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Zimbabwe Dec inflation hits record 66,212.3 pct


Thu 14 Feb 2008, 11:41 GMT

HARARE, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's annualised inflation rate rose to a
record 66,212.3 percent in December, dealing another blow to President
Robert Mugabe's efforts to pull the once prosperous African nation's economy
out of a deep crisis.

Mugabe has made the battle against inflation the cornerstone of his
government's effort to reverse an economic slide that many people blame on
mismanagement and his controversial policies, including seizures of
white-owned farms.

"The year-on-year inflation rate for the month of December, as measured by
the all items Consumer Price Index, stood at 66,212.3 percent, gaining
39,741.5 percentage points on the November rate of 26,470.8 percent,"
Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office said in a statement on Thursday.

Month-on-month inflation also rose to 240.1 percent in December from 131.4
percent in November, the CSO said.

The data was another sign that a government-ordered price freeze in June had
failed to halt runaway price increases. Zimbabwe is struggling with rising
poverty, unemployment of about 80 percent and chronic food and fuel

Mugabe, who blames the problems on sabotage by Western nations opposed to
his rule, is running for another term as president in elections on March 29
. (Reporting by Nelson Banya; editing by Paul Simao and David Stamp)

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Bush: Zimbabwe's Mugabe is "discredited dictator"


Thu 14 Feb 2008, 17:13 GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush assailed Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe Thursday as a "discredited dictator," sharpening his criticism of one
of Africa's most stridently anti-American leaders on the eve of a trip to
the continent.

Bush, in a wide-ranging speech on U.S. Africa policy before leaving Friday
on a five-nation tour, expressed solidarity with "all in Africa who live in
the quiet pain of tyranny."

"In Zimbabwe, a discredited dictator presides over food shortages,
staggering inflation and harsh repression," Bush said.

"America will continue to support freedom in Zimbabwe and I urge neighbors
in the region, including South Africa, to do the same. We look forward to
the hour when this nightmare is over and the people of Zimbabwe regain their
freedom," he added.

At the United Nations in September, Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since
independence from Britain in 1980, accused Bush of "rank hypocrisy" for
lecturing him on human rights and likened the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison to
a concentration camp.

Bush had criticized Zimbabwe's government as "tyrannical" and an "assault on
its people" in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Mugabe, 83, has voiced confidence he will be re-elected by a large margin in
Zimbabwe's March election, despite an economic meltdown blamed on his
government. Opposition politicians have accused him of rigging past

Zimbabwe is gripped by the world's highest inflation rate, surging
unemployment and shortages of fuel and food.

Mugabe accuses Western countries of sabotaging the economy as punishment for
his seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks. (Reporting by
Matt Spetalnick, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

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Elections last chance to save Zimbabwe: Pahad


February 14, 2008, 10:45

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Aziz Pahad, says the forthcoming elections
in Zimbabwe could be the last opportunity for Zimbabweans to save their
country. Pahad says everything possible must be done to ensure free and fair

"I believe the Zimbabweans now have the opportunity to save their country. I
believe it is a very crucial moment, a decisive moment for the Zimbabwean
people. It is a decisive moment for the economic situation and for stability
in the whole region. We must all do everything that we can to ensure that
the elections are free and fair."

Meanwhile Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, says it will be
impossible to have free and fair elections next month. He has reacted after
Zimbabwe's Former Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, reiterated that he would
contest next month's election as an independent candidate.

"We have always emphasised that the forthcoming election cannot be free and
fair, that is why the SADC initiative was a ray of hope for creating those
conditions. Unfortunately this has not come to pass so the same conditions
of Mugabe running the election according to his rules will apply."

Tsvangirai also says that President Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts in
Zimbabwe have completely failed.

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Is Mugabe facing any real threats?


    February 14 2008 at 12:09PM

By Cris Chinaka

Harare - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is facing the most serious
challenge to his 28-year rule as candidates including his own former finance
minister register on Friday for a March 29 general election.

Detractors accuse Mugabe of destroying the economy of this
once-prosperous country and rigging the last three major elections. But the
divided opposition has failed to mount a serious challenge to the veteran
leader, while the ruling Zanu-PF party has so far maintained a united front.

That could change this year, with former ruling party stalwart Simba
Makoni entering the race - the first challenge to emerge from Zanu-PF ranks
for two decades.

Makoni, who was expelled from the party for announcing his candidacy,
is an economic reformer seen by some as a potential successor to Mugabe, but
others call him a political lightweight without broad support.

"His success depends on those political structures who are said to
back him and whether they come out to declare their allegiance to him," said
Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of

"Normally this kind of (economic) situation would condemn any
government into the dustbin, but unfortunately the opposition is not healthy
enough to overcome the repressive environment for its own victory."

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa's most promising economies, but is now
mired in a deep economic crisis marked by rising poverty, unemployment and
chronic food and fuel shortages. Inflation is above 26 000 percent, the
highest rate in the world.

Critics say Mugabe, who turns 84 this month, has maintained a tight
grip on power through a combination of ruthless security crackdowns and an
elaborate patronage system that rewards those loyal to his government.
Supporters revere him as an independence-era hero who fights for the rights
of his people.

The increasingly crowded field - which also includes leaders of two
factions of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC)- represents an unprecedented test for one of Africa's longest-serving

Unable to agree on a single candidate, both MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, head of a breakaway faction of the MDC,
will register as candidates.

Unlike the split MDC, Makoni says he enjoys wide backing from party
officials across the country, and could attract votes from both opposition
and government supporters eager for change.

Local media reports say Makoni enjoys the support of former army
general Solomon Mujuru and other retired military officers. Mujuru's wife is
one of Mugabe's vice-presidents.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is seeking
another five-year term after brushing off attempts from Makoni's allies to
force him into retirement.

The Zimbabwean leader dismisses his opponents as puppets of Western
powers that are opposed to his policies, most notably the seizure of
thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.

The land redistribution programme has coincided with a sharp drop in
agricultural production in the country, forcing Mugabe's government to
import maize, a key staple in southern Africa.

Mugabe recently announced plans to force foreign-owned companies to
give Zimbabweans majority control of mines, banks and other assets, a move
that has rattled the overseas investors who remain in the country.

The MDC, for its part, has softened its tone, leaving Mugabe with room
to manoeuvre.

"It is true that this time around, as we head into these elections,
nobody is seriously talking about or expecting an MDC victory, and that's
because it looks unrealistic," said Lovemore Madhuku of the National
Constitutional Assembly interest group.

"The reality is that the political ground is not even for an
opposition victory, although the economy is in such shambles that such a
victory should be guaranteed."

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Lekota doubts Zim election


    February 14 2008 at 09:18AM

By Deon de Lange, Basildon Peta and Sapa

Much still needs to be done to create the conditions for a free and
fair election in Zimbabwe, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has said,
contradicting President Thabo Mbeki's assurances that it was all systems go.

Briefing journalists in parliament on Wednesday, Lekota said it was
"vital" for members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to
ensure the organ's own guidelines and principles for free elections are "in
place" before Zimbabweans go to the polls in March.

This came as Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged
Mbeki to show some courage by criticising President Robert Mugabe publicly
and former finance minister Simba Makoni pledged to heal the wounds of
Zimbabwe as he unveiled his manifesto for next month's election battle.

Tsvangirai, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Association in
Johannesburg on Wednesday, said Mbeki's mediation had failed, largely
because of Mugabe's intransigence.

"The talks mediated by President Mbeki have not succeeded because
Mugabe has not played ball. He (Mugabe) has hampered the process."

Referring to Mbeki's recent comments that all "substantive" issues
between the ruling Zanu-PF and the two opposition MDC factions had been
settled - thus paving the way for free and fair elections - Lekota said
Mbeki was expressing "the hope" that these conditions would be met in time.

"I mean the president said he believes it will be like that, but that
is different from saying we have to make preparations for those conditions
to be there. Unless we prepare such that the requisite conditions are there
before the holding of elections, then that hope of the president will not
eventuate," he said.

"What is vital is that SADC, as a community of nations, must play the
role prescribed by those guidelines and principles to ensure that when the
moment arrives for the holding of the elections, the conditions required for
such elections are in play," he added.

Tsvangirai said that although the main objective of the SADC-backed
mediation was to ensure that next month's elections are free and fair, the
elections would be contested under the same controversial conditions that
existed in the past.

It was high time that Mbeki abandoned his policy of not publicly
criticising the Zimbabwean leader in favour of demonstrating some courage in
dealing with him.

"He (Mbeki) can break his policy of quiet support for the dictatorship
in Zimbabwe and add his voice to those demanding free and fair elections in
Zimbabwe," said Tsvangirai.

He added that Mbeki did not face the risks that the opposition in
Zimbabwe endured daily like beatings, torture, teargas and routine arrests.

"He (Mbeki) won't be charged with treason, he won't see his supporters
killed (if he criticises Mugabe)," he said.

"Only a little courage is required. The courage to speak the
unpleasant truth, the courage to see what is before him," said the
opposition leader.

Tsvangirai's remarks differed sharply from the rosy picture painted by
Mbeki of his mediation in his State of the Nation address and in an
interview with Independent Newspapers.

Denying that the talks had failed, Mbeki accused MDC leaders of
dishonesty and lying. Mbeki said the agenda agreed to had been discussed and
agreement reached on 100 percent of the issues. The only sticking point had
been procedural matters on implementation of the agreed changes.

"Where is the failure? Ask them. Tell me where (the failure is)? They
(MDC) can't answer the question because they are lying. It is dishonest."

Mbeki also challenged the MDC's view that the elections could not be
free and fair. "If this was the case, why are they bothering to participate?
Mbeki asked.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Times on
February 14, 2008

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Registration and verification of voters’ roll ends one day early

By Tichaona Sibanda
14 February 2008-

There was confusion at most voter registration and verification centres when
people rushing to make last minute checks were told the exercise finished on

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said the exercise ended at 7pm
Wednesday despite notices in the official state media that it was going to
end Thursday.

According to Muchemwa, hundreds of people have lodged complaints to the
Zimbabwe Election Commission after discovering their names had either been
deleted or omitted from the voters roll, after registering last year.

‘There were a lot of angry people at these registration centres Thursday
wanting to beat the deadline but were shocked to hear the exercise was
called off a day early. People are already suspecting something is amiss
with the whole exercise because they are never told the truth about the
voters roll,’ Muchemwa said.
All eyes will now be on the nomination courts that are expected to sit from
10am to 4pm Friday. All parliamentary, senatorial and urban council
candidates standing in next month’s elections are expected to register their
nomination papers in their respective regions. It will cost each candidate
Z$100 million to file their papers.

Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, Independent
Simba Makoni and possibly Arthur Mutambara from the other MDC faction, will
also be filing their papers for the presidential race. Other parties that
have sprung up in the last three months are also expected to field
presidential candidates.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Students beaten and arrested at demos in Harare and Bulawayo

By Tererai Karimakwenda
14 February, 2008

Riot police are reported to have used violence to break up peaceful
demonstrations by students in Bulawayo and Harare on Wednesday. Several
student leaders, who were briefly detained in both cities, say they were
brutalised by police while in custody. The group detained in Bulawayo
included Privilege Mutanga, the ZINASU Gender and Human Rights Secretary,
who is 9 months pregnant. She suffered a broken hand and a twisted ankle
during the assaults and was rushed to Harare for treatment on Thursday. The
arrested students in both cities were released after paying admission of
guilt fines of Z$40,000 each.

We got details of both incidents from ZINASU Secretary General Lovemore
Chinoputsa, who said close to 200 students took part in the demonstration in
Bulawayo before riot police disrupted the peaceful event and arrested 20
students, after severe beatings.

Among them were the ZINASU President Clever Bere and NUST Secretary General
Isheunesu Nyoni. They were taken to Bulawayo Central where Chinoputsa said
the assaults continued. Very disturbingly he said that three of the arrested
students were forced to perform sexual acts and then soaked in cold water.

About 120 students participated in the Harare demonstration. They intended
to march through town to the Ministry of Higher Education where they were to
deliver a petition demanding a conclusion to the SADC-initiated talks, free
and fair elections and media freedoms, among other things.

According to Chinoputsa, a truckload of riot police appeared while they were
negotiating with 3 police officers they had met in the town centre. The
students were beaten severely. Chinoputsa was detained along with University
of Zimbabwe Secretary for Legal and Academic Affairs, Fortune Chamba and
Former UZ student leader Sambulo Matema.
Information and Publicity Secretary Blessing Vava and 5 other students were
beaten but not arrested. Detained students were assaulted by agents from the
Law and Order Division.

ZINASU released a statement which said in part: “The violent retaliation by
the regime is a pure reflection of the growing political mayhem as Zimbabwe
approaches the March presidential, parliamentary and local government
elections and clear evidence that the regime is not prepared to afford
democratic space for free participation to all.”

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Information minister dismisses media report

14th Feb 2008 13:19 GMT

By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri

HARARE has dismissed the report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which
raises concerns of the safety of journalists in the country ahead of the
next month’s harmonised elections.

The world media freedom watchdog released its 2008 annual report on
Wednesday saying Zimbabwe was one of the countries to hold elections between
now and next month where journalists were likely to experience physical
attacks during elections.

"The same thing (repression in Iran, Pakistan and Russia) is happening in
Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe, in power for nearly 30 years, now
faces a divided ruling party. The party leadership vote at the end of March
is likely to see protest marches during which demonstrators, photographers
and cameramen will fall foul of the regime’s various forces of “law and
order” in the streets of Harare,” said RSF.

But Sikhanyiso Ndlovu the government spokesperson said the report was false.

"I will not even bother to give it credence to by commenting,” said Ndlovu.
“The campaigns have been peaceful so far so I do not see where that report
comes in. I can’t comment because I cannot predict the future unlike them
(RSF) who can prophesy.”
Foster Dongozi, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary-general said
while it was still difficult to comment on the report, he said he could not
rule out attacks on journalists covering the March 29 elections.
”Over the years we have noted that there seem to be high level of
intolerance which has left journalists exposed to violence and the March
election might not be an exception,” said Dongozi.
In the Africa report section, President Robert Mugabe and his counterparts
in Eritrea, DR Congo, Somalia, Djibouti, Gambia, Rwanda and Equatorial
Guinea, in the category of ‘habitual predators’ of media freedom.
”In Zimbabwe and Gambia, presidents Mugabe and Yahya Jammeh have not
released the stranglehold of their intelligence services on an independent
press which has been left injured and humiliated,” said Léonard Vincent RSF
Africa desk head.
Vincent raised concern over the involvement of the Chinese government in the
communication industry in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular.
”It is Chinese technicians who scramble the signals of opposition radios in
Zimbabwe,” said Vincent.
RSF said it was worried about the continued accusation by Harare that
journalists were spying on behalf of the West.
Vincent said: “How many African journalists or foreign reporters have been
accused of being British spies in Zimbabwe? We would be wrong not to take
these insinuations seriously.”

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'Unruly' Zanu-PF MP charged


14/02/2008 13:01  - (SA)

Harare - A parliamentarian for Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF has appeared in
court - charged with leading supporters in a riotous protest brandishing a
gun, a state daily has reported.

The Herald said Isaiah Shumba, a former deputy education minister, was
released on bail by a magistrate in southeastern Masvingo on Wednesday.
Twelve backers arrested with him were freed.

Shumba was charged with inciting public violence at a rally last week after
his defeat by a rival in party primary polls.

"It was further alleged that the former deputy minister was carrying a 303
rifle loaded with five rounds, which he waved in the air while his
supporters ran around the business centre (where the rally was held)," said
the paper.

Shumba was among several ruling party heavyweights defeated in primaries for
next month's parliamentary polls in what analysts had interpreted as a
no-confidence vote in veteran leader Robert Mugabe and his lieutenants.

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Regime Change Prospects Slim in Zimbabwe


[Opinion] Zanu PF is a mature institution that calls for serious

Ntungamili Nkomo

     Published 2008-02-14 15:04 (KST)

The deepening socio-political and economic crises currently bedeviling
Zimbabwe must, under normal circumstances, push all concerned citizens to
cast their ballots against the ruling Zanu PF party in the March 29
elections and give the country a chance of renewal and reconstruction under
a new democratic, people-oriented regime.

Once revered as a beacon of hope for the African continent, Zimbabwe is
presently teetering on the verge of virtual collapse with acute food
shortages threatening 4 million people with hunger and starvation, 80
percent unemployment and a galloping inflation -- the highest in the
world -- of over 150,000 percent, according to latest estimates by the
International Monetary Fund.

Life expectancy has plummeted to 34 years for women and 37 years for men.
Poverty levels are extraordinarily high with more than 50 percent of the
population subsisting on less than US$1 per day. The Aids pandemic is
claiming more than 3,000 lives each week. Anti-retroviral drugs are either
unavailable in government-run hospitals or are ridiculously overpriced on
the parallel market.

Human rights violations and political persecution on the increase

Electricity blackouts have become common place as authorities battle to
raise foreign exchange to purchase power from neighboring Mozambique and the
Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite incessant rains currently pounding the
country, engendering floods in some areas, water shortages in urban areas
are routine. The reason is that government has no foreign currency to buy
water treating chemicals.

The educational sector has crumbled like a deck of playing cards, with
teachers quitting their jobs in droves for better paying opportunities in
countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. According to the
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, one of the two unions representing
teachers in the country, 25,000 teachers left their jobs in 2007 over poor
salaries. At the moment, the sector is in limbo because educators are on
strike, demanding a basic monthly salary of Z$1.7 billion.

The health sector is not faring any better. In blunt terms, it is dead;
literally dead. There are no therapeutic drugs in hospitals, and as a result
many people who cannot afford to seek treatment at privately owned
institutions are dying silently, but painfully in their homes. Instead of
being corridors of life, government health institutions have become death

The cost of living is absurdly high, yet salaries are solidly stagnant and
unproportionally low compared with the cost of living. There are shortages
of basic commodities such as the staple cornmeal, cooking oil and bread.

Hunger is horrifying and disease is devastating. The list is as endless as
the universe

Given all the suffering, impoverishment and social decay that President
Robert Mugabe's regime has visited upon this once beautiful nation -- now
shunned and scorned around the globe -- it goes without saying that the
majority of people are vying for change in Zimbabwe and will go out and vote
Mugabe outcome March 29. Yet this seems unlikely given the circumstances.
This is a desire which looks as far away as the northern star and as elusive
as it has always been before.

To start with, while there is a growing cacophony of dissenting voices
against the Mugabe administration, it is worth noting that the veteran
leader still commands a large number of followers and is still in control of
all the government institutions and machinery that he has exploited before
to win elections and retain power.

Opposition forces have accused him of rigging elections, and since he is
still the incumbent, there is no guarantee he will not re-visit those
rigging tactics and methods he has explored and manipulated to triumph

So, while opposition politicians may be upbeat about their prospects in this
election, they surely should be circumspect. They should not undermine
President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party on the basis that his failure to
revive the economy and create jobs for the people will be the most undoing
factor for him, and they should not be blinded by the ambiguous impression
that the economic hardships bedeviling the country will push people to vote
Mugabe out of power.

The opposition should keep in mind the fact that if for sure President
Mugabe has rigged elections before, he can do the same this time around
since there has not been any substantial, sweeping political reforms that
guarantee a free and fair election.

Polls by nongovernmental organisations have revealed that many people,
albeit fed up with President Mugabe's rule, were not eager to vote for the
simple reason that they have voted before and yet the change they have
yearned for remained far-fetched. This is a plus for the Mugabe
administration. Others have failed to register because of certain, unclear

Human rights groups also warn there will be violence perpetrated by ruling
party supporters in this election, and as has always been the norm, there
will be voter intimidation.

Many have lost confidence in the country's electoral processes, and it is
incumbent upon the opposition to court such people and win their hearts in
the remaining 44 days before the joint presidential and parliamentary polls.

I presume history has taught the opposition politicians that in Zanu PF,
they are dealing with a juggernaut led by politically astute and cunning
politicians who will do anything ranging from violence to intimidation of
voters to retain power.

Efforts to unseat President Mugabe have dismally failed before, and one
would think the only sensible thing for the opposition to do is to form a
loose coalition that will rally behind a single Presidential candidate to
tackle the veteran politician, the only person who has ruled Zimbabwe since
the country's independence from Britain 28 years ago. He turns 84, this

However indications at the moment are that opposition parties will contest
the elections separately. Leaders of the splintered main opposition, the MDC
have said they will go their own ways after failing to re-unite. On the
fringes, several political parties have also surfaced. A renegade, former
finance minister, Simba Makoni, who was sacked by the ruling Zanu PF last
week after revealing his presidential ambitions, today officially launched
his campaign, declaring he would contest as an independent candidate. The
opposition vote is diametrically divided.

The polarization that characterizes the opposition front will most
definitely reduce chances of overcoming President Mugabe. For as long as
there is no common purpose amongst those who feel its time they relieved
Zanu PF of the rods of power, the former guerilla leader is headed for
another resounding victory -- either by hook or crook -- and change will
remain a pipe dream for the suffering and struggling Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe needs much more mature and selfless leaders to pursue the nation's
cause vigorously towards revival. Surely the nation cannot afford to slide
any further.

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Makoni Promises Reconciliation As One Cure for Zimbabwe's Problems


By James Butty
Washington, D.C.
14 February 2008

Former Zimbabwe finance minister Simba Makoni has been providing more
details about his decision to run as an independent against President Robert
Mugabe in next month’s general elections. He says he has a better chance of
winning the March 29th election than either President Mugabe or opposition
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Makoni told VOA that the secret to his possible victory is that unlike the
other candidates, he is offering compromise and unity through what he called
national re-engagement.

“The reason I have decided to run for the people of Zimbabwe is that I
believe our country needs change in leadership in order to provide the basis
for resolving the problems confronting us. I personally don’t hope to bring
about that change. But I hope to participate with those who share the way I
believe we can solve our problems to bring about that change. And the main
platform for bringing about that change is what I call national
re-engagement, providing a framework, an environment, and the mechanism or
mechanisms that enable the people of Zimbabwe to work together again to
solve their problems,” he said.

Makoni who has been kicked out of the ruling ZANU-PF party, said he is
entering the race as an independent and does not intend to enter into an
alliance with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"I’m offering myself directly to the Zimbabwean electorate. The good thing
about our electorate system, and there are not a lot of good things at the
moment, but one good thing is that the president is elected by the whole
country directly. And so I am offering myself to the whole electorate for
the people who can vote to vote me directly. And I believe that’s where my
support will come from,” Makoni said.

But with an already fractious opposition MDC, Makoni said his entering the
race does not mean the automatic re-election of President Mugabe. In fact he
said he stands the best chance of being elected president.

“I think theoretically analytically that is possible. But if you read, feel
and understand the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe at the moment, the
people are seeking leadership at the highest office that will enable a
national process to be engaged in order to solve the country’s problems. And
I believe that of the three people who are so far announcing to run for
president, which is the sitting president Mr. Mugabe, myself and Mr. Morgan
Tsvangirai, the choice of the people there is not difficult to make,” he

With Zimbabwe’s economy battered and an inflation rate of about 26,000
percent, Makoni said Zimbabwe’s problems are a result of people not working

“I think I need to underline that much as we face a Herculean task, and I
will not deny that, much of what we see are symptoms of the underlying
problems of Zimbabweans not working together, the disjointed, the polarized
or the tense relationships within the nation. And I am proposing that the
first cure for all our ills is a national healing, national reconciliation,
enabling the people to connect again, to re-engage, and that once they
connect again, the can offer themselves the mechanisms, with the help their
friends naturally, to deal with hyper-inflation, fuel crisis, and power
shortages and food crisis,” Makoni said.

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Simba Makoni is an overrated opportunist – opinion piece

by Benjamin Chitate

14 February 2008

The entry of Simba Makoni into the Presidential race has received mixed
views. Some see him as the saviour, some see him as a strategy by Mugabe to
reduce the MDC vote in the urban areas, while some see him as an

His credentials as a saviour are questionable. Simba has been in influential
positions both in Zimbabwe and within the region, but has never produced any
convincing results. Simba was a minister in Mugabe’s government in 1980,
some twenty eight years ago. His stay in government was cut short after he
was appointed Executive Secretary for SADC, a very influential position. He
never molded SADC into a vibrant body. The circumstances under which he left
SADC have never been explained, but rumour has it that he left the regional
body as a result of failure to produce any tangible results.

Upon his return from Zimbabwe, Simba was appointed Chief Executive Officer
at Zimpapers, a publishing group which runs several pro-government
newspapers. His contribution did not improve that company’s fortunes.

Some have described Simba as a wealthy businessman. Very little is known
about his business empire. He could be wealthy as reported by some because
he was paid handsomely as Chief Executive Officer of SADC, and soon after
that joined Government. I have heard unofficial reports from a senior
manager at the CBZ, a commercial bank in Zimbabwe, that Simba was involved
in buying foreign currency at official rates at the CBZ, and selling the
same foreign currency to the same bank during his last ministerial role.

Simba may have won a lot of admiration for “his” decision to devalue the
Zimbabwean dollar. I call it “his” decision because it wasn’t his decision.
Simba Makoni is not an economist by the way – he was simply communicating
advice given by the economists employed in the Ministry of Finance. And what
did he do – he betrayed these economists by chickening out of the argument.
He failed not only the economists, but the entire nation by being spineless
when it mattered most.

Zimbabwe introduced an Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in the mid
1990s. Simba Makoni was there when ESAP was introduced by the late Bernard
Chidzero, then in charge of the Ministry of Economic Development. I can’t
remember whether Simba was at SADC at that time, but all the same, as head
of a regional institution, he was supposed to advise Government of Zimbabwe
against ESAP. Among the notable people who advised against ESAP is none
other than Morgan Tsvangirai. TTsvangirai’s critics must read “Beyond ESAP”
a book published by the ZCTU to understand his vision of the economy and
land. Simba Makoni speak a word against ESAP.

Those who think he has the answer to Zimbabwe’s problems are simply
overrating him. He has nothing new to offer. Everything he has said so far,
including his economic solutions, has been said already by Morgan
Tsvangirai. He appears to be copying from Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. I have
just read reports from a press conference at which Simba Makoni talked about
his priorities when he gets to power, but he wasn’t as detailed as Morgan
Tsvangirai has done on the same issues.

Now let me try to list some of Morgan Tsvangirai’s many achievements.

Morgan galvanized the ZCTU into a modern and vibrant labour organization.
Most people may be of the mistaken view that ZCTU was only popular for
street protests. I have already referred to Morgan Tsvangirai’s position on
ESAP. Through Morgan Tsvangirai’s hard work, ZCTU established what became an
enviable regional resource centre for labour issues. This demonstrates
Morgan’s vision for information as a tool for decision making.

Because of his leadership abilities, Morgan was elected as Chairperson for
the National Constitutional Assembly, where he lead a team of enthusiastic
academics, trade unionists, students, workers and the general populace to
defeating Mugabe in the constitutional vote of 2000. Mugabe had wanted to
impose a constitution that did not reflect the wishes of the people of

An avid reader, Morgan qualified for a post-Graduate diploma in Governance
at the Harvard University. He is one of a few Zimbabwean politicians holding
such a qualification.

Simba Makoni’s bid to run for presidency is not his personal idea, but he
seems to have been pushed into the race by retired army generals who are
beginning to feel the pinch of the Zanu PF manufactured economic decline. As
correctly observed by Patrick Laurence in a media story, these Generals are
more worried about their waning business fortunes should Mugabe remain
president. “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”.

Other former army chiefs pushing Makoni into the race are retired army
general Vitalis Zvinavashe and retired Major Mbudzi. Towards the 2002
Presidential elections, Vitalis Zvinavashe made a startling statement that
he would not support a person with no liberation war credentials. Reading
Makoni's CV, I did not see where mention is made of him having fought in the
war of liberation. Probably that was the time in the UK studying, perhaps
through sponsorship sourced by Zanu?

There is nothing wrong at all for Simba or anyone else to to run for
Presidency even if they did not participate in the war of liberation at all,
but Simba may only need to beware of the people who are trying to push him
to the throne.

Zimbabweans still await a satisfactory explanation from Zvinavashe. Equally,
Simba Makoni, as a presidential hopeful, must convince the people of
Zimbabwe that these are the kind of people he associates with; that these
are the kinds of voices he has listened to decide to run for Presidency.

Makoni’s other greatest undoing are his comments on the skewed delimitation
exercise which reorganized the parliamentary constituencies to accommodate
the 90 new seats. He celebrated the rigging done by the delimitation
committee by restructuring new constituencies in a way that benefited Zanu
PF. This he said when he was campaigning in Zanu PF’s primary elections as
he had made an agreement with Mugabe that he would stand as a parliamentary
candidate in Makoni Central constituency. It must be against this background
that I hear civic society in Zimbabwe seems to be distancing itself from

Benjamin Chitate

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Zimbabwean newspaper claims Makoni was part of Mbeki plan

By Lance Guma
14 February 2008

The Zimbabwean newspaper has published a story claiming South African
President Thabo Mbeki is supportive of Simba Makoni’s bid to run for
president. Editor Wilf Mbanga said their reporter picked up the story in
South Africa and confirmed it with officials from Mbeki’s government. He
says they have also run it by Makoni’s people, who confirmed Mbeki had hoped
for a change of leadership within Zanu PF at their special congress in
December last year. The paper claims the South African president identified
Makoni as the ideal candidate to pull Zimbabwe out of its mess and was
banking on him forming an alliance with either one or both factions of the
divided opposition MDC. The idea is not new and has commonly been referred
to as the ‘Third Way.’

It’s alleged that the plan was for Makoni to lead the united front and
establish ‘a transitional government of national unity, pending elections
under a new constitution.’ The former finance minister is said to have
pledged his commitment to the arrangement but the game plan flopped when
Mugabe secured a controversial mandate to lead the party into another
election. Mbanga says Mugabe pulled the rug from underneath Mbeki’s feet by
adopting a stubborn and contemptuous stance towards the SADC mediated talks.
He refused to be drawn into blaming Mbeki’s plot as the reason for the
collapse of the talks, but said it contributed to the dynamics of the whole
picture. The Zimbabwean paper maintains Mbeki is still working behind the
scenes to get the two MDC factions to work with Makoni.

Meanwhile the Tsvangirai MDC has welcomed Makoni to the opposition fold by
warning him of the beatings, arrests and torture the opposition are
traditionally subjected to. In an address to the Foreign Press Association
in South Africa Tsvangirai could not resist a dig at the new comer,
reminding him that he knew about their harassment ‘from the safety of the
Zanu Politburo.’ He wished Makoni well in forming a political party but has
already described him as ‘old wine in new bottles.’ The other faction of the
MDC led by Arthur Mutambara seems more amenable to a unity deal with Makoni.
Press reports say the Makoni and Mutambara camps will announce a deal on
Friday that will see Mutambara stepping down from the presidential race in
favour of Makoni. The rocket scientist will instead run for MP in the
Zengeza West constituency.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Makoni must come clean on crucial credentials

New Zimbabwe

By Mary Revesai
Last updated: 02/14/2008 23:35:03
LIKE many other developments in Zimbabwe today, the emergence of Simba
Makoni to challenge Robert Mugabe for the leadership of the country after
almost 28 years of the incumbent’s one-man rule has elicited conflicting
reactions and raised more questions than answers among ordinary people weary
from being constantly beaten down.

The former finance minister’s announcement on Tuesday last week that he was
offering himself to the nation as a presidential candidate at first sounded
like manna from heaven for a nation that was already resigned to the fact
that President Mugabe and Zanu PF would rig the elections and strut back
into power after next month’s polls.

The signs that this would be the most likely scenario were there for all to
see. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was, as usual at
such crucial junctures, in disarray with the two factions failing to
re-unite after bickering over the selection of candidates and allocation of
“safe seats”.

Reports of Zanu PF’s usual dirty tricks were already rife when Makoni did
the unthinkable and stepped forward to announce his intention to challenge
the un-yielding incumbent. The dirty tactics included the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission’s partisan handling of the delimitation exercise to favour the
ruling party, impediments placed in the path of prospective voters wishing
to register and the use of food and other dispensations to buy votes in the
rural areas.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) which identified some of these
abuses reported that in some rural areas, peasants who allocated
agricultural implements and inputs were already being threatened with dire
consequences if the ruling party lost after they had benefited so much from
government largesse.

And as happens in the build-up to all elections, traditional chiefs who had
recently been inundated with vehicles and other benefits were already
declaring their areas to be off limits for the MDC.

Amid these imponderables and more, enter Makoni. It seemed almost too good
to be true but battle weary Zimbabweans were ready to clutch at any straws
and at first Makoni’s move seemed to give a ray of hope that change could at
last be possible. Then Makoni seemed to dampen hopes by insisting he was
still loyal to the ruling party. Although it was announced that Makoni had
been expelled from Zanu PF and he has been cannon fodder in the state media
since his announcement, doubts about what he represents are growing by the

The former Finance Minister has gone to great trouble to prove that he is
his own man and that there are “great many” in the ruling party who are
disillusioned with the way the country is being led. As an admittedly
cynical Zimbabwean, I have waited a week for concrete proof of Makoni’s
utterances and I have not seen any.

Where are the “great many” like-minded people in the ruling party who were
supposed to stand with Makoni? Knowing the kind of rival he is up against,
Makoni and his group should know that it is best to strike while the iron is
hot. Last week’s announcement would have had more credence if all those said
to be standing with former Finance Minister had openly declared their
intentions on that day or had done so since then.

In the absence of any further developments to maintain the momentum of
Makoni’s announcement, speculation of all kinds is creeping in and taking
hold. One version is that although Makoni initially had the backing of some
influential members of President Mugabe’s government, these have
subsequently been called to the carpet by the foxy old man and asked
individually to say where they stand.

Even without believing Margaret Dongo’s observation that most people in Zanu
PF are “Mugabe’s wives”, it is difficult to imagine that many of these
people would stand their ground once put on the spot by their benefactor and
dispenser of patronage.

Makoni himself was reportedly summoned by President Mugabe after the press
had published reports about his plans to break ranks with the ruling party
and challenge Mugabe in the presidential race.

The subsequent lack of momentum and clarity after Makoni’s seemingly bold
move has given rise to suggestions that he too buckled under pressure and
threats when he came face to face with the Dear Leader and agreed to be a
decoy to split the MDC urban vote in return for appointment to a high
position after the elections.

These rumours may seem unfounded and untrue, but in the absence of
convincing explanations and rebuttals in the face of scepticism sparked by
the apparent lack of consolidation of Makoni’s position, with just over a
month to go before the elections, ordinary people cannot decide what to make
of the aspiring president.

Some people say it is difficult to imagine Makoni being used but they only
need to recall how the appointment of Joice Mujuru was proclaimed from the
rooftops as a victory for women and as proof of the government’s commitment
to gender equality. But it has subsequently turned out that Mujuru was used
in 2004 to defuse a situation that would have been more threatening to
Mugabe’s throne.

I refer here to the Tsholotsho group under Emmerson Mnangagwa that had won
the support of a majority of provinces for Mnangagwa to succeed the late
Simon Muzenda as vice president. He would then have only been a breath away
from the top job. Mugabe was prepared to use Mujuru and subsequently
Mnangagwa himself when Mujuru lost favour for aspiring to ascend to the
presidency of Zimbabwe. With political survival his only concern, nothing is
impossible with Zimbabwe’s ruler of the last 28 years.

Street talk is rife in Harare that Makoni may be doing what he is doing at
Mugabe’s behest after being promised the presidency when Mugabe retires.
Far-fetched that theory may be, but not exactly out of the realms of
possibility given Mugabe’s Machiavellian survival antics

What Makoni needs to do to keep the goodwill that he initially won among the
masses because of his courageous move is to come clean about who his allies
in Zanu PF are and how his initiative proposes to proceed. His supposed
allies must be prepared to stand up and be counted.

Makoni has not explained publicly why after seeing the light, he needs to
maintain ties with the discredited and unpopular Zanu PF whose repressive
policies have robbed ordinary people of their freedoms and entitlement to
economic prosperity and security.

He has not explained why the party that has brought the country to its knees
and pauperized the masses deserves his continuing loyalty and allegiance.

Both leaders of the two MDC factions, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur
Mutambara, have said they do not believe there can such a thing as a
reformed wing of a party that has caused such destruction and misery across
the board.

Makoni must respond to questions being raised about his candidature
splitting the opposition vote and defeating the objective of dislodging
Mugabe. The longer he remains cagey on these crucial matters, the more he is
likely to lose and be seen as a spoiler. He cannot have it both ways:
breaking ranks with the ruling party and yearning to remain part of it.

Mary Revesai is a New columnist and writes from Harare

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Challenge the electoral process, not the outcome

New Zimbabwe

By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 02/14/2008 20:50:41
ZIMBABWEANS go to the polls on March 29 to elect a new president, senate and
a new parliament.
The elections, which have been referred to as watershed by many people, come
at a time when the country is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining
independence from Britain in 1980.

There is every reason for millions of voters to look forward to these
elections, especially, the presidential plebiscite, as it accords them the
chance to change the country’s direction.

Amid the anticipation, there are growing fears that the 2008 elections,
being held jointly for the first time, present the sternest challenge to the
country’s electoral body as the electoral process in riddled with many

In the words of a leading lawyer, the electoral process has become a
minefield to navigate for both the voters and the organisations involved in
voters’ education campaigns.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), according to the Electoral Act, is
the management body entrusted with overseeing the conduct of elections and
to direct and control the registration of voters. It is also responsible for
providing voter education.

But the ZEC, in reality, has left the Registrar General’s Office to direct
and control the registration of voters.

Visits to various centres in Harare where voters are inspecting the voters
roll, have revealed that it is officers from Tobaiwa Mudede’s office and
police officers who are stationed at these places.

What presents challenges is the inertia or at worst, the lackadaisical
attitude of the ZEC in announcing and prominently highlighting the new
changes to the electoral system brought by the amendments to the Electoral
Act and the delimitation exercise.

Changes have been made to existing constituencies in the urban areas,
especially in the parliamentary seats.

The introduction of wards, a first in the parliamentary elections, has
presented the electorate with headaches.

Voters in any constituency are now required to vote in their ward as opposed
to any polling station in the same constituency.

What this means is that if there are 10 polling stations in one constituency
but falling out of a demarcated boundary or ward, voters in this
constituency won’t vote as long as their ward is out of range.

Consequently, voters in a ward that might be nearest to a polling station
falling out of the boundary would then be required to go to the nearest
station falling within their ward.

In checking the wards, this writer witnessed that the nearest polling
station within the same ward, as a result of changes, can be found in a new
constituency which is not physically within the old constituency. In most
cases, one is forced to travel from their nearest polling station, to a
polling station that is found in their ward.

This now requires more travel and time.

It’s frustrating!

This is disenfranchising voters!

A clear case is Glen Norah constituency which has now been divided to
overlap into new constituencies – Highfield West, Glen View and Harare

There is no longer Glen Norah constituency but many voters in this area are
not aware of the changes.

What they have done is to check their names on the voters roll but without
being told they now fall into a new constituency and as such are required to
check the ward they will vote from.

Incumbent Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga sent out fliers to voters in her
old constituency this week, advising them of the new changes.

But this is not only a problem in Glen Norah. Many would-be voters in urban
areas face the same problems.

Voting from wards was only used during the council elections.

So, the excitement that has been generated by among things the announcement
by Zanu PF politburo member and former cabinet Minister Simba Makoni, that
he will contest President Robert Mugabe on March 29, might turn into
frustration on election day.

There is need to educate the voters on the changes brought by the
delimitation exercise.

More information is needed on how people will vote in the senatorial
elections as these now include expanded constituencies, in urban areas.

What is surprising and disturbing is that the ZEC has remained silent,
clearly abdicating its role of providing voter education.

It has not publicly explained how it hopes to cope with recruiting new staff
and at the same time run the election without frustrating the process.

The other civic body – the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) - while
it is involved in educating the public about voting, cannot go ahead of the
ZEC as the Act prescribes the conduct of elections.

ZESN efforts are juxtaposed against the duties of the ZEC to conduct voter

Given the problems highlighted here, many Zimbabweans will face difficulties
to cast their votes.

It is sad that political parties are spending time questioning the
legitimacy issues without interrogating the electoral process itself.

When the wooden boxes that would be used in this election as opposed to
translucent boxes, are thrown away after 14 days of the election,
Zimbabweans will cry “votes were rigged”.

It is not rigging that denies them the right outcome, but an irregular and
flawed electoral process such as this one.

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Floods force five Zimbabwe gold mines to halt operations


With gold output for Zimbabwe having tumbled to a meagre 7 tonnes and with
miners facing increased viability constraints, floods have forced at least
five Zimbabwean gold mines to shut down.

Author: Tawanda Karombo
Posted:  Thursday , 14 Feb 2008


Five Zimbabwean gold mines have had to halt operations owing to flooding
amidst safety fears for workers at a time when the country's gold mining
sector has already registered a significant decline in output.

The gold mines that have ceased operations are Metallon's Redwing gold mine
in Zimbabwe's Manicaland region while two others, Gwanda and Vumbatshingwe
gold mines in the Matebeleland region have also shut down as incessant rains
continue to pound the country. Shangani in Matabeleland, one of the
country's largest gold mines,  has also had to close. Another gold mine in
the Great Dyke region is also reported to have shut down.

"Given the situation on the ground, flooding has become a general phenomenon
and given the shortages of spare parts to do the pumping and power cuts,
flooding has caused these mines to shut down," said a chamber official.

The mines are also battling to replace and retain skilled personnel who
"will re-design and tunnel the mines' drainage systems" as most of these and
other expert mine employees have left the country for greener pastures
elsewhere in the region.

The situation - said Mathias Martins, a mine engineering consultant - has
been worsened by the incessant power cuts and outages which have also
reduced production time at the few mines that are still operational.

Zimbabwe's gold miners are battling for survival and some, according to
informed sources in the sector have sent signals to government that their
mines need immediate capital injections if they are to remain viable.

A further drop in gold output could further compound the country's woes as
it already faces the possibility of losing exclusive rights to sell bullion
to international markets.

The local market remains unattractive despite a hike last month of the gold
support price to $100 million per gramme.

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Daily News submits papers to the MIC for operating licence

14th Feb 2008 13:24 GMT

By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri

HARARE - Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) acting chief executive
officer John Gambanga yesterday submitted the company’s application for an
operating licence to the Media and Information Commission (MIC).

”We are now awaiting their response and hopefully something positive comes
up,” said Gambanga.

ANZ, the publishers of the defunct Daily News were asked to re-submit their
application last month by MIC. Many in the country, however, do not believe
the government of Zimbabwe will grant the banned newspaper an operating
licence before the March elections.

The independent newspaper, which soared to dizzy heights surpassing the
ciruculation of state-controlled newspapers, was launched in 1999 under the
leadership of award-winning editor Geoff Nyarota. It's sister newspaper, the
Daily News on Sunday, was also forced to close shop by the government.

The MIC chairman for the ANZ case Chinondinodyachii Mararike has confirmed
receiving the ANZ papers.

”We have finally received the ANZ papers, but I am not in a position to say
when we would be able to get back to them. All I can say is that fairness is
what we promise,” said Mararike.

The government's move to ask the two independent newspapers it had banned to
re-register is being viewed with much scepticism in local media circles.

The Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, both published by the ANZ, were
shut down by the government-controlled MIC in September 2003 after they
failed to register under the controversial Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

The newspapers had been critical of the Zanu PF government. The Daily News
was believed to have the biggest circulation in the country - around
100,000 - when it was closed.

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Bishop Sebastian Bakare on BTH

Broadcast 14 February 2008

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is beset by devilish behaviour, which has
seen ousted Bishop Nolbert Kunonga barricade the cathedral and assault
worshippers who do not support him. This week on Behind the Headlines Lance
Guma speaks to the man who replaced Kunonga. Bishop Sebastian Bakare is the
guest and narrates to the programme how the problems with Kunonga started.
How is the Church of the Province of Central Africa going to deal with a
problem that has resulted in clashes at the cathedral every week?

To listen to programme


Lance Guma
SW Radio Africa

Full broadcast on Shortwave 4880Khz or 7125Khz in the 40 metre band between
5-7pm (GMT) and 24 hours on the internet.

Programme also available on podcast at

For programme schedules visit:

Programmes are available for two weeks on our archives even after broadcast.

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WOZA continues to urge people to stand up for their children in Harare

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
Wednesday 13th February

Following on from the peaceful street protest in Bulawayo yesterday, members
of WOZA and MOZA took to the streets of Harare at lunchtime today, 13th

Approximately 250 members had gathered to start the peaceful protest in
Ruzende Street near Town House when the group was set upon by a truckload of
riot police who threw tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. Several
members were badly beaten with baton sticks by riot and uniformed police
officers after they regrouped.

Leaders called for a further regroup at the Post Office half an hour later.
Approximately 80-100 members managed to start and march peacefully up George
Silundika Avenue. The procession marched past the police post on First
Street, where officers where given red roses and Valentine cards, arriving
at the Herald. At the Herald, the group was addressed by WOZA’s National
Coordinator, Jenni Williams, who announced to great cheers that in a new
Zimbabwe the Herald would cover the fact that police had beaten Zimbabwean
citizens in the street. The group then peacefully dispersed. As they
dispersed, two trucks with over 30 riot police arrived too late to effect
any arrests.

Eleven members required medical attention for injuries sustained by beatings
with baton sticks. In most cases, police continued to beat the women until
they drew blood and one woman required three stitches behind her ear and one
on her arm.

As in Bulawayo, the aim of today’s peaceful protest was to encourage
Zimbabweans to stand up for their children in these times of extreme
hardship and as an election looms. WOZA was formed in 2003 amidst severe
political violence to demonstrate love and courage to all Zimbabweans. In
2008 this motivation is still equally relevant.

Within an hour of the end of the Bulawayo protest, Jenni Williams had
received a phone call from a person identifying herself as being from the
President’s Office (Central Intelligence Organisation) who confirmed having
seen the WOZA protest in Bulawayo.
She asked to meet Williams for an explanation as to what the Valentine’s
theme “stand up for your child”
means. The officer explained that they had heard many things about WOZA and
thought it is important to meet in person and clarify WOZA’s issues so as to
brief the President.

WOZA would like to salute the Zimbabwean men and women who stood up for
their children in Bulawayo and Harare during the last two days. In a time
when Zimbabweans have become accustomed to be on the receiving end of hatred
and violence, these brave individuals have chosen to set an example to their
children of love and courage.

13th February 2008

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A long expensive journey home


I occasionally use a ‘runner’ to buy things I need that are no longer
available to buy in Zimbabwe. A group of us place an order, and the runner
nips across the border to South Africa or Botswana and buys it for us. Fees
vary from runner to runner, but it’s usually about 20% of the value of the
goods (although I have heard of some people paying cheaper rates). Given my
recent first-time experience at paying a bribe, I asked him how runners
fared with their regular cross-border ventures.

He told me when they left South Africa, they made sure they had plenty of
Rands, in small denominations, easily accessible in their pockets. Bribe
payments begin right from the start of their journey. Apparently the South
African police routinely stop the buses and vehicles heading towards the
Zimbabwean border. Lengthy ‘harassment’ (his word) over paperwork or the
amount of goods in the vehicle ensues. The driver does a quick whip around,
and all the passengers chip in a few Rand which is handed over and the
problem goes away.

I had noticed, on a trip I made to South Africa last year, that the police
did seem to be stopping all the vehicles with Zimbabwean number plates and
lots of passengers. My fellow passenger and I assumed this was to do with
the refugee crisis, but neither of us could understand why they would stop
people LEAVING the country. Surely this is what they want to happen if it
was a refugee issue? Now I wonder if we were witnessing bribing on a grand
scale going on.

The runner told me that when the vehicle reached the border post bribing
increased further. If the queues were very long, a bribe helped people to
jump to the front. He pointed out that this is very important if cross
border trading is your job: “Time is money”, he said.

He told me that those passengers travelling on dubious documents faced
heavier bribes than he did to persuade the officials to turn a blind eye.
What was interesting about this nugget of information was his comment that
the border officials - on both sides - wanted Zimbabweans with suspicious
paperwork to leave the country and go back to Zimbabwe. This meant the
bribes paid while leaving the country tended to be ‘reasonable’. I was told
that officials know that the crisis in the country will drive the people
back to South Africa, most likely using the same suspicious paperwork. At
this point the bribes become very steep because the desperate person trying
to find a way back to the land of employment will pay almost anything to get
in: “It is better to get a little money on the way out, so you can make a
lot of money when they return”, he said. “You don’t want those people to be
stuck in South Africa”.

The bribes don’t stop there. Once through the border, the intrepid
Zimbabwean traveller faces endless harassment by the Zimbabwean police: the
runner told me that the police tended to stop all the vehicles laden with
passengers and goods. “What are they after?”, I asked. It turns out the
Zimbabwean police will make passengers slowly unpack their entire
possessions on the side of the road, demand customs clearance payments (even
though they have no mandate to do customs work) and threaten to seize goods.
Again, R10 from each passenger smoothes the way and makes harassment and
hassle disappear. So, to answer ,my question, they are ‘after’ a bribe.

The runner I was talking to took pains to explain to me that this was one of
the reasons why the goods he brought in cost so much more than if they had
been bought in South Africa. He said he could pay as much as R500 in a trip,
through bribes to border officials on both sides, and the police on both
sides. This is a cost passed on to Zimbabwean customers like me.

This entry was written by Hope on Thursday, February 14th, 2008

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History repeats itself

New Statesman

Lucian Msamati

Published 14 February 2008

Brecht's satire on the rise of Hitler is still sharp enough to mock such
21st-century tyrants as Robert Mugabe.

Last September I returned to Zimbabwe for the first time in nearly five
years. My original plan had been to visit friends and family, but shortly
before the trip began, I was invited to collaborate on a "Zimbabwean" take
on Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by David Farr, artistic
director of the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. So my journey home also became a
research trip.
Brecht's darkly comic allegory, written in 1941, charts the rise of Adolf
Hitler, transposing the action to Prohibition-era Chicago. Ui, a gangland
boss, seizes upon uncertainty in the vegetable trade and offers protection
to the "Cauliflower Trust", in the interests of maintaining peace and
stability. In no time at all, he takes over Chicago, crushes opposition and
looks beyond the city limits to expand his "protected" territory.

Throughout the play, Brecht's rage is palpable. His disgust is that of an
individual, possessed of reasonable morality and intellect, watching a
society sleepwalk into the hands of thieves, thugs and opportunists. The
parallels with contemporary Zimbabwe are illuminating: Robert Mugabe's
government has given "veterans" of the liberation war (some of whom were not
even born when independence from Britain was achieved in 1980) the authority
to intimidate an ever-disgruntled populace in the build-up to elections this
March, in much the same way as the Cauliflower Trust gives Ui's gang free
rein over the streets of Chicago. The treason trial of the opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai, in which the "star" prosecution witness, Ari Ben-Menashe,
was exposed as a government stooge, echoed the warehouse fire trial in which
Ui's malcontents condemn an innocent man in order to legitimise their reign
of terror.

On the journey back to Zimbabwe, my insides felt like the spin cycle on an
industrial-sized tumble dryer. I believe myself to be a man of considered
and rational temperament, but a steady diet of CNN and BBC exposés (largely
conducted from across the border in Johannesburg), combined with
indecipherable missives from loved ones, had led me to expect a living
vision of hell. I am from a generation of Zimbabweans who had the world at
our feet: economic growth, education and ambition. The rate of decline in
recent years is all the more painful for us.

Yet when I arrived, it seemed that nothing had changed. The airport ground
crew, resplendent in their greasy fluorescents, still carried themselves
with that haughty air of Karanga superiority. The arrivals hall was as I
remembered it: a lone police officer, menacingly silent; the ubiquitous
portrait of You-Know-Who hanging above. To portray such elements on a stage
always feels false to me: as if every waking moment were accompanied by a
tragic Greek lament. The truth is that, in today's Zimbabwe, the sun still
shines and everyone appears to go about their business in that
characteristically laid-back, firm-handed, dignified way.

The changes are more subtle. Harare Airport is no longer the hive of
international travel it once was. The duty-free shops are all but empty. On
the drive into the city, the once-cacophonous metropolitan hum of traffic
has diminished to barely a whisper. Look closer still and you see that the
vleis (open fields by the side of the road) are overgrown, almost consuming
the urban spread. Everything feels hollow and drained. To talk about
politics seems futile, compared to the search for the next meal and the next

In these circumstances, my loved ones cobbled together a veritable feast in
honour of my return, but despite the laughter and the joy, I was left with a
sense of impotent rage. It was the same fury and fear that had accompanied
my departure a few years earlier. Perhaps Zimbabwe is a living embodiment of
the Theatre of the Absurd.

I realise now that it would be far too easy to don a toothbrush moustache,
riff on the obvious similarities between two self-styled demagogues and be
satisfied with that. It would be easy to turn our production into a worthy
protest piece, but Arturo Ui is a parable, and to make it anything else
would be to do the play and ourselves a disservice. Our take on Arturo Ui
refers to elements of life in urban Africa, but it avoids being too
specific, so that the parallels and echoes resonate beyond the strictures of
a particular regime, individual or historical era.

Zimbabwe may be foremost in our thoughts, but the message doesn't stop
there. At one point, Ui reinvents himself in order to appear as "the little
man's image of his master". This calls to mind the spin-doctored, photo-op
politicking of Tony Blair and George W Bush: anything to maintain an image
of stability and fraternity.

Years ago, world leaders said: "Never again." I only hope that we can place
a gentle reminder in the ether that the battle against tyranny is far from
over; that corruption and totalitarianism are as rampant now as they ever
were; and that whatever our language, colour or creed, we are still
incapable of seeing the suffering of others as our own. And maybe we'd also
like to lampoon a few old friends along the way.

"The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui", starring Lucian Msamati, is at the Lyric
Hammersmith, London W6, from 14 February to 15 March. For bookings and
further details, log on to:

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Economic Hard Times Makes for a Frugal Valentines Day in Zimbabwe


By Netsai Mlilo
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
14 February 2008

Financial constraints and political tensions have prevented Cupid's arrows
from reaching some hearts of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo.
Several lovebirds blame their empty wallets for their inability to fully
express their affections. Others say they are too anxious about the
forthcoming national elections to spend time worrying about Valentine's Day,
but a few romantics are determined to make the day special. Netsai Mlilo has
the story.

Celebrating love has not caught on among several Bulawayo consumers. Some,
like Malvern Nawa (who works as a clerk at a non-governmental organisation)
say financial hardships made it impossible for them to enjoy Valentine's

"I think it's unfair for us Zimbabweans," says Nawa," especially the guys
because you're meant to be the man and you're meant to be able to show these
things. Well, apparently you can't be a man in Zimbabwe, so I think it's

Nawa adds he's been spared the hassle of planning something special for his
girlfriend, as she is away studying in Namibia.

At the same time Rodrick Fayayo says he's off the hook too as it's Leap
Year, meaning it's now up to his other half to treat him. He says he's
looking forward to being spoiled.

"On Valentine's Day, actually it's my wife who is taking me out she has
promised to take me out. It's supposed to be a surprise so up to now I don't
know what she is going to do for me," he says.

But political activist Zenzele Ndebele explains he's put Valentine's Day
celebrations on hold because he doesn't have money to do anything special
for his girlfriend. That's not the only reason, however. Ndebele says he's
is concentrating on encouraging youths to go out and vote in next month's

"What I can say to young people is 'can you for this year stop this
Valentines business and go and check your names that you registered and on
the 29th of March, go and vote. And, then you can have Valentines every day,
because you will be having money in your pocket.' "

Ndebele adds recurring blackouts have taken the novelty out of candlelit
dinners, as he uses candles during most evenings.

But Shamiso Matema -- who works as a secretary in the city centre -- says
she still believes love can conquer all. The incurable romantic says she's
been saving up for the three months, in order to take her boyfriend out for

"Yes I still believe in love," she says. "It's now difficult socially,
economically it's difficult to get money, it's difficult to find basic food
commodities but we still need love, love keeps us going."

Additionally, Matema says part of her savings will go towards a new outfit
and hairdo so she looks spectacular when whispering those magical three
little words.

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