The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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From AFP, 17 March

Mugabe to appeal decision allowing jailed MP to run in Zimbabwean polls

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has vowed to appeal a decision
by a new electoral court allowing a white opposition MP jailed for shoving a
minister to contest this month's parliamentary vote, a daily said. In his
first reaction to a judgment by the newly-created electoral court, Mugabe
said he was puzzled by the ruling to allow Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) lawmaker Roy Bennett to run in the March 31 elections. Bennett is
serving a year-long jail sentence imposed by parliament last October for
manhandling the justice minister during a heated debate on land seizures. "I
don't understand the court's decision. We will study the decision and appeal
against it," the state-run Herald daily quoted Mugabe as telling supporters
at an election rally in the eastern border town of Chipinge in Bennett's
constituency. "We can't be held to ransom by a man who is in prison. That is
absolute nonsense," Mugabe was quoted as saying by the daily Herald. "He has
a case to answer," Mugabe added, urging his supporters to "proceed" with
poll preparations "as if nothing happened." "This time around we are
determined to sweep every seat," said Mugabe, who wants his ruling Zanu PF
party to take two-thirds of the seats in the upcoming polls. The
parliamentary vote will be closely watched as a test of Harare's commtiment
to hold free and fair polls. The last two elections -- a presidential ballot
in 2002 and parliamentary vote in 2000 - were marred by violence and
allegations of vote-rigging. The tribunal on Tuesday ruled that Bennett, who
last week lost a court bid to win early release ahead of the March 31 vote,
could run for election while in prison. It also ordered the vote in his
Chimanimani constituency to be put off for a month. Following the rejection
of her husband's nomination papers, Bennett's wife Heather had earlier been
accepted to represent him. The MDC is reluctantly contesting the polls even
though it says conditions on the ground will not ensure a fair and
transparent ballot.
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UNICEF appeals to donors to look beyond politics

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 17 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has
called on the global community to "differentiate between the politics and
the people of Zimbabwe".

"Every day children in Zimbabwe are dying of HIV/AIDS; every day children
are becoming infected, orphaned and forced to leave school to care for sick
parents. The global generosity towards tsunami victims was inspiring, but it
has dried up for Zimbabwean children, who are facing a deadly crisis every
day of their lives," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy in
Johannesburg on Thursday.

Despite the world's fourth highest rate of HIV infection, and the greatest
rise in child mortality in any nation, Zimbabweans were receiving just a
fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in the region, UNICEF
noted.

"Some 110 Zimbabweans under the age of 15 will become infected with HIV/AIDS
today," said Bellamy. "Another 110 will be infected tomorrow, 110 more the
day after that. Yet, despite these horrendous numbers, Zimbabweans have the
determination and the education to defeat HIV/AIDS and other causes of child
mortality - but to do so they need international help."

UNICEF revealed that "one in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans; a
child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe; 160,000 children
will experience the death of a parent in 2005".

Yet in 2004-05 Zimbabwe received little or no HIV/AIDS funding support from
the main donor initiatives. The World Bank estimates that Zimbabweans
receive US $14 per capita from both development assistance and aid - less
than one-quarter of what Namibians ($68) receive, and around 12 percent of
those in neighbouring Mozambique ($111).

Despite the scarcity of funds, Zimbabwe has been making some headway in its
fight against HIV/AIDS and rising child mortality. UNICEF is providing
support for counselling and psychosocial support to 100,000 orphaned
children, and has assisted in achieving a national measles coverage of 95
percent.

UNICEF noted that Zimbabwe was one of the few countries with a National Plan
of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).

The children's agency is responsible for overall UN coordination of the OVC
response, and has been supporting its implementation across Zimbabwe. UNICEF
pointed out that Zimbabwe was the only country in Africa where a three
percent tax levy had been instituted to generate domestic resources for
fighting HIV/AIDS.
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Yahoo News

      Thursday March 17, 05:19 PM

      Mugabe admits Zimbabwe is short of food

      GUTU, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe has taken his
election campaign deep into Zimbabwe's rural heartland, publicly
acknowledging for the first time food shortages that analysts say could
weaken his grip on power.

      Addressing about 7,000 supporters in Gutu, southeastern Zimbabwe, at a
rally of his ZANU-PF party ahead of March 31 parliamentary polls on
Thursday, Mugabe said the country faced serious shortages of food but
promised not to let his people starve.

      International aid agencies say around 4 million people -- a third of
the population -- will need food aid this year after a poor harvest due to
drought and inadequate government help providing seed and fertiliser to
small rural farmers.

      "The main problem we are facing is one of drought and the shortage of
food, we are going to work out a hunger alleviation programme ... I promise
you that no one will starve," Mugabe told a seated crowd that appeared
little moved, many with blank faces, throughout his 40-minute speech.

      Leading local rights group the National Constitutional Assembly said
on Thursday a February study had shown ZANU-PF was using food as a political
tool, with people in areas short of food having to produce party cards to
get supplies.

      The unfolding food shortages magnify Zimbabwe's long running political
and economic crisis which many say has been compounded by Mugabe's
controversial policies, including seizures of white-owned farms for blacks
that have disrupted the southern African country's key agriculture sector.

      RURAL MAJORITY

      Political analysts say Mugabe -- whose ZANU-PF draws most of its
support from rural people who make up more than 60 percent of the
population -- must show it can handle the food crisis competently or risk
losing support in some rural constituencies.

      Mugabe denies his land seizure policy has sparked off the country's
worst economic crisis, blaming sanctions on his government by some Western
governments.

      "We had tried in the farming sector but the drought has let us down. I
have made a promise to your traditional leaders that we are not going to let
you down," Mugabe said.

      Regional food monitoring agency FEWSNET has said that the most serious
shortages were in drought-prone provinces of Matabeleland, Manicaland and
Masvingo, where analysts say if Mugabe's party loses any support it could
swing the vote in favour of the opposition MDC.

      For over a year the government has claimed it has sufficient food to
feed the country and any serious shortages would embarrass the 81-year-old
veteran leader.

      Last year Mugabe stopped donors from distributing food to rural areas
and told Britain's Sky TV: "We are not hungry, why foist this food on us? We
don't want to be choked."

      But critics say his main reason for doing so was to stop donors
operating in rural areas where the government has claimed over the years
that aid agencies were helping the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) to campaign.

      Mugabe also promised on Thursday to tackle transport and road problems
in Zimbabwe's rural areas in one of his few speeches that did not attack
British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

      Women dressed in T-shirts with portraits of Mugabe and colourful
wrap-ups sang revolutionary songs and danced as Mugabe arrived while youths
held up posters denouncing Blair and celebrating the government's land
reforms.
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IOL

Weak harvest forces Harare to import food
          March 17 2005 at 07:23PM

      Harare - Zimbabwe, which told international relief agencies just under
a year ago that it had enough food stocks, announced on Thursday that it was
importing grain in the wake of a disappointing harvest.

      The head of the state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) said on state
television that he was importing corn grain, the national staple, in the
wake of lower than expected harvests. He did not provide figures.

      "We are in the process already of putting a new contract in place,
(and) deliveries will be coming into the country shortly," said Samuel
Muvuti.

      "Also, we still have some contracts which were signed some months if
not a year or so ago, which are still running. What we have simply done to
these contracts is to actually ensure that they perform at a faster rate
than they were doing all along," he said.

      The planned food imports came as Zimbabweans prepared for the March 31
parliamentary elections and accusations from human rights groups that
President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF is using food hand-outs as an
electoral tool.

      Muvuti tried to allay fears of severe food shortages, saying the
government had a contingency plan to avert starvation.

      The national strategic food reserves hold enough grain to sustain the
country in the next 12 to 15 months, despite the anticipated low yield
caused by erratic rains this year, said state television quoting Muvuti.

      The southern African country told international donors in May last
year that it would not need emergency food aid because it expected a bumper
harvest of 2.4-million tons of maize.

      By September the GMB announced it was expecting to receive 750 000
tons of maize from local farmers before the harvest due next month, much
lower than the country's needs of around two million tons.

      Mugabe had insisted in a television interview in May that his
country's citizens were not hungry while rejecting suggestions that Zimbabwe
needed food aid.

      "Why foist this food upon us? We don't want to be choked," he had
said.

      The 2.4-million tons predicted for the harvest was described by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as "absurd" and a ploy by
the ruling party to win votes in the March 31 parliamentary elections.

      Mugabe and his party have been promising people during poll campaigns
that no one will go hungry. - Sapa-AFP

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VOA

      Zimbabwe Tells International Community Not to Meddle in Its Affairs
      By Lisa Schlein
      Geneva
      17 March 2005

Zimbabwe's Minister of Justice says western countries should stop meddling
in his country's internal affairs. He told delegates attending the U.N.
Human Rights Commission in Geneva that past colonial rulers have nothing to
teach Zimbabwe about freedom and democracy.

In about two weeks, citizens of Zimbabwe go to the polls to vote for a new
parliament. Zimbabwe's Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa notes this is the
sixth time since his country gained independence that his people will be
choosing a new parliament.

He says Zimbabwe fought off the shackles of colonial rule and earned its
freedom through the shedding of the precious blood of its people. He says
Zimbabwe does not need advice from anyone about freedom.

"We hold in utter contempt the preachings of our erstwhile colonizers and
oppressors on the subjects of freedoms, human rights, good governance and
the rule of law ... We feel very strongly that we should be left alone
freely to choose our leaders, even when our choices should prove to be
unpalatable to outsiders whose interests and agenda are at variance with our
own," said Mr. Chinamasa.

The Zimbabwean justice minister saves his sharpest barbs for the United
Kingdom. He calls it shameful for a foreign power, which he says has
colonial vested interests in his country, to lecture Zimbabwe on human
rights. He accuses Britain of backing opposition candidates in an effort to
overthrow the government of Robert Mugabe.

"British interference in our internal affairs commenced with their financing
the founding of the opposition party and has continued on with their
partisan hostile external broadcasts beamed to the population of our country
to sow dissent and lawlessness with the goal of unconstitutionally changing
our government," he said. "Let me assure this August commission that our
enemies, led by the United Kingdom, will not succeed."

Mr. Chinamasa says his country does not claim perfection in human-rights
matters. But, he says Britain is no paragon of virtue and its efforts to
demonize Zimbabwe will have no effect.

He appeals to the so-called peace-loving friendly countries in the U.N.
Commission to uphold the right of all countries to be left alone to chart
their own destinies without bullying from what he calls powerful, rogue
states such as the United Kingdom.
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MDC PRESS

 

17 March 2005

 

 

 

MDC WILL NOT CO-OPERATE WITH SAG OBSERVER MISSION BUT AGREES TO ENGAGE ANC MISSION

 

Comments by Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, the head of the South African observer mission, pre-judging the elections as free and fair, has compromised its impartiality. The MDC has therefore resolved not to engage the SAG mission until someone else leads it.

 

 

The people of Zimbabwe desire a new beginning. They have a basic democratic right to elect leaders they think are best equipped to lead them in this direction and address their basic concerns around food and jobs. Minister Mdladlana’s attempt to deny Zimbabwe’s this basic right, by adopting a partisan stance, is an affront to the ideals that guided liberation struggles across Africa. He appears to have forgotten that the principle of one person, one vote is sacrosanct. It cannot be sacrificed on the alter of political expediency.

 

 

The MDC is anxious to engage the South African Government to seek clarification on the issue of the Minister’s conduct and behaviour. 

 

 

The MDC has reversed its decision not to engage with the ANC observers. The change of heart by the MDC follows a conversation earlier this morning between MDC Secretary General Professor Welshman Ncube and his ANC counterpart, Kgalema Motlanthe.

 

 

The ANC Secretary General personally assured Professor Ncube that the ANC observer mission would be independent and would have nothing whatsoever to do with the SAG observer mission. He further promised that the ANC observers were under strict instructions to behave impartially, to objectively assess the conditions on the ground and to help Zimbabweans to freely participate in the democratic process.

 

 

On the basis of the assurances that have been given the MDC has undertaken to instruct all its party structures to fully co-operate with the ANC observers.

 

 

Paul Themba Nyathi

MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity

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Govt dismisses rights body's claims as 'lies'

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 17 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's government has dismissed
claims by the rights group, Amnesty International (AI), that free
participation of eligible voters in the 31 March poll is impossible.

"It is a complete lie," said government spokesman George Charamba.
Describing Amnesty International as a "political player" in the electoral
process, he questioned the organisation's neutrality. "We know that Amnesty
International is at the heart of organising residual opposition currently in
South Africa - holding demonstrations against the [Zimbabwean] government at
the Beit Bridge border."

On Wednesday the human rights group released a report containing evidence of
alleged government intimidation, including the arbitrary arrest of
opposition candidates and supporters, manipulation of food distribution for
political purposes, and severe restrictions on freedom of assembly and
expression.

"The climate of intimidation and harassment in which the elections are
planned is a serious matter for international concern," Kolawole Olaniyan,
director of AI's African programme, claimed in a statement.

According to AI, opposition supporters reported that they had been tortured
and their homes razed in the provinces of Manicaland and Matabeleland South.
The human rights group also alleged that the police were using the
controversial Public Order and Security Act to hinder opposition campaigning
activities in the run-up to the elections.

"Amnesty is making such allegations that even the MDC [opposition Movement
for Democratic Change] has not made. The police commissioner is holding
briefings [on the siutation] twice a week," Charamba countered.

The rights group alleged that the government's Grain Marketing Board (GMB)
was manipulating the distribution of food. Earlier this year an AI team
interviewed people in the southern provinces of Masvingo and Manicaland, who
all reported that MDC supporters had difficulty accessing maize.

"The GMB has come under fire [from the Zimbabwean government] for not
distributing enough food. We have actually taken it up and are going to
ensure that everyone has access to food," Charamba said.

The last two elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence and intimidation,
observers have said.

For the full AI report go to: http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/

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BBC

      Mugabe's anger at court 'madness'

      Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has angrily condemned the new
Electoral Court for allowing a jailed opposition MP to stand for
re-election.
      He urged his supporters to ignore the decision, which he said was
"madness", according to state media.

      Roy Bennett was sentenced to 12 months in prison for attacking the
justice minister in a debate on land last year.

      This is the first ruling made by the court, which was set up ahead of
the 31 March parliamentary elections.

      The court also postponed the election in Bennett's eastern Chimanimani
constituency by a month to give his team time to campaign.

      Unclear rules

      "Proceed as if nothing has happened," the Herald newspaper reports Mr
Mugabe as saying at a Zanu-PF campaign rally not far from Chimanimani.

      "I don't understand the court's decision. We can't be held to ransom
by a man who is in prison. That is absolute nonsense. We will study the
decision and appeal against it."

      Bennett's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, had told the BBC News website that
the decision should be final but as it was the court's first decision, the
rules were not clear.

      "There is no precedent for us to go by," she said.

      The court was set up as part of reforms to comply with new regional
electoral guidelines.

      The opposition says the reforms are superficial and human rights group
Amnesty International says the elections cannot be free and fair.

      But the Zimbabwe government insists the elections will be above board
and the opposition is crying foul because it fears defeat.

      Occupied

      Bennett attacked Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had called Mr
Bennett's ancestor "thieves and murderers", during a debate on land reform
last October.

      His appeal against the 12-month sentence was last week rejected by the
High Court.

      His Chimanimani farm has been occupied on several occasion by
loyalists of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

      Opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi
confirmed that Mr Bennett would be the party's candidate.

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News24

When only mermaids can help...
17/03/2005 15:50  - (SA)

Harare - A woman testified that she paid a popular local musician to fly
five mermaids from London to Harare to help her recover a stolen car and
cash.

Businesswoman Magrate Mapfumo said she paid 35 million Zimbabwean dollars
($5 000) to fly the invisible mermaids to Harare on the advice of musician
Edna Chizema, who is on trial for theft by false pretences, the state-owned
Herald newspaper reported on Thursday.

Zimbabwe's Shona people believe mermaids are fearsome enchantresses capable
of wreaking vengeance on wrongdoers.

Mapfumo testified that she sought Chizema's advice after the theft of her
car and a significant amount of cash.

Mapfumo said she also paid for the mermaids to be housed at Harare's plush
tourist resort, the Jameson Hotel, and supplied with mobile phones and
electrical generators to cope with the Zimbabwean capital's numerous power
cuts, the paper said.

"I asked about the names of the mermaids and I was told they were called
Emma, Charmaine, Sharvine, Bella and a fifth one who was said to be an Arab
mermaid," the Herald quoted Mapfumo as telling the court.

"All the time, she (Chizema) told me I could not see the mermaids as only
spirit mediums could do so." - AP
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Business Day

Posted to the web on: 17 March 2005
Zanu (PF) youth told to 'defend future' of Zimbabwe
Hopewell Radebe

Deputy Political Editor

THE South African Young Communist League has called on Zimbabwe's Zanu (PF)
Youth Brigade to "defend its future and that of Zimbabwe" and ensure young
people are not used to further a partisan political agenda.

With elections in Zimbabwe scheduled for March 31, the league is hoping to
discourage young Zimbabweans from joining government-sponsored militia
groups that harass suspected opposition members.

After meeting with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Youth Assembly
in Johannesburg earlier this week, the league's national secretary, Buti
Manamela, said Zanu (PF)'s youth wing could play a positive role in the
stalemate between the MDC and the ruling party.

"They cannot leave everything to their political mother body. We hope to
meet them soon to discuss strategic interventions they could explore to turn
things around," he said.

In a joint statement after the meeting, both youth structures condemned the
establishment of youth militias, accused of torturing and maiming
Zimbabweans.

"The situation impacts on young peoples' education, health, poverty,
unemployment and the rampaging HIV/AIDS epidemic," the statement said.

MDC youth chairman in Johannesburg Doubt Ndlovu said they were approaching
South African youth bodies across the political spectrum to counter "Zanu
(PF)-orchestrated perceptions" about his organisation; that it was against
land distribution and a puppet of the British.

He said they had not been able to discuss any aspect of Zimbabwe's future
with their Zanu (PF) counterparts because they "towed the national line".

On elections, Ndlovu said they wanted the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) to pressure President Robert Mugabe to postpone the poll so
that structures that complied with the SADC electoral guidelines could be
established.

This would include an audit of the voters' roll, give the opposition greater
access to state media and allow freedom of assembly.

The youth league also pledged to support marches led by the Congress of
Souther African Trade Unions at Zimbabwe's high commission and at Beit
Bridge
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'Zim Needs to Introduce Policies to Fortify Forex Inflows'

The Herald (Harare)

March 17, 2005
Posted to the web March 17, 2005

Harare

ZIMBABWE must implement additional policies to fortify foreign currency
inflows, according to economic commentators.

While current initiatives to strengthen the country's foreign currency
reserves are praiseworthy, economists feel authorities ought to introduce
further policies to supplement existing ones.

A Harare economist who preferred anonymity said: "Clearly, sustainable
incentives to invigorate exports are critical if there is going to be
success in addressing the supply side to foreign currency.

"Inflows from exports and the Zimbabweans living outside the country still
heavily need to be complemented by increased support from the international
community (foreign investment, loans, aid and grants), if this economy is to
successfully recover."

Further additional incentives such as preferential tax rates on incremental
export revenue should also be adopted, added the commentator.

Zimbabwe has, through the central bank, been putting in place measures
targeted at reconciling all foreign exchange earned by the country. The
country's forex coffers were virtually dry at the peak of illegal foreign
currency dealings on the parallel market in 2003.

However, the launch of the auction system in January 2004 has gone some way
in channelling foreign exchange into the official banking system, while
other measures such as special rates for Zimbabweans living abroad have been
introduced.

Nonetheless, despite all the sterling efforts by the central bank, foreign
exchange has continued to be in short supply at the auction, leaving most
companies who depend on foreign currency for inputs in a tight spot,
prompting some of them to turn to the parallel market for relief.

It is against this background that economists are predicting that 2005 could
see a reversal of the strides made in 2004 if there are no meaningful
changes to the current floor rates and export incentives.

In 2004, foreign exchange inflows into the official banking system exhibited
a sharp improvement as the clampdown on the parallel market began to bear
fruit.

Said another commentator: "Several tools are available to countries eager to
attract foreign direct investment. One way is to improve the image of the
country through various promotional techniques, which consist of providing
information to potential investors, creating an attractive image of the
country as a suitable place to invest, and providing services to prospective
investors.

"Governments also offer tax incentives and grants; provide industrial
estates, export processing zones, and other infrastructure; and attempts to
simplify the bureaucratic procedures facing potential investors.

"They negotiate bilateral tax, trade, and investment treaties with countries
from whenever investments might come. "They attempt to create a favourable
environment by guaranteeing repatriation of profits, assuring access to
imported components, and promising not to expropriate property without
compensation. All these options are available to Zimbabwe. Some are already
in existence and the country must make use of them," he added.

The availability of foreign currency has been a sore point in Zimbabwe's
ongoing economic recovery efforts. However, shortages at the auction might
derail the present initiatives if no additional policies are implemented to
boost the country's foreign currency streams.

As of last Friday, statistics from the auction floor indicated that close to
90 percent of foreign currency demand had not been satisfied since the
launch of the system in January 2004, as demand continues to outpace supply.

Supply has failed to meet the increasing demand for foreign exchange, which
has soared to US$109 million lately, against a static US$11 million on offer
from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The shortages in supply have resulted in
the local currency depreciating against major currencies at the auction.

However, official figures from the auction indicate that the local currency
marginally declined against all major currencies, having fallen beyond the
$6 000 mark against the greenback from $5 600 at the beginning of 2005.

Financial analysts have warned that continued foreign currency shortages
could rejuvenate the waning parallel market.

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Statement On the Judgment On the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe Case

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Windhoek)

PRESS RELEASE
March 16, 2005
Posted to the web March 17, 2005

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe is dismayed by yet
another Supreme Court judgment upholding certain sections of the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) as constitutional.

The Constitutional challenge brought by the Associated Newspapers of
Zimbabwe (ANZ) against the Minister of State for Information and Publicity
in the Office of the President and Cabinet as well as the Media and
Information Commission (MIC) sought the nullification of sections 39, 40,
41, 65, 66, 69, 70, 71, 76, 79, 80, 83 and 89 as well as paragraph 4 of the
Forth Schedule of the Act as unconstitutional.

The case was heard on March 3, 2004, with judgment only being delivered on
March 14, 2005, over one year after the matter was heard.

We have always stated that justice delayed is justice denied and in this
case there can be no argument over the fact that the unwarranted delay
certainly resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice.

Although the Supreme Court set aside the determination of the MIC in which
it refused ANZ registration as a mass media service provider, the fact that
the same court referred the issue back to the MIC for consideration de novo
is cause for concern.

This is informed by the fact that the same MIC especially its chairperson
has previously been found to be biased against ANZ. Even the Chief Justice
remarked that the chairperson who should have appreciated that he would
chair the Commission that would determine the application for registration
by ANZ should have refrained from making comments that were likely to make
ANZ apprehensive on the chances of a fair hearing from the MIC. We only hope
that this time around, the MIC will apply its mind to the protection of the
right to Freedom of Expression and grant ANZ an operating licence.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku concurred with Justices Cheda, Ziyambi,
Malaba and Gwaunza and declared all Sections under challenge to be
constitutional. We have always stated that the powers accorded to the MIC
and the Minister amount to quasi-judicial powers and this judgment will not
change our position. The MIC and the Minister can decide on whom to and not
to accredit therefore, who can and cannot work as a journalist in Zimbabwe.
We have questioned and will continue to ask why the Minister and his
permanent secretary would want to approve an application to practice as a
journalist. Such a process is no longer a mere formality as there is
discretion on the part of the accrediting authorities to accredit or to
refuse to accredit.

MISA Zimbabwe notes with concern that this judgment casts an ominous spell
on press freedom in Zimbabwe. The Supreme Court dismissed most of the
arising issues on technicalities. To the ordinary man, this does not make
sense. Where the law fails to protect the rights of its own citizens, then
it is bad law and as citizens we do not need such a law.

We reiterate that the contentious sections upheld by the Supreme Court bench
severely undermine the exercise of freedom of expression.

We have always stated that the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act was not promulgated in good faith. Its use has been against
journalists working in the privately owned media. We call upon the sixth
Parliament of Zimbabwe to repeal this Act so that Zimbabweans can freely
exercise their right to freedom of expression.
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Mail and Guardian

      Only Mugabe can save Zim

      Trevor Ncube: COMMENT

      16 March 2005 09:59

            Never since independence has Zimbabwe desperately needed
President Robert Mugabe as much as it does now. The country, the ruling
party and the opposition are all in chaos and only he can get the nation out
of this hole. Zimbabwe faces an acute leadership crisis that only Mugabe has
the capacity to resolve, if he so decides.

            And this is exactly how Mugabe wanted it to be. He has run
Zanu-PF and the country in a manner that renders him indispensable. While he
has invited the nation and his colleagues in the party to engage in a debate
on who will succeed him, he's dealt ruthlessly with those showing ambition
to take over from him.

            The Zanu-PF National Congresses at which this matter should be
deliberated have been manipulated to ensure that the people simply rubber
stamp what Mugabe and his select inner circle decide. And this is an inner
circle that is both scared of and beholden to Mugabe. Thus Mugabe's
leadership of the party and hence the government has never been put to the
test, except once when his proposal for a constitutional reform was rejected
in a national referendum. Nobody has been bold enough to challenge him in
the party structures.

            The late Eddison Zvogbo suffered political ostracisation when he
positioned himself as Mugabe's heir apparent. The latest victims of Mugabe's
wrath are Emmerson Mnangagwa, the current speaker of Parliament, and
Jonathan Moyo, who, until recently, was Mugabe's spin doctor. Mnangagwa has
been quarantined while Moyo is now a political exile.

            Mugabe's swift and decisive attack against those responsible for
the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration will go down as the most fatal blow to
the longevity of Zanu-PF. This move sent an unambiguous message to those
harbouring presidential ambitions. But the initiative would have resulted in
a younger and rejuvenated Zanu-PF ready to take over from Mugabe and the
geriatrics around him. This was not to be and those responsible have been
punished by suspension or expulsion from the party.

            The experience of the abortive Tsholotsho challenge has shown
that Mugabe is not prepared to countenance the renewal of the party and has
treated this as a personal threat instead. Indeed, Mugabe's response to
Tsholotsho confirms that he is only comfortable when surrounded by
subservient personalities. The appointment of Joyce Mujuru as the second
vice-president has little to do with a principled gender agenda, but all to
do with a strategy to sideline a potent political threat from the young
Turks in the party. These challengers, who are now engaged in collective
wound-licking after being dealt a fatal political blow by Mugabe, are
Mnangagwa, Moyo and the six provincial chair- persons: July Moyo, Daniel
Shumba, Jacob Mudenda, Lloyd Siyoka, Themba Ncube and Mike Madiro.

            Mugabe's reaction to the Tsholotsho challenge has resulted in
unprecedented divisions within Zanu-PF. The Karanga ethnic group has been
purged from the higher echelons of the party. The Karangas, who have
featured prominently in the liberation struggle and history of Zanu-PF, have
been marginalised and are justifiably peeved. They are seething with anger
and don't have any reason to help Mugabe campaign for the March 31 election.
Indeed, there is speculation that some are engaged in low-level campaigning
for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

            The flip side of this is that the Zezuru clique in Zanu-PF is
now fully in control. Mugabe is Zezuru and so are his two deputies. The army
commander and the commander of the airforce are both Zezuru. The
commissioner of police is also Zezuru. Whether by design or default, this
does not augur well and has further weakened the party's appeal outside
Mashonaland.

            Correcting this ethnic imbalance will require the skills that
Mugabe evidenced after the 1987 Unity Accord, but time might not be on his
side. This factor has potential to spiral out of control, with dire
consequences for the nation.

            The departure of Moyo from Zanu-PF has exposed the bankruptcy of
the people around Mugabe. For the first time in the history of the ruling
party, Zanu-PF launched its election campaign with only a draft manifesto.
It is clear that Zanu-PF's campaign lacks focus, passion and purpose. Mugabe
has no point man this time around and he is obviously too old to run a sleek
and energetic election campaign.

            Mugabe's strategy to go on a selective purge of allegedly
corrupt politicians within his party has further divided Zanu-PF. The arrest
and long detention of the former finance minister Chris Kuruneri, former
Zanu-PF Mashonaland West chairperson Phillip Chiyangwa and James Makamba has
eaten away at the glue that held Zanu-PF together. Kuruneri is still in
detention following his arrest last year.

            That political violence is at its lowest level in six years
could be due to political incompetence rather than a sudden commitment to a
peaceful election. It is either this or Mugabe is convinced that the
intimidation and violence of the past six years have sufficiently softened
Zimbabweans beyond caring. He could also be confident that the disaster that
is the voters' roll will hand him the two-thirds majority he wants.

            Whatever the reason for this change of tactic, there is no
escaping the fact that this is the most divided Zanu-PF to face a national
election.

            Mugabe desperately needs a two-thirds majority to allow him to
change the Constitution. He could then empower himself to hand-pick a
successor without having to call for a fresh presidential election. If he
used this window to good effect, he could usher in a fresh leadership, call
it a day and save face.

            It comes down to this because the MDC is not in better shape
either. An insider and opposition member of Parliament recently remarked to
me that "only God could save the party from itself". The trade unionists
within MDC claim the party as their own and are marginalising other factions
such as allied civil society, the student movement and intellectuals. There
are also forces ranged against what is perceived as Ndebele influence in the
MDC, which has wreaked havoc and paralysed it. Party activists speak softly
about these issues and supporters and analysts are reluctant to discuss them
openly for fear of further weakening the party. There is widespread concern
in and outside the party that the MDC has long lost the passion and drive
for a people's revolution.

            The facts on the ground show an ineffective opposition party
that lacks vision and strategy. To be fair, years of violence and
intimidation, a slew of repressive legislations such as the Public Order and
Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and
the NGO Bill have all conspired to undermine the party's effectiveness.

            MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's treason trial, together with
numerous other acts of harassment, have further reduced its effectiveness.

            But the possibility of an MDC victory at the polls cannot be
totally discounted. The fact that Zanu-PF is weak and divided means that it
is possible to mobilise the people's anger against the ruling party to
deliver a victory to the MDC. For this to happen, the MDC would have to deal
with a rigged voters' roll and the fear caused by years of brutal force and
intimidation. This is a tall order, but cannot be completely ruled out.
Could this be Zimbabwe's version of the election that saw the back of Kamuzu
Banda in Malawi or Zambia's election that saw the departure of Kenneth
Kaunda?

            If this were so, it is a frightening prospect for Zimbabwe. To a
large extent, Malawi and Zambia were much worse off after the departure of
Banda and Kaunda respectively than during their tenure. Zimbabwe would then
be faced with the prospect of a hugely divided and inexperienced group
coming in to try and sort out the mess of more than two decades of misrule.
This is a tall order and one which the MDC is not yet prepared for.

            This is where Mugabe becomes critical for the country, assuming,
as is largely expected, Zanu-PF steals the election again. Mugabe could
bequeath to Zimbabweans a stable, patriotic and purpose-driven ruling party.
He would ensure that the top three of this party are dynamic people who
truly understand the challenges facing Zimbabwe. This would be a visionary
leadership that would focus on a huge national reconstruction project that
would require massive national and foreign resources. Such a leadership
would need to have the capacity to build international friendships and
alliances that would exploit opportunities necessary for massive
reconstruction and development.

            As currently constituted and led, both Zanu-PF and the MDC don't
have what it takes to extricate Zimbabwe from its quagmire. Were anything to
happen to Mugabe now, with the infighting in Zanu-PF, I fear instability
that would be harmful to the nation in the long-term. The possibility of a
third way is something worth contemplating, but the time and effort required
to put this together could make it a long-term project.

            I truly believe that if he set his mind to it, Mugabe could undo
some of the damage he has inflicted on Zimbabwe and lay the foundation for a
stable political dispensation that would deliver economic development and
growth.

            Trevor Ncube is the CE and owner of M&G Media

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Reuters

      Zimbabwe govt using food to buy votes - rights group

      Thu March 17, 2005 7:05 PM GMT+02:00
      HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ruling party is
using food as a political tool by demanding party cards from hungry voters
before the March 31 parliamentary polls, a Zimbabwe rights group said on
Thursday.

      Mugabe's ZANU-PF is widely expected to win the election in the country
despite a deep economic crisis which has seen widespread food shortages in
recent years.

      On Thursday pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said
a survey carried out in February showed that people in areas suffering food
shortages were being forced to produce ruling party cards to get access to
food.

      "The use of food as a tool for campaigning is noted as a cause for
concern because clearly it is a violation and it would appear to constitute
vote buying," NCA spokeswoman Jessie Majome told a news conference after
presenting a report to Harare-based diplomats.

      Some international rights groups including Amnesty International have
repeatedly accused Mugabe's government of manipulating the state Grain
Marketing Board (GMB), which dominates distribution of the staple maize meal
food in rural areas, although other aid organisations have said evidence for
this remains unclear.

      Harare has curtailed foreign food aid since May, saying it expected a
good harvest for the coming year. But Mugabe was reported by state media on
Thursday as saying grain imports would be necessary this year.

      Mugabe denies charges that his government's controversial seizure of
white-owned farms to give to landless blacks has largely contributed to food
shortages, saying weather problems and international pressure was to blame
for supply problems.

      The NCA said it obtained its information from community monitors in
eight of the country's 10 provinces and that they backed the allegations of
food supply manipulation, although it did not give details of how this was
being done.

      Amnesty International has said in prior reports that GMB officials
have limited access to maize meal purchases to ZANU-PF members and
controlled shipments of maize meal to create artificial shortages in
opposition-dominated areas. The government has denied the charges.

      The NCA report said that while the political violence which
characterised Zimbabwe's last two polls in 2000 and 2002 had declined, hate
speech, threats and intimidation were rife.

      "This would strongly suggest that the psychological climate, so
essential to genuine elections and open choice, is severely lacking
currently in Zimbabwe," it said.

      The NCA is a loose coalition of churches, student and labour unions,
business and rights groups that has lobbied for a new constitution to
replace one it says entrenches Mugabe's power. The NCA denies charges that
it is anti-government.

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New Reports Damn Zimbabwe Graft, Judicial Tampering

Business Day (Johannesburg)

March 17, 2005
Posted to the web March 17, 2005

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen
Johannesburg

ENDEMIC corruption and political interference in the judiciary in Zimbabwe
are worsening, two recent reports say.

Transparency International, the Berlin-based nongovernmental organisation
that fights corruption, says in a report released yesterday that graft in
Zimbabwe "has drastically increased over the past year", and is a leading
cause of the country's economic decline.

A report released on Sunday by the International Council of Advocates and
Barristers says the judicial system in the country "has become profoundly
compromised over the past four years", largely due to judges doing the
bidding of the ruling Zanu (PF) party.

In its Global Corruption Report 2005, Transparency says "hyperinflationary
pressures, foreign exchange shortages, the proliferation of black markets
for basic items and rising poverty levels are in part the symptoms of
corrupt business practices".

It says that "poverty and corruption are largely the result of financial and
political mismanagement".

"Everyone from every section of society" is involved in corruption
"voluntarily or involuntarily, actively or passively", says the report. Most
people, it says, have little choice but to buy goods or foreign exchange on
the black market.

Transparency's report says the unveiling of a new monetary policy by the
country's central bank governor, Gideon Gono, last year could be a turning
point in addressing corruption in the banking system.

The report calls the passage of the Bank Use and Suppression of Money
Laundering Act a fundamentally positive step but says the process of
nominating a financial intelligence unit could cause conflicts of interest
as the minister responsible for the enforcement of the act is a political
appointee.

The report of the international advocates council says: "The appointment of
the higher judiciary in Zimbabwe is subject to political interference."

It says Zanu (PF) enforces "the removal of judges whose independence
represents an impediment to government policy or other action", and
political cases are heard by judges seen to be sympathetic to the
government.

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Ruling On Mercenaries' Release Set for Monday

The Herald (Harare)

March 17, 2005
Posted to the web March 17, 2005

Harare

CHIEF Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku is expected, next week, to make a ruling
in an application by the State seeking leave to appeal against a High Court
decision to slash the sentence imposed on the 62 mercenaries jailed for
breaching Zimbabwe's immigration and security.

Justice Chidyausiku said he would hand down his ruling on Monday.

The mercenaries were jailed for breaching the country's two laws while
allegedly en route to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

The application by the State follows the ruling by High Court judge Justice
Yunus Omerjee on March 2, that reduced the effective jail terms of the
pilots from 16 months to 12 months and the effective terms of the rest of
the group from 12 months to eight months.

Appearing for the State yesterday, Ms Fortune Chimbaru asked the Chief
Justice to allow the application saying the lower court misdirected itself
when it suspended portions of the sentences imposed on the mercenaries.

In the High Court, Justice Omerjee had found that the trial court had erred
when it failed to suspend part of their sentence.

Ms Chimbaru, who described the lower court as not competent to reduce the
sentences, said the High Court had no legal basis to act in the manner it
did.

The State's appeal stalled the release of the mercenaries, who were arrested
in March last year at the Harare International Airport.

Team leader, Briton Simon Francis Mann, a former member of the British
Army's Special Air Services commando unit, pleaded guilty to contravening
the Public Order and Security Act for attempting to possess dangerous
weapons and was sentenced to a four-year jail term.

He was slapped with another three years for attempting to buy dangerous
weapons without an end-user certificate.

Authorities in Equatorial Guinea have also sentenced 11 other mercenaries -
who were an advance party of the group arrested in Harare.
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Daily News online edition

      New report slams Zimbabwe*s judiciary

      Date: 17-Mar, 2005

      JOHANNESBURG - A report released by the Solidarity Peace Trust, a
South African-based human rights organisation, has castigated Zimbabwe's
judiciary system for failing to enforce electoral morality after the
controversial 2000 Parliamentary elections.

      The report, titled Subverting Justice: The Role of the Judiciary in
Denying the Will of the Zimbabwean Electorate Since 2000, was released in
Johannesburg at the weekend.

      It strongly criticised the Zimbabwean judiciary for failing to
conclude more than 20 of the 39 election appeals which were brought by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after the controversial poll
in 2000. Had these been dealt with and the MDC won most of them, it could
have overturned Zanu PF's majority in parliament to become the new ruling
party.

      "First, the High Court of Zimbabwe found that leading up to the 2000
parliamentary elections, Zanu PF agents murdered, abducted and tortured,
brutally assaulted, threatened to kill, and burned down the homes of MDC
officials and party supporters," said the report.

      It added that in nearly half of the cases heard by the High Court, the
court held that the Zanu PF candidates had not been duly elected and it set
aside the election results. This was on the grounds that corrupt practices
had been committed or that gross intimidation prevailed to such an extent
that persons of ordinary nerve and courage would have been unduly influenced
from exercising their right to vote.

      It also castigated Zimbabwe's highest court of appeal, the Supreme
Court, for stalling the appeals, resulting in not a single seat in
Parliament being vacated. This was after it had ruled that petitioners in
the electoral challenges had a constitutional right "to be afforded a fair
hearing within a reasonable time" and "to seek practical and meaningful
redress".

      The only time a parliamentary seat was vacated after a court judgment
was in 1996, when Margaret Dongo, then an independent, successfully
challenged Vivian Mwashita's election in the High Court. A by-election was
later held in the Harare South constituency, in which Dongo easily beat
Mwashita.

      The Solidarity Peace Trust report, which details all the election
petitions brought before the High Court by the MDC, also expressed concern
over the presidential electoral challenge in which MDC president, Morgan
Tsvangirai, is challenging Mugabe's win,

      It said three years after the 2002 presidential election, the hearing
for the factual allegations in the case had still not been set down by the
High Court. The judge concerned, Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, still had not
provided reasons for dismissing Morgan Tsvangirai's legal claims.

      The report comes two weeks before the elections pitting mainly MDC
against Zanu PF.

      MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi recently said his party had abandoned
all the petitions with the High Court as they were no longer necessary. He
said MDC would make sure that it won a sizeable majority in the forthcoming
election to avoid the legal challenges in which the country's judiciary was
not accommodative to the opposition party.

      However, Zimbabwe High Court registrar, Charles Nyatanga, has claimed
that delays in hearing the petitions have not been deliberate but were a
result of a critical shortage of judges in the High Court.

      Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has also said the delays were not
political in any way, but a result of the shortage of judges.

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Daily News online edition

      Who is afraid of observers, monitors?

      Date: 17-Mar, 2005

      ANY political party or government which is wary of neutral election
observers must have something to hide, which is not to say that such a
government or party should not be reticent about some of its activities.

      But if a government or a party has little to hide, it should be fairly
amenable to a little probing by a group of impartial observers or monitors.

      A party with Zanu PF's record ought to bend over backwards to be
magnanimous with such observers or monitors. In the past, it has lost much
esteem, not to mention credibility, by treating such people as if they were
all card-carrying members of the MDC.

      It is this arrogance which has given Zanu PF and the government the
reputation of playing dirty. The suspicion among many is that, given a
chance, Zanu PF will cheat its way to victory.

      The gains of playing fast and loose with the truth may have won the
party short-term victories, but in the long-term it could lose the support
of many countries which, to this day, believe it has played a heroic role in
solidifying the pan-African dream of a politically united continent.

      South Africa, in this particular election, may finally commit its
final gaffe.

      Already, it has an observer team which has endorsed the preparations
for the elections so prematurely some would be forgiven for suspecting they
are using a crystal ball.

      South Africa's unstinting support for every Zanu PF move, except
President Mbeki's criticism of the voters' roll, has irked many Zimbabweans.

      Many are satisfied that their antipathy towards the MDC stems from the
party's trade union origins, that Morgan Tsvangirai himself owes his rise to
prominence to his role as a radical trade unionist, once detained on
spurious charges by Mugabe's government.

      The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has tried to
mobilise trade unions in the region to back the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions' call for democracy in Zimbabwe.

      The government in Harare can see this only as another pro-MDC campaign
to discredit Zanu PF.

      Political parties which see an enemy under every bed often fall out of
the bed or are pushed off it by circumstances beyond their control.

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Zim Online

Supreme Court dismisses exiled Zimbabweans application
Thur 17 March 2005
      HARARE - Zimbabwe's Supreme Court today dismissed an application by
Zimbabweans living outside the country to be allowed to vote in a key
election at the month-end.

      Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku sitting with two other judges,
Vernanda Ziyambi and Luke Malaba, did not give full reasons why the
application was denied only saying the highest court in the land had
"unanimously concluded that the application has no merit and hereby
dismissed."

      Full details of the judgment shall be released in due course,
Chidyausiku said.

      A group of seven Zimbabweans living outside the country had applied to
the Supreme Court seeking the court to order the government to allow exiled
Zimbabweans to vote in the March 31 parliamentary election.

      The group calling themselves the Diaspora Vote Action Group, argued
that the government had breached their constitutionally guaranteed right to
vote by refusing to allow them to participate in the election.

        .

      The government which will allow civil servants on state duty abroad to
cast ballots by post, opposed the application saying it did not have the
resources to set a mechanism to allow the more than three million
Zimbabweans abroad to vote.

      The state further argued that allowing the exiles to vote would
prejudice President Robert Mugabe and his top officials who cannot visit
western countries where most Zimbabweans are based to canvas for support.

      The majority of Zimbabweans, who fled their home country because of
hunger and political violence, live in South Africa, Botswana, Britain,
United States, Canada and Australia.

      Western countries have banned Mugabe and his top officials from
visiting their territories because of their failure to uphold human rights,
the rule of law and democracy.

      A large majority of the foreign-based Zimbabweans are believed to be
sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party. -
ZimOnline

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