Wed 20 Aug 2008, 15:52 GMT
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will officially open
parliament on Tuesday despite opposition warnings that such a move would
endanger crucial power-sharing talks.
Parliament clerk Austin Zvoma told reporters the new parliament would
convene on Monday.
Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, said in a statement earlier that convening parliament would break a
framework agreement governing power-sharing talks to try to end Zimbabwe's
political crisis. "Any decision to convene parliament will be a clear
repudiation of the Memorandum of Understanding, and an indication beyond
reasonable doubt of ZANU-PF's unwillingness to continue to be part of the
talks. In short convening parliament decapitates the dialogue," Biti said.
In March elections, the ruling ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for
the first time since independence from Britain in 1980, but Morgan
Tsvangirai's MDC did not win an overall majority either.
The balance of power rests in the hands of a breakaway opposition faction
led by Arthur Mutambara.
He has moved closer to Mugabe in recent weeks and any deal between them
could weaken Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's most powerful opposition leader, and add
to political uncertainty.
August 20, 2008
By Our Correspondent
HARARE - Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and the
party's secretary general, Tendai Biti, are not singing from the same hymn
Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe can go ahead and re-convene
Parliament, but he can not assemble a Cabinet team before ongoing
power-sharing talks are concluded.
Meanwhile Biti says no, Parliament cannot be constituted, as it is illegal
to do so.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma says the swearing-in of legislators in the
bi-cameral Parliament is scheduled to take place on Monday or Tuesday next
week "to enable new legislators to execute (the) mandate they were given by
Members of Parliamentary and Senators have not been sworn in since they were
elected on March 29, almost five months ago. Initially they could not be
sworn in because there was no President as announcement of the results of
the presidential election was delayed for five weeks. When the results were
eventually announced, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said the winner,
Tsvangirai had not secured a large enough majority to form the next
government. The result of that election was reversed on June 27 when Mugabe
won the presidential election which Tsvangirai boycotted, citing violence.
While Mugabe won by what he described as a landslide majority he has,
nevertheless, not formed a new government because of the controversial
nature of an election dismissed by many as a sham. Members of Parliament
have, therefore not been sworn in.
The Memorandum of Agreement, which was signed by the leaders of Zanu-PF and
the two MDCs to launch the current negotiations says Parliament should not
sit while the negotiations are still underway. The talks are still
deadlocked over the division of power between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
SADC leaders said in their communiqué last weekend that Zimbabwe should
convene its Parliament while the talks are proceeding.
In terms of the MoU governing the conduct of the negotiations, neither side
is supposed to "take any decisions or measures that have a bearing on the
agenda save by consensus (including) the convening of Parliament or the
formation of a new government."
Biti issued an unequivocal statement in Harare on Wednesday where he sharply
"Any decision to convene Parliament will be a clear repudiation of the
Memorandum of Understanding, and an indication beyond reasonable doubt of
Zanu-PF's unwillingness to continue to be part of the talks," he said.
"In short, convening Parliament decapitates the dialogue."
The MDC secretary general's sentiments essentially contradicted the views
expressed by Tsvangirai in a weekend interview with Johannesburg-based
Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta of Zimonline.com on the same subject.
Asked what would be the effect on the negotiations of reconvening Parliament
in view of clauses in the MoU forbidding this, Tsvangirai replied: "It will
have no effect. As far as we are concerned we don't see anything wrong with
that. Let Parliament be reconvened."
With regard to the appointment of Cabinet, Tsvangirai said: "Parliament is
the expression of the will of the people. Cabinet is another thing.
Convening Parliament does not necessarily mean that a Cabinet should be
appointed. If Parliament is being reconvened to deal with this dispute, then
let it deal with the dispute. But that does not mean Mugabe unilaterally
goes to form a government and have Cabinet ministers. If that is the
intention, then it will be a breach of the MOU."
Biti said the MDC remained firmly committed to the process of dialogue "for
one reason and one reason alone - the suffering of Zimbabweans has to come
to an end, and any opportunity of liberating them from the current madness
has to be pursued to its logical conclusion.
"In this regard, it is critical that wise counsel should prevail and these
talks should be allowed to run their natural course," Biti said. "History
will judge harshly those who were insincere, mendacious or negotiated with
other agendas other than the genuine interests of the people of Zimbabwe."
Human rights lawyers in Harare said in a statement the clause in the MoU
interdicting the swearing-in of Parliament while talks are in progress "is
merely a contract between political parties and it cannot override the
MDC spokesman Tapiwa Mashakada said there was no contradiction between
Tsvangirai and Biti saying "they are saying the same thing in a different
"We are not objecting to calling Parliament, after all the Constitution
states that Cabinet is supposed to be formed once the legislature is
sitting," said Mashakada.
"We are objecting to the appointment of Cabinet, which will obviously be
against the spirit and latter of the MoU."
Aug 20, 2008, 15:10 GMT
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF on Tuesday continued
to hold a gun to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai's head, threatening to convene parliament unless he signed up to
a deal to share power with Mugabe.
'The clerk of parliament made the announcement and the parliament has to
meet. If the MDC is serious and genuine about talks they must sign as soon
as possible so that we find the way forward. We have given them a chance so
we will proceed,' deputy information minister Bright Matonga said.
The MDC had earlier warned Mugabe against convening parliament, saying to do
so would sound the death knell for tripartite talks on a government of
In a statement MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti said reports that
parliament would be convened next week were 'unwelcome' and 'disturbing.'
'The MDC has not consented to the convening of parliament,' Biti said,
warning any move to swear in MPs would be 'a clear repudiation of the
memorandum of understanding and an indication beyond reasonable doubt of
Zanu-PF's unwillingness to continue to be part of the talks.
'In short, convening parliament decapitates the dialogue,' Biti said.
The memorandum of understanding is the agreement governing the stalled
power-sharing talks between Zanu-PF, Tsvangirai's MDC and a breakaway MDC
faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
In it, the three parties agree none should convene parliament or form a
government during the talks, 'save by consensus.'
Mugabe got the nod to convene parliament at a weekend summit of leaders of
the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
On Tuesday, state radio quoted parliament clerk Austin Zvoma as saying the
convening would take place either on August 25 or 26.
The announcement follows the SADC's summit's failure to bridge the divide
between Mugabe and Tsvangirai on how to share executive power, if, as
proposed, Tsvangirai becomes prime minister in a unity government.
The MDC is pushing for Tsvangirai to have full control of government because
he bested Mugabe in the last credible presidential election in March.
Zanu-PF wants Mugabe and Tsvangirai to share power, on the basis of Mugabe's
victory in a second round of voting in June that Tsvangirai boycotted.
It was unclear what exactly the reopening of parliament would mean for the
Tsvangirai's MDC took 100 seats in 210-seat parliament to Zanu- PF's 99 in
March elections. An independent took one seat. The balance of power lies
with Arthur Mutambara's faction, which took 10 seats.
Although the two MDCs agreed after the election to work together in
parliament Mutambara said recently he would consider working with either
Mugabe or Tsvangirai.
By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg
Published: August 20 2008 15:08 | Last updated: August 20 2008 16:35
Fading hopes of a swift power-sharing deal to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe
were close to expiring on Wednesday after the opposition said President
Robert Mugabe's plans to convene parliament would "kill" negotiations.
Mr Mugabe will swear in members of parliament on Monday, a parliamentary
clerk was quoted as telling reporters in Harare, the capital. It has not met
since the president's Zanu-PF party suffered its first defeat at March's
"If it is recalled, the talks are killed," said Tendai Biti,
secretary-general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC
fears that recalling MPs is a prelude to Mr Mugabe appointing a new
Fractious negotiations between the 84-year-old Mr Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai, the MDC leader who beat him in the last credible presidential
poll, were suspended last week when the former trade unionist refused to
sign up to a coalition in which he held anything less than full executive
However, two people privy to a summit of regional leaders in South Africa at
the weekend said Mr Tsvangirai was coming under "massive pressure" to accept
a new post of prime minister without explicit guarantees of his seniority to
Mr Mugabe, who would extend his 28-year stay in state house.
The 15-member Southern African Development Community, which includes
Zimbabwe, said in its summit communiqué that parliament might have to be
convened as part of efforts to find a solution. However, the original
agreement between the two parties and the breakaway faction of the MDC
stated that MPs would only be recalled "by consensus".
The combined wings of the MDC hold a majority in parliament. Its main wing
had previously called for parliament to be convened. However, several of its
MPs are in hiding or abroad following what the opposition says is
state-sponsored intimidation that has left more than 100 of its supporters
The first act of a reconvened parliament would be to elect the powerful post
of speaker - a vote Zanu-PF would expect to win with its de facto majority.
Mr Biti would not rule out a boycott of parliament by MDC MPs. Asked if the
party was under pressure to sign up to the deal brokered by Thabo Mbeki, the
South African president mediating the talks, he said: "Life expectancy in
Zimbabwe is 34. That is pressure."
While the stalemate prevails, civil society groups - often operating
covertly because humanitarian organisations are banned from the country -
say disease and hunger are ever more prevalent, with cholera a particular
fear as the sanitation system collapses.
The United Nations has warned that half the population faces starvation by
the start of next year after a disastrous harvest.
Mr Tsvangirai has embarked on a tour of the region to curry favour among
sympathisers such as Ian Khama, the Botswanan president who refused to
attend the summit in protest at Mr Mugabe's presence.
The ace in his hand is that donors who have pledged some $2bn in
reconstruction aid will only release the funds if Mr Mugabe is sidelined.
Mr Mugabe appears prepared to forgo assistance, however, even as the
shattered economy deteriorates. Official figures this week showed inflation
has risen from 2.2m per cent in May, already the world's highest rate, to
11.2m in June.
Recent reports suggesting that the regime in Harare intends to convene
Parliament are unwelcome as it is disturbing. Article 9 of the Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) that the parties executed on the 21st of July 2008,
makes it clear that no party, during the subsistence of the dialogue shall
take any decision or measure that has a bearing on the dialogue, save by
consensus. Such a decision or measure includes, but not restricted to, the
convening of Parliament or formation of a new government. In the present
case, the MDC has not consented to the convening of Parliament.
Any decision to convene Parliament will be a clear repudiation of the
Memorandum of Understanding, and an indication beyond reasonable doubt of
ZANU PF's unwillingness to continue to be part of the talks. In short
convening Parliament decapitates the dialogue.
We as a party still remain firmly committed to this dialogue for one reason
and one reason alone- the suffering of Zimbabweans has to come to an end,
and any opportunity of liberating them from the current madness has to be
pursued to its logical conclusion. In this regard, it is critical that wise
counsel should prevail and these talks should be allowed to run their
natural course. History will judge harshly those who were insincere,
mendacious or negotiated with other agendas other than the genuine interests
of the people of Zimbabwe.
Hon Mr. Tendai L. Biti
MDC Secretary General
via an MDC Press Release
Five million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid but supplies in South
African warehouses risk being sent elsewhere because of a ban on aid agency
By Peta Thornycroft in Zengeza
Last Updated: 7:24PM BST 20 Aug 2008
The ban was imposed by President Robert Mugabe's regime after aid agencies
were accused of campaigning for the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change - allegations they strongly deny.
Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding governing the talks
between the political parties, it was supposed to be lifted, but with the
talks deadlocked over power-sharing arrangements, the ruling Zanu-PF party
has so far refused to do so.
"The government knows this is nonsense, we work around the world and stay
out of politics," said the director of a humanitarian agency who did not
want himself or his organisation identified. Zimbabwe has had its worst
summer harvest in living memory and five million people, almost half the
population, are expected to need food before the next harvest in April.
"Reports are coming in of seriously malnourished children," said the
"We are desperate to get working but until the World Food Programme signs an
agreement with the government we can't.
"Even some top Zanu-PF politicians are encouraging us to break the ban as
there is pressure from traditional leaders for food aid."
The country director of one of the largest distribution agencies, who also
did not want to be identified, said: "If the ban is lifted it will take us
another month to set up. Food in warehouses in South Africa may be sent to
other countries or else it will become stale."
The government has imported no maize, the staple food, for more than a
month, and even within the government welfare department officials do not
know if the ban will be lifted. "Honestly I don't know, and we know the
situation is bad," said a senior staff member who asked not to be named.
Some essentials are available on the black market, but most Zimbabweans
cannot afford to buy them, with unemployment at at least 80 per cent and
prices four times higher than in neighbouring South Africa.
A teacher's monthly salary is less than the cost of a 10 kg bag of maize
meal - which would last a small family about a week.
The worst hit are the elderly caring for grandchildren orphaned by the
country's Aids epidemic.
Loice Marowya, 68 and her husband Jonah 74, worked for the post office for
40 years, but their pension is so ravaged by hyperinflation that it is less
than the bus fare he would have to pay to go to collect it.
They care for two grandchildren and Mrs Marowya said: "What is really
happening? I can't even buy a meal for my grandchildren. Every time I look
at them my heart bleeds and I cry.
"We don't even light a fire at night because there is nothing to cook."
In Zengeza township, east of Harare, Diana Chisesu Uta, 70, looks after four
grandchildren aged 10 to 17. Her maize meal and sugar containers were empty,
and all she had to share with them was a small piece of stale bread.
"These politicians are liars, the last time they came here they promised us
food, and up to now, nothing has come," she said. "We hope Britain and
America will send us food tomorrow."
Hundreds of millions of pounds of international aid and reconstruction
assistance is in the pipeline to help rebuild Zimbabwe if and when a new
government is formed that tackles the country's myriad problems, but with
talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC paralysed, the aid is on hold.
Similarly, the deadlock means the economy continues to spiral downwards,
hyperinflation rages on, and shop supplies are minimal to non-existent.
The ruling regime confirmed it would convene parliament next Tuesday, which
the MDC condemned as a "clear repudiation" of the memorandum of
understanding - it specifically states that parliament should only be called
if all the parties agree.
It was "an indication beyond reasonable doubt of Zanu-PF's unwillingness to
continue to be part of the talks," said the MDC secretary-general Tendai
"Convening Parliament decapitates the dialogue." But he added that the
opposition remained "firmly committed to this dialogue for one reason and
one reason alone - the suffering of Zimbabweans has to come to an end, and
any opportunity of liberating them from the current madness has to be
pursued to its logical conclusion."
In the meantime the people are becoming increasingly malnourished in what
was once a regional breadbasket.
Renson Gasela, a former MDC MP turned agriculture commentator, said: "This
ban is appalling and disgraceful and is a violation of the memorandum of
understanding. No country in the world should be allowed to stop food from
people in need."
Residents of remote village say measures taken by authorities to feed poor
Zimbabweans are having negligible impact.
By Yamikani Mwando in Plumtree (ZCR No. 160, 20-Aug-08)
Residents of a Zimbabwean village close to the Botswana border say that a
government programme to provide basic commodities for low prices has not
improved their access to food.
The authorities say they have put measures in place in response to a growing
food crisis in the country by providing low-cost hampers. However, few in
the village of Tshitshi have seen evidence of these, and some even accuse
war veterans aligned to the ruling ZANU-PF party of blocking their
distribution to opposition supporters.
Galloping inflation in Zimbabwe has caused prices of food staples to soar
throughout the country, and rural communities are bearing the brunt of
worsening food shortages.
The situation has been exacerbated since June, when the government banned
aid agencies from distributing food in the country, and access to food
remains particularly difficult for the majority in remote parts of the
In response to this, the central bank initiated a programme - the Basic
Commodities Supply Side Intervention, BACOSSI - to supply families with food
hampers at low prices, as part of what ZANU-PF says are efforts to cushion
poor people from the ravages of profiteering retailers.
Under the programme, the food hampers - containing, among other things,
maize meal, cooking oil, bath soap and flour - are sold for 11 Zimbabwe
dollars, ZWD (formerly 110 billion ZWD before the removal of ten zeroes from
the currency earlier this month), an amount not normally enough to buy a
Yet in Tshitshi, which lies more than 150 kilometres southwest of Bulawayo,
villagers say they have yet to benefit from the initiative.
Some say they have seen no sign of the hampers, while others accuse the war
veterans and traditional chiefs who support the authorities of preventing
opposition party supporters from taking advantage of the programme.
"We are yet to see the food packs," local man Thomson Moyo told IWPR.
Tshitshi are very anxious about food provision, particularly after a long,
dry spell left behind arid plains. The village shares a frontier with
neighbouring country Botswana and those who can, like Moyo, obtain supplies
from across the border.
Pointing across the Ramakgobana River that divides the countries, he said at
least twice a month he crosses the shallow waters, before walking for two
kilometres into Botswana to buy food for his family.
"This is how we live. I sell goats, cows and chickens in foreign currency to
people from the city and that enables me to buy what I need in Botswana," he
He is one of many here who have given up hope of a better life.
Cut off from the rest of the country, the villagers of Tshitshi have little
information as to what is happening farther north. The Zimbabwe broadcasters'
signals do not reach this remote land, where many people don't own radios or
television sets. The only radio programmes the villages are able to pick up
are from Botswana.
Many Zimbabweans have now fled to the neighbouring country, where they take
up menial jobs and tolerate what they say are the xenophobic attitudes of
"No one wants to stay here. The girls have disappeared to Botswana, and
young men have left for South Africa," said Moyo.
For Mike Dumezweni, a villager, the tough life in this rural outback spurred
him into political activism.
But this has come at a price. He said he has been hounded out of the
community by war veterans more times than he can remember, yet he keeps
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Movement for Democratic
Change, MDC, leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Dumezweni told IWPR that he crosses
into neighbouring Botswana whenever he feels under threat.
The last time he fled was during the run-up to Zimbabwe's presidential,
parliamentary and local elections held on March 29.
"It's a tough life living under these conditions. The war veterans decide
everything. The only time I saw BACOSSI food packs, the war veterans made
sure that known MDC supporters did not access them," said Dumezweni.
"The police fear these men and do not protect us."
Dumezweni is one of many young men here who have resorted to wheeling and
dealing for a living. He buys foreign currency at very cheap rates from
those villagers who receive remittances from their children who have crossed
to Botswana and South Africa.
He then cycles more than 70 km into the south-western town of Plumtree,
where he sells the foreign exchange at much higher rates.
From these earnings, he is one of a few young men in this poor rural area
who can afford to buy products like alcohol, considered a luxury even by
those Zimbabweans in regular employment.
Amid the palpable hunger and poverty that haunts the village, a few young
men who have managed to make money in South Africa and Botswana have even
built large houses.
Moyo said that these families are unwilling to help their needy neighbours.
"They have all they need," he told IWPR. "But the poverty we are living in
has taken away the spirit of sharing - these people are unwilling to part
with their foreign basic commodities.
"But we are thankful that those [friends and family] who have left for
neighbouring countries are feeding us."
Yamikani Mwando is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe
ZANU-PF officials reportedly compounding chronic food shortages by seizing
grain delivered to state depot.
By Obert Gumpo in Gwanda (ZCR No. 160, 20-Aug-08)
Dumezweni Nare does not remember any time in the past six months when he had
a decent meal.
"It is by the grace of the Lord that we are able to speak to you," said
Nare, as he scavenged for wild fruit with a group of visibly hungry
villagers in the dry windswept veld a few kilometres outside Gwanda, the
provincial capital of Matabeleland South province.
Matabeleland South receives less than 450 millimetres of rainfall per year.
At best, it produces just enough food for its people to survive. The
southern provinces, while good for livestock rearing, are not suitable for
A tour of the area by IWPR revealed that Nare was not alone in his
At dawn each day, the villagers of this dry and dusty region comb the
hinterlands in search of any wildlife or edible wild fruits, in a desperate
attempt to put food on the table.
The giant baobab trees that dot the terrain have become about the only
source of sustenance. The villagers go first for the fruit, the seeds of
which are coated in a white powder which separates from the pips when
pounded in a mortar.
Mixed with fresh milk, the powder produces a kind of cream of tartar. People
here have this for dinner, although most mix the powder with water instead.
But as the baobab fruit is finished quickly, villagers then go for the
roots, which are pounded into a porridge-like paste - known in local
languages as amagontsi or umtopi - which serves as their main meal.
As Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis continues, rural areas of the
country have been worst hit by severe food shortages and escalating prices.
According to recent statistics from the United Nations World Food Programme,
about 5.1 million Zimbabweans will be queuing up for food handouts by
October this year.
Nare, a peasant farmer from the Silonga community, said that children have
been unable to attend classes in most areas due to hunger.
According to Nare, villagers have not received any grain from the
state-owned Grain Marketing Board, GMB, for the past five months.
"But there are some people who have access to the GMB who come [and try to]
sell us maize at exorbitant prices," he said.
"We are now surviving on umtopi. Alternatively, we engage in barter trade. A
big goat can get you two 20 kilogrammes of maize."
However, 20 kg doesn't last long and the villagers' livestock is quickly
In Gwanda town, hungry residents who have not been given an opportunity to
buy maize from the GMB are also resorting to eating porridge prepared from
baobab fruits or ground roots.
They say that officials from the ruling ZANU-PF quickly snap up the little
grain that is delivered to the GMB's main depot from South Africa and
channel it into the thriving black market.
"I have been coming here daily for a week and a half and they keep telling
us that wagons bringing maize from South Africa are coming today," said
Samuel Nare, the only miller in the Manama area of Gwanda South.
"When a few do arrive, the grain is given to the same people, who seem to be
enjoying preferential treatment.
"The situation back at home is dire and our people are surviving on fruit
and roots like wild animals."
Just outside the GMB depot, vendors could be seen selling a 20 kg bag of
maize meal for 40 Zimbabwe dollars, ZWD. This is out of the reach of most
residents, very few of whom earn more than 20 ZWD a month. Most locals are
employed at surrounding small-scale gold mines, which are currently in limbo
because of the country's ongoing economic crisis.
The situation in town is no better than in the remote countryside.
"Starvation is no longer confined to rural areas and it could be even worse
here in town," said resident Nephat Ndlovu.
"Some households are now going for days without a full meal because they
have no access to the foreign currency [needed] to buy maize from the black
In rural parts, councillors are allowed to collect grain from the GMB, which
is then sold to villagers in their respective wards.
But according to reports, ZANU-PF former councillors who lost their seats
are still allowed to take advantage of this arrangement, collecting grain
from the GMB and selling it on.
"Last week, a former ZANU-PF councillor from Enyandeni collected 200 bags
from the GMB and gave ten bags to each [ZANU-PF] official in the area for
their own consumption," said Petros Mukwena, the provincial secretary for
the Arthur Mutambara-led faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic
"When the new councillor went to collect maize for the ward, only 150 bags,
which are hardly enough for the community, remained.
"I have since written to the governor, Angeline Masuku, to protest against
this corruption, which has become endemic, but I have not received a
Renson Gasela, the secretary for agriculture in the Mutambara MDC faction,
said, "There is no food. It is a fact that the rural population, especially
in southern Zimbabwe, is in dire straits. Some of us with rural
constituencies are afraid to visit some villages as people have not eaten
In some parts of the south he has visited recently, villagers were surviving
on wild fruit called matohwe and chakata, he said.
"People are eating anything wild that does not kill," said Gasela, who is a
former head of the GMB.
According to Gasela, there is no good reason for the ongoing food shortages.
"There can never be an explanation as to why there is no food when the
country has the experience of mobilising and moving food into areas with
acute shortages. Someone is not doing his or her job for political reasons,"
Leader of the main MDC faction Morgan Tsvangirai said the situation in rural
areas throughout the country was a cause of great concern for him and his
party. While Tsvangirai has been in negotiations with Mugabe to reach a
power-sharing deal, there is little sign that the men are close to an
The MDC leader appealed to the mediator in the talks, South African
president Thabo Mbeki, to persuade Mugabe to allow humanitarian agencies to
resume their work, as millions of Zimbabweans face starvation. The agencies
were banned from distributing food in June this year.
"Zimbabwe has become one of the worst man-made humanitarian disasters of a
new and hopeful century. An estimated half-a-million Zimbabweans have
already died of starvation, malnutrition and preventable diseases," said
"Because of the failed policies of ZANU-PF, more than five million now face
starvation and famine. We cannot allow this to happen."
Obert Gumpo is the pseudonym of an IWPR reporter in Zimbabwe.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2008
Zimbabwean guest blogger, 'Helen' finds unconventional payment for school fees is becoming normal.
"How will you be paying your son's fees?" the school Bursar asked when I
arrived at her office this week.
I knew she wasn't referring to the normal ways people pay bills such as with cash, cheques or by bank transfer, so I asked her what the options were to pay for the next three month school term for my son.
I could feel my eyes widening and mouth beginning to drop open as the Bursar gave me the bizarre choices:
Everywhere you go you see people doing sums - on scraps of paper, the backs of till slips or even with sticks in the sand.
I was visiting a pensioner this week and she was thrilled that she'd finally
been able to get her kettle repaired. The cord had developed a fault and a local
electrician had dug around in a box of bits and pieces and found a second hand
cable that fitted.
He charged her a packet of rice and 500grams of macaroni in exchange for fixing the kettle!
Among the humour and the absurdities of bartering and trading, we are still engulfed in the confusion of the removal of ten zeroes from the currency a fortnight ago.
Everywhere you go you see people doing sums - on scraps of paper, the backs of till slips or even with sticks in the sand. We have to add ten zeroes to quoted prices to work out how much things cost, or take ten zeroes off to work out how much money we are handing over.
To make matters worse both the old and new currency notes are operating side by side. I had a little wad of 50bn dollar notes in my purse but just couldn't make sense of the fact that they are now actually only worth 5 dollars each.
Like an imbecile I handed them over the counter to the lady in the Post Office this week and smiled stupidly as I asked her to give me as many stamps as the handful of notes could buy.
I laughed and shook my head as she smiled, apologised and handed over just eight local stamps.
"How can this go on?" she asked me, "How much longer?"
I didn't answer because I don't know, I don't think anyone does.
Economist John Robertson has monitored the inflation and the black market currency rates for years with the eyes of an eye.
Having experienced parallel market exchange rate changes that have maintained a fairly steady rate of change of 13% a day for more than three months now, we might consider it safe to project forward the effects that a continuing decline at that same daily rate would have on the value of our dollars.
I have attempted to do this extrapolation through to the end of the year in the attached table, in which I have compared the exchange rates actually paid by foreign currency buyers day by day all the way through 2007 and through 2008 up to today's figure. I've illustrated that the 13% per day average can be modestly above or below the actual rates paid, but the figure has remained consistent over the period.
To make the mathematics work, I have left the ten zeros in place for comparisons, but an additional column shows the revalued dollar figures as well. It will be recalled that at the end of last year, a US dollar was going for Z$5 million on the parallel market. If we don't move off the track we are on now, the cost of a US dollar will be Z$30 million REVALUED , so the lost zeros will be all back in place along with a few more...
I do not want to call this a forecast, mainly because the numbers become too impossible to be accepted as figures we could live with, so perhaps the table should be accepted as evidence that we are going well beyond workable limits.
I think most of us would claim that we have been in impossible territory for some time, but now that the restricted cash limits and low supplies of cash are keeping many companies' turnover below the amounts needed to even pay salaries, we seem to be entering much more threatening circumstances.
See the attackment below to see the full report.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) launched a report detailing the trauma experiences of their members at the hand of the ZANU-PF government today.
Bulawayo -- Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) launched a report detailing the trauma experiences of their members today. The event was conducted in Johannesburg, South Africa with attendance by press, diplomats, civic society leaders and members of WOZA. The report is entitled “Counting the Cost of Courage: Trauma Experiences of Women Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe”.
In 2007 research was carried out to determine the nature and extent of violations perpetrated on WOZA members by state actors. It used a questionnaire administered verbally to more than 2,000 WOZA members. The major results were detailed in a report released in March 2008 entitled ‘The Effects of Fighting Repression with Love’. They showed a high level of arrests, assaults, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, primarily by members of various sections of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
One section of the questionnaire sought to document traumatic experiences of WOZA women in order to understand the basis of possible psychological and emotional disorders arising from their civic activism – ‘counting the cost of their courage’. The report launched today outlines these findings.
The research explored two broad categories of trauma:
The data relating to trauma was based on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire [HTQ]. It was altered slightly from previous uses in Zimbabwe in order to include an historical element, so that there might be a long-range understanding of the women’s experience of trauma throughout their adult lives. Interviewees were asked to indicate trauma events in two forms: those they have experienced themselves, and those they witnessed being experienced by others. They were asked to record these events for three periods: pre-Independence, 1980-1999, and for each year since 1999.
The findings of the report indicate that Zimbabwe is a “complex emergency”: significant violence, severe economic decline, and the destruction of social capital, which means resembles a war. As is the case in most complex emergencies, women and their families are generally the most common victims, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Many women of all ages have been brutalized, raped, tortured, and even killed for their political activities and of those of their male family members. As children are normally in the presence of their mothers, they been equally victimised. Most often such victims demonstrate psychological effects of their experience and witnessing of traumatic events.
Additional findings indicate that:
What is clear is that the Zanu PF government seems to be oblivious to the destructive impact of widespread use of violence as a political tool of control and repression. Although it has appeared to have achieved its immediate goal of stifling dissent for some years, it has surely had seriously adverse long-term effects on both the victims and the perpetrators.
It is also clear that any government has a responsibility to care for the welfare of its people. At what point will a Zimbabwean government confront the legacy of trauma and look to begin a healing process? This must be an important consideration in determining what form of authority emerges from the current SADC mediation process.
In order to deal with the problem of the prevalence of OVT as a common feature of our society, we recommend the following:
The type of evil that has become an integral part of government behaviour in Zimbabwe must be eradicated and the mindset of power hunger and disrespect for other human beings overcome. It can only happen through the actions of a government with a strong will to correct wrongs and ensure that the rights of all Zimbabweans be respected. We therefore believe that the most appropriate government to replace the current illegitimate incumbent would be a non-political transitional authority whose members have as a priority transitional process of healing, transforming and rebuilding. Such an authority will have the capacity and neutrality necessary to dismantle the structures of violence and oppression.
Nonetheless, whatever format the new political dispensation in Zimbabwe takes, it will need to embark on an official programme of acknowledgement of injustices. Economic recovery and democratic reform, whilst imperative, can only go so far in restoring the dignity of people. We believe that for dignity to be fully restored a new administration needs to assist individual survivors to rebuild their broken lives whilst ensuring that ‘liveable peace’ is achieved. It is the only way Zimbabweans can bury the ghosts of their past and move forward into a more secure future.
As well as outlining the findings on the research done on WOZA members, the launch also outlined some statistics of post-election violence since the 29 March harmonised elections, giving a brief overview of the horror that many Zimbabweans have been faced with in the last few months. These statistics added further poignancy to the call for a lasting peaceful solution in Zimbabwe and the urgent need for a national programme of healing.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008 13:14
The WOZA report released this week deals with the period before the
March 29 2008 harmonised election. We now wish to share some information as
regards the post-election period to further emphasize the need for an end to
violence and the transformation of Zimbabwe from a violent society into a
progressive and peaceful country. We also wish to highlight that this
violence has been perpetrated during Thabo Mbeki and SADC's watch.
. The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) reported 16,400 cases of political
violence since January 2008, and has confirmed that this is the highest peak
. There are 167 documented deaths (with scores of people still
missing, presumed dead). Of these deaths 17 are women, generally killed
because the perpetrators were unable to locate the primary victim and so
murdered the women at home, or abducted and murdered them, dumping the
bodies in remote places.
. Over 4,900 victims have accessed medical treatment since 29 March
2008. 24%, or 1,176 of these victims have been women and girls. Many more
casualties have been unable to reach any form of medical care.
. More shockingly, 15% of these women are over the age of 60 years.
One 75-year-old sustained bilateral fractures of the arms and legs, and the
oldest woman is 87 years, with a fracture of her arm.
. 15% of injuries were severe to life threatening, and 20% required
hospital admission. Many of the elderly are responsible for orphans, and
were assaulted because of their children's involvement in opposition
. The children in their care in many cases witnessed the violence. A
number of the injured women witnessed the abduction, or the murder of their
. Most of the injured women reported loss of property, from looting to
burning of homesteads, and destruction of livestock. The average delay from
time of injury to access to medical care was 24 days, and several of the
severely injured women developed renal failure secondary to their injuries.
This time delay has been a combination of security considerations, lack of
funding for transport, and the fact that there was no 'safe and
approachable' health services nearby.
. The majority of the displaced rural women and their children have
been unable to return to their homes due to continued security threats, and
remain as vulnerable refugees in their own countries, separated from their
husbands, homes and income generating projects.
Individual case histories that can only give a small insight into the
horror that women in Zimbabwe have suffered in the past four months are
available. Grandmothers, mothers and children have suffered and witnessed
true horror, and live with the knowledge that it is still not safe to return
home, that they face repeat surgery and life long medical and psychological
consequences. They have also lost everything they possessed and have worked
for in a country that has very little left to offer in terms of social
welfare and support.
NARRATIVES OF SURVIVORS: POST- MARCH 2008 ELECTION VIOLENCE
Case 1: Age 67
"I was at home and saw people gathered by my house. I tried to run
away with y baby grandchild, Charity on my back with my husband and a
toddler. Each ay I tried to run there were people and I was trapped, then
caught. They aid 'Kill these MDC people'. They used a pole to hit me and
hit Charity, then I fell down and they thought I was dead. They left me
lying there. When I saw them breaking and burning houses I ran away.
Everything that I owned was burnt down."
This lady sustained a fracture of her humerus, and severe soft tissue
injuries of her buttocks. The infant on her back sustained bruising.
Case 2: Age 27
"My husband was a polling agent for MDC in Village 1 on the 29 March
elections. After the election result was announced it was alleged by ZANU PF
youths that 64 people from our village had voted for MDC. Earlier on during
the campaign, ZANU PF supporters had received ploughs and scotch carts by
the ZANU PF candidates. We were labelled MDC and were not given farming
implements. A meeting was convened in Village 2 where we were forced to
surrender our MDC T-shirts. My husband had to surrender his MDC card. We
then thought that the situation was under control. On Sunday, the 4th of
May, my husband was warned that Saviour Kasukuwere has sent truckloads of
ZANU PF youths to sort out MDC supporters. He then decided to flee to Harare
early in the morning on the 5th. We assumed that our lives were not in
danger since we were women. At about 5pm on the 5th, about 100 ZANU PF
youths came to my house. We were taken with about 100 other villagers to a
gum tree plantation at Chaona Primary School. Amongst us were about 3
teachers who worked at the school. ZANU PF youths told us that they were
punishing us for accepting salt from an MDC candidate who was vying for the
M P post. They also questioned me why my husband was the MDC polling agent.
About 10 men took turns to beat me on my buttocks using wooden axe handles.
Some of them were stepping over my head so that we could not see them. I was
hit about 100 times on the buttocks, 50 times on my back and 50 strokes
under the feet. Joseph Madzurambende, my uncle, died due to the beatings. 2
teachers, Mutombo and Tapiwa Meda also died due to the assault. The people
who were beating us were wearing ZANU PF shirts with photos of Saviour
Kasukuwere and Joyce Majuru. All in all there were about 500 youths
and masked ZNA soldiers who were shouting 'shit Tsvangirai'. The T-shirts
were also inscribed PARAQUAT. We were taken to hospital where I was
admitted. Some of the events I cannot remember since I lost consciousness.
Up to now my husband does not know what happened to me. I cannot sit because
my buttocks are so scarred. I was also assaulted under the feet and I
cannot walk. I am in great pain."
Case 3: Age 72
"A group of over 700 ZANU PF youth arrived at my house and accused me
of harbouring supporters of the MDC who are my nephews. They struck and
broke my windows using stones; they destroyed the goat pen and also the
chicken run. They also killed some chickens. I was asleep with my grand
children; I had one of my grandchildren on my back. I was asked to get out
and I did. They put the baby down. I was then assaulted all over the body
using sticks. I was struck on the head and collapsed with blood oozing from
my head. They then moved onto the next village, which is an MDC
councillor, Mukuruanopa Maenza Ward 9 and razed the homestead to the ground.
We then fled to Harare the very next morning with my grandson whom they were
Case 4: Age 35
"I was at home together with my family when about 10 ZANU PF youths
wearing masks came and threw a stone at my roof before breaking into my
home. They took my children outside and started assaulting them using
batons and rubbers with wire. I then came out wanting them to let go my
children, which they did. They started assaulting me with claps, rubbers
with wire and baton sticks and took me to flowing sewerage outside my yard
where they told me to get into the sewerage. They started beating me all
over my body while in there and asked for my Form 3 son and threw him in
sewerage as well, and told me have intercourse with him and I declined.
They then assaulted me taking me back to my home. One who was not in a mask
slapped me and they left."
Case 5: Age 30
"On the 23rd of June 2008 at around 6 pm I dropped off from a bus at
Katiyo shopping centre. I was confronted by a group of Zanu PF youths who
quizzed me why I was coming from Harare. They accused me of wanting to
remove the President from power. They started beating me using hands. One of
them suggested that instead of beating me they would rather have sex with
me. One of them with a mask over his face started raping me while others
were holding me to the ground. The second man also raped me once. One of the
youths refused and an argument ensued after which I went home. They did not
use condoms during the ordeal. I reported the matter to the police but they
said they could not help me unless I brought the names of the men who raped
me. Since it was in the dark I could not identify anyone of them. After the
incident I went to a clinic where I was given some tablets. Up to now I
don't know my HIV status. The commander of the youths was only known as
HARARE, August 20 2008 - The Zimbabwe Youth Games got off to a shaky
start on Tuesday, after five athletes fainted due to hunger and heat
exhaustion prompting the organisers to call off the opening track and field
championships at Ascot Stadium, in Gweru.
The organisers, the Sports and Recreation Commission, failed to
provide the athletes drawn from the country's 10 provinces with adequate
food and mineral water to avoid dehydration. The organisers said the
athletes games would resume on Wednesday afternoon.
Confusion has reigned supreme with the vice president Joice Mujuru
boycotting the official opening of the Games in Gweru on Monday evening, due
to poor organisation.
However, Zanu PF heavyweight and Chirumanzu-Zibangwe Member of
Parliament elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa, attended the opening ceremony, which
was later addressed by the Governor of the Midlands Cephas Msipa, who read
Sources said Mnangagwa's presence at the Games was one of the major
reasons for Mujuru's no show at the last minute. Mnangagwa is expected to
officially close the Youth Games on 25 August.
Midlands Governor Msipa has apologised for the Youth Games shamble and
promised to "rectify the problems tomorrow". The Zimbabwe Youth Games failed
to raise the staggering target of US128 000, needed to host the games.
The sixth edition of the national Youth Games was set to end on 24
August, in the Midlands capital. The annual sporting event, brings together
the country's best sporting youths.
Athletes will compete in soccer, netball, handball, boxing,
volleyball, athletics and tennis.
The Zimbabwe National Youth Games is a national event meant to
stimulate participation, growth and development of sport among the youth run
by the Sports and Recreation Commission.
Harare Metropolitan Province is currently the defending champion.
By Violet Gonda
20 August 2008
It is feared that Zimbabwe will dissolve into complete anarchy if things don't
change very soon. The Zimbabwe dollar continues to fall in value, food
remains scarce and the workforce is feeling the brunt of the economic
crisis. Now doctors at Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals have embarked on
industrial action demanding better working conditions and better salaries.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said hospitals have turned into 'death
halls' rather than treatment centres due to acute shortages of drugs and
equipment. The Coalition reported that last month, doctors earned Z$600
re-valued (less than US$10), and are penned to receive Z$4 600 (less than
US$50). The salaries that doctors are earning have become so useless that
they are now demanding to be paid in United States dollars.
Teachers have also said they are unhappy with the paltry salary increase
given to them by the state. Takavafira Zhou from the Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe said: "The 448% on basic salary and 900% transport
allowance and 290% housing allowance given this month in essence is a high
sounding nothing. The increases amount to a net salary of only $1.1 trillion
(re-valued) or $11 trillion (old value) on average. It falls far short of
PTUZ demands of US$800 equivalent."
"Sad faces were the order of the day today as teachers learnt that the govt
is continuing to pretend to pay teachers when in reality they are starving
them." Zhou said teachers have resolved to demonstrate their anger and
poverty when schools open.
Economists say Zimbabwe is sliding well beyond workable limits. John
Robertson said: "I think most of us would claim that we have been in
impossible territory for some time, but now that the restricted cash limits
and low supplies of cash are keeping many companies' turnover below the
amounts needed to even pay salaries, we seem to be entering much more
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
SW Radio Africa (London)
19 August 2008
Posted to the web 20 August 2008
MDC-MP elect for Marondera Central in Mashonaland East province, Ian Kay, is
a free man after a magistrate threw out state charges levelled against him
for allegedly inciting violence in his constituency.
Kay was arrested at the height of the state sponsored violence against the
MDC in May and spent two weeks locked up in police cells in Mutoko.
He was subsequently granted bail but has been on remand ever since. The MP
elect was reporting twice weekly to the police and was asked to surrender
Kay told Newsreel his case had dragged on for months because charges against
him could not stand up in court as there were all fabricated. The state was
unable to provide a single item of evidence that Kay had done anything, or
said anything, to incite violence. Almost all the post election violence has
been created by members of Zanu-PF, including the security forces.
'The magistrate finally dismissed the case because the evidence was not
credible. We knew all along that this case was not going anywhere so now
I'll be applying to get my passport back,' Kay said.
Kay, a fluent Shona speaker, was in 2002 brutally attacked and forced off
his farm in Marondera. He now plans to sue the police for grossly violating
his human rights.
SW Radio Africa (London)
19 August 2008
Posted to the web 20 August 2008
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening, with no solution in sight.
People are struggling to eke out a living as the rate for the Zimbabwean
dollar continues to collapse. UK based money transfer companies were on
Tuesday trading the Zimbabwe dollar at $780 to the British pound on the
parallel market, when just four days before the rate was Z$210 to Â£1.
Even the Central Statistical Office has had to admit to the seriousness of
the crisis. In the Herald on Tuesday they said the official inflation figure
in June was more than 11 million percent, up from May's 2.2 million percent.
It is completely unknown what the true figure is as it has become impossible
to gauge. Leading Zimbabwean bank Kingdom, said inflation now exceeds 20
million percent, while economist John Robertson told AFP news agency the
June figure could be as high as 40 million percent. "The actual figure for
July could be as high as 300 million percent, while for August it could be
600 million percent," he added.
With the economy in freefall, more than four million people face starvation
as the government deliberately blocks aid agencies from distributing much
Once again Zimbabwe meets its tragic target for the highest inflation in the
world and the world's fastest shrinking economy, for a country not at war.
By Alex Bell
20 August 2008
The Southern African Development Community has been slammed by activists,
trade unionists and other human rights organisations for ignoring the global
demands to have the ban on humanitarian food aid in Zimbabwe lifted.
Zimbabwean Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche banned field work by NGOs during
the campaign for the June 27 run off election and accused the organisations
of providing campaign support for the MDC during the first round of
elections in March - which the MDC won. The ban has remained in place since
then and has left millions of desperate Zimbabweans, heavily reliant on food
aid to survive, facing starvation.
In a final communiqué from SADC following the weekend's summit in South
Africa, no mention was made about the call by the United Nations, NGO forums
and the MDC for the aid workers to resume their efforts in Zimbabwe. The
communiqué urged the country's political parties to sign outstanding
agreements that will lead to a power-sharing deal "to restore political
stability", but completely ignored the desperate humanitarian crisis.
At a press briefing after the summit, President Thabo Mbeki said SADC
facilitation had been initiated over humanitarian concerns, but suggested
several times that addressing these would have to take a back seat to
concluding a deal. He said a unity government in Zimbabwe is needed to
"address these challenges". Ironically, Mbeki's appointment as mediator in
the crisis came after the global outrage sparked by the brutal assault on
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangerai last year. However since Mbeki's appointment,
the brutality against MDC members and supporters has gained momentum and the
humanitarian crisis has worsened.
Elinor Sisulu, chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the
summit showed the SADC's "undemocratic governments were not geared to
handle" the crises in Zimbabwe. She added that Zimbabwe was an "exaggerated
symptom of the illnesses of regional governments" in general and SADC's
handling of the crisis sets a "bad precedent for the continent". Sisulu said
it is "mind boggling" that SADC as well as Zimbabwe's political leaders are
acting "as if Zimbabweans don't exist" and emphasised that the ban on
humanitarian food aid was putting the entire nation at serious risk.
Tuesday's death of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has prompted new fears
that SADC's pressure on Robert Mugabe will dwindle, given that Mwanawasa was
the region's strongest critic of Mugabe's regime. Mwanawasa passed away in a
French hospital after he underwent emergency surgery on Monday. The
President had been hospitalised since June after he suffered a stroke at the
start of the African Union summit in Egypt.
Sisulu said Mwanawasa's passing should not change the attitude of some
regional leaders, and said that other countries have also been outspoken.
She said Botswana, whose harsh criticism of Mugabe led to its President Ian
Khama boycotting the SADC summit, "is not going to change its position on
Mugabe" and Zambia's new leader will likely take over where Mwanawasa left
off, by not recognising Mugabe as Zimbabwe's president.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
August 20 2008 at 10:42AM
By Allister Sparks
While everyone is anxious to see the Zimbabwe negotiations succeed in
bringing relief to the long-suffering people of that country, it is
nonetheless galling that the process should be taking place at all. For it
is sending a terrible message to tyrants everywhere.
It is telling them that when you face defeat in an election, the thing
to do is to launch mayhem in your country, beating and butchering and
bludgeoning your own people until horrified peacekeepers come hurrying to
the scene to stop the carnage and you can then negotiate an ongoing role for
yourself in the power structure.
It is a form of blackmail. The moral equivalent of the hostage-taker
who threatens to go on shooting his hostages unless his demands are met.
The sane world always faces a dilemma in such situations. To yield to
the hostage-taker's demands is to encourage its replication, and so there is
a growing reluctance to do so and the painful decision may be taken to leave
hostages to their fate. But when whole communities are involved it is a
quantitatively different matter.
Still, I believe the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and
the African Union (AU) could be doing better in the case of hostage-taker
As this column has noted repeatedly for more than a year, those two
bodies are committed by their own charters not to recognise any regime that
takes power by unconstitutional means.
So they should have warned Mugabe in advance that if he rigged 2008's
election again, as he did in 2002 and 2005, they would not recognise his
government. It would be an illegitimate regime and Zimbabwe would be
suspended from both bodies and isolated.
That, I believe, would have stopped him. Mugabe may thumb his nose at
Britain and the United States, but he would not dare do so to the rest of
Indeed, SADC should be acting in that way right now. Instead of trying
to negotiate a power-sharing deal, they should be telling Mugabe bluntly and
collectively that he lost the March 29 election, that he extended the
run-off illegally, that his campaign of violence and intimidation was
unacceptable, and that he cannot therefore be recognised as head of the
They should tell him he must step down, and that if he does not the
SADC will withdraw all support from him and his government. He will be
isolated in his own continent.
Sadly, President Thabo Mbeki, as the SADC's appointed negotiator, has
not had the strength of character to do that.
He is in awe of Mugabe's reputation as a liberation icon, and perhaps
in fear of being denounced as a tool of the West, which is Mugabe's
stock-in-trade response to his African critics.
And so the timidity has become pervasive. Nobody is prepared to stand
up to the old tyrant, except poor Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia who died in a
Paris hospital after suffering a stroke at a previous SADC summit, but
managed before his death to send a message of admonition to the leaders in
Sandton, and Botswana's gutsy new president, Ian Khama, who boycotted the
meeting in protest against Mugabe's presence there as Zimbabwe's unelected
Even some of our media and professorial analysts seem stricken by
obtuseness. The other day I heard an SABC commentator say, as the SADC
leaders headed for Sandton, that "the ball is now in (Morgan) Tsvangirai's
How preposterous! Here is a man who has been robbed of an election
victory, had his organisation smashed and his supporters beaten, tortured
and killed, being told the onus is on him to make concessions so that peace
can be restored.
The point is that Mugabe's insistence that he be the head of the
so-called "power-sharing" government, with the power to appoint - and thus
also to dismiss - members of that government, including Tsvangirai as prime
minister, is so obviously unacceptable to Tsvangirai that I cannot
understand why it was not instantly dismissed as a negotiating position.
Tsvangirai is not a fool. He and everybody else in Southern Africa
knows how Mugabe swallowed up Joshua Nkomo and his Zapu party without trace
in what purported to be a power-sharing deal in the 1980s.
It's as plain as a pikestaff that this is what Mugabe is trying to do
with Tsvangirai now - and that Tsvangirai would be crazy to fall for it. Yet
we keep getting reports saying there is only one obstacle remaining in the
negotiations - even though that obstacle is the size of Everest.
The problem with the SADC is that too many of its leaders have too
much in common with Mugabe. They are imbued with the notion that their
parties of liberation have an historic right to rule indefinitely; that as
"vanguard parties" only they have the wisdom and ideological insight to
chart the course of the unending "national democratic revolution".
They form a kind of freemasonry that closes ranks with fellow members
of that self-righteous but shrinking club.
One can imagine, for example, that Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has
been president of Angola for 29 years, feels somewhat reluctant to tell
Mugabe that after 28 years it is past time for him to go.
The AU, too, has some less-than enthusiastic champions of free and
fair elections. There is Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 27 years,
who habitually locks up his opposition at election time and appears now to
be preparing to hand over to his son Gamal. And Muammar Gadaffi who has held
power in Libya for 39 years and counting.
What needs to happen is for the SADC leaders to cast off their craven
obsession with the egotistical needs of one stubborn old man and focus
instead on the increasingly desperate needs of the Zimbabwean people.
Zimbabwe's economy is disintegrating. The currency is devaluing at the
rate of 1 000 percent a week. Inflation is reckoned to be in the vicinity of
50-million percent. Which means the money is worthless.
It can't buy anything, and in any case there is nothing in the shops
to buy. The maize crop in 2008 is one-third of what is needed to feed the
nation with its most basic staple. The people face starvation.
A human catastrophe looms. Africa does not have the resources to save
the 10-million people still left in Zimbabwe. Only donor countries can do
that and they have pledged $4-billion about two years.
But the donor countries won't give the aid if Mugabe remains head of
the government. Anyway, how can any country justify asking its taxpayers to
bail out a tyrant and subsidise an illegitimate regime?
No, the onus is on the SADC leaders to do the right thing.
They must tell Mugabe to go, now, so that the people of Zimbabwe can
start living again.
* Sparks is a veteran journalist and political commentator.
This article was originally published on page 11 of Cape Times on
August 20, 2008
Published 20 August 2008
Negotiations between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai rumble on, but the
devil lies in the detail. Stephen Chan examines their likely outcome
Variations on South Africa's plan for a Zimbabwean government of national
unity were on the table last September. They were agreed, in outline, by
negotiators from both the government ZANU-PF and opposition MDC parties - in
the unlikely setting of a houseboat moored on Lake Kariba between Zambia and
As with earlier South African efforts, the plan came unstuck when it was put
to Mugabe's State House in Harare. There followed a pattern which had become
chronic. Mugabe dug his feet in, not only for himself, but for the sake of
the powerful coterie who dominated ZANU-PF and the security forces. Mbeki,
notwithstanding the work of his mediators, failed to put the boot in and
The MDC, meanwhile, had its own equivocations - never sure as to whether to
accept a compromise or hope that it might secure outright victory in the
elections set for March 2008.
The South African plan acquired its current detailing in the wake of the
Kenya crisis of late 2007, and the subsequent unity brokered against the
odds by Kofi Annan. The principle of a president with reduced powers and an
executive prime minister derives from this Kenyan example.
When the results of the first electoral round went against Mugabe in March,
he was inclined to accept defeat. But his hard men and generals demanded
that he stay and fight. It was at this point that Mbeki again failed to
apply pressure when it mattered. Over a protracted period, the true results
of that first round - in which more than 50% of the vote went to the MDC's
Tsvangirai, were expertly whittled down by the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, to support the need for a runoff. But that runoff was so
blatantly prejudiced against Tsvangirai's MDC that even Mugabe's most loyal
neighbours could not accept the result. The South Africans, led by Mbeki,
have been pressing hard ever since.
There was almost a breakthrough at the SADC (Southern African Development
Community) summit in Johannesburg last weekend. The pressure was on Mugabe.
The Botswanan president had refused to attend and the Zambian foreign
minister had delivered a stinging note of rebuke to the Zimbabwean
But neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai were able to make the final push. It is
widely speculated that the issue of core disagreement is the relative shares
of power that the two men will wield as president and prime minister. Yet
the differences are finer than that.
Tsvangirai is prepared to concede power over the military to Mugabe, if
Mugabe is prepared to concede power over the cabinet to Tsvangirai. Power
over the police then come to Tsvangirai. The key sticking point is who
controls the intelligence services. That will likely remain a portfolio
controlled by ZANU-PF, but if the minister responsible sits in the cabinet,
how much final veto will Tsvangirai as prime minister have over him? This is
of key importance.
The military may array all its top generals behind Mugabe, but 70% of the
rank and file voted for Tsvangirai in the first round. There are games of
leverage that can be played within the military. The CIO (Central
Intelligence Organisation) is the lynchpin of all that can happen
politically in Zimbabwe. There are divisions within it but, by and large, it
has always supported ZANU-PF. It is a slick and professional machine. It
rigs the elections - and whoever controls it controls the brains behind
coercion in Zimbabwe.
The final point of difference is the longevity of a coalition government.
The MDC wants 2 years and fresh elections. ZANU-PF wants 5. It wants to
rebuild itself and give the MDC enough rope to hang itself in power. Watch
for a compromise of 3.
Mugabe knows that there is a final deadline awaiting him, and that is the
likely ascension to power in Pretoria of Jacob Zuma next year. Mugabe won't
wait until then. Even his hardest men know that now is the time to make a
tactical retreat in order to regroup and cling to as much power as possible.
It may finally come down to a formulation that says: "the president, in
council with the prime minister" will control both the military and the
intelligence services. ZANU-PF will want the formulation to say that: "the
president in council with the prime ministerial leadership of government",
and will hope to bargain for control of the deputy prime ministerships -
though it may settle for one of the two posts. Mugabe will likely have
extracted all he can by September and will present the compromise to the
meeting of the ZANU-PF Central Committee scheduled for that month.
It is Tsvangirai who will have to convince a greater number of sceptics
within the MDC that he has gotten all that he can. But he will. And the
resulting unholy alliance will lead Zimbabwe into an uncertain, though at
least less violent future.
20 August 2008
Paul Trewhela on the crushing of the ANC's Prague Spring
A major event in the history of South Africa took place forty years ago, on
the morning of 21st August 1968 - the crushing of the Prague Spring in
Czechoslovakia by Russian tanks. This totalitarian crime, the destruction of
the freedom of one nation by the masters of another, was supported and
endorsed in public statements by the South African Communist Party and the
African National Congress.
As joint participants in the government of the South Africa since the ending
of apartheid, despite their official dogma of national liberation, neither
party nor the Government of South Africa has made public apology for this
affront to the peoples of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Some
nations, apparently, deserve liberation more than others.
The crushing of the Prague Spring is a matter of acute relevance for the
people of Georgia now, as with Tibet , for whom it is their own present
story. That great bully - the "Great Russian Derzhimorda", as Lenin
described him in his deathbed writings, in reference to Stalin - is
constantly applauded by the dominant majoritarian party of government in
South Africa and its Communist brains trust as if it were the apostle of
freedom, and in particular of national freedom. They forget Marx's wise
remark, that the nation that enslaves another enslaves itself.
This is the real, open secret of the support of the Mbeki government for the
dictatorship of the Mugabe junta in Zimbabwe. The heritage of the Soviet
crushing of the Prague Spring, endorsed and supported at the time by Thabo
Mbeki and his leading ministers, has governed their silence to this day on
the genocidal massacre - the Gukurahundi - by the Mugabe regime in
Matabeleland 25 years ago, an affront to any notion of an African
From the support of the SACP and the ANC for the Russian invasion of
Czechoslovakia, a clear thread of political consistency led these parties
ten years later to establish their own Gulags for political dissenters in
the ANC, in particular at Quatro punishment camp in northern Angola. Its
principal inmates were young South Africans of the generation of the 1976
Soweto school students' uprising, who had imbibed the libertarian spirit of
1968 prior to the crushing of the Prague Spring.
Idealistic, brave, and filled with a passion to put an end to apartheid,
these young people had sought a real and not a slave's education in South
Africa and were no different from the young people of Czechoslovakia in
their desire for a real and not a sham democracy in their own organisation,
the African National Congress.
The first of the demands of the '76 generation in their peaceful mutiny at
Viana camp outside Luanda in February 1984 was for a democratic conference
of the ANC. (Every member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC up
to that time was an appointee. The members of the '76 generation had no
elected representation in the NEC, even though they supplied two of the ANC
army's three detachments). Their second demand was for the suspension and
investigation of the ANC's Security Department, partly because of its brutal
KGB-type behaviour, partly because they believed - rightly - that it was
infiltrated right up to the top by the South African regime. Their third
demand was to be sent to South Africa to fight, rather than be consumed in
an Angolan civil war.
This extraordinary mutiny, in which the mutineers' demand was to be sent to
the front rather than withdrawn from battle, was the ANC's Prague Spring.
Its crushing was as the crushing of Czechoslovakia by Russian tanks.
This generation from the mutiny in the ANC in 1984, the generation of '76,
continues to remain politically mute in South Africa, a generation without a
voice, inhibited by its memory of the capacity for violence of the ANC's
Stalinist heritage. When it hears of the crushing of the Prague Spring in
August 1968, it thinks in the spirit of John Donne's Meditation of 1624:
No man is an island entire of itself...
... never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
August 21st 2008 is a day for the most profound meditation in South Africa,
the anniversary of the occasion when its governing party directly endorsed
Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
20th Aug 2008 14:06 GMT
By Chenjerai Chitsaru
It could be said that the ship's bows have been splintered by the heavy
storm, its stem and stern water-logged, its sails torn to shreds and its
exhausted crew all but drowned. These men include Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo,
Herbert Chitepo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo, Stanlake
Samkange, Enoch Dumbutshena, Josiah Magama Tongogara, James Chikerema,
George Nyandoro and even Michael Mawema. The fact that they have all passed
on, possibly to the more level political playing field up there, should not
There must surely be among the living people with qualities almost similar
to those of the men mentioned here. Moreover, these men worked with Robert
Mugabe, whose leadership of the country for nearly 30 years now has brought
us to where we are today. There is little need to go into details as to the
exact location of our predicament, except to say it is worse than between a
rock and a hard place.
To many Zimbabweans, this treatise may possess all the appearances of a
hopeless, futile attempt to bad-mouth Mugabe for, perhaps, the edification
of his many critics. It could also be labelled as one more attempt to
suggest that Mugabe and Zanu PF no longer have any legitimate or meaningful
role to play in the future of this country, that they had their chance and
blew it, like the man who not only laughed a gift horse in the mouth, but
kicked it into the teeth into the bargain.
It is time for someone else to take charge of the ship of state, someone
able to calmly and soberly navigate the unpredictable political sea in which
it must sail to safety and prosperity.
In the recognised qualities of the men mentioned above, we can identify
others among us whose personalities must be the direct antithesis of Mugabe
and most of the Zanu PF leadership, men and women who are not driven into
politics for the sake of achieving personal glory or enrichment.
Chitepo was one of the most intelligent, charismatic and educated people of
his time. Even then, the zeal with which he led the early stages of the
struggle demonstrated his willingness to go into the trenches if this could
accomplish the cherished goal of the people.
He died in a foreign country in a bomb blast, presumably engineered by the
enemies of the struggle, or enemies of his role in that same struggle. The
jury is still out on the true identify of the real enemy.
Tongogra too had the quality to separate the struggle from its racist
element, to aim only for the achievement of a country run by people -
whatever their colour, creed or religion - with the identical goal of
providing each citizen with the freedom to advance themselves in any field
of human endeavour.
Like Chitepo, he too died a violent death, in a road accident on the eve of
independence. A blanket of suspicion still hangs over the cause of the
accident, although nobody has been identified as the prime suspect.
Samkange and Dumbutshena were distinguished men in their fields, the former
always remembered as an eminent educationist and the founder of Nyatsime
College, the latter as the first black chief justice of the country.
These men were of a temperament and disposition that suggested calm,
tranquil and sober assessment of any situation, unaffected by emotion or
bombast. Yet, in Samkange's case, he never once featured in the government
of Robert Mugabe. Most of us can only speculate on why this was so, apart
from his not having carried a gun on the side of The Good Guys, as some
people once described them before things fell apart.
Dumbutshena, who didn't carry a gun either, became chief justice, but left
the job in undisguised acrimony his gripe that of a justice system that
seemed to taint everything in political hues.
It is impossible to imagine how much these men would have contributed to the
development of this country. They needn't have been at the very top,
although it is tempting to compare their capacity for tolerance and
insistence on consensus with the man who has held that office since 1980...
Some of the men mentioned were arch-rivals for leadership with Mugabe.
Nkomo, for instance, struggled against the one-party system until he
recognised Mugabe's resistance was so total many more lives would have been
lost if he had not agreed to the unity accord, flawed as it was and still
One point that needs to be clarified is that, even after these men vanished
from the scene; it was never automatic that only one man deserved the
leadership role. Certainly, there were and are still others who could have
steered the ship to safety and prosperity. But the curse of all liberation
movements is that succession is often bathed in flood. Only Sam Nujoma in
Namibia allowed a smooth transition, but only after he had served three
terms as president.
In Zimbabwe, anyone who challenged for the presidency of the ruling party
knew, well beforehand, that the fight could turn bloody. Some threw in the
towel even before the bell rang for the first bout. Others were victims of
"friendly persuasion" not to even dare throw down the gauntlet for the top
Whether they like it or not, the men and women surrounding Mugabe today must
share the blame for his political longevity. Not many of them had the guts
to offer a meaningful challenge to him, even when it was at his weakest, as
Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa did offer a challenge of sorts, but were
handicapped by the Zanu PF baggage that came with it.
Most discerning voters know enough about that party to recognise that the
former leaders could never be trusted to so dramatically change course they
would sincerely embrace true pluralism as an alternative to what passes for
democracy in Zanu PF. The lesson for us is to accept that there were fatal
mistakes in our choice of leadership in every election since 1985.
There is an element of weak logic among the reasons for this. People didn't
want to be killed in the attempt. Zanu PF proved it could kill anyone who
did challenge it for supremacy, which it did again after 29 March.
Who knows? If this fear of being killed persists, we could find ourselves,
once again, saddled with the captaincy of a ship bound, like the Titanic,
for a collision with its own political iceberg.
By Tichaona Sibanda
20 August 2008
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has hit back at suggestions that he is the
stumbling block to the current power-sharing talks, instead blaming Zanu-PF
for their failure to cede some of the powers held by Robert Mugabe.
"Let them demonstrate what powers they have ceded to the prime minister or
to the other party. Identify those areas and you will easily see who the
stumbling block is," Tsvangirai said in response to questions by ZimOnline.
Commenting on reports he was not being sensible to claim complete executive
powers when, he and his party did not win an absolute majority, Tsvangirai
replied; 'We are talking about shared executive power. Anyone who claims
that we are overplaying our hand doesn't understand the mandate given to us
by the people on 29 March. The thing that is fundamental is that the people
of Zimbabwe spoke. Fifty-seven percent of the people who voted said they no
longer had any confidence in Mugabe. If you then consider the events of June
which was not accepted by anyone, then you can ask where Mugabe derives his
legitimacy. It's ZANU PF which is therefore overplaying its hand. Mugabe can
only get legitimacy by saying that he is the caretaker president until
another election is held. That's why there is need for a transition. That's
why Mugabe cannot continue to enjoy the same powers he had before.'
The MDC President pointed out there was no such thing as collective
executive authority as favoured by Zanu-PF and the other MDC faction.
He said somebody has to be responsible, considering there would be two
centres of power, both seemingly doing the same job. Tsvangirai believes job
descriptions for the President and Prime Minister should be spelt out
'Why are they afraid to do that? That demarcation of responsibility is very
important for accountability purposes, for authority purposes. You cannot
expect the MDC to be tasked with turning around the mess in Zimbabwe without
being given authority.'
Speaking to ZimOnline on the same subject of the power-sharing talks, MDC-M
secretary-general Welshman Ncube said that in their view the SADC
recommendation that seeks to give all parties equal powers was fair.
'If you exclude the leader of one of the parties from that completely, you
are rendering whomsoever you have excluded ceremonial. That is why SADC
found that the demands which are on the table (from Tsvangirai) are for a
power transfer. And they were unable to endorse those. Which is why they
endorsed what is on the table, which is power sharing.'
Ncube said what the Tsvangirai MDC wanted was a process of power transfer on
the basis of the March elections, and not a power-sharing government for the
next five years.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
"We are smarter than the Australians. We are smarter than the Americans. We
went to better schools than most of these leaders in America, in Britain and
I am coming out of Oxford. None of your prime ministers can challenge me
These were Arthur Mutambara's own words when he recently had an interview
with Geraldine Doogue of Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Like other
learned prominent professors before him, Mutambara has started swimming
against the tide. If he becomes deputy prime minister or whatever in the
next cabinet, what guarantee do we have that our rocket scientist will
listen to the poor man on the street who has no clue as to what Oxford is,
let alone where in this world it is located? Is it this Oxford phenomenon or
sense of belonging that has brought Arthur so close to Mbeki, another Oxford
May I remind Arthur that some of the finest professors who taught him during
his long academic journey only read about Oxford in the books?
Mukonoweshuro, Madhuku, Makumbe, Dzinotyiwei, Makhurane, (not to mention the
late Zvobgo and Masipula) and many other academic luminaries we can remember
including the most degreed but troubled president, Mugabe, never make
references to the institutions they went to in order to be taken seriously.
Rather, people should be left wondering which university you went to or what
level of education you have after they have been mesmerised or convinced by
your informed arguments or facts.
If this interview is anything to go by, then it appears that Arthur is not
only politically naïve, but inherently foolish, despite his celebrated
academic achievement. When a professor is afforded an opportunity to speak
to the world through respected media, one would expect a professor to
capitalise on that rare opportunity and sell his good qualities to the
listeners or viewers, not the opposite.
Some define education as acquisition, interpretation and application of
knowledge. You need all three, not one of them. Some of us haven't yet seen
or experienced constructive application of Arthur's expensive Oxford
If he was an old man, I would probably think that age was taking its toll.
With this kind of argument and reasoning that does not seem to reflect
critical thinking; the professor can never have a chance with people like
Biti, Chamisa and many others who have never been to Oxford.
My advice to the talented robotics graduate is that it is not too late to
swap politics with chalk and board. You will probably have a better legacy
in the classroom.
Moses Chamboko writes from Australia
By Alex Bell
20 August 2008
South Africa's Constitutional Court has reserved ruling on an application to
keep six camps for refugees of xenophobic violence open - leaving the many
foreign nationals still taking shelter in the camps in Gauteng a few more
The camps were set up earlier this year after at least 60 people were killed
and thousands more displaced in a wave of xenophobic violence across the
country. But the estimated four thousand refugees in Gauteng are now faced
with a choice of returning to the communities they had fled or going back to
their own countries, after local government officials declared the six camps
in the province would be dismantled last Friday.
The decision to close the camps prompted widespread fears that more violence
would erupt. Groups of locals last week issued warnings and threatened that
the refugees were not welcome, while many Zimbabwean refugees have said they
would rather sleep on the streets than return to the communities or to their
Last week, lawyers from The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South
Africa and the Wits Law Clinic, filed an urgent application at the
Constitutional Court to keep the temporary camps open. Friday's deadline for
the camps to be dismantled saw authorities begin to take down the temporary
shelters and residents start packing their meagre belongings while the legal
process was underway. The court postponed making a ruling, but a week since
the legal application was filed there has still been no decision and the
camps have remained open.
Anna Moyo, a human rights lawyer from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum in South
Africa told Newsreel on Wednesday that many refugees have left the camps in
the confusion over whether the shelters were remaining open or not. She said
there has so far been no backlash of violence, but added that there are
"still concerns of more violence when the remaining foreign nationals are
reintegrated". Moyo said the there have been guarantees from government
officials that the camps will remain open until the court's ruling, expected
next week. But she said for the government to fulfil its obligations to the
foreigners, it still needs to present a proper reintegration plan to protect
their safety, as well as undertake an education programme "at grassroots
level about the country's refugee laws".
At the same time, Gauteng Premier Mbazima Shilowa emphasised on Tuesday that
the camps are strictly temporary and "can't remain open". But he added that
the provincial government is considering moving the remaining refugees to
one site, which would remain open for no more than a month.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Press Association. UK
5 hours ago
Zimbabwe have confirmed they will take no part in next summer's World
Twenty20 in England.
Scotland will join the elite tournament instead, after the International
Cricket Council and Zimbabwe Cricket on Wednesday ratified a decision
initially agreed at the world governing body's annual conference in Dubai
two months ago.
Contrary to reports that Zimbabwe were beginning to waver on the offer to
withdraw they made back in June, they and ICC president David Morgan,
vice-president Sharad Pawar and chief executive Haroon Lorgat have agreed
the arrangement will stand.
The ICC averted a potential crisis when it emerged from the annual
conference that Zimbabwe were prepared to forego their place at the
The British Government had already cancelled a bi-lateral one-day
international series between England and Zimbabwe in this country, scheduled
at the start of next summer, on account of the disgraced regime of Robert
Mugabe which still prevails in the African country.
It was therefore highly unlikely Britain would issue visas to Zimbabwe
players and officials for the World Twenty20.
A consensus appeared beyond the ICC member countries, with an Asian block
vote favouring Zimbabwe - and it was therefore championed as a winning
compromise when ZC agreed unilaterally to opt out.
After Wednesday's confirmation, Morgan reiterated: "We are grateful to
Zimbabwe Cricket for confirming the decision taken by its officials during
annual conference week.
"This allows the ICC the opportunity to plan with certainty the ICC World
Twenty20 2009 - as well as giving Scotland, the side set to step up in
Zimbabwe's place, plenty of preparation time ahead of the tournament."