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Western monitors barred from Zim poll

Mail and Guardian

Fanuel Jongwe | Harare, Zimbabwe

07 March 2008 03:30

European Union member states and the United States have been
excluded from a list of observers who will be invited to monitor the March
29 general elections in Zimbabwe, the government announced on Friday.

Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said a number of
regional bodies, such as the African Union, would be asked to oversee the
joint presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29.

So, too, would representatives from allies of President Robert
Mugabe's regime such as China, Iran and Venezuela.

However, the only European country that had been invited to send
monitors was Russia, while the Commonwealth was also left off the invitation
list.

"Clearly, those who believe that the only free and fair election
is where the opposition wins, have been excluded since the ruling party,
Zanu-PF, is poised to score yet another triumph," Mumbengegwi was quoted in
the state-run Herald newspaper as telling a gathering of diplomats.

The US and EU both imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner
circle after they alleged that he had rigged his re-election in 2002.

Mugabe pulled his country out of the Commonwealth in December
2003 after the organisation of predominantly former British colonies
announced plans to extend Zimbabwe's suspension imposed after the
presidential polls.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
deplored what it said was a biased selection of observer groups for the
latest election.

"This shows the government has a lot to hide," MDC secretary for
legal affairs Innocent Gonese said.

"If everything was being done in a fair and transparent manner,
there would be no need to exclude other countries. Those who have been
invited will hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil and endorse a flawed
election."

Similar criticism came from the Law Society of Zimbabwe, which
said the exclusion of Western monitors highlighted the democratic deficit.

"If our systems are as democratic as we claim, why should the
government want to shy away from international spotlight," said the
society's secretary general, Chris Mhike.

"It's not surprising, but it's disappointing."

Mugabe has frequently accused the West of bankrolling the MDC
and of seeking regime change in Zimbabwe.

In an interview on the eve of his 84th birthday last month,
Mugabe said he saw no reason why countries such as the US should monitor the
ballot as Zimbabwe had never been invited to monitor elections for the White
House.

The EU was also barred from observed the country's last
presidential elections in 2002.

Mugabe, who is seeking a sixth term in office after leading the
Southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980, has since
sought closer ties with Asia as part of a "Look East" policy.

As well as China, Mumbengegwi said India, Malaysia and Indonesia
would all be welcome to oversee the ballot. Other countries also invited to
send monitors include Brazil, Nicaragua and Libya.

Among African countries on the invite list are Kenya and
Nigeria, both of whom have staged elections in the last year, which were
criticised as flawed.

Regional bodies invited to send observer missions include the
Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of West
African States and the Pan African Parliament.

Mugabe faces challenges for the presidency from both the MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai and from his former finance minister, Simba Makoni.

Memorandum
Meanwhile, an outbreak of violence in Zimbabwe is a possibility
if the current situation in that country does not change, angry protesters
said in Pretoria on Friday.

"If things don't change, don't be alarmed of a situation like
[that] of Kenya," said Sox Shitohwero, vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwean
Civic Society.

Shitohwero was speaking outside the Zimbabwean High Commission,
where protesters delivered a memorandum calling for free and fair elections.

However, the approximately 300 protesters were angered after no
one from the commission came out to receive the memorandum.

The protesters, some Zimbabwean nationals, as well as members of
the South African Communist Party threw their placards and pieces of paper
on the pavement outside the commission.

Earlier on Friday, protesters handed over memoranda to the
Kenyan and Swazi high commissions.

The march was organised by the Congress of South African Trade
Unions.

The protesters called for the return of all Swazi exiles and
that international observers be allowed to monitor the election in Zimbabwe.

The group called on the Kenyan government to allow for
political, economic and social transformation within the country. -- AFP,
Sapa


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Ruling the country could be Makoni's easiest task



By Peta Thornycroft

It will be a whole lot easier for Simba Makoni to govern Zimbabwe without a
political party to support him in parliament than to win the election on
March 29.

Should he win - and there are no opinion polls to comfort analysts into
reliable predictions - he will not be troubled because he doesn't have a
political party, and he might not even have a majority of sympathetic MP's
in parliament.

Under the present constitution with its 18 gruesome amendments Makoni would
have enormous powers.

President Robert Mugabe carefully and strategically has added so much to the
original powers of the president that he only needs parliament to change the
constitution, make new laws and pass the budget.

He already appoints the judges, all provincial governors, all senior civil
servants, the head of the electoral commission, the men who accredit or ban
journalists and newspapers etc. etc.

There are no checks and balances in the constitution, no independent
institutions, such as a human rights commission. Zimbabwe's constitution is
a hard right wing set of controls which dictate every aspect of life,
including the price of bread.

If Mugabe now, or who ever comes later, can't find enough laws to rule, he
can in an emergency, fall back on the handy Presidential Powers Temporary
Measures Act, which allows rule by presidential decree, in six month
tranches.

At the last presidential election, Movement for Democratic Change lawyers
representing Morgan Tsvangirai were in court appealing one of Mugabe's
electoral decrees 12 hours before polls opened.

The present constitution is an abortion, but it may just turn out to be
useful to Makoni should he do what seems unimaginable and that is to rid
Zimbabwe of the unbearable burden of Mugabe's destructive rule.

Makon would have to unravel, dump or ignore some appalling laws intially,
and may even have to deal with some unrest if Mugabe's wounded vanity is not
carefully managed.

He will also have to move in on the central bank where most day to day power
lies.

The present incumbent, Gideon Gono's term of office only expires in October
and nothing can be done about the mad, multiple exchange rates and hugely
inflationary currency printing until he has been dispatched and the bank
returned to its traditional role.

There are also a few dozen "independent" MP's, senators, largely from old
Zanu PF, the one which brought Zimbabwe to independence and who will provide
a rump of support for Makoni, if they win their seats.

Makoni also has support from the opposition MDC faction led by Arthur
Mutambara. Mutambara's party will probably win most seats in the
legislature in second city, Bulawayo. His candidates and some put forward by
Makoni from the reformist wing of Zanu PF, in rural areas in the two
Matabeleland provinces, will probably win a chunk of parliamentary seats.

The MDC faction led by founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, which will
probably win all the Harare seats and seems to be attracting large numbers
to its rallies in other urban areas, including in the heart of Zanu PF
strongholds, will also assist him in parliament.

There will be some Zanu PF MP's in parliament who may have been elected on
the party ticket but when the chips are down, will support Makoni in
parliament when necessary.

So his rule, if he wins, will be easy. His problem remains how to get there
and its not going to a walkover as his rhetoric would suggest.

Many ordinary voters in urban areas who traditionally support the MDC are
genuinely anxious that Makoni is a "stalking horse for Mugabe.

Zanu PF's violent political history, its long control of the massively
partisan daily press and all radio and TV have produced a population,
especially in urban areas which depends on informal information, much of it
rumour.

Some of the rumours are deliberately put abou, such as some of those about
Makoni being a stalking horse.

Unfortunately for Makoni, some in Tsvangirai's well-heeled faction,
including those who still supported Zanu PF unti the 2000 elections, are
spreading the stalking horse point. Or are looking for dirt with which to
taint Makoni.

Rumours however, have their good points too. Last Sunday the best of the
day was that vice president Joice Mujuru had locked up her husband, former
army commander Solomon Mujuru to prevent him attending Makoni's Harare
rally.

Anyone predicting Makoni's support or lack of in rural areas is relying on
urban chit chat among the chattering classes, a far journey from the heavily
populated communal areas where 60 percent of voters live.

These are Mugabe's strongholds, but all over the country in these areas,
people are suffering unprecedented hardships. Makoni went into Mashonaland
East for a drive through campaign two weeks ago and he was mobbed. That
however is a Mujuru stronghold, and Mujuru is, whatever he might say in
public, supporting Makoni.

How will he do in Mugabe' s home province, Mashonaland West, or
Mashonaland Central, or in the most populous province, Masvingo?

How will he manage if Mugabe thinks he needs to cheat? As he cheated in
2002? There are many, many ways he can do it and never be caught, and the
courts can delay any electoral challenges almost indefinitely.

Indications from Masvingo at least are that some headmen, paid by Mugabe to
be loyal, have broken ranks, but are encouraging peasants to vote for
Tsvangirai, not Makoni.

Brian Raftopoulos said this week that if Mugabe lost the presidential poll,
it would be less traumatic for Zimbabweans if Makoni emerged as the winner,
rather than Tsvangirai: "Mugabe has said since 2000 that Morgan Tsvangirai
will never rule Zimbabwe. There has been no reason to believe he has
changed that position. So the acrimony, a possible fight back and the
responses from state and maybe even from the army, would be stronger
against a Tsvangirai victory."


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WOZA report police plan to detain leaders till after elections



By Tererai Karimakwenda
07 March, 2008

The Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) report that they are concerned about
their security after they received information that suggests the police may
attempt to arrest WOZA leaders and detain them until after the elections.
Coordinator Jenni Williams said reliable sources informed them that all
uniformed police were recently briefed on the activities of WOZA, and it was
resolved that the key leaders should be arrested at the next possible
opportunity.

Williams said they have noticed increased surveillance on their officials
and members. They believe they are being closely monitored and are concerned
about their security.

Williams explained that WOZA has the capacity to mobilise protests and
government does not want them around in case some politicians are planning a
"Kenya style" reaction after the elections. The idea is to keep WOZA leaders
out of the way until after the polls.

Williams said WOZA previously received conflicting information that suggests
the police have been instructed not to arrest or beat WOZA members until
further notice. This seemed likely because there has been a reduction in the
number of WOZA arrests since October last year. The outspoken activist said
they are not sure what the state is planning.

Williams referred to their 5-year record of conducting peaceful
demonstrations to explain why they should not be considered a threat. She
said anyone that wants to get them out of the way for the elections must be
planning to provoke violence or to do something at the polls that would
warrant a violent reaction from the people. "We can only be considered a
threat by someone who wants to cling onto power", said the defiant Williams.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Britain's failure to object to Mugabe's travels

The Telegraph
7 March 2008
Letters

Sir - The muddled approach to a ban on Zimbabwean sportsmen (report, March
5) reflects the Government's general confusion over handling Robert Mugabe.

Last December, there was a furore over the EU decision to invite Mugabe to
its EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, in spite of an EU ban on the dictator
travelling to EU countries.

At that time, the Government seemed to share widespread outrage, and Gordon
Brown refused to attend a summit with Mugabe in attendance. It now turns out
that he did nothing to stop him.

Portugal was required to notify the Council of Ministers of its wish to
obtain an exemption from the ban for Mugabe. Under the rules, other EU
countries could then raise an objection.

Correspondence that I have just had with the council in Brussels reveals
that, when Portugal duly notified its intention, the Government didn't lift
a finger. No country objected.

As expected, Mugabe used his attendance at the summit as a demonstration of
his international legitimacy to both domestic and wider African opinion.

He exploits international sporting events in the same way. No wonder he has
remained in power for 28 years and that other African governments have
little hesitation in supporting him.

On March 29, Zimbabwe goes to the polls. There is just an outside chance
that its long-suffering people may recover their squandered freedom.

But this fudging Government will deserve few thanks.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP (Con), Chelmsford, Essex


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In Crisis, Zimbabwe Asks: Could Mugabe Lose?

New York Times

By BARRY BEARAK
Published: March 7, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Robert G. Mugabe has run this country for so long that
his presence is like some common particulate in the air, taken in with every
breath. Gladys Sithole can barely recall a Zimbabwe without him, this
inescapable "old man," as she calls him, with godlike powers and
all-too-human failings.

Supporters of Simba Makoni, who was a finance minister under President
Robert Mugabe but is now running against him.
A mother of three, Ms. Sithole was once a bookkeeper in a dry cleaning
store, but jobs like that have mostly vanished. She is a street peddler now
in a collapsed society, where a surreal annual inflation rate of 100,000
percent speedily melts money into nothing, and essential commodities are so
scarce that bars of soap are sliced up to be sold by the chunk and cooking
oil is traded by the tablespoon.
A presidential election is scheduled here for March 29, and Ms. Sithole said
she hoped this time Mr. Mugabe would finally lose. Now 84, he is a former
guerrilla fighter who has led the nation since independence in 1980. "Mugabe
was a hero of the liberation struggle, sure," she said. "But now there is an
even bigger struggle, the struggle to survive, and he is killing us."

She may conceivably get her wish. Mr. Mugabe is burdened not only by
Zimbabwe's persevering misery, but also by two formidable rivals. One is
Morgan Tsvangirai, a well-known opponent with trade union support; he won 42
percent of the official vote in 2002, when inflation was a mere 139 percent.
The other is Simba Makoni, a onetime cabinet member backed by influential
figures in the governing party itself; these dissidents are no longer
willing to wait for Mr. Mugabe's death to initiate the succession.

Could this actually be the end for one of the world's most enduring and
complicated political figures, by most accounts a ruthless, vengeful man,
revered and reviled, who has presided over one of Africa's most epic
economic debacles? If Mr. Mugabe did somehow lose, would he withdraw
quietly? Would disputed elections propel Zimbabwe, like Kenya, into chaos
and killing?

"With the vote split three ways, I don't think Mugabe can win without a
runoff, and in a runoff there's no reasonable way he would get a majority of
the votes," said Sydney Masamvu, a senior analyst for the International
Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent deadly
conflicts.

But this assessment presumes a fair election, and in Zimbabwe those who cast
the votes are not nearly as important as those who count them. It is widely
believed by election observers that Mr. Mugabe stole the contest in 2002.

This makes the inclusion of Mr. Makoni, 57, intriguing. He was the nation's
finance minister from 2000 to 2002 and served in the politburo of the
governing ZANU-PF party - the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic
Front - until being drummed out last month for his rebellious run for the
presidency.

Though only a few senior party members have endorsed Mr. Makoni publicly,
some analysts say he has the tacit allegiance of several in the military and
intelligence hierarchy, the same types Mr. Mugabe has relied upon for
trickery at the polls. Some wonder whether phony ballots might now be more
equitably apportioned.

"Makoni arises from the discontent within ZANU-PF, so the system is now
divided against itself," said Jonah Gokova, a leader of the Christian
Alliance, a collection of civic-minded religious groups. "Some suggest that
if rigging goes on, it will be for Makoni rather than Mugabe."

The campaigning has just begun in this nation of fertile plateaus, its
northwest tip the site of spectacular Victoria Falls. For an octogenarian,
Mr. Mugabe does not lack vigor. Jut-jawed, fists clenched, he appears quite
fit in his finely tailored suits. His speeches may ramble but they also
sting.

He calls his opponents witches and charlatans and tools of the West. He
refers to Mr. Makoni as a prostitute without customers, and since the
government controls most of Zimbabwe's media, these remarks are repeated
until they seem liturgical.

Mr. Mugabe may live grandly in a 25-bedroom mansion in the suburbs of
Harare, but he knows most of his compatriots barely eat a meal a day. Last
week, he tried to pacify the restive army rank and file with a windfall pay
raise. Crowds at ZANU-PF rallies are often rewarded for their attendance
with cornmeal and sugar, dietary staples that have become precious in the
denuded grocery stores.

But these sops are secondary to Mr. Mugabe's more muscular stratagems. In
past elections, youth brigades were set loose on political opponents, and
such patterns of intimidation continue. Two weeks ago, nine members of the
Progressive Teachers Union - perceived to support Mr. Tsvangirai and his
Movement for Democratic Change - said they were dragooned from the streets
and beaten with lead pipes in a ZANU-PF building.

"Only an idiot would believe Mugabe won't win the election, and by 'win' I
mean 'steal,' " said Raymond Majongwe, the union's secretary general, still
nursing a bruise above his left eye that he said was inflicted with a Coke
bottle.

Mr. Makoni began campaigning only in late February, delayed by mysterious
logistical hitches: the company contracted to print his fliers oddly out of
paper, the drivers he had hired unable to find gas. These problems could
have been caused by gremlins at the behest of Mr. Mugabe - or simply have
been forlorn facts of life in a capsized economy.

In an interview Mr. Makoni came across as more cautious than cavalier, the
career civil servant that his curriculum vitae indicates. A chemist educated
in Britain, he worked in Zimbabwe's agriculture and energy ministries before
spending a decade as executive secretary of the Southern African Development
Community, a regional bloc of nations. He seems to not want to vanquish the
ZANU-PF so much as inherit it.

"The government, for all its ills, is not short on good ideas," he said.
"The ideas haven't been implemented correctly."

Mr. Tsvangirai calls Mr. Makoni "old wine in a new bottle," and other
critics wonder why his voice was unheard publicly while he took part in a
government that, among other actions condemned internationally, bulldozed
the homes of 1.5 million slum dwellers in 2005.

"I expressed my views" to the president, Mr. Makoni said defensively. But,
he said: "Most times, he just disregarded me, and this didn't happen to me
only. It happened to others who expressed their differences."

Before Zimbabwe was an economic basket case it was a regional breadbasket.
But in 2000, the Mugabe government began seizing white-owned commercial
farms, and while that might have struck a blow against the country's
colonial past, it also sent the economy into free fall.

If elected, Mr. Makoni would not return those farms. Rather, he said, he
would mete out the property among average people instead of dispensing it to
ZANU-PF cronies, as is the case now. "There is enough land to be distributed
equitably and fairly, just as the official policy says."

His motivation: "I've seen the pain of the people."

That suffering is hard to miss. Nearly half the nation is malnourished,
according to the World Food Program. Major hospitals have stopped doing
surgery for lack of anesthesia. Inflation makes a fool's game of hard work
and frugality.

On Jan. 18, Zimbabwe's reserve bank put a $10 million bill into general
circulation, a maroon-tinged piece of paper with a sketch of water gushing
through a dam that might well have symbolized the escaping value of the note
itself. Worth enough at the time to buy a chicken, it now will barely buy a
few eggs, with a value of about 40 cents.

Zimbabwe's inflation is officially computed with a dizzying accumulation of
zeros that offers little clue to the distress it inflicts. John Robertson,
an economist, said the new note was losing value at 70 Zimbabwean dollars a
minute. Cash earned must quickly be converted into cash spent; only
marketable goods and foreign money hold their value.

"You've got to be a genius to keep the numbers in your head," said Osca
Murefu, 27, one of hundreds of illegal money changers openly doing business
in Harare.

Some 3 million of Zimbabwe's population of 13 million have left the country,
and the money and merchandise they send home provide the only stability
against the country's vertiginous breakdown.

Mr. Murefu buys that remitted foreign cash with the Zimbabwean dollars he
collects from two sources: merchants who by law must sell their goods in
local currency and the flailing government itself, which is disastrously
printing oodles of new money to pay its own debts.

Ms. Sithole, the former bookkeeper, does not exactly understand what has
befallen her country. She knows only that 90 percent of the jobs are gone,
that everyone's savings have been swallowed by inflation, that each house
has its own story of personal apocalypse.

In her own woeful tale, she arises each morning to be on the road by 4,
carrying 15 buns in a plastic bag, buns that the bakery has "topped up" to a
price of $800,000 apiece and she hopes to sell for a simple $1 million.

That early, the air is cool and dark, but there is no shortage of spectral
shapes in the moonlight. Those lucky enough to still have jobs are walking
their way from Harare's outskirts to its hub, their incomes too tiny to
afford bus fare but their hunger so big they will perhaps part with the cost
of a bun.

"This is what Robert Mugabe has done to us, turned us into a nation of
peddlers and beggars," she said flatly, allowing her thoughts to then wander
off into the future. "If he remains, we will just die."


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Zimbabwe General Chiwenga says his troops will not recognize a win by the president's challengers

OhMyNews

Army Chief Pledges Loyalty to Mugabe


Qhubani Moyo

Published 2008-03-07 18:21 (KST)

HARARE - Zimbabwe's army commander, General Constantine Chiwenga has
pledged the army's' undying loyalty to President Robert Mugabe even if he
loses the March 29 presidential elections, dismissing other presidential
aspirants as 'sellouts' out to reverse the gains of independence.

Chiwenga, in chilling comments ahead of the harmonised elections, said
the army would not recognize a government led by President Mugabe's
challengers -- opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe's former
ally, Simba Makoni -- should they win the presidential elections because
they were agents of the West.

Chiwenga's comments come on the back of indications that hundreds of
soldiers have been deployed into the rural areas, the ruling Zanu PF party
stronghold, ahead of the elections in an apparent effort to coerce the rural
population to vote for him and his party candidates.

Army officers in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) told OhmyNews that
the soldiers were instructed to take gratuitous leave and go to their rural
homes in order to assist in campaigning for the ruling Zanu PF party.

Soldiers have played a decisive role in ensuring Mugabe wins the vote
in the past two elections through establishing "bases" in rural areas where
they have led party militia as coercing agents to intimidate and harass the
rural electorate.

"Those deployed were reminded that the hefty salary increments they
were paid last month were part of the deal to campaign for the President,"
said one army officer based at One Commando Barracks in Harare.

The government last month unexpectedly increased soldier's salaries
with the lowest ranked receiving Z$1.3 billion from $300 million. Senior
officers were paid more according to rank.

Zimbabwe holds joint elections on March 29 to elect a new president
and representatives of the senate, council and house of assembly. President
Mugabe seeks a sixth term of office.

The deployment of soldiers in rural areas comes hard on the heels of
reports that the government has also pulled all plugs to improve the diet in
all army barracks which were reportedly experiencing food shortages,
subjecting army personnel to a monotonous diet of beans and cabbage.

OhmyNews established that the soldiers are now served surprise
sumptuous meals of rice, chicken among other niceties at army barracks these
days, a departure from the daily diet of sadza and beans which soldiers used
to complain about.

Army spokesperson, Colonel Samuel Tsatsi referred OhmyNews to General
Chiwenga when contacted for comment. General Chiwenga did not confirm nor
deny the allegations but went on to pledge the army's undying loyalty to
Mugabe when contacted for comment.

"Elections are coming and the army will not support and salute
sellouts and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential
elections other than President Mugabe who has sacrificed a lot for the
country," said General Chiwenga in a telephone interview.

General Chiwenga's comments follow those made by the head of the
Zimbabwe Prison Services who was quoted telling a gathering of prison
officers in the country's capital, Harare, that a loss for President Mugabe
in the presidential poll will be a betrayal to the ruling Zanu-PF party
which brought independence to the nation in 1980.

In the 2002 presidential elections, army chief, General Fidelis
Zvinavashe also warned that the army would not salute opposition candidate,
Tsvangirai should he win the presidential poll as he had no liberation war
credentials.

Zimbabwe's security forces are credited with keeping President Mugabe
in power by constantly crushing any dissent to his rule.

President Mugabe has in return pampered police chiefs, army chiefs and
other security organ's chiefs with inviting incentives like farms and top of
the range vehicles to ensure their undying loyalty to him.

Opposition parties have accused Mugabe of rigging the vote in past
elections using the armed forces, among other government agencies, to retain
power, but Zanu PF has denied manipulating the vote in its favour.


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No campaign platform for the opposition

The Star, SA

Rallies disrupted and candidates arrested

March 07, 2008 Edition 1

Basildon Peta

Marvellous Khumalo, a parliamentary candidate for the Movement for
Democratic Change, has been in jail since February 28. Police had arrested
him over unspecified charges linked to political violence.

When he appeared in court last week, a magistrate sent him back to jail
until March 18.

By the time parliamentary elections are held on March 29, says the MDC,
Khumalo would have had no time to campaign for his constituency seat.

This will hand an easy victory to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Even if he is released on March 18, that would give him only a week or so to
engage in intensive campaigning before the polls.

MDC spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka is adamant that all the charges against
Khumalo are trumped up.

Khumalo was arrested after he tried to conduct a door- to-door election
campaign. But the police insist that the unspecified charges against him
will stand.

Khumalo's predicament highlights the many obstacles strewn in the paths of
opposition candidates taking on Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF.

If they try to campaign aggressively, they risk arrest. If they try to hold
rallies, particularly in urban areas, they risk violence from marauding
Zanu-PF militias. If they try to seek legal recourse, they face a hostile
judiciary.

Even though amendments to the draconian Public Order and Security Act were
aimed at making campaigning much easier, Tamborinyoka claims, the opposite
has happened.

"It is simply not true that the situation regarding our campaigning has
drastically improved from past elections. In fact, such talk is
irresponsible," he says.

"The odds are heavily stacked against us . It is not easy to be an
opposition candidate in Zimbabwe," adds Tamborinyoka.

The opposition is hampered by a shortage of resources.

While Zanu-PF candidates are getting state assistance, from vehicles to
scarce fuel, the opposition have to make do with little or nothing.

The state oil supplier, the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, is supplying
only Zanu-PF candidates.

"There is no fuel. There is no paper, so we can't print pamphlets. There is
no electricity, so we can't hold late-night rallies in halls and similar
facilities," Tamborinyoka points out.

The state monopoly on broadcasting is a major headache for the opposition.

The launch of Zanu-PF's manifesto in Harare was covered extensively. But MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai's well-attended rallies are yet to feature on
television and radio news, not to mention the activities of other opposition
candidates.


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$3 trillion: Price of sadism and arrogance

New Zimbabwe

Mugabe and family eat cake in Beitbridge

By Mary Revesai
Last updated: 03/07/2008 23:23:01

I WAS sitting at a table at one of Harare’s sidewalk cafes last weekend trying to absorb the full impact of the South African newspaper, the Saturday Star’s banner headline screaming “Z$3 000 000 000 000”across five columns below its masthead when something heart-rending happened.

A young disabled man I had not seen approaching my table tapped on my shoulder and asked politely whether he could finish the cold drink I was sipping. It was early evening and he said nothing had crossed his lips the whole day.

He explained that he used to keep body and soul together by scavenging in garbage bins but now even hotels and takeaway outlets were no longer throwing away anything worth retrieving. This is apparently because their cash-strapped clients now also eat every morsel on their plates and even grind down the chicken bones.

Compassion and outrage flooded me simultaneously. I felt no Zimbabwean should be reduced to this level of degradation in a country that has enough for all, if a small band of greedy, corrupt and self-interested individuals were not holding everyone to ransom.

After giving the young man $20 million to buy himself something, I went back to the front page of the South African weekly. Below its unusual headline of a three followed by 12 zeroes was a strap explaining: “This is the price for Mugabe to party, while his people starve.”

My encounter with the disabled young man made me more acutely aware of the incongruousness and insensitivity of spending $3 trillion on the lavish bash held in the border town of Beitbridge last weekend to celebrate the 84th birthday of Zimbabwe’s head of state, Robert Mugabe.

The event is organised every year under the banner of the North Korean-style 21st February Movement, an organisation dedicated to promoting Mugabe as a cult figure.

The staging of these lavish festivities was particularly cruel and arrogant this year because ordinary people are facing unprecedented economic challenges. The case of the young man referred to above demonstrates graphically how the plight of ordinary people in Zimbabwe can no longer be thought of in terms of mere statistics giving a rough idea of what is going on.

Behind the numbers, which are shocking in themselves are millions of flesh and blood human beings who have been robbed of dignity in the land of their birth. This ugly reality can no longer be denied. It is obvious to everyone except to the one person who needs to be upset and bothered by it the most: the man who has governed the country for the last 28 years.

This year is not the first time Mugabe has demonstrated extreme arrogance and insensitivity. Following his government’s spur of the moment and inhuman demolition of abodes which rendered one million people homeless and displaced a further two million under Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, Mugabe did not pause for a minute to consider the full impact of this cruel and madcap action.

Instead, he went on the warpath, wasting vast amounts of national resources to mount a vitriolic and belligerent propaganda offensive replete with conspiracy theories about plots to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.

Almost three years later, the Zimbabwean government is yet to deliver the decent houses it claimed it would build under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle to the victims of its cruel demolition spree.

After triggering unprecedented human suffering and misery under Operation Murambatsvina, any normal head of state would have paused to take stock of the situation and to consider why the action had sparked such an outcry both at home and internationally.

But without even missing a heartbeat, Mugabe proceeded as if nothing had happened and instead blamed everybody else but himself for the uncalled for commission of such a crime against humanity. The following February, he marked his 82nd birthday with lavish festivities as usual.

Parastatals and ministries struggling to remain afloat were obliged to spend large sums of money on advertisements in newspapers and on television literally swooning at the feet of the Dear Leader. What a difference it would have made if Mugabe had forgone the extravagant feasting and adulation, and directed that the same resources be earmarked for feeding the needy.

This year’s bash was held in an environment where inflation has now hit the 100 000 percent mark although economic experts believe even this is a very conservative estimate. Any normal leader who still remembered why he was in power would have thought twice about parading such extravagance amid the deprivation and suffering pervasive throughout the land.

Unemployment has hit record levels; the majority of the people live below the poverty datum line and can no longer afford or access the basics of modern existence. Most national institutions have been ruined and bankrupted and now exist only in name – they are no longer of service to the people of Zimbabwe.

But this did not stop one of Mugabe’s bootlickers from gloating about the obscene partying in Beitbridge that took place on the same day I came face to face with the disabled young man who was reduced to begging to have a sip of my drink and approaching many other patrons of the open air caf begging for morsels of whatever they were having to assuage his hunger.

The Saturday Star quoted the Zanu PF secretary for youth, Absolom Sikhosana, as boasting: “The commemorations should also make a powerful statement that Zimbabwe is as vibrant as ever despite the suffering being caused by illegal sanctions imposed on the country by Britain and its allies.”

Experts say the true level of inflation is nearer the 1,5 million percent mark that was predicted by former United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell during his tour of duty. But it will be remembered that Dell was verbally abused, made cannon fodder by the public media and even harassed by the police for giving this projection and for having the nerve to point out that no government in history had ever survived in such a hyperinflationary environment.

Instead of looking at these realities for its own benefit and that of the populace, the government of President Robert Mugabe went into overdrive in a misguided attempt to prove the former American envoy wrong.

This is when the regime embarked on the illogical price blitz last year under which it decreed that the prices of all goods should be slashed by half regardless of the consequences. The result was a disappearance of basic commodities from the shelves and a skyrocketing of prices to levels three or four times higher than before this incomprehensible intervention.

The question now is how long the people of Zimbabwe can continue to endure such undisguised sadism. A government led by a more humane leader would have taken advantage of Dell’s insights to quietly embark on remedial action but alas, Mugabe’s response was driven by vindictiveness and the need for self preservation.

But as the events unfolding after Simba Makoni’s decision to stand as an independent in this month’s elections show, Mugabe’s arrogance, insensitivity and imperviousness to the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe could very well prove his undoing. His unfathomable cruelty could very well be a case of pride going before a fall as predicted in the book of Proverbs in the Bible.

Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare


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Mugabe regime is 'arrogant' says COSATU



By Tichaona Sibanda
7 March 2008

The Congress of South African Trade Unions on Friday described the regime in
the country as 'arrogant' after officials from the Zimbabwe embassy in
Pretoria refused to receive a petition from protesters.

Hundreds of demonstrators led by COSATU officials walked from President
Thabo Mbeki's offices at the Union buildings to the embassy to demand that
elections in Zimbabwe be held under free and fair conditions.

Bongani Masuku, COSATU's international relations officer said they were
infuriated by the behaviour of officials from the embassy who refused to
come out and listen to the grievances of Zimbabweans in South Africa.

'We had a petition that contained our demands to the government of Zimbabwe,
but no one came out to receive it. So we threw it over the gate as a sign of
our disgust towards the government,' Masuku said.

He added; 'It was a display of naked arrogance of the highest order.'

The SADC bloc also came under fire from COSATU for allowing Mugabe to
manipulate the electoral system in the country.

'We have SADC guidelines that each country is supposed to follow in an
election, but the government in Zimbabwe blatantly deviates from the norms
and the regional body never does a thing to condemn such actions,' Masuku
added.

COSATU urged SADC to stop being accommodative to the machinations and
manipulative tendencies of Mugabe. It said Mugabe should allow a free
multiparty electoral contest on the basis of universally acclaimed
democratic principles and standards, as set out in various international
protocols.

Masuku said they have noted in recent weeks that the crisis in Zimbabwe has
scaled new heights, where it has become the norm for police to arrest and
harass opposition activists.

Masuku added, 'The government of Zimbabwe is stopping at nothing to crush
the resistance of opposition parties, civil society organisations and the
trade unions and ruthlessly trample on human rights.'

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Ngugi attacks lazy farmers who benefited from Mugabe's reforms

zimbabwejournalists.com

7th Mar 2008 13:59 GMT

By a Correspondent

BULAWAYO - Kenyan-born Zanu PF praise-singer, Ngugi Wa Mirii has launched a
surprise attack on farmers who benefitted from President Robert Mugabe's
land grab, claiming they are lazy.

An author and playwright, Wa Mirii had no kind words for newly resettled
farmers, most of whom generally stand accused of letting their farms lie
fallow while the government spends scarce foreign currency to import food.

Wa Mirii is a self-styled Pan Africanist and regular guest on national
television where he features in a government propaganda programme National
Agenda together with other Zanu PF apologists - Tafataona Mahoso, Sheunesu
Mpepereki, Vimbai Chivaura and Claude Mararike.

"They are not tilling the land that they were given for free," he told
journalists attending a workshop on Election Reporting at a local hotel here
this week.

"The farmers are so unwilling to work that the government has from time to
time to come up with radio and television jingles to encourage them to use
the land productively."

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) organised the workshop for
journalists based in Midlands and Matabeleland regions.

As Wa Mirii took potshots at the farmers, ZEC deputy chairperson and
ZANU -PF supporter, who attended the one-day workshop, Joyce Kazembe
appeared surprised but was clearly at pains to look composed.

But Wa Mirii is not alone in his criticism of the new farmers.
Independent analysts say less than half of the 4 324 farms seized from white
farmers since 2000 are productive.

A study, conducted by President Mugabe's former chief secretary, Charles
Utete also says calls for more work on farms.

Utete, furthermore, unearthed several cases of multiple farm ownership.
This week, independent presidential aspirant, Simba Makoni said if elected,
one of his first tasks would be to implement the recommendations of the
Utete report, especially on multiple farm ownership and repossessing idle
land.

Wa Mirii said in Kenya every farm owner bought the land that they have and
for him, it is surprising for Zimbabweans who got the land for free, to fail
to use it productively.

"In Kenya, every person who owns land bought it," he continued.
"No one was given a square metre of land for free, so when I see people who
got large pieces of land for free but fail to produce, I ask myself, 'What
is going on?'"

Coming from a person who settled in Zimbabwe in 1982 and given refugee
status by President Mugabe after he was flushed out of Kenya by former
leader, Daniel Arap Moi, the criticism was quite surprising, but it also
cricually shows how observers, including Zanu PF eulogists see how the land
reforms appear to be backfiring.

"In Kenya, there is so much hunger for land that people till strips of land
on road sides. And the people produce quite well. I will give you one
example - Do you know that Kenya produces more milk than South Africa, yet
South Africa is more advanced? Kenyans drink more milk than any other
nationalities in Africa."


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Zimbabwe's inflation hides a few hopes

Financial Times

By David Stevenson

Published: March 5 2008 19:15 | Last updated: March 5 2008 19:15

One of the more surprising investment statistics of last year was that the
Zimbab- wean stock market was the best performing in the world: up 12,000
per cent over 12 months. Surprising that is, until you remember that these
returns reflect hyper-inflation. In real terms, the local market has been
flat for the past three years - although that, in itself, is a minor miracle
given the country's economic disasters.

According to Tony Hawkins at the University of Zimbabwe, there has been a 51
per cent fall in agricultural output between 2000 and 2007, a 47 per cent
fall in industrial output, and a 35 per cent fall in resources output. Over
the same period, GDP per capita has fallen back by more than 40 per cent. At
the same time, inflation has risen to near the 100,000 per cent mark. The UN
World Food Programme estimates that 4.2m Zimbabweans - a third of the
population - will face serious food shortages in early 2008.

Not surprisingly, the reaction of most emerging-
markets investors has been to run as far away as possible. Consequently,
foreign direct investment collapsed from more than $400m in 1998 to $30m in
2006. Even the International Finance Corporation reported that Zimbabwe is
one of the worst countries in the world to do business in, partly because of
legislation aimed at imposing at least 51 per cent ''indigenous ownership''
of businesses.

In these circumstances, it's hard not to disagree with Slim Feriani,
managing director of Progressive Asset Management who runs its frontier
markets fund, when he declared that "at present Zim represents one of the
most contrarian bets a global investor can make". Still it's one that
Feriani and many others are quietly making, in small but noticeable ways. He
says: "Our pan-African managers are almost unanimous that Zim will offer
huge opportunities when things start to turn around."

This contrarian view is backed by researchers at Australian bank Macquarie.
In a recent report on Zimbabwe, they spelled out three scenarios for the
future. The "best" scenario - at 60 per cent probability - sees a transfer
of power from president Mugabe to a successor, possibly Simba Makoni, and
reform within the ruling Zanu PF party. The "boring" scenario - with 30 per
cent probability - is an indefinite stalemate and no stock market recovery.
And the "bedlam" scenario - with 10 per cent probability - involves collapse
of governance, regional contagion and devastation.

If you agree that the best scenario is likely, you can start to consider the
unique nature of the Zimbabwean market: it comprises commercial survivors.
They have shown themselves to have "good business models, nimble management
and cash-generative businesses with low capex needs and pricing power", says
one analyst. What's more, they are dirt cheap. Some are now trading at just
10 per cent of replacement value.

One big investor that buys into this value-investing story is Lonrho. Last
year, it raised $60m and set up a separate investment and trading vehicle
called LonZim, headed by Lonrho CEO David Lenigas.

LonZim's initial focus will be on property. At launch, Lenigas noted that
"commercial property is cheap as chips, the infrastructure in Harare is
fantastic but it's fire-sale prices". Tourism will probably become another
focus. In addition to the potential offered by game parks, LonZim is
investing in Zimbabweans' favourite holiday destination - Beria in
Mozambique - picking up two hotels with more than 1.5km of prime beach
front. But the big long-term play, says Lenigas, is to build a huge
industrial company, spanning sectors such as printing, transport,
construction and telecoms. He believes that if Zimbabwe can recover "you're
going to see a very large inflow of capital into the country" - as happened
to Vietnam.

So when might this happen? Even Lenigas admits that things are set to get
much worse. He says: "Are we at the bottom of the curve? Absolutely not. But
we're not scared of getting involved. The best time to invest is at the
bottom of the curve and we see plenty of good deals at good prices." This
may not be so easy. UK investors may be beaten to market by the Chinese.
Already, Zimasco Consolidated Enterprises, the holding company for Zimbabwe's
largest ferrochrome producer, has been snapped up by Sinosteel.

On balance I think Zimbabwe may be worth a small long-term bet. LonZim is
the simplest way in, as it's listed in London. You might also want to take a
closer look at the resources sector - Zimbabwe has large gold, diamond, coal
and natural gas deposits. Mwana Africa is also rated by Lenigas, even though
it has hit political trouble over its investments in Congo's mining sector.
Impala Patinum might be worth researching, because of its Zimplats
subsidiary.

Personally, I think mobile phones will be the really clever play, as market
penetration is at only 40 per cent of the adult population, less than half
the level in South Africa. One company worth watching is Econet Wireless,
which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. It runs the largest GSM
network in the country, with a 67 per cent market share. Investors just need
the inflation and the anarchy to end soon.

adventurous@ft.com


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Mugabe loss may be a dream too far

The Sowetan

Bill Saidi
07 March 2008

In the midst of the 2000 parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, the
optimists - perennial and occasional - huddled in corners, contemplating a
victory for the opposition party.

The voters' turnout had been spectacular. All indications were that this was
irrefutable evidence of the then fledgling Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) thumping of the behemoth that was Zanu-PF.

President Robert Mugabe's party had won every election since 1980, except
the referendum that had preceded the 2000 elections.

In that plebiscite, it had been trounced by the opposition, then in the
guise of the National Constitutional Assembly, led by the same Morgan
Tsvangirai, now leading the MDC.

But there were realists among the optimists: with Zanu-PF nothing was to be
taken for granted. It wasn't called ndeyeropa for nothing.

Loosely translated, this portrayed it as the party born out of the bloodshed
of the liberation struggle.

So, as surely as the Victoria Falls remain the most magnificent tourist
attraction, Zanu-PF turned the tables against the MDC - winning the
elections comfortably.

In 2008, the optimists are at it again: they predict a rout for Mugabe in
the three-horse presidential race. Left to themselves, Tsvangirai and Simba
Makoni, would not go into the run-off daggers-drawn. There would be a
gentlemen's agreement: whoever topped the polls would invite the other to
form a coalition government.

This is where the plot thickens: is this a dream too far? Are the optimists
so intoxicated with the nectar of their hopes that they are ignoring
reality?

Zanu-PF has done everything to retain power for 28 years. As some wags have
put it, rather colourfully, the party has thrown, not only the kitchen sink
into the fray, but the kitchen itself.

That is how desperate the party has been to retain power. Whether this is
born out of a genuine desire to keep "the best party in government" or for
other, less savoury reasons - such as holding on to the loot - nobody is
prepared to hazard a guess.

There has never been a three-horse race in the presidential contest before.

It is being assumed that since even Zanu-PF has never confronted this
conundrum, the party probably has no sure-fire rigging mechanism for it.

Apart from the party's capacity to play what some people might call
"electoral" footsie with the figures, there is also the danger of apathy.

Yet there is a feeling abroad that the prospect of Mugabe's defeat has
brought such delicious visions of paradise to the poor folk from Hwange to
Hurungwe, they seem determined to walk, crawl, swim or fly to the polling
stations.

Mugabe has promised more ploughs, tractors, combine harvesters and other
new-fangled farm implements if his party wins.

But many villagers must remember the same promises were made after the land
reform programme.

The real beneficiaries were Mugabe's own colleagues in the Zanu-PF
hierarchy. Some have acquired more than two of the thriving commercial
farms.

Although such allegations have been made by Makoni, a man with a huge axe to
grind against Mugabe, the people are inclined to believe him - because
Mugabe himself has made similar allegations, although he restricted the
numbers to two or three farms.

Credibility may be Mugabe's ultimate Achilles heel.

Even the villagers now believe that without him in charge of their lives,
things might turn out to be the paradise he promised them in 1980.

a.. Bill Saidi is deputy editor at The Standard in Zimbabwe.


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Zimbabwe Vigil mock election meeting

FROM THE ZIMBABWE VIGIL

Dear Supporters

The Vigil's plans for our mock election on Saturday 29th March are
progressing. Briefly there will be two media events outside the Embassy,
the first at 11.00 and the second at 15.00, both featuring the Mugabe mask
we used at the Lisbon summit last December and the giant plastic ballot box
we have used at successive elections. Fungayi will reprise his celebrated
Lisbon Mugabe and Patson (with West End experience behind him!) will feature
in one of the Zimbabwe uniforms we have acquired. All Zimbabweans and
sympathisers are welcome whatever their political persuasion. We are holding
a meeting after the Vigil on Saturday 15th March for all those who want to
help with the event.

A reminder that this Saturday there is the rally for Dignity and Democracy
for Zimbabwe in Trafalgar Square from 12 - 1.30 pm followed by the Vgil at 2
pm. For more details, check: www.actsa.org.

Vigil co-ordinators
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk


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South Africa Readies Observer Delegation For Zimbabwe Elections

VOA

By Carole Gombakomba
Washington
06 March 2008

South Africa will send an observer mission with 54 members drawn from
government, the parliament, the political opposition and civil society to
Zimbabwe to watch elections on March 29, a spokesman for the South Africa
Department of Foreign Affairs said.

South Africa previously observed elections in Zimbabwe independently, but
Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the group,
scheduled to leave for Zimbabwe on March 20, would operate under the
auspices of the Southern African Development Community rather than as a
stand-alone bilateral delegation.

SADC says its observer mission of about 80 officials form the region is due
in Harare on Sunday. The regional grouping expects to have around 150
observer delegates in place before the country's presidential, house, senate
and local elections.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that by observing the elections under the SADC banner,
South Africa appears to be aiming to avoid a repeat of the controversy
generated when it endorsed the outcome of the 2005 general elections,
particularly following President Thabo Mbeki's failure - according to most
observers - to mediate a crisis solution.


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Cost of a Zim breakfast set to ruin appetites

The Mercury, SA

March 07, 2008 Edition 1

JOHANNESBURG: Zimbabwe's national incomes and pricing commission had
approved a 400% increase in hospitality industry rates, the state-controlled
Herald said yesterday.

The commission was trying to stop unstructured price increases, the
newspaper said.

The new rates meant that the cost of breakfast in five- and four-star hotels
in Harare would rise to Z$220 million (R57 640) from Z$55 million and the
same meal at hotels in resort areas from Z$264 million (R69 170) from Z$66
million, the report said. A single room in a five-star hotel would cost
Z$280 million (R73 360).

The move was made after it was found that the hotels had been charging
astronomical rates, the report said.

It was also in line with the expected boost to tourism during the 2010 World
Cup. - Sapa


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MDC candidate still locked up

Nehanda Radio

07 March 2008

The MDC parliamentary candidate for St Mary's, Marvelous Khumalo who was
arrested last Friday for carrying out a door to door campaign in the area
was on Tuesday remanded in custody to 18 March.

He appeared at the Chitungwiza Magistrates' Courts facing charges of public
violence in a calculated move by the regime to hamper his imminent victory
in the constituency.

Khumalo and eight other MDC activists who include three council candidates
were remanded to 18 March after they were denied bail on the flimsy grounds
that their release would endanger public safety.

The court's ruling gives Khumalo only 10 days of election campaigning in his
constituency, assuming he succeeds in his second bail application. Khumalo
and his team did not harm anyone. They were on a peaceful door-to-door
campaign which apparently irked Zanu PF.

Fearing the popularity of Khumalo's campaign in the area, Zanu PF's council
candidate in St Mary's, Charles Nota, called in the police to have the group
arrested. Two members of Khumalo's campaign group received serious injuries
from police beatings whilst in custody.

Our lawyer, Alec Muchandehama, has since filed an urgent High Court
application seeking an urgent release of Khumalo and his campaign team. He
told the court that the arrest of Khumalo and his colleagues is politically
motivated by the regime to curtail his campaign.

The MDC believes that Khumalo's arrest on trumped up charges of public
charges is, 'a planned move meant to curtail an imminent and inevitable MDC
victory at the polls on 29 March. This cannot be a free and fair election
when our candidates across the country continue to be beaten up, harassed
and arrested for no apparent reason,' a statement said.

Since the launch of the election campaign this month, several MDC candidates
and supporters have faced brutality from the police, state security and Zanu
PF arrests and assaults in a move meant to cow the electorate ahead of the
watershed plebiscite.

The MDC believes that no amount of brutality, arrests and intimidation will
stand between the people of Zimbabwe and their vision of a new Zimbabwe and
a new beginning. 'The people will win the next election. Zanu PF is running
scared. The regime is cornered.'

'Despite the obstacles from a panicking regime, the people of St Mary's
remain resolute and unwavering in their desire for a New Zimbabwe. They
people of St Mary's remain committed to the MDC because it is the only party
that can bring about the change they trust,' the statement added.


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Slips of free speech

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 7 March

Mail & Guardian reporter

On a wall outside a crumbling school in rural Gokwe, central Zimbabwe, a
battle is being fought. A youth is pasting a Morgan Tsvangirai poster over
graffiti, written in bright orange paint, proclaiming: "Good morning
Makoni." A few years ago, this would have been a job done under cover of
darkness, and hurriedly, without the patience the meticulous pro-Makoni
graffiti artist must have had. But this is close to midday on a Monday, and
a volunteer for Simba Makoni has left his car to tackle his MDC rival. They
haggle over this spot, which is a prize location, as it faces a bus stop.
There's a handshake and a joke, and a deal is struck; the MDC activist will
take the rest of his posters elsewhere. Not long ago, both activists would
have had to be either really brave or really foolish to show their support
publicly, let alone campaign for anyone other than President Robert Mugabe.
But in this election campaign Mugabe's opponents are surprised at the ground
he has allowed them in his rural strongholds.

Over the past two weeks, Tsvangirai and Makoni have campaigned in three
Mashonaland provinces previously inaccessible to the opposition. On the
weekend, Tsvangirai, looking to target rural areas that hold the bulk of
voters, chose Mashonaland Central to hold the first in a series of planned
rallies. And on Tuesday Makoni followed up last week's tour of Mashonaland
East, which has handed Zanu PF some of its biggest wins, by taking his
campaign into Mashonaland West, Mugabe's home province. "We were surprised
that we have been allowed into areas we have never been in before," a senior
Makoni aide said this week. "We want to continue pushing the line, see how
far we can really go before we start getting the roadblocks." But while some
avenues are surprisingly clear, many more are littered with the usual ruling
party obstacles.

George Sibotshiwe, Tsvangirai's spokesman, said supporters travelling to the
Mashonaland Central rally had to endure intimidation from Zanu PF activists.
And at Juru, a centre in Mashonaland East, an MDC rally was stopped
altogether after police sealed off the venue. On Tuesday, the MDC lodged a
complaint with the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC), which runs elections,
protesting at what it said was increasing state harassment of its candidates
and supporters across the countryside. Sunday brought some of the starkest
evidence of how difficult it remains for the opposition, when police stormed
the stage to stop Makoni in mid-sentence while he addressed a rally in
Harare, saying his one-hour allocation was up. The ZEC has said it will
investigate the incident, but few expect the commission to chastise the
police, as police chief Augustine Chihuri is part of the Zanu PF campaign.

Back in Gokwe, the Makoni volunteer arrives at a friend's store, a small,
struggling operation that sells liquor and a few groceries, mostly imported
from South Africa. Rundown as the store is, it stands like an island in the
midst of deprivation, and people sit on the porch for hours, talking. The
owner, known here only as Moyo, is a former history teacher. He tells of
how, eight years ago, he fled from his teaching post in San-yati,
Mashonaland West, after he was attacked by Zanu PF activists who accused him
of urging his students to support the MDC. Coming back home to help run his
family grocery store in Gokwe was not without its risks. During the campaign
for the 2005 general election the store was looted by people who accused him
of selling maize meal to customers without "party cards". Today, although
tensions at this rural outpost are heating up, he is surprised at how openly
the opposition is organising.

"I never thought I would see the day when a person with an MDC T-shirt could
walk in here and leave without both of us getting into trouble," Moyo says.
"People sit on my stoep and talk; they talk about Makoni, about Tsvangirai.
They talk about how hard things are, and about Mugabe." On Monday, the talk
inside the store was about the defection to Makoni's campaign of Dumiso
Dabengwa, a Zanu PF politburo member, and whether or not this would hurt
Mugabe. So, does all this surprising political freedom mean that Zanu PF
meant it when, at South African-mediated talks with the MDC, it pledged to
open the space to its opponents? The cynicism is biting. "No, of course
not," says the Makoni supporter. "Mugabe always has some kind of plan. We
all have to be careful showing our faces here."


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MDC candidate missing since February

7th March 2008 - MDC Pressroom

HARARE----Edson Muwengwa, an MDC council candidate in Rushinga has been missing since 15 February in what the MDC and the Muwengwa family fear is an abduction following several deaths threats and an attempt on his life by Zanu PF supporters.

Muwengwa, of Kasika Village, was last seen on 15 February when he went to file his nomination papers at Rushinga council offices where the nomination court for council candidates was sitting.

Efforts by Muwengwa and the MDC leadership in the province to locate his efforts have been in vain. This has also been hampered by the lack of action by the police who have not taken any action to follow on the leads that have been supplied.

Information gathered by the MDC’s Information and Publicity Department reveals that several Zanu PF members led by Shingi Runhare went to Muwengwa’s house on 12 February, three days before the nomination court, and threatened Muwengwa’s young brother to be shown where his brother slept at night.

Fearing for his life the brother showed them the room. During the same night some yet to be identified people came and destroyed Muwengwa’s house and looted his property. Muwengwa escaped unhurt during the attack.

The next day Runhare ordered every person in Ward 20 to attend a Zanu PF rally, where he told the gathering Zanu PF was going to “fix” Muwengwa. Two of Muwengwa relatives; Chengai and Zivanai Chapenya, were assaulted in front of the gathering as the two were accused of supporting Muwengwa’s election bid.

After these threats on his life, Muwengwa was last seen after filing his nomination papers. Efforts by the MDC and his family to trace his whereabouts have been in vain.

The police have also not been forthcoming although three reports have been made to the ZRP in connection with disappearance of Muwengwa, twice at Chitange Police Base and one at Rushinga Police Station.

This confirms once again, that we are headed for another bloody election. The leopard has not changed its spots. Various reports of intimidation, arrests and violence against MDC members continue to be received from across the provinces.

In Mashonaland West province, The MDC candidate for Magunje constituency, Mr. Timothy Mutsunge, was arrested on Monday 4 March 2008 with 17 others for sticking posters and distributing fliers at Magunje growth point. The group included 10 innocent citizens who had received fliers from Mutsunge and 8 MDC activists. Reports suggest that 22 police officers clad in riot gear descended on Mutsunge who had attracted a large crowd and they proceeded to arrest anyone who had in his possession any MDC materials.

It is suspected that the Officer in Charge for Magunje known as Ruzungunde is working together with the ZANU-PF candidate for the constituency Franco Ndambakuwa to frustrate MDC campaigns. Ndambakuwa reportedly threatened Mutsunge with assault, murder and arson if he continued campaigning for President Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC.

Mutsunge was only released on $100 million bail on Thursday after his attorney from Muchineripi and Associates intervened. He was also ordered to report thrice a week at Magunje Police station. Only 3 people were released since it was difficult to raise the $100 million set as bail for each of the accused. 15 people remain in custody.

MDC Information and Publicity Department


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Zim gold sector suffers huge losses

Zim Independent

Friday, 07 March 2008 08:38
ZIMBAWE suffered real losses of US$448,5 million in the gold sector
last year due to a slump in production which was worsened by low support
prices and electricity shortages.

The central bank's failure to pay for gold deliveries on time also
contributed to the massive losses.

Zimbabwe only managed to produce seven tonnes last year, which earned
US$155,5 million.

The 2007 production figure is in stark contrast to 1999's all time
high of 27 114 kg which at today's prices would have earned Zimbabwe a total
of US$604 million, according to Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe chief executive
officer Joseph Malaba.

"Production for 2007 in volume terms was only 7 017 kg. This
represents a decline of 20 097 kg over a nine year period," Malaba said.

"If the country had been producing at 1999 levels the country could
have earned US$604 million compared to the current US$155,5 million for
2007."

Gold output declined by 38% last year from 10,9 tonnes in 2006 to 6,8
tonnes in 2007.

Malaba said the international weighted average gold price for 2007 was
US$692,89 an ounce while Zimbabwe's weighted annual price, based on
production figures, was US$684,87 an ounce.

The central bank has also kept the lip on the support prices by
reviewing it quarterly at a time when international bullion prices are
firming.

The Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe could not immediately quantify losses
arising from erratic electricity supplies but said the problem had affected
virtually all mining companies.

"The power crisis has affected all mineral producers significantly.
There are mines that have experienced flooding principally because of
electricity supply constraints. Such operations deserve special mention
whenever the electricity issue is discussed. Information on lost production
in man hours for the gold industry is not currently at hand," Malaba said.

One of the worst affected has been Metallon Gold which 51% of Zimbabwe's
total gold.

Two out of Metallon's five gold mines have experienced flooding, due
to electricity shortages.

"The number of pumps we bought is far less than the number we require.
The mine is still flooded," a source at the mine said.

Zimbabwe has tumbled down the rankings of Africa's top gold producing
countries since the economic and political crisis set in almost ten years
ago.

Currently, Zimbabwe is tenth in the ranking of Africa's top gold
producers. However, in 1999 when production was at its peak, Zimbabwe was in
third position after South Africa and Ghana.

The firming international prices of gold have not benefited the mining
sector because of the fixed exchange controls. .

The price of gold reached new highs last week as it rose to US$953,60
an ounce before falling to US$926,40 an ounce on the back of a decision by
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which plans to sell more than 3000
tonnes of gold.

The increase has been attributed to gold trekking the rising price of
oil which hit the US$100 a barrel mark two weeks ago.

Meanwhile businessdigest understands that the central bank is yet to
pay for gold deliveries since October last year.

Most exporting companies are also yet to receive their foreign
currency from the central bank.

An official at the central bank said it was highly unlikely that the
companies will get their money anytime soon.The delay in the release of
funds is now threatening the viability of the few exporting companies that
are still operating.--Kuda Chikwanda



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Give govt discounts: NIPC tells hotels

Zim Independent

Friday, 07 March 2008 08:30
THE National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) wants all hotels
and tourism service providers to charge lower rates for government and local
authorities.

NIPC chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa, told tourism operators at a
meeting this week that they must start working on the modalities of the new
pricing system that will result in a permanent discount for the government
and local authorities.

The directive means that the general public will pay more for
accommodation and meals in hotels than government employees.

Although the discount rate has not yet been announced businessdigest
understands that the NIPC wants the government prices to be 20% lower that
those paid by the public.

The intervals for reviewing the two prices are also different.

While the public rate will be reviewed every two weeks the government
prices will only change after a month.

Parastatals will not enjoy the benefit of the new system.

Masimirembwa made the directive after hotels and tourism service
providers increased their charges without NIPC approval.

Masimirembwa told businessdigest yesterday that the NIPC wanted the
system to start operating as soon as the modalities are completed.

"Yes that is what we want because we have to make it clear that hotels
are not necessarily a luxury. There are others who come into hotels because
they are on business. Here we are talking government and local authorities,"
Masimirembwa said.

"Government and local authorities must not be treated like any person
who comes into a hotel to seek an experience."

The Tuesday meeting was convened to deal with the pricing issue after
hotels increased their rates without approval from the NIPC.

Hotels increased their prices arguing that the NIPC was not responsive
to its request for an urgent review.

The NIPC has been dragging its feet on the pricing issue for the past
three month arguing that the prices that they approved last November had not
expired.

The meeting was attended by officials from the NIPC, Zimbabwe Tourism
Authority (ZTA) and the Tourism Council of Zimbabwe.

Masimirembwa said the new pricing system was meant to "show the
difference between people coming into hotels for an experience and those
that are doing so out of necessity". According to the plan the discount will
apply to all hotels including those with five stars.

Tourism stakeholders who attended the meeting told businessdigest that
although the directive was bad for their businesses they had agreed to
implement the system as a goodwill gesture to the government.

"This was a rescue plan. The NIPC wanted to push for the arrest of
some hotel bosses. We had to do something," said an official with a local
hotel group.

Stakeholders said the new pricing systems will create distortions in
the tourism market. They said the move showed that government was using its
policies to protect itself.

"They put in price controls saying it was meant to protect the public
but the new directive shows that government only wants to protect itself,"
said a senior executive with a local hotel group.

By yesterday players in the hotel industry were still trying to come
up with a structure that can be used to implement the system.

Hotels are yet to decide on the kind of documentation that will be
required for government officials to be eligible for the discount.

There are also fears in the tourism sector that the system might be
open to abuse.

For instance it is unclear how hotels will treat government official
who are on an election campaign.

There are also concerns in the sector that the 400% price review
approved by NIPC might not be enough for most hotels to remain viable.

The NIPC said the new rate for a five star hotel is $280 million per
room but experts in the sector said it costs more than $400 million to
prepare the room for a guest.

Discussions for another price review will continue today.--Shakeman
Mugari


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Airzim introduces forex fuel levy

Zim Independent

Friday, 07 March 2008 08:21
AIR Zimbabwe customers will now have to pay more in foreign currency
after the troubled national airline last week introduced a special levy for
fuel on its charges.

According to documents seen by Businessdigest, the fuel levy, which
was effective February 29, will be incorporated under departure tax.

This means that a passenger flying to China will have to pay US$110
($2,53 billion on the parallel market) for the fuel levy on top of the
departure tax of US$12. The fuel levy to China is the same for both business
and economy class.

A traveller to England will pay a fuel levy of US$111 on top of the
US$179 departure tax in business class. Those flying in economy class will
pay US$110 on top of the US$100 departure fee.

A person flying to South Africa will pay a fuel levy of US$90 in
addition to the US$41 for both the economy and business class.

A fuel levy of US$29 is paid for both business and economy class to
Dubai on top of the US$90 departure tax. The fuel levy to Singapore cost
US$124 from US$14 for both business and economy class.

Insiders said the national airline last week decided to charge the
fuel levy in foreign currency after failing to obtain foreign currency to
meet fuel and other operational costs.

The new charges are being effected at a time when the country is
facing serious foreign currency shortages.

About 80% of Air Zimbabwe's costs are in foreign currency, but the
national airline said it was only managing about 20% of the requirements.

Air Zimbabwe had been experiencing flight delays and cancellations due
to the shortage of Jet A1 fuel, equipment constraints and crew shortages.

The cancellation and delays has cost Air Zimbabwe billions of dollars
in accommodation and food for the affected people.

Air Zimbabwe introduced the fuel levy after incurring huge costs when
they resorted to importing Jet A1 fuel from neighbouring countries since
January 4.

The new fuel supplies from neighbouring countries were augmenting
those from BP Shell and Total, which have exclusive rights for the provision
of Jet A1 fuel in the country.

Air Zimbabwe requires 600 000 litres of Jet A1 fuel a week for its
fleet of two Boeing 767-200ER, three Boeing 737-200ADV and three Modern Ark
60 from China. The airline needs about US$100 million for
recapitalisation.--Paul Nyakazeya



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JAG open letter forum - No. 522 - Dated 07 March 2008

Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to
jag@mango.zw with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear JAG

My congratulations to Ben Freeth and his article in this addition - I will
certainly add my support where ever I can - please pass this on to him.
Also pass on to him that the sooner some outside, Western or Eastern,
Government very slowly introduces to the various African Governments that
us "Indigenous Whites" are, actually, very good people and the more that
is done to acknowledge us, by the Indigenous Blacks, the more acceptable
we will become.

Regards
Brian Hayes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear JAG

It has been a while since I have put pen to paper, but life here in Aus
has not been easy.

I do need to correct a point Ben makes ' The ninety percent have left
because they could not see a future for themselves here.'

Most farmers like myself were forced off our land, and had no means of
survival. WE HAD NO OPTION BUT TO FIND A WAY TO MAKE A LIVING, BE IT IN
AUS OR WHERE EVER. THERE WERE NO OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF
IN ZIM. I FOR ONE TRIED AND STAYED TILL I WAS BOOTED! IT WAS NOT A CASE
OF THE FUTURE, BUT SURVIVAL PLEASE REMEMBER THAT.

IT IS NO SECRET THAT THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF ZIMBABWEANS NOW DESTITUTE,
AND HERE IN AUS IT IS DIFFICULT WITH MOST EX ZIMS WORKING JUST TO FEED
THE FAMILY. HOWEVER VERY FEW ARE FOLLOWING THEIR CHOSEN PROFESSION, LIFE
IS NOT EASY NO MATTER WHAT ONE MIGHT HEAR.

The fact that we now live abroad, does not mean we have lost interest or
forgotten Zim. We are as dedicated as everyone in seeking just settlement.
It
is gratifying to see us all at last trying to pull together, because quite
frankly it is the only way we will win the battle. I have always promoted
the bigger picture, and through my involvement in AgricAfrica will continue
to do so.

I for one never thought that at my age in life I would commute to
work. [The equivalent of Cape Town to Lusaka.] The work is challenging,
but interesting, and for those who do not know the Northern Territory of
Aus is pioneering stuff.

I wish all our dedicated leaders of this battle all the best, and let's
hope and pray we are now close to some sort of resolve.

Regards Vernon Nicolle.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear JAG

Perhaps it is timely to remind readers of the honesty of Government's
intentions.

In the Minutes of the last Congress that the then Commercial Farmers Union
President John Brown chaired in August 1990, our friend, The Minister of
Agriculture, the late Witness Mangwende stated the following:-

"I have stated there is no intention to grab anybody's land. We know the
hectarage we are talking about is going to be achieved without the necessity
of removing one farmer from his land. The CFU President did raise the issue
of the Derelict Land Board that it has not worked as efficiently as it could
have done because we do know there is derelict land in some of the areas."

It seems that the intention was to make the area of derelict land increase.

Anthony Swire-Thompson
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Rock the Vote concerts hit Johannesburg, Saturday



By Tererai Karimakwenda
07 March, 2008

The musical campaign aimed at encouraging Zimbabweans to vote in the
elections on March 29th hits South Africa over the weekend. Organised by the
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition under the 'Rock the Vote' banner, this creative
method of voter education has brought Zimbabwean musicians together for a
series of peaceful concerts with a serious message.

Nickson Nyikadzino, who helped coordinate the concert that will be in
Johannesburg on Sunday, said they hope to motivate Zimbabweans living in
South Africa to go home and vote. He added that those who cannot go should
at least encourage their relatives at home to make sure they vote. The
enthusiastic activist explained that this election was crucial because the
prospects for change are great.
The artists to be featured on Sunday include Sandra Ndebele, Knox, Snipper,
Sam Mtukudzi, Willom Tight and the dance troupe Mambokadzi. Nyikadzino
described them as ambassadors for voter education in Zimbabwe. He said they
have done so many shows that they are now incorporating messages about the
rights and responsibilities of voters in their songs.

"Rock The Vote" was initially supposed to attract the youth of Zimbabwe in
order to teach them about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. But
the concept was changed when they realized that many adults were also coming
to enjoy the music. "We are bringing back hope. We have tried to demystify
rigging and we use the campaign as a confidence building measure. We want
people to have faith in the elections again," said Nyikadzino.

As South Africa is currently home to millions of Zimbabweans who have fled
from persecution and poverty at the hands of the Mugabe regime, the Crisis
Coalition hopes to influence as many of them as possible to return home to
vote on March 29th.

The group admits that many may not be able to because they do not have legal
status in South Africa, or the financial means to travel home and back. The
elections this year are largely seen as crucial polls that could finally
remove the government responsible for destroying the country.

Although "Rock the Vote" ends in Johannesburg on Sunday, Nyikadzino said
they would continue to organise smaller events in Zimbabwe. The Sunday
concert will held be at the Windbrow Theatre, corner Nuggett and Peterson
streets near the Hillbrow area.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Zimbabwe: the hour has come

New Zimbabwe

By Wicky Moffat
Last updated: 03/07/2008 20:58:11
EVENTS of the last month have presented Zimbabwe with the best opportunity
to become a true democracy. The entrance of Simba Makoni into the
presidential race has given a fresh breadth of life to a nearly dead and
predictable presidential race.

Obviously, Makoni's entrance is unusual because he does not have a political
party. But then desperate situations like ours require unusual means to
untangle. Some have pointed out the disadvantages of his entry and I would
like to analyse these, one by one.

His main disadvantage as many will point out, is that he has no political
party. Questions have been asked about how he will form a government without
his own party.

While this is true, it also presents Zimbabweans with our best chance of
becoming a true democracy. An independent president cannot impose decisions
or force things down our throat as we have seen in the past. He will have no
choice but to consult with all parties and take a course that is acceptable
to the majority. In other words, this will be as close to true democracy as
you can ever get. To help us understand this, I will define democracy.

The word democracy comes from the Greek word "demokratia", which means "the
common people rule". Democracy is a form of government where the population
of a society controls the government. This simple concept has been
interpreted and applied in various ways throughout history. Various
mechanisms have been developed through which the people are supposed to
control the government and these vary from direct democracy to
representative democracy and liberal democracy.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of countries that call themselves democracies
are not true democracies according to the above definition. Most of them are
actually just elected dictatorships. The only country that is quite close to
the definition of democracy is Switzerland.

So while the absence of a political party may appear to be a disadvantage
for Makoni, it is actually an advantage for Zimbabwe. The most endangered
constituent of things large is the individual. The freedom of the individual
is constrained and crushed by all things big: big political party, big
government, big business, and even big religion.

The two greatest enemies of freedom are those who insist "you must serve
me!" and those who insist "you must be like me". Makoni, as an independent
candidate, will have to balance these two great enemies of freedom against
each other and, therefore, the freedom of the individual will be increased
and preserved.

The consensus government produced here will, therefore, nurture the personal
responsibility and good citizenship of each individual. As such, it will be
up to the people of our country to decide how they want to be ruled, and how
they want to control their government.

I therefore, believe Makoni when he promises "re-engagement" and a "people
driven" constitution. These things will happen because having an independent
candidate is our best chance at true democracy; parliament will be able to
play its true role and run the country as dictated by the people. What may
appear to be a weakness in Makoni's candidacy is actually a strength for
Zimbabwean democracy!

The second question that many have raised is around the secrecy surrounding
his backers. Well, Mugabe is not an ordinary enemy and he cannot be
dislodged by ordinary means. The Makoni strategy has been that of shock and
surprise - this is the typical guerrilla strategy that was employed during
the liberation struggle, or more recently, the "sock and awe" concept used
in Iraq by America.

Most of Makoni's key backers were key military people during the war and
they know this strategy so well. Remember Makoni had a meeting with Mugabe
and he sold him a dummy by submitting his CV for a constituency; but a week
later he came out fighting.

On Thursday last week, the main head line in the Chronicle was: "Dabengwa
denies links to Makoni". Two days later, the main headline in the same paper
was "Dabengwa joins Makoni". It seems the strategy is to take the enemy
unaware, when he least expects it.

There will be more of these headlines like; "Zvinavashe raps Makoni" and
"Mujuru dissociates himself from Makoni". But we cannot read much into the
headlines in the propaganda media, they are just what they are: propaganda.

Dabengwa's declaration last Saturday shed some light on the behind the
scenes manoeuvres that have been taking place. The Standard newspaper quoted
Dabengwa saying: "One such discussion was in Cape Town, where I met Patrick
Chinamasa and Makoni and we agreed that it had become urgent to replace the
aging leadership."

This tells us that Chinamasa is either one of Makoni's backers or at least
he was involved during the conception stages of the project. This puts
Chinamasa in a tight situation because the old man will never trust him
again. He will have to come open soon and support Makoni. Otherwise, how can
he be forgiven again? Remember he was also implicated in the Tsholotsho plot
and he had to beg for forgiveness. Surely, he has used up all his "nine"
lives now.

The Makoni strategy seems to be that of giving the enemy as little time to
hit back as possible. This is why Solomon Mujuru and others will only
declare their support closer to March 29. Vice President Joice Mujuru might
not need to say anything at all. The assumption will be that if her husband
Solomon Mujuru is with Makoni, so is Joice, unless they are divorced!

It has taken Makoni years of planning in order to give Mugabe only a month
to hit back. It's called a "short and sharp programme of action" which
involves ambushes and systematically phased shock endorsements.

In short, I agree with those that are questioning Makoni's strategy and lack
of clarity, but for now, I believe things will become clearer in stages as
we get closer to the election-day, when the enemy will get the real shock.

The third question that many have asked is: "Where was he all along". Well,
the answer to that is very simple: he was in the politburo plotting Mugabe's
downfall. We all know that Makoni fell out with Mugabe a long time ago.
Dabengwa has also told us that they were not just seating on their laurels,
they were plotting.

Jonathan Moyo said many years ago that Zanu PF can only be destroyed from
within. He will also tell you that such a job cannot be done overnight. You
have to be patient and cunning; you have to plan and prepare; you need a
strategy. The best we can do as povo is to join in, widen the cracks and
dislodge the old man once and for all.

Often, Mugabe refers to Tsvangirai as Sekaurema because he did not fight the
liberation struggle. This is exactly the same argument that we are now using
when we ask Makoni "where was he?" What then can you say to our army
commanders when they say that they cannot allow anyone who did not go to war
to be President in our country? We have no moral ground to oppose them. They
are simply applying the "war credential politics" that we are using to judge
Makoni.

In fact, if we want to talk about people who have fought against Mugabe, we
can never go past Dabengwa. This man has fought for the freedom of his
people all his life. Remember he spent five years of his "prime life" in
Mugabe's jail without trial - far more than any of today's activists have
suffered. This makes the "where was he" question minute and irrelevant. He
fought Mugabe with one strategy before, now he is trying another avenue.

Margaret Dongo is a fighter who invented the "Mugabe's wives" vocabulary;
Nkosana Moyo resigned after failing to agree with Mugabe's rogue politics.
These people are all part of Makoni's bandwagon, but we still ask "where
were they?" Let's get real! Let's judge Makoni and Dabengwa by what they are
bringing on the table.

The forth question that I want to tackle is the conspiracy theory which says
Makoni is a Zanu PF agent. Mugabe can never unleash an agent that could
potentially threaten himself. Honestly, there is a real possibility that
Makoni could win this election. If Mugabe wanted to fly a kite, he would use
a real weakling, someone with no chance of winning at all, just to give face
to his perceived democracy (Like Towungana).

Mugabe could never unleash Dabengwa to be an agent. In fact the police and
CIO have put their thrust and energy on Makoni, giving the MDC some room to
manoeuvre. Makoni's campaign is genuine, serious and whole hearted. It is a
chance for us to return to a servant-hood type of leadership rather than
risk the possibility of yet another dictator.

We have prayed and waited for so many years for an answer to our problems.
Let us stop and think before we dismiss what could be the final answer based
on conspiracy theories. If we find ourselves oppressed after March 29, will
it be because God did not answer our prayers, or because we failed to
recognise the answer when it came?

The prophet Elijah, fleeing Israel to escape Jezebel's wrath, doesn't stop
running until he reaches Beer-sheba. Exhausted and dispirited, he then heads
out into the mountain to pray for death. A great and strong wind rents the
mountains, and brakes the rocks into pieces; but the Lord was not in the
wind: and after the wind an earthquake came; but the Lord was not in the
earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the
fire: and after the fire "a still small voice".

We have gone with the wind before, but it got us nowhere; some of us ran
with the fire, while others ran with the earthquake, but it did not give us
deliverance. Now it's time for the 'small still voice', and therein lies the
answer! Often our suffering is not because God did not answer, but because
we failed to recognise the answer.

Finally there are those who feel guilty about leaving Morgan Tsvangirai,
having come this far in the struggle. Tsvangirai has been a soldier for us,
a brave one for that matter, he is a national hero. He has stood against one
of the most systematic and autocratic dictatorships on this planet. We love
him and respect him for that. He will always be dear to our hearts. But we
are sorry we cannot ignore what is unfolding before us.

When I was young, I used an ox-drawn cart because that was the only means of
transport available. But now chitima cherusununguko chauya; we have to get
on board. Why should I use an ox-drawn cart when the world's fastest train
is available?

Some of us are liberal democrats, true Zimbabwean patriots who just want to
see the country prosper. We do not hang on to personalities, but we pursue
opportunities and principles. In fact an ideal or win-win situation would
allow the MDC to dominate parliament while Makoni becomes president. This
means Makoni would have to consult Tsvangirai on every decision before it
can be passed in parliament.

The end result will be "Simba kuvanhu"; true democracy comes to Zimbabwe.
This is our best chance to achieve what they call "separation of powers".
One leader would control the executive, while the other controls the
legislative branch of government. This protects democracy and forestalls
tyranny. Maybe our hour has finally come.

Wicky Moffat is a Zimbabwean based in New Zealand

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