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Mercenaries: State exposed
By Kumbirai Mafunda
THE 67 suspected mercenaries arrested on Sunday amid great State media hype can only be charged with very light offences in a development that seriously exposes the Zanu PF government's apparent lack of understanding of its own laws, it emerged yesterday.
Addressing diplomats in Harare last week, a highly-charged foreign affairs Minister Stan Mudenge said the alleged mercenaries had committed a very serious offence and could therefore face capital punishment if found guilty of being mercenaries."They are going to face the severest punishment available in our statutes, including capital punishment," said Mudenge. But it became clear yesterday that the State could not charge the alleged coup plotters for a crime they were going to commit in Equatorial Guinea, thousands of kilometres away. Among the 67 are 23 Angolans, 20 South Africans,18 Namibians, two Congolese and one Zimbabwean with a South African passport. Sources said the government, realising it did not have "enough teeth", was now considering to have the 67 extradited to South Africa where they could be tried under the Foreign Military Assistance Act. The Act prohibits South Africans from being involved in mercenary activities. Acting Attorney-General Bharat Patel confirmed to The Standard yesterday that that it was impossible for the State to charge the alleged coup plotters for mercenary related activities. "No Š We don't have any legislation on mercenaries," said Patel last night. He said the 67 men will tomorrow appear at the Harare Magistrates' Courts where they will be charged for contravening the Immigration Act and Firearms Act. Patel added that a further offence relating to the forgery and use of unauthorised travel documents would be laid against the group. Harare lawyer Jonathan Samkange of Byron Venturas and Partners who is representing the alleged coup plotters also confirmed to The Standard yesterday that his clients were not worried by talk of them facing capital punishment. Samkange is instructed by two senior South African lawyers, Advocate Joubert and Awyn Griebenow who arrived in the country late last week. Joubert is familiar with Zimbabwean laws after having once represented the late war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi in a fraud case involving War Victims' compensation Fund some years ago. Yesterday, Samkange, accompa-nied by the South African lawyers, visited the alleged coup plotters at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where they are detained. To gain access to his clients Samkange said he was escorted by police into the prison premises that are heavily guarded. "They have not been ill-treated, they are happy and were even saying they are being given too much food in jail," he said. "They are also saying they were not on a mission of war but to carry out mining activities," he said. Samkange witnessed a search for offensive weapons in the property of the detainees which was impounded at the Harare International Airport. However, he said only cellphones were common among the group's belongings which also included pocket knives. Earlier on Friday, Samkange together with the defence team from South Africa made a thorough inspection of the impounded Boeing 727-100 aircraft detained at Manyame Airbase. He said army officers were barring vehicles with foreign registration number plates from entering the tightly-guarded premises. He said he had to be escorted by the army to gain entry into the airbase. One of the South African lawyers Griebenow said he would like to have his clients tried in his country under Pretoria's laws. "We would like these people extradited and tried in South Africa," he said. South Africa's Ambassador to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou said yesterday Pretoria had not applied for the extradition of its nationals who are part of the group so that they could be tried in South Africa. "We haven't applied for extradition. If these people are involved in any criminal activity in Zimbabwe, they must face the laws of this country," said Ndou. The alleged mercenaries were arrested last Sunday and authorities say they were on their way to Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea to stage a military coup against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Equitaorial Guinea is said to be also holding 15 suspected mercenaries with a South African Nick du Toit presented as the mercenaries' leader. Du Toit, 48, is reportedly a former member of a South African reconnaissance unit. Pretoria said the incident has caused much embarrassment to its government. * See .......
Mercenaries expose Mudenge's reckless diplomacy
For those of us who believe in peaceful and democratic change of governments in Africa, recent developments regarding the alleged mercenaries' stop-over in Harare en-route to Equatorial Guinea is a cause for grave concern. Coups and mercenaries have no place in political systems anywhere on this planet - be it in the First or Third Worlds.
67 suspected mercenaries involving South Africans, Angolans, Namibians, Congolese, and one Zimbabwean were arrested last Sunday when their plane stopped over in Harare to collect weapons on their way to Malabo, the Equatorial Guinean capital. Their mission was allegedly to stage a military coup against the President of that country, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo. Two principal planners of the coup, Simon Mann and Nic du Toit were arrested - the former in Harare and the latter in Equatorial Guinea where he is reported to have confessed on national television that the plan was to remove the President of that country from power. Signs and information that have been available so far indicate that the two men and the companies that they work for co-ordinated the whole operation. Be that as it may, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Could these dogs of war be so naïve and dumb to try to buy military hardware from the Zimbabwe Defence Industries and hope to get away with it? What did they hope to achieve? Oil and money - are they so attractive to the point of risking life and limb and transcending all other considerations? What credence should be given to the men's denial that far from wanting to stage a coup, they were en-route to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they were going to fulfil a mining security contract? Despite the desperate situation in this country, are arms of war cheaper here than elsewhere? By all accounts, this was an ill-fated mission. The probability of falling into a trap as subsequently happened was very high. The mercenaries should have read the signs of the times - that the days of coups and mercenaries on this continent are clearly numbered. In this day and age, mercenaries are a dying breed. Apartheid is dead and buried and no one now can tolerate the mercenaries' dangerous trouble-making. They could have relished in the apartheid era adventures in Angola and elsewhere but no longer in the Africa of this new millennium. Whatever predicament and tragedies a country is going through, none of it justifies the fundamental evil of a regime change through military coups - more so of a mercenary variety. Having said this, we must take issue with some of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' remarks when he addressed foreign diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe last Wednesday. Apart from presenting himself as "a great actor", some of his words and gestulations said a lot about his grasp of diplomatic etiquette. There is something that politics does to people. As an academic of yesteryear, Stan Mudenge's style of presenting things was very impressive, lucid and informative; often impassioned but always enlightening; a reasoned statement of a highly balanced analysis. His voice was always measured though pompous at times. But last Wednesday's add-ress to diplomats was, in terms of foreign relations, an extraordinarily patronising and inept even for a government not known for its appreciation of the delicacy of diplomacy. To talk about the suspected mercenaries facing a death penalty before the full facts were known was absurd. Under what law would capital punishment be considered - even remotely? As we have indicated earlier, we hold no brief for mercenaries but in democratic societies, there's always the presumption of innocence before one is proven guilty. In any event, even if the so called mercenaries where to be found guilty of the charges being laid against them, it is most unlikely that the sentence, for people who were in transit, and whose intended destination and mission was outside Zimbabwe's borders, would be sentenced to capital punishment. It appears to us there was misplaced zeal on the part of the minister, which is rather unfortunate for a man who should be the custodian of the country's relations with other countries. The minister of foreign affairs clearly got carried away with his own overheated rhetoric, for propaganda purposes of course. Perhaps the logical expla-nation is that our government, desperate for international recognition, saw this as a God-sent opportunity to garner some positive limelight which has been very much in short supply in recent years. Most countries are peculiar in their purposes and interests but some countries are more peculiar than others and Zimbabwe is clearly in the latter category at the moment. The whole circus of the alleged Equatorial Guinea coup plot appears to be a complex one and the stopover in Harare even more complex. We are getting a very one-sided view of what has happened -from the government of Zimbabwe only. People are naturally sceptical about what governments say or do - their motives et al. We desperately need to hear from the other side - Simon Mann, Nic du Toit and the other actors at the centre of the alleged coup plot. At least their lawyers as we have reported elsewhere have shed some light on the saga but more light is needed. Only then can a complete and rounded picture emerge for the benefit of Zimbabweans and the world at large.
Coup plot or flights of fancy
overthetop By Brian Latham
ONCE again in its none too illustrious career of informal military intervention, a truly inept southern African nation has shown its capacity for outstanding amateurism.
This year's prize for stupid white men who believe you can waltz into Africa without being noticed has to go to the mercenaries arrested last week. That they believed you can be inconspicuous in a large aeroplane only adds glitter to the ignominious prize.Of course, doing the wrong thing for the right reason (or should that be the other way around) doesn't help if you've got the brain the size of a retarded mouse, which seems to be the case here. All that remains to be unravelled is who was involved, apart from the hapless mercenaries. The government of a troubled central African nation would love to be able to claim that it was all an Anglo-US plot, with a little help from the Spanish. It seems unlikely. For a start, the Spanish haven't accomplished much in the way of military success since their fleet was sunk off the English coast several hundred years ago. Meanwhile the British and the Americans will deny everything, because that's what they do. And in this case, even if a handful of their nationals were involved, nothing with such astonishing heights of incompetence could possibly have had official backing. No, this sort of delusional misplaced arrogance smacks of involvement from a confused southern African soon to be banana republic - with no doubt some assistance from the Levant. That the mercenaries seem to have been conned, duped and tricked by authorities and quasi-legal arms dealers in the troubled central African nation proves beyond all doubt that they were either brain dead or on drugs. Still, the imbroglio and resultant mayhem provided some light relief for troubled central Africans who are otherwise deeply involved in avoiding their own arrests on a daily basis. Over The Top hears that the ministry of misinformation was disappointed to learn that the mercenaries hadn't arrived to topple the most equal of all comrades. Insiders say that press releases alleging a British plot to overthrow the allegedly democratic, but highly troubled, government had already been prepared. It was with some disappointment that the misinformation minister learnt the mercenaries were en route to a country he'd never heard of and didn't know how to spell. Still, not to let the facts spoil a perfect opportunity, the misinformation minister called the Minister of Edukashun who in turn found the last remaining Longmans School Atlas in the capital and told him how to spell Guinea. That done, it was but a matter of calling directory enquiries to see whether there were in fact any telephones in Equatorial Guinea and whether anyone knew how to spell the president's name. It was discovered that Equatorial Guinea has a telephone directory that runs to about three pages and that not only did the president have a telephone, but so did all his ministers. In a country where the ministers (if no one else) are awash in petrodollars, this is hardly surprising, especially as the entire country could fit onto a golf course. Nevertheless, the whole process took several days. Language barriers and the natural suspicion of men with lots of petrodollars meant there was a predictable reluctance to discuss matters with the troubled central African banana republic. It was only when these problems were overcome and it was explained that there were certain irrefutable propaganda victories to be won that a way forward was chartered. Cynical residents of the troubled central African nation know exactly what that path was. It involved blaming the running dogs of imperialism in Britain and the US And leaving the confused southern African country out of the picture.
Intermarket closure could mean no pay for some civil servants
By our own Staff
SEVERAL thousands of civil servants countrywide might fail to get their salaries in time this month following the closure of Intermarket Building Society together with two other subsidiaries of Intermarket Holdings yesterday. Also seriously affected are ordinary depositors, mostly poor Zimbabweans, who constitute the bulk of the building society's client base.
Intermarket Holdings' subsi-diaries - Intermarket Building Society, the Discount House and the Banking Corporation - have all been placed under the curatorship of Ngoni Kudenga of Kudenga and Company Chartered Accountants.Most of the bank's employees and depositors were yesterday morning shell-shocked to find all of the bank's branches countrywide shut with the message, "Closed by the order of the Reserve Bank." The Standard is reliably informed that the government's Salaries Service Bureau (SSB) had already deposited salaries for some civil servants into the beleaguered bank last week. Sources said among the civil servants that are likely to be affected include teachers, soldiers, police, nurses and those who work in other government departments. Soldiers are getting paid on Tuesday this week. An Intermarket employee, who turned up for work together with several others, said he only learnt of the closure on arrival at his workplace. "When we left yesterday we were never told about the closure, I think it was announced later in the evening. "I feel sorry for civil servants who are supposed to be getting their salaries next week. From what I have seen it means they will have to wait for some time," said the employee. were kept alive by a message that flickered at the bank's Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). The message read, "Sorry, I am being serviced, I will be back in a few minutes." The depositors milled around the ATM hoping that the machines might begin to dispense cash. Some even tried to insert their cards despite the message, a sign of their desperation. At the bank's First Street branch, about 15 people were gathered outside its entrance sharing their miseries. "If we don't get our money from this bank, we will get it from Gono because the message says it was closed by the order of the Reserve Bank," said a customer who identified himself as Gerald. Tendai Marinda said he has been a victim of the banking crisis for the second time now. "I used to have an account with FNBS (First National Building Society) and now it's Intermarket, I don't know whether my money with Trust Bank is still safe. It appears all the indigenous banks are going under," lamented Marinda. The crippling crisis in the financial sector was apparently triggered by mess at the collapsed ENG Asset Management firm which reportedly lost billions of depositors' funds. Financial institutions which have been directly exposed to the "ENG financial flu" include Trust Banking Corporation, Century Bank and Metropolitan Bank and First Mutual Insurance group.
What Moyo-Manheru can teach Sunny the parrot
Shavings from The Woodpecker
Dangerous talk DESPITE the obvious fact that the ruling Zanu PF controls Parliament and occasionally abuses it to ramrod through horrible pieces of legislation such as AIPPA and POSA, the emergence of the MDC as the official opposition has been a breath of fresh air.
Not so long ago Zimbabwe was virtually a one-party State dominated - if the truth be said - by one single man: Uncle Bob Mugabe. Whatever Uncle Bob wanted, Uncle Bob got. He was the omnipotent; the all-powerful.While the MDC and other progressive forces have so far failed to dislodge Uncle Bob from his pinnacle, their contributions in Parliament and other forums have allowed Zimbabweans to at least air out alternative views and that has helped, to some extent, to bring sanity to our daily lives. It is therefore dangerous talk from the MDC and civic bodies to urge Zimbabweans to boycott the 2005 election because the playing field is not levelled. Opposition parties in Zimbabwe - and indeed in Africa - must realise that dislodging a government in office is not a picnic affair. It is hard, grinding work that, like that of the sculptor, can only be done by daily chipping away at the stone's edifice until some form of what you want to achieve is there for everyone to see. A good example is Senegal's Wade. Wade was in opposition politics for more that two decades. In fact, some Senegalese thought he would die in opposition. He persevered and Š now he is the president. To boycott the 2005 election would be to play right into Zanu PF's hands. It is folly to think that the threat of such a boycott would make Zanu PF, and the Dear Leader, rush to amend electoral laws. Far from it. The boycott of the 2005 election would be a betrayal of the thousands of Zimbabweans who have paid the ultimate prize with their lives since the late 1990s to establish opposition politics in this country and destroy Zanu PF's ambitions of a one party State. Manna from heaven IT was like a script from one of those old movies, remember the likes of Guns of Navarone and their genre of "dogs of war" films where actors try to topple the hated despotic leader of some small country. The capture of the motley crew of mercenaries in Harare when their plane - for reasons only best known to the pilot - landed in Uncle Bob's territory, was, to say the least, manna from heaven for the Zimbabwean government. That single act, which once again catapulted Harare to the front pages of the world's top newspapers (as well as the main news bulletins of leading international TV and radio stations) has given the government new ammunition to once again take a poke at the hated West. Conveniently, the government has ignored the fact that the captured "dogs of war" are Africans from friendly countries such as South Africa and Angola. In typical Zanu PF fashion, it has seized the moment to harp at the old enemy in the wild, wild West. Suddenly nobody is asking why in this day and age fellow Africans (for filthy lucre, Uncle Bob would say!) would risk life and limb to try and overthrow yet another African leader accused of corruption, cruelty and crass consumption. Nobody is asking why Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo - who incidentally came to power in 1998 after overthrowing his own uncle - is so unpopular in his oil rich country that they have been numerous coup attempts. Many of his countrymen accuse Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of siphoning off all the proceeds from the 350 000 barrels of oil that his country is shipping out every day, but is anybody out there listening? Rather, we are now being told that Obiang Nguema Mbasogo - like Uncle Bob - is hated in Western capitals for no reason other than that he is a great African leader trying to rule his small country without outside interference. What is clear is that Harare authorities will milk this sudden turn of events until there is no drop left in the udder. Payback time EQUATORIAL Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third largest producer of oil, will soon find out that having your mercenaries captured for you does not come cheap, in whatever way. It won't be long before Uncle Bob's team pays a visit Malabo to find out what Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo can do as a way of saying "thank you" for saving his bacon. The most obvious form of payment, in fact, could be for Obiang Nguema Mbasogo to turn a blind eye while a few of the trusted Zanu PF "businessmen" make themselves fabulously rich by being allowed to strike lucrative deals to bring Equatorial Guinea oil to Zimbabwe. Not to be outdone, the Masvingo historian who sometimes doubles as our Foreign Minister (Africa Minister, rather) might also be soon knocking on Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's door to request that our two countries engage in "bilateral" talks. Who knows, we might soon have a Zimbabwean embassy in Malabo "to take care of our interests" in the region. And while we are at it, one of the smaller streets in Harare with a "colonial name" might soon find itself renamed Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo Avenue in recognition of this illustrious son of Africa who has done his bit to fight off Western hegemony. And where does it leave poor Nathaniel Moyo-Manheru? Unlike in southern Africa, West Africa does not have white farmers whose properties need to be taken to win elections and also appease a few locals. So Moyo-Manheru will kick his heels at Munhumutapa Building realising he missed yet another opportunity to sell Zimbabwe's brand of nationalism in West Africa. Rude boy A foul-mouthed parrot, which blurts out expletives and pecks people when she's angry, was removed from a British Royal Navy ship to spare any embarrassment during a recent visit by Queen Elizabeth. The frigate's 205-strong crew were determined to avoid a repeat of a recent visit by the British fleet's commander-in-chief, when Sunny the parrot's four-lettered rantings could be heard even though she was locked in a cupboard. "She learns new words all the time and mimics what people say," Lieutenant Commander John Pheasant was quoted as saying. Pity Sunny the parrot never got to visit Zimbabwe, it could learn some new choice words from our Moyo-Manheru.
MDC ready to fight Moyo in Tsholotsho
By our own Staff
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it is ready to take on junior Information Minister Jonathan Moyo who, according to State media reports, was unanimously chosen as the ruling party's official 2005 candidate for the rural Tsholotsho constituency.
The ZBC's Newsnet reported on Friday's 8 PM news bulletin that Moyo, handpicked into Parliament by Mugabe in 2000 to take charge of what turned out to be a major propaganda blitz on the President's perceived opponents, had been chosen through "consensus" by party supporters in the rural constituency.This means that Moyo will not go through the rigorous Zanu PF primary elections where aspiring candidates have to seek the mandate first from ordinary party card carrying members of the ruling party. In the past elections, many Zanu PF bigwigs have fallen by the wayside after failing to garner support at the grassroots. Of late Moyo, who is yet to get any position in the party through an election, has been reported to be making frequent visits to Tsholotsho, a constituency he claims to be his rural home. However, the oppo-sition MDC whose officials in Matabeleland North have been watching his moves with keen interest, have warned that Moyo, despite his grip on the State media, was wasting his time. In fact, the MDC says it actually relishes the opportunity to embarrass at the polls the man who is regarded by critics as Mugabe's chief propagandist. Moyo has also spearheaded a media campaign aimed at discrediting the MDC as puppets of the West. He also ensures that the opposition party is denied a chance to express itself through the State-owned media. "What is so special about Jonathan Moyo Š he is just a Zanu PF loudmouth who has contributed to the destruction of this country. That seat belongs to the MDC and whoever they bring we are ready to take him head on," said MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi yesterday.
Ex-fighters' group alleges plot to rig 2005 polls
By our own Staff
BULAWAYO - The Zimbabwe Liberators' Peace Initiative (ZLPI), a grouping of former freedom fighters, has exposed what it says is an attempt by Zanu PF to rig the forthcoming 2005 parliamentary elections in rural areas by increasing the number of headmen in charge of villages and using youth militia as neighbourhood watch-men.
The allegations, contained in a summary report of a voter educa-tion exercise conducted by the organisation in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces in the last three months, states that the reason for increasing the number of village headmen is to increase surveillance of villagers. This would make it difficult for opposition parties to campaign in those areas.ZLPI says under the new plan being introduced by the government, each village will further be broken down into small units so as to increase the number of kraalheads, to be presided over by a paramount chief. Each of the kraal heads would work with a minimum of five neighbourhood commi-ttees drawn from the national service youth training camps. The ZLPI says each member of the youth trainees, now commonly called "Green Bombers", would then be assigned to monitor five to eight homes ensuring that every home is accounted for. ZLPI President Max Mnkandla says his organisation has been following events in Gokwe South that is currently being used as a pilot project by Zanu PF. "In Nkana ward in Gokwe South the number of headmen has been increased from three to seven and "Green Bombers" are being assigned to monitor villagers under the pretext that they are neighbourhood watch-men. 'However, the purpose of all this is to ensure that the opposition has no chance of establishing grassroots support as the people and visitors to the area are constantly being monitored by the youths," said Mkandla. He said under the system government guarantees compliance through paying the chiefs and the headmen well. "The Zanu PF campaign machinery is now in full throttle in the rural areas as the chiefs are now paid huge salaries," said Mkandla. The ZLPI said Zanu PF's purpose of increasing the number of kraal heads and headmen was to sway political support in its favour. "Each kraal head has an average of 40 homes/villagers, each kraal head has a minimum, of five neighbourhoods drawn from Green Bomber camps at political level. Each member is assigned to a surveillance of five to eight homes/villages, so every home/village will be accounted for. "The paramount chief would be super-vising his head-men through the chief; these traditional leaders will actually be swaying political support for the government. It is planned to start the campaign at grassroots level where every kraal/head is expected to ensure that all 40 homes/villages and occupants vote for the ruling party," reads the report. Traditional leaders have in the past campaigned openly for Zanu PF while in some instances they have chased away any people accused of supporting the opposition from their villages.
Civic bodies lose steam as repression intensifies
1990s saw the emergence to a vibrant civic movement that was determined to see socio-economic and political transformation in Zimbabwe as well as challenge President Robert Mugabe's regime, believed to be the architect of the country's poor performance.
The But a few years down the line, the voices of change have merely become "a whisper". Does Mugabe have a hand in this or it is that the movement has merely lost its lustre? Our Chief Writer, Caiphas Chimhete, looks at the reasons.
THE emergence of a strong civic movement in the country in recent years had given a lot of hope to disgruntled and poverty-stricken Zimbabweans, who felt that Zanu PF, which they hold responsible for the current political and economic chaos, would relinquish power to a more considerate leadership.
That, coupled with the vibrancy displayed by civic and political bodies such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other non-governmental organisations, reinvigorated optimism in Zimbabwe's future.
Many thought Zanu PF, whose mismanagement of the economy is blamed for worsening poverty among Zimbabweans, was destined for the political scrap-heap. But that optimism has turned into frustration and despair as Mugabe manipulates the law and uses brutal State machinery to force and thwart any voices challenging his political throne.
Mugabe has imposed draconian legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) seen as part of measures to stifle and eliminate any opposing and dissenting voices.
To his supporters, Mugabe's tactics have worked and the vibrant civic and political organisations have become largely ineffectual.
NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku however believes the civic movement has not slackened down but that Mugabe has narrowed the democratic space making it virtually impossible for any opposing voices to be heard.
He said the Zimbabwean leader, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, had become even more ruthless and acts viciously against anyone he perceives to be against his rule. "The 1990s was a free reign because you could freely demonstrate in the streets and communicate whatever message you wanted to the people but now you can not do it," lamented Madhuku.
The NCA chairman recently escaped death by a whisker when he was brutally assaulted and left for dead by the police for leading a peaceful demonstration in Harare.
University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Heneri Dzinotyiwei, said apart from the repressive laws, the movement itself has run out of new ideas and publicity following the closure of The Daily News in September last year.
Dzinotyiwei challe-nged the civic movement, political parties, pre-ssure groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to come up with new and workable ideas that would propel Zimbabweans to demand transformation that will lead to Zimbabwe becoming a prosperous nation again.
"We are not getting new thoughts. People get excited when they hear new ideas which they think will help them and if they do not get them, naturally the excitement dies down," noted Dzinotyiwei.
But Matombo disagrees. The ZCTU chief attributes the current low profile of the civic movement to the politically-hostile environment now prevailing.
"Imagine in 1990s, we would be invited to discuss and debate on ZBC or radio important national issues such as land and compensation of war veterans. But now even The Herald cannot write anything positive about us," said Matombo, who reckons Mugabe was more accommodative then than he is today.
Matombo said the civic movement was freer in the 1990s because there were no draconian laws such as AIPPA and POSA to restrict people's freedom.
But Dzinotyiwei however insists that the civic movement lacks new workable ideas. "How do you explain the call for the failed stay-away by the ZCTU recently," said Dzinotyiwei.
The labour body in February called for a country-wide stay-away, which was virtually ignored by many workers. Even Matombo conceded that the stay-way was a monumental failure.
In stark contrast, in 1998 the ZCTU organised countrywide demonstrations against high taxation and the action brought commerce and industry to a standstill.
And to make sure that alternatives voi-ces were silenced for good, Mugabe's lieutenants shut down Associated Newspapers Zimbabwe, publishers of the country's sole independent daily, The Daily News and its sister publication, The Daily News on Sunday
That, notes some members of civic bodies, was a telling blow to the voices of regime change that were clamouring for Mugabe to relinquish his 24-year autocratic rule.
"The Daily News is no longer there so it would appear as if nothing is happening when in actual fact, they are just as vibrant as they were before," said Dzinotyiwei of the civic bodies.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact the pro-government Herald has heightened its propaganda onslaught against any organisation seen to be sympathetic to the MDC or critics of Mugabe.
Other analysts say the civic movement is also facing a serious financial crisis since the collapse of the parallel money market. Many of the organisations used to change foreign currency on the black market, getting huge sums of money to finance their activities.
"Now that the black market is no longer lucrative they are finding it difficult just like all those that were surviving on it," said one leading analyst.
Why Gono's crusade will fail?
Americanotes by Ken Mufuka
AS you know my heart is in Zimbabwe. Everybody who wishes Zimbabwe well, prays that Dr Gideon Gono will succeed in cleaning up the financial system. But there is every indication that he cannot succeed and that he is being diverted from the real issues at stake.
The banking system all over the world is corrupt and causes more problems than it solves. I know Brother Gono cannot solve the fundamental problem, but at least he has a platform on which he can call the thinkers in Zimbabwe to lay out an alternative road map for an African country.The financial system all over the world is genetically corrupt. In the United States, various consumer councils have found that banks and financial houses habitually entrap customers into debt so that they are unable to pay their debts. For instance, banking houses introduce customers to credit cards at lower interest rates than they will charge the same customer after six months of service. This new rate is usually twice or three times the original rate. They also encourage customers to pay only the minimum payment. A minimum on a loan of $5 000 is $99 dollars per month at 22,9 percent interest. The interest per month on that loan is $95 dollars per month. Therefore the customer is paying only four dollars per month on the loan. He will be paying the bank literally forever until Father Abraham comes back to earth. Here is another example of the way banks here function corruptly. If a customer deposits money into his account, it takes more than three days (or three weeks if an out of State check) before the account is credited. However, if the bank receives receivable checks on behalf of the client, they normally subtract the largest check and then say that the customer is in debt to the bank because his deposits have not been credited to his account yet. Each check that awaits such credit earns $27 dollars for the bank. The customer is sometimes charged this sum per day until the account is credited. Now, I am sure the readers get my drift. By the time the account is credited, the bank fees will have consumed most of the money deposited on behalf of the customer. The credit card banks are the worst sinners. There is a date by which the account must be paid every month. If that date is on a Friday, and the customer's pay by mail envelope reaches the bank by that Friday afternoon, it is not processed until Monday. By Monday, the account is in late payment mode. In addition to a late fee, which can be as much as 15 percent of the amount owed, the fees are charged to the account as well. Thus a monthly mortgage of $325 per month provokes a late fee of $50 dollars. The telephone Companies are just as wicked as the others. My church is registered under Sprint Telecommunications Company. Now hear this in God's name. We received a bill from American Telegraph and Telecommunications Company (ATT), the largest telecommunications company in the United States. That was a year ago and the bill was $3,37. I contacted them on behalf of the church, requesting that if they have our church on their billing lists, they should remove it as we subscribe to Sprint. They insisted that we pay first (for access to their lines) which we do not have and which we never asked for. The bill has been accumulating late fees for non-payment and after three trials at talking sense into them, the bill has now reached a sum of $67 dollars. We are in the process now of writing to the Federal Communications Board. One can imagine the cost, the time and the aggravation of dealing with these companies whose lackeys are paid to "screw up people" (a dirty word they use). Another way of "screwing up people" is the so-called refinance package. The refinance package may have a lower interest rate than the previous package. Take a home mortgage of $100 000 at 10 percent interest rate for fifteen years. After paying for five years the company says that it will refinance the sum for a lower interest rate of eight percent. Surely the customer will pay a lower monthly payment but the mortgage now goes on for fifteen more years. If one has already paid for five years and the mortgage is renewed at a lower ate for another 10 years, one is actually paying the same bank for twenty years. But they will not let you off so easily. In the US, customers pay closing points. These points are outside the control of the customer and could run into anything as much as two and half percent of the amount to be borrowed. Add to that legal fees, and one is undone. In Zimbabwe the interest rates are much higher than quoted above and they are deliberately designed to drive a customer into bankruptcy. Tell me that a bank which charges its customers 700 percent interest rate wishes that customer to profit and prosper in whatever business he is in. Brother Gono can bless the whole of Africa as he gives us a road map as to how to tackle the World Bank loans. There is not a single African country (except Botswana) that has come out alright after working with that bank. Their method is very simple. It depreciates Third World monies. Say in the case of Zimbabwe, we owed U$100 million in 1980. Our exchange rate then was one US dollar to one Zim dollar. If today we owe half that amount in US dollars when our dollar is valued at one US dollar to one thousand Zimbabwe dollars, it means that we owe the World Bank, or whoever is their surrogate $50 000 million Zimbabwe dollars. As our debt goes down, the value of our money goes down and we find that each year we review the loan we owe more than we owed last year. Every book I know of has repeatedly said that more money goes out of Africa today than it did in 1960 because of these skewed methods of valuing First World money and Third World money. It is true that we are broke as a country because of profligate expenditures by the ruling classes. This is where Brother Gono is concentrating on. Even if you put that into account, you will find that not a single African country has been able to free itself from the system. This implies then there is a fundamental system designed to keep us where we are today. There is also a good reason why any reasonable person in Zimbawe would like to externalise his money. If a Zimbabwean has saved a million dollars in 1980 and his children inherited it intact in year 2000. His children would have inherited US$1 000. If on the other hand, he had externalised that sum, and even if he did not receive any interest, the value of that million dollars in Zimbabwe would be ten thousand the value it was in 1980. Brother Gono, does it surprise you that rather than return the English pounds they have externalised, guys are prepared to flee the country or languish in jail if there is a chance that their children will inherit the money? I rest my case.
Celebrating women's day with Green Bombers
sundayopinion By Everjoice Win
INTERNATIONAL Women's Day, March 8, has been and gone. Since 1980 we have celebrated this wonderful day in so many exciting and different ways; theatre, music, street marches, poetry, speeches, etc.
A marked feature of these celebrations has always been the involvement of the State. This year was no different. But this year, and the last few have been some of the worst in the lives of women in Zimbabwe. The day passed almost unmarked, were it not for the air time given to the launch of the national gender policy.While a national gender policy is a welcome milestone, it comes a decade late, and quite frankly, billions of dollars short. It will be interesting to see how this policy will be translated into practice and what resources will be allocated for it. What has to be called the biggest farce, if not tragedy of the decade is having a Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation, and whatever else it does Š which is also the same ministry that trains the dreaded Green Bombers! How worse can it get? I can not bring myself to actually take this supposed ministry of my rights seriously given its other longer and better funded mandate. Since around 1990, what was once a well funded, well structured and focused Ministry of Women's Affairs was whittled down to, first a department, at some point just a desk, and at some other time, a one person corner. After the 2000 elections the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation was established or rather re-baptised. The addition of the youth component has been the most worrisome. It is through this arm that the so-called National Youth Service training was set up. The government has stridently denied that the youth militia is a terror machine. The simple question to be asked is so who has been raping the young women while dressed in the green uniform? British agents? Young women from many parts of the country have testified hundreds of times about the rape and abuse they have endured at the hands of the Green Bombers. The women have seen the boys, they can identify some of them by name. All the women want is accountability from the State that has trained and "clothed" these boys. This is the farce, or tragedy, that Zimbabwe has become. We have a government that claims to be concerned about the rights of its citizens, and at the same time it actively promotes lawlessness and violence. Our government and ruling party have the gumption to stand up and launch a gender policy in this specific environment? Is there an assumption that women are so malleable that they will take any little crumb that comes their way? In the 1980s Zanu PF could organise us under the guise of International Women's Day. Many of us believed them because we saw the seriousness with which issues were addressed. Who can forget the slew of positive legislation of the 1980s; maintenance, equal pay for equal work, Legal Age of Majority etc? Even some of our newly democratic neighbours can't hold a torch to the strides women of this country made in education, health, economic empowerment, community development, etc, in our first decade of independence. In those days we assumed we were together with our government and we happily acquiesced to their organisation of International Women's Day activities. But all of that soon changed. In typical Zanu PF fashion the genuine struggle of women was hegemonised and subverted to suit State interests. The State tried to ensure that women's rights organisations sang from its hymn sheet. And the song was development. The refrain was, "we do it under the guidance and leadership of the ruling party". Anything outside of this was seen as anti-government. We woke up to the shortcomings of State sponsored development, when the President fired his big salvo. In 1994 in his famous meet the people speech on women's access to land, "Kana vakadzi vachida minda mumazita avo ngavarege kuroorwa", he declared scornfully at the Sheraton. The crowd of hangers on tittered its assent. In 1997, they attempted to effect a constitutional amendment effectively making it impossible for Zimbabwean women to bring in their foreign spouses. "Muri vakadzi vedu ka imi? How can you marry foreigners and bring them into our home?" one minister asked in horror. There were also attempts to get the Legal Age of Majority scrapped under the guise that it made children (and women), wild! It did not succeed, fortunately. Most recently, State patriarchs have found a new way of controlling women. The Registrar General insists on married women changing their last names. Those who have resisted merely find it impossible to get new passports. This is regardless of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' success in challenging this practice in court. Access and control over land remains the most elusive right for black women in Zimbabwe. We are yet to see the sex disaggregated figures of who got the newly repossessed land? Reality on the ground shows that when it comes violation of rights and violence, poor black women have borne the brunt of the current political and economic crisis. But celebrate with Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri and Mai Shuvai Mahofa we were called to do. It is as if gender issues are some sort of abstract, lived outside of this reality. Leaders of this regime must be challenged to account for the violations of women's rights that are taking place under their watch. They must be asked the hard questions about the roles they have played overtly and covertly in both public and private spheres. I quite like the private aspect because it is here that many of us who pontificate in public about "gender is a priority of government Š blah blah", must be challenged; How many of you beat your wives last week? Yes, you my friend, the senior government official raise your hand please! Who among you has ever sexually harassed a woman - including the ones you promised land and never gave them? (Oh, and marrying the product of your harassment later doesn't excuse the fact please note). Who has used Green Bombers to campaign for them? Can you account for their activities? Can you honestly say you have never sexually abused a minor girl? Of course comrade senior army and police officer, we know how you treat "suspects" don't we? I am still waiting for a reason to celebrate women's day. May it come soon. * Everjoice J. Win is a Zimbabwean feminist activist.
Lies and more lies from UZ authorities
IT is high time the authorities at the UZ and its parent Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education told the public the truth about the situation at the institution, especially concerning staff salaries. The public has been fed a diet of lies from these people.
Here are some of the lies. Sometime last year, it was reported in the media that UZ staff (and other universities) had been awarded a huge salary increase (some reports even put it at 500%!). That was not true at all. All we got in late 2003 was an increase based on an evaluation carried out by Ernst and Young in, wait for this, 1998 (which we rejected) .The touted increases were not anywhere near the figures released to the media by the UZ. It is an undeniable fact that some employees got as little as 20% from this evaluation. The UZ authorities lied. This year, they are at it again. Only last week, they claimed that staff at the UZ were given a 280% increase, 30% more than what civil servants were awarded. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. All civil servants were awarded and paid the 250%. It should be remembered that civil servants also went to arbitration and were awarded a 400% increment. As I write, they are looking forward to receiving the outstanding 150%. How about us? The UZ bosses remembered to forget to tell the public that we actually got 250%, just like those in the civil service and also that civil servants' housing and transport allowances are tax free whereas ours are subject to taxation. Now tell me, who has better disposable income, civil servants or UZ staff? The UZ authorities have also decided to be strangers to the truth by withholding some information from the public. They did not tell the public that they and the employees were locked in a salary dispute for a good part of last year. To cut a long story short, they went to the Labour Tribunal and the case was referred to arbitration. Needless to say, we the workers were awarded a 300% increment in December last year. That increment has not been effected yet and we are not getting any joy from the authorities. All we get is that they are consulting their parent ministries or threats and more threats. We are sick and tired of going through this year after year. There is definitely something wrong at the top at the UZ. Someone said our problems at the institution will never be resolved because the people at the top (including the vice-chancellor) are on a contractual basis and therefore do not have the wishes of the employees at heart knowing fully well that they will be leaving after their tenure. Each one who comes in has his own agenda. Things were beginning to work with one vice chancellor but that has all changed when the incumbent came in. We thought things would get better because he was once one of us. Sadly, things have gotten worse. There is no continuity. The confusion manifested itself recently when the vice-chancellor stated in the media that to replace the lecturers who had left the UZ, he was on a drive to recruit regionally. How naive can one get? Is he going to re-recruit the same lecturers who left and went to neighbouring countries? Are their salaries going to change from what they were getting now that the returning lecturers will be"expatriates"? Where will the money come from when he cannot pay those who have faithfully remained behind? I have been a UZ employee for some years now. It seems no one here wants to learn from the past. The problems I found in 1994 are still the same today in 2004, 10 years down the line. The scenario has been like this for a long time at opening of semester; students' riots because of payouts, staff demonstrations because of salary discrepancies. Its the same script year after year. This is the only area where there is continuity! It should be remembered that UZ employees are just like civil servants and other workers from the private sector. We buy from the same supermarkets, tuckshops and other shops, we pay for the same electricity, we board the same combis but when it comes to salaries why are we treated differently? We usually get our dues only when we go on strike, only when we have gone to the courts and we always win the cases. In conclusion, I think something should be done about the governance at the UZ and like-institutions. A new kind of system cries out to be implemented. Just look at the UZ, its gradually beginning to look like a war zone; a present day Beirut! I hate to see this once majestic institution going to the dogs like this. We do not want another Makerere University here! Mabenga kaKubi Highfield Harare
Non ex-combatants getting raw deal in armed forces
I WRITE this letter to openly show our frustration as non-excombatant members of the uniformed forces.
Firstly, our illiterate colleagues have been awarded ranks three times higher meaning we are now being headed by uneducated people making our forces to be run unprofessionally.Secondly, our grievances just fall on deaf ears as these bosses are so happy with their fat pay cheques; they couldn't care less about the rest of us. Just imagine somebody who is less educated than you earning three times your salary. If you raise any grievance you are labelled an opposition MDC supporter. The forces are now divided into two, the excombatants (the happy ones) and the weeping ones (non-excombatants). Thirdly, I would like to thank our caring (sic) government for showing us that we are the useless members of the civil service. How can they award a paltry transport allowance of $88 000 and housing allowance of $30 000 as compared to $280 000 and $60 000 given to other sections of the civil service like nurses, teachers etc. There is no doubt that the government is the one encouraging corruption especially among the police. I think the only way to show our grievances is through the ballot box. Truly the government is breaking the hand that feeds it. For Zanu PF to remain in power, it is because of us who are being used round the clock to frustrate members of the opposition although most of us can now see that our only hope to change things for the better rests with the opposition. Guys, it's high time we also downed tools to air our grievances. 'Aggrieved member of the forces' Harare
By Our Own Staff
MUTARE - Morris Salani, a Grade Five teacher at Mutema Primary School was last week beaten up in front of his pupils at Rupisi in Middle Sabi by suspected Zanu PF activists who accused him of being a member of the opposition MDC.
Salani had gone to Rupisi with school children who were supposed to perform the traditional muchongoyo dance at the official opening of a multi-million dollar irrigation scheme in Middle Sabi. An Australian donor funded the irrigation scheme.Trouble began when the master of ceremony introduced Salani to the gathering. Some members of the militia who were present then charged at Salani saying all along they had been looking for him after hearing that he was a member of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). "They said they had been looking for me for a long time," Salani said. He was assaulted with sticks and booted feet while his pupils watched. He said other people at the gathering only restrained the assailants after he had been thoroughly beaten up. The teacher sustained bruises all over his body and was treated at Chipinge District Hospital and discharged. Pishai Muchauraya, the opposition MDC's provincial spokesman, said it was shocking that Salani's assailants were still free. "The assailants are known Zanu PF supporters in the area and to this day they remain free after committing such an offence." Salani says he does not support any political party and that he had gone to Rupisi with the school children because they were invited to perform at the function. Edmund Maingire, the provincial police spokesman, said he was waiting for a report on the incident from Middle Sabi police station.
US, UK deny links with mercenaries
By our own Staff
The United States government has prote-sted to Zimbabwe over what it terms as "the outlandish and inaccurate allegations made publicly or released to the Press, about alleged US involvement with a purported mercenary operation". In a statement, the US government said it has no connection with either the 67 individuals who are being detained on allegations of being mercenaries bent on sta-ging a coup in Equatorial Guinea or their aircraft seized by Zimbabwean authorities.
"A privately owned American aviation firm has publicly confirmed that it sold a Boeing 727 aircraft to a foreign buyer in South Africa, but this firm has no connection to the US government."Meanwhile, the British embassy in Harare has also denied United Kingdom's involvement in the alleged coup plot. "There is no question of British government's support for the alleged attempted coup against the government of Equatorial Guinea. The long standing policy of the British government is clear: we do not condone or support mercenary interventions against sovereign governments," said a statement released by embassy spokesperson Sophie Honey yesterday.
Church leaders to meet Muluzi over failed talks
By Kumbirai Mafunda
ZIMBABWEAN church leaders will soon meet Malawian President Bakili Muluzi to facilitate a meeting with the current chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa, over the current impasse on talks between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The clergy, who are engaged in efforts to rescucitate failed dialogue between the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC, are pushing for a number of reforms, including changes to electoral laws, ahead of the 2005 general election.Sources within the clergy said the troika led by Bishop Sebastian Bakare, which includes Trevor Manhanga and Patrick Mutume, will travel to Lilongwe to meet Muluzi whom they said is prepared to arrange a meeting with Mkapa. Muluzi, the sources said, had made headway in arranging a meeting between the SADC chair and the church leaders late last year but this fizzled out after Mkapa got unwell. The clergymen are eager to meet Mkapa in his capacity as current SADC chair and want to impress upon him on the urgency to convince the Zanu PF leadership on the need for major electoral and political reforms ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections. To date, the church leaders have met a few heads of State in the SADC region in their efforts to persuade the region to pressurise Zimbabwean authorities to level the playing field ahead of the poll. Sources said their next port of call after Mkapa would be Namibian President Sam Nujoma, a close friend of President Robert Mugabe, and Botswana President Festus Mogae.
Zanu PF forcing teachers to join party
By Henry Makiwa
CHIVI - ZANU PF youths here are forcing primary and secondary teachers in rural Masvingo to form political branches at their schools to show their allegiance to the ruling party, The Standard has established.
The youths, under instruction from local Zanu PF leaders, say they began the coercive drive with the aim of "reorientating teachers" back into the Zanu PF fold.Teachers are generally percieved to be opposition party sympathisers. Sources say the ruling party's latest strategy is meant to outmanoeuvre the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for next March. "At our school the Zanu PF youths came on February 26 and abruptly stopped lessons saying they had an urgent and very important meeting," said a teacher in Chivi. "Most of the schools here in Chivi district have received these surprise visits from local Zanu PF youths during the last month. They come in the company of a rural councillor who stresses the necessity of teachers to set up branches, especially if we are to be safe next year," said the teacher. "They said they know some of us support the MDC and accuse us of boasting that we are learned. We have also been told to contribute some money to the party's campaign," he said. Some schools where Zanu PF teachers' bra-nches have already been set up in Chivi, Masvingo Governor Josaya Hungwe's home area, include Berejena High School, Daramombe and Chiwanza Secondary schools, as well as primary schools at Run'ai and Mandiva. "We understand that Hungwe himself may be harbouring parliamentary ambitions next year hence all this premature campaigning," said another teacher who requested anonymity. "They believe that teachers have so much influence in the rural communities and may sway the electorate's perceptions. That's why they want to be so hard on us," she said. Efforts to get comment from Hungwe were unsuccessful. Raymond Majongwe, the General Secretary of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, said the union had "made efforts" to engage the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation as well as legislators in "politically volatile areas" to discuss the safety of teachers. "It is rather unfor-tunate that teachers always fall victim to the politics of the day, but this is based upon the realisation of politicians that they (teachers) are critical elements in any event of political transition," Majongwe told The Standard yesterday. "We have received reports of political hara-ssment and intimidation from so many areas, including Matebeleland and Masvingo provinces as well as Goromonzi. So we have called for an audience with Brigadier (Ambrose) Mutinhiri and other MPs. We also urge teachers to be apolitical in their professional conduct," he said.
Bulawayo council threatens water cuts
By our own Staff
BULAWAYO - Bulawayo City Council is on the verge of cutting off all water supplies to army barracks, police and other government departments because of a $2,6 billion unpaid debt to the local authority.
Bulawayo Executive Mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube told The Standard last week the failure by almost all government departments to settle the debt had left the authority with no option but to cut the water supplies."We have been pushed too far and have been left with no choice whatsoever besides implementing the water cuts as a solution to the mounting debt. We are going to cut the water supplies with immediate effect so as to enforce the law," Ndabeni-Ncube said. "The only key areas which are not going to be affected by the water cuts are hospitals, otherwise the army barracks and police camps will be severely affected this month," he added.
Bulawayo mayor vows to resist Mathema meddling
By Savious Kwinika
BULAWAYO - MDC Executive Mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube has vowed that he will not be answerable to Cain Mathema, the Zanu PF stalwart recently appointed Governor for Bulawayo.
His pronouncement may have set the stage for what might turn out to be a major battle for the control of the "City of Kings", which is Zimbabwe's second largest city, dominated by the opposition party.Since the emergence of the MDC, the ruling party has watched helplessly as its influence in Bulawayo has been completely eroded on a daily basis by the youthful party. The MDC not only dominates the city council, but the entire Matabeleland region. It won almost all the rural constituencies in the Matabeleland provinces in the 2000 general election. Analysts view President Robert Muga-be's appointment of Mathema, a former high commissioner to Zambia, as a move designed to neutralise the opposition party and re-assert the ruling party's dominance in affairs in the city. Briefing The Stan-dard about his personal perceptions on the creation of the new governor's post and the appointment of Mathema, Ndabeni-Ncube warned that he was aware of the machinations of the ruling party and would ensure that Mathema does not encroach into his jurisdiction. "I am the elected mayor for the city of Bulawayo while governor Mathema is President Mugabe's appointee, so it is all up to him to add value to the city or face the people's wrath," said Ndabeni-Ncube. "But I am not going to be answerable to him as some people would like think. I am only answerable to the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing while he (Mathema) will be answerable to the President who appointed him," said the tough talking Ndabeni-Ncube. He said the governor should clearly know his role and duties without encroaching on the civic affairs of the city as he was a political appointee. "Constitutionally, we have eight provinces in Zimbabwe excluding Harare and Bulawayo, so I don't really understand why and where the new governors fit in. "Anyway, I hope his main role will be sorting government services such as birth certificates, death certificates and passports because these are the problems the residents are facing which require his attention," said Ndabeni-Ncube. He added Mathema's role should include coordinating government departments, solving social welfare problems and paying attention to destitutes in the city. "It will be my role to run the affairs of the city and not him," said Ndabeni Ncube. Investigations by The Standard this week revealed that the new Governor's territorial boundaries are the same as those of Bulawayo city council, a move which Ndabeni-Ncube said might cause conflict if not properly and carefully observed.
Dead end to civic bodies' meeting
By Caiphas Chimhete
ZIMBABWE'S civic organisations last week reached a dead-end when they failed to agree on what they should do if President Robert Mugabe declines to level the playing field before next year's parliamentary elections.
At an emotion-filled two-day workshop in Harare, some of the participants advocated for "a confrontational approach" to force Mugabe's regime to amend the electoral laws ahead of the 2005 polls while others preferred a negotiated settlement.Already the civic organisations have adopted an Electoral Bill 2004, crafted by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) together with its 36 affiliate organisations, that recommends the establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to supervise the entire electoral process. It also proposes that counting of votes takes place at polling stations to minimise rigging. The Bill proposes the establishment of a party liaison committee to consist of the IEC and representatives of the contesting political parties to deal with issues such as violence and intimidation that may arise during the election. ZESN says it intends to hand the proposed Bill to Mugabe when it has gone through some of the changes that were made by the civic organisations. Some participants noted that Mugabe's government was unlikely to accept the Bill because levelling the political playing field would reduce its chances of "winning" elections. Brilliant Mhlanga, a lecturer a the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and a human rights' activist, called for the boycott of the poll unless the electoral laws are reformed to conform with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum's requirements on elections. "What is the use of contesting an election under the current electoral laws which favour one party. Parties should boycott the elections," said Mhlanga, who was supported by Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ). "Civil society should speak with one voice and confront Mugabe to compel him to change the electoral laws. We should be prepared to die for our cause if we are to succeed. Right now they are beating people in Zengeza and we talk of having tea with Mugabe. We should be more serious ... we must know the kind of a person we are dealing with," said Majongwe. Urayayi Zembe, who represents political parties in the NCA, was more blunt calling for the use of the "people's power". "We have to use the people's force, to demand what is right for us. ZESN should go into joint operations with organisations such as the NCA and ZCTU to exercise the people's power and force Mugabe's regime to change the electoral laws," said Zembe. But Kakele Matlosa of Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) pleaded with the local civic bodies against taking a combative approach. "It may not be to our advantage to take the route of boycott. We need to be less combative and dialogue to reach a consensus," said Matlosa, who once worked for SAPES, headed by Zanu PF apologist and newspaper publisher, Ibbo Mandaza. But Zembe said by drafting the Bill, the civic society has already challenged and confronted Mugabe's basis of power. "Because without flawed electoral laws Mugabe would not win an election," noted Zembe. Philliat Matsheza, the executive director of the Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa, said it was not for the civic organisations to decide on an election boycott but for the political parties. ZESN director Reginald Matchaba-Hove, was also evasive about how the organisation intended to make Mugabe accept the Bill. "We will continue to discuss ways and means of going about it," he said noncommittally. However, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, has ruled out electoral reforms before the 2005 parliamentary elections. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has given the government 15 demands, among them the need for electoral reforms, before it can participate in the polls.
No party politics at info centres, says Parliament
By our own Staff
THE Parliament of Zimbabwe has distanced its Parliamentary Constituency Information Centres (PCICS) from the information huts that are being set up by the Department of Information and Publicity in the Office of the President.
It also said its information centres were different from the information kiosks that are being jointly developed by the Department of Science and Technology in the President's Office, the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation and Melaka State of Malaysia.The information huts and kiosks planned by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo are widely seen as part of a media campaign aimed at disseminating Zanu PF propaganda to the rural areas ahead of the 2005 general elections. The huts and kiosks will, according to the department, be equipped with information about the history of the country and government programmes such as the land reform exercise. In a statement, Parliament said its recently established PCICs were not springboards for political party activities but were aimed at promoting "our democratic process" and making members of Parliament accountable. "It is important to note that the offices are not party political offices and as such, political party regalia, literature or activities are not permissible within these premises. The offices should only be equipped with property belonging to, and publications on Parliament. "As far as possible the PCICs have been established at the most central place in each constituency, where they are accessible to the public. They are meant to service all members of the public regardless of their party affiliation," said the statement from the House of Assembly. No political party regalia, literature or activities are allowed within the centres, it stated. Only Parliamentary information and documents such as Hansard, the Order Paper and Forthcoming bills would be available as well constituency socio-economic data. "Also of significance is the distinction between PCICs and info huts being introduced by the Department of Information and Publicity in the President's office. They are also different from the info kiosks that are jointly undertaken by the Department of Science and Technology in the President's Office, the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation and Melaka State of Malaysia," said the Parliament statement. The clarification comes amid fears that the centres would be turned into campaign centres by the ruling Zanu PF party. Presently, 104 out of the 120 constituencies in the country are in place while the remaining 16 are expected to be complete by mid year. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is financing the setting up of the centres.