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3 million surplus ballot papers raise fears of vote rigging, says Zimbabwe opposition

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: March 23, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe: The opposition on Sunday accused Zimbabwe's authorities of
printing millions of surplus ballot papers, raising the risk of vote-rigging
in next week's presidential and legislative elections.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, said
leaked documents from the government's security printers showed 9 million
ballot papers were ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote on
Saturday.

Correspondence supplied from Fidelity Printers, producers of the nation's
bank notes, also showed 600,000 postal ballot papers were requisitioned for
a few thousand soldiers, police and civil servants away from their home
districts and for diplomats and their families abroad, he said.

"We are extremely worried about the extra ballot papers," he said.

At least 4 million Zimbabweans living abroad, mostly fugitives from the
nation's economic meltdown and political exiles, are not permitted to vote
by mail — itself a subject of dispute between the government and its
opponents.

Biti said there were fears President Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old ruler
since independence from Britain in 1980, already had victory "in the bag."
"The credibility gap will be so huge. If he steals the election he will get
a temporary reprieve but that will guarantee him a dishonorable if not
bloody exit. Either way he's in a no-win situation" and will likely be
forced out of office in coming weeks by the deepening economic crisis and
shortage of basic public services, Biti said.

Opposition groups have also protested over last-minute changes to voting
procedures allowing police a supervisory role inside polling stations.

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network said the police presence
intimidated voters and it was investigating proposed alterations to
vote-counting and verification arrangements at polling stations.

The head of the Electoral Commission, Judge George Chiweshe, has not yet
responded to the opposition allegations.

Biti, a lawmaker and senior attorney, said existing electoral laws were
being abused and African monitors had done little to reassure Mugabe's
opponents that accepted voting procedures were not being encroached upon by
the state.

Western nations have been barred from sending observer delegations by
Mugabe.

In campaigning so far, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, and former
finance minister and ruling party loyalist Simba Makoni, 57, reported a
groundswell of opinion blaming Mugabe for the acute shortages of food,
gasoline and most goods and the world's highest official inflation rate of
100,500 percent.

Women at a meeting Saturday of the Feminist Political Education Project
reported a 4,000-percent increase in the price of life-giving HIV/AIDS drugs
from 30 million Zimbabwe dollars in January to 1.3 billion Zimbabwe dollars
(about US$40 or €26 at the dominant black market exchange rate) for a
month's course of medication.

More than 20 percent of adults — about 2 million people — in Zimbabwe are
estimated to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS, one of the highest
infection rates in the world. About 50,000 people receive free or
state-subsidized anti-retroviral drugs.

Those who abruptly stop their medication are likely to die within six months
and even if treatment is resumed later it is unlikely to be effective,
doctors say.

At least 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of US$1
(65 euro cents) a day.

"This election is about survival. For women, it's about empty stomachs and
health and education that we are not getting for our families," said
Elizabeth Chaibvu, a member of the women's project.

The often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms
ordered by Mugabe in 2000 disrupted the once-thriving agriculture-based
economy, causing seven years of economic and political turmoil and violence.

Everjoice Win, a leading women's activist, said the nation's mothers, and
women generally, demanded "a process of healing" from the elections.

"Somebody has to be held to account, even if they don't go to The Hague,"
the international human rights court, she said.

"We need a platform to talk about what has happened to us, particularly
those women who have ended up infected by HIV as a result of the violence
that has been meted out," Win said.


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Tsvangirai tells mass rally to "defend" their vote against rigging"

Monsters and Critics

Mar 23, 2008, 16:35 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai upstaged President
Robert Mugabe Sunday by attracting around 30,000 exultant supporters to a
major rally in Harare during his campaign for national elections next
Saturday.

The well-behaved crowd, waving shiny plastic red cards to signify
84-year-old Mugabe's 'send off' after 28 years of violent, autocratic rule,
responded deafeningly to Tsvangirai's chant, 'chinja!', Shona language for
'change.'

The 56-year-old former, national labour leader also warned his supporters
that Mugabe's regime would use 'every trick in the book' to rig the
presidential, parliamentary and local council elections on March 29. He
urged them to stay at polling stations after they had cast their ballots
'and defend your vote' against attempts at rigging.

Tsvangirai, head of the larger faction of the divided opposition Movement
for Democratic Change, is running against Mugabe in the presidential vote,
as well as against Simba Makoni, Mugabe's former finance minister who
stunned the ruling ZANU(PF) in early February by announcing his challenge
for the presidency.

Analysts say Tsvangirai has capitalised on an unexpected surge in support
not just in urban areas, his traditional support base, but also in poor and
underdeveloped rural areas that ZANU (PF) has dominated absolutely since
independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mugabe is severely undermined by the country's collapse, with inflation in
January at 100,000 per cent and critical shortages of basic commodities -
including cash - while ZANU(PF) is also seen as fracturing over
disillusionment over Mugabe.

Zimbabweans were 'going to witness the last gasp of the dictatorship,'
Tsvangirai said. 'We are going to vote in our millions.' But, he warned, 'we
expect the enemies of justice to engage every trick in the book ... to
subvert the will of the people.

'They will be late to unlock the gate (of the polling stations), they will
be without power, and they will have trouble with the toilet and the
ballots. They will be confused by the voters roll. They will try to put on
an act of trying to run an election.

'On election day, go there as early as you can to cast your vote,' he said,'
he said. 'When you vote, we will stay at place, to celebrate, to defend our
vote. Stay behind. The only support we have is the defence of our vote.
Whatever you do, we are holding your (Mugabe's) tail down and this time you
are not going anywhere.'

Analysts say that the tactic of staying at the polling station is a bid to
prevent Mugabe's government from disrupting voting particularly in rural
areas where electoral authorities have provided far too few polling stations
for the large number of voters.

In the last presidential elections in 2002, when insufficient polling
stations were first set up, long queues formed as officials were overwhelmed
by the numbers. On the last day of voting, police teargassed and baton
charged waiting voters. The move is estimated to have lost the MDC about
300,000 in an election in which Mugabe was declared the winner by 400,000
votes.

Election watchdog agencies have also reported severe irregularities with the
voters' roll, with many thousands of dead people still registered and some
people registered several times.

Mugabe is also still carrying out what the agencies say is deliberate vote
buying by the government, and delivering millions of US dollars - illegally
seized from private funds - worth agricultural equipment, while state media
campaign relentlessly for Mugabe and ZPF thereby violating laws prescribing
equal coverage.

Independent observers say Mugabe's victories in the last three elections are
the result of violent intimidation, laws severely skewed in Mugabe's favour
and outright cheating.

'The greatest weapon this regime has is fear and intimidation,' Tsvangirai
said. 'We are beyond fear now.'


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Mugabe Criticized for Vote Buying

OhMyNews

Doctors given new luxury cars as allowances only a week before
elections

Pindai Dube

†††† Published 2008-03-24 03:10 (KST)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has given the country's doctors 400 new
luxury cars as allowances only a week before the country's hotly contested
presidential election.

Zimbabwe's civil servants, which include teachers, nurses and doctors, had
been on strike for the past month demanding salary increases and other
better allowances after the government only gave salary increases to the
army.

Speaking at his fist rally in the country's second capital of Bulawayo in
northern Zimbabwe, Mugabe, who is the ruling party's (ZANU-PF's)
presidential candidate for the March 29 presidential elections, said the
government has acquired 400 new luxury cars for government doctors. His
announcement came only two weeks after he had awarded 1,000% salary
increases to all civil servants, which his opponents criticized as vote
buying.

"After we gave all civil servants hefty salary increases recently, as the
government we decided that we should also give doctors cars they were asking
for as allowances. So we have acquired 400 new luxury cars which will be
shared among the country's government doctors," said Mugabe at the rally,
which was attended by about 2,000 of his supporters.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years, is facing a stiff challenge
from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai, and from his former finance minister, Simba Makoni, who is
running as an independent.

Mugabe also declared at the same rally that nobody from any opposition party
in the country would rule Zimbabwe as long as he was still alive. He accused
the opposition parties of being sponsored by Zimbabwe's former colonial
government Britain.

"Nobody from the opposition will ever rule this country as long as I am
still alive because I liberated this country from Britain in 1980," said the
84-year-old leader.

Mugabe also rejected the blame for the daily hardships in a country marked
by the world's highest rate of inflation -- pegged at 150,000% -- and by
high unemployment and food and foreign currency shortages.

He says the Western powers working with the opposition have sabotaged the
economy in retaliation for his seizing of white-owned commercial farms on
which to resettle landless blacks.


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Mugabe in spending spree to win votes

Financial Times

By Tony Hawkins in Harare

Published: March 23 2008 17:22 | Last updated: March 23 2008 17:22

The Zimbabwe government under President Robert Mugabe has embarked on a
borrowing and spending spree ahead of Saturday’s presidential and
parliamentary elections.

In the six weeks to March 7, government debt increased 65-fold from
Z$25,000bn to Z$1,600,000bn (£26bn, US$53bn, €34bn), according to official
figures.

While the increase in government expenditure is exaggerated by inflation,
running at a rate of at least 150 per cent a month, the surge in borrowing –
more than half of it by overdraft from the central bank – can be considered
a direct measure of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s desperation to secure Mr
Mugabe’s re-election.
Central bank officials say that Z$166,000bn was spent to increase salaries
of public servants, especially teachers and security force personnel.

Another Z$500,000bn went on buying farm equipment, according to central bank
officials. There have been reports that Zanu-PF is also distributing
industrial and commercial machinery.

The spending is intended to counter what opposition parties say is a big
swing against Mr Mugabe in the countryside, traditionally the bedrock of his
support.

Election observers from the Southern African Development Community have
rejected suggestions that the electoral process is unfair.


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Lies, empty promises, and kids with guns

Sokwanele

Zimbabwean kids at war

All election talk in Zimbabwe revolves around rigging: a certainty that Mugabe has rigged and is doing his best to rig the elections; what tricks has he up his sleeve this time; what has he said to SADC to persuade them to look past the fraud; can we hope the police and army and teachers etc in the polling stations will blow the whistle and reveal the truth?

Step outside the bizarre world we live in and it strikes me as incredible to be facing elections and this is all we talk about. But what else would it be?

How can anyone in the world possibly imagine that a party that has destroyed the economy, destroyed schooling, destroyed health care, created massive hyper-inflation and unemployment, and driven its population to look for a better life in other countries ever - EVER - stand a chance at winning elections in a free and fair competition. Do those who think the elections are fair in this country also think the Zimbabwean people are the most stupid in the world?

Of course we don’t want this. Of course we don’t vote for it!

It has been rigged, is always rigged, is in the process of being rigged and is going to be rigged again.

I saw this picture today and it struck me as one that sums up the Zanu PF promise for our future. There is no promise of a better life. In fact, Zanu don’t even try anymore to promise us a truely better life: its just hot air and threats of violence and retribution if we don’t toe the line. They campaign on a memory of a violent past that will be lived and re-lived over and over and over again.

Forget the bright future, this image says to me; stick with us and we can all dwell in history for eternity. Your kids may be hungry and ill-educated and sick, but we’ll give them wooden guns to march before an aging despot who you will adore for no other reason except he demands it - and if you don’t adore him, he’ll get you bashed.

The one thing I know is that Zimbabweans are tired, so tired, of struggling to get through to the next day.

We want to move on and have a normal life. We know what happened in the past, but it’s the future we’re concerned with now.

The caption that accompanied this image on Yahoo News reads: Schoolchildren armed with makeshift guns perform war tactics in front of President Robert Mugabe at a rally in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe, Friday, March 14, 2008. Mugabe addressed the rally about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Harare and called for people to vote for him in the upcoming presidential elections set for March, 29.


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Mugabe takes campaign to opposition stronghold

Yahoo News

by Susan Njanji

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (AFP) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe dismissed talk
Sunday of splits within his party as he made his first campaign appearance
in an opposition stronghold before elections next weekend.

Hundreds of flag-waving supporters thronged the central Stanley Square in
Bulawayo to back the veteran ruler who is generally regarded with suspicion
by residents of Zimbabwe's main southern city following widespread bloodshed
in the region in the 1980s.
The 84-year-old used the rally to denounce former finance minister and
presidential hopeful Simba Makoni, ridiculing suggestions that his candidacy
highlighted divisions within the ruling Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

"I say you are cheating yourselves," said Mugabe at the rally.

"The people have refused to be split. Today we have a job to do, to defend
our birthright."

"We would want to see Bulawayo back to active political life. This is a city
of heroes and heroes are known never to retreat."

Party youth brandished placards and banners around the venue of Mugabe's
first rally in Bulawayo, which is dominated by the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

"Vote R G Mugabe for principled, consistent, fearless leadership," read one
poster with a picture of Mugabe with a raised fist -- the symbol of ZANU-PF.

"The land reforms will not be reopened", another poster said, referring to
to Mugabe's controversial seizures of white-owned farms.

Mugabe vowed that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would never rule Zimbabwe.

"It will never happen. Never, ever. For those who vote for him, it's a
wasted vote."

Four trucks were parked at the venue loaded with bags of the staple cornmeal
which was to be given to ruling party supporters at the rally.

An elderly woman wearing a ZANU-PF campaign t-shirt said when asked who she
was going to vote for: "I will vote Tsvangirai. Everyone is saying he is a
better leader. We were given these t-shirts by people from ZANU-PF who said
we should attend the rally."

Mugabe acknowledged that the people of Bulawayo were facing many
difficulties, including erratic power supplies and promised to improve their
situation.

Zimbabweans go to the polls to elect a president, lawmakers and councillors
on Saturday with Mugabe running against Makoni and Tsvangirai.

The elections are taking place against a backdrop of economic crisis with
inflation hovering over 100,000 percent, according to official figures, and
basic foodstuffs such as cornmeal and cooking oil in short supply.

At a rally in Harare on Sunday, Tsvangirai predicted victory over Mugabe, in
power since independence in 1980.

"On Saturday the 29th of March the year 2008, the people of Zimbabwe will
win a great victory," he told thousands of supporters at a stadium on the
outskirts of the capital.

"We will witness the last gasp of the dictatorship come the 29th of March.
And in April, you will inaugurate a new president. That president is a
president who is a people's president," he said.

"That president will not take away your rights. He will not order attacks on
his opponents. That president will not promote hate among Zimbabweans. We
have walked a long walk towards a new Zimbabwe."

"The people of Zimbabwe will rise as one," he added. "We are going to make
one statement to ZANU-PF and its oligarchy. We will stand for food, jobs and
freedom."


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Zimbabwe bars South African TV station from polls

Yahoo News

Sun Mar 23, 7:07 AM ET

HARARE (AFP) - The Zimbabwean government has banned South African private
television station e-tv from covering next Saturday's general elections,
state media said on Sunday.

The Sunday Mail said that e-tv, South Africa's only commercial terrestrial
station, had not been accredited for the joint parliamentary and
presidential polls as it had previously breached media and security laws in
a report on diamond smuggling last year.

The station's Zimbabwe-born reporter was fined by a court at the time for
operating with authorisation.

However, the government has cleared the public broadcaster South African
Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to cover the elections.

Meanwhile, secretary for information George Charamba meanwhile said the
government was considering requests by international news organisations to
beef up staff numbers ahead of the elections.

"The committee also took a sympathetic view to requests for more support
staff by international news organisations already accredited to Zimbabwe,"
Charamba told the paper.

"It is emphasised that such support staff would have to come under bureau
chiefs of those organisations who will be held fully accountable for the
conduct of any such news personnel."

Last week, Charamba said the southern African country will closely screen
foreign media intending to cover the elections amid suspicions uninvited
observers and security personnel might impersonate western reporters.

International organisations already working in Zimbabwe include Agence
France-Presse (AFP), the Associated Press (AP), Reuters and al-Jazeera.

Following the passing of the media law in 2002, several foreign
correspondents have been thrown out of the country and journalists from the
independent press arrested and detained.

A jail sentence of up to two years is imposed to any journalist operating in
Zimbabwe without accreditation.


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High price of Zim poker game

IOL

††††††Hans Pienaar
††††March 23 2008 at 12:08PM

Cocksure, that was the word that sprang to my mind. Even though the
farmers in the hall were discussing ostriches.

This was in April 2000, in the initial stages of President Robert
Mugabe's infamous land grabs. The venue was the sports club in Centenary.

The police addressed them, trying to explain why farmers should not
take maize thieves to court. All seemed hunky-dory, the fuel shortage being
the closest to any crisis discussed.

When I expressed my puzzlement during the tea break, since the land
occupations were spreading by the day, a farmer pointed to a surly black
woman whom I had not noticed. CIO, he said, Central Intelligence
Organisation.

Had she not been there, everybody would have been hopping on their
seats. Land occupations were all they wanted to talk about, he whispered.

So it was all an act. The farmers just pretended to be so cocksure.

I recalled this scene last week while listening to Heidi Holland speak
about her new book, Dinner with Mugabe, in which she has three psychologists
examine Mugabe's life and actions.

What was the psychology behind the breath-taking destruction, within
less than a decade, of a flourishing country?

The answer seemed simple: a damaged ego. But I would take it one step
further. It wasn't just Mugabe's inflated self-image, it also had a lot to
do with the collective ego of the white Zimbabwean farmer.

It was a huge stand-off between two forces in a political poker game
that went on too long.

Holland fleshes out with provocative new details the picture of a
tyrant who had an implacable belief in his own extraordinariness.

He has no conception of himself doing wrong, and believes no sacrifice
is too big for the sake of his principles, she said at a book launch.

The land grabs take up a large part of the story. And Holland's
interviews with main players such as Denis Norman, Ian Smith and Mugabe
confidantes point to the complacency, bordering on arrogance, of the white
farmers as a key factor.

In the first years after independence, Zanu-PF and white farmers were
getting on swimmingly. Many of them had surreptitiously aided the guerrillas
when they still fought against Ian Smith's army. Cabinet ministers were
frequent guests at their bundu bashes.

Denis Norman, Mugabe's trusted agriculture minister but eventually
also a land grab victim, tells how Mugabe saw agriculture, led by the white
farmers, as the basis for development in general. So in 1985, he was shocked
when whites voted for the political dinosaur Ian Smith in all 20 reserved
seats in parliament.

Writes Holland: ".they conveyed to him their decision to stick with
their own kind - not because Mugabe had failed to do a good job but because
he was black."

This, she believes, is where the Zimbabwe tragedy started.

Mugabe fired Norman in response. "You go your own white way and we
will go ours," he was telling the white community.

Mugabe's hurt was compounded by the fact that he himself was so
British. "In adopting Rhodesia's laws and institutions virtually intact, he
seems to have been intent on recreating a colonial picture from the very
beginning."

Mugabe's lonely childhood - when his best friends, to the irritation
of his chimurenga comrades, were his English books - shaped this
contradictory relationship with Britain.

The empire was his father figure. His battle with his inner Briton
reminds one of another black Englishman, Thabo Mbeki.

So the desertion by white voters cut to the quick.

After 10 years in power Mugabe began to feel beleaguered by a new
generation of leaders wanting their time in the sun, but also by the
overwhelm-ming popularity of Nelson Mandela. The high standards of
governance in the first 10 years began to slip, and his failings as a
lonely, anti-social personality began to turn him into a fragile,
distrustful leader.

And then came the second betrayal, the farmers' backing the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change.

So when the land grabs started, it seemed like just another game for
the farmers, one of bluff ending in each other's common interests being
reaffirmed.

When they realised there was a real-life contest happening, that land
was really being taken away and white farmers were being murdered, it was
too late.

They offered two million hectares to new black farmers, but by that
time Mugabe's ego, puffed up to enormous proportions, had gotten the better
of him.

War veterans, farmers and diplomats became pawns in a whole new game
of global proportions.

He was taking on the mighty Britain, and exposing its hypocrisy, which
is what makes him so popular among African, and, indeed, many Third World
leaders.

Holland writes that it was for the eyes of the British that Mugabe
persevered with his land occupations.

The white farmers did not count any more. It was a dialogue between
him and Britain.

The ultimate betrayal was, paradoxically, when father figure Britain
caved in and offered Mugabe £43 million to finance land reform and stop the
grabs. Mugabe rejected it. It would have halted the game, and called his
ultimate bluff: that he would succumb to reason in the end.

Mugabe now hated the Britishness in himself too much to do that. He
would rather sacrifice his own country, to make his point, he conceded to
Holland.

This article was originally published on page 13 of Cape Argus on
March 23, 2008


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No question

www.cathybuckle.com

Easter Sunday - 23rd March 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
When Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF came to power in April 1980, inflation in the
newly named Zimbabwe was 7%.

Twenty years later, Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF were still in power and in June
2000 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Farm invasions had
been underway for nearly four months and inflation was at 59,3%. A standard
loaf of bread cost sixteen dollars, a single banana was four dollars and a
dozen eggs were thirty five dollars. Zanu PF retained power in the
elections.

In March 2002 Presidential elections were held in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe was
again the candidate for the ruling party and had just turned 78. Farm
invasions were continuing, companies and businesses had been invaded and
inflation was 113%. Maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and margarine were not
available in shops and a dozen eggs cost a hundred and fifty dollars. Mr
Mugabe was declared the winner of the elections.

In April 2005 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Zanu PF and
Mr Mugabe had been in power for 25 years, factories were closing or
relocating to other countries. Most commercial farms had been taken over and
inflation was at 129%. Daily electricity cuts of 2-4 hours were commonplace,
fuel queues stretched to many hundreds of vehicles and the shops were bare
of sugar, salt, margarine and other basics. A loaf of bread cost four
thousand dollars and a single banana was one thousand dollars. Zanu PF were
declared the winners of the election.

In November 2005 elections were held for the previously disbanded Senate.
Inflation in the country was at 502% and a loaf of bread cost twenty
thousand dollars.

On the 29th of March 2008 Zimbabwe will hold combined Parliamentary,
Presidential, Senate and Municipal elections. Mr Mugabe is 84 years old and
is again standing as the head of the party. Zanu PF have been in power 28
years. Inflation stands at over 100 thousand percent. Electricity cuts last
for 16 hours a day at least, water is rare, fuel only obtainable to people
with US dollars. Shops are empty of all goods. A loaf of bread costs 7
million dollars (actually 7 billion dollars as three zeroes were removed
from the currency.) A dozen eggs costs 36 million dollars (actually 36
billion dollars) and a single banana is 3 million (actually 3 billion
dollars).

There is no question who to vote for in a few days time. We must vote for
ourselves, our children and our physical survival.The time is now, the power
is in our hands.
Until next time, love cathy.


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Let the world pray for Zimbabwe

Sokwanele

The streets of Bulawayo are ominously quiet. The factories and shops are
closed till after Easter and there are many factories which may not open at
all, ever again, unless the economy here takes a major upturn.

The city is plastered with posters, MDC, Simba and Mugabe. The competition
for space is fierce and no sooner a poster is put up then someone else tries
to rip it down. Driving into the rural areas, Bob's posters are by and large
covered in cow shit! A small measure of resistance that makes people feel
good for a moment.

Sadness is the overwhelming emotion. Sadness at what could have been. So
many have fallen victim to the mad dictator. The four year old child we
buried recently who died of dehydration because the hospital had no drips.
She was an orphan so there was no family to run around and buy the
critically needed fluid from a private chemist. The hospital did not even
bother to contact the orphanage who may have tried to help.

Then the man who was shot last week by armed robbers, waiting for him when
he got home. The masked men shot him then went on to commit another robbery
down the road. These criminals act from a stance of arrogant impunity as
they know the police have no resources to even get to the crime scene, no
fuel, no direction, no will.

Teachers are angry and desperate. They were promised massive increases in
salaries and so ended their long strike. Schools closed on Wednesday for a
six week break, to make way for elections. They got their pay slips on
Wednesday to discover they had received even less than last month. How does
someone live on 372 million dollars when a packet of milk and loaf of bread
cost 27 million, an e.t. (taxi) 10 million and so the list goes on.

The excitement that followed Simba Makoni's entry into the race has passed;
now all everyone wants is for the next ten days to be over.

Mugabe has achieved his dream - total control, at whatever cost.

But, the depth of sadness all around us is tinged with hope, just a slight
showing its colour. No one wants to hope too much, for to have hope is to
open yourself to disappointment. Everyone knows Mugabe is going to rig the
results, but can he cope with a massive turnout of voters? Will his own
henchmen in the CIO work against him (as rumour has it)? Will the police
finally wake up to the endless abuse they have endured? Will ordinary
Zimbabweans accept another rigged result? The suspense is killing and only
time will tell.

Let the world pray for Zimbabwe.

†This entry was written by Still Here on Sunday, March 23rd, 2008


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Mugabe denies rift in Zanu-PF

SABC

March 23, 2008, 19:45

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has rejected claims that the ruling
Zanu-PF has been split in two. He was reacting to reports suggesting that
the ruling party has lost support as a result of former Finance Minister
Simba Makoni's decision to run in next weekend's presidential polls.

Mugabe was addressing supporters at a rally in the Bulawayo township of
Makokoba. About 5 000 Zanu-PF supporters attended the rally.

The area in the southwest of Zimbabwe is an opposition stronghold. Mugabe
told supporters that the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, does not stand a chance to win presidential
elections.

Economic turmoil
Zimbabweans say the upcoming elections are simply about bread and butter
issues. Many are battling to survive the economic turmoil facing the
country. The inflation rate continues to sky rocket, making basic
commodities like bread, flour and cooking oil scarce and too expensive.

Residents in Sakugva, Mutare's oldest suburb, are still reeling from a
government campaign to rid the area of shacks. Families of up to eight are
now forced to share a single room. They see Tsvangirai as the only man to
end their hardships.

The people are pinning all their hopes on Saturday's poll. They hope it will
be the beginning of a new Zimbabwe.

MDC predicts poll chaos
Tsvangirai says Mugabe's government will prove that it's confused, arrogant
and worthless by conducting a chaotic election March 29.

The opposition accused Zimbabwe's authorities of printing millions of
surplus ballot papers, raising the risk of vote-rigging in next week's
presidential and legislative elections.

Tsvangirai is up against an entrenched Zanu-PF leader, and a new, untested
independent candidate.


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MDC announces five-point plan to heal Zimbabwe

SABC

March 23, 2008, 18:15

Antoinette Lazarus, Harare
Zimbabwe main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has told thousands of
supporters at an election rally in Harare that the Movement for Democratic
Movement (MDC) has a five-point plan to restore the country to its former
glory.

Tsvangirai and the other two presidential candidates, current President
Robert Mugabe and former Finance Minister Simba Makoni, are wrapping up
their election campaigns ahead of next Saturday's presidential,
parliamentary and local polls.

The MDC leader told the gathering that he has the solution to Zimbabwe's
problems. He says there is a need for an accountable leader in Zimbabwe.

The MDC also wants a division of power so that the people's problems are
dealt with at regional levels. Tsvangirai added that there is a need to
protect the integrity of national institution.

He promised that within two years, there will be a people-driven
Constitution in place.

Tsvangirai says he plans to convene a conference to discuss the
implementation of a reconstruction and development programme that deals with
the country's economic, unemployment, health, education and land reform
issues.


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Tsvangirai confident of victory in Saturday's poll

SABC

March 23, 2008, 20:15

Antoinette Lazarus, Harare
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has promised
to restore dignity in Zimbabwe. Addressing thousand of supporters at an
election rally in Harare, Tsvangirai said that he had the solution to
Zimbabwe's problems. He said he will deliver a victory for the country.

Tsvangirai affirmed that in winning the March 29, 2008 election the MDC will
introduce a five point plan to rebuild Zimbabwe.

"There are five key outlines for a MDC government," says Tsvangirai. "We
need to change and transform the political culture in the country so that we
have a leadership that's accountable to the people".

The MDC leader adds: "We will protect the integrity of national
institutions. We want the devolution of power to deal with issues at
regional level". He promises that within two years they'll have a
people-driven constitution in place. It will be written for Zimbabweans by
Zimbabweans.

Tsvangirai says the economy is a national disaster, so they will convene a
conference to discuss the implementation of a reconstruction and development
programme.

He also plans to put in place a new currency within six months if he wins
the election. In addition, he wants to create favourable conditions for
foreign and local direct investments.

Issues such as unemployment, health care and medical supplies, education and
land reform are also some of the issues he has promised to correct once in
power. "We will stand together for food, jobs, justice and freedom. We will
stand as one for a new Zimbabwe," says Tsvangirai.

MDC supporters urged to vote
The MDC leader has urged his supporters to vote on Saturday. "I expect you
to go there as early as you can to cast your vote," he said.

He has also called on supporters not to leave polling stations after casting
their ballots. "Do not leave the voting stations. It's a defense of our
vote. No matter how long it takes or how hard it is, we must stand together
on election day".

A confident Tsvangirai adds, "On 29 March 2008, the people of Zimbabwe will
win a great victory. In April you'll inaugurate a president - that president
is a president who is a people's president. He will not take away your
rights and will not promote hate. Instead, he will promote love and
prosperity among Zimbabweans."
Taking a swipe at President Robert Mugabe's regime, Tsvangirai said its
greatest weapon is fear. "We are beyond fear. Do not be afraid because the
regime is on its way out." Meanwhile, the rally went on peacefully without
any incidents. A group of SADC and Pan-African Parliament election observers
monitored the proceedings.


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Mountains of Zim dollars, but no wallets

From The Sunday Tribune (SA), 23 March

Agiza Hlongwane

Like most Zimbabweans, the last time taxi driver More Taruvinga owned a
wallet was in 2002. "It was brown and made out of leather. My father gave it
to me," he says, while negotiating the old, red tshova - as minibus taxis
are known in these parts - out of Bulawayo. It was around that time, too,
that Taruvinga, 27, last heard of a bank robbery or cash-in-transit heist in
the city. Once the currency of a thriving economy, Zimbabwe's dollar -
estimated at more than 45 million to the US dollar - has become so
insignificant that most people don't even bother to pick up certain bank
notes on the floor, let alone rob each other. And the load of paper is too
much for any wallet. Taruvinga is clearly a people's man, and especially
popular with the ladies, who greet him as they walk past. He says although
he used to be a "player", he has "only" two girlfriends now. His father is a
polygamist. These days, Taruvinga's pockets are always bulging with cash -
not that the wads of mita (millions) and bhidza (billions) he's carrying
translate to much, though. The money can hardly cover a few basic needs. In
fact, the last time Taruvinga had his favourite meal of fried chicken and
Coke was three months ago.

As the rickety tshova makes its way into the dusty, pothole-ridden roads, it
is anyone's guess whether the destination will be reached. Not only do the
holes on the floorboard expose the ground beneath, but some of the tshova's
lights are broken, tyres are smooth, the dashboard is cracked, and the
handbrake lever is held together by a wire. Each time we stop to pick up or
drop off a passenger, the engine threatens to stall. In fact, were it in
South Africa, it would probably qualify for the Department of Transport's
demolition programme aimed at removing old taxis from the roads. Derelict
and dangerous the tshova may be, it is not short on humour, as borne out by
stickers with messages such as "Do not steal, Govt hates competition".
Inside, conductor Nqobizitha Moyo, 19, is collecting the fare and dispensing
change. The 10km trip to Mahatshula costs each of the 18 passengers Z$15
million. Each single trip brings in Z$270 million, but then each litre of
petrol costs Z$48 million on the black market - the only place where it's
available. He can only refuel for five litres (Z$240), at intervals of four
trips. Compared to Durban's speedy, reckless taxi drivers, Taruvinga is a
pedestrian. He says driving slowly, the flat terrain, help him save fuel.

While processing the transactions can be a tedious affair, for conductor
Moyo it has become second nature. "I used to struggle with the arithmetic
and counting the money, but not anymore," he says. He hands over the money
to Taruvinga. The smaller notes, in denominations of Z$750 000 million, 500
000 and 200 000, go to his left pocket, while the rest - the more
"respectable" Z$10 000 000 - are kept in his right pocket. Refuelling also
helps decrease the load of currency, he says. Otherwise, given that there
are 20 people in the tshova at any given time, they would run out of space
to keep the money. Taruvinga, the father of a 4-year-old boy, lives in
Ntumbane, about 7km from Bulawayo. "There is not a single parent there whose
child in not in South Africa," he says. In 2002, he earned Z$250 as a
merchandiser at a Spar in Bellview. "I could buy groceries for my family,
and still be left with some money for myself." But as a mutshova, he makes
more than Z$1billion for the taxi owner, earning himself 15% of the weekly
takings. "It works out to about Z$800 million. That only gives me 10kg
sugar, 10kg mielie-meal and maybe some soap." He says his biggest dream is
for the situation in his country to return to normal. But until then, he has
set his sights elsewhere. Having just obtained an international driver's
licence, he says once he has raised enough rands to arrange the paperwork,
he will join an estimated three million compatriots who have found a home in
South Africa.

Halfway towards Mahatshula, the tshova is stopped by a police roadblock.
Fortunately for Taruvinga, it is the same policeman who had earlier issued
him a Z$100 000 000 ticket - not because the vehicle is hardly roadworthy or
overloaded, but because Taruvinga did not issue receipts to his passengers.
"He didn't even have to inspect the vehicle. By the time I got to him, he
already had the ticket. That is how they work here." Later, the tshova
abruptly grinds to a halt. Taruvinga's repeated attempts to crank up the
engine fail. It needs fuel, but he is in denial. "This petrol should be able
to cover four trips, but I've only done two."


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Pius Ncube - Silenced

From The Sunday herald (UK), 23 March

The winner of Scotland's Burns Humanitarian Award, Archbishop Pius Ncube was
Zimbabwe's most eloquent spokesman for human rights and Robert Mugabe's most
powerful opponent ... until a sex scandal tarnished his reputation. In an
exclusive interview, Ncube for the first time admits his 'human weakness'
and we reveal how the Vatican insisted he give up his battle for democracy.

From Fred Bridgland In Johannesburg

In advance of Zimbabwe's presidential election, the Vatican has silenced
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, for long the most outspoken critic of
President Robert Mugabe - whose autocratic rule seems certain to be extended
in the controversial poll next weekend. The Vatican summoned Ncube -
recipient of Scotland's Robert Burns International Humanitarian Award and
widely tipped as a future Nobel Peace Prize winner - following allegations
he had an affair with a married parishioner. Sources in Rome close to the
Holy See said Ncube has been ordered to stop speaking out about conditions
in his devastated country, which has the world's lowest life expectancy and
highest inflation rate. The Vatican requires an explanation from Ncube
concerning allegations by Mugabe that the archbishop broke his vow of
celibacy. Ncube was felled by the adultery scandal after Zimbabwe's
state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, last year published
compromising photos - apparently taken by cameras planted by security agents
in the ceiling of the Bulawayo cleric's bedroom - said to depict him having
sex with the married woman. Ncube has since stepped down from his
archbishopric. His lawyers also ordered him to remain silent when the
allegations were made.

But in a final interview, obtained secretly in Zimbabwe and passed to the
Sunday Herald just before he boarded his plane for Rome, Ncube exclusively
admitted his adultery to Frontier Africa TV - an independent film production
company with which this newspaper has an association. Ncube also apologised
and spoke out fiercely against Mugabe ahead of the impending vote. "It is
true, I do admit that I did fail in keeping God's commandment with regard to
adultery," he said in the filmed interview. "Having failed in keeping the
Seventh Commandment Thou shalt not commit adultery, I would like to
apologise to you, I'd like to apologise that so many of you were praying for
me, for the fact that so many of you standing with me in fact suffered so
much." The apology by the 60-year-old archbishop, who is shown near to tears
with his features swollen, was directed to the people of Zimbabwe, where the
majority of Christians are Catholics. Ncube's criticisms of Mugabe's rule,
which were quashed by both Mugabe and the Vatican, will sound one final time
as Zimbabweans prepare to go to the polls. But Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF
will almost certainly seize on the archbishop's admission in the coming days
for their own political reasons.

Ncube said: "I became outspoken because I got extremely hurt and broken by
the way the Zimbabwean government has been treating people - treating them
like things, killing them, depriving them of food, depriving them of voting
rights, destroying their houses, harassing them, imprisoning them, torturing
them, killing the economy," said Ncube. "I'm not going to be silenced. I
don't mind so much what people do to me personally, but what I do mind is
the damage and evil to the people coming from the government of Zimbabwe.
I've never desired to be a politician. I only began speaking up when human
rights were abused. Mugabe is a megalomaniac. There is this big zest in him
for power. He has committed crimes against humanity and it could land him in
an unpleasant situation. He could find himself jailed." The Sunday Herald
put seven questions to the Vatican about Ncube, including one concerning
decisions about his future role in the Church and another on whether it was
right to silence him given the importance of his voice in opposing human
rights violations in Zimbabwe. We also asked: "Where is Ncube now?" Father
Ciro Benedettini, the deputy Vatican spokesman, replied: "I can't make any
comment on the subject at the moment." He said he had no current information
on Ncube and that it would be difficult for him to obtain any as his office
was short-staffed because of the Easter celebrations. Benedettini said
Ncube's disappearance from the political scene in Zimbabwe could simply be
the application of a Church rule that bans priests and bishops from taking
part in politics. "Canon law forbids members of the clergy from
participating directly in politics," he said. "I don't have any up-to-date
information on the matter though."

It is understood from the sources in Rome that Ncube is unlikely to be
permitted to return to Zimbabwe until later this year and that he will
probably be required to resettle as an ordinary priest. It was only in his
final filmed interview that Ncube revealed he was going to Rome. He added:
"I'm disturbed. I'm very traumatised by this situation. My mouth just dries
up. I did fail my vows. The problem is how do you repent, how do you turn
round, how do you regain your integrity? I need to explain to the pope's
people my situation and the situation of the diocese. I need a bit of time
to rest and to discern, to think about the future and perhaps get
counselling." Zimbabwe has lost in the immediate term what was one of the
most courageous and best-known voices of opposition to Mugabe. In the longer
term, the controversy will inevitably raise questions about the gap between
how prelates in Rome believe the faithful in Africa should behave, and the
reality on the ground. It is no great secret among those who live in Africa
that Roman Catholic priests on that continent often honour the vow of
celibacy as much in the breach as in the practice. Some priests have
children, while others listen to the quiet advice of their bishops to
practice birth control. Roman Catholic nuns sometimes defy papal doctrine
and freely distribute condoms to their flocks to help counter the HIV/Aids
pandemic, which is cutting a swathe through Africa.

Many Zimbabweans and other Africans are likely to see as disproportionate
the Vatican smothering of a powerful focus of opposition to Mugabe on
account of an all too human failing - one that the Zimbabwe regime was bound
to spot and exploit. The story of Ncube's involvement with Frontier Africa
TV began almost a year ago when a top media corporation, its personnel
banned from entering Zimbabwe under its draconian press laws, asked the
film-maker if it could gain access to Ncube to make a documentary on its
behalf. At the time, Ncube was almost as big a player in the Zimbabwe drama
as Mugabe. Gentle and quietly spoken, he had gradually emerged as the
principal thorn in the flesh of Mugabe's regime. His role was frequently
compared to that of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an Anglican married priest, in
Tutu's struggle against apartheid in South Africa, which won him the Nobel
Peace Prize. Ncube ranks Tutu among the men he most greatly admires,
alongside Mahatma Gandhi and El Salvador's Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero,
martyred in 1980 when right-wing militia shot him dead at his cathedral
altar during mass.

Ncube's 2005 receipt of the Burns International Humanitarian Award was
widely seen as a prelude to him joining Tutu as a winner of the Nobel prize.
While in Scotland to receive his award, Ncube told the Sunday Herald he had
been reflecting on what Jesus might say if he was an itinerant preacher in
modern Zimbabwe. "I think Christ would condemn the violence, widespread rape
and torture by government agencies and the Mugabe-loyal youth militia," he
said. "I don't think Christ would have survived in Zimbabwe. We're all being
held to ransom by one despot. Mugabe's government doesn't like people who
speak the truth. Plenty of people who criticise the government have died
mysteriously. Christ wouldn't have had a chance." Arrangements proceeded for
the clandestine filming of Ncube, a somewhat chaotic man, born of peasant
parents, who wears trousers several inches too short for his legs and who
has been routinely denounced by Mugabe for his "satanic" betrayal of
Zimbabwe with his trenchant condemnations of government misrule. The picture
drawn would probably have been one of a humble man much loved by his
congregations, who worked tirelessly among the poor and who rarely had any
money in his pocket because his aides could not stop him giving it away to
the hosts of Zimbabweans down on their luck. So it came as a bombshell to
Ncube's flock, his worldwide admirers and the film-makers when, last July,
The Herald newspaper and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation displayed
sensational photographs and video footage of a naked man, said to be Ncube,
with a Mrs Rosemary Sibanda in what state commentators described as his
"love nest".

The exposť, part of a sustained anti-Ncube operation by Mugabe's much-feared
Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), was a boost to Mugabe's government
and dealt a heavy blow to religious and civil groups who had long fought
against torture, extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses under
Zimbabwe's authoritarian regime. Supporters, believing the allegations to be
malicious and untrue, sprang to the defence of the archbishop. Writing in
the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, columnist Tawanda Mutasah said the expose
"does not put a slice of bread in the mouths of hungry Zimbabweans". She
went on: "Contrary to the intentions of Mugabe, the matter does not confuse
Zimbabweans and the world about the veracity and the importance of Ncube's
public moral voice on the morass that Zimbabwe has become, and on Mugabe's
responsibility for the state we are in." Sibanda's estranged husband,
railway worker Onesimus Sibanda, then began to sue Ncube for "loss of love,
comfort and society," seeking some 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars (US$1.3m at
the then official exchange rate, but nearer to US$154,000 at the realistic
black market rate) in damages. The archbishop's lawyer, Nicholas Mathonsi,
advised Ncube to remain silent and told reporters: "My client is not
guilty."

The archbishop's supporters also began pointing out that Mugabe, raised a
Catholic in one of the country's leading Catholic mission stations, had
fathered two children by a married secretary, Grace Marufu, 40 years his
junior, while his first wife, Sally, lay dying from a debilitating illness.
After Sally's death, the late Catholic Archbishop of Harare, Patrick
Chakaipa, married Mugabe and Marufu, saying that he saw "no impediment".
Critics said that while it was relevant to point out Mugabe's hypocrisy, it
was hardly a defence of the archbishop. Mugabe had little remaining moral
high ground to defend. Ncube, however, was one of Africa's most respected
churchmen, not least because he dared to challenge Mugabe's tyranny. But his
"sin of the flesh", if true, was bound to cost him his own moral high
ground, whatever the huge disparity between his own conduct and that of the
violent head of state. Two months after the revelations, Ncube resigned,
citing as his reason the avoidance of any perception that it would be "the
Holy Catholic Church of God" on trial when Onesimus Sibanda took his case to
court. His lack of comment on the allegations against him were interpreted
by many as an admission of guilt.

In the event, Ncube was suddenly summoned to Rome last autumn and a rushed
and secret filming session was arranged as he prepared to board his flight
out of Bulawayo to Italy. In that final interview, Ncube said he feared this
week's election will again be rigged and that Mugabe, his nemesis, will once
again be elected president of Zimbabwe. "They are going to rig the election,
there is no doubt," he said. "People are longing for change, but
unfortunately there will be intimidation again. If they feel intimidated
then perhaps they will say I'll rather not vote' or they will go and spoil
their paper."

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