From The Times
February 10, 2009
Martin Fletcher in Harare
It is the 85th birthday of President Mugabe this month and the zealots of his Zanu (PF) party are determined that it should be an occasion that their great leader will never forget.
In recent days they have been out soliciting “donations” from corporate Zimbabwe and have drawn up a wish list that is scarcely credible in a land where seven million citizens survive on international food aid, 94 per cent are jobless and cholera rampages through a population debilitated by hunger.
The list includes 2,000 bottles of champagne (Moët & Chandon or ’61 Bollinger preferred); 8,000 lobsters; 100kg of prawns; 4,000 portions of caviar; 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates; 3,000 ducks; and much else besides. A postscript adds: “No mealie meal” - the ground corn staple on which the vast majority of Zimbabweans survived until the country’s collapse rendered even that a luxury.
Those who prefer to give in cash, not kind, are invited to send “donations” of between $ 45,000 and $ 55,000 to a US dollar bank account in the name of the 21st February Movement, a youth organisation controlled by Zanu (PF) and named after the date of the President’s birthday.
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Government's appeal poses dilemma for West
Western diplomats and aid workers were stunned when shown the list. “It’s just appalling. It’s like they are either completely oblivious to what’s happening in their country, or completely impervious and just don’t care,” said one. “It’s shocking and obscene,” said another, who noted that lobsters were unobtainable in Zimbabwe and would have to be flown in.
Others said it showed that the Mugabe regime had no intention of curtailing its excesses after entering a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change later this week.
The Times cannot be entirely sure of the list’s authenticity but it came from a reliable source who was contacted by this newspaper, not the other way round. The source had no vested interest in its publication, was hesitant about releasing it and had himself received it from three or four separate businesses that had been approached for donations.
He said that in each case the approaches were made by groups of youths from the 21st February Movement who were aggressive and threatening, and warned that they would make life difficult for the businesses if they did not stump up. In most cases they are doing so because the cost of fighting the quasi-mafia that runs Zimbabwe is simply too high. Zimbabweans became accustomed long ago to the “elite” staging extravagant celebrations for the birthday of the increasingly reviled President - last year’s reportedly cost $ 1.2 million - but the organiser of this year’s bash is Patrick Zhuwawo, Mr Mugabe’s nephew, who seems determined to outdo his predecessors.
At the launch of the fundraising campaign in a Harare hotel last month, Comrade Zhuwawo, the out- going Deputy Minister of Science and Technological Development, said that thousands of youths and invited guests would join the first family for the celebrations in Chinhoyi, in Mashonaland West, Mr Mugabe’s home province, on February 28. He said that hundreds of cattle, goats and sheep would also be slaughtered for the lavish one-day celebration.
“It’s an important day for Zimbabweans to celebrate the life of our great leader and Africa’s hero,” he said. “Zanu (PF) continues to receive massive donations from the corporate world, ordinary Zimbabweans and from people from all walks of life and we are confident that this year’s celebrations will be the best.”
He even suggested that the event would raise funds for the underprivileged, which led one outraged academic to quip last night that this would include almost every Zimbabwean not invited to the party and that most would happily accept the extravagance provided that it was Mr Mugabe’s last.
Mr Mugabe’s birthday parties are seldom understated affairs. The celebration two years ago featured 20,000 guests in the Mboka football stadium in the city of Gweru, which was shown on national television. It featured giant cakes, children in brightly coloured sashes mingling with the “elite” and a speech by the President denouncing homosexuality. For his 80th birthday - which he celebrated in his home village of Kutama, 50 miles west of Harare - the day began with a Catholic Mass followed by a festival of school choirs, a police band and a performance by the gospel singer Fungisai Zvakavapano.
Zimbabwe’s newspapers often publish huge colour advertisements wishing the Old Crocodile birthday greetings from state enterprises that have been haemorrhaging money for years.
This year, however, the Zimbabwean media have reported that even some Zanu (PF) members have complained about the planned celebration. Dzikamai Mavhaire, a senator, told a recent provincial executive meeting in Masvingo: “We cannot fundraise for a single person when we have millions of starving Zimbabweans in the country . . . Only [Mugabe’s] personal friends and relatives within the party or outside should do that.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2,000 bottles of champagne - Moët & Chandon and ’61 Bollinger
500 bottles of whisky - Johnny Walker Blue Label, 22-year-old Chivas
100kg king prawns
4,000 portions of caviar
8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher
3,000 cakes - chocolate and vanilla
4,000 packs of pork sausages
4,000 packets of crackers
February 9, 2009
I AM very tempted to hold my breath and cheer, wishing with every fiber of my existence that the Government of National Unity (GNU) to be consummated by dictator Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change on Wednesday will take hold and succeed.
Sadly, I am cursed with pessimism. Fear comes uninvited.
With all the odds staked against the success of this GNU, this thing called hope, remote and faint as it might be, lingers and flatters lazily about. It is hope forcibly born out of a desire to see the cessation of hardships inflicted on our compatriots by the same man whom we are now expected to trust to bring national salvation.
We are expected to put our lives in the hands of the same man who, over the decades, has taken so many of our peoples’ lives. Our break with the past is to be overseen by the man who has soiled the past we are so desperately trying to abandon and forget about.
Unfortunately, I am one of those who can never think that Robert Mugabe can do anything positive for the people of Zimbabwe; not after the man gave himself almost 30 years to destroy everything in his path, like the fabled bull in a China shop.
He used the 30 years at the helm of a peaceful, prosperous country to convince the world of his character.
There was a chilling display of brutality. There was an undisputed demonstration of economic incompetence and of corruption.
We lived through human rights abuses during which we witnessed so many of our compatriots die and many more go missing.
Property rights were taken away from us and many of us lost property to our own government.
Our judiciary was contaminated while our Parliament became a madman’s bedroom, where political sadism was practiced at the expense of legislative protocol.
Our homes were bulldozed to the ground and others were set alight as our own government, our supposed protectors, exposed our infants, the elderly and the infirm to the elements.
Millions of our compatriots were forced to flee the country of their birth to seek protection among strangers outsider our borders because our own government wanted to do them harm.
I find it ironic that I sit here in Gaborone, unwelcome in Zimbabwe, my mother country, where a foreigner, Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Butcher of Addis, where he is known to have killed more than 500 000 of his own people, is given sanctuary and sits and lives in comfort at our expense.
That is the ultimate insult.
Meanwhile, the so-called African leaders met during of their endless and now meaningless summits in Addis Ababa and elected Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as Chairman of the African Union.
They were also addressed by Mugabe who bombarded the hapless presidents with details of his “impressive” record as President of Zimbabwe.
After the March 29 elections SADC forced the winners of an election to relinquish a clean mandate legitimately given to them by the people. For SADC’s sake this arrangement must succeed then SADC may, at least, claim that they achieved something.
But I am a worried soul.
My greatest fear is that the presence of the MDC in this government, in which Zanu-PF is clearly dictating both the terms and the direction, resuscitates Mugabe and strengthens his brutal regime. The MDC’s presence in this government legitimizes Mugabe in the eyes of the world and the last thing we want to see now is Mugabe replenishing his strength.
I pray that this unity is temporary. I wish it could have been slated to last only a few hours because I feel terribly uneasy with an angel (figurative) who keeps following and asking the devil’s help to cross a river. Can the angel do so without compromising himself?
I hope this is temporary.
Zimbabweans had voted for a clean break with Mugabe and the opening of a new chapter. We got neither.
It is my hope that the MDC knows something we do not know. They are obviously taking a very big risk on behalf of the nation, a risk that might end up leaving Mugabe in a stronger position than he enjoyed before the agreement.
While the contestants literally circle around each other in the arena, sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies must remain firmly in place.
There should be no letting up and the pressure must be maintained or even tightened until we see a deliberate willingness to free the Zimbabwean people and to give back the people their freedom and protection.
I do not believe this marriage of convenience will last. I fear its consequences. There is too much at stake for both sides and compromise is going to be necessary. Yet compromise is one thing the two camps are at pains to make.
I do not believe in this exercise at all, not because of Robert Tsvangirai but because of Robert Mugabe. My fear and reluctance are born from past and current experiences.
The resilience of the Zimbabwean people is a matter of public record. Zimbabweans have managed to somehow survive under the most of excruciating circumstances. They have miraculously provided food for themselves and their families.
We fought like lions to liberate our country and still refuse to be tamed by anyone.
For several decades, everyday has been D-Day for Zimbabweans because Mugabe treated us with disdain.
On Wednesday, we enter a new phase which, regardless of whether the GNU holds up or not, will peg a watershed on our political landscape. It alarmingly requires of us to trust Robert Mugabe more than we have ever done before.
I think the international community is expecting a little too much of Zimbabweans, knowing as we do that there is absolutely no way something called a government of national unity can emerge and last in Zimbabwe.
Written by CZ Correspondent
Monday, 09 February 2009
MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai, will be sworn as President on Wednesday morning and address a public gathering at Glamis Stadium, Showgrounds in the afternoon.
MDC secretary for information and publicity Nelson Chamisa, said Prime Minister Tsvangirai was expected to address Zimbabweans at about noon.
Tsvangirai would have been sworn in as Prime Minister, with MDC vice-president, Thokozani Khupe, and Arthur Mutambara of the splinter MDC faction sworn in as deputy prime ministers.
Chamisa said, as this was a national event, no party regalia should be worn, and would not be entertained
"This will be a historic occasion for the country. It marks the beginning of a new era; the final miles of a journey to a new Zimbabwe," said Chamisa in a Press statement.
February 10, 2009
By Simba Dzvairo
The inauguration of Morgan Tsvangirai
The Movement for Democratic Change(MDC) has banned party regalia at the inauguration of Morgan Tsvangirai as the second Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
In a statement released late Tuesday the party said the gathering at Glamis Arena is a national event and not a party rally.
‘No party regalia will be entertained at the event as this is not a party occasion but a major national event. This will be a historic occasion for the country. It marks the beginning of a new era; the final miles of a journey to a new Zimbabwe.’,read part of the statement.
MDC President Tsvangirai will be sworn in as Prime Minister tomorrow while the MDC Vice president and Makokoba senior Member of Parliament Thokozani Khupe, will be sworn in as deputy prime minister.
Tsvangirai will read his oath while placing his hand on the bible and will be sworn by President Mugabe assisted by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku at a colourful ceremony at the Glamis Arena.
“I, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, do swear that I will well and truly serve in the Office of Prime Minister, so help me God,” he will say, taking the oath of office.
February 9, 2009
The mainstream Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has outlined plans for a massive non-partisan celebration after the inauguration Wednesday of Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai.
“No party regalia will be entertained at the event as this is not a party occasion but a major national event,” MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said. “This will be a historic occasion for the country. It marks the beginning of a new era; the final miles of a journey to a new Zimbabwe.”
In accordance with the party’s commitment to provide the most open and accessible inauguration of the Prime Minister in history, the MDC is working with relevant authorities to open up as much of the Glamis Arena as possible to accommodate the large number of Zimbabweans expected to throng the historic day than ever before.
Zimbabweans from all over the country will be expected to join the celebrations in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, that starts in the morning, with the Prime Minister is expected to address the “bumper crowds” that the multi-party rally is expected to draw.
“This will be a gathering where the Prime Minister will address the people, giving a statement on direction and content of policy and basically outlining the trajectory,” Chamisa told The Zimbabwe Times.
The celebrations intend to deliver on Tsvangirai’s commitment to organize an inauguration celebration that will rally all Zimbabweans to meet the great challenges of our time, food and jobs and reviving the social services sectors.
Chamisa said the MDC was committed to ensuring that the celebrations are organized in a way that reflects the common values of Zimbabwe’s people, shared aspirations and commitment to addressing challenges facing Zimbabwe as one united nation.
Tsvangirai will on Wednesday become Zimbabwe’s second Prime Minister after Mugabe, who assumed the post at independence in 1980. The post was abolished in 1989 when he led a campaign to introduce reforms that entrenched him in the executive presidency.
“Gates will be opened in the morning and the Prime Minister is expected to address the people around noon,” he said.
Tsvangirai will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Wednesday while the MDC vice president, Thokozani Khupe, will become one of the two deputy Prime Ministers, with Prof Arthur Mutambara, who leads the breakaway MDC faction occupying the other post.
“We have to shift from a partisan to a pluralistic mode,” said Chamisa. “It’s a new dispensation.”
He said that party regalia would be strictly forbidden as the celebrations were open to every Zimbabwean, including supporters of rival parties. He denied that the police had imposed a ban on party regalia.
“It’s our own decision, not that of the police,” he said.
Asked if the rally had been cleared by the police, Chamisa retorted: “We don’t need police clearance to hold a national event. Do you seek police clearance to hold a Cabinet meeting?”
Chamisa said the MDC was working to ensure that all the remaining unresolved issues were sorted out, describing the process as “work-in-progress”.
The release of abductees before February 11 was under discussion by the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), but is obviously a serious obstacle to progress if it is not resolved in the next few days.
On Monday political detainees all failed to appear in court ostensibly because there was no fuel.
Only freelance journalist Shadreck Manyere’s case was heard by a magistrate on Monday where defence lawyers told the court how prison officers denied him medical treatment by taking him away from the Avenues Clinic, a private hospital in Harare despite an order by a High Court Judge that the state should complete an investigation into allegations by him and other co-accused of torture whilst in unlawful detention.
Manyere is charged along with six MDC activists on alleged acts of banditry, sabotage and terrorism.
On Monday, Manyere failed yet again to appear in court for remand, ostensibly because prison officials did not have fuel for transport to bring them to court.
“It’s an issue of utmost concern to us and I can assure you a lot is happening,” Chamisa told The Zimbabwe Times.
“We can’t divulge the details; we want to secure their release. Its worrisome. They are victims of political machinations, we have demanded their release. We are taking practical measures and palpable steps (to ensure their release).”
Another outstanding issue is the enactment of the National Security Bill, drawn up by the mainstream MDC. It is believed that the negotiators have agreed on the Bill and that it will be fast-tracked through Parliament this week.
Both the House of Assembly and Senate have adjourned until tomorrow.
There has been agreement on sharing of provincial governorships, with the mainstream being allocated MDC five provincial gubernatorial posts, Zanu-PF four and getting to appoint an extra minister of State and the last one going to the Mutambara MDC.
The review of the appointments of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono and Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, had also been demanded by the mainstream MDC, which is reported to prefer Alec Muchadehama as the new AG.
The MDC appears to have accepted the SADC position that this should be deferred until after the formation of the inclusive government. Critics say for restoring confidence in the economy and in the rule of law these are key appointments.
Chamisa said the Cabinet line-up was expected to be presented at a press conference in Harare on Wednesday.
09/02/2009 14:00 - (SA)
Zimbabwe's opposition number two, Tendai Biti, will take up a post of government minister later this week, sources with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Monday, rejecting reports he had decided to boycott the power-sharing deal.
"He's going to be in cabinet. It's going to happen, 100%," a senior official in the party told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
"We were all a bit surprised by this thing (MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's agreement to join a Mugabe-dominated government) but he's fully behind this now," another party official, who is tipped for a ministerial position in the unity government.
Both sources tipped Biti to become finance minister, the most prominent of the 13 ministries awarded to the MDC in a September power-sharing deal, according to which Mugabe remains president and Tsvangirai becomes prime minister.
Mugabe's Zanu-PF will control of 15 ministries and a breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara will have three.
Tsvangirai is scheduled to be sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday. The cabinet is due to be sworn in two days later.
MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti was part of the more hardline faction within the MDC that opposed joining a government that is heavily skewed in Zanu-PF's favour.
The MDC, which won the last parliamentary elections, had previously insisted on a more equitable deal.
In the end, after coming under sustained pressure from other southern African countries, the party voted last week in favour of Tsvangirai's proposal to join the government and try to effect change from within.
Given the ruinous state of Zimbabwe's economy, the finance ministry is seen as a poisoned chalice. A strong candidate will be needed to convince Western powers to abandon their wait-and-see approach to the new government and commit large amounts of aid.
"He would be very well suited," the source tipped for a ministerial post said of the popular Biti.
Analysts say that Zimbabwe's economic turnaround will have to be mostly African-funded - at least in the short-term.
On Sunday, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, who has been involved in the power-sharing talks, floated the prospect of Zimbabwe ditching its worthless currency for the rand.
"It may be practical for them to enter into an arrangement with our Reserve Bank here and adopt the rand as their currency," Motlanthe said in an interview with state television.
Meanwhile, while Tsvangirai is being sworn in on Wednesday, a group of MDC members and opposition activists that have also been campaigning for democratic change will probably still be languishing in prison.
Despite Tsvangirai insisting last week that around 30 political prisoners, who including leading rights activist Jestina Mukoko, be released before his inauguration, MDC sources said they did not think they would be freed on time. - Sapa-dpa
By Isaac Chihota
Published: February 10, 2009
The leader of the MDC rebel faction, Arthur Mutambara faces a massive party revolt as party members react to his recent speeches and actions which have been largely viewed to be ‘nonsensical’ and ‘irrational’. Mutambara, pictured above, known for using ‘great swelling words the ear cannot endure’, might find his political career reaching a dead-end as many of his supporters desert the MDC for the late Joshua Nkomo’s recently revived veteran party, ZAPU.
Two of Mutambara’s top party henchmen who on condition of anonymity spoke to the ZimEye have detailed how ‘ludicrous, disgraceful, and irrelevant’ they find their leader to be. Many in Bulawayo have already deserted the MDC for ZAPU along with scores of others in the United Kingdom. At least two meetings have already been held since January in Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city as well Leeds where large numbers turned up in support of ZAPU. One of the people attending the ZAPU meetings, identifying himself as Clement emphatically told the ZimEye:
‘ZAPU is still alive!’
Until recently, many Ndebele’s found themselves aligning by default to Mutambara’s faction instead of Tsvangirai’s as the latter was accused reportedly of running the party on tribal grounds and favouring Shona’s above Ndebeles.
Many Zimbabweans both Shona and Ndebele also expressed concern at Mutambara’s September 15 speech which they said was ‘childish, emotional, and more of a colloquial than a formal speech to be delivered by the leader of a national party.’
Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, Mutambara recently told donors to ‘shut up’ in expressing their views on Zimbabwe.
“All the sceptics must now shut up and support what Zimbabweans want. Listen to us as Zimbabweans,” he said
The leader of the MDC splinter group, who almost always poses in front of cameras with a rude cynical wink, faces a massive exit of supporters in particular Ndebele’s who have vowed to leave the party and to instead join ZAPU. (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)
Commentators criticise South African and regional leaders for pressuring opposition MDC leader into agreement
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai shake hands after signing a memorandum of understanding between their respective parties in Harare.
There is little enthusiasm among bloggers and commentators for Zimbabwe's unity deal, which should see Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday.
The prevailing sentiment is that Tsvangirai has buckled under enormous regional pressure - especially from South Africa - to accept a deal that still leaves power concentrated in the hands of the wily Robert Mugabe. Denford Magora, a Zimbabwean blogger, believes that Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have capitulated to Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980.
"To all intents and purposes and if we go by what MDC supporters have always been saying, then their party has surrendered to Mugabe. They go into a government that is loaded to the gills with Mugabe's cronies."
Ray Hartley, the editor of the Times, South Africa, denounces Pretoria's pressure on Tsvangirai to accept the unity deal and urges the Obama administration to reject South African demands to resume aid to the Mugabe regime.
"South Africa and other neighbours who insist on supporting the criminal regime are free to supply aid. But western governments must maintain their sanctions - especially those aimed at individual members of the Mugabe regime and the companies they control."
Eddie Cross, on the Metro Zimbabwe blog, deplores not just South Africa but the regional group, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), for siding with Mugabe, who has managed to hang on to power after controversial elections that saw Tsvangirai win the first round of the presidential poll but abandon the run-off due to state-sponsored violence.
"The fact that SADC clearly backed the position of the Mugabe regime at last week's meeting in the face of overwhelming evidence and rationale is a real indictment of African leadership. They were not even acting in defence of their own interests, let alone the interests of the long-suffering Zimbabwe people."
Daniel Molokele, on ZimOnline, is one of the few to offer a - half-hearted - defence of Tsvangirai and the MDC.
"The MDC decision to endorse the SADC-brokered process represents a decisive shift on its part from the flamboyant idealism that exuded from its launch in 1999 to a much more down-to-earth practical approach. The MDC appears to have opted to go down the path of realism and pragmatism in its ongoing quest for democratic change in Zimbabwe."
Meanwhile, the This is Zimbabwe website has published undercover pictures of emaciated prisoners and links to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper that provides details about the grim conditions in the country's jails.
09 February, 2009 03:35:00 By Cris Chinaka
More of the same: Emmerson Mnangagwa HARARE
Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai are expected to appoint political allies to a unity government who lack the credentials to lure Western donors and investors to rebuild the ruined economy.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is due to join Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in government on Friday under a September power-sharing pact.
Tsvangirai will become prime minister and is due to be sworn in on Wednesday alongside his MDC deputy Thokozani Khupe and MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara, who will both be deputy prime ministers.
Speculation is rife in the local media that Mugabe and Tsvangirai will appoint their close political lieutenants into a 32-member cabinet whose major challenge will be to turn around an economy ravaged by the world's highest inflation rate, put at over 231 million percent last June.
Analysts say the country needs a high profile economist or technocrat who commands international respect and neither side can afford to spend time forging political alliances.
"The names being floated around are all very familiar and expected, and unfortunately none of these people have the solid international credentials that can help the government to manage the economic crisis we are facing," said Eldred Masunungure.
"I think for the economic ministries, the parties should have cast their nets wider and outside their established ranks to get real skilled people with business or financial experience to help out," Masunungure told Reuters.
Western donors want assurances that the new government will be a democratic one prepared to make bold economic reforms, tall demands in a country that witnessed violence and power-sharing negotiations often close to collapse after elections.
While critics say Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe's economy to its knees with reckless policies, Tsvangirai has only made vague promises and not spelled out how he would bring financial stability.
Under Zimbabwe's laws, only members of parliament can become cabinet ministers but the power-sharing deal also allows Mugabe and Tsvangirai to nominate unelected members to the Senate.
The two could use this window to appoint technocrats into cabinet but analysts say they will likely choose ministers from inside their ranks to strengthen party unity ahead of expected elections after about two years.
John Robertson, a leading economic consultant, said although Zimbabwe would be better off if technocrats occupied key posts, it was now more important for old foes Mugabe and Tsvangirai to agree on reforms and inspire international confidence.
"I think they have to get the policy framework right first, and then in Zimbabwe's case, it is convincing the world that we are putting bad politics and bad policies behind us ... and that's going to take a while," he said.
Mugabe - whose ZANU-PF will retain greater control of the security ministries, mines and agriculture - is expected to bring back into the government party officials who helped him make a political comeback after losing the first round of the presidential election in March.
These include Emmerson Mnangagwa, seen as his potential successor, current Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Labour Minister Nicholas Goche.
Tsvangirai's team is expected to include MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti, tipped to become finance minister, and 31-year-old party spokesman Nelson Chamisa who would be the youngest minister in the cabinet.
Eric Matinenga, a prominent lawyer who has defended Tsvangirai in the past, is also expected to join the cabinet.
Tsvangirai's party will largely be in charge of economic and social ministries such as health and education, water, energy and power development - all sectors have been devastated in Zimbabwe's 10-year economic crisis.
Taking over the finance ministry will put enormous pressure on Tsvangirai to show millions of desperate Zimbabweans, as well as the international community, that he has a strategy to tackle severe food and fuel shortages and high unemployment.
He may be pre-occupied by trying to make sure Mugabe, a master political tactician, does not outfox him as the two sides compete to steer policies.
The southern African country has turned from a regional bread basket into a basket case where more than half its people are surviving on food aid and a quarter have been forced to flee abroad as economic refugees.
Mugabe, who will be 85 later this month and has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980, says the economy has been strangled by Western countries opposed to his seizures of white-owned farms for blacks.
But Zimbabweans are tired of accusations and counter accusations made by Mugabe and Tsvangirai. They want relief and few care who provides it. Hardships are deepening by the day.
The deadliest cholera outbreak in Africa in 15 years has added to the urgency. The number of people suffering from cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to more than 69,000 cases, U.N. figures showed. The epidemic has killed 3,397 people out of 69,317 cases since August.
February 9, 2009
By Mxolisi Ncube
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe has pledged to help neighbouring Zimbabwe in its bid to adopt the South African Rand as its own currency, as a desperate measure to reign in inflation, which is currently the world’s highest.
Zimbabwean authorities recently authorized the adoption of multiple currencies, among them the United States dollar, the Botswana Pula and the Rand, as the local dollar continued to be eroded into worthless paper within a few days of circulation of each new note.
It is now believed that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono, has prescribed the adoption of the Rand as one of the best ways to deal with inflation, which is caused by a decade-long economic crisis that is blamed on the bad governance policies and miss-management of the country’s resources by President Robert Mugabe.
While some sectors of the South African community have condemned Gono’s move, which they fear might further inflate the already weak Rand, Motlanthe told South African media Sunday that his country’s northern neighbour could be allowed to adopt the Rand as its standard currency.
He said that this move would be allowed as his country tries to nurture Zimbabwe ’s much-vaunted national unity government, between Mugabe and opposition leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara of the divided Movement for Democratic Change, which is expected to take off sometime this week.
“We have to help them so that the coalition government works,” Motlanthe told the South African Broadcasting Corporation Sunday.
Motlanthe said that it might be practical for the Zimbabwean authorities to enter into an arrangement with the South African central bank, which would most likely allow the adoption of the stronger rand to become the common currency between the two countries, to replace the Zimbabwean dollar.
Motlanthe is the current chairman of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc, which brokered the all-inclusive government idea after Zimbabwe ’s ill-fated elections in which Mugabe claimed victory last year.
Motlanthe also urged the international community to help the new Zimbabwe government adding to recent calls by the broader African Union for the international community to lift targeted sanctions against Mugabe and other top members of his ZANU (PF) government.
However, the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) late last month accused Motlanthe of adopting the same “quiet diplomacy” policy on Zimbabwe promoted by Thabo Mbeki, his predecessor, who is also the current mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis. COSATU has criticized Zimbabwe’s adoption of the rand, saying that this will further weaken the South African currency.
“Zimbabwean authorities want to spread inflation throughout the region in the way the Cholera virus was spread,” COSATU’s Secretary General, Zwelinzima Vavi told the media in Braamfontein, Johannesburg recently.
“They want to bring down other regional economies alongside the Zimbabwean dollar and that will have a devastating effect on the whole region, just like the Cholera that we are experiencing,” added Vavi.
Experts say Motlanthe's suggestion will merely formalise things
February 10, 2009
By Ethel Hazelhurst
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was not considering the use of the rand to anchor its worthless currency, the central bank said yesterday.
This follows a suggestion by President Kgalema Motlanthe on an SABC Sunday broadcast that it "may be practical for [Zimbabwe] to enter into an arrangement with the Reserve Bank here and allow the rand to become the common currency" to help Zimbabwe's crippled economy, now that a government of unity was in place.
Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, told Business Report yesterday that a formal bi-monetary arrangement with South Africa "is not an option we are considering", adding: "I have not exercised my mind on this issue."
Gono said his recent statement on monetary policy did not refer to using the rand to anchor the Zimbabwean dollar.
Gono gave no updated inflation figures in his policy statement, but did say that broad money supply growth had risen from 81 000 percent in January last year to 658 billion percent in December, according to the Zimbabwe Independent. This is an indication of the rate at which the central bank is printing money - at a time when the real economy is shrinking.
Gono yesterday denied knowledge of a document bearing his name, which describes the rand as "the naturally obvious currency of choice to anchor the Zimbabwean dollar".
SA Reserve Bank spokesperson Samantha Henkeman declined to comment on Motlanthe's suggestion, but said the bank had "not been formally approached".
Dennis Dykes, the chief economist of Nedbank, said: "Zimbabwe's terrible monetary policy has contributed to its dysfunctional economy. If the rand were adopted, Zimbabwe would automatically adopt the interest rates and monetary policy of the SA Reserve Bank."
Mthuli Ncube, the head of Wits Business School and a professor of finance, said that if the new Zimbabwean government wished to base the economy on the rand, it would face the problem of acquiring enough rands, either through exports or a very large loan from a bank.
As Zimbabwe's export capacity is almost exhausted and it poses a poor credit risk, neither provides an obvious solution.
An analyst who did not want to be named said it was difficult to calculate the sum needed. "In South Africa about R1 000 is circulating for every person," he said. However, the local economy was much larger and wealthier and Zimbabwe could manage with less. "But nevertheless, we are talking of billions of rands."
Ncube said the SA Reserve Bank could make the rands available through the banking system. On how the scheme would be financed, he said South Africa's action "would be a trigger for donor countries". And the loans raised would eventually be paid for from export proceeds, once the country was functional again.
But replacing Zimbabwe's currency would effectively contain inflation only if "the government also practised fiscal discipline", he warned.
He dismissed criticism that this would be a burden to South Africa. "The Zimbabwean economy is only a small fraction of the size of South Africa's economy. There are already an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa [and] sending remittances in rands. The rand is already being used in Zimbabwe and these suggestions would merely formalise things." Business Watch, page 2
February 9, 2009
By Our Correspondent
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) employees are reportedly faced with dire straits following the failure by the central bank to pay their salaries for December 2008 and January 2009.
The workers say they have lost hope they will receive their February salary given the lackluster attitude and “absolute arrogance” of the bank’s governor, Gideon Gono.
It is understood the central bank management, instead of addressing workers’ grievances over salaries, has resorted to threatening employees with dismissal.
Said a workers committee representative on condition of anonymity: “Workers have been too patient with the governor (Gono) and his management. They are now saying enough is enough.
“They believe the time for people to know the truth is now and that the world should know how bad the management style at this bank is.”
The representative said there was deafening silence from the management regarding the staff salaries which have been outstanding since last year while there was no assurance the bank would meet its February salary bill.
It is alleged the management is using a restructuring exercise as an excuse for not settling the salaries on time.
Recently, Gono, in a memorandum to workers, intimated that the central bank was undergoing a restructuring exercise that would see some of its staff members being offloaded.
Reads part of Gono’s memo: “In order to ensure that the nation gets the best out of the sharp skills many of you had developed during our gallant journey of serving our country over the past five years, some of you who so wish, will have the opportunity of being re-assigned on secondment basis to needy arms of Government, particularly in the Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Mines and Industry and International Trade given our intensive interactions with them during our various rescue operations over the past.”
The workers argue that the salary bill had become too high for the RBZ following a massive hiring exercise the central bank embarked upon as it undertook an array of quasi-fiscal operations.
Consequently, the government, in clipping Gono’s wings, ordered that the central bank should desist from continuing with its quasi-fiscal operations as they had an adverse effect on the economy.
In presenting the budget, the acting Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, pin-pointed the RBZ as having played a significant role in the destruction of the economy.
He cited spending of unbudgeted expenditure by the central bank as a major cause for the weakening of the country’s economy.
As a counter-attack measure, Gono announced the central bank’s plans to shed off the quasi-fiscal operation undertaken by his bank to a company called Fiscorp which he said was to oversee the management and running of the quasi-fiscal operations.
Some of the workers, Gono hinted, could be offloaded to this company.
Said the workers representative: “This bank is being run in a farm management style. The management does not stick to stipulated and agreed to pay days.
“People are even threatened with expulsion if they express discontentment over salaries. Managers are paid allowances to stifle worker dissent. Those that speak out on the welfare of the workers are threatened by Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) operatives deployed by the governor himself.
“We wonder why the governor can stoop so low.”
It is alleged the workers, through their council, took the matter to the bank’s labour body but the matter died a natural death as the labour board had allegedly had “its palms oiled” by the governor.
“Our efforts to get the matter of salaries addressed through labour channels have failed dismally because the governor has oiled the palms of the labour board members. In fact, he removed the workers committee that was in place and replaced it with his own which he again paid handsomely to sit on the salaries matter.
“Right now, the channels of communication within the bank itself are disabled, hence the governor and his management can do as they please and stifle us at will,” the representative said.
The workers also allege Gono’s projects have not been audited since he assumed office in November 2003. They allege that large sums of foreign currency have disappeared from the bank’s coffers and been banked in off-shore accounts where he uses a front to bank the said funds.
RBZ spokesperson, Kumbirai Nhongo was not available for comment as he was said to be in meetings to carry out the restructuring of the central bank.
February 9, 2009
By Our Correspondent
Zimbabwe’s external debt stock stood at US$ 4,69 billion last December as major sectors of the economy remained depressed when the country was under international isolation.
The external debt is about two and half times the size of the 2009 national budget presented on Thursday last week.
According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, medium to long-term external debt continues to dominate the external debt stock, accounting for 95,2 percent of the total amount.
The remaining 4,8 percent is short term debt.
“Of the country’s total external debt 95,3 percent is owed by government and parastatals while 4, percent is owed by the private sector,” said Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono when presenting his first monetary policy in his second term last week.
Figures from the Reserve Bank show that the solvency of government was already seriously compromised with the current interest rates, and technically, the government’s finances will not be better with even a 1 percent rise in interest rates.
The increasing government debt stock raised fresh fears of renewed turbulence in the crisis-strapped economy, battling with high inflation estimated to be over 10 billion percent.
The government has also been forced to rely on domestic borrowings because its tax revenue base has dwindled following company closures which have led to retrenchments.
This means that in real terms, the government is collecting less revenue through corporate and personal income tax.
The major effects of rising government debt would be an escalation of the inflationary rate because of increased recourse to the domestic market for funding.
“The contribution of medium-term debt in the portfolio, which was about 63,5 percent at the beginning of 2008 is eclipsed by 365 days treasury bills which accounted for 99,999 percent of the total government debt portfolio by the end of December 2008,” said Gono.
The increase in the proportion of 365 day treasury bills has concentrated the maturity profile of government debt within a short space of time thereby exposing the portfolio risk
The average duration of the portfolio is less than one year implying that the government rolls over the whole portfolio to refinancing risk.
“Government is urged to issue long term instruments that help smoothen the maturity structure of its portfolio,” Gono said.
During the period under review, the monetary banking sector remained the major holder of government domestic debt at 99 percent of the total.
Commercial banks accounted for about $ 424 quadrillion (US$ 424 040) or 99 percent of the monetary banking sector’s holding of domestic debt.
The remaining 1 percent is accounted for by insurance companies, pension funds, financial institutions and private investors.
As the country’s debt continues to increase, money supply growth continued on an upward trend, in part as a reflection of the prevailing macroeconomic imbalances under which government sector has largely relied on domestic bank finance.
To reduce poverty and create jobs, Africa must become economically competitive.
By Jakaya Kikwete and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
from the February 9, 2009 edition
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Copenhagen, Denmark
African countries are still a long way from achieving the full benefits of globalization, despite solid economic growth.
In recent years, African economies on the whole have grown at an average of more than 6 percent per year. But a look below the surface reveals that much of the growth has come from higher commodity prices. The trouble for Africa's economies is that prices are now falling. And growth based on commodities alone is not enough to create jobs and reduce poverty.
A new approach to development is therefore needed. We must have a renewed international emphasis on improving the competitiveness of the African private sector. Pouring aid money into the continent is not sustainable or helpful in itself. Africa and its partners should focus on reducing the costs of doing business by combating corruption, adding more and better post-primary education and skills training based on private sector demand, providing access to investment capital, better energy supply as well as basic infrastructure.
These may look like steep demands, but together we have created the Africa Commission to identify concrete initiatives that can facilitate this type of change. The commission brings together major stakeholders at the highest level: governments, researchers, civil society, the private sector, and international partners. We are committed to finding new ways to bring Africa up to speed and make it competitive with the rest of the world.
But where do we start?
Africa's numerous small- and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) offer the best opportunities for growth and employment. They are the backbone of prosperous economies. A good place to begin is to address the constraints that SMEs face in accessing finance for investment. Banks are often unwilling to provide investment loans as they perceive risks to be too high. By developing an initiative for the financial markets in Africa we can enable banks to supply growth-oriented SMEs with longer-term finance.
Another area for intervention is energy. Access to energy is too often unreliable and expensive. This reduces Africa's competitiveness with negative consequences for growth and employment. Technologies for sustainable small-scale energy production and distribution are available today in areas such as wind, hydro, biomass, solar energy, and biofuel. So working on an initiative that can help scale up market-based clean energy production in Africa and take advantage of those technologies is a possible and effective step forward. An initiative could foster access to finance as well as advisory services, skills training, and support a good regulatory environment for small-scale energy production.
Then there is the matter of youth and employment. Young entrepreneurs in Africa face particular challenges, even when they are skilled and have innovative ideas. Opportunity for young entrepreneurs is key to Africa's future. We're planning a youth initiative to help young entrepreneurs start up and develop businesses and allow them to create jobs. An initiative could provide a new and innovative environment for young entrepreneurs, targeted risk capital, skills training, and advisory services.
By establishing the Africa Commission we have created a platform for finding effective means of improving job opportunities for young Africans. We share a common goal of building societies where all young people have a prosperous future. We want to put employment of youth at the top of the international agenda.
In the coming months we will concentrate our efforts on transforming these principles into concrete actions. We will work closely with our partners and the private sector to harness the required commitments to be able to launch the initiatives after the commission's final meeting in May 2009.
Our aim is to assist Africa's aspirations to achieve the full benefits of globalization through a change of mind-set. Most important, we must shift our focus toward enterprise-led development in Africa: Aid in itself will not ensure sustainable development. Improving Africa's competitiveness will.
Jakaya Kikwete is president of Tanzania and chairman of the African Union. Anders Fogh Rasmussen is prime minister of Denmark. Both are members of the Africa Commission.
09 February 2009
An analysis by David McCarthy - First published on Moneyweb, July 2007
On Sunday evening South African president Kgalema Motlanthe suggested that Zimbabwe could adopt the rand as its currency. He reportedly told the SABC that "may be practical for them to enter into an arrangement with the reserve bank here and allow the rand to become the common currency." This plan was originally mooted in July 2007 when it was reported that the South African Development Community was putting together a rescue plan for the Zimbabwean economy, which would involve effectively extending the rand monetary area into that country. In the following article, published on Moneyweb on July 10 2007, David McCarthy analysed the cause of hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe, as well as the benefits and potential dangers of the suggested plan both for Zimbabwe and South Africa. We are republishing the article in light of its renewed relevance today.
Hyperinflation is caused by the government printing money to pay its obligations.
The value of a currency is determined not by markets but by the government that issues it. This is because governments have (more or less) the exclusive right to create money. Most simply, they print banknotes, but they can also purchase outstanding treasury bills or bonds with cheques, or create electronic balances that banks can access - for instance by paying government employees using electronic transfers.
In all developed countries, and in most developing ones, the government tries to carefully balance how much currency it removes from the economy (by collecting taxes and selling bills or bonds) and how much it injects (by paying wages of civil servants, buying goods from the private sector and purchasing bills and bonds).
This balance is performed on a daily - if not hourly - basis to ensure that nothing strange happens to interest rates, which are the barometer of money supply and demand. If there is too much money, overnight interest rates will fall, while if money is tight, they will rise. The overnight interest rate itself could be used to dictate how much liquidity the central bank needs to add to or remove from the system, but for various reasons central banks often prefer to use other techniques.
In the UK, for instance, the Bank of England apparently tries to track every government outlay and collection, and matches liquidity to this, so overnight interest rates sometimes fluctuate a little wildly when there is a mistake about the timing or amount of a particular payment. But they very rarely get it wrong over a month, and because the markets know this and expect stability to continue, monthly interest rates there are in fact very stable.
Because governments control the value of currency, when we accept banknotes in exchange for valuable goods or services we are implicitly trusting that the government won't render the value of the paper we hold worthless by printing a whole lot more of it very suddenly. Of course, we could conceivably only choose to accept goods or other services in exchange for our own, and if we lived in a barter economy we would have no other option but to do so, but money is so convenient that it has been with us in many forms for thousands of years.
What has happened in Zimbabwe is that the sense of trust that is essential for paper money to function has broken down, because the government abandoned its duty to protect its currency. It began to print money to pay its obligations, without removing a corresponding amount of money from the economy in tax receipts (by raising taxes) or issuing treasury bonds (by raising borrowing). This meant that there was more and more money chasing fewer goods and so prices began to rise.
Even if the effect is small and prices rise quite slowly, eventually inflation becomes self-reinforcing because individuals and businesses become accustomed to price changes and so increase prices just because they expect that everyone else will increase their prices too. In this sense, inflation becomes "entrenched" and is extremely difficult to get rid of. However, in hyper-inflationary times, the effect is ever so much worse. Here, pricing becomes a race - each business tries to increase its prices faster than all the others - and the result is an inflationary death-spiral.
The mechanism by which individual businesspeople decide by how much to raise prices each day (or in Zimbabwe, apparently each hour) is not well understood and is the focus of much research by macro-economists (they call this the "transmission mechanism"). In Zimbabwe an obvious source of macro-economic information for individual businesses is the unofficial or parallel rate of the Zimbabwe dollar against the US dollar, which I would imagine most business in Zimbabwe watch fairly closely, even if they do not rely directly on imported goods.
The origin of the problem in Zimbabwe lay with the collapse in tax revenues caused by the seizure of white-owned farms. This meant that the government had suddenly either to borrow, or print, a lot of money to cover outgoings. Either because the central bank was incompetent, as the IMF claims, or because they couldn't borrow enough on private markets to meet expenditures, they decided to print money.
If Zimbabwe were to join the rand currency area, key issues would be the "price" at which it joins the area and on how the switch is structured. The rate of exchange between (worthless) Zimbabwean dollars and South African rands is crucial.
For instance, when East Germany joined West Germany, and DDR marks were exchanged for deutschmarks, the rate at which the exchange was made was very favourable to the east Germans. The west Germans, collectively, paid a fortune and many economists attribute the economic pain Germany suffered after unification partly to this issue.
According to the CIA factbook, the Zimbabwean economy is only about 1/25th the size of South Africa's, so the effect on individual South Africans could be quite small if the deal were priced correctly. In aggregate, however, the cost could be huge if the arrangement were mispriced.
A possible way of structuring the deal would be for the South African government to lend Zimbabwe sufficient funds to "rand-ise" their economy. Without adequate guarantees, say from Western donors, this would expose the South African taxpayer to the substantial risk of ultimate Zimbabwean default, which, as I discuss below, is extremely likely.
Of course, we would also need to worry about precisely how the switch was administered: we could end up substantially enriching a group of already extremely wealthy ZANU-PF oligarchs who are ultimately entirely responsible for the demise of their country's economy.
Given the extent of corruption in Zimbabwe and the fact that property rights there (which are crucial for a prosperous future) have apparently been almost completely obliterated, this is a critical issue and one which could derail the entire operation.
A further complication would be the treatment of the existing stock of Zimbabwean-dollar denominated government debt. One option might be to allow the economy to "rand-ise" but not to allow the government to switch its debts into rands - effectively forcing the Zimbabwean government to default on its existing debt as a precondition for entry.
If the Zimbabwean government were allowed to convert its existing debt into rands, and then defaulted, this would have serious consequences for our own economy.
The South African Reserve Bank would also need to take control of the Zimbabwean banking system because private banks - bizarrely to non-economists - also create money when they write loans and this would need to be controlled in order to prevent Zimbabwean banks from becoming a source of inflation for the rand currency area as a whole.
For Zimbabwe the effect of moving to rands would be almost instantaneous. Trust in the currency would be restored and no-one would feel the need to raise prices. The economy would return - gradually - to normal, assuming that the currency change was accompanied by a return to the rule of law.
There would probably still be large price changes - both up and down - as the relative prices of goods adjusted to normal levels (one of the effects of high inflation is uncertainty about relative prices) but prices would soon settle down.
Stockpiles would disappear and people would feel comfortable selling their goods again. Germans still remark on how, after the deutschmark was introduced in western Germany in 1948, goods appeared on the shelves, as if from nowhere, and, more than fifty years later, many ascribed their reluctance to give up the mark for the euro to this apparent "miracle".
However, even if the Zimbabwean economy is successfully "rand-ised" it is quite likely that the ZANU-PF government would soon find itself in a precarious position.
One can think of the Zimbabwean economy using rands as an economy on the old gold standard: since even governments cannot manufacture gold there was a fixed amount of coinage and for every guinea a government spent it had to collect one in taxes or borrow one from someone else.
The South African Reserve Bank would still keep a monopoly on printing rands and the Zimbabweans would no longer be able to print money to pay their bills. They would need to finance their huge deficit either by collecting taxes or by issuing explicit debt.
Given the size of their deficit this would be impossible, and they would end up massively cutting public spending and/or raising taxes, with serious economic consequences. The near-inevitability of eventual Zimbabwean default should be a crucial determinant of the structure and pricing of "rand-isation" - if it does not prevent it altogether.
Of course, Zimbabwe is already in an extremely dire position, and because of this, we ourselves are threatened. The potential economic effects of a currency union need to be evaluated in this light: no option is easy. One cannot help feeling that things would have been simpler if our government had handled this situation with more foresight and diligence a few years ago when it first arose.
David McCarthy is a senior lecturer in finance at the Tanaka Business School, Imperial College, London
Our Town - News
Written by Times
Monday, 09 February 2009 02:19
Striking teachers are set to defy a Zimbabwe’s government ultimatum to return to work tomorrow in spite of threats of instant dismissal.
In an apparent about turn education authorities moved from pleading with striking teachers to attend classes to threatening them with dismissal.
Education secretary Stephen Mahere warned striking teachers that they now risked being "replaced".
He said student teachers and retired teachers would be recruited to "fill vacancies".
Teachers have been on strike since September last year and so far all efforts to resolve the labour dispute have failed. They are demanding about US$ 2000 a month. Presently their salaries in Zimbabwe dollars translate to just US$ 4.
Teachers have so far rejected government all offers including food hampers and more recently shopping vouchers.
Their union - the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association - has rejected payment of salaries of its members in local currency.
Battle lines have been drawn and all indications are that the teachers are not about to give in to government treats.
The union says a third of members have already quit their jobs. Some have left the country and others have simply abandoned the profession owing to low salaries and poor working conditions.
Meanwhile schools and parents continue to be at loggerheads over demands that fees be paid in foreign currency.
Some schools are demanding as much as US700 (R7 000) a month.
By Jonga Kandemiiri and Taurai Shava
09 February 2009
Striking Zimbabwean teachers Monday defied an ultimatum by a top education official who threatened them with dismissal if they failed to show up for work this week.
Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Stephen Mahere ordered teachers back to work after the government promised to pay part of their wages in grocery vouchers and the rest in the Zimbabwean dollar. But unions representing the teachers turned down the offer, reiterating their demand for a monthly salary for starting teachers of US$ 2,200.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said teachers were prepared to be sacked by the ministry rather than return to work.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that teachers will only go back to work if the government meets their demands.
Classrooms in the high density suburbs or townships of the Midlands capital of Gweru were mostly empty Monday morning as teachers stayed home despite the government ultimatum to report for duty or be sacked, correspondent Taurai Shava reported.
Elsewhere, dozens of students from Midlands State University were injured when police broke up a campus demonstration against hard currency fees.
National Spokesman Blessing Vava of the Zimbabwe National Students Union told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that three student leaders were severely beaten then taken into police custody.
And is it germ warfare when cholera sufferers are forced to cross international boundaries?
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Feb. 9, 2009, at 11:24 AM ET
The situation in Zimbabwe has now reached the point where the international community would be entirely justified in using force to put Robert Mugabe under arrest and place him on trial. Why do I say this now?
Mugabe did kill a lot of people in Matabeleland in the 1980s on punitive expeditions inflicted by special units, trained by North Korea, against an ethnic group not his own. And he has punished recalcitrant voting districts by the indiscriminate denial of food supplies. But this doesn't quite rise to the level of "genocide." His soldiers may at one time have taken part in the opportunist looting of the resources of Congo, but this doesn't exactly qualify as invasion or occupation. Zimbabwe is not a harbor or haven for wanted international terrorists, and it isn't a player in the international WMD black market, either.
By Violet Gonda
9 February 2009
Lack of fuel is being used by prison officials as an excuse for not presenting scores of political prisoners for a court hearing. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had demanded the release of all political detainees before he was sworn in as Prime Minister, but with just two days to go before the inaugural ceremony, Robert Mugabe, his partner in the inclusive government, is still playing the political game at his own pace.
Human rights lawyer Andrew Makoni said all 16 political detainees failed to appear in court for their routine remand hearing on Monday because the State said it did not have fuel to take them to court.
It had been hoped that all the persons accused of attempting to overthrow the ZANU PF regime would have been released by now as a sign of goodwill, but only two, Pascal Gonzo from the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and activist Tawanda Bvumo, have been released. They were released on Friday because the State failed to produce any evidence against them. They had been in prison since early December.
However the other 16 detainees, including ZPP director Jestina Mukoko and MDC official Concillia Chinanzvavana, were on Monday remanded in their absence.
Mukoko and eight others were remanded to 11 February, the day of Tsvangirai’s swearing in, while the case for the second group of seven has been postponed to the 16th February.
This group includes photo-journalist Shadreck Andrew Manyere, MDC Director of Security Chris Dhlamini and Morgan Tsvangirai’s former aide Gandi Mudzingwa.
Most of the prisoners were abducted from their homes in October last year while others were kidnapped in December. The accused persons say they were tortured into making submissions of plotting to destabilise the Mugabe regime.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have expressed extreme concern about the health conditions of some of the prisoners.
Makoni said some of them were taken to the Avenues Clinic at the weekend and seen by doctors but were not treated because prison officials took them back to jail before they could receive treatment.
The lawyers said: “To us they are just playing games as they had the fuel to take them to hospital and back to Chikurubi Maximum prison… The doctors had actually recommended that they be detained there (at the hospital) for observation because some of them exhibited signs of serious illness. But they took them back to prison and now they are saying they don’t have fuel to take them to the Magistrates’s court for their routine remand. To us they are not serious at all.”
He added that the release of the two activists on Friday clearly showed that the State really had no evidence against the accused. “This actually signals the beginning of the collapse of the State’s case in respect of all the accused prisoners, including Jestina Mukoko; because there is really no evidence that anything of the sort suggested by the state occurred.”
It remains to be seen if Tsvangirai will withhold his consent to be appointed Prime Minister, if all political prisoners are not released by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, it’s reported the MDC leader will be sworn in at a private ceremony on Wednesday, followed by an address at the Glamis stadium at the Showgrounds in Harare. Tsvangirai is expected to outline a 100-day rebuilding and democratisation programme.
Chris McGreal in Harare
The Guardian, Tuesday 10 February 2009
President Robert Mugabe's regime has reneged on an agreement to release dozens of opposition activists, who have been abducted and severely tortured to extract false confessions of terrorism, before tomorrow's swearing in of a power-sharing government in Zimbabwe.
Doctors' affidavits seen by the Guardian reveal a pattern of torture of many of the 30 political and human rights activists held by the state for months. Nine of the prisoners seen by doctors were subjected to simulated drowning, being hung by their wrists in handcuffs and beaten, and high-voltage electric shocks.
One man was hung upside down from a tree and dumped into a water-filled drum until he passed out. A 72-year-old man was held in a deep freeze before scalding water was poured on his genitals.
Human rights lawyers say the detainees have been tortured to force them to falsely confess to bomb attacks on police stations or plots to overthrow Mugabe, in an attempt by his regime to justify further state violence against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had demanded the release of the detainees, who include his own security chief and a former close aide, as a condition for being sworn in tomorrow as prime minister in a power-sharing government with Mugabe.
A deal was reached between the MDC and Nicholas Goche, a senior negotiator in Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF, for 16 detainees to be released.
Some were to be taken to hospital last Friday and then quietly freed by a judge in order for the regime to save face. Eight were to appear in court yesterday on the understanding they would be freed. But none of the detainees were produced after the prisons commissioner, Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, refused to hand them over.
Zimondi is a hardline member of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which acts as Mugabe's security cabinet. JOC organised the campaign of terror, beatings and killings against MDC supporters during last year's elections. The general has threatened violence against the opposition, and recently he burst into a court and broke up a hearing on the release of some of the detainees.
The MDC is interpreting Zimondi's intervention as evidence that the JOC intends to subvert the power-sharing administration by continuing the violence and intimidation against Tsvangirai's officials and supporters.
Suspicion over Mugabe's intent has been further reinforced by what the MDC says is false allegations of corruption laid against seven of its MPs last week in an attempt to overturn the party's newly won majority in parliament.
The tortured detainees include Kisimusi "Chris" Dhlamini, a former officer in the Central Intelligence Organisation, who became the MDC's head of security.
According to an affidavit from a doctor who examined Dhlamini in Harare's maximum security prison, he was repeatedly assaulted, including being subjected to simulated drowning, hung by his wrists in handcuffs, beaten and burned. The affidavit said there were injuries consistent with high-voltage electric shocks as well.
Gandi Mudzingwa, Tsvangirai's former personal assistant, was severely beaten with sticks, kicked, subjected to simulated drowning and had his feet smashed with bricks.
Doctors' affidavits on other prisoners show they were subjected to similar tortures, particularly having their heads forced underwater. A 72-year-old MDC activist, Fidelis Chiramba, was forced into a freezer, stripped naked and had his genitals burned with hot water.
Eight women are being held, including Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who was abducted and tortured, and has been held in prison since last year, accused of training insurgents in Botswana to overthrow Mugabe.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Remand proceedings in the matters Jestina Mukoko v. The State, Concillia Chinanzvavana and Others v. The State, Emmanuel Chinanzvavana and Others v. The State and Kisimusi Dhlamini and Others v. The State resume in the morning at the Magistrate Court before Magistrate Gloria Takundwa.
• Ms Florence Ziyambi, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office appears for the State while Mr Alec Muchadehama appears for the accused.
• Ziyambi tells the court that prison officials failed to bring the accused persons to court citing fuel shortages to transport them.
• She asks the Magistrate to postpone the matter to Wednesday 11 February 2009 to allow the State to verify the defence lawyers’ account pertaining to the deteriorating medical conditions of the accused persons.
• Defence lawyer Muchadehama tells Magistrate Takundwa that the defence team is concerned about the non-appearance in court of the accused. He says it is unacceptable that the accused persons cannot be brought to court because of fuel shortages
• Muchadehama tells the court that Mukoko requires urgent medical treatment at a functioning medical institution such as the Avenues Clinic after she was prematurely denied treatment and medication at the Avenues Clinic last month.
• The defence lawyer says should the State confirm Mukoko’s grave medical condition they must recommend to the Zimbabwe Prisons Service (ZPS) to take her to the Avenues Clinic even before the next remand date is set.
• Magistrate Takundwa remands Mukoko and Chinanzvavana and Others in absentia to Wednesday 11 February 2009.
• In the matter between Emmanuel Chinanzvavana and Others v. The State Muchadehama tells the Magistrate that Fidelis Chiramba who is exhibiting evidence of congestive cardiac failure secondary to sever hypertension and who had been taken for urgent medical examination at the Avenues Clinic last Friday 06 February 2009 was abruptly taken back to Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
• The defence lawyer says he wants the Magistrate to order prison officials to take Chiramba back to the Avenues Clinic to be accorded medical assessment and treatment.
• Just like in Mukoko’s case Ziyambi tells the Magistrate that the State intends to verify the medical condition of Chiramba and “the outcome of the verification is what map the way forward.”
• Takundwa remands the accused persons in absentia to Wednesday 11 February 2009 with the consent of both the State and the defence attorneys.
• In the matter between Kisimusi Dhlamini and Others Muchadehama complains that the court has not been appraised by the State of the outcome of the investigations.
• Muchadehama tells the Magistrate of the worrying medical conditions of Kisimusi Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa who were taken away last Friday 06 February 2009 by prison officials in the middle of a medical examination and without any regard to the medical conditions of accused persons.
• Muchadehama tells the Court that the defence team wants the State to consider the inhuman treatment of the political prisoners and to seek an explanation from the prison officials on why they decided to defy Court orders by removing prisoners from the Avenues Clinic so that the process partially undertaken by the doctors at the Avenues Clinic can be resumed without interference.
• Muchadehama also asks why the State has not furnished the court with a report on the investigations into torture allegations, which were ordered by the Magistrate Court and another investigation into the case, which was ordered by High Court Judge Justice Karwi.
• The defence lawyer asks the accused persons to be provided with a trial date and indicates that he will also make an application of recusal of further remand.
• Ziyambi intervenes saying the police have actually complied with Justice Karwi’s order and a docket was submitted to the Attorney General’s Office last Friday in compliance with the High Court order.
• Ziyambi also states that the AG’s Office is yet to peruse through the docket to ascertain whether the investigations have been completed.
• The State’s lead prosecutor hints that if a trial date is to be given it would be in the second term of the legal year, around May 2009 because the first term of the legal year is already full.
• Regarding the High Court order granted by Karwi in January with the consent of the State, Ziyambi contends that the High Court order doesn’t reflect what the State had consented to. She says the State realized an anomaly upon perusal of the High Court order, which took them long to access.
• Ziyambi says the High Court order which is to the effect that, “Whatever the doctor says must be adhered to” is very ambiguous and too wide.
• She states that the State has not had sight of the medical affidavits of the doctors who examined the accused persons and will seek to verify allegations that prison officials denied the accused persons access to treatment.
• With regard to investigations into the torture allegations, which were ordered by the Magistrate Court, Ziyambi says the request has been relayed to the police and the State is still waiting for a response from the police and will furnish the court once a report is received.
• Defence lawyer Muchadehama argues that the State should now be ready with a trial date considering that State lawyers have indicated that the docket is now complete and also bearing in mind that the accused persons have been in State custody and remand custody for more than two months.
• Ziyambi tells the Magistrate that the State lawyers and the defence lawyers are failing to agree on a date for further remand on dates such as Wednesday 11 February 2009 and Friday 13 February 2009 as the AG’s office is severely constrained with a critical shortage of law officers.
• Muchadehama grudgingly assents to a postponement of remand proceedings to Monday 16 February 2009.
• Takundwa defers remand proceedings to Monday 16 February 2009 and orders the State to;
i. submit a report regarding investigations into allegations of torture raised by the accused.
ii. furnish the Court on the progress of investigations of their case.
iii. adhere to High Court Judge Justice Karwi’s order allowing for the accused persons to be granted medical examination and treatment.
iv. present a report by the Chief Prisons Officer stating the reasons why prison officials are interrupting the medical examinations and treatment of the accused.