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Makoni: the inside story

Zim Online

by Cuthbert Nzou  Monday 11 February 2008

      HARARE – Some of President Robert Mugabe’s most senior allies
including his first deputy Joseph Msika are the brains behind former finance
minister Simba Makoni’s dramatic rebellion last week, sources close to the
mutiny told ZimOnline at the weekend.

      They said Makoni, who shook Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF party to the
core when he announced last Tuesday that he would challenge Mugabe in next
month’s presidential poll, was also working with party politburo members
John Nkomo, Solomon Mujuru, Vitalis Zvinavashe and Dumiso Dabengwa among
other heavyweights.

      Nkomo is ZANU PF chairman, while Mujuru, Zvinavashe and Dabengwa are
former commanders of the ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrilla armies that fought for
Zimbabwe’s independence under the leadership of Mugabe and the late Joshua

      Mujuru and Zvinavashe are former commanders of Zimbabwe’s army and
together with Dabengwa are believed to wield substantial influence within
the country’s security forces that still comprise significant numbers of
former guerillas especially in higher echelons.

      Makoni, who commands considerable respect across the political divide
and in business circles, enjoys the support of eight out of ZANU PF’s 10
provincial executives, according to our sources, who are all active members
of ZANU PF and spoke on condition they were not named.

      Mugabe’s home province of Mashonaland West and Midlands province,
which is controlled by presidential aspirant Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the two
provinces that do not support Makoni.

      ZimOnline was unable to get immediate comment from Nkomo and the other
top ZANU PF leaders, who were all said to be busy with the party’s internal
exercise to select candidates for the March 29 elections that is expected to
be completed today.

      When contacted for comment, Makoni declined to deny or confirm whether
he had the support of the top ZANU PF leaders insisting, as he has done all
of last week that, he is “working with other progressive Zimbabweans.”

      ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira dismissed as mere speculation
suggestions that some top leaders of the party were backing Makoni,
insisting the ruling party remained solidly behind Mugabe – its leader since
the 70s.

      Shamuyarira said: "The party is only aware of Makoni's decision to
leave the party and contest the March presidential election as an
independent candidate.

      President Mugabe has the support of the whole presidium and other
members of the politburo are solidly behind him.

      "As far as the party is concerned, there is speculation that some
members of the politburo were behind Makoni and we cannot waste time on
speculation when elections are around the corner."

      However, our sources said the ZANU PF bigwigs led by Mujuru began
plotting in earnest the move to oust Mugabe since a party conference in
December 2006 when it became clear that the octogenarian leader would not
quit power voluntarily.

      The Mujuru group - that adopted Makoni as its front man - successfully
blocked Mugabe’s bid at the December conference to extend his rule to 2010
without going to the ballot but the cunning President made an about turn and
offered himself to stand as ZANU PF’s candidate in next month’s election.

      The sources said the ZANU PF heavyweights have since last year held
several meetings in Harare, Bulawayo and South Africa to perfect their plan
as well as weigh the risks of taking on Mugabe, a wily and combative
politician even as he turns 84 this month.

      When the ZANU PF central committee met in March 2007 to adopt the
resolutions passed at the Goromonzi conference, Msika openly challenged a
resolution proposed by the party’s women’s league to declare Mugabe
president for life.

      "Msika was backed by Dabengwa and Makoni. This did not go down well
with Mugabe who voiced his concern," one of the sources said. The resolution
was promptly dropped.

      According to sources, subsequent meetings of the central committee or
politburo saw Dabengwa, Mujuru and Zvinavashe taking turns to question and
challenge Mugabe’s decisions both in the party and in the government.

      During a politburo meeting last October, the four openly confronted
Mugabe after he unilaterally re-admitted expelled war veterans leader
Jabulani Sibanda into ZANU PF.

      "The four men reminded Mugabe that Sibanda was expelled from the party
and should not be involved in party affairs but he apparently ignored them,"
another source said.

      Sibanda has since his readmission helped mobilised support for Mugabe
and last November organised a “million-man” march which saw several tens of
thousands of party supporters march across Harare in solidarity with the
veteran leader and his candidature in the presidential poll.

      During another politburo meeting on November 25 last year, Dabengwa
questioned Mnangagwa – who according to sources is fighting in Mugabe’s
corner –why he wanted last December’s extra-ordinary congress to confirm and
endorse Mugabe when it should elect a new leadership.

      Makoni and Mujuru backed Dabengwa, but Mugabe with the support of
Mnangagwa prevailed and the congress was convened to endorse the ageing
leader as ZANU PF’s candidate for president.

      "From then on, Mujuru and his group began moving to block what they
saw as Mugabe’s imposition of himself as party candidate,” the source said.

      Various options were considered including trying to use a politburo
meeting that was held last month to reverse Mugabe’s endorsement as
candidate while another option was to simply form a new party with Makoni as

      "Various options were looked at, but none were viable except for
Makoni to make a public pronouncement and hope there will be a rebellion in
the party,” said pour source.

      While ZANU PF and nearly every Zimbabwean have been stunned by Makoni’s
dramatic announcement last week, there has been no popular revolt within the
ruling party against Mugabe.

      It remains to be seen how Makoni and company will proceed, while all
eyes are watching Mugabe to see how he will react to the biggest ever
rebellion against his rule. - ZimOnline

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Tsvangirai to run in Zimbabwe polls despite rival candidacy

Yahoo News

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai confirmed
Sunday he would stand for president at elections next month, quashing
speculation he would give a former minister a clear run against Robert

"I confirm myself, together with the comrades behind me, that we are going
to contest the presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and local government
elections," the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader told reporters.

"I want to confirm that I am going to be the presidential candidate and what
you see behind me is the team that I am going to work with in the
forthcoming campaigns," he added in a briefing attended by lawmakers and top

Former finance minister Simba Makoni announced last week that he planned to
challenge Mugabe at the March 29 elections in a move welcomed by the MDC,
leading some commentators to predict Tsvangirai would not contest the polls.

His decision to carry on is seen as likely to split the anti-Mugabe vote and
increase the re-election prospects of the octogenarian president who is
seeking a sixth term in office.

Tsvangirai praised Makoni as a patriot but said he bore some responsibility
for the state of the country as a long-time member of Mugabe's ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Inflation is the highest in the world at over 26,000 percent, unemployment
is running at around 80 percent and even basis foodstuffs are in scarce

"Dr Makoni has been part of the establishment for the last 30 years and has
witnessed our country deteriorate to this unprecedented level. He is equally
accountable as Robert Mugabe for the omissions of ZANU-PF," Tsvangirai said.

"I believe that what Dr Makoni is trying is to reform an institutionalised
dictatorship. That is not my agenda.

"I am the leader of the MDC.... Dr Makoni is nothing more than old wine in a
new bottle."

Tsvangirai lost to Mugabe in the last elections in 2002 in a poll Western
observers said was rigged. His party has since been riven by divisions and
he has been unable to persuade a splinter faction to unite behind his

The MDC leader was confident his party would be the rightful winners but
sceptical that Mugabe would allow a level playing field at the election.

"Mugabe may rig it, may steal it, but we would have won it... I have no
doubt in my mind, we will win it," he said to the applause of party

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Mugabe rival smells victory but fears vote rigging


Sun 10 Feb 2008, 16:10 GMT

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on
Sunday his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is confident of winning
general elections next month but fears President Robert Mugabe's government
will rig the vote.

Tsvangirai, head of the main faction of the MDC, told a news conference that
Zimbabweans, many of whom blame the government for ruining the
once-prosperous southern African state's economy, were desperate for change.

"We believe the election ... however uneven the playing field may be,
presents Zimbabweans with a fighting chance to remove this dictatorship," he
said, repeating charges that Mugabe had rigged three previous elections to
stay in power.

"The people will win in the election of 2008, and should Robert Mugabe
choose to steal their victory, he would have consumed that last shred of
legitimacy left for his dictatorship in the region and in the world,"
Tsvangirai added.

But he declined to say what the MDC would do if it felt cheated in the
polls. "We will cross that bridge when we get to it," Tsvangirai said,
adding: "Experience is the best teacher, and we will not go to court."

Tsvangirai, 55, said former Mugabe ally and ex-finance minister Simba Makoni
had a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe's political future, but that the MDC
could not work with him while Makoni retained strong ties with the ruling
ZANU-PF party.

Makoni announced last week he would run against Mugabe for the presidency,
and said he had support from ZANU-PF rebels.

"Dr. Makoni is a player looking for a team, and I already have a team here,"
Tsvangirai said when asked about a possible coalition.

The MDC leader said the crumbling economy -- Zimbabwe has the world's
highest inflation rate, at over 25,000 percent, rising unemployment and
acute shortages of food, fuel and transport -- had left Zimbabweans

"The people of Zimbabwe are looking to us to deliver them a new Zimbabwe,"
he said.

But despite the economic shambles, analysts say Mugabe may be able to hang
onto power against a divided opposition.

The MDC is split into two factions, led by Tsvangirai and academic Arthur
Mutambara, that will field rival candidates in next month's presidential,
parliamentary and council elections after failing to agree on a unified

The MDC had earlier said it might boycott the March 29 polls if Mugabe's
government refused to adopt a new draft constitution agreed between the two
sides. The charter has not been adopted.

Tsvangirai has said a new constitution is his party's main hope of achieving
a fair election and, without one, the result was bound to be disputed as had
happened in the past.

Mugabe, 83, who has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain
in 1980, says the MDC is sponsored by Western powers opposed to his seizure
and redistribution of white-owned farms to landless blacks.

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Makoni is 'strong enough to beat Mugabe'

The Telegraph

By Stephen Bevan and special correspondents in Harare
Last Updated: 1:15am GMT 10/02/2008

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has been warned that he faces
possible humiliation in next month's general election after Simba Makoni, a
member of his own ruling politburo, threw his hat into the ring on Tuesday.

The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that Zimbabwe's intelligence services
have advised Mr Mugabe to postpone the presidential election, scheduled for
March 29, because of a groundswell of support for Mr Makoni. The former
finance minister has the backing of top regime figures, including the two

Mr Mugabe abruptly cancelled a politburo meeting on Wednesday after
the briefing by the Central Intelligence Organisation, whose director,
Happyton Bonyongwe, is understood to sympathise with Mr Makoni, according to
a source close to the government.

Presenting the strongest challenge to Mr Mugabe from within the ranks
of the Zanu-PF in 20 years, Mr Makoni, 57, is a businessman who studied at
Leeds University and Leicester Polytechnic.

Mr Mugabe appeared on course for almost certain victory after factions
in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change failed to unite behind its
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. But Mr Makoni's announcement has thrown that into

Now Mugabe loyalists are issuing chilling warnings that Mr Makoni's
candidature, and his criticism of the president, may imperil his safety.
"Traitors should know Zanu-PF has a history of dealing harshly with their
kind," said Joseph Chinotimba, deputy leader of the War Veterans'
Association, a pro-Mugabe militia which spearheaded land invasions against
white farmers eight years ago and which Mr Mugabe has used to intimidate and
attack opponents.

Mr Makoni says he will not be deterred from running. "The threats have
been there but I do not feel threatened," he said. "I will continue walking
in the streets. My security is in my people."

Although many were surprised that a Zanu-PF insider would publicly
challenge such a ruthless and oppressive leader, Mr Makoni may have good
reason for bravado. The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that his support extends
much further than previously supposed. According to a senior official, his
backers in the Zanu-PF politburo include Joseph Msika the vice-president,
John Nkomo, the party chairman, and Dumiso Dabengwa, the former defence
minister. He also has backing from Solomon Mujuru, a retired army general,
and his wife, Joyce Mujuru, also a vice-­president.

More worrying for Mr Mugabe is the support for Mr Makoni from within
his own security establishment. Zimbabwe's air force chief, police chief and
army commander are said to back him privately.

Mr Makoni has felt confident enough to attack Mr Mugabe's intolerance
of different views and ideas. "He [Mugabe] is a diffident leader who thinks
the people have no capacity to act on their own," he said. "The people of
Zimbabwe have for a long time been stifled by this hostile political
culture. I will bring a new dawn of democracy, accountability and

Although he did not mention Mr Mugabe by name, Mr Makoni blamed the
country's economic collapse firmly on his government. According to the
central bank, inflation is 26,471 per cent - the world's highest - and the
country has 80 per cent unemployment, severe shortages of basic foods and
frequent interruptions to power and water supplies.

Mr Makoni said: "The problems that this country has been facing are
the direct result of the lack of leadership. There must be change and, as I
have said, that change must start at the top. They cannot handle the
differences in views and different ideas are regarded as antagonistic and

Zanu-PF headquarters also received warning bells last week when eight
of Mr Mugabe's ministers lost to challengers in the party's primary
elections. Several of the challengers are believed to be Makoni

Mr Makoni denied claims in the state-controlled media that he was a
stooge of Britain and America, which Mr Mugabe blames for the country's
economic collapse.

"I am acting on my own," Mr Makoni said. "I put the interest of
Zimbabweans first rather than the interest of the few as we have seen in
this political environment.

"We are offering the people of Zimbabwe their freedom and [have] come
up with programmes to revive the economy."

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Mugabe election prospects weaken as rifts appear

Mail and Guardian

Fanuel Jongwe | Harare, Zimbabwe

10 February 2008 11:18

      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who only days ago looked
assured of re-election next month as a result of splits in the opposition,
now has to contend with a growing mutiny within his own ranks.

      Analysts who had regarded Mugabe as a shoo-in at national polls
on March 29 are revising their forecasts after he was confronted this week
by a challenge from within his party and some of his top allies were
defeated in primaries.

      "The divisions within Zanu-PF are now coming out in the open,"
said Harare-based political commentator Takura Zhangazha.

      "Makoni's challenge has shown Mugabe is facing opposition from
the Zanu-PF for the first time in years."

      Simba Makoni, who sits on the Zanu-PF politburo, was declared
persona non-grata by party elders after he announced last Tuesday he would
challenge Mugabe as an independent.

      The former finance minister claimed he had decided to run after
widespread consultations with Zanu-PF colleagues and remained a loyal party

      So far, no other senior members have publicly endorsed him, but
a further sign that Mugabe's grip on the party was weakening came with news
on Friday that several top lieutenants, including his agriculture and
education ministers, had been dumped as parliamentary candidates in
electoral primaries.

      Bornwell Chakaodza, a former government spokesperson who is now
a columnist, said the elections could no longer be seen as a foregone

      "It's going to be a landmark election, not as easily predictable
as past elections. For the first time Mugabe is facing a challenge from
within," he said.

      "I don't see him winning in a free and fair election and the
million-dollar question is: 'Will Mugabe bow out gracefully?'"

      Mugabe won the last presidential elections in 2002 after
defeating Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).

      The MDC claimed the result was rigged but few commentators had
given Tsvangirai much hope this time after talks with a rival party faction
designed to agree on a single candidate collapsed last Sunday.

      Newspaper proprietor Trevor Ncube, a long-time Mugabe foe, said
Makoni had breathed new life into the contest after the MDC had snuffed out
its chances.

       "Coming so soon after the failure of the two MDC factions to
unite, Makoni's initiative provides a credible home and leadership for all
those in opposition who desire genuine change and not self-aggrandisement,"
Ncube wrote in an article in his weekly Zimbabwe Independent.

      "The MDC's weakness has always been its pedestrian leadership,
which should now join hands with Makoni to form a formidable coalition of
forces opposed to all that Mugabe represents."

      Neither faction of the MDC has yet announced whether they will
step aside in favour of Makoni and some commentators believe his candidacy
will further split the opposition vote.

      "What this also means is that the opposition vote will be
diluted by the Makoni vote," said Zhangazha.

      But leading sociologist Gordon Chavhunduka said Mugabe had the
most to lose as Makoni would mostly appeal to Zanu-PF members who are
disillusioned by Zimbabwe's economic crisis but have little time for the

      "Simba Makoni's support will be drawn mainly from Zanu-PF and it
will weaken Mugabe," Chavhunduka said.

      The former British colony, ruled by Mugabe since independence in
1980, has been in meltdown since Makoni left office in 2003 and is currently
beset by an inflation rate of more than 26 000%, the highest in the world.
Unemployment also stands at about 80% -- AFP

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'Breath of fresh air' for jaded Zimbabwe


     February 10 2008 at 05:34PM

By Peta Thornycroft

Two questions are on everyone's lips in Zimbabwe this week after Simba
Makoni announced he will stand against Robert Mugabe in the presidential
elections on March 29.

First, can he command enough support from both the ruling Zanu-PF and
opposition Movement for Democratic Change to win?

And second, if he can, how far will Mugabe go to try to stop him?

When the news broke that Makoni was running, it was "like a breath of
fresh air", as one jaded Zimbabwean said in Harare this week.

Many Zimbabweans, long disillusioned by rigged elections, had intended
to ignore the next one on March 29. But now they are suddenly invigorated
and are rushing off to the inefficient Registrar-general's office to see if
their names are still on the voters' roll.

It has been taken for granted that former army commander Solomon
Mujuru is the "king maker" behind Makoni's initiative.

This was true a year ago, but is no longer true in the same way, said
Wilfred Mhanda, a former top commander of the liberation forces.

Mhanda is one of a handful of people associated with the Makoni bid
for power, along with academic Ibbo Mandaza.

"Mujuru is sympathetic, but it is not a Mujuru initiative," Mhanda
said. "Nor is it a foreign initiative, for example, the South Africans are
not involved in any way, and nor is the West. This is entirely Zimbabwean,
and Makoni had to make up his own mind and that only happened just after

Mhanda expects Mujuru's wife, Joice, who is a vice-president, to stand
for re-election to parliament on behalf of Zanu-PF in her normal seat. Her
wealth has come via Zanu-PF and she is not likely to turn her back on that,
he said.

But another strategist, who did not want to be named, suggested that
Mhanda was putting out a smokescreen to protect the Mujurus from the wrath
of Mugabe. He said that distancing Makoni from the Mujurus "is the
impression the Makoni people want to create. But, believe me, Mujuru is in
there, so are some from Mugabe's closest inner circle.

"They believed they were staying close to Mugabe to stop the Mujurus.
But now they see Makoni is the candidate, which changes everything for them.

"The difficulty will be that some of the Zanu-PF candidates in the
campaigns for the parliamentary elections will have to go out and canvas for
themselves and, of course, for Mugabe in public, but privately they will be
trying to get the message across that people should vote for Makoni, not
Mugabe, on the presidential ballot paper."

Mugabe must have been completely confident of victory until Makoni's
announcement, because he knew he would face little opposition from a divided
and dispirited opposition MDC.

But Makoni changes that, perhaps decisively.

The 57-year old has been a member of Zanu-PF all his adult life and
was a minister in the independence cabinet when he was 28. He could win
enough votes from moderates, both in ZanuPF supporters and the MDC to beat

"The old man wants to be in charge for the rest of his life,
regardless of how much further the country falls, he does not care how much
anyone suffers. That's the reality" said Mhanda.

The governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, who
controls the money, the exchange rate and even how much cash people can draw
from their own accounts, is essential to Mugabe's armoury. Gono wants to be
his successor and so will be key to Mugabe's plans to defeat Makoni.

Mugabe has, so far, also counted heavily on full support from the
military, to manipulate the elections and to intimidate opposition voters
not least by threatening a coup against the MDC if it wins, as it did

But with Makoni in the field, there are going to be some officials, in
the army and elsewhere, who are going to say one thing to Mugabe and do

That must worry him.

If Mugabe rigs this poll in the election control centre - which is
closed to the press and observers - by manipulating the votes, as he did,
for example, in the presidential poll of 2002, he will not be sure that all
the people there are his supporters. Some of those ordered to rig will be
Makoni supporters, Mhanda said.

"Mugabe can't trust anyone now, that's why the politburo meeting this
week was cancelled."

It has also become convenient for Mugabe to agree to requests from the
MDC to delay nomination court from this past Friday to February 15. This
gives him time to purge some of the Zanu-PF parliamentary candidates he
suspects of being Makoni supporters.

What about the MDC? The faction led by Arthur Mutambara, which has its
core support and parliamentarians in the second city of Bulawayo and other
parts of Matabeleland, is going to do whatever it takes to get Mugabe out
and Makoni in.

And founding MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai's faction, which would be
able to win most seats in Harare and a few in other towns, will certainly
lose support to Makoni. Tsvangirai just can't win in the rural areas where
most people live, not least because his canvassing efforts have been met
with violence from the security forces.

Mhanda and others believe many of Tsvangirai's disappointed supporters
will vote for Makoni because they think he has the greatest chance of
achieving what the embattled MDC tried to do in the first place - get rid of

A deal could be struck between Tsvangirai's parliamentary candidates
and Makoni. There is still time for that but, so far, there are no
indications if a deal would even be considered by Tsvangirai and his inner

Tsvangirai's faction rejected a merger with the Mutambara faction last
weekend and many of his ordinary supporters were fed up by that failure.

So Tsvangirai and his group of brave men and women who have taken
Mugabe's vicious heat since 1999 and have written their names into the
history books through their efforts to bring democracy to Zimbabwe, might
fade out of the political scenery altogether at these elections.

"This is going to be very, very complicated. Mugabe might choose the
[Mwai] Kibaki way, and just install himself.

Makoni, now with an extra week before nomination court, might put
forward some candidates himself for some of the 210 parliamentary seats,"
Mhanda said.

With a week to go before the nomination court settles the shape of the
contestants, the political situation is very, very fluid, and uncertain.

Level-headed Simba Makoni has a long way to go with many hard
compromises to make if he is to get within striking distance of the only
goal that now counts in the minds of most Zimbabweans: getting rid of
Mugabe. - Foreign Service

This article was originally published on page 5 of Sunday Independent
on February 10, 2008

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Makoni is ‘old wine in new bottle’, says Tsvangirai

Zim Online

by Thenjiwe Mabhena Monday 11 February 2008

HARARE – Zimbabwe main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday
dismissed former finance minister Simba Makoni as “old wine in a new bottle”
whose agenda was to reform the governing ZANU PF and ensure that the same
ruling elite retained power.

Makoni, a member of ZANU PF’s inner politburo cabinet, last week
dramatically rebelled against President Robert Mugabe, announcing he will
challenge the veteran leader in next months’ presidential election.

Commanding considerable respect across the political divide, Makoni has said
he will stand as an independent but there have been calls by some prominent
intellectuals and one or two civic groups that the two factions of the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party should form a
coalition with him.

Tsvangirai, who heads the larger faction of the MDC, said Makoni or his
representatives had not approached him over an alliance. Nevertheless, he
appeared to talk down the idea, saying there were “fundamental differences”
between him and the former finance minister.

Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare: “The differences are fundamental. He
(Makoni) says he is still ZANU PF . . . we have nothing in common with ZANU
PF. Dr Makoni is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.”

Makoni was not immediately available for comment. He has however said he is
working with like-minded people in ZANU PF and called on all Zimbabweans
“yearning for change” to join him in his project to unseat Mugabe.

Analysts say Makoni lacks grassroots support of his own but are quick to
point out that the fact that he is said to be working with key ZANU PF
leaders and former military leaders makes him a more formidable challenger
to Mugabe than a divided MDC.

Makoni is seen as an important asset to any plan to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s
comatose economy because he is acceptable to the business sector and the
international community.

His considerable experience – he is a former secretary general of the
regional Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference, forerunner
to the Southern African Development Community – is also an added advantage.

But Tsvangirai cautioned against embracing a reform agenda that appeared
authored by ZANU PF and intended to enable the same political figures to
continue to plunder the economy.

"(Such) a reform agenda will not deliver us as a people, it will simply
perpetuate the status quo where the elite in ZANU PF continue to plunder the
country's meager resources while we the people suffer," he said.

However, Tsvangirai acknowledged that Makoni is a patriotic Zimbabwean who
“will play a critical role in the future of this country.”

Tsvangirai, who was flanked by his deputy Thokozani Khupe, national
organising secretary Elias Mudzuri and deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma, said
his MDC formation would launch its campaign for the combined presidential,
parliamentary and council elections on February 23.

The MDC had wanted the March 29 polls postponed to allow implementation of a
draft constitution that it said would ensure a free and fair contest, a
demand rejected by Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said his party is contesting the polls because it believed they
offered Zimbabweans a fighting chance to end Mugabe’s rule.

Critics accuse Mugabe of plunging Zimbabwe into its worst economic crisis
seen in the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 26 000 percent, 80
percent unemployment and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency. -

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Acquisition of properties in smacks of greed, says farmer’s official

Zim Online

by Brendon Tulani Monday 11 February 2008

BULAWAYO – A regional farmers’ group has accused Zimbabwe government
officials of “pure greed” after Harare listed 11 small properties in
Umzingwane district in Matabeleland province for acquisition.

Mark Crawford, who is the president of the Southern Africa Commercial
Alliance (SACFA) said the acquisition raised doubts about the government’s
motives because the listed properties were too small to warrant government
take over.

The Zimbabwe government announced in a government gazette last Friday that
it was taking over 11 properties in Umzingwane.

Crawford said from the list of properties earmarked for seizure, it was
clear that the government officials wanted the properties for personal
enrichment rather that for commercial agriculture.

“The intention is organised looting of property such as houses and equipment
judging by the size of land that they intend to acquire,” said Crawford.

Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is in charge of the government’s land
reform programme could not be reached for comment on the matter.

President Robert Mugabe’s government has since 2000 embarked on a
controversial campaign to seize land from white farmers for distribution to
landless blacks.

Most of the plum farms previously owned by white farmers have however fallen
into the hands of senior ruling ZANU PF officials and military officers
leaving thousands of black villagers still clamouring for land.

Crawford said among the 11 properties listed for acquisition was a less than
12-hectare plot belonging to Paul Hewart Canter while the biggest property
was Lot 48A of Essexvale (Esigodini) Estate, measuring 145.2 hectares.

The Esigodini area, about 40km south of Bulawayo, is renowned for market
gardening and fruit farming and provides the bulk of Bulawayo’s fruit and
vegetable needs.

Just about 600 white farmers are still on their properties following Mugabe’s
controversial land reforms.

The chaotic and often violent land reforms plunged once food sufficient
Zimbabwe into severe food shortages after the newly resettled black farmers
failed to maintain production on the former white farms.

Zimbabwe, which is in the grip of a severe economic crisis, has virtually
survived on food handouts from international food relief organisations. -

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US singer walks away US$23 000 richer

Zim Online

by Simplicious Chirinda Monday 11 February 2008

HARARE – The Zimbabwe government forked out US$23 000 for a two-hour
performance to visiting United States (US) singer Joe Thomas who was in
Harare last weekend on a mission to spruce up the country’s battered image.

“We paid him US$23 000 after lengthy negotiations with his representatives,”
said Karikoga Kaseke, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) boss who was
instrumental in bringing the US rhythm and blues artist to Harare.

The ZTA also paid US$50 000 in airfares for Thomas and his crew of six
musicians and bodyguards.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe eight-year economic crisis that has
manifested itself in shortages of foreign currency. The foreign currency
crisis has seen the southern African country fail to import essential
commodities such as fuel and food.

The ZTA has over the past two years embarked on vigorous campaigns to lure
high-profile musicians to Zimbabwe in an attempt to spruce up the country’s
battered image as a tourist destination.

Meanwhile, the American artist put up a five star performance on Saturday
night in Harare singing songs from his most famous album, All that I am.

“We are grateful to the American singer, he has been a good ambassador and
we hope he will carry the good words about Zimbabwe all over the world,”
said Kaseke at the show. - ZimOnline

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News Release from the Zimbabwe Vigil

10th February 2008

The Zimbabwe Vigil says that the leader of its partner organisation,
Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe), has again been
detained by police in Harare.  The Vigil said it had received a text message
from ROHR leader Stendrick Zvorwadza today. It read "I have been brutalized
by soldiers and arrested for saying Zanu PF is causing the suffering of
Zimbabweans. I am in police custody and am in pain. Have been denied
treatment. Despite all this, my spirit for fighting for our rights is
getting stronger by day." Sten was held for several days last month after
speaking at a gathering of some 200 supporters.

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 by the current regime 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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More than a rumble of change in Zim


    February 10 2008 at 11:29AM

By Patrick Laurence

The aphorism coined by Harold Wilson, the former British premier who
held office in the 1960s and 1970s, "a week is a long time in politics",
needs to be revised in light of recent events in Zimbabwe.

The announcement by Simba Makoni, a stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF and
a former minister of finance, of his intention to stand in the presidential
election next month, is a reminder that a day can be long enough to signal a
major change is in the offing.

Until Makoni's February 5 announcement, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's
octogenarian president, looked certain to be re-elected in the pending
election; thereafter Mugabe's chances of re-election were questionable,
particularly as Makoni's declaration appeared to portend the start of a
revolt against Mugabe in his own party.

To appreciate the full significance of Makoni's decision to stand
against Mugabe, contemplate a hypothetical situation in South Africa in

..... The national president is elected in a separate presidential poll
instead of by members of the National Assembly, which effectively means by
the majority party.

..... Jacob Zuma, the ANC president, is nominated by the ANC as its
presidential candidate in a pending presidential election that will occur in
tandem with the actual scheduled parliamentary election next year.

..... Cyril Ramaphosa, a former secretary-general of the ANC and a
long-standing member of the ANC national executive committee, is persuaded
to stand for election as president in the national interest by
representatives of the business community and civil society, including the
South African Council of Churches.

The probabilities are high that the theoretical Ramaphosa foray into
the political arena, like the actual Makoni initiative in Zimbabwe, would
attract votes across a wide socio-political spectrum.

It should be borne in mind that nearly 40 percent of the delegates at
the ANC's national conference last December voted against Zuma and that
various opinion polls have identified Ramaphosa as the person favoured by a
large proportion of the citizenry to succeed President Thabo Mbeki.

Another factor should be taken into account in the hypothetical
scenario: unlike the ANC members of the national assembly, the voters in the
direct, popular presidential election will not find themselves under the
scrutiny of Baleka Mbete, the speaker and the national chairwoman of the
Zuma-led ANC.

To quote Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, who headed a government-appointed
commission on electoral reform in 2002, public representatives who are
"locked into caucus politics" are inclined to docile obedience to the party

A last point on the South African analogy: while Zuma undoubtedly had
the support of the majority of delegates at the ANC's national conference at
Polokwane, it does not follow that he would win a national presidential

There is a simple reason for that. The ANC's national membership is
600 000, whereas the electorate for a presidential election would be between
15-million and 20-million, depending on the proportion of the 28-million to
30-million South Africans of voting age who registered to vote.

To offer a hypothetical South African equivalent of Makoni's bold
gamut is not, of course, to equate the situations in the two countries.

Zimbabwe is on the brink of an abyss; South Africa, though not free of
problems, is not.

Zimbabwe's desperate plight is encapsulated in its astronomical
inflation rate of 2 500 percent, its status as the world's fasting shrinking
economy and its all but valueless currency, as well as its huge and mounting
international debt.

Those who have benefited from Mugabe's policy of indigenisation of the
economy are beginning to fear that unless he is prevented from extending his
presidential tenure for another seven years, they will become paupers or
suffer an even worse fate at the hands of Mugabe's ubiquitous enemies.

Though important in its own right, the significance of Makoni's
decision to stand against Mugabe in next month's election is magnified by a
number of factors.

One is that he is unlikely to have taken the decision without
consulting the barons at Mugabe's court and receiving pledges of support.

It is a fair bet that he talked to Solomon Mujuru, the former
commander of Zanu-PF's guerrilla army and of Zimbabwe's post-liberation
national defence force.

His military credentials aside, Mujuru - whose wife, Joyce, is one of
Zimbabwe's two vice presidents - is a fabulously rich businessmen; if Mugabe
is allowed to prolong his disastrous rule at the age of 83, Mujuru is a
candidate for impoverishment and even retribution.

As Martin Meredith notes in the expanded and updated edition of his
acclaimed book Mugabe, Power, Plunder and the Struggle for Zimbabwe
(Jonathan Ball, 2007), Mujuru was instrumental in blocking Mugabe's bid last
year to defer the 2008 presidential election until 2010 in order to secure
his tenure as president for another two years.

It would be consistent for Mujuru to follow that up by backing
Makoni's attempt to defeat Mugabe in next month's presidential election and
thereby deny him occupancy of the presidency for another seven years, or
until he is 90.

At the very least, Makoni will split the Zanu-PF vote and thereby
negate the advantage that Mugabe gained when the feuding factions of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) failed to resolve their
differences or even to forge an election pact to prevent dividing the MDC

If Makoni fails to win the pending presidential election himself, he
may have opened the door to Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the dominant
MDC faction.

Given the centrality of the presidential elections to the analysis so
far, it is relevant to note that research conducted by the commission headed
by Slabbert showed that a majority of South Africans of all races are in
favour of the introduction of direct presidential elections.

Their preference has since been endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
he wants the government to give South Africans a direct role in the election
of the national president instead of having the choice made for them by the
majority party in the National Assembly.

If Zimbabweans were not afforded the opportunity of directly electing
the president, Makoni would not have been able to raise his standard against
Mugabe and Mugabe's election by a Zanu-PF-dominated parliament would, in all
probability, have been destined to become a disastrous fait accompli next

...Independent political analyst Patrick Laurence is a contributing
editor to The Star

This article was originally published on page 9 of Sunday Independent
on February 10, 2008

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Zim's polls already derailed - church


    February 10 2008 at 03:59PM

Zimbabwe's national elections, due in seven weeks' time, have been
hastily organized, are already ridden with confusion and illegality and are
unlikely to be free and fair, the Catholic Church warned Sunday.

President Robert Mugabe has set March 29 as the date for presidential,
parliamentary and local government elections.

The statement by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP)
in Zimbabwe, the country's longest serving human rights body, is the latest
by several organizations to question the government's readiness to go the

The statement said that the "prevailing electoral climate is not
conducive to free and fair elections." It cited voter registration
procedures that were "cumbersome" and that had meant that many people had
not been able to register.

For the first time, elections for all three fora are being held
simultaneously, but preparation and voter education to explain the changes
to the electorate had been "inadequate" with the result that "confusion
continues to exist" as to how they are to be conducted.

Mugabe's announcement of the election date was just over two weeks
ago, and there was "not enough time" for political parties to carry out
their campaigns.

The delimitation report, setting out the different sets of
constituencies for the parliamentary and local government elections, was
published only last week, and voters were unclear about where they were to

Private election watchdogs said that copies of the report had not been
made available to the public, and those that had been obtained, did not have
maps to show voters where their constituency or local government wards were

Last week Mugabe was forced to postpone the day for nominations of
candidates by a week until February 15 as a result of severe infighting in
his party over who would stand as candidates.

The independent Standard reported Sunday that violence had broken out
at ruling party primary elections, including one incident when Finance
Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi had to fire a pistol against angry opponents who
had stoned his car.


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Leon slams Mbeki over Zim elections

Mail and Guardian

Johannesburg, South Africa

10 February 2008 02:42

      In his State of the Nation address on Friday, President Thabo
Mbeki repeated an all too familiar pattern of legitimising Zimbabwean
elections before they have even taken place, said the Democratic Alliance's
(DA) spokesperson for foreign affairs Tony Leon.

      In a statement on Sunday, Leon said: "On no fewer than three
previous occasions, the president has gone out of his way to ensure that
elections in Zimbabwe, which were an affront to even the most basic of
democratic norms and standards, were declared free and fair.

      "Thus, far from practising quiet diplomacy, he has been actively
complicit in the imposition of a tyranny and a willing accomplice in the
destruction of democracy in our northern neighbour."

      Leon said that in his address, President Mbeki claimed that his
mediation efforts on behalf of the Southern African Development Community
were successful.

      "This is simply pure fiction and helps build the myth that Mbeki
has propagated in the past that all parties can compete for votes on an
equal footing," said Leon.

      President Mbeki was ignoring the fact that President Mugabe had
refused to implement any new constitutional amendments before the March 29
poll, thereby rendering any agreement reached on these issues irrelevant.

      Leon said a free and fair election in Zimbabwe was impossible
because the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission was staffed by senior military
personnel who were unwilling to carry out vigorous voter-education
programmes and were likely to invite only "friendly" observer missions to
rubber-stamp the elections.

       Furthermore, said Leon, the registrar's office, responsible for
compiling the voters roll, was staffed by Zanu-PF loyalists who undermined
efforts to register opposition voters and who resisted attempts to verify
the veracity of the voters' roll.

      Leon added that the Delineation Commission had "gerrymandered
constituency boundaries" to give Zanu-PF an unfair advantage by increasing
the number of constituencies in Mugabe's Zanu-PF rural heartland without
Parliamentary input.

      He said that the state retained a broadcast monopoly and was
jamming any independent radio signals into Zimbabwe.

      Also, the judiciary had been purged of independent voices and
was therefore clearly biased in favour in the ruling party -- making any
electoral challenge an essentially fruitless exercise, Leon said.

      "Millions of Zimbabweans living outside their homeland, in South
Africa and elsewhere, have been disenfranchised. Knowing full well that this
bloc of voters are more likely to vote for the opposition, no agreement has
yet been reached that will allow for overseas voting," Leon noted.

      Unless President Mbeki took urgent action, "then his legacy will
be further undermined by his willingness to stand by while one of our most
important neighbours moves even closer to the point of political and
economic no-return." -- Sapa

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Offering himself


Simba Makoni is accepting the call of the people and offering himself as a
candidate for President of Zimbabwe.

Cathy Buckle
10 Feb 2008 01:05

It's been a long and dramatic week in politics in Zimbabwe. Things are
changing very fast and some of the news I relate here may well be out of
date or have altered completely by the time you read this letter.

The first major development took place last weekend when the two factions of
the opposition MDC met to decide if they were going to reunite and stand as
one party in the coming elections. Despite everything that has happened to
the MDC and their supporters in the last 8 years including murder, rape,
torture, abduction and arson, the two factions were not able to agree to
stand together to fight Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF. As I write it is still not
clear if both factions will be fielding a Presidential candidate or how many
individuals they be putting forward for parliament, senate, rural and local
council seats. I suppose the inability of the two factions to unite has not
come as a surprise to most Zimbabweans but, regardless of the detail or the
inevitable finger pointing, it is a sad event for Zimbabwe. So many people,
so many sacrifices, such pain - what a shame that in the end, at this most
crucial time, the desperate state of the country could not come first.

The news of the MDC division had hardly got around when it was completely
overtaken by the dramatic news of a serious challenge within the ruling Zanu
PF party. A Presidential challenge no less! Simba Makoni, the ex Minister of
Finance, long time Zanu PF member and presently sitting on the Politburo,
addressed a news conference on Tuesday. Saying that he had consulted widely
and across the board, Mr Makoni said he was accepting the call of the people
and offering himself as a candidate for President of Zimbabwe. His short
speech was realistic and down to earth. Simba Makoni said: " Let me confirm
that I share the agony and anguish of all citizens over the extreme
hardships that we all have endured for nearly 10 years now. I also share the
widely held view that these hardships are a result of failure of national
leadership and that change at that level is a pre-requisite for change at
other levels of national endeavour."

Almost as one Zimbabwe drew breath. Naturally the rumours and speculation
that have followed this historic announcement have almost overwhelmed us. Is
Simba Makoni expelled from Zanu PF? Is he standing as an Independent. Has he
got a political party waiting in the wings? Is he a threat to Mr Mugabe?
Will other senior Zanu PF members now come out in the open and support Mr
Makoni? Is this the end of Zanu PF as we know it? Is this going to split the
Zanu PF vote? Will it have an impact on the MDC vote?

The most pressing question on everyone's lips has been: Is Simba Makoni
genuine? As each day has passed and the attacks on Simba Makoni by the State
propaganda have increased to greater heights, they have perhaps even
answered the question with their own vitriol. In one classic editorial in
The Herald came the predictable and groaningly familiar blaming of the
West - so insulting to the intelligence of Zimbabweans. The editorial said:
"one does not have to be a seer to see that Simba has just subscribed to
megaphone politics by giving a black face to the voices from the White House
and Whitehall."

In the middle of all of the upheaval came the announcement that the date for
nominating candidates had been moved back another week and so, again, we
wait and we watch. Certainly whoever Simba Makoni represents and whatever
positions the two branches of the MDC take, the events of this past week may
well have broken the apathy that is suffocating Zimbabwean voters. I join
the call of others and urge Zimbabweans, wherever you are and if you are
still on the voters roll to please come home and vote on the 29th March.

Copyright cathy buckle 9 February 2008

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Make love, not war - even at election time

10th Feb 2008 18:39 GMT

By Chenjerai Chitsaru

MOST of the world, it would now seem, spurned the appeal by the youth of the
1960s: make love, not war. The war in Vietnam and other conflicts around the
world, but particularly in Asia , were targets.

The United States was involved in most of them and the slogan - make love,
not war – became the rallying cry of most young Americans in their protest
against any wars in which their country was involved.

But, from all the calculations, most of the world ignored that advice. The
US, now mired in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, decided making love, not
war, was its primary purpose on earth.

Other countries, including Zimbabwe, decided they would rather make war,
than love. Like a good number of countries around the world, Zimbabwe is
preparing to celebrate St Valentine’s Day, dedicated to love, not war.

Yet, with the 29 March elections looming, there is already violence – war,
albeit on a small scale – before we get to that date. Our elections have
always featured violence and it doesn’t seem as if this one will be

Incidentally, the one most plausible theory on why people prefer to make
war, rather than love, is that it requires little motivation.
The emotional requirement to wage war is far more pedestrian than that
required to make love. You need anger, even senseless, irrational anger, to
wage war.

Above all, you need irrational hatred: to kill a fellow human being, not
necessarily for profit or out of greed, but for the insane reason that they
may kill you instead.

That, ultimately doesn’t require much soul-searching. To make love or to be
in love or to love someone – instead of hating them - involves a tenderness
that is almost heavenly…just examining it deeply can bring tears to your
eyes and your heart.

If the world outlawed politics, there would probably be less conflict in the
world than…love-making. The cynics will argue that love, particularly
so-called ‘free love’ or ‘deviant love’ introduced HIV/Aids to the world.

That scourge has killed many people around the world since it first occurred
in the early 1980s, but there is nowhere the numbers could be higher than
those of people killed in the two world wars and the other wars since then.

In Zimbabwe, most of the people killed in politically-motivated conflicts
may be less proportionately than those killed by the disease, but the cause
could be related to the lack of political commitment among politicians.

So, in the end, the politicians are responsible for more deaths, even if
they are not people killed in political conflicts.
Yet the truth, which can be gleaned from the pages of history, beginning
with the murder of Abel by Cain, is that love is a far more potent tool for
love than war. All this will sound wishy-washy to the dedicated politician.

It is childish in the context of achieving political results, even if the
practice of politicians kissing babies is alleged to improve their image as
‘lovable’ human beings.

In our own brand of politics, it is the truth which is treated as if it was
something sinful. Even the voters seem to believe that expecting their
politicians to stick to their promises is sinful: these people are as
fallible as we are and lying must come naturally to them, as it does to us,
ordinary, but God-fearing people who place so much faith in politicians that
we are prepared to vote for them time and again, although there is scant
evidence of their ever honouring these promises – since 1980, in our case.

Zimbabwe needs a new voter, a voter whose vision of a new politician is
fresh. There are some who believe such a person should not have been a
member of Zanu PF or a war veteran, during their lifetime. This is strictly
on the basis that in the last 28 years we have placed our faith, absolutely,
in such people. Some of our faith in them was misplaced because they helped
us subdue colonialism, and therefore  must be ‘good people’ motivated only
by their mission to make this country a paradise on earth for ordinary
people, the alleged beneficiaries of their sacrifices during the war

Unfortunately, the evidence of this is scant, to say the least. Those
supposedly gallant men and women who fought for our independence were each
paid so much money they almost bankrupted this country.
If we thought we had settled that debt, imagine how wrong we were?

Every year, they demand an increase in their gratuities and allowances and
are invariably granted them without too much trouble.

We are permanently indebted to these people. If it is true that their
sacrifices are incalculable in terms of their lives, then they must be asked
to calculate what would be a fair, permanent settlement to pay them off  –
so that we can start running our country without this threat of the war
veterans hanging over our heads

A new Zimbabwe must belong to the people, not to a few individuals who treat
every citizen as if their taxes were legitimately the war veterans’

All this must revolve around Zimbabwe’s future under Zanu PF. Under the
benevolent dictatorship of Robert |Mugabe, Zimbabwe has little opportunity
of ever unshackling itself from the dominance of a party which believes,
rightly or wrongly, that it owns the country because it freed it from

In the 29 March elections, Zimbabweans must make up their minds, once and
for all: is this country’s future permanently mortgaged to a party which
preaches hatred against every citizen who disagrees with it and rules
through fear?

The electoral playing field is an example of how only hatred, not love,
determines every political decision of the ruling party. The impediments
placed in the path of the opposition parties to achieve even a modicum of
success are so enormous they will be lucky not to lose their candidates’
deposits, in most cases.

Even Simba Makoni’s amorphous group of ex-Zanu PF adherents may find the
going so tough they might wish they had not defected.
In the end, it is only the people who can deliver an unequivocal statement
of rejection to Zanu PF: it is the love of their country which must drive

They, and not Mugabe and Zanu PF, harbour genuine love for Zimbabwe.

Mugabe and Zanu PF, in hating anybody who disagrees with them, hate
everything good and noble about this country - its political diversity, its
ethnic and religious diversity.

They would rather everyone believed in Mugabe and Zanu PF, only on the basis
that they delivered the country from colonialism.
This is not a recipe for love among the people, but only of hatred and war.

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Cops free all but 15 after church raid


     February 10 2008 at 05:42PM

By Jeremy Gordin and Bonile Ngqiyaza

All but 15 of the 520 alleged illegal immigrants, mainly from
Zimbabwe, who were detained two weeks ago in a midnight police raid on
Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church, have been released.

The 15 will appear in court on Monday and Tuesday to face charges
related to the immigration act.

About 141 of the people arrested in the raid were released from
Johannesburg's central police station after they produced documents allowing
them to be in South Africa. Another 380 were freed because they were not
charged within 48 hours. Another group of 15 tried to get bail last Friday
but had their cases postponed and were sent back to jail until this week.

Lawyers representing the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) - headed by
George Bizos SC and including Judge Johann Kriegler, a former constitutional
court judge - returned in a team to the magistrate's court this week after
Friday's events, which some advocates and attorneys described as a "circus".

The presiding magistrate had said she wanted to move things along so
she could go home to her family; she had refused to allow the people
applying for bail to waive their right to an interpreter; and, in some
cases, according to a report received by Janet Love, the national director
of the LRC, "the magistrate ordered a postponement [of cases] before the
prosecutor had even asked for one" and sent people back to jail.

However, Bishop Paul Verryn - whose church allows refugees with
nowhere to go to sleep on its premises - has remained extremely angry and
distressed about the police raid.

"The raid was allegedly in response to complaints that robbers were
living in the church," said Verryn.

"But there was no warning beforehand, there was no search warrant
produced - it was the like the worst days of pass raids during the apartheid

Verryn is due to meet Charles Nqakula, the minister of safety and
security, on Monday and Firoz Cachalia, the Gauteng MEC for safety and
security, has condemned the alleged misbehaviour of the police during the
raid, including theft and physical abuse.

A dreadlocked Zimbabwean musician, who did not want to be named, woke
up from a deep sleep on the night of the raid and looked straight into the
blinding torchlight of a policeman.

He said people were not given a chance to fetch their asylum papers or
documents. He said the whole group was carted off in trucks to the
Johannesburg central police station, where it took the whole day for them to
be booked into cells.

A woman who did not want to be named said some of the policemen had
demanded bribes and made passes at some of the women.

This article was originally published on page 2 of Sunday Independent
on February 10, 2008

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Trials of a 'Zimbo' at immigration

Mmegi, Botswana


The mere thought of going to have one's days extended at the Department of
Immigration offices in Botswana sours the day for most Zimbabweans visiting
the country.

Ask any Zimbabwean on the Gaborone or Francistown streets. The visit to the
immigration offices is as irksome as a visit to the dentist. I Friday, the
immigrants say, is the busiest. Most of the Zimbabweans' days expire either
on that particular Friday, or that weekend.

At the Gaborone district immigration offices near the main bus rank the
atmosphere is hectic. Just as you get up the flyover bridge, you are
confronted by a group of 'consultants' eager to make a quick buck from the
desperate immigrants.

"Bona, eh, eh you don't need an application letter," they all hum in a
cacophony with deliberately confusing voices. "Brother, eh baba, tora tsamba
iyi," one Motswana woman says in Shona.

Most of the consultants at these immigration offices now speak a bit of
either Shona or Ndebele. They conjure up all the tricks in the book to get
as many Zimbabweans to buy their application letters, which the immigration
officials insist are a prerequisite for one to be attended to.

The contents of these application letters are very similar. On the form, the
applicants would claim that a relative had left them because he had to go
for a job outside the city and so he can only go back to Zimbabwe when the
uncle returns.

The applicants arrange themselves in two queues, one for women and the other
for men. Whether it is an immigration requirement no one knows, but the
order has to be strictly adhered to. Even the security guard controlling the
queues has a measure of respect for this unwritten law. Here and there, the
Zimbabweans speak in muffled tones about events back home, but they
constantly cast glances at the man in charge in case he is allowing a group
to go in.

Most of the applicants wait with baited breath. "These immigration officers
are just hard to please. We are given the number of days that we don't need
at all," says Fanuel Toro.
The general feeling, is that in most cases applicants who need a few days,
can end up getting more. "So you go to the counter at your own peril," Toro
adds sorrowfully.

As the queue snails towards the "dreaded" counter, more tales waft in the
air as those who had been there before recount their grand ordeals. One
gentleman, Simon Kamudiza recalls dejectedly: "One day I came here with
Lina, my wife of 17 years. My wife cuts a slender figure. When we got to the
counter, the immigration officer said the passport was not hers and she
should take it back to her older sister, the rightful owner. "She tried to
explain to the officers that she was even a mother to a daughter who was
doing Form Three. They wouldn't buy her defence and ended up giving her only
two days to leave the country. It was the worst day for me because we had
actually planned to do a lot and we wanted more days. These officers are
giving us hell," he lamented. Many also leave the offices weeping because
they would have been told that their reasons for remaining in Botswana
"don't hold much water". There are others who flock to the offices with
their Batswana "bosses" under the pretext that they are in-laws on a visit.
The most affected are those whose days are over the maximum 90 days who
still want to be in the country all the same.

These will then seek the intervention of the consultants who plead on their

To do so the consultant have to be palm-greased with not less than P150. It
is the general myth that these so-called consultants share part of the
spoils with the immigration officers. An attempt to verify this was quashed
by the officers. And the consultants are many; at least 25.

Others, like "Shortie", are from Zimbabwe. Most of these consultants look
like the type who pelted their teachers with stones using catapults during
school days. "You see," retorts another Zimbabwean, "we have now created
employment for these local people. We want them to also have a percentage of
our countrymen in the trade just like they demand of us when we work in this
country for Batswana. They insist that there must be a local," he says amid
laughter from those in the queue. As I wander up and down the railway line
near the offices, an old man approaches me.

He pleads with me to buy his letter. I ask him what he charges for the
letter and he tells me that it is only P2 for a completed form and only P1
for a blank one. Most of those who come to the immigration offices do not
have an idea of the unwritten requirement to complete the application
letters first.

So they have no choice but to buy the papers or letters. Ironically, as most
complain, the immigration officers do not have the time to read the letters,
so whatever you write on the letter does not protect one from the officers'
whims or wrath.

The criterion they use to reject or accept an application is a matter of
conjecture. In an article called 'Colour at the crossing', Garry Younge says
"Politics once kept people in, now economics keeps them out".

For the wealthy, however, it is a different matter, he says. Officers have
learnt to no longer ask a well-travelled American businessman how much money
he has brought with him or for details of his bank balance.

"So the man most likely to steal your pension walks through without a word,
while the one likely to flip your bugger or clean your house hugs the bottom
of trains because legitimate means of entry are barred". So much for global
(Sila Press Agency)

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