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New Zimbabwe
Prince Charles in Mugabe handshake row

PRINCE Charles is 'caught by surprise' as Mugabe leans over to greet

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 04/09/2005 09:45:22 Last updated: 04/09/2005 04:26:22

THE Prince of Wales shook hands with Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe at the Pope’s funeral on Friday drawing sharp criticism from European MPs who called the gesture "stupid".

Prince Charles, who was seated one place away from the president, was "caught by surprise" when Mr Mugabe leaned over to greet him, Clarence House said.

Mr Mugabe, a Catholic, side-stepped a European Union travel ban to attend the service at the Vatican, which does not have its own airport but has a pact with Italy to ensure visitors access to the city state.

The handshake apparently came during a part of the service known as "the Peace", when mourners are asked to turn to those beside them and shake their hands.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "The Prince of Wales was caught by surprise and not in a position to avoid shaking Mr Mugabe’s hand. The Prince finds the current Zimbabwean regime abhorrent.

"He has supported the Zimbabwe Defence and Aid Fund which works with those being oppressed by the regime. "The Prince also recently met Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, an outspoken critic of the government."

Under a long-standing agreement, Italy is obliged to allow visitors to the Vatican to cross Italian territory because the Papal State has no airport.

Questions were being asked as to why Charles was sitting so close to Mr Mugabe.

The Foreign Office said the seating arrangements had been devised by the Vatican which “is its own state and makes its own arrangements on issues of this sort”.

There was speculation that the two were so near because of the alphabetical proximity of United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

It was thought Charles shook the president’s hand as part of the service.

But the royal greeting was condemned as “stupid” and “not very sensible” by politicians.

MEP Richard Corbett said although EU sanctions could not prevent Mr Mugabe attending the Pope’s funeral, there was no need to go so far as to acknowledge his presence at the ceremony.

“Prince Charles should have refused to shake his hand,” he said.

“In fact, this was a golden opportunity to deliberately and very visibly refuse to shake hands with this man.

“To fail to do so was, frankly, stupid.”

Labour MEP Glenys Kinnock said: “People like Prince Charles must have people advising them how to deal with these matters, because it’s not the first time Mugabe has been canny about his behaviour in such circumstances.

“There must be a limit to the allowances we make for this man – and shaking his hand is not a very sensible thing to do.”

Last year, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was similarly condemned when he shook hands with Mr Mugabe at a UN summit in New York.

At the time he claimed he hadn’t realised it was President Mugabe because it was too dark to see.

The validity of the election has also been questioned by observers.

Mr Corbett said a public snub would have been all the more valuable as a statement of feelings about the regime, given the impossibility of applying the EU ban.

“The ban is being upheld in all EU countries, but in this case the Italian government has a long-standing agreement with the Vatican, which is a sovereign state.

“That is why an opportunity not to shake his hand should have been taken.”

The legal agreement between Italy and the Vatican, known as the Concordat, dates from 1929.

It is not the first time Mr Mugabe has slipped through the net since sanctions were introduced by EU governments in February 2002.

A Mugabe delegation attended a UN food conference in Rome in June 2002 and Zimbabwe’s police chief attended an Interpol meeting in Lyon, France two months later.

In June 2003, Mr Mugabe went to an EU-Africa summit in Paris, during which his wife and her entourage made several high-profile expeditions to the shops along the Champs Elysee.

In each case the EU sanctions could not be applied because the events involved were held under the auspices of wider international bodies.

Sanctions against the African country include freezing Zimbabwean assets in European banks and the travel ban throughout Europe.

The Prince was not the only dignitary to find himself shaking hands with the unexpected during the papal funeral, which attracted presidents, royalty and prime ministers from over 80 countries. President Katsav of Israel shook hands with the presidents of both Syria and Iran, Israel's arch-enemies.

Speaking about the seating arrangements for the funeral a Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Vatican is its own state and makes its own arrangements on issues of this sort."

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On the run, again

Thirty years ago, Angus Shaw was called up to fight in the colonial army in
the dying days of white rule in Rhodesia. He deserted. In exile he met the
nationalists and guerrillas who went on to form Zimbabwe's government. Now,
a journalist threatened with jail, he has headed across the border again. He
tells his story. Portrait by Jeff Barbee

Saturday April 9, 2005
The Observer

For even the briefest spell in a Zimbabwe prison, a basic survival kit is
essential. It should contain strong sleeping pills, lice and mosquito
repellents, remedies for dysentery and money for bribes.
You also need cast-iron composure to face humiliation, assaults by jailers
and the knowledge that you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. The
necessities, tied in a plastic bag, are generally hidden in the underpants -
at least until you're issued with prison fatigues. Cells built for six at
the forbidding Harare central holding complex are crammed with at least two
dozen prisoners, sweltering in a stench of sweat, excrement and fear;
there's no room to sit, let alone unfold aching limbs.

Article continues



Jail is an ever-present prospect for independent journalists working in
Zimbabwe today. Scores have been assaulted and at least 40 arrested under
sweeping media and security laws passed ahead of the 2002 presidential
election, narrowly won by Robert Mugabe. Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto of
the Zimbabwe Standard, an independent Sunday paper, suffered a week of
torture for reporting on discontent in the army. Four resident foreign
correspondents (including the Guardian's Andrew Meldrum) were deported,
leaving only a dozen Zimbabwean citizens to send dispatches abroad; we
became the target of constant harassment.
The effect has been to silence criticism at home and deny the opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change, a voice. The Daily News, the only
independent daily, was closed down. The state media accused independent
journalists of "demonising" President Mugabe and playing into the hands of
his principal detractors, Tony Blair and George Bush.

In February, police accused me, a reporter for Associated Press, and fellow
Zimbabweans Jan Raath of the Times and Brian Latham of Bloomberg News of
spying. They claimed they had a tip-off that our offices contained "bombs
and spying equipment". No search warrant was produced, but search they did -
for three days. Next it was alleged we were "transmitting information
prejudicial to the state", a catch-all offence punishable by imprisonment.
Then we were accused of violating the media act by working without
government credentials, an offence carrying a penalty of up to two years in

I was born in the Princess Elizabeth maternity home in Salisbury, as Harare
was known, in the wet season, November of 1949. Dirt roads and parallel tar
strips for our old American Studebaker sedan led to my father's tobacco and
maize farm 20 miles north-west of the city. Something of a philanthropist by
the standards of the day, Cautley Nasmyth-Shaw had built a school, a store
and a clinic among the gum trees of his Meigunyah estate.

Each year, as children, we eagerly awaited the first rains - when the Gwebi
river flooded, we were prevented from going to school. We swam in the
replenished reservoirs, we trekked on horseback to picnic beside age-old
bushmen cave paintings, we gave cork-tipped Star cigarettes to the tractor
drivers to let us take the wheel, so we were expert when we came to ride the
dodgem cars at the Luna Park fairground in Salisbury.

By now, my mother was dying of multiple sclerosis. My father succumbed soon
afterwards -from a broken heart, we said romantically, but it was from
cancer and cirrhosis, hazards of the colonial life. I was nine years old. An
unseemly dispute among my father's executors led to my two brothers and me
being sent to England to finish our schooling.

I returned, alone, as soon as I could and joined the Rhodesia Herald in
1972, a few months before nationalist guerrillas began a fully fledged war
for independence. Two years on, blanket conscription for able-bodied whites
was announced by the Ian Smith government; women went into the pay corps and
nursing, and exemptions for prying journalists were dropped. I was called up
in 1974, initially for training. I ducked my first bullet in 1975.

Several in my unit didn't make it: one was blown to bits in a rocket grenade
ambush, another's spine was severed by a landmine. One of our officers put a
pistol to his temple when his wife left him. Conscripted civilians served
month-long call-ups - four weeks in, six weeks back in our jobs. That
brought to an end, too, my life with Valerie, a trapeze artist with the
touring Boswell Wilkie circus, with whom I had a wonderful son.

Mugabe was released from Smith's jails in 1974. Most black political
activities were banned and he had been held for 10 years for "subversion".
He'd spent the time studying for a string of academic degrees through
correspondence courses. Once freed, he went to ground. Lovemore Chiweshe, a
canny township wideboy, helped me find him and arrange his first major press
conference since he had risen to ascendancy within his party. He spoke
eloquently and passionately of the injustices of white rule, of
revolutionary zeal and of its inevitable outcome, black self-determination.

Enos Nkala, a founder of Mugabe's party, was released at the same time with
toes showing through his prison pumps. We arranged a whip-round and bought
him new shoes.

After two years of this disjointed life - reporting on the guerrillas one
week, on patrol looking for them in the bush the next - I went awol from
Smith's army and took up with other exiles in Lusaka, Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam. At first, they, too, thought I was a spy, but it wasn't long before
they made me feel welcome. Over White Cap lager and feasts of goats' meat
roasted on open fires and eaten with raw chillies, we debated long about our
respective futures.

After independence, Nkala, the recipient of the shoes, was made finance
minister. Simon Muzenda was deputy prime minister, later to become an
awesomely powerful vice-president to Mugabe. He and I often shared Cokes,
buns and dreams in Zambia. A carpenter by trade, Muzenda had holes in the
elbows of his tweed coat, and his spectacles were held together with
Elastoplast, but his mood was euphoric. Colonialism was finally nearing its
end in Rhodesia. He had high hopes for the new nation - everybody did.

On April 18 1980, Robert Mugabe, Prince Charles and Lord Soames, the last
interim British governor, witnessed the lowering of the union flag in a
Harare football stadium and the dawning of Zimbabwe. Bob Marley performed
his freedom songs, although, in an ominous twist of events, tear gas was
used to quell panicked revellers when a power cut plunged the independence
celebrations into darkness.

Mugabe went on to implore his countrymen, battered from the seven-year
guerrilla war, to beat their swords into ploughshares. In a national
broadcast, he spoke of reconciliation; there would be no retribution against
his foes and no persecution of outgoing prime minister Ian Smith or of the
country's minorities. A onetime schoolteacher of ascetic habit and awkward
body language, Mugabe declared himself a cricket fan and the game a
civilising influence - all Zimbabwe's youngsters should play.

When I returned home soon after, skills were badly needed. The new
government offered me a job as a press officer in the ministry of
information, but I preferred another offer, to work for the state-controlled
Sunday Mail newspaper under its first black editor, Willie Musarurwa, a
seasoned journalist who had headed a guerrilla publicity operation in exile.

Everything was going to be all right. Mugabe immediately launched a massive
expansion of public health, education and clean water programmes for the
newly enfranchised majority. He honoured safeguards in the Lancaster House
peace agreement that allowed the tiny white community to hold a
disproportionate 20 seats for seven years in the Harare parliament. (At the
time, the country had a population of 8 million, 270,000 of them whites; now
it is 12 million, of whom 30,000 are whites, with another 2 million
Zimbabweans living abroad.) Lancaster House bound Britain to finance
"willing seller-willing buyer" arrangements that enabled Mugabe's government
to buy out white-owned farms for resettlement by blacks.

Mugabe's Fifth Brigade crushed an armed rebellion by fighters loyal to his
chief rival, Joshua Nkomo, leader of the minority Ndebele tribe in the
western Matabeleland province. Nkomo capitulated after 30,000 civilians were
killed; he joined the government as Mugabe's second-in-command in 1987.
Differences over the bloodshed were swept aside and Zimbabwe embarked on a
decade that was to prove harmonious, benign and relatively prosperous.
Beneath sunny, temperate skies, granaries were well stocked and necessities
were available.

Smith had to surrender his passport briefly for criticising Mugabe during a
foreign lecture tour. "We should have lopped off his head, but we didn't,"
Mugabe said later.

The land reform policy turned out to be slow, ungainly and beset by
bureaucratic abuse; it soon fell apart. Historians, though, will most likely
record that Zimbabwe began to unravel in 1997 with revelations of corruption
by a young whistle-blower named Shepherd Mongu, a clerk in the government's
labour and social welfare ministry. Mongu leaked files to the press that
showed that a favoured few claimed - and got - massive benefits from a
pension fund set up for veterans of the guerrilla war that ended Smith's
rule. Reward Marufu, Mugabe's brother-in-law, for instance, received a large
payout for what the files indicated was a 90% war disability. He was then to
be posted to Zimbabwe's diplomatic mission in Canada, where he enjoyed an
active social life and was a noted squash player.

The police report put Mongu's death down to suicide. No coroner's inquest
was held and rumours of murder spread. According to the street legend, a
petrol funnel was rammed into his throat and he was forced to swallow rat

Mongu was gone, but the damage was done. Astonished former guerrillas of
Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla), many genuinely
maimed in combat, began demanding their own recompense. They had been at the
very heart of the struggle for independence that propelled Mugabe to power.
Thousands had since eked out a living in chaotic cooperatives that collapsed
as Zimbabwe half-heartedly flirted with market-driven economic reforms. The
veterans took to the streets, vowing to storm Mugabe's State House and slit
his throat. It was Mugabe's turn to capitulate.

National television showed him ordering the urbane but out-of-his-depth and
fawning finance minister, Herbert Murerwa, to find an unbudgeted Z$4bn (then
£300m) from state coffers to pacify an estimated 50,000 veterans with a
one-off lump sum and monthly pensions.

I was at a wake at the Catholic Social Centre when word came through of our
own "Black Friday". The former guerrillas might have won their money, but
Mugabe's order pulverised domestic financial markets. The Zimbabwe dollar
crashed against the US dollar from its decade-steady rate of 8-1 to 38-1
within hours. There was to be no reprieve; the local dollar plunged on to
55-1, then 824-1, hurtling the economy into ruin. I often wonder what
Shepherd Mongu would have made of it.

Public services - schools, hospitals and rural development schemes, nurtured
so well and envied across Africa - crumbled. As the crisis deepened, Mugabe
lost a referendum in 2000 on constitutional changes, his only defeat at the
ballot box. He presided over a ruling elite that had grown flabby and
profligate in their pursuit of luxury. Meanwhile, economic hardships had
spawned a growing urban opposition, and parliamentary elections were due.

The referendum was a wake-up call and Mugabe rose to it. He regrouped his
private army of guerrilla veterans, frequently reminding them that white
colonial settlers "came to our land, they brought us the Bible and they
taught us to pray. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible and they had
the land." The time had come, Mugabe said, for rapid corrective action. He
calculated that promises of handouts of confiscated white land would both
tantalise and frighten voters, carrying the day for him. He had also been
incandescent with rage, a bodyguard told me, at the sight of rotund white
farmers, captured on a CNN news clip, giving hefty donations to Morgan
Tsvangirai, leader of the new opposition party grown from the trade unions.

In the mayhem that followed, veterans and militants, egged on by leaders of
the ruling party, killed more than 200 people, drove white farmers' workers
from their homes and jobs, looted farmhouses and slaughtered pets and
livestock, in the name of settling scores and winning an election. It
worked. Mugabe ordered the confiscation of 5,000 white-owned farms; today,
barely more than 200 remain unconfiscated.

Anecdotal reports of thuggery abounded, and many victims refused to be
identified for fear of further reprisals. I was attacked in a bar by thugs
echoing Mugabe's xenophobia. "Go back to Britain - we don't want you here,"
one said. The doctor who treated me for excruciating bruises and internal
bleeding agreed that it would be unwise to call the police. If I were to
file an assault charge, the likelihood was that I would be denounced as
having provoked my assailants by making racial or political slurs. It was
the first violent episode I'd experienced in a lifetime of patronising
township beer bars, dingy music clubs and shebeens.

The economy was by now in freefall. Food production disintegrated and
another fivefold collapse in the exchange rate caused acute shortages of
petrol, electricity, medicines, machinery. Hard currency earnings from
tobacco, mining and tourism dried up. So did foreign aid and investment.
Unemployment soared, inflation hit a record 620% and four-fifths of
Zimbabweans faced hunger and extreme poverty.

Max, an underemployed twentysomething, worked at our offices as a caretaker;
he needed money to help feed his malnourished infants. Max said he couldn't
take his troubles to the government and certainly wouldn't involve himself
in political protests: "They'll beat us, they'll shoot us." So what will you
do? "We'll just lie down and slowly die."

Sheila turned to prostitution to feed her children after her husband
deserted her to look for work in South Africa. She reasoned that Aids takes
10 years to kill you, but hunger would finish off her kids much sooner.
Abigail miscarried in a taxi after being turned away from a maternity clinic
she couldn't pay for. Fungayi would be dying had her sister not sold a
fridge and collected donations for an emergency mastectomy. She may still
die, but at least there's hope, which millions of the ailing poor simply
don't have. Emmanuel died from Aids before the antiretrovirals bought by Jan
Raath kicked in. Like many stigmatised by infection, he had been in denial.
A quarter of the population is estimated to be HIV positive, a health and
economic catastrophe that has brought life expectancy down to 39.

Most days, nuns running a shelter in a slum not far from my house turned
away many more homeless children than they could cater for. Their efforts
were a mere drop in the bucket - what was the point? No, said the sisters
cheerily, it was anything but pointless for the few who actually got scraps
of food, a vitamin-enriched cold drink, expired medication that normally
would have been thrown away, and some care and affection.

Not long ago, I went to revisit my father's resting place in the gardens of
the Harare crematorium. The brass plaques had been stolen; pages of the
leather-bound ledgers recording his death and the site of his ashes had been
eaten away by damp and ants. I'll never be able to find him now.

After that, I had a mind to confront Lord Graham, the Duke of Montrose and
one of my father's incompetent and probably crooked executors, while he
lunched at the Harare Club, a Pall Mall-style gentleman's club, surprisingly
intact, above a Mercedes showroom in the city centre. Demand satisfaction
from him, an apology, an explanation if there was impropriety in the
handling of my father's estate, an inner voice urged me.

Lord Graham, in his 90s, shortly before his own death, cut a pathetic
figure, hunched over and trembling with age. He had begun his lunch with
brown Windsor soup. Don't be spineless - at least tip his soup into his lap,
the voice told me, but I couldn't and walked away in search of a stiff
drink, disappointed that there was no resolution but consoled there were
other, more useful goals to aim for.

My settler forebears, hardy men on horseback, rifles slung over their
saddles, made no secret of carving up tracts of the wild for themselves for
sixpence - the price of a British South Africa Company revenue stamp. After
my father's death, Lord Graham, my godfather, sold the 1,600-acre property
and successive owners put it to profitable use. Facing the beautiful blue
hills of Mazoe, it now lies mostly fallow and overrun by encroaching bush,
much as my grandfather found it in the 1890s. It was confiscated three years
ago, and an army officer now lives in the homestead where I spent my

What hurt most when I faced imprisonment was that it came after three
decades of acquaintance and friendship with Zimbabwe's present rulers.
Sadly, none of those I'd known since the old days in exile intervened to
slow the slide into lawlessness. If anything, they condoned it.

I knew what to expect if I was taken into custody. Plain-clothes police had
arrested me before, last October, also for allegedly working illegally. You
are a law breaker, they said, we are going to put you away. I saw them
kicking and beating opposition supporters picked up for celebrating the
acquittal that day of Morgan Tsvangirai on treason charges. I was kept
incommunicado and berated for hours, forced to sit on a cement floor,
without belt or shoes. I explained my shorthand notes were not a code. The
weekend lockdown loomed; the others were sent to the stinking dungeons, but
I was set free and put under surveillance.

Unlike other African countries I have been assigned to cover over the years,
Zimbabwe is home. The painful story is in your face every waking hour.

Smith had told us conscripts that, like Peter in the Dutch fable, we were
holding a finger in the dyke, stopping Mugabe's guerrillas pouring in while
a political accommodation was hammered out with our adversaries. A
misleading metaphor. At least 40,000 people were to die in the end.

But the horror wasn't over for me. I saw Idi Amin's Ugandan death camps.
Corpses had been bound with wire and pressed into grotesque bales forklifted
on to trucks for disposal in burial pits. In the Ethiopian famine, doctors
and nurses used crayons to mark the foreheads of starving children who
couldn't be saved, keeping the food for those who could. Insanity stalked an
Argentinian volunteer I met; was he playing God or executioner?

In Somalia, four journalist colleagues were killed in a mob attack. Three of
us got away. The photographer accompanying me, Hansi Kraus, was shot and
bludgeoned to death within an arm's reach. Then came the killing fields of
Rwanda. We were advised afterwards not to slump into self-pity, the sure
path to drink, drugs and ruin, but to look instead for solace in family,
home, friends, hobbies, books, music, art, possessions of sentimental value
and sport. A post-traumatic-stress consultant, who'd previously helped Terry
Waite, told us that even the uncomplicated love of animals would help
restore faith in life's values.

Years later, Raath, Latham and I left our homes and slipped separately
across Zimbabwe's borders with a handful of belongings in search of physical
safety. It was like a terrible bereavement; for me, it was like being an
orphan again, alone and asking: what next? My border collie, after snarling
at police who came to the house, sat wide-eyed at my gate, wondering what on
earth was going on.

I had actually prepared myself for jail, gathering my survival kit and
something to read - a pocket-size Gideon New Testament I might have been
able to insist on keeping. Corinne, whose daughter died in a car crash, had
given it to me. Some of the tissue pages, learned by heart and no longer
needed, were missing, torn out to roll joints when her Rizlas ran out. She
hadn't coped at all well with her loss.

But I didn't turn myself in. Knowing as much as I did about police brutality
and the abominations of the justice system, my courage failed me. Mickey
Abraxas, John Le Carré's broken idealist in The Tailor Of Panama, said
courage is not like a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. It diminishes
with use. Africa had drained most of mine. I needed what was left to
retreat, perhaps to fight another day

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Reminder before you read this item:

"Zimbabwe to divert Z$5 trillion to buy emergency food

Harare - Crisis-ridden Zimbabwe will divert Z$5 trillion or 18.2 percent of
the total capital expenditure budget to buy emergency food to avert mass
starvation in the country. Ruling Zanu PF party information secretary Nathan
Shamuyarira yesterday told ZimOnline that poor rains had forced the ruling
party and the government to re-look programmes to resuscitate Zimbabwe's
collapsing economy and divert funds earmarked for infrastructural
development to buying food instead."



      Zimbabwe to export barley to Russia 2005-04-08 23:52:49

       HARARE, April 8 (Xinhuanet) -- The Zimbabwe Agricultural and
RuralDevelopment Authority (ARDA) said on Friday it has planted at least
2,000 hectares of barley for export to Russia where it is ingreat demand.

          ARDA chief executive officer Joseph Matowanyika said a Russian
company called Baltika Brewery had indicated an interest in purchasing
barley from Zimbabwe.

          "While they are looking at the varieties that we grow, we are
going ahead with production and we expect to produce 10,000 tonnesthis
season," he said.

          He said the ARDA was planting a small hectarage of the crop while
the deal was being finalized.

          There was also need to balance the production of barley with that
of wheat and winter maize seed since the country did not haveadequate
irrigation infrastructure, he said.

          Barley and wheat are both winter crops.

          "We are planning to embark on a massive investment in irrigation
infrastructure so that we can be able to produce enoughto satisfy local
demand and for export," he said.

          Last year a delegation from Russia visited Zimbabwe and expressed
an interest in purchasing barley for use in brewing beerin that country.

          Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Joseph Made later led a
delegation to Russia to explore ways of cooperation in agriculture

          It was during that visit that the ARDA and Baltika Brewery
discussed the production of barley for the Russian market, one of the
world's leading consumers of alcoholic beverages, particularlyvodka.

          Zimbabwean agricultural products are favored worldwide as they are
not genetically modified.

          The Zimbabwe government has banned the production of genetically
modified food, as it is wary of their effects on humanbeings. Enditem

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SW Radio Africa : Work is continuing to counter the Zimbabwe government's
jamming of the short-wave frequencies. Please try the following frequencies
: 3300 kHz in the 90m band, and 12145 kHz in the 25m band from 6pm to 9pm
Zimbabwe time; 15145 kHz in the 19m band from 6pm to 8 pm; 11770 kHz in the
25 m band from 8pm to 9pm.  Please also see for up to
date information. The medium-wave broadcast between 5am and 7am each
morning, at 1197 kHz, is not being jammed. Outside the broadcast area,
listen over the internet at .

VOA Studio 7 : In Zimbabwe, tune in to the short-wave broadcast at 13600 KHz
and 17895 KHz, and at 909 AM. Outside the broadcast area, listen over the
internet at . Broadcasts are between 7pm and 8pm Zimbabwe
time, Monday to Friday.
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From SW Radio Africa, 7 April

Kidnapping in Mazowe

The son of the MDC candidate in Mazowe East, Shepherd Mushonga was kidnapped
at Bedrock Business Centre and severely beaten up by Zanu PF youths in
Mazowe. Wilson Mushonga and his colleagues were tracked down by 4 trucks
packed with youths and war veterans. He was beaten up and left for dead in
an adjacent verandah close to the family shop. He is currently hospitalised
in Harare alongside his collegues. Earlier, we reported how scores of
suspected MDC supporters have been injured with some admitted to hospital
after Zanu PF candidates led their supporters in attacks on ordinary people,
especially those believed to support the MDC. Homes have been burnt down
while people flee their areas. Reprisals have been reported in Insiza,
Gokwe, Shamva, Hurungwe and Mufakose. The Mazowe attacks are another example
of the continuing reprisals country wide. Clarence Nhamo Mushava who was
part of the group explains what happened. Meanwhile its alleged Transport
Minister Christopher Mushowe, is leading a campaign to get his political
rival and MDC candidate for Mutare West, Gabriel Chiwara dismissed from the
National Railways. Chiwara, who lost to Mushowe in the rigged election,
works as an artisan in the NRZ which falls under Mushowe's Ministry. The
campaign is gaining momentum with other NRZ workers perceived to support the
MDC being targeted. The party's Organising Secretary at the NRZ's Westgate
compound for workers in Bulawayo is being asked to write a letter to the
Area Security Manager and explain why MDC rallies where held inside the
complex. Victor Moyo, the MDC's Bulawayo spokesman says the reprisals show
that his party actually won the elections and that Zanu PF candidates are
lashing back in disbelief.
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The Age, Australia

Robert Mugabe: the teflon tyrant
April 9, 2005

It seems only his death will spare Zimbabwe from its despotic leader, writes
Tony Parkinson.
Robert Mugabe barged through a loophole in a European Union travel ban to
fly to the Pope's funeral in Rome. The Idi Amin of his day, there is almost
no rule, no protocol, no code of decency the Zimbabwe strongman hasn't

Just as he is gatecrashing St Peter's Basilica, there are also suspicions he
may turn up unannounced at a summit of Asian and African leaders in
Indonesia later this month. Indeed, such is the in-your-face arrogance of
the ageing tyrant, there is half a chance he will be pressing for an
invitation to next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Mugabe may be unwelcome almost wherever he goes. But the audacity of a man
who has stolen a third straight election while laying waste to his nation
knows no bounds.

If we were to accept at face value the published results from the latest
bogus election in Zimbabwe, Mugabe commands the love, respect and support of
no less than two-thirds of his people - this in a nation where unemployment
runs at 70 per cent, where hospital and education services are
disintegrating, where farmlands have been destroyed, and where some of the
rural poor have taken to eating rats rather than starving.

It is the third time in five years the world has been treated to the ugly
spectacle of Mugabe's gangster regime mocking democratic principles and
entrenching its rule through intimidation and fraudulence. This time,
Mugabe's Zanu-PF came up with a new method of coercion beyond the usual
beatings and harassment, denying food aid to entire villages with a history
of supporting his opponents in the Movement for Democratic Change.

The outside world may well be horrified by Mugabe's cruelty and injustice,
and the debilitating impact of his corrupt and incompetent rule. But what's
to be done about him? Unless there is a change of heart among Zimbabwe's
neighbours, the sad fact is that nothing much can or will change until the
old hoodlum dies.

The major obstacle to any concerted international campaign to oust Mugabe is
the support he has from South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

To many Africans, Mugabe is a hero of liberation. During the bitter years of
confrontation with apartheid, he offered safe refuge for African National
Congress leaders forced into exile. That debt of loyalty sees Mugabe benefit
from southern African solidarity, where any effort to confront him is
resisted as "neo-colonial interference" by the Western powers.

However, Mbeki's reluctance to criticise the authoritarian nightmare being
inflicted on a neighbouring population is not a good look for the new South

Why, given their own painful history as an oppressed majority excluded from
power, would Mbeki and his ANC colleagues condone the trampling of basic
rights by a fellow African leader? Why don't Zimbabweans deserve what black
South Africans fought to achieve.

Mbeki's silence is slowly but surely trashing the legacy of Mandela.

There were 500 international observers sent to Zimbabwe to monitor the
polling, mostly from South Africa. Breathtakingly, the observer mission
issued an all-clear, reporting that the Zimbabwe elections were conducted in
"an open, transparent and professional manner". One courageous dissenting
member of the mission has since spoken out, so as not to allow this
dishonesty to go unchallenged.

"I have travelled the length and breadth of this land and have satisfied
myself that this sham of an election has been one of the most cynical frauds
perpetrated on the international community in electoral history," Dianne
Kohler-Barnard said. "The team I travelled with were deliberately lied to by
the police (and) the intimidation of anyone even suspected of having MDC
sympathies has been endemic. The ruthless propaganda campaign by the totally
state-controlled Zimbabwean media has been utterly repugnant."

Mbeki seems unperturbed. So, too, Mugabe who, in the absence of more
strenuous international action, seems untouchable. Now 81, his retirement is
long overdue. Yet, this week, he mocked his critics, pledging to stay in
office until his centenary year.

With a two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mugabe can push through
constitutional changes to provide legal immunity from prosecution if or when
he departs from office. For many of his countrymen, this means there is no
end in sight to the misery and despair.

As Mugabe flew to Rome, one of Zimbabwe's bravest clerics went as far as to
speak of the need for divine intervention. "Since the man will not go on his
own, some are praying that God will take him," said Roman Catholic
Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.

* Tony Parkinson is international editor
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Petrol in Short Supply

The Herald (Harare)

April 8, 2005
Posted to the web April 8, 2005

Beatrice Tonhodzayi

PETROL was in short supply in Harare yesterday and what was available was
more expensive, but diesel was obtainable in what looks like another
temporary shortage arising from the pipeline pumping schedule.

Since the bulk of Zimbabwe's fuel imports, especially for the east and
north, was switched from road transport to the much cheaper pipeline, Harare
has seen cycles of shortages in one fuel while the other remains available.

This happens when those setting the pipeline schedule pump one fuel for a
considerable period before switching to the other. When the lengths of each
run are reduced, then both fuels are available simultaneously.

The few filling stations with fuel quickly hiked their prices from an
average of $3 600 a litre to up to $4 200.

It was not clear last night if this was new stock, more expensive than the
large shipment released recently at the lower price.

The higher price is closer to retail prices pertaining a couple of months
ago before a special deal allowed prices to fall.

In response, commuter omnibus operators immediately hiked fares, taking
advantage of the multitudes of travellers who got stranded as vehicles
queued for fuel.

The operators illegally raised fares from $2 000 to $3 000 and from $3 000
to $5 000 depending on the distance.

"We are now getting petrol at $4 200, up from between $3 600 and $3 900, so
we have to hike fares or we would incur losses," said one commuter omnibus
driver who identified himself only as Fele.

However, the last time commuter omnibus operators raised their fares was
when petrol was hovering above $4 000 a litre. They did not reduce these
when prices fell.

So, it is difficult to see why a return to old prices should necessitate a
fare hike.

Those areas plied by conventional buses were better served yesterday as
diesel was readily available at some filling stations and was selling at the
old price of $3 800, suggesting it was old stock from the last deliveries.

Chaos broke out at two of the service stations that had petrol yesterday
afternoon after motorists got impatient of waiting in the queues.

At Jovanna Petroleum along Nelson Mandela Avenue, attendants were forced to
stop selling the commodity after pandemonium broke out with motorists
accusing each other of jumping the queue.

"We have stopped selling petrol even though it is available because tempers
are high and we fear that chaos might break out.

"The police have been called. We will only resume selling when they arrive,"
said one petrol attendant at the station.

Jovanna Petroleum, Engen Service Station along Fourth Street, Wedzera
Chiremba Road and ComOil Seke Road were the only filling stations with
petrol when The Herald carried out a snap survey.

Motorists said the cyclic fuel shortages were the reason why people ended up
hoarding the commodity and keeping it in their homes, thereby endangering

Contacted for comment, the chairman of the Petroleum Marketers' Association
of Zimbabwe and Indigenous Petroleum Marketers' Group, Mr Gordon Musarira,
said he was not aware of any fuel shortages and referred all questions to
the Permanent Secretary of Energy and Power Development, Mr Justin

Mr Mupamhanga said he was in a meeting and would only be able to comment
over the issue today.

However, on Tuesday Mr Mupamhanga told the nation on Newsnet that there were
adequate fuel supplies in the country.

He urged motorists not to resort to panic-buying as this could result in
artificial shortages triggering unwarranted queues.
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Zim Online

FEATURE: Empty shelves shock for Zimbabweans
Sat 9 April 2005
  HARARE - Thirty-two year old Takaruza Chibanda walks lazily along the
shelves in one of the supermarkets in Mabvuku, a poor working class suburb
in the east of Harare.

      Deep in thought, as if he is battling with balancing his immediate
needs with the little cash at hand, Chibanda, a father of three, picks the
barest essentials into his small shopping basket for his family.

      But most of the essential goods are not there anymore. The shop, which
a few weeks ago was teeming with basic foodstuffs ahead of the parliamentary
election, is virtually empty.

      This scene was not peculiar to the capital city alone. In most major
cities and towns, there were reports of severe basic foodstuff shortages in
supermarkers, barely a week after a disputed election.

      Maize-meal, Zimbabwe's staple food, cooking oil, flour and sugar
virtually disappeared from the shopping shelves overnight, as Zimbabweans in
panic mode after the shock election results, appeared to prepare for the

      Chibanda, is the true embodiment of hopelessness in the face of
mounting calamity. He says Zimbabweans cannot take it anymore.

      But with President Robert Mugabe, firmly in control once again after a
crushing victory over main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party, there is no immediate hope of an economic revival as the 81-year old
Zimbabwean leader continues to be dogged by a crisis of legitimacy.

      The International Monetary Find (IMF) and World Bank have shunned
Zimbabwe over Mugabe's human rights record and violent seizure of
white-owned farmland.

      The European Union, Britain and the United States have since dismissed
Mugabe's election victory as a fraud condemning Zimbabwe to more of the same

      For Zimbabweans, battered by a severe five year economic crisis, the
overwhelming feeling masking their deep-seated anger over the food
shortages, is one that the government does not care anymore since they won a
fresh five-year term in office.

      "The government was simply waiting for people to vote before they set
prices on the loose," said Chibanda.

      In Glen Norah, another poor suburb of Harare, the shelves are also
getting emptier. There is no wheat flour, nor is there any cooking oil here.

      Mary Muchenje, a vegetable vendor in Highfield and mother of five,
says vegetables are not in short supply at the wholesale market in Mbare but
they have just gone up.

      "I went to Mbare Musika this morning but I could only buy cucumbers,
tomatoes and bananas. One cabbage which used to cost Z$8 000 is now selling
at $14 000," she said with a resigned tone.

      With 75 percent of Zimbabwe's population out of employment and
inflation above 120 percent, the highest in the world, last week's highly
disputed election did not offer any hope of a quick respite.

      Analysts say the national economy is quietly sliding towards another
round of erosion of real incomes and standards of living.

      They say what the economy needs is not tinkering with the symptoms but
a total overhaul of the economic and political structure by re-engaging the
international community.

      Anything short of restoring the rule of law and legitimacy of the
political leadership will condemn Zimbabweans to a fresh five-year period of
pain. - ZimOnline
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Zim Online

Zimbabwe to launch new propaganda radio station
Sat 9 April 2005
  HARARE - The government of Zimbabwe will soon launch a new 24-hour
propaganda shortwave radio station to counter negative coverage from
independent radio stations broadcasting from outside the country.

      New Ziana's Electronic Services Business Unit boss, Happison
Muchechetere, confirmed to ZimOnline that the government will launch the
station, to be called Radio 24-7, in the next three weeks to counter United
Kingdom and United States-based radio stations targeting Zimbabweans.

      "On short wave, we will be accessible to people within Zimbabwe and
those abroad where our signal will reach," said Muchechetere.

      SWAfrica Radio and the United States-based Studio 7, are the only
independent radio stations targeting Zimbabweans. There are no independent
radio stations operating in Zimbabwe were the Harare authorities keep a
tight leash on the media.

      Critics accuse the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
(ZBC) of churning out virulent propaganda against the government's perceived
political opponents.

      The new radio station, is expected to take Zimbabwe's propaganda war
to a new foreign arena against the two independent radio stations. There
have already been attempts to clog SWAfrica Radio's network with the station
complaining last month that the Zimbabwe government had jammed its
transmission networks from London.

      Zimbabwe has always described the two stations as"pirate radio" aimed
at creating divisions in the country. - ZimOnline

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Zim Online

Polling stations located at chiefs' homesteads, army barracks: NGO
Sat 9 April 2005
  HARARE - The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has said that at
least 25 poling stations were located at traditional chiefs' homesteads and
military barracks casting further doubt on last week's disputed
parliamentary election.

      In a report released this week, ZESN, which was among a few local
groups allowed to observe the election, expressed concern that polling
stations were located in "non-neutral areas," casting doubt on the integrity
of the poll.

      "This may likely compromise the secrecy of the vote and instil fear in
the electorate," said ZESN.

      In Chipinge North constituency, won by ZANU PF, voters cast their
votes at Chief Mapungawana and Chief Gwenzi's homesteads, said ZESN. In
Masvingo Central constituency, voters cast their votes at the army's 4
Brigade headquarters.

      The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused the
ruling ZANU PF party of using traditional leaders to intimidate opposition
supporters to vote for the ruling party.

      Chiefs were also accused of withholding food aid to opposition
supporters and threatening their subjects with expulsion from their areas if
they backed the MDC in the election.

      ZANU PF won 78 of the 120 contested seats with the MDC taking a paltry
41 seats. Former government propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo, who fell out
with Mugabe after seeking to block Joyce Mujuru from the vice-presidency,
won the Tsholotsho seat on an independent ticket.

      The MDC has since rejected the election result as a"massive fraud." -

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Zim Online

Coalition raps SA delegation's election verdict
Sat 9 April 2005
  CAPE TOWN - A coalition of South African civic groups which were barred
from observing Zimbabwe's general election last week has criticised the
South African government observer mission's verdict on the disputed poll.

      The group criticised the South African team for saying the election
reflected the will of the Zimbabwean electorate. It said the election cannot
be deemed free and fair as it fell far short of regional guidelines on

      The Zimbabwe Observer Consortium, was barred from observing the
election by the Harare authorities but members of the coalition visited
Zimbabwe a few weeks before the election where they met civic groups and
opposition parties in the country.

      The consortium is made up of the South African Council of Churches,
the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, SA NGO Coalition,
Institute for Democracy in SA, the Centre for Policy Studies and the
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

      "We consider the politicisation of observation missions, in particular
the preferential treatment of invited missions in accordance with their
stated friendship to Zanu PF to be regrettable."

      The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accused Mugabe
prior to the election of picking "only his friends", while barring people he
deemed critical of his regime from observing the election.

      Britain, the European Union and the United States who have been at the
forefront in criticising Mugabe's appalling human rights record, were also
barred from the poll.

      The group criticised the verdict of the South African observer mission
which gave the polls a clean bill of health.

      "Conclusions arrived at by the South African observer missions failed
to address the critical issues affecting free and fair elections standards
and have thus compromised their role as honest and non-partisan observers,"
said the group. - ZimOnline

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Lawyers say Zimbabwe stalls over British newsmen case

April 08, 2005, 18:15

Zimbabwe prosecutors have deliberately stalled the case of two British
journalists detained on charges of breaking immigration and media laws to
"prolong the accused's agony", their lawyer said today. Toby Harnden, the
Sunday Telegraph chief foreign correspondent, and Julian Simmonds, a
photographer, have been in custudy for more than a week on charges of
reporting last week's parliamentary elections without accreditation and
extending their stay in Zimbabwe beyond their visas.

Today Beatrice Mtetwa, their lawyer, accused Albert Masamha, the state
prosecutor, of springing surprise witnesses on the defence and failing to
ensure they showed up in court as required, delaying the proceedings. Only
two state witnesses took the stand for about an hour today and Masamha said
a third, the investigating officer in the case, failed to turn up because he
had a car breakdown. "My learned friend has been building up this case as he
goes along. It's a game of some form of hide and seek. The accused are not
getting a fair trial. My learned friend is deliberately doing this to
prolong the accused's agony," Mtetwa told a magistrates court in Norton near
the capital Harare.

Masamha denied dragging the case, saying the state had "fast-tracked" the
matter to court at the expense of hundreds of others awaiting trial. The
British journalists deny they were gathering information on March 31 general
parliamentary elections without a temporary permit in contravention of tough
media laws which critics say are aimed against President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) won the polls amid charges of fraud from the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which also disputes the
ruling party's victory in 2000 and 2002 elections.

The two journalists, who face up to two years in jail and a fine if
convicted, say they were on a tourist trip to Zimbabwe which took them to
the northern resort town of Victoria Falls, Matobo national park and the
southern city of Bulawayo. Earlier this week, Mtetwa said neither of the
men's passports clearly indicated the duration of their visa and both
believed they had been granted the two weeks they had applied for rather
than the seven days cited by state prosecutors.

Zimbabwe has arrested or deported dozens of journalists and denied others
entry under the media laws, which forbid foreigners from working permanently
as journalists in Zimbabwe and compels them to seek temporary licences with
a state commission for brief assignments. Mugabe's government says the rules
were necessary to restore professionalism in the private media, which it
accuses of driving a Western propaganda campaign against Harare over its
seizure of white-owned farms for blacks. - Reuters
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MDC rejects electoral commission's explanation

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

HARARE, 8 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has
denied rigging the 31 March legislative elections, but its attempt to
explain discrepancies in vote tallies has been rejected by the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told IRIN on Friday that the party would
press ahead with its petition to the Electoral Court regarding
inconsistencies between vote tallies televised at the close of polling and
the final count of votes received by candidates.

According to results announced by the ZEC, the ruling ZANU-PF party took 78
of the 120 contested seats, the MDC garnered 41, and one seat was won by an
independent candidate, former cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo.

When the final vote tallies were announced there were increases or decreases
of as much as 15,000 votes in about 30 constituencies.

Addressing a media conference on Thursday, the ZEC chairman, retired Colonel
George Chiweshe, said the commission believed the elections and poll count
were conducted in a free and fair manner.

He had called the press conference to respond to the MDC's ultimatum to
explain the discrepancies, otherwise the party would take legal action.

Chiweshe said the figures announced on television "were mere updates from
various people on the ground, which we had not verified".

Asked why the ZEC had earlier announced that 36,821 ballots had been cast at
the close of polling in Beitbridge, which was later reduced to 20,602,
Chiweshe said it was because they had not verified the information they had
received from the ZEC officials on the ground.

"We wanted to give an indication of the voting trends," he told journalists.

However, the MDC was not appeased. "His attempt to explain the discrepancies
was pathetic; nobody believed it because everyone knows what happened,"
Nyathi said. "We have to go to the Electoral Court and exhaust all legal
means [of challenging the poll results]".

The African Union observer team has already called on the ZEC to investigate
the discrepancies.

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Mbeki comes under fire from US
          April 08 2005 at 03:13PM

      American senator Russell Feingold has launched a scathing attack on
President Thabo Mbeki in the US Congress. He has accused Mbeki of helping
President Robert Mugabe's regime in its quest to cling to power at all costs
at the expense of human rights.

      The senator described the South African leader's act of sweeping
rights abuses in Zimbabwe "under the rug" and helping Mugabe remain in power
as "one of the greatest disappointments of all".

      Feingold stopped short of calling on the Bush administration to review
its relations with South Africa in an address to Congress this week.

      His and senator John McCain's private correspondence to Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice has prompted the Bush administration to take an even
tougher stance on Zimbabwe.

      Feingold accused Mugabe of stealing last week's elections. -
Independent Foreign Service

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Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Post-Election Crackdown Underway

Youngest MDC MP arrested amid reports of murder of a party activist and
attacks on white farmers and their employees.

By Chipo Sithole in Harare (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 27,

While Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe attended the funeral of Pope John
Paul II in Rome on April 8, back home a post-election crackdown on his
domestic opponents was getting underway.

Just a week after Zimbabweans went to the polls - with international
monitors and journalists once again out of the picture - police arrested the
youngest MP from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, which
won 41 out of 120 seats in an election that has been widely denounced as

There have also been reports of the murder of another MDC activist by
supporters of Mugabe's ZANU PF party and attacks on white farmers and their

The arrest of Nelson Chamisa, the 26-year-old MP for the Harare constituency
of Kuwadzana, only became known when he managed to send out text messages on
his mobile phone to friends in the domestic media.

The messages suggested police and agents from the Central Intelligence
Organisation, CIO, were torturing him.

"I am in trouble," Chamisa wrote in one.

Chamisa was arrested on the afternoon of April 7 after being informed at a
police roadblock that he was wanted in connection with a spate of
anti-government demonstrations in central Harare on April 4.

Chamisa's lawyer, Alex Muchadehama, said his client handed himself in and
was initially detained in a central Harare police station before being
transferred and held overnight in police cells at Matapi, in the Mbare
township on the outskirts of the city. Muchadehama said the police intended
to charge Chamisa with inciting public violence.

An appearance in the courts is likely on April 11.

"They are determined to torture him," said Muchadehama. "I don't see him
being taken to court today or even at the weekend... [The] Matapi cells are
very filthy and the transfer is a way of humiliating him.

"Why they are detaining him I just don't understand. he surrendered himself
and he won't run away."

The police cells at Matapi are renowned for being the filthiest in a country
where prison conditions generally are grim.

Muchadehama said there were no signs of obvious physical injury when he met
Chamisa briefly - but the MP looked dishevelled and disoriented, suggesting
that some form or torture or intense interrogation had taken place.

The police are alleging that Chamisa organised young demonstrators who ran
through the city centre stoning shop windows. During the alleged
demonstration, the MDC youths apparently distributed pamphlets which said
"Reject Fraud" and urged people not to accept the results of the
parliamentary election.

Reports coming in from around the country suggest Chamisa's arrest is part
of a broader wave of post-election violence organised by the government
against its political opponents.

In Kwekwe, about 160 kilometres southwest of Harare - where ZANU PF
parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa was defeated at the polls by MDC
candidate Blessing Chebundo - a young MDC activist has been found dead, with
his stomach slit open, after an alleged attack by ZANU PF supporters.

And on April 6, a security guard on a white-owned farm at Marondera, 80 km
east of the capital, was beaten to death and the farmer himself was attacked
by ZANU PF land invaders.

"ZANU PF have begun systematically hunting down people who voted for us and
our election agents," said the MDC's secretary general Welshman Ncube. "The
attacks started on Sunday, after the last result was announced. People have
fled. Others are missing and no one knows what has happened to them."

He added that he had heard reports of more attacks on the remaining 400
white-owned farms in Zimbabwe. There were 5000 such farms when President
Mugabe first launched his strategy of land seizures before the last
parliamentary election in 2000.

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe.
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Zim Online

MDC ratchets up pressure against electoral commission
Sat 9 April 2005
  HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party yesterday ratcheted up pressure on embattled Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) boss George Chiweshe demanding an explanation on
discrepancies in last week's voter figures.

      In a letter responding to Chiweshe's remarks dismissing the MDC's
allegations of electoral theft during last week's poll, the opposition
party's secretary general Welshman Ncube, demanded a credible explanation
from the ZEC chairman.

      "There must be some explanation as to how this happened and we request
you in all seriousness to explain why and how your Commission went on
national television to announce the totals of votes cast in each
constituency as tabulated in the attachment of the letter we sent you.

      "We do not believe a national institution such as yours can get away
from this problem by just ignoring it. We insist that you must explain why
and how your Commission announced to the nation certain totals as being the
total votes cast in each constituency," said Ncube.

      The ZEC last Friday announced the total number of voters in 76
constituencies before abruptly stopping the announcements.

      But when the commission later announced the final results, there were
huge discrepancies between the earlier voter totals and the final results,
provoking suspicions of massive rigging in favour of the ruling ZANU PF
party which clinched 78 seats to secure a crucial two-thirds majority.

      The opposition party, which won 41 seats, has since rejected the
results as a "huge fraud".

      At the Thursday press conference to address the opposition's concerns,
Chiweshe was at pains to explain the discrepancies saying the earlier
figures should be ignored as they were "merely incomplete updates".

      But yesterday, the MDC which says it has unearthed discrepancies in 72
constituencies, accused Chiweshe of taking the MDC as "morons".

      Said Ncube: "We would also like to advise you that you should not take
us like morons. In the circumstances, we request and demand that you answer
our letter on its merit and give us an explanation as to how and why the
disparities referred to arose.

      "What we require from yourself is an explanation as to where you got
the figures you announced on national television. Put differently, what was
the source of those figures and why are they so different from the figures
you say are the official ones? We await a substantive answer to our original
request no later than the end of Monday April 11, 2005."

      Under Zimbabwe's new electoral laws, the opposition has up to next
Friday to appeal to the Electoral Court which deals with electoral disputes.

      But chances of the court overturning the election result are slim
after Mugabe purged independent judges and packed the bench with his own
appointees. - ZimOnline
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