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Zim Independent

Chiefs' benefits to gobble $27,5b
Shakeman Mugari
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe plans to spend an unbudgeted $27,5 billion on
chiefs' vehicles and other perks, in a move calculated to win their support
ahead of parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for March.

The Zimbabwe Independent heard this week that Mugabe had already started
dishing out vehicle loans as part of efforts to secure the support of the
country's 268 traditional leaders throughout the country.

It is understood that 177 substantive chiefs will be entitled to new
vehicles and other incentives offered by the Zanu PF government. The
government has since identified the Willowvale Mazda Motor
Industries-assembled Mazda B1800 pick-up as the standard vehicle for chiefs.
The 177 Mazda B1800 pick-up trucks would cost $13,6 billion.

The scheme, launched by Mugabe at the chiefs' assembly in Masvingo last
week, is seen by analysts as a bid by the ageing nationalist to induce
chiefs to spearhead the ruling party's campaign for the March 2005 election.

In the Gutu North constituency by-election earlier this year, chiefs and
other traditional leaders played a pivotal role in Zanu PF's victory,
threatening to expel opposition MDC supporters from their areas if the
ruling party lost. Some chiefs were physically restrained by police from
recording names of people who had come to vote. They ordered voters to form
queues according to their villages at polling stations.

The government has already purchased 28 Mazda B1800 vehicles to be handed
over to the chiefs on the basis of seniority. The 28 vehicles were acquired
from Willowvale for $2 billion at last week's price of $72 519 000.

With effect from this week a new Mazda B1800 vehicle now costs $77 151 200
million at the factory price, said an inside source yesterday.

Government will also fork out an extra $1,36 billion in insurance fees for
the vehicles. Zimbabwe has 268 chiefs, 91 of whom are still in acting
capacities and therefore do not qualify for the vehicle scheme. Once the 91
acting chiefs become substantive, government will need a further $7 billion
for vehicle purchases and an extra $700 million in insurance for their cars.

Local Government deputy minister, Chief Fortune Charumbira, who is also the
secretary-general of the Council of Chiefs, said the scheme was similar to
the one available to parliamentarians.

"It's not like the government will be buying chiefs cars. They are just
loans for them to purchase vehicles," said Charumbira.

He said the vehicles would be supplied in batches.

"We have 177 substantive chiefs who qualify for a vehicle under the scheme.
We will get the cars from Willowvale Motors," said Charumbira.

The substantive chiefs will this year also gobble $3,2 billion in allowances
from government. Currently a chief earns $1,5 million per month.

Government has already started electrifying chiefs' homesteads under the
rural electrification programme. Figures sourced from Zesa's Rural
Electrification Agency reveal that it costs $32 million to construct a 1 km
power line and install a 50KVA transformer.

Chiefs have been accused by analysts of being used as foot soldiers in Zanu
PF's campaign machinery. They have been instrumental in the distribution of
food along party lines as part of Mugabe's plans to starve opposition
supporters into line.

Analysts have questioned Mugabe's generosity, especially given that the
country is only 10 months away from a parliamentary election.
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Zim Independent

Harare councillors drag Mangwende to court

HARARE city councillors have dragged governor Witness Mangwende to court for
cancelling a full council meeting which should have taken place yesterday.

Mangwende called off the meeting without giving reasons for doing so,
forcing councillors to take the legal route to win back their right to hold
meetings.

Councillors who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent said the purpose of
yesterday's meeting was to elect a deputy mayor and chairpersons for
committees.

"Zanu PF is playing games to protect acting mayor Sekesai Makwavarara and
ensure that its tight grip on council affairs is not weakened," councillor
Last Maengahama said.

"The meeting would have ushered in a new leadership in council that would
take a radical stance to government's continued interference."

The cancellation of the meeting was communicated to the councillors through
a circular signed by acting mayor Tapfumaneyi Jaja yesterday. Newsnet radio
bulletin on Wednesday quoted Mangwende as issuing a notice cancelling the
meeting.

Cited as respondents in the application are Mangwende, Local Government
minister Ignatius Chombo and Jaja. Makwavarara was said to be out of the
country.
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Zim Independent

Temperatures boil over in volatile Lupane
Loughty Dube
TEMPERATURES are running high in Lupane as Zanu PF and the opposition MDC
square up in a crucial by-election starting tomorrow.

Up to 64 MDC youths were on Tuesday arrested on allegations of assaulting
Zanu PF members during the week. They were later released without a charge.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) in a statement yesterday said
the situation was volatile in the constituency.

"The political temperature has since risen," Zesn said, "with the unleashing
of war veterans and youths by Zanu PF and the MDC's retaliation through its
youths as well."

"Thus the political environment, especially when assessed from the
electorate's point of view, is that of fear, while others are keen to get
over and done with this election so that their lives can hopefully return to
normal."

The election is a key test for both parties on their level of support ahead
of the general election next year.

The MDC is seeking to maintain its stranglehold on Matabeleland North where
it collected all the contested seats in 2000 while Zanu PF is seeking a
breakthrough in a province where it is regarded with suspicion if not
outright resentment.

The peaceful campaign period was shattered this week when Zanu PF supporters
and war veterans attacked a team of MDC activists who were putting up
posters for a star rally.

The MDC candidate, Njabuliso Mguni, said he was optimistic of victory in
this weekend's election that pits him against Zanu PF's Martin Khumalo.

"Despite acts of intimidation by war veterans our campaign is on course and
I am confident that I will win," Mguni said this week.

He however said he was disturbed that the MDC was not getting protection
from the police when war veterans disrupted several of the party's meetings.

The Zanu PF deputy national commissar, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, also said his
party was confident of snatching the Lupane seat from the MDC.

"Preparations for this weekend's election have been thorough and we are
confident of winning the Lupane seat," said Ndlovu.

"We have done our homework, the party lost in 2000 because we were not
listening to the people but things have changed now," Ndlovu said.

He said the government, through Zanu PF, had been developing Lupane so that
it meets its status as the provincial capital.

This week both parties held several rallies to drum up last-minute support
ahead of tomorrow's elections.

Several Zanu PF leaders, including Elliot Manyika, Andrew Langa and Ignatius
Chombo, addressed rallies in the constituency while MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai addressed the party's star rally at Somhlolo stadium on
Wednesday.

Zesn said Zanu PF youths and war veterans staying at bases in the
constituency were harassing and intimidating the opposition as well as
force-marching the electorate to the ruling party's rallies.

The report includes a list of incidents of violence, most of which were
perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters.

"At Mkhombo primary school there was a base for Zanu PF youths who, when
they spotted the Zesn vehicle, stopped it and were interested in knowing
Zesn's business in Lupane.
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Zim Independent

Kondozi in liquidation
Augustine Mukaro
KONDOZI Fresh Produce has been formally liquidated and is relocating to
Mozambique and Zambia, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.

In an exclusive interview this week, Kondozi majority shareholder, Edwin
Masimba Moyo, said he had signed liquidation papers and the horticultural
venture was now history.

"We will not waste anymore time on Kondozi in Odzi, Manicaland," Moyo said.
"I have been rendered a second class citizen in my country of origin so let
the owners of the land take over while we take our business elsewhere."

Moyo said Kondozi had secured vast stretches of land in both Mozambique and
Zambia on which they had deployed management teams from the invaded Kondozi
Farm.

"The Mozambique government has availed to us 800 hectares in the Manica
Province where we will be starting operations soon.

"In Zambia, we have bought 2 000 hectares in the Gwembe Valley area. The
project is equipped with state-of-the-art irrigation equipment, including 20
centre pivots," he said.

Moyo said the donor community opposed to the violent seizure of Kondozi had
availed US$30 million to kick-start similar projects in Zambia and
Mozambique.

"More international organisations, including the Industrial Development
Corporation-South Africa, Psom of the Netherlands, Tescos of the United
Kingdom and Barclays Bank International, have agreed to put in substantial
amounts as our projects make forays into the Sadc region," Moyo said.

Moyo said his company had stopped construction of a packhouse that had been
earmarked for Mutare. The packhouse should have housed horticulture and
fresh produce handling facilities in preparation for shipment to export
markets.

"The packhouse will soon be built in Manica, Mozambique, and it will be used
as the hub of all our export activities," he said.

The move into Gwembe Valley was a blessing because the temperatures allow
for all-year production, he said.

"Gwembe Valley temperatures are very high, allowing production for the whole
year, giving us an advantage over what we used to produce at Kondozi," Moyo
said.

Kondozi was invaded during the Easter holiday, violently throwing out over 4
500 workers from the farm village. The workers were left in the open by the
roadside and without food.
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Zim Independent

Voter registration suspicious
Itai Dzamara
THE voter registration process being carried out by the Registrar-General
(RG)'s office has been described as unclear, raising fears that a shambolic
voters' roll could be used in the forthcoming parliamentary election.

Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede could not be reached for comment this week
as he was said to be sick. Deputy registrar-general Emily Hera said a voter
registration exercise started at the beginning of this month across the
country would be completed in two months.

There are reports that the RG's office has been instructed to prepare the
voters' roll for the election, which President Robert Mugabe could consider
bringing forward to this year. Mugabe has announced that the election will
be held in March next year.

"Voter registration started on May 1 countrywide and should be completed at
the end of next month," said Hera. "However, I don't know a lot about the
issue of elections, the RG would be the right person to speak to."

The Zimbabwe Independent this week visited Mashonaland Central provincial
capital, Bindura, and confirmed that officials from the RG's office were
moving around townships, villages, and farms registering people to vote. It
was established that Zanu PF officials were following the RG's teams to sell
party cards to those registered.

While registration is in full swing in rural areas, there is very little
activity in urban areas where the electorate appears unaware of the
exercise.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has alleged that the
RG's voter registration exercise is confined to known Zanu PF strongholds
and is leaving out most urban constituencies. The MDC enjoys support in
urban constituencies.

Officials from the RG's office going around the country issuing birth
certificates and IDs have allegedly cited lack of stationery for failure to
register voters in urban areas.

"The voter registration has not been clear and we have raised this matter in
parliament," said MDC MP for Gweru, Renson Gasela, in a statement this week.

"For example, we have received reports and carried out a survey in the
Midlands to discover that voter registration is not being done in urban
constituencies. Officials from the RG's office have said they don't have
stationery for voter registration.

"The same reports have also come from Matabeleland. But it has been
discovered that in Mashonaland provinces the RG's officials are moving from
door to door and village to village registering voters."

Hera said she had not received reports concerning shortage of stationery
from any province.
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Zim Independent

Cops attack kid at MDC rally
Munyaradzi Wasosa
POLICE on Saturday allegedly assaulted an 11-year-old Kambuzuma boy as they
tried to prevent people from attending an opposition MDC rally in the
suburb, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

In an interview on Wednesday, Tsitsi Nikitai, the boy's mother, said a ZRP
Defender truck blocked their way as they were about to enter Rugare Stadium,
the venue of the rally.

"About a dozen baton stick-wielding police officers jumped out of the truck
and started beating up people who were pouring into the stadium," she said.

Nikitai and her son Richard Tiriboyi, who were going to the rally, were also
attacked.

Tiriboyi, who spoke to the Independent in the presence of his mother, said
he was wearing an NCA T-shirt that apparently caught one policeman's
attention, who began chasing him.

"I ran in a different direction from my mother but failed to jump over a
ditch," Tiriboyi said. "The policeman caught up with me and beat me up with
his baton stick before shoving me into the ditch where I fell headlong."

The boy sustained a deep cut on his chin after he hit a rock, and bled
profusely, before being rescued by a fleeing man who rushed him to Kuwadzana
clinic.

An angry mob led by Kuwadzana MP Nelson Chamisa barred the police from
leaving the scene of the incident.

Nikitai said the police blamed her for the boy's injury.

"We demanded an explanation from the police who said we should not have been
there in the first place," Nikitai said.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the rally, which was attended by
over 5 000 people.

"What kind of police force is this which brutalises innocent children who
want to attend an MDC rally?" said Tsvangirai, holding the blood-stained
kid.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child. The convention requires member states to protect children from
abuse of any kind.

In an interview Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure said the attack was a
harbinger of worse things to come.

"This brutal act indicates where we are going as a nation," he said. "We
have had a number of rallies in my constituency and we never had problems
with the police before."

Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena denied that the policeman
beat the child.

"We are just as human as anyone else," Bvudzijena said. "So no police
officer would want to injure a child."

Bvudzijena however admitted that the police used force to disperse people
who had gone to attend the rally.

"If they (police) observed something sinister, then there was need for them
to react and deal with that situation," he said. "When there is need to
disperse a crowd, we use what we call minimum force."
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Zim Independent

Zim strikes detainees-for-fuel deal
Gift Phiri/Dumisani Muleya
IN an unusual diplomatic arrangement, Zimbabwe has entered a US$1,2 billion
deal to extradite the 70 suspected mercenaries currently held in Harare to
Equatorial Guinea in exchange for fuel.

Intelligence sources say President Robert Mugabe discussed the deal with his
Equatorial Guinea counterpart, Teodora Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, at their
initial meeting in Pretoria with South African president Thabo Mbeki on
April 27.

Mugabe and Obiang were in South Africa to attend Mbeki's inauguration. The
three leaders are said to have met over the mercenaries' saga after Zimbabwe
had earlier refused to send the suspects for trial in the oil-rich
Equatorial Guinea.

Sources said the meeting agreed in principle that Zimbabwe would extradite
the suspected mercenaries on agreed terms and conditions. Mugabe and Obiang
finalised the mercenaries-for-fuel arrangement at a meeting in Bulawayo the
following day.

The two leaders met at State House in the second city on April 28. After the
meeting Obiang told journalists that they had been discussing the issue of
the suspects' extradition.

High-level sources said Mugabe agreed to extradite the suspected soldiers of
fortune on condition Equatorial Guinea - the third largest oil producer
after Nigeria and Angola in sub-Saharan Africa -would supply Zimbabwe with
fuel.

The sources said the deal entailed a supply of US$50 million worth of fuel
monthly for two years, split between 65 million litres of diesel and 40
million litres of petrol.

However, Energy and Power Development minister July Moyo said he was not
aware of the deal. "I have no idea at all," he said.

The deal is said to be worth more than the one signed between Zimbabwe and
Libya valued at US$360 million a year, which has since collapsed.

Zimbabwe needs about US$40 million a month to ensure adequate fuel supplies.
If the deal goes through Zimbabwe would be able to secure additional fuel
worth US$10 million every month to rebuild strategic reserves.

Sources said the new deal would start rolling as soon as the mercenaries
were extradited. Fifteen other suspects in the same plot are currently held
in Equatorial Guinea.

The men were arrested on March 7 in Harare after they landed at the airport
allegedly to collect weapons bought from the Zimbabwe Defence Industries
(ZDI).

The suspects were charged for allegedly violating the Public Order and
Security Act, immigration, aviation, and firearms laws. They, however, deny
all the charges.

If implemented, the deal would provide a temporary relief to Zimbabwe which
has been battling with an erratic fuel crisis since 1999.

Zimbabwe has tried in vain to secure sustainable fuel supplies from Libya,
Kuwait, Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and other
countries due to the country's poor credit rating.

However, sources said there were still obstacles to the deal as a result of
court developments regarding the suspects. Legal sources said it would be
difficult to transfer the men because the extradition treaty between
Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe was only formalised on April 23 - about 47
days after their arrest.

"Basically you cannot apply legislation in retrospect," said Advocate Bryant
Elliot of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans legal firm.

The sources also said the suspects had not committed any offence in
Equatorial Guinea.

They said Zimbabwe now wanted to extradite the alleged mercenaries to avoid
possible embarrassment because their lawyers had indicated that the
prisoners would expose their previous arms deals with ZDI, accused of
gun-running and selling arms to shady groups.
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Zim Independent

ááááá Smuggling syndicates rule at Nyamapanda
ááááá Itai Dzamara

ááááá THE government could be losing millions of dollars daily as goods
continue to illegally enter or leave Zimbabwe through the Nyamapanda border
post under the nose of Customs officials who sometimes appear to be part of
the smuggling syndicates, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.

ááááá Smuggling of food stuffs such as sugar, margarine, powdered milk and
mealie-meal out of the country is rampant at the border post for
destinations in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

ááááá The Customs officials are allegedly also bribed by those wishing to
bring goods into the country without paying duty. The goods brought into
Zimbabwe are mainly electric gadgets and clothing from Asian countries.

ááááá When the Independent visited Nyamapanda border post last week, long
queues of vehicular traffic could be observed the whole day on both sides of
the entry point. Most prominent were haulage trucks, which are allegedly
used to smuggle goods in and out of the country.

ááááá A truck driver, unaware that he was talking to a journalist, said: "Oh
yes, it is common knowledge that a gonyeti (haulage truck) driver makes
millions on every trip by ferrying goods into or out of the country without
declaring (filling in Customs declaration forms). There are established
networks that involve Customs officials."

ááááá Talking to Customs officials proved more difficult as most of them are
suspicious of strangers and only interact with "well-known" connections. The
Independent established that Customs officials now scramble to be stationed
at Nyamapanda border post.

ááááá "On a good day a Customs official can make up to $1 million in
addition to gadgets such as VCRs, DVDs and cellphones," said a trader during
a conversation.

ááááá A man from Harare, who had spent two days at the border post waiting
for a truck in which his tonne of sugar was stashed to be cleared, was
confident he would make it to the Mozambican capital, Maputo where his
clients were waiting.

ááááá "I have been assured (by Customs officials) that today we will cross
(the border) and I will be back tomorrow. My clients are waiting for me in
Maputo ready with the US dollars," he said.

ááááá The man expected to quickly come back to Harare where he said he would
pick up a consignment of rice, which he intended to smuggle into Mozambique.

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Zim Independent

Stop game privatisation, govt urged
Munyaradzi Wasosa
THE International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) has
condemned Zimbabwe's deteriorating wildlife record and adopted a resolution
calling on the government to stop nationalising private game ranches and
conservancies, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.

At its 51st General Assembly held from April 28 to May 1 in Bucharest,
Romania, the CIC criticised the government for condoning the invasion of
wildlife areas since 2000.

"We urge the Zimbabwean government to refrain from nationalising
privately-owned conservation land," said the CIC.

It said government policy was destroying flora and fauna. "The extensive and
indiscriminate slaughtering of wildlife, including endangered species such
as black rhino, is a cause for concern," the CIC said.

"War veterans have invaded privately-owned game ranches and conservancies."

There have been reports that the Zimbabwe National Army is also involved in
the indiscriminate slaughter of wild animals in protected areas.

Since December last year, poachers in the Sinamatella Intensive Protection
Zone have killed four black rhinos, bringing the death toll of the
endangered species to 30. The black rhino is protected under the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species.

According to the conservation group, government's sustained assault on
wildlife areas is costing the country millions in potential foreign currency
earnings.

"The privately-owned game ranches and conservancies form a substantial part
of wildlife conservation and sustainable use areas in the country," said the
CIC.

"It brings in substantial foreign currency to support local communities
through legal hunting."

The Romania-based organisa- tion's mandate is to raise international
awareness of environmental matters by lobbying with other like-minded groups
for the protection of wildlife.

Since 2000, poaching has virtually destroyed the Communal Areas Management
Programmes for Indigenous Resources in areas like Binga.

In February government released its Wildlife-Based Land Reform Policy that
seeks to nationalise all private game areas and conservancies. Out of a
total of 88 conservancies countrywide in 2000, only about 12 are left.

l Last week we reported that Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairman Jacob
Mudenda was allocated a hunting concession in Matetsi Unit 6 by Environment
and Tourism minister, Francis Nhema, without going to tender.

It has since come to our attention that the concession in question was not
allocated to Mudenda. The Independent regrets the error
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Zim Independent

Army to build recruitment school
Gift Phiri
THE government is setting up an army boarding high school in the Ngezi area
from which the Zimbabwe Defence Forces will draw recruits, the Zimbabwe
Independent heard this week.

Top army sources said plans to construct the first army boarding school at
Ngezi near Kadoma were at an advanced stage, with photographic surveys
having already been submitted to the Surveyor General for scrutiny.

The school, which will enroll both boys and girls, will serve as a
recruitment pool for the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). Graduands from the
school will join the ZNA either as general duty soldiers or officer cadets.

The acting director of Zimbabwe Army Education Corps, Major Colsen Gwezhira,
confirmed that plans were under way to construct the school but referred
further questions to Zimbabwe National Army Schools and Welfare Trust
chairman, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

It was however not possible to obtain comment from Ndlovu.

The Independent understands that the Zimbabwe Corps of Engineers is
producing the architectural designs and the internal construction regiment
will undertake construction of the school. The institution will be built on
a 500-hectare piece of land that has been donated by the Kadoma
municipality.

"The education that will be offered at the school will focus on inculcating
discipline, patriotism, national pride and a comprehension of the country's
history," said the source.

The Independent was told that Mugabe is the patron of the school, Defence
minister Sydney Sekeramayi is the first trustee, retired Army General
Vitalis Zvinavashe is the second trustee, and Army General Constantine
Chiwenga is the president of the trust.

The boarding school will only enroll students who have attended one of the
12 primary schools that are currently being run by the ZNA through the
directorate of Army Education.

The Independent understands that a fundraising committee headed by
businessman Enock Kamushinda has been appealing for donations from the
corporate world, friendly states and embassies to fund construction of the
school.

The appeal is however understood to have met with serious donor fatigue. A
number of companies, including banks and parastatals, have donated towards
the fund. The Independent was told that there were contingency measures to
finance construction of the school from the fiscus.
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Zim Independent

51% of Zim prisoners HIV-positive
Gift Phiri
AT least 51% of inmates currently held in the country's 41 prisons are
infected with HIV/Aids, with limited strategies to fight its spread, a study
released last week revealed.

The sobering statistics come at a time when the country is battling to
combat the epidemic on a number of fronts amid accusations of a slow
government response to the crisis.

The report, compiled by the independent Institute of Correctional and
Security Studies, paints a grim picture and points to an Aids disaster
unfolding in the country's prisons where more than 25 000 people are
currently held.

"It is a sad reality," said researcher Tadesse Hussein Ali. "An estimated
51,4% of inmates held in Zimbabwean prisons as of April 2004 were infected
with Aids," he said in the Zimbabwe Report contained in his study into the
State of Prisons in the Sadc region.

He said hundreds of prisoners were released back into society every month -
bringing infections with them.

"The major hurdle facing Zimbabwe today is the limited access to public
health services. Unfortunately, this is the community that these ex-convicts
return to."

The report states that Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) has never carried out
research on HIV prevalence in its jails, an assertion vehemently denied by
prison officials.

Last year the Ministry of Health reported that 1,82 million of the country's
12,5 million people were living with the disease.

Hassen Ali accuses ZPS of downplaying the extent of HIV in the prisons. He
states that since 1999, reported cases of HIV/Aids in the country's jails
has shot up by more than 500%, albeit from a low baseline.

The report also states that natural deaths in prisons have surged by more
than 400% over the same period and now stands at more than eight per 1 000
prisoners. Most of the deaths are attributed to Aids-related illnesses,
mainly tuberculosis.

Hassen Ali said the spread of the disease was being hastened by
overcrowding, with reports that facilities designed to handle 16 000 inmates
are now housing more than 25 000 prisoners, in some cases with as many as 50
inmates crammed into a cell.

ZPS assistant spokesperson, Simon Kaondo, said the correctional department
had launched a number of programmes to combat the disease.

"We are running peer education programmes, disseminating information to
prisoners about Aids. We have even started the provision of anti-retroviral
drugs in prisons," said Kaondo.

Hassen Ali urged prison officials to distribute condoms in jails to curb the
spread of the disease. He argued that homosexuality was rampant in jails and
also suggested that prisoners should be allowed conjugal visits.

President Robert Mugabe is on record expressing his strong revulsion against
homosexuals whom he has described as worse that dogs and pigs.
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Zim Independent

A journey into the heart of British politics
Dumisani Muleya
WHEN I left for the United Kingdom about three weeks ago to receive the
prestigious Speaker Abbot Award for my professional work I did not know what
to expect at my destination - except getting the prize.

It was a non-believer's journey for me and I approached the whole trip with
an open mind.

I left Harare on April 25 aboard a direct British Airways flight to London.
After a wonderful flight on the Club World cabin I had a false start at the
airport.

An overzealous immigration officer and a security guard who sounded Nigerian
by his English accent tried to grill me over my visit but I simply resisted
their antics. While travellers who were dead scared of deportation seemed to
entertain their unnecessary harassment I had no time for gratuitous
botheration.

After about 30 minutes of haggling and defiance I sailed through.

At the arrival lounge I found David Banks who was there to collect me from
Heathrow Airport. He was growing somewhat impatient at my delay.

I narrated the silly incident in a casual and restrained tone, circumspect
not to blow out of proportion what had happened.

Banks, who had done a lot of logistical work to facilitate my travel, took
the issue as one of those fatuous occurrences.

He dropped me off at the Holiday Inn Express and we were to link up the
following day for the official start of my trip.

On Monday April 26I commenced my visit with a courtesy call at the New
Palace of Westminster - the Houses of Parliament - situated on the banks of
Thames River, a site which marks the origins of parliament.

That marked the start of a trip down memory lane of British history - which
we study in Zimbabwe.

In the company of Banks, I met Brian Shallcross, parliamentary press gallery
chair, for a tour of the massive parliament building that symbolises British
history and democracy. For more than 700 years Westminster has been the
cradle of democracy in Britain.

We met at the Central Lobby, the hub of the building, where people meet to
lobby their MPs.

Shallcross, a good-natured character with a strong sense of humour, took us
around the building. Our first stop within the complex was Westminster Hall,
described by Winston Churchill as the hub of British politics.

Whilst there we explored British history from the Stuart kings to
contemporary events.

Shallcross told us how important Westminster Hall was to Britain. He said
only distinguished foreign statesmen were allowed to speak there. The last
person to do so was former South African president Nelson Mandela a few
years ago.

Some leaders like former US president Ronald Reagan, current President
George Bush, and French President Jacques Chirac had visited Britain but not
given the honour of speaking in that hall.

We toured the House of Commons where political debate and discourse, as well
as power are centred. I had the opportunity to attend the Prime Minister's
Questions session where I saw Tony Blair squaring up with opposition
Conservative Party leader Michael Howard over Iraq and immigration issues.

It was a stormy debate in which Blair was cornered regarding events in Iraq
and immigration developments following the accession of 10 new countries to
the European Union. Blair was nailed over those issues but still managed to
wriggle off the hook.

We also got into the House of Lords where debates, legislation and judicial
issues are considered. I attended a session there and sat on the diplomatic
gallery. It was exciting but sometimes slumberous.

The lesson for me from these events was to see how leaders there are held
accountable for their actions. Blair might have defied popular opinion by
taking his country to a disastrous war in Iraq but he is held to account.

He has to continuously defend his actions, otherwise people would boot him
out of power. He knows he has no divine right to rule.

After a hectic schedule my day finally came on Tuesday April 27 - the same
day that South Africa celebrated its 10 years of democracy and President
Thabo Mbeki was sworn in for a second and final term.

I liked the coincidence in the same manner as I have always cherished
sharing my birthday with Mbeki - June 18.

The reception at the majestic Speaker's palace where I received the award -
a sparkling diamond trophy together with a monetary prize - was colourful
and fabulous.

Speaker Michael Martin captured the mood by drawing parallels between
autocratic apartheid South Africa and authoritarian Zimbabwe. His speech was
brief and poignant, which obliged me to do the same.

During the visit I also met government officials such as the secretary for
Wales and Leader of the House Peter Hain, parliamentary under-secretary
Chris Mullin and Tony Brennan, who heads the Zimbabwe Section, Africa
Department, in the Foreign Commonwealth Office, a number of MPs like former
minister Kate Hoey and a group Lords.

I met parliamentary International Development Select Committee chair Tony
Baldry and even got a rare opportunity to address his committee.

I engaged veteran journalists such Bill Hagerty, editor of British
Journalism Review, Mike Steele who works for Welsh community news service
and Greg Hurst of The Time. During the trip I met many hospitable people of
substance, including Zimbabweans who ran away from the current repression
and economic crisis.

I had the chance not just to highlight the tyranny and political dynamics in
Zimbabwe, but also to voice my criticism of London's policies towards Harare
to the relevant authorities.

In the end the visit was an educational pilgrimage and a tourism voyage!
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Zim Independent

Govt bid another blind move
Munyaradzi Wasosa

IN Ghana there is a proverb that says: "When a leopard wants to devour its
young ones, it first accuses them of smelling like goats."

Over the past four years the Zimbabwean government has descended on almost
all business sectors threatening to take over the ventures under the pretext
of indigenisation or black economic empowerment.

First to be affected were mainly white-owned commercial farms in the year
2000. Private properties were violently invaded, throwing into disarray the
well-organised commercial farming system. The invasions resulted in
widespread food shortages and loss of employment in the agricultural sector.

Next to "smell like a goat" were the manufacturing industries where
unscrupulous indigenous individuals claimed to be solving labour disputes.
White-owned ventures were targeted.
In the recent turbulence in the education sector the government has
threatened to nationalise all private "racist" schools.

Last week 46 prestigious schools were barred from reopening for the second
term for allegedly charging exorbitant fees. The schools were forced to
review their fees to December 2003 levels despite the spiralling cost of
living and soaring inflation.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent last week, Education minister
Aeneas Chigwedere said the government intended to nationalise all private
schools to stop them from operating like private business empires.

"These private schools are not playing a clean game," Chigwedere said.
"Nationalisation of these private white racist schools is an option we are
not ruling out."
Chigwedere said the private schools were racist because they had their roots
in the colonial past. He said the schools would do anything to alienate
black pupils by charging unaffordable fees.

"The major element is that white schools like Watershed and Lomagundi are
racist. They are conspiring to throw out black pupils by charging fees well
beyond the reach of many black parents," said Chigwedere.

Among the allegedly racist white schools were two owned by retired army
general Vitalis Zvinavashe, Tynwald primary and high schools.

Investigations by the Independent have revealed that ruling party chefs,
including ministers, send their children to upmarket schools such as
Hartmann House - a preparatory school for St George's College - Arundel,
Heritage and Peterhouse.
Analysts have questioned the government's intention to nationalise the
schools saying the state does not have the capacity to run them given that
it is failing to run its own schools.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) shadow education minister Fidelis
Mhashu said it was too ambitious for the government to think of
nationalising private schools anytime soon.

"The government is failing to provide adequate facilities to pupils at its
schools currently," Mhashu said. "How can it nationalise private schools
when it is failing to maintain its own?"
Mhashu added: "The arbitrary closure of private schools by Chigwedere in
cahoots with the police is illegal.

"There is no provision in the current Education Act that says the minister
(of education) can close schools over increase of fees."
The MDC legislator said the government should consider the educational
contribution being made by private schools.

"By nationalising these schools the government will be failing to appreciate
the contribution they have made over the years in producing leading bankers,
politicians and a number of highly ranked personalities both in government
and the private sector," he said.

Zimbabwe's schools are generally classified into grades. Grades A and B are
government schools, church schools are grade C, while private (independent)
schools fall under grade D.

The Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) provided a list of top 50
advanced level school rankings for last year's November examinations in
which government schools were said to have performed better than private
ones.
No government school however made it into the top 10 category, which was
dominated by private church-run schools such as St John's Secondary School
and St Ignatius College.

In March, Chigwedere said there was no reason for private schools to
increase their fees given that they had a "poor record" in terms of
examination results.
"We have schools that are charging the highest and are producing the worst
academic results," he said, referring to private schools.

What Chigwedere conveniently ignored was that the majority of pupils at most
private schools prefer to take Cambridge examinations instead of local
Zimsec examinations whose marketability is suspect.
At St George's College, two-thirds of the pupils wrote "A" level Cambridge
examinations and had good grades. Only a third of pupils from private
schools wrote Zimsec examinations.

Mhashu said Chigwedere was skirting facts by saying private schools have
poor academic results.
"This is a classic example of confusion on the part of the minister," Mhashu
said. "He is running away from the fact that most students shun local
examinations because of the corruption at Zimsec."

In a snap survey, the Independent found that most parents whose children
attend private schools prefer to have them write Cambridge examinations.
It costs up to $900 000 a term for a pupil to enrol at a government boarding
institution such as Goromonzi High School, while a private school like
Peterhouse in Marondera charges at least $3,3 million.

While fees are seemingly low at government schools, the facilities are far
from ideal. Parents fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for food and
other essentials that the schools fail to provide.
Pupils attending government schools now have to source their own stationery,
including textbooks. They must also bring their own food to supplement the
meagre rations provided by the schools.
By contrast, private schools provide everything from uniforms to textbooks.
The reluctance by the government to increase its per-capita grants to
schools is one cause for concern.

In January the dubiety of Zimbabwe's examinations system was exposed at
Mnene Primary School in Mberengwa. It was revealed that the school
headmaster and three teachers wrote and filled in answer sheets for dozens
of grade seven pupils.
The then Education permanent secretary Thomson Tsodzo declared that results
of more than 50 pupils at the school would stand as genuine.
The government has ordered all private schools that had increased their fees
to revert to December 2003 fees or they would not be allowed top re-open.
"If these private schools continue dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying,"
Chigwedere warned, "they will remain closed."

Peterhouse, which had increased fees to $9,9 million, has since slashed them
to $3,3 million.

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Zim Independent

Zanu PF rolls out election strategy

There is something impressive but vulgar about the architects of a strategy
by which millions of Zimbabweans will be convinced to vote for a political
party that has proved beyond all doubt that it lacks the capacity to change
the fortunes of the country.

Zanu PF has started to roll out its political campaign strategy for the 2005
general election. It has not tried to disguise its desire for seats in
Matabeleland where the MDC reigned supreme in 2000. It also plans to
overturn the opposition's leverage in urban areas to fulfill its quest for a
two-thirds majority in parliament.

What does the party have to offer the electorate next year? The land, its
trump card in the last two elections, won't be a major draw card in the 2005
poll, especially to the urban voter.

Realising this, Mugabe's regime has dished out largesse designed to oil the
electioneering. That Zanu PF rigs elections is a fact because there are six
High Court rulings to confirm that. Allegations of ballot box stuffing have
been raised without evidence, but what has become apparent over the years is
the party's ability to rig the electoral process at all levels; from voter
registration, delimitation of constituencies, to the appointment of
electoral personnel and the campaign mode itself.

The apparatus to carry out this survival operation is on the roll. It got a
test run in the Chitungwiza by-election where the party paid supporters for
attending rallies. A clinic was set up in the constituency to treat patients
free of charge. It was quietly closed down after the polls.

There was violence which claimed the life of an MDC supporter and there were
allegations that bus loads of people were brought into the constituency to
boost the numbers. All this is allegedly being replicated in Lupane.

Elsewhere in this paper we carry reports about goodies that President Mugabe
will soon be serving to chiefs. We also report on the politics of food
distribution and the not-so-transparent voter registration process that is
in full swing in Zanu PF's rural strongholds but is absent in towns. These
factors give Zanu PF a head-start in its quest to garner the rural vote. We
have yet to see the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's strategy to
counter this.

Last week state media ran pictures of traditional chiefs lining up to shake
Mugabe's hand. Like kindergarten kids waiting to receive candy from Santa,
the chiefs accepted with glee news that they were now entitled to cars and
that their homes would be electrified. They recently received a huge monthly
package of $1,5 million in addition to other benefits accruing to them as
traditional leaders.

They have already started to return Mugabe's munificence. They last week
passed a resolution at their conference in Masvingo that no one should
challenge Mugabe's candidacy for the party's top post at the Congress in
December. It is an understatement to say they have been bought over. They
have become pliable instruments of Zanu PF to act as political commissars
for the party.

There have been reports of chiefs compiling registers of subjects as they
come to cast their ballots. They have no official mandate to perform this
exercise but one can only guess that it is meant to tell the unsophisticated
voter that "you are being watched over".

The rural strategy should also take on board food distribution. It was
reported this week that the government kicked out a Food and Agriculture
Organisation team that was doing a crop assessment in the country. The
government has also told aid agencies to wind up operations on the pretext
that the country will receive a bumper harvest this year.

There are areas with grain deficits but these will be catered for through
internal distribution structures, we were told. What guarantees do we have
that the system will not be politicised to starve non-conforming communities
and to bribe the stomachs of those in Matabeleland where there are perennial
grain deficits?

There are more goodies on the cards. We recall in 2002 that school teachers
were headed to the City Sports Centre where government announced the launch
of a housing project for them. The government last year promised urban
voters houses through a new home ownership scheme.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said government was reviving the
pay-for-your-house scheme with those interested now required to pay half the
cost of constructing houses and flats. He said the scheme under the National
Housing Delivery Programme aimed to acquire at least 310 406 hectares of
peri-urban land to construct 250 000 housing units annually.

We have not seen much any evidence of property development as yet. In fact
there was no budgetary allocation for that. But urban voters will once again
be reminded that the project is at an advanced stage.

To complete the process, Zanu PF has total control over state resources to
execute its campaign strategies. It has put in place laws that have been
abused by the police to ensure the opposition cannot organise and address
rallies without clearance. There is also a partisan media that has
shamelessly demonstrated its bias towards the establishment.

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Zim Independent

Eric Bloch Column

Pre-poll economic myths, actions intensify

ALL indications show that government is rapidly gearing-up for the next
parliamentary elections presently scheduled for March 2005 although it lies
in the discretion of the president to determine when the elections take
place, provided that is so within five years of the last elections.

The elections could very well be at an earlier date. Almost all of
government's traditional actions to influence the outcome of the elections
are being intensified.

They include endless vituperative abuse against perceived enemies abroad,
with especial reference to the European Union in general, and Britain in
particular.

When celebrating Zimbabwe's Independence and again when addressing a
gathering of the Council of Chiefs in Masvingo, the president vented his
spleen against Tony Blair and his government. He did likewise when
addressing Zimbabweans in South Africa. And he is vigorously supported by
the state-controlled media who unhesitatingly comply with the directives of
their masters, writing and broadcasting inconceivably far-fetched attacks
which defy the imagination of even the most gullible.

One recent such propaganda "poppycock" was the allegation that Blair is
launching a concerted campaign to discredit the government by promoting a
series of high-power visits to Zimbabwe by leading African heads of state,
including Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of
Nigeria, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Festus Mogae of Botswana.

Allegedly, these visits will be designed to motivate the government to
subject itself to the will of the United Kingdom. Does the Minister of
Fiction, Fable and Myth really think that Zimbabwe's newspaper readers and
radio and television audiences are so na´ve as to believe that all these
heads of state are at the beck and call of Blair? I think not! More likely
is that the minister feels that he must, albeit unsuccessfully and
ludicrously, explain away the endeavours of these heads of state to have
sanity restored to the Zimbabwean situation.

Other election-driven actions include the drive against corruption. That is
commendable in principle! Corruption is a major contributory factor to the
bankrupt state of Zimbabwe's fiscus, to rampant hyperinflation, and to the
decline of the economy.

When its focus is concentrated primarily upon a business community which, in
order to keep business operational, resorted to the same currency
procurement methods as did the state and its focus is also concentrated upon
those who are either considered to be enemies of the political hierarchy, or
as have been so blatant in their corruption that they cannot be ignored, the
anti-corruption drive is devoid of credibility. That credibility would only
exist if there were a concerted effort to determine the sources of untold
wealth of thousands who had nought to their name in 1980 and, without any
evident basis as to how accumulated, now possess immense assets. But
spuriously suggesting to the populace that corruption is now being contained
and that perpetrators of corrupt acts will receive their just desserts, is a
good vote-getter!

Yet another of the acts of government to maximise electorate support is its
continuing and increasing expropriation of farms and its recurrent promises
to "new farmers" of plentiful supplies of inputs and of good producer
prices. And the acquisitions continue to be justified by repeated
dissemination of the lie that the lands had been "stolen" from Zimbabwe's
indigenous people.

All but government and its followers know this to be untrue, for 110 years
ago, this country had a populace of less than 250 000, and most of the land
was unoccupied. But billions of dollars spent on advertising, and repeated
mouthings at political rallies were all targeted to brainwash the people.
This is seen as a major harvester of votes.

Another attempt to maximise voter support is to create a racial divide.
Despite promises at Independence, despite the fact that almost all whites
who abhorred blacks have emigrated or died, and despite the fact that
non-blacks are now a miniscule portion of the government continue with
racial abuse against the Zimbabwean minority. They recurrently claim that
whites continue to control the economy, which is falsehood in the extreme.
They continue to claim that the minority seeks endlessly to disadvantage the
majority. And they do so in disregard for the constitution which they claim
to uphold, for that constitution specifically provides against racial
discrimination and abuse.

Most recently, Zimbabwe witnessed such racial divisiveness in the rantings
and ravings of the Minister of Education Aenias Chigwedere against local
independent schools. Having forced temporary closure of numerous schools to
the prejudice of the education of Zimbabwe's youth (the nation's greatest
asset), he railed against them, alleging that they were white strongholds
who deliberately raised fees to preclude blacks from attaining an education.
The fact that none of the schools are operated for profit and gain, that all
could justify their fee levels if operations were to be continued without a
lowering of standards and virtually all had awaited ministry approval of the
fees for a very extended period of time was irrelevant.

Chigwedere presumably wished to impress parents with his concern for them,
thereby garnering voter support. He presumably wished to terminate the
existence of independent schools for the quality of their education and
opera-tions show government schools in a very bad light. He presumably also
wished to expand his authoritarian empire by forcing all independent schools
to lose their independence and be run by his ministry. But, in doing so, he
ignored the fact that more than two-thirds of attendees at the independent
schools are blacks, and that the teaching staff and the boards of governors
were comprised of people of all races. A direct consequence of his actions
has been a re-acceleration of the brain drain from Zimbabwe.

One of the biggest myths that government is marketing far and wide is that
the economy is improving. Not only is that not so, but the opposite is the
reality: The monetary policies introduced by the Governor of the Reserve
Bank Gideon Gono have significantly slowed down the economic decline, but
they could not, and have not, reversed it.

The economy is continuing to deteriorate but at a somewhat slower pace and
that will inevitably continue to be so unless government is prepared to
align fiscal policies with monetary policies, and unless government is
prepared to discard those of its policies as are economically destructive.
Those negative policies include the ongoing land grab, the alienation of
international goodwill, tacit condonation of continuing corruption by the
politically-influential, brainwashing of the youth through the youth
brigades, nepotism, racial divisiveness, disregard for human rights, justice
and law and order and contempt for the fundamentals of democracy.

In contradistinction to the contentions of economic recovery, Zimbabwe
continues to suffer economic decline. Government supports its contentions by
drawing attention to a fall in the rate of inflation from an all-time high
of 622,8% to 593,8% (year-on-year), and that the month-on-month rate has
also reduced. But it does not mention that, overall, prices rose by 27,63%
in the first three months of 2004!

Government draws attention to its containment of the former parallel market
and black currency exchange markets but refrains from recognition of the
continuing inadequacy of foreign currency and the resulting shortages of
fuel, industrial inputs, agricultural imported requirements, medications,
and so forth. When alleging the economic recovery, government intentionally
blinds itself to rising unemployment, business closures, decimation of
agriculture and an almost total absence of investment - domestic or foreign.
Zimbabweans can take it for granted that government will remain myopic to
these circumstances for elections are just around the corner and therefore
the populace must be fooled into believing that, that which is hell for them
is actually paradise.
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Zim Independent

Muckraker

Chiefs caught in a Catch-22

MUCKRAKER was shocked by the illegal complicity between the Ministry of
Education and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in the closure of a number of
private schools around the country last week. So far as Muckraker has been
able to gather, there is no law that empowers the minister or his permanent
secretary to close down a school over fees. It is still not clear to us
under what law police commissioner Augustine Chihuri deployed the police to
barricade the schools.

Not only was the action illegal, it was an undue inconvenience to thousands
of pupils, some of whom are too young to understand what the problem is.
Then on the Face the Nation programme on Thursday evening Education minister
Aeneas Chigwedere made a nuisance of himself, claiming that government had
not closed down the schools but only made sure they didn't reopen.

Does that constitute a material difference to the affected pupils? Masimba
Musarira didn't bother to quiz the minister on this issue. Nor did he
challenge him on the legality of his action. Instead Chigwedere was given
free rein to waffle on and on about the fee increases being racially
motivated to exclude pupils from poor black families. This despite the fact
that one of the schools closed down, Tynwald Primary School, is owned by
Vitalis Zvinavashe.

In any case, we thought the logical thing about fee increases would be for
the school authorities, such as school development associations, to discuss
with parents their expenses and agree a reasonable figure. But it looks like
government is interested in imposing arbitrary figures to bring down
standards in all the schools.

We all know how standards have virtually collapsed in most government
schools such as Lord Malvern in Waterfalls, Allan Wilson and Mabelreign
Girls High. Facilities such as tennis courts are a sorry testimony to what
government is capable of. And Chigwedere thinks it's all to do with racism!

We were not surprised by the chiefs' resolution in Masvingo last week
endorsing President Robert Mugabe to continue leading the country. Most of
them have been bought over through the numerous perks flowing from the
ruling party one wonders if they still deserve to be called traditional
leaders. In addition to pecuniary gains running into thousands of dollars,
chiefs can now buy vehicles of their choice using a custom-desgined scheme
launched by government and some of themhave had their homes electrified at
the urban taxpayer's expense.

So Zanu PF will obviously be expecting pay back time when it comes to the
parliamentary election next year. Chiefs will be expected to give their
subjects a few tips on what a secret ballot is all about.
But more dangerous was the ignorance displayed by these worshippers of
mammon. They seem to take Mugabe as a traditional leader whose position
should not be contested.

According to the Herald, the chiefs meeting at Great Zimbabwe outside
Masvingo said Mugabe's position as leader of the party and government should
not be contested at this year's party congress. In their resolution read out
by Chief Fortune Charumbira, they declared: "The chiefs reaffirm their
support for President Mugabe, the government and the ruling party Zanu PF."

Which is to say they are already badly compromised as traditional leaders by
affiliating themselves to a political party. How can they serve their
subjects impartially if they don't support the same political party? And are
these chiefs still representing the interests of their subjects or is it now
the reverse, that is chiefs representing the interests of Zanu PF to the
people?

So a whole editor went to Maputo, Mozambique to write about how brave
Information minister Jonathan Moyo can be in the face of alleged
intimidation by a few unarmed human rights activists?

Herald editor Pikirayi Deketeke, in a story headlined "Moyo refuses to be
intimidated" said the minister stood up to the challenge of six "drunken
bunch of media and political activists" who refused to be addressed by Moyo
whom they accused of "closing the Daily News and causing the arrest of
journalists".

Moyo had gone to the Maputo Press Club perhaps to dish out his wisdom on
patriotic reporting. The journalists would have none of it. For nearly 40
minutes Moyo is reported to have remained transfixed on his seat because the
group wanted to make sure he left, which he eventually did, without
addressing them.

The bravery Deketeke is extolling is simply that Moyo didn't run away.
"Professor Moyo, who sat throughout the 30 to 45 minutes it took to hold the
meeting, was completely unmoved by the intimidation and refused to leave the
Press Club," said Deketeke.

But by the time the group was ejected from the meeting room, wrote Deketeke,
"it was already too late for Professor Moyo to proceed with the press
conference as he was expected to meet members of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique
Friendship Association".
So who won the contest if the intrepid Moyo was unable to address the
journalists? Talk of ministerial notoriety doing some border jumping. The
guy seems to court controversy whenever he opens his mouth.

Writing more like a politician than a journalist, Deketeke claimed that
Zimbabwean reporters who have been arrested under the infamous Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act in the past two years had written
"falsehoods or breached the country's media laws".

He didn't say why those who wrote falsehoods about the MDC plotting to bomb
bridges and tall buildings in Harare and Bulawayo were not arrested although
they were forced by the courts to make a grovelling public apology.

We all know he is carrying out a political mandate, but for the sake of his
own dignity Deketeke could do with some bit of modest about the virtues of
the country's media laws. A brief discussion with Tribune publisher and Zanu
PF Makonde MP Kindness Paradza will leave him wiser.

The picture and caption on the front page of the Herald on Monday told us
all we ever needed to know about the level of theft that goes on on the
farms that government acquires for resettlement.

The caption read: "It is business as usual at Arda Odzi, formerly Kondozi
Farm, as workers grade sweet corn and prepare it for the export market." In
the picture were startled women caught unawares by the cameraman while they
were "grading" corn.
George Chisoko, who wrote the accompanying story, didn't reveal to his
readers what variety of maize the land invaders had planted that matures in
a short period of four weeks.

Zanu PF supporters and Arda workers took over Kondozi Farm at Easter and
they are already harvesting! That is in just over a month they are ready to
export their produce.

How else are we supposed to interpret the whole business if the Herald doesn
't acknowledge that the maize was planted by those who have been chased out
of Kondozi? Instead we are told it is business as usual! Normalising the
abnormal, to borrow an expression often used by the late Professor Masipula
Sithole to try and make sense of our incomprehensible politics.

The 498-hectare farm produces a variety of horticultural crops, said
Chisoko. The crops are currently at different stages of maturity.
"So for anyone to doubt the authority's (Arda) capacity to productively work
on the land is a joke that has ceased to be funny," declared Chisoko,
sounding more and more like a clone of Jonathan Moyo. There was no shred of
evidence to prove that Arda had produced anything.
"Arda boasts of a huge fleet of farm equipment that no individual farmer can
ever think of possessing," he said.
It's like saying Zimbabwe possesses the best farmland in Africa. Is that any
consolation to a starving villager?

Coltrane Chimurenga of the December 12 Movement says they are planning a
visit to Zimbabwe to help fellow blacks make the best use of their newly
acquired land holdings. Under a campaign called "Pennies for Zimbabwe",
Coltrane and his African-American tribe are urging people to donate pennies
towards this noble cause.
"We started the 'Pennies for Zimbabwe' project to help the farmers who have
recently re-acquired farms and are in need of seeds, fertiliser and tools to
properly cultivate. There is also the problem of the current drought. We
plan to use your penny donations to help women (in communal areas) purchase
seeds and/or tools. This effort allows us to make a contribution towards
self-sufficiency in Africa," Coltrane's appeal reads.

At the rate of pennies, it will take another century for Coltrane's
beneficiaries to reap any dividend. And who told him about a drought this
year when Agriculture minister Joseph Made has already forecast a "bumper
harvest" and government is saying it won't need food aid from donor
agencies?

Is it now official policy that former white commercial farmers whose
properties were acquired by government should not own or utilise any
farmland in the country no matter however productively?
The Sunday Mail carried a report this week in which the secretary for
Agriculture Ngoni Masoka said it was illegal for government research
institutions to lease their farms to private individuals.
"It is not allowed to do so. We have since ordered these institutions to
fully utilise the farms to generate income for use at the centers," said
Masoka.

It didn't occur to him that some of these institutions don't have the skills
needed to farm. Some, like the Institute of Agricultural Engineering, had,
quite sensibly, leased their farms to those who could use them productively.
Government did not tolerate such arrangements, declared Masoka.

Then the reporter tells us: "The sources said it was sad to note that those
leasing the farm (from the Institute of Agricultural Engineering) were
former white commercial farmers whose properties were acquired by government
for resettlement purposes."
So it's now a race thing, damn their skills! Meanwhile President Mugabe has
been telling anybody who cared to listen that no one who wants to farm would
be left without land. Is that what is happening on the ground?

The Herald's acting sports editor, whom we assume to be Lawrence Moyo, has
distinguished himself as the defender of the "new-look cricket squad" which
has been giving the visiting Sri Lankans practice sessions with both bat and
ball.

In all the huge defeats the youngsters have suffered, Moyo has jumped into
their defence, telling readers the team was not humiliated or that the
players put up a gallant fight.

To illustrate the valour of the players, Moyo on Tuesday produced two
scoreboards -one for the old Zimbabwe team's Test against Sri Lanka and the
new team's valiant performance.

The scoreboards showed that the old Zimbabwe lost by 315 runs and the
new-look team lost by an innings and 240 runs. Does Moyo know the difference
between losing by an innings and losing by straight runs?

Could someone bring back Jahoor Omar to educate Moyo who missed lessons on
past tenses in fourth grade but still rose threw the ranks to become acting
sports editor. Dynamos players were shell-shocked when Luke Masomere
"through" in Tonderayi Ndiraya for Francis Chandida.
We wonder what conclusion Moyo would come up with after Ricky Pointing's men
plough threw our heroes.

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Zim Independent

IMF predicts surge in Zimbabwe's GDP
Godfrey Marawanyika
FOR the first time in four years the World Economic Outlook Report is
predicting a positive gross domestic product (GDP) for Zimbabwe in 2005.

The report is compiled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the
prediction came after the group's analysis of Zimbabwe's monetary and fiscal
policy, which was reviewed last month. The IMF was in Zimbabwe in March
conducting its annual Article IV Consultations.

GDP is the total amount of the country's production.

The report anticipates that Zimbabwe's GDP, which has been on the decline
since 1999, will record a 5,2% positive growth, up from a decline of -9,2%
this year. Since March the IMF has warned that this year GDP could shrink
even further.

Over the past five years, the country's GDP has contracted by about 30%.

The outlook however raised concern over the issues of excessive liquidity
growth, which contributed to the record increases in stock prices, real
estate and the parallel market exchange rate.

The IMF also noted that exports suffered because of the un-competitive
official exchange rate and official imports were severely constrained.

Although the IMF raised some concerns, it said it was satisfied with some of
the steps taken in the 2004 budget, the December monetary policy statement
and efforts to strengthen banking supervision.

The IMF team, which was led by Doris Ross, will present its findings to the
executive board sometime next month or early July.

Since 1999, up until December last year, Zimbabwe has been failing to pay
its dues to the IMF and other multilateral donors.

As of March 31 Zimbabwe owed the IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 196,71
million. Zimbabwe has committed to make US$1,5 million quarterly payments to
the IMF.

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Zim Independent

Holiday allowances to bounce back
Ngoni Chanakira
HOLIDAY allowances could soon be re-introduced if Zimbabweans in the
diaspora continue repatriating millions in foreign currency from their
stations.

However the figure could be slashed to about US$1 000 each annually for the
time being instead of the US$2 500 originally offered before the system was
abandoned.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono says the issue is still under
consideration and would be handled with caution as long as the country
needed foreign currency for fuel, electricity, drugs and food imports.

Individual holiday allowances, which stood at US$2 500 annually, were
stopped by the RBZ last year, riling citizens who contended that it was
their democratic right to go on holiday abroad.

Some top businesspeople have packages that include paid holidays in foreign
currency annually and are allowed to take their families along in what are
termed "Time share holiday schemes".

"We decided to stop issuing holiday allowances to all and sundry because we
thought that the allowances were not a priority at the time," Gono said.
"How can we have individuals wiping away the little foreign currency
available at the central bank for holiday purposes? We decided to give
preference to other more important projects."

He said the fixed auction system intentionally threw out bids for the
purchase of foreign currency for holiday purposes.

"I can confirm that bids for holiday allowance are being thrown out," he
said. "However when the situation gets back to normal we will review this
together with the commercial banks."

A senior Standard Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd Treasury department official said his
bank was flooded with requests from individuals seeking holiday allowances.

Gono said the auction system, while not being perfect, was striving to
fulfill the needs of the essential sectors in business.

However the system has riled the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries who
continually complain that their members are being short-changed because of
the low rate offered at the moment.

The CZI said the fixed rate of $5 200 was killing the export market because
it is unviable.

Gono disputed this, saying the problem with the industrialists was that they
were used to complaining all the time.

Economist John Robertson said the figure was not viable because of
hyperinflation.

"Because the Zimbabwe dollar has not been permitted to move in response to
domestic inflation since the beginning of 1999, the official exchange rate
soon became a seriously misleading measure of the true value of Zimbabwe's
currency," Robertson said. "During the whole of 1999 and up to August 2000,
and again during the months from October 2000 to the end of 2003, the
official exchange rate was held at fixed levels that, because of inflation,
soon bore no relation to the real value of the currency."

In his monetary policy statement in December last year Gono admitted that
the exchange rate management issue was as emotive as the controversial land
question and "remains so".

"Moving forward, it has to be realised that, no business community can ever
hope to succeed in an environment of acrimony and antagonism with its
government and equally, no government can hope to function smoothly when it
is at variance with its business sector," he said.

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Zim Independent

Mugabe 'unpopular' in diaspora
Ngoni Chanakira
ZIMBABWEANS living abroad say before they can channel funds to their
motherland President Robert Mugabe must quit and a new government takes
over.

This emerged in an informal survey of senior businesspersons conducted by
leading bankers on business opinions and problems in Zimbabwe as well as how
to attract foreign currency from those in the diaspora.

The survey, known as "The market barometer - Snap survey of issues affecting
business", was distributed to business executives including Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, at a foreign currency conference in Harare on
Tuesday last week.

Economic commentator and consultant Eric Bloch is in charge of the RBZ team
set up to harness foreign currency from locals in the diaspora.

Despite the negative political sentiments however, in just two days last
week, US$1,7 million had gone into the RBZ coffers from Zimbabweans abroad.

Bloch says although numbers could not be established with absolute
authority, on the basis of diverse and informed sources, it was established
that there are approximately 3,4 million Zimbabweans in the diaspora for
various reasons.

He said of these 1,1 million are in the United Kingdom, 1,2 million in South
Africa, 450 000 in southern African countries, 200 000 in the United States
and Canada, 300 000 in mainland Europe and 150 000 in Australia and New
Zealand.

Human Resources (Pvt) Ltd chairman David Harrison, whose company carries out
research for top companies and government, says Zimbabwe has already lost
close to 60% of its accountants to the diaspora.

He said the reasons varied from low remuneration, job dissatisfaction,
failure to command high standards of living in Zimbabwe and political
uncertainty.

Departing from the written presentation, Stanbic Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd
(Stanbic) head of the Treasury department Weston Makwara, said Zimbabweans
living abroad regularly asked when President Mugabe will go.

President Mugabe says he won the last election and therefore is
"democratically" allowed to see his term of office through. The term ends in
2008 but speculation is rife that he could step down earlier.

Makwara said when compiling the data it was also discovered that Zimbabweans
living abroad were generally unhappy with the present government and its
policies and most of them had left the country because they were being
frustrated in their efforts to contribute positively to the country's
success.

The locals abroad said they felt even more isolated after being refused the
vote in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Those who have departed for the diaspora include doctors, nurses, teachers,
accountants and commercial farmers.

Followed up on the issue Bloch said there were a few "rabble rousers" in the
diaspora who "spoke louder than everybody else".

"We have just received US$1,7 million from serious Zimbabweans living in the
diaspora and the money is coming in ever since we began tapping it from
them," Bloch told businessdigest in an interview.

"Some of those individuals making those statements either had failed in
Zimbabwe, or are just rabble rousers trying to throw a spanner into the
works of our programme. I would not take those sentiments seriously and
representing the majority of those in the diaspora."

Makwara said the survey's key conclusions were that industry needed to take
advantage of the RBZ's open door policy to submit contributions to help the
governor.

"They need to work together, not so much being seen together, but mutually
supporting each other," he said. "Free enterprise needs to continue to have
free rein and to flourish."

According to the survey, issues that affected business in Zimbabwe in 2003
prior to Gono's monetary policy statement included runaway inflation,
inaccessibility of foreign currency, rising and ultimately very high
interest rates, and cost containment challenges. He said any set of
financial statements was witness to this.

Makwara said current issues were that there was a very predictable way of
allocating foreign currency but not enough available.He said the survey had
discovered that interest rates seemed stable allowing some semblance of
planning while the extension of productive sector validity had been hailed.

"We need the demand, goods are there but there is no demand," he said.

He said market perception about Zimbabwe were factors such as is inflation
now under control vis money supply issues and the impact this would have on
the wage bill.

Zimbabwe's month-on-month inflation that averaged around 18% last year, and
reached a peak of 33% in November, slowed down to 13,7% in January, 6% in
February and 5,9% in March.

The country's year-on-year inflation, according to the RBZ, has declined
from a high of 622% in January this year to the current 583%. However prices
of basic commodities such as bread, sugar and milk continue to soar. So have
those for electricity, water and fuel.

Makwara said investors also querried would the exchange rate be managed in
relation to major trade partners' figures and the projected impact this
would have on inputs, as well as the fact that in the absence of donor
support would Zimbabwe be able to have a stable exchange rate?

He said the survey had also raised issues such as could dampened local
demand coupled with the auction rate drive exports and bring in much-needed
foreign currency, as well as were the diaspora initiatives a step in the
right direction?

He said investors were worried about the tourism industry and declining
agriculture figures.

"No matter what may be one's political perspective, almost all who live in
Zimbabwe and a very great number of people outside this country, do not wish
the already gravely devastated, deeply distressed economy to be totally
destroyed," Bloch said.

"They may wish for major political changes, as I very much do, but they do
not wish to achieve it by intensifying poverty, misery, malnutrition, ill
health and death for millions and millions of innocent people, and for
children, the aged, the infirm and the disabled, in particular. Moreover,
they wish that when the eventual political changes occur, which I firmly
believe will happen, there should still be an economic foundation and
framework - no matter how fragile - on which to rebuild and carry this
country forward to the prosperity and well-being that it greatly needs and
deserves."

He said if only 10% of Zimbabweans abroad avail themselves of the new
structures, to an extent of as little as US$100 a month, the country would
access US$34 million monthly.

"That alone would suffice to meet all Zimbabwe's fuel importation costs,"
Bloch said.

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Zim Independent

Image - fact and reality
By Shingi Munyeza
OVER the past four years most of the tourism communication had to refer to
"bad publicity and poor national image".

At some point it sounded like a broken record and personally I stopped
referring to the notion of "negative publicity", because it offered a
crutch, which validated a resigned attitude in all of us.

As the government-led land reform took centre-stage in 2000 in the manner
that it did, we in the tourism industry sought to address the resultant
negative image. We formed the short-lived Tourism Recovery Task Force and we
asked President Robert Mugabe to launch it at the Harare International
Conference Centre. This was the last we were to hear of the Tourism Recovery
Task Force because our objectives in the private sector were different from
government.

In the month's that followed we found ourselves in a blame war between
government and private sector. We didn't learn quickly that no one wins in a
blame war, actually the situation deteriorates. Tourism operations began to
close down, retrench, bankrupt and making unprecedented losses.

Meanwhile the rest of the world started worrying about safety concerns,
which were not the reality in our resort areas. This further deteriorated
into a moral objection. We later learnt that dismissing a moral objection is
more difficult than dealing with a safety concern.

In about 2002, the private sector realized that if we did not positively
engage government, our fortunes in tourism would be lost forever. We also
realized that the earlier we understand government's objectives we would
continue to waste resources. This marked the end of the blame war and the
responsibility attitude settled in. We began to see both government and the
private sector demonstrating responsibility for what was going on in tourism
and the national image.

Hate messages from shareholders to our traditional source markets began to
reduce and more condor prevailed between government and the private sector.
This allowed the private sector to put their concerns through to government
in a spirit that would bring positive response. As a result, governmentand
the private sector are working on a National Tourism Policy, which will
allow the tourism sector to positively engage other stakeholders.

For example it is hoped that once the tourism policy is finalized it will
enable the tourism sector to engage institutions such as the Zimbabwe
Electricity Supply Authority, Department of Immigration, Air Zimbabwe, ZRP
and many others to ensure we all worked together in bringing about an
enabling environment for tourism. Only in the recent past we have had
conflicting objectives with some of these stakeholders thereby threatening
the tourism sector with collapse.

Some positive outcome has been the establishment of a tourism police unit in
Victoria Falls, which will soon spread to other centres.

When all stakeholders begin to pull towards the same goals and objectives a
positive image is then created at home among the stakeholders. This is then
easier for the tourism industry to communicate a positive message to our
source markets.

Therefore image is about a sense of national pride, which comes from
personal pride of being a true Zimbabwean. Image is positively influenced by
allowing divergent views to prevail in an environment of mutual respect. A
positive image is sustained by being adversaries rather than enemies. A
positive image is enforced when colour, creed, race, origin or background
does not take centre stage.

Currently, we are a wounded and divided nation and unfortunately this is
what gets to our source markets. A message of hope and love need to start
coming out of all Zimbabweans. No visitor wants to visit people who are
considered hostile to each other. We have had maximum publicity as a nation
and now is the time to turn this publicity to our advantage.

Confidence building starts by admitting to our shortcomings, accepting our
differences, dealing with reality and coming up with common goals and
values. I believe we need to develop a critical mass of committed
nationalists, who have a national agenda.

As the old saying goes - ''A journey of a thousand miles starts with one
step''. We should start by working on the things that we agree on and then
deal with areas of disagreement. Eventually we should know that it is the
drop that fills the ocean. No one is insignificant.

l Shingi Munyeza is president of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) and
chief executive officer of the Zimsun Leisure group.
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Zim Independent

Rebuilding confidence in Zimbabwe
By Alex Tawanda Magaisa
ONE of the key challenges facing Zimbabwe is to rebuild and inspire
confidence among its citizens and within the wider global community.

As long as confidence in the country remains at the prevailing dismal
levels, chances of succeeding on the economic front are very slim. There are
at least three key areas of improvement that Zimbabwe ought to focus on in
order to regain the confidence of the local and global communities.

Firstly, at the risk of stating the obvious, it is necessary to sort out the
politics because the economic problems are direct products of political
problems that have grown over the last four years.

Secondly, it is necessary to revive the key institutions of the state that
in principle ought to remain outside the dynamics of party politics.

Third and probably most crucial, citizens' rights must be sufficiently
protected and more particularly, there must be a restoration of property
rights systems.

Much has been written about the politics of this country and undoubtedly, a
lot needs to be done to ensure that the political game is played fairly and
freely before the rest of the world, including our friends, can take us
seriously again. At present the single greatest factor inhibiting confidence
and investment in the country is political risk arising from years of
uncertainty and relative instability For various reasons, Zimbabwe has been
a high-profile developing country and consequently its problems have been
highlighted all over the world.

The images beamed across the world hardly inspire any confidence. While the
political issues have received much attention elsewhere, this article is
mainly concerned with the need to maintain the integrity of the key
institutions of the state and the importance of recognising and enforcing
rights to property for the revival of the economy.

There are several institutions of the state which have a life beyond the
government of the day. The idea of a civil service is that people are
employed by and to serve the state and its life-span or composition does not
depend on the incumbent government. For example, diplomats owe allegiance
not to political parties but to the state which they can serve even beyond
the tenure of their respective parties in government. Key appointees may
leave the civil service upon the departure of the incumbent government whose
policies they are meant to implement but by and large, the generality of the
civil service remains in place.

A mass departure of the civil service would cripple the wheels of the state.
Institutions such as the judiciary, the central bank, police, and central
intelligence also fall within the same bracket. Persons might come and go
but the integrity of those offices must be maintained at all times.

For instance, the central bank is the key institution in the formulation of
monetary policy and regulation of the finance and banking industry and its
independence is vital. It is important to ensure that these key institutions
retain independence and integrity in the eyes of the general public. In some
collapsed states, these key institutions either do not work at all, or at
best they serve in a partisan fashion that fails to inspire confidence. Due
to excessive political interference in the workings of some of these
institutions, Zimbabwe risks crippling the wheels that drive the state.

The politicisation of key institutions of the state is one of the gravest
errors in young developing countries. The levels of interference and
manipulation mean that those who use the institutions no longer have
confidence in the system. In my view, whatever political views we hold, we
should not be ruining the institutions upon which the state is built.

The lack of independence has meant that these institutions cannot retain or
recruit key personnel with skills that are necessary for their proper
functioning. This is because people no longer view the institutions as
separate from the ruling political party and therefore tend to associate
working for these institutions with sustaining the ruling party. Yet in fact
there would be nothing wrong with working with and for these institutions if
the political parties did not meddle in their business.

It is precisely for this reason that when renowned economic consultant Eric
Bloch became part of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe-backed body to harness
foreign currency from Zimbabweans in the diaspora, he invited a barrage of
criticism from some members of the society. Yet, in my view, in principle
there is nothing wrong with taking steps that help and sustain key
institutions of the state. If someone has an idea for the improvement of the
welfare of these key institutions, then they should be allowed to put it
across.

Both the ruling party and the opposition ought to desist from politicising
affairs of key state institutions. Whether it is Zanu PF or the MDC that is
in power tomorrow, it must always be clear that state institutions remain
largely apolitical. There is no point in destroying important institutions
of the state when fighting for political office because when you get to
power you will need to have those institutions in place.

If the South African anti-apartheid movement had gone on a rampage and
destroyed key institutions, they would have had serious challenges when the
time came for them to ascend to positions of power. When we write and
critique policies of the RBZ, judicial judgements, police actions, it is not
because we are attacking the officers personally. In fact, we are trying to
place ideas in the marketplace, to hold them accountable for their actions
and to ensure that the institutions that they serve function in the best way
possible. It is necessary to keep those who run our key institutions on
their toes so as to deliver as best as they can. They have in us, best
friends whose key interest is to preserve the integrity of the institutions
and act as sounding boards for their ideas and policies. Unfortunately, some
do not take it in that light, and tend to dismiss criticism as sabotage.

Property rights are key instruments in a market economy. They are necessary
for the processes of exchange that take place in the market. Individuals
cannot be expected to pay or work for things to which they cannot assert
their rights. The right to property enables an individual to use and expend
a thing without undue interference from others. Any reasonable investor
expects that the law adequately protects rights to his investment. Part of
the reasons for the success of the commercial farmers was that they had
secure title to property and were therefore able to use it in many ways,
including as security for loans and were able to venture into long-term
farming projects with greater commercial benefits.

The insecurity over property in Zimbabwe has not only caused capital flight
and reduction of asset values but it also deters potential investors. The
expansion of Zimbabwean companies to other countries in the region is not
simply a result of any newly found entrepreneurial ideas but is largely
motivated by the desire to protect investments in more stable environments
where property rights are better protected. In fact, most of these companies
are slowly divesting from Zimbabwe and placing their assets in other
countries and with the passage of time, they will totally dispose of local
operations if things fail to improve. In an environment where people make
inflammatory statements that threaten property rights and assets of
commercially viable enterprises such as Kondozi and Charleswood are usurped
wantonly, confidence cannot be expected to flourish. Instead of laying down
arms and beginning the process of nation-building, there seems to be an
insistence on breaking down all forms of property ownership.

Despite all the familiar rhetoric, economically Zimbabwe cannot go it alone
in this globalised world.

Zimbabwean businesses need to access loan and credit facilities in the
global markets and political risk is a key aspect in assessing the
credit-worthiness of a borrower in those markets. In fact, most Zimbabweans
living abroad are a potential source of investment. Ghana has started well,
marketing itself and harnessing the wealth of its citizens living abroad for
investment in their country.

Whatever their shortcomings, international financial institutions such as
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund remain important sources
of funds for aid and development in the world. Their willingness to engage
generally gives positive signals to other potential sources of funds. That
is why we ought to continue to engage them and the RBZ governor Gideon Gono
is well aware of that. All this support, from citizens abroad, foreigners
and international institutions depends on goodwill. The goodwill in Zimbabwe
has diminished significantly over the last few years. After the chaotic land
redistribution exercise, the institution of property rights has been
fundamentally undermined and citizens' rights are generally insecure. The
rights in property previously held by commercial farmers have not been
replaced by new rights to those people in current occupation of the land.
The commercial value of that land has diminished drastically in the
marketplace because it cannot be properly delimited and valued nor is title
secure enough. As a result of the prevalence of lawlessness the image of the
country is unattractive.

In order to regain the confidence, it is necessary to protect property
rights, restore the independence and integrity of key institutions of the
state and sort our messy politics. That will be the beginning of rebuilding
the goodwill of the nation and an important part in the platform for greater
development and prosperity. It matters not whether one is Zanu PF or MDC -
the wheels of the state must be kept in motion, for the state is greater
than partisan party politics.

In his efforts to rebuild the stability of the economy and lay the ground
for better prospects, Gono must persuade the politicians that the image of
the country must be improved drastically. To do that, lawlessness ought to
cease and there must be greater respect for property rights and the
sustained integrity of key institutions of the state. Building confidence is
a process, and a lot will need to be done in the case of Zimbabwe.

l Alex Tawanda Magaisa is Bake & McKenzie Lecturer in Corporate & Commercial
Law at the University of Nottingham. He can be contacted at
alex.magaisa@nottingham.ac.uk

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Zim Independent

Letters

Why is Mugabe quiet on schools saga?

IN the ongoing onslaught by the Minister of Education Aenias Chigwedere on
the fees being charged by private schools, there has been a very deafening
silence emanating from the office of the president.

One could be forgiven for thinking that with three children of school-going
age, all attending our elitist private schools, a comment would have been
forthcoming from him, as this disgraceful saga has directly affected them.

Given his stand on the provision of education to the children of Zimbabwe,
his feelings and thoughts are very pertinent to the scenario currently being
played out.

Is the minister's position in fact his own? I would hate to think that the
president is hiding behind the minister's cloak on this matter.

I do not believe that the minister would have the gall or the gumption to
have done that which we are witnessing without the necessary go-ahead from a
higher authority.

It is unbelievable that a parent can stand aside while his children's future
is being destroyed by a minister who in his tenure has so far done nothing
to improve the lot of government schools and has only succeeded in courting
controversy.

In the previous issues he has raised, the minister has quickly backed down
when faced with the public's ire.

It seems to me that the minister is intent on trying to hide his own
deficiencies in running a ministry of such importance and being unable to
produce the desired or stated objectives - a populace able to face the
challenges of the world with an educated and enlightened mind.

Scandals as occurred at Zimsec are being swept under the carpet and the
spotlight turned to efficiently run schools with unwarranted accusations as
their continued successful existence only serves to highlight his and
government's failure.

I would suggest the minister cleaned up his own house first before
proceeding to destroy that which continues to function as it should.

Education is the single most important reason parents remain in Zimbabwe and
try to sit out our moments (or should I say years) of madness.

Irate Parent,

Harare.
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Zim Independent

Letters

Water cut story misled public

THE story last week of there being a 24-hour water cut in some suburbs
entirely misled the public.

In high-level areas where water has to be pumped to the reservoir and water
towers, instead of being gravity fed, there has been no water since the
beginning of that week.

This is not an unusual occurrence and earlier in the year a two-week cut was
experienced.

Causes of such unacceptable service from the City of Harare are:

l Poor maintenance and slow service of pumps and equipment;

lWhen spares are required the bureaucratic process takes three or four days
to process a cheque with which to purchase the spares (sometimes more if it
is over a weekend);

lLack of a sense of urgency or responsibility by those in the job;

lThe lack of the spare pumps and other equipment which once upon a time
could be brought into temporary service, because they have all been broken,
lost or stolen; and

l Loss of pumping time caused by Zesa power cuts in strategic areas.

At the time of writing we have been without water for five days.

G Brawn,

Greendale.
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Zim Independent

Letters

Constitutional overhaul first, elections later!

OUR cricket is in disgrace, our private schools were assaulted by a
government minister and above all, the recently concluded Zimbabwe
International Trade Fair resembled nothing more than a tuck shop.

God help us. Are we going to tolerate another five years of torture and
humiliation under this most damaging dictatorship? The coming months are
critical; do we allow the status quo to extend beyond 2005 or do we urgently
begin a process to stand up to Zanu PF's stranglehold on our future
prospects?

The MDC will be trounced if it dares contest the next elections on Zanu PF's
terms. We need to address the constitutional issue first and foremost. It
has to be completely overhauled if we are ever going to have conditions for
a free and fair elections.

The MDC should face facts: would Nelson Mandela have accepted to contest an
election under a "reformed" apartheid constitution? He wouldn't.

The South Africans dismantled apartheid. We Zimbabweans can only rid this
country of the present dictatorship and misrule by insisting that a new
democratic constitution be put in place. This is our top priority. The onus
is not just on the MDC but on the entire population.

A Proud Zimbabwean,

USA.

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Zim Independent

Letters

A land of contradictions

Zimbabwe is truly a land of contradictions. The economy is booming although
the May food and cash crop harvests are only 35-55% of normal requirements.
The countryside is growing mainly grass and weeds (with almost no cattle to
eat the grass which is flourishing).

Anyone who travels anywhere in the country will attest to the extremely low
level of crop production.

The IMF and the international community seem to have struck a secret deal
which has brought food back into the shops and foreign exchange back into
the economy.

The government, Zanu PF, President Mugabe and even the infamous Information
minister are largely keeping quiet, minimising political hysteria.

So why is the government not allowing the UN's Food and Agricultural
Organisation delegation to inspect food production and food storage? Why do
they insist that Zimbabwe has almost enough food to feed herself without any
assistance from the World Food Programme?

The answer, as usual, may lie in politics. A general election is looming
early 2005 (which rumours say may be brought forward even to mid-2004).

Although Zanu PF are experts at electoral fraud, they also intimidate and
coerce prospective voters.

This makes them feel powerful. The non-availability of commercial and/or
free food supplies is an extremely powerful weapon of mass destruction.

The big question is - what will the international community and the IMF do
about it? Probably nothing.

Alex Weir,

Harare,

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