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Sinking into the past: a desperate nation living on the scrap heap

The Times, UK December 03, 2005

By Xan Rice and Jan Raath
The ruination of Zimbabwe seems to have broken the spirit of its
people

IN CHITUNGWIZA, a dormitory town home to more than one million
black Zimbabweans, a breeze is a curse. It shifts the rotting rubbish in
front of the tiny houses. And it laces the air with the stench of human
waste, which drifts in thin dark rivers in the streets.
"We are sitting on a time bomb," Misheck Shoko, the Mayor of
Chitungwiza, said as he gestured towards a concrete pipe spewing thick brown
effluent into a stream outside the town's main sewerage treatment plant. The
stream feeds the Manyame Dam, which supplies the capital, Harare, with its
water. "It's a miracle there have not been more outbreaks of disease."

Across Zimbabwe the scene is the same: townships that were once
models for Africa have become stinking health hazards. The big cities are
not much better. Some parts of Bulawayo have not had water for seven weeks.
Refuse collection in Harare is sporadic. Power failures are routine.

In small towns such as Bindura and Shamva to the north, rubbish
is collected by ox wagon. Zimbabwe is fast sinking into the past.

The meltdown of one of the continent's best infrastructures has
been years in the making, the result of underinvestment and mismanagement.
But the speed of the decline over the past few months has been astonishing.
Zimbabweans long accustomed to hardship cannot remember a worse time.

It has been driven by a crippling shortage of foreign currency.
Since the seizure of white-owned commercial farms began in earnest nearly
six years ago, agricultural output - the mainstay of the economy - has
dropped 80 per cent. Without dollars the Government cannot buy the 70,000
worth of parts it needs to fix the sewerage plant in Chitungwiza, where
dozens of people have already contracted dysentery. It also cannot buy fuel.

Service stations have not had petrol or diesel for months. Fuel
can only be bought on the black market - at more than four times the
official pump price. Air Zimbabwe cancelled all its flights for a day last
week because of a lack of jet fuel.

Prices have doubled in the past month. Annual inflation reached
411 per cent in October, according to official numbers. But TM, a
supermarket chain, estimated that it was closer to 700 per cent, based on a
typical shopping basket. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the
economy will decline by 7.2 per cent this year; GDP is $4.3 billion (2.5
billion), barely half of what it was seven years ago. A US dollar now costs
Z$61,000 at official rates; Z$85,000 on the black market.

The effects of the economic crisis are visible everywhere.
People queue for hours just to buy maize meal, sugar and bread, and pay for
a trolley-full of goods with briefcases full of cash. Supermarkets, which
change their prices every week, have started installing note-counting
machines at their tills.

Only 15 of the country's 175 railway locomotives are in running
order. The state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company, which runs Harare's
bus services, is broke with debts of 410,000. Hospitals, receiving an
increasing number of patients suffering from malnutrition, are creaking
under the strain. In a recent parliamentary report Harare Central Hospital
said that it may have to close because so many nurses were leaving - 30 over
the past two weeks - because of poor wages and a lack of medical equipment.
No more Aids patients are being accepted for treatment because of a shortage
of drugs. Thousands of soldiers have been sent on compulsory leave because
there is not enough food and money.

Across the country commuters have turned into hitch-hikers.
Demand for bicycles has soared. At Zacks Cycles, opposite the railway
station in downtown Harare, Yossi Tal, the manager, said that he had sold
thousands of heavy, single-speed bicycles this year to companies such as
British American Tobacco. "Considering the situation here, it's been a good
year," said Mr Tal, one of the few businessmen who can afford to smile.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said recently that a typical
family of six needed Z$11.6 million a month to survive. But with wages
unable to match inflation, the 20 per cent of adults with formal jobs
usually earn about Z$3 million a month. Those with access to foreign
currency, or who have relatives abroad, are coping. But many others are not.

"I eat one meal a day, for lunch," Chamunorwa Makarawu, a
resident of Mabvuku township on Harare's eastern outskirts, said. "Air pie
for breakfast and supper."

In the rural areas, which have been badly affected by drought,
the suffering is even more acute. Near Chivi, in the southern Masvingo
province, a bumpy dirt road cut through parched countryside. Cows, their
ribs pressing through skin pulled taut, chew leaves off trees; there is no
grass. Many cattle have perished. Their owners may not be far behind.
"People are not starving yet," said Alfred Matewe, 39, a short, barefoot man
with a grey-flecked beard and heavily patched trousers. "But they will be if
the rains don't come soon."

But rain will not solve the food crisis. A shortage of seed and
fertiliser - and money to buy them - mean next year's harvest could be one
of the worst. Aid agencies believe that more than three million people will
need feeding by March. The Government, in denial over the scale of the
problem, is reluctant to let food relief in.

The hardship is tearing at the social fabric of a country where
the life expectancy is now just 37. Everisto, an unemployed man in
Mashonaland East who asked for his surname not to be used, said: "People don't
communicate anymore. When you try to talk to your neighbour they say, 'What
do you want? We have our own problems'."
Such as finding money for school fees. Public boarding schools
have said that they will increase their fees by 500 per cent next year, and
parents organisations have given warning of a new surge of dropouts. Many
children already rush from school to help their unemployed parents to earn
money - something that has become much harder since government action
against illegal trading and dwellings.

The brutal police operation, known as Operation Murambatsvina
(Sweep out the rubbish), left 700,000 without homes or work. Operation
Hlalani Kuhle (Live well), meant to provide legal homes and formal markets,
has barely begun, and the ban on vending is still being ruthlessly enforced.

Newspaper boys selling mobile telephone charge cards are frisked
and their stock is confiscated; women selling a few tomatoes and eggs are
hauled off to police stations.

Esnat Marowa, who tries to make a living as a seamstress in the
Mabvuku township, said: "If they hear your sewing machine going grrrr grrrr
in your house, they come inside and say, 'What are you doing?'. If they see
a pile of things, they take it." Another resident said: "When you see police
come, you know in their homes they are hungry."

In the state media - which now include the Daily Mirror,
furtively purchased with public money by the Central Intelligence
Organisation - the ruling Zanu (PF) party leaks stories of hope: that recent
uranium finds will help to boost the rural electrification programme, that
Zimbabwe can host the 2010 African Nations Cup, that a Stalin-type command
agriculture will help to utilise idle land, that petrol will arrive "within
days". Most ordinary Zimbabweans, beaten down, despondent and dismayed by
the infighting in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, seem to
have accepted their miserable fate.

The IMF has refused credit unless urgent economic reform takes
place. Donor countries have long closed their wallets. Even China, to whom
President Mugabe has turned with his Look East policy, has refused to bail
Zimbabwe out. South Africa, which does not want its neighbour to collapse,
will only loan money if there is political reform.

Near Chivhu, a government stronghold in central Zimbabwe,
Nicodimus Joni, 43, a farmworker in tattered blue overalls and sandals made
of old car tyres, waited for a lift to work. Closing his eyes, and slowly
moving his head from side to side, he tried to find words to describe what
was happening in his country.

"Ah, Zimbabwe," he eventually sighed. "Zimbabwe is dead."

THE FIGURES

a.. GDP has declined by 7.2 per cent this year, after a 4.2 per
cent fall in 2004 and a 10.7 per cent fall in 2003
a.. Rocketing inflation, shortages of foreign exchange and a
decline in farm output have led to shortages of basic goods, including
diesel
a.. The economy has shrunk by 50 per cent since 1997, exports
have fallen by two thirds and living standards have retreated to levels last
seen in the mid-Fifties, according to estimates
a.. The IMF has forecast the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio will
double to 14.2 per cent this year, from 7.1 per cent last year and 0.4 per
cent in 2003
a.. Import volumes expected to drop by 11.9 per cent this year,
from 5.8 per cent in 2004 and 19.9 per cent in 2003
a.. In 2000 primary crop production was estimated at 2.5 million
tonnes of cereals in total compared with 1 million tonnes in 2003
a.. The IMF forecasts that inflation will reach 400 per cent by
the end of the year. However, the Mugabe Government predicts that the
economy will grow by 2 per cent this year


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Harare's 2006 Growth Projections Draw Skepticism

VOA

By Chinedu Offor
Washington
02 December 2005

Zimabwean Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa's forecast of renewed economic
growth in 2006 as a key assumption for the 2006 budget he unveiled this week
has drawn some skepticism. Given the steep downward trajectory of the
economy some consider this to be wishful thinking at best.

Mr. Murerwa presented a Z$124 trillion budget to parliament on Thursday,
projecting gross domestic product growth of 2% to 3.5% next year after an
estimated contraction of 3.5% in 2005. Inflation has reignited and is now
running at an annual rate in excess of 400% with little sign of slowing.

Senior economist David Cowan of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit
says Harare has not made the reforms necessary to revive an economy that has
been shrinking for six years.

Mr. Cowan told reporter Chinedu Offor of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
Mr. Murerwa's call for a pickup in manufacturing, agriculture and mining is
unrealistic.

Agriculture has been crippled by continuing state land seizures and wildcat
takeovers by ruling party officials, army officers and local officials, as
well as by scarcities of seed, fertilizer and fuel. Export manufacturing
firms in particular have been hit hard by a lack of access to foreign
exchange, in addition to extreme shortages of fuel and a generally hostile
economic environment.


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What went wrong for Morgan Tsvangirai?

IOL

December 03 2005 at 08:38AM

By Peta Thornycroft

Ahead of the March general election a long-serving human rights
activist commented in casual conversation to journalists that Morgan
Tsvangirai would never lead Zimbabwe.

She said she didn't believe he had the qualities for the job but
couldn't define what those qualities were.

The Movement for Democratic Change was the fastest growing political
party in Africa's history when it came within a whisker of beating Robert
Mugabe's Zanu-PF in the 2000 general election when it was only nine months
old despite appalling state-sponsored violence.

Now the party is in shreds, divided irreconcilably between loyalists
of party president Tsvangirai and the other faction unofficially lead by
secretary-general Welshman Ncube, an acerbic lawyer.

Deep divisions of style and content within the MDC coalesced over
participation in last Saturday's senate elections, with Tsvangirai calling
for a boycott, and Ncube saying the party had a constitutional obligation to
obey a narrow decision by its National Council to take part and defend
political space.

Tsvangirai successfully led a boycott which also decampaigned 26 MDC
candidates who lost all but seven senate seats.

The split is getting uglier by the day with youths guarding the
entrance to the MDC's scruffy city centre national headquarters to ensure
Ncube doesn't enter.

John Makumbe, a veteran political scientist and largely supportive of
Tsvangirai said: "He is trade unionist who didn't know what a political
consultant was before 2000. He is naive, but he is the most courageous
leader Zimbabwe has ever had, politically gullible and to use a phrase from
someone who was talking about him this week, he doesn't have the 'anointing'
to lead."

A political observer who is neutral in the fatal split said: "He is
brave, compassionate, hard working, naive, headstrong, and latterly,
self-important.

"He lost self-confidence when he was charged with treason weeks before
the presidential election of 2002, which was Mugabe's master stroke. Morgan
does not abide by collective decisions of his elected officials and had he
consulted he would never have fallen into that trap. The treason trial
diverted his attention from the election, completely drained the party's
financial resources and consumed the MDC, so fundamentally it never
recovered."

Tsvangirai was trapped by an intelligence sting in Canada believing he
was hiring a political lobbyist and fund raiser, who had been previously
hired by security minister Nicholas Goche to implicate Tsvangirai in a
non-existent plot to assassinate Mugabe. He was acquitted two years later.

"Morgan trusts people who are patently incompetent and he has ignored
or demoted some of the most talented members because he saw them as a
threat," the observer said.

That is also a widely held view by several of Tsvangirai's confidantes
providing of course, they are not identified.

"Organisation for the mass protest in 2003 was in the hands of an
entirely incompetent official who Morgan trusted, and still does. It was
chaotic."

That was the last MDC demo.

"If he had not been so impulsive he would not have alienated Thabo
Mbeki as he did in 2003 when he called him a liar. He was correct, there
were no negotiations between the MDC and Zanu-PF as Mbeki claimed, but
Morgan should have been diplomatic."

Makumbe believes that even if Tsvangirai had the most sophisticated
political skills and all the resources in the world, it was impossible to
defeat Mugabe democratically and persuade stodgy old Africa that he was not
a "British puppet".

Former MDC MP Roy Bennett, one of Tsvangirai's most loyal supporters
who lost his parliamentary seat when he was sent to prison last year said:
"I am not sure any outsider, including you journalists, have any real idea
of how badly the people were punished by Mugabe for supporting the MDC. I
have seen things which have never been reported, the most terrible, terrible
things. I am furious at the leadership, all of them. They let the people
down."

The management committee which used to run the MDC's daily affairs
admits it failed to restrain Tsvangirai's "indiscretions" or effectively
censure his mistakes so he didn't repeat them.

"It is true, we tried to keep the party together at all costs to
overcome Mugabe," one of them said this week.

There is no obvious replacement for Tsvangirai, certainly not Welshman
Ncube who has known all his life that no Ndebele could lead Zimbabwe for the
foreseeable future despite the MDC's efforts to obliterate Mugabe's legacy
of tribal and clan politics.

At present the rumours are flying to explain the collapse of the MDC.

The most persistent from Tsvangirai's camp is: Welshman Ncube had
secret visits with Mbeki.

He has had a secret visit with Mujuru, (retired general Solomon
Mujuru) whose wife Joice is vice president and who is manipulating Zanu PF
succession problems. He has, so the rumour goes, agreed with Mbeki that
Tsvangirai must be ousted to allow Ncube to lead a government of national
unity.

Taking part in the senate elections was part of that plot, says this
faction of the MDC.

The other side is convinced, but has no hard evidence that Tsvangirai
has surrounded himself with advisors in the pay of the Central Intelligence
Organisation whose job was to destroy the MDC through internal fighting.
They have now accomplished their mission. - Independent Foreign Service


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Words don't fill tummies


Saturday 3rd December 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
Having just come to terms with writing cheques using millions of dollars,
working out how many zeroes to add and being very careful about counting
digits on the ends of prices before I purchase things, this week all that
carefully accumulated knowledge became rather pointless. I spent one
afternoon this week listening to the Minister of Finance presenting
Zimbabwe's 2006 budget. Millions were gone completely and all the figures
were billions and trillions. I sort of lost the thread right near the
beginning of the budget presentation when I heard the announcement that the
national football team had been allocated 10 billion dollars. I already have
to consult my dictionary to work out how many millions make a billion but
when I tried to tap in ten billion dollars to see how much each player may
get, it didn't work. My calculator has only got enough digit spaces for nine
billion and after that it reverts to gobbledy gook and so I just sat in
stunned open mouthed silence listening to next years budget.

It looks like the way things are going in Zimbabwe, and the speed at which
they are getting there, I might not have to worry about how many zeroes to
add to get billions after all. A lot of the numbers being used in the budget
this week were in trillions and unless some clever cookie invents a bigger
calculator, hey, I'm out! My dictionary tells me that a trillion is a
million million but that until quite recently it used to be a million,
million, million - either way there are just too many zeroes and my head
spins in dizzy circles trying to understand it all.

It wasn't just numbers getting my head spinning this week but also quite a
large number of words. The Minister of Finance announced that agriculture
had declined by 12.8% in 2005 but that this would change dramatically and
agriculture would increase by 14% in 2006. He said: "Government is committed
to enforce utmost discipline in the agricultural sector. Any disruption of
farming activities is not in the national interest and will not be
tolerated." This statement was met with jeers, scornful laughter and
derisive comments by MP's in the House. It comes at a time when commercial
farming continues to be the most dangerous and uncertain occupation in a
country where millions of people go to bed hungry every day. In the last
three months over 60 commercial farmers have been thrown off their
properties; last week a commercial farmer in Harare West was murdered and a
dairy farm in Beatrice which produces nine thousand litres of milk a day was
besieged by none other than a High Court Judge who demanded the owners leave
as this was now his farm. Nine thousand litres of milk, by the way, at last
week's price, was worth 270 million dollars a day - no wonder his Honour
wanted the farm! So, the Minister's stern words are painfully hollow because
without political backing, enforcement at all levels from the bottom right
up to the top and plain and clear instructions to Zimbabwe's police - and
judges - they are mere words. What a shame words don't fill tummies.

Zimbabwe's budget in 2007 will, by all accounts have to be in Zillions and I
shudder at the thought because my dictionary doesn't define a zillion it
just says it is an "indefinite large number." Oops.
Until next week, love cathy.


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Tsvangirai 'should be gagged'

News24

03/12/2005 11:21 - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe opposition members locked in a bitter row with their
leader over recent elections asked a court on Friday to slap a gag order on
Morgan Tsvangirai.

The legal action against the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change
came after the party's national council on Thursday decided to suspend six
senior members from the leadership for refusing to heed a call to boycott
the elections.

"We have filed an application in the High Court for an order to gag the
president and prohibit him from performing party functions and using party
property or visiting party offices during his suspension," said Gift
Chimanikire, the MDC's deputy secretary general.

Chimanikire said the application was filed on behalf of a six-member party
disciplinary committee which last week sacked Tsvangirai as MDC president,
citing misconduct and violations of the party's constitution.

Tsvangirai has scoffed at the suspension and continued to perform his
official duties and visiting the party offices.

Severe blow to the MDC

Founded six years ago, the Movement for Democratic Change has split over
Tsvangirai's call to boycott the November 26 elections to a new senate.

The row has dealt a severe blow to the MDC, which had in recent years been
widely regarded as the most credible challenge to President Robert Mugabe's
25-year uninterrupted rule.

Tsvangirai maintained that the elections were a waste of money at a time
when the country was facing a severe food shortage, but his opponents within
the MDC contended that voters should be given a choice at the ballot box.

Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won 43 of
the 50 contested seats, while the MDC picked up seven seats in the elections
that were marred by poor turn-out.

Chimanikire was one of six senior MDC members who were sacked from the party
leadership at a meeting of the national council, newly-appointed
spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.

The other five were secretary general Welshman Ncube, vice president Gibson
Sibanda, treasurer Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, information and publicity
secretary Paul Themba Nyathi and secretary for policy and research Trudy
Stevenson.

But Chimanikire said the decision was "inconsequential", adding that the
decision was taken by "a faction, not the national council".

Infighting in the MDC came to a boil after Tsvangirai overruled a decision
of the national council and declared in late October that the opposition
would not participate in the polls.


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Justice Ebrahim calls emergency meeting



Cricinfo staff

December 3, 2005

Zimbabwe's senior players and stakeholders have been invited to an emergency
meeting in Harare on Monday where the one subject will be the crisis
affecting the game in the country.

The meeting has been called by Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, the vice-president of
Zimbabwe Cricket and a former supreme court judge, in the light of growing
national and international concern over the rift between senior officials of
ZC on the one side and players and administrators on the other.

"I am calling together all the provincial chairpeople, all stakeholders and
all legitimate members of the board," Ebrahim told the Associated Press. "It
is very important that we act quickly. The staff will also need assurances."
It is not known whether Peter Chingoka, the embattled ZC chairman, and Ozias
Bvute, the MD, will attend.

There was due to be a board meeting today, but once again it was cancelled
after Chingoka claimed that it had not been possible to raise a quorum. That
was disputed by his opponents who maintained that it was another move aimed
at thwarting attempts to call the board to account.

Ebrahim said he wanted former captain Tatenda Taibu, other senior players
and player spokesperson Blessing Mahwire to also attend Monday's meeting.
Ebrahim said he would ask Taibu whether he would consider reversing his
decision to quit the captaincy. Taibi has said that if Chingoka and Bvute
are removed then he will reconsider his position. It is also possible that
were the two to leave then other players might reconsider their own
decisions to retire.

With the players refusing to represent Zimbabwe until the pair are ousted,
it could be that Monday's meeting is decisive in removing them. That
Ebrahim, a senior figure in Zimbabwe cricket and one who is respected
internationally, has made this announcement is a serious blow to Chingoka
and Bvute. It was also noticeable that he asked Phil Simmons to attend.
Simmons was fired as Zimbabwe coach by the board and replaced by Kevin
Curran, but the players have made it clear that they do not support the new
man and want Simmons reinstated. Ebrahim tellingly referred to Simmons as
"the national coach" and said that Curran's status had yet to be sorted out.

Cricinfo


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Generous British donation to help feed Zimbabweans

Harold Doan and Associates

Dec. 2 2005

Press Release - World Food Programme

Harare, 02 December 2005 - WFP has warmly welcomed a 10 million
British pound (Zim$1.23 trillion) cash donation from the UK Department for
International Development which will be used to buy urgently needed food
supplies for the people of Zimbabwe.

The transfer of funds to WFP followed a signing ceremony in the
capital Harare today between the Country Directors for WFP and Britain's
Department for International Development (DFID).

Critical time

The funds will be used to buy up to 40,000 tonnes of food which
is enough to feed more than three million people for a month.

"This support comes at a critical time for WFP's programmes in
Zimbabwe, when we are scaling up our programmes to reach over 3 million
vulnerable people," said Kevin Farrell, WFP Country Director in Zimbabwe.

"Combined with support from a range of donors, DFID's generous
contribution helps WFP to buy food regionally for distribution in Zimbabwe
at the height of the hungry season."

DFID

The donation by DFID brings the amount of humanitarian
assistance given to Zimbabwe to 120 million British pounds (Z$14.7 trillion)
since 2001.

This year alone, DFID will give 40 million pounds (Z$4.9
trillion ) to the people of Zimbabwe through UN agencies and
non-governmental organisations working in the country.

Crucial partner

"The UK is pleased to be able to provide this help to the people
of Zimbabwe at this important time," said John Barrett, Head of DFID
Zimbabwe.

"WFP is a crucial partner in the international effort to
distribute food to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe."

Severe drought

The donation follows the conclusion of a memorandum of
understanding yesterday between WFP and the Government of Zimbabwe which
sets out the modalities of food distributions through non-government
organisations in the country.

WFP has been carrying out feeding programmes in Zimbabwe since
2001 when severe drought, compounded by HIV/AIDS, affected agricultural
production across all of southern Africa.

In addition, this year, the UN agency plans to feed more than
three million people through vulnerable group feeding programmes, while
continuing ongoing school feeding, home based care for people living with
AIDS and orphan support programmes.

Pledge

DFID previously announced this pledge to WFP in a press release
issued on 22 September 2005 announcing 11.05 million funding to combat
Southern Africa food shortages, of which Zimbabwe received 10 million.

The announcement made today does not represent additional
funding to the 10 million committed by DFID in September.


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Disillusion in Southern Africa Ahead of Trade Summit

IPS

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 2 (IPS) - Campaigners from Southern Africa are bracing for
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks to be held in Hong Kong later this
month. Some plan to send representatives to the meeting, to protest against
unfair trade legislation - particularly as this relates to agriculture.

These representatives will include two cotton farmers from Zimbabwe, says
Ntando Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, a
non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in the capital, Harare.

"The two farmers will be in Hong Kong and make noise using anything,
including the beating of drums," she told a gathering of Southern African
activists this week at a conference held in the South African commercial hub
of Johannesburg. Ndlovu also urged Mozambique and South Africa to send
cotton farmers in support of their Zimbabwean counterparts.

Zimbabwe's controversial land re-allocation programme has not really
affected cotton farmers in the country, said Ndlovu. However, trade rules
for cotton have undermined them - and producers further afield.

According to leading British charity Oxfam, "Africa has lost on average 441
million dollars as a result of trade distortions in world cotton prices."
Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and Cameroon are the countries most affected
by subsidies which the European Union and the United States are paying their
cotton farmers.

Many believe a failure to reform the cotton trade will derail the WTO
meeting.

"Cotton could be a big issue to block Hong Kong," Dot Keet of a Cape
Town-based NGO, the Alternative Information and Development Centre, told
IPS.

But agriculture is not the only source of grievance for Africa in the
upcoming trade negotiations. Governments and civic groups across the
continent are also concerned about intellectual property rights, and
attempts to liberalise the trade in services.

"There is a perception that TRIPS (trade related aspects of intellectual
property rights) is ill-conceived. It's not a trade issue - it's a human
rights and knowledge issue," Keet said.

TRIPS, which concerns the manufacture and distribution of anti-retroviral
drugs (ARVS) for managing HIV/AIDS - amongst other issues - has been under
discussion for some time.

"With a blockage in agriculture - and nearly every other area of the talks -
the TRIPS and public health issue appears to have fallen off the agenda and
is no longer a priority for rich countries," says Oxfam.

The group accuses the U.S. pharmaceutical lobby of "pushing U.S. negotiators
to refuse anything, even if this means leaving millions of poor Africans
without access to affordable drugs."

But certain campaigners also blame African governments for the lack of
progress on broadening access to ARVs. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most
affected by AIDS, globally.

"African governments have not taken advantage of producing generic drugs as
India and Brazil have done," Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, executive director of
the Swaziland-based Co-ordinating Assembly of Non-governmental
Organisations, told IPS.

The price of ARV treatment has fallen from 10,000 dollars to 150 dollars per
year, offering African HIV/AIDS patients a new lease on life, according to
Oxfam. But, these prices are still high on a continent where World Bank
estimates indicate more than half the population lives on less than a dollar
a day.

African campaigners are also opposed to the WTO's non-agricultural market
access (NAMA) discussions.

"NAMA must be taken out of WTO - it's profoundly immoral. We don't have
services to export," Keet said. "NAMA will destroy our economy. With NAMA,
economies which have not been industrialised will never industrialise."

There are fears that the sensitive debate over agriculture will be used to
prise open the industrial and service sectors of African countries.

"Industrialised nations say they'll reform their agricultural policies, but
we must give them improved market access into our agriculture market, our
services and industrial sectors," Keet said. "They are using agriculture as
a bargaining ploy."

Given the heated debate over these issues, many believe the Hong Kong talks
offer little hope.

"If they can't agree on (reducing) subsidies, which African countries have
been demanding for years, I doubt there'll ever be a breakthrough in Hong
Kong," Vitalice Meja, advocacy director at the Harare-based African Forum
and Network on Debt and Development, told IPS.

He believes this holds dire implications for the continent: "We believe
trade is the only way that African countries can move out of debt traps.
Rich countries should open up their markets and remove high tariffs - and
African countries should start trading among themselves."

These words are echoed by Harare-based campaigner Thomas Deve.

"I'm not optimistic that there will be a breakthrough in Hong Kong. The
council of ministers didn't come out with a consensus document between July
and now. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has failed to garner consensus,"
he told IPS.

Keet says there are also fears that Chinese authorities will put a damper on
the activities of NGOs represented at the WTO summit.

"It's going to be controlled. There will be fewer NGOs in Hong Kong than
they were in Cancun," she said. "If there's a low attendance, don't conclude
that people have lost interest. That's why we must be there. We must make
our voices heard." (The last major round of trade talks took place in the
Mexican resort town of Cancun, in 2003.) (END/2005)


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MIC censures Financial Gazette

From The Herald, 3 December

Herald Reporter

The Media and Information Commission (MIC) has censured and given the
Financial Gazette (Fingaz) a seven-day ultimatum to respond for willfully
contravening the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Failure to respond within the prescribed time frame, would result in the MIC
issuing an order compelling the publication of both a retraction and
rebuttal of a story it published claiming that the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) had blocked the registration of The Daily News. In a
statement yesterday, MIC chairman Dr Tafataona Mahoso ordered the weekly
newspaper to publish the rebuttal and retraction in their next issue. The
order, Dr Mahoso said, would require a full retraction of the story and a
publication of a rebuttal of the same story to be authored by a person
chosen by the Commission. The MIC chairman also gave the weekly paper seven
days to respond and demonstrate why they should not be charged under AIPPA.

Dr Mahoso said the story constituted gross misrepresentation, prejudiced
selectively, and far-fetched embellishment of material, which had become
part of a court record and was readily accessible to Fingaz reporters at the
time. "In terms of Section (7) (c), you are invited to reply to these
allegations within seven days of this notice and to demonstrate why the
Media and Information Commission should not proceed to issue an order
compelling the publication of both a retraction and rebuttal. "Therefore in
terms of section 71, subsection (7) of the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act, the Media and Information Commission hereby
notifies you of its intention to issue an order in terms of section (6) of
the same section," Dr Mahoso said. He said the MIC could not be allowed to
stand such gross distortions in the front page story on their December 1
issue headlined "Former MIC Commissioner spills the beans: CIO blocked Daily
News registration - Mystery surrounds minutes of critical meeting." "Please
note that the Commission reserves its right to consider proceeding in terms
of section 80 of the same Act," he said.

Dr Mahoso said the Fingaz story sought to discredit the determination of a
quasi-judicial body, the MIC. "The question whether quasi-judicial bodies in
Zimbabwe observe the rule of law and administer their affairs in accordance
with the rules of administrative justice is a matter of national interest
and public concern," he said. He also said the story was wrong and false but
the reporter and the editor deliberately published it. "I can only suggest
malice and mischief, since the two explanations cannot be both true. On
November 24, you were in fact saying that both the publishers of The Daily
News and their chief executive officer knew why they were not licensed, that
is because their CEO made a lot of strategic errors that the company has
paid for heavily. "How then does it require bringing in the CIO to make
sense of the MIC's decision," he said. Dr Mahoso also said the ANZ was
denied registration after it intentionally and defiantly contravened
sections 65, 66, 72, 76 and 79 of AIPPA. He also said the Fingaz story was a
gross violation of the code of ethics of MIC.

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