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SA protests Zim farm invasions

by Own Correspondent Thursday 21 January 2010

HARARE - South Africa's government has sent a written protest to Harare over
the invasion of South African-owned farms in Zimbabwe, a development that
suggests Pretoria could be hardening its stance towards President Robert
Mugabe's controversial land reforms.

Senior officials at South Africa's embassy in Harare and in the government
of Zimbabwe told ZimOnline that a diplomatic note was send to the Zimbabwean
Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week after South African citizen Raymond
Finaughty appealed to the embassy for assistance after his farm was invaded
last month.

Finaughty's farm in Rusape district, about 170 km east of Harare, which was
invaded a day before Christmas by a senior Zimbabwe central bank official,
is one of several South African-owned properties that have been seized by
supporters of Mugabe's ZANU PF party.

"We sent the highest level of complaint to Harare officials following the
continued disturbances on the farms . we are still waiting for a formal
response from the Zimbabwe government" said the embassy official, who did
not want to be named because he did not have permission from his superiors
to speak on the matter.

South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe Mulungisi Makhalima and Zimbabwean
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi were not immediately
available for comment on the matter.

However, in a statement issued earlier this week, South Africa's Ministry of
International Relations and Cooperation said Pretoria had "made formal
contact with the Zimbabwean authorities and government with regard to issues
raised by the South African citizens residing in Zimbabwe."

The statement, which does not refer directly to farm invasions, is silent
about the protest note to Harare.

But our sources said after Makhalima sent the protest note to Mumbengegwi he
also raised the issue of farm invasions with Zimbabwe's Economic Planning
Minister Elton Mangoma.

"It was felt that Mangoma was the best person to handle the situation as he
is the one who signed the BIPPA (Bilateral Investment Promotion and
Protection Agreement) with us last year and made undertakings," said our

South Africa and Zimbabwe, at one time each other's biggest trading partner
on the continent in addition to being strong political allies, signed the
investment protection agreement last year.

But the pact is not in force because Zimbabwe's Parliament is yet to ratify

Mugabe's chaotic and often violent programme to seize white-owned farm land
for redistribution to landless blacks saw several farms owned by foreigners
and protected under bilateral trade agreements between Zimbabwe and other
countries seized without compensation.

The seizure of private land has raised questions about Zimbabwe's commitment
to uphold property rights as well as agreements entered with other
countries. - ZimOnline

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Lawyer to sue Attorney General

by Sebastian Nyamhangambiri Thursday 21 January 2010

HARARE - A Harare lawyer representing a key witness in the terrorism trial
of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai top ally Roy Bennett on Wednesday
notified Zimbabwe's Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana that he would sue
him for acting "irresponsibly" when he had him arrested last year.

Lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu was arrested last November and spent a night in
police cells after he prepared an affidavit indicating that Mutare arms
dealer Michael Peter Hitschmann - lined up as the state's star witness in
Bennett's trial - was not going to testify because the evidence that the
state recorded was obtained through torture.

The state accused Mahlangu of having written the affidavit on Hitschmann's
behalf and caused him to sign it when he approached him for advice.

Mahlangu, who was later charged with trying to obstruct the course of
justice, was last week acquitted by a Harare magistrate.?

In a letter served to the AG's office yesterday, Mahlangu's lawyer Raymond
Moyo said: "It is the intention of our client to institute civil proceedings
for the damages sustained by him arising from his wrongful arrest and
unlawful detention both under the common law and under the Constitution of

Moyo also notified co-Home Affairs Ministers Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo
Mohadi, the arresting police officers Clever Ntini and Henry Dowa, and
police chief Augustine Chihuri that he would sue them too. ?

In terms of the State Liabilities Act, an aggrieved party must give 60 days
notice before instituting civil proceedings. ?An official at the AG's office
confirmed receiving the letter from Mahlangu.

In an interview Mahlangu told ZimOnline that he would sue Tomana in his
personal capacity.?

"It would send wrong signals if taxpayers foot his legal bill. He acted
irresponsibly and in bad faith. He is a senior lawyer and he knows the law,"
said Mahlangu.

Tomana, a self proclaimed ZANU PF sympathiser, is regarded as among
hardliner supporters of President Robert Mugabe working to derail the
power-sharing government the veteran President formed last February with his
former opposition foes Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara.

Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party have questioned Tomana's tenure at the AG's
department, insisting that he must be dismissed because Mugabe did not
consult his coalition partners before appointing him to the post.

Under the global political agreement that gave birth to Zimbabwe's
power-sharing government Mugabe must consult his coalition partners before
making senior appointments. - ZimOnline

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Why I had to flee Zimbabwe

by Stanley Kwenda Thursday 21 January 2010

"FREELANCE journalist Stanley Kwenda was found dead on the outskirts of
Harare. His remains were found dumped in a ditch along the Harare to
Domboshava road . . . "

An imagined worst case scenario. True.

But after that strange and angry voice on the phone last Friday evening
promised I would not survive the weekend, the imagined and probably
exaggerated scenario above was something I could not say with certainty
could never happen. I had to act immediately.

But the good news first. I am safe and sound in my hiding place. Who knows,
all the news organisations that carried the story of how I fled Zimbabwe
last week following the death threats would by now probably have been
writing about my death.

Usual suspects

Sadly, all this is happening at a time when we should be celebrating the
dawn of a new era of democracy in Zimbabwe. I saw it first hand last Friday
evening that the usual suspects are still on the prowl - almost a year after
a new coalition government came into office in Harare with a mandate to
promote among other things the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Friday began with the normal routine, which means grabbing all the
newspapers I can lay my hands on just to check what's happening around.

I had just received a copy of British-based Index on Censorship 2009 Review.
From the moment I flipped open the first chapter, I could never put the book

The stories told in the book of how some journalists elsewhere in the world
have stood up to tyranny - with some even getting killed in the process - in
order to be able to practise their profession are encouraging.

Although, I must admit, there is something quite disturbing about knowing
that someone could order your death simply because you dared tell a story.

Somewhere, on one of the pages of the Index, there was a long list of
journalists who have either been harassed, incarcerated or lost their lives
in the line of duty. Interestingly, some of them were from Zimbabwe - and
little did I know that by end of that day, I would be part of the

Death threats

This was after I received very specific death threats from a senior police
officer in connection with a story I did for the The Zimbabwean newspaper.

At about 11 am I received a call on my phone and on the other end of the
line was a gentleman who told me that a certain Sylvia who works for fast
food outlet Chicken Inn wanted to talk to me.

The said Sylvia later called me on my cellphone. She said she wanted us to
meet at some point in central Harare so that she could give me more
information on how Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri had blocked
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from visiting police stations around the
country. Apparently this was the subject of my story in The Zimbabwean.

I asked her who she was and why she wanted to give me that information. In
response, she said she was just any ordinary Zimbabwean who had information
that was of public interest and that could be of help to the country.

She had used this same trick to dupe people at The Zimbabwean newspaper to
give her my cellphone number.

Unusual determination

Somehow her rather unusual determination to get the "story or information"
to me left me wondering just why any genuine news source would pursue a
reporter so much. Generally, things are supposed to be the other way round.

In no time, the lady called again. This time pleading with me to urgently
come to the place in central Harare where she had earlier suggested we meet.
At that point I realised I was being lured into a trap!

I told her to send her information to me via the e-mail address of The
Zimbabwean newspaper but she insisted on a face-to-face meeting. At that
point I told her off and asked her not to call me again.

But as I prepared to get my weekend into swing, I received a call at 7.15 pm
on my mobile phone while I was having a drink with a friend at a local

The number of the caller was not displayed on my phone but I could hear a
male voice on the other end of the line. Before I knew it, the man at the
other end of the line was hurling threats and insults at me. "Kwenda, you
are not going to last this weekend," the man thundered in an audibly harsh
and angry voice.

The man never gave me a chance to make head or tail of why he had actually
called me. He was just spewing all sorts of profanities, while repeatedly
reminding me that I was going to die, that I would be dead before fellow
congregants at my church uttered the last word of the evening prayer that
following Sunday.

For a moment, I was puzzled by it all, I could not just understand why
anyone would threaten me with death when I can't even harm a fly.

Licence to kill

But I was under no illusion as to the potentially dire consequences of
ignoring the threat, especially when it dawned on me that the only person
who could have been behind the threatening call was the senior police
officer whom I had obviously named and shamed in the story published by The

I have never felt so afraid but on the day in question I was left trembling.
The policeman in question belongs to a "special" group of security agents
who seem to have "unofficial" licence to maim, torture, abduct and kill as
they please. I was left with no option but to think of a way out.

For a moment, I thought of seeking sanctuary at a friend's place. I also
thought of calling my lawyer so that we could confront the caller.

But, when I tried to make a quick count of the number of court orders that
have been ignored by the police and the number of people who have been
tortured and sometimes killed by the usual suspects, it became so obvious to
me that no one could guarantee my safety and security.

Neither the courts nor the inclusive government that has to date done pretty
nothing to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights in the
country could protect me.
I felt like I was all alone to face a lynch mob, there was no option but to
leave the country. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe's Central Bank Technically Bankrupt As Liabilities Outstrip Assets, Say Economists

The bank's problems started soon after it embarked on various programs which
are said to have benefited the then Zanu PF government through printing of
money to finance grassroots economic schemes, referred to as quasi-fiscal

Gibbs Dube | Washington 20 January 2010

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is technically insolvent and is likely to
collapse if the government does not recapitalize it, economists say.

The economists attribute the bank's current woes to the many programs it
launched under the former government of President Robert Mugabe, often to
the benefit of the former ruling ZANU-PF party and its supporters, funded by
printing vast quantities of the now-abandoned Zimbabwean dollar.

Economist Nsununguli Mbongolwane told VOA that the bank was insolvent as its
liabilities far outstrip its assets and it can no longer meet its

"The assets that the bank has, if any, are fewer than its liabilities and
therefore it is technically insolvent and is likely to collapse," he said.

But economist Eric Bloch of Bulawayo said that while the central bank could
collapse if it were not recapitalized, it might have sufficient assets to
cover its liabilities. He noted that the Reserve Bank owns three Harare
buildings, one a 23-story office block, a large building in Bulawayo, the
country's second city, a factory that produces gold jewelry, and a printing
press and mint.

"It has extensive assets but it does not have cash," Bloch said. If
government does not recapitalize it or enables it to obtain excess funds
such as the special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund then
it will collapse."

The Ministry of Finance recently allocated the central bank US$10 million in
the 2010 national budget to meet its operational costs, but most economists
say this is far less than what would be needed to bail out the institution.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai has long called for the removal of RBZ Governor Gideon Gono, a
close political ally of President Mugabe, saying he bears heavy
responsibility for the country's precipitous economic collapse in the past

Gono in his own defense has said that he followed instructions and did what
was necessary to keep the economy running despite Western sanctions.

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Tough times for Zimbabwe farmers


In a dusty field in northern Zimbabwe, villagers clapped and sang as they
received desperately needed seed and fertilizer for their crops, their only
source of food and income.

In this poor village in the Bindura district, about 70km north of Harare,
families live and die by the seeds they plant and the rains that fall.

Donors have given $74-million in aid to Zimbabwe's traditional sustenance
farmers, a windfall for communities like Bindura.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts that
donor-funded projects could produce 450 000 tonnes of grain, about
one-quarter of the nation's needs.

"We had no hope of getting seed, and at the same time we did not know how we
would get seed in time" for the planting season, said Christopher Mafusire,
who received 10kg of seed from the scheme.

The 67-year-old said he could now plant two acres of land, which should be
enough to feed his family -- if rains come on time. "This village had
hunger, but now we will not starve," Mafusire said.

Many Zimbabwean farmers aren't so fortunate.

Once an exporter of grain, Zimbabwe has relied on international food aid for
the last decade.

The food crisis peaked in 2008 with about half the nation's 12-million
people needing aid, as the failure of crops and the collapse of the economy
left fields barren and store shelves empty.

Last year the food crisis eased thanks to better rains and economic reforms
by the unity government that took office last February.

But at least 1,9-million people are still expected to need aid this year,
according to initial UN estimates.

Bindura was once part of a vibrant farming sector that until 2000 was able
to help feed the nation and export cash crops, accounting for about 40% of
the economy.

A decade ago, President Robert Mugabe launched controversial land reforms to
forcibly resettle mainly white commercial farms with new black farmers, in a
process tainted by widespread political violence.

Donors haven't provided seeds to the new farmers, who complain that the
government hasn't given them enough help to get their crops into the
ground -- raising questions about how big the national harvest will be.

Without aid, the resettled farmers have little means of financing their
operations. Mugabe's land reforms did not give the owners title to the
property, leaving them unable to access loans from commercial banks.

The unity government plans to conduct a land audit this year to determine
who really owns the land, and then issue deeds so banks can again finance

"That security of tenure has got be worked out this year in conjunction with
the audit so that people can feel secure," Economic Planning Minister Elton
Mangoma told Agence France-Presse. "The government is committed in seeing
this through," he said.

Bringing Zimbabwe's farms back to their productive peaks will be expensive.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says $45-billion is needed to return the
overall economy to its peak, when agriculture was the backbone of the

Charles Taffs, vice-president of the mainly white Commercial Farmers' Union,
said Zimbabwe's farms haven't grown enough food to feed the nation since

"We borrowed $1,8-billion dollars in order to get that crop. This year we
see a situation where finance is very limited," he said.

Nationally, he estimated that about $350-million was available from donors,
the government and the private sector for farming this year.

He predicts this year's harvest will yield at most 600 tonnes of the staple
maize, only about one third of the nation food needs.

The FAO says it's impossible to predict the size of the harvest so early in
the season.

But the UN has already asked donors for $378-million to aid Zimbabwe this
year, partly to feed those who will certainly face hunger again. -- AFP

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Zimbabwe Civic Group Remains Opposed to Constitutional Process Despite PM Appeal

Sources said Prime Minister Tsvangirai invited NCA Chairman Madhuku to his
Movement for Democratic Change party's offices for a conversation, but that
the two men did not resolve their differences on the constitutional process

Jonga Kandemiiri | Washington 20 January 2010

Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, a civic organization, said it
was still opposed to the constitutional revision process led by Parliament
following a discussion Wednesday between NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku and
Prime Minister Tsvangirai of the group's position.

Sources said Mr. Tsvangirai invited Madhuku to the Harvest House offices of
his Movement for Democratic Change formation, but that they did not resolve
their differences. The prime minister finally asked Madhuku to be as
objective as possible when the draft constitution emerges late this year.

The NCA has maintained that the constitutional overhaul should be led by an
independent commission. It says that the parliamentary-led process,
controlled by politicians, will inevitably produce a flawed basic document
that will serve the interests of the political class rather than the
Zimbabwean people.

The NCA for years has called for a "people-driven constitution, seeing this
as the fundamental solution to the country's long political crisis.

NCA National Director Ernest Mudzengi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga
Kandemiiri that the two sides agreed to disagree on the process.

Mr. Tsvangirai's spokesman, James Maridadi, said he could not comment on the
conversation as he had not been briefed on the meeting.

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Q&A session on Zimbabwe

British FCO

Thu, 21 Jan 2010 05:13:00 +0000

THE following is the full text of the House of Commons Q&A session on Zimbabwe held on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband answered MPs questions on Zimbabwe.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When he next expects to meet his EU counterparts to discuss EU relations with Zimbabwe.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): Zimbabwe will be considered by EU Foreign Ministers during the course of February, and I look forward to having discussions then. The UK and the EU are strong supporters of the global political agreement-the GPA-and we will continue to press for progress. We welcome the recent agreement of the GPA signatories to establish key commissions, and we urge implementation of that agreement.

Mr. Bellingham: I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for that reply. Does he agree that, although the economic news coming out of Zimbabwe is now more promising, there are still huge concerns about human rights abuses and about the detention of Movement for Democratic Change MPs such as Roy Bennett? Does he also agree that the existing sanctions should not be lifted until those issues have been dealt with?

David Miliband: Yes, I agree that numerous aspects of the situation in Zimbabwe are of deep concern. It is right to say that, over the past year, the economic situation has changed in a quite fundamental way, although it is not quite right to refer to the detention of Roy Bennett as a continued threat to him through a legal case.

In respect of sanctions, we have made it clear that they can be lifted only in a calibrated way, as progress is made. That is something that we will discuss. I do not think that it is right to say that the choice is between lifting all sanctions and lifting none at all. We have to calibrate our response to the progress on the ground, and, above all, to be guided by what the MDC says to us about the conditions under which it is working and leading the country.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern that President Zuma of South Africa has not challenged Mugabe and the MDC fully to carry out the terms of the global political agreement? He seems continually to be urging compromise on the MDC.

David Miliband: President Zuma is playing a careful hand, and he is playing it rather skilfully. The Prime Minister was able to discuss Zimbabwe, among other things, with him at the Commonwealth conference in November. President Zuma will be making a state visit to the UK in early March, and I have had discussions with my South African opposite number. The position of the South Africans has certainly been to urge adherence to the global political agreement, which requires compromise on all sides, and I do not think that they have been less than even-handed in the way in which they have done that.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): Should not all European Union Governments recognise that Morgan Tsvangirai was right to enter into a coalition with Robert Mugabe, if there was to be a prospect of peaceful change? Is it not worth remembering that even Nelson Mandela entered into a coalition with the white South African National party, and that Solidarity in Poland entered into a coalition with the communists? They all recognised that change has to be gradual if it is to have any chance of producing peaceful stability.

David Miliband: No European country, to my knowledge, has condemned Mr. Tsvangirai for the move that he made. I am not sure what the implication of the right honourable and learned gentleman's question was, but I hope that it was not to question the fact that this is a transitional agreement whose conclusion will be a proper democratic election that respects the will of the Zimbabwean people. There was a hint in what he was saying that there is perhaps-to echo the term used by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey)-rather more compromise with Robert Mugabe than the mood of the House would wish. Mr. Tsvangirai's position has been well established, however: he has shown himself to be a man not only of principle but of competence, and we should support him strongly.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): There is one EU member country that has a very direct effect on Zimbabwe, through the Kimberley diamond certification process. Belgium is a member of that process. Will the Foreign Secretary speak to his Belgian counterpart about the human rights abuses in the diamond mines in Zimbabwe, and discuss whether it would be right to threaten suspension of the Kimberley process in order to ensure that the human rights of people working in the diamond mines are protected?

David Miliband: As it happens, I now have another new Belgian opposite number in the new Belgian Government. I spoke to him at the end of last week. I will be happy to talk to him about a range of issues, including Zimbabwe, when I next meet him.

Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): The Foreign Secretary has talked about specific EU targeted sanctions, and said that they should be calibrated. Will he explain which of the current EU sanctions are really having an effect and encouraging Zanu-PF to move towards removing the human rights abuses that have been in place for so long?

David Miliband: The honourable gentleman will know that a range of EU sanctions is in place. Some of them refer to individuals, others to so-called parastatal organisations. Different sanctions have been brought in at different points, and different sanctions are the responsibility of different ministries in the Zimbabwean system.

Some are controlled by the MDC. I would be happy to give the honourable gentleman a more detailed answer, but I think that it might detain the House beyond the time available for the question. I believe that EU sanctions have helped to send a strong message, and that they have had a practical effect without hurting the Zimbabwean people, which would have been a sanction too far.

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Not all Zimbabwean asylums need protection: UK

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 20:00

The British government has responded to a petition forwarded to Prime
Minister Gordon Brown's Number 10 Downing Street by a group of disgruntled
Zimbabweans who complained that the UK government's stance and way of
handling asylum applications was unfair.

From Number 10 Downing Streets, UK government

Thank you for your petition regarding the treatment of Zimbabwean asylum
seekers in the UK.

Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK are not subject to discriminatory
treatment.  Each and every asylum and human rights claim - including those
made by Zimbabweans - is fully and carefully considered on its individual
merits against the background of the latest available evidence about the
conditions in the country concerned as they impact on the individual.

The UK Border Agency takes its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention
seriously.  If an applicant is a refugee, asylum will be granted.  If they
are otherwise vulnerable they may engage our obligations under the European
Convention for Human Rights, in which case they will be granted Humanitarian
Protection or Discretionary Leave.

Where a decision has been made that a person does not require international
protection, and there are no remaining rights of appeal or obstacles to
their return, we expect unsuccessful asylum seekers to return to their
country of origin. Return and reintegration assistance is available through
the International Organization for Migration.

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's (AIT) determination in the case of RN
[RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083] found that not all
Zimbabweans are in need of international protection and that all cases
should continue to be considered on their individual merits.

The AIT heard the case of RN against the backdrop of reports of widespread
and indiscriminate political violence that marked the election period in
2008.  That violence has now abated and there have been some positive
changes in the situation in Zimbabwe over the past six months.  While a
great deal remains to be done to institute the political and other reforms
set out in the Global Political Agreement, the formation of the Inclusive
Government has led to improvements in the economy, schools and the
availability of basic commodities.  In response to this changed situation
some Zimbabweans in the UK are considering returning home to help rebuild
their country.

The guidance being used by asylum caseworkers has been updated to reflect
the fact that the situation in Zimbabwe has moved on from the events of last
year and the situation that existed when the AIT determined the case of RN.
This helps to ensure that we continue to grant asylum to the right people.
As the situation in Zimbabwe has changed since the AIT considered the
situation in Zimbabwe last year, so the people who need our protection now
are not necessarily the same ones who the AIT found may have been at risk at
the height of the political violence last summer.

The Government welcomes the enormous contribution that the skills and
knowledge of genuine refugees make to our society and economy, but
permitting asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers to work is not in line
with Government policy.  It is important to maintain the distinction between
economic migration and asylum.  Giving asylum seekers or failed asylum
seekers permission to work would be likely to encourage asylum applications
from those without a well-founded fear of persecution, hence slowing down
the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and undermining the
integrity of the managed migration system.

This is why we do not generally allow asylum seekers to work while their
claim for asylum is under consideration.  The only exception is asylum
seekers who have been waiting 12 months for a decision where this delay
cannot be attributed to them.  Allowing asylum seekers to work in these
circumstances is in accordance with the EC Directive on the reception of
asylum seekers.

It is important that those who apply for asylum in the UK have their
applications processed as quickly as possible and we have set a target to
conclude (grant or remove) 90 per cent of asylum applications within 6
months by December 2011.  Those who are recognised as refugees will
therefore increasingly be able to work here legally much sooner than in the
past, enabling them to make a contribution to the UK.

A change to the policy on employment would create a disincentive to
departure for unsuccessful asylum seekers and we believe would act as a draw
for those who want to come to the UK for economic reasons, compromising the
integrity of our asylum system and slowing down the asylum application
process for others.

Details of Petition:
"Since the decision in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal - RN Zimbabwe -
the Home Office has, either consciously or unconsciously, attempted to
redress what it perceives to be an imbalance in the scrutiny and assessment
of applications for asylum from Zimbabweans by rejecting them without proper
consideration. The singling out of Zimbabweans in this way is discriminatory
and an affront to the principles of protecting the rights of innocent people
who are fleeing violence and persecution that are enshrined in the European
Convention for Human Rights Act and the Human Rights Act. The Home Office
should make a fair assessment of each and every application and, in the case
of Zimbabwean asylum seekers, accept that: 1. The case of RN Zimbabwe ought
to be properly applied and 2. that Zimbabweans cannot be removed and,
therefore, grant humanitarian protection to Zimbabweans and allow them to
live and work in the UK with dignity."

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Hifa preps gather momentum

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Entertainment Editor

Preparations for this year's Harare International Festival of the Arts have
gathered momentum with organisers now calling for submission of works from
artistes who wish to take part in this year's carnival.

The festival will run from April 27 to May 2 and will again feature diverse
international programming with participating artists from more than 20

The theme for this year's festival is "About Face", a subject that
organisers feel should inspire all Zimbabweans to look with hope and
optimism for transformation and new beginnings, both artistic and societal.

"It is a call to artistes to consider new vantage points, ideas and
inspiration at a time when moving forward is about facing the past and about
facing the future.

"The theme is also a celebration of the resolute face of Zimbabweans, past
and present, who continue to stare down seemingly overwhelming challenges
with grace, determination and creativity," said the organisers in a

Art fans are already gearing for yet another fun-filled six-day event that
will see artists from different genres, both local and international
showcasing their talents.

Hifa, which is getting bigger and better since its inception 11 years ago,
has proved to be an important launchpad for upcoming and established artists
in Zimbabwe, who through their participation at the grand stage, have built
strong synergies with international artists.

As has become the norm, last year's fanfare received an enthusiastic
response from art lovers, participating artists as well as local, regional
and international media.

The event celebrated the finest Zimbabwean and international music, theatre,
spoken word, dance and visual and applied arts.

It featured over 120 international artistes from 24 countries, and attracted
unprecedented public attention in Zimbabwe with over 50 000 tickets being

Highlights of last year's event included the performance by South African
group Malaika, PJ Powers, Fisk Jubilee Singers, Hifa opera gala several
theatrical productions that included an adaptation of William Shakespeare's
comedy, Two Gentlemen of Verona.

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A decade on a sticky wicket: Story of Zim cricket

by Warren Dennis Thursday 21 January 2010

OPINION: The cloudless skies of Harare, with the sun shining brightly in the
sky, especially at this time of the southern summer, bring out the best
picture of a city pregnant with blessings - when it comes to its perfect
climate - that charms its peaceful residents and provides a unique romantic
attachment to its visitors.

It's on days like these, deep into the summer, when the rains have stopped
briefly and usher in blue skies and sunny mornings that Harare shows its
true colours as arguably the best city one could possibly live in the
world - especially when you take into account the virtually negligible crime

I should know because it has been my home for 50 years now, from the time
that I was born in the then Rhodesia, to migrant British parents forever
charmed by the beauty of the climate of this town, to this day when I am
about to celebrate my Golden Jubilee as a proud father of three beautiful

You could possibly say I have seen it all because I was six, and fully aware
of what was going on around me, when my parents celebrated England's World
Cup success story in football with that defeat of Germany at Wembley in 1966
and was already a schoolboy when George Best and company helped Manchester
United to European Cup success two years later.

Family background

It was probably strange that, against a family background embedded in
football, the round ball didn't become the game that charmed my heart as I
grew up into someone whose mind could make decisions - sporting or
otherwise - without the due influence of my father.

Maybe the frustration of not having a local team, which I could watch week
in and week out, that challenged the world in football contributed to this
movement from a family tradition of being the game's supporters to my
decision to fall in love with a game that was as different as it was

I've been a loyal disciple of this game since those days when the world
welcomed the '70s - with Pele and his Brazilians winning the World Cup in
the Mexico sunshine with an artistry that took the global football audience
to new levels.

Two things have made a big impression in my life since then - the mystical
beauty of the city that I call home and the exploits of a merry band of
players, from my country, who have used both bat and ball for the cause of
my little Zimbabwe.

When Duncan Fletcher and his crew beat mighty Australia at the World Cup in
1983, it made headline news across the globe and, just like my father before
me, gave me a team, a sporting discipline and heroes that I could identify
with, the same way he had toasted England's World Cup win in 1966.

Over the course of time things have changed, as they inevitably do, and my
country has suffered a lot and, sadly, the game that is very close to my
heart has also suffered immensely - battered by a conflict that had its
roots in the politics that engulfed my nation.

Reminder comes

It's on days like these, deep into the summer when the sun is shining
brightly over Harare, when the reminder comes - just like an alarm timer -
of the changes that have happened to the game that will always be a part of
my life.

Had everything been normal, Zimbabwe would be playing a home Test series
against one of the powers of the world's game, Andy Flower would probably
have been in the coaching corner and - while chances are that we might have
lost - it's virtually guaranteed that we would have made a good fight of it.

So what happened? Martin Williamson, a man whose articles I read a lot about
on Cricinfo, recently painted a picture of the last decade of Zimbabwe
cricket. I have my own painting, which might not be vintage Cricinfo, but
which I believe is relevant.

There is no doubt that the sun is beginning to filter through the dark cloud
that hanged over Zimbabwe cricket since we limped into the new millennium
and the willingness of the administration, led by Peter Chingoka and Ozias
Bvute, not only to accept but also take an active part in the creation of a
new dispensation, is refreshing.

The tragedy is that there appears to be a deliberate attempt, once again, by
the forces that almost destroyed the game - individually and collectively -
to try and sow the seeds of divide and rule tactics that almost took my
sport into its graveyard.

Cricket in Zimbabwe wasn't taken on the road into the doldrums by a group of
black guys whom we believed didn't know how to play a game, which has always
been a big part of our lives, let alone manage its affairs.

Collective failure

The game was taken down that road by our collective failure - both black and
white with the Indians playing a shadowy role in dividing us - to realise
that our combined efforts were better put into development rather than the
trenches we dug for a war that was not necessary.

Change is difficult to accept and when it appeared to be coming on the
horizon, a number of people - mostly my fellow whites and their Indian
counterparts who had been embedded in their comfort zones - did not read the
signs well and, instead of the olive branch that could have worked wonders,
we ran into the trenches.

Neither did the blacks read the situation well, too, because - in their
naivety - they believed that cricket was just another game to us.

The truth is that it was not. It was a big part of our lives and it defined
who we were as a people - a small community united by bat and ball - that
used the game's trials and tribulations, over five days of a Test, as a
mirror of our lives and, crucially, ability to defy the odds.

The pride that stemmed from being Rhodesians, a small community that
believed it was so special it defied mighty Britain to declare UDI in 1965,
it defied the odds to survive the barrage of sanctions that followed and it
beat mighty Australia at the World Cup at the first time of asking.

The pride that stemmed from producing Kevin Curran and Duncan Fletcher, from
producing a run-machine called Graeme Hick, a rugby superstar called Ian
Robertson and a team of white ladies that would win the Olympic Games in
hockey at the first time of asking in 1980.

God's country

Yes, in our small world - locked away from the razzmatazz of the globe - we
believed we were God's country, the little nation that had an economy to
rival the best on the African continent, even under the barrage of
sanctions, and live through it all without a sweat.

The white farmers, who controlled the economy, controlled cricket and, it
became a part of their lives - the last thing within their control, dating
back from the pre-independence days, when everything was changing.

So when the politics of this country touched agriculture and dramatic
changes started taking place in that sector, ironically at a time when black
players and administrators were knocking on the doors of cricket, it created
a situation loaded with volatility that was just waiting to explode.

Williamson rightly points out that it did not help Zimbabwe cricket that the
biggest supporters of those who went into the trenches, defending everything
that was white, were the white countries like England, Australia and New

It split the argument into colours - black and white - and the fact that the
powerful white media, fronted by Williamson and company, openly sided with
the latter, only worsened a situation that was already terrible because
genuine arguments were lost in the process.

At times the arguments bordered on racism, which is common when issues are
split into black and white, and sober voices - which should have shaped
opinion and helped the cause - ended up worsening a situation that was
crying out for a helping hand.

White cause

There was a tendency to just go on the side of the rebellion, simply because
it was fronted by whites and for a white cause, without looking at the
merits of the case and the effect such articles were having on a situation
that was desperate.

Cricket became the sporting face of ZANU PF and President Robert Mugabe,
simply because he was the mere patron, and a tool that was being used to
suppress the very whites that were being chased away from the farms.

It was easy to write that, as Wiliamson and company found out, at a time
when global emotion was running high against Mugabe and the international
media was feasting on Zimbabwe and challenging the Mugabe regime for every
step that it took.

White journalism had a field day, during a period when facts lost their
relevancy and all that mattered was giving that Mugabe spin, and some good
people had their images soiled simply because they found themselves at the
wrong place at the wrong time.

I was part of the readership that took everything that was written hook,
line and stick, because I believed that as a community, we had to accept all
the helping hands that were coming to help us fight a regime that appeared
bent on destroying our identity as Zimbabweans.

It was a period of madness, when the truth mattered little and probably
hurt, and we saluted Henry Olonga when he joined Andy Flower in his protest
against the death of democracy - using a cricket game for that - even when
no one cared to remember Olonga after that.

British society

It was lost to all of us that Flower, who was older than Olonga, was coming
to the end of his playing days and, as a white man, he would be readily
accepted in a British society that he had planned for himself - and his
family - after his playing days.

No one cared about Olonga, the black face that gave the message its weight,
because once he had drummed it into the ears of the world, his part had been

Flower would soon carry a British passport, coach the English cricket team -
something that gives me pride - while poor Henry, a product of an immigrant
family like myself lured to Zimbabwe by the promise of the country, would
fade into the horizon.

Bvute and Chingoka, either because of their naivety or their streak of
stubbornness, were wrong to try and engage in a battle with the
international media because, if an entire country like Zimbabwe had failed
to win such a battle, what chances did two administrators dream of to get
their hour of triumph?

So when Heath Streak fell out with the establishment the merits of his
argument mattered little because, to Williamson and company, he was fighting
the right war. When his fellow white players joined him, there was no reason
it appears, for a balance of the stories because they represented what was

So Andy Blignaut was owed money, as we were told by Cricinfo, and that was
the reason he walked out. Fair and fine.

Interestingly when the same player makes a move to return, as reported by
the same website, all that money issue is not included. Why?

Out of steam

Of course, the landscape has changed and the people who were fronting the
war - especially the international journalists - have run out of steam and,
crucially, out of the reason for the fight since Streak is back in the fold,
Houghton is back in the fold and Alistair Campbell is back.

As long as the right faces are back, in terms of colour, there is no need to
keep the war and the little paragraphs that were doing the damage, like
claiming that Blignaut was owed money and taking it as a fact, have
disappeared from the reports filed by Williamson and company.

It has been a long war and the game has suffered but, as they say, after
every storm, there comes a period of calm. As we prepare to welcome the new
era, which is pregnant with promise, my appeal is that we shouldn't quickly
forget the mistakes of the immediate past.

Having been a Zimbabwean all my life, and a local cricket supporter for 40
years, I know what I am talking about when I say that there is huge
potential, even among the black players of this country, to take this game
to a new level.

The Zimbabwe we want, just like the Zimbabwe Cricket that we want, cannot be
determined by a decade of one-sided articles from international journalists
who used to push a certain cause nor by Bvute and Chingoka and all those who
fought them, going back into the trenches and waging a war.

It can only be found by respect for each other, irrespective of the colour,
and a frank admission of everyone - including Williamson, myself and fellow
supporters who took sides, the players who rebelled, the administrators who
didn't read the story well, that we are all to blame for the mess that our
game found itself in.

The key issue here is that in the moment of conflict we all helped to create
a situation, pregnant with falsehoods, which was meant to ensure that the
game wasn't going to be governable, that the team that was going to be
produced from that system would be weak and that everyone would use that
alarming drop in standards to cry foul and paint a picture of a game crying
out for help.

Sorry pawns

The game's administrators like Bvute and Chingoka became the sorry pawns who
were thrown into the frontline, in an international battle, where all the
spoils were scheduled to go to the victors and the tragedy was that the
international media did not help the situation with their blinded and
one-sided coverage of the events.

Neither did the men who were at the centre of the onslaught, especially
Bvute and Chingoka, read the politics well and - without a voice where they
could be heard - they became soft targets who were thrashed day in and day
out while their stubborn streak only hardened the resolve of their opponents
to fight even harder.

Now, as the dust begins to settle and hope emerges on the horizon, it is
important that we take the events of the last 10 years in their true
context, for the sake of a better future for the game and our children, and
that can only be helped by everyone accepting the terrible role that he or
she played in that turmoil.

As light flickers, we have begun to see the true picture of Bvute as a
media-friendly and competent chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Cricket -
something that Williamson acknowledges - and something that has been key in
getting back some of the old guard into the system.

A man who, in the past decade of conflict was labelled a hopeless character,
has now emerged as the one with the hand of reconciliation who is not only a
capable leader but appears to be working hard to ensure that the interests
of this game override everything else.

Dosage of promise

The franchise system has ushered in hope, the return of the old guard has
brought a dosage of promise, even Kepler Wessels' son is now playing in the
domestic game here in Zimbabwe and, for a country that was deemed a pariah
state not so long ago, it is refreshing that we even have English

The political picture of Zimbabwe is changing for the better, day by day,
and so is the game that was used as a pawn during a vicious decade in which
its heart was almost ripped out of its body.

No one sees the black and white picture of yesterday anymore and that is why
the Zimbabwe Under-19 captain at the current World Cup in New Zealand is a
white teenage star and the coach is also white - showing to the world that
the days when race was used to fight certain wars, which were bigger than
the game, are over.

Even the minister, who is now in charge of sport, is a white lawyer and the
touching moment came when Mugabe, upon receiving the FIFA World Cup trophy
at Harare International Airport recently, challenged David Coltart to
produce local teams that will bring such trophies home.

That there was no global outcry, when Zimbabwe's teenage cricket stars were
given visas to enter New Zealand for the World Cup, should have given all of
us a lesson that things are really changing and the impasse of the past
decade - which almost destroyed the game that I love dearly - is gone.

Back to life

I'm told that the list of the people who have applied for the post to coach
the national team alone shows the changes sweeping across the game and the
confidence that has seeped back into a lot of minds that the game that I
love is on its way back to life.

If I had the power, I would appoint Grant Flower, because he always appeared
to be the one who was level headed to me all the time.

That can wait for the future. What is key now is that the sun has been
shining brightly over Harare in recent days, they are playing cricket
everywhere you go and the mood in the country is one of optimism rather than
pessimism and, crucially, the experienced hands are back to play a part.

After a decade of turmoil, the point is that we can only get better and next
month the national team will go to West Indies for five One Day
Internationals, which I believe they have a good chance of winning, if they
can keep their composure.

The surprising thing, it appears, is that after all the yokers that have
been bowled at us, on such a sticky wicket in the past 10 years that were
worse than Bodyline, we are not yet out and it's something that the world
needs to give credit to us for our resilience.

The future, which is important, should embrace the challenges of the past
decade and we will see that the game - just like our lovely country - is
bigger than the combined egos of all the people involved in it.

The time has come for players to do the playing, as they are doing now, for
the administrators to do their work - without the baggage of the past
decade - for the fans to come and support their game and, crucially, for the
international media to recognise that the ghost of the past 10 years, when
it clearly supported a certain cause, has been buried.

As a lifelong fan of Zimbabwe cricket, all that I am crying out is for the
game - which continues to produces wonders in terms of talent - be given its
chance to shine without being weighed down by the baggage of the past

Warren Dennis is a Zimbabwean cricket fan, with a passion for writing and a
sip of his beloved castle on a sunny day at Harare Sports Club, and writes
in his individual capacity. He can be contacted on - -

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