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

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MSNBC

Commonwealth head admits failure over Zimbabwe

By David Ljunggren


OTTAWA, May 1 - The head of the Commonwealth admitted on Thursday that his
efforts to pressure Zimbabwe into adopting political reforms had failed and
he blamed resistance from the government of President Robert Mugabe.
       The 54-nation grouping of mainly former British colonies has
suspended the impoverished southern African state until this December in a
protest against alleged election-rigging and the seizure of white-owned
farms for landless blacks.
       But Zimbabwe has not responded to appeals for reform and the
Commonwealth says the internal situation has in fact worsened since the
suspension was first imposed in March 2002.
       ''It's a classic case where we have failed. I claim we deserve an A
minus for effort over Zimbabwe but about a D minus for achievement,''
Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon told Reuters in an interview.
       ''But given that, no international organization has caused a change
in Zimbabwe government policy and I don't regard that we therefore are out
on our own in terms of not being able to achieve anything. Nevertheless we
remain engaged, we want to see things happen there that would benefit the
Zimbabwe people.''
       Zimbabwe is gripped by its worst crisis since independence from
Britain in 1980, with record unemployment and inflation, and shortages of
fuel and foreign currency.
       The Commonwealth is calling for political dialogue, national
reconciliation and what it calls genuine land reforms but McKinnon said the
grouping had had little success.
       ''It hasn't worked. I've tried to send ministerial missions there --
failed. I've tried to send special envoys there -- failed. I've tried to go
there myself -- failed,'' he said.
       ''I don't know what the answer is but like many things, unless
there's a willingness on the (other) party to join in these aspirations, not
a lot is going to happen.''
       The question of Zimbabwe's suspension has split the Commonwealth,
which only reluctantly agreed in March 2003 to extend the sanctions until a
summit of leaders in the Nigerian capital Abuja in December.
       ''That doesn't mean to say the problem is going to go away. It still
has to be dealt with comprehensively at the Commonwealth heads of government
meeting,'' McKinnon said.
       The leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi will travel to Harare
next week to urge dialogue between the government and opposition.
       ''They know full well the concerns of Commonwealth countries and
Commonwealth leaders. I hope they can have a fruitful and useful discussion
with President Mugabe. We not only wish to see commitments to changes but
the implementation of changes,'' said McKinnon.
       Mugabe accuses Britain and others of perpetuating ''neocolonial''
attitudes toward Zimbabwe and argues land reforms are a bid to correct a
colonial injustice that left most of the best agricultural land in the hands
of the minority whites.
       McKinnon said that despite the problems with Mugabe, the Commonwealth
was thriving and he played down any talk that the body could break apart
over Zimbabwe.
       ''The Commonwealth has survived Britain's opposition of sanctions on
South Africa during the apartheid years, (it) survived when Britain was
supporting French nuclear testing in the Pacific against (the will of) all
other Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth will get past this one,'' he
said.
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BBC
 
Zimbabwe cricketers plead with protesters
Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak
Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak is bringing his side to England

Zimbabwe's cricketers have arrived in Britain pleading with protesters not to disrupt their two-month tour.

Opponents of Robert Mugabe's regime in the country have threatened to use "hit and run" tactics to disrupt matches.

Activists have said action could include invading pitches wearing black armbands or cricket flannels covered in blood.

But at Lord's on Thursday captain Heath Streak said he would not hesitate to lead his team off the field if he felt it was unsafe.

Outside the north-west London cricket ground, 10 protesters waved banners saying: 'No cricket while Mugabe kills' and 'Latest score: Zimbabwe 3,409 tortured, 260 killed'.

They were led by Stop the Tour organiser Peter Tatchell, who has tried to have Mr Mugabe arrested for alleged human rights violations.

Fast bowler Mr Streak said he respected the right to peaceful protest but added: "We hope they in turn respect our right to carry out our trade.

"We respect other people's views and we just hope our views and our players can be respected the same."

Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman Peter Chingoka said: "It is very disappointing that cricket is being singled out in this fashion when no other sport is subject to such action and trade and commerce between the UK and Zimbabwe continues to flourish."

Our job is to develop and sustain cricket in a country facing economic hardship
ZCU chairman Peter Chingoka

"More than 300 British companies do business in our country and Zimbabwean goods and services are sold freely in the UK."

The tour had the "full support of the cricket community", Mr Chingoka added.

"Cricket in our country is a truly integrated, multi-racial sport and offers opportunity to Zimbabweans of all backgrounds.

"The ZCU is an apolitical organisation, with staff drawn from a diverse cultural and ethnic base.

"We are not involved in politics.

We don't think the Zimbabwe cricketers are any more the henchmen of Robert Mugabe than the England players are the foot soldiers of Tony Blair
ECB chief executive Tim Lamb

"Our job is to develop and sustain cricket in a country facing economic hardship.

"Earning money from tours is so important to fund our development objectives and bring sport and recreation within the reach of our young people.

"But for us it is more than simply how much we can earn.

"This tour is a very significant one for cricket in our country."

But former sports minister Kate Hoey told BBC News: "As someone who loves cricket, I would normally be going to the test matches - but I will be protesting.

"Everybody who cares about the terrible things happening in Zimbabwe will be protesting."

Every time a run is scored, as the runs are mounting up so are the scores of people who are being murdered, beaten up and tortured
Former sports minister Kate Hoey

The Labour MP added she was disappointed the government had failed to condemn the tour.

"I don't think you can play a normal cricket match against a country like Zimbabwe.

"Every time a run is scored, as the runs are mounting up so are the scores of people who are being murdered, beaten up and tortured."

The England cricket team pulled out of a World Cup match in Zimbabwe after widespread criticism and a government plea.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) maintained the decision was made on security rather than moral grounds and it supports the Zimbabwean tour.

'Double standards'

"I don't believe that it is our remit as a cricket administration to make moral and political judgements about the various governmental regimes around the world," ECB chief executive Tim Lamb told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said it would be "double standards" to boycott the cricket team.

Mr Lamb said: "Zimbabwean golfers, tennis players and footballers are all free to compete in international sporting events without impediment.

"Why should Zimbabwean cricketers be any different?"

Henry Olonga
People who have a bone of contention with the government of Zimbabwe will have a platform to speak out against it
Henry Olonga

"We don't think the Zimbabwe cricketers are any more the henchmen of Robert Mugabe than the England players are the foot soldiers of Tony Blair."

Henry Olonga, who along with team-mate Andy Flower, wore a black armband in his country's World Cup opener to show his opposition to Mugabe, said he reluctantly supported the tour.

He said it would put the human rights abuses perpetrated by Mugabe "in the spotlight".

"These people who have a bone of contention with the government of Zimbabwe will have a platform to speak out against it," he told Today.

Since his protest, Mr Olonga has left Zimbabwe and is living in England. He has been given a six-month work permit.

He said he feared he would be imprisoned or framed for something he did not do.

"It has happened to others," he said.

The Zimbabwean tour starts on Saturday with a match against British Universities at Edgbaston.

They play two Tests, at Lord's and Durham's Riverside ground, and at least six matches in the one-day NatWest Series, which also involves South Africa.

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Sydney Morning Herald

Zimbabwe tour seals the moral bankruptcy of English cricket
By Peter Roebuck
May 2 2003

Nothing has been more irritating in recent times than the deplorable conduct
of England with regard to the rest of the cricketing world. Posturing and
wind-baggery have been the unimpressive highlights of that country's
treatment of the problem presented by the existence of a nasty regime in
Zimbabwe. That England and its abject apologists believe they have taken the
high ground only adds to the impression of a country with an inflated sense
of its own importance. Now Wisden has likewise blamed the rest of the world
and most particularly the game's governing body for the debacle at the World
Cup. The time has come to stop taking this little book seriously and to
realise that its words are merely the opinions of the young man appointed to
work as its editor. Cricket must Wisden speak.

England's handling of the Zimbabwean issue has been hypocritical in the
extreme. Not a word of protest was heard about the Mugabe regime until the
World Cup was about to begin.

After accepting an invitation to play in an international tournament, of
which the program was known, England and its poorly advised players promptly
ruined the tournament by indulging themselves in a redundant protest. They
were advised by their representative, Richard Bevan, one of those
colourless, fatuous men that nation seems to produce.

Not surprisingly, the organisers were furious that England could accept the
responsibilities attached to participating in an international competition
and then indulge in these idle protests. The Africans had worked hard for
years to prove they could organise an operation of this scale only to find
these endless distractions spoiling the mood and distorting the results. It
was a matter for the political community to confront. Cancelling a cricket
match in protest at tyranny was akin to flogging a murderer with an
asparagus.

Desperate to avoid the financial and cricketing consequences of its actions,
England made all manner of protests about the decision to award the points
to their opponents, summoning lawyers and accountants and the rest of the
dismal crew. Hostile letters had been received from a group supposedly
called the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe, a bunch so obscure that nobody
sensible took any notice of them. Fortunately the ICC refused to listen to
all this hysterical nonsense. England lost the points and the money and most
of its remaining credibility.


From the strength of its protests during the World Cup it might be supposed
that England would be reluctant to host a team representing the country run
by the hated dictator. Not a bit of it. Zimbabwe have just arrived in London
to play in a Test and one-day series.

It is beyond comprehension that England can refuse to play in Zimbabwe in
February and then blithely invite the Zimbabweans to tour their country a
few months later. Nothing has changed in between.

Now Zimbabwean Alistair Campbell has criticised the tour and condemned the
players as "yes-men". Aggrieved at his sacking as leader and batsman, the
former captain has cast himself alongside Andy Flower as a voice of protest.
But Campbell is a different case entirely. An ordinary batsman with a modest
record, he is lucky to have played Test cricket let alone to have enjoyed a
long career and appointment as national captain.

Rather than complaining, he should be praising the selectors for persisting
so long with him in the face of chronic underperformance. These young
tourists are not to blame and need encouragement from former leaders now
building careers on television.

Admittedly the selection process is compromised by the political
affiliations of those involved. The resignation of Andy Pycroft, another
former player, during the World Cup underlined that point. Nonetheless, it
is grossly unfair to describe these young tourists as "yes-men". Some of
them know of the hardships of recent years. Some have lost their farms,
others have seen relatives arrested or threatened. Mentioning names will not
advance the case. By and large they are an impressive bunch, disciplined,
fit and dedicated, appalled at the state of their country, blind to colour
and creed, and wanting only for the country of their birth to rise again.

Despite the crassness of the debate in England, despite Wisden and Campbell
and the rest, the matches will proceed and the tourists will do their
utmost. Different views will be held about the confluence of sport and
politics. One point is clear. England's position is untenable. Either it is
right to play against Zimbabwe at this time or it is not. England cannot
have it both ways.
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The Times
 
May 01, 2003

Q&A: Simon Barnes on the Zimbabwe tour

Simon Barnes, left, Chief Sports Writer of The Times, comments on suggestions from former Zimbabwe cricketers, including Henry Olonga, that the Zimbabwe cricket team's tour of England should not be going ahead as the tourists arrive in England.

Why is the tour going ahead?

It is a strange business that after all the trouble in Harare during the World Cup Zimbabwe are coming here without huge objection from either side. Obviously the context is different. In Harare, the England versus Zimbabwe match would have provided a focus for anti-Mugabe demonstrations.

The reason this tour is going ahead is that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have done a deal that means this tour will go ahead and England will tour Zimbabwe in 18 months. Obviously they are hoping that the political situation will have changed by then, but it really is seen as a compromise based on money. The ECB did not want to lose income by cancelling this tour.

Will the tour be seen as support for President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe?

I would not go as far as that. It is not support, but there is a reluctance to commit either way.

Alistair Campbell, the former Zimbabwe captain, called the touring team 'yes men'. Do you agree?

That is unquestionably the case. Mugabe is the patron of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and the squad has been picked on political grounds.

Do you agree with the idea that the tour will at least encourage political debate about Zimbabwe?

I can see the point of that. Olonga is probably the bravest man in sport and he has earned the right to speak out about these things as he has. I will certainly be using the Test matches to further express my abhorence of the Zimbabwe regime and Mugabe.

Will the Zimababwe press have the same freedom?

If they want to go home they will not be able to report with the same freedom. As often happens with these things the press picks up on comments by journalists from other countries to report things that they could not comment on. I think opinions from the UK may be ventilated that way. There is after all an anti-Mugabe press in Zimbabwe. Africa is too large and spread out a place for Mugabe to exercise total control.

 
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Zimbabwe Independent...

C'wealth rebuts Zim claim on observers
Dumisani Muleya

AS opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai's court challenge against President Robert Mugabe's
hotly-disputed re-election last year awaits a hearing, the Commonwealth has
rejected Harare's claims that its observer group was laden with Australian,
Canadian and New Zealand officials and hence biased.

Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon said in his report on Zimbabwe,
published by the Zimbabwe Independent two weeks ago, that this assertion was
simply unfounded.

"The Commonwealth Observer Group to the March 2002 presidential election in
Zimbabwe was constituted and operated under standard Commonwealth procedures
established by heads of government," McKinnon said.

"It consisted of eminent election experts, parliamentarians, diplomats and
representatives of civil society and youth groups from across the
Commonwealth, led by a distinguished former Nigerian head of state (General
Abdulsalami Abubakar)."

Tsvangirai sued Mugabe in April last year over his widely condemned
re-election. The opposition chief argues there was blatant vote-rigging and
violence during the election.

The Commonwealth said the poll was not free and fair and suspended Zimbabwe
for a year from its councils.

Its findings were supported by the Southern African Parliamentary Forum, the
United States, the European Union, Japan and Ghana.

McKinnon said Zimbabwe's claims that the Commonwealth team was "biased"
because it was influenced by "a disproportionate representation of
Australian, Canadian and New Zealand" citizens were just untrue.
"Sixteen of the 42 members of the group (38%), including the chairperson
(Abubakar) were from Africa," he said.

"Every one of Zimbabwe's immediate neighbours (with the exception only of
Swaziland) was represented in the group," he said. It also included two
observers each from Australia, Canada and New Zealand (12% of the group).
McKinnon said the group "formed an independent and collective judgement at
the end of the process, based on direct experience and observation over an
extended period of time spent in Zimbabwe".

Only the Namibian representative, apparently taking a cue from her high
commission in Harare, objected to the team's findings and tried in vain to
raise a storm over it.

Zimbabwe tried to capitalise on the Namibian delegate's position to allege
that even Abubakar had dissociated himself from the report. But the
Commonwealth denied this.

McKinnon said Harare's unsub-stantiated assertions that thegroup's report
was "fundamentally-flawed" and had a "pre-determined conclusion" were false
and misleading.
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Zimbabwe Independent...

Pressure on to release atrocity reports
Loughty Dube
CIVIC organisations in Bulawayo have urged President Robert Mugabe to
release official reports on the Matabeleland atrocities by government
security forces during the 1980s as part of a national healing process.

Bulawayo-based pressure group Imbovane Yama-hlabezulu said Mugabe should
release the reports in the interests of national reconciliation.


Imbovane secretary-general Brilliant Mhlanga said it would be difficult to
talk of national unity and reconciliation when information on issues at the
heart of the nation were hidden by Mugabe. He said publication of the
reports was long overdue.


The calls follow a recent court application by legal watchdog Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) for Mugabe to release the Dumbutshena and
Chihambakwe reports on events in Matabeleland during Gukurahundi which
Mugabe has been keeping under wraps for nearly two decades.


"The reports should have been released 10 years ago. This should be done
immediately so that people can start dealing with other issues such as
reconciliation," Mhlanga said.


"It defies all logic for Mugabe to try to sweep the atrocities under the
carpet at a time when we should be dealing with these things openly for the
sake of national healing."


Zimbabwe Liberators Peace Forum information officer, Max Mnkandla, said the
reports should be published and appropriate action taken against
perpetrators of egregious human rights abuses.


"After the publication of the reports there should be hearings into the
atrocities along the lines of the South African Truth and Reconciliation
Commission," he said.


"Those found guilty should be punished because reconciliation is only
possible where justice prevails. You cannot build national reconciliation on
the basis of impunity and blanket amnesty for offenders."


The Dumbutshena report, compiled by a commission of inquiry headed by the
late former Chief Justice Enock Dumbutshena, contains details of clashes
between Zipra and Zanla forces in Bulawayo in 1980 and 1982.


The Chihambakwe report details the massacre of civilians in Matabeleland and
Midlands provinces after Mugabe unleashed the North Korean-trained Fifth
Brigade on PF Zapu supporters under the pretext of suppressing dissidents.


The report was produced by a commission of inquiry led by Harare attorney,
Simplisius Chihambakwe.


The ZLHR, together with the Legal Resources Foundation, has filed a Supreme
Court application for the release of the reports, saying their publication
would help national reconciliation.


It said the release of the reports would "assist Zimbabweans to know the
causes as well as the consequences of the disturbances, identifying the
victims and drawing lessons from the tragic events".
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Zimbabwe Independent...

Austrian MP warns banned Zim officials
Blessing Zulu

AN Austrian MP has warned Zimbabwean ministers and government officials on
the European Union's travel ban list not to abuse the privileges granted to
them under United Nations conventions.

Dr Peter Pilz, a representative of the Green Party, said banned Zimbabwean
officials should stop trying to dodge travel restrictions.


Pilz's comments followed a failed attempt by Minister of Small and Medium
Enterprises Development Sithembiso Nyoni to meet with officials of Austria's
Foreign ministry during her recent visit to Vienna on United Nations
business. She was visiting the Vienna-based United Nations Industrial
Development Organisation (Unido).


Nyoni is on the EU travel ban list which includes President Robert Mugabe
and his associates.


Pilz said Nyoni's behaviour during her visit to Austria was appalling.


"Nyoni came here on UN business and tried to arrange a meeting with our
Foreign ministry which I objected to," Pilz said.


"I made it clear that we cannot accept any meetings with members of the
Zimbabwe government as long as the EU sanctions are in place. People on UN
business should not abuse their status. This is unacceptable and any
Zimbabwean minister who tries this trick will not be entertained."


Pilz said after raising his objection the meeting was abandoned and he
emphasised to the chief of cabinet that sanctions should be enforced at all
times.


A waiver of sanctions is always granted when restricted individuals are
attending UN meetings and conferences.


Nyoni, who is also the founder of the Organisation of Rural Associations for
Progress, was not available for comment. She was said to be in meetings
since last week.
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Zimbabwe Independent...

Conflicting crop output figures baffle donors
Augustine Mukaro/Loughty Dube

CONFLICTING maize harvest forecasts are presenting international donor
agencies with difficulties in planning food aid for Zimbabwe.

Crop forecasters have issued widely different predictions for this year's
harvest, making it difficult for the aid agencies to plan for further
assistance.


In its latest report, the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) said
the maize crop being currently harvested would be nearly 1,3 million tonnes.


Fewsnet attributed the increase in production to heavy rains brought by
cyclone Japhet.


But this would be only enough to feed two-thirds of the population through
to the next season.


Zimbabwe requires 1,8 million tonnes of maize to feed the nation annually.
This figure excludes 500 000 tonnes which should always be in the strategic
grain reserves.


However, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) has forecast between 600 000 and
700 000 tonnes of maize.


The CFU said low production of maize was caused by the dry spell at the
beginning of the season and the unavailability of inputs to the new farmers.

It said the harvest would also be reduced because much of it was being
consumed by thousands of starving people in the countryside while it was
still green.


Disruptions caused by farm seizures have also contributed to the undermining
of production.


To make matters worse, the CFU said, most of the producers would choose to
keep their crop on-farm unless favourable prices are offered or sell it on
the open market.


Government itself predicted that production would be below a million tonnes.
This has left donor agencies unsure about the levels of maize deficits which
the country has and thus unable to plan for bridging the gap.


The World Food Programme (WFP), which is still to compile its findings on
the food situation, has expressed scepticism over the Fewsnet figures,
saying that preliminary figures are pointing to a much smaller output than
the forecast 1,3 million tonnes.


"The Vulnerability Assessment Committee will issue a vulnerability and food
security report in May detailing food gap for the April 2003/4 consumption
year," the WFP said.


The WFP has sent out two teams across the country on an assessment mission
to determine whether the organisation should continue donating food relief
or not.


The Vulnerability Assessment Committee has been sent to Matabeleland South
to access the drought relief and mitigation programme, while another team
would move to other provinces.


WFP spokesperson Luis Clemens confirmed the exercise and said its results
would give an indication of future plans.


"We are assessing the feeding programme in the light of new harvests and the
results we get will determine whether we continue with the feeding exercise
or not," Clemens said.


"There are some instances where some people are getting food aid from both
the government and the WFP scheme and we will also have to reconcile the
list with that of people who got good harvests."
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Zimbabwe Independent...

Numbers of resettled people inflated
Augustine Mukaro

SERIOUS discrepancies have emerged over the number of people who have been
supposedly resettled under government's controversial land reform programme.

President Robert Mugabe and government officials as well as African leaders
hawking government's land reform exercise to the international community
have been issuing contradictory figures on resettlement.


In a circular quoted by the Sunday Mail this week, Agriculture minister
Joseph Made said of the 11 million hectares acquired to date, 210 000
settlers have been allocated land under the A1 scheme and 14 880 under A2.


However, Zimbabwe's High Commissioner to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo
recently told journalists in Johannesburg a different story.


"From July to August 31, 2002, when the fast-track land resettlement
programme officially ended, over 300 000 families have been resettled on the
A1 villagised resettlement scheme, whilst almost 54 000 black farmers have
been resettled on the A2 commercial farming scheme," Moyo said.


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been marketing Zimbabwe's land
reforms, in February gave a similar picture of the situation.


In his letter to the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe chair, Prime Minister
John Howard of Australia, Obasanjo said 220 000 communal families had been
resettled under A1 and 54 000 indigenous commercial farmers allocated land
under A2.


"Generally, the Zimbabwean government gave land to those who intended to
utilise it for farming purposes," he said.


The Zimbabwe Independent put the figure of A2 beneficiaries at 13 000
towards the end of last year. Made's latest assessment of 14 880 is hugely
down from the 54 000 government has been handing out abroad and raises
questions as to how well the scheme is being monitored.


The situation on the ground shows serious anomalies with some ruling party
chefs grabbing up to five farms each. This has apparently prompted Mugabe to
dissolve land committees that have been at the centre of the problem with
regard to land allocations.
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Zimbabwe Independent...

Editor's Memo

Banking and barging
Iden Wetherell
HAVE you noticed how impersonal banking has become in recent years? Gone are
the days when a bank manager knew his/her customers or indeed cared about
them.

I have had an account at Barclays Avondale since 1980. The staff there are
invariably polite and helpful. But the system stinks.


Let me explain. On a recent Saturday morning I attempted to cash a cheque
for what I thought was a modest amount. But the teller told me I didn't have
sufficient funds to cover it.


There must be some mistake, I insisted with growing embarrassment as
customers behind me awaited my fate with interest. The teller swivelled his
computer screen to show me - and everybody else - the problem. There was a
cheque, deposited in my account the previous Monday, but still not cleared
by Saturday. I would have to wait until Monday - a full seven days - before
I could draw against it, I was politely told.


The cheque had been credited to my account by somebody who also banks at the
branch. But it still needed seven days to clear because all cheques are sent
to central clearing. That was the policy, I was told.


I asked for an overdraft to cover the amount I was withdrawing. That
wouldn't be possible, I was informed. Overdrafts have to accord with a given
percentage of "turnover". Evidently "turnover" in my account left something
to be desired. I am not a big spender.


In case I had any doubt about this, the teller called a number at
headquarters where the policy was repeated. It was patiently explained to me
that the days when customers met the manager to arrange an overdraft were
long since gone. It was all down to the numbers now - yes the "turnover".


In other words my 23 years with Barclays counted for nothing. There were no
notes on the computer to say: "This is a reliable customer who has been with
us for donkey's years and hardly ever been overdrawn. Give him the money."


Would you believe this is what Barclays calls a "Prestige Service"? In fact
it is no service at all. In fairness they did offer a loan. But why should I
have to go through all that?


Exactly why in this electronic age does it take them a week to clear a
cheque deposited at the same branch? Why can't a customer who has banked
with them for over two decades be able to secure funds at a weekend when it
is quite evident that a cheque credited five days earlier but now snared in
their Dickensian clearing system is blocking access?


Banks make money on the time it takes to clear cheques. A businessman in the
queue behind me said it played havoc with his cashflow. I can believe it.
Barclays made a profit of $10,5 billion last year.


That's my money - and yours. We deserve better from them. They should put
customers back into their business equation and stop taking them for
granted. Let's hear less about "turnover" and more "How can we help?"


On the same topic of customer care, how has your garage treated you during
the ongoing fuel crisis? This is the service station where you hold an
account, have your vehicle fixed and routinely bought petrol or diesel in
the good old days before we were plunged into this one-man-made crisis. What
have they done to keep your business?


Many have permitted forecourt anarchy. They have allowed taxi drivers to
barge in, taken bribes, ignored the needs of long-time customers and
generally behaved badly. It still astounds me that one garage on Samora
Machel Ave is so disorganised whenever fuel arrives that traffic is allowed
to block three lanes. The police don't seem to mind. Others however have got
their queues down to a fine art and ensure there is no lawlessness of the
national variety.


Our prize this week goes to Reg Harris Motors. Not only does it police its
fuel queues, it sends SMS messages to account holders alerting them to the
next delivery. This is the sort of service all garages should be delivering.


If you think your garage deserves a mention, or have experienced chaos at
another, please write and tell me. One day, when we get a democratic
government, fuel will flow again. We need then to remember those service
stations that respected their customers and those that didn't.
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 FinGaz

 MDC sets terms for petition withdrawal

 By Abel Mutsakani Deputy Editor-in-Chief
 5/1/03 10:22:33 AM (GMT +2)

      THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wants President
Robert Mugabe to publicly and irrevocably commit himself to early retirement
before the opposition party can withdraw a High Court petition challenging
Mugabe's March 2003 re-election victory, according to MDC officials.

      The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was
also growing recognition within the opposition party that despite Mugabe's
chequered and controversial legacy, his contribution to Zimbabwe's
independence could not be totally ignored.
      Mugabe's immunity from prosecution for human rights abuses during his
23-year iron-fisted rule would have to be part of negotiations between the
MDC and ruling ZANU PF once there was clear and unimpeded progress towards
an early exit for Mugabe, according to the sources.
      "The position in the party is that the election petition will
naturally fall away once Mugabe publicly commits himself to an early exit
plan," a top MDC official told the Financial Gazette.
      But the official said there was still no unanimous position within
Zimbabwe's main opposition party on how long Zimbabweans should wait before
they elect a new government if Mugabe steps down.
      The two options being proposed were to hold elections within three
months as stipulated by the Constitution, or have a longer transitional
period subject to negotiations between the MDC and ZANU PF.
      MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would yesterday neither confirm nor deny
whether his party would drop its court challenge against Mugabe's victory
and engage ZANU PF in negotiations if he announced he was stepping down
before his term ends in 2008.
      Tsvangirai would only say: "The time is ripe now for the MDC and ZANU
PF to put the national interest above petty and personal interests.
      "People out there want to see a better life created for them, they don
't want to see the country being reduced to this poverty and suffering," he
added.
      Neither ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira nor the party's chairman
John Nkomo could be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.
      But the government earlier this week ruled out any possibility of
Mugabe retiring before the expiry of his term.
      Speculation on Mugabe's future has been rife in the past week, after
the 79-year old leader himself hinted at his possible retirement by
encouraging open debate on his successor as head of his ruling ZANU PF
party.
      In an interview with state television last Monday, Mugabe also said he
was ready to meet Tsvangirai over Zimbabwe's deepening crisis if the
opposition recognised his disputed re-election.
      Analysts say this is the government's euphemistic way of calling on
Tsvangirai to withdraw his election petition from the courts.
      Mugabe has held on to power despite international sanctions and a
debilitating economic crisis at home, but his presidency has been blighted
by Tsvangirai's refusal to recognise him and the opposition leader's
decision to petition the courts to nullify his re-election.
      The MDC's conditions for re-engagement with the government come as the
leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi are expected in Harare next week
in what South African officials yesterday said was a mission to try and
bring the MDC and ZANU PF back to the negotiating table.
      Negotiations between Zimbabwe's two main political parties collapsed
last year when the MDC filed a court application challenging Mugabe's
re-election, which it says was only possible because of electoral fraud and
massive vote rigging by the ruling party.
      But diplomatic sources told this newspaper that besides attempting to
rekindle dialogue between the Zimbabwean parties, the three leaders were
expected to ratchet up pressure on Mugabe to lay out an exit plan that would
culminate in democratic elections in Zimbabwe.
      They said this was after Mugabe himself reportedly indicated in a
telephone call a few weeks ago to South African President Thabo Mbeki that
he now wanted to retire.
      The United States of America has also weighed in, telling Malawian
leader Bakili Muluzi that it preferred a transitional government tasked with
organising fresh elections to take over in Zimbabwe, the diplomats said.
      They told the Financial Gazette that the United States had indicated
that the elections should be held under international supervision.
      Zimbabwe's economic and political crises have spiralled since Mugabe
defeated Tsvangirai in last year's presidential poll, which has also been
condemned as fraudulent by the European Union, the United States, the
Commonwealth and Southern Africa Development Community parliamentarians.
      Many blame Mugabe's policies for high unemployment and fuel, foreign
currency and food shortages.
      In the last two months, the labour-backed MDC and the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) have staged huge national strikes that
political analysts say have shaken the government's confidence and
stranglehold on power.
      The MDC has threatened to marshal hundreds of thousands of its urban
supporters in a march on Mugabe's State House residence to force him to
quit, while the ZCTU says it is considering calling an indefinite job strike
if the government does not address the deepening crisis.
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FinGaz

 AirZim fails to switch to new booking system

  By Luke Tamborinyoka News Editor
  5/1/03 10:23:16 AM (GMT +2)

      AIR Zimbabwe has failed to switch over to a new US$200 000 ($164.8
million) booking system purchased to curb a multi-million dollar ticket
scam, with technical hitches in the installation of the programme forcing
employees to resort to manual ticketing and cutting the national airliner
off from local and international terminals, the Financial Gazette has
established.

      Company officials said Air Zimbabwe was supposed to switch over from
its old ticketing system to the new one on Saturday, but the system failed
to transfer crucial data and the switch over or "migration" to the new
software failed.
      The new system was purchased from an American firm called World Span
and more than 20 Air Zimbabwe officials travelled to the United States for
negotiations on the acquisition of the software and for training on how to
use it.
      Air Zimbabwe insiders said more than US$200 000 was spent in the
purchase of physical infrastructure for the new programme and to link the
airline to an international booking system run by World Span.
      The booking system was supposed to close loopholes in the national
airline's old ticketing procedures.
      The loopholes have been used by employees to prejudice Air Zimbabwe of
millions of dollars in a scam in which several passengers were flown to the
United Kingdom without paying any money to the airline.
      Air Zimbabwe officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the
switchover had still not been effected by yesterday, with staff still
completing ticketing procedures manually.
      "No-one has been able to pick out the problem, but there are no
print-outs for bookings right now, no printed tickets and the whole system
has been in shambles since Saturday," an official at the parastatal told the
Financial Gazette.
      "The tickets are being done manually and there is no link between
reservations and departure control at the airport and with other terminals
such as London, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. The system has failed to link
up even with travel agencies and other airlines."
      There was no comment from Air Zimbabwe managing director Rambai
Chingwena, who was said to be attending meetings.
      Air Zimbabwe insiders however said it was not clear at this stage
whether the fault was with World Span or with the airline's equipment or how
the company's management planned to resolve the problem.
      The officials said Air Zimbabwe had awarded the booking system tender
to the American company despite being recommended to use Sat International,
a United States-based firm that has successfully installed new booking and
ticketing systems for Ethiopian Airlines and Air Botswana.
      Under the contract with World Span, which the officials said they
believed was signed in October, Air Zimbabwe has to pay about US$2 000 a
month to the US company.
      The officials said several delegations from Air Zimbabwe travelled to
the United States for negotiations and training for periods of between one
and two weeks and were each paid allowances of US$500 per day.
      The negotiations were coordinated by Leslie Machado, Air Zimbabwe's
general sales agent in California, while the project manager in Zimbabwe was
Ben Makwarimba, the acting sales manager, the Air Zimbabwe insiders said.
      Makwarimba was said to be out of the office and had not returned calls
by late yesterday.
      "Some of the people were only sent there so they could get allowances.
How can someone from finance go on such technical trips that have little or
no relevance to their department?" an official with the national airline
said.
      The officials said if the technical problems in the new system were
not speedily resolved, Air Zimbabwe could be prejudiced of more money by
employees involved in the ticket racket that the company is attempting to
curb.
      The scam, under which some employees were bribed by passengers, is
being investigated by the police's Criminal Investigations Department.
      The financially troubled airline, which is operating below capacity
and has been hit by a sharp decline in domestic and international tourist
arrivals, is expected to post a loss this year because its salary bill has
shot up by 300 percent.
      The company reportedly lost billions of dollars in foreign currency
through the payment of bonus fees, travel allowances and kickbacks in a
failed deal to procure two 50-seater aircraft from France.
      Air Zimbabwe management has denied the charges.
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FinGaz

      S Africa demands seized farms back

      Staff Reporter
      5/1/03 10:25:16 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Zimbabwean government has bowed to pressure by regional powerhouse
South Africa to return land it seized from South African citizens under its
controversial land reform programme, it emerged this week.

      Zimbabwe undertook to give back land it grabbed from white South
Africans at the height of the resettlement exercise, at a meeting held in
Harare in February between senior South African and Zimbabwean foreign
affairs officials, sources close to the matter said.
      Neither Agriculture Minister Joseph Made nor his Foreign Affairs
counterpart Stan Mudenge could be reached yesterday for comment on the
matter.
      South Africa's High Commissioner in Harare, Jeremiah Ndou, was also
not available for comment yesterday.
      But in a letter to one of the affected farmers, Crawford von Abbo,
South Africa's deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad indicates that
Harare had agreed to return land seized from South Africa citizens.
      According to the letter, the concession was made in terms of the
Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed by
the two neighbours.
      Pahad's letter, dated March 10 2003, reads in part: "The latest
bilateral discussions on this issue (return of land) took place in Harare
from 17 to 18 February 2003.
      "The South African delegation was advised that the Zimbabwean
government 's policy is "that listed farms under the land reform programme
owned by nationals from SADC member states and/or countries with Bilateral
Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements would be delisted in
accordance with the Laws and regulations of Zimbabwe."
      Under the BIPPA between Zimbabwe and South Africa, neither can seize
the other's investments or those of the other's nationals without paying
full compensation.
      But under its Land Acquisition Act, the government is not required to
pay for land seized under its resettlement programme, but for farm
improvements only.
      However, the state has indicated in the past that land protected under
government-to-government investment protection agreements will be spared.
      Pretoria demanded that Harare release South African-owned farms after
several of its nationals complained that their land had been seized without
compensation, despite the provisions of the BIPPA between the two states.
      But it could not be immediately established whether Harare would also
now keep its hands off the large tracts of land owned by the South
African-based Oppenheimer family, which it has long targeted for acquisition
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FinGaz

      Huge drop in tobacco sales at auction floors

      Staff Reporters
      5/1/03 10:25:51 AM (GMT +2)

      ONLY 7 979 bales of tobacco have been sold since the opening of the
auction floors last Wednesday, with industry officials blaming severe fuel
shortages for the drop from 15 749 bales sold in the same period last year.

      Statistics from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB)
indicate that 2 287 bales were sold yesterday, the sixth day of the
marketing season, compared to 4 276 bales in the same period in 2002.
      According to the TIMB's statistics, 720 of the bales were sold by
Burley Marketing Zimbabwe, while Tobacco Sales Floor sold 1 085 and Zimbabwe
Industry Tobacco Auction Centre sold 482.
      Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president Duncan Millar said the low
sales could be a result of the fuel crisis, which has caused delays in the
delivery of bales to the auction floors in Harare.
      He said some farmers were also still reaping and curing their crops
because of late planting.
      "So little has been sold because the market has not yet settled down
because some farmers had a late planting season. We expect that full
deliveries will be coming in the third week of May," Millar said.
      Average prices for the golden leaf were yesterday between US165c and
US192c a kilogramme.
      Millar said his association expected between 80 and 85 million kgs of
tobacco to be delivered to the auction floors this year, a 50 percent
decline from the crop sold in 2002.
      Analysts have attributed the decline in output to drought and to the
government's chaotic land reform exercise, under which several large-scale
tobacco farmers were evicted from their land.
      Serious shortages of inputs have also affected growers.
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FinGaz

      Studies underway in Zim to map food needs

      5/1/03 10:28:51 AM (GMT +2)

      JOHANNESBURG - Two assessments currently being conducted in Zimbabwe
will allow the World Food Programme (WFP) to better prepare for meeting the
expected food needs for the year ahead.

      About half of all Zimbabweans currently require food aid to survive,
following poor harvests brought on by drought, HIV/AIDS and the impact of
the government's fast-track land reform programme on agricultural
production.
      WFP Zimbabwe spokesman Luis Clemens told said the agency had
distributed about 60 000 mt of food aid to 4.7 million vulnerable
Zimbabweans in March.
      "The distributions consist of 10 kg of maize, 1 kg of pulses (beans),
0.6 kg of vegetable oil and 1 kg of fortified corn soya blend (CSB),"
Clemens said.
      "In April, WFP will distribute to 4.6 million people some 50 000 mt of
food aid, less than in the previous month. There will be a distribution of
maize and CSB, but no vegetable oil and pulses as we don't have enough [of
those commodities)."
      WFP would be scaling down its assistance during the harvest months, he
explained.
      "(There will be) a reduction in May/June of our food distributions,
because there's a harvest. In those places where there's no harvest we
continue with business as usual," Clemens said.
      "WFP is in the business of providing food to those who are vulnerable,
who have no source of food, who are in need of food aid. Folks who have just
harvested enough food to feed themselves for at least a few months are
temporarily not in need of food aid," he added.
      The two assessments being conducted, along with government crop
figures, would allow aid agencies to plot the way forward in the
post-harvest period.
      "The first is the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC)
which is an inter-agency assessment in which WFP, NGOs, government and
Southern African Development Community(SADC) all participate," Clemens said.
      The ZimVAC would "map out the need for food aid and the numbers (of
those in need), projecting forward to April next year".
      "The second assessment is a WFP and UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, going on in
Zimbabwe at the moment. This is looking at the size of the harvest, domestic
production, government capacity to import (food), and seed and fertiliser
availability vis--vis human consumption requirements," Clemens said.
      This assessment would subtract domestic production and government
capacity to import food from annual consumption requirements in order to
indicate the food gap for the marketing year ending April 2004.
      "So between the [FAO] crop and food [assessment mission] and the
ZimVAC we should be getting a pretty good idea of what the food gap is
likely to be," he added.
      Clemens stressed, however, that the WFP could act on that data only
once the government issued a request for assistance.
      An appeal would then be made to donors at a stakeholders' meeting
expected to be held in June in Johannesburg, South Africa. - Irin
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FinGaz

      Fired Zimpost workers recalled

      Staff Reporter
      5/1/03 10:31:04 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Zimbabwe Postal Services (ZIMPOST) has recalled workers it
summarily dismissed for participating in a three-day work stayaway called by
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to protest a massive fuel price
hike, the labour body president, Lovemore Matombo, said yesterday.

      The ZCTU president was among the ZIMPOST workers dismissed on
Saturday.
      Matombo said 90 percent of ZIMPOST's 2 800 workers had on Saturday
been issued with dismissal letters for heeding the ZCTU stayaway call, which
led to the closure of most businesses from Wednesday to Friday last week.
      But he said management had on Monday verbally communicated to some of
the sacked employees to resume their normal duties.
      He however said there was still confusion among workers, who feared
that management could at any time invoke the dismissal letters.
      "There has not been any retraction and without that retraction,
workers believe that they still remain dismissed," Matombo told the
Financial Gazette.
      "Management should have written a circular to all the workers, but
this has not happened. So basically, the dismissals still stand, although
people are still working," he added.
      He said a meeting with ZIMPOST management requested by the Postal
Workers' Union on Tuesday to seek clarification on the matter had been
postponed to next week.
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FinGaz

Letters

      Moyo's ads nauseating


      5/1/03 9:42:57 AM (GMT +2)

      EDITOR - I was astonished to find that, in place of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) advertisements previously flighted, the Financial
Gazette last week was flaunting three full pages of foul ZANU PF adverts
inserted by the Department of Information and Publicity.

      In the adverts, Jonathan Moyo's crowd accuses those responsible for
the recent mass action of causing mass violence against "school children,
ordinary people in the townships, bus operators and only black-owned
businesses".
      It's obviously the ruling party's response to the MDC's adverts
appearing in the private Press berating alleged ZANU PF torture and
violence. But which is the party whose leadership boasts constantly of their
degrees in violence? And him the President of the country too!
      And which party has the "dirty tricks department"?
      One more trick like that and Fingaz staff will suddenly find they can'
t even give their paper away. Already a number of people have told me they
won't buy another copy of the Financial Gazette.
      We all know Moyo's propensity for spreading the most blatant foul lies
every time he opens his mouth. Looks as though he has infiltrated the Fingaz
management! With him aboard, the paper will sink like a stone.
      Pity it has had a very worthwhile history until now. The choice is
theirs. Staff - not just management - please note.

      PNR Silversides,
      Harare.
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FinGaz

Letters

      We're at war already

      5/1/03 9:43:27 AM (GMT +2)

      EDITOR - Following the publication of my article in which I commented
about the need for decisiveness and boldness, I received a barrage of
messages, some of which appeared to have been authored by liberation war
veterans.

      It was clear from the responses that my message was grossly
misunderstood by some and I felt compelled to shed light on what my
convictions are in a plain terms.
      The Merriam Webster dictionary defines war as a "state of hostility,
conflict or antagonism/ a struggle or competition between opposing forces or
for a particular end".
      It is in this context that I view our situation. We are already at
war.
      And our particular end is freedom from hunger. Our particular end is
freedom from political repression.
      Our particular end is the freedom of Zimbabweans to feel safe in their
own country and to express their views and belong to political parties of
their choice without the fear of state victimisation.
      Our desired goal is a Zimbabwe where people from different political
orientations can express their views in public without the fear of
harassment from state secret agents and the police.
      We are striving for a Zimbabwe where there is political and economic
order; where the rights of citizens are respe1cted by the government and
where people live in "brotherhood" (and sisterhood).
      War is not just about guns and bombs. But the fundamentals of strategy
remain the same.
      A prolonged campaign brings about a lot of suffering and stretches the
material and
      human resources. It can destroy people's willpower. It is not wise for
leaders to promise action
      if no adequate preparation is done to implement the action with
success.
      What I find disturbing is that even members of my family now fear for
my safety because of my contributions to the Press. What country is that
where people are persecuted for expressing their views?
      This is why I say we are at war. The point is Zimbabwe is now like a
stationery hurricane taking its toll on innocent citizens. The people don't
know when the hurricane is going to move and where it is going.
      For how long can we have this hurricane? No guns but we are at war.
And without guns we have to continue fighting until our dignity as a people
is restored.
      We have to fight until the barrels of guns are removed from our
mouths. We have to strive until we can choose what we want to eat, at the
time we want. We will pay the price.
      We will continue speaking for those who are not able to speak, those
who are suffering but are afraid that they can lose their lives even for
looking at a policeman. We will continue speaking for those who know that
even tearing the newspaper picture of the President can be a serious crime.

      Simon Bere,
      Harare.
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FinGaz

       . . . And now to the notebook. . . ZNA men deserting again!

      5/1/03 10:31:48 AM (GMT +2)

      Men in Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) uniforms are on the rampage again,
assaulting and torturing several innocent civilians in Harare, Chitungwiza
and Mutare last weekend.


      According to Press reports, the armed bandits told their victims they
were punishing them for supporting the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) three-day job stayaway.
      How, in a country where the rate of unemployment is above 60 percent,
these rogues were able to tell who had stayed home in support of the ZCTU
strike and who simply had no job to go to in the first place remains a
mystery.
      And equally puzzling is why so many ZNA men are deserting the army to
join the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
      This is of course assuming that you believe the childish claims by
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and army spokesmen Alphious Makotore last
month that the uniformed people who tortured and harassed innocent civilians
last month had in fact deserted from the army and were working with the MDC.

      Of plots to derail trains

      Still on propaganda.
      Mukanya wants to know why Moyo would let his staff splash adverts in
newspapers telling people that the concrete blocks that should be and are
part of ordinary rail level crossings were put there by the MDC in an
attempt to derail trains.
      Professor, Mukanya may not agree with your views, but he would be the
first to admit that you can be brilliant. So why can't you think up
something better and more convincing than this, even if we know it's all
lies?
      Or have you guys at the Department of Information and Publicity become
so enmeshed in your propaganda that you can no longer tell the difference
between lies and the truth even if your mother's life depended on it?

      Blackmail

      Mukanya feels somehow re-
      lieved by resurfacing reports that Uncle Bob could be finally
contemplating what nearly everybody else, including people in his ZANU PF
party, thinks he should have done as far back as February 2000 when his
draft constitution was rejected by Zimbabweans - that is step down.
      Comrade Thabo "quiet diplomacy" Mbeki of South Africa and presidents
Bakili Muluzi and Olusegun Obasanjo of Malawi and Nigeria respectively are
reportedly planning to visit Uncle Bob to try and convince him there is life
after State House.
      But one worrying thing about the otherwise welcome exit plan are
reports that key among Uncle Bob's conditions before he can relinquish power
is a demand that he should be made immune from prosecution for human rights
abuses committed during his 23-year rule.
      It is said that there are many, including regional leaders, who feel
Mugabe should be granted his wish if that is the price Zimbabweans have to
pay to see him off which, if true, makes the whole suggested plot stink to
high heaven.
      Why should Uncle Bob, if he is not guilty, be afraid to stand before a
court of law and be declared innocent? Or if he is guilty then is it not
cheap blackmail for him to demand that we let him off the hook or he won't
go?
      We wonder.

      Our lady of shopping

      After southern African states
      would not follow the example set by the US government, the EU and
others by imposing smart sanctions on Zimbabwe's ruling elite, ordinary
Zimbabweans exiled in those countries have taken it upon themselves to
enforce "travel restrictions" of their own on government officials.
      As indeed comrade First Lady Grace Mugabe last week discovered in
Johannesburg. According to Press reports, a group of Zimbabweans living in
South Africa virtually waylaid Grace in Johannesburg where she was shopping,
staging protests at the posh Caesar's Palace hotel where she was staying.
      Some of the placards the protestors held read "Mugabe is not the
people's choice" and "Mugabe must go".
      A group calling itself Concerned Zimbabweans Living Abroad said it
organised the protest.
      The president of the group, Jay Sibanda, told journalists: "Grace
Mugabe is the right target. There is nothing more embarrassing for a man
than having your wife tell you that her shopping has been disrupted by
disgruntled people.
      "Whenever these people go shopping anywhere else in the world,
peace-loving people should tell them to leave," he said.
      We couldn't agree with you more, Sibanda.

      Sickened

      We close the notebook this
      week with these words taken from a letter published on the Letters to
the Editor page of the Daily News of April 28.
      We quote: "The way the television programme, US Invasion of Iraq, is
(sic) conducted simply shows that the Mugabe regime is uncomfortable about
the US' uprooting of dictators.
      "That is why the Mugabe government is now trying to make everybody
hate America.
      "Should the Americans decide to pay Zimbabwe a visit, we shall not be
on Gushungo's side, but will wait to be seen on BBC giving the invaders a
heroic welcome."
      The writer simply signed him/herself off as "Sickened". Mukanya bets
he/she is not alone.
      The way things have fallen apart in Zimbabwe is sickening to everyone,
except of course those that can still find foreign currency to go on
shopping sprees outside the country.
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