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Exclusive: Zimbabwe roadblocks target 'bandits'

Saturday, 10 Jan 2009 06:01

Zimbabwean police are mounting 24-hour security roadblocks on the country's
major highways, claming they aim to combat the transportation of weapons for
acts of banditry against president Robert Mugabe's administration.

The move is set amid a sea of allegations by the state that the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party is recruiting youths to train as
bandits and topple Mr Mugabe's government.

Already, over 40 MDC activists have been jailed on charges that they were
recruiting unemployed youths to train as bandits in neighbouring Botswana.
The MDC activists who say they have been tortured in jail deny the charges
as ludicrous.

Armed police, soldiers and state agents stationed at the roadblocks are
targeting mainly haulage trucks, thoroughly searching them, using
sophisticated electric detectors, for alleged weapons supposedly being
transported to MDC military bases.

Police sources said the security checkpoints will be in place until a new
government is formed.

"We are under orders to search for banditry weapons and other suspicious
material that can be used as weapons," a police officer at one security
roadblock who could not be named as he was not authorised to talk to the
press said.

Another police officer speaking on condition of anonymity added: "We are
told that we have to be thorough at these roadblocks and to arrest any
suspicions characters believed to be bandits and to impound trucks carrying
suspicions material."

Police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, the national police spokesperson,
when contacted for comment confirmed the setting-up of the security check

"We have put our security departments on high alert because there are
elements within the opposition who want to destabilise the country," said Mr
Chihuri. "Our security forces will descend heavily on any individuals
carrying weapons."

Deputy information minister Bright Matonga added: "It's natural that we have
to mount security checkpoints since the opposition is recruiting youths to
train as bandits intending to topple the government."

Earlier this week local media reported that heavily armed soldiers, police
and state agents raided an outdoor adventure camp in Ruwa, a few kilometres
outside Harare, on suspicion that it was a military base for the opposition
MDC bandits.

The camp is known for training boy scouts and young Christian groups in
adventure activities and personal development. The team of security agents
arrested the camp owner John Naested and two white farmers, Angus Thompson
and Brian Baxter, who live close by.

Mr Mugabe blames Botswana for offering its land to the MDC and the west to
train Zimbabwean youths as bandits.

The charge has been denied on numerous occasions, with South African
president, Kgalema Motlanthe saying that the regional bloc, the Southern
African Development Community (SADC), does not believe Mr Mugabe's

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Daily cholera update and alerts, 09 Jan 2009

 Full_Report (pdf* format - 95.7 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

1- Highlights of the day:

- 914 cases and 107 deaths added today (in comparison 632 cases and 28 deaths yesterday)

- 67.3 % of the districts affected have reported today (37 out of 55 affected districts)

- 88.7 % of districts reported to be affected (55 districts/62)

- All 10 of the country's provinces are affected

- Rosa in Chiweshe (Mazowe), Chasvingo (Beitbridge), West Nicholson (Gwanda)

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UNICEF Warns Against Complacency As Zimbabwe Cholera Toll Keeps Rising

      By Patience Rusere
      09 January 2009

The United Nations Children's Fund said Friday that despite indications the
cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is losing momentum, it remains concerned as the
death toll continues to rise.

The latest statistics on the epidemic from the World Health Organization
through Thursday showed a total of 1,822 deaths from over 36,671 cases.

There were 632 new cases Thursday, and 28new deaths were reported.

UNICEF Communications Officer Tsitsi Singizi told reporter Patience Rusere
of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is too early to say conditions have

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Cholera Cases in Zimbabwe - WHO

January 9th, 2009

Cholera Cases in Zimbabwe

The above graph has been complied using figures released by the World Health Organisation. The WHO reports state that the daily information they are collating is hindered by communication and staff constraints, poiinting out that this means on-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Please view this graph has an indicator of the scale of the cholera crisis in Zimbabwe. Please click the graph to enlarge it.

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Zim burns while Mugabe goes shopping, partying

by Babobski Saturday 10 January 2009

OPINION: Life is all about timing - doing the right things at the right time
and seizing the opportunity when it presents itself.

It has been incredible just how fate has dealt Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe such good timing over the past eight years.

In 2000 Mugabe started his programme of genocide. He started with the few
remaining white people who were farmers - Rhodesians, who had bought into
the new country and were proudly Zimbabwean.

They were producing the grain and the tobacco that had led to Zimbabwe being
able to export food to sub Saharan Africa and sell to the international

The Zimbabwean economy was thriving and the Zimbabwe dollar was stronger
than the South African rand in the late 1980s.

Mugabe was ruling a country that could rightfully claim to be the
"breadbasket of Africa". The very people who were responsible for the
"breadbasket" status became the innocent victims of genocide.

They did receive encouraging words from the British and the Americans when
Mugabe started the land invasions in 2000 but by 2001 the Zimbabwean economy
had started faltering and the world was shocked at the violence with which
old people were being evicted from their farms and some even murdered.

Then 9/11 happened. The sight of huge airplanes being flown into skyscrapers
will be the most striking images I will probably see in my lifetime.

The Asian tsunami was of course the other major impression in my mind, of
days that changed the world forever.

In an instance Zimbabwe was off the radar. Mugabe had won the stand off. He
had been telling the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Zimbabwe
was no longer a colony and that Mugabe quite frankly could not be bothered
with anything that little George Bush (United States President) and Blair
had to say.

The world's media became filled with images of the Twin Towers, Osama Bin
Laden became the most wanted man in the world and America was at War.

The War on Terror had had little impact in Southern Africa. Corruption and
scandal still emerged from South Africa on a continual basis and Mugabe,
after sorting out the perennial enemy - the white man - started sorting out
his own people, who happened to be called the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC). This political party had become the first real opposition to Mugabe's

Mugabe proceeded to ruin Zimbabwe. Foreign currency had dried up and the
economy was in a tailspin. A famine resulted and Mugabe began to use food as
a political weapon.

Supported by the Chinese and to a lesser extent Libya, Mubage kept buying
weapons and oil to survive. He knew that South Africa would never ditch him,
so his supply of power and access to the sea were secure.

Then South African President Thabo Mbeki seemed to be bound by unwritten
rules when it came to dealing with Mugabe. The veteran nationalist always
seemed to have the upper hand and Mbeki retreated into the vague policy of
"quiet diplomacy" and even blocked action against Zimbabwe by the United
Nations when South Africa was sitting on the UN Security Council.

However Mugabe's nose was put out of joint by the Nelson Mandela persona and
he felt that Mandela had usurped his rightful position of father of the
liberation movement in Africa.

Mugabe has survived five US presidents since winning the independence
election in 1980. He is the big daddy of African leaders and he let Mbeki
know that.

When the world sent Mbeki in as the front man to deal with Mugabe, it was
like sending a Grade One pupil to tell the headmaster how to run the school.
Mugabe simply ignored Mbeki and continued as the weapon of mass destruction
in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, when the world again had time to focus on Zimbabwe, the question of
land distribution was fait accompli. Nobody even mentioned the dispossessed
as a stolen election and a huge cholera outbreak caused more harsh words to
emanate from the US and Britain.

The US described Mugabe as being out of touch with reality and the British
said that he was an obstacle and that a solution was not possible with him

Ears pricked up in Southern Africa. Would Zimbabweans scattered around in
countries like South Africa and Namibia be able to return home and rebuild
their country? Was Mugabe eventually being given the boot?

Even Bishop Desmond Tutu said that a military invasion must be considered in
removing Mugabe.

And then timing played a part yet again. Israel invaded the Gaza strip and
the same media that made such a huge noise that 1 000 people had died of
cholera in Zimbabwe are now silent when nearly 2 000 people are dead and
many more infected.

Are Israeli, American and Palestinian lives more important than Zimbabwean

Mugabe seems to think so. He has killed more people through the cholera
outbreak than have died on both sides in the Gaza War so far and yes, the
eyes of the world are fixated on the Middle East and Zimbabwe has slipped
off the radar yet again.

Mugabe has survived this type of thing before. September 11 and the loss of
American lives meant that white farmers in Africa who were being robbed of
their land did not have as much meaning anymore.

This time he simply informed Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
that they must not think Mugabe was stupid. Mugabe announced that he knew
the cholera outbreak was a biological warfare assault on Zimbabwe and that
he was ready to repulse a military invasion.

Mugabe understands that Bush is no longer relevant and that Brown will be
focused on the Middle East as Zimbabweans die in their thousands from

Mugabe has just left Zimbabwe on a month long holiday to an undisclosed
overseas destination. He has told the opposition that he is tired of their
games and will form a new government when he comes back.

Timing has once again come to the rescue of Mugabe and he has seized the
moment: Zimbabwe burns while the father of the nation - Mugabe - goes
shopping and partying around the world. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwean Schools, Once Best In Africa, Seen Sliding Further in 2009

      By Patience Rusere
      08 January 2009

The Zimbabwean government's announcement this week that public schools won't
open until January 27 was only the latest bad news on the education front.
Authorities blamed a backlog in marking exams, but others pointed to a
shortage of funds at the government and family level as well as an
unresolved teacher strike.

School-age children spent most of 2008 out of the classroom due to a strike
by teachers, a wave of post-election political violence and the general
collapse of the economy.

For perspective on the crumbling education system, reporter Patience Rusere
of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Raymond Majongwe, general-secretary
of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and Elliot Maposhi, who
represents the secondary school of Bikita, Masvingo province, within the
Schools Development Association.

Majongwe said Zimbabwean schools operated under 20% of capacity in 2008, a
situation he expects to worsen in 2009. The United Nations Children's Fund
has estimated that fewer than 20% of Zimbabwean children are likely to
attend school in the coming year.

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ZANU-PF govt. to pay health personnel in US dollars

Friday, 09 January 2009 19:56 Radio Voice of the People

Thousands of nurses and medical doctors across the country are struggling to
open Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs), after the government indicated that
it will only deposit foreign currency salaries into such bank accounts.
Doctors and nurses will beginning this month be paid in foreign currency,
after the government managed to secure funding. Senior nurses have been
promised monthly salaries of US$60, while junior nurses and those in
training will receive between US$30 and US$40.

Medical doctors will be paid monthly salaries of US$400.

The government has since written to nurses and doctors ordering them to open
FCAs. The government has also written to banks asking them to allow health
professional to open FCAs without the basic requirements.

Banks are reportedly turning away the nurses and the doctors, as they do not
have the mandatory US$200 required to open an FCA account, despite waiver
letters written by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.

"The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has committed itself to
implementing a Harmonised Retention Scheme for all health workers. As such,
it is a prerequisite for all health workers to open a Foreign Currency

"The Ministry requests the banking sector, with the support of the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) if required, to facilitate the opening of US$ FC
accounts for health staff, recognising that many will be paid at levels
below the current minimum required to open an FCA account (Harmonsied
Retention Scheme Circular dated 3 December).

"Please kindly assist the bearer to open a foreign currency account. He/She
will be receiving US$30 per month," reads the ministry letter dated December
31 2008. But doctors and nurses who spoke to RadioVOP said they could not
open FCA accounts as the US$200 required for opening the FCA accounts was
quite high.

"We have been turned away by banks, who have ignored the waiver letters from
the ministry and want us to pay the US$200 for opening the accounts and we
do not have that kind of money," said one nurse who spoke on condition

A senior bank manager with NMB in Bulawayo said they have not received an
order from the Central Bank head to waiver FCAs requirements for health

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Makoni said to have fired Mandaza, Mbudzi

January 10, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Former Minister Dr Simba Makoni who is now the leader of the
National Alliance of Democrats, has fired three of his top executives after
he accused them of stirring a revolt against him.

Makoni, who emerged third in Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election last
year, has fired his movement's convener Ibbo Mandaza, national mobilisation
coordinator Kudzai Mbudzi and spokesman Denford Magora.

He accused them of attempting to overthrow him by inciting provinces to
revolt against him.

Contacted for comment, Mbudzi said: "I am not at liberty to discuss what is
happening in the movement.  Speak to Makoni and Ibbo."

Efforts to obtain comment from Makoni, Mandaza and Magora were fruitless.

Makoni, once President Robert Mugabe's finance minister, told the three that
they had been fired following accusations that Makoni was thwarting efforts
to transform the movement into a fully-fledged political party.

E-mails were said to be flying thick and fast among the three amid reports
there was deep-seated animosity which had rendered working together almost
impossible. And the endgame was messy, according to a source.

Magora was reportedly told to surrender the keys to his car after he
reported for work at the party's offices in central Harare.  A driver was
then asked to drive him home.

Our source said trouble started with a revolt led by three Matabeleland
provincial executives during a heated meeting held in Harare on October 27.

The executives accused Makoni of dragging the consummation of the movement
into a fully fledged political party, criticism which apparently did not go
down well with Makoni.

He was apparently piqued by constant reference to him by Mbudzi, Magora and
Mandaza as being "too academic".

Our source said Makoni took the final drastic step to fire the three after
they threatened to walk away from the movement and form their own political

The National Alliance for Democrats should have been launched by August last
year but Makoni repeatedly postponed the launch, arguing that he needed to
come up with a sound constitution and policies.

The constitution of his party had been undergoing nationwide public hearings
since October last year. There were also sharp differences over the
distribution of 20 cars donated to the movement prior to the March 29
elections, according to an authoritative source.

One of those cars, a twin cab, was repossessed from Magora this week. Makoni
had been accused of holding onto the cars.

Makoni alleged the provincial protests were at the instigation of the three
senior executives.

Meanwhile, one of Makoni's most high-profile backers during the election,
former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa has also ditched him to revive
the old ZAPU party, which since 1987 was a junior partner in a marriage of
convenience with Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Dabengwa was the only former Zanu-PF heavyweight to publicly align himself
with Makoni during the run-up to the March 29 presidential election. In
reality the revolt of the Matabeleland region against Makoni could be linked
to the revival of the former ZAPU which Dabengwa now leads.

Mbudzi, Mandaza and Magora are now said to have differed with Makoni on

Prior to teaming up with Makoni Mbudzi was fired by Zanu-PF from his
position as Masvingo provincial spokesman. Mandaza, the former publisher of
The Mirror newspaper was linked to Zanu-PF until he was dispossessed of his
publishing company by the Central Intelligence Organisation, who were his

Magora is an advertising executive, novelist and playwright.

While the Zanu-PF old guard waged the 1970s guerrilla war of independence,
Makoni studied chemistry in the United Kingdom . But he also found time to
represent the then ZANU in Europe and clearly made an impression.

When the first post-independence government was formed, he was appointed
deputy minister of agriculture at just 30. Over the next four years he
served as Minister of Energy and of Youth before abruptly leaving

Makoni went on to become executive secretary of the Southern African
Development Community, (SADC), a job which he says required "a fine balance
between high principles and pragmatism".

Makoni was later brought back into Mugabe's government as Finance Minister
in 2000 to restore relations with donors and the business community but he
failed to change Mugabe's policies in any meaningful way.

He was sacked 18 months later after he called for the devaluation of the
currency. Mugabe charged that officials who called for devaluation were
"economic saboteurs".

Makoni, who stood as an independent in the March presidential polls, winning
only 8.3 percent of the vote, had argued that there was need to work
together with other political organisations for national reconciliation, a
platform on which he originally campaigned.

In practical terms he did not join hands with any other organisation,
however, although he was backed during the election campaign, by the smaller
MDC faction led by Professor Arthur Mutambara which is strong in the
Matabeleland region.

Makoni, the sources said, was of the opinion that the near revolt against
him was being orchestrated by Mbudzi, Mandaza and Magora because they wanted
to topple him.

A damning letter seen by The Zimbabwe Times from one of the provinces
betrayed the internecine warfare in that party.

It alleges that Makoni was importing Zanu-PF policies into the movement,
with Bulawayo and Matabeleland South and North Provinces threatening to
break ranks with the party and charging that they were not happy with the
way the organisation was being run.
"We would like to remind you that we are equal human beings and that we were
ill-treated for a long time under similar circumstances, and cannot live to
repeat this," the letter says.

"We have seen the superiority complex displayed by individuals at 'the head
office' which is run like a family outfit and are very unhappy to be part of
this, and particularly detest the arrogance, lack of foresight and
leadership that has so far been displayed."

The letter from the Matabeleland provinces warned him that failure by the
head office to deal with issues of concern raised by the steering committee
could lead to the severing of ties.

"We request audience with you before the national consultative conference to
discuss the issues (stated in the letter)," states the letter.

"If this is not possible, we shall have no option but to announce immediate
suspension of the relationship between ourselves and the head office and we
shall proceed with the development of the party in the direction and pace
that we feel shall be beneficial to our supporters."

Makoni allegedly saw this as an attempt by Mandaza and his two allies to
overthrow him, said the source. Makoni was reportedly suspicious that
Mandaza was eyeing his post as leader of the movement.

Meanwhile, Makoni's public relations man, Godfrey Chanetsa, has not
responded to questions put to him by The Zimbabwe Times on January 3 to seek
clarification on his personal relationship with President Robert Mugabe.

It was suggested in the communication to Chanetsa that he had been treated
as 'an adopted son' by President Robert and First Lady Sally Mugabe in the
early 1980s.

"The announcement of your appointment as Press Secretary to the President of
Zimbabwe was received among your contemporaries in the context of this
special relationship obtaining between you and the First Family,"  it was

"So was your subsequent posting to London as Information attaché at the
Zimbabwe High Commission."

Chanetsa's meteoric rise had been viewed as a case of nepotism in high
places, it was suggested.

"Given this background the question now is how you reconcile your present
association with a political initiative that seeks to remove President
Mugabe from office with your earlier status as a beneficiary of such
generous charity from him."

The message was sent by email on January 3 and copied to Makoni. Neither
Chanetsa nor Makoni has responded.

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Ugandan leader gives advice to Zimbabwe on economic management

APA-Kampala (Uganda) President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday advised the
Zimbabwe government to concentrate on a number of frontlines that are
central to controlling the economy, namely private sector formation and
control of money supply, among others.

He was meeting Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. S.S. Mumbengegwi who
delivered a special message to him from President Robert Mugabe.

The meeting took place at Museveni's country home in Kiruhura, south-west of
Kampala, according to a release from State House on Friday.

Museveni told the visiting minister that the problem of inflation in
Zimbabwe needs a macro-economic management approach such as tightening the
local currency by the Central Bank and limiting the cash flow liquidity.

The minister was accompanied by Zimbabwe's ambassador to Uganda, K. Nkomani,
the acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Magwenzi and the Desk Officer
for Asian, African and Pacific Division of the ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ms. B. Ngaba.

The minister briefed President Museveni on the current situation in Zimbabwe
and told him that the economy was in difficulty due to the food crisis and
diseases, among others.

The minister also expressed appreciation to President Museveni for the
cordial welcome extended to him and his delegation ever since they arrived
in Uganda.

He, however, mentioned that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)
member countries support Zimbabwe's struggle to provide medical attention to
combat the cholera outbreak.

  JM/daj/APA 2009-01-10

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Zuma on Zimbabweans

Article By:
Sat, 10 Jan 2009 08:13
Zimbabwe's crisis is affecting South Africa and Zimbabweans have to "walk
the extra mile" to find a solution urgently, ANC president Jacob Zuma said
on Friday.

"What the Zimbabwean leadership must remember and understand is that this
situation is affecting us very directly as South Africans - socially,
economically and various other ways," read a copy of a speech he delivered
at a gala dinner in East London.

"We are all committed to assist, but the Zimbabweans must walk the extra
mile to find an urgent solution."

Zuma was speaking ahead of the party's election manifesto launch and
celebration of its 97th anniversary in East London on Saturday.

Each year, on the anniversary of the formation of the ANC, the party
outlines the objectives and tasks for the year ahead to advance its mission.

Zuma also called for an end to hostilities in the Middle East.

"We appeal for a cease-fire, and for decisive action from the international
community to help find a solution to the crisis."


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WOMEN'S WATCH 1 of 8th January 2009


[8th January 2009]


Just a few days before Christmas Eve news started filtering in about Jestina Mukoko, who had been abducted from her home in front of her son.  Lawyers were then able to locate Jestina and a number of others who had been victims of “enforced disappearances” in various police stations around Harare.  Those members of the public who came forward with information are to be commended for their courage – it is this kind of bravery, in an environment where people are living in constant fear of their lives, that will overcome abuses of power by the State.

Jestina and nine others [four of whom are women and one a child aged two] were produced at the magistrates court for a remand hearing on Christmas Eve.  Another nine men listed among the disappeared were produced between Christmas and New Year.  All eighteen turned out to have been in the hands of state agents during the time they were missing and all have sworn affidavits describing their torture during the period they were illegally held.  These have been corroborated by medical evidence.  Even the two year old was beaten with his mother.

Over the last few days there have been numerous court applications that the tortured should be admitted to hospital for proper medical investigations and treatment.  Only one judge, Judge Omerjee, has ordered this and the State immediately appealed against his judgment, thereby suspending it.  The victims are being held in solitary incarceration at Chikurubi maximum security prison and their remand hearings in the magistrates court are still being dragged out by numerous delays on the part of the State.  Jestina and the other women will have their next hearing at the magistrates court on Wednesday 14th.  These delays are a complete travesty of justice.

Women’s Courage Shines in Zimbabwe

The following are extracts from an article in Womensenews paying tribute to women in Zimbabwe in their fight for peace and human rights.

To all the women in Zimbabwe:  “Women have figured more prominently in the resistance over the past 10 years and have become increasingly visible.  Often they face the police with the bearing and confidence of mothers, grandmothers and older women who deserve traditional respect.”

To Jestina Mukoko:  for her work for peace which has included documenting political violence and human rights abuses and who is now suffering for her activism and who has paid dearly for it.  “In her first public appearance since the abduction, Mukoko's face and body appeared swollen and bruised.  BBC video footage showed her looking stoical as she was led into police custody, showing a peace and calm in the face of those who had brutalized her.”  They cite the court affidavit:  “Mukoko described being beaten repeatedly on the soles of her feet with a hard, rubber object.  She spoke of being interrogated while being forced to kneel on gravel, blindfolded. All the while state agents beat her.  They were drunk and their fists struck again and again.”

To Abigail Chiroto:  “wife of Emmanuel Chiroto, who was the candidate for mayor of Harare, the nation's capital, last March, when elections also swept other members of his Movement for Democratic Change party to a majority in the parliament.  Last June, a gang of armed state agents drove three white unmarked cars to the Chiroto home.  Emmanuel was not home, but Abigail was.  As the cars pulled up, everyone on the premises immediately fled, fear in their eyes.  Abigail was left behind, frantically searching for her 4-year-old son. The state agents were in no mood for disappointment.  They petrol-bombed the house and abducted Abigail and her son.  Days later her burned, lifeless body was found at a nearby farm, still wearing a blindfold.  Her son is lucky to be alive, but now lives a life without his mother's love and protection.  Emmanuel went into hiding.”

To the perseverance of the women of Zimbabwe:  “Extraordinarily, life goes on ... Cholera is a new enemy – a preventable disease that strikes discriminately, killing poor people, who typically live in areas where sanitation systems have broken down or where there is no access to clean water or adequate health facilities ... There is nothing left except a strong need for survival.

Education and the Girl Child

The UN Children's Fund [UNICEF] recently stated that school attendance in Zimbabwe has been dropping at an alarming rate [from more than 85 percent in 2007 to just 20 percent by the third term of 2008] because of the collapse of the country's socio-economic system,  affecting students and teachers alike, and that few children in Zimbabwe will be returning to class when schools re-open. 

The UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland Monasch, says the cholera epidemic and the collapse of basic services are adversely affecting the population.  Children are staying away from school because they have to help their parents look for food or find ways to earn money to help support their families.   Many schools closed about three months early last year because teachers were no longer coming to work. He says he is afraid they will not show up when school reopens in mid-January. The majority of teachers are not attending work due to low salaries and bad working conditions.  School buildings are in a dire state.  Many have no toilets and no running water.

The current situation is further complicated by the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe.  Nearly one in four Zimbabwean children are orphaned by the disease.  The ability of support groups to provide care and treatment to those infected with HIV has decreased.  The closure of schools affects many of the over 1.3 million orphans, children who have lost their mother, father or both parents and who need to have a protective and stable environment which schools can help to provide.

As always it will be the girl child that suffers most.  Girls are the ones that are pulled out of school to help nurse the sick, to help collect firewood and water, to help with household chores and to cultivate and weed at this time of year.

School Opening Date Postponed

A statement released by Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere said schools would now open on January 27, from the original January 13 opening.  The reason given was that Grade 7 examination papers have still not been marked.

Tribute To Woman Journalist

Girl with the golden voice: The late Carol Gombakomba.

Girl with the golden voice: The late Carol Gombakomba.

Veteran journalist Carol Gombakomba passed away in Maryland, USA on Thursday 18 December 2008 after a long battle with cancer.  Below is an edited version of the tribute the Association of Zimbabwe Journalists paid to Carol – a veteran journalist and broadcaster.

A fine broadcaster, Carol was born in Harare, then Salisbury, on April 7, 1968.  Carol went to Shingirai Primary School in Mbare for her primary education.  She then went to Nagle House Girls High School in Marondera where she did her secondary education and A Levels.  She then went to the University of Zimbabwe, then the country’s only higher institution of learning, and graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Sociology.

Carol then joined the ZBC where she excelled.  After a decade with the ZBC, she left to go to Canada in 2001 and was recruited by the Voice of America to become one of the pioneer broadcasters on Studio 7, a radio station that broadcasts from Washington D.C. to Zimbabwe on a daily basis.

Her boss at Studio 7, Brendan Murphy, said: “All those who knew and worked with Carole will remember her always calm and cheerful presence, and the dedication and professionalism she brought to her work on behalf of countless listeners in Zimbabwe whose travails and suffering she documented with such a wonderful human touch.”

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.

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Viomak releases Christmas Box bundle for 'Zimbabwe Circus' Politicians

Music review by Harriet Chigege

britain 1/09/2009 01:52 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

As Zimbabweans continue to chew bubbles and swallow air in anticipation of a
quick and successful resolution to the sleazy political crisis ravaging the
country, protest singer Viomak continues to call a spade a spade, and if her
music is to be played at a political rally all the political clowns in
Zimbabwe will hide their faces in shame. Viomak only started experimenting
with protest music in 2005, but her determination, versatility and
imagination have seen her turning up to be the sole woman protest singer in
Zimbabwe. Thanks be to the woman who has stood against many gender and
political odds to give protest music a chance in a bid to bring about
leadership sanity in Zimbabwe.

"It is not an easy road to tread. You are bombarded with all sorts of verbal
insults now and again and all drawbacks and temptations that are associated
with protest music production, but I keep going. My enemies have trebled
with the release of Zimbabwe Circus, but the good thing is I am not singing
for the love of money but for the love of Zimbabwe." she said.

The album sleeve that she designed tells a hidden story of her face looking
like a circus clown. This she says exposes the circus of the situation in
Zimbabwe and how Zimbabwean political leaders have become clowns. This could
be the most relevant political music album of this time. It's very
unfortunate that such kind of music is banned in Zimbabwe otherwise  this
must to listen album was going to  give solace to many deranged Zimbabweans
who are unwillingly embroiled in the Zimbabwe circus politics, if only they
could afford to listen to it in the comfort of their freedom. With a picture
of an MDC membership card in her right hand and the picture of a Zanu pf
membership card in her left hand Viomak compares Mugabe and Tsvangirai to 6
and 9. Don't ask me where she got both membership cards from. All I know is
she is non partisan, and the picture works very well with the title. Her
songs operate as a mouth piece of other silent voices.

The title of the album sounds promising enough. Of course it will take a
while before some people appreciate her type of music but the good thing is
starters always shape the way forward and at the end of it all the crown
goes to them .Whilst many people were busy making arrangements for a great
Christmas holiday, Viomak was busy in and about the studio doing some
touches to her album which was officially released on 25 December
2008.Viomak's music remains in a style of its own. Its truthful nature is
becoming a beacon of strength to wannabe protest singers.  This is another
step towards something truly special. Some political singers have avoided
mentioning names.   Some have remained silent on criticizing the MDC.
'Zimbabwe Circus' certainly inspires confidence that "freedom of expression
is the backbone to a democratic society" to quote her words. With this album
Viomak has not only reinvented the musical wheel in Zimbabwe, but has shown
that music is a great art that can be utilized in various ways to free one's
voice and feelings. In its uniqueness the album is packed with well thought
out lyrics that blend well with  awesome guitar chords, exciting drum beats,
marimbas  and soulful vocals that rub up against well- adapted organs and
neatly tailored basslines completing the package .

Her music talks and her voice sings. If you are the type of person who is
not bothered about the politics of Zimbabwe this album will not interest
you. However, the good thing is you can ignore the lyrics and dance to the
sizzling Zimbabwean beat (as she calls it) that cushion the lyrics. The
album is one kind of a companion that can lead you through trying times
without causing harm to anyone, as long as you play it in the absence of
narrow minded people. If you are the sort of person who likes meaningful and
inspirational songs that speak on behalf of the oppressed then 'Zimbabwe
Circus' is a must for you, as it carries the type of music that speaks for
your oppressed soul in a way that will make you applaud Viomak for the great
work which most of us have failed to achieve. The album is politically
charged and is sung in a gentle way that might also put you off if you are
the type of person who is into the aggressive and harsh type of voices.
Viomak's seriousness about the political situation in Zimbabwe takes toll
through her vocals and lyrics. One can only imagine how emotional she was as
she recorded the music .The lyrics are written in a jocular manner and that
could have eased up her mood. It is up to you to judge too. I have done my

The choice of instruments that accompany all the songs is superb too. Viomak
who had to sing the rough lyrics of her songs to her producer in Zimbabwe on
the phone to produce instruments of which she then added her vocals in a
studio in Britain, says she faced a terrible time dealing with 'telemusic
production', but her perseverance made her to pull through successfully. The
Zimbabwean producers' expertise with instruments matched with Viomak's
soft-to-loud vocal style to add depth to an album that is pleasant all the
way through.

'Zimbabwe Circus' announces Viomak's candidacy for a big post in Zimbabwe's
protest movement. Maybe I can now safely claim with all the confidence that
Viomak has now assumed the role of the queen of Zimbabwe protest music. I am
confident too that music matchers will not find a match for her since her
music resides in a genre of its own, and it is something no known singer in
Zimbabwe has embarked on. On previous albums she would on some songs borrow
some tunes and come up with great matching lyrics like what many other
musicians do. I thought that was where her strength in music rested.  I now
stand corrected by her 'Zimbabwe Circus' album, in which she has proved with
no doubt that she is a great composer and fantastic songwriter. It might
take a while for her to get where she is supposed to end up at due to the
fact that she is out of Zimbabwe .More to that, her protest music touches on
unsaid issues and speaks volumes about even those who she is supposed to
work with. To her artistic truth is the remedy for a dead democracy. Her
courage coupled with intelligent lyrics gave birth to 'Zimbabwe Circus' ,a
cool and  complex album, as also reflected  in the song titles which range
from funny themes to thoughtful laments echoing the chaos of Zimbabwe in the
post independence era. There are many reflective songs which make the album
special with underlying vibes holding noble songs that bring listeners back
to unexpected reality.

 The album's gentle and mournful vocals which are a great combination of
simultaneous musical notes are matched by hard hitting melodies that echo
the all time disaster in the politics of Zimbabwe. Of course no English
translation is provided yet for the lyrics but from her passionate voice and
coherent instruments one can easily tell that whatever she is singing about
is coming from her heart .Her innocent and patient voice is not pushy, but
it is full of questions that allow the listener moments to meditate whilst
querying the political status quo. The lyrics of the songs are as humorous
as ever and this gives the burdened Zimbabweans seventy minutes of serious
thinking and serious laughter. The album is an exciting bundle that connects
Viomak and her music to an unforgettable historical perspective. Gone are
the days when Viomak would resort her lyrics to despise Zanu pf only.
'Zimbabwe Circus' is on the move with lyrics that despise all   bad politics
in the country. The tracks on this album are an entertaining mix that caters
for all those who want to listen to music with a difference. It is a well
coordinated album that results from a lousy political story destroying
Zimbabwe, and its people. Viomak, who made this album with a producer in
Zimbabwe and another in Britain looks at current issues of unity talks in
many of the songs. The Zimbabwean producer who worked on the instruments did
a credible job in compiling the pack which was done in the presence of
Viomak's rough voices. Viomak cannot be in Zimbabwe and if Tsvangirai
happens to get into power and start behaving like a mad oppressor too, then
Viomak will again find it hard to reside in  Zimbabwe.

The album is introduced by the song Memorandum of Misunderstanding which
opens through a sorrowful, infectious and danceable flute beat, with a warm
saxophone and a tight bass played as though by the Zimbabwe police band at
the Harare show grounds with a bevy of drum majorettes completing the
marching sequence. One can only imagine the song being played at Rainbow
towers, the centre for the MOU talks if the circus clowns decide to meet
there once again for the almost failed talks. Whilst repeating the chorus
which is typical of her music, Viomak showers those who signed the MOU
agreement with unanswerable questions. The song is not in a hurry, for she
sings in a rhetorical yet demanding manner in a bid to get answers for the
same questions that are worrying many Zimbabweans at the moment. As the song
spreads out Viomak refuses and rubbishes the MOU agreement as an
unreasonable move that is but a waste of time and resources. Through the use
of the Manyika dialect spoken in Manicaland where she hails from she
expresses sorrow through impressive language clichés that are used in
Manicaland. Her refusal to accept   MOU as a viable solution is also
supported by a variety of other instruments like ngoma, and pressing kicks
which tightly hold the song and escort it to its sad and unexpected ending.
The length of the song has no bearing on the listening ear due to the fact
that the song makes you gather enough curiosity to get you up to nine

As the music plays on to the second song Viomak takes a swipe at the reserve
bank governor, Gideon Gono. The song Gonoriya is embraced by distinct rolls
with a heavy duty bass that scaffolds all the other baby instruments like
marimba and hosho to give them their well deserving positions in the mix.
Every bit is packed in a carton of well polished vocals. The song is set to
be a most favorite hit on this album even though Viomak's most favorite song
is 6 na9. Although Gonoriya is an obvious   gem it is the type of song one
would not even expect to hear play in Zimbabwe even though it is very
relevant at this moment in time when Zimbabwe's inflation is only awaiting
its entrance into the Guinness world records. The naming of the song which
equates Gideon Gono to gonorrhea makes the song a prohibited item in
Zimbabwe even though Viomak doesn't include anything to that effect in her
lyrics. Her lyrics are always very clean. The other reason why the song will
never be allowed is singing that the disastrous governor is a deviant who
doesn't listen to advice, and telling him that the Zimbabwean dollar is now
just as good as tissue paper. Although Viomak doesn't mention that the
fallen dollar is now as good as toilet tissue paper, I'm sure anyone who
knows about the economic chaos in Zimbabwe will think otherwise. Loud brass
accompanied by a 'talking' organ grabs Viomak's resentment of the way Dr
Gonoriya is dealing with the monetary issues in Zimbabwe. The rest of the
harmonies agree with the theme of the song in a style that captures one's
attention in a moving way. The song is most suited to public open air
gatherings which give revelers enough space to engage in various forms of
dancing styles whilst celebrating the governor's new catchy rhyming
nickname.  In other words, the song is for serious dancers and those with a
high degree of laughter. Although Gonoriya is an easy to sing along tune one
wonders how it was composed. It is an epic song that tallies very well with
every bit in it. To add on to its uniqueness, the composition gives one the
impression that Viomak was singing with a backing group. That's not it. She
takes it up on her own in the studio.

On the third song 6 na 9, which is her most favorite, she   builds up
confidence with the courage of a desperate and impatient woman who expects
MDC and Zanupf to understand that whilst the two parties are dawdling on
power sharing disagreements ordinary masses are suffering, making the two
heads to resemble 6 and 9.In a worried and fed up voice she starts the song
by mentioning that "Zimbabwe circus iyi taneta nayo" (We are tired of this
Zimbabwe circus)". This method of artistic execution or mode of presentation
is characteristic of a well thought out song .The two leaders' dillydallying
and some other issues make the two men similar. 'Zimbabwe Circus' takes the
trophy , for being a  hive of terror not only for political leaders but also
for some of their supporters who Viomak blames for being crooks and narrow
minded. The song is arranged around jumpy and juicy organ and rhythm beats
that somehow signify the leaders' failure to resolve issues amicably,
through the way they are combined as Viomak's vocals pave their way through
the instruments complaining that Zimbabweans are now tired of the political
circus. As she repeats that 6 and 9 look alike she asks the two leaders to
understand that people are starving, are in darkness, are thirsty and are
sick. The song ends with an array of impressive instruments blending well
with a short interjection of her vocals in English as she leaves more space
for listeners to sing along and bring the song to a rousing ending
selflessly allowing time for more body shaking. Of course 6 na 9 is
definitely deemed to be another favorite hit for some listeners. Mark my
words, apart from reviews and personal comments music remains a subjective

There are moments of great jubilation in the fourth song Mabhinya (thugs),
when the high sounding rolls come to the fore as if signaling the thugs to
be aware that they are being exposed. The vigorous rolls are immediately
joined and overshadowed by a variety of other rhumba like sounds bringing
the listener to a mini chimurenga mood .Viomak's voice awakens to the
extraordinary sounds and figures her starting point when her patient and
soft voice is heard coming in between the hard drumbeats, in a lively and
interesting manner giving the break instruments time to take her to the next
verse. She repeatedly advises Zanupf and MDC to control their thugs and
thieves .Come to think of it. Who ever imagined that a Zimbabwean artist
would ever highlight these issues in a song? As if worn down and irritated
she explores the song in hidden anger showing her resentment of the two
leaders' leadership qualities. Mabhinya is most enthralling when Viomak is
direct and fiery in her lyrics as the bass and brass remain solid to the
end. The song will definitely provoke some people's anger especially for the
fact that Zimbabwean politicians and many of their supporters don't accept

A happy and gripping track Johnnie Walker cruises as a radio friendly track
that will make her fans wayward as they chant the vivacious chorus that
repeats itself with flammable consistency,

"Memorandum yacho MOU yacho makasainira aniko" (Who did you sign the MOU

The song is smothered with inquisitive vocals that are laced with impressive
harmonies befitting an energetic audience at a political gathering. As the
song starts with marimba ,the whistling of the airy flute, coupled with a
staccato style and a wonderful lead bring the song to a junior reggae beat,
but maintains its preferred Zimbabwean beat .Johnnie walker is a sure case
of Viomak's music writing skills exhibited especially on this whole album.
Blessed with a rich vocal range, the song is pleasing and a pleasure to
listen to. The lyrics get people to a contagious dance and yes, they are
appealing. Her marvelous duality as an artist, who combines her expertise as
an educationist and singer could be one of the reasons why her music
composition is awesome. She really is an interesting and passionate
individual as she sounds in her songs, and her lyrics are a reflection of
those qualities that distinguish her from others. Certain sections of the
Zimbabwean society may think of her as a pain in the nerve or even a failed
singer because she doesn't fit into any of their expectations and interests
, but there's nothing awkward about the quality and style of her music and
the depth of her passion and competence for what she does.

As Viomak insists on defying the norm, she laments Tsvangirai's failures in
the song 'Dutch embassy'. Many photos come to mind when you listen to this
tune. The photos of the purported MDC injured supporters who thronged the
MDC headquarters at Harvest house and the American embassy during the Zanupf
mavhoterapapi reign of terror .What crosses one's mind is that the MDC
leader Tsvangirai was hiding in the Dutch embassy whilst his supporters like
ill treated refugees squattered helplessly as zanupf police officers
tormented them. In the song Viomak sees the MDC leader as a father figure
who should have been there for his children in their time of need. As the
song commences she advises Tsvangirai to remember that as he signed the MOU
agreement his supporters were beaten up, tortured and burnt. He should
therefore be careful of dining with an unrepentant Mugabe who fooled Joshua
Nkomo (Umdala Wethu) into signing a unity accord that never materialized.
She chooses words like 'kudzurudzuta mabhuku (scribbling books) to show that
the MOU agreement is a non event that Tsvangirai should not have taken
seriously, just like the scribbling of a young chap in sand. The song is
written and sung in such a   fascinating tone that the adamant Tsvangirai
will think twice about what he is doing if he gets the chance to listen to

Tipeiwo (May you give us) is another winner, with its joyful, percussion
loaded fairy tale lyrics. It is the urgent, down to earth but persuasive
religious vocals that hit the listener hard as the song portrays the
desperate situation in Zimbabwe. The song shows that Viomak has no faith in
men of this world to assist Zimbabweans, but has faith that God will answer
if people call out His name for help. Tipeiwo is like honey in a cup of
bitter tea, a remedy to comfort and heal the broken hearts in Zimbabwe. It
leaves you in a poetic mood too. The song makes you feel like the heavens
will open for God's angels to touch down in Zimbabwe and assure Zimbabweans
that the desires of their hearts will be accorded .The lively chorus sung in
a cool, velvety voice is introduced through the use of rolls that transport
the sing along chorus to the jovial instrument break .It looks like Viomak
was again set to show that she is still heavily inclined to her Manyika
dialect even after having lived in the diaspora for close to seven years.
Tipeiwo appeals more to poor souls, Zimbabweans in solitary confinement, the
neglected victims of torture and not forgetting the illegally imprisoned
activists and all opposing voices that are silenced. For those who want to
listen to music for it to fill their soul, to speak to their souls the song
Tipeiwo is captivating and spiritual enough to respect their inner demands.
The song is different and makes an interesting listen. She doesn't add
comedy to the lyrics most likely because she was talking to God.

The closing song Zimbabwe circus which is the title song is a simple
narration of how Mugabe-Matibili, Tsvangirai, Mutambara, Makoni and
Towungana all cross the circus bridge as political clowns. The song brings
the album to a satisfying conclusion and unbelievable experience. Viomak is
true to herself and sticks to what she dreams to achieve. She takes pride in
the fact that she is doing what she thinks is right .She reminds me of a
forwarded email that landed in my inbox sometime back that was encouraging
people to Aspire to Inspire before they Expire. That's what she does. The
choral song is so straight forward but very deep in message. It sort of
conceals Mugabe's evilness by blaming his political rivals too, giving the
Zanu pf troubled leader a seven minute glassy break from criticism targeted
at him. Obviously some listeners might start worrying about the lyrical
content of this track and would like to question why Viomak says all
Zimbabwe political leaders are a circus .She can be contacted through her
website for those who are interested in knowing .It is not yet popular to be
critical of the MDC artistically, but I'm sure in a couple of years to come
it will be as common as despising Mugabe.

Probably some of the best things musically about the whole album is how it
captures one's imagination and captivates the mind. One gets caught up in
the moment no matter their political affiliation. Chances are the album was
composed to evoke an emotional reaction from the listener, and from the look
of it all, it is capable of doing this with far more success than her
previous albums.

Over the course of eight tracks the album gives you a very good idea of what
it must be like to be a protest singer .Of course the other thing it does is
give you an idea of what they are like musically.

There can be no doubt that 'Zimbabwe Circus' would be of phenomenal
popularity in Zimbabwe if all available means are used to have it get there.
Viomak who said she composed all the songs at once, said she wanted the
production to be much simpler and extremely   relevant to the circumstances
surrounding the dead but living talks. The honesty heard in her voice is a
great inspiration. Her emotion is real. The names of the songs are not
disappointing as she sings what they   mean, and then there are the songs
themselves and what the lyrics talk about.

The album is a unique entity. Even on her own Viomak is able to combine the
gentleness of each voice into a virtual choir. Even though the tunes are
presented in a choral manner the subtle textures of their voices create
layers of sound that are a delight to the mind. You quickly forget that
there is no backing group in support. 'Zimbabwe Circus' is one of the most
unusual protest releases. The album   outdoes her previous ones making it a
better treat.

'Zimbabwe Circus' presents the spirit of the masses in an enormous and
convincing way and would make a fine addition to anyone's collection. If
people are to face the truth the album is   without question one of the most
interesting Zimbabwe protest albums to date making Viomak a pleasant protest
What we have here is an album geared more towards recapturing the spirit of
unbiased non partisan protest music in a male dominated territory .Again,
the album will make her many new enemies but I think it's only fair to
appreciate what it is for now.

Viomak is going to be very busy again soon, as aside from promoting her new
album, she is preparing to release her traditional Happy birthday album .The
album that will feature renowned poet and writer, John Eppel's lyrics on the
song Broken- buttock blues is out 21 February 2009 to mark Mugabe's 85th
birthday. She did 'Zimbabwe Circus' out of her norm as there seemed to be
no one singing about the Zimbabwe political circus, otherwise she
specializes on Mugabe's birthday albums.

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Revealed: The Secrets of an African first lady

Billed as the most embarrassing book ever written about the private life of an African leader, a former Nigerian president is portrayed by his first wife as a sly, violent, vindictive womaniser.

By Daniel Howden
Saturday, 10 January 2009

Oluremi Obasanjo has written a book about her ex husband, the
former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo


Oluremi Obasanjo has written a book about her ex husband, the former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo


It was once written that if African leaders past and present were rounded up and tossed into a blender then the resultant Big Man would look like this: "His face is on the money. His photograph hangs in every office in his realm. His ministers wear gold pins with tiny photographs of him on the lapels of their tailored pin-striped suits.

He names streets, football stadiums, hospitals and universities after himself. He carries a silver-inlaid ivory mace or an ornately carved walking stick ... He insists on being called 'doctor' or 'conqueror' or 'teacher' or 'the big elephant' or 'the number-one peasant' or 'the wise old man' or 'the national miracle'."

Blaine Harden wrote that nearly 20 years ago but the American writer's sharp observation has not been bettered. There should, however, be an addition – the Big Man's wife. Her face is rarely seen in public, except on state occasions. Her custom is welcomed by Europe's premier plastic surgeons. Her shopping trips are national legend. Her foreign retail adventures involve requisitioning the national airline. She agrees to the sacred rule that her children get official first family status and she keeps her mouth shut about everything else. From the Mobutus to the Mugabes the vow of silence was unspoken and unbreakable.

Then along came Oluremi Obasanjo. The first wife of the former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo has broken it in spectacular style with a tell-all autobiography, Bitter-Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo. The author paints a portrait of her husband as a vindictive "master of decoy", a "violent and unrepentant wife-basher", and a man whose "womanising knows no bounds". It couldn't come at a worse time for the 72-year-old Mr Obasanjo who has been busily building a new profile for himself as a pan-African statesman second only to Kofi Annan.

The former general, who has had two stints as Nigeria's biggest Big Man, once as a military ruler from 1976-9 and then as elected president from 1999-2007, is more often seen these days as the United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo. His credentials as a continental statesman are regularly burnished by Western leaders and he was a particular favourite of neo-cons like Donald Rumsfeld. This was supposed to be the time where the retired general enjoyed the fruits of his wisdom in becoming the first Nigerian leader to surrender power peacefully – albeit after failing to change the constitution to get himself a third term in office.

Instead, the warts-and-all account of his life is a best-seller in Nigeria and public interest has been so high that the daily newspaper The Vanguard ran a successful serialisation. So far, the Big Man himself has kept his peace, leaving friends to dismiss the author, known as Mama Iyabo after the first of their five children together, as a typical woman scorned. What makes Bitter-Sweet hard to dismiss though is the flattering portrait she paints of the young Obasanjo.

The pair met while she was at school. Only 11 at the time, the middle-class daughter of a station manager on the colonial railways, she recalls being confronted by a supremely confident young boy who "wore no shoes, not even the cheap tennis shoes sold for seven shillings and six pence that students wore then". The future president was penniless and "washed desks in school and worked as a labourer to make ends meet". During their eight-year courtship the initially shoeless Obasanjo excels at school, joins the military and rises rapidly through the ranks, surviving being taken hostage while serving as a peacekeeper in the DRC. The high point of the romance came in a register office in Camberwell Green, where the two were married in 1963.

She traces the end of the happy days to the gift of a gold pendant in 1970. "My Remi, man spoils good things," the inscription read. "He knew he had started to cheat. I did not understand the import of the message because I was so busy raising my young children and pursuing my career ... How I wished his recognition of his guilt of cheating on me had checked him of his monumental moral indiscipline that was to smear our marriage."

What ensues is an almost slapstick riot of affairs and breathless high politics punctuated with domestic violence and desperation. And it's one in which Mama Iyabo is happy to name names. In the early 1970s her particular nemesis was an older married woman called Mowo Sofowora. One evening, she recalls: "I was eavesdropping on the phone downstairs while Obasanjo was in the bedroom. They had spoken for about 30 minutes when she then said she was having a headache. I had heard enough, so I butted in: 'It's that headache that will kill you, shameless married woman dating a younger man'. On hearing my voice, Obasanjo charged downstairs to beat me and we had one of the many fights that had come to define our marriage."

On another occasion Oluremi Obasanjo, now pregnant, was surprised to hear a nurse at the hospital announcing that Mrs Obasanjo was coming in with her sick children. "Lo and behold, she [Mowo] soon appeared with Busola and Segun, my children. I removed my head tie ... and lunged at her. 'Mowo, Oko ni o gba, o le gba omo mi,' I screamed, meaning: 'You may snatch my husband you can't snatch my kids.' I slapped and punched her. It was a spectacle. The hospital was turned upside down. I ran after the car that brought her, smashed the side glass." Surprisingly she reserves no particular ire for Stella Adebe-Obasanjo, who would go on to be the general's third and most notorious wife, eventually dying while undergoing liposuction in Spain. She describes Stella as just another in "the stable of Obasanjo's many ponies. Her problem was that she was too showy and lacked self respect. During our tempest, she would telephone me to announce that she was in complete control of my husband." In addition to the string of affairs, including one with a wife of another Big Man, the Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, she reveals an extraordinary fallout with Murtala Muhammed, the brigadier he would later succeed in 1976 as military ruler of Nigeria. Muhammed's mistake was to reprimand him over his treatment of his wife: "Obasanjo was enraged that Muhammed was telling him how to take care of his wife. So, he grabbed Muhammed by the collar, in the presence of other officers, and challenged him to a duel."

Oluremi Obasanjo separated from him in 1975, one year before he would inherit power from Muhammed, who was murdered in one of Nigeria's many abortive coups. She recalls having a shouting match with another of Obasanjo's mistresses on the phone when he "pounced on me and began to curse and punch". The general then chased her with a knife and she fled the house. Left with nowhere to live she complained to leading members of the government, which in turn prompted the near duel with Muhammed.

Far from taking a massive risk on the incendiary book, it turns out that Diamond Publications in Lagos was indemnified by the author herself. She was so confident of her accuracy, Mrs Obasanjo the first said: "If anybody feels aggrieved by what I have written they should write their own book or take me to court."

The publisher, Lanre Idowu, is delighted. "It is the story of love and betrayal, of dedication and indifference, of tender love and brutal nonchalance, of great expectations and monumental disappointments. It is the story of a wife and mother, a participant-observer who witnessed many things about the nature of power – its allure and misuse."

Traditionally the public in much of Africa only gets to know about the private lives of their politicians through rumour, gossip or, in the case of Kenya, by glorious accident. Kenya's President, Mwai Kibaki, had enjoyed the pretence of a single Catholic marriage until December 2004, when the vice president publicly toasted Lucy Kibaki as the "second lady": it emerged that the Kenyan President had a second wife – Mary Wambui – and the original Mrs Kibaki was very unamused.

Kenyans were treated to a very public war of the wives which washed over into the media. The notoriously fiery Lucy – who five months later would burst into state television in her pyjamas and assault a cameraman – issued a statement demanding no further references to "purported" family members. But Wambui's family hit back with photos showing the President paying a dowry to the family.

In Zimbabwe there is less to laugh about. Grace Mugabe, Robert's second wife, has become a national hate figure, notorious for her extravagance during the most dramatic collapse of an economy during peacetime ever seen. Yesterday she stoked fresh outrage by withdrawing a reported $92,000 from the central bank to fund a family holiday in Malaysia.

The final word of course should go to Mama Iyabo, who says that it's about time more people followed her lead: "The public deserves to know a lot more about the experiences of public figures beyond the advertised public appearances they see. If my work has succeeded in doing so, we should look at it as expanding the democratic frontiers of free flow of information. Nigeria and Nigerians need to shed the culture of undue secrecy about public figures and public affairs."

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