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ááááá Nkala murder case takes a bizarre turn

ááááá 11/12/02 10:39:04 AM (GMT +2)


ááááá By Fanuel Jongwe

ááááá JUSTICE Sandra Mungwira yesterday reprimanded the Attorney-General's
Office for not doing their homework before agreeing to go to trial in the
Cain Nkala murder case.

ááááá According to defence lawyers, one of the accused who appeared in court
yesterday was not even implicated anywhere in the State outline by any of
the State witnesses.

ááááá The trial in the High Court of MDC MP Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, accused
of killing the Bulawayo war veteran leader, failed to open as scheduled as
the judge criticised the State for agreeing to the trial date when it had
not completed its groundwork.

ááááá Postponing the matter indefinitely, Justice Mungwira said: "How did
the matter come to be set down without the necessary things? This is highly
undesirable."

ááááá Dulini-Ncube, the MP for Lobengula-Magwegwe is being accused, together
with five other MDC supporters, of killing Nkala.

ááááá Advocate Edith Mushore, for three of the accused, told Justice
Mungwira
ááááá the defence had not been provided with crucial aspects of the State
case.

ááááá But the judge is expected to make a ruling later this week on an
application by Advocate Pearson Nherere to remove his clients Sony Nicholas
Masara, Dulini-Ncube and Army Zulu from remand.

ááááá Nherere said there was "nothing in the case so far put forward by the
State that would warrant putting the first three accused persons to their
defence".

ááááá Nherere said that Zulu's role in the alleged murder was not outlined
in the State papers.

ááááá "There is absolutely no evidence, not even a shred of evidence,
implicating Army Zulu," Nherere said: "As of this morning, the State had
furnished the defence with statements of 18 witnesses.

ááááá "None of those witnesses mentions Army Zulu at all, let alone
implicating him. There is no suggestion anywhere that he has anything to do
with the crime charged. What is he answering to? What is he alleged to have
done which constitutes an offence?"

ááááá Nherere said the only evidence implicating Masara and Dulini-Ncube
were statements made by their co-suspects Remember Moyo, Khethani Augustine
Sibanda and Sazini Mpofu during interrogation.

ááááá "This court has already ruled that the evidence of a co-accused is not
admissible against an alleged co-conspirator," Nherere said.

ááááá "The evidence that the State proposes to rely on is not admissible. If
that inadmissible evidence should be disregarded, there is nothing
implicating Masara and Dulini-Ncube. To insist that they be placed on trial
would be a contravention of their constitutional rights."

ááááá Applying for a postponement, Mushore and Deepak Mehta, who are
representing Moyo, Sibanda and Mpofu, said the State had not furnished them
with a video tape of indications made at the scene of the alleged murder and
a search warrant for a raid at the MDC offices in Bulawayo during which
various documents were seized.

ááááá "These are crucial aspects which we have not been furnished with,"
Mushore said.

ááááá Prosecutor Neville Wamambo said a transcript of the video tape was
still being prepared and consented to the postponement of the trial.
ááááá Nkala was allegedly abducted from his Magwegwe West home in Bulawayo
on 5 November last year.

ááááá He was subsequently murdered and buried in a shallow grave at Norwood
Farm near Solusi University, about 40km outside Bulawayo.
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Daily News

ááááá Illegal settlers on timber estates defiant

ááááá 11/12/02 12:11:49 PM (GMT +2)


ááááá From Our Correspondent

ááááá KILLIAN Mupingo, the provincial administrator for Manicaland, said
last Friday that the government was facing serious difficulties in evicting
some of the illegal settlers on estates belonging to Border Timbers Limited
(BTL) and the Forestry Company of Zimbabwe (FCZ) in Chimanimani.

ááááá Last month, the settlers set fire to about 1 400 hectares of gum and
pine trees aged between five and 25 years worth $9 billion, while preparing
land for this year's agricultural season.

ááááá Pine and gum trees, a major foreign currency earner, take at least 25
years to mature. BTL and FCZ are two of the biggest timber producers in
southern Africa.

ááááá Mupingo said although most of the settlers agreed to move off the
estates, some remained defiant.

ááááá "I received a report from the district committee in Chimanimani that
they managed to evict some of the settlers, but some hardheaded ones have
remained on the farm," Mupingo said.

ááááá "It was decided at a meeting held last Monday that the district
committee should remove the settlers."

ááááá Earlier Mupingo said the estates had not been designated and were
therefore not for resettlement. The settlers took advantage of the
controversial land reform programme and invaded BTL's Charter Estate in
Chimanimani and other estates in Manicaland run by FCZ and wholly-owned by
the government. On 20 August, the Administrative Court in Harare turned down
an application by Dr Joseph Made, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and
Rural Development, to have BTL's estates designated after the
Attorney-General's Office failed to defend its acquisition.

ááááá John Gadzikwa, BTL's managing director and Veronica Gutu, FCZ's public
relations manager, said there had been sporadic fire outbreaks on the
estates since the invasions.

ááááá Ken Schofield, BTL's deputy chairman, said the loss could not be
recovered as there was no insurance against fire, throwing the company's
future plans into disarray.
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Daily News

ááááá Zanu PF youths attack police at fuel queue

ááááá 11/12/02 10:46:02 AM (GMT +2)


ááááá From Ntungamili Nkomo

ááááá MEMBERS of the Zanu PF youth brigade reportedly assaulted two police
officers in Gwanda town last Friday after the police intervened on behalf of
motorists who were being harassed by the youths.

ááááá The assaulted officers were only identified as Constable Rali and
Assistant Inspector Moyo.

ááááá The youths were said to have been travelling in a Zupco company bus.
ááááá The bus pulled in at a Caltex service station and the driver was
ordered to jump the queue. They allegedly said they should be given first
preference since they were members of a special arm of the State.

ááááá When the motorists protested, the youths allegedly threatened to beat
them up.

ááááá The police intervened, and the youths allegedly turned on them.
ááááá Sipho Ndlovu, who witnessed the assault, said about 70 youths were
travelling in the bus.

ááááá "On Friday we witnessed an unusual event in Gwanda town when two
police officers were savagely beaten up by members of the notorious Zanu PF
militia.

ááááá "The two were Constable Rali and Assistant Inspector Moyo.
ááááá "They were assaulted when they tried to intervene in a heated argument
between the youths and other motorists who were queuing for fuel.

ááááá "It all started when the youths ordered their driver to jump the queue
ahead of other queuing motorists," said Ndlovu.

ááááá "Those Green Bombers also stated in no uncertain terms that the law
was now in their hands and that members of the police force should remain in
their offices."

ááááá Ndlovu alleged that Sunduza, the chief superintendent, had to run away
when the youths charged at him after assaulting Moyo and Rali.

ááááá He said when he asked other police officers why they did not arrest
the youths, they said the current political situation did not allow them to
do so.

ááááá Efforts to get comment from the police in Gwanda were unsuccessful.

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Daily News

ááááá WFP plans urban food aid scheme

ááááá 11/12/02 12:17:33 PM (GMT +2)


ááááá From Sandra Mujokoro

ááááá PLANS by the World Food Programme (WFP), to feed underprivileged
people in the urban areas are at an advanced stage following its request for
Bulawayo City Council to identify children in need of assistance.

ááááá The Daily News could not establish the exact date when the programme
would start, but according to the latest council minutes, its launch is
imminent.

ááááá Rotary International District 9210 recently wrote to the Bulawayo City
Council advising them that the WFP was ready to begin the programme and
would need their assistance.

ááááá "We will require the identification and registration of those needing
food assistance, including those who are in institutions, old people's
homes, street kids, homes for handicapped and for Aids orphans," reads part
of the letter .

ááááá They also requested the council's assistance in implementing the
distribution of the food. Moffat Ndlovu, the Town Clerk, said the council
was prepared and interested in participating in the programme.

ááááá "It is encouraging that such a scheme will be extended to urban areas
and the various council departments will be permitted to make the necessary
logistical arrangements," Ndlovu said.

ááááá He also called on the Bulawayo Residents' Association to assist in
identifying needy residents.
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Daily News

ááááá Speaker, Deputy to get 100% pensions

ááááá 11/12/02 12:13:29 PM (GMT +2)


ááááá By Luke Tamborinyoka

ááááá THE Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, like former Presidents
and former judges, will now be entitled to a pension equal to 100 percent of
their pensionable salary, according to the Parliamentary Pensions Amendment
Bill published in the Government Gazette yesterday.

ááááá Under the current arrangement, the Speaker was placed in the same
category as Cabinet ministers and was entitled to a pension not exceeding 75
percent of their pensionable contributions.

ááááá "It is proposed to raise this percentage to 100 percent, in line with
the pension of former Presidents and certain former judges. A similar
provision is proposed to be made in respect of the Deputy Speaker," reads
part of the Government Gazette.

ááááá The amendments came exactly a week after the government announced
salary increments for President Mugabe, Cabinet ministers and other senior
government officials. The salaries were back-dated to 1 July 2002.

ááááá Under the increments announced last week, the Speaker of Parliament's
annual salary was increased to $1 437 408, up from $1 197 840 while the
Deputy Speaker's salary was pegged at $1 170 979.

ááááá The salary increments were met with stiff resistance from the public,
who argued that senior government officials should not award themselves
increments when the government was refusing to increase the pay of teachers
and other professionals.
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Daily News

ááááá Arrest visiting Zanu PF officials, urges think-tank

ááááá 11/12/02 12:23:58 PM (GMT +2)


ááááá By Luke Tamborinyoka

ááááá THE International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based international
think-tank, has urged the United States and the European Union (EU) to
arrest visiting senior members of Zanu PF for crimes against humanity.

ááááá In a recent report on Africa, the ICG lamented the loopholes of the
targeted travel bans on President Mugabe and his senior officials.

ááááá "The wider international community, especially the governments of the
US and the EU, should enforce existing targeted sanctions and rigorously
tighten loopholes. When legal obligations require host states to permit
Zimbabwean officials to attend conferences, delegates must be restricted
narrowly to the immediate conference area of the city in question," the ICG
said.

ááááá Several Cabinet ministers and top government officials have recently
visited Europe, despite travel bans slapped on them for causing Zimbabwe's
political and humanitarian crisis.

ááááá "The EU and the US should use the International Convention Against
Torture to arrest senior members of Zanu PF responsible for Zimbabwe having
one of the highest rates of torture in the world if these individuals do
travel into their jurisdiction without the benefit of international legal
immunity," the ICG report reads in part.

ááááá The report castigates the current land reform programme for creating a
new breed of absentee landlords, growing very few crops at a time when the
country is faced with a famine. The government was castigated for using food
relief for political gain.

ááááá "The international response is still characterised by too much bark
and too little bite. More credible targeted sanctions, wider, deeper and
better enforced than those presently in place in the US and the EU are a
necessary start," the ICG said. The group called on regional leaders to be
resolute in ensuring restoration of the rule of law, a genuine land reform
exercise, an exit strategy for Mugabe, the establishment of fair conditions
for the conduct of elections and a revival of the inter-party talks between
Zanu PF and the MDC.

ááááá The ICG said the EU and the US should expand the list of targeted
persons to cover bankers, army and police officers and family members of
targeted people, especially those studying in Europe.
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SA could extend fuel lifeline to Zimbabwe.

Aid may give the country its first real political leverage over neighbour.
International Affairs Editor

AS PETROL supplies run dry in Zimbabwe, SA sent strong signals yesterday
that it would consider a request for aid to its crippled northern neighbour
with fuel.

Petrol queues formed in Harare yesterday as senior SA and Zimbabwean
ministers met in Pretoria for routine bilateral talks.

Fuel aid could give SA its first real political leverage over Zimbabwe and
bite to its policy of quiet diplomacy. Pretoria is keen to pressure the
government into talks with the opposition.

There was, however, no sign yesterday that SA intended ratcheting up its
pressure on Harare.

In answer to a question about the possibility of fuel aid for Harare,
Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who hosted yesterday's talks with
Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, said "something like that could be
discussed". She said any fuel aid from SA would be made openly and with
public knowledge. This was not raised at the meeting yesterday as energy
ministers were not present.

She did not indicate whether or not Harare had actually approached Pretoria
on the matter.

The signs of increased SA diplomatic and possibly economic aid for Harare
came yesterday during a meeting of the two countries' joint commission. The
ministers said it would in future meet every six months at ministerial
level, instead of annually at the deputy minister level.

Zimbabwe faces growing pressure on its fuel supplies, with the collapse of a
supply agreement with a Libyan state-owned company. SA companies will supply
fuel only if there are up-front cash payments. But for government budgetary
support for fuel for Zimbabwe could risk heightening differences in the
African National Congress alliance in the run-up to next month's ANC
conference.

Although the stated aim of SA's quiet diplomacy is to ensure a resumption of
talks between the ruling Zanu (PF) party and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), DlaminiZuma made no mention of the resumption of
talks. Zanu (PF) broke off interparty talks in May after the MDC challenged
the March election results in court.

Mudenge insisted that talks could not resume with a pending court case. The
MDC has said the talks should also be about creating a climate that is
conducive to holding elections. Harare has maintained that the next
elections would be in 2008, but Mudenge said yesterday that if the court
ordered a rerun the government would comply.

Both ministers pressed for white commercial farmers to get compensation for
their land. Mudenge said the land distribution programme was ending. The UK
should fulfil its commitments at Lancaster House, where the Zimbabwean
settlement terms were negotiated in 1979, and compensate the farmers.á Nov
12 2002 12:00:00:000AM Jonathan Katzenellenbogen Business Day 1st Edition
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Is Nepad Just a Toothless Blueprint?



Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)

ANALYSIS
November 8, 2002
Posted to the web November 11, 2002

Dr Ian Taylor


News that leaders of 12 African countries have signed an agreement to
monitor each other's progress towards governance reform (the so-called
"African Review Mechanism") should be met with scepticism. The apparent
decision comes after a day-long summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on
Sunday, November 3. Scepticism is based on three facts.

Firstly, despite now being a year old, no independent panel of politicians
and economists has been agreed upon. Exactly when this supposed panel will
actually be constituted is anyone's guess - yet this is supposed to be one
of the cornerstones of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Secondly, despite of all the hype, it still remains highly-improbable that
there will be any sanctions or counter-measures against those countries that
fail to pass muster. Without such measures, any review mechanism is
pointless as it will have no teeth. Nepad will stand or fall on whether the
continent's leaders possess the will to deal with dictators.

This is doubtful as very few African heads of state appear willing to break
ranks. Thus we are left with a nonsensical plan whereby African leaders
"self-monitor" themselves voluntarily. How this is "new" or a radical break
from the past remains obscure.

Thirdly, the behaviour of South African president Thabo Mbeki once again
undermines any confidence one might have in Nepad.

Prior to the Abuja meeting, Mbeki was claiming that the African Review
Mechanism would not review the political governance of African countries.

Already slammed for its uncritical acceptance of globalisation, Nepad's
credibility has over the last year had to face a barrage of criticism over
its promoters' (primarily Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria) manifest
refusal to side with the oppressed people in Zimbabwe. Mbeki's last-ditch
attempt to sabotage the overseeing of African elites, behaviour further
undermines this credibility.

Farcically, Wiseman Nkuhlu, the head of the Nepad secretariat, was caught
unawares of Mbeki's pronouncement, claiming that as far as he knew, the
African peer review mechanism would deal with political and economic
governance. "It has to," Nkuhlu was reported as saying. It was Nkuhlu,
remember, who was on record as saying that punitive action would be taken
against countries that failed to obey Nepad rules and that "we will act
against those countries that fail to respect human rights". It was this type
of sentiment that led people (including the writer) into foolishly believing
that Nepad, despite its na´ve understanding of global economics, had some
potential to rein-in dictators and autocrats.

Despite Mbeki loudly trumpeting a host of noble sentiments every time he met
various Western leaders since the launch of Nepad in October 2001,
amazingly, South Africa's president sought to totally go back on his own
words. Mbeki claimed that Nepad was simply the African Union's
"socio-economic programme". Note, no mention of something basic and
fundamental to any serious socio-economic programme, namely good political
governance and accountability. Just as Mbeki falsely claimed that there was
some sort of clamour to "invade" Zimbabwe - hence, South Africa's hands were
"tied" - this lodestar of African leadership sought to falsely assert that
"there was never ever any suggestion that we have a Nepad peer review
process that would conduct the work of the commission on human rights".

This contradicts everything the promoters of Nepad (such as Mbeki) have been
saying for the last 12 months or so. Indeed, the whole idea of a peer-review
mechanism, actively promoted until recently by Mbeki, was based on the
standards stated in a Nepad Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic,
and Corporate Governance.

Mbeki has been one of the main architects of Nepad and had repeatedly
stressed the link between economic and political governance and the
importance of the peer review mechanism. Is he not aware that his past
public comments are recorded by the media and may be consulted in any
archive? Does he really think people have such short memories? Sure, after
Mbeki's refusal to do anything about Zimbabwe, most observers had written
off his rhetoric over Nepad as meaningless. What is surprising is that he
should at this time publicly try to wreck his own pet project.

Coming so soon after Mbeki and Obasanjo's successful sabotaging of the
Commonwealth troika's mandate to impose stronger sanctions against the
Mugabe regime, Mbeki's announcement and his seeming attempt to confuse all
and sundry over what exactly Nepad is, will indeed be welcome news in
Zimbabwe State House and in all other African countries where corrupt
autocrats rule the roost.

l Ian Taylor is a Professor in the Department of Political & Administrative
Studies at the University of Botswana.
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Dispatch online

Zim makes desperate appeal to SA for help

JOHANNESBURG -- Facing severe famine and a chronic shortage of fuel and
foreign currency to pay for new supplies, the beleaguered Zimbabwean
government made a desperate appeal to South Africa yesterday to assist in
the transport of famine relief and help fund oil purchases.

South Africa, insisting that it was time to close the book on the past in
Zimbabwe and look to the future, made clear that it would consider a wide
range of requests for assistance made at a two-day meeting of a bi-national
commission which had not met for six years.

Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, who headed a cluster of Zimbabwean
ministers who met their South African counterparts for several hours in
Pretoria yesterday, attempted to reward South Africa's "quiet diplomacy",
which he praised, by stepping up bilateral contacts, highlighting the recent
withdrawal of Zimbabwean troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
and giving assurances that the era of land seizures was over.

Zimbabwean Land Minister Joseph Made, noting that 300000 families had been
settled on 11 million hectares of land seized over the past two years, said
he had issued instructions that there should be no further land occupations
by war veterans.

Mudenge said the South Africa-Zimbabwe bi-national commission, which had
only met once before in 1996, would now meet twice a year while three
clusters of ministers would meet more frequently to discuss co-operation
over a broad front.

"President Thabo Mbeki has an effective policy of 'quiet diplomacy' which
works," Mudenge said. "Megaphone diplomacy does not work."

When asked to cite what the fruits of quiet diplomacy were, Mudenge was
vague other than to point to the meeting taking place in Pretoria.

When asked why six years had elapsed since the last meeting with Zimbabwe's
largest trading partner, Mudenge said: "We have been rather busy in the last
few years ... now we are out of the Congo and land seizures are finished so
we can concentrate on intensifying relations between our two countries
again."

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that South Africa would attempt
to repair relations between Zimbabwe and those countries that had imposed
sanctions against it -- the European Union, the United States and Australia.

Mbeki held a meeting with Mudenge, Dlamini-Zuma and their delegations early
yesterday before the ministerial meeting began.

Dlamini-Zuma, supporting a Zimbabwean call for Britain to compensate white
Zimbabwean farmers stripped of their land, said that South Africa would work
with Zimbabwe to help the farmers and their farm workers who had lost their
jobs as well as those newly settled on land to farm productively.

Mudenge, insisting that human rights and democracy issues should not be
mixed up with the need for compensation of white farmers, again called on
Britain to meet its commitments under the Lancaster House agreement and
compensate the farmers to alleviate their suffering. But a British
government spokesman immediately ruled out Britain paying compensation for
what it called "fast track" land reforms as carried out by the Mugabe
government over the past two years.

"While we are willing to help fund a properly constituted land reform
programme approved by the UN Development Programme, we are not willing to
fund the fast-track programme," a British government spokesman said. -- DDC
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Christian Science Monitor

How one country created its own food crisis

First in a four-part series looking at six African nations on the brink

By Danna Harman

The Liberty Grace set sail from Louisiana on a hot, sticky evening in late
August. Capt. John Codispoti and his crew steered downriver to the mouth of
the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico, and in the early morning hours
of Sept. 3, hit the open ocean and turned toward Africa.
On board, sealed in six cavernous holds, were 50,000 tons of yellow corn
kernels - a small part of the US government's donation to an international
emergency effort to help 14.5 million men, women, and children facing hunger
in six Southern African countries.

In the months ahead, this consignment of corn will travel from Midwestern
farms to the ports of East Africa, where it will be unloaded and bagged. It
will be piled high onto trains and trucks, and hauled to warehouses
scattered across the region. And it will be balanced on heads and dragged in
carts to the huts of the hungry.

But along its journey, this corn will encounter many of the continent's
problems, both old and new: corruption, Western trade barriers and
subsidies, concerns about genetic modification, and AIDS. It is these
problems, more than just the current drought, that are at the heart of the
growing hunger here.

The solutions to the African hunger crisis are as complicated as the
problems themselves. The challenge for the six countries - Malawi,
Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland - is not just to get
through the immediate food shortage, but to find ways to keep the problem
from happening again next year.

"This is not the same old story. There are deep-rooted problems in the
region," says Tim Osborne, Malawi country director of CARE, an Atlanta-based
nongovernmental organization (NGO) that helps fight global poverty. "Various
factors have combined to make the populations so vulnerable that they cannot
cope with any new crisis. This is an emergency all right - a long-term
emergency."

The handbag factory

Moreblessing Tigre stands guard at a small grain warehouse on the outskirts
of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, jiggling her ring of keys. She is the senior
logistics officer and takes her job very seriously.

Five months ago, World Vision, another NGO, rented an old handbag factory
and transformed it into a warehouse for emergency food aid. Today, the rooms
are filled with hundreds of bags of corn from the US, ready to be put on
trucks and sent out to distribution centers scattered around these barren
plains. Ms. Tigre is in charge.

Some 6.7 million Zimbabweans - approximately half the whole population -
face hunger this year, and are depending on food aid to get them through the
coming months, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

When the warehouse is emptied out, Tigre explains, pushing back her thick
glasses and pulling her hair into a bun, new truckloads of corn are supposed
to come in. Part of the consignment on board the Liberty Grace will soon
make its way here.

"I am so busy moving the corn in and out that I really have no idea where it
comes from," Tigre admits. "To be honest, I don't much mind. As long as
enough gets here on time. That's good. That's a start."

A start, but not an end. Because in Zimbabwe, as in other countries, even
when the corn arrives at the warehouses and is sent out to distribution
centers, there is no guarantee that the neediest will receive it. Here, the
problem is government mismanagement and corruption.

"There is no doubt that the developing famine in Zimbabwe is rooted in bad
governance and corrupt practices," says John Prendergast, Africa director at
the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

As elsewhere in the region, there has been a drought in Zimbabwe. But in
years past, Zimbabwe was able to sustain itself though similar drought
periods - and even continue exporting to the neighbors.

This year is a different story. President Robert Mugabe's controversial
land-reform policy - taking land from minority white farmers and giving it
to the landless black majority - has crippled the commercial farm sector.

'That's the way life goes'

For Mildred Rashal, this has been a good year. Her restaurant "Taks Tenth
Avenue," in downtown Bulawayo, is packed every day with the city's bigwigs.

"People are moving into new opportunities. There is a lot of money floating
around," she says, touching up her lipstick. Outside, a long line of fellow
Zimbabweans queue for bread. They have been there since dawn. Mrs. Rashal
pays them no attention.

Because Rashal's father was a politician, Rashal grew up in the suburbs and
had more money than most other black girls in town. She was the first
nonwhite to attend the neighborhood private school.

"I was not accepted," she states matter-of-factly. "Sometimes one of the
girls would bring back lollipops from vacation in South Africa. There were
30 of us in the class and she would bring back 29. Nothing for me."

Rashal leans forward. "That was then - and this is now," she says slowly.
"That's the way life goes. It's not about revenge. It's just a cycle. We
have reclaimed what is ours."

What black Zimbabweans have reclaimed is land. Mr. Mugabe's fast-track
land-reform policies were intended to redress the imbalance in land
ownership and wealth in Zimbabwe by transferring farms from the minority
white commercial farmers - who sat on vast tracts of fertile land and
produced over 80 percent of the country's food - to the majority landless
blacks.

But in practice, over the past two years, many of these farms were handed
over to wealthy Zimbabweans connected to the government, like Rashal's
family, who have little interest in farming. In other cases, the landless
were trucked in to squat on these farms, but were not provided with the
tools, seeds, or know-how needed to tend them properly. The former
breadbasket of the region can no longer support even itself.

Now, the continuation of bad governmental practices is making it hard for
international aid organizations to remedy the food problem.

Mugabe's government banned private food imports late last year. The
government-run grain marketing board, which is managed by top military and
intelligence officials, was given control over imports, allowing many of
them to make a profit from the resale of food at exorbitant prices.

Worse yet, there are charges that food distribution is being politicized,
with aid organizations being steered toward or away from certain areas. The
government denies these allegations, but several aid organizations, speaking
on condition of anonymity, confirmed this was taking place.

Last month, the WFP officially suspended the distribution of relief supplies
in a district of southwestern Zimbabwe, charging that Mugabe's party was
interfering with distributions - seizing food aid and intimidating workers.

"Relief food distributions are not the place for any kind of political
activity," said a WFP statement. "WFP will only distribute its food on the
basis of need without regard to partisan affiliation."

"This is not a black-white issue, although it is portrayed this way," says
Zimbabwean economist Erich Bloch, a vocal critic of government. "This is
about destroying the economy and hurting the poorest of the poor - all
blacks - for the sake of the rich and powerful. The next six months will be
the worst this country has ever seen, and the region will suffer for our
suffering as well."

Foosball with unripe berries

On the old road leading from Dete to Binga, in the northwest part of
Zimbabwe, there is a little village with no name. People here are feeling
the effects of food politics.

Only two children in this village attend school. The rest, barefoot and half
naked, hang around all day by the rusting foosball machine, using unripe
berries as the game balls when they get up enough energy for a match.

This area should be getting food shipments from Bulawayo, but no trucks have
come this way. In Binga town, the nearest center, an attempt at distributing
food a few months back was stopped when war veterans from a different area
came in and claimed the food for themselves, according to eyewitnesses.

"We all went and voted for the MDC [the opposition party Movement for
Democratic Change] in the elections, but we did not succeed," says one
villager, Matias Muleya. "So now other regions get aid, but the government
doesn't let the food come here."

Back at "Taks," Rashal is rushing to pick up her son from cricket practice.
One of the World Vision trucks, stacked high with bags of corn, passes by.
Rashal does not seem to notice.

"I'm running a business. I don't really care about hunger issues," she says.
"I have my connections. I phone this one, that one - get what I need. It's
not that I don't care. It's just, well, what could I do to help? I have
nothing to do with the weather."

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