Zimbabwe: Tracking the descent

News and Press Release
Originally published
JOHANNESBURG, 11 December 2008 (IRIN) - A power-sharing deal - brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki, appointed as negotiator by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - and signed on 15 September, was heralded as a new dawn for Zimbabwe. Instead, it has become a marker for Zimbabwe's rapid descent into collapse. Below is a timeline tracing the events in recent months.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won a majority of parliamentary seats in the general election on 29 March 2008, but failed to garner the 50 percent plus one vote required to take the presidency.

15 September - Robert Mugabe, leader of the ZANU-PF party, and the two MDC formations, led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, sign a power-sharing agreement witnessed by heads of state and government of the SADC, the African Union (AU) and other international dignitaries. Tsvangirai (as prime minister) to share executive powers with Mugabe (as president with reduced authority).

Tsvangirai calls on the international community to assist with aid as inflation shoots over 11 million percent, unemployment above 80 percent, and shortages of fuel, electricity, food and foreign currency. Oxfam echoes his call. The European Union (EU), United States (US) and Australia maintain targeted sanctions against Mugabe and upper echelon members of ZANU-PF with a 'wait and see' approach. ZANU-PF and MDC supporters clash outside the venue.

16 September - Aid workers estimate up to 6,000 Zimbabweans are crossing the border into South Africa every day.

17 September - Rebellion within ZANU-PF over appointment of cabinet ministers under the power-sharing deal.

18 September - The UN children's fund, UNICEF, to continue providing humanitarian assistance. The African Development Bank and World Bank indicate they will provide help. Coalition talks hit deadlock over allocation of ministries. Water shortages in Harare, with a lack of water treatment chemicals because of fuel shortages.

19 September - Leaders fail to break deadlock; 15 cabinet posts to go to ZANU-PF, 13 to MDC, 3 to MDC faction. Disagreement over powerful ministries of home affairs, information, finance, foreign affairs and local government.

22 September - Drought exacerbates acute food shortages. Aid agencies step in to assist - Mugabe imposed a ban on NGO operations ahead of the presidential run-off in June until 28 August. UN estimates more than 5 million will require food aid in beginning of 2009. ZANU-PF youth militia continue violence against MDC supporters.

25 September - Children discouraged from going to school because of teacher shortage. National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Zimbabwe's leading civil society group of trade unions, human rights organisations and churches, rejects deal amid continued violence. ZANU-PF torture bases not being dismantled. EU boosts aid to Zimbabwe by 10 million euros.

26 September - Save the Children, an international NGO, warns that many children are being forced to eat poisonous roots and rats to stave off hunger. Mugabe lashes out at the West at the UN General Assembly, praising Mbeki and appealing for sanctions to be lifted. Power-sharing deal appears to be disintegrating. Cholera claims 20 lives.

27 September - Zimbabweans start using foreign currency as legal tender, an acknowledgement of the collapse of its own currency, the Zimbabwean dollar (Z$).

28 September - South African department of home affairs withdraws asylum from Zimbabweans - extensions not granted and some deportations occur.

29 September - Zimbabwe's central bank issues large denomination bank notes - Z$10,000 and Z$20,000 - a further sign of hyperinflation worsening.

30 September - Zimbabweans exchanging livestock for food. Banking authorities raise the daily withdrawal limit to Z$20,000, prompting tens of thousands of desperate Zimbabweans to line up in the hopes of buying food before the currency depreciates further. Deadlock over allocation of ministries continues.

5 October - The political rivals resume talks but immediately disagree, as Mbeki agrees to resume his role as mediator.

7 October - Renewed power-sharing talks again fail to end the deadlock.

8 October - Urgent call from the UN for aid to avert an impending humanitarian disaster as a result of the ailing agricultural industry and conditions in the country. Power-sharing deal on the brink of collapse.

9 October - UN World Food Programme (WFP) says emergency food aid could run out at the peak of the crisis if US$140 million is not provided, and that 83 percent of Zimbabweans live on less than US$2 a day, with 45 percent malnutrition plaguing the population. Reports confirm that annual inflation has soared to 231 million percent.

10 October - Political rivals agree to fresh mediation by Thabo Mbeki to break the 4-week deadlock

12 October - Mugabe unilaterally allocates key ministries to himself, including defence, home affairs, foreign affairs, local government, justice and legal affairs, prompting Tsvangirai to threaten pulling out of the power-sharing deal.

13 October - Mugabe swears in two vice-presidents. EU threatens more sanctions, which already target about 160 of the ruling elite, including a travel ban and freezing of assets.

16 October - MDC is given finance ministry. Police beat up more protestors.

19 October - Government makes it impossible for aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance as their Zimbabwean bank accounts have been frozen.

20 October - Tsvangirai not able to attend regional crisis summit to save power-sharing deal because he does not have the necessary travel documents to go through South Africa to Swaziland. ZANU-PF is blamed, sparking a boycott of the summit by the MDC. SADC postpones the summit until 27 October. UN reports 120 deaths from cholera. State-owned Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) pumping untreated sewage into Lake Chivero, the main water source of Harare, the capital. 10 cases of anthrax reported north of Harare.

21 October - Teaching and schooling has virtually ground to a halt, school graduation pass rate of 3 percent expected; 45,000 teachers estimated to have left the system since 2004. Catastrophic breakdown in water supply and sanitation services set to cause thousands of cholera infections.

23 October - Government centralises distribution of agricultural inputs, giving a military official the responsibility of determining the beneficiaries of agricultural inputs. Parliament announces food shortages as a national disaster.

28 October - Regional summit fails to break political deadlock; SADC calls for full-scale summit on the crisis. Many Zimbabweans surviving on wild fruits and roots.

29 October - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for rivals to resolve the political impasse.

30 October - Cholera hits Harare.

31 October - Amnesty International, an NGO working to protect human rights, reports that rights abuses are worsening and going unpunished, and the food crisis is worsening.

3 November - Zimbabwe will soon introduce bank notes of up to Z$1 million to ease cash shortages.

4 November - Zimbabwe AIDS organisations condemn the government for holding back US$7 million provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Gold mining industry on the brink of collapse as the central bank owes private mining companies US$30-million.

5 November - The Civil Protection Unit, Zimbabwe's national disaster response agency, deployed to contain the cholera outbreak.

8 November - Regional leaders gather to try to resolve the political impasse but fail, while Human Rights Watch, a global organisation, reports that 163 people have been killed in political violence.

11 November - Mugabe announces he will form a new government. The WFP announces it will have to cut rations to Zimbabwe due to lack of funding.

12 November - MDC refuses to join the new government with Mugabe.

13 November - A new wave of attacks is launched on the MDC as ZANU-PF torture camps are set up around the country.

14 November - MDC officially withdraws from the power-sharing deal. Warning of cholera catastrophe.

19 November - The rival parties draft a constitutional amendment creating the post of prime minister, but they differ. Cholera sufferers forced across the border into South Africa because medical facilities in Zimbabwe are struggling to cope.

20 November - Zimbabwe announces a new round of power-sharing talks. Cholera death toll rises. South Africa withholds aid to Zimbabwe until a representative government is set up.

22 November - The Elders - former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former US President Jimmy Carter, advocate of women's and children's rights Graca Machel - part of a group of distinguished people working for peace and human rights, are banned from entering Zimbabwe on a humanitarian mission.

24 November - Anthrax claims the lives of villagers and about 200 livestock north of Bulawayo.

25 November - Feuding political parties meet once again in South Africa to revive negotiations.

26 November - Gideon Gono appointed for another 5-year term as governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank. Talks near collapse.

28 November - MDC officially withdraws from talks with ZANU-PF until Mbeki returns as mediator. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns of an alarming spread of cholera throughout the region; over 9,000 infected in Zimbabwe and numbers rising in neighbouring countries South Africa and Botswana. Disgruntled uniformed Zimbabwean soldiers raid some informal foreign currency traders in Harare after being unable to withdraw money at a bank.

29 November - Political parties agree on a draft constitutional amendment that will lead to the formation of a power-sharing government. Warnings that the rainy season, which has begun, will worsen the cholera epidemic.

1 December - water supplies to Harare cut off due to ZINWA's lack of chemicals to treat the water supply. Police and soldiers from Mugabe's presidential guard battle in Harare as soldiers resort to robbery out of desperation.

3 December - Limpopo River, on border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, tests positive for cholera. UN reports 565 cholera deaths and over 12,000 infected in Zimbabwe.

4 December - Zimbabwean government announces cholera a national emergency and appeals for international aid to tackle the epidemic. Human rights activist and journalist Jestina Mukoko abducted from her house at gunpoint.

5 December - Botswana says it will close its embassy in Harare. EU plans more sanctions unless progress is made on the political impasse.

9 December - EU extends travel ban to 11 more officials and puts pressure on Mugabe to step down. UNICEF announces it needs US$17.5 million to tackle the cholera epidemic.

10 December - Gandhi Mudzingwa, former personal assistant to Tsvangirai, is abducted, bringing to 19 the number of missing abducted MDC supporters and civil society activists in recent weeks. Reports indicate 746 cholera deaths in Zimbabwe, with 15,572 infected.

11 December - South Africa declares a cholera disaster area on its border with Zimbabwe.



* South African Government Information
* Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement http://www.info.gov.za/issues/zimbabwe/zzimbabwe_global_agreement_20080915.pdf