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Army fears food riots

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
RESERVE Bank governor Gideon Gono this week made the startling revelation
that Zimbabwe's highest-ranking military commander feared hunger could spark
food riots and civil unrest.

Gono said on Tuesday Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga
had warned him during a meeting that it was urgent to revive agriculture to
preempt a popular revolt over food shortages.

Gono made the disclosure during his fourth quarter monetary policy
statement.

As first reported in the Zimbabwe Independent on November 18 last year, the
army has launched Operation Maguta to resuscitate agriculture that has been
ruined by the chaotic land reform programme.

Maguta, an initiative of the Joint Operations Command which brings together
the army, intelligence, prison and police chiefs, was driven, it would now
appear, by fear of food riots stemming from widespread hunger.

A recent report by the Zimbabwe Rural Food Security and Vulnerability
Assessment team, which includes government representatives and civil
society, said 2,9 million people in rural areas would need food aid this
year.

Aid agencies have also warned of a poor harvest despite current heavy rains.
They ascribed this to the lack of planning and a critical shortage of
farming inputs.

"The country is ... standing on the edge of a cliff which threatens to
irreversibly take us downhill if we do not boldly move forward with speed to
address most of our shortcomings," Gono told shocked business and political
leaders on Tuesday.

Gono said Chiwenga told him he did not want to command his troops "to turn
our guns on hungry Zimbabweans" protesting against food shortages.

Gono has been working closely with the army to revive agriculture by
deploying solders to farm large tracts of land.

He said Chiwenga had told him it was necessary to ensure enough food
production to prevent riots.

"To quote the wisdom of General C Chiwenga, Commander of the Defence Forces:
'A hungry man is an angry man', and as Zimbabweans, we must pull together to
ensure full productivity in agriculture so that hunger is alien to every
Zimbabwean," Gono said.

"General Chiwenga told me: 'Make sure agriculture is revived and make food
available so we (soldiers) will not be forced to turn our guns on hungry
Zimbabweans'."

Gono's remarks, observers say, betray deep anxiety in official circles that
food shortages could ignite civil unrest. Zimbabweans staged riots triggered
by a wave of price escalations and extortionate taxes in 1998. At least 10
people were killed during the demonstrations which saw the army deploying
tanks on the streets.

A report by the New African magazine, carried in the state media last year
and attributed to interviews with senior officials, revealed Operation
Murambatsvina was launched amid warnings by the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) after the disputed March general election that popular
uprisings against government were looming.

The report said the crackdown on shanties and informal business, which the
United Nations said left 18% of the population homeless and a trail of
destruction, was a swift pre-emptive strike against an anti-government
Ukraine-style "Orange Revolution".

These revelations show government's deepening insecurity as social and
economic conditions deteriorate. Government is now relying on the state
security agencies - whose operatives now pervade the bureaucracy - to
maintain its faltering grip on power.

Maguta came after a parliamentary portfolio committee report slammed
government for poor planning in the agricultural sector. Government's own
reports have admitted farm invasions and seizures have seriously affected
agricultural production.


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'Look East' costs AirZim $980 billion

Zim Independent

Paul Nyakazeya
AIR Zimbabwe is losing US$980 000 ($98 billion) a month flying the Dubai and
China routes, central bank governor, Gideon Gono, has said.

Gono on Tuesday said Air Zimbabwe - which last year broke aviation records
by flying one passenger 6 000 km from Dubai to Harare while reeling from
viability problems - has in total lost $980 billion on the routes which
observers say were opened for political reasons.

The Dubai and China routes, introduced early last year and backed by
Transport minister Christopher Mushohwe, were widely seen as part of
President Robert Mugabe's "Look East" policy, which encourages economic ties
with Far East countries as an alternative to established Western trading
partners.

However, the routes have to date cost Air Zimbabwe at least $980 billion.
Gono said the national airline owes local creditors, excluding the central
bank, $125 billion and foreign creditors US$19,6 million.

The Reserve Bank is exposed to Air Zimbabwe to the tune of $1,4 trillion.
The airline made a $317 billion loss in the first 10 months of last year
after a $47 billion loss in 2004.

The national carrier now has only six planes despite having a fleet of 18
planes at Independence in 1980.

"(Air Zimbabwe) managerial incompetence as exhibited by the decision to
enter into a costly lease agreement with PB Airlines and the continued
operation of loss-making routes such as Dubai and China (is) generating (a)
combined loss of US$980 000 per month before taking into account other costs
like handling, landing, navigation and office administration," Gono said.

"The airline continues to fail to restructure its revenue stream where it
earns 70% of its revenue in local currency despite having 70% of its costs
being in foreign currency leading to the airline failing to pay for fuel,
IATA, aircraft insurance and other direct operating expenses."

Air Zimbabwe was the largest borrower from the Parastatals and Local
Authorities Reorientation Programme introduced by the central bank last
year. It got $979,3 billion from the $3 trillion disbursed.

"One observation has been that since embarking on the Parastatals and Local
Authorities Reorientation Programme, Air Zimbabwe's operations have been
characterised by a persistent crisis mode, given a long history of weak
management capacity," Gono said.

Other parastatals are also battling with huge debts.

The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe is saddled with a $1 trillion debt due
to the diversion to the black market of scarce fuel stocks allocated for
agriculture.

Despite receiving $132,2 billion from the central bank, the National
Railways of Zimbabwe is still using outdated IT infrastructure and support
software, and a weak financial reporting and control system. As at November
30, the company had cumulative losses of $462 billion.

The Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company is also experiencing severe financial
haemorrhaging with a cumulative loss of $2,87 trillion for the nine months
ended September 30 despite accessing over $666 billion in public funds.


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Govt gropes for excuses over 'lost season'

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro
GOVERNMENT has started lining up excuses to exonerate itself from yet
another seemingly lost agricultural season this year.

Though the season has been marked by above normal rainfall, international
organisations have forecast even more acute food deficits for Zimbabwe due
to government's tardiness in availing inputs and draught power to farmers.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) this week warned that the
country would face more food shortages this year due to lack of preparedness
and shortage of farm inputs such as fertiliser, fuel for draught power and
seed to complement the goods rains.

"Although the agricultural season has started, shortages of fertilisers and
seed maize have not been sufficiently addressed," Fewsnet's latest report
said.

"High maize seed prices made it extremely difficult for farmers to procure
the seed they needed. The government's input support programme only started
moving the inputs in November, and consequently, the majority of the farmers
who benefited were likely unable to take advantage of the early rains and
the full potential of the rainfall season."

Fewsnet said shortages of tractors, draught animals, fuel and spare parts
also hindered land preparations throughout the country. The deaths of
draught animals in the southern part of the country during the prolonged
2005 dry season have further reduced tillage capacity in these areas.

"As a result, the food security prospects for the 2006/07 marketing year do
not look bright," the report said.

Government has however tried to exonerate itself from these shortcomings,
blaming so-called sanctions and natural disasters for the economic meltdown
and low productivity.

National Security minister Didymus Mutasa attacked the Fewsnet projections
as hostile propaganda generated by Zimbabwe's Western enemies.

He said instead of sympathising with the people affected by "the economic
sanctions they imposed on us, they use the economic challenges to criticise
us".

Other than the sanctions, government over the past months has been trying to
rope in natural disasters to divert people's attention from the shortages of
agricultural inputs, particularly fertiliser.

Initially, it cited fears of floods when it claimed that flash floods and
soil saturation would adversely affect crop growth. This however soon became
unsustainable when the low pressure system which caused flooding in
Mozambique and the southern parts of the country shifted to South Africa.

Two weeks ago, government picked on the outbreak of the armyworm as
threatening production of the stable maize.

Agricultural Research and Extension Services director, Shadreck Mlambo, was
reported saying that all provinces except Matabeleland South had been
affected by the armyworm.

"We do have an armyworm situation here, and we're still trying to
consolidate all the reports that are coming in from different parts of the
country to be able to judge the extent of it. For now I can say that all
provinces except Matabeleland South have been affected," Mlambo said.

Executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Dzarira Kwenda, said the
situation was potentially devastating for both small and large-scale farmers
"because the foreign currency needed to import chemicals is in short supply".

He said Mashonaland Central and East provinces were most affected and
farmers there could possibly lose "thousands of hectares" of crops to the
voracious pest.

Now that the armyworm has been contained, a new threat of migratory locusts
that invaded Zambia's southern province of Namwala is being cited as the
latest natural hazard to hit the country.

Government fears that swarms of locusts that have caused extensive damage to
crops and vegetation in several countries could end up in Zimbabwe, which is
enjoying good rains and has fertile conditions for egg laying and food that
could sustain the larvae.

Agriculture minister, Joseph Made, this week said teams were being
dispatched to monitor the situation and search for indications of locust
invasion throughout the country to ensure early detection.Made said locusts
were not easy to control as they "fly away at the earliest sign of danger".


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It's the politics, stupid . . . not the economy

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya
CENTRAL bank governor Gideon Gono this week presented his fourth quarter
monetary policy review statement full of informative technical detail but
devoid of political context and hence workable solutions.

Gono appears well-intentioned and determined to pull out all the stops to
deliver, but the trouble is how he seems to situate problems facing the
country.

To show his good faith, Gono makes appeals for unity, for government
officials and everybody to shun corruption, and for the country to avoid
racism, regionalism and tribalism. Although some of these issues were
perhaps raised on the wrong forum at the wrong time, it is nevertheless
necessary to tackle them.

Gono also gave useful information on the state of the economy. While his
policy does not deserve the harsh epithet of failure, it raised a number of
questions about his ability, in the circumstances, to deliver. It also
raised questions about the capacity - or inclination - of government to deal
with current economic problems.

Gono appears to lack the courage of his convictions to tackle the political
question head-on. Granted, we understand he does not want to cross the
Rubicon - and become a casualty of the messy political end game - but a good
policy pronouncement without the correct premise and based on a
fundamentally flawed rationale is not likely to be helpful.

It is clear Gono - in pursuit of political correctness - has resisted the
need to link politics and economics. But claiming that the media and Western
sanctions are responsible for the economic crisis while letting the bungling
political elite off the hook is downright disingenuous - and Gono knows it.

Equally, flattering army generals and their political principals by quoting
their irrelevant high sounding nothings in a serious monetary policy
statement is also less than useful.

Gono proceeds in one of his documents from the sublime to the ridiculous. He
says he has heard some people proposing a "sanctions tax" to punish Western
multinational companies for the sanctions imposed by their governments on
Zimbabwe.

This can't be a serious suggestion from anybody concerned about investment.
At another level, Gono tried to please international actors by attacking
farm invaders and urging Harare to restore good relations with the
international community. It was a good proposition but undermined by his
underlying political fear of rocking the boat.

It gets worse when the policy measures become ad hoc and are not based on
econometrics. Issues like promising a new currency and flip-flopping on the
exchange rate, not to mention failures to curb inflation and inject life
into the economy, do not help matters.

How does a new currency help to resolve such a deep crisis when
macro-economic fundamentals remain skewed?

It is the crumbling economic base and collapsing superstructure that are at
the heart of the matter, not these peripheral issues.

The situation is now probably worse than it was when Gono came into office
in 2003, but it is unfair and unreasonable to blame him for Zimbabwe's
policy and institutional failures. The presidential incumbent and his regime
are to blame.

But in the meantime, Gono has left himself rather exposed to criticism which
he could easily forestall by pointing out the obvious: that it's the
politics stupid and not the economy!

The dividing line between politics and economics is wafer-thin. In fact,
they overlap and usually have a symbiotic relationship. That is why the
strength or weakness of a state depends upon its political infrastructure
and economic capacity. One without the other produces a somewhat
dysfunctional state.

Gono must contextualise issues. To ignore the environment and its political
dynamics is to miss the whole point!

Zimbabwe is groaning under the weight of an economic crisis and
authoritarianism. It is burdened by a government which has long lost the
capacity to establish its legitimacy and show a semblance of authority
beyond the use of coercive methods.

The parasitic power elite at the helm of the Zimbabwean state are now
increasingly relying on repressive apparatuses rather than representative
institutions as instruments of perpetuating their rule.

Mugabe's centralisation of institutions and personalisation of power are a
serious malady in local politics. That is why democracy, in its basic form,
that is procedural form, is refusing to take root in Zimbabwe which is now
almost a failed state.

This is the political context where the real problem lies. Printing money on
a massive scale and hyperinflation are a manifestation of policy and
leadership failures. Gono knows that but lacks the courage to spell it out.


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Van Hoogstraten said it, insists Sunday Times journalist

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari
A JOURNALIST who interviewed British tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten saying
he had lent President Robert Mugabe money has defended her story maintaining
she just reported what he told her.

Jane Kelly, who writes for the London Sunday Times, said van Hoogstraten,
who owns a significant stake in Hwange Colliery and NMB Bank, told her in an
interview that he gave Mugabe money which he has not yet returned.

Kelly's remarks follow van Hoogstraten's statement last week denying the
story about the US$10 million personal loan last November as "fabricated and
rubbish".

"I can confirm beyond the shadow of doubt that I have not extended any loan
to the president," said van Hoogstraten, who spent a year in prison for
manslaughter but was released on appeal.

He said the suggestion in the story was "absolutely nonsensical".

"The report is total fiction and typical of the lies and rhetoric by the
foreign press and the so-called independent press in this country," van
Hoogstraten said.

However, Kelly told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that she stood by her
story because she had a record of the interview.

She said the tycoon had actually shown her a memorandum of agreement showing
that Mugabe entered into a contract to borrow the money.

"I am surprised that he is now denying ever saying that because he showed me
a memorandum of the loan to Mugabe," Kelly said.

She said the tycoon told her that the loan was a highly confidential
arrangement. The interview between van Hoogstraten and Kelly took place at
Courtlands Hotel in Hove at lunchtime on December 31, 2005.

It was published in the Sunday Times on January 8.

Claims of van Hoogstraten's loan facility to Mugabe have embarrassed the
government in view of its shrill denunciation of political parties that get
British funding.

Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba came out saying Mugabe was "neither a
lender nor a borrower".

Charamba said Mugabe had never met van Hoogstraten.

But Kelly said the property tycoon, who has in the past called his tenants
"riff-raff", had said in the interview he was good friends with Mugabe whom
he called a "true English gentlemen".

Kelly said she was sure that van Hoogstraten was being pushed to deny the
story.

"I don't understand why he would deny something he said and showed me. I am
sure someone is leaning on him," Kelly said.

"I just wrote what he told me, I have no axe to grind. I have no reason to
say anything false, I have no agenda."

Kelly said she was however not surprised with van Hoogstraten's antics
because 10 years ago he had also performed a similar somersault after an
interview with her. She said in that interview in 1995 the tycoon, who owns
the vast Central Estates in the Midlands, admitted that he had a violent
relationship with his mother when he was growing up.

He later denied ever saying anything about his mother. "I am not surprised
by what he is doing now because he also denied another interview which I had
with him when I was still working for the Daily Mirror," Kelly said.


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Mugabe must step down - Mabhena

Zim Independent

Loughty Dube
FORMER PF-Zapu supremo and Matabeleland North governor, Welshman Mabhena,
has called on President Robert Mugabe to step down to allow the
international community to work towards a revival of the country's ailing
economy.

Mabhena, who was removed from his post for being openly critical of the
marginalisation of Matabeleland region, said so long as Mugabe was in power
Zimbabwe's future remained uncertain.

"Greed has made Mugabe lose values," he said. "After the liberation war
people loved Mugabe and rejoiced because they felt he was a good leader but
he should now retire and acknowledge his mistakes, people will forgive him,"
said Mabhena, a former secretary-general of PF-Zanu that was led by Joshua
Nkomo.

"Mugabe should leave power and let someone else rebuild the country. The
international community will help to rebuild the country," he said.

Mabhena told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview that Mugabe should be
sincere and stop preaching a gospel of hate because Zimbabweans "have no
hatred of the international community, including Britain".

Zimbabwe is facing a myriad problems that include a serious shortage of food
and fuel.

Food shortages have been blamed mainly on President Mugabe's controversial
takeover of white-owned commercial farms.

Mabhena, who was at the helm of Matabeleland province when government
unleashed the North Korean-trained Five Brigade on unarmed civilians, said
Mugabe had entrenched corruption and compromised national values through his
controversial policies. The crack unit allegedly killed close to 20 000
civilians.

"President Mugabe is planting and sowing seeds of division. The nation has
been corrupted and torn apart on race grounds and Mugabe is busy enriching a
few people in his inner circle with farms forcibly taken from whites," he
said.

Speaking on the Tsholotsho debacle that saw some senior Zanu PF officials
dismissed from the ruling party, Mabhena said all that reflected Mugabe's
quest to monopolise power without being challenged.

"The Tsholotsho issue was Mugabe's fault of wanting total power and that is
why his lieutenants are plotting against him. That is also the reason why
they are breaking away from his party and forming their own," he said.

Mabhena said it was unfortunate that Mugabe's policies are backfiring on him
when he is still alive.

"Mugabe has been building a time bomb knowing fully well that everything
would collapse after he was gone. It's unfortunate that things are beginning
to go wrong when he is still alive," he said.


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Scramble for Time Bank's farm hots up

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari
THE Time Bank saga has taken a new turn after it emerged that a senior
official in the Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement ministry is leading a
group of people pushing to take over Watermount Farm - the bank's prime
property earmarked for a $1,4 trillion housing project.

The group, led by chief lands officer in the Lands ministry, Petronella
Kagonye, claims they want to take over the farm on the basis of promised
funding by RBZ under its Productive Sector Facility.

Watermount housing pro-ject was cited by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
as a core reason to close Time Bank with RBZ claiming that the project was
used by the bank's directors to siphon $440 billion from the bank.

The bank was due for reopening in March.

Time Bank owners have since written to Vice-President Joseph Msika
requesting his intervention in the dispute that they say is threatening to
derail their plans to reopen the bank.

"We are writing to draw your attention to a conflict involving
discriminating among black people that has since arisen regarding the
above-mentioned farm," said the letter. "Land reform is not about taking
land from black indigenous owners and giving it to other black indigenous
people especially where there is no multiple ownership," said the letter to
Msika.

Watermount Estates (Pvt) Ltd, the owners of the farm, have filed papers in
the High Court suing Kagonye and five others.

In their court papers they argued Kagonye was abusing her position to
misrepresent to the minister that the land was white-owned.

Antony Taengwa Parehwa, representing Watermount owners as the manager of the
housing project, said Kagonye was colluding with five others to take over
the farm and was abusing her position by refusing to update information on
the ownership of the farm.

Parehwa said Kagonye had shown that she had an interest in the property
because one of the people wanting it, Stanley Kagonye, was her father.

"She boasted that she had been told the truth (about the Watermount
ownership) by people who can utilise the property well and people had been
promised farming finance by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe."

When approached for comment on the issue, Kagonye referred all questions to
her ministry.

"Either do that or write what you want," she said.

* Meanwhile, our reporter Shakeman Mugari, yesterday received a mysterious
visitor demanding that he drop his investigations into the invasion of
Watermount farm. The visitor, who made threatening calls before coming to
the Zimbabwe Independent offices at around 4.30pm, claimed to have been sent
by top CIO officials to stop the reporter from writing the story. The CIO,
he said, were not happy with his investigations. Mugari had earlier made a
call to Petronella Kagonye, a government chief lands officer implicated in
the invasions, before the calls and visit from the CIO emissary.


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Karoi farmers under siege

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro/Clemence Manyukwe
SEVEN of the few remaining white commercial farmers in Karoi are under siege
as a fresh wave of evictions has hit the area.

Farming sources in the province said of the 10 commercial farmers left in
the Karoi area, seven are threatened with eviction. The worst affected are
Templecombe and Dandazi farms.

This comes less than a week after Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono
described farm invasions as economic sabotage.

The affected farmers refused to comment, saying the situation was still too
volatile to be publicised. They are engaged in discussions with the Zanu PF
leadership in the area to avoid eviction.

In similar developments, sugarcane farmer Clive Holden and
internationally-renowned conservationist Clem Coetzee, have been under
attack from farm occupiers they have shared land with at Turkey Heart Farm
near Triangle since the beginning of farm invasions.

Farmers in the Triangle area said they were running their businesses without
objection from any of the land beneficiaries until just before Christmas
when Clemence Ranganai, accompanied by the Chiredzi lands officer, a Mr
Mukonyora, gave them a three-day ultimatum to leave their homes.

Ranganai is one of the four plot-holders on Turkey Heart Farm and claims to
have been allocated all the houses on the property. He claims to have placed
press advertisement offering the houses as holiday cottages for lease.

Although Coetzee confirmed that he was under siege from the occupiers, he
said he had held a series of meetings with Ranganai, Mukonyora and Triangle
police to resolve the issue.

"Mukonyora said they would give us time to vacate after consulting with the
governor." Coetzee said.

Farmers said Coetzee had been consulting with the Masvingo governor Willard
Chiwewe over the issue although there appeared to be no movement.

On Sunday night two 7-tonne lorry loads of hired thugs accompanied Ranganai
to force Coetzee off the property.

"Fortunately Triangle police responded to the distress call although by that
time the invading youths had already broken through the main gate of the
homestead," the farmer said.

He said the youths invaded the homestead again on Tuesday but the police
again moved in quickly to quell the disturbance.

Meanwhile, war veterans are terrorising former farm workers settled at
Munhenga farm in Goromonzi who they want to evict after they spurned demands
to pay rent and electricity charges.

On Tuesday representatives of the former farm workers, Kingston Chari and
Jeffrey Shabani, said the war veterans last month distributed circulars
demanding payments for rentals and electricity charges but the settlers
refused to give in to the demand.

More than 30 families live at Munhenga farm.

The circulars had a Munhenga Primary School stamp, where the war veterans
are members of the School Development Association.

Irked by the rebuff, party militia led by Pascal Chirimuta allegedly invaded
the former workers' compound last Sunday demanding that they vacate the
houses.


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Patients to pay more at council clinics

Zim Independent

Clemence Manyukwe
PATIENTS at council clinics should expect to fork out more for treatment
because government has failed to pay health grants or take over the payment
of salaries of health personnel under urban local authorities.

The president of the Zimbabwe Local Government Association and Kadoma mayor,
Fani Phiri, said central government's failure to honour its obligations was
contributing to the brain drain and compromising health delivery across the
country.

Phiri said the Ministry of Health had told them that it would not be giving
out grants while agreements reached in August last year that the government
would take over the payment of salaries of health workers employed by
councils had not been honoured.

"The blue book of the Ministry of Finance says we should be given health
grants but the Ministry of Health says there is no money. To cover the gap,
people now have to pay more at council clinics," he said.

He said last year local authorities submitted names and qualifications of
the health personnel to the government, after agreeing that the former would
take over the payment of salaries following the constituting of the Heath
Services Board.

"It was agreed that the government would take over the payment of the
salaries when the board was instituted but we are still waiting. We will
soon make a follow-up on the issue," Phiri added.

The ruling Zanu PF party mayor said they would soon meet the Health Services
Board to discuss some of the issues bedevilling them.

Chegutu mayor, Francis Dhlakama, said government's failure to release the
funds had caused councils' failure to procure essential drugs and equipment.

"Yes, we were told that they would pay the nurses but I think it was just
politicking," said Dhlakama.

Asked on the issue of the grants, Health and Child Welfare deputy minister,
Edwin Muguti, on Monday said: "Why should they rush to the press? They
should follow proper channels."

The deputy minister said although health personnel under the Public Services
Commission (PSC) had been transferred to the Health Services Board, those
under councils would remain under the local authorities as discussions to
take them on board were still on-going.


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Kotze unveils new paintings

Zim Independent

ZIMBABWE'S leading oil painter, John Kotze, has begun the year on a high
note following the release of two new paintings, Pothole and Mangoes both
pregnant with political satire.

At face value the paintings look like any ordinary craft, which can easily
add to one's interior décor.

However, they have a hidden meaning all buried in the brush strokes. Pothole
and Mangoes are furnished with a rich colouring to perplex and dodge the
uncritical eye.

According to Kotze, Pothole denotes the country's state of economic and
political dilapidation.

"All you see there ndezve chokwadi (is the truth). I'm inspired by the
circumstances we live in. Talk of Operation Murambatsvina. Such events form
the background to the things that I paint."

He added that the hole in Pothole is an ample symbol of how the nation is
wallowing in recession, but like in all his works the painter offers hope:

"Water in the pothole represents life. You can also see the reflection of
the blue sky in the water, which resembles better days to come. I'm trying
to be optimistic as well."

Mangoes on the other hand is a lamentation of the ordeal faced by thousands
of unemployed people who survive on selling fruits and vegetables, thus
enabling them to eke a living in the face of hunger and food shortages. The
irony of it all is the mangoes in the painting are wrapped in a newspaper
whose headline talks about food shortages.

Kotze, a graduate engineer, left his academic field of specialty 15 years
ago to pursue oil painting, a genre he says has earned him
"self-actualisation and personal fulfillment". - Staff Writer.


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State agents loot diamonds

Zim Independent

Clemence Manyukwe
STATE agents are looting diamonds at River Ranch Mine in Beitbridge after
seizing it from Bubye Minerals (Pvt) Ltd, the company's lawyer has alleged.

The occupation of the mine by the state agents follows government's
cancellation of Bubye Minerals' claim to the property arguing that the
company had acquired mining rights from River Ranch unprocedurally.

In an urgent High Court chamber application seeking the nullification of
government's action which was heard on Wednesday, Bubye Minerals through
their lawyer Terrence Hussein said the country risked being slapped with
international sanctions involving the sale of diamond products as their loss
of mining rights amounted to an "extra-judicial seizure".

An international instrument which Zimbabwe is signatory to, the Kimberly
Accord, prevents the sale of conflict diamonds, bars unauthorised persons
from working and benefiting from the sale of diamonds or the seizure and
disposition of mining claims.

"State agents are at the mine. They have been working there since December
last year," Hussein said.

"Nobody should be working at the mine. I believe that activity should be
frozen," he said In supporting papers filed with the same court on January
17 in which the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Amos Midzi, the
Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and the Masvingo Mining
commissioner are cited as respondents, Hussein said public policy demands
the court's urgent intervention in the matter to protect the country's
economic interests.

"Unless the matter is heard urgently, these possessors with the unlawful
backing of the first and second respondents would continue with this conduct
of extracting precious minerals and disposing of them," said Hussein.
"Applicant will in the meantime lose millions of US dollars."

He added: "On the international scene and in terms of the Kimberly Accord,
the mine has in effect been unlawfully seized. Zimbabwe's diamonds therefore
are in danger of being subject to international sanctions thereby depriving
the country of much needed foreign currency."

Justice Patel adjourned proceedings pending an establishment by the parties
as to who exactly was occupying the property.

The court papers filed by Bubye Minerals reveal that late last year the
government cancelled its claim which had been approved by the Mining Affairs
Board in January 2005 arguing that it had been granted without Midzi's
consent as required by law.

But the company wants the court to reverse the government's action arguing
that the High Court has previously dismissed applications based on the
similar arguments .


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Govt keeps land audit under wraps

Zim Independent

Loughty Dube
THE government is maintaining a lid on yet another land audit report
completed late last year, raising fears that it was as damning as the ruling
Zanu PF report released last month.

The latest land audit follows in the well-worn footsteps of previous
committees set up by President Robert Mugabe to investigate irregularities
in the controversial land reform exercise.

State Security and Land Reform minister Didymus Mutasa, who heads the
inter-ministerial committee on land, said this week he could not reveal the
contents of the latest report.

"There is nothing I can say to you at the moment, he said. "The report will
be made public when the time comes but for the time being just let us do our
work. You will know definitely."

Since the controversial land reforms started in 2000, the government has
instituted several land committees to look into irregularities in the land
reform process.

First to be appointed was a committee that was led by the then Minister of
State for Land Reform, Flora Bhuka, which unearthed gross irregularities and
multiple farm ownership in land re-distribution.

Next to be appointed was a Presidential Land Review committee led by Former
Secretary to the Cabinet and the President, Charles Utete, whose report
which was equally damning.

The Utete report ignored the link between land reform and economic decline
and skated around the issue of the destruction of commercial agriculture and
the plunder of farming equipment by government and ruling party officials.

No serious remedial measures were recommended.

Speaker of Parliament John Nkomo's team also uncovered a number of problems
associated with land reform.

The latest survey to be aired, Zanu PF's report released at the party
conference at Esigodini last month, was also sharply critical of certain
aspects of the exercise. It identified irregularities such as cases of
multiple-farm ownership, double allocation of farms, destruction of
infrastructure on the farms and ongoing farm invasions, among other issues.

It said there were no measures put in place to ensure problems identified
were rectified. It remains to be seen what the current report reveals.

Zimbabwe is grappling with acute food shortages caused mainly by disruptions
to commercial farming.


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Gono blames media for economic mess

Zim Independent

RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono has blamed the media for the
economic crisis gripping the country.

Gono's remarks conform with the official line which prompted press laws that
have resulted in the closure of four newspapers and seen over a dozen
journalists arrested.

Since 2002, the Media and Information Commission, which enforces media
regulation, has failed to process accreditation applications by a number of
foreign correspondents.

Gono said the media had destroyed the economy.

"The negative international image on Zimbabwe has largely been (based on
non-factual) bad publicity," he said.

"The negative publicity by local, regional and international media has thus,
in effect, worked to undermine and destroy business confidence and investor
sentiment towards Zimbabwe," he claimed.

Gono said Zimbabwe has been perceived as a war zone, a development that has
seen tourist arrivals dropping from a peak of 600 000 in 1999 to 281 105 in
2002. - Staff Writer.


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Exchange rate control to fuel inflation

Zim Independent

ECONOMIC analysts say the central bank's decision to control the interbank
exchange rate system will fuel the parallel market and hinder foreign
currency inflows into the official market.

"It is not an intelligent move to adjust exchange rates according to volumes
traded while there is a serious scarcity of foreign currency on the official
market," economic analyst John Robertson said.

He said people would turn to the more lucrative parallel market and thus
widen the spread with the interbank rate.

"The mechanism is relating the wrong things. The scarcity problem is not
being addressed," Robertson said.

Robertson said buyers were increasing in number but there were no sellers on
the official market.

"The central bank should boost foreign currency inflows by promoting
exports. In such a situation, the last thing you want to do is to tax the
exporters," he said.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president, Luxon Zembe, said the
exchange rates should be determined by market forces.

"The exchange rate should not be determined by the volumes traded but by the
forces of demand and supply," he said.

Zembe said the parallel market was almost collapsing as its rates were
converging with those on the interbank system, but the latest decision would
reverse all that.

RBZ governor Gideon Gono said this week exchange rate adjustments under the
interbank system will, with immediate effect, be based on volumes traded.

"The interbank weighted exchange rate system has been refined such that
exchange rate adjustments are triggered at varying allowable margins, based
on actual volumes traded in the market."

Daily volumes below US$5 million will no longer affect the day's exchange
rate, while trades ranging between US$5 million and US$10 million will see a
+/-1% on the mid-rate.The US$10 million to US$15 million range will in turn
see an automatic adjustment to the exchange rate either side of 1,5% and
volumes exceeding US$15 million will be allowed a 2% variation. - Staff
Writer.


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RBZ to do away with curators

Zim Independent

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe this week said it will abandon the use of
curators in dealing with troubled banks, signalling a major shift in policy
in its market stabilisation strategy.

"Over the years, the Reserve Bank placed reliance on curatorships as a
medium for problem banks resolution. We wish to advise the market that we
have learnt our lessons and the shortcomings inherent in this mode of
intervention," central bank governor Gideon Gono announced on Tuesday.

Gono said the RBZ was finalising extensive preemptive strategies for market
stabilisation after the banking crisis of 2004 in which 10 financial
institutions were closed or put under curatorship due to a liquidity crunch.

The new approach will provide for stress-testing of individual banking
institutions and the entire financial market, with the central bank also
employing comprehensive early warning systems to identify problem banks for
early intervention.

Gono said curators had proved ineffectual due mainly "to the unrepentant
nature of the majority of the affected owners, managers and shareholders who
unnecessarily indulge in selective amnesia despite the extensive insolvency
they have presided over at their failed institutions". - Staff Writer.


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Business meets Mujuru over Gono's threats

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari
BUSINESS leaders last week met Vice-President Joice Mujuru after being
threatened with unspecified action by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono over
poor export performance and low foreign currency inflows.

The leaders met Mujuru on Tuesday last week after Gono's warning at a tense
meeting on Monday where he accused them of making his work as governor
difficult. He is reported to have described exporters as ungrateful.

At the meeting, Gono is reported to have said the exporters did not
appreciate his efforts. He complained that exporters were sabotaging his
efforts by delaying liquidation of their foreign currency accounts.

He demanded that they liquidate their foreign currency accounts urgently or
risk stern measures.

Gono was angry that the liberalisation of the foreign currency regime had
not helped improve foreign currency inflows.

He is reported to have said the exporters must urgently remit their foreign
currency to "help him convince the powers-that-be that the foreign currency
liberalisation was the right policy".

This week Gono instituted measures to deal with exporters he had accused of
starving the government of foreign currency.

In his monetary policy statement on Tuesday, Gono reduced the retention
period from 45 days to 30 days.

"With immediate effect, therefore, the retention period has been reduced
from the current 45 days to 30 days (one full month)," Gono said.

He however tried to make amends saying the exporters would be allowed to
retain 80% of their proceeds, up from 70%.

The meeting with Mujuru was requested by business leaders who are reported
to have been irked by Gono's threats and accusations.

They met Mujuru at her Munhumutapa offices at 11am on January 17 and the
meeting lasted for close to an hour.

The meeting was attended by Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president,
Luxon Zembe, Pattison Sithole, the president of the Confederation of
Zimbabwe Industries, and the chief executive of Delta, Joe Mutizwa.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry and International Trade,
Christian Katsande, also attended.

The business leaders are reported to have requested that Gono should not
attend the meeting as they wanted to have frank discussions with Mujuru.

Zembe confirmed attending the meeting with Mujuru but refused to give
details of what was discussed.

"It was just a general meeting really, that's all I can say," said Zembe
when contacted for a comment.

At the meeting, the leaders asked Mujuru to make sure government implements
some of the fiscal policies announced by Finance minister Herbert Murerwa in
the budget.

They are reported to have pleaded with her to ensure that price controls are
abolished as Murerwa had promised and to stop further disturbances on the
farms.


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Agro firms bank on regional expansion

Zim Independent

Eric Chiriga
AN injection of trillions of dollars into the agricultural sector has failed
to turn-around the farming industry, and agro-based firms say production is
set to continue declining due to viability problems in the sector. As a
result, most of them are beginning to plan for regional opportunities,
hoping to hedge themselves against the risks inherent in Zimbabwe's
agricultural sector.

The firms warn that the non-availability of inputs will negatively impact on
production despite abundant rains currently falling in the country.

TSL Ltd (TSL), involved in seed manufacturing and tobacco processing, warned
that the major shortages of agricultural inputs such as fuel, fertiliser and
chemicals will impact negatively on production of most crops.

"Given these constraints tobacco is likely to decline in the coming season,"
Peter Richards, the chairman of TSL, said in the group's audited results for
the year ended October 31, 2005.

Richards said the group will attempt to alleviate the negative consequences
of subdued demand domestically by establishing operations in the region.

Another agro firm, Chemco Holdings Ltd (Chemco) said it was now pursuing
other business options due to viability problems and declining local demand
in the agricultural sector.

The agricultural inputs manufacturer also said that the shortage of foreign
currency, fuel and basic inputs like fertiliser, will hinder agricultural
production this year.

"The group is assessing alternative lines of business as well as regional
expansion to compensate for the local fall in demand," Robert Gunn, the
secretary of Chemco, said in the group's consolidated results for the year
ended October 31, 2005.

"Unavailability of foreign currency as well as fuel and fertiliser shortages
in the latter half of the year have hampered agricultural production and
will continue to do so in the short to medium term," Gunn said.

He said that concessionary funding for farming activities spearheaded by the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was delayed and would not result in
significant increases in agricultural production.

Last year, the central bank disbursed $7 trillion to farmers under the
Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility (ASPEF) in a bid to
revive the sector that was negatively affected by the land reform programme.

Out of the $7 trillion package, $3 trillion was earmarked for irrigation
support, $750 billion for agriculture and barn rehabilitation, $750 billion
for beef cattle restocking, $750 billion for dairy support, $500 billion for
piggery and poultry support and $1 trillion for other agricultural support
schemes.

The funds were accessed through commercial and merchant banks at a
concessionary interest rate of 20%.

The central bank governor, Gideon Gono, this week announced that a total of
$5,59 trillion had been utilised under the ASPEF.

Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy, with agriculture contributing almost 20%
to the country's gross domestic product.


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Cabs fraud exposes huge currency digits risks

Zim Independent

Paul Nyakazeya
THE much-publicised $432 billion fraud at Central African Building Society
(Cabs) exposed a weakness in the building society's control systems but
highlighted the risks that all financial institutions face as the number of
digits in our currency grows to large levels, a Cabs executive said this
week.

Speaking for the first time since the bank was exposed last year, Cabs
managing director Kevin Terry told businessdigest that although it had later
been established that the building society lost $279 billion, less than the
initially announced figure, their control system had been negatively
exposed.

"Obviously a fraud of this magnitude came as a real shock. It exposed a
weakness in one of our control systems and highlighted the risk that all
institutions face when the number of digits in our currency grows to such
large levels. We have certainly learned from this incident and those lessons
will make Cabs even stronger," said Terry.

The accused, Mathias Ndlovu, was initially said to have siphoned $432
billion from the building society. But according to the building society's
internal audit, it was prejudiced of "only" $153 billion.

"A substantial fraud of just over $153 billion was uncovered at Cabs. The
perpetrator of the fraud, who was a Cabs Platinum client, was arrested,"
Terry said. "Cabs has identified considerable assets bought with the stolen
money. The matter is with the courts and Cabs is optimistic that it will
recoup this loss."

According to information at hand, Ndlovu, who is out on $200 million bail,
was a holder of three accounts with Cabs.

One of them was a platinum account, which is tailored for elite bank
customers and holders enjoy special benefits.

Transactions made with Cabs between July 5 and November 25 showed that
Ndlovu issued cheques to himself from his platinum account and made them
payable into his other accounts when he knew very well that the account was
insufficiently funded.

He did this until the figure ballooned to $432 billion but only used $153
billion of the building society's money.

The scam came to light on November 25 last year after officials from the
Reserve Bank's Financial Intelligence Inspectorate and Surveillance queried
the huge transactions that Ndlovu had conducted on the day. It was not
immediately clear as to how much was involved on the day.

Ndlovu is alleged to have transferred the funds into accounts belonging to
people and companies from whom he bought properties.

"The perpetrator has subsequently been specified by the Minister of Justice
in terms of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Reggie Saruchera of Camelsa
Chartered Accountants has been appointed investigator to assist in the
identification of assets bought with the proceeds of the fraud. The effect
of the specification is to freeze such assets until such time as the matter
is finalised," Terry said.

He said, however, the amount in question did not threaten either the
stability of Cabs or security of client investment.

"The confidence of clients in Cabs has been shown by the fact that in spite
of the fraud Cabs has not lost a single platinum client. In fact many
clients have taken the opportunity to personally express their satisfaction
with and confidence in the society," he said.

"Extensive in-house checks have taken place and Cabs is pleased to be able
to say that it has continued to offer stability and world class service in
all its operations throughout Zimbabwe over the six weeks since the fraud."

Police have since recovered 14 brand new luxury vehicles and identified two
houses in Harare's up-market suburbs of Gunhill and Greystone Park, which
are believed to have been bought with money from the money Ndlovu siphoned
at Cabs.

Their value is still to be ascertained. Also recovered was $62 billion in
Ndlovu's platinum account and a further $10 billion in his investment
account held with FBC Bank.


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Govt stares defeat in battle against inflation

Zim Independent

Paul Nyakazeya
ZIMBABWE'S broad money supply growth surpassed year-end forecasts in the
month of November, stoking fears the country could be fighting a losing
battle against inflation.

Latest figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe this week showed that money
supply growth shot up to 411% in November from an October figure of 385%.

This had been on the back of expanding credit to the government used to
spearhead the revival of the collapsing agricultural sector.

The introduction of the new $50 000 bearer cheque would, according to
analysts, make the Reserve Bank's target difficult to achieve especially
during the first quarter of the year as the printing and demand of the
bearer cheque would increase money supply growth.

"It is credit expansion that is the root of the inflation problem," a money
market dealer said. "An expansion in money supply sets in motion an exchange
of nothing for something or the diversion of real resources from activities
that generate wealth towards activities that undermine the process of wealth
generation," the dealer said.

The Reserve Bank had targeted money supply to contract to below 240% last
December, and fall further to 180% in March this year, 100% in June, 65% in
September and 50% in December.

"It is imperative to note that in 2005, credit to government was mainly
driven by grain imports, against the background of the drought experienced
in the 2004/5 season, as well as fuel imports at higher international
prices," said Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, in his monetary policy
statement on Tuesday.

"While agreeing that high money supply growth in 2005 arising from both
Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility (Aspef) and other
quasi-fiscal operations of the central bank contributed greatly to the
inflation outturn, it has to be appreciated by all stakeholders that
Zimbabwe is not an economy operating under normal conditions."

The governor lamented the absence of balance of payments support for almost
nine years and little or no capital stock formation, maintenance and
replacement of "critical infrastructure", especially parastatals and local
authorities as the key triggers to the problem of money supply growth.

In line with the central bank's anti-inflation drive, money supply had
trended downwards from 491% in January 2004 to 249,9% in August last year,
before increasing in line with inflation which is rapidly increasing.

Figures obtained from the Reserve Bank indicated that credit to government
had grown by 1037% in October, while claims to public enterprises accounted
for a 660,6% increase in credit with the private sector taking up 99,9%.

Analysts have said government remains the catalyst to credit expansion.

"The tight monetary policy stance and active mopping programme which the
bank said it would pursue will hit a brick wall as long as credit to
government does not decline," said one analyst. "No country can grow
economically or meet its targets when government borrowing increases by over
1000%."

Over the past 20 months, the Reserve Bank has been following an eclectic
monetary policy where a combination of moderate exchange rate pegging,
monetary targeting and interest rates realignment was being used to balance
the twin objective of inflation reduction and enhancement of capacity
utilisation in the productive sectors of the economy.


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Grow up!

Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

Vincent Kahiya
TWO months ago I wrote in this column about the unfortunate thinking by
opposition politicians who feel that our role is to support their cause
without raising questions about the way they conduct themselves.

There is no better illustration of that romp into deception than Nelson
Chamisa's juvenile response to our editorial comment last week.

Chamisa called us a "gutter press" because we were critical of his boss, MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and because we write about other nascent
opposition political parties.

The gratuitous attacks in his statement exposes the paucity of Chamisa's
comprehension of the role of the media and his role as "party spokesman".

I feel that he is a greater danger to the MDC than the Zimbabwe Independent
which he accuses of harbouring tribal agendas. But there is no doubt that he
is learning quickly from Jonathan Moyo's scriptures.

To young brother Nelson, indeed "the people's struggle is unstoppable" but
firstly you should understand that your faction of the MDC has no monopoly
over that struggle, and secondly you should realise that the same struggle
has suffered a major setback due to the leadership wrangles in the MDC which
we started to detect well before the ill-fated October 12 2005 meeting.

Let's recap.

In an interview with our news editor, Dumisani Muleya, last August,
Tsvangirai said there was no leadership struggles in the MDC.

"There is no infighting. There is no leadership or power struggle in the
party," he said. "When parties go for events like congresses there is always
a contest for positions.

"But it's not like in Zanu PF where you have a (Emmerson) Mnangagwa faction
and a (Solomon) Mujuru camp. We have processes for leadership and
organisational renewal in the MDC and if there are incompetent leaders,
people will say so."

It is difficult to believe the current infighting, which is not the creation
of the Independent, can be viewed as a deliberate "process for leadership
and organisational renewal".

I am surprised that Nelson raises the tribal card when Tsvangirai told us in
the interview that there was nothing like that in the party.

"There's no tribalism in the MDC," said Tsvangirai. "We know Zanu PF is
trying to foment tribalism in the MDC. Zanu PF has a lot of regional
tendencies and tribalism.

"But let me say this clearly, tribal politics and ethnic barbarism have no
future in this country. There are leaders who want to defend their positions
and power through tribalism. The politics of tribalism is primitive and we
must all of us as a nation destroy ethnic mindsets and get on with modern
politics," he said.

Chamisa accuses members of the rival MDC group of consorting with a dictator
by having secret talks with President Mugabe. But at what stage did
Tsvangirai or the MDC decide it would never engage Mugabe in dialogue?

Has Tsvangirai not sought negotiations for the best past of four years? Did
he not demonstrate disappointment at the failure of the African Union
initiative when Mugabe rejected mediation by Joachim Chissano of Mozambique
as late as August last year?

I again want to draw Nelson's attention to what Tsvangirai said in the same
interview: "There will be no way forward with regards to talks between the
MDC and Zanu PF, but a continued stalemate is not sustainable," Tsvangirai
said. So all this talks-about-talks and the disappointment of their failure
thereof was an attempt to consort with the devil?

I would like to urge Nelson to read that story in full as it provides useful
disclosures on Tsvangirai's feelings about talks with Zanu PF, perceived
tribalism in the party and the way forward.

"There is need for new strategies and tactics but we won't take people to
the streets so that they are killed by the military," Tsvangirai told us. We
are still waiting for his "democratic resistance" alternative.

I would like to believe that Tsvangirai as leader of an opposition party
realises that he must take credit for positive developments in the MDC and
also the flak for aberrations. The same goes for President Mugabe.

A party spokesperson does not only speak on behalf of the party, but also
its leadership. Tsvangirai's spokesman William Bango this week said the
party leader had not seen Chamisa's statement prior to it being sent to us.

"Mr Chamisa has the authority of the party to disseminate information on the
party's activities, views and programmes; and to react to cases or instances
he may think require correction, clarification and explanation in the public
interest," said Bango in a written note.

"He (Chamisa) does not necessarily have to refer to Tsvangirai each time he
does so. As I write, Mr Tsvangirai has not yet seen that letter. His
personal views on the matter are unknown at this stage," said Bango. Let's
hope Tsvangirai does not subscribe to Chamisa's puerile claims.

This means they trust you Nelson to comment sensibly on issues on behalf of
the party but in future you should not defend your leader's position by
making unsubstantiated accusations against unnamed persons. Come on deep
throat. Show a bit of bravery. Climb atop the nearest soapbox and name and
shame party officials whose houses are being guarded by the army and green
bombers. Tell the nation more about this lucky farmer and the author of
Aippa.

Above all, tell us why it was OK for the MDC to contest local government
elections but not those for the senate.

People who want to lead the struggle do not pick fights with the media.
Nelson evidently has a great deal of growing up to do in the field of public
relations. As George Bernard Shaw said: "We learn from experience that men
never learn anything from experience."


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Why Asia booms as Africa stagnates

Zim Independent

By Chido Makunike
THE whole world is abuzz with the explosive economic rise of Asia,
particularly China and India. Many other Asian countries are making less
spectacular, but nevertheless impressive strides forward for the benefit of
their people.

In the process, all that the world has taken for granted about international
power relations in the last few centuries is being turned upside down.

This is the first time in the modern age that the Western world has had to
look over its shoulder in trepidation at the first sign of real competition
for power and dominance. It is no longer as unthinkable as it might have
been just a hundred years ago to imagine a future world in which the centre
of power and dominance is in Asia rather than in Europe and the Americas.

Virtually every Western news outlet has some story every few hours showing
the West's reaction to this new explosion and examining its implications for
the present and the future.

There is both fear and excitement at the Asian rise. Fear for many obvious
and not so obvious reasons running the gamut from military, economic,
cultural, racial and other implications. Excitement because for the savvy
countries and companies, a powerful, prosperous Asia also offers huge
trading, investment, marketing and other possibilities. Western companies of
all types are tripping over each other to get a toe-hold in booming Asia,
even as the politicians and populations of their countries also fret about
the downsides of this Asia focus.

Many companies are moving their operations to Asia because of the many
competitive advantages, chief among which is greater labour efficiency at
lower costs. But this means decreased employment and growth in the West,
reduced tax revenues, worries about forfeiting their technological advantage
and countless other effects.

The Asians have taken world centre-stage with a big bang and this will
change life for the whole planet in the coming days and centuries in ways we
cannot even imagine today. Western students and diplomats are being urged to
learn Asian languages and in general become more culturally familiar and
sensitive to an Asia that they will have to learn to quickly deal with as an
equal, rather than look down on, pity and toss around as they can still
afford to easily do with a chronically, pitifully weak and dysfunctional
Africa.

With its growing importance as an investment destination and the billions in
hard currency reserves that are resulting from this modern-day economic
miracle taking place before us, Asia will also influence politics and life
everywhere else in ways that only the West has been able to do up to now.

Asia is itself flexing its investment muscles in the West and elsewhere in
ways that are welcomed on the one hand, but that are also feared because
with this will come inevitable influence of all kinds, desirable and
otherwise, in the target countries.

There is already a lot of hand-wringing in many Western countries about this
inevitable off-shoot of Asian investment dollars. The West is used to
calling the shots and doing all the influencing, so is undergoing a
fundamental, steep learning curve in regards to dealing with countries that
will soon be on a par with it but that in many ways are very different from
it, and without any sense of obligation that they must adopt the Western
perspective on anything.

It is not at all difficult to understand why the West would be both excited
and nervous about this emerging force in the world.

One cannot compare apples to oranges, but Africa's dysfunctionality and
failure to thrive becomes more stark and inexcusable in the shadow of Asia's
boom. All Africans must interrogate why even the smaller Asian countries
that were on a par with our countries 40 years ago are leaping ahead while
we stagnate or regress.

Although Asia's rise may seem miraculous, like all success it is actually
the result of decades of strategy, preparation, being willing to brutally
and honestly confront shortcomings and learn from them. By and large, Asia
has been honest about accepting that the West was the dominant power
economically and technologically, and then quietly but aggressively going
about learning the mechanics and details of that dominance.

To the lessons learned they applied their own cultural/ lifestyle/spiritual
advantages, which the increasingly comfortable and pleasure-seeking, less
disciplined West had no hope of competing against.

What Asia is now reaping are the fruits of decisions and investments made
decades ago. One of the depressing lessons for us in Zimbabwe in particular
is the certainty that just as much of Asia is benefiting from the
enlightened leadership of decades ago, we will be paying for the colossal
disasters of the Mugabe era for a long time after the despot has gone before
we can even talk about reversing them.

China is an interesting example of economic ascendance because it would seem
to disprove the idea that democracy is necessary for accelerated economic
growth. It is of course too early in the progression of China's modern-day
rise to make any definitive, abiding statements about this. But here is a
repressive government that like Zimbabwe's has in the past made naively,
cruelly disastrous ideologically-driven decisions that caused misery,
repression, poverty and death for millions of its people. Yet it is a
younger version of that still repressive government that reversed, and is
supervising the current economic success of that country. So it is possible
for a government to be repressive and brutal, but still be economically
dynamic and competent.

In Zimbabwe and much of Africa on the other hand, we are not only saddled
with repressive, cynical governments, they are also generally totally
incompetent!

Now Asia no longer needs to feebly cry about "sovereignty" as some weak
African leaders do. That is because the fact of their increasing
sovereignty, on the strong foundation of economic strength, is obvious to
all and does not need to be defensively stated.

Some African leaders, like Zimbabwe's President Mugabe, try to compensate
for their countries' growing relative weakness with a kind of rhetorical
machismo abroad and a repressive bullying at home.

Asia can increasingly assert its growing power and confidence more calmly
because the world recognises and respects it anyway.

There is no need to call attention to them as if they were in doubt. This is
the quietly assertive confidence that comes from achievement, not the shrill
lashing out borne of insecurity, weakness and doubt.

Zimbabweans and Africans everywhere, it is time to reclaim our continent
from those of its marauding rulers like President Mugabe who continue to
visit dishonour, poverty, fear, hopelessness and decline on our motherland.

* Chido Makunike is a Zimbabwean writer currently based in Senegal.


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Judiciary impotent as Chombo kills towns

Zim Independent

By Pedzisai Ruhanya
THE administrative anarchy that the Minister of Local Government, Public
Works and National Housing, Ignatious Chombo, is creating in urban councils
under control of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the
flagrant disrespect of democratic ethos have fundamental bearings on the
independence of the judiciary, the existence of the rule of law and exposes
the futility of opposition divisions in the face of a committed dictatorship
in Zimbabwe.

The Urban Councils Act which allows Chombo powers to make policy directives
and recommendations but not administrative decisions in the running of local
government, has been violated since the sacking of Engineer Elias Mudzuri in
2003.

Prior to the election of Mudzuri and his council, the Supreme Court had
ruled in December 2001 that the minister did not have the powers to extend
the life of a commission for more than six months in accordance with the
Act.

The elections for Harare were then organised and run in March 2002 together
with the disputed presidential election where the opposition MDC won all the
wards in Harare bar one.

The Supreme Court ruling by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku still stands
as a matter of law. The government is aware that what it is doing in Harare
by extending the life of the commission to 2007 is both illegal and
unconstitutional. The question now is the unwillingness of the courts to
hear the various cases in which Chombo has been taken to court for violating
the Act and also disrespecting the ruling of the Supreme Court.

In this respect, the judiciary in Zimbabwe finds itself in very compromising
positions undermining its independence. This judicial impotence in the face
of clear cases of disrespect of the rule of law by disregard of its
authority will not do good to its public standing because, instead of being
seen by citizens as the custodian of justice, it is now seen as an appendage
of the executive and indeed of the ruling Zanu PF politburo.

The unfortunate allegations could be dispelled when the courts, especially
the High Court and the Supreme Court, stamp their judicial authority and
impartiality in the adjudication of matters brought before them by various
litigants in the country.

The case of extending the life of commissions was dealt with by the
country's highest court, thereby setting judicial precedence. No court or
person other than the Supreme Court has the power to act contrary to that
ruling.

As a result of the government's disrespect of the judiciary and failure by
the courts, especially the Supreme Court not to entertain such chaos, we
have situations in which President Robert Mugabe - the leader of the losing
party in urban council elections - address a political rally attacking an
opposition mayor and the following week, the mayor is fired by Chombo. Now
Chombo has dissolved the Mutare City Council and appointed a commission
composed of losing Zanu PF candidates, purpotedly to restore order in the
city.

The actions of Chombo, if they remain unchecked as is the case, will destroy
the little that is left of the judiciary in Zimbabwe.

The rationale behind the sacking of opposition-led councils boggles the mind
given the calibre and public standing of the commissioners that Zanu PF
handpicks to administer the respective cities. For instance, in the case of
Harare, it is difficult to appreciate the administrative qualities of
commission chairperson, Sekesai Makwavarara, who according to the Urban
Councils Act does not qualify to be mayor. Added to this are her academic
credentials which remain a mystery to this day.

The second aspect to this circus relates to the existence of the rule of law
in Zimbabwe. It is clear that the actions of Chombo do not have any legal
standing apart from the political manoeuvres of Zanu PF that are motivated
by its desire to control urban municipalities despite public rejection of
the party in the elections.

The government is aware that following the ruling of Chief Justice
Chidyausiku in 2001, it cannot extend the life of a commission to more than
six months at law. It is clear that the executive arm of the state which is
supposed to enforce court rulings has abandoned its constitutional roles and
decided to act in the contrary. When charges of lawlessness are made against
the government, only those who are naïve can cry foul. This continued
assault on the rule of law and the contemptuous disregard of court decisions
is one of the major reasons that Zimbabwe has been taken as a rogue state in
the community of civilised nations.

The government can deny the December 2005 report by the African Commission
on Human and Peoples' Rights on the deteriorating human rights standards in
the country, but the results are there for everyone to see.

The behaviour of Chombo is part of government policy to disrespect rulings
and laws that do not serve its interest. But when a government that claims
to represent the wishes of the people takes clear positions to disregard its
own laws, one is left with no position except to appreciate that government
has lost the legitimacy to govern the affairs of the state constitutionally.

While Zanu PF is on the rampage against the rule of law and the limited
democratic space in the country, the situation is worsened by an opposition
that is spending a lot of time and resources fighting against its membership
under the misguided belief that the enemies of democracy are in its rank and
file.

Others in the opposition MDC have become so naïve to the extent that they
think that by hogging the limelight in the government and
intelligence-controlled media, denouncing the leader of the party, they are
involved in a democratic struggle.

So bankrupt are their utterances that they have lost cause and purpose of
the role and existence of opposition political parties in a country run by a
shameless and human rights violating regime.

The two opposing sides of the MDC should realise that Zanu PF is united to
destroy both of them.

The suspension of Chitungwiza Executive Mayor, Misheck Shoko, and the firing
of the entire Mutare City Council under the MDC control should drive the
message home that the Harare regime needs a united and unequivocal
condemnation from all democratic forces in Zimbabwe.

It is the height of folly to start rallying people against either Morgan
Tsvangirai or Gibson Sibanda, given the crisis of governance and legitimacy
President Mugabe and his colleagues are facing.

Those who think they founded the opposition party, if they were not sent by
government agents to destroy it, should rethink because I see in one of the
opposing sides of the MDC, people who have changed political parties like
shoes and others who have led bogus political entities that have never won
even the leadership of a burial society and others who only yesteryear were
saying the MDC is a creation of Western powers who are now holding posts in
the other camp.

The challenge should be clear to the opposition and other pro-democracy
forces that the regime that is in charge in Harare is prepared to take the
whole country to hell if that serves its unquenchable thirst for power.

Those who think that they can negotiate with Zanu PF should revist their
history to realise that Zanu PF has never in its life negotiated with anyone
when it was at a point of weakness or disadvantage. The party can only
engage its opponents when it is certain it will win.

The Lancaster House Conference and the 1987 Unity Accord are clear examples.
When it realised that it had lost the negotiations during the constitutional
reform period leading to the referendum in February 2000, it abandoned the
process because a new democratic dispensation would be ushered in.

Being an enemy of democracy, Zanu PF has refused people-centred
constitutional reforms until today, preferring using people appointed by
Mugabe to amend the constitution with the support of some misguided
opposition elements who unashamedly publicly say that they would participate
in any elections even one involving choosing Blair toilets.

Let's observe how they will participate in Constitutional Amendment No 18 to
extend Mugabe's dictatorship beyond 2008 without an election.

In military terms, one cannot go to war before reconnaissance is done, to
assess the strength of the opponent, the kind of weapons it possesses, the
terrain and other strategic positions.

Zanu PF has done that in so far as going to a presidential election without
Mugabe is concerned. They know that any further rigging will be unacceptable
even to its regional supporters.

In order to avoid that, they want parliament, not the electorate, to choose
a national president. Let's see how the MDC will defend its so-called
democratic space in the face of Mugabe's bootlickers and political
appointees in that House.

* Pedzisai Ruhanya is former deputy news editor of the banned Daily News.


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Let Mahoso Face the Nation

Zim Independent

Joram Nyathi
"BOTH Jan Egeland and Anna Tibaijuka betrayed their real agendas when they
got to Bulawayo. This means the people who sent them believe that Bulawayo
in particular and Matabeleland in general provide the soft entry points for
clandestine destabilisation forces.

"Bulawayo is the place where both 'envoys' withdrew from the public domain
into backyard and gutter projects and politics beyond the reach of the media
and beyond the eyes of public officials. This is not accidental.

The NGOs and embassies who have sought to sponsor divisive politics in the
last 15 years have also tended to treat Bulawayo in particular and
Matabeleland in general as if they were their pet projects and not local
domains of a sovereign country."

This was a statement by Dr Tafataona Mahoso in an article headed "Egeland
behaved like a CIA jackal", (The Voice, December 18).

What was most shocking about the statement is not just the tendentious
allegations themselves, but that they were carried in the ruling party's
publication and the almost complete conspiracy of silence about them in the
media.

The basis of Mahoso's statement about Matabeleland region were the reports
produced by UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan's two envoys concerning
operations Murambatsvina and Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle which government felt
were biased.

President Mugabe went on to tell the Zanu PF people's conference in
Esigodini that government would be more circumspect about such envoys in
future. Now Mahoso insinuates that the views expressed in the reports were
influenced by people in Matabeleland.

He claims that Tibaijuka and Egeland "withdrew into backyard and gutter
projects" once they got to Bulawayo although the media reported that
Tibaijuka met the city's civic leaders in the Large City Hall. Of course he
couldn't have known what they discussed unless he is resorting to black
magic divination.

What proof does Mahoso have of Matabeleland providing "soft entry points for
clandestine destabilisation forces"?

The two envoys may have met privately with Bulawayo mayor Japhet Ndabeni
Ncube and Archbishop Pius Ncube, the two men the government would love to
hate, but is that sufficient grounds for Mahoso's dangerously sweeping
accusations?

While Mahoso may sleep comfortably after making such tribal slurs, what we
find ironic is that most of the pictures that shocked the world about
Operation Murambatsvina were taken along Joburg Lines in Mbare, Hatcliffe
Extension, Mabvuku and Tafara. Moreover, Bulawayo never had anything on the
scale of Siya So in Mbare and so could not produce the over two million
people allegedly affected by the operation.

Mahoso also recklessly claims that embassies and NGOs have in the past 15
years used Bulawayo and Matabeleland to sponsor "divisive politics".

We couldn't find the specific incident referred to 15 years ago. But we want
to believe that he will be in a position to explain if he were taken to
task.

The only political formation we can think of in 1990 that threatened Zanu PF
and President Mugabe was Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement.

If the issue is about Gukurahundi and its brutalities, his views are
well-known. He is in the same camp that still denies that hundreds of people
have been beaten, tortured or killed for supporting the MDC.

Which NGOs is Mahoso referring to that have fomented divisions in
Matabeleland and can't be found anywhere else in the country?

As for embassies, the only recent incident we recall that upset government
was when the American envoy, Christopher Dell, condemned "corrupt rule" and
"mismanagement" as the causes of Zimbabwe's economic ills.

That speech was delivered at Africa University in Manicaland. It is the same
official "arrested" in the Botanical Gardens after he allegedly breached a
security zone.

The only civic leader who reportedly took Tibaijuka to see a squatter camp
which government didn't want her to see was the mayor of Mutare. Reports
suggest that is the reason he has been severely punished by Local Government
minister Ignatious Chombo.

There would have been no need to comment on Mahoso's facile claims if they
had come from cheap pub talk. But it is worrying when ruling party
ideologues betray tribal prejudices in their party's official mouthpiece. We
would hate to think that is the position of Zanu PF.

These are the same people who want to classify themselves as more patriotic
and more Zimbabwean than the rest. But that thinking has apparently shed all
pretence of ideological difference and donned a seamlessly tribal one for as
yet unclear reasons. Which is quite convenient as all the metaphors about
jackals can then be taken out of their context in Latin America and
superimposed on those regions perceived as "soft entry points" for economic
saboteurs and portray all the others as free from infiltration by
imperialists' agents.

We cannot as a nation allow purveyors of regional prejudices and hatred to
use party media to hawk the same unless that is the official position. Under
a more accountable political dispensation and with professional
interviewers, Mahoso would be a worthy candidate for a Face the Nation
programme to explain his patently slanderous allegations.


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Bungling sinks ailing parastatals

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari

CENTRAL bank governor Gideon Gono's warning to President Robert Mugabe last
November on the dire state of parastatals is by far his most revealing
admission that the money he poured into the state enterprises has not
changed anything.

It is a confession that the trillions that he doled out could have gone down
a familiar drain as the parastatals continue to wallow in a deepening
morass.

In his report submitted to Mugabe in November, Gono said the state of
collapse in key parastatals was compounding the persistent economic crisis.
He told Mugabe in the report that the situation in the state companies and
local authorities was appalling and sabotaging prospects of economic
recovery.

Gono said this was largely because the enterprises' "tentacles are
far-reaching and have an economy-wide impact". The report, titled
Operational Challenges of Parastatals, shows companies such as Air Zimbabwe,
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), National Railways of Zimbabwe
(NRZ), Zimbabwe Iron & Steel Company and the Rural Electrification Agency
were contributing to sinking the economy.

He said the District Development Fund (DDF), Civil Aviation Authority of
Zimbabwe (Caaz), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), Zimbabwe United
Passenger Company (Zupco), Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Hwange Colliery
were in a dire state.

Other troubled state companies mentioned in the report are the Zimbabwe
National Water Authority (Zinwa), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC),
Zimbabwe Power Company and the Agriculture & Rural Development Authority
(Arda).

He said despite pouring in trillions to revive the parastatals under the
Productive Sector Facility and the Parastatals Reorientation Programme which
started in February last year the situation has deteriorated.

The central bank, the report said, had doled out $3,1 trillion which has
however failed to revive the corruption-ridden parastatals that continue to
drain national resources. He admitted - as analysts have said before - that
the problems with state companies had nothing to do with lack of money but
everything to do with "grossly incompetent management".

He said there were leakages and abuse of resources, and weak corporate
governance. Analysts say parastatals will continue to be an albatross around
the economy's neck unless there is political will to rid them of political
appointees and corrupt management. They say the major problem in the
parastatals over the past 25 years has been corruption and political
patronage.

Economist Eric Bloch said corruption and mismanagement was one of the
biggest drags on parastatal efficiency. He said there was very little to
show that government was committed to curbing corruption in state companies.

"We have seen time and again cases of corruption in parastatals but there
has been very little progress in solving the problem," Bloch said.

While Gono might have been well-meaning when he disbursed the money, he did
not put in place measures to ensure that the money was used productively. He
also overlooked the fact that he did not have legislative control of the
state companies.

Parastatals, by law, report to their parent ministries and the central bank
has very little leverage over them.

Chances are very high that most parastatals will not be able to repay the
loans, creating holes in treasury books. The cost - as has become the norm -
will be passed on to the taxpayers who are already under siege from a
plethora of taxes.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that Gono does not have control over the
parastatals into which he has poured money. The operation of parastatals in
Zimbabwe is a function of party politics which the central bank has no
control over. Parastatals have been used as conduits by Zanu PF to advance
its populist agendas devoid of a business plan.

The main problem, Bloch said, was that the state companies had never been
driven by principles of efficiency or profitability because they operate as
government departments. "They don't have a proper business model to operate
efficiently. That is why they continue making losses. They don't operate
like real companies but government departments," he said.

Most state companies are run by political appointees whose sole purpose is
to serve Zanu PF's interests instead of the wider public. There has also
been massive militarisation of parastatals where army people are seconded to
state companies even though they lack the qualifications in the particular
business. There are more than a dozen state companies now headed by army
people. The rest are headed by political appointees whose mandate is to
serve the government's narrow interests.

That is why the assets in these companies have been subjected to abuse by
the government. For instance, Zupco which received $42,5 billion from the
Reserve Bank, has been used by Zanu PF to ferry its supporters to rallies
without payment. Its buses have become the means of free transport for party
supporters to rallies and other "national events".

The cumulative effect of these abuses are losses which government plugs by
taking over their debts or guaranteeing further lines of credit to sustain
them.

The NRZ, which according to Gono's report got $125 billion from the central
bank, has also been used to ferry people to party functions. Zupco and NRZ
have become a vital instrument of government's populist policies where they
are required to charge uneconomic fares and tariffs to enhance Zanu PF's
waning popularity in the urban areas.

And because the managers are appointed by the party they have no power to
resist these ruinous policies.

For instance Air Zimbabwe has been forced to service uneconomic routes as
part of government's Look East policy. The airline has been making huge
losses on its Dubai and Beijing routes which were hurriedly planned to boost
the Look East policy which has failed to generate meaningful investment save
for a few Chinese shops in Harare.

President Mugabe also uses Air Zimbabwe for his globetrotting.

ZBH which was given $16,6 billion is also collapsing because of government
interference. The national broadcaster has chased away advertisers who are
seen as politically unacceptable. Persistent propaganda and poor programming
have also put off advertisers. Viewers have also boycotted paying their
licences because they feel the state broadcaster is there to churn out
government propaganda.

Most state companies have not produced audited results in the past three
years. ZBH for instance has not released its annual accounts for the past
decade. It last made a profit in 1982 which means that it has been living
off national coffers for the past 24 years.

In their bid to survive, parastatals have started investing in non-core
business, a move which observers say is a clear diversion from their
national mandate.

Zesa which has been facing serious foreign currency shortages is reportedly
planning to venture into coal production and export. Net*One also says it
wants to go into tobacco production. Analysts however note that these are
signs of parastatals that have failed in their core business.


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Government speaks with forked tongue

Zim Independent

By Eric Bloch

WHEN Finance minister Herbert Murerwa presented his 2006 national budget to
parliament in December, he very commendably placed some significant emphasis
upon an intention of government to pursue energetically the principles of
public-private sector partnerships.

He stated that with a resolve to ensure the effectiveness of the state's
parastatals, joint ventures would be established between government and
strategic partners drawn from the national and international private
sectors.

Although various of the hierarchy of government had made very similar policy
statements over the last 15 years, with only limited implementation in the
mid-1990s, when government very successfully privatised Dairibord, the
Rainbow Tourism Group, Zimbabwe Reinsurance Company and a few others, the
minister's statement on budget day was generally very well received.

That reception was in recognition of the fact that the very pronounced
inefficiencies and incompetencies of many parastatals needed to be urgently
addressed, and that the fiscus needed substantial relief from the parastatal
millstone around Zimbabwe's fiscal neck.

Another statement which requires a mention was made, and reiterated, during
the recent deliberations of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), that as
part of government's contribution to procuring economic turnaround and
well-being, it would vigorously enhance the operations of the Competition
and Mergers Commission.

A primary motivation for the existence and activities of that commission is
to prevent the creation of monopolies, for such entities can exploit their
exclusivity to the immense prejudice of the consumer.

With these two policy statements in mind, it is beyond comprehension as to
how government can justify its recently declared intention to acquire the
controlling interests in Zimbabwe's three major fertiliser companies - Sable
Chemical Industries Ltd, ZFC Ltd and Windmill (Private) Ltd - in order to
consolidate the three into a single entity, controlled by the state, to be
known as the National Fertiliser Company.

Last week the secretary for Industry and International Trade, Christian
Katsande, reportedly said that the consolidation of the fertiliser industry
was at an advanced stage, with government having set aside $1,5 trillion to
acquire the non-governmental shareholdings in the three major fertiliser
enterprises.

He stated that the consolidation of the fertiliser industry would complement
the agrarian reform programme, and that that consolidation would facilitate
strategic planning, streamlined decision-making, and would create a large
enterprise with considerable financial capabilities.

That would, he said, improve the potential for expansion and growth,
including larger upgradeable plants that will enjoy operational economies of
scale, and enhancement of research and development, and of procurement and
delivery logistics.

Katsande's statement was reinforced by a letter addressed by one of his
officials to the fertiliser industry's key stakeholders, which said ". . .
the consolidation of the fertiliser industry is of high priority to the
government of Zimbabwe". This is in very marked contrast to the policy
declarations of parastatal privatisation, or public-private sector
partnership, and of elimination and prevention of monopolies. Clearly
government has no intent to practice that which it preaches or, as the Red
Indians of yesteryear would have said, it "speaks with a forked tongue".

The economic consequences are disastrous. First of all, three essentially
sound enterprises are to be subjected to unnecessary transformations. All
the to-be-merged companies have track records of many years of successful
operations, hindered and constrained only by inadequate availability of
foreign currency, impacting very negatively upon timeous importation of
essential inputs, and by unreliability of essential state-owned support
services, including erratic electricity supplies and unreliable rail
services.

Government's record of management of commercial enterprises is abysmal.
Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company has been a catastrophic loss-maker for
years. So too has been the Cold Storage Company, the National Railways of
Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, the Grain Marketing Board and virtually every other
parastatal that exists.

Insofar as complementing the agrarian reform programme is concerned, the
suggestion verges upon the ludicrous.

On the one hand, the programme is an unmitigated catastrophe, with the
former cultivation of vast tracts of Zimbabwe's fertile soils reduced to
commercial production on less than 5% of arable lands. Tobacco production
has fallen from 237 million kg to about 55 million kg, and of very much
lesser quality.

Maize production has declined from 1, 8 million tonnes to 600 000 tonnes,
with a formerly food self-sufficient nation now desperately dependent upon
imports.

The national herd has contracted to a little more than one-third of its
former size. Milk now has to be imported!

About 300 000 farm workers, supportive of 1,5 million people, have been
rendered unemployed and impoverished.

Government's agricultural arms of the Agricultural and Rural Development
Authority and Agricultural Technical and Extension Services have little but
failures to show for years of existence and emburdenment of the fiscus.

Agriculture has been brought down to its knees and now, to help ensure that
it stays there, government plans to turn the fertiliser industry into yet
another parastatal.

Yet a further negative repercussion of the intended state-control of
fertiliser production is that the very straitened fiscus has to fund the
state's intended further investment into the industry. Year-in and year-out
government has been incurring massive fiscal deficits, at untenably high
levels of more than 10% of gross domestic product.

The impoverished state of the fiscus has necessitated extremely high direct
and indirect taxation, afflicting an already embattled population, and has
very significantly restricted the state's developmental and infrastractural
expenditures, to the prejudice of economic upturn.

The repeated backtracking of governmental policy also impacts very
negatively upon Zimbabwe's international standing, and especially upon its
creditworthiness, and upon it suitability as an investment destination.

Whether it is the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European
Investment Bank, the African Development Bank, the African Exports and
Imports Bank, private sector banks of Europe, USA and the Far East,
multinationals, or others, lines of credit are not readily forthcoming to
countries with unstable economies.

It is particularly so when a primary cause of instability is excessive
economic regulation by the state, undue state control of key economic
sectors, and fiscal profligacy.

And investors don't wish to invest in environments where the gap between
governmental policy statements and policy implementations is pronounced and
that, therefore, little or no credence can be given to any state policy
statements, or in environments where they fear they will be pressurised, at
a future date, to disinvest in favour of the state.

As to the TNF negotiations to arrive at a Prices and Incomes Stabilisation
Protocol, how can the preventatives of commerce, industry, mining, tourism,
agriculture, and other economic sectors, and the representatives of labour
have any confidence that the state will honour any contractual obligations
that may be agreed upon when, while the negotiations are continuing, it is
pursuing policies diametrically opposite to those which it is undertaking
within the negotiations? That must surely be perceived as negotiating in bad
faith!

The world over it is recognised that governments do not always do as they
say, but the Zimbabwean government is surely striving to supplement its
already achieved record, of one of the most calamitous collapses of an
economy, with one for the frequency that its actions are diametrically
opposite to its declarations of principles and of policies.


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Two Boy, what has changed since '89?

Zim Independent

Muckraker

A READER has drawn our attention to an article in the Business Herald of
October 24 last year in which RBZ governor Gideon Gono reprimanded the
Chamber of Mines for denying allegations of corruption against its members.

Gono alleged then that the nation had lost large sums of money through
illicit activities in the sector.

"We are not going to wash dirty linen in public," warned Gono then, "but you
will be shocked by what is happening in this sector. You would be shocked by
what I would have to say if I had the liberty to show you the extent to
which gold and other minerals are being smuggled."

Gono told the gathering that the RBZ had been tracking the illegal dealings
"for months and we know what is happening and who is driving it".

It is now nearly four months and apparently nothing has happened. What has
become of those criminals unless Gono was making dark threats when there was
no evidence to withstand close scrutiny? Have any minerals been recovered or
criminals been arrested since October?

Make corruption public enemy number 1 and you will beat inflation!

So "Two Boy" is finally back in Zanu PF after he was cleared of "misconduct".
Eighteen years in the wilderness since 1989, the Herald reports that Edgar
Tekere was kicked out of Zanu PF for what are now coyly referred to as "his
public utterances which were not in line with the party's policies".

Nobody has the courage of their convictions to state openly that Tekere was
expelled for calling the party's first secretary a dictator. Nobody wants to
openly state that Tekere was among the first senior Zanu PF politicians who
declared that democracy in Zimbabwe was "in the intensive care unit". No,
that is the unsaid thing in our politics of self-deception and hypocrisy.

The new history will merely record that Tekere was not given any chance to
explain "his side of the story" and presumably show a democratic oversight
rather than expose the politics of vindictiveness and intolerance that have
been the bane of this country since Independence. This new version will
record only that "it was out of frustration that he (Tekere) left the party
and formed his own Zimbabwe Unity Movement which contested the 1990
presidential elections".

Frustration with what we wonder?

The legal adage says that justice delayed is justice denied. In the Zanu PF
lexicon the trick is to live long enough to be forgiven. After being
sidelined from the party for his "unpatriotic" "Mugabe must go" utterances,
Dzikamai Mavhaire is similarly back as the prodigal son of Masvingo. Perhaps
Ndabaningi Sithole died too soon. The only question for Tekere and Mavhaire
is what has changed since 1989?

We had a chuckle on Tuesday reading the day's Watchman's word. It read: "A
ruler says 'I have done nothing wrong' but the evidence of God's judgement
on his nation speaks for itself." How apt!

We also enjoyed reading a story in the Sunday Mail titled "GMB warns A2
farmers". The said sinning farmers had allegedly entered contracts with
private companies who offered them money for inputs and tillage because
government could not meet their requirements. The story clearly states that
the farmers were contracted to produce "maize for stock feed, and human
consumption, seed maize and soya beans".

Meanwhile, according to the Act sanctifying the GMB's monopoly, a producer
of any controlled product "may sell to any person or organisation other than
the GMB if the product is only for use as seed".

But that did not stop GMB acting chief executive Samuel Muvuti warning the
A2 farmers against signing "illegal contracts" without the knowledge of the
GMB which could not supply inputs. Commented a farmer in Mazowe: "Had it not
been for a company that assisted me with seed maize, fertiliser and tillage
as well as the capital to pay for labour, I would not have managed to till
the land this season."

The question for Muvuti then is what would he rather have, vast tracts of
land lying idle or more farmers producing even if it's under private
contracts? In the end whom should we say is sabotaging food security between
a monopolistic GMB which can't provide inputs or private companies taking
the risk to support promising new farmers? Surely the GMB can't eat its cake
and have it!

Every year the US mass-circulation Parade magazine publishes its list of the
"World's Worst Dictators". There is some competition for this title but
nobody is disputing the claim of Sudan's Omar al-Bashir who has unleashed
mayhem in his country's Darfur region.

Al-Bashir has been sidelined for the African Union's presidency amidst
charges that he is giving Africa a bad name. Al-Bashir headed Parade's list
last year as well. He is followed by Kim Jong-il of North Korea who is
"credited" with running the world's "most tightly controlled society". Than
Shwe of Burma takes the third position, with the fourth going to Robert
Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the fifth to Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

It is significant that Burma and Zimbabwe are bracketed together. The ruling
junta in Myanmar, as it now calls itself, has been following a policy of
total seclusion. Nothing is allowed to find its way to the outside world. No
Hotmail, no Yahoo! "No news is good news", the generals believe. But the
mass democratic movement in that country remains alive and well under its
widely respected leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Zimbabwe is sorely in need of somebody of her calibre!

Muckraker would be keen to know what the view of the Indian government is on
countries that deny their people democratic rights. The Indian ambassador,
Ajit Kumar, was telling the Herald on Saturday how much India's democratic
process depends upon an independent judiciary, an alert and free media, and
active NGOs.

But asked about Zimbabwe/India bilateral relations, the ambassador referred
to the close cooperation that exists in NAM, the UN and G15, organisations
not known for their promotion of democracy.

Here is the discrepancy. India values democracy and the rule of law at home
but says nothing about its violation abroad in countries with which it
expresses solidarity. Kumar pointed out that India did not believe its own
freedom complete until freedom had been fully gained in Africa.

He said with South Africa's democratic revolution that process was now
complete. But what did India say about Africa's slide into dictatorship and
poverty in the 1960s and 70s? What contribution has India made to the
struggle by Africans for the same liberties that Indians have enjoyed since
1947?

The answer is absolutely nothing. India has practised the politics of
solidarity abroad while turning a blind eye to misgovernance and human
rights violations.

Kumar should have been asked some challenging questions. Instead he was
asked precisely those questions he would have chosen himself. And the
lengthy replies looked less than spontaneous!

Nathaniel Manheru seems to have been disconcerted by our reference last week
to the use of foul language in his column. But he is unrepentant. In dealing
with the Zimbabwe Independent he will use "the lexicon of excreta or worse",
he spat.

He appears not to understand that columnists who advertise their authority
over editors are not doing their newspapers any favours. We have no doubt
that Manheru can say what he likes, and get away with it as the MIC stands
helplessly by. But does he want the public to know that he entertains no
editorial constraints when it comes to bad language?

We did however enjoy the story about the trip to London and the "deep
apologies to Charamba" for attracting our fire. There was a hearty chuckle
in the nation's newsrooms.

Meanwhile, we were shocked to read the retraction in the Sunday Mail. The
state-owned paper apologised to the MDC and Prof Welshman Ncube for claiming
that "letters purportedly bearing Prof Ncube's signature had been written to
government and ruling party officials stating that the MDC was being funded
to reverse the land reform programme, and was using the funds to bribe
government, ruling-party and provincial officials to produce documents
withdrawing land from resettled farmers in order to return it to white
farmers."

So another Zanu PF plot story bites the dust. At least no anthrax involved
this time!

Talking of silly Zanu PF plot stories, Didymus Mutasa thinks that food
security agencies reporting looming shortages are being "hostile" to
Zimbabwe.

"They imposed sanctions on us to harm the economy and then they go on to
criticise the state of that same economy," he declared. "What sort of people
are they?"

People who are just doing their job. Fewsnet is in the business of
agricultural forecasting. Its predictions are usually correct. There is no
agenda, except perhaps for a wish that Zimbabwean ministers stop sabotaging
their own economy by harmful and foolish policies.

By that we mean ministers inciting attacks on the few remaining white
farmers, when they are not busy inciting attacks on rivals in primary
campaigns and using security agencies to suborn state witnesses when charges
are laid.

Mutasa would have us believe that Zimbabwe's difficulties are the direct
result of "an anti-Zimbabwe campaign".

Many would argue that the only anti-Zimbabwe campaign is the one being
pursued by Zanu PF. Their sanctions against critics and political opponents
include arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and violation of fundamental
rights such as freedom of movement and speech. Related to that is the
nullification of voters' choices in municipal polls.

Then there are the economic sanctions which include arbitrary seizure of
productive farms, theft of farm equipment, and threats to remaining
companies.

That is the toxic business climate which scares off any potential investors.

Mutasa hasn't woken up to this reality yet. He is looking for scapegoats.
But the only plot against Zimbabwe is the one his party is engaged in.

Food shortages are the direct result of farm seizures and a mismanaged
economy. Fewsnet is only the messenger of the bad news Mutasa and his gang
have generated. So long as they are around it is going to get a good deal
worse.

It is not uncommon nowadays to hear members of the public saying Zimbabwe is
reverting to social conditions before Independence when only the rich could
afford medical treatment and education for their kids. Sentiments to this
effect populate the Letters columns of newspapers.

Most of the writers must be younger citizens who are unaware that medical
treatment for the poor before Independence was free. Anybody with an ailment
could report to Harare Hospital and they would either be treated there or
referred to a specialist. There was no charge. Only the well-off had to pay
for their treatment. And Harare Hospital then had all the facilities and
medicines any hospital should have. That remained the case for 10 years into
Independence. So what happened?

Answers on the back of a postage stamp please. And try not to use the words
Mugabe or Congo more than necessary.


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Let's stick to 'Operation Tell the Truth'

Zim Independent

Comment

WE welcomed Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono's call for "Operation Tell
the Truth" in his preamble to the Fourth Quarter 2005 Monetary Review
Statement.

The call to all of us to be conscious of what we do goes to the core of the
problems we face today.

But then Gono, in a flight of fantasy in an annexure to his policy review
titled An analysis of the socio-economic impact of sanctions against
Zimbabwe, produced a litany of irresponsible claims accusing the media of
being "a penal tool" responsible for the economic meltdown.

Gono says the country's negative international image has largely been caused
by "non-factual bad publicity". He said the land reform programme had been
"misunderstood by the world due to the bad publicity and calculated
distortions of the facts on the ground".

He said the negative publicity by local, regional and international media
had "in effect worked to undermine and destroy business confidence and
investor sentiment towards Zimbabwe".

He said bad publicity had dealt Zimbabwe's tourism a "painful blow".

In the document, Gono also tries to ascribe the country's ills to sanctions
imposed by the West. But reading through the document, one can be forgiven
for thinking that he is fast losing the plot.

He correctly points out that the "balance of payments position has
deteriorated significantly since 1997". In 1996 Zimbabwe had a three-month
import cover of US$830 million which was pared down to one month cover of
US$272 million by the end of 1997. He says this was on the back of "adverse
publicity".

This, Gono should know, is untrue. Like anyone who was in Zimbabwe at the
time, he should recall Black Friday, November 14 1997 when the Zimbabwe
dollar crashed after the payment of an unbudgeted $4 billion to war
veterans, and then the dispatch of our troops to fight a costly war in the
Democratic Republic of Congo the following year.

Has Gono ever bothered to find out what became of all those investment
vehicles set up by the army and Zanu PF cronies to do business in the DRC?

Why has he not spoken of the effect of these two crucial events? The answer
is simple: his pursuit of political correctness.

More significantly, the decline in the balance-of-payments position was
already evident well before the imposition of targeted sanctions by the
United States, the European Union and individual Western countries.

But the most egregious aspect of his summation of the situation in Zimbabwe
is his attempt to position the media as a penal tool. The governor - perhaps
deliberately - completely misses the point here.

Problems with the land reform programme and in the tourism sector, together
with the low business confidence and investor sentiment, are not willful
constructs of the media but critical issues mainly to do with governance.
Gono is aware of this and we do not need to search too deep to prove his
dishonesty.

Gono's statement on Tuesday was replete with perfectly accurate explanations
of why the country is where it is today.

He spoke of continued disruptions to agriculture where farms were being
invaded just before harvesting starts. He spoke of corruption in the
allocation of land and inputs such as tillage, seed, fertiliser and fuel.

Gono has told us in another annexure, that there are farm invasions which
are "in some cases known to have been tacitly sponsored by high-ranking
politicians".

He describes the invasions as "deplorable acts of sabotage to the country's
economy and its people".

Who needs a distorting media when the reality is shocking enough!

Gono knows who the real saboteurs are and it is foolish of him to try to
make anyone believe that the country is suffering because the media is
writing "non-factual" articles.

It does not require the media to point out that the situation on the ground
in Zimbabwe chases away investors. Investors will shy away from a country
where elections are stolen and where the government routinely ignores court
orders with impunity.

The threat to property rights is not a creation of the media, nor is the
chaos at Air Zimbabwe which he aptly captures in one of the ancillary
reports.

Tourists do not conclude only from what they read. They conclude from what
they experience.

The litany of examples that he provides as ills bedevilling this economy
makes us wonder why he would want to train his attention on the media and
not on what we have always said is the problem - the bad politics which he
has no capacity, or perhaps inclination, to put right.

A conclusion to his "Impact of sanctions" document places governance at the
heart of the problem.

"Policy consistency, respect for private property rights, investment
protection, a zero tolerance to lawlessness and corruption as well as full
implementation of a set of economic programmes are also vital steps that all
Zimbabweans must take to heart."

Actually, they are fundamental. Gono would appear at least to understand the
problem. But the simple fact is he hasn't managed to do anything about it
despite acres of praise in the government media.

Evidently it is not the press he is frightened of. Just one that holds up a
mirror.

The courts have also moved at a glacial pace in dealing with electoral cases
that were filed by the opposition to contest Zanu PF victories in the 2000
general election. Tsvangirai is still seeking relief in the courts for what
he believes was a stolen presidential election in 2002.

We have previously questioned the wisdom of the boycott tactic. Not only
that, we have also doubted whether Tsvangirai's resolve will hold.

Our worst fears of a vacillating leader were confirmed last week when his
faction participated in local government elections, fielding candidates
parallel to the Gibson Sibanda camp.

The two MDC factions fielded candidates in Chitungwiza ward 20 and in St
Mary's where they lost to Zanu PF in a poorly-contested poll.

Tsvangirai's camp also lost in Kariba ward 6 but won in Zvishavane ward 9.

But what did the poll serve to portray about the opposition other than
public disgust at its fractiousness and the loss of confidence in the
electoral process by urban dwellers?

It only gets worse when so-called leaders confuse the electorate. Those who
heeded the call not to participate in the senate polls were last weekend
being asked to vote in ward polls. We did not hear the explanation for this
volte-face by Tsvangirai.

Politicians taking strong positions on issues expose themselves to criticism
if they are not consistent. Tsvangirai, by allowing members of his faction
to participate in the council polls, simply drove a coach and horses through
his rallying point against the senatorial election - that is that the
results are predetermined. The council polls are still run by the same
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission whose competence and impartiality the MDC has
questioned.

Participating in the polls and losing to Zanu PF gives the ruling party an
opportunity to brag about its democratic credentials and its legitimacy.
Most importantly, how would winning council polls further the fight for
democracy and change? In short, nothing has changed since October for
Tsvangirai to participate in the poll.

What made Tsvangirai's decision more puzzling is the fact that the elections
came on the back of a sustained onslaught by Local Government minister
Ignatious Chombo against local authorities by suspending elected opposition
mayors and councillors and appointing Zanu PF commissioners to run councils.
Elected councillors in urban areas stay in office at the will of Chombo.
They can be dismissed any time. In all this, the opposition has been
deafeningly silent.

If Tsvangirai is a disciple of the politics of boycott, this was an
opportunity for him to send a message to Chombo that he abhors his intrusion
in local governance.

The lack of consistency exposes the leadership weaknesses of Tsvangirai
which must be mended if he is to retain his 2002 standing as a national
leader. Time is running out for him to do that and his flip-flop is a slap
in the face for the millions that voted for the opposition in 2000 and for
him in 2002.

We want to hear from Tsvangirai if his boycott stance has exceptions as was
demonstrated last week with local government polls. If the plan was to prove
to his rivals that he still commands massive support, the experiment was a
self-evident disaster and hugely damaging. Zanu PF likes nothing better than
to claim electoral support where it obviously has none.

What would Tsvangirai do, if for some strange reason President Mugabe were
to call for an early presidential poll? Does he know? What will he do in
2008 or 2010?

Meanwhile, the MDC leader's entirely justified criticism of Zanu PF's
manipulation of the Sadc protocol on elections has been lost in the
confusion he has sown in the process of self-destruction.


Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zim Independent Letters



Option for reform exponents

I WOULD like to be the first to congratulate Reserve Bank governor Dr Gideon
Gono for introducing a new denomination bearer cheque with a face value of
$50 000.

The introduction of this new bearer cheque, worth less than half of the
value of the smallest denomination note available in the United States, and
probably worth less than a $20 000 bearer cheque was a few months ago in
Zimbabwe, will temporarily provide some "light relief" (literally) to
Zimbabweans - perhaps for the next two months.

I trust that the introduction of this bearer cheque is not indicative of
Gono's grasp of Zimbabwean economic realities.

If it is, then we are in even more trouble than I thought we were.

Given his forecast for inflation over the next few months, perhaps Gono can
explain why a bearer cheque of at least $500 000 was not introduced.

For those genuinely committed to restoring the Zimbabwean economy, as
opposed to remaining on the gravy train for the privileged few, the only
honest course of action is to join the struggle to change the political
landscape and remove from power those who have destroyed, and continue to
destroy, the economy they claim to be "turning around".

RES Cook,

Harare.

--------

Independent on warpath with MDC - Chamisa

YOUR editorial comment "Tsvangirai a merchant of confusion", (Zimbabwe
Independent, January 20), refers.

We have participated in all elections since 2000 except the senatorial
election in November 2005. I shall explain why.

We plan to take part in future elections in line with constitutional
provisions, unless our congress decides otherwise in March. Given our
experience with the electoral route, we remain unhappy with the electoral
management system in this country.

We maintain that the system breeds pre-determined outcomes, hence our
campaign in the Sadc region throughout 2004 for a revised electoral
framework. I refer you to our Restore campaign document, parts of which were
adopted by the region in Mauritius in 2004.

Our problem with the senate election was very clear. The dispute arose out
of the manner in which the senate project was conceived and executed.

We argued in parliament against the senate because it violated the core of
our values as enshrined in our constitution. We believe in a holistic,
comprehensive people-driven constitutional process.

The senate project was born out of a piece-meal amendment and this means the
MDC could not find itself participating in an election brought about by such
a move.

However, the party has yet to decide on the question of continued
participation in other elections in the light of our experiences during the
past six years.

We have been watching the Independent sliding onto a warpath to destroy the
people's project by continuing to rely on rumour and propagating falsehoods
that are orchestrated and designed to malign and soil the image of the MDC
and its party's president Morgan Tsvangirai.

The project started a few months ago with an opinion piece by the publisher
Trevor Ncube that Tsvangirai was not fit to be president. Since that day,
the whole editorial team has gone on the rampage to destroy the people's
project in support of dubious political outfits that have no people on the
ground.

Even after the High Court ruled that Tsvangirai is the legitimate party
leader, which legal position is still standing, the paper has proceeded to
sanitise a motley group of people with dirty hands purporting to have
suspended him.

Never mind the fact that Justice Omerjee ruled that these revisionists have
neither the standing nor the authority to suspend or expel President
Tsvangirai from the MDC.

We reiterate that Tsvangirai has neither the intention nor the interest to
consort with the dictatorship. Day in, night in, day out, night out,
Tsvangirai has reiterated that the solution to the crisis in this country
does not reside in political marriages with Zanu PF but rather in the
people's power to build a democratic society.

Why does the Independent continue to rely on rumours peddled by a fraction
which itself has overt relations with the ruling party?

A perception has been created that the Independent, of late, has become a
megaphone of a tribal agenda, characterised by a character assassination of
opposition politicians of a particular tribe while glorifying others from a
particular region.

The owner of the Independent has come out publicly in support of an
amorphous project called the Third Way.

The perception has it that the owner is trying to prop up discredited and
rejected politicians whose preoccupation with parochial agendas is
legendary. The perception feeds on an apparently hostile editorial line the
paper has adopted towards the MDC, in particular its president.

Never mind those being glorified and positively covered in his newspapers
include veteran media hangmen whose danger to Zimbabwe none of us will ever
forget.

The Independent must come down from its pedestal and gauge the mood on the
ground, the faith people still have in this people's project called the MDC
and its legitimate leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. It does not make sense to
continue to rely for information on fringe politicians who themselves have
more skeletons to hide in their political cupboards. We are talking of
former MDC politicians with real connections with Zanu PF. Politicians who
have said nothing against serious allegations of writing obnoxious pieces of
legislation such as Aippa.

Why would the Independent wonder loudly why George Charamba has kept mum on
allegations by Jonathan Moyo that he prepared Emmerson Mnangagwa's infamous
Tsholotsho speech but not ask the same question of those Moyo alleges were
the authors of dangerous laws, in particular Aippa?

Indeed, can the Independent investigate which senior MDC politician has a
Greendale house that is guarded by soldiers and Zanu PF militia?

Can they tell us who went to State House and was photographed with a wide
smile alongside Robert Mugabe following secret talks at Parliament building?

Can the Independent investigate who owns Hampton farm in Vungu area formerly
owned by Zapu? Can they tell the nation who owns Rosfentam Farm, 50
kilometres southwest of Gweru and the circumstances in which it was
acquired. Around August last year, who, with the connivance of the governor
of the Midlands province, moved into Onverwags Farm which belongs to T Shaw
and moved his 150 cattle from Rosfentam onto this property? Who bought 95
head of cattle and outbid all the farmers and splashed $3 billion for the
cattle?

Which senior MDC MPs were absent on the day parliament voted on the 17th
Amendment to the Constitution when only 29 out of 41 MPs voted against it.
Was it by coincidence that they were away on this crucial day?

Who gave assurance to (Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa and Mugabe that
the MDC would contest the senatorial elections when the party president had
outlined the MDC position?

Who secretly had meetings with the CIO before the October 12 fall-out and
unsuccessfully tried to hatch a plan to bribe MDC provincial executives by
promising them school fees for their children? Who have been publicly
labelled "good professors" and "good boys" by the dictator himself, Robert
Mugabe, in various public statements, which were published in state
newspapers and never refuted?

Unless and until the Independent becomes a truly unbiased national paper,
whose senior editorial staff does not consort with particular politicians of
a particular region, we doubt the paper's capacity to unite the people
regardless of one's ethnicity. Diversionary tactics from fringe politicians
and a biased media will not sway the MDC. The people's project to dislodge
this dictatorship is on the roll.

Zimbabwe needs a new beginning with an objective media that informs the
people as opposed to a gutter press bent on poisoning its readership.

The people's struggle is unstoppable!

Nelson Chamisa,

MDC Secretary for

Information and Publicity,

Harare.

---------

Save the ship, drop Mugabe like a hot brick

LAST Sunday I went to church. It had been a little while since I last
attended. I was intent on absorbing anything my pastor had to teach.

He read us the story of Jonah and the whale. In my mind that sounded
familiar.

But the way he expounded the scripture was profound. I then thought of how
this teaching applies to our circumstances - the Zimbabwean crisis.

I may be across the Atlantic from home but my heart is there. I thought of
how Zimbabwe is a ship that is sailing in tempestuous storms right now.

The ship had been nice in letting Jonah on board. Yet when he came on board
the ship started having serious problems.

People started doing everything they could, throwing away some of the cargo
so the vessel would not sink. That did not help, as that was certainly not
the source of the problem.

Do you know how as a country we tried to save our ship from sinking?

We did everything but the right thing. We thought printing more money would
solve the crisis. Some of us thought leaving the country would solve the
crisis, only to find some of our folk begging and dying as refugees.

We thought killing members of the opposition would save our ship from
sinking. We thought scolding United States president, George Bush and UK
premier, Tony Blair at every rally would solve our crisis.

We thought running all independent media out of town would save our ship
from sinking. The ironic thing was that while people feared for their lives
trying to save the ship, they found Jonah sleeping on one part of the ship.

He was the reason the ship was sinking and yet he was comfortable. I thought
to myself how familiar this sounded. We too have a sinking ship and our
Jonah is sleeping comfortably somewhere.

He is building mansions. He travels anywhere even where he's been banned. He
does not line up for petrol or walk to work.

If he feels a little pain he can easily go to a Johannesburg clinic for
treatment while thousands are dying at home.

I am sure by now you have figured out our Jonah is President Mugabe. Like
Jonah he had a calling to save his people from colonialism.

He decided however to go a different direction altogether. People on the
ship had tried to be nice to Jonah and didn't want to toss him off the ship.

Yet that was the solution to save the ship.

Haven't we been too nice to this man already? We spared him the million-man
march to State House. Some of our folk even voted for him, yet as long as he
is on the ship we are doomed to sink.

We therefore must drop him like a hot brick. As soon as Jonah was tossed off
the ship, the sea calmed down and the ship reached its destination.

Kiri,

USA.

----------

No place for Shumba

SOME politicians never cease to amaze me.

"Daniel Shumba forms own party" (Zimbabwe Independent, January 20) revealed
that TeleAccess boss, Daniel Shumba, had quit Zanu PF and formed his own
party UPP.

Shumba is certainly not to be taken seriously because he lacks political
integrity. Why does he now see (the evil of) kuipa kweZanu PF?

Is it because he was unceremoniously suspended because of the Tsholotsho
debacle and yet others' scalps were spared?

Shumba talks of alleviating the plight of the Gukurahundi victims now, why
some 20 years after the purge?

And again, he talks of a despotic Zanu PF government which has entrenched
lethargic business, political and social practices and yet he served in it
as an army officer and central committee member, among other portfolios, for
many years.

I am sure the person who came up with the phrase shooting oneself in the
foot had Shumba in mind.

His political fortunes have taken a massive nose-dive and I believe that he
dug his own grave with a teaspoon and the people that he wined and dined
with are ready to bury him.

It is apparent he never listened when his former colleagues in the party
spoke.

Remember Webster Shamu at one of the funerals in 2001 when he said: "When
you sup with the devil you must sup with a long spoon because he might turn
against you"? Just food for thought.

Shumba has exhibited lack of integrity, honour and respect for the people
that some of us who would have joined his new party no longer have the
confidence and zeal to do so. What if the political tide and landscape
changes and he abandons us?

What is his assurance that he is doing this for the people and not for
someone else?

Shumba, Jonathan Moyo and others who have presided over the country's social
and economic collapse have no place in the political spectrum of Zimbabwe.

Takudzwa Mutongwizo,

Harare.

---------

A Moyo in the making

MAY I, through your widely read paper, express my anger with regard to the
total madness displayed by Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo.

Chombo is behaving in exactly the same way as former Information minister
Jonathan Moyo used to behave.

May I warn Chombo that life is a circle and one day he might find himself a
part of us - just like Jonah.

The professor never thought he would join the masses, thinking he was
invincible as does Chombo.

How on earth could he close down a public place from where people earn a
living?

Chombo should know that when he eats, it doesn't mean everyone has something
to eat.

Zimbabweans have been reduced to beggars because of people like Chombo who
are so selfish. To Chombo I say keep on keeping on, the Lord will reward
you!

Ncanca,

Binga.

---------

We're not stupid Trudy!

IT was so sad to read the article by Trudy Stevenson, "MDC's October 12
meeting - the facts", (Zimbabwe Independent, January 13).

Can she please tell me, in what capacity did South African president Thabo
Mbeki invite the leadership of the MDC?

Where in this whole continent of Africa has she seen a head of state trying
to "mediate" between two disagreeing groups of an opposition party from
another country?

Was Mbeki trying to keep the MDC strong so it can take Preident Mugabe out
of power?

And what would President Mugabe say about South Africa organising the
opposition in Zimbabwe?

Does Trudy really think everyone is stupid like the "Wishman" of this
country?

I would like to tell Trudy and her gang that we are sick and tired of their
mudslinging. They should simply go to congress/to the people and be elected
or shut up. Or better still, form their own party!

I remain with MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai's decision.

Original Masendeke,

Bulawayo.

----------

Tsvangirai the winner in MDC feud

THE split in the MDC has dealt a heavy blow to Zimbabwe's prospects for a
new dispensation.

Both supporters and critics of the MDC have contributed in media debates on
who is wrong or right. The real MDC will however emerge from Morgan
Tsvangirai's side.

I would like to assist the side in the election of a new leadership. My
nominees for the "Top Seven" are: President, Morgan Tsvangirai;
vice-president, Thokozani Khupe; national chairman, Isaac Matongo;
secretary-general, Tendai Biti/Elias Mudzuri; deputy secretay-general,
Lovemore Moyo; national treasurer, Roy Bennett; and national organising
secretary, Misheck Shoko.

Antony Mbonyeya,

Harare.

-------

MDC larger than its leadership

THE MDC is larger than the sum total of its leaders. When the duly-elected
leadership converges, it becomes much more than persons.

It becomes the living, breathing manifestation of the vision of the MDC
voters, the protector of the spirit and the soul of the sovereign supporters
of the party.

It is against this background that the leadership should realise all the
sacrifices made by those who rallied behind it to get to where we are.

Lives have been lost, families broken and physical impairment suffered by so
many in the name of the MDC.

The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive. Leadership is about coping
with complexities, not running away from them.

We have gone too far to turn back now. True leaders seek to reason with
those with whom they disagree, not to demand obedience or threaten
recrimination.

Our leadership should not focus on small battles to the detriment of our
bigger struggle of bringing democracy and liberty to the people.

Sam Mike Mutongerwa,

USA.

-------

Ban on leaded fuel: govt's own goal

I ENJOYED the Editor's memo "Sludge-friendly" (Zimbabwe Independent, January
20).

The awesome ability of the government to sound internationally correct and
concerned just before shooting itself in the foot at home is evident in many
of the environment and health issues that you raised.

On the question of unleaded petrol, however, I think you may have missed the
chance of drawing the attention of readers to yet another stunning "own
goal" which is about to be scored.

You correctly pointed out that lead poisoning is low on our list of national
concerns compared to Aids and cholera.

What has not been clearly reported is the important role which lead - which
is deliberately added to fuel - plays in the functioning of older vehicle
engines.

Cars and trucks which do not have special hardened valve seats will be
destroyed very rapidly - within a tank of fuel - with devastating
consequences for our national fleet.

It's a very serious matter for a large number of less well-off car owners,
bus and transport operators.

I think that this is well worth a prominent investigation by your paper.

Desperate,

Harare.

--------

Rally behind Majongwe in tackling govt

THE letter entitled "Help our kids get to school on time" (Zimbabwe
Independent, January 20), by Just Concerned made quite interesting reading.

Raymond Majongwe and his Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe have
however made a good start by demanding free education for teachers' children
as part of their perks.

But before we get there, I urge him and the slumbering Zimta to ensure there
is transport for children to and from school.

School days have become quite a nightmare for many. As late as 8.30am some
school children can be seen milling around residential areas and bus termini
waiting for transport for which they have to engage in fierce tussles with
the elderly.

While they press for free education, Majongwe and company could lobby for
half fares for school children as was the norm in the 80s and 90s when Zupco
had the monopoly on our roads.

The few dollars saved would lessen the burden on hard-pressed parents who
are saddled with numerous other commitments wrought by the failing economy.

In Majongwe we have a combative leader who needs support to bolster his
nerves as he engages what appears like an unyielding government.

Hard-pressed,

Kuwadzana.

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