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Mugabe "vacationing in, and switching funds to, Malaysia"

Asia-Pacific News
Jan 10, 2009, 9:28 GMT

Johannesburg - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is vacationing in
Malaysia, to where he has also transferred funds, according to South
Africa's Saturday Star newspaper.

It said Mugabe's wife, Grace - who went with their four children to Malaysia
before Christmas - had organised a transfer of 92,000 dollars from
Zimbabwe's central bank.

Mugabe, who followed on last Monday, was using the vacation for routine
health checks, while his personal doctor had also helped organise transfer
of personal funds to Malaysia and also Singapore.

The 84-year-old's vacation, due to last a month, comes as the former model
African state endures the toughest economic and political crisis in its

Hyper-inflation has prompted the central bank to issue a new 50
billion-Zimbabwe-dollar note. Acting Finance Minister Patrcik Chinamasa
Saturday announced the note - enough to buy two loaves.

In addition to chronic food shortages and lack of drinking water, Zimbabwe
remains in the grip of a cholera epidemic in which at least 1,700 people
have reportedly died, with some 35,000 infected.

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'Mugabe's wife raids bank vaults'

      Basildon Peta
    January 10 2009 at 10:44AM

Robert Mugabe's wife Grace has allegedly drawn a large sum of foreign
exchange from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to bankroll her family holiday in
the Far East, despite her country's crippling economic crisis.

At a time when more than 1 700 Zimbabweans have perished from cholera,
despite the release of a R300-million relief package from South Africa,
authoritative sources say Grace showed no restraint and withdrew US$92 000
(about R890 000) from the central bank to fund her month-long holiday in

The withdrawal comes after Grace's $80 000 shopping spree in Rome in June
last year on the sidelines of a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation summit,
to which Mugabe was invited.

Grace left with her four children shortly before Christmas for what has
become the Mugabe family's annual pilgrimage to Malaysia, where there are
unsubstantiated reports that Zimbabwe's first family have long had a family

Grace has three biological children with Mugabe and her own son, Russel,
from her first marriage to a former Air Force of Zimbabwe officer, Stanley
Goreraza, who ditched her after she began dating the soon to be 85-year-old
Zimbabwean leader, for whom she worked as a secretary.

Grace was on Monday joined by Mugabe, who took his month-long leave despite
the economic and political crisis plaguing his country.

Sources say Mugabe could not have missed joining his wife as he needed to go
for his regular medical check-ups facilitated by his doctor, Mahmood Awang

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed
financial sanctions on Kechik in November over his close relationship with

Kechik, a urologist, not only acted as Mugabe's personal physician but
subsequently began facilitating Mugabe's business and financial dealings in

The Saturday Star understands that Kechik became a reliable personal contact
for the Mugabes for their dealings in Malaysia and Singapore - where they
transferred most of their assets from Europe ahead of the imposition of EU
targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his officials several years ago.

He was also close to central bank governor Gideon Gono and a few ministers
and senior army officials who had also switched their wealth to the Far

Mugabe was this week roundly condemned by his countrymen who felt that it
was heartless for him to go and splurge on a holiday while his country

But Zimbabwe's strongman has never shown much restraint in the face of his
people's suffering.

He has since vacated his fairly modest official residence in Harare and now
lives with his family in a plush three-storey mansion in Harare's exclusive
Borrowdale suburb built at an estimated cost of US$25-million.

There were conflicting suggestions about Mugabe's holiday moves. Some
information suggested that he could be back home early to attend a planned
SADC summit on Zimbabwe, in the event that it is confirmed, while others
suggested that he will take his time on holiday while he awaits the
Zimbabwean parliament to approve a bill paving the way for an increasingly
doubtful unity government with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba earlier this week said Mugabe was not
so much on holiday but using his leave to reflect on the Zimbabwean crisis.

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on January 10,

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Zimbabwe introduces new banknotes as inflation bites

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Zimbabwe's central bank has introduced new 20
billion and 50 billion Zimbabwe dollar banknotes, worth about US$1 and US$2
on the black market, as the country battles runaway inflation estimated at
more than one trillion percent, APA learns here Saturday.

The higher denominated notes were announced in a government gazette
published on Friday, in what has become a regular ritual in the
inflation-ravaged southern African country.

New 1 billion, 5 billion and 10 billion Zimdollar notes were also put
into circulation on December 19 when the central bank also raised monthly
cash withdrawal limits fivefold to 10 billion Zimdollars.

Prices are doubling every day in Zimbabwe where hyper-inflation has
rendered the Zimdollar almost worthless.

Most traders no longer accept the Zimdollar, preferring the more
stable US dollar, South African rand, Botswana pula and British pound

Zimbabwe has the world's highest inflation rate, officially pegged at
231 million in July 2008 but believed to be much higher today.

Critics blame the economic meltdown on mismanagement by the Robert
Mugabe government, including the seizure and redistribution of thousands of
white-owned farms. The once thriving agricultural sector has fallen into

The veteran Zimbabwean leader, however, blames Western sanctions for
the economic crisis.


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Zimbabwe: More refugees entering illegally

  Posted on Saturday 10 January 2009 - 10:12

  Sam Banda Jnr, AfricaNews reporter in Blantyre, Malawi
  Hundreds of refugees are said to be entering Zimbabwe illegally. Most of
the refugees are also reported to be Somalis and Ethiopians. Despite facing
economic problems and the cholera outbreak among others, the Southern
African country is rich in other products like fruits which people go and

  The country has the best soils which have seen the country triumph in
producing such fruits like oranges.

  Media reports in the southern African country say that at least 100
refugees who enter illegally are surrendering themselves in borders every

  State newspaper The Herald quoted Mashonaland East Province Assistant
Commissioner Bobby Murwira as saying that they were concerned with the
influx of the illegal refugees.

  "About 100 refugees are surrendering to the police every week, while
hordes of others enter the country through illegal crossing points and are
later seen in groups along the Harare-Nyamapanda highway hiking towards the
capital city," said Murwira.

  He said they have since strengthened their patrols to stop all illegal

  Apart from catching most of the refugees in border points with most of
them in transit to South Africa, others are said to have been arrested in
other far away locations like Mutoko and Murehwa.

  Reports say that over the years, refugees - especially from Somalia,
Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi, have been going to South Africa
illegally through Zimbabwe.

  In another development Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai is reported to have requested for a meeting with President Robert

  The two have been in disagreements ever since the power sharing deal was
brokered in September by South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki and
mostly it's to do with the sharing of cabinet positions.

  Tsvangirai has called for the meeting in an effort to mend the deal and
form a government of national unity.

  The media reported recently that Mugabe is currently on annual leave and
that he was set to form a government next month.

  According to Tsvangirai's spokesman Nelson Chamisa the MDC leader wants to
have a meeting to map the way forward.

  "We have written to Mugabe, indicating that we want a meeting between him
and (MDC) president Tsvangirai to bring finality and closure to the
dialogue," he said.

  The spokesman however said the ZANU PF leader has not yet responded to his
party's request.

  In the power sharing deal if successful, Mugabe would remain the president
whereas Tsvangirai takes the position of prime minister.

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Critic of Mugabe wins inaugural art prize



      A Zimbabwean playwright who has repeatedly challenged Robert Mugabe's
regime has won the Freedom to Create Prize, awarded by ARTICLE 19 and the
artistic philanthropy group ArtVenture.

      Cont Mhlanga won the inaugural $50,000 award for his play "the Good
President". The politically charged satire depicts an African dictator who
has ruled Zimbabwe for 27 years since the country gained independence in

      Mhlanga has been an outspoken critic of Mugabe, and his work has been
banned by the regime. According to news reports, Mhlanga has pledged half of
his winnings to the Women of Zimbabwe Arise Group, an equal rights

      Speaking from Zimbabwe, Mhlanga said, "I am extremely humbled by the
recognition of my work. This award is not just for me, it is for those
artists who are victimised for working with me, and it is an award for
theatre in this country."

      The prize was created to honour artists who defend their freedom of
expression at great personal sacrifice.

      Second place went to Belarus Free Theatre, an underground project
founded in 2005 as an artistic means of resisting censorship.
Pakistani-Norwegian singer and human rights activist Deeyah, nicknamed "The
Muslim Madonna", was third.

      Burmese satirist Zarganar, who was recently imprisoned for 45 years
for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis, was awarded the $25,000 Imprisoned
Artist Prize.

      The $25,000 Youth Prize went to City of Rhyme, a 14-strong hip-hop
group from northern Brazil, whose lyrics condemn violence.

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Dozens of new cholera cases in Limpopo

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 9 January

Johannesburg - Sixty-eight new cholera cases have been reported in Limpopo,
the Department of Health said on Friday. Eleven new cases were recorded in
Musina and Madimbo, 46 in Dilokong and 11 in Botlokwa since Thursday,
department spokesperson Phuti Seloba said. "Our hot spots at the moment are
Botlokwa and Dilokong. At present there were 1 634 cases of cholera in
Limpopo that have been recorded since the outbreak," said Seloba. He said
the department expected to treat more cholera patients as Zimbabweans were
moving back into South Africa in large numbers. "Our anticipation is that
our neighbours from Zimbabwe are coming back into the country in large
numbers, so we will treat more people," Seloba said. He said campaigning had
intensified in terms of focusing more on awareness and embarking on
door-to-door campaigns. "We are reaching out to the general masses and
rearranging our resources. In Musina and Madimbo there were 1 016 cases,"
said Seloba. Before Christmas, Dilokong had 222 new cholera cases and
Botlokwa stood at 248.

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Zimbabwe beats Bangladesh by 38 runs

Associated Press
Dhaka, January 10, 2009
First Published: 16:53 IST(10/1/2009)

Zimbabwe recorded its first win over a Test nation since 2007 when it beat
Bangladesh by 38 runs on Saturday in the opening match of a triangular
one-day series. Chasing a moderate Zimbabwe total of 205-9, Bangladesh lost
two early wickets for just 10 runs and never recovered, finally being bowled
out for 167.

"We didn't bat well, we played a poor game," Bangladesh captain Mohammad
Ashraful said.

Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya was the best of the bowlers with 2-22 from
his full 10 overs, and made the initial breakthrough, claiming opener Junaid
Siddique lbw before Ed Rainsford bowled Mushfiqur Rahim, both for ducks.

Bangladesh slumped to 33-4 after opener Tamim Iqbal was run out on 13 and
Ashraful (18) was caught when lofting an Utseya delivery. Middleorder
batsmen Shakib Al Hasan and Raqibul Hasan steadied the innings, with a
59-run stand for the fifth wicket. But just when the hosts looked to have
recovered, Keith Dabengwa bowled Raqibul Hasan (23) and Ray Price had Mehrab
Hossain (2) stumped in the next over, with Bangladesh stumbling to 95-6.

Al Hasan cobbled together a 31-run stand for the seventh wicket with Naeem
Islam, but fell on 52 when Elton Chigumbura had him caught behind by Tatenda

It was the ninth one-day international half-century for Al Hasan, who also
took 3-23, and Bangladesh crumbled after his departure with two runouts
accounting for Mashrafe bin Mortaza (3) and Islam (21). Tailenders Mahbubul
Alam and Nazmul Hossain made 21 runs in a last ditch effort, but
Bangladesh's innings ended with 22 balls left when Stuart Matsikenyeri
caught Alam (22) on the boundary rope off Price.

"Starting 2009 with a win, is good for us," Utseya said. Earlier, man of the
match Chigumbura hit a half century to steady Zimbabwe innings after they
had slipped to 94-5, allowing the visitors to post a defendable total.

Al Hasan, a left-arm spinner, trapped opener Vusi Sibanda (15) and
middle-order batsman Sean Williams (3) lbw, then dismissed Utseya (9).

Part-time offspinner Islam dismissed top-order pair Taibu (17) and
Matsikenyeri (39), and then caught and bowled Dabengwa (10) to return career
best figures of 3-32.

Chigumbura's hit his eighth test fifty, off 90 balls with four boundaries,
in a calm innings when a steadying hand was needed before being run out for

The result left Bangladesh needing to beat Sri Lanka to have a chance of
reaching the final.

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