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Mediagate: the big plot

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya
THE take-over of private newspapers and running of online publications by
the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) was an essential part of the
state security agency's strategy to influence political events and Zanu PF's
succession struggle, it has emerged.

The covert media ownership operation was designed to manage public opinion
as social and economic conditions deteriorated dramatically after the
government's chaotic land seizures and a violent parliamentary election in
2000. Sources said it was calculated to secure good media publicity and to
repair government's battered image following land grabs and violent

Intelligence sources said the CIO was shaken by the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change's performance in the 2000 general election and decided to
find ways to win back hearts and minds. The CIO was also anxious to
influence the Zanu PF succession struggle.

As a result a project was hatched to buy into private newspapers and also to
eliminate those which could not be bought. Sources said the strategy was
copied from Angola where the largest circulating daily is owned by the state
security service.

The intelligence agency has wrested control of Zimbabwe Mirror Newspapers
Group, publishers of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, and the Financial
Gazette through a front ownership structure.

The CIO also reportedly runs or influences other media outlets including
news websites, a production house, and the government-owned media.

Sources said the CIO - under former State Security minister Nicholas Goche -
decided in 2001 to buy into private papers due to political events in the
country seen as posing a serious threat to President Mugabe's regime. The
public media was already in the hands of Information minister Jonathan Moyo.

The sources said Goche and the CIO reckoned there was no way the Zanu PF
faction led by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru could use the state
media to influence events in the ruling party when Moyo was in charge.

"The takeover of private newspapers was a CIO strategy to influence public
opinion, and hopefully events in the country, and also manage the dynamics
of Mugabe's succession," a source said.

"Goche realised it was not possible for his (the Mujuru) faction to work
with Moyo and decided to bypass him in arranging newspaper takeovers."

The plan largely worked because the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror were
deployed to back Vice-President Joice Mujuru in the run-up to the Zanu PF
congress in December last year. They were unleashed against her rival,
Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Sources said this explains why the CIO media project has caused divisions in
Zanu PF, cabinet and government departments because it was designed to serve
factional interests.

Reports say the CIO was behind the closure of the Associated Newspapers of
Zimbabwe titles -- Daily News and Daily News on Sunday - as well as the
Tribune and Weekly Times. They are also interested in Zanu PF's weekly

The seizure of Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard chairman Trevor Ncube's
passport last week is said to be part of the broad strategy to undermine his
media house. Sources said the CIO wanted to force Ncube to leave the country
illegally to attend to his South African business interests.

This would give them an opportunity to declare him a "fugitive" and then
specify him, laying the ground for the take-over of his papers.

Ncube's passport was seized by a CIO officer under instructions from
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede and chief immigration officer Elasto
Mugwadi. Mudede and Mugwadi work closely with the CIO under the Joint
Operations Command which brings security service chiefs together every
Friday to discuss security issues.

Sources say the CIO has been trying to deal with the Independent and
Standard to finish off the mainstream private press in the country. The
media strategy is part of the CIO's broad plan codenamed Project October.

The plan entails tackling opposition parties and civic groups and
influencing events in Zanu PF and outside using the media. Journalists and
civic society leaders have been recruited to work as part of the scheme.

Sources said the CIO newspaper takeovers (Mediagate) - first reported by the
Independent on August 12 - were devised to allow state agents to occupy a
vast swathe of opinion space and manipulate the Zanu PF succession debate.

Insiders say Zanu PF is surviving on the political quicksands due to support
by state security forces who are increasingly enmeshed in partisan politics.

Remarks on Monday by Major-General Martin Chedondo at an army pass-out
parade in Gweru that soldiers should not support the MDC provide further
evidence of this.

The most brazen case was on the eve of the 2002 presidential election when
former Defence Forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe warned the army
would not accept a winner without liberation war credentials.

The militarisation of the state bureaucracy and other government
institutions has also given the army a strong hand in politics, while making
security agencies the building blocks to power. The CIO media take-overs
complete the grand plan.

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NMB whistleblower demands $33 billion

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
A WHISTLEBLOWER in NMB Bank's foreign currency case is demanding a
staggering $33 billion from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for his
efforts in providing incriminating evidence against the financial

Robson Chapfika has filed a High Court application demanding US$246 047 ($19
254 900 079 at a rate of $79 257), R570 000 ($6 785 850 000 at rate of $11
904), 300 euro ($27 291 900 at rate of $90 973), £28 500 ($3 832 053 000 at
a rate of $134 458) and 221 000 pula ($3 046 485 000 at rate of $13 785),
being 10% of the recovered value of the forex allegedly mishandled by the

In his maiden monetary policy statement in December 2003 RBZ governor Gideon
Gono announced the setting up of a whistleblower's fund to reward those who
provided tangible evidence of economic crimes resulting in the recovery of
monies. There has been controversy around the scheme as another high-profile
whistleblower in the Mutumwa Mawere case has claimed the RBZ has not paid

In the court papers to hand, Chapfika, who cites the RBZ as the sole
respondent, said the evidence he provided to the central bank met the
criteria for quality information as it mentioned the nature of the crime,
being the sale of foreign currency to unauthorised dealers and named the
illegal dealers and NMB as being the company involved.

He said the information also mentioned the method of commission of the
offence as the externalisation of funds.

"Acting on the information supplied by the plaintiff," said Chapfika in the
papers, "and pursuant to a meeting between the defendant's officials,
plaintiff and the police details from the Zimbabwe Republic Police Special
Investigations Unit, the police prepared two dockets upon which NMB Bank Ltd
and four of its directors were charged and convicted of selling foreign
currency to an unauthorised dealer without the authority of the Exchange
Control (authorities)," a court document said.

The bank pleaded guilty to the criminal charges and was fined about $1,4
billion and an additional sum of US$1,7 million was forfeited to the state.

Chapfika said the RBZ, by inviting whistleblowers, had entered into a
contract and acting on that offer, he provided quality information that was
not only prosecutable and credible but also led to a conviction.

He said the RBZ had managed to recover the entire value involved in the
alleged illegal foreign currency transactions.

It was not clear at the time of going to press whether the RBZ had filed
papers to defend the case.

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Inflation clouds festive season

Zim Independent

      Grace Kombora

      A CARTOON depicting a worker celebrating his untaxed bonus only to be
stopped dead in his tracks by the level of price increases reflected on shop
shelves graphically illustrates the plight of most Zimbabwean families.

      In biblical terms, government hath given with the right hand and taken
with the left by scaling up the annual bonus threshold while removing price
controls and giving retailers free rein to hike prices.

      Spending power among ordinary Zimbabweans continues to be eroded as
inflation has pushed the prices of basic commodities beyond the reach of

      Inflation figures released last week by the Central Statistical Office
triggered apprehension among consumers at a time of the year when families
traditionally spoil themselves and their loved ones with gifts.

      Zimbabwe's inflation last week nosed up to 502,4% from a previous high
of 411%, making life unbearable for many. Loss in value of the Zimbabwean
currency has created a legion of poor millionaires.

      Most families are likely to face a bleak Christmas.

      Holding a blue plastic shopping bag, Munyaradzi Moyo is deeply worried
after paying $2 million for just a few items.

      Moyo (36), a father of four, wonders what the future has in store for
him. He has to budget tightly for his family to get through the whole month.

      With a loaf of bread now costing $50 000, up from $36 000, his family
is unlikely to enjoy this festive season.

      Recently, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) put the cost of a
basket of basic foodstuffs for a family of six at $12,9 million.

      "Even if I go shopping with $5 million I return home with a handful of
grocery items for the family," Moyo says.

      "I am ever stressed, without the peace of mind that goes with the
festive season," Moyo adds, chagrined by the prevailing situation.

      In Kuwadzana where he rents four rooms, he is often at loggerheads
with his landlord for failure to provide antiseptics for the toilet, because
he cannot afford to buy toilet cleaning material. Even the landlord finds it
hard to buy some.

      "It's now a dog eat dog world in Zimbabwe," Moyo says.

      Not only does the issue of antiseptics sour Moyo's relationship with
his landlord, he now has to face regular rent hikes. He pays $2 million
monthly for a room.

      In the recently announced inflation figures, home rentals have surged
by 1 164,4 % on a rise in demand attributed to the bulldozing of urban slums
and illegal structures by President Robert Mugabe's government earlier this

      The United Nations says that operation left 700 000 roofless.

      Surprisingly, in some shops prices of goods increase while one stands
by the till with the operators telling consumers that prices have just

      "Prices increase by shocking margins in the time shoppers take to
cover the distance from the shelves to the till," complained Tariro Nyoka.

      And although every other Zimbabwean is now a millionaire, they cannot
afford to buy basic goods and services from the shops.

      Shopping is now an ordeal rather than a pleasure. Consumers now wonder
aloud whether they will be able to pay school fees in January if the rate of
inflation continues to rise at its present pace.

      The CCZ says consumers should shop around to avoid being ripped off by
unscrupulous retailers. This will help them get a fair deal.

      Runaway inflation is one of the most visible signs of an economy in
its sixth year of recession marked by severe shortages of foreign currency,
fuel and food widely blamed on government mismanagement.

      Analysts said the latest jump in inflation dashes hopes that the
government can contain inflation to 300% by end of the month. Although price
controls were removed in the recently announced budget, basic commodities
continue to be scarce on shelves.

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International press outcry over passport seizure

Zim Independent

THE seizure of the passport of owner and publisher of the Zimbabwe
Independent and Standard and leading South African weekly, the Mail &
Guardian, Trevor Ncube, has captured the attention of international news
organisations, which have slammed the action by government as an attempt to
silence dissent.

* International Press Institute director Johann P Fritz wrote to South
African President Thabo Mbeki asking him to "use your office to raise the
issue of press freedom in neighbouring Zimbabwe at the highest levels of the
Zimbabwean government.

"In particular, IPI calls on Your Excellency to express the concerns of the
South African government and the wider international community at the
confiscation of publisher Trevor Ncube's passport and the growing evidence
that the Zimbabwean government intends to target a list of around 60 people
in the same manner under an amendment to the Zimbabwean Constitution.

"Given South Africa's modern history of overthrowing apartheid, and its many
brutalities and intimidations, no other country in Southern Africa is better
placed to remind the Zimbabwean government of the need to uphold fundamental
human rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression."

Ncube recovered his passport this week after making a High Court

* Reporters Without Borders said: "How repressive can Robert Mugabe's
government get before it is called to account? Zimbabwe is a member of the
Southern African Development Community and is under South Africa's
influence, yet it is not threatened with any coercive measure over its
repeated press violations. Action to help Zimbabweans recover their civil
and political liberties is long overdue."

* World Association of Newspapers president, Gavin O' Reilly said: "We are
seriously concerned that the confiscation of his (Ncube's) passport may be
related to criticism of Zimbabwean authorities contained in the newspapers
he publishes.

"We respectfully remind you that if this is so, the seizure of Mr Ncube's
passport constitutes a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression,
which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states:

'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right
includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of

* The Mail & Guardian board chair Prof MW Makgoba said: "We call on the
government of Zimbabwe to urgently return Ncube's passport to ensure that
his freedom of movement is returned to him. We have no doubt that Ncube is
being punished for shining the light of truth on the rights abuses in
Zimbabwe, a country which he loves and of which he is a son.

"The confiscation of Ncube's passport is yet another step backward in

Zimbabwe's decline. It is a sad day for Africa and a step back for the

New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), the continental programme
aimed at lifting our continent high."

* Print Media SA president Connie Molusi said: "Print Media SA believes that
this action further undermines the principles of freedom of expression and
freedom of the press in Zimbabwe.

"This is a flagrant assault on the media and freedom of expression .

"We are very concerned that this action not only interferes with Ncube's
rights of free movement as a citizen, but also restricts his activities as
an accomplished publisher of various newspapers with titles in Southern
Africa." - Staff Writer.

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AirZim in debt trap

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya
NATIONAL airline Air Zimbabwe is caught in a serious debt trap which is
crippling its operations and hampering efforts by stakeholders to revive the
sinking carrier.

Air Zimbabwe, now surviving on financial handouts from the central bank, has
a US$14 million debt with $100 billion owing. The debt crisis has become an
albatross around the neck of the airline already reeling from a number of
other problems such as a depleted fleet, failure to service its routes, poor
revenue inflows and mismanagement - mostly by incompetent political

Documents in the possession of this paper show that the Reserve Bank has
kept Air Zimbabwe flying by doling out public funds every month.

Since August the airline has borrowed US$13 million and £378 591 from the
central bank. The money was used largely to pay Air BP International for
fuel, aviation insurance, auxiliary power unit, and IATA for clearing

Air Zimbabwe has also received at least $722 billion for working capital and
servicing its overdraft facility with the Jewel Bank from the central bank's
Parastatal Re-orientation Programme (Parp), which started in February.

A report by the Reserve Bank's Parp division chief Rongai Chizema sent to
deputy central bank governor Nicholas Ncube, dated November 24, on Air
Zimbabwe, says Parp is currently exposed to the tune of $717 billion. It
says the money from the central bank was used to service the carrier's
overdraft facility at Jewel Bank and FBC Bank (formerly First Bank). It was
also used to pay for weekly fuel requirements. Air Zimbabwe now needs about
800 000 litres a week.

Chizema's report, obtained from Air Zimbabwe, says efforts to revive the
airline have not succeeded because of embedded structural problems at the

It cites Air Zimbabwe's problems as weak financial controls, poor marketing
strategies and revenue-generating initiatives, poor cost management systems,
weak corporate governance, structures and systems, poor conditions of
service, poor equipment utilisation, and lack of a consistent management

"The matters requiring attention at the airline have been attended to on an
ad hoc basis, which is typical of crisis management," the report says. "Such
conditions, if allowed to continue, would jeopardise the turnaround
potential of the airline."

Chizema's report further says Parp's goal is to stabilise Air Zimbabwe and
to reposition its balance sheet and revive its collapsing operations.

"Parp also seeks to ensure that revenues and expenses are properly accounted
for in order to portray the correct sate of the financial affairs for the
airline at any given point in time," it says.

It says the short-term challenges facing Air Zimbabwe which will have an
immediate impact on its operations if unresolved include its failure to bill
onward passengers and personal cargo in United States dollars, non-billing
of outward bound passengers for passenger service charges in US dollars,
plying non-performing routes, use of wrong sets of equipment on domestic and
regional routes, non-availability of financial management systems, lack of
cost control systems, and aircraft flying without an auxiliary unit,
something which results in extra fuel usage and high maintenance costs on
international routes.

Air Zimbabwe, run down through extended periods of mismanagement and
under-capitalisation, now only has eight planes, two of which are non
operational, compared to the 18 planes it had at Independence in 1980.

After scrapping 12 regional routes, the airline still flies to Johannesburg,
Mauritius, Lusaka, Lilongwe and Nairobi. Locally, it flies to Bulawayo,
Victoria Falls and Kariba after pulling out of the Masvingo, Hwange and
Buffalo Range routes. Internationally, it goes to London, Dubai and Beijing.

As part of a strategy to ensure the airline's recovery, Chizema's report
suggests an overhaul of the management and operations structures and
systems. There have been many meetings between Air Zimbabwe and government
officials of late trying to resolve the airline's problems.

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MDC infighting becomes circus

Zim Independent

Ray Matikinye
REPORTS this week that one of the rival factions in the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) held a national council meeting that upheld
party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's suspension have left the electorate
wondering whether the curtain will ever come down on the political farce
they are witnessing.

Both sides seem to claim legitimacy and accuse each other of violating the
party constitution. But the MDC power struggle has now degenerated into a

Following a meeting of the national council on December 1 that summoned the
pro-senate faction comprising Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube, Gift
Chimanikire, Fletcher Dulini Ncube, Paul Themba Nyathi and Trudy Stevenson
to a disciplinary hearing which suspended them (they did not attend), the
group has countered by reafffirming Tsvangirai's suspension for violating
the constitution.

Accusations flying between the factions have left party supporters
bewildered and the MDC paralysed.

Analysts say the major loser in the on-going fight for supremacy in the MDC
is the electorate that had invested so much hope and faith in the opposition
party. Indeed many have died for it.

Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of
Zimbabwe, said the two factions in the MDC seem to have reached a point
where reconciliation was impossible.

"The MDC has reached the end of the road as a unified political
organisation," Masunungure said.

"Each of the two forces can go their own way, rather than pretend that they
can reconcile and operate like they did before they split over the issue of
the senate. The brutal reality is that they each have to go their separate
ways," he said.

But Tsvangirai's spokesman William Bango scoffed at the idea of the party

"We are currently re-organising the party ahead of the congress and I am
afraid our colleagues will be left behind while concentrating their energies
on misinterpreting the constitution," Bango said yesterday.

"Congress will decide who the MDC is and which path the people want to

However, the pro-senate faction also said they were organising for congress.

Nelson Chamisa, who is on the side of MDC leader Tsvangirai, yesterday said
the pro-senate group was violating the constitution by holding "unlawful"

"We challenge the 'rebels' to go to court if they cannot interpret our
constitution," Chamisa said.

"It is becoming clear that the 'rebels' respect constitutionalism and the
rule of law for as long as it is not against them."

The pro-senate group has been accusing Tsvangirai of violating the
constitution and unleashing thugs against party colleagues.

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Mandaza case postponed again

Zim Independent

SUSPENDED Zimbabwe Mirror Newspapers Group CEO and editor-in-chief Ibbo
Mandaza's case came unstuck in the courts this week - for the fifth time -
and was postponed to Monday after defence lawyers failed to appear.

Mandaza has been fighting his suspension from the Mirror for the past two
months but he has not been able to go back to work despite winning a court
order lifting his suspension last week.

Mandaza's lawyer Joseph Mandizha said yesterday they were going back to the
courts on Monday to look for a "correction or clarification order" to put
the issue beyond any reasonable doubt.

Justice Bharat Patel last week granted Mandaza a court order lifting his
suspension. The order interdicted, prohibited and restrained the Mirror
board from holding or continuing any disciplinary proceedings or other
actions against Mandaza.

However, Mirror group deputy chairman John Marangwanda served Mandaza with a
fresh suspension letter based on three counts of alleged fraud outside the
court. Mandaza was first suspended in October by the Mirror chair Jonathan
Kadzura and Marangwanda without giving reasons.

Since then Mandaza has been struggling to regain control of the Mirror
group, publishers of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, taken over by the
Central Intelligence Organsiation (CIO) using public funds.

Mandizha said Mandaza would proceed on Monday to seek court protection from
Marangwanda's action to suspend the Mirror boss again which amounted to
contempt of court.

Marangwanda's move last week disturbed other Mirror board members loyal to
Mandaza, Ambassador Buzwani Mothobi and Amy Tsanga, who issued a statement
saying the "re-suspension" of the Mirror founder was unacceptable.

Mothobi and Tsanga said the alleged charges of fraud against Mandaza were
"clearly contrived" as the Ernst & Young forensic audit report on which they
were purportedly based was "irregular" because there was no board meeting
that sanctioned the investigation.

"As board members, we have also examined the alleged 'acts of fraud' and
'mismanagement' which have been levelled against Dr Mandaza by the purported
(Kadzura) board," Mothobi and Tsanga said in a joint press release.

"These (allegations) are clearly contrived and baseless, designed to create
a pretext for the blatant attempt to appropriate a privately-owned business
by a group persons - and their associates - who have in vain tried to act as
a board." - Staff Writer.

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GMB fails to pay wheat producers

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
THE government, through the bankrupt Grain Marketing Board (GMB), has failed
to pay wheat farmers producer prices and bonuses in another display of
inefficiency by the Agriculture ministry.

Farmers who delivered wheat early to the GMB hoping to use the proceeds to
finance this season's maize crop are stranded as there is no money to pay

Tobacco farmers this week also said they had not been paid bonuses announced
by government five months ago.

Farmers who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent expressed grave concern over
the GMB's inefficiency, which they said would affect the whole farming cycle
as "present farming expenditure heavily depends on profits made from current

This is set to jeopardise government's efforts to revive the ailing
agricultural sector.

Government this year announced a producer a price of $6,9 million per tonne
for wheat, from $2,4 million paid last year. Farmers said this was still
unsustainable as they needed an initial capital outlay of about $14 million
to cater for production costs, prompting them hold on to the crop.

Government, which was importing wheat at over $20 million a tonne, through
the central bank, responded by announcing a bonus price of $3 million a
tonne over and above the producer price, thereby pushing the new offer price
to $9,9 million a tonne. Due to this lure, the farmers started delivering
the crop they were holding but cheques have not come from the central bank.

"We were desperate for money," said a farmer who preferred anonymity.

"We proceeded to deliver our crop since the new buying price was fair, but
up until now we've not received a penny. One wonders how the farming
community is going to produce without sufficient capital. No wonder the
so-called land reform is failing."

Farmers have also been cast into financial difficulties as their bank loans
are overdue and continue accruing interest.

Ironically, government is making a windfall by charging millers $12 million
for a tonne of wheat, paid in advance while taking months to pay the

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Zimbabwe now a virtual penal colony

Zim Independent

Ray Matikinye

IT was with an exquisite stroke of genius that Kenyan Professor Ali Mazrui
coined the phrase "exogenous determinism" to describe the foolhardy practice
of blaming everyone else but themselves adopted by African nationalists to
shield their post-Independence failures.

When he fashioned that phrase in his book The African, he had no inkling
whatsoever that one day a nation that had so much potential as Zimbabwe at
Independence from colonial administrators would fritter away the chance and
make full use of exogenous determinism to explain all its failures.

Neither did he envisage that African leaders would seek to redefine and
qualify the meanings of freedom, democracy and human rights, which they
touted as guiding principles that spurred their fight for self-determination
from their colonisers.

Yet, over time since Independence from Britain in 1980, particularly in the
past five years, President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF government has shown
enormous powers of assimilating undemocratic practices and passed laws akin
to those crafted by the colonial regime it replaced.

Some, like Posa, Aippa and recently the Constitutional Amendment No 17, have
so shocked Zimbabwe's erstwhile friends that they have begun to doubt
whether any revolution has taken place.

It is incomprehensible that Zimbabwean leaders who spent long periods in
jails and detention centres should fail to grasp the basic tenets of freedom
and democracy that they were fighting for.

And there appears to be a persistent effort on the part of government to
chip away at people's rights and freedoms, and ultimately their morale.

Last week government used what a state official termed "compulsive"
patriotism to impound publisher Trevor Ncube and opposition politician Paul
Themba Nyathi's passports, purportedly to stop them from demonising Zimbabwe
whenever they travel abroad.

"Ask Tony Blair and George Bush why they imposed sanctions on us," commented
Information and Publicity deputy minister, Bright Matonga, when asked why
Zimbabwe would impose travel restrictions on its own people.

"They go about spreading falsehoods and we will do everything to defend our
sovereignty," Matonga said to justify a state violation of one of the basic

If impounding passports and restricting travel is meant to inculcate and
compel citizens to be patriotic, there seems to be no plausible reason why a
government that claims to have brought about democracy and freedom should
abridge civil liberties.

But patriotism has nothing to do with delusions that everything will be okay
were it not for the media, human rights activists and opposition politicians
telling the world that Zimbabweans deserve better.

Patriotism is devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life
that one believes is the best in the world.

Zimbabwe is one such place that, had it not been for a government that is
temperamentally hostile to the freedom of its own people, freedoms such as
that of speech, association, travel or expression would be taken for

Curtailing such freedoms by government does little to inspire confidence in
its own people. A dangerous creed that Zanu PF is spreading can only appeal
to citizens who think patriotism involves oppressing their own people.

Critics say impounding passports and issuing a list of people whose travel
documents should be withdrawn in the same week that the Australian Reserve
Bank issued theirs is a ploy by government to countermand travel
restrictions imposed on Mugabe, his lieutenants and their families by the EU
and the US.

The travel restrictions have invented designer excuses for government to
explain its economic failures.

"That is absolute nonsense," Australian ambassador John Sheppard says,
explaining government's sing-song.

Trade between Australia and Zimbabwe has shrunk because Zimbabwe has no
foreign currency to import agricultural equipment like it used to, he said.

"On the other hand Zimbabwe cannot export tobacco to Australia as in the
past because of the ruinous land reform programme that has seen agricultural
production decline dramatically," Sheppard  adds.

Zanu PF has continued undaunted to preach an outdated gospel and seems
unable to grasp the fact that its message wins it few listeners - unless you
count Coltrane Chimurenga.

The suffocating stupidity of government propaganda has frightened away those
who would assist it see reason and work towards the betterment of the
ordinary man in the street. The ruling party's actions have forced people to
look abroad for inspiration.

For instance is has hounded bankers, judges, black entrepreneurs and
journalists into exile.

The latest actions were taken in pursuit of a provision in the
Constitutional Amendment No 17 that was railroaded through parliament by
Zanu PF using its parliamentary majority.

Analysts say the Bill was enacted in an omnibus fashion to avoid MPs
debating contentious issues.

"This is about intimidation. This is about clamping down on the independent
media," Ncube says about the seizure of his passport by the state. "This is
about thorough control which has forced people to look over their shoulders
before they speak.

"It is about taking away the freedom of the people to move about doing
honest business."

More importantly, Ncube says, there is a broader plan than just restricting
his movements. "The government has not been able to do an Ibbo Mandaza on
the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard," he explains in reference to
spirited efforts by the government to take over the last independent
newspaper titles after muscling into the Mirror Group of Newspapers through
the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

"They cannot manipulate me or the people that work for the two titles,"
Ncube says.

Ncube says by taking away his passport government is trying to  entice him
to slip out of the country without travel documents, then use that as an
excuse to take over his publications.

"In their thinking I have a lot to lose if I remain in Zimbabwe. So I should
be most tempted to skip the border to run my other publication. Government
would then specify me and take over the papers."

Ncube owns the Mail & Guardian weekly newspaper in South Africa.

Government has been busy destroying its own image in the eyes of the
international world.

In a statement last weekend, Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee
for the Protection of Journalists said the existence of a list of people
whose passports should be invalidated is an affront to basic rights,
including freedom of expression and freedom of movement.

"This is nothing short of a witch hunt against those courageous few who
still dare publicly to criticise President Robert Mugabe's regime and its
repression," a statement from the CPJ said.

The EU too expressed outrage against government's seizure of passports from
its critics saying these actions violated the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights which guarantees everyone "the right to leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his country".

"Any withdrawal of a passport prevents freedom of movement and is in breach
of the declaration. We have repeatedly expressed concerns about the human
rights record in Zimbabwe and called on the government to respect
individuals' rights, which include free expression and free movement."

Last year the Zanu PF government passed legislation that banned foreign
funding for local rights groups and tightened the registration of other
NGOs.  And time is proving that Mugabe is reluctant to sign the Bill into
law because the country solely needs aid from international donors and
development agencies to ameliorate worsening food and fuel shortages.

Undaunted by the setback, Mugabe's Zanu PF last week adopted a party central
committee report that recommended government take action against NGOs and
civic groups alligned to the opposition.

"The opposition is also grouped in the form of NGOs and civic groups, all
sponsored by the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union,"
one of the party resolutions adopted by its congress says. "Stern action
shall be taken against them."

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Industrial output to decline in 2006 - economists

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
LOW foreign direct investment threatens economic growth and will see the
country's industrial output plummeting further in the coming year,
economists say.

Commentators attributed the poor investment to government's skewed economic
policies, which have scared investors. They also note that "serious
political reforms need to be implemented as the political environment has a
great influence on business as the two are interdependent and complement
each other".

Economist John Robertson said the relocation of conglomerates such as
Coca-Cola to South Africa a few years ago are an sign that the country is
not conducive for investors.

"This was a major blow," he said "We're losing jobs and investors. The
message it sends to the world is painful and damaging as Zimbabwe is being
depicted as an unsuitable investment destination and we're paying a high
price for that."

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Pattison Sithole declined to
comment, saying they were in the processes of compiling a report on industry
in terms of activity and levels of productivity.

"It's difficult to make an assessment of where we are without proper
research," said Sithole. "We are in the process of compiling an industry
assessment report expected to be out any time from now. So let's wait for
the report and then we can make conclusions based on its findings."

A total of 33 firms, representing about a fifth of Zimbabwe's export
companies, closed down during the first half of the year due to the economic
meltdown in the country.

According to a report done by the Export Processing Zones Authority, of the
33 firms 12 were agro-companies shut down after their farms were acquired
during government's botched land reform exercise.

This has deprived the economy of more than US$17,6 million.

Zimbabwe is suffering from its worst economic recession since independence
in 1980. Once a vibrant economy driven by a robust agricultural base and low
levels of unemployment, the country has been reduced from a breadbasket to a
basket case.

It has the highest inflation rate in the world, which this week surged to
502% from 411% last month, representing a 91 percentage point increase. The
government however remains adamant that the economy will get back on its
feet soon.

Finance minister Herbert Murerwa in his 2006 national budget presentation
recently projected economic growth of by between 2% and 3,5% next year in
contrast to the International Monetary Fund's forecast of minus 4,8% gross
domestic product contraction.

President Robert Mugabe declared 2005 a year of investment, but as we draw
to a close there is no meaningful foreign investments to talk of save for a
few business agreements signed with China as part of government's "Look
East" policy.

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Zim falls further in investment ratings

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari
ZIMBABWE continues to tumble in global investment destination ratings
despite government's claims that it has created a favourable environment to
lure off-shore business.

A recent report compiled by the Investment Climate Department of the World
Bank ranks Zimbabwe as one of the most difficult countries to do business in
because of bureaucracy, corruption-prone systems and high start-up costs.

The report titled, Doing business in 2006, ranks Zimbabwe 126 out of 155
countries that were surveyed to ascertain the investment climate.

The report ranks Zimbabwe's investment climate as one of the worst in Sadc
where it is ranked 10th out of the twelve countries considered.

Seychelles and Swaziland were the only Sadc members that were not included
in the study. Only Tanzania and war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo are
rated worse than Zimbabwe.

Mozambique, a country recovering from civil war, is ranked better than
Zimbabwe at 110 globally and ninth in the region.

The survey looked at critical issues that businesses consider before
investing in a country such as the cost and time of starting a business,
licencing, registration of property and protection of investors.

Mauritius is ranked 23, making it the African country with the most
conducive environment for business. Neighbouring South Africa is rated 28th,
Namibia (33), Botswana (40) while Zambia is 67 out of the 155 countries.

Malawi is ranked 96, Lesotho 97 and Mozambique 110. New Zealand is the
easiest country to do business in, according to the report.

The report measured the number of taxes that investors have to pay and
procedures they have to follow when closing businesses and exporting or
importing products.

It considered the cost and procedures for hiring and firing workers and
enforcing contractual agreements in the corporate world.

Zimbabwe is among the countries with the highest business start-up costs. It
is also among the countries with the highest costs of registering a

The report noted that there was a direct relationship between the business
atmosphere and employment creation.

"Although macro-policies are unquestionably important, there is a growing
consensus that the quality of government regulation of business is a major
determinant of prosperity," say the report.

While in other successful countries like Finland it takes about 56 days for
an investor to get a licence, in Zimbabwe it takes 481 days (about 1 year
and 4 months) to get the same document. A business has to wait 160 days to
get a licence in Botswana, 165 in Zambia and 176 days in South Africa.

Zimbabwe is also fares lowly in corporate governance and regulating of the
liability of directors to the shareholders.

Joanna Kate-Blackman, a private sector development analyst with the World
Bank department who visited Zimbabwe last week, told businessdigest that
there was need for more reforms to increase investment in the country.

She said their research had shown that there was a direct relationship
between bureaucracy and corruption. "For instance, the number of procedures
that investors go through to get a licence in Zimbabwe create fertile ground
for corruption," said Kate-Blackman.

"Increased interaction between business and government officials also
increases the chances of corruption." She said Zimbabwe and other African
countries needed more reforms to create an investor friendly environment.

"A better investment environment creates employment and reduces poverty."

The report is one of many that have ranked Zimbabwe lowly as an investment
destination. Other global economic intelligence data have rated Zimbabwe
among the worst because of its political and economic risk and lack of
property rights

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Beware soldier

Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

Vincent Kahiya
I WAS not at all surprised by Major-General Martin Chedondo's bluster at the
beginning of the week that members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces must not
support the opposition MDC.

My last encounter with military officers at the Staff College earlier in the
year exposed the extent of the politicisation of the force. I recall
officers putting up a feeble show to prove that soldiers in Zimbabwe were
professional and apolitical. They are not, as was aptly demonstrated by

"If there is any among you with a soft spot for the Movement for Democratic
Change, the military is not your place," Chedondo said in an address to army
graduates in Gweru.

Compare Chedondo's statement with this one by Defence minister Sydney
Sekeramayi in February last year at a reception for defence attaches.

"May I remind you that the world over the defence forces as the most
powerful instrument of the state apparatus must be apolitical for they are
meant to guarantee the peace and security of every citizen in the nation
irrespective of religious, political or social affiliation."

I sense in Chedondo's remarks a military outfit no longer shy to advertise
its partisan nature. Sekeramayi's official line on the professionalism and
political neutrality of the army has been well and truly dumped. It has been
superseded by a clearer policy that positions the army as an apparatus of
Zanu PF and not necessarily of government.

But it should be borne in mind that the army assumed this role way back in
2002 when former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Vitalis
Zvinavashe and other service chiefs called a press conference to announce:
"We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security
organisations will only stand in support of those political leaders that
will pursue Zimbabwean values. We will therefore not accept, let alone
support or salute, anyone with a different agenda."

After that infamous military pronouncement, there were strenuous attempts by
government and servicemen to give the statement a less corrosive meaning. We
were assured that "the military was apolitical and would serve any
government". This does not include an MDC government. They forgot to add
this proviso at the time.

Thanks to Chedondo, the military's position is now unambiguous. It is also
very dangerous.

It is dangerous because President Mugabe does not see anything wrong with
it. He is in Malaysia this week to attend a dubious conference running under
the name Perdana Peace Forum where he will posture as a paragon of virtue
and a defender of the poor.

He is today expected to give a keynote address at a luncheon hosted for
delegates to the conference. His speech will be as predictable as a book.

He will attack the United States and Britain over the war in Iraq and the
wider war on terror. He will excoriate rich countries for dictating terms to
the third world. He is right and everyone else is wrong, including the
United Nations. But this is the tragedy of African leaders. They expect to
get world respect while failing to deal decisively with problems in their
own backyards.

There is instead this obsession with limousines, foreign travels and
posturing at useless conferences.

If this is a very useful conference at which Zimbabwe has to be represented
at all costs, our delegates there should carefully read and reflect on the
objectives of the Peace Forum.

Three of them read: "To facilitate socio-political dialogue regarding peace
issues; to facilitate dialogue with all participants, as well as underscore
the importance of respecting the opinions of all participants and recognise
the right of divergent views as a basis for a peaceful solution to
conflicts; and to appeal to appropriate political representatives prepared
to support the causes of peace and accept the challenges of the 21st

The 21st century challenge before Zimbabwe at the moment is for our leaders
to recognise the importance of divergent views and respect for other
people's opinions in solving conflict. But there has been a preoccupation
with the myth that our government is not capable of erring and that the
antidote to the crisis is more repression and other thuggish approaches to
dealing with opponents. The Zanu PF government should make peace with
Zimbabweans by listening and not imposing thought processes.

Writing in the banned Daily News in July 2003 Father Oskar Wermter aptly
captured how we are being governed. He said: "We have been bored to tears so
many times by the leader haranguing us endlessly because he knows everything
and we, the people, apparently know nothing, nothing at least that would
interest him.

"We need leaders who listen to us, we who have entrusted them with power by
our vote.

We have been silenced by endless monologues. Instead, we need dialogue.

"Alas, that is what a dictator fears most: he never asks questions because
he has all the answers. In holding a monologue, he is in control, in
listening to people speaking their minds he is not. So, running no risk, he
dictates what they have to answer.

"What we really need are leaders who respect the people, humbly acknowledge
we are all human and at the least, apologise when they fail to fulfill their
promises, and accept responsibility for the life and well-being of all,
friend and foe alike."

The Zanu PF government presiding over our "mature democracy" has failed
dismally to achieve these basic tenets of leadership. Why then should the
president wish to attend a meeting that proclaims values diametrically
opposed to his?

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Boycotts don't win political power

Zim Independent

Joram Nyathi
THE MDC has presented us with an insoluble political conundrum. What makes
you want to shed tears is the inconsequential trigger of the split - the
senate - itself a result of our failure to deal decisively with Zanu PF and
its suffocating regime.

The senate project was conceived as a sputum aimed directly at our face. It
is the ultimate act of contempt for a people so utterly vanquished that they
don't deserve to be consulted on anything. It is a personal project by
President Mugabe for the gratification of venal cronies only too ready to

The debate about who was wrong and who was right between the MDC factions on
the senate issue is now merely academic. We are getting bogged down in a
debate that is not taking us forward. Except that those who advocated a
boycott now have a huge task of showing us what they had up their sleeve. We
are not worried about those who chose to participate. Their case is settled.
If you ask, they will tell you they are now preparing for the next election,
whether parliamentary or presidential. For years Zanu clung to its one seat
in Chipinge; that is how it has survived to this day.

You may wonder what the point is. It is simply that battles are won or lost
by those who fight. You cannot win political power through boycotts and
hunger strikes hoping that global sympathy will get you votes. So for those
in the MDC who have the big picture of a democratic dispensation in future,
the fight is still on and long. The political playing field is transparently
uneven. There is need for a new constitution and fresh ground rules before
we can restore the integrity of the electoral process. That is common cause
throughout the land. But fighting for a new constitution and contesting
elections are not mutually exclusive. If anything, participating in
elections keeps a party combat-ready, otherwise it is no different from a
civic movement without any space to protest.

A party that contests elections avoids the dilemma faced by those who have
to choose which election to take part in and which not though the reasons
for a boycott of the senate were clear enough. It is a useless Mugabe
project to provide himself with a fat mattress for soft-landing when he
"finally decides" to start writing his memoirs. This is where the contempt
for citizens comes in - he will decide himself when to step down. It has
nothing to do with performance or accounting to voters for why he should
continue in power. The MDC poses no danger. In fact it is weaker now than it
was when it emerged from the ZCTU in 1999.

In other words, even before Mugabe decided on the senate bogey, the problems
of a weak leadership in the MDC had become so manifest he didn't need to
consult. This is where those for the boycott miss the point. The MDC won
just 41 seats in March despite countrywide campaigns by Morgan Tsvangirai
and his colleagues. Nobody wants to explain the reduction in seats except to
use unproven claims of rigging. But all are agreed there wasn't as much
violence in 2005 as there was in 2000 when the MDC snatched a
stomach-churning 57 seats from the jaws of a vicious Zanu PF fighting for
its life.

Now there are opportunists who want to give Tsvangirai credit by claiming
that people listened to his call for a boycott to explain the low voter
turnout. The senate's uselessness was its own worst enemy. That explains why
both the MDC pro-senate faction and Zanu PF could not galvanise people to go
out and vote.

There is also the myopic view that people didn't vote because they had more
pressing issues to attend to. We are yet to meet a group of people who have
more fuel or food or new accommodation because they did not vote. Show us
just one family that is better off for boycotting the senate election and we
will show you thousands who still don't know what's next.

Which brings us to the subterfuge by writers who try to turn the boycott
argument on its head. They argue Tsvangirai did not win the call for a
boycott but listened to the people who did not want to vote anyway. They
might be right about the listening bit, but are woefully off the mark about
the reasons why he would need to listen. He was afraid of losing a fourth

There was nothing to hand with which to mobilise people after failing to do
so in March when there was a chance of slashing Zanu PF's majority in
parliament with new electoral rules.

Point number two, these are the same people he had tried to lead in the
"final push" and they ignored him. When he was arrested he expected a
revolt, or at least mass protests. There was nothing. These are the same
people he tried to mobilise for protests over transport problems Mahatma
Ghandi-style in September but they ignored him.

Every astute observer will tell you that was the idea of Tsvangirai walking
to work from his home. But there were no takers and openly calling for mass
protests would have had repercussions on him personally again. These are the
same people who had their homes and businesses destroyed in May under
Operation Murambatsvina but couldn't be moved. So a boycott was the
opportunistic route of a man both frustrated and resigned to a population
badly inured to inaction. Everyone hopes for a miracle without taking time
to pray for it to happen.

But that is not the end of problems for Tsvangirai and his boycott camp. If
you ask them what's next, all they tell you about now is the party congress
in February. But congress is a party fiesta, and offers no urgent solutions
to the national crisis while its aim and objectives are very clear - to deal
once and for all with the pro-senate faction and reassert leadership of the

But that is the simpler part, attacking the point of least resistance to
avoid tackling head-on Zanu PF and Mugabe. Which is why Mugabe is having a
full belly-laugh all the way to Malaysia knowing he is as safe as the
proverbial rock of Gibraltar. When family members fight each other and
ignore the common enemy what threat can they pose to anyone?

Which leads us to the dilemma of boycotts. What happens to Tsvangirai and
his camp should Mugabe call for a presidential election today or in 2008?
The current paralysis has been caused by Tsvangirai's claim that the
electoral laws bring "predetermined outcomes". We believe the electorate at
times feels the same, which is why we advocate constitutional reforms to
fight voter apathy and restore the integrity of democratic electoral

But what happens if the laws are not amended until 2010 when we should have
both presidential and parliamentary elections? That is the big question and
a boycott cannot be taken to be a serious answer for a party that wants to
be seen as a government in waiting. People need to know the position of
their party well ahead of an election to find out the issues at stake and
make informed decisions.

That is why we hope the MDC factions will soon resolve their unedifying
petty squabbles that have bogged them down and look at the bigger picture in
the national interest. After all they are both right on the substantive
issues - one faction is politically correct while the other is legally
right. The party is crying out for leadership renewal and all traces of
dictatorial tendencies and undemocratic dispositions should be nipped in the
bud for the good of us all.

That is the lesson we should have learnt from our recent history.

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Colonial past no excuse for ruin

Zim Independent

By Chido Makunike
IN the last three months I have been privileged to visit and experience
several countries I had never been to before. It is a wonderful education.

Every time I have been in a new place I try to savour the experience as well
as compare it to life in Zimbabwe.

A recurring thought throughout my travels is what a special place Zimbabwe
is. Of course every place is special in its own way, and I do not make this
statement about Zimbabwe at all in a jingoist way. I am also keenly aware of
my homeland's many problems and deficiencies.

I have marvelled at and enjoyed the efficiency and prosperity of some of the
world's most developed countries. I have just arrived in Senegal and look
forward in the coming months to becoming acquainted with parts of Africa I
have not experienced before.

Zimbabwe has (or had) a wonderful combination of modern world infrastructure
and functionality that may have been very unfairly distributed, but that
provided a strong base on which to build and expand for the majority of its
people. Yet it did not have the coldness of many of the highly efficient
developed countries I have visited. While enjoying these countries and
respecting the systems they have been able to build for the benefit of their
societies, there is not a single one that I would rather make my home than
Zimbabwe. It made me even more keenly aware of the immorality and
criminality of Zimbabwe's sadly reduced status at the hands of its rulers.

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe and his cohorts encourage us to think of ourselves as
permanent victims. Victims of seemingly everything and everybody, from the
weather to the past, but especially of Europe and the West in general.

According to Mugabe, all our many and escalating problems can in some way be
traced to colonialism and its aftermath. Not only that, but Mugabe
effectively paints us as being utterly and helplessly at the mercy of that

We are expected to spend more time and energy in feeling sorry for ourselves
over the past than on working to ensure a better future.

Whenever I could, I have tried to get a sense of the history of a place I am
visiting by going to see museums or archeological sites. In this way facts
that you may know from school or from reading history are presented to you
much more graphically and indelibly.

On the south coast of Europe the history of conquests and wars over the
millennia are obvious in just looking at the varied physical makeup of the
population on the street or the beach. The stories of North African Moors
raiding and for a time controlling what are now Spain and Portugal have more
of a ring of truth when one looks at the features of the people in those
countries, their cuisine, their whole way of life. I give this one example
only because "the evidence" was so starkly clear to me.

But everywhere you go, there is hardly any people that do not have a
"colonial history". That history affects every aspect of life forever in one
way or another, both negatively and positively. In some places that colonial
history has receded far enough into the past that it is analysed neutrally,
as something that happened but too far back in time for it to really arouse
any strong emotions any longer. In other places one may find still lingering
resentments, even if former conquerer and conquered are more alike than they
are different, as in the case of Europe's many tribal wars over the

I mention this in the context of Mugabe's pitiful reliance on trying to
stoke resentment over the past to try to explain and justify his anger at
his failure to make present-day Zimbabwe work for its people and to leave a
solid foundation of stability, hope and confidence for future generations of

The colonial experience and fighting to overcome it are not unique to
Zimbabwe. Plunder, mistreatment, injustice and heroic fights against them
are as old as the human experience on this planet. Look around all over the
planet and you will see everywhere examples of people who went through
horrendous ill-treatment but overcame it to not only become self-governing,
but to build highly successful societies. There are nations that are
political, post-colonial contemporaries of Zimbabwe's that are surging
forward inexorably even as Mugabe and his regime tirelessly work to pull
Zimbabwe in the opposite direction.

All over the world people are generally cynical about politics and wary of
politicians. This scepticism is healthy. But Zimbabwe's politicians stand
out for so astonishingly and completely denying responsibility for
everything. They work harder at the denials than they do at dealing with
realities. You can count on hearing more scapegoating, anger and
recrimination from the mouth of Mugabe than you can expect to get cool
analysis and a presentation of realistic problem-solving proposals.

The Mugabe regime may set the dominant pace of the tense, soul-destroying
negative climate that plagues Zimbabwe, but it has now spread everywhere. I
expected to be able to easily purchase a new cellphone prepaid line in
developed Germany. But I was just as easily able to do the same in Zambia
and in Senegal - new, legitimate SIM packs are available from tuckshop
vendors with no hassles whatsoever, at prices that are reasonable even in
local terms. But in comparatively more advanced Zimbabwe, our three
cellphone networks have for years perpetuated the fiction that having a
cellphone number is a complicated, expensive exercise "because we are
upgrading our network."

The government-like cynicism of Net One, Econet and Telecel are much more
apparent to me now that I have been exposed to networks with sometimes less
capacity but with a much better attitude to their whole reason for

After many years of dealing with one bank in Harare, I had enough of a core
of committed professionals in my particular branch I could count on for help
of one kind or another when necessary. But at that bank as well as in most
banks one has no choice but to deal with, the service is also often cynical,
aloof, expensive and indifferent.

Imagine my shock at actually being greeted with a smile by a bank teller in
Lusaka! Imagine my surprise at a senior bank official in Dakar who actually
responds to your email!

The contrasts are not because of anything intrinsically different between us
and the Senegalese or the Zambians. Like we used to be some years ago, these
are countries at peace with themselves. They have their problems but they
are calmly working on them to the best of their abilities. There is no
tension in the air. One does not automatically assume that a soldier or a
police officer is an agent of oppression as in other countries, now
unfortunately including the once great Zimbabwe.

The fight against how Mugabe and what he represents has reduced Zimbabwe to
an object of international derision and pity is a noble and just one. The
reflection forced on one by travel has reminded me that every nation has
experienced its moments of decline and destruction at the hands of madmen at
one time or another, whether they be foreigners or locals.

No matter how colossal and all-powerful they seemed at the height of their
destructive powers, they were also constantly providing momentum to the
forces that would eventually sweep them away. That is exactly what is
happening in Zimbabwe today.

* Chido Makunike is a Zimbabwean based in Senegal.

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Rhodesia incarnates as repression grows

Zim Independent

By Rashweat Mukundu
THE recent seizure of travel documents of Zimbabwe Independent and Standard
newspapers publisher, Trevor Ncube and former MDC MP Paul Themba Nyathi is
one of the indicators of how government-orchestrated repression has made
another turn for the worst.

Since 2000, we have all seen a well-planned onslaught on the very basic
rights of Zimbabwean citizens from the disrespect of court rulings,
political violence and intimidation, and passage of repressive laws, similar
to the by-gone Rhodesia.

The message since 2000 has been consistent: that no one must oppose the Zanu
PF-led government.

While political repression in Zimbabwe has its roots in the immediate
post-Independence era, one can argue that since 2000, repression was made
policy and state resources have been abused towards this end.

Zanu PF's political survival project takes no prisoners as we have seen with
the closure of four newspapers in a space of three years and the arrests of
thousands of citizens who attempted to express their displeasure and
concerns over an array of visible social and economic problems through
peaceful protests.

While a lot of work has been put into trying to convince the Zanu PF-led
government to repeal the laws which make Zimbabwe not very different from
Rhodesia, not much has been achieved.

Few patriotic Zimbabweans would have thought that government repression
would go a gear up, to literally curtail individuals' rights to movement on
spurious allegations of "threatening national interests".

Last week's events serve as a reminder that the present government will not
stop at anything in its quest to silence any dissenting voices.

The message is very clear to all of us: be afraid, be very afraid.

It is important that we keep in mind that Zimbabwe is supposed to be very
different from Rhodesia and that the present government has made a lot of
effort to present itself as distinct from the erstwhile oppressors. We must
keep in mind also that those who have lost their travel documents and those
who shall follow suit are said to have threatened national interests, as
stated in the recent Constitutional Amendment Number 17.

National interests are, however, not defined in the new law so that citizens
of Zimbabwe can know how to conduct themselves within Zanu PF's laws.

National interests were also defended by the Rhodesian regime through laws
such as the Law and Order Maintenance Act (Loma).

One can conclude that the present Zimbabwean state is a continuation of the
colonial state, only that the skin of the oppressor has changed, otherwise
nothing else has moved.

The move to seize travel documents from people the government sees as its
enemies, is a continuation of a type of governance that this territory has
been familiar with since 1890.

Some say the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The vagueness of laws such as the constitutional amendment is deliberate so
that anything can be seen as a threat to "national interests" should the
government decide so. Similar laws existed under Rhodesia that barred
individuals seen as threatening national interests, and these people were
literally detained in certain areas and some banished to their rural homes.

We question how the ruling party justifies its actions as democratic and as
in the true national interest that we all share.

We ask how Zanu PF calls itself a party that brought freedom when in essence
it operates on the same standards as Rhodesia. While the government argues
that one's travel documents and identification documents are a privilege,
that through their benevolence they bestow upon us lesser beings, I argue
that one's travel and identification documents are part of one's identity as
a citizen of Zimbabwe.

Many times what distinguishes and identifies one as a citizen of Zimbabwe
are those documents, and in the absence of one committing serious criminal
acts, armed insurrection or any other crime of that magnitude, one cannot
have his/her Zimbabweanness taken away.

Zanu PF cannot take away what amounts to one's birthright in pursuit of its
narrow and partisan political interests. If one is born a Zimbabwean,
neither political force nor law should take that away. We wonder what makes
those who carry out these acts think that they are more Zimbabwean than the
rest of us.

This takes us to the next part of my argument, that is the ruling party is
no longer capable of taking this country forward.

For many in Zanu PF who call themselves Marxists and read Marxism well, I
say their historical mission is over and there are so many contradictions in
their system that makes it impossible for Zanu PF to take this country

Looking back into history the present day leadership never had an agenda of
freedom. As stated earlier, Zimbabwe in its present form, is Rhodesia

Many genuine freedom-loving Zimbabweans who died for the cause of freedom
are certainly turning in their graves as Rhodesia rises from its ashes in
the form of Zanu PF.

While many thought taiva tose (we were together) many in leadership of this
government are admirers of Rhodesia. That is the reason why we have Posa,
Aippa, BSA and indeed, the latest moves to detain Zimbabweans within our

Many in this leadership were part of the nationalists' movement for, now we
know, class and sectarian reasons and interests and not for true national
interests which they purport to represent.

This explains why the land issue only became relevant as a political project
in 2000 and not as socio-economic justice nor an empowerment issue some 20
years after Independence.

Many of us in our naivety and polarisation might see the confiscation of
fellow citizens' travel documents as political victories of some sort. Some
will be small and fickle-minded and argue that these individuals deserve it.
The truth, however is: we are all vulnerable and democratic standards must
be protected and those we think differently about or see as our opponents
must be defended, should their democratic rights be threatened.

While some within the ruling party and government celebrate, at least their
true colours continue to show for the world to see. While Zanu PF sees such
moves as a show of force and power, the truth is that what the world and
patriotic Zimbabweans see are the devil's fangs.

* Rashweat Mukundu is national director of Misa-Zimbabwe.

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Mugabe's cruel joke on the people

Zim Independent

By Denford Magora
IT was a pathetic little attempt to grab the attention of the world powers.
Zimbabwe has got uranium, President Robert Mugabe said. And we are going to
use it to generate power, apparently.

Do not believe a word of it. This latest assertion is as true as his claim
that the country would have fuel in "a few weeks". That claim was made
several months ago and we are still to see anything at service stations.

Indeed, if this country had uranium, that special commodity would have been
sold to the Iranians a long time ago, and the money used to pay for fuel,
electricity and water treatment chemicals that have now made Zimbabwe the
toilet of Africa.

As the newswire services immediately pointed out after President Mugabe had
made the uranium claim, Zimbabwe also spoke brashly about getting a nuclear
reactor from Argentina in the 1990s. Nothing has been heard of that since.
The truth of the matter, it would appear, is that Zimbabwe has no uranium.

It is all a cruel joke played on the people of the country. Why, it may well
be asked, would the president of a whole country promote such an untruth?

We can put a hypothesis forward. Of course, this same man told an untruth
about fuel being available in abundance in a couple of weeks and then slunk
around in silent embarrassment for months afterwards, thereby establishing a
pattern that started long before the uranium claim.

Why this latest obviously discredited claim? Some of us will venture a
guess. Could it be that our government is now so desperate for dialogue with
the Western powers that it now pretends to have uranium? Is the hope that,
when this claim reaches the ears of the West, they will turn around and try
to befriend Mugabe and his crew in order to block any sales of uranium by
Zimbabwe to the likes of Iran and North Korea?

It can be read as follows: Zanu PF is so desperate to engage in talks with
Western powers that it will manufacture non-existent uranium in the hope of
extracting promises to be bailed out of the hole it has dug for itself.

Certainly, this is how it is already being viewed in Western capitals, whose
intelligence services dismissed this idea out of hand almost as soon as the
words left Mugabe's mouth.

Some have pointed out that, up until now, Zimbabwe was not known to have any
deposits of the metal. The government is so broke that it has no money for
its own bus-fare, let alone enough money to prospect for minerals.

And, indeed, we know that we have so few deals coming through these days
that even just the promise of prospecting for uranium would have sufficed to
send the whole of the state media into a frenzied mania.

So it is highly unlikely that a prospecting team from another country came
into Zimbabwe, discovered uranium and then left for their own country
without this wonderful thing being revealed even once. We have had to hear
it from President Robert Mugabe, the international man of mysterious fuel
deliveries at a low-key ceremony in Zvimba. Credible? Hardly.

What this tells the people of Zimbabwe is that our government has now
reached the end of its wits, if it ever had any. This latest gimmick to try
and panic the world into discussions with the ruling party should actually
send shivers of alarm through all of us.

It says that our government is now clutching at straws. The scapegoats, as
this paper pointed out recently, are quickly running out. Next year, the
country will have nothing to eat even if it rains cats and dogs simply
because Joseph Made and his Agriculture ministry have failed year in and
year out to organise agriculture.

Didymus Mutasa has failed dismally to see the multiple-ownership saga come
to a clean end. The excuse of drought will not wash next year and we wait
with bated breath to hear what excuse they will have when the harvest proves
inadequate? Maybe British premier Tony Blair is walking the fields of
Zimbabwe sowing salt into the earth so that nothing grows! Stranger things
have been seen to happen by our paranoid leaders!

Then of course there is the embarrassing incident with the fuel. The excuses
we got first time were that fuel prices have gone up on the international
market, hence we could not buy as much fuel as we wanted with our little
forex. Details of the forex used for fuel were not given, mostly because the
details were "zero". Now, however, international oil prices are at a
four-month low.

It is being forecast that oil will be trading below US$40 a barrel by
January. Demand in the Western hemisphere was not that high this past
winter, because of unusually cosy winter temperatures. So, the excuse about
the high international price of oil has fallen by the wayside. And our
government has gone silent, still can't provide fuel, a basic ingredient for
the proper functioning of any economy.

Undaunted, they mouth off platitudes about wanting an economic recovery,
wanting to turn the economy around and about failure not being an option. It
is just so much nonsense and everyone has woken up to that now.

Of late, Zanu PF has got into the habit of exhorting the people to "pull
together", to "play their part".

There are calls to refrain from corruption even as alleged well-connected
flour smugglers are let off the hook without a good enough explanation to
the people of Zimbabwe.

Beaten and bowed, the state media has refrained from investigating this very
real story. They are shortchanging the people by not exposing what "not
enough evidence" means. Why? Because there is one law for the leaders of
Zanu PF and their relatives and another set of draconian laws for the rest
of the population.

If it was MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's nephew who had been accused of
smuggling flour or gold, would we have heard the end of it?

Would he not have been paraded before all the papers and a link found to his

Would it have been conveniently found that there was "not enough evidence"
against him?

Oh no! He would have been pursued high and low.

And herein lies the root of our government's desperation. Like that
proverbial monkey, it wants to free its hand from the hole in the
tree-trunk, but refuses to let go of the nut that makes this impossible. How
can you be fighting corruption when you yourself are so attracted to it, so
reluctant to let it go?

Would you start a fire against this corruption knowing full that the fire
will, in the end, consume you as well?

All these contradictions and half-measures are now catching up with Zanu PF
as are the lies.

Desperately then, they see their last hope lying in dialogue with Blair that
the president was begging for earlier this year, around the time of the talk
about that non-existent "South African loan".

Yes, dialogue with Blair and United States president George Bush is now
first prize. But why should these two men who could live, nay thrive without
Zimbabwe and Mugabe, talk to the rulers of Zimbabwe?

This is where the uranium talk comes in. It is Mugabe's last hope. He needs
rescuing and he needs it badly. So, some wit in his office must have
counselled him that feigning the discovery of uranium would have the West
beating a path to his door.

Whereupon our government would make demand upon demand and thereby buy
itself time at the very least, if it was not able to actually get any
monetary benefit from this concoction. It is sad and pathetic. But it is the
Zimbabwe we live in today.

If, by some crazy chance, the uranium is indeed in existence within our
borders, our failure to exploit it to bring foreign currency into the
country would only be yet another damning indictment of this rudderless
government. Uranium is in high demand for peaceful means all over the world,
from France to even Iran itself.

Selling the uranium we have now would have been a walk in the park and it
would have brought such a windfall of foreign currency that we would have
managed to plug the forex gaps that have now turned into yawning chasms.

* Denford Magora is a Harare-based marketing executive.

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MDC should not play into Zanu PF's hands

Zim Independent

By Pedzisai Ruhanya
RECENT events in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over leadership
differences in relation to the senate election need reflection in order not
to allow the Harare regime to get away with its numerous misdemeanours in
the administration of national affairs since 1980.

It is my opinion that after the dust has settled, the MDC leadership across
the board should seriously reflect on whether their petty differences over
the senate election were either in the national interest or the party's

I submit that the differences were not in the national interest because it
is taking the country backwards and allowing President Robert Mugabe to
create his grand goal of creating a one party-state in the country which the
MDC has for the past six years successfully fought.

It is therefore crucial for the MDC leadership to examine their differences
and see whether it would not be better for them to admit that they are
losing track by playing into the hands of the dictator.

While recent events suggest that the two groups are irreconcilable, there
are a plethora of common denominators that should unite them.

Firstly, the greatest of all evils that this country is faced with - the
repressive institution called Zanu PF and its equally repressive state
apparatus - are still intact and abusing human rights in the country.

Secondly, the leader of this institution, Robert Mugabe is still defiant and
continues to legislate repression through laws such as Aippa, Posa and the
Constitutional Amendment Number 17.

Last, but not least, the economic meltdown continues unabated. These issues
should unite the opposition more than any other factor.

The opposition would be wrong to concentrate on their in-house problems at
the expense of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. For instance, while
the MDC is busy fighting itself, Mugabe is busy violating fundamental
national and international human rights norms as they relate to freedoms of
movement, association and expression.

The recent confiscation of former MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi's
passport should send clear messages to the MDC leaders that despite their
differences, Mugabe and his cohorts continue to treat them as "enemies of
the state" who should not be allowed to leave Zimbabwe and exercise their
freedoms. Today it's Nyathi, tomorrow it could be Morgan Tsvangirai and the
next target might be Professor Welshman Ncube or Tsvangirai's
vice-president, Gibson Sibanda.

It is my submission that the rift over the senate poll should unite the MDC
leadership and jerk them into realising that Zanu PF wants to deal with them
as a political group.

The Nyathi incident should also enlighten those in the opposition party who
suspected that Zanu PF was supporting the other faction.

I do not share this opinion, particularly the belief that Ncube connived
with the state in the treason trial of Tsvangirai. It ignores Zanu PF's
history of treason trials of genuine opposition leaders in the country since

It should be remembered that Mugabe, through the Central Intelligence
Organisation, charged all legitimate opposition leaders with treason,
starting with the late Joshua Nkomo, Dumiso Dabengwa and the late Ndabaningi

These were genuine nationalists with legitimate complaints about Mugabe's
repression. The same applies to Tsvangirai and the MDC.

That Tsvangirai and his colleagues pose the greatest challenge to Mugabe's
political hegemony cannot be contested. That the MDC under Tsvangirai, in my
opinion, won the 2000 and 2002 parliamentary and presidential elections, is
a popular view among many Zimbabweans that cannot be disputed.

It is against that background that Tsvangirai was charged with treason, not
the allegations against Ncube.

Any views to the contrary would be to play into the hands of Mugabe at the
expense of healing the differences in the opposition.

Such views are not in the interest of political reconciliation in the MDC
because they exonerate Mugabe and the CIO's roles in destabilising the
opposition. This would amount to celebrating Mugabe's treachery and at the
same time allowing him to run away with the gospel.

Mugabe not Tsvangirai, Ncube, Sibanda and Isaac Matongo destroyed Zimbabwe.
The MDC should thus realise that and swallow whatever differences the
leadership has and confront the dictatorship.

The MDC should also examine why the government did not prosecute Sibanda
when he allegedly called for a separate state in Matabeleland. The regime
balked because Sibanda never made those remarks. If he had done that and the
state had evidence, surely Sibanda could have been charged with treason for
calling for secession which is not even allowed under international law.
This was CIO work meant to destabilise the opposition.

It could not be taken to court because, like in the Tsvangirai treason
trial, where an international conman, Ari Ben-Menashe, was used as a star
state witness, even an infiltrated judiciary would find it difficult to
convict Sibanda.

Moving around the country denouncing Tsvangirai or Ncube will not assist the
democratic struggle that the country is facing, but moving across Zimbabwe
denouncing the confiscation of citizens' passports, food shortages and the
huge democratic deficit in our country will make Zimbabweans come together
in the call for transparent electoral and legitimate governance in the

According to the political spiral model of politics as described by some
scholars, Zimbabwe under Mugabe is experiencing the denial stage where the
repressive administration is denying that it is violating human rights in
the country despite both domestic and international pressure and outcries on
the situation obtaining in the country.

What then needs to be done according to this model of politics in the
Zimbabwean crisis is to ratchet up both domestic and international pressure
on Mugabe and his administration to the extent that he is forced into making
tactical concessions by making genuine democratic reforms in the
legislature, executive and judiciary.

This should be done through the call for constitutional reforms that will
entail the birth of democratic institutions capable of producing legitimate
electoral outcomes. This is why the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
route is the way forward.

Zimbabwe almost reached this phase in 2000 after the constitutional
referendum but the opposition then became more reformists and in the process
lost the momentum by dining in the structures of the regime.

Having realised that he had made some concessions and the opposition was
gaining more ground by winning almost all urban municipal elections, Mugabe
changed his gears and started to be more repressive. He is now firing
elected mayors and tightening his grip on his illegitimate powers. The
country is now back in the denial stage.

What the MDC needs to do now is to unite and join civic colleagues in piling
more pressure on the regime. It is my submission that such pressure would
bear results because the international community is now more aware of the
crisis of legitimacy and governance affecting Mugabe. This has been seen
through the confiscation of citizens' passports, the recent UN missions to
assess effects of the clean-up and the continued onslaught against the
independent media.

This time around, the government should not be allowed to make piece-meal
reforms, but far-reaching democratic reforms leading to free and fair

Mugabe should not be allowed to dictate the nature of changes in Zimbabwe's
body politic. He should be made to abide by national and international
democratic norms of state behaviour.

* Pedzisai Ruhanya is former deputy news editor of the banned Daily News.

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Passport snatch will have 'chilling' effect

Zim Independent

Trevor Ncube
WHEN I woke up in Johannesburg last Thursday morning I was surprised to
discover that the Australian government had included my name on a list of
over 120 Zimbabweans barred from doing business with that country's Reserve
Bank for allegedly aiding and abetting President Robert Mugabe's government.

By the time I boarded the plane heading for my brother's wedding in
Bulawayo, the Australians had already called to apologise for the error and
I promptly put the matter behind me. The truth of the matter is that being
included on the Australian list never bothered me for a moment. My sense was
that it is the prerogative of the Australians to decide who is allowed to
visit their country and who is not.

On arrival at Bulawayo airport on Thursday afternoon I discovered that I was
on another list - this one comprising 17 Zimbabweans whose passports had
been invalidated and were due to be withdrawn. I was to learn the following
day that the instruction to withdraw and invalidate my passport was made by
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede in a letter dated November 24 addressed to
Chief Immigration Officer Elasto Mugwadi. Mugwadi then sent out a circular
four days later to all ports of entry.

On Wednesday my lawyers managed to recover my passport after I made a High
Court application for its return. The application asserts that the action
was unlawful, a violation of the rules of natural justice, and lacked
procedural fairness.

The confiscation of the passport was also grossly unreasonable and
irrational. Assuming the impounding of the passport was based on things I
have written or said on what is happening in Zimbabwe, this action violates
my freedom of thought and expression. The fact that I found myself under
"country arrest" meant that my constitutional right to freedom of movement
was severely vitiated.

I must hasten to add that the actual seizure of my passport was effected by
a youthful member of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) who
identified himself to me. And because of internal divisions within President
Robert Mugabe's spooks, many have been talking to me and my colleagues. The
reasons for this abuse of authority and heavy-handed action are beginning to

Apparently the Mediagate scandal uncovered by Dumisani Muleya at the
Zimbabwe Independent a few months ago is at the heart of the confiscation of
my passport. In a nutshell, the exposé revealed that the CIO had taken over
three privately-owned newspapers, namely the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror
and the Financial Gazette, leaving the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard
as the only independent newspapers in the country.

The Mediagate exposé was a big blow to the CIO's ability to continue to use
public funds to finance the Mirror newspapers. And this has put the
director-general of the CIO, Brigadier Happyton Bonyongwe, the author of
this media strategy, in a pickle.

The Mediagate strategy is part of the CIO's broad plan codenamed Project
October whose two main objectives are to ensure that the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) is severely weakened and that there should not
be any privately-owned newspaper group in the country by 2010, thus ensuring
the only voice heard across the land is President Mugabe's.

Zanu PF intends to postpone the presidential election due in 2008 to 2010
through a constitutional amendment which is expected soon. To all intents
and purposes, they have achieved the first objective as the MDC is
hopelessly divided and they are now working on the second. My continued
ownership of the Independent and Standard stands in the way of achieving
this second goal.

Apart from being an autocratic approach to dealing with perceived critics
and instilling a climate of fear across the country, the confiscation of my
passport is thus expected to deliver on the second objective of winning the
hearts and minds of Zimbabweans through a sycophantic and pliant media.

My sources tell me that the thinking within the CIO is that I have a lot to
lose by staying in the country without a passport and that I will be forced
to flee the country illegally. If I did that I would be termed a "fugitive",
paving the way for a takeover of my businesses. They would have killed two
birds with one stone, that is settling their grudge over the Mediagate story
and muzzling the last private newspapers in the country.

With their mission accomplished, the CIO, who are effectively running this
country following the failure of civilian structures and the deep divisions
within the ruling party and the government over the succession issue, would
be well placed to play king-makers and anoint a candidate of their choice to
succeed Mugabe.

The problem with CIO newspaper ownership is that it is calculated to serve
factional interests in Zanu PF and not the national good. This is why it has
created divisions in cabinet, the ruling party and government. The whole
thing is about rigidly controlling the media, not just to win hearts and
minds, but specifically to influence the outcome of the Mugabe succession

The government has increasingly become a quasi-military dictatorship both in
form and substance. Currently seven members of Mugabe's cabinet are former
military or intelligence strongmen. Of the 31 key government institutions or
parastatals, 13 are headed by former military or intelligence officers.
These include the National Parks, Prison Services, the Grain Marketing
Board, and the CIO itself. Government bureaucracy, including electoral
supervision, is now run by the army. We have even seen the military being
deployed to implement command agriculture - Operation Maguta - to deal with
food shortages.

It must be pointed out that the two men at the centre of the seizure of my
passport, Mugwadi and Mudede, work in cahoots with the military and
intelligence structures that meet every week under the auspices of the Joint
Operations Committee (JOC) to discuss security issues.

Bonyongwe, whose media department compiled the list of 17 names, is a rising
star in this gang. He has become even more powerful against the backdrop of
the succession squabbles in the ruling party.

While I have not officially been given the reasons for the seizure of my
passport, there is speculation that the list of 17, believed to be a prelude
to a longer list of 64 which Mugabe ordered to be drawn up at his party's
recent conference, is perhaps the first salvo in implementing the provisions
of Constitutional Amendment No 17 which gives the government power to seize
the passports of people it perceives as "threatening the interests of the

The problem is that currently there is no enabling legislation to implement
this Orwellian provision. But then laws are not usually allowed to stand in
the way of Mugabe's grand political designs.

There is evidence already that the seizure of my passport has had the
desired result across the country and on Zimbabweans living abroad. Many in
and outside the country will be terrified to speak out against current
abuses for fear of losing their passports. Many now fear coming home for
Christmas to see their loved ones because there is no guarantee that they
will not lose their passports on arrival.

While terribly inconvenienced by the seizure of my passport, I am not at all
intimidated. I will always exercise my birthright to speak out against
misrule and injustice. A passport cannot be used as a gagging instrument.

I shall not be silenced by a regime whose leadership and policy failures
have reduced Zimbabwe to a wasteland and which wants to blame everybody but
itself for the colossal disaster it has caused through its corrupt and
incompetent rule.

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Government just won't face realities

Zim Independent

Eric Bloch Column

By Eric Bloch

LAST week President Robert Mugabe delivered three key-note addresses. The
first was his State of the Nation Address to parliament, whilst the second
was when he addressed the 64th Zanu PF Central Committee meeting, ahead of
the ruling party's "Eighth Annual People's Conference".

The third of his addresses was at the official opening of that conference.
Each of the addresses evidenced irrefutably the extent to which Zimbabwe's
government is oblivious to realities.

The magnitude of that oblivion is so great that government does not only
blind itself to that which is necessary to restore the economy to one which
can sustain the Zimbabwean populace, but also causes government to adopt
stances and determine policies which are diametrically opposite to those
which are needed.

Compounding this calamitous circumstance is that government remains
convinced that it is incapable of error, misjudgement, and that therefore
anything that may be wrong is the fault of others.

With extreme paranoia it believes that it is the victim of diabolical malice
of Britain, which it spuriously contends wishes to "repossess" and
"recolonise" Zimbabwe, and of whites in general, but especially those who
were displaced from their farms, or are active in commerce and industry.

The catastrophe of those specious convictions, and of the inability to
recognise the realities, economic and otherwise, is that not only does
government fail to pursue the actions necessary to bring about, and
thereafter to entrench, economic well-being, but that its myopic
perspectives continuously drive the economy further downwards.  Worsening
this circumstance even more is the absence of coordination of thought and
policy between the president and his ministers, for he will say one thing,
whilst they will say the opposite.

Equally appalling is that it is clearly evident, from the extent that actual
circumstances are at variance with those contended by the president, that
certain of his ministers, advisors and their personnel continue to misinform
him. Undoubtedly they feed to him that which they believe he wishes to hear,
irrespective of any lack of substance to their contentions, or that which
will, they assume, protect their retention of their posts.

In his State of the Nation Address, the president understandably placed some
considerable emphasis upon the land reform programme and upon agriculture,
for the agricultural sector was the country's economic foundation, until
government destroyed it, and must be restored to its former glory if there
is to be any prospect of economic revival.

He suggested that the infamous Constitutional Amendment No 17, which placed
government above the law, has given "finality to the process of land
acquisition", and will enable newly-settled A1 and A2 farmers to "go about
their agricultural production business without legally technical hitches
that obstructed them in the past".

The actualities are that those so-called "legally technical hitches"
accorded former farmers some limited opportunities of justice, and their
removal was tantamount to legalising the state's unjust expropriations of
land. And, as government has still not issued the new farmers with any form
of transferable legal tenure on the land, be that by way of negotiable and
assignable 99-year leases or otherwise, the new farmers still have no
collateral to access necessary funding.

In addition, with an ongoing, inadequate and non-timeous availability of
inputs, agriculture cannot recover.   The president referred to a $1
trillion facility for inputs now being in place, but that money is
meaningless if the inputs are not available due to foreign currency
constraints or otherwise.

He further stated that he was "also reliably informed that the entire nation's
requirements for seed have now been met" but, in practice, there is still a
widespread shortage of seed.

The degree to which he has been the victim of disinformation was also
evidenced by his reference to a present availability of tobacco seedlings,
saying "tobacco seedlings point to a crop of between 43 000 and 53 000

Unfortunately, seedlings are only indicative of likely crop size if they
have been planted. Their mere existence does not auger a crop. They must be
placed in the ground (in properly prepared fields), and then must be tended
and cared for. And, within the tobacco industry, informed sources contend
that only some 26 000 to 30 000 hectares are being cultivated this season. A
year ago government projected a winter wheat crop of at least 400 000
tonnes.  The president now expects 270 000 tonnes will materialise.  But
despite years of proven mis-forecasts, the president continues to accept
projections devoid of substance.

It is intriguing, however, that only nine days after his eulogising the
developments of the agricultural season, he spoke somewhat differently.

In the second keynote address of the last week, the president stated that
"the future of agriculture will remain severely constrained as those with
implements - maybe the whites - continue to charge exorbitant and inhibitive
hire charges".

Was this possibly the first seeds of a "cop-out" to explain, at the end of
the agricultural season, why projections have not materialised? After all,
present indications are that it is unlikely that government will be able,
with any credibility, to blame another poor agricultural outturn upon

And who could possibly be a better scapegoat for blame than the
insignificant number of whites remaining in Zimbabwe. Those whites have been
unceremoniously and unjustly, often violently, displaced from their farms,
and in a vast number of instances been deprived of their tractors, their
irrigation equipment, and their implements, and are now accused of charging
exorbitant and inhibitive hire charges. Even those few still fortunate
enough to have some of their farm equipment, are surely entitled to charges
which not only address the depreciating capital value thereof, but also
yield fair return on the capital involved, that return having to be
responsive to an inflationary environment in which annual inflation exceeds

For years government has applied price controls on diverse commodities,
driven by a misguided belief that doing so was protective of consumers.  In
reality, it was prejudicial to consumers, for those controls precluded
operational viability for many manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
As a result, immense scarcities prevailed, fuelling black market operations
where the gargantuan higher prices severely worsened the lot of the

All the advice of international bodies, of economists, of the captains of
commerce and industry, and of many more, were studiously ignored by

Eventually, however, "crunch time" arrived, with the vast non-availability
of products, collapses of businesses, resultant unemployment, and other
factors driving government into stating, albeit reluctantly, that price
controls would be discontinued and market related-forces would prevail.

As experienced in numerous other countries over many years, market forces
motivate competition, which contains prices, with compensatory efforts to
enhance productivity and efficiency.

The change of the government's position on price controls was widely
welcomed in the private sector, restoring an element of the, until then,
almost non-existent business confidence.

This was reinforced by the Minister of Finance, Herbert Murerwa, who
reiterated the intended discontinuance of price controls, when he presented
his 2006 budget.  But only a week later, the president said: "Government
will not abdicate its duty to protect consumers from arbitrary increases of
prices of essential commodities."

He blamed those increases upon "unscrupulous business people" whom he
alleged were "profiteers".

Obviously, facts such as wage increases of 300% to 500% in the last year,
massive increases in charges by government's parastatals, inevitably
necessary, huge exchange movements and many other cost factors borne by
those business people, do not justify (in the mind of the president) price
increases. As a result, the president claims that "the ever-rising cost of
living is due to insensitive price increases being effected by the
manufacturing sector" and that, therefore, government "cannot protect the
people except through the regulation of the prices of essential commodities".

In one fell swoop, with his contradiction of his Finance minister's
statement, whatsoever little confidence had been restored to the economy and
towards creating an investment-conducive environment, was immediately

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Zanu PF feasts as povo wallow in privation

Zim Independent


WE were fascinated to hear Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo admonishing delegates
to the party's beanfeast in Esigodini last weekend not to eat too much in
front of a starving population.

He listed the "beasts" scheduled for slaughter and the tonnes of maize set
aside for delegates. But he warned against too much gluttony in front of a
national audience suffering unparalleled food shortages and privation. He
didn't actually use the expression made famous by the former British High
Commissioner to Kenya, Sir Edward Clay, about a predatory elite vomiting on
its own shoes, but it sounded similar.

Fifty head of cattle were slaughtered for the 3 000 delegates (60 per
beast). They were also fed with 48 goats, 11 kudu, five reed buck, 17
impala, five buffaloes, 1,10 tonnes of rice, 60 chickens, 50 kg of wheat,
and 11 tonnes of maize meal. And that was just the first course!

In addition to feasting there was entertainment. The Sunday Mail told us
Nkomo had the delegates "in stitches" when he said: "I want to take this
opportunity to thank the party chairman for his remarks". That was shortly
after giving his remarks.

President Mugabe also had them rolling in the aisles when he demanded liver
rather than steak. They fell about when he said he was "a very, very good
teacher until I was spoiled by politics".

The rest of the country might not have found any of this quite so funny!

Muckraker liked the poster which said: "Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall -
and all Blair's horses could not put MDC back again."

But what happened to "all the king's men"? Did they not play any role in the
MDC's demise?

Another poster said: "Economic turnaround - none but ourselves."
Now that one was really funny!

Many of those companies that have contributed so notably to our "turnaround"
were anxious to identify themselves with Zanu PF's record. Tel*One's board,
management and staff joined the nation in celebrating Zanu PF's "landslide
victory" in the senate election. Noczim saluted the party's "courageous
leadership" and said it was confident the delegates would emerge with
"decisions and resolutions that expedite our economic take-off".

Zupco, Zimpapers and Zimpost added their fawning voices.

Rarely has the case for privatisation and professionalism in parastatal
management been more self-evident. Air Zimbabwe chose to single out
Vice-President Joice Mujuru for congratulation.

"From one high flyer to another", was their message. This was the same
weekend where it was revealed that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono had
told them he couldn't go on keeping them airborne with RBZ handouts.

Muckraker would be keen to know if staff at corporations such as Tel*One
were consulted by management before having their congratulations offered to
Zanu PF on its "landslide victory" in an election where only 19% of voters
turned out.

The Sunday News said in an editorial "inflation-weary consumers need a
respite from greedy business people who are increasing prices in a totally
unsustainable manner". No doubt the paper had Air Zimbabwe, Noczim, Tel*One
and Zimpost in mind!

And yet again we were told Zanu PF would sort out multiple ownership of
farms "once and for all".

Why does the party think we should believe them this time around? And why
does President Mugabe appear unable to do anything about it?

Mugabe's undiplomatic remarks about Jan Egeland were described in the
official press as "off the cuff". "Off the wall" would have been a better
description! But the president's indignation was understandable.

Here was somebody who had been expected to reverse the highly damaging
(Anna) Tibaijuka judgement. That has been the thrust of Zimbabwean diplomacy
over several months. Even Kofi Annan had been dragged into this desperate
bid. But the UN declined at all its various levels to oblige Mugabe.

On the contrary, Egeland embarrassed the regime by pointing out that
Tibaijuka's report was not a personal view, it was the view of all the UN's
experts in the field, that crimes had been committed in Operation
Murambatsvina, and that social conditions in Zimbabwe represented not just a
crisis but a national "meltdown".

No wonder Mugabe was furious. But that is what happens when you start to
believe your own propaganda. Was it seriously hoped that Annan would
undermine his own special envoy? What sort of delusional thinking was this?

There was a wonderfully colourful picture on the front page of the Business
Herald on Friday. It showed flower-sellers in Harare's CBD with a caption
saying Zimbabwe expected to earn US$750 million from the sale of cut flowers
to the European Union and other markets this year.

But there was one thing the Herald forgot to say. The picture of
flower-sellers and their attractive bouquets was taken before Operation
Murambatsvina. The flower-sellers, who had been a feature of Africa Unity
Square for nearly a century, were among the first victims of the brutal
crackdown. Nothing stands there today to entice tourists across from
Meikles. It is a barren spot. It was another Herald illusion!

Australia last week came up with "new" names of politicians and business
executives on its sanctions list. It was as much comical as it was a
worrying reflection of the research capacity of the Australians. They not
only had inexplicable names on their list but often got dates of birth so
wrong you wondered if they wanted to be taken seriously.

For instance, Tsitsi Muzenda was born almost on the same day as her late
father Simon Muzenda. It was all the more farcical because it is easy to get
these details either on the Internet or by simply asking any Zimbabwean with
something between their ears. Not so with the Australians.

Eric Bloch was reduced to a boyish 24-year-old. Apparently he is not
complaining about that bit!

A less indulgent inclusion on the list was Dairibord chief executive Anthony
Mandiwanza. He said the addition of businesspeople to the list was
"nonsensical". Despite the fact that he didn't know the criteria used to
draw up the list, he was loud in his reaction.

"It is a desperate action by the Australian government and I do not care
about my inclusion on the list since we do not do any business with
Australia," declared Mandiwanza with reckless finality.

What could Australia be desperate about we wonder? And when he says "we do
not do any business with Australia" who is "we"? Mandiwanza and his family?
Mandiwanza and Daribord or Mandiwanza and Zimbabwe? Is this business
exclusivity perhaps a result of the tunnel vision engendered by the Look
East policy? He must start on lessons in Mandarin. Chris Mutsvangwa should
come in handy here.

President Mugabe was equally bitter. He accused British settlers in
Australia of embarking on a "genocidal massacre of Aborigines, reducing the
survivors into hopeless alcoholics and objects of pity by crushing their
He added with melodramatic lyricism: "They have destroyed a whole people,
just as the Americans used to do with Red Indians - you must have seen the
pictures. But in Australia they succeeded more than the Americans. Does
Australia have a real system of human rights that can compare with our own

What Mugabe should be reminded of is that history has since moved on. What
was he doing in the early 1980s in Matabeleland and Midlands with his North
Korean killers? How many innocent Zimbabweans were slaughtered in that "act
of madness"? And how many people either lost their lives or were maimed just
to keep Zanu PF in power in 2000? What system of human rights was he using?

There were celebrations at Munhumutapa Building last week. Nathaniel Manheru
couldn't hide his glee at discovering that his old adversary from university
days, Trevor Ncube, was on the Australian sanctions list.

"White fury flattens all," observed Manheru hilariously.

But then that was not all. His government also couldn't be outdone by a
foreign power. It seized Ncube's passport for as yet unknown reasons. Here
is a rogue government that claims to have brought democracy to Zimbabwe yet
it confiscates citizens' passports unlawfully. Just what is the operative
law that says anybody from the President's Office can seize your passport?

But these are questions beyond Manheru's evil heart to raise. We would be
expecting him to have a conscience or even to imagine something like that
happening to him. He can't believe it is possible to taste your own medicine
the way Phillip Chiyangwa and James Makamba did after they voted for those
lengthy detentions without trial.

He called the seizure of Ncube's passport "compulsive patriotism" as if it
was a sin for Zimbabweans to work or stay outside the country. All
Zimbabweans in the diaspora must now view Zimbabwe as the world's last
"penal colony" where all those denied political asylum elsewhere must be
banished and denied freedom of movement without cause.

President Mugabe seems to have suddenly realised that his government is a
failure. After seizing the best land in the country over the past six years,
it has failed to make land "the economy". Instead we have been humiliated by
having to rely on food donations.

Last week Mugabe acknowledged in Esigodini that there was lack of planning
for the next agricultural season, ostensibly because there were white
farmers resisting land reforms, "often supported by some of us in the party
and government".

"We know every year there is going to be an agricultural season. Yet year
in, year out we are caught flat-footed and unprepared," lamented Mugabe

Isn't it amazing that there should be people opposed to land reform in a
party that is not known for independent thought? As for the flat-footed bit,
the question is why hasn't he acted on those failing to deliver inputs to
farmers timeously? Is it not because a fish rots from the head?

He however promised action by cabinet in two days. This late in the season
and he still wants to be taken seriously!

Herald columnist Campion Mereki says history will never forgive Zimbabwe's
private media for its present actions. He means telling it like it is.

Does he seriously think history will praise a captive state media that is
not allowed to criticise the government however disastrous its record? A
media that is only free to criticise the opposition, a media that is
completely dishonest about the country's myriad problems? Why does he think
history will reward state eunuchs for failing to do their duty?

Judging by its op/ed pages on Monday and Tuesday, the Herald is running out
of contributors. Any fool can trot out the childish rubbish credited to
Mereki. And he appears completely ignorant about media ownership in South
Africa. Can't the Herald do better than this?

Muckraker was intrigued by the news that President Mugabe was attending the
inaugural meeting of a strange outfit called the Perdana Global Peace Forum
in Kuala Lumpur. It transpired that this was the brainchild of former
Malaysian premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mugabe and Mohamad appear to have a pact where they agree to attend each
other's meetings. But why should Mugabe be invited to a conference on world
peace? Zimbabwe is a very minor player on the world stage.

Perhaps part of the answer could be discerned in the forum's agenda. Apart
from escalating terrorism and relentless environmental degradation, the
conference would discuss the systematic violation of human rights.

We hope former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim will be among
the speakers together with Gabriel Shumba from Zimbabwe.

That should keep them busy!

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Policies that mask and promote misrule

Zim Independent


"A CRITICAL, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any
democracy. The press must be free from state interference."

That was the view of former South African president Nelson Mandela at a
congress of the International Press Institute in 1993. South Africa then was
a year from its first democratic all-race election.

Zimbabwe was then playing the role of a midwife in the birth of South Africa
as the leader of the Frontline States against apartheid rule in Pretoria.
President Mugabe was the darling of the region and the world as a champion
of the oppressed.

It is a sad irony and an indictment of how far Mugabe has regressed since
then that Mandela's words were this week quoted to President Thabo Mbeki by
the same institute to remind Mugabe of just how far from the path of justice
he has strayed. This followed the seizure by Immigration officials last week
of Zimbabwe Independent and Standard publisher Trevor Ncube's passport after
he was put on a list of people whose movements should be restricted because
they "threaten national interests".

Not that Mugabe ever laid claim to such lofty liberal ideals like a free
press or freedom of movement. But the metamorphosis from a liberation war
hero to a paranoid dictator living in a cordon of military security has been
spectacular. That transformation has been characterised by a systematic
crackdown on dissent within his own party, opposition parties, civics and
the press since Independence in 1980. His paranoia and fear have grown in
inverse proportion to the deteriorating social conditions of Zimbabweans as
the economy has imploded. As his failures have become legion, so has his
anger against those exposing the emperor's nakedness.

President Mugabe promulgated the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act in 2002 making it mandatory for journalists to be accredited and
media houses to be registered by government before they could operate. The
idea was to strike fear into the hearts of reporters and publishers so that
his calamitous misrule could not be exposed.

There is always the threat of being denied accreditation hanging over
journalists like the sword of Damocles if they dare speak ill of Mugabe. By
refusing to register, the Daily News gave a hostage to fortune, making
itself the first casualty of that law in 2003. Four more papers were to
follow in quick succession as the economic meltdown accelerated and
discontent among Zimbabweans mounted. Foreign journalists were deported in
flagrant violation of court orders.

But despite this crackdown the situation appears to be getting worse. While
Mugabe's position in the party and government is assured, at least from
outside, this has not been on the back of improved performance on the
governance or economic fronts. The pretence to political tolerance witnessed
in recent elections is more to do with complacency in the face of a
fragmenting opposition than a deliberate widening of the democratic space to
accommodate divergent views.

In practice, we are moving in the opposite direction. Mugabe appears to
believe that the best way to deal with the country's problems is to lock up
everybody, to transform the country into one big prison. The decision to
seize the passports of vocal Zimbabweans perceived as enemies of the state
is meant to intimidate and "contain" the wrong information that "tarnishes
the image of the country". After all it is easier to seize the passport of a
returning citizen at the port of entry than to build a legal case to shut
down a newspaper.

Few people will dare to lose that valuable document which can be seized
without the need to explain. Government columnists have confirmed it is
meant to have a chilling effect on all critics of the regime. It is the most
serious assault yet on the rights of Zimbabweans wherever they are so long
as they one day wish to come back home or leave the country to visit family
or friends.

The law is all the more devastating in that it hits everyone, not just
journalists or those involved in the newspaper industry. Business
executives, ordinarily timid in the face of a government exercising
paternalistic patronage over all, can now be trusted to die a natural
death - that is, never to utter a negative word on government policies and
human rights abuses.

Already there is a dangerous pretence in government and business circles
that is gaining currency, that those who point out shortcomings in
government in fact create them. It is not uncommon to be admonished by
business executives against tarnishing the country's image by, for instance,
reporting political violence and thus inhibiting tourism.

In a cynical twist of irony, the "patriots" are those who externalise
foreign currency, those who smuggle basic foodstuffs out of the country and
those who sell publicly subsidised agricultural fuel on the black market. It
is those, in short, who are not too fastidious about ethical conduct in
business or in the use of public resources who shall be allowed to keep
their passports for as long as they like. Such is the perversity of
government policies that mask and promote misrule.

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Zim Independent Letters

Seizure was churlish, pointless Mr President

Dear Mr Mugabe, CONFISCATING the passport of Zimbabwe Independent publisher
Trevor Ncube was not only churlish, pointless, heartless and singularly
childish, but your continued harassment of these independent media owners is
an insult to all those journalists who put you in power in the first place.

I am talking about those many journalists, me included, who suffered the
wrath and ignominy of Ian Smith's government in their attempt to tell the
truth to the world about the iniquities of his regime and the logic of
installing a democratically-elected government.

Smith gagged, banned and harassed the press. He put local and foreign
journalists in jail. As a representative of UPI, BBC and NBC, I was arrested
17 times in three months, but at least I had no doubt that I was right and
the Rhodesian police and intelligence services were wrong.

Now, you are doing exactly what Smith did. Only worse. Your megalomania will
result in more Zimbabweans dying at your hands than at Smith's. Your
treatment of the press in your country is reminiscent of that meted out by
the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s.

Your shutting down newspapers reminds me of watching the SA security police
storm into editor Harvey Tyson's office with court orders to close down The

Your harassment of journalists reminds me of the conversation I used to have
with New Nation editor Zwelakhe Sisulu about how tough it was trying to run
a newspaper under a banning order.

You have proved yourselves as bad as the regime you toppled. And every bit
as bad as the apartheid government of which you were so critical.

But worst of all, you have insulted all those journalists who risked
imprisonment and severe harassment to tell the truth to the world.

You have insulted the memory of courageous journalists such as Don Royale of
Associated Press and George Clay of NBC and countless others who died in
Africa trying to tell the world of the disastrous legacy of colonialism.

Ncube is now stuck in Zimbabwe, unable to return to South Africa to run the
Mail & Guardian - a newspaper he owns and loves. And which he has raised to
new heights and standards of journalism.

These childish efforts of yours might have some effect on twisting the truth
in your own state media and keeping the truth from the independent papers
also owned by Ncube. But, there is nothing on earth you can do to prevent,
even in the slightest, media criticism from outside of your borders.

The Mail & Guardian is a world-class newspaper with enormous integrity and
stature. It will not, I am sure, cease its continued exposé of your
megalomania. And alongside it you can expect every other South African
newspaper from the Sunday Times to the Sowetan, The Star, The Sun, Beeld,
Rapport, Business Day and the rest, to keep telling the world how you have
failed your people, your media and those journalists who, when you were
fighting for the freedom of your land, you called your friends.

We are no longer your friends because we just don't like people who lie to

Chris Moerdyk,

Foreign correspondent,

Zimbabwe 1960s.


Chi-Town, Harare 2 sides of same coin

BOTH the Harare municipality and capital city are on the edge of the

I must say I fully support the call for Chitungwiza (Chi-Town) council
officials to be fired. But since Chitungwiza is a dormitory town of Harare,
it is equally well-meaning to also fire the recalcitrant Harare municipality
executive - the town clerk, acting city treasurer and their immediate

We do not need reminding that Harare and Chitungwiza are two sides of one
coin, regardless of political inclinations. You thus cannot throw away the
king-side of the coin and retain the tail-side.

A drive in and around the city will bring to the fore the dirt that has
become the order of the day. Since these top men took office, it seems they
embarked on a mission to ensure that Harare as a city ground to a halt. Here
are a few reasons why:

* Potholes gape at you wherever you drive like never before. A good example
can be found at the corner of Harare Street and Samora Machel Avenue, along
Speke Avenue between Copacabana and Zupco bus terminus, along Cameron Street
near Zimbank Westend branch, at the corner of Robert Mugabe and Enterprise
road, and at the roundabout along Charter road and Luck Street;

* Sewage effluent is evident in most of our high density areas such as Glen
View, Budiriro, Highfield, Mbare and Dzivaresekwa among others. No wonder
dysentry broke out recently in Harare;

* There is no adequate street lighting, hence people are relieving
themselves in the streets at night. Our trees have been turned into toilets.

There is no sense whatsoever in decorating First Street with Christmas
lights when half the city roads is without proper street lights;

* Uncollected bins and rubbish in our environs is the order of the day; and

* Garbage is accumulating in backyard streets within the CBD, a glaring
example being Albion Street behind OK Express and TM Hyper. Some termini
like the one along Albion Street behind OK and east of Rezende Street have
no toilets, effectively meaning commuter omnibus crews are left to relieve
themselves in the street.

The sky-walk bridge is again piling-up with human waste. To top it all,
unhygienic practices go unchecked in our supermarket butcheries as no proper
health inspections are carried out as in the past.

Now to the turnaround strategy. It is nauseating that the turnaround is
being stalled while the two men seem to be quick to sign cheques for a trip
to Moscow. And the coup de grace of all time is that ratepayers are being
asked to pay more rates while council workers are denied their cost of
living adjustments.

What a very raw deal!

City Worker,



Signs visible for all to see

WHENEVER someone who is in power wants to carry on doing something that they
know is illegal, they start by complicating simple things.

In Zimbabwe, by establishing a bicameral legislative system which has
complex procedures with numerous hidden points of access, those in power
continue to deny ordinary Zimbabweans their right to fight minority rule.

Since a bicameral legislature is not necessary for representational
purposes, it is acceptable to assume that this has been done to remove any
prospects of rule by the majority and to lessen the representation of the
preferences of the mass public.

There is nothing wrong with the members of the same family being interested
in the same profession. Zimbabweans are a civil, peace-loving people who
appreciate the efforts of a set of brothers or a couple wanting to improve
the well-being of the people by standing in elections.

When voted for, these individuals then work very hard and diligently stand
for the best interests of their people. What is taking place in Zimbabwe,
however, is somewhat different from what the reasonable mass public thought
was going to happen after 1980.

Historically, a bicameral legislature would represent somewhat different
socio-economic groups. Now with "clans and families" having taken over the
senate, we wonder if this has been done to protect the interests of a
certain group of individuals keen to bleed Zimbabwe dry.

There is nothing that the senate is going to change. In fact, more could be
done with a simple, straightforward and transparent unicameral parliament in
which decisions on what to do with the homeless and unemployed are reached
more quickly.

This however had to be done away with since it was less costly and was
threatening to bring about accountability. Having said this, a certain group
of individuals who have been faithful to their earthly master had to be
assured of positions thereby creating a system whereby their hold on power
is maintained and that the same position becomes an inheritance for the same
"clans and families" in coming generations. If this sounds a bit far-fetched
for some, can you convince us otherwise?

Lastly, if there is anyone who thinks that Zimbabwe is their own private
enterprise, let it be known that no business or non-profit corporation would
put up with two boards of directors.




Allow rebels to thrive

I REFER to the front-page story "MDC banishes rebels", (Zimbabwe
Independent, December 2).

The word "rebel" is value-laden, indicating that anyone in that category
does not accept the general trend of the group. Classically, in the modern
global village, teenagers are rebels, rebelling against the old-fashioned,
stuffy culture of their parents and teachers.

This is a pointer to the positive side of rebellion. It challenges the
status quo and asserts the power of the challengers as being equal to, or
greater than those challenged: youth versus old-age, growth versus decay.

In the MDC, the word "rebel" is used to refer to any member of the
non-sycophant group: any member who challenges the status quo within the
party. It would be wise for the sycophants to study history and understand
that any status quo which remains unchallenged will die.

Look at all the lost civilisations and languages of the world which could
not, or would not adapt to changing circumstances.

Let rebels in both parties - ruling party and the opposition - continue to
challenge the mummification of their party.

Perhaps then our nation will be able to shake off the rigor mortis
paralysing us right now, and we will be able to move forward, at last!

Long live rebels!

Tawanda Matasa,



Mystery is in profit

I READ on BBC Africa Online that Jan Egeland is "puzzled" by Zimbabwe's
rejection of the UN's offer of tents.

The reason is actually very simple. Some months ago various members of the
Zanu PF hierarchy bought the country's largest brick-making enterprise.

That is why they are insisting on brick houses, in order to make themselves
a lot of money in scarce foreign currency - out of the UN.

So they will actually profiteer from the destruction of all the poor
people's houses.

Possibly the UN office in Harare could point out to Egeland that there is no
mystery at all if you are in possession of the facts?

Charles Frizell,



Consider inflation for workers' sake

I HAVE felt compelled to write on behalf of several wrongly dismissed and
retrenched workers in Zimbabwe.

It is common cause that labour disputes are taking so many years to resolve
through the courts.

When a labour dispute is finally resolved, say after two years, the employer
is obliged to pay the employee backpay calculated to include interest at the
statutory rate of 30% pa.

The salary and benefit arrears at the end of two years are completely eroded
by the rampant inflation currently running at 502% pa.

In the meantime, and during the two years, a shrewd employer, especially in
the financial service sector, simply makes provisions for backpay and
invests the funds in the money market at a rate of say 200% pa making an
interest margin of 170% pa (200 - 30%).

If the amount owed to the employee is estimated to be around $500 million
for instance, the employer invests this amount in the money market over a
two-year period at 200% pa, meaning the employer will earn, including the
principal amount, $4,5 billion using simple interest.

After paying the employee $845 million less tax, the employer earns a net
investment income of $3,66 billion.

In normal financial transactions, interest is compounded for periods ranging
from one to 12 months and in this case, the prejudice to the employee is
even greater.

In the current economic environment in Zimbabwe, where companies are
downsizing or winding up, leading to retrenchment of workers, retrenchments
or dismissals of employees have become a lucrative source of investment
income for employers especially in the financial sector.

The Minister of Finance, Dr Hertbert Murerwa, in his 2006 budget statement
announced a number of tax relief measures to cushion employees in general,
and retrenchees in particular, in view of the hyperinflation obtaining in
the country.

While welcoming his tax concessions, I cannot understand why he, and the
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister are enriching employers at
the expense of employees in as far as payment of backpay at the current
statutory interest rate of 30% pa is concerned.

Furthermore, in the budget statement, Murerwa proposed to empower the Zimra
commissioner general to charge market-related interest rates on unpaid
penalties with effect from January but did not review the statutory interest
rate of 30% pa charged on unpaid salary and benefit arrears to market rates.

The plight of employees is further worsened in that the benefit arrears
attract what is deemed income benefit tax which is charged by Zimra at the
rate of 16% pa.

Interest rates have a strong relationship with inflation and as such, the
statutory interest rate currently at 30% pa should be reviewed on a regular
basis and in line with annual inflation trends in order not to prejudice

Where interest rates are negative such as in Zimbabwe, employers will drag
labour disputes for as long as possible, knowing very well that by the time
these arrears/packages are payable to the employee, they are firstly
completely eroded by inflation and secondly, the employer will have earned
substantial investment income from the funds to pay employees' salary and
benefit arrears and still make a handsome profit on the invested funds.

This statutory interest rate at 30% pa is actually an incentive to employers
to delay payment to employees as much as possible.

In my view, it is immoral for the government to enrich employers at the
expense of employees.

In the interest of all workers in Zimbabwe and social justice at the work
place, I call upon the two ministries concerned to review the statutory
interest rate which currently stands at 30% pa in line with inflation trends
as a matter of urgency.

Disgruntled Employee,



Sad tale of a traumatised Zimbabwe boy

IT was 1984, in a small mining town in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe. A
small boy in grade five, aged 11 years, was crying, frightened and praying,
whilst hiding under a bed in a dark room.

He was crying and frightened because the rowdy people who were singing,
dancing and marching outside - at nearly midnight - had been going around
the town burning down houses.

These people were Zanu PF youths that had been burning down houses and
property that belonged to Ndebele-speaking people in the town, accusing them
of being the opposition PF-Zapu supporters.

The boy even witnessed the body of a Ndebele-speaking man who had been tied
onto a railway line and was subsequently crushed by a train during the

He was praying because he was of Shona ethnicity, and was begging God to
make Zanu PF win in the following year's parliamentary election, as a win
for PF-Zapu could mean retaliation by Ndebeles, and as a Shona he was afraid
that his family could be killed.

Such was the scenario in 1984, and I was that boy.

Of course, the elections came and went and Zanu PF won.

In 1987, the two parties signed a Unity Accord, but the trauma that I had
experienced as a child was to be re-lived some years down the line.

Between 2000 and 2002, I was to witness the burning down of more houses
belonging to opposition supporters by Zanu PF youths.

However, this time around, instead of a dead body, I witnessed people being
beaten up and left for dead.

This year, my misfortunes in witnessing traumatic experiences continued with
Operation Murambatsvina (Clean-out rubbish).

I witnessed houses being razed to the ground, whilst fathers, mothers and
their children wept uncontrollably.

I have at least four families of my relatives who have been living in the
open since June, exposed to the vagaries of the weather - including the
persistent rains, no sanitary and health facilities, shelter or food.

The children are not going to school and are constantly sick.

Having been a witness to Zanu PF atrocities for so long and from a tender
age, why is the world still sitting by and debating whether there are human
rights violations in Zimbabwe or not?

Who are these people who call themselves academics who appear on national
television talking about cultural and media imperialism? Forget about what
the transnational news agencies, private media, academics and politicians
are saying.

I might not know much about the real reasons why our country's inflation is
one of the highest in the world, why the people of Zimbabwe are starving,
and why there is a shortage of nearly every essential commodity.

I do not know why US president George W Bush and UK premier Tony Blair are
so interested in our country.

I cannot even tell who was more cruel: President Robert Mugabe, Adolf
Hitler, Josef Stalin or Saddam Hussein, because I was not a first-hand
witness to these other men's so-called cruelty.

Nevertheless, what I know - as a witness - is that Mugabe has failed us, and
action has to be taken today to remove him from power and bring him to

Simbarashe Mutasa,



Why is govt mum on SA spy saga?

IT never ceases to amaze me why our government is so desperate.

Here is a spy working for the South African government, for obviously
anti-Zimbabwe reasons. He is caught, arrested, but subsequently released at
the request of the South African government.

Meanwhile, his Zimbabwean accomplices are still behind bars, and with
obviously no hope of an early release.

South Africa's Intelligence minister even comes to fetch him, not to have
him incarcerated in his home country, but to continue his work - spying.

Our own Intelligence minister is even at hand to see him off - all smiles,
and probably wishing him many more years of spying.

The state media is actually delighted that the South African government has
said that relations between the two countries will not be strained as a
result of the arrest. Gosh!

Who was aggrieved here, South Africa or Zimbabwe?

Is it for the South African government to determine the future of the two
countries' relations because of this spying incident?

Is the Zimbabwean government so desperate for friends that they apologise
even if they are the ones slapped in the face?

It is like apologising to the man you have caught in bed with your wife!

Today we are crying because of the so-called machinations of the West who, a
few years ago, were our best buddies.

We never criticised them for anything, but even vigorously embraced their
economic policies, such as Esap which rendered thousands of Zimbabweans
jobless and destitute. Years later when relations go sour, the government
starts recalling the West's "evils" of the 1990s.

Are we to expect the same as regards South Africa?

The government even had to wait until the Western governments severed
relations with Zimbabwe before speaking out.

A few years later when relations have soured, the government will start
recalling how in 2005, the South African government sent spies to Zimbabwe,
and how that government infiltrated and tried to destroy this country.

Why not speak out now? Is our government full of wimps?

Bongani Ndlovu,


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