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Mrs Mugabe assaults our photographer

January 18, 2009

Jon Swain and Michael Sheridan in Hong Kong
A Sunday Times photographer has been beaten up and punched repeatedly in the
face by the wife of President Robert Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe, 43, known as the First Shopper of Zimbabwe, flew into a rage
when she was spotted last week leaving the exclusive Shangri-La hotel in
Hong Kong. She has been staying there with her entourage at a cost of £2,000
a day while her country endures poverty, hunger and disease.

Holding a Jimmy Choo-style bag estimated to be worth at least £2,000, and
hiding behind Cavalli rhine-stone-framed glasses with a red cashmere shawl
over her head, she ordered her bodyguard to attack the photographer, Richard

While the guard tried to wrestle away Jones's camera, she joined in the

"The man held him while she hit him again and again in the face with her
fists. She was screaming, completely crazy," said Werner Zapletal, a tourist
from Austria who witnessed the incident.

Jones 42, suffered nine cuts, abrasions and bruises to the face and head
caused by the heavy, diamond-encrusted rings Mugabe was wearing, according
to a medical report by Dr Raymond Ng, a general practitioner in Hong Kong.

During the assault more burly bodyguards came running from the hotel but
were intercepted by security men from a nearby commercial building.

Mugabe and her female companion fled around a corner seeking to hide their
faces, only to run straight into a second photographer, Tim O'Rourke. He
snapped a few pictures before she flew at him with her fists flying, pulled
his hair and tried to smash his camera. She then hurried back to her
five-star refuge.

The Hong Kong police, who were called to the scene, detained the bodyguard.
He was allowed to go after questioning. The police took a statement from
Jones last night.

Officers at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station will study CCTV footage of the
incident, which they are treating as "serious" and "political". A decision
on whether to press charges is pending but Mugabe could claim immunity from

Jones, who has worked for The Sunday Times for 15 years, said the guard held
on to him, trying to grab his camera, as Mugabe approached.

"Out of the corner of my eye I saw her charging towards me in a rage. As
soon as she arrived she started trying to get my camera too. I wouldn't let
go. He held me and she just started aiming punches into my face," he said.

"She was standing there in a mad rage, screaming something at me, and just
kept lining up the punches, all into my face. She had some nice jewellery
and was aware it would cut me, I'm sure. She looked totally deranged.

"I thought, how can a first lady be doing this? I was in shock more at the
situation than the punches."

Before she embarked on her Far East holiday at the beginning of January,
Mugabe withdrew US$92,000 from the central bank in Harare, Zimbabwe-an
sources said. Accompanied by her children, she stayed first at the Malaysian
island resort of Langkawi. She then moved on to Singapore where she was
joined by her husband for a few days.

There had been speculation in Zimbabwe that the president would cancel his
annual holiday in the face of a growing economic and political crisis. The
country is beset by a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 2,100

Over the past nine months Zimbabwe has been without a legal government.
Talks to implement a power-sharing agreement have collapsed and hostility to
his rule has intensified. Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, returned
for talks yesterday after two months in Botswana.

Annual inflation has soared to more than 231m% and a Z$100 trillion banknote
was introduced on Friday. Dozens of activists have been detained, accused of
plotting to overthrow the regime.

Nevertheless the Mugabes went ahead with their holiday. While the president
stayed on in Singapore until January 11 before flying home, his wife flew to
Hong Kong on January 9 and installed herself in the £600anight Harbour suite
on the 18th floor of the Shangri-La.

There she played hostess to the couple's daughter, Bona, who studies in the
city, and to a stream of relatives and friends. She rarely went out but
other members of the party were ferried around in black limousines costing
£60 an hour.

Grace Mugabe is more than 40 years younger than her 84-year-old husband.
Formerly his secretary and mistress, she finally married him in 1996 after
the death of his wife of 30 years, Sally, a Ghanaian intellectual. They have
three children, Bona, Robert and Chatunga.

Grace Mugabe has often been blamed for encouraging her husband's extreme
views. Last year she said he would never surrender power.

Since becoming first lady, she has spent a fortune on foreign shopping
trips, built a mansion in Harare, dubbed Gracelands, and acquired several
formerly white-owned farms. Once, when asked why she spent thousands on
expensive Ferragamo shoes while her people starved, she replied: "I have
very narrow feet, so I wear only Ferragamo."

She used to indulge her passion for shopping in the boutiques of Paris, New
York and London. But when America and the European Union imposed sanctions
on the Mugabes and their cronies they turned to the Far East.

Hours after the fracas on Thursday she left Hong Kong for home, where many
call her "Dis Grace" behind her back.

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British kill entire elephant herds

January 18, 2009

Hunting parties are paying out thousands to kill elephants, including
calves, in Zimbabwe
Daniel Foggo
BRITISH hunters, including a prominent Harley Street surgeon, have been
paying the Zimbabwean authorities thousands of pounds each to take part in a
mass elephant cull.

They are among groups of hunters who have been permitted to track and kill
whole herds, including their calves, before taking photographs of themselves
with the carcasses.

Rumours that Zimbabwe was culling its population of 80,000-100,000 elephants
have been circulating for some time, but definitive proof that foreigners
have been paying to be involved has emerged only now.

Elephant culls are highly controversial. They typically involve killing
every animal in a herd, usually about a dozen strong, and they are condemned
as brutal and unnecessary by many conservationists.

Supporters argue that the animals are destroying ecosystems by stripping
whole areas of edible foliage and monopolising water sources, and that
killing is the only effective method of population control.

Alternatives, such as habitat expansion, relocation and even the use of
contraception, are proposed by wildlife campaign groups, but the hunters
reject them as unworkable.

Peter Carr, a professional hunting outfitter from Yorkshire, took a party to
the Hwange national park last year to cull a herd of 11 elephants, including
some "adolescent" calves.

The game reserve, which is Zimbabwe's largest at more than 5,600 square
miles, is said to be home to about 50,000 elephants, more than double its

One of Carr's party was Benjamin Chang, a British ortho-paedic surgeon who
is based in London's Harley Street. He paid £5,600 to take part, most of
which was passed on to the Zimbabwean park authorities.

Chang and Carr shot three elephants each. Unlike conventional
trophy-hunters, clients taking part in culls are not permitted to keep any
part of the elephant; but they are allowed to take photographs.

Ivory from slaughtered elephants has been legally sold by the Zimbabwean
authorities to China and Japan. Last November, Zimbabwe sold nearly four
tons of ivory in a one-off sale permitted under international law, for

The British hunters, who used specialist rifles to kill the elephants, said
shooting was the most humane method of killing, although sometimes more than
one shot was necessary to dispatch an animal.

Elephant welfare campaigners were horrified. Will Travers of the Born Free
Foundation said: "These days it takes something pretty extraordinary to
shock and distress as far as Zimbabwe is concerned. But news of the
slaughter of elephants inside national parks still has the power to make you
sick to your stomach."

Michael Wamithi, the elephant programme manager for the International Fund
for Animal Welfare said British hunters paying to kill elephants were
unlikely to help Zimbabwean conservation efforts. "Because of the corruption
and financial situation I would be surprised if anything at all reached
conservation or communities," he said.

However, Carr said he believed that the money would be used to help maintain
the stability of the wildlife in the park.

Carr, author of a forthcoming book, Death in the Bush Veldt, which includes
chapters on hunting elephants and other big game, said: "The elephants are
slowly turning the land there into a desert. I consider myself a champion
for elephants but they must be culled, although it's such an awful word it
makes the bunnyhuggers spit their dummies out.

"No one feels great after culling a herd: it is quite a sombre mood. You
have to kill all of them - if any escape they can spread panic in other

Carr said the cull has been kept low-key. "I was asked last year if I could
find clients to go over and shoot 100 elephants as part of the cull," he

"I took one party over [including Chang] and had another 18 clients lined
up, half of whom were British, but after that the reports of violence and
unrest caused them to back out."

The overall African elephant population has dropped from 1.3m in 1979 to
about 500,000 today, but in some areas they are considered too numerous.
South Africa is proposing a cull of elephants in Kruger national park for
the first time since 1995.

In Zimbabwe starving people have resorted to killing elephants for food, and
recent reports have suggested Mu-gabe's soldiers are being given meat from

Chang, 49, said it was right to use the elephants to feed the Zimbabwean
people. "The meat goes to the village. They are queuing at the camp saying,
'Please give us the meat.' I was told one elephant will feed one village for
3½ months," he said.

The hunter, who struck a thumbs-up pose for a picture of him astride an
elephant he had shot, went on to shoot a lioness in South Africa. He
defended the practice of foreigners paying to kill elephants. "The army
could have done the cull themselves but they don't have the right guns. You
can't use an automatic rifle, that would just be cruel," he said.

Rich game

Big game hunting is a rich man's pastime. Hunters must pay a fee to kill
each animal, and are usually allowed to keep the skins as a "trophy".

The so-called big five are the most popular prey. A bull elephant costs
upwards of £6,500 and can be as expensive as £37,000. Lions cost between
£8,000 and £15,000, buffalos from £6,000 and leopards between £8,000 and
£15,000. White rhinos, which are often tranquillised with a dart rather than
killed, start at about £5,000.

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Mbeki no longer part of talks - Tsvangirai

Charles Molele and Sunday Times Foreign Desk
Published:Jan 18, 2009

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is not welcome to attend the
power-sharing talks due to start in Harare tomorrow.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change, told
the Sunday Times that Mbeki was no longer part of the mediation efforts
because he was biased and too soft on 84-year-old Robert Mugabe.

"Our relationship with Mbeki has irretrievably broken down and as far as I
am concerned SADC chairman and South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and
the SADC itself are in charge of dealing with mediation efforts," he said.

The relationship between Mbeki and the MDC became untenable in November last
year when Mbeki, in a letter dated November 2, accused the MDC of not
respecting decisions made by African leaders.

Tsvangirai took offence at the tone of the letter, and in response wrote to
Motlanthe as SADC chairman, accusing Mbeki of being biased against his

Another senior member of the MDC said: "I don't know who invited him or what
he is going to do. He can go to Harare, but we have nothing to do with him.

"The talks are between Tsvangirai, Motlanthe and Mugabe. Period."

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said Tsvangirai should raise his
issues with Mbeki with the SADC, which had appointed him as mediator.

"But if in future SADC comes and says you are no longer mediator, then he
will not impose himself," said Ratshitanga.

Tsvangirai returned home for the first time in over two months yesterday.

"I'm very glad to be back home," he said as he was mobbed by supporters
while being escorted to a waiting vehicle.

The MDC leader left Zimbabwe on November 10 for self-imposed exile in
Botswana after the Mugabe regime refused to renew his passport.

Although Mugabe gave him a passport on Christmas Day, Tsvangirai did not
return as he was advised that his personal safety could not be guaranteed.

Tsvangirai has now returned home for talks on the deadlock in a
power-sharing agreement reached last September but never implemented.

Mbeki was scheduled to attend the talks along with Motlanthe and the
president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza.

The MDC national council was due to meet today to discuss the pending talks.

Tsangirai vowed yesterday that he would not join a coalition government if
his party's demands were not fully met.

"I must emphasise that we are not going to be bullied into joining a
government that does not represent the people," he said when he arrived in
the country.

He added that he hoped tomorrow's meeting would deliver an "acceptable,
inclusive government".

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that the UN Children's Fund will give 5-million to
Zimbabwe's ailing health sector to help bring striking doctors back to work
to fight the worsening cholera epidemic. - Additional reporting by Sapa

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ZIMBABWE: Now a 'Factory for Poverty'
By Ephraim Nsingo  

HARARE, Jan 17 (IPS) - Over 75 percent of the people in crisis-riddled Zimbabwe are living in desperate poverty, with children bearing the brunt. And with rival parties still wrangling over implementation of a power-sharing agreement signed four months ago, things are likely to get worse before they improve.

A report released by Save the Children (SCF) found that 10 out of the 13 million people still in Zimbabwe live in abject poverty, struggling to access food and other essentials. A local alliance of non-governmental organisations said the figures could be higher than that.

"Many children are going without education - around 75 percent of state schools are not functioning properly because the majority of state teachers are not working as they are not paid enough to survive and have to look for or work for food. Many poor families are being forced to send their children out to find work or wild foods and simply can no longer afford to send them to school," adds the report.

The Advocacy and Public Policy Manager of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), Fambai Ngirande, said the reality on the ground is actually "way beyond those figures and the situation is worsening".

"A largely man-made, preventable and grossly unnecessary situation, the result of years of failed policies and the self-seeking actions of the ruling political elites whose corrupt and undemocratic tendencies have worsened the situation by heightening the levels of inequality to alarming levels."

Ngirande said hunger was now forcing many people to resort to desperate measures like prostitution and child labour, while others were now eating poisonous roots and wild fruits.

Commuter fares in urban areas now change twice a day, forcing most workers to camp at their workplace during the week and go home only on weekends. Skilled professionals are also quitting their in droves to take up menial jobs.

Although middle class professionals like nurses and teachers have been left unable to subsist because of the crisis, Ngirande said "it is vulnerable groups such as the elderly, People Living with HIV/AIDS, orphaned children, the disabled and others that have been hardest hit".

The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe said the state of poverty among teachers was a scandal.

"If you want, I can take you to Cheziya bus terminus in Gokwe, and show you a fomer headmaster who is now a rank marshall at the terminus," said Majongwe, referring to a sprawling agricultural town in the Midlands Province.

He accused the government of deliberately ignoring the plight of teachers, who have repeatedly been labelled as opposition supporters.

"It is so embarrassing the authorities continue to take this business-as-usual approach when the national fabric continues to decay. Teachers’ salaries have plummeted to several points below the poverty datum line.

"Where on earth have you seen a teacher who cannot afford to buy a packet of milk from his salary? Go into any classroom right now, you will find a teacher selling sweets and other small foodstuffs in order to survive, that’s not proper."

Ngirande says the country is paying a high cost in development terms.

"The desperate competition for scarce resources that has been precipitated by this poverty and inequality is breeding grounds for civil strife and social unrest especially given the present politically volatile situation."

Because while the poor continue to sink deeper into poverty, a small section of Zimbabwe’s elite are enjoying every moment in Zimbabwe. They access foreign currency at official exchange rates from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for a song, which they then use for mostly illegal deals like buying and reselling cars, and dealing in gold and diamonds. The well-connected are able to import vehicles duty-free, and resell them at high prices in foreign currency.

In Harare this elite is not difficult to identify. They drive the latest fancy cars, dine at expensive restaurants such as KwaMambo in Avondale, and frequent expensive clubs like "Room 10" in plush Borrowdale Brooke, where they spend hundreds of U.S. dollars on an evening's entertainment.

But with a third of Zimbabwean children undernourished, the failure of water and sewage infrastructure triggering a cholera epidemic that has already claimed 2,200 lives, and hyperinflation officially acknowledged to be at 243 million percent - in reality much, much higher - humanitarian workers are describing Zimbabwe as "one of the world's most active factories of poverty".

Save the Children says it has scaled up its work in the areas of education, health, livelihoods, protection and food provision.

Terna Gyuse adds from Cape Town: Movement for Democratic Change leader (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe on Jan. 17, after more than two months spent in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana. He is expected to meet with Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) leader Robert Mugabe to restart discussions on a power-sharing deal.

Tsvangirai fell just short of outright victory in the first-round and withdrew from a run-off election in the face of brutal violence by ZANU. An agreement on sharing power was reached, but implementation stalled over the allocation of key ministries and the balance of power between the two principal parties.

"The MDC will not be bulldozed into an agreement which does not meet the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe," Tsvangirai said on his return to Harare.

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Passports Now Out of Reach for Poor

Saturday, 17 January 2009 20:18

MONICA Dube, a 31-year-old single mother, has been a cross border
trader for the last eight years.

Once a month, Dube would travel either to Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique
or South Africa to sell local traditional foodstuffs and crafts.

On her return journey, she would bring clothing and grocery items for
resale back home. This ensured she earned enough money to pay her rentals
and send her two children to boarding school.

 But Dube is now worried she may no longer be able to continue with
her business following the recent announcement of steep foreign currency
dominated passport fees by the office of the Registrar General (RG).

 "When I came back from Zambia last month, I realised I had less than
one page left in my passport," she said.

 "I went to Makombe (the RG's office in Harare) with the hope of
renewing the passport, but I left devastated after being told all passport
charges were now in foreign currency.
"I realised the fees were just too much for me."

In December, the RG's office released a schedule containing new
foreign currency-denominated fees for passports charges.

 A new adult passport now costs a whopping US$670, while children now
pay US$607 for the precious document. A lost passport would now fetch an
additional US$400.

 Even an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) valid for six months will set
a prospective driver US$50 back.

 Before the new fees, the government was charging US$220 for an
emergency passport for adults and US$120.

The new charges rank Zimbabwean passports as the most expensive in the

In the United States, when submitting a passport application in
person, one parts with a US$75 application fee and US$25 execution fee,
bringing the total cost to US$100.

 The execution fee is waived for postal applications. In South Africa,
the most expensive passport costs R352, about 5% of the fee in Zimbabwe.

 The Secretary for Home Affairs in the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, said the new charges were a Zanu PF ploy to stop
MDC supporters from going across the borders to buy food.

He said the move would backfire because even Zanu PF supporters needed
to travel to Botswana, South Africa, and other neighbouring countries to buy

Nkomo said there was no justification for the government to make
ordinary citizens suffer most, when senior officials were spending foreign
currency on luxuries.

 "What audit has been done to justify such exorbitant increases? If
they need money to meet production costs, they should tap from the same
source where they have been getting money to buy each other cars, and
travelling all over the world.

 "The intention to charge ordinary people in forex is an underlying
problem of the decay of the fabric of this administration. It is a shame, a
real shame for the government. This is enough for them to resign," said

 As evidence that the new fees have hit hard ordinary Zimbabweans,
just a few weeks after the charges were announced, long winding queues that
used to be the order of the day at Makombe Building in Harare and various
provincial registries across the country have all but disappeared.

 Registry officials said they were now spending most of their time
doing nothing at the offices.

 One worker at the passport office said the noticeable trend so far
since the announcement of the new charges was the dominance of foreign-based
Zimbabweans applying for passports for their families.

 The new foreign currency denominated passport fees would, in the long
run, turn most Zimbabweans into home prisoners, they said.

 On Friday, there were only eight people applying for passports at the
provincial registry in Masvingo, a far cry from the hundreds who would
converge on the office at any given time.

 Workers at the RG's office said they were spending most of their time
at work sitting as they are now having little work to do as few people are
coming to offices.

  "From the day they announced the charges, the number off people
coming here has dwindled so much and we can have as little as ten people
per-day," said one worker at the Provincial Registry.

 Residents who spoke to The Standard said the new charges were

 "We can't afford these charges and a lot of people will not be able
to get travel documents in future.

 "I think the government wants to stop people from leaving the country
by denying them passports through these exorbitant fees," Tapiwa Smart of
Yeukai suburb in Masvingo.

 Another resident, Ladson Mhango of Mucheke, said the exorbitant fees
were an attempt to raise foreign currency to pay civil servants who are
demanding to be paid in hard currency.

A number of people interviewed at the Bulawayo Registry Office said
the new fees, which they said had not been publicised well enough for
everybody to know them, shocked them.

 Sithembinkosi Nyoni, a cross-border trader selling her wares in
Botswana and South Africa, said: "I just came here anticipating that the
fees which were in application some few weeks ago were still in place.

 "I got the shock of my life when I was told the prices had gone up
and this means I will no longer be able to travel to Botswana and South
Africa to conduct my business. I am doomed."

Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede was not available for comment on


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UN Urges Urgent Action on Water Crisis to Curb Cholera

Saturday, 17 January 2009 20:07
ZIMBABWE needs to urgently address the issue of collapsing water and
sanitation infrastructure if the cholera outbreak that has claimed more than
2 000 lives is to be addressed, a top United Nations Official said

Speaking at a press conference at the end of a two-day visit, United
Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) executive director, Ann Veneman said the
epidemic was yet to be brought under control.

She made the comments after meeting President Robert Mugabe to discuss
the worsening humanitarian crisis and its impact, particularly on women and

She also met UN staff based in Harare and heads of relief agencies
working to control the outbreak.

Her meetings took place as the World Health Organisation (WHO) on
Friday reported that a total of 2 201 people had died of cholera while about
41 986 cases had been attended to since August last year.

It said the bulk of the new cases were reported in places such as
Bikita (501) in Masvingo province while in Mashonaland West, Makonde (262)
and Kadoma (142) were the most affected.

Veneman, who is the highest-ranking UN official to visit the country
since the cholera epidemic surfaced in Chitungwiza in August, said the
outbreak of cholera was merely a tip of the iceberg.

"The economy in Zimbabwe is crumbling, with the highest inflation rate
in the world at 231 million percent.
"Over half of the population is receiving food aid, health centres
have closed and when the school term starts there is no guarantee that there
will be enough teachers."

Veneman announced a US$5 million grant to the government for
incentives to be used in luring doctors and nurses back to work.

Veneman stressed the money should not be used for salaries.

Meanwhile support continued to pour in for the fight against cholera
with the Botswana Red Cross Society on Friday donating P1 million worth of
drugs and medical supplies.

Handing over the donation at the National Pharmaceutical Company, the
Zimbabwe Red Cross Society president, Edmore Shamu said cholera has caused
profound suffering for countless families in Zimbabwe.

Shamu said although the response by aid agencies was commendable,
government needed to address the root causes of the epidemic.


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Zinwa Admits Failure

Saturday, 17 January 2009 13:53
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) last week admitted that
it was overwhelmed by the extent of pipe bursts in Harare, casting doubt
over its ability to restore normal water supplies.

Despite the current wet spell, most parts of Harare's CBD have been
without water for the past two weeks, raising fears efforts to contain the
unrelenting cholera outbreak could be in vain.

Even premises housing senior officials in the Ministry of Water -
under which Zinwa falls -have not been spared.

Zinwa general manager Lisben Chipfunde said the water authority was
faced with a serious shortage of resources, which could result in them not
resolving the problems soon.

The ageing piping which needs to be replaced has compounded the
problem, he said.

"We have had many cases of burst water pipes and the situation has
been a result of the shortage of material to attend to burst water pipes in
most areas in the CBD," he said.

"We do not have enough resources to attend to the leakages," said
Chipfunde, adding that the parastatal was also facing financial constraints.

He said the sourcing of spare parts and materials to repair burst
pipes had become a major challenge.

"The suppliers have got the spare parts but the problem is that they
will not give us without any cash up front," Chipfunde said. "We do not have
the money."

This left the utility with no option but to cut supplies in areas with
burst pipes, he said.

In Harare, parts of the CBD and the Avenues area had been without
water for two weeks, affecting the flow of business.

Chipfunde said the situation was likely to persist, as there were many
areas that needed attention.
Most shops and food outlets in the city centre have also been
operating without water.

Among the most affected areas is Number 1 Kwame Nkrumah Ave, which
among others, houses the offices of Deputy Minister of Water Resources and
Infrastructure Development, Walter Mzembi, the Competition and Tariff
Competition as well as The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent newspapers.


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Soldiers Seize Gono's Chickens

Saturday, 17 January 2009 18:59
UNIDENTIFIED soldiers raided Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono's farm
in Norton and forcibly took 175 chickens valued at US$787.50.

Chinhoyi police records show six armed soldiers who were driving a
Chinese white half tonne truck arrived at New Donnington farm around
14.30hrs on Thursday and asked the farm manager Philip Musvuuri to load all
the chickens at gunpoint.

The soldiers are said to have told the manager that they would not pay
for the chickens because Gono owed them money.

According to the record, the soldiers said that they had failed to get
their salaries deposited in their banks following a directive by Gono that
limited cash withdrawals.

They left without paying.

A security guard filed a complaint with Norton police who referred the
matter to Chinhoyi.

Gono could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, disgruntlement has been mounting among members of the
uniformed forces over the past few months.

Last month some soldiers looted clothes and cash in Harare and were
only stopped after the army and police launched joint patrols in the city.
Soldiers are demanding their pay in foreign currency.

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AU Challenged Over Zim Rights Abuses

Saturday, 17 January 2009 18:56
HUMAN rights campaigners have challenged the African Union to denounce
the persecution of government critics in Zimbabwe when leaders converge for
the annual summit in Addis Ababa next week.

They said the AU's silence and lack of vision on the crisis in
Zimbabwe, particularly the current crackdown on dissenting voices, was

African leaders meet in the Ethiopian capital from January 26 to
February 3 for the organisation's 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of
Heads of State and Government, 17th Ordinary Session of the Permanent
Representatives Committee (PRC), and the 14th Ordinary Session of the
Executive Council (EC).

 But there's growing scepticism that not much could come out of the
meeting regarding the crisis in Zimbabwe, as the AU has in the past
"squandered numerous opportunities" to resolve it.

Amnesty International said the AU should publicly denounce the
persecution of government critics by state security agents, and deploy human
rights monitors to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses.

 The group's deputy Africa programme director, Veronique Aubert, said:
"The AU needs to make a strong statement that this is unacceptable to
African leadership".

 "African leaders have squandered numerous opportunities to end the
persecution of government critics in Zimbabwe," said Aubert.

  "They (African leaders) continue to be deaf to cries for help and
have chosen to be unmoved by ongoing evidence of human suffering in the

  "The silence of African leaders and their failure to condemn the
government's blatant disregard for human rights has significantly
contributed to the prolonging of the Zimbabwean human rights crisis."

 Among other things, Aubert said, the AU - which alongside the
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) guaranteed a power-sharing
agreement between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations on September 15 2008 -
should deploy human rights monitors to Zimbabwe.

 Aubert said Zimbabwean authorities were "clearly committing grave
human rights violations in an attempt to silence critics and political

 "The AU should immediately call for an end to human rights violations
by the security forces and decide to deploy human rights monitors," Aubert

 Human rights researcher Simeon Mawanza said the Summit "presents a
crucial opportunity for African leaders to speak out and show solidarity
with the people of Zimbabwe, rather than just with the leaders".

 Activists are expected to converge in Addis Ababa, where they will
picket in an attempt to pressure Africa to express outrage at the torture of
human rights defenders.


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ZBH Bid to Axe Workers Flops

Saturday, 17 January 2009 20:05
The Retrenchment Board last week threw out a case in which the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) sought to dismiss six of its
journalists following their suspension in June last year.

Monica Gavela, Patrice Makova, Garikai Chaunza, Brian Paradza, Robert
Tapfumaneyi and Sibonginkosi Mlilo were suspended from June 1 to July 31
under controversial circumstances.

 Rodgers Matsikidze who represented the six said the board ruled that
ZBH failed to follow proper retrenchment procedures.

"ZBH were told that they should have met with the Works Council before
coming to the decision of retrenching the journalists," Matsikidze said.

 "They were advised to go back to the workplace and start the process
afresh if they still wished to retrench the journalists."

Meanwhile, the employees will be entitled to full salaries and
benefits pending the re-initiation of the process.

 The six were suspended following allegations that the state
broadcaster had failed to adequately campaign for President Robert Mugabe in
the run-up to last March' elections where he was beaten by Movement for
Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

  The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) helped the journalists to
challenge both their suspension and attempts to retrench them in the courts.

 ZBH spokesperson, Sivukile Simango said he could not comment on the
matter as he had not seen the ruling.


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Anxiety mounts over Parly Debate on Amendment 19 Parly

Saturday, 17 January 2009 18:44
PARLIAMENT is expected to resume sitting on Tuesday with the draft
legislation that would enable the formation of a new inclusive government
high on the agenda.

This comes nearly five months after the country's major parties signed
the historic power-sharing agreement.

Analysts say Constitutional Amendment No 19 that seeks to legalise the
September 15 Global Political Agreement between Zanu PF and the two
formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is one of the most
important pieces of legislation in Zimbabwe's turbulent history.

But two days before legislators in the hung parliament gather to begin
debate on the Bill, its passage remains uncertain amid rising tension
between Zanu PF and the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC.]

There are even fears MPs would not be interested in the key matter on
the agenda - debate on the Bill - as anger boils over at the recent spate of
abductions of MDC supporters and their incarceration on allegations of
recruiting bandits.

Human rights groups say 32 opposition activists have been abducted and
tortured by state security agents since October. The MDC last week said 12
of its members were still missing.

Gorden Moyo, the director of Bulawayo Agenda, said the co-operation of
MDC-T MPs in passing the amendment would depend on the outcome of tomorrow's
meeting between President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

The meeting, to be attended by South African President Kgalema
Motlanthe, Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza, and Thabo Mbeki, the
inter-party mediator, will seek ways to resolve differences between the two
main parties that have stalled the implementation of the power-sharing

"Much will depend on the meeting on Monday since the Prime
Minister-designate is coming back into the country," Moyo said. "It will
depend on how he is received and whether Mugabe is going to respond well to
the MDC's concerns.

"If the issues are resolved and MDC conditions (to join the unity
government) are met, parliament will be smooth.

"But if they are not resolved the issue of abductions might overshadow
the debate and Constitutional Amendment No.19 might not be debated at all."

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist, Professor Eldred
Masunungure said tomorrow's meeting would be a "do or die" affair because if
the principals of the three parties fail to agree on the way forward, the
amendment could be doomed.

"The meeting of the principals under the Sadc facilitation will be
decisive," he said. "If the principals agree on the 19th (tomorrow) what
happens on the 20th might not be important."

Masunungure said theoretically the amendment should sail through after
the parties endorsed its text last month but the latest developments that
include the abductions, could force the MDC-T to harden its stance.

Tsvangirai's formation might also use the opportunity to extract more
concessions from Mugabe.

 "I have little doubt the MDC concerns about these abductions and the
developments since the signing of September 15 agreement will take centre
stage during deliberations," he said. "On the other hand Zanu PF will be
trying to repulse the attacks, ridiculing MDC -T and praising the amendment.

Moyo said Zanu PF had no choice but to ensure the amendment is passed
to save the party from collapse, while the MDC still had some options.

Deputy Information and Publicity Minister Bright Mutonga admitted as
much when he told South African public radio on Friday that Zanu PF could
not go it alone.

"We cannot go it alone," Matonga said. "This is the point we are
making.we need the MDC."
Edmore Mushoriwa, the spokesman for the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC
formation said the country's humanitarian disaster and the worsening
economic situation made it imperative for both Zanu PF and MDC-T to reach a
compromise on the way forward.

"We hope that parliamentarians coming from constituencies where people
are suffering will give this issue the serious consideration it deserves,"
he said. "The longer we delay this process (forming a new government) the
bigger the divisions between Mugabe and Tsvangirai will become.

"There is a need for people to realise that compromise is not a sign
of weakness but strength."

He said as a party the formation was determined to push through the
amendment for a speedy resolution to the country 's multifaceted crisis.

But the formation would not have much say on the progress of the Bill
with its 10 representatives in the House of Assembly.

The Bill requires a two-thirds majority to pass through parliament.
Mugabe threatened to call fresh elections if it fails but Moyo said the
ageing leader lost the legitimacy to dissolve parliament when Tsvangirai
beat him in the March elections.

"He had the legitimacy to dissolve parliament prior to March," he
said. "It's no longer possible to dissolve parliament and if he does that
his few friends in Sadc will forget about him."

The Bill would among other things amend the constitution by
substituting the chapter on Citizenship to make it more comprehensive, make
specific provisions for the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and
Orders, and provide for the appointment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
chairperson and members of the Anti-Corruption Commission by the president.

The appointments must be done in consultation with the Committee on
Standing Rules and Orders.


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Zim Students Drop Out as Cash Crunch Bites

Saturday, 17 January 2009 14:03
FOREIGN tertiary institutions are recording a massive dropout of
students and declining pass rates as the continuing political and economic
crisis takes its toll on the education sector.

A survey by The Standard has revealed the situation was dire at most
institutions where students were dropping out after failing to pay fees.

The majority of students at these institutions are unable to raise the
foreign currency-denominated fees, resulting in them missing classes or
having to cut down on modules.

Among the institutions affected are the United Kingdom's Nottingham
Trent University (NTU) and the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Institutions that administer chartered accountancy programmes have also been

Speaking at the institution's tenth graduation ceremony in Harare, the
local director of NTU's Master of Business Administration programme, Mahomed
Hassan, said the university's pass rate fell to 57%, from 67% in the
previous academic year.

He said this was as a result of massive dropouts of students who could
no longer afford to pay their fees. The pass rate was a far cry from the
80-90% recorded during the institution's first eight years in Zimbabwe.

Power outages, and transport and communication constraints also
resulted in students not submitting their assignments on time.

"The harsh economic environment has negatively affected our
programmes. We have had many students opting out of various programmes since
they could no longer afford the fees," said Hassan.

"The economic situation is harsh and unconducive for a proper learning

Last year alone, Hassan said 52 out of 70 students deferred their
studies, as they could not finish their course work on time owing to
financial constraints.

He also highlighted that even lecturing staff had not been spared by
the harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe.

The only way out was to have "policies that will bring about economic
and political stability", he said.

Last month, Unisa, which has the highest enrolment of Zimbabwean
students in distance learning, shut down its examination centres and said
affected students will have to travel to Polokwane or Pretoria for their
2009 exams.

An official at Trust Academy who requested anonymity said the move by
Unisa has already resulted in a 50% decline of enrolment through local
institutions as students struggle to access foreign currency for fees and

The scenario was the same at the Open Learning Centre and various
colleges around Harare, officials said.
A Unisa module costs R1 400.

Mandiveyi Fungayi Mark, who graduated with an MBA from NTU, said
completing the programme was a challenge because of the exorbitant costs.
The MBA costs 7 000 British pounds.

Although the pass rate could not be immediately confirmed at state
universities, students' activists said the situation was dire.

Blessing Vava, spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Students' Union
(Zinasu) said the country's 44 tertiary institutions were now "producing
half-baked graduates".

"There has been virtually no learning at state institutions, that is
universities and colleges," said Vava. "The current political impasse is
having a direct negative impact on students. It is impossible to produce
world-class students under the current environment."

The economic crisis also forced most companies that were financially
supporting their workers enrolled in long distance classes to suspend their

Locally, the Midlands State University informed students that lectures
would resume tomorrow. An official at the college however said it was
unlikely they would start teaching as most students had not paid the new
foreign currency fees of between US$550 and $1 200 per semester.

"There is no guarantee that lectures will commence on Monday because
as lecturers we still remain incapacitated to go to work," said a lecturer
who requested anonymity.

"The authorities refused to divulge how much the university will be
giving to the lecturers to top up the US$50 which the government is said to
be willing to pay and we will not return to work after only being promised."

MSU pro-Vice Chancellor, Rungano Zvobgo referred questions to the Vice
Chancellor, Ngwabi Bhebhe when asked for a comment on the institution's
re-opening. Bhebhe said he was on leave.

Zinasu last week unveiled a programme to resist the foreign currency
fees. The union also dispatched a team to the MSU to check if students were
paying the forex denominated fees.


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Safari Lodge Dispute: Evicted Operator Sues John Nkomo

Saturday, 17 January 2009 14:01
BULAWAYO - A safari operator whose property was damaged during an
eviction from a disputed lodge last month is claiming US$200 000 in damages
from John Nkomo (pictured),  the Zanu PF chairman.

Nkomo evicted his neighbour Langton Masunda from Jijima Lodge in the
wildlife-rich Gwayi River Conservancy in Matabeleland North after obtaining
a High Court judgement in his favour.

 High Court Judge-President, Rita Makarau, ruled against Masunda after
his lawyers arrived late for the November hearing.

Masunda has applied for a rescission of the judgement, which is still
pending before the court.

 Masunda's lawyer, Vonani Majoko of Majoko & Majoko Legal
Practitioners said his client's eviction was illegal and was being

"He was supposed to be given the 48 hours to enable him to move his
property," Majoko said.

"But he was not given the chance to do that and as a result the
property was damaged, and was also exposed to the rain."

Nkomo refused to comment on the latest developments. The eviction was
carried out after Nkomo's lawyers, Dube-Banda, Nzarayapenga & Partners
advised the Hwange Messenger of Court to "proceed to serve and evict the
defendant without giving any notice."

 The former Speaker of Parliament who owns Lugo Ranch adjacent to
Masunda's Volunteer Farms 47, 48 and 49 has been battling to take over the
lodge left by a white commercial farmer years ago.

 Prior to Makarau's ruling, Nkomo had lost a series of court cases
over the ownership of the lodge.

The facility lies on the boundary of the two farms and both argue
officials from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement advised the lodge lie
within their respective boundaries.


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HIV Advocacy Groups Restrategise Testing

Saturday, 17 January 2009 13:50
TEN years ago 38-year-old Memory Mwenga fell seriously ill and
relatives were convinced she was dying.

Before her illness Mwenga used to have difficulties sleeping and she
always felt hot and  sweated excessively.

She finally decided to see a doctor.

On her first visit she was given anti-depression tablets as the doctor
thought Mwenga suffered from anxiety problems.

But still there was no improvement. After a while on anti-depressants
Mwenga noticed she quickly tired and was constantly gasping for breath and
went back to the doctor.

This time the doctor recommended she be tested for tuberculosis and
also at the same time ordered a chest X-ray as well as kidney and liver
function tests.

However, while awaiting the results, Mwenga suddenly fell ill. In no
time she had lost a lot of weight and was constantly having problems

For three weeks she was admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital and later
transferred to Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital after her TB test came
back positive.

Mwenga battled for her life for two months at the hospital while on TB
treatment before she was eventually discharged to recover at home.

But there was not much improvement in her health and she remained

After seeing no improvement in her health Mwenga's doctor recommended
an HIV test.

The result came out positive but her CD4 cell count of 55 was even
more shocking.

Her immune system was clearly compromised and she needed to start
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
But there was a problem: the drugs were not yet available in Zimbabwe.

"I was told the drugs had to be imported from South Africa because
they were not available," Mwenga remembers.

"Many people were using herbs back then but the doctor said because my
immune system was very weak the herbs wouldn't do much for me.

"In the end my sister working in the United Kingdom offered to send me
the drugs every month."
After struggling with her illness for months while taking the ARVs
Mwenga says her health finally began to improve.

Today Mwenga is living positively with HIV and continues to take her

She is one of the few lucky HIV+ Zimbabweans who have managed to
access ARVs before it is too late.

Most of the time, because of fear of getting tested and lack of
knowledge of the benefits of getting tested, many people end up going for
HIV tests and seeking treatment when their immune systems are already too

In the end, they fail to respond to ART resulting in their premature

Realising this setback in addressing the pandemic, HIV/Aids
programmers are now advocating for the implementation of the new concept of
Provider Initiated HIV Testing and Counselling (PITC) as opposed to
Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT).

Instead of waiting for people to volunteer to get tested through VCT,
under PITC every health worker is expected to recommend an HIV test to all
patients who visit a health facility and, who present themselves with
symptoms that indicate a possible HIV infection, as part of the standard

According to a guideline published by the World Health Organisation
(WHO) and United Nations Joint HIV/AIDS Programme (UNAIDS) on provider
initiated HIV testing, the health care provider must tell the patient their
reasons for recommending the HIV test and the benefits of getting tested.

The health worker must also tell the patient they have a right to
decline the test and that by declining the HIV test this will not affect the
patient's access to services.

The health workers must also not forget to counsel the patient on what
treatment options and support the patient can get after testing HIV

Dr Paul Chimedza, who was a key speaker at a discussion forum,
organised by the Southern African Aids Information Dissemination Service
(SAFAIDS) last week said if given a chance and under the right conditions
PITC can save a lot of lives.

Dr Chimedza said although VCT is available at a reasonable price, the
number of people getting tested was still very low and this was one of the
reasons why programmers were now pushing for PITC.

"The early diagnosis of HIV infection provides an early point of entry
to prevention and treatment services and this is why PITC is important," he

"If you wait for people to come and get tested the danger is that they
may not even come forward or do so when it is too late."

On the idea of implementing PITC in the collapsing public health
sector, Dr Chimedza said it would be difficult.

Dr Chimedza said even under normal circumstances the concept would
work better if health workers refer those they have recommended for HIV
testing to a counsellor in order to reduce the workload of health workers.

Of the estimated 320 000 people in need of antiretroviral (ARV)
treatment in Zimbabwe, only about 100 000 are accessing the medication at
public health facilities.


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US$900m Needed to Revive Zim Industry

Saturday, 17 January 2009 13:01
ZIMBABWE'S ailing industry requires at least US$900 million to raise
capacity utilisation to about 80%, the latest government economic recovery
plan shows.

Currently industrial capacity stands at 10% after most companies
closed and others scaled down operations extensively in response to the
stunning economic collapse.

According to the yet to be released Proposed Economic Stabilisation
and Recovery Programme for Zimbabwe document compiled in October last year,
the government has identified critical industrial sub sectors "which will
anchor and support the necessary overall economic supply response by
overcoming the industrial output gap."

The gap has led to the importation of almost everything that the
country has capacity to produce and generate foreign currency, the document

Compiled by all Permanent Secretaries,  the document notes the
shortage of foreign currency for refurbishment of obsolete plant and
importation of raw materials and spare parts had knocked down capacity

"In this regard, support to industry in the form of lines of credit,
export credit guarantees and other facilities amounting to US$900 million
for an initial twelve-month period would raise capacity utilisation to about
80%," the document said.

The plan was drafted a month after the historic signing of the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) between the country's three political parties,
Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC.

It said the GPA "offers opportunity for an internal cohesive approach
to the implementation of national economic recovery measures, necessary for
unleashing the country's vast potential".

But almost five months after the agreement was signed, the GPA is yet
to be consummated as the parties haggle over distribution of ministries.
There is hope the deal could be saved from collapse.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, his Mozambican counterpart,
Armando Guebuza and former South African President Thabo Mbeki will travel
to Harare tomorrow to revive the inter-party talks.

On raw materials shortages, the recovery plan said critical support
will focus on key sub sectors, "prioritising resource requirements towards
support for improved access to raw materials and spares, both local and
imported as well as foreign exchange for re-tooling and re-equipping".

"In order to support government efforts to turnaround the economy,
additional foreign exchange resources are, however, required to enhance
capacity utilisation in the economy's broad sectors," it said.

The country's industries are battling for survival after years of
price controls. The introduction of forex shops is projected to boost
capacity utilisation in the sector.


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Banking Sector in Showdown over Forex Pay

Saturday, 17 January 2009 12:59
A potential showdown is looming in the banking sector amid claims
employers were reneging on a collective bargaining agreement signed last
year that could have seen workers being paid in foreign currency.

Sources said during the past fortnight, there were high-level meetings
between the Bankers' Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and officials from the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) aimed at avert a crippling job action.

As part of the agreement, bank employees should have received their
November salaries in foreign currency but they were paid in Zimbabwe

Employers had an option to pay salaries in cash or use the transfer
rate in terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

When the option of paying out in cash was turned down by the RBZ,
banks failed to utilise the other option.

"The workers felt cheated," a source said.

For December, the National Employment Council for the Banking Industry
wanted employees to be paid in US dollars, groceries or coupons.

"Employers said their income streams are in Zimbabwe dollars and they
were not able to pay in foreign currency," a banking executive said.

If the employers had agreed to the proposed payment method, the lowest
paid employee was supposed to get a grocery basket equivalent to US$311 as
net salary, Standardbusiness was told.

Blessings Mujuru, the president of the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied
Workers Union (ZIBAWU) confirmed that employers were still to meet their
side of the bargain.

"What I can confirm is that the November and December salaries have
not been paid in terms of the agreement, which is supposed to be binding,"
he said.

"Employers said they are seeking a dispensation from the Reserve Bank
(to meet the demands) and as late as yesterday (Tuesday), they said 'give us
more time.'"

Mujuru said workers were only being given transport allowances instead
of full salaries in terms of the agreement.

He said employers said they were waiting for the nod from the central
bank and there were suggestions that banks wanted to charge for services in
foreign currency.

The revelations came at a time when the industry was reportedly
mulling retrenchments due to the depressed business environment.

Mujuru said there has been talk of cutting down on costs but there
were no discussions on retrenchments yet.

"What I am aware of is the need for cost containment but employers
have not put anything on the table," he said.

The situation has been aggravated by what analysts say are excessive
controls from the central bank, which threaten to suffocate the sector. The
industry can no longer increase bank charges without approval from the
central bank.

Bankers Employers Association of Zimbabwe president Kuda Makwara
referred all questions to the chairman, Dr John Mangudya.

But Mangudya was not available for comment up to the time of going to


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Alex Magaisa: To join or not to join: MDC

Saturday, 17 January 2009 16:47
THERE can be no doubt that the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai faces a
crucial test when it meets today to decide whether or not to join the
Inclusive Government led by President Mugabe.

Such pivotal moments conjure up unpleasant memories. The last time the
MDC faced a stern test, back in October 2005, it ended up splitting over the
question of whether or not to participate in the Senate elections.

The decision catalysed the split that caused the MDC to become two
formations that have had an uneasy and, quite frankly, unhelpful
relationship to date.

That there are varied and contrasting opinions is evident in the
plethora of media reports and articles.

Perusing the media one is reminded of scenes in a stadium or in front
of the television where spectators of the Beautiful Game are never short of
ideas as to what a manager or player should have done.

There are plenty of 'great' football 'coaches' and 'players' on the
terraces. Many unkind words are uttered.

Yet, if given the uniform and the ball the result is often abysmal.
Observers, like spectators, often comment from a position of detachment and
are often oblivious of the critical factors bearing upon the players.

So, it is with the awareness of the enormity of the challenge that the
MDC leadership faces on the 18th January, that I offer these humble

I seek merely to contextualise and pose questions in the hope that
when they do debate the key issue, they might find time to consider them.

First, it is vital to understand exactly where we are in the
trajectory of Zimbabwean politics so that we can place matters in context.

It is four months now since Zanu PF and the two MDC formations signed
the Global Political Agreement (GPA). There is a wide body of opinion in
agreement on the point that the GPA is a flawed pact.

One day, perhaps the MDC leadership will tell the nation why they ever
put their signatures to it in the form it stands today. Given the time that
has elapsed since, it is hard to understand why there was a rush to append
signatures to it in the first place.

It is not clear at what point they discovered that they had made an
error of judgment but their reaction to it in the aftermath of the lavish
ceremony in September suggests that they found that they had tested the
flooded river not  with a long stick but with both legs in the water.

It is a perilous position, from which you can easily be swept away.
You might wish to return to the bank or to soldier on until you reach the
other side. By signing that agreement, the MDC entered the flood waters.

So in reality, the decision now is not really whether or not to join.
Rather it is whether or not to go ahead and cross the river, facing all the
perils of the flood or to turn back and watch as either the flood grows or

It is important that the MDC now makes a clear decision on the matter.
It is arguable that the GPA, in fact, bought some time for the beleaguered
Zanu PF regime.

It brought hopes of a settlement and in many ways, allowed room for
Mugabe to manouvre from a very sticky wicket especially in respect of his
relationship with Southern African leaders (i.e. Sadc), many of whom were
embarrassed by his antics and prompted to pay close attention to Zimbabwe in
the aftermath of the sham Presidential run-off election of June 27 2008 and
the orgy of violence that preceded it.

At that time Mugabe's standing among his peers was at its most
fragile. The July Memorandum of Understanding plus the GPA two months later
enabled him to hobble back and the passage of time has seemingly caused Sadc
as a body to almost forget the source of the Zimbabwean problem.

Rather, as it appears now, they seem to see Tsvangirai as the problem;
as the person who is stalling on the deal. In that respect, the GPA has been
a welcome relief to Mugabe.

Making Bold Decisions

Regrettably, the MDC position so far has been undermined by apparent
indecision, leading some to question whether they are able to distinguish
between what they want and what can practically be achieved through a
negotiated process.

They have not rejected the GPA but, simultaneously, they have not
accepted it in its present form. Rather, they have stuck to the same
approach along the lines of: 'we are committed to the GPA but only if
outstanding matters are resolved'.

There is a fear, as we approach the 18th January decision-day, that
the same line will be repeated. This, it has to be said, is now playing like
a scratched record and leaves ordinary people none the wiser about the
future or any other alternative strategies.

It may have worked initially but the weakness of this approach is that
it simply purchases time for Mugabe on the Sadc platform.

For as long as there is a veneer of 'dialogue' between the parties in
which Tsvangirai and the MDC are involved, Mugabe's de facto status as
leader is tacitly acknowledged.

SADC will simply sit back and take comfort in the idea that there is
dialogue, which they are supposedly facilitating. It is, therefore,
important, in my opinion, for the MDC to grab the bull by the proverbials
and make a firm decision one way or another.

If Zanu PF has steadfastly refused to deal with the outstanding
issues; if it continues to abduct and violate citizens, including children
as young as two years old; if key appointments have been made
notwithstanding the so-called letter and spirit of the GPA; if court orders
are contemptuously disregarded, what makes one think that further 'dialogue'
will achieve anything different?

If the MDC carefully considers its regional and international
diplomacy, it will probably find that it has now reached a cul-de-sac, at
least as far as Sadc is concerned. There is very little, if anything, to be
achieved through that forum now.

Despite MDC's protests Thabo Mbeki is unlikely to be shifted from his
position as the appointed mediator.

True enough in the normal course of things a mediator has to be agreed
by both parties and can be removed if he loses the confidence of one party.

However, to the extent that Mbeki is a Sadc appointee, one that
neither the MDC nor Zanu PF could possibly reject when he was appointed,
Mbeki's tag as a 'mediator' is grossly misleading.

Although it is hard to accept, the ruckus that followed the Sadc
Resolution of 9 November 2008 which the MDC characterised as a 'nullity' has
undoubtedly caused Sadc leaders to take a more defensive stance as far as
the MDC is concerned.

The MDC may have been right to express annoyance but, it has to be
said, the language was unfortunate especially when you consider that you
have to go back bowl in hand to the same source for further help.

The MDC can also forget the influence of the African Union, which is
likely to continue deferring to Sadc.

It is probably clear now that the UN is a playground for the rich and
powerful, where the likes of Zimbabwe are mere pawns in a big game of global
power politics pitting on the one hand the Western countries led by the US
and UK and on the other hand China and Russia.

In Russia and China, Mugabe has found firm allies, not because they
like the man, no, but because the Zimbabwean story is only a small part of
the global power politics between the big nations.

China and Russia are likely to continue using the veto in favour of
Mugabe regardless of the merits of the matter at hand. It's nothing to do
with ordinary Zimbabweans or even Mugabe - but all to do with the interests
of and balance of power between the big boys on the playground.

The MDC will quite rightly feel aggrieved at the way it has been
treated by SADC but these, sadly, are the realities of political life, which
however you will things to be otherwise, have to be acknowledged so that
decisions can be made in light of the context.

To my mind, the key question for the MDC is, in light of these
circumstances and the apparent limit as to other viable options, on the one
hand what is likely to happen to the people of Zimbabwe if it joins the
Inclusive Government and on the other hand what might happen if it decides
not to go ahead.

This is akin to a cost-benefit analysis. In other words, what are the
likely costs and/or benefits of
joining and likewise, what are the likely costs and/or benefits of not

These costs and benefits either way must be considered and measured
not just in respect of the MDC leadership, but in relation to the ordinary
people of Zimbabwe. If the net result of joining is positive, i.e. the
benefits outweigh the costs and if the net result of not joining is
negative, i.e. the costs exceed the benefits then serious consideration
should be given to joining.

Likewise, if the net result of joining is negative, i.e. the costs
outweigh the benefits and if the net result of not joining is positive, i.e.
the benefits exceed the costs then serious consideration should be given to
not joining.

Admittedly, this sounds like a dry and uninspiring mathematical
formula and sure enough politics is not an exact science but it should only
be taken as a guideline for weighing the critical factors that the MDC
leadership is aware of.

So far as the ordinary people are concerned, there are, to
(reluctantly) borrow the language made infamous by former US Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfield, 'unknown knowns', that is to say, there are
probably things that the MDC knows but which the ordinary people do not

Since the indecision so far and the pursuit of resolution of
'outstanding matters' has yielded nothing and is unlikely to yield more than
is available the MDC needs to consider whether it has other viable

Does it have the appetite and resources, for example, to launch mass
protests? Then again, it has to be considered that this is quite likely to
lead politicians back to the table, for yet more negotiations, perhaps after
more violent deaths and broken limbs.

Chance for Erosion of Dictatorship?

Without wishing to pre-empt that decision, the MDC leadership may wish
to give consideration to the idea of 'erosion of authoritarianism' and
whether in fact this whole process could form part of that erosion that has
been on course for the past nine years.

I refer to the work of Masipula Sithole, who on 11 December 1997 wrote
in his popular weekly newspaper column a paper entitled 'Collapse of ZANU PF's
Authoritarian Rule'. In that article, making reference to the work of
political scholar Alfred Stepan, he argued that it might be helpful to give
thought to an 'incremental process' of the erosion of authoritarianism and
how the opposition could contribute to it as opposed to focussing on its
final collapse.

It is possible that with some subsidence of the fear factor, through
which the regime maintains its power, that the resolve of the regime's
active and passive supporters may eventually weaken, appreciating instead
that their interests are not served by the regime?

Is it possible that the opposition can contribute, through its
presence within the state apparatus to this erosion, yielding, in some
cases, the consent of those who are presently embedded within that
apparatus, not because they want to but due to necessity and survival

Are there agents of change within the state apparatus who might
suddenly 'discover' their resolve once they have rubbed shoulders and gained
the confidence of the newcomers? In other words, is there any potential of
change from within?

These are simply thoughts and questions upon which to ponder as the
MDC decides whether to go ahead against the flood or to turn back before
they are swept away.

The men and women of the MDC who will gather on the 18th of January
have the mandate and, I like to think, the wisdom to make firm decisions.
But one thing is for sure - on that day a firm decision has to be made one
way or another.

Alex Magaisa is based at, Kent Law School, the University of Kent and
can be contacted at  or

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Sunday View: MDC concerned over Attorney-General, Judge's Utterances

Saturday, 17 January 2009 16:37
THE MDC is concerned over the utterances made by the Attorney-General,
Johannes Tomana and Hon. Justice Rita Makarau, the Judge President (JP) of
the High Court this week.

On 14 January 2009, Tomana was quoted expressing how proud he is to
being a Zanu PF functionary.

This is one of the high ranking officials who were recently appointed
to the post of Attorney-General of Zimbabwe against MDC protestations.

Now the Attorney-General of Zimbabwe is a Zanu PF functionary! He has
immense powers. What just prosecution can there ever be for MDC activists
and other human rights defenders who were abducted and are illegally
detained on trumped up charges?

This is the same person whom the Judge President had congratulated in
her speech only on Monday 12 January 2009.

Is there something common between the AG and the JP apart from the
fact that they were both appointed by Robert Mugabe the "lame duck
 President" of Zimbabwe?

The MDC is alarmed at the AG's utterances.  He is clearly a
self-proclaimed partisan official. He even said in his interview that
Jestina Mukoko was a threat to national security.

Meanwhile, in her speech on 12 January 2008, the JP made reference to
parties who contested the 27 June 2008 elections.

The MDC did not participate in any such elections. The MDC made it
clear on 22 June 2008 that it could not participate in an election riddled
with murder, violence, rape, fraud and other malpractices.

We hope the learned JP was not deliberately peddling the Zanu PF
mantra that there was a contested or any other election on 27 June 2008.

Further, the MDC is concerned over the subtle threats made by the JP
over certain lawyers who she alleges attack the Judiciary in the foreign

We have no doubt that the JP was referring to those lawyers who
represent human rights defenders (HRD) and who for so long have been on the
receiving end of the repressive regime under Zanu PF.

We fear that the JP's threats to the lawyers representing HRDs are a
precursor to victimisation of these lawyers. It is also an excuse to deny
the HRDs favourable orders and then seeking to be insulated against

The JP is not a God neither is any of the Judges of the High Court or
Supreme Court.

Over the years from 2003 to date, innocent lawyers have been harassed
including being physically attacked, arrested, detained, kidnapped and
tortured.They have also been abused in the State media left, right and
centre but the JP said nothing.

Over the period 2000 to date and before, the State has engaged in
every conceivable human rights abuse including mass murders, mass
displacements, imprisonment of political opponents' etc but the JP said

Over the years from 2000 to date, the State has made it its pastime to
ignore Court orders willy-nilly but the JP said nothing. After March 2008
elections, there was mass murder of MDC activists. No-one was arrested.  The
June 2008 elections were a fraud. The JPsaid nothing.

From October 2008 to date, the State kidnapped MDC activists and other
human rights defenders, some are still missing. The JP said nothing.

At a time when the JP ought to have said enough is enough to excesses
by the State, she chooses a "street fight" with lawyers defending and
protecting HRDs.  The JP could not have been  "irrelevant". Now that the JP
has removed her "glove", the public can only expect worse.

In an inevitable future MDC government, there will be no future for
pliant and cowardly Judges who do not rise to the occasion and pamper to the
whims of politicians.

Society expects that in the face of the worst forms of State
repression, lawyers and judges remain the last legion of people's hopes and

Members of the public must feel confident that in a fight with the
mighty State, they can always run to the Courts and seek protection.

Not to rush to judges who publicly threaten lawyers.

At a time when the JP was threatening lawyers in Harare, the deputy
Chief Justice was waxing about the Sadc Tribunal ruling in Bulawayo.

He chose the occasion to be an advocate of his own Court to attack the
Sadc Tribunal.

The deputy Chief Justice needed not mourn so much.  The SADC ruling on
the commercial farmers made it clear that the local Judges had an interest
in the issue of farms as they were beneficiaries. This is what happens when
local Courts are compromised, and citizens look elsewhere for redress.

Innocent Gonese is the MDC Secretary for Legal and Parliamentary

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Time to Find Common Ground

Saturday, 17 January 2009 16:27
MDC T leader Morgan Tsvangirai returned to the country yesterday after
more than two months in self-imposed "exile".

We applaud this move because no understanding leader could stay in a
foreign country when his people are suffering at home.

As leader of a popular movement, Tsvangirai should be there with the
people in their moment of need. He should not rely on second-hand reports
about his supporters being abducted, tortured or killed.

In typical Obama style, he should be there to offer hope to the masses
who have been disillusioned by the current spate of abductions and the
continued loss of innocent lives to the cholera outbreak.

More importantly, Tsvangirai should be in Zimbabwe to play his part in
reviving the stalled power-sharing agreement he signed with President Robert
Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara four months ago.

We again applaud moves by Tsvangirai to seek a face-to-face meeting
with Mugabe to iron out outstanding issues that have stopped Zimbabweans
from realising the fruits of the Global Political Agreement.

We can only hope that the expected arrival tomorrow of South African
President Kgalema Motlanthe, Mozambique leader Armando Guebuza and Sadc
mediator Thabo Mbeki will prompt all parties to realise the urgency of the

It is time the leaders found common ground for a government to be
formed. That clearly requires a return to the rule of law.

Zimbabweans can't wait any longer for the agreement, signed amid pomp
and ceremony last September, to be implemented.

They have suffered enough and they continue suffering.

Just yesterday, there was no water in much of Harare's CBD even though
the cholera epidemic is still with us.

When it was time to go home, workers realised they couldn't afford to
pay kombi fares, which had hit the trillion-dollar mark.

Those who went to the banks realised their savings had become so
worthless that a $100 trillion note would soon roll off the printing press.

Everywhere, Zimbabweans who don't earn foreign currency need the US
dollar or the rand to buy basics.

In the rural areas, it is worse. Widows, orphans and other vulnerable
people with no means to access foreign currency are finding life very
difficult. They are living Stone Age existence - walking long distances and
scrounging for food.

Many who are sick and bedridden have just resigned themselves to their

These terrible conditions should be compelling enough for responsible
leaders to take action.

It is imperative that when Mugabe and Tsvangirai meet tomorrow, they
realise this could be their last realistic chance to implement the
power-sharing agreement.

They need to understand that any decision they take must reflect the
aspirations of the generality of Zimbabweans. They must look beyond their
personal and party differences, and consider the plight of millions of their
suffering compatriots.

The Amendment No 19, which should legalise the inclusive government,
is set to be tabled in Parliament this week and if there is no agreement
between the principals, it could as well be as dead as a dodo.

MDC-T has made it clear that they won't support the Bill if ministries
have not been equitably distributed, among other things. They also want to
see an end to abductions and incarceration of their members.

The Sadc leaders should just tell Mugabe that enough is enough, it's
time to implement the power-sharing agreement and put the country back on
the path to recovery. For that he needs the co-operation of all parties.

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