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

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Zimbabwe shut down by strike

Andrew Meldrum, Harare
Thursday April 24, 2003
The Guardian

Zimbabwe was largely brought to a halt yesterday by a three-day strike
called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in protest at the
government's decision last week to triple the price of fuel.
Most factories, shops, supermarkets and banks were closed, and even
government services such as the post offices were shut.

Union officials estimated that the first day of the strike was 70%
successful, and peaceful.

The drastic increase in fuel prices means that transport alone now eats up
about 80% of the average worker's pay, the ZCTU says.

The police used the government's stringent labour laws to declare the strike
illegal and to arrest some ZCTU executives who were caught distributing
strike leaflets in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, on Tuesday.

The current strike comes hard on the heels of a two-day walkout last month
organised by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change

They are a stinging vote of no-confidence by the workers in President Robert
Mugabe's economic policies, which have taken inflation in Zimbabwe to 228%
and unemployment above 60% and have resulted in an acute shortage of basic

The success of the stoppages is boosting the confidence of the MDC, which
has vowed to use mass action to drive Mr Mugabe from office.

The government showed signs of being worried as the strike took hold

A military helicopter flew over the capital, Harare, the police erected
roadblocks on main roads, and troops patrolled the impoverished suburbs of
eastern Harare.
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Mugabe gets wanna-be Saddam palace
24/04/2003 05:07  - (SA)

Erika Gibson

Pretoria - The rush is on to complete the construction of Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe's "retirement mansion" after rumours that he would
probably become a president with non-executive powers as of July 1 this

Informed sources say feverish negotiations between Zanu-PF and the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) are underway to reach an agreement that could
save the country from "suicide".

As part of this agreement, Mugabe is expected to move into his new mansion
in Borrowdale Brook Lane, an upmarket suburb in northern Harare, on July 1.

The house is estimated to be worth more than R37m. Construction work on the
house started two years ago, but has recently gained momentum with the new
deadline in place.

Mugabe apparently regularly visits the construction site to check on the

The front of the house is built in a Chinese style, while every room in the
house apparently has a different international culture as a theme. Those who
have been inside the house, describe it as "opulent".

Four Moroccan craftsmen have been carving a dome in the banquet hall for
more than a year. The decorations on the dome are apparently similar to that
of President Saddam Hussein's palace domes in Iraq.

The house alone is said to comprise about 1 000 square metres. Two
bulldozers in the garden are creating two dams on the estate.

Residents of Harare say it is a disgrace that Mugabe is openly flaunting his
wealth while his fellow countrymen are living in poverty.

This is probably the reason why a sophisticated security system, to prevent
uninvited guests from entering the property, is part of the plans for the

Several members of Mugabe's inner circle live in this suburb in equally
luxurious homes. General Constantine Chiwenga, one of Zimbabwe's army
generals who lives in a four storey house equipped with lifts, will be one
of Mugabe's neighbours.
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Howard to talk Zimbabwe with Commonwealth chief

CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Commonwealth
Secretary-General Don McKinnon were due to meet here Wednesday for talks
likely to be dominated by Zimbabwe, officials said.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth after
international observers ruled that its elections held a year ago, and which
returned President Robert Mugabe to power, were seriously flawed.

The Australian leader chairs a tri-nation Commonwealth committee which
decided to maintain the suspension despite pressure from the two other
nations until the next Commonwealth leaders' meeting. Nigeria and South
Africa had pushed for Zimbabwe's readmission to the Commonwealth but Howard
stood firm, achieving the extension until December.

Howard announced the decision after talks in London with McKinnon in
February. McKinnon said in February the Commonwealth had survived much worse
and the current crisis over Zimbabwe's status did not mean the end of the
54-nation body or of Zimbabwe's long-term membership.

Meanwhile, a general strike call from Zimbabwe's powerful trade unions after
a more than 200 percent fuel price increase drew a mixed reponse in the
capital Wednesday, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Many people who reported for work on the first day of the three-day job
stayaway found their workplaces shut. Others failed to make it because of
lack of transport as many privately-operated buses were did not run on

Nearly all commercial banks, large supermarket chains and some manufacturing
plants did not open Wednesday morning. Others partially opened saying they
feared violence could break out. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) called for a three day national strike after the government almost
trebled the pump price of petrol last week.

The labour body has said the increases make it impossible for the average
worker to pay commuter fares, let alone buy food and other basics. ZCTU
wants government to reverse the price hikes, failure of which the the job
boycott will be indefinite.
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The Star

      Next Zim strike 'will be the big one'
      April 24, 2003

      By Brian Latham

      Harare - A three-day strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions to protest against a three-fold petrol price hike has begun, bringing
the country to a standstill.

      ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe said that between 65 and
70% of workers stayed at home yesterday.

      Opposition members said the strike was just the next step in an
ongoing campaign, vowing that "the big one" was still to come.

      The strike coincided with the visit to Zimbabwe of Angola's foreign
minister ahead of a Southern African Development Community task force set to
investigate human rights abuses.

      A date has not yet been set for the visit, but the minister claimed
its aim was to end the standoff between Zimbabwe and Britain.

      Expecting a wave of arrests and retribution, ZCTU officials abandoned
their run-down Harare city centre headquarters yesterday. Instead they
co-ordinated the strike from homes and cars as police set up roadblocks.

      After the successful March 18-19 national strike called by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, state agents and men dressed in
military uniform went on a violent terror spree.

      More than 250 people were hospitalised after being tortured, while the
MDC said more than a thousand people had to flee their homes.

      ZCTU officials said the strike had been violence free by yesterday

      State radio reported that in parts of the country it was business as
usual, but claimed that thousands of workers had been unable to find
transport because of the fuel shortage.

      Four cabinet ministers, including Information Minister Jonathan Moyo,
appeared on state television on Tuesday night, warning people not to heed
the call to strike. Police declared the strike illegal.

      MDC presidential spokesperson Will Bango said: "The whole country is
now effectively shut down by the ZCTU strike, which is a curtain-raiser to
the big one coming soon.

      "The big and final one is set to include the rural areas. Drum beats
from rural hamlets will signal the imminent arrival of freedom, justice and

      Meanwhile the World Food Programme has said it is grateful for the
"very significant and timely" donation of about R150-million from the South
African government, which has helped the WFP to feed hungry people in
Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern Africa.

      With the money, the WFP had bought about 100 000 tons of maize in
South Africa. Two-thirds of the maize - in sacks marked "Gift of South
Africa" - is being distributed in Zimbabwe.

      The WFP is relying quite heavily on South African maize in Zimbabwe
because it came after donations from elsewhere had almost been depleted.
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Strike stops cars due for delivery to Mugabe cabinet
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 24/04/2003)

The factories of Zimbabwe were deserted yesterday, its crumbling streets
empty and even the government's Mercedes Benz suppliers closed as an
estimated 90 per cent of the country's workers went on a general strike.

The protest, called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and backed by
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was triggered by a 300 per
cent fuel price rise ordered by Robert Mugabe's government.

Among the businesses paralysed by the strike was Zimbabwe's most profitable
vehicle company. Its workshops were locked up, 10 new Mercedes Benz E240
saloons inside them awaiting delivery to Mr Mugabe's cabinet. A further 22
are due to arrive later this week.

The total cost of the order has been estimated to be equivalent to two
weeks' fuel supply for the entire country.

On the eve of the strike workers at the firm had been seething. "If only
George Bush would come here and Saddam us," said one. "But he won't and so
we will have to strike, and be arrested and beaten.

"We have no choice. The ministers break the cars that we pay for and get new
ones and we pay for those too. We have no fuel, no food, no medicines at the
hospitals, and Mugabe doesn't care."

Only two banks had branches fully open, Standard Chartered and Barclays,
both British-owned. "We don't know why we are at work today," said an
employee at a Standard Chartered branch in the once spruce Borrowdale suburb
north of Harare.

The strike, due to continue until the end of the week, was the second in a
month. The first was called by the MDC to protest against political
repression, and employers have supported their workers in both stoppages.

"Their interests and those of the workers coincide," said a major
industrialist. "Where we can we are paying them while they are on strike."

Easter holidays and the strike mean Zimbabwe's dwindling number of factories
have been open for just one day in two weeks.

Even when they are working there is electricity for only four hours a day
because Mr Mugabe cannot pay his neighbours Mozambique and the Democratic
Republic of Congo for the power they supply.

A police spokesman said there had been no violence during the strike. "It
seems to be peaceful everywhere."

Jenni Williams, a human rights activist, said at least nine union officials
had been arrested in Bulawayo.
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Many people are making the mistake thinking that the stay away called by
the ZCTU and starting tomorrow morning is just another strike. It's not.
is the start of a concerted drive by civic organisations and the MDC to do
what Thabo Mbeki and Obasanjo were tasked to do and failed and that is to
Mugabe to either come to the negotiating table or to leave the scene.

This is a concerted push to remove the barriers to change thrown up by the
Mugabe regime. Why is it different? Because life has simply become
impossible for the great majority of Zimbabweans. We cannot buy food,
shortages are endemic and getting worse and now we have virtually no
liquid fuels and electrical cuts are threatening what is left of the
The fuel price rise last week may be the trigger, but this regime has been
loading the gun for use on itself for a long time.

We have warned our neighbours that this could be nasty - by the measure of
Mugabe's statements over the weekend - we can expect a fight. However if
no one will come to our aid in an effective way - we must now rely on
ourselves. If we do not there is no future for anyone in this country.

The Prime Minister of Israel was asked after the 6 day war why Israel was
able to overcome such huge odds - she said, it is because we have no where
else to go.

We have reached that point and Mugabe is about to experience
the wrath of the people, enraged by years of abuse and disregard, years of
violence and oppression, years of failure in all areas of governance and
stark refusal to even acknowledge the facts.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, April 22nd 2003.
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Zimbabwe strikes to get 'bonkers' Mugabe out

      April 24 2003 at 05:54AM

      By Basildon Peta

Zimbabwe shut down once again on Wednesday as workers heeded a call by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions not to report for work to protest against
steep fuel hikes imposed by President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Banks, factories and stores were closed across Zimbabwe during the first day
of the three-day protest. Commuter bus stations, which are normally a hive
of activity as workers jostle for transport to go to work, were deserted.
Traffic in central Harare was sparse.

Ordinary Zimbabweans and analysts in Harare said the success of the strike
should be a clear signal to Mugabe that the people were now fed up with him
and he had to retire to save Zimbabwe from further chaos.

"If that's not a clear signal to Mugabe that his time is up, then he has
indeed gone bonkers," said prominent activist and law professor Lovemore

      Mugabe's government has declared the strike illegal
Trade union president Lovemore Matombo warned that the three-day strike
could become indefinite unless Mugabe reversed last week's steep fuel hikes
which Matombo branded as "criminal".

Petrol alone was hiked by 210 percent, the highest ever.

Matombo said there was no way the ordinary worker could afford the steep
fuel hikes and their knock-on effect on other commodities at a time when the
Zimbabwe government had imposed a freeze on increases in salaries and wages.

The strike is the second successful one in a month after the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change called for one of the biggest protests in
Mugabe's 23-year rule three weeks ago. The trade union is closely affiliated
to the MDC.

The trade union said tensions were running high in Zimbabwe after four top
labour officials were arrested for "organising" the latest strike. Soldiers
had been deployed across townships on the eve of the strike.

Mugabe's government has declared the strike illegal. - Independent Foreign

  This article was originally published on page 4 of The Mercury on 24
April 2003
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Mail and Guardian

Zimbabwe no longer a thorn in rand's side

      Alison Maltz | Johannesburg

      24 April 2003 08:57

Just over a year ago South Africa's northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, went to
the polls and controversially re-elected Robert Mugabe as president. The
election results briefly put the brakes on the rand's recovery.

The rand was trading at around R12 per dollar at the time -- better than the
all-time worst level of R13,86 it touched on December 21, 2001, but a far
cry from the R7,50s where it is trading at present.

When the rand was the world's worst performing currency in 2001, the crisis
in Zimbabwe was frequently cited as a reason for the local unit's downward

Now that the rand has been the best performer in 2002 -- and so far in
2003 -- the turmoil in Zimbabwe continues unabated. However, South Africa's
bad neighbour has fallen off the currency market's radar screen -- a point
illustrated by the fact the rand continued to firm in February, when it
broke below R8 per dollar for the first time since June 2001, despite the
devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

MMS International market analyst Michael Keenan said that in order to
understand why Zimbabwe was not having a negative influence on the rand, one
needed to understand why the currency was strengthening.

Reasons for this include interest rate differentials, the improved gold
price as well as the weaker dollar against the cross currencies, he says.

He continues that when the rand was weakening, there was a lot of negative
sentiment, which aided speculation against the currency.

"It all comes down to checks and balances. When it was depreciating, it was
a no-brainer to short the rand. Our interest rate differentials were not
strong enough to counteract the daily fall in the currency. The rand fell
far faster than what the interest rate differential was, so it was a one-way
bet," he explains.

He continues that now, the opposite is happening. Four rates hike last year
mean that our interest rates are high, which makes speculating against the
rand expensive.

Keenan adds that that last year's Myburgh Commission into the rand's
depreciation helped stop speculation. The Reserve Bank also clamped down on
speculative trades.

"It comes down to which way it makes sense to make money. If it makes sense
to short the rand, people will push any negative factors that can be found,"
he asserts.

He says the same applies to markets world wide, with sentiment basically
justifying the fundamentals. If the underlying fundamentals suggest the rand
should strengthen, people will ride the reasons for this.

On the million dollar question of whether the rand's rally against the
dollar has run out of steam, Keenan says that the Monetary Policy Review
will play an important role.

"If Reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni comes out with a dovish stance which
rekindles the hope of a rate cut in June, it will be negative for the rand
as it will cut short the carry play for the currency. Then R7,50 will prove
a tough floor."

Conversely, if Mboweni's remarks are hawkish, it will inspire the rand bulls
to take the currency below R7,50, he forecasts.

Currency traders are also confident that Zimbabwe is not having the effect
on the currency market it used to.

One asserts that part of the reason for this is that bigger news stories
such as Iraq have bumped it off the front pages of the world's newspapers.

"Zimbabwe is not making headlines as much as it used to. People are not
interested as much as they were," says one.

A second trader agrees. "The news out of Zimbabwe has been pretty quiet," he
says. "For now, Zimbabwe is out of the picture unless there is some big

However, positive news out of Zimbabwe, like the resignation of Robert
Mugabe, would capture the market's attention, he says.

"I think it would be fantastic. The rand would definitely take some heart
from that." - I-Net Bridge
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Business Report

      Zimbabwe tobacco loses blue chip status
      April 24, 2003

      By Bloomberg

      Harare - Zimbabwean tobacco, which is used to flavour cigarettes such
as Camel and Marlboro, might fade from world markets, growers said yesterday
as farmers began selling their smallest crop in 22 years.

      President Robert Mugabe's programme of seizing land from white
commercial growers and giving it to black farmers, most of whom produce food
only for themselves, has cut this year's harvest to about 85 million
kilograms. It averaged 199 million kilograms during the 1990s, when Zimbabwe
was the world's second-biggest exporter.

      Altria Group, the owner of the world's largest cigarette maker, and RJ
Reynolds Tobacco Holdings may turn to Brazil and the US to make up for any
shortfall in Zimbabwe.

      Standard Commercial Corporation and rivals that buy tobacco and resell
it to cigarette makers are reconsidering investments in the country,
threatening the future of the $600 million-a-year industry.

      "If it's not grown, if that infrastructure isn't there, then we have
to deal with that reality," said Keith Merrick, the treasurer of North
Carolina-based Standard Commercial.

      "It's very regrettable."

      Tobacco was first grown in Zimbabwe in 1894. In recent years the
country accounted for about a fifth of global exports of flue-cured tobacco,
which is mixed with cheaper leaf to give cigarettes their flavour.

      Tobacco is Zimbabwe's biggest export. The industry has employed as
many as 150 000 people in a country of 11.6 million, where 70 percent are
unemployed. Fewer than 500 large-scale tobacco growers are still on their
land, a third of the number in 2001, when the land seizures began.

      Some growers say this year's crop will fall short of the 85 million
kilograms estimated by the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, and may drop below
the 67 million kilograms harvested in 1981, a year after the end of a
15-year civil war.

      "Even 80 million kilograms is an ambitious estimate," said Bruce
Gemmill, who grew tobacco in Macheke, east of Harare, until his farm was
taken last year.

      "There's virtually nothing in the ground from large-scale producers,
and small-scale growers have been hard hit by fertiliser and fuel

      Most of the crop will be sold at the world's biggest tobacco auction
floors - TSL and the Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre - during a season that
started yesterday and runs until October

      Each day auctioneers will walk down lines of tobacco bales weighing
about 100kg, selling the leaf to buyers who trail them.

      Buyers make purchases based on criteria such as feel and the number of
spots on the leaves, which indicate quality and the flavours required by
cigarette makers.

      Brazil exported 280 million kilograms of flue-cured tobacco last year,
compared with about 166 million kilograms for Zimbabwe and 110 million
kilograms for the US, said Rodney Ambrose, the marketing director for the
Zimbabwe Tobacco Association.

      China exported 120 million kilograms. Its crop is of a lower quality
than the three other major producers, Ambrose said.

      "Everybody in the tobacco world is looking at Zimbabwe," said Antonio
Abrunhosa, the chief executive of the International Tobacco Growers'
Association in Portugal.

      The chances of recovery are small. Analysts said many of the new black
farmers did not have the training to produce the top-quality tobacco
international buyers were looking for.
      And banks might not finance tobacco planting because the smaller farms
did not provide enough security for the loans.

      "We are going to lose the people who know how to do it," said John
Robertson, a Harare-based economist. "Quite a high proportion of the crop
would be of a lower quality."

      This year's crop and dim prospects for the future might discourage
buyers such as Standard Commercial, Universal and Dimon from maintaining
warehouses and other investments they needed to do business in Zimbabwe.

      "I doubt the buyers will ever trust" Zimbabwe again, said Mike Murray,
who grows tobacco near Marondera, east of Harare. "There are so few of us
going and even those of us who are can just limp along."

      While the new farmers are encouraged to grow tobacco, their efforts
are being hampered by a five-year recession that has led to shortages of the
diesel needed to transport the crop to auction floors in Harare, and the
coal needed to heat barns and cure the crop.

      Zimbabwe would probably earn $160 million this year from tobacco, less
than a third of the total in recent years, estimated Robertson. "It could be
a terminal experience for the industry," he said. - Bloomberg
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Business Report

      Zimbabwe workers heed call for three-day strike
      April 24, 2003

      By Sapa-AP

      Harare - Banks, factories and stores across Zimbabwe were forced to
close yesterday as workers heeded the call of the largest labour federation
to strike.

      The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organised the protest against
the government's decision last week to triple the price of petrol.

      Tensions ran high as the first day of the planned three-day strike
took hold. Police manned road blocks on main highways, and troops patrolled
townships in eastern Harare.

      A military helicopter flew over the capital, where traffic was light
      . Bus stops and parking lots were virtually deserted.

      Factory owners in Bulawayo said about three-quarters of the city's
factories had closed.

      State radio reported that most businesses were also closed in the
eastern cities of Marondera and Mutare.

      The government has declared the strike illegal under stringent
security laws. Four union officials have been arrested for helping to plan
the strike and there are fears more retribution could follow. - Sapa-AP
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