Thursday, December 22 2005 @ 12:04 AM GMT
Contributed by: correspondent
Zimbabwe's banks were gridlocked yesterday due to a severe
currency shortage, which left thousands of people desperate ahead of the
festive season, but the Reserve Bank said the firm that prints banknotes was
working round-the-clock to ease the cash shortage. Many of those queuing
were hoping to withdraw enough money to stock up ahead of Christmas
holidays. Most of the people in bank queues were women, many with children,
who had been waiting for hours hoping to draw money.
An RBZ governor spokeswoman urged Zimbabweans not to panic,
saying that extra printing paper arrived in Harare on Monday and would be
used immediately. Some banks had closed their automatic teller machines
(ATMs) and were limiting withdrawals to Z$2 million, leaving customers with
only enough money for small purchases. Economist John Robertson explained
that the banks' cash shortage was brought on by an inflation rate of 502
percent, low interest rates discouraging deposits, and a scarcity of foreign
currency to buy materials to print money.
"There is no advantage to putting money into the bank because
the interest rates are so small and, once you put it in, you have trouble
getting it out. So, many people have decided to keep their cash," Robertson
said. He added that the chronic shortages of food and essential goods in
Zimbabwe had reduced people to carrying large sums of cash in the hope of
finding a scarce item, or a petrol station with fuel for sale. "Most people
are walking around with wads of cash in their pockets all the time in case
they find what they are looking for, instead of the cash going into the
bank," Robertson said. There are also shortages of basic commodities such as
sugar, mealie meal and petrol. Some three million people require food aid,
according to aid agencies.
Sokwanele Release: 21 December 2005
The year 2005 has certainly been one of the toughest yet in Zimbabwe. As we take stock at year's end we must be ruthlessly honest about our situation. For some the festive season provides an opportunity to escape from the harsh realities and even to indulge in a little fantasy. We take it rather as a time for reflection and clear-sighted realism about how far the nation has progressed on the path towards freedom and democracy, and how much farther we still have to go. On this basis we have to acknowledge the following:
Such is the reality of present-day life in Zimbabwe. It is as if the country was suffering a prolonged eclipse of the sun, leaving it in shadow for so long that many Zimbabweans have come to believe that the present suffering and misery is their inescapable lot - for ever. In fact of course the suffering is neither natural nor inevitable. It is rather the direct result of years of ZANU PF mis-rule. To continue the metaphor of the eclipse, it is as if, in an act of breath-taking arrogance, Robert Mugabe and his conniving, exploitative and manipulative cohorts have deliberately placed themselves between the sun and the earth - between the source of life, health and prosperity and the people for whom that rich abundance was intended.
At such a time as this it is very easy to give way to despair. Many will plan their escape from the hell hole which Mugabe has created, to what they imagine is the safe haven of life in South Africa, Europe or America. Others will try to bury their heads in the sand, and some few, incredibly, still try to strike a deal with the dictator - like the commercial farmers and the few business tycoons who foolishly thought that they could preserve their privileged way of life so long as they paid their "dues" to the ruling party. It's called riding on the back of the tiger and it never was recommended as a health sport - never mind the moral implications of compromising with a thoroughly corrupt (and corrupting) regime.
Yet every such act of despair, escapism or compromise only strengthens the hand of the dictator and prolongs the agony of those whom he holds hostage.
What this dark hour in the nation's history calls for rather is an heroic spirit of defiance. Rather than surrendering to Mugabe's brutal tyranny (or accepting the solar eclipse as a permanent fact) let Zimbabweans make a defiant stand for the truth, for freedom, justice and peace. Let each one of us make our personal act of protest and defiance - and let us take up our position, shoulder to shoulder, in the struggle.
Nelson Mandela reminds us that "there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."
That is a salutary warning, but also a challenge to those who have glimpsed the mountaintop and are simply not prepared to curl up and die in the "valley of the shadow of death".
Given there is no quick fix and therefore it will be a long haul to freedom, and given also that the once-powerful MDC is in disarray, we have to look to civic society to unite as never before and to show us the way forwards. Up to this point, despite the heroic acts of some, civic society has not demonstrated its true potential in mobilizing the nation for change. This is because we have allowed ourselves to be fragmented. The hand of the CIO can be seen everywhere, distracting and diverting so many otherwise promising movements, and the ambitions and private agendas of otherwise talented and able leaders have aided the process. But if any group is to raise the standard of integrity and principle and hold the politicians to account it must surely be civic society - the churches, human rights campaigners, trade unions, women's groups, students and others, co-ordinated and organised so as to present a united front for freedom and democracy. A united front, we would say, clearly and unambiguously committed to achieving radical change by non-violent means.
This is our vision and within these broad parameters we, Sokwanele, see our own role as follows:
Others who share the vision of a free and democratic Zimbabwe and share also our passion to hasten the dawn of that new day, will no doubt have different roles to play towards that end. We welcome the part each has to play in the struggle. We affirm each individual and group walking alongside us on "the long walk to freedom". We celebrate the diversity of gifts to be found among our brothers and sisters equally engaged in the struggle.
Sokwanele is not a religious group. Within our ranks there are men and women of different faiths and some who claim no particular faith allegiance. Yet we are mindful that something in excess of 70 per cent of the population of our country claim to be Christian and regular church attendance is very high. Furthermore we are about to mark one of the great Christian festivals. Accordingly we consider it appropriate at this time to quote the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she exalted in the news of God's saving act about to be enacted on the stage of humanity. Her song, often called the Magnificat, reads in part:
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour …
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty .."
There is a sharp warning to tyrants! Let Mugabe and his accomplices take note. And let the humble poor of Zimbabwe, including the hundreds of thousands of victims of Operation Murambatsvina, rejoice.
Let all those who, in Jesus words, "hunger and thirst to see right prevail" take heart! The eclipse will not last for ever. Already the Light is breaking through!
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Mail and Guardian
Reesha Chibba | Johannesburg, South Africa
21 December 2005 01:14
Beatrice Mtetwa, a Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights activist,
was named Human Rights Lawyer of the Year in December by the legal and human
rights campaigning group Justice and civil rights campaigners Liberty. She
also received the International Press Freedom Award this year, issued by the
Committee to Protect Journalists.
Mtetwa fights for the right to press freedom in a country
currently facing an economic meltdown. The Mail & Guardian Online asks
Mtetwa about the greatest challenge facing an ordinary Zimbabwean, the
struggles of the Zimbabwean media and the latest clampdown on the people --
the Zimbabwean travel ban.
1. In what way does the Zimbabwean government control the press,
other than through legislation?
There's lots of other ways. Obviously the legislative route has
other impacts on how the press is controlled. But you have seen that some of
the press has been controlled through takeovers by state security agents so
that virtually all media, except maybe for two independent newspapers, is
controlled by the government through nominee companies that are controlled
by the state. That's one way of doing it.
Nominee companies [are formed when] they [the government] set up
a company that then goes to buy a stake in an independent newspaper. For the
outside world, it looks like that is an independent newspaper when in fact
it is owned completely by the state.
So you find that there's the pretense, or unreality, which
actually isn't correct because state agents will be controlling some of the
independent newspapers. And, of course, then we have the state media, which
basically isn't supposed to be a state media, it's supposed to be a public
media. It is not used for the good of the public; it is used solely to prop
up those in power currently.
2. Mail & Guardian, Zimbabwe Independent and Standard owner and
publisher Trevor Ncube's passport was confiscated in Bulawayo. Do you think
he is seen as a threat by the government?
Well, obviously the independent press particularly, or the
Independent and the Standard, have been critical of a lot of the
government's actions in Zimbabwe and that is a threat for the government --
any voice that is critical of how the government is really handling issues
in Zimbabwe, that press will be seen as a threat.
You've seen how the Daily News was shut down because it was
critical of the government. So, clearly Trevor Ncube is deemed a threat to
the government. I know for a fact that he is independent and has succeeded
without patronage. That is always seen as a threat in Zimbabwe because a
whole lot of the business people have survived because of patronage, and
anyone who has succeeded without kow-towing to the ruling party and the
government is seen as a threat.
3. You were on a list revealed by NewZimbabwe.com in June this
year, of Zimbabwean critics Mugabe's regime had hit with a travel ban. How
do you feel about that?
I've seen the list. Yes, I am on the list of those whose
passports are supposed to be withdrawn as and when they seek to travel. I
don't know how that will help anybody, frankly, because the withdrawal of a
passport does not mean you cannot travel, for a start.
The people who have purported to really ban some of us from
travelling are people who were able to travel when the [Ian] Smith regime
was making it difficult for them to travel. How did they travel? They know
that people can travel even if they withdraw their passports. The apartheid
regime did exactly the same thing, but that did not stop people from
You know if you are able to prove that it has been made
impossible for you to travel, everybody knows that you can apply for other
documents to enable you to travel. So, it's a very silly thing to do at a
practical level, because they can never stop people from travelling by
simply withdrawing their passports.
And, secondly, if their idea is to stop people from talking -- I
mean, here I am. I'm able to communicate with anybody out there, so how is
stopping me from travelling going to stop me from commenting on the legal
situation in Zimbabwe? I generally speak about the breakdown of the rule of
law, and withdrawing my passport is not going to stop people from saying
what I want to say.
You have a Swaziland passport?
That's the other funny thing because I've never held a
Zimbabwean passport, for instance. And then somebody put me on a list that
purports to withdraw and invalidate Zimbabwean passports. I mean, you would
expect someone who writes a list like that to at least go back to his or her
computer and check whether or not they ever issued you with a Zimbabwean
So, you have a silly situation where someone is purporting to
withdraw a Zimbabwean passport that was never issued to me in the first
instance. Of course they cannot withdraw a passport of another country
because that passport belongs to another country. Just like how South Africa
cannot purport to withdraw a Zimbabwean passport from a Zimbabwean, the
Zimbabwean government cannot purport to withdraw a passport of another
Have you been travelling recently?
I have been travelling. I do have a document. Like I have said,
the state ought to have gone to check who they have issued a passport to and
that the people they've purported to list for withdrawal of Zimbabwean
passports have Zimbabwean passports. It's a bit silly for someone to put you
on a list where they are invalidating Zimbabwean passports when they haven't
even checked if you hold a Zimbabwean passport.
4. Would you say that journalists are being ruled by fear in
Well, there's absolutely no way that journalists will be free in
Zimbabwe because they always have the spectre of prosecution hanging over
their heads. That naturally will lead to fear and possibly self-censorship
if you're doing a story that the authorities will not like.
We've had many journalists being locked up under the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act [which regulates journalists]
because the government doesn't like certain stories that they would have
done. We have seen newspapers being shut down. We have seen journalists
being refused accreditation because they may work for the wrong newspaper
according to the government, or they may write stories that the government
A journalist's livelihood right now in Zimbabwe depends entirely
on the government, because for you to practise as a journalist you have to
be licensed by the government. That naturally will have a very, very huge
impact on a journalist in an environment such as we have.
Are many victimised if they have boldly acted against the state?
You've seen a lot of journalists being arrested and prosecuted
in Zimbabwe. It hasn't really stopped journalists from the independent media
from doing their work. But, I mean, in their subconscious, there has been no
question that that [boldness] will have an impact.
They might not realise the self-censoring, but at the end of the
day you will always have this possibility at the back of your mind. And even
editors who are editing a story will always have at the back of their minds
that "this could get us into trouble", and it might affect the story at the
end of the day.
Publishing newspapers is a business, so nobody who runs a
business wants to have it shut down unnecessarily. So, the business aspect
there will obviously play a role in how a newspaper projects itself. I don't
think any newspaper wants to end up in a situation where it is shut down,
like what happened with a number of newspapers in Zimbabwe.
5. How do you think the deportation of foreign journalists has
affected the way the world sees Zimbabwe?
Obviously it means that the world out there will not know
certain things that are happening in Zimbabwe. If you are operating in
Zimbabwe and you're a Zimbabwean journalist, you will know the
self-censorship that I'm talking about. There's the fear that you will not
be accredited. Of course there are journalists that are writing under
pseudonyms, but that also is completely unacceptable because it means that
if they [the government] do find out who wrote which story, that person
could very well be in trouble.
But also it means that the government really has something to
hide. Why would you deport journalists if everything is okay? What is it
that you don't want them to report to the outside world? Why should you stop
external media from coming into Zimbabwe freely, to see for themselves if
things are OK and everything is hunky-dory? Why can't the external media
come in at will and see for itself how things are working wonderfully in
6. Do you think the situation in Zimbabwe is being portrayed
correctly in the foreign media arena?
It depends by what one means by the situation. There can be no
question that the farm invasions, for instance, were not handled correctly
by the Western media, because it was seen more as a black-white thing.
It was really more of the government kicking out white farmers
from farms. And that really became the story when the story was about
something much deeper. Nobody reported much on the fact that hundreds and
thousands of black farm workers were rendered homeless because of those
Children couldn't go to school because basically their schools
had been shut down because of the invasion, and there were very few reports
on the fact that a lot of black farmers lost their farms under the same land
exercise. Clearly that wasn't properly handled, especially in the beginning,
by the Western press because the whole thing became really a black-white
thing and the government then tagged on to that by saying that they were
making all these protests because their white cousins are the ones that were
being kicked off the farm.
And that, then, has really remained the government's line up to
now -- that it is a racist agenda. But the bottom line right now is that the
economic meltdown is real. You just have to live in Zimbabwe to understand
that. Bread is now approaching Z$60 000 [about R5] a loaf. It is a situation
that is completely unacceptable and it affects your ordinary person in the
street more than anyone else. There can be no question that there is a
serious economic meltdown currently going on in Zimbabwe.
The issue of human rights has been documented. Even just talking
about the media, you know the state media journalists are never arrested.
Even if the government says that a story is incorrect, you've never heard of
them being arrested. So, clearly there is a selective application of the
law. And we have seen the courts, particularly the High Court or the Supreme
Court, literally bend over backwards to accommodate government positions in
circumstances where really they ought not to.
7. What challenges do you face when you defend the press in
The challenge has basically been the fact that the courts have
become severely compromised, particularly the High Court and the Supreme
Court. Even before you get to court, sometimes you don't even know where
your client is. When the police arrest your client, they will make sure that
they don't tell you where they have taken the client. Sometimes there's
difficulty just knowing which police station they [clients] are being held
You have difficulty knowing which policeman is responsible for
their arrest because the state wants to make it as difficult as possible for
you to access the client. Even when you do find out where your client is,
you might not have access because you'll be given all kinds of stories like,
"Oh, the investigating officer is not here. He's the only one that can give
Sometimes when you are given access, it is really not access at
all because sometimes you are refused the right to interview your client
There are all sorts of hurdles that basically are put on the
way. But I must say that at the magistrate's court level, where most of the
journalists were prosecuted under the Access and Information and Protection
of Privacy Act, the magistrates have really done a wonderful job. That is
why we've had a 100% acquittal rate of all journalists prosecuted under [the
Act]. They have not been intimidated into politicising the cases before
them. They've done their job properly.
8. Could you give an example of how the state has tried to
intimidate you in the past?
I think generally I've been lucky. I haven't been intimidated
much. I haven't really been locked up like some of my colleagues have been.
On the whole, I've been shoved here and there, I've been beaten up once, but
I think that I have been relatively lucky in that I haven't been as badly
intimidated as some of my other younger colleagues in the profession.
9. What is your ideal dream for the press in Zimbabwe?
Speaking as a lawyer, particularly a human rights lawyer, my
dream is one of a free and independent press that is not controlled through
government-appointed commissions, and a complete overhaul of the judiciary;
of a system where we would be able to have a judiciary that is appointed
through a public process where basically the appointments are not
politically motivated, where it is the best lawyers who are appointed as
judges, as happens in most of the other countries where democracy is
For me, as a lawyer, basically that's my dream. To have a
completely independent and impartial judiciary under a Constitution that
does not concentrate power on just one person.
10. What is the biggest challenge facing an ordinary Zimbabwean?
Survival! An ordinary Zimbabwean today cannot get to work
because it is expensive to get transport, if there is transport, because of
the fuel shortage. Virtually the transport sector is broken down. Basic
commodities, basic things for survival, food; you cannot believe how the
prices have gone up in Zimbabwe in just the last eight weeks or so.
As I've said, bread has shot up from Z$28 000 [about R2,35] to
now, yesterday it was at Z$52 000 [R4,37], and your guess is as good as mine
as to how much it will be by Christmas.
Access to health facilities -- the health system is completely
broken down. ARVs [anti-retrovirals] are becoming extremely scarce because
the company that was producing them is unable to produce them. So, you can
imagine what happens to people that started taking them and suddenly they
cannot access them.
Education -- children are now being denied education because
they were affected either because of the [Operation Murambatsvina] clean-up
or basically their parents cannot afford to send them to school because of
the economic meltdown. So, the ordinary Zimbabwean is faced with serious
Thursday, December 22 2005 @ 12:02 AM GMT
Contributed by: correspondent
Jailed director of Voice of the People (VOP) radio station, John
Masuku is set to spend Christmas behind bars after police refused to take
him to court charging that they will only do so after all board members are
Masuku's lawyer Rangu Nyamurundira, told zimdaily that police
had said they were carrying out an extra judicial investigation, which gave
them powers to continue detaining him until all the station's board of
trustees are in police custody. "They refused to take him to the High Court
today in the morning claiming that they want to prosecute the whole board of
trustees", Nyamurundira said.
The latest development means Masuku might spend Christams in
police custody as December 22 is a public holiday in Zimbabwe. Nyamurundira
indicated that he is working flat out to have Masuku appear in the High
court on Friday 23 December. He was however sceptical as the police force is
known for dragging feet on such issues. "I am trying by all means to get
Masuku's freedom by Friday, but you never know with Zimbabwe, anything can
happen," Nyamurundira said.
Masuku, a veteran broadcaster in his own right together with
board chairman David Masunda surrendered themselves to the police on Monday,
with the later released after few hours of interrogation. VoP is the latest
victim of the paranoid government of Zimbabwe's bid to crush underfoot all
dissenting voices.The station's three journalists were arrested and later
released without charge after spending three days and four nights in the
Harare Central police cells.
Thursday, December 22 2005 @ 12:05 AM GMT
Contributed by: correspondent
Zimbabwe's largest student representative body, the Zimbabwe
National Students Union (Zinasu), has launched a vicious campaign for the
imposition of travel sanctions on the pro-senate faction leaders of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change alleging that the officials were
undermining the wishes of majority Zimbabweans. The union accuses the
opposition officials of working hand-in-glove with President Robert Mugabe's
administration to undermine the wishes of majority Zimbabweans.
In a petition sent to European Union chairman and United Kingdom
Premier Tony Blair today that was also copied to the chairpersons of the
Southern African Development Community and the African Union, Nigerian
leader Olusegun Obasanjo and Botswana's President Festus Mogae respectively
as well as South African leader Thabo Mbeki, the student body said the
opposition officials should be slapped with travel bans arguing that they
are curtailing the democratization process in Zimbabwe.
The officials are sacked MDC vice president Gibson Sibanda,
secretary general Welshman Ncube, his deputy Gift Chimanikire, national
treasurer Fletcher Dulini Ncube and legislators Priscilla Misihihairabwi
Mushonga, Trudy Stevenson and suspended party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi.
In a communiqué signed by the Zinasu leadership that includes its president
Washington Katema, the student body accuse the seven opposition members of
working in cahoots and flirting with President Robert Mugabe and his ruling
ZANU PF party "in the quest to reverse the little and yet to be enjoyed
democratic gains of the people of Zimbabwe"
The United States Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill in
2001 declaring that it is the US government's policy to support Zimbabweans
in what it refers to as their struggle to effect peaceful, democratic
change, achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth and restore the
rule of law. The US also imposed travel bans on Mugabe's senior government
and ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) party
officials. In the same vein, Zinasu claims that the seven MDC officials have
worked hard to undermine the realization of democracy in Zimbabwe. Their
petition reads in part: "We thought it was only the government that was a
threat to the democracy project but some people within the rank and file of
the MDC are working flat out to destroy not only the MDC but also, more
vitally, to derail the democratization process in Zimbabwe.
These misguided opposition members are now behaving in the same
way with the government and ZANU PF officials," the petition says. "They are
now using the state's oppressive institutions like the partisan courts where
the judges are appointed by none other than Mugabe himself to win their
cases, not against their party leader Morgan Tsvangirai but against the
people of Zimbabwe". This comes after the officials took Tsvangirai to court
in a bid to stop him from conducting business using the party's name on
allegations that he violated the MDC constitution when he overruled his
party's decision to participate in last month's largely boycotted senatorial
elections won by ZANU PF.
The court dismissed their application. However, Tsvangirai who
conducted several rallies countrywide to gauge the mood of the electorate
said the polls were an "expensive and unnecessary ZANU PF project" that
gobbled billions of public funds at a time when several Zimbabwe require
food aid. Meanwhile Katema said the democracy project in Zimbabwe is above
board. "Even if Tsvangirai or anyone else elects to go against the wishes of
their entire populace we will campaign for travel sanctions against him or
her as well," Katema said.
In recent weeks, Zinasu appealed to the EU chair to slap
sanctions on University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Levy Nyagura for his
continued harassment of student leaders at the tertiary institution. The EU
secretariat promised to action against Nyagura. Recently, the Bush
administration extended its list of targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean
government and ruling party officials that include Mugabe and his wife
Grace. However Harare says the sanctions are not affecting them as
government officials but hurting ordinary Zimbabweans.
Mail and Guardian
22 December 2005 08:32
The United Nations on Wednesday balked at claims by a Zimbabwean
Cabinet minister that the world body had designed a substandard home to
house victims of a clean-up blitz that left hundreds of thousands homeless.
"I would like to take the opportunity to categorically refute
suggestions that the UN has applied double standards to Africans and more
specifically to Zimbabweans," said UN representative to Zimbabwe Agostinho
The envoy was reacting to a report in the state-run Herald on
Wednesday, which quoted Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo as saying
that a model of a home built for evictees was "substandard".
The paper said Chombo described the house as "below human
dignity, saying the people who designed the structure were guided by a
"This structure is not permanent. We want permanent houses for
our people," the minister told the paper while visiting the Hopley transit
camp on the southern fringes of the capital, where many people are still
living in makeshift plastic shelters following Operation Murambatsvina.
Zacarias said the example was "not a UN model for the obvious
reason that it was designed jointly by UN technicians together with
technicians appointed by the ministry of local government".
He said the design was the result of extended negotiations
between the UN and the government of Zimbabwe.
"It should more correctly be called a government of Zimbabwe-UN
house," he said.
The envoy said the sample was "infinitely superior to living
under plastic sheeting, which continues to be the situation in which many
families continue to find themselves in, months after Operation
Zacarias said the UN is ready to build homes for 2 500 families
within three months under an initiative to provide shelter for victims of
the government's demolition blitz.
Chombo's remarks came two weeks after UN relief aid coordinator
Jan Egeland met President Robert Mugabe, where the long-time Zimbabwean
leader snubbed a UN offer of tents for victims of Murambatsvina.
The demolition campaign, which the government said was aimed at
ridding the country of crime and grime, left about 700 000 people homeless
earlier this year, according to UN figures.
Mugabe has said through his spokesperson that "tents just don't
augur well with our culture", adding that "if the UN does not have enough
money for permanent shelter, let the little they have be used to augment
what the government already has".
Egeland toured areas razed during the government "urban renewal"
campaign in May and expressed dismay at the poor living conditions in the
demolished areas, offering UN help.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of severe political and economic
crisis, with about 80% of the population living under the poverty threshold.
More than 70% are jobless and inflation is running at more than 400%. --