By Jonga Kandemiiri
31 December 2008
Zimbabwean State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa has declared in court
documents that agents of Harare's security apparatus carried out the seizure
of opposition and civil society activists, lawyers defending the currently
jailed activists said on Wednesday.
The lawyers said Mutasa signed an affidavit to the effect that the seizures
or abductions as they have been characterized by the Movement for Democratic
Change, dozens of whose members were abducted in recent months, were
Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko and more than 30 MDC
activists are now in police hands facing charges they plotted to train
militants in Botswana intending to mount a coup against the government of
President Robert Mugabe. They were seized from their homes as of October,
then were recently handed over to the police and charged.
MDC founder and prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai issued an
ultimatum Dec. 19 demanding a halt to the abductions and the release of all
abducted persons failing which his party's national council would deliberate
terminating the power-sharing process which was launched Sept. 15 with a
political accord but which quickly became stalled.
Attorneys for the detained activists earlier asked the high court to order
police to name the persons who handed over the missing activists. The
lawyers said Mutasa in his affidavit refused to divulge those names citing
national security concerns.
Alec Muchadehama, one of the defenders in the group case, told reporter
Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a motion for bail will
be heard on Friday.
December 31, 2008
By Our Correspondent
BOSTON, MA - Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has dismissed as false a
report broadcast by the state-controlled broadcaster ZBC News on the
activities of the organization, which recently undertook an assessment of
Zimbabwe's collapsed health care system.
"Yesterday, ZBC News falsely reported the exposure of 'four bogus physicians
for human rights' and falsely accused PHR of aiding the opposition," stated
PHR's chief executive officer Frank Donaghue in a statement issued to the
"PHR is an independent, nonpartisan organization and does not support or act
on behalf of any political party in Zimbabwe or elsewhere. We came to
Zimbabwe for the sole purpose of assessing the country's health system,
which even the government has acknowledged as a legitimate reason for being
ZBC reported on Tuesday that four bogus physicians for human rights had been
exposed and alleged that Physicians for Human Rights was aiding the
opposition in Zimbabwe. In terms of the Westminster parliamentary system of
government, modeled after the Parliament of the United Kingdom, on which the
parliamentary system of Zimbabwe is based, President Robert Mugabe's former
ruling Zanu-PF party is now technically the opposition party in Zimbabwe.
The party now has fewer seats in the House of Assembly than the Movement for
Democratic Change, which won the parliamentary election held in March 2008
by a slim majority. The outcome of the parliamentary election was announced
after a suspiciously long delay, amid charges that the election result was
manipulated. The result of a presidential election held on the same day,
March 29, was withheld from publication for a total of five weeks, further
fuelling speculation that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had doctored the
results in favour of Zanu-PF, which lost both the parliamentary and the
Donaghue said the PHR team comprised four individuals from the United States
and South Africa - including two physicians who are experts in public
"We examined how the cholera epidemic is a symptom of a collapsed health
system and decayed sanitary infrastructure, especially in urban areas that
house the poor. In keeping with our mission, members of our team met with a
range of ordinary citizens as well as practitioners in Harare and rural
Zimbabwe who are working on sanitation, maternal health care, HIV/AIDS
prevention and treatment, the nutrition and food crisis and other issues of
"Our purpose was not to engage in political activity, but to offer an
objective assessment of the serious and systemic public health issues faced
by the people of Zimbabwe. The team has safely returned home. PHR's report
will be forthcoming."
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PHR mobilizes the health professions to
advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As
a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared
the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
By Blessing Zulu
31 December 2008
Though designated since September as Zimbabwean prime minister, opposition
Movement for Democratic Change founder Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday
formally declined an invitation by President Robert Mugabe to be sworn into
that office, a party spokesman said.
Tsvangirai had not been expected to accept the invitation proffered by Mr.
Mugabe, who has been trying for months to launch a national unity government
but whose ZANU-PF party has been deadlocked over the same period with
Tsvangirai's MDC formation. The rival MDC formation of Arthur Mutambara is
more favorable to joining such a government.
Mr. Mugabe sent the formal invitation to Tsvangirai recently in the context
of an urgent call by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, chairman of
the Southern African Development Community, for Zimbabwe's political leaders
to establish the unity government contemplated under a Sept. 15
power-sharing agreement to address an acute humanitarian crisis.
A cholera epidemic has claimed more than 1,550 lives in recent months, and
hunger looms in early 2009 for many Zimbabweans given the scarcity and high
cost of food in the country and the limited resources presently available to
the World Food Program and other agencies.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai's MDC formation told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is not for Mr. Mugabe
to invite the MDC formation to join a government as that government is to be
jointly constituted under the pact.
ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo accused the MDC of failing to
respect the intent of the power-sharing agreement, and of seeking to bypass
the judicial process in demanding the release of MDC activists jailed on
charges they plotted a coup.
U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
BUREAU FOR DEMOCRACY, CONFLICT, AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE (DCHA)
OFFICE OF U.S. FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (OFDA)
Note: The last fact sheet was dated December 19, 2008.
Since the outbreak began in August 2008, cholera has spread to all of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces and 53 of Zimbabwe's 62 districts. On December 26, the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) reported cholera cases in Matabeleland North Province, previously the only province without any reported cases. To date, the highest caseloads have been reported in Harare, Beitbridge, Makonde, and Chegutu districts, with a recent surge in the number of reported cases in Manicaland Province.
As of December 30, cholera had caused more than 1,550 deaths, with nearly 31,000 cases reported, according to WHO. The reported figures represent an approximate doubling of both cases and deaths during the past three weeks. Currently, the U.N. health cluster is planning based on a worst-case scenario of 60,000 cases nationwide.
On December 16, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Katherine S. Dhanani declared a disaster due to the effects of the cholera outbreak. As part of ongoing response efforts, USAID/OFDA activated a five-person Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) on December 10 to evaluate response effectiveness, conduct field assessments, participate in U.N. cluster meetings, and identify humanitarian needs and gaps for the cholera outbreak.
In WHO's second epidemiological report on Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak, dated December 20, the organization reported that cholera deaths outside cholera treatment centers (CTCs) and cholera treatment units (CTUs) from December 14 to December 20 ranged from 22 percent to 48 percent of total cholera deaths, depending on the province. The figures indicate significant difficulties in providing cholera-affected populations sufficient access to treatment.
NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
|Total Reported Cholera Cases in Zimbabwe||
|WHO – December 30, 2008|
|Total Reported Cholera Deaths in Zimbabwe||
|WHO – December 30, 2008|
|Reported Cholera Case Fatality Rate(CFR) in Zimbabwe||
|WHO – December 30, 2008|
USAID/OFDA Assistance to Zimbabwe - $6,800,000
Total USAID Humanitarian Assistance to Zimbabwe for the Cholera Outbreak - $6,800,000
According to USAID/DART staff and relief agencies, a breakdown in water and sanitation infrastructure due to lack of maintenance has exacerbated Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak, and the nation's collapsed health system is unable to respond adequately. The current cholera crisis is compounded by a dire country-wide food security situation, raising serious malnutrition concerns. On December 3, the Government of Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) requested international assistance to respond to the cholera outbreak.
The USAID/DART public health advisor and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) advisor report that the cholera outbreak was likely caused by contamination of the main water supply in high-density urban areas. The outbreak spread via population movement and traditional funeral practices, including washing corpses. The outbreak is characterized by widespread geographic occurrence, with periodic spikes in caseload numbers in high-density urban and peri-urban areas for two to five days, when most cholera deaths occur.
USAID/DART staff note that the high mortality rates reported during the outbreak's early phase underscore the need for an early warning and rapid response system. On December 30, the USAID/DART program officer met with WHO personnel working to establish WHO's cholera command-and-control center to clarify proposed early warning and rapid response activities.
According to WHO, the outbreak has affected border areas of neighboring countries, with confirmed cholera cases reported in Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, and South Africa, primarily among Zimbabwe nationals.
12/30/08, Bunmi Akpata-Ohohe
Veteran Zimbabwean playwright Cont Mhlanga has won the inaugural ArtVenture
Freedom to Create Prize in London. The dramatic piece for which Mhlanga won
the $50, 000 Prize is a politically charged satire christened, "The Good
President", (no prize for guessing who The Good President is). "The Good
President" portrays a fictional account of a brutal and callous African
dictator, who has been in power for 27 years - closely mirroring the latest
upheavals in his home country - Zimbabwe. Accepting the award via a
pre-recorded video interview in Harare, having been banned from leaving his
country by the Mugabe regime, Mhlanga said theatre was the only tool that
amplified the people's voice in Zimbabwe, adding that, the award was for all
the artists who risked their safety by working with him. ArtVenture Freedom
to Create Prize is an international prize which recognises artists who use
their talents to promote empathy and understanding and confront
discrimination and oppression.
ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize states: "In all societies, the
development of the arts has been a sign of culture and light. Yet not all
governments provide citizens with the 'freedom to create' needed to foster
innovation, commerce and prosperity. Some governments harass and impoverish
their citizens, steal resources, stifle entrepreneurship and undermine human
ingenuity and hope. In these societies, art can play an important role in
giving a voice to those who are denied opportunity and resources."
THE Zimbabwe School Examinations Council is inviting trained Ordinary and
Advanced Level examination markers to report for the marking session of the
November 2008 exams that is expected to start next week in centres across
In a statement to the markers posted at the council's regional offices,
Zimsec director Mr Happy Ndanga said Zimsec would soon release rates for
marking of the papers sat as part of the "O" and "A" Level examinations.
"Both Ordinary and Advanced Level markers must check at their venues on
''Transport fares will be at Zimsec regional offices or reimbursed at the
marking venues upon arrival. Script marking rates will be availed through
the council's regional offices.
"Zimsec will also provide transport for markers on the
Gwanda-Bulawayo-Harare route, Bulawayo-Gweru-Masvingo-Mutare route,
Mutare-Harare route and Masvingo-Harare route. There will be no fare
reimbursements on routes where buses will be provided," he said.
However, it remains to be seen whether the markers would take up the offer
after they reportedly refused to mark the June 2008 examinations, whose
results are still to be released.
The October-November Grade Seven results, which are usually released at the
beginning of December, are yet to be compiled over an alleged payment
dispute that also resulted in delays in the start to the October-November
2008 public examinations.
Most of the markers did not turn because of what they deemed a paltry 50
cents a script, resulting in delays in commencement of marking.
Zimsec has set aside 13 institutions as marking centres for last year's
public examinations. These include Belvedere Teachers' College, Bulawayo
Polytechnic, Mutare Teachers' College, United College of Education, Gweru
Technical College and Kwekwe Technical College.
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has warned of the dangers of using fuel coupons
In a statement yesterday, RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono (pictured below) said
issuers of coupons, which are relatively easy to counterfeit, are currently
holding large stocks of coupons and not all had the fuel to back the coupons
He said it had come to the central bank's attention that some traders and
service providers were demanding coupons as an alternative means of payment
for their goods and services, chief among them institutions like schools,
security companies, legal firms and auctioneers.
The deals are described as barter arrangements, which are legal, but the RBZ
is worried that some people are giving coupons a higher status than they
"In terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act, Chapter 22:15, fuel coupons
are not legal tender and hence are not a formal means of effecting payment
in any transaction.
"Members of the of the public are advised to resort to using of the official
currency in settling their day-to-day transactions, foreign currency in
special cases covered by the RBZ dispensations such as Foliwars and Felipros
"Unlike the official currency, in this case the Zimbabwe dollar, and also
other recognised foreign currencies, fuel coupons are generated from various
sources, rendering it difficult to distinguish their authenticity through
security features such as the watermark, Zimbabwe Bird, metal thread, etc,"
He said preliminary investigations into the quantity of coupons held by the
issuers had revealed alarming discrepancies, to a point where some of the
coupon holders approaching the respective garages for fuel have been turned
away as the issuers were not authentic.
"The rate at which they are printed, and the growing number of dishonoured
coupons, makes the whole process susceptible to fraudsters that will result
in the public holding fuel coupons without value," he said. - HR.
December 31, 2008 1:17 PM
NAIROBI, Kenya - How bad was it for Africa in 2008? The highlight of the
year for most of the continent just might've been the election of a
half-Kenyan to lead a nation thousands of miles away.
President-elect Barack Obama's triumph in the U.S. raised Africa's hopes -
no small feat in a year that saw rigged elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe,
virtually no progress toward ending the mass suffering in Darfur, political
and social upheaval in South Africa and - just when you thought some places
had hit bottom - even more chaos and bloodshed in Congo and Somalia.
Throughout Africa, 2008 was a year to forget. For all the hope embodied in
the arrival of a new year, and of Obama himself, however, 2009 brings no
obvious solutions for any of Africa's most intractable problems.
Asked what should be Obama's and the world's priorities for the continent in
2009, Francois Grignon, a veteran analyst and now Africa director for the
International Crisis Group research agency, sighed.
''The whole of Africa, really, remains at the top of the list,'' he said.
The reversals are especially disheartening to Africans because the continent
had been moving steadily, if unspectacularly, toward peace and stability
during the past decade. Wars are on the wane, the African Union has asserted
itself as a regional diplomatic and peacekeeping force, economies are
growing and some countries can boast of a nascent middle class.
Experts, however, said that 2008 was marked by missed chances to find
durable solutions in the continent's trouble spots.
It started in Kenya, where weeks of pressure from the U.S. and other nations
following a disputed election forced President Mwai Kibaki to share power
with his political opposition. The arrangement ended two months of
ethnically driven violence in the once-stable nation.
Once world attention faded, however, the new government failed to bring
anyone responsible for the attacks - including police officers and some
political elites - to justice. Deep-seated grievances over land and economic
inequities remained unresolved and are likely to boil over in the next
election, if not earlier, Grignon said.
''It's not like because of the crisis . . . the Kenyan political system has
collapsed. But there is unfinished business,'' Grignon said, adding that,
''It was a whole year of wasted opportunities.
''In 2009 we have to try to get some more positive results. Otherwise, we
have a number of situations that could unravel.''
In Somalia, the headline-grabbing raids by offshore pirates and the less
flashy - though no less noteworthy - gains of Islamist insurgents on land
epitomized the total failure of a U.N.-backed interim government, despite
the muscle of thousands of Ethiopian troops occupying the country.
Against all odds, Somalis have hope. Dec. 29 brought the resignation of the
reviled warlord-turned-president Abdullahi Yusuf, who U.S. officials and
many Somalis had blamed for blocking a fledgling peace process. If Somalia's
ever-fractious political leaders can shore up their government by winning
the support of moderate Islamists, a country that's been in freefall since
1991 might see a better 2009.
''The resignation of Abdullahi Yusuf and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops
from Somalia provide a window of hope,'' said John Prendergast, co-chair of
the Enough Project, an anti-genocide advocacy group.
In Congo, President Joseph Kabila - barely two years removed from the first
free election in his country's history - faced a formidable threat in
Laurent Nkunda, a renegade army general whose well-trained guerrillas seized
chunks of the mineral-rich east in September and October.
The onslaught revived fears of a new, multinational war in central Africa,
especially after a U.N. report in December documented links between Nkunda,
an ethnic Tutsi, and the Tutsi-led government in neighboring Rwanda, another
one of Africa's supposedly stable nations.
Although Congo remains on a knife's edge, Nkunda halted his advance in order
to negotiate with Kabila, which some analysts said was emblematic of a trend
toward resolving conflicts diplomatically rather than by the gun.
''Even though there has been violence, it has been universally condemned and
political parties have worked harder than they used to have done to find
political solutions rather than settling their differences in the bush,''
said Tom Cargill, an Africa expert at the Chatham House, a British policy
It's harder to find anything good to say about Zimbabwe. President Robert
Mugabe, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, unleashed a campaign of
devastating violence against political opponents to win re-election. He's
rejected worldwide calls for his resignation while a cholera epidemic rages
through his country.
A power-sharing arrangement between Mugabe and his opponents has been ''an
abject failure,'' Prendergast said, because outside countries are unable to
stop a man who seems determined to keep his almost three-decade grip no
matter the cost.
The world had more leverage, but was no more successful, in Sudan, where
2008 saw no movement toward a peace deal in the western Darfur region and no
change in the miserable lives of nearly 3 million people living in refugee
camps there. A U.N.-led peace process launched at the end of 2007 in Libya
fell apart almost immediately, and the International Criminal Court's
decision to charge Sudanese President Omar al Bashir with genocide in Darfur
seemed only to embolden Bashir, whose Arab and African allies soon came to
Worse, a hard-won 2005 peace agreement that ended a separate, and far
deadlier 21-year civil war between northern and southern Sudan continued to
miss critical deadlines as analysts warned that it could fall apart
''(The year) 2008 was marked by a crushing international failure to deal
with Africa's biggest crises,'' Prendergast said. ''Much more must be done
in 2009 to arrest the mounting death tolls on our watch.''