Harare, Zimbabwe – Samuel Chikengezha, a 35-year-old fireman, sits on a sofa in his modest home, staring at the television set while he stresses over how he’ll make ends meet this month.
He has not yet paid school fees for his three children, he said – one of many financial challenges he faces because the money he pulls in as a first responder in Zimbabwe has not kept pace with inflation for years.
“I survive on borrowings from friends and family to get by as the money is barely enough,” he told Al Jazeera.
Like many of his colleagues, Chikengezha reckons the solution to his financial woes is to leave Zimbabwe for a higher-paying job abroad.
“I want to leave the country. Every one of us wants to leave for other countries. We are all in waiting mode, really,” he said. “Once an opportunity presents itself, I am out.”
Zimbabwe’s economy was already on its knees before the pandemic struck, and COVID-19 has only made things worse.
Salaries are stagnant, foreign currency is in short supply, and the purchasing power of the Zimbabwean dollar continues to erode, with annual inflation topping 60 percent at the close of last year. Manufacturing is low, and poverty is rising along with prices for everything, including essentials like food and fuel.
Now the economic carnage is threatening essential public services by triggering a massive brain drain in critical sectors.
Harare City Council, which runs the Zimbabwean capital’s fire department, said the city lost 125 firefighters last year.
Council spokesperson Innocent Ruwende told Al Jazeera that they left to chase more lucrative jobs overseas, mostly in Middle East Gulf states.
“Our firefighters are in demand because they are highly trained,” he said.
The draw of higher pay, better conditions
The allure of a more lucrative, more stable payday abroad is an enticing proposition for Chikengezha, who currently brings home $200 a month.
“Entry salaries [abroad] are somewhere in the region of $1,300-$1,500,” he said.
It’s not just firefighters who are chasing bigger paycheques. Brain drain is also roiling Zimbabwe’s healthcare sector. With the pandemic increasing demand for healthcare workers around the globe, Zimbabwe lost some 2,000 healthcare professionals last year, according to state media. That is more than double the exodus rate of 2020.
The President of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Enock Dongo, told Al Jazeera that poor remuneration and working conditions are compelling more nurses to seek positions outside of the troubled Southern African nation, where nurses earn less than $200 a month.
“The salaries of nurses in Zimbabwe are too low. Even when compared to peers in the Southern African region, Zimbabwean nurses are the least paid,” Dongo told Al Jazeera.
He also noted that a lack of personal protective equipment has made conditions for nurses in Zimbabwe “really dangerous”.
The public outcry
As the number of firefighters dwindles, a public outcry has ensued, accusing the first responders of poor services.
In November, Harare’s fire department was heavily criticised over a penthouse blaze that cost the life of investment banker Douglas Munatsi.
Acting Chief Fire Officer Clever Mafoti defended the performance of the fire department, saying trees had prevented aerial ladders from being deployed to rescue Munatsi on the ninth floor.
And while Mafoti acknowledges that an exodus of firefighters is having an impact, he insists the service is still there for the people of Harare when it counts.
“Our ability to execute our duties has been ailing or diminishing but we are still able to fulfill our duties,” he told Al Jazeera. “We have not reached a stage where we have failed to discharge our duties and just let people’s properties burn to the ground.”
But Mafoti said financial constraints are taking a toll beyond personnel shortages – specifically with ageing fire trucks.
“[The city] council has promised us some vehicles, but as you know, this is normally a process,” he said.
On the healthcare front, pregnant women in Glen View and Budiriro, both high-density suburbs south of Harare, no longer have antenatal care at specialty clinics because there are no nurses on staff to provide those services.
“Specially trained nurses such as antenatal ones have left to look for better opportunities elsewhere,” said Harare City Council spokesperson Ruwende, adding that he’s looking for partners to provide funding in United States dollars to hire increasingly scarce talent.
“People prefer to earn US dollars and they are refusing our offers for jobs,” he said.
'Tuku's unreleased music stolen' – Daisy Mtukudzi – The Zimbabwe Mail
TODAY marks exactly three years to the day legendary music icon and national hero Dr Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi breathed his last. The revered and highly decorated musician died at the age of 66, and had the same number of albums under his belt. Many knew him as a gifted international music star, whose compositions were both soulful and poignant. However, a lot of things that happened off-stage such as his supposed “secret” love affairs were usually the staple of the country’s rumour mill. Always the conservative type, Tuku was careful, rather too obsessive, about the information of his personal life that was fed to the public. For instance, he never responded to reports that he sired children out of wedlock. Raising the issue during interviews often meant a premature end to the engagement. Last week, our Society Reporter VERONICA GWAZE (VG) sat down with the late popular musician’s widow Daisy Mtukudzi (DM) at Pakare Paye Arts Centre for an insight into a wide range of issues.
VG: Can you take us through your memories of Dr Tuku’s last moments?
DM: Our last days were as if he knew he was going. However, it was apparent that Sam’s (Mtukudzi) death continued to affect him years after, even on his deathbed. But, it is events of his last day in hospital that keep playing in my mind. The hospital staff called asking me to come, because he kept calling my name all day. I swiftly responded and went there. Upon arrival, the first thing he said was ‘‘Dee, take my ring with you’.’ We used to call each other Dee, which for others is short for Daisy and Dairai, but, to us, it was for darling.
He asked the nurse who had put the ring in storage to give it to me. I took it and told him I was putting it on. Since then, I have never removed it; it makes me feel close to him. His last words were ‘‘Dee, I love you!’’ and just after that, the machines started buzzing as he breathed his last.
VG: How is life without him and what do you miss most?
DM: What I miss most about Samanyanga is the soulmate that he was. Barely an hour would pass by without us communicating, even if he was away. I miss those calls; we always checked up on each other often. I feel lonely. I have no one to discuss issues with.
We discussed before making any decision, regardless of how small it was. Sometimes I get carried away, looking at my phone hoping that he is going to call. It is tough to find anyone to fill the gap he left in my life. Life has been empty without him; a part of me is gone. I am still grieving.
VG: We understand he left behind some unfinished work. What are your plans for the project?
DM: Sadly, the notepad that contained the project he was working on was stolen. Someone broke into the office where we kept it, thus there no longer is any pending project to talk about. However, he was also working on something with Mbeu (Ashton Nyahora) and it will be released soon. We are also planning to establish a Dr Tuku museum, where his regalia, equipment, etcetera, will be displayed.
VG: What are your sentiments about allegations that he neglected a part of his family?
DM: Tuku was a family man. He always made time for his family despite his busy schedule. Also, he made sure his children were provided for. All his children were in boarding schools. Sometimes we would go for visits together, but oftentimes Tuku would go alone as I had a demanding office. However, during school holidays we made sure that the maid took a break as we wanted our kids to learn to do general chores.
I understood that Tuku had other kids besides mine, and my hands were open to all. I loved them equally; likewise, now as a mother, and my door is open to all of them. I do not understand where issues of neglect emanated from. Up to now, I do not have a problem with any one of the children. They are all free to approach me. We were partners (with Tuku) in everything. We discussed all our moves, budgeted towards our projects and always stuck to the plan.
VG: How did you relate in private?
DM: As a couple, we grew to become best friends and we were together most of the time. Tuku wanted us to spend as much time as we could together, which is why we sometimes travelled together. When the trips were long, I would let them travel then join them later. We barely had conflicts because we had learnt to respect each other in our respective work spaces. I understood the nature of his job.
Sometimes female fans would even throw themselves at him, a lot would also be written about him, but because we were best friends, I understood him beyond that. At home, we would talk about some of the incidents and laugh it off. Tuku taught me to act as if nothing happened around us and that lesson brought us far. On special occasions like Valentines’ (Day) or on my birthday, he always made sure to spoil me. I always got a card and a bunch of flowers. I have more than 37 cards (birthday) in my archive. He also took me to countless lunch and dinner dates. I also discovered after his death (2019) that he had set in motion plans to take me to Kariba for a houseboat treat for my 60th birthday.
VG: Can you share with us some of the things he did at home?
DM: Tuku valued spending time at home such that even after his out-of-town shows, he would drive back home. I was against it. I knew he would be tired, but after returning he would say; ‘‘I had missed home and your cooking, Dee’’. He loved watching movies and never mixed his private life with business.
Probably that is why he would avoid answering calls when he was home. Sometimes we would watch soccer, making a lot of noise and laughing. He also had some ‘‘special’’ home decorating skills and often corrected me. Spending time in the garden was also one of his hobbies or playing with his grandchildren whenever they were around.
VG: When and how did you meet Dr Mtukudzi?
DM: It was back in 1980, in Kwekwe. He was friends with my late uncle Samuel Matiza. At that time, I was staying with my uncle, so one day they came to my workplace, although I did not recognise him even after introducing himself. Since then, he would frequent my workplace and months later, he made his intentions known both to me and my uncle. However, being a village girl, it took me almost a year to agree to date him.
He would call me daily on our landline. One day in 1981, Oliver’s then manager, Jack Sadza, called, asking me to travel to Harare and meet the Mtukudzi family, but I refused, which prompted Oliver to then call my uncle and plead with him for permission. The following day we met in Harare only to discover that Oliver had in fact planned to take me to Malawi, where he had a gig.
I was reluctant at first, but he was a charmer; he had his way around me. However, landing in Lilongwe, Malawi, one of my worst fears was confirmed — we met my uncle’s neighbour who worked at the airport, and when he saw me, he asked why I was in Malawi with some unknown men. It was Oliver, Sadza, another man and myself.
Despite giving him several explanations and trying to silence him, he went on to inform my uncle. What was supposed to be our first trip together and be fun turned out to be horror. I was now stressed and yearned to go back home. I had my own room and I recall the sleepless nights as fear of what would happen if they got the news at home wiped away all the excitement.
Just as Oliver had promised my uncle, in two days, we were back in Harare before driving me straight home, where, upon arrival, I could tell something was wrong. My father had just come from our rural home. Without much negotiation, together with Oliver we were asked to go back from wherever we had come from.
Without any change of clothes, we left for Harare and that was the beginning of my life with Oliver.
Later that year, he paid dowry and in 1982 we had our firstborn. Considering the time I got married and the time Selmor was to be born, 1983, it is clear there was some mischief, but I decided not to be harsh or hold grudges over the issue.
VG: Are you still pursuing music?
DM: I am neither a good vocalist nor a good dancer like Tuku was. It is actually him who kept talking me into singing.
VG: Any words of comfort to the Manatsa family following the demise of veteran musician Zexie Manatsa?
DM: Losing Baba Manatsa comes as a great shock and loss to the family and the nation at large. He (Manatsa) and Tuku came a long way, with the bond later being cemented by our kids. It’s a huge blow to all of us. May the family be consoled by God.
Minister July Moyo In Fresh Land Scandal – New Zimbabwe.com
Spread This News
By Clayton Shereni, Masvingo Correspondent
LOCAL Government minister July Moyo has been implicated in a massive land scandal in Masvingo after it emerged he is piling pressure on the ancient city’s local authority to cede vast tracts of land to an Indian investor in a murky deal.
The company, known as Simbi, retrenched some of its workers in 2019 due to financial challenges, yet is eyeing a multi-million-dollar project which requires huge tract of land.
Currently the company has almost 50 hectares, of which it land has managed to utilize just 15.
Even so, it is now demanding 200 hectares from the local authority.
Sources at the Masvingo Town House said some councilors and management staff are vouching for the deal trying to please July Moyo despite warnings the deal could spook other investors and residents.
“We have people who are supporting such kind of deal just to please the minister forgetting that the same company still has a lot of land which it hasn’t utilised. The situation is tricky because representation in council weighs in favour of Zanu PF and management which also plays a key role and are appointed by the minister,” a source said.
Sources also suspect the company could be inducing government officials to push for the deal.
With growing pressure from top government officials, the deal is said to be close to certain and soon the company will have their request approved.
Other sources also say the company has rejected a 50-hectare lease offer from council, maintaining the 200-hectare request which they demanded should come with title deeds to the land.
Recently some council officials were invited by the company where they were notified of how the company would want to utilise the land.
The proposal comes at a time where the city has a ballooning housing waiting list and a very mediocre Industry which they hope to revive by selling Industrial stands that fall within the land identified by the steelmaking company.
Masvingo mayor Collen Maboke confirmed that a request has been put forward by the company, but nothing has been cemented in relation to the proposal.
“We are yet to make a resolution pertaining to that issue. The company has requested that council investigates a possible extension of their workspace but as of now we haven’t reached any decision. Council does not make rushed decisions and we do what is best for the city,” Maboke said.
Contacted for comment, July Moyo denied any involvement in the deal, but said he would support businesses with the potential to grow.
“I’m not privy to that issue and have never interfered in issues of land allocation in Masvingo or anywhere else. What I am privy to is the promotion of business. Allocation of land is done by the local authority,” Moyo told NewZimbabwe.com.
SIMBI Steelmakers Group of Companies Logistics Officer, Tabonga Gwerena declined to comment on the matter referring all questions to the general manager.
“I am not the right person to answer on that issue but you can come to the plant and see the general manager,” Gwerena said.
When asked to avail the Manager’s number, he said: “You can come and book an appointment to see him.”
Many communities across the country have been involved in nasty fights with foreign investors over land grabs.
Foreign investors usually come with lucrative multi-million-dollar deals which government find hard to reject.
FINANCE MINISTER, Mthuli Ncube’s directive to impose import duty on vehicles imported by citizens returning from the diaspora retrospectively has triggered an outrage amid indications Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials are finding it difficult to put the policy into operation.
The treasury boss effectively banned the importation of second-hand cars that are over 10 years old last year by way of striking pre-owned cars off the Open General Import License on the basis that Zimbabweans had spent US$1,3 billion on the importation of buses, light commercial vehicles and passenger cars from 2015 to September 2020.
Despite the policy directive being operationalised through Statutory Instrument 10 of 2022 issued on the January 17, 2022, the implementation of the measures was backdated to January 1, 2022.
Some returning residents who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com Business on condition of anonymity expressed frustrations over the new directives.
“Applying the policy in retrospect has caused a nightmare for scores of returning residents who had bought their vehicles prior to the implementation of the policy directive. It would make sense to implement the directive later to avoid such hiccups for some of us who had imported the cars earlier. How can we surely be expected to pay up the duty at such a short notice,” one resident said.
A Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) insider who also preferred anonymity said staffers are confused on how to proceed on the matter amid calls for Ncube to resolve the matter urgently.
“Even as the ZIMRA officers we don’t know what to do with the cars imported prior to this SI but which got here on or after 1 January. Some people will be forced to forfeit their vehicles simply because they were imported over 10 years ago and they owned them for less than six months prior to being a returning resident,” the official said.
Efforts to get clarity on the matter from the Finance ministry’s spokesperson were fruitless.