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Zimbabwe mulls reforms to screen presidential candidates

Yahoo News

Sun Feb 17, 4:32 AM ET

HARARE, Feb 17, 2008 (AFP) - Zimbabwean authorities are planning
constitutional reforms to introduce stringent screening for presidential
candidates in the coming elections, a state newspaper reported Sunday.

The Sunday Mail quoted an unnamed government source as saying the move was
to bar some "presidential chancers" who were using legal loopholes to try
their hand at taking over the reins of power from veteran President Robert
Mugabe, in office since 1980.
"It seems anyone who wishes to participate in a presidential election can do
so without the requisite structures as the law does not screen out such
people," the newspaper quoted the source as saying.

"The government is therefore seeking screens to net such chancers from bona
fide candidates."

The planned move came after the decision by Zimbabwe's former finance
minister Simba Makoni to challenge Mugabe as an independent candidate in
presidential elections on March 29.

Makoni, a former member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)'s elite politburo, said his decision to challenge
Mugabe followed consultations with a cross-section of Zimbabweans.

His candidacy was confirmed by special nominations on Friday along with
those of Mugabe, main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader
Tsvangirai Morgan, and an obscure independent candidate, Langton Towungana.

The Sunday Mail said under the proposed reforms presidential candidates
should be backed by elected members and be able to form a government.

"Recent years have, however, seen the emergence of independent candidates
who want to run for the presidency without the backing of elected members,"
the newspaper added.

The newspaper quoted Mugabe's spokesman confirming Makoni met with Mugabe
before announcing his decision to stand for presidency, but said at the
meeting Makoni only said some people had invited him to stand in next
month's elections.

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MDC says has plan to deal with stolen election

Zim Online

by Farisai Gonye Monday 18 February 2008

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s main opposition at the weekend said it would not
challenge the outcome of next month’s elections in the courts but had an
alternative strategy to overturn a rigged election result.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party spokesman Nelson
Chamisa would not spell out the details of the alternative strategy but said
the party - that has unsuccessfully challenged previous poll results in
court – had a “strategy to incapacitate” President Robert Mugabe’s
government in the event of another disputed election.

"We have a plan in place. The MDC will use a tried and yet untested (in
Zimbabwe) strategy to incapacitate Mugabe," said Chamisa.

Both Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and State Security Minister Didymus
Mutasa were not immediately available for comment on the matter.

Zimbabwe, which is grappling with its worst ever economic crisis, holds
local government, parliamentary and presidential elections on March 29.

Analysts say an unfair playing field coupled with political violence and
intimidation of opponents guarantees Mugabe’s government victory at the
polls despite its clear failure to break a vicious inflation cycle that has
left consumers impoverished and the economy in deep crisis.

The MDC, local human rights groups and Western countries say Mugabe’s
government has repeatedly cheated its way to victory in previous elections
in 2000, 2002 and 2005 – a charge the Harare administration denies.

Chamisa - who last month threatened Zimbabwe could see Kenyan-style violence
in the event Mugabe rigged the polls but later backtracked apparently under
pressure from senior MDC leaders – said the opposition party had resorted to
the courts in the past but found no justice.

He said: “This time the courts are out of question, they are out of the
picture.  The MDC has a strategy that has been tested and used elsewhere,
but untried in Zimbabwe.

“We are going to give that plan a chance to unseat an illegal government
that would have cheated its way to victory. Mugabe has already started
rigging this election and he has refused to accept our demands for electoral

In 2002, the MDC petitioned the High Court to nullify victory by candidates
of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF in more than 30 constituencies but the petitions
died a natural death chiefly because of delays by the courts in hearing

A petition by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai against Mugabe’s re-election
victory in 2002 also suffered the same fate.

Critics accuse Zimbabwe’s judiciary, re-moulded by Mugabe over the past
eight years when he forced most independent judges to leave the bench, of
failing to stand up against the veteran leader.

However, analysts say the MDC, weakened by internal division and a ruthless
onslaught against its structures by Mugabe’s police and military, lacks the
capacity to effectively mobilise civil resistance against the government. -

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Budgetary constraints force army to scale down recruitment

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Monday 18 February 2008

      BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe’s army will recruit soldiers only once per year
instead of after every three or four months to cut on costs, sources told
ZimOnline at the weekend.

      The crisis-torn southern African country has an army of about 40 000
to 45 000 soldiers. However insiders say both the army and police have
suffered unusually higher numbers of resignations and desertions in recent

      According to our sources, who are in the army and spoke on condition
they were not named, the traditional recruitment exercises after every
quarter of the year were now eating away the bulk of the army’s budget
forcing senior commanders to revise them.

      “It is a huge and beneficial cost cutting measure,” said one source a
senior army officer. “Recruits selected during the one-off recruitment
exercise will be co-opted into the army on a quarterly basis,” he added.

      Army spokesman Samuel Tsatsi confirmed yesterday that the quarterly
recruitments have been shelved because of budgetary constraints.

      “We now hold a one off recruitment exercise to cut back on huge costs
incurred through the quarterly exercises,” Tsatsi said.

      While top army and police commanders are well paid and cushioned from
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, lower ranking officers have not been spared the
harsh effects of an economic meltdown that has seen inflation shooting
beyond 66 000 percent and spawned severe shortages of food and every basic
survival commodity.

      Hundreds of junior soldiers and police have over the past few years
resigned or deserted to seek better paying jobs abroad mostly as private
security guards. - ZimOnline

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It’s not too late for a Makoni, Tsvangirai deal

Zim Online

by Mutumwa Mawere Monday 18 February 2008

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe’s population is now estimated at about 12.3 million
after taking into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS and

To say that the forthcoming elections represent a defining moment in the
history of post-colonial Zimbabwe would be an understatement.

The combined elections will give the eligible and registered voters an
opportunity to decide at four levels how Zimbabwe should be governed in the
next five years.

The first level is the Presidential election in which citizens have to make
a choice between the four candidates that have been successfully nominated.

Two of the candidates, President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, were
the two dominant players during the last presidential election held in 2002.
The other two are Dr Simba Makoni and Mr Langton Towungana.

To the extent that Mugabe who has monopolised the political space since
independence is also a candidate, it is important now that the choices are
known for Zimbabweans to think seriously about the future of the country.

The political space in Zimbabwe was dominated by ZANU and ZAPU during the
first seven years of independence and thereafter through to 1999, the space
was dominated by ZANU-PF.

However, during the last eight years, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have dominated
the political space.

Both ZANU-PF and MDC representatives were elected to Parliament during the
2000 and 2005 elections and the successful candidates have managed to
co-exist under the same House of Assembly.

Consequently, they share the burden of governance as they have been involved
in the day to day legislative agenda, which recently resulted in them
agreeing to Constitutional Amendment number 18.

Prior to the emergence of the MDC as a political actor, the civic society
organisations (CSO) from which the founding members of the party were drawn
were agitating for a new constitution.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) was one such institution
advocating for a people driven constitution arguing that the parliament of
Zimbabwe could not be trusted to deliver a democratic constitution.

Understandably, the NCA then rejected the CA 18 agreed to by both ZANU- PF
and the two MDC formations.

At the core of the argument for constitutional reform debate, was the issue
of process power and the role of the President particularly given the
generally held view that Mugabe had manipulated ZANU-PF and the people of
Zimbabwe into agreeing through their parliamentary representatives to amend
the Lancaster House Constitution in a manner that has created an Imperial
Presidency in which he has been able to run the country as if it was a

The quest for a new constitutional order was successfully thwarted through
the use of a Constitution Commission that was mandated to draft a new

The credibility test for the draft constitution was primarily the manner in
which the office of the President was treated.

When the constitution was sold to the Zimbabwean public, it was naturally
rejected by even the most ardent advocates of the new constitution because
it failed to deal decisively with the incumbent President.

I am only bringing this historical record in order to put my thoughts, on
the points that the registered voters participating in the forthcoming
elections have to think seriously about, into some context.

The attempt to remove Mugabe through constitutional reforms failed so as the
attempt to remove him through elections as well as subsequently through

The presence of Mugabe’s name alone on the political menu raises its own
issues about the credibility and transparency of the forthcoming elections.

Mugabe has credited his government of holding free, frequent and fair
elections in which his party has always ‘won’.

As American author and historian, Henry Brooks Adams, said over a hundred
years ago: “No man, however, strong can serve ten years as school master,
priest, or senator, and remain fit for anything else,” it has been observed
that Mugabe notwithstanding the fact that he may not know what to do to lift
Zimbabwe up again fits into the category of persons who look to politics as
a career rather than as a service platform.

A dilemma Zimbabwe’s opposition is also faced with; imagine the fate of many
after say they lose their parliamentary seats in the March elections? Or
what would become of Tsvangirai should he cease to be leader of the

The post-election intentions of Mugabe are not known but it has been
speculated that he will relinquish power to a successor who would then have
to be elected by parliament.

However, there are no guarantees and people are genuinely sceptical and
cynical about the future to the extent that they have surrendered their
future to only four men.

It is now too late for Zimbabweans to think of a President beyond the four
men that have qualified as candidates. If President Mugabe were to win, the
other three contenders will predictably challenge the results.

It is generally agreed that Mugabe does not offer anything new but if he
does win, very few of his critics outside Zimbabwe will accept the results,
prolonging the country’s pariah status.

The country is on its knees and yet the conversations at this late hour
between Zimbabweans and among the three competitors for the top post
excluding Mugabe suggests that some Zimbabweans are not ready to break with
the past.

Given the gravity of the economic situation, one would have expected
Tsvangirai, Makoni and Towungana to share a common vision for Zimbabwe and a
consensus on what the defining hour should deliver.

While Makoni and Tsvangirai may disagree about the context of change they
ought to agree that they are brothers in prosecuting the struggle to usher
Zimbabwe into a new era.

It cannot be said that it is not healthy for Makoni to have entered the
Presidential race not only because it has allowed people to expand the menu
of choices beyond the two bitter enemies, Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Indeed, the entry of Makoni has given voters an opportunity to pronounce
their opinion on whether they wish to continue to be spectators and victims
while the stalemate continues.

It is not clear whether Mugabe would accept Tsvangirai’s victory and vice
versa. A new dawn is urgently required in Zimbabwean politics and Makoni may
emerge to be the only available option.

One cannot accept a proposition that the entry of Makoni has denied anyone a
right to participate in the elections given that the same old culprits are
still on the ballot paper.

It is expected that Makoni’s participation will help energise the Zimbabwean
electorate to participate rather than fall victim to the MDC strategy of
participating in a race while openly acknowledging that the vote will be

This will have had the effect of discouraging voters from participating in
the elections if Makoni had not entered the race.

A Zanu PF culture runs through the veins of even the most ardent critics of
Mugabe’s policies.

Although I hold no brief for Makoni, I think that it would be undemocratic
for even any of his competitors to characterise him as a surrogate of
someone else when it now takes courage in an atmosphere of fear for anyone
to offer his name as an independent.

I am not sure whether the critics of Makoni’s eleventh hour entry into the
race would have been satisfied if the contest was between Mugabe and
Tsvangirai only.

Strangely, many of them had dismissed this election as having been won by
the incumbent Mugabe.

One Dr Lovemore Madhuku even went as far as to give an exclusive interview
to the state run Herald that the opposition would be walloped in this
election, a position he reiterated at a public meeting in Harare and was
supported by the majority there.

It may be the case that many of the CSOs are encouraging Tsvangirai to
participate fully convinced that he will lose so that they can extend their

The NGO sector in Zimbabwe would rather have the stalemate continue and the
elections inclusive because of the inherent financial benefits to the

Ever since I pronounced my personal opinion on what kind of change I would
like to see in Zimbabwe, I have been encouraged by my critics who have
proceeded to allege that my support for Makoni was motivated by an
underlying ZANU-PF agenda.

It did not surprise me to receive mixed messages about Makoni because it
demonstrates that Zimbabweans are thinking about the future of the country.

Some have accepted that the future will not be complete if their preferred
candidate does not win the election ignoring that what is at stake is not
the fate of the four candidates but the country.

However, one needs to unpack the logic behind my being defined as ZANU-PF or
Makoni for that matter, I want to posit here that ZANU-PF is not only an
institution but a culture that permeates every aspect of our society,
including the home, the church and the so called alternative politics.

Zimbabwean national politics is so diluted that many in the opposition camp
including parliamentarians, for instance, are funded and sustained in their
livelihoods by the RBZ and other state institutions, militating against any
argument that may be advanced that anyone in the MDC is fresh faced and pure
as it may have been at its formation eight years ago.

If Zimbabwe was a person, what would he/she say about the four candidates?
Anyone who cares about the future of the country is compelled to think
deeply about legacy issues.

The people privileged to vote in this defining election have to think beyond
the confines of their own personal preferences but for all the millions in
the Diaspora as well as future generations who will no doubt look back and
ask the right questions.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been at each other’s throat for the past
eight years and the country has continued to deteriorate under their watch.

They have both claimed to be victims with Mugabe alleging that Tsvangirai is
nothing but an agent of third parties while Tsvangirai maintains that he is
the de facto President of Zimbabwe on the back of a widely held view that he
won the 2002 elections.

Tsvangirai disputes that the MDC is a puppet of the West and yet ironically,
he now wants to argue that Makoni is not a principal in his own right who
genuinely believes like him that Zimbabwe’s brighter day is yet to come and
he has a stake in it.

There is a classic Zimbabwean disease that seems to have afflicted many to
see beyond what is before them. Zimbabweans have to choose from the four men
who are the political beauty pageants.

Like beauty queens the judges are the registered voters who have to make the
choice based on their subjective evaluation of what each candidate brings to
the table.

What does Mugabe bring to the table? This question is equally applicable to
the other three contestants.

However, instead of waiting for the contestants to promise what they cannot
deliver it is important for everyone interested in the future of the country
to pose and think about what they want to see and work constructively in the
remaining days to make sure that they are the change they want to see.

It is naïve for anyone concerned about the future of Zimbabwe to think that
it is someone else’s responsibility to bring the change they want to see.
Mugabe has the African continent as well as the majority of the developing
countries while Tsvangirai has enjoyed the support of the West.

Over the last eight years, I have not seen any major drive to increase MDC
party membership let alone to get people to register as voters.

It has been reported that following Makoni’s announcement to enter the race,
the registration of voters increased suggesting that Zimbabweans do respond
to changes in the choices available.

Notwithstanding, excitement and vibrant debate has been generated as a
direct consequence of Makoni’s entry into the Presidential race in a manner
that has dramatically transformed an increasingly apathetic population.

What the above seems to suggest is that Zimbabweans in general do not see
value in participating in the affairs of their country through political

Many who support either Mugabe or Tsvangirai are not even members of ZANU-PF
or the MDC, respectively.

If citizens have surrendered their future to political actors then the
change they expect to see may not necessarily be what they want to see
irrespective of who is elected.

If ZANU-PF, MDC and other Zimbabwean political organisations unlike
religious institutions have failed to capture the imagination of citizens
then the problem that Zimbabwe faces may be more fundamental.

I am not convinced that the people who have been nominated to represent MDC
and ZANU-PF necessarily share a common vision with their leaders.

Many are however trapped in this partisan politics and it becomes clear that
many in ZANU-PF actually may be against Mugabe’s candidature while those in
the Tsvangirai formation may not necessarily be at one with him.

Not discounting the disillusioned in both formations that claim to have been
elbowed out of the race for political reasons and are now standing as
independent candidates.

Assuming I am correct in suggesting that the political labels that people
put on Makoni, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have no real meaning because in real
life it is difficult to locate a person who is ZANU-PF or MDC but what is
more realistic is that there may be a convergence of thought between
Makoni/Tsvangirai/Towungana about the need for change.

For Mugabe the change that he wants to see would allow him to be President
and the same applies to his competitors. Zimbabweans would then need to
makes choices discounting the political labels because they ultimately may
have no bearing in the manner in which the government will operate.

I am also not convinced that ZANU-PF members are satisfied about the manner
in which Mugabe’s government has conducted its affairs, thus the noticeable
fears within the party ranks of Makoni’s challenge to Mugabe.

It would not make sense to believe that the dismal economic performance and
the lack of political and economic direction that Zimbabweans have been
subjected to have only been transmitted on partisan grounds.

I should like to believe that if there is no electricity or water in an
area, one would not see only ZANU-PF houses being privileged with supplies.
The problems affect all and the current government has to shoulder the

Outside the contestations for political office, there appears to be no life
in many of the political organisations in Zimbabwe suggesting that the real
agenda is to seize the state power and not necessarily to advance any
national interest.

If it is national interest that motivates people to seek political office
then it should not matter who is ZANU-PF or MDC because these are mere
labels seeking to divide and not unite people.

Makoni has rightly chosen to wear no political label. I believe that it is
important that Zimbabweans rise above the cheap politics of defining and
characterising others as currency for advancing their political careers.

What do people of Zimbabwe really expect from their government?  Who really
should own the government of Zimbabwe?

If citizens are ready to reclaim their heritage then they have to think
beyond the labels because whoever becomes President has to be accountable to
the people of Zimbabwe and not to the parties that select them.

Only two candidates for the Presidency will not have the baggage of
political organisations that are faction ridden, with questionable
democratic credentials and maybe there is a chance that the people of
Zimbabwe will come to a realisation that they are the true owners of the
republic and not ZANU-PF or MDC.

Consequently, Zimbabweans in choosing their leader in the next election will
judge both the MDC and ZANU-PF on performance over the past eight years for
the former and the past 28 years for the latter.

The MDC cannot continue to plead innocence and play victim when it has been
involved in the process of governance together with ZANU-PF, it also has to
shoulder responsibility for the disillusionment in its ranks arising from a
myriad of problematic issues that are a matter of public record.

To put it crudely, MDC legislators have enjoyed perks of being in parliament
just as ZANU-PF MP’s have, they have equally contributed to the legislative

To make matters worse, it is significant to note that the reason that caused
the two MDC factions to split appears to have been forgotten as both
formations have fielded candidates for the Senate.

And so one can safely argue that Makoni’s rise and popularity is as much a
result of ZANU-PF’s inability to deliver positive change to its members as
much as the MDC’s similar inability to deliver to its own members.

ZANU-PF and MDC like any political parties are nothing but associations of
people who may share a common purpose but it does not mean that the
institutions own the members.

Zimbabwe needs to turn a new leaf and invest in creating a new environment,
with a progressive political culture that can operate above the partisan one
that sections of the country have now come to accept as normal.

The person elected to be President of the country must discharge his
responsibilities in the national interest.

Questions have been raised whether an independent Presidential candidate
will have any chance of winning if he does not have a political party behind
him forgetting that all that the citizens will be asked to do is to elect
one of four men.

Makoni is contesting in one big constituency called Zimbabwe, by the look of
things he appears to appeal to a diverse group of Zimbabweans regardless of
political affiliation.

Thus the fears and the vitriolic attacks from hardliners in both the MDC and
ZANU-PF, begs the question of what they fear if they have a satisfied
support base.

The constitution of Zimbabwe does not require a President to belong to a
political party.

What it will mean if any of the two independent candidates wins the
Presidential election, is he will have to appoint a candidate from the pool
of successful parliamentarians.

Given the configuration of the players in the various elections, it is
evident that only an independent President has any prospect of creating a
government with a cabinet drawn from the various political parties.

If the objective of Zimbabweans is to move away from largely despotic
partisan politics then it occurs to me that this can only be achieved by an
independent President.

I am not convinced that either Mugabe or Tsvangirai would have any appetite
for embracing MPs from either party given the attitude already in evidence
against Makoni’s candidature, including the inability of the two MDC
formations to agree to a coalition before the elections.

My observation is that the real injury that Zimbabweans feel is at the
Presidential level and for people to be convinced that there is change they
can believe in there must be a new President.

It is not too late for Tsvangirai and Makoni to come up with a joint
election winning strategy for the nation’s sake.

If that is the position, then the onus is on both Tsvangirai and Makoni to
ensure that they communicate to their supporters clearly that they vote for
whomever you may wish at the local, parliamentary and senatorial levels but
vote against Mugabe.

This is the ideal situation which unfortunately the polarised political
ground no longer allows.

Given the already publicised candidates lists, it is already confusing the
long suffering people of Zimbabwe when the opposition seem to be failing to
identify who is on which side.

I would have thought that both Tsvangirai and Makoni would target the
Presidency using the infrastructure available to make the voters know what
is at stake.

It is to the favour of the already fractured MDC as much as it is to Makoni
that a combined election strategy that wins against the incumbent President
Mugabe is adopted.

Future generations will judge both Makoni and Tsvangirai on the basis of
their actions during this hour of need and not whether they were ever active
members of ZANU-PF before.

* Mutumwa Mawere is a Zimbabwean-born South African businessman

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Makoni’s bold hope

Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 17 February

Mail and Guardian reporter

Presidential candidate Simba Makoni used the word "renewal" a total of 13
times during an exclusive interview with the Mail & Guardian, saying
Zimbabwe needed fresh leadership to "heal the wounds" of 28 years of
President Robert Mugabe’s rule. Makoni, who declared his candidacy recently,
predicts a landslide win against Mugabe based on a campaign platform of
reviving the battered economy and restoring political freedoms and property
rights. The biggest tasks, he said, will be to lift Zimbabwe out of its deep
economic crisis and "national despair". Makoni disclosed how he confronted
Mugabe at a meeting in January over his refusal to allow a "renewal" of Zanu
PF, but again gave no real details about the top Zanu PF officials he claims
will rally to his support. "I told the president that that there was need
for renewal. A renewal of the leadership in the party and the country,"
Makoni said, hours after he announced details of his strategy to capture
power from Mugabe. "I told him that there had been suggestions that I stand
as president and that I was prepared to stand."

Asked how Mugabe reacted, Makoni said the president only "acknowledged" the
challenge. Makoni said he took the decision to contest the presidency after
Mugabe, at a meeting of his central committee in March last year, blocked
all debate about his succession and declared himself the Zanu PF candidate.
And as Mugabe unleashed war veterans on to the streets to intimidate his
rivals into backing down from their demands for reform, Makoni began to
"consult widely" among key figures inside the ruling party and among "the
ordinary people", he said. "What I am offering is the chance for hope," said
Makoni, who earlier unveiled his campaign’s symbol, a rising sun. But Makoni
has faced stern scrutiny after he failed to unveil any top-level associates,
as was widely expected. Since speculation about Makoni’s candidacy began in
early January reports have linked him to top former and serving army
figures. Notable among them are retired generals Solomon Mujuru and Vitalis

Last week, as tension within the party soared after Makoni’s announcement,
war veterans briefly barred the two men from entering the Zanu PF
headquarters. But Dzinashe Machingura, a war veteran and former army major
who backs Makoni, denied this week that Mujuru is directly involved in
Makoni’s bid for the presidency, while still claiming that Makoni has
"Mujuru’s sympathy". State media reported this week that the senior Zanu PF
figures that backed Makoni’s bid had "developed cold feet". Makoni kept up
his rhetoric about broad support within Zanu PF for his candidacy, but he
declined to name the Zanu PF men he claims back him. "I never said I was
going to parade people. I consulted not only within Zanu PF but with the
ordinary people of Zimbabwe. I have experienced their daily pain. These are
the people who will deliver a resounding verdict come March 29," Makoni

With new divisions emerging inside Zanu PF over primary elections, Makoni
has seen an opportunity to reach out to his former comrades. He said: "I
particularly invite those compatriots who have been pushed into despair and
despondency, but have the qualities of leadership, to please enter the race.
I also invite those in Zanu PF who share our yearning for renewal to contest
the election as independent candidates under our banner. The time for
decision has come. Jump off the fence. Climb out of the false comfort
zones." And amid threats from war veterans and charges by other opposition
groups that conditions remain unsuitable for free and fair elections, Makoni
still predicts that he will garner a huge victory over Mugabe. "From what we
have gathered from the voter registration centres, the excitement is real. I
do not see anything less than a landslide win for us."

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which runs the elections, reported an
increase in the number of new voter registrations this week. Makoni claims
credit for the surge. Zimbabwe has the fastest-shrinking economy in the
world, with inflation officially put at 26 000%, but estimated by the
International Monetary Fund at 150 000%. But Makoni believes a quick
recovery is still possible. "This economy can still be turned around. We are
not beyond repair. What we need to do is restore the confidence of our
people, to re-engage them around the cause for national renewal," he said.
Makoni is building his bid on a strategy he claims will "restore our peoples’
independence, dignity and confidence".

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Are new parties sprouting in Zim an intelligence ploy?

Mmegi, Botswana
 Friday, 15 February 2008


NAIROBI: An unusually large number of newly formed fringe political parties
are sprouting in Zimbabwe,ahead of what has been touted as the most
important election in the country since independence in 1980.

For the past eight years, the ruling Zanu PF, which has ruled the former
British colony since independence and the biggest opposition party the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been the major players in the
political landscape. But with less than 50 days left before the combined
presidential, legislative and local government election, political observers
are struggling to come up with predictions amid fast moving developments in
the political scene.

A fortnight ago, veteran President Robert Mugabe who turns 84 next month had
looked poised for a landslide victory, after factions of the MDC failed to
agree on an electoral pact. The electoral pact would have seen the two MDC
factions fielding one candidate in the presidential race and avoid fielding
more that one MDC candidates in parliamentary, senatorial and local
government elections. However, all the predictions are now being revised
thanks to the unpredictable shifts in Zimbabwe 's political landscape. Last
week, in a development that shook the foundations of the ruling party, a
senior member of Zanu PF and former Finance Minister, Dr Simba Makoni
announced that he will be challenging Mugabe for the presidency. His bold
stance against Mugabe, who is known for not tolerating opposing views, has
raised optimism among millions of Zimbabweans who have lost faith in the
bickering MDC that there will be a 'Third Way' to fight Zanu PF. "I won't be
in this campaign alone," Dr Makoni told journalists last week. "There will
be many of us, a great many of us.

"The interest generated by his grand entry into the presidential race
contrasts sharply with the reception given to dozens of opposition parties
that are sprouting in the country ahead of the polls. Although it was not
possible to obtain statistics of opposition parties registered so far this
year, in January alone, not less than 15 opposition parties announced their
entry into Zimbabwean politics through the media. Except for a few, the
leaders of most of the parties have no known political background. This has
raised suspicion in some circles who strongly believe the new parties are
part of a grand plan to create the impression that anyone is free to start
an opposition party in Zimbabwe. This, said some analysts, would justify a
victory by the ruling party Zanu PF even if the main opposition, Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) boycotts the election. The MDC has been
threatening to boycott the elections arguing that the playing field is
skewed in favour of the ruling party. Kisinoti Mukwashe, the president of
the newly formed Zimbabwe Development Party dismisses these suggestions
arguing that the timing of the formation of his group just 60 days before
the elections had more to do with strategy than anything else. "Our delay is
strategic. In fact, it was deliberate, we want to make a surprise attack,"
said Mukwazhe. "If you look at African opposition parties that ended up in
power, you will realise that only those launched just before an election
were successful." UDPC leader Tasunungurwa Mhuruyengwe said a "struggle
starts anytime, it doesn't need years of preparation". "I know there is
limited time," he said. "But it would be stupid for me not to participate
(in the presidential election).

The trick is to use a different approach that has not been used by the other
parties."Mhuruyengwe, a former soldier who deserted the army, would not
explain his "different approach". The party is still to set up offices, have
a full leadership structure and get registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC). The party's leadership currently comprises Mhuruyengwe
alone, who claims he was jailed for two years for deserting the army. Apart
from the new parties, there are old ones that are rising up from their
slumber as elections draw closer. The Zimbabwe People's Democratic Party
(ZPDP) led by Isabel Shanangurai Madangure has bounced back on the internet
with a colourful website.Information on the party's website indicates that
ZPDP "is focusing its efforts on developing its capacity to provide
Zimbabweans with a viable opposition choice in 2008".

The leader of the African National Party (ANP), Egypt Dzinemunenzva, a
perennial loser in all presidential and parliamentary elections, says this
year his party "means business". Dzinemunenzva has, since 1995, been among
presidential candidates, and always contests in by-elections. Since
independence, few opposition parties have been able to mount a meaningful
challenge to Zanu PF except for the former liberation movement, Zapu, which
in 1987 was forced to unite with the ruling party after the government
spearheaded a bloody military campaign in its strongholds.In 2000, the MDC
also gave the ruling party its stiffest challenge since 1987 less than nine
months after it was formed by labour unions, students and academics. There
has been unconfirmed talk that the parties that are mushrooming are part of
an intelligence ploy to create the impression that there are many opposition

Surprisingly very few Zimbabweans are subjecting Dr Makoni to the same
scrutiny, considering his background as a long time ally of Mugabe. Dr
Makoni says he remains loyal to the ruling party yet many people see him as
the best bet to give Mugabe a real challenge in the polls. Respected
Zimbabwe political commentator, Brian Kagoro says ordinary voters have the
capacity to separate genuine politicians from "spoilers" and the former
Southern African Development Community (SADC) executive secretary should be
judged on substance.

"I think people should welcome (Dr) Makoni as competition, whether it's
competition as proxy, as a proxy of Mugabe, or as independent
competition."Others even feel that it's time leaders of the MDC factions
Arthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai made way for Makoni if the opposition
is to unseat Mugabe. "(Prof) Mutambara acknowledges his limits in the
presidential race at the present moment and regards himself really as a
future leader," said Innocent Chofamba Sithole, a political analyst. "This
is why in my opinion, he has been ready at various times in the unity
discussions between the two MDC factions to play second fiddle to
Tsvangirai. "There is also widespread recognition that through his foibles
and strategic indiscretions over the years, Tsvangirai has lost the aura and
novelty with which he entered the political arena. "With prospects of the
MDC uniting before the elections fast dying down, it appears for many
Zimbabweans it would not matter when Dr Makoni's presidential bid was
launched or whether he comes in as a proxy for Mugabe. Tsvangirai on Sunday
ruled out any prospects of his faction backing Dr Makoni saying their
differences were fundamental.

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Bush urges fair elections in Zimbabwe during Africa trip

Monsters and Critics

Feb 17, 2008, 16:00 GMT

Nairobi/Dar es Salaam - US President George W Bush, during a visit to
Tanzania on Sunday, called for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, saying
the people of the ailing southern African country deserve a government that
respects human rights.

'There's no doubt the people of Zimbabwe deserve a government that serves
their interest and recognizes their basic human rights and holds free and
fair elections,' Bush told journalists after talks with his Tanzanian
counterpart Jakaya Kikwete.

Fair elections in Zimbawe, where much-criticized long-ruling President
Robert Mugabe is standing for re-election in March, also 'happen to be in
the interest of the world, as well,' he added.

Bush and Kikwete signed a comprehensive 698-million-dollar agreement to
combat poverty in the East African country. It aims to improve
infrastructure, electrification and access to clean water within the
framework of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Tanzania is the US president's second stop on his five-nation tour of Africa
that kicked off in Benin in West Africa on Saturday.

While in Benin Bush stressed the necessity of ending the ethnic conflict in
Kenya. He said he is sending US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya
on Monday to support negotiations mediated by former United Nations
secretary general Kofi Annan.

'The key is that the leaders hear from her firsthand the United States'
desires to see that there be no violence and that there be a power-sharing
agreement that will help this nation resolve its difficulties.'

He also called for 'urgent action' in ending the crisis in Sudan's western
Darfur region.

Before heading for Tanzania Bush stressed US support for the fight against
malaria: 'I stand here as a friend and partner ... prepared to fight
sickness and poverty.'

The US wanted to ensure that every Beninese child under the age of five
could sleep under a malaria net, he said. Malaria is often fatal, especially
in young children.

In Tanzania, Bush also stressed the importance of fighting malaria and AIDS.
'It breaks my heart to know that little children are dying needlessly
because of a mosquito bite,' he said.

In the coming days, Bush is to travel on to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia during
his second visit to Africa - one in which he will focus especially on the
fight against poverty and diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

Before his departure, Human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, accused the
Bush administration of having gambled away opportunities in the fight
against AIDS in an approach based on sexual abstinence rather than the
distribution of condoms.

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 16th February 2008

The Vigil was joined by activists from WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). They
helped us tell passers-by about the trials and tribulations in Zimbabwe.
Lois Davies of WOZA UK has just arrived back from Zimbabwe and gave us a
first hand account of the recent Valentine's Day demonstrations by WOZA.  It
seems that the police in Bulawayo did not want to break up the WOZA
demonstration as they appeared on the scene after the demonstrators had
dispersed. Protesters in Harare were not so lucky.

We're glad to say that Sten Zvorwadza of our partner organisation
Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe) has been released
from custody and is recovering from his beating by the Zimbabwe authorities.
He says he is being closely watched.

On a bitterly cold day we were warmed by our common determination to
continue our protest until there is change in Zimbabwe. We discussed our
plan to be outside the Embassy from 6 am to 6 pm on Election Day, 29th
March.  Come and vote at the Vigil Polling Station, probably the only one
where the ballot will not be rigged.

Several supporters of the Vigil are to attend a church service on Sunday
addressed by the new Bishop of Harare, Sebastian Bakare, at St Mary's
Church, Speldhurst in Kent.  Bishop Bakare is expected to talk about the
travails of his diocese, where the former Bishop, Norbert Kunonga, a Mugabe
supporter, is refusing to relinquish authority.

For this week's Vigil pictures:

FOR THE RECORD: 195 signed the register.

·         Monday, 18th February 2008 at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe
Forum.  Political analyst Dr Magonya, a former treasurer of Imbovane
Yamahlabezulu, is joined on the panel by an MDC activist to discuss the
Makoni / Mutambara alliance and other issues to do with the presidential
race. Venue: downstairs function room of the Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers
Street, London, WC2N 6NA, next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of
Villiers Street and John Adam Street.
·         Friday, 22nd February 2008 at 7.30 pm .An evening with the former
Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olonga. In co-operation with Teddington-based
international relief organisation Tearfund, Henry will be performing his
music and talking about Zimbabwe. Tickets at £5 available from Tearfund or
at the door.  Venue: Teddington Baptist Church, Church Road, Teddington,
TW11 8PF. For further information and tickets please contact: Tim Creber
(020 7745 7357, 07731 446 868), Jonathan Spencer (020 8943 7901), Matthew
Hancock (07756 114 405).
·         Saturday, 29th March 2008, 6 am - 6 pm: Zimbabwe Vigil's diaspora
polling station and mock ballot.

Vigil Co-ordinators

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe.

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Zimbabweans survive on bags of tricks as inflation runs amok


HARARE, Feb 17 (AFP)

Victor Nyamutowa, a 37-year-old Zimbabwean carpenter, gives prospective
customers invoices declaring in distinct black print: "This quotation is
valid for 0 days."

"If I am lenient and give people invoices that allow them to come back and
buy when it's convenient for them, the money they bring will not be enough
to buy new materials," says Nyamutowa. "I will be the loser in the end."

The carpenter, who owns a furniture workshop on the southern outskirts of
Harare, knows customer credit is a luxury he cannot afford if he wants to
keep his business running in a country with the world's highest rate of

That unenviable status was confirmed once more last week when officials
announced the rate had jumped to a scarcely believable 66,212 percent,
gaining 39,714.5 percentage points from the previous monthly figure.

The government's failure to get to grips with what central governor chief
Gideon Gono has called "an economic HIV" means that Zimbabweans are
perpetually playing catch-me-if-you-can with galloping prices.

The economic meltdown has helped fuel a rise in the level of unemployment in
the southern African country that is believed to be at more than 80 percent.

Even those lucky enough to have jobs often skip meals, while some cycle or
walk long distances to work to stretch their incomes to the next pay day.

The economy is expected to be one of the main battlegrounds of joint
presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29.

Few believe that the inflation rate will do anything but continue on its
upward trajectory if veteran President Robert Mugabe wins a sixth term.

Even if main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai or Mugabe's former finance
minister Simba Makoni were to triumph, analysts do not expect the
five-figure inflation dragon to be any tamed any time soon.

Gibson Maina, a clerk with a retail firm, reflects a general weariness among
Zimbabweans as he explains how he has long since struck goods like milk and
margarine off his shopping list.

"I can't even remember when I last had buttered bread, bacon or eggs and tea
with milk," Maina says.

"Many of us have adjusted or lowered our standards as we cannot keep pace
with the rapidly increasing prices. We have to do with a basic breakfast of
black tea and plain bread and when peanuts are in season, you can have
peanut butter from the villages.

"Even if you have a good job, prices are always going up things that we
never used to regard as luxuries are now beyond our reach. You can smile and
thank your company after getting a salary increase today but by the end of
the month you will be asking for more."

Some companies have taken to paying staff part of their salaries in grocery
hampers in order to cushion them against the increasing prices.

Many workers meanwhile have resorted to moonlighting to supplement their
incomes. In some offices, workers operate "mini-kiosks" under their desks
selling anything from lollipops, home-packed popcorn, through to scarce
goods such as cooking oil, imported cologne and clothes.

According to Wellington Chibebe, secretary-general of the pro-Tsvangirai
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), many people are now only turning
up to their workplace out of a sense of duty.

"You find a person earning 150 million still going to work when their
monthly transport cost in 270 million dollars," said Chibebe.

"Most of them spend the better part of the work hours engaging in deals to
make a living. You have schoolteachers who double as vendors and
cross-border traders while some operate their own schools at home to earn
extra money."

The Mugabe government has tried a series of inflation remedies in recent
months, including a pricing blitz launched last June in which retailers and
businesses were ordered to halve their prices.

However Operation Dzikisa Mutengo (Reduce Prices) was effectively abandoned
two months later after it resulted in widespread shortages in stores and a
strengthening of the underground market.

The veteran president, who has ruled the former British colony since 1980,
has blamed his country's economic woes on Western sanctions imposed after he
allegedly rigged his re-election in 2002.

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Inflation at 66000 percent, Mbeki still happy

The Times, SA

17 February 2008, 15:38 GMT + 2
ZIMBABWE’s inflation rose to a farcical 66212 percent in December — a number
so high as to make it almost impossible for the price of any basic item to
stay the same for a day.
Zimbabwe now enjoys the highest inflation rate in the world and its economic
policies have become meaningless as prices rise with breathtaking speed.
Amidst this economic meltdown on its borders, South Africa remains a
bizarrely passive observer.
President Thabo Mbeki appeared to depart entirely from reality last week,
when he reported on his “successful” diplomatic efforts in Zimbabwe.
Mbeki appears oblivious to how Mugabe uses him for grinning, back-slapping
photo-calls before ignoring everything he says and carrying on with his
plans to stay in power forever.
This weekend, news broke in Zimbabwe of how Mugabe is planning to amend the
election laws to make it more difficult for candidates to challenge him the
forthcoming presidential election.
Mugabe is clearly trying to force challenger Simba Makoni out of the race by
fiddling with the election laws.
Tragically, the ordinary people of Zimbabwe — those that have not had the
opportunity to flee to greener pastures — are suffering most under Mugabe.
They are the ones buying bread — when it is available — at massively
inflated prices.
Next week Mugabe will turn 84 and, with the warm hand of South Africa on his
back, he will continue to rule his country as if it were a perfectly normal
democracy fending off a challenge from wily colonialists.
What is most disturbing is that Jacob Zuma, the man who now heads the ANC
and hopes to succeed Mbeki, appears to take the same weak view on Zimbabwe.
Then again, both Zuma and Mbeki share something with Mugabe. A lust for

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Go home and vote, Batswana tell Zimbabweans

Mmegi, Botswana
 Friday, 15 February 2008


With the Zimbabwe election approaching in March, some Batswana are eager to
see change in the government of Zimbabwe urging that country's"exiles" in
Botswana to go back home and "vote out the old man".

"I am quite surprised with you Zimbabweans. Can you not just vote Mugabe out
and stop coming to our country? As soon as you vote him out, your problems
will be over," a visibly irritated young Motswana woman shopkeeper at
Tsamaya says.

A random survey in Old Naledi yielded similar responses. Many Batswana
believe Zimbabweans now have the last chance to use the ballot to effect
change in their country.

But some Zimbabweans working in Botswana are adamant that they do not need
to go back because comrades back home will do the job.

This attitude sparked a hot discussion between a young Motswana, Andrew
Moremi, and five Zimbabwean tenants at a residence in Old Naledi, popularly
called 'parliament'.

Moremi was quite perplexed as to why Zimbabweans continue to come in droves
to Botswana, saying he wondered why almost everyone he has discussions with
supports President Robert Mugabe.

"You guys, are you not some of the youths from the Border Gezi Youth
Training programme? Otherwise I find it hard that you are not willing to go
back and vote out Mugabe," an angry Moremi enquired.

A young Zimbabwean man, Jonathan Kusema, noted that if someone were to
record an album titled 'Vote Mugabe Out', it would definitely sell like hot
buns in Botswana.

"For a start, Andrew, you must never expect us to castigate Mugabe. He is
the president no matter what some people say. You can climb over the
mountain, go under the sea or to the middle of the Kgalagadi Desert, shout
yourself to a standstill, Mugabe is still the man," Kusema went on.

"Let me state the obvious, which is really pertinent to our discussion. In
my opinion Mugabe is the only president in Africa who has the guts to take
the West head-on and face other issues affecting the marginalised in so far
as the land issue is concerned," joined in a cool Darlington Murefu.

Moremi was still unconvinced. "Let me tell you why I think you are reluctant
to return home and vote: most of you people, your immigration permits are
not in order. You are illegal immigrants. Your Emergency Travel documents
are fake and you do not even have the capital to till the land. Your homes
were destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina. You risk limb-and-soul crossing
the crocodile-infested Limpopo River in order to do menial jobs here and
South Africa. Above all you are causing unemployment by doing work reserved
for Batswana here," said Moremi.

But Murefu interrupted him to and give their version of the Zimbabwean
crisis. "Mugabe is a liberation war hero, the sufferings he went through,
would not allow him to relinquish power so easily. Botswana, to my
knowledge, was never won through the barrel of the gun. So, most people here
don't understand the Zimbabwean scenario. The battle to control our destiny,
as Africans, has just begun. Zimbabwe is leading the way," added Murefu, who
sounded like a ZANU-PF sympathiser.

"If Mugabe was here this Old Naledi location would be history," said Murefu.
Moremi was more mad at this assertion.

"Why are you still here?" Murefu responded: "Cost cutting measures brother.
Have you ever heard of cost management?" The two were almost trading

Murefu talked about resilience of the Zimbabweans'. He said the people have
now learnt to make ends meet in the current environment because they know
that continuing to grumble will not take them anywhere.

He said ZANU-PF would be hard to dislodge because the war of liberation has
had a long lasting impact on the villagers.

When Mugabe goes around the countryside campaigning, he reminds the people
that ZANU-PF fought to liberate their country.

The ZANU-PF leaders also tell peasants that the MDC - Movement for
Democratic Change - is a white-sponsored organisation and that the
dispossessed white farmers are spoiling for a confrontation in order to get
the land back.

Murefi argued that the "brothers and sisters in the Diaspora would return
and help reconstruct the country.

Zimbabwe goes to the polls next month but Murefu said removing Mugabe and
ZANU-PF would not be easy.

He recalled that in 1998 there were food riots, stay aways, and various
demonstrations that characterised the run-up to the 2002 presidential

All failed to remove ZANU-PF from office. Some men actually said they
regretted ever taking part in the said demonstrations.

"In 2002, when we went to the polling station to vote, it was so frustrating
as things were not quite in place. I ended up abandoning the whole exercise
after waiting for close to 11 hours in the queue. We were so frustrated.
What guarantee is there that situation will not be the same?" added an
elderly Zimbabwean Sekeramayi Munatsi.

"You tell us to go back and vote against Mugabe. what guarantee do you have
your preferred candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, will do any
better?" asked Munatsi.

But to Moremi that was an irrelevant question. He just wants Mugabe out
because he is a stumbling block to everyone in the SADC region.

The Zimbabwean pair insisted that "those still inside Zimbabwe will do the
job. Their voting is our voice. We are here working for them sending
groceries so that they can have the energy to go and vote".

But Moremi was still unconvinced, echoing the sentiment of most Batswana:
"There are far too many Zimbabweans on this side of the border. If you all
went back your vote would make a difference".

But Murefu, shouting after the departing Moremi, said: "Why are you assuming
that everyone is going to vote against Mugabe? My vote is secret".

The name of Simba Makoni, the former finance minister who says he will run
against Mugabe as an independent, did not crop up in the discussion.
(Sila Press Agency)

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Happy days in Harare

The Times, SA
Being there Published:Feb 16, 2008

The band plays on: Rastas at a concert in downtown Harare

Running on empty: The view from the Monomotapa Hotel of Harare’s leafy suburbs, left, and an empty fountain in the gardens of Africa Unity Square waits for better days, above

The place is just ticking along, waiting to explode with investment

Every store has a banknote counter. The wad to buy pizza was a centimetre thick

Chris Harvie travels to the Zimbabwean capital where dollar millionaires can barely afford to buy bread, but keep on smiling anyway.

This wasn’t Johannesburg, was it? We arrived at a completed, modern international airport with friendly, efficient customs and immigration officers and driveable trolleys. The lights were all working, the people were smiling, there wasn’t a police car in sight and the streets were clean.

Harare means “it never sleeps”. Like New York, then. On boarding the plane, we had been told to fill in forms marked “Immigration to Zimbabwe”. But we weren’t immigrating, we said. He just smiled.

The Crowne Plaza Monomotapa is one of the country’s great hotels. We had booked three nights. Why? It’s a long story but, in brief, a BMW was stolen from me four years ago and it had turned up. The SAPS had found it in Zimbabwe, persuaded the jolly old ZRP to lock up the driver and asked me to come along and prove it was mine.

People came out of everywhere when we arrived at the hotel. Good evening, sir. Welcome. Good evening. Thank you for staying with us. Welcome.

It was 10.30pm . I had met a member of the hotel’s staff on the flight after accidentally dropping a contact lens on her.

The booking system was down. Like the phones. I had been trying to phone a friend in Harare for two months with no success so I could sympathise, but the upshot now was that there wasn’t a room for us. It was 11pm. Would we like a drink? Oh yes, we would. “Two J&B and sodas, please.”

No soda. “Okay, ginger ale.” No ginger ale. “What have you got?” Tonic or lemonade. “Er, water please.”

Our fellow passenger was exhausted, but she strode around in a knee-length cream coat with a handbag over her arm, looking every bit like the Queen on a walkabout, until she was satisfied that we would be all right.

Eventually the duty manager arranged a road-scraping taxi to take us, for one night only, to the Holiday Inn, where room service was offering curried chicken or beef stew so we nipped over the road for pizza. Z1650000 for a Margarita. That’s R356. Or R40 on the so-called “parallel” rate. Everything, including petrol, is linked to the parallel rate. Every store has a banknote-counting machine. The wad to buy the pizza was a centimetre thick. In the evenings, the petrol station housing Pizza Inn and Steers turns into an open-sided music club with a working petrol pump. The shop sells mineral water and its remaining shelves are piled up with hundreds of thousands of condoms. The customers, children among them, were singing a song called Happy Days.

The night manager asked why we hadn’t got pizza. We told him we had it in a bag as there were no boxes. “Oh, Zimbabwe!” he wailed. We didn’t think it mattered as much as he did. Room service brought two Zimbabwean whiskies. The guest information is in English, French and German. If you want a different hardness of pillow, please call reception. Had I phoned, I was later told, and asked for a softer pillow, they’d have brought me one.

There was an outlandish normality to the place. A broken mirror in the lift was fixed in the morning. Room Service trays with empty plates lined the corridors — the curried chicken or beef stew had been popular. Signs advertised a Wi-fi connection. The rooms had television with DStv and the latest Dish magazine.

Vivid, freshly-squeezed juices, fruit salad, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausages, and fried brinjals made for a spectacular breakfast buffet. A truck pulled up after breakfast and off-loaded crates of fruit and vegetables, carefully covered, from the hotel’s own farm.

The Police Headquarters and Training College entertained us in a variety of flaky offices, for six hours. We gave painstaking statements, waited for them to be typed up, waited for the photocopier to work, waited for the police vehicle with fuel to return so that they could go and fetch the police photographer. And yes, it was definitely our vehicle.

Room after room was lined with well-thumbed peeling files and on the walls were reams of statistics showing that Zimbabwe’s crime figures are about one-tenth of South Africa’s for everything except Illegal Border Crossing. Bags of sugar beans lie in every corner. The front page of the newspaper carries an advertisement: Wanted for cash — Sugar beans. Will pay 550 million per ton.

We had lunch at The Aquarium Bar in the Monomotapa. It was a sea of fish and smiling faces with a choice of curried chicken and beef stew. We had a few cold Zambezis — dusty work, this sleuthing — and took a walk in the rain through Harare Gardens with its manicured lawns and tidy flowerbeds.

“It’s so nice to see you. We don’t see many people like you.” Not just one person said it. Everybody did. It is a most unusual experience for a white South African to be swamped by black faces saying it was nice to see us. It was great to be there, we said. We barely saw another white face in three days.

All the rooms at the Monomotapa have every imaginable five-star facility and huge views to the north over the park. The staff are so attentive and courteous that they would have been snapped up by the diplomatic corps in any other country in the world.

Le Français is the hotel’s Brasserie. Our waistcoated dinner waiter assured us that everything was available. We ordered a bottle of the Mukuyu Cabernet Merlot. When the choice is Z2000000 for local or Z15000000 for South African, the Zimbabwean wine is suddenly very appealing and it is really very good if you like your Cabernet Merlot to taste like a Pinot Noir (which I do).

We chose the crocodile and the chicken but by the time the waiter came back both were off, as was the steak, so the choice was now rather more limited. Everything is available in Zimbabwe. There’s just not very much of anything.

The bream was superb and so was the pork. With the fleur de lys on the wallpaper, the panelling and the padded tablecloths we could have been in The Carlton in days of yore. In the face of adversity, Zimbabwe tries its damnedest, whereas maybe South Africa gives up and makes excuses too easily.

Drinking like the proverbial, back in the Aquarium, with a number of Zambezis and two bottles of Mukuyu under our ever-tightening belts, we had another Zambezi and then another one and fell into a discussion about student riots with a chap who gave us a CD on the subject, which we deliberately lost out of fear. We then fell deeper in with a far less serious crowd and ended up clubbing until 4am at Room 10, in Borrowdale, only a couple of hundred metres from where Mugabe lives. Loud music, endless quarts of Castle and the usual nonsense. But no politics. There is no beer shortage, after all.

Passing through Africa Unity Square on the way to The Meikles for a lunch of chicken sandwiches or chicken sandwiches, a Rastafarian concert was under way. It all seemed so normal but for the fact that this place had once been filled with bustling stalls — they had all been removed in the recent clean- up. A driver then took us out to Epworth Balancing Rocks. There were very few shacks to be seen but maybe they’d all been cleared away as well. We stopped to see if there was food in the supermarket. No milk, no sugar, no meat, but yes, there was food. Expensive food.

It isn’t only the rocks that are balancing in Zimbabwe. Everything is. The place is just ticking along, waiting to explode with investment, development and productivity. Soon. When the time comes. When everything changes. Nobody talks about what it is that needs to change. But everybody knows.

Dinner at Amanzi in the Northern Suburbs was one of the best meals of my life. We sat outside on a terrace in a rock garden with water pumping in and out of its cycads; only the hum of the generator reminded us that we were in Harare.

A blend of West African, local and Eastern cuisine with swish service. A platter of delicious tastes from the chef including kofta with hummus, chicken satay, bream in a ginger sauce, duck wonton. A mouth-melting cauliflower and Parmesan soup with a pear compote. Chicken in a groundnut and chilli sauce. An exemplary white chocolate mousse.

In the background we heard a series of explosions. It must have been thus in the Bush War, we imagined; but this was November 3 and they were celebrating, two days early, an attempt to overthrow a government in faraway England in 1605. We couldn’t help wondering what the celebrations might be like when ... well, never mind. Let’s just keep everything going until then.

I am not immigrating to Zimbabwe — not yet — but as our plane’s wheels had hit the ground in Harare three days earlier, the Zimbabwean lady to whom my contact lens had become attached had said to me, simply: “I love this country.”

So do I, Leona. So do I.

Contact Monomotapa Hotel, 54 Park Lane, see:; Holiday Inn, Samora Machel Avenue, website:; Showman Tours, 141 Nelson Mandela Avenue, tel: 263-4-798685, website:

Amanzi Restaurant, 158 Enterprise Road, Highlands tel: 00263 (4) 497-768, or

— Next week, Leon de Kock recounts a somewhat different weekend in Harare.

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