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Zimbabwe introduces higher denomination banknotes

Reuters

Wed 19 Dec 2007, 20:43 GMT

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's central bank on Wednesday announced
the introduction of higher denomination banknotes to help end a cash crunch
that has seen people besiege banks.

Central bank governor Gideon Gono announced in a televised speech that the
Z$200,000 bill -- currently the highest value note and equivalent to $6.66
at the official rate and $0.12 on the widely used black market -- would be
phased out by Jan. 1.

Gono said higher-value Z$750,000, Z$500,000 and Z$250,000 bills would start
circulating on Thursday in an attempt to end cash shortages that have forced
some people to sleep outside banks in the hunt for cash amid a severe
economic crisis blamed on President Robert Mugabe's policies.

Critics say the new banknotes will do little to address the causes of
Zimbabwe's economic slide, which include the world's highest inflation rate,
acute shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel, and unemployment of
nearly 80 percent.

Gono said the Z$200,000 note was the most used by illegal dealers.

He said individual depositors would not be allowed to bank more than Z$50
million and any excess funds would be forfeited to the government. All banks
would from Thursday be manned by government officials to monitor cash
deposits.

"The cash shortages will be a thing of the past. Within the next few days
there will be sufficient cash to go about our business," Gono said.

Tempers have been fraying more than usual in recent days as Zimbabweans have
crowded into banks in search of cash, which is in short supply ahead of the
Christmas holiday.

Gono said he had refused calls by the business sector to lop zeros off the
Zimbabwe dollar to make life easier for shoppers, who now must carry piles
of cash to make even simple purchases.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe chief again accused senior government and
business officials of being the brains behind a flourishing illegal parallel
market in foreign currency, fuel, diamonds and gold.

Gono said the stringent deposit requirements would expose the "cash barons"
and that there would be a "serious clean-up" of banks he accused of working
with illegal dealers to siphon cash out of the banking system.

When challenged in an interview after his televised speech to name the
officials involved in illegal activities, Gono said he would divulge the
information to parliament if asked.

"I will be happy to name some of these cash barons before a parliamentary
committee. If they (parliamentary committee) have got the guts, I will give
them a full house." (Editing by Giles Elgood)


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New bank note not enough for one loaf of bread

Zim Online

Zimbabwe central bank unveils higher denominated notes

by Never Chanda Thursday 20 December 2007

HARARE – Zimbabwe central bank governor Gideon Gono on Wednesday night
announced a new family of higher denominated bearer cheques in a two-pronged
attempt to beat cash barons illegally hoarding money and to alleviate cash
shortages gripping the country.

In a televised address to the inflation ravaged nation last night, Gono
abolished the Z$200 000 bearer cheque that was the highest value note before
last night and gave Zimbabweans until the 31st of December to exchange the
notes at banks.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor unveiled new $250 000, $500 000
and $750 000 bearer cheques that come into effect immediately.

The new highest denomination bearer cheque is enough to buy only one loaf of
the lowest quality bread that sells at about $800 000, a vivid illustration
of Zimbabwe’s rampant inflation estimated at above 14 000 percent.

“With effect from 1 January 2008, the $200 000 bearer cheque ceases to be
legal tender. Starting tomorrow (Thursday) all holders of these bank notes
should bring them back to the banks,” Gono said.

Bearer cheques are not money but are promissory notes first introduced by
the central bank at the height of cash shortages four years ago. They
function in the same way as money.

The RBZ chief said anyone with deposits in excess of $50 million would be
required to account for the funds by completing “source of funds” forms.

The central bank chief also said they had increased withdrawal limits for
individuals to $50 million, up from $20 million, while companies can now
withdraw up to $750 million.

Gono also lashed out at cash barons whom he said were hoarding cash for
speculative purposes.

“I know three quarters of them but professional ethics do not allow me to
name them by name. If challenged I will name them,” said Gono. “I feel let
down by the system.”

Gono last week said the bulk of Zimbabwe’s $67 trillion in circulation could
not be accounted for and accused senior government officials of hoarding
money to finance deals on the illegal black market.

Gono had in recent week promised that he would soon introduce a new currency
to replace bearer cheques under the second phase of his monetary reforms
code-named Operation Sunrise Two.

Sunrise I, implemented in August 2006, saw the introduction of a new family
of bearer cheques by slashing of three zeroes from the older cheques.

Sources at the central bank say the new currency could be unveiled in the
first or second quarter of 2008.

However, economic analysts say changing Zimbabwe’s currency without fixing
the root causes of the country’s unprecedented economic meltdown would do
little to stabilise a Zimbabwe dollar that continues shedding value faster
than any other currency in the world. - ZimOnline


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Junior doctors refuse to take up posts at hospitals

Zim Online

by Nqobizitha Khumalo Thursday 20 December 2007

      BULAWAYO – Mpilo Hospital and the United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) have
shut down their outpatients departments after junior doctors seconded to the
institutions refused to take up their posts citing lack of accommodation
facilities.

      The junior doctors who were scheduled to start their internship at the
two hospitals say they want the government to provide them with decent
accommodation as well as increase their salaries before they can assume
duty.

      Junior doctors, who have downed tools over the past few months
demanding better pay and working conditions, are currently earning about
Z$70 million, which they say is not enough in Zimbabwe’s hyper-inflationary
environment.

      The outpatients departments at the two hospitals have not been
operating over the past few days after the junior doctors refused to be
deployed at the two hospitals.

      Hospital officials at Mpilo said only 10 out of the 23 who had been
deployed there had reported for duty with the majority refusing to take up
their new posts citing lack of accommodation.

      At the UBH, only six doctors reported for duty earlier this week
instead of the 13 who were deployed there.

      “The outpatients department was shut down as only one junior doctor
was running the department . . . he was over-stretched as specialist doctors
only attend to critical conditions,” said a senior official at Mpilo who
refused to be named for professional reasons.

      The official said most of the junior doctors were opting to work at
Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare where accommodation was still available.

      “The junior doctors, most of whom are from Harare are refusing to
report for work arguing that they do not have accommodation in the city,” he
said.

      The junior doctors are seconded to government hospitals by the
University of Zimbabwe and the National University of Science and Technology
medical schools.

      Lindiwe Mlilo, the Mpilo chief executive officer, could not be reached
for comment on the matter while Health Health Minister David Parirenyatwa
said the government was aware of the problems at Mpilo and UBH.

      “We are aware of the problems Mpilo and UBH are facing,” said
Parirenyatwa, adding that the government was already building a block of
flats at Mpilo to ease the accommodation crisis for junior doctors.

      He did not say when exactly construction would be complete but said a
fresh batch of intern doctors available only in February would be sent to
the two Bulawayo hospitals.

      The government was also in the process of reviewing doctors salaries,
according to Parirenyatwa.

      The closure of the outpatients department has forced thousands of
patients to seek medical treatment from expensive private surgeries where
they pay huge consultation fees.

      Hundreds of doctors and nurses have fled Zimbabwe over the past seven
years to seek better paying jobs in neighbouring countries such as South
Africa and Botswana.

      The exodus of trained medical staff has hit hard Zimbabwe’s health
delivery system which is also struggling to cope under an unprecedented
economic recession described by the World Bank as unseen for a country not
at war. - ZimOnline


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ZANU PF admits manufacturing sector running at below 30 percent

Zim Online

by Wayne Mafaro  Thursday 20 December 2007

HARARE – Most of Zimbabwe’s major companies are operating at below 30
percent of capacity with some down to 15 percent, the ruling ZANU PF party
has said in a rare admission of an economic meltdown blamed on its
controversial policies.

President Robert Mugabe’s party named Unilever (South East Africa) and
National Foods Limited – probably the two biggest food manufacturers in the
country – as among firms that were running at 15 percent of capacity.

The report that was prepared by ZANU PF’s central committee expresses hope
that a Basic Commodities Supply-Side Intervention Facility (BACOSSI)
launched by Zimbabwe’s central bank would help firms increase capacity
utilisation to about 50 percent.

"Access to BACOSSI funds will help the company (Unilever) increase capacity
utilisation to 50 percent, whilst National Foods will increase from 13
percent to 20 percent in the stock feeds division and from 3.2 percent to 21
percent in consumer products," said the report.

Under BACOSSI, manufacturers are able to borrow working capital at a lower
interest of 25 percent per annum. The firms are required to use the cash to
produce mostly basic commodities in short supply in the country.

The ZANU PF report was tabled at the party’s congress last week but has been
kept away from the public eye.

The report is the first time the governing party has officially confirmed
findings by various independent researchers that the majority of Zimbabwe’s
industries have either shut down or drastically scaled down operations
because of a harsh operating environment.

The ZANU PF congress elected Mugabe as the party’s candidate in presidential
elections scheduled for 2008, a move analysts say guarantees continuation of
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis that is blamed on wrong policies and repression
by the veteran President.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating political and economic crisis that
is marked by hyperinflation, a rapidly contracting GDP, the fastest for a
country not at war according to the World Bank and shortages of foreign
currency, food and fuel.

A shortage of local currency has further choked Zimbabweans, a vast majority
of who are living on less than US one dollar per day. Four out of five
people are out of work, while a quarter of the country’s 12 million people
are in urgent need of food aid.

Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence from Britain, denies
mismanaging the economy and insists the southern African nation will not
collapse despite mounting problems and Western sanctions against his
government. - ZimOnline


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Report alleges massive interference with airport tender process

Zim Online

by Wayne Mafaro  Thursday 20 December 2007

HARARE – A parliamentary committee on transport and communications says
there has been massive interference with the tender process for the
construction of the Victoria Falls airport, ZimOnline has learnt.

In a report to Parliament seen by ZimOnline, the committee condemned the
tender process as flawed adding that the Civil Aviation Authority of
Zimbabwe (CAAZ) appeared to have succumbed to pressure “from somewhere.”

The report however, does not name from where the pressure was coming from.

“The committee observed that the tender process on the Victoria Falls
Airport was flawed. It was apparent to the Committee that the Authority
(CAAZ) was acting on instructions from elsewhere,” said the committee.

The committee said it was puzzled why a Zimbabwean company, Costain
Zimbabwe, could not proceed with the project after it won the tender with
full financial backing from a South African bank, Nedbank.

“The committee was concerned at the way the CAAZ management, board and
ministry are handling issues concerning the airports,” reads the report
titled, “Report of the Portfolio Committee on Air Zimbabwe and Civil
Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.”

The report also did not have kind words for Transport and Communications
Minister Christopher Mushowe saying his ministry had failed to promote
indigenous operators to complement Air Zimbabwe.

“The committee feels that the Ministry of Transport and Communications
should deliberately provide room for indigenous operators who meet the
relevant criteria,” says the report.

The committee said, for example, the ministry should not have cancelled Sol
Air’s air service permit last November in a bid to protect budding
indigenous players in the aviation industry.

Mushowe’s permanent secretary, George Mlilo, last month cancelled Sol Air’s
permit saying the company had failed to operate despite obtaining a licence
to complement Air Zimbabwe services about seven years ago.

The committee said the ministry should have given the firm enough time “to
put in place the relevant aviation equipment, and other requirements” as the
firm had already pumped in huge investments into the project.

“The ministry of transport and communications should review this policy in
order to promote local business,” says the report.

Mushowe could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday. -
ZimOnline


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Zuma victory: lessons for Zimbabwe’s opposition

Zim Online

Thursday 20 December 2007

By Mutumwa Mawere

JOHANNESBURG - As South Africa and indeed President Thabo Mbeki digests and
reflects on Jacob Zuma's victory as the President of Africa's oldest
political party, the African National Congress (ANC), there is no doubt that
the political actors in Zimbabwe are also challenged by the implications of
a Zuma presidency underpinned by strong support by President Robert Mugabe's
strongest and most vocal critics, that is the Congress of South Africa Trade
Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Many will recall that last year after the ZANU-PF conference held at
Goromonzi, there was a strongly held view that Mugabe would not secure the
support of his party due to factionalism to offer himself as a candidate in
the 2008 elections.

Furthermore, it was argued that the harmonisation project mooted by Mugabe
as a mechanism of ensuring the continued hegemony of ZANU-PF and no doubt
himself would not see the light of day.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also subscribed to the notion that
Mugabe was under siege from his own party and the writing was on the wall
that he was on his way out.

Operating on this assumption, the MDC thought that Mugabe was so weak and
beleaguered that he would not last 2007. The events of March 2007 then
occurred resulting in the brutality and international outcry that then
prompted SADC to intervene by appointing President Mbeki as mediator.

The appointment of Mbeki as the mediator was not accidental. Since the
dismissal of Zuma as deputy president, Mbeki was facing a brewing political
crisis of his own and his adversaries in the main i.e. COSATU and SACP were
also Mugabe's nemesis.

An objective analysis would have suggested that both Mugabe and Mbeki were
victims of counter-revolutionaries who were thin on liberation revolutionary
values and morality but strong on populism.

It is evident that prior to the SADC summit in Tanzania, Mugabe may have
doubted Mbeki's credentials as a revolutionary.

What must have happened during the summit was that as Mugabe briefed the
heads of state, Mbeki could not help but to accept that the same forces that
wanted regime change in Zimbabwe appeared to have the same approach in
respect of the ANC succession battle.

Whereas Mugabe's adversaries were outside his own party, Mbeki's adversaries
were in his party but not under his control.

For the first time, Mugabe must have felt that he at last had gotten through
to Mbeki who hitherto had not fully appreciated the broader implications of
the MDC onslaught on what he perceived to be the objectives of the national
democratic revolution and the role of international forces in the struggle.

In Mugabe, Mbeki must have seen a convenient ally in his own struggle for
control of the ANC and the annihilation of Zuma and his allies.

Having forged an alliance between the two of them, it was therefore most
appropriate that Mbeki be the mediator between ZANU-PF and MDC.

Mugabe was acutely aware of the ideological and political challenges facing
his opposition and felt that the intervention of a fellow comrade like Mbeki
would help clarify issues with the MDC with the ultimate aim of alienating
the MDC from its purported Western benefactors.

If Mbeki could deliver MDC, then this surely would help expose Zuma's
political backers who are left wing inclined and populist in approach.

What has unfolded is that Mugabe has become the ultimate beneficiary and is
now the undisputed leader of both ZANU-PF and MDC as his stature and
standing has not been shaken unlike that of Mbeki.

Whereas at the beginning of the year, MDC ruled out the harmonization
project, the constitutional amendment to allow Mugabe to extend his term was
passed with the active and constructive support of the two factions of the
MDC.

The so-called Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions are missing in action and on the
contrary were the most visible of Mugabe's supporters for term extension at
the just ended ZANU PF conference that unanimously endorsed Mugabe as the
candidate of the party in the 2008 elections.

How did Mugabe outfox his adversaries and Mbeki fall victim of his own?

What is evident is that if Mbeki had won the ANC elections, Mugabe would
have been assisted greatly in burying the regime change agenda. The victory
of Zuma presents a problem for Mugabe in that if Mbeki can get the boot from
his comrades he also can get a boot from his citizens.

The approach to governance and use of state power between Mbeki and Mugabe
may not be different but the difference is that Mbeki's adversaries were
more organised and focused than Mugabe's adversaries.

It is clear that Zuma has emerged as a great strategist and tactician than
many have given him credit for.  Without Zuma's leadership and ability to
confront tyranny, the forces against Mbeki would not have executed their
mandate with such precision and clarity.

At the end of the day, Mbeki's real adversary was not any third party or
shadowy figure but his own deputy. Zuma did not shy away from being counted
unlike the so-called ZANU-PF faction leaders.

He provided the intelligence and strategic direction to his forces right
from the day he was dismissed by Mbeki. Zuma has shown that state power
cannot substitute the power of the people to choose their destiny.

Without the support of the state, Zuma has demonstrated that change is
possible and the only power people who are denied power have is the power to
organise.

Equally, Mugabe has shown that he is much smarter than his adversaries
notwithstanding the fact that his continued political hegemony may be
detrimental to the progress of the nation.

What Zuma has shown is that through democratic means people can endure
vilification and intimidation and yet emerge as victors through effective
mobilisation.

The Zuma prescription may ultimately be the medicine that the continent
needs to unshackle itself from the stranglehold of its tyrannical leaders.
If Zuma can do it, there is no doubt that Africa will produce many Zumas
like it has done in the past struggles against colonialism.

What will happen to the Zimbabwe conflict resolution efforts of Mbeki? It is
clear that Mbeki has already delivered the MDC to Mugabe but what he may
need himself is a mediator.

The clean sweep by Zuma and the relegation of Mbeki to a lame duck President
must surely be a lesson to many African heads of state that two terms in
government is more than enough.

The arguments that have been advanced that without people like Mugabe at the
helm, Zimbabwe cannot protect its sovereignty can now easily be challenged
using the Zuma/Mbeki example.

In as much as South Africa managed to see the transition from apartheid to
democracy with President Mbeki and Zuma playing a critical role, there is no
doubt that Zuma working with Mbeki may surprise many people about what is
possible.

Time has the tendency of blurring or even erasing important historical
events.  Some may forget that in order for democracy to be a negotiated
deal, contesting political actors had to bury their differences and focus on
what South Africa needed.

At the time, which is only 14 years ago, South Africa needed a new
dispensation and a regime change. To achieve this it was necessary for
reconciliation to take centre stage and construct a post-apartheid state
based on new values while at the same time accepting that apartheid was the
most race-based corrupt system.

As part of the package, apartheid crimes were forgiven in the interests of
giving birth to a new reality.

If Mbeki could accept that those who had committed crimes against humanity
could be free people in the interests of nation building, there is no doubt
that he will be persuaded that his policies of using the state machinery to
pursue Zuma for what has now been confirmed to be politically motivated
cause, were misplaced and counterproductive.

The fact that Mbeki offered himself for election confirms that the root
cause of Zuma's problems with the law may not be far from his confidence to
dream that one day he would step into Mbeki's shoes.

It is evident that when Mbeki looked at himself in the mirror in terms of
succession he could only see his face. Now that the branch delegates of ANC
have spoken, even Mbeki would not argue that the same people who elected him
could be so wrong in electing Zuma as his natural successor.

If Mbeki were to be aggressive against Zuma and yet accept that apartheid
crimes can be forgiven and forgotten, a danger exists that he may end up
being the seed for undermining the very organization that has given him the
address in the state and empowered him with experience that is invaluable in
transforming Africa.

If Zuma is guilty of receiving money from Shaik then surely more jails
should be built to accommodate all BEE (black economic empowerment)
beneficiaries whose claim to fame may not be any different.

The colonial state was built around institutionalized state corruption and
yet no attempt has been made by the intellectual giants of Africa like Mbeki
to study the nature of the colonial state and how it interfaced with
business.

A project like this would establish that what Zuma is accused of could
hardly be classified as corruption.

What is even more disturbing is that Zuma is accused of graft in a
procurement project that Mbeki and his cabinet have defended as above board.

Surely, if Zuma abused state power, then it would be the state advancing its
case and by now all the tainted contracts would have been cancelled.

For Zimbabwe, what is clear is that Zuma has provided the most potent pill
against anyone who wants to cling to power indefinitely.

If the ailing Castro has come to the inescapable conclusion that he cannot
continue to cling to power, there is no doubt that Mugabe would read the
Zuma victory in its proper perspective.

Equally, Zimbabwe needs its own Zuma to lead the revolution with precision
and clarity. The followers of Zuma were confident that history will judge
them right and they never wavered in their determination to get to the
mountain top.

With Zuma at the helm, Mugabe will have natural disability in communicating
with him what Mbeki failed to communicate to him in his quest to cling to
power after a distinguished service to the ANC and the nation.

Finally, after Zuma's victory, a question needs to be posed to Zimbabweans
on what time it is. It surely cannot be the time for no change because this
runs against the wind of change blowing from both the Indian and Atlantic
oceans.

* Mutumwa Mawere is a Zimbabwean-born businessman based in Johannesburg,
South Africa


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Opposition blasted after amendments fast tracked through parliament



By Henry Makiwa
19 December 2007

Media organisations and civil society have questioned the sincerity of the
opposition in the SADC-initiated political talks, following the “fast
tracking” through parliament of amendments to contentious media and security
bills, without debate, on Tuesday.

Amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA) were rushed through Parliament with only one opposition
legislator raising objections. According to reports, the two factions of the
MDC and the ruling Zanu PF sanctioned the amendments during ongoing talks
mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

But media bodies and civil society have accused the opposition of “supping
with Zanu PF” at the expense of the people’s freedom. In separate
statements, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Zimbabwe
Union of Journalists’ have raised concerns that none of the negotiators at
the talks consulted key stakeholders before drafting the amendments.

MISA director Rushweat Mukundu said: “The amendments were passed without any
meaningful debate on the contentious provisions of the enabling Bills. All
of them, including the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, were passed without
being referred to the relevant portfolio committees, as required by the
Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament.

He added: “It is of great concern that the Bills in question received the
scant attention of parliamentarians, despite their far-reaching implications
on basic freedoms such as the right to freedom of expression, media freedom
and freedom of assembly and association.”

Misa has criticised the amendments saying they dwell on ‘inconsequential
administrative issues which do not even begin to advance the cause for basic
freedoms such as the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and
freedom of assembly and association.’

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa justified the fast tracking of the Bills
saying, “This was done in order for them to be disposed of before Parliament
breaks for the Christmas holidays.”

Pedzisayi Ruhanya, the programmes officer of Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe said:
“Its quite apparent that someone in the opposition is selling out. The MDC
is once again celebrating a stillbirth because these amendments are just
cosmetic. They are no better than applying lipstick to a frog knowing that
when it jumps back into the water, the make-up will vanish.”

This is the second time that the MDC factions have been accused of betraying
their long-standing connections with civil groups in the country. Earlier
this year, they voted with ZANU-PF for the first time ever in support of
Amendment 18, the bill that harmonised the Presidential and Parliamentary
elections next year.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Zimbabwe diaspora groups hail ANC for non-violent elections



By Tererai Karimakwenda
19 December 2007

Internal leadership elections held by South Africa’s African National
Congress on Tuesday have been praised by Zimbabwean civil groups in the
diaspora, for having been brutally honest, not violent and for setting high
standards in the practice of democracy in the region. Controversial former
Vice President Jacob Zuma won a heated contest against Mbeki, with
supporters literally out-shouting each other but remaining peaceful.

On Wednesday the Global Zimbabwe Forum (GZF) released a statement that
congratulated the ANC for the successful conduct of its elections, saying it
set an example for the region.

The GZF is a network of Zimbabwean NGOs operating in the diaspora. These
groups assist and represent the millions who have left Zimbabwe and are
living in diverse communities around the world.

GZF spokesperson Grace Kwinjeh said succession issues within ruling parties
in Africa have always been problematic. Closer to home she criticised
Zimbabwe’s ruling party for failing to display democratic principles at
their congress last week. Kwinjeh said: “The lack of internal democracy in
ZANU-PF manifests itself within the broader political spectrum.”

Kwinjeh, herself a political activist, said the ANC congress was full of
passionate debate which she described as brutally honest at times, but it
never became violent. She contrasted this with ZANU-PF leadership elections
where the head of state is not put to the test or held accountable. She
praised President Thabo Mbeki for allowing himself to be held accountable in
this way.

Asked whether Zuma’s election would have any implications for Zimbabwe,
Kwinjeh said Zuma’s close ties to groups such as South Africa’s umbrella
labour body COSATU will be an advantage for Zimbabwe because those groups
have been assisting their counterparts across the Limpopo, and have stood
against Mbeki on Zimbabwe issues.

A statement released by GZF said in part:“We call for Zuma to be even more
clear and unequivocal in his stance against any form of dictatorship and
human rights abuse in Zimbabwe. We also call upon the newly elected
leadership of the ANC to revisit the plight of the millions of Zimbabweans
that are currently living in South Africa . In particular we hope that the
outstanding issue of the legal status of Zimbabweans will also be decisively
resolved soon.”

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news


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Cooking in Queues As Cash Shortages Worsen



SW Radio Africa (London)

19 December 2007
Posted to the web 19 December 2007

Lance Guma

Several families are leaving their homes armed with portable paraffin stoves
to cook meals in the long snaking queues at the bank. The country is in the
midst of a major cash crisis with the central bank failing to provide enough
notes to meet demand.

Pishai Muchauraya an opposition official in Manicaland said it's now a
common practice to see people cooking food to eat whilst queuing up to
withdraw money. Teachers who work in rural areas and travel to the cities to
get their money are some of the most affected groups. Banks are only
allowing customers to withdraw Z$5 million per day whilst a trip for some
could cost as much as Z$6 million. This Muchauraya says requires two days of
queuing just to take care of the transport costs.

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono assured Zimbabweans there would be enough
cash for the Christmas period, adding the bank would remedy the situation.
The reality however is different. Hyper inflation and an inability to
introduce higher denominations have ensured there is not enough money in the
system. Gono has in the past threatened to introduce a new currency and
flush out so-called cash barons allegedly hoarding money. But as we reported
this week there was confusion Tuesday as people anticipated this move. The
Reserve Bank ordered financial institutions not to dispense cash or accept
deposits. It was only in the afternoon when banks started releasing cash
that it transpired there was no new currency, only new notes of the old
Z$200,000 bearer cheques.

The central bank claims that as of November 15, Z$58 trillion cash was in
circulation but that banks were only holding Z$1 trillion. This he said
meant Z$57 trillion dollars is, 'floating somewhere out there.' Analysts
however say with restrictions on withdrawals in place, customers are not
motivated to bank their money, as they will struggle to withdraw it later.
Hyperinflation has also discouraged savings and made it pointless to use the
banking system. In Manicaland, Mucharauya told us wealthy businessmen
running shops are raking in a fortune in selling their cash to desperate
people. People under pressure to secure Christmas goodies for their families
are buying Z$50 million in cash - but it's costing them Z$80 million.


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Zimbabweans use eggs to calculate exchange rate

Monsters and Critics

Dec 19, 2007, 9:39 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Fed up with myriad official and unofficial rates for
hard currency, some Zimbabweans have started using eggs to calculate the
rate of exchange.

President Robert Mugabe's government has set the official rate of exchange
at 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar. But hardly anyone uses that
rate these days.

Despite threats from the feared National Incomes and Pricing Commission
(NIPC), shops, private tutors, street vendors and cross- border traders all
use parallel exchange rates to set their prices.

The problem is that as the annual inflation rate rises - currently it's
running at more than 14,000 per cent - black market exchange rates change
all the time. And everyone wants to get the best deal.

So some locals have adopted the Hard-Boiled Egg Index (HBEI) to determine
what they are calling a fair value exchange rate. The HBEI, popularized by a
local financial columnist, works on the premise that across Africa, 1 US
dollar buys around eight eggs.

To work out a fair exchange rate for the US dollar on a particular day,
Zimbabweans take the cost of buying just one egg - usually from a roadside
vendor because shops are poorly stocked - and multiply by eight.

On Tuesday, for example, an egg cost 300,000 or 400,000 Zimbabwe dollars,
depending on where you were shopping.

Multiply by eight and you get totals of 2.4 million and 3.2 million. Work
out the median, and the fair value HBEI rate for the US dollar is 2.8
million Zimbabwe dollars.

'Sometimes the parallel rate gets ahead of the HBEI and sometimes it lags
behind,' a local financial news service said Wednesday.

'Generally the HBEI reflects exchange rate inflation, purchasing power
parity and domestic inflation in a very effective way.'

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur


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Two white farmers arrested in Zimbabwe for defying evictions

Monsters and Critics

Dec 19, 2007, 7:27 GMT

   Harare - Police in Zimbabwe have arrested two more white farmers for
defying government eviction orders, news reports said Wednesday.

   Johannes Fick and Gideon Theron, both farmers in the tobacco-growing
Beatrice district south of the capital, appeared in court on Tuesday, said
the official Herald newspaper.

   'It is alleged the two extended their occupation without government
authority,' said the Herald.

   The two have been remanded out of police custody until trial in January
next year.

   More than a dozen white farmers have been arrested since the authorities
started enforcing eviction orders in October. Until then, only 400 or so
white farmers were still left on their farms after President Robert Mugabe
launched his controversial programme of white land seizures in 2000.

   The government had given some of the white farmers until the end of
September to leave. Some of those who have been arrested want to challenge
the country's land laws that they say violate their constitutional rights.

   Zimbabwe, once a renowned farming country, has suffered declining
harvests since land reforms were launched. Mugabe blames the drop in
production on repeated drought.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur


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Zimbabwean villagers appeal for help after devastating floods

Monsters and Critics

Dec 19, 2007, 8:38 GMT

Harare/Johannesburg - Villagers in remote northern Zimbabwe, where floods
have destroyed homes and crops and swept away livestock, have appealed to
the authorities for urgent help, reports said Wednesday.

President Robert Mugabe's government has declared the floods, which struck
last week in Muzarabani in the Zambezi valley, a national disaster.

More than 600 families in the poor cotton and maize-growing area have lost
their homes.

'We are appealing to the government and well-wishers to donate more relief
aid so that the affected families can be assisted,' Winbie Kagodo, a
councillor in the area, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

'Families need assistance such as blankets, food, as well as building
materials so that they can rebuild their homesteads,' he said.

Heavy rains have been falling across Zimbabwe since early December.

Muzarabani, a low-lying area traversed by rivers, is particularly vulnerable
to floods.

The meterological department has forecast downpours lasting up to Thursday,
which could bring more floods.

Zimbabwe's Civil Protection Unit (CPU), the Red Cross and the Department of
Social Welfare have started to distribute relief supplies in the area.

'I have had a big loss as all my maize and cotton crops were washed away by
the heavy rains. I pray that we get assistance so that we plant again,'
villager Casten Chamboko said.

The police have revised the death toll from the floods to one, down from
three as had been initially reported.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur


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Country braces for another round of flooding


HARARE, 19 December 2007 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe government's emergency
assistance arm, the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), is moving hundreds of
people to higher ground and advising others to do likewise in the wake of
flooding that has claimed three lives and resulted in a fourth person being
listed as missing.

More rain has been forecast across Zimbabwe after a two-week deluge flooded
low-lying areas in the Muzarabani district of Mashonaland Central Province,
in the north of the country.

CPU deputy director Sibusisiwe Ndlovu told IRIN that an unspecified number
of homes and livestock had been washed away in Muzarabani district, and that
the Hoya Bridge linking Muzarabani with nearby Mukumbura district had also
been destroyed.

"We can confirm that three people have died, while a fourth is missing in
the Chadereka area of Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central after floods
devastated the area," Ndlovu said.

"More than a thousand people have been displaced and moved to higher ground,
while the Air Force of Zimbabwe has deployed two helicopters to rescue
people who may be stranded in the low-lying areas."

The CPU has advised people living in low-lying areas, including Tsholotsho,
in Matabeleland North Province in western Zimbabwe; Middle Sabi, near the
Save River in Manicaland Province in the east; and Chikwalakwala, on the
Limpopo River floodplains in the southeast, to move to higher ground.

Information and publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told IRIN that,
"Naturally, when such a humanitarian crisis ... occurs, it is incumbent upon
humanitarian organisations to complement the efforts that we as government
are doing. Flood victims who have been internally displaced will naturally
be in need of many forms of assistance, especially food, blankets, water
purification tablets and shelter, such as tents."

Ndlovu said, "The humanitarian assistance can be channelled through to the
Civil Protection Unit, who are responsible for containing the situation on
the ground."

Flood damage unknown

Humanitarian organisations contacted by IRIN said they were assessing the
impact of the floods. "For now, it is virtually impossible to access most
parts of the district because roads and bridges have been washed away, and
many vehicles trying to get into the district have become stuck in the mud,"
a field officer, who declined to be identified, told IRIN.

"The truth of the matter is that very few people have an accurate knowledge
of what is happening because the roads are impassable."

Hector Chikowore, Zimbabwe's Principal Meteorologist, told local media that
Zimbabwe was experiencing unusually heavy rains this year. "Since the start
of the wet spell on December 3, Belvedere, in [the capital] Harare, has
received 276mm, which is about a third of its seasonal average of 841mm.

"There is therefore an increased risk of flooding, especially in low lying
areas such as Muzarabani and the Sabi Valley, [near the Limpopo River in the
south], that have received considerable rain."

The CPU has issued flood warnings across the country, including in the
usually dry southern provinces of Midlands, Masvingo, and Matabeleland South
and North. There has also been flooding in Harare's high-density suburbs of
Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa and Rugare, and more flooding is expected after the
city's largest supply dam, Lake Chivero, reached capacity after two weeks of
incessant rain.

Sheilla Shumba, a resident of Kuwadzana, told IRIN that her house was
flooded and her furniture destroyed. "We hardly get electricity in this part
of the city, and depend on firewood, which is now soggy because of the
rains. I now have to visit my relatives whose houses have not been flooded
so that we can get some hot meals."

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


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Battered artists ditch protest theatre for development

Zim Online

by Tafirei Shumba Thursday 20 December 2007

HARARE –The scantly dressed actress waltzed majestically onto The Mannenberg
theatre stage jutting breasts noticeable beneath the red silky lingerie that
revealed the curves of her body.

She cuddled a teddy bear passionately close to her chest, caressing its fur,
as she got lost in fantasy to the lyrical soundtrack of Love Is Not Supposed
To Hurt by U Meleni.

The audience watched in spectacular awe as the spotlight intensified on the
dazzling young body of Netsai gliding into character in a scene from the
stage drama Sister-Sister just premiered in the capital.

The play romanticises life through the eyes of a young urbanite woman
surviving in a tough patriarchal society.

In apparent deviation, from the traditional provocative protest art, risky
in Zimbabwe for criticising government wrongs, sizeable audiences went on to
watch the play – a short piece of developmental theatre exploring the
essence of womanhood in a hilarious and classical way.

The mellow and “good humored” developmental art fantasising life, like in
Sister-Sister, is making a big resurgence, no doubt much to the relief of
President Robert Mugabe and his governing ZANU PF party long the butt of
criticism by protest artists who accuse the ruling establishment for
plunging Zimbabwe into its worst ever economic recession.

Playhouses such as The Mannenberg theatre have hosted some of the most
hard-hitting political satires ever - including What They Said What They Got
that blasts government directly for curtailing media freedoms through
draconian laws such the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy
Act (AIPPA).

But the theatres are transforming. In a complete shift of focus from
confrontational political art lampooning the country’s leadership for bad
governance, artists are tuning into the more mundane developmental scripts
romanticising life safely away from police trouble.

The shift has already raised questions whether the continued arrests and
intimidation of artists had finally cowed the otherwise bold protest arts
sector to submit to the whishes of a ruthless state that has in recent
months banned several productions perceived as too critical of the
government and arrested artists.

Larry Ndoro, producer and director of Sister-Sister played by siblings
Privilege and Priscilla Mutendera, is quick in his defense of developmental
art: “No, we haven’t been cowed into any submission.

“We want humour for a change through developmental art . . . we want a good
laugh and a smile for once than be fed on endless politics. If music and
theatre were all politicised there would be no entertainment.”

Priscilla, who has featured in tough satires like Decades of Terror written
and produced by Daniel Maphosa and is among performers crossing over to
romantic productions, said: “As an actor I am a foot soldier and simply do
what the directors and producers want . . . sing, dance, cry, laugh –
anything.”

Veteran playwright and arts educator Stephen Chifunyise said the shift to
romantic and development theatre was only a confirmation of theater as a
versatile medium of communication that could be used to convey political as
well as social and developmental messages.

“Protest theatre can’t always be attacking the same people that it seeks to
influence and educate,” said Chifunyise, a former top official in Mugabe’s
government.

However, controversial playwright and director, Cont Mhlanga, scoffed at the
resurgence of romantic theatre saying artists changing over to this type of
theatre at the expense of protesting for socio-economic change were simply
cowards afraid of the government.

The playwright, who has been in endless trouble with the police for his
provocative productions, told ZimOnline: “Zimbabwe is in a tragic state and
why should artists romanticise tragedy?”

He added: “I don’t understand why an artist should stand on stage and say,
let’s have a good laugh when people can’t find food in the shop . . . let’s
have a good laugh when the sick can’t get medicines from hospitals and when
the homeless are sleeping on the streets. What kind of art is that, that
turns us into fools?”

Mhlanga, an award winner of numerous accolades, said Zimbabwe now required
courageous protest artists who were the eyes and ears of society and could
articulate the nation’s political tragedy, offering clues and solutions.

But with state security agents on the lookout and ready to pounce on an form
of dissent, such type of theatre is a risky undertaking - something Mhlanga
needs no telling – which is probably just the reason why feel-good romantic
theatre is on the ascendancy. - ZimOnline


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MISA-Zimbabwe Statement on AIPPA, BSA, POSA Amendments

Zim Online

Wednesday 19 December 2007

HARARE - MISA-Zimbabwe expresses its shock and disappointment with the
recently gazetted bills which seek to amend the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the
Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

The proposed amendment Bills gazetted on 14 December 2007 clearly
demonstrates the government’s determination to maintain the status quo of
the restrictive media freedom and freedom of expression environment through
cosmetic amendments to the offending laws.

A critical analysis of the provisions of the Bills do not by any stretch of
the imagination reflect any serious intentions on the part of the government
and ruling elite to democratise the laws in question in line with democratic
principles that should govern media regulation.

These include, among many others, the declarations and charters the Zimbabwe
government has ratified namely the 1991 Windhoek Declaration, African
Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, African Charter on Broadcasting and
Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.

The proposed amendments mostly dwell on peripheral and inconsequential
administrative issues which do not advance even by a single inch the cause
for basic freedoms such as the right to freedom of expression, media freedom
and freedom of assembly and association.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore dismisses the proposed amendments as amounting to
applying lipstick on a frog.

MISA-Zimbabwe is greatly concerned that despite assurances to the African
Commission on Human and Peoples Rights that AIPPA, among other contentious
legislations will be amended to conform with the Declaration on the
Principles of Freedom of Expression, the government is still proceeding to
retain statutory media regulation through the proposed amendments.

Under the Bill the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC)
will retain its vicious spots despite the proposed name change to the
Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).

The ZMC will still be tasked with the functions of media regulation,
registration of mass media and accrediting of journalists. Members of the
ZMC will consist of nine members appointed by the President from a list of
persons nominated by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and
Orders.

In a blatant disregard of the Banjul Declaration, the AIPPA Amendment Bill
proposes the establishment of a Media Council, appointed by the statutory
ZMC, which will be chaired by a member of the same Commission. This flies in
the face of the principles of media self-regulation which calls for the
media to constitute and run its own affairs.

The proposed changes still threaten media freedoms as the proposed council
has powers to punish the media and journalists through a plethora of
punitive measures including fines and deregistration.

The proposed Media Council will still be used, as the MIC is being used, to
threaten media houses and media workers and cow them into submission.

The record of the MIC since 2003 is well known and the change of name does
not constitute any positive developments in dealing with the undemocratic
nature of the MIC as presently constituted.

The net effect is that heavy handed state regulation of the media has not
advanced the interests of the citizens of Zimbabwe apart from protecting the
narrow and selfish political interests of the ruling elite.

The Banjul Declaration explicitly and unequivocally states: Self regulation
is the best system of instilling professionalism in the media. This position
cannot be interpreted to mean otherwise as it is self-explanatory in its
explicitness.

It is therefore MISA-Zimbabwe’s well considered position that the proposed
amendments do not address the offending provisions that make it impossible
for media diversity and pluralism through the entry of new private players
into both the print and broadcasting sector as envisaged under the 1991
Windhoek Declaration and African Charter on Broadcasting.

For instance foreign funding and ownership in the print media is still
restricted and can only be considered at the “absolute discretion” of the
responsible minister. Intriguingly, the proposed amendments allow for
discretion to deny registration of mass media houses that would have
previously operated without being duly registered in terms of AIPPA.

It is poignant to note that Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe publishers of
the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday has a matter that is still pending
before the MIC concerning the impartial adjudication of its application to
be duly licensed.

As for the BSA, the proposed amendments do not address the critical issue
pertaining to the ban on foreign funding and partnership in the broadcasting
sector of which the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) has admitted is
the major hindrance to the issuing of licenses to private players in order
to free the airwaves from the stranglehold of the state-controlled Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation.

Even more worrying is that under the proposed amendments to POSA,
fundamental forms of free expression such as marches and demonstrations will
not be allowed outside Parliament, among other restricted areas, unless
permission is given by the Speaker of Parliament.

Our concerns at this political brinkmanship are further buttressed by front
page reports in The Herald of 18 December 2007 stating that the Bills will
be fast-tracked through parliament regardless of their threadbare status
diminishing any chances of them being subjected to further scrutiny and
input by media players, civic groups and the public at large.

The Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa’s
assertions that the amendments were part of preparations for the harmonised
presidential, parliamentary and local government elections is denigrating of
the expectations of the Zimbabwean collective and exposes the so-called SADC
Initiatives as political brinkmanship insensitive to the expectations of the
citizens at large.

Zimbabweans should therefore not be deceived by these cosmetic changes as
AIPPA, POSA and BSA will remain as ugly as they were at conception and
inception and will continue to be used to trample on otherwise universally
guaranteed rights and freedoms more so in the run-up to the 2008 elections.

These developments coming as they do on the eve of the conclusion of the
SADC Initiatives to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis being mediated between the
opposition MDC factions and ruling Zanu PF by South African President Thabo
Mbeki vindicate MISA-Zimbabwe’s earlier concerns and skepticism on the
secrecy and exclusive nature of the mediation efforts.

These amendments which were reportedly agreed to during the talks fall far,
far short of the expected reforms that would serve as a panacea for lasting
solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis of which the securing of an environment
conducive to free and fair elections is pivotal.

MISA-Zimbabwe therefore concludes that parties to the SADC Initiatives
negotiated in deceitfully bad faith and betrayed the fundamentals critical
to the exercise of the right to free expression of which media freedom plays
a crucial role in the realisation of democracy, accountable governance,
peace, stability and economic development.

We therefore remind both Zanu PF and the MDC that the challenges Zimbabwe
faces are multifaceted and cannot be resolved by the two parties alone, more
so in a cloud of secrecy designed to present the citizens of this country
with take-it-or-leave-it piecemeal reforms.

In rejecting these proposed amendments, MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates and insists
ahead of the 2008 elections on an   inclusive all stakeholders  initiative
in the constitutional reform process which will usher lasting solutions to
the prevailing political culture of intolerance, impunity, violence, fear,
intimidation and uncertainty as to what the future holds.

Loughty Dube

Chairperson, MISA-Zimbabwe


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Mutambara MDC Says March Too Soon for Elections



SW Radio Africa (London)

18 December 2007
Posted to the web 18 December 2007

Tererai Karimakwenda

Describing a statement by Mugabe last week that elections would be held in
March next year as just simple "macho rhetoric," the spokesperson for the
Mutambara MDC formation has said there is not enough time to implement what
has been agreed on at the mediated talks.

The party's secretary for information and publicity Gabriel Chaibva, said it
would take nothing short of a miracle to complete the people driven
constitutional process they insist on and to implement changes to oppressive
legislation which have been agreed at the talks between the MDC and the
ruling party. Chaibva said Mugabe wanted to be seen as a strong man and his
pronouncements on these issues are "pure rhetoric."

Chaibva also stressed that they would face Mugabe in March at an election,
if it were possible to get things in order, but there was a need to create
an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections after finalizing their
agreements at the talks. He said this needed much more time and March was
too soon to even dream about. As for the deadlock over the Constitution that
has been reported in the press, Chaibva said he believed the matter would be
overcome.

Asked about the sincerity of Mugabe and ZANU-PF, given that nothing has
changed on the ground and they are going ahead with organizing elections
despite the talks, Chaibva said those in politics are dealers in hope. He
added that they would "drag Mugabe kicking and screaming to elections" under
conditions agreed to at the regionally initiated negotiations.

As to whether the two MDC formations were in complete agreement at the
negotiations Chaibva said he saw no points of diversion. However there seems
to be one issue that is still not resolved, and that is the issue of forming
an MDC coalition to face Mugabe in the elections. Chaibva said back in July
2007, their National Council embraced the principle of a coalition and have
made this clear to their colleagues in the Tsvangirai formation.

According to Chaibva, their colleagues have not formally acknowledged their
willingness to form such a coalition. He explained that it is only through
the press that they have recently learned that the Tsvangirai MDC are now
beginning to warm to the idea. He said they were delighted to hear this.

With Robert Mugabe already in campaigning mode for elections in March 2008,
and issuing the strong statement that those parties that will not be ready
by then "have only themselves to blame" it is likely a showdown is looming.

Chaibva said he believes any issues left to iron out at the talks can be
overcome. But many observers, civil groups and ordinary Zimbabweans have
expressed deep skepticism over ZANU-PF's supposed willingness to abide by
the agreements made in South Africa.


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Sokwanele - Zimbabwe Election Watch

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe
PROMOTING NON-VIOLENT PRINCIPLES TO ACHIEVE DEMOCRACY

Zimbabwe Election Watch
Issue 13: 18 December 2007

Bar chart of breaches in this issueExecutive Summary

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has come up with an important critique of the recently gazetted Electoral Laws Amendment Bill which seeks to align the country's laws governing elections with Constitutional Amendments numbers 17 and 18.

ZESN's 10 000-word document was authored last month and fears contained in it were confirmed when President Mugabe warned in his state-of-the-nation address that Zimbabwe would not brook any interference in the running of next year's watershed elections. He insisted that only friendly nations would be invited to observe next year's combined elections.

In response, African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) special rapporteur on freedom of expression in Africa, Pansy Tlakula, called on the people and civic organisations in Zimbabwe to use the EU-Africa summit to bring pressure on Mugabe.

Despite calls from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to shelve the demarcation of constituencies until the conclusion of talks between the opposition and ruling Zanu PF party, the authorities went ahead and marked out constituencies for the elections.

The outcome of the constituency delimitation exercise, announced during early December, is reported to be biased in favour of Zanu PF, revealing glaring gerrymandering by the electoral body.

As announced by ZEC George Chiweshe, the three Zanu PF stronghold provinces - Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West - will get 27 of the 60 new seats in the expanded parliament. In response, the MDC said the remaining 33 were disproportionately shared by the other provinces. Bulawayo province, which is controlled by the opposition, gained the lowest number of new seats - five.

Chiweshe has refused to accept concerns raised by the MDC that the national voters' roll is "a shambles" and needs an overhaul to remove the names of people who have died.

Chiweshe said although the voters' roll is still open for registration, the commission had used the more than 5.6 million voters who were on the register to mark out the constituencies.

This number of voters is questionable given that, in March 2005, Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar-general, announced there were 5.7 million voters on the roll and since then the population has dropped significantly.

Responding to Mudede's announcement in 2005, MDC supporters said that up to a million phantom voters could have been included on the register and that ghost voters would be used to inflate votes, which turned out to be the case.

Eddie Cross, a policy adviser to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) (MT), estimates there are now less than 3 million potential voters. Current estimates suggest that the country's population has dropped from around 12.5 million people in 2000 to between 7 and 8 million people, of whom 1.6 million are AIDS orphans. Conservative estimates indicate that more than 3 500 people die each week due mainly to starvation, malnutrition and the collapse of the health care system.

According to a study by the Solidarity Peace Trust, 3.4 million Zimbabweans had left the country by 2004, a staggering 60-70% of productive adults and since then the ranks of the diaspora have swelled significantly in response to the economic collapse, the collapse of health care and the escalation of violence. More than 25% of all Zimbabweans are now in political or economic exile - the biggest proportional mass movement of a population in peacetime ever in modern history.

A fresh report by a group of human rights physicians says the Zimbabwean government has brutally sought to suppress political opposition with state-sponsored torture and political violence, and doubts that the 2008 general elections polls will be free and fair.

The report, titled "We Have Degrees in Violence: A Report on Torture and Human Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe" released this month, documents how victims of political violence have been tortured and subjected to other human rights abuses causing devastating health consequences.

During the first week of December, heavily armed riot police violently stopped a demonstration by the National Constitutional Assembly and in Kwekwe, five student leaders were severely assaulted for wearing T-shirts displaying a portrait of the late MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe.

A musical concert promoted by the civic organisation Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition to disseminate information on people's civic rights to vote was stopped by the Central Intelligence Organisation. At least a dozen theatrical performances have been banned and the artists detained without trial.

Despite the ongoing talks, a political agreement between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has not been reached.

David Coltart, MDC MP (MT) for Bulawayo South, says: "Unless there is an agreement regarding a new constitution being introduced prior to the election, and a reasonable time period between its introduction and holding an election, then any agreement will not be possible."


Electoral reforms questionable
Source Date: 08-12-2007

Zimbabwe Independent - Editor's memo

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has come up with an important critique of the recently gazetted Electoral Laws Amendment Bill which seeks to align the country’s laws governing elections with Constitutional Amendments numbers 17 and 18.

ZESN’s 10 000-word document was authored last month and fears contained therein were confirmed this week when President Mugabe gave his state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday. The president said Zimbabwe will only invite friendly nations to observe next year’s combined elections.

Under the new provisions contained in the Bill, all observers will have to be accredited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s Observation Accreditation Committee. It is proposed in the Bill that half the members of the six-member committee are commissioners and the rest are ministerial and presidential nominees.

ZESN observes that the three ministerial nominees will still exert a partisan influence when it comes to inviting observers. More egregious is the ministerial power of veto contained in the provisions. This will be used to exclude observers who might be prepared to find fault in the electoral process.

"The ministerial power of veto over the accreditation of representatives from other regional electoral bodies is particularly startling," ZESN says. "It is a gross insult to the integrity and independence of the electoral commission."

ZESN also notes: "The provisions of the Amendment Bill relating to observers fail to effect the changes that would ensure that a wide cross-section of observers are accredited and that the ruling party will not be able to cherry-pick who will be accredited."

But Mugabe has said his government will do so, which questions the independence of the electoral commission. The whole idea of amending the Electoral Act and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act is to make institutions entrusted with running polls as independent as possible.

The government has pitched the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill as part of this endeavour but the ZEC remains in the clutches of Zanu PF which has already started publicly dictating to it the dos and don’ts of next year’s elections.

Observers must not be selected on the basis of their bias in favour of one party or another. In the 2002 presidential election a number of foreign observer missions were denied entry to Zimbabwe, whilst many domestic observers were denied accreditation due to discriminatory procedures, ZESN said.

In the 2005 parliamentary election only organisations and persons considered to be sympathetic to the ruling party were invited to conduct electoral observation. All other institutions and persons were excluded.

The ZESN document says the African Union Guidelines for African Union Electoral Observation and Monitoring Missions states: "International, regional and national observers have come to play an important role in enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance in Africa."…

The electoral commission is also up to scrutiny on how it is going to ensure there is equitable media coverage of all contesting parties in the poll. There is no way this equity is going to be possible as long as there is no diversity in the electronic media in which Zanu PF holds all levers of control.

I do not see the commission speaking out against the abuse of state resources by the President and Zanu PF to campaign in the poll. Only last week state resources were harnessed to transport Zanu PF supporters to the "million man march". …

Given the fact that there has been widespread doubt about the fairness and integrity of the election process in Zimbabwe in the past, it is vitally important that there should be extensive observation of the next election by a wide cross-section of observers.

The presence of local, regional and international observers is essential to help confer legitimacy on the outcome and to provide an objective analysis of claims of fraud or other electoral malpractices.

Source: Zimbabwe Independent, The (ZW)
Link to source: http://allafrica.com/stories/200712100571.html

SADC standards breached


Zimbabwe pushes ahead with preparations for elections
Source Date: 06-12-2007

Zimbabwean authorities said on Thursday they had begun marking out constituencies for general elections due next year, despite opposition charges the voters' roll was open to rigging by the government.

The country's main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), wrote a letter to Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission (ZEC) last week saying the national voters' register was a shambles and needed an overhaul to remove people who had died.

ZEC chairman George Chiweshe - a former High Court judge - told a news conference on Thursday no register could be perfect and complainants had to provide evidence of any anomalies….

"All I can say is that our electoral system is as good as any in the region...and that you will never find a perfect voters' roll anywhere," Chiweshe said….

Chiweshe said although the voters' roll was still open for registration, the commission would use the more than 5.6 million voters who were on the register by Tuesday to mark out the constituencies....

Source: Reuters
Link to source: http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnBAN723362.html

SADC standards breached


Delimitation exposes ZEC
Source Date: 15-12-2007

The outcome of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) constituency delimitation exercise ahead of the 2008 House of Assembly elections is biased in favour of Zanu PF and reveals glaring gerrymandering by the electoral body.

From the 210 seats to be contested, ZEC allocated 143 constituencies to communal lands and the remaining 67 to urban and peri-urban areas.

The ruling party has since Independence in 1980 received its main support from rural areas….

Apart from being skewed in favour of the ruling party, the delimitation process did not take into consideration the on-going SADC-initiated dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF.

In the talks, the opposition is pushing for a reconstituted ZEC that would institute a fresh voter registration process and delimit constituencies thereafter.

The MDC argues that it supported the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 18 in Parliament on the understanding that the ZEC would be reconstituted and become independent.

The opposition further argued that the commission’s composition was a scandal as it was staffed with "former military personnel, Zanu PF functionaries and individuals whose identities are suspect"....

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said it should be compulsory and prudent for the ZEC to give political parties and other interested groups the opportunity to make meaningful representations about constituency boundaries redrawing to avoid controversies.

"The commission should then have the obligation to take these representations properly into account before finalising its work on drawing new boundaries," ZESN said. "This should apply particularly to the extensive changes that will be necessitated by the large increase in numbers of seats in the Lower House brought about by the recent constitutional amendments."

ZESN said the delimitation should not have been rushed and there must be ample opportunity for objections to be taken into account….

Source: Zimbabwe Independent, The (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.thezimbabweindependent.com/viewinfo.cfm?linkid=21&id=11998&siteid=1

SADC standards breached


Mugabe using torture to suppress opposition, says report
Source Date: 08-12-2007

Zimbabwe’s government is using torture and violence to suppress opposition, raising doubts elections next year will be free and fair, according to a new report on the human rights situation in the country.

The report was released by The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), The Open Society Institute and The Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.

The report - the first on Zimbabwe based on investigations by international health professionals with expertise in the evaluation, documentation and treatment of torture victims - said state agents had since March 2007 targeted both ordinary opposition activists and prominent leaders for abuse and torture.....

“This state-sanctioned violence targets low-level political organizers and ordinary citizens, in addition to the prominent members of the political opposition,” said the report which called on South African President Thabo Mbeki to take a more robust stance against politically motivated violence and torture in his northern neighbour.

“President Mbeki must use his role as a democratic leader in the Southern African community to uphold international standards for opposition of torture and political violence and promotion of free and fair elections and basic human rights including a fair and impartial judiciary and rights of detainees in Zimbabwe,” said the report….

(It) called on SADC, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights to hold the Harare administration “accountable for its obligations under international law regarding prohibition of torture and political violence.”

(The report) urged African leaders – who in the main have refused to criticise Mugabe – to change tack and speak out against torture and human rights violations in Zimbabwe….

Source: Zim Online (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.zimonline.co.za/Article.aspx?ArticleId=2435

SADC standards breached


Police violently stop NCA protest in Harare
Source Date: 07-12-2007

The National Constitutional Assembly reported Friday that 300 of its activists staged a demonstration in central Harare, before heavily armed riot police officers violently stopped it.

In a statement the NCA said in an act of 'clear determination and courage,' their activists walked from the city's Copacabana area to the Parliament Building.

'They were however violently dispersed by riot police who were heavily armed. The police launched a severe attack on the activists and the general public who were in the vicinity of the area that they were marching,' the statement said.

The activists chanted songs about the need for a new constitution braving the wet weather to march. The demonstration was against Constitutional Amendment Number 18, as well as the deteriorating situation in the country...

Source: SW Radio Africa (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.swradioafrica.com/news071207/nca071207.htm

SADC standards breached


Students arrested, assaulted for wearing Learnmore Jongwe T-shirts
Source Date: 04-12-2007

Police in Kwekwe on Sunday arrested and severely assaulted five student leaders for wearing T-shirts with a portrait of the late MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe. Mehluli Dube, Laswet Savadye, Whitlow Mugwiji, Stephen Chisungo and Gordon Mukarakati were arrested at a police roadblock while travelling from a Zimbabwe National Students Unions (ZINASU) leadership-training workshop in Bulawayo.

Police accused them of inciting public disorder by wearing Jongwe’s T-shirts and detained them overnight at Kwekwe Central Police Station. They were later released without charge on Monday morning.

Dube, who has pending treason charges against him, for allegedly calling for the overthrow of Robert Mugabe, sustained a fractured tooth. He said fellow student leaders Mukarati and Savadye, incurred bruises and lacerations all over their bodies from the beatings. Dube said: "We were given some rough treatment indeed..."

Jongwe, who was a former legislator of Kuwadzana constituency, died in prison in 2002. He was the first spokesman of the MDC at its formation in 1999 and an outspoken student activist.

Identified victims: Student leaders: Mehluli Dube, Laswet Savadye, Whitlow Mugwiji, Stephen Chisungo and Gordon Mukarakati

Source: SW Radio Africa (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.swradioafrica.com/news041207/learnmore041207.htm

SADC standards breached


Mugabe’s secret agents, police clash over musical concert
Source Date: 12-12-2007

Police and agents of the government’s spy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), who otherwise generally co-operate on security matters, clashed here at the weekend over a voter education concert that the CIO wanted banned despite the police having cleared the event.

To their credit, the police had cleared in advance the musical concert promoted by the civic organisation Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) to disseminate information on people's civil rights to vote….

But moments before the show could begin before about 5 000 people, council officials arrived to stop the performance claiming the dreaded CIO had ordered the concert cancelled….

Zimbabwe police and the CIO have this year banned at least a dozen theatrical performances they perceived as too critical of Mugabe’s rule and detained the artists without trial...

Source: Zim Online (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.zimonline.co.za/Article.aspx?ArticleId=2449

SADC standards breached

 

Zanu PF splashes scarce forex on new election campaign vehicles
Source Date: 13-12-2007

Zanu PF has splashed over US$10 million in scarce foreign currency on 220 new vehicles for party officials ahead of crunch elections next year.

The vehicles which were handed over to President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday will be dolled out to Zanu PF women and youth league officials in the country’s 10 provinces as the ruling party gears up for crucial presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008.

Politburo member and Zanu PF secretary for finance David Karimanzira who was in charge of the purchasing of the vehicles said officials in the war veterans’ association as well as war collaborators and ex-detainees were among those in line to receive the new vehicles….

The main beneficiaries of the new vehicles, the women’s and youth leagues as well as the war veterans, have been pivotal in canvassing support for Mugabe’s controversial candidature ahead of the ruling party extraordinary congress this weekend.

In recent weeks, war veterans led by Jabulani Sibanda have been organising pro-Mugabe solidarity marches around the country to drum up support for Mugabe’s presidential candidature.

Zanu PF members of the women and youth leagues joined the solidarity marches by war veterans which culminated in the so-called million man march on November 30 in Harare.

Source: NewZimbabwe.com (ZW)
Link to source: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/old/dec14a_2007.html

SADC standards breached


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Zimbabwe Opposition Says It Has Given Minister Documentation On Violence

VOA

      By Patience Rusere & Carole Gombakomba
      Washington
      18 December 2007

The Zimbabwean opposition on Tuesday accused Home Affairs Minister Kembo
Mohadi of ‘’politicking” in connection with statements published in the
state-controlled Herald paper to the effect that the Movement for Democratic
Change has ignored his requests for information on alleged violence against
its supporters.

The Herald quoted Mohadi as saying his ministry wrote twice to the MDC
faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai asking for evidence to back its allegations
of violence, without receiving a response. He said that if the government
does not get a response it will assume the charges the opposition has lodged
in recent months are “mere lies.”

Mohadi in October challenged the opposition to come up with evidence to back
up its charges that its supporters were being targeted by political
violence.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai formation told reporter Patience
Rusere that the party submitted the evidence Mohadi had requested in the
form of a dossier, including pictures, during the initial meeting with
Mohadi in October.

Elsewhere, the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara, responding to an
overture by the Tsvangirai grouping, said it is also prepared to unite with
democratic forces across the board to unseat President Robert Mugabe in next
year’s elections.

The Tsvangirai formation said Monday it plans to invite other opposition
parties and civil society groups to join forces with it. The Mutambara
grouping said it is ready to relaunch talks on patching up the split in the
party which dates from 2005, when the factions divided over whether or not
to contest elections for a new senate.

However, Mutambara formation spokesman Gabriel Chaibva told reporter Jonga
Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is unfortunate the
Tsvangirai grouping floated the proposal in the press instead of putting it
directly.

In another internal opposition development, former chairwoman Lucia
Matibenga of the women's assembly of the Tsvangirai faction said that
despite an adverse ruling Sunday by the formation's national council, she is
continuing with her work in the provinces on the premise that she remains
the assembly's legitimate leader.

Matibenga told reporter Carole Gombakomba that she has not been officially
informed of the council’s decision to leave Theresa Makone in place as
interim assembly head, but found the decision disturbing given objections by
a majority of councilors.

Makone, who is now to hold the seat until three months after the next
elections, which in effect means at least six months, said she is embracing
the council’s decision, looking ahead and does not intend to "waste time" on
squabbling.


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World Hunger Fund targets food crisis in Zimbabwe

Baptist Press

Posted on Dec 18, 2007 | by Brenda Lane
HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP)--With food prices spiraling out of sight and their
country's economy in ruins, the average family in Zimbabwe is struggling to
survive.

Store shelves are devoid of basic necessities such as oil, flour, sugar,
corn meal and even soap. Most items can be found on the black market, but
few can afford the inflated prices: Buying one tomato would cost some
pensioners their entire month's income.

Southern Baptists are responding to the desperate need by shipping 1,000
boxes of food into the country. Six hundred parcels are scheduled to be
delivered before the Christmas holidays, and the remainder will arrive soon
after.

Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist development and relief
organization, purchased the groceries, at a cost of about $70 per box, with
money Southern Baptists donated to their World Hunger Fund.

"Southern Baptists care about ministering in a holistic way. Zimbabwe is in
dire need," said Mark Hatfield, who leads Baptist Global Response work in
sub-Saharan Africa. "We can connect people in need with people who care
enough to help."

While the crisis in Zimbabwe isn't the result of a natural disaster, the
economic problem has left the people in the same kind of desperate plight -–
being unable to afford or acquire the basic necessities of daily life.

Inflation in the country is out of control. In November, Zimbabwe's chief
statistician said it was impossible to calculate the inflation rate because
stores didn't have anything on the shelves to put price tags on. The last
inflation statistic released by the government was 14,000 percent, meaning
that last year's 50-cent loaf of bread would now cost $70 -– if a person
could find a loaf of bread.

In September, the government tried to check the inflationary spiral by
fixing prices on basic necessities. Stores couldn't afford to sell at the
government prices, however, and many of them simply shut down, forcing basic
necessities onto the black market.

"If you are upper middle class, you can manage," one Baptist pastor said.
"But it's a hard life for the lower middle class and the lower class. Most
people eat sadza [boiled corn meal] once a day for their meal. This is still
very expensive to get on the black market and hard to find."

Finding food is often the main problem. One Zimbabwean Baptist church tried
to help a local prison that needed food and spent two weeks trying to find a
bag of rice and four weeks looking for a bag of beans. They ended up paying
$62.50 for one bag of rice.

"The average person can't afford that!" the pastor exclaimed.

"When Baptist Global Response came to our Baptist Union offering these food
boxes, the pastors couldn't believe it," he continued. "There's no way to
express the gratitude we feel, knowing someone cares for our people. It's
humbling."

The food boxes being delivered contain rice, oil, salt, powdered milk,
candles, corned beef, tea, sugar, soap, matches, flour, washing powder and
beans.

Besides purchasing the food boxes, Baptist Global Response also is providing
the fuel needed for distribution. That will allow local Baptist churches to
distribute the boxes in their communities to families identified as being in
need.

However, with nine out of 10 people in Zimbabwe unable to get proper food,
this project will barely scratch the surface of the need.

"Life is hard for many people in Zimbabwe right now," the pastor explained.
"Someone who once lived on a good pension now can only buy one tomato with
their monthly pension.

"Can you imagine working all your life to be able to buy one tomato?"
--30--
Brenda Lane is a Southern Baptist writer in East Africa. Gifts to the
Southern Baptist World Hunger may be sent to Baptist Global Response, 402
BNA Drive, Suite 411, Nashville, TN 37217 or www.gobgr.org. Checks should be
made out to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Each donation is applied
100 percent toward hunger needs; nothing is withheld for administrative
costs.


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Police deny MDC MP Chamisa to hold graduation party

The Zimbabwean

 Wednesday, 19 December 2007 05:31

HARARE - ZIMBABWE Republic Police barred MDC legislator for Kuwadzana Nelson
Chamisa to hold his graduation celebration gala which had been set for this
weekend in his constituency.

The police denied him the permission to hold the rally arguing that he
needed to seek permission under the Public Order Security Act (POSA), which
prohibits the gathering of more than four people. Chamisa has since applied
for the permission to hold the graduation ceremony but he has not received a
positive response so far."It's surprising because this is not a political
rally but a celebration of my academic achievements with my people in my
constituency. There is absolutely no need to seek clearance to celebrate my
achievement. I am still waiting for a response before I consider taking
legal action to enforce them to grant me the permission," said Chamisa.
Chamisa emerged the best student after he came out with a distinction in
Political Science and Administration degree at the University of Zimbabwe
last month. Chamisa was capped by the University Chancellor President Robert
Mugabe.Since 2000 the Zimbabwe government has been using POSA to break up
opposition rallies and to prevent political meetings organized by political
parties and civic groups.POSA inhibits public gathering without police
notification and has been used selectively by the police in favour of Zanu
PF which has been holding countrywide rallies without permission from the
police. The Kuwadzana legislator has fallen victim to the repressive POSA
which is being used as one of Zanu PF law that is very controversial and
outdated in a democratic country-CAJ News.

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