situation. According to a spokesman of the workers Mr Trust Chivasa, the Government had not yet reviewed their salaries except the 80 percent salary increase they got last month. Mr Chivasa said morale was still low among workers while patients continued to suffer. There are only two dentists and two dental therapists at Parirenyatwa Hospital. Three dentists have since gone into private practice and 15 students who are expected to complete their studies in April this year are said to be helping out at the dental clinic. Harare Hospital dentistry is currently relying on one dentist and two are said to have left for greener pastures. There are no dental therapists at Harare Hospital and dental tutors are having to chip in and help. Mr Chivasa said a referral hospital needs about 16 radiographers but Harare Hospital has only seven. Owing to the shortages, radiographers at the two hospitals are said to be attending to serious cases only. The two hospitals have also lost five laboratory scientists who have resigned.

Cuban doctors arrive for two-year tour of duty (The Herald, 15/02) - Seventy-four Cuban doctors and medical specialists arrived in the country yesterday on a two-year programme which will see them deployed in provincial and district hospitals. The medical practitioners, who included 50 general medical officers and specialists in urology, dentistry, gynaecology and paediatrics are expected to ease the critical shortages of doctors and specialists in the country. The Cuban Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Buenaventura Reyers-Acosta, said the arrival of the medical personnel follows an agreement signed in Havana last year between President Mugabe and the Cuban President Fidel Castro. "President Fidel Castro agreed to increase the number of doctors in this important field to help the people of Zimbabwe. "Sixty doctors are currently back home on holiday but they will be joining this group in a few months’ time," said Mr Reyes-Acosta. The head of Cuba’s Medical Brigade, Dr George Bustillo, who has been working in the country for the last two years, said the doctors would be deployed in various hospitals where their services are needed. "Our doctors can work anywhere. Their obligation is the welfare of the patients and they are happy to be in Zimbabwe," Dr Bustillo said. The doctors are expected to undergo a three-month training programme to grasp the working environment in Zimbabwe and master the basics of local languages. In the last four months, more than 30 local doctors have left the country to work in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Botswana. Although this is blamed on the harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, said the doctors should be grateful for what the Government did for them and plough back into the community. Most doctors, according to the Hospital Doctors Association, had just graduated from the school of medicine where the Government has poured in millions of dollars in various training programmes. Doctors in Cuba are not rich and only leave their country under various government programmes. "We are in Africa of all the places because we co-operate with our government and nothing beats that kind of understanding and patriotism," one Cuban doctor said yesterday.

March 2003

Zimbabweans seeking UK asylum (Irin, 17/03) - Zimbabweans topped the number of Africans seeking asylum in Great Britain last year, the second highest group of people in the world next to Iraqis in the last quarter of 2002. According to the latest statistics released by Britain's Home Office, applications from Zimbabweans increased by almost a third from October, but fell sharply in December, partly due to the introduction of visa regimes introduced in December. When explaining the introduction of the visas last year, Home Secretary David Blunkett said Britain had experienced increasingly large numbers of "unfounded" asylum claims from Zimbabwean nationals and the move would make it much easier for genuine Zimbabwean visitors to travel to the United Kingdom. From October to December, 2,750 Zimbabweans applied for asylum, bringing the total for the year to 7,695. In December 2001, the final figure was 2,115 and in 2000 it was 1,010. Of the 6,225 requests processed last year, 2,245 applicants were granted asylum. Since 2000, Zimbabwe, a former British colony, has been troubled by a controversial land reform programme, which stripped many white farmers of their land. A political crisis has left the opposition challenging last year's presidential election in court, while the country's economy is burdened by an inflation rate of over 200 percent. In addition, more than half of the total population of 11.6 million is in need of food aid. Local and international human rights groups have also repeatedly condemned the government's civil liberties record. John Makumbe, chairman of the rights group Transparency International in Zimbabwe, told IRIN: "The number of people who are skilled, who are educated professionals, but can't get a job, is escalating every month. A number of companies closed for Christmas but didn't reopen in the new year, and if they did, they are operating at between 30 to 40 percent capacity. "Semi-skilled and skilled workers are travelling to the UK, South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland to look for work. The currency is stronger than the Zimbabwe dollar so they are able to repatriate the funds so that their families can buy food, property, cars and send their children to school," said Mukumbe.

April 2003

Acute shortage of nurses hits Mutare (The Daily News, 03/04) - The acute shortage of nurses at clinics run by the Mutare City Council is adversely affecting the city's health delivery system, a senior health official has said. Simon Mashababe, the council's acting medical officer of health, told a recent meeting of the council's health management committee that: "The council's health department has only 74 nurses instead of the required 131 nurses." The council operates seven clinics and an infectious diseases hospital. He said Dangamvura Polyclinic, which serves about 100 000 people, had only one nurse and each of the clinics was operating without a sister-in-charge. Nurses, doctors and other medical staff have been leaving the country for greener pastures in the United Kingdom and United States in the last two years.

Shortage of pathologists hits hospitals (The Daily News, 05/04) - A serious shortage of pathologists has hit Harare Central and Parirenyatwa hospitals, the country's major referral hospitals, resulting in the two institutions suspending post-mortems when the only government pathologist was on leave since last month. Dr Salvator Alex Mapunda, the pathologist, is believed to be in Tanzania on holiday and is only expected back later this month. The situation had caused delays in burials as a number of bereaved families needed post-mortem results before interment. Investigations this week revealed that 15 bodies were lying at Harare Hospital mortuary since last month, due to Mapunda's absence. The bodies would only be buried following post-mortems when Mapunda returns. The situation is believed to be the same at Parirenyatwa Hospital although officials at the hospital were not forthcoming with details. Dr Chris Tapfumaneyi, the Harare Hospital medical superintendent, said there was a marked increase in the number of bodies waiting for post-mortems at the hospital. Said Tapfumaneyi: "The hospital cannot do much about the piling bodies as it is a matter that is handled by the police since they are responsible for bringing in the bodies," he said. A post-mortem has to be conducted before burial in all cases involving murder. Dr David Parirenyatwa, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, said he would investigate the shortage of pathologists and issue a statement. An official with the Hospital Doctors' Association, said Zimbabwe needed at least six government pathologists at hospitals in Harare alone. The HDA official said a number of pathologists had left the country for greener pastures. A Chitungwiza family this week claimed that they had not been able to bury their relative since 14 March because a post-mortem was still to be conducted. The Magaya family suspect that their relative died under unclear circumstances in Highfield. Another family said they had to bury their relative, Brighton Manasa, in Rusape without autopsy results as they could not afford to wait any longer. Manasa is suspected to have been murdered by unknown assailants last month in Warren Park. "We could not afford to keep his body at Harare Hospital mortuary for too long because of the funeral expenses," said Austin Gwaure, his uncle. As a result, we had to bury him without post-mortem results."

Commentary on brain drain impacts (The Herald, 17/04) - The exodus of Zimbabwean unskilled and skilled labour to overseas countries, mainly UK, has not only deprived the country of critical human resources but has also led these migrant workers into a vicious social and economic trap. The history of migrant labour shows that workers are driven into economic exile by the belief, either imagined or real, that they will be economically and socially better-off when they go to a different economy where there are perceived better job opportunities. This has been the major cause of rural-urban migration where people migrate to urban areas in the hope of quickly securing employment and bettering their lives. Such hopes have more often than not been unable to be realised leading to job seekers taking on any activity that can bring food to the table. Historically we have had migrant workers coming to Zimbabwe from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique and we also had Zimbabwean workers going to South African mines then commonly known as "Wenela". In the Americas we have always had Mexican workers migrating to work on USA farms especially in Texas. In all these cases very few of the migrant workers realise their dreams of "striking it big" both financially and socially. We know of our grandfathers who went to "Wenela" for many years only to come back without a family and with a few meaningless possessions like mirrors and radios which in real terms never managed to sustain them for a long time. Some of the people who went to "Wenela" never came back not because they did not want to but because they did not have the means to do so as they were caught in a vicious socio-economic trap. The history of labour studies show that migrant labour has always been exploited by employers who take advantage of the desperate situation of these workers. A closer analysis of any situation involving migrant labour shows that it is the employers who encourage directly or indirectly the illegal entry of these workers into their employ. An illegal migrant worker provides many advantages to the employer. Firstly the migrant worker is in a desperate situation and in most cases does not have the means to get back home should he not like the situation and therefore the worker is forced to work under any conditions in order to raise money for minimal survival.

Secondly if the migrant worker is working illegally, he has no recourse to the labour laws of that country and is therefore at the mercy of the employer. If the worker is underpaid or is not paid at all he cannot report the employer for fear of being deported. The only thing he can do in the event that he is not paid is to look for the next job. This has been the case with most of Zimbabwe’s migrant workers overseas. Most went there with the dream of getting rich overnight. In most cases that dream has been shattered and these workers have found themselves in a virtual trap. Some sold their houses and cars and some abandoned their jobs in order to join the great trek to UK with the hope of replacing these assets as soon as they started working. Many have been frustrated to find out that the situation on the ground is very different from what they expected. The working conditions are tough, there is very little respect accorded these workers and abuse is rampant. The workers are paid far less than the citizens of that country despite the fact that most are working up to twenty hours a day. Some are not paid at all and they have no recourse to the law because they are illegally working there. Since accommodation is expensive in these countries most of the workers share accommodation and you can find as many as ten people sharing a room in squalid conditions. Trapped in this quagmire some of the migrant workers, both male and female, have resorted to prostitution in order to supplement their incomes. Some have even gone into prostitution full time because it is a lucrative business in western countries. With proceeds from these vices the migrant workers can afford to buy properties back home and these properties will entice other people to want also to become migrant workers but thinking that the properties were bought as a result of honest working. But when they migrate they are surprised at how things are different but they cannot come back because they will have been caught up in a vicious trap. I am not at all implying that all those that are buying properties it is a result of them engaging in moral debauchery.

Some have managed to do so through hard work in foreign countries especially when they are employed in their professional jobs. The social dilemma for these workers has come in the form of lack of socialisation, reduced social contacts with friends and relatives at home and breakdown of marriages. Since some of the workers work long hours a day they have little time for recreation and socialisation, which can actually lead to stress and eventually mental breakdown. Marriages have also broken down because of the long absence of spouses, which has often led to infidelity. The winners in a situation where there are so many illegal migrant workers are the employers who directly and indirectly encourage this migration. The migrant worker is often underpaid, abused and ill treated by the employer who knows that the workers cannot do anything since they will be working illegally in the first place. The worker on the other hand cannot easily get back home because he will be in an socio-economic trap. Socially because he will be embarrassed to go back home empty handed with nothing to show for his escapades and economically because he will not have the means to go back home. We have had cases of migrant workers who from Southern Africa who are being used as slaves in New Zealand and Australia because they have no means of coming back home. I think it is time that something is done about improving conditions of migrant workers in foreign countries.

May 2003

Shortage of nurses hits Masvingo (The Herald, 13/05) - At least 276 qualified nurses are needed in Masvingo province to fill in vacant posts that have been left by those who have gone into private practice. The number of qualified nurses needed represents a 25 percent vacancy ratio in the province that requires about 1 104 qualified nurses. In an interview, the Masvingo provincial medical director, Dr Tapiwa Magure, said the shortage was more pronounced in rural areas and in health centres run by rural district councils. "We are having an acute shortage of qualified nurses but the situation is worse in rural health centres, which most qualified medical personnel shun because of poor working and living conditions. "However, health centres run by rural district councils, are more severely affected than Government-run centres because the former have an inconsistent paying policy unlike the later that has fixed pay days," said Dr Magure. He called on rural district councils to offer incentives like having fixed pay days to attract qualified health personnel. The shortage of qualified nurses has seen some crucial health services like immunisation of babies being postponed or delayed in the province as most health centres are manned by nurse aids who cannot administer injectable vaccines. Dr Magure said the province would launch the primary care nurse course , which would see nurses being trained for one-and-half years. "We are going to introduce the primary care nurse course which is almost like the State certified nurse course at Silveira Mission hospital to ease the shortage of nurses," he said. Health professionals have been leaving the country for greener pastures abroad.

Critical shortage of doctors looming (The Herald, 07/05) - The strike by hospital doctors last year is now being felt in hospitals as student doctors who should have completed their two-year training in November and joined the hospitals to ease the shortage of doctors did not do so. A critical shortage in the departments of surgery and medicine is looming and only senior doctors are attending to patients from the departments. The president of the Hospital Doctors Association, Dr Howard Mutsando, said the students who were supposed to have completed two years of in-house training after having completed their initial five years did not graduate in November. "I only know that the student doctors who were expected to have completed their final year of practical training and supposed to be assisting in the critical departments have gone back to school as their lessons were hampered by last year’s strikes by doctors," he said. Student doctors are supposed to undergo a two-year housemanship in the departments of medicine, surgery, obstetrics and paediatrics before they start working full time. Dr Mutsando said during last year’s strikes, the students were not attending lessons as very few patients were being attended to. He said although the Government has improved doctors’ salaries, about 16 doctors left the country over the last two months. He said it was not certain whether the student doctors would work in the country after completing their housemanship. "Since last year, 48 doctors have left the country," Dr Mutsando said. "At the moment we are operating under very difficult conditions. We spend most of our time queuing for fuel as there is no provision that we can easily access it. "We would have expected that as doctors who are expected to be called to work even when we are off duty we need not worry about fuel." He said some doctors came to work late while others have to abandon work in order to look for fuel. However, sources at Parirenyatwa Hospital said an agreement with the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe was made early this year to ensure that doctors get 15 000 litres of fuel each month. It is believed that two deliveries were made to Parirenyatwa Hospital and a few senior doctors benefited. Parirenyatwa Hospital authorities could not be reached for comment yesterday.

June 2003

Shortage of nurses cripples health services (The Herald, 09/06) - A group of women with children strapped on their backs with fallen faces exuding profound weariness and abject demoralisation sit under a tree outside Majada Clinic in Gutu South. They have walked long distances of up to 10 kilometres to the clinic but the will power to return home has evaporated after being told the vaccination of babies has been postponed to another date to be announced. Elsewhere, at Mashenjere clinic in Murinye communal lands, Masvingo District, a woman who has failed to give birth has been writhing in agony for several hours as there is no ambulance to ferry her to Masvingo for an operation. Neither does the salvation lie in the benevolence of a local businessman who after a spate of non-committal gestures, concurs to sacrifice his business to save life by taking the woman to Masvingo. Health delivery in the country's most populous province has been severely affected by the acute shortage of nurses coupled with the crippling shortage of ambulances and delivery vehicles. Most clinics in the province are now being manned by inexperienced nurse-aides who cannot administer certain drugs to patients. The fuel crisis currently plaguing the country has fuelled the transport woes as most ambulances and service vehicles are grounded. Some are constantly on and off the road resulting in crippling inconsistencies. The service vehicles, crucial in the transportation of drugs and food to various hospitals and clinics dotted around the province, are hardly available. It is believed most of them are grounded and require mechanical attention. "There are hardly any service vehicles to transport drugs and food to all parts of the province as most of them are down at the moment," said Masvingo provincial medical director Dr Tapiwa Magure. Caught in a web of acute shortage of delivery vehicles by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the immunisation of babies, an important project on the health calendar every year, has been postponed on numerous occasions. In Gutu district, nervous mothers narrated ordeals where they have been walking repeatedly to the clinics to have their children immunised, only to be told to return on another date.

"I have been taking my two little children to Majada clinic for vaccination only to be told to go back home and wait for another date to be announced," said a demoralised Mrs Leona Dzingirai, from Chiwara communal lands, seemingly pondering on the fate of her two little children. Dr Magure, however, defused the growing anxiety among worried mothers saying his office had already deployed a vehicle to Gutu to assist in the immunisation outreach programme. "The provincial medical director's office had to deploy bone of its vehicles to Gutu last week to assist in such critical areas like the immunisation outreach programme," he said. Shortage of proficient health personnel, long the Achilles' heel of the country's health sector, has not helped matters in the province where most health centres are now run by nurse-aides whose main bane is inability to administer certain drugs. Skilled health professionals have been leaving the country en masse to neighbouring countries where their excellent skills are in high demand and are well remunerated. Others have ventured into private practice where they have the unlimited potential to accumulate wealth faster. However, a vibrant private health system is not a panacea to a dilapidated public health system of the country because it excludes the majority of the people who are living in rural areas or do not have the financial muscle to afford it. Masvingo needs at least 276 qualified nurses to fill the vacant posts in the province which requires about 1 104 nurses to operate normally. This, according to health officials, translates into a 25 percent vacancy ratio in the province leaving some health institutions especially those in rural areas being the worst affected. The situation is said to be more desperate in those rural health centres that are run by rural district councils and those that do not have incentives like electricity and proximity to busy roads. "We are working with a skeletal staff of nurses resulting in some health centres being run by nurse-aides. "The situation is better in health centres run by Government as compared to those run by rural district councils because the latter does not have fixed pay days thereby alienating itself from qualified personnel," Dr Magure said. He said the province has embarked on a primary care nurse course almost similar to the state certified nurse at Silveira Mission for a start, to expedite the training of nurses in the province. Most qualified personnel shun rural areas that do not have electricity and access to clean water. Dr Magure, however, said the ongoing rural electrification programme was going to prioritise health centres so that they can attract qualified workers. He added the ongoing rural electrification programme was going to improve storage of drugs that had been hampered by the erratic supply of gas for use on refrigerators.

A nurse's tale (Irin, 30/06) - Anna Matema (not her real name) is a 45-year-old senior nurse at Harare Central Hospital, a public referral hospital catering mainly for the poor living in the city's high-density areas. Matema is a widow and mother of five, and has been a nurse for 20 years. She says she is dismayed by spiralling inflation which makes it difficult for her to budget for groceries, transport and her children's school fees. "Other departments in the civil service - teachers, soldiers and policemen, for example - think that nurses are given preferential treatment by the government when it comes to salaries. Even though we are [paid] slightly better than them, life is equally tough for us," she explains. Matema's gross monthly salary, pegged at Zim $84,000 (US $102), is set to rise to Zim $150,000 (US $182) as a result of a recent job evaluation exercise. Nevertheless, she does not foresee being able to make any savings. Last year she was forced to pull her two children out of boarding school following sharp increases in boarding fees. They are now enrolled in less well equipped government schools. "Before withdrawing them from boarding school, a big chunk of my salary went towards debts I was incurring every month. I discovered that I was being swallowed by borrowing, particularly from money-lending businesses that have sprouted in town. These sharks charge you extremely high interests, and the loans are deducted from your payslip." Matema was forced to sell her husband's car to offset her debts. After working as a nurse for two decades, she says she feels she has virtually nothing to show for it. Her 23-year-old eldest daughter recently took up cross-border trading to help support the family. She travels to South Africa and Botswana selling local craft and boutique products. Matema does not like the business since she thinks it exposes her daughter to the risk of muggings and HIV/AIDS, but feels she has no choice but to accept it, because it goes a long way to supplementing the family income. She complains of low morale among her colleagues at work. Zimbabwe has lost a large crop of its most experienced nurses to better paid jobs overseas, particularly the UK. "Those who remain do not give their job maximum attention. The sick are therefore caught in the vicious cycle, hence high mortality rates at public hospitals." But despite the difficulties, Matema remains optimistic about the country's future. "Zimbabwe is a great country. We can still reclaim our status as Southern Africa's breadbasket and one of the strongest economies. What we need to do is to persuade all political parties to sit down together so as to establish an acceptable government. "We would only be fooling ourselves if we thought that we could go it alone. We need a lot of friends from outside. They will bring back investment and create jobs for our children. In addition, Zimbabweans should see themselves as part of the same family and march into the future together," she says.

July 2003

Labour retention strategies to curb brain drain (The Sunday Mirror, 06/07) - Comprehensive strategies are required to incentivise the corporate and public sectors to make full utilisation of labour, adopt labour retention policies to curb the current pervasive brain drain, the central bank has said. It had been noted that the number of artisans (skilled labour) in the country at the moment was dwindling at an alarming rate due to brain drain and the HIV/Aids scourge. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe notes that Zimbabwe, as an emerging economy, richly endowed with a highly trained labour force, should put in place enhancing strategies to arrest the current decline in output and productivity. Put simply, productivity is the relationship between output and input utilisation, inputs of which are mainly labour, capital and technology. The central bank said output and productivity have followed a cyclical pattern with productivity rising and falling in tandem with economic performance. According to the central bank, healthy and safety of workers is also an integral component the labour retention framework, particularly in light of the adverse impact of HIV and Aids, which has negatively affected both the productivity and supply of labour. Labour analysts also note that Zimbabwe has been suffering a shortage of skills at the top end of the market such as engineers, IT specialists, medial personnel but the skills crisis is now taking alarming proportions because of labour flight to neighbouring countries and abroad. Analysts also point out that the shortage of top end skills in Zimbabwe could be because the country is lagging behind in innovation and technology, but it is mostly to do with mobility of professionals around the world. In Zimbabwe, production techniques are labour intensive and therefore it is legitimate to use labour productivity as a measure of productivity in the economy. Labour productivity shows how productively the most important factor of production, labour, and is used to generate output. “This confirms the fact that a country’s productivity growth plays an important role in helping it achieve economic growth and higher standards of living,” the central bank said.

A combination of particularly deterministic factors such as high inflation, acute foreign currency shortages, low investment, low levels of capacity utilisation, fuel and electricity problems has adversely affected productivity in the economy. Consequently, both productivity and economic activity have contracted sharply from their peak in 1996. Economists also note that growth in productivity is the main source of higher economic growth and global competitiveness. In newly industrialised nations, such as in Asia, where there has been a surge in economic growth over the past three decades, illustrate how productivity works. But in Zimbabwe, government’s economic programmes suffer the risk of being stillborn unless the worsening skills crisis is addressed. Artisans play an integral part in every aspect of innovation, manufacturing and engineering production. It had also been noted that backbone of such industrial entities such as manufacturing has to be artisans and in developed economies, all workers on the shop floor are artisans, and even the smallest of all companies needs someone with artisan skills. Inversely, the RBZ said, slackened growth, stagnation and decline, often closely intertwined with loss of global competitiveness accompany a slowdown in productivity improvement. “Productivity, is, thus a vehicle by which the basic resources of labour, capital, materials and energy are transformed into goods and services,” the central bank said.

Brain drain strangling economic development (The Herald, 14/07) - How low can one sink for the love of money and how much are you prepared to give up to earn the (British) pound? As the bug of 'getting rich quicker earning the pound' catches up with many Zimbabweans, thousands of trained professionals are trading their prestigious jobs for menial shifts in developed countries, particularly the United Kingdom. Among them is Gerald Kireso (not his real name), a qualified lawyer, who left his job with a local firm last year in search of greener pastures in the UK. However, the pastures were not that greener as Kireso found himself having to drive garbage collection trucks instead of a previous prestigious office job. Before joining the overseas exodus, his parents envisaged a brilliant career ahead of him. However, such dreams have now been shattered. Kireso cannot practice as a lawyer in the UK because he does not have a working permit. And when he made the decision to go to that country he also decided to give up his status and self-respect as a lawyer. Yes, back home with the proceeds from UK, Kireso has managed to build a nice house in the suburb of ZimRe Park, popularly known as "kumapondo" in reference to the pound. He has also invested in various businesses, a price for throwing away self-respect and status. Over the past few years Zimbabwe has witnessed an upsurge in the number of professionals living the country in search of greener pastures. Apart from the UK, the professionals are also heading to United States and Australia. Many of these graduates, with the exception of some nurses, doctors and pharmacists fail to be absorbed in their mainstream professions because of lack of the required paperwork, hence, they end up doing menial jobs. Such odd jobs include ironing clothes, sweeping and looking after the elderly at old people's homes. "You have to swallow your pride and do the menial jobs otherwise living in the UK can be quite a nightmare for you," said a former teacher who returned recently from UK. She said some Zimbabweans were regretting leaving their professions in that country because they were failing to make ends meet in the UK. "Some of them want to come back but they having nothing to show for their stay in the UK so they are soldiering on with the hope that they either build a house or do something of significance back home," she said.

In the UK, she said, it was common to see former Zimbabwean teachers and other professionals working as security guards. The rate at which Zimbabweans and other foreigners have been flocking to UK in recent years has forced the host country to consider introducing Aids tests for asylum seekers in a bid to halt the Aids tide. Statistics made public recently by the UK government showed that 54 193 people were HIV-positive in Britain - with the number rising by about 10 percent a year. The report indicated that some hospitals were spending their Aids budgets treating "imported" nurses. Hospitals officials said a couple received treatment worth 11 000 pounds a year for the rest of their lives. However, while the Zimbabwean professionals are playing in greater role in the development of the UK's economy, the impact of the brain-drain back home has been far reaching. Indeed, Zimbabwe is going through its worst economic difficulties in history and there is no doubt that the brain drain is compounding the situation. The exodus is stalling the country's development because of the huge deficit in manpower that retards economic development. The health sector has been the worst affected by the exodus of qualified staff. Even the bonding system introduced by the Government a few years ago has failed to effectively halt the brain drain. It is a fact that the brain drain in the health sector has crippled the health delivery service as the remaining personnel is struggling to cope up with the huge workload. The situation has been compounded by the shortage of foreign currency to procure medical drugs.

The Government has found itself in a situation whereby it trains personnel for other countries. President Mugabe last year castigated Britain for "coming at the dead of the night to steal" nurses, doctors and pharmacists. "We have created the environment that allows that upliftment of nurses. "That's why even Britain comes in the dead of the night to steal our people," he had said. It is estimated that at least 70 000 highly qualified Africans leave their home countries annually. With the fast ageing population, western countries have become increasingly dependent on migrant workers to fill the void. A report by the Pollution Research Group at Natal University in South Africa shows that Africa has lost a third of its skilled professionals in recent decades and it is costing the continent $4 billion a year to replace them with expatriates from the West. The brain drain, the report says, has strangled growth of the economy and nurtured poverty in the African countries.

Brain drain reaches unacceptable level (Harare, The Financial Gazette, 17/07) - At least 500 000 professionals have slipped out of Zimbabwe because of the worsening political situation and the biting economic recession that has left a trail of devastating effects on industries and services that rely on critical skills. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-funded study, which government is understood to have been frantically trying to edit before it is made public, painted a gloomy picture on the Zimbabwe's future if the loss of professional and skilled manpower to mostly the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa and Botswana continue unabated. The excessive loss of professionals has left a decimated pool of the workforce, which is suffering the double impact of HIV/Aids pandemic, killing about 2 000 people weekly. The Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) conducted the study under contract with the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF). Brain drain has dealt a hammer blow on the health sector, which has been virtually deserted by nurses and doctors against the backdrop of an acute shortage of drugs. An estimated 63,6 percent of the emigrants are health professionals followed by education at 11.8 percent. Engineers, finance and agriculture experts make up the balance. There are now more scientists working outside Zimbabwe's borders than the 20 000 working locally because very little is spent on research and development. A paltry 0.2 percent of the gross national product is invested in research yet an average one-percent is required.

Of the 479 348 Zimbabweans living abroad, 176 400 reside in the UK, 165 375 in Botswana, South Africa (22 050), United States of America (33 075), Canada (16 298) and other countries (66 150). South Africa could be having higher numbers because there are a lot of illegal immigrants, who are constantly on the run from law-enforcement agents. Some have also changed their citizenship. Most of the people in the diaspora hail from Mashonaland (26.7 percent) with Matebeleland coming second at 24.4 percent. Midlands constitute 17.4 percent, Masvingo (16.3 percent) and Manicaland (15.1 percent). In his foreword, project director, Professor Christopher Chetsa-nga said brain drain had reached "unacceptable and unsustainable heights." He said: "Each year Zimbabwe loses thousands of talented professionals crucial to its development needs. "Most of these young professionals abandon their professions in Zimbabwe, often for menial underemployment jobs that advance the socio-economic interests of their host countries." About 61.6 percent of the Zimbabweans living abroad are male with females constituting the balance.  About 76.7 percent are married, 19.8 percent single, 2.3 percent divorced/separated, while 1.02 percent are widowed. Nearly 34.1 percent hold bachelors' degrees. Twenty-eight percent are graduates from the polytechnic, while 19.5 percent are holders of masters degrees. About 4.9 percent have PhDs, diplomas (2.4 percent) and vocational training certificates (8.5 percent). The study noted that 12.5 percent of the Zimbabweans do not want to return home, while 25 percent are undecided. At least 34.5 percent of emigrants who responded to questionnaires cited low salaries as the major reason for leaving the country, while 32.5 percent said it was the skewed exchange rate. Twenty-nine percent said they were looking for better career advancement opportunities. They, however, suffer discrimination and are often relegated to third class citizenship. Juvenile delinquency has also increased among children of parents living abroad who now lack guidance. Coupled with this are marriage breakdowns among those living separately for their spouses. "It is also feared that a high increase in the spread of HIV/Aids will occur when husband and wife re-unite after a long absence from each other," the report said. Zimbabwe had to employ Cuban doctors who are paid in foreign currency.

The study warned against setting up legal barriers to the emigration of educated professionals saying it would only encourage illegal emigration. "Enacting necessary reforms that make staying at home attractive and rewarding for educated Zimbabweans can arrest the brain drain problem. There is no alternative to this problem if the brain drain is to be arrested," it said. There is also need to win back the confidence of the large community of Zimbabweans in the diaspora, particularly after failing to participate in the disputed March 2003 Presidential election. "They felt abandoned when no clear provision was made for them to vote during the March 2002 presidential election. They want to be counted among Zimbabwe loyalist who work for the good of their motherland," the study noted. Zimbabwe can also develop skills export and import policy that promotes and provides the framework for the training of human resources in Zimbabwe for the labour markets for both target countries and Zimbabwe. Both the private and public sectors have a role to play in formulating national policies to utilise skills and other resources of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora for the development of the country. The parallel market has to be eliminated by establishing a sustainable effective exchange rate. United States has introduced special visas (HB-1 visa) and higher salaries to attract African professionals and is earning about US$100 000 a year from each visa holder. It is however, estimated that an overseas worker on average can remit home over US$500 per month. Zimbabwe can therefore, benefit a minimum of US$18 billion a month If 25 percent of each individual salary is remitted into the economy.

Impact of brain drain on Zimbabwe (The Zimbabwe Independent, 18/07) - The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Herbert Murerwa has blamed the ongoing brain drain in government for the continuous failure to implement various policies timely. "There are delays in project implementation and we are the first to admit this," Murerwa told business executives gathered for the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) workshop on project financial management on Tuesday. The workshop was attended by more than 200 project directors and finance managers of ACBF-supported projects in Anglophone Africa. "Zimbabwe is faced with implementation problems because there is a huge and serious staff turnover in government at the present moment," Murerwa said. Zimbabweans are resigning from the civil service to venture abroad to countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa and Australia. These nations have stronger currencies when compared to the Zimbabwe dollar now said to be worth only two cents its 1995 level due to hyperinflation. The currency continues to depreciate weekly, sending black market rates soaring in cities and towns. Murerwa said because of the staff turnover, projects remained incomplete, riling donors. He said this could be a major reason why some donors had developed a negative attitude towards funding projects in Zimbabwe because there were no follow-ups. "In Zimbabwe there is a mixed response to implementation of projects," Murerwa said. "There are delays in enforcing agreements and long discussions on the clarity of some grant conditions. The planning and monitoring staff are constantly changing jobs leading to confusion because the Finance ministry, which implements these decisions, receives incomplete documentation. Sometimes documents just go missing."  He said the Zimbabwean civil service was "very mobile" because of its good educational qualifications. "There is sometimes oversight on planning stages and delays in entry into force of agreements. These appear to be emanating from failure to effectively discuss clarity." The minister said there was also inadequate planning and managerial capacity in government as well as weak coordination where project implementation responsibilities were charged with officials. In his remarks the ACBF executive secretary Soumana Sako had delegates in stitches when he took a swipe at Africa's politicians, saying they were "bad financial planners because they only plan for elections". "Even if you tell them that you need finance that will make your country the greatest in the world, politicians won't care unless the money will help their election campaign," he said. In Zimbabwe, the ACBF extends financial support to the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit within the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the National Economic Consultative Forum and the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa. The main objective of the workshop was to enhance the performance of ACBF-supported projects and programmes through sharing of information on lessons, practices and procedures on project implementation and management.

Exodus of lecturers throws UZ into crisis (The Daily News, 21/07) - An exodus of lecturers over the past few years is threatening to cripple teaching at the country's biggest higher learning institution, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the Daily News established yesterday. Hardest hit by the shortage of teachers were the faculties of medicine, arts, law, social studies, science, agriculture and engineering, with teachers said to have left for higher paying jobs in the private sector or at foreign universities in Britain, New Zealand and Canada. Some of the faculties have already suspended several courses because there are no lecturers to teach students. Association of University Teachers (AUT) secretary-general James Mahlaule said: "The UZ operates with a maximum of about 1 400 lecturers but right now we have less than 50 percent of lecturers remaining. "The situation is pathetic, people are resigning in their numbers. Some are going overseas while others have joined industry. Most courses now have part-time lecturers." Mahlaule said the AUT was planning to meet Higher and Tertiary Education Ministry officials to make proposals on how conditions at state universities could be improved in order to retain staff at these institutions. He did not say when the meeting would take place. The AUT official said: "Right now, we are meeting in Gweru as AUT members from all state universities. We want to come up with a position on our conditions of service and salaries. "We will make our recommendations to the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education because we feel there are a lot of issues that lecturers want addressed as a matter of urgency." Years of underfunding and in some cases mismanagement have seen conditions for teachers and students at the UZ plummet. Lecturers have in the past staged work stoppages to press for improved working conditions and higher salaries, while student riots for better learning conditions have almost become routine at the UZ. "This is no longer a secret that we have a crisis waiting to explode. The very few men and women who are here are just waiting for their chance to leave like everyone else," said one lecturer, who spoke on condition he was not named.

Opposition parties in emigration scam (The Chronicle, 25/07) - Close to half a million Zimbabwean professionals through the assistance of opposition parties have emigrated to overseas and neighbouring countries, where some of them have taken up menial jobs, Chronicle learnt yesterday. A United Nations Development Programme funded study undertaken by the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC) revealed that 479 348 skilled Zimbabweans were now working outside the country. Some opposition parties notably MDC and the dormant Liberty Party of Zimbabwe have in the past two years helped locals emigrate to countries such as United Kingdom, United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on claims that they were facing political repression in the country. SIRDC was contracted by the National Consultative Forum to measure the rate and level of the ‘brain drain’. The majority hold university degrees while 20 percent of them are masters degree holders. Hardesthit are the health care and the education sectors, as Zimbabwean trained professionals in those sectors are in demand the world over. It was also established that over the past four years the brain drain escalated to alarming levels.  The study team said it was aware that there were some ‘diasporants’ it failed to contact due to a number of reasons, indicating that the figure might be even much higher. Most Zimbabweans who had left the country since 1990 are in the United Kingdom (36.8 percent), Botswana (34.5 percent) and South Africa (4.6 percent). The researchers felt that the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa accounted for by the study was’ a gross misrepresantion of locals in that country as the majority of who were illegal immigrants.’ “As illegal immigrants they have no defined places of abode, constantly on the run from law enforcement agents so we were not able to interview them so as to include them in our catchment,” said researchers. “During a visit to South Africa, the report’s authors also found out that a lot of Zimbabweans in the diaspora have changed their citizenship thus could not find an appropriate manner of handling the case of Zimbabweans in South Africa. Many Zimbabweans readily mix with South Africans because of the similarity of their last names.”

“Our view backed by data from this study is that there are probably more Zimbabweans in South Africa than in the UK.” A number of countries including the United Kingdom have imposed stringent visa requirements on Zimbabweans following an influx of locals into those countries in search of jobs. “An examination of the professions of those who are leaving shows that a sizeable proportion of them are doctors, teachers and nurses,” the report said. “Infact, the health care sector is the most affected.’ In some countries such as South Africa and Botswana the upsurge in the number of Zimbabwean immigrants has fueled xenophobic sentiments towards locals. Botswana deported 26 717 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe last year alone and on Tuesday immigration and police officials in that country said they were overwhelmed by the number of Zimbabweans entering that country illegally. Some Zimbabweans have also lost millions of dollars to bogus travel agencies who charge them fees on the pretext that they would facilitate their entry into overseas countries. In another worrying development, the study revealed that the poor performance of the national economy had resulted in what the authors termed “the internal brain drain’ as by professionals have resorted to running small businesses to make a ‘quick buck’ “The deteriorating economy in Zimbabwe has forced some lecturers, medical doctors and scientists to operate minibuses and operate beer parlours,” the report said. “It is a form of internal brain drain to architects, accountants and pharmacists underemployed.”

Impact of brain drain on health sector (Irin, 31/07) - Zimbabwe's main public hospital, Harare central, does not inspire confidence. Its shabby exterior is dotted with broken windows and leaking pipes. The wards themselves are little better, epitomising the decline of this country's once proud health system. Outside visiting hours the relatives of the patients wander the grounds. Many spend all day at the hospital, simply because they cannot afford the bus fare to make more than one journey. Chido Rugare is typical of those whiling away the time before she can again visit her sick daughter, Maria, in the ward. A round-trip bus ride from her home in the high-density suburb of Mufakose is far too expensive, so each day she walks the 17 km to be with her daughter. Maria has meningitis and can no longer look after herself unassisted. "Every day I have to prepare food from home and come and feed my daughter. I also have to bath her, since she can longer do that on her own," said Rugare. What she also cannot do is afford the Zim $257,000 (US $313) worth of drugs prescribed by the doctors. Zimbabwe has entered its fifth successive year of economic decline, which has whittled away the ability of households to make ends meet. The country faces critical shortages of foreign exchange, inflation has reached 364 percent and is forecast to hit over 500 percent by the end of the year. Five million Zimbabweans, more than half of the population, are in need of food aid. Even if Rugare could afford the drugs her daughter needs, there is no guarantee they would be available in the poorly-stocked hospital pharmacy. Harare central is where the city's poor, who cannot afford health insurance, are forced to come. Within its morale-sapping walls, there seems to be more dying than curing. The high death rate is linked in part to AIDS. Recent estimates indicate that around 34 percent of Zimbabwe's 15 to 40 age group is HIV-positive, and more than 2,500 people die every week of AIDS-related causes. Poverty and poor nutrition accelerate the process. "Most of our beds are occupied by people suffering from AIDS. In the children's wards there are children who are suffering from kwashiorkor," said a senior matron who asked not to be named. She noted that most of the children with kwashiorkor are from Mbare and Epworth, the poorest suburbs of the capital.

The morgue at Harare central receives the daily toll of the dead. It is overflowing and the stench is inescapable. "The refrigerators sometimes do not work and they also have no capacity to keep the bodies well," said an attendant who declined to be identified. "We no longer go inside there. If you bring your relative you have to find somewhere to put them yourself, or we will charge you if you want us to do that," he added, leaning on the wall outside the morgue as he ate his lunch. The morgue is also a place of business for a number of undertakers who hang around waiting for clients. When relatives come to claim the body of their deceased, they are immediately propositioned with offers of cheap coffins, body dressings and transport. Harare central, like most other health institutions in the country, is in dire need of medicines, equipment and medical supplies. In addition, there is a serious shortage of professional staff, from nurses and doctors to pharmacists. Nurses at the hospital complain that their working conditions are deteriorating. Apart from salary disputes causing walk-outs, the nurses say they are fed up with seeing their patients die as a result of the shortages. "Almost on daily basis we lose at least three babies in our ward," said nurse Maude Chitambo. "Sometimes we work without gloves, sometimes there are no drugs for patients and food is rationed. When we see patients dying, this affects us as well. "Most of the time there is only one qualified nurse for each ward and the rest will be students. When we face emergencies, students sometimes have to take over duties normally done by qualified staff," she explained. Almost half the nurses trained in Zimbabwe are lost annually to better paying jobs in South Africa, Britain, Australia and the United States. Harare central and Parirenyatwa, the country's two biggest hospitals, share a single neurologist and other specialised staff. The problems at the health institution seem to affect all departments. In the laundry room, the steam cleaners had not been working for a week. "The laundry is just piling and now relatives have been asked to bring clothes from home," a matron said. Heaps of rubbish mount up around the hospital. To cut costs, the hospital retrenched a number of cleaning staff and hired a private company, but the company's workers often strike. Last month junior doctors were again on a work stoppage. Their demand, like the nurses', was that their conditions must be improved. Zimbabwe's parliament has acknowledged the impact of staff shortages on the country's health centres. But Health Minister David Parirenyatwa has argued that the country's economic crisis makes it difficult for the government to invest in health. He concedes that the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future, and the haemorrhage of skilled staff abroad will continue.

August 2003

Lecturer exodus threatens universities with collapse (The Daily News, 07/08) - I read with interest the story about the exodus of lecturers from the faculty of medicine at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). Let me say that the medical faculty is just one typical example as the situation is the same in other departments like mathematics, physics, chemistry and pharmacy, to mention just a few. In the department of mathematics at the UZ, about nine lecturers had left by 1 July 2003 with the majority of them having left by 1 January 2003. That figure does not include the graduate research assistants who also left, abandoning their studies for greener pastures in the United States, South Africa or our very own private sector, where they are working as actuarial trainees. As I write, one of my colleagues has just left Zimbabwe in the past 24 hours for a similar post in South Africa. Those lecturers who are still in Zimbabwe are here because of these various reasons:
-they are still processing their visas or passports;
- they are busy looking for alternative employment elsewhere in or outside the South African Development Community; and
- some lecturers have business interests in the country and don’t see any need to relocate for purposes of getting better remuneration.
If the Ministry of Higher Education does not act now, then there is a possibility that some departments may close down by January 2004. Most of the vacant posts created by this mass exodus cannot be filled by Zimbabweans due to the scarcity of academics who meet the minimum qualifications. The foreigners too cannot fill the vacant posts due to our poor economy and the poor salaries that lecturers are paid. This means that most universities are now operating with skeletal staff, which results in overworking the lecturers. For instance, in the area of statistics, I don’t know any academic remaining in the country today with a PhD in statistics. I am challenging anyone in Zimbabwe with such a qualification and practising as an academic to respond to this letter. In most cases when posts are advertised in the Press, there are two scenarios: the first one being that there will usually be no respondent for the advertised posts, and the second scenario is that all the applicants won’t meet the minimum requirements for the job. Surely, the government should do something now before the state universities collapse completely.
K Mutangi, Department of Mathematics, Bindura University of Science Education

Skills lost in "internal" brain drain (Irin, 13/08) - Chamunorwa Chirova is a new type of Zimbabwean entrepreneur - he makes his money by illegally selling fuel on the thriving black market. It was not a job he anticipated when he graduated eight years ago with an engineering degree from the University of Zimbabwe. Until two years ago he was working at a beverage firm, struggling along in the depressed formal economy, when the economic crisis and rising cost of living made him reassess his future. "The salaries were so small, and we were working shifts as a result of reduced production. This meant our salaries were sometimes cut," explained 35-year-old Chamunorwa. In the meantime, government price controls on basic commodities had created a booming black market. He decided to resign and take his chances there. Now he supports his two children by selling fuel illegally on the street to desperate motorists, on behalf of dealers who have licences from the authorities to import the scarce commodity, while keeping an alert eye on the police. They are trying to stamp out the black market as it diverts fuel from the official outlets, where it is more than three times cheaper than the street price of Zim $1,500 (US $1.80) a litre, but seldom available. The fuel shortage resulting from the government's crippling lack of foreign exchange has kept Chamunorwa in business. Despite the risks, he has been able to buy an old pickup truck with his earnings. "It's better than nothing, and I almost earn five times what my colleagues I left at that firm do," he said. Tabeth Zuze, 25, made a similar decision to try her hand in the parallel market. She graduated from teachers' training college in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo only last year, but did not relish the idea of working in the rural areas, living in a one-roomed house with no transport, no clean water - and worse - no teaching aids, including even chalk.

She now owns two flea market stalls in Harare's city centre, selling plasticware and china imported from South Africa. "I earn enough to pay rent and buy food. I can [turn over] up to Zim $200,000 [US $244] a month," she said. Teachers in Zimbabwe earn an average of Zim $150,000 (US $183). A recent report by the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre has shown that nearly 500,000 Zimbabwean professionals have left the country since 1990 in search of better opportunities overseas. But an internal movement of skilled Zimbabweans is also under way, robbing the country of much-needed capacity, and shrinking the government's tax revenue base. Both Chirova and Zuze represent the phenomenon of the "internal brain drain" - trained professionals who have remained in the country but chosen not to utilise their skills in formal careers. The impact is felt throughout the professions. One lawyer told IRIN that his firm lost two junior lawyers this year alone. "The guys are now cross-border traders, selling sugar, cooking oil and clothes to Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. They say they earn at least US $5,000 every month," he explained. The average salary for a junior lawyer is Zim $450,000 (US $549). Social worker Michael Phiri said Zimbabwe's formal sector is increasingly understaffed as professionals seek opportunities elsewhere. In many rural communities where he has worked, clinics were manned by orderlies because nurses drifted to urban areas to look for alternative jobs, or joined the legion of Zimbabwean health care workers employed abroad, typically in Britain or South Africa. "Education is no longer a guarantee of employment, nor a good salary, as the economy is now more and more informal," Phiri said. Chivora and Zuze deliberately opted out of formal employment. But for most Zimbabweans, the country's shrinking economy has left them with little other choice. Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is estimated at 75 percent and is expected to reach 90 percent by the end of 2003. According to George Making, a human resources consultant, 400 companies closed in 2002 alone, leaving at least 350,000 people jobless. Estimates put the number of formal jobs lost at over 800,000 since 2000, employment agent Tapiwa Chikudo told IRIN. The losses were mainly in the agriculture, construction and manufacturing industries. In addition, over 250,000 school leavers join the job market every year. One independent researcher believes Zimbabwe's decline has been so severe that the economy would need to grow by an unprecedented 25 percent over five years to achieve a reasonable recovery. "For Zimbabwe to recover to levels where it can generate sufficient jobs and wealth to ensure the repayment of loans on one hand, whilst allowing a significant improvement in the conditions of life for a poverty stricken and AIDS-ravaged population, the economy must sustain a minimum of a 25 percent economic growth rate over a space of not less than five years," said the researcher with the NGO, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development.

Brain drain hits Zimbabwe's health service (Mail & Guardian, 23/08) - Shepherd Mhofu is disgusted. Recently qualified as a doctor, he is doing his residency at Harare's Parirenyatwa hospital. “I have to perform D and Cs [womb scrapes] on women without anaesthetic. I must tell families of critically ill patients that they must buy intravenous drips and medicines. We must perform surgery without gloves," said Mhofu (26) inhaling deeply from a cigarette. "I see patients suffering and dying needlessly because we are working in an unprofessional environment. The medical school should have trained us to work in medical conditions from 200 years ago." Mhofu said he is not paid enough to feed his family, let alone buy a car. "We are paid so little that all of us in the medical profession think about going overseas," he said. "I don't want to go, but I want to work in modern conditions. I want to be paid enough to support my family. That means I must go to Britain, or maybe Australia." Zimbabwe's brain drain has hit the medical profession particularly hard. More than 80% of doctors, nurses and therapists who graduated from the University of Zimbabwe medical school since independence in 1980 have gone to work abroad, primarily in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, according to recent surveys. The exodus has badly affected the country's crumbling health system. The country has fewer than half the 1 500 doctors needed to staff government hospitals adequately. The University of Zimbabwe is operating with less than 50% of its lecturers. The medical school is so badly affected that the annual intake of new stu dents has been reduced from 120 to 70. "Even that is not helping," said one lecturer. "My department has dropped from 12 lecturers to three. The standards of teaching are dropping too."

President Robert Mugabe has accused Britain of "stealing" doctors and nurses from Zimbabwe. "We have created the environment that allows the upliftment of nurses. That's why even Britain comes in the dead of night to steal our people. They are recruiting pharmacists, doctors and nurses," he said last year. But Zimbabwean doctors dispute Mugabe's assessment. "We are not being stolen," said a bitter Mhofu. "We are seeking better pay and better standards. No one can blame us for that. The government would rather spend money on the army and on riot-control vehicles and on new Mercedes-Benz. If some of that money were spent on the health system and our salaries, then we could stay here." Harare paediatrician Greg Powell, chairperson of the Child Protection Society, complains the brain drain includes social workers. "Britain is actively recruiting our social workers to the point where our department of social welfare is about to collapse," said Powell."This means our treatment of Aids orphans is breaking down. We are seeing professional recruitment of our social workers by British agencies. They are offered salaries 20 times greater than what they get here. The result is we have 20 children ready to go to foster homes and it is delayed because there are no social workers to do the reports. British recruiters are directly responsible for that. They are pillaging our human resources."

September 2003

Nursing school hit by shortages (Chronicle, 01/09) - Kwekwe General Hospital's School of Nursing is faced with an acute shortage of facilities after increasing its enrolment fivefold, the acting medical superintendent, Dr Edmore Munongo, said yesterday. Speaking at a graduation ceremony of 87 student nurses, he said the school had increased its intake to 150 student nurses a year without a corresponding expansion of facilities. "From the beginning of the training six years ago, we started with a compliment of 30 students. These were later increased to 120 and now we are taking 150 students a year. However, this increase has not been matched by an expansion of facilities. The same classroom block, which was meant for 30 students, is supposed to cater for 150 students," he said. He said despite the resource shortage, the graduates were trained by a team of highly qualified and intelligent tutors that they could work in any hospital under any circumstances. Dr Munongo appealed to the new nurses to serve Zimbabwe and not join the trek to other countries where they will be treated as secondclass citizens. "Zimbabwe has become a training ground for countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and our neighbours. Please give some service to Zimbabwe before you go to the UK to become 2nd class citizens. Zimbabwe is the only country where you can become a 1 st class citizen. It is the only country you can call yours," he said. The Midlands provincial governor, Cde Cephas Msipa, who said a nurse should not be motivated by the desire to make money alone, echoed his sentiments. He said Zimbabwe needed the services of nurses more than the United Kingdom. "It is true that you do not live on bread alone but there are other things to consider. There is something known as national service and that is more than money," he said. Cde Msipa said the new nurses should be bound by their international nurses pledge to alleviate the suffering of people in Zimbabwe. He said the government was committed to improving the health sector because it was crucial to the overall development of the country. The guest of honour at the graduation, Dr Kudakwashe Mapanga, the acting chairman of the Department of Nursing Science at the College of Health Sciences, said the nursing profession was developing In me country. He said the profession was now autonomous and had the ability to discipline and control activities of its members. Or Mapanga said choosing a career, as a nurse should be motivated by the desire to serve the public and reflect a long term commitment. "An individual professional nurse is accountable to himself or herself, the public and the profession for the nursing practice he or she provides," he said. The tutor in charge at the school, Mrs Annah Mnkandla said the school needed at least one more classroom block. She said that due to a shortage of hostel accommodation, most student nurses were living outside the campus where they had to pay high rentals and transport fees.

More than 200 nurses graduate (The Herald, 09/09) - More than 200 nurses from Parirenya-twa Group of Hospitals graduated in Harare at the weekend. Of the 200, 178 were basic graduate nurses and 40 post-basic graduates. Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the acting Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University in Africa, Dr Hope Sadza, urged the graduates to be patriotic. She said leaving the country was no solution to the problems that were facing the country. "I urge the nursing profession to continue its societal mandate to enhance development of Zimbabwe, despite the constraints nursing is facing like financial, manpower, other material resources and gender insensitivity," said Dr Sadza. Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa affected by the brain drain, with health professionals topping the list of those leaving the country. The chief executive officer of Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Mr Thomas Zigora, said there was need to invest more in training programmes for nurses if the constraints of deteriorating nurse-patient ratio and manpower shortages were to be solved. "What is even more disheartening is the rate at which the so-called developed countries, with seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal, continue to deplete the manning levels in public sector hospitals," he said. Dr Sadza said the nursing profession was more important these days than ever before because of the ravaging HIV/Aids that has taken its toll on the population. "The importance of the nursing profession is more appreciated now with the HIV/Aids pandemic in our midst, which has brought the concept of home-based care a reality to most of us," said Dr Sadza. In addition to producing the registered general nurse, the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ School of Nursing also offers post-basic courses in diploma in community nursing, diploma in nursing administration, the nurse anaesthetist diploma and the theatre nursing diploma.

October 2003

Brain drain hits city health system (The Herald, 03/10) - Maria Matutu (28) with baby strapped on her back stands hopeless and confused in a queue at a clinic in Mabvuku, one of the poorest suburbs in the capital, Harare. She woke up as early as 5am just to beat the long queues at this clinic, where poor patients who cannot afford to go to up-market clinics and hospitals that are dotted in the Avenues area, cram the corridors and tiny rooms of the council clinics. Despair is written all over her face as she waits first, in the queue outside the clinic and later if she is fortunate enough, will queue in another close to the only senior nurse who is interviewing patients on this day. To assist her are two student nurses attending to the patients with the assistance of Red Cross aids and clinic janitors. Inside the packed clinic a nurse, obviously tired already and feeling overwhelmed, paces up and down, restless and asks loudly each patient sitting in a line on a broken bench what his or her problem is. "What is wrong with your child?" asks the nurse. "No, no, we are not attending to minor ailments. Your child has diarrhoea. Go home and mix sugar and salt, there are no drugs," she says. She has not time to waste and shouts: "Next, what is the problem with your kid?" An unsure mother replies: "My son has flu and is coughing. He didn't sleep well last night. He was having problems when breathing." "Amai," shouts the nurse in the local Shona language. "Go and buy cough syrup at the pharmacy." And that is that. Struck by the cold words of the nurse, a poor grim faced mother goes out shaking her head. Scenes like this play out each day around city clinics dotted around the capital's residential areas underscoring the desperate health and social woes of life in the city. "The situation at city clinics is now hopeless," says Matutu swinging backwards and forth to hush her crying baby. "At times there are no drugs or nurses. "We are just told to go home and we have to try another day. Times are hard and we can't afford to go to the Avenues," she says. "Nurses say they are attending to serious cases only and nothing more." "We come here to mitigate diseases but I understand the situation we are going through and we can't blame the nurses for that," she says.

The state of city health clinics is appalling. City clinics from Mabvuku, Tafara to Mufakose, Budiriro, Highfield and Mbare are in a bad state. The clinics have not had a lick of paint for years, floor tiles are peeling off and the shabby exterior is dotted with broken windows and leaking pipes. At some clinics, ceilings are curving inwards and no repairs have been undertaken at the city clinics for some time now. Refrigerators and other essential medical equipment are no longer operational due to lack of funds. "The situation here is very desperate," says a nurse at one city clinic. "All the experienced nurses have gone. There are only two of us and we can't cope with huge numbers of patients streaming in from this sprawling suburb." She says the supply of drugs remains critical apart from the shortage of essential medical kits like gloves, cotton wool, detergents, syringes and many others. "Everyone is just fed up," says the nurse. "I'm just working to get experience before I go elsewhere where conditions are better." There is no guarantee that the poor will get drugs in the poorly stocked city health clinics which many of the city's poor go to. When they are "lucky" they get a dose of low cost painkillers and anti-biotics. In sharp contrast, some city clinics in the low density suburbs of Highlands, Greendale, Borrowdale and Eastlea are less congested and are coping in delivering services mostly for domestic workers, security guards and other poor people living close to these clinics. The fortunate few who stay in these areas often go to well-equipped and staffed private clinics and hospitals in the Avenues area. A shortage of doctors and nurses, along with equipment breakdowns and lack of essential drugs are several of many the problems plaguing the city health system. Doctors and nurses have in the past gone on strike for days adding to the woes of a struggling health care system. The health professionals say their pay has failed to keep pace with inflation, currently at more than 430 percent. Zimbabwe's doctors and nurses are well trained but the situation at home has left them with no option but to seek jobs in other countries where the pay is better. Most city clinics are now run by inexperienced nurses with the support of students and Red Cross health aids and other assistants. Brain drain has hit Zimbabwe's fragile health care services and more than 80 percent of doctors, nurses and therapists have gone abroad to Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US and to neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana. This has decimated a once-envied health care system, which two decades ago, saw the World Health Organisation naming Zimbabwe as the best health service provider because of its efficient health delivery system. The Government then, upgraded 550 health centres and built 321 new ones across the country. But the adoption of economic reforms in 1991 resulted in the removal of subsidies to all social sectors including the city health system. A shortage of foreign currency to procure drugs and essential medical equipment, runaway inflation, the flight of trained health practitioners and sanctions have affected the country's health delivery system. The City Health Services department could not readily comment on the matter nor give an insight into the overall state of clinics. And until there is adequate funding for city health clinic, the strain of standing in queues will continue to haunt the poor who can't afford to seek treatment at private health centres.

Nurse-training to improve health delivery system (Chronicle, 16/10) - The increase in the number of nurses who are being trained countrywide is set to improve the health delivery system which has been severely affected by the brain drain, an official said yesterday. The training posts for general nurses were increased by about 70 percent since January while the training of primary care nurses launched last Thursday is expected to produce 2 500 nurses in the next four years. Speaking during the graduation of 170 nurses and midwives from Mpilo Central Hospital on Friday, the Chief Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Ms Cynthia Chasokela said the training of nurses and midwives was one of the ministry's objectives that remains a national level responsibility. Primary care nurses are being trained in various district hospitals in the country. She said human resources development plays an important part in the delivery of comprehensive quality health care services. "In recent years, there has been an intensification of the global nurse migration phenomena. The exodus of experienced nurses from Zimbabwe has brought challenges to the health sector," she said. Ms Chasokela said other factors that have contributed to the reduced number of nurses in the public sector are job openings in the private and corporate sector, limited material resources and an increased demand for nursing and midwifery care. She said in response to these challenges, the ministry had remained committed to its obligations of accessing services to all citizens. "The strategic plans of expanding health training programmes namely pharmacy technicians, dental therapists, technicians and nurses among others are now being implemented," said Ms Chasokela. She said in addition, the training of primary cares nurses would go a long way in alleviating staff shortages especially in the rural areas. Like all trainees in the ministry, the primary care nurses would be bonded. "Let me assure you that bonding has advantages to both parties, for the graduands you are assured of a job while the Government is assured of quality health care. Speaking at the same occasion, Mpilo Central Hospital Medical Superintendent, Or Juliet OubeNdebele urged the nurses to remain committed to their duties as they were during their studies for the good of the health delivery system. "I know we have produced fully trained cadres not half baked cookies and we are therefore expecting you to continue working hard and to give the patients all your maximum support," she said.

Zimbabwe faces brain drain (Sunday Times, 19/10) - Grannies have been roped in to shore up Zimbabwe's terminally ill healthcare services. As the country's healthcare system edges towards collapse, due to chronic shortages of key medical staff and resources, the government is hiring retired nurses to rescue the situation. Nurses as old as 75 (retirement age for medical personnel is 65) have been called in to fill thousands of posts at dilapidated public healthcare centres. These have been left vacant by colleagues who have emigrated to other countries. About half of the country's 20 000 registered nurses and 2 000 doctors have left the country. This means there is one nurse for every 600 people and one doctor for every 12 000 people. The brain drain has intensified along with Zimbabwe's economic crisis. A recent study revealed that the country had lost more than 500 000 professionals over the past few years. President Robert Mugabe has accused Britain of "stealing" doctors and nurses from Zimbabwe. "Britain comes in the dead of night to steal our people," he said recently. "They are recruiting pharmacists, doctors and nurses." But Dr Howard Mutsando, chairman of the Hospital Doctors' Association, has said that medical staff are going abroad "to earn enough money to live on". Low salaries, poor working conditions and the economic crisis were chasing nurses and other medical professionals away. Nurses earn a gross salary of Z138 000 (about R200) a month, while junior doctors get Z300 000 (R600). Working conditions in hospitals are terrible as there are no essential drugs and equipment due to a chronic lack of foreign currency. The government has also hired medical practitioners from Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo to fill vacant posts. At least 170 Cuban doctors have so far been employed. The expatriate and formerly retired medical staff are complemented by nurses trained in elementary health care. But the crisis remains. A spokesman for the Zimbabwe Nurses Association said retired nurses were being hired "to prevent a catastrophe". The spokesman said: "It's true that retired nurses are being called back to rescue the situation. "Government hospitals are terribly short-staffed and they can't cope. Things are so bad that hospitals have now become places where people go to die." Zimbabwe Medical Association president Dr Billy Rigava said the healthcare crisis was due to the exodus of medical practitioners and a lack of drugs. "The situation is very bad. The healthcare system has been hard hit by the economic crisis," Rigava said. "The private sector is the one that is holding [down the] fort. Otherwise, we would be having a real catastrophe."

Impact of doctors strike and brain drain (The Financial Gazette, 30/10) - Commentators this week said industrial disturbances in the health delivery sector which has since lost a raft of key personnel that left for pastures anew and facing a critical shortages of essential drugs, and equipment caused by the non-availability of foreign currency, could effectively derail efforts to breathe life into the system. Junior and middle level doctors went on strike — the fourth this year — last week demanding hefty salary increases of up to $30 million per month. Health Minister David Parirenyatwa dismissed them at the weekend as "black market salaries" that the government could not afford. Nurses, who have similar grievances about remuneration and poor working conditions, this week joined the strike and effectively paralysed the country’s public health system in what analysts said could be the last straw on Zimbabwe’s decrepit health sector. "We fully appreciate and it is in our conscience that we are guided by ethics in our profession, but everyone has a breaking point. If one cannot fend for themselves, how can they professionally consider another person’s well-being?" This is what Hospital Doctors’ Association (HDA) president Phibion Manyanga had to say as doctors and nurses took a decision to forsake the Hippocratic oath they took when they joined the medical profession, to go on strike for the umpteenth time within the past decade. The medical workers who were held in high esteem as trend-setters in social standards in the 1980s have over the past decade haplessly watched their status eroded to leave them in no better position than semi-skilled workers toiling in the industries to survive from hand-to-mouth. Since 1990, doctors and nurses have had several strikes, the most notable one in 1996, which went for a record 49 days resulting in wholesale dismissals and en-masse resignations, a severe blow that the country has not been able to recover to this day.

Social analyst Alois Masepe said unless the government can move in to find holistic solutions to the problems bedevilling the whole economy, it would be very difficult for it to find solutions to recurrent strikes by the country’s medical staff. "We all know that the government cannot afford to pay the doctors the $30 million they are demanding, but a solution has to be found to keep them," Masepe said. "We should know that these people are very marketable . . . they are in high demand so we should pay the price." "The medical workers have a case which is legitimate and understandable," said local economic analyst Lovemore Kadenge. "It is only a question of quantum that is debatable because we all know that the government cannot afford to meet what they are demanding." Kadenge said although remuneration and working conditions were generally poor within the rest of the civil service, it was important to appreciate the fact that doctors and other health workers were in a specialist group that needed special attention to retain them. This, he said, was because the country cannot afford to continue losing them to other countries in the backdrop of the HIV/Aids pandemic, which is threatening to wipe away an entire generation. The analysts said the challenges posed by AIDS and compounded by growing poverty made an efficient public health system more important that ever before. "With the growing poverty in the country, it is very important that the public health system does not collapse because very few families can now afford seeking medical attention from private practitioners," Kadenge said. Zimbabwe, with close to 4 000 deaths per week, is billed as one of the countries with the highest HIV infections in the world, but has in the past years continued to lose key medical personnel to neighbouring and overseas countries as they flee from searing poverty at home. Most of the nurses and doctors are heading for neighbouring countries like South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, while others are going as far as the United Kingdom and United States. A United Nations Development Programme-funded study released this year estimates that doctors, nurses and pharmacists constitute about 25 percent of the 500 000 Zimbabweans in the diaspora. "The country has become uninhabitable so that is why they are leaving. It is a very difficult decision to leave one’s own country but at times circumstances will force you to do it," Masepe said. The country has just about 800 doctors, way below the required number of about 2 200. In the face of increasing exodus of medical staff to other countries, the government has relied on its links with Communist Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring in expatriate medical staff, mainly doctors, to maintain a semblance of order at most of its hospitals. "It is not sustainable to continue bringing in expatriate doctors from other countries. There are problems like language and even experience so you will still need to have local locals," Kadenge said. The analysts said it was also important to appreciate that apart from poor remuneration, what is also fuelling the current exodus of medical personnel from the country are frustrations resulting from all-round shortages in hospitals, which make it difficult even for the most committed practitioner to deliver. Zimbabwean public hospitals are now synonymous with shortages of almost anything, from drugs, to syringes, to blood, to gloves and all other essentials due to swingeing budget cuts. The Ministry of Health is seeking a massive $555 billion in the 2004 budget, up from a budget of $122 billion it got this year, an amount, which it blew out in no time. Masepe, however, said the government should simultaneously address problems being faced by all other members of the public service such as teachers, lecturers and uniformed forces.

November 2003

Striking doctors quitting country (The Standard, 09/11) - Twelve junior and middle-level doctors from the major referral hospitals have resigned to protest against a Labour Court decision that ruled the doctors' strike illegal, as it emerged that scores of their defiant colleagues were now contemplating quitting the country altogether. Phibion Manyanga, the President of the Hospital Doctors Association confirmed to The Standard yesterday that the doctors, unhappy with the court's decision, had decided to leave public service and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Labour Court Judge Lilian Hove on Wednesday ordered the striking doctors back to work saying they ignored established procedures to have their issues solved before resorting to the work stoppage. Under Zimbabwean law, it is illegal for doctors to go on strike because they are considered providers of an essential service. "What they are simply doing is postponing the problem. Some of the doctors have since resigned after the court ruling and we are expecting to have the number increasing by the end of this week," Manyanga said. "They are going where they think their services are appreciated," he said. What the doctors wanted, Manyanga said, was for their problems to be discussed at a negotiating table that would have all parties represented and not to have the matter taken to court. "It is disappointing that after two weeks of striking, no figure has been offered and my colleagues are saying that we can only go back to work after something tangible has been agreed. The court order only worsened the problem," he added. Manyanga said there was a possibility that the doctors could up their demands, considering the rising rate of inflation. "When we started this job action bread was costing $1 000 but now it's well above $2 500 ... we were also buying fuel at $2 000 and now its over $5 000 per litre," he said. "This only serves to show how inflation is rising and on that basis we can only bid upwards," said Manyanga. A visit by The Standard to Parirenyatwa Hospital over the weekend found only nurses attending to patients. Zimbabwean doctors, who claim that they are the least paid in southern Africa, earn between $380 000 and $540 000 a month.

Cuba expected to send more doctors (The Herald, 13/11) - Cuba is expected to send more health professionals in the country next year in addition to the 187 who have already been deployed at various hospitals. This is expected to ease the shortage of health professionals, especially in district hospitals in the country. In an interview, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr David Parirenyatwa said the health professionals were expected in the country early next year. He said a meeting aimed at strengthening Zimbabwe-Cuba relations in the medical services was held on Monday with a Cuban delegation that is in the country. "The meeting was an assurance of the continuation of collaboration between Cuba and Zimbabwe," said Dr Parirenyatwa. During the meeting, an agreement was reached to send more health professionals to Zimbabwe. The first batch of health professionals from Cuba arrived in February last year while more arrived in the country early this year. The Cuban health professionals include urologists, dentists, gynaecologists and paediatricians, pharmacists and radiographers. In June, the Democratic Republic of Congo sent 77 medical specialists to Zimbabwe and these were deployed to various hospitals in the country.

Public service commission to address brain drain (Zimbabwe Independent, 21/11) - Finance minister Herbert Murerwa yesterday said he was dishing out $3,18 trillion to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to appease disgruntled civil servants who are leaving the country in search of greener pastures overseas. In his 2004 budget presentation, Murerwa said government was worried about the current "brain drain". More than a million Zimbabweans have left the country for South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and other destinations where the economic situation is better. Professionals such as doctors and nurses, teachers, and pilots have left in search of foreign currency paying jobs in the diaspora. "The brain drain is worrying and skilled workers are leaving the country because of our high inflation," Murerwa said. "This has dislocated most of our services. I am therefore setting aside $3,18 trillion for wages and salaries." The country's hyperinflationary environment has resulted in skyrocketing prices for goods and services resulting in suffering for the population. Inflation has shot to 525,8% for October, up from 455,6% in September. Murerwa blamed inflation for virtually everything he touched on in his budget statement. "Mr Speaker Sir, the brain drain has become an important policy challenge both in government and the private sector," he said. "It is also pertinent to note that the country is not reaping dividends from the massive investment in human capital which the government made since Independence, as professionals and skilled workers emigrate to other countries in search of greener pastures. In addition, the high levels of inflation have seriously eroded civil service wages and frequent strikes, particularly in the health sector, have dislocated service delivery." He said he hoped the $3,18 trillion for the civil service would go a long way in alleviating the plight of the civil servants who have been accustomed to engaging in regular industrial action countrywide.

Zimbabwe professionals exodus (Angop, 28/11) - Zimbabwe is one of Africa`s hardest hit nations by an exodus of skilled professionals to other countries, particularly Europe, where better salaries and living conditions are presumed to be in abundance. A four-year consecutive economic slump, which continues to gather momentum, has been the catalyst for the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in virtually every profession. This has prompted every Zimbabwean with a marketable skill outside the nation`s borders, to contemplate leaving, to escape the unfolding poverty trap at home. The result has been the departure, in the last three years, of an estimated three million Zimbabweans to countries in the region, and others further afield, such as former colonial power Britain. Neighbouring South Africa, Africa`s foremost economic powerhouse, is thought to be home to at least two million Zimbabweans, made up of professionals and unskilled workers alike. These are attracted by a stable life, and a chance to earn a currency which, when converted on a thriving black market back home, brings an instant fortune. Botswana and Namibia have also been major destinations for Zimbabwean professionals, but are by far dwarfed by South Africa, which has taken in even hundreds of thousands border jumpers from its northern neighbour. Outside South Africa, Britain is the second biggest destination for Zimbabweans, and an estimated 300 000 to 500 000 are thought to have emigrated to the country in the last three years. Smaller numbers of professionals have gone to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, but the figures keep growing. Zimbabwe, with the highest literacy rate in Africa, has some of the best trained professionals on the continent, which has caught the attention of even employment recruitment agencies overseas. Worst hit by the exodus has been the health sector, which experts say had lost upto 10 000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc in the last three years. This has left Zimbabwe`s health delivery system, once one of Africa`s best, on its knees - rocked by under-funding and staffing, and now depended on imported labour from Cuba and DR Congo, among others, for survival. Short of bringing back the economy on its knees again, there appears to be no end in sight for the brain drain in Zimbabwe. The lure of instant riches, when convertible currencies are changed at the parallel market back home, have only added to the attraction of emigrating, making the phenomenal even harder to tackle. Statistics vary, but Zimbabweans in Britain alone are estimated to be remitting about 15 million Sterling Pounds are month, enough to fund the country`s entire annual health budget if the money is converted on the black market. That is the sort of buying power few, if any, of the emigrants would want to relinquish, at least as long as Zimbabwe is caught up in its present shaky economic web.

December 2003

The great exodus continues (The Standard, 14/12) - An armed police officer confidently struts on the broken-down pavement while he gazes at the reflection of his AK 47 on the long glass doors at the entrance of Harare’s Corner House Ñ the offices of the British High Commission to Zimbabwe. Three other equally armed police officers menacingly stand a distance away, their eyes hovering on hundreds of people who form a snaking queue waiting for the hard-to-get visas at the mission. Among the scores of people is Nomore Gore, an unemployed but qualified telecommunications technician. “I have been there before, we (Zimbabweans) have taken over London like our own country,” Gore says. “You have university graduates like myself who have failed to get employment at home relocating there because we have no choice,” he says. “The bad politics and economic meltdown here is the reason why many of us are going these far-flung places even though we love our Zimbabwe,” he says while jostling for a vantage position in the winding queue. Gore says despite the stringent British visa requirements and a steep rise in airfares, the UK remains one of the most favoured destinations for Zimbabweans seeking relief from economic hardships at home. This is evident by the increasing number of people visiting the British High Commission in search of visas in the past fortnight. At some point, the mission reportedly asked the riot police to contain the situation after an increasing flood of Zimbabweans seeking visas besieged its offices, some sleeping on the pavement outside. Though an official comment from the British High Commission could not be obtained, it was clear the recent wave of visa seekers was unprecedented, taking into consideration the high visa fees required. Scores of people mill around the offices each working day these days. A few days ago, before security was stepped up, many would even sleep at the office’s entrance. Such is the desperation of many Zimbabweans who want to flee from the country, once the envy of the region. Across town, at the South African High Commission offices, chaotic scenes of Zimbabweans desperate to get visas, are now a thing of the past, thanks to the introduction of restrictive visa requirements. The SA government last month imposed a new visa regime which requires Zimbabweans to show proof of 1 000 rands in the form of traveller’s cheques, in response to the growing numbers of people entering their country. “Since the new visa regime was introduced not too many people come here anymore,” said a security officer manning the premises. “One can simply come and apply for his visa in no time as long as he is armed with proof of the thousand rands,” he added. The new arrangement has however, adversely affected the business of middlemen, who were charging to facilitate the quick issuance of visas. One of them, a middle-aged man donning a well-worn shirt and faded jeans and standing a few hundred metres away from the South African High Commission’s offices, says before the new visa regime, his business was good.

“It’s true that there are not too many people coming here anymore. But I reckon if you go to Limpopo River you will see them,” he says, punctuating his remarks with a shrill call to advertise his business. But crossing the border into the “Promised Land” down south is risky business. The illegal Zimbabwean emigrants have to crawl through the wilderness that lies between the two neighbouring countries before they are halted by the rushing waters of the Limpopo, one of the largest rivers in Southern Africa. In the river are hippos and crocodiles that lie in ambush, waiting to topple rickety boats to get at their human cargo. If one is lucky to cross the river, there are still miles and miles of twisting barbed wire to transcend and worse, there is also the danger of being caught by patrolling South African National Defence Force soldiers who are ready to shoot any fleeing aliens. Jeremiah Ndou, the South African High Commissioner in Harare, says his country has however eased the rules governing Zimbabweans living on the border with South Africa. “We have devised special permits for Zimbabweans living in Beitbridge to be allowed to do shopping across the border in the northern border town of Musina and return home without having to travel to Harare for visas,” said Ndou. “We have also set up other functions for informal traders to be allowed into South Africa, without showing the 1 000 rand requirement, if they can convince the immigration officers that they will be able to raise such an amount for their upkeep “It is understood and felt by all that the foreign currency situation is severe that is why we have to map out strategies to halt the recession,” Ndou told The Standard in an interview recently.

Greener pastures create passport to corruption (Irin, 18/12) - Zimbabweans trying to leave the country in search of economic opportunities are having to deal with government officials whom they allege are turning their plight into profit, IRIN has learnt. Rising incidents of graft by public officials has coincided with Zimbabwe's worsening economic conditions, according to the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI). It ranked Zimbabwe as among the world's most corrupt countries in a report released in October. The organisation claimed corruption was rampant in both the private and public sectors, but said the perception among ordinary Zimbabweans was mostly that public office was being used for personal enrichment. The authorities dismissed TI's findings, accusing the group of partisanship. Zimbabwe's economic problems took a sharp turn for the worst when pro-government militants, led by veterans of the country's liberation war, began illegally invading white-owned farms in 2000. Investors and donors turned away from the country in protest at the lawlessness, resulting in the current acute shortages of foreign currency and fuel, and the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities. Almost 70 percent of the labour force is unemployed, and the inflation rate, now officially at 526 percent, is expected to reach 700 percent by the end of March 2004. Exactly how many Zimbabweans have emigrated over the past three years remains unclear, but the queues remain long outside the passport office in the capital, Harare. It is not uncommon for people to spend the night outside on the pavement, to ensure at least getting into the building the following day.The delays that characterise the application process have been complicated by corruption. Twenty-seven year old Anne Kamba told IRIN she had come to the passport offices for the past five days, but was finding it difficult to obtain an application form. "Senior authorities here tell us that application forms are there in abundance, but, surprisingly, when we ask for them from the relevant offices, we are told that they have run out," she explained. "What I have since discovered is that some officials are deliberately withholding the forms as a way of forcing us to buy them from them or their middlemen. They have formed syndicates with young men who loiter at the [entrance] gate and approach us, saying they have the forms. But where do these people think we will get the money from in these times of hardships?" According to Kamba the "middlemen" asked for Zim $200,000 (about US $250 at the official exchange rate of Zim $824 to the US dollar) for a passport application form, which they shared with passport control officials."In some cases, passport seekers do not even have to visit these offices. Everything - from the application to the collection of passports - is done for them while they are at home. These are the people who are prepared to pay large sums of money, which sometimes runs into millions of [Zimbabwean] dollars," she added.Kamba, a qualified primary school teacher with three years' experience, hopes to join her sister in the United Kingdom. She told IRIN that low wages and poor working conditions had made her decide to seek employment abroad. Zimbabwe is experiencing a debilitating flight of professional and skilled people escaping the country's economic meltdown, with the health and teaching professions most affected by the brain drain. Those unable to leave have turned to "moonlighting" as a way of supplementing their meagre incomes, while others have seen opportunity in the crisis and are turning it to their own advantage. Constable Stan Mapiye (not his real name), a security guard at the central passport office, is among a handful of individuals who have benefited - he manages to net almost Zim $80,000 (US $100) daily."I am glad this country is going through an economic crisis, because to me it is a blessing in disguise," he told IRIN. "I am able to make so much money because there are thousands of desperate people who come here every day to look for passports in order to seek greener pastures abroad."Mapiye, a junior police constable, earns an official gross monthly salary of Zim $140,000 (US $175). For around Zim $10,000 (US $12), Mapiya is willing to move a person to the front of the long queue of passport seekers. "These days, it's your money that talks. There is no need for you to sleep in a queue in order to get your passport," he said. A senior passport officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was difficult to monitor the activities of subordinates because of pressures of work. "Even though we condemn corruption in the strongest terms, there is no guarantee that employing people to monitor the situation at the gate and in the corridors will help, as these people might end up collaborating with the rotten eggs in our midst," she said.John Makumbe, Transparency International's local representative, attributes escalating corruption to a "breakdown of the justice delivery system".He said because of poor remuneration, the police, magistrates and judges were resorting to bribes in order to make ends meet."The whole justice system, right from the Supreme Court to the lowest courts, is in shambles. There are no monitoring and retributive mechanisms to ensure that those who would have been found on the wrong side of the law are punished. The situation is made even more pathetic by the fact that those who should enforce and interpret the law are also corrupt," Makumbe alleged. He called on the government to create an independent anti-corruption commission to tackle graft in both the public and private sectors.

Brain drain reaches alarming levels (Zimbabwe Independent, 19/12) - Government's failure to address political problems in the country has resulted in a massive brain drain of skilled labour that is critical to economic recovery, a study released last week has shown. It said the brain drain had reached alarming proportions. "The study confirms the widely held view that the level and trend of the brain drain in Zimbabwe has reached unacceptable and unsustainable heights," the study said. The study examined the trend, rate and level of brain drain, together with push factors in Zimbabwe and pull factors abroad. "Each year Zimbabwe loses thousands of talented professionals crucial to its development needs. Most of these are young professionals who abandon their professions in Zimbabwe, often for menial jobs that advance the socio-economic interests of their host countries," the report said. The professionals mostly involved include doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, financial experts, and other skilled people. The study was prepared by the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre under contract to the National Economic and Consultative Forum, funded by the United Nations Development Programme. Most of those leaving go to Britain, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Botswana. "The large numbers constituting Zimbabwe's loss of skilled and highly educated manpower are a phenomenon that policymakers cannot ignore," the study said. It said in the past four years this brain drain had escalated in magnitude to levels that had serious implications for the country's capacity to deliver on the sustainable development front. There are about 20 000 scientists and engineers in Zimbabwe and more are needed. "There are now more Zimbabwean-born scientists and engineers working in the diaspora than there are in Zimbabwe. One reason for there being fewer scientists left in Zimbabwe is that government and private-sector spending on research and development (R&D) is only about 0,2% of the gross national product. This is one of the lowest percentages of funding for R&D support in the world," the report said. The health care sector is the most seriously affected. Many are leaving because health care and education spending cuts have denied them reasonable salary levels. The United States, for instance, is using special visas (HB-1 visa) and higher salaries to attract African professionals with technical expertise. As a result it is estimated that the United States economy gains about US$100 000 a year from each HB-1 visa immigrant. Zimbabweans in the diaspora expressed disappointment that government did not have a policy framework to involve professional Zimbabweans in national development. Most of them are viewed by government as disloyal and were denied their voting rights in the March 2002 presidential election. "The resistance was made worse by an article that claimed that the government of Zimbabwe was working on a scheme to tax Zimbabweans in the diaspora," the report said. The study said the reason certain professionals were leaving Zimbabwe was that working at home was synonymous with supporting the current government and not the people. It said nothing could force them to work in Zimbabwe but their desire to serve their country. "Many professionals leave Zimbabwe for the brighter opportunities offered abroad, complaining that Zimbabwe is too corrupt and needs more politicians of high moral standards," said the study. The economic crisis has forced professionals left in the country into moonlighting. "The deteriorating economy in Zimbabwe has forced some professors, lecturers, medical doctors and scientists to operate minibuses, taxi cabs or operate beer parlors. It is a form of internal brain drain to have many architects, accountants and pharmacists underemployed," the study said. The majority of Zimbabweans in the diaspora since 1990 are in the UK (36,8%), while 3,4% are in Canada. Botswana leads the region with 34,5%. Although data from South Africa shows a smaller proportion there (4,6%), it is believed this is a gross underestimate because the majority of them are illegal immigrants.

Asylum Seekers alienated from families (The Herald, 22/12) - Thousands of Zimbabweans who sneaked into the United Kingdom under the guise of seeking political asylum have found themselves alienated from their families as they can no longer return to invest or attend important family functions. They bunched themselves with bona fide refugees and asylum seekers from beleaguered countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia and secured permits to live and work in the UK. However, this has proved costly for most as they have found themselves marooned on the island and unable to return to Zimbabwe, even when there are genuinely compelling circumstances like the deaths of their parents, siblings or spouses. Asylum seekers and refugees, under the UN Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees, cannot return to frontiers where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". Bogus Zimbabwean asylum seekers who sneak into the UK claim that they were being persecuted for their political opinions. Asylum seekers are issued with passports and travel documents that allow them to travel to virtually any part of the world except to their country of origin by the contracting state, and they are accorded the same benefits and treatment enjoyed by nationals of the country giving asylum, except voting. However, some Zimbabwean "asylum seekers" had fraudulently obtained passports of neighbouring countries so that they could sneak back into the country through these countries. From there they either bribe immigration officials or brave the lions in the Trans-Zambezi National Park to get back to Zimbabwe, the land of their alleged genocide and persecution, and see their families without being detected by British immigration officials. Most people have expressed concern at this apparently high level of alienation and identity crisis. "This kind of self denial is worrisome," said Mrs Gladys Mutero of Harare. "These people will not accept that they are Zimbabweans even when it is clear that they cannot do without coming back home." The wife of the late Professor Canaan Banana, Mrs Janet Banana, and his two sons could not attend the funeral and burial of their father in Mzingwane, Matabeleland South. Prof Bananas sons, Martin and Michael, said they feared to lose their jobs while Mrs Banana is bound by her status as a political asylum seeker. Only one member of the Banana family, Nathan, managed to travel from the UK to attend his fathers funeral. Following charges of drug abuse in the UK former Caps United goalkeeper Ernest Chirambadare was faced with deportation but he claimed that he was an opposition MDC activist and his life would be in danger if he were to be deported. Former ZBC reporter Tichaona Sibanda alleged genocide in Zimbabwe and sources said he can no longer come back home to attend important family events. A man from Murewa who left behind his wife and children could not come back home when his father, two brothers and sister died. The man entered the UK after claiming that he could not go back to Zimbabwe because he would be persecuted. Political asylum has become the cheap pretext for most Zimbabweans intending to travel to the UK, with organisations like the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees encouraging people to be explicit in asking for asylum. Economic refugees without any political significance masquerade as victims of political violence and allege victimisation and "genocide". They secure residence in the UK under "exceptional leave to remain" status which allows them to stay in the country while their applications are being assessed. Following an upsurge in criticism against the Labour governments lenient immigration policies which saw immigration doubling in six years, the British government disbanded the ELR and introduced the more stringent "humanitarian protection" policy which effectively plugged the influx of bogus refugees and asylum seekers. In 2002 alone, more than 103 000 asylum seekers are reported to have poured into Britain, with at least 70 000 being rejected and granted with an asylum amnesty.

| Back to top |


January 2004

110 Cuban doctors expected (The Herald, 09/01) - At least 110 Cuban doctors are expected to arrive in the country at the end of this month under the Zimbabwe-Cuba Joint Commission. Head of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Zimbabwe Dr Felipe Delgado Bustillo yesterday said the doctors would serve in the country for two years. "The doctors will be working under the comprehensive health programme launched by President Fidel Castro in 1998, which is aimed at providing something like a donation to other people specially those in Africa in solving various health related problems," said Dr Bustillo. He said the first brigade of Cuban doctors came in 2000 and more than 186 doctors are currently working in more than 52 district hospitals in the country. "We have been working during the strike by junior doctors and nurses contributing to the welfare of Zimbabweans especially those in rural hospitals," he said. The second brigade came in 2002 and the one coming at the end of this month is the third brigade, which will be in the country until 2006. Dr Bustillo said Cuba has a similar programme in several African countries including Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Malawi, Angola, Botswana, Chad, Lesotho and Tanzania. He said more than 3 500 Cubans in various fields were working in Zimbabwe. Cuba, he said, was proud of its successes in the medical field with more than 21 medical schools and 70 000 doctors working in that country. Dr Bustillo was speaking at a function hosted for journalists by the Cuban Ambassador Mr Bueventuras Reyes Costa to mark the 45th anniversary of the Cuban revolution declared on January 1 1959. The ambassador said despite orchestrated campaign by almost all governments in Latin America and the United States to subvert the revolution, the Cuban people had remained resolute in their fight for the right to build their own future through self-determination. "The aggression began as early as 1959 with the use of all possible economic and political measures, including violence, terrorism and even the threat of massive military invasion from the US army," said Mr Reyes Costa. He said despite the threats and the economic blockade imposed by the US, the Cuban economy has risen by 2,6 percent according to traditional methods of measuring the fluctuation of the Gross Domestic Product. Cuba’s GDP also increased four-fold than that of the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. "The Cuban revolution gave to our people the possibility to extend our friendship, brotherly support and solidarity, to many other countries around the planet. We are so proud to have diplomatic and consular relations with 181 countries," the ambassador said. Cuba also has bilateral agreements with 165 countries, mainly in health care, education and sport fields. It had 120 Joint Commissions, which are periodically checked to assess the programmes and outline the new one. "With Zimbabwe, the friendship and solidarity among our two countries and peoples, began even before independence," Mr Reyes Costa said. Cuba marked its 45th anniversary of the toppling of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship by revolutionary forces led by Cde Fidel Castro. In his speech, the Cuban President paid tribute to all those who struggled to make the revolution a reality. "I congratulate all those who struggle, those who never give up in the face of adversity; those who believe in humanity’s capacity to create, sow and cultivate values and ideas; those who bet on humanity all of those who share the beautiful tenet that a better world is possible.

February 2004

Nurses duped in Mozambique( Herald, 10/02) - Sixty-one Masvingo nurses were left stranded in Mozambique after they were swindled of over $10 million by a trickster who lied to them that he would facilitate employment for them in Maputo. Some of the nurses who had gone with their children and domestic workers are said to have broken down and cried after discovering they had been tricked. It was not clear where exactly the nurses were employed in Masvingo, but one of the nurses said she had taken off days to survey what seemed to be a greener pasture. The nurse said she and others had paid $200 000 each two weeks ago after she learnt from other nurses that there was an employment agency looking for nurses to work in Maputo. She said the agent, whom they only knew as Makaure, had said he had been tasked by a certain hospital and the Health Ministry of Mozambique to look for nurses who would be paid in United States dollars." We were told that $50 000 was for the visa while the other $150 000 was for processing the applications and for stationery," the nurse said. On February 1, the nurses boarded a hired bus to Maputo. "When we arrived in Rutenga, Makaure addressed us and said he was getting off the bus to wait for his grandmother from a nearby village who wanted to be left with some relatives in Maputo," she said. She said Makaure also said he wanted to sort out other administration issues in Rutenga and referred them to a certain Mr Vasili who he said owned lodges where they would temporarily stay." He said the hospital had already paid for our stay there so we proceeded with the journey without him. "She said when they arrived at Mr Vasili's residence they were shocked by the state of the house which was dilapidated and did not appear like a lodge." We had problems communicating with him since he spoke Portuguese but we later managed to understand that he had never made any arrangements with Makaure. "The nurse said they all proceeded to the country's health ministry where they were told they never requested for any nurses from Zimbabwe." The hospital Makaure had mentioned was also non existent. "The nurses spent three days in Mozambique staying on the streets and scrounging for water to drink." We had a tough time, it was unbearable. We only managed to board a train back home last Thursday and the conditions in the train were equally bad," she said. Efforts to contact Mr Makaure and the bus company for comment were futile. Nurses went on strike two months ago demanding for a salary increase. The Government awarded them and other civil servants a 250 percent pay rise.

Doctors threaten exodus over new regulation (Zimbabwe Independent, 27/02) - Zimbabwe's private health sector faces collapse with revelations this week that many of the country's doctors plan to pack up and leave for greener pastures to avoid government's new measures that bar them from charging cash upfront. The situation has been compounded by the prolonged impasse between the doctors and the medical aid societies over the level of fees charged by medical practitioners. A new instrument gazetted by government this week bars doctors from demanding cash upfront from patients. The regulations, promulgated without consultation with the Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima), a body representing general and specialist practitioners, requires doctors to attend to any patient who produces a valid medical aid society card. The measures also cover patients not on medical aid schemes. Doctors say using medical aid as a guarantee for health services will transfer the risk of non-paid fees to individual doctors instead of the societies whose business hinges on risk. A doctor who has been in private practice for 13 years says the envisaged new rules will force many doctors to leave the country. "The instrument forces us to admit each and every society member without an assurance that the responsible medical aid society will pay for that service," he said. "Doctors bear the risk when the societies write back saying the patient treated some three months ago was no long their member," he said. "There is no reason to run a private surgery if I am exposed to such a risk. I might as well close shop and go to a more friendly country than Zimbabwe." He said through this instrument government was in fact colluding with the National Association of Medical Aid Societies (Namas) to exploit doctors. If doctors pack up and go as a result of the latest move it will simply compound an existing trend. Unconfirmed reports show that 75% of general practitioners and specialists based in Bulawayo have left the country in the last two years. The figures also reveal that about 40% of surgeries in Harare have closed shop. A survey carried out by the Zimbabwe Independent reveals that most specialist doctors in Zimbabwe now require patients to pay cash upfront. Some have done so for as long as 25 years. Doctors have also accused government of imposing regulations without consultation with representative organisations. At the core of the crisis is the fact that medical aid societies decide the fees to be charged by the doctors for their services. Over the past seven years the government has allowed the societies to determine what a doctor should be paid for his services. "This is contrary to business logic. The provider of a service should decide his fees," said a leading specialist physician. "They (societies) are making billions while we struggle to survive. If this continues I have no choice but to leave the country." Zima had proposed a $46 500 fee for consultations with general practitioners, which Namas described as exorbitant. Namas wants to set a fee of $32 000 leading to the current impasse. Sources in the health sector said Health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa held a meeting with doctors last Friday to find a solution to their problems. He said he would listen to doctors' concerns. Another meeting had been pencilled in for this week. Zima secretary-general Dr Paul Chimedza refused to comment saying it would affect ongoing negotiations. "I cannot comment. We are still at the table talking," said Chimedza. Namas was still considering questions sent to them at the time of going to press.

| Back to top |

This page last updated 19 May 2004.