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Cool response to Zimbabwe strike call

03/04/2007 07h34
HARARE (AFP) - A call for a two-day general strike by Zimbabwe's main union
organisation appeared to have received a cool response on Tuesday as most
shops and services were running as on a normal working day.

Bus companies were running full services while post offices, banks,
government offices, supermarkets and high street shops were all open in the
centre of Harare, according to AFP correspondents in the capital.

Some workers said they could simply not afford to lose some of their salary
as they are already struggling to make ends meet.

"Our boss warned that if we did not show up he would simply deduct two days
wages for each day," said Alice Ushe, a cashier at a supermarket in Harare
which opened as usual at 8:00am.

"I cannot afford to make society happy by staying at home. I have a family
to feed I need the money because as it is, my salary is not nearly enough."

There were signs that the strike call had been received more sympathetically
in the industrial areas of Willowvale and Southerton in Harare, where some
factories were shut and the streets had the feel of a Sunday morning.

A low-level police presence was seen in the streets throughout the capital
and several roadblocks had been mounted on roads leading into the city.

Police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, warned Monday that the elite security
force would be deployed across the country to ensure peace.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) launched the general shutdown
as opponents of veteran President Robert Mugabe turn up the heat on his
beleaguered government.

The ZCTU, formerly headed by Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, called the strike, accusing the government of failing to respond
to concerns about the worsening economic crisis.

Eighty percent of Zimbabweans are jobless and inflation stands at 1,730
percent, the highest in the world.

Mugabe, 83, who has been in power for 27 years, is widely blamed for the
country's political and economic woes.

But recent union demonstrations have been stopped in their tracks by
Mugabe's security forces, with several union chiefs arrested in September as
major nationwide protests were crushed at the outset.

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Showing Mugabe the Door

New York Times

Published: April 3, 2007
EVER since Zimbabwe began imploding in 2000, the conventional punditry about
its president, Robert Mugabe, has largely been of the good-leader-turns-bad
variety. Now, as the country's economy enters its death throes -
hyperinflation at 1,700 percent and expected to exceed 5,000 percent by year's
end; unemployment at 80 percent; the average person's purchasing power at
1953 levels; life expectancy the lowest in the world; an exodus of Africa's
most educated population - it would seem a good time to re-examine that
orthodoxy and decide what the West can do to ease the dictator's departure.

In fact, Mr. Mugabe has been a completely consistent leader. It's we who
have changed. During the cold war, we in the West were so grateful that this
militant Marxist had instantly become a benign capitalist that we ignored
his history of political violence within his own party, and intimidation at
the 1980 elections that brought him to power upon Zimbabwe's independence.
We supported him in the same way we supported venal leaders like Mobutu Sese
Seko of Zaire - our friends simply because they were not Moscow's.

The other parapet behind which Mr. Mugabe found convenient shelter was
apartheid, which persisted in his southern neighbor for the first 13 years
of his rule. As the leader of the so-called front-line states facing a
hostile white government in South Africa, he deserved our support, and we
gave him the benefit of the doubt even after his hands were bloodied in his
southern province of Matabeleland - where his North Korean-trained Fifth
Brigade killed as many as 25,000 civilians in 1983 and 1984.

It was a massacre I saw and reported on, but not a big story in news terms,
and there was barely a peep out of the international community. Somehow, to
attack Mr. Mugabe was to appear to be giving succor to white South Africa,
and Zimbabwe's strongman was a master at spinning it that way. (When I wrote
about the massacres, he immediately claimed I was a South African spy and
had me declared an enemy of the state.)

Then things went quiet - but only because he'd bludgeoned the opposition
into quiescence and established a one-party system. The next time
Zimbabweans had the temerity to question Mr. Mugabe's absolute rule was in
2000, when they voted against him in a referendum to extend his presidential
term limits, a vote that in his complacency, he hadn't even bothered to rig.
He reacted to his defeat with violence and intimidation: his thugs began
killing opposition supporters, evicting white commercial farmers (whom he
had invited to stay on and contribute to the new Zimbabwe), and intimidating
voters at subsequent rigged elections.

In recent months, Mr. Mugabe has stepped up the violence against opposition
members and leaders in Zimbabwe - with the chilling development of Latin
American-style hit squads that abduct and torture opposition supporters. On
Friday, he quashed a challenge to his rule from within his own party. What
can outside powers do to help ease out an 83-year-old leader who, after 27
years in power, would rather destroy his country than step down voluntarily?

Zimbabwe lacks the two exports necessary to interest the United States in
direct intervention: oil and terrorism. International sanctions on Zimbabwe
are now minuscule. We could ramp up "smart sanctions" against Mr. Mugabe and
his coterie, for example by freezing their ill-gotten external assets, but
any wider sanctions would probably only hurt those at the bottom of the food
chain, not the elite kleptocracy. Megaphone diplomacy tends to feed Mr.
Mugabe's portrayal of Western powers as shrill, hectoring, imperialist

The real key to the Zimbabwe stalemate is to be found in South Africa, which
has an economic choke hold on its landlocked northern neighbor. But thus
far, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has refused to do anything about
Mr. Mugabe. His policy of "quiet diplomacy" has, in truth, been a silent
one. And he has paid a high price for such tacit support of Mr. Mugabe,
whose embarrassing exploits ensured that Mr. Mbeki's much-vaunted African
Renaissance was stillborn.

It has long been a political parlor game to figure out why Mr. Mbeki hasn't
done more about Zimbabwe. He sometimes pays lip service to the principle of
non-interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state, but
South Africa quickly sent its army into Lesotho in 1998 after a rigged
election there. Part of Mr. Mbeki's reluctance to act may have to do with
Mr. Mugabe's residual status as a liberation hero. But mostly, I believe, it
stems from Mr. Mbeki's distaste for the Zimbabwean opposition, the Movement
for Democratic Change and its main leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who used to
head up the Zimbabwean trades union movement.

Therein lies the problem: Mr. Mbeki's ruling African National Congress party
is actually a troika, and one of its legs is the Congress of South African
Trade Union, which is getting increasingly fractious. The group has strongly
backed Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change, and if Mr. Tsvangirai were
to come to power in Zimbabwe, it would greatly embolden the South African
union confederation, encouraging it to secede from the African National
Congress and pose a challenge to Mr. Mbeki. Thus has Zimbabwe become a
function of South African domestic politics.

In so far as diplomacy is the art of the possible, Pretoria still provides
us with the main fulcrum for change. South Africa controls and has the power
to obstruct transportation links, lines of credit and electricity supplies,
and it alone has the power and regional clout to face down Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Mbeki may soon be in a position to do more. In a woeful display of the
inadequacies of pan-African institutions, the 14 members of the South
African Development Community last week came out in support of Mr. Mugabe's
dictatorship. But they nominated Mr. Mbeki to facilitate dialogue between
Mr. Mugabe and his opposition.

The international community should make it clear to Mr. Mbeki that he, and
the new South Africa, have a special moral obligation to help a nearby
people who are oppressed and disenfranchised, having been assisted in its
own struggle by just such pressure. And that "quiet diplomacy" is nothing
less than the appeasement of a violent dictatorship. If President Mbeki
continues it, South Africa will squander the good will of the world.

Peter Godwin is the author of a forthcoming memoir, "When a Crocodile Eats
the Sun.

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Hitchhiker's guide to a failing state

Independent, UK

3 April 2007 16:58

The fields are barren, the filling stations empty, the people starving.
Daniel Howden travelled the length of Zimbabwe to survey the slow
disintegration of Africa's erstwhile breadbasket Vic Falls to the Halfway
Published: 03 April 2007

The Kingdom is empty. It boasts all of the trappings of ersatz tourist
Africa apart from the tourists. The vast dining hall of the hotel which
should be the centrepiece of Zimbabwe's tourist industry has fake elephant
tusks, shield-shaped menus and empty tables. Outside in the car park a
battalion of beige uniformed porters hide from the fierce sun, rousing
themselves only to compete for tips from the very occasional arrival.

Across the Falls, Zambia's town of Livingstone and its packed hotels deliver
hard currency holidays in the shadow of one of the great wonders of the
world. Leaving The Kingdom, beggars crowd to the open windows of the
pick-up. What traffic there is, either battered taxis or the white 4x4s of
the NGOs, disappears beyond the airport.

At the wheel, staring straight ahead is Cameron. The road is Romaically
straight, cutting a tarmac line as far as the 35C heat haze on the horizon
but he doesn't look away for a second. "You have to watch for the cows and
goats, especially the goats," he says. "You never know with them which way
they'll go. With the cows it's easier, if their heads are down they won't

There used to be a wire fence, he tells me, protecting the road, but it has
long since been stolen and sold for scrap. Cameron is one of the dwindling
number of white Zimbabweans who have stayed on despite their privileges
being eroded and their lives and livelihoods coming under physical and
political threat.

The dry bush with its low trees and burnt red earth stretches away from the
road in all directions. The maize fields that provide the porridge that is
the staple for most Zimbabweans are dry and dead. The rains have failed
again this year and starvation is coming. The crop failure in this region is
95 per cent.

"People have started eating the field mice," says Cameron. "Usually there
would be thousands of them. Where are they?"

Starved-looking children stand with hollow faces and swollen bellies at the
roadside. The lucky ones are holding out the only thing there is left to
sell - anaemic watermelons, little larger than grapefruits.

Halfway Hotel to Bulawayo

Even for those with money there's next to nothing at the Halfway Hotel. The
only watering hole on the five-hour drive between the Falls and Bulawayo,
its picnic tables once provided an opulent lunch for well-off travellers.
Now the four-page menu is a memory. Whatever it says the kitchen runs to a
tired burger and an antique Fanta. At the filling station next door they've
had no fuel for weeks. An ambulance parks by the pumps and draws a curious
crowd. But the driver is just looking for shade on the forecourt. It goes
without saying that it's a private ambulance, no one's seen a public
ambulance for years.

Two white men on an empty road arouse suspicion. With the latest round of
brutal suppression of all opposition the roadblock count has sky-rocketed.
Cameron counted eightbetween the Falls and Bulawayo. And the police are
terrified of reprisals. "You never see two policemen, they're always in
groups; safety in numbers," he says.

Lazy from the sun the police still perform the ritual of the stop and
search. Satisfied that we are on our way to a family wedding in Harare, the
search is less than half-hearted. I ask them what they're looking for.
"Gold, diamonds or guns," says a tired-looking officer. No one seems to
think we'll have any of these.

In fact, Cameron came back from studying in the UK in the hope that the
family mining business might survive the economic holocaust. One of the few
industries that had survived was the same one which drew Cecil John Rhodes
here in the first place - gold. With nine out of 10 Zimbabweans jobless and
the economy in freefall, Cameron explains that thousands of people had
turned to panning for gold again in recent years. Now even that has stopped.
As the bankrupt regime has hunted down every last cent of hard currency, or
"forex", in the machine, it has closed in on and killed its own goose that
laid golden eggs by forcing panners, miners and millers to sell to the state
at official prices. The state buys gold at a price linked to the official
exchange rate - a wildly unreal 160 Zimbabwean dollars to the US dollar. The
real exchange rate, the one that rules the black market, was running at
Z$16,000 that day. Until the end of last year the commercial mines had
survived by giving a small cut to the state at official prices and selling
the rest at black market rates. Now police raids across the country aimed at
forcing gold to be sold through official channels have closed the mines and
brought production to a near standstill.

"No one can afford to mine or process rough gold at that price - it's like
paying the state to give them gold," he says.

At the outskirts of Bulawayo the graveyard shift is clocking off. These mud
and rubble cemeteries are spreading fast in a country that is dying on its

Bulawayo to Kezi to Bulawayo

The tight grid of central Bulawayo was built for a world and a climate which
no longer exist. Its main roads are criss-crossed with giant humps designed
to let the heavy seasonal rains run off and prevent flooding. In today's
arid weather the cracked tarmac just gives the driver a mild seasickness
like a boat bobbing in gentle waves. Heading south the avenues of jacarandas
and flamboyant trees with their intense blood orange flowers give way to the
savannah and the dramatic rock formations of the Matopos National Park.
Jonathan joins me from a lay-by halfway to Kezi. Unemployed and beating a
path back and forth through Matabeleland looking for work, he doesn't mind
our grim destination and is happy to help in return for a Coke and a free
ride to Kezi. We are looking for what remains of Balagwe Camp.

After independence in 1980, the new Zimbabwe was still home to three armies:
the Rhodesian forces that fought for Ian Smith's white minority; Robert
Mugabe's Zanla guerrillas, the army drawn from the Shona-speaking majority;
and Joshua Nkomo's Zipra force of mainly Ndebele fighters.

When the victorious Mugabe swept the first elections he wasted little time
in disbanding Zipra and launching a campaign of ethnic cleansing against his
tribal rivals. Gukuruhundi - "the wind that sweeps away the chaff" - lasted
for nearly eight years and claimed as many as 40,000 lives, according to
disputed estimates.

Mugabe unleashed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade on Matabeleland and
the former army base at Balagwe became a notorious holding camp.

In Kezi no one can understand why we want to find Balagwe. Confused
directions lead straight out into the bush. Villagers eventually lead us to
a collection of derelict buildings, with thorn trees pushed through ruined
doorways. It is hard to imagine that this is where so many men were beaten
and tortured, while hundreds of women were raped, many with broom handles or
gun barrels. We ask the villagers whether they know what happened here.
Someone says something about soldiers. Jonathan explains: "Everyone lost
parents and family. No one wants to remember the camp."

Everyone is agreed that the bodies were dumped in the mine shafts that
honeycomb the local hills. Smallholders near by complain that the hills are
haunted and that skeletons prowl around, carrying guns. Others still insist
that in the afternoon you can see human bones and clothes at the bottom of
the shaft.

But the light is fading and the thin ribbon of tarmac that leads back
through the roadblocks to Bulawayo beckons. There is no time to find the
mountain graves.

Bulawayo to Harare

It takes longer to count the money than to fill the tank. The pick-up takes
50 litres. More violence and more unrest has seen the exchange rate leap to
Z$25,000 to $1. That means a little over Z$1m. And that kind of money needs
to be carried in bags, not wallets. Hyperinflation and the ensuing fuel
crisis has pushed petrol beyond the means of normal people. Zimbabwe is now
a nation of hitchhikers, the lay-bys crowded with people waiting and waving,
sometimes for days if they can't afford to pay for a lift.

The police are no exception. Dominic is a young policeman looking for a ride
outside Bulawayo. His friend who is carrying a fishing rod hops on the open
back, but the policeman rides up front. Far from questioning me, Dominic
needs little prompting to air his frustrations: "This country is a bloody
mess," he says, taking off his cap and looking at me for encouragement. I'm
going to run away down to South Africa."

He asks me if I've been and what it's like. I tell him there are a lot of
Zimbabweans and that conditions for many of them are very hard. Dominic
can't believe that it can be any harder than his life is already. I tell him
that at least he has a job here. He's not convinced. "This job is worthless,
the money they give us is nothing." He reaches into his pocket. "You can't
buy anything with this money," he says showing a fistful of Z$1,000 notes.
"What future is this?"

After dropping him off the next policeman I meet is at a roadblock. "Tell me
how much gold you are carrying," he bellows. I point at the steel frames of
my sunglasses and try to make a joke. Happily he laughs at the ludicrousness
of the question and waves me on.

Joyce joins me just beyond Gweru. A middle-aged woman, she is trying to get
to church. She hitches her way along this road to work every morning, she
explains, and comes on Sunday as well for morning prayers. Sometimes the bus
which charges Z$4,000 is cheaper, sometimes paying for a lift works out
better. "I have a car but I can't afford to use it anymore," she says. "Who
can get fuel now?"

Joyce earns Z$100,000 a month working in an office, and after transport
there's barely any money left at all. She used to buy mealie-meal in 50kg
bags but you can't find them anymore. The 20kg bag is Z$20,000, and that
lasts about two weeks, she explains. It doesn't add up and she admits that
she goes to work hungry and comes home hungry.

Like everyone else who flags me down she expects to pay for a lift and
uncoils a wad of fast depreciating notes to do so.

Crossing Harare

Off Robert Mugabe Drive, there is a large queue building of patient-looking
people. John, a young journalist sacked from the information ministry for
suspected sympathies with the opposition, has joined me. He explains the
crowd are waiting for passports. None have been issued for nearly four
years. The Registrar's office has long since run out of paper, or ink, or
bindings and, in fact, everything else they need to do its job. "There's a
lot this morning. There must be a rumour that they've got ink," says John.
"People come back each week to see how their application is going."

Mothers and babies, young men and pensioners stand in the unmoving line, and
everyone is carrying sheafs of battered old papers. "They are always told to
come back next week."

This exhausting pantomime is just one of many being repeated patiently
around the city.

At night Harare exists in a confusing half-light. Many of the "robots", or
traffic lights, have stopped working. The bulbs and aluminium parts, like
the streetlights, have been looted and sold for scrap. The confusion is
added to by the closure of the main avenue leading north out of the city.
From 6pm until 6am, it is sealed off to stop traffic from disturbing the
presidential residence.

At the filling station closest to Mugabe's residence they laugh at me when I
ask if they have fuel. Makeshift blackboards like specials menus now hang on
the forecourts. Those that don't have fuel advertise specials such as brake
fluid or firewood.

Later and lost in search of a safe house in the wooded northern suburbs, I
take one wrong turn too many. I find myself driving beside an endless blue
and white wall, it goes on for kilometres. The sight of a single,
lonely-looking soldier tells me this is a VIP estate. I'm told the next day
that actually no one lives in the vast buildings behind the walls. It is
Robert Mugabe's unfinished retirement home, and its construction is a
no-expenses-spared hobby for his extravagant wife, Grace. As for the
soldier, he lives in a battered tent pitched on the verge outside.

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Mbeki says Mugabe will step down peacefully: paper


Tue Apr 3, 2007 1:57AM EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki was quoted on Tuesday
as saying he believed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would peacefully
renounce power at some point.
"I think so. Yes, sure," Mbeki, appointed by the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to mediate over Zimbabwe, said in a Financial
Times interview when asked whether he thought such a move would ever happen.

"You see, President Mugabe and the leadership of (the ruling) Zanu-PF
believe they are running a democratic country," said Mbeki.

"That's why you have an elected opposition, that's why it's possible for the
opposition to run municipal government (in Harare and Bulawayo)," he said.

The SADC appointed Mbeki to act as mediator between Mugabe and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) when it held a summit in
Tanzania last week after the Zimbabwean government's violent March 11
crackdown on political opponents.
"You might question whether ... elections are genuinely free and fair ...
But we have to get the Zimbabweans (to a position that they) do have
elections that are genuinely free and fair," said Mbeki.

On Friday, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party endorsed the 83-year-old leader as its
candidate for elections expected in 2008 -- a move that could see him remain
in office through to 2013.

The SADC, criticized in the West for turning a blind eye to Mugabe's
crackdown, hopes its appointment of Mbeki will lead to talks between Mugabe
and the MDC.

The West accuses Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain
in 1980, of authoritarian rule and economic mismanagement.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest inflation rate, soaring unemployment and
regular food and fuel shortages.

Mugabe says he is being punished for seizing white-owned farms to give to
landless blacks, accusing Western countries led by Britain of seeking to use
the MDC to effect "regime change" in Harare.

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Mugabe opponents fear hope is crushed

Mail and Guardian

03 April 2007 07:11

Zimbabwe's trade unions have called a two-day national strike
from Tuesday morning, ostensibly over the plummeting value of wages under
rampant inflation that has left many people unable to afford the bus fare to

But many Zimbabweans view the strike as a demand for an end to
Robert Mugabe's 27-year rule. Previous attempts to call a strike have
flopped, in part because of intimidation by the police and army, but also
because almost anyone with a job in a country with 80% unemployment is
desperate to hang on to it.

If the protest fails to prove a turning point it will also be
because, in the eyes of many Zimbabweans, the political opposition has again
missed the opportunity to capitalise on a surge of public anger at home and
one of the periodic bursts of pressure on Mugabe from abroad that followed
the increasingly violent repression of the president's opponents.

There was a flicker of hope among many in Zimbabwe that their
president may have pushed things too far. But three weeks later, Mugabe
appears emboldened and his opponents are still struggling to challenge him.

"The MDC [the Movement for Democratic Change opposition]
promised us they would get rid of him years ago. We are waiting," said
Debora Mukasa, a market trader who says she now earns only enough to give
her children one meal a day. "What can we do? If we protest, the police beat
us or the army shoots us. I don't know how we get rid of this man."

Many ordinary Zimbabweans say they are waiting for the MDC to
lead the way. Its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, says he is waiting for the
people to rise up and then he will take charge. Felix Muzambi, a member of
the MDC's national executive, is among those who thinks that will not happen

"People are angry but they are passive. There is trouble here
and there, but they are not ready to go out and die for the cause. I think
they are looking for others to do it for them. They want Mugabe to go, but
it's hard to get them mobilised," he said.

The failings of the political opposition are reflected in the
rise of civic organisations and church-led protests through movements such
as the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, which has attempted to organise mass prayer

"I'm not one of those who believes Mr Mugabe's fall is
imminent," said the leader of one prominent civic protest group, Mike Davis
of the Harare Combined Residents Association. "It will probably come from a
mix of pressures, but I don't think we can expect mass street protests to be
a factor until his last days. It will be other internal pressures,
particularly the economy, that will bring him down, when he runs out of
money to spread his patronage and those in Zanu-PF realise they are going to
lose everything."

Zimbabwe's Catholic archbishop, Pius Ncube, has called
Zimbabweans "cowards" for not taking to the streets to confront Mugabe's
forces. But Davis says he does not blame people for that.

"Just surviving day-to-day is so demanding for people. Some of
the people I know spend four hours a day walking to work and back because
the bus fare takes all their pay," he said.

"There are now more Zimbabweans working in South Africa than
here. They are the kind of people who could have been expected to join
protests, but they've had to leave to find work. That's provided relief for

Some Zimbabweans persuaded themselves that the region's leaders
would tell Mugabe he has to go at a summit meeting last week. But Zimbabwe's
president emerged proclaiming it a great victory because his neighbours
pronounced his rule legitimate and blamed Britain and its allies for
Zimbabwe's problems.

Then Mugabe's many dissenters reassured themselves that the
ruling Zanu-PF's central committee meeting last Friday would produce a
revolt against his plans for another five years in power.

But the president proved as adept as ever at outmanoeuvring his
opponents, packing the meeting with dancing supporters singing liberation
war songs and turning it into a rally at which he stifled all debate and
engineered his confirmation by acclamation as the party's candidate in next
year's election.

Many Zimbabweans say that their country cannot sustain galloping
inflation and chronic unemployment and food shortages for much longer. But
they do not have to look far beyond their borders for examples of how much
further their own country could sink.

Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) watched the
erosion of their nation over three decades until there was hardly a proper
road outside a few major cities. The telephone system, hospitals and schools
rotted away. Today, most of the DRC's population knows little else but the

For Zimbabweans, decline is still an aberration, but there is a
fear that if Mugabe were to remain in power until 2013, just short of his
90th birthday, a whole generation may grow up knowing not hope but decline.

Mukasa wants more for her children but doesn't see how it will

"I voted in the last election but I won't again. There's no one
to vote for and even if you do, the government won't let them win. Someone
has to help. Even God is failing us," she said. - Guardian Unlimited ©
Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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Halt our suffering, Tsvangirai asks South Africa

The Telegraph

By Mike Pflanz, Africa Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:25am BST 03/04/2007

      Zimbabwe's opposition leader made a desperate appeal to President
Thabo Mbeki of South Africa yesterday, pleading with him to help "halt the
suffering" of millions in his homeland.

      Morgan Tsvangirai, left beaten and bruised from his time in the
custody of President Robert Mugabe's police last month, was in Johannesburg
to receive medical treatment when he called on the influential South African
leader to intervene to alleviate the plight of Zimbabwe's impoverished

      "It is critical that President Mbeki acts quickly and decisively to
halt the suffering of millions of Zimbabweans," said Mr Tsvangirai, a leader
of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "There is no time to waste. The
people of Zimbabwe need food and jobs, they need freedom and help."

      Mr Mbeki was chosen by southern African leaders last week to lead
mediation efforts between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai after a month of
attacks on opposition figures in Zimbabwe.

      Zimbabwean police said yesterday they have asked a special police
branch to maintain order during a two-day strike that begins today.

      A spokesman in Harare said that a paramilitary force would be deployed
across the country because the authorities were "determined to ensure that
peace prevails during the so-called mass stay away".

      Mr Mugabe has openly admitted his security forces "bashed" Mr
Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders when they were arrested at a prayer
rally on March 11.
      Nine other MDC officials were arrested last Wednesday, as Mr Mugabe
travelled to Tanzania for an extraordinary meeting of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), called to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe. At
that meeting, Mr Mbeki, who has been criticised for his softly, softly
approach to diplomacy with his neighbour, was picked to drive through peace
talks between Zimbabwe's government and its opposition.

      There have been previous attempts by South Africa to bring the two
sides together, which failed after Mr Mugabe walked out.

      Mr Tsvangirai said yesterday: "Let's look at 2004 when there were
these talks about talks. It's Mugabe who scuttled them because he was not
interested in any negotiation, in any solution."

      "This time around I think President Mbeki must be wary not to be led
along a garden path of Mugabe pretending to go through some process of
negotiations but with an intention of scuttling those talks."

      Mr Tsvangirai added that he had not yet spoken to the South African
president, but he appealed for the West to back the SADC.

      Mr Mugabe was endorsed by his Zanu-PF party on Friday to stand as its
candidate in elections in 2008 and Mr Tsvangirai said it was crucial that Mr
Mbeki ensures the vote is free and fair.

      Inflation in Zimbabwe is expected to top 2,000 per cent by the end of
April and 80 per cent of the country's 12 million people are unemployed.

      As a result, thousands of Zimbabwean refugees are streaming into South
Africa, Botswana and Mozambique looking for work.

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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Ready for Talks With Mugabe

Washington Post

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 3, 2007; Page A15

JOHANNESBURG, April 2 -- Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said
Monday he is ready to negotiate with President Robert Mugabe without any
preconditions, despite ongoing abductions and beatings of anti-government
activists there.

Tsvangirai, speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg, praised the
decision by regional leaders last week to appoint South African President
Thabo Mbeki to mediate negotiations. Tsvangirai has criticized Mbeki in the
past for not pressuring Mugabe aggressively enough, but in Monday's remarks
he voiced no discontent with Mbeki's selection.

"These are new circumstances. I have no doubt in my mind that the whole
region is behind President Mbeki. . . . That is a positive step," said
Tsvangirai, who is seeking a new constitution that ensures free and fair
elections in 2008. "I am hoping that President Mbeki approaches these
[negotiations] with a new perspective."

Tsvangirai, who was in Johannesburg seeking medical treatment for injuries
suffered during his arrest and severe beating on March 11, announced no new
plans to mount demonstrations against Mugabe but said, "The broad
participation of the people is what's going to put pressure on the regime."

Zimbabwean labor leaders plan a two-day national strike beginning Tuesday.
Though nominally about protecting workers' wages at a time of
hyperinflation, the strike is widely seen as a test of opposition strength
in the aftermath of the March 11 police crackdown. Tsvangirai was among
about 50 anti-government activists arrested for attending a political rally
when such meetings had been banned. Most were badly beaten, and many remain
in hospitals.

In the three weeks since those attacks, more than 100 other activists have
been arrested, abducted or beaten by government forces, opposition leaders
say. Mugabe has threatened more violence if public protests against his rule

The president has portrayed the opposition as seeking the violent overthrow
of his government after nearly 27 years in power. Police have repeatedly
accused Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, of
orchestrating a series of bombings against police stations and other
government targets over the past month.

Tsvangirai denied those allegations on Monday and called on the
international community to increase pressure on Mugabe, who plans to run for
reelection in 2008, to leave office. The nation is seven years into economic
collapse, with some of the world's highest rates of inflation and

"It's the responsibility of the international community to keep a crisis
from escalating into a conflict," Tsvangirai said.

Also on Monday, Time magazine correspondent Alex Perry, a British citizen
based in Cape Town, was freed by Zimbabwean police after paying a small fine
for reporting without proper accreditation, news reports said. He had been
arrested on Saturday. Reporting in Zimbabwe without government
accreditation, which is rarely given, is a crime punishable by two years in

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Saving Zimbabwe from Mugabe

The Sun, Nigeria

By The Sun Publishing
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Who will wrench Zimbabwe from the evil grips of Mr. Robert Mugabe? How
should the rest of the world respond to a near megalomaniac gone berserk?
Should the world stand by and watch while one man drunk with power drive his
country to a failed state? It is, indeed, time to call Mugabe's bluff - time
to do something and that something must be potent enough to sink his boat.

For a man who led his country to independence after decades of gruesome
guerrilla warfare and then became its President, a fitting tribute should
have been a garland and a revered place in the pantheon of world's elder
statemen. But Mugabe is proving that he is not a candidate for such eminent
position. He has practically driven his country to the strait.

Repression has become a ready and happy instrument for public
administration. He recently banned all political rallies and the regime has
become increasingly repressive and brutal on opposition. The savage
treatment meted out to members of opposition, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) a few weeks ago, has added to the ever-growing phenomenon of
the regime's intolerance to political opposition and also a slur on the
country's human rights record.

His repressive tendencies heightened since after his controversial land
redistribution programme of 2002. That, too, has remained one big undoing
for the country. What should have been an egalitarian gesture turned out to
be a wicked undertaking, because the once thriving commercial farms were
seized from white owners and given to blacks who often lacked experience and
resources to work the farms like their former owners.

Once the food-basket of the region, Zimbabwe is going to go hungry this
year, that is, if aid is not forthcoming. The economy has continued to
slide, shrunken, actually by half since 1999 and unemployment is at least 80
per cent. Inflation is running at over 1,700 per cent, the highest in the
world and is expected to worsen. Many Zimbabweans now survive, thanks to the
black-market and money and food said to come from the three million or so
nationals living outside the country.

In spite of all this, Mugabe is not in any way showing signs that he would
want to retire. He has just declared himself ready to stand in next year's
election for another six-year term - that is, after he failed to secure
extension of his current term till 2010. The world's fastest shrinking
peace-time economy has left the country tottering on the brink.

So, how would the world respond so that Zimbabwe does not slip into the
brink? In other words, how would the outside world save Zimbabwe from
Mugabe? In fairness to them, the European countries, together with America
have been pushing to end the trail of nightmares in that African country.
But now they should see the need to do more. The hands of the opposition
need to be strengthened. And the AU members must prevail on the big tyrant
in Zimbabwe. It remains very curious that South Africa, its neigbhour and
the inevitable butt of an eventual blow out in Zimbabwe, has remained
unmoved and manifestly unperturbed by the brewing disaster next door.

South Africa, collaborating with other members of the Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC) can make more than a dent. The community will
need to begin to mediate between the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the main opposition MDC. The community can put
in place a power-sharing transitional government to oversee development of a
new constitution, repeal of repressive laws and the holding of an
internationally supervised election in 2010.

However, that remains in the realm of wish. For Zimbabwe to recover, Mugabe
must tolerate the opposition. He must step down when his term ends in 2008
and the opposition parties must negotiate a political transition leading to
a new constitution and viable, democratic institutions. All said, for
Zimbabwe not to live up to our worst fear - a failed state - both domestic
and international actors must do more than they are doing presently.

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Waugh thinks players want Zimbabwe tour scrapped

Cricinfo staff

April 3, 2007

Steve Waugh believes the Australia players do not want to go ahead with
their scheduled tour of Zimbabwe in September. Australia are supposed to
play a three-match ODI series there to fulfil their agreement that every ICC
member nation must tour each other country at least once every five years.

However, the Australian government has called for the visit to be axed due
to continued violence in Zimbabwe and the increased crushing of dissent by
Robert Mugabe's regime. Waugh said he thought the players would probably

"It's a difficult question for Ricky [Ponting] but I feel the Australian
players probably generally feel they don't want to go," Waugh told Reuters.
"I might be speaking out of school, but I've got the feeling they think it
is not the right thing to do."

Australia last toured Zimbabwe in May 2004, when Stuart MacGill famously
made himself unavailable in a self-imposed boycott. With security concerns
growing, Waugh said he would not advise Australia to go ahead with the trip.

"It's easy for me to say that because when you're a player it's your career
and you don't want to get too involved in things like that," Waugh said.
"But I think it will be tough for them to go in that environment with what's
happening in Zimbabwe. I've got the feeling they probably won't go."

The Australian government indicated it would discuss the matter with Cricket
Australia (CA) after the World Cup. It said there might be ways for CA to
avoid the fines of up to US$1.6 million from the ICC if Australia cancelled
the tour.

Waugh, who was speaking at the Laureus world sports awards in Barcelona,
also said match-fixing was damaging cricket and it was up to the players to
help stamp it out. "I don't want it in cricket - I think it is terrible,
disgusting," Waugh said on AAP.

"I'm getting asked at these awards by other sporting legends about what's
going on in cricket and it's bad for the sport's image. Really it's about
the players, they have to put their hands up and say I'm 100% or sign
declarations but something has to be done because it is damaging the sport.

Waugh said match-fixing might be more widespread than many people thought.
"It would be pretty naive to say it was just one or two countries," he said.
"I don't know who is involved but the odds are it is more than one or two
countries. But what do you do to stop it?

"I don't think the ICC or anyone knows how to stop it or it would have been
stopped before. They formed a committee years ago and nothing too much seems
to have changed. Something serious has to happen now or the game will be
damaged for ever."

© Cricinfo

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HIV-1 control program fails in Zimbabwe

 Published: Monday, 2-Apr-2007

      A trial in Zimbabwe has shown that a programme of integrated peer
education, condom distribution, and management of sexually transmitted
infections did not reduce the overall incidence of HIV-1.
      The study, published in PLoS Medicine, by Simon Gregson and colleagues
from Imperial College London, randomised different communities in eastern
Zimbabwe over a 3 year period. Six pairs of communities in Eastern Zimbabwe
were compared, each of which had its own health center. Control communities
received the standard government services for preventing HIV. The other
communities received a package of additional strategies including education
and condom distribution amongst sex workers and their clients; better
services at sexually transmitted infection clinics; and educational HIV/AIDS
open days at health centers. This was a large trial with more than 63,000
meetings being conducted and 7 million condoms distributed by trained peer
educators. The researchers found that although male participants benefit ed
from the programme with a decrease in incidence of HIV-1, a reduction in
reporting of unprotected sex with casual partners, and a decrease in
symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, overall there was no change in
any of these outcomes for the population at large including the incidence of
HIV-1 among the population in general - the main outcome of the trial.

      These results are disappointing given the urgent need for control
measures for HIV-1 in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors conclude that they
"emphasise the need for alternative strategies of behaviour-change

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Buying Gold in Zimbabwe As An Inflation Hedge

The Daily Reckoning

Posted by Mogambo Guru on Apr 3rd, 2007
Chapter eight of Michael Panzner's book, Financial Armageddon, is titled
"Hyperinflation" and he opens the chapter with a quote from Robert Mugabe,
the moron who has destroyed Zimbabwe by creating so much money that
inflation is running at hundreds of percent per month. The quote is, "I will
print money today so that people can survive." Hahaha!

And speaking of inflation in Zimbabwe, a reader asked, "Hey, Big Stupid
Mogambo (BSM)! How much has an ounce of gold risen in Zimbabwe, the country
with the highest inflation in the world, and which is now running at almost
2,000% a year? Did gold rise enough - as you claim all the damned time with
your Big, Fat Stupid Mouth (BFSM) yammering, yammering, yammering until we
are sick of hearing it - to preserve buying power in Zimbabwe? If not, drop
dead, you miserable, filthy little creep!"

Instantly, I realize that this sounds exactly like the way my mother used to
talk to me! But since she died a long time ago, I figure that her ghost has
taken over the writer's body, and is using his fingers and email skills to
dig at me, one more time, from beyond the grave.

And since the only way to ever shut her up was to prove that her accusations
and lawsuits were baseless, we go to People's Daily Online to discover the
fact that "the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is offering a gold support price of
28 U.S. dollars per gram."

And how much is that in ounces? Google says that "1 troy ounce = 31.1034768
grams." The Mogambo Arbitrage Sensor (MAS) instantly realizes that if the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is willing to offer $870 an ounce for gold, where
are the arbitrageurs buying gold in the USA for $660 an ounce and selling it
to these idiots in Zimbabwe for $870? It seems (I say with arched eyebrow)
too nice of a juicy plum to turn down!

The fact is that there are surely tariffs, duties, fees, legal issues and
taxes enough to make a complete mockery of the bank offering a "support
price of $28 U.S. dollars per gram", or else that bank would be up to its
knees in gold bullion right now!

In a more realistic vein, writes, that in local currency,
"current gold producer price stands at Zim$16,000 per gram." This is the
producer price, which works out to Zim$497,655.63 per ounce.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president George Kawonza, says "with the
inflation rate standing at 1,729.9% we agreed that the gold price should be
pegged at around Zim$180,000 per gram", which comes out to Zim$5,598,625.86
per ounce. Although with inflation raging at almost 2,000% per year, there
is no exact "price" for anything, although I imagine that gold selling for
around Zim$6 million per ounce comes close enough.

So, given the fact that less than twenty years ago the Zimbabwe dollar and
the U.S. dollar had roughly the same value, and thus gold was priced the
same in U.S. dollars and in Zimbabwe dollars, I would say, "Hell, yes, the
value of gold has preserved its buying power! And not only that, but
everything else in the damned country has turned into worthless crap, which
makes the miracle of gold even more spectacular! Hahaha! In your face, mom!

So, the lesson is clear; those Zimbabweans who put their savings into gold,
instead of Zimbabwean dollars and assets that can be easily seized and
devalued by a government, made out very well, just as the theory predicts!

I got an email from Junior Mogambo Ranger (JMR) Tom D. that clearly
explained one of the finer points of the modern voodoo of Hedonic Indexing
of inflation statistics when he wrote, "Dear Mogambo, I'm afraid you still
don't have this substitution thing down. You see, as the cost of food rises,
people will 'substitute' eating (which is expensive) with starvation (which
is free)! Therefore, as the price of food rises, the CPI decreases. I hope
this helps."

Boy, did it ever! In this bizarre, alternate-reality world that I commonly
refer to as "beyond Kafka-esque", it actually DOES help make sense of what
is happening with the Federal Reserve and Congress! We're freaking doomed!

Michael Nystrom is the Editor of, and as such, is my natural
enemy, because after awhile you just get fed up (up to freaking HERE!) with
editors angrily crumpling up your creative sweat and blood right in your
face and saying things like "What in the hell is this trash? Do you call
this 'writing'? This is crap! You are crap! Everything you do is crap! What
in the hell is wrong with you, you Worthless Mogambo Moron (WMM)? Get out of
my office! Go someplace and die, you stinking no-talent hack!"

Since I can never actually dispute the dismal facts of their argument, I can
instead take delight in plotting and seeking revenge. So you can imagine my
delight at running across some essays written by this same Mr. Nystrom! I
think to myself "Aha! At last, the tables have turned!" Prepared to gloat in
glee as I mercilessly rip into him, hammer and tongs, I was horrified to
note that they shared a terrific title: "Three Bears, No Goldilocks"!
Hahaha! Fabulous! I love it!

The bad news is that now, instead of just being mad at him from a purely
irrational distrust of editors in general, I now also hate him out of pure,
shameful envy for coming up with such a great title and exposing my creative
incompetence. "Three Bears, No Goldlocks!" Hahaha!

Anyway, even better is that in Parts I and III he reviewed each of the new
books by Peter Schiff (Crash Proof, with the subtitle "How to profit from
the coming economic collapse") and Michael Panzner (Financial Armageddon,
with the subtitle "Protecting your future from four impending
 catastrophes"), and did a terrific job. Now I hate him for that, too, the
little bastard show-off!

I am currently reading both books, but the news is so horrific and bleak
that, after just a few paragraphs of either one, I have to drink bourbon and
other alcoholic brown liquids just to calm my ragged nerves, more and more,
until my nerves are, at last, comatose. The time-line data shows, in case
you are interested, some lagged vomiting, too.

And believe me when I tell you that you will want to know what happened to
the economy, as that is what everybody will soon want to know, and it will
be a very popular subject on the TV news shows and with Congress for a long,
long time. Or, as Mr. Panzner himself put it in his book, "The dangers that
a few observers had foreseen - which were discounted, misunderstood, or
overlooked - will be the only thing that growing numbers of Americans will
be able to think about."

Such as Junior Mogambo Ranger (JMR) Tim J., who writes, "Dear Mogambo, I too
am angry about this inflation. The dog food which killed six of my elderly
friends was up 10% from last year." Hahaha! Sublime!

Until next week,

The Mogambo Guru
for The Daily Reckoning

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Zimbabwe: empty gestures and fruitless protests

The First Post

      Today's stay-away will prove as futile as Mbeki's
proposed mediation, says a s h smyth

Though unusually public about its concerns, the resolution
from last week's Southern African Development Community summit - to despatch
Thabo Mbeki to reconcile Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC -
was nonetheless a pathetically empty gesture.

For starters, there's simply no middle ground for Mbeki to
negotiate. Secondly, the mealy-mouthed resolution stipulated no specific
objectives or time limits, nor what should follow were Mbeki to fail. And
fail he most probably will. So, with an eye to his own presidential legacy,
the hyper-cautious Mbeki will be in no hurry.

Observing that the SADC has no bite to match its pitiful
bark, Mugabe promptly showed two fingers to his regional peers by getting
himself nominated as his party's presidential candidate for yet another
five-year term. And though Moses Moyo's daily
chronicling of Harare life for The First Post demonstrates
deep resentment of Mugabe's continuing reign - even within Zanu-PF - there
is little reason to assume the resentment will bear fruit any time soon.

Opposition is in disarray. They don't speak with one voice
and are saturated with government informers. They cannot take advantage of
foreign support, since this undermines their cause by allying them with
'colonialists'. And Morgan Tsvangirai himself has no struggle record, an
issue that still carries far more weight than it ought to.

Meanwhile, Mugabe has shown no compunction about rigging
parliamentary and presidential elections, and military chiefs have
repeatedly warned that they simply will not tolerate an electoral victory by
the MDC.

So the ugly question no one wants to ask is this: what's
the point of today's union stay-away? With unemployment at 80 per cent, and
the Zimbabwean economy fast becoming an oxymoron, what possible effect can
it have? Little beyond a few cracked skulls and broken arms, I'd guess, and
then a series of kangaroo trials.


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