Comment from The Star (SA), 20 April
Are we prepared to underwrite the reconstruction and development of our
The crescendo of voices calling for urgent change in Zimbabwe has reached
fever pitch. The 27th anniversary this week of the freedom of the Zimbabwean
people from their colonial masters has again refocused South Africa and the
world on the plight of millions of our neighbours, many of whom live under
trying conditions in a country that is slowly, but surely, being mismanaged
to ruin. The many voices that have emerged from the cacophony have observed,
correctly, that despite the calls for change, the situation that Zimbabweans
find themselves in has not changed one iota. Among the voices that have
called for something urgent and drastic to be done in Zimbabwe so that the
country can return to its former glory are South Africans. The South
Africans have not only called for change but have been fiercely critical of
the government's approach to the problem, in particular President Thabo
Mbeki's quiet diplomacy.
South Africans, bound by African roots with their northern neighbours, have
made it clear in no uncertain terms that the Zimbabwean problem must be
resolved so that the country stops being an economic burden to its southern
African neighbours. However, just as it is clear that Zimbabweans had no
reason to celebrate their 27th anniversary since independence, it should be
clear that something drastic needs to happen so that the lives of
Zimbabweans must change. Otherwise we will say all of these things again in
a few years' time when President Robert Mugabe is standing for another term.
The question must be asked: What price are South Africans willing to pay so
that Zimbabweans must begin to see a change in their political and economic
situation? Are we prepared, in the first place, to put our money where our
loud mouths are, and underwrite the reconstruction and development of
Zimbabwe and its people? If we all accept that Mugabe is the problem in
Zimbabwe; that he is the major obstacle, then are South Africans willing to
become part of the solution by helping to remove him? Would we be willing to
allow or persuade our government to offer a safe sanctuary for Mugabe so
that other Zimbabweans can try to succeed where he has dismally failed?
I can almost hear that chorus: No. I can also hear some voices saying that
the only place Mugabe must go once he is removed from office is the court,
to answer a multitude of questions relating to state resources, rigging of
elections and many more. And then he must end up in jail. We heard these
same voices when reports emerged that Namibia was considering offering the
Zimbabwean leader a safe haven. The opposition to this idea was huge, yet no
alternative was offered. We have a precedent on the African continent.
Liberia is well on its way to rebuilding itself and the main catalyst to the
democratisation of that country was the removal of Charles Taylor from that
country to Nigeria. The manner in which the Taylor saga has ended, his
arrest and pending trial, would be the factors that would be a disincentive
to Mugabe. He would want some guarantees - which I'm sure will be vehemently
opposed - that he would not go the way Taylor has gone. The creation of an
exit route for Mugabe might not be palatable but it would, in my view,
create a political climate that could lead to the resolution of Zimbabwean
problem by Zimbabweans themselves.
It would not be the only solution. It would only work if it is part of a
package - a Marshall Plan of sorts - tailor-made to rescue Zimbabwe from the
depths of despair. Part of this plan, for instance, would be the
establishment of a transitional government of national unity. This
government, co-managed by Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change,
would, assisted by its southern African neighbours, embark on an ambitious
five-year plan of reconstruction and development. This proposal is radical
but given the dire situation in Zimbabwe, we cannot tinker with it anymore.
It's time to move beyond shouting from the sidelines - being comfortable
with Zimbabweans working as our gardeners, waiters and waitresses - and do
something drastic. So, would a Mugabe in exile in South Africa be a prize
that we are willing to pay?
Clemence Manyukwe Staff Reporter
POLICE, desperate to make terrorism charges against a group of jailed
opposition activists stick, have made a potentially damaging claim in court
that a South African government security agency trained Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) campaigners, including a legislator, in acts of
insurgency and terror.
Thirteen opposition members, including MDC Glen View Member of Parliament
(MP) Paul Madzore and his brother Solomon, are being charged under the
Criminal law (Codification and Reform) Act for "training as insurgents,
bandits, saboteurs or terrorists."
The investigating officer (IO) in the case, Wellington Ngena, has laid
charges in which he claims that the group received military training in
He alleged: "Between December 2006 and March 2007 in Pretoria and Orange
Free State in South Africa, they attended or underwent a course of training
on how to draw up detailed plans for dummy runs and decoys, creation of
dilemmas for the Zimbabwe government and how to use them, thus receiving
Defence lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, told The Financial Gazette yesterday that
before a court appearance by his clients on Monday this week, the police had
accused them of having been trained by the Scorpions.
The Scorpions are the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) - an arm of
the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa.
The division is an elite anti-corruption unit comprising mostly
intelligence, financial and forensic experts.
It has never been known to have any involvement in military training, as now
claimed by police.
Muchadehama this week placed the police claims before magistrate Lazarus
Murendo, but the investigating officer refused to make further testimony on
the claim, saying doing so would be premature as police were still carrying
"When I asked the IO in court if he could repeat the police accusations that
the MDC members were trained by a person called Larry, and by people from
the Scorpions, he refused to answer, saying that would jeopardise
investigations," said Muchadehama.
An affidavit by Ngena says there was unspecified information he would not
discuss in court, as doing so would scuttle continuing police
"The information that I have is very sensitive and disclosing it at this
stage will seriously prejudice investigations. Disclosure of such sensitive
information may result in some suspects tampering with the chain of evidence
and some going into hiding," reads part of the investigating officer's
The affidavit further states that he had applied for and had been granted a
ministerial order not to divulge certain information in court.
The MDC suspects will be back in court next week for a ruling on two
applications that Muchadehama has made. The first application is for the
court to order police to bring from the Registrar-General's office copies of
birth certificate, national identity, pictures, and the applications made to
acquire the identification documents by one Peter Chindodana, whom the state
claims is the MDC member that implicated the 13 suspects.
According to Muchadehama, the said Chindodana is in fact "fictitious."
The lawyer's other application is that the magistrate refers the case to the
"Their detention is unlawful. When they were arrested on March 20, they were
charged for various other offences, only for the police to say on April 9
that they had trained in South Africa as terrorists," Muchadehama said.
The police claim on South Africa's involvement appears to dovetail into
allegations made two weeks ago by police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, who
told a caucus of ZANU PF MPs that the MDC had hatched a plan to embark on
what he said were "30 days of chaos" in order to destabilise the country.
According to MPs at the meeting, Chihuri claimed the plan involved the
bombing of police camps and other government installations.
The MDC denies involvement in any terror campaign. MDC faction leader Morgan
Tsvangirai told reporters last week that ZANU PF had "a history of coming up
with trumped up charges" to justify its crushing of dissent.
He cited the cases of PF Zapu and Zanu Ndonga, whose former nationalist
leaders were at different times accused of terror plots against the ZANU PF
In the early 1980s, government accused PF Zapu and its former nationalist
leader, Joshua Nkomo, of planning to oust the government.
In 1996, ahead of a presidential poll, Zanu (Ndonga) leader Sithole was
tried for recruiting supporters for military training.
He was also accused of having personally picked the spot, on August 4, 2005,
where an attack would be launched on President Mugabe's motorcade. An AK47
was produced as evidence.
Sithole was later acquitted.
BULAWAYO - Residents may have to be careful when they buy food from shops.
The Bulawayo City Council's Health Department says some people who handle
food in shops are not washing their hands and fingernails frequently with
In its report tabled in the council last week, the department said though
the general standard of cleanliness in most shops was satisfactory, tests by
the department had indicated that the hands and nails of some people that
handled food were unsatisfactory.
"This suggested that food handlers were not frequently washing their hands
and fingernails using bacterial soap," the report said. It added, however,
that the department was holding talks and demonstrations on proper methods
to wash hands.
The report said only three food carts had renewed their registration
certificates out of 22 that had applied. There were 58 food carts on the
Three lodging houses out of a total 26 were unsatisfactory. These were
Zimbabwe College of Ministries, Mugoni Lodge and Silver Sands.
The department said there were 41 other registered lodges in the suburban
areas. Only 21 had been registered because they met the standards.
The department, however, noted that the activities being carried out at some
of the lodges left a lot to be desired, an issue it said was better dealt
with by the police as the department only looked at the health aspect of the
Clemence Manyukwe Staff Reporter
PARLIAMENTARY portfolio committees, many of which have angered Cabinet for
keeping its activities in the public eye, will be gravely weakened after
government's decision last week to cancel a partnership with the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The aid cancellation will also hurt parliamentary reforms, Members of
Parliament (MPs) fear.
Officials claim USAID support for Parliament was an American ruse to use
committees to topple President Robert Mugabe's government.
A recent US report, titled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy," saying
the American government's strategy of fostering human rights and democracy
in the country was being done through Parliament, has been something of a
godsend for Cabinet, which has on numerous occasions summoned MPs to demand
that they tone down their public criticism of its administration.
Cabinet ministers have on numerous occasions sought to bar the media from
sitting in on committee hearings. While most excuses given by the ministers
for wanting the press barred are usually to do with the claimed
"sensitivity" of matters discussed in the hearings, MPs say the real reason
is that they fear having the incompetence of their ministries and
The committees have over recent years found a progressively more analytical
voice, laying bare the increasing lack of accountability within Cabinet, but
also angering ministers.
MPs have also successfully resisted any executive interference, but the US
statement has now given Cabinet an opportunity to muzzle them.
The US statement had said: "A US-sponsored program to strengthen
parliamentary committees resulted in increased debate in parliament - both
from opposition and reform-minded ZANU-PF parliamentarians - and encouraged
greater transparency through public hearings on legislation."
That was just what Cabinet needed to move in.
State media reported that the government was "alarmed" at the operations of
the committees, saying Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa would work with
the heads of the House of Assembly and the Senate to ensure that Parliament
was not "taken advantage" of.
The cancellation of the USAID partnership, which has already assisted
parliaments in Namibia, Zambia, and Mozambique, would severely weaken the
committees, MPs say.
The agreement had resulted in increased public participation in the affairs
of the country through public hearings.
At one time, 350 people discussed the Non-Governmental Organisation Bill,
designed to restrict the operations of NGOs. President Mugabe later declined
to sign it into law.
The USAID partnership, which provided relief in the face of inadequate state
funding for the legislature, had also seen the training of Parliament
research staff and clerks; study tours to democracies such as Tanzania and
South Africa, as well as working with individual MPs on conducting press
Advisory work was also provided for committee chairs on their own internal
committee operations, and on conducting open hearings.
There was also assistance for oversight and bill amendment, as well as in
the development of a database of experts, publications in the Parliament's
Public Relations Office, seminars on media relations, and sponsorship of
annual Parliament reporting awards.
While deputy House Speaker Kumbirai Kangai has claimed that Parliament was
not receiving funding from USAID or any other donors, Parliament's website
says: "The implementation of the reforms started in earnest in January 1999
when the project entitled Technical Support for Parliamentary Reforms was
launched. This was followed by the inception of another project called
Technical Support for Parliament - Constituency Relations in July 2002."
Both projects were formulated and implemented with support from the United
Nations Development Programme, USAID, the State University of New
York-Zimbabwe, the Swedish International Develop-ment Cooperation Authority,
the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the African
Capacity Building Foundation.
The website also says although parliamentary reforms started at Independence
in 1980, the legislature became increasingly aware that it was still widely
viewed by the public as being a remote institution, was ill-equipped, and
inadequately resourced to effectively represent the constituencies, hence
the decision to approach donors.
BULAWAYO - Controversy surrounds the appointment of a new town clerk for the
city. Although Gwanda Town Clerk, Gilbert Mlilo, has been recommended for
the job, some councillors and municipal officials feel his appointment is
being bulldozed by the executive mayor, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube because, they
claim, he does not want any of the present council employees to get the job.
The vacancy follows the retirement of Moffat Ndlovu who officially leaves at
the end of this month. Four candidates were interviewed for the post. These
included city treasurer Middleton Nyoni, his deputy Stanley Donga and
chamber secretary Gilbert Dube.
The interviews were conducted by the council's executive committee, which
comprises the mayor and six councillors.
Councillors opposed to the appointment of Mlilo say the mayor is trying to
sideline the three senior council employees because they were his seniors
when he was a council employee.
Ndabeni-Ncube was deputy director of housing before his election to
executive mayor. Efforts to get the mayor to respond to the allegations were
The controversy seems to have started during the interviewing process.
According to confidential minutes availed to The Financial Gazette, the
mayor had prepared 21 questions for the interview while the town clerk had
The town clerk argued that procedurally, the questions were supposed to come
from management and not the executive mayor, but the mayor argued that a
circular from the Local Government Board gave him the authority.
Though the town clerk argued that the circular from the government merely
gave the mayor powers to ensure that the setting of questions was done, the
two sides agreed to synchronise the questions with the majority coming from
the mayor's list.
The town clerk was, however, not allowed to ask any questions as it was felt
he might "intimidate" the candidates.
Nyoni, Donga and Mlilo all have Master in Business Administration (MBA)
degrees from the National University of Science and Technology while Dube is
in the third stage of his MBA at the same institution.
Dube, however, is a member of the Institute of Town Clerks of Southern
Africa, which is "the most relevant (qualification) for the position of town
clerk" but he came last in terms of points by the panel.
Mlilo scored 667 points and was followed by Nyoni with 634 points, Donga
with 619 and Dube with 605 points.
The confidential minutes say Mlilo was assisted in answering two questions,
one of which was "walking the floor" which he seemed not to understand.
"This was irregular," the minutes say.
The minutes also said the executive committee did not discuss every
candidate's performance as was usually the case, though they had been
invited "several times" to do so by the council's human resources manager.
Though Mlilo has already been recommended, he still has to be interviewed by
the Local Government Board in Harare. It is only after this second interview
and after approval by the board that the appointment can be effective.
One senior councillor said the appointment of Mlilo had to be stopped
because in the history of Bulawayo, the town clerk had always been chosen
from among council employees understudying the town clerk.
He said this was the case with the first black town clerk of the city, Mike
Ndubiwa and the current town clerk Ndlovu. They had both been promoted from
deputy town clerk to town clerk.
The post of deputy town clerk was abolished and replaced with that of
chamber secretary. The councillor said Dube was therefore, the most suitable
candidate as he had been deputising Ndlovu and had acted as town clerk on
"The appointment of Mlilo must be stopped at all costs," the councillor
said. "How can we have a city the size of Bulawayo being run by someone who
has been running Gwanda, which is the size of Cowdray Park?"
Cowdray Park is one of the high-density suburbs of Bulawayo and is the home
of Operation Hlalani Kuhle.
ZANU PF deputy information secretary, Ephraim Masawi, appears to have
escaped unscathed by the farce that gripped his party over Edgar Tekere's
controversial memoirs for which the maverick nationalist was sacked from the
ZANU PF's influential youth league had recommended that Masawi, the
Mashonaland Central governor, be suspended for attending the launch of a
book by former nationalist Tekere, which dims President Robert Mugabe's
liberation war credentials.
John Nkomo, ZANU PF chairman and head of the party's national disciplinary
committee, had indicated that the matter was in the hands of Masawi's
Mashonaland Central province.
However, Chen Chimutengwende, leader of the party's Mashonaland Central
provincial structure, said his province was not handling the matter.
"Chimutengwende said Masawi would be treated differently from Tekere since
the latter had been an ordinary member, whereas Masawi held a position of
authority in ZANU PF.
The Masawi saga had opened up rifts in the party, with one faction latching
on to the controversy to push for ZANU PF Guruve Member of Parliament Edward
Chindori-Chininga to replace the ruling party deputy information secretary.
Chindori-Chininga, a former minister of mines and mining development, was
dropped from President Mugabe's Cabinet in 2004.
But, according to Chimutengwende: "There are no vacancies yet."
The ZANU PF youth league had felt that Masawi "failed to defend the party's
first secretary", leaving the task to people such as opposition activist
Stanley Kwenda Staff Reporter
INTERNATIONAL resources expert Stephen Bailey has encouraged foreign mining
companies to take a long-term view on Zimbabwe's troubled economy but warned
they should tread cautiously.
A senior vice-president of the United States-based Frontier Strategy Group,
Bailey said while it is unlikely that the country's economy would recover
soon, Zimbabwe could be an excellent long-term investment opportunity for
companies that closely monitor the political situation and choose the right
time to invest.
"The firms that successfully predict improvements in Zimbabwe's investment
climate prior to general recognition by the mining industry will be rewarded
with access to the country's best mining assets at significant political
risk discounts," he said in a contribution to the Resource Investor
Frontier Strategy is a global research and advisory firm.
Bailey said investors in the resource sector should cautiously monitor
"signposts" of economic and political change in the country, which he said
is unlikely to begin until there is a change in the current government.
He said if Zimbabwe's remaining foreign gold producers decided to pull out
of the country, this would precipitate a collapse of the mining sector.
"Taking a disciplined approach to defining and tracking such signposts will
allow companies to separate the daily noise from the underlying political
trends in Zimbabwe," said Bailey.
He added that there "were pointers" to political change in Zimbabwe, which
could help mining companies decide on the right time to invest in the
According to Bailey, gold production accounts for over half of the country's
mineral production, one third of the country's Gross Domestic Product, and
is one of the few remaining sources of foreign currency.
...as President takes softer stance
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has indicated government would not forcibly seize
foreign-owned mining companies but said his government would still push for
empowerment thresholds that would give blacks key stakes in the sector.
The latest policy, which suggests government might have learnt the hard
lessons from the chaotic land redistribution, which has reduced the
country - once the region's bread basket - to a basket case, reflects
pressure from the South African government, which quietly lobbied against
wholesale mine acquisitions.
Most of the major companies that have recently invested in the country's
resources sector are South African.
The acquisition of stakes in the foreign-owned mining companies will be
effected through amendment to the Mines and Minerals Act, which President
Mugabe said would be presented to Parliament soon.
ZIMBABWE'S largest detergent manufacturer, Unilever Southeast Africa, has
stopped production of detergents due to unavailability of raw materials, The
Financial Gazette established this week.
Sources said the situation at the company had become so desperate that at
least 100 workers could lose their jobs.
They said the company was having problems securing raw materials, some of
which were imports that required foreign currency, hence the decision to
halt production of both bathing and washing soap.
Hillary Muzondiwa, the company's spokesman, refused to comment when
He said he was not willing to share the company's production schedules "with
Unilever is Zimbabwe's leading producer of home and personal care products.
Operations at the company ground to halt last month after management told
workers that the company had run out of materials to keep the plant
operational. Market commentators said the termination of production would
worsen shortages of edible oils and detergents in the country, and this
could force prices up.
Zimbabwe has for the past seven years experienced chronic foreign currency
shortages blamed on poor export earnings, the dearth in foreign aid and
A sharp drop in capacity utilisation has forced a number of companies to lay
Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday accused the country's
industrialists of seeking to undermine his government's popularity by
repeatedly raising commodity prices.
Speaking in the Shona language, President Mugabe said government would start
investigating businesspeople increasing commodity prices, saying some of
them had been "bought to undermine the government".
He was speaking in a televised speech to mark the country's 27 years of
Stanley KwendaStaff Reporter
ZIMBABWE celebrated its 27th birthday on Wednesday, with President Robert
Mugabe's address at Rufaro Stadium being the major highlight of the
But away from Rufaro Stadium, Yemurai Musanhi was making brisk business
selling firewood along Willowvale Road to residents of Glen View suburb,
parts of which have gone for months without electricity.
Not even a convoy of buses ferrying people to Rufaro Stadium could distract
Asked what the day meant to her, she replied: "It doesn't help me in any
For Yemurai, the voice of President Mugabe bellowing from a nearby radio was
"no different from any other urban groove song", she said, referring to the
local pop music that has been so overplayed that many now allow it to pass
The independence mood was far from being celebratory in the poor suburbs of
Harare, with many people taking the opportunity to drown their sorrows in
cheap opaque beer, whiling away the day with animated discussions of how
they are overcoming the daily grind of independent Zimbabwe.
"Independence day is a big loss for me. If I had gone to work it could have
been better because at least I would have brought some meat to sell to my
neighbours and make some money. It's like a stayaway, just a waste of time,"
said a worker who takes advantage of his job at a meat processing company to
sell scraps of meat he gets at his workplace.
Simba Sare of Chitungwiza openly expressed his feelings in a commuter
omnibus travelling from Chitungwiza to Machipisa. He last celebrated
independence in the heady 1980s, he says.
"We used to have independence in the 80s, when our economy was still in good
shape. Now there is no independence to talk about. How can you say you are
independent when you are hungry? We can't even complain, so where is the
independence?" asks Sare.
By contrast, Information and Publicity Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was in
buoyant mood as he prepared to fly to Bulawayo to join in the independence
"You must be happy that we fought for this country and you are now able to
do some things that you could not do in the past. For example now you can
walk into First Street, something you could not do during colonial times,"
Ndlovu told journalists at a Harare hotel last week.
A BBC blog quotes a clearly bitter 27 year-old Herbert as saying: "I am not
excited about the independence anniversary celebrations. Why should I be? I
have nothing to celebrate."
THE country's loss-making parastatals and local authorities scurried for
space in the local media as they jostled to "deceive and flatter" the
Presidency, splurging millions of dollars in congratulatory messages for the
independence anniversary despite their inadequate resources.
The state enterprises, known for loud howls when demanding a review of
tariffs and other service charges from the public, but are demure when
confronted with demands for improved services, better management and
criticisms over poor performance, were visible in the local papers with
obsequious advertisements meant to grab the attention of their bosses.
In the process, the institutions lied about their values and achievements.
The National Investment Trust (NIT), a parastatal in the President's Office,
said the country's political independence needed to be guarded jealously,
saying this now needed to be transformed into "economic independence or
"With our well thought out economic empowerment and indigenisation
programmes, we will conquer any economic monster meant to destabilise us,"
the NIT said in a statement signed by chief executive officer "Comrade Aaron
For a start, Zimbabwe has no economic empowerment and indigenisation
programme to talk about. It has, however, assisted some previously
marginalised groups to enter into certain areas of the economy like banking
and finance, although using their own resources.
The government is currently working on an economic empowerment bill, and
amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act to allow black participation in the
This, essentially, means any economic empowerment and indigenisation
programmes were on autopilot, and not "well thought-out".
The part that NIT failed to tell was its failure to acquire a 15 percent
stake in Zimbabwe Platinum Mines on behalf of the "underempowered" blacks,
despite government backing and "exclusive" negotiating rights for the
acquisition of the stake.
The Harare City Council, which has run down the city said through its
commission chairperson, Sekesai Makwavarara: "As we work to turn around the
fortunes of Harare, we cherish the freedom that we now enjoy."
Indeed her commission has had the greatest freedom, but there are doubts
this has been good for the city.
While the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) could take the kudos for
"turning around" into profitability following huge capital injections by the
central bank, it naively believed citizens had to marvel at independence,
which had brought them the crowded and dangerous "NRZ Commuter Freedom
There has been barely any new infrastructure the NRZ has put in place since
independence, and most of its inherited infrastructure is now dilapidated.
The National Social Security Authority, whose pension payouts to retired
members are barely enough for bus-fare for a single trip to make a claim,
took pride in its contribution to national development through "benefits
ZESA Holdings, the struggling parastatal, which recently claimed it was
technically insolvent, also spent cash from recent tariff increases on
Other public enterprises which joined the bandwagon were the Zimbabwe United
Passenger Company, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the Sports and Recreation
Commission, the Zimbabwe Defence Industries and the Zimbabwe National Water
Tawanda Karombo Staff Reporter
PRESSURE is mounting on the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority
(ARDA) chief executive officer (CEO) Joseph Matovanyika to quit the
extension arm of the Agricultural Ministry as part of a wider restructuring
being driven by the newly appointed board.
Highly placed sources told The Financial Gazette this week that daggers were
drawn against the ARDA CEO following the appointment of Rugare Gumbo as the
new Agricultural Minister in February. Gumbo has wasted no time in
appointing a new board chaired by Tobias Takavarasha, a renowned
They said the Agriculture Ministry, which has presided over the collapse of
agriculture, particularly of the single largest foreign currency earner -
tobacco - is reluctant to inject new funding into the struggling parastatal
unless the current status quo is revamped.
Matovanyika, who moved to the parastatal
to replace Joseph Made, who had joined Cabinet and has since been moved to
the newly-created Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation Ministry, was
not available for comment.
Gumbo has, however, hinted at the re-organisation of ARDA, whose main
function is to promote agricultural production in rural communities.
The Agriculture Minister recently told journalists that the
Takavarasha-chaired board would "streamline management of ARDA to ensure
efficiency" and ensure its assets are revamped and put to full use "as a
matter of urgency," although details about its form, style and approach
ARDA, founded during the colonial era as the Tribal Trust Land Development
Corporation, has been dealt a hammer blow by the withdrawal
of donor support in
the aftermath of the controversial land reforms
led by veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle in 2000.
The authority presides over 20 estates, the majority of which are lying
idle, largely due to poor
funding. Critics say it will take much more than a new board and management
to rejuvenate ARDA, described recently as "rotten" by President Robert
They said without adequate funding it would be impossible for the authority,
another victim of political interference, to operate at full capacity.
"You can change management as many times, but the situation there will
remain precarious until the government starts to attend to real issues,"
said a source.
Economic commentator John Robertson said although the appointment of a new
board was welcome, ARDA was not likely to be reformed as long as political
considerations continued to dictate its operations.
"The institution has to attract employees of a
high calibre, and not
those bent on pleasing their political masters," Robertson said.
Since ARDA has become a component of Operation Maguta, a command agriculture
initiative, Robertson added, it would remain difficult for ARDA to become
"We would call and advocate for small scale agriculture, but the government,
in maintaining ARDA as it is, is heading in the opposite direction from that
taken by other economies," Robertson added.
The new ARDA board announced by Gumbo also comprises commercial farmer
Thomas Nherera, Air Zimbabwe board chairman Mike Bimha and CBZ Bank managing
director John Mangudya.
Stanley Kwenda Staff Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), whose debts were inherited by
government, is creaking under a pile of obsolete equipment and poor funding
in what analysts said is an indication that the state broadcaster will
continue to suckle from the taxpayer.
Senior staff at Pockets Hill, ZBC's headquarters, revealed this week that
working for the broadcasting monopoly was a taxing exercise, as they have to
deThe resources are so scarce that four reporters on different assignments
are now forced to share a single camera, compromising the quality of news,
ZBC has no functional Outside Broadcasting (OB) unit - with the last of its
already antique OB vans having packed-up last year. Some of the OB vans were
brought into the country over 20 years ago, specifically for the Non-Aligned
Movement summit in 1986.
This has made it virtually impossible for ZBC to broadcast live events,
including football matches, without renting facilities from elsewhere.
The broadcaster, staff also say, also faces a depleted transport fleet, the
remainder of which being well past its sell-by date.
ZBC chief executive officer Henry Muradzikwa, admitted that his organisation
faces problems with its infrastructure, but sought to downplay the crisis,
saying the situation was not as dire as reported.
He said: "We do not have a functioning OB van at the moment. They are old
and need replacement. The digitalisation project is going to be realised.
Our camera situation is not all that critical. The reports you are getting
are just an exaggeration."
But a sign of the decay at the national broadcaster is how it has been
struggling to broadcast live events.
At the National Arts Merit Awards earlier this year, ZBC staff had to record
proceedings, before repeatedly rushing tapes across town to Pockets Hill for
The Independence concert last Friday was the first event broadcast live this
year - only after Zimbabwe Cricket agreed to lease its own OB van to the ZBC
for the event.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, announced last month during a tour
of state media institutions that equipment at ZBC was in bad shape and
needed a comprehensive revamp.
This week, he said his ministry was working on resuming a second phase of
the digitalisation programme.
"We are revamping the whole system. I have already declared that we are
doing that programme soon. When I came in, I assessed the state of the
equipment and made it public that it needed attention. But now we need more
finances to carry out these programmes."
Dumisani Ndlela Business Editor
GOVERNMENT domestic debt surged by over 600 percent to an unsurpassed high
during the first three months of the year, breaching the trillion-dollar
mark for the first time since the country lopped off three zeros from its
The increase has triggered fears of irretrievable damage to the country's
delicate economic recovery programme.
Statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) showed this week that
total government domestic debt, excluding government deposits with the
central bank, climbed from $176 billion on January 5 to $1.3 trillion by
March 30, a 630 percent increase that was far ahead of the official
inflation forecast for the year of between 350 and 400 percent.
The central bank removed three zeros from the country's fragile currency
Economic analysts said the escalating domestic debt level was likely to seal
the fate of the country's inflation rate this year, already projected to
reach 6 000 percent by independent forecasters.
"This is a leading indicator of inflation to come," said independent
economic consultant, John Robertson. "There's a huge increase in money
Zimbabwe is currently battling runaway inflation, topping 1 700 percent but
expected to have broken through 2 000 percent year-on-year for March.
The absence of balance of payments support from offshore financiers has
forced government to aggressively rely on domestic bank sources for funding
requirements, normally through costly Treasury Bill (TB) instruments, which
have largely been short term.
Of the new government debt stock, $330 billion was in TBs, which attracted a
whopping $904 billion in interest.
The new debt figures, despite indicating that the debt is maintaining its
trajectory, raised fresh doubts on government's commitment to restrain
extravagant public spending and chart the course for economic recovery.
Economic commentators said based on the new figures on the debt stock, the
national budget for the year had been spent even before March.
"They (government) have outstripped their budget framework," said Daniel
Ndlela, a Harare-based economic consultant. "This means more inflation."
Concurred Robertson: "It's very likely the budget has been spent. Total
wages alone have taken most of the money allocated in the budget to
In his budget framework for 2007, former Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa
gave an expenditure target of $4,6 trillion, excluding interest, from
expected revenues amounting to $3 trillion during the year.
The budget deficit was at 17,6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Economic analysts warned that government's ballooning expenditure - almost
entirely recurrent - was likely to force the central bank into running the
printing press, stoking money supply growth and consequently worsening the
In his monetary policy statement for the year, RBZ governor Gideon Gono said
the need to reduce inflation this year was tremendous and required
"unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy restraint, supported by close
coordination of efforts".
"To this end, the Reserve Bank will reduce annual broad money supply (M3)
growth from current levels of over 1 000 percent to between 415 and 500
percent by December, 2007, and subsequently to under 65 percent by December
2008," Gono said.
He also undertook to terminate all quasi-fiscal activities, condemned by
Murerwa who said these "had risen to levels that are now undermining our
turnaround efforts by increasing the growth of money supply and therefore,
Murerwa's remarks had sparked a public spat with Gono, who alleged these
activities had been made at the behest of central government.
Gono's project to rein in money supply growth is likely to suffer from
increased expenditure requirements by the government.
The government is facing renewed funding requirements for cereal imports, a
bloated civil service salary and wage bill as well as cost escalations
caused by rampant inflation.
Njabulo Ncube Chief Political Reporter
THE European Union (EU) has added five recently appointed deputy ministers
to its list of senior ZANU PF and government officials banned from Europe.
The decision by the 17-nation bloc comes less than a month after the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) asked the West to remove
targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's government.
The latest additions to the sanctions list are Lazarus Dokora, the deputy
minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Aguy Georgias, the deputy
Minister of Economic Development, Titus Maluleke, the deputy Minister of
Education and Sports, Tracey Mutinhiri, the deputy Minister for
Indigenisation and Empowerment and Walter Mzembi, the deputy Minister for
Water Resources and Infrastructural Development.
Information obtained yesterday by The Financial Gazette from Brussels, the
seat of the EU, indicates that its ambassadors agreed on a decision to
expand the list on Monday.
President Mugabe appointed the five in February this year in a mini-cabinet
reshuffle. The EU also took note of the promotions and other positional
changes made by the Zimbabwean leader during that reshuffle.
The additions to the list and changes to the portfolios of the ministers and
deputies were done under the European Commission (EC) Regulation No 412/2007
of April 16, 2007 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 314/2004 concerning
certain restrictive measures in respect of Zimbabwe.
The EU slapped personal sanctions on President Mugabe and his ruling elite
in 2002 after disputed presidential elections in which the government denied
entry to Western election observers, precipitating an unprecedented economic
President Mugabe blames the economic crisis on the sanctions.
The United States, which has imposed its own sanctions against top ZANU PF
figures, said on Zimbabwe's Independence Day on Wednesday that despite
increasing repression, "we remain hopeful that one day soon (the people of
Zimbabwe) will join the growing family of democracies around the world. The
efforts by the Zimbabwean government to suppress the peaceful expression of
democratic rights and its misguided economic policies have brought untold
misery to the nation."
Meanwhile, South Africa is reporting "some movement" on its tough mediation
in Zimbabwe, exciting opponents of the Zimbabwean government who see the
process as regional pressure on its continued hold on power.
The Southern African Development Community, accused of refusing to clamp
down on rights abuses by its members, last month appointed South African
President Thabo Mbeki as mediator between the ruling ZANU PF party and the
two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Lord Triesman, Britain's Minister for Africa, told a public discussion forum
in London this week that pressure to end President Mugabe's reign was now
Triesman claimed that South Africa, which has been hosting politicians from
both sides in preliminary discussions before a fully-fledged mediation
process by Mbeki, had shifted from its much-maligned quiet diplomacy to take
President Mugabe head on.
"Quiet diplomacy has been urged on me. I believe it has mostly been silent
rather than quiet. But I think it is now audible," he said. "And I believe
that change is now potentially unstoppable," he added.
Triesman's remarks came after South Africa's deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Aziz Pahad, confirmed some movement in Pretoria's efforts to crack
Pahad said Mbeki was waiting for responses from ZANU PF and the MDC on a
letter he dispatched to them last week.
"We will now await the responses to President Mbeki's letters, so there is
some movement on this," said Pahad. "We are at the pre-dialogue stage. We
have received the MDC initial draft responses on how they see the processes
unfolding, the facilitator is looking at all these inputs and on the basis
of his assessment of all these will determine, in light of the letters to
the two MDC presidents, a programme of action in the coming period," he
However, South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance party, said it
was not enough for Pretoria to state that "there was some movement"
regarding the Zimbabwean crisis, calling for more urgency on the matter.
President Mbeki has previously unsuccessfully attempted to act as a mediator
South Africa's intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils, is reported to have
visited Zimbabwe on Wednesday in what political analysts speculated could be
in preparation for a rumoured Mbeki visit.
Just over a year ago, Kasrils visited Zimbabwe to secure the release of
Aubrey Welken, a South African spy arrested in Zimbabwe for spying on senior
ZANU PF officials on behalf of Pretoria. Six ZANU PF figures were accused of
spying on behalf of the South African government during the embarrassing
Kumbirai Mafunda Staff Reporter
ZIMBABWE'S troubled freight and passenger rail operator, the National
Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), has set itself ambitious targets to move ten
million tonnes of freight traffic and 3.3 million inter-city passengers this
year as a result of improved capacity.
Operational constraints at NRZ have had negative downstream effects on the
productive sector over the years, with bulk shipments of coal, minerals,
tobacco, maize, sugar and cotton suffering due to shortages of cargo
NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati told The Financial Gazette this week that
the parastatal was rehabilitating its railway infrastructure to achieve its
The NRZ will this year upgrade and replace the track infrastructure, which
consists of the rail track, signalling and telecommunications equipment, in
order to improve its operational capacity.
"The NRZ has set for itself targets to move 10 million tonnes of freight
traffic, 3.3 million inter-city passengers and 11.8 million intra-city
commuters in 2007,
as a result of the enhanced capacity," Masikati said.
The NRZ's railway network currently has 82 speed restrictions, which cover a
total distance of 380 km system wide.
But following the recent acquisition of
12 000 tonnes of rail from China, which is being welded into a 144-metre
rail, the NRZ will soon replace sections of rail with speed restrictions in
the North, South East, Dabuka-Harare and Mutare sections of the railway
"The track infrastructure plays a critical role in the smooth flow of rail
traffic in the country and, therefore, has to be quickly rehabilitated in
order to enhance operational efficiency," said Masikati.
He also revealed that the NRZ has also entered into
a deal with an unidentified local company
to manufacture rail sleepers, which will be fitted on the new rail.
He said at least
8 000 sleepers would be manufactured and delivered to the NRZ every month.
Since the commencement of the turnaround programme in July 2003 the NRZ has
refurbished 61 locomotives and 1 797 wagons, thereby boosting its capacity
to meet the demand and customer expectations.
The NRZ, which has a total of 10 123 wagons, of which 5 899 wagons are
dedicated to moving customer traffic while 4 224 are awaiting repairs, last
year turned around to profitability following a huge cash injection by the
Njabulo Ncube Chief Political Reporter
A NUMBER of government ministers who had failed to find political homes from
where to cement their positions in Cabinet are jostling for new rural
constituencies likely to emerge from the expansion of Parliament from 150 to
Highly placed sources said the decision to once again tinker with the
country's supreme law, in an expansion seen further straining the fiscus,
has been a boon for most Cabinet ministers whose stay as non-constituency
MPs was solely at President Robert Mugabe's benevolence.
Cabinet has acceded to the constitutional amendments, paving way for the
increase in Parliamentary seats and the synchronisation of presidential and
parliamentary elections, a few weeks after the proposals that have attracted
sharp criticism from the opposition, had been endorsed by ZANU PF's
policy-making organ - the central committee.
"Most of our colleagues have seen an opportunity here, which no one would
want to miss," said a Cabinet source. "Surely, no one can ever be happy
commanding a position in Cabinet without the express authority of the
people, and naturally, those that are focused on pursuing a political career
are excited and we could see it from the (Cabinet) meeting we had on Monday,
where the central committee's recommendations were largely approved," added
In the last general election a number ZANU PF bigwigs fell by the wayside in
both the ruling party primaries and the Parliamentary polls disputed by the
main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the biggest casualty, narrowly lost the Kwekwe seat to
the MDC. President Mugabe had to shuttle the former ZANU PF secretary for
administration, widely tipped to succeed him, into his Cabinet as a
The present constitution allows President Mugabe to cherry-pick 30
non-constituency members of the House of Assembly, including 10 provincial
governors and 10 chiefs chosen by their peers.
With the introduction of the senate in November last year, President Mugabe
appointed six senators to that body to represent special interest groups
such as the disabled and the coloured community.
Amos Midzi, the ZANU PF chairman for Harare Province and Mines Minister also
suffered a heavy defeat in Hatfield to the opposition MDC.
Other senior government officials likely to be thrown a lifeline courtesy of
the constitutional changes include Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, the
Indigenisation Minister, Munacho Mutezo, the Water Resources Minister and
Sithembiso Nyoni, the Minister of Small to Medium Scale Enterprises
Mutezo lost the Chimanimani seat to fellow Cabinet Minister Samuel Undenge,
who now heads the Anti-Corruption Ministry, while Mangwana fell to Deputy
Information Minister Bright Matonga in the battle for the Ngezi seat.
Nyoni is one of the most consistent election losers, suffering three
consecutive defeats. She has shown interest in representing ZANU PF in the
Nkayi constituency where her non-governmental organisation, Organisation of
Rural Association for Progressive operates.
Her plans to gate-crush into Nkayi in the last parliamentary polls were
thwarted by the Matabeleland North ZANU PF leaders who ruled that she was
domiciled in Bulawayo.
President Mugabe had to draft her into Cabinet as a replacement for Edna
Madzongwe, elevated to the position of senate president.
Sources said Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, one of the sharpest legal
minds in ZANU PF, could also take advantage of the changes to give their
political careers a new lease of life.
"All eyes will now be on the delimitation of the constituency boundaries,
which will have a huge bearing on the aspirations of the ministers,"
remarked the Cabinet source. The rural areas are considered safe seats for
the ruling party as these are regarded as its strongholds.
Those that have dared to stand in urban constituencies, the bastions for the
opposition MDC, have been routed, presenting the Presidium with headaches on
how best to accommodate them.
Personal Glimpses with Mavis Makuni
THE release in 2004 of images showing the abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib
prison in Baghdad by American soldiers sparked widespread outrage throughout
As a result, American President George W. Bush was obliged to apologise for
the incident, which violated international conventions on the treatment of
prisoners of war.
Bush pledged the American government's determination to get to the bottom of
the matter to ensure that the perpetrators of the abuses were brought to
justice. He said what had happened were the transgressions of individual
soldiers and did not represent the "American way".
The worldwide condemnation of the soldiers' actions was an affirmation of
the fact that even in a war situation, an individual's dignity and
inalienable rights must be respected. The Abu Ghraib scandal highlighted how
the use of violence degrades both the victim and the perpetrator.
I have recalled the incident recently because of the political violence and
police brutality that have erupted in Zimbabwe in recent months. A few weeks
ago the media was awash with images of opposition leaders and activists with
swollen faces and broken limbs. They had been brutally battered while in
police custody. The victims included two women. I found myself asking if it
did not amount to domestic violence for a government to torture or assault
its political opponents when it is illegal to mistreat even prisoners of
That kind of violence degrades and dehumanises all Zimbabweans because it is
unnecessary and uncalled for. It is an attempt to compensate for
shortcomings that should be addressed differently. It is, in fact, a
subconscious admission of failure. I cannot imagine anyone being proud of
those images of swollen faces and bleeding skulls and beating one's chest
and labelling violence a "proudly Zimbabwean" way of resolving differences
or conducting political discourse. There may be those who revel and rejoice
in the physical battering of others, but they do not have a right to decree
how every one else should react. A few weeks ago I expressed abhorrence at
the use of violence against Morgan Tsvangirai, Lovemore Madhuku, Sekai
Holland and Grace Kwinjeh by state agents whose job is to guarantee the
safety and security of all citizens.
My views apparently angered a gentleman whose name I cannot quite make out
who sent me an e-mail accusing me of being a member of the Movement for
Democratic Change and gloating that no matter how abhorrent violence was to
people like me, members of the opposition would continue to be battered. The
sender of the e-mail will be disappointed to be reminded that something that
is wrong cannot be made right by decree. What is wrong is wrong and people
should be entitled to follow the dictates of their consciences when they
comment on it. We cannot call ourselves human beings if we are more
disturbed by the sound of water dripping from taps in our homes but think
and feel nothing when fellow humans bleed or die after being deliberately
attacked without justification. Being deliberately set upon is different
from sustaining injuries in an accident or similar circumstances.
It is sad that in the prevailing atmosphere of economic hardships some
people place more importance on political correctness and opportunism to
cloud issues. In this polarised environment advocating acceptable human
values and norms is seen as being "unpatriotic" and abnormal. What is
considered normal is to defend the indefensible and attach all kinds of
labels on those who see things differently. Those who support police
brutality should come up with arguments to show why it should be accepted
instead of throwing red herrings by falsely accusing its opponents of being
aligned to a particular political party as though it is a criminal offence
even if it were true. There should be no ambivalence or equivocation about
the unacceptability of violence in a democracy. One needs to take a clear
This is what the Pan African Association has done in a statement published
at the weekend saying they were "saddened and concerned" at the suffering of
"brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe." The church leaders, who fall under the
auspices of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar,
spoke out at a meeting in Accra, Ghana. They appealed to the government of
Zimbabwe "in the name of Jesus to stop the violence" saying peace, good
governance and respect for human rights should be the guiding principle.
The church leaders noted that the situation in Zimbabwe was not the result
of a natural disaster but self-inflicted. This is why it is necessary to end
the prevailing tense situation where every one feels unsafe. There would be
something seriously wrong if it were to be argued that ending violence would
be detrimental to anybody.
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Mavis Makuni Own Correspondent
THE head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict has spoken passionately
about the raw deal that he believes the continent of Africa received and
continues to get from the West.
The pontiff takes the industrialised countries to task for injustices
committed against the people of Africa during colonialism and for continuing
to "strip" the continent of its rich resources even now when most countries
have freed themselves from colonial bondage and are self-governing.
The Pope makes his sentiments known in a book entitled Jesus of Nazareth. He
uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to underscore how Africa's continued
marginalisation and exploitation is the result of those in the developed
world "passing by on the other side".
The pontiff, whose views were quoted in a recent issue of the Sunday Times,
joins a number of other religious and political leaders from the developed
world who have expressed regret over the injustices the continent of Africa
In September last year British churchman Chris Seaton led a delegation from
the European African Reconciliation Process to Zimbabwe to ask for
forgiveness for sins committed against Africa by their ancestors. The
delegation, which included members from Britain, Germany, France, the United
States of America, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, apologised for the
slave trade, exploitation, the killing of innocent people and the fomenting
of conflict following the partitioning of Africa.
Political leaders have done their share of saying "we are sorry." Recently,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair followed in the footsteps of former US
president Bill Clinton by expressing regret over the slave trade. Blair
offered his apology during Ghanaian President, John Kufuor's state visit to
Britain last month.
"The most important thing though is obviously to remember what happened in
the past and to condemn it and say why it was so entirely unacceptable," he
During their visit to Africa last year Seaton and his delegation made their
apology for the colonisation of Africa before former Mozambican president,
Joachim Chissano who indicated that if he had the mandate he would have made
his own apology on behalf of Africa. Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni was
more forthright in saying that imperialists were not solely to blame for
He blamed the leaders of the time, mainly chiefs, for failing to defend
their countries' sovereignty. The Ugandan leader took the leaders of modern
day Africa to task when he said: "It is also the fault of many of the
post-independence leaders of Africa who have failed to transform our
economies and end Africa's balkanisation in order to create power blocs on
our continent with global influence when it comes to our legitimate
The Pope is right about the past wrongs and injustices that have been
perpetrated against Africa. During the slave trade, an estimated 28 million
Africans were sold into slavery in the Americas between the 15th and 19th
However, African countries need to move forward and leaders cannot blame
slavery and colonisation perpetually even for problems they can avoid and
those they should tackle in line with the aspirations of their people.
Many independence leaders inherited countries that were regarded as gems at
the time they took over from colonial administrations but which they have
since run into penury through greed, corruption and misrule.
While Pope Benedict's concern over the marginalisation of the continent is
valid, it is also true that some leaders have abused billions of dollars in
aid that should have been put to good use to improve the quality of life for
Instead, some leaders have converted donor aid for personal enrichment or to
fund "prestige" projects that have not improved the standard of living of
Sudan was the first African country south of the Sahara to attain
independence in 1956.
It was followed by Ghana the following year. More countries became free in
the 1960s and the trend continued into the 1990s when South Africa and
Namibia attained their Uhuru.
But despite having been independent for the longest period, Sudan is also
one of the countries on the African continent to have experienced the
longest civil war beginning in the 1980s during which an estimated two
million died. The latest conflict in the Darfur region has been raging since
2004. It has displaced two million people and left 400 000 dead.
The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 left about one million dead and displaced a
further two million.
Bloody conflicts and civil wars have retarded progress and caused human
misery in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone,
Angola, etc. Sierra Leone was once regarded as the "Athens" of Africa but is
now the least developed country in the world according to United Nations
The Ivory Coast was once regarded as a model for stable governance and
development but has now been wrecked by conflict. The Democratic Republic of
the Congo is seen as the "festering sore" of Africa after decades of Mobutu
Sese Seko's dictatorship, civil war and disease.
The basket case of Africa is of course Somalia which has not had a
functioning government since the overthrow of former dictator Siad Barre in
The end of colonialism has seen the rise of African dictators and strongmen
who have been more cruel to their people than foreigners.
Idi Amin of Uganda, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, Charles Taylor of
Liberia have the blood of thousands of fellow Africans on their hands. The
advent of "Life Presidents" has given rise to despotic one-man rule which
has spelt doom for many countries .
The Pope speaks from very high moral ground and there is no doubt the people
of Africa cherish his expression of solidarity with them. Many Africans who
are today displaced, diseased, impoverished, persecuted and oppressed by
erstwhile independence heroes would welcome the pontiff's voice in preaching
a different message.
African leaders need to stop perpetuating the evils and injustices of
colonialism at home while portraying themselves anti-imperialist champions
of freedom and justice to the outside world.
Charity begins at home.
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A SOMBRE atmosphere blowing across Zimbabwe as a
result of the despair piggy-backed by the abject poverty ravaging at least
80 percent of the country's population and the government-sponsored
crackdown on political activists overshadowed what should have been lively
Independence Day celebrations observed on April 18 of each year.
Twenty-seven years on, Zimbabwe is a pale shadow of
what it was in 1980 when her gallant sons and daughters risked life and limb
to dislodge Ian Smith's regime after a bloody armed struggle in which an
estimated 60 000 lives were lost.
After a terrific start to majority rule that saw
considerable investment pumped into education and health, which made the
country's leadership stand tall among its peers on the African continent,
the plot was lost along the way or worse still, there is no evidence of
political will to revisit the formula and inspire confidence. It is common
knowledge that poor funding, massive brain drain and mismanagement have
since conspired to decimate the health and education sectors.
It is, however, the laissez-faire manner of doing
things that runs deep in the country's treacherous body politic against an
unprecedented economic meltdown that has been the country's Achilles' heel.
And rightly so, the Independence Day festivities
have lost meaning, particularly among the poor.
It now takes a giant leap of faith for anyone to
abandon his/her chores to celebrate the attainment of the country's hard-won
freedom with the same vigour as before when the same freedoms are slowly
being threatened. What with draconian pieces of legislation like the Public
Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act confronting civil society.
It is an understatement to say that the government
kicked itself in the teeth. It has pressed the self-destruct button, PERIOD!
In all this confusion, the business of the country
has been left unattended, hence the resultant economic decay that has
eclipsed the post 1980 achievements.
From being the darling of the world, acclaimed for
its high literacy levels, a well-diversified industrial base and thriving
democratic systems, the country has taken a rough detour, undoing much of
the gains that had been built around the sound infrastructure inherited from
its colonial past. No wonder the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), fearing the consequences could spill over into the region, is
beginning to talk tough.
Grinding poverty is ravaging 80 percent of the
population, while the HIV/AIDS pandemic has stretched the government's purse
to the limit. Inflation, cited as the country's number one enemy, although
it is quite clear that the government lacks the ammunition to fight it, tops
the world charts at about 1 700 percent, from a respectable seven percent
average in 1980. The Zimbabwe dollar, which at one point traded neck-to-neck
or even stronger against the United States dollar, has swung the other side
with absolutely no glimmer of hope of regaining the lost ground, more so
considering falling capacity utilisation in industry and rapidly
deteriorating international relations that do not augur well for the
resumption of aid.
Ever since the emotive land seizures of 2000 that
disrupted farming activities, agriculture, which powers the country's
economic engine, has remained stuck in the doldrums owing to appalling
incompetence and to a lesser extent the drought, whose impact could have
been mitigated had the government fully developed irrigation infrastructure.
The outcome has been obvious: chronic food and energy shortages coupled with
thinning foreign currency receipts, which makes it laughable for a country
endowed with rich soils and abundant natural resources.
Life expectancy has plunged to 34 for women and 37
The powers-that-be are quick to apportion blame,
unashamedly pointing an accusing finger at everyone else except themselves -
the easier targets being sanctions, outside interference, George Bush, Tony
Blair and an "unpatriotic opposition," among other things. And yet the
evidence is there for all to see.
After 27 years of self-rule, Zimbabweans are wiser.
Unless rooted in a sound economy and all-inclusive political system
guaranteeing basic freedoms, political freedom alone will remain
meaningless. The time is now to walk the talk in the direction of uprooting
endemic greed and widespread corruption, anathemas to the long-sought
economic rejuvenation that has sadly been left to the central bank to fight
Being a coward, capital tends to shun the
uncertainty bred by the reckless diatribe targeted at perceived political
enemies while the economy is burning. In so many ways, it has ricocheted,
hurting tourism and other sensitive sub-sectors known to react to the
slightest whiff of bad news. Wanton violation of property rights, an
extension of the land reforms, and ongoing assaults on civil liberties, have
also combined to kill off investor confidence.
Although China has shown little concern despite
worldwide condemnation of Harare's actions, the world's fastest growing
economy has not shown the urgency required to jumpstart the country's
In the absence of aid and the much-needed balance of
payments support from the Bretton Woods institutions, turning Independence
Day celebrations into platforms of chiding real or imagined enemies blamed
for the country's misfortunes, including interfering with weather patterns
of all absurdities, is surely not the answer. Hopefully, the latest SADC
initiative will clearly spell out successive steps to end human suffering
and restore good governance.
National Agenda with Bornwell Chakaodza
ZANU PF's creating a level playing field will be no different from chickens
and turkeys voting for an early Christmas!
OBVIOUSLY, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not want to be
seen as spoilers as far as the Mbeki initiative is concerned. They have to
be part of it - no two ways about it!
But at the same time, is the ruling ZANU PF party ready to create conditions
in which the opposition party will romp to victory in a free and fair
election, come March 2008? For it is common knowledge that in a genuinely
open, free and fair poll, ZANU PF cannot and will not win. And ZANU PF knows
Hence the ruling party's impending tricks and shenanigans of increasing the
rural constituencies -President Robert Mugabe's traditional strongholds.
Enlarging the Lower House from 150 to 210 seats and the Upper House (Senate)
from 66 to 84 is part of the game plan. It does not make sense for such a
small and poverty-stricken country like Zimbabwe to have such a huge
parliament in terms of numbers.
We have lived with ZANU PF and President Mugabe long enough to know that the
last thing they will ever do is to create a level political playing field
for all. It will not be different from chickens and turkeys voting for
Christmas. These birds know that they will be in peril and invariably headed
for the pot if they were to do that!
So a genuine dilemma for the MDC? A catch 22 situation? Caught between a
rock and a hard place? A dreadful conundrum for MDC? Call it what you will
but the Mbeki initiative does present a real dilemma not only for the MDC
but for all opposition parties and the entirety of the Zimbabwean
It has become very difficult on the part of many Zimbabweans to trust ZANU
PF. This is the core of the problem. President Mbeki and the whole of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) have to understand the nature
of the current Zimbabwean government. There is no telling what the
government might do.
It may go along with the Mbeki mediation efforts from month to month only to
somersault at the eleventh hour. It may indeed concede some ground here and
there but those concessions amounting to nothing in the end.
If I am painting a pessimistic and dismal picture, it is not my intention to
do that. Neither is it my intention to intimate that there should be no
support for the Mbeki initiative. Far from it. All I am doing is to draw
attention to the enormity of the task ahead.
The political climate here is currently not conducive to a free and fair
election and the MDC has rightly called for a new constitution that ensures
such a free process including a transparent counting of votes. Election
observers not only from SADC and AU but the entire international community
(EU and UN) are a must - particularly from the latter.
Prior to that of course, the pre-election period must enable candidates to
campaign freely with all the horrible and repressive media and public
security laws having been repealed to ensure complete openness and lack of
fear on the part of voters. Equal access to electronic media and state
newspapers is of course fundamental to the whole process.
March 2008 is just round the corner and the process of constitution-making
is complicated and complex -something that cannot be done between now and
March next year. What then is to be done? A transitional arrangement as the
MDC is proposing? Or the ZANU PF way of holding the elections in 2008 come
The nightmare for the MDC is an election held under the same conditions that
the previous elections of 2002 and 2005 were held. We all know what happened
then and what will happen next year. In the same vein, the nightmare for
ZANU PF is an election held under a democratic and free electoral
environment. We know what will happen. Certainly a big challenge, very big
challenge for President Mbeki and all the protagonists.
The ruling ZANU PF seems to think that the buck stops with them and
They are not going to bow to internal and external pressure anytime sooner
as can be gleaned from recent developments. The President's utterances and
actions and the new phase of brutality and their plan to redraw constituency
boundaries say it all. It does not take a genius to work out that there is
no serious political will on the part of ZANU PF to tackle the problems that
the country faces. The reality on the ground and the endorsement of
proposals last Monday to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections
in March next year again says it all.
But it is one thing to wish that certain things remain the same. It is quite
another to have the ability to ensure that things remain so. The government
might have all the resources in the world to make sure that nothing changes.
Ian Smith had them but what happened? In the end, the liberation movement,
ZANU PF itself, had the last laugh.
As it was then, it will be so now, ZANU PF or rather sections of it are
deluding themselves if they think that the buck necessarily stops with them.
Such kind of thinking merely delays the inevitable. The MDC might appear to
face the mother of all political battles but they have formidable allies in
the form of the vast majority of Zimbabweans and the international community
as a whole.
My overwhelming sense is that ZANU PF's allies and supporters in the form of
Youth and Women's Leagues are rather fickle and unreliable and that when
push comes to shove, they will disown the old guard just like Abel Muzorewa
supporters abandoned the Bishop and went on to unashamedly sing the loudest
from the ZANU PF hymn sheet. Ask Olivia Muchena and many other high-ranking
people in ZANU PF and they will tell you all about it.
What is heartening, however, is that the pressure on ZANU PF to change
course and listen to the cry of Zimbabweans is growing. The pastoral letter
released two weeks ago by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference on our
crisis is a recent case in point. So is the cry of countless individuals and
organisations - all pushing to open the door that might result in the
breaking of the dreadful conundrum and the catch 22 situation in which the
MDC finds itself.
There might be so many unknowns in our political equation but does ZANU PF
have any choice now? The natural human impulse to peacefully fight to end
oppression that is in Zimbabweans just as it is in other people throughout
the world, the unending economic crisis as well as international solidarity
has the work of President Mbeki cut out for him - so it appears to me.
Far from despairing therefore, I am left with a sense of hope that whoever
said that all roads lead to Rome might not have been lying after all! We
will get there - make no mistake about it.