Starvation, Aids and cholera have now been joined by an outbreak of anthrax, which has already killed two children and one adult in Zimbabwe. The killer infection is threatening to wipe out around 60 000 livestock in the northern Zambezi valley thereby compounding the horrific problem of starvation facing five-million locals.
An acute disease, anthrax can be lethal if people touch infected meat, eat it or even inhale its deadly spores.
Unlike in the case of cholera where the “government” elected to conceal the problem, thereby increasing the number of those who would be at risk exponentially, it is vital that aid be brought in to tackle the problem immediately. In trying to conceal the cholera outbreak the citizens of Zimbabwe were not advised on how to avoid contamination and, even worse, how to get urgent treatment for an airborne bacterium that can kill its victims within 10-12 hours.
The BBC has today reported that most of Harare is without water, which has been cut off as a result of the shortage of purification chemicals. This a desperate measure to contain the spread of cholera and symptomatic of Zimbabwe’s imploding infrastructure.
Hopefully however, whatever quarantine, vaccinations and other measures which are required to protect Zimbabweans and contain the spread of anthrax are being taken as a matter of urgency. While South Africa and the World Health Organization have landed up having to deal with their cholera epidemic it is in everyone’s interest that they deal with the anthrax threat as well.
While Zimbabwean healthcare has totally collapsed it is incumbent upon us and other SADC states to intervene in order to assist the local population as well as arresting its spread beyond the borders of that country.
Against this backdrop we must be acutely aware of the fact that the worsening food shortage is going to increase the desperation among those affected. At present we already have reports of parents feeding anthrax infected meat to their children.
Last week we were advised that soldiers from the Zimbabwean Defence Force pursuant to banks running out of cash ran amok in the streets of Harare. This is going to become more and more commonplace in the coming months.
If the Zanu-PF were impervious to the plight of their fellow citizens before now, then last week they got their first wake up call.
Up to now the fleeing of millions into exile, five-million facing starvation, cholera (which they concealed), anthrax, collapse of the economy and most state institutions left them stone cold. They were other people’s problems and besides, the SADC countries and aid agencies could pay for everything. Mugabe and his cohorts were too busy looting the country. As we saw in the presidential run-off Mugabe blocked aid agencies from feeding the starving as a political tool.
If eight-million are in exile and another five-million die of starvation and disease Mugabe won’t blink an eyelid. They are mere numbers and irrelevant to him other than as a source of continued power.
Now, however, the one thing that Mugabe and Zanu-PF genuinely do value above everything else — saving their own skins — is becoming a factor in the deadly waiting game that is Zimbabwe. If that army and police force should decide that they are no longer going to protect that elite, or worse turn on them, then Mugabe and the Zanu-PF elite will be seeking mercy, not from the MDC, SADC or U.N, but from the people of Zimbabwe.
Perhaps while they have time between refusals to compromise they might want to browse through a few books on Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime. I think Saddam’s execution is still online if they prefer something with a bit of action.
As they say: forewarned is forearmed.
Last week Zimbabwean negotiators agreed in principal to the constitutional amendment required to create the office of Prime Minister and the implementation of the power-sharing deal. These have now been submitted to their leaders for approval. This does not however mean that agreement has been reached on the splitting of cabinet posts, which remains deadlocked.
If Mugabe should decide that he can simply appoint his cabinet without the acceptance of the international community then at least he now knows his fate. A failed state where almost the entire infrastructure has collapsed, the rule of law is fast being abandoned and the loyalty of his army is now coming into question.
The waiting game just became deadly for Mugabe and the Zanu-PF.