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

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The Guardian
Zimbabwe Economic Disaster Shows in Dead

Saturday August 2, 2003 6:39 PM


Associated Press Writer

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Zimbabwe's economic disaster is horrifyingly evident
in the morgue at Harare Central Hospital, packed to more than three times
capacity with the dead that relatives can't afford to bury.

The morgue, designed for 164 corpses, holds nearly 600.

Trays in the morgue often hold more than one adult body, along with the tiny
corpses of infants. Others, shrouded in canvas and cotton sheets, lie in
gurneys or on the floors of the refrigerated corridors.

Some of the unclaimed cadavers are those of vagrants found dead on the

Others are the victims of violence kept for as long as three years during
police investigations, often delayed by fuel shortages and logistics
problems amid Zimbabwe's worst political and economic crisis since
independence in 1980.

Many of the corpses are awaiting collection by impoverished relatives,
including some who ``just disappear and abandon them'' in hopes they will be
given decent ``paupers' burials'' by the city, said Dr. Chris Tapfumaneyi,
the hospital's medical superintendent.

As a result of the crisis amid rising mortality rates, Tapfumaneyi said
Friday hospital officials have decried to give dozens of the bodies to the
city's medical school.

The hospital recently donated 42 cadavers to the Zimbabwe University medical
school, the first such donation for at least three years, he said. The
medical school has promised a proper burial of the remains after they're
used for teaching purposes.

In a nation plagued by a hunger crisis and an estimated 5,000 AIDS-related
deaths a week, funeral homes hired to bury the unclaimed dead also are

At the same time, city authorities have run out of money and gasoline,
paralyzing ambulance, garbage collection and other services.

Zimbabwe is suffering massive inflation and unemployment. A hard currency
shortage has led to shortages of food, medicines and fuel, which has
crippled industry.

A routine burial - including cemetery and grave fees, a casket and
transportation - costs at least $120 at the official exchange rate or less
than $40 at the black market rate.

That's twice what the average Zimbabwean's annual income and is well out of
reach of the 70 percent of people here living in poverty. Most rural poor
bury their dead on family plots in the bush, following African spiritual

As the Harare municipal cemeteries filled with AIDS victims in recent years,
a raft of suggestions - for mass graves, for bodies to be buried vertically,
and for cremation - were met with outcry by political and tribal leaders.

White Zimbabweans of Indian descent favor cremation, but in June, Harare's
cash-strapped city council ran out of imported gas for the furnaces at its
only crematorium.

Since, private funeral homes have accumulated nearly 100 bodies due for
cremation. A few bodies have been taken to the second city of Bulawayo's
diesel-fired crematorium.

But diesel fuel, like regular gasoline, is also in short supply, and
Bulawayo's ordinances make it difficult to cremate a person who did not live

Leaders of Harare's tiny Hindu community, meanwhile, have said they are
considering waiving strict religious rules to allow non-Hindus to be
cremated in their small diesel-fired crematorium here.

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Putting out the Fire.

A few days ago, the old Railway Headquarters building in Bulawayo was burned
down. The fire started in an area of the building where some people were
selling fuel in small containers - now a widespread occupation in a country
where not a single filling station has fuel to sell.

The local fire brigade came and started to try and put the fire out - with
little effect as the building eventually burned to the ground. While this
was going on the ever-present riot squad arrived and leapt off their trucks
and lined up armed with batons, plastic shields and tear gas? They formed a
line in front of the curious crowd and then an old man in a hat came forward
and in clear Ndebele said to the nearest man in the riot team "do you not
understand that your batons cannot put the fire out?" The crowd loved this
bit of wisdom and fell about laughing - the riot police were not amused. But
he has a point. Batons do not put out fires.

We have four fires burning out of control and beyond the capability of the
local fire station squad - food shortages, a fuel crisis, runaway inflation
and shortages of liquid cash. In all these instances, the ineptitude of the
government after 23 years in power has been quite astonishing.

I find this unbelievable - I have many old colleagues who are in the present
government. Nathan Shamuyarira, 20 years a Minister, an excellent degree
from a prestigious University in the States, Herbert Murerwa, Minister of
Finance and a friend for more than 30 years. There are several other people
with doctorates in government and yet they are completely at sea when it
comes to getting to grips with the present crisis. Mugabe himself is a
brilliant intellectual with several degrees - two of which involve
economics. The Governor of the Reserve Bank is an excellent banker with many
years of experience and a sound background. The Secretary of Finance is a
clever and dedicated Civil Servant - what is wrong with all these people?

One explanation is that they have simply been there too long. I know from
personal experience that it is very difficult to be innovative and totally
on top of a very senior position for more than about 5 years. So maybe they
are just tired and have run out of ideas.

Another is that they have become corrupt and the national interest is no
longer their driving ambition or goal. Perhaps they see no future for
themselves and their families and they are now totally predicated on
accumulation of resources - especially those that can be employed externally
in the near future. All other considerations are being swept aside. I can
see this in the present situation and there is a lot of evidence to support
this thesis.

Yet another, is my old mans explanation - faith in the wrong instruments. If
we look into the four fires I listed above we can see how these are out of
control and are not being handled by the government in any sort of realistic

The food crisis is now into its third year - and will persist well into 2004
and maybe 2005, as there is little hope of rescuing the farming industry in
the remaining months of this winter. Despite all the evidence of failure,
the State simply continues to blame everyone except themselves for the
crisis. This year they have gone one step further and has thrown up their
hands in a gesture of helplessness, blaming the "donors" for neglecting the
agricultural sector and demanding that they now feed the entire country for
the next nine months. The collapse of agriculture - even in the peasant
sector, is continuing and the outlook for the coming summer is bleak. What
are they doing? They continue to intimidate and coerce the farmers that
remain to get off their land and abandon their assets and leave the country.
When confronted with legal orders to stop interfering and thieving - they
simply resort to force.

In the fuel industry, we have now had 4 years of chaos. Endemic shortages
and no signs of any long term solutions or even attempts at the orderly
control and distribution of what is available. Corruption in this sector is
endemic - heaven only knows what has been stolen and lost through the
national oil procurement agency, NOCZIM, in the past decade - it runs to
hundreds of billions of dollars. When finally all this stupidity in economic
terms results in the country earning insufficient foreign exchange to pay
for the essentials, the State throws up its hands in a futile gesture and
lets everyone do their own thing. Fuel prices go from being the lowest in
the region to the dizzy heights that they have reached in recent days of up
to US$3 per litre - nearly 6 times the cost of fuel in South Africa.

Then inflation, even the Central Statistical Office now says the rate of
inflation as at the end of June was 365 per cent. But in the supermarkets
prices are 10 times what they were a year ago. Bread in 2002 started the
year at about Z$25 a loaf - 18 months later it is anything from Z$700 to
Z$1000 a loaf - and the bakers are short weighing their bread!  The private
sector has tried to keep pace with inflation in the wages they pay their
staff - but the government leaves the tax threshold at Z$15 000 a month - so
now a sweeper in a factory pays supertax on his income.

Living standards have collapsed with disastrous effects on the lives of
millions. In one case an elderly pensioner in Harare looked at his meager
income one month-end and went into his bedroom and shot himself. After a
lifetime of work, he could not afford even the most basic things of life and
simply could not face the future. For millions the only answer is to flee
the country and as a consequence one quarter of the total population now
lives outside our borders.

What does the State do about this situation - nothing. The deficit on state
expenditure this year will be a staggering 35 per cent of GDP. The National
debt - which was about 20 per cent of GDP at independence, is now
approaching three times the GDP. There is no possibility that this can ever
be repaid and yet this collection of goons continues to borrow from a
complacent and criminal banking industry at the expense of every man and
women in the country.

And now, these idiots have run out of the one resource that is totally under
their control and management. In all my reading of economics I have never
heard of a country which ran out of its own money! This week a whole phalanx
of Ministers and Zanu PF bankers took to the television screen to detail how
they were going to deal with this latest crisis. We watched with fascinated
curiosity, is this another fuel crisis - promised solutions every week with
the shortages simply getting worse?

We were not disappointed. Now I want you to get this straight - we have
about Z$200 billion in liquid cash circulating at present - growing at the
rate of about 7 per cent a month. Problem number one is that we need about 5
times that sort of growth in the money supply to keep pace with inflation.

So what do our collection of geniuses do? They announce that they are going
to take Z$130 billion dollars of liquidity out of circulation - and burn it!
This is the new red Z$500 note that we have had for about a year. It's a
good note - printed on very expensive paper from Germany - probably the most
expensive currency in the region. They say it cost Z$800 to print each
note - so your looking at a loss of nearly Z$40 billion on this futile

Having now reduced the cash supply by nearly two thirds, they are going to
print a new Z$500 note to replace it. But they can only print Z$21 billion a
month so it will take 6 months to get us back to where we were in July - and
by then we will need goodness knows how much currency to meet demand. The
other sweeping "reforms", a new Z$1000 note will come into play in October -
one month before originally planned. In addition the banks are going to look
into the use of travelers cheques as an alternative to cash - at a service
fee of course.

Then the Minister of Justice - we have one of those as well - came on the
box to announce that from Friday this week it will be illegal to trade in
Zimbabwe currency. The theory being that this is the main cause of the
shortage. Of course once you have a shortage of a thing as basic as money -
it will take on a life of its own. More egg on their faces can be the only
result after the failed attempts to control prices.

Let no one underplay the importance of the cash shortage. The food crisis
will be resolved eventually as the developed countries dig deep and pay for
fear of images of starving children. The fuel crisis will be ameliorated by
the ingenuity of the business community who are already getting on top of
the situation - there is almost more fuel available now than there was
before the filling stations ran dry. The inflation is like the rising
temperature in a bath of water - eventually we nay get boiled alive, but for
the time being its OK.

But the cash shortage is another matter. It affects everybody - Police,
Army, Civil Service, workers and employers. If you cannot get money to pay
for the goods and services you need to live, the crisis is immediate.

The Trade Unions have given the government 10 days to sort things out - if
not they are threatening action. This time, things may just have gone to far
and it could just be that "D" day has arrived. For the Police, it's the same
solution as for everything else. When a crown of about 2000 people outside a
financial institution became restive they laid into them with whips and
dogs. What they need to realize is that those kinds of actions "do not put
out the fire!" I think we would be better off with the old man in hat in
charge than this collection of clowns.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 31st July 2003.
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Dear Family and Friends,
I don't think any of us really understood what effect our government's
expulsion of the international media from Zimbabwe a year ago would have on
our lives. Pictures speak a thousand words and without them Zimbabwe is
plummeting into a dark hole almost unseen by the outside world. Today I
would like to try and paint a picture of what a little country town looked
like when I went to do my shopping on a beautiful spring day this week.
There is no money ! How do you say it and make people see what that looks
like. Maybe if I say it again, it will have more impact - there is no money,
none at all.

There are three money outlets near the main Marondera post office, none of
them have any money and outside, in the sun, hundreds upon hundreds of
people are waiting patiently for someone to come and deposit cash, so that
they can withdraw it. No one's coming to deposit though and the queues are
unmoving. I sat in the sun watching as both oppressed and oppressors stood
in the same lines. Amongst the ordinary and long suffering people waiting
for money in our government controlled town, there are those men with the
big hats and long dirty overcoats, the ones who called themselves war
veterans and took over all the farms. There are soldiers, scores of them,
wearing camouflage uniform, and police, dozens of them, in uniform, they too
are waiting for money. There are men from the secret police, still wearing
their dark imported sunglasses but perhaps looking less arrogant, waiting
for money. There are teenage boys from the youth militia, in their notorious
green uniforms and their dark boots - the ones they use to kick people
with - also standing waiting for money. There is no money, not for anyone,
and for the first time in three and half years, no amount of political clout
can give people the bank notes they need.

In Barclays Bank you could not move for people, standing, waiting, not
moving.  The pavements outside were also crowded with people sitting in the
sun, waiting for the chance to draw their own money out of the banks. The
food shops and supermarkets in town were almost deserted with only a few
shoppers using cheques to pay for groceries, so there is little chance of
these outlets depositing cash into the banks either. After an hour of just
walking around aimlessly and looking at what things have come to in my home
town, I  went home, with no money and no groceries - others will spend the
rest of the day, just waiting. There were also lots of strangers in
Marondera today, people that have come from other towns and even the capital
city, hoping to find money here. But it doesn't matter anymore whether you
are black, white or brown, male or female,  rich or poor, persecutor or
victim -  there just isn't any money.

The governments response to this utter chaos came when the Minister of
Finance announced that the existing red five hundred dollar notes would, in
60 days time, be withdrawn from circulation and be replaced by another
colour 500 dollar note. The Minister urged people to go and deposit the red
notes and said there would be a ban on cash hoarding, but the problem is
that there are no replacement notes yet and no one is depositing anything.
For so long our propaganda machinery have spun so many lies that now no one
believes them anymore and the noose is just getting tighter and tighter.
Many writers and analysts are talking about how the government is rushing
round putting out the various fires their mis-governance has started.
Personally I think it's too late and about as effective as using a fire
extinguisher on an erupting volcano.

Nothing has been able to distract our attention from trying to get our own
money out of the banks this week. Not even the amazing statement by
President Mugabe to members of his politburo. President Mugabe said that too
many top officials in Zanu PF and government had taken too many farms. He
said that they should each choose one farm only and give the rest back. The
President's order to his officials to give the farms back deserves only one
response: give them back to who, the legal owners or yet more government
officials? Until next week, with love from cathy. Copyright cathy buckle,
2nd August 2003.
"African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available in the UK, USA and Canada
through: ; in Australia and New Zealand from and in Africa from and
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Sokwanele Newsletter 30/7/03

Cash Crisis
The country is being brought to its knees by the cash crisis. Hippo
and Triangle will
not sell sugar without being paid cash.
Fuel clubs request cash up front for orders, which can take up to two
months to fill.
So called war vets and settlers, who mainly deal with the CBZ bank, come
from miles away, sometimes costing up to $10,000 return, to get only
$1,500 to $5,000 from their bank.
There have been disturbances over the cash crisis in Masvingo and Chiredzi
and the police have been used to quell them.
Wherever you go, you can hear people talking about the lack of cash to
buy food and that Mugabe must do something about it. Hardly anyone is
banking cash at all in the lowveld, most are selling it at between 10
and 15% and the same news has been heard from Masvingo and Kwe Kwe.

There have been problems with Zanu affiliates allocated land under the
A2 system. They have stepped up harassment and threats to force farmers
out of their
homes and off the farms. Most of these farmers are either in the process
of fighting their evictions through the courts or the courts have ruled
their right to remain. At this
stage the farmers are determined to stay and are harassing the police
to assist and it is working to a small degree. Now that the cane growers
have all received section 5 notices, it is expected that the situation
will become even more confrontational.

Government cronies take advantage of the fuel situation
Filling stations owned by multinationals have still not received any
fuel since the 5th June. However Exor has both petrol and diesel. This
relatively new garage, on the southern outskirts of Masvingo, is one
in which Simon Muzenda has an interest. The product sells from the pumps
at $1200-00 for diesel and $1500-00 for petrol. There is a sign on the
road boldly proclaiming “plenty petrol and diesel”.

The fuel they are selling is definitely supplied by Noczim, rather than
imported fuel, with imported fuel only allowed for personal use. Total
have a questionable agreement with Exor that it will store fuel for Exor
at it’s Masvingo depot and will deliver it to the station. Other filling
station proprietors have complained bitterly to Total’s regional marketing
manager who simply says that the matter has been ‘reported to the authorities’.
When the regional office of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce was questioned
why Exor should be selling the product at above the gazetted price, they
say they have contacted the Ministry of Energy for clarification.

There is clearly one law for zanu pf stalwarts and another for the rest
of the population.

Bread and price Controls
The price control inspectors blitzed bakeries last week as a result of
Trade and Commerce Minister Mumbengegwi being in town. Mumbengegwi visited
various businesses and when at OK Bazaars and he found that bread was
selling for more than $250-00 per loaf. He then got on his cell phone
to the regional office of Trade and Commerce and instructed them to ticket
the ‘offenders’. The price control inspectors accept that it is simply
impossible to bake a loaf of bread for under about $550-00 but they take
the attitude that they are simply doing their job. It has been ascertained
that OK Bazaars have been receiving tickets for amounts between $35000-
00 and $70 000 and that they have simply been paying them, although they
have not stopped baking bread which they sell for around $850-00. Another
business has received six tickets for selling bread for more than the
controlled price and they have simply refused, like Victoria bakeries,
to pay any fines, inviting government to take them to court. The Police
have yet to make a warned and cautioned statement in respect of any of
the tickets and so these businesses are waiting to have their day in

Research into the issue of overpricing has ascertained that any ticket
reflecting an admission of guilt fine greater than $5000-00 (in respect
of bread) is improper, and the maximum fine that can be imposed is $5000-
00. Authority for this is to be found in the High Court criminal review
of Judge Smith and Judge Chinhengo in the case of Ketinah Chimwai and
three others HH 93/02. The case clearly spells out that in quantifying
a fine the Price Controllers must take the gazetted price of ONE UNIT
of the controlled commodity and if that unit price is less than $5000-
00 then the maximum fine that can be imposed is $5000-00.

In light of this court ruling those businesses who, according to The
Herald, were issued with million dollar tickets should not have paid
those fines and must challenge the charges in Court. Price Controllers
and Police have been going to bakeries to check prices and when they
find evidence, for example, 2000 loaves for sale at $1000-00, they then
impose a fines of $200 000. This action goes against gazetted legislation.

What is also important to remember is that the offence of selling a commodity
above the gazetted price is only committed if the accused cannot offer
a lawful excuse for selling the commodity above the gazetted price.
The argument that should be raised is that given the fact that it is
impossible to bake a loaf of bread and sell it at a profit for $250-00,
the act of baking the loaf and selling it for more than the gazetted
price simply to stay in business does constitute a lawful excuse. Better
still would be for someone to challenge the whole price control regulation
structure (which of course has been gazetted with elections in mind)
on the grounds that they are ultra vires ie that they are unreasonable
and unworkable.

Until pricing regulations are made more viable, if one is ticketed for
selling bread the business should simply not pay the fine. If every bakery
refused to pay these fines already clogged courts would struggle to deal
with the thousands of these type of cases.

In addition, only price control orders made by the Minister and published
in the gazette can be legally enforceable. In the Friday 25 July business
Herald an advert was placed to set out the so called wholesale and retail
prices of various commodities.

There have been instances of the Price Controllers ticketing businesses
for selling commodities such as cooking oil and salt for more than those
advertised prices. Section 7 of the principal Regulations SI 334/01 makes
it clear that orders must be published in the gazette (ie not the Herald).
There is no statutory instrument in force at the present time which gazettes
the prices of those products. Businesses must not to be intimidated
into reducing the prices of their so called “price controlled” goods.
Many of these goods are bought from the manufacturer or wholesaler at
a price greater than that which the Minister now wants them to sell it
for, they have the right to refuse to pay ticketed fines. If the worst
comes to the worst and they are ultimately convicted - the fine must
be worked out on the basis of guidelines set out above.

Council elections

The MDC has fielded a full house of ten candidates for city council elections.
Indications are that the campaign is going to be just as unpleasant as
the mayoral elections a few years ago. Controversy surrounds the acceptance
of Jacob Chademana as the ward 8 candidate for zanu pf, as it appears
he does not reside in that ward. This may be the subject of a court challenge.

Women’s protests once again lead to arrests
Last week Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), held a peaceful march to commemorate
the riots which swept across Rhodesia in July 1960 after a number of
leading black nationalists, including Mugabe himself, tried to hold
peaceful demonstrations in opposition to the Law and Order Maintenance
Act (LOMA). Police killed eleven people in Bulawayo and soon after
that Whitehead instituted LOMA, legislation that makes up the back bone
of POSA today.

The protest held last week was to call for the repealing of POSA in the
form of a letter to be delivered to the Senior Prosecutor in Bulawayo.
The letter was delivered, but on the way to the terminus near to Basch
Street, when the women broke out into religious song, the riot police
decided to arrest them. Jenni Williams was taken first and when the
others saw this, they insisted on going with her.

Close to sixty women were held for two nights, four of them had young
children and were only held for one night. All were released without
bail and their case has been remanded until the 13 August.

WOZA have staged several protests, at each of those held in Bulawayo
the women have been arrested, but not so in Harare.

Over the past week we have seen confirmation of the change in attitude
of the law enforcement authorities. This may be significant as word
has apparently come down line to ease off. This can be demonstrated
by the arrest of the WOZA women, there reasonably prompt appearance in
court and the fact that they were remanded with no bail. Furthermore
some public meetings have been “approved” by the police and the test
of this will follow shortly as the MDC have plans to hold rallies to
support candidates in the forthcoming council elections.

However, the state of fear and intimidation prevails and the emphases
seems to have shifted to the issue cash. This situation has the potential
to explode as people battle to feed their families, simply because they
cannot obtain enough cash. Be reminded that the majority of people salaries
and wages are paid in cash and purchasing transactions are in cash, add
to this the bank note proposals by government and there is a cocktail
of disaster. The ZCTU has issued a 14 day deadline to solve problems
or face unspecified action.

To illustrate the acceleration of deterioration, the Zim dollar devalued
13% in the last 24 hours and the potential for massive price hikes is
there and looming. The recent gazetted wage increases will simply not
cope with this scenario and the squeeze on the ordinary man on the street
will increase dramatically fueling the potential disorder. As far as
industry is concerned it is a serious battle to contend with rapidly
increasing inflation and everything points to meltdown.

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Cash crisis threatens to unseat Mugabe

As banknotes run out, President admits Zimbabwe is suffering

Andrew Meldrum in Pretoria
Sunday August 3, 2003
The Observer

Zimbabwe's riot police battled all week to restrain angry citizens, using
batons, tear gas and arrests - but the surging crowds smashed windows and
stormed restricted areas.
These are not anti-government protests but the actions of furious depositors
at banks across the country demanding their money. In addition to dire
shortages of food, cooking oil and petrol, Zimbabweans now face a drastic
shortage of the most precious commodity of all - cash.

Zimbabwe's banks are surrounded by snaking queues of hundreds, sometimes
thousands, of people who wait until a shop or business deposits some cash.
The bank doles out meagre portions of Zimbabwe dollar notes to the restless

Iddah Mandaza, a Harare factory supervisor, said: 'Women are sitting on the
floor and crocheting, they feed their babies. Some people sleep on the
floor. At night people sleep in the queues outside. It is chaos, but we need
our money!'

Mrs Mandaza said people blamed President Robert Mugabe for the latest
crisis. 'They say Mugabe should have to come to the banks to get his pay.
They say betta andaye (better for him to go).'

With inflation of 360 per cent and rising, the government has not provided
enough banknotes to keep the economy afloat. As a result banks do not have
cash to pay people whose salaries have been deposited into accounts. People
desperate to buy whatever food and petrol they can find and pay their
monthly bills cannot get money from their accounts.

Some banks that have money are limiting people to Z$5,000 (£3.89) a day,
which does not go very far when bread costs Z$1,000 a loaf.

Those storming the banks to demand their money include police and army
officers and schoolteachers. Most civil servants got hefty pay raises this
month. But they cannot get their pay.

The crisis even affects the dead. Harare's mortuary cannot cope with the
number of bodies unclaimed by families unable to afford burial costs.

Zimbabwe was once one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, but now
has the fastest-shrinking economy in the world. It has lost a third of its
Gross Domestic Product in four years. Such a contraction is usually only
experienced in war, say economists, who point to Mugabe's over-budget
spending, fixed exchange rate, price controls and negative interest rates.

Mugabe's economic policies are now becoming one of the most potent pressures
against his continued rule. Those in the bank queues and their hungry
families are pressing for political change. Last week, Mugabe was forced to
admit to a delegation of church leaders that his people are suffering. He
agreed to co-operate with their efforts to mediate in negotiations with the
opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Bishops from the
Catholic, Anglican and evangelical faiths also met with the MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai.

Evangelical bishop Trevor Manhanga, one of the mediators, expressed
'cautious optimism' about talks. 'The President understands the urgency of
the matter, just as Mr Tsvangirai does,' he said.

Both sides need to agree to a credible solution before the heads of
government meeting in Nigeria in December to prevent Zimbabwe from being
expelled from the Commonwealth.

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Sunday Times (SA)

Zimbabwe talks bring fresh hope

Resumption of formal dialogue may lead to free elections
Ranjeni Munusamy and Sunday Times Foreign Desk

South Africa will actively campaign for Zimbabwe's reintegration into the
international community once formal dialogue between the government and
opposition resumes in the neighbouring country.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad said this week that there should
be "no debate" about Zimbabwe's readmission into the Commonwealth once talks
are under way.

Zimbabwe's one-year suspension from the Commonwealth - imposed due to the
flawed presidential elections - was extended to December following a dispute
between the group's member states.

Many African nations, led by South Africa and Nigeria, opposed the extension
of penal measures, while countries such as Australia, New Zealand and
Britain have pushed for harsher action.

The decision to extend the suspension was taken after the Commonwealth
Secretary-General Don McKinnon canvassed the views of member states and
found that this was a "broadly held view".

South Africa sharply criticised the move. Commonwealth heads of state will
now decide on the issue when the group meets in December for its biennial

Pahad said this week: "We are hoping for real movement in Zimbabwe long
before the Commonwealth meets."

The Commonwealth body should be assisting in the process of reconciliation,
not imposing penalties, Pahad said.

"We can't continue to argue about Zimbabwe. It is best to engage with the
parties and assist with the dialogue. Punitive actions are clearly not
helping the situation," Pahad said.

While South Africa was "perpetually involved" in facilitating the talks, it
had not been asked to mediate or chair the dialogue between the ruling
Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change, he said.

"Our interest is not to get the limelight, but to get progress," Pahad said.

The Southern African Development Community, which meets in Tanzania later
this month, is also expected to rally behind Zimbabwe in campaigning for its
re-entry into the Commonwealth, and the easing of penalties by Europe and
the United States.

SADC officials said President Robert Mugabe would, however, have to report
"tangible progress" in the talks if his counterparts in Dar es Salaam were
to throw their weight behind him.

Despite repeated denials by Zanu-PF and the MDC that they were engaged in
direct talks, it emerged this week that the two parties have been talking
for several months.

Sources said talks had been in progress since May. The talks were to clear
disputed issues before an announcement of formal dialogue.

MDC delegation leader to the talks, Welshman Ncube, and his Zanu-PF
counterpart, Patrick Chinamasa, have held numerous meetings to discuss the
contested issues in last year's agenda.

The talks stalled last year following the MDC's court challenge of the
election results.

Issues in contention include confidence-building measures; Mugabe's
legitimacy; political violence; constitutional changes; and the economy.

The two parties want to build sufficient confidence in the process of
dialogue before talks restart. This is to prevent a collapse once again.

Progress has apparently been made in the removal of some hurdles.

Both parties have reached consensus on the issue of Mugabe's re-election.

The MDC has agreed to suspend its court petition challenging Mugabe's
disputed election victory, once formal talks resume.

And Zanu-PF has also agreed to the terms.

The two parties have also agreed to deal with the issues of political
violence, legislative reforms, changing of electoral laws and restoring
civil and political liberties.

Zanu-PF and MDC delegates to the negotiations are exploring ways of coming
up with a new constitution. This is seen as a short-cut to resolving the
country's crisis.

If a new constitution is agreed upon, it could lead to fresh elections. In
this case, most of the currently contested issues would be automatically

Religious leaders have also stepped-up efforts to see formal dialogue resume
as soon as possible.

On Friday, the MDC submitted its proposal on the agenda, and the way
forward, to the leader of the church mediators, Bishop Sebastian Bakarie.

The MDC document contains issues such as the need to modify the electoral
framework, the repeal of repressive legislation, the de-politicisation of
the security forces, the disbanding of Zanu-PF militias, the ending of
political violence, and the assurance of non-partisan distribution of food.

The document also deals with economic issues, and proposes urgent measures
to be taken to address the crisis.

Zanu-PF is expected to submit its own report to the church leaders next

The clerics will formulate an integrated agenda, the terms for dialogue, and
time-frames before the talks begin in earnest.

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