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Rebuilding Lagos; Zimbabwe Situation

Aired February 21, 2009 - 12:30:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE AFRICA, I'm Isha Sesay. On the program this week, Nkepile Mabuse tells us about her latest trip inside Zimbabwe and the urgent crisis facing the country's new prime minister. And Brent Sadler shows us Nigeria's ambitious plans to remake the city of Lagos.

Let's begin with Zimbabwe, and the enormous problems facing its people and the new unity government. Nkepile Mabuse recently got back from covering the swearing in of the prime minister and cabinet members. She found that conditions have deteriorated further since the last time she was there.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Isha, it's so astonishing how rapidly the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates. I mean, if you go within a month, things change so dramatically and so drastically.

The first thing that I noticed, this time around, is that there were no queues outside banks. Previously, people used to sleep outside banks, you know, waiting to get their money out, and they had a withdrawal, a daily withdrawal limit. Now, because the Zimbabwean dollar is not used, nobody trades in Zimbabwe in Zimbabwean dollars anymore; everybody uses foreign currency. Even the street vendors don't accept the Zim dollars. There were no queues. And when you purchase something, maybe using a 20 U.S. dollar note, you get this variety of currencies in return as your change. You get some pula, a Botswana pula; you get South African rand and some dollars.

In Zimbabwe on Wednesday, when Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister, there was a lot of excitement. People were celebrating, not because they believed this new unity government is going to work, but because Zimbabweans have absolutely nothing left but hope. But that hope has fast been diminished and destroyed following the arrest of Roy Bennett, who is a very prominent MDC leader. The message that this is sending, this arrest, Roy Bennett's arrest has sent to many Zimbabweans is that Robert Mugabe is still very much in charge, and his repressive machine still very much alive in Zimbabwe. And many fear that getting into this unity government is actually not going to work for ordinary Zimbabweans.

This is what some ordinary people told us about what they think of the new government.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the point? We did negotiate, we came up with an agreement. Why continue to make the people suffer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's better for us, the MDC, to pull up from the GNU and go to the fresh election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want all of the promises of Morgan Tsvangirai be not fulfilled.


SESAY: Nkepile, another huge problem there in Zimbabwe is a cholera epidemic, which shows no signs of abating. I know that you were able to attend a Medecins Sans Frontier press conference, where they gave us some sense of just how bad the situation is. Tell us about the conditions right now.

MABUSE: Well, MSF, that has been operating inside Zimbabwe since 2000, says that country is facing a massive medical emergency that's spiraling out of control.

Now, cholera is one issue. They said, at the beginning of February, they were registering one new cholera case every minute. Now, that is just staggering. What has exacerbated the situation is that most of the public hospitals in Zimbabwe have closed. The few clinics that are open do not have even the most basic supply. So, you find Zimbabweans are dying at home. So, the health crisis there the MSF has described as one of the worst that it's seen in its history.


CHRISTOPHE FOURNIER, MSF INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT: Many health services being (ph) done like this, in my life, as an MSF doctor, but only in this country have I seen this kind of collapse of the public health system in the absence of any conflict.


MABUSE: MSF has called on the international community to step up funding in Zimbabwe, because the situation there is so desperate that when you look at the malnutrition in that country, because there is a shortage of food, MSF thinks that any outbreak could -- could occur at any minute in Zimbabwe at the moment.

SESAY: The unity government in Zimbabwe is not off to the best of starts. Just as President Robert Mugabe was swearing in a new bipartisan cabinet, Robert Bennett, an official in the opposition MDC party, and the country's agricultural minister designate, was being arrested. The MDC says the arrest is a work of hard-liners within Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, who are bent on derailing the new deal. If that is indeed the case, the development highlights this point -- that dealing with President Robert Mugabe may end up being less challenging then dealing with the long-time party stalwarts who surround him.

After being in power for almost three decades, some in Zimbabwe actually say the government has been Zanufied. So, you could say that Morgan Tsvangirai is in a situation resembling a shotgun wedding, but he is certainly in a tight spot. There is widespread speculation that Tsvangirai faced intense pressure from Southern African leaders to finally enter into this union.

Meanwhile, Zanu-PF, the other half, is being less than completely cooperative, but the new PM says he is determined to make things work, even after the detention of Bennett. Tsvangirai has his work cut out for him.

Zimbabwe faces a litany of problems -- a worthless currency, crumbling infrastructure, soaring unemployment, and also, a cholera epidemic. But even with the best will in the world, he is not going to have any real chance of success without active support from the West. And the West right now is taking a wait-and-see approach. But that is to forget the real victims in all of this -- the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who feel they've been waiting long enough, and in this political landscape, desperately need those who can to step in and rescue them from their suffering.

And that's just my two cents. We'll be right back.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. Lagos, Nigeria is one of the world's most crowded cities. About 15 million people live there, and that number is expected to hit 25 million in the next six years. As Brent Sadler reports, government officials have some ambitious expansion plans that include holding back the forces of nature.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victoria Island, Lagos -- the frontline in a war against the sea. A Nigerian island that's been shrinking in size for decades, losing up to 10 meters of shoreline a year from coastal erosion. But a battle is now joined to tame the ravages of ocean surge by constructing a formidable sea defense system.

(on camera): This sea, you can hear it now, it's incredibly powerful, this wave surge.

DIRK HEIJBOER, ROYAL HASKONING: These waves have been generated hundreds and hundreds of miles and kilometers away in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between here and Brazil. And they're approaching the coastline and hammering this beach.

SADLER: The first phase is already won:

BOLA TINUBU, FORMER LAGOS GOVERNOR: The vision came out of a scary story of disaster.

SADLER: A potential flooding disaster that threatened Lagos, which former Governor Tinubu and his successor, Babatunde Fashola, tackled head on, with the construction of a new seawall, completed a year ago. They inspect the new fortification along the famed Bar Beach of Lagos. It contains the powerful ocean surge to protect the city from flooding.

BABATUNDE FASHOLA, LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR: We will witness war against the sea. Engineering has provided the opportunity to do it. Knowledge has provided the opportunity to do it.

SADLER: Offshore, gigantic works are under way to build something special for Lagos that will rise from the depth of the sea, on a mountain of reclaimed land, lost to erosion over the past 100 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new city complying with international standards for beauty, carbon emissions, and all of those environmental challenges that now face us so starkly as a people.

SADLER: Today, it's an invisible city called Eko Atlantic. It lies under some 10 meters or around 30 feet of water off Victoria Island. The densely overpopulated business district of Lagos where land prices are sky high, and availability of land for development is critically low. So, officials are trying to improve living and working conditions in the gigantic but creaking city of Lagos as a whole. Fifteen million people today, exploding to an expected 25 million by 2015, becoming the world's third largest city.

Dust settles on the successful demolition of a derelict building to make way for urban renewal.

It's planned that the new city will be the absolute opposite of this rush hour mayhem in the heart of Victoria Island, now strangled by dense traffic, amid a riot of noise and overheated frustration.

In stark contrast, the Eko Atlantic drawing board shows a state-of-the-art city, some 6.5 kilometers or 4 miles long, and 1.5 kilometers or a mile wide -- think in scale of the skyscraper district of New York's Manhattan Island, or a sizable chunk of Paris, France.

State officials launched the project. They're backed by the Nigerian federal government, which warmly embraces the ambitious drive to improve Lagos and boost the economy.

DAVID FRAME, EKO ATLANTIC: It will become, we believe, the financial center of Africa. It will provide abundant employment for local Nigerians and would really propel the status of -- of Lagos.

SADLER: Chinese vessels work round the clock to pump sand into carefully calibrated locations on the seabed.

This is what reclamation engineers call the rainbow technique of dredging. Freshly harvested sand, sucked up from the ocean bed from one position, transported here, and air blown precisely over the target position.

The structural design is put to a serious of rigorous tests here, in Denmark, at one of the world's most advanced proving facilities. Machine- generated waves pound this scale model, simulating a perfect Lagos storm, the worst over a 100-year time span. And a giant three-dimensional markup of a section of the seawall is battered by another manmade Atlantic storm, testing its strength and durability. Computer models plot the environmental impact on the city along the Lagos coastline to avoid damage.

PRINCE ADESEGUN ONIRU, LAGOS WATERFRONT COMM.: This is going to change the face of Lagos. And not just Lagos. This is going to change the face of Africa.

SADLER: For governors Fashola and Tinubu, it's confirmation a shared dream can come true.

FASHOLA: Today, a (inaudible) that travels the entire Victoria Island of Lagos has been arrested and is being converted to a great asset of prosperity.

SADLER: Time and tide wait for no man, but as this daunting challenge is met, Lagos looks forward to the dawn of a new skyline.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Lagos, Nigeria.


SESAY: The Zimbabwean musical group Liyana have encountered their share of daunting challenges, and they've met them all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to the people to come, and they should never give up.


SESAY: We'll bring you their story and their music a little later on in this show.


SESAY: You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Welcome back. As we've reported on this show in the past, coltan is a key element in cell phones, computers and other electronics. Unfortunately, it's also a key ingredient in the conflict in Eastern Congo. And as Zain Verjee reports, the rock band Good Charlotte is trying to spread the word and stop the bloodshed.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rock band Good Charlotte wants to make things right. Joel and Benji Madden say that demand for minerals used in cell phones and electrical goods is fueling war in Congo. Coltan, for example, used in circuit boards and cobalt, used in cell phones.

BENJI MADDEN, GOOD CHARLOTTE: These, you know, conflict minerals is what's funding the entire thing.

JOEL MADDEN, GOOD CHARLOTTE: The effect of this conflict is women being raped, children being hurt. People dying, you know. The deadliest war, like I said, since World War II.

VERJEE: The armies and militias fighting in Eastern Congo are funded by mineral wealth, much of it ultimately destined for electronics manufacturers.

JOHN PRENDERGAST, ENOUGH PRO: They're all using this stuff, because it's so cheap. You can imagine, they're using slave labor, so they turn a blind eye and just, you know, keep buying it, until we turn the spotlight on it and say, hey, these are the practices that are actually killing people.

VERJEE: Millions have been killed in Congo. The United Nations estimates more than 200,000 women raped. The movie "Blood Diamonds" raised awareness about the international gem trade.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: You know, in America it's bling-bling, but out here, it's bling-bang.

VERJEE: And speeded up acceptance of diamonds certified "conflict free." But tracing these mineral supply roots is tough, and supplies from legitimate sources can be mixed in with those from conflict zones. So, it's hard to know if your electronic device is conflict-free. Activists say, call up manufacturers and ask.

PRENDERGAST: Do you know where your -- the minerals that are coming from that you're putting into your computer? Tell those companies they don't want to purchase their stuff if they're going to continue to fuel conflict in the Congo.

VERJEE: Meanwhile, the Madden twins are working on lyrics for a future song about the crisis in Central Africa.

(on camera): What's the opening line?

MADDEN: Take me back, take me back to Africa.

VERJEE (voice over): Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: We have this programming note for you. Be sure to tune into INSIDE AFRICA next week. In a special report, "Kenya: One Year On ...," David McKenzie will show us how the country has been faring since the last year's violent political crisis. The show marks the one year anniversary of the formation of Kenya's unity government. Again, that's next week on INSIDE AFRICA.

They maybe disabled, but they're more than capable. In just a moment, we'll bring you the Zimbabwean band Liyana.


SESAY: The Zimbabwean musical group Liyana recently caught the attention of Leslie Goldwasser, a New York philanthropist who grew up in Zimbabwe. She visited the school where they lived and was so impressed, she asked what she could do for them. They said they wanted to perform in America. So, using the resources of her PG Family Foundation and the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, she made it happen. Here now is a look at the performance they gave in Newark, New Jersey, the day before they went home.


SESAY: Eight musicians with a common message and a powerful delivery.

TAPIWA NYENGER, LIYANA: Never give up. It's one of our biggest and strongest motives.

SESAY: Ranging in ages from 17 to 23, they're called Liyana. The group hails from Zimbabwe, a nation with an economy in freefall and health system in collapse. That alone means they've overcome serious adversity to be on this stage.

They've also faced tremendous physical challenges. All of the band members are disabled. Prudence Mabhena says the group is sharing a message of hope.

PRUDENCE MABHENA, LIYANA: Some people don't even get you and take you as a person. And with us, singing right now, we're not giving up. We're pushing.

SESAY: The members of Liyana met at a school for the disabled in Bulawayo. Their name means rain, a term of good luck, and everyone in the band feels fortunate.

NYENGER: We have the capability to go onstage, and at the end of the day make people smile.

MARVELOUS MEULO, LIYANA: Being on the stage is like being in my office. So I was really enjoying myself, I was (inaudible).

SESAY: They had long dreamed of performing in the United States, and that wish came true recently in the form of a multi-city tour that took them to the east and west coasts.

NYENGER: We have been received in an overwhelming, heart-feeling (ph) way. Everywhere we go, every -- every place we go, we meet new things, we meet new people, we learn new stuff.

SESAY: For them, the trip is just more evidence in support of their message.

MEULO: Here we are, in America. So, never give up.

SESAY: The U.S. tour coincided with Barack Obama's inauguration, which has also been a source of inspiration.

MABHENA: When we'd heard that Obama was going to be the American president, the first black American president, we are so excited, so that joy that we had became a song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This song is about Obama.

SESAY: They perform in seven languages, which can only help them in their quest to reach a wide audience.

MEULO: We want to leave a message to everyone in the world that no matter what circumstance you're in, you can make it.

SESAY: And that's also a message that people back home in Zimbabwe desperately need to hear.


SESAY: As we mentioned, the group met at the school for the disabled in Bulawayo. It's called the King George VI School, and it is the only secondary school for disabled students in Zimbabwe. You can learn more about it by going to the band's Web site,

And there, we must leave it. Be sure to tune in next week for our special report, "Kenya, One Year On..." We're leaving you now with more of the sounds of Liyana. Take care.