By Alex Bell
22 January 2010
A Rusape farmer who has endured more than a week of intimidation and threats
by land invaders was arrested on Friday, for refusing to leave his farm.
Koos Smit and his family have for the past week remained locked inside their
home, after a mob of youths invaded the property last week Tuesday. The
group, said to be hired by a ZANU PF official know only as Mr Mukomo,
assaulted several of the Smits' farm workers and the twin Smit sons in an
effort to force the family to flee the property. The youths then cut off all
electricity and water supplies to the farm to try flush the family out of
their home, where they remained locked inside until Thursday. The invaders
also stopped the family feeding and watering their livestock.
The gang of invaders packed up their makeshift camp around the family's home
on Thursday, ending a week-long tense standoff. The Commercial Farmers Union
(CFU) president Deon Theron said that the youths had left, because they
weren't paid the promised fee for the invasion.
But the good news was short lived, when Koos Smit was arrested on Friday
morning. Theron told SW Radio Africa that while Smit and his family were
holed up inside their home, Smit had been subpoenaed by the Rusape
magistrates court to face charges for refusing to leave his farm. But
because Smit was all but trapped inside his property, which was surrounded
by land invaders, since last week, he was unable to attend the court
hearing. His arrest on Friday is now in connection with contempt charges for
missing his court date. Smit has since been released on bail.
Theron said the situation on the Smit property again demonstrates the
lawlessness across the country, where land thugs are getting away with
violence, while land owners are constantly being hauled before the courts.
The CFU head argued such lawlessness is "completely contrary to the Global
Political agreement that the political parties in the unity government are
supposed to respect." The CFU on Thursday lashed out at the government for
refusing to intervene in the ongoing land invasions, urging the coalition to
act to halt the farm attacks.
At least five other Rusape farming families have come under threat by land
invaders since December last year, with most of the families being forcibly
evicted from their homes. All the families that have been evicted are South
African citizens, meant to be protected by a bilateral investment pact
between the two countries. That pact, which was only signed late last year,
is yet to be ratified in parliament, which both governments have used as an
excuse not to intervene. Three South African farmers who have all lost land
in the past year are now set to sue the government for the ongoing land
attacks continuing under the guise of land reform.
The South African farmers last year approached a civil rights group in their
home country to take the Zimbabwe government to court over the land
invasions. The group, AfriForum, last week won a High Court bid allowing
them to sue Zimbabwe, in an effort to enforce a 2008 regional ruling
declaring Robert Mugabe's land 'reform' exercise unlawful. The ruling was
passed down by the rights court of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC), which ordered the government to protect farmers and their
rights to their land.
The ruling has been completely ignored and the government has even stated it
no longer recognises the SADC Tribunal's orders. AfriForum is now trying to
have the ruling enforced from within South Africa. AfriForum's lawyer,
Willie Spies, said in a statement on Friday that the papers had been served
by AfriForum's legal representatives in Harare. Spies said that the
Zimbabwean government had until next Thursday to give notice of whether it
intended opposing the application, which is set to be hear in court in
Eyewitness News | 3 Hours Ago
A legal watchdog in Zimbabwe said on Friday the Movement for Democratic
Change finally lost its majority in the Lower House of Assembly.
The MDC had a one-seat majority in Parliament after parliamentary elections
After the March 2008 elections, the MDC moved from 100 seats to 99 for
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.
It was the first time since 1980 that ZANU-PF had lost its majority but four
MPs from Morgan Tsvangirai's party have since been convicted of crimes the
party said were deliberately trumped up to whittle down that majority.
Two more MDC MPs died last year.
Now, because of those changes, the MDC is left with 95 seats, one less than
Zanu-PF's total of 96.
That means Tsvangirai's party will not be able to block Zanu-PF when it
comes to voting in new legislation.
A splinter MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara still holds eight seats but
bitter quarrels mean Tsvangirai's party cannot always count on their
January 22 2010 at 03:20PM
Harare - The joint head of the body meant to draft a new democratic
constitution for Zimbabwe has been charged with insulting President Robert
Mugabe by calling him a goblin.
Douglas Mwonzora, a parliamentarian for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the co-chairman of the key
parliamentary constitutional commission, is alleged to have made the remark
at an MDC rally nearly a year ago but was only summonsed on Monday this
The politician faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail if found guilty.
In Zimbabwean traditional mythology, goblins are feared, hideous creatures
with evil powers.
MDC officials said the charges against Mwonzora were deliberate harassment
by the 85-year-old Mugabe's security agents.
Lawyer Lewis Uriri said Mwonzora was alleged to have made the remarks at a
rally before the presidential and parliamentary elections.
The MDC won the elections but were then forced into a second round of the
presidential ballot, which was preceded by a wave of state-run violence that
saw at least 100 MDC supporters murdered and thousands tortured and made
Mugabe was declared the winner after Tsvangirai withdrew because of the
violence, and the poll was universally denounced as a fraud.
Shortly afterwards, southern African nations intervened to set up the
inauguration of an unequal power-sharing government between Tsvangirai and
Mugabe, in which the autocratic Mugabe controls the security forces.
Hundreds of people have been arrested and fined or jailed under Zimbabwean
laws that make it an offence to make derisory comments about Mugabe, the
world's oldest head of state who has been in power for nearly 30 years.
On Tuesday, an MDC provincial chairman in southern Zimbabwe was arrested for
telling a party rally that the people must not allow Mugabe to cheat them in
The constitutional commission was set up under the coalition agreement, but
progress has been bogged down by continual blockading by members of Mugabe's
Zanu-PF party who, analysts say, fear they will be swamped in a democratic
election held under a constitution guaranteeing human rights and the rule of
law. - Sapa-DPA
By Violet Gonda
22 January 2010
Harare publishing consultant Roger Stringer has sent a protest letter to Lovemore Moyo, the Speaker of Parliament, asking for an explanation of the process used to select nominees for appointment to the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC). The ZMC, which is still to be constituted, replaced the Tafataona Mahoso led Media and Information Commission, following amendments to the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in January 2008.
There has never been any official statement by parliament to explain the controversial process of selecting the nominees to the ZMC - a process that was marred by delays and political bickering over the composition of candidates.
Stringer had been one of the independent candidates who reportedly passed the first selection process, but then had his name removed to pave way for pro-ZANU PF individuals who had failed to make it into the first 12.
The publishing consultant, who was also the only white Zimbabwean interviewed, said some insiders confirmed press reports stating he had come sixth out of the 27 candidates interviewed, but that the list was changed as a result of 'political horse-trading'.
He told SW Radio Africa on Friday that ZANU PF's Chris Mutsvangwa, who had reportedly come 19th, and L. Hikwa, who had come 22nd, ended up appearing in the final list appointed by the President recently. The Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee had submitted a list of 12 names to Robert Mugabe, who then appointed 9 commissioners from that list.
Stringer said he is challenging the parliament to explain the verification process that led to the short-listing of nominees.
Part of Stringer's letter reads: "The private media ran stories with headlines like "Independent candidates removed from media commission list" (SW Radio Africa), "Critics See Political Horse-Trading in Zimbabwe Media Commission Short List" (VOA News), "Mutsvangwa now on ZMC shortlist" (Zimbabwe Times), "Commissions delay breeds confusion" (Financial Gazette), and "Zanu PF Hijacks Selection of Media Commissioners" (the Standard).
All these reports suggested that during the period between the supposed finalization of the results on 4th August and the clerk of parliament's press conference on 18th August, political pressure had been exerted. The Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, was quoted as saying the nomination of candidates had been suspended and that the three parties to the GPA might now have to forward nominees for the appointments, that would be done on proportional representation.
"Although it had initially been promoted as an objective, independent process, it appears to have ended up being politically driven. As a participant in that process, who had no party-political affiliation and trusted that it would be conducted in a professional manner, I believe that not only I but the Zimbabwean public as a whole are owed an explanation of what took place," Stringer wrote in his protest letter.
He said that although it seems there is no legal basis on which he can challenge this, he is concerned that despite inviting qualified candidates to apply, the process was not independent, objective nor based on merit.
See table with the different list of nominees
January 22 2010 at 04:19PM
South African civil rights movement AfriForum has served papers on the
Zimbabwean government over its land-seizure programme.
AfriForum's lawyer, Willie Spies, said in a statement on Friday that the
papers had been served by AfriForum's legal representatives in Harare.
The High Court in Pretoria issued an order last week granting three farmers
leave to add the Zimbabwean government to an application to register in
South Africa a ruling by a Southern African Development Community tribunal
against the seizures.
The SADC tribunal, in Windhoek, ruled that Zimbabwe was violating
international law with its 2005 constitutional amendment allowing the
seizure of white-owned farms without compensation.
The Zimbabwean government did not recognise the decision or the order that
it compensate evicted farmers and protect the property rights of those still
on their farms.
Spies said that if the farmers, Louis Fick, Michael Campbell and Richard
Etheredge, were successful in their high court action, they would be able,
in the short term, to take steps in South African courts to recover some of
their costs incurred to date from the Zimbabwean government.
Spies has said previously that this could include attaching the Zimbabwean
government's assets in South Africa.
Spies said on Friday that the Zimbabwean government had until Thursday to
give notice of whether it intended opposing the application.
The application was on the court roll to be heard the week of February 23,
he said. - Sapa
22 January 2010
Paul Verryn is charged with transgressing the Laws and Disciplines of the
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa would like to confirm that the
former Bishop of the Central District, Paul Verryn, has been suspended.
He has been charged with transgressing the Laws and Discipline (L&D) of the
Church - essentially the constitution of the Methodist Church of Southern
The hearing will be held on the 1st of February, 2010, in Johannesburg,
facilitated by the District Disciplinary Committee, which is appointed in
terms of the L&D.
In terms of the L&D, the committee is to meet within a period of 21 days
after receiving the charge.
This committee has the power and duties to impose a sanction it deems fit.
The Central Methodist Church will continue to run under the new Bishop,
Peter Witbooi, who is responsible for the administration of the District.
Johannesburg - Suspended Johannesburg Central Methodist Church bishop Paul
Verryn should be recognised for his humanity, the DA said on Friday.
"The suspension of Bishop Paul Verryn is a new twist in the long-running
saga of refugees who crowd the Central Methodist Church in central
Johannesburg," said Gauteng Democratic Alliance spokesman Jack Bloom.
"I hope that it assists the resolution of this thorny problem in which
Verryn was increasingly seen as a stumbling block."
The Methodist Church announced on Thursday that Verryn had been suspended,
without disclosing any reasons for the decision.
"He has been suspended and charged in an internal process," said attorney
Bongani Khoza, who works for a firm that acts on behalf of the Methodist
The Central Methodist Church has given refuge to a number of Zimbabwean
immigrants and has been at the centre of controversy involving the situation
of woman and children at the church in central Johannesburg.
Bloom said: "The fact remains, however, that the church is involved only
because of the failure of local, provincial and national government to
adequately cater for these refugees.
"Whatever his faults, Verryn's humanity should be recognised."
The Star newspaper, without citing any sources, reported on Friday that the
National Intelligence Agency and the National Prosecuting Authority had been
investigating activities at the church.
By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Jan 22, 2010 (IPS) - A project in Zimbabwe's second city,
Bulawayo, is creatively using "marginal water" to ease water scarcity while
helping residents provide food and earn a living.
Water scarcity has led urban farmers to turn to treated waste water to grow
food within the city limits.
Bulawayo's water woes stem from both periodic droughts in the Matabeleland
region and from the collapse of the aged, poorly-maintained municipality
infrastructure serving this city of more than one million.
But the shortage of water has not deterred urban farmers like Agnes Maziya.
Maziya is one of the growing number of urban farmers growing vegetables and
crops for residents.
"Using waste water has helped me to grow vegetables for sale," Maziya told
IPS. "I have used money from the sale of these vegetables to put my children
through school. The project has made a difference for my family and I.
"My wish now is to improve the variety of vegetables I grow here to include
carrots, spinach, tomatoes cabbage and onions which will increase my
Maziya is one of about a thousand farmers who are part of a project to grow
leaf vegetables such as rape, sugar beans and maize using treated waste
The 350-hectare Gum Tree Plantation Allotment project is a joint venture of
the city of Bulawayo and the Municipal Development Partnership Eastern and
Southern Africa (MDPESA) to use waste water to boost food security in the
The project is situated in Hyde Park, in the western part of the city. The
land has been divided into individual plots of 5,000 square metres and a
cooperative section where farmers have been grouped together. Treated water
is provided for free by council, with each group allocated between 4,500 and
5,000 litres of water on a weekly basis.
The water, according to MDPESA urban agriculture programme coordinator
Takawira Mubvami, is treated using the radiation and conventional biological
methods at the treatment works. Due to breakdowns, the level of treatment
does not consistently meet World Health Organisation standards.
The treated water supplied to the Gum Tree farmers comes from the Luveve and
Cowdry Park treatment plants which are better in terms of performance,
meeting WHO standards for waste water for irrigation 80 percent of the time.
This does mean elevated health risks. Mubvami told IPS that his organisation
trained farmers regarding these risks, but found most were already aware of
the necessary precautions to be taken with treated waste water regarding
what crops to grow and taking measures against skin diseases.
"The major challenge has been getting the right protective clothing for
farmers," Mubvami said. "Funds were not available. At the moment farmers use
buckets to get water from the irrigation canal.
"This is not the ideal irrigation method. They should be using suction hoses
for flood irrigation which will reduce the frequency of them coming into
contact with the water. Plans are under way to introduce this."
Only vegetables that have to be cooked - destroying any pathogens present in
the water - before they can be eaten are grown. Crops like lettuce, tomatoes
or carrots are not permitted.
A flood irrigation technique is used to channel water from the reservoir to
the field using lined canals which reduce water lost to seepage and
evaporation. The lining of the canal was the first phase funded by the
MDPESA to improve the irrigation system at the plantation. It will be
completed with the introduction of feeder suction hoses which will bring the
water to the gardens from the canals.
"The project enables our farmers to grow crops throughout the year because
there is reliable water supply from waste water," Job Ndebele, city director
for engineering services, explained to IPS.
The use of marginal water is not very common in Zimbabwe. It is used to some
degree in the capital Harare, but limited to watering cattle pastures .
"Bulawayo has pioneered the use of the water for crops. They have actually
reticulated the water to the gardens. This has been seen as being expensive
by most local authorities in the country," said Mubvami.
Used correctly, treated waste water is building food security despite
persistent water scarcity.
January 23, 2010
GREAT DAY FOR ST JOHN: PROVIDERS OF FIRST AID TO ZIMBABWE
St John Ambulance, well known throughout Zimbabwe for providing first aid
and training at minimal cost, holds a triple celebration starting at 0900 on
Saturday, January 23 at its Harare headquarters, 102 Baines Avenue.
Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister, will open a new first aid training centre
funded by the Beit Trust and equipped by the German embassy. This will
enable the charity to increase the number of first aid and home-based care
courses it offers.
This will be followed by a donation of three, fully equipped ambulances from
St John in Western Australia. They will be handed over by Lekisha Duncan who
will also train people on how to use the ambulances while she is in
Bishop Chad Gandiya will bless the new building and lead the St John
procession, accompanied by the Zimbabwe Republic Police band, from its
headquarters to St Patrick's Cathedral, kindly loaned by the Roman Catholics
as the bishop and his congregation is locked out of his own cathedral.
Here, in a splendid ceremony redolent of 900 years of pageantry, the Lord
Prior himself, Prof. Anthony Mellows, will conduct the investiture of 19
people as members of the Order of St John. Nine of them are being recognised
for their voluntary work during the 2008/9 cholera outbreak when teams from
St John restored the overwhelmed Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital
to the proper levels of hygiene, working with the Red Cross and Medecins
Sans Frontiers. Volunteers also helped man the cholera clinic in the badly
affected area of Budiriro and they too will be invested.
Others are being recognised for setting up first aid training courses in
schools and a further group for developing home based care courses that
1,200 children have attended. Out of this has developed the popular child
headed household first aid and care course to help orphans. These have now
been run in Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo.
Additional volunteers are being recognised for their work in running and
fund raising for St John in Bulawayo. They will also be made members of the
Order with the exception of Dr Bill Moore, chairman of St John Ambulance
Council who will be dubbed a Knight of the Order. The ceremonies will use
the special Priory Sword that is only unsheathed to perform investitures.
At 1430 the Lord Prior will present certificates to orphans who have
completed the child-headed home-based care programme, funded by Johanniter,
which is the German branch of the Order, at New St Peter's Church in Mbare.
Other St John dignitaries visiting Zimbabwe for this special occasion are
Major Ian Crowther, Prior of South Africa and his chief executive office,
St John began when Abbot Probus founded a hostel for pilgrims in Jerusalem
around 600 A. D. and enlarged by the French emperor Charlemagne. It came to
prominence during the first crusade in 1099 when the monks took on the
double role of being knights as well, in order to protect the pilgrims
against attacks by robbers.
The Order's motto is Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum (For the Faith, For the
Service of Humanity. It sums up the order's twin objectives: encouraging all
that makes for the spiritual and moral strengthening of humankind and
encouraging and promoting works of humanity and charity for the relief of
those who are sick, distressed, suffering or in danger.
The Knights Hospitallers, as members of the Order became known, started to
train ordinary people how to treat injured people on the spot, particularly
important in times of war and at the start of industrialisation when
work-place accidents were common. Much of their work in many countries is
done by the associations that form part of the order.
St John Ambulance's history in Zimbabwe goes back to 1920 when two employees
of the then Rhodesia Railways started to teach first aid with the help of
the English first aid manuals of St John Ambulance.
In 1924 the two men opened the first St John Ambulance Association Centre in
Bulawayo, which led to the opening of another centre in Hwange. Between 1927
and 1930 other centres opened in Gweru, Mutare and Harare, all operating on
a subsidised basis with the objective of promoting the relief of distress
and suffering. Today it operates in Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare.
By SARAH NCUBE
Published: January 22, 2010
HARARE - Workers at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) a parastatal
Zanu PF put under control of retired army officers are threatening to down
tools, as they have not been paid since November 2009.
Some of the workers are alleged to be taking NRZ to court over the matter,
as there are allegations that the top management recently bought top-of-the
range vehicles and have been given huge allowances, while the workers do not
have money to send their children to school.
"We do not even have money to pay school fees for our children, as schools
have just opened. Even fess for US$10, we are failing to pay. We know that
the management was given some allowances and they have bought new cars. We
want to strike because it is our right," said a worker who declined to be
named for fear of victimisation.
On Monday, management is said to have called a meeting and addressed the
"We were called to a meeting where the management was begging us not to down
tools and telling us that they will soon pay us our salaries. When we asked
them about the vehicles they bought and the allowances they received, they
just stammered and failed to respond," said another worker.
It is alleged that management received about US$20 000 in school fees
allowances as well as new vehicles, Navaras, which cost about US$1 million.
The workers said when they wanted to strike, the management called in armed
police and soldiers, who were supposed to deal with anyone who threatened to
down tools. In a bid to address the salaries issue, the management
circulated a notice explaining to the workers the situation.Part of the
"Management submitted that due to the cash flow challenges facing the
organisation, they were still concentrating all their efforts in clearing
the November 2009 salaries after which they needed to look into the December
2009 salaries before proposing a payment plan for arrears.Management,
however, undertook to develop a payment plan which they would submit to the
Railway Employment Council (REC) for negotiations in January 2010."
One of the Unions, representing a section of the workers, the Trainmen
Worker's Union is allegedly taking the NRZ to court for alleged
victimisation of workers.In September 2009, a government audit revealed that
senior managers of some perennial loss making parastatals were paying
themselves as much as US$10 000 per month.
The NRZ has in the past been involved in a looting scandal where bosses
acquired top-of-the-range vehicles, when workers were going for months
without salaries. NRZ Public Relations Manager Fanuel Masikati, however,
dismissed the allegations as false.
"There is no-one who is threatening to down tools, all the workers report to
work and there is no unrest, that is all I can say," said Masikati.
Harare, January 22, 2010: The U.S. Embassy today unveiled an essay contest for A level students in Zimbabwe aimed at commemorating Black History Month.
Entries are being invited from high schools and colleges throughout the country. Students will write a 500 word essay with the title: “What hope does Barack Obama embody for you as an African youth in the 21st century?”
Participating students stand a chance to win a cash prize and free membership to the U.S. Educational Advising Center while their respective schools receive a collection of reference books. The winners will be invited to a ceremony in Harare in February where U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray will honor them.
More details about the contest can be accessed at http://harare.usembassy.gov or through e-mail: email@example.com
Each February, Black History Month honors the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over the most devastating obstacles - slavery, prejudice, poverty - as well as their contributions to the nation’s cultural and political life.
# # #
Issued by Tim Gerhardson, Public Affairs Officer, on January 22, 2010
SEAN CHRISTIE AND LISA KING - Jan 22 2010 13:04
For centuries the Chimanimani passes have served as trade routes between
Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Recently Sean Christie and photographer Lisa King
joined the arduous trail in search of intrepid gold seekers
'The gold panners call the place Musanditera," said Ben (surname withheld).
"It means 'don't follow me', and this was always the message of the panners
to their families when departing for the mountain rivers, because, you see,
the decision to go panning on the other side of Chimanimani Mountains, in
Mozambique so far away from home, is often the last decision a person
We found Ben in a collapsing A-frame structure on the grounds of a
well-known lodge in the village of Chimanimani, in Zimbabwe's Eastern
A tour guide in better times, Ben had been allowed to stay on after the flow
of tourists began dwindling earlier in the decade.
Like almost all other major property owners in the village, the proprietors
had mothballed the buildings and departed for Harare, then Johannesburg and
After some shouting back and forth through the shaded windows, Ben opened
the door a little. When he realised it was his meal ticket parked out on the
lawn he quickly packed a faded blue rucksack, emptied a bucket of urine into
a moonflower bush and joined us in the Jeep.
The wide-boy combination of short dreads and red eyes was offset by a goofy
cap, biblical sandals and a thoughtful mien. He had no calf muscles
whatsoever but accepted seven additional kilograms of our equipment and bore
it for three days without seeming to tire.
"We will climb up through the banana grove," he announced at the base camp
of the Chimanimani National Park. "It is less steep than the other way, and
I do not believe in taking a short route if it is steeper, especially at the
This reassuring statement was followed by an hour of silence as we climbed
clear of the woodland covering the Chimanimani foothills.
Later, from a rocky outlook, Ben traced the perimeter of Charleswood Estate,
the property the Zimbabwean government expropriated from opposition
politician Roy Bennett in 2001.
"The people the government settled there renamed the place Pachedu, which
means 'on our own'," Ben said.
"There used to be coffee plantations, which brought a lot of money to the
area but they ripped out [the bushes] and planted maize.
"Then in 2004 diamonds were discovered on the other side of that hill near
the Haroni River, and 2 000 people came and started digging. Just as
happened at Chiadzwa, the government came after the miners with soldiers and
"They beat people and even killed some, and now they have given the land to
some Russian miners, who are putting up a fence."
We headed for the narrow passes after which the Chimanimani are named, and
which for centuries have served as trade routes between Zimbabwe and
Mozambique. Except for the odd shoe sole and a few pairs of mouldering
shorts, we saw no sign of panners.
"There are not so many now on the Zimbabwe side -- not since National Parks
[the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority] started employing
excellent runners to catch them," Ben explained.
"It's like a kind of a war. Two years ago there were many people here, in
this valley and also at Skelton [sic] Pass, where there is a lot of gold.
The parks guys used to let them in because they knew the panners had no
other way of making money to buy food, but then the government told parks to
stop them because they want to give Skelton Pass to a Chinese company. Then
the parks guys started beating the panners and stealing their clothes,
because they came to learn that the panners sew their gold there. So now
everyone goes to Mozambique, to Musanditera."
The border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a barrier of rocky spears,
grassed up to a point and then grey-white like sharpened pumice.
In a ravine the panners call "Razorwire" we were passed by two youths
wearing green rip-off Crocs and clothes stained with earth. One carried a
single-strap rucksack made from a plastic maize bag, which bulged with
"They are panners," said Ben. "They are not enjoying their walk as we are.
They just want to get to the other side before the rangers see them."
Soon after clearing the flinty ridge we collapsed on waterlogged soil,
watched by a pair of klipspringer. Where the day had been clear and blue
above the grassy plains of the Chimanimani National Park, twisted valleys of
stone now tailed away to the horizon, under cloud.
"Welcome to Mozambique," said Ben.
By collapsing next to the path and removing my shoes, I effectively chose
our camp site.
The hump of land on which I sprawled tipped into deep river chasms to the
right and left. The rivers rushed down to join the larger Munahiwa, where
Ben said we were sure to find panners the next day. He was worried about our
proximity to the path and explained that the Zimbabwean panners tended to
move at night to avoid being robbed by the authorities.
"I am worried they will see us and think we are Mozambican National Parks,
who they are fighting with because these men also beat them and steal their
"I am also worried that the mountain mtsikas (markets) have closed since the
last visit by parks. These panners need the mtsikas for their food, but if
the women who bring the food have been scared away, then the panners will be
hungry -- they might try to steal ours."
We scouted around for a more private site but found none as flat and
protected as the first.
That evening, from atop the massive boulder shielding our tent, we observed
men with pickaxes slung over their shoulders climbing the walls of the
"They live in caves," said Ben, and the ridges were indeed beginning to
smoke and glint with evening fires.
Around midnight a torch beam probed our tent. We rustled our sleeping bags
in alarm, causing several pairs of feet to drum away at high speed.
"Third time that's happened," murmured the photographer.
At 5am a delegation of panners carrying pickaxes came to meet us. Word of
our presence had spread through the night and the panners were waiting for
further intelligence before descending to their works.
Explaining the collective paranoia, the delegation leader, a man called
Kudakwashe, said: "Mozambique Parks arrested some of us about two weeks ago.
It is a three-day hike down to their small jails in Sussundenga and so we
escaped along the way and came back. If they find us again they will kill
We were invited to meet the rest of Kudakwashe's syndicate, who were panning
a dwindling tributary of the Muvumodzi.
"They will have to leave here soon," said Ben, "because it is not possible
to pan without water. Actually, it is the rains and not parks or the police
that control the numbers up here. Later you will see very big mining areas
where there is nobody, because the water has stopped flowing. When it starts
again they will come in their thousands."
The syndicate's equipment was rudimentary-- 2kg hammers for crushing rock,
koevoets (crowbars), pickaxes and shovels. Demonstrating their techniques,
a man dumped several spade-loads of soil into a zamba, or shallow wooden
bucket, which he filled with water from the stream. He washed the ore,
picked out stones and poured the slurry on to a strip of carpet that had
been placed on a chute of mud.
"It used to be that we used a James Table to get the gold," said Kudakwashe,
producing a sheet of perforated metal of approximately the same dimensions
as the carpet.
The holes were not entirely punched out, creating scales of metal for
trapping fragments of gold.
"A carpet catches more gold, though. After we have done this we scrape what
is left into a bowl and when it is dry from heating with fire, we blow the
soil and the gold stays behind because it is heavier."
What is left behind is compounded and sold to Mozambican or Zimbabwean
traders, who sell on to jewellers in Maputo, Harare and even Johannesburg.
A 2006 study (which the Mozambican authorities have ignored) found that
panners were liberating two to three grams of gold a day, and sometimes as
much as 30g, which is a fair to outstanding remuneration for a day's labour,
gruelling as it is.
Sadly for the panners, either gold is becoming scarcer or the researchers
were misinformed, for a gram a week for each miner seems to be the average
"They find maybe one or two points a day (one point = 0,1 gram) if they are
lucky," said Ben. The others nodded.
Bidding the syndicate goodbye, Ben led us to a plain latticed with paths. If
there was a sign that we were headed in the right direction, it was the
gradual build up of litter alongside us: wrappings of vanilla biscuits
called Mobiscos, blue-and-red 777 battery wrappers and plastic half-jacks of
a pineapple-flavoured gin called Zed Amanas.
"That stuff," said Ben, "is banned in Chimanimani. You can only drink it in
We were headed for a large koppie in the middle of the plain, at the base of
which several men stood watching our approach. "Well, well, well," cried
one, descending to meet us. "Ben, do you remember what gold is looking
This salutation confirmed what we had suspected for a while -- that Ben's
close knowledge of panning was based on more than hearsay.
"Welcome to amaPotholes," said Ben's dreadlocked friend, who introduced
himself as Champion. Music crackled from an old radio. Several men sat
talking around a fire.
"AmaPotholes is a big market for panners," Champion explained. "It is also
where we mine -- over the years a lot of gold has fallen into the potholes
of the river that flows here."
On a shelf of rock, butterfly-cut bream were laid out next to batteries and
bottles of Manica Lager.
"A bream costs three points, or 180 meticais, and a beer costs four points.
This place is actually like a bar after work, with music and dancing."
Champion had been up in the mountains for four months and would be returning
to Chimanimani village at the end of another month.
"The problem here is some of these guys give all their points for beer when
they are drunk, and then they must work another week, and then another, and
soon they have been here for a year."
The mining at amaPotholes was different to the stream works -- the potholes
themselves had been scoured, and the resident syndicates were now digging
extensive galleries beneath the koppie.
"We have had one guy die this year in a tunnel collapse," said Champion,
pointing out residential caves and the tunnels in the ground in which youths
on their knees worked at the reddish sandstone.
"We buried him in a cave near here. There are a lot of people buried here,
especially after the cyclone in 2006.
"Many people died from drowning and others died because they had no food --
150 in the end.
"Some of their families came up to look for them but their bodies were
already rotten, so they put them in caves and then put stones in front of
the cave like a wall."
Several miners approached us with flakes of gold wrapped up in worthless
Bank of Zimbabwe notes, hoping for a quick sale.
A 13-year-old proudly showed off his collection of black river stones and we
wondered what it was like for him, living among men in the mountains.
If the human ecology of amaPotholes secured our sympathy, a hectare of
excoriated earth on the other side of the hill reminded us of the cost of
"The mountains are slowly changing," said Ben. "Worse than the diggings are
the fires started every year by the panners. They destroy everything:
animals, trees, grasses ."
Perhaps wishing to change the subject, he pointed to a large lateral crack
in a nearby cliff. "We call that 'the dormitory'."
The web of paths gradually coalesced into an enormous swath called "The
Highway", which trailed through the Valley of Wizards to another mtsika
Ben pointed out a third market deeper into Mozambique, called Mudzikwa, and
said that mtsikas tended to be named after the people who founded them.
Just as new panners' paths were overlaying the old ones, anglophile names
such as Terry's Cave and Bridal Veil Falls were making way for Musanditera
After passing 54 men at work on a stretch of the Bundi River, we entered the
Valley of the Apostle, which was wooded and abundant in game because the
Zimbabwean park rangers, standing at the top of Skeleton Pass, can cover
most of it with their SKS rifles.
"They have made a camp on the other side," said Ben, who repeated the rumour
about the Chinese concessionaires.
Assuming the worst about the Chinese is something of a reflex among
Zimbabweans, who use the scathing term zhing-zhong to describe anything
defective, be it a political agreement or a cheaply made radio.
We felt we should put Ben's claims directly to the rangers in the
camouflaged bunker built into a slope near the river.
"We do not want this to happen," said one of the rangers, not quite denying
the possibility that it might happen. "Parks will fight this decision --
Chimanimani must remain a national park."
When asked about their purported war with the panners, both rangers laughed
and said that a stint in Chimanimani was almost like a holiday, given that
they spend portions of the year in Zimbabwe's major game parks, where "the
poachers shoot back with better guns than ours."
If one gives the Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the
benefit of the doubt in this matter of the Chinese, one must also commend
them for doing what their Mozambican counterparts have failed to do --
ending, with few resources, all destructive mining practices in their
We returned to base camp not having seen a single tourist in three days.
Back in the village we paid Ben, who stated unashamedly that he was off to
drink in the Blue Moon Tavern.
"There is nothing else to do. If people know how much money I have they will
come begging for it. It is better to spend it quickly before my family know
I am back."
A bleak statement if ever we heard one, but not as depressing as his next.
"Here we are waiting for the 2010 football World Cup. We believe that the
tourists are going to come back again, and when they do, the panners will
come down again and make other business, you will see -- it is too hard for
them up there. They want to come down."
The thought of football fans beating a path to Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands
caused a collective chuckle.
"You don't think so? Well, that is a shame."
Sean Christie is a Cape Town-based freelance journalist who enjoys combining
work with travel throughout Southern Africa.
January 22, 2010
DESPITE all its problems, Zimbabwe still looks robust and sound on the
However, this fact has led to many errors of judgement being made by
observers, analysts and others who pay fleeting visits. They are often
people who spend time in many other African countries and, in their
comments, they always point out how much better off Zimbabweans are than the
citizens of wherever else they have been.
Unfortunately, the superficial impressions are misleading, and even more
unfortunately, some of the most misled people are Zimbabweans, not visitors.
They also know that most of Zimbabwe's neighbours do not have the extensive
industrial sites and cannot boast of anything like the extent of Zimbabwe's
development in schools, hospitals, commercial properties, up-market suburbs
and golf courses, but they also misjudge their current status.
Assuming that its installed capacity is still in place, many of these
analysts have decided that Zimbabwe's prospects of recovery are so good that
only slight changes in direction and a couple of years would be enough to
see the country regain its former ranking, second only to South Africa's.
Zimbabwe's politicians of whichever stripe have enthusiastically embraced
this belief, so much do they want it to be true. Their conviction that it is
true has been vigorously fed into the short-term and medium-term recovery
plans, which all hinge on forecast recoveries in investment inflows,
employment, export revenues and tax revenues.
What is missing from these beliefs is any evidence that the foreign analysts
or the local planners have any understanding of how much has been damaged by
the policy mix that the authorities forced into place in recent years.
In their efforts to force obedience and compliance from the business sector
as well as from ordinary citizens, government brought productive sector
investment almost to a halt. This has been immensely costly because, in a
competitive world, continuous investment is needed in industrial plant, in
production methods, in staff training, in market research, in design
engineering and in establishing sources of material supplies as well as
sound destinations for finished goods. In Zimbabwe, all this investment
Government interference in the business sector, through its adoption of
fixed exchange rates, price controls, interest rate controls, import
controls and state-controlled buying monopolies for fuel as well as staple
foods, brought an end to inflows of new ideas that would have kept
Zimbabwean goods competitive.
They even made the maintenance of existing production facilities impossible
to fund, or even to justify. They also brought massive handicaps to bear on
those who became responsible for tens of thousands of industrial workers,
but who could be far too easily blamed for business failures for which they
were in no way responsible.
Now, Zimbabwe's manufacturing capacity has fallen to a fraction of its
former size and the country has become more dependent on imported finished
goods than at any time since it started building its own industrial base.
Few companies can afford to offer apprenticeships or training courses, and
very few are even planning for the expansion of their workforce.
This accounts for the Zimbabwean Diaspora. Years ago, many of those who had
good jobs in Zimbabwe realised that their career development paths had
either become indistinct, or they had disappeared completely. For many of
their younger counterparts, the prospects of even getting onto a career path
were evaporating as employers, constrained by price controls, absurd
exchange rates and enormous difficulties in acquiring foreign currency,
found it impossible to work to business expansion plans. For many workers
and work seekers alike, their best option was to leave the country.
As many of the same constraints affected the state-run services, the skilled
technicians and administrators who knew how to make railways, hospitals or
water purification plants work properly, or knew how to maintain aircraft,
power stations, traffic lights or roads, decided that their own careers
would progress faster somewhere else. With their departures, the services
infrastructure has fallen into disrepair.
The roads are crumbling, power supplies are erratic, water no longer reaches
many suburbs and now it cannot even be relied upon to keep flowing in
business areas. The railways and airways can cope with only a fraction of
traffic handled ten years ago, the health services collapsed in most parts
of the country and the quality of teaching has left most children incapable
of passing school examinations.
One of the most telling of the estimated national statistics is that the
number of people in formal employment is now put at little more than 800 000
people, including the civil service. It has fallen to that level from more
than 1 300 000 in 1997. The last time a figure as low as 800 000 was
recorded in the country's statistics was in 1970, forty years ago, but at
that time, Zimbabwe's population was about half the size it is now.
Fleeting observers who note the bustling business activity and all the
vehicles on the roads would not easily see the underlying weakness of the
economy, partly because it is disguised by the huge numbers now seeking some
kind of income from the informal economy.
The informal economy includes the communal land farmers, where this year
almost all of Zimbabwe's farming activities are taking place. The land
confiscated from large-scale commercial farms lies uncultivated almost
throughout the country. Subsidies are needed to replace the loans the banks
used to offer when the farmers owned the land, but no such funds are now
So the quick recovery is not on its way. And it will not be able to start
before a great deal of headway is made in fixing the infrastructure,
updating the manufacturing plant, winning back lost markets, overcoming
dependence on imports and rebuilding government' tax base. Every step of the
way calls for people. But the people concerned are not on their way either,
and won't be until the needed political changes have restored their
Nairobi - African leaders have sent their people an alarming message by
siding with Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir over his victims, Human Rights
Watch (HRW) said in its annual report on Wednesday.
The 600-page review of human rights in the world criticised African
governments for blocking justice mechanisms and warned that rights activists
were increasingly threatened.
The New York based watchdog hailed the March 2009 International Criminal
Court (ICC) arrest warrant against Beshir for war crimes and crimes against
humanity in Sudan's strife-wracked Darfur region as "a major development".
But in an introduction entitled "The Abusers' Reaction: Intensifying Attacks
on Human Rights Defenders, Organisations, and Institutions", it also
deplored the African Union's decision to stand by Beshir.
"One would have wanted African leaders to applaud the move. After all, the
world had dithered for more than five years as the people of Darfur faced
mass murder and forced displacement," the report said.
"Unfortunately, some African leaders seemed less troubled by the slaughter
of ordinary African people than by the audacious prospect that a sitting
African leader might actually be brought to justice for these horrendous
crimes," it said.
"The nadir came during the African Union summit held in July 2009 in Sirte,
Libya," HRW said. "The AU, led by some of the continent's worst autocrats,
began accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africans. In reality, these
leaders were cynically trying to protect one of their own."
Misuse of justice
Human Rights Watch, which reviewed the status of human rights in around 20
sub-Saharan countries, also highlighted government obstruction or misuse of
justice mechanisms at national level.
The report, dedicated to Alison Des Forges - a former HRW Africa senior
adviser and leading expert on Rwanda's 1994 genocide, who died in a US plane
crash last year - took a swipe at Rwanda over its local gacaca courts.
Rwanda has "employed its informal gacaca courts - a form of popular justice
devoid of many fair trial guarantees - to falsely accuse government critics
of complicity in the 1994 genocide," HRW said.
"Ironically, these steps, taken in the name of national reconciliation, have
undermined the formation of independent civil society groups that could
bridge ethnic divides and ease ethnic tensions," it added.
Human Rights Watch also slammed Kenya, a key Western ally in Africa which
has failed to introduce reforms demanded by the international community
following deadly post-election violence in 2008.
The report said "incidents of extrajudicial killings and excessive use of
force by police and military continued unchecked in 2009."
"There were also renewed reports of systematic torture and mistreatment of
civilians during disarmament operations," it added.
The report also singled out Ethiopia, which it said was "on a deteriorating
human rights trajectory as parliamentary elections approach in 2010."
Abuses by the military, lengthy pre-charge detention and legal provisions
restricting political freedom go unpunished and unnoticed by foreign donors
keen not to jeopardise security co-operation, it said.
The watchdog deplored yet another year of violence against civilians by all
belligerents in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a situation in Somalia,
which it said was "so dangerous that open human rights monitoring is
virtually impossible." AFP
Why is it in Zimbabwe, that if ever something quite normal or sensible comes
up, ZANU PF decides that the only way to oppose that event is to threaten
the country with war?
Probably because their history is littered with the dead bodies of those
that have stood in their way...
I note that ZANU PF call Mugabe the 'second son of God" which, in my mind,
is sacrilegious, and the also call him "The Solution". Mugabe is never going
to be the solution to Zimbabwe's problems - indeed, who is going to liberate
Zimbabwe from the 'liberator'?
"A ZANU PF activist has warned Finance Minister Tendai Biti of "war" if he
releases money for the land audit.
Interviewed by the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
on Wednesday night, Goodson Nguni said: "The Minister of Finance is
forwarding MDC's agenda in the inclusive government. He is representing the
whites and by allocating funds to the land audit he wants the whites to come
back. If he insists that the land audit should carry on he is declaring a
war. Land audit represents the MDC, which wants to sabotage the land
Not long ago, we read about a number of families that had benefited from the
land grab and they were about to be evicted to make way for the new owner.
The excuse that ZANU PF gave was that the families had not 'legalised' their
occupation of the land.
My comment then was how many of the 'new' farmers had 'legalised' their
tenure on the land?
If there was an official procedure to be followed, how come we didn't know
about it before - and surely if procedure has been followed, the land audit
becomes a paper trail only?
So why do ZANU PF say that in excess of US$30 million is required for any
land audit - a procedure which they now threaten war over?
"He also warned that the MDC wanted to use the constitution process as a
platform for regime change.
He said the US$31 million allocated to the land audit and the US$43 million
given to the constitution making process should have been given to new black
The ZBC also interviewed Agriculture Minister Joseph Made who said that
non-productivity on farms had been caused by the western sanctions."
(Made is the ZANU PF minister who was able to do a crop survey from an
aircraft and told the world the agricultural season would be "bumper" -
which didn't happen. In fact he got only one letter wrong - the crop harvest
was a "bummer".)
Why should this amount of money be given to the new 'farmers'? Many of the
new land owners have never farmed in their lives and have alternate jobs
elsewhere within the ZANU PF structures. The money for the land audit should
be used for the land audit and that alone.
The new farmers, if they are struggling financially, should be talking to
ZANU PF as they were the people which egged on the invasions - which still
continue today - and allocated the land in such a haphazard way that the
majority of the seized land is now in the hands of the Mugabe administration
ZANU PF was the driving force behind the land grab and hence, it should be
their responsibility in assisting the new farmers - most of which are ZANU
PF card carrying members. Why should the national purse look after only
those that Mugabe chose? Are ZANU PF the only people in Zimbabwe that count?
Threatening war, as far as I am concerned, is a criminal offence...
Robb WJ Ellis
The Bearded Man
The 'Resource Curse' or the 'Paradox of Plenty' is how economists attempt to
explain the phenomenon of why countries in the developing world, blessed
with abundant natural resources, still fail to match up to the developed
world in economic prosperity for their populations as a whole. There are
several reasons for this economists claim; past colonial history, skewed
world markets which operate to the detriment of the developing world,
foreign exploitation and local corruption.
I was reminded this week of the relevance of the 'Resource Curse' to
Zimbabwe when I read about the renewed anger of the residents of Mutoko, a
place I know well having lived and worked there. For years the local
residents have been complaining about the failure by the companies mining
black granite in the area to benefit the local community from the vast
profits made. Anyone who drives along the highway from Nyamapanda on the
Mozambique border to Harare will be aware of the huge lorries carrying
massive blocks of black granite to the capital for export. Occasionally, a
block of granite will be dislodged and abandoned on the side of the road as
a permanent reminder of the exploitation of natural resources to the
detriment of the local people.
A visit to the area where the granite is mined is even more instructive. I
used to visit one of the mines - and there are several, all mined by
different foreign companies - on a monthly basis and I saw for myself the
massive environmental damage. The granite is blasted out of the rocks and
from my memory there was no attempt to repair the damage done by the
blasting. The local community has received few benefits from the black
granite gouged out of their land. There are no newly-built schools, no
clinics, no piped water or any of the other benefits you might expect to see
in an area so rich in natural resources. Apart from the employment
opportunities for local people who undertake the incredibly dangerous work,
there are few benefits to the local community.
This situation is being replicated all over Zimbabwe, a country rich in
natural resources from which local communities derive little benefit. The
land itself cannot be excluded; it is a natural resource which is
increasingly being exploited by corrupt politicians with little benefit for
the impoverished masses. The reports this week by the CFU and GAPWAZ both
speak of the huge suffering caused by the violent land invasions to their
members, farm owners and farm workers. The environmental damage caused by
these unregulated land seizures is yet another tragic consequence of the
'Resource Curse'. The wild animals too, which were once Zimbabwe's pride and
a major tourist attraction are being exterminated by poachers for profits
which benefit only corrupt ministers and foreign buyers. Elephants poached
for their tusks and this week the horrific report that so-called war
veterans are poisoning water holes where rhino drink so that they can cut
out the horns for sale to foreign buyers in the Far East, all yet more
evidence that Zimbabwe's superb natural resources are up for sale to the
highest bidder, regardless of ethical or environmental considerations or
thought for the country's future. Chiadzwa diamonds, other precious stones,
gold and numerous other metals are all part of Zimbabwe's natural heritage
which is steadily being exploited to benefit the few while the masses remain
in abject poverty and, as this year goes on, increasing hunger.
And all this continues while the politicians on both sides play their silly
power games. The total lack of urgency to settle the problem only prolongs
the agony of uncertainty for Zimbabwe. When the Talks finally resumed on
Wednesday evening to settle the remaining issues of the GPA, the
participants met for just a couple of hours behind closed doors and ended
with the bland announcement that they would resume in a couple of weeks. The
Constitutional Outreach Programme too has been 'postponed indefinitely' we
hear, because of disagreements among the parties about funding. This,
despite the fact the fact that the Programme was given sizeable donor
funding! The question is: Where has the money gone?
Zimbabwe's own 'Resource Curse' can only be lifted I believe when we have a
democratically elected government honest and efficient enough to conduct
exhaustive land audits, not only of former commercial farmland but of
communal areas and National Parks. Only then will we be able to see the full
extent of the destruction of our natural resources that has gone on
unchecked for the past ten years and more of Zanu PF misrule. Zimbabwe
urgently needs a new people-driven constitution followed by internationally
monitored free and fair elections. Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF will do
anything in their power to delay that process, we all know that. What is not
so clear is why the MDC - supported by 75% of the population according to a
recent survey - cannot act more stridently to confront the intransigence of
Robert Mugabe and his failing party. While the country waits and waits for a
lasting political settlement, the exploitation of our natural resources for
the benefit of the few goes on unabated and Zimbabwe remains in the grip of
the 'Resource Curse.'
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH aka Pauline Henson author of Case
Closed published in Zimbabwe by Mambo Press, Going Home and Countdown,
political detective stories set in Zimbabwe and available from Lulu.com