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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 06:45 GMT 07:45 UK
Zimbabwe crisis leads to moral decay
Judith Melby, an Africa specialist with aid agency Christian Aid, says that Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis has also led to a moral decline.

People walking and cycling to work (File photo)
Many workers are unable to afford to get buses to work
"How do you tell your children it is important to get an education when jobs - if you are lucky enough to get one - have worthless salaries," asks one Zimbabwean mother.

"They know that a quick deal on the black market can give them the same amount as a month's salary."

Like many people in Zimbabwe, she did not wish to be identified.

Students milling about in the sunshine at the University of Zimbabwe don't have much faith in degrees either.

Tuition fees increase every term and students find it impossible to pay even for notebooks, much less books.

You have to go on the black market in order to pay for all this.

"It is so hypocritical," said one young student.

"All those people in power received free education under [former white minority leader] Ian Smith or from the missionaries. They don't care that we can't afford the education; also all the good teachers have left. Is it any surprise we look for other ways to get money?"

Worthless currency

The government has warned there will be wheat shortages in the coming months because farmers have only planted 10% of the required winter wheat crop.

Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation of 3,700% is destroying the economy.

We have lived in a society for a long time now that has tended to reward political criminals
Jonah Gokovah
Christian Alliance
Unemployment is already more than 80%, while average incomes are less than $1 a day and life expectancy is just 36 years.

The official rate for $1 is 250 Zimbabwe dollars but on the black market $1 can net you more than 40,000 Zimbabwe dollars.

That's fine if you can get your hands on foreign exchange, but what happens if you can't?

"I earn 200,000 [Zimbabwe] dollars a month," said a security guard.

"But cooking oil costs 90,000 and I still haven't paid for food, rent, clothes, school fees and transport to work. How am I supposed to live?"

The worthless currency is also one of the reasons people are fleeing the country; by some estimates up to one-third of Zimbabweans now live abroad.

"It is impossible to find farm workers," complains a farmer outside Bulawayo in the south of the country.

"They prefer to chance their luck in South Africa where at least the money is worth something. Even if it is dangerous crossing the border and they risk being deported back home."

'Divided society'

The Christian Alliance is an organisation, supported by Christian Aid, which is seeking to find a peaceful transition to democracy.

It wants to participate in the mediation efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Woman begging in Harare (file photo)
Those without jobs, or family support, have few other options
In March, the governments in southern Africa entrusted him with the job of opening a dialogue between the government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

But the alliance sees the restoration of traditional values as just as important as the reform of government institutions.

"We are a very divided society," said Christian Alliance coordinator Jonah Gokovah.

"As a result we have become very suspicious of each other. People are finding all kinds of ways of surviving and that is turning a large number of our people into criminals."

This struggle for survival corrupts everyone.

The security services have infiltrated opposition groups and informing on others is common.

"We have lived in a society for a long time now that has tended to reward political criminals," Mr Gokova said.

"Those who engage in violence need to be punished openly and those who are seeking to promote peaceful coexistence need to be rewarded for those actions."

The director of an aid agency, who also did not want to be identified, said she felt she was ridiculed when she travelled abroad.

"They think that if you are still in Zimbabwe you must be stupid; they say anyone intelligent would have left long ago."

And she worries any change may come too late for a return to the Zimbabwe she knew when she was a child, a Zimbabwe that cherished and rewarded education and hard work.

"The warmth of the people's hearts is slipping away."




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