The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Msika to quit

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Chief Political Reporter
lTsholotsho ghost returns to haunt ZANU PF
AN expected vice presidential opening in the ruling ZANU PF has stoked
tensions reminiscent of 2004 when the race to succeed the late Simon Muzenda
almost split the party, after it emerged that Joseph Msika has indicated his
desire to retire before 2008.

Although ZANU PF largely managed to paper over differences that erupted when
Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joice Mujuru battled it out for the party vice
presidency, ruling party insiders said this week a fresh battle, this time
to replace Msika, was inevitable in Matabeleland.
The development also adds a new dimension to the ZANU PF successon
conundrum.
Msika, who became ZANU PF and state vice president in 1999 following the
death of Joshua Nkomo, is reported to have signalled his intentions to close
colleagues, sparking a rat race among former ZAPU stalwarts who, according
to the ZANU PF constitution, will be in line to succeed the former ZAPU vice
president when he bows out. The unity accord, signed by ZANU PF and ZAPU in
1987, reserves one of the two vice presidential slots for former ZAPU
officials.
Although Msika reportedly favours ZANU PF national chairman and Speaker of
Parliament, John Nkomo, former intelligence supreme Dumiso Dabengwa and
Cabinet Minister Obert Mpofu are reported to be lining up their bids for the
position.
Sources privy to the escalating jockeying in the restive Matabeleland
provinces said Msika has had to convene a series of meetings involving
senior ZANU PF officials in recent weeks to cajole them into supporting
Nkomo's candidature and to build consensus on who fills the post of national
chairman should Nkomo be elevated to vice president.
The sources said the fight to replace Msika was likely to intensify, raising
the spectre of 2004 when Mnangagwa was thwarted in his charge towards the
vice presidency.
President Robert Mugabe ultimately tipped the scales in Mujuru's favour
before cracking down on Mnangagwa's supporters, many of whom allegedly
gathered in Tsholotsho to plot his ascendancy.
The alleged Tsholotsho declaration resulted in six ZANU PF provincial
chairmen being suspended from the party, while several other senior
politicians were punished for their association with the alleged plot, which
the party's old guard viewed as having he makings of a palace coup.
"What is happening is very unfortunate," said a senior ZANU PF official from
Matabeleland. "We (former ZAPU) are so few but this shoving and pushing is
happening. I don't think the late Vice President Nkomo would have allowed
it."
Msika and Nkomo could not be reached for comment yesterday as they were said
to be out of Harare on business. Dabengwa and Mpofu were also not available.
The Financial Gazette, however, has it on good authority that Msika had
become concerned at the political jostling for a position he still occupies.
He is said to have rebuked politicians at a recent closed-door meeting at a
hotel near the Gwayi-Shangani Dam site in Matabeleland for fighting for
positions which will not be vacant within the next two years.
"Msika has told everybody to relax, saying the leadership of the party will
know how to handle the issue when he finally bows out. He wants us to speak
with one voice.
"There are two distinct camps, those that want DD (Dumiso Dabengwa) and
others rooting for Obiza (Obert Mpofu). Some are campaigning against Obert's
candidature, saying he sold out when he joined ZANU PF before Joshua Nkomo
did. Those supporting Obert are of the view that he is the man because he
has been in ZANU PF longer than DD and has a constituency after wresting
Bubi-Umguza from the grasp of the MDC in the last parliamentary election. DD
surrendered his constituency to the MDC and has since been removed from the
people," added another senior ZANU PF official.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Parliament suspends ZANU PF legislator

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Chief Political Reporter

CONVICTED ZANU PF senator for Hurungwe-Kariba Phone Madiro, has been
suspended from the House of Assembly following his conviction two months ago
for public violence that left a man dead in Mashonaland West in 2004.

Austin Zvoma, the clerk of parliament, confirmed Madiro's suspension as it
also emerged the Attorney General's Office was allegedly unhappy with the
lenient sentence meted out to the lawmaker.
A Karoi magistrate last month fined Madiro $10 million or six months in
prison after finding the lawmaker guilty of inciting a group of 18 youths,
allegedly loyal to him, to savagely attack supporters of his political rival
Cecilia Gwachiwa.
"Yes, he (Madiro) has been suspended after sentences for those charges,"
said Zvoma, adding that the house would only decide on the length of his
suspension when Madiro's appeal had been dealt with in the courts. Madiro
has lodged an urgent appeal against his sentence and conviction.
"In terms of the constitution, when the person appeals within a specified
period, which he has done, his or her fate cannot be finalized until the
appeal has been disposed of," said Zvoma.
Madiro and Gwachiwa were both vying to represent the ruling party in
Hurungwe West. Gwachiwa is now the Hurungwe West Member of Parliament.
In sentencing Madiro, the Karoi magistrate further wholly suspended six
months on condition that the legislator is not convicted of a related
offence within that period.
Charges against Madiro were that he and 18 youths were involved in
skirmishes with Gwachiwa's group leading to the death of a man.
The 18 youths were separately sentenced to 12 months each. They each had
four months of their sentences conditionally suspended. The remaining eight
months were commuted to 280 hours of community service at public
institutions, mostly schools in their home areas.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Watchdog blasts MIC plan

FinGaz

Chris Muronzi Staff Reporter

THE proposed amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA) would isolate Zimbabwe further and condemn it as a
pariah state, a local media watchdog noted this week.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) said the proposals by
the Media and Information Commission (MIC) to regulate distributors of
foreign published material deemed hostile to Harare by amending the
draconian AIPPA are ill advised and retrogressive.
MISA-Zimbabwe said the suggestions by the Tafataona Mahoso chaired MIC were
reminiscent of previous bans that had been imposed against the screening of
European football and foreign music videos on national television.
"MISA-Zimbabwe notes with great concern that the proposals are being
considered when the government is reportedly reviewing the entire contents
of AIPPA with the view to removing offending provisions in the Act," said
the institute.
"Most Zimbabweans can safely assume that any reviews being undertaken are
part of efforts to ensure compliance with the regional and international
conventions ratified and signed by Zimbabwe, notably the Windhoek
declaration and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, among
others. MISA- Zimbabwe is therefore urging government, the Parliament of
Zimbabwe and the nation at large to reject the AIPPA amendment proposals, as
they will only result in the further isolation and condemnation of Zimbabwe
as a pariah state," said MISA.
Over the years, the government has gained notoriety as a human rights
violator, owing mainly to arrests of political opponents and journalists.
The government accuses civic groups and journalists of working with former
colonial powers but critics argue that there is an onslaught on democracy
and freedom of expression and that the state is violating fundamental
liberties guaranteed by the constitution.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Equatorial Guinea oil not flowing without guarantee

FinGaz

Staff Reporter
Govt to demonstrate ability to pay first
A PRECARIOUS foreign currency position that has dogged the country in the
past seven years is the only serious hindrance that might scuttle Zimbabwe's
hopes of securing a new fuel arrangement with the Equatorial Guinea.

Sources said while the sub-Saharan African state has emerged among Zimbabwe's
dwindling friends capable of hatching a fresh fuel deal badly needed to end
the chronic fuel shortages facing the country, Harare would need to
demonstrate how it would pay for the fuel supplies.
In the past, fuel deals entered into between the country and the world's
renowned suppliers such as Tamoil of Libya and IPG of Kuwait, have collapsed
after Harare reneged on its commitment.
"There is nothing like free lunch these days. We have to demonstrate, first
and foremost, how we are going to pay for the product. Nothing short of
convincing answers would be acceptable to Guinea", said a source.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of the Equatorial Guinea was in the
country last week to consolidate ties established two years ago after Harare
helped break up an alleged international coup plot directed at the oil-rich
West African state.
George Charamba, President Robert Mugabe's press secretary, told journalists
ahead of Nguema's three-day visit that Zimbabwe would use Nguema's stay to
discuss political and security co-operation and possible trade and business
deals.
"It is essentially a state visit. It is partly to say thank you to Zimbabwe,
and it is partly to look at co-operation," Reuters quoted Charamba as
saying. "They are an oil-producing country and we are trying to see how we
can operationalise some kind of agreement (on fuel supply to Zimbabwe)".
Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer, is a
welcome friend for Zimbabwe as it struggles with economic meltdown and
isolation from Western countries, which have criticised President Mugabe
over accusations of repression.
Once one of Africa' most promising economies, Zimbabwe now fights serious
fuel, food and foreign currency shortages as well as hyper-inflation.
President Mugabe's government played a key role in 2004 in breaking up an
alleged coup plot directed against Obiang, himself frequently described as
one of Africa's most repressive leaders.
Zimbabwean officials arrested some 70 South African mercenaries who had
stopped in Harare as part of the alleged plot and a Zimbabwe court later
sentenced Simon Mann, the group's alleged leader and a former British
special forces officer, to seven years in jail on weapons charges.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Inflation set to clock new record

FinGaz

Rangarirai Mberi Senior Business Reporter

MARCH inflation data is expected out early next week, with a The Financial
Gazette poll of five analysts and economists showing forecasts as high as
920 percent.

The lowest forecast gathered was 850 percent while the highest was 920
percent, which would be much higher than the central bank's own highest
projection of 800 percent for the end of the third quarter.
"I believe month-on-month inflation would have risen between 20 and 25
percent in March," said one analyst, who forecasts inflation to come in at
915 percent.
Annual inflation for February rose 168.8 percentage points to 782 percent,
breaking the previous 622.8 percent record set in January 2004.
Month-on-month inflation stood at 27.5 percent.
If the size of the jump comes in at the top end of the analysts' forecasts,
the big news would be how the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) reacts.
Last month, after inflation had shown a faster-than-expected rise, the
central bank raised the accommodation rate from 700 percent to 750 percent,
its second rate hike in three weeks.
Statutory reserves went up from 55 percent to 60 percent for banks,
returning to levels last seen in October.
That round of rate and statutory reserve hikes pushed interbank rates up and
squeezed banks, drawing criticism for the RBZ and raising fears of a new
banking crisis.
RBZ governor Gideon Gono said in January he expected inflation to slow in
the second quarter on "tight monetary conditions, fiscal restraint, and the
expected improvement in food security", to bring the rate to below 230
percent by December.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zim ranks lowest

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE has once again been ranked last among southern African economies
that are developing their information communication technologies (ICTs).

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF)'s Global Information Technology
Report (GITR) released last week, Zimbabwe ranked a dismal number 105 in a
survey that included 115 economies in 2005-2006.
The report, which uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), measures the
degree of preparedness of a nation or community to participate in and
benefit from ICT developments.
The NRI examines an economy's ICT condition on three dimensions: the general
macroeconomic, regulatory and infrastructure environment for ICT; the
readiness of the three key stakeholders - individuals, businesses and
governments - to use and benefit from ICT; and their actual usage of the
latest information and communication technologies.
Harare's ranking is a considerable slide from its 2004 position, when it was
number 94 out of 104 countries, ahead of neighbouring Moza-mbique, which
ranked 96th.
In the 2005-2006 report, Maputo is ranked number 101, four places ahead of
Zimbabwe.
At position 37, South Africa leads sub-Saharan Africa in terms of networked
readiness while Mauritius (ranked 45th) and Botswana (ranked 56th) trail
South Africa.
Tunisia, which is ranked 36th, leads as the highest-placed African country.
In total, Zimbabwe only outmanoeuvred two other African countries, Chad and
Ethiopia, which anchor the rankings at positions 114 and 115 respectively.
Overall, the United States climbed four places this year to replace
Singapore on the top spot in ICT, confirming its position as an information
and communication technology powerhouse.
Singapore, Denmark, Iceland and Finland were next, confirming the ICT
dominance of Asia and the Nordic countries.
With record coverage of 115 economies worldwide and published for the fifth
consecutive year, the GITR has grown into the world's most respected
assessment of the impact of ICT on the development process and the
competitiveness of nations.
Zimbabwe's ranking means that there is little or no progress that is being
made in the adoption of the latest information and communication
technologies.
The crisis-torn southern African country, which is battling its worst
economic crisis in 26 years, is currently hitting the headlines following
reports that the government is crafting a notorious Bill empowering it to
snoop on telephone and individual private emails.
The proposed law, the Interception of Communications Bill 2006, reverses a
Supreme Court ruling in 2004 which declared unconstitutional some sections
of the Posts and Telecommunications Act.
Harare has been scoring poorly on global economic indices as its economy
declines.
Recently, the Global Competitiveness Report gave Zimbabwe the world's worst
ranking (117th) for the quality of its macroeconomic environment.
Since its launch in 2001, the GITR has become a valuable and unique
benchmarking tool to determine national ICT strengths and weaknesses, and to
evaluate progress.
It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and
development for economic growth.
The WEF said although technological change had always been a central engine
of economic growth, what had been significant about the past decade was the
acceleration in the pace of change.
As more and more countries made efforts to improve their macroeconomic and
policy environments, technology and technological innovation appeared to
have entered a "golden age" when they were emerging as the key drivers of
growth and development, it said.
John Chambers, the president and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems,
co-authors of the report, said: "Networking and communication technologies
are enhancing the way people communicate and exchange ideas, opening the
next horizon for creativity, innovation, growth and competitive advantage.
"The strong link between the Networked Readiness Index and global
competitiveness has increased and is evidence of the critical role that
these technologies play in any economy or company's strategic plans. The
GITR will provide all of us with greater insight and help to guide our
future decisions." said Chambers.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Security arm takes over Cabinet functions

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

THE Zimbabwean government, which has failed to extricate the country's
economy from a seven-year-old recession, has ceded the initiative to direct
economic policy to a security arm.

Official sources told The Financial Gazette this week that the National
Security Council, which is headed by President Robert Mugabe, would feature
the heavy involvement of defence and security officials, who have also taken
charge of the troubled agricultural sector. The sources said the latest
development underlined the extent to which President Mugabe has lost
confidence in his underperforming cabinet.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa yesterday confirmed the development
and referred The Financial Gazette to Economic Development Minister Rugare
Gumbo, who had been expected to issue a statement this week. Gumbo yesterday
confirmed the shift saying he will make a statement next week.
"It is just a body that seeks to stabilise our macroeconomic strategy," he
said.
Insiders said the National Security Council, which is the country's supreme
national policy formulating body, had been mandated to put Zimbabwe's ailing
economy back on track. The Council, which is chaired by President Mugabe and
is virtually composed of the entire Cabinet, is responsible for pronouncing
National Security Policy.
Zimbabwe is in its seventh year of economic recession, which is punctuated
by runaway inflation, hard currency shortages and rising poverty.
Apart from the National Security Council, the Joint Operations Command
(JOC), which is chaired by Mutasa and comprises top commanders of the army,
air force, police, secret and prison services, heavily involves itself in
policy intervention.
Late last year, the army launched a command agriculture programme called
Operation Maguta in a desperate effort to boost agricultural production and
avert massive food shortages. Under the food-security initiative, army
officers are tilling rich agricultural land to boost maize output following
poor harvests in the past five years after new black farmers took over
productive white-owned farms.
The army is also engaged in an ambitious housing reconstruction programme
codenamed Operation Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai in which government is building
low-cost houses for people who were left homeless in the aftermath of
Operation Murambatsvina.
Until recently, Zimbabwe's electoral system has been heavily militarised
with the elections body comprising mainly former army personnel. In
addition, serving and retired army personnel have of late been seconded to
head state institutions. Examples of parastatals headed by army personnel
include the Grain Marketing Board and the National Railways of Zimbabwe,
among others.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

UK sets terms for 'building bridges'

FinGaz

Staff Reporter

RESTORATION of fruitful relations is not a bilateral issue between the
United Kingdom and Zimbabwe but a matter of concern to the international
community and the United Nations, a British government spokesperson said in
Harare this week.

Commenting on recent moves aimed at building bridges between the two
countries, the spokesperson told The Financial Gazette that the Zimbabwean
government needed to address all concerns of the international community as
set out in UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka's report on Operation
Murambatsvina, among other issues.
Answering questions on moves to bring London and Harare closer together, the
spokesperson said engagement already existed through diplomatic missions in
both countries.
The principles enunciated by the United Kingdom make it clear that the gap
between the two countries may prove impossible to narrow. Even more
difficult is the fact that the international community will have to be
consulted in every move aimed at normalising relations between Zimbabwe and
the United Kingdom.
"The issue is not about the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, but the need for
the government of Zimbabwe to address concerns expressed by the
international community," the spokesperson said.
These included United Nations concerns as set out in the Tibaijuka Report.
The other bone of contention is the emotive land issue where Zimbabwe is
accused of spurning international suggestions on how to proceed with the
land reform programme.
She cited the example of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
initiative in 2000 which suggested slowing down the fast-track programme to
fit the country's implementation capacity, allow independent monitoring of
the situation in the commercial farming sector, the promotion of dialogue
and the resumption of UNDP technical assistance.
The UNDP stressed the importance of adhering to the principles of
transparency and a just and fair reform with respect for the rule of law in
accordance with the principles agreed at the 1998 Land Conference held in
Harare.
"We are not imposing any new conditions," she said adding: "The government
of Zimbabwe's reply suggested that it was not willing to move on the major
issues blocking re-engagement by the international community."
The official said that Britain, accused by the Zimbabwean government of
reneging on its undertaking to compensate dispossessed farmers, however,
remained willing to support a land reform programme implemented in
accordance with the principles agreed by donors and the Zimbabwe Government
in 1998. This was also the position of the broad donor community.
Those principles included the need for transparency, respect for the rule of
law, poverty reduction, affordability and consistency with Zimbabwe`s wider
economic interests.
The UNDP report of 2002 on land concluded that Zimbabwe's fast-track land
reform programme was "chaotic, unsustainable and lacking in transparency."
"The British government deplores the approach adopted to recent land reform
which has disrupted commercial and communal farming alike. It has been
violent and unfair to farm owners and farm workers, and damaging to
agricultural production and national economy," she said.
The British government insisted on poverty reduction and transparency
because any land reform based on political expediency, paying no due regard
to its long term effects, would tend to fail because it failed to make
people better off. And land allocated through "patronage of politically
influential groups" will not reduce poverty, she said.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Bloodbath continues on market

FinGaz

Investment Advisory with Nyasha Chasakara

LOOKING at the last trading day of March, one could be forgiven for thinking
that he/she is holding the wrong price sheet.

That was my quick reaction when I glanced at the price of Bindura on Friday.
The counter plunged from $28 000 to $10 000 after publishing results that
fell below market expectations, signalling that investors were looking at
financial results after all.
In terms of market capitalisation, Bindura lost nearly $2 trillion from $3.5
trillion to $1.7 trillion. Phew! It is frightening isn't it?
This brings to the fore the importance of profit warnings. Companies need to
make sure that investors are better prepared when results are released to
avoid panicky situations that destroy value.
The outlook for Bindura and other mining companies remains uncertain,
despite lucrative international metal prices.
The uncertainty in the mining sector and production constraints are likely
to be overriding factors that will hurt profitability in 2006.
Where is the stock market going and where are investors going to make money
in the second quarter?
It is not at all clear and the risk of losing money is very high, hence the
need to buy cautiously.
What looked cheap at the end of February is way cheaper now.
Most companies have predicted a difficult 2006, with a few being optimistic.
Unrealistically high interest rates on borrowing have rendered planning
difficult, while inflation has crippled production as working capital
demands shoot up.
You only need to see the number of companies that have declared dividends to
realise that all is not well in the economy.
Companies continue to seek new capital from investors to keep their
businesses running.
How sustainable are these high interest rates?
This is a popular question that finds no convincing response from anyone,
given that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has continued to issue
Treasury and OMO bills with high coupon rates and is yet to signal an
intention to reduce them.
For now, it is safe to assume that interest rates will remain high as long
as inflation continues to rise, that is, if the RBZ is serious about
fighting inflation.
It is all paradoxical, really, because when you look at supply-side
constraints facing the economy as a whole, mainly foreign currency
shortages, you come to the conclusion that Zimbabwe is in need of some
serious foreign currency inflows.
Money creation through the issuance of short-dated Treasury bills with high
coupon rates can backfire if unsupported by other fiscal and exogenous
factors.
The authorities are faced with a mammoth task of trying to draw the desired
response from consumers in the economy. If everyone expects that inflation
will come down, then they will act in ways that will see speculative and
inflation hedging tendencies disappearing.
Unfortunately, for now, it is not very clear were policies stand. Economic
policies have been very fluid.
Everyone is trading cautiously and hoping that a storm is not brewing in our
financial sector.
Financial results from the banks have been good and were until interest
rates shot up, showing its vulnerability as a liquidity crunch of over $7.5
trillion has gripped the money market.
At this time last year the RBZ was restructuring expensive short-term paper
into cheaper long-term paper.
While interest rates encourage savings, they also discourage investment
because they are associated with reduced aggregate demand.
So, at the end of the day, companies will not invest much in production;
rather, they concentrate on managing their treasury function profitably.
Borrowing to meet working capital needs is out of the question at punitive
rates of more than 750 percent.
At the end of it all, shortages of commodities increase and put pressure on
prices. In fact, companies will end up profiteering as they try and maximise
on margins.
That brings me to the subject of what investors should be doing in this
bearish market.
Cash-rich counters are likely to come out strong in the second quarter as
interest rates are expected to remain high. Cash is once again king and so I
would hold on to Red Star, OK and BAT or, indeed, buy if prices fall low
enough.
For now, buy with the market and avoid buying shares because the price
sounds too good to be true!
Hedging is also a popular strategy right now and Old Mutual, PPC, Cottco and
Rio Tinto appear to be favourites. Note that this is not for short-term
gains but for preservation of value. None of these counters is likely to do
you wonders as long as interest rates are high.
Going through my archives, I came across some interesting observation that
was made when inflation was in decline in 2004.
It is quite clear why we managed to reduce inflation in 2004: high interest
rates and the credibility of the process. It was a real feeling supported by
changes in perceptions and even exchange rates.
Consumers and investors alike were constrained from fuelling inflation by
the insanely high interest rates at the time when yields short up to more
650 percent.
Asset prices came tumbling down but there were no takers because interest
rates were high relative to the expected returns from asset disposal.
A lot has changed since then, as we are yet to see the results of the
current tight monetary policy stance. It remains important for the
authorities to continuously give that reassurance to the investors.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Chaos as AirZim cancels yet another flight

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE'S national airline, Air Zimbabwe, has slipped further into chaos
amid revelations that it once again cancelled a chartered flight to Cuba
last Tuesday after failing to secure adequate fuel supplies.

Sources said the national passenger carrier, which was once voted the best
airline in Africa by a United Kingdom-based institute in 1998, failed to
secure fuel supplies from BP & Shell, its supplier of Jet A1.
BP & Shell is alleged to have asked Air Zimbabwe to settle its energy debt
first, estimated at $30 billion, before it could release any supplies to the
debt-ridden AirZim.
Air Zimbabwe gets fuel from private operators such as BP and Total because
it doesn't have equipment recommended for dispensing fuel from tankers to
the aircraft.
Presently, the national carrier requires about 450 000 litres of Jet A1 per
week. But there is pressure to increase consumption after the recent launch
of a summer schedule that added more routes for the airline.
The Cuba flight was scheduled to leave Harare last Tuesday morning and to
make a brief stopover in London before proceedings to Havana.
The aircraft, chartered by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, was
supposed to fly Cuban doctors who had finished their attachments at
government hospitals back to their country.
But as a result of the fuel crisis, the Havana flight had to be rescheduled
and only left Harare last Wednesday morning via Lusaka, where it refuelled
after the airline managed to secure some foreign currency.
Three weeks ago the national airline was forced to cancel its
Bulawayo-Harare flight after its aircraft failed to refuel in Bulawayo
because of a power outage imposed by the ZESA Holdings at Joshua Mqabuko
Nkomo International Airport.
Early last month, Air Zimbabwe cancelled a Harare-Beijing via Singapore
flight after it failed to release an aircraft, a B767, which was undergoing
a crucial check.
And just recently, a Johannesburg-bound plane aborted its trip because of a
technical fault after take off.
Air Zimbabwe spokesperson David Mwenga confirmed last Tuesday's flight
disruption, attributing it to the delay by a client in processing payment.
"Our client was not able to have the funds we required processed quickly and
we also needed the money to pay for onward movement," Mwenga said.
Apart from inflicting fuel shortages, Zimbabwe's six-year foreign currency
crisis posed problems for the airline in procuring replacement parts,
causing one of the airline's aeroplanes, a Boeing 737, to be grounded.
Air Zimbabwe insiders also say that a Morden Ark (MA60) aircraft that was
donated by China after Harare bought two similar planes to service some
domestic and regional routes has been grounded for the past three weeks
after it developed some engine problems.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Power cuts bad news for hospitality sector

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

THE detrimental effects of incessant power blackouts, coupled with erratic
supplies of beverages, is taking its toll on the country's hospitality
industry, already reeling from operational problems stemming from a hostile
economic environment.

Hoteliers told The Financial Gazette that the power cuts that are currently
being effected by the country's power parastatal ZESA Holdings (ZESA) were
bad news for the limping hospitality industry.
"They (power cuts) are very disruptive to service," said Francis Ngwenya,
the president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ). "Most major
hotels have back-up generators but when these power cuts become constant,
the generators need to be serviced regularly," he added.
ZESA has introduced intermittent load shedding in industrial and residential
areas around the country, which households and industrialists say is
disruptive and adversely affects operations. The electricity rationing
follows a reduction in power imports from regional suppliers who have begun
conserving resources ahead of a regional power deficit in 2007.
Ngwenya, who is also the chief operating officer of Cresta Hospitality, said
that the sometimes unscheduled power outages were another unnecessary burden
for hoteliers who are struggling to lure tourists to the crisis-sapped
southern African country.
The HAZ boss implored ZESA to display a higher degree of sensitivity and
prudence by warning the industry of impending power cuts. Ngwenya said
unscheduled power outages were damaging appliances such as television sets
and refrigerators.
"Switching on and off is not good for television sets," he said.
Although Ngwenya appreciated the preferential treatment accorded to some HAZ
members in the allocation of beverages by Delta Beverages, he said the soft
drinks shortage and power outages were a constant strain to hoteliers as
they were now devoting much of their time and energies to giving
explanations and reassuring tourists.
Zimbabwe has been plunged into a soft drinks drought for the first time
since independence as Delta Beverages, bottlers of carbonated soft drinks
such as the famous Coca-Cola and Fanta, has been unable to meet demand owing
to a critical shortage of imported concentrates.
"These things (soft drinks) are standard and are expected to be available
every time," remarked Ngwenya. "Unnecessary costs are incurred by operators
trying to ensure that they have expected standards. Hotels are the window
through which tourists see our country."
Other hoteliers warned that they risk filing for bankruptcy if the current
tribulations that are rocking the industry persist.
Zimbabwe which earned US$777 million in 1999 in tourist receipts has seen
earnings plunging to below US$77 million as tourists shy away from the
southern African country, which is grappling with its worst political and
economic crisis since independence.
Besides hoteliers, the country's captains of industry and commerce have
expressed anger over load shedding, saying it is crippling the operations of
many companies.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Hwange owed $500bn by ZESA, ZISCO alone

FinGaz

Chris Muronzi Staff Reporter

ZESA Holdings and Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Works (ZISCO) owe Hwange Colliery
Company limited a $500 billion debt, The Financial Gazette has established.

Although management at Hwange which, in the past, has had spats with the
parastatals over non-payment of debts, declined to disclose information
pertaining to the debt, they conceded during an analysts and media briefing
in the capital last week that "debts from major customers were affecting
cash flow."
The two parastatals have been struggling with debts over the years owing to
poor management and uneconomic tariffs and charges.
ZESA has sunk deeper into debt, after it recently raised $530 billion
through the floatation of 180-day megawatt bills, at an average 600 percent.
Analysts say Zisco, which recently handed out a management contract to
Global Steel Holdings, might be on course top recovery.
Hwange chief Godfrey Dzinomwa could not be drawn to comment on the debts but
said the company was still to get payment from some of its customers.
Turnover was $988 billion from $374 billion, showing a growth of 164
percent. The company's attributable earnings stood at $264 billion from the
previous $49 billion last year.
The company realised some exchange gains on exports after 4th quarter
devaluation earnings.
Coal delivered to Hwange Power Station (HPS) stood at 2 million tonnes up
from a previous 1,9 million tonnes delivered in the prior year. Sales
declined from 1 022 497 tonnes in the previous year to 831 614 tonnes owing
to low production from its new underground mine which was commissioned in
the first quarter of last year while coal exports stood at 39 067 tonnes
down from 99 514 tonnes in the prior year.
"Coke sales of 196 523 tonnes were 10 percent above the tonnage achieved
last year. This product is a high revenue earner for the company. There was
a significant off take of coke to the export market especially during the
first half of the year.
"Coke export for the year amounted to 105 927 tonnes and were 40 percent
above the sales achieved in the previous year," said the company in a
statement attached to the results.
"Gas supply to ZPC's Hwange Power Station increased from 19 million Nm3 due
to improved plant availability throughout the year," added the company.
"The company is in the process of procuring haulage equipment, drills and a
coal fines recovery plant. The new 3 main Underground Mine which was
commissioned during the first quarter of 2005 should be boosted by the
current initiatives to expand mining operations when a second continuous
miner is brought into production. Demand for coal and coke is expected to
remain firm in both the domestic and export markets. The company is
targeting incremental exports from increased production," said Hwange.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

AirZim alliance deal just 'an idea'

FinGaz

Munyaradzi Mugowo Staff Reporter

FOUR months after the government proposed a partnership for Air Zimbabwe,
which is currently wallowing in an acute financial and management crisis,
senior officials at the national airline say the project is "still an idea".

Air Zimbabwe chairman Mike Bimha told The Financial Gazette that his board
was still to identify possible partners.
"It's only an idea. It's too early for us to start implementing the
strategic planning and turnaround because we have not finalised a lot of
issues. We are still to commission our marketing team to start scouting for
potential partners," Bimha said.
The government last year announced plans to forge an alliance for the ailing
national passenger carrier after burying prospects for a similar partnership
deal with Germany's Lufthansa in 2002.
Sources say the government, which maintains a heavy hand on the parastatal,
is reluctant to allow a full-fledged commercialisation of the airline
through the joint venture.
Air Zimbabwe's fleet has dropped 33 percent since independence in 1980.
In the first 10 months of 2005, the airline made an operating loss of about
$317 billion, largely because of unviable flights to China and Dubai.
Records show that the airline is losing US$98 000 every month through these
routes, encouraged by the government under what it calls its "Look East"
policy.
AirZimbabwe acting group chief executive Oscar Madombwe said the airline
would only take a cue from the government on its "turnaround".
"The turnaround programme we are following is the one prescribed by the
government in the budget statement.
"What the government wants is an alliance for Air Zimbabwe and we are just
waiting for a directive from the government on how to proceed. It (the
government) is the one which is implementing the programme," said Madombwe.
Transport and Communications Minister Christopher Mushohwe could not be
reached for comment.
Sources say the government may be reconsidering approaching Lufthansa, which
pulled out in a huff when Zimbabwe's economy started sinking.
But analysts say the attempt could be a wild goose chase unless the
government appoints a credible management team to steer Air Zimbabwe's
strategic turnaround programme.
Air Zimbabwe is still operating without a substantive chief executive after
Mushohwe fired Tendai Mahachi last year on allegations of incompetence.
Mahachi had spent less than a year in office.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Why Zimbabwe is falling apart

FinGaz

Perspectives with Jonathan Maphenduka

THE night the Patrice Lumumba story was shown on television, I had a bad
dream in which I saw horse-riders, armed with assault rifles, shooting every
black person in sight.

The riders were, conveniently, white. But for some strange reason they
spared my life. Later, I saw Lumumba, wearing his famous white T-shirt,
grinning forlonly. He knew his fate had been sealed.
Earlier, I had seen on the screen hordes of armed blacks attacking whites
and there were reports of massacres and wanton raping in Kasai at the hands
of other ethnic groups. The horror of it was petrifying. I am sure I dropped
a tear.
The fact that way back in 1961, I had seen with my own eyes convoys of
Belgians fleeing the horror to Zambia with a few portable possessions did
not help the situation.
Reports of horror continued to come out of the Congo with streams of convoys
of frightened blacks and whites.
One weekend in 1962, on a curious visit to Mokambo border post, I stumbled
on Zambia's Harry Nku-mbula meeting with Moise Tshombe. They sat in a
ramshackle building, sipping Simba beer and chatting without a concern in
the world.
Tshombe had with him his foreign minister, Godfroid Munongo, and minister of
information Kimba.
Was Nkumbula, with his African National Congress now in opposition to
Kenneth Kaunda's United National Independence Party, thinking of taking his
Southern Province out of the rest of Zambia? That was the subject of
speculation.
Fate has never been kind to African leaders. Almost to a man, they have
taken over government of their countries without money of their own, a
situation that more often than not leads to a free-for-all. This often leads
to bloodshed.
Look at what happened to Kwame Nkrumah, the founding father of the
Organi-sation of African Unity.
Talking about unity, how can African states talk about unity when they do
not work for it back home, where tribalism is the order of the day and there
is no one doing anything about it?
Lumumba and the Congolese episode is now so much water under the bridge. Is
it?
The tragedy of the Congo has not been told, and we in Zimbabwe have become,
as fate willed, embroiled in it. The fact that the Belgians are no longer
there to take the blame for what happened in 1960 does not make it any less
tragic.
It is the blacks themselves who are now killing each other like they did in
1960, with African leaders now left without scapegoats to blame. Africans
are killing themselves all over the continent and the African Union is
helpless.
Why helpless? Beca-use pan-Africanism has shown itself for what it is - a
sham. Even more tragic is the slogan of nationalism that has lost its
meaning, leaving in its wake rivers of blood of victims of ethnicity.
In Sudan, Arabs are killing the Bantu of Darfur as if what they did in the
south of the country was not enough. In Sierra Leone the same is happening,
and in the Ivory Coast, people in the north are killing those in the south,
and vice-versa, not to mention what has been happening in Liberia.
Can anyone in the world, reflecting on what happened and continues to happen
in the Congo, blame Lumumba or the Belgians or Joseph Mobutu and those who
conspired to kill Lumumba?
Can we blame Tshombe, the man who gave us our slogan of a sellout, for
trying to secede after leaders in Katanga were left out of the government in
Leopoldville.? Can we justify why Lumumba will forever remain a hero and
Tshombe a villain?
The story last Saturday showed Lumumba complaining bitterly about how Accra
had been caught paying lip service to the cause in the Congo. And what cause
was it that dictated the exclusion of the people of Katanga from the new
government?
African independence that culminated with the Gold Coast becoming Ghana in
1957 has not, as expected, brought in its wake the benefits of self-rule for
all its people, and the basic reason why there is no peace, stability and
prosperity in Africa today is the obsession of African leaders with tribe.
In Nigeria, they have tried to tackle it by moving the capital from Lagos to
Abuja in the centre of the country, believing (mistakenly) that every
Nigerian can claim some real estate in the new neutral capital. But it is
not working.
In the Niger delta, the rebels there are demanding their own state, and
elsewhere in the country there is an uneasy peace, which often turns bloody.
In Zimbabwe, the country in which one city has taken for itself the name of
Bambazonke, the people are still struggling to find their national identity
26 years after independence.
There are numerous other examples. African governments remain an enigma, a
mystery to unravel.
In Zimbabwe, how successful the experiment to find a national ideal has been
remains a matter of opinion 26 years after independence. Even after the
much-vaunted 1987 unity accord, the whole idea of nation-building remains
elusive.
Many years ago now, President Robert Mugabe made an extremely re-assuring
statement in his reflection after the unrest of 1980s. He said Gukurahundi
had been an act of madness. A sesame, one might say, to open the minds and
hearts of all Zimbabweans to the ideal of nation-building.
And with the split of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a lot has
been heard and seen to suggest the country might be falling apart.
In the western region, a great deal of talk about federalism is getting
louder. There is even talk of secession. Disillusionment is everywhere.
President Mugabe has since the birth of the February 21 Movement used the
occasion of his birthday to make major statements on the country's
challenges.
I listened to him again this year addressing thousands of young people from
all over the country. I am saying all over the country because I like to
believe that there were people from the western region among his audience.
One thing, and one thing only, has stuck in my mind about what the President
had to say. He was relating how the people of Gwebu in Buhera came to be
there. They had been displaced from their home in Matabeleland by whites.
Talking in royal Shona prose, he said: "This is how the Gwebu people came to
live among our people."
Talking in vernacular, maybe, was intended to conceal the message from those
who came from the western region.
If indeed that was the idea, it failed. Very few young people can say they
do not understand Shona today.
If that was not the President's concern, those listening must have gone home
feeling they had been disowned.
How much can one
To Page 16
From Page 13
blame those who are talking secession?
In March last year, during the run-up to the parliamentary elections, chiefs
in Chimanimani were told that if they voted for the MDC they would be voting
for the people of Matabeleland to take over the government of the country.
It is baffling. Has it ever occurred to ZANU PF that it cannot rule this
country without those people? Anyway, what is the party's agenda for this
country? Domination of one ethnic group by the other so that there is
fertile ground for discontent?
I come from the western border with Botswana, but I married a girl from
Chishakwe on southern tip of the Vhumba Mountains. Originally, the Rakabopa
family lived near Leopard Rock Hotel on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.
A few years ago, my father-in-law took me to the place of his birth, from
where they were moved to make way for white farmers, just like the Gwebu
people of Buhera. All we found where their family home once stood was a lush
international standard golf course.
This union has in recent years been consolidated further by my son, who
chose a Muchena girl from Penhalonga for a wife. They have two beautiful
daughters and are happy with themselves.
The point of this narration is that some people do not give a damn who they
choose for a wife. But should my in-laws, for political expediency, disown
me because I come from the other end of the country?
In February last year I found myself confronting a man and demanding to know
why a legend was being used by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings every
morning to remind one tribe how it suffered at the hands of another.
The story which preceded news bulletins every morning was the legend that
the victims were drowned in the Chirodziva Pool in the Chinhoyi Cave.
It had been going on for sometime, possibly some years ,without being
noticed. But three months later it had vanished. Can anyone defend
perpetration of hatred of one tribe by another, and still claim to be
building a nation?
A question for every Zimbabwean is: Can anyone claim he has his people?
Lumumba claimed he had "his" people in the name of independence but they
disowned and murdered him. What about those who do not have anyone to claim
them as his own? Where can they look for hope?
For many years after the Congolese holocaust, Mobutu ruled the Congo with an
iron rod. In due course, the man had to flee his own country. His successor
did not last a couple of years.
Perhaps what happened in the Congo was inevitable: the country is too vast
and has a polyglot population. There is simply no national cohesion, and
those who grab power simply want to make the best of it, including
ethnic-cleansing, damn everything else.
In Zimbabwe we are a small country. We cannot afford to let improbity rob us
of a golden opportunity to build for ourselves a truly united nation where
all ethnic groups, all minority groups should feel a binding sense of
belonging.
We started independence on a wrong footing by destroying the government of
national unity. The government has since the signing of the unity accord
spent precious time trying to repair the damage that came with sending ZAPU
to oblivion.
Since the signing of the accord, the government has wasted time trying to
woo the people of Matabeleland by trying to prove to them how "great" Joshua
Nkomo was.
His name, instead of dealing with those issues that matter to the ruled, has
been used as some kind of magic wand to wean the people away from their own
thoughts.
But there is a strong body of people in that province who believe that the
unity accord was a betrayal of their identity and their interests. Because
the government has done precious little to confound this feeling, these
people are now talking of federalism. They are looking for an outlet.
When the MDC came in 1999, they thought they had found something to make up
for what they lost with the unity accord. The split has left them out in the
cold, and Nkomo, the only man they ever trusted, is dead and buried. They
cannot appeal to him.
Even while he lived, many of them had started drifting away from him
because, to them, he was no longer effective. This explains why, a year
after his death, they chose to join their compatriots who were disillusioned
with the ZANU PF government to vote for the MDC.
The split, however, has left them in the lurch.
The government has not concentrated its efforts on redressing the concerns
of the people of Matabeleland in an honest and serious manner, leaving those
elements that yearn to see ZAPU revived working to further weaken national
aspirations.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Of unremembered heroes and glorified non-heroes

FinGaz

The Geoff Nyarota Column

AN audacious rocket attack by ZANLA guerillas on Salisbury's central fuel
depot in 1979 ignited a raging inferno, which the fire brigade, assisted by
reinforcements from South Africa, battled to bring under control for two
long weeks.

As this most terrifying spectacle in Rhodesia's history made headlines
around the world, Zimbabwe's urban population witnessed for the first time,
the ugly reality of a war that was limited to sketchy Combined Operations
headquarters reports in the newspapers or on radio.
Against the backdrop of the huge bonfire that lit the skyline of Salisbury
every night, a large number of the white Rhodesians finally lost faith in
Ian Smith and made up their mind to pack their bags and leave a country they
had grown to love.
Meanwhile, many in the township of Harare, now Mbare, from where the attack
was launched whispered knowingly in Shona, "Moto waVheremu, moto waVheremu"
("Vheremu's fire, Vheremu's fire.")
Marko Vheremu had left the township as a young school-leaver, destined for
Mozambique where he joined ZANLA and trained as a guerilla. He was part of a
small group of men that, in the most heroic guerilla raid of that war,
launched the attack on the Shell depot under cover of darkness, a short
distance from Harare Township.
The conflagration became the turning point of the war. A few months later
Smith sat on one side of the conference table at Lancaster House. On the
other side sat his two adversaries, ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo and Robert
Mugabe of ZANU, whose ZANLA armed wing had launched the ferocious attack.
After independence Vheremu returned to Harare Township, soon to be renamed
Mbare. He celebrated independence with rest of us and was attested into the
army. By the time of his death in a road accident he had retired from the
army to join the growing ranks of business entrepreneurs. Essentially he
died a poor man.
He was, however, accorded a decent but modest burial by relatives and a
ragtag coterie of war veterans at the sprawling Kumbudzi cemetery, where the
capital city's poor are literally dumped and, in many instances forgotten.
From the day of Vheremu's interment at Kumbudzi I have dismissed Heroes'
Acre, the ornate Korean-built shrine in Warren Hills, west of the capital
city, as a farcical and hypocritical charade, designed to deceive the
majority while enriching the families of a few. My scepticism was confirmed
twice in quick succession last week.
The occasion of the first endorsement was the death of veteran Zimbabwean
politician, James Dambaza Chikerema, in Indiana, in the United States, on
Thursday March 23 after a long fight with cancer. The death of one of
Zimbabwe's most heroic nationalist leaders was accorded low-key coverage in
the Zimbabwe media. As for the tributes of fellow politicians there was a
deafening silence.
Four days later, on Monday March 27, President Mugabe's long-serving aide de
camp Winston Changara, recently re-hired after he lost his job in mysterious
circumstances, died after what was said to be a short illness.
Changara's province, Mashonaland Central, immediately launched a campaign
for his elevation to the status of national hero. After lengthy deliberation
ZANU PF's all-powerful politburo granted the province its wish.
In announcing the good news, one of the province's more prominent
politicians, Chen Chimutengwende, a government minister and a cousin of the
deceased, said Changara had been declared a national hero in honour of his
illustrious record in protecting President Mugabe and other senior ZANU PF
leaders during Zimbabwe's war of liberation and thereafter. That it is
considered a heroic feat to protect a head of state described by the same
Chimutengwende, when it suits him, as very popular with the people, is a
major contradiction in terms.
Changara is not the first Zimbabwean of dubious heroic credentials to have
his remains interred amid pomp and ceremony at the national heroes' shrine
at Warren Hills. Others even more controversial - Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi,
Border Gezi, to name but a few - went before him.
Meanwhile, the real icons of Zimbabwe's revolution, heroes such as Marko
Vheremu, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, the founding president of ZANU, Lookout
Masuku, the former ZIPRA commander and now James Dambaza Chikerema are
accorded second-rate status.
Chikerema's body was flown from the United States to Harare where it lay in
state before burial at his village in Kutama, also President Mugabe's
traditional home, coincidentally.
In fact, the two were related. The Zimbabwe Standard reported that
Chikerema's former comrades-in-arms gave his funeral wake a wide berth. The
government's Sunday Mail, once edited by Chikerema's brother, Charles,
dispatched of the fiery nationalist leader's departure in a paltry 142
words.
"You ask me why we did not go to Chikerema's funeral," State Security
Minister, Didymus Mutasa remonstrated with an inquisitive journalist, "why
don't you ask us why we did not attend Ndabaningi Sithole's funeral? If we
were to attend a funeral, it would be because the person who died was our
member."
As a rule, I don't understand Mutasa's logic on a variety of issues,
although he is my clansman.
President Mugabe made an appearance at Chikerema's burial on Sunday. In
attempting to justify his nephew's burial away from Heroes' Acre, President
Mugabe said ZANU PF's policy was that for anyone to be considered a hero
that person should have participated in the liberation struggle and remained
consistently associated with the party after independence.
Border Gezi and Chenjerai Hunzvi were not associated with the liberation
struggle. In any case, ZANU PF cannot rightfully be the common denominator
to all acts of heroism.
I double-checked the meaning of the word "hero". The following
not-too-gender-sensitive meanings are offered - brave man, superman,
champion, conqueror, idol and icon. Changara certainly never evoked any of
these images as he stood transfixed in the background, while the President
delivered his many eloquent speeches.
The actions and decisions of the ZANU PF leadership cannot, in any way,
detract from the public image of Chikerema as a heroic figure, an icon of
Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. It was he and the late George Bodzo Nyandoro
who invited Joshua Nkomo to lead the Southern Rhodesia African National
Congress (SRANC), which kindled the spirit of the African nationalist
struggle during the days of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The
two were arrested and detained in 1959.
Chikerema and Nyandoro remained loyal to Nkomo following the breakaway of
ZANU from ZAPU. After their release from prison in 1964, Nkomo dispatched
them to Tanzania and, subsequently, to Lusaka, where Chikerema became the
acting president of ZAPU.
Chikerema's cardinal error in the eyes of those who now despise him
posthumously as much as they disregarded him in life was to form the
Zezuru-based Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi) in 1972, acting
in concert with Nathan Shamuyarira, the current Zanu-PF secretary for
information and publicity. Throughout last week I fully expected to read in
the Herald a heart-rending eulogy penned by Shamuyarira in honour of
Chikerema.
If such tribute is, indeed published between the time of writing this
article and its publication today, I will tender my sincerest apologies to
him. It will be interesting, however, to see if Shamuyarira himself goes to
Heroes' Acre, considering his Frolizi past.
Chikerema also incurred the wrath of Zanu politicians when in March 1975 he
openly accused the late Zanla commander Josiah Magama Tongogara of murdering
Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, the Zanu chairman in Lusaka.
"You will never get way with this," Chikerema fumed at Tongogara as the
police struggled to restrain him from drawing his pistol.
In post-independence Zimbabwe the bestowal of hero status by the Zanu-PF
politburo on citizens has become a matter of emotional controversy. One
cause of genuine concern is the fact that this body has elevated all and
sundry to national hero status with reckless and partisan abandon, with the
national shrine fast becoming full. Only two Mozambican national heroes,
Eduardo Mondlane, the founding president of the ruling Frelimo party, and
Samora Moise Machel, the country's founding president, have been buried at
the Heroes' Acre in Maputo.
The criterion employed by the Zanu-Pf politburo to determine the credentials
of Zimbabwe's heroes has become a matter of even greater concern. The time
may have come for Zimbabwe to consider seriously a proposal that has been
previously suggested by various other concerned citizens. Before any more
mere mortals with no legitimate claim to hero status are interred there,
while truly deserving cases are denied access to the dignity, honour and
financial benefit associated with burial at Heroes' Acre, a formal,
independent and non-politically-partisan Heroes' Acre Committee should be
established.
Such committee would function outside the ambit of Zanu-PF. The committee
would sit in deliberation only in cases of conflict or dispute over the
status of the just deceased. In obvious cases of heroic accomplishment, such
as those of Ndabaningi Sithole, James Chikerema, Lookout Masuku, Henry
Hamadziripi Sheba Tavarwisa and Noel Mukono, whose remains now lie buried in
various cemeteries, far from Heroes' Acre, the committee would hardly be
required to sit in deliberation.
When a real hero dies the nation feels it spontaneously. When a genuine hero
dies it is hardly necessary for the official eulogy writers at the Herald to
resort to disingenuous and often ridiculous embellishments, while seeking to
upgrade the credentials of the just deceased.
Candidates for such committee whose names immediately come to mind are
Zanu-PF's eminent historian, Aeneas Chigwedere, former University of
Zimbabwe vice chancellor, Professor Gordon Chavhunduka, a leading
sociologist, who is now an MDC official, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius
Ncube of Bulawayo. Freedom Nyamubaya would be another worthwhile candidate.
While she fell out of favour with Zanu-PF, her liberation war credentials
are beyond reproach. A respected citizen retired from the bench, such as
John Manyarara, would chair the committee to ensure that heroes can be
identified outside the domain of the liberation struggle.
The writer's email address is: gnyarota@yahoo.com.)


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

It's not treason to wish, for a bit of sugar, Sir

FinGaz

Personal Glimpses with Mavis Makuni

FUNERALS are a sombre affair, but whenever a hero is buried at the national
shrine in Harare, the regular eulogist, President Robert Mugabe, always
brings an unexpected dimension to the rituals with his impassioned railings
against Zimbabwe's most well known enemies, American President George W Bush
and his British ally, Tony Blair.

It was no different last Friday when the officer commanding the Police
Protection Unit, Senior Assistant Commissioner Winston Changara was laid to
rest. Changara was declared a national hero not only for the service he
rendered to the President over a 30-year period but for the sacrifices he
made in fighting to liberate the country from colonial rule.
Predictably, the eulogy included the usual brickbats for Bush and Blair when
the President stressed that the country should never be allowed to fall back
into the hands of whites because it did not belong to the British and
Americans.
The head of state also gave Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan
Tsvangirai the usual dressing down in which he hinted darkly that the
opposition leader would be looking for a way to die if he proceeded with
plans to organise street protests against the government. What did the
President mean?
I, like all other ordinary Zimbabweans who look up to the head of state for
protection am still puzzling over his statement. However, when the President
told a parable in which he likened Tsvangirai to a dog named Sekaurema that
he once owned I thought the analogy was ironic. The President said this
poodle always caused him embarrassment during hunting expeditions by turning
tail and racing back home instead of joining the other dogs in chasing the
prey.
The President did not say whether he ended up killing his cowardly dog but
it is clear it behaved as it did because it had not received proper
training, guidance and orientation.
A naughty thought occurred to me. This dog was not much different from
members of the President's cabinet and government. When told, "you hold
these high positions to serve the needs and interests of ordinary
Zimbabweans" they rush off in different directions in pursuit of personal
gain and self-enrichment.
Your Excellency, these greedy and corrupt ministers are the real Sekauremas
against whom your fury should be directed, in view of the fact that you have
previously conceded that these vices exist in your administration. Their
collective greed, avarice, corruption and dereliction of duty has had far
more serious repercussions for the generality of the people than
Tsvangirai's, single, boyish act (if it is true) of supposedly deserting the
liberation war more than 30 years ago.
Your Excellency, in your eulogy at Heroes Acre. you wondered aloud why
ordinary Zimbabweans are moaning about the prevailing economic hardships
when greater sacrifices were made during the liberation struggle. "Inga
vamwe vakaifira wani but you scold your government and leaders because you
didn't get a packet of sugar." Mr President, the people around you may not
tell you the truth, but it is not just sugar that the masses cannot access
or afford. They can neither access nor afford most basic commodities, they
cannot afford healthcare, ditto school fees for their children, rentals are
out of this world and most families subsist on one sparse meal per day.
What adds insult to injury for the ordinary people is that while they are
subjected to this unrelenting austerity, Your Excel-lency's ministers and
other public officials are wallowing in the lap of the most unimaginable
luxury with multiple farms, fleets of luxury vehicles and grand mansions.
The corrupt dealings of these Sekauremas in government result in the
diversion of essential commodities such as sugar, flour, mealie meal, fuel,
fertilisers and many other items to the black market, where the ordinary
person must pay through the nose to access them.
With unemployment and inflation both galloping at record rates, you can
imagine, Mr President, what a gruelling struggle it is for most of your
subjects just to survive.
But while the ordinary people are groaning under the weight of these
multiple burdens, they are confronted with images of official ostentation
and opulence. Many times while watching television in a bid to divert
attention from their rumbling stomachs they are bombarded with images of
long tables groaning under all kinds of food at official functions and
ruling party congresses. Your Excellency, this is like experiencing famine
at the banquet! It is hard to convince them that austerity for the masses
and opulence for the chefs is what the liberation war was all about.
Mr President, ordinary people are scolding your government, not because they
are unpatriotic but because they are hungry and feel unfairly deprived. They
believe that whatever resources are available in the country should benefit
all Zimbabweans and not just a select few. It should not have to be
treasonous for Zimbabweans to wish to access sugar and other basic
commodities.
I do not wish to raise your hackles Mr President, by quoting a legislator
from the land of George Bush who once characterised democracy as "liberty
plus groceries." In the long run, independence and sovereignty become mere
abstract concepts to a populace that is not free from hunger, poverty,
exploitation and oppression by those in power.
As the countdown continues towards the commemoration of the 26th anniversary
of the attainment of independence it might be useful for those in authority
to reflect on why urban dwellers, who are more informed about the corruption
and avarice of the ruling elites, have withdrawn their support from the
ruling party as reflected by voting patterns in recent years. They should
ask themselves seriously whether the single act of a youthful Tsvangirai
absconding from the liberation war can overshadow their collective abuses
and excesses over the last 26 years of independence, which have pauperised
the population. If they do this honestly, they will realise who the real
Sekauremas are.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

That vicious circle

FinGaz

NO other government initiative since independence has ever spawned such
bewildering complexities as has the much-vaunted land reform, which has seen
the key agricultural sector and consequently the economy, slipping on so
many banana skins.

The reasons for this state of affairs are pretty obvious - lack of forward
planning, upside-down priorities and certain government policies that have
no basis in realities whatsoever.
And the question is: With so many imponderables, will Zimbabwe ever get it
right in agriculture? This is probably the umpteenth time we have had to ask
this question over the past three years simply because a vicious circle
appears at every turn as the country continues to experience acute shortages
of critical inputs and one form of problem after another. As a result, the
goals of the land reform initiative have largely remained a pipedream.
And yet, if it had been well planned and managed, the exercise could have
been the best way of intervention to address historical injustices,
inequality and poverty for in agriculture, which in the case of Zimbabwe
anchored the economy, lies the seed of economic prosperity and
self-sufficiency. Unfortunately today, five years after those spontaneous
wildcat farm invasions at the height of the fast-track land reform
revolution, Zimbabwe is far much further from guaranteeing food security
than it was in 1980 despite what the rhetoricians in government would like
to make us believe.
And as far as black economic empowerment is concerned, the situation is even
worse. Suffice to say that, with the recurring input shortages, what the new
farmers gained on the swings, they lost on the roundabouts, as they are
neither improving their individual economic standing nor adding value to the
national economy. This is mirrored in the shrunken state of the economy,
which has hit historic contraction. If anything, the new farmers are now
specialising in environmental degradation through wanton cutting down of
trees.
What is of great concern to us though is that it is almost as if the farming
inputs crisis has never happened before. Yet the country has had to grapple
with this problem for almost five years. The German philosopher, Georg Hegel
once wrote that history teaches us that people have never learned anything
from history. The point is not lost in Zimbabwe where we are being told that
the country faces yet another huge wheat deficit this year. The reason for
this low wheat harvest forecast is the same as for the deficits for the
preceding five years - shortages of key inputs.
Farmers' representative bodies say given the circumstances, they can only
manage 45 000 hectares to produce 135 000 tonnes of wheat against the annual
national requirement of 420 000 tonnes. As would be expected however, the
overly optimistic government insists that farmers will put 110 000 hectares
under winter wheat.
Coming as it does at a time when the country is expected to have a maize
deficit of close to 1 000 000 tonnes this year, the projected wheat
shortages can only further exert pressure on the country's meagre foreign
currency resources through imports.
The situation is eerily reminiscent of that surrounding last year's winter
crop. As farmers would know, wheat should be planted between May and
mid-June because a late planted crop can be difficult to harvest as it
coincides with the early summer rains. Which is why we feel that talking
about inputs at this late hour should be cause for concern.
Most frightening, however, is the fact that with persistent shortages of
inputs in the aftermath of the land redistribution programme, Zimbabwe faces
the spectre of a subsequent tragic and disastrous failure of the small-scale
commercial agriculture sector because the input shortages are not confined
to the winter wheat crop alone. The perennial problem is industry-wide.
That the country's food security situation is at its most precarious after
the land reform exercise has more to do with lack of strategic planning in
government and the costly effects of poor preparations than with
intermittent droughts. The grim projection of another poor grain harvest
this year against a background of what has turned out to be one of the best
seasons in terms of rainfall, confirms this.With the above normal rains
received this year, is there any reason why Zimbabwe should remain a basket
case?
There was no planning to prepare for or guard against such eventualities, as
we are experiencing now. Government seemed to have been in a hurry to give
out land for political expediency as if giving people land was the
be-all-end-all for ensuring food security and economic empowerment. Yet
nothing could be further from the truth. Redistributing land is not a goal
in itself but a means to an end. The government should therefore have
followed it up with technical supervision and support so as to guarantee
overall success of the programme. This, other than some eleventh-hour
half-hearted gestures, it did not do. And Zimbabwe is worse off for it.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Robbed in broad daylight by my bank

FinGaz

EDITOR --- On March 31 2006 I withdrew $2 million from my bank account,
leaving a positive balance of just above $1.7 million.
The following day, April 1 2006, I went to the Samora Machel branch of this
bank with the intention of withdrawing $1 million for immediate use.
To my surprise, there was now only $400 000 in my account!
At first I thought it was some sick April Fools' Day joke. I tried the $1
million transaction again. Same message: "Insufficient funds".
Come Monday, April 3, I phoned my branch in Southerton to inquire about MY
money. The explanation was so absurd it makes me sick to this day.
A lady at the bank's information desk said I had made more than 10
withdrawals of MY money in one month from the bank and so the financial
institution had, in its wisdom, deducted $1.3 million from my account as
bank charges. If I wanted to confirm my transactions I could ask for a bank
statement - and be charged for my trouble.
I am not aware of any law in Zimbabwe that limits the number of times that a
depositor can withdraw his/her money from a bank --- even one with a
militarily powerful shareholder --- and perhaps my dear bank may be so kind
as to enlighten me.
Assume that the bank has 1 000 clients and all of them have $1.3 million
deducted from their accounts. That gives the institution a cool $1.3 billion
for free. Add this to other punitive measures meted on customers and the
press will go to town about the bank's superprofits.
I have always found it ridiculous when managers of our so-called black-owned
banks and other institutions that flaunt the "indigenous" banner go around
beating their chests and boasting that they are running "hugely successful"
enterprises.
We have so many of these clowns in Zimbabwe at the moment who are so well
connected among themselves and spend most of their time scheming how to
fleece or exploit innocent citizens - be they employees or customers - for
their personal enrichment.
And at the end of the day they give each other awards: Manager of the Year,
Business Person of the Year, etc.
As for my bank, one thing it can be sure of is that I will be withdrawing my
custom and taking it to more depositor-friendly institutions. And I will
provide the bank with exactly the sort of public relations service that it
so richly deserves.

Bloody Thugs
Harare


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Time the Motherland spoke

FinGaz

EDITOR - In Africa, the greatest wealth is surrounded by the greatest
poverty. This naturally demands a revolutionary effort to help society
regain belief in itself following years of denigration and self-abasement.
The damage to Africa has already been done, and there's no need to continue
harping on that sob story. Simply reiterating the problems of the continent
will not make them go away. Africa needs to lift its head and hold it up
high. We must refuse to be pushed over. But at the same time, we must desist
from acting like cry-babies in this world, always expecting external hands
to clean up our own mess.
We know that we will come right if we strive to focus on the future without
losing the faith, courage and love to confront the immediate problems. We
need to bring healing to our beloved continent. Our continent needs to
rediscover itself, and the only way to achieve this is through love. Only
through love will Africa rise to its fullest potential.
Unless Africa calls out the dormant energies of its people, it will continue
to be the basket case of the world. Sadly, no amount of donor aid - in spite
of the good intentions - will change the status quo. The people of this
continent must awaken to the fact that they hold the key to their own
freedom. As Africans, we should no longer be afraid to expose the best in
ourselves. Slowly but surely we are becoming masters of our own destiny.
The increasing dominance of our people in various sectors of the global
economy is clear testimony of what we can achieve if we put our various
talents to use.
However, it is important that our people retain a perspective of their
cultural heritage. We must develop a sense of pride in our past
achievements. We must use the best of our cultural heritage as a foundation
to make greater contributions to the world civilisation.
Because the world is developing at such a tremendous rate, it is important
for us to keep abreast of new developments. We must read. We must learn new
things. We must grow both our intellectual and spiritual capacities. We must
develop innovative skills. But, at the same time, we must not lose the best
of our traditional and cultural expressions.
Our collective consciousness must be geared toward doing great things
everyday, all the time. We Africans must no longer tolerate comfort zones.
We must discard negative stereotypes,
We are not underdeveloped. We are not in the Third World. We are not a
developing country trying to develop into some prescribed form. We strive to
develop in our own God-given fashion. We are bigger than the tags that have
been ascribed to us. We are special and unique.
Today, we have everything we need to move forward with verve and confidence.
We are the coming of the promise, and we hold the keys to future generations
of our people. Today, we commit to using those keys to unlock the best
within ourselves. We must embrace this new dawn. We must become the best
again.

Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
Harare


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

This will take you nowhere, Arthur

FinGaz

EDITOR - Professor Arthur Mutambara has been "at the helm" of the weaker
faction of the MDC for one-and-a-half months now and I have timely advice
for him: this will take you nowhere Arthur, please QUIT.
If it required rocket science to discover that Mutambara joined the wrong
side, he would have been the first one to know as he is a renowned rocket/
robotics 'professor'. But it only requires common sense and so Arthur was
probably going to take longer had it not been for my advice herein and that
of others who have already attempted to make the good professor see the
light.
The writing is clearly on the wall: any attempt to undermine Morgan
Tsvangirai, currently viewed as the embodiment of the struggle for a better
Zimbabwe, makes Mutambara an enemy of the people's struggle and aspirations.
In Zimbabwe today, you are either with President Mugabe or Tsvangirai -
there is no middle ground. That is why Mutambara himself was at pains to
explain his difference with Tsvangirai at a recent Chitungwiza rally
attended by about 800 people. He ended up saying the difference was,
'strategy, strategy, strategy!'
Look at the impressive crowds attending Tsvangirai's rallies all over the
country. This should ring loud bells. Your own rallies, dear Arthur, are
being snubbed by most Zimbabweans. Don't be fooled by people who lie to you
that it is Tsvangirai who is destabilising your rallies: you and me were at
the poorly attended St Mary's rally which, as fate would have it, was
deserted as people opted for Nyao dancers. You had pulled your small crowd
using music and when you stopped the music and started talking, they opted
for the Nyao dancers. We can't be genuine supporters if we are so easily
snatched from you! We had just come to assess what threat you posed to the
real MDC - none at all!
Arthur, you should now face Welshman Ncube and company to tell them that
they misled you to join a sinking follower-less splinter group of the MDC.
If you do it now you may salvage what remains of your dignity.
Come on Arthur let's join hands and fight for a better Zimbabwe with the
rest!

Urombo Mbonyeya
Harare


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Chikerema will forever be a household name

FinGaz

National Agenda with Bornwell Chakaodza

"SO let us look at history as history - men placed in actual contexts which
they have not chosen, and confronted by indivertible forces, with
overwhelming immediacy of relations and duties and with only a scanty
opportunity for inserting their own agency - and not as a text for hectoring
might-have-beens" - E.P. Thompson, British Historian.

To me, the above quote from the British historian E.P. Thompson aptly
summarises the extent to which the authorities have been very unfair and
diabolical in their failure to bestow a deserved honour on a man who
dedicated so much of his life to fighting for freedom and democracy in this
country.
To a very large extent, James Chikerema's sacrifices for the liberation of
Zimbabwe are no less than those of his generation namely President Mugabe
himself, the late Herbert Chitepo, the late Leopold Takawira, the late
Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda, the late
Ndabaningi Sithole, the late George Nyandoro and one of the two current
Vice-Presidents Joseph Msika, and others.
In fact, Chikerema worked and sacrificed for Zimbabwe for very little reward
and it is very painful that no full-blown recognition but half-hearted
acknowledgement comes from a person like his cousin President Robert Mugabe
who ought to know better. History will judge our erstwhile President very
harshly on this one.
If consistency right up to the end is the watchword, as President Mugabe
told mourners in Zvimba last Sunday, why is George Nyandoro at the national
shrine? It is a fact that one of the giants of our struggle for
independence - George Nyandoro (God bless his soul) - just like the colossus
James Chikerema, participated in the short-lived Zimbabwe-Rhodesia regime of
Bishop Abel Muzorewa. Why is it okay for George Nyandoro's remains to be
interred at the national heroes acre and not those of James Chikerema? Is
there more than meets the eye here? For the record, George Nyandoro was the
co-minister of agriculture alongside Bill Irvine in the internal settlement
regime.
Far from clarifying Chikerema's hero status, the President's address to the
mourners worsened the controversy which has surrounded this whole issue for
a very long time now - the issue of who is a national hero and who is not.
What President Mugabe said was not comprehensible. It did not quite wash. If
anything, his address once again served to underline the need to move away
from the selection process being a ZANU PF affair to a body that is
representative of Zimbabwe's body politic. A transparent and impartial body
could very well have reached a different decision.
It is common knowledge that there are characters of dubious nature and even
monsters who are not supposed to be at the national shrine. They are there
because their sole qualification is that they were spirited members of the
ruling ZANU PF party. A case in point is Chenjerai Hunzvi. There are indeed
many other cases who lie interred at the national shrine who pale into
insignificance vis--vis James Chikerema.
Of course, there is no denying the fact that ZANU PF spearheaded the armed
struggle but the struggle for Zimbabwe has a long pedigree - dating back to
the 1950s and even before to the 1890s. The struggle for Zimbabwe was a long
and difficult journey and everybody knows this obvious fact. So to try to
imprison the selection of national heroes within a narrow framework of just
the era of the armed struggle and to solely confine it to ZANU PF members
will be doing a great disservice to the scores upon scores of Zimbabweans
who in their various ways contributed enormously to our national liberation.
In any event, Zimbabwe is much bigger than ZANU PF, which is just a
political party. It is not synonymous with Zimbabwe. And I think this is the
biggest indictment that can be laid at the door of the whole selection
process by ZANU PF: that they alone are the custodians of the struggle for
Zimbabwe. The whole process of picking who is a national hero and who is not
is deeply flawed because of this.
The only way forward is to have a fresh approach to these things, to have a
national body which is made up of eminent Zimbabweans, political and
non-political alike. This kind of openness allows facts about each
individual to be discovered, truth to break free, falsehoods to be exposed
and contradictions to crumble under their own weight.
Such transparency will indeed enable every Zimbabwean regardless of colour,
tribe or creed to buy into whoever is declared a national hero - away from
the present system which, save for a few obvious authentic heroes, is
greeted with disbelief, scepticism and downright rejection. More so when
everybody sees that the ZANU PF politburo starts with the conclusion, then
works out the premise. It's all back-to-front, so to speak
In his wide-ranging address at the Chikerema burial last Sunday, President
Mugabe implied that it was a sin to disagree. No Mr President. It is
perfectly legitimate to disagree and remain patriotic and loyal to Zimbabwe.
It is important to remind ourselves that the period before 1980 witnessed an
enormous diversity of responses or resistances to colonial experience. James
Chikerema and George Nyandoro becoming part and parcel of Muzorewa-led
Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Nathan Shamuyarira and James Chikerema launching the
Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi) and ZANU and ZAPU joining
hands to form the Patriotic Front - all these were various fronts of the
same struggle for Zimbabwe. There is no need to beat James Chikerema on that
score.
In fact, the conditions and circumstances of the 1950s and 1960s in which
nationalists like Ndabaningi Sithole, Joshua Nkomo, George Silundika, James
Chikerema, George Nyandoro, Robert Mugabe, Enos Nkala, Samuel Parirenyatwa,
the Malianga brothers, Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira, Edgar Tekere,
Eddison Zvobgo, Josiah Chinamano, Ruth Chinamano, Jason Moyo and many others
sowed the seeds of modern-day Zimbabwe were much much harder than the later
years of the struggle. Many never thought that the Rhodesian regime could be
dislodged but with immense courage, these nationalists persevered in their
various ways right up to the end.
The road between 1955, when Chikerema and others formed the Youth League and
1980, the year of independence, was hardly a smooth climb. Perhaps the best
way to look at the whole period of the independence struggle is to regard
these different organisations as stages in the development and fruition of
Zimbabwe, each stage building on the previous one. We need to appreciate the
fact that things exist in their own time. Seen from that perspective, there
are no villains - all are victors!
The fact that nationalists like James Chikerema may have contributed to a
negative image of the struggle along the way should not obscure the enormous
sacrifices he made for the liberation of this country. True, he made his
mistakes like any active and creative politician would, but no need to
clobber him mercileslessly. Given his longevity, Chikerema's contributions
and those of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole and Rev Canaan Banana are plain to see.
As my brother and good friend Pius Wakatama rightly put it at Chikerema's
burial: "heroism is never given to a person by another mere mortal person. A
hero is a hero because of his deeds and actions". Well-said Pius!
So indeed it is. In the end, whether Chikerema's bones failed to
To Page 17
From Page 14
make it into the national shrine or are now interred at his family cemetery
in Zvimba as of now, it is neither here nor there. Zimbabweans will remember
him all the time for his deeds. It might be a poor end of the Chikerema
affair and in retrospect poor testimony to the percipience, fickleness and
mean-spiritedness of a political leadership that says 'if you are not with
us, you must be against us', but the point still remains that the people of
Zimbabwe and his God will be his ultimate judges.
Not only do we understand the climate in which Chikerema operated in the 50s
and 60s, but we also discovered in his character the unquenchable urge for
freedom of his people, the capacity for courage and fortitude that lives in
all human beings everywhere. To millions of Zimbabweans, young and old,
Chikerema will remain a household name. You were a free thinker, a patriot
and above all a nationalist.
Your courage, your honesty, your dignity will always be remembered. Rest in
eternal peace.
borncha@mweb.co.zw


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Dictators -The African curse

FinGaz

No Holds Barred with Gondo Gushungo

I HAVE heard and read a lot about some of the most
despotic governments in South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central America
where citizens can only whisper in the deep at their own peril. But nothing
beats the heart-rending story of the African continent.

Arguably the world's richest continent in terms of
natural resources, which however has the dubious distinction of having some
of the poorest people in the world, Africa takes the biscuit when it comes
to having undemocratic systems of governance. Consequently, it has been
reduced into a land of the down-trodden, deprived and disillusioned.
If ever there was a continent in which the
democratic achievements were hard to gain, it is Africa. Yet, instead of
being home to vigorous democracies given that self-determination in most of
the countries on the continent came after costly protracted bloody wars,
Africa is known for its repressive authoritarian regimes. For here, the
give-me-a-man's-scrotum-and-his-heart-will-follow philosophy reigns supreme.
The reign of terror on the continent is one for the textbooks.
There are all forms of dictatorships on the African
continent ranging from the most brutal and crude to what the free and clever
pen of Peruvian writer and former presidential candidate, Mario Vargas Llosa
once called "perfect dictatorships". This is where one party governs a
country continuously for decades. But to camouflage its dictatorial
tendencies, the ruling party tolerates criticism against it, uses
intellectuals for its own end, skilfully keeping them in submission by
appointments to well-paid jobs and high public posts without demanding
flattery.
But whether it is Idi Amin of Uganda, Emperor Jean
Bedel Bokassa of the Central Africa Republic, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire,
Zimbabwe's guest Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia and Charles Taylor of
Liberia - there is a common thread that runs through them all. They never
learn that there comes a time when even the most despotic system of
government and dictatorship cannot be preserved. Not even by force.
That explains why they never want to renounce their
monopoly on power. They would have to be carried feet first. And citizens in
their country end up having to look up to death for their situation to
improve. And when people have to count on death to alleviate their plight,
it speaks volumes about those that they wish dead than about the people
themselves.
I am not even convinced that the scores of people
who attend the funerals of some of these dictators do so because they have a
feeling of emptiness and loss. It is difficult to think of anybody grieving
for such men, who if they did not exist, could only be imagined! As Red
Skelton said about the large turnout at the funeral of film producer, Harry
Cohn, in 1958, it only proves that if you give the public something they
really want to see, they will come out for it.
The dictators are a disgrace to human nature and a
blot of blood upon the history of Africa. Their regimes have left terrible
legacies that range from obsolete social-political and economic structures,
abject poverty in a land of plenty, starvation, absence of basic human
rights and internecine ethnic conflicts among others. All this simply
because the dictators bear the birthmark of African politics - intolerance
of opponents and hatred for compromise. It is not as if this is something
the continent's historical situation prescribed!
The plight of the millions of people that suffered
under previous regimes or that are currently suffering under the jackboot of
some of these dictators still in power today, leaves a painful impression,
to say the least.
That is why I will not shed even crocodile tears for
Liberian strongman and probably West Africa's most feared warlord, Taylor,
who has been arraigned before the courts in Sierra Leone to answer charges
of crimes against humanity.
The charges, according to media reports include
murder, mutilation, sexual abuse and the use of child soldiers under the age
15 during civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone for 15 years up to 2003.
The wars claimed 400 000 lives. The question remains: how can the butchering
of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians qualify one for the various
difficult and complicated duties of the presidency?
Admittedly Taylor's complicity in these murders has
not been proved beyond reasonable doubt and so I give him the benefit of the
doubt. He therefore deserves a fair and impartial trial. And, oh yes, during
his first court appearance this week Taylor predictably pleaded not guilty.
Hardly surprising because most of his ilk will never admit to their crimes.
Saddam Hussein of Iraq denies genocide charges levelled against him
following his Anfal military campaign against the Kurds which claimed 180
000 lives. Even former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, who is now on
the other side of the grass, insisted that he was arrested on trumped-up
charges.
It is against this background that people should
understand why there was a chorus of angry voices when newly elected
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at one time intimated that Taylor,
who had sought refugee in Nigeria, would not be tried for the grave
atrocities he allegedly committed.
Nothing justifies the massacre of those people by
whomsoever. No matter what Zimbabwe's Colonel Blimp who doubles up as the
self-appointed chief of the thought police, and is well-known for his
comments about how Western influences and politics are supposedly dividing
the African society, would say.
There is nothing African about the bloody massacre
of innocent civilians. We are talking about human beings not flies, for
goodness sake! In any case, where was the AU when hundreds of thousands of
women, children and men were being butchered in their backyard? Or does the
AU have a strategy to deal with murderous regimes? Most likely not, which
explains its defeaning silence and inaction in the face of the massacres in
Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Taylor, the notorious former strongman who
unsuccessfully tried to disappear rather than face the music deserves what
he is getting. Letting him off the hook would be seen to suggest that the
hundreds of thousands of people butchered by his attack dogs deserved to
die. And could there be anything more insulting and insensitive than that?
Spare a thought for those that now have permanent
emotional and physical scars after they either lost their loved ones in the
civil wars or were maimed and raped.
Understandably, there is a whiff of panic inside the
bunkers of what I hope is the last generation of dictators now on its last
legs across the African continent. With the developments surrounding the
Taylor case, it has just dawned on them that unlike what Shakespeare said,
the evil that men do not only lives after them but lives with them too.
But those concerned with the rights of the common
people, which no one remembers when a system crumbles, just as happened in
Sierra Leone and Liberia, will agree with the philosophy of action that has
now been adopted to deal with Taylor, who played God in the West African
region. Africa as a whole should rally behind the move because what happened
in that region is an indictment of human civilisation. If Africa does not
want to face these problems head-on, how does it hope to assert human rights
by way of assisting national accords in the seats of conflicts and internal
tension?

Back to the Top
Back to Index