Months ago, we had hope for our friends in Zimbabwe.

But every week, reports coming out are worse.

The talks between the government of President Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are “stalled”, and often reporters seem to think this means both sides are at fault.

After all, essentially the government is not working and the economy is getting worse, but once there is a legitamate government with both sides represented, Europe and the US will start pouring in aid. So why doesn’t Mr. Tsvangirai just sign a deal, is the hints in too many reporters stories.

But of course Mr. Mugabe would be holding all the guns and all the really powerful cabinet seats if such a deal was signed, and years ago Joshua Nkomo signed on to a similar partnership with the government, only to find his party was marginalized and then destroyed.

The latest “failure”was a meeting of the SADC (South African Development community) who tried to mediate an agreement.

Even with the urging of Botswana’s and Zambia’s presidents taking a “tough line” against Mr. Mugabe, there was no deal.  The problem is, of course, that South Africa, the largest and most powerful state in the region, refuses to put any real pressure on Mugabe’s government, seeing Mr. Mugabe as a fellow revolutionary.

But Mr. Mugabe still refuses to cede any real power to the opposition, and Mr. Tsvangirai refusing to sign a fake deal, especially since many opposition party members have been arrested  in the past months under the charge of “treason”.

In the meanwhile, the local currency is essentially worthless. But in the past month, it has been legal to buy and sell goods using foreign currency. (usually South African Rands, US Dollars or the Euro).

This has allowed those receiving money from friends or relatives who have fled and are working in other countries to use the money to buy needed supplies. Before, they had the choice to either exchange the foreign currency at the (inflated) government exchange rate in order to buy goods, or to go to the black market.

But the bad news now is that since goods are available for foreign exchange, many government employees are insisting on being paid with it, and some are striking to emphasize their demands.

The IWPR website reports that the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the country’s postal service, ZimPost, employees of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, and many doctors and teachers are either on strike or plan to refuse to work if they are not paid with foreign currency.

The health care system has essentially collapsed, due to no money to buy medicine or supplies, and because many doctors and nurses have fled elsewhere to find employment.

The Cholera epidemic has now spread to all provinces, and there are reports of anthrax, possibly because people are eating animals who died from that disease. And with the collapse of the country’s infrastructure, more people who had received HIV treatment are now again dying of HIV related illnesses.

In the meanwhile, there are scattered reports of soldiers rioting, and stealing from shops. The reason is that they are hungry, since their pay is worthless.

The UK Times reports that soldiers, bitter that their own children’s schools are closed, have been harassing children of the elite to stop them from attending private academies.

Of course, this doesn’t mean a military coup will happen soon: Mugabe makes sure the upper crust Generals are well paid. But the continuing reports of hunger and unrest in the ranks could result in anarchy.

The food budget for soldiers is too small to buy adequate food. But there are some contradictory reports saying that the Army has struck a deal with the Parks Department to feed the soldiers with meat from the elephants that are culled (i.e. killed to keep the population down to sustainable levels).

Well, that should get the Animal rights people upset. Destroy the houses of 80 thousand people? No problem. Children dying of malnutrition? No problem. Cholera, anthrax, dysentery and TB? No problem.

Kill an elephant, and watch the celebrities get involved.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at MakaipaBlog

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