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Coup plot thickens

FinGaz

Clemence Manyukwe Staff Reporter
ZANU PF purge looms ahead of crucial congress

POLICE have arrested more suspects in connection with the alleged plot to
oust President Robert Mugabe as conspiracy theories and uncertainty spread
within the top echelons of ZANU PF, sparking fears of a purge that could
effectively preclude party bigwigs eyeing the veteran nationalist's job
ahead of the party's extraordinary congress.
The arrests come as the original group of six men already in custody for the
same reason prepare to file a lawsuit against state agents for unlawful
arrest and torture. The men, who were arrested in connection with the
alleged coup plot - which police say was codenamed Operation 1940 - appeared
in court on Monday and were remanded in custody to July 2.
Their bail application will be heard in an open court in the High Court
tomorrow.
In an interview yesterday, defence lawyer Charles Warara confirmed that more
people had been arrested, but indicated he was still gathering information
from their relatives.
"There have been arrests, that we cannot confirm. My clients say there are
more who have been arrested," said Warara.
Police have resorted to electric shocks and beatings to torture those in
custody, said Warara.
In a separate incident, three people - including the wife of the alleged
coup plot ringleader, Albert Matapo - were picked up by the police this
week, and although they were subsequently released, they suffered abuse at
the hands of law enforcement agents.
Matapo's wife, Grace, has burns and blisters on her breasts, feet and damage
to her ears, according to a medical report presented to her lawyer.
"My clients now want to sue the state for their illegal detention," Warara
said.
The police had forced the trio to sign affidavits they had not written. The
lawyer fears police plan to present the affidavits as evidence.
According to a police charge sheet, Matapo, "a former member of the Zimbabwe
National Army (ZNA), conspired with his co-accused and recruited members of
the security forces, that is members from the ZNA, the Air Force of Zimbabwe
and the Zimbabwe Republic Police whom he gave some tasks in preparation for
the coup."
A report this week quoted Matapo, in his first public comments on the
matter, as claiming that his arrest was a ploy to "mask" infighting within
ZANU PF over President Mugabe's succession.
Police allege that in June last year, Matapo asked a member of the ZNA,
Shepherd Maromo, about "the probability of the military staging a coup to
solve the country's problems."
The alleged coup plotter is said to have wanted to create a new government
in which he would be prime minister with Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Minister of
Social Amenities and Rural Housing, being "invited" to become president.
In February this year, Matapo is said to have told another soldier, Olivine
Maroala, that he intended to recruit as many soldiers as possible
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for his project.
Maromo and Maroala are not among those who have already appeared in court
and as a result their fate could not be established.
The alleged coup plot has ignited fresh conspiracy theories within ZANU PF
ahead of its extraordinary congress to be held in the last quarter.
ZANU PF insiders told The Financial Gazette this week that the alleged plot
might effectively shut out some individuals from the succession race, an
erstwhile hot potato in the ruling party.
The race had been confined to Mnangagwa and vice-President Joice Mujuru but
took a different course after President Mugabe, who had hinted at retiring
at the end of his current term, threw his hat into the ring.
While the ZANU PF central committee controversially endorsed the former
guerilla leader's candidature, the extra-ordinary congress still offers an
opportunity to those who have been waiting in the wings.
As if to gauge the mood in the provinces, the newly elected Masvingo
provincial executive this week endorsed President Mugabe as the ruling party
candidate for next year's elections.
Sources said the remaining nine political provinces in the country are now
in a tight corner to make known their positions ahead of the extraordinary
congress. With the arrests of the alleged coup plotter still in full swing,
none of the remaining provinces is likely to sing a different tune.


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Farm workers' abusers face prosecution

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Political Editor

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO forum has recommended the prosecution of
people it says perpetrated rights violations against farm workers during the
violent land seizures beginning in 2000 in a report that seeks to quantify
the human and financial cost of the controversial land reforms.

In a report released this week, the forum said it had established that farm
workers continue to be paid "slave wages", years after former white-held
farms were allocated to blacks.
At the time the forum undertook its survey, farm workers were paid $8 000
per month. Although wages have risen to $90 000 since the NGO study, they
remain far below the poverty datum line. Farm workers are demanding that
monthly wages be raised to $2.7 million.
The report, entitled "Injury in Addition to Insult", says a survey of 187
commercial farms formerly occupied by whites documented widespread human
rights violations perpetrated against farm workers by agents of government
during the seizures of farms from 2000 to 2005.
The study singles out war veterans, the Central Intelligence Organisation,
provincial governors and the police as being at the forefront in committing
much of the abuse.
"In addition to the human rights abuses, immense financial losses were
inflicted upon the farm owners. Farm workers suffered catastrophic losses of
income, habitation, health services and access to clean water and sanitation
that contributed to a high death rate. The combination of the human rights
abuses and loss of livelihood has contributed to a growing economic and
humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe," reads part of the 40-page report.
According to the survey, conducted over a period of six months in 2006 and
this year, only six white farmers were still on their farms. Seventy-five
percent of the respondents said they were Zimbabwean citizens, and 65
percent still reside in the country.
"This is significant as it shows that most white farmers identified
themselves as Zimbabweans, not British," the report said.
A total of 53 022 people - farmers, farm workers and their families -
experienced at least one human rights violation. This abuse included
assaults, torture, being held hostage, unlawful detention and death threats.
"If this figure from the limited survey is extrapolated to include all
commercial farms nationwide, the number of people suffering abuses during
the farm seizures could be more than one million.
"The financial losses incurred by white farmers covered in the survey,
according to their own estimates, are US$368 million. If these figures are
extrapolated to the entire commercial farming sector, the figure is an
astronomical US$8.4 billion," says the report.
The results of the survey largely tally with prior estimates by economists.
The report says the total damages for which the Zimbabwean government should
be liable, for giving open support to the invasions, would have catastrophic
consequences for an economy already in decline.
The study shows that one percent of displaced farm workers and members of
their families have died since losing their jobs.
"Extrapolated to the entire population of one million farmer workers and
their families, 10 000 people could have died after displacement from the
farms. This is clearly a gross underestimate and anecdotal evidence from
commercial farmers, which suggests that the figure is considerably higher."
According to the report, the human rights violations, and violations of
rights generally, were much greater than had been previously assumed.
The survey points to organised land expropriation by an elite, as has been
widely claimed by critics.
"The report finds that a plausible case can be made for crimes against
humanity having been committed during these displacements. There is a
compelling need for these to be investigated and the perpetrators to be
charged and tried.
"Quite obviously, this accountability must involve both criminal and civil
actions, and both groups - commercial farmers and farm workers - must be
supported in obtaining redress for the violations they have experienced and
the losses they have suffered."
The government insists that the land reform exercise was necessary to
redress colonial imbalances that marginalised blacks and left the best
arable land in the hands of white farmers.


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Fire sparks shortage fears

FinGaz

Staff Reporter

FEAR gripped the newspaper industry yesterday after fire broke out at Mutare
Board and Paper Mills yesterday, damaging the paper machine, sources said.

Industry players said the damage could result in a severe shortage of paper
that could significantly affect the newspaper industry. The Financial
Gazette this week started putting in place contigent measures in case next
week's supplies get affected.
But officials said the damage would not materially affect newsprint supplies
to the market.
Art Corporation chief executive officer, Richard Zirobwa, said they expected
the paper machine to start running next week.
"Yes, the paper machine was affected. What we're looking at is restoring
capacity within a week," said Zirobwa.
He said they had enough stock to meet market requirements, maintaining the
situation was not cause for panic.
If the Mutare-based paper machine failed to resume paper production within a
week, the group would increase production at its other paper machine in
Kadoma, Zirobwa said.
It only took 36 hours for the machine to resume operations the last time it
was damaged by fire in 1996.
Zirobwa said they were only replacing "consumables" on the paper machine.


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ILO finds Zim guilty

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Political Editor

THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found Zimbabwe guilty of
human and trade union rights violations.

The verdict was passed at an ILO conference in Geneva last week, where
government representatives refused to appear before a committee set up to
investigate the charges of rights abuses levelled against the state by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
During the conference, ILO head Kastriot Sulka wrote to Labour Minister
Nicholas Goche seeking assurances on the safety of unionists on their return
to Zimbabwe.
This was after government officials were seen taking notes on submissions
made by labour leaders.
Goche did not attend the hearing after he reportedly failed to garner
support against the ZCTU's position from other government delegations at the
conference.
The trade union cited the assault and torture of its leaders last September
as an example of state brutality.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe, the union's
secretary general, who were hospitalised after the beatings, represented the
labour body at the conference, which ended last Friday.
In a report produced at the end of the conference, the ILO standards
committee said it regretted that Goche had declined to attend the hearing.
"The employer and worker members stated, in respect of the refusal by the
government delegation of Zimbabwe to appear before the committee, that the
situation created by the Government of Zimbabwe's position was highly
regrettable, insulting to the committee and to the ILO supervisory system as
a whole," reads part of the report.
Goche would not immediately respond to questions from The Financial Gazette
on why the government had refused to appear before the ILO committee.
But a letter he wrote to the director of the International Labour Standards
Department on June 7 says, "the government did not wish to appear before the
committee as it did not agree with its functions."
Goche's letter criticises the "political" manner in which the ILO has dealt
with issues concerning Zimbabwe in the past.
However, the ILO committee said in response that it regretted that Zimbabwe
did not participate in the discussion of individual cases on its application
of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise
Convention, although the government delegation was accredited to the
conference.
"They considered that the attitude of the government constituted flagrant
disregard of the entire ILO supervisory machinery and indeed was regrettable
and should not be allowed to prevail."
Correspondence shows that, fearful that ZCTU leaders could be harmed, ILO
president Sulka, wrote Goche on June 11, seeking assurances on the security
of the unionists.
"After having informed the chairperson of the committee that the government
of Zimbabwe was declining to participate in the scheduled discussion of a
case before the committee in relation to Zimbabwe's application to the
Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise
Convention, representatives of the government of Zimbabwe were observed in
the gallery of the committee meeting room, taking notes of statements made
during the discussion of the case. These included a statement by the
president (of the ZCTU, Matombo)," reads part of Sulka's letter to Goche.
"I trust that no harm whatsoever will come to any of the workers of the
delegation of Zimbabwe and in particular to Mr Matombo, following the
statements made during the discussions of the case involving Zimbabwe."


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Khaya Moyo's wife lies low as Bubye-River Ranch fight rages

FinGaz

Clemence Manyukwe Staff Reporter

THE wife of Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo,
Sibonokuhle, a shareholder in Bubye Minerals, has given her company's bitter
diamond dispute with River Ranch Limited a wide berth, reluctant to be seen
to be challenging senior ZANU PF members who have a stake in the rival
company.

Sibonokuhle, a war veteran, has a 10 percent stake in Bubye Minerals. Adele
and Michael Farquhar own a majority 70 percent, while four other investors
have five percent each.
River Ranch Limited is partly owned by retired army general Solomon Mujuru,
ZANU PF central committee member Tirivanhu Mudariki and Saudi billionaire
Adel Aujan.
Sources said Sibonokuhle had not participated in company matters since the
legal dispute erupted.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, Sibonokuhle would neither say why she
had been inactive nor comment on the dispute.
"I will reserve my comment. I do not want to be drawn into charges and
counter charges," she said.
The ambassador's wife could also not comment on allegations that her
perceived loyalty to Mujuru had prevented her from taking a position on the
matter.
"I am not going to say anything. People can say whatever they want to say. I
do not owe you a comment."
River Ranch Limited is embroiled in a protracted dispute with Bubye over
River Ranch mine in Beitbridge, which experts say has the potential to
surpass output at RioZim's Murowa, currently Zimbabwe's biggest diamond
producer.
The dispute has recently turned nasty, with the arrest of the Farquhars for
alleged asset stripping, and charges by Bubye that Mujuru has used his
political influence to advance his business interests.
River Ranch Limited has denied the allegations on his behalf.
Last week, Bubye Minerals filed a High Court application claiming that
Mujuru and former High Court judge George Smith are manipulating he
judiciary system to win control of the diamond mine.
The respondents in the matter, who include Master of the High Court Charles
Nyatanga, are yet to respond to the lawsuit.


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'Spying Bill' sends shivers down media's spine

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Political Editor

BIG brother is watching.

This aptly describes the jittery mood within the media and
telecommunications sectors in Zimbabwe following the passing by Parliament
last Wednesday of the controversial Interception of Communications Bill,
despite opposition to some of its provisions by opposition legislators and
free speech advocates.
The passage of the Bill, which allows government to monitor e-mails,
telephone calls, the Internet and ordinary mail, has drawn widespread
criticism.
In separate interviews this week, stakeholders in the communications field
condemned the new law - which they referred to as the "spying bill" - saying
it was the latest demonstration of government's paranoia and extension of a
drive to stifle freedom of expression.
MISA-Zimbabwe national director Rashweat Mukundu, said the passing of the
Bill marks yet another sad chapter in the country's long history of free
speech violations, as it will have serious implications on citizens'
fundamental right to freely express themselves without hindrance.
Section 20 of the Constitution guarantees a citizen's freedom to receive and
impart ideas without interference.
"By passing this Bill, especially without any amendments, the House of
Assembly has regrettably and sadly dealt yet another devastating blow to the
country's deepening human rights and political crisis, which is being duly
recorded by historians and will be judged accordingly by posterity," said
Mukundu.
Internet service providers will be required to bear the burden of additional
costs, as they will be expected under the law to install enabling equipment
and software, called spyware, despite the acute foreign currency shortages
in the country.
Jim Holland, spokesman for Zimbabwe's Internet Service Providers (ISP), said
most ISPs could not afford to install the equipment that would allow
government unfettered access to data.
"Potentially, they (government) could insist that anyone operating as an
Internet service provider would be forced to monitor it, which is beyond
business's budget," said Holland.
Under the Bill, service providers will be compelled to install the enabling
equipment on behalf of the government.
The new law empowers the chief of Defence Intelligence, the director-general
of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the police commissioner and the
commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to intercept
telephonic, e-mail and postal messages.
A monitoring centre or agency, which will be the sole facility through which
authorised interception shall be effected, will be established.
Contributing to the debate during the Bill's reading stages, Bulawayo South
Member of Parliament David Coltart said the judiciary, and not the
Attorney-General, should be empowered to review the exercise of the powers
of the Transport and Communications Minister in the issuing of warrants for
the interception of any communication.
Coltart stressed that the decision on the right to grant a warrant should be
the preserve of the judiciary and not the Executive.
Wellington Chibebe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU), said the Bill deals a major blow to the enjoyment of human
rights.
"It is an unwarranted invasion of people's privacy. If signed by the
President, this Bill will join other draconian pieces of legislation such as
the Public Order and Security Act, and the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act," said Chibebe.
The ZCTU boss said the need to have such laws was a sign of growing paranoia
within President Mugabe's government.
"The government has taken it upon itself to stifle whatever little freedom
Zimbabwean citizens had. The ruling party has perceived and convinced itself
that it has enemies bent on toppling it. A government elected by the people,
for the people, as ZANU PF claims to have been elected, surely has nothing
to fear from its people," he said.
"It also boggles the mind why government would want to pass the cost of
acquiring and installing the spying equipment on to the service providers.
This will push some small service providers out of business, as they might
have to purchase the equipment outside Zimbabwe's borders.
"If President Mugabe has any decency left in him, he will not put his
signature to this ill-thought and ill-timed Bill. The ZCTU urges President
Robert Mugabe instead, to concentrate on finding solutions to the Zimbabwean
crisis rather than continue to find ways of harassing and violating innocent
people's rights."
The government argues that countries such as the United Kingdom and the
United States of America have similar laws in place to protect their
sovereignty and to fight crime and terrorism.


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For Zimbos, nightmare begins on the bus

FinGaz

Stanley Kwenda Staff Reporter

QUEUING for transport after work for up to four hours is a daily ordeal for
Cecilia Masvingise, who works as a cleaner at a supermarket in central
Harare.

Her day starts at 4:30am, although she is only required to report for duty
at 7:30am. She has to be at the bus stop by 5:30am to avoid missing the
low-cost Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) bus she uses to commute
to work.
But even at this early freezing morning hour, she has to wait for at least
an hour in a long queue snaking around the streets of her neighbourhood.
Although this leaves her physically strained, she has no other option since
she cannot afford the fares charged by the commuter omnibuses, which are
three times higher than those of ZUPCO.
"I have to leave home when it is dark and return after nightfall. I have
little or no time for my children because of the transport problems that I
experience everyday," said Masvingise.
"I sometimes think of Andy Brown's song about transport problems, which I
used to listen to when I was young."
Andy Brown's Sweet Chariot, which was about the plight of commuters in the
1990s, has even more meaning today.
Thousands of commuters endure at least an hour of queuing every day before
they get transport to and from work.
Most of them earn less than $500 000 per month and cannot afford the other
available means of transport, and therefore have to settle for the ZUPCO
buses and the "freedom trains", which are not reliable.
There are some conventional buses, which get fuel from a government facility
meant to cushion commuters. But these are in petrol queues or being repaired
at garages most of the time. By the time most commuters get a chance to
board a bus, they are bruised and exhausted.
It did not come as a surprise when a middle-aged man from Glen View
collapsed in a crowded city-bound bus recently.
Bus crews now pack people like sardines, exceeding their vehicles' carrying
capacities in a bid to maximise profits. Bigger buses charge $10 000 for a
single trip while the commuter omnibuses charge anything between $30 000 and
$50 000.
Government has introduced piecemeal measures to rectify the situation,
waiving permit requirements for conventional buses in a bid to bring
normalcy to the transport industry. This has not helped, as most of the
available buses are too dilapidated to be considered a reliable means of
transport.
"The only difference between a bus ride and a train ride is that one is on a
road and the other is on a rail, but otherwise the discomfort is the same.
But we have no choice because we cannot afford the fares charged by the
kombis," said Masvingise.
The problem has also affected particular groups of civil servants, police
and soldiers, who are normally ferried by buses from their workplaces.
On Monday this week, police officers living in Harare's southern suburbs
were stranded when their bus failed to appear.
"Our bus did not come and we had not budgeted to pay for the kombi and now I
can't pay because I have no money in my pocket," said a police officer to a
conductor when he boarded a commuter omnibus.
Four other police officers who boarded the same vehicle refused to pay,
hoping to take advantage of their police privileges. The driver refused to
move the vehicle until they had all paid.
Transport fares have been rising almost daily, and according to word on the
streets, this will ultimately lead to a situation where people will simply
not show up for work.
The situation is more dire for those living in the rural areas. Most,
particularly small-scale farmers, travel to Harare daily to sell their
produce. But most now find themselves in an untenable situation. They cannot
afford transport fares back to their homes because these go up during the
day while they are attending to business.


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Unite, Dell urges warring MDC factions

FinGaz

Nkululeko Sibanda Staff Reporter

OUTGOING United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, says
feuding factions in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) must
urgently resolve their differences if they are to mount a serious challenge
in next year's merged elections.

Dell told The Financial Gazette in Bulawayo this week that the two factions
had more cause to unite than remain divided.
"I believe that there is a commonality of purpose in the MDC, and that is to
ensure that their party wins the elections next year. The commonality exists
even in a situation where there are structural differences within the party,
and I think that the sooner the structural, ideological, and perceptional
differences are addressed, the better for the MDC," said Dell.
The envoy, who leaves soon for his new posting in Afghanistan, said the MDC
should use the talks within talks being brokered by South African president
Thabo Mbeki to resolve their differences.
"The current set of talks within talks between ZANU PF and the MDC are the
ones that these two sides should use to reach a common understanding. They
will have to put in place fundamentals that will ensure that they work
together towards one goal and that is to take part, if they will, in the
elections as one united front, he said.
Dell declined to be drawn into discussing his government's attitude to
either one of the factions.
"I cannot put my head on the block and say who should be the candidate. I
believe that a convention to choose the right candidate who is backed by the
party's supporters should be convened soon after the unity pact has been
signed, and the leaders should leave the selection of the presidential
candidate to the people. They should not try to influence the outcome," he
said.


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Activists reject govt plan

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

RIGHTS activists have rejected government proposals to set up a human rights
commission without first repealing repressive legislation and embarking on
judiciary reform.

The government has gazetted Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 18, which
seeks to establish the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, which it says will
promote awareness and respect for human rights, monitor and assess the
observance of human rights and investigate rights violations.
But Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the National Association of
Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) said this week that the rights
commission should only be a product of a permanent constitutional reform
process aimed at entrenching democracy and human rights.
"We need evidence that there is now political will to genuinely respect
human rights. But this is just an effort to try and consolidate its
(government) stranglehold on power by giving a false impression that they
are strengthening areas to do with human rights," said ZLHR director Arnold
Tsunga.
NANGO spokesperson Fambai Ngirande charged that there was no basis for
creating a rights commission when there was no sign government was ready to
relent on its suppressive approach or allow debate on a new constitution.
"It (commission) is a worthwhile investment to put in place, but the
necessary preconditions for an effective human rights commission must be in
place first. We want wholesale constitutional reforms as opposed to
piecemeal reforms," said Ngirande.
Such reforms, Ngirande said, would centre on the repeal of repressive laws
such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act. NANGO, Ngirande said, also wants to see the
abolition of all forms of impunity and a guarantee of the independence of
the judiciary.


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Civic groups demand say in Mbeki's Zim initiative

FinGaz

Njabulo Ncube Political Editor

ZIMBABWEAN civic groups have met South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe,
Mlungisi Makhalima to press their demands to be included in the mediation
initiative being spearheaded by President Thabo Mbeki in which a fringe
political party, the United People's Party (UPP) is already a participant.

The UPP was included at Mbeki's invitation.
The insignificant political party, headed by businessman Daniel Shumba, has
made a number of contacts with Pretoria over its inclusion in the Southern
African Development Community (SADC)-sponsored initiative to resolve the
crisis in Zimbabwean and limit the spread of the contagion to neighbouring
countries.
UPP has lobbied Pretoria to broaden the dialogue beyond ZANU PF and the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"It is premature for me to comment on our involvement in the Mbeki
initiative, except to confirm that the UPP is now engaged in the talks,"
said Shumba.
Although his party fared badly in the Zaka East by-election, which was won
by ZANU PF two weeks ago, Shumba says his party has a role to play.
"We are optimistic that the talks will bring normalcy to the country's
political landscape. Any opportunity to bring that normalcy must be viewed
with optimism while still being cautious. Cautious in the sense that ZANU PF
has a history of pulling the rug from under people's feet," he said.
Shumba could not say when the UPP became part of the SADC initiative.
Civic society groups last Tuesday held discussions with Makhalima, to whom
they presented a position paper.
Non-governmental organisations, accused by government of supporting what it
sees as a plot by the MDC to oust President Mugabe, are anxious to meet
Mbeki.
ZANU PF and the MDC last weekend held their first talks in Pretoria to
thrash out an agenda for the dialogue.
President Mugabe has of late been conciliatory towards the MDC, but his
critics say his actions are only geared towards claiming legitimacy in next
year's landmark polls.
President Mugabe last week said he had handed over farming equipment to top
MDC officials, but the opposition refuted these claims.
Joining the fray on the tractor controversy, Shumba said: "We are not
interested in being manipulated for short-term gain while compromising a
national objective. Any mechanisation of the country's agriculture should be
in the context of the broader land reform policy and anything short of that
is a furtherance of ZANU PF chaos."


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The men who would be Zimbabwe's rulers

FinGaz

Rangarirai Mber News Editor

BY now, a struggling travel agent and his minions, one with the alarming
code-name of "Wezhira" and the other operating under the shadowy alias
"Tel-One", should have taken over the reins of the ship of state and be
ruling Zimbabwe. That is, of course, if the latest coup plot is to be
believed.

Albert Matapo, the alleged mastermind in the alleged conspiracy to topple
President Robert Mugabe by June 15, has an interesting recent history.
In 2004, a BBC report claimed Matapo and his
wife Grace were involved in an immigration scam called Zimbabwe Community UK
(ZCUK) in Birmingham.
According to undercover reporters who claimed to have secretly taped "hours"
of conversations with Matapo, the ZCUK, funded by a 5000 lottery award,
charged Zimbabwean immigrants 1000 for fake British national health
insurance identification and other documents so they could claim asylum.
Matapo himself had been granted asylum a year earlier after claiming his
life would be in peril if he returned to Zimbabawe.
But the BBC claimed he had fled after swindling would-be immigrants while
running a travel agency in Harare. He denied the charges.
This all makes fairly interesting reading, but disappointingly for lovers of
conspiracies, it hardly adds up to a convincing curriculum vitae for a
mastermind of an elaborate coup plot.
Documents filed with the High Court do not throw much light on who the six
men really are.
But they show one of the main reasons police are convinced the group were up
to no good: they all used what, at least to the police, sound like guerilla
names.
Police declare with a tone of finality: "That all the accused persons were
aware that they were involved in a military operation and not the formation
of a political party is evidenced by the fact that they all had codenames."
There is Matapo, calling himself "Senior", Oncemore Mudzurahona, alias
"Tel-One", Emmanuel Marara, named after Saddam's home town, Tikrit, and
Shingirirai Mutemachani, a young soldier going by the codename "Lock".
Then there is Patson Mupfure, known as "Svosve", and Nyasha Zivuku, nom de
guerre "Wezhira". Still on the run, police say, is "Musharukwa", real name
Charles Vhovha.
Four of the men work for a little known travel company called Gestwalt,
owned by Matapo.
The company operates out of the first floor of a block of flats along Nelson
Mandela Avenue in Harare. This is where most of the alleged coup plotters
were seized on May 29.
Apart from Gestwalt, Matapo also owns Malbert Academy, "which is building a
private college," according to court papers.
He has six children by his wife Grace.
Mudzurahona, or "Tel-One", is liaison manager of Gestwalt. He is married,
has three children, and lives in Ruwa.
He was at work when he was arrested.
Marara, an Old Highfield resident, is Gestwalt's travel and marketing
consultant. Mupfure, aka "Svosve", is a travel consultant for the same
company.
One of the more interesting members of the group is Mutemachani, or "Lock".
The 20-year old army private lives with his mother in Old Highfield.
"At the time it is alleged the offence or the plan was discussed in June
2006, (Mutemachani) was still in training. He only finished training in
November 2006. He does not know the other accused, except Emmanuel Marara,
who is his neighbour," according to a bail application.
Zivuku, "Wezhira", stays in Seke, and is married with two children. He says
he was "only caught in the crossfire".
Says his lawyer: "(Zivuku) was arrested while he was passing through
(Matapo's) workplace. He was briefly detained and released after leaving his
details. After that, the police followed him and arrested him at night."
The group says they had only discussed the formation of a political party,
the United Democratic Front, and not a plot to overthrow President Mugabe
and "invite" Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Rural Housing Minister, to take charge.
But prosecutors insist
they have the evidence: "The state is in possession of documentation taken
from the accused persons, which is (more) consistent with a military
operation than the formation of a political party."
Police fear Matapo could use what they say are his British connections to
skip bail.
"Records show that while Albert Matapo is a holder of a passport, which was
valid at the time that he went to the UK, it was not that which he used to
go there. The first accused also has a family in the UK. While the fact of
having a family in the UK is not a reason for not granting bail, the fact
that he is prepared to lie about it is definitely reason enough."
Because of Matapo's alleged British connections, the chances of his
co-conspirators also absconding are high, the prosecution says.


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Continental bodies all bark, no bite

FinGaz

Mavis Makuni Own Correspondent

The ruling by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR)
that the Government of Zimbabwe was guilty of violating certain provisions
of the African Charter by committing human rights violations during the
implementation of the land reform programme and during parliamentary and
presidential elections in 2000 and 2002, should under normal circumstances,
be a step in the right direction in the resolution of conflicts through the
much touted identification of homegrown solutions.

But, alas, the decision of the ACHPR, taken at a meeting in Addis Ababa last
January, demonstrates the contempt in which African governments hold
continental institutions that are supposed to be the watchdogs and
implementing arms of the African Union (AU) or regional bodies such the
Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) or the Southern African
Development Community (SADC). This renders these bodies impotent and
irrelevant. The ACHPR made its determination on this country a full six
years after the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations Forum
had filed a complaint against the government of President Robert Mugabe.
In communication 245/02 the ACHPR recorded human rights violations that
occurred between 2000 and 2002 and noted that the government had abandoned
its responsibility to protect the people of Zimbabwe against human rights
abuses as required under the African Charter. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO
Forum's complaint against the government was given added weight by the visit
of a high-powered ACHPR delegation at the height of the political tensions
and violence sparked by the land invasions. The delegation, which was headed
by Professor Jinaiba Jomh of Gambia and included eminent academics and
technocrats from other African countries, compiled a report condemning the
government's human rights record.
It proved an impossible task to have an executive summary of the delegation's
report tabled for discussion at a meeting of the ACHPR in July 2004. In a
clear act of subterfuge and defiance, the Zimbabwean government claimed it
had not had prior sight of the report and could therefore not appear before
the Commission without being adequately prepared.
The government's lame excuse for not having read the report, which the ACHPR
passively accepted, was that the documents had been sent to the wrong
ministry and would have to be re-directed to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs.
It was agreed that the report would now be discussed at the 36th ordinary
session of the Commission that was to be held in Senegal in November 2004.
A Zimbabwean government delegation headed by then Foreign Minister Stan
Mudenge and including Justice and Parliamentary Minister Patrick Chinamasa
flew to Dakar but instead of being ready to respond to the allegations of
human rights abuses contained in the report, the officials now sang a
different tune. They argued that the government could not respond to
allegations made by non-governmental organisations because they were agents
of foreign interests plotting to effect regime change in Zimbabwe. The
officials stuck to this argument despite its illogicality and repeated it at
other fora where attempts were made to put the matter on the agenda.
The question is how effective and relevant are continental and regional
agencies if they can be defied at will by errant governments? The Zimbabwean
government for one has a long track record of thwarting continental and
international agencies from investigating concerns expressed by Zimbabweans
themselves on the flimsy pretext that there is a regime change agenda behind
every damning report made about the deteriorating social and political
situation in the country.
At the end of 2004, there was considerable brouhaha in the official press
about Zimbabwe having scored a major diplomatic coup at the Fourth African
Development Forum held in Addis Ababa. As it had done when it was expected
to put its case across to the ACHPR in Dakar, the Zimbabwean government had
once more resorted to tricks and evasive antics when required to respond to
a damning report on its governance record by the United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa (UNECA). The Zimbabwean account was one of 28 country
reports commissioned by UNECA to evaluate progress towards good governance
in Africa.
Despite the adamant insistence of the compilers of the document, the
Southern Africa Political and Economic Series Trust, that it had submitted
the report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ample time, the Zimbabwean
delegation led by former Information and Publicity Minister, Jonathan Moyo
resorted to the same hardnosed ploys it had employed in the past to avoid
being answerable and accountable. It was claimed that the authorities had
not been given enough time to study the report. Moreover, Moyo thundered,
such reports were the work of "enemies" bent on tarnishing the government's
image by spreading falsehoods about its policies and record on human rights,
freedom of speech and upholding the rule of law.
The authorities have used the same discredited tactics to avoid having
Zimbabwe put on the agenda for various reasons at AU, SADC and United
Nations fora. Among the controversies that the government has fought tooth
and nail to prevent from being discussed at international and regional level
are the Murambatsvina debacle, which left millions homeless and without
means to eke out a living and the recent battering of opposition leaders and
human rights activists. It is bad enough for a "people's" government to
resort to such self-indicting antics to avoid being accountable and
responsive to concerns voiced by its own people.
It is incomprehensible that continental institutions set up at the expense
of African taxpayers are so impotent that intransigent governments can defy
them at will and the matter ends there. The establishment of agencies of the
AU, SADC or ECOWAS should only be the beginning not an end in itself. The
people of Africa have the right to ask what next? Who watches, evaluates and
follows up to ensure that the structures and processes put in place are
working and if not what steps should be taken next. The case of Zimbabwe,
which has been allowed to defy and circumvent the laid down procedures and
processes of continental and regional agencies suggests that the code of
silence that took root among errant African leaders in the name of
solidarity and brotherhood under the old Organisation of African Unity (OAU)
charter persists to this day.
Foot-dragging, insensitivity and nonchalance are still the order of the day
even in situations where swift intervention would make a difference between
life and death for besieged populations as is the case with regard to the
crisis in the Darfur region in Sudan. After six long years of doing nothing
about the 2000 Zimbabwe NGO Forum report on human rights abuses in the
country all that the ACHPR could do was to throw the ball back into the
Zimbabwean government's court. After it has left no stone unturned to avoid
facing up to its responsibilities, it is unrealistic to expect the
government to scramble to investigate itself and bring culprits to book as
suggested by the Commission.
At this snail's pace of doing things, it will take the AU agency decades to
attend to the myriad complaints subsequently filed against the Zimbabwean
government as the situation has become more repressive and dire. No purpose
is served in the end.
mmakuni@fingaz.co.zw


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Cont vows defiance

FinGaz

Staff Reporter

BULAWAYO playwright Cont Mhlanga has vowed that he will not rewrite his
controversial play: The Good President, because that would change its
import, that of protest theatre.

The play was scheduled to run in Bulawayo from Wednesday to Saturday last
week but was banned by the police who claimed it contravened sections of the
Public Order and Security Act and undermined the authority of the President.
Police said Mhlanga had to rewrite the script and have it approved if he
wanted to stage the play in the city, but he says he cannot do that.
Ironically the play ran in Harare at the Theatre in the Park from April 12
to 20. It had a total of 16 shows while Bulawayo was only going to have nine
shows.
Mhlanga refuted claims in a local daily that he had agreed to rewrite the
play.
"My story is based on fact, so how do I rewrite it? When I say opposition
leaders were beaten up by the police, this is fact, how can I change that?"
he asked.


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Social contract: Wheels coming off?

FinGaz

David Mupamhadzi
Foundation of tripartism is already seriously under threat
MANY a time noble initiatives suffer a premature death because of poor
planning or lack of foresight. Traditionally, our downfall as a country has
been around policy implementation as opposed to policy formulation.

The signing of the various protocols on June 1, was supposed to be a
historic event but, alas, evidence on the ground is showing that there are a
number of issues that need urgent attention.
It is common knowledge that Zimbabwe's economy is over heated, and is facing
severe challenges.
Given the range of problems that the economy is currently facing, the
majority of which are now beyond the realm of ordinary monetary instruments,
it follows that the implementation of the social contract cannot be left to
chance.
It is against this background that the signing of the various protocols was
a step in the right direction. However, signing protocols without the
necessary checks and balances to ensure full implementation will not yield
the desired results.
The successful use of social dialogue, as a mechanism for consensus building
on the path to social and economic development, is premised on the following
conditions:
n Good faith and trust amongst the social partners;
n Transparency and exchange of information;
n Accountability to each other;
n Open-minded and flexibility;
n Win-win mindset;
n Subordination of sectoral interests to national interests;
n Common vision;
n Respect

If the aforementioned conditions are not embedded in the process of social
dialogue, then cracks are bound to emerge, and the efficacy of this strategy
would be compromised.
Evidence on the ground clearly shows that there is need to diffuse tension
and build trust among stakeholders. Barely a month in the marriage, the
foundation of tripartism is already seriously under threat, throwing the
whole process into disarray.
Under the framework of a social contract, the key stakeholders must exhibit
a high level of tolerance and effectively work together to achieve set
targets. Partners should take joint measures in addressing identified
problems.
The symbiotic relationship among the partners is very important, as this
would also give positive signals to the whole economy. As such, if the
market perceives the relationship to be weak, whether real or imagined, the
perception tends to form the basis of market expectations and hence business
decisions. A case of self-fulfilling expectations!
The lag in the implementation of the various protocols and the subsequent
wave of price increments that the market has witnessed to date clearly shows
that the market has discounted the effectiveness of social dialogue.
Given the hype accorded to the social contract, since the beginning of the
year, economic agents expected real action, real commitment and a strong
drive from the partners once the social contract was signed.
If economic agents on the ground doubt the effectiveness of this approach,
then the economy would remain moribund.
Expectations play a very important role in the success of any policy. If
economic agents are convinced that there is a renewed impetus and
seriousness, then they are bound to buy in and contribute positively to the
attainment of set targets.
It is imperative therefore, for the key partners to clear the air amongst
themselves and convince each other that they are working for the same cause.
Other economic agents will take a lead from the developments at the
tripartite consultative forum.
Conversely, if they are not convinced, then speculative behaviour will
remain rampant in the economy.
The social partners should fully execute their responsibilities and ensure
that they are consistent and have a coherent implementation.
From June 1, what the market has seen is selective implementation of some of
the agreed positions, and this has led to widespread confusion in the
economy. This has left many people wondering if there was "consensus ad
idem" when the protocols were signed.

David Mupa-mhadzi is ZABG group economist.


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Media Council opens new front in struggle for press freedom

FinGaz

Rashweat Mukundu

THE launch of the Media Council of Zimbabwe (MCZ) on June 8 2007 put the
struggle for media freedom in Zimbabwe on a new pedestal from which the
media itself should be in the driving seat.

My optimism, coming as it does against the backdrop of the relentless
repression against the media and the citizens' right to freedom of
expression, might easily be dismissed as nave.
That optimism is, however, based on the belief that the agents of change are
the oppressed themselves and not the oppressors. The MCZ, in other words,
marks the resurrection of the repressed.
The MCZ is an animal described in different terms depending on which side
one belongs. Simply put, it is a move by the media to take charge of its own
affairs, to boldly say to society we can be accountable and that media
workers can contribute to the development of the media without the chains
imposed by laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act (AIPPA).
The Zimbabwean media, be it private or state-owned has been at the receiving
end of repression resulting in the closure of four independent newspapers
under a repressive regime of state regulation and other extra judicial
means. The state media is persistently purged of dissenting voices and has
been made a shameful mouthpiece of the ruling elite.
Having the media take the initiative through processes such as the MCZ is a
way of practically seeking media transformation, accountability and
responsibility. The MCZ will not, under the present circumstances, result in
the licensing of the Daily News, The Tribune or the Weekly Times, but is in
fact, opening a new front in dismantling the repressive media law regime
currently suffocating media development in Zimbabwe.
It might as well be true that some banned newspapers might be gone for good
but the struggle by those still operating and those that are banned should
set a firm and secure platform for those that will emerge in the future.
Taking the driver's seat in this case, is thus embarking on a long journey
of seeking and acting to influence change for ourselves and for posterity by
retaining the public's confidence in the media.
The MCZ presents a chance for media workers to unite on a common idea and
broaden the struggle for change with the support and involvement of the
citizenry who are set to benefit and use the MCZ as an amicable platform for
conflict resolution.
The mere existence of the MCZ is a statement that the media is part of
society and that for the media to exist it needs two distinct groups: the
public and the publishers/media organisation(s). For the MCZ to work it
needs public support because the basis of its formation is to enhance
interaction with the public and amicable resolution of disputes in a
non-litigation manner as opposed to what we have witnessed under the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
Under the current media laws, the media is bombed and intimidated,
notwithstanding the numerous arrests of journalists. It must be emphasised
that a critical missing component in the protection of the media in Zimbabwe
has been lack of public support for media diversity. The closure of
newspapers has thus not only deprived the public access to alternative
information but subjected the population to fatal doses of government
propaganda that serves no public interest agenda.
The MCZ, it is argued, brings the two together for a common cause on the
premise that the media belongs to the people and not to the ruling elite or
the Stalinist Ministry of Information and Publicity which spends taxpayers'
money making phone calls to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)
directing how stories are to be covered.
The same ministry argues that AIPPA is a law that defends 'national
interests', an obvious confusion and failure to distinguish national
interests from partisan selfish interests.
If the media belongs to the people and media owners in their various and
diverse forms are using the public space to spread information and honestly
make a living, then it follows that the same media should be responsible and
accountable to the public.
The MCZ then becomes the platform for public and media interaction away from
the dictates of policy makers who have totally divergent interests with
regard to the media with those of both the media itself and the public.
The vociferous defence of AIPPA as a necessary piece of legislation by the
Ministry of Information and Publicity will not abate anytime soon nor should
we be foolish enough to expect the policy dinosaurs in that ministry to
change.
Change will, however, come and it will come through struggle and on our own
terms. The Ministry of Information cannot change simply because it cannot.
Its political life and that of its masters depends on repressive laws like
AIPPA.
The MCZ is therefore a tool to fight bad policy. By its very nature, the MCZ
cannot work with the state-controlled Media and Information Commission
(MIC) - it cannot cooperate with AIPPA because the MCZ is an antithesis of
statutory regulation.
The MCZ might fail to get the full co-operation of all media players, which
is sad, but nevertheless expected because the dominant media is in the hands
and control of the policy dinosaurs.
What has to be stated for certain though is that the MCZ is not going to
simply fade away because some 'powerful' permanent secretary, pseudo
intellectuals and soldiers running this Ministry dislike the idea.
The same people who pride themselves with crafting AIPPA, shutting down
newspapers and causing the near decimation of the privately-owned media in
Zimbabwe are still caught up in the Stalinist era with regard to the role of
the media.
The media policy dinosaurs within the Ministry of Information and Publicity
have no tangible or sensible reason to oppose the MCZ other than that it is
not their own initiative and secondly, it is a threat to their stranglehold
on the media and the abuse they pile week in and week out on innocent
citizens in civil society, the opposition, and private media, abusing
publications including The Herald and Sunday Mail.
What has obviously escaped these policy dinosaurs is the movement that has
taken place with regard to media the world over. These movements include the
diversification of channels of media content distribution, demystification
of the media as a newsroom, or physical entity that can be shut, threatened,
confiscated and regulated.
New technologies the world over enable wider participation in information
creation, dissemination and consumption. This means that media regulation
has to take into account the opening up of media space to as many people as
possible, whether through personal websites, blogs and other online
publications.
Participation in information dissemination is no longer the responsibility
of a few through regulated media houses, but anyone can do so freely -
anyone can sell and disseminate information.
Media policy in Zimbabwe should look at the benefits of these new
technologies in social and economic development. Media policy can,
therefore, not be developed and administered ruthlessly by a paranoid system
that looks at the media as an enemy and sees and confuses its selfish
interests with national interests.
The MCZ is a statement to say that true national interests are protected by
broader participation and involvement and not through exclusion, repression
and persecution.
Rashweat Mukundu is the Misa-Zimbabwe director


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What good is change that worsens things?

FinGaz

Personal Glimpses with Mavis

CHANGE for the sake of change. That is the best way to sum up the "hostile"
takeover by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) of jurisdiction
over the distribution of water in urban centres.

When the idea was first mooted about two years ago, it sparked an outcry
with all municipalities being opposed to the arrangement for various
reasons. Some did not welcome the transfer of authority to ZINWA because of
the administrative chaos the move was likely to cause while others opposed
the development because it would deprive them of one of their main sources
of revenue.
Others still, saw the move as an encroachment by central government into
local authority territory, thus making a mockery of their autonomy. Urban
residents already fed up with Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo's
meddling in the affairs of cities, which had resulted in a total breakdown
of service delivery capacity, seethed with outrage as their cries to get
government off their backs seemed to achieve the opposite.
Over the last few years, Chombo has been on a relentless campaign to
supplant all executive mayors popularly elected into office on a Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) ticket so as to replace them with hand-picked
ZANU PF appointees. The most controversial of these underhand hatchet jobs
occurred in Harare where the Minister hounded Elias Mudzuri out of Town
House on trumped up charges that he had failed to run the affairs of the
city efficiently. Mudzuri's replacement with the corruption-riddled
Commission running the affairs of Harare, headed by the inept and clueless
Sekesai Makwavarara, has proved to be a mockery and an insult to the
intelligence of residents.
Instead of recording a marked improvement in service delivery, the
Chombo-appointed Commission has presided over a total breakdown in local
governance represented by increasingly visible and embarrassing dilapidation
in the once gleaming capital city. No garbage collection, no street lights
and no repair of crater-size potholes on the streets seems to be the motto
of the Commission, which has nevertheless not hesitated to raise "service"
charges to ridiculous levels in inverse proportion to its increasing failure
to discharge its duties. This pattern has been duplicated in every city and
local council into whose affairs Chombo has poked his nose.
Remember an executive mayor of Chitungwiza who Chombo once gave 48 hours to
fix infrastructural rot that had steadily deteriorated since independence?
After almost two years, a hand-picked town council in the dormitory town has
still not improved conditions and residents still moan about water and
electricity woes, sewage flowing in the streets and a general breakdown in
service delivery. Through it all Minister Chombo has insisted everything is
a bed of roses and residents must accept his word as gospel truth despite
the evidence of their own eyes and experiences.
Now, the Minister of Water Resources and Infrastructural Development,
Engineer Munacho Mutezo has joined Chombo in resorting to imperviousness in
order to ride roughshod over urban populations. From its very first mooting,
the takeover of urban water distribution by ZINWA sparked an outcry from
residents who accurately predicted that the move would lead to a
deterioration in already unsatisfactory services. This has come to pass and
daily water cuts are now a fact of life in most urban centres. While the
most basic reason for change of any kind should be to improve things, the
ZINWA takeover has exacerbated the troubles of the beleaguered urban dweller
on every front.
The arrival of ZINWA on the scene has meant higher water tariffs for less
water of a much poorer quality. This comes as no surprise. The imposition of
ZINWA to usurp functions that should be undertaken by local authorities was
not accompanied by a corresponding allocation of funds to pay for the
accompanying burgeoning bureaucracy. It would have made more sense to
allocate the funds being spent to create jobs for the boys to local
authorities for the expansion and refurbishment of infrastructure. The
government's hardnosed approach means blood has had to be squeezed out of
the cash-strapped consumer to maintain this charade. Latest reports are that
urban dwellers are so fed up they are ready to go into the streets to make
their voices heard.
But will anybody listen? At every turn in the controversy pertaining to
ZINWA's usurping of the functions of local authorities, Mutezo has vowed
that there would be no going back on the move. After establishing that ZINWA
does not have the capacity to efficiently discharge the duties it has taken
over in cities and towns, a parliamentary portfolio committee has advised
Cabinet to reconsider its decision. However, the Zimbabwean government has
never been known to be responsive to public opinion and concerns and
therefore it is highly unlikely that Mutezo will change his tune. But what
good is change that makes things worse for the supposed beneficiaries?


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NSSA launches blitz on delinquent Harare firms

FinGaz

Kumbirai Mafunda Senior Business Reporter

THE National Social Security Authority (NSSA), which runs the country's
compulsory pension scheme, has launched a blitz against delinquent companies
in the capital accused of non-payment of employee contributions, it emerged
this week.

Insiders at NSSA, set up by the government to manage the mandatory pension
scheme for both the private and public sector, told The Financial Gazette
that the authority deployed its compliance officers in the capital last week
to sniff out errant firms in a two-week operation which ends tomorrow.
The sources said the crackdown, which involves close scrutiny of company
bank accounts, was intended to ensure compliance with the NSSA Act, which
stipulates that companies must remit pension deductions made on behalf of
NSSA to the national pension authority.
"There are several companies that have breached NSSA regulations for some
time now so the only remedy is to go for their bank accounts and claim what
is due to NSSA," the sources said.
He suggested that bank accounts for defaulting firms could be garnished.
NSSA spokesperson Philemon Chereni confirmed the blitz, saying it was being
conducted in line with the NSSA Act.
"From time to time we have to carry out those compliance programmes," said
Chereni.
Sources said NSSA opted for the crackdown after several warnings against
suspected defaulters were ignored.
NSSA's crackdown on Harare companies comes hardly a week after the authority
launched a blitz on new commercial farmers to compel them to comply with
regulations requiring all employers to remit employees' contributions to the
state-run national pension scheme.
Meanwhile, in last week's edition, we erroneously referred to NSSA chairman
Albert Nhau as a member of the Manyame Consortium, which once struck a
partnership with Metallon Corporation. The Manyame Consortium comprised
Albert Nduna, Mthuli Ncube and John Mkushi. We regret any inconvenience
caused to Nhau.


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Reason must prevail

FinGaz

PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki, whose government is beginning to openly speak out on
events in neighbouring Zimbabwe, moved a gear up over the weekend in his
quest to end the crisis north of the Limpopo, which threatens to destabilise
the entire Sub-Saharan region.

After a false start when ZANU PF representatives failed to show up in
Pretoria two weeks ago, the protagonists finally met in South Africa for the
first direct talks since the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
tasked Mbeki to find a way to end the crippling crisis. Secretaries-general
Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti are representing the two Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) factions, while Nicholas Goche and Patrick Chinamasa
are ZANU PF's point men.
Reports from Pretoria however, suggest that there is not much common ground
between the feuding parties although there is acknowledgement from both
sides of some signs of progress. Despite the gulf that exists between them,
there is much hope, albeit most of it misplaced, that the latest initiative
would yield something for everyone, i.e. the suffering masses, the
brutalised civic society, the opposition and the toiling workers.
The rank and file in ZANU PF are also optimistic about the talks. The party
has been under so much pressure that those of its members who can see beyond
tomorrow and have been groping in the dark for solutions see the SADC
initiative as offering some welcome relief. On the surface, it would appear
both parties are eager to give dialogue a chance to succeed but want to
proceed with extreme caution in laying the foundation for the talks.
Chinamasa, Ncube and Biti are sharp legal minds and their inclusion in the
first round of talks could be a clear indication that their constituencies
are mindful of the legal minefields lying ahead, not to mention the impact
small print could have on the overall outcome of the negotiations. Beyond
this, it would however, seem that while the opposition is throwing its full
weight behind the talks, ZANU PF is not. It would appear that Chinamasa and
Goche are only being used as decoys to cover up for ZANU PF's contempt for
the talks. Chinamasa, a non-constituency Member of Parliament and ZANU PF
central committee member and Goche, the party's secretary for national
security, are lightweights in the ruling party and too junior to lead a
process that could have such a profound impact on the country's body
politic.
Historically, ZANU PF is known for approaching all serious political
processes at full strength. The Mbeki initiative should be no exception. But
it has betrayed its lack of seriousness by proceeding to do the very things
the opposition is crying foul about. Last week the government seized Arthur
Mutambara's passport and arrested four officials from the MDC faction that
he leads. Two opposition activists who were abducted by alleged ZANU PF
thugs from Matobo district recently were last week found dead as violence
against the opposition continues unabated.
We still, however, believe reason will eventually prevail. Both parties have
too much to lose if the Zimbabwean crisis continues unchecked and may not
want to continue fighting while the nation is on fire.
The 2007 Africa Competitiveness Index released by the World Economic Forum
at its 17th meeting on Africa, which ended in South Africa last week flashed
some red lights, which both ZANU PF and the MDC cannot afford to ignore.
Zimbabwe, according to the latest rankings, has slid further down from
position number 119 in 2006 to 121.
The latest Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Manufacturing Sector Survey
released this week also makes sad reading of the situation prevailing in the
country. According to the survey, capacity utilisation in the manufacturing
sector shrank from 35.8 percent in 2005 to 33.8 percent last year. Output in
the period under review dropped by 18 percent due to foreign currency
shortages, bottlenecks in the supply of fuel, intermittent power cuts and an
unviable exchange rate, among other things. Its contribution to the gross
domestic product, though it is only second to agriculture, has declined from
24 percent in 1991 to about 15.5 percent last year.
While the study deliberately avoided the impact of politics on the economy,
its conclusions were quite revealing. "While the Zimbabwean economy has been
shrinking for the last eight years, it remains endowed with serious
potential embedded in its natural resources and its highly educated and
skilled labour force.
"There is however, need to harness and harmonise the stakeholders to create
an enabling environment in which Zimbabwe's assets and economic fortunes can
blossom. Time, however, is running out and if not quickly addressed, the
problems will further exacerbate the situation in the manufacturing sector,
which is suffocating on the back of macro-economic instability.
"In addition, there is pervasive pessimism that is leading our industry to
adopt a dangerous short-term view missing the massive opportunities on the
horizon," the survey said.
Who hath ears to hear, let him/her hear!

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