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Zimbabwe Creates Panel to Oversee Unity Government

By Peta Thornycroft

02 February 2009

VOA news

The Zimbabwe Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee to oversee a unity government, when it is formed, has been established in Harare. The committee's job will be to ensure that a unity government proceeds according to the political agreement signed last September.

The Zimbabwe Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee has three chairmen, one from each of the country's main parties.

They are Elton Mangoma, from the MDC, which has the largest number of seats in parliament, Nicholas Goche from the former ruling ZANU-PF party, and Welshman Ncube from the smaller MDC.

The committee of 12, four from each party, is still looking for an office and funds to establish infrastructure for its task.

The committee is intended to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the September 2008 global political agreement, signed by leaders of all three parties. The panel will attempt to resolve disputes among the parties or government agencies through dialogue, but if it fails the disputes are to be referred to the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union.

A SADC statement last week said the committee is required to be a catalyst in creating and promoting trust and understanding.

On the streets of Harare, some businessmen and civil-rights workers appeared to be hardly aware the committee has been formed, nor did they know about its mandate. One political analyst said the committee will have to embark upon a publicity campaign to educate the public.

Analysts say the committee's most immediate task will be to obtain the release of more than 30 MDC officials and supporters accused of trying to topple Mr. Mugabe from power.

Another complaint which is certain to be lodged with the committee is the reappointment of Gideon Gono as governor of the central bank. This happened soon after last September's agreement, and the MDC is against the reappointment.

Gono, who is also President Robert Mugabe's personal banker, is blamed by the MDC for aggravating the extraordinary collapse of the economy. The economic failure accelerated after productive white-owned, foreign-currency earning farms were seized and handed over to ZANU-PF loyalists after 2000.

In a monetary policy statement Monday he slashed 12 zeroes from the Zimbabwe dollar, the third time he massively devalued the currency since 2006. Gono also canceled all special dispensations and guarantees signed by the government with platinum producers 20 years ago to keep their earnings off shore.

Gono blames international sanctions for the country's ills, although sanctions against Zimbabwe are targeted against President Mugabe and his associates, such as leaders of his ZANU-PF party, some of its companies, and a handful of other businessmen.

Economists say the real reason Zimbabwe cannot raise money internationally is because it cannot pay its bills. Zimbabwe trades normally with all countries including the West.


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Zimbabwe seeks "all support we can get" on cholera

A woman suffering from the symptoms of cholera is taken in a wheelbarrow to a clinic in Harare on December 12, 2008.

A woman suffering from the symptoms of cholera is taken in a wheelbarrow to a clinic in Harare on December 12, 2008.
Photograph by: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo, Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) - A huge international aid effort is needed to help Zimbabwe combat a cholera outbreak that has killed hundreds, the government said on Friday, even though President Robert Mugabe has said it is now contained.

"We need all the support we can get from peace-loving nations," information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporters.

The main opposition MDC also called for more help in fighting the epidemic.

Mugabe, under Western pressure to step down as Zimbabwe's economy and health system collapse, had said on Thursday that "we have arrested cholera."

But the United Nations said the death toll, now nearly 800, was rising.

Ndlovu said the media had misrepresented Mugabe's comments, and presidential spokesman George Charamba said they were taken out of context.

The outbreak follows months of violence and political turmoil in Zimbabwe. Coupled with chronic food shortages, it has highlighted the economic collapse of the southern African country.

The health system is ill-prepared to cope and there is not enough money to pay doctors and nurses or buy medicine. The water system has collapsed, forcing residents to drink from contaminated wells and streams.

Neighboring South Africa is worried about conditions as thousands of Zimbabweans cross the border each day.

DEATH TOLL RISING

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday the death toll from cholera had risen to 792, with 16,700 cases.

"I don't think that the cholera outbreak is under control as of now," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said in Geneva.

"We are not commenting on President Mugabe's assertion because it's not the place to discuss politics now.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for the past 28 years, has accused Western countries of trying to use the cholera outbreak to force him out of power.

"Now that there is no cholera there is no case for war," he said in Thursday's remarks.

Western leaders and some within Africa have called on the 84-year-old leader to step down as the epidemic compounds Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Mugabe on Friday to agree to a rapid deal on a new government.

Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reached a power-sharing deal brokered by regional mediator Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's former president, in September. But they are deadlocked over how to implement it.

The MDC said while it was still committed to the talks, it would not be a part of a unity government unless positions were allocated freely and a new National Security Council was created.

Ban said he had pressed Mugabe in "very tense" private talks two weeks ago in Doha to accept the September 15 agreement.

Asked whether he backed calls for Mugabe to leave office, Ban told a news conference in Geneva: "He should really look for the future of his country and his own people who have been suffering too much and too long from this political turmoil now coupled with very serious humanitarian tragedies.

"I am really appealing and urging him again."

Britain on Friday questioned a U.S. proposal to seal Zimbabwe's borders to hasten the collapse of Mugabe's government, saying the move could have far worse consequences.

Mark Malloch Brown, senior British official for Africa, said if neighboring countries closed their borders, Zimbabweans would have no escape route and the crises would worsen.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Luke Baker in London, editing by Angus MacSwan)