The Saturday Star reports that the 84-year-old Mugabe's young wife Grace left for their Malaysian holiday resort well before Christmas. Before he left yesterday, Mugabe ordered his army to start slaughtering all the elephant herds in the nation's wildlife reserves to feed themselves with. They'd been eating just corn for months and were beginning to get rowdy.
Mugabe is particularly fond of the Langkawi
where he and his family also attended the anti-poverty conference last year.
Mugabe's personal doctor had allegedly helped organise cash transfers to Malaysia and Singapore for Mugabe, according to the Saturday Star newspaper in Johannesburg today.
50-billion Zim dollars buys you two loaves of bread
Meanwhile the Zimbabwean central bank has now been forced to issue 50-billon Zimbabwean-dollar notes - just enough to buy two loaves of bread: if anyone can still find any, that is. Minister Patrcik Chinamasa announced the new money 's release on Saturday.
In addition to chronic famine and a lack of clean drinking water, Zimbabwe also remains in the grip of a steadily-widening cholera epidemic in which at least 1,700 people have reportedly died, with some 35,000 infected.
This cholera epidemic, caused by fecal contamination in the drinking water, is also directly caused by the famine: in African societies, pigs are kept around homesteads to clean up human fecal matter.
However all the pigs have been slaughtered months ago for the cooking pots - so the feces now washes into the streams and water-wells whenever it rains. The rainy season started with the first downpour on 18 November , and the cholera epidemic showed up just a few days later.
Limpopo river infected with cholera:
The current epidemics in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo province of South Africa, where thousands have also been infected and at least 20 have died, are interlinked: the two countries share the Limpopo river as a border, where cholera fibrio have been found in large quantities due to fecal contamination from neighbouring villages and squatter camps.
All the many villages on both sides of the crocodile-infested Limpopo river have been suffering frequent bouts of cholera since November. Officials continue to deny that the river water is infected - however public health nurses and doctors have had the water tested independently and say the river is filthy.
Veterinarians say one of the main reasons why cholera became rife in Zimbabwe was famine.
Many families resorted to killing and eating their pigs, which they see as their 'cash animal' which almost never gets slaughtered.
However when the pigs are removed from traditional African villages – as could also be seen in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa during a swine-fever outbreak in 2003 – cholera often breaks out shortly thereafter.
Medical authorities at the tented rehydration centres set up to treat the patients outside public hospitals and clinics in South Africa - and who also treat a large number of Zimbabwean patients coming across the border in the hundreds every day -- say the number of new patients still increase. Once rehydrated, patients recover within just hours.
However the source of the infection is not being cleaned up - the river water often is drunk unfiltered by residents and there are no large emergency filtration sites set up where residents could fetch clean drinking water. see
The epidemic thus is still spreading steadily throughout the region: cholera outbreaks are also reported in other provinces of South Africa which have no direct connection with the Limpopo outbreak.
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are the hardest hit in this latest epidemic.
The Eastern Cape epidemic is particularly vicious: it started from 2003, when the government decided to eradicate the entire herd of 161,000 pigs to stop African Swine Fever from spreading to commercial farms. And it now has become endemic, reappearing every year.
Local policitian Lance Greyling of the Independent Democratic party in South Africa explained why:
“Pig farming plays a vital role in the rural economy – they are firstly a store of wealth, which people consider as their banks and, secondly, in areas where there are no sewerage systems, the pigs eat the waste.
"What happens when you kill pigs in this kind of environment is that you get faecal run-off into the rivers, leading to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.'
‘Tribal pig farming therefore plays a vital role in both the economy and the ecosystem of the area.’ See