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Mugabe Ends Talks to Resolve Zimbabwe Crisis

VOA

By Peta Thornycroft
Harare
18 January 2008

Despite five intense hours of negotiations with South African President
Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has rejected several proposals
to break the deadlock in talks between his ZANU-PF party and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports that Mr.
Mugabe's rejection of various compromises effectively brings to an end
nearly 10 months of negotiations facilitated by South Africa on behalf of
the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki worked hard to persuade the elderly
Zimbabwe leader to honor pledges made in negotiations since April, according
to African diplomatic sources.

ZANU-PF negotiators had promised South African facilitators and the MDC that
a new constitution would be in place before the next elections and that
elections could be delayed so that reforms and new laws could be
implemented.

The two parties agreed on a new constitution. But in December, ZANU-PF
negotiators and Mr. Mugabe made clear there would be no new constitution
before elections and that the polls would be held on time in March.

President Mbeki offered three alternatives to the Zimbabwean leader. Mr.
Mugabe rejected all of them including one, which would allow the country to
consider the new constitution in a referendum ahead of elections.

Well-placed African diplomatic sources say President Mbeki did not ask the
MDC to change its position.

President Mbeki will now report back to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC), which asked him last March to facilitate the talks to end
the crisis.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mbeki is apparently trying to keep the door open for new
talks.

"You can't doubt the commitment of everybody," he said. "The Zimbabwe
leadership, you can't doubt the commitment of the Zimbabwe leadership to
ensure that all of these challenges that face the country are solved."

The talks did however lead to some reforms of existing laws on security,
media and elections. Time will tell whether the reforms are significant and
if the security services will allow them to be implemented.

The mostly likely date for elections is March 9, according to poll watchers
in Harare.

This will be the first time presidential, parliamentary and senate elections
will be held simultaneously, although it is not clear if Zimbabwe has the
capacity or the infrastructure to hold them.

Analysts say it is not clear if SADC will be able to pressure President
Mugabe back to the negotiating table. It is also unclear if SADC or the
African Union will want to monitor or even observe Zimbabwe's elections.

Negotiating teams from the divided MDC arrive in Johannesburg Friday to
discuss a possible agreement to allow the two factions to run against Mr.
Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF without splitting the opposition vote.


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Zimbabwe: Mbeki puts on a brave face

IOL

January 18 2008 at 06:51PM

By Agencies and Independent Foreign Service

President Thabo Mbeki has put on a brave face after separate talks
with President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

On Friday, a source in the diplomatic community who is close to the
talks in Harare said Mugabe had rejected all Mbeki's suggestions made at the
meeting on Thursday.

However, Mbeki said he was optimistic about the chances of ending
Zimbabwe's political crisis, but he offered no evidence of a breakthrough.

"I don't doubt the commitment of the Zimbabwe leadership to ensuring
that all the country's problems are solved," he said after meeting Mugabe.

"It's really work in progress and very good progress."

Mbeki met Mugabe at a hotel for four hours amid signs that the
government would not yield to opposition demands for a new constitution.

Mbeki also held talks with officials of the two factions of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Asked whether an agreement between the MDC and Mugabe's Zanu-PF was
possible before March elections, Mbeki was guarded.

"I think everybody is very conscious that elections are coming in
March, but everybody is also conscious of the task that has to be handled
before then," he said.

Zimbabwe's government-controlled Herald newspaper said on Thursday
that there was serious division between Zanu-PF and the MDC over the
adoption of a new constitution.

The opposition has demanded that a new constitution be implemented
before a presidential election is held and that the poll be postponed to
June to allow for the legal changes this would herald to take effect.

Mbeki has been mediating between Mugabe's government and the MDC for
nearly a year at the urging of countries in the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) grouping.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since Mugabe
led the nation to independence in 1980, with the world's highest inflation
by far and chronic shortages of food, fuel and most basic goods.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said this week after meeting Mbeki
in Pretoria that a breakthrough in the negotiations might be achieved soon
and an agreement that would pave the way for free elections in March in
Zimbabwe was only days away.

Mugabe has vowed to run for another five-year term, despite
accusations that his government has abused human rights, rigged elections
and destroyed the economy.

This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Argus on
January 18, 2008


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New notes fail to dent Zim cash shortages

Mail and Guardian

Nelson Banya | Harare, Zimbabwe

18 January 2008 04:02

Zimbabwe's central bank introduced new higher value banknotes on
Friday that failed to ease a cash shortage that has kept commercial banks
busy with long queues of desperate residents wanting to withdraw money.

Banknotes have joined a growing list of basic items in short
supply in the crisis-hit country, as inflation soars, prompting the central
bank to introduce Z$10-million bills ($330 at the official exchange rate but
only $3,30 on the black market).

It has also brought in new Z$5-million and Z$1-million bills as
inflation erodes the value of lower denominations like the Z$1 000 notes,
which can usually be found discarded on the street. Daily cash withdrawal
limits have also been raised to Z$500-million from Z$50-million.

Zimbabwe -- gripped by a severe economic crisis blamed on
President Robert Mugabe's policies -- has the highest inflation rate in the
world at nearly 8 000%.

Its people need huge sums of money to carry out simple
transactions and banknote shortages set in last November, reaching a peak
over the Christmas holiday.

Only last month, central bank Governor Gideon Gono brought in
new Z$750 000, Z$500 000 and Z$250 000 notes which, however, fell short of
ending the cash crisis.

This week Gono, who blames thriving black-market trade for the
crunch, said high inflation and frequent wage hikes had also increased
demand for cash and promised the bank would keep currency in circulation at
levels in line with price changes.

On Friday long customer queues persisted at retail banks in
central Harare, even as they started dispensing the new notes and relaxed
strict cash rationing.

Short-term solution
"The only change is that we have been assured by bank officials
we will get our money," said Hendrix Munangati as he waited to be served.
"But we still have to queue."

Economic analysts say while the new measures might clear the
queues in the short term, government needs to revamp its policies to rescue
the economy.

"Shortages will ease for now, but this is just one symptom of a
serious malady that has to be addressed," independent economic analyst
Nhlanhla Nyathi told Reuters.

"As long as the authorities are in denial about inflation, we
are not going to see a lasting solution, apart from regular bursts of money
printing," he said, adding the local dollar was likely to weaken further on
the black market, where most firms are forced to source scant foreign
currency.

"Prices will inevitably rise in tandem, so the root cause of the
economic crisis has to be addressed," Nyathi said.

Once one of the continent's brightest hopes, Zimbabwe has seen
its economy shrink by over 40% since 2000, when Mugabe's government seized
white-held commercial farms to resettle landless black Zimbabweans.

Mugabe (83), in power since independence from Britain in 1980,
denies mismanaging the economy, which he says has been undermined by Western
nations opposed to his land reforms. -- Reuters


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Building societies fail to get delivery of new notes



By Tichaona Sibanda
18 January 2008

Most building societies in the country were unable to dispense the new
denomination banknotes after failing to get delivery of the new bearer
cheques from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The new notes hit the streets on Friday but were only available from banking
institutions like Standard Chartered, Stanbic and Barclays.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa witnessed many people who failed to
withdraw any money, after being told by building society officials that
there was no money to give out.
‘Those who have accounts at commercial banks had no problems withdrawing
their cash but others who bank with CABS, Beverley and the POSB left the
banks frustrated after failing to get any money,’ Muchemwa said.

The central bank introduced the new higher-denomination banknotes saying it
was an effort to ease the critical shortage of cash in the country – an
impossible task when independent analysts estimate that inflation could be
as high as 100 000 percent.

The highest value note that went into circulation is worth Z$10m. Other
notes issued are Z$5,000 000 and Z$1,000 000. RBZ governor Gideon Gono
described the introduction of the new notes as crucial in eradicating the
long queues for cash.

Our correspondent said government’s only response to the crisis has been to
print more money - a futile exercise that only adds to the hyperinflation.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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The disappearing dollar


Photo: Antony Kaminju/IRIN
The Zimbabwe dollar is no longer welcome
HARARE, 18 January 2008 (IRIN) - Faith in the Zimbabwe dollar has withered in rural areas where the local currency is being sidelined in favour of foreign exchange and barter trade.

Analysts say consumers are avoiding the currency since a world record-breaking inflation rate - now officially at 8,000 percent but unofficially estimated at 25,000 percent - has made holding Zimbabwean cash pointless.

"Because of the ever deteriorating economy, villages are now awash with money from beyond our borders,” Innocent Makwiramiti, an economist and former chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, told IRIN.

“Nine years ago, the foreign currency black market was subdued, even in urban areas, and rural people hardly knew what the South African rand, the [Botswana] pula or the US dollar looked like - what it means is loss of faith in the local currency," Makwiramiti said.

The economic deterioration in Zimbabwe since the introduction of President Robert Mugabe’s controversial land-reform programme in 2000 has been astonishing: agricultural decline has left Zimbabwe unable to feed itself, industry has shrunk to a third of its pre-2000 size and unemployment is estimated at 80 percent.

The government’s Central Statistical Office has stopped releasing monthly inflation figures because commodity prices are rising so rapidly.

Crossing the border

The Illegal foreign currency trade used to be confined to urban areas, but people in the countryside, struggling to survive, have turned to cross-border trade, making foreign currency peddling essential.

"People in rural areas used to depend on members of their families working in urban areas for groceries, school fees, agricultural inputs and general upkeep, because salaries then were meaningful,” Makwiramiti explained.

"Now the working class is struggling, and that means hardly any financial support to those residing outside urban areas, forcing rural people to periodically cross the border to neighbouring countries, where they sell various forms of commodities and bring back foreign currency, which remains strong, as inflation plays havoc."

Foreign currency remittances from Zimbabweans working abroad also go to friends and family in rural areas, and are used in day-to-day transactions.

More than three million Zimbabweans are estimated to have relocated to other countries in southern Africa, or the UK where pay is far better and in hard currency.

''People don't want to have the Zimbabwean dollar because there is hardly any value in it... foreign currency - even for rural people - is proving to be the prefered option''
"People don't want to have the Zimbabwean dollar because there is hardly any value in it, given the rate at which prices of commodities are rising, and dealing in foreign currency - even for rural people - is proving to be the preferred option," Eric Bloch, an independent economist and consultant to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, told IRIN. "You don't have many examples the world over of people who have lost so much trust in their own money."

Samukeliso Ndari, 50, of Chirumanzi district in Midlands Province, said, “Everyone in this village, including old people like me, understands how important it is to keep their money as foreign currency rather the worthless Zimbabwean dollar."

She recently exchanged a goat for 100kg of maizemeal, Zimbabwe’s staple food. "It would not make sense for me to accept our local cash and then start struggling to find the scarce maize, whose price would have increased by the time I buy it."


[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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Expert's Advice To Tame Zimbabwean Hyperinflation: Shut Central Bank

VOA

By Blessing Zulu
Washington
18 January 2008

Monetary economist Steve Hanke, who over the years has advised a number of
countries on how to stop a hyperinflationary spiral like the one that has
developed in Zimbabwe, says one way to stabilize prices would be to close
the Reserve Bank and put a new monetary regime in place that would restrict
the money supply.

In an interview with VOA, Hanke explained that this drastic strategy could
take several forms. One would be to dollarize the economy, making the U.S.
currency or the South African rand the only legal tender, abolishing the
battered Zimbabwe dollar. Another would be to establish a currency board,
which would involve setting aside enough foreign exchange to back a fixed
amount of national currency in circulation.

Another approach is a system called free banking, under which private banks
issue paper money under regulation, such that multiple currencies would
co-exist.

“A completely free banking system has no central bank, no lender of last
resort, no reserve requirements, and no legal restrictions on bank
portfolios, interest rates, or branch banking," Hanke says, noting that 60
countries have had free banking since the 1800s and that the system, while
unconventional, has worked quite well.

Hanke told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that moving
to one of these alternative systems would signal a break with the
unrestricted money printing that created hyperinflation, assuring
Zimbabweans that prices would remain stable.


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Education System Collapsing Under Weight Of Zimbabwe Economic Crisis

VOA

By Carole Gombakomba
Washington
18 January 2008

Zimbabwe's first school term of 2008 began this week amid shortages of two
critical elements: teachers and money. Fewer than half the required teachers
showed up in many schools while parents strained to come up with scarce cash
to pay soaring school fees and meet other expenses such as uniforms and food
supplies.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has called a slowdown by its
members to enforce demands for a large salary increase having turned down an
offer by the government to boost compensation including allowances by
1,000%.

The union says the government must take action to stem the exodus of
teachers to South Africa and other neighboring countries in search of
economic survival.

At least 25,000 teachers are estimated to have emigrated last year - South
Africa has actively recruited Zimbabwean teachers to meet its own
educational needs.

School fees have gone up by an average 600%. Parents must come up with
hundreds of millions of Zimbabwean dollars to meet fees and other school
expenses. Children are required to bring food stocks when they return to
private boarding schools.

With one teacher for 60 students and eight pupils sharing one textbook,
Zimbabwe is rapidly losing its reputation for having the best education
system in Southern Africa.

Experts predict a higher school drop-out and failure rate as the country’s
education system continues to reflect the stress of a collapsing general
economy.

For a closer look at the crisis, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio
7 for Zimbabwe spoke with parent and teacher Abigail Tagwirei, who is also
vice president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, and opposition
member Fidelis Mhashu, chairman of the parliamentary committee on education.

Tagwirei said the mood in schools is troubling as high transport costs,
chronic water and power cuts, food shortages and other woes undermine
educational efforts.


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Chaos in Schools As Teachers Continue Go-Slow



SW Radio Africa (London)

18 January 2008
Posted to the web 18 January 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

As the first week of school this year comes to an end, the situation at most
institutions is reported to be chaotic. Oswald Madziva, National Coordinator
of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), said even more
teachers have left the country, although no exact figures have been
compiled. Those at work are currently on a "go-slow."

Madziva explained that teachers are leaving for greener departures even
though government offered them a 1000% increase in salaries. He said the
raise means the lowest paid teachers make Z$260 million, including housing
and transport allowance. Madziva explained that even this is not enough
because of the hyperinflation.

Madziva said another crucial issue has been the cash shortages. Teachers and
students are having a hard time accessing enough money to pay for transport
and other educational needs, because the banks run out of notes every day.
Bus fares were also hiked this week. Madziva said a trip from Harare to
Bulawayo now costs Z$35-50 million. Teachers and students had not budgeted
for these increases.

As for school fees, Madziva said schools are not making enough money to
remain open because government is controlling the fees. This has forced many
schools to devise other ways of raising funds. The recent decision to make
students at boarding schools bring their own food is one of the ways in
which schools are trying to save money.

Madziva said the "go-slow would continue until the salary dispute is
resolved. He said teachers want to be at work, but it is impossible for them
to make ends meet.


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Harare Water Crisis Attributed To Shortage Of Purification Chemicals

VOA

By Patience Rusere
Washington
18 January 2008

Critical shortages of water in many parts of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital,
continued on Friday for the fifth straight day though sources said
deliveries of chemicals needed to purify water raised the prospect of a
return to something like normal conditions.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Friday that conditions had
improved, though independent checks with sources around the city indicated
that many districts outside the center remained without water. The Herald
said the restoration of electric power for 24 straight hours to the Morton
Jaffray Water Works and a new shipment of purification chemicals allowed the
plant to resume pumping water into the system.

The Herald said Water Minister Munacho Mutezo visited the plant Thursday,
voicing appreciation for support in the crisis from the Zimbabwe Electricity
Supply Authority and other key suppliers including Zimphos, a local chemical
producer.

The minister urged the public to make sparing use of the available water.

But the newspaper acknowledged that status reports Thursday showed the
Harare districts of Mabvuku, Tafara, Highlands, Borrowdale, Hatcliffe,
Chisipite, Ruwa and Epworth without water, though the central business
district was well provided.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe on Friday
visited the Morton Jaffray plant where staff said chemical shortages caused
the crisis.

Combined Harare Residents Association officer Joseph Rose said the water
minister’s visits to the plant had merely been an effort to seem to be doing
something, because the water supply had long been deteriorating nothing was
done about it.


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Zim election: 'March is too early'

IOL

January 18 2008 at 10:13AM

Zimbabwe's opposition has urged South African President Thabo Mbeki on
Thursday to try and persuade his counterpart Robert Mugabe to delay
elections due in March, opposition and government sources said.

Mbeki held some three hours of talks with Mugabe at state house in
Harare before then meeting with officials from the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change at the South African embassy, AFP correspondents
reported.

While there was no official word on the talks before a scheduled press
conference with Mugabe and Mbeki, insiders said the MDC had lobbied for the
joint presidential and parliamentary elections to be held back.

"The opposition is trying to get President Mbeki to persuade President
Mugabe to postpone the poll but I doubt if the president (Mugabe) will agree
to this," a Zimbabwean government official said on condition of anonymity.

An MDC official meanwhile confirmed the party did not want the
elections to be held before a new constitution is put in place, something
for which Mugabe has shown little enthusiasm.

"The main issue which we feel has to be addressed is the issue of the
constitution, then we can start talking about the elections," he said.

"We would be happy to have the elections any time after March but we
feel March is too early."

Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in
1980, has yet to set a date for the elections when he will seek a sixth term
at the helm of the country grappling with the world's highest rate of
inflation.

The MDC, which accuses the 83-year-old of fixing his last re-election,
has warned Mugabe not to rig the outcome this time if he wants to avoid a
repeat of the recent violence which followed disputed elections in Kenya.

Mugabe was tasked by fellow leaders of the Southern African
Development Community with mediating between the ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union - Patriotic Front and the MDC after several opposition
leaders were beaten up the security services. - Sapa-AFP


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MIC invites Daily News to apply for registration

New Zimbabwe

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 01/18/2008 21:54:08
ZIMBABWE’S media regulatory body has invited a daily paper banned five years
ago to apply for registration, reports said.

The Media and Information Commission (MIC) has been recomposed to hear the
application after a judge said its chairman, Tafataona Mahoso, was
politically compromised and impartial.

The new special committee -- appointed last November by Information Minister
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu -- is headed by Chinondidyachii Mararike, another vocal
supporter of President Robert Mugabe which is accused of stifling free
media.

The Daily News and its sister paper, The Daily News on Sunday, was banned in
2003 for allegedly breaching the country’s new media laws, specifically
regulations relating to the registration of mass media services.

Since then, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the
two papers, have launched marathon legal challenges in the High Court and
Supreme Court to get the paper re-registered, but to no avail.

Last year, a High Court judge ordered the Information Minister to facilitate
a fresh hearing of the Daily News’ application without delay.

Mararike told the state-run Herald newspaper that there would be no
automatic registration for the paper, but his committee would “make sure
that the application is handled by the special board in a fair and just
manner”.

He said: "In fact, we want to encourage anybody and everybody to come and
register as a mass media house within the confines of the laws, regulations
and procedures.

"In any case we are guided by the administration of Justice Act in our
deliberations for the single reason that as a special MIC board committee we
operate as an administrative board and a quasi judicial body who are
expected to be fair and reasonable.

“In that respect, the committee has very clear and straightforward tasks to
perform; to act lawfully, reasonably and fairly and that entails that the
ANZ application complies with AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act) and the regulations governing the registration of mass media
providers and, to observe rules of natural justice when determining the
application.”

The Daily News, owned by Econet Wireless boss Strive Masiyiwa, was the
country's biggest selling newspaper and constantly attracted attacks from
government ministers and supporters over its apparent opposition bias. The
paper's printing press and offices were bombed. No arrests were ever made.


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Group plans protest over 1980s atrocities

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Saturday 19 January 2008

BULAWAYO – A Bulawayo-based pressure group says it will tomorrow stage
protests in the city demanding compensation for thousands of victims of a
1980s government crackdown that left about 20 000 people dead.

The pressure group, Ibhetshi Likazulu, was formed about two years ago
to push for compensation for victims of the atrocities commonly known as
Gukurahundi (vernacular term for early seasonal rains that wash away the
chaff). The group has since 2006 organised commemorations to mark the
atrocities.

President Robert Mugabe’s government unleashed a crack unit of the
army in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces in the early 1980s to crush
a rebellion by former PF ZAPU liberation war fighters.

The massacres only stopped following a Unity Accord between Mugabe’s
ruling ZANU PF party and the then opposition PF ZAPU party led by veteran
nationalist Joshua Nkomo.

“The government has neglected families, children and survivors of the
operation and on Sunday we will be marching, demanding urgent compensation,”
said Qhubekani Dube, the spokesman for the group.

Mugabe, who has said the atrocities were “an act of madness”, has
however refused to publicly apologise for the operation.

A report by the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice, says the
crackdown resulted in the death of about 20 000 people, mostly civilians.

Tomorrow’s protest follows the launch last year of a documentary,
“Gukurahundi: A moment of madness,” by producer Zenzele Ndebele.

There were reports late last year that Ndebele was in hiding after
state security agents were said to be not happy with the documentary that
portrayed the Zimbabwean government in bad light.

It was not clear last night whether the civic group had notified the
police of their plans as required under the Public Order and Security Act
(POSA). The police have in the past violently crushed any protests by
Zimbabwean civic groups.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
and human rights activists say perpetrators of the atrocities should be held
accountable and be hauled before the international courts to face justice. -
ZimOnline


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Zimbabwe students to protest over fees

Zim Online

by Brendon Tulani Saturday 19 January 2008

BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe student movement leaders will next week meet to plot
nationwide protests against fee hikes at universities and other tertiary
schools, as an acute economic crisis continues to stoke up tensions in the
country.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating political and economic crisis –
blamed on repression and wrong policies by President Robert Mugabe – and
which has seen inflation shoot to more than 24 000 percent according to
independent analysts while prices of basic commodities and services have
spiralled.

Several public universities this week announced fee hikes of more than 2 000
percent in step with galloping inflation but Zimbabwe National Students
Union (ZINASU) officials said yesterday the union would lead protests
against the hikes which they described as an attempt to deny education to
the poor.

"Most of the students come from poor peasant farmer families and civil
servants enduring chronic poverty who can ill-afford the unjustified
increases. As ZINASU we view this as commercialisation of education," ZINASU
President Washington Katema told Zimonline.

"Education is a basic human right and government should not be seen to deny
the poor university education," added Katema, who said ZINASU would meet on
Monday.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was not immediately available to comment
on the matter. However, the police have in the past brutally suppressed
protests by students, fearing they could easily incite anti-government riots
by a populace driven to the edge by worsening economic hardships.

Zimbabwe’s economic crisis - described by the World Bank as the worst in the
world outside a war zone - has spawned shortages of food, fuel, electricity,
essential medicines hard cash and just about every basic survival commodity.

ZINASU represents 43 colleges and universities in Zimbabwe. Katema said the
union will use next week’s meeting to also discuss the general political
situation in the country in the light of parliamentary and presidential
elections next March.

Zimbabwe’s once proud public education sector is in a state of near total
collapse due to years of under-funding and mismanagement. Protests have
become routine at state colleges and universities as both students and
lecturers press for better facilities, stipends and salaries. - ZimOnline


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Cheaper, more accessible ARVs might be on the cards

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs -
Integrated Regional Information Networks - PlusNews

Date: 18 Jan 2008

HARARE, 18 January 2008 (PLUSNEWS) - Life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV)
medication is in perilously short supply in Zimbabwe, and exorbitant prices
have kept the scarce drugs out of reach for most HIV-positive Zimbabweans.
Could local manufacture make them cheaper and easier to obtain?

Varichem Pharmaceuticals, a local pharmaceutical company, can manufacture
ARVs but crippling foreign currency shortages have made it difficult to
import the raw materials for the ARVs and the company was forced to stop
production.

Galloping inflation and a drought of foreign currency have crippled the
health sector, creating shortages of drugs, medical equipment, and
personnel, who have migrated in search of better salaries and living
conditions.

The Herald, an official daily Zimbabwean newspaper, reported last week that
a one-month prescription of Stalenev 30, a common first-line ARV drug, now
cost Z$85 million (about US$42.50 at the parallel exchange rate). Most
Zimbabweans earn less than Z$3 million a month (US$1.5) or are unemployed.
At private pharmacies the drugs can cost up to four times the price as at
subsidised public dispensaries.

However, a recent announcement that Varichem Pharmaceuticals had upgraded
its drug-manufacturing factory to meet international standards could offer a
solution to Zimbabwe's cash-strapped government, which is battling to scale
up its national treatment programme.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided US$2.1 million for
the upgrading process and trained Varichem staff to use the latest ARV
manufacturing technology. Managing director Tobias Zangare said the ARV
manufacturing plant now had to be tested and certified by the World Health
Organisation (WHO).

But there was no consensus on whether manufacturing the drugs locally would
make much difference. With construction of the ARV manufacturing plant
complete and only awaiting WHO certification, the approval would allow them
to apply for foreign funding to capitalise their operations.

"The most important thing is that we will be able to apply for funding from
international donors such as the Global Fund to fight HIV and AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria," Zangare told journalists.

In the absence of local regulatory authorities, WHO has stepped in to
provide a stringent quality assessment of its own, and passing WHO's
prequalification scheme is a requirement for countries seeking funding for
local manufacturing from the Global Fund.

Health and child welfare minister David Parirenyatwa welcomed the move,
saying, "Once certified, Varichem Pharmaceuticals would be able to secure
foreign currency orders and improve on production, thereby producing enough
drugs for our people and for export to other countries."

AIDS activists remain unconvinced. Reverend Maxwell Kapachawo, head of the
Zimbabwe Network of Religious leaders Living with or Personally Affected by
HIV and AIDS (ZINERELA+), a rights group, told IRIN/PlusNews that Varichem
Pharmaceuticals might not necessarily make ARVs more affordable.

"As a private company, their motive could be pursing profits and so I think
government agencies could come in and play a role to ensure the
life-prolonging treatment is available to ordinary people.

Kudzi Matombo (not her real name) told IRIN/PlusNews that she had been
forced to use her personal savings to buy the expensive drugs, as she was
still on the waiting list for free government ARV drugs.

"I am now depending on relatives and friends working overseas to send me
money for ARV drugs because my earnings as a junior manager at a fast-foods
outlet is not even enough to sustain me for basic needs like food, shelter
and clothing."

Joseph Moyo, who tested HIV positive two years ago, said he welcomed the
initiative to manufactures the drugs locally. "My assumption is that if the
drugs are manufactured in Zimbabwe, then there is hope that they might be
affordable."

According to government statistics, only 90,000 people are on ARV therapy,
while close to 400,000 are in urgent need of ARV drugs.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or
its agencies.


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Market hemorrhaged by massive profit taking

New Zimbabwe

By Lance Mambondiani
Last updated: 01/18/2008 23:09:42
OVERVIEW

THE Zimbabwean economy is perhaps a classic case of economic endurance
against impossible odds. Very few fundamentals make any sense. Monetary
policies have been stretched to the limit and far beyond the comprehension
of anyone outside the country’s borders.

How, this small country, the last on the world’ s alphabet of countries, has
kept afloat within such a calamitous economic minefield will require a
doctoral thesis to comprehend. With Z$1 billion worth approximately GBP100,
it is perhaps easy to rationalise the flight of thousands of skilled labour
into neighbouring countries as economic refugees. At current fuel prices,
Z$1 billion dollars buys two full tanks of gas.

The recent cash crisis highlights the shortcomings of the current economic
and monetary policies and the resurgent dominance of an informal market
resulting from command control and highly regulated policies stretched
beyond realism.

With approximately 82 percent of the population reportedly unemployed,
statistics suggest that Zimbabwe has the largest informal sector in Africa
since the year 2000. A previous empirical study established that that the
informal sector in Zimbabwe was 59.4 percent to the GDP, by far the largest
in Africa followed by Tanzania at 58.3 percent and 57.9 percent for Nigeria.
The expansion of the informal sector in Zimbabwe appears to be ‘supply
driven’ with a lot of people engaging in the informal sector as a survival
activity for them to earn a living due to the deteriorating macroeconomic
conditions.

Indications are that a significant portion of the country’s skilled labour
left their jobs to trade commodities on the thriving ‘black/parallel/
informal market’. It is quite possible that with approximately 60 percent of
the population having turned into traders, the inflated prices on the
parallel market is due to 3 or more layers of middle men, with the same
commodities being sold more than enough times until it gets to the consumer.

Unfortunately for the government, there is no amount of police crackdown,
without a matching increase in supply, likely to stop a culture seemingly
embedded in a people legitimately loyal to their stomachs. Even when the
economy improves, it will be extremely difficult for informal traders to
abandon street hustling and consider the option of a salaried job.

Despite the government’s denial of the influence of the black market in
pricing, indications are that a significant amount of business is
consummated in the informal markets. Whilst the influence of ‘Roadport
traders’ on the currency markets is undeniably obvious, it seems
increasingly possible to assume that the psychology of the average stock
market investor in Zimbabwe reflects that of a black market trader.

Except for a few counters, the stock market is increasingly under pressure
from traders seeking short-term gains with little regard for trading on
value or based on sound portfolio selection methods. There is no doubt, that
since the Bull Run started, the stock market has produced as many cash
barons (somewhat more legitimate) than the good folks at Roadport, the only
difference being that there are no police cars chasing you or asking for a
bribe on the stock exchange.

STOCK MARKET UPDATE

With the currency markets cooling off due to a cocktail of factors analyzed
later in this report. The Bull Run on the ZSE also came to a screeching halt
loosing ground in a week of negative trading as sellers dominated the
market. The ZSE opened the week with losses across most counters due to
profit taking across most counters.

On Monday, the industrial index shed 0.30 percent to end the day at
2,459,817,050.90 points with losses recorded in Cottco, Natfoods, CFI, Caps
and Zimsun. The mining index recovered 10.08 percent to 2,198,817,050.90
points, due to gains in Bindura. The losses were repeated on Tuesday with 24
counters trading in the red and the industrial index shedding off 7.01
percent to end the day at 2,287,301,786.69 points.

The diversified conglomerate, Kingdom Meikles Africa Limited (KMAL) listed
on the ZSE on Monday 14 January with the share price adjusting up 33,3
percent to Z$20 million per share led losses across several counters in a
day in which Pioneer, DZHL, Natfoods and HIPPO were all in the red. The
resource index retreated 1.32 percent to 2,168.988,714.11 points due to
losses in Bindura and Hwange. With no change in fundamentals or policy, the
general losses on the market, is a cyclical cashing in blip and not a
sufficient reason to suggest that the stock market is ready to slow down.
The recent gains in a protracted Bull Run season have resulted in widespread
profit taking as investors decided to cash in on the extraordinary gains
since the beginning of the year.

The bulls had certainly run so hard that prices got ahead of themselves.
Despite the recent cooling off, more than 14 counters have already recorded
a YTD more than 100 percent since the 1st of January 2008. Counters such as
Celsys are up 240 percent, Chemco 200 percent, Zimsun 265 percent and
StarAfrica 212.5 percent.

The average yield of the market is approximately 98.9 percent indicating
that most investors have doubled their money since the beginning of the year
with currency rates stagnating within the Z$7-8 million to the GBP range.
More profit is collectively made on the stock exchange than in any other
productive sector in the country. Any investor who records a cumulative
return on investment of more than 200 percent within a 7-day trading period
would be brave not to grab a sell off opportunity.

Where do we see Opportunities?

Profit taking within a steaming bull run often provides a golden opportunity
for investors to restructure their portfolios with fresh picks trading at
undercut prices. A number of counters with strong earnings capacity such as
such as DZHL, KMAL, and Bindura will shortly be on the rebound as the market
seeks an inevitable correction. If the market retreat has been based on
profit taking ‘herd behaviour’ it is possible that the correction will occur
imminently. We put our money on a significant adjustment on KMAL, down to
Z$15,000,000.00 after touching Z$20,000,000.00 on Monday. NMB, which shed
off 17.65 percent and trading at a Price Earnings (p/e) ratio of 2,592.6 is
always a good buy.

Investors should also consider that Zimpapers which seems to be at the
bottom of any portfolio manager’s picks. Our assessment is that Zimpaper’s
Q1 earnings capacity looks good. The forthcoming March elections and the
current showdown between politicians regarding parallel market activities
will see an increase in newspaper circulation and the company’s revenues. No
news sells like news of political dogfights.

Besides previously starting slow, indications are that the ZECO IPO may be
oversubscribed when the offer closes on the 25th of January. There has been
a significant interest in the IPO from subscribers in the diaspora,
increasingly seeking investment opportunities in Zimbabwe. Our previous
valuation of ZECO using the Net Asset Value (NAV) formula yielded a value of
Z$46,421.80 per share, representing an 83 percent premium and upside
potential on the offer price. Factoring a 10 percent market driven
appreciation of the price by 22 February based on historical market
irrationality, our conservative and probably ‘irrational’ estimates yields a
fair price of approximately Z$55 000 per share. The offer price is therefore
a possible bargain.

By the time the company lists on the stock exchange on the 22nd of February,
the offer price will most likely be way below market value and can easily
correct significantly in the first week of trading followed by a possible
stagnation thereafter. On a practical level, ZECO will face the usual
challenges in the manufacturing sector such as a hyperinflationary
environment, price controls and foreign currency constraints. As a business,
ZECO relies heavily on the performance of other economic sectors such as
mining, agriculture and the transport sector. Whilst the long-term outlook
for the manufacturing sector may be brighter, the short-term prospects do
not look so good. So given this scenario is the ZECO IPO a good buy?

To subscribe for shares in the ZECO IPO, contact the Coronation Team before
the 23rd of January 2008. The IPO closes on the 25th of January 2008.

At an offer price of Z$24,927 a share, the IPO price is underpriced and
considerably below the expected trading price on the first day of listing.
The reasons for the underpricing may be varied. It may well be possible that
on a basic level, the costs of going public are much lower than the benefits
especially within hyperinflation making an IPO so attractive that a firm is
willing to accept higher than usual underpricing to take advantage of the
good IPO climate. Without the financial jargon, our optimism on the
adjustment of the share price on listing is based on a concept known as ‘hot
issue market phenomenon’ in which underpricing may result in periods of
higher initial returns provided the market is in a bullish state. We still
rate this as a buy.

Exchange Rates

Exchange rates on the parallel market remained stagnant during the week
under review, with traders in London quoting rates between Z$7,500,000.00 to
Z$8,000,000.00 to the Pound Sterling down from previous week’s high of
Z$9,000,000.00. Roadport rates were much lower with the USD fetching close
to Z$3,000,000.00 reflecting a huge trading difference between cash
transactions and transfers. Rates are expected to remain steady in the next
couple of weeks due to cautious trades ahead of the elections.

Rate movements will also be affected by the political row currently brewing
between politicians and the central bank governor who is set to ‘name and
shame’ senior government official allegedly involved in illegal parallel
market transactions before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget
and Finance on Monday. This comes within increased pressure from other
sectors such as the Economic Crimes court and controversial MP, Leo Mugabe
calling for the highly influential governor to be investigated on
allegations of the central bank’s trading in the parallel market. There is
every indication that a political showdown is looming between the warring
parties with possible arrest of a number of officials as parties engage in a
mud-slinging match. These wrestling matches, much to do with politics than
the economy will result in careful trades from big traders in the next
couple of months

For exchange rate updates exchange rate analysis contact Crown Exchange by
text on 07960162142 or email crownexchange@btinternet.com Service available
in UK, USA and SA.

Regardless, exchange rates will most likely be supported at current level
due to continued requirements for food imports and payments needed for
critical supplies such as electricity and fuel. Rates will therefore swing
between demand and supply and political deference.

Personal Finance

Why you should consider drafting your Will?

It is important for anyone who has accumulated some bit of assets to
consider drawing up a Will to specify the inheritance of their assets.
Studies have shown that fewer African people take time to draw up their
Wills mainly due to cultural apprehensions regarding death. As difficult as
it is for many of us to accept the inevitable, we all have to go sometime.
People are also living so long that they put off drafting their Wills until
it’s too late. Besides the obvious need to protect your assets, biblical
wisdom also suggest that ‘a wise men leaves an inheritance for his children
and for your children’s children’.

Arranging to pass on your wealth to the next generation is the cornerstone
of sustainable generational wealth creation. The highly nomadic habits of
many Zimbabweans have started to complicate how people structure and manage
their assets. This is particularly problematic when you have assets in
different countries. With more than 3 million Zimbabweans estimated to be in
the Diaspora, very few would have made a plan regarding how their assets
should be distributed in the unfortunate even of their passing on,
especially if this were to happen in a foreign territory.

Whatever your adult age, it's wise to have a will. I strongly recommend that
you consult a lawyer as soon as you can and write a will, or update the one
you have if it's more than three years old. You can also prepare a DIY Will
using self-help kits available in many bookshops. However, since you will
probably accumulate during your lifetime more wealth than you had ever
expected to leave to your heirs, it is advisable to seek professional advice
on how to draw up a Will that will stand scrutiny in a court of law because
if you make just one slip, your Will may be worthless. If you are in the UK,
we recommend that you contact Gaskins Solicitors, highly successful firm of
solicitors based in Milton Keynes led by Jamie Garande, a Zimbabwean trained
lawyer. The firm has an understanding of personal finance. The contact
details for the firm are available on their website
www.gaskinssolicitors.co.uk. We recommend that you consider protecting your
assets as seriously as you consider making them.

Lance Mambondiani is an Investment Executive at Coronation Financial Plc, an
International Financial Advisory company registered in the UK trading in
Southern Africa and the United Kingdom. He can be contacted at
coronation.uk@btinternet.com. Please contact us should you wish to subscribe
to our mailing list. You can also contact the Coronation team on; Business
lines +44 161 346 9559 or mobile +44 790 3293 227.
_____________________
The foregoing has been prepared solely for information purposes only based
on independent research by Coronation, no representation or warranty;
express or implied is made to its accuracy or completeness. Coronation
therefore accepts no liability for any loss arising, whether direct or
indirect, caused by the use of any part of the information provided. To
discuss any of these investment options in detail please contact Coronation
Advisory 2007 Reg No. 06342947


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Makoni: The carpet under which ZANU PF chaff will be swept



Silence Chihuri

Simba Makoni is being touted in and outside Zimbabwe as a possible
challenger to Mugabe in the forthcoming presidential elections in which he
will be the flag bearer of a hitherto-be formed political party.

It is claimed that so exciting is this Project Makoni that the BBC being
officially banned from Zimbabwe, had to border-jump into the country at
great risk for their Chief Correspondent John Simpson simply to cover the
developing news. The problem with the west at times is that they think they
know and understand our politics much better than we do. Already they think
Makoni has all the answers to our problems and that he will definitely win
the elections. The truth could never be further!

The formation of another political party is always a welcome development
because if such party is effective enough to make its mark policy and
strategy wise, then the whole democratic process becomes enriched. The
problem with people like Makoni however is that while he is a man of
colourful personal credentials i.e. his academic qualifications et al, his
achievements in office are very far from inspiring. Makoni has a dismal
record in office and he will not perform any miracles as president. His is a
record blemished with underachievement in all the ministries he has headed
as well as that unforgivable conspiracy to the ruinous ZANU PF project. His
head is sunken right deep into the stench of ZANU PF misrule and he has
never really raised it above that shameful parapet.

The problem with us Zimbabweans is not our forgiving nature but rather our
forgetfulness. How can anyone forget that these Makonis, Dabengwas and
Mujurus are simply as ZANU PF as the rest of them? We have all heard enough
about Makoni’s so called Midas touch and how he will present the real
challenge to Robert Mugabe. But what people need to know now and to put into
perspective is the history of Makoni and his cheerleaders in ZANU PF and
their conspiracy to this entirely ruinous project. That Makoni was a total
failure at SADC where he spent 10 years is out the question because that is
not the problem with his supposed ‘re-entry’ into politics at the highest
level.

The problem with Makoni and his grouped of disgraced spent forces being
touted as our potential saviours is that the whole thing smirks of national
desperation of a nature that is an unforgivable insult to the souls of the
people who have died at the hands of ZANU PF brutality. I will promptly
point out that there is nothing wrong with the MDC courting ordinary
Zimbabweans who currently belong to ZANU PF. It is universally agreed fact
that political parties do not necessarily have to manufacture ‘new’
supporters where these may potentially be tainted, but that they have to
appeal to the same people who support their opposite number to come to their
fold. On the same token ZANU PF supporters are no different and they should
be lured to the MDC stable where they must be shown the light.

There is every problem however, with the idea of luring senior members of
ZANU PF who have been sitting in Politburo meetings where for all this time
decisions to decimate MDC leaders have been orchestrated. How can the same
people then cross the line and become to the torch bearers of the struggle
against the same ZANU PF tyranny. God will really need to bless the people
of our strife torn country if that is just how desperate we are for
saviours. Other people have even gotten carried away to the extent of
suggesting that Morgan Tsvangirai should step aside for Makoni to lead the
so-called broad alliance of democratic forces! Tsvangirai has been at the
frontline in the this fight against the same ZANU PF beast and he has been
left for dead at the hands of ZANU PF thugs dressed in police uniform. How
on earth can anyone in their sane senses think that someone from ZANU PF can
then come to take over the people’s revolution? If the MDC wants to be
rejected by the people who have stood by them for all these years, then the
party must enter into any form of adulterous relationship with Makoni and
his ilk.

The Makoni project may well be oil and greased with the money that has been
fleeced out of the Zimbabwean people the majority of whom are going for days
on end without seeing a meal, not to mention a decent one. This is money
that has been stolen from the people and it is now being used to sustain the
power of the selfish few who have been milking our nation dry for all these
years. How many scandals have erupted under the noses of ZANU PF and have
gone unchallenged leaving certain people filthy rich? And why should the
people of Zimbabwe allows these dogs of war to use the proceeds of their
evil exploits to prop up themselves? This is not a fight against Mugabe’s
tyranny it is the survival of a mafia that cannot imagine itself living an
ordinary life.

The truth of the matter is that all of those names being put forward to
front the Makoni project are all political prostitutes and spent forces.
This is all dead wood that has been used and dumped by ZANU PF. They are all
political dandies that have been chewed out of their sugars and are no
longer of any use. None of these people ever resigned in courage and dignity
as a way of protesting against the madness that is ZANU PF. These are people
who were either sacked by Mugabe or were simply dropped from the government
merry-go-round because they had outlived their usefulness to ZANU PF. What
use to our nation could be these ZANU PF stumps that have nothing left in
them at all that they could offer to our nation so desperate for real
leaders to take us out of this ZANU PF prescribed mess?

Makoni, Dabengwa, Mujuru, and their lot are simply selfish people who have
just discovered that the ZANU PF project is finished and they now want to
cut and run in the name is presenting the real challenge to Mugabe. As for
Makoni he is actually rubbing his hands because he thinks he is in for a
kill this time. How can they present a real challenge to themselves? Where
were they all this time? As for Dabengwa he is one of the people who has let
the people of Matabeleland down for years while being used by Mugabe for his
own selfish ends. Dabengwa was used by Mugabe as one of few people
cherry-picked yes people to represent the face of Bulawayo and it was people
like him (Dabengwa), who actually presented Mugabe with the mask behind
which he was hiding away from the people of Matabeleland for all these
years.

As for Mujuru who is the said financier and anchor of the new political
project is none other than the husband of Joyce Mujuru who during her years
in the higher echelons of ZANU PF has spitted nothing but venom in the
direction of the MDC. What is it really that separates the two who share the
same bed and recap on their daily routines while brainstorming about the
morrow in each other’s arms? The truth of the matter is that Makoni will
simply serve as a political carpet under which all the ZANU PF rot will be
swept should he ever be allowed any authoritative space in which to operate.
There is too much graft associated with this ZANU PF establishment that
allowing any of their lot a lifeline into the next political dispensation in
Zimbabwe would be an affront to justice. Why give ZANU PF a kiss of life by
entertaining Makoni and his bandwagon?

What Zimbabwe needs really is the coming together of the democratic forces
into a rainbow coalition or alliance to oust ZANU PF and that should never
be mistaken for being led down the footpath by ZANU PF accomplices. There
are no democratic forces among the current crop of ZANU PF leadership and
Makoni is right there in their midst. Makoni has already stated anyway that
he and his colleagues are very keen to carry on with the ZANU PF ideology
without re-writing it. We all know what ZANU PF ideology is all about. It is
all about killing political opponents, torturing opposition leaders,
starving opposition supporters, as well burning the homes of innocent
villages that are already feeling the strain of unjustified poverty and
suffering.

This is not the time for making regrettable mistakes. The MDC must present
itself to the people of Zimbabwe in its original format without tainting the
party by mixing with disgraced ZANU PF politicians. Tsvangirai must lead a
united MDC to victory and should the people of reject the MDC let them
reject the party in its pure format. The only unity should be of the MDC and
other smaller parties that have never been part of the ZANU PF rot. If at
all he has the spine for it, Makoni must be used to destabilise ZANU PF and
the MDC would need to make maximum capital out of a disjointed ZANU PF by
seriously presenting a real and credible alternative. ZANU PF is no no and
any sort of pact with the devil will consume the MDC project into oblivion.

At the present moment Tsvangirai is and has been for the last eight years
the real challenge to Mugabe and ZANU PF. He stood up to ZANU PF in such a
way that the ZANU PF Politburo had to hold several emergency meetings to
plot against him and his party. Makoni, Mujuru and Dabengwa have always sat
in those politburo meetings and there was not a single occasion on which any
one of them ever stormed out of the meeting in protest against MDC
persecution. There is nothing called progressive forces in ZANU PF. What is
definitely out there to be reached to is a large pool of supporters that
still worship ZANU PF especially in the rural areas. Whether they do so
under duress or willingly those are the people that Tsvangirai will need to
enter a pact with not these desperados.

As long as the MDC appeals to those masses in the rural areas Makoni and his
ilk can dream on and there is no need to panic at all. This is the time for
the MDC to expose them for what they really are – desperados. If allowed to
get anywhere near the presidency Makoni is not going to serve the interests
of the suffering people of Zimbabwe in any way or form. The only purpose he
will serve will be to protect the ZANU PF thieves from imminent prosecution
for human rights abuses as well as plundering of national resources. It is
obvious that there will be a lot of money for the Makoni project from ZANU
PF cash barons and they should be already lining up to sponsor Makoni’s
presidential bid because he is their only sure way out of prosecution.

The Makoni project must be rejected and condemned with the contempt it
deserves because it is not about the advancement of the national agenda. It
is still about the survival of a few individuals who have strangled our
nation for years. The MDC with all its shortcomings is the only genuine way
out for Zimbabweans. It is the only political project that will offer
Zimbabweans that kind of clean slate that we desperate. We must never employ
and half measures in the resolution of our dire problems. This is the time
to continue the struggle against tyranny with the dignity and conscience
that has always prevailed in the face of a murderous ZANU PF hegemony.

The MDC must rally people. Those three hundred rallies lined up will reach
to the people of Zimbabwe. The message will be conveyed and the podiums must
be littered with messages of warning to the people about the hawks and
sharks that are preying on our desperation for salvation. The MDC must never
waver or bend backwards to accommodate unscrupulous politicians. Zimbabweans
have suffered enough!

Silence Chihuri writes from Scotland and can be reached at
silencechihuri@googlemail.com


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Responding to the PMTCT challenge


HARARE, 18 January 2008 (PlusNews) - A new five-year initiative is set to
improve access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services for pregnant
mothers in Zimbabwe.

The scheme, launched in Murewa District 86km northeast of the capital,
Harare, on Wednesday will allow the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS
Foundation (EGPAF) to expand its Zimbabwe Family AIDS Initiatives and
national prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme.

"If we reached all pregnant women in Zimbabwe who are HIV positive, we could
prevent thousands of infections each year," said Pam Barnes, president of
EGPAF.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide
the initiative with US$12.5 million, the United Kingdom's Department for
International Development (DFID) US$ 2 million, with additional support from
the United States Centres for Disease Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation and the multinational Johnson & Johnson.

More than 17,000 children are infected with HIV every year in Zimbabwe, a
figure "that is unacceptable", said James McGee, the US ambassador to
Zimbabwe, who attended the launch of the initiative.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW), 1.3 million
Zimbabweans are living with HIV/AIDS and an estimated 22,000 are newly
infected every year. Of the 360,000 women that fall pregnant anually, 60,000
are HIV positive.

"It will take commitment and strong leadership to overcome the challenges
that we are all facing. And, together, in strong partnership, we will make a
difference," McGee said.

Expanding service delivery

Zimbabwe began its PMTCT programme in 1999 with a pilot in four districts;
the programme is now nation wide.

"We want to make sure we reduce HIV infection in children by 95 percent by
2010, it's a huge target but as Zimbabweans we are resilient," said Owen
Mugurungi, chief coordinator, AIDS & TB (tuberculosis) at the MOHCW.

EGPAF has provided direct support for PMTCT to more than 330 public health
facilities in over 24 districts in Zimbabwe, helping over 280,000 pregnant
women gain access to PMTCT services.

Mary Teurai Zanga (28) from Chitungwiza, a satellite town 35km from Harare,
enrolled on a PMTCT programme after she tested HIV positive in 2001.

"In 2005 I got pregnant and was given Nevirapine [an antiretroviral drug
that reduces mother to child transmission] when I had labour pains. When my
baby girl, Danai, was born I exclusively breast fed for 12 weeks" Zanga told
IRIN/PlusNews

With an irrepresable smile, she added that when she took Danai for testing
she was found to be HIV negative.

According to health minister David Parirenyatwa, the economic hardships
faced by Zimbabwe had impacted on the health sector. But despite the
challenges, the MOHCW was doing all it could to help.

"As of December 2007, over 7,200 HIV infected children were being prescribed
antiretroviral treatment", he said, and according to the MOHCW, 96,000
people in Zimbabwe are currently receiving ARVs compared to a target of
100,000 for 2007.

In November 2007 Zimbabwe registered a second decline in HIV prevalence with
rates, falling by 10 percent over the past five years. Government statistics
now put the level among the adult population at 15.6 percent.

[See also: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=75120]

[ENDS]
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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Would you buy a used car from these men?

The Sowetan

Bill Saidi
18 January 2008

Back in 1975, in Kingston, Jamaica, we were drinking tea with Ndabaningi
Sithole, the Zimbabwean nationalist and author whose book, African
Nationalism, had awakened many people – black and white – to the realities
of a potentially volcanic struggle by Africans against colonialism in
Southern Africa.

I am not just name-dropping: I knew Sithole from the 1960s when I edited his
story for The African Parade.

During a break in the proceedings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting (Chogm), we were chewing the fat about the struggle back home.

By this time he had been deposed as Zanu leader and replaced by Robert
Mugabe, who was in Kingston too, along with Joshua Nkomo.

They were in Kingston to lobby the Commonwealth on behalf of the struggle.

After I had told Sithole what I was doing in Zambia, he asked if he could be
our correspondent or write something for our newspapers. I was taken aback,
but didn’t let on.

The man had hit on hard times . They had all just been released from
detention in Salisbury and were to meet to thrash out how to get the country
out of UDI and into real, genuine independence under black rule.

Sithole sounded utterly guileless. He was so open with me I warmed to him as
I had when he had asked me to publish his short story, Busi.

Throughout his political tribulations I had the greatest regard for Sithole.
Even when he and Abel Muzorewa joined Ian Smith in the politically infamous
alliance , I still believed he had a good reason to take such a precipitous
step.

I would have bought a used car from Sithole, any time, anywhere. There are
many politicians in Zimbabwe today from whom I would not dare buy a used
car, let alone a used bicycle.

The question became popular in the 1970s after the Watergate scandal in the
US: one newspaper asked if any reader would have bought a used car from
Richard Nixon.

In detail, the question was whether the man was trustworthy enough to sell
you a used car without trying to pull the wool over you.

Eventually, Nixon proved he would not have made it as an honest used car
salesman.

For South Africans, there are two men to whom the question could be posed:
would you buy a used car from Jacob Zuma or Jackie Selebi, the police chief
accused of corruption?

While the question seems to constitute a case of libel and defamation of all
used car salesmen, it’s anchored on the alleged ability of those salesmen to
convince you to buy a car strictly on the basis of their sales pitch.

It’s probably highly disrespectful to pose the question in relation to the
new ANC president. But he is a politician and his chosen profession is
crawling with all kinds of maggots, some the size of man-eating cockroaches.

“Dirty” is an adjective invoked in any debate of politics. Even before he
was elected ANC president, Zuma had garnered the reputation of a politician
whose regard for probity as a stock-in-trade of his chosen profession was
slightly negligible.

Until he was elected in Polokwane, I would not have bought a second hand car
from Zuma. A secondhand bicycle, maybe. I still would be careful, even now.

I wouldn’t buy anything from Selebi, not even a police brass button.


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Illegal worker got asylum tribunal job

The Times
January 19, 2008

A judge has ordered an inquiry into how an asylum-seeker got a full-time job
with an asylum and immigration tribunal service. Eugene Tawanda Madzima, a
Zimbabwean who was not entitled to work, was employed as an administrative
assistant in Leicester when routine checks failed to detect that his
documents were fraudulent. His employment was at the most junior grade, but
he handled asylum tribunal appeal applications and helped to train
colleagues, the Tribunals Service confirmed. Madzima, 24, of Leicester, was
found out only when he tried to open a bank account with a forged passport.

Judge Simon Hammond, in jailing Madzima for a year, said at the city’s Crown
Court: “Why was he able to get a full-time job with the Asylum and
Immigration Tribunal Service, of all people, who are meant to be dealing
with people who are seeking asylum?” The Tribunals Service said that checks
had been updated since Madzima was employed.


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Dangerous dispatches

The Guardian

John Simpson's defiant undercover reports may be risky, but if he were a
Zimbabwean national he would be in much greater danger

David Shariatmadari

January 18, 2008 2:00 PM
"To be honest Huw, it's been a bit scary at times." The words of John
Simpson, whose reports from Zimbabwe have been essential viewing this week.
Working undercover in a country where the BBC is banned, Simpson and his
crew have risked a great deal to bring us news from a country in economic
and political meltdown. It's not the first time Simpson has reported
incognito - he memorably wore a burqa to escape detection in
Taliban-controlled Afghanistan - and it's certainly not the first time he's
been in danger of angering a ruthless and unpredictable regime.

But as I watched Simpson walking the streets of Harare in his baseball cap I
was conscious of the fact that, risky though his mission is, he's unlikely
to come to any serious harm. Robert Mugabe, for all his tub-thumping
rhetoric against Britain and the BBC, would be unlikely to have Simpson
tortured or killed. If he were a Zimbabwean national, of course, things
would be different.

Last week I went to a panel discussion at the Frontline Club in London, a
venue for talks and screenings founded by a group of independent reporters.
The subject was Uzbekistan - one of the world's most notorious human rights
abusers. It wasn't long before the focus turned to Alisher Saipov, a
26-year-old journalist, who was shot dead in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in
October. Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz nationality, had devoted his
short but impressive career to reporting on the social and political
situation in both countries. After the mass-killings at Andijan, for
example, he revealed that men and women had been shot dead attempting to
cross the border into Kyrgyz territory. Saipov knew full well how vicious
Islam Karimov's regime could be, but thought that living in Kyrgyzstan
offered him some degree of protection. Days before he died, however, Saipov
told friends he believed he was being followed by the Uzbek security
services. Though the Kyrgyz police are still searching for his killers,
there is a widespread assumption that they will not be brought to justice -
and that they are in fact Uzbek government agents.

Saipov's murder brings home the depressing truth about reporting in many
parts of the world: that those who are best placed to cover events, those
who know the language and the culture inside out and have the passion to
carry out serious investigations are the ones most at risk from doing so. If
Saipov had been European, he wouldn't have been murdered. Because he was
Uzbek, even though he lived outside the country, the regime thought it could
dispatch him with impunity.

When dealing with Zahra Kazemi, a photographer who died in 2003 while
undergoing interrogation in Tehran, the Iranian regime made a similar
calculation. Kazemi, who lived in Montreal and had both Iranian and Canadian
passports, returned to the country of her birth to cover a series of
protests in the capital. She was arrested trying to take photos outside Evin
prison, where many political detainees are held. The government used the
fact that she was born in Iran as an excuse to brush off international
criticism that followed her death. Foreign ministry spokesman, Hamidreza
Assefi said that the case of her murder was "an internal affair."

Though it didn't prevent her death, Kazemi's Canadian citizenship at least
ensured her case was brought to the world's attention. The vast majority of
those who are killed provoke no such outcry. "Eighty-five per cent of
journalists that are killed are local journalists. They die at a much higher
rate, they have much less support when they're kidnapped, fewer people ready
to publicise their cases, negotiate on their behalf" says Bob Dietz, of New
York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. And as western media
organisations become less inclined to send their own reporters into the
field, we rely more and more on so-called "locals". "Newsgathering
increasingly depends on what some people have come to call the outsourcing
of risk," says Dietz.

For these people without voices, vulnerable simply because of their
nationality, it's essential that we maintain our support for the
universality of human rights, and protest loudly when they are abused or
murdered.

Foreign correspondents get deported. Locals, or those with some blood link
to the country in question, are likely to come off far worse. So while
Simpson's bravery may be admirable, Saipov's was nothing short of heroic.

The Frontline Club is setting up a fund to support the families of murdered
journalists, including Alisher Saipov, who is survived by his wife and baby
daughter. To find out more, contact mail@frontlineclub.com.

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