Zimbabwe cholera cases near 70 000 mark

Staff Reporter

The number of people suffering from cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to more than 69 000 cases, United Nations figures show.

The number of people suffering from cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to more than 69 000 cases, United Nations figures show, putting further pressure on leaders to end a humanitarian crisis after forming a unity government.

The World Health Organisation said the epidemic has killed 3 397 people out of 69 317 cases since August, the deadliest outbreak in Africa in 15 years.

The Movement for Democratic Change’s decision to create a unity government with Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe could give authorities a better chance of tackling the disease that has deepened Zimbabwe’s hardships.

Zimbabwe’s health system has collapsed under an economic crisis that has left eight in 10 people out of employment in the once-prosperous country. Poor medical facilities and sanitation have helped spread the cholera.

More than half of Zimbabwe is surviving on food aid and the population is also struggling with the world’s highest inflation rate.

Zimbabwe’s Parliament passed a constitutional bill last week to allow a coalition government of Mugabe and rivals to be set up under a deal to end the political and economic crisis.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s new unity government looks hamstrung even before the new leaders take office this week, analysts said on Monday, raising doubts over whether they can end the crushing humanitarian crisis.

Tsvangirai is set to be sworn in on Wednesday as prime minister, with Mugabe remaining as president.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said that so far the two rivals “seem to be getting along fairly well”.

“We are optimistic that they can at least manage a transition period until they are ready to hold fresh elections,” he told South African media.

But analysts said the union was a shotgun wedding that Tsvangirai only agreed to after coming under enormous pressure from regional leaders frustrated at the long months of stalemate.

“The levels of mistrust between the two main principals will remain irreversibly high, leading to threats of pulling out as well as manoeuvres to get fresh elections as soon as is politically possible,” said Takura Zhangazha, director of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

While African leaders are throwing their weight behind the unity government, Western powers are reticent, with Washington and London saying they want to see improvements in the running of Zimbabwe before they will lift a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe.

“It will never achieve total international support in its current form and therefore will be unable to address the political and humanitarian crisis effectively,” Zhangazha said.

Harare-based independent political analyst Martin Tarusenga said that Mugabe has tried to dictate the terms of negotiations throughout the talks, and that the unity government would not last without international support.

“Judging by statements made from the West so far, the international community is not seeing it as an inclusive government,” he said.

“Tsvangirai and his MDC are now looking like lame ducks so the international community will not support the inclusive government,” Tarusenga said.

“There is just no trust. Tsvangirai is buckling from Southern African Development Community pressure and the pressure from weaker MDC negotiators, those people in the MDC who believe they have fought a good fight.”

Political analyst Bornwell Chakaodza said he feared that if the unity government failed, Zimbabwe’s crisis could still get even worse.

“Failure of the inclusive government will be an indication that there can no longer be a negotiated and peaceful settlement to the Zimbabwean political conflict,” Chakaodza wrote in his weekly column in the Financial Gazette on Friday.

“The alternative would be a violent uprising whose consequences we dare not imagine,” he said.—Reuters, Sapa-AFP

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