February 16, 2009
Jan Raath in Harare
Zimbabwe's fledgeling power-sharing Government staggered into its fifth day
yesterday as fears grew that a shadowy cabal of President Mugabe's top
security bosses are edging towards a military coup.
Roy Bennett, nominated by Morgan Tsvangirai as his choice for Deputy
Agriculture Minister, was seized and detained by state security agents on
Friday - an act seen widely as an attempt to sabotage the coalition of Mr
Mugabe's Zanu (PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Mr
Yesterday charges against Mr Bennett were altered from treason to plotting
"insurgency, banditry and sabotage" by allegedly funding the MDC to buy arms
in 2005, supposedly with the intention of destroying a telecommunications
station outside Harare. The charges appear to have been brought under the
Public Order Security Act, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in
prison. He is expected to appear at Mutare Magistrates' Court today for a
The arrest of Mr Bennett, who was still in detention yesterday, has raised
fears of an impending coup to prevent Mr Tsvangirai from wielding power. The
MDC is blaming the Joint Operational Command (JOC), a powerful group of
military, police and intelligence chiefs who it said had "planned, directed
and operationalised" the arrest to force the MDC to withdraw from the
"For now, the major challenge is to get Mr Bennett out," Tendai Biti, the
MDC secretary-general and the new Finance Minister, said. "If that fails, we
will have to meet and review everything." Mr Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister,
proposed a meeting with Mr Mugabe about the arrest but this did not take
place. At the weekend Mr Tsvangirai said the arrest "undermined the spirit
and credibility" of the agreement to form a new administration.
The JOC has been in de facto control of Zimbabwean politics almost
throughout the country's existence. A leftover of the former white-minority
Rhodesian government, it includes General Constantine Chiwenga, commander of
the defence forces, Lieutenant-General Phillip Sibanda, head of the Army,
Perrence Shiri, head of the Air Force, Happyton Bonyongwe, the director of
the Central Intelligence Organisation, Augustine Chihuri, the police chief,
and Paradzayi Zimondi, the prisons commissioner. Mr Mugabe is its chairman.
In the 1990s the JOC was amalgamated into Mr Mugabe's administration and
grew to have subcommittees in every province, district and town. It is
served by numerous covert branches of the security services. Its remit is to
undermine all individuals or organisations suspected of being opposed to Mr
Mugabe. Their methods range from assassination, abduction and torture to
bugging, disinformation and framing operations.
"It appears that a distance is growing between Mugabe and the generals," a
Western diplomat said.
MDC lawyers saw Mr Bennett in custody on Saturday and released a statement
from him. "Whatever these challenges, if we remain unwaveringly dedicated we
will achieve peace, freedom and democracy in our lifetime, believe me," he
by Clara Smith Monday 16 February 2009
HARARE - Zimbabwe's unity government begins work today to rebuild the
shattered country, but the arrest of a top ally of Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai and continued imprisonment of scores of activists from his MDC
party have cast fresh doubt on the durability of the new administration.
Mugabe's decision to appoint old guard allies and hardliners from his ZANU
PF party to work with the MDC in the new power-sharing Cabinet was as much a
sign he was yet to fully embrace change as it was a recipe for friction
between his ageing team and the young new comers from the MDC, according to
"Mugabe's actions show that he is still insincere. The MDC will try to fuse
in new ideas but Mugabe has picked an old guard that will try to safeguard
its territory," said Gabriel Shumba, a lawyer and political commentator, who
fled Zimbabwe to South Africa after he was severely tortured by state
"It is certainly not the new era that Tsvangirai has been talking about,"
said Shumba, referring to both Mugabe's selection for Cabinet and the move
by police to arrest Roy Bennett who is treasurer in Tsvangirai's MDC party.
Bennett, who fled Zimbabwe three years ago fearing arrest by the police and
only returned to Harare a few days ahead of Tsvangirai's inauguration, was
arrested as Mugabe swore in the new unity Cabinet. A top farmer, Bennett is
his party's choice for deputy agriculture minister in the new unity
Under the power-sharing agreement brokered by the Southern African
Development Community last December, Mugabe remains an executive President
while Tsvangirai also enjoys executive powers as Prime Minister.
The unity government deal that was clinched after several months of tense
and sometimes acrimonious negotiations says that Tsvangirai will be in
charge of the day-to-day running of government business. But the former
trade unionist is required to keep Mugabe, who still chairs the Cabinet,
There will be a National Security Council to oversee the military and
security agents but Mugabe will still retain total control over these
important institutions that are also staffed with hardliners several who
have vowed never to salute Tsvangirai.
Top army generals did not attend Tsvangirai's swearing in ceremony on
Wednesday, a sign analysts said showed that security agents were yet to warm
up to the former trade unionist's ascendancy to power.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist and a long time Mugabe critic,
John Makumbe said it was not only military generals keen to wreck the unity
government but there were several influential people in ZANU PF who wanted
to see the administration fail.
He said: "There is still a key component of ZANU PF that is against this
unity government, obviously because they stand to lose after years of
patronage. Security chiefs are part of the component.
"Mugabe is not keen to retire them so they will be around and they are
taking every opportunity to wreck the new government's chances of survival.
Mugabe himself has also acted in ways that show he is not sincere."
Some of Mugabe's behaviour that have led many to question his commitment to
genuine power sharing was on display the same day the new Cabinet was sworn
Instead of sticking to the number of ministers allocated his ZANU PF under
the power-sharing agreement, Mugabe attempted to appoint an additional five
people from his party into the new government without consulting his Prime
Minister or Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of the smaller MDC
The swearing in ceremony had to be delayed by several hours as the parties
bickered over the attempt by Mugabe to unilaterally give his party
additional ministerial posts before he later relented.
Shumba said Mugabe appeared determined to show Tsvangirai that he was the
junior in the partnership, adding the MDC leader - who insists there is no
viable option to power-sharing - is going to struggle to make the unity
He said: "Tsvangirai will have a tough time making this work. Mugabe is
already showing that he is in charge and Tsvangirai is the junior partner.
Mugabe has refused to meet Tsvangirai's demands for the release of
imprisoned activists, and now he has even gone further to arrest Bennett." -
by Sebastian Nyamhangambiri and Simplicious Chirinda Monday 16
HARARE -- An international media rights watchdog has urged Zimbabwe's new
unity government to act urgently to scrape repressive media laws and lift a
ban on several newspapers including the Daily News that was the country's
largest daily when it was forced to close six years ago.
In a letter to new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged him to ensure a free lance journalist
and a former state broadcaster were freed from jail.
The CPJ reminded Tsvangirai -- who last week joined President Robert Mugabe
in government under a power-sharing deal brokered by the regional SADC
loc -- that he and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party had long
campaigned for a free press and should live up to their promise.
"The current media environment remains hostile to the independent press and
will ensure partisan press coverage of any future developments made under
the auspices of the new power-sharing alliance," CPJ executive director Joel
Simon said in the letter dated February 13.
"CPJ calls on the new unity government to move swiftly to free the media
from control by the ruling party," Simon added.
Simon said the government should free the media from state control, repeal
prohibitive media taxes and allow the return of exiled journalists among a
list of measures to ensure a vibrant media in Zimbabwe.
"The government of national unity should take immediate steps to abolish
laws that require licensing of newspapers and journalists, allow the banned
Daily News to recommence operations, end jamming of foreign radio stations,
permit all local and foreign journalists who have been deported, banned, or
forced into exile for security concerns to return safely and without
harassment," the CPJ said.
The letter to Tsvangirai was copied to the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the
United States, Machivenyika Mapuranga, key officials in the MDC, Mugabe's
ZANU PF party and several influential bodies and people.
Simon urged the new government that formally begins work today to encourage
the setting up of community radio stations which are allowed in terms of
existing law although none have been licenced to date.
Zimbabwe has some of the world's most repressive media laws such as the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which requires
journalists to register with the government's media and information
commission in order to practice journalism in Zimbabwe.
Newspaper companies are also required to register with the commission with
those that fail to do so facing closure and seizure of their equipment by
AIPPA is set for significant changes under the political agreement singed by
ZANU PF and the two MDC formations. -- ZimOnline
Mutare Central Police station is a pretty colonial era building with a clock
tower which doesn't keep time and a line of tall palm trees at its front.
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
Last Updated: 9:53PM GMT 15 Feb 2009
Mutare is surrounded by ranges of mountains, in the north to Christmas Pass,
named by British Empire builder, Cecil John Rhodes and to the east heavily
wooded ranges of hills which spread to where they sky ends over Mozambique.
The police cells where Mr Bennett is being kept are tiny, about 10' x 6'
with high concrete ceilings. They have a tiny window at the top of the back
wall which lets in a little light and with just the cement floor on which to
sleep on and smeared graffiti on filthy walls to read.
In cells reserved for men, there is usually no room to lie down as most
water facilities are broken so warders concentrate as many as possible into
one or two cells where there is working tap which occasionally dribbles a
drop or two.
Sometimes there is an ancient threadbare red blanke but they are so covered
in lice and excrement, that detainees try never to have to use them, even in
cold winter months.
Most of the lavatories - holes in the ground in the corner of the cell - are
only flushed from the outside when a passing warder feels so inclined.
Prisoners are woken for line up and inspection just after dawn. They are
allowed into the small shabby courtyard for a few minutes and are then
locked up for the rest of the day with a few minutes out at mid day and
before supper. Food is brought in by relatives as the prisons department has
Mr Bennett will be held in one of these cells in the courtyard, overlooked
by detectives in their offices on the floor above.
After detainees are locked up for the night, before sunset, the men begin
the long uncomfortable lock up with noisy conversations, and then as the
hours drag they begin to sing, sometimes familiar Christian hymns, sometimes
folk songs from tribal areas, sometimes with additions about current events,
but it seems, no matter who the occupants, the music spreading throughout
the line of cells is hauntingly tuneful with harmonies developing through
each song until the grande finale when all voices join together. Then
quieter melancholy songs begin and the volume decreases as prisoners begin
to fall asleep.
They are woken through the night by rats and bites from an appalling range
of lice, bed bugs and spiders.
Sometimes one outside light is on in the courtyard, but usually the bulb is
broken, but through the tiny grille in the iron door, in the clear bright
nights over Mutare the stars are there and many prisoners waking from fitful
sleep take turns to look out at the world above.
February 15, 2009
By Tafadzwa Leslie Mubango
THE soon to be defunct Joint Operations Command is showing the deadly kicks
of dying horses as they try to scuttle the unity government in Zimbabwe.
News that all five members of the JOC boycotted the swearing in ceremony of
the Prime Minster Tsvangirai is not only worrying but significant. Obviously
they met and agreed on the boycott strategy. Now even more worrying are the
acts of provocation against the MDC- arrest of Roy Bennett, arrest of WOZA
members on valentine demonstrations, and the refusal to release political
prisoners. Remember the same men have openly declared they would never
I deduce the JOC are sending a message that they want no part of this unity
government. Parliament has instituted a new security council, and this
council should dismiss or pension those officers unwilling to serve the new
unity government. Not so easy some people will say. In the current
constitution power to appoint or dismiss these men lies with the President
and not with Parliament.
And we all know these men are not acting in defiance of Mugabe but probably
he has no power over them or worse still he is encouraging them. I
understand the new Security Council will be meeting every fortnight. I
suggest they meet daily to counteract the machinations of the JOC aligned
Instead of critics blaming the MDC for joining government before resolving
these issues, let us offer solutions. Every power transition always comes
with a fair amount of disgruntled insiders. Remember how much the Rhodesian
forces tried to scuttle the elections in 1980.
Published:Feb 16, 2009
The MDC-T will this week press for Zimbabwe's maverick central bank governor
Gideon Gono to be sacked, The Times has learnt.
Before the MDC-T joined the unity government it demanded Gono's removal, but
President Robert Mugabe, 84, insisted on saving his friend's job.
Gono has often made references to the close personal relationship he has
with the Mugabes. "Mugabe is my friend," Gono proudly told guests to his
He even claimed former US president George Bush had offered him a job at the
World Bank - a claim the US embassy in Harare refused to dignify with a
However, matters are expected to come to head for Gono after MDC-T
secretary-general Tendai Biti takes over as finance minister tomorrow
Biti said at the weekend that the central bank was at the heart of the
country's economic meltdown.
Gono, who recently slashed 12 zeroes from the decimated Zimbabwe dollar in a
crude attempt to raise its value, started his banking career as a tea maker.
He has also presided over the country worst recorded inflation - last
estimated at more than 231 million percent.
Biti has been telling anyone who cares to listen, that Gono must shoulder
the blame for the country's banking and currency crisis.
Gono the author of "Zimbabwe's Casino Economy" appears to have gambled on
the wrong horse this time.
He once infamously declared he would never stop printing money because the
country needed it to feed itself and maintain its infrastructure.
But with the new finance minister set to revoke the budget issued last month
by Zanu-PF stalwart Patrick Chinamasa, who was acting finance minister, Gono
Banking insiders blame Gono's policies for the current crisis they are
Of late Zimbabweans have turned their backs on the local currency making
banks irrelevant. To survive some banks placing staff on forced unpaid
Income from mortgages and loans dried out years ago amid galloping inflation
galloped and a rapidly devaluing dollar.
One ambitious building society has been trying to revive mortage loans by
accepting "groceries, cows and anything of value" as a down payment
The Zimbabwe stock exchange has also buckled under the weight of a dead
currency and rampant corruption.
Gono recently gloated about how he "didn't care" what happened to the stock
exchange. It could remain closed forever as far as he was concerned.
However, Biti the new finance minister is unlikely to take kindly to Gono's
continued presence at the central bank.
February 15, 2009
By Our Correspondent
HARARE - Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader and Prime Minister,
Morgan Tsvangirai is said to have lined up a group of four international
donors represented in Harare to fund ambitious plans to pay all civil
servants in United States dollars at the end of February.
Tsvangirai promised to pay the civil service in hard cash starting this
month when he delivered his maiden speech after his inauguration as the
country's Prime Minister last Wednesday.
His statement prompted an outcry among critics who dismissed his promise as
nothing but hollow politicking with potential to prematurely undermine both
his political fortunes and his political stature just as he assumed office.
Critics said Tsvangirai's statement was ill-conceived and uttered without
"He was just excited by the fact that he has just assumed the hot seat of
the country's Prime Minister and thus failed to see the bigger picture,"
said a Harare political commentator who asked not to be named.
"Such a decision on whether to pay civil servants in foreign currency or not
is arrived at through certain government protocols such as cabinet
consultations and are not just unilaterally made by one person whatever his
Many of the critics are not convinced that Tsvangirai possesses the capacity
to source in such a short period of time the funds required to pay the huge
But a highly placed MDC source told The Zimbabwe Times over the weekend that
at least four international donors with representatives in Zimbabwe had
already been approached and had made firm commitments that the money to pay
government workers would be available.
"The plan has been put in place, I can tell you that the statement was well
thought out and the money to pay civil servants is available," said the
source, speaking on condition his identity was not disclosed, as he was not
authorised to make the disclosure. "Four international donors have already
been identified and approached. They have agreed to fund this exercise
He did not reveal the identity of the four donors either. But a group of
international donor organisations including the United States Aid Agency
(USAID), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UK's DFID and other UN
organisations held a meeting with Prime Minister Tsvangirai at his
Munhumutapa Offices on his first day in office.
"There is a firm commitment from the donors," said the source.
No source within government could be identified over the weekend to confirm
this commitment or to explain the logistics of making such payments to the
civil service at short notice..
Tsvangirai also held meetings on his first day in office with various other
labour based groups such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) and
the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) during which he made
assurances that their members would be paid in foreign currency.
The ZCTU said it is now trying to workout the country's Poverty Datum Line
(PDL) in United States dollars to determine what civil servants should be
The country's biggest workers representative group last calculated the PDL
some time last year and abandoned the exercise altogether because it had
become impossible to do so as a result of the hyper-inflationary environment
in the country.
Many civil servants particularly teachers and nurses who had left employment
in search of greener pastures were seen this week thronging government
offices seeking re-admittance into their previous professions.
It remains to be seen however if Prime Minister Tsvangirai's promise will be
fulfilled when civil servants receive their salaries this week.
President Robert Mugabe's government had planned to pay civil servants using
the US dollar food voucher system which was however roundly rejected by all
civil servants who said they preferred to be paid cash.
Teachers and the army are supposed to be paid this week on Tuesday and
Many other government workers will be paid next week and activity at the
country's banks has increased as workers seek to open Foreign Currency
Accounts (FCA) in anticipation of the US dollar disbursements.
By staff writers
16 Feb 2009
Catholic bishops marked yesterday as a special 'Zimbabwe Sunday' to
encourage prayer and solidarity for the beleaguered people of the Southern
African nation, as its new unity government emerges.
Zimbabweans are suffering from hunger, cholera and an endemic economic
crisis which has made unemployment and homelessness rife. New Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai faces a massive task in getting his erstwhile enemy
President Robert Mugabe to take effective action.
Promoting the Catholic initiative this weekend were the Bishops of South
Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland (the three countries that form a part of the
Southern African Bishops' Conference), who at Sunday services encouraged the
people to collect food and medicine to be distributed to those in need
through the network of Caritas Zimbabwe.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight also sent a
message of solidarity to the people and Church of Zimbabwe, on behalf of all
162 national Caritas members.
"Half of Zimbabweans rely on food aid to survive, a cholera epidemic has
killed 3,500 so far out of 71,000 cases, and the country's economic, health,
educational infrastructure has collapsed," Caritas Internationalis, the
global catholic development network, said in a statement.
Tsvangirai's Presence In Government Inspires Dreams Big and Small
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 16, 2009; Page A10
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Feb. 15 -- Some sound like lofty dreams: a liver
transplant at the fading government hospital. Most sound like simple wishes:
Valentine's Day dinner at a restaurant. Paint for the peeling walls. Beef
for the butcher shop.
In collapsing Zimbabwe, they sound like miracles. But many people here
appear to expect the new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, to deliver what
three destructive decades under President Robert Mugabe have taken away.
By next year, "you'll be seeing clear, positive signals toward the better,"
said a jolly Justius Rushwaya, who does not anticipate re-creating the days
when he vacationed in London, but simply supporting his family on his day
job heading a microfinance institution, rather than on the chicken farm that
scarcely pays the bills. "Then I can take my darling wife for dinner and
coffee," he said.
During this country's slow slide from economic dynamo to economic disaster,
Zimbabweans' optimism has ebbed and flowed with each election, negotiation
and protest, sustaining a minimum level of hope that some observers say has
kept the nation from civil war. Now, many Zimbabweans are dreaming again:
Could the new unity government spark a turnaround?
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," Themba Singana, 29, said this week
at a rally celebrating Tsvangirai's inauguration, which Singana said he was
sure would boost sales at his boutique.
Even the cautious say the new administration, which begins work Monday,
brings with it the most tangible promise of change in recent times.
Tsvangirai, who won the first round of presidential elections last year but
withdrew from a runoff following attacks on his supporters, is in government
after years of leading the opposition. Unlike Mugabe, he might be able to
secure donor funds that could revive Zimbabwe's cornfields, factories,
hospitals and sewage services.
Tsvangirai has made little attempt to temper those hopes. He vowed this week
that public workers would be paid by March in foreign currency, not the
ruined Zimbabwe dollar, but provided no specifics. Baffled economists wonder
where he will find funds estimated at upward of $40 million a month, and
many civil activists and political analysts say they doubt that Mugabe
loyalists in the security forces -- already accused of undermining the deal
by arresting a top official in Tsvangirai's party Friday -- will let the
prime minister accomplish anything.
"People have to be realistic with what can be done with the limited space of
opportunities, with the limited resources available," Tsvangirai said in an
interview Friday. "But there's nothing wrong with having high expectations.
It sets the bar very high."
Rushwaya, for one, harbors no doubts that his life and Zimbabwe have
embarked on a rebound, recalling the times when his agency readily issued
loans to small businesses and he could buy new furniture every few years.
Hyperinflation, he said at his sunny downtown office, has rendered loan
funds worthless, so now the agency mostly offers training in bookkeeping and
other skills. And it has pushed the price of a can of paint to $40, he
added, pointing to his peeling ceiling and walls.
But the economy has also led to Mugabe's downfall, he declared, pointing to
a newspaper article about prison guards who could not afford fuel to
transport inmates to court hearings. Mugabe must share power, Rushwaya said,
because the country is on its knees, and eventually he will retire and his
party will implode.
"I don't think he has any choice. I even foresee him giving more power to
this man, yes, I do," Rushwaya said of Tsvangirai. "The greatest enemy for
Mugabe is not Tsvangirai. It's the economy."
A few blocks away, up a narrow staircase and inside the small textiles
factory he runs, C.K. Zunze concurred. He said he has had to pare his staff
by half in recent years as sales dropped, but he expects an uptick as soon
"This is better than new elections," the small, bespectacled man said.
Elections might generate fear among the people, he said, and deliver a
landslide for Mugabe.
He was referring to last year's polls, which initially sparked jubilation
among opposition supporters. It looked as though Tsvangirai might defeat
Mugabe. Then a runoff was called, followed by a bloody state crackdown, and
Tsvangirai pulled out. Optimism rose again in September when Tsvangirai and
Mugabe signed a power-sharing deal. Then their parties negotiated over the
details for five months, and Zimbabwe's economic and humanitarian crisis
In those months, said Amon Siveregi, 27, a young doctor interning at
Harare's main government hospital, physicians and nurses have stopped
collecting their monthly salaries; in December, his was worth 5 U.S. cents.
Those who go to work practice what he called bush medicine, with broken
heart monitors and expired anesthetics. They are counting on Tsvangirai's
promise of pay in foreign currency -- though they worry that hospital
administrators aligned with Mugabe's party might pocket it, he said.
"A lot of people believe Tsvangirai," said Siveregi, who chairs a health
workers' union and said he aspires to become Zimbabwe's third neurosurgeon.
"It seems he is the only hope."
Siveregi said he wants to see the hospital revive plans to offer liver
transplants. He would also not mind being able to treat his girlfriend to a
vacation at Victoria Falls or to dinner on Valentine's Day.
"She's a lawyer," said Siveregi, 27, sitting in the faded common room at the
hospital's shuttered medical school. "Sometimes she's the one who's taking
me out. In our culture, that's a bit embarrassing."
Much of Zimbabwe's revival will depend on keeping well-educated Zimbabweans
and luring back the millions who have emigrated, people here agree.
Tsvangirai said in the interview that those who left have a "duty" to help
rebuild the nation. "Personally, I think this should inspire Zimbabweans to
come back home," he said.
Sydney Shenje, 57, said he hopes his three children, who live in South
Africa and Australia, will come back to take over the township butcher shop
he owns. These days, it stocks just beer and pork -- beef is poor quality,
and chickens are too expensive.
But he is not sure how soon change will come, pointing inside his shop to a
man sitting on a Coca-Cola crate. Most of his customers think the new
government represents a new dawn, Shenje said, but that man was a soldier
during Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, a die-hard supporter of Mugabe's
party who thinks it "should go on ruling this country and not change
Those people and the generals who advise Mugabe despise Tsvangirai, he said.
"How are they going to interpret their relationship with the prime
minister?" Shenje asked. "The gap between them is so wide."
Shenje said that a power-sharing government was the best option but that it
seems to him to be too large and too undefined.
"My hope is because Robert Mugabe is 85 now. I think he's going to retire in
two years' time," Shenje said. "That's when we expect things will get
A short drive away, a pastor sat under the trees outside his church. Jim
Musaaka, 57, said members of his congregation had prayed for Zimbabwe's
political parties to reconcile. They are sure it has happened, he said.
He pointed to a large stack of gray bricks. Soon, he thinks, they will
become the new sanctuary they were intended for, before money disappeared
and stores ran out of construction supplies.
"We are expecting now that we should rebuild our country," Musaaka said. "So
that we can be like other countries. So people can get employment. . . .
Then, we start to build."
THE MUTUMWA MAWERE COLUMN
Posted to the web: 15/02/2009 23:32:37
ROY Bennett is not just another ordinary Zimbabwean. He is after all the
treasurer general of MDC-T, a position he acquired through an electoral
His recent arrest at a defining moment in the history of the country exposes
the lack of investment at independence in a social contract that would have
assisted in defining the kind of Zimbabwe that people wanted to create and
Zimbabwe's new Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday blamed Bennett's
arrest on minor Zanu PF elements and defiant small pockets of resistance who
want to destroy the country's coalition government.
Is he right in concluding that Bennett is a victim of defiant forces? To
what extent is Bennett's problems related to the colour of his skin?
The arrest is not accidental but goes a long way to highlight the unfinished
business of the colonial era that regrettably was not addressed at
independence. Beneath the veneer of reconciliation, President Mugabe has yet
to accept that white people can be full citizens with the same rights and
obligations as the majority black citizens.
When he makes the statement that "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again", he
is clear that post-colonial Zimbabwe has no obligation to white people and
as such they should know their place. He simply sees Bennett as a nuisance
and his presence in the senior ranks of MDC-T confirms Mugabe's position
that a party that can accommodate a person of Bennett's background and
worldview cannot be considered as a legitimate political actor.
At independence, no discussion on race and its place in post-colonial
Zimbabwe took place among Zimbabweans. It was left to political actors to
assimilate the few white people they deemed to be patriotic but in doing so
they were clear that it was not part of the project to confer rights on
white people equivalent to the rights of blacks.
By adopting a republican constitution, Zimbabweans accepted that civil
rights were open to all irrespective of the past. The democratic
constitutional order compelled all citizens to be afforded the same rights.
Bennett, by deciding to remain in post-colonial Zimbabwe at independence,
gave his consent to be governed like any other citizens and such consent
gave legitimacy to the government.
Unlike the colonial state, the post-colonial state had legitimacy in that it
was a creation of all the citizens rather than a select few. All Zimbabweans
expected to be treated equally under the law. Many white people who believed
in Zimbabwe and its new social contract took citizenship after independence
and some of them decided to engage in agricultural activities without the
knowledge that their rights were perishable.
Part of the social contract at independence was that the state of Zimbabwe
being a collective project was the sovereign over the land and, therefore,
the true owner of all the resources. What President Mugabe may not
understand is that the theory of law for real property in every country even
where freehold title is applicable is that what individuals can own is not
the land itself but an estate in the land, that is, a transferrable right to
use and exclude others from use. Human beings die after all and, therefore,
it would be nonsensical for a concept of permanency to take root in terms of
land ownership. What should be critical is the access to land by all and its
At all material times, the true owner of land is the sovereign because it
can make and enforce laws that restrict what one can do on one's estate.
However, the Zimbabwean constitution has been amended to treat land as a
different asset class. For the past 29 years, President Mugabe has been at
the helm and, therefore, had instruments at his disposal to transform the
agricultural industry with minimum disruptions and a diminishing white
population need not have posed a threat to an organised majority with clear
thinkers at the top.
Even the power sharing agreement has recognised the irreversibility of the
land reform programme and to some extent Bennett's problems may stem from
his decision to visit his former farm. By claiming that Zimbabwe will never
be a colony again, President Mugabe has accepted that the right to land will
be reserved for blacks that he regards as the true sons of the soil.
President Mugabe and his colleagues in Zanu PF hold the view that white
people's constitutional rights must be waived on the question of land and
his decision to remain in power may be motivated by a desire to frustrate
any white person who may believe that the inclusive government will change
the land policy framework as well as compromise the intended indigenisation
I have no doubt that when President Mugabe learned that Bennett was MDC-T's
nominee as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made's name must have
been the first one to come to mind. Made has done a good job at destroying
commercial agriculture and there could be no better person to counterbalance
Bennett than Made in President Mugabe's mind.
President Mugabe has not shifted in his thinking that MDC-T is a surrogate
of the West and, therefore, his cabinet selection was primarily informed by
this worldview. Prime Minister Tsvangirai may hold the view that Mugabe is
not the problem but part of the solution but the reality is that it is
unlikely that President Mugabe will change his views on citizenship and land
Bennett's case raises more fundamental issues than the allegations of
treason. To President Mugabe, any white person who believes he is a full
citizen and, therefore, entitled to the same economic rights like his fellow
black citizens is guilty of treason.
It is obvious that President Mugabe believes that the votes garnered by
MDC-T do not reflect the genuine will of the people of Zimbabwe. Rather, it
reflects the manipulation of the West through the use of financial resources
as well as the sanctions regime. Bennett has been credited for raising funds
for the election and it will take sometime for President Mugabe to forgive
him for what he regards as the execution of an almost successful regime
At the core of Bennett's problems is that he has refused to be cowed down.
He remains defiant and he recognises that without a change of policies, it
is unlikely that Zimbabwe's future is secure.
Bennett's case is a test case and the mere fact that his arrest has
dominated the airwaves goes a long to show that the credibility of the
inclusive government is on the line. It is unlikely that sanctions will be
lifted if senior politicians of MDC-T continue to be harassed.
The change that people can believe in will be evident when the state ceases
to be an agent of oppression. Through democratic means, the MDC-T is now
part of the government and to the extent that Bennett is a nominee to join
the very government that he is now alleged to be trying to overthrow through
unlawful means is laughable to say the least.
If it were someone other than Bennett then it would be believable. Bennett
was one of the advocates for proceeding with the inclusive government and
yet finds himself accused of undermining it.
There is no doubt that President Mugabe will try to prevail on Tsvangirai to
distance himself from Bennett. he problem of Bennett cannot be blamed on
junior officers when it is accepted that President Mugabe is yet to be
convinced that his administration's failure to deliver was a consequence of
President Mugabe will no doubt take the position that as the Executive, they
cannot and should not be seen to be interfering with Bennett's matter and
this should be left to the judiciary and he was not responsible for
He will no doubt make the point at the first cabinet meeting that the
separation of powers doctrine should be the guiding principle. It is
unlikely that he will be persuaded to change his mind and seek to do the
right thing for the country by releasing Bennett so that he can focus on the
The assault on Bennett is no different from the treatment that some of us
have been subjected to. We have no choice but to follow the Bennett matter
with concern and interest. Its resolution will have a material bearing on
the credibility of the government as well as in inspiring confidence.
President Mugabe believes that people opposed to Zanu PF are automatically
enemies of the state. It is important that with the advent of the inclusive
government a distinction be made between the state and political parties.
Without such distinction, the future is less secure. President Mugabe must
know what time it is and surely it is time to advance the interests of
Zimbabwe rather than protect and promote partisan agendas using the state.
Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column is published on New Zimbabwe.com every
Monday. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
MGCINI NYONI - Feb 16 2009 06:00
Boarding a bus from Bulawayo to the eastern town of Mutare, I was at first
confused. The bus was filled to capacity with people lugging box upon box of
televisions, DVD players and lots of other bits and pieces -- very expensive
bits and pieces.
From the passengers' conversations, I gathered that they had all been to
Botswana on a shopping trip. But how on earth were so many people affording
shopping trips there -- and from as far away as Manicaland, Zimbabwe's most
I got the full story when we arrived in Mutare, Manicaland's capital. Almost
all able-bodied males were flocking to the diamond fields of Chiyadzwa,
about 100km from Mutare. Illegally, they were digging for diamonds -- and
were almost getting rich in the process.
Almost, because it's a rare individual who puts the money to good use: after
finding a diamond worth say $5 000, most youngsters camp in bars, buy beer
and party up a storm.
So out of curiosity I decided to visit Chiyadzwa. With a brother-in-law and
some friends I boarded a bus bound for a small shopping centre about 70km
south of Mutare called Chakohwa -- about 20km from the diamond fields at
There are buses that travel straight from Mutare to Chiyadzwa, but diamond
diggers don't use these because of the numerous roadblocks along the way:
police try to stop people from getting to Chiyadzwa. So from Chakohwa the
journey is completed by several hours of serious walking.
The moment we got to Chakohwa, I became a gweja (diamond digger). There is
no recruitment process; you just decide to do it and join a group with
experienced diggers. In the scorching heat we started off towards Chiyadzwa
at a blistering pace.
The wide path is constantly busy. Some coming from Chiyadzwa are drunk to
the point of stupidity, shouting "Yafa mari [We have struck it rich]." Those
of sober habits are carrying wares such as DVD players and thick winter
blankets that they've bought from enterprising people who consider digging
too risky and so trade these goods at the diamond fields.
Some of those from Chiyadzwa are looking forlorn: they are the unlucky ones
who have stayed in the bush for weeks without striking it rich and have
decided to go back home.
We walked for about three hours and, along the way, the leader of our group
of four constantly greeted those coming back from Chiyadzwa, asking "Kurisei
[How is the situation at the diamond fields]?" The responses varied:
"Kuribho [It is okay]."
"Chakabhiridha, nhasi chaiye kwarumwa vanhu eight nembwa [It is tight --
today eight people were mauled by police dogs]."
"Go ariko, ndakudzokera kumba", meaning "Gohwa is there, I am going back
home" -- Gohwa being a senior police officer notorious for arresting and
shooting diamond diggers.
We arrived at the base camp where diggers rest and cook before going to the
fields, at about 4pm. After we had rested for a while, our leader decided we
should proceed. One hour over mountainous and rocky terrain to get to the
diamond fields, and we met hundreds of people coming from the fields, still
with varying stories about the situation there.
About 100m from the fields we sat down until it became dark. Then we
approached cautiously. There is a firebreak surrounding the diamond fields
and we could see police officers patrolling the area.
One of the officers started walking towards us and most of the diggers fled,
but since our group leader stayed put, we didn't move. About 5m from us, the
police officer stopped and shouted: "Gweja."
"Officer," replied our leader. "Huya tinzwe," the police officer said,
meaning, "Come, let us talk."
Our group leader went down to meet the officer and they conferred for a few
moments. He hailed us and we went to meet them. We were told that the
officer wanted Z$10-trillion per person to allow us into the fields. (Do not
bother trying to figure out the value of Z$10-trillion as this changes on a
daily basis: what buys a car today will not buy a loaf of bread next month.)
We paid and got in.
The diamond fields are full of ditches ranging from 1m to 5m deep, and the
experienced diggers know which are full of riches. So we wandered about the
fields looking for the so-called "paying" ditches. We had to tread
carefully -- it's easy to fall into one of the ditches and crack your head
open on a rock or break a limb.
When we had located a promising ditch we got to work, first clearing the
rocks that had fallen into the pit -- or more likely been thrown there by
other diggers to "protect" the ditch. When we had finished one guy got into
the ditch and started digging, using a sharpened metal rod.
We poured the dug-up soil into hessian sacks, shaking them to separate out
small stones. We would be carrying mapagamaga (heavily loaded sacks) to
increase our chances of finding a diamond.
When we were about finished the alarm was raised with shouts of "Gweja
nyumwawo" -- beware of danger. This was followed by the sound of gunfire;
police officers were close by. We shouldered our pagamagas and rushed out of
It is not easy going, walking over rocky and mountainous terrain while
carrying about 40kg of dirt that could be worthless. As sweat drips down
your face you wish you could come across the guys who stand along the path
selling drinking water. But the hope that the dirt you are carrying is worth
a lot of money keeps you going. We arrived at base camp totally exhausted
and slept in the open.
At first light we bought some water and washed our small stones. Piling them
into a heap, we started looking for the precious stones. We were almost
through the entire heap without finding anything. But just when everyone had
almost given up hope, we found a diamond that the experienced diggers said
was about six carats and could fetch US$2 000.
We rushed to the "market" -- an open field a few kilometres from the diamond
fields. The buyers include Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Nigerians and Zambians,
and everyone there keeps an eye open for the police, who are liable to raid
at any given moment.
After much haggling with a Nigerian buyer, we were paid US$800, which we
I was satisfied with my share and declared that I was going home. Although
the prospect of instant riches was tempting, I wasn't prepared to risk my
life for money.
Monday 16 February 2009
Lance Guma speaks to Dr Simba Makoni
Broadcast 12 February 2009
This week on Behind the Headlines Lance Guma speaks to former Finance
Minister Simba Makoni in a wide-ranging interview. Lance asks Makoni for his
views on the unity government currently being put in place and whether he
thinks they can deliver. Does he feel bitter that he was excluded from the
process despite coming third in presidential elections last year? Does
Makoni agree with Dumiso Dabengwa's claims that he acted as a spoiler in
last years elections to create conditions for a run-off? Makoni is also
questioned on allegations by his colleagues in the Mavambo Movement who
claim he still has links to ZANU PF and that he misused party funds.
Lance: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to another edition of Behind the
Headlines. My guest this week is former finance minister and leader of the
Mavambo Movement Dr Simba Makoni. Dr Makoni thank you for joining us on SW
Makoni: It's a pleasure, thank you good afternoon.
Lance: Right, starting point is we've had a new unity government put in
place this week. Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in on Wednesday and as a
prominent leader yourself in Zimbabwe, the starting question has to be what
is your view of this recently installed government.
Makoni: Well first we must place the facts on record and say the government
is not yet fully installed as you know cabinet ministers have not yet been
appointed and taken oath, but yes the leadership of the government in the
sense of the Presidency and the Premiership is now in place. We welcome it.
We welcomed the Global Political Agreement. It was and still is an imperfect
agreement but it's the best on offer for the people of Zimbabwe at the
moment and we wish that they will work well together to serve the people of
Lance: Now those who have been very skeptical of this arrangement have
pointed to the lack of sincerity which they seem to be picking up from Zanu
PF. Do you see this as a major stumbling block? Are Zanu PF sincere in this
Makoni: Well I think it is quite clear that all the partners in this
arrangement are there for convenience. There is no commitment, there is
mistrust, there is suspicion and so people are justified to be skeptical
because the motivation is not commitment to service and therefore we also
have expressed our reservations about what motivated the three of them to
come together. But let's be generous, let's be optimistic, let's be forward
looking and wish that they will work well together for the sake of the
people and the country.
Lance: If it had been left up to you Dr Makoni, what would you have proposed
as a way forward in terms of? I mean you have just pointed out that this
agreement is imperfect. How would you have suggested a way forward for the
Makoni: Well its not, how would I, you know that I was the first proponent
of a government of national unity at the time when I launched my
presidential campaign. I maintained that stance up to now. We would have
offered a leadership that was motivated to service and committed to serving
the people rather than to acquiring and spending power and control. The
major misgiving we have about the Global Political Agreement is that it was
motivated by power and control and that is why people set out in a country
in dire straits as ours to set up a huge administration. Six people in the
Presidency and the Premiership, 31 ministers, 11 Deputy Ministers. We cannot
afford that. And so we would have sought to set up a compact, technocratic,
competent based national authority that was committed to taking Zimbabwe out
of the crisis it is in.
Lance: Now do you think then given those hurdles that you are pointing out,
can this government deliver?
Makoni: Well it can if they commit themselves. It's not impossible for
people of different political persuasions to work together to a common
purpose. A lot of Europe is run by coalition governments from extreme right,
extreme left centers. So it's not a new thing. But it depends on commitment,
honesty trustworthiness and those elements are not there in the parties to
this Global Agreement.
Lance: Last year in the presidential elections you came third and a lot of
people were rather surprised that you did not play a very prominent role in
the negotiations that followed those disputed elections. Are you some how
disappointed you were somehow excluded from this process?
Makoni: Well I have two feelings and views about that. Yes indeed I was
disappointed, not just for myself, but more for the people who are committed
to the vision and mission that I set out to promote because we are confident
that we would have made a meaningful contribution to those negotiations. We
would have influenced the negotiations away from power control and command
to service. So from that point of view, we are disappointed. That I am not
there personally, I am not disappointed, because participating in this
process that has led to this imperfect outcome would have discredited and
compromised some of our principles and values.
Lance: Now Dr Makoni, do you see a role for yourself under the current set
up, I mean have you been approached about doing anything?
Makoni: No, I haven't been approached by anyone. I don't see a role for
myself in the so-called inclusive government. But I do see a role for myself
and for colleagues in our movement and the population of Zimbabwe that
subscribes to the values and principles that we stand for, in that with the
creation of MDC T-F, we now become the sole voice of the people. We will be
watching this so-called inclusive government step by step. We will be
monitoring their every action. And we will be keeping them under close
monitor to ensure that what the people yearn for is voiced. And that voice
now is ours.
Lance: Some analysts had actually pointed that same fact you are talking
about Dr Makoni that the MDC which was the only credible opposition to date
has now joined the government and that has now created a vacuum were the
likes of Mavambo and maybe the recently re-launched ZAPU can take up space,
so I mean this is a bonus for you.
Makoni: Well I wouldn't say it is a bonus, it is what we created. When I
moved in to join the presidential race, we offered the people of Zimbabwe an
alternative to Mugabe and Tsvangirai. We offered the people of Zimbabwe an
alternative to Zanu PF and MDC. And we are continuing to offer the people of
Zimbabwe that alternative, so is not a bonus, it's our creation.
Lance: Several weeks ago I interviewed former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso
Dabengwa and he said the decision and the project to support your
presidential candidacy was meant to stop an outright winner developing
between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. Do you subscribe to this summarization of the
scenario that you basically acted as spoilers?
Makoni: Well I do not subscribe to it and I can tell you that is not what
motivated me to stand. I don't know if Dumiso actually said that. I stood
genuinely and honestly to offer Zimbabweans an alternative leadership. I
wanted to win in order to serve the country, not to spoil for anyone. I was
convinced so were many Zimbabweans in Zanu PF, in MDC and those outside
politics that neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai were the best leader for
Zimbabwe at this time and I believe the large majority of Zimbabweans still
believe that to date. And I set out to offer to Zimbabweans an alternative
to Mugabe and Tsvangirai not to spoil for anyone.
Lance: Going to another issue Dr Makoni, much closer to your own movement. I
believe last Wednesday several members of the National Coordinating
Committee of the Mavambo Movement led by retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi,
convened a press conference at which they announced the decision that they
had deposed you as leader of Mavambo and several accusations were made. What
is the current position regarding the leadership of the Mavambo Movement?
Makoni: Well I can tell you that I am talking to you from my office at our
movement offices. I am functioning normally, so are all the other colleagues
who are involved with us in leading the movement towards a political party.
We've heard of this political development but it has not affected our
operation. The people you mention are disaffected by the fact that they
failed to achieve material gains they set out to achieve in rallying behind
me. Let me say that when I announced my candidacy, all kinds of characters
joined the movement with all kinds of agenda's, objectives and ambitions.
Many of them have fallen by the way side because they have realized that we
are not mercenaries, we are not wicked, we are not crooked, we are not
criminals, we are not greedy, we are not dishonest, and because they cant
fit into an honest set up of integrity and service they have decided to take
their way and we say goodbye.
Lance: Its interesting Major Kudzai Mbudzi pointed to one issue which a lot
of people have raised in various forums. He alleges that you still have
strong links with Zanu PF and that you still have clandestine meetings with
several senior Zanu PF officials. I don't know if we can maybe talk about
this. Is that a correct representation of the situation?
Makoni: No it is not. Remember that one of my key platforms in the election
campaign was I was a unifier. I don't want to divide the people of Zimbabwe.
I can confirm to you that I continue to relate to people who are members of
the MDC and some are members of Zanu PF, some are members of other political
parties some are not in any political party. I meet with all those
Zimbabweans as Zimbabweans not clandestinely but quite openly in broad
daylight. It is curious that Mbudzi decides to point to my relations with
Zanu PF members and not with MDC members, with members of the labour
movement, with the Christian leadership. I relate normally with all
Zimbabweans because I quest for unity and commitment to service. I am not a
Lance: Let me also touch on another issue. Mbudzi also claimed that you
promoted the system of patronage and division and ethnicity and he says out
of a total 10 members of the management committee 7 could be traced to your
tribal roots and village of origin. Would you maybe want to address those
Makoni: I think that kind of trash is belonging to Mbudzi, I do not discuss
those terms, I relate to Zimbabweans of all walks of life. I relate to
Zimbabweans from all stations of society, from all regions of the country. I
am a national leader; I am not a village leader.
Lance: And maybe before I move on to another subject, one more claim that
Mbudzi made were he is saying you withheld donations that were made to the
movement and the figures quoted there are from US1,5 million to about US$3
million. The financial issues, how was that laid out in terms of the
movement, were these donations that were made towards your presidential bid
or to the movement?
Makoni: All I can say is that those who are in the movement, know how we are
operating, are not raising those questions and I won't dignify Mbudzi by
answering that kind of question. The movement is functioning normally,
openly, transparently and genuine and committed activists of the movement
are not asking Mbudzi's questions. Mbudzi was with us until September, left
us of his own volition and therefore it's no longer of his interest since
September when he bade us farewell, to be raising those issues. But movement
activists are working normally to create the party that will work for the
people of Zimbabwe.
Lance: Dr Makoni when I interviewed Dumiso Dabengwa I asked him why he had
in a sense left the Mavambo Movement to reform PF ZAPU and asked whether you
two had fallen out. He sort of refused to answer the question. I don't know
if I can pose the same question to you and say how are relations between
yourself and Mr. Dabengwa and did the two of you fall out that caused him
maybe to leave the movement?
Makoni: Well our relations are normal. The last time I had a discussion with
Dumiso it was cordial, it was normal, it was rational. I have followed
developments involving him in the media and in public discourse. I haven't
had the opportunity to discuss with him how he went that direction. But
again that is the essence of democracy. People choose associations of their
own free will and Dumiso is at liberty to do that, I don't begrudge him and
I wish him well.
Lance: My final question to you Dr Makoni, you are obviously former finance
minister, Morgan Tsvangirai in his inauguration speech spoke about paying
all civil servants in foreign currency. We've also seen the appointment of
Tendai Biti as the country's new finance minister, what do you make of those
developments? Firstly do you think its practical to pay all civil servants
in foreign currency and what do you make of Biti's appointment as finance
Makoni: Well I would like to say that it is not appropriate to assess an
individual, I would like to see the whole government team in place. So I am
waiting with bated breadth for the appointment and installation of ministers
tomorrow (Friday). When we see that total line up behind 3 Presidents and 3
Prime Ministers, which is such a cumbersome and clumsy arrangement for a
country like ours in its current state we will then be able to make a read
of whether that set up can deliver or cannot deliver and so I would seek
patience on your part, lets have this conversation tomorrow (Friday) or the
day after tomorrow when the full government team is in place and we can
begin to read the potential of its delivery or non-delivery.
Lance: And what about the issue of paying civil servants in foreign
currency, what do you make of that?
Makoni: Well I actually haven't seen the actual statement to read what the
Prime Minister is said to have said. But what it begs at face value is where
will the money come from? Because Zimbabwe under current circumstances I don't
believe is in any position to pay all civil servants in foreign currency
unless they are being paid a pittance. So it is a very curious question, but
Morgan Tsvangirai is now the Prime Minister, probably he has a little pot of
gold somewhere that he will reveal to the nation.
Lance: That was Dr Simba Makoni, former finance minister and leader of the
Mavambo Movement joining us on Behind the Headlines. Dr Makoni thank you so
much for sparing us your time. - ZimOnline
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1. Jerry Erasmus -
I am looking for Gary & Sonja Ervine or Irvine. Not sure which. Used to
farm west of Harare Mt Hampden way. Met a kiwi here who spent time with
them in the 90s & wants to contact them. My email address is
2. Paul Johnstone -
I wondered if you may be able to help me. My sister Niall was married to a
Zimbabwean farmer - Anthony Millar. They were married in 1986 and then Niall
developed an illness and sadly passed away 6 months after the marriage. Our
families remained in contact until my family all left Zimbabwe and now we
no contact at all. I spent many wonderful days on the Millars' Mazowe farms
when I was a teenager - hunting, fishing etc. With all the horrendous goings
on in the farming community in Zimbabwe I have often wondered what happened
the Millars. I know that their farms were listed and I can only imagine what
trauma they would have gone through in losing the farms. They were good
farmers and incredibly proud of what they had achieved.
If you have any contact details for Stuart or Colleen or any of their sons -
Anthony, Andrew or Robert, I would be most grateful. I am not sure what I
could say to them that could help with their loss but they should know that
memories of their farms and the beauty that they created, comes to me often
when I think of my childhood.
All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions
of the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice