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Amish seed project maize pic MCF Craig RAIER Jan 23.jpg

How two Amish corn cobs upended an aid model in Zim

In 2014, the MCF’s executive director, Ben Freeth, was welcomed by a group of normally reclusive Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. Ben wanted to find out how they can farm so efficiently without requiring electricity, commercial seeds, fertilizers, or fuel to run their successful farms. Zimbabwean farmers find themselves in strikingly similar situations but are hard-pressed to cope with droughts and shortages of inputs. The meetings taught Ben three key things that allow the Amish to create a sustainable and independent way of life for their families and community. These lessons are transferable to many places in Africa. 

Great Zimbabwe, our greatest treasure

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In Cathy Buckle’s latest newsletter, she revisits one of the country’s primary tourist attractions, Great Zimbabwe, with its towering, hand-carved stone walls, once an ancient capital populated by 12-15,000 people. She also writes of the grinding poverty en route, noting that “the Diaspora is keeping us alive: from family there to family here, propping us up, helping us pay our bills and buy our food while our leaders grow ever richer and their opulence gets ever grander. Seventeen years later we are rushing headlong back to 2005-2009: queuing for money, power cuts of 18 hours a day and inflation that is now 480%.”

MCF’s latest newsletter from Zimbabwe

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In our executive director Ben Freeth’s latest newsletter from Zimbabwe, he writes that, with the excellent rains, the rivers are flowing and the dams are filling. The MCF hopes this year to produce enough free seed packs to donate to 15,000 desperate families across Zimbabwe who have no reliable income at a time when food inflation is the highest in the world and commercial seed is unaffordable. The MCF is gearing up towards our regular update event at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday 20 June.  Please diarise the date. It will take place at a critical time ahead of Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections.  

A new political settlement, not elections

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Elections will not solve the socio-economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe, warned SAPES Trust in their latest webinar titled: “Is election violence in 2023 increasing ahead of the poll?” In the face worsening ruling party violence, escalating intimidation and clear indications already that the elections will not be free and fair, SAPES Trust recommends a regionally and internationally supported political settlement and a transitional arrangement. This would have to include substantial reform of the State and return of the military to civilian control, leading to elections under a new social contract.

Derek Matyszak, legal & political analyst: tribute

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It with great sadness that the Mike Campbell Foundation has learnt of the passing of Derek Matyszak. Derek was a founding member of the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) in Zimbabwe, and a former chairperson of the Amani Trust, as well as a Board member of multiple NGOs. Tony Reeler, a senior researcher at RAU, who worked with Derek for many years, writes that Derek was a well-known lawyer and academic, but was best known for his legal activism.  He authored more than 80 research papers, legal opinions, detailed election analyses and Op-Eds for RAU, the Institute for Security Studies and others. 

Food inflation highest globally: World Bank

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Zimbabwe now has the highest food inflation rate globally which now stands at 285%, according to the latest World Bank (WB) report. The development comes after prices of basic foodstuffs and other commodities have soared in the country, while some food items are being charged in United States dollars at a time when most workers’ earnings are in the local currency. Last year, Zimbabwe was ranked second to Lebanon, but it has since overtaken the Middle East country. In this WB report, Venezuela is ranked second at 158% followed by Lebanon at 143%.

Too broke to offer free education, govt says

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The Zimbabwe government says it is not yet ready to fully implement the free basic education policy due to severe budgetary constraints. While it promised to progressively provide free primary education starting this year, the programme is yet to take off, more than a month after schools opened on 9 January. In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed into law the Education Amendment Act which compels the State to provide free basic education in line with provisions of section 27 of the Constitution. This was also one of President Mnangagwa's promises during his 2018 election campaign.

Human rights lawyer’s murder a regional trend

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The assassination of Eswatini (Swaziland) human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko is also a feature of countries like Zimbabwe where opposition – and opposition parties - are treated as an enemy. SADC’s response has been “typically weak-kneed”, as has its failure to take both countries to task for gross human rights abuses. The notion of the predatory state, which has been well described in  Zimbabwe’s case, applies equally to Eswatini under the rule of King Mswati III, denouncing legitimate political activity, abusing the resources of the country for a privileged elite, and now increasingly reliant on coercion and repression.

UN expresses alarm over PVO Bill

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The UN’s Human Rights Special Rapporteurs in Geneva have released a statement expressing concern that Zimbabwe’s oversight regime in the Public Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill provides for “disproportionate and discretionary powers” to the newly established Office of the Registrar of PVOs. The Bill has been widely criticised because it will enable the crucial operations of non-government organisations (NGOs) to be curtailed by the government ahead of the country’s general elections, expected later this year. The PVO Bill awaits President Mnangagwa’s assent before it becomes law.

AfDB to meet Mozambique’s Chissano re Zim debt

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) president, Akinwumi Adesina, and former Mozambique president, Joaquim Chissano, are due to meet again at the end of February 2023 to map out key actions regarding Zimbabwe’s debt clearance and arrears. Last year they agreed on three main pillars:  (i) economic reforms, (ii) governance reforms and (iii) compensation of former commercial farmers. As of September 2022, Zimbabwe’s public debt stood at US$17,63 billion. Zimbabwe is the only regional member country of the AfDB Group under sanctions due to arrears amounting to about US$736 million.

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