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Meeting to stop fresh farm invasion

Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-Nov-28

THE Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) has said its recent meeting with the
National Lands Inspectorate to find ways of stopping a new wave of farm
occupations and disturbances in the country was a damp squib.
In an interview, the CFU president Doug Taylor Freeme, said the union's
director Henpeck Oliver met with the inspectorate chairperson, Assistant
Commissioner Killian Mandisodza, but nothing concrete came out of the
indaba.
Early this month, the CFU said its members lost 17 farms due to a
combination of evictions and acquisitions by the government.
"My director met with Assistant Commissioner Mandisodza in respect with the
ongoing disruptions, evictions and seizure of equipment. The outcome was
not satisfactory, as there was no settlement to the matter. Everybody seems
to be passing the buck. It seems as if nobody is willing to tackle the
matter," Freeme said.
He added that Mandisodza only pledged to forward reports of farm
disturbances to respective provincial land committees for action.
Freeme claimed that other government officials approached by CFU to resolve
the matter were also un-cooperative and seemed pre-occupied with the weekend
Senate elections.
"We need to remain steadfast in resolving agricultural issues," he said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mandisodza was not forthcoming on the
issue.
"No. I do not know about that," Mandisodza said.


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MDC is not divided - spokesperson

SABC

November 28, 2005, 07:45

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has confirmed
that only its congress has the power to suspend Morgan Tsvangirai, the
party's leader. There have been moves to suspend him from the party because
of his call to boycott Senate elections.

Tsvangirai had said that participating in the elections would consolidate
the hold on power by Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president. However, MDC
candidates were fielded in about 26 constituencies. This has caused deep
divisions in the party.

William Bango, the MDC spokesperson, says the party is still intact. "Within
the leadership, there are others who felt that they needed to participate in
the Senate elections. After they discovered that the people of Zimbabwe
ignored the elections, with a mere 10% of the electorate voting, they
realised that Tsvangirai's voice had been listened to. His judgement had
resonated with national sentiment and they are now coming up with this idea
that they could suspend him. It's only congress that can dismiss the
president of the MDC," Bango said.

Earlier, Tsvangirai dismissed the suspension and described the move by
Gibson Sibanda, the MDC vice president, and other senior party officials as
desperate and immature.


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Zim misses target for Aids drugs rollout

IOL

November 28 2005 at 12:53AM

By Fanuel Jongwe

Harare - In cash-poor Zimbabwe, where Aids affects one in five people,
Clever Nyowani is one of the lucky few.

Three years after he became severely ill, suffering through long bouts
of diarrhoea that left him weak and walking with an improvised crutch, the
imposing rank marshall is back on his feet and has regained weight.

"Luckily I have a sister who travels regularly to Botswana and buys me
anti-retroviral drugs. Otherwise I could have simply waited to die because I
could have never afforded the drugs and they are not so easy to get
locally."

With only some 20 000 Zimbabweans living with Aids on life-prolonging
anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, Nyowani has had to take an alternate route
to get the life-prolonging drugs.

After announcing plans to provide free ARVs to 100 000 Zimbabweans by
year end, the government recently acknowledged that it would not meet its
target because of a foreign currency shortage.

"We were targeting to provide free ARVs to at least 90 000
HIV-positive people but due to the shortage of foreign currency, we are
unable to meet that figure," Obert Mugurungi an official in the health
ministry was quoted as saying in privately-owned Daily Mirror.

Last month the state-owned Herald reported that stocks of the locally
manufactured drugs have dwindled due of shortages of foreign exchange.

Drug stocks at some 48 public health centres across the country were
not expected to last until December, according to sources who attended an
emergency meeting called by the government last month to discuss the looming
crisis.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS
pandemic with an infection rate of 20 percent and at least 3 000 people
dying weekly from Aids-related illness - or about one person every three
minutes - according to the National Aids Council.

"Many people are trying herbal medicines while others are just waiting
to die because they can't get ARVs," Angeline Chiwatani, spokesperson for
Network for HIV-positive Women in Zimbabwe, told AFP.

"Because of lack of foreign currency most hospitals have run out of
ARVs and it's a dangerous situation."

So desperate was the situation that a couple was recently given 15
tablets between them instead of 60 tablets each at a local hospital where
they receive their monthly supply of ARVs, recounted Chiwatani.

"We are advising people not to start taking ARVs because there is a
risk of drug resistance if they take the drugs and later stop because the
drugs are no longer available.

"ARV treatment is supposed to be uninterrupted for life," said
Chiwatani.

An HIV-positive mother said she fears she will develop drug resistance
as she not been taking her medication for two weeks.

"I have been going to pharmacies in town and I am told there are no
ARVs in stock," said the woman who would not identify herself.

"My fear is I could develop drug resistance and I am regretting my
decision to start ARV treatment.

Opposition lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, who chairs a parliamentary
committee on health said fewer than 20 000 people were receiving ARVs out of
an estimated 300 000 people in need of the life-prolonging drugs.

"On World Aids Day, we should be mourning the loss of lives that could
have been prevented or at least delayed if drugs were available," Chebundo
told AFP.

About 90 percent of people in full-blown Aids do not have access to
anti-retroviral drugs, according to UNAids and the World Health
Organisation.

The majority of the people infected by HIV get their supplies of drugs
from government hospitals or clinics, while about 6 000 buy from private
chemists, according the Zimbabwe Association of HIV and Aids Activists.

But economic hardships have seen even those that used to afford to buy
the expensive imported brands turning to public institutions where a month's
supply of drugs costs much less.


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Zimbabwe pays IMF $10m, says will clear arrears

SABC

November 28, 2005, 10:30

Zimbabwe has paid off a further $10 million owed to the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and is on course to clear arrears with the global lender
to avoid ejection from its ranks, the central bank governor said.

The IMF executive board in September gave Zimbabwe a six-month reprieve to
settle its arrears or risk being expelled. The southern African country is
gripped by its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in
1980, shown in triple-digit inflation, a jobless rate above 70% and a
foreign currency crunch that has spawned fuel shortages.

The crisis has been worsened by the withdrawal of aid by key donors who
cited policy differences with President Robert Mugabe, especially his
forcible redistribution of white-owned commercial farms among blacks. Gideon
Gono, the Reserve Bank governor of Zimbabwe, said the country had paid $10
million on Friday towards its General Resources Account (GRA) with the IMF,
adding that the country was on course to clear the account by next March.

"We are making good our undertaking to the IMF to clear the GRA account by
March next year," Gono said. "We now have $25 million outstanding in that
account and we have between December and January to make good our
commitment."

Total arrears top $150 million
Zimbabwe owes a further $125 million under the Poverty Reduction and
Facility Account, which brings its total arrears to $150 million. Gono said
the country would pay off all its debt by December 2006. Mugabe's government
made a surprise $120 million payment to the IMF in September, which left
critics wondering where it had secured the money. It followed this with
another $15 million payment at the end of the same month.

Gono said the funds came from export earnings, inflows from expatriate
Zimbabweans and locals working for foreign-owned organisations who are paid
in foreign currency. The IMF began a process to revoke Zimbabwe's membership
in December 2003 after the government fell back on debt repayments. Since
then the executive board has twice, in July 2004 and February 2005,
postponed recommending that Zimbabwe be stripped of its fund membership, a
move likely to further isolate the beleaguered country.

The fund has said even if Zimbabwe managed to pay what it owes, it risked
accumulating arrears again without fundamental policy changes to put the
economy on a sustainable path. - Reuters


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Voters rebuff Mugabe

Zim Standard

By our staff

UNPRECEDENTED voter apathy in yesterday's senatorial elections delivered a
stunning setback to the government's latest project, the Senate. Voters
boycotted the polls, preferring to carry on with their daily struggles to
make ends meet.

There were no results announced by the time of going to print, with
officials saying this was intended to avoid the bungling witnessed after the
31 March parliamentary elections and the subsequent legal challenges.
Analysts said the boycott showed Zimbabweans did not approve of the Senate,
which was re-introduced after the controversial 17th Amendment to the
Constitution.

A snap survey by The Standard news team yesterday revealed that Zimbabweans
heeded opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai's call to boycott the elections.

There were virtually no queues at most polling stations countrywide, with
the presiding officers, elections agents and police officers spending most
of their time unoccupied with the business of voting. Some were found
dozing.

Even in Bulawayo, where the MDC's pro-Senate campaign was based, queues were
virtually non-existent at polling stations in both low and high-density
suburbs visited by The Standard.

At Eveline High School, one individual was coming to cast a vote in every 10
to 30 minutes during the morning.

At Burnside and Hillside, there were virtually no voters at the polling
stations. By midday, only 15 voters had cast their votes at Milton High
School, 11 at Hillside Teachers' College, 29 at Hillside Primary School and
32 in the suburb's Scout Club.

About 18 voters were turned away at these polling stations for being aliens
and attempting to vote in the wrong constituencies.

In most high-density suburbs residents were seen moving around with buckets
looking for water while in the Central Business District people were spotted
shopping. Polling officers milled around their centres, chatting because
there was no work to be done.

People told The Standard they ignored the poll because their lives were not
going to change after the election of Senators.

"Why would I waste my time and vote yet after the polls nothing will change
in terms of the political status quo," said Bernard Maphosa of Lobengula.

Another resident, Jackson Mangena, said: "People are just tired of voting."

In Harare, the situation was the same. At Harare High School polling station
in Mbare, a ZTV news crew had problems getting someone to interview because
the polling station was deserted.

Hopley (Tent) polling station recorded the highest number of voters - 151 by
noon yesterday. MDC election agent, Joshua Marime, attributed the relatively
higher turnout at the station to the fact that people were shepherded to the
station from Hopley farm, where 300 families were "dumped" by the government
after "Operation Murambatsvina".

Thirty-six people were turned away while two voters were assisted.

At Chaminuka School in St Mary's constituency only 78 people had cast their
votes while eight had been turned away because they were aliens or were not
on the voter's role.

In Chitungwiza constituency, where Shakespeare Maya of the MDC locked horns
with Forbes Magadu, the situation was equally pathetic. However, only a few
metres away, thousands of people thronged Ngaavongwe Music Explosion at the
Aquatic Complex, dancing their day away.

Presiding officer, Jairayi Maguchete, declined to give the total number of
people who had cast the ballot but said they were "very few".

An observer with the Kenyan Embassy said the elections were held in a
peaceful atmosphere.

"It is very peaceful and well organized, I hope it will end up like this,"
said the official.

In Epworth a substantial number of prospective voters were turned away.

Most of the polling stations visited yesterday had an average of 50 people
having cast their ballots by 3PM.

There were virtually no queues in Mabvuku. At Mabvuku Primary School only 31
people had voted by 11:30AM.

Two observers from the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECFSC)
who were at the school said the low turnout had marred the controversial
election.

"We have been to five constituencies so far," said Victor Tonchi the
chairperson of ECFSC. "I have observed a number of elections in Zimbabwe but
this time that enthusiasm is lacking. There is a very low voter turnout."

The highest figure of voters was found at a poling station in Whitecliff in
the Chegutu-Mhondoro-Manyame constituency where by 3PM, 161 people had
passed through the gates. The Standard's correspondents in Masvingo, Gwanda
and other areas reported low voter turnout.

MDC spokesman, Paul Themba Nyathi, who had campaigned for participation in
the polls, said divisions in the opposition party might have caused voter
apathy.

However Tsvangirai yesterday evening said the election was a non-event.

"Zimbabwe needs a new beginning - serious people who can move the country
out of the current political quagmire."

Political analyst, Professor Gordon Chavhunduka said it was clear people had
sent a message to Mugabe that they did not support the idea of a Senate.

"The message is clear - the ordinary people are saying the Senate is not
important at a time when they are suffering," Chavhunduka said


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Angry Gono blasts fresh land seizures as Judge grabs farm

Zim Standard

By Kumbirai Mafunda and Valentine Maponga

AN exasperated central bank Governor Gideon Gono on Wednesday amplified his
pleas to President Robert Mugabe's government to restrain its followers from
committing "economic suicide" by indiscriminately seizing productive
farmland, amid reports that a judge had taken over a dairy farm in Seke.

The Danish owners of the farm told The Standard that Justice Chinembiri
Bhunu arrived at the farm on Monday accompanied by police from Beatrice,
district officials and Zanu PF supporters.
Gono, who has tried to halt Zimbabwe's six-year economic decline, once again
attacked unruly elements instigating the farm seizures calling them
"economic saboteurs".

Gono first spoke against farm invasions in October.

"The Governor's position is that we can't go on about disruptions on the eve
of the farming season," Gono told journalists in the capital on Wednesday.
"It doesn't matter who it is. If you are taking farms you are a saboteur."

Asked by The Standard what action he had taken to put a stop to the
wholesale seizures, Gono said: "I have a duty to give advice to the
government. I am an adviser to the government and advice can be taken,
rejected or modified by law enforcement agents."

He said the disruptive activities being reported on farms would result in
crop failure and will scuttle his drive to bring down inflation to single
digits. "Behaving in a manner that fuels inflation such as seizing farms is
actually coming into my territory," Gono said.

"Food doesn't come from Mars. It comes from the farms," Gono said. "So we
must attack the source of our pain."

The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) reports that 80 commercial farmers have
been driven off their land since calls by Gono to stop farm invasions.

"Gono has been very consistent but unfortunately some elements are not
listening," said Doug Taylor-Freeme, CFU president. "It's disappointing that
there are people still claiming plots as late as November."

Justice Bhunu last week controversially took over part of Aldington Dairy
Farm in Seke, The Standard can reveal.

Mads Kirk, director of the Red Dane Dairy company, which owns the farm, said
Justice Bhunu and his mob besieged the property and told him they were
allocated 500 hectares of the farm by the government.

Kirk said they told him that they wanted to be good neighbours and that, for
the sake of peace he had to vacate the portion of the farm within seven
days.

"The Judge (Bhunu) presented old offer letters, which they tried to use in a
previous attempt to grab the farm early this year. It was clear the letters
had been given a facelift with fresh date stamps and a new signature," said
Kirk.

Kirk added: "As a board member of the farm leasing and productively
occupying this farm, I think this must be stopped. Necessary orders should
put in place to put a stop to this occupation of a highly productive
government-to-government farm."

Justice Bhunu confirmed to The Standard that he had taken over the farm.

"I was offered 200 hectares in 2003 and my offer letter was only renewed in
October this year. After the constitutional amendment, land acquisition is
no longer challengeable in court. That land no longer belongs to them. Its
now all state land," Bhunu said.

The farm, one of the biggest dairy concerns in Zimbabwe, is protected by an
investment agreement between Zimbabwe and Denmark and Kirk said his company
had on Wednesday appealed to the provincial governor to intervene and save
the land from seizure.


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Blair ignores Mugabe attacks

Zim Standard

By Foster Dongozi

WHILE President Robert Mugabe continues to play to the gallery by attacking
Tony Blair at international meetings, the British Premier is pouring
trillions of dollars to feed starving Zimbabweans.

This year alone, the British, through the Department for International
Development, (DFID) will spend more than 40 million pounds in projects to
provide food stability and fight the spread and effect of the HIV and Aids
pandemic.
Food shortages have been attributed to poor rainy seasons and the chaos on
commercial farms that followed the land reform programme in 2000.

Ten million pounds has been given to the World Food Programme to help feed a
population, which is facing starvation.

Since September 2001 when food shortages began to stalk Zimbabwe, DFID has
contributed over 71 million pounds ($7.1 trillion) to stave off starvation
and the fight against HIV and Aids.

The country is currently operating on a budget of $27.5 trillion.

This information emerged on the sidelines of a DFID workshop with its
partners in Harare on Wednesday.

The head of DFID Zimbabwe, John Barrett told the meeting: "We could not just
stand by while the people of Zimbabwe faced the problems associated with
hunger and HIV/Aids alone."

In addition, the DFID is reportedly ready to fund the construction of houses
countrywide under "Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle."

Through DFID, 25 000 families who were victims of the government sanctioned
"Operation Murambatsvina" have already received supplies, water and
sanitation facilities.

However, officials in DFID are only interested in funding the venture if
displaced families are going to benefit from the houses.

"The issue is still under discussion. But if any funding were made available
it would be to benefit people who were victims of the government's Operation
Murambatsvina. There is no way we would fund a housing project for civil
servants because they are not vulnerable," said an official who declined to
be named.

"DFID is providing 18 million pounds to support programmes that provide
relief to the most poor and vulnerable. DFID is working with UN and other
Non Governmental Organisations, to help poor households improve their
livelihoods by increasing access to seeds and fertilizers, small livestock,
micro-irrigation kits, nutrition gardens and safe water," said an official.

DFID has also poured trillions of dollars in support of the fight against
HIV and Aids and also towards orphan support programme.

Ironically, organizations working in the fight against HIV and Aids have
finalized a petition to present to Mugabe over his government's
insensitivity in addressing the pandemic.

More than five million people are reportedly facing food shortages as the
Zimbabwean government previously refused to appeal for international food
assistance.

Food shortages have hit most parts of the country, mainly urban areas,
Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, Midlands and Manicaland.

But Mugabe, who has continued to spend scarce foreign currency on frequent
foreign trips, has used almost all the gatherings he has attended to attack
Blair and Bush.

Blair, Bush and their Western counterparts, who provide funding for food and
HIV and Aids mitigation for Zimbabweans, have largely ignored the ageing
president's rantings but have imposed travel restriction on Mugabe and
members of his government.

The DFID funding is done under the Protracted Relief Programme (PRP). "The
goal of PRP is to reduce extreme poverty and the proportion of people who
suffer from hunger in Zimbabwe," said a DFID official.


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Clean-up victims appeal for food

Zim Standard

By our staff

ABOUT 300 families that were affected by the government's controversial
clean up operation in Harare's Sunningdale suburb in May have directly
appealed to the World Food Programme (WFP), for emergency food aid, The
Standard has learnt.

In a letter addressed to the WFP's Harare office dated 25 October 2005,
Sunningdale Residents' Association (SRA) said "Operation Murambatsvina",
which rendered 700 000 people homeless, had robbed them of a source of
livelihood and shelter.
"However, the wave of destruction, displacement and closure of market stalls
created pertinent and dire needs yonder the absorption capacity of the
community," said the letter signed by SRA co-ordinator, Annilliah Masaraure.

She said since the clean-up operation the residents had been surviving on
food donations from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Action
Aid.

Masaraure said each family required a 20 kg bag of maize meal, I kg kapenta,
dried beans, two 375 ml of peanut butter, salt, 5 kg mahewu powder and two
bottles of cooking oil a month.

"The people here are really struggling. Some of the families spend several
days without eating a proper meal and their children are malnourished," said
Masaraure, who is also the Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA)
co-ordinator in Sunningdale.

The families are still living in the open, exposing children and pregnant
women to the vagaries of the weather.

There are fears that with the current rains, most of the people affected by
the clean up operation could suffer from malaria and water-borne diseases
such as dysentery and cholera. At least 14 people have died due to
water-borne diseases in Chitungwiza and Harare in the past few months.

Masaraure said two Aids support groups in the area had also run out of food.

"Kindly find herein the six months' food aid proposal and a one-off
assistance to two HIV/Aids support groups located in the community," reads
the appeal.

For the two HIV/Aids support groups, Masaraure said they needed 150
blankets, mahewu and porridge for about 200 families.

A WFP official on Friday confirmed receiving the emergency food assistance
request from the SRA. "We received it last week but we are still processing
the papers," said one official, who referred all questions to WFP country
director, Kevin Farrell.

Farrell was said to be attending a meeting but the official said he would
call back. He had not done so by late last night.

About 5 million people in Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC), desperately need food assistance.


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Zim still keeping fingers crossed over SA loan

Zim Standard

By Kumbirai Mafunda

ZIMBABWE'S central bank Governor Gideon Gono on Wednesday confirmed that the
government is still chasing a rescue financial package from South Africa,
despite Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa's deafening silence on the
long-awaited deal.

Murerwa has chosen to keep secret the specifics on the progress or the cause
of delays he is facing in securing the bail out loan from South Africa.
"I have no comment on that," is all Murerwa could say when asked by
Standardbusiness a fortnight ago on progress in securing the key loan.

Murerwa - who is the head of the Zimbabwean negotiating team and Gono - are
discussing the loan deal on Zimbabwe's behalf. They have held many meetings
and regular phone discussions with their South African counterparts.

The government has kept the loan details under wraps leading to speculation
on the amount Harare is seeking and the conditions the government must
fulfill to access the loan.

But Gono told business journalists in Harare on Wednesday that discussions
were still proceeding. "Negotiations are ongoing," he told journalists at a
surprise briefing Wednesday. "But we have said no to megaphone
negotiations."

Pretoria is reported to have outlined a set of reforms that Harare must
implement before releasing the funds. But the government has indicated that
it will not accept any political conditions on the loan negotiations. This
has prompted critics to suggest that the negotiations could have hit a brick
wall.

Critical observers had earlier on suggested that the government had
desperately sought the funds to settle its long overdue arrears to the
International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But after Harare settled part of its gargantuan debt to the Bretton Woods
Institution in September, Harare might now use the loan funds to purchase
critical food supplies.

Zimbabwe, mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, has experienced
desperate shortages of foreign exchange that have caused serious shortages
of fuel, medical drugs and grain, as well as raw materials used in
industrial production.

Critics blame President Robert Mugabe's administration for causing the
economic crisis but the octogenarian leader points his fingers at Western
nations and local opposition groups whom he accuses of championing sanctions
against him and his top lieutenants.


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Gvt splashes $6bn on Zanu PF congress venues

Zim Standard

By Gibbs Dube

BULAWAYO - Mzingwane High School is undergoing a $6 billion facelift to
ensure comfort for more than 5 000 delegates to next month's Zanu PF
national conference.

The school, which has suffered years of neglect, was a hive of activity on
Thursday when The Standard visited the institution. Government workers were
busy pulling down broken doors, resurfacing potholed classroom and hostel
floors, and refurbishing teachers' houses and the dining hall.
Rusty hostel beds and dining room utensils including pots and pans are
expected to be either re-upholstered or replaced by workers from the
Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development.

"The ministry has already completed refurbishing the school clinic which was
in a state of advanced dilapidation. State-of-the-art medical equipment will
be sourced for the clinic and this is possibly the first time that it will
have top range medical equipment," said a source within the local government
ministry.

The school's football field that had turned into a dustbowl is also being
upgraded. Another football ground, currently under construction, has been
earmarked for parking delegates' vehicles.

Not to be outdone, the District Development Fund is upgrading the road
leading to the school.

According to the workers, the upgrading exercise started a month ago and is
expected to end before 8 December, the first day of the four-day conference.

"We are working almost 12 hours a day to ensure that the resurfacing
exercise is completed within the next few days," said one of the senior
workers.

The ripple effects of the upgrading of the high school have been felt by
neighbouring government institutions, Esikhoveni Public Service Training
Centre and Esigodini Agricultural Institute, which are also undergoing
massive facelifts.

They are expected to serve food and provide other essential services such as
accommodation to the delegates.

The chairman of Mzingwane High School's Parents-Teachers' Association (PTA),
Comforter Dube, said the upgrading of the school would go a long way in
creating a conducive learning environment for teachers and students.

Dube said: "The refurbishment of the school is a welcome development to
parents and school authorities because the funds being used for the
upgrading exercise are not sourced from parents."

The new development will ease parents' concerns over renovating the school.

Sources within the Public Works Department said the government was expected
to spend more than $6 billion for the refurbishment of the school and
upgrading of the school's main road.

Although the refurbishment of Mzingwane High School is widely seen by the
PTA as a welcome development, villagers at Mawabeni Business Centre, about
five kilometres from the school, and residents of Habane suburb in Esigodini
suspect the Senate elections provided the impetus.

Mehluli Sibanda, a villager, said: "I have heard that a lot of
transformation is taking place at our school but our concern here at
Mawabeni is the critical shortage of water. I doubt that the refurbishment
of the school will ever bring water to our irrigation schemes that have run
out of water due to the drying up of the Umzingwane Dam."

Christopher Ndlovu, another villager, said: "I believe that the development
of Mzingwane High School is a political gimmick by the ruling party meant to
fool people into believing that Zanu PF is concerned about the day-to-day
needs of the people of Zimbabwe."


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Rains destroy 'Garikai' houses in Chinhoyi

Zim Standard

By our correspondent

TWENTY houses constructed under the government's "Operation Garikai" in
Chinhoyi were washed away by last week's rains.

Heavy rains fell on Tuesday evening and many residents woke up to find out
that the houses had been destroyed during the night.
The collapsed structures left most residents questioning the ability and
planning skills of those spearheading the operation. Houses under this
programme are being built by a combined workforce of soldiers, prisoners and
ordinary Zimbabweans.

A Chinhoyi resident, who only identified himself as Daniel, said the
destruction of the houses clearly showed the "inadequate knowledge and
building skills of those supervising the programme".

This was also echoed by a construction expert with the Ministry of Local
Government, who said the blame should lie squarely with the supervisors. He
blamed the "Garikai" construction team for lack of "basic building skills in
mixing sand and cement".

He added that such a national project should be given "the seriousness it
deserves not this kindergarten stuff".

A worker at the site was equally worried. He feared a situation where the
government would refuse to pay them, citing poor workmanship.

Paying salaries and wages to workers at "Operation Garikai" sites
countrywide has been a problem. Salaries and wages for September were only
paid last week.

The destruction of the structures means people affected by "Operation
Murambatsvina" will have to wait longer for a chance to get decent
accommodation.


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Hungry children faint at delayed Mugabe rally

Zim Standard

By Nqobani Ndlovu and Godfrey Mutimba

BULAWAYO - Children in Bulawayo's Cowdray Park collapsed and fainted on
Thursday after they were made to wait for hours for President Robert Mugabe
who was on a senate campaign.

But in drought-prone Chivi communal area, in Masvingo province, villagers on
Tuesday preferred to go to their fields than attend a rally addressed by
Mugabe
Mugabe's campaign in Cowdray Park was launched against the backdrop of a sea
of poverty and suffering among ordinary residents who are struggling to cope
with food and water shortages.

Hunger, fatigue and thirst caused by the blistering sun were cited as the
cause of the children's fainting. The Standard witnessed several children
collapsing.

Some of the children were bussed in and were made to wait for more than five
hours, from 11AM until 4:30PM when Mugabe and his entourage arrived at
Cowdray Park. Earlier in day, the presidential entourage had attended a
tree-planting ceremony at Mkhikathebe Primary School.

The children were made to sit in the scorching sun all day while Mugabe's
Senate campaign took him to Matabeleland South.

Well-nourished Central Committee, Politburo, government ministers and
various officials attended the ceremony.

When it was time for Mugabe to speak, he disappointed many people when he
made no mention of the water crisis in Bulawayo, despite seeing residents
who carried empty buckets to the venue in search of water.

Just across from where Mugabe was, residents queued for City Council bowsers
to deliver water to the area.

The President commissioned 443 houses without water and sewerage
reticulation services at Cowdray Park on Thursday.

"I thought the President was going to say something about the water
situation ." said one woman.

Bulawayo deputy mayor, Albert Mhlanga, says the President did not speak on
the water crisis because he was well aware that the Zimbabwe National Water
Authority (ZINWA) had faied to provide water to the council.

"We have told him about the water crisis but he knows the government is
responsible for providing water. He had no answer for the people on the
water crisis as he knew ZINWA is failing to provide the council with water,"
Mhlanga said.

In Masvingo, Mugabe addressed a gathering of mostly school children after
villagers from Chivi communal area decided it was better to spend their time
in their fields than listen to empty political rhetoric.

The Standard news crew estimated less than 3 000 people at the rally. Some
villagers could be seen busy in their fields, following the rains that fell
in the area.

Addressing the campaign rally at Madzivire Primary School, meant to drum up
support for Zanu PF candidate, Samuel Mumbengegwi, the former minister of
international trade who lost in the 31 March 2005 parliamentary elections,
Mugabe conceded that fewer people had turned up.

"Zvirikuonekwa kuti vanhu havana kuuya vakawanda ndinovimba rally
yakazorongwa zvekukurimidza uyezve constituency ye Mwenezi- Chivi yakakura
yotoda nguva yakawanda, (I can see that fewer people turned up for the rally
and I believe the rally was organised at short notice while the constituency
itself is big)," he said.


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High fares and fuel puts damper on festive travel

Zim Standard

By Valentine Maponga

ZIMBABWEANS intending to travel this festive season will have to contend
with erratic transport because many long distance buses are grounded as a
result of shortages of fuel and spare parts.

The situation is so desperate that passengers have to spend days at bus
terminuses in the hope of getting transport to various rural destinations.
The few buses that are still servicing long distance routes have become very
erratic, unreliable and unpredictable in their operations.

A visit to the Mbare Musika terminus revealed that operators had permanently
pulled their buses off the road. They cited fuel and spare parts shortages.

The situation has been worsened by the scarcity of buses plying routes
outside the city.

At the height of the transport problems, the government invited long
distance buses to service urban routes when operators there could not cope.
Many of these never returned to serving rural areas.

Passengers who spoke to The Standard said fares had also become
unpredictable as the few operators on the road were taking advantage of the
low competition to charge exorbitant fares.

"Two days ago I travelled from Bulawayo and paid $500 000, but today when I
went to the same bus, I was told to fork out $780 000. Now I have to stay in
Harare a bit longer to raise the extra $280 000, which I had not budgeted
for when I came for my cousin's funeral," said one traveller from Bulawayo,
who refused to be named.

Passengers said they were spending days on the road, as the buses also broke
down and the operators struggled to get spare parts, whose prices have also
shot beyond reach.

Travellers to and from remote areas of Mashonaland West said they now only
have one or two buses coming to their places a week, making travelling very
difficult and life-threatening for those requiring urgent medical attention.

"One has to be greatly committed these days when you want to travel. You
have to be by the bus stop as early as 2AM because if you miss the bus you
have to wait three days before the bus returns," said one traveller from
Kazangarare, about 80 km out of Karoi.

A passenger going to Kariba now has no option but to get on a ZUPCO bus
after all the other operators pulled off the road.

Recently the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) started allocating
fuel to rural bus operators to enable them to ease transport problems facing
people travelling long distances but the move has failed to normalise the
situation.

The president of the Manicaland rural bus operators, Esau Mupfumi, last week
said most bus operators had failed to efficiently service their routes
despite the move by NOCZIM.

"We are getting half of what we require and it is becoming very difficult
for us to continue operating. The only fuel that is available is going for
between $90 000 and $100 000 per litre and operators cannot continue while
charging the same fares," Mupfumi said.

Most long distance bus operators, he said, were now resorting to urban
routes, leaving rural travellers stranded.

An official from Tenda Bus Services said they had reduced the number of
their buses on the road.

"Right now we are just trying to keep our heads above water. We have had to
cut down on the size of our fleet because we can't get fuel. As public
transporters we also are struggling to survive," said the official, who
declined to be named.

He urged NOCZIM to increase the fuel allocations to operators so they could
cater adequately for passenger demands during the festive season.


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Canada concerned by Zimbabwe crisis, says envoy

Zim Standard

By our staff

NEWLY appointed Canadian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Roxanne Dube, says she is
"deeply concerned" about the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and has called
for goodwill "amongst all concerned to find the best way forward".

Commissioning a $2.65 billion rehabilitation project at Dombwe Primary
School in Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province, Dube said widespread food
insecurity and the damage caused by "Operation Murambatsvina", were a major
cause for concern.
"Canada is deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and is
committed to doing its part to help reduce the extent of food insecurity,
hunger, malnutrition and diseases," she said.

The envoy said she is currently taking part in the ongoing discussions
between government and the United Nations "to find an appropriate response
to the impact of Operation Murambatsvina".

Jan Egeland, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs' is
expected to visit Zimbabwe next month as the world body seeks a solution to
the humanitarian crisis caused by the clean up operation.

The school project, the first Dube has commissioned so far since taking over
from John Schram two months ago, was initiated by the local community after
realising that the dilapidated classroom blocks were a threat to children's
lives.

Mountain Lamazolo, the school's headmaster, said the poor state of the
buildings had led to an increase in pupils dropping out of school and
teachers transferring to better schools.

Mashonaland West Governor, Nelson Samkange, expressed gratitude to the
Canadians saying government would "continuously welcome such donations."


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Harare suburbs drowning in sewage

Zim Standard

By Caiphas Chimhete

A huge pool of stinking raw sewage has formed in front of her house while
slashed electricity cables dangle from mangled street lamp posts along the
whole avenue.

Green flies hovering around heaps of garbage and piles of twisted rubble -
remnants of the government's clean up operation - are not only an eyesore
but also a potential health hazard.

Mbuya Mushangwe (69) of Dzivarasekwa high-density suburb last week swore it
was the first time Harare had deteriorated to such levels since she started
living in the crowded suburb four decades ago.

She said: "Tavekugara semombe dzinogara nendove yadzo. (We are living like
cattle, which sleep on their waste in a pen)."

A stream of raw sewage has been flowing past her house for the past two
weeks, posing a serious health hazard to residents. Appeals to Harare City
Council to rectify the situation have not yielded any positive results.

Mai Joice Katsuwa (32) said: "We have made several reports to the council
and they told us to bring our own fuel."

Her Grade Six son, Joe, was on Tuesday treated for diarrhoea at Dzivarasekwa
Polyclinic.

A drive around Harare by The Standard news crew last week revealed that
service delivery in Harare has virtually collapsed.

Despite the existence of a commission running Harare, residents have become
accustomed to living in streets where raw sewage spews out near people's
houses and garbage pile in along narrow streets.

The worst affected are those living in Mbare, Mabvuku, Tafara, Glen View,
Kuwadzana, Highfield and Kambuzuma. For the past two weeks, raw sewage has
been flowing near Tafara High School exposing school children to health
hazards.

Uncollected refuse has attracted mosquitoes and flies exposing residents to
malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, while sewage flows into Mukuvisi River,
which feeds into Harare's main source of drinking water, Lake Chivero.

"We are drinking green, hard water straight from sewage ponds," complained
Paddington Japajapa, an outspoken Harare businessman at a meeting of
residents organised by the Combined Harare Residents' Association (Chra)
last week.

Speakers at the Chra meeting accused the Minister of Local Government, Dr
Ignatious Chombo of creating problems in Harare and Chitungwiza in a grand
scheme to usurp power from and control the operations of the two cities from
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

They said the commissioners were just "fattening their own pockets" through
awarding themselves hefty allowances.

"It's a tale of two cities streaming with sewage but treated differently
because the other one is being run by a government-appointed commission,"
said Elimon Taundi of Glen Norah.

But Chombo, who recently announced the extension of Harare commission's
second term of office when it expires on 9 December, defended his actions.

"Shoko (the mayor of Chitungwiza) has no clue of whatever he is supposed to
do and for people to say I am victimising him its utter rubbish. I tried to
help but he is resisting.

"In Harare, we put a commission and we expect to see results in the near
future. The commission is working with officials from the central bank to
restore normalcy in Harare," Chombo said.

But Shoko has insisted that Chombo is victimising him because of his
political affiliation: "It's a Zanu PF grand project to dislodge all MDC
mayors from urban areas. He creates conditions which make it difficult for
mayors to operate, fires them and then comes in as the saviour."

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights projects lawyer, Wozani Moyo, advised
residents to take the legal route for recourse as services continue to
deteriorate. She said residents should take the Ministry of Health and Child
Welfare and the Harare City Council to court in order to compel them to
resolve the crisis.


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Police torment vendors

Zim Standard

By our staff

SIX police officers last week forced vendors they had rounded up while
selling commodities along the streets of Dzivarasekwa suburb in Harare to
walk through raw sewage as they led them to their station.

Some of the vendors waded through the greenish sewage - barefooted --
exposing themselves to water-borne diseases. In the past few months, at
least 14 people have died due to water-borne diseases in Harare and
Chitungwiza.
Among the group of vendors were a woman and a teenage girl handcuffed to
each other.

The vendors were selling commodities ranging from green vegetables, maize
meal, cooking oil, firewood and tomatoes. "I don't know how my family will
survive with these daily raids by the police," said Mai Joice Katsuwa, as
she hid firewood in ramshackle vehicle parked at her home.

When The Standard news crew tried to take photographs of the police
officers, commandeering the vendors to the station through the pools of
sewage, the officers became hostile and charged at the crew. "Stop! Stop!
You can't just shoot pictures without our permission," one of the officers
shouted.

The officers tried to solicit for help from a passing police vehicle but the
news crew knew better than waiting. Early this year a freelance photographer
for The Standard was handcuffed and detained for several hours after he took
pictures of police officers raiding shops in central Harare.

Police traced ownership of the vehicle through the Central Vehicle Registry
(CVR) even though taking photographs in a public place is no offence.


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Expectant mothers suffer as maternity costs hit the roof

Zim Standard

By Linda Tsetere

HARSH economic conditions currently characterised by ever increasing prices
of goods and services in the country may result in the deterioration of
maternal health care with growing fears that many women will not be able to
access antenatal care.

This comes in the wake of the announcements that maternity registration fees
at all city council clinics have been increased from $300 000 to $1.2
million as of November. There are fears that by January 2006, expecting
mothers could be asked to fork out as much as $3 million for registration.

A snap survey carried out by The Standard, following the announcement of the
new health fees, revealed that a number of women were shocked by the
increases and fears are that they will not be able to afford the new
maternity fees.

Sandra Mativenga who works at a food chain store in Harare said the recent
increases would most certainly put out of the reach of most women the
services of antenatal clinics.

She said: "Everything is expensive and people are living from hand to mouth
and asking them to fork out all that money is really cruel. Health is their
basic human right and it's unfair that they have to think twice about going
to a hospital or clinic because of the prohibitive health fees."

She added that this would impact negatively on young schoolgirls who fall
pregnant and do not have the means to sustain themselves and their unborn
babies.

Mativenga said "Young girls fall pregnant and register at the clinics late
often resulting in their experiencing pregnancy complications and losing
their babies."

Most families are living off salaries that are below the poverty datum line
while many others no longer get adequate medical assistance because they
cannot afford it.

There are many who feel at this rate the country has already fallen short of
achieving the Millennium Development Goals that seek to reduce the number of
maternal deaths of women through unlimited access to health care.

A nurse at Warren Park Council Clinic, who requested anonymity, said
antenatal care was important to ensure the health of the unborn baby and its
mother adding that if pregnancy complications were not detected early this
could prove fatal to both the unborn baby and its mother.

Education lessons to which all women who register their pregnancy are
entitled deal with issues such as the importance of proper nutrition and
consequences of under-nourishment as well as check ups on related chronic
diseases such as diabetes and heart disorders which are some of the causes
of maternal mortality.

Also registering pregnancy at the relevant time ensures that women are
taught how to take care of their children by giving them nutritious foods,
taught hygienic methods and other ways of taking care of children.


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Voters' message to Zanu PF: shelve Senate idea

Zim Standard

Comment

FOR the second time in six years voters have handed President Robert Mugabe
and his ruling Zanu PF a stunning defeat, by staying away from the polls.

Yesterday's Senate polls will go down in history as having the lowest turn
out ever recorded, not just in Zimbabwe, but possibly on the continent.
This development casts a shadow over the legitimacy of those "elected".
Perhaps it is time to agree on what should pass off as an acceptable and
legitimate voter support in order to validate a poll.

The outcome of yesterday's poll will show that, except for the rural areas,
the senators were "elected" by less that 5 000 people in the majority of
cases. It means even the ruling party was not able to put up a convincing
case for its supporters to go out and vote.

The voter turn out must be seen as a slap in the face for President Mugabe
and his ruling party, especially given the time spent on and resources they
poured into the campaign. There is a profound message coming from the
voters. It is that they are unhappy with the state of affairs in the
country.

Voters are also unhappy because eight months ago they were persuaded or
coerced to go out and vote for the ruling party on the basis of promises
that an economic turn around was in sight. In reality that has turned out to
be a mirage. It is no secret that for the majority of Zimbabweans their
plight has worsened since 31 March 2005. The unconvincing campaign platform
the ruling party used in order to rally support for the Senate were nothing
more than an exercise intended to cater for a few ruling party supporters.

The choice of the candidates was also a factor. They were unsure of what it
was they would contribute just as the voters were uncertain of what it was
they were being asked to vote for. Voters were also upset that critical end
of year school examinations were disrupted because of a desire to foist on
people something that the majority do not believe is a priority.

The impact of the government's clean up exercise in May should also not be
underestimated. People who were rendered homeless and destitute by
"Operation Murambatsvina" are not aliens as Mugabe likes to paint them. They
are our relatives and they are the ruling party's supporters. The electorate
also saw in "Operation Garikai" an elaborate scheme to hoodwink those who
had suffered by taking care of people who are not the real victims of
"Murambatsvina". That is why the people revolted and stayed away from the
polling stations yesterday.

There were more people at bank ATM machines than were found at the majority
of the polling stations at any given time. This is a lesson for Zanu PF if
they have the capacity to learn from their mistakes. This is the second time
since February 2000 - the referendum on the Constitution that both the
government and the ruling party have suffered stunning defeats. The fact
that people stayed away is an embarrassing defeat for Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change will claim credit for the boycott. He is correct to make that claim.
But his boycott appeal was specific to his party supporters and not the
majority of voters. So the slap in the face is for Zanu PF.

It is important to appreciate that the Senate constituencies in the majority
of cases are actually made up of as many as three parliamentary
constituencies. That means as many as 150 000 voters in each Senate
constituency. It is therefore unacceptable to accept votes of less than 5
000 sending a person into the Senate.

If we want to be frank and if the government and the ruling party can for
once listen to the people of this country - it is time to shelve the Senate
project.

But Zanu PF has no shame and does not care what the people think. Soon we
will see "victory" celebrations being staged by the Senators as if that is
the major challenge confronting the people of this country.

Friends of Zimbabwe and the legion of foreign observers must have the
courage to inform Mugabe and Zanu PF that they find it embarrassing to
legitimise yesterday's poll. Yes, it may have been peaceful, but it is
precisely because there was no contest.

The best Christmas present that Mugabe and the government can give the
troubled people of this country is to suspend the Senate project.


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Is Gono aware of this scam by AirZim staff?

Zim Standard

THIS letter is directed at the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gideon Gono.
I, like other Zimbabweans in diaspora, would like to bring to his attention
how Air Zimbabwe employees are milking us at the same time depriving the
government and the airline of revenue.

These employees are carrying goods from abroad to Zimbabwe charging, for
example up to 8/kg on clothing, while different rates apply for other
goods. As a result of the non-transparency of the Zimbabwe tax system and
the inefficiency and disorganisation of Air Zimbabwe, people end up paying
these amounts.
I will give an example of a suitcase of clothing weighing, say, 30kg. One
pays less than 70 to purchase clothes for his loved ones back home, but to
get this into Zimbabwe through these employees it will cost an extra 240.
How much the airline and the government gets only God knows.

Why doesn't Air Zimbabwe organise itself as they are carrying the goods
anyway and get paid in forex for both transport and duty? Zimbabwe needs the
forex, our families need these goods. This would generate the foreign
currency while benefiting our families.

Brian Yaso

United Kingdom


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State complicit in stealing land

Zim Standard

RECENTLY Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku stated that judges are also
entitled to land, the same as any other Zimbabwean. There is just one little
detail that seems to have escaped the learned judge's attention.

If the previous owners were paid any compensation then there would be no
problem with the State giving the land to whomsoever it sees fit.
The record, unfortunately, shows that the previous owners were simply
dispossessed, often by force, without any compensation at all. In other
words, the land and everything else on it now became stolen property, and
therefore anybody, including the judges, that benefited, is now the
recipient of stolen property.

If somebody tries to use the old red herring that the whites stole the land
from the blacks, then the present government was a full accomplice in the
theft for the following reasons: The majority of farms were purchased after
independence after a "Certificate Of No Interest" was obtained from the
government;

Funds to purchase these farms were mainly provided by Agribank, a government
financial institution, and were duly repaid with interest. Again this
occurred with the blessing and full assistance of the government;

After the purchase was finalised, transfer and other government fees were
levied by the government and paid by the purchasers; and taxes were levied
on any profits that the previous owners made on these farms. Therefore, the
government benefited from the activities of the former farmers.

W P Breytenbach

Harare


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More scapegoats at Air Zimbabwe

Zim Standard

THE problems besetting the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, make sad reading.

And as is now typical with the Zanu PF way of doing things - scape goats
have to be found and swiftly sacrificed. In this case Dr Tendai Mahachi and
another senior official get the chop.
What we are not being told is the fact that President Mugabe's recent trips
to New York, Rome and Tunisia could possibly have something to do with the
airline running out of aviation fuel.

It is also amazing that it is only after the airline has completely grounded
its aircraft that the government seems suddenly to awaken to the situation
and in its typical fire-fighting mode, committees of dubious credentials are
appointed to deal with "the challenges" and we're back to square one.

It is also interesting to note that many African airlines have collapsed
because of precisely the same problems that Air Zimbabwe is going through -
government hijacking planes for worthless jaunts while inept officials
without a clue on how to run a commercial airline, but who are considered to
be politically correct, are appointed to management positions. Fortunately,
when they fail, they are evidently easy to sacrifice.

It's the same old story!

Skywalker

Harare


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Hunger pangs subdue budget hopes

Zim Standard

By Kumbirai Mafunda

AS Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa prepares to unveil the 2006 National
Budget in Parliament on Thursday, the buzz is not about the budget, but
rather on how to bring food to most of Zimbabwe's households.

Despite a round of countrywide pre-budget consultations meant to gather the
input of key constituencies into the budget package, there is little
excitement about Thursday's statement. What excitement would one anticipate
when his or her stomach is unfilled? What is still fresh and vivid in the
minds of many Zimbabweans is the government's controversial city
"beautification" blitz that left close to 1 million families homeless.
For these people, concentration is focused on safeguarding their belongings,
which are being soaked by the rain, and securing food to feed their empty
bellies.

From the ordinary man on the street to business executives, expectations are
at an all-time low as to how the budget instrument might impact positively
on Zimbabwe's battered economy. Zimbabweans say consecutive budgets have
been futile.

Although Murerwa attempted to catalogue the tribulations rocking the
economic boat to his commercial audience at the plush Sheraton Hotel
recently the pre-budget consultations turned out to be an economic analysis
and blame game.

Nonetheless given the rate at which Zimbabwe's economy is shrinking and the
urgent need for stabilization measures that however have been ignored by the
ruling administration, critics assent that the government has run out of
medication to put a stop to the hemorrhaging economy.

"The budgetary process has just become a sham," says Tendai Biti, economic
affairs secretary for the MDC. "There is nothing to look forward to in this
budget except being suffocated in a one room and being bored by a badly
written statement for more than one hour."

As usual Murerwa is expected to pay tribute to the so-called Look East
policy and will actually encourage some more engagements with Asian
countries. But the Look East Policy is not sustainable, as Harare needs to
engage the rest of the world and not just Asian countries alone. In fact,
the East is actually charming western nations through various engagement
initiatives.

But if the government is serious about slashing the budget deficit as
advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other right-thinking
Zimbabweans, then it should stop trying to run local authorities and leave
that task to elected council administrations so that the limited state
resources would not be so thinly spread.

Nonetheless since central bank Governor Gideon Gono already appealed for
divine intervention in October Murerwa might as well court ancestral
intervention and arrange more biras if Zimbabwe's economy is to turn the
corner.


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Bleak Xmas beckons for Zimbabweans

Zim Standard

sundayopinion by Marko Phiri

ZIMBABWEANS face another bleak Christmas this year, no doubt the worst they
have seen during the nation's six years of economic recession.

This was once a time of good cheer each year when even poor families
exchanged gifts, but so much has changed. The coming of Christmas is no
longer as eagerly awaited as it was a few years ago before the country's
economy took a dramatic bad nose-dive.
So much has changed since the politics of patronage became fashionable.

The Nativity, as others would call it, has always been attached to new
clothes for the kids, food rarely seen on dinner tables, and the general
mood was always one of neighbours reaching out to each other.

It is not an exaggeration that all this goodwill was unconsciously extended
without deliberately attaching religious meaning to it; but the whole idea
that this spirit became manifest during this season was a pointer of

the Christian faith seemingly being a part of the people's lives here.

This was a time when the economy still could absorb school leavers as soon
as they turned their backs on the "prison" gates, and those who flunked took
it in their stride seeing they could easily be gainfully employed.

But events in the past few years have taken away all this and more. Today,
this season of goodwill no longer means new clothes for the children and
families no longer bake cakes which were shared with neighbours over fences.

Rice, chicken and that favourite African salad, coleslaw, have disappeared
as the hard times bite into the gaping pockets of millions here.

Absurd prices haunt anyone who walks into a supermarket and it has become
virtually impossible to budget for anything as each month brings with it new
prices. A 5kg of rice sells for over half a million dollars (at least at the
time of writing!), simple modest shoes - not the type which have the wearer
seemingly levitating - for a 10-year-old child cost a million

dollars. Who can afford that with a monthly salary of $2 million?

Teachers; yesteryear's professionals respected by whole neighbourhoods but
today the butt of many cruel jokes; take home a little over $2 million when
the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family needs roughly $12 million a
month just for basic commodities, clothes excluded.

So what kind of Christmas are teachers having this year when their salaries
cannot even buy a pair of shoes? And still not to mention everybody else
whose meagre wages are not national news.

The sad stories are too numerous to relate, and it's a wonder that the
country's psychiatrists have not come out with a damning report about how
men, women and children are "losing a few screws" and going bonkers because
of the depression engendered by the hard

times.

What brings tears to the eyes of many here is that they have been deprived
of the nicer things of life by a government that has distanced itself from
the people it claims elected it to power. A government whose arrogance has
even the God-fearing entertaining unwholesome thoughts about death, and not
necessarily theirs.

Food shortages persist as the year draws to a close and salt remains scare.
So, what is Christmas without salt, bread, sugar, meat or flour. What sort
og Christmass will it be when people can not travel to their rural homes
because there is no fuel.

For the children, no Father Christmas or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer - at
least for those who believe in Santa Claus leaving gifts down the chimney?

Now, how do the perennially broke parents explain this to these young minds
that are oblivious to the hardships and expect a perfect Christmas?

Beasts like goats were a permanent feature during this season, and a good
number of families put this into their November budgets seeing this is the
month they got their thirteenth cheques. This would be shared among friends
and relatives, and it was considered very normal.

This was a time when children not only got new clothes for Christmas, but
also for the New Year. Every 25 December and 1 January, it was expected that
every child would wear new clothes. Those who did not dared not cross the
neighbourhood streets as the jeering came fast and cruel. How so much has
changed in the five or six years of economic insanity, and somebody still
blames that old time favourite fall guy the Devil.

Tell it to our children who have never heard about Old Nick but know very
well Santa Claus won't be bringing them gifts this Christmas! Today a goat
costs more than a million dollars. And anyone who can indulge in the luxury
regrets the day when they have to send children to school in the first term
of the New Year and find that they spent money they could not afford.

Christmas time saw families decorating their houses and living rooms with
balloons, and Christmas lights with flashes of green, red, yellow that left
children mesmerised. Now who can spend money on balloons when there is no
bread on the table? Can you eat balloons?

Time was when retail shops had a resident Santa Claus who entertained
children, gave them free toys and sweets, and each year made the children
feel they were having the best Christmas of their lives.

Time was when families with strong rural roots made it tradition that this
season was spent closer to nature among the mountains back in their rural
home.

A whole family would make the trip and only be seen in the new year with
great stories to tell about how they celebrated the birth of Christ. Today,
it would be the super rich who can afford to take the whole family to their
rural home for Christmas.

A one way trip to some rural areas can cost anything up to a million
dollars.

And in Zimbabwe, families are known to have anything between six to 10
members. Now how much would somebody earn to make that trip with his or her
whole family?

But the fuel shortage still does offer some consolation during this season.
If we may indulge in a bit of syllogism; the shortage of fuel could mean
less cars on the road, therefore less road carnage!

And for the lager louts, well, a drinking binge will appear only
as a poignant dream. The favoured drink of these young folks, the highly
lethal spirits will soon become the envy of their peers as the price seems
determined to

turn these boys into teetotallers.

So what is the birth of Christ without drinking yourself silly? Christmas in
Zimbabwe sure ain't what it used to be.


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Mugabe violated Catholic principles

Zim Standard

Sundaytalk with Pius Wakatama

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, although claiming to be a Christian, does not
follow Catholic Principles

Our president, at one of the many international conferences that he never
fails to attend, loudly proclaimed that he was educated by Jesuits and
faithfully practices the principles that they taught him.
When I heard this I laughed until I almost chocked. This really is the joke
of the year. It reminded me of the story told by the renowned evangelist,
Billy Graham. He said one day he was on a flight from the United Kingdom. On
the same plane was a noisy drunk who was cursing and shouting profanities at
no one in particular. His friend, sitting next to him, begged him to keep
quiet.

He said: "You should be ashamed to behave as you are doing. The Reverend
Billy Graham is sitting two rows behind us."

"What!" the drunken man said, "I have to meet the reverend."

He got up and staggered to where Graham was sitting. Upon recognising him,
he stuck out his hand and said: "Reverend, I'm more glad to meet you in
person. I listen to your sermons on radio and television and I can tell you,
I am what I am today because of your preaching."

In recounting this encounter, Graham said: "After this encounter I wondered
whether I should not stop preaching altogether if this is what my sermons
turn people into."

Jesuits priests in Zimbabwe would also be wondering whether they should not
stop teaching if the principles they teach are what Robert Mugabe is
faithfully following. However, this is not the case. I have friends among
Catholic priests, some of them Jesuits. They are all opposed to Zanu PF and
say that its leader President Mugabe has strayed from the Catholic and
Jesuit principles of justice, charity and frugality. Some of them strongly
feel that the church should have ex-communicated him long ago.

In 1997, when the government first stated its intention of solving the
problem of equitable land distribution once and for all, the Catholic
Bishops of Zimbabwe sought to bring to the attention of the government the
moral principles to guide the government and people of Zimbabwe in this
worthy enterprise. The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, therefore,
published an advertisement in The Herald of 8 December 1997, outlining these
principles as informed by the teachings of the scriptures and expressed by
Vatican Council 11 and enunciated by Pope John VI.

The principles are stated here in quotes with my comments thereafter:

"For grave reasons and only for such reasons, the State has a right to
acquire land and distribute it equitably."

Was this the case? Definitely not. The truth is that land was violently
grabbed from commercial farmers to punish them for daring to support the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Some of them were tortured and others
lost their lives. There were no grave reasons of national import here.

"In order to carry out this long and complex process of redistribution and
resettlement, a suitable mechanism must be established to ensure that
justice, equity and fairness are preserved at all levels."

The government's so-called land redistribution programme was no "long and
complex process" but a chaotic fast track exercise which was neither just,
equitable nor fair. War veterans, greedy politicians and civil servants just
went out, violently evicted white farmers and grabbed whatever farms they
could lay they hands on .

"Compensation must reflect the effort which the former put into the land and
enable him to continue being productive for the benefit of the nation."

Commercial farmers have not been paid compensation for the land taken, even
if they bought the said land after independence, or for farming implements
looted with the connivance of the government. They are no longer producing
for the benefit of this nation, but for Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and the
Kwara State of Nigeria.

"No citizen of Zimbabwe can legally be prevented to appeal to the courts, as
neutral arbiters, whatever the issue may be."

Constitutional Amendment Number 17 took good care of that. It goes right
against what the Catholic Bishops said should be the case. The amendment
prevents citizens of Zimbabwe from appealing to the courts regarding issues
of land. In other words the rule of law does not apply where the government
is concerned.

"The State has a duty to ensure that farm workers who lose their employment
as a result of land redistribution find alternative employment or land on
which to settle."

Contrary to this, former commercial farm workers have become "the wretched
of the earth." They were brutalised because most of them, like their
masters, supported the MDC. They were not given land because their parents
or grandparents originated from Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. There is no
alternative employment because Zimbabwe no longer has any industry to talk
about. Only 20% of the population is employed in the formal sector.
Operation Murambatsvina destroyed the informal sector upon which the rest of
the population relied.

"Economic wealth produced on the land must benefit those who have created
it. Farm workers have a right to adequate housing, education for their
children and health care. The final responsibility to provide these lies
with the State."

The reality in Zimbabwe is that economic wealth produced on the land
benefits those who grabbed it violently and not those who created it. As for
or housing, education and health care most Zimbabweans no longer have that,
let alone farm workers. Such amenities are in a state of advanced decay in
Zimbabwe.

"The common good require distribution of land be undertaken to feed
Zimbabwe, and indeed neighbouring countries are not affected. Regard for the
ecological preservation of the land must also be a priority concern.. The
goodwill of all parties concerned as well as the expertise they have are
needed to bring about land reform which is first and fair to all."

Exactly the opposite has happened. We can no longer feed ourselves, let
alone neighbouring countries. We have become international beggars without
shame. Our experts both white and black are now benefiting other countries.
We no longer have any concern about the ecology. We are fast destroying it
without any regard about future generations.

I don't need to comment any further on these principles enunciated by the
Catholic Church except to say that the opposite of what the Church holds
dear is occurring in Zimbabwe. So how can someone who so blatantly
disregarded the church's principles say that he practises Jesuit principles?

After the March 2005 general elections, which Zanu PF won, Archbishop Pius
Ncube did not congratulate his fellow Catholic, Mugabe. Instead he called
for Ukrainian style peaceful uprising against him. He said: "People in
Zimbabwe have been too soft on this government. People should pluck up first
a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away." Isn't it
strange that a Catholic archbishop would say this about a man who follows
teachings of the Jesuit priests? Someone is misleading Zimbabweans here.
Guess who!

He, who has ears, let him hear.

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