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100 white farmers targeted in Zimbabwe land grab

At least 100 white farmers have had their land targeted for seizure in
Zimbabwe despite the new unity government.

By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Sebastien Berger
Last Updated: 6:03PM GMT 23 Feb 2009

The CFU's director, Hendrik Olivier, said that the eviction campaign was
accelerating despite the formation of the unity government with the Movement
for Democratic Change, and that its targets had £70 million-worth of crops
in the ground.

"About 100 are being done over now, maybe more. They are being fast-tracked
for eviction and others are being forced out."

The initial land grab, which began in 2000, precipitated the country's
collapse, as it destroyed commercial agriculture, the mainstay of the
economy, while Mr Mugabe used gifts of farms to shore up loyalty in his
divided party.

The Movement for Democratic Change, which last week started work in a unity
government, has promised a land audit and that seizures will stop, in the
knowledge that the country's agriculture sector will be key to its recovery.
At the moment more than half the population needs food aid and the farmers'
situation will be a key test for the effectiveness of the power-sharing

But under President Robert Mugabe's unilateral allocation of ministries
between the parties, both the justice and lands portfolios remain in the
hands of his Zanu-PF party.

Some farmers have fought back and obtained high court injunctions against
those who have taken their land.

Only around 200 to 300 white farmers are left in Zimbabwe, as opposed to
4,500 when the invasions began, and even then they have only small portions
of their original landholdings left.

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Deliberately delaying the release of all political prisoners violates the GPA

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Focussing on Clause 18.5(j) : 23 February 2009

Sokwanele's ZIG Watch project has been documenting violations of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed between Zimbabwe's three main political parties. Through this article, Sokwanele aims to familiarise our readership with sub-clause 18.5(j), one of ten sub-clauses falling under Article XVIII of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed on September 15th 2008. Article XVIII of the GPA sets out to ensure the security of all Zimbabweans and to prevent future political violence.

Article  XVIII, clause 18.5 (j) that while having due regard to the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the principles of the rule of law, the prosecuting authorities will expedite the determination as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence to warrant the prosecution or keeping on remand of all persons accused of politically related offences arising out of or connected with the March and June 2008 elections.

Accountability and responsibility

Clause 18.5(j) specifically targets Zimbabwe's prosecuting authorities. Under the GPA, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs has been allocated to Zanu PF, so the political party chiefly accountable for breaches in Clause 18.5(j) is Zanu PF. The person directly answerable to the people of Zimbabwe and to SADC for any breaches of this clause is Patrick Chinamasa, the appointed Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Patrick Chinamasa was also one of the principle members of Zanu PF's negotiating team in the drafting of the GPA, so he will be well-versed in both the letter and the spirit of the agreement. Very significantly, Chinamasa is also a Zanu PF representative on the Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC) (Article XXII in the GPA). Under the terms agreed, members of JOMIC will monitor compliance with, and progress on, all the items agreed on within the GPA, including clause 18.5(j).

In short: Patrick Chinamasa helped draft the agreement that includes this clause; he is directly in charge of the Ministry that has the power to ensure it is complied with; and he is one of the people responsible for ensuring that all parties stick to the agreement on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe.

The relevance of clause 18.5(j)

Clause 18.5(j) seeks to ensure that the rule of law in Zimbabwe cannot be deliberately used as a political weapon by one political party against another, and that the rights and lives of Zimbabwean citizens are not subverted for political gain. Under clause 18.5(j), legal cases where a person is accused of a politically related offence should be dealt with quickly and without delay or prevarication - to expedite means 'to hasten the progress of; to work faster'.

The abduction and sustained detention of MDC activists and Zimbabwean human rights workers

At the very end of October 2008, alarming reports emerged of a swathe of military style abductions directed against political and human rights activists. Zimbabweans were forcefully disappeared from their homes and communities.  72 year old Fidelis Chiramba was one of the first abductees: Fidelis is a committed pro-democracy activist; he is the MDC-T's Zvimba South district chairperson and he stood as their Senatorial Candidate for Zvimba in the March 29 elections.

There were more abductions in November 2008: Concillia Chinanzvavana was among those taken. Concillia is the MDC-T Mashonaland West provincial Chairperson of the Women's Assembly and a member of the MDC National Council.

The horror repeated itself in December 2008: Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was abducted from her home on 3 December at 5am by fifteen armed men and Andrisson (Shadreck) Manyere, a freelance accredited journalist was seized ten days later.

The table below summarises what we believe to be the most current information available on all the people abducted to date. Three of the abductees have been quietly released; five of them are in hospital but remain prisoners under armed guard; and eleven are still in Chikurubi High Security. There is some uncertainty regarding the whereabouts of three further abductees: according to a Veritas Peace Watch mailing (16/01/09) the police have said that they are being held in protective custody as "state witnesses".

Table of political detainees (23 February 2009)

January 2009 saw three more arrests (as opposed to abductions) relating to charges that can also be described as 'politically related': Frank Muchirahondo and Daniel Mlenga, both USAID employees, are accused of trying to assassinate Air Marshall Perence Shiri. Meke Makuyana, MDC MP for Chipinge South, was arrested on 11 January and subsequently charged with terrorism.

In February, Roy Bennett, MDC-T Treasurer General and designated Deputy Minister of Agriculture, was seized from an airport on the same day Zimbabwe's new Cabinet Ministers were sworn in.

All of the abductions and arrests targeted people who have historically been treated by Zanu PF as 'political enemies'. All of them were arrested after the September 15th agreement was signed.

One does not have to be a lawyer to recognise the central importance of sub-clause 18.5 (j) to the future success of a power-sharing government where it is critical that there is trust between the parties. If the law is abused to 'settle old scores' or to 'hold parties to ransom' to secure political advantage, trust will be broken and the agreement will be compromised.

Unfortunately one neither does one need to be a lawyer to understand how thoroughly sub-clause 18.5(j) has already been compromised.

Failure to "give due regard to the rule of law" or to "expedite" investigations

Clause 18.5(j) demands that due regard is given by the prosecuting authorities to the "principles of the rule of law". There is nothing 'legal' or 'lawful' about armed men abducting civilians.  Abduction is a crime. Rather than prosecuting those who are carrying out these crimes against civilians, the prosecuting authorities are participating in a courtroom farce where victims are further persecuted while their abductors remain free.

The very nature of an 'abduction' rather than an 'arrest' means that most of the victims have had their pre-trial rights ignored. An abduction means that they weren't given reasons why they were 'arrested', they were denied access to their lawyers and their family, and they were denied the protection of the law.

Arrest warrants are not produced when a person is abducted.  A passenger at the airport where Bennett was seized described how, two hours after Bennett had been forcefully taken away, two members from Law and Order returned to the airport and tried to bully an immigration official into saying Bennett's name was not on the passenger list. It reveals that when the agents came for Bennett, they had no warrant and no cause, so they retrospectively tried to fabricate a charge that would justify keeping him in custody. In fact, the charges against Bennett kept changing, exposing the authorities own uncertainties over precisely why he was 'arrested' in the first place: Bennett was initially charged with attempting to 'leave the country illegally'; this was changed to 'treason', and finally to 'conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services'.

Bennett's experience differs from other abductees because he was extremely lucky to have witnesses present who were able to raise the alarm. Activists and friends maintained a vigil that ensured that state agents were unable to move Bennett to an unknown location. The others were less fortunate.

Regular updates from the lawyers struggling to secure the release of all the political detainees record a growing list of incidents that show the many ways in which the rule of law has been subverted. The state has done all they can to slow down, or delay the legal processes that seek to ensure that all detainees are protected by the rule of law. This is in complete disregard of sub-clause 18.5(j) that asks that the normal legal processes are expedited - sped up, hastened - when it comes to those held on politically related offences.

The law states, for example, that a person can only be held by the police for 48 hours before being brought to court. Some of the abductees were held incommunicado for as long as 55 days before lawyers found them! In fact, the police repeatedly denied they had any of the missing people in their custody, deliberately stalling legal access to them.

For several days after Mukoko was abducted, her lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, struggled to find a judge who would be prepared to issue a court order directing the police to release Mukoko or, if she was not in their custody, to investigate her abduction. Many Judges, she said, refused to hear the case, saying it was "too hot" to handle. Mtetwa was eventually successful and the police were ordered to investigate and disclose the identities of Mukoko's kidnappers, but on 2 January, the High Court refused to uphold the ruling and dismissed contempt charges against police for refusing to release Mukoko. A frustrated Mtetwa told reporters: "The law has completely broken down in Zimbabwe if a High Court refuses to investigate an admitted kidnapping".

All of those on remand are entitled under the law to routine remand hearings, but these are frequently missed with the police citing feeble excuses like 'no fuel to transport the prisoners to court'. It means the detainees are kept on remand for longer than the maximum fourteen days allowed under the law.

Those lucky enough to make it to court face further efforts to slow down justice. For example, four of the abductees were granted bail (18 January) - Zulu, Nkomo, Garutsa and Mujeyi - but the Judge's order was immediately suspended when the State said they would appeal. This is a legal tactic used repeatedly by the state to ensure detainees will spend at least another week in custody while an appeal is lodged. All four abductees were returned to Chikurubi.

Failure to give "due regard to the Constitution of Zimbabwe"

Clause 18.5(j) requires that due regard is given to the Constitution of Zimbabwe as well as the rule of law and  Article 15 of Zimbabwe's Constitution states that "No person shall be subjected to torture".

Many of the detainees have been viciously tortured: Mukoko was repeatedly assaulted, forced to kneel on hard gravel, and beaten on the soles of her feet with a truncheon; Chiramba, a 72-year-old man, was held in a deep freeze before scalding water was poured on his genitals; Mudzingwa was severely beaten with sticks, kicked, subjected to simulated drowning and had his feet smashed with bricks. Nine of the abductees were subjected to being hung by their wrists in handcuffs and beaten, having high-voltage electric shocks applied to them, and simulated drowning. Bothwell Pasipamire, who escaped from a torture camp after being abducted, later told the media about the horrific torture he had experienced.

Rather than display concern over the welfare of tortured civilians, the state ignored the successive court orders that sought to provide medical care to critically ill abductees. On the 6 February, doctors who finally saw the detainees said that eight of them were in a "grave condition" and required hospitalisation. Instead, they were returned to prison.

It took five court orders before Mukoko, Chiramba and Mudzingwa were finally hospitalised under heavy security. Zulu and Chinoto were admitted under the same conditions a few days later. On the 20 February the lawyer representing Manyere, Dhlamini, Mujeyi and Garutsa was still fighting to get prison authorities to obey a court order to take the four men to hospital, pointing to two court orders previously issued on the 16 January and 16 February respectively. The Judge ordered that this be done immediately, and at the time of writing it remains to be seen whether the state will comply, or whether yet another court order will be ignored.

Zimbabweans must stand by all the political detainees and insist that the GPA is respected by all parties

Please send an email demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all the political detainees. Insist that the rule of law and Zimbabwe's constitution is respected. Insist that the terms of the GPA are adhered to by all parties.

Address your emails to Professor Welshman Ncube who is the current Chairperson of the Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC). Ask Professor Ncube to share your concerns and feelings with the JOMIC committee (including Minister Patrick Chinamasa) and with President Motlanthe of South Africa in his capacity as the current Chair of SADC.

Send your emails to Sokwanele at We will compile all your emails into one document and forward it to Professor Ncube.

We will not include your name or your email address in the document unless you ask us to.

Please forward this newsletter to everyone you know and ask them to stand up for our fellow Zimbabweans who have been treated so cruelly, and for the future of our country.


We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!

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Tit-for-tat violence flares up

Tsvangirai, Mugabe: Hard work to deliver on agreement
HARARE, 23 February 2009 (IRIN) - Political violence, despite the formation of unity government, is picking up in Zimbabwe. In the wake of Morgan Tsvangirai's 11 February inauguration as prime minister, it is being viewed as tit-for-tat aggression.

On 22 February, an IRIN correspondent witnessed running battles between supporters of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and followers of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF in the working-class suburb of Mbare, in the capital, Harare.

The Mbare violence has its roots in the 2008 eviction of tenants from municipal accommodation for allegedly supporting the MDC during the general election in March. ZANU-PF supporters were then given the accommodation.

Buoyed by the formation of unity government, the MDC supporters - who had lost their homes and property - descended on the new occupants to reclaim their homes, sparking off the violence.

Welshman Ncube, chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) established to oversee implementation of the power-sharing deal, told IRIN that numerous reports of "revenge attacks" had been received from across the country.

''In many instances, everywhere I go, some MDC supporters have requested a few minutes to 'deal' with their rivals, but I have called for peace and national healing among Zimbabweans''
"Officials from the ministry of home affairs have tabled before us reports that revenge attacks are taking place in Harare, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central [provinces in northeastern Zimbabwe], Manicaland [bordering Mozambique], Masvingo [in the southeast] and the Midlands Province," he said.

The MDC has claimed that more than 200 of its supporters were killed between the March and June polls in 2008, which were said to have been orchestrated by security chiefs loyal to Mugabe.

Thousands of people were beaten, raped and displaced, while others had their livestock confiscated and homes razed, the MDC has alleged.

"In many areas it would appear that supporters of the MDC, who were ill-treated by ZANU-PF members, are demanding and implementing their own form of justice. Others are demanding the return of livestock which was confiscated and eaten at ZANU-PF militia torture camps during election campaign," Ncube said.

"Anyone who believes that the law was violated should make a report to the police. Violence and retribution only create more lawlessness, and we are not about retribution."

JOMIC has instructed political commissars and national chairpersons of all parties to speak out against tit-for-tat violence. In Mashonaland Central a senior ZANU-PF official was reportedly in a coma after being attacked by unidentified assailants.

Ahead of his inauguration Tsvangirai said: "In many instances, everywhere I go, some MDC supporters have requested a few minutes to 'deal' with their rivals, but I have called for peace and national healing among Zimbabweans."


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Staff return to hospitals, but not to work

HARARE, 23 February 2009 (IRIN) - Striking Zimbabwean medical professional are returning to the wards after non-governmental organizations started paying monetary incentives, but many have yet to resume their duties.

In 2008 government doctors and nurses embarked on strike action in protest at poor salaries and working conditions, forcing hospitals and clinics virtually to shut down. In their absence, student nurses provided health care for patients.

Zimbabwe's hyperinflation eroded the salaries of health care professionals to such an extent that their monthly income was barely enough to cover a day's transport costs.

Amid a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 4,000 people and infected more than 80,000, international donors have sought to lure health workers back to their posts with the promise of wages paid in foreign currency.

"We decided to step in and help in rescuing the desperate situation in the health sector by disbursing top-up incentive allowances to striking health staff at public hospitals," Tsitsi Singizi, spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) told IRIN.

"This is a life-saving stopgap intervention, meant to complement government efforts to get the staff back at work; paying the workers their salaries remains the responsibility of the government."

Singizi said US$5 million had been disbursed since January 2009 - a third of the salary budget for the year - with other non-governmental organizations committed to making their own contributions. The allowances are being paid to health employees via an independent international firm.

On a visit to Parirenyatwa hospital, the largest referral clinic in the capital, Harare, an IRIN correspondent observed a sharp increase in the number of qualified doctors and nurses present.

'More like a sit-in'

However, most were not assisting, but basking in the sun or chatting in groups while trainee staff attended to patients. "It is almost like a sit-in, because what we are receiving at the moment falls far too short of what we have been striking for," said Tendai Gezi, 35, who asked that her real name not be used.

"The allowances from private donors are welcome but, unfortunately, they are not doing enough to address our plight," the nurse told IRIN. "The donors have set the pace and it is up to the government to play its part so that we can start working in earnest once again."

Gezi said she had received US$100 as an allowance from humanitarian agencies, which had covered her monthly transport costs to the hospital but left little for daily living expenses.

She has three school-going children and has to pay US$850 in fees for the term, as well as US$250 monthly rent. She is also supporting her parents, who live in a rural area.

The government has introduced a US$100 voucher system for civil servants, which can be converted into cash or used to buy basic commodities, but the combined wages of US$200 does not cover Gezi's monthly expenditure.

A junior doctor, who declined to be named, told IRIN if the government had not withheld his medical certificate he would already have left Zimbabwe to offer his skills in another country. In accordance with new regulations, medical staff have to complete up to four years of service before they can seek employment elsewhere.

Equipment shortages

At Chitungwiza hospital, in a dormitory town about 35km south of Harare, IRIN saw more nurses at work than at Parirenyatwa. "The situation has slightly changed and more qualified nurses are helping attend to the sick, thereby taking some pressure off the skeleton staff that remained when nurses and doctors went on strike last year," said a senior doctor at the hospital, who declined to be named.

"However, we still have a long way to go because there are hardly any drugs, protective clothing or equipment to use. While about half the number of our nurses returned, the sorry working conditions are demoralising and it might not be long before we see them refusing to work once again," the doctor told IRIN.

Takesure Matsika, 35, who lives in Chitungwiza town, said his wife was not receiving adequate postnatal care at the hospital. "It has been hell for me since my wife went into labour this month [February]," he told IRIN.

"I was told that she had to be induced to deliver the baby, but at that time they said they did not have the equipment to do so, right from gloves to the sophisticated gadgets," he said.

"Luckily, she ended up giving birth normally, but my woes have continued because she is now back in hospital due to bleeding. It is the same old story because there are no drugs or equipment."

The only relief for Matsika is that the daily hospital fee has been reduced from US$70 to US$5, while the adult admission fee has been cut from US$50 to US$8.

"I am smuggling food in because the diet at the hospital is so poor," he said. "Since my wife is using her own room, I am also bringing in new linen, because the blankets and sheets provided by the hospital are not being washed properly."


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US$438million needed to overhaul Zimbabwe education sector

By Violet Gonda
23 February 2009

Senator David Coltart, the new Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture
has said a whopping US$438 is initially needed to stabilise the education
sector. The new minister, who has inherited a totally defunct education
ministry, says a lot of work and a lot of money is needed.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Monday Coltart said: "The ideal amount of
money we need is US$438million, and that is just for the first six months.
Now in the current economic climate and in the context of world recession
that is a completely unattainable figure. So we have to cut it. So we are
hoping to raise US$80million."

On Monday Coltart had a marathon meeting with representatives of teachers
unions, to discuss issues concerning teachers who have been on strike for
much of last year. They have finally agreed to go back to work but were
still finalising the details of their grievances with the Education

The teachers had been demanding wages of US$2300 a month but have had to
scale down dramatically after the new inclusive government said it had no
money, but was prepared to offer a US$100 starter pack.

By late afternoon on Monday, Coltart said no final agreement had been
reached, but he was hopeful schools would open on 2nd March.

Raymond Majongwe, Secretary General of the militant Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), said Friday that teachers had finally agreed to
return to work after an initial meeting, and had been given some assurances
by the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and new Minister of Education -
who were both accommodative and willing to listen to their grievances.
Majongwe said this was unlike former education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere,
who would not engage with them.

Coltart said the assurances offered to teachers included fair salaries and
amnesty for those who are concerned they will be victimised and dismissed
for not going to work when schools were supposed to open on 27th  January.

But Coltart said: "My single minded goal is to get the schools reopened and
teachers back at work. I am very sympathetic to the fact that many of the
teachers who didn't report for duty simply couldn't, because they didn't
even have enough money for bus fare."

Zimbabwe used to have the highest literacy rate in Africa, but because of
the political and economic crisis tens of thousands of qualified teachers
have left the country.

Majongwe said in 2005/2006 there were about 115 000 teachers in the country
but that number has dwindled to between 70 000 and 80 000. "At PTUZ we
maintain that there are 70 000 teachers and of the 70 000, 40 000 teachers
are non-qualified teachers. These are people who have been brought in as
relief teachers, some of them as spies, and some of them just as gap

A number of teachers were in recent years trained through the controversial
and notorious Border Gezi youth training camps. These were the camps that
created violent thugs who caused untoward suffering to opponents of the
Mugabe regime.
The PTUZ leader said it will take several years to see positive changes
"because we are talking of schools that don't have teachers, that don't have
desks, that don't have window panes, that don't have doors. The doors were
being taken off the walls by the war veterans, they were making coffins out
of them, they were taking window panes and taking them to their houses and
they were burning desks."
"It is quite sad and my heart bleeds when I look back to say why did this
destruction happen? Because somebody or the Minister of Education Chigwedere
did not have the guts to stand up to the people who were moving around
destroying our schools wantonly and in a barbaric manner what happened in
the years from 2002."
The challenges for the new education minister are many, with raising money
being the major priority. Coltart said UNICEF was helping to put donor
organisations and governments in contact with the Zimbabwean officials but
it is yet unclear where the money might come from. The minister said
teachers account for almost two thirds of all civil servants in Zimbabwe and
paying teachers just US$100 will cost his ministry US$8million for just one

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Roy Bennett granted access to lawyers - MDC

MDC Press Release - MDC Treasurer General, and Deputy Minister of
Agriculture designate, Roy Bennett was granted access to lawyers ahead of
his bail application in the Harare High Court tomorrow, Tuesday 24th of
February 2009. Renowned human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa met with, and
took instructions from her client at Mutare prison.

It is a scandal for the Inclusive government that Roy Bennett and all other
political prisoners are still being held in detention at this time. The
Inclusive government can not behave as if it is business as usual flagrantly
disregarding people's human rights. Leaving a dead body in Roy Bennett's
cell is nothing but an attempt to intimidate him into submission. He has
refused, and it is inconceivable that he will agree to be party to any horse
trading political deal.

As a reflection of the central role the junta is playing in this whole
scandal, The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine
Chiwengwa's personal vehicles were used to transport Roy Bennett from the
notorious torture camp in Goromonzi to Marondera.

The use of extra-judicial means to intimidate, harass and coerce should be
condemned by the Inclusive government. There must be an unequivocal return
to the rule of just law. Roy Bennett and all political prisoners must be
released immediately, unconditionally and unharmed. Their continued
detention is provocation of the highest order.

Via MDC Press Release

This entry was posted by Sokwanele on Monday, February 23rd, 2009 at 12:14

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Global financial crisis will hamper Tsvangirai aid appeal

By Lance Guma
23 February 2009

Efforts by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to get at least US$5 billion to
re-build Zimbabwe's shattered economy will prove very difficult to
accomplish, experts predict. The worldwide banking and financial crisis that
has fuelled massive job cuts and company closures has meant most western
countries are tightening their purse strings and focusing on supporting
their own economies. The funding of a reconstruction programme for a country
still led by a murderous dictator will hardly be a priority. Predictably,
Tsvangirai and new Finance Minister Tendai Biti were in South Africa last
Friday for talks with President Kgalema Motlanthe and Biti's counterpart,
Trevor Manuel, to see how the regional powerhouse can help.

On Monday reports suggested Southern African Development Community (SADC)
finance ministers will meet within a week to forge a rescue plan for
Zimbabwe. Officials have declined to disclose any figures but it's expected
the ministers will 'develop the detail' once they meet. Manuel told
journalists; 'We have to work together. It is a process of identification
and finding the appropriate measures. We should not put too much pressure on
people; Tendai Biti has been finance minister for exactly one week. One
can't expect him to have every answer.'

On Sunday at a rally to celebrate the MDC's 10th anniversary Tsvangirai told
his supporters that a unity government was the only way out of the crisis
for the country. Speaking at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru he called for national
healing and reconciliation, if the country was to move forward. 'This nation
needs national healing. It has endured so much violence. Let's
forgive those who have transgressed against us. If there's no national
healing, there won't be progress.'

Despite Tsvangirai's best intentions the continued incarceration of Roy
Bennet, Jestina Mukoko, Chris Dhlamini, Gandi Mudzingwa and over 30 other
political prisoners continues to make a mockery of the coalition government.

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Zimbabwe has a 'clean pair of hands'

    February 23 2009 at 05:22PM

Cape Town - South Africa should not withhold aid to Zimbabwe because
of what had happened with donations in the past, Movement for Democratic
Change spokesman Nelson Chamisa said on Monday.

"This is a new administration. It's a clean pair of hands," he said.

He was speaking as SADC ministers gathered in Cape Town for a meeting
expected to discuss the size and shape of a massive aid package to the
crippled country.

According to Zimbabwe's government-owned Herald newspaper, nine
legislators -- two from Zanu-PF and the rest from the MDC -- have been named
as being party to the misappropriation of fertiliser and seed sent to the
country last year as part of a R300 million South African agricultural aid

The country's new prime minister, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, last
week said his country could need as much as US5 billion (about R50 billion)
in aid, and South African president Kgalema Motlanthe has said South Africa
is prepared to take the lead in any financial rescue package.

Chamisa, speaking from Harare, said on Monday that the MDC was
investigating the allegation that some of its MPs were involved in the
agricultural aid fraud.

However the seven had all denied wrongdoing.

"From preliminary findings it would appear it's a big hoax meant to
paint us in a negative picture," he said.

He said even if there had been misuse of the aid, it was no reason to
hold back on a larger aid package.

"You can't crucify Mr Tsvangirai or anybody on the basis of the past."

It was reported in a weekend newspaper that a Southern African
Development Community task force had completed a probe into the allegations
of misuse.

However South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said that as
far as he was aware the report had not been finished.

He did not believe the affair would influence South Africa's
willingness to commit to more aid.

"We don't know what happened with that money, so we are still waiting
for a report on that," he said.

South African government departments were also compiling their own
report on how the R300 million had been spent, he said.

Zimbabwe media say substantial quantities of fertiliser and maize seed
sent to the country as part of the R300 million package were "looted".

SADC secretariat officials are in Cape Town for the formal council of
ministers meeting that starts on Wednesday.

However getting information from them about the body's report on the
agricultural aid, and in fact about anything, proved an insuperable
challenge. - Sapa

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Zim aid pours in

Moses Mudzwiti Published:Feb 23, 2009

Zimbabwe's new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has already scored major
successes with donors - yesterday it emerged that the donor community was
ready to pump US$600 million into the country.

Last week Tsvangirai meet representatives of donor nations after he promised
civil servants would be paid in foreign currency.

Sceptics doubted the former trade union boss would live up to his promises
because the country's coffers were empty.

Stan Rylander Sweden's Ambassador to Zimbabwe was quoted yesterday by state
media as saying: "The donor community has pledged US$100 million a month for
the next six months."

"About US$50 million will be used for civil servants salaries." said

Poor remuneration of teachers has led to disruption of schooling for long

The government was now considering adjusting the school calendar to make up
for lost time.

However, teachers yesterday warned the government against paying their
salaries in Zimbabwe dollars. They are demanding salaries of up to US$2 300
(R23 000).

Other western donors have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. They are not
convinced Mugabe will keep his end of the bargain in the unity government
expected to last two years before fresh elections are held.

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Zimbabwe government will lose face if arbitrary arrests continue says Tsvangirai

 By Stephen Chadenga  Monday, February 23, 2009

Ten years ago, on September 11 to be specific, a political baby, the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was born in Zimbabwe. Turning 10 this
year and making early celebrations in Gweru, the country's third largest
city and heart of the country, yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai, the president
of the party and Zimbabwe's Prime Minister in the inclusive government
addressing about 10,000 of his supporters at Mkoba stadium, said the new
government loses credibility if people are randomly detained in prison.

"On the issue of detainees, including that of Roy Bennett we are saying as
government if we are to free people but then detain them then the government
loses credibility. We are concerned about that and we will deal with the

Bennett, who is the MDC choice to deputise the Agriculture portfolio, was
arrested on February 13 on charges of banditry, terrorism and sabotage. He
joins MDC and human rights activists incarcerated in prison since last year.

Tsvangirai, who joined the government of national unity with long time
political rival, 85-year-old Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF, says the new
government must "restore people's freedom" and open up space for people to
freely express themselves.

"This transitional government must restore people's freedom. People must be
free to associate, free to express themselves and then we can be free as
Zimbabweans. So all those factors inhibiting us to be free should be
removed," says Tsvangirai.

The MDC leader, who faced arrests and beating from the police, believes
there is need for forgiveness if the country is to move forward.

"This nation needs national healing. It's time for everyone to forgive those
who trespassed against us. If there is no national healing, there is no
progress. I appeal to all Zimbabweans from the bottom of my heart, we should
heal the nation."

Tsvangirai appealed to Zimbabweans s to support the unity government saying
it is the "only way out".

"To the people of Zimbabwe, I say we will do everything honestly and in
transparency. We want you to support us. It is the only workable process."

Zimbabwe whose economy has been on a downturn for almost a decade now needs
international support to get back to its glory and the Prime Minister urged
the West to assist saying the situation in the Southern African country is

"Be in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe..The transitional government
is the only way out, please support us in this endeavor."

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Zimbabwe orders varsities to slash high fees amid outcry

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) The Zimbabwe government on Monday ordered the country's
universities and other tertiary institutions of education to reduce fees to
levels closer to what is charged by similar institutions in Southern Africa.

Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge said the exorbitant fees charged by
universities and colleges did not support the government's policy of
ensuring equal access to education by all citizens.

"We want to see everyone accessing education irrespective of their status in
society," Mudenge said after meeting the heads of Zimbabwean institutions of
higher learning in the capital Harare on Monday.

The meeting was called after an outcry by students and parents following
hefty hikes in tuition fees, with some universities demanding as much as
US$2,000 a semester per student.

Some of the institutions have been closed since June last year due to a
plethora of problems, including lecturer strikes and low student turnouts
following the hike in fees.

Mudenge said the institutions of higher learning must review their fees
downwards in line with what other universities are charging in region.

He pledged that the government would revive educational grants for students
unable to meet the new fees.

  JN/nm/APA 2009-02-23

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Zimbabwe diamond producer records 74% increase in output

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Mining conglomerate RioZim on Monday said that its
diamond mine had recorded a 74 percent increase in output in 2008 despite a
delay in finalisation of an expansion project.

RioZim, a subsidiary of international mining group Rio Tinto, announced that
Murowa Mine recorded an improved production of 237,058 carats of diamonds
last year compared to 136,201 carats the previous year.

The group said it would pursue an expansion project at the mine, located in
southern Zimbabwe, once conditions improve.

"The delay in the implementation of the expansion continues to handicap the
attainment of the full potential of this operation," the group said on

RioZim also has interests in nickel, gold and coal mining in Zimbabwe, with
its nickel operations registering a 28 percent drop in output from 10,623
tonnes in 2007 to 7,562 tonnes in 2008.

Gold production slumped from 645 kg in 2007 to 435 kg in 2008, while the
RioZim colliery operation saw output decline to 113,694 tonnes in 2008 from
229,419 tonnes in 2007.

The group was optimistic Zimbabwe's newly formed unity government would
improve viability in the mining sector, long hit by sub-economic pricing
structures and shortages of critical inputs.

  JN/nm/APA 2009-02-23

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Hong Kong police say enough evidence to charge Grace Mugabe

By Lance Guma
23 February 2009

Police in Hong Kong believe they have enough evidence to have First Lady
Grace Mugabe prosecuted for assaulting a photographer last month. Grace
instructed her bodyguard to hold down UK Sunday Times photographer Richard
Jones, while she assaulted him. A diamond encrusted ring she was wearing
caused several bruises and cuts to his face and forehead. Mrs. Mugabe took
exception to being photographed while she was on a shopping spree and
spending lavishly, while her countrymen starved. The police report has
already been sent to the Department of Justice, who will make a final
decision on whether to proceed against her.

The new development comes after two vital witnesses, an Austrian tourist and
a Hong Kong resident, were traced and later gave detailed statements to
police about the assault. The only saving grace for Mrs. Mugabe could be the
use of diplomatic immunity, which she could invoke to avoid the charges.

And this was not the only assault, courtesy of the Mugabe's. Following
reports that the Mugabe family had bought a plush mansion in Hong Kong two
photographers were assaulted after trying to take pictures of the £4 million
home. American Tim O'Rourke and Briton Colin Galloway were assaulted by
three Zimbabweans guarding the property, two men and a woman.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union meanwhile continues to campaign for the
deportation of Mugabe's daughter Bona Mugabe, who is studying in Hong Kong.
The students argue she must come back to Zimbabwe and see first hand the
collapse of education and infrastructure, created by her father's reign.

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Foreign Affairs Minister calls for targeted sanctions to be lifted

By Tichaona Sibanda
23 February 2009

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, has called on countries
that imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe to lift them without further
delay, saying this was necessary 'to allow the country to embark on its
developmental path'.

Mumbengegwi said that all political parties in the country were in
agreement that sanctions should be lifted, a position that has also been
emphasized by SADC and the African Union.

But Driden Kunaka, the MDC representative in New Zealand, said it was too
early to consider lifting sanctions placed on individuals in ZANU PF. He
said the unity government needs to introduce a lot of reforms if the western
world was to revisit the issue of targeted sanctions.

'You still have a lot of officials in the government who are failing to
embrace the inclusive government. This is a fresh start, people should drop
their old habits, but it's not the case yet with some in ZANU PF. With due
respect to Mumbengegwi, he should be calling for political prisoners to be
released before transcending the borders to ask for sanctions to be removed,'
Kunaka said.

The government in New Zealand, just as in the UK, has taken a cautious
approach, waiting to see if the new government will bring about real change.
The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, last week said he was prepared to
order their cricket team not to tour Zimbabwe in July on safety and health
grounds, despite a plea from Education and Sports Minister David Coltart not
to cancel their tour.
'My call to the New Zealanders is clear and unequivocal. People have to give
this coalition government a chance, and that applies to all levels, cricket
included. I would like to see the New Zealand team touring Zimbabwe. If need
be I will go to New Zealand to persuade them to com'.
But Kunaka said what Coltart needed to do was to persuade Robert Mugabe to
release all political detainees first, before traveling on this mission.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently said they were ready to lift
targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, if the new unity government releases
political prisoners and pushes through economic reforms.  Observers say the
inclusive government needs to be judged by its actions and its deeds, which
will act as the basis for the international community to engage.

'At the moment there is no encouragement from the government that anything
has changed. The hardliners haven't changed their behaviour, despite all the
leaders embracing the unity government. I can safely say, there is still no
rule of law and there is not democracy yet in the country,' Kunaka added.

A political commentator explained that the hardliners are prepared to go
down fighting. 'Fighting, it must be pointed out, to safeguard their wealth
and privileges and not for any cause or principle beneficial to the people
of Zimbabwe as a whole. It must be this group that is responsible for the
former ruling party's ruthless ways of dealing with opponents,' said the
commentator, referring to the arrest of the MDC's prospective deputy
agriculture minister, Roy Bennett, on the eve of his swearing-in.

The British government last year indicated that it was working with the
United States, EU, World Bank and International Monetary Fund on a financial
recovery plan for Zimbabwe, but it all depended on whether the government
reformed or not. Evidence on the ground shows nothing has changed so far.

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KweKwe factory blast kills one, injures nine

By Tichaona Sibanda
23 February 2009

A huge explosion, apparently accidental, ripped through a chemical
fertilizer plant in KweKwe on Saturday, reportedly causing one death and
leaving nine other workers injured, two of them seriously. Windows were
knocked out across the plant.

Sources told us a group of artisans were working on an electrolyte unit at
Sables chemicals plant, when it exploded.

Witnesses heard an immense explosion. The explosion was so powerful, it
rocked the entire plant. Those who attended to the victims describe seeing a
scene of carnage and horror.

Three people were admitted at Popomasi Clinic in Kwekwe and six were ferried
to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. A source told us two of the three
admitted in KweKwe were discharged on Monday.

There were plans to airlift those admitted in Harare to South Africa for
specialist treatment. Two of the six were described to be suffering from
life threatening injuries after receiving 90 and 60 percent burns to their

'The two suffered terrible injuries. Authorities at the plant are making
frantic efforts to transfer them to a specialist burns unit in Johannesburg.
Everyone is just praying for the guys,' our source said.

A senior company executive, Misheck Kachere, promised to give a detailed
report to the media as soon as a preliminary report was ready. There have
been concerns in the last few years that the plant was losing experienced
staff, required to operate the sophisticated machinery at the company,
because of the economic crisis.

 The plant manufactures ammonium nitrate fertilizer and produces for both
export and the domestic market. It employs over 520 workers.

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Only Mugabe can dismiss Gono

February 23, 2009

By Tendai Dumbutshena

THE first duty of this so-called power-sharing government is to the people
of Zimbabwe. It must win their confidence before it can expect the
international community to fully embrace it.

Zimbabweans in the country and Diaspora must be convinced that this
government represents a break with the past. People who fled persecution and
violence to live in destitution in neighbouring countries must feel they can
return home to safety.

They must see developments on the ground in Zimbabwe to assure them that
Zanu-PF militias and other agents of state-sponsored violence have been
decommissioned. There must be guarantees that there will be no heavy price
to pay for not supporting Zanu-PF. They must be convinced that the police
and military no longer act as extensions of Robert Mugabe's party; that
traditional leaders will no longer be agents of Zanu-PF meting out
punishment to those who support other parties.

They must be assured that in times of need aid will be given to all. The
list is endless.

To get people of all social classes to return to Zimbabwe there must be
demonstrable evidence of concrete moves to democratize that society. It must
be a society firmly based on observance of the rule of law.

These concerns equally apply to those in Zimbabwe. They must be convinced
that there is a future for them and their children; that the only solution
does not lie in leaving the country. They, like all people in the world,
want to live in a free society that offers opportunities to fulfil their
potential. They do not want to live under a rogue regime which murders,
tortures, abducts, and drives them from their homes.

They want to live under a government which realizes that its most important
responsibility is to protect its citizens. They want their civil liberties
and human rights upheld. They expect property rights to be protected. They
do not want state institutions abused to settle personal scores. They want
an independent judiciary. They want an end to an entrenched culture of
impunity that protects perpetrators of the most heinous crimes against the
people of Zimbabwe.

The creation of such a society should be the first duty of this inclusive
government. A starting point should be an immediate release of all political
prisoners. It is unacceptable that those responsible for crimes against the
people of Zimbabwe for the past 29 years continue to preside over arbitrary
arrests and imprisonment of innocent people.

It is nonsensical for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to call for national
reconciliation and healing while his friends in Zanu-PF continue to violate
peoples' rights in this way .When he was sworn in as Prime Minister nearly
two weeks ago he said: "It hurts that as we celebrate here today there are
some who are in prison. I can assure you that they are not going to remain
in those dungeons any day or any week longer."

Well they are still there with more being arrested and the Prime Minister
can do nothing about it except plead for mercy from Zanu-PF. He cannot even
secure the release of a senior party colleague and ministerial appointee Roy
Bennett. Yet he wants the world to disregard all of this and hand over money
to Mugabe and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

If Tsvangirai is powerless to get his own supporters released how can he
convince skeptics that this is indeed a new dawn? He should concentrate on
getting a number of things done at home instead of being Mugabe's salesman.
Repressive legislation like POSA and AIPPA has to be repealed together with
a repulsive law that criminalizes criticism of Mugabe.

Court orders must be respected and enforced. The youth militia must be
disbanded and its infrastructure of terror dismantled. The police, defence
forces and CIO must cease to be appendages of Zanu-PF. Farm invasions must
stop. The media must be unshackled with journalists allowed to work freely.
The ban on various publications must be unconditionally lifted. An end must
be brought to the state's broadcasting monopoly. The Reserve Bank must stop
funding Zanu-PF and its covert operations. It must cease to be a retail bank
for Mugabe and his inner circle. This list of things to be done is by no
means exhaustive.

These are issues that Tsvangirai and the MDC must concentrate on if they are
to salvage something worthwhile out of this mess. It is disgraceful for
Tsvangirai to ignore these matters to become Mugabe's roving ambassador,
agitating for the lifting of sanctions and release of funds. The sanctions
Mugabe and his cronies want lifted have nothing to do with the economy.

They merely restrict their own travel in Europe and the United States and
freeze their bank accounts and assets. They are cynically using a gullible
Tsvangirai to achieve this while they concentrate on consolidating their
power in preparation for another blood-soaked election down the line. That
is why they were adamant on controlling all security ministerial portfolios.
They were happy to cede portfolios related to the economy and service
delivery to the MDC because this has never been their priority.

Zimbabwe's ambition must go beyond being a mere recipient of aid that can
only provide economic relief. Only investment fuels sustained economic

This brings up the issue of Gono's future. A Reserve Bank has two core
functions - to protect the value of a national currency and control
inflation. The Zimbabwe dollar is now worthless. Gono presided over its
death. The last official rate of inflation at 231 million percent was
published in July 2008. Even Gono does not know what it is now. Since the
local currency has, to all intents and purposes, ceased to be legal tender
the inflation rate does not really matter.

Yet Mugabe values Gono so much that in violation of the unity agreement he
unilaterally extended his contract. It can only mean that Gono plays a
sinister role central to Mugabe's continued rule. His continued presence at
the Reserve Bank is inimical to the national interest.

Sadly there is nothing Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti can do
about it. The MDC leader reportedly said in Cape Town last Friday that Gono's
performance would be assessed before a decision on his future was taken. Why
should Tsvangirai mislead people in this way? Only Mugabe has the power to
fire Gono. If Tsvangirai cannot get Bennett and others released from prison
how can he force Mugabe to fire a man so crucial to his own continued rule
and welfare? This is another battle the MDC will lose simply because it has
limited power in this government.

Western countries have every right to attach conditions to economic
assistance to this government. It must demonstrate tangible and irreversible
commitment to political and economic reforms. Human rights in all their
forms must be upheld. It must commit to a road map to early internationally
supervised elections. Financial assistance should not be given to an
unreformed regime simply because it has co-opted the MDC.

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Bishop presses British Government over Zimbabwe

Monday, 23rd February 2009. 2:35pm

By: Adrian Hall.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells has questioned the Government on the
steps they are taking to improve the dire situation in Zimbabwe.

Bishop Peter Price raised his concerns on the day opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn-in as Prime Minister in a power-sharing
agreement with President Robert Mugabe.

He told peers at question time in the House of Lords: "During my many
visits to Zimbabwe over a 10-year period in the late 1990s and the early
part of this century as director of a church mission and aid agency and
subsequently as a bishop, I witnessed at first hand, even then, the reality
of hunger and starvation among the poorest of its citizens. Clearly a
catastrophe was then in the making."

He said that there was now an "increased use of torture and calculated
starvation" which had reached crisis proportions.

Bishop Price asked: "In what ways are the Government encouraging and
supporting intervention on humanitarian grounds by the international

Lord Davies of Oldham, for the Government, said: "One of the
conditioning factors that will best improve the situation is if we can get
movement towards greater normality in Zimbabwe.

"This means an immediate end to political violence, intimidation and
repressive legislation. It also means a reinvigoration of a disastrous
economy within which people are suffering greatly.

"We will keep on all the pressure that we can. Britain is the second
largest donor to Zimbabwe and we will keep faith with its people, but we
want significant change at the top in terms of the decisions taken by the
now shared Government."

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Elderly Britons in Zimbabwe will get help to leave

Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:37pm GMT

LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of elderly British nationals living in Zimbabwe
will be offered help to resettle in Britain, the government said on Monday.

Due to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, some British people living there
were facing severe difficulties getting access to food, medicines and care,
Local Government Minister John Healey said in a statement to parliament.

The government was concerned about "older and vulnerable British people who
may be increasingly unable to support themselves in Zimbabwe and who are
unable to return to the UK without assistance," he said.

The government was ready to offer resettlement help to British nationals in
this situation who were aged 70 or over and who needed care or medical
treatment, he said.

Up to 750 elderly Britons are expected to take up the offer over the next 18
months, Healey said.

Zimbabwe has suffered an economic breakdown under President Robert Mugabe,
85, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

It suffers unemployment levels above 90 percent, prices double every day,
half the 12 million population need food aid and a cholera epidemic has
killed nearly 3,500 people.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister this
month as part of a power-sharing deal that has raised hopes among
Zimbabweans of an end to widespread hardship.

Nevertheless, Healey said, some British people had been badly affected by
the collapse of the Zimbabwean infrastructure "and we cannot expect this to
be put right overnight."

He said the government would provide accommodation and early access to
benefits for people who resettled in Britain.

He stressed the British Embassy was not advising people to leave Zimbabwe.

The British Foreign Office says about 12,500 British nationals are
registered with the British Embassy in Zimbabwe.

Despite Tsvangirai joining the government, Britain has said the lifting of
sanctions is dependent on Zimbabwe releasing political prisoners and pushing
through economic reforms.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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Daily cholera update and alerts, 22 Feb 2009

 Full_Report (pdf* format - 202.8 Kbytes)

* Please note that daily information collection is a challenge due to communication and staff constraints. On-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Any change will then be explained.

** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may occasionally result

A. Highlights of the day:

- 920 cases and 14 deaths added today (in comparison 631 cases and 41 deaths yesterday)

- 45.76% of the districts affected have reported today (27 out of 59 affected districts)

- 90.3 % of districts reported to be affected (56 districts/62)

- Chikomba district revised deaths downwards (institutional deaths from 2 to 1 and community from 9 to 7)

- Cumulative Institutional Case Fatality Rate 1.83%

- Daily Institutional Case Fatality Rate 0.98%

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Residents swindled as budget drags on

23 February 2009


The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has received reports on the extent to which residents are being defrauded of their hard-earned hard currency. Speaking in yet another highly charged CHRA ‘Meet your Councilor’ Public meeting held in Glenview Community hall yesterday (22 February 2009), the residents revealed that they are being charged as much as US$ 40-00 for rentals and  water. In Glenview and Dzivarasekwa (high density areas), residents who reside in council owned houses are required to fork out between US$ 22-00 and US$25-00 for rent. Water charges range between US$10-00 and US$15-00, even those who reside in Mabvuku where there has not been a drop of tap water, are required to pay a fixed fee of a whopping US$10-00. However, residents do not get payment bills or receipts in hard currency but in ZW$ and God knows at what exchange rate!


In the midst of the current chaos is a council resolution that; the city’s finance director shall from time to time review rates as per the inflationary levels. The city of Harare has not approved a budget for the year 2009, neither has the council consulted the residents over the budget which further complicates matters as residents in Dzivarasekwa (last week) and now in Glenview told it to the face of their policy formulators, the councilors; that they will not pay those (hard currency) rates until their demands are met.


The Harare residents’ demands are;

-Reversal of decision to charge in hard currency and current tariff structure

-Consultation over budget before approval

-Affordable rates

-Improved and effective service delivery

-Accountability and transparency   


CHRA will mobilize the Harare residents to institute socio-legal and other means to recover their money and demand to participate in the 2009 city budget formulation. The Association remains committed to advocating for transparent, effective, affordable and professional municipal service delivery. The Association will continue to proffer the residents the necessary platform for residents to engage with the city’s policy formulators and other stakeholders.


Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

145 Robert Mugabe Way

Exploration House, Third Floor


 Landline: 00263- 4- 705114

Contacts: Mobile: 0912 653 074, 0913 042 981, 011862012 or email, and


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Bennett Arrest No Sign Of "Unity"

The Following is an Editorial Reflecting the Views of the US Government

21 February 2009

Less than three weeks after an agreement to form a transitional government
to end the nation's debilitating political impasse, Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF party
is up to its old repressive tricks.

In just one example, Roy Bennett, a senior official in the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, was named to serve as deputy agriculture
minister in the new unity government. Before he could be sworn in, he was
arrested instead on trumped up charges of banditry and attempting to commit

Defense lawyers argue that the charges, which relate to an incident three
years ago, do not involve Mr. Bennett. Meanwhile, a judge hearing the case
was replaced after he was accused of being an interested party.
Nevertheless, the court rejected a motion to drop the charges and a trial is
set for next month.

The government of President Robert Mugabe has a long, sad history of such
prosecutions, aimed at intimidating its critics. Mr. Bennett joins the ranks
of human rights activists Jestina Mukoko and Jenni Williams, US Embassy
Harare employee Frank Muchirahondo, and journalists, humanitarians,
opposition supporters and civil society members who are languishing in
Zimbabwe's prisons for political reasons or who continue to face dubious
charges. Still others remain missing following their abduction by suspected
security agents. These actions undermine the spirit of the unity accord and
dampen the hopes of the millions suffering as a result of Zimbabwe's
man-made humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Bennett, a successful coffee farmer, may have much to offer his country
in his new post. Zimbabwe, once a breadbasket of Africa, now must import
massive amounts of food to feed itself, and restoring national food
production is one of the nation's greatest challenges.

The arrest also sends a strong signal to the international community that it
is right to question the sincerity of Mr. Mugabe and his allies in the new
order. Instead of fulfilling the mandate to rebuild the nation's economy and
stop the oppression that the Zimbabwean people gave in last year's
presidential and parliamentary elections, recent police action threatens to
move the government in the opposite direction.

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"It's like waiting to find out if you will get eaten by lions"

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/PlusNews
Taking the test
HARARE, 23 February 2009 (PlusNews) - It is a typical hot February afternoon in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, but for Thulani Siziba, 33, it is an afternoon he will always remember. He is about to take his first HIV test.

As the executive producer at Radio Zimbabwe and host of a programme on HIV issues broadcast throughout the country, it seems ironic that Siziba has taken so long to heed the advice he so often gives his listeners to "go and get tested". "I have just never made the time," he confessed.

Siziba is unmarried, has no children, and says he always uses condoms, but an element of doubt about his HIV status is evident in his nervous laughter and efforts to avoid the gaze of every other person in the eerily quiet waiting room.

"It's like being thrown into a jungle and waiting to find out if you will get eaten by lions, or survive," he told IRIN/PlusNews as he waited to receive his test results. "My mum already lost one son to AIDS; she can't afford to lose another."

Siziba's older brother died in 2001 after a long illness, and although he never tested for HIV, the family is convinced his death was AIDS-related. "People tried to tell him he had an HIV-related illness, but he wouldn't believe it, even though he had lost a child to a similar illness," he said.

In the days before his brother died he kept asking to see Siziba, who had just moved from the family's hometown, Bulawayo, to the capital, Harare, to begin work at Radio Zimbabwe. Thinking it best to spare Siziba from seeing his brother emaciated and bed-ridden, his family never conveyed the request.

"I just wish I had had the information that I have now, back then," Siziba said. "I think my brother would still be alive today."

While waiting, he notices an HIV-awareness advertisement showing on the TV set in the corner of the room and repeats the now ubiquitous message of the campaign: "It begins with you," and pauses to think.

Although he knows the message is true, getting as far as this waiting room has not been easy. His brother's death – followed by that of his brother's wife – convinced him that HIV is real, but did not persuade him to check on his own HIV status.

He continued to broadcast programmes about the importance of being tested, HIV-related stigma, how to live positively with the virus, and other HIV/AIDS-related matters without considering their significance to him.

''It's not easy when the shoe is on the other foot. I can write all I want, but at the end of the day, I'm a human being who is scared of dying ... especially from AIDS.''
At a recent workshop for Zimbabwean journalists by the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), facilitator Aulora Stally suggested that the participants mobilise resources for a national HIV testing day, and was met with a deafening silence.

"It's not easy when the shoe is on the other foot," commented one journalist who regularly writes articles urging others to be tested. "I can write and write all I want, but at the end of the day, I'm a human being who is scared of dying, and especially dying from AIDS."

Siziba's suggestion that a positive HIV test result would be like being "eaten by lions" is understandable in a country where an estimated 1.3 million people are living with the virus, and unmet needs for treatment and food claimed 2,700 lives a week in 2007 according to UNAIDS.

A counsellor comes into the waiting room and beckons; Siziba sighs heavily and follows her, but returns a few minutes later. "A big boulder has been lifted from my shoulders," he says, smiling broadly. "Discovering the truth is something so uplifting, and now I know where I stand."


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