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Zimbabwe inflation hits 26,470 pct, economy shrinks


Thu 31 Jan 2008, 16:01 GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's inflation soared to a record high of 26,470.8
percent as the economy contracted by 6 percent, the central bank said -- 
dealing a blow to President Robert Mugabe's government ahead of March
general elections.

The veteran leader will seek another five-year term on March 29, against the
backdrop of an economic meltdown widely blamed on his skewed political and
economic policies.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gideon Gono said inflation galloped to 26,470.8
percent year-on-year in November, 2007, from 7,982.1 percent in September.
There were no inflation data for October.

The jump in inflation prompted the central bank to increase interest rates
to 1,200 percent from 975 percent.

"The continued threat of high inflation warrants that interest rates be
periodically realigned to discourage speculative borrowing and inflationary
credit expansion," Gono said in a statement.

"The economy is estimated to have declined by about 6 percent in 2007. This
contraction in economic activity has been mirrored in output decline in all
sectors of the economy with the exception of a marginal increase in
agricultural output," he added.

Zimbabweans have over the last eight years or so grappled with chronic
shortages of food, fuel, foreign currency and more recently water and
electricity in a crisis many say has its roots in Mugabe's controversial
seizure of white-owned commercial farms.

They say the haphazard implementation of the programme has left what was
once southern Africa's bread basket struggling to feed itself since 2002.

In his statement, Gono said the Reserve Bank had imported food worth $142.2
million in 2007, up from $114.2 million the previous year, to bridge gaps
from domestic output.

Mugabe denies responsibility for Zimbabwe's crisis, and in turn accuses
Western opponents of his land reforms of sabotaging the economy.

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SA police raid downtown church where Zimbabweans had taken shelter, scores taken away

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: January 31, 2008

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: South African police descended on a downtown
Johannesburg church where Zimbabweans had taken refuge, taking people in
nightgowns and pajamas to a police station in scenes reminiscent of
apartheid-era pass raids.

Bishop Paul Verryn was hosting some 1,200 people at the Central Methodist
Church, which has become a haven for Zimbabweans fleeing their own country's
political and economic meltdown. Verryn said police arrived around 11 p.m.
(2100 GMT) Wednesday. Two hours later, police were still taking people by
the van load to the central police station.

Police at the scene said they were not authorized to speak to reporters but
they could be heard asking people taken from the church for their residency
permits. Police spokesman were not immediately available. Officers on duty
at Johannesburg Central Police Station, where those detained were taken
could also not comment.

"I saw people assaulted when they were put in the vans," Verryn said. "When
I said, "You can't do this,' they told me not to interfere. They pulled me
down the stairs by the scruff of my neck and one police officer kicked
something at me."

Verryn said he had been told police were looking for illegal immigrants,
drugs and weapons.

He added police damaged doors and windows in the church as they searched it.
Outside the church, where about another 500 Zimbabweans sleep, hundreds of
men, many barefooted and bare-chested, lined up in an orderly fashion before
being marched off into the vans by police. A teargas-like smell hang in the
air and some of the men said police had used the mace sprays they could be
seen carrying.

A handful of men tried to run away but police chased after them. One man was
dragged back by his arms and legs and was left unconscious in the street. A
church official eventually removed him.

"This is a church. We thought we were safe," said Fredrick Chibungu, who has
been in the country for seven months and is waiting for his asylum papers to
be finalized, a lengthy process.

"They are going to deport us. There is nothing we can do. It is better to go
back home and make a plan to come back," he said.

After about an hour police allowed about 100 women, whose documents and
papers had been found in order, back inside the church where they were
looking after a number of children.

After the last police van left at 2:30 a.m (0030 GMT) a group of several
hundred men, whose documentation were also approved and who had been
separated from the others were also allowed to return to the building.

They immediately began searching for their belongings while members of
church began tidying up, creating piles of lost shoes, passports, and
photographs of children.

Inside the dark church, blankets and bedding lay abandoned on floor where
those seeking refuge sleep crowded next to one another.

A number of doors, including one adjoining Verryn's office, showed sign of
being forced and cupboards in a kitchen had been opened and foodstuff left
on the floor. One of the chapel's windows had been smashed.

In the room used as a sick bay, suitcases had been left open or turned
upside down after police searched them, leaving their contents in messy

Verryn, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, said it was the first such
incident in the four years since he opened the church's doors after seeing
increasing number of Zimbabweans on the streets of Johannesburg. Word
spread, and soon the four-story building was home to more than 1,000.

Verryn said the Zimbabweans organized themselves, with teachers among them
holding literacy and other classes and others enforcing rules such as bans
on smoking, drinking and fighting in the building.

Disruptions to the agriculture-based economy that began with the
government-ordered and often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned
commercial farms in 2000 has sent Zimbabwe into freefall. Zimbabwe's
inflation rate is the highest in the world, and food, fuel and jobs are
scarce. President Robert Mugabe also has cracked down on his political
opponents, beating and jailing dissenters.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have left their homeland,
many for neighboring countries. South Africa is believed to have one of the
largest communities of Zimbabweans, with estimates consistently refer to 3
million Zimbabweans living here.

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Ex-SAS in 'coup plot' vanishes from prison

The Telegraph

By Peta Thornycroft in Johannesburg
Last Updated: 10:08pm GMT 31/01/2008

A former SAS officer accused of planning a failed coup in West Africa
has disappeared from Zimbabwe's maximum security prison. Fears were growing
last night over the fate of Simon Mann.

The Old Etonian had lost an appeal against extradition to the West
African state of Equatorial Guinea, the oil-rich dictatorship which accuses
him of recruiting mercenaries to overthrow its president, Teodoro Obiang

Mann was jailed in Zimbabwe in 2004 when 67 mercenaries arrived in
Harare on a Boeing 727, allegedly en route to Equatorial Guinea. Mann, who
met the group at Harare airport, served four years for trying to buy illegal
weapons, allegedly for the operation.

Equatorial Guinea sought his extradition and on Wednesday Zimbabwe's
High Court dismissed Mann's appeal and approved his extradition.

Jonathan Samkange, Mann's lawyer, filed another appeal to the Supreme
Court. But when Mann's lawyers tried to visit him at Chikurubi maximum
security prison yesterday, they were told he was no longer there and had
been taken away by police.

Diplomatic sources in Harare said Mann's lawyers would make an urgent
application to the High Court demanding to know his whereabouts. There were
growing fears that Mann, 55, may already have been flown to Equatorial
Guinea. If so, he will probably be consigned to Black Beach Prison in the
capital, Malabo.

In 2005, Amnesty International reported that inmates in Black Beach
were in danger of starving to death, surviving on daily rations of a cup of
rice and one or two bread rolls. Some prisoners had routinely gone without
food for up to six days. A new wing has been built and the authorities say
that conditions have improved but Equatorial Guinea has one of Africa's
worst human rights records. Mann's appeal against extradition was dismissed
on the day that Equatorial Guinea withdrew an invitation to Manfred Nowak,
the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, who had been invited to
gather "first-hand information" about detention facilities. The regime has,
however, pledged to refrain from executing Mann.

The alleged plot to overthrow President Nguema and replace him with
Severo Moto, an opposition leader living in exile in Spain, involved a
remarkable array of characters and was compared at the time to the 1978
Roger Moore film The Wild Geese about a group of mercenaries in Africa.

Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of the former Prime Minister, was a friend
of Mann, who lived near him in Cape Town. Thatcher was convicted under South
Africa's anti-mercenary laws after he admitted hiring a helicopter for Mann
which would have been used in the alleged plot.

So far, Mann's prison years have been spent in relatively benign
conditions. In Zimbabwe, he enjoyed a single cell and his lawyers brought
him books.

Mann has seven children in Britain, including two sons serving in the
Army. His youngest child, a boy, was born after his arrest. His second wife,
Amanda, lives on the family estate in Hampshire. Those who have known Mann
describe him as poker-faced, mysterious and secretive. Yet he emerged into
the limelight in 2002 to play a British officer in a documentary film about
the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland.

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'Coup mastermind' in final bid to halt extradition to E Guinea

Yahoo News

HARARE (AFP) - Lawyers for Simon Mann -- the alleged mastermind of a foiled
coup in Equatorial Guinea -- lodged an appeal Thursday in Zimbabwe's supreme
court in a final bid to stop his extradition to the west African state.

"We have filed the appeal in the supreme court and served our appeal papers
on the attorney-general," the Briton's chief attorney Jonathan Samkange told

"We will file heads of argument as soon as possible, then the court can
decide a date for the hearing."

Mann was convicted by a magistrate in Harare in May last year of planning to
oust Equatorial Guinea's long-serving ruler Teodoro Obiang Nguema and
ordered that he be extradited to Equatorial Guinea.

His lawyers appealed to the high court against the magistrate's decision but
high court judges Rita Makarau and Bharat Patel dismissed the appeal on

A former member of Britain's crack SAS troops, Mann was arrested with 61
others when their plane landed at Harare international airport in March

They were accused of stopping off to pick up weapons from Harare while on
their way to Malabo to oust Nguema, who has ruled the central African state
with an iron fist since 1979.

Mann said he and his co-accused were on their way to the Democratic Republic
of Congo and needed the weapons for a security contract at a mine.

He was sentenced to seven years in jail, but the term was later reduced.
Most of his co-accused were released from a Zimbabwean prison in 2005.

Mann has been held at Chikurubi on the outskirts of Harare on an immigration
warrant since completing his sentence on arms' charges in May last year.

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Mugabe’s nephew wanted me dead, says farmer

Zim Online

by Cuthbert Nzou  Friday 01 February 2008

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Leo, allegedly ordered
ruling ZANU PF youths to murder a black farmer in a wrangle over a former
white-owned farm, according to court papers shown to ZimOnline.

The farmer, Nomhle Mliswa, claims Leo wanted her killed in order to
pave way for his white farmer-friend Myles Hall to repossess a farm in
Mashonaland West province that was seized from him by the government under
its chaotic land re-distribution exercise.

Mliswa claims she is the rightful owner of the Summerhill Farm after
the government allocated the property to her and wants the High Court to bar
Leo and Halls from interfering with operations at the farm.

"On 29th September respondent (Leo) addressed youths, inciting them to
go and invade my plot at Summerhill Farm for the purposes of driving me out
. . . they were told to kill me," Mliswa said in papers filed with the

She claimed that after failing to find her, the youths proceeded to
the farm compound and attempted to incite workers to revolt and take over
the farm. Mliswa said she has been constantly harassed and threatened by Leo
and Hall and has not known peace since moving onto the farm.

Mliswa said she reported the threat against her life as well as the
frequent harassment to the police who have not acted at all, forcing her to
seek protection from the courts.

Leo was not immediately available for comment on the matter that is
yet to be set down for hearing at the courts.

Leo is the son of Mugabe’s sister, Sabina. He is a legislator of ZANU
PF and operates several businesses in addition to also running a farm seized
from a white farmer.

The claims made by Mliswa against Leo only highlight the chaos,
violence and thuggery that have characterised the government’s land reforms.

On paper, the land reforms were to benefit poor black peasant farmers
deprived of arable land by former colonial governments but most of the best
farms seized from whites ended up in the hands of Mugabe’s officials, their
relatives and friends.

Land reform has led to hunger after Mugabe’s government failed to
provide blacks resettled on former white farms with inputs and skills
training to maintain production.

An estimated four million Zimbabweans or about a third of the country’s
12 million population are in need of food aid, according to international
relief agencies. - ZimOnline

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Huge jump in revenue for Zim platinum producer

Zim Online

by Tafadzwa Mutasa Friday 01 February 2008

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s top platinum producer Zimplats Holdings recorded a hefty
jump in revenues in the late quarter of 2007 as production rose but worries
abound on over electricity shortage, the mining company said yesterday.

Revenue generated for the last three months of last year amounted to
US$60.67 million, up from US$38.57 million in the previous quarter due to
improved production and deliveries of matte from the processing of
concentrates that had been stockpiled during a furnace re-line.

Platinum group metal and gold sales rose to 47 516 ounces from 34 049 ounces
over the period.

Zimplats is majority owned by South Africa's world number two producer,
Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.

But increased revenue also meant the company’s operating costs surged 54
percent on the previous quarter, mainly due to Zimbabwe’s spiraling
inflation, which is the world’s highest even officially at 26 000 percent,
according to figures released yesterday by the central bank.

"Costs for the period were negatively affected by high fuel prices, an
exchange rate that did not adequately reflect the prevailing rate of
inflation as well as an increase in the electricity tariff," the company

The country’s top miner registered a healthy 62 percent jump in operating
profit due to the continued rise in platinum, rhodium and gold prices on the
world market.

But Zimplats said it remained concerned by acute power cuts experienced in
the country, which have worsened since the start of the year and is blamed
on a serious economic meltdown mainly blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s

“Since the end of the quarter, operations have been adversely affected by
power outages which resulted from problems within the power supply network
in the sub-region," Zimplats said.

"Although these problems have been resolved for now, management remains
concerned about the ongoing power generation and transmission difficulties
and the possible impact on operations."

Power cuts are one of a myriad problems threatening the future of Zimbabwe’s
lucrative mining industry, not least plans by Mugabe’s government to force
foreign-owned mining firms to transfer majority stake to local blacks,
including a free 25 percent stake to the state.

A draft government Bill to force share transfers tabled in Parliament last
December lapsed after the House adjourned without passing the proposed law.
However, if Mugabe’s government is re-elected in March – as is most likely –
it could still re-introduce the Bill in Parliament. - ZimOnline

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As Elections Near, Zimbabwe's Mugabe Boosts Patronage To Security Forces


By Blessing Zulu
31 January 2008

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has increased perks for top army and
police officials and boosted monthly stipends to war veterans in what is
widely seen as a generous round of patronage to ensure loyalty with
elections set in March.

Mr. Mugabe upgraded the title of Augustine Chihuri, formerly commission of
police, to commissioner general of police, in line with a constitutional
amendment passed last year. He re-appointed other loyalists including
Defense Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga and Lieutenant General
Philip Sibanda, the army commander.

Both have publicly expressed their support for Mr. Mugabe and the ruling
ZANU-PF party. In October 2004, five months before the last general
election, Chiwenga stated publicly that the army would not support any
change of government that was "foreign driven," implying that the opposition
was in the hire of the British government.

They and other top uniformed officials are to receive new vehicles.

The war veterans, who from 2000 on served as Mr. Mugabe’s political shock
troops in his controversial land reform program, will receive Z$200 million
(US$30) a month.

Chairman Jabulani Sibanda of the War Veterans Association confirmed the
increase in payments. Economists warned that such generosity will further
damage the economy by increasing public debt and adding fuel to already
roaring hyperinflation.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labor and Economic Development
Research Institute, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that more money must be printed to finance what look like
election-year handouts.

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South Africa's Mbeki to report to regional leaders on Zimbabwe negotiations

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: January 31, 2008

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: President Thabo Mbeki was to report to southern
African leaders on mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, which were at a "delicate"
stage following the Zimbabwean president's decision to schedule election
months earlier than the opposition wants.

Mbeki was to brief a committee of the Southern African Development Community
Thursday on the fringes of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian
capital, Addis Ababa, a statement from the department of foreign affairs

Mbeki was chosen by SADC as chief mediator last year to try to resolve
Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic crisis through dialogue between
Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

However, there are concerns that the process has been undermined after
President Robert Mugabe last week unilaterally proclaimed a March 29 date
for general elections. The opposition had wanted the vote put off until June
to allow time for political reforms first.

At a media briefing Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad
said the facilitation process was in a "very delicate situation."

"The Zimbabwean issue is a matter that we've been saying for many years is
vital for the future of our whole region. This is why we've spent an
inordinate amount of time and resources to get the Zimbabweans to find a
solution," he said.
Mbeki has long been criticized for his policy of "quiet diplomacy" toward
Zimbabwe over confronting Mugabe, who is accused of overseeing his country's
economic and political collapse.

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'Mugabe sank SA's quiet diplomacy'

Aderogba Obisesan
Thu, 31 Jan 2008

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may have dealt a fatal blow to Pretoria's
"quiet diplomacy" by calling an election in the middle of mediation efforts
by his South African counterpart, say analysts.

Mugabe's announcement last Friday that polling would be on 29 March appeared
to pre-empt a bid by South African President Thabo Mbeki to get an agreement
between Zimbabwe's government and opposition on the framework of the ballot.

Mbeki, who has steadfastly refused to publicly criticise Mugabe despite the
economic meltdown of Zimbabwe, has once again bitten his lip over what
analysts have interpreted as an insult and a repudiation of his
softly-softly approach.

"I am not surprised any longer by whatever Mugabe does. He has always
treated Zimbabwe as his personal fiefdom," the political analyst and author
Xolela Mangcu told AFP.

"His latest decision is a demonstration of the failure of Mbeki to persuade
Mugabe to behave decently."

Mbeki was handed the poisoned chalice of mediating between Mugabe's Zanu-PF
party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change last April by
his fellow leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The 14-member bloc had hoped that as the leader of the region's powerhouse,
Mbeki was best placed to bring pressure to bear on his northern neighbour
after Mugabe's security forces had beaten up several MDC leaders.

But despite Mbeki's assertion on a trip to Harare a fortnight ago that "good
progress" had been made in the talks, the opposition was growing
increasingly frustrated at the South African's failure to squeeze
concessions from Mugabe.

Senior MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa saw no reason to spare Mbeki's
blushes, describing the election announcement as a "slap in the face" for
his mediation.

Dirke Kotze, a researcher at the Pretoria's based University of South Africa
(Unisa), said that Mbeki's task was now even harder if not impossible.

"Mugabe's decision to unilaterally fix the election date will definitely
complicate the mediation process. It may even terminate it," Kotze told AFP.

"It is an insult to President Mbeki and a slap in the face of the opposition
... a negative action by Mugabe to suggest that the negotiation was not
making progress, and so, it could as well come after the poll."

South Africa's deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad, one of Mbeki's closest
confidantes, declined to say whether the president had received prior notice
from Mugabe about the election announcement.

"I do not want to venture into the Zimbabwe situation at the moment," he
told reporters at a regular briefing in Pretoria.

"The talks and facilitation (mediation) are of such a sensitive nature. To
that extent, I would rather prefer the president to do the briefing on

Adam Habib, executive director of South Africa's Human Sciences Research
Council thinktank, said that Mbeki could not help but feel slighted by
Mugabe who has long resented the idea of anyone interfering in Zimbabwean

"It will definitely unsettle any mediation effort and undermine the position
of Mbeki as a mediator. It is Mugabe's direct slight on Mbeki," said Habib.

Mbeki has been widely criticised for the so-called "quiet diplomacy" even
though up to three million people are thought to have fled into South Africa
from Zimbabwe where the official rate of inflation is now nearly 8,000

"This quiet diplomacy has not worked," said Mangcu.

"There is a need to adopt a new approach to the Zimbabwe problem."

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State rail firm workers down tools over salaries

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Friday 01 February 2008

BULAWAYO – National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers have downed tools
demanding salary increases of between 700 and 1 000 percent, ZimOnline has

Sources at the NRZ said the workers, who embarked on a go-slow last Friday,
finally downed tools on Wednesday after management refused to bow to their

The NRZ is said to have only agreed to hike the workers’ salaries by 230
percent, an amount the workers say is not enough given Zimbabwe’s massive
hyper-inflationary environment.

A 230 percent salary hike would see the lowest paid worker at the state
parastatal earning about Z$120 million, up from the current $30 million.

The latest strike by rail workers has hit Zimbabwean workers the majority of
whom rely on the cheap service for transport. The strike has seen commuters
in the second city of Bulawayo waiting for hours on end for transport.

NRZ spokesman, Fanuel Masikati, confirmed the strike action by workers
adding that the situation was still under control.

“It’s only a few unruly workers who are trying to influence the negotiation
process. However, everything is still under control,” said Masikati.

NRZ general manager, Retired Air Commodore, Mike Karakadzai, said the
“illegal” job action would cost the company a staggering Z$2 trillion.

“In monetary terms, the drop in tonnage means whereas the organization had
hoped to earn income of $5.4 trillion in January 2008, it is now projected
to earn only $3.6 trillion,” said Karakadzai.

Workers at the NRZ who spoke to ZimOnline yesterday vowed to press on with
the industrial action until their demands were met.

“What we are demanding is a living wage and not the slave wages that
management is offering,” said a member of the NRZ workers union who refused
to be named for fear of victimisation.

The state rail firm nearly went into liquidation three years ago due to
gross mismanagement and underperformance.

The NRZ, now a shadow of its former self after years of under-funding and
mismanagement, has over the years struggled to remain viable amid
allegations of interference by the government. - ZimOnline

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USA adds more Zanu PF officials to targeted sanctions list

By Lance Guma
31 January 2008

The United States government on Wednesday added more Zanu PF officials and
companies to a growing list of those under financial and travel sanctions.
Robert Mugabe’s nephew Leo Mugabe, Happyton Bonyongwe the head of the
Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and two companies with links to Zanu
PF are the new additions. ZIDCO Holdings and Jongwe Printing and Publishing
Company are said to be controlled by the ruling party and have joined the
list of blacklisted companies whose business activities benefit the
oppressive regime in Harare. What the measures mean is that any bank
accounts or financial assets found in the United States will be frozen.

The measures are part of attempts to increase pressure on Mugabe’s regime,
that last week brutally crushed an opposition march demanding a new
constitution and free and fair elections. American businesses are barred
from doing business with any of the officials or companies on the targeted
sanctions list. Adam Szubin, a director in the Treasury Office of Foreign
Assets Control said, ‘Today’s designations are part of an increased effort
to pressure those who are aiding Mugabe's efforts to cripple Zimbabwe,
including through violence and intimidation.’

Mugabe’s regime has tried to sell the argument that the entire country is
under sanctions and that this is the reason for the economic crisis which
has seen inflation unofficially pegged at over 100 000 percent. Observers
however say this is an opportunistic argument as only selected Zanu PF
officials and companies are targeted. Australia, the United Kingdom and
other European countries have similar travel and financial restrictions on
members of Mugabe’s regime.

Last year Australia took the policy further by deporting the children of
Zanu PF officials studying in that country. The country’s foreign minister
said it was not the interest of the country to host these children while
their parents helped commit human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Church condemns police raid


January 31, 2008, 05:45

Church authorities have condemned the manner in which a police raid was
conducted at the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg last
night. The midnight police raid resulted in the arrest of dozens of illegal

The Central Methodist Church gives shelter to over 1 000 Zimbabweans and a
smaller number of migrants from other countries.
Police began by rounding up nearly 400 people sleeping in the streets before
assembling those inside the church building.

Men and women, young and old were loaded onto police trucks and vans and
transported to the John Vorster Square Police Station.

However, two hours later, those found to have their papers in order were
brought back to the church. The rest face the prospect of being deported.

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Zimbabwe: flood victims tell their stories

31 Jan 2008 16:43:00 GMT
Source: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
(IFRC) - Switzerland
by Mark South

Zimbabwe has been severely affected by the floods that hit southern Africa
over the last few weeks, including the Muzarabani area. We have asked four
flood victims currently staying at an Agricultural Rural Development
Authority Farm (ARDA) in Muzarabani (Zimbabwe) to explain how they have been
affected. They all received Red Cross aid in their villages before
evacuating to the government-run ARDA farm.

Many of the beneficiaries brought Red Cross issued items with them to the
farm where they have access to clean and reliable water, sanitation and
food. Most families left some members behind sheltering in Red Cross tents
pitched on higher ground above the level of the floods; even though almost
all crops have been destroyed, they do not want to completely abandon their
fields and villages.

Ribetia Mutoro, 65, from Mvundura Village in Muzarabani

"The floods came early in the morning. It was seven a.m. and we were getting
ready to go out to the fields when suddenly the water came in through the
door of my home. My family lost four huts, they were completely flattened by
the water. I used to have ten chickens but only one survived. I came to the
ARDA on my own after the floods last week, even though they are ruined my
two sons and three grandchildren didn't want to leave our fields behind, I
have no idea where they are now. We heard a truck was coming to rescue
people from the village but the truck got stuck and we had to come on foot -
it took me two days to walk the 80km from my village to the farm here. After
the floods the Red Cross came and helped us very quickly. They gave us some
blankets, kitchen equipment, a jerry can, a mosquito net and most
importantly a tent so we had somewhere to shelter. Then we moved to some
higher ground to keep out of the water and put the tent up, as far as I know
my family is still there, but I don't know. When the water came it was
terrifying, I'm getting better now but whenever I think about what happened
I feel so scared and I've been having nightmares about it. ater came it was
terrifying, I'm getting better now but whenever I think about what happened
I feel so scared and I've been having nightmares about it.

Living at the farm is okay, I miss my family but at least here I'm away from
the danger of flooding and I know I can get clean water and food. I've been
told by our village head that he will help us find a new place to live on
higher land away from the river. I wouldn't want to return to my old home -
my house has been destroyed and I'd be too scared of the floods coming

I'd really like to say a big thank you to the Red Cross and everyone who
helped me and my family, we couldn't have had any future without the help
they gave us. We had nothing and it was this help that kept us alive and
gave us the will to carry on, otherwise we might have given up.

I don't want to go back to my old village, I can't go back. I am an old
woman but my children and grandchildren are still young and I want to
prepare a better future for them without the threat of these floods. All my
food and crops were washed away so I have no chance of harvesting anything
and nothing to go back to even if I wanted to, I would just face the same
problems and dangers all over again."

Gertrude Chamadzi, 22, and two-year-old daughter Gamuchiria Mawrara from
Chadereka village

"When the floods came, my family's two huts were destroyed and a lot of our
food stores were washed away. We took refuge in a secondary school at first
and then a government truck came and brought me and my two younger sisters
to this farm. Here it is better but there are a lot of problems in the
flooded area, we can't get clean water and there are a lot of mosquitoes. We
only had dirty water to drink and we had to give it to the baby too so I'm
very worried for her health. I don't think she's really aware what is
happening but she has been very upset. She cries a lot more now and I think
maybe she has suffered some shock because of the changes.

The Red Cross gave our family a jerry can, some blankets and a kitchen set -
although our huts had been destroyed we didn't need a tent because we moved
to the school. Our houses and everything we had inside them had gone so the
help from the Red Cross was vital. We were stunned because we had lost
almost everything and I don't know how we would have managed to cope without
help from the Red Cross.

The future is looking quite bleak for us, we've lost our home and our crops
and I don't know what is going to happen next - things are so uncertain at
the moment that I can't even begin to plan what to do. I want to be able to
give my daughter a more certain future so that when she is my age she will
be able to look after herself and won't face problems like this."

Juliet Chari, 20, came to the farm from Chadereka with her 3 children:
daughters Ropafadzo, five, and Rumbidzai, three, and son Frank, three months

"We came in the truck with my aunt, and left my husband and mother-in-law in
the village. It's been really difficult to cope, especially with three
children to look after. We lost everything including all my children's
clothes and the baby's nappies, so things are really tough. Because the
village is flooded there isn't any clean drinking water, which is why I
brought the children to the farm. The Red Cross helped us out with blankets
and a jerry can and a kitchen set, but what I'm most worried about now is
that we couldn't get a mosquito net and Frank, my baby, is getting bitten.
I'm really scared he could get malaria.

I am quite new to the area, Chadereka is my mother in law's village which is
why I moved here, but I don't want to go back. I don't know where we will
move to but it will have to be higher ground than before, I can't face all
this happening again. I want my children to have a safe and more secure
future, I don't want them to suffer like this.

The help from the Red Cross has been vital and it without it we would have
been in real trouble, now I know we're safe, I just hope I can get a
mosquito net, more nappies for my baby and clothes for my children."

(Before leaving the farm Zimbabwe Red Cross supplied Juliet with a mosquito
net for her and her family.)

Leon Cheuseni, 43, from Makombie Village

"At around six in the morning I was helping friends who had been affected by
the floods. When I returned home to check on my own property the water was
almost a meter deep in both my huts. To begin with the water came very
slowly so we didn't realize how serious the situation was, then very
suddenly the water was overwhelming. We managed to retrieve a few items but
the flood has left me and my family with basically nothing.

The Red Cross supplied my family with a kitchen set of cups, spoons, pots
and plates, a tent, a jerry can and a mosquito net. Without that help I
really don't now what we would have done - the Red Cross put a roof over our
heads and made sure we were safe, without them I don't want to think about
what could have happened.

Now I have to find a new place to live and work really hard to recover, but
I know I can't live in the same place again, even though the land there is
good for growing my crops, I'm too scared of the floods coming back. I lost
everything and now I have to start again from scratch."

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Why bother?  ballot or bullet?

Trudy Stevenson MP, Secretary for Policy and Research, MDC  31 January 2008

"Why bother going for another election?  You'll lose again, so what's the
point?"  This apathy seems common in the middle and high income groups, and
is now being reinforced by well-funded civil society leaders, who seem to be
organizing a national publicity campaign to boycott the forthcoming

Where in the world has a boycott of elections ever worked?  Do you know of
any country where an election boycott has led to free and fair elections in
the next round?  All that ever happens is that the dictator just carries on
dictating!   I disagree that participating in an election legitimizes the
outcome.  We declared that the 2002 election was rigged, and that the
outcome was illegitimate.  It is widely recognized internationally that
indeed that election was rigged - but did it change anything?  Comrade
Robert continued to rule, and the ZanuPF regime was accepted as a de facto
government, if not de jure.

If citizens boycott the election, what will they do the next day, when
Comrade Robert and co are back in power with even more seats?  Will they
stop sending their children to government schools because they don't
recognize the government?  Will they refuse to get their passport and ID,
etc, because they don't recognize the government?  How will they travel in
and out of Zimbabwe, if they don't recognize ZIMRA and the immigration
officials and allow them to stamp their passport, etc?  Will they refuse to
use Zimbabwe currency, because they don't recognize the government which
issues it?

What are the alternatives to elections?  Demonstrations? Strikes? Go-Slows?
Marches? The Final Push? Appeals to the outside world? None of those has yet
removed Mugabe, in the 10+ years people have genuinely wanted to remove him
from office.  In fact, fewer and fewer people are prepared to march or
demonstrate or strike or go slow, because of the likelihood of torture or
arrest at the very least.   The only other alternative is the gun.  Surely
the apathetic or aggressive "boycott" voice does not seriously propose to
substitute the bullet for the ballot?  Or does it?  If so, that voice is

We in the Movement for Democratic Change are committed to peaceful change
through the ballot box.  We totally reject the idea of a new armed struggle,
and we totally reject any form of violence as means to an end.  The
Chimurenga armed struggle brought independence to Zimbabwe, but its bitter
harvest failed to bring real freedom or empowerment to the majority of its
people.  The MDC believes that the "how" is as important as the "what" - and
yes, that also applies to making a new national constitution.

The logic of "boycott because you can't win" is seriously faulty.  To follow
this logic through, no person should be born, because s/he is going to die
anyway - so what's the point?  So no one should have children, and no one
should themselves have been born and brought up to participate in society,
because they are going to die one day, anyway - so why bother?  Why
participate in any sport, if you are not sure you will win?  Why do all
those people run in the Comrades, or the London Marathon, when they know
they won't win?  Why write an exam, when you don't know if the examiner will
be fair or not?  Is life fair?

Surely to try and fail, even over and over again, is better than not to try
at all?  Surely every person's life has meaning, even if that person is
destined to die in the end?  Surely there is value and meaning in
participating in any activity for its own sake?  Even in a faulty election,
because by participating you are making a statement about what you believe
in and what kind of society you want to build and protect. And surely the
more you try, the more likely you are to win, as you become more
experienced?  The opponent will eventually be worn down - even Robert

Notably, it is the poor and suffering - the majority of Zimbabweans - who
are most vehement about wanting to vote, in Zimbabwe.  They know Mugabe is
not going to make things easy for his opponents, and that he will do all in
his power to retain power - whatever it takes.  No government in power has
ever made things easy for its opposition to take over.  There will be no red
carpet leading to the gates of State House!  But the poor and suffering are
ready to go and vote him out, because they know there is no alternative.

I believe we have already entered the transition phase, in this country.
Even 6 months ago, I would not have believed you if you had told me ZanuPF
would agree to all the consessions they made during the SADC-led talks, when
even Mugabe recognized the MDC.  I believe that now a small breach has
opened up, it cannot be plugged, and will open wider and wider until real
change sweeps the incumbents away in a torrent.  To refuse to participate in
an election at this stage is mad, because it will be elections which bring
further transition and real change to Zimbabwe.  Participants in elections
will remain relevant, while those who do not participate will become

Let us bother to participate, for the sake of our country and our future.
Let us not abandon the poor and the suffering, but join together and vote to
change Zimbabwe for all our sakes.

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Mobile Phone System Overburdened

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Cheap phone calls are available to everyone, but rock-bottom prices are
clogging up the networks and making it hard for businesses to get through to
each other.

By Tichaona Chingombe in Harare (AR No. 153, 30-Jan-08)

What with frequent power outages, long periods without running water and
unreliable telecommunications, doing business in Zimbabwe has become a

Mobile phones, introduced a decade ago, have also been affected. As the main
means of communication following the collapse of other systems, the cellular
network is now under such strain that doing business by phone can be a
maddening experience.

The government-owned TelOne, which runs the landline network, has virtually
collapsed and cannot repair existing lines, let alone install new ones. The
telephone wires are continually vandalised by unemployed youths, who steal
the metal to sell on to unscrupulous dealers.

In the absence of working landlines, Zimbabweans have switched en masse to
mobile technology. Because the government controls the amount networks are
allowed to charge per minute, the rates have been kept phenomenally low and
many poorer members of society can now just about afford mobiles.

As a result, Zimbabweans have become one of the most talkative nations in
the world, with usage levels that defy the logic of rising poverty levels in
both rural and urban areas.

Once considered a status symbol, the mobile phone is now accessible to
everyone, even in the poorer rural areas. Rich and poor are separated only
by how expensive their handsets are.

Douglas Mboweni, chief executive of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the biggest
network, says Zimbabweans stay on the phone longer than anywhere else in
Africa. While the international average for mobile phone use is 40 minutes a
month, Zimbabweans clock up 200 minutes.

However, the boom in mobile use has a downside - network congestion is so
bad that people complain it takes them an average of five attempts to make a
call. The situation worsens during peak hours and gets even more difficult
at the weekend, when charges are even lower.

Overuse of the networks has become a major headache for businesses. An
industry expert who did not want to be named said the congestion problem had
arisen because of the government’s price cap, imposed despite evidence from
all over the world that such policies do not work.

“The real cause of network congestion is not lack of capacity per se,” said
the expert. “What we have is overuse of the networks because the rates
charged are simply too low. A lot of business is lost because the networks
are clogged by idle talk by people who spend hours on the phone without
generating any revenue for government.”

Added to this were the frequent power cuts that increase the burden on the
transmission stations still in operation, he said.

He pointed to the many unemployed youths who throng the Roadport bus
terminus in Harare, where most of the black-market currency takes place.

In a normal economy, these young people would be struggling to buy a prepaid
charge card, he said. “But in Zimbabwe, these are the people who spend the
day determining the latest rate of the US dollar to the Zimbabwean dollar.
They have enough airtime to phone any part of the country and even abroad
any time and virtually control the foreign currency rate on any given day.”

He concluded, “The long and short of it is that while government thinks that
low rates will give access to information to the poor, they are frustrating
expeditious business operations through network congestion and promoting
illegal foreign currency deals by the unemployed.”

Nor does this all activity translate into significant income for the network
companies, as the amount they can charge is so low at 50,000 Zimbabwean
dollars, ZWD, or one US cent per minute.

All three networks - Econet Wireless, NetOne and Telecel - complain that
they cannot increase their network because of the limitations imposed by
Potraz, the government agency which allocates frequencies and sets prices.

Econet is the largest operator with nearly a million subscribers on
contracts or using its popular two prepaid card brands, Libertie and Buddie.
It is followed by the state-controlled NetOne with some 350,000 subscribers
and then Telecel International with about 200,000.

The companies do not have the foreign currency they need to import equipment
to expand their coverage or to print new SIM cards. The only foreign
currency widely available comes from the illegal black market where one US
dollar now sells for five million ZWD.

The network operators say they would need to charge at least 450,000 ZWD or
nine US cents a minute to remain viable, but even this would not be enough
to cover the costs they have to pay for international calls, which have to
be settled in foreign currency.

The congestion is exacerbated by the presence of millions of Zimbabweans
abroad, either in South Africa and other regional states or in places like
Britain and Australia. According to independent estimates, the diaspora
accounts for between a quarter and a third of Zimbabwe’s total population of
close to 12 million.

The emigrants call home regularly and spend long periods on the phone
speaking to each family member in turn.

TelOne has recently launched a fixed wireless system with the help of
Chinese company Huawei Technologies, but this network is already suffering
the same problems of congestion because handsets and charges are so cheap.

Tichaona Chingombe is the pseudonym of a journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Zimbabwe Exiles Forum

31 January 2008

Our Ref PR 03/2008

ZEF Statement on:
South African Police Crackdown on Zimbabwean Refugees Criminal

Until now South Africa has appeared on the face of it to be sympathetic to
survivors of human rights abuses from Zimbabwe. However, yesterday night’s
events compel us to have serious doubts. Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) has
been informed that at around midnight yesterday, the South African Police,
together with Home Affairs officials, raided the Johannesburg Methodist
Church. They were ostensibly searching for undocumented Zimbabweans taking
refugee in the church. Those affected reveal that Zimbabwean refugees were
beaten up severely with baton sticks, and such belongings like Television
sets, cell phones, radios and food were confiscated by the police. Our
informants have confirmed that excessive force and violence were used, such
that even Bishop Paul Verryn was assaulted during this operation.

ZEF contends that there is no legal basis for the police to confiscate
people’s belongings; in fact it is criminal for them to do so. It is indeed
hypocritical for the South African government to appear to sympathise with
their Zimbabwean counterparts when its departments are terrorizing
Zimbabweans in South Africa. It is also in utter contempt of the church
environment and a desecration for the police to use violence in a church,
apart from it being cruelly ironic that the very same people who fled police
brutality from Zimbabwe have to face it again on this side of the border.
Many of the Zimbabweans facing deportation after yesterday’s crackdown are
the very people who are awaiting their asylum status determination by Home
Affairs Department, and amongst them are people who run the risk of being
tortured upon arrival in Zimbabwe.

In view of the above, ZEF urges the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister
of Safety and Security and the Commissioner of Police to reign in their
employees and urge them to comply with both international and national
refugee laws, to which South Africa is a party. We also urge them to
publicly condemn what transpired yesterday. Lastly, ZEF calls upon the
Minister of Foreign Affairs to accept the request by the African Union’s
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, to visit South Africa and see for
himself the horrors that Zimbabwean refugees are sometimes subjected to.

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Zimbabwe's Vermeulen cleared of arson

Mail and Guardian

Harare, Zimbabwe

31 January 2008 12:50

      Former Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen has been cleared of arson
attacks on the Zimbabwe Cricket Board's headquarters after a court found he
was suffering psychiatric problems, his lawyer said on Thursday.

      Eric Matinenga said Mishrod Guvamombe, the presiding magistrate
at Wednesday's hearing in Harare, had delivered a "special verdict", which
meant Vermeulen had not been in control of his actions when he carried out
the attacks.

      "A special verdict is retained when a person commits an offence
while they are not well up there. If the person is considered to be
dangerous to society, he is committed to an institution," the lawyer told

      "If he does not pose a danger to society, as was found in this
case, the person is freed."

      At the start of his trial, Vermeulen pleaded not guilty over the
torching of the cricket association offices at the Harare Sports Club in
October 2006 and an arson attack at the national training academy the next

      Vladimir Rajkovic, a private psychiatrist in Harare who examined
Vermeulen, told the court his client suffered from partial complex epilepsy
and impulsive behaviour disorder after he was hit and injured by a cricket
ball during a match in Australia.

      The doctor said the condition could only be controlled by
medication and could not be cured.

      The 29-year-old batsman played the last of his eight Test
matches in 2004. -- AFP

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Rural Zimbabwe Fertile Ground for HIV/AIDS


By Ignatius Banda

TSHOLOTSHO, Zimbabwe, Jan 31 (IPS) - They left the country in search of jobs
to better their lives, but village elders in rural Tsholotsho, say young men
who left home to fend for their families are losing their lives at alarming
rates to HIV/AIDS related ailments.

Tsholotsho, about 150 kilometres south-east of Bulawayo, is one of many
rural outposts in Matebeleland that have seen thousands of young men making
the trek to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana in search of jobs.

But this immigration -- while helping sustain families back home -- has come
at a high price, village elders say.

In Zimbabwe, female life expectancy stands at 34 years, while for males it
is 37 years, according to U.N. statistics. Zimbabwe has the lowest life
expectancy in the world.

"We are witnessing high HIV/AIDS related deaths, with young men returning
home on their death beds," Norman Dube, a retired secondary school
headmaster who has settled here, told IPS.

"There is an increase in the number of children being raised by their
grandparents," Dube said, stressing that, "we now have instances where
funerals are being postponed as elders say they cannot cope with burial
after burial."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other field experts have noted that
migration trends especially in sub-Saharan Africa have provided fertile
ground for HIV/AIDS as spouses are separated for long periods of time and
there is resistance to the use of prophylactics among rural communities.

"Migrant labourers have disposable income which could lead to multiple
partners once they are in South Africa. The men also irregularly use
condoms, especially with their wives in Zimbabwe," a Southern African
Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) report titled ‘Mobility and HIV/AIDS in
Southern Africa’ noted.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis has seen millions flee the country in search of
jobs abroad and in neighbouring countries. While the government last year
announced a drop in the number of HIV/AIDS statistics, the U.N. Development
Programme (UNDP) together with the WHO said this could be because
immigration had made it difficult to adequately trace infection trends.

In 2007, the Zimbabwean health ministry said HIV prevalence had fallen to
15.6 percent from 18.1 percent in 2005 and 24.6 percent in 2003, but these
gains are yet to be reflected in rural communities.

James McGee, U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, told journalists in Bulawayo the
decline could be the result of mistaken attribution of deaths to natural
causes and the inability to identify new diseases amidst such high mortality

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change-controlled Bulawayo city
council has begun to invite the ire of authorities for reporting that it is
running out of burial space because of the high incidence of HIV/AIDS
related deaths.

Maria Guyu, an official with a faith-based NGO working in rural Tsholotsho
said the continued immigration of young men and women was worsening the
spread of HIV/AIDS. Rural communities were especially bearing the brunt of
the problem as they also lacked critical resources to deal with the crisis,
Guyu said.

"There are no drugs and anti-retrovirals are unheard of here," Guyu
stressed. "There are also no medical personnel as young nurses and doctors
do not want to work in rural areas. We rely on missionary doctors but this
is not enough. Patients need food, but though we have seen enough rains,
villagers are starving."

Health workers here say that there is an ever present reluctance among
partners that condoms cannot be used by couples who -- despite being
separated for long periods -- feel the introduction of condoms implies one
of them has been unfaithful.

"It is frustrating because while everyone seems to know young people -- 
especially who leave the country -- have sexual relations as seen by the
growing number of deaths to HIV/AIDS, there is resistance to the use of
condoms," a nurse working in Tsholotsho told IPS.

"What can we do? We try our best but the greatest challenge has always been
trying to convince people to change their sexual habits," the nurse said,
asking that her name not be used for fear that she may lose her job. "The
immigration of the young people has only made it worse," she said.

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