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Mugabe mobilises militia ahead of elections

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

By Regerai Marwezu

MASVINGO - President Robert Mugabe's government is setting up a 15
000-member youth militia to spearhead its campaign in next year's
presidential and parliamentary elections, leaving nothing to chance in polls
that some analysts say it could lose.

Young militiamen and women trained under a government national youth
programme, together with war veterans, form the centrepiece of the
government's campaign strategy, unleashing violence and terror against the
opposition to secure victory for the ruling party in every major election
since 2000.

Churches and human rights groups accuse the fanatical militia of hunting
down opposition supporters, beating, raping, torturing and sometimes
murdering them as punishment for not backing the government, charges the
government denies.

In a memo to ruling ZANU PF party provincial executive committees, party
political commissar Elliot Manyika, instructed the committees to recruit
"all youths" in their areas for training so they could be ready to begin
campaigning for the party by the end of this year.

"Please ensure that all youths in your areas are recruited for national
youth service training. We have targeted that about 15 000 youths should
have graduated by the end of the year so that they will campaign for the
party in elections next year," Manyika's memo, dated April 10, 2007, read in

Manyika, who is Minister-without-Portfolio in Mugabe's Cabinet, on Monday
told ZimOnline that the government was indeed stepping up training of youth
militia, saying training had in the first place been scaled down only due to
lack of resources.

He said: "It is true that the programme has been expanded. As you know we
scaled it down due to inadequate funding and now that funds are available,
we would want all youths to undergo this training like what is done in other

Manyika rejected claims that the youths commit violence against opposition
supporters and would not explain why the youths who are trained using
taxpayers' money should be deployed to campaign for ZANU PF.

The government had last month already announced plans to conscript veterans
of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war into a reserve force of the army in a
move analysts also interpreted as a bid to bolster its hold on power and to
clamp down on a resurgent opposition ahead of next year's election.

In addition to campaigning for Mugabe and ZANU PF, war veterans also
spearheaded the government's controversial farm seizure programme,
unleashing an orgy of violence and murder on farms to drive more than 90
percent of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers off the land.

Political violence and human rights abuses, mostly blamed on pro-government
militia and war veterans, traditionally pick up in the run-up to major

Mugabe, who will again stand for re-election next year, has ruled Zimbabwe
since its 1980 independence from Britain. But critics say his controversial
policies are responsible for an economic meltdown, which has left the
majority of Zimbabweans mired in poverty as unemployment rockets and
inflation surges to nearly 2 000 percent.

The crisis has escalated political tensions, which have sparked a violent
crackdown on the opposition that saw MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and scores
of party activists brutally assaulted and tortured by the police last
month. - ZimOnline

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Mortgaging resources to China could backfire on Zim

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

By Tsungai Murandu

HARARE - Zimbabwe is digging itself deeper into economic crisis as President
Robert Mugabe continues to mortgage the country's resources to escape
international isolation, analysts warned yesterday.

The analysts told ZimOnline that Zimbabwe would ultimately pay a high price
for the government's appetite for cheap foreign "loans" from so-called
"friendly" countries like China.

Shunned by the rest of the world for its governance track record, the
Zimbabwean government has unreservedly accepted assistance from China and
other Asian countries, with disastrous consequences for the economy.

The bulk of such deals usually take the form of barter trade, where
cash-strapped Zimbabwe accepts the assistance in return for ceding control
of certain minerals or agricultural crops to the Chinese.

"Zimbabwe is ultimately the loser in this case because the country has to
forgo future foreign currency earnings because of this barter system," said
University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe.

The analysts said the country, which earned about US$400 million from
tobacco exports at the peak of production in the late 1990s, stood a better
chance of pulling itself out of the economic abyss if it sought to address
its woes without mortgaging future production to the Chinese.

"There is massive potential that the country can easily pull herself out of
this mess and that is only if there is real commitment from the authorities
to make conditions on the ground right," said an investment analyst with a
Harare-based commercial bank who could not be named for professional

The analysts spoke as the Zimbabwean government met with a Chinese
delegation that arrived in the country last Friday.

The delegation came with the news that China was giving Zimbabwe a US$58
million financing facility to be used to purchase farming equipment,
implements and tools.

In return, Zimbabwe will deliver 110 000 tonnes of tobacco to China over two
years. Chaos triggered by Mugabe's land reform programme has slashed tobacco
output from more than 200 000 tonnes in 2000 to below 60 000 tonnes.

The Chinese deal means that Zimbabwe could be forced to close its auction
floors in the coming two seasons if its output of the golden leaf does not
rise to a level that would leave enough to trade locally after giving the
Chinese their share.

Zimbabwe and China have also signed three separate agreements related to
finance, agriculture and education.

The Chinese have also been promised stakes or payment through proceeds from
Zimbabwe's mining sector in return for their assistance.

"The tragedy of all this is that the Chinese are never going to stand with
Zimbabwe when it comes to international issues. If they were serious about
helping Zimbabwe, the Chinese president would not have skirted the country
on his eight-nation tour of Africa earlier this year," said Makumbe.

Chinese President Hu Jintao avoided Zimbabwe in February when he visited
Africa. The southern African leg of the tour took him to Mozambique, South
Africa and Zambia.

Zimbabwe and China have relations dating back to the southern African
country's 1970s liberation struggle when Beijing provided arms and training
to the black nationalist movement fighting the white minority government of
Ian Smith.

The friendship was rekindled when Mugabe, shunned by former friends in the
West over the political crisis in his country, adopted a "Look East" policy
forging stronger ties with countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia and

Zimbabwe is reeling under social, political and economic crises battling
four-digit inflation, unemployment of over 80 percent as well as shortages
of food, foreign currency and essential raw materials to sustain its

Mugabe, who has been in power since his southern African country gained
independence from Britain in 1980, has meanwhile seen his standing among
many plummet from a liberation hero to a despot who brooks no opposition.

Together with his top lieutenants, Mugabe faces sanctions from the West and
critics who accuse him of stifling democracy with human rights groups
raising an outcry recently after government forces arrested and assaulted
opposition leaders. - ZimOnline

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Two university students abducted and tortured

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

By Menzi Sibanda

BULAWAYO - Two Zimbabwean university students who were abducted by suspected
state agents last Thursday were last Friday found dumped in the bush in
Tsholotsho district, about 200km north of Bulawayo.

Trust Nhubu and Valencio Jachi, who are students at the National University
of Science and Technology (NUST), were found with severe bruises on their
bodies following a night of torture at the hands of state security agents.

The two said they were last Thursday abducted by suspected Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents after they passed critical remarks at
a public meeting debating endemic corruption within government institutions.

Speaking from his hospital bed on Monday, Nhubu said he was severely beaten
up by suspected state agents for allegedly passing "anti-government
 comments" at the meeting.

"The CIO agents accused us of being a front for the MDC (Zimbabwe's main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change party). They took us to Mzilikazi
police station and later separated us.

"They then took me to a bush during the night where they beat me up with
clenched fists on the head," said Nhubu, who sustained serious head

Doctors at the private hospital confirmed that the two students had been
admitted to the hospital but refused to comment further.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena also refused to comment on the issue.

The two students told ZimOnline that they were now living in fear after the
state agents threatened them with more torture if they engaged in discourse
critical of President Robert Mugabe's government.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the main faction of the MDC and several other
opposition and civic leaders have been brutally tortured by state agents
over the past month with the government accusing the opposition of trying to
unseat it from power through terrorist acts. The MDC denies the charge.

Tsvangirai last week said at least 600 of his supporters had been abducted
and beaten up in the month-long orgy of violence that he said was meant to
"decapitate" the opposition ahead of next year's watershed presidential
election. - ZimOnline

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Crackdown On Zimbabwe Opposition Seen As 2008 Election Strategy


By Blessing Zulu
23 April 2007

Less than a year ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections that are
hoped by some to crown South African mediation in Zimbabwe's political and
economic crisis, the Harare government is continuing a campaign of
harassment and beatings of opposition officials and members, forcing many
activists to go underground.

The state crackdown also targets allies of the Movement for Democratic
Change such as the National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe
National Students Union.

Police have held the entire office staff of the MDC faction led by party
founder Morgan Tsvangirai since a March 28 raid on its Harare headquarters,
and have ignored a court order for them to return computers and other
equipment seized that day. The continued detention of MDC staff has severely
constrained party operations.

Opposition officials say the abduction and beating of activists also

MDC officials abducted since Friday included deputy organizing secretary
Morgan Komichi, party employee Dennis Murira and his wife Lilian, activist
Shame Wakatama and Elliot Motsi, the faction's Glenorah organizing

Police also arrested two unnamed employees of detained Tsvangirai faction
elections director Ian Makoni. Faction lawyer Alec Muchadehama said their
whereabouts were unknown, as police had refused to provide information on
their cases.

Muchadehama told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
there is no justice for opposition officials and members in the Zimbabwean
courts as police continue to delay hearings and alter the charges whenever a
hearing takes place.

Police have alleged that the opposition officials, members and staff being
held were implicated in firebombing attacks in late March. Opposition
officials say security forces staged the Molotov cocktail attacks to provide
a pretext for the crackdown.

Two student activists were abducted Thursday in Bulawayo. Trust Nhubu and
Vanencio Jachi of the National University of Science and Technology in
Bulawayo were seized at a bar after attending a public meeting organized by
Transparency International and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and
Development. The focus of the meeting was the government's move to take over
municipal water operations.

Nhubu was dumped in Tsholotsho, about 125 kilometers outside Bulawayo; Jachi
said he was taken to a house in Bulawayo where he was tortured by state

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai faction said the crackdown is
intended to divert the opposition grouping's attention from the presidential
and parliamentary elections tentatively scheduled by the ruling party for
March 2008.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, named in late March by the Southern
African Development Community as its mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, has
declared that his prime objective is to ensure that those elections will be
free and fair.

But MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said Mr. Mbeki's effort could be
compromised by what many observers see as methodical repression of the

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe said it seems
clear that Harare is trying to intimidate and reduce the opposition in the
run-up to the elections - but that it will be difficult to carry this point
with Mr. Mbeki, who has made clear he does not want either side to set
conditions for engaging in his mediation process.

Tsvangirai told reporters April 12 that state security agents had abducted,
beaten and tortured more than 600 activists. Police have confirmed three

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Women Activists Bring Protests Of Electricity Power Cuts To Harare


By Patience Rusere
23 April 2007

Police in Harare arrested about 60 members of the activist group Women of
Zimbabwe Arise and its male counterpart Monday in Harare as the organization
took its protest campaign against the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
to the capital.

Police in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, arrested some 83 WOZA members
last week for protesting the state utility's continual and extended power

WOZA sources said about 600 members staged sit-ins and demonstrations at
ZESA offices in the Harare districts or suburbs of Warren Park, Rugare,
Kambuzuma and Dzivarasekwa. They also demonstrated in the satellite town of

Only in Kuwadzana did police move in on protesters, the WOZA sources said,
alleging that two demonstrators were seriously injured while being arrested.
Lawyers for those arrested were being denied access to their clients, the
WOZA sources added.

WOZA National Operations Director Magodonga Mahlangu gave reporter Patience
Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for  Zimbabwe an account of the day's activity.

Elsewhere, a young WOZA activist who was reported missing following her
arrest in Bulawayo after the demonstrations there turned up on Sunday.

Clara Makoni, 18, said she was in police hands for nearly 72 hours while
being grilled as to the whereabouts of Mahlangu and National Coordinator
Jenni Williams.

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Zimbabwe Election Monitoring Group Sees Challenges In 2008 Balloting


By Carole Gombakomba
23 April 2007

A respected election monitoring group said preparations for Zimbabwean
presidential, parliamentary and rural council elections set for March 2008
must begin without delay even though legislation is still required to shift
the date of the general election.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Reginald Matchaba-Hove said the
country's electoral process is already fraught with issues including the
redistricting that will arise from the addition of house and senate seats,
and a shortage of materials to produce national identity cards, which could
hinder voter registration.

Last week the cabinet  proposed to increase the number of senatorial seats
from 66 to 84, while the lower chamber is to expand from 150 to 210 seats.

Many observers see the parliamentary expansion as a move by the ruling
ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe to shore up its position before the
2008 elections, as most new house seats will be created in rural areas it
traditionally dominates. The ruling party is also proposing that senate
seats be proportionally allocated.

President Mugabe's current term expires in 2008, but the next general
election was not due until 2010 and rural district council elections were
just held in 2006. Special legislation will be required to prospectively
shorten the parliamentary term.

Matchaba-Hove told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
that voter education programs must be rolled out across the country
immediately if the presidential, parliamentary and rural council elections
are to be credible.

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Under Heavy Pressure, Zimbabwe Opposition Rallies Provincial Base


By Jonga Kandemiiri
23 April 2007

Though under heavy pressure from the Harare government for the past six
weeks, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan
Tsvangirai managed to stage rallies on the weekend in several provincial
towns, MDC officials said.

Rallies were held in Manicaland province in its capital, Mutare, and in
Makoni, in the Midlands provincial capital of Gweru, and in Bikita in
Masvingo province, as well as in the Harare-area township of Epworth,
opposition sources said.

But a rally called in Chitungwiza, a satellite town south of Harare, where
Tsvangirai faction secretary for land Vincent Gwaradzimba was scheduled to
speak, failed to take place when the police dispersed those supporters who
tried to gather there.

Police banned rallies in the provinces of Harare, Chitungwiza and Masvingo
earlier this year, citing the risk of violence. The ban was later lifted in

Police in Mutare banned loudspeakers, singing and dancing as a condition for
the rally to be held, but the crowd defied the order by chanting slogans and

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri
of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the fact the police allowed the rallies
to take place does not mean the MDC has reached an understanding with

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Lawyer fights British mercenary's extradition

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Own Correspondent

HARARE - Lawyers representing jailed British mercenary Simon Mann, who is
fighting extradition to Equatorial Guinea, on Monday said their client had
applied for permission to stay while undergoing surgery in Zimbabwe.

In a letter submitted to a Harare magistrate, Jonathan Samkange said Mann
was very sick and required urgent medical attention for a hernia.

"We must point out that our client suffers from a further medical problem in
that he needs a hip replacement," Samkange said.

"After the operation our client will need a post-operation period to
recuperate in hospital until such a time when the wounds have fully healed
and he has recovered for him to return to Chikurubi Maximum prison."

Mann, together with 61 other men, was arrested in Zimbabwe three years ago
on his way to stage a military coup in Equatorial Guinea. He is serving a
four year jail term.

Equatorial Guinea has been pressing for Mann's extradition to the central
African country where it wants him to face justice.

Samkange told the court that his client's family was prepared to pay the
medical bill to have Mann treated privately.

A former African Union human rights commissioner Andrew Chigovera, also told
the court that Mann should not be extradited to Equatorial Guinea because of
its atrocious human rights record.

''My experience is that there are no fair trials in Equatorial Guinea
because of a lot of interference from the military and secret service,''
said Chigovera.

The hearing continues on Thursday. - ZimOnline

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Mugabe's minister convicted for insulting MDC official

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

By Menzi Sibanda

BULAWAYO - A Zimbabwe deputy government minister was on Monday
convicted by a Gwanda magistrate for using abusive and insulting language
against an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party official.

Abednico Ncube, who is the deputy minister of public service, labour
and social welfare, was found guilty of insulting former Gwanda mayor Petros

Delivering judgment, Gwanda magistrate Lungile Ncube said the minister
gave contradictory accounts of what he said to Mukwena after the former
mayor accused him in the press of involvement in illegal gold mining
activities in the town.

"The court finds the defendant (Ncube) guilty of breaching Chapter 9,
section 7 (b) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act by making abusive and
insulting remarks against the complainant (Mukwena) in the said year," said
the magistrate.

The magistrate deferred sentence after the prosecutor indicated that
he needed more time to check if the minister was a first offender. Sentence
will be passed on 7 May 2007.

If convicted, Ncube faces a one-year jail sentence or a fine.

This is not the first time that the deputy minister has had a brush
with the law.

In 2005, Ncube caused a stir after he was accused of spearheading an
operation against illegal gold miners in Gwanda district in the southern
Matabeleland province.

The deputy minister was accused of scaring away gold panners from rich
gold deposits using private guards dressed in police uniform. He has also
been implicated in illegal trophy hunting operations in Gwanda and West
Nicholson districts in Matabeleland. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe Liberators Platform condemns violence gripping nation

Zim Online

Tuesday 24 April 2007

By Happyson Nenji

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP), an organisation formed by
genuine former liberation war fighters to advocate for peace, democracy and
good governance has noted with deep concern the alarming rise in state
sponsored violence since the beginning of the year. People have been shot
dead without cause.

There have been abductions, arbitrary arrests and torture in police custody,
grievous assaults, intimidation and harassment of leaders of the opposition
and their general membership, labour and civil society activists perpetrated
by the police and state security agents. The trend continues unabated.

As true and genuine former freedom fighters, ZLP consistently espouses the
original values and ideals of the national liberation struggle that was
waged for freedom, democracy, social justice and respect for human dignity.

These noble ideals, for which many sacrificed life and limb have now fallen
victim to the pursuit of power, narrow partisan interests greed and an
insatiable pursuit of personal wealth.

The lofty ideals have to all intents and purposes been divested of their
original revolutionary and progressive content only to survive as a
vestigial rhetorical and demagogic framework for window-dressing and
grandstanding at national occasions and for whipping up emotions and raising
the political temperature during elections.

ZLP condemns in the strongest terms all forms of violence being perpetrated
against innocent, peace-loving and defenceless members of society all in the
defence of personal power and self aggrandisement.

We as genuine former liberation war fighters, are deeply saddened by this
state sponsored terror committed on the pretext of advancing and protecting
the interests of the national liberation struggle.

The law no longer stands respected with court orders being flagrantly
ignored thereby compromising and undermining the role and function of the
judiciary, an important pillar of any democratic system.

Impunity now generally reigns for patronage purposes for the ruling elite
despite public admission of plundering of national resources on a grand

All these wanton actions in clear betrayal of the ideals of the liberation
struggle are eloquent testimony to the hijacking of the liberation struggle
by self-seeking nationalists. Zimbabwe's greatest tragedy is the
continuation of an erstwhile nationalist leadership devoid of any interest
to deliver the gains of liberation to the people.

Evidently, today the liberation struggle and its virtues has
characteristically been privatised and commercialised to serve the ruling

The national liberation effort and its outcome have tragically been hijacked
and transformed into a personal project to serve individual interests. This
is a gross insult to the memory and contribution of Zimbabwe's living and
fallen heroes.

The Zimbabwe Liberators Platform and all self-respecting former freedom
fighters wish to distance themselves from the ongoing violence and the
attendant betrayal of everything we fought for.

We call for the nation to refocus on the original values, aims, objectives,
and ideals of the national liberation struggle. We implore all Zimbabweans
and genuine former freedom fighters to remain steadfast in the face of this
naked provocation and repression.

The day of reckoning is surely visible on the horizon.

We urge the government of Zimbabwe and the ruling party to respect the
dignity of all the country's citizens; to desist from arbitrary arrests,
abductions, torture and harassment of the country's citizens; to be tolerant
of dissension and divergent views and to respect the views and opinions of
its suffering citizens.

That is the hallmark of political maturity and genuine democracy. The
government and the ruling party can only ignore this call at their own peril
as historically, the triumph of the wishes of the people is inevitable.

Finally, ZLP would like to express its solemn solidarity with all parties to
the ongoing initiative to resolve the national crisis. We extend our sincere
heartfelt sympathy to all the victims of wanton state terrorism.

Happyson Nenji

Chairman - ZLP TRUST

For and on behalf of the Zimbabwe liberators Platform

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Zimbabwe's central bank governor in no man's land

New Zimbabwe

By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 04/24/2007 08:39:38
ZIMBABWE'S central bank governor, Gideon Gono -- whose policies have often
resonated with Western diplomats and failed to strike a chord with local
politicians -- is caught in what they call 'no man's land' in the military.

There is no denying that the ebullient governor has come up a cropper on his
plans to resuscitate Zimbabwe's economy.

While it is true that the first three months of his monetary policy which
pushed for a holistic approach to solve the eight year-old economic
recession have not yielded much, Gono somehow still holds the crucial ace
towards re-invigoration of the stuttering economy.

On January 31, 2007, he deflated pressure from industry which called for the
devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar, insisting that devaluation would not
bring planeloads of scarce foreign currency.

Gono's argument was that Zimbabwe's economic problems were heavily steeped
in bad governance and therefore, were internal, and political in many ways.

It was imperative to shift from looking at him as the sole saviour, he said.

"As governor of the central bank, it pains me every time to see television
cameras on me and media hype about my (monetary) statement. I believe we
must move away from expecting too much from the governor, without doing much
ourselves," Gono told a meeting of diplomats on January 31, 2007, in a
separate forum.

"It is true we know what is good for us and we are committed to solving our
problems but as long as we leave it to the governor alone, it will take
time. This is the time to take the bull by its horns."

While it is easy to see why Gono has so far failed top get the support he
called for in his monetary policy statement, it is difficult to see why he
cannot turn the tide of suspicion against the RBZ.

There was a lot of scepticism when the former CBZ boss stated that a social
contract was key to solving the deep economic problems Zimbabwe is currently
going through.

The two factions of the divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) dismissed his statement in totality. They derided Gono, whose motto of
"failure is not an option" was turned into "failure is an option".

Both factions of the MDC see Gono as Zanu PF's last card in a numbers
gamesmanship seen crucial to winning the votes of a restive populace reeling
from an overdose of political, economic and social failures.

On one hand, Zanu PF, wittingly or unwittingly, has made Gono's job very
difficult by trashing the social contract through its brutal clampdown on
political activists, labour and journalists.

It is, therefore, easy to assume that Gono is in no man's land.

Zanu PF, with its deep-seated divisions, has viewed Gono in two very
contrasting ways. The faltering liberation party views Gono as an ambitious
man whose closeness to President Robert Mugabe places him in a position to
succeed the veteran leader.

This particular thinking is aided by Gono's recent renewed interest in
fitness that
includes playing tennis, boxing and a six-kilometre jog every morning. On
February 17 this year, Gono ran an ambitious 24km from his plush Borrowdale
home and left motorists and pedestrians rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

One witness said: "His army of bodyguards struggled to keep pace with him."

To some of his sworn enemies in Zanu PF, this is a sign that Gono is being
prepared for the ultimate job in politics.

Others view Gono as the man who can help Zanu PF recapture the hearts of
urbanites who long deserted the party.

Speculation is rife that Gono will bring forward his Monetary Policy
for the second time deal with the funding of the presidential and
parliamentary elections which are set to be held jointly next year, and
solve the impasse between the RBZ and tobacco farmers holding out for higher
prices and devaluation of the dollar.

Gono has now left devaluation matters in the hands of the Ministry of

Zanu PF believes that when it suits the party, Gono can wave a magical wand
and breathe life into its stuttering campaigns in a game of numbers against
the ever popular MDC, boosted by public disenchantment with Mugabe's

Now the warring factions are prepared to support Gono in his efforts to put
life in the economy because elections are beckoning.

This is against a background of pressure from the Zanu PF politburo on
Mugabe to ditch Gono, a thorn in the flesh for some whose businesses are
sustained by corruption.

It remains to be seen how Gono can work himself around the snares of
politics that so far have failed to halt him in his relentless march towards
pacifying the suffering public.

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Cont Mhlanga unfazed by media attacks over play

New Zimbabwe

By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 04/24/2007 08:39:22
CONT Mdladla Mhlanga, the artistic director of Amakhosi Theatre Productions
whose new play - The Good President - has drawn brickbats from the
state-controlled media is unconcerned by the threats and attempts to
discredit him.

The controversial director says he is unfazed by the venomous media reports
and state security agents' interest in his latest play which has taken the
country by storm.

"I not worried by the ramifications of The Good President. When I write what
I think is right and doing that at the right time like now, I don't dream of
the CIO, the police or anyone," Mhlanga said in an interview at his Bulawayo
office Monday.

"Writing something from the bottom of my heart gives me inspiration. I am
not afraid of anyone because I am doing the right thing as an artist. In
fact, I am deeply disappointed by other artists who have failed to seize
this opportunity to show the temperatures in Zimbabwe at the moment.

"Hot theatre is like a temperature that shows you the mood of the country.
Sadly, other artists believe that musical galas offer them a lifeline and
cannot go against the government.

"The government is a group of people. The government is not the ZBC (state
broadcaster) or the ZBC the government."

When he wrote the script for The Good President, Mhlanga insists his
intention was not to address President Robert Mugabe in disparaging terms
but show his strengths and weakness both as a professional politician and

"The play is meant to educate and give young Zimbabweans an insight into the
person of a President. The difference with The Good President is that this
time I have taken a dig at Mugabe as a professional politician and as an

"By making references to the late Joshua Nkomo, my idea was to show how
Mugabe hates opposition parties.

"The picture I projected was that of man who worked hard for democracy but
hates opposition parties. When he fought Nkomo, it was not a tribal thing
but hatred of opposition party politics.

"I don't fan tribalism but am a cultural activist. But when a President says
vanodashurwa ne mapurisa (police will assault them), then he is not acting
above his personality which must be built by his office," said Mhalnga.

The pencil-slim playwright said he has not attacked or said Mugabe is bad in
the play, but admits: "People who have watched the play tell me he is a bad
President. It is not me who is saying that but the people. Maybe he is a bad

"The Good President is an advocacy piece to the audience. It has not reached
its climax. In four months, it would have peaked. We are heading towards
watershed elections and during the period between now and then you would
have seen the work of The Good President."

The Good President premiered in Harare a fortnight ago to a tumultuous
reception. On the night of its launch, the state security chiefs and some of
their departmental heads were in the audience that packed the Theatre In The

But a week after its launch, the play and Mhlanga have received a bashing in
the form of frenzied reporting by the state-run papers - The Sunday Mail,
The Herald and The Chronicle.

Mhlanga, however, finds that normal and is not losing sleep.

He said: "When I put out a play, it shows me where it wants to go. What
people have seen is the beginning. So these reports by journalists is
nothing new. I know the people who are writing these stories and they tell
me I am making their jobs difficult. It's not their fault but the one who
owns the media."

The Good President puts Mugabe's office under scrutiny as well as examining
his persona - thus highlighting his strengths and weaknesses.

It looks at Zimbabwe's history and skilfully shows Zimbabwe today under
Mugabe in a conversation between a granny and her nephew. The play is
modelled along the folk tale line and shows Mhlanga at his best.

Mhlanga refuses to revel in the rave views for The Good President arguing
that other political satires such as Workshop Negative, a production he
unleashed in 1985, hold a place in his best works.

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They Are 'As Thick As Thieves' At Francistown's Bus Station

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

April 23, 2007
Posted to the web April 23, 2007

Patricia Maganu

The bus station in Francistown has become the bedrock of illegal foreign
exchange dealers. The majority of these daring dealers - mainly women -
trade in Pula, Rand and Zim dollars.

Their illicit 'business' thrives largely because people - mainly
travellers - detest formalities, queues and commission charges at banks.

The foreign exchange trade is mainly in the hands of foreigners of Shona
stock and the Zezuru - their ethnic cousins in Botswana.

This is an 'underground' operation with a difference - it is an open-air
'affaire' in which the traders almost solicit for business from passers-by.
Yet they have to be cagey enough not to approach the wrong person -
plainclothes police, perhaps - who may be out to ensnare them.

Once the selection is done, the exchange is quick and hush-hush, yet there
is a whirring din that characterises this racket.

The market could not have been located at a better place; the bus terminus
is next to the train station, and regular customers are mostly travellers
between Botswana and Zimbabwe who go by bus or board the celebrated train to

Apparently, Mmmegi approaches were not sufficiently sly. Our first contact
was a woman who runs a public phone. Even as we were present, she sent off a
cryptic message to the racketeers who scampered in different directions.

It was clear that their solidarity was not about to be broken by a snoopy

As the adage goes, the creed in certain professions is to be 'as thick as

But after a little persuasion, the woman at the phone acknowledged that the
women in the white dresses were also forex dealers.

"Almost all these people here sell money for money. Try the Zezurus," she

The reference to "the women in the white dresses" identifies the Zezuru, a
Shona clan from whom Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe comes.

Ironically, the manner of dress of Zezuru women signifies a religious order.
However, those who run the black market see no iniquity or hypocrisy in
their illegal practice.

Superintendent Mokuedi Mphathi of Francistown Police Station told Mmegi
later that police are aware of the illegal activities at the bus station.

"We have arrested people and charged them," he said, adding that they levy a
fine of P1000 on culprits.

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