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Mugabe launches election campaign, acknowledges deep divisions in Zimbabwe ruling party

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: February 29, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe vowed Friday to
defeat "sell outs, political prostitutes, political charlatans and
two-headed political creatures" in national polls next month, but also
acknowledged divisions in his ruling party.

Mugabe faces former ruling party loyalist Simba Makoni, whom he recently
likened to a prostitute seeking clients, and opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai in the March 29 presidential vote. Parliamentary and local
council races also were scheduled that day.

At his campaign launch at the main conference center in Harare, Mugabe, 84,
told some 4,000 supporters, including other party candidates, that opponents
in Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change received support from
Britain, the former colonial ruler, and other "enemies" in the West seeking
regime change in Zimbabwe.

Makoni, 57, has called for reform in the ruling party and, entering the
presidential race as an independent after his expulsion from the party, said
the nation needed younger leaders to tackle the worst economic crisis since
Mugabe led the nation to independence in 1980.

Mugabe said Friday divisions in the ZANU-PF party during its internal
primary polls to select candidates for the election were resolved.

"The struggles within the party that have taken place, and in some cases
little wars, have been settled. At the end of the day, we have this
congregation with me at the head," he told supporters. "This is the official
start of our march to another electoral victory."
But he added, gazing across the conference center auditorium: "You who are
here with us, I hope I trust you, all of you. Some politicians are sell
outs, political prostitutes, political charlatans and two-headed political
creatures."

All the main speakers at the unveiling of the ruling party's election
manifesto called for unity.

"There is evidence of hunger for power within our ranks. We have
opportunists and saboteurs who have come into the fold. We must ensure he
wins and we must ensure he wins resoundingly," said ZANU-PF chairman John
Nkomo.

On Friday in neighboring Zambia, Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinge Pande said
following recent changes to Zimbabwe's constitution, and the Mugabe
government's acceptance of regional election guidelines, regional leaders
"strongly feel this (election) will be free and fair."

That was in sharp contrast to concerns expressed by a wide variety of
organizations and individuals within and outside Zimbabwe about the March 29
vote. In an open letter released earlier this week by the U.S. Embassy,
Ambassador James McGee cited violence, inadequate preparation, voter
confusion and evidence of registration irregularities.

Zambian President Levy Mwananwasa questioned last week whether Western
countries would accept the results of the election as free and fair unless
Mugabe lost.

African leaders have been criticized by Western commentators and some within
the region for not doing enough to confront Mugabe over his country's
political and economic turmoil. Many trace Zimbabwe's crisis to the often
violent, government-ordered seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial
farms since 2000. Mugabe, though, argues his country is the victim of a
Western conspiracy.

__

Associated Press writer Joseph J. Schatz in Lusaka, Zambia contributed to
this story


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Mugabe partially admits failing Zimbabweans

SABC

February 29, 2008, 18:45

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has, for the first time, admitted that
his government is partly to blame for the country's downfall.

Unveiling the party's election manifesto in Harare today, Mugabe urged his
ruling Zanu-PF party candidates to tell the electorate the truth about his
administration's failures and successes.

Thousands descended for the unveiling of the party's manifesto. As expected,
the ruling party is hoping to win on the basis of its stand against western
influence and to resuscitate the ailing agricultural sector.

Mugabe was, however, bold to take some blame for the country's crisis.
"Let's tell the people we failed here and there. We have failed to keep up
with our promises and one such area is that of developing of our
infrastructure..."

The veteran leader still remains defiant on his strained relations with
Britain and America, he said: "Down with you Mr Brown, down with you Mr Bush
when it comes to Zimbabwe."

Last week the opposition Movement for Democratic Change set the ball
rolling, presenting their manifesto to the electorate in Mutare, some 300km
east of Harare. Another presidential candidate, Simba Makoni, is also set to
take his campaign forward this weekend with two crucial rallies in Bulawayo
and Harare.


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Zimbabwe drops charges against 13 white farmers

Reuters

Fri 29 Feb 2008, 15:18 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe on Friday withdrew charges against a group of
white farmers who faced trial for resisting eviction from land targeted for
seizure by the government, a defence lawyer said.

President Robert Mugabe's government embarked on a drive in 2000 to take
commercial farms from whites to resettle landless blacks. An estimated 600
out of the previous 4,500 white farmers now remain on the land.

Thirteen white farmers from Zimbabwe's northwestern Mashonaland West
province, who appealed against their eviction notices, were being tried for
failing to leave the farms after a September 30 deadline lapsed.

Defence lawyer David Drury told Reuters on Friday the state had dropped
charges at least for the time being.

"It's anybody's guess what will happen next, but they can revive the case at
a later date. If they do, they must take note of the magistrate's ruling,"
he said.

Magistrate Tinashe Ndokera had ruled that the trial could not proceed before
the state produced documents showing the acquisition of the farms had been
done legally and while a related high court appeal had not been heard. The
prosecution then immediately withdrew the charges.

Drury said the defence would still proceed with an appeal to the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) tribunal on the grounds that the
government land seizures violated a regional pact safeguarding private
property rights. He said the case there had been set for March 25.

Had they been convicted, the farmers faced heavy fines or up to two years in
jail.

Critics say Mugabe's controversial land policy has plunged the southern
African country -- once a food exporter -- into a severe economic crisis
marked by food shortages and the highest inflation in the world, at above
100,000 percent.

Mugabe says his land seizure drive was meant to correct colonial imbalances
that saw a few white farmers owning the bulk of the country's prime
farmland.


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Mugabe Repeats Mines Threat



Financial Gazette (Harare)

28 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008

Harare

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week intensified government rhetoric on the
planned seizure of mining assets as he launched his bid for a fifth term at
the helm of the country's beleaguered government, saying the expropriations
would mark another chapter in the empowerment of blacks.

Speaking during his 84th birthday bash in the border town of Beitbridge,
President Mugabe said government would be unrelenting in its plans to
transfer control of the country's mining assets to blacks. The take-over of
mining assets is an extension of the farm seizures that have disrupted the
country's economy, triggering a recession now in its ninth year, and turning
a once thriving breadbasket economy into a basket case.

"We will now go for what comes after the farms, the minerals," President
Mugabe said amid thunderous applause from his supporters.

"Whose are the minerals? Do they belong to the adventurers who come, invest,
use our people, pay poor wages and say the rest is mine? Why should we
accept that?" he said in the televised statement.

There has been deep-seated apprehension in the mining sector ever since
parliament passed the Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill in August last
year, which, when signed into law allows government to forcibly expropriate
51 percent shareholding in any foreign owned company operating in the
country.

Passage of the bill was followed with amendments to the Mines and Minerals
Act, empowering government to take over at least 25 percent of any
foreign-owned mining assets without compensation in part fulfilment of the
empowerment law.

Both the amendment to the Mines and Minerals Act and the Empowerment Bill
have not yet been signed into law as they have not yet received President's
assent. Investors in the mining sector have suspended fresh investment for
expansion and exploration projects due to fears of expropriation. But the
mining index, which was expected to take a heavy battering from this
development, has instead scaled fresh highs, crossing the key industrial
level in a record only made in the 1980s.

The planned empowerment has failed to find support from black business
players, who charge that the law is badly timed.

"There is a likelihood of a 30 percent drop in foreign direct investment
following passage of the proposed act," an executive with the predominantly
black Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said last year.

A confidential document prepared by the Chamber of Mines in 2006 indicated
that Zimbabwe's mining industry was valued at more than US$20 billion,
giving the value of the 51 percent indigenisation threshold across the
sector at more than US$10 billion.

"With the value of the mining industry businesses at more than US$20 billion
it is also the perception that neither the government nor historically
disadvantaged persons can raise the amount to purchase 50 percent
shareholding in existing mining companies," the confidential document had
indicated.

Government could, therefore, only acquire the foreign-owned shares through
expropriation, cession or legislated nationalisation, the document said.
Apparently, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono last year also
flatly refused to endorse "confiscation and donations" in the empowerment
legislation, saying any empowerment programme should help contribute to new
capital, adding value to existing operations.

It is not clear if Gono's views had resulted in the delay by President
Mugabe to assent to parliamentary Bills.

Gono told a gathering of business executives last year: "As advisors (to the
government) we are not in favour of donations... black empowerment is
necessary, but not through expropriation," Gono told a meeting of
stakeholders this year, insisting he had been under a mine and knew what was
involved in running a mining project.


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Zimbabwe army chief will not salute Makoni, Tsvangirai: report

Monsters and Critics

Feb 29, 2008, 13:48 GMT

Harare - One of Zimbabwe's top defence forces chiefs says he will not salute
former finance minister Simba Makoni or opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
if either wins the March 29 presidential poll, it was reported Friday.

In a chilling echo of a similar threat made by service chiefs ahead of polls
in 2002, retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi said he would not recognise
any winner but President Robert Mugabe, reports the state-controlled Herald
newspaper.

And Zimondi, the Commissioner of Prisons, ordered his officers and staff to
vote for Mugabe, who has been in power in Zimbabwe since independence in
1980.

He told them they would 'go to hell' if they failed to vote in the former
guerrilla leader.

'I am giving you an order to vote for the President,' Zimondi told senior
army officers at a ceremony in Harare on Thursday.

The opposition immediately denounced his comments as treasonous. With two
serious challengers, Mugabe, 84, is fighting for his political survival.

Both Tsvangirai, the head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) and former finance minister Makoni say they are confident of winning
the polls because so many Zimbabweans are fed up of the hardships they are
facing.

Analysts warn that the dire state of the economy may prove Mugabes nemesis
in the polls. Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate is the highest in the world
at more than 100,000 per cent, and there are critical shortages of food and
fuel.

There are reports still not officially confirmed that soldiers have been
given a pay boost ahead of the polls, a move said to have angered other
public service workers like teachers who are still struggling on meagre pay
packets.

Zimondi said that in the event of an opposition win 'I will be the first one
to resign from my job and go back to defend my piece of land.'

The army chief said that Mugabes rivals intend to hand back land seized from
white commercial farmers under a controversial land reform programme
launched in 2000.

'We shall not let it go. If you let the country go, God will not help you
anymore; and when you die, you will go to hell for failing to defend your
land against your enemies,' said Zimondi.

'We still remember the blood and graves of our gallant sons and daughters
who died for this country and we shall not sell them out to imperialists
forces,' he added.

The opposition reacted angrily, saying Zimondis comments were 'reckless and
unmeasured.'

'The MDC believes it is a flagrant affront to the constitution of Zimbabwe
for a service chief to tell uniformed officers to vote for a particular
candidate in an election,' said a statement from the party's department of
information and publicity.

'There is no shadow of doubt anymore that we have become a banana republic
where the collective will of the people is not respected.'


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Zimbabwe prisons head orders officers to vote Mugabe

Reuters

Fri 29 Feb 2008, 8:35 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - The head of Zimbabwe's prison service has ordered his
officers to vote for President Robert Mugabe and said he would resign if the
opposition won next month's election, official media reported on Friday.

The southern African country holds joint presidential, parliamentary and
council elections on March 29 in which Mugabe faces former ally Simba Makoni
and long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change.

Retired Major General Paradzayi Zimondi, who now heads the prison service,
which is part of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he would retire to his
farm if Tsvangirai or Makoni were elected to lead the country.

"I will only support the leadership of President Mugabe," Zimondi was quoted
by the state-owned Herald newspaper while conferring new ranks to senior
officers.

"I am giving you an order to vote for the President," he told the officers.

On the eve of the 2002 presidential elections, the country's defence forces
chiefs, including Zimondi, said they would not recognise the presidency of
anyone who did not participate in the country's 1970s war of independence.

This was taken as a reference to Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist, who
did not fight in the liberation war.

Zimbabwe's senior military officers fought against white minority rule and
the opposition has in the past accused them of siding with 84-year-old
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980 and is seeking another five-year
term.

Mugabe has branded Makoni a political prostitute and Tsvangirai a puppet of
former colonial power Britain and has promised a landslide victory to shame
his Western critics.


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Zimbabwe's Makoni says would not oppose ICC action against Mugabe

Monsters and Critics

Feb 29, 2008, 9:58 GMT

Johannesburg/Harare - Zimbabwean presidential candidate Simba Makoni, in an
interview aired Friday, said if elected leader he would not stand in the way
of any future attempt to bring President Robert Mugabe before the
International Criminal Court (ICC) for atrocities committed under his rule.

Asked in a BBC interview whether he would oppose the principle of sending
Mugabe to The Hague court, former finance minister Makoni said: 'No. We will
be a full member of the international community and we will act in
accordance with the normal standards of international justice.'

Makoni, 57, who was ejected from the ruling Zanu-PF earlier this month for
standing against Mugabe, called Zimbabwe 'a country of fearful people.'

'We must work to remove the fear that so bears on our life everyday, as
individuals, as communities,' he said.

The spectre of a possible ICC indictment for crimes committed under his
28-year rule is seen by many analysts as a key reason for 84-year-old
Mugabe's reluctance to cede power.

They point to the case against former Liberian leader Charles Taylor as
proof that African leaders can no longer expect immunity from prosecution
for crimes committed under their rule.

Makoni, who claims to have support from key figures within Zanu-PF, is
standing as an independent in the election in which Mugabe is seeking a
sixth term in power despite presiding over near economic collapse
characterized by inflation of over 100,000 per cent.

The other candidates are Morgan Tsvangirai of the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change and little-known independent candidate Langton
Towungana.

The MDC says it believes the vote will be rigged. The past three elections
in Zimbabwe were overshadowed by accusation of irregularities.

But Makoni, in an another interview with Independent Newspapers published
Friday, said he was expecting a 'free and fair election.'

Despite being called a prostitute and a frog by Mugabe he also declared 'I
respect our president.'


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Urgent Action Required to Avoid Violence During Elections



International Bar Association (London)

PRESS RELEASE
29 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008

The International Bar Association (IBA) is concerned at statements by Police
Commissioner Augustine Chihuri on 25 February stating that the Zimbabwean
police force would not hesitate to use full force, including firearms, when
confronting any incidents of politically motivated violence during the
country's election period. It would be more appropriate, in the tense
atmosphere that exists in Zimbabwe at present, for the police and security
forces to reassure voters that they will be protected and their right to
vote freely ensured. The IBA urges the Police Commissioner not to posture
over the potential use of lethal force and avoid intimidating statements
that could deter voters from participating freely in the electoral process.

The IBA is further deeply concerned by reports of a lack of concerted action
by all parties and authorities in Zimbabwe to prevent violence during the
elections. The IBA supports the proposal by the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission to establish a multi-party committee at national, constituency
and district levels in order to respond to any potential election related
problems. The IBA recommends these committees be established as a matter
of urgency.

Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director stated "We urge all political party
leaders and independent contenders in the upcoming elections to uphold
civility during their broadcasts, rallies and speeches." Mr Ellis added
"Consistent reports of partisan policing and torture by Zimbabwean police
against civilians heightens our concern for the safety of Zimbabwean
citizens during the election."

Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the IBA Human Rights Institute stated that
"The people of Zimbabwe have the right to equal protection of the law.
Immediate measures must be taken to ensure that police and security forces
operate impartially and are fully accountable for their actions,
particularly at this tense time."

Background:

The Police Commissioner for Zimbabwe, Commissioner General Chihuri made
statements to the press on 25 February, emphasising that Zimbabwean police
would not hesitate to use force, including firearms when confronting any
incidences of politically motivated violence.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has also recently stated that it will
establish multi-party liaison committees throughout polling districts in
Zimbabwe to help combat any unrest. There are reports that political party
leaders and independent candidates for the presidency have failed to call
for calm and restraint during this election period.

The IBA has consistently spoken out on human rights violations and threats
to the rule of law in Zimbabwe. A high level delegation sent by the IBA
visited the country in August 2007 to investigate allegations of torture and
abuse carried out by members of the Zimbabwean police. The most recent
report titled "Partisan Policing: An obstacle to human rights and democracy"
was released in November 2007. The report made a number of recommendations
to the authorities and international and regional stakeholders based on the
domestic, regional and international obligations of the Zimbabwean
Government to uphold and protect human rights. The main message of the
report was that far- reaching reforms for the police force were necessary in
order to address the impunity in which the police operate in Zimbabwe.

The report can be downloaded from:

http://www.ibanet.org/images/downloads/11_2007_October_Report_Zimbabwe_Partisan_policing_Final.pdf

About the International Bar Association

- the global voice of the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world's
leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations
and law societies. The IBA influences the development of international law
reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.
It has a membership of 30,000 individual lawyers and more than 195 bar
associations and law societies spanning all continents.

Grouped into two divisions - the Legal Practice Division and the Public and
Professional Interest Division - the IBA covers all practice areas and
professional interests, providing members with access to leading experts and
up-to-date information. Through the various committees of the divisions, the
IBA enables an interchange of information and views as to laws, practices
and professional responsibilities relating to the practice of law around the
globe. Additionally, the IBA's high-quality publications and world-class
conferences provide unrivalled professional development and network-building
opportunities for international legal practitioners and professional
associates.

The IBA's Bar Issues Commission provides an invaluable forum for the IBA's
member bar associations and law societies to discuss all matters relating to
law at an international level.

The IBA's Human Rights Institute promotes, protects and enforces human
rights under a just rule of law, and works to preserve the independence of
the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

About the Human Rights Institute

In 1995, the International Bar Association (IBA) established the Human
Rights Institute (HRI) under the Honorary Presidency of Nelson Mandela. The
HRI is now a leading voice in the promotion of the rule of law worldwide.

The HRI works across the IBA, helping to promote, protect and enforce human
rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the
judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.


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SADC Continues To Protect Mugabe

The Zimbabwean

Friday, 29 February 2008 12:35

HARARE - SADC Foreign Affairs Ministers have presented proposals for another
way out of a deepening political crisis threatening to close down Zimbabwe's
economy and hurt its neighbours, but the question is whether President
Robert Mugabe will take it up.

The SADC Council of Ministers, who met in Lusaka since Thursday until
yesterday, again opposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, in hopes that a
softly-softly approach will get Mugabe to comply with amendments to media,
security and electoral laws agreed in the flopped mediation. This is aimed
at ensuring free and fair elections on March 29. The ministers from the
14-nation SADC backed Mugabe's leadership, even though Zimbabwe was slipping
deeper into chaos, in an attempt to soften the geriatric leader and bring
him on board, officials said. The Zimbabwean heard that the SADC ministers
gave proposals for an escape route through Foreign Affairs Minister
Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who represented Zimbabwe at the meeting. The
cocktail of measures was recommended by finance experts who met in Lusaka
prior to the Council of Ministers meeting.They include "conditional support"
for the economy in cash support from Britain and other key Western donors if
the election is free and fair."The ball is clearly in Mugabe's court and the
destiny of Zimbabwe in his hands," said a SADC diplomat. "He can seize the
opportunity by playing ball with SADC and return his country to tranquility.
"Or he can play games with them, close the doors and push his country and
even the whole southern African region into chaos," he said, adding:
"Zimbabwe is contagious and it could affect its neighbours."Mbeki is due to
table the final report on his failed mediation to Angolan President Eduardo
Dos Santos , the chairman of the SADC troika on Politics, Defence and
Security during the SADC heads of State and government meeting in South
Africa later this month.The Zimbabwean heard that Mumbengegwi vigorously
defended the Zimbabwe crisis, and blamed sanctions for the appalling state
of the economy. Mumbengegwi also claimed that the diaspora could not vote
because of travel restrictions imposed on top Zanu (PF) officials, which he
said precluded them from traveling overseas to campaign. He also staunchly
denied accusations that the opposition was being denied media
coverage.Diplomats in the region said the regional strategy was to back
Mugabe while at the same time employing mediation and conciliation tactics
in a last-ditch attempt to get him to comply with regional and international
norms governing the conduct of elections."We would not look at it as blind
support for Mugabe, and it would be misleading if the Zimbabweans took it
that way," a SADC diplomat said.The Zimbabwean heard that the Council also
received reports on the status of Economic Partnership Agreement
negotiations; the SADC Job Evaluation Exercise, floods in the region as well
as the report from the SADC Finance Sub-Committee on the Community's
budgetary obligations for 2008.


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Rtd Major-General Zimondi's reckless utterances unacceptable

The Zimbabwean

Friday, 29 February 2008 12:38

The MDC condemns the reckless and unmeasured utterances by the Commissioner
of Prisons, Paradzai Zimondi, that he would not salute an elected President
other than Robert Mugabe after the 29th March election. These utterances are
being made after the realization that President Tsvangirai is a few inches
from State House. The MDC is definitely set for a landslide victory against
a divided, confused and weakened Zanu PF. Any utterances that seek to
undermine the people's will are an assault on the fabric of democracy and
the expression of free will.We are aware that Zimondi's statements are not
shared by the majority of our professional uniformed forces in the country
who remain loyal to the people's wishes and aspirations. Zimondi should
proceed to resign as an individual rather than try and coerce the entire
disciplined force into a rebellion on account of Mugabe's imminent and
inevitable defeat on 29 March. In his statement which has shocked the
nation, Zimondi, a retired soldier, said he was giving "an order" to his
subordinates to vote for Mugabe. The world over, in normal democracies, the
uniformed forces are guided by the compass of the sovereign will of the
people. Our uniformed forces should be loyal to the country's laws and its
people and not individuals.Reckless utterances like the one made by Zimondi
invite a forced exit from national service.The MDC believes it is a flagrant
affront to the Constitution of Zimbabwe for a service chief to tell
uniformed officers to vote for a particular candidate in an election. There
is no shadow of doubt anymore that we have become a banana republic where
the collective will of the people is not respected. The MDC condemns the
reckless and partisan utterances by a serving officer. Zimondi's statements
are treasonous. His statement is a coup on the Constitutional order. It is
intended to intimidate the people of Zimbabwe against voting for their
preferred candidate in this month's election. It confirms that there is no
guarantee to a free and fair election.As a party, we believe that Zimondi's
utterances are intended to incite our professional and loyal uniformed
forces to disrespect the people's sovereign will in the forthcoming
election. The people's will should be respected Zimondi is aware that the
people of Zimbabwe have turned their back on Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF. The
red card is imminent. He is aware that the looting honeymoon has finally
come to an end. It is a reckless statement which confirms that even
Mugabe's henchmen are clear on his imminent electoral defeat on 29 March
2008. The people of Zimbabwe want to reclaim their dignity. We are tired
of Zanu PF's culture of corruption, plunder and misgovernance. We want a
humble leadership. President Tsvangirai and the New Zimbabwe Team are an
embodiment of that humility. We want food and jobs. We want electricity and
clean water. We want justice and freedom. We don't want politicization of
our uniformed forces. We stand against incitement of violence and rebellion
in our country. We stand for peace and loyalty to the people. A New
Zimbabwe, a new beginning. Now is the time. Time for change; the change you
can trust!!Department of Information and Publicity


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RBZ donates new fleet to state media

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 02/29/2008 20:35:44
ZIMBABWE'S central bank has "donated" a fleet of brand new vehicles to state
media houses, to prop them up ahead of the March 29 elections, New
Zimbabwe.com learnt.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the country's monopoly
broadcaster, received 17 vehicles. Zimpapers, publishers of the country's
only two state-run daily newspapers - the Herald and the Chronicle - also
received several vehicles whose number could not be ascertained.

Three brand new Toyota single cab trucks were dispatched to Zimpapers'
Chronicle and Sunday News offices in Bulawayo for "immediate use", sources
at the paper confirmed. The cars are to be used for carrying reporters
around the provinces for rallies during the day, and carrying newspapers to
districts at night.

At the ZBC, officials confirmed that 17 vehicles arrived last week.

"They include the latest Isuzu and Nissan Wolf double-cabs, plus all-terrain
single cabs. Some members of the management team have already snatched the
twin cabs, while the single cabs have been distributed to provinces and
stations in Gweru and Bulawayo," said a ZBC source.

According to the source, there is controversy at ZBC's Pocket Hill
headquarters after presidential reporters Judith Makwanya and Reuben Barwe
"grabbed" a double-cab each, saying they were entitled to the cars in view
of their portfolio.

However, other workers feel the two are not in management positions, but use
their association with President Robert Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba
to "bully" their bosses at work.

Makwanya and Barwe enjoy lavish lifestyles from benefits associated with
accompanying Mugabe on his numerous foreign trips.

The RBZ is said to have been asked to give the vehicles to the state media
edifice which is decaying due to undercapitalisation, government
interference and corruption.

The bank bought the vehicles last year for use during the abortive 'Sunrise
Two' currency change-over. The plan was aborted after the government
deferred the project in view of the free-fall of the local currency.

"The cars were lying idle for months and on 24-hr guard by police details.
It was then decided that ZBC, Zimpapers, and other arms considered essential
to President Mugabe's re-election effort get the vehicles. It is not clear
what the arrangement is but we have been told that the cars were donated,"
said one official at the ZBC who cannot be named because he had no clearance
to give media interviews.

The RBZ made a similar gesture during the first phase of the currency
change-over programme when it "donated" more than 200 vehicles to government
departments.

However, parastatals and listed firms such as the ZBC and Zimpapers were
excluded.

Zimbabweans vote in general elections on March 29, and the state media is
the vehicle of choice for spreading President Mugabe's propaganda. Mugabe is
seeking a sixth term, but faces stiff challenge from his former finance
minister Simba Makoni and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.


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Chronicle rejects Makoni's adverts

New Zimbabwe

By Lindie Whiz
Last updated: 02/29/2008 20:00:17
ZIMBABWE'S state-run Chronicle newspaper has rejected adverts from
presidential challenger Simba Makoni, New Zimbabwe.com can reveal.

Makoni wanted to place adverts in the paper, advertising his election
campaign rally scheduled for Bulawayo's White City Stadium on Saturday.

But bosses at the government propaganda mouthpiece claimed they did not have
enough newsprint to carry adverts, and said other advertisers had booked
space in advance.

The Chronicle also told Makoni's campaign team that they were waiting for
guidelines from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on how to deal with
political adverts.

Sources at the paper said the advertising division consulted the paper's
editor, Brezhnev Malaba, who after consulting "superiors" in Harare told
them not to accept the adverts.

Ironically, ZEC officials two weeks ago visited the Chronicle and Sunday
News and held a meeting with bosses and emphasised to them to be fair and
impartial and not to refuse any material, as long as it was not offensive.
The Chronicle even carried a story about the deliberations of the meeting.

A source at the paper revealed: "Makoni's advert had his picture, dates and
venue for the rally. There was a flurry of activity as bosses consulted on
what to do, until Malaba got an instruction from Harare not to carry it."

The Chronicle has been carrying full page Zanu PF propaganda adverts. One
features MDC presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai with white farmers
giving him cheques in the run-up to the 2000 elections.

Another advert has copies of letters from British government officials
announcing continued funding of civic society groups in Zimbabwe. The advert
has a pay-off line which says "Zimbabwe is not for sale".

While refusing to print Makoni's advert on one hand, Chronicle on the other
carried a front page story on one of the ex-finance minister's perceived
backers, Dumiso Dabengwa, "denying any links" with him.

The Chronicle sought comment from Dabengwa, who did not give away much.

"Yes my name has appeared before but there is no truth in that. Those people
who are spreading those rumours should confront me directly. I will not
respond to rumours," the ex-Home Affairs Minister said.

Chronicle went on to say the so-called Zanu PF heavyweight backing Makoni
were "non-existent" or "spineless", as none of them has come forward so far.
The paper also said its approach to Dabengwa was prompted by rumours that he
was on Saturday scheduled to "introduce" Makoni to the people at the White
City Stadium rally. It is the same rally whose adverts the paper refused to
carry.

Dabengwa's response has created even more anxiety in the system, sources
said.

"It was hoped that he would crack when confronted by the Chronicle but he
did not give away much. No-one knows whether to believe him or not," said a
senior Zanu-PF official in Bulawayo.

Those close to Makoni's camp say the "real deal" would be - as expected - in
the second round of voting should President Mugabe fail to get the required
51 percent majority in the first round of voting on March 29.

"We want to isolate Mugabe from Zanu PF. We want to prevent him from getting
more than 50 percent in the first round so that Makoni faces him alone,
without
Zanu PF candidates at council, parliament and senate level. Zanu PF
supporters will see this for what it is - not a rebellion against the party
but against Mugabe as an individual," a senior aide to Makoni said.

He said they want to "finish him (Mugabe) off" in the second round, implying
that Zanu PF 'heavies' backing Makoni would come out in the open then.

Zimbabweans vote in general elections on March 29 to elect a new President,
Members of Parliament, senators and councillors -- the first time the
elections have been held jointly.


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Sugar production at Triangle Limited down 25 percent

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Saturday 01 March 2008

BULAWAYO - Triangle Limited, one of Zimbabwe's biggest sugar producing
companies, on Friday said sugar production fell by about 20 percent last
year due to the country's harsh operating environment.

In a statement accompanying the company's financial results for the year
ending 31 December 2007, Triangle Limited said production had fallen to 193
000 tonnes last year, down from 240 000 recorded the previous year.

Triangle Limited is owned by South Africa's sugar processing company,
Tongaat Hulett that also owns another sugar producing company in Zimbabwe,
Hippo Valley Estates.

"In 2007, under extremely difficult circumstances, sugar production was 349
000 tonnes (including 156 000 tonnes from Hippo Valley). Triangle produced
240 000 tonnes in 2006.

"The business is presently contending, inter alia, with the extreme effects
of hyper-inflation, a distorted low domestic sugar price, exchange rate
movements and foreign currency shortages in Zimbabwe," said Triangle
Limited.

Zimbabwe has battled severe sugar shortages over the past eight years after
President Robert Mugabe began parceling commercial farms to landless blacks
as part of his controversial land reforms.

The new black farmers, some of whom were resettled at giant sugar estates in
the southern lowveld such as Hippo Valley, failed to maintain production
because of a lack of skills and inputs.

Zimbabwe, once regarded as the region's breadbasket, is in the grip of a
severe economic crisis that has manifested itself in the world's highest
inflation rate of over 100 000 percent, massive food shortages and poverty.

The unprecedented economic crisis has had a devastating impact on the
country's industries forcing hundreds of local companies to scale down
production or shut down completely.

A report last year by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said most
firms were operating at below 30 percent of capacity due to the harsh
operating environment. - ZimOnline


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British Tycoon Vows to Stay Put



Financial Gazette (Harare)

28 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008

Shame Makoshori
Harare

BRITISH property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten has vowed to maintain his
investments in the country despite what he alleges to be persecution by his
detractors for supporting President Robert Mugabe's government.

Van Hoogstraten, who is facing charges of violating the Censorship Act and
foreign exchange regulations, told The Financial Gazette that he had not
fallen out with President Mugabe but had been caught up in the factional
fights tearing the ruling ZANU-PF apart.

Press reports have suggested that charges against van Hoogstraten were a
culmination of his fall-out with President Mugabe, whose party is embroiled
in factional fighting, which recently resulted in politburo member and
former finance minister Simba Makoni, breaking ranks to stand against the
Zimbabwean leader as an independent candidate in elections scheduled for
March 29.

"Oh yes, I have been involved (in the politics of Zimbabwe) but you know
which side I am on," van Hoogstraten said.

"I'm a friend of the President (Mugabe) and (Emmerson) Mnangagwa. They are
my friends and I will keep supporting them," van Hoogstraten said.

Asked to explain the reason for his arrest and consequent legal battles, van
Hoogstraten said: "It is just that I have been caught up in the Makoni
issue."

Makoni is linked to a ZANU-PF faction led by retired army general Solomon
Mujuru, a sworn rival of van Hoogstraten's friend, Mnangagwa.

Two of the five charges van Hoogstraten initially faced were struck off the
charge sheet by a Harare magistrate last week.

Van Hoogstraten owns more than 200 properties in Zimbabwe and holds
significant stakes in a number of listed companies.

Giving his first Press interview since his arrest in Harare on January 24,
van Hoogstraten expressed his love for Zimbabwe, saying he had built a
strong relationship with President Mugabe and could not break his ties with
him because of "political games".

He said his current predicament would not force him out of the country.

"I still want this country to prosper," he said.

"We want investment in this country. I'm a businessman and not a
politician."

Van Hoogstraten was arrested after police had been tipped by a tenant living
in one of his properties that he had been demanding rentals in foreign
currency.

He was allegedly found in possession of large sums o foreign currency and
pornographic material during the police raid at his home.

Police found $20 billion, US$37 586, R92 880, 190 British pounds and 180
Botswana pulas.

After failing to have charges related to the possession of pornographic
material struck off the court register, van Hoogstraten last week launched a
constitutional argument over violation of his rights with the magistrates
court.

"The police acted like gangsters," he said in an affidavit presented in
court.

"They assaulted the maid, the garden boy and the security guard. Then they
assaulted me on the mouth, and I was bleeding. I sustained a cut but it has
gone now."

His lawyer, George Chikumbirike, argued that the pornographic materials were
illegally seized from van Hoogstraten's bedroom so they could not be used as
exhibits.

"It is common cause that the search was done without a warrant,"
Chikumbirike said.

"The search becomes illegal and invalid. It became an arbitrary search. If
they had a search warrant, they should have been authorised to search only
the foreign currency and not the pictures that they took in the accused's
bedroom.

"We seek the return of that property. It was illegally seized and it cannot
be produced as evidence here," said Chikumbirike.

An affidavit of security guard Patrick Mpofu said the police had forced
their car into van Hoogstraten's premises on the day of his arrest without
identifying themselves.

"I thought they were robbers. The police did not identify themselves. They
accused us of hiding a white man," Mpofu said.


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Record of Arrests of MDC Tsvangirai candidates/activists

swradioafrica.com

February

11th - Chitingwiza -1 MP candidate, 1 council candidate, 2 others.

14th - Zengeza 6 women arrested (illegal gathering) out on 100 m bail each.

19th - Bindura 3 arrested. Sandra Shirikihavu ward 7 councilor beaten and
hospitalized.

20th - Mbare MDC activists Davison Panganayi, Tonderayi Mapiye - dist.
Fliers.

21st - Mnondoro - Francis Dhlakama plus others arrested for trying to obtain
voter registration details.

22nd - Epworth - Alabi Billiard, Gift Mukuwira, Kudakwashe Mukudo MDC
activists arrested.

23rd - Hre Railway Station - Dread.. and his girl friend arrested whilst
boarding the train for Mutare for Presidential launch - Dread made the MDC
cd's. Released on 50 million dollars bail 26th Feb.

24th - Marondera - Muzhambi and Tenfera arrested for allegedly removing a
Mugabe poster/insulting the President. Released pending court.

25th - Muzharabani - Muchemwa Chihota ward election agent and Munyaradzi
Nyama MDC activist arrested.

26th - Bindura - Tawona Chikona arrested on charges of allegedly tearing
down zpf poster.

26th - Chirimanzu - Daniso Nkomo Sec for Security, Patrick Kombayi Prov.
Sec., Tinashe Shoko Dep Org Sec arrested on charge "writing vote Tsvangirai
on rocks".

Later released on "wrong charge"!.

26th - Marondera - MDC Candidate Iain Kay's election agent now detained in
police cells for allegedly insulting the President.

27th - Kwe Kwe - Helen Nkosana Mbizo Ward 4 council candidate arrested today
for "holding a meetng without police permission".

27th - Mutare - Pishayi Muchauraya, MDC publicity and information for
Manicaland abducted from his home by Zanu PF youths early in the morning.
Sms received from him late in the afternoon saying he was at Old Mutare
Police station being interrogated. Efforts to contact him by phone since
have been fruitless.

28th - Pishayi Muchauraya (mentioned above), driver Michael Murapa and
security Tendayi Kononda were on their way in the MDC Manicaland truck to
visit a constituency. They stopped at a garage to buy some drinks. A new
tractor with a trailer carrying about 40 Zanu PF youth saw their truck and
parked in front of them to prevent them moving. The youth then set about the
3 MDC officials ripping off their Morgan Tsvangirai T-shirts, and beating
them with fists and flat hands and kicking them, saying "you are on our
territory". All their money was stolen as well as all the MDC files on
constituencies, candidates etc. The three managed to run away into nearby
bush where they hid for three hours while phoning for help and the Police.
Two of the assailants were recognized viz Misheck Masukume and Peter
Ngwarapi of Plot 20, Old Mutare. The Police RRB number 02588728 refers.
Present when report being made were D/Cst. Ngunwende, Insp. Chiyoka both of
Law and Order section and also the Officer Commanding District Chief Supt.
Gowo.


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Resuscitating Thermal Power Stations Can Ease National Crisis



Financial Gazette (Harare)

28 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008

Kumbirai Mafunda
Harare

ZIMBABWE is only generating 1 100MW out of a potential output of 1 590MW at
its electricity generation plants, a sector regulator revealed.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission (ZERC) said out of a total
internal generation capacity of 1 590 MW, ZESA Holdings power generation
subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company, was only producing 1 100MW, far
short of national requirements amounting to over 2 000 MW.

The country has two major power plants and ZERC said Kariba Hydro Power
Station was generating 750MW, with the Hwange Power Station, which is
currently under refurbishment, generating 350MW out of a potential output of
670MW.

The three coal-fired power stations are not operational despite having a
potential to generate 170MW when fired to full capacity.

Repeated efforts to revive the three thermal power stations, namely
Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare, have failed owing to persistent coal
shortages.

Critics said revival of the thermal stations was critical to the economic
turnaround of the country in light of the diminishing power imports from
neighbouring countries.

ZERC said ZESA's failure to exploit full generating capacity was due to
sub-economic power tariffs on both industrial and domestic consumers, lack
of major overhauls at power stations, lack of spares and routine maintenance
and a brain drain which has left the power utility grappling with acute
staff shortages.

ZERC commissioner-general Mavis Chidzonga said power generation investments
in the country were being hampered by high capital costs, the shortage of
foreign currency and long lead times to plan, construct and commission
plants which takes between three to seven years.

Power imports from Mozambique's Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), DRC's
Snel and South Africa's Eskom have been falling as regional utilities battle
to meet growing demand in their countries while other utilities have
suspended power over unpaid debts.

Zimbabwe has battled with frequent power outages, which recently plunged
most parts of the country into darkness.


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South African groups resolve to pressure government on Zimbabwe



By Tererai Karimakwenda
29 February, 2008

A network of progressive South African organisations known as the Zimbabwe
Solidarity Forum (ZSF) organised a seminar in Johannesburg on Thursday aimed
at examining the present situation in Zimbabwe in light of the elections due
on March 29th. Among the groups participating were the South Africa Council
of Churches, the South Africa Communist Party, the Congress of South African
Trade Unions and several student and youth organisations.

Forum coordinator Sipho Theys said the idea was to look at the legitimacy of
the March elections in Zimbabwe in order to avoid a situation such as the
Kenya scenario, where disputed elections led to violence. Issues relating to
the SADC talks mediated by their President Thabo Mbeki were also discussed.
The groups acknowledged that the atmosphere in Zimbabwe remains intimidatory
and tense, just weeks before the elections. They expressed deep concern over
the lack of independent media and the failure by the Zimbabwe authorities to
implement legislation agreed to at the SADC talks.

Theys said despite comments made by their President Thabo Mbeki that all was
well in Zimbabwe as a result of the crisis talks he mediated, the Forum was
aware that the opposition parties were being harassed and could not campaign
freely in Zimbabwe. Their conclusion was that the environment on the ground
is not conducive to holding free and fair elections and opposition parties
should not participate.
As for actions that the Forum members can take to assist in the Zimbabwe
crisis, Theys said they resolved to put more pressure on the government of
South Africa to change its policies on Zimbabwe. They would do this by
arranging meetings with key government departments such as the Home Affairs
and Foreign Affairs departments. The Forum would also meet with officials
from South Africa's Human Rights Commission over the abuse of Zimbabweans in
South Africa.

Theys said it was agreed that more protest marches should be held at the
Zimbabwe Consulate in Johannesburg. "We need to make as much noise as
possible to make sure the elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair", he
added. The first of these protest marches has already been scheduled for
March 7th.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Another protest outside Zimbabwe embassy in South Africa



By Tichaona Sibanda
29 February 2008

Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, on Thursday
acknowledged receipt of a petition calling on the government to allow
Zimbabweans in the diaspora to vote in the forthcoming elections

Over 200 members of the Revolutionary Youth Movement of Zimbabwe
demonstrated outside the embassy in Pretoria where they handed over the
petition to South African police who acted as mediators. The police gave the
petition to officials inside the embassy.

The leader of the youths, Simon Mudekwa, told us Khaya-Moyo signed three
copies acknowledging receipt and promised to look into their dgrievances.
The petition called for the government to recognize the basic rights of
millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa and let them vote in the elections.

'There is a deadline for our demands and if they are not met we will storm
the embassy and take over. This time we are not going to back down, they
have trampled over our basic human rights for a long time,' Mudekwa said.

The 8th March has been set as the deadline for all demands to be met. The
RYM is currently mobilizing hundreds of its members to be on standby for the
8th if no word is received from the government.

Mudekwa said this was the first time they had managed to get the attention
of the ambassador and got him to sign for receipt of a petition. 'Lets hope
he will pass on the petition to his boss because we are waiting for an
answer,' Mudekwa added.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Wanted: a politician with degrees in people

New Zimbabwe

By Blessing-Miles Tendi
Last updated: 03/01/2008 04:47:19
"UNTIL philosophers [intellectuals] bear rule, states and individuals will
have no rest from evil," the Greek philosopher Plato once opined.

Plato believed that only the intellectually gifted - what he called
'philosopher-kings' or intellectual-politicians - were sufficiently rational
to run governments and that they were most aware of 'the good'.

Plato's conviction in fusing politics with intellect has been shared by some
in Zimbabwe over the years.

It was in 2000 that Professor Jonathan Moyo declared, "The distinction
between an intellectual and a politician is an unintelligent one.
Intellectuals and politicians go together because politics that is not
driven by intellectuals is not powerful."

In 2005, Robert Mugabe mocked Morgan Tsvangirai for not being an
intellectual-politician, noting that "although he has ambition, it is hollow
ambition which is not clothed in any greater understanding and intellectual
appreciation".

There is a sense among some of Zimbabwe's intellectual-politicians that they
are better suited to conducting national politics. Indeed, since 1980, some
of the key turning points in Zimbabwean politics have been dominated by the
involvement of so called intellectual-politicians.

Remember the late Dr Bernard Chidzero's championing of the ESAP agenda in
the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Recall Dr Edison Zvobgo's role, as Zanu PF's legal chief, in drafting many
of the amendments to the former Lancaster House constitution, which are
decried as undemocratic today.

Recall again Dr Zvobgo's efforts in reforming Zanu PF and the state through
the Constitutional Commission's Draft Constitution that was rejected in the
2000 referendum.

Remember Dr Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, the war veterans' leader during the
farm seizures and later a member of parliament for the Chikomba
constituency.

Recall Professor Jonathan Moyo as a combative and creative Information
Minister responsible for the powerful propaganda blitz that legitimised the
Third Chimurenga?

In the words of Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, another intellectual-politician,
Professor Moyo was "a very sharp, very bright intellectual good at rebutting
the arguments of the opposition and at articulating the party's policies".

Remember Dr Joseph Made and Dr Patrick Chinamasa as the relevant ministers
in charge of the decimation and corruption of Zimbabwe's agricultural sector
and justice system respectively?

Dr Ignatius Chombo, Dr Stanislaus Mudenge, Dr Samuel Mumbengegwi and Dr
Sydney Sekeramayi were or are hardly exemplary ministers in their respective
ministries either. And of course, we cannot forget Mugabe, the most eminent
intellectual-politician of all, with several university degrees and overlord
of the most catastrophic economic decline in recent memory.

In 2008, lo and behold, in the midst of widely felt disillusionment and
disgruntlement with the intellectual-politician Mugabe, up comes yet another
intellectual-politician, Dr Simba Makoni, with a grand ambition to
'facilitate' Zimbabwe's turnaround by helping Zimbabweans to help
themselves. And who has been the most prominent figure, in public at least,
thus far in Dr Makoni's campaign? Yes, you guessed it - another would be
intellectual-politician, Dr Ibbo Mandaza.

The record of intellectual-politicians in Zimbabwe is far from admirable.
Little surprise that the Morgan Tsvangirai MDC's treasurer, Roy Bennett, on
February 22, 2008, in a Short Wave Radio Africa broadcast, commented: "You
know there is something about these people with degrees. They come in from
the top and think that they can thrust leadership down to the grassroots
because they have got a degree. Let me tell you something.Morgan Tsvangirai,
[and] myself. we might not have degrees, but we have got degrees in
people .we stand for the people."

I do not endorse Bennett's comments entirely because Tsvangirai's record as
a democrat who respects party constitutions is hotly contested by members of
the Professor Arthur Mutambara MDC, which broke away from the Tsvangirai MDC
in 2005. Tsvangirai's handling of the Lucia Matibenga affair in 2007 also
raised serious questions about his leadership style.

What I do endorse is Bennett's scepticism of the intellectual-politician
class. Dr Makoni has attempted to cast himself as a former voice of reason
and conscience in Zanu PF, who eventually decided to run for the presidency
outside of Zanu PF. Dr Makoni wants to "return power to you, the people" and
"reclaim our country which is being destroyed by a minority", as he claimed
when campaigning on February 28. Despite Dr Makoni's passionate appeals to
the people, many - and rightly so - remain sceptical of him.

During the Third Chimurenga, while he was still the Editor in Chief of the
now defunct Mirror newspapers group and writing under the pen name 'The
Scrutator', Dr Mandaza argued that white farmers were not the "victims of
Mugabe's mad land reform" but that the real "mad land reform" had occurred
during the colonial period when whites seized most of the productive land
from blacks without compensation, and confined blacks to overcrowded and
barren land.

Dr Mandaza also contended that "those familiar with the Zimbabwean
situation, and indeed with the history of revolutions and transitions, know
confidently well that there could have been no resolution of the land
question - and the colonial question in general - without the kind of war
and turmoil that has accompanied the process so far".

Would-be intellectual-politicians such as Dr Mandaza would now have us
believe that they are committed reform-minded rational actors when not long
ago they used strategies of deflection to protect the land seizures from the
label 'mad land reform', and attempted to justify the violence, destruction
and deaths accompanying the fast track land reform as a fait accompli.

Plato's old faith in intellectual-politicians is dubious because one of the
most disconcerting aspects of Zimbabwe's recent political history is that
highly educated individuals have presided over the country's decline. They
have also legitimised state violence, persecution and a calculated assault
on our human rights.

In 2008, should we entrust our hopes for an authentically better Zimbabwe
with intellectual-politicians? Do they have 'degrees in people'?


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John Simpson's telephone interview with Simba Makoni

BBC

** Makoni wants to eradicate fear **
Zimbabwe presidential candidate Simba Makoni has called Zimbabwe "a country
of fear".
<
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/player/nol/newsid_7260000/newsid_7269800?redirect=7269831.stm&news=1&nbram=1&nbwm=1&bbram=1&bbwm=1&asb=1 >


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Once upon a time in Africa

The Times
March 1, 2008

Africa's traditional stories are dying out - one woman set out with her tape
recorder to try to capture them before it's too late

Lisa Grainger
There's a little corner of my African childhood home I remember the most
clearly. Like most properties on the outskirts of Salisbury, in the British
colony of Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), ours had servants' quarters: a
white, two-bedroom, iron-roofed cottage, where our nanny, Ida, and gardener,
Lazarus, lived. In front of their house was a fence that demarcated our
territories: our manicured suburban garden in which we tumbled about all
day, swinging on ropes, climbing trees, chasing dogs, collecting lizards,
insects, snakes. And, in the corner, their little bit of Africa.

There was nothing particularly unique about their patch - it was a wild
square of red earth, crawling in the pumpkins they cultivated, and rows of
maize, with lines of washing fluttering nearby - but it was my favourite
part of the garden. It was their private space (so forbidden), it was muddy,
and, most important of all, there was always a fire burning inside a ring of
stones on the earth: boiling up a soot-blackened enamel kettle or pot of
sadza (maize-meal porridge), and spewing smoke that made my skin and hair
smell of Africa.

It was here, when my mother was at work, that my brother and I got our first
African education. We learnt how to make a fire, to balance a bucket on our
heads with water for the kettle. And, most importantly, it is where we heard
our first African tales.

Stories have been told orally for centuries in Africa - not just as
entertainment and to pass away the evening hours in winter, when the crops
were harvested and times were good, or to perpetuate an historical event,
but as moral lessons to teach children right from wrong and good from bad.
There are hundreds of them all over the continent, telling of magic and
ogres, princes and talking animals, wicked spirits and mischievous
creatures, stories that have travelled with tribes as they wandered through
Africa. So, throughout my life, wherever I've been I've hunted them down: on
camping trips, safaris and, as a journalist, on stories all over the
continent.

The older I got, though, the more difficult it became to find them. They
were disappearing. Radios, and in some villages televisions, had started to
replace traditional gatherings. Western literature, and pictures of Janet
and John, rather than hyenas, elephants and lions, were becoming commonplace
in rural classrooms. Old women had to turn their energies to bringing up
Aids orphans, rather than sitting round fires telling stories. At one school
I visited in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, there was not a single eight-year-old child
who could remember a traditional story to tell me. Spurred on by African
friends, by old ladies who had dreamt of their stories being preserved, by
teachers who said they would love local publications for children to read,
by Shona historians at the University of Zimbabwe and by the Somalian model
Iman, who told me she had searched New York bookshops for traditional
African stories to read to her daughter, I decided to set off on a journey
to attempt to preserve them.
I am not the first person to attempt to do so. An afternoon in Harare's
archives - an extraordinary collection of colonial papers, books, and
photographs - unearthed documents written in the 1800s by missionaries,
describing "ungodly, Satanic myths". Aesop was inspired by them; Rudyard
Kipling adapted them. In South Africa's libraries, I discovered compendiums
written as early as 1929, gathered by early settlers, in Harare's near-empty
bookshops, I discovered a few single stories, but there were few, if any,
modern compendiums collected orally from villagers themselves.

That was my challenge. And in 2003, I set off to Africa.

I had no real plan, other than basing myself at my mother's house in Harare,
and certainly no idea how I was going to manage to find the stories, but
they slowly emerged, as I took packed local buses, hitched rides with
hunters on tiny planes, and got lifts in cars through Zimbabwe, Zambia,
Botswana and South Africa, and put word out, through anyone who would
listen, of what I was looking for. Once the bush telegraph started working,
all sorts of people emerged: men whose grandmothers were the village
storytellers, old peasant farmers who couldn't tell me how to spell their
names because they'd never been taught to read or write, Bushmen keen to
relate lurid sexual fables, a renowned local poet, teachers in rural
schools, farm workers.

Because almost everyone I met, it seemed, loved these stories and wanted
them to be preserved for future generations, I was greeted everywhere with
the greatest hospitality. Farmers in Zambia passed me round from farm to
farm. Game guides put me up in huts. Jack's Camp, in the Kalahari in
Botswana, gave me a tent and sent me out into Bushmen communities with one
of their trackers. A former Zambian headmaster in his eighties walked from
village to village with me, with his stick, introducing me to old women. I
didn't eat a single meal on my own.

Naturally, often when I arrived at a village, alone, I was treated with some
suspicion. It was my Dictaphone and cameras that opened doors. Once I'd
found someone who spoke English to translate for me, and let villagers hear
what I had already gathered on tape and see pictures of other storytellers,
there would be great enthusiasm. Most had never seen a tape recorder, so for
the first half hour or so, I'd encourage them to talk into it, then play
their own voices back. With often dozens of jostling children trying to get
the best view, I would show photographs on my camera, and take shots of
them, which they'd stare at, wide-eyed.

Then we could begin business. I would be sat down - usually round a fire on
a rock or wooden stool, surrounded by dozens of inquisitive children and
villagers - and for hours, be regaled with story after story, new
storytellers joining in and volunteering their tales. Often they would leap
about, scream, mimic animals, whistle and dance. Some would sing. Always,
though, they'd be listened to, with awe, as men, women and children stopped
everything to hear stories: of magic rivers, of talking crocodiles, of
thunderous gods in the sky, of wicked animals - and of morals, morals that
often would be repeated until everyone was clear what the lesson was.

Three months later, I had ten 120-minute audio tapes, and about 200 stories
in 20 different languages, in a box in my backpack. I had a digital camera
packed with portraits of storytellers. I had a laptop brimming with
translations from villagers who had helped me along the route, sitting with
me under trees listening to my tape recorder and, line by line, translating
the stories I had just been told into English, as I typed them on to my
laptop.

It was a magical, unforgettable three months, full of moments I will never
forget. Sitting under a full yellow moon round a fire on the sands of the
dry Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana, surrounded by Bushmen in loincloths.
Being hugged by lepers, who had lost their legs, fingers and their
confidence, and had regained so much pride at being asked to tell a story.
Lying under a star-filled sky with a 74-year-old woman who invited me to
sleep alongside her, by a fire. Being invited into shacks by
poverty-stricken Zimbabwean families whose possessions consisted of a few
torn blankets and utensils, and always being offered a seat and a cup of
water. And being told by a very thin, poor teenage girl, Maureen Chirembwe,
a born storyteller sitting on a pavement in a shanty town, that her dream
was to learn to write.
It was Maureen, really, who spurred me on to find a relevant African charity
to which to give the proceeds of the book. Having taken the stories from
villages, it didn't feel right to profit myself. And having grown up in
Zimbabwe, where schooling for girls is not a priority for poor families, it
seemed logical to try to benefit girls, who would otherwise have no chance
of being educated. All profits from the book are going to the charity
Camfed, which raises funds in the UK to pay for the schooling of girls in
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Ghana. Last June I visited a rural school in
Zimbabwe and met 56 girls whose entire education will be funded by the
charity. I also met two young women who are studying social sciences at
university, in order to help their own communities. None of them had seen a
book of traditional African stories, but remembered hearing them as
children. Each begged me for a copy, and every one said that, without
Camfed, they would not have been educated.

It's a strange feeling, seeing the book in print. When I started the
journey, the objective was personal: to try to keep alive the stories I
loved as a child. Today, Stories Gogo [Grandmother] Told Me has taken on
other meanings. When all we see on our televisions and newspapers are
negative stories about Africa - oppression in Zimbabwe, stolen elections in
Kenya, violence in South Africa, famine in Darfur - the book, I hope, will
give a glimpse of the richness of cultures and people there: the fun, the
imagination, the colour and the ancient traditions. It will, I hope, educate
children around the world about the strong link between man and animals. I
now know there are hundreds of girls across Africa who will benefit from
education if the book sells. A year of boarding school, with uniforms,
stationery and shoes, costs 100 per girl. As one girl put it to me: "We are
going to ask our headmaster to buy ten. Then my sister can come to school
too."

Iman, in the foreword to the book, describes African story-telling as
"mothering, creative nurturing". With any luck, its nurturing will be more
than just moral. It will be practical, too.
.............

Stories Gogo Told Me, published by Penguin South Africa, can be bought
through www.exclusivebooks.com (8, plus postage, with a delivery time of
two weeks). It will be published in the UK in July. For information on
Camfed, go to www.camfed.org

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