The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Robert Mugabe loyalists plan final eviction of white farmers as his "birthday present"
A secret plan has been hatched by by Robert Mugabe's most loyal supporters to evict the last of Zimbabwe's white farmers from their land before his 85th birthday.
Robert Mugabe loyalists plan final eviction of white farmers as his
Mr Mugabe's will celebrate his 85th birthday next Sunday 22 February - the deadline for the action

Their leader is already planning to celebrate the occasion with vast quantities of champagne and caviar, despite half his country facing starvation.

But just in case the Bollinger laid on for President Mugabe's 85th birthday does not provide quite enough fizz, his acolytes are preparing an extra surprise for the occasion - a fresh onslaught against Zimbabwe's last white farmers.

Police, prosecutors and magistrates loyal to the Zimbabwean president are understood to be co-ordinating a strategy of mass summons against the few hundred remaining white owners, aiming to bring them to court and serve eviction notices over the coming week.

The deadline for completing the action is on Saturday Feb 21 - the day before Mr Mugabe's birthday, and a week before his planned official birthday bash, which has already provoked a storm of criticism for its extravagance. The hospitality will reportedly include 2,000 bottles of Moet and Chandon and '61 Bollinger champagne, 500 bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label whisky, 400 portions of caviar and 8,000 lobsters.

While no official reason has been given for the fresh campaign of evictions, insiders suspect it is timed to hand Mr Mugabe a potent propaganda gift during his birthday celebrations, which normally feature grandstanding anti-colonial speeches to the nation.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that last Tuesday, in contravention of justice laws, groups of law enforcement officials held a secret eviction strategy meeting in Mutare, 160 miles east of Harare. The plan was to send out a blizzard of court summons to all local white farmers who had so far defied eviction orders, aiming to put them on fast-track trial and jail them for up to two years. In the meantime, new occupants, mostly servicemen, will be allowed to move on to their land.

The officials are believed to think that with the world's attention focused on the inauguration of Zimbabwe's new powersharing cabinet, cries of foul play will go largely unheeded.

Among those to receive a summons was farmer Michael Mackersie, who will head to court on Monday for the 63rd time in three years. "If I lose this one, I think that will be it," said Mr Mackersie.

The Law Society of Zimbabwe said that if it could that prove any of the government judicial officers were members, they would be expelled.

But as well as legal moves, the renewed land grab campaign has also involved violent harassment. Mike Odendaal, a farmer, is currently surrounded by a pro-Mugabe militia at his home in Chipinge, about 40 miles south of Mutare, "We have advised him to stay inside. If he moves outside he may be attacked and they will take his house and then he is gone," said Deon Theron, vice president of the Commercial Farmers' Union.

"This is the biggest push against us in the last few years, worse than the violent weeks after the opposition MDC won last year's election."

Last November, Mr Mackersie was one of 78 farmers who won their case at the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, a court of last resort which ruled that Mr Mugabe had ethnically purged white farmers and failed to pay compensation. It ordered that those white farmers who had so far resisted the land grab, in which more than 4,000 white farming familes were kicked off their land, be left in peace.

Mr Mugabe, who launched the land grab policy nine years ago as part of a campaign to redress perceived colonial injustices, has said that the tribunal has no jurisdiction in Zimbabwe.

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100 WOZA and MOZA arrested in Byo

WOZA and MOZA arrested in the streets of Bulawayo on Valentine's Day
Press statement from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)

At least 800 members of WOZA and MOZA took to the streets of Bulawayo this
morning, Valentine's Day, urging Zimbabweans to let love light the way. At
the time of this release, at least a hundred women and men have been
arrested by riot police. It is not clear exactly how many people in total
have been arrested as the large group that had been sitting under arrest was
broken down into smaller groups by police and these smaller groups are still
being taken in Bulawayo Central Police Station.

The peaceful Valentine's protest had four different starting points - two
beginning at opposite sides of Herbert Chitepo Street in central Bulawayo at
10am and two beginning at opposite sides of Fort Street at 10.05am. The plan
was for all four groups to meet on 9th Avenue and process together to the
office of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper. All four demonstrations
started on time, despite a heavy police presence in the city centre. One of
the first groups starting on Herbert Chitepo was stopped after one block by
riot police however. A leader was arrested and the rest of the group told to
disperse, which they did peacefully.

The other three groups successfully met up with each other on the corner of
9th Avenue and Fort Street but were unable to process further as they were
stopped by riot police. Hundreds of members were held under arrest at this
point, including someone who was taking photographs. Due to the size of the
group under arrest however, several people were able to slip away.

As people slipped away, they met up with those that had avoided arrest and
continued with spontaneous marches through town or else congregated as
delegations at the Chronicle. Several groups of WOZA members were seen
entering the Chronicle offices to deliver Valentine's cards, roses and
Valentine's Day is traditionally an occasion that WOZA has used to urge
Zimbabweans to choose love over hate and marks the 7th anniversary of WOZA's
birth. Today's demonstration also marks the first public action in Bulawayo
of the new WOZA campaign, Take the Step, which is designed to encourage
Zimbabweans to continue with the civic participation that they demonstrated
in March 2008.

This year the Valentine's Day protests take place at the dawn of a new unity
government that was sworn in this week and follows the Harare chapter's
Tuesday protest to Parliament that resulted in the arrest of eight members
and two lawyers. All 10 were released from custody on bail on Thursday 12th
after appearing in court.

The events in Bulawayo today, together with the arrest of the 10 people
after Tuesday's protest, the arrest of MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett on the day
of the swearing in of Ministers and the continued incarceration of Jestina
Mukoko and other abductees despite court orders instructing their release,
are further evidence however that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe. More than
ever Zimbabweans need to remain vigilant and participate in defending their
rights and freedoms against a regime determined to cling to power despite
the platitudes they mouth that they are prepared to share power.

Solidarity events are also being held in London, Canada and South Africa
today. WOZA invites any friends or supporters to join one of these events or
to simply light a candle to show your solidarity with Zimbabweans who,
despite remaining in the darkness, are trying their best to let love light
the way forward.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Aide's Arrest in Zimbabwe Draws Fire of Premier

Published: February 14, 2009
JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, said
Saturday that the arrest of one of his closest allies on treason charges on
Friday was politically motivated by elements in President Robert Mugabe's
party "determined to undermine the spirit and credibility of the unity

The arrest of Roy Bennett, a white farmer who is treasurer of Mr. Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic Change and his nominee for deputy agriculture
minister, soured what was to have been a day of pageantry and good will as
ministers in the new coalition government were sworn in.
Instead, Mr. Bennett's incarceration at a jail in eastern Zimbabwe again
suggests how difficult it will be for Mr. Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF, which has
ruled Zimbabwe for almost three decades, to work constructively with a
political opposition that it has long derided as a pawn of the West and
subjected to violent intimidation.

Hours before Mr. Bennett's arrest, Mr. Tsvangirai, who was himself acquitted
of treason charges in 2004, told journalists that the world needed to stop
thinking of Mr. Mugabe as the problem and to see instead that confidence was
building in the power-sharing deal, under which he and Mr. Mugabe are to
govern Zimbabwe together.

In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Tsvangirai did not sound so cheerful. While
careful not to criticize Mr. Mugabe, he suggested that some in ZANU-PF would
like the deal to fail. His view echoed that of civic activists who worry
that hard-liners in Mr. Mugabe's repressive security services, perhaps
fearful of prosecution for their human rights crimes, are trying to scuttle
the deal.

Mr. Tsvangirai's party alleged in a statement on Saturday that military
intelligence had planned Mr. Bennett's arrest and that there was a plan to
"dump Roy Bennett into the Chivero River," and it warned that any harm to
him "will be placed squarely on those responsible." Mr. Tsvangirai said,
"President Mugabe and myself will meet to address these issues as a matter
of urgency."

Mr. Bennett was arrested by the law and order division of the police, which
handles political crimes, according to The Herald, a state-owned newspaper.
Mr. Tsvangirai said he knew that some had suggested that he was naïve to
join a government with Mr. Mugabe, but he insisted that the negotiated
settlement was "the most workable solution."

"People have no food, no schools," he said. "The country is on its knees. We
had to act. We could not be seen to be authors of chaos."

Mr. Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist who has led the political opposition
for the past decade, won more votes than Mr. Mugabe in March but dropped out
of a runoff after widespread, state-sponsored violence against his
followers. As prime minister, he is faced with running the operations of a
government that is "Zanufied," as people in Zimbabwe say, from top to bottom
by the ruling party's patronage.

His strategy seems to be to get civil servants, soldiers and policemen back
to work - and win their loyalty - with a promise made in his inaugural
address on Wednesday to pay them in foreign currency. The vow was greeted by
delirious applause. Astronomical hyperinflation has rendered the pay of all
public employees so valueless that they cannot even afford bus fare.

But as prime minister of a country that has paid its bills only by printing
ever more worthless Zimbabwean dollars, Mr. Tsvangirai has not said where he
will get the hard currency to pay the wage bill for what he estimated was
230,000 people. The cost: about $40 million a month.

He acknowledged that the United States and Britain and the rest of Europe
were not going to pump in aid to Zimbabwe until they were convinced Mr.
Mugabe was genuinely sharing power and restoring democracy.

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Military Intel. behind Roy Bennett arrest


It is understood that the abduction, arrest and charging of MDC Treasurer
General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett is being
planned, directed and operationalised by the Zimbabwe Military Intelligence
Directorate (MID), led by one Mzilikazi, and the Special Agency SAS, the
torture unit of the army, led by one Manene . General Constantine Chiwenga
is also party to it. These people are known for their declared passionate
and fanatical hatred of Roy Bennett.

We are also aware of an intent to dump Roy Bennett into Chivero river.

It is futile and ill-considered for anyone to go against the very momentum
of history. Change in Zimbabwe is inevitable. Bravado akin to ridding on top
of a hungry lion in a time of unprecedented famine, hoping to remain in
control of both lion and the natural process of weather is illogical. Any
harm on Roy Bennett will be placed squarely on those responsible.

We demand the unconditional release of Roy Bennett unharmed so that he can
attend to his normal duties in the party, in government and to his family.

The real issues are creating conditions for economic recovery and
dismantling institutions of dictatorship. This is what all parties to the
Inclusive government should be focusing on.

Another vehicle which is part of the operation is a Toyota Hilax with
registration number ABD1317.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Treason arrest threatens Zimbabwe power-sharing deal

Zimbabwe's new prime minister has claimed the country's powersharing
agreement is being sabotaged after one of his key aides faced charges over a
long-discredited plot to kill President Robert Mugabe.

By Colin Freeman, Sebastian Berger in Johannesburg, Peta Thornycroft in
Last Updated: 6:49PM GMT 14 Feb 2009

Morgan Tsvangirai, who was sworn in as prime minister last week, spoke out
after the Mugabe-controlled police force pressed treason accusations against
his colleague Roy Bennett, who is due to serve in the new joint cabinet.

"His arrest raises a lot of concerns," said Mr Tsvangirai, who is seeking a
meeting with Mr Mugabe to protest Mr Bennett's detention. "It undermines the
spirit of our agreement."

The Herald newspaper, widely considered the mouthpiece of Mr Mugabe's
Zanu-PF party, claimed on Saturday that Mr Bennett was being investigated in
connection with an alleged assassination conspiracy brought against several
opposition MDC members from 2006.

One man was jailed for alleged weapons offences, but the rest of the case
was dropped against other alleged MDC conspirators, who claimed it was an
act of political malice. Mr Bennett, 52, fled abroad three years ago after
fearing he would be fingered as a fellow suspect, but had returned to
Zimbabwe after being offered the post of deputy agriculture minister.

Arrested on Friday, he is now languishing in a small, filthy cell in the
colonial-era police station in the eastern border city of Mutare. MDC
wellwishers are camped outside, despite police opening fire over their heads
at one point in a bid to disperse them. His detention came despite
assurances from Mr Mugabe last week that he was "sincerely and honestly
committed" to partnership with the MDC. It also adds greatly to Mr
Tsvangirai's woes as he struggles to persuade his party to stick with the
power-sharing deal.

The new joint cabinet was sworn in Friday, but Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has
retained control of all key posts in the security apparatus, undermining
hopes that a power-sharing government would curb his capacity to intimidate.

The continued harassment of Mr Tsvangirai's political allies is just one of
the mounting difficulties facing Mr Tsvangirai as he attempts to use his new
role in government to steer Zimbabwe away from all-out crisis.

Many feel he has taken on an impossible task, which will simply result in
the MDC party being tainted with the incompetence and failure of the Mugabe
regime. Mr Tsvangirai's ministers have taken on portfolios which could well
backfire because of the sheer scale of the challenges they present.

When he walks into his department for the first time on Monday, new finance
minister Tendai Biti will have the task of curbing the world's highest
inflation rate, while health chief Henry Madzorera wil grapple a cholera
outbreak that has killed 3,500 people. Education minister David Coltart must
overhaul a schools sector where only one in five pupils attend at present,
unpaid teachers having left on masse to work abroad. Mr Bennett's in-tray
would have included the task of reviving the farming sector of a country
that is now unable to survive without foreign food aid.

Mr Tsvangirai himself, meanwhile, must honour his personal pledge to pay the
country's 200,000 civil servants in foreign currency rather than the
near-worthless Zimbabwean dollar.

He made the promise to cheers in a speech in a Harare stadium last week, but
has yet to say where the cash will come from, illustrating the risks he
faces in trying to act as a national saviour.

A source close to the MDC leadership said it would be examining the contents
of the "national piggy bank", if any, then looking at other sources. "We are
approaching the Southern African Development Community, the donor community
and looking at the viability of a loan as well," he said.

It is estimated, however, that around $60 million will be needed within the
next two weeks, and so far no foreign benefactors have indicated a
willingness to stump up. Western nations have also said that the unity
government must prove it is committed to economic reform before billions in
reconstruction and development aid are released. But the MDC source added:
"The more they help us make it work the faster it will work."

Concerns have likewise been raised about how the MDC will be able to
implement its policies if there is resistance from civil servants and public
officials, among whom Zanu-PF's influence stretches far and wide. The MDC
insider source said there would be no political purge of government
employees, as doing so would generate resentment and create obstacles.

"I don't think there's that many that want to obstruct us, particularly when
we are talking about doctors back in hospitals and kids back in schools," he

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TAKE ACTION for Roy Bennett

February 14th, 2009

Roy Bennett quote e-card

“Whatever these challenges, if we remain unwaveringly dedicated, we will achieve peace, freedom and democracy in our life time-believe me.” (Roy Bennett - via MDC Press Release, 14 Feb 09). View updates here.

Send this e-card by following this link. Click on it to view large


The Mutare numbers to call are +263 (0)20 64212 for the main charge office in Mutare

This cell number, we believe, is for the man in charge: +263 (0)91301  1761

CIO: +263 (0)20 66314 and +263 (0)20 61102

CID: +263 (0)20 65645

Please call (or sms the cell) these numbers to let the police holding Roy Bennett know that the world is watching very closely and want Roy Bennett to be released immediately. Tell them you will continue to monitor the situation closely, and that you are conveying your concerns to your local MP and the government in your country.

Ask them to observe the rule of law, and to treat Roy Bennett  with dignity and respect.

If the person you are speaking to appears to be listening, keep talking, and ask him/her to carry a message to Roy Bennett to let HIM know you are watching over him from all over the world.

If they pretend they don’t know what you are talking about, or claim it is not a police station, keep talking and make sure you convey your message.

Please be calm and measured and polite. No matter how angry you are by the outrageous actions, it won’t help Roy Bennett if you lose your temper.

Please let us know how you got on via the comments.

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'Zanu-PF not ready to work with anyone'

HARARE, ZIMBABWE Feb 14 2009 18:04

Zimbabwe's new finance minister said on Saturday a top opposition figure's
arrest showed President Robert Mugabe's party was not ready to work with its
former rivals in a freshly sworn in unity government.

Following ministerial nominee Roy Bennett's arrest Friday on what his party
says were treason charges, Tendai Biti said the move was an ominous start
for the unity government sworn in the same day.

"Bennett's arrest proves what we have always argued: that Zanu-PF is not yet
ready to work with anyone," said Biti, referring to Mugabe's party.

However Biti, who has been the Zimbabwe opposition's number two and faced
treason charges himself in the past, said he and Bennett's Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party had no choice but to remain in the government.

"Whoever ordered his arrest is not a friend of Zimbabwe. What it does is to
shake any semblance of a foundation for the inclusive government," said

"Pulling out does not offer any solution. Sadly we are forced to stay in
this arrangement for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe."

Bennett, designated to become deputy agriculture minister, is to be
questioned by police on treason charges later on Saturday, his lawyer said.

"Lawyers representing Roy Bennett have been told that they can only see him
at 2pm, the MDC said in a statement.

"We demand the respect of Roy Bennett's basic human rights and his immediate
unconditional release unharmed," said the MDC in a statement.

His arrest came shortly before Mugabe swore in new ministers for the unity
government and cast doubt on the credibility of a power-sharing accord.

The unity government will see the country's bitter enemies attempt to work
together to pull Zimbabwe out of a deep crisis marked by hunger, the world's
highest inflation rate and a deadly cholera epidemic.

Bennett, arrested at an airport on the outskirts of Harare, is a coffee
farmer from Chimanimani, a lush region near the border with Mozambique.

He had returned last month from three years of self-imposed exile in South
Africa, where he had fled to escape charges of plotting to kill Mugabe.

He was initially charged with attempting to leave the country illegally, but
the charge was later changed to treason, according to his party.

Bennett was among the most striking names on new Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai's cabinet list.

His Charleswood farm was expropriated under Mugabe's land reforms in 2003,
and the following year he was jailed for eight months for assault after he
punched the justice minister during a heated debate in parliament on the
land programme.

On Friday evening, police fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd of MDC
supporters who were gathered outside Mutare police station asking for
Bennett's release, his lawyer said.

One analyst said Bennett's arrest seemed to reflect concerns from within
Mugabe's ruling party as it begins sharing power for the first time.

"The arrest mirrors divisions among the top brass of the long-ruling party
who are not happy about losing power," said Daniel Makina, a Zimbabwe
analyst at the University of South Africa. "Some of them are against the

Regional leaders pressured Mugabe and Tsvangirai into the power-sharing deal
to end nearly a year of political turmoil following disputed elections last

They are meant to work together to battle nationwide food shortages, a
cholera epidemic that has killed 3 400 people and inflation estimated in
multiples of billions.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans have fled the country's economic and
political instability, and are now supporting their families with
remittances of both cash and food. - AFP

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Embarrassed Mugabe forced to drop five extra ministers

Saturday, 14 February 2009

POLITICAL drama unfolded on Friday at the swearing-in of Zimbabwean
cabinet ministers in the new inclusive government, when President Robert
Mugabe was publicly forced to drop five ministers who were not supposed to
be part of the cabinet . The chaos delayed the ceremony by almost five
hours, leaving foreign dignitaries - including South African President
Kgalema Motlanthe and former president Thabo Mbeki, who has been the
mediator - and other guests frustrated.
In terms of the political agreement reached last year, Mugabe was
entitled to appoint 15 cabinet ministers and two additional ministers, not
the 23 he brought to the ceremony.
Mugabe was compelled to remove from his cabinet list Zanu (PF)
chairman John Nkomo, David Parirenyatwa, Paul Mangwana, Sylvester Nguni and
Flora Buka, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths after they were publicly
exhibited as incoming ministers.
Mangwana said he was shocked to have been dropped because Mugabe did
not explain his decision.
"Nothing was explained to us. We were told to come to State House for
the swearing-in ceremony, which we did, but we were later left out of the
team," Mangwana said.
"No one explained anything to us."
Nkomo, Parirenyatwa, Buka, Nguni and Mangwana spent the rest of the
day holed up inside State House as they could no longer come out to face the
gathered guests and journalists .
Mugabe looked embarrassed by the incident and Zanu (PF) officials
seemed uncomfortable.
After much deliberation, Motlanthe suggested Mugabe and Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai hold talks this weekend to decide whether they could both
increase the number of their ministers to accommodate the extra five Zanu
(PF) ministers .
This would result in a cabinet of almost 50 ministers. Apart from the
fact that most of these ministers would not have genuine responsibilities in
government, the country cannot ill afford to pay the salaries and benefits
of such a bloated cabinet.
Motlanthe's suggestion added fuel to charges that he and Mbeki always
seem willing to bend over backwards for Mugabe.
The comedy of errors at State House later degenerated into a
tragicomedy after the arrest of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
treasurer and Agriculture Deputy Minister Roy Bennett at Prince Charles
airport in Harare. The incident cast a pall over the ceremony as it reminded
the MDC of the repression it had endured over the past 10 years.
Bennett was on his way to SA when he was picked up by a group of
unidentified people thought to be state security agents.
"These people will never change," said Tsvangirai's top aide, Ian
Makone. "Why arrest him when we are busy trying to bury the hatchet and work
Sources said Bennett was arrested in connection with an alleged plot
to assassinate Mugabe three years ago.
A number of people were arrested after an arms cache was allegedly
discovered in Mutare when Mugabe was expected to attend his birthday party.
At the time the government claimed that saboteurs had planned to pour oil on
a steep road to derail Mugabe's motorcade and kill him.
The case has failed to stick in the courts .
Tsvangirai on Thursday visited a group of MDC activists languishing in
prison on charges of plotting to oust Mugabe through military means.
Bennett, who until recently was living in exile in SA, was jailed for
a year a few years ago for pushing a Zanu (PF) minister to the floor in
Parliament. He is due to be sworn in as deputy minister next week.

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Lawyers in Three-Day Jail Stakeout

Peta Thornycroft

14 February 2009

Members of Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights have now spent three days
parked outside Harare's Chikurubi's maximum-security prison, trying to get
three seriously ill detainees to hospital for examination and treatment.

Last week when the prison authorities finally obeyed a court order and sent
them to hospital, Zimbabwe Prisons Service Commander General Paradzai
Zimondi sent orders they be taken back to their cells instead of being

Yesterday the three most seriously ill, Fidelis Charamba, 72 with cardiac
failure, Gandi Mudzingwa in his 50s, with "dangerously high" blood pressure,
and human rights worker Jestina Mukoko, were taken to a Harare private
hospital, where they were examined by a private doctor and one from the
prisons department.

Both doctors said the three should be taken to hospital. But before they
could be admitted, Zimondi again ordered them back to prison.

Today they are due in court with their medical certificates in their long
struggle to be released as courts have ordered several times since they were
kidnapped from October onwards.

"Gandi Mudzingwa is dangerously ill," a nurse who saw him in hospital said
yesterday. "His blood pressure is through the roof."

The three and about 30 others were kidnapped from their homes and work
places. About 16 remain in solitary confinement in Chikurubi Prison.

When the three were on their way to hospital, Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai arrived at Chikurubi Prison to see the detainees. Most of them
are Movement for Democratic Change supporters and organisers.

He said he would do all he could to speed up their release. All have been
charged with plotting against President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai had said several times he would not be sworn in until they were
freed, but he was sworn in anyway on Wednesday.

After two nights in inhumane conditions at the Harare Central Police
station, two members of Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights were released
yesterday, along with six Women for Zimbabwe Arise members arrested as they
held another peaceful Valentine's Day demonstration in Harare on Tuesday.

New Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett was not sworn into office
because he was arrested yesterday at a small airport outside Harare.

The fragile unity government swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday was boycotted
by all service chiefs from the police, army, and airforce.

In 2002, they said they would never salute Tsvangirai if he was ever elected
to senior office.

Tsvangirai has already juggled his cabinet and kicked out the only white
man, Eddie Cross, and brought in Sam Nkomo after there was revolt in the MDC
at the lack of Ndebeles in the province.

Tsvangirai has also dropped one of the smaller MDC party's most popular and
successful members, Abdenico Bhebe, as water affairs minister.

Mugabe is reported to have appointed six more ministers than the 16 he was
allotted in last September's political agreement which created the framework
for the unity government.

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MDC makes a mistake

    February 14 2009 at 12:39PM

Harare - Zimbabwe's MDC party, which has just formed a unity cabinet
with President Robert Mugabe, said on Saturday a party official it had
reported as being arrested had not in fact been detained.

It had said Brian James, mayor of the city of Mutare, was arrested at
the same police station where senior MDC official Roy Bennett, who has been
charged with treason, is being held.

"We have just been able to locate MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James whom we
had also feared to have been abducted. We can confirm that he has not been
arrested," it said in a statement. - Reuters

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Christians support Valentine's Day vigil for Zimbabwe

Posted: Saturday, February 14, 2009, 10:57 (GMT)

Zimbabwean Christians will join human rights campaigners in a Valentine's
Day vigil outside Zimbabwe's embassy in London.

Representatives of Christian organisations including the Council of
Zimbabwean Christian Leaders in the UK, the Evangelical Alliance, Tearfund
and other Christian agencies working in Zimbabwe, will deliver a Valentine's
card to the embassy.

The London vigil comes three days after Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangari was sworn in as prime minister of a unity government, sharing
power with President Robert Mugabe.

It marks the launch of the Love Zim campaign of prayer and fasting for
Zimbabwe. The campaign aims to build support among UK churches for Zimbabwe,
and is calling on Christians to pray and fast for its people at this crucial

Cards will also be delivered to the South African and the Ugandan High
Commissions and Number 10 Downing Street. Each card, headlined with the
message "Don't go breaking our hearts", includes a personalised message and
Psalm 149.

Qobo Mayisa, General Secretary of the Council of Zimbabwean Christian
Leaders in the UK, said: "Zimbabwe is embarking on a journey towards
national recovery and reconstruction amid economic chaos, hunger, a cholera
outbreak and continuing human rights violations.

"We believe the Love Zim prayer campaign will support what to some may
appear to be an impossible outcome by inviting divine guidance and
intervention through this process of transition. The church and people of
the UK can help the reconstruction efforts by committing themselves to
offering prayers for our ravaged nation."

The event is organised by activist group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA),
who will hand out roses at the vigil. Eight WOZA activists were arrested
outside parliament in Harare on Tuesday for distributing roses symbolising
their call for peace and political tolerance.

On the web:

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Caution rules in the new Zimbabwe
Saturday, 14 February 2009

Andrew Harding evades Zimbabwe's restrictions on foreign journalists to assess the country's new power sharing arrangement.

Morgan Tsvangirai is sworn in as PM
Opposition supporters in Zimbabwe still fear the security forces

It has been a strange few days in Zimbabwe, it is hard to sum up the mood here.

Everything has changed and nothing has changed.

I drove into Harare late on Monday, or rather, slalomed round the potholes. The city is looking shabbier than ever.

Unkempt grass along the roadsides as tall as a man. Derelict factories. Listless crowds on littered pavements.

The place reminds me of the Burmese capital, Rangoon. That same sense of decay and, frankly, fear.

People are wary about catching your eye, or talking too long on the phone. Or talking at all.

'Momentous' change

And yet, on paper at least, Zimbabwe is now a different country. No longer run as what you might call President Robert Mugabe's feudal gangster kleptocracy.

Instead after months of painful labour, a new unity government has been borne this week.

Roy Bennett (file photo)
They want us to walk away from this deal, we've just got to be smarter than them
Roy Bennett, MDC

Morgan Tsvangirai, the new prime minister, stood at an outdoor stadium on Wednesday and, between rain showers, told a rapturous crowd that this was Zimbabwe's "yes we can" moment.

It was the 19th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from jail in South Africa and Mr Tsvangirai was keen to stress the historic parallels, saying that Zimbabwe too was at the start of a momentous political transformation.

And yet, as he acknowledged, just like in South Africa, the path to democracy here will be neither straight nor inevitable.

The crowd seemed to recognise that. I wandered round the stadium.

Two young men holding beer cans said they had no illusions, all this they said, was the just the start.

"The aim is new and legitimate elections, as soon as possible. Then we can get rid of Mugabe at last."

Power struggle

Roy Bennett does not seem the type to be easily intimidated. But on the phone he was sounding cautious.

He is a prominent figure in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He has spent eight months in Harare's notorious Chikurubi prison, and he had just come back from South Africa to take part in the new government as a deputy minister.

The men who have plundered and wrecked this country certainly seem unlikely to relinquish power without a struggle

But when I called him on Thursday, he said he was in hiding.

Robert Mugabe's security services had, it seemed, just put out an arrest warrant for him.

Mr Bennett was in no doubt that Zanu-PF hardliners were trying to scupper the new coalition.

"They want us to walk away from this deal," he said. "We've just got to be smarter than them."

But Robert Mugabe, just shy of his 85th birthday, is not an easy man to outsmart.

It feels, one prospective MDC minister said to me, "like we're about to get into bed with a snake".

And, sure enough, just yesterday afternoon Roy Bennett was arrested by the police and driven as far from the capital as possible.

It was an act, as one fuming diplomat put it to me, of supreme bad faith by Robert Mugabe.

'Secret administration'

The men who have plundered and wrecked this country certainly seem unlikely to relinquish power without a struggle.

Like most foreign journalists, I am here illegally, sneaking around, hopping between safe-houses in Harare

There is every chance they will try to co-opt or corrupt Mr Tsvangirai's ministers and MPs, or simply bypass them altogether and run a secret parallel administration.

They may well succeed. Then again, history sometimes happens when you least expect it.

Maybe this unlikely political experiment will actually work. It could be months before we know for sure.

Although an early sign will be whether or not dozens of MDC supporters and activists are finally released from prison.

On Friday morning I went to meet Zimbabwe's new prime minister. Well, actually, he came to meet me.

Like most foreign journalists, I am here illegally, sneaking around, hopping between safe-houses in Harare.

It is hard to tell if things are getting safer now for us. I suspect they may be. But we are still being cautious and so is Mr Tsvangirai.

The gates of Zimbabwe's Chikurubi prison
MDC supporters are still in Harare's notorious Chikurubi prison

And so we met, somewhere, shall we say, in the suburbs. He came, tellingly, in his own personal convoy with his own personal guards.

He could have used the official state motorcade but clearly he and his team do not yet feel comfortable entrusting their safety to the same security services that have tortured, abducted and terrorised members of the MDC for years.

State security came along anyway. Sixteen officers. We hid discreetly in a bedroom, waiting for the prime minister to arrive, savouring the absurdities of Zimbabwe's new political landscape.

Grounds for optimism

Mr Tsvangirai was bullish, feistily defending his shotgun wedding to Mr Mugabe.

"Mugabe may be part of the problem," he said. "But he's also part of the solution. We have to have a negotiated settlement for the sake of the people."

He promised that the next time we met, it would be legally and in his own office.

Reassuringly, state security kept their distance. No funny business.

"It's a process," said one of Mr Tsvangirai's own guards, with a broad grin. "Sure, there have been some frictions. But actually it's going pretty well so far."

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No good faith

Saturday 14th February

Dear Family and Friends,
Watching the loser of last years election swearing in the winner was an
occasion not to be forgotten. The irony of it stuck in the throat and yet
the reality of it brought the hope of change ever closer.

Its a change that is still not being reflected by state broadcaster ZBC who
seemed incapable of filming the ceremony and used SABC's live coverage of
events at State House in Harare. The irony of that was not lost us on us
either considering that South Africa only introduced television broadcasting
many, many years after Zimbabwe. In between the flickering, flaring,
haltering attempts by ZBC to record any of the inauguration of Prime
Minister Tsvangirai, we were bombarded with yet another of the seemingly
endless supply of politically themed music concerts.

As Prime Minister Tsvangirai was preparing to pledge his oath of office,
ZBC's concert had a banner reading: "We will never let go of our land." And
then another which read: "Uniting against sanctions." There is no doubt
where their allegiances lie!

Two days after our new Prime Minister was sworn in, ZBC TV still hadn't been
able to sort themselves out in order to record the swearing in of the new
cabinet. Again they jumped from SABC TV to ZBC radio commentaries and then,
at 4 pm, and before all the Ministers had been sworn in, the TV transmission
stopped altogether.

We'd had long enough though to see the fresh, lively, intelligent, eager
faces of the new MDC cabinet Ministers. Long enough too to see the same old,
unsmiling, tired faces of the Zanu PF cabinet Ministers - no changes there,
just reshuffling and recycling yet again. We also had time to see that the
nominated deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennet was not there. This man,
so admired and respected by Zimbabweans from all walks of life had been
arrested, moved to another city 250 kilometres away and is being charged
with treason.

The arrest of Roy Bennett gave credence to the sceptics and doubters of this
unity government. There is no good faith here by the old order and the
leopard has not changed its spots. A long, hard road lies ahead. Our
thoughts are with Roy Bennet and with all the other civic society members
and political activists who are still in custody. None are forgotten.

I close with a message of condolence and sympathy to Australians who have
lost family members, friends, homes and possessions in the devastating fires
of the last fortnight. Zimbabwe knows how you have stood up for us in our
struggle and despair and our thoughts are with you.
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy

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A letter from the diaspora

Friday, 13 February 2009

Dear Friends,
Watching a sour-faced President Robert Mugabe at Prime Minister Tsvangirai's
inauguration, it was difficult to believe that anything good would come out
of this botched up Government of National Unity. But then no one seemed to
be smiling, it was rather like a shotgun wedding where both sides knew that
there was no alternative. They had to go through this sham of a wedding to
give their relationship legitimacy but no one really believed that the
marriage would last. It was a different matter at the 'reception' after the
ceremony. Lots of smiling happy MDC faces and shouts of joy from the
thousands gathered in Glamis Stadium to welcome the new Prime Minister. "We
used to be dead. Now we are alive," said one observer." This is the start of
change." That's what we all desperately want to believe that, we all want to
hope that Zimbabwe has turned the corner at last but the signs are not good.
Right up to the very last moment before Tsvangirai's inauguration we were
all longing to see the activists released - but it did not happen. It would
have been a sign of Mugabe's good faith, a sign that perhaps we could place
some reliance on him to do the right thing. The Prime Minister referred
specifically to the plight of the abducted activists but carefully did not
say what steps he would take if they were not released. Then on Thursday,
the very day that Morgan Tsvangiri became Prime Minister, three of the
abductees were taken to the Avenues clinic for medical treatment. Jestina
Mukoko, Ghandi Mudzingwa and Fidelis Chiramba were each seen by two sets of
doctors from the state and private sector. The doctors all agreed that the
three were in urgent need of hospitalization but according to reports they
were once again taken back into custody at Chikurubi Maximum Security
Prison. So much for hope, so much for placing any trust at all in Robert
Mugabe and his murderous regime. Hope deferred again! There was one sign
that Morgan Tsvangirai perhaps had some influence - if not real power. To
his credit, one of his first calls as Prime Minister was to Chikurubi to
visit the detainees. Despite the fact that the service chiefs, including the
head of the Prison Service, have vowed never to salute Morgan Tsvangirai,
the guards on the prison gates apparently gave Tsvangirai a snappy salute
and addressed him as Prime Minister. Perhaps that was a good sign, I
wondered, but if it was, then it was the last one. As I write on this Friday
13th February the BBC are reporting that Roy Bennet the Deputy Minister of
Agriculture in the new government has been arrested, allegedly at Charles
Prince Airport while attempting to board a flight to South Africa. The
Zimbabwean this morning contained a heart-warming picture of Roy with his
arms round a smiling black man. There they were, their faces wreathed in
beautiful smiles. It was surely a sign of hope for the new Zimbabwe?
Now Roy is again under arrest. I phoned home immediately. 'Was it true?' I
asked and the news was confirmed. 'Pachedu' is indeed in the hands of the
Law and Order department. The ZBC, I was told, is also reporting that the
new government has not yet been sworn in. The ceremony was due to take place
at 10.OO Zim time. It is not hard to understand the reason for the delay;
Roy Bennet was one of the MDC's cabinet nominees and without him the
swearing in cannot take place. or can it?
It begins to seem that nothing will halt the MDC's progress, if that's what
it is, into government; not the violent abduction and imprisonment of
activists, not the arrest of their own cabinet members and not the wholesale
infringement of human rights. The latest news is that the swearing in is
taking place even now - presumably without Roy Bennet. To those who have
been saying all week that it was all a terrible mistake getting into a
marriage of convenience with Robert Mugabe, I have to admit that it's
beginning to look as if they are right; hope and trust are just not in
Robert Mugabe's vocabulary. For the rest of us at home and in the diaspora,
hope is deferred yet again; none of us will be going home any time soon.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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Zimbabwe's road ahead

Saturday, 14 February 2009

At last, Morgan Tsvangirai is prime minister. But there's a long
battle against a pernicious Zanu-PF regime yet to be negotiated

The MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai is the Zimbabwean prime minister at last.
It has been an arduous and turbulent road to his inauguration, and
Tsvangirai is right to caution that it is not the end for Robert Mugabe and
Zanu-PF. The road remains long and beset with six key impediments.
First, the devil is not in the details about how the unity government
will actually work. The devil is in the lack of detail. These grey areas
threaten the unity government's shelf life, and are sites for power battles
and competition over which party will be better positioned to win the next
elections, which are high on the list of priorities for all parties
Second, Zimbabwe's unity government has received a mixed reception
because of the considerable influence and control Mugabe still wields. Many
international donors are cautious about reengagement. They have adopted a
wait-and-see approach, meaning reconstruction will be slower than
anticipated. While Zanu-PF will have to reform its kleptocratic and
undemocratic practices for the unity government to attract external aid,
there is need for clarity about the nature of external assistance that will
be required. Short-term international donor aid is not a silver bullet for
turning around the Zimbabwean economy and strengthening fragile
institutions. Long term coordinated international donor commitment fused
with an active constructive role by local actors will be the primary
determinants of reconstruction instead.
Third, Zimbabwe has a large diaspora, estimated at 3 million, located
all over the world. The diaspora needs to be harnessed and its resources
fused with those in Zimbabwe to facilitate reconstruction. However the term
diaspora implies a cohesive community with shared values. Contrary to this
the Zimbabwean diaspora is a splintered one because of ethnic and racial
differences, gender, class, immigration status, political affiliation and
conflicting visions about the constituent elements of a reconstructed
Zimbabwe. As a consequence, there was no coordinated strategy by the
Zimbabwean Diaspora for confronting the Zanu-PF government since the
Zimbabwe crisis began in 2000. Presently the Zimbabwean diaspora is not
coordinating on how it can play a role in Zimbabwe's reconstruction.
Fourth, Zimbabwean civil society, while still active, has been
paralysed by Zanu-PF-ordered imprisonment, violent attacks, political
assassinations, and the economic crisis. European and American donors, and
international NGOs, have supported civil society groups campaigning for
governance reforms and respect for human rights. These groups will require
further sustained assistance that should take into account civil society's
struggles for improved economic rights. Land reform especially is critical
for furthering economic rights. Nonetheless there is no articulate and
widely agreed upon action plan for addressing the disastrous effects of the
Zanu-PF government's "fast track" land-reform programme. Moreover,
institutional efficiency, transparency and fairness in land reform have been
non-existent. A robust and engaged civil society will help to alleviate
these shortcomings.
Fifth, the necessity of constitutional reform cannot be understated.
Indeed it would be the MDC's greatest achievement in government if an
inclusive democratic constitution were drafted and enshrined as the supreme
law of the land. Much of Zimbabwe's governance problems have their genesis
in a defective national constitution that, since 1985, has been amended by
Zanu-PF dominated parliaments to entrench the party's rule. Zanu-PF will
look to frustrate meaningful constitutional reform in ways that could cause
the unity government's breakdown.
Sixth, constitutional reform cannot go ahead in the absence of a
revision of Zimbabwe's political values system. A political culture of
violence, intolerance and kleptocracy has been fostered by Zanu-PF for
decades to the extent that it is ubiquitous. It is manifest in opposition
and civil society circles. A fundamental crisis Zimbabwe faces is a crisis
of values. Technocratic intercession without tackling the political values
crisis will result in the unity government reproducing the Zanu-PF regime's
destructive rule. Pernicious values militate against effective and strong
democratic and developmental institutions.

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