Monday, February 27, 2017

Satrix To Offer Two New ETFs

Sunday, February 26, 2017

President Trump Sends A Controversial Birthday Greeting To Robert Mugabe

US Wary Of Its New Neighbor In Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base

The United States established Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
CreditJason Straziuso/Associated Press
DJIBOUTI — The two countries keep dozens of intercontinental nuclear missiles pointed at each other’s cities. Their frigates and fighter jets occasionally face off in the contested waters of the South China Sea.
With no shared border, China and the United States mostly circle each other from afar, relying on satellites and cybersnooping to peek inside the workings of each other’s war machines.
But the two strategic rivals are about to become neighbors in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert. China is constructing its first overseas military base here — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.
With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
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“It’s like having a rival football team using an adjacent practice field,” said Gabriel Collins, an expert on the Chinese military and a founder of the analysis portal China SignPost. “They can scope out some of your plays. On the other hand, the scouting opportunity goes both ways.”
Established after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 personnel. Some are involved in highly secretive missions, including targeted drone killings in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the raid last month in Yemen that left a member of the Navy SEALs dead. The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent American military installation in Africa.
Beyond surveillance concerns, United States officials, citing the billions of dollars in Chinese loans to Djibouti’s heavily indebted government, wonder about the long-term durability of an alliance that has served Washington well in its global fight against Islamic extremism.
Just as important, experts say, the base’s construction is a milestone marking Beijing’s expanding global ambitions — with potential implications for America’s longstanding military dominance.
“It’s a huge strategic development,” said Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, who has studied satellite imagery of the construction.
“It’s naval power expansion for protecting commerce and China’s regional interests in the Horn of Africa,” Professor Dutton said. “This is what expansionary powers do. China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago.”
Chinese officials play down the significance of the base, saying it will largely support antipiracy operations that have helped quell the threat to international shipping once posed by marauding Somalis.
“The support facility will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation for the Chinese troops taking part in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue,” the Defense Ministry in Beijing said in a written reply to questions.
In addition to having 2,400 peacekeepers in Africa, China has used its vessels to escort more than 6,000 boats from many countries through the Gulf of Aden, the ministry said. China’s military has also evacuated its citizens caught in the world’s trouble spots. In 2011, the military plucked 35,000 from Libya, and 600 from Yemen in 2015.
As China’s navy has assumed these new roles far from home, its commanders have struggled to maintain vessels and resupply them with food and fuel.
Capt. Liu Jianzhong, a former political commissar of a Chinese destroyer plying the Gulf of Aden, said the lack of a dedicated port in the region took a toll on personnel forced to spend long stretches at sea.
Chinese workers in 2015 at the construction site of a railway linking Djibouti with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. China has financed this and other critical infrastructure projects in Djibouti.CreditCarl De Souza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“For six months, we didn’t reach the shore, and a lot of sailors had physical and psychological problems,” he told the state-run China Military Online. To that end, the new base will include a gym, the ministry said.
Professor Dutton said Beijing would most likely try to “acclimatize” the world by using the facility for commercial purposes when it begins operating this year and then gradually increase the number and variety of warships that dock there.
“It will be relatively incremental in the forward deployment of naval power. You are not going to see a Yokosuka,” he said, referring to the base for the United States Seventh Fleet in Japan.
In its written answers, the ministry said that China was not budging from its “defensive” military policy and that the base did not indicate an “arms race or military expansion.”
In recent years, China has moved aggressively to increase its power projection capabilities through the rapid modernization of its navy. Military spending has soared, with Beijing’s defense budget expected to reach $233 billion by 2020, more than all Western European countries combined, and double the figure from 2010, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. In 2016, the United States spent more than $622 billion on the military, Jane’s said.
These days, Chinese naval vessels, including nuclear submarines, roam much of the globe, from contested waters of the Yellow Sea to Sri Lanka and San Diego.
China’s decision to establish an overseas military installation comes as little surprise to those who have watched Beijing steadily jettison a decades-old principle of noninterference in the affairs of other countries.
The shift is an outgrowth of China’s evolution from an impoverished slumbering introvert to deep-pocketed mercantilist with economic interests across the globe.
Half of China’s oil imports sail through the Mandeb Strait, the choke point off Djibouti that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Across Africa, state-owned companies are investing tens of billions of dollars in railwaysfactories and mines.
And the millions of Chinese citizens who live and work overseas have come to expect that the government will look out for their interests — a point driven home in recent years when Beijing was forced to rescue Chinese nationals from strife-torn Libya and Yemen.
“The facility in Djibouti is a very interesting lens through which to view China’s growing capabilities and ambitions,” said Andrew S. Erickson, an expert at China’s maritime transformation at the Naval War College and the editor of the book “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding.”
“Not only will it give them a huge shot in the arm in terms of naval logistics, but it will also strengthen China’s image at home and abroad.”
A low-rise encampment built adjacent to a new Chinese-owned commercial port, the 90-acre base is designed to house up to several thousand troops and will include storage structures for weapons, repair facilities for ships and helicopters, and five berths for commercial ships and one for military vessels.
At the base’s front gate recently, Chinese workers in construction helmets waved away a reporter who tried to ask questions. China’s Defense Ministry declined a request to tour the site.
American officials say they were blindsided by Djibouti’s decision, announced last year, to give China a 10-year lease for the land. Just two years earlier, Susan Rice, the national security adviser under President Barack Obama, had flown here to head off a similar arrangement with Russia.
Shortly afterward, the White House announced a 20-year lease renewal that doubled its annual payments for Camp Lemonnier, to $63 million, and a plan to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade the installation.
Gulf of Tadjoura
Doraleh Multi-
purpose Port
Port of Djibouti
Gulf of Aden
Chinese Naval Base
Under construction
1 Mile
International Airport
Gulf of Aden
Camp Lemonnier
If the Pentagon’s current base restrictions are any guide, American and Chinese troops are unlikely to be sharing beers any time soon. American officials, citing possible security threats, keep most personnel confined to the 570-acre rectangle of scrubland, which is a 10-minute drive from the center of Djibouti city. It is a policy that stirs some discontent among those who often spend yearlong stints at Camp Lemonnier without venturing outside.
By contrast, French military personnel can often be seen jogging through the city and socializing with locals. Americans who work for the United States Embassy also live in the community and say they feel little threat to their safety.
Life on base can be monotonous, broken up by visits to the fitness center or meals at the camp’s Subway sandwich outlet. Capt. James Black, the camp’s commanding officer, said one of his primary challenges was to provide salubrious distractions for those stationed here. The distractions include free Wi-Fi, a movie theater, Texas Hold ’em tournaments and the occasional soccer match with Italian and German troops.
“We’re like a landlocked aircraft carrier,” Captain Black said during a recent tour of the installation, which is blasted in summer by broiling heat. “Part of my job is to create opportunities to give people a break and attend to their mental health needs.”
Local residents also crave more face time with the Americans. Some say Camp Lemonnier personnel could play a more active role in helping to alleviate Djibouti’s crushing poverty by building schools, painting hospitals or simply taking part in language exchanges.
Others, like Mohamed Ali Basha, the owner of a Yemeni-style restaurant that serves grilled fish and massive discs of baked flatbread, said he would welcome business from military personnel.
“I don’t understand why the Americans are so obsessed with security here, but I would be happy to close the restaurant for them if they would come,” Mr. Basha, 26, said. “Just call in advance.”
In interviews, Djiboutian officials expressed little concern that two strategic adversaries would be sharing space in a country the size of New Jersey. It helps that the Chinese are paying $20 million a year in rent on top of the billions they are spending to finance critical infrastructure, including ports and airports, a new rail line and a pipeline that will bring desperately needed drinking water from neighboring Ethiopia.
Critics say the surge of loans, which amount to 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, raises concerns about China’s leverage over the Djibouti government should it fall behind on debt payments.
“Such generous credit is itself a form of control,” said Mohamed Daoud Chehem, a prominent government critic. “We don’t know what China’s intentions really are.”
But on the city’s dusty, potholed streets, most people are pleased to see China joining the club of a half-dozen foreign militaries that have a presence here, among them Japan, Italy and Britain. Also here is a large contingent of French soldiers who stayed on after 1977, when the colony formerly known as French Somaliland gained independence.
Abdirahman M. Ahmed, who runs Green Djibouti International, an environmental social enterprise, said many people viewed foreign militaries as a stabilizing force, given their country’s diminutive size, its lack of resources and the potential threats from neighbors like Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, where expansionist sentiments continue to burble.
“We don’t see any problem having the Chinese here,” he said. “They provide revenue and help play a deterrence to those who would love to annex Djibouti.”
The plethora of foreign troops, some say, also served as a bulwark against the jihadist violence that has destabilized other countries in the region. Djibouti, whose population of 900,000 embraces a moderate form of Sunni Islam, has not been entirely spared: In 2014, a double suicide bombing at a downtown restaurant popular with foreigners killed a Turkish national and wounded 11 people. The Shabab, the Somali-based militant group, later claimed responsibility, saying the attack was motivated by the presence of so many Western troops in Djibouti.
For American military strategists, the security implications of the Chinese base are unclear, though practically speaking, many experts say the military threat is minimal.
“A port like this isn’t very defensible against attack,” said Philip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University. “It wouldn’t last very long in a war.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Suspected Jihadist Are Being Killed In Droves In Kenya

Kenya’s dirty warSuspected jihadists are being killed in droves on Kenya’s coast

The quiescent and the dead

BALBINA, a woman from Mombasa, Kenya’s main coastal city, remembers fetching her neighbour Abdullah’s body from a police station. “It wasn’t so terrible,” says Balbina (not her real name). Surprisingly, “there was not even any blood.” The wound was hidden at the back of his head; his face was serene. He was killed by police, in what they claimed (but she does not believe) was a shoot-out. “Abdullah did wrong. He went to Somalia, maybe he killed innocent people.” But he deserved justice, she says, not to be shot in the back of the head without a trial.
Such stories are easy to find on the Kenyan coast, where young men are often recruited to fight for al-Shabab (“the Youth”), a Somali jihadist group. Some go to fight in Somalia; some carry out terrorist attacks at home. In recent years the government has cracked down on anyone it suspects might have joined al-Shabab. In December Haki Africa, a human-rights group, published the names of 81 people, almost all young Muslim men, who it says were killed or “disappeared” by police since 2012. The real number is probably much higher, says Francis Auma, the group’s co-ordinator, since many cases go unreported or leave few clues implicating the state.
The coast of Kenya has long felt different from the rest of the country. Under British rule a ten-mile littoral strip was nominally part of a protectorate administered by the Sultan of Zanzibar, rather than part of the colony of Kenya. Unlike the rest of the mostly Christian country, the coast is largely Muslim, with a large ethnic Somali population to the north. And since independence from Britain in 1963, it has had a rebellious streak, built on anger about the unequal distribution of land and jobs, perceived persecution of Muslims, and dislike of rule by elites from Nairobi, the capital.
It is these resentments that help al-Shabab to recruit. Abdullah, says Balbina, “had no parents; he was lonely and jobless.” That made him easy prey for recruiters, who stoked his anger while also flashing cash and promising him a better life in Somalia. Money is a big lure, says a local official. Some jihadists even pose as recruitment agents for jobs in the Gulf, she says. “You see a man in a good car, he takes three or four guys, promising jobs.”
The joy of jihad
Many recruits are disappointed—Somalia is not the Islamic paradise they were told it was, and foreigners are used as cannon fodder. So they come back to Kenya, where they face an awful choice. They can join an amnesty programme and turn informer—thereby risking being killed by their erstwhile chums. Or they can refuse, and risk being “disappeared” by the police. Any young man who has been away from his village for a while, or who has been seen with suspected al-Shabab sympathisers, is in danger. Some bodies have been found dumped in a game park; others were presumably eaten by hyenas before they could be found.
Some of the disappeared were doubtless guilty, but none had a chance to defend himself in court. And in some cases the police apparently grabbed the wrong man. Idris Mohamed, 26, was shot in Mombasa. The family told reporters that police officers had stripped him naked, handcuffed him and forced him to lie face down before shooting him. (The police deny this, saying he was killed by an unknown assailant.) Officers who brought his body to the mortuary filed paperwork saying he was Ismael Mohamed, a terrorism suspect and the victim’s brother, who had not been seen for some months. “The facts strongly suggest a case of mistaken identity,” concludes Haki Africa.
Such criticism irks the government. Mr Auma says that Haki Africa has been harassed by the authorities since it began publishing reports of extrajudicial killings; at one point, the group’s bank accounts were frozen. Hassan Abdille of Muslims for Human Rights, another lobby group, says his staff have been spied on.

Apologists for the police note that the wave of jihadist attacks that hit the coast between 2011 and 2014 appears to have ebbed. But even if brutal tactics have curbed terrorism in the short term, they risk infuriating a generation of young Muslim men and storing up trouble for the future. “It’s counterproductive, as it is pushing some people towards radicalism when they see their kin killed and no justice done,” says Mr Auma.
Moreover, by killing those who return the police may be silencing an effective form of anti-jihadist propaganda. Left to their own devices, those returning would surely tell other youngsters how awful it was going to Somalia to fight. Many of those who come back are said to have complained that they were never paid as promised. Others suffered abuse: “They went there having been promised four wives each,” says a community worker. “Instead they became wives.”
Police hit squads are operating in an already febrile political atmosphere. In August Kenya will hold local and national elections, and Mombasa will be among the most fiercely contested cities. A system of devolution introduced in 2013 means that its governor controls a bigger budget. The incumbent, Ali Hassan Joho, is popular among local Muslims, whom he promises to defend from grasping ruling-party politicians in Nairobi. He is close to Raila Odinga, Kenya’s main opposition leader, and is said to be financing Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement party.
Locals say that some six months before the vote, all the main parties are already recruiting youngsters into political gangs, known as “pressure groups” to intimidate opponents and their voters. They are paying voters to register and there could be widespread vote-buying on the day. Many say that Mr Joho’s supporters could turn violent if he looks likely to lose.
It would not be the first time that a Kenyan election turns bloody. After a flawed ballot in 2007 politicians stoked fighting that claimed some 1,300 lives. The whiff of that conflict hung heavily over the next vote in 2013, which nonetheless proceeded peacefully. But many in Kenya now fret that there may be a return to mayhem, particularly in Mombasa, where politicians are fighting for control of Kenya’s lucrative main port. With well-practised hit-squads already on the prowl, the risks of conflagration are escalating.


If You Have US Dollars Now Is The Time To Take A Zimbabwe Vacation!

The king of funny moneyZimbabwe’s new “bond notes” are falling fast

Robert Mugabe prints banknotes and insists they are worth as much as US dollars. No one is fooled

HOW much is an American dollar worth? The glib answer is exactly one buck. But that is far from the case if the dollar in question is one of Zimbabwe’s “bond notes”, the world’s newest currency that is not officially a currency.
Zimbabwe adopted the US dollar as its official currency after the spendthrift regime of President Robert Mugabe printed so many of its own notes that it caused hyperinflation in 2008. The economy briefly stabilised; but old habits die hard. Last year the government again spent far more money than it raised, much of it on imports, causing scarce greenbacks to flow out of the country.
By the end of the year there were so few dollars still circulating that banks were limiting withdrawals to $50 a day, crippling the economy. The central bank decided to issue a new currency, called “bond notes”, pegged to the American dollar. Two months on, the new notes, nicknamed “bollars”, are rapidly losing their value. People have discovered that they are not, in fact, convertible into real dollars. So they cannot be used to pay for imports—a real problem in a country that does not make much. Shops accepting bond notes can use them to pay local wages and suppliers or deposit them in their local bank accounts (denominated in US dollars). But if they want to pay for imports to restock their shelves, they still have to queue for real dollars.
So desperate are shops for hard currency that they are offering discounts of as much as 50% to customers who hand over greenbacks. Some petrol stations now have separate pumps where the price of fuel is lower for customers who pay with hard-currency cash instead of using a debit card. A number of shops in Harare have resorted to indicating two or three different prices for the same item—a US dollar cash price, a bond-note price and a third price if one pays by card.
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Black marketeers have been quick to help out. Some are offering to convert bank balances into real dollars at premiums ranging from 5% to 30%.
The big supermarket chains are not allowed to offer cash discounts or discriminate against customers who use bond notes or electronic cards. Instead they have simply put up their prices. With inflation surging, the bond notes are proving to be exactly what many Zimbabweans feared they might be: the horribly resurrected zombie of their dead cousin, the Zimbabwe dollar, which burned itself out almost a decade ago. Unless the country changes tack, more economic misery looms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Zimbabwe's Rulers Use A Monument's Walls To Build A Legacy

The Great Zimbabwe, a Unesco World Heritage site near Masvingo in southern Zimbabwe, is a ruined city founded in the 11th century. Believed to have been the capital of the Shona people, it gave the nation its name.
CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times
GREAT ZIMBABWE NATIONAL MONUMENT, Zimbabwe — Black Africans could never have built the Great Zimbabwe monument, or so the white rulers used to say.
Clearly, it was made by the Phoenicians or other visitors from faraway places, they insisted. Never mind that archaeologists and carbon dating had confirmed the obvious: that the monument was constructed by the ancestors of the Africans living nearby.
The Great Zimbabwe, a Unesco World Heritage site that is one of the few surviving precolonial monuments in sub-Saharan Africa, has long been the continent’s fiercest archaeological battleground. Europeans used its supposed foreign origins to justify their domination. Liberation fighters used it as a rallying cry for their cause, eventually naming their newly independent nation after it.
But the fight over the Great Zimbabwe did not end with independence.
As President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have clung to power through violence, they have increasingly turned to the Great Zimbabwe for vindication.
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In the monument’s elegantly curved stone walls — at the center of a ruined city where thousands lived centuries ago — Zimbabwe’s current leaders have also found a rationale for their party’s 37 uninterrupted years in power.
In December, the party’s annual conference was held in a town near the Great Zimbabwe. Emmerson Mnangagwa, a vice president and one of the leading contenders to succeed Mr. Mugabe, spoke of the “unifying Great Zimbabwe monument from which the party’s motto, resilience, ingenuity, inventiveness and inspiration derive.”
Last year, Mr. Mugabe — the world’s oldest head of state, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence — held an enormous celebration for his 92nd birthday at the Great Zimbabwe.
Mr. Mugabe spoke of the “majestic Great Zimbabwe monument whose African origins the imperialists wished so much to denigrate.” Then he ate a slice of a cake baked in the image of the monument that weighed 92 kilograms, or 203 pounds.
“Whether it’s the Rhodesians or the ZANU-PF government, they always want to try and milk some political glamour out of this very illustrious story,” said Nelson Chamisa, an opposition leader who served between 2009 and 2013 as the information and communication technology minister of a coalition government, referring to the white minority who controlled the country known as Rhodesia until independence.
But the Great Zimbabwe, Mr. Chamisa said, remained off limits to any opposition events.
“We’ve never tried in the past to go there,” he said. “Our colleagues in ZANU-PF guard it jealously. They would probably think that we want to snatch away its legacy.”
Sprawling across 2,000 acres in southern Zimbabwe, the Great Zimbabwe was a city founded in the 11th century and inhabited, at its peak, by more than 10,000 people.
Stone walls, rising as high as 32 feet and held together without mortar, formed large enclosures in which lived various communities. It was believed to be the capital of the local Shona people, who built similar, though smaller, communities throughout the region. Zimbabwe means “house of stone” in the Shona language.
Located near gold fields, the Great Zimbabwe was also part of a trading network extending up the East African coast to the Arab world, Persia and China. Perhaps because of the depletion of gold and a decline in trade, the Great Zimbabwe was abandoned around 1450.
“If you see how these things were built, it can tell you how these people were very intelligent,” said Lovemore Mugwisi, who was visiting the Great Zimbabwe on a rainy morning with his wife and four children. “There was no cement, no mortar; people were doing it just using their bare hands, and these structures still stand. Even before the settlers came here, there was civilization.”
James Mugabe’s farm in a village near Great Zimbabwe. Local villagers are free to come and go at Great Zimbabwe, often with their cattle. CreditJoao Silva/The New York Times
Few ancient monuments survive across sub-Saharan Africa. Besides the Great Zimbabwe, said Webber Ndoro, director of the African World Heritage Fund, there are the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela and the ancient city of Aksum, both in Ethiopia, which is, significantly, the only African nation that was never colonized.
“Ethiopia was never colonized so the interpretation was from the Ethiopians themselves,” said Mr. Ndoro, a Zimbabwean archaeologist who worked as a curator at the Great Zimbabwe in the early 1990s. “But when you come to southern Africa, where you have a long history of colonization, there was an attempt by the colonial governments not to attribute anything of significance to the local populations because then their superiority would be challenged.”
As Europeans set foot in the Great Zimbabwe during the colonial scramble for Africa in the 19th century, exotic explanations about the monument’s origins abounded.
The ruins were the capital of the Queen of Sheba, or the site of King Solomon’s Mines, the arguments went.
European explorers, some financed by Cecil Rhodes, the British industrialist whose company created the colony bearing his name, said the Great Zimbabwe was built by the Phoenicians, or Egyptians, or a previous white civilization in Africa that was returning to reclaim its rightful place.
“It was only fantasy and speculation, but people in Europe loved it,” said Preben Kaarsholm, a Danish expert on Zimbabwe. “And it was used to justify colonialism and the imperialist onslaught.”
Archaeologists, starting as early as 1905, said that local Africans had erected the Great Zimbabwe, a conclusion reinforced by carbon dating and other scientific developments over the decades.
But the British colonial authorities, and then the white-minority government in power, would hear nothing of it. Books on the Great Zimbabwe were censored. An archaeologist, Peter Garlake, who refused to suspend his research on the monument’s African origins was forced into exile, returning only after independence in 1980.
In his independence speech, Mr. Mugabe said that his people were gaining “a new history and a new past.” The Great Zimbabwe would finally be theirs.
Analysts say it was around 2000 — when Mr. Mugabe faced serious challenges to his authority — that he saw the value in forging ties between his party and the Great Zimbabwe. The party began holding events at the site, including celebrations for National Unity Day and Mr. Mugabe’s birthday parties.
“Zimbabwe is supposed to unite around that monument, and, in identifying with the Great Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF is an organization that is intricately linked with that glorious past and should be permanently in power because of that claimed linkage with the past,” said Innocent Pikirayi, a Zimbabwean archaeologist and professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, explaining the government’s logic.
“It’s manipulation of the highest order when it comes to the past,” he said.
Despite the monument’s importance to Zimbabwe and Africa, little has been invested in its upkeep. Visitors can climb on top of fragile walls. Local villagers are free to come and go, often with their cattle.
“When you use monuments to get political mileage, you should at least invest in them so that your conscience is clear,” Mr. Pikirayi said.
On a rainy morning, Tongai Dzimiri, 27, and his brother, Nyasha, 12, led their family’s cows to graze on the Great Zimbabwe’s grounds.
“We grew up being told that this was built by our ancestors,” Mr. Dzimiri said.
But the present situation in Zimbabwe, he said, had instilled doubts in his mind — a sign that, in the continuing fight over ownership of the Great Zimbabwe, the new history and past promised by Mr. Mugabe were being questioned by the reality of a Zimbabwe ground down by corruption, poverty and misrule.
“Maybe some passers-by built this,” Mr. Dzimiri said, as he kept an eye on his cows, a couple of which had disappeared behind one of the Great Zimbabwe’s stone walls. “Maybe some white people.”
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