Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Zimbabwe: anthrax joins cholera while soldiers run amok

Starvation, Aids and cholera have now been joined by an outbreak of anthrax, which has already killed two children and one adult in Zimbabwe. The killer infection is threatening to wipe out around 60 000 livestock in the northern Zambezi valley thereby compounding the horrific problem of starvation facing five-million locals.

An acute disease, anthrax can be lethal if people touch infected meat, eat it or even inhale its deadly spores.

Unlike in the case of cholera where the “government” elected to conceal the problem, thereby increasing the number of those who would be at risk exponentially, it is vital that aid be brought in to tackle the problem immediately. In trying to conceal the cholera outbreak the citizens of Zimbabwe were not advised on how to avoid contamination and, even worse, how to get urgent treatment for an airborne bacterium that can kill its victims within 10-12 hours.

The BBC has today reported that most of Harare is without water, which has been cut off as a result of the shortage of purification chemicals. This a desperate measure to contain the spread of cholera and symptomatic of Zimbabwe’s imploding infrastructure.
Hopefully however, whatever quarantine, vaccinations and other measures which are required to protect Zimbabweans and contain the spread of anthrax are being taken as a matter of urgency. While South Africa and the World Health Organization have landed up having to deal with their cholera epidemic it is in everyone’s interest that they deal with the anthrax threat as well.

While Zimbabwean healthcare has totally collapsed it is incumbent upon us and other SADC states to intervene in order to assist the local population as well as arresting its spread beyond the borders of that country.

Against this backdrop we must be acutely aware of the fact that the worsening food shortage is going to increase the desperation among those affected. At present we already have reports of parents feeding anthrax infected meat to their children.

Last week we were advised that soldiers from the Zimbabwean Defence Force pursuant to banks running out of cash ran amok in the streets of Harare. This is going to become more and more commonplace in the coming months.

If the Zanu-PF were impervious to the plight of their fellow citizens before now, then last week they got their first wake up call.

Up to now the fleeing of millions into exile, five-million facing starvation, cholera (which they concealed), anthrax, collapse of the economy and most state institutions left them stone cold. They were other people’s problems and besides, the SADC countries and aid agencies could pay for everything. Mugabe and his cohorts were too busy looting the country. As we saw in the presidential run-off Mugabe blocked aid agencies from feeding the starving as a political tool.

If eight-million are in exile and another five-million die of starvation and disease Mugabe won’t blink an eyelid. They are mere numbers and irrelevant to him other than as a source of continued power.

Now, however, the one thing that Mugabe and Zanu-PF genuinely do value above everything else — saving their own skins — is becoming a factor in the deadly waiting game that is Zimbabwe. If that army and police force should decide that they are no longer going to protect that elite, or worse turn on them, then Mugabe and the Zanu-PF elite will be seeking mercy, not from the MDC, SADC or U.N, but from the people of Zimbabwe.

Perhaps while they have time between refusals to compromise they might want to browse through a few books on Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime. I think Saddam’s execution is still online if they prefer something with a bit of action.

As they say: forewarned is forearmed.

Last week Zimbabwean negotiators agreed in principal to the constitutional amendment required to create the office of Prime Minister and the implementation of the power-sharing deal. These have now been submitted to their leaders for approval. This does not however mean that agreement has been reached on the splitting of cabinet posts, which remains deadlocked.

If Mugabe should decide that he can simply appoint his cabinet without the acceptance of the international community then at least he now knows his fate. A failed state where almost the entire infrastructure has collapsed, the rule of law is fast being abandoned and the loyalty of his army is now coming into question.

The waiting game just became deadly for Mugabe and the Zanu-PF.

  • http://www.anc.org.za/youth/ Siphiwo Qangani with kangaroos

    Can Someone please take Mugabe & Mbeki to the International Criminals Court for the chaos they’ve caused to the SADC region…

    They need to be quarantined…

  • Andrew

    Watching the basket case that is Zimbabwe lurch from one disaster to another one wonders how long it will take before the people and army react. Certainly in most other countries it would have happened long before now.

  • Pingback: Baraza » Anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe()

  • Oscar

    Thanks for this insight Michael. I thought I was dreaming when I read Sentlese’s musings on the subject.
    My fear is that the army’s discontent gets out of hand. The horsemen of the apocalypse will truly be let loose then.

  • James

    I think SADC needs to do everything it can to prevent a civil/military uprising in Zim. The flood of refugees accross the boarder not to mention the ineveitable, and very expensive, militray involvement of SADC forces would create huge problems for the region. Even worse than that would be the loss of investor confidence. There must be a political solution that avoids conflict, I think South Africa should offer Bob and his cronies political assylum allowing them to escape from Zim without reprocussions, an easy out option, and hand over control to a real coalition govt. It certainly wouldnt be a popular option but hell what has our current president really got to lose. Any solution that prevents widespready violence is in the regions best interest.

  • Dave Coventry

    Traps, the problem with the soldiers only occurs at month end, so it’s not really too difficult to contain. Although it might be a worrying sign for Cde Mugabe that the Presidential guard were apparently giving open-handed salutes and singing MDC songs yesterday.

    As far as the cholera and anthrax goes, these are great opportunities for ZANU-PF to make a bit of ready forex.

    The current water shortage in Harare was caused by the shortage of water treatment chemicals which in turn was caused by Zinwa and Gideon both siphoning off the money allocated for this.

    All aid money has to go through the RBC, so it’s a win-win for ZANU-PF and Gideon! Kewl!

  • Old,female,paleface

    This uprising is long overdue and is the beginning of the end of tyranny.
    There will be civil war !! The masses have nothing more to lose.
    FOR facts about Mugabe finances –
    check out :
    The Reserve Bank is the personal financier. The greed is beyond comprehension in that the “IT” does not spread the mountain of loot to the troops!
    WHY? It is being shared with African Leaders who remain silent. Their greed will come back to haunt them too!
    Poo always rises to the surface.
    Finally, greed has consumed the “NON-human” species that are decimating the true Zimbabweans. The “IT” and “it” KILLERS – should have their brains preserved in formaldehyde, as being an “unidentified species” who masqueraded as humans.
    Hades will welcome those non-beings. What you sow – you reap.

  • Madoda

    Why is the Zimbabwe situation still under mediation when mediation has not so far worked. I think the Zimbabwean situation should go under arbitration. In a case wherein MDC and Zanu-PF are deadlocked and entrenched in their positions, you need an arbitrator (SADC, AU or UN) who is going to impose and enforce and solution based on humanitarian grounds.

    This will stop the deaths and further slide in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean political leaders can never be allowed to use sovereignity to inflict harm on their people and badly affect their neighbours. The mediation process makes Zanu-PF and MDC leaders hold the people of Zimbabwe hostage as they cling to power.

  • Owen

    The MDC must just wait – no rush. Zanu-PF is about to implode. This is a war and casualties are high. The peaceful options have long gone.

  • Dave Coventry


    Arbitration only works if both sides believe that the arbitrator is independent. In this case Mugabe continues to sit on both SADC and AU so they are unlikely to do anything exception arbitrate in his favour (deliberate oxymoron).

    The fact is that Tsvangairai’s acceptance of Mugabe’s terms, while it might mean a nice new black Mercedes and a fat paycheck for Morgan, would do little but extend the status quo. The MDC would end up in opposition again and ZANU-PF would continue using the Country for self-enrichment.

  • Katse

    It’s been long overdue, the mad Bob has been spoon fed out of our tax moneys by his buddy, Mambeki under the pretext of amicable political remedy. You don’t fight the Brits and their cronies by compromising your own people.

    Bob lacks diplomacy and should be recalled with immediate effect, his soldiers can’t fight on an empty stomach.

  • http://- AntonS

    Madoda on December 2nd, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I don’t see how the MDC is clinging to power, they have never been in power !

    Zanu-PF are the only ones doing the clinging because they did not win the election. They are entirely to blame as is Mbeki and SA dictators club SADC.

  • BenzoL

    @James as long as we have people who believe in a peaceful solution, old Bob will continue to do what he does best: suppress and destroy.

    (Sentletse’s blog is very informative on this score)

    Unusual situations require unusual measures. The combined SADC forces should move in:
    1. blow the living daylight out of Bob and his mates,
    2. form a SADC care-taking Government before any Zimbabwean can lay hand on any state organ and
    3. prevent any current person in the Zim political landscape to get involved because non of them have proven to be effective for whatever reason.
    4. do a local quickie on old Bob and his direct mates (Neuremburg, Sadam comes to mind).

    The last should be to give the man asylum and a free ticket to freedom.

  • Mike Atkins

    I wouldn’t like to see it, but I wonder whether he will not be attacked by a mob and literally torn apart…

  • Birdman

    This has been on the cards for months! Mediation, power-sharing and any other political solution is already too late to help in the short time available. A civil war is looming and as with other African countries it will get out of hand and drag on for years.
    @ Madoda
    Your views were relevant 6 months ago. Nothing will change in the next six months without a catastrophe to force it about. Zanu-PF cannot give any ground, one concession of relevance and they will fall. When they fall, they die.

    What coalition govt will be able to sort out this mess? It will dissolve weekly and every “interest group” will insist on their representation. A military government will rise and the generals will be just as bad as Zanu-PF. Zim will be a war-torn poverty stricken country for years.

    It is a tragedy that our leaders helped this situation come about.

  • Siobhan

    Pardon my cynicism, but WHERE did the Anthrax outbreak come from? When was the last time Zim had such an outbreak? What Zim labs have custody of stocks of Anthrax (for ‘research’, of course…)? Have the tainted animals been put down? Or quarantined?

    And what makes us think that Zanu-pf would allow those nefarious ‘Western’ aid workers in to help solve this latest politically created crisis? Surely Mugabe doesn’t believe in a disease that needs ‘Western’ help to contain? Or is he going to claim that the CIA and the Aliens from the Mothership colluded on the Anthrax outbreak just to spite him?

  • http://www.wonkie.com/ Pratish

    Traps.. didn’t realise that Mugabe withheld food aid from the poor. Given your post, perhaps the proposed SADC strategy to resolve the crisis in today’s Wonkie cartoon may not be a dodgy one after all! One more cartoon for you .. http://www.wonkie.com/2008/12/02/cartoon-thabo-mbeki-and-sadc-zimbabwe-strategy/

  • Oupoot

    Just to get the numbers right: Zim had a population of about 12 million in 2000. Given the extent of health services and the rapid decline in living standards as evidenced by higher mortality and lower life expectency, it is questionable whether the Zim population increased by more than 20% in the last 8 years, a population growth of 2.3% p.a. Some argued that it may actually have decreased 23% due to AIDS (UNDP). Lets assume it is still 12million.

    Estimates on how many have left Zim range from 3 million (wikipedia) to 8 million (as in this article). That means only 4-9 million people remain in Zim, of which about 5 million is facing starvation.

    Soon there will be no more people left in Zim, except maybe the cabinet. Sounds like the Zim Mfecane.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    According to SABC/SAFM the army is attacking traders and civilians.

    According to today’s Cape Times:
    “Hundreds of Zimbabwean soldiers…went on the rampage…urging the people to join them in protesting against the government….As the soldiers ran amok, people were cheering them. Police responded by attacking the soldiers..”

    See why Mugabe can’t afford to give up Home Affairs and the police?

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    Birdie how’s the Kenyan graft matter going?

    Pratish – during the presidential run off Mugabe stopped aid agencies giving food because he said they were supporting the MDC and telling people to vote for them.

  • Dave Coventry


    I thought that this might be a sign of imminent disaster for ol’ Cde Bob, but realising the danger he has brought in mobile banks to service the barracks. So that’s alright then, danger averted….

  • http://www.anc.org.za/ Siphiwo Qangani with kangaroos


    “Soon there will be no more people left in Zim, except maybe the cabinet. Sounds like the Zim Mfecane.”

    And Of course Herald (mouth piece)workers and few Aid workers, so the number would then jump to 250…

    Sigh! Talking of MugaMfecane…


    Will Mbeki put Mugabe up in his Houghton mansion if he is forced to flee?
    It would be a nice gesture and should be welcomed by all ANC supporters. The ANC must not abandon their friends in need! I am sure that Uncle Bob is a v.pleasant house guest.

    But if Mbeki does not want Mugabe using his swimming pool, will other ANC diehards step forward and offer drinking clean water? How about it Trapzuman? You could even get an interview! That would be quite a coup.


    Oupoot on December 2nd, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    My interpretation is that the various political elites running southern Africa want to see the decimation of their indigenous populations. It is an unstated policy and cannot be openly discussed. The mines could, of course, be operated by Chinese contract workers.

  • Richard

    Not to fear, I read today the Mugabe government has offered free graves to all Zim citizens. How poetic.

    It seems the entire continent is one big graveyard.

  • Skipper

    Mugabe is orchestrating most of this, the media are playing into his hands. He will declare a state of emergency and cancel all power sharing talks, just a new ploy to hang onto power.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy


    Where did the anthrax come from? The CIA or an apartheid lab – just like AIDS!

    This rubbish is phoned in regularly to SAFM, and happened twice on World AIDS Day.

    No-one explains why AIDS would be started by the CIA (or an apartheid lab) in a remote part of Central Africa!

    The last devastating plague was the 1918 Great Flu, which has also been analysed as a type of bird flu (i.e skipped species).

    Africa must stop blaming colonialism, apartheid, the CIA, globalisation, capitalism, the World Bank and the IMF, and everyone else – and blame their leaders!

  • BenzoL

    @ Lyndall “……and blame their leaders!”

    and then what??

  • Munyaradzi

    Mugabe, that old ingrate, should leave. Printing new notes, crushing protests, intimidating the people, stealing elections, cutting off water to stop the spread of cholera, and pretending everything is alright is not addressing the problem at all. What we have in Zimbabwe is a tree growing next to a house, whose roots are growing and causing the floor to crack from below. the house will not be saved by cutting off twigs and branches, it will only be saved by uprooting the tree. Let’s solve our problem. Our problem is Mugabe and his small bunch of lunatic hoodlums. You may not want to admit it, but our children are going unschooled, our hospitals are closed and helpless, our roads are pathetic, service delivery has long died, people are starving and a lot other things i could list that are there for everyone to see. All for what? For Mugabe? He runs the state like a tuckshop, speeding around in a fancy motorcade on streets of emptiness and dejection. We used to wave when he drove by, now we are too hungry to even try. Mugabe must leave because surely we the young cannot be sacrificed for the ideologies of an ailing 80-something who is on his way to the grave. What about our future? What about our children’s future? HIV is rampant in most of Southern Africa, but it is prominent in Zimbabwe because there is no health care anymore, and no food. Printing larger denominations of money will not stop inflation. Crushing protests and demontrations brutally will not ease the discontent of the masses. Cutting off water supplies will not avert cholera. Having total control of the media will not stop the state of affairs getting to the rest of the world. Declaring himself President will not make it legitimate. The skilled workers will continue to leave the country to safeguard their future. The youth and unemployed will become criminals for the need to survive. All that will hapen in any country where the government oppresses the people. It has happened before in Uganda under Amin, in Malawi under Banda, in Zambia under Kaunda, Zaire under Mobutu. The trend is the same, and these are African countries. These are facts. We have suffered enough, but we cannot speak out for fear of retribution. I can only write anonymously to protect myself from the perils that will surely come.

    The future looks bleak for me, the Zimbabwean on Harare’s streets. But while i can, i will speak of the injustices i here see. I have no respect for the man upon whose authority the vulnerable grieve. It has been said over and over again – enough is enough, but until Mugabe leaves, we the Zimbabweans will continue to suffer, deteriorate and die unchecked. We are a peace-loving people, Zimbabweans. All we want is food for our families, a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, an education for our children, jobs for our fathers, health for the unwell and help for widows and orphans. Is it not obvious that as long as Mugabe ‘rules’ this country, we will not have any? I would rather not rule than rule over millions of people who hate me and despise me for the wretchedness I have brought upon their lives! We will never go to war in Zimbabwe. War against who? We are all suffering but we cannot speak out. Mugabe is our problem. Not the Ministries of Health, Education or otherwise, not the shops, not the Reserve Bank, Not ZESA or ZINWA or the multitude of departments and organisations who have failed to provide basic services. Those are the twigs and branches on the tree when it is the roots that are causing destruction. Mugabe is the thorn in Zimbabwe’s heel. Pull it out, and the nation will run again. I am not able to leave Zimbabwe. I would have left, just to work and feed my family, but how do I without qualifications? So instead I am forced to stay and erk out a miserable living and watch everything around me burning to the ground. There have been recent protests and riots by a few members of the Zimbabwe National Army. These are clearly economic protests, not political. Doesn’t that say something? People are hungry, and the army and the police are not immune to hunger.

    Mugabe must leave. What more can ANYONE say?

  • Kit

    Anthrax appears sporadically in Zim naturally. It lies in the ground, contained in a hard-covered spore (kind of like giardia I think, except that anthrax is a bacteria, not a protozoan).

    So for example if a wild animal or some cattle die of anthrax, etc, the bacteria hardens into these spores and then lies in the land until it either just dies out (which can be ages) or until someone disturbs it – for example a person digging for roots.

    It’s entirely possible, in fact probable, that this is just one of those relatively natural things, although in normal times perhaps people wouldn’t be digging for roots to supplement their rations.

    Madoda is right. The time for mediation is long gone. SADC and AU leaders must draw up an agreement, with the assistance of the UN if required, and insist that the terms are carried out immediately, failing which our evil uncle will find himself under a travel ban, cast out from all the gentlemen’s clubs and have his country placed under immediate and all-encompassing sanctions. No government financial transactions are to be processed internationally; the only trade to be allowed is direct humanitarian trade in goods. Refugee camps are to be set up on every border post inside neighbouring countries where refugees will receive medication, clean water, food and blankets, supplied by the international community.

    This man has spent a decade starving out his own people. How much worse exactly is it going to get for the ordinary Zimbabwean if the community shuts down all government trade and financial flows? Given that the average person dies in their mid-30s, is malnourished, doesn’t have access to clean water or medicine of any kind? How is any of that going to change? It isn’t. So let them out of their country in a controlled manner and let him feel the anger of his own people, those whom he can no longer afford to patronise.

    As for the soldiers engaging in ‘mutiny’? You guys are so gullible. They’re ‘revolting’ against the government but their targets are people that they themselves have no dealing with but people who piss off the government. Think about it.

    Another wave of torture awaits once a state of emergency is declared. As if it has ever stopped.

  • http://- AntonS


    I think we as African people should firstly blame ourselves for the knaves we put into power and then even continue to support them, after it becomes brazenly evident, that they were entirely motivated by self-glorification.

    The reason for this, I believe is the African “culture” of absentee fathers in the home, because the children, so long for a father, that they will hero-worship anybody who represents an imagined father to them , no matter how vile this person may be. So the solution really starts in the home and not really in politics, where the model for good governance should have been established.

    I realise that this is long and hard term solution which seems hopeless, because to change this would require a God given miracle really !

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    I suggest the guys all read Munyaradzi’s comment.

    That says it all.

  • Katse

    Munyaradzi, Why did Mugabe get such number of votes to start with???

  • japes

    Sad and scary. Anthrax is a potential killer. Not for nothing is it one of the favourites of germ warfare and post 9/11 postal scares. 30 or so years ago it was feared in SA (not sure about now). If an animal was supected of having died of anthrax the carcase was burnt and buried but not before some brave soul took a blood smear from the spleen and sent it off to the State vet. Not sure also what he did but of course all these ssytems are pretty much gone in SA, let alone Zim.


    Munyaradzi on December 3rd, 2008 at 9:45 am
    Thank you for your post. Please keep this blog updated.

    There are people in South Africa who care about your plight and understand, only too well, that Mugabe must go.

    Unfortunately, the ANCrooks are propping Mugabe up. It is a national disgrace and all South Africans should hold their heads in shame.

    How anyone can still vote ZUMALEMA PF, having taken account of their appalling support for ZANU PF, is quite unbelievable. We truly live in bizarre times.

    ANC supporters are morally culpable for the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe. Whether they should come before a tribunal, once Mugabe dies, is debatable. I suppose that under international law, ANC supporters will walk free. But morally…they are damned!


    For some time I have argued that Zimbabwe is effectively a province of South Africa. Such an argument has not received wide-spread currency in the South African media. But I think, that in time you and other commentators ,will start to understand my point. I think that it needs to be stressed….
    Zimbabwe is not The SADC’s problem.
    It is not the AU’s problem.
    It is not The UN’s problem.
    It is not Barack Obama’s problem.
    It is South Africa’s problem.


    “Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Limpopo River, on Zimbabwe’s border with South Africa, has been contaminated with cholera.
    South African local health department spokesman Phuti Seloba has warned people not to use the river water at all.
    Cases of cholera have been reported either side of Zimbabwe’s borders with South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.
    The BBC’s Peter Biles reports from the South African town of Musina, near the border with Zimbabwe, that cholera patients are being treated at an emergency centre on the lawn in front of the hospital.
    One cholera victim from Harare told him that on Zimbabwe’s side of the border, toilets had not functioned for a month, and people were “defecating everywhere”.”

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy


    “And then what?”. Normally one votes in the opposition. However, not in Africa. The old boys club rushes to the rescue and forces a “unity” government.


    There were 12 million people in Zimbabwe. 1 million were displaced in a wipe out of an urban”slum”. 1.5 million were farm workers kicked off the farms. None of them could vote – because they were displaced from their voting districts. 3-5 million have left the country and can’t vote either. No new registration of voters has been done in 8 years – so anyone who tuened 18 in the last 8 years can’t vote. So only 2 million people could vote – and Mugabe still lost!

    Anton S

    Don’t blame Africans.Blame Mbeki. Blame SADC. Blame the AU. Blame the UN.

    Morgan is fighting for democracy in all of Southern Africa. He is the first non “liberation” party that has won an election, despite everything, and Africa’s elites and dictators can’t face it.

  • munya

    This is sad. What you are all saying here is ammunition for Mugabe to use when he speaks to heads of state in SADC next week.
    1. Remember the militia story – mdc training bandits in Botswana?
    2. Soldiers rioting in the streets – you have swallowed that? Good.
    3. Put the two together.
    If you have swallowed the “mutiny”, why would you blame the SADC heads of state for swallowing it as well?
    4. Under the circumstances, would any one of them criticise a STATE OF EMERGENCY imposed to deal with a “mutiny”, a coup (that you all believe is in the offing, which is supported by a neighbouring state, known to be vocal and vitriolic in condemning Mugabe?
    The chilling story, the plan, perfect in every detail, is explained in detail my favourite blog author Denford Magora on his blog.
    After reading all these comments I see just how utterly brilliant Mugabe’s plan is. You are actually swallowing it. So will the heads of state of SADC and the Emergency measures will be given his blessing.
    Gotta love it, don’t you.

  • Kit

    Morgan is the first ‘non-liberator’ to win an election in Southern Africa? Really?

    Zimbabwe is one of the newest nations in Southern Africa; some others have been through variants of this cycle already – as an example, look at the difference between Kaunda’s final admission of defeat and Mugabe’s continued intransigence. It’s incredibly telling. Kaunda hung on until there was rioting and his country was being looked upon as a joke, and then realised that there had been fundamental changes in his world. Mugabe refuses to acknowledge that anything can change. These differences have nothing whatsoever to do with Tsvangirai; they are differences in the ‘liberator’s’ viewpoint.

    And let’s be honest, he didn’t actually win because it wasn’t actually an election.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    What I find amazing is that anyone could even suggest culpability on the part of Tsvangirai. He has not governed Zim for a single day.

    PLUS he is expected to accept a deal which allows the idiots who have destroyed the country to carry on ruling while he gives their genocide respectability by participating in it.