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Indigenisation blow against colonialism: Minister

by Lizwe Sebatha Thursday 08 April 2010

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's empowerment regulations compelling white owned firms
to cede 51 percent stake to blacks will deliver the final blow against
colonialism, Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told ZimOnline on

Kasukuwere, a top loyalist of President Robert Mugabe, announced in February
that all foreign-owned businesses, including banks, mines and factories
valued at a half a billion American dollars or more must offload their
majority shareholding to locals by March 2015.

The regulations  -- that sent foreign-owned firms into panic with threats of
imprisonment for foreign shareholders (or presumably their local
representatives) who fail to comply within the next five years -- gave
foreign-owned companies up to the end of last month to submit proposals to
the government on how they plan to bring locals on board.

Several foreign owned firms are understood to be finalising or have already
submitted their indigenisation plans to Kasukuwere's ministry.

In a telephone interview Kasukuwere said Zimbabwe was still under
colonialism as seen by the skewed distribution of wealth and ownership
patterns favouring minority whites despite the country attaining
independence from Britain in 1980.

"The wealth imbalances derive from the system of colonialism . . . there is
no way Zimbabweans can say they have overthrown colonialism when they do not
control their resources," said Kasukuwere. "This indigenisation is
overthrowing remnants of colonialism."

The indigenisation rules have been a source of controversy dividing the
unity government along party lines.

Critics fear Mugabe's ZANU PF party wants to press ahead with transferring
majority ownership of foreign-owned companies as part of a drive to reward
party loyalists with thriving businesses.

But Kasukuwere denies the charges saying that the government will not impose
local investment partners on foreign owned companies and blacks. "My
ministry will not force or impose any partner on foreign owned companies, "
he said.

While the coalition government has said it is reviewing the indigenisation
laws, Mugabe and his party - who still wield greater power in the unity
government - insist the empowerment drive must go ahead, ignoring warnings
that this could scare away foreign investors whose funds Zimbabwe needs to
rebuild its shattered economy.

The regulations that do not say where impoverished local Zimbabweans will
get money to pay for stake in large mines and industries owned by foreigners
are seen as a potentially fatal blow to efforts to woo foreign investors to
help rebuild the country's economy shattered by 10 years of political
turmoil and acute recession.

The regulations were gazetted on February 5 in line with an Indigenisation
and Economic Empowerment Bill passed in Parliament by the then sole ruling
ZANU PF party in 2007. Mugabe signed the regulations into law in March
2008. - ZimOnline


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Zimbabweans live in abject poverty: UNICEF
by Own Correspondent Thursday 08 April 2010
FOOD AID . . . 78 percent of the population of Zimbabwe is absolutely poor and 55 percent live below the food poverty line

HARARE - An estimated 78 percent of Zimbabweans are "absolutely poor" a UNICEF report said on Wednesday, in yet another reminder to the country's ruling coalition to stop bickering and cooperate to rebuild the economy to end mass poverty brought by years of recession and political strife.

Painting a grim picture of the situation in Zimbabwe dwarfing the much vaunted success of the Harare power-sharing government in stabilising the economy, the report said a burgeoning HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed many breadwinners to leave large numbers of child-headed families and 55 percent of the population living below the bread line.

"Currently approximately 78 percent of the population of Zimbabwe is absolutely poor and 55 percent live below the food poverty line," the UNICEF's Child-Sensitive Social Protection in Zimbabwe report said.

"People living below the food poverty line cannot meet any of their basic needs and suffer from chronic hunger. It is estimated that approximately 6.6 million people including 3.5 million children suffer from this extreme form of deprivation."

Zimbabwe's economy registered its first growth in a decade last year after the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai implemented measures, including the adoption of multiple currencies, that doused hyperinflation.

But incessant bickering between Mugabe and Tsvangirai over how to share executive power continues to scare away foreign investors whose funds are vital to any effort to rebuild Zimbabwe's shattered economy.

In addition rich Western nations, unconvinced by Mugabe's commitment to democratic reforms, have refused to provide direct financial support to Harare demanding more political reforms and that the government acts to end human rights abuses before they can loosen the purse strings. 

In the absence of robust support from Western governments, the International Monetary Fund and other multi-lateral institutions, Zimbabwe's economic recovery has remained fragile, while the country also remains heavily dependent on foreign humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of its population. - ZimOnline

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Police ban MDC demo

Written by Pindai Dube
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 13:35
BULAWAYO - Police here have barred youths from the mainstream MDC from
holding a peaceful demonstration on transitional justice today (Thursday)
saying it will cause anarchy in the country.

In a letter written on Good Friday by chief superintendent Nsingo, police
officer commanding Bulawayo district, to mainstream MDC provincial youth
leader, Bhekithemba Nyathi, he warned against mobilizing  party youths to
defy the order, saying the police would use force.
"You are hereby informed that your request to hold a demonstration on
transitional justice on Thursday has been rejected. I therefore warn you
that police won't resist to use force if any of your party members defy this
order and go into the streets," reads part of the letter.
Nyathi said he was shocked that police banned the demonstration as it was
just a follow up to one held in Harare last month.
"We are shocked by police decision. We just wanted to hold a peaceful
demonstration in the city centre demanding an end to political violence and
the prosecution of perpetrators of the June 27 presidential election
violence," said Nyathi.
"We know if it was a Zanu (PF) demonstration they were going to allow it,"
he added.
Last month thousands of MDC youths from the party's Harare province staged a
massive street march that brought traffic to a halt. The youths carried
placards with messages demanding an end to violence, corruption, the
politicization of the police who are under orders from their superiors not
to arrest Zanu (PF) supporters who commit political crimes.

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MDC councillor charged over Mugabe 'insult'

07/04/2010 00:00:00
by Lunga Sibanda

AN MDC councillor who told a security guard he "only argued with Robert
Mugabe" has been arrested and charged with "undermining the authority of the

Benard Nyamambi, 40, a councillor for the Movement for Democratic Change
party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the resort town of Victoria
Falls could be fined or jailed for a year if convicted.

Nyamambi was arrested on March 16 this year, a day after he argued with a
security guard at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. The guard had refused
Nyamambi permission to drive into the premises.

The councillor, angry at the snub, told the guard: "I cannot argue with you,
I only argue with Robert Mugabe. Who are you with three bars? You will die

Prosecutors say Nyamambi's remarks fell foul of Zimbabwe's tough security
laws which make it an offence to "publicly, unlawfully and intentionally
make any statement about or concerning the President ... with the knowledge
or realising that there is a real risk or possibility that the statement is
false and that it may engender feelings of hostility towards; or cause
hatred, contempt or ridicule of; the President ... or makes any abusive,
indecent or obscene statement about or concerning the President or an acting
President, whether in respect of the President personally or the President's

An individual convicted for the offence "shall be guilty of undermining the
authority of or insulting the President", according to Section 33 of the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Nyamambi, the councillor for Ward One, appeared at the Victoria Falls
Magistrates' Courts on Wednesday but the trial was postponed to next week
because the completed docket had not been received from the regional police
HQ in Hwange.

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Zesa Probe Nears Completion

5 March 2010

Harare - THE Competition and Tariff Commission will next week conclude
investigations into allegations that the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority is abusing its monopoly by charging excessive tariffs and over
arbitrary disconnection of supplies.

The commission's assistant director, Mr Benjamin Chinhengo, said they would
set a hearing for the power utility to respond, compile a report and
recommend action.

Unfair business practices are activities that distort trade and give an
unfair advantage to those practicing them and can result in economic injury
to the local industry.

After the hearing, the commission is expected to pass a ruling.

The commission is empowered to take action against the culprit in terms of
the provisions of the Competition Act of 1996.

They have powers to order companies to cease and desist from carrying out
unfair business practices.

An order would be issued to compel the party to the restrictive practice to
terminate wholly, or to such extent as may be specified in the order and
within the stipulated time.

The force of the order given by the CTC carries the same weight as a court

"We are receiving between 80 and 100 complaints on Zesa every day and it has
become a national disaster and we are dealing with the issue with urgency.

"A report on Zesa should be ready by next week, and action would be taken
based on the findings," said Mr Chinhengo.

Zesa has been disconnecting power to defaulters, both commercial and

The power utility bases its bills on estimates, with companies and
households receiving unrealistic electricity bills, resulting in customers
refusing to pay.

Some of the bills show arrears of between US$5 000 and US$9 000 in
high-density areas despite erratic supplies.

Some essential services have also been threatened by load-shedding, with
some essential medical drugs lost through unrefigerated storage, risking
people's health.

Mr Chinhengo said the commission would assume the duty to monitor major
companies on whether their market dominance constitutes abuse of monopoly in
a bid to protect consumers.

He added that the commission has also launched investigations across all
sectors of the economy where they are getting complains.

In the past, the commission has undertaken investigations into the
automotive, medical health insurance, manufacturing, waste paper collection,
beverages, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, cement and sugar industries.

The pressure comes at a time when Zesa is grappling to settle a US$428
million debt and power generation is at it lowest.

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Zimbabwe's Prison Officer Jailed For Assisting Alleged Coup Plotters

07/04/2010 20:50:00

Harare, April 07, 2010 - One of the prison officers alleged to have assisted
alleged coup plotters to attempt an escape from Harare's Chikurubi Maxim
Prison has been jailed for seven years by a Harare magistrate while another
has been arrested in connection with the case.

Two of the seven years were suspended for good behaviour.

The jailed prison officer identified as Donald Tapera Gwekwerere (26) is
being held by the police's law and order department and sources said he was
being quizzed on his relationship with Defence Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

It is strongly believed that Gwekwerere had been sent by Mnangagwa to set
free the coup suspects who have been in remand since May 2007. Magistrate
William Bhila heard that Gwekwerere had accepted a USD 6200 bribe and a car
from the alleged coup plotters and had also been promised a luxurious life
in the United Kingdom.

Albert Matapo allegedly attempted to escape from the country's Maximum
Security Prison on the 5th of April 2010 when he was found in
possession of hacksaw blades, a hammer, glass cutters and a 15meter long
rope among other materials which the prison officials term
Prohibited Articles.

Matapo was arrested in 2007 together with six other suspects namely Nyasha
Zivuku, Oncemore Mazivahona, Emmanuel Marara, Patson Mupfure, Shingirai
Mutemachani, and Rangarirai Maziofa on allegations of plotting to replace
President Mugabe with a senior ZANU-PF official Emerson Munangagwa.

Most of the suspects are however ex-army officials who have close links with
top Zanu PF officials.

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More Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Property Attached and Put Up for Auction

Sources reported a scramble for Reserve Bank assets by creditors including a
Zimbabwean farm equipment dealer and two South African seed companies
looking for payment for goods sold to the central bank in the past

Gibbs Dube | Washington 07 April 2010

Zimbabwe's Sheriff's Office on Wednesday expanded its attachments of Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe property amid reports previous auctions of such property
have raised only US$200,000 against a debt of US$2.1 million owed to
Farmtech Spares for tractors.

Sources said a deputy sheriff executing court orders for two South African
seed companies was unable to seize movable property Farmtech has already

The Sheriff's Office was expected to attach immovable properties of the RBZ
as the auctions proceed.

Attorney Davison Kanokanga, representing Farmtech, told VOA Studio 7
reporter Gibbs Dube that there is a scramble by many creditors for central
bank assets including those already attached.

Elsewhere, economist Eric Bloch said that despite the recent signature by
President Robert Mugabe of a new law to reform the Reserve Bank, oversight
continues to be provided by the executive and the Finance Ministry pending
constitution of an oversight committee.

Bloch said the the central bank can be autonomous if it is divorced from the
realm of politics.

"The new Act still gives the executive and Ministry of Finance extreme
authority and control of the bank which creates the danger of them going too
far in overseeing its operations," he said.

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Long Stalled, Zimbabwe Constitutional Revision Process Moving Forward Again

The process of revising the Zimbabwean constitution has been held up for
several months while funding issues were worked out between Harare officials
in charge of the process and donors led by the UN Development Program

Jonga Kandemiiri & Brenda Moyo | Washington 07 April 2010

Rapporteurs who will record the views of Zimbabweans in the public outreach
phase of the country's process of constitutional revision gathered in Harare
Wednesday for training sessions on Thursday and Friday.

Parliament's Select Committee on Constitutional Revision announced the
schedule last weekend. There have been delays in the process due to funding
issues, but sources said the United Nations Development Program has released
US$21 million.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told VOA Studio 7 reporter
Jonga Kandemiiri that the issue of police security is still being discussed.

Rapporteur Effie Dlela Ncube, chairman of the Matebeleland Constitutional
Reform Agenda, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo he hopes he will learn
how to accurately record public opinion.

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Consolidated report on Zimbabwe forwarded to Zuma

April 08 2010 , 6:44:00

John Nyashanu, Harare

A consolidated report by Zimbabwe's feuding political parties has been
forwarded to President Jacob Zuma. The parties failed to agree on
outstanding issues of their truce agreement and now await South African
Development Community (SADC)'s recommendations. However, analysts remain
pessimistic of an immediate solution and are calling for the creation of an
even playing field for fresh elections.

It is a deal hanging by the thread; sources told the South African
Broadcasting Corporation that the consolidated report is now in South
Africa. They say it is set to be seen by President Zuma before being
forwarded  to Mozambican president Armando Guebuza - the SADC chairman on
defence politics and security. Zimbabwean analysts say the perpetual
stalemate is in Zanu-PF's favour.

Political analyst, Lovemore Madhuku explains: "Government will continue
under the current situation where the issues regarded as outstanding will
remain very much, no longer outstanding in the sense that no one will be
talking about them but government will be proceeding,  in other words  -
there will be a Zanu-PF victory in the talks in the sense that there will be
no new concessions."

While others feel a fresh election is the only real solution.

"At the moment we do not have a climate for elections. We are still in the
same situation we were at pre June 28; it might be at a lesser level. But
overnight we can get back to the same situation," says Barnabas Thondlana a
political analyst.

Failure by the parties to find common ground has all but watered down
President Zuma's statement last month that the parties have agreed on
measures to be implemented concurrently

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Zimbabwe Food Supplies Better Despite Poor Harvest in Some Areas - FEWSNET

FEWSNET said most households in rural areas are now through the peak hunger
season and conditions should continue to improve through July as the annual
maize harvest picks up and product flows into local markets

Patience Rusere | Washington 07 April 2010

Although Zimbabwe's 2010 maize harvest is likely to fall short of 2009
output, the country is more secure in its food supplies than it was last
year due to a stirring economy and grain market liberalization the
U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System Network says.

A new FEWSNET report said maize and other staple foods are readily available
and maize prices have come down from last year, particularly in areas that
had good harvests and due to the emergence of a freer market in cereals
under the country's unity government. The state Grain Marketing Board
exercised a monopoly on maize and other cereals previously, but was very
inefficient and subject to political manipulation.

FEWSNET said most households in rural areas are now through the peak hunger
season and that the situation should continue to improve through July as the
main harvest of maize comes on line.

But in drought in Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Manicaland provinces
among other areas has made food scarce, meaning assistance will be required.

Christian Care National Director Forbes Matonga told VOA Studio 7 reporter
Patience Rusere that farmers who planted maize early n December-January saw
their crops devasted by drought conditions.

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Selling Zimbabwe's economy, at a loss

Robert Mugabe, a self-professed foe of colonial power, is being propped up
by South Africa

Innocent Madawo

From Thursday's Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Apr. 07, 2010 7:18PM

When President Robert Mugabe presides over the commemoration of Zimbabwe's
30th anniversary of independence on April 18, one point he'll certainly
emphasize - for the 30th time - is that the country will never be a colony
of another.

Of course, Mr. Mugabe doesn't mean a 19th century-type occupation. He means
political and economic domination he perceives as the aim of the West,
particularly Britain.

Nevertheless, it's in that context that Mr. Mugabe has been lying to himself
and those who believe him. Zimbabwe is already dominated by erstwhile
neighbour South Africa.

For a man who's fond of accusing others of selling the country to foreigners
in their quest for power, he has turned out to be the biggest sellout -
precisely to remain in power.

For more than two years, then South African president Thabo Mbeki used
"quiet diplomacy" to resist pressure to force Mr. Mugabe to accept the will
of Zimbabweans, who clearly preferred Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for
Democratic Change in the 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections.

Observers wondered why Mr. Mbeki denied Zimbabweans what his own people took
for granted - electoral democracy. Now, as the shrewd economist enjoys his
own retirement, his intentions for Zimbabwe are manifesting themselves. Mr.
Mbeki gave South African businesses a resource-rich and market-ready

Before the national unity government that Mr. Mbeki forced on Mr. Mugabe and
Mr. Tsvangirai was inaugurated a year ago, Zimbabwe's markets - known for
their empty shelves - were suddenly awash with a variety of South
African-made products.

The currency of choice became the rand, paid out by South African investors
who now provide the main source of employment in Zimbabwe. The rest of the
money is repatriated by the two million to three million Zimbabweans working
in South Africa, where the government was quick to guarantee a renewable
work visa and eased immigration regulations.

South Africa needs Zimbabwe's ready-made professionals to augment its own
inadequate reserves. Better working conditions and remuneration have
resulted in a sustained brain drain that has been epitomized by school
closures as teachers and students flock south.

Mr. Mugabe's government has defended this situation as a necessary relief
from a historical ally. But fundamentals indicate an economy set to rely on
South Africa for the big part of Zimbabwe's fourth decade of independence.

Apart from the Western-targeted sanctions imposed on Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe is
under a general investment, trade and aid boycott by most other countries
except those from Asia - particularly China - and those from Africa whose
economic capacities are not adequate enough to do meaningful business with
Zimbabwe. The country owes $6-billion in foreign debt, and doesn't qualify
for an International Monetary Fund balance of payments loan.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe's economy is overwhelmingly resource-based, with
agriculture and mining taking the lead. But a decade-long persecution of
farmers and current efforts to restrict foreign ownership of mining
properties have kept out potential investors. Worse still, the country faces
a shortage of about a million tonnes of grain - the national staple.

The country once known as the bread basket of Africa now requires more than
a political settlement to regain its economic independence. Even as its
political leaders bicker over the proper wording of the constitution and
whether to continue with the national unity government or call an election,
Jacob Zuma - Mr. Mbeki's successor and a man who, it was hoped, would push
Mr. Mugabe over the cliff - is actually consolidating South Africa's
economic dominance of Zimbabwe.

In a typical case of "he who pays the piper calls the tune," Mr. Zuma
recently "ordered" Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai to avoid any political
drama until after the soccer World Cup, a money-spinning extravaganza from
which Zimbabwe could benefit. Obviously, Mr. Zuma will dictate what course
Zimbabwean politics should take afterward, but his decision will be guided
by South Africa's economic needs in Zimbabwe, not what Zimbabweans want. If
that's not being colonized, what is?

Innocent Madawo is a freelance Zimbabwean journalist based in Toronto.

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Postcard From Zimbabwe
Published: April 7, 2010

HWANGE, Zimbabwe

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Here's a measure of how President Robert Mugabe is destroying this once lush nation of Zimbabwe:

In a week of surreptitious reporting here (committing journalism can be a criminal offense in Zimbabwe), ordinary people said time and again that life had been better under the old, racist, white regime of what was then called Rhodesia.

"When the country changed from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, we were very excited," one man, Kizita, told me in a village of mud-walled huts near this town in western Zimbabwe. "But we didn't realize the ones we chased away were better and the ones we put in power would oppress us."

"It would have been better if whites had continued to rule because the money would have continued to come," added a neighbor, a 58-year-old farmer named Isaac. "It was better under Rhodesia. Then we could get jobs. Things were cheaper in stores. Now we have no money, no food."

Over and over, I cringed as I heard Africans wax nostalgic about a nasty, oppressive regime run by a tiny white elite. Black Zimbabweans responded that at least that regime was more competent than today's nasty, oppressive regime run by the tiny black elite that surrounds Mr. Mugabe.

A Times colleague, Barry Bearak, was jailed here in 2008 for reporting, so I used a fresh passport to enter the country as a tourist. Partly for my own safety, I avoided interviewing people with ties to the government, so I can't be sure that my glimpse of the public mood was representative.

People I talked to were terrified for their personal safety if quoted - much more scared than in the past. That's why I'm being vague about locations and agreed to omit full names.

But what is clear is that Zimbabwe has come very far downhill over the last few decades (although it has risen a bit since its trough two years ago). An impressive health and education system is in tatters, and life expectancy has tumbled from about 60 years in 1990 to somewhere between 36 and 44, depending on which statistics you believe.

Western countries have made the mistake of focusing their denunciations on the seizures of white farms by Mr. Mugabe's cronies. That's tribalism by whites; by far the greatest suffering has been endured by Zimbabwe's blacks.

In Kizita's village, for example, I met a 29-year-old woman, seven months pregnant, who had malaria. She and her husband had walked more than four miles to the nearest clinic, where she tested positive for malaria. But the clinic refused to give her some life-saving antimalaria medicine unless she paid $2 - and she had no money at all in her house. So, dizzy and feverish, she stumbled home for another four miles, empty-handed.

As it happened, the clinic that turned her down was one that I had already visited. Nurses there had complained that they were desperately short of bandages, antibiotics and beds. They said that to survive, they impose fees for seeing patients, for family planning, for safe childbirth - and the upshot is that impoverished villagers die because they can't pay.

I also spent time at an elementary school where the number of students had dropped sharply because so few parents today can afford $36 in annual school fees.

"We don't have desks. We don't have chairs. We don't have books," explained the principal, who was terrified of being named. The school also lacks electricity and water, and the first grade doesn't have a classroom and meets under a tree.

This particular school had been founded by Rhodesians more than 70 years ago, and the principal mused that it must have served black pupils far better in Rhodesian days than today.

At another school 100 miles away, the deputy headmaster lamented that students can't even afford pens. "One child has to finish his work, and then he lends his pen to another child," he explained.

Zimbabwe is one of my favorite countries, blessed with friendly people, extraordinary wildlife and little crime. I took my family along with me on this trip (my kids accuse me of using them as camouflage), and they found the scenery, people and wild animals quite magical.

At a couple of villages we visited, farmers were driving away elephants that were trampling their crops - and they were blaming Mr. Mugabe for the elephants. That struck even me as unfair.

The tragedy that has unfolded here can be reversed if Mr. Mugabe is obliged by international pressure, particularly from South Africa, to hold free elections. Worldwide pressure forced the oppressive Rhodesian regime to give up power three decades ago. Now we need similar pressure, from African countries as well as Western powers, to pry Mr. Mugabe's fingers from his chokehold on a lovely country.

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End of an era and of type-written riddles from Zimbabwe
Thursday, April 8, 2010

The weekly Crosaire began on March 13th, 1943 after an encounter in a Fleet Street bar, writes LORNA KERNAN 

DEREK CROZIER was always charming to work with, a gentle man with a clipped voice who began his sentences with the old-fashioned "Now my dear . . ."

He must be the longest-lasting contributor to The Irish Times , having supplied his Crosaire crosswords for just over 67 years. He must also have been the most senior, at age 92.

This is the end of a unique era: one of tapping out words on a manual typewriter, with carbon paper copies and hard copy arriving at various intervals from Zimbabwe in brown envelopes marked by hand with "surface mail" and "printed matter", reminiscent of an earlier time.

His cryptic puzzles were a microcosm of his marriage to Marjorie - she the avid crossword solver who, until her death, filled in grids with words, he the reluctant cruciverbalist who took her words and moulded them with clever clues.

The story began in December 1941, when Derek's goddaughter gave him a present of a book of crosswords. Even though he didn't do crosswords, he decided after a few days that he would "have a go", only to discover that Marjorie had solved the lot.

"Right," he said. "Now I'll make you up one that you won't be able to solve." And he did. Later on, he woke her in the middle of the night and suggested offering crosswords to The Irish Times . She told him not to be silly and to go back to sleep. This was all the rag he needed: "Right," he said, "I'll show her."

At Christmas Eve drinks in 1942 with Jack White in the Pearl Bar in Fleet Street, he boldly approached then editor of The Irish Times , Bertie Smyllie, and his deputy, Alec Newman, to offer his expertise and, after a few samples were approved, the weekly Saturday Crosaire began on March 13th, 1943. Wednesdays were added in 1950, Tuesdays in 1955, and the go-ahead for today's six-day formula came in 1982.

The crosswords took three to four hours to complete, with Crozier's workload set at one and a bit a day. Poignantly, it was on Good Friday last, while conjuring up his last one, that he became ill.

Those who were frustrated with his clues often contacted me, not in outrage but more in search of a reasoning behind his answers, or asking when we were running the Crosaire how-to guide again.

As far as the philosophy of the genre went, cruciverbalists were a mystery to Derek, who always admitted he never in fact did crosswords. He couldn't ever solve them. If he was presented with one of his own creations after a decent interval, he was floored and couldn't solve it either.

Living in Zimbabwe, correspondence with The Irish Times wasn't easy. Yet his familiar brown envelopes always seemed to arrive well in time, emblazoned with different postage stamps including Irish, English and South African. Some were marked "by hand" and were delivered to The Irish Times offices in person.

Derek always found someone - friends, friends of friends, and friends of Crosaire itself - to take his envelopes and post them safely. Such was his fear of not getting them to the office in time for publication that he worked ahead, with military regularity, and has ensured there is a bag of Crosaire crosswords to publish for at least the next 12 months.

Derek was always surprised and delighted at how popular his crosswords were, and how interested his fans were in him. He was worried when we began to supply answers to his crosswords by telephone and fax. I never did tell him that today the answers can be accessed by mobile phone.

He was amazed at the web and the Crosaire blogs propagating his fan-base across continents, where fans met to discuss Crosaire clues.

He declined to co-operate with a documentary-maker from Ireland who wanted to travel to Zimbabwe to interview him and document his life. He was primarily concerned that a journalist arriving with all the equipment to film and record him might be put in danger.

After all, who would have believed she was doing a story on an old crossword compiler? When a friend of mine was travelling to Zimbabwe last January, I asked Derek if there was anything I could send him. "Yes, my dear . . . well, that's if they still make them. A couple of erasers; the ones that would do ink. That would be lovely, my dear."

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