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Zimbabwe’s Cholera Crisis Spurs New Calls for Mugabe to Step Down

In the wake of Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak, worsening food shortages and political unrest, some international leaders are urging embattled President Robert Mugabe to step down. An analyst provides an update on the situation.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, cholera, chaos, and politics in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe. We begin with a report from Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

  • Be forewarned:

    This report contains some disturbing images.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    You really know a country is in trouble when a $10 million bank note gets dumped in the rubbish and then gets ignored by those scavenging for scraps of food in the stinking refuse.

    You really know a country is in trouble when you see children filling water bottles in a street-side sewer, even when everyone knows about the cholera epidemic.

    And most heartbreakingly, you really know a country is in trouble when you see pictures like this: a 2-year-old baby boy suffering organ malfunction and extreme symptoms of severe malnutrition.

    President Robert Mugabe, defiant, unmoved, now accused of condemning his people to death, death by torture, death by hunger, and death by disease.

    The rhetoric ratcheting up now, a growing clamor of voices, albeit from mostly Western leaders, saying enough, Mugabe must go.

    As the crisis in Zimbabwe continues to deepen, the most outspoken from an African leader has come from the Kenyan prime minister, who's called for military intervention.

    The former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said today that Zimbabwe was rapidly becoming a full-blown failed state.

    Total chaos is how the U.N. described the cholera crisis today. Officially, it's put the number of cases at close to 14,000, nearly 600 dead, but we've been told again and again that these numbers are grossly conservative.

    Now the projections cited by Channel 4 news 10 days ago that infections could hit 60,000 with a kill rate of 1 in 10 now being cited by U.N. agencies, too.

    The disease, which is treatable and preventable, continues to spread and to kill in neighboring South Africa. The hospital in the border town of Musina, which when we visited last week was overwhelmed, was visited today by South Africa's health minister, who recognizes the gravity of the situation.

    BARBARA HOGAN, South African health minister: We've got to accept that there is a major health crisis in Zimbabwe. And I am very encouraged by the way the people of Musina have stood together under very difficult circumstances and are helping the people of Zimbabwe.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    Pretoria, those still unwilling to put pressure on Robert Mugabe to step down to forestall his country's return to year zero.

    AYANDA NTSALUBA, Department of Foreign Affairs, South Africa: If there's any pressure on President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF is the pressure for them to move with greater speed to make sure that there's a successful implementation of the agreement which was signed on September 15th so that an inclusive government can be established.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    But for Zimbabweans, that agreement is dead in the infected water. Zimbabweans live in limbo between life and death. In the countryside, they now survive on wild berries, and their government continues to blame everyone but themselves for this crisis.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to Margaret Warner.

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