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Constitutional referendum may be held in September 2011

By Tichaona Sibanda
23 December 2010

The Parliamentary committee spearheading the drafting of a new constitution
has said it expects a referendum on the draft to be held in September next
year, raising doubts on the prospects of an election in 2011.

Douglas Mwonzora, the co-chairperson of COPAC, told our correspondent Simon
Muchemwa that they will begin uploading information gathered during the
outreach program on January 10th next year.

‘The data collection exercise will take 15 days to complete. Basically they
would be analysing the information that was gathered at the public meetings.
Then the thematic committee will sit between February and March, organising
the information into different categories,’ Muchemwa said.

The drafting of the constitution will then be in April with the all-
stakeholders’ conference set for May. Muchemwa said the draft will then be
sent to Parliament where legislators will scrutinise it for two months
before they can approve it.

‘Once if it passes through the Lower and Upper Houses in Parliament, COPAC
believe the referendum will be held in September,’ Muchemwa added.

On Thursday, COPAC paid all its debts to hoteliers and companies that
provided transport for the outreach programme. The management committee owed
at least $5 million to its staff and service providers.

‘Hoteliers and service providers have now been paid in full but team
leaders, rapparteurs, technicians and drivers were paid a third and will
receive the remainder on the 10th January,’ Muchemwa told us.

COPAC has indicated they now have the funds to complete the drafting of a
new constitution, which has been delayed by lack of cash and resources. The
MDC has actively sought a new constitution to help guarantee free elections
and entrench political and media freedoms, while strengthening parliament’s

The new charter is also expected to introduce two 5-year presidential term
limits. The current constitution has no presidential term limit, a situation
which has allowed Robert Mugabe to hold onto power since independence from
Britain in 1980.

Analysts believe harmonized elections may only be held in the first quarter
of 2012, to prevent the rainy season from disrupting the poll if it was held
in late 2011. Since independence, all the country’s elections have been held
between February and March, a tradition that the unity government might
decide to stick to.

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Mugabe must go now, says Minister Biti

23 December, 2010 02:22:00 by

HARARE, - PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is tired and must go now, says firebrand
Finance Minister, Tendai Biti.

Biti, a lawyer, said he had held a two hour meeting with President Mugabe
and he had slept during most of it.

"I met with President Mugabe two weeks ago and he slept most of the time
during the two and a half hour meeting," Biti told a rally in Kuwadzana.

"Most of the leaders he was with are now gone. A person born in 1980 is now
about 31 years old. Samora Machel, Joachin Chissano and Nelson Mandela are

He is tired and must go now too."Biti said most Zanu PF leaders were also
tired and should leave office to pave way for a "younger generation of

Meanwhile, the Zanu PF controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)
has launched a President Robert Mugabe daily radio programme.

Introducing the programme which is going to run on Radio Zimbabwe (formerly
Radio 2) radio presenters Elsie Majapelo and Perfect Thlongwane said the
programme will be called Zvirongwa and will be broadcast every day profiling
Mugabe’s ‘national development utterances’.

“This programme is going to bring the President closer to the people so that
they appreciate him. This week we are going to review his Mutare statement
which he made during the party’s conference which ended at the weekend,
“said the presenters on Wednesday.

ZBC has been criticised for being biased towards Zanu (PF) party at the
expense of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions led by
Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara who are also part of the unity
government formed in 2009.

This year the ZBC authorised the playing of Zanu (PF) party jingles which
denounce MDC.

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Western countries press Zimbabwe on vote reforms

Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:08pm GMT

WASHINGTON Dec 22 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's future depends on credible
elections and President Robert Mugabe's government must make major reforms
to allow for a fair vote, major Western nations said on Wednesday.

"The coming months will determine Zimbabwe's prospects for the years to
come," the group, known as the Friends of Zimbabwe, said in a statement that
praised the African country for progress since its unity government was
formed last year.

"However, serious concerns remain relating to the protection of fundamental
rights, the rule of law, governance and respect for agreements."

Mugabe, 86, is pushing for a general election to be held by mid-2011.
Analysts say his ruling ZANU-PF party may be betting on victory due to
infighting in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is
struggling to hold on to gains made in ZANU-PF rural strongholds in 2008.

Critics say Mugabe, in power for three decades, is stalling on the critical
media, electoral and security reforms needed for a free and fair vote.

The Friends of Zimbabwe, which include the United States, Zimbabwe's former
colonial ruler Britain and a host of other Western countries, said it was
urging Zimbabwe's neighbors and particularly South Africa to work with
Harare to promote conditions for credible, legitimate and peaceful

"Zimbabweans should not face violence and intimidation to cast their votes,"
the group said, echoing accusations of widespread intimidation and
irregularities in previous elections.

The group commended Zimbabwe's unity government, which has brought Mugabe
and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai into an uneasy partnership, for achieving
"significant gains in macroeconomic stabilization" after a 40 percent
contraction in the economy from 2000 to 2008 attributed to mismanagement
under Mugabe.

"The increasing state revenue and strengthening the public finance system
provide an opportunity to improve living conditions of ordinary
Zimbabweans," the group said, although it hinted that opaque policies
covering Zimbabwe's mineral and natural resources were still a problem.

"It is critical in this regard that the development of natural resources is
pursued in a transparent manner that empowers and benefits the people."

The group, which includes most major Western aid donors, said it expected to
spend more than $500 million on various aid projects in Zimbabwe in 2011.

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ZBC Launches Robert Mugabe Radio Programme

23/12/2010 15:22:00

Harare, December 23, 2010 - The state controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation (ZBC) has launched a President Robert Mugabe daily radio

Introducing the programme which is going to run on Radio Zimbabwe (formerly
Radio 2) radio presenters Elsie Majapelo and Perfect Thlongwane said the
programme will be called Zvirongwa and will be broadcast every day profiling
Mugabe’s ‘national development utterances’.

“This programme is going to bring the President closer to the people so that
they appreciate him. This week we are going to review his Mutare statement
which he made during the party’s conference which ended at the weekend,
“said the presenters on Wednesday.

ZBC has been criticised for being biased towards Zanu (PF) party at the
expense of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions led by
Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara who are also part of the unity
government formed in 2009.

This year the ZBC authorised the playing of Zanu (PF) party jingles which
denounce MDC.

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Dabengwa questions what Zim has achieved since independence

By Tererai Karimakwenda
23 December, 2010

The leader of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), Dr. Dumiso
Dabengwa, told delegates at a conference in Algeria last week that he often
wonders what had been achieved in Zimbabwe since independence, apart from
political independence, and whether all the sacrifices were worth it. He
said that he was disappointed with Zimbabwe and other African countries that
are governed by revolutionary movements which have turned into ‘colonizers’.

Dabengwa made the comments at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’
adoption of the ‘Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries
and Peoples’, known as Resolution 1514.

Dabengwa said; ‘There are some who have turned colonizers of their own
people by running very undemocratic governments’ and have prevented people
from enjoying the rights brought about by the UN declaration that was being
celebrated in Algeria.

“Do our people have all the basic rights accorded to them, such as freedom
of speech, press freedom, freedom to earn a living, freedom from hunger,
access to decent and affordable shelter, the right to own and control their

He ended his speech by committing himself and ZAPU to, ‘upholding the
principles of freedom, democracy and good governance’.

The veteran politician’s words appeared to be veiled criticism of ZANU PF,
which has ruled Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe since independence in 1980. Yet
Dabengwa himself was once a top official within that party, serving as Home
Affairs Minister.

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Minister lied about diamond claims: ACR

by Own Correspondent Thursday 23 December 2010

HARARE – British firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR) yesterday accused
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu of misleading the nation about the status of its
operations in Zimbabwe, insisting that there were no irregularities in the
acquisition of any of its mining claims.

Mpofu told the state media this week that the government planned to cancel
mining claims for gold, platinum and other minerals that were “fraudulently”
acquired by ACR.

But ACR chief executive Andrew Cranswick insisted yesterday that the company’s
operations in Zimbabwe are above board.

“The board of ACR wishes to confirm categorically that there were no
irregularities in the acquisition of any of its mining claims or licences
known to it, and that, in its opinion having taken appropriate advice, none
of them were acquired fraudulently,” he said in a statement.

He said ACR was yet to receive any formal communication from Mpofu to the
effect that its licences are being cancelled.

The move to strip the United Kingdom-incorporate firm of all its Zimbabwean
claims comes at a time ACR chief executive Andrew Cranswick is facing
lawsuits over leaked United States diplomatic linking senior Zimbabwe
government officials to diamond smuggling.

The cables published by WikiLeaks two weeks ago claimed that the businessman
told US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, that senior Harare government
officials – including President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, central bank
governor Gideon Gono and intelligence chief Happyton Bonyongwe – have been
looting diamonds from the controversial Marange fields.

Gono and Bonyongwe are both claiming damages from Cranswick over what they
claim is false information contained in the leaked documents that have been
published by newspaper all over the world.

Cranswick has denied ever providing such information to the American

ACR has been in dispute with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Mines since March 2007
in connection with its alluvial diamond discovery at Marange which discovery
has now attracted worldwide attention.

“ACR continues to assert that it is the rightful legal owner of the claims
on which its discovery was made, and will continue to do all it can to work
with the government to resolve the Marange issue in a transparent manner for
the benefit of all stakeholders,” said Cranswick.

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Zanu (PF) To Set Up Own Schools

23/12/2010 15:19:00

Harare, December 23, 2010 - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party wants
to set up its own schools to orient young people about its ideologies ahead
of the 2011 elections.

The proposed schools, to be dotted all over the country, will be modelled
along those run by the Chinese Communist Party in China, according to a Zanu
(PF) Central Committee report presented to Mugabe at the just ended 11th
conference held in Mutare.

“Drawing lessons from the Chinese Communist Party, there was a call for a
party school which should be used to build leadership and consciousness,”
read the report.

The schools will teach young people about the history of the liberation
struggle among many other related issues.

Zanu (PF) controls national youth training centres which are aimed at
instilling ‘patriotism’ among young people in Zimbabwe.

However, graduates from the Border Gezi National Youth Training programmes
have become infamous for spearheading violent attacks on supporters of the
MDC-T and other political parties opposed to Zanu (PF).

Those who pass through this institution get first preference to join the
military, police force and other jobs in government.

They also get preferential treatment at government run tertiary
institutions. Even under qualified youths are considered for recruitment
especially at teacher training colleges as long as they passed through the
national youth training programmes.

The setting up of Zanu (PF) schools come at a time when political
temperatures are rising amid fears next year’s poll will be characterised
with violence.

Mugabe has resisted calls from some of his closest followers to allow the
inclusive government to continue running the country.

They say the inclusive government has brought political stability and
revived the economic.

But Mugabe says he is not happy with the other principals in the inclusive
government because they sell out to whites.

Business leaders in Zimbabwe have also urged Mugabe not to press ahead with
elections because this will upset the political stability. International and
local human rights organizations also fear the election will be marred by

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M&G to oppose Zuma’s appeal

December 23 2010 at 12:46pm

The Mail & Guardian said on Thursday it would oppose President Jacob Zuma's
application for leave to appeal last week's Supreme Court of Appeal ruling
ordering him to hand over a report on the 2002 Zimbabwean election to the

“Our attorney spoke to his state attorney on Tuesday and he confirmed that
they will seek leave to appeal. We will oppose their application,” Mail &
Guardian editor Nick Dawes said.

Dawes said Zuma had until January 6 to serve documents asking for leave to
appeal, and the weekly had to respond by January 20.

He expressed disappointment at the latest development in the newspaper's
long court battle to get Zuma to release the Kampepe-Moseneke report,
believed to confirm widespread abuse during the poll that returned President
Robert Mugabe to power.

“We are disappointed. Two courts have given very clear rulings and both have
found that the president failed dismally to prove a need to keep the report

The appeal court last Tuesday dismissed the presidency's challenge to a
North Gauteng High Court order that Zuma hand the newspaper the report
commissioned by then president Thabo Mbeki before the 2002 elections in a
strife-torn Zimbabwe.

Both Mbeki and Zuma have resisted repeated calls for the report, compiled by
two Constitutional Court judges - Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and
Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe, to be made public.

SCA Judge Robert Nugent said the court had to be satisfied that secrecy was
justified and the presidency had failed to establish cause for refusing
access to the document.

Dawes said it was time for Zuma to comply with the court judgments.

“I really think that what the president ought to do is save some public
money, show some commitment to transparency and the PAIA (Promotion of
Access to Information Act) process and hand it over.”

The presidency was not available for comment.

The legal wrangle is set against a background of unhappiness with the
Protection of Information Bill, which introduces lengthy prison sentences
for publishing classified documents, and the ruling party's plans to
establish a state tribunal to regulate the press. - Sapa

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Magistrate's arrest sparks fury

23/12/2010 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

MAGISTRATES accused police of “bully tactics” on Thursday following the
arrest of Manicaland’s Provincial Magistrate Billiard Musakwa and a
prosecutor on corruption charges.

The Magistrates’ Association of Zimbabwe called on Police Commissioner
Augustine Chihuri to step in following last weekend’s arrests in Mutare.

Musakwa discharged businessman Farai Rimayi who was facing rape allegations
after prosecutor Truman Joma withdrew the case before trial.
The chief law officer Michael Mugabe filed reasons for dropping the case in
the record of proceedings.

But police moved to arrest the prosecutor and the magistrate on suspicions
of corruption.

The Magistrates’ Association called on Chihuri to “rein-in his officers and
instruct them to exercise restraint and not to approach matters with shut

“The police abused their powers and must be dealt with decisively,” the
union said. “The bully tactics exhibited by the police in this case will not
sway magistrates into making uncivilised and injudicious decisions in order
to please anybody.

“Magistrates are not answerable to the police and the belief that police
officers or anybody can question judicial decisions must be exorcised from
police officers’ minds.”

The magistrates added that they would not “surrender the duty imposed upon
us by the laws of this country to administer justice impartially without
fear or favour.

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Police Bar ZAPU Demo Over Unity Accord

23/12/2010 15:17:00
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Bulawayo, December 23, 2010 – The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on
Wednesday barred the Zapu youth from holding a protest march against the
commemoration of the Unity Accord on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe commemorates unity day every December 22. The unity accord was
signed between President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua

Zapu which is led by former Zanu (PF) politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa said
it no longer recognised the unity accord due to the neglect of Matabeleland
people who were never compensated for the atrocities committed against them
during the gukurahundi era. The era saw Mugabe unleashing the North Korea
trained Fifth Brigade army on the people in the Midlands and Matabeleland
resulting in many deaths.

The march which was scheduled to coincide with Unity Day on Wednesday had
initially been authorised by the police in Bulawayo on 15 December, 2010.

Methuseli Moyo, the ZAPU spokesman, said five days later the police
overturned the clearance and issued a prohibition order against the march.

Moyo said the first letter was signed by Superintendent P. Moyo of Bulawayo
Central District. Superintendent L. Singo from the same office issued the
prohibition order on 20 December 2010.

Zapu Youth Front secretary Patrick Ndlovu and information officer Tulo
Makwati were on Monday, December 20 summoned to the police district offices
at Southampton House where they were told in no uncertain terms by police
and CIO chiefs not to dare organize the demonstration.

“Zapu believes the police commanders were forced to overturn the clearance
after being put under pressure by members of the Zanu (PF) regime in the
city. This is a blatant violation of citizens’ rights to express themselves
freely,” said Moyo.

The Unity Day on Wednesday went largely unnoticed by Zimbabweans gearing for
one of the merriest Christmas and New Year festivities after a decade long
economic melt-down.

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US Dollars, S. African Rand In Short Supply In Zimbabwe in Festive Season

Many Zimbabweans are camping outside banks in hopes of getting their hands
on banknotes while travelers find themselves unable to follow through on
holiday plans for lack of banknotes to pay for transport

Gibbs Dube | Washington 22 December 2010

Tonderai Kuvheya of Masvingo said he has been unable to travel to Harare to
visit his family as planned because he cannot get enough cash

US dollars and South African rand are in particularly short supply this
holiday season in Zimbabwe with many households and businesses unable to
obtain an adequate supply from banks for their transactions - including
funding their holiday travel.

Many people are camping outside banks hoping to get their hands on

Consumer and financial sources said the situation is worst in so-called
growth points -n clusters of residential and business development in rural
areas - and small towns with a limited number of savings and loan
institutions such as the Central African Building Society and the national
Post Office Savings Bank to choose from.

Resident Nelly Ruwocha of Gutu, Masvingo province, told VOA most people
there and in surrounding villages have not been able to get cash for two

Tonderai Kuvheya of Masvingo said he has been unable to travel to Harare to
visit his family as planned because he cannot get enough cash out of his

Bulawayo bank manager Samson Nhliziyo said building societies and banks have
too many clients which has resulted in demand for cash outstripping supply.

“These institutions never expected this to happen especially during the
festive season and there is little they can do to tackle the situation,” he

Economist Prosper Chitambara said cash shortages reflect general liquidity
issues as there are simply not enough notes in circulation in the country
which abandoned its own dollar in 2009 to adopt a monetary regime of mixed
hard currencies.

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Residents of Nyanga, Zimbabwe, Withhold State Broadcast License Fees

Nyanga North lawmaker Douglas Mwonzora of the Movement for Democratic Change
formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he and others are
prepared to defend themselves in court

Jonga Kandemiiri | Washington 22 December 2010

Licenses cost US$50 a year and provide much of ZBC’s revenue along with
advertising, which has fallen off sharply of late

Some residents of Zimbabwe's Nyanga North district of Manicaland province
are refusing to pay radio and television license fees to the
state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation because they do not
receive program transmissions and depend on foreign broadcasters including
VOA's Studio 7, SW Radio Africa and Radio Mozambique.

Last month Bulawayo residents also threatened to withhold license fees,
saying state radio and television has not justified the levy through the
provision of quality services. The Matabeleland region residents said they
relied on the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which they said offers
superior and more informative programming.

Licenses cost US$50 a year and provide much of ZBC’s revenue along with
advertising - but the latter revenue source has diminished by 60 percent in
recent months.

Failure to pay license fees can lead to a lawsuit by the state broadcaster.
But Bulawayo Residents Association Coordinator Roderick Fayayo said none of
his group’s members has been taken to the courts by ZBC or partner Zimbabwe
Broadcast Holdings so far.

Nyanga North lawmaker Douglas Mwonzora of the Movement for Democratic Change
formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told VOA Studio 7 reporter
Jonga Kandemiiri that he and others are prepared to defend themselves in

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Mugabe praises South Africa’s Mbeki as a ‘great man’

By Alex Bell
23 December 2010

One of the latest diplomatic cables released on the WikiLeaks website has
detailed how former South African President Thabo Mbeki and current
President Zuma are viewed by Robert Mugabe.

Both South African leaders, as the regional mediators in the political
crisis, have been criticised for not taking a firm stance against Mugabe and
his relentless grip on Zimbabwe. Mbeki’s policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’ has
been widely slammed by critics as pandering to Mugabe, and it was hoped this
‘softly-softly’ treatment of the dictator would change when Zuma came into

But Zuma is regarded as even more of a disappointment. Before he became
South Africa’s leader he was a vocal critic of Mbeki’s support for Mugabe,
sparking hope he would take tougher action. Instead he has done nothing to
influence Mugabe to genuinely share power with the MDC in the crumbling
coalition government. Zuma has also clearly demonstrated his allegiance to
Mugabe by making calls on his behalf for targeted Western sanctions, in
place against the ruling elite, to be lifted.

Mugabe, unsurprisingly, is clearly pleased with how his South African
counterparts have behaved, describing Mbeki as a “great man.” He also had
praise for Zuma calling him a “man of the people.” Commentators however say
that Mugabe, at the time, was still waiting for Zuma to prove his
allegiance, after referring to him as a man “who likes to make promises
without necessarily knowing how to fulfill them.”

The details were revealed in a cable dated June 2nd 2009, bearing the
subject line: “Tea with Mugabe.” The confidential 16-page cable records a
“marathon” meeting between Mugabe, Zimbabwean government officials, the
former US ambassador to Zimbabwe (James McGee) and US Democratic Party
congressman Donald Payne.

The previously unreleased cable describes Mugabe in 2009 as “possibly the
healthiest 85-year-old in Zimbabwe”, “clearly stuck in the past” and
“desperate to re-engage with the world and to be treated as an elder
statesmen.” Questioned by McGee about Zuma’s government, Mugabe “sighed that
he didn’t think (the ANC) treated Thabo (Mbeki) well, particularly as he was
in the midst of helping Zimbabwe.” While describing Mbeki as “judgmental and
calculating and cautious with policies”, he said, “to us (Mbeki) is a great

Political analyst Professor John Makumbe told SW Radio Africa that there was
no surprise about Mugabe’s opinions of the South African Presidents, saying
“everyone knows that South African leaders are in Mugabe’s corner.”

“Anyone who has questioned how Mugabe has been allowed to stay where he is
has suspected that they are his buddies,” Makumbe said, adding: “There
should be trepidation on the part of the MDC, because how can South Africa
be credible mediators?”

Makumbe said the situation is worrying because of impending elections,
warning that Zuma is “more in Mugabe’s corner than Mbeki ever was.” He said
that Mbeki had the “intelligence to hide open admiration for Mugabe.” In
contrast, Makumbe said Zuma was “more on the crude side, and he simply does

“It is worrying for Zimbabwe because Zuma is playing as both the referee and
a nighttime player for only one team,” he said. “It is a great risk for
democracy because Zimbabwe will be shortchanged by a man who prefers one
party over the others.”

This latest WikiLeaks cable detailed how Mugabe launched into an “hour-long
monologue,” at the meeting with the US representatives, during which he
painted himself “as the victim of international abuse and broken promises.”
He talked “non-stop...without so much as a sip of water or a clearing of the
throat”, declaring at one point that “we want to engage with the world.”
Growing “increasingly adamant and agitated”, Mugabe asked: “In the context
of all the countries in the world – are we really the worst?”

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Christmas: an ordinary day for Zimbabwe's poor

December 24, 2010, 12:59 amAFP

Widowed mother of seven Hilda Nhukarume hangs clothes outside her home in the rural district of Zimunya in Mutare, 280 kms east of Harare.

ZIMUNYA, Zimbabwe (AFP) - For ordinary Zimbabweans this Christmas will bring a mixture of pleasure and pain, with once-empty shops full of food and drink but most families left wondering how to pay for it.

In Zimunya, a village 280 kilometres (175 miles) east of the capital Harare, a few dollars would be enough to ensure a special celebration but many people here are resigned to spending December 25 like any other day.

Webster Kurwaisimba, 38, jobless with a family of four, cannot afford to pamper his loved ones with presents. The best he can hope for is a decent meal.

"I know Christmas is almost here but I have no money and things are tough," he says. "My main concern is how will I manage to raise money for school fees for the children before schools reopen next year."

Kurwaisimba lost his job in the nearby city of Mutare and moved back to Zimunya when one of the country's leading wholesale chains closed several branches and laid off scores of workers in 2005.

The former goods buyer and receiving clerk is now a familiar sight on the sides of a nearby highway where he can be seen raising a bowl of wild mushrooms, signalling passing travellers to buy them. He takes home six dollars on a good day.

"If I can get 10 US dollars, it will be enough to buy bread, milk and probably chicken. That will be Christmas for me. If I can't get the money we will attend a church service all day."

An average Christmas dinner in Zimbabwe will comprise chicken and rice and a crate of soft drinks and beer for adults. Fortunate children will be treated to biscuits, sweets and potato crisps.

For an average family of seven, chicken will cost seven US dollars, rice will cost two dollars, a crate of drinks nine dollars and a crate of beer 20 dollars. A packet of sweets costs two dollars and biscuits three dollars.

Zimbabwe's economy is slowly recovering from a near decade-long crisis which saw supermarkets resemble empty warehouses because of hyperinflation which once peaked at 231 million percent, forcing daily price increases.

The crisis led the country's two main political blocs into a power-sharing government to try to mend the economy. In 2009 they finally agreed to scrap the worthless local Zimbabwean dollar, adopting the US greenback in its place.

Scarce commodities became readily available although to most people in rural areas many goods remain a luxury.

For shopkeepers, however, who for years have seen their shelves left bare for want of supplies, this year's festive season will be a boon.

Benard Tinorwiraishe, a grocery store owner in the farming district of Nyazura, is fully stocked up with cooking oil, powdered milk, tinned meat and bread, all of which were scarce at the height of the crisis.

"I cannot complain," said Tinorwiraishe drifting between the interview and his need to attend to customers trickling into the shop.

"This year all the commodities are easily available."

But for every shopkeeper on the up there are hundreds of ordinary citizens facing a harsh day with little hope of respite.

Widows Hilda and Margaret Nhukarume will use Christmas to thank God for sustaining them through a difficult year without their husband.

They were left with seven children each and they are also looking after their husband's two children from another marriage.

"We don't have any plans," says Hilda, the younger of the widows from a polygamous marriage.

"We cannot afford to buy the children clothes to wear on Christmas day. We wish we could but we can't. We will be content if we get five dollars to buy a maize meal. It will be just another day unless a well-wisher comes to our aid."

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), a customer watchdog, said the food basket for an average family climbed in December to 144.19 dollars from the November figure of 142.77 dollars.

The council said the rise was caused by retailers who put up prices to cash in on consumer spending at Christmas time.

With civil servants -- who make up the bulk of formally employed Zimbabweans -- earning an average of 150 dollars per month, many have little or nothing to spare for the traditional rural Christmas.

"In the past many in rural areas got a transfer of wealth during Christmas from family members working on farms, in mines and in towns who either came to visit or sent money," said independent economist John Robertson.

"It's now pretty hard for people in general. Money is scarce and expenses are high."

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Zimbabwe Vigil Christmas Message 2010

Our families and friends in Zimbabwe are foremost in our minds at this time, although we will not be meeting outside the Embassy on Christmas Day. We will meet next week as usual – here is why:

MDC Activists Flee As Election Campaign Begins in Gutu
NYAZVIDZI, December 18, 2010 – Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) activists from Nyazvidzi area in Gutu North constituency are fleeing to neighbouring urban settlements after armed soldiers, police, Zanu (PF) youths and war veterans started victimizing them as campaign for next year’s anticipated elections begin.

Activists who spoke to Radio Vop on Friday said they were afraid to stay in their villages after fellow villagers were severely beaten during previous elections. Legislator for the area Admore Maramwidze Hamandishe confirmed the development saying at least two people are dying in his constituency every month due to injuries sustained from politically motivated assaults. “There are no more MDC-T youths here. All of them are fleeing after Zanu PF youth, war veterans and armed soldiers who patrol the area openly announced that they are prepared to ‘slaughter our supporters like goats before pouring acid on them’ as soon as we start campaigning. “The threats are not taken lightly since we bury our comrades every two weeks,” said Hamandishe.

The latest victims of violence in Gutu North are Crispen Gurajena and his wife Raina who died in
Gutu Mission Hospital
last week. The two left young children who are afraid to stay at home alone.

“Since the death of our parents, we are afraid to stay at home alone. We meet the people who killed our parents everyday and we are not sure of what they might do to us. The same people who killed our parents came here and took all things including the plough, maize seed and other property, leaving us with nothing,” said Tafadzwa Gurajena, 16, their son who wept bitterly during the interview.

The deceased were ordered to eat their faeces on the day they fell victim for their support for the MDC-T.Ward three chairman. Phillip Mahachi said his wife Mavis, 38, is admitted in a hospital in
as she failed to recover since the day she was beaten.

“All our children are no longer staying with us. They fled and they are now living in safer areas. My wife is critically ill and I am afraid that she might be the next victim of this violence,” said Mahachi. War veterans led by retired colonel identified as Masanganise are moving around Gutu threatening to crush the MDC-T supporters like flies if they did not support President Mugabe. Hamandishe said the government must make sure that the issue of national healing was addressed as a matter of urgent.

Albeit late, we were pleased to come across the following article: ‘Vigil: a cry for a new Zimbabwe continues . . .’ by Gilbert Bere (see: Gilbert is a columnist on the Zimeye website.

The process of nation building is both cumbersome and painful. Without sound legal prescriptions, even the strongest of nations will crumble- Zimbabwe is no exception. Now the big question is: “as the architecture of a new Zimbabwe, what should we do?’’ We can not pay a blind eye to the problems in Zimbabwe and hope that some James Bond will show up with a blazing sword and clean up- our mess. The time is conducive and the long journey to a new Zimbabwe which is at peace with itself is gaining momentum by the passing of each day. I applaud Vigil Coalition UK for their steadfast campaign for a democratic Zimbabwe since 2002. Despite constant pressures from the powers that be, Vigil continues to play a pivotal role in the struggle for a new Zimbabwe.

Vigil’s weekly protests which seek to bring to the surface the current problems confronting Zimbabwe have become a common feature at the Zimbabwe House in London. Scores of resilient Zimbabweans gather weekly drawing the world’s attention to Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic challenges. Those who attend these weekly events since its inception in 2002 have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt their commitment to the rebirth of a new Zimbabwe.

Vigil as it stands represents Zimbabwe and gives its people the platform to export our culture to the wider world, namely,order and peace – two characteristics embedded within the common Zimbabwean life.

The struggle for a new Zimbabwe continues and Vigil today as in 2002, still plays its crucial role.

Vigil Co-ordinators

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe:

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Is Mugabe Playing A Monumental Bluff?

Robb , Derby

Mugabe has stated that elections next year will only take place after a constitutional referendum. He also stated that he would like to see elections carried out in about June/July.

Now we read that the referendum will be carried out in September next year which would effectively push the election into late 2011.

My question is relatively simple, and I have asked it in the past… With the coalition reporting exhausting its tenure in February, and the elections now looking to be held in late 2011, who will run the country in the interim period?

The committee drafting Zimbabwe’s new constitution says it expects a referendum on the draft in September next year, casting doubts on the prospects of an early election.

Robert Mugabe has been calling for an election soon after the February 2011 second anniversary of the unity government, which he formed with his arch rival and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The 86 year-old leader says he is not happy in the inclusive government and was last week endorsed by his ZANU PF party to run for another term next year.

But on Wednesday President Mugabe appeared to be climbing down from his hardline position when he told ZANU PF supporters that the polls will only be held after referendum.

Mugabe has said elections are expected some time next year - would only be held once the constitutional referendum has been concluded.”

So – who makes any governmental decisions or runs the country in the period between the end of the coalition government and elections?

The MDC have the popular mandate, but have been effectively sidelined by Mugabe’s unilateralism, his illegal appointments and the inability of Mugabe to allow the MDC to take any real stance in government.

ZANU PF believe that they have the God-given right to rule in Zimbabwe, and have stated, even quite recently, that only a Mugabe win at the polls would be acceptable when the election is finally run. They refuse to believe that any other party has the right to rule Zimbabwe.

Drafting a new charter for the country was one of the major reforms agreed by the coalition partners but the exercise has been delayed by squabbles between the political parties and the lack of funding.

And, frustrated by the delays Mugabe, had previously stated that the country would hold elections whether or not the exercise was concluded.

However, addressing thousands of supporters in Gutu where he was visiting his uncle Kasirai Masanganise who is Chief Gutu and brother to his late mother Bona Mugabe, the President said the referendum would be come first.

“There is going to be a draft constitution which will be put to a referendum; after that we will then have general elections,” Mugabe said, speaking in Shona.”

It must be remembered that the decision to launch the vicious, violent and deadly land grab was launched after a referendum for a new constitution was rejected by the population in early 2000. Mugabe reportedly ordered the land grab to begin in a fit of rage at having been rejected by the population.

Perhaps he is looking to go one better this time around by effectively assuming and holding the disputed reins of power before any referendum is voted upon, thereby removing the opportunity that the people may have of overruling his wishes…

Certainly, it is food for thought.

“Mugabe insisted that his party’s views should make up most of the final draft claiming ZANU PF had dominated the outreach programme which was aimed at gathering public contributions.

We must make sure that when the draft constitution is put together ZANU PF’s views are dominant because the party dominated the outreach programme,” he said.

The ZANU PF leader said new elections were needed to replace the coalition government which he said was only a temporary measure and again slated his rivals in the coalition government.

Even in Government they have no policy as compared to us in ZANU-PF who came up with policies in education, health and even indigenisation of the economy which is now expanding to cover mines and factories,” Mugabe said.”

Robb WJ Ellis

The Bearded Man

Read more:

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Is Zimbabwe's media really freeing up?

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In recent weeks the number of journalists in Zimbabwe arrested has increased

There is a greater sense of media freedom in Zimbabwe, though this may not signal a change in the political climate, writes the BBC's Karen Allen.

The rain arrives quickly in Harare. A newspaper seller on the corner of Samora Machel street gathers his wares in his arms and dives for shelter.

A trickle of customers follow him. Alongside The Herald - the state daily - sits a new privately owned tabloid - News Day.

It describes itself as non partisan and is one of four independent newspapers to receive a licence in the past six months.

President Robert Mugabe, March 2010 President Robert Mugabe has had a frosty relationship with the foreign media for several years

Despite this nod towards liberalisation, as stipulated in the power-sharing deal between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), News Day is the only newcomer operating.

The Daily News, the first private newspaper which was closed down by the government more than seven years ago, has yet to make it back onto the streets although its licence has been re-issued.

The greater choice of newspapers is felt most keenly in urban areas.

This is tamer political territory for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai's MDC.

'Media hangman'

But in Headlands - a swathe of villages just off the road between Mutare and Harare - newspapers rarely make an appearance.

If I listen on my headphones, nobody knows. It's my secret”
Resident of Headlands

Radio, or more accurately state radio, is the main source of news.

A queue of private broadcasters is waiting in the wings for licences to be granted.

People speak in hushed tones here.

This is Zanu-PF territory and many are reluctant to criticise.

Yet one woman I spoke to, a bright mother of four with a mouth shaped into a permanent smile, confided that the radio on her mobile phone sometimes picked up signals from stations beyond Zimbabwe's borders.

"If I listen on my headphones, nobody knows," she whispers, "It's my secret."

While Zimbabwe's Information Minister Webster Shamu has made optimistic noises that broadcasting licences will be issued soon, he has been flatly contradicted in recent weeks by President Robert Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba.

Zanu-PF supporters, Harare, 2010 Foreign media at the Zanu-PF gathering were feted as guests

He says they need more ways to monitor and regulate private operators.

The appointment of Jonathan Moyo onto Zanu-PF's top table - the politburo - does not inspire confidence that the airwaves will be open soon.

While some consider him a brilliant strategist, others describe him as a "media hangman".

He is credited in the past with ushering in some of the most repressive legislation to curtail press freedom.

After a spell away from the party - he is now back - and with elections expected next year - the timing is perhaps no co-incidence.

'Unstoppable mission'

As foreigners reporting from the Zanu-PF conference you would expect us to be treated as "the enemy".

Zimbabweans read copies of the state owned Herald newspaper on the streets of Harare 3 December 2010 Newspapers are readily available in towns, but not in the countryside

But in characteristic African gesture of hospitality we were feted as guests.

People came to chat or hand over bottles of "Zanu-PF water" - mineral water with a picture of the party leader emblazoned on the plastic bottle.

Even something as elemental as water cannot escape politics here.

The conference was a battle cry to the party faithful - goading them on ahead of expected elections next year.

President Mugabe, looking fit and in fighting mood, called for the "indigenisation" of foreign firms, enabling the state to take a majority stake in big corporations. A familiar refrain.

And the words thundered by Simon Khaya Moyo, the chairman of the party, captured the tone. Zanu-PF is on an "unstoppable mission".

I wondered how far the party would be prepared to go given the experience of the last bloody elections two years ago.

Chilling copy

In recent weeks the newspapers have been filled with stories about the alleged recruitment of war veterans to strategic posts ahead of elections.

A man reads a copy of the Independent Standard newspaper on the streets of Harare, 13 December 2010 Diamonds are now a no go topic of conversation

There have been reports too claiming that heads of the security services will "only accept a Zanu-PF win". Chilling copy. Stories that have landed reporters in jail.

About an hour's drive from the conference lies the diamond rich area of Chiadzwa - a no go area for journalists.

It has been tainted by allegations of plunder and human right abuses. Claims that the party denies.

A resident from this diamond desert agreed to meet us discretely.

He spoke of the police and military patrols who continue to stalk the areas, of the people forced to stay indoors from 1800 and of the gang rapes of women who refuse to comply with their rules.

There is no way to independently verify this man's ghastly testimony.

Chiadzwa is a militarised zone, but his story is consistent with reports that diamonds are being used as a weapon of control.

Click to play

Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, tells the BBC of his desire to remain in power

A resource which save for a handful of secretive companies, is being manipulated by Zimbabwe's "securocrats" - the military, police and intelligence services, to stay in power claim human rights groups

The discovery of diamonds has been "a gift from god" declares President Mugabe. It could be his salvation.

A Zimbabwean newspaper just last week reported a Wikileaks cable - published around the world - which implicated the first lady Grace Mugabe and a handful of others in allegedly benefiting from illicit diamond deals. Something they deny.

The mood has swiftly changed and the lawsuits have begun. One paper is being sued for $15m (9,7m).

Diamonds are a no go topic of conversation and it seems the drive towards greater media freedom or glasnost African style - has ground to a shuddering halt.

The next few months will be the litmus test for media freedom.

If newspapers like News Day continue to offer diversity right through until election day, Zimbabwe will have advanced considerably.

But if journalists are increasingly threatened, harassed and jailed, Zimbabwe will have slide back into its old ways.

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