21 February 2008
ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe will probably be forced into a second
round of voting after next month’s critical elections due to the dynamic
challenge he is facing from former minister Simba Makoni.
This could result in the eventual defeat of Mugabe if he fails to win 51% of
the vote — needed for him to be declared winner — during the elections on
Under the Electoral Act, when two or more presidential candidates are
nominated and no outright poll winner emerges, a second round of voting
follows within 21 days.
If the final two candidates are split evenly after the vote, parliament has
to sit as an electoral college to choose the winner.
It is widely held that Mugabe is unlikely to win 51% of the vote, a
situation that would force him to enter into a risky run-off with either
Makoni or main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai. If Mugabe is forced into a run-off, it would almost certainly
give his rival unstoppable momentum.
The law was amended in 2005 in the hope Mugabe would retire at the end of
his term next month, and a popularly elected successor would take over. In
the past, a candidate could become president without getting a clear poll
In Zambia, President Levy Mwanawasa was re-elected with 27% of the vote. The
remainder was shared among other candidates. In Kenya, former president
Daniel arap Moi used to defeat the fragmented opposition by getting more
votes individually, though they would have won the popular vote.
Jonathan Moyo, a former Mugabe spokesman who was a key strategist in his
controversial 2002 re-election, said his former boss would have to go into a
run-off, as he would not win 51% of the vote.
“The likelihood of any of the candidates getting 51% is between slim and
none because for the first time we have three candidates who are likely to
draw solid support from different strongholds,” Moyo said.
“There is quite a siz able chance of disgruntled voters from Zanu (PF) and
the MDC actually voting for Makoni — although he may be working alone — out
of desperation, believing he is a solution.”
Moyo said neither of the three candidates was strong enough to win an
“When you have three strong candidates in such an environment, it is very
unlikely any one of those will command a total majority of votes cast.”
Moyo said Mugabe’s bid to avoid facing the elections alone by combining the
presidential and parliamentary polls would eventually fail because of a
“What makes this election quite intriguing is that Mugabe called for
harmonised elections to avoid a situation where he comes head-on with one
candidate — he did not want to run against the MDC candidate alone.
“He wanted to be assisted by his council candidates at ward level, House of
Assembly and senatorial candidates at constituency level. Yet the stark
reality he now faces is that he will most likely, if not certainly, run
alone,” he said.
“The looming possibility of a run-off renders meaningless Mugabe’s attempt
to harmonise elections in the hope of riding on its wave. This might turn
out to be a major boomerang.”
Moyo said Mugabe could be swept out of power during the run-off. “If there
is a wave in a run-off, a huge anti-Mugabe wave, that would be the end of
him,” he said.
However, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said a second round would not be
necessary as president Mugabe would win “resoundingly”.
He described the opposition forces as “makeshift” and said Mugabe’s
opponents did not have a platform or any cohesion.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long-serving minister and key Mugabe ally, said his
boss was “extremely confident”, 99,9% certain, of victory.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:50
BY CHIEF REPORTER
President Robert Mugabe is believed to have hatched an escape route in
the event of a defeat at next month's presidential polls. This is despite
assurances from his opponents that he would be granted immunity from
The ailing 84-year-old has been sounding out some of his African
neighbours and his dwindling number of friends abroad about providing him
with a safe haven.
Fearing that his opponents might try to jail him before he had a
chance to slip into exile, Mugabe reluctantly agreed that overtures should
be made to opposition rivals.
He is said to have asked South Africa President Thabo Mbeki to arrange
a deal about his future at a four-hour meeting in Harare two months ago.
One of Mugabe's main challengers, Simba Makoni, stated this week that
if he won the crucial vote "space would be made for President Mugabe to live
out his days without fear of prosecution".
Mbeki, who is believed to be backing Makoni's candidature through his
Third Force project, has communicated to Makoni the need to ensure a
dignified departure for Mugabe, though undeserved, in the belief that this
would be in the interest of Zimbabwe and SADC.
The secret deal is believed to have been put to Morgan Tsvangirai,
leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to give
Mugabe immunity from prosecution and allow him to go into exile abroad.
The deal also guarantees that Mugabe's wife, Grace, and his three
children can leave, but the Tsvangirai has insisted that if he wins he will
ensure that Mugabe does not take any looted money and treasures with him.
In addresses to his loyalists, Mugabe still refuses to countenance
defeat, but his closest advisers are saying that he is facing the end of his
Security sources said Mugabe had the crew of his presidential
helicopter on 24-hour standby and the aircraft is parked on the lawn of
State House should a swift getaway be needed. The question remains where
Mugabe will choose for his exile, although in fiery speeches recently he has
maintained "here I was born, here I will die."
Sources said he will elect to stay in Africa, even though he has
cultivated cordial ties with government leaders in Malaysia, Thailand, Cuba
and North Korea, among thers.
"African leaders are trying to persuade him not to rig the elections
on March 29, and to go peacefully if he loses," said a senior government
Nevertheless, it is by no means certain that Mugabe will bow out
gracefully if the vote goes against him.
The 2008 election is also peculiar in that an absolute majority is
required for any presidential candidate to be declared the winner and Mugabe
knows the possibility of anyone obtaining the requisite 51 percent or higher
There are fears among diplomats in Harare that Mugabe could blame
international interference for a flawed election and try to rule by martial
Mugabe last month told the SADC troika on Politics, Defence and
Security that he would not accept an election result that meant the
"re-colonisation of Zimbabwe". This has been interpreted as being a direct
reference to the opposition MDC as Mugabe has frequently labelled Tsvangirai
a puppet of the British government.
by Edith Kaseke Thursday 21 February 2008
HARARE - The Zimbabwe dollar took a dramatic plunge this week, falling
by more than a 100 percent as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) returned to
the parallel market to raise money to pay exporters and for critical
imports, central bank sources said.
Foreign currency dealers said the Zimbabwe dollar was trading around
$16 million to the United States dollar on an illegal but flourishing
parallel or black market for hard cash yesterday afternoon and as much as
$20 million for larger amounts, nose-diving from $8.5 million on Monday this
The local dollar trades at $30 000 to the greenback on the official
market. However the bulk of foreign currency trade takes place on the
parallel market, with the RBZ, a frequent visitor to the market to raise
hard cash for critical imports.
Dealers said the central bank had entered the market this week to
source foreign currency for electricity, food and fuel for March 29
elections and to repay exporters after raiding some accounts last month.
Shortages of food, fuel, foreign currency are all signs of a crippling
economic crisis that many say has roots in President Robert Mugabe’s
controversial populist policies such as seizing land from whites to resettle
blacks and lately threats to expropriate foreign-owned companies.
“We are buying (US) dollars in the market and that seems to have
driven the exchange rate,” a central bank source said without elaborating
and declining to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the
“There has been a sudden weakening of the Zimbabwe dollar this week
and patterns suggest that the RBZ is in the market, in fact they are buying
(foreign) currency,” a foreign currency trader with a commercial bank added.
An official with an exporting company said the firm was unable to get
money banked with the central bank for more than three weeks because the RBZ
had used the funds, raising fears the money would take time to be returned.
Foreign currency accounts for exporters and non-governmental
organisations with local banks are now held at the central bank and not with
foreign corresponding foreign banks as was the case previously.
With falling export revenue - including from gold, which contributes a
third of all export income but whose output dropped to pre-independence
levels in 2007 - central bank chief Gideon Gono is hard pressed to raise
foreign currency on the thriving parallel market to meet an ever expanding
Analysts say the continued weakening of the local dollar and surging
inflation, which according to latest figures obtained from the state Central
Statistical Office yesterday vaulted to 100 580.2 percent in January, the
highest in the world, was yet another sign Mugabe’s government had lost the
battle to end a biting economic crisis.
“There is no doubt the wheels are off the rails, the economy is in
trouble and even the central bank cannot save the situation,” consultant
economist John Robertson said.
Gono – who bustled in glory during his first three months in office in
2004 after shaking up the financial sector – is Mugabe’s point man on the
economy but his earlier optimism and rallying cry, “failure is not an
option” have all but failed to lift Zimbabwe from an economic quagmire.
Zimbabweans are despondent and continue to suffer as prices have
started rising almost on a daily basis, but analysts say they are afraid of
confronting the government, which in the past has come hard on dissent.
The analysts say the political and economic implosion in the southern
African country would ignite protests anywhere else in the world and worry
any government facing an election in just over a month.
But Mugabe appears entrenched, relying heavily on the security forces
to instill fear in the population but analysts said the economy was one
enemy the ageing leader would not be able to defeat. - ZimOnline
by Lizwe Sebatha Thursday 21 February 2008
HARARE – At least 8 000 Zimbabwean teachers quit their jobs since the
beginning of the year, with many believed to have left the crisis-torn
country to look for better paying jobs abroad, a teachers’ union said on
The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), which regularly monitors
the number of teachers leaving the country and last year said 25 000
teachers had quit the profession, said more teachers were expected to leave
this year because of poor pay and working conditions.
“According to our survey, about 8 000 teachers have not reported for duty
since the start of the new term last month and indications are that we will
lose more teachers this year because of poor salaries,” PTUZ president
Takavafira Zhou told ZimOnline.
Education Minister, Aeneas Chigwedere, confirmed the country was losing
teachers but sought to downplay the extent of the brain-drain.
“We are indeed losing teachers regularly but not to the extent as put by
that organisation (PTUZ). We do not face a critical shortage of teachers,”
said Chigwedere. But he refused to say how many teachers had quit.
Zimbabwe’s unprecedented economic crisis has driven out thousands of
professionals including doctors, engineers, lawyers and accountants to
neighbouring countries and as far afield as Britain, Australia and New
Zealand where salaries and conditions are better.
The public education sector - once among the best in Africa and a shining
example of the achievements of President Robert Mugabe’s government - has
suffered the most.
School infrastructure is crumbling due to lack of maintenance as the
government struggles for resources, while disruptive strikes by teachers for
more pay have become routine.
The PTUZ, which is one of two unions representing teachers in the country,
has led a strike by its members since the beginning of the new term last
month to press the government to hike salaries to Z$1.7 billion per month
about US$56 000 at the official exchange rate of Z$30 000 to one American
The figure comes down to a paltry US$85 per month at the widely used
parallel market exchange rate of about Z$20 million to the greenback.
Zimbabwe employs about 120 000 teachers including student and untrained
temporary teachers but the PTUZ says the country requires double that number
of fully qualified teachers to ensure effective learning in schools. -
by Own Correspondent Thursday 21 February 2008
JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party on Wednesday launched a campaign to encourage Zimbabweans living
in South Africa to return to home and vote in next month’s elections.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans or about a quarter of the country’s
12 million people live outside country - the majority in South Africa –
after fleeing home because of political violence and worsening economic
Addressing hundreds of Zimbabweans in central Johannesburg, MDC women
assembly leader Theresa Makone said the opposition party had decided against
boycotting polls even though conditions on the ground hinder a free and fair
“Boycotting the poll would be as bad as betraying the wishes of many
Zimbabweans who are yearning for the end of misrule in Zimbabwe,” Makone
said, calling on her compatriots to find time to cross back home to cast
President Robert Mugabe’s government has repeatedly refused to allow exiled
Zimbabweans to vote saying it does not have the resources to facilitate
postal ballots. The majority of Zimbabwean exiles are believed to support
Zimbabweans elect a new president, parliament and local government councils
on March 29 against the background of a collapsing economy that has seen
inflation rocket to over 100 000 percent, massive shortages of food and
virtually every basic survival commodity.
Political analysts say Mugabe could however still win the election, thanks
to an opposition torn apart by divisions over strategy and leadership
wrangles, which undermines its ability to exploit Zimbabwe's economic
crisis. - ZimOnline
By Blessing Zulu
20 February 2008
Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has resolved to rerun some primary elections
in an effort to patch up cracks within the party over who its candidates
will be in a number of constituencies beset by divisions, some involving top
Spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said the party’s leadership, which met on
Tuesday, acknowledged mistakes in recent hurried primary elections and
called a second round of primaries in constituencies in Masvingo, Manicaland
and Mashonaland East.
Some members have defied President Robert Mugabe and his presidium by
proposing to run as ZANU-PF candidates despite losing a primary, or running
Party insiders said the move has deepened divisions between those calling
for the expulsion of such rebels and those who advocate patience. In
Masvingo alone, 11 members have defied the party, among them Finance
Minister Samuel Mumbengengwi and politburo member Dzikamai Mavhaire.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga, deputy director of the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
that ZANU-PF out of political expediency is ignoring its own constitution.
FROM THE ZIMBABWE VIGIL
Two important events in March - please come and support.
1. Rally for Dignity! and Democracy in Zimbabwe in Trafalgar Square,
Saturday, 8th March 2008
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) is holding a rally for Dignity! and
Democracy in Zimbabwe on International Women's Day, Saturday 8th March 2008
from 12pm-1.30pm in Trafalgar Square, London
Celebrating and highlighting the struggle for dignity, democracy and basic
human rights in Zimbabwe and the key role that women are playing. 3 weeks
ahead of elections, it is a chance to support the Dignity! Period. campaign
and support the efforts by civil society for free and fair elections.
· Lucia Matibenga, Vice-President Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
· Takavafira Zhou, President, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe
· Maureen Kademaunga, Gender and Human Rights Officer, Zimbabwe
National Students' Union
and many other high profile speakers from UK government and civil society
The rally is followed by the Zimbabwe Vigil outside the Zimbabwean Embassy
at 14.00 and at 15.30 the Million Women Rise Rally to end violence against
women in Trafalgar Square.
Moree information on www.actsa.org. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or
phone 020 3263 2001 to let ACTSA know if you are coming
2. Zimbabwe Vigil's Mock Election - Saturday, 29th March 2008
The Vigil has booked the space outside the Embassy from 6 am to 6 pm on
Election Day (29th March) and plan to run a mock election there in parallel
with the elections in Zimbabwe. It is likely we will get a lot of publicity
and we are planning some media / photo opportunities at 12 noon. The media
will not wait for us and it's important we have a big crowd so please come
in good time. We are still making plans for this day and will keep you
informed of our progress.
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. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:48
BY CHIEF REPORTER
Zimbabwe's main presidential rivals kick off their presidential
election campaigns this Saturday at major rallies in three key battlegrounds
Mugabe, whose ruling Zanu (PF) party lost Matabeleland South to the
opposition in the 2005 parliamentary elections, will address supporters in
Beitbridge on Saturday in a campaign rally launch that will double as his
84th birthday party.
In Mutare, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC and one of
Mugabe's strongest challengers, will speak at Sakubva Stadium.
And dark horse Simba Makoni launches his presidential campaign in the
capital Harare on Saturday.
An independent poll monitoring group, the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network, reported this week that in the town of Chinhoyi, northwest of
Harare, observers witnessed Makoni's supporters being threatened by ruling
party militants as "traitors" in tense scenes at the town's nomination court
The international community outside Africa has accused Mugabe and his
followers of instigating a wave of violence against opposition supporters
ahead of what are expected to be the hardest fought elections since
independence in 1980.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced this week that 730
candidates had been nominated to contest the 210 House of Assembly
constituencies, with 196 candidates vying for the 60 Senate seats.
The highest tally of candidates is in Harare where 134 aspirants are
seeking election in the province's 29 constituencies.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:44
BY CHIEF REPORTER
With the diaspora unable to vote, next month's crucial poll in
troubled Zimbabwe will be decided largely by the country's rural population,
who make up 75 percent of the total 11,9 million population.
These are the people who have borne the brunt of a violent
intimidation campaign by the ruling party.
"The outcome of the vote will be determined in rural areas," said
Ronald Shumba, a Harare-based political analyst.
Green bombers and party activists have terrorised the countryside to
prevent farm workers and peasants living on community settlements from
The farm workers must now take loyalty tests to Zanu (PF) in exchange
for a guarantee they will be allowed to continue ploughing, sowing and
Prof Welshman Ncube, secretary-general of the MDC (Mutambara) said the
main question was not whether the elections would be free and fair, but
"whether the estimated 5,6 million registered voters will be brave enough to
turn out in large numbers and say ‘No' to intimidation."
Respected lawyer, David Coltart, said the government was trying to use
old intimidation techniques, but "they simply do not have the same resources
"They used to have a guerrilla army of 50,000 people country-wide. We
think that there are probably no more than 300 to 400 of these people - the
rest are untrained youths," he said.
Presidential candidate Simba Makoni has claimed the huge turnout last
week at the registration centres was actuated by his entry into the
"Judging by the response we have had since our announcement, we are
heading for a landslide win," Makoni said. "We have reports that voter
registration was up 10-fold since the Tuesday we launched our bid. The
enthusiasm is palpable."
Makoni claimed he also had the rural vote and refused to categorise
Zimbabweans saying "all of them are Zimbabweans, and all of them yearn for
the same thing, which is an immediate renewal of our country."
But the MDC also claims it is in the lead and has clinched the
significant portion of the rural vote.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:41
Widespread intimidation in the rural areas and government mischief
could scupper a free and fair general election in March, Zimbabwe's
opposition leaders and democratic activists warned this week.
The government has failed to release the voters rolls on time and has
concealed details of redrawn voter-district maps, making it difficult for
opposition parties to register their candidates in the nomination court that
sat last Friday.
Human rights groups, meanwhile, have called on the international
community to send large numbers of election monitors to oversee the process.
But government has insisted that only observers from friendly
countries would be allowed to observe the poll.
''It is difficult, I have to say, to see how the elections will be
free and fair given the extent of the violence being perpetrated in the
countryside and the fact that no one has had a chance to see the voter
rolls,'' said a Western diplomat based in Harare, the capital.
Violence has gripped Zimbabwe since last year, when the State
unleashed a crackdown on opposition and democratic activists. The
intimidation quickly spread beyond the towns into the rural areas.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said in a report last week that
the 2008 election has already been tainted by the violence that was
attendant on the year 2007.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project, presenting the findings of its Violations
Early Warning System (Views Project) in Harare weekend, predicted that the
March 29 poll were likely to be the most violent in the history of the
"The majority of perpetrators are from the ruling Zanu (PF) party,"
said Jestina Mukoko, national director of the Zimbabwe Peace project. "We
have a database with names of some of the most prominent of them such as
Biggie Chitoro of Mberengwa,"
The opposition movement claimed this week that about 87 of its
candidates from rural districts and seven from urban areas have been
"The question now is whether people will have enough courage to rise
above the violence and vote as they want," said Prof Welshman Ncube,
secretary general fpr the MDC (Mutambara). "They might be disgusted with the
violence and vote for change, or they might say it is not worth the risk and
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:39
Chaos, irregularities, intrigue, violence and duplicate candidatures
marred the submission of nominations to the electoral commission for the
March general elections last weekend.
Zanu (PF) administration secretary Didymus Mutasa threatened senior
party officials with dismissal. "Indiscipline can even be seen among senior
(ruling) party officials and that cannot be accepted," he said.
Zanu (PF) has already won two parliamentary seats unopposed in
Muzarabani South and Rushinga, while the MDC has scraped a few council seats
unopposed in Mashonaland Central, Masvingo, Manicaland, and Mashonaland.
The campaign will now begin in earnest on February 23.
The nomination process has claimed many political casualties,
including ministers and senior opposition politicians. Some, like MDC
Bulawayo South candidate, Eddie Cross, managed to scrape through at the last
minute and were angry at how the ZEC had handled the nomination process.
"The Nomination Court on Friday declared me an alien - a non-citizen,"
he said. "I took the issue to the High Court and won an order from the Judge
who told the Nomination Court to treat me as a citizen and to act
accordingly. Eventually at 9.30 pm I was declared a candidate for my
A report by poll monitoring group, Zimbabwe Election Support Network,
ZESN, which has fielded 120 election observers countrywide, singles out
several cases of irregularities during the conduct of the process.
In Kadoma, observers witnessed a fistfight at the Nomination Court
between Zanu (PF) supporters sparked by their party's prospective nominees.
In Chakari, a father and his son are locking horns in the poll on a
Zanu (PF) and MDC (Mutambara) ticket respectively.
In Chinhoyi, the ZESN report says, a total of nine independent
candidates were duly nominated, including former publisher Kindness Paradza,
formerly a member of Zanu (PF).
Dual candidature was widespread in Masvingo where there was successful
nomination of more than one candidate from Zanu (PF) in six parliamentary
constituencies and two senate seats.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:37
BY STAFF REPORTERS
Sharp differences are emerging among South Africa's leaders over the
deepening Zimbabwe crisis after Nelson Mandela made a thinly-disguised
attack on President Robert Mugabe as a "tyrant".
This was in contrast to the softly-softly approach of President Thabo
Mbeki, who has kept up a show of African solidarity with Mugabe, insisting
his failed mediation has worked.
On Monday, South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, speaking at a joint press conference with her visiting New
Zealand counterpart, Winston Peters, told critics of Mbeki's diplomatic
policy that nothing would be achieved in Zimbabwe by the noise of empty
At the weekend, Mandela denounced Mugabe and other power-grabbing
African leaders. He said ordinary people should depose tyrants who enriched
themselves at the expense of their countrymen by "picking up rifles and
fighting for liberation".
Asked by a nosy reporter later whether he was referring to Mugabe,
Mandela said: "Everybody here knows who I am talking about. The situation
exists in many parts of the world, especially Africa."
Even as Dlamini-Zuma paid lip service to Mbeki's diplomacy, Mandela
made it clear he had little patience with it and believed other South
Africans should speak out forcefully.
Mbeki's lieutenants were prickly when asked about Mandela's comments.
"That is Mr Mandela's view. Mr Mbeki has explained his position in the
State of the Nation address," Mbeki's spokesman said. "The situation in
Zimbabwe is very serious. There are more serious things to do than to look
for differences between public officials."
But a senior SA diplomat suggested Mandela spoke with Mbeki's
"He is free to say what everybody feels. Do not underestimate how
tough Mbeki is in private talks with Mugabe."
Meanwhile ZimOnline reports the MDC (Tsvangirai) accusing South Africa
of burying its head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge obstacles to
free and fair polls and the tilting of the playing field in Mugabe's favour.
Dlamini-Zuma's comments that Mugabe could in the few weeks left
implement reforms agreed with the opposition were wrong and signified
Pretoria's unwillingness to call a spade a spade, the party said.
"The tragedy is that we have regional friends refusing to call a spade
a spade," said spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
"How can you speak of free and fair elections when the country does
not have an independent electoral commission and the opposition still cannot
freely organise political meetings?" he asked.
HARARE, Feb 21 (AFP)
Zimbabwe's veteran leader Robert Mugabe is set to launch his campaign for a
sixth term in power when he celebrates his 84th birthday with a bash in the
southern border town of Beitbridge on Thursday.
As his backers grow increasingly disillusioned with a crumbling economy, the
octogenarian president faces arguably one of his lowest points yet as he is
challenged for the presidency by his former finance minister Simba Makoni.
And while Mugabe will seek to rally support at his birthday party, the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) plans simultaneously to
launch its manifesto for joint presidential and parliamentary polls set for
Analysts expect Mugabe to use the hype of a mass rally at a football stadium
near Zimbabwe's border with South Africa to launch him into campaign mode.
"It's going to be a morale booster for both President Mugabe and the ruling
party," University of Zimbabwe political scientist Joseph Kurebga told AFP.
"The party will use the occasion to give the president moral support and
rejuvenate him ... notwithstanding the views of critics who say that he
The traditional birthday party organised by the youth league of the ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), will be held
under the theme: "Defending our sovereignty through youth empowerment".
Youth league chairman Absolom Sikhosana heaped praises on Mugabe ahead of
the bash, urging young people to emulate his example.
"It's our wish that youths in the country follow the footsteps of President
Mugabe and defend our country's sovereignty," Sikhosana was quoted by the
state-owned Herald newspaper as saying.
"We use President Mugabe's uprightness and strong character to develop the
lives of our youths in the country."
The main faction of the divided MDC, however, dismissed the Mugabe assembly
as a meaningless diversion. It said its own rally in the eastern town of
Mutare would be more closely watched.
"We will be launching our party's election campaign and manifesto and that
is the event that all Zimbabweans are looking forward to," said MDC
spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
"Mugabe's birthday is a sideshow. People can't be celebrating an old man's
birthday when Zimbabweans are suffering. There are no jobs, food is scarce
and these are the things we are going to deliver once we are in power.
"While ours is a national occasion, the other one is a celebration for an
individual who is holding on to the baton and refusing to listen to pleas to
pass on the baton."
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost to Mugabe in the 2002 elections that
were widely condemned as rigged, will stand against him again next month.
Mugabe had to intervene last week to stop clashes over results of ruling
party primaries that saw ZANU-PF heavyweights, including cabinet ministers,
lose to lesser-known candidates in what analysts interpreted as growing
dismay with the incumbent leadership.
Despite previously saying he would step down at the end of his current term,
Mugabe is now seeking to hang on to power despite presiding over a country
reeling from world record inflation officially set at 100,580 percent.
Born on February 21, 1924, Mugabe first became involved in politics while
studying at a South African university.
He held teaching posts in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, and in Ghana before
returning to his homeland in the 1960s and becoming involved in the struggle
for independence from colonial ruler Britain.
Mugabe was arrested and detained for 10 years before leaving for Mozambique
in 1975 to take up arms in the liberation struggle that saw him become
president of an independent Zimbabwe in 1980.
Mugabe was at first widely hailed for his reconciliatory stance towards the
country's minority white population, including former Rhodesian prime
minister Ian Smith against whom he had fought in the 1970s.
But his reputation as an African statesman has started fading in the past
decade with the region's slide into economic decline. Land reforms,
unresolved for years, were jump-started with the violent occupation of
Mugabe has also been widely criticised for recent violent government
crackdowns on political opponents.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:38
The Ushewokunze Housing Scheme was started by the Zanu (PF) regime in
2001 close to the Hopley squatter camp after the shock of a near defeat by
the newly-born MDC in the 2000 general elections.
More than 200 former war veterans and political detainees gathered
with much pomp and fanfare for the launch of the scheme were promised the
area would "soon" be serviced and stands made available to the
The 2002 presidential elections approached and things gathered
momentum. President Robert Mugabe himself addressed a rally there in the
run-up to the poll in which he is alleged to have stolen victory from MDC
president Morgan Tsvangirai.
After the election, hype surrounding the "scheme" vanished into thin
air. But suddenly it has become alive once again. Last week Zanu (PF)
officials led by Harare Province's executive member, Tendai Savanhu, visited
the impoverished squatters at the site.
"We are speeding up the process of developing this place, which should
be ready soon," he told the weary, hungry people who gathered after being
promised food hand-outs.
There were no such hand-outs, just promises that something would be
coming "soon". "They said we must form ourselves into groups and start
campaigning for Zanu (PF) around Harare. They will be sending vehicles to
pick us to the suburbs and they also promised we will soon get foodstuffs
and money," one of the war veterans squatting there told The Zimbabwean.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:40
The Zimbabwean government has imposed restrictive new licensing fees
for journalists and media organizations.
The announcement comes after the January amendment of the draconian
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA, an obnoxious
media law that has been routinely employed by government to victimize
journalists and put them on trial for allegedly "publishing falsehoods."
An extra-ordinary gazette signed by Information minister Sikhanyiso
Ndlovu on Friday says each reporter writing for The Zimbabwean would be
required to pay a staggering US$4,000 (Z$34 billion) in hard currency.
Application fees for registration for a mass media service is now Z$5
billion, with renewal of registration now attracting Z$2 billion. The
application fee for a news agency is now Z$2 billion, the registration fee
Z$3 billion while renewal registration fee is now Z$2 billion.
Local journalists working for local media will pay a total of Z$11
million, broken down as Z$3 million application fees and Z$8 million
accreditation fee. Local freelance journalists will pay Z$2,5 million
application fees and Z$6 million accreditation plus an admin fee of Z$2
Although one of the commission's stated objectives is "to foster
freedom of expression in Zimbabwe," the group is also endowed with enormous
powers to control, license, and accredit journalists and can refuse to
register newspapers and members of the media.
The new regulations are expected to put enormous financial strain on
independent media outlets, which must now pay to register and accredit every
journalist on their staff.
Monday, 18 February 2008 15:08
…and no relief food for non-Zanu villagers
Zanu (PF)'s top operatives are wasting no time in setting out to
destroy the Makoni campaign before it even gets off the ground. A high-level
security meeting was held on Wednesday, plans were formulated and, on
Thursday, a top secret Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) memo was sent
out. As usual I was one of the first to see it.
It's a chilling document. It emanates from the office of the CIO
Director General Happyton Bonyongwe. It is coded DG/sm11, and it puts all
national and provincial security operatives, spies, thugs and bullyboys on
The memo describes Makoni as "too hot to handle", says that in
challenging Zim1 (CIO code for Mugabe) he is posing a big security risk, and
adds that the political atmosphere is charged up and "citizens are restless
and ready to vote out Zim 1". This last is an extraordinary statement.
Apparently, the top CIO men believe Mugabe could lose, but they are also
intent on making sure it doesn't happen, by all fair, and as you will see if
you read on, by all foul means.
The memo essentially summarises the CIO's anti-Makoni plans. First,
the document instructs: "Be advised to temporarily suspend all minor
operations in your provinces for RDWK ahead." "RDWK"? That was a new one on
me. My CIO source, who showed me the memo. told me that, almost
unbelievably, it stands for "Real dirty work".
"Assign your trusted operatives to ensure a tough ride for Makoni...
Place Makoni, his financial backers and disgruntled civil servants who might
support him under top 24-hour surveillance. Employ all RDWK strategies
without restraint. Mobilise street kids in urban areas, hire them, then
plant them at all Makoni's rallies to cause violence. The police will be on
hand to arrest rioters. Those arrested will be detained in jails until after
"Without restraint" are the key words in the above paragraph. We know
what that means. Intimidation, violence, beatings...
And for the first time in my experience, this document gives written
proof of how Zanu (PF) uses food aid for its political ends. It reads: "In
rural areas keep track on Non-Governmental Organisations when distributing
relief food. Ensure that no non-card carrying Zanu (PF) individual gets
food. Feed villagers with any tarnishing information on Makoni that you can
There is more, too much to be contained in this space. It's all
frightening. We know that Simba Makoni is a man of integrity and
intelligence. We will soon find out if he is a man of courage. At least if
he reads this - or some of his people read it - then he will know a little
of what to expect in the coming weeks.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:49
BY CHIEF REPORTER
Presidential candidate Simba Makoni this week ditched opposition
leader Arthur Mutambara, hardly a week after his nomination papers were duly
accepted by the Nomination Court.
Makoni rejected reports he had entered an electoral pact with
Mutambara and said he was contesting the election as an independent
candidate and had no ties whatsoever to any of the MDC formations.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the deputy secretary general in
Mutambara's MDC had disclosed earlier that Mutambara would become deputy to
Makoni in the event that the latter wins the forthcoming presidential
election and forms a government of national unity.
Mutambara, who withdrew from the presidential race saying he was
contesting the Zengeza West parliamentary election, told a press briefing
minutes before Makoni lodged his nomination papers that the ex-Finance
minister was a "unifier" and that he was rallying behind him.
In Zengeza West, Mutambara will stand against former trade unionist
Collin Gwiyo, representing the mainstream MDC and former war veterans'
leader, Patrick Nyaruwata, of Zanu (PF).
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 09:36
"Unless an election is free and fair it is not an election." This
statement was made by the New Zealand foreign minister, Winston Peters,
earlier this week after meeting his South African counterpart, Nkosazana
We say it is impossible to have free and fair elections in Zimbabwe on
There are monumental logistical problems, which it is simply not
possible to surmount before that date.
In 2002, Zimbabwe failed to hold presidential and mayoral elections
over two days. They had to be extended to a third day, and even then
thousands were disenfranchised - mainly in the urban areas. How anybody can
think that they can hold presidential, parliamentary (for two houses) and
urban and rural council elections on the same day defies belief.
What has changed since 2002? We still have the same incompetent people
running the electoral process. Given the chaos that has thus far surrounded
the voter registration process, we know for certain there will be total
confusion at the polling stations on the day.
Confronted with up to four different ballots, and deprived of vital
voter education by the Mugabe regime's draconian access to information
legislation, the majority of Zimbabweans will simply not know what to do.
This opens the way for Zanu (PF) "helpers" to "assist" many, mainly
rural voters, to cast their votes. In the past, opposition party election
monitors, who are supposed to be allowed free access to the polling
stations, have been denied such access - thus giving the ruling party a free
hand to exert undue influence on the voters.
Mugabe's government has already said it will "pick and choose"
election observers and journalists only from friendly countries to observe
Those who need to be persuaded that the elections are truly free and
fair, are deemed "critical and biased" by the government - and excluded on
those grounds. Do they not understand that these are the very people they
need to convince if the elections are to be fully accepted as free and
fair - at home and abroad?
The SADC principles and guidelines governing the holding of democratic
elections, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, have not been implemented.
Given this fact SADC should declare here and now that the planned elections
will not be free and fair.
We are surprised at the statement this week by Dhlamini-Zuma that all
Zimbabwe needs to do for the elections to be free and fair is to implement
the amendments to the security and media laws agreed under the
Mbeki-sponsored negotiations and passed by parliament late last year.
Why are you picking and choosing Madam? What about the new
constitution - which was also agreed?
What about the silencing of the private media? What about the blatant
bias on the part of the mass media? What about the selective enforcement of
the law by the ZRP and the continued beatings and arrest of opposition
Monday, 18 February 2008 09:03
South Africa has shown its true colours by continuing to perpetuate
the lie that the talks between the Zanu (PF) government and the two
formations of the MDC have succeeded - when it is patently, and painfully,
obvious that they have not.
First of all, there has been no announcement that the talks have been
successfully concluded, with the parties signing some sort of agreement,
shaking hands and smiling for the press photographers - as is normal
In South Africa itself, after the negotiations that brought about
majority rule, there was all of this. People smiled and shook hands. In the
case of Zimbabwe’s own birth, there was a formal document signed at
Lancaster House by all parties. People smiled and shook hands. Why should
these talks be any different?
The truth of the matter is: All that happened was that Mugabe scuttled
the whole business and, while talks were still going on, unilaterally
announced an election date, appointed members of his discredited Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission and forged ahead with preparations for the elections.
The talks fizzled out. Nothing had changed. Yet Thabo Mbeki told his
SADC colleagues that the talks had been successfully concluded.
Last week his deputy minister of foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, told
journalists the mere fact that the two MDCs would be taking part in the
March elections was proof that the talks had succeeded. What a lot of
Can Pahad, Mbeki and Mugabe really look at themselves in the mirror
and say the talks were successfully concluded?
Would the ANC have taken part in elections in 1994 under the old
apartheid constitution in the hope that a new constitution would be brought
in under a new government resulting from those elections?
Would Mugabe have taken part in the 1980 elections under Ian Smith’s
constitution in the hope that a new government would bring in a new
Mbeki himself, at the beginning of the negotiation process this time
last year, told the world that he wanted to bring about a situation where
nobody would contest the results of the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe.
We can tell him right now that the results of the elections will
indeed be contested. The suffering of Zimbabweans is worsening by the day.
The international community has already been refused permission by the
Mugabe government to observe the election – so there is no way they will
accept the results.
So Mr Mbeki, the truth is that your mediation process in Zimbabwe has
been an unmitigated disaster.
Your support for Mugabe in his obstinate clinging to power, has simply
emboldened him and exacerbated the suffering of millions. Sick and starving
Zimbabweans will continue to pour across the border into your country.
Mugabe may thumb his nose at the international community and set his tame
police to thrash defenceless women armed only with Valentine roses trying to
spread a message of peace and love. Will you do the same?
By Carole Gombakomba and Sithandekile Mhlanga
20 February 2008
The Southern African Development Community has invited its member states to
send observers to take part in the March 29 elections in Zimbabwe in which
President Robert Mugabe will seek re-election against two principal rivals.
An official of the Southern African Development Community said the
organization hopes to deploy a large delegation to Zimbabwe. But the
official said that the mission might be deployed later than had been hoped
due to some logistical challenges.
SADC was instrumental in launching crisis resolution talks between
Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change last March - though after about 11 months of negotiations under South
African mediation the negotiations deadlocked over the election date and
The SADC Parliamentary Forum, meanwhile, said it is still waiting for an
invitation from the Zimbabwean government to observe the elections.
Executive Assistant Roy Ngulube told reporter Carole Gombakomba that
although the forum was not invited to monitor the 2005 general elections, it
is encouraged by the invitation that has been extended to SADC member
Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Noel Kututwa said his group is
also encouraged by the SADC move – but cautioned that if the SADC observer
team is not in place in good time - as happened in 2005 - it may not be
able to monitor balloting properly and credibly report on whether the
elections are free and fair.
Kututwa added that the Zimbabwean government may not be keen to see the SADC
Parliamentary Forum in place as a corps of observers because its
“independent” reports reflected the “true nature of previous elections” in
Britain, meanwhile, called for Zimbabwe to admit international monitors
ahead of the March elections, saying conditions for the poll are far from
being free and fair.
Taking questions in the House of Commons on the upcoming Zimbabwean
elections, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he is urging states in the
region to insist that Harare meet international standards for democratic
elections, including those promulgated by the Southern African Development
But British Member of Parliament Kate Hoey told reporter Sithandekile
Mhlanga of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that President Robert Mugabe, under
pressure with the economy imploding, is not likely to want to admit